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

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

Shoot Out in Pensacola with the new Bonnie and Clyde

 

We’d been up late. This was the first text I received, early this morning, as we entered our day a little more slowly than usual.

 

“Shoot-out in Pensacola! Are you OK?”

 

Yes, we are OK, and we were in the thick of things last night. We’d both had long days, and we were headed to bed a little earlier than usual. I had just finished my prayers when I heard a very loud screech of wheels going around a nearby corner. Usually when the screech is that loud, it is followed by a crash or a thud, but this time the car seemed to be OK. Very soon after that, however, I noticed flashing lights on the ceiling, flashing and dancing in red and blue.

 

I know those lights. When we lived in Kuwait, we lived on a busy corner, a corner where the Kuwait police frequently set up check-points to check people’s residence cards. AdventureMan could sleep right through them, but sometimes I was wakeful, and would watch. There was a lot of drama as the cars had no where they could go, there was no where they could turn off, they were trapped. Many people who lived in Kuwait illegally, or whose visas had expired were caught and taken in to be processed and, if they couldn’t prove someone was sponsoring them, deported.

 

It was ugly, and heartbreaking, and sometimes . . . comical. Ancient Arab men would talk to the police, it was begging of a different sort, and kiss the policeman. Kissing a policeman is just something that would never occur to me, so to me, it looks absurd, but in the context of Kuwaiti culture, it is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes the old Arab man would get a pass, just as a pretty girl in the US will sometimes get a pass.

 

So I “arose from my bed to see what was the matter.”  There were big SUVs with flashing lights blocking traffic to the south, seven or eight cars in an array to the north, cars blocking entrances to several streets to the east. The only traffic were Sheriff’s department cars, trucks and SUV’s, some with flashing lights, some unmarked. They were all working together.

 

I called the Police Department.

“I live at blah blah,” I said, “and there appears to be a lot of activity, flashing lights and stuff, is there something I should know?”

“We’re looking for some suspects,” the officer answered tersely.

“OK, thanks!” I chirped, not knowing any more than I knew before.

There have been gangs of kids who come through the neighborhoods from time to time, looking for unlocked cars to steal cash, guns, or even the cars if the owner leaves the keys in them. Recently three young teens in Pensacola stole a school bus and drove it for about three hours before being stopped. This response seemed a little extreme for neighborhood looters, even more grown burgers. There were a lot of resources involved, people, cars, canines, a lot of man-hours and teams of people going door to door, searching the backyards with flashlights and the dogs.

They searched our yard twice.

We have a high fence and keep our gates locked. When I saw the team methodically making their way towards our house, I called out to AdventureMan to go down and unlock the gates. As the team was trying to get in, I opened the window, and flashlights zipped up to illuminate my face.

“My husband is on his way now to unlock the gates to let you in,” I said.

One of the guardians of the law looked at me, astounded, and said “You lock your gates?”

It seemed very funny to me at the time, considering the activity, but I didn’t dare laugh, clearly this was serious business, and around then AdventureMan opened the gate for them.

It was a cold cold night in Pensacola, near freezing, and I felt sorry for the pure, hard work of searching house-to-house in the very cold temperatures.

A part of me also felt sorry for whoever was being chased, hunkered down somewhere, being chased by dogs, and, once the adrenalin wears off, being really cold.

Cars raced here and there, the teams continued their searches and we kept watch. We heard a helicopter, briefly, and we don’t know if it was a police helicopter or a news helicopter. Then, around 12:30, all the cars raced off. Somewhere. It was very quiet, and we gratefully went back to bed.

This morning I didn’t feel quite so sorry for the couple, who had invaded a house in our neighborhood, held a couple hostage, and then stole their car to escape. Those were the last few minutes of a man’s life, and he spent them terrorizing and stealing that which was not his. After another – their third – dangerous fast car chase, they were trapped, and a gunfight ensued, killing the man. During this final gunfight, Blake Fitzgerald used his girlfriend, Brittany Harper, as a shield.

I was never afraid. If you had seen the number of police / sheriff’s deputies out last night, you would understand. They were focused and professional. They were given an opportunity to practice their skills. They performed as a team, and you could feel that they were excited to be doing the job, on a grand scale, that they are trained to do. They stopped a couple on an interstate spree of kidnapping, abducting, robbing, invading houses, burglarizing and terrorizing. They can feel good today, about what they accomplished last night.

