Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

The Carolina Wrens

Several months ago, we noticed a wren flying close to our house, flying out, flying back, flying out, flying back, and she was always carrying something.

 

“I think she might be building a nest in our watering can,” I told AdventureMan. He checked the can, and sure enough, it was full of little straw and twigs and pieces of string. Her mate showed up, also bringing strings and twigs and grass clippings.

 

Weeks went by, and we enjoyed their company. We gave the plenty of space.

 

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We had houseguests, and as we were about to leave one day,  AdventureMan spotted four tiny little wrens, trying their wings for the first time. He quickly snapped a shot with his iPhone of the two not yet flying. It is a good thing; by the next day, they were gone. We were just so thankful we got to see them, and our house guests got to see them, too!

 

What fun! We hope they will come back and nest with us again next year!

April 23, 2016 Posted by | Birds, Circle of Life and Death, Environment, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Florida, Gardens, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues | , | Leave a comment

Perfect Ending at Nuuanu Pali

We suddenly leave the noise and traffic of late afternoon Honolulu and head uphill on a narrow road, with trees creating a tunnel in places, and wild vines twining up into the trees to create walls of foliage.

“There’s something you have to see,” my friend tells us, and we head into this amazing canyon, sort of valley place, alternately dark with shadow and glowing with green light. “We hike up here all the time.”

She takes another tack, and we reach the top of a hill; she parks and we get out. It says we have to pay but she just laughs and says locals don’t have to pay. It’s late in the day and there is no problem finding a place to park, and the light is wonderful. There are more wild chickens, a strutting rooster, and lots of new chicks.

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This is the story of Nuuanu Pali, and the great king, Kamehameha, who united the Hawaiian Islanders. He had to fight, he had to do terrible things to accomplish his goal. This was his last fight, where he forced 400 battling warriors off a cliff to their deaths.

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And this is the view, late in the day with the sun behind us. Kailua, where we are staying in my friend’s beautiful happy place, is to our right, down on the coast.

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I have never seen a “Beware of Bees” sign before.

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March 15, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Philosophy in a Fortune Cooky

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So on our way home from lunch today, at the Siam Thai, AdventureMan and I are talking about his fortune cookie. (Mine said “learn Chinese” on one side and I can’t even remember what on the other side, something so non-interesting.) AdventureMan’s fortune said “Good people learn wisdom by making mistakes,” or something like that.

Off we went. So if you are not good, can you learn from making mistakes? Do you just keep making the same mistakes? Does making the same mistakes mean that you are not a good person? Can you make a mistake and not learn wisdom? Are all wise people good? Can you be evil and be wise? Like is the devil wise? He is said to be sly, and crafty, so how do those vary from being wise? Is Satan wise? Can you be evil and wise?

Segue’ to Mother Jessica’s sermon at Christ Church Pensacola yesterday, and It’s Not About the Chocolate as she explained that giving up chocolate or coffee or meat was not what Lent was really all about as we walk the path to become better worshippers of God and followers of Jesus. At the end of the service, as we exited, they passed out little chocolates. AdventureMan still had his chocolate (which he ate in front of me) and told me he had never negotiated with God. “Never??” I asked, in a tone which really meant “I call bulls#!t” and he said, no, never; never said “Please please, if you will only do this, I will do that.”

“OK,” I continued, as I can be relentless, “what about in Vietnam, was there never a time you said ‘Please, Please, Please’ about anything?”

“Yes, but I was never bargaining,” he explained, ‘I was begging. I had nothing to bargain with.”

So is begging, with no leverage, is that still negotiating? I think it is, Mother Jessica said bargaining, and isn’t begging bargaining with no leverage? We couldn’t agree. He says that is not bargaining, and we had to agree to disagree.

And the real point is, none of us have anything to bargain with. God laughs at our pathetic attempts to bargain. He likes the honest ones, like AdventureMan, who just cower in his magnificence and power and trust in his ability, and so beg, “please! Please!” We have to trust in his mercy and his compassion.

