Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

One Kings Lane: Excellent Customer Service

They didn’t even answer the phone. When I called Customer Service to tell them that of the 12 drinking glasses they had sent me, 11 arrived perfectly, one arrived in smithereens, smashed, crushed. I can’t imagine how 11 could be flawless and one could be so badly damaged.

They told me to leave a message, so I did. As I was holding the paperwork in my hand, I was able to give them my order number and what had happened. I told them I didn’t want to return the glasses I received – I totally love them – but would they send me a replacement for the one that arrived in smithereens?

They didn’t call me back. I barely noticed, I was having a busy day, only around six did I think of it and had second thoughts about dealing with them again.

Then early yesterday morning I found their e-mail, sent shortly after I had called, telling me they had no replacements, but they would credit my account for the entire amount and I could give them to charity or use them as I wished.

I was blown away. Who does that?

It’s not like I need more e-mail, but every e-mail they send me has something lovely. These are the glasses I bought:

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No, no, they are not glamorous, but they are perfect for everyday use. They are made of recycled glass, they have wide bottoms and they have little raised fleur-de-lis on them.

Why is this important? I have a cousin; when he was a boy he would talk enthusiastically and knock over his drinking glass. It got to be a family joke. But you can prevent these things. If you have children and want them to learn how to dine with adults, you choose items that will help them succeed – wide bottom glasses, for example, that are not easily tipped over, with details on the outside that will help little hands grasp the slippery outsides without slipping. It’s not that hard, you just have to give it a little thought.

It isn’t that hard to give children tools they need to grow strong and capable, and confident. You give them concepts, you give them knowledge, you give them practice. You also give them a sport, something that will teach them how their body moves and how to bring it under their own control, so that when they reach their teen-aged years, they will move with grace and have learned self-restraint. :-)

One King’s Lane is also where I found the fabulous bathtub I showed you. I still yearn for this tub!

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And today, oh my sweet heaven, I found a pair of bookshelves I can barely restrain myself from ordering. They are beautiful, and unlike anything I would find in Pensacola, and oh! They hold books!

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March 15, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Family Issues, Generational, Home Improvements, Marketing, Shopping | Leave a comment

A Stalwart Falls

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“Are you catching colds?” our friend asked as the funeral ended.

“No, no, I said, funerals just find us very vulnerable, and we have to deal with losses, past, present . . . and future. We have an ongoing fight over who is going to bury whom.”

We did not know the man well who had died, but we knew him as a stalwart. He was a greeter and usher at our service, and he was only rarely ever not there. He served the church. He was always there. I had asked his wife to help me with tickets, and she had laughed and said “of course, I’ll be there because my husband will be there, and if you need me just holler.”

They weren’t there. It made me uneasy, it nagged at me. I didn’t need her, but I missed her, and as I said – they are ALWAYS there. Sometimes it’s what is missing that catches your attention. It caught mine.

When I learned her husband had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, just as the Antique Fair was starting, it came almost as a physical blow. It’s not that I knew him that well. It’s that his presence at the church was something we took for granted, he was stalwart. You could count on him. We attended out of respect, respect for him, support for his wife.

And I know that the two of them spend (spent) as much time together as AdventureMan and I do. I don’t like to think that it could happen to me, that I could be suddenly left. AdventureMan was a military man, he would often leave, all these years, and he might tell me where he was going but I never knew for sure where he was going. We had a code to use if he was lying, but although he never used the code, I know there are times he lied, all for that bitch, national security. Yes, yes, I know, strong language from Intlxpatr, but strong times call for strong language. We both knew that there were times when there was a risk he wouldn’t come back.

We didn’t have to deal with death a lot in our life abroad. Of course, in the military, everyone is young. In all the countries where we worked in the Gulf, there were upper age limits – people retired and people left; you can’t live out your years in Qatar or Kuwait, there are laws against it. You can’t even be buried there without special permission. We learned to deal with the losses of people coming into our lives and leaving, but we didn’t have to deal with the great finality of death. We’re learning.

AdventureMan insists he is going to go first. I am tough in a lot of ways, but I don’t know that I am tough enough to go through his funeral. The very thought of it makes me sick to my stomach.

