Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Welcome Ramadan 2021

For all my Muslim friends, people who have become dear to me, I wish you a blessed and faithful Ramadan.

Troublesome years, like 2020 – 2021, with all their deaths and miseries, also have hidden blessings, bringing us closer in faith to our Creator, by whatever name we call this mighty one. I am wishing you spiritual strength, and all the hidden blessings this holy season has in store for you as you set aside the cares of daily life and focus on the spiritual life.

I thank you for all I have learned from you, from the way your faith opened my eyes to my own faith, and how closely our faiths, in their purest form, intertwine.

May your Ramadan be greatly blessed.

April 11, 2021 Posted by | ExPat Life, Faith, Ramadan, Spiritual | Leave a comment

Creme Chantilly: Happy Easter, Mom

Easter week, and I allow myself Creme Chantilly with my morning coffee.

Cream whipped with powdered sugar and a little vanilla for Easter morning crepes with the ham and other Easter dishes, it is a bittersweet treat this year; sweet and joyful that we can gather as a family to celebrate Easter, our good health, our hopes for the years to come, and sad, too, because most of what I have learned in terms of meal preparation and entertaining, I learned from my Mom.

My Mom died a year ago this week, in Seattle, one of the earliest victims of the COVID virus. I am still coming to grips with the way she died. When she went into the hospital, they were trying to figure out what this virus was, and how do deal with it. Even those already in Seattle could not visit nor sit by her bed. Flying from Pensacola to Seattle was unthinkable, but such a temptation. She was brave. We all FaceTimed, and she told us we were good, and we were loved. She faced her demise valiantly.

Rest in Peace, Mom. I am thinking of you all this week, and drinking your Creme Chantilly in my coffee.

April 6, 2021 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Easter, Family Issues, Heritage, Hot drinks, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

Bird in a Basket

We’re home from tutoring, and I ask my granddaughter if she would like some strawberry crepes for an afternoon snack.

“How about Bird in a Basket?” she counters. This girl knows what she wants.

My husband is even better than I am at teaching the grandchildren to cook. He has them doing eggs over easy, eggs sunny side up, omelettes and even baked beans.

She watches me cut the hole, butter the bread and turn on the stove. She is attentive at my elbow as I break the eggs into the holes. (She says she is not ready to do it herself.) And then, as it cooks, she loses interest and runs off to chat with AdventureMan.

She can smell when they are finished; she has the family nose. She handily eats the whole thing!

April 6, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Food, Generational, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

Seek the Welfare of the City

Jeremiah 29:1,4-7

29These are the words of the letter that the prophet Jeremiah sent from Jerusalem to the remaining elders among the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. 4Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. 

We are about to embark on a trip, and as I read the Lectionary readings this morning, I found a verse I found comforting in my life as a nomad, the verse above.

We kept ending up in the Middle East. I wasn’t unhappy about it, but I did wonder why. I trust God has a plan for each one of us; even late in life, however, mine appeared fuzzy, if not opaque. What was the purpose?

The verse above comforted me; I didn’t need to know my purpose, I just needed to live my life, and to pray for the people in the places we were posted. When you pray for people, you find yourself mixed in their lives, they become more real, more understandable. The exiles found themselves in an alien environment, and the Lord tells them to marry, build houses, plant gardens, live normal lives AND to seek the welfare of the alien country and the alien people among which they find themselves. It resonates in my soul.

March 26, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Biography, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual | Leave a comment

The Ninth Circle of Hell: Treachery

It’s a normal, peaceful, quiet Friday afternoon when my husband says “I want you to see this” and everything changes. He is about to clean out the cat litter box, when, (and really, this is propitious, not a bad thing) he spots blood on a recent stool. I quickly find a jar and a plastic spoon, scoop out the incredibly smelly bloody mess and seal it quickly. Within minutes, we are in the car and on our way to the veterinarian with Ragnar.

Our veterinarian is not the poshest vet in town, but he is one we consider very knowledgeable and down to earth. He may seem unemotional – that’s probably a good thing when dealing with sick or hurt animals and their anxious owners – but we always feel confident he will tell us the truth as he knows it, and he knows a lot.

It’s first come, first served unless it’s an emergency, and they are all emergencies on a Friday afternoon. There is already a long line waiting to sign in. We get in line, and before the office has even opened for the afternoon, there is a long line behind us.

My husband is a good man; he has offered to take Ragnar by himself. For many years, I had all the cat-to-the-vet duties, and he is trying to even things out, trying to give me a break, and in return, when it might be really serious, I always go with him so he doesn’t have to make a serious decision about an animal he loves by himself.

