Our Second Trip to Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Lodge…and Definitely Not Our Last!

If you’re visiting Chicago or live in the Chicagoland area, and are yearning for a magical woodland getaway, head to Utica, Illinois.  Brooke and I just returned from a fun Memorial Weekend getaway…just a little over a one hour drive from our home in Naperville, Illinois.  We had the pleasure of staying at Grizzly Jack’s Grand Bear Resort.






With body and tube water slides, a lazy river, riptide and wave pool, hot tub and The Wave Cafe  (as I like to call Mom’s Margaritaville) steps away from the waterpark this is the ideal resort for fun and excitement. While it is not the size of the monstrous resorts at the Dells, that certainly goes in the positive column on my resort check list–no worries as to where the kids are and a fraction of the noise and chaos.  In my opinion, the focus of this weekend should be  on the great outdoors, with the water park being an extra bonus for kids  (and adults) after a long day of fresh forest air.





The Northwoods decor at the resort is cozy and gives you that outdoorsy vibe.  We were given a lovely suite that sleeps six, with a balcony in the main resort area.


On site at Jack’s Grizzly Bear Grand Resort, there are also beautiful vacation villas and cabins nestled in the woods with living rooms, patios, and fireplaces.  These are the ideal haven for a family reunion or special occasion–although, in the near future, we hope to stay in a villa for no reason whatsoever.


About a two minute car ride away is Starved Rock State Park, so the perfect day’s agenda is to wake up, enjoy the resort’s buffet breakfast including eggs, potatoes, sausage, biscuits and gravy, fresh fruit, pastries, etc and then head to Starved Rock for a morning, or day of hiking and exploring. Afterwards, return to the lodge to enjoy the water park, arcade, or just get some much needed R&R.  In the evening, we dined again at Jack’s Place Restaurant and Bar followed by a round of mini golf as we enjoyed the music  at the Bear Island Bar and Grill.



Without a doubt, we will make Grizzly Jack’s a yearly traditional, maybe even monthly!


Spring Break 2019–Road Trip to Florida

For this year’s spring break vacation, Brooke and I headed to the Emerald Coast located on the panhandle of Florida.  We had a few reasons to visit this location, besides the obvious crystal clear waters and powdery white beaches.  My son recently bought his first house and got engaged so we were super excited to see his new home and meet his fiance! Another exciting reason to head to the Sunshine state is in a few years I will be retiring and have decided Florida will be my retirement destination so the search for condos has officially begun. And finally, Brooke has begun the college search so we decided to tour the University of West Florida.  Brooke is also now sixteen and has her driver’s license, so I got a reprieve every few hours and she was beyond thrilled to assist in this driving adventure!


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Three Days in Los Angeles–Can’t Believe We Fit It All In!


If you have never been to LA, we’ve got the ideal weekend itinerary for first timers who want to experience as much as possible! At least for us, this custom-made itinerary was the perfect balance of iconic landmarks, culture, leisure, dining and  yes….lots of shopping!


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Eaglewood Resort & Spa

This past weekend, Brooke and I had the wonderful opportunity to stay at the beautiful Eaglewood Resort and Spa in Itasca, Illinois.  If you are a spa lover, golfer or foodie, this resort is right up your alley. Speaking of ‘alley’, they also have an actual cosmic bowling alley which was such a pleasant and fun surprise!


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Life Lessons Learned in Costa Rica-From our Horses and the Eponicity Program

When we arrived in Costa Rica,  we had no idea we were spending the week with creatures that are truly intuitive beings.  Intuition is a sixth sense and horses definitely possess this gift.  As animals of prey in nature, horses must know the intentions of those around them.  Have you ever wondered why zebras can drink from the same reservoir as lions only a few feet away and not display any fear? It is because they intuitively know the intentions of the lions at that time.  Rather than analyze the situation like humans do, the zebras actually feel through intuition. Such is the case with horses.


Intuition is like a radio station that is consistently transmitting messages but we only hear them when we tune in. Failure to hear the messages is due solely to our inability to quiet our minds and listen.  Society has taught us to not listen to our intuition. We have become an imbalanced left brain culture.

Horses are sensitive to people’s energy and body language. They can pick up subtle signs that we as humans are not as in tune with. They sense incongruity in how a person is presenting themselves and the type of energy they give off. Horses are non-judgmental beings that can’t lie– giving honest feedback and encouraging us to be authentic at all times. They are great lie-detectors and will call you out if you are wearing any masks or hide behind your ego. You can’t fool a horse.


