Long ago, and far away, in the exotic Kuwait City, I started this blog, holy smokes, almost nine years ago in September. I met so many wonderful people, some of whom I’ve even become friends with in person. Others I still keep up with, in a comment here or there (LOL, Here There and Everywhere) or in a backnote, or on FaceBook.
Several months ago, I contacted one blogger, Aafke, whose very honest and very artistic blog I admired. We often commented back and forth in those days. I wrote about how outraged I was at a veterinary tech in Doha who told me my cat was the demon cat from hell, and I raged at how scared he must have been to have behaved so badly. Like, if you work with animals, you should know that! If you treat them roughly, they will respond! (Oops! I still get worked up revisiting it!)
Aafke loved the story, and did a painting, our sweet Pete as the demon cat from hell. There were some things I loved about it – moody purple background, a great representation of Pete. It sort of hurt my feelings that she painted him with horns and a forked tail, not my sweet Pete.
But as the months went by after Pete’s sudden and unexpected death following an operation that succeeded in its goals, but killed Pete, I thought about that painting so I wrote to Aafke, and asked if I could buy it. I thought it would make a good present for AdventureMan, for Father’s Day. She responded quickly, said she thought she knew where it was, and in the mean time, she also painted another, a really lush, beautiful portrait of a cat we dearly loved. She wouldn’t let me buy it, it was a gift.
So the paintings arrived, and I had them framed. They are small, exactly what I wanted. We don’t want a shrine; we want a sweet reminder. When I gave the beautiful one to AdventureMan, he wept. Aafke truly captured the sweetness of Pete. He hung it on his office wall, where he could see it from his desk.
When he came into my office, he laughed. I have my painting just behind my chair where I write these posts. “You’ve got the devil cat looking over your shoulder!” he crowed with laughter!
Yes! I do! We all have our sweet side, and our devilish side :-) Pete was no angel. He loved to escape, and he was fast. We loved him, warts and all, and this portrait makes me smile every time I see it.
Thank you, Aafke, for your beautiful heart that captures the nature of those we love.
“Shisha, what’s all this Fourth of July stuff? What is the Fourth of July?”
“It’s a birthday! It’s the birthday of the United States of America!”
Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence? It is an extraordinary document.
Happy Birthday, United States of America!
The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
“I think we ended up exactly where we were meant to be,” AdventureMan said as we drove away, and I love him for thinking that, and saying that. I think so, too.
It’s been an amazing week.
I’m tempted to say, about so many of the subjects, “I don’t have a dog in that fight,” and yet, somehow, I do.
Our Supreme Court is been so greatly conservative that I had no hopes that so many decisions would come down on the side of what I consider human dignity.
We have great medical coverage, thanks to what is truly socialized medicine – life time medical care through career military service coupled with the medicare that United States citizens receive when we turn 65. So when people complain about “socialized medicine,” I just laugh and say I love my socialized medicine. It pays almost all my medical bills.
So why does it matter to me that others have affordable health care?
I worked with the homeless for a year, with homeless families. It was a program; we provided housing, some food, and counseling, and guided our residents into degree programs, assistance programs that would lead them to an ability to self-sustain.
What I learned, over and over, was stunning. Many women with children are one man away from homelessness. Women with children are exceedingly vulnerable. When a child gets sick, unless you are protected by family, the child cannot go to day care and Mama has to stay away from work to take care of them. Too many absences and that job disappears. No insurance, and the costs are those hugely exaggerated sums you see on your reconciliation sheets your insurance sends – what the cost is, what insurance pays, what your share is. IF you have insurance, your insurance company has negotiated the costs, and those costs are considerably less than if you don’t have insurance. The least able to pay are charged the most. Is that fair? I thank God for affordable care, so that all people have access to decent health care for themselves, and for their children.
It was teetering on the balance. Which way would the Supreme Court decide on this technicality? By the grace of God, the majority opinion was that law is tough enough to write and often mis-written and corrected before the ultimate wording is finalized. This was no exception; it needed refinement but the intent was clear. Affordable care is the law.
The poor and the minorities are not to be discriminated against in housing, either, the Supreme Court decided. Again, it’s not my fight, no one has ever discriminated against us, except for being military (and the implication was that military was riff raff). The significance here was that even if the discrimination was not clearly intentional, if it was discrimination, it was not allowed. It levels the field; makes life more fair for all of us.