 

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The worst and most memorable Lent I ever observed was in Kuwait. I became aware that I had started swearing in the car as another car would nearly side-swipe me, or some arrogant idiot would park in four spaces (yes, yes, I promise you, one car CAN occupy four spaces) and I was giving people rides and really, really needed to not curse, not just to protect their ears, but also for my own soul. Calling people names is worse for me than it is for them. I devised a strategy of elaborate politeness. When someone was going to bump me out of the way, I would gesture “Tfadl!” (“YOU are to be preferred! or “after you”) with a grand gesture and a big smile like it was My idea. After a while, elaborate politeness became my mode, and I got a lot of pleasure out of it, and mostly, I stopped cursing at the idiot drivers. Actually, I got so good at it that I didn’t even say “Idiot!”, but I could not control it popping into my mind from time to time . . .

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And, sadly, we have some of those same . . . umm . . . idiots . . . here in Pensacola, so perhaps I need to redo my Lenten sacrifice and work on my attitude toward inattentive and /or aggressive drivers, especially those in great big trucks with bad eyesight.

Did you know the word for ‘honey’ in Arabic is ‘asel?’ 😉

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lent, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual, Values | 7 Comments

HOME by Somali poet Warsan Shire

An old friend from high school posted this on FaceBook today, and I found it so moving and so true that I had to repost it here:

HOME
Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

“HOME,” by Somali poet Warsan Shire

November 21, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues | , , | 3 Comments

Play Station, Romeo and Juliet, ISIS, and Syrian Refugee Discussions

I belong to a group that I can only describe as “thoughtful” Christians; it’s a church-related study group, and as everywhere else in the US of A, people are discussing recent events in Paris, and the related issue of resettling Syrian (and not only Syrian) refugees in the United States.

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The same discussions are taking place on FaceBook. I’m inclined to think that those who are thinking lime me are measured, and thoughtful, and that those who disagree with me are overly emotional, even rabid, and that their attitudes might be Un-Christian as well as Un-American.

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I am not so blind as to not see that they may see the exact same thing, in reverse. It’s the times, and the issues.

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One very smart woman communicated something I haven’t heard anywhere else, that investigators believe these Paris murderers might have been communicating by creating a Play Station group, so you can message your group members, and your message disappears seconds later.

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One neuron sparks, synapses connect and the outline of a picture emerges. Of course. This plot was not that complex. My major focus would be on how they got the weapons, but other friends tell me that now weaponry can be had very inexpensively on the dark market in Europe.

But what has puzzled me, until now, was the kind of thinking that would put this scenario together, and I have concluded that we did. By our entertainment technology, we have taught them to strategize. We have trained them to think through scenarios, and to have branching options. We have taught them to join forces. We have taught them to work in teams. Some may have had some training to operate the weapons so accurately, but this was the equivalent of a canned hunt, shooting fish in a barrel. They had rapid fire weapons, and rooms full of people expecting no more than a pleasant night out. Before they knew what was happening, the event had come and gone.

They are young. The so called “master-mind” (I really don’t like that label; I don’t think this took masterful planning, and they did not accomplish their major goal, which was terrorizing the soccer game) escaped, but not for long. They calculatedly and callously used expendables to accomplish their mission. There was no escape planned for most; give them suicide belts. Give them death. Did they know that the one pulling the strings had no intention of dying with them? So why on earth didn’t they question this plan?

When you are playing games on a Play Station, and you lose, you get another life. Hey, just like jihad! They are young, death means little, and they are easily manipulated. A glorious death, if you don’t look too closely. As I was in water aerobics this morning, we danced along to an old ditty called “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” and I thought how appropriate it was to these times and circumstances – a tradition of hatred between two groups, two young people who cross the lines, and then, their death rather than the hard work of trying to make changes in the real world.

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Death isn’t romantic, and the God we share, the God of Father Abraham, hates the shedding of innocent blood, no matter by what name you call him. He tells us that only he knows the intentions of the human heart. When he chooses someone to do his work, it tends to be leaving this country and walking to another, leading a people out of slavery, bearing a child, or memorizing the words of an angel, not bombing, or shooting, or forcing others to worship in the way you believe everyone must worship.

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The one true God also tells us, all of us, that we are to love our neighbor, and that our neighbor is that naked, helpless, beaten man lying by the side of the road that the fastidious religious men crossed the street to avoid helping. We are to take him in, pay for his care at the inn, tend to his wounds, not for any hope of gain, but because it is the right thing to do, the decent thing to do, for our fellow human being, our neighbor.

