Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bread Upon the Waters

Today’s reading from the Old Testament in The Lectionary:

Ecclesiastes 11:1-8

11Send out your bread upon the waters,
   for after many days you will get it back.
2 Divide your means seven ways, or even eight,
   for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.
3 When clouds are full,
   they empty rain on the earth;
whether a tree falls to the south or to the north,
   in the place where the tree falls, there it will lie.
4 Whoever observes the wind will not sow;
   and whoever regards the clouds will not reap.

Just as you do not know how the breath comes to the bones in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who makes everything.

In the morning sow your seed, and at evening do not let your hands be idle; for you do not know which will prosper, this or that, or whether both alike will be good.

Light is sweet, and it is pleasant for the eyes to see the sun.

Even those who live for many years should rejoice in them all; yet let them remember that the days of darkness will be many. All that comes is vanity.

 

By accident, my husband and I now own three houses. We are preparing to move into the  most recent, which was also once our third house. We had finished paying off another house and we had decided to invest in a winter home in Pensacola, but that house became our son’s house when they were expecting their first child and now we are buying it back from them as they move their expanded family into a more spacious house. Perfect timing, as we urgently need to downsize.

I don’t always like the old cynic who penned the verses in Ecclesiastes, but I recognize the wisdom, and I always learn something.

Today, he is talking about investment, the importance of putting aside some of what you accumulate, like a little squirrel, to hide away for the future. He is also