Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

An Unintended Lenten Fast

I up my spiritual game during the season of Lent, and this time, I had an additional fast imposed upon me.

I was sitting on a step, waiting for a bus full of amazing women to arrive, and I had just been notified that the bus would be late. An unidentified 800 number showed on my screen, and I didn’t answer, I don’t answer calls when I don’t recognize the phone number and especially if it is an 800 number. But this time, the number called back immediately. Curious, I answered.

“Am I speaking to Intlxpatr?”

“Who is calling?” I asked, ever suspicious.

“This is so-and-so from (she names my bank) and I need to know if you made two large charges last night at Christian Tailgates in Houston,” she asked.

“No, I did not!” I responded.

“Did anyone else on your account make those charges?” she asked.

“I am very sure they did not,” I replied, because I was very sure.

“We have put a stop on this credit card and will be sending you a new one. It should arrive in 7 to ten days.”

She added that however they got the information for the credit card, they were using a hard copy, it looked just like my real credit card. We are careful credit users. but this can happen anywhere. People can be bribed to make extra copies of your card and sell that information. It is happening more and more often, or so I am told, and I am inclined to believe it. It happens to us every 18 months to 2 years, and with different credit cards.

One time, I got a call from a different credit card, the one I call my Hurricane Card because I keep it as a back up in case a hurricane hits and we need a lot of cash or credit in a hurry. I never even carry it. It is in a file, and never sees the light of day. They asked if I had bought a bus ticket to Mexico with it. No. No. No. How could this happen? It happens, they told me, sadly.

We have other credit cards, designated for other uses (I am a compartmentalized kind of person.) I am making a list of all the credit card automatic payments I have to re-organize, and I can’t do a thing until the new cards arrive and are activated.

I think I am a careful, even reluctant credit user. All it takes is a few days NOT using my credit card for me to learn how often I use it, even without thinking about it. Although this fast was unchosen, it started on Ash Wednesday, and it has had enlightening consequences, enough so that I am thinking of it as a Lenten discipline, albeit temporary.

March 3, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Crime, Customer Service, Family Issues, Financial Issues, fraud, Lent, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

End of 2017 Wrap Up Photos

Thanksgiving Sunset at Panama City Beach:

The weather was mild and beautiful. It was a sad and happy Thanksgiving; sad for those not with us any longer, happy to be with those who love the departed.

Pelicans at PCB:

Finally, a year when both grandchildren could make it through the entire Nutcracker Ballet in Pensacola, and were utterly rapt. We want them to have this joyous experience!

For the first time, they were checking bags, and almost didn’t let me take my camera in. One person said “no photos” but the other said “you can take photos but no video and no flash” which is fine by me; my little Lumix does great in low light.

 

 

Maybe I’m not a kid anymore, but I have always loved the arrival of the pirate ship!

My favorite dance:

Hmmm  .  . . . well, maybe Nutcracker isn’t just for the grandchildren 🙂

We had the most wonderful Christmas day, family in the morning and afternoon, friends in the evening. We also decided not to go to New Orleans during the week between Christmas and New Years as we often do, and to go in February, after Lent starts on February 14 (what a dismal day for Lent to start! Valentine’s Day for Ash Wednesday!)  I have some more items for our friends at Zito’s to clean and polish for me. The work they do gives us so much pleasure.

Christmas was also a little odd, because I was energetic and got the first step up – lights and greenery going up the staircase, and a thousand or so little silver stars – only to discover that our two new rescue cats, well, new since February, thought this was all for their delight. Ragnar, especially, loved untying the strings that tied up the greenery, and then – horrors! – chewed through the wires on the lights, in several places! I completely re-did the lights, twice, and just as quickly, he chewed through the strings and the lights. I finally figured out that green ribbon worked to keep the greenery up, but we had to forego the lights. We didn’t want a fire hazard, and we didn’t want the cats to be electrocuted. Uhtred pulled a star or two off every day, but they were easily replaced.

We have been hitting our favorite restaurants, and one new one we weren’t crazy about. At our absolute favorite restaurant, a Cajun/beach style restaurant, when we went to pay the bill, they told us as “frequent and highly valued customers,” our meal was on them. Wow. What is so funny is that we had just been talking about our Christmas experiences in Germany, where those restaurants you frequented would give you some small gift, like an Italian restaurant had gift Pannetones, and a German restaurant might gift you with a small schnapps. The Chinese restaurants would give you a small Plum wine. We were missing that, and then, we were stunned when they told us thank you for being such good customers and that it was their treat this time. It totally made my day, another small kindness, but even the smallest kindness packs a punch.

