Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

In this morning’s lectionary readings from Deuteronomy, I find words of hope this morning:

 

Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 18

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

I often tell my friends that I encountered very good Christians as I lived among the Moslems; they believe in Christ, and as we differ among ourselves as Christians, they also differ from us. Some of the differences are significant, and at the same time, I am aware that Christians did not agree – and still do not agree – on Christ’s divinity. So I look at the fruits of the spirit, I look at actions, and I look at being faithful to God’s intentions for us as his creation. I welcome the stranger as the stranger so often welcomed us.

Right now, it shames me that our very Christian country is no longer hospitable to the stranger. We were the shining light of hope in the world. Now we are led by a me-first bully, who will rob the poor even of their access to affordable health care to fill his pickets and those of his cronies. He forgets we are all strangers in a strange land, and will have to answer for our misdeeds.

I take courage in the spiritual renewal of resistance; there are those who continue to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, who are fighting against injustice in the criminal and legal system, who are fighting for a woman’s equal place in this country, who are protecting the widows and orphans, the very things we are called to do. For the first time in my life, I am a member of the ACLU. I continue to receive training as a spirit warrior.  We use our increased investments to fund Planned Parenthood. We strive to feed the hungry and clothe those without clothing.

We laugh, as we discuss issues in our classes, at our activities, over lunch, that at this later stage in life, we could be so reactivated 🙂

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

The Patter of Little Feet

AdventureMan said “I’m ready.”

 

He caught me by surprise.

 

We lost Zakat in July; one Saturday night at bedtime, he noticed Zakat had a dime-sized hole in his side. In the time it took us to get dressed and head for the animal emergency care hospital, it had grown to the size of a quarter. As we waited – the hospital was full, that night, of heartbreaking cases – it continued to grow. We had to leave him there to be sewn up, but they called us and told us that his skin wouldn’t hold stitches, and other lesions had opened. “A cat can’t live without skin” she said. We had to let him go.

 

When we adopted him, we hoped we would have more time with him. Zakat was the sweetest cat we have ever had, just full of love and trust. He was also FiV positive, feline AIDS, and he was susceptible to everything. He lost teeth. He had frequent pink eye. He would have fevers. He had skin problems. Through it all, he was sweet. When we lost him, we were desolate. AdventureMan said “No more cats.”

 

I think Trump changed his mind. I think he had to do something to fight our increasing dismay and outrage, we had to have some source of laughter in our lives. We know these immigrants he wants to keep out; we have lived among them and know them, for the most part, to be peaceful, hospitable people, very much like the people we live among in Pensacola. We have trans friends, and gay friends, and to limit their freedom threatens our own, for where do you start restraining those who hate? We prefer to drink untainted water, and to breathe unpolluted air, and we trust the EPA to measure, and to confront, and to enforce. And we want to trust in the “truthiness” of our elected officials, which we demonstrably cannot.

 

We have become activists. Who would have though it?

 

And, to nourish our souls, we have adopted Ragnar, a Russian Blue mix, and Uhtred, a creamy gold total mutt, both street cats, both sweet and funny and playful and delightful. Our house is once again a jumble of scattered and wrinkled carpets, dining room chairs knocked out of place, training not to go on countertops, and clear duct tape on the furniture to train them not to scratch there, but on the scratching posts.  They give us joy, and a delightful reason to get up in the morning.

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So, thank you, Donald Trump, for being so obnoxious and so depressing that we welcomed the diversion of these two delightful little angels into our household. One small step to help a hurting world.

February 27, 2017 Posted by | Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Free Speech, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Trump NOT the Real Face of America

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First, God bless America, where every and any citizen is free to criticize our President. Second, this man is not the “real face of America.” He became president by a statistical sleight-of-hand, winning the electoral college, but losing the popular vote by THREE MILLION votes.

 

Many people who voted for him have voters remorse – the Americans happy with his performance is 36%.

(CNN)President Donald Trump enters office facing low job approval ratings and skepticism from voters, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The survey found that 36% of American voters approve of Trump’s handling of his job after his first week, while 44% say they disapprove. By comparison, former President Barack Obama received a 59%-25% approval rating in the first Quinnipiac poll taken after his inauguration in 2009.
Mr. Trump, as is his habit, calls all news which is not flattering “fake news.” His staff makes things up all the time, and seem unembarrassed when caught – no wonder they see the world a making things up. When it’s what you do, that’s what you think others are doing.
There is a majority of good hearted Americans who do not see “radical Islamic terrorism” in the face of every refugee. There are Americans demonstrating for people they don’t even know, for their right to immigrate to this great nation of immigrants. There are Americans sending money to the American Civil Liberties Union, to fight the battles through the judicial system, to Planned Parenthood, to make sure our abortion rate continues to fall because unwanted children are neither conceived nor born, the International Rescue Committee, to help settle the refugee families and keep our borders open to the flows which have given us the strength of diversity.
No, Mr. Trump is not the face of America, not the America I grew up in. He has to move fast, because he knows he doesn’t have long before the next election, when his mis-deeds come home to roost.
I believe he is a smart man, in the way con-men are often smart – clever. He doesn’t do his homework, he doesn’t understand the complexities of domestic nor international politics, he offends everywhere he goes with his bad manners and bluster. He has some very outdated ideas about women. He is fascinated with celebrity. Perhaps, if there were any indication he was taking this job seriously, he would be effective, but he is lazy, and arrogant, and thinks the laws don’t apply to him because he is in some way special. Like the bully on the playground, he is fragile, insecure and vulnerable to flattery, and will go crying home when the people call “The Emperor Has No Clothes!”
No, Ayatollah Khamenei, this man Trump does not show the real face of America.

