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

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

I Stand Corrected

Today is the coldest day we have had in Pensacola this winter. As we headed out for early church, the temperature was 30 degrees F., there was frost on our roof and the bird bath had a skin of ice on it. “A good day not to exercise,” I said to myself. After church, I spent a couple hours prepping for dinner and making up my oatmeal mix for a couple weeks to come, as I am running low. (Separate blog entry 🙂 )

I’m an early person. If I am going to get it done, I need to get it done early in the day. By five at night, when I need to be thinking about dinner, I just don’t care. I know, I know, I am a bad woman to admit to such a thing, but trust me, I am legion. I’ve learned to think about dinner early in the day, and to prep.

But it’s Sunday, and it’s cold (yes, yes, I am rationalizing) and I swam three days last week and I have all my prep done so I make an executive decision to give myself a break today. And no sooner had I given myself permission to sit myself down than AccuWeather alerted me to an article about the importance of exercising in cold weather, which I will share with you now:

What you need to know about ‘brown fat’ and exercising in the cold

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer & Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer Copied

AccuWeather’s Dexter Henry talked to a veteran fitness instructor and the creator of Fit N’ Play Mama about ways you can stay active this holiday season.

The shift to colder, winter weather often makes us feel lethargic and deters our motivation to go outside. 

But before you pull over the blankets or curl up by the fire to watch your favorite show, you should consider the potential benefits of cold-weather workouts. 

Aside from helping to ease fears of potential winter weight gain, exercising outdoors in colder weather has numerous health benefits. 

New York City native Alec Barab gets in a morning run in the snow on 12th Ave. in Denver’s historic district on Tuesday, April 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

While many avoid the cold, outdoor winter workouts are a great way to take in small doses of sunlight. The sunlight can help to improve mood and help with vitamin D intake, according to the American Heart Association (AHA)

Winter exercise boosts immunity during cold and flu season. A few minutes a day can help prevent simple bacterial and viral infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Shivering, a mechanism to produce heat, also burns a significant amount of calories. Studies have shown that people expend five times more energy when shivering, compared to when they are resting. 

CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP

Regardless of exercise, studies have shown that being outside in cold weather can transform white fat, specifically belly and thigh fat, into calorie-burning beige or brown fat. 

Brown fat’s purpose is to burn calories to generate heat. Brown fat is often referred to as the “good” fat because it helps to burn rather than store calories. It is typically found in areas around the neck and kidneys.

AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Dexter Henry recently sat down with Nataliya Galifianakis, a clinical assistant professor of biology at New York University to learn more about how brown fat is beneficial during the winter. 

NYU Clinical Assistant Professor Nataliya Galifianakis explains the effects of exercising in cold weather and how that generates brown fat in the human body. (AccuWeather)

“Brown fat can actually create heat,” Galifianakis told Henry. “Brown fat cells instead of using calories to make energy, it uses calories to produce heat.” 

One of the signals for the activation of brown fat is exercise, Galifianakis said. 

In addition to making new brown fat because a human body exercises, the generation of brown fat is also increased because someone is exercising in the cold weather, she explained. 

“Brown fat could be activated by cold,” Galifianakis said. “Chronic cold exposure activates your brown fat cells.” 

A 2014 study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed people have more genetic markers for brown fat in the winter than during the warmer months. This could signal slightly more calorie burn in the winter as the body insulates itself.

“Browning fat tissue would be an excellent defense against obesity. It would result in the body burning extra calories rather than converting them into additional fat tissue,” study author Dr. Philip A. Kern said in a release.

People run in the snow across the Williamsburg Bridge, Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

While the cold weather may deter some from outdoor physical activity, working out in the cold has several advantages over warmer weather workouts.

There is no heat and humidity to deal with in colder weather. Winter’s chill might even make you feel awake and invigorated, according to the AHA.

In the cold, your body can regulate its temperature a little better. This means you can often exercise farther or longer; therefore, you can potentially burn even more calories, according to AHA.

Exercising in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, has shown the ability to enhance endurance and mental edge. However, it is important to be aware of the potential risks and proper safety precautions before venturing out.

