Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Best Birthday Ever

A few years ago, I hit a number and I felt like my life was over. Rationally, I knew I was doing fine, but just the sound of the number hit me hard. I remember feeling the same way when I hit 50, and I thought it was going to be terrible, but that very day I went to pick up my photos for my Saudi pass and my photograph was fabulous.

OK, you know, here goes that rationality thing again. The RULES in Saudi Arabia say you are forbidden to retouch photos. The photographer just stood there with a big grin as I looked at photos of me with all signs of aging totally removed. Inside, my heart was dancing. My head knew it wasn’t really how I looked, but my heart danced.

In spite of the heartache of my Mother dying of COVID, this has turned out to be a sweet year. I had some stellar moments, dancing-heart moments. I love our new/old house, as you can guess from all the sunsets I post. Now, my son and AdventureMan installed a Little Free Library for me to care for, and another dream has come true, and my heart dances for joy. My family was together, my grandchildren helped fill the Little Free Library, and we all had cake and ice cream together, masked most of the time.

I’ve always loved libraries, and the first job I ever had, at six years old, was checking out books at the little library in Alaska. The clerk had failed to show up; the librarian was busy with a big time-sensitive book order and I volunteered. She showed me what to do. So easy a six year old could do it, and I had a ball.

I avoided book clubs until I ended up so many years in the Middle East. A group of women I knew and trusted asked me to form a book club, and I reluctantly turned them down because I didn’t want that responsibility. Very gently, they kept inviting me to start a book club and finally, I asked “Why me?”

“You’re the only one who can bring in the books we want to read,” they told me.

I learned so much from these women, and the book club was a huge blessing, a window into the way a lot of women think who are from different countries and different cultures from me. I learned how HUGE it is when ideas can be examined, and discussed openly, even when one must speak indirectly. I learned again and again how many mistaken assumptions I had made, how narrowly I saw the world. Books matter. Ideas matter. Sharing books and ideas challenge our narrow views and give us broader understanding of our complex world, and our fellow human beings.

Tonight AdventureMan is making Pasta Carbonara, which I should never eat, but once or twice a year, I do. It’s not like AdventureMan loves Pasta Carbonara; he makes it for me because I love it. Some of those excess calories come off as I dance and dance for joy.

The year I thought my life was over, some amazing things happened. I’m not going to get all excited, like this is going to be the best year ever, but I am so grateful, I feel so blessed, to have some dreams I know I dreamed come true, and some unexpected dreams I didn’t know I was dreaming also come true.

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Exercise, Food, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

A Peevish Jesus?

Mark 9:14-29

14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16He asked them, ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ 17Someone from the crowd answered him, ‘Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so.’ 19He answered them, ‘You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ 20And they brought the boy* to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it threw the boy* into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21Jesus* asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ And he said, ‘From childhood. 22It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ 23Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’ 24Immediately the father of the child cried out,* ‘I believe; help my unbelief!’ 25When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, ‘You spirit that keep this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!’ 26After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ 29He said to them, ‘This kind can come out only through prayer.’*

This gospel reading from today’s Lectionary makes me uncomfortable. Loving, merciful Jesus sounds frustrated, and if I were there, I might think he was tired, or distracted, or hungry or needed a hug. He calls the people around him “faithless” and chides them with their own words – “If you are able!” when it was probably meant politely.

Maybe he is thinking about how short his time is, and how little human beings seem to understand about his message. He states “All things can be done for the one who believes.” He has said this before, to the bleeding woman, to the centurion, to the woman whose daughter was imprisoned in her own flesh by a demon – when he was able to perform a miracle, Jesus would say “Your faith is great!” (It always catches my attention that many of these with desperate faith were not Jewish).

I consider myself a religious woman, and yet at the very heart of today’s gospel, I find myself in the desperate father, wanting only a cure for his child, as he says ‘I believe; help my unbelief!

February 6, 2021 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual | 1 Comment

King Cake: Diet Kryptonite

There is no real dieting during pre-Lenten Mardi Gras in Pensacola. Even in times of COVID, the Mardi Gras spirit shines through.

Our particular poison is the King Cake from Craft Bakery on Davis. It actually is not too sweet, is not loaded with excessive frosting and sugar, has just enough cinnamon, and comes in a size that two people can sliver to death in a day or two. They do have larger, more normal sizes for larger groups. These small loafs are more than enough for us.

February 6, 2021 Posted by | Food, Health Issues, Humor, Lent, Mardi Gras, Pensacola | | Leave a comment

There’s No Place Like Home

Back in Pensacola; we love our sunsets and the Wolf Moon setting over the Bayou Texar:

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Pensacola, Sunsets | Leave a comment

Departing Apalachicola via Hurricane Michael

Our last day in Apalachicola, we have a leisurely breakfast, cooking up the last of the eggs, using up cream for coffee, milk, we pack up the rest and hit the road.

Today we are going back through some of the hardest hit territory when Hurricane Michael hit. 1t is hard to believe how much damage still exists, and hard to see the trees broken off like toothpicks, the utter lack of tree cover in some areas. Equally unbelievable is the re-building boom going on in this hurricane-prone part of the Gulf. A lot of money going in; I hope they are using steel beam construction and the highest quality prevention.

