Recently I had a chance to see a very powerful empath in action. Interestingly, this person has spent most of his life not knowing he was an empath and not understanding the anxieties, inner turmoil, and avoidance reactions on the darker side of this gift. He spent years seeking peace through mediation, spirituality, and self-improvement. While those helped, they didn’t completely resolve the discomfort he often felt living in his own skin.  All it took was some explanation, information, and encouragement, and he stepped into the role he was born for without a single faltering step.

But the energy drain that comes with the territory for empaths was unsettling for him. He’s spent most of his life avoiding tense interactions and negativity because he knew they took a toll on him even though he didn’t know why. Now he was eyeball-deep in conflict resolution, and though he handled it like a pro, he was left feeling like he’d been kicked by a mule. Even simple conversation was a chore.

What advice do you give an empath suffering from energy drain?

For starters, rest. Rest is critical for empaths, who for very organic reasons need more of it than non-empaths. Meditate. Seek positive interaction. And yes, seek other empaths who are in a position at that time to impart good energy back into the vacuum.

What Is an Empath?

Empathic gifts are difficult to explain to non-empaths. The word “empath” itself makes one assume that it’s all about commiserating with others and even telegraphing thoughts and feelings. While those things can be part of an empath’s toolkit, they are far from the most dominant aspects of this calling.

Emotions are the empath’s wheelhouse. Not that they’re experts—empaths are often overwhelmed by emotions, both theirs and those of others around them. They frequently need hours to decompress, in isolation, requiring a great deal of “alone time” and space. They take on the moods of other people to the point it’s often impossible to distinguish them from their own thoughts and feelings. Empaths easily pick up mannerisms, habits, and accents of people they spend time around. They’re emotional sponges, absorbing both positive and negative energy from the ether. For these reasons, while being around a positive and encouraging atmosphere can supercharge an empath to nearly euphoric heights, exposure to negative energy can nearly incapacitate them.

There are ways to shield against this and most empaths learn quickly. But shielding in itself can be an energy drain. The more powerful the empathic gift is in a person, the more energy is required to restore balance when they suffer a deficit.

Skilled empaths can learn to influence the energy and mood of an entire room. I’ve seen it happen—a crowd of people having tense discussion, and then a quiet, unassuming person slips into the room, offers a few smiles, a bit of casual conversation, and before long, loud voices become modulated, stern expressions become soft, and conversation shifts to something more pleasant. People will often be drawn to this newcomer without knowing why. In this situation, the empath is often able to recover some of the positive energy they expended from the room’s new energy itself. If not, they’ll need an eventual retreat to a quiet place to recover.

Are Empaths Telepathic?

As a general rule, no. Nor are they psychic, and they don’t see dead people. Empathic gifts are about emotion. Not thoughts, not spirits. Dual gifts can coincide in the same person, but empaths target the energy from a live and beating heart. They often just “know” things, but they don’t read minds. The things they “know” are extrapolated from the emotions they sift from the energy fields of other people.

Animals can also possess empathic gifts. Service animals are notoriously insightful about what their human companions need. Human empaths often seem to attract animals to them, even wild animals and birds. The empathic calling is a legitimate psychological phenomenon, not at all mystical although it is indeed full of mystery for those who need concrete and tangible proof of a thing’s existence.

One thing is sure: empaths who understand their gifts are a force of nature. Possessing this gift can be grueling for the bearer. But when nurtured and cared for properly, these people have an effect on the world around them that is unequaled in any other aspect of human existence. If you know an empath, please tend their emotional needs carefully. Watch them for signs of stress and exhaustion. And love them unconditionally. They’ll sense it if you don’t.

More reading about this topic:

How to Know if You’re an Empath–Judith Orloff, M.D.

10 Traits Empaths Share–Judith Orloff, M.D.

All the Traits and Signs of an Empath: Are You One?–Exemplore

Soul Searching

A recent study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reveals that animal rescue workers have a suicide rate of 5.3 in 1 million workers. This is the highest suicide rate among American workers; a rate shared only by firefighters and police officers. The national average suicide average for American workers is 1.5 per 1 million.

More than three decades of data shows that veterinarians are up to 3.5 times more likely to die by suicide than members of the general population, according to new a study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.



These statistics have been a grim reality for me, in a very palpable way. The veterinarian who spayed and neutered most of @tarc’s rescued animals over a period of three years took his own life in 2016. It was a devastating loss for TARC and for the entire community. Before that, in 2014, renowned veterinarian and animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin died by her own hand, presumably as a consequence of compassion fatigue. She was 48.

I have a strong frame of reference for relating to this problem. I’ve worked in animal welfare and rescue full-time since 2013, and it has taken an incredible toll. Compassion fatigue is real. So is secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m experiencing both.

No, I’m not contemplating suicide. I’m risk-free in that regard; if I didn’t pull the trigger in 2004 when the worst thing that could happen to me happened, I certainly won’t pull it now. So don’t send me crisis hotline numbers. I’m stronger than that. I’ll get through this. Alive.

But I do have to make some tough choices about my lifestyle. I’ve written several poems lately just to get the anger out, the hurt, the pain. I’ve kept them carefully obscure, since my private life is exactly that—private—and I pick and choose who I share details with. Currently three people on the face of this earth know what’s been happening in my “real world.” Two of them are on Steem. One is not. They are trusted confidantes who weather the brunt of my hurricane emotions. And believe me, right now my emotions are a tempest.

None of those three people asked for the responsibility of keeping me grounded. But between them, it’s working. Two of them talk these matters through with me at length. One says very little but is such a source of positive energy in my universe that few words are required.

Everyone else gets to see the game face. Am I being fake? No—I think I’m just being practical. We have work to do, the Steemhouse publishing group and I. There’s no time for Rhonda to have a meltdown. So I do that in private. Even my three most trusted friends in the world don’t get to see me at my lowest points.