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So me again. I stand corrected. I know I need to go out for a swift walk, and shiver in the cold, burn that brown fat! And here I sit, in my toasty warm house, watching Fareed Zacharia and chatting with you . . . . Most days I exercise early, and it actually gives me more energy; I accomplish more during the day when I exercise early. If I miss that first-thing-in-the-morning slot, it’s a lot harder to get to it later. I’m thinking about it.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Blogging, Cooking, Exercise, Food, News, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Weather | , , | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Peratrovich

Sometimes I can get a little paranoid, and today was one of those times. Look at that gorgeous Google doodle for today. I spend a certain amount of time looking at Alaskan legend as a source of art images for my quilting, so when I saw the Google doodle, I thought it was one of those targeted things.

Not so.

As it turns out, it is a doodle honoring an Alaskan Tlingit woman, Elizabeth Peratrovich. I’ve taken the following from Wikipedia (to which I donate, so I am comfortable sharing what they have to say. I love that it is updated to show today’s doodle.) This woman was something special:

Elizabeth Jean Peratrovich (Tlingit name: Kaaxgal.aat; July 4, 1911 – December 1, 1958) was an American civil rights activist and member of the Tlingit nation who worked for equality on behalf of Alaska Natives.[1] In the 1940s, her advocacy was credited as being instrumental in the passing of Alaska’s Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945, the first state or territorial anti-discrimination law enacted in the United States in the 20th century. In 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 as Elizabeth Peratrovich Day “for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska” (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).[2] In March 2019, her obituary was added to The New York Times as part of their “Overlooked No More” series.[3]

Early life and education

Elizabeth Peratrovich, whose name at birth was Kaaxgal.aat[4], was born on July 4, 1911, in Petersburg, Alaska,[5] as a member of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan in the Raven moiety of the Tlingit nation. When she was young, she was adopted by Andrew and Jean Wanamaker (née Williams), who gave her the name “Elizabeth Jean”.[6][7] Andrew was a fisherman and Presbyterian lay minister. The Wanamakers raised Elizabeth in Petersburg, Klawock, and Ketchikan, Alaska. Elizabeth graduated from Ketchikan High School, and then attended Sheldon Jackson College in Sitka, and the Western College of Education in Bellingham, Washington (now part of Western Washington University).[a] In 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich (1908-1989), who was also Tlingit, as well as of Serbian ancestry.[9]

Activism

In 1941, while living in Juneau, Alaska, Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich encountered discrimination in their attempts to secure housing and gain access to public facilities. They petitioned the territorial governor, Ernest Gruening, to prohibit public places from posting the “No dogs or Natives allowed” signs that were common in Alaska during this time.[citation needed]

The Anti-Discrimination Act was proposed by the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, but the first attempt to pass this legislation failed in 1943.[citation needed] However, in 1945, Roy and Elizabeth Peratrovich became the Presidents of the Alaska Native Brotherhood and the Alaska Native Sisterhood, respectively, and lobbied the territory’s legislators and Governor Gruening to pass the act.[citation needed]

Before the territorial Senate voted on the bill in 1945, Elizabeth Peratrovich, representing the Alaskan Native Sisterhood, was the last to testify, and her impassioned speech was considered decisive.[10] Responding to territorial senator Allen Shattuck of Juneau, who had earlier asked “Who are these people, barely out of savagery, who want to associate with us whites, with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind us?,” she stated:[11]

I would not have expected that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with five thousand years of recorded civilization behind them, of our Bill of Rights.[12]

Fran Ulmer, who represented Juneau in the Alaska House of Representatives (and who later became lieutenant governor of Alaska), in 1992 said the following about Peratrovich’s testimony:

She talked about herself, her friends, her children, and the cruel treatment that consigned Alaska Natives to a second-class existence. She described to the Senate what it means to be unable to buy a house in a decent neighborhood because Natives aren’t allowed to live there. She described how children feel when they are refused entrance into movie theaters, or see signs in shop windows that read “No dogs or Natives allowed.”[12]

The Senate voted 11-5 for House Resolution 14, providing “…full and equal accommodations, facilities, and privileges to all citizens in places of public accommodations within the jurisdiction of the Territory of Alaska; to provide penalties for violation.”[11] The bill was signed into law by Governor Gruening in 1945, nearly 20 years before the US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Acts of the territorial legislature required final approval from the U.S. Congress, which affirmed it (Bob Bartlett, Alaskan delegate, was known for his efficiency in passing legislation). Alaska thus became the first territory or state to end “Jim Crow” since 18 states banned discrimination in public accommodations in the three decades following the Civil War; not until 1955 would two more states, New Mexico and Montana, follow suit.[13]