And I was just telling you in my last entry what a quiet life we lead . . .:-)

February 5, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Safety | , , , | Leave a comment

AdventureMan Scores!

When I got home from my volunteer job yesterday, I chatted with AdventureMan while I puttered in the kitchen, and asked where we were going for lunch – it was his turn to choose. It was hard to hear him, for some reason he was hanging out in the entry hall around the corner. He asked where I was and I told him I was in the kitchen.

“Let’s get going,” I said, as our grandson needs to be picked up when he gets out of school.

“Ahhhhhk! I can’t stand it! I can’t wait!” he said. “Please come here!”

He was still in the hallway, looking out the window, so I looked out the window and he told me I was cold, and getting colder.

I turned around, confused, and then I saw them – perfect, long stemmed white roses, surrounded only with white baby’s breath, oh, it’s a combination that always makes my heart flutter.

” . . . . ” (That’s me, not knowing what to say, stunned.

“But it’s not my birthday!”

He had a doctors appointment in the morning, and is doing well. So well, he had one of those epiphanies, when you are happy and you know it (LOL, clap your hands!) (It’s a children’s song “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands (clap clap) . . . )

He’s happy. I’m happy. We had a sweet lunch together at one of our favorite eateries. Life is sweet.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Mating Behavior, Pensacola, Thanksgiving | 1 Comment

“You’re Not Wearing a Coat!”

My friend exclaimed as we left church on our way to breakfast with our husbands. “I have never seen you wearing a coat!”

Well, actually, I remember maybe four years ago on Christmas wearing a coat, but hey, this is Pensacola, and for the most part, it just isn’t cold enough for me to wear a coat. I have some nice sweatshirts with hoodies that get me through the post-water-aerobics chill, and that is usually enough.

Yesterday morning, however, was coat weather. This morning is even colder, but since I can wear jeans and a heavy sweatshirt, I won’t need the coat. It’s 28 degrees (F)

 

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January 11, 2016 Posted by | Friends & Friendship, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Beryl Markham and the EPIC Book Club

When the EPIC Book Club met this month, we were discussing Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun.  Several of us had enjoyed her book about Ernest Hemingway, The Paris Wife, and had thought this one, about the famous early aviator, would be another great book. I was so impressed with The Paris Wife that I immediately read Hemingway’s The Movable Feast, his novel about the same period of time, and loved the way the books “danced together”. I think good historical fiction needs to stick to known facts.

It was a lively discussion; Beryl Markham was an unusual woman in an unusual culture in a time of transition. She grew up in Kenya as the British were beginning to colonize just after the first world war. Her mother abandoned the family, taking her frailer younger brother and leaving her, with no explanation. Some other woman moved in with her father; Beryl greatly raised herself with the indigenous people. Her father loved her, but was distant. He was first and foremost a horse breeder, and Beryl worked closely with him in breeding and training the horses.

She made a disastrous first marriage, leaving it to pursue a certificate – the first ever for a woman – as a horse trainer. She was spectacularly good at it, and worse (when it comes to the opinion of other women) she looked terrific in riding breeches. Men liked her. She liked men. She was not particular about boundaries, like marriage to other people or being the consort of her good friend, Karen Blixen. Later, she set records as one of the earliest female aviators.

It was also a time when women had few options, and most of the options required a man to take care of her. Beryl Markham had skills, and had more options.

So as we are discussing her behavior, which could be self-defeating and self-destructive, we discussed it in the context of Kenyan colonial society. Then one of the EPIC members mentioned that the same behaviors in the very church where we meet have been the spice of Pensacola gossip for more than a couple centuries; that people don’t change much. We were laughing, and another member mentioned being forbidden to read Peyton Place, many years ago when it was a banned book, and his wrestling coach told him “All the world is Peyton Place.”

I think of all the places I’ve lived and I am inclined to agree.

 

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Africa, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, EPIC Book Club, ExPat Life, Friends & Friendship, Humor, Interconnected, Kenya, Living Conditions, Mating Behavior, Pensacola, Relationships, Social Issues, Values, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

Cold Enough

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Poor AdventureMan, I’ve whined and complained through the unusual heat of November and December, when I usually get really happy. Fortunately, we had one good cold snap in October, and I got my Christmas shopping done, and another very short cool time early in December, so I could get the house decorated. If it’s hot and humid, it’s just really hard for me to get motivated. I also hate having to use the air conditioning in December; “it’s just not right!”

AdventureMan laughs and tells me that in the South,  you crank the air conditioning up so you can build a big fire in your fireplace. It’s true! Especially on Thanksgiving and Christmas, you can walk the neighborhood and smell the lovely smell of firewood, but it’s a little jarring when the temperatures are close to the eighties (F).

This week has been cold. It’s been wonderful; I can wear my Levis, I can wear a sweater, I can wear silk scarves – all things that can make you sweat at any temperature above 70 (F)

But today, it is a little warmer, maybe hitting 70, and we have a huge storm moving in, which hopefully will expend itself and move on, clearing up and cooling off for the big Mardi Gras parades starting today. AdventueMan is starting his day with a bowl of hot cereal. “It’s down in the 60’s (F) you know” he says, and I grin.

January 9, 2016 Posted by | Humor, Mardi Gras, Pensacola, Weather | 2 Comments

When The Waiter Really Screwed Up

Today AdventueMan and I went out for a quick lunch at a local Chinese buffet restaurant, a larger restaurant that has a lot of selection and several rooms. We asked for a booth. I got a bowl of soup and came back to the table. The waiter had gotten everything wrong!

We had asked for a pot of hot tea and water, but there was no hot tea there, and when I put went to drink the ice water, the waiter had given me sweet iced tea, not ice water! I saw the waiter hurrying toward me with an odd look on his face, but before he could get there, some other guy was standing next to me grinning and saying “they sat you at our table?”

All of a sudden, it all fell into place and I realized no, I hadn’t been seated at the wrong table, I was in the wrong room, at the wrong table. I was SO embarrassed, but the other guy and the waiter just laughed.

I wasn’t laughing then, but I think it’s kind of funny now.

I left so quickly, I didn’t even apologize for having drunk out of the other guys iced tea!

January 6, 2016 Posted by | Cold Drinks, Eating Out, Humor, Pensacola | Leave a comment

Love the Cockroach

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Happy New Year! Thank you for continuing to visit and read here all these years, and thank you for your comments and e-mails.

Today, reading my morning meditations, the Lectionary and my daily e-mail from Dr. Richard Rohr, I come across this paragraph in Father Rohr’s message:

The Christian vision is that the world is a temple. If that is true, then our enemies are sacred, too. Who else created them but God? The ability to respect the outsider is probably the litmus test of true seeing. And it doesn’t stop with human beings and enemies and the least of the brothers and sisters. It moves to frogs and pansies and weeds. Everything becomes enchanting with true sight. One God, one world, one truth, one suffering, and one love. All we can do is participate. I hope you enter the New Year with this awareness and an intention to join in with all your heart, mind, and body!

Trying to be a Christian is so hard. To learn to love the stranger, I was sent to strange countries. Many countries. Many years. Until I could see that the commonality of humanity was greater than the differences in our dogma, I was sent. It didn’t have to do with carrying a message. It had to do with keeping my eyes and ears open, and most of all, keeping my heart open, to learn what I was meant to learn.

When I finally “got” it, our years of living overseas stopped. Now I have a new challenge, living in my own culture and feeling like “the other.”

I get the part about seeing God in all humanity. It’s not like I can do it, but it is important to God that I try. Today Father Rohr has also mentioned frogs and pansies and seeds, and then he says EVERYTHING. Ummm. Everything includes cockroaches.

I have no control over my reaction to cockroaches. They are dirty, and they skitter. One time, we had one in the house that flew – and HISSED! (I disabled him with a spray of Pledge, then disposed). We have a pest control man who makes sure my visitors are far and few between, but . . . this is Florida. Florida has cockroaches. The secret is to keep them to a minimum. Unfortunately, they just give me the creeps, and I can’t rest comfortably until the world has one less cockroach.

My first thought when I read today’s message, seeing God in his infinite glory in EVERYTHING, is that I have a huge challenge. The cockroach. The slug. The mosquito. The snake. There are so many creations that give me the creeps. How am I going to practice this? Is giving them space enough?

January 1, 2016 Posted by | Character, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Eighty degrees on December 27th

(Intermission from the Morocco Trip)

 

It’s two days after Christmas and on my way home from church this morning, my temperature guage showed 80 degrees F. My roses are blooming.

 

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Please, winter, please come. This Alaska girl is eager for a little winter.

December 27, 2015 Posted by | Alaska, Pensacola, Weather | 3 Comments

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