Perfect Example:  When I first met my horse, Cosmo, I was smiling and trying to act confident, yet inside I was afraid and felt extremely intimidated by him. I also was feeling sorry for him and felt like I had to be his nurturer and care taker.  Cosmo in turn, would not even make eye contact with me.  In fact, he turned around, gave me the cold shoulder and basically put his ass in my face.  Debbie told me immediately that he can sense my outward body language is not aligned with my inner feelings and energy.  So I let go of the mask and  became completely authentic and grounded.  Cosmo then turned his head towards mine, looked me straight in the eyes and started breathing his breath so close to me, I was inhaling his exhales.  It was a defining moment in my life and profoundly changed something within. And so the lessons began.


What we learned in Costa Rica:

  1. Detach From Fear and Your Past

We each have a story that we have formed about every event, situation and experience in our lives. Most of our stories are based on our beliefs and our level of consciousness at that time. Often times we over-identify with our stories, allow them to define and control us. But as we cling to our stories, we hinder ourselves from finding and living our truth. We often suffer when our stories are not aligned with the greater good.  Detachment from old stories and false beliefs about life, ourselves and others, is vital for growth and personal transformation. We must learn that by changing our stories, we free ourselves and change our lives. With mindfulness and present moment awareness, we gain a new perspective. We realize that we have a choice in every single moment to write a new story- -a story of hope and new beginnings.


2. Suffering is a Necessary Part of Growth

Understanding that pain and suffering serve our spiritual growth may be a challenging concept to grasp for most of us, especially in those moments when we are in the midst of experiencing turmoil. Many of us unconsciously suppress and escape pain, both physically and emotionally. But unexpressed pain can cause more suffering if we are not aware of it. When the energy of pain is not released, emotional blockages are formed and we become trapped.   Just as physical pain tells us something is going on in our bodies that needs our attention, emotional pain tells us we need to go within ourselves and pay attention to our intuition. We have the choice to let pain and suffering debilitate us or we can choose to see it as a catalyst to delve deeper into ourselves and our beliefs. Often pain and suffering lead to the bigger questions about life, existence, and most importantly our purpose. With awareness, we realize that pain is opportunity to challenge the way we look at life. Pain is a messenger.  Pay close attention to it in order for the lessons hidden deep within yourself.


3. Our Intentions Create Our Realities

We each create our reality with our intentions, both consciously and unconsciously. These intentions include our thoughts, ideas and actions. With each intention we plant a seed within the field of our consciousness. The effects of our intentions determine the experiences of our lives. Once we understand the power of our intentions, we begin to choose thoughts that are more loving, supporting and harmonious; and thus we experience more peace, freedom and joy. Intention is energy and manifests itself through our consciousness; therefore we must be clear about our intentions in order to manifest what we desire in our hearts. Intentions give us purpose and direction in life and we learn to become masters of our own fate rather than victims.

Through the Eponicity Equine Program at Leaves and Lizards Resort, we learned to quiet our minds and listen to the lessons waiting for us. Thank  you Cosmo, Beauty, Espartaco and of course, Debbie and Steve.  You have changed our lives forever. Can’t wait to see you all again this spring!

Costa Rica-La Pura Vida

Waking up in the midst of a lush rainforest back dropped with the ever-changing view of the Arenal Volcano is how we spent this past week, as Brooke, my son Adam, and I visited Costa Rica for our very first time.  We stayed at a resort called Leaves and Lizards which is located near La Fortuna.  Often when we travel, it takes us a few days to feel comfortable and fully get into vacation mode, but the moment we stepped foot on the property here, it felt like home.

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The 26-acre farm resort is a quiet, tranquil respite situated on a hilltop.  Waking up to the sounds of birds, insects, and many unfamiliar animals immediately immersed us in the beauty of Costa Rica. Upon waking, we worked on the farm, gathering eggs and milking cows to prepare for our delicious and wholesome breakfast.  Yoga, swimming, nature walks, relaxing and soaking in the beauty around this resort are all a part of the daily routine here.


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There is so much to do in this region of Costa Rica from rainforest tours, rafting, zip lining, hiking, swimming in hot springs, you name it.  We chose to partake in a program called Eponicity, a therapuetic equine program that has forever impacted and changed our lives. People from all over the world come here to work with Debbie, owner and expert in Eponaquest Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL).  The program we attended was three full days and the profound bond created with our horses is indescribable.  Learning about these beautiful creatures and the journey of self-discovery is something we did not anticipate at all with regards to this trip.


Steve, Debbie, Beauty and Brooke

Whether with family or a solo trip, if you desire a deep connection with nature and the opportunity to experience the healing power of  horses and how they help the human soul, you must take this journey. If we humans could be a sensitive as these
intuitive animals, the world would truly be a peaceful place. This is an
experience we can’t begin to explain with words.


Thank you Cosmo for the life-changing lessons


Costa Rica is known as the land of Pura Vida which means “simple life” or “pure life.” It is the way of life there–from an abundance of adventures, to the beauty and kindness of its people, to the blessings of Nature and the magical feeling of this sacred place.  We aren’t even unpacked yet, and are already planning our return trip.