The Peratrovich family papers, including correspondence, personal papers, and news clippings related to the civil rights work done by Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich, are currently held at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.[14]

Personal facts

On December 15, 1931, Elizabeth married Roy Peratrovich (1908–1989), also a Tlingit, of mixed native and Serbian descent who worked in a cannery.[citation needed] They lived in Klawock, where Roy was elected to four terms as mayor.[citation needed]

Looking for greater opportunities for work and their children, they moved to Juneau, where they found more extensive social and racial discrimination against Alaska Natives. They had three children: daughter Loretta, and sons Roy, Jr. and Frank.[11]

The Peratrovich family later moved to Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, where Roy pursued an economics degree at St. Francis Xavier University.[citation needed] From there they moved to Denver, Colorado, where Roy studied at the University of Denver.[citation needed] In the 1950s, the Peratroviches moved to Oklahoma, and then back to Alaska.[citation needed]

Elizabeth Peratrovich died after battling breast cancer on December 1, 1958, at the age of 47.[15] She is buried at Evergreen Cemetery, Juneau, Alaska, alongside her husband Roy.[citation needed]

Her son, Roy Peratrovich, Jr., became a noted civil engineer in Alaska. He designed the Brotherhood Bridge in Juneau, which carries the Glacier Highway over the Mendenhall River.[16]

Legacy and honors

2020 Native American $1 Coin

  • On February 6, 1988, the Alaska Legislature established February 16 (the day in 1945 on which the Anti-Discrimination Act was signed) as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day,” in order to honor her contributions: “for her courageous, unceasing efforts to eliminate discrimination and bring about equal rights in Alaska” (Alaska Statutes 44.12.065).[17]
  • The Elizabeth Peratrovich Award was established in her honor by the Alaska Native Sisterhood.[citation needed]
  • In 1992, Gallery B of the Alaska House of Representatives chamber in the Alaska State Capitol was renamed in her honor.[12] Of the four galleries located in the respective two chambers, the Peratrovich Gallery is the only one named for someone other than a former legislator (the other House gallery was named for Warren A. Taylor; the Senate galleries were named for former Senators Cliff Groh and Robert H. Ziegler).
  • In 2003, a park[18] in downtown Anchorage was named for Elizabeth and Roy Peratrovich. It encompasses the lawn surrounding Anchorage’s former city hall, with a small amphitheater in which concerts and other performances are held.[19]
  • In 2009, a documentary about Peratrovich’s groundbreaking civil rights advocacy premiered on October 22 at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in Anchorage. Entitled For the Rights of All: Ending Jim Crow in Alaska, the film was scheduled to air as a PBS documentary film in November 2009. The film was produced by Blueberry Productions, Inc. and was primarily written by Jeffry Lloyd Silverman of Anchorage.[20]
  • In 2017, the theater in Ketchikan’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center was named in honor of Elizabeth Peratrovich, and a companion exhibit exploring her role in the struggle for Alaska Native civil rights was unveiled.[21]
  • In 2018, Elizabeth Peratrovich was chosen by the National Women’s History Project as one of its honorees for Women’s History Month in the United States.[22]
  • On October 5, 2019, United States Mint Chief Administrative Officer Patrick Hernandez announced that Peratrovich would appear on the reverse of the 2020 Native American $1 Coin, making her the first Alaska Native to be featured on U.S. currency.[23][24][25]
  • In December 2019, a 4-story apartment building called Elizabeth Place, named after Peratrovich, opened in downtown Anchorage.
  • In July 2020, a new mural was unveiled in honor of Peratrovich in Petersburg Alaska.[26]
  • On December 30, 2020, a Google Doodle in the United States and Canada honored Elizabeth Peratrovich. The Doodle was drawn by Tlingit artist Micheala Goade.[27]

December 30, 2020 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Generational, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | | Leave a comment

The Feast of St. Stephen, 26 Dec 2020

An indulgent morning on the Feast of St. Stephen. Poor kitties, I slept in until 8, but it is such a cold morning, they were also slow to get up and didn’t chide me for my lateness in providing their breakfast. Emile, the outdoor cat, was happy and secure on his heated pad, and did not look miserable, as he has on other cold days.

My breakfast is my normal oat cereal, but with an abundance of strawberries, left over from yesterday’s French roll-ups, and my coffee is topped with leftover creme chantilly, the slightly sweetened whipped cream that accompanies the roll-ups.

