Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Energy Use and My Friend Who Kept the Cats Warm

“I was scratching their heads and ears and noticed that they were nice and warm! I wondered how they were managing to keep so warm in the awful cold, but I was glad they found a nice warm place,” my friend said, when I asked her how her outdoor cats had fared in the bone-chilling cold we experienced in Pensacola last week.

“Then I got my Gulf Power bill, and Intlxpatr, it was over a thousand dollars!” she exclaimed, her eyes huge.

Her normal bill is probably around what I pay. Not nearly a thousand dollars, not even on the hottest month of summer when I have to keep the air on full blast 24/7 on just to survive.

“So I called the heating people,’ she continued, and they had to crawl under the house, imagine, in this weather. . . ”

I imagined.

“. . . And they discovered the cats had clawed a hole in one of my air ducts and had luxuriated, down there under the house, while my heater tried to heat up half of Pensacola!”

We laughed, but a thousand dollars . . . that knocks a hole in anyone’s budget. It was one of those laughing-because-if-you-don’t-laugh-you-will-cry kinds of laughs.

I am an energy nerd. It comes from growing up in Alaska, I am convinced, where I had neighbors who fished in the summers and had to get by all year on that income, plus what they might come by with odd jobs the rest of the year. My friends had a huge garden in their back yard, and a root cellar where things were stored. In the root cellar, they had a chalkboard, where every potato, every carrot, everything they had stored was listed, and numbers subtracted as they were used. They had to keep track, to be sure they would make it through the winter.

In Pensacola, Gulf Power has a really cool feature on their website. You set up an online account, and you can check on your daily energy usage. LOL, this is mine for January. It has huge ups and downs – mostly we don’t need to have the heat on, but when the temperatures go down and stay down – it shows. There are also a couple days when we used our oven, and that shows up, too, but not badly.

I remember living in Germany, where I didn’t have a dryer (or any space for one) and my landlady brought me my energy bill. We lived in a very small farming village, where they were also all very frugal, but she couldn’t believe my bill was so small. I just smiled; I could hear her dryer going every day, and dryers are also a huge source of energy usage. Anything that heats up – or cools down – is an energy eater.

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On the website, you can also compare this year against previous years – and my bill this year is nearly a third higher than last year, but last year we did not have a three-day arctic freeze!

February 2, 2014 Posted by | Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Florida, Germany, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

Name that Country: A Most Difficult Challenge

This morning, as I was praying for Panama – there is always a diocese listed in the daily lectionary to be prayed for somewhere in the world – I was thinking how I know where Panama is. When we are praying for Nigeria, there are names I haven’t heard of. I now Lagos, and Port Harcourt, but where is Abuja? Owerri? I go to GoogleEarth and look them up.


I struggle with how little the average American knows about geographical location. It’s just embarrassing. Through all the years I lived abroad, most of the time, unless it was Germany, people couldn’t quite place where I was living. Many had heard of Tunisia; we had troops there in World War II, and Saudi Arabia, because they had seen it often enough on the news, but the rest of the Arab Gulf, Jordan, Syria, North Africa – beyond them.


Then, on the first night of one of my grad classes, the professor handed us this map and gave us ten minutes to put in the appropriate country names. He did not, thanks be to God, ask us to put in capitals. Not a single one of us got them all, and this was a class full of nation-oriented people.




It was also on the final exam, three months later, and most of us got them all right – thanks to some fervent cramming and study groups.


Here are a couple more maps, in case you are feeling cocky. See if you can accurately fill in the name of each country:






Bonne chance!




July 16, 2013 Posted by | Africa, Cultural, Education, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Experiment, Geography / Maps, Germany, GoogleEarth, Interconnected, Jordan, Lectionary Readings, Middle East, Pet Peeves, Random Musings, Travel, Tunisia | | Leave a comment

“I Miss the Highs . . . ” (Bipolar / Manic-Depressive Disorder)

“I miss the highs. . . ” my friend said – just before she went off her meds.


I totally understood what she was saying. We belonged to a quilting group, and when she was beginning a manic phase, she produced knock-out quilts, quilts combining colors in unusual ways, and she could stay up all night to finish one. She was a lot of fun to be around, totally up and enthusiastic and creative. As the phase progressed, however, she got thinner and thinner, fell in love with the wrong men, and I always knew when she was just about to crash because she looked fabulous – new clothes, lots of shoes, and she talked a mile a minute.


Then the crash. Her biggest fear was the credit card bills; when she was on a high, she felt like it didn’t matter. When she slid into depression, it was complicated by the fact that she had real things to be depressed about – STDs, huge bills, and concerns at her workplace and her security clearance.