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One final note, when we use the Statue of Liberty coming to the rescue of France, showing the colors of France, noting her origins in France to honor our own “Liberte” we most not fail to take note of the words at her base: Give me your tired, your poor; The huddled masses yearning to breathe free; The wretched refuse of your teeming shores; send these – the homeless, tempest tossed to me! I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

November 19, 2015 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Law and Order, Leadership, Values | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Expendables; Pray for Paris

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I have to take a break from my trip stories to express an opinion.

We are The People of the Book. Suicide is not an option. The most precious gift we are given, of the many gifts, is the gift of life. One of the most heinous crimes against God / Allah is to shed innocent blood.

A callous theocracy sends “inspired” martyrs, testosterone-hopped-up jihadists to kill themselves, and to take as many victims as they can with them.

By what stretch can they claim to do God’s will? Where is the submission to the word of God? Where is the peaceful Islam of the Prophet Mohammed?

November 14, 2015 Posted by | Character, Charity, Circle of Life and Death, Civility, Counter-terrorism, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Law and Order, Leadership, Paris | , , , | 1 Comment

Science and Entanglements

It’s been so long since I’ve last talked with you. I’ve been off on a great adventure, and I want to tell you all about it, but I’ve been recovering from a bug I caught the last day of our trip (I was so generous; I shared it with AdventureMan). Today is the first day I could really face blogging, and I was inspired by a reading I received this morning from Richard Rohr, whose religion and spirituality seem to hit me where I live.

Quantum Entanglement
Thursday, November 12, 2015

Just as different ways of interpreting scripture and various types of truth (e.g., literal vs. mythic) are valuable for different purposes, so scientific theories have different applications while seeming to be paradoxical and irreconcilable. For example, we have the Newtonian theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and quantum theory. Physicists know that each of them is true, yet they don’t fit together and each is limited and partial. Newtonian mechanics can’t model or predict the behavior of massive or quickly moving objects. Relativity does this well, but doesn’t apply to very, very small things. Quantum mechanics succeeds on the micro level. But we don’t yet have an adequate theory for understanding very small, very energetic, very massive phenomenon, such as black holes. Scientists are still in search of a unified theory of the universe.

Perhaps the term “quantum entanglement” names something that we have long intuited, but science has only recently observed. Here is the principle in layperson’s terms: in the world of quantum physics, it appears that one particle of any entangled pair “knows” what is happening to another paired particle–even though there is no known means for such information to be communicated between the particles, which are separated by sometimes very large distances. Could this be what is happening when we “pray” for somebody?

Scientists don’t know how far this phenomenon applies beyond very rare particles, but quantum entanglement hints at a universe where everything is in relationship, in communion, and also where that communion can be resisted (“sin”). Both negative and positive entanglement in the universe matter, maybe even ultimately matter. Prayer, intercession, healing, love and hate, heaven and hell, all make sense on a whole new level. Almost all religions have long pointed to this entanglement. In Paul’s letter to the Romans (14:7) he says quite clearly “the life and death of each of us has its influence on others.” The Apostles’ Creed states that we believe in “the communion of saints.” There is apparently a positive inner connectedness that we can draw upon if we wish.

Ilia Delio says, “If reality is nonlocal, that is, if things can affect one another despite distance or space-time coordinates, then nature is not composed of material substances but deeply entangled fields of energy; the nature of the universe is undivided wholeness.” [1] I’ve often described this phenomenon as an experiential “force field” or the Holy Spirit. In Trinitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is foundationally described as the field of love between the Father and the Son. One stays in this positive force field whenever one loves, cares, or serves with positive energy. I know that when people stand in this place, when they rest in love as their home base, they become quite usable by God, and their lives are filled with “quantum entanglements” that result in very real healings, forgiveness, answered prayers, and new freedom for those whom they include in the force field with them. I have too many examples here to list or to even remember. Jung called these events “synchronicities”; secular folks call them coincidences; the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, who taught me, called them Divine Providence.

On the other end of the spectrum there are people who carry death wherever they go, toward all those they can pull into their negative force field. (Is this hell?) I know that when I regress into any kind of intentional negativity toward anything or anybody, even in my mind, I am actually hurting and harming them. Etty Hillesum, a young imprisoned Jew in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, says straightforwardly, “Each of us moves things along in the direction of war every time we fail to love.” And if so, it would surely follow that each of us moves things along in the direction of healing each time we choose to love. Each time it is a conscious choice and a decision, at least to some degree. Grace and guilt both glide on such waves of desire and intention.

Consciousness, desire, and intentionality matter. Maybe they even create and destroy worlds. We cannot afford to harbor hate or hurt or negativity in any form. We must deliberately choose to be instruments of peace–first of all in our minds and hearts. Such daring simplicity is quantum entanglement with the life and death of all things. We largely create both heaven and hell. God is not “in” heaven nearly as much as God is the force field that allows us to create heaven through our intentions and actions. Once quantumly entangled, it seems we are entangled forever, which is why we gave such finality and urgency to our choices for life (heaven) or death (hell).

This is such a “WOW” for me; I feel I can feed and nourish myself on this meditation for a long time. Google Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation to sign up to receive his daily e-mail meditation.

November 12, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, Faith, Family Issues, Health Issues, Interconnected, Spiritual, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

“Someone Puts it in a Box and Sends it To You!”

I relished having a day off from my volunteer job. A sudden cold front moved in; the daily temperatures are still in the nineties, but the early morning temperature was in the low seventies, and will be going lower. I started the day, once again, with a big smile.

There are obligations I have each morning; the expects to be fed and he has an inner timepiece that is amazingly accurate. Unfortunately, it doesn’t understand “days off” so I have to get up at my normal time to feed him, give him his medications, grab a cup of coffee and head for my scripture readings.

My computer has become increasingly buggy, but today, it won’t charge. Sure enough, there is a tiny puncture – a bite – along its slender length. Just one, but one is enough to keep my machine from charging.

It’s not the only thing. Just yesterday, I found my settings changed; the time was set for somewhere in China, the date was goofy, it was just weird.

I was headed for the nearby base, so I called my friend who has taken a spill and can’t get around and asked if she needed anything from the commissary. She didn’t sound like herself. I asked what was up, and she told me she had to have her faithful kitty of 17 years put to sleep; it was time. We both wept. I stopped by later, after grocery shopping and buying a new, tiny, svelte MacBook Air, and we wept some more. The vet had thanked her for making the decision, and said her bloodworm had shown she was in misery in so many ways. She was a great kitty. My friend said she wishes it were so easy for human beings, that we could just humanely end it, and we wept some more.

When I met up with AdventureMan, he could see I was shaken and we talked over a good Bento Box lunch at Ichiban. He, too, said he would prefer to end his life to lingering on in suffering. His plan (I laugh and tell him he doesn’t ALWAYS get his way, which comes as a huge shock to him) is that he will go first, but that if he doesn’t, he thinks he will not last long without me.

It’s probably true. We have become greatly intertwined these forty three years.

And we talked of Zakat, who has now been well, totally well, for four whole weeks. His fur is full and gorgeous, his eyes are clear, he hasn’t lost any teeth, and he plays like a kitten. We know it is the antibiotics, and that it can’t last forever, but we will celebrate as long as it does last, that there are medications and God’s mercy to allow him a sweet life off the streets – while it lasts.

And then the tedium of transferring all my data from one computer to the other.

We are caring for our grandson, now a full kindergartener, who attends a school nearby. We pick him up, we bring him home. AdventureMan takes him to parks and museums, I take him shopping and on errands. He is so much fun, and we love hearing his stories.

He came in Friday with a necklace with red hearts. “I got it from the treasure box!” he told me.

“What did you do?” I asked. “What was it that you did that you got to take something from the treasure box?”

He looked at me with his big blue eyes and his expressive face and said “I have NO idea!”

We were laughing so hard we could barely stand. The day before, he had told us that no, his mommy and daddy had not bought his backpack. He explained that they let him choose a backpack online, and click on it. “Then someone puts it in a box and sends it to you!” It was a huge surprise to him that Mommy and Daddy had indeed paid for it.

License plate seen in Pensacola:

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August 26, 2015 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Family Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping, Zakat | 2 Comments

Skinny and Scarred No More

Yesterday, as Zakat was sitting on my desk in the sunlight, watching cars go by, butterflies in the garden, whatever catches a cat’s eye, a ray of sunlight caught his skull and I saw tiny hairs covering his scars. I whooped for joy! Coming to us, one of his most distinguishing features was his scars, almost entirely circling his face.

We have had many cats through the years, most of which have stayed with us for 11 – 14 years. We have loved them all, but AdventureMan and I agree that this is the sweetest cat we have ever owned. There isn’t a mean bone in his body. He exists to love and be loved. Best of all, he is truly AdventureMan’s cat. He follows him around like a dog, sleeps touching him at night, and yearns, always, to be in his lap. I don’t mind. It is so adorable how much he loves AdventureMan.

The veterinarian, who treated him before we ever knew him, had told us it might happen. He said Zakat was in such poor condition that he hesitated to treat him, it almost felt as if it would be kinder to just put him down. His face was so infected, it was huge, distorted and swollen. But as painful as it must have been, Zakat was always a sweet cat. By the time we got him, his face was healed, the infection gone, but the scars were still fresh and raw.

We continue to go to the same vet. He has become an important member of our community of friends. He sees us often. Zakat is also FiV positive, which means he has the cat equivalent of AIDs. He is immuno-deficient, susceptible to infections other cats could easily fight off. In contrast to our sweet Pete, the Qatari Cat, we have to make sure Zakat eats; he needs good body weight to help him through the fevers and infections.

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We got him through a good friend, who rescues abandoned and stray cats, neuters them, gets their shots and houses them while they search for a good home for these cats. We give thanks for their mission on a daily basis; one of the things they did was teach Zakat to take pills. It’s a good thing. He takes pills almost every day.

He pretty much stays on anti-biotics, so we also give him pro-biotics, to help his digestive system. He gets fevers. His skin breaks out in huge patches of itchy oozing pustules, which drive him crazy. He looses teeth. Sometimes one eye gets red.

Two weeks ago, the vet gave him a shot of cortisone to help with the itching, and a new course of antibiotics and pro-biotics. It was like a miracle. Within a week, there was no compulsive licking, no more outbreaks, no teeth loss, and this scars are starting to fuzz over. His coat is gorgeous. We are learning to dance for joy for every small gain, but this gain is monumental. For all appearances and behavior, he is a perfectly normal, healthy cat. We’ve had five wonderful days. It’s amazing just how good “normal” can be.

We know it won’t last, but for five days he has been totally well, thanks be to God.

August 5, 2015 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Family Issues, Health Issues, Pets, Qatteri Cat, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | 2 Comments

AdventureMan Wept

Long ago, and far away, in the exotic Kuwait City, I started this blog, holy smokes, almost nine years ago in September. I met so many wonderful people, some of whom I’ve even become friends with in person. Others I still keep up with, in a comment here or there (LOL, Here There and Everywhere) or in a backnote, or on FaceBook.

Several months ago, I contacted one blogger, Aafke, whose very honest and very artistic blog I admired. We often commented back and forth in those days. I wrote about how outraged I was at a veterinary tech in Doha who told me my cat was the demon cat from hell, and I raged at how scared he must have been to have behaved so badly. Like, if you work with animals, you should know that! If you treat them roughly, they will respond! (Oops! I still get worked up revisiting it!)

Aafke loved the story, and did a painting, our sweet Pete as the demon cat from hell. There were some things I loved about it – moody purple background, a great representation of Pete. It sort of hurt my feelings that she painted him with horns and a forked tail, not my sweet Pete.

But as the months went by after Pete’s sudden and unexpected death following an operation that succeeded in its goals, but killed Pete, I thought about that painting so I wrote to Aafke, and asked if I could buy it. I thought it would make a good present for AdventureMan, for Father’s Day. She responded quickly, said she thought she knew where it was, and in the mean time, she also painted another, a really lush, beautiful portrait of a cat we dearly loved. She wouldn’t let me buy it, it was a gift.

So the paintings arrived, and I had them framed. They are small, exactly what I wanted. We don’t want a shrine; we want a sweet reminder. When I gave the beautiful one to AdventureMan, he wept. Aafke truly captured the sweetness of Pete. He hung it on his office wall, where he could see it from his desk.

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When he came into my office, he laughed. I have my painting just behind my chair where I write these posts. “You’ve got the devil cat looking over your shoulder!” he crowed with laughter!

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Yes! I do! We all have our sweet side, and our devilish side 🙂 Pete was no angel. He loved to escape, and he was fast. We loved him, warts and all, and this portrait makes me smile every time I see it.

Thank you, Aafke, for your beautiful heart that captures the nature of those we love.

July 5, 2015 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Blogging, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Kuwait, Pets, Qatteri Cat | , | 6 Comments