It is a gorgeous day, crisp and clear and dry. Ragnar and Uhtred, the indoor cats, are snuggled up with AdventureMan, who snoozes on. He had a great afternoon, Christmas Day, with his new slide viewer and decades of slides from our earliest years, including the month we courted before marrying, LOL. and our brand new baby boy, three years later. They brought back such sweet memories.

I tend to be obsessive about getting things done. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, I have to force myself to slow down and think about the spiritual side of the season, what it’s really all about. I learn that very possibly productivity, getting it done, can become my idol. Lists become my litany. I value myself by how much I can get done. Enough! I need Advent in my life to help me see the quiet, contemplative way.

Christmas Eve, is, for me, the spiritual high point of the year, the culmination of all hopefulness. Today, the day after Christmas, is a day for taking it easy, and that is really, really hard for me. My mind scurries to tasks; the dishwasher needs emptying, I should pack up extra food my my son and his family, maybe today I should paint the spot behind the toilet in the hall bathroom where the old paint shows around the slim modern new toilet.

I calm my mind, I tell myself “not so fast,” there is nothing that needs be done right now, this morning, and besides, the clatter of emptying the dishwasher or painting a spot in the bathroom will only disturb the blissful sleep of AdventureMan and his snuggled, comatose cats. It is a morning to sip my whipped creamy coffee, freshly brewed, to give thanks for this glorious morning, and to write a little here, on a blog which is a gift to myself, a place where I can learn what I am thinking, behind the flurry of compulsive thoughts about doing.

Peace on Earth, Good Will toward all mankind.

December 26, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Blogging, Christmas, Cultural, Hot drinks, Living Conditions, Pets, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Spiritual, Weather | | 3 Comments

After the Storm: Christmas 2020

It rained and the wind blew, knocking over the Christmas trees on my front porch a couple times until AdventureMan grabbed a few stray bricks from our back yard and anchored them firmly. Then, around one in the afternoon, the rain stopped, the wind lessened, and the skies lightened, just in time for us to meet up with our son and his family for a masked and socially distanced service at 2:00.

It was a very odd Christmas – we had to sign up in advance, and each service was limited to 70 people. They allowed family groups to sit together, but each group was separated by at least one pew from any other people. No singing. If someone showed up who had not signed up, they were turned away, unless there was space.

In our church, the policy has always been that there is always space, and you are welcome. We could see that it was tearing the rector apart to have to enforce the policy strictly, but adhering to masking and social distancing has kept us all well and allowed us to continue with attending services in person, as well as on FaceBook and YouTube.

It was wonderful just to be there. It felt awful not to be able to welcome the stranger, nor to greet one another with Christmas hugs and kisses. It’s been that kind of year.

We had a family dinner at our house, our first year using the French china and silver with the kids, but they are ready for it. We all had so much fun.

Christmas morning dawned with clear, cold skies and lots of sunshine. The family came over, we opened gifts and spent the day together, laughing, telling stories, eating French strawberry roll-ups with whipped cream, and just hanging out. Two of us took a long walk with the dog, while the rest engaged in warfare over some game with elaborate rules.

When everyone left, we cleaned up, put the furniture back where it belonged, and AdventureMan got out the bin of old sheets to cover some of our more vulnerable plants against the plunging temperatures to come tonight.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make sure our outdoor cat, Emile, will be warm and protected, which is harder than you might think when we have never been able to get closer than three feet from him. He will occasionally shelter in the covered litter box we have set up for him, with reflective blankets, and he quite loves the heated pad on the bench. We know the cold temperatures are hard on him. We’d love to get immunizations for him, get him fixed, bring him inside, but for now, none of that is possible, and he is so feral we are not sure it will ever be possible.

The sun is going down on one of the loveliest Christmas Days we have ever spent in Pensacola. We are so thankful we made the decision to downsize, and move to this house.

I couldn’t stop; I wanted to get everything in place before I collapsed. AdventureMan, busy with his new toy, a slide viewer, calls out “is there anything I can do to help you?”

I surprised him. I drink little. I called back “In about an hour, when the sun is setting, how about fixing me a Santa’s Helper?” (Champagne and Chambord) and he laughed and said that once the champagne is opened, you have to drink the whole bottle because you can’t really re-cork champagne, and I said I didn’t care, I just wanted one glass.