Here’s a glimpse of some of the natural beauty we were surrounded by on this trip:



And definitely a highlight for us was of course the amazing animals:

And a quick shout out to Alejandro for the most delicious and authentic Costa Rican cuisine and yummy pina coladas!

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Debbie and Steve, we can’t thank you enough for welcoming us with open arms.  We miss you and will definitely see you again soon.





Up Next:

Life Lessons Learned in Costa Rica




The Magic Of Mackinac Island and Mission Point Resort

Living in the suburbs of Chicago for a couple of decades now, common conversation with friends and colleagues often focuses around  family road trips to various Midwest destinations– Mackinac Island being the first and foremost…with an abundance of oohs, ahhhs and starry-eyed stories of this dreamy far-off Michigan land. When I dared mention that I had yet to experience Mackinac Island, looks of disbelief, disgust and dismay abounded. How was this possible?  To be honest, Mackinac has been on my bucket list for many, many years now, but life just didn’t allow me to find my way to this charming storybook location …until this glorious June week.

Now that I have seen the Mackinac light, I am furious at myself for robbing  my family (and myself) of one of the most beautiful destinations in the United States, if not the entire world. But we cannot live in the past; I am profoundly elated that we made this trip, for it has positively impacted our lives forever.


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Door County, Wisconsin in the Spring

After visiting Door County, Wisconsin last Fall, we felt it only fair to experience this picturesque area of the American Midwest during the season of renewal.  We were a bit skeptical about our return, since our fall visit was utterly surreal, but Door County certainly does not disappoint whether you prefer a kaleidoscope of autumn leaves or a rainbow of tulips dappling each picturesque town.


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You’ve Changed

“You’ve changed and it seems like I don’t even know who you are anymore.”

This phrase is stated as an insult intended to discourage growth.

In the past few years, I have become a completely different person.  Like a butterfly emerging from it’s chrysalis or perhaps an old skin has shed  (kind of like a basilisk trapped in a chamber beneath a school).

Holding onto elements of your identity that no longer serve you can be daunting when you were once defined by them.  Be here’s the key: you are allowed to change.  You are allowed to question.  You are allowed to struggle–because if you are struggling, you’re growing.  What is happening TO you is happening FOR you. Let the transformation naturally occur.  Let it make stronger, braver, kinder, lighter. Completely open your heart and mind and trust the process.

There will always be those negative forces that fear your change and growth. It terrifies them because they are stagnate.

Here’s some sound advice for dealing with Negative Forces during your transformation: (and I’m personally trying to take the advice each and everyday)

*Whenever the negative chaos starts, smile and remain silent. Remain completely detached and don’t get involved. Leave the room if you can. Negative people are simply seeking to get a reaction from you. They feed on this. Don’t let them catch you in their web of negativity because as soon as you do, that’s when they start draining your energy.  Their goal is to weaken you so you have to be strong and not give in to them.

*Observe the event like an outsider–ass if you’re watching a movie.  Say to yourself, “What a shame this character is so unhappy.”  Realize their unhappiness is their choice and has nothing to do with you. We all have free will to choose happiness. This isn’t always an easy thing to do but definitely a powerful technique. This works really well with family  who you don’t really have a choice as to whether they’re in your life or not.
*While there negativity is spewing envision a bright white light surrounding you.  Their negativity can’t touch you because you now have a force field protecting you.  It’s incredible how amazing this technique works.  There negativity unfortunately is sent out into the universe, but it will not be absorbed by you. Try to counter it by thinking of positive thoughts and love for that person, despite their toxic energy.
*I’ve come to realize that the “universe” uses negative people as the way to get me to move on whenever I’m getting comfortable in a situation that isn’t challenging me anymore.  Use their negativity to propel changes within yourself. If they are putting you down, use the opportunity to affirm your self-worth. If they are judgmental, use that as a sign from the universe to be grateful for your own open mindedness. Think of their negativity are a springboard for your own journey.

Negative people want one thing: to get a reaction out of you and the only way they can is if they know how to hit your buttons.  They will do anything to make you as unhappy as they are.  So, if there’s one particular person who drains your positive energy, ask yourself why you are allowing this? Sometimes, you can learn a lot about yourself by analyzing what feelings it stirs within you. Once you are cognizant of this, you’ll find that that person no longer has any power over you.

And finally, do not try to fix them. They do not want to be fixed.  Leave that up to Karma.

Spring Cleaning–Finding Your Inner Peace

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they need to clear out and clean up their physical and energetic environment. Right now, spring energy is upon us and we can open up the windows and doors and breath the fragrant scents of new growth.

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