Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Value of the Trivial

“Be sure to use your full name, First, maiden and married, on your quilt labels,” our presenter instructed us.

Oh-oh. I’ve been lucky just to get labels on my quilts, and I haven’t used my maiden name at all.

“Years from now, if someone is trying to track you as a quilter, it will help to have your maiden name to distinguish you from other quilters who may have similar names,” she continued.

OK. So now I will include my maiden name. (For my Moslem friends, it is our custom to take our husband’s names when we marry. Some women don’t, but even now, the majority do. I know, I know, it seems backward to you, it is irrational, it is just the way it is. We also don’t have marriage contracts.)

At lunch with a long-time friend this week, she mentioned she still has her mother’s diaries. I suggested she offer them to a major university near where my friend grew up, to their historical collection, and my friend said “oh, it’s just daily weather, who’s sick, stuff like that.”

Stuff like that is just exactly what historians treasure. When I was at university, I worked for a time in the copying department of the library, and I specialized in the historical collections, many of which were from people who came west. The papers were fascinating – letters home, lists of supplies they asked to have sent West, to-do lists, old photos. The scraps of paper you and I throw away – there in the Northwest collection.

They become valuable, at least for historical research, for writing period fiction, for medical research – because we do throw them away, and so few survive.

Keeping up with this blog has become more problematic. I just don’t have the time in my life I used to have. My life is interesting to me, but now that I am no longer living in exotic locations, I don’t believe I am so interesting to others. My internal debate is whether or not to continue. I would let it go in a heartbeat and not miss the time, but . . . I think I would miss your feedback.

I’m not writing this for you. I’m sort of writing more for my own record-keeping, it’s why I include news articles and scraps of daily life (not my own) and all the oddities and irrationalities that catch my eye. I love having a place to store it all (this blog) and I love your comments, which can sometimes completely turn me around in point of view; you give me perspectives I hadn’t considered.

The point of all this is the ephemeral nature of our daily lives, and the records of our lives. There are things worth keeping.

I wish someone in Kuwait were doing oral histories on the older people who were living there ‘before oil’.

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Biography, Blogging, Communication, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Social Issues | 4 Comments

“Feels Like . . . “

AdventureMan is at a meeting, and I had been thinking lunch at the beach later today when he gets home. At “feels like 120°F,” I think maybe not the beach today.

Oddly, while the temperatures are high, it hasn’t felt like the worst days of summer. I have tomatoes growing again, so some of our nights must be going below 70°F, and with the recent rains, the roses are blooming again and the lantana in the former pool area (not our doing, the original owner) is going bananas. The bees are busy, and I am hoping they will fertilize the eggplant, so the plant I have been nursing all summer will not have been for nothing. It FEELS like Fall is coming, in spite of the temperatures.

On my Weather Underground home page, I have temperatures for Doha and Kuwait also listed. Doha, nine hours ahead, has almost the same exact temperature at 6 pm that Pensacola has at 9 am. God’s mercy is showing in Doha, cooling the evening for the Ramadan celebrations. 🙂

August 20, 2011 Posted by | Doha, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Ramadan, Weather | Leave a comment

New Generation of Readers

Nothing could make me happier. The Happy Baby loves books! When he was born, one of my sisters sent a box, full of almost every classic book children love to read. Since then, AdventureMan and I have been supplementing with all our own favorites. Happy Baby loves to sit in a lap and read a book, and he is also happy reading on his own.

He LOVES trucks and buses and cars, LOL, he is all boy:

This weekend the Happy Baby discovered heaven-on-earth – the Pensacola National Aviation Museum. He loves the cockpits, with all those buttons and levers and wheels. He only screamed when it was time to move on to the next exhibit.

I was babysitting the other day and they left us with the iPad, which he also loves. I thought I knew how things worked, but I was wrong. I didn’t know anything about Angry Birds or Zombies in the Garden, and he showed me. 18 months old. I just had to laugh. Already, I am learning from him!

August 18, 2011 Posted by | Adventure, Books, Education, Entertainment, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola | , | 2 Comments

Cooling Cucumber Salad

I made this for the first time the other night; it was a big hit. It is also a great way to utilize all those cucumbers appearing in your garden 🙂

Cooling Cucumber Salad

3 English cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon dried mint

Mix the cucumbers and onion in a large bowl.

Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Pour vinegar/water/sugar over the cucumber and onions.

Stir in mint, cover, and refrigerate. Marinate half a day, and serve.

So simple! So easy!

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Cooking, Gardens, Recipes | Leave a comment

Full Moon, More Babies, More Loonies

“Are you awake?” asked AdventureMan.

“Yep.” I answered.

“I can’t sleep.” he complained.

“Must be the fool moon,” I responded. (Update: I meant ‘full’ but that synapse failed to connect)

Maybe not so far from right – strange things happen when the moon is full. Emergency rooms are full, more babies are born and people can act a little loony. This is from AOL / Huffington Post:

Strange things seem to happen when there’s a full moon, especially in the hospital.

That’s where an incredible 45 babies entered the world last weekend in Sacramento, Calif., according to FOX 40. But some say the mini “baby boom” was no accident.

Throughout a period of 48 hours, doctors at Sacramento’s Sutter Memorial delivered 45 newborns– a possible record for deliveries in a two-day period for the city, stated hospital spokesperson Gary Zavoral. While some doctors joke that the high number of births could be attributed to the full moon, hospital officials hint that the speculation might not be that far out. After all, menstruation and ovulation more or less follow a lunar cycle, so why can’t childbirth be affected, too?

The theory of the lunar effect on births is based off the fact that the moon’s gravitational pull causes high tides. Since the human body is made up of 80 percent water, the pull is believed to speed along the childbirth process, according to Discovery Health.

However, several studies suggest that the idea of the lunar effect influencing the number or frequency of deliveries is just, well, looney.

In 2005, researchers from Mountain Area Health Education Center in North Carolina analyzed almost 600,000 births across 62 lunar cycles. The data were retrieved from birth certificates from 1997 to 2001. The result? No significant differences in the frequency of births across the eight stages of the moon.

Scientific data doesn’t put old myths to bed, though. The anecdote of the lunar effect is a longstanding one, and some medical professionals won’t deny that things get pretty hectic when the full moon is out.

“I think if you talk to anybody on the front lines of the hospital, emergency room doctors, labor and delivery, etc. it’s always like that on the full moon, everyone for some reason is really busy,” Matthew Guile, a doctor at Sutter Memorial, told Fox 40.

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Living Conditions, Local Lore, Random Musings | , , | 4 Comments

Customer Service at Jasmine Fusion

We have eaten once before at Jasmine Fusion in Pensacola (9 Mile Road,) and while the food was great, the welcome was haphazard and the restrooms were messy. Our impressions were not that good, but when friends we were going out with suggested eating there, we agreed, as it was close to the theatre we were going to afterwards.

What a difference.

The place looked a lot cleaner, and the welcome was warm. We were seated immediately, in a nice location, and our waitress was superb. Here was the deal-sealer – AdventureMan has a sore throat, and ordered hot green tea. When the tea was delivered to the table, the waitress had added a small pitcher of honey on the side, to be added to the tea, to help his sore throat. A small thing, but it blew us away for attention to detail.

The food was delicious – Summer Rolls with two sauces, Chicken Sate’, Larb, Grilled Chicken, Phad Thai and Panang Curry. Everything cooked to perfection, or, in the case of the Summer Rolls, not cooked, but still perfection. 🙂 Great conversation, really good food, and a very thoughtful waitress – we can’t wait to go back. 🙂

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Living Conditions, Pensacola | 2 Comments

Changes in the Air

“It’s still hot,” I said as we were coming out of the movie, “but can you feel a change in the air? Even though it’s hot, the air is changing, the light is changing – you can feel hints that Fall is coming . . . ”

We had just been to see “The Help,” and if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to make plans to see it soon. It is a really good movie, which will make you laugh, and cry, and remember that it wasn’t so long ago in our country when it took place. (You can read my review of the unforgettable book here.)

The movie is a serious movie, and at the same time, I loved the attention to detail – the hair, the fashions, the manners – all very 50’s, even though it is the 1960’s in Jackson, Mississippi.

I remember reading this book in Qatar, just after I had moved back there from Kuwait. The Kuwait book club also read White Tiger and Half of a Yellow Sun, all of which had domestic service as at least part of the theme. It’s another one of those cultural things we all have in common – how do we treat the people who work for us? How do they see us? Who is raising our children and teaching them values?

In the Gulf, there are horror stories in the papers of servants who never receive their wages, or who work 16 hours a day, sun-up to sun-down, with never a day off. The families who take good care of their servants never make the papers, but I have seen good and caring relationships, lasting many years, between employers and employees. We’re glad we saw this movie, which sticks closely to the book. For a fuller experience – read the book.