It has been a most excellent day. My daughter in law and I, on our long walk, discussed how while in many ways 2020 has been cataclysmic, for us, it has also carried many blessings. She said she thinks 2021 will be just another year, full of challenges and full of blessings. She has deep insights, deep wisdom and it is always worth listening to what she has to say.

I hope you have had a satisfying Christmas. I hope it ends a year full of challenges – and blessings. I wish you the same in the coming year, eyes to see, ears to hear, the wisdom to know when to act; when you can make things better and when you can only make things worse by acting. I wish upon us all the wisdom to know the difference.

December 25, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Birds, Christmas, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Sunsets | | 1 Comment

Tofino and the Heebie Jeebies

Today I woke up with the heebie jeebies, an unexplained restless anxiety with no cause that I am aware of. It happens; it happens sometimes when I don’t get enough sleep and this was one of those mornings when I woke up just before four a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, and sometimes it happens when some kind of atmospheric pressure shift takes place, and that has happened, too.

No more clear cool sunny days, the air is heavy with moisture and the clouds hang low over Pensacola.

As I read the news, CNN had an article about Tofino: Canada’s Bohemian Backwater and I thought “Isn’t that where AdventureMan and I went when we spent a couple weeks on Vancouver Island?” I checked this blog, and to my utter delight, came across several entries on our stay in Ucluelet, where we stayed when we visited Tofino.

(Sea Star at Terrace Beach Resort; Ucluelet)

I read through the entries. It was like taking a little escape all over again. My vapors lifted. I headed to the kitchen to start a big pot of baked beans and get started on my busy day. I don’t shop often these days, but I needed a birthday card and Target was stocked, better than I have seen it for a long time, with clothing in colors, designs and sizes that are perfect for my grandchildren. Woooo hoooo, such an inauspicious beginning and such a great turnaround to my day, thanks to “Bohemian” Tofino.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Hotels, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Confronting My Demons

I was showing the handy man a place under my sink which had flooded a while back and needs repair. It looks worse than it is, but it still needs fixing.

“Got enough dish detergent?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

I had hoped he hadn’t noticed. I had been pulling things out from under the sink so he could better see the damage. I hadn’t realized how many bottles of Dawn I had, it was embarrassing. I counted as I packed them away for the move. Nine bottles.

I am really uncomfortable about it, and I know where it comes from.

Growing up in Alaska, things would disappear. I remember my mother measuring us around August and ordering snowsuits. I remember her saying that the last boat would come in and after that it would be too late. People down the road had a cellar where every carrot, every potato, every home-canned tin of salmon or halibut would be toted up on a blackboard to get them through the long winter.

Later, when I married, I had a short overlap in Heidelberg with one of my sisters, whose one word of advice was “When you see something come in to the commissary or the PX and you think you might need it, buy it.”

Living in my early married years in Tunisia and Jordan, I always had to have plenty of some things with me – shoes in graduated sizes for my growing, American footed little son (yes, shoes vary by country, and German shoes are too wide for me, and French shoes are just right), books bought ahead to encourage his love of reading, chocolate chips because they just weren’t available, underwear that fit, things like that which impacted on quality of life.

It became a habit.

Every now and then as I go through the pantry, throwing out expired foods, I get a laugh. One year it might be an excess of mustard, another year I have a load of chicken broth, another year pickle relish, and always, a good supply of chocolate chips. Old habits die hard.

So now it comes to downsizing. I have too much of so many things. I have too many clothes, some from twenty or thirty years ago which I still wear. Too many swimsuits, because when they go on sale, I stock up. Too many towels (but some old ones I keep in case of hurricane, or flooding), too many sheets. We have too many books, and I am getting rid of bags and boxes full, too many fabrics (I got rid of a lot at the beginning of the year, before I even knew I was moving). As I pack boxes, I can hear the Afghani mover at my Kuwait apartment overlooking the Arab Gulf who said “Madame, you have too many things.”

He was right, and his words have echoed through the years, “you have too many things.”

Too many fabrics, too many threads, too many books, too much furniture, too much art. I haven’t even tackled the kitchen yet. I have beautiful brass trimmed copper pots and pans I bought in Damascus forty years ago, how can I give them up? Who will give them a good home? Who will love them just for being beautiful, and hand made?

I have old French things, from the antique fairs and flea markets, lovingly gathered through the years – old copper bedwarmers, a French cavalry trumpet, old tin milk containers. I won’t have space for all these old friends who have brought me so much pleasure, just by their existence, all these years.

My newest strategy is when I have a problem getting rid of something, I will move it. I expect this will be a continuing process, that in our new smaller digs I will look at things differently, more callously, and that necessity will give me some necessary ruthlessness.

Anyone need an extra Christmas tree . . . ?

May 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

We’re Still Married

AdventureMan and I are risk-takers. We set a goal. We identify the resources. We make a plan. Well, he makes his plan and I make mine. We are both strong willed, and under risk-taking, we set ourselves up occasionally, for conflict. Under “we’re still married,” we are pretty good at talking through the disagreements.

Two places we shine: travel and moves.

A lot has happened since I last wrote.

First, what I call “the great pause.” On March 13, I went to the YMCA, swam a mile, did a water aerobics class, and said good-bye. As little as I like to think about it, AdventureMan and I are in the vulnerable category. He has had a cough for over a month, and I know it is time to shelter-in-place. When I get home, I tell AdventureMan the plan. To my great surprise (which tells me he really was sick) he agreed, and he went straight to bed and slept all day, and then all night, and then a good part of the next day.

He was not so good about staying at home, but it is the beginning of gardening season, and his only trips were to Home Depot for mulch, and more mulch, and plant food, etc.

I quilted, at first, something I have longed for the time to do. I tried a new style, more modern and graphic. The first is called Corona Pandemic and the second is Corona vaccine.

 

 

They are just quilt tops for now; I have not yet quilted them. I found, with all my social responsibilities cancelled, my life quieter, it was very zen, very meditative, being able to quilt satisfied my heart, gave me time to think.

My mother called, from Seattle, and mentioned she needed masks for her medical appointments. I dropped the quilting and started mask making, making three immediately for her and mailing them off. The mail was slow. She called the day of her appointment; the masks had not arrived. It was a moot point, as the facility nurse had begged her not to go, there was too much opportunity for contagion, and my mother cancelled her appointment. We had a great conversation.

She never got the masks.

Late that same afternoon, she suddenly got tired, so tired she needed help going to bed. Shortly, she started throwing up. Just after midnight, an ambulance took her to a local hospital where she was given a corona virus test and sent to a hospital in downtown Seattle where they treat corona virus. Her test came back positive.

She was in Seattle. She was given hydroxychloroquin. She was given a second medicine in testing when her immune system raged into overdrive against the virus, destroying her own organs. She got the very best, most innovative treatment available in the world, and still, the virus won. In the end, she refused intubation and a ventilator – her pragmatic doctor said it probably wouldn’t have saved her anyway – and she requested hospice. This was evidently a first, as they had no hospice relationship in place for covid patients, and had to figure it out. They did, and my mother passed away in peace, and in no pain.

The earth fell away from beneath my feet. It’s a terrible thing to lose a mother. I’m the oldest, and while my relationship with my mother was complicated, she was always my mother. Now, I am so thankful for the seclusion, so thankful not to have to be around people because I can’t count on myself to be me. There are times I just fragment and fall apart, apropos of the smallest thing, a thought like “I need to call Mom and tell her about . . . such and such . . . ” and even before I complete the thought I am in tears, because I can never call her again.

I am not comfortable with my own melodrama. I prefer not to fall apart in public. I thank God for this period of shelter-in-place and social distancing, for the protection it gives me against my own vulnerability, my own fragility. And it gives me space to see these frailties in myself, and learn to live with them. One friend wrote in a condolence note not to worry if this death resounds throughout the rest of my life, that when you lose a mother, you never get over it. While it sounds negative, I found it comforting to know how totally normal it is to feel so lost.

I found comfort and solace in my mask making. I made hundreds of masks. I kept jiggering the patterns until I got one I like, where I could insert a nose-piece without breaking all my sewing machine needles. It gave me time to grieve, and it gave focus to my time.

 

Yesterday, I gave away the last six masks. I have nearly two hundred more in the making, and I am hastening about my current project so that I might have time to finish the newest series. As a quilter, I hate waste. I have fabrics from years back that I love and hate to part with, and the masks are cut 9″ x 15″ so I have lots of wonderful fabrics I can use and know they will live a useful life. One series of masks is from an old cotton souk dress which I wore out; it is soft and well used, but I couldn’t throw it away. It will now live on in ten new masks.

“What new project?” you ask.

My Mother’s death spurred me to look for a house to downsize. It is part of the plan we made when we moved here. We are aging, and healthy, but we have seen how that can change at any time, and I found a wonderful house which we did not buy. Then my son texted us that he and his wife were going to look at a house, and long story short, they contracted to buy that house and wondered if we would like to buy their house.

Would I?  I love that house! AdventureMan and I bought that house once before, to use as a retirement house, but then we sold it to our son and his wife.

They both have very busy lives, and very significant jobs during normal times. This pause has given time for new ways of thinking, and we are trying to get a move done before the world moves on and we lose this window of opportunity. Under the best of circumstances, a move is disruptive. Under normal circumstances, a move would be nearly impossible, in terms of having time. Right now – it is possible.

It is all happening very fast.

We haven’t done a move in ten years – the only other place I have lived for more than ten years is Alaska, where I was born. I am so thankful for this time, for the fact that we are still healthy enough to organize, to pack boxes, to plan actually for two moves, as we are sending furniture to the new house of our son and his wife; they will have more room and we will have significantly less.

AdventureMan says ruefully “When you are living in a big house, there is no incentive to downsize.” He is so right. I wake up in the wee small hours of the morning and obsess  over where things will go. The majority of our boxes are books we are not ready to part with and my quilting supplies. I have some irrelevant but beautiful items I am not ready to part with – our wedding china, which is beautiful, and French, and AdventureMan’s set of German glasses, water and red wine. We have used our china for family dinners, but not so often, and I remember using our crystal maybe six times in the ten years we have lived here. I could give them up. I’m not ready.

Today we were packing up children’s books to give away. I had thought four boxes, and AdventureMan was not ready to give up so many. We ended up giving up two boxes of books, and . . . we are still married. AdventureMan and I do particularly well in two stressful situations, travel and moving. We’re still married.

I keep thinking of my Mom. She might be disappointed I am giving up the big house while I am still young and healthy, but I am not so sure. I remember visiting her in Seattle and often going to look at condos and townhouses when she was my age. She said it was her and Dad, but I always thought it was so my husband and I would buy something in Seattle. Even after we bought a house in Seattle, though, when I would return to Seattle, we would go looking.

Mom always loved a view of the water. In our new house, we have some view of the bayou, where in late afternoon, the sun shimmers off the water. I look out and think “Mom will love this.”

This is my Mom, better days, sitting by the harbor in Edmonds, WA.

 

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual | 2 Comments

Christmas Interlude

Starting to post my trip through the Bordeaux and Dordogne was ambitious, overly ambitious. Usually, I say I’m going to do something, and I do it. This time, no matter how well intentioned I was, life just got in the way. I knew I could continue to blog the trip, and do a half-good job, or I could devote the time and attention my real life needed.

We had a truly lovely Christmas, and for that, it takes care and attention. There are things that are not so necessary, but help to set the stage – decorating the house, preparing special meals, buying presents and wrapping packages, and then, best of all, spending time with the family you love.

 

The angels – I think they are Rosenthal – are from an earlier life in Germany. I don’t bring them out every year, I sort of rotate things so they don’t get stale.

The Christmas plates came from the old East Germany. Good friends took us to “the other side” in Berlin, as Christmas neared and I found these in a market. We only use them for Christmas breakfast, and we hand wash them, as I don’t know for sure how sturdy or dishwasher proof they might be.

 

This Christmas tree made of cinnamon rolls is always a big hit, and so easy. I use the little cans that make croissants, just use the dough, put in candied cherries and cinnamon sugar and melted butter and roll it up, cut into slices, and bake as you see above. More candied cherries for decoration, icing made of powdered sugar, milk and food coloring. It looks complicated, but it is easy.

 

I used to use thousands of lights in my house at Christmas, and now I use none, thanks to two wire-chewing cats who have turned my rational life upside down.

 

Thanks be to God for the great gift of caffein, in the form of coffee, which powers me through it all.

 

 

And the highlight of our Christmas – the Christmas pageant at Christ Church, Pensacola, as the children tell, and act out the story of Christmas, and we sing songs to punctuate the different movements – Away in a Manger, We Three Kings, Hark the Heralds – and more. It is both light, often funny, and enormously moving.

Happy Christmas to all!

December 27, 2019 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, Blogging, Christmas, Community, Cooking, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment