Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bringing Great Good from the Evil of 9/11

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A reading from today’s Forward Day by Day helps us to cope with the resonating horrors of that monstrous day. We are living in a world where we are more and more inextricably interconnected. Where I am living, I often hear people talk about how “Moslems are killing Christians all over the world!” and my heart breaks, thinking of the wonderful friends I have lived among is so many Moslem countries, their kindness, their hospitality, our long pleasant conversations. I learned so much.

I am glad we believe in a God who knows our hearts. I am thankful for grace, and forgiveness. When we talk about killing, we also need to take account for all the civilians we have killed, trying to bring about peace, trying to eradicate Al Qaeda, Al Shebaab, those who would harm us.

God asks us to love one another. He doesn’t say “Christians, you love just the Christians.” He shows us how to love the Samaritans, the lame, the blind, the mentally ill, the “other”. He tells us, clearly, to love our enemies. The Gospel that speaks the loudest is the gospel of our lives lived to honor him.

THURSDAY, September 11

Acts 15:8-9 [Peter said], “And God, who knows the human heart, testified to them…and in cleansing their hearts by faith he has made no distinction between them and us.”

Thirteen years ago, this day became one of those days that divide time into what life was like before, and after; one of those days when you will remember, always, where you were, what you were doing—this time when you heard the news that airplanes had crashed into the World Trade Center and thousands of people had died.
Job asks, “Does not calamity befall the unrighteous?” (31:3), but we learned, vividly, on September 11, 2001, that the righteous and the innocent suffer too.

Psalm 59:6 exhorts God to “show no mercy to those who are faithless and evil.” The terrorists who flew the planes on 9/11 forced us to confront the power of evil and challenged us to find a way to respond with forgiveness. Perhaps we can learn something about that in Peter’s response to the heated discussions about Jews and Gentiles, about who could be saved, and how: “God, who knows the human heart…has made no distinction between them and us” (Acts 15:8-9).

Then, as now, there were good people and evildoers on all sides, religions, and races. Now, as then, judgment and salvation comes only through the mercy and grace of God.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cross Cultural, Events, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Pensacola, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual | | Leave a comment

A Season of Losses

Its been a sad couple of months, starting with our cat’s death, and a friend’s death. We grieve Pete, we miss him, and we ask ourselves if we made a big mistake thinking a knee operation would be the right thing, if he would have lived happily without it? Pete was in pain. There were days he couldn’t go up the stairs. There were days he spent almost the entire day in his heated bed. We didn’t see a lot of options. Other sad news has hit; it feels like a season of losses.

In the Lectionary readings, we are reading Job, Ayyoub, and I think if my friend who said “Al-hamdallah!” when I told her my father is dying. I learned so much from her. She made me understand I am to thank God even for the bad things, it is God’s will, and a part of a bigger picture I will never see. And then this morning, I saw a reference to an old post, a post from 2006, a post I don’t even remember writing.

Thorns
Sandra felt as low as the heels of her shoes as she pushed against a November gust and the florist shop door.

Her life had been easy, like a spring breeze. Then in the fourth month of her second pregnancy, a minor automobile accident stole that from her.

During this Thanksgiving week she would have delivered a son. She grieved over her loss. As if that weren’t enough, her husband’s company threatened a transfer. Then her sister, whose holiday visit she coveted, called saying she could not come for the holiday.

Then Sandra’s friend infuriated her by suggesting her grief was a God-given path to maturity that would allow her to empathize with others who suffer. She has no idea what I’m feeling, thought Sandra with a shudder.

Thanksgiving? Thankful for what? She wondered. For a careless driver whose truck was hardly scratched when he rear-ended her? For an airbag that saved her life but took that of her child?

“Good afternoon, can I help you?” The shop clerk’s approach startled her.

“I….I need an arrangement,” stammered Sandra.

“For Thanksgiving? Do you want beautiful but ordinary, or would you like to challenge the day with a customer favorite I call the Thanksgiving “Special?” asked the shop clerk. “I’m convinced that flowers tell stories,” she continued. “Are you looking for something that conveys ‘gratitude’ this thanksgiving?”

“Not exactly!” Sandra blurted out. “In the last five months, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

Sandra regretted her outburst, and was surprised when the shop clerk said, “I have the perfect arrangement for you.”

Just then the shop door’s small bell rang, and the shop clerk said, “Hi, Barbara…let me get your order.” She politely excused herself and walked toward a small workroom, then quickly reappeared, carrying an arrangement of greenery, bows, and long-stemmed thorny roses. Except the ends of the rose stems were neatly snipped: there were no flowers.

“Want this in a box?” asked the clerk.

Sandra watched for the customer’s response. Was this a joke? Who would want rose stems with no flowers! She waited for laughter, but neither woman laughed.

“Yes, please,” Barbara, replied with an appreciative smile. “You’d think after three years of getting the special, I wouldn’t be so moved by its significance, but I can feel it right here, all over again,” she said as she gently tapped her chest. And she left with her order.

“Uh,” stammered Sandra, “that lady just left with, uh….she just left with no flowers!

“Right, said the clerk, “I cut off the flowers. That’s the Special. I call it the Thanksgiving Thorns Bouquet.”

“Oh, come on, you can’t tell me someone is willing to pay for that!” exclaimed Sandra.

“Barbara came into the shop three years ago feeling much like you feel today,” explained the clerk. “She thought she had very little to be thankful for. She had lost her father to cancer, the family business was failing, her son was into drugs, and she was facing major surgery.”

“That same year I had lost my husband,” continued the clerk, “and for the first time in my life, had just spent the holidays alone. I had no children, no husband, no family nearby, and too great a debt to allow any travel.”

“So what did you do?” asked Sandra.

“I learned to be thankful for thorns,” answered the clerk quietly. “I’ve always thanked God for the good things in my life and never questioned the good things that happened to me, but when bad stuff hit, did I ever ask questions! It took time for me to learn that dark times are important. I have always enjoyed the ‘flowers’ of life, but it took thorns to show me the beauty of God’s comfort. You know, the Bible says that God comforts us when we’re afflicted, and from His consolation we learn to comfort others.”

Sandra sucked in her breath as she thought about the very thing her friend had tried to tell her. “I guess the truth is I don’t want comfort. I’ve lost a baby and I’m angry with God.”

Just then someone else walked in the shop. “Hey, Phil!” shouted the clerk to the balding, rotund man.

“My wife sent me in to get our usual Thanksgiving Special….12 thorny, long-stemmed stems!” laughed Phil as the clerk handed him a tissue-wrapped arrangement from the refrigerator.

“Those are for your wife?” asked Sandra incredulously. “Do you mind me asking why she wants something that looks like that?”

“No…I’m glad you asked,” Phil replied. “Four years ago my wife and I nearly divorced. After forty years, we were in a real mess, but with the Lord’s grace and guidance, we slogged through problem after problem. He rescued our marriage. Jenny here (the clerk) told me she kept a vase of rose stems to remind her of what she learned from “thorny” times, and that was good enough for me. I took home some of those stems. My wife and I decided to label each one for a specific “problem” and give thanks for what that problem taught us.”

As Phil paid the clerk, he said to Sandra, “I highly recommend the Special!”

“I don’t know if I can be thankful for the thorns in my life.” Sandra said. “It’s all too…fresh.”

“Well,” the clerk replied carefully, “my experience has shown me that thorns make roses more precious. We treasure God’s providential care more during trouble than at any other time. Remember, it was a crown of thorns that Jesus wore so we might know His love. Don’t resent the thorns.”

Tears rolled down Sandra’s cheeks. For the first time since the accident, she loosened her grip on resentment. “I’ll take those twelve long-stemmed thorns, please,” she managed to choke out.

“I hoped you would,” said the clerk gently. “I’ll have them ready in a minute.”

“Thank you. What do I owe you?”

“Nothing. Nothing but a promise to allow God to heal your heart. The first year’s arrangement is always on me.” The clerk smiled and handed a card to Sandra. “I’ll attach this card to your arrangement, but maybe you would like to read it first.”

It read: “My God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked You a thousand times for my roses, but never once for my thorns. Teach me the glory of the cross I bear; teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed closer to You along the path of pain. Show me that, through my tears, the colors of Your rainbow look much more brilliant.”

Praise Him for your roses; thank him for your thorns!

I know God can bring great good out of all things. I have seen this in my own life, out of the worst circumstances can come good I could never have foreseen. I am praying this fervently; that he will bring great good out of all circumstances.

September 1, 2014 Posted by | Character, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Relationships, Thanksgiving | 2 Comments

“Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor . . . “

Who are we?

I’m listening to a heartbreaking discussion on National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm show about the masses of children heading toward the southern border of the United States.

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Anti-immigration is nothing new, not in the United States, not in newer countries. It is shocking to me, however, that people who came from somewhere else are so strongly opposed to allowing these desperate children in. If they are running for our border – and they are – they are desperate. They are desperate to escape violent death, and death by starvation, death of the spirit eeking out a living day to day.

“They come here for a hand-out!” is the most common complaint.

Read your American history. Very few immigrants – your ancestors, American citizens – arrived with money. Most relied on friends, family, the immigrant community, social services – whatever they needed to survive until they could get on their feet.

And get on their feet they did. Immigrants to America come here to work hard, believing that working hard will give them a chance at a better life. Your ancestors and mine – they came and worked hard, scraping together the money to build a business and/or to send their kids to schools. If you’ve ever attended a citizenship ceremony, you will love the jubilation. They don’t want a handout. They want a chance at building a decent life.

So now it’s “I’ve got mine, go back where YOU belong?”

When I grew up, not even in the United States proper, but in a U.S. territory, we sang a wonderful song, from a poem by Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus, which is on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty:

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Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I’ve never forgotten those words we all sang as children. The immigrant flows into America are our life-blood. You can keep your stale traditions and meaningless pomp, she cries, send me those willing to work hard and yearning for freedom.

How can we refuse CHILDREN seeking asylum? Each child we feed, house and educate will have a chance to become contributing citizens. The face of our nation is changing, has already changed greatly and will continue to change, and what we choose today will have a critical effect on what our society will look like tomorrow.

Do we still yearn for liberty for all? Do we want a highly stratified society where some are born to high paying jobs and others relegated to trades (I’ve seen how this works in another country; it’s stultifying.) Restricting access to all that we enjoy will create a wholly different society, a zero-sum-game society, where your loss is my gain, instead of an everyone wins society, where my success lifts you, too. Our country thrives on the creation of wealth; ideas are generated, resources and labor pools are created, they are not finite, they transition. Immigrants fuel the kind of innovation and population flow that keeps the lifeblood of our country flowing.

My family has been in the US a long time. We qualify as daughters-of-just-about-everything. We were immigrants; we were not native-born. The entire United States, other than the First People, are immigrants. We are immigrants, all of us. It makes us strong.

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Spiritual, Values | | 4 Comments

For All Young Parents: I Salute You

Every time I see this commercial, it gives me a big grin. These little babies and children need so much attention, and we applaud the loving care their parents put into cherishing them, sustaining them, nurturing them, civilizing them, educating them, exercising them, and sharing with them until they can care for themselves.

Young parents, you are doing the toughest job in the world. We see you. We see your sacrifices, and the effects of sleep deprivation, we see you giving, giving, giving to those who cannot give back, and we are in awe of your loving patience to your children.

I also love it that men are also featured prominently as caregivers :-)

July 15, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Generational, iPhone, Living Conditions, Parenting, Survival | | Leave a comment

Rest in Peace, Qatari Cat

His name was Pete. He died last night. The operation was a success, but the shock to his system caused his kidneys to fail. We are grieving, and having a very very bad day.

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We are heartsick.

This little cat was a blessing to us for 11 years. He came to us a skittish little street cat in Qatar. While AdventureMan worked long hours, he kept me company, helping me quilt, entertaining my friends, almost always in the same room or close by. When AdventureMan would come home, he would play hide-and-seek with him and adored AdventureMan with all his little heart. I was the Mama; AdventureMan was the FunGuy.

He was not such a little cat; he was only a kitten in his own mind. He was a very long cat, and appeared much bigger than he really was because of his length, and his big long fur, which made him a fluffy cat. He was polite, always greeting us when we came in, and talking to us when we were sitting together.

He leaves a great hole in our hearts. Rest in Peace, Sweet Kitty.

July 12, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Pensacola, Pets, Qatteri Cat, Wildlife | 4 Comments

Scam Death Notice: A New Low in Scams

Today I got this. It’s a common name; it’s entirely possible I know someone of that name, but I have never seen a notice like this, official, impersonal, and not mentioning the specific name of the deceased. It smells. No. It stinks.

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July 7, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Crime, Lies, Scams | , | Leave a comment

The Hanger at the Wharf in Juneau

First, we really love eating at the Hanger at the Wharf. So does just about everyone else. Twice, we got really lucky. It is easier getting a table if you are just two people, and it is easier getting a table if you eat early. As we are still on Pensacola tummy time, we are in luck. As the Celebration 2014 parade ended, we zipped straight over and as larger groups waited, we were immediately shown to a table for two.

No wonder The Hanger is so popular. The food is terrific and this is the view – straight down the Gastineau channel with Douglas and the cruise ships. As the sun slides behind the mountain, it is a stunning view:

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Some hardier souls were eating outside on the deck. I used to be this hardy, but my years in the Middle East have softened me, made me not so good at eating in cool and drafty places, even in the middle of the Alaskan summer.

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Inside The Hanger: great, courteous, friendly and efficient employees

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Every table taken, the bar is packed, and people are waiting in the hallway to be seated:

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My halibut tempura:
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AdventureMan’s halibut burger and fries:
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We liked the food and atmosphere so well that we went back a second time during the ceremonial dances and were happy to see a lot of the dancers eating there, too. I had the first mate’s plate, with salmon and halibut and a berry chutney and AdventureMan had grilled halibut. We both left happy. We would go there again in a heartbeat.

There is only one little thing about The Hanger that makes me uneasy, and it has nothing to do with The Hanger. When I was a little girl, living across the channel, I would watch for my Dad to come home – this was the airport for the amphibious planes, Alaska Coastal Airlines (now part of Alaska Airlines) and Ellis Airlines. When his plane would land, we would all rush to the car and drive like crazy across the bridge to pick him up (no cell phones then, LOL). So I still feel a little frisson and feel the ghosts of the past when I eat there.

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June 23, 2014 Posted by | Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Photos, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , | 2 Comments

Major Cause of Disproportionate Death in Each State

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June 6, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Statistics | Leave a comment

Worst Places in the World to Work

From AOL Huffpost Business:

 

Where are the worst places on the planet to be a worker?

A new report by the International Trade Union Confederation, an umbrella organization of unions around the world, sheds light on the state of workers’ rights across 139 countries. For its 2014 Global Rights Index, the ITUC evaluated 97 different workers’ rights metrics like the ability to join unions, access to legal protections and due process, and freedom from violent conditions. The group ranks each country on a scale of 1 (the best protections) to 5 (the worst protections).

The study found that in at least 35 countries, workers have been arrested or imprisoned “as a tactic to resist demands for democratic rights, decent wages, safer working conditions and secure jobs.” In a minimum of nine countries, murder and disappearance are regularly used to intimidate workers.

Denmark was the only country in the world to achieve a perfect score, meaning that the nation abides by all 97 indicators of workers’ rights.

The U.S., embarrassingly, scored a 4, indicating “systematic violations” and “serious efforts to crush the collective voice of workers.”

“Countries such as Denmark and Uruguay led the way through their strong labour laws, but perhaps surprisingly, the likes of Greece, the United States and Hong Kong, lagged behind,” wrote ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow in a statement about the report. “A country’s level of development proved to be a poor indicator of whether it respected basic rights to bargain collectively, strike for decent conditions, or simply join a union at all.”

Here’s a look at the world rankings. Darker shades represent worse protects for workers. A score of 5+ means that active conflicts, like those in Syria or Sudan, block any legal protections for workers.

 

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May 29, 2014 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Statistics, Values, Work Related Issues | , , , , | 2 Comments

Greece, Italy Have the World’s Most Overweight Kids

Most people know that the United States has a childhood obesity problem. Less well known is that according to the latest data from the OECD is that we are not actually the world leaders in experiencing this issue. It’s Greece and Italy who have the most overweight kids:

Overweightkids

This may not jibe with a lot of hype about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet but it turns out that said diet may no longer be especially popular in Greece and Italy. In 2008, Josef Schmidhuber of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization said traditional eating patterns in southern Europe had “decayed into a moribund state” and drastically increased their overall calorie intake and especially consumption of animal fat, salt, and sweeteners.

 

May 29, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Diet / Weight Loss, Exercise | , , | Leave a comment

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