He tells me not to worry. He wants a Viking funeral; he wants to be sent out in a kerosene soaked ship and for archers to set it on fire as it sails off, disintegrating in flames. Isn’t going to happen, AdventureMan, but if it did, I might give some thought to pitching myself on the ship as it departs . . . otherwise, I’m afraid I might live the rest of my life as the one of the walking wounded.

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Kuwait, Lies, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

The Lord Gives Sleep to his Beloved

Every time I read this Psalm, from today’s Lectionary readings, I see something new. Today it gives me much to ponder in the midst of chaotic Thanksgiving preparations:

Psalm 127

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.*
3 Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the sons of one’s youth.
5 Happy is the man who has
his quiver full of them.
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Faith, Generational, Health Issues, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Marriage, Parenting, Thanksgiving, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

“How Have You Managed . . . ?”

“What do you mean?” I asked the elegant grinning lady who was asking me the question. Three former military wives, one Army, one Air Force and one Navy, and we had been talking about our world-wide lives and adventures.

“How are you doing? You haven’t been here long. Are you managing to settle in?” asked with enormous sympathy.

She caught me off guard.

Yes, I am happy. I’ve settled in. I have friends. I’m connected.

But her question caught me off guard, and all of a sudden I couldn’t answer.

“I’m doing OK” I managed to start. “But it’s like this church. I love this church, and at the same time, there are times I walk in and oh, how I miss our churches in the Middle East, where I would walk in and think ‘this is what heaven must look like’ especially at Christmas, with all the Indian families in their saris and finery, and the Africans in their brocades and elaborate head-dresses, and the people from all over the world. The music was simpler, and at the Christmas Eve service, we sang ‘Silent Night’ in every language in the church . . .  I miss that.”

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There are times the memories catch me unaware, and leave me breathless.

AdventueMan and I went grocery shopping today and when the cashier told me the total, AdventureMan almost gasped. I just laughed and told him that’s why I never took him grocery shopping with me in Kuwait – the sticker shock would have killed him.

Life here is definitely easier.

On the other hand, we have had to revise our ideas about Kuwait drivers. At first, we just thought there were a lot of Kuwaitis living in Pensacola; now we have realized that there are people who just drive as they please. Some of them are stoned out of their minds. I witnessed an accident last week where when I checked the driver of the car that was hit, she grinned at me loopily – and then disappeared. It was bizarre, and I wonder how many people are on the roads as impaired as she was. She went right through a stop sign as if it weren’t even there, and if the car had hit 6 inches more forward, she would have been dead. She didn’t have a scratch. And she was not at all concerned, just that loopy grin. “Elegantly wasted” said the driver of the car who hit her.

We both have a lot going on. With connection comes commitment and obligation. We try to coordinate our schedules at the beginning of the week so we can help one another out. The highlight is that each afternoon I am taking care of our new little granddaughter. AdventureMan/Baba often comes by and naps in the peaceful environment just to be with us. She is a sweet, laughing little baby, never very fussy. He offers me a day off, which occasionally I take, or he takes a time when I have a meeting or an appointment. We have both discovered how very much we like the ‘work’ of grandparenting. :-)

We’re managing. :-)

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , , , | 8 Comments

Kuwait Divorce Rate “50% and Rising”

How did I miss this truly excellent article in the Arab Times?

Divorce Rate In Kuwait 50pc … And Rising

Huge Increase Seen In ‘Cheating’

A good, productive and stable marriage is built on one’s ability to love someone else and make sacrifices for that person. We in this region as a whole are sometimes very materialistic and usually wealthy. Many a time couples get married for the wrong reasons. Sometimes because marriage is the new “thing to do”, it’s merely the new toy. Maybe the honeymoon period is the only highlight of the whole affair.

Lawyer Waleed Khaled Al-Dousari was talking to the Arab Times on marriages in Kuwait, exploring the causes behind the increasing rate of divorces in the society. “The rate of divorce in Kuwait has reached more than 50 per cent, and the number is still on the rise,” he adds.

Q: How would you describe marriage in Kuwait, and have the trends changed?

A: Traditionally, the ideal marriage was tribal, related families encouraging their offspring to marry cousins or other relatives in order to increase and strengthen the tribe, or occasionally to marry into another tribe in order to heal rifts between families. Another reason for such marriages was that families knew the background of the partner.

As is the case in some Latin countries, young couples in the region are allowed to meet under the watchful eyes of a chaperon. In Kuwait, however, the marriage is arranged without any part of the girl’s body (including her face) being seen by the prospective groom, who must rely on the reports of his female relatives as to his wife’s appearance.

There are three main elements in an Arab marriage. First, the groom must discuss and agree the dowry with the bride’s father. This might include gold, jewelry and clothing and is usually of considerable valuable. After the dowry settlement, comes the actual marriage contract, which is conducted by a legal or religious representative.

The bride is asked in the absence of the prospective groom if she agrees to the marriage and this question is then put to the groom. After the agreement, the groom joins hands with his future father-in-law and, with two witnesses present, the marriage becomes official.

However, there’s another stage before the couple actually meet as man and wife: the wedding party. Celebrations are segregated, with the women in one section of the house or private ballroom and the men in another. Finally, on the last night of celebrations, the couple meets, accompanied by all their friends, and eventually leaves for their honeymoon. On their return, they either live with the groom’s parents and become members of the extended family or – as is increasingly the case – set up a separate home by themselves.

According to Sharia, a Muslim man may have four wives, provided that he can look after them materially and treats them equally. This practice is now dying out, however, not only because only a few can afford it, but also because women are becoming more independent and assertive and many refuse to accept it.

In fact, a Muslim woman can insert a clause in the marriage contract that restricts her husband from marrying another woman for as long as the contract is valid. The wife also retains her own name after the marriage.

Although gender roles have always been clearly defined in the Islamic world, with the man as ‘provider’ and the woman as ‘nurturer’, both the man and the woman are increasingly going out to work, although this is much less common in Saudi Arabia, where there are restrictions on women working, except in culturally ‘acceptable’ occupations such as medicine and teaching. However, many Saudi men are reluctant to marry doctors and nurses, who have physical contact with male patients.

A man can divorce his wife simply by saying ‘I divorce you’ three times. He can rescind the divorce if this was done in the heat of the moment, but only if the wife agrees (and only on three occasions though). On the other hand, even if a wife has a good reason to seek a divorce (e.g. if her husband has been unfaithful, abused or deserted her, or engaged in criminal activity), she must go to a court for the case to be heard.

The husband must maintain a divorced wife and any children from the marriage if the wife is unable to support herself. He can claim custody of any sons when they reach a certain age; however, the priority is given to the mother, but this still depends on the sect of the couple. A female divorcee usually returns to her family, and few remarry.

Although a Muslim woman may not marry a non-Muslim man unless he converts to Islam, the reverse isn’t the case. Non-Muslim women are often pressurized into converting, and there have been many cases of foreign women marrying Arabs and then discovering that the local culture and lifestyle are unacceptably restrictive. It should also be noted that, in the event of the breakdown of such a union, the children are usually kept by the husband in his home country.

Expatriate workers can usually be married in the Gulf, provided that they meet the civil and religious requirements of their home country. Embassy and consulate staff sometimes performs civil marriage ceremonies, again provided that certain requirements are met. Religious ceremonies can be arranged, but only in countries that allow churches or similar non-Muslim places of worship.

Although many young citizens in Kuwait are still seeking the blessing and help of their parents for choosing life partners, some youngsters in Kuwait prefer finding their partners without parental guidance and mediation. This approach is the result of cultural interactions. This changing trend has become quite noticeable in the countries of the region.

Q: Why are we currently encountering an increasing rate of divorce in the country?

A: A good, productive and stable marriage is built on one’s ability to “love” someone else and make sacrifices for them. We in this region as a whole are sometimes very materialistic and usually wealthy. Many a time couples get married for the wrong reasons. Sometimes because marriage is the new “thing to do”, it’s merely the new toy. Maybe the honeymoon period is the only highlight of the whole affair.
In some cases, both partners may be in need of intimacy and so they get married to have that kind of intimacy. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact in this arrangement, there is one good thing in that youngsters feel that they should “get married first” before “becoming intimate with anyone”. That’s a noble and encouraging thought.

But after the first few months or the first couple of years, we start noticing the first signs of trouble, and you see both sides contemplating the “D” word. They think “I don’t need this.” And rightly so, they really don’t need it. Both are wealthy, both have high paying jobs, their rooms in their parents’ houses are still empty and perhaps are still untouched with their original furniture in place and in tact.

Other reasons, however, come along due to the change in the definition of marriage as a whole from the perspective of both men and women. Even families in Kuwait today no longer feel shameful that their daughter or son is divorced. Some families are actually encouraging their daughters to divorce, because sometimes that divorce gives her more financial gains than she already has.

In Kuwait, it is a huge problem when a man cannot provide a luxurious life to his wife. It is his duty to provide her with the maid, driver, shopping every now and then, and the ability to travel at least on a yearly basis.

However, not all Kuwaitis are able to provide this kind of lifestyle for their wives and children.
Another issue is that of cheating. There is a huge increase in the percentage of cheating wives and husbands. It has become so easy for a husband or wife to cheat on each other, especially because marriages are neither based on love nor respect.

The high divorce rate in Kuwait insinuates that we are too spoiled to remain stuck to our marriages.
So what will happen to us in say 50 years? The world will be less dependent on our oil, and the oil will become less abundant anyway. We will become poorer in general. Isn’t that right?

We will have less materialistic “toys” to play with. And therefore we will be less spoiled. And I think we will tend to stay committed to our marriages more.

Our men will start actually doing some “work” to earn a living. And less of these jobs will be suited to women, and women will have less incentive to leave the umbrella of her husband’s (modest) financial security. Just like the times of our grandfathers and grandmothers.

Now, this might be a bleak picture, but maybe with less material distractions, and with healthier marriages, I only see us becoming happier people.

Q: So what happens, when a couple comes asking for a divorce?

A: From my experience as a lawyer, the usual scene when two couples ask for a divorce is that they come to my office in the image of two enemies who completely hate each other, and cannot even stand being in the same room with each other.

The women usually tries to file as much cases against her husband to get all the rights that she wants, and the man tries to do the same thing.

Q: What is the role of Shari’a law in divorce cases? Is there a difference between the rights that a woman may take if she was Sunni or Shi’ite?

A: In Kuwait we abide by the Islamic Sharia law when it comes to marriage or divorce. Therefore, when a couple asks for a divorce, usually there are certain proceedings that should take place.
To apply for divorce, you should be of sound mind and be able to make your own choices.
The first step the couple should do is to register the case at the Moral and Family Guidance Section at the court.

Shortly afterwards, a counselor will meet the couple and discuss their problems. They are then given a three-month time to try and solve the problems, before beginning the divorce process.

If the couple, or either of them, still insists on divorce, the papers will be forwarded to the court for the judge to study the case. The judge will discuss it with the couple and listen to the witnesses. It could take a couple of sessions before the judge makes his decision. The couple needs to attend all the proceedings.

A woman may be granted a divorce if she can prove that her husband has physically hurt her or mentally tortured her. A woman also may sue for divorce if her husband abandons her for a period of three months, or if he has not taken care of her needs or that of their children.

The law allows women to obtain a khula – a separation, when she returns the dowry to the husband.

The Sharia Court will accept a divorce lawsuit from Muslim men or Christian or Jewish women married to a Muslim and apply the Islamic laws.

If the divorce applicants are both Muslims, but from different countries and are residents in Kuwait, they will be divorced according to the administrative laws in their country, or the Kuwaiti law, whichever they wish. While Sharia is same in all Muslim countries, there are a few administrative differences between the various schools of thought.

If the couple is from the same country, the law of their country, will be applied or the Kuwaiti law may be applied, if they so wish.

If the husband is a Muslim and the woman is not a Muslim, the Kuwaiti laws will be applied, or the law of the country where they had got married will be applied.

If the couple is non-Muslim, they can seek divorce according to the law of their country, at the embassy or consulate.

There is not much difference between the two sects when it comes to divorce; there is only one main difference, and that is a Sunni women can take the custody of her children without ever having to return them to their father. However, the father can be with his children on previously arranged days.

According to the Shi’ite sect, the father can take his children when the children reach the age of seven or above, by which time the children too have a say in that kind of decision.

However, even the issue of custody is abused by some women, who place a huge financial burden on the man under the pretext of asking for the children’s upkeep. Some women do so despite being financially well off themselves.

Q: Can you give us examples of some divorce cases in Kuwait?

A: One intriguing divorce case involved a woman who divorced her husband on their wedding day because she found out at the wedding ballroom that groom had not made the costly arrangements that she had asked for, and instead chose a reception that cost much.

Some women get divorced because they see divorce as a financial gain for them. Men are sometimes forced to provide his divorcee with a house, a maid, a driver, and a monthly alimony for her and her children.
In many cases the reasons are very silly, which makes it very difficult for us lawyers to take any stand on the issue. For example one woman filed for a divorce because she didn’t like the way her husband made sounds while eating.

Q: What do you think is the role of society to tackle the problem of increasing divorce rates? How can education help reduce the rate of divorce, or help couple’s understand and appreciate the true value of marriage?

A: In light of high rates of divorce cases, social authorities should play a role in educating youth about the basic criteria for sound marriages. Grassroots associations and the media in the Gulf have to educate families about potential negative aspects of coercing young males and females to marry relatives, in the first place, and also how arranged marriages can have very harmful results on both couples, especially as they might not be suitable for each other.

Most of the persons I have met expressed desire to marry non-relatives, thus affirming the idea that parents must refrain from coercion. Moreover, to by taking away the right of youngsters to choose their life partners is against religious values and common sense.

Some official reports estimate that divorce cases in Kuwait are at 50 percent, and the phenomenon has been linked to diverse factors related to modern-day developments in the country, and western concepts and values and post-oil-boom social transformations.

Most males in Kuwait tend to get acquainted with the would-be “soul mate” personally while the majority of the females favor the parents’ role in this regard.

In Kuwait, we are starting to have many welfare societies that are helping couples to refrain from divorce as much as possible. However, the problem is that we do not have the right education concerning marriage in the country.

Neither families nor schools educate children on marriage or even give them the chance to fall in love and make their own choices of who they want to get married to.

We need to set a proper age limit for marriage for both males and females, because some are getting married at a very young age, such as 17 and 18. This is also leading to the great increase in divorce rates. The proper age for males to get married should be between 26 and 30, and that for the females should be above 20. However, that is only my opinion.

As to the qualifications of the would-be partner, the couples should believe in commitment. They should be educated. There is the need to be attracted to the physical appearance of each other and not be forced to get married to people they don’t know. Then of course financial capacities and employment are important factors. These are not the most important issues though.

biography

Born in 1983
Khaled Al-Dousari: currently a divorce lawyer at the Mohamad Saleh Al-Sabti, Lawyer Office. Started at the office in January 2007.
Graduated from the Academic Law Institute in Jordan in 2006.
Until today he has taken up to 300 cases of divorce.

By: Rena Sadeghi

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Generational, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Social Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Taliban Says Malala ‘Has Done Nothing To Earn Prize’

Mr. Taliban, did you see Jon Stewarts interview with Malala? (See below) All she wants is an education. She wants an education for herself, but also for all children in Pakistan. Your children, too! She wants them to have that opportunity, that’s all. And she has paid the price for her courage speaking out, and she bravely continues to state the obvious – there is nothing in Islam against educating women.

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan: The Pakistani Taliban Thursday said teenage activist Malala Yousafzai had done “nothing” to deserve a prestigious EU rights award and vowed to try again to kill her.

The European Parliament awarded the Sakharov human rights prize to the 16-year-old, who has become a global ambassador for the right of all children to go to school since surviving a Taliban murder attempt.

Malala survived being shot in the head by a TTP gumnan on October 9 last year and is seen as a leading contender for the Nobel Peace prize, to be announced on Friday.

“She has done nothing. The enemies of Islam are awarding her because she has left Islam and has became secular,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“She is getting awards because she is working against Islam. Her struggle against Islam is the main reason of getting these awards.”

He repeated the TTP’s threat – made numerous times in recent months -try again to kill Malala, “even in America or the UK”.

Malala and moved to Britain in the wake of the shooting for treatment and to continue her education in safety.

Feted by world leaders and celebrities for her courage, Malala has addressed the UN, this week published an autobiography, and could become the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate on Friday.

Her autobiography “I am Malala”, written with journalist Christina Lamb, has gone on sale in Pakistan and Shahid warned the Taliban would target bookshops stocking it.

“Malala is the enemy of Islam and Taliban and she wrote this book against Islam and Taliban,” he said. (AFP)

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Character, Civility, Communication, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Pakistan, Poetry/Literature, Social Issues, Values | , , | Leave a comment

Pacific Northwest Natives Have DNA Link 5,000 years

Don’t you love technology? It’s like working on a complex puzzle, and all of a sudden seeing how disparate pieces relate :-) This is a fascinating discovery from AOL/Huffpost:

Ancient DNA Linked To Living Descendants In Genetic Study

The Huffington Post  |  By  Posted: 07/09/2013 2:24 pm EDT  |  Updated: 07/09/2013 9:12 pm EDT

What if you could trace your ancestry back to around 5,000 years ago? Researchers were able to do just that in a fascinating new DNA study, which found adirect genetic link between the ancient remains of Native Americans and their living relatives.

“It’s very exciting to be able to have scientific proof that corroborates what our ancestors have been telling us for generations,” study co-author and participant Joycelynn Mitchell said in a written statement. “It’s very amazing how fast technology is moving to be able to prove this kind of link with our past.”

In the study, U.S. and Canadian researchers used mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequencing to analyze DNA inherited exclusively through mothers. Looking at the mitogenome is cheap, easier to sequence than nuclear DNA, and skirts around the problem that European men mixed with Native American women.

The researchers collected DNA from 60 living indigenous people belonging to the Tsimshian, Haida and Nisga’a tribes in the northern coast of British Columbia. The tribes’ oral histories and archaeological sites indicate they have lived in the region for generations, which made them good candidates for tracing their lineage back so many years.

Complete mitogenomes were extracted from the remains of four Mid-Holocene individuals found in British Columbia’s Lucy Islands and Dodge Island, and then that information was compared to the DNA of the study participants.

What was found? The research team discovered one of the living individuals carried this same “mitogenomic signature” as a young adult female who lived on Dodge Island 2,500 years ago — which also matched the mitogenome of the remains of a woman who lived in the Lucy Islands 5,500 years ago. Wow.

Three other living participants had mitogenomes that linked back to the remains of another individual found on Dodge Island, who may have lived around 5,000 years ago.

“This is the beginning of the golden era for ancient DNA research because we can do so much now that we couldn’t do a few years ago because of advances in sequencing technologies,” study co-author Dr. Ripan Malhi, an anthropology professor at the University of Illinois and Institute for Genomic Biology professor, said in a written statement. “We’re just starting to get an idea of the mitogenomic diversity in the Americas, in the living individuals as well as the ancient individuals.”

The new study was published online on June 3, 2013 in the journal PLoSONE.

July 10, 2013 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, Interconnected, Local Lore, Relationships | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Countdown

“We’ve started the count-down calendar,” said my beautiful and very pregnant daughter-in-law, “We have so many things we want to get done before the baby comes.”

We were gathered at one of our favorite casual lunch places, a place where we could eat well and our 3 year old could be both free to roam a little, and safe to roam, while the grown-ups talked.

“We’ve started, too,” I smiled at her, “I need to finish up her baby quilt, and two quilts for the homeless project I have due in September. And of course, we will be out of the loop the last two weeks before she is born, so I need to keep motivated now.” I know she will call on me once the new baby is here; I am the back-up, the “can you fix dinner / wash the dishes / hold the baby while I shower / clean up the baby spit / run to the grocery store/ feed the cats”  person. I love it. It’s why we moved here, to be here when they need us, when they need the help. Being close to family, being there to help when they need the help – this is one of the great lessons we learned from our friends in Amman, in Kuwait, in Doha, in Tunis.

We also have an Alaska adventure in store, planned before any of us knew the new baby was en route. It’s not Africa, but we aren’t up for another of those 17 hour rides from Atlanta to Johannesburg this year. Alaska will be fun, a sentimental journey back to my origins for me, and a whole new environment for AdventureMan.

“We’ll also have the school break to cover,” beautiful D-I-L added, “but I know there is going to be a cousin’s camp; I just don’t know when it is going to be.”

Cousins camp – oh what fun. All the little like-aged cousins get together for a week of hell-bent-for-leather activities, from water parks to fire departments to scavenger hunts, they keep those little rascals so busy that they just fall into bed at night. It’s all good.

“I know it’s all going to fall into place,” she sighed, smiling at our son, “but we need that calendar to keep us on track.”

Yeh. Us too!

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Communication, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Travel | 2 Comments

Men Cause Menopause?

I don’t know that this has been studied closely, or that there is any evidence supporting the theory, but it is a hilarious theory – blame men for menopause!


By: Tia Ghose, LiveScience Staff Writer
Published: 06/13/2013 05:04 PM EDT on LiveScience

Ladies, here’s one more thing you can blame on men: menopause. At least, that’s according to a new theory.

Women go through menopause because men have consistently preferred younger women in recent evolutionary history, according to a study published today (June 13) in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.Thus, menopause is not evolutionarily advantageous and may be the result of a series of random, harmful mutations that accumulated in women but weren’t acted on by evolution because the women had already reproduced by the time the mutations affected them.

“Our first assumption is that mating in humans is not random with respect to age, which means men of all ages prefer to mate with younger women,” said study co-author Rama Singh, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University in Canada. “If mating is with younger women, any deleterious mutations which affect women’s reproduction later in life will accumulate because they are not being acted on by natural selection.”

Menopausal mystery

Menopause, in which women stop menstruating and become infertile, has been a long-standing puzzle for biologists: Why would evolution have led to a trait that essentially reduces the reproductive potential of an animal?

Most other animals don’t go through menopause (although killer whales do). Even chimpanzees, humans’ closest living relatives, seem to reproduce into old age in the wild, and males even prefer older females.

Biologists have proposed the grandmother hypothesis to explain the conundrum. The hypothesis holds that menopause allows a grandmother who is done rearing her own kids to help rear the young of her children, thereby increasing the survival odds of her grandkids, and therefore, her genes.

But grandchildren and grandparents share just a quarter of their genes, versus half for children and their parents, so menopause would have to dramatically boost survival of grandchildren to be evolutionarily advantageous. Past studies have shown that maternal grandmothers boost their grandkids’ survival rates, though exactly how much depends on the society.

Younger women

For thousands of years (at least), men have, on average, mated with younger women, Singh said.

That’s because, if all else is equal, “those who reproduce earlier, their genes are passed on faster,” Singh told LiveScience.

So the researchers created a computer simulation to model that preference.

Early on, both men and women in the model reproduced until death. But over time, the model found, men’s preference for youth reduced older women’s odds of reproducing.

Simultaneously, people accumulated random mutations, some of which decreased later-life reproductive ability. But since older women were left out in the cold anyways, those mutations didn’t impact their reproductive success, whereas mutations in men that could reduce late-life reproduction were weeded out. (Men who stopped reproducing at some point in life would produce fewer offspring than those who didn’t, and the late reproducers would outcompete those who stopped breeding earlier.)

Over 50,000 to 100,000 years, the accumulation of all those mutations could have led to universal menopause, the researchers suggest. Menopause would then be another form of aging akin to graying hair or wrinkles.

If later childbearing becomes the norm, as current societal trends suggest, women who can reproduce at older ages might gain an evolutionary advantage, and menopause could, in theory be pushed later, Singh said.But it’s more plausible that technological changes such as fertility treatments will artificially extend women’s ability to reproduce, Singh said.

Questionable assumptions

But the new model might have the causation reversed, wrote Kristen Hawkes, an anthropologist at the University of Utah, who was not involved in the study, in an email to LiveScience.

As human life spans increased, women might have had many healthy years after fertility. As a result, men grew to prefer younger women because older women couldn’t reproduce.

Supporting that hypothesis, female chimpanzees see their egg reserves decline around the same age as human females, Hawkes noted. But unlike humans, they die shortly after this age, whereas humans have decades of healthy life left.

“The preference men have for young partners is a striking contrast with other primates,” Hawkes said. “My guess about that has been it’s a consequence of our life history.”

June 15, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Generational, Health Issues, Mating Behavior, Parenting, Relationships, Statistics, Women's Issues | , | Leave a comment

More Deaths than Birth for White Americans, a Minority in Three Decades

Don’t you love demographics? Demographics are a great forecasting tool, if you have the courage to use them. Demographics forced change on the United States military, forcing them to include women in more roles, recently increasing their job opportunities as the demographic pool dwindles. The same demographics are hurting the military budget now, as the huge bulge of baby-boomers retires, takes pensions and guaranteed free medical care, living a LONG time with more serious age-related illnesses, while the military struggles to allocate scarce resources.

Here is a fascinating factoid from The New York Times, a journal which notices small – but significant – changes, and gives us a little idea what the impact may be.

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Census Benchmark for White Americans: More Deaths Than Births
By SAM ROBERTS
Published: June 13, 2013 232 Comments

Deaths exceeded births among non-Hispanic white Americans for the first time in at least a century, according to new census data, a benchmark that heralds profound demographic change.

The disparity was tiny — only about 12,000 — and was more than made up by a gain of 188,000 as a result of immigration from abroad. But the decrease for the year ending July 1, 2012, coupled with the fact that a majority of births in the United States are now to Hispanic, black and Asian mothers, is further evidence that white Americans will become a minority nationwide within about three decades.

Over all, the number of non-Hispanic white Americans is expected to begin declining by the end of this decade.

“These new census estimates are an early signal alerting us to the impending decline in the white population that will characterize most of the 21st century,” said William H. Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution.

The transition will mean that “today’s racial and ethnic minorities will no longer be dependent on older whites for their economic well-being,” Dr. Frey said. In fact, the situation may be reversed. “It makes more vivid than ever the fact that we will be reliant on younger minorities and immigrants for our future demographic and economic growth,” he said.

The viability of programs like Social Security and Medicare, Dr. Frey said, “will be reliant on the success of waves of young Hispanics, Asians and blacks who will become the bulwark of our labor force.” The issues of minorities, he added, “will hold greater sway than ever before.”

In 2010, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, more non-Hispanic whites died than were born in 11 states, including California, Florida and Pennsylvania. White deaths exceeded births in a majority of counties, including Los Angeles, the most populous.

The disparity between deaths and births in the year that ended last July surprised experts. They expected that the aging white population would eventually shrink, as it has done in many European countries, but not for another decade or so.

Nationally, said Kenneth M. Johnson, the senior demographer at the Carsey Institute, a research center based at the University of New Hampshire, “the onset of natural decrease between 2011 and 2012 was not anticipated.” He attributed the precipitous shift in part to the recession, adding that “the growing number of older non-Hispanic whites, which will accelerate rapidly as the baby boom ages, guarantees that non-Hispanic white natural decrease will be a significant part of the nation’s demographic future.”

Professor Johnson said there were 320,000 more births than deaths among non-Hispanic whites in the year beginning July 2006, just before the recession. From 2010 to 2011, the natural increase among non-Hispanic whites had shrunk to 29,000.

Census Bureau estimates indicate that there were 1.9 million non-Hispanic white births in the year ending July 1, 2012, compared with 2.3 million from July 2006 to 2007 during the economic boom, a 13.3 percent decline. Non-Hispanic white deaths increased only modestly during the same period, by 1.6 percent.

The census population estimates released Thursday also affirmed that Asians were the fastest-growing major ethnic or racial group. Their ranks grew by 2.9 percent, or 530,000, with immigration from overseas accounting for 60 percent of that growth.

The Hispanic population grew by 2.2 percent, or more than 1.1 million, the most of any group, with 76 percent resulting from natural increase.

The non-Hispanic white population expanded by only 175,000, or 0.09 percent, and blacks by 559,000, or 1.3 percent.

The median age rose to 37.5 from 37.3, but the median declined in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas, North Dakota and Oklahoma. It ranged from 64.8 in Sumter, Fla., to 23 in Madison, Idaho.

The number of centenarians nationally neared 62,000.

June 13, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Parenting, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

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