And last. That people who want to marry will have the dignity of that right. That those people will have the same legal rights, rights that guarantee inheritance, rights that guarantee access to the partner that becomes hospitalized, rights to make legal decisions as a legal married couple. Again, AdventureMan and I, one man and one woman, are married, so we don’t have a dog in the fight – except that as human beings, we want the laws to be fair, and humane, and applicable to all. We have no say over how we are wired or who we love, and, as we see it, no right to restrict others from what we have chosen for ourselves.
We’ve had a great day. We went to early service, where Father Goldsborough spoke as a Southerner, and how his views have changed, and how he believes that if the Confederate flag is a cause of grief and horror to those whose family were once enslaved, that that flag should be retired. Yes, keep it as history, display it in museums, but not as a part of a public, governmental display. He is a courageous man.
And while I agree that it is time for the flag to be retired, the flag is just a symbol.
It is a kid that killed the bible study participants in South Carolina. It was a kid with a powerful GUN. So why are we not talking about gun control? I have the feeling that a lot of people are willing to pull down the Confederate flag in hopes that it will keep the attention off the fact that people with problems who have access to guns are the problem. Sure, you can kill with a knife, or a car, or a hundred other ways, but nothing beats a gun for killing efficiently, and no gun beats an automatic weapon for super efficient killing.
I headed straight for the commissary to do some weekly grocery shopping, while AdventureMan spent time in the garden. I got the groceries unloaded, and dinner started. AdventureMan came in and invited me to lunch at my favorite place, Five Sisters.
When we got to Five Sisters, every table was full and lines and groups of people were scattered around waiting. We headed to the Fish House for some fish and grits, but it was the same story. So we headed for Saville, where we found a parking place and while it was crowded, very crowded, we got a place in the Palace Bar, which we like anyway, and we liked that it was away from the music and we could talk.
After we ordered, I said “I think we are in the middle of a celebration,” and he agreed. We were surrounded by a very large group of guys about our age, but we had to guess they were gay, and they were all very celebratory. In fact, much of the restaurant was moving from table to table, hugging and exchanging greetings and congratulations.
The last time I remember feeling this way was in Alaska, last year, for The Celebration, where all the tribes gather to share culture and dances.
On our way out, I leaned over and said “Congratulations! We wish you happiness!” and they thanked us and we left.
Except, LOL, I had dropped my sunglasses, and we had to go back in. “Stop, stop!” our friends at the next table asked us, and thanked us again for our ‘kind words.’ But they needed to talk. It wasn’t about the right to get married, they explained, each jumping over the other in speech in eagerness to explain, “it is about legal rights in hospitals” said one “the right to be who we are” said another. These were men about my age, and they needed to be heard. I told them that I remember Juneau, Alaska, and I don’t remember any gay people. I said there must have been, but I never knew of any, and one man said “that was me! Imagine growing up knowing you are seriously different, that you like boys and not girls, and who do you talk to? There was NO-ONE!”
These guys had been married for varying amounts of time, but this weeks Supreme Court decision eliminated the anxiety that things could change, that a change in president could signal a cascade of change in state laws and the hard-won battles would have to be fought again. “The only person left in my family who would have the right to say whether to take me off life-support or not is a person who would likely say “pull the plug!” and my husband would have no say at all, before this decision!” one said, and the husband added “and she could keep me out of his hospital room, even though we’ve been married for years!”
I would have loved to hear more, but this was their celebration. It was like one huge wedding celebration, so much love, so much happiness, so much joy.
“I can be who I am!” one said to me, with such emotion. “I can be who I am!”
I almost cried with joy for him, for all of them. They have seen such change, from living their lives in hiding to being able to live legally, freely, as who they are. We were moved by their joy, moved beyond words. We felt so honored to have been able to share a little of their joy, even though – this isn’t our dog, this isn’t our fight, it isn’t our win.
Except, except that as human beings, maybe it all IS our dog, and is our fight. Maybe it is our win. Maybe, as Jesus says, we are all connected, we are all meant to love one another, and as weird as we are, as eccentric, as different, maybe we are all meant to love one another and to live in peace with one another. Maybe the dignity of every human being is relevant to my own . . .
It’s a heady thought for a celebratory Sunday.
“Oh that the wee wee giftie gi’e us, to see ourselves as others see us,” goes an old Scottish proverb which has haunted me my many years of living overseas.
This recent visit by our Saudi friends was one of those times, and yesterday as I was doing laundry, I thought of all the particular ways we do things, and why, and thought about how very difficult it is to be a house guest in a strange culture because on top of the profound cultural differences, there are also family cultures.
I remember visiting my parents, as an adult, and my mother carefully explaining how they do things, and why, and we would try very carefully to do what they were doing, but I often felt I was failing in some unknown way, to meet the standards.
Like us, when we do laundry, I have three drying racks, and I use my dryer only a few minutes with some of AdventureMan’s shirts, tumble drying them to remove wrinkles, then we pull them out and let them finish drying on hangers. I also dry AdventureMan’s towels; he thinks that the ones that are dried on the racks are hard and stiff and he doesn’t like the feel of them on his skin. Just about everything else dries on the racks or on hangers. It’s a result of years of living in Germany, and other places where we had utility bills, and the dryer is a huge electricity hog.
When we lived in a small village in Germany, I remember my landlady bringing my utility bill; her face was white. She said (in essence) “how can this be? You are a wasteful American and I am a frugal German and your electricity bill is half of mine!” (no, she didn’t say wasteful, but that was sort of the gist) but she had a clothes dryer that was going all the time, and I did not. I also had a very small little refrigerator, and she had a larger one. Old habits die hard; I still hang most of my clothes to dry.
We are careful with water use, as water becomes more dear, we try to conserve, so we don’t let water run, we turn it off. We must look very peculiar and very particular to our house guests.
I really only told them the basics – here are these things, here are those, this is the way this operates – more than that would have been overwhelming. Probably they were overwhelmed with the little I did share! Being a houseguest is overwhelming, too!
And I think of my youngest sister, who took me in for weeks at a time through many of the years we spent overseas, clearing out a bedroom and bathroom for my exclusive use, letting me come and go as my schedule dictated, but still, an intruder and an interruption on her own family life, God bless her. I remember one time being in the kitchen with her son, asking him if he knew where his mother kept the emergency emery board, and he looked totally dumbstruck, and said he didn’t know.
“It’s probably here,” I said, opening a drawer and pulling out the emery board. Our mother always kept an emery board in that drawer; I keep a spare emery board in that drawer, and it just seemed likely my sister would, too. I still love the look on his face as I pulled it out. “How did you know??” he asked, and I just laughed.
I wonder what tales our house guests will tell of us, and our strange ways?
On their last day with us, I showed the 10 year old how to make Bird in a Basket, which he loved. It’s so simple, bread with a circle cut out, butter, an egg and a skillet – even a ten year old could do it. What was even better was that he loved it and was going to go home and show his Mama how to do it. One tiny piece of American culture may grow and thrive in Saudi Arabia.
We’ve been waiting for a free afternoon to see Jurassic World, and yesterday was it. We wanted to see it in 3D, although in retrospect, I am not so sure it makes that big a difference. It was LOUD. We are not hard of hearing, and at the beginning I had to cover my ears, it was so loud.
And, for all the movies I have seen, this one had some twists I didn’t see coming. It was full of exciting moments, and, within its own context, believable. You have to believe that humans let greed overcome their good judgement. You have to believe genetic manipulation is possible. You have to believe that the minute someone says “this is totally safe” you’d better be looking for a life jacket and a way out. All this, I believe.
AdventureMan had some struggles with unexplained things, but I think they were good at covering their bases, if you paid attention when the scientists were talking. I had a really hard time believing velociraptors could be tamed in any way. Trained – maybe if they are bored enough, and the training follows their normal instinctive practices. Tamed? Ummm, I don’t think so.
I loved the homage paid to Jurassic Park. I always love it when the bad guys get their just desserts. I always wonder, if we get curious and clone/create a prehistoric animal, will we be able to foresee all the possible outcomes?
We wanted our house guests to experience a truly Southern experience, so we took them to Sonny’s BBQ. It doesn’t get much more down-home than Sonny’s. We saw one of my friends from water aerobics, we saw another friend from church and our son’s boss, all sitting nearby.
We all ordered barbecued smoked chicken, and the 10 year old ordered french fries and french fries for his two “sides.” He got frustrated with the knife and fork – it does slow down eating chicken – so he pretty much stuck to the french fries. As my friend from water aerobics left, she came over and hugged AdventureMan, and kept her hand on his shoulder as she met our guests.
To make it all even more bizarre (I am trying to imagine this from the Saudi point of view), we have the car seats for our grandchildren in AdventureMan’s car, so we used my car to drive to the restaurant. I drove.
It was a lot for them to absorb.