As long as she was on her meds, she was fine, but the medications made her feel sluggish; she said even colors were less colorful on her meds. She said it was like spending your life underwater, where things were not so clear. She said it was dull.


It’s easy, when you are not bi-polar,  to say “stay on your meds.” It’s really hard to do it when the meds can make you feel like you are living in a prison.


My friend recommended a book by Kay Redfield Jamison called An Unquiet Mind. It was one of the most helpful books I have ever read, helping me to understand just how hard it is to give up the mania in spite of the huge price you pay for it with the depressions.


I hope my friend is still alive.


This article is from AOL Health News:

4 Surprising Signs of Bipolar Disorder

Fewer than half of Americans with bipolar disorder are properly diagnosed and treated, recent research shows. Could you spot bipolar symptoms – in yourself or in someone close to you?

Many people with bipolar disorderdon’t even know they have it.

Fewer than half of people in the United States who show classic signs of bipolar disorder actually get diagnosed and treated, says a recent Archives of General Psychiatry report on a survey of more than 61,000 adults in 11 countries — the United States, Mexico, China, Japan, Brazil, Colombia, India, Lebanon, Bulgaria, Romania, and New Zealand. Bipolar patients in lower-income nations get even less treatment — in some cases, as few as 25 percent receive help.

Compared to the other 10 countries studied, the United States had the highest rate of bipolar disorder (4.4 percent of those surveyed fell somewhere on the bipolar spectrum). India had the lowest (0.1 percent). Overall, about 2.4 percent of those interviewed in the face-to-face survey could be classified as having bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder’s Most Surprising Symptoms

It may be buzz-worthy these days, but many people don’t fully understand bipolar disorder and the symptoms that can lead to proper diagnosis and treatment. Bipolar, also sometimes called manic-depressive disorder, is characterized by shifts from extreme highs (known as mania) to emotional lows (depression), with “normal” moods in between.

It’s bipolar disorder’s manic phase that most sets it apart from other common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. While many people associate mania with high energy and exaggeratedly good moods, these other key symptoms are more subtle:

  • Reckless spending. If a friend is blowing her paycheck on shopping sprees she can’t afford, watch out. A person in a manic phase of bipolar disorder is more likely to take big risks, including spending splurges that can lead to mountains of unmanageable debt.
  • Super-charged sex drive. A sudden revving up of a person’s sex drive, obsessively thinking or talking about sex, or engaging in sexual encounters he otherwise wouldn’t (like a one-night stand or sex with someone he doesn’t know well) are all symptoms of hypersexuality, another less-obvious mania clue.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse. These often go hand-in-hand with manic episodes: As many as 60 percent of people with bipolar disorder have abused alcohol or drugs at some point in their lives. Depressants such as alcohol or pain pills can send a person with mania straight into depression, while stimulants like cocaine can have the opposite effect.
  • Skimping on shut-eye. Little need for sleep is another red flag that a person may be having a manic episode.

Keep in mind that bipolar disorder can vary greatly in severity, and not everyone experiences every symptom. In fact, some patients experience hypomania, a less mild form of mania. But even hypomania, if left untreated, could spin into depression or develop into full-blown mania.

One important takeaway from the Archives study is that across all countries, patients with bipolar disorder faced challenges in their daily lives and were at increased risk of such health problems as panic attacks, substance abuse, and suicide. Untreated bipolar disorder can also lead to troubled relationships with friends and family and problems at work. If you’re concerned about yourself or a friend or loved one, get more information here on the best treatments for bipolar disorder.

Last Updated: 08/08/2012

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Character, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Germany, Health Issues, Relationships | , , | 3 Comments

Sunset Dolphin Cruise with Olin Marler in Destin

We did this same cruise with the same house guests two years ago, and . . . we never get tired of it. We don’t do it that often, and it is always fresh and relaxing.

We booked with Olin Marler Charters out of Destin. Fortuitously, we had a Groupon. It was so easy, buy the tickets online, call for a reservation, be at the dock at 5 p.m. for boarding.

Yes, it can be a crowd. Yes, you always have to know where you want to be and head directly there so you will have a good view, although people do wander. Yes, you have to hope that people who take young children aboard will be responsible and watch them like hawks. Other than that, these cruises are fun and easy.

There are other cruises. The others that we saw were all very crowded, people packed like sardines on little barge-like boats. We like a boat with a couple levels and lots of places where you can take photographs without having to crawl over anyone – or having people crawl over us! – to get a photo. This is our second time with Olin Marler, and I expect it will not be our last – it’s just so much fun.