Meanwhile, the temperature early this morning was below 69° F, which means that my tomatoes will begin setting once again and we may have a good crop coming before the cold sets in. I noticed, to my horror, I have a decent crop of weeds trying to establish themselves while it is too hot for me to go out and do battle with them. Some of my tomatoes actually continued producing even during the hottest days of the summer; I’m going to have to plant more of those next year. The golden pear and the red pear tomatoes are producing merrily; the bigger tomatoes have stopped – I hope temporarily.

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Books, Character, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fiction, Friends & Friendship, Gardens, Generational, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Random Musings, Social Issues, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Culture of Honor Shortens Lives

As I read this article, I thought about life growing up in a small town in Alaska, and how similar it was to life in Qatar and Kuwait, where you live all your life in one community and reputations, once ruined, are never lived down.

HealthDay News
For Men, ‘Culture of Honor’ Can Be Deadly

Mindset spurs risky behaviors and is most prevalent in U.S. South and West, study shows.

By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay News

MONDAY, Aug. 15 (HealthDay News) — Psychologists call it the “culture of honor,” a mostly male mindset that places a high value on defending one’s reputation at any cost. But new research confirms that it’s linked with high rates of accidental deaths.

“People who embrace these values also report more risk-taking,” explained study author Dr. Ryan Brown, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Oklahoma, in Norman.

This dangerous male mindset is also more prevalent among those living in the South and West, in such states as South Carolina, Texas and Wyoming, he added.

In two studies published in the current issue of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, Brown looked at the consequences of such thinking.

First, he compared rates of accidental deaths (car accidents, drowning, over-exertion and so on) in all U.S. states. He found the so-called “honor states” had higher rates than non-honor states (such as New York, Ohio, Wisconsin).

More than 7,000 deaths a year can be blamed on risk-taking linked with the “culture of honor,” he said.

The behavior was most common in more rural areas of the honor states, he found. In the cities of honor states, he found a 14 percent higher accidental death rate than in the cities of non-honor states. He found a 19 percent higher rate in the smaller towns of honor states compared to non-honor states.

“In a smaller town, your reputation is much more important,” he said. It’s likely that everyone knows your business, and that could be good or bad for your reputation, he explained.

In a second study, Brown surveyed 103 college students from his university, including 79 women.

The participants completed tests measuring how much they subscribed to the culture of honor, finished a self-esteem test and answered questions about their tendencies toward risk-taking behavior. A sample statement to which they agreed or not was: “A real man doesn’t let other people push him around.”

The more the person subscribed to a culture of honor, the more likely they were to engage in risky behaviors, the findings showed.

The effect was there for women, too, Brown said.

He and others have previously noted that this culture of honor originated with the Ulster Scots (mistakenly sometimes called the Scotch-Irish) who came to the United States during the 18th century.

In their homeland, he said, they were herders and were always being invaded by someone. They learned to protect and defend themselves, not always in ideal ways. A typical statement, Brown noted: “You take one of our cows, we will take your whole herd.”

The culture of honor behavior persists, he said, despite the disappearance of the herds.

It has staying power, Brown added, and is fostered through norms and values about masculinity and femininity. It’s the stuff of country songs, he explained.

That makes sense to Richard Nisbett, the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South.

In the past, Nisbett explained, “if you kept animals for a living, you ran the risk of having your entire livelihood taken away [if someone opens the pasture gate, for instance].”

In modern times, “if you stand the risk of losing your livelihood easily and the state is not around to protect you, you are going to develop this kind of culture of honor,” Nisbett said.

There’s more to it than showing off for women, although that is part of it, he added. It is also, for a man, showing other guys your toughness.

While Brown’s research and that of others clearly shows that some states aren’t honor states, Nisbett said that the behavior is kept going partly by the false belief that everyone else subscribes to the same mindset.

“We tend to think of the culture of honor as historical,” said Joe Vandello, an associate professor of psychology at the University of South Florida. But, “elements of this culture of honor still exist today.”

Simply becoming aware of the phenomenon might help reduce the behavior, Brown noted. Even though it can become “part of your programming,” he said, “we have a will, we have a choice.

Learn more in the Everyday Health Emotional Health Center.

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Health Issues | 6 Comments

The Sandpiper

Thank you, KitKat, for sending me this great story to share with my readers:

The Sandpiper

by Robert Peterson

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live.

I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea.

“Hello,” she said.

I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

“I’m building,” she said.

“I see that. What is it?” I asked, not really caring.
“Oh, I don’t know, I just like the feel of sand.”

That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes.

A sandpiper glided by.

“That’s a joy,” the child said.

“It’s a what?”

“It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.”

