Archive for September 2013


Well, what’s so newsworthy about that? Nothing — and that’s the point. After singing a few scales and having one go at “Consider the LIllies,” I lapsed into my usual thought. How lucky I am that I can have this water — clean, hot, plentiful, and there when I want it. Think of the folks in the world who don’t even have enough of it to drink, say nothing of such luxury as bathing.

I can’t help being grateful — and longing for a world where no one is thirsty.

Posted September 29, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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I guess it’s time to share another segment of our recent trip to Europe. The last entry was Portugal – a delightful new adventure. This time it’s nostalgia all over again. Austria, mostly re-experiencing Salzburg.

My first visit to Salzburg was right after graduation from college with a National Student Association tour. We spent 11 weeks in Europe: Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Holland, & Belgium.  As I recall, the entire price (except for two free weeks at the end) was $675.00, including eleven days over and back on the S.S. Volendam of the Holland America line. Transport was not elegant – the Volendam was still fitted out as a troopship – but for a bunch of students it was great – movies, lectures, courses, each other. a small smoking room, and bottles of Heinekens for 5 cents apiece.

I think there were 15 people in our group,including three guys. It was the time of the Korean war (which history refuses to label as such.) That meant young men had to hang around home in case they were called up for the draft. I’m not sure how some were free to go, but three of them made it. I wonder who, out of that group, is still around to remember.

I learned many years later that was the year when the CIA first enlisted students to gather information.

But now the focus is on revisiting. On our graduation visit, Austria was our first stop. My roommate and I were boarded in a home in Hallein outside Salzburg, the salt city. I’ll get to that later.

The first adventure I remember was Hohensalzburg – the castle on the mountaintop overlooking the city. It was new to us, but anyone who’s been to Salzburg knows it as the major site of interest. My first visit, though, was before “The Sound of Music” turned Salzburg into a tourist site, It was right after the end of WWII, so the place was filled with displaced, homeless people, giving it the feel of a medieval village. I don’t remember walking up there, so I think we arrived at the top by way of the funicular, which shows in this photo taken from the cemetery outside the plaza of the Cathedral.

Hohensalzburg & cemetery

My second visit to the site was in 1976 when I traveled Eurail with my teen-aged son and daughter. Again, I don’t remember walking up, so I suspect we took the funicular. Even then my children had to deal with my acrophobia – fear of heights.

This time, my tour guide – otherwise known as my son Doug, well beyond teen-age – had us walking to the castle, stopping along the way at various sites, and for lunch. Obviously there were many more things along the way than had been there decades before. Thankfully we returned to the ground below via the funicular.

Most nostalgic for me was the visit to the Salzburg dom (Cathedral). On my first visit I looked at it with ooh/aw excitement. On the second visit in 1976 I hid behind a wall to conceal my tears as I was grieving the end of my marriage. But there was beauty too. My son and I attended a Haydn mass there on Sunday, so crowded we had to stand in the back. But imagine – a full orchestra and chorus. Better than a concert hall was the site of the cathedral. This year, we got there early enough to get a seat for the Mozart Mass. Equally powerful. No tears. Just plain joy.

Salzburg dom

As one would expect in a tourist town, there were sales booths set up on the plaza outside. Yes, I did buy some things. Then we walked on through to the cemetery, seen in the photo above. A lovely, calming place, I thought.

After Mass

We did visit the adjacent convent, and I even took a photo from an upper floor – hooray for me! In spite of my acrophobia, You can see the cemetery down below.

view from convent

No visit to the Salzburg area is complete without a stop at Schloss Hellbrunn. Having been there twice before, I thought I was really wise and would avoid getting wet, but they got me. No photo of that, but a picture of the early surprise for the unsuspecting. The water felt good, though, because we were in Europe during a heat wave.

Getting wet

Of course, anyone visiting the area has to see Mirabel gardens.

Mirabel Gardens

We went a step beyond and bought tickets ahead of time for a concert at the palace. Remember, Salzburg celebrates its most famous citizen – Mozart. So, of course, we attended several Mozart concerts. Here, though, the physical setting was particularly lovely.

Schloss Mirabel

But Mozart wasn’t all we experienced. We happened to see an ad for a free concert at St. Peter’s church – Talis’ “Spem in Alium.”

St. Peter's Talis ..

A ten-minute choral piece. (Hmm. I’m getting a déjà vu feeling. Have I told you this before?) Well, anyway, to go on, we got there early to get out of the heat and waited in a not-very-comfortable pew, So few people were there, we thought it would be no big deal. Then suddenly the church was filled to standing room only. And at the appointed hour, 5 pm, the choir surrounded the back of the church and we were blessed with ten minutes of the most glorious music. After a long standing ovation, we were treated to a ten-minute encore. (Note: In Minnesota it seems the audience always offers a standing ovation, but in Europe, at least in our experience those few weeks there, such appreciation is saved for something really special.)

I hope you’re not bored yet, because I want to tell you about the salt mines in Hallein. I remembered them from my early visit there. Being attired in protective white clothing and sliding down into the depths, then being transported by various means through them. It was fun. I could hardly wait for my son to enjoy it, though I chose to have lunch while waiting in the tourist area above. (No such building was there on my first visit.) I don’t have a photo, but I was well satisfied with his pleasure.

Just a few more things. When I was there the first time, right after the war, we asked our student guides in Germany to take us to Berchtesgaden. They obliged and we spent a nice afternoon on the beach. We had in mind Hitler’s retreat, the Eagle’s Nest, but it drew a blank from the students.

This time, however, we did get to cross over into Germany to visit it. (What a pleasure – no border patrols asking to see our passports. Part of the European Union now.)

Until a year after we were there as students the Americans who controlled it did not allow visitors. Sometime later, it was returned to the locals, on condition it should not celebrate Hitler. So it is now a restaurant. I do have an aerial photo of it, but it’s a postcard and I suspect I don’t have the legal right to show it here. So, the best I can do is show the only decent photo I took on that visit – just a scenic sight.

Eagle's nest view

Especially interesting was the careful timing to get there and back again. It’s a one-way drive up (and down) a single road requiring split-second departures. By the way, the elevator was very elaborate by which Hitler was raised to the Eagles Nest after being delivered by his driver who then had to back out for quite a distance.

At some point we decided to visit the “Silent Night” museum. Following the directional signs as best we could, often leading to place of “Huh? Where do we go from here?” we finally found it. Wish they had warned us. It’s closed for a period of time. Best I could do was get a photo of Hans Gruber’s grave outside his home.

Gruber grave

Finally, just to convey the atmosphere, I’d like you to see the photo of a restaurant we enjoyed in Rohrmoos – Pariente.

Pariente in Rohrmoos

The header is a photo of the boat on which we had a 40 minute ride after visiting Mirabel gardens and before going on to a series of concerts.

Gratitude begets gratitude   6 comments

I can’t tell you how grateful I am that so many of you “liked” and/or commented on yesterday’s gratitude blog. Sometimes I get the lonely feeling that no one is seeing what I put out. Of course, I’m aware that I didn’t really put this out, but rather I passed it forward. Which obviously was a good idea.

Speaking of passing it forward. I remember years ago in Boston when I was in graduate school I decided one day to smile at everyone I encountered. Wow! What a result. Everyone smiled back. I mean, a real eye-crinkling smile. I suspect some of those smiles got forwarded to others.

Posted September 26, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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GRATITUDE   11 comments

My throat got lumpy when I watched this — but in a good way. If you haven’t already seen it, please enjoy.  Gratitude

Posted September 25, 2013 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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ONE WORLD – THE LOST SONG   15 comments

Yesterday I was reminded of a song I’ve been singing to myself lately. Here’s the story.

Bristol High School, Bristol, Connecticut, 1946. A brief period of fresh air and hope after the end of the war – WWII,  that is.

Our choir sang “One World.” In fact, I think the Connecticut Joint Chorus sang it.

 One world built on a firm foundation

One world no longer cursed by war

Let no mortal man

 Change the Master’s plan

In a world where war shall cease

One world built on love and peace.

I have wondered what happened to it. Also, wanting to share it with the group I had been with, I googled it. Only one thing came up – a request for the words from someone who remembered singing it in a High School Chorus at that time.

Apparently Karma, or something, had just obliterated the song.  It did once exist – I found a photo of the sheet music at a site selling old music.

Why did it disappear?  Is the sheet music still there somewhere in the music department archives?

Were we not “ready” for the message? Fearful even? Did the director, or the administration decide it was somehow dangerous?

More important. Are we ready for the message now?



Thanks to a fellow blogger who supplied this succinct statement.

“Forgiveness trumps vengeance, and reduces our stress as well.” I agree, but here’s my big question mark. If it’s true that our first reaction is to act with vengeance, then at what point does forgiveness trump it. After we’ve done something we’ll regret?

Dan Ariely addresses this in The Upside of Irrationality to which I referred in my last blog. His chapter 10 (pp. 257-280) describes the danger. “The Long Term Effects Of Short Term Emotions: Why We Shouldn’t Act On Our Negative Feelings.”

If the human impulse is to rush to vengeance, and if forgiveness trumps vengeance, what has to happen in between to prevent vengeance so the forgiveness process has time to work?

Count to ten? What has to happen to train us to do that? Suggestions? …



Yesterday’s post recognized the built-in nature of vengeance. But I think if we probe further there is something more basic behind it. The need to regain control and order. Think of the expression “get even.” It’s as if we can bring things back into balance.

The animal in the wild who is attacked instinctively fights back to preserve his (or her) self and group. Behind it is survival — getting back to a level of safety. Safety implies familiarity — things returning to where they were.

The problem for us in our civilization is that we can never return things to the way they were. Whatever the offense, whether a terrible rape and murder or a personal insult, it is now a fact of life. That old urge to get even can’t work. There is no way to return to the way things were.

So, the best effort is to gain control. To find a way to bring order out of the chaos the offense created. And that’s where using our heads helps. That’s the basis for a realistic approach to whether and how to forgive — to let go our desire for vengeance and bring order — a new order — back into our lives.

It’s something we do for our own sanity and comfort. Does it mean the crime goes unpunished? Probably not. Punishment applied appropriately, untainted by vengeance, may be one way of reassuring ourselves of safety in the future. But back to the issue of vengeance. The basic fact still is, vengeance breeds vengeance — and so is lost the safety we’re after.



I think it’s safe to say that vengeance is the most powerful obstacle to forgiveness. I have been reminded of that recently in reading Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality

I’m especially alert these days to quotable material as I anticipate the four-session discussion of forgiveness I’ll be leading at Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, Minnesota. So I made note of page 151 where he reports “good advice about not engaging in revenge.”

A number of wise men have warned us against the would-be benefits of vengeance. Mark Twain said, “Therein lies the defect of revenge: it’s all in the anticipation; the thing itself is a pain, not a pleasure; at least the pain is the biggest end of it.” Walter Weckler further observed that “revenge has no more quenching effect on emotions than salt water has on thirst.” And Albert Schweitzer noted that “Revenge … is like a rolling stone, which, when a man hath forced up a hill, will return upon him with a greater violence, and break those bones whose sinews gave it motion.”

 The problem is, as Ariely points out, the urge to vengeance is a powerful built in response to perceived offense. For those who would encourage forgiveness – as I do – it’s a problem requiring solution. Part of the solution lies in the other point he makes, that the vengeful emotion fades a bit with time. That’s why we count to ten, I guess.

But there are other things we can do, as some of my clients have done. We can, for example, engage in wonderful fantasies of clever methods of torturing the offender. Carrying out the fantasies would probably not be a good idea, much as they would backfire on oneself  – guilt, for example, an awareness that one’s own morality has been breached.  Or the very fact that someone who has been punished rarely smiles with a “Thanks I needed that.” Nope, vengeance breeds vengeance.

But maybe we need to add something. Vengeance doesn’t necessarily mean physical violence. In fact, Ariely goes on to give examples of what might be called positive effects of vengeance. One quick example (page 154). Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose successful steamship company was basically stolen from him by a couple of associates, responded as follows:  “Gentlemen, you have undertaken to cheat me. I won’t sue you, for the law is too slow. I’ll ruin you.” Then he formed a new company so successful that eventually he regained control of his first company.

OK. I’m sure the punished associates didn’t perceive that as positive. For them it was emotional and financial violence. But it did work for Vanderbilt.

I’ll leave it at that. Food for thought. Knowing the hazards of vengeance, how do we handle it when it comes so naturally? It’s complicated. And now I’ll shamelessly refer to my two forgiveness books, both of which recognize that forgiveness is a difficult but doable process: When to Forgive and Forgiving One Page at a Time.

And if you come across some nice, tidy “forgiveness” saying, I’d be very happy if you’d share it in a comment. Or maybe even a personal story of dealing with vengeance?



In responding to my previous blog, Terry and Leelah raised questions that inspire me to write about one of my gripes.

No, I don’t know the language used in Portugal. They are kind of enough – and happy enough, I guess, to have English-speaking guests – that they post signs in English, and often speak English.

Once I was pretty good at German, so in Austria and Germany I can understand the signage, and often what people are saying if they speak to me with enunciation one would use for a young child.

At one point I did study French – in fact, at many points – and with a lot of help I managed to pass the French exam on which my Ph.D. depended. (The German exam was easy.)

So what’s my gripe? Americans and their linguistic provincialism. That’s OK in a way. We aren’t nestled among countries that speak other languages, so it’s understandable that we don’t emphasize foreign languages in our schools where we could learn them easily when the brain is ready in our young years. It’s also understandable that our schools are beginning now to offer foreign languages. We are, obviously, becoming one world whether people like it or not.

What gripes me is the feeling on the part of some people that immigrants and visitors to the states “should” speak English – a demand we don’t put on ourselves when we travel. As a matter of fact, I make a point to thank people in other countries who speak to me in English.

Provincialism? One of my web friends identified herself as Norwegian. Her English is impeccable. In fact, she does most of her writing – at least what I see – in English. So I assumed she lived in Minnesota where the descendants of immigrants proudly declare themselves to be Norwegians, or Swedes, or Germans, or what have you. Bu no, she really is Norwegian.

These days I hear and see interviews on the media with people from all over the world. Guess what! They speak English. I often wonder if people listening appreciate that fact. What a gift to us that they speak our language.

OK, so this isn’t the well-organized piece I’d like to be writing, but I hope you get my drift.

One last story. My father who moved to the States from Sweden when he was 19 wouldn’t teach me Swedish. Why? Because he had suffered so much disdain for his Swedish accent. As a matter of fact, he went to college with two primary goals, one of which was to learn to speak English without an accent. And he did. The only piece left was a remnant of the delightful Scandinavian lilt. What is it about language snobbery that prevents our appreciating the skill and knowledge of multilingual folks?

Oh, I guess this is a p.s. It was in Bulgaria that we found very few (if any) signs in English. I’ll have my story in a later blog on how this affected our time there. Suffice it to say, the message is they aren’t yet crazy about entertaining English-speaking visitors. I guess that makes sense too – a country proudly re-establishing its heritage after years under the Ottoman empire and then Communist rule.

I’m told that when I write a letter of complaint, I should end it with a bit on what I want the recipient to do. So, what do I want us to do? At the very least, to appreciate the value of other languages as well as our own, to treat both with respect, and to do a better job than I have of learning languages other than English.


Time out for some photos. This time it’s Portugal which we visited July 16-20, 2013. I had no idea what a great and modern place we were destined to enjoy, and yet a wealth of history and beauty. This is just a sampling of what we saw. Remember, my photos are taken just for me to reminisce about where we’ve been. But I hope this will give you some of the feel.

First of all, take a look at the header. I was fascinated with the minimalist landscape — isolated trees, orderly rows of plantings. This photo I managed to get (out of many tries) from the moving car.

I’ve already blogged — with photos — about our first day in Portugal, so this is moving on to subsequent days. First to Silves with the Monchique Mountain and the beautiful clear waters.

Silves,Monchique Mountain


And St. Vincent’s Lighthouse, Europe’s most southwestern point.

SilvesSt Vincent's Lighthouse


Next I waited while Doug clambered about the Moorish Castle.

Silves,Moorish Castle

So on to Beja where we spent a long time seeking the tourist office to help us find the castle. Finally another tourist who had a map from his hotel was able to direct us to the tourist office. Guess where it was — yup! at the castle. We got there just as it was about to close for lunch. Closing for lunch was a pretty common event in Portugal. Fortunately the cafe’s were open for lunch, for which I was always ready.

But we did get to see it after lunch. Again I mostly waited and explored at ground level while Doug clambered over the ramparts. (That little speck — well, bigger if you click on the photo — in the bright shirt and white hat is Doug.)



At our next stop — the museum — I picked up a strange but, I think, hauntingly lovely – photo. “Hauntingly” because the photo did things the original didn’t. What I photographed had a green patina. What my photo saw was some lovely color.



And on to Evora. If I remember correctly, that’s the place where we saw so many beautiful cork items. I would have loved to buy one of handbags, but the price and size were too much to deal with in the pocketbook and the suitcase. Anyway, the Roman Ruins were an interesting sight.

Evora,Roman ruins


But more interesting by far was the Chapel of the Bones affiliated with St. Francis church. The sign told it like it is. “we bones that are here. We are waiting for yours.” Indeed, the structure consists of bones.

EvoraChapel of the bones

And the tiled stations of the cross. Everywhere in Portugal there was beautiful tile.

Evora,Tile Stations


In St. Francis Church itself I managed to get a photo of the madonna, with her heart pierced by pain.

EvoraMadonna, St. Francis Church

Finally on to Sintra with its Pena National Park.

SintraPena National Park


And another Moorish Castle. Again the beautiful tile.

Sintra,Castle of the Moors


Next time I blog about the trip it will be Austria.



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