We saw lots of dolphins. Dolphins are not so easy to photograph as they surface and dive, oh aaargh. If you want to see dolphins from our last trip, click on the blue hypertext in the first paragraph.

Also lots of seagulls and lots of sunset 🙂 Great times with special old friends from Germany, our sons have been best of friends for years, too.

This is the boat they took us out on, the yellow one:


Sunset is nearing:

Can’t get a good shot of the dolphins so might as well see if I can get something interesting with the seagulls and sunset:

When the sun actually sets, it gets cold quickly. We had a very warm day, maybe 80 degrees F. and it dropped almost immediately by 30 degrees. Fortunately, we knew this happens and came prepared this time 🙂

Great way to end a day, followed by dinner with the same good friends.

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Pensacola, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

Smokey Dembo’s BBQ Outside Mobile, AL

We had endured water aerobics, quickly dressed and hung up our swim clothes, and driven to Mobile en route to Dauphin Island with our visiting friends from Norfolk, old travel buddies and long time friends from Germany. As we left I-10. heading south toward the Island, we are starving, and all we see are McDonalds, Arby’s, fried chicken and Asian buffets.

“No! No!” we wail, and hold out for something better.

As soon as we saw it, we all knew. This was IT:


Look at that cow’s head! You take one look, and you know this place is going to be an original. Little did we know . . .

As we drove into the parking, we asked some people leaving how the food was. “Excellent! The best!” they said, and other people leaving chimed in saying “You won’t be sorry.”

As we walked in, we were greeted by “Smokey” Dembo himself, who said “I saw you taking photos outside, don’t you want a photo with me in it?”

Yes! Yes! I do! I do!


Smokey, as it turns out, is our kind of guy. Former military, from this small little town outside of Mobile, his dream was to own a place just like this, with his father, who taught him how to grill. One day, shortly after he retired, he was driving his daughter to soccer practice and he saw a for sale sign on this building, and on his way back, stopped – and made a deal. That was 11 years ago, and he’s never looked back. This is a happy man, living his dream.

He spends Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday marinating and preparing his meats. He is only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday (maybe Sunday, I can’t remember. Or maybe not; Sunday may be for church. Actually, you’d better call, because I might have gotten it all wrong. I KNOW he is open on Fridays and Saturdays, and I know he serves breakfast on Thursdays and Fridays, but the rest is foggy . . . . )

The aromas of BBQ are killing us; we have to order right away:



As we are waiting for the food, we continue to talk with Smokey and to learn about his restaurant. He has a wonderful wall, a tribute to his family and his family history:



I apologize. We were starving. When the food arrived, we totally forgot to take any photos at all, not a single photo of the boneless BBQ pork, nor of the potato salad nor of the cole slaw, nor of the baked beans. Although we are a very talky bunch, when the food came, we ate in awed silence. It was so GOOOOOOOD.

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We cannot wait to see Smokey again. This is some fine BBQ. 🙂

February 11, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Food, Friends & Friendship, Germany, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Restaurant, Road Trips | , , | 5 Comments

Luxurious Blessing

I was making a salad to go with today’s lunch and remembered AdventureMan warning me we were just about out of roasted pecans, and needed more. It is a cool – almost cold – rainy rainy day in Pensacola, a perfect day for cranking up the oven to roast some pecans. We still have a wealth of pecans from a generous donation made by my dear daughter-in-law’s Texas aunt, who has a heart as big as Texas.

As I roast the pecans (425°F for about 10 minutes) the house becomes fragrant with that luxurious smell. I am transported back to Kuwait, where I remember paying a fortune for a small packet of pecans I needed to bake a pecan pie. Normally, we didn’t even bother looking at the prices, but the price on those pecans was so high I really had to think about buying them, it’s like paying an extortionist. But I needed pecans. I paid.

Now, we have this luxurious blessing of pecans, and not just pecans, but these fresh, fragrant, tasty Texas pecans, and as they roast, they are blessing my entire house with a rich roasty fragrance. It doesn’t take much to make me happy. This wonderful aunt gave us this wealth of pecans, and the gift just keeps on giving and giving, through the Christmas season, well into January – and we still have pecans left. I’ve paid a lot more and gotten a lot less joy from a purchase. I think of this wonderful woman and her gift every time we use them.


Yes, I roasted a lot of pecans, because we sprinkle them on all kinds of things, and that roasted flavor just enriches everything they touch. Yes, they keep in an air-tight container, for as long as it takes for us to eat them, which can be two or three weeks.

And here is the salad, post-pecans but pre-salad dressing:


It’s another luxurious blessing. About twelve years ago, when we had a posting in Germany, we packed everything into storage and just bought what we needed to live with. As days go by, however, you – or I, anyway – just need a few little things to make life nice. You pick up a few gorgeous dessert plates here, a few Christmas ornaments there . . . some cookie sheets, just a little extra, and before you know it, life is no longer so simple. To help keep it simple, I mostly bought things I could just leave behind when we left the country to head to the next country, or I transported things home in those big bags we used to be able to take on the transoceanic flights. I ended up having to rent a storage locker in Seattle for all the treasures I accumulated in our second round of overseas living, LOL.

The first year we were living once again in Germany, as we were buying some wardrobe units, I spotted two salad / serving bowls at IKEA. They aren’t costly porcelain, they are just ceramic bowls, but I love the shape, and inside each one are two beautiful purply-blue irises. I looked at them and loved their conception, their design. I pointed them out to AdventureMan, and then promptly forgot them. Because he is a very smart man, I found them under the Christmas tree a few months later, and was thrilled to recognize them. We have both treasured them ever since.

With each subsequent move, I carefully wrapped those bowls and used them again and again at each posting. We pull them out all the time, these bowls are a perfect size for a salad-to-share or a side dish, and to this day, they look like new. It makes me laugh; I’ve had much more expensive dishes which were not so long for this world; these are go-to serving bowls, and still look brand new.

So today I am feeling extraordinarily thankful for the great luxury of pecans, the wonderful aroma of their roasting, and the great blessing of serving them in a bowl which gives us joy every time we use them.

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cooking, Cultural, ExPat Life, Germany, Home Improvements, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Moving, Random Musings, Recipes, Thanksgiving, Travel | 4 Comments

Brrrrrrrrrr . . .

It’s COLD this morning, 42°F, 5°C, and I have donned my long pink flannel nightgown. I grew up in flannel nightgowns, which are not very attractive, but they are nice and warm. When they are brand new, they are too hot, my current one is about half-old, and I have one that I know I need to part with – it is so thin it tears at the slightest encouragement – but I love them when they get old and thin, LOL!

Once I make the leap to scrap one of these trusty flannel nightgowns, they are great for polishing silver. I know, I know, who polishes silver anymore? My sister Big Diamond says she puts her silver in the dishwasher, and uses it every day because people just don’t entertain formally as we once did.

Living in a place that’s warm most of the time, my flannel nightgowns don’t get a lot of wear and are lasting a lot longer than they used to. Ditto all my beautiful winter clothes. Vanity, vanity, I spent money of beautiful wools in Germany, Austria and England for hard winters back in Edmonds, WA, and now I have a closet full of beautiful winter clothes that I rarely get a chance to wear. Today, I can pull out an old friend and wear it!

October 30, 2012 Posted by | ExPat Life, Generational, Germany, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Carmina Burana Flashmob: Your WeekEnd Treat

I love it when an orchestra has a sense of humor 🙂

October 20, 2012 Posted by | Germany, Music | 4 Comments

Water Bed

This is a furniture store in Germany, where the sign says “Do Not Get On the Bed” LLOOLLL!

October 3, 2012 Posted by | Germany, Humor, Hygiene | Leave a comment

She Cried

“I wanted to thank you,” I said to my son’s sixth grade teacher “I can’t imagine how hard it was to get 30 sixth graders to go through the paper-writing process, but I know my son learned from it and he will use the skills you taught him for many years to come. One day he will thank you in his heart, but I wanted to thank you now.”

It was one of those small expat military communities, where your child’s teacher also goes to the same church you go to and shops in the same commissary. We were at a church benefit, chatting before dinner.

She started crying.

She told me that every year, she teaches the sixth graders to write papers, and they hate it. She started with library research, making bibliography cards on little index cards, formal writing, footnotes and a formal bibliography at the end with a formal title page at the beginning.

I was the first one who had ever thanked her. She believed in what she was doing, but it was so hard, and she never got any positive feedback.

Imagine. Do you remember what sixth graders are like? This lady had courage, and persistence. She gave these students (in spite of themselves) a skill which would take them through the rest of high school and into college. They learned to do it right, so they never had to embarrass themselves by turning in an inferior, poorly-done paper. It was a great gift she gave these students – and no one thanked her.

Well, it would be a rare, very rare sixth grader who has the maturity to understand that while it was a difficult and demanding section in their school year, it was a tool in their tool box of life, a gift that just kept on giving.

Thank you. Thank you, all the teachers out there who knock themselves out to give our children (and grandchildren) the tools they need to be good students and good citizens.

July 5, 2012 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cultural, Education, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Germany, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Parenting, Relationships, Values, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments