Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

First World Problem

My problems are probably not your problems, but we all have to carry our own loads.

So yesterday, I was on the way to the YMCA for my water aerobics class; it helps me fight creeping depression. Why would I be depressed? Existentially, the tone of the current regime offends me, offends my values, and I have to fight not only depression, but also angry frustration. So I pray, asking for input which will alter my sour outlook.

At the pool, the first person I run into is one of my long-time pool buddies, and she has her little daughter with her. I ask how she is doing, and she says “I am not happy.” I know this woman, she is a good woman, and a conscientious mother. She goes on to say that she is at an age where other parents are waving their children off into independence, into college and jobs and marriages and children, and that will never happen for her. Her little daughter is 31, with Downs syndrome. She is a sweet, easy woman, but will always be a little girl.

My friend wasn’t complaining. She was just telling me how she saw her life at that moment in time, she was sharing her reality. I hugged her. It wouldn’t change anything, but she knew I was listening.

I left with an entirely changed point of view, going home to help AdventureMan take care of our two little “petites-enfants.” Tropical Storm Gordon is rolling in, their parents have to work and school has closed down in concerns for the safety of the children and their transportation. My problems are so First World. I got the input I needed.

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September 5, 2018 Posted by | Community, Exercise, Faith, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

Suitcases and a New Adventure

We are off to Seattle, taking our eight year old grandson, no-longer-baby Q, and his almost-five sister, N, for a great adventure. We have been taking them on trips for several years now, but were waiting for N to reach the magic age of cooperation before we endeavored to make a trip of this length.

I’m excited. These are nice kids, and we have a lot of fun together.

“Will we have to be quiet in the hotel room?” asks N, who is very perceptive, and has a great memory. She remembers our hotel rooms in New Orleans, and we have to keep the volume of our wild rumpuses down, and we can’t be making lots of bumps on the floor or walls.

“Yep,” I respond and give her the eye. N is a lot of fun, and loves figures of speech, as we do. Her latest accomplishment is “shooting daggers.” We can pass a lot of time at lunch helping her to shoot daggers with her eyes, and she has come close to mastering that fine art.

We are concerned about baggage. We will each have a bag, and we want to carry them on. AdventureMan and I will have to be paying attention.

Like Goldilocks, I found myself in the position of having bags that were too small or too big, and nothing that was just right, especially now that TSA is so particular about the exact size of carry-on bags. I found one:

It is exactly the right dimensions, and I added the “M” in silver nail polish to distinguish it from all the other black carry-on bags, in case I am required, after all, to check it. Another friend told me to add ribbons, so I will.

It sent me back in memory, however, years and years. Early years, traveling from Alaska, where the plane had a ladies lounge which even had seating, and cosmetics provided. We carried cosmetic cases with us on the planes. Contrast that with the 15″ ports-potties we are forced to use now, even in business class.

As we began our treks back and forth overseas, there was a baggage “limit” of two bags, and I believe there was – technically – a limit of 77 pounds. My sister and I, en route back and forth across the Atlantic to university had HUGE bags, and the kind people at the check-in never batted an eye, just told us other people were under the limit and it would all average out.

Hauling supplies to our overseas posts – things like chocolate chips, shoes for growing children, levis, all the things we couldn’t get in countries like Tunisia and Jordan in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we used huge Land’s End or LL Bean duffels, packed to bursting and strapped with luggage straps. Some held books; books are really heavy.

It wasn’t until we had retired from the military and began government contracts overseas that things changed. Maybe it was 9-11. Partly, for sure, it was an issue with human rights, and bags that were causing disabilities among baggage workers. Partly, too, I believe it was a matter of greed for additional profits among the airlines. More people squeezed in, less room for baggage.

Thus, my modest little carry-on, and the new adventure of rationing space and clothing to last the whole trip.

Each time we travel, AdventureMan and I try to spot the Arabs. It used to be easy. So many people would come to visit the USA, and we could usually spot them based on facial features and body language as well as clothing. Now, we believe there are fewer visitors, and fewer students, and they have learned to fly way under the radar. They look like us. And then again, We Americans came from someplace else, unless we are First Nation, so why shouldn’t our visitors look a lot like us?

At the YMCA there is a new cleaning lady, who says she is from Hungary, but I think maybe Bulgaria or Albania. She doesn’t speak a lot of English, but told me “the Jews took all her money” so she came to the United States. I don’t even know what to say when someone says something like that to me. What if I were Jewish? I’m still pondering how to react. I was friendly to her at the start, but something inside me turned cold when she said that. I don’t want to be anywhere near her, now. I wanted to say “this is America, we don’t say things like that,” but America has changed, has taken a very divisive turn, and we have a leader who does say things like that.

I think it has to do with the political climate, where we are quick to turn on one another, to call names, to point fingers, to assign blame – whether it is true or not. I find it disheartening. I like the safety of building networks, introducing ourselves, knowing we can count on one another for help when needed. Individually, we are all so vulnerable, but when we unite and care for one another, we are strong.

 

August 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Relationships, Seattle, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Values | Leave a comment

The Least of These

 

Today in the Lectionary readings, we come to the Gospel and one of my all time favorite verses and personal life guide. If you claim to follow Jesus, there are some basics. You have to follow the old Jewish traditions of loving God with all your heart, and loving your neighbor as yourself. You have to take care of the poor, the widowed (the single mother), the mentally ill, the children. You have to welcome the stranger, for we were strangers in Egypt.

Our national policies today are taking away medical benefits from our poorest citizens, are rolling back protections against pollution and contamination of air and water and even the foods we eat. The callousness of it all appalls me. Spiritually, we pay a price. As a country, I believe we will survive, but it will take a while to undo the damage that is being done, day by day.

As a cold warrior, I am horrified, but that is not a spiritual thing 🙂

Matthew 25:31-46

31 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” 37Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 40And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.” 41Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” 44Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” 45Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’

July 18, 2018 Posted by | Aging, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Faith, fraud, Free Speech, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Social Issues, Spiritual, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values | , | Leave a comment

Politics (ACLU) and Religion

The Psalm from today’s Lectionary readings:

140 Eripe me, Domine

1 Deliver me, O Lord, from evildoers; *
protect me from the violent,

2 Who devise evil in their hearts *
and stir up strife all day long.

3 They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; *
adder’s poison is under their lips.

4 Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked; *
protect me from the violent,
who are determined to trip me up.

5 The proud have hidden a snare for me
and stretched out a net of cords; *
they have set traps for me along the path.

6 I have said to the Lord, “You are my God; *
listen, O Lord, to my supplication.

7 O Lord God, the strength of my salvation, *
you have covered my head in the day of battle.

8 Do not grant the desires of the wicked, O Lord, *
nor let their evil plans prosper.

9 Let not those who surround me lift up their heads; *
let the evil of their lips overwhelm them.

10 Let hot burning coals fall upon them; *
let them be cast into the mire, never to rise up again.”

11 A slanderer shall not be established on the earth, *
and evil shall hunt down the lawless.

12 I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the poor *
and render justice to the needy.

13 Surely, the righteous will give thanks to your Name, *
and the upright shall continue in your sight.

Yesterday, several news sources discussed the rapid growth of the American Civil Liberties Union; this one is from Politicus USA:

New Report: ACLU Membership More Than Quadrupled Since Trump’s Election

Thanks to the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has more than quadrupled its membership, according to an article in The New York Times.

Before Trump’s election the group had just 400,000 members and most of its actions were out of the public eye.  But now, after 15 months of the Trump presidency, the membership is over 1.8 million and it has become one of the most active and visible opponents of Trump’s agenda.

Donations to the nonprofit group have also increased exponentially. The ACLU’s executive director, Anthony Romero, said that the organization has raised over $120 million since the 2016 presidential election. Before that watershed election, he said, donations had been in the range of just $3 million to $5 million annually.