As we were leaving, our favorite waitress caught my arm and said “Come back soon! I have so many questions!”
My house guest and I are sitting at my computer, looking at airfares.
“So what do I do?” he asked me.
“This is your decision to make,” I answered. “Only you know what is most important to you.”
“I am looking for a recommendation,” he tells me.
“If it were me, I would take that early flight. It is cheaper, and by leaving at six a.m. you know it is likely to leave on time and arrive on time. Also, I would have booked it about four months ago. It’s summer. The flights are flying full. There are no cheaper tickets left.”
“Month-es?” he asked incredulously. “Month-es?” he repeated.
We decided to wait and book later, after he had given it some thought. He didn’t like my recommendation; he didn’t like the earliness of the flight I recommended, and I had known he wouldn’t.
I think the idea of booking a flight four months in advance was a double-whammy.
We’ve had a lot of wedding anniversaries, AdventureMan and I. Some anniversaries we have sacrificed to national security, as AdventureMan would be called to go to the field, or head out on some exercise. There are a few which have been truly memorable. If you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you will know that the ones we remember are probably not those that include roses, or wine and a fine meal and a beautiful gift, although we have had those.
One, we remember because we ate at a very fine restaurant, very snooty, and the waiter made a big deal out of presenting us with chilled forks for our salad course. We could barely keep a straight face, it is so far from anything we would consider a priority.
Another, and we howl with laughter – now – was the wedding anniversary when we had just arrived in Germany from Saudi Arabia, and found a lovely apartment on the top floor of an old mansion in a village I loved. When we got back to the car, AdventureMan said “Did you notice it is not furnished?” and I said we can find what we need at the re-utilization office, which is alway selling off used furniture.
Indeed, two days later there was a huge sale at the re-utilization center and we bought a dining room set, living room chairs, three big cupboards for holding clothes and some lamps, etc – all for $53. We’ve always had great luck that way. I had a lot of fun re-upholstering the chairs, and the landlord threw in a bed for us.
But as we sat in the car, on our anniversary, I said “Now, you probably need to take me to the hospital so we can get my bite looked at.” A few hours before leaving Saudi Arabia, the cat I had been feeding bit me, hard, on the arm. It ws one of those bites where the incisors went deep. I’d have liked to ignore the bite, but rabies is an ugly way to die, and I sure didn’t want to stay in Saudi Arabia to be treated.
So we headed to the hospital, and the next few hours were excruciating. Then we went to a favorite old Mexican restaurant we had known from years before, and that was our anniversary, truly memorable. We still laugh; we remember finding that lovely old apartment, and then having to go to the emergency room.
As an aside, the landlord didn’t tell us he was trying to sell the mansion, and nine months later, we were looking again for an apartment. We became very good friends with the new owners, and are friends with them to this very day.
This wedding anniversary was a non-event, we had houseguests, and their customs and daily lives are so very different that celebrating a wedding anniversary would have been far outside their comfort zone. We had a friend from Saudi Arabia and his 10 year old son.
We received an e-mail from them saying (I will paraphrase a little here) ‘we have reservations to come to Pensacola for 26 days and we want to stay with you.’ There was more, but that was the essence. AdventureMan looked at me and said “I think we need to do this” and I was glad, because I had been thinking the same thing.
I think I have told you about our friends who welcome the stranger, so I think God had been preparing us for this visit, and for us to do it.
How did it go? It was challenging. There were times we just wanted it to be over, and there were times our friends must have found us to be very disappointing. There were continual clashes in expectations, and there was a very large well of good will out of which we continually drew. There were uncomfortable moments regarding meals, and meal times, and getting up times, and where we would go. There were also some fabulous meals and some truly wonderful conversations.
I know they were sorry to go. I know they want to come back again for another visit. We have no regrets; we are glad we did this, and we are also glad to have our very normal American lives back. We like this man very much, and we know this visit was a challenge for him, too.
But as we are hollering back and forth, we are laughing, this is one of those anniversaries we will never forget, the year we had our Saudi house guests.
We are aging, AdventureMan and I. We are no longer truly nomadic, living out of our suitcases. We have everything we own in this one house, except our other house. We no longer have other furniture in storage, and we have trimmed down a lot on the load of things we have collected. Maybe the one thing we truly fear is becoming too settled, and this visit was a wonderful way to shake things up a little bit, to force us out of our comfortable routines, and to force us to see our lives through the eyes of others.
It has given us a lot to think about.
Happy Anniversary, AdventureMan :-)