This morning, the last day of 2017, we hit the early service at Christ Church, visited with our friends and neighbors, then had breakfast at C.J.’s, as I needed to make a trip to the commissary and CJ’s is on the way. I like the one-egg breakfast, but today I also ordered a side of one beignet, and the waitress said that the order of 3 was a better deal; you pay $2 for one, and you get 3 for $3. Makes sense to me; I ordered the 3 and AdventureMan helped me out by eating one and we have one to warm up and split tomorrow on New Year’s morning. These beignets were so fresh and so good! We’ve had a little bit of New Orleans without going to New Orleans.

Mardi Gras starts here on January 5 with an all-Krewe party and parade downtown, big party. When all the partying is over, we’ll head back to New Orleans.

December 31, 2017 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Lent, Local Lore, Lumix, Mardi Gras, New Orleans, Pensacola | Leave a comment

“You Shall Also Love the Stranger”

In this morning’s lectionary readings from Deuteronomy, I find words of hope this morning:

 

Deuteronomy 10: 17 – 18

17For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, 18who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them with food and clothing. 19You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

I often tell my friends that I encountered very good Christians as I lived among the Moslems; they believe in Christ, and as we differ among ourselves as Christians, they also differ from us. Some of the differences are significant, and at the same time, I am aware that Christians did not agree – and still do not agree – on Christ’s divinity. So I look at the fruits of the spirit, I look at actions, and I look at being faithful to God’s intentions for us as his creation. I welcome the stranger as the stranger so often welcomed us.

Right now, it shames me that our very Christian country is no longer hospitable to the stranger. We were the shining light of hope in the world. Now we are led by a me-first bully, who will rob the poor even of their access to affordable health care to fill his pickets and those of his cronies. He forgets we are all strangers in a strange land, and will have to answer for our misdeeds.

I take courage in the spiritual renewal of resistance; there are those who continue to welcome, clothe and feed the stranger, who are fighting against injustice in the criminal and legal system, who are fighting for a woman’s equal place in this country, who are protecting the widows and orphans, the very things we are called to do. For the first time in my life, I am a member of the ACLU. I continue to receive training as a spirit warrior.  We use our increased investments to fund Planned Parenthood. We strive to feed the hungry and clothe those without clothing.

We laugh, as we discuss issues in our classes, at our activities, over lunch, that at this later stage in life, we could be so reactivated 🙂

March 10, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Character, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Leadership, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Values, Women's Issues | 3 Comments

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.

 

Kuwait-crash-Desert-Sun

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

Where is Mbeere District, Kenya?

Today the church prays for the diocese in Mbeere, in Kenya. It is north of Nairobi, mountainous, farming area.

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March 3, 2015 Posted by | Africa, Faith, Geography / Maps, Lectionary Readings, Lent | | 2 Comments

Party On Pensacola!

The Sunday before Lent started, we were eating our early breakfast at the Shiny Diner when two parties came in. The first was a morning-after-the-wedding party, they grabbed one of the high tops that seat eight and more and more dragged in, and then the bride and groom arrived, still glowing from their wedding the day before.

As they were seated, another party came in, this party all in their pajamas, even the Mom! It was a morning-after-the-pajama-party party, and their fun was still continuing.

Pensacola: Party City!

00ShineyDinerSlumberParty

February 24, 2015 Posted by | Cultural, Entertainment, Events, Lent, Living Conditions, Mardi Gras, Pensacola, Restaurant | 1 Comment

What is Lent and Why Do We Observe Lent?

From today’s AOL News:

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Ash Wednesday 2014: History, Dates, Traditions Of Lent’s First Day Of Fasting

Ash Wednesday is observed on March 5, in 2014. The Christian holy day marks the beginning of Lent, a 40-day season of fasting that is considered preparation for Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.

Although there is no Biblical reference to Ash Wednesday or Lent, scholars of Christianity date the tradition of a 40-day fasting period back to 325 A.D.

Lent mirrors Jesus’ own 40-day period of fasting, described in the book of Matthew. Observers have ash placed on their foreheads in the shape of the cross as the words from Genesis 3:19 are spoken: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Fasting requirements for Catholics are outlined by the Code of Canon Law, and include eating no meat on the Fridays during Lent, as well as fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. (Fasting in this case refers to eating just one full meal a day.)

Many Christians will make personal vows of abstinence during Lent, which could include anything from refraining from eating candy, meat, vowing not to gossip, or being less selfish. Others will make a vow to do more for others including volunteering and working for social justice. All are expected to spend more time in prayer and reflection as Lent is considered by many to be an opportunity for spiritual transformation.