Mexico Beach

Tyndall AFB

Calloway, FL outside Panama City, FL

Slowly, slowly, people are hauling away the signs of damage and repairing, but there is still a shocking amount of visible damage remaining, and a lot of work to do.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | 3 Comments

Family Coastal Restaurant, Eastpoint

After walking on the beach, we had a great appetite, so we were delighted to come across Family Coastal Restaurant, with all kinds of people parked in front. We could tell this was a popular place to gather on a Sunday morning, and it had an outdoor deck with no one on it.

Occasionally AdventureMan will read a post and remember our experience differently. This is the last time we ate in a restaurant, although I maintain we were not IN the restaurant, and AdventureMan maintains we had to walk through the (admittedly, very crowded) restaurant to get to the outdoor, screened deck, and that the servers did not wear masks, even though we did.

You know how you can tell how other people are thinking by how they look at you. Most of the camouflage-dressed hunters and local people crowded in the waiting area to have an indoor table found our mask wearing somewhere between amusing and incomprehensible.

AdventureMan reminds me how the unmasked server got right up next to me to point out something on the menu (I didn’t notice and it didn’t bother me). While we were waiting for our food, a couple other couples joined us, socially distanced, on the outdoor deck. Inside the restaurant, there was an open salad bar and tables packed closely together, and lots of happy chatting going on table to table; they all seemed to know each other and this was a local gathering place.

I was delighted the server told me that I could have my oysters grilled, as opposed to deep fried, so I ordered them with cheese grits and steamed vegetables. The oysters were OK. I ate a bite of the grits, and most of the vegetables. The hush puppies were delicious. I envied AdventureMan his meal.

Below is AdventureMan’s fried oysters, fried okra, fried onion rings and fried hushpuppies. It all looked so good, and being a generous hearted man, he shared one of the fried oysters with me. Mine didn’t take up much room on my plate . . . Fried food, when done right, just looks so appetizing . . .

When we left, it was even more crowded than when we arrived.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Pilgrimage to St. George Island from Apalachicola

A very short drive from Apalachicola, but a whole different world. Cross two amazing bridges/causeways which are an adventure in themselves, so beautiful, so wonderfully engineered. We are always in awe of what it takes to connect dry land over a lot of water, and how really smart people can also figure out how to generate electricity, maintain the equipment, and bring it to far flung locations.

Moody sunrise

Headed out of Eastpoint toward St. Georges

Coming into St. Georges

We drove all through St. Georges; we stayed her once when our son was a student at FSU but it all looks entirely different now. Finally, we get to our favorite part, the beach at the far eastern end of the island. You can park and walk even further east, or west, or whatever you like. There are few people there on this sunny cool day, and it is a glorious day for a long walk.

Day tripper friendly

Shell heaven! Piles of shells everywhere!

Wind patterns on the sand

What is the beach without some surf?

Surf, sand, shells and sun; we are as happy as we can be. No masks on the beach, no need, few people and far apart. It is a glorious day.

More wind/sand patterns because I am a dork who cares about these things . . .

This was a great part of our get-away.

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, Exercise, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | Leave a comment

Highway 98 back to Apalachicola

This is a beautiful drive, it never gets old.

My friends have fishing camps and hunting camps; some of the fishing camps you can fish from the porch, just like the fishing camps along the Dordogne and the Gironne in France. I think some of the hunting camps double as venues for poker games and some serious drinking.

When I was a little girl in Alaska, bear were serious business, and every Alaskan child learned early to make noise, not to run and never never never to get between a mama bear and her cubs. I can imagine a Florida bear is a nuisance, getting into garbage and tormenting the dogs, but I haven’t heard of a human being having a problem with a Florida bear, other than hitting them on the highways.

All along this route we see some serious money going in. Some is Florida people, building their dream home in a beautiful, if dangerous (hurricane) location. Others are people sick of the snow and ice and cold of the north, building their more modest retirement homes or sheltering in trailer (caravan) villages. This very pretty little village is Carabelle, just east of Tate’s Hell State forest. (I just love that name, LOL)

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Alaska, Biography, Community, Hurricanes, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Hamaknockers and We Exercise Bad Judgement

Have you ever noticed bad judgement happens in bunches? Like you can be really good for a long long time and once you let loose, even just a little, your self-discipline just goes to hell?

It’s all Hamaknocker’s fault.

So for the third time, we are choosing to eat inside a restaurant where not everybody is wearing masks, and how can you wear a mask while you are eating? We do manage to sit apart from the other customers dining in.

Now . . . more bad judgement.

We ordered platters. I ordered the chicken, and it was a lot. I also ordered applesauce, because I don’t see that on the menu often, and it was really, really delicious. I think it must have had a LOT of sugar in it.

AdventureMan ordered the pork, and there was a lot of pork, too.

So this was the really really bad part. We had a refrigerator back at our hotel, and it is a cold day. We COULD safely take extra food back to the hotel and enjoy it later.

We did not.

We ate the whole thing.

Hamaknockers is what we call Michelin Red R cuisine – really good local food at reasonable prices.

February 4, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , | Leave a comment