The bird went gliding down the beach. Good-bye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed, my life seemed completely out of balance.

“What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up.

“Robert,” I answered. “I’m Robert Peterson.”

“Mine’s Wendy… I’m six.”

“Hi, Wendy.”

She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said.

In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on.

Her musical giggle followed me.

“Come again, Mr.. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts, PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I took my hands out of the dishwater. I need a sandpiper, I said to myself, gathering up my coat.

The ever-changing balm of the seashore awaited me.. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

“Hello, Mr. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

“I don’t know. You say.”

“How about charades?” I asked sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Then let’s just walk.”

Looking at her, I noticed the delicate fairness of her face.
“Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought, in winter.

“Where do you go to school?”

“I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation”

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach, but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to even greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding she keep her child at home.

“Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly when Wendy caught up with me, “I’d rather be alone today.” She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

“Why?” she asked.

I turned to her and shouted, “Because my mother died!” and thought, My God, why was I saying this to a little child?

“Oh,” she said quietly, “then this is a bad day.”

“Yes,” I said, “and yesterday and the day before and — oh, go away!”

“Did it hurt?” she inquired.

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her, with myself.

“When she died?”

“Of course it hurt!” I snapped, misunderstanding,
wrapped up in myself. I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed, and admitting to myself I missed her, I went up to the cottage after my walk and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey-colored hair opened the door.

“Hello,” I said, “I’m Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered where she was.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please, accept my apologies.”

“Not at all! she’s a delightful child.” I said, suddenly realizing
that I meant what I had just said.

“Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia
Maybe she didn’t tell you.”

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

“She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had a lot of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly…” Her voice faltered, “She left something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I look?”

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with “MR. P” printed in bold childish letters.. Inside was a drawing in bright crayon hues — a yellow beach, a blue sea, and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed:


Tears welled up in my eyes, and a heart that had almost forgotten to love opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms. “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I uttered over and over, and we wept together. The precious little picture is framed now and hangs in my study. Six words — one for each year of her life — that speak to me of harmony, courage, and undemanding love.

A gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand
— who taught me the gift of love.

NOTE: This is a true story sent out by Robert Peterson. It happened over 20 years ago and the incident changed his life forever. It serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to take time to enjoy living and life and each other. The price of hating other human beings is loving oneself less.

Life is so complicated, the hustle and bustle of everyday traumas can make us lose focus about what is truly important
or what is only a momentary setback or crisis..

This week, be sure to give your loved ones an extra hug, and by all means, take a moment… even if it is only ten seconds, to stop and smell the roses.

This comes from someone’s heart, and is read by many
and now I share it with you..

May God Bless everyone who receives this! There are NO coincidences!

Everything that happens to us happens for a reason. Never brush aside anyone as insignificant. Who knows what they can teach us?

I wish for you, a sandpiper.

August 15, 2011 Posted by | Character, Civility, Family Issues, Health Issues, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Pantone Releases Fall Colors 2011

Each season, the Pantone Color Institute unveils the fashion industry’s primary color palette after a survey of the designers of New York Fashon Week. The top 10 colors selected for women this fall 2011 appeal to a vibrant, romantic ideal. Designers artfully combine the brighter colors with the subtle neutrals, setting the tone for a feminine fall reminiscent of glamorous Old Hollywood, enchanting Chinese operas, lively cityscapes and peaceful countrysides.

Fall 2011’s color palette consists of: Bamboo, Emberglow, Honeysuckle (the ‘it’ color of 2011), Phlox, Cedar, Deep Teal, Coffee Liqueúr, Nougat, Orchid Hush and Quarry. Of course, all designers have their own trendy names for each of these colors — for example, Chris Benz refers to his Bamboo yellow as “Sponge” — and there are varying shades of these chosen core colors, but the use of this palette on the runways and in designer ready-to-wear collections in stores is unmistakable. Pantone is the color authority in fashion. Take a peek at how these top 10 colors have manifested across products and fashion labels this season, and see how you can best combine the colors for a chic fall 2011 look. These are the top 10 colors and these are some of our favorite combos.

Hmmmm. These may be the ‘newest colors’ but the ‘it’ color for Fall, Honeysuckle, was also one of the main choices for Pantone’s Spring 2011 Choices. The purple is a little red for my taste, and the green a little too yellow. I’m waiting for a deep emerald green to come back, and I will buy clothes to wear for the next twenty years. 🙂

I found this on AOL’s Shopping News.

August 14, 2011 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, color, Marketing, Shopping | 6 Comments