Romero said that concerns over Trump’s attack on constitutional rights and civil liberties have brought a whole new generation of political activists into their group. “Until Trump most of our support came from people who have been with us since we challenged Nixon,” Romero told the Times. “Now we’re kind of cool. Cool’s not a word generally associated with us.”

The surge in membership, coupled with the massive increase in contributions, has for the first time given the ACLU all the resources it needs to fight Trump and other administration officials in court and elsewhere. They have been involved in more than 100 legal actions against Trump administration policies, including the White House’sseries of travel bans on the citizens of several Muslim-majority nations, which happened shortly after he took office.

More recently, the group has been challenging the Justice Department’s family separation policies, Trump’s voter fraud commission and the president’s reversal of an Obama-era contraception mandate.

According to Romero, his group has over 170 times taken what he calls “Trump-related legal actions” since he became president. This number includes the filing of 83 lawsuits, Romero said.

As the Trump administration steps up its attacks on refugees and asylum seekers, the ACLU has been filing class action lawsuits and also seeking injunctions to attempt to make the government stop separating families and incarcerating children. In some cases they have already been successful, and they are continuing to fight for the legal rights of people who may have been illegally detained and deprived of due process.

The large increase in ACLU membership is a good sign for American democracy. It shows that many Americans not only disapprove of Donald Trump’s policies and actions but are willing to support the fight against them. Ultimately this may be what saves our country from becoming a dictatorship and what preserves and protects the Constitution of the United States of America.

I’m one of those people. I used to think the ACLU was extreme, that was until I saw them first to man the tables offering free legal advice to incoming passengers the night Trump implemented his first travel ban. I sent my first check. I was asked why I had joined, and I told them because they are now our front line against thugs with no moral values, oppressors of the poor, led by a heartless, selfish, man who must be reined in. They sent me a sweet little ACLU pin, which I don’t dare wear in Pensacola.

July 6, 2018 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Crime, Cross Cultural, Cultural, Faith, Free Speech, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lies, Political Issues, Values | , | Leave a comment

AdventureMan Resists

different races of people clipart
clipartxtras.com

 

AdventureMan is hollering from his office to mine “Can I read you something?”

We all find ways to express our indignation. He writes directly to our president, our representative (he calls him Trump’s butt-boy, to me, not to him), to Pruitt. He tells them, in acceptable language, exactly what he thinks.

“I’d say ( . . . . ), but as a retired army officer, I think I am still subject to the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice),” he says, and censors himself so that he is within civil boundaries.

How did we come to this, when our own national leader lies, again and again, even in the same day, and we have come to accept this as “normal?” How can we accept his calling people who are brown, and seeking a safer, better way of life “vermin” and their countries as “s-tholes?” The unthinkable has become our daily reality. It is not only the children, separated from their parents, who are becoming traumatized, it is also normal every-day Americans who believe that the American Dream is for everyone.

I think the American president is afraid of a world in which our nation is more brown than white, which it is well on it’s way to becoming. I think the thought of losing power terrifies him. I can’t imagine any other rational reason for his behavior towards the “other,” the stranger, those he labels as enemies.

So while I am startled when AdventureMan tells me he self-censors, I also understand. The unimaginable had manifested itself daily since this man was elected, and he will stop at no ends to complete his agenda. His cronies and fellow thugs will thrive, while we drink polluted water, and watch oil seep on to our shores from the off-shore drilling. We will watch our public schools fail, and our jails overflow. My heart breaks on a daily basis, watching what we, as a nation, are becoming.

I used to think the ACLU were a bunch of wackos. When the first travel ban went into effect, and we watched the stunned travelers arrive only to be told they must go back, the ACLU had tables in the airports offering free legal services. I sent my first check that night. I DO protest, via RESISTBOT (text Resist to 50409) wondering if my voice even matters. Sending checks to those who are resisting successfully gives me greater satisfaction. Reaching out my hands to “the other” gives me greater satisfaction. Building bridges and connections feeds my feelings of resistance, that together we can make a difference.

June 22, 2018 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, Faith, Family Issues, Free Speech, Interconnected, Leadership, Lies, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | Leave a comment

Bless the Children

From today’s Lectionary readings, the Gospel reading fits the daily news. The other readings deal with obeying God and the fate of the arrogant, those who would quote God but live corrupt and vile lives. I know the current times will not go on for long; the cycle will shift and we will try to undo the evil that is being done.

All I can think of is that this is the way terrorists are created – traumatize them early. Separate families, send them in different directions. Many will never recover, many will feel insecure and unstable for the rest of their lives, and be vulnerable. Take away their hope. God forgive us. God have mercy on these families. God have mercy on these little children.

Matthew 18:1-9

18At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

6 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

8 ‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell* of fire.

June 20, 2018 Posted by | Faith, Family Issues, Lectionary Readings, Political Issues | Leave a comment

From Ecclesiastes 9

From a reading in the Old Testament in today’s Lectionary readings:

 

17 The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded
than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war,
but one bungler destroys much good.

 

In a bright red spot in our country, I have found a sea of purple, we meet together and console one another in the current culture of madness and malevolence. Black and white and brown, rich and poor, we gather and laugh, so that we don’t cry, and we encourage one another to keep the faith. We share our small ways of resisting and our hopes for a brighter tomorrow.

June 13, 2018 Posted by | Exercise, Faith, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Ft. Bragg . . . where??? (California)

Most people, when they think of Fort Bragg, think of a military post in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg we discovered several years ago in California has little in common with the North Carolina Fort Bragg.

Our first time in Fort Bragg, as we left Cucina Verona, an Italian restaurant where we had eaten dinner, we were startled by the loud sound of hoofbeats, and the sudden appearance of two riders, galloping hell-bent down the middle of the road in Ft. Bragg. It was one of those adrenaline moments, when you wonder if you really saw what you just thing you saw, followed by all the things that could go wrong when you mix horses, highways, automobiles and high speed.

This time, one of the first things we saw was this sign:

 

But . . . it doesn’t say anything about riding horses, skateboards, or bicycles down the center of the street!

Ft. Bragg has a very laid back vibe. The town is full of couples who look a lot like us, maybe even a little older, maybe a little more hip and less retired military than we look, but relaxed, comfortable in their own skins. We love the vibe. My very favorite activity in Ft. Bragg is at the north end of the town, where they have a place called Glass Beach. Glass beach is where the old town dump used to be, a long time ago, and all the bottles dumped there broke and were washed by the waves, tumbled by the gravel and sand, and became beach glass. Most of what you find is pretty small these days; Glass Beach has been discovered, but if you venture out the the furthest inlets and rocks, you can find some larger pieces, sometimes even a green piece. I found one tiny little blue piece, the grand prize of all beach glass.

We love the North Cliff Hotel, where every room has the same view, looking out over the water at the inlet to the little bay.

We love the hot tub with a view.

 

We love the view. On the morning we were leaving, we looked out and someone had written a huge message on the sand, “Annie will you marry me?” How cool is that?!

Time is flexible in Ft. Bragg. We get up when we want to, we don’t have to drive to any destination, we can be lazy or we can just meander around, which is what we choose to do.

Love this tunnel of eucalyptus trees entering Ft. Bragg from the north:

This yard had no flower but yellow flowers, and a LOT of yellow flowers!

 

 

Just a short drive south is Mendocino, one of the most beautiful little California towns you could hope to find. We were looking for special gifts for two special people, and found them, polished carved natural bay laurel bowls, at this shop.

 

I read a recent article on how California leads the way for the American soul; it gives me hope for the future of our country. California pioneered gay rights, California champions the rights of immigrant children to education and health benefits, and Californians “welcome the stranger,” as all people of the book are supposed to do.

This was in the window of the main grocery/hardware/sundries store in Mendocino. When a woman saw me taking a photo, she asked me why, and I told her, it made me feel welcome and filled my heart with joy to know that it specifically would also make my Arab / Muslim friends feel welcome. She smiled, sternly, and said that they welcome ALL people, that is what California is all about. I was happily chastened. 🙂

 

I want the United States of America to be a safe place for all people. No wonder I love California!

Well, there is another reason to love Ft. Bragg – they have one of the world’s best ice creameries right on the major through street in Ft. Bragg. 

Cowlicks Ice Cream is never not busy. On our first trip (we went twice in one day!) I had a scoop of ginger ice cream. It was a huge WOW. On the next trip, I had a chocolate which was really chocolaty, but I wished I had another scoop of ginger.

As we sat, eating our ice cream, I overheard a stylish but somewhat-frail looking 80’ish woman tell her daughter that she didn’t want to be bothered being married again, she was just looking to have a little fun without the complications of a relationship. Such is life in Ft. Bragg. 🙂

 

June 3, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Martyrs of Sudan

Today the church remembers the martyrs of Sudan.

I have met one, personally, a wonderful journalist in the Sudan, who told us his story one December, just before Christmas. I have never forgotten him; we are still friends on FaceBook. He spent mot of his youth running from those attacking his village. As a child, sometimes he would be separated from his family for months. Although a treaty has been signed, the persecution continues in South Sudan, as even heavily pregnant women have to run for the swamps, or the nearest border, when the lawless janjaweed attack. South Sudan has oil.

 

The Christian bishops, chiefs, commanders, clergy and people of Sudan declared, on May 16, 1983, that they would not abandon God as God had revealed himself to them under threat of Shariah Law imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic government in Khartoum. Until a peace treaty was signed on January 9, 2005, the Episcopal Church of the Province of the Sudan suffered from persecution and devastation through twenty-two years of civil war. Two and a half million people were killed, half of whom were members of this church. Many clergy and lay leaders were singled out because of their religious leadership in their communities. No buildings, including churches and schools, are left standing in an area the size of Alaska.

Four million people are internally displaced, and a million are scattered around Africa and beyond in the Sudanese Diaspora. Twenty-two of the twenty-four dioceses exist in exile in Uganda or Kenya, and the majority of the clergy are unpaid. Only 5% of the population of Southern Sudan was Christian in 1983. Today over 85% of that region of six million is now mostly Episcopalian or Roman Catholic. A faith rooted deeply in the mercy of God has renewed their spirits through out the years of strife and sorrow.

(From the Lectionary, Martyrs of Sudan, for May 16, 2018)

This is the prayer for the Martyrs of Sudan:

O God, steadfast in the midst of persecution, by your providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: As the martyrs of the Sudan refused to abandon Christ even in the face of torture and death, and so by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest, may we, too, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. 

May 16, 2018 Posted by | Africa, Character, Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, South Sudan, Sudan | Leave a comment

When Does Ramadan Start in 2018?

Ramadan for Non-Muslims, through the years on Here There and Everywhere

Checking my stats, I can see a sudden upswing on Friday, the day off in almost all Moslem countries. I haven’t posted in the last couple days, but it seems to me, it is just about time to be thinking about Ramadan starting.

When I was still living in the Middle East, I would write an annual entry explaining Ramadan to my non-Muslim readers. Even better, my Moslem friends and readers would add comments, correcting anything I had gotten wrong and adding more.

Bottom line – while for non-Muslims, it is easy to perceive the month-long fast as impossible deprivation, to the Moslems, it is a month of loving celebration, visiting with family, fabulous meals at the end of a long day of fasting, and an opportunity to devote one’s thought to God/Allah/Yahweh and to serve him in the holy tradition of fasting. Many times, overseas, I had Moslems serve me food during Ramadan; I would beg them not to, but they would tell me there was joy in serving food to others and not partaking themselves; they did it as an act of worship, a sacrifice. I could see their joy in their eyes and their visible pleasure in serving.

The traditional words of greeting to a Moslem during Ramadan are “Ramadan Mubarak” and “Ramadan Kareem.” The first is a wish that Ramadan be a blessing to the worshipper, the second a wish that Ramadan be generous, supply all the needs, spiritual and otherwise.

Ramadan Mubarak, my friends, and Ramadan Kareem.

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Ramadan | Leave a comment