The Catholic nun Sister Joan Chittister writes:

Lent is the opportunity to change what we ought to change but have not…Lent is about becoming, doing and changing whatever it is that is blocking the fullness of life in us right now… Lent is a summons to live anew…Lent is the time to let life in again, to rebuild the worlds we’ve allowed to go sterile, to “fast and weep and mourn” for the goods we’ve foregone. If our own lives are not to die from lack of nourishment, we must sacrifice the pride or the sloth or the listlessness that blocks us from beginning again. Then, as Joel (2:12-18) promises, God will have pity on us and pour into our hearts the life we know down deep that we are lacking.

March 5, 2014 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Easter, Faith, Lent, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

The Prophet Jeremiah Ponders the Ways of the Wicked

Today the prophet Jeremiah sounds like a modern man – asking why, when we know what is good and what is bad, that some choose bad, and seem to do just fine – even better than the rest of us?

From the Holy Week readings in The Lectionary:

Jeremiah 12:1-16

12You will be in the right, O Lord,
when I lay charges against you;
but let me put my case to you.
Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
2 You plant them, and they take root;
they grow and bring forth fruit;
you are near in their mouths
yet far from their hearts.
3 But you, O Lord, know me;
You see me and test me—my heart is with you.
Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter,
and set them apart for the day of slaughter.
4 How long will the land mourn,
and the grass of every field wither?
For the wickedness of those who live in it
the animals and the birds are swept away,
and because people said, ‘He is blind to our ways.’*

March 25, 2013 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Lectionary Readings, Lent, Living Conditions, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

A Night of Booming Thunder

As I opened my Lectionary this morning, the first Psalm is Psalm 57 which begins:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
until the destroying storms pass by.

I just had to laugh.

The lightning and thundering started last night around 10:00. Electrical storms are nothing new to the Pensacola area, but this one went on ALL NIGHT. It was like a front rolled in and got stuck over Pensacola. I woke up later this morning, having been awake around four for a couple hours, just listening. These were close, “BOOM – boom – booom – BOOM!” and loud. Even with the window coverings, you could see flashes of light in the bedroom.

As I lay awake, I thought about how the voice of God must have that deep, resonant, authoritative BOOM of thunder and I wondered what that voice might be trying to say to Pensacola or – oops! – to me.

This morning, that voice is still rumbling off in the distance, with no guarantee it won’t be back to scold us thunderously.

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Environment, Lent, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | 5 Comments

Stitching Together A Move?

I had a troubling dream which woke me early this morning and I couldn’t get back to sleep. I dreamed I was working on a very large quilt, and I had promised to hand quilt it. I remember seeing it was not made as a usual quilt is made, with a top and a bottom, and a layer of batting (wadding) in between, but of 12 – 13 layers of cotton cloth, a very difficult quilting challenge, and it seems to me that the quilt was like 15 feet by 15 feet, a huge quilt, a size I have never even seen done. I remember having accepted to quilt a very complicated pattern, and as I awoke, I was stitching and stitching and stitching, hand stitch after hand stitch, but feeling utterly defeated and overwhelmed at the task I was facing.

I am confounded. In terms of quilting, I will never be caught up, but it doesn’t bother me, I just keep on. I finish most quilts; I do just fine. I don’t have any project deadlines, I don’t have any feeling of urgency on completing any of my quilts. I very rarely do any hand quilting; machine quilting gets the job done and hand quilting is hard on my hands and fingers.

My life, too, in this so-called retirement, is orderly. I take on what I can take on and complete the task. I don’t feel like I am behind in anything. I keep up with things. I feel no urgency.

So where did this dream come from?

I believe God calls to us in many ways (“Let he who has ears listen!”), through his word, through the voices and actions of Godly people, through a book one might be reading, through a friend, or a homeless person, or even through a dream. Being who I am, I prefer a clear message; interpretation is so fraught with personal prejudices, so filtered by what we know, by our particular dogma or belief system. I am praying now for clarity, and for the meaning of this dream to be made understandable so that I might know what I am needed to do . . . If I am meant to keep chipping away at something, please, let me do it with a joyful attitude, not this feeling of being faced with an overwhelming task.

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And as I go through the categories,getting ready to post this entry, choosing those words that best apply, I see “Moving” and I have to laugh; moving is that huge quilt, that elephant that one can only eat one bite at a time, that many layered monstrosity, and it has been three years since I have moved. Three years living in one country, one city, in one house. It may be that the dream is one of those anxiety dreams like your college exam dreams, a dream that is no longer relevant but a hangover from another time, another life. My subconscious is getting ready for a move, feeling overdue, LOL.

February 14, 2013 Posted by | Aging, ExPat Life, Faith, Lent, Movie, Random Musings, Spiritual | Leave a comment