So how did I end up here? How does anyone end up wrung out, strung out, and empty-handed after an entire lifetime of trying to strike the Libra balance and do the right thing by everybody?

I’m not sure if there’s a good answer to that question. I’ve put my confidence in a lot of wrong people. I know that much. Have I learned anything from it? Je ne sais pas. But I certainly hope so. I have to surround myself with positivity, even if this means eliminating every source of negative energy in my life.

And that will be a complicated exorcism.

Since 2013, I’ve given everything I had to this rescue. Central Appalachia is such a horrid place for animals—the cruelties here are unspeakable. I often compare this region of the U.S. to a Third World country, and I don’t think I’m far off the mark. Lack of pride in the community or its appearance—almost every residential and commercial structure is run-down and gone to seed. Children are exposed to barbaric acts of neglect and abuse against animals and other people until they’re utterly desensitized. The entire culture here is unwilling to learn a better way of life because “this is how we done it forever.” To quote my latest novel High Kill, which is set in this region and based on many of my personal experiences: “…if your way of life is destroying your children, you don’t get to treasure it, and you don’t get to hang on to it. You figure out where the hell you went wrong, and you fix it.” Well, nobody has been interested in “fixing” anything in Central Appalachia for a long time. And I’m tired of fighting for a cause nobody here seems to believe in but me.

In five years, I’ve exhausted my savings. I’ve run the wheels off my personal vehicle hauling hundreds of dogs to safety in New England, dogs dumped on me by people too sorry to fulfill their obligations to lives they took responsibility for. Tempted to defend them? To imagine the pitiful circumstances that would cause these poor mountain folk to surrender a beloved pet?

Think again. Backyard breeders are Appalachia’s puppy mills. They crank out litter after litter to support their pill habit, selling unweaned, unvaccinated puppies in the classifieds of the local bargain paper who are typically too sick to survive more than a few days in their new homes. These are the same people who have consistently attacked me on Facebook, sent law enforcement to do “welfare checks” on my animals because I posted asking for help with a vet bill, who knifed my tires, shot dogs in the head that rescuers were on their way to rescue from the side of the road—and ooooh, just let me make a public appeal for donations and see how fast they line up to accuse me of fraud, thievery, and greed. Happens every time.

I’m tired, folks. This war has exhausted me. All give and no take—I’m empty. I can’t do this anymore. I will carry the scars from this for the rest of my life. It’s no secret that I want to leave this place. I want to move far, far away and never think about Southwest Virginia again. This is the most hostile, ungrateful, self-destructive community I have ever had the misfortune of discovering. More than a decade and a half of living here has nearly killed me.

Some of you know how long I’ve been asking people in Appalachia to help and support my 501c3 nonprofit rescue. But here in these mountains, most charitable efforts are looked upon with disdain and suspicion, to the point that the benefactor actually begins to feel and behave like someone guilty of a crime. I’ve gone without proper nutrition, heat in the winter, reliable brakes on my vehicle, and indoor plumbing for almost three years now. I keep the bills paid and the animals properly vetted. I need glasses with a prescription more recent than ten years ago. I need work done on this house. I need a working refrigerator. Stove. Washer and dryer. I need to start over. Just cut my losses and walk away.

Some of you know that during this last cold snap, the water lines in this very old house froze for the first time in more than seventy years. Upon thawing, they burst. I did have someone loan me the $140 it took to buy supplies to replumb. I didn’t mean to borrow the money—that’s just the way the universe worked it out. I’ll repay it. Soon.

But then what of the supplies that I bought? I ended up replumbing the whole house by myself. New water line, all the way from the feed coming into the house to the kitchen sink. Let’s hear it for self-sufficiency…but any sense of pride I have in the accomplishment is buried under resentment toward all the people who could have helped me and simply refused to do so. Only one person has bothered to congratulate me for successfully completing a project most women would never dream of undertaking. One person. Everyone else seems to take for granted that I should just do these things, because I deserve to be alone with no help ever no matter how urgent the emergency, because I somehow brought all of this on myself, because I’m endlessly expected to give and ask for nothing in return.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not congratulations I need. It’s for someone to recognize—finally—that my ability to give and to survive is finite. It’s for somebody to give back into my life just a portion of the time and energy I’ve poured into others. It’s for me to wake up once—just one day—and not realize I’m facing the last half of my life alone, even though I’m surrounded by people who think they know me. They don’t. Because really—who has ever taken the time to ask what my favorite song is? Or why I don’t like freshwater fish, but can eat the hell out of anything pulled in from the ocean? Who has ever cared about these details? Anyone? These are the kinds of questions I ask other people all the time, because I’m truly interested in the answers and what they’ll tell me about that person. But I’m starting to realize nobody gives a shit what those answers would tell them about me. And let me tell ya—realizing this is one of the loneliest feelings I have ever experienced.

So I’m done. If I’m living life alone, then I will live it truly alone and unencumbered by anyone else’s baggage. I will pick my friends by the amount of time they invest back into me, and the takers and the emotional vampires and the endless sources of negativity will be banished from every corner of my life. If this means giving up the rescue, giving up the property I currently call home, giving up everything I’m still hanging on to in hopes it’ll get better someday, then so be it. I’m tired of turning black inside while everybody thinks I’m just fine to go another round. I’m not. I promise you, I’m not.

I had a long talk with myself about whether or not to publish this post. Every other time I write, I weigh the value other people might get from my words. Rest assured, at this point I no longer care. I wrote this one all for me. And I published it all for me, because I have something to say and I will say it to the wall if nobody else will listen. I’m tired. I’m angry. I’m damaged. And now I have to figure out how to climb out of this hole I’ve let myself get pushed into. Once I do, you will never see me back in this place ever again.






Follow the Traveler

Ladies, eat your hearts out. For most of the day Monday in Krakow, I had these two all to myself.

There’s just something about touring a European city with a proper Englishman on one side of you and a charming Frenchman on the other. Both of these guys would probably complain about my descriptions of them–I know @GMuxx protests at the idea of being considered “proper”–but it sounds good, so I’m going with it.

This whole “follow the traveler” thing wasn’t how the day began. It actually started with a headache. Remember my last post? The one about the alkohole? Yeah. This was the morning-after.

I might have still been a wee bit tipsy when Muxxy and I wobbled out onto the street, blinking in the sunlight like a couple of regular vampires. Did I mention that his glasses darken in the light? Well, mine don’t. I squinted my way through the crosswalk to a tiny little delicatessen or whatever it was and managed to take a photo of the hotel from there. Accomplishment number one of the day.

The INX is pretty unremarkable from the outside, especially in the daylight. Those big, colorful planters on the sidewalk and the old car under the portico were a really good idea for brightening up the place.At night, strategic lighting makes a more impressive spectacle. And the interior, of course, is quite posh.

At the tiny deli, we ordered brunch, as it was getting on toward noon. I wish someone would have warned me that the coffee that shop serves has hair and that when you stir it and let go of the spoon, the thing stands upright like you stuck it in a block of canned ham. I have never tasted coffee that strong. That appealing cup of java you see in the photo below? The only sip I managed to take of it got spit into my napkin. Holy bells of St. Mary, that was a strong brew.

The sandwich was good, though, and so was the parfait. I watched as Muxxy savored his cup of jet fuel and barely stopped myself from gagging right there in public. My granddaddy always said strong coffee would put hair on your chest. Well, poor Muxxy must have gone home looking like a gorilla. I hope Kim had her hot wax kit all warmed up for him.

We left the deli and followed Muxxy’s GPS toward Wawel Castle. He’d been there the previous afternoon for the Independence Day celebration, and we debated whether or not the place would even be open since it was a holiday in Poland. What the heck, we decided. At least we can see it from the outside.

Along the way we found a few really neat things to see. Painted walls, cobbled streets, a stylish bar nestled behind a structure that looked like it was built in the fifteenth century–we stopped to take pictures of them all.

Presently we came upon the castle, perched high on a knoll overlooking the city. I spotted a flock of pigeons dining like royalty in front of it and promptly forgot everything else I was there to see. I was quite impressed by the fact that locals seem to have established a tradition of tossing out bread for the pigeons, since these birds are considered a nuisance in so many metropolitan areas..

I also liked the tree in front of the castle really well. Too bad the dang castle blocked the entire backdrop. I think that tree would look best in contrast against a solid sky. But some genius decided to build a castle behind it instead. People. I guess I’ll just never figure them out.

After that, we joined a throng of people climbing the Hill of Death to the castle. (No, that isn’t what it’s called. I call every hill bigger than a speed bump something similar.) Near the top, we passed underneath a large iron gate that looked a little dangerous. I, of course, was awed by the magnificent statue of a horse that graced the entranceway, while Muxxy set about taking photos of every iron and concrete dragon he could find.

Our fears about the castle being closed were for naught. There were scads of people visiting that day. Hundreds. Muxxy and I quickly became lost in a sea of tourists milling about in the courtyard. I found more pigeons. In fact, I found a pigeon I particularly liked. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with feathers marbled quite as gloriously as this one. I wanted to take him home with me, but I figured the airline might have a bit of an issue with that.

There were other pigeons, too. My cell phone screen will forever bear the imprint of the castle courtyard floor after I dropped it trying to take pictures of them. You can imagine my surprise when I saw a table full of pigeons under the canopy where people were eating lunch. Nobody shooed them away! Why, heck–here at home, some good ole boy with a .22 woulda dun been out there pickin’ ’em off one by one. There in Krakow, the pigeons dined side by side with the people, and I loved it.

But my surprise at the pigeons helping themselves to leftovers was nothing compared to the surprise I got when I turned around. Guess who was standing right behind me? Not just another Steemian, but one of the three Steemians I mentioned in an earlier post who I said I wished I’d had more time to get to know. Yep, there stood @michelios, no doubt having quite the laugh at me out there in the castle courtyard chasing pigeons.

GMuxx came rushing over when he saw Michel and the three of us took a bit of a rest under the canopy while trying to decide what was see-able in Krakow on a day like that day. I wanted to tour Schindler’s Factory, but it closed early because of the holiday. Okay, no problem. We’d just walk and find whatever wanted to be found. We’d start there at the castle. I confess I was feeling disappointed that so much of the castle complex looked new, when I had been expecting to see Medieval architecture and very, very old stuff. The garden looked old, so I got a photo of it. The wall looked old, so I took some pics of it, too.

There were cool things to see at the castle, despite the fact that I was initially a bit underwhelmed. One of the things that caught my attention was the bronze replica of the castle that included the dragon’s den below us, which made me really curious to see it.


So we headed down the walkway toward the river, not saying much, just walking as a loose group of three with no real idea where we should go. Then something caught my attention.

At first I thought she was having a seizure. No, really–I did think that. Then I heard the music. Listen closely, and you will hear it, too.

I’m still not quite sure what she was doing, other than dancing to “Sail” by AwolNation. Her friend was videoing her, so it could have been just a fun thing to do, or she could have been getting that footage for a professional reason. Who knows. But it sure stopped me in my tracks for a minute or two.

In all honesty, I can no longer recall exactly which route we took to get where, or in what order. At one point we ended up traversing a patch of ground covered with pavers that had sunk and twisted at odd angles over the centuries. There I was hopping along with a cane, trying to preserve my dignity without face-planting in front of hundreds of people–all I can remember is keeping my eyes glued to the ground in front of me and an overwhelming need to get away from some obnoxious American dude who was yelling insults at an old man. Yes. Really yelling at him. Not joking around. Serious. And mean. Those dang Americans! You can’t take them anywhere. So I hobbled as fast as I could, with Muxxy and Michel picking out the smoothest path for me to follow along behind them, hoping to get away from that awful scene as quickly as possible.

At some point, somewhere, I snapped two really good shots of the Vistula River.

Muxxy and I compared phones to see which one captured a better picture of the sky. His did, of course. But I like my picture, too.

Apparently Josh Hartnett visited Krakow at some point in the past. But the hand prints seemed kind of small to me. Hartnett was all grown up by 2013, wasn’t he? Hmmm. . .

Finally we made it down to river and found the dragon’s lair. It was closed. No tours for me. But seeing it did stoke the imagination, especially when Muxxy told us about the dinosaur bones found in the cave centuries ago that were mistaken for dragon bones. Apparently they still hang in the cathedral today.

At the statue of the Wawel Dragon, all three of us hung around with our phone cameras aimed and waiting for it to breathe fire. It did, and we have matching videos on our phones of the grand event. LOL Here’s my version:

Further down the river stands a statue of “Pies Dzok,” a dog who, like Hachiko, waited in vain at the exact spot where his owner died. We visited that monument just long enough to get me good and teary-eyed. I wrote more about Dzok’s story in this post from the @tarc account.

Shortly after that, Michel spoke up about being hungry. He’s not exactly a chatterbox, so whenever he said something, Muxxy and I tended to listen. And oh boy am I glad we did. Because it was then that we turned the day over to Michel and let him take us through the city. As long as I live, I’ll never forget that experience.

From what I could gather, Michel has been backpacking around Europe for a bit. He’s well-traveled. He knows how to find what he’s looking for in an unfamiliar city, and he takes the side roads where life happens at street level. Muxxy and I were bouncing from eatery to eatery, trying to find something that suited, and with one word, Michel pointed us in a different direction. “Polish,” he said as Muxxy and I stared at a pizza menu. I had to admit, authentic Polish food did sound good.

“So what restaurant are we looking for?” I asked, convinced Michel had some particular establishment in mind.

He just shrugged, and with a rueful little grin, said, “I don’t know. I just think one will be down this way.” And he pointed to a street I would never have taken in a million years.

The following video is a result of that conversation. If you don’t watch another video I post, watch this one. The moment I heard music, I knew something special was happening. We would not have chanced upon this gifted street performer had we not listened to Michel–had we not followed the traveler instead of following the tourists. The final production is a combination of footage from my own camera as well as Muxxy’s. Thank you, Muxxy, for letting me use it.

Once the performance ended, we hadn’t made it far when a man with a thick Polish accent shoved something in front of me. “Real Polish food!” he promised. “Pierogies. Pork neck stew. Duck with red cabbage.” The thing he stood waving in front of me was a menu.

Straight to the Polish food Michel had led us. Morela was across the street, and we hustled over there without wasting any time.

I ordered pierogies because I’d been hearing about them since arriving in Poland. Yum! One bite and I understood why people talk about them so much. And, though you can barely see the bottom of the glass in this photograph, I enjoyed the best lemonade I’ve ever had in my life. It reminded me a bit of the lemon sours I used to order from the Hillside drugstore in the town where I grew up,. I drank two.

Then came the coffee, although after the morning’s experience I opted for cappuccino instead. It came complete with a little heart doodled in the froth. I’m happy to report that, unlike the deli coffee, my cappuccino did not have hair, nor did flatware stand upright in the mug after stirring.

For Muxxy and me, and probably for Michel too, a sense of nostalgia was setting in. Steemfest was over, and tomorrow we’d all be in different countries thousands of miles away from so many of the people we’d gotten to know over the previous few days. So we dragged the evening out as long as we could, returning to the INX for drinks in the hotel lounge. Then came the hard part–saying goodbye to a person GMuxx and I both had come to regard as a new friend. We all vowed to stay in touch, and there may be some tentative plans to reconnect in the spring of next year. I certainly hope that happens.

It’s hard for me still, thinking about the day that came after. Muxxy and I shared an Uber to the airport, and I hid in the back seat and wept quietly as we left the city for the last time. There’s just something about being around the kind of energy that Steemfest generates…when you leave it, you feel the loss. Yes, there will be next year. And hopefully some meetups between. But I’ll never forget Poland, or the beauty and strength of its people. Maybe some day I can go back. Until then, I’ll dream of horses and carriages and castles and pigeons, and I’ll never be able to listen to Lindsey Stirling and “Crystallize” again without thinking of that street performer and the day I spent following a traveler on the streets of Krakow.



The Wieliczka Salt Mine and Closing Drinks (a.k.a. the Alkohole)


Sunday was the last day of official Steemfest activities. I think every Steemian there was gearing up to grieve, because we knew we had a few hours left with each other, but at the end of that, nothing more. @roelandp had arranged tours of the Wieliczka Salt Mine with our closing dinner to be held right there in the mine. By then it was easy to trust his judgment, but I confess a moment of head-scratching at the idea of fine dining underground. I’m from Coal Country in the U.S. and have my own ideas about the connotation of  “mine.” Boy, was I in for a surprise.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine is located just outside Krakow proper and was in continuous operation from the 13th Century until 2007. Greater than 1,000 feet at depth, the mine is a network of tunnels and chambers that total more than 178 miles.

Roeland knew that the Cane Crew, including @GMuxx, @soyrosa, and myself, would not be able to navigate the 380 steps down to Level One. Overall, the official tour includes approximately 800 steps altogether. So he arranged a special tour for us with a phenomenal tour guide. We took the tiny elevator down and proceeded from there. This meant we missed the first part of the tour, but I don’t believe we missed the best part. I failed to catch our tour guide’s name, but he constantly amused and amazed us with good humor and stunning facts. For instance, he’s worked at that mine for seventeen years and still has not seen all of it.

Some of the carvings inside the mine were made by workers throughout its centuries of operation. Others were done by commissioned artists to supplement the originals. There’s an overtly religious theme, with statues of Pope John Paul II and The Crucifixion, among others. Wall carvings depict scenes from the Gospels and there are four separate chapels in the mine with altars and chandeliers carved directly from the rock salt.


The walls are made of actual salt. Many people in our Steemfest group confessed to licking the walls, and reported that they are indeed quite salty. I did not engage in this practice, for the simple reason that I felt sure if the thought had crossed my mind, it had crossed other minds as well, and danged if I wanted to go lapping all over a communal salt lick. Yuck. But I did find a discreet little corner and scratched at it with one finger, and yep– the little flakes in my palm tasted like salt.

Nearly every chamber of the mine had a different pattern of stone flooring carved directly from the rock salt floor of the mine. This was one of the most intricate. You can see where the “tiles” are worn smooth by millions of feet passing over them through the years.

In one of the caverns is a gift shop and several large display cases. I have no idea what all the minerals collected in those cases are, but I presume they’re somehow related to salt.

Directly overhead in this chamber, the ceiling seems to stretch to infinity, with several overlooks and blocked passages from different levels of the mine.

In many mine tunnels, the old cart tracks still exist. My thoughts naturally went to the horses who lived and worked there over the centuries. Our tour guide said they actually lived there underground, and years could pass before they saw even a glimmer of daylight or touched a blade of fresh grass.

I saw two of the four chapels on my abbreviated tour. Everything but the wooden furniture is carved in place directly from the rock, including the chandelier frames.I can only imagine what archaeologists will think millions of years from now when they discover this place with all of these ornate furnishings and decorations. Since a single catastrophic event could wipe out all signs of internet, communication technology, electrical and nuclear power sources, and every written word above ground, would they see all this and marvel that we had the ability to create such sophisticated things with our rudimentary chisels and hammers?

All throughout the public areas of the mine, ornate wall carvings are graven into door posts and lintels and the walls themselves.

And then there’s the beautiful underground lake, so high in salt content that, like the Dead Sea, the only way it can support life is by disallowing any living thing to sink.

After the tour, we all settled into the main banquet hall for dinner. Remember my skepticism about dining underground? Pfft. Yeah–silly of me, wasn’t it?

I finally got a picture of @ura-soul. He’s an elusive bugger, let me tell ya. But one of my favorite witnesses, hands down. Hence my stalking him with my camera. Oh wait. He was sitting with us at dinner. No stalking involved. LOL

On my immediate left was the fabulous Mooxxy, and on my right was the lovely @elizacheng and @soyrosa. If you haven’t figured this out from my previous SF3 posts, I became a huge fan of Eliza during this event. I believe it’s her mission in life to bring joy to people and make them smile. It’s a gift, and she certainly has it.

Eliza and I got matching snow globes as keepsakes from Enginewitty. We had fun shaking them up so they’d have exactly the right amount of snow for this picture.

Another keepsake for me from this event was the following photo I have of Yidneth and me. See the warmth in her eyes? That’s real, folks. She’s beautiful inside and out.

@enginewitty and @katrina-ariel are smiling like they have a secret. 🙂

Poor even Yidneth found herself upstaged by a clown act. Lord have mercy. @enginewitty and @arcange–good grief. I don’t think a serious photo can be taken of the two of them together. I finally just settled for getting one where Yidneth was smiling. Good enough for me. LOL

Speaking of Yidneth, she was there with her long-term partner @hedac. At one point during dinner, hilarious names for phone wi-fi hotspots kept popping up. Most had to do with Ned or Roeland, but then one appeared that had Yidneth oohing and aahing on her side of the table. Yup–hedac sent her a love note over the wifi hotspot list. I promised her I wouldn’t post the photo that I took of her showing him how much it meant to her (it’s very sweet, and I hope she posts it herself) but I will show you what the phone screen looked like that prompted her spontaneous display of affection.

From the dinner, we headed back to the buses and back to the Qubus for closing drinks. That’s when things got a bit iffy for me. Somehow, @gmuxx and I both fell down the alkohole .I guess this is what happens when the event coordinators put out a table full of all-you-can-drink wine and beer with enough variety to suit everyone’s taste. It just kept pouring. Yep, all by itself–it jumped from the bottle to my glass more than once. Really! It did. I don’t remember certain portions of that party, but those in attendance assure me that I didn’t fall down, dance on a table, start a fight, or die. So I think I can call that a win.

GMuxx, Enginewitty, Mrs. Blocktrades (I don’t know if she wants me to mention her by name, so I’ll err on the side of caution,) and moi.

Here’s GMuxx with the lovely Yidneth. I prefer the photo above I have with her. But I’m biased, of course.

@vladivostock tried to out-tacky Roeland with his money suit. I think he might have actually succeeded. . . .

Then, as the alkohole became increasingly deeper, I had some issues taking photographs. Let me demonstrate.

Muxxy and @revisesociology, Take One:

Hmm. Let me try that again.

Not the best photography, but it’ll do.

Then things got just downright ridiculous.

“Come meet @abh12345,” says Mooxxy.

“Abh1234 is here?” I say back.

“No,” says Mooxxy. “ABH one-two-three-four-five is here. Come meet him.”

“Asher,” I say. “I’ll just call him Asher.” So I stagger after Mooxxy, wondering where my cane got off to.

These were supposed to be photographs of Arcange and Asher (abh one-two-three-four-five.) I don’t blame Asher for not looking up for the last one. I wouldn’t have either. LOLOL!

Yes, we all had a great time that night. I’ll never forget it. Or maybe I’ll never remember it. Whatever the case, I’m very much looking forward to Steemfest 4, wherever in the world that journey might take us.

Just for fun, here’s a snippet of odds and ends that I captured on video that night at the salt mine and closing drinks. We have @yidneth and the fufunchis, @arcange doing a jig, and even @gtg gets some face time.




Steemfest Friday and the INX Design Hotel



Day Number Two of Steemfest–the ICE Krakow Conference Center hosted our second round of presentations and round table events. I was there for part of the festivities, but this was the day @Gmuxx had a bit of a health wobble and required a quick trip back to the hotel. I didn’t get many photos of the conference center, other than the one below that I snapped as we arrived. I also took some of the super-swanky restroom, but I’ll keep those for myself. LOL

For this post, I’ll show you what a wonderful hotel we stayed in, with great staff like Witold, pictured in the cover photo. He offered us invaluable help with debit card snafus, after the whole international thing blew my bank’s mind (even though I’d called to advise them of my travel plans.) He also helped get us sorted with breakfast, since we had two separate reservations, one of which included breakfast and one of which didn’t. Staff at the INX Design Hotel is top shelf, folks. I hope to some day return to Krakow for another visit, and when I do, there is simply no other place I would consider staying. This is largely due to the friendly, super-efficient people who work there. I have never lodged anywhere that I felt more welcomed.

Below is a photo of the basement level, where we had breakfast every morning, alongside a slew of other Steemians including @shanibeer, @r00sj3, the @steembirds, and many others.I ate real Polish sausage in that dining area, and I’ll never settle for anything less again.

And here is the hotel bar and restaurant where I set my face on fire with a B52. Yes, I certainly will have another, thank you very much.

It’ll take me a while to get through all my photos and thoughts from Poland. Still to come are the Wieliczka Salt Mine Tours, closing dinner, closing drinks (what I can remember of them, anyway,) and freewheeling in Krakow with a world traveler. Eventually I’ll get to Auschwitz. That’s going to be a different thing for me, though, most likely a series.I was affected deeply by that tour, as I expected to be. I have much to say, and it’s going to take bit for me to rein all those emotions in enough to write sensibly about it.

In the meanwhile, here’s a long, underproduced video of Polish countryside that I duct-taped together for your viewing pleasure. Actually, it’s raw footage taken through a bus window. You’ll see a lot of strange reflections and hear snippets of random conversations, but for people who’ve never visited Poland and are curious about the landscape, this might be an interesting watch. I’ve spliced together several clips, interspersed with traffic circles that are not in sequence. I have absolutely no idea how to put this together in the order it actually occurs on the road. But you can see traffic patterns, vehicles, gas prices, and American fast food restaurants. Gaah, they’re everywhere. LOL I very, very much want to revisit Krakow some day. I feel like I left a piece of my heart there. It’s a beautiful city with beautiful people–most of those photos will come from my freewheeling city tour the Monday after Steemfest. I can’t wait to post that one.

Til next time, keep Steeming!





More Steemfest!

The burning question for me is: how is anyone here at Steemfest finding time to post? Good grief! I’m finally getting this one up three days after the fact. It has been nonstop, and for someone like me who has serious health issues, the pace is deadly. So by the time I show up for the ‘Fest, take all the pictures, have all the conversations, then rest enough to keep breathing–there’s no time to post a thing.

Happily, we had some down time this morning and I’m using it. I’ll tell everyone some things about the goings-on here. Wednesday night we all met in the Qubus hotel lobby for opening drinks. Suffice it to say that a great time was had by all. I met some Steemians who just blew me away, folks I’ve known for a while but never seen face to face, like @alexvan (top photo) and @martibis (bottom photo.). Alexvan is the reason I’m at Steemfest to begin with. His witness, ro-witness, provided the ticket to get me in the door in the awesome contest they held. Martibis is a fellow writer and we’ve known each other a while. Let’s just say pictures don’t do these guys justice. A warmth radiates from both of them that the camera completely misses. They’re people you want to be near just because they make the world around them brighter.

The same thing is true for the guys in the next photo, with some differences.

@GMuxx, far left, is one of my bestest best friends in the world. We have a lot in common, but our frighteningly similar health issues make it almost prudent that we stay in close proximity. Either of us could have a crash at any moment, and both of us did while we were here. Someone who hasn’t been around M.S. or lupus likely has no idea to how handle an autonomic meltdown– but we do. I think it’s largely because of this experience dealing with the problems caused by autoimmune disease that neither of us ended up in a Polish hospital. Let’s just hope that nonsense is behind us now. It certainly isn’t fun.

In the center of the photo is @arcange, who I already adored and voted for as a Steem witness. But you know what? He surprised the heck out of me. Not what I expected. Oh, no. He faaaar exceeded my expectations and now I’d go so far as call him friend. This guy is the real deal. That ear-to-ear smile? It’s as genuine as they come. Never miss the chance to meet him in person. That’s my advice for the day.

On the right is @Michelios, someone I only just met here at Steemfest. But he’s another one that lights up his corner of a room, and I regret not having a chance to talk further. GMuxx and I had to deal with a bit of a medical emergency on Friday and I haven’t seen Michelios since I went tearing out of SNDbox presentation looking for Muxxy.. Gaah! Hope to see you at the closing dinner, man-whose-name-I-can’t-pronounce. LOL We all very much enjoyed meeting you and hope we can all stay in touch on Steem!

Above, the Qubus meet and greet in the grand hotel lobby. Good memories!


Krakow is a truly fascinating place–a blend of past and present with old world architecture and modern buildings side by side in a thriving city. Above is the exterior of the Stara Zajedznia, and below is the interior and one of the “barrel” booths that made such good seating for the presentations.

I met a lot of wonderful folks over the past few days, all of whom I didn’t get photos of. For example, half of the @Fundition team who was here–@hightouch and @free999enigma. However, Muxxy and I did get a pic with @goyard and @addictedtolife, who I’d spoken with on the mind-blowing post Fundition did about The Writers’ Block. 

Other notable people I got to meet but unfortunately got no photos of:were @ura-soul, @starkerz, @blocktrades, @revisesociology, and @karinxxl . And oh gosh, so many others. But I did manage to snag some people with my lens, like @ezzy, shown here with Michelios just before The Writers’ Block presentation. Everybody knows I fangirl over Ezzy–even Ezzy knows this. I think his writing is strong and commercial and is, in fact, what gave me the idea that blockchain and fiction are a good match.

Then there’s @fredrikaa, whose work with @steempress-io has been nothing short of amazing. I am a personal fan of Steempress and The Writers’ Block is both supportive and grateful for this initiative. To meet and spend a bit of time with this developer was a privilege I don’t take lightly. Pictured right to left below in one of the Stara Zajedznia “barrels” is Gmuxx, Frederikaa, and @Jayna.

I also got to meet and spend time with @elizacheng, whose warmth and sincerity blew me away. Still another lovely Steemian whose energy lights up a room. Here she is proudly showing off her family–I made a special point to get this photo at this moment because of the joy on her face. Elizacheng, it is a real joy knowing you. 🙂

Two other people I met who I hope to stay in contact with are @bugavi and her mother, @olga.maslievich. They brought such joy to me during this conference, and as is the case with Michelios, are people I won’t get to say goodbye to unless they are at the closing dinner tonight. I had to abandon our plans of further conversation when Muxxy and I left the Congressional Center in such a hurry on Friday. Needless to say, I hope we have a chance to talk a bit more very soon!

And now, just some random photos I took of a K9 S&R trainer’s car and some other lovely scenes I found on my walk to the Stara Zajedznia.

Last but not least, an edited video of TWB’s presentation about Steemhouse publishing and Wordrow. It’s edited to exclude reference to the witness group I left last night due to differences in alignment. It’s otherwise intact. Please be sure to watch it! It’s only 20 minutes long, and chock full of information some of you may not know!

Happy Steeming!


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

Who Said Things Get Easier on the Downhill Side?


Any of you ever feel like this guy?

Yeah, well–me too. My nonprofit rescue, @tarc, is finally moving forward with the October transport, but I’m starting to get a little ragged around the edges. This is hard work. And really, folks…the situation needs to change. It’s ridiculous for so many animals to die so routinely in U.S.shelters that groups like mine even have to exist. We should be spaying and neutering the problem away, not killing ourselves trying to shovel snow in a blizzard.

Here’s the latest post I made about the problem. If you love animals, please take a moment to read it. It may open your eyes to some very unsettling truths about the animal sheltering system in the United States. The Land of the Free isn’t as “developed” as it purports to be. It’s time we stand together as a nation and demand better from ourselves.

I’m starting a Discord for Steemians who’d like to get involved in our push for awareness and change. If you have a social media following away from the blockchain–or even if you don’t–this might be a good chance for you to get involved in a mission of mercy that could span the globe. I’ll be dropping the link to this post in a few Discord DM inboxes over the next few days, and I’ll also be talking about this on Thursday during Pimp Your Post in the Steemit Ramble. That streaming show is hosted by @shadowspub, and is frequently attended by animal lovers and all around good people.I can’t imagine Thursdays without it.

As it stands, the transport is scheduled to leave on the twentieth of this month. Two dogs are going to Vermont on commercial transport and four are going into New Hampshire. This marks the beginning of new lives for them, safe from kill shelters, abuse, and neglect. They are so very deserving of a happy ending. I’m so happy to see it all come together!

cover image source


Meet me at SteemFest 2018 in Kraków

$25 Fine for Animal Abandonment–Only in Tazewell County


On May 18, 2018, Worley Whitt braked his pickup to a stop on Limestone Road in Tazewell County, VA. Seconds later,  a passenger opened the truck’s door and tossed a dog out onto the pavement. The door closed and the pickup drove away. The dog trotted after the truck, then disappeared, and has never been seen again despite concentrated efforts to find her.

The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office was monitoring a trail cam at this site. They identified Mr. Whitt and charged him according to VA Code 3.2-6504/Animal Abandonment. The case went to court, and a General District judge fined Mr. Whitt $25.

In case the significance of this doesn’t register at first, that $25 fine did not even pay the salary of the officer for the time he spent putting the case together. It would not even begin to pay for the care of a dog turned in to the Tazewell County Animal Shelter, leaving taxpayers to pick up the bill. Dumping a dog is a Class 3 Misdemeanor in Virginia, punishable by a fine of up to $500 according to state code.

So how did this General District judge arrive at a fine of $25? I’m not at all sure. I can guarantee, however, that much of this is grounded in culture. Animals have been regarded as property in Appalachia for generations, to be dealt with and disposed of at will. In my opinion, this judge did not fulfill his obligation to the law when he issued such a negligible fine.

I would love to see this post and video go viral. I can’t imagine the frustration our law enforcement officers must have felt to see their hard work and due diligence in this case be marginalized by a court system that failed to honor the spirit of Virginia law. Lately, local animal control officers and police entities have come under growing international pressure from animal lovers and animal welfare activists due to greater exposure of the problems here in Southwest Virginia. However, in this case is it clear to me that our officers went above and beyond to uphold the law and speak for this dog, who could not speak for herself. They were failed by the court system, by a judge who is not paying attention to the concerns of people in this community and elsewhere in the world.

The judge will not reverse his decision. That ship has sailed. However, General District judges are appointed in Virginia. Our state representatives Will Morefield and Ben Chafin are the people who need to hear about this. They need to hear from constituents. They also need to hear from people around the world who are watching the situation in Tazewell County. This includes not only potential tourists, but large corporations who could potentially bring industry to our region. The era of the Good Old Boys has passed. In today’s world, we want to see abusers held accountable. In fact, we demand it. Please take a moment to contact Mr. Morefield and Mr. Chafin at the addresses and phone numbers provided below.

Will Morefield
Capitol Office
Pocahontas Building
900 E. Main St,
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Office: (804) 698-1003
Room Number: W228

District Office
P.O. Box 828
North Tazewell, VA 24630
Office: (276) 345-4300
Delegate’s Personal Website



Senator A. Benton Chafin, Jr.
Richmond Office
Pocahontas Building, Room E514
900 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: (804) 698-7538

District Office
331 West Main Street
P.O. Box 1210
Lebanon, VA 24266
Phone: (276) 889-1044


In final thoughts, I’ve been writing for several years about the deplorable situation that animals face in Southwest Virginia. In many ways, it’s comparable to conditions in underdeveloped countries that have limited or no public services for people or animals. Trying to make community leaders and government officials understand how this affects us at the socioeconomic level has been very difficult. Our county recently had a nearly three-million-dollar budget shortfall, resulting in the loss of more than a million dollars in funding for local schools (article HERE.Addiction is epidemic here. Jobs are scarce. Our community is dying, and the best answer local politicians can come up with is to place more emphasis on tourism. You can read more about that HERE. We definitely have problems, and no solutions anywhere on the horizon.

Many studies have been done in recent years that link animal abuse to violence against people. Some finding indicate that animal abusers are five times as likely to abuse humans. The FBI has identified animal abuse as an indicator and predictor of more serious crime. It stands to reason that neglect and abandonment of animals will also reflect a similar trend in behavior toward humans, especially children.

We need to make our leaders aware of the facts. And we don’t need to stop until they understand how those facts affect all our lives directly.



Movie Review: The Signal (2014)


My husband Steemed a movie review yesterday. I’m quite proud of him. The only problem is that he failed to issue a proper warning. He suggested that this movie might be an okay choice for someone with time on their hands: “I would give it three stars out of five,” he wrote. “Meaning that if you don’t have anything else in your ‘to watch’ queue then go ahead and pull the trigger on this one. It’s a way to kill a couple hours.”

He forgot to mention you might need to steam-clean the inside of your cranium afterward.

It starts fairly strong–teenager with a disability uses his math-brain to help a little kid win a toy from the claw machine. We never know if the kid actually gets the toy, though, which should have been my first clue that the director for this movie didn’t have control of the story.

The premise is solid. A group of kids traveling cross-country decide to track down a hacker who’s been taunting them online. I mean, as a director, how do you mess something like that up? The kids follow the breadcrumbs to a deserted location in the Nevada desert, and all hell breaks loose. @sk43 failed to mention in his review that the plot is decidedly paranormal, so I was a bit surprised to see one of the characters flying through the air like something had plucked her up by the ankle. Poltergeist, much? Yikes! Holy cow, Mr. Movie Reviewer–that might have been a detail you wanted to include.

But I kept watching. All the while, I was tallying a list of questions that would need good answers, like what was the thing that didn’t eat the cow like the T-Rex ate the goat in Jurassic Park, and then escaped, leaving huge swaths of ripped and scorched metal in its wake? The Director, William Eubank, didn’t seem to think we need to know.

Maybe I should be thrashing on the screenwriters rather than the director. Still, I find it very disheartening that anyone could take a premise this strong and leave the viewer with nothing. It really seems as if the people making this movie got so caught up in dramatic cinematography that they forgot to tell the story. By the end, nothing was happening at all onscreen except sweeping panoramas, slow motion ferris wheel shots, and bizarre CGI.

My hubby gave it three stars out of five. I’m not so generous. I give it two stars out of five. Meaning, don’t even bother, unless you need something on for background noise.

This is a shame, too. I feel bad for the actors. Brenton Thwaites, in the starring role, didn’t do a terrible job. He was believable, but never really got the opportunity to trot out his skills. Olivia Cooke, in the role of Haley, mostly just had to lie on a gurney and look comatose. Beau Knapp brought the crazy as Jonah, and Laurence Fishburne brought his face. Well, to be fair, he had some lines of dialogue. But he never really said anything.

Am I glad I watched the film? Sure. It gave me something to post about. Otherwise, I’d be filing a claim to get that hour and a half of my life back.

Share your thoughts in the comments. @sk43 and I are looking forward to getting some dialogue started. 🙂


White Chicory

Last year, I posted a great deal about the vegetation in my yard—what’s edible, what’s not, and all the medicinal uses for the plants I found growing here. I have three varieties of dock that to me taste better than turnips or collards, dandelions, jewelweed, Joe Pye weed, knotweed, goldenrod, and plantain, to name a few.

What I didn’t post much about was chicory. My front parking area is covered with the stuff. Chicory is a bitter agent that has been used for centuries as a digestive aid. Its leaves can be added to salad, and its root can be ground and baked as a coffee additive. Chicory has, in fact, been used as a substitute for coffee for as long as it’s been used as a medicinal supplement. Early American lore is filled with anecdotes about chicory coffee. It’s still sold commercially around the world as a flavor additive and specialty item.

Chicory has a very distinctive flavor. Bitter, yes. I’d go so far as call it acrid. Some of this is mitigated by roasting at a relatively high heat. The components of chicory responsible for its bitter taste are both lactones: lactucin and lactucopicrin. However, the substance chicory is primarily harvested for is inulin. Chicory root can contain as much as 20% inulin, which is used as an artificial sweetener, a prebiotic, and a source of soluble fiber.

All of this information about chicory interests me. However, the reason I’m posting about it has little to do with all its uses. This week, I found white chicory growing in my yard. While white or even pink flowers do occur, they are rare. Chicory is known for its vibrant cornflower blue blooms, which are single rather than clustered, and close tightly after only a few hours to never reopen again. Thankfully, new flowers open the next morning, but they, too, survive for only one day.

The white blooms, though—such an interesting find! And not just one plant, but several, scattered around a specific spot in the yard. For me, this was a thrill! I love the flora and fauna on our seven acres, especially when I chance upon something I have never seen before. It makes me remember why I enjoy being close to nature, and why I don’t mind at all that my yard looks more unkempt than my neighbors’. They don’t have white chicory growing wild and beautiful just a few steps from their door. But I do, and I love it!