Going to the vet is probably one of my least favorite experiences in the world. I am empathetic. I am empathetic with people, and also with animals. My sense of smell is very strong. At the veterinarian office on this Friday, I smell the damp fur of anxiety, the involuntary urine, the smell of sickness and fear, and I have to do breathing patterns to keep down my own overwhelming sense of sorrow and turbulent stomach.

There is a lot of noise, people talking, dogs yipping, the waiting cats mostly scared and silent. There is one dog, somewhere, scared and in pain, and he makes a long, low, loudly mournful moan, time after time. It is the ninth circle of hell, the circle of treachery, and although we are trying to do the right thing for our little loved ones, they are in misery, and betrayed by the people they love and count on to take care of them.

We wait a long time, two hours, before the vet can even see us, and it is not the vet we trust, but an associate vet.

So the good news is that she is a compassionate veterinarian, and also knowledgeable; she wins our trust. Another piece of good news, Ragnar, although ill, is docile and curious. He is greatly unafraid, both a blessing and a curse, but part of his nature. She analyzes the sample, tells us it is full of bacteria, speculates briefly on the cause and gives us a container full of half pills to take home, advising us that they taste bad and to wrap them in butter or cream cheese.

We are all so glad to get out of there we come home and take naps. We are emotionally spent. Being home again helps. Snoozing helps.

The veterinarian very kindly had the pills split in half for Ragnar and soon it was time to give him his first pill, which is truly a two person job. Ragnar is usually ver good about taking pills, but there are two problems. The first is that the pill tastes very bad. The second is that because it is split in half, it has corners and is not so easy to swallow as a round pill. We also discovered that cream cheese was not a good medium for Ragnar; we wasted a half a pill and thoroughly frightened our cat during the cream-cheese experiment, and we had cream-cheesy cat drool throughout the house.

In very short time, Ragnar is back to being fully his lively, curious, fearless, active self and, at the risk of being indelicate, his stool was back to normal, and not bloody. He still has to take the pills, but with butter, we are getting it done and he forgets and forgives by a minute or two after the pill trauma.

March 23, 2021 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Pets | , | Leave a comment

The Covid Conversation

It’s been an interesting week. Last week, there was no swimming. It was a welcome break in terms of sleep; no alarm, being lazy (LOL, being lazy is sleeping until 0600 instead of 0530) taking a walk now and then when I needed movement . . .

It was also handy because at my annual skin scan, my adorable dermatologist wrinkled her brow as she looked at me through her magic magnifier and said “Oh! we need to take care of THAT!” and THAT was prominently on my cheek.

(A brief aside because I cannot resist – when I was shown to the exam room, the tech asked if I wanted a gown and I said yes, and then, not being a smart-mouth but because I wanted to understand, I asked “What is the alternative? Like I stand here naked? Do people do that?” Sometimes I really am a stranger in my own land, and maybe I’ve missed some growing lack of self-consciousness? The tech laughed and said “No, there are people who will NOT take their clothes off!” I tried to comprehend that and totally failed. “So what’s the point of a skin scan?” I asked, “How can they be examined?” The tech said “We pull at their clothes a little and look underneath, but yeh, it’s not complete.” Totally boggled my mind.)

I have never been so happy about masking in my life. Having a big crispy spot about the size of a quarter on my cheek makes me feel like a teen-ager again, like every eye will be fixed on my boo-boo.

With my mask covering my big blotch, I got my second COVID vaccination. Yes, I might be suggestible, and then again, I am not a big baby, but my arm was sore almost immediately. By evening, I had chills so bad I was taking hot baths to feel warm enough. I had a headache just between my two eyes, and I was SO tired. The next day, I felt the same. Finally, the second night, I took an Aleve and slept wonderfully. The next morning, I was fine.

So I really needed the week off from swimming. One funny thing about the COVID vaccination, and again, who knows, it may be in my mind, but all of a sudden I have a sharp sense of smell again. It comes from my father’s side of the family, some of us have it and some of us don’t, but I think it had faded, and right now, it is noticeably back again, and oh, what joy it brings me.

So all the health drama is over now, I am back at swimming, and we continue to have work done to make our house safer and more energy efficient. A roof inspector, seeing our stack of photo albums (labeled Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, etc.) asked us if we had ever been to Alaska, and that started a great conversation, one we are hearing over and over as more people get vaccinated.

“We’ve decided we don’t want to wait any longer. We don’t know how many good years we have left. We are going to travel now, while we can,” he said.

He and his wife want to see Alaska. They want to see France. We had a great conversation, and I sent him some information by e-mail.

COVID has had its gifts, and awareness is one of them. Couple after couple have told us the same thing, this feeling of urgency to do it now, while we can.

We have four trips booked. One, a passage from Japan through Kamchatka and the Aleutians and the Alaskan Gulf, we’ve had booked for over a year. Another is a trip which COVID cancelled, but we want to do it and have scheduled it again. Another is coming up soon, a trip with our family to New Orleans, where we will continue to socially distance in a VRBO near Magazine, near the Audubon Zoo, near the Saint Charles trolley and several of our favorite restaurants with our family, and one back out to Yellowstone and Glacier, staying in cabins, mostly with kitchens. We’re good with take-out; in fact we’ve grown to really like it.

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite

It’s not a hardship for us. We are introverts. We travel quietly. We stop and observe. I take photos. At night, I write reviews and research possibilities for the next day’s route. Part of the fun I have in life is finding really fun places to stay, some of which, like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, or Ahwahnee in Yosemite, (LOL, “Yo! Semite!”) have to book far in advance, like sometimes a year out or more. Right now, several of the most popular cruises are already booked in 2021 and 2022 by people a lot like us, yearning to be back out on the road.

El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon

People in Florida are concerned about another wave of COVID following Spring Break. I am thinking here we are, all eager to get back on the road, us restless Boomers, and we’ve forgotten the pounding compelling imperatives of youth – meeting, mating, maybe even committing. But that’s another conversation . . .

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

“Plenty of Sunshine Heading our Way”

We’ve been having Seattle weather – weeks of cold, dreary, cloudy days and heavy fog some mornings causing bad accidents. We are ready for some Spring. And it’s coming, starting today:

Plenty of sunshine heading our way!

The original Disney version of this song

March 3, 2021 Posted by | Cultural, Heritage, Living Conditions, Music, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

“Can’t I Buy You a Diamond?”

“No,” I replied. “How about we buy another house?”

So we did. It’s the house we are living in now, the house we bought, we sold, and we bought back again, and, God willing, I will never move again.

It always cracks him up that I don’t want a diamond. He says it would be cheaper to buy me a big diamond. He is right, but houses are better long term investments.

We had a great division of labor. AdventureMan worked hard, and his career took us to exotic locations, locations we both loved and found intellectually stimulating and challenging to our assumptions. He always chose his jobs in consultation with me.

I handled logistics and finances. I moved us, I packed and unpacked (AdventureMan handled movers on moving days) and I recommended investments, on which we decided together. Until we closed on this house, AdventureMan had never been through the closing process (the first time we had to place a call to the Red Cross in Germany, all planned in advance, who would verify that my husband was alive and well and standing in front of them) so that I could sign the papers with a power of attorney.

So no, diamonds are of no interest to me. I quilt, I cook, I garden, I do upholstery, I strung electrical wires – I work with my hands. When we travel, if I see some little earrings I can’t resist, real gold or real gemstones, we might buy them and they show up in my stocking at Christmas. I am content.

Oh yeh, and I like to buy houses.

AdventureMan knows me well. Last night he looked me deep in the eyes and said “With the pool closed this week, I know you’ll miss the exercise. I am willing to get up as early as eight to walk with you.”

That is a true sacrifice. AdventureMan loves his sleep, and he has earned every moment of it. I have a need to front load my day; I am an early riser and like to get it done. I don’t begrudge his sleeping in after all his years in the military rising at what he called “the crap of dawn,” and I fully appreciate his willingness to get up early and walk with me.

I love walking. This neighborhood is a great neighborhood for walking; the area between the two major thoroughfares are quiet and peaceful. Most of the houses are family owned, people are friendly, and where there are rentals, they are mostly to families with young children who want to be in this particular school district.

We are sort of looking for our next house. No, we are not going to move, but I think this is a really good neighborhood to own a small rental house. We’ve learned how important it is to have a good property manager; we wouldn’t manage it ourselves. I’m looking for something small, something we can clean up and modernize and rent out. I’m not in a hurry; we have enough going on right now with the updates on our current home, but we are who we are – we are people who need projects, who thrive facing a challenge, we are good problem solvers. And I like to have diversity in our investments.

AdventureMan is fully on board. With investments, I am the cautious one, he is more of a risk taker. Together, we do pretty well.

March 1, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Building, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Living Conditions, Marriage, Money Management, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

Pensacola: Florida Man

Today, as we were en route to pick up lunch, we were stopped at a stop light. We had been stopped there for about 45 seconds, the light was very red.

Suddenly, on our left, an SUV came rushing up and without even slowing down, much less stopping, he blasted through that very red light.

I’ve given up cursing for Lent. In the surprise and the shock of the adrenalin jolt, out popped “WTF??”

There is a character in Florida so common that he has his own meme: Florida Man. Florida Man Runs Naked Down the Interstate. Florida Man Kills Stranger With a Hammer While High on Meth. Florida Man Hit Man on Highway and Calls it In as a Deer. Oops, not that one, wrong state. But you get the picture. Generally, Florida Man thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

I had a run-in with Florida Man once, when we lived in the Tampa/St. Pete area, except Florida Man was a woman who was really PO’d with me when our two lines of cars were zippering to get on the interstate and when I zippered, even though she was honking at me in her big truck, she got infuriated that I didn’t defer, and she chased me up the highway, trying to cut me off, coming really close to hitting me. I left the highway rather than take a chance with a lunatic who was also likely carrying a gun.

Even for Florida Man, running a very very red red light at high speed without even slowing down is exceptional. And then, maybe 10 seconds later, a large Pensacola police SUV with lights and siren rolling, went zooming through the same red light, followed by another PPD vehicle.

This was worth a good ten minutes of discussion. We don’t think the police caught him (or her) as the car was going SO fast, and changing into the left lane, I am guessing the driver, just out of sight, turned left and evaded a confrontation.

AdventureMan observed that evading the police these days is a very temporary thing; clearly they were chasing this car even before he zoomed through the red light. They know the car, they’ve probably run the license, at the very least they have him on film. Two cars were chasing him; running the red light was probably just icing on the cake. So we are running the probabilities; I am saying if I know I am guilty of something, probably something serious, and the police are about to arrest me, running a red light might be a percentage play if it keeps me free another hour or day or month or two. Maybe it’s worth the risk to run that light, and likely this is not a person who is giving a lot of thought to the welfare of others.

How fragile life is. On a quiet, calm Sunday, just making a quick trip to pick up some take-out, anything can happen.

February 28, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Crime, Cultural, Florida, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Random Musings, Stranger in a Strange Land | Leave a comment

Silver Linings

It’s been a funny week. We were supposed to have a new roof put on, but the ongoing rainy weather put the roofing company behind. And when the roofing materials were delivered, there was some drama and some damage, and now we are waiting for replacement pieces and sunny weather and roofers.

I went in to my Dermatologist, a young woman I adore, and she found a couple places that she wanted to hit with the liquid nitrogen “just to be sure.” She had hit one of the places, on my face, before, and nothing happened, so I wasn’t concerned. This time, I felt the impact immediately, and within a half an hour had a dramatic big red spot, reminding me of being a teenager, when you think EVERYONE sees that pimple you can’t hide.

So here is where the silver lining comes in:

In this time of COVID, even here in a very non-compliant part of Florida, the majority of people are masked up, and my mask covers my big boo boo.

Just kidding, this photo is from a time when my niece and I were goofing around talking about how funny life is, and how the niqab (Islamic face covering) has become a necessity, as we protect one another from the contagion of COVID. She did some amazing things with eye make-up, which is what our Moslem friends do.

So today, as I skipped my morning swim and headed for the commissary, I was thankful to be masked. I also am thankful that the pool will be closed the entire week next week, so the one place where I really cannot wear a mask will not even be an issue. I can’t go there. Normally, I would feel bad about missing my swim time, but this week, it will be a good thing.

The silver lining gets better. I also have my second COVID vaccination next week, so I don’t have to worry about trying to be all heroic, trying to overcome how bad I might feel. I have the week off! I can feel as bad as I feel, or feel not bad at all.

I have some brand new shoes, and I love them, they are a Loden green and match the little hooded dress I wore, and – they have heels. I used to wear heels all the time, and then I went to sandals, mostly because I lived in really hot countries. So these shoes fit perfectly, and they are wonderful to walk in; it’s a great day to break in a new pair of shoes. On the way home, my left knee hurts a little and I remember, I also gave up heels because they threw my posture off and first it was my knees and then my hip . . .

They are lovely shoes, and I think I will wear them judiciously. Like to church, or a dinner, or someplace else where a lot of walking will not be required. I’d forgotten how good it feels not to have pain in my knees or hips!

AdventureMan and I used to have lunch out every day; he called it our daily-date, and as we sat in our kitchen today, eating take-out from Tijuana Flats, he looked at me and said “I don’t think we’ll ever go back to eating in restaurants that much, do you?” and I agreed that no, take-out was so easy. We have learned to enjoy it, and it certainly saves a lot of time. If it is cheaper, it is not so much, we still pay for the food, and we tip, we know servers are having a tough time these days, and we’ve always considered tipping to be a karma kind of thing, a cosmic kind of income-redistribution.

Pensacola was hit hard this year, by COVID, by Hurricane Sally, by heavy unnamed storms that have left a trail of blue tarped roofs littering the landscape. Rich and poor alike were hit. I am watching now to see what silver linings will come out of all this disruption and hardship?

February 26, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Civility, Cultural, Exercise, Family Issues, Health Issues, Humor, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Values, Weather, YMCA | Leave a comment