February 7, 2017 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Iran, Leadership, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Please Call 646-781-7061

This morning we got another phone call from the “IRS” saying it was our final notice that they were filing a suit against us.  We are actually in pretty good contact with the IRS ourselves, and this scam phone call doesn’t even give our hearts a tiny flutter.

 

But it does make me angry, thinking of the vulnerable people who may panic, who may fall for this and call them back, who may even, in all good faith, believe that this is the way the IRS operates and end up sending them money.

 

Those of you who have time on your hands might want to call the number and tell them what you think. If you are an IRS official, even better. People who prey on other people for their livelihood need to find another way to earn a living.

February 1, 2017 Posted by | Communication, Crime, Lies, Money Management, Rants, Scams | | 1 Comment

410-844-5516 Unsafe Caller

I’ve grown cautious; I do not answer a phone number any longer that I do not recognize. People who know me are good about leaving a message; I am good at returning those calls.

Today I got a call from 410-844-5516.  I checked it on my computer; several people have listed it as an “unsafe caller.”

We have little power against intrusions on my privacy, but it makes me feel good to publish this number reported as unsafe.

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 1 Comment

Cafe Degas in New Orleans

We love our trips to New Orleans, and are able to go often, even just on the spur of the moment. Such was our trip last weekend, we needed to pick up some things from our friends at Zito’s, and decided to make it an overnight.

We have never visited the New Orleans Museum of Art, so we looked for restaurants nearby and found Cafe Degas, a French restaurant.

We miss France. Going to France was one of the best parts of living in Germany, not far from the French border. We were in France all the time, and oh, how we miss France.

We found Cafe Degas with no trouble, and were able to find a parking spot within a short walk.

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Each table filled almost as soon as it emptied. There were families, people coming in after church, friends meeting up to share their weeks. It had a great vibe.

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The bread was wonderful, crispy on the outside, light as a cloud on the inside

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We LOVE mussels. These were perfect, and the broth was exquisite.

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The mussels come with fries. Normally I will avoid fries, but oh, these were so good. I ate about half, more than I had intended! I had thought “oh one bite won’t hurt!” and twenty fries later, I still had trouble stopping.

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3127 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 945-5635

Hours of operation
Lunch: Wednesday through Friday 11:00am – 3:00pm.

We are open for drinks, salads and appetizers between lunch and dinner service Wed – Sat.
Dinner: Wednesday through Saturday 5:30pm – 10:00pm.
Sunday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:30am – 3:00pm

HAPPY HOUR Wednesday and Thursday 3:00pm – 6:00pm

All Major Credit Cards Accepted

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, France, Mardi Gras, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Chinese New Year Shoes

I admit it, I am frugal. I am frugal in small ways, in daily life. I don’t like waste. I don’t need luxury. Or maybe I should say I have my own idea of luxury. We lead a comfortable life and have more than enough to delight in.

Now and then, I see something that tickles my imagination. When I do, I don’t hesitate. When I saw these shoes, I bought them to celebrate Chinese New Years, coming January 27 – 29.

 

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I found these on Amazon! They were under $20, and they have dragons on them holding the ball of the earth. What an amazing world we live in, what luxury is available at affordable prices.

January 21, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, ExPat Life, Shopping | | Leave a comment

Grieving for Damascus

“This is a place I would love to retire,” I once told AdventureMan, as we wandered the streets. “It has all the things I love. Beautiful architecture and a rich history. It’s on a river. It gets cold in the winter. You can walk to local stores.”

Today, with great sadness, I read that Damascus is now rated the #1 Most Unlivable City in the World, beating out Douala, Cameroon; Harare, Zimbabwe; Karachi, Pakistan; Algiers, Algeria; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Lagos, Nigeria; and Tripoli, Libya. This is what the report summarized about Damascus:

Damascus has forgotten more than your city will likely ever know-and it has been a battleground for almost its entire existence. The City of Jasmine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, according to The Economist Intelligence Unit, the least livable city in the world-for good reason. More than 13 million Syrians require humanitarian aid, 6.5 million have been displaced, and almost half a million have been killed on all sides of the conflict there-government soldiers, opposition soldiers, and civilians. It’s scores are predictably abysmal, with a 15 (out of 100) for stability at the bottom end and a mere 43.3 for culture and environment at the top end.

This is a city which has been at the crossroads of civilization about as long as civilization has been around. This is a city which was refined, and tolerant, a city which was once full of caravans carrying spices, silks and riches to the West.

We were last there in 2007, and we are so glad we went when we did. Damascus was revitalizing, building up a tourism business with grand hotels, and lovely, intimate boutique hotels.

We stayed at the Talisman. We grieve for the fine people we met there, and for all the losses they have suffered.

AdventureMan said “why don’t you do a photo-share, like you did with Doha?” At first, I didn’t want to, but then, I looked at the photos – and once again, I was smitten. I pray for a miracle for Syria, for new, enlightened, tolerant leadership and opportunities for the good Syrian people. For renewed vigor in churches and mosques and synagogues there. (The Talisman is in the old Jewish quarter, where the Greek Orthodox also have their headquarters.)

This is the majlis – sitting area – at the Talisman.

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A restaurant nearby the Talisman:

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Breakfast at the Talisman:

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The historical nearby Bab, or gate:

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A nearby Tabak and the friendly operator:

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Streetside bakery:

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A courtyard restaurant, with lovely dishes. And note the Christmas tree; Christmas decorations and greenery everywhere!

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A Christian Shop near Bab Thoma:

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Interior at Umayyad Mosque, all are welcome and abayas provided. You leave your shoes at the door. This is the rear of the Tomb of John the Baptist:

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Naranj, our favorite restaurant. I understand branches of Naranj have opened in Gulf Countries, Qatar, Kuwait, as wealthier Syrians take their money out of Syria and wait for more peaceful times. I am betting they will return to Syria as soon as they can.

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Inside Naranj

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A merchant in the Souk al Hamidiyya

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A courtyard restaurant set up for Christmas dinners:

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I’ve never met a Syrian who wasn’t educated and working hard to make a good life for his/her family. We wonder if we will ever be able to visit Syria again in our lifetime?

For more photos of Damascus, you can visit my 2007 posts, Walking Old Damascus, by clicking here.

 

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Doha, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Kuwait, Leadership, Living Conditions, Photos, Political Issues, Restaurant, Travel | , | 4 Comments

Female Only Row on Airline to Prevent Groping

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(Cartoon from the New Yorker)

I’m surprised Air India is the first to officially offer this; I would have thought it would be Qatar Air, or Emirates. It’s a great customer service.

From AOL News:

Major airline offers ‘female-only’ row to its flights

When it comes to seating on airplanes, there’s generally a first class, business class and economy section. But one major airline is adding a new row just for women!

Air India will reserve six seats in the third row of its economy class cabin for female passengers flying solo.

A senior official with the company says the new seating option will give female passengers more choice and comfort and insists it’s not in response to alleged groping incidents on their planes.

According to the official, this will make Air India the only airline in India, and possibly the world, to take this step.

Whatever the reason, the female-only row was announced after two in-flight incidents happened less than two weeks apart.

In December, a woman flying from Mumbai to New York claimed she woke up after being groped by a man who moved to an empty seat next to her.

Shortly after, a female flight attendant alleged she was molested and subjected to vulgar language by a male passenger.

Both men were reported to police once the planes landed, according to Reuters.

The seats will be offered at no extra cost and can be requested up to an hour before check-in closes.

Currently the female-only seating is exclusively offered on domestic flights, but the airline may add them to international flights after seeing how effective they are.

January 18, 2017 Posted by | Civility, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently

The outcome of the recent election has not been a positive thing for everyone. Fuzzy headed liberal thinkers like me have some hard work to do in the next four years, feeding the hungry, making sure the homeless have a warm place on a cold night, protecting our drinking water, our drugs, protecting the air we breathe (what? you didn’t think all that regulation was for you?) and protecting against the removal of financial protections against those shenanigans by banks and financial institutions which  brought us the great recession that peaked during the last year of the second Bush administration.

We will be the guard-dogs against gerrymandering, and against the stripping of human rights, reproductive rights, voting rights, protection against child abuse, spousal abuse and animal abuse. We will insist that the laws are enforced, equally, and do our best to protect against bad legislation.

Meanwhile, this wonderful article appeared in the HuffPost, well worth a read. Successful people have some really healthy habits and attitudes.

What Successful People (Who Are Actually Happy) Do Differently

(Dr. Travis Bradberry 

Author of #1 bestselling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and president of TalentSmart, world’s leading provider of emotional intelligence

Achievement rarely produces the sense of lasting happiness that you think it will. Once you finally accomplish the goal you’ve been chasing, two new goals tend to pop up unexpectedly.

We long for new achievements because we quickly habituate to what we’ve already accomplished. This habituation to success is as inevitable as it is frustrating, and it’s more powerful than you realize.

The key to beating habituation is to pursue, what researchers call, enduring accomplishments. Unlike run-of-the-mill accomplishments that produce fleeting happiness, the pleasure from enduring accomplishments lasts long after that initial buzz. Enduring accomplishments are so critical that they separate those who are successful and happy from those who are always left wanting more.

Researchers from the Harvard Business School studied this phenomenon by interviewing and assessing professionals who had attained great success. The aim was to break down what these exceptional professionals did differently to achieve both long-lasting and fulfilling success.

The researchers found that people who were both successful and happy over the long term intentionally structured their activities around four major needs:

Happiness: They pursued activities that produced pleasure and satisfaction.

Achievement: They pursued activities that got tangible results.

Significance:
 They pursued activities that made a positive impact on the people who matter most.

Legacy: They pursued activities through which they could pass their values and knowledge on to others.

Lasting fulfillment comes when you pursue activities that address all four of these needs. When any one of them is missing, you get a nagging sense that you should be doing more (or something different).

The behaviors that follow are the hallmarks of people who are successful and happy because they address these four needs. Try them out and see what they do for you.

1. They are passionate.
 Jane Goodall left her home in England and moved to Tanzania at age 26 to begin studying chimpanzees. It became her life’s work, and Goodall has devoted herself fully to her cause while inspiring many others to do the same. Successful, happy people don’t just have interests; they have passions, and they devote themselves completely to them.

2. They swim against the current. There’s a reason that successful and happy people tend to be a little, well, different. To be truly successful and happy, you have to follow your passions and values no matter the costs. Just think what the world would have missed out on if Bill Gates or Richard Branson had played it safe and stayed in school or if Stephen King hadn’t spent every free second he had as teacher writing novels. To swim against the current, you have to be willing to take risks.


“To be normal is the ideal aim of the unsuccessful.”
– Carl Jung

3. They finish what they start. Coming up with a great idea means absolutely nothing if you don’t execute that idea. The most successful and happy people bring their ideas to fruition, deriving just as much satisfaction from working through the complications and daily grind as they do from coming up with the initial idea. They know that a vision remains a meaningless thought until it is acted upon. Only then does it begin to grow.

4. They are resilient. To be successful and happy in the long term, you have to learn to make mistakes, look like an idiot, and try again, all without flinching. In a recent study at the College of William and Mary, researchers interviewed over 800 entrepreneurs and found that the most successful among them tended to have two critical things in common: they were terrible at imagining failure, and they tended not to care what other people thought of them. In other words, the most successful entrepreneurs put no time or energy into stressing about their failures as they see failure as a small and necessary step in the process of reaching their goals.

5. They make their health a priority. There are an absurd number of links between your health, happiness, and success. I’ve beaten them to death over the years, but the absolute essential health habits that successful and happy people practice consistently are good sleep hygiene (fights stress, improves focus, and is great for your mood), eating healthy food (helps you to focus), and exercise (great for energy levels and confidence).

6. They don’t dwell on problems. Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. By fixating on your problems, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress, which hinder performance. However, by focusing on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you can create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and improves performance. Successful, happy people don’t dwell on problems because they know that they’re most effective when they focus on solutions.

7. They celebrate other people’s successes.
 Insecure people constantly doubt their relevance, and because of this, they try to steal the spotlight and criticize others in order to prove their worth. Confident people, on the other hand, aren’t worried about their relevance because they draw their self-worth from within. Instead of insecurely focusing inward, confident people focus outward, which allows them to see all the wonderful things that other people bring to the table. Praising people for their contributions is a natural result of this.

8. They live outside the box.
 Successful and happy people haven’t arrived at where they are by thinking in the same way as everyone else. While others stay in their comfort-zone prisons and invest all their energy in reinforcing their existing beliefs, successful people are out challenging the status quo and exposing themselves to new ideas.

9. They keep an open mind. Exposing yourself to a variety of people is useless if you spend that time disagreeing with them and comforting yourself with your own opinions. Successful, happy people recognize that every perspective provides an opportunity for growth. You need to practice empathy by putting yourself in the other person’s shoes so that you can understand how their perspective makes sense (at least, to them). A great way to keep an open mind is to try to glean at least one interesting or useful thing from every conversation you have.

10. They don’t let anyone limit their joy.
 When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from comparing yourself to others, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When successful, happy people feel good about something that they’ve done, they don’t let anyone’s opinions or accomplishments take that away from them. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what other people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain — you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.

Bringing It All Together

People who are successful and happy focus on activities that address a variety of needs, not just immediate achievements.

What other habits can make you happy and successful in the long term? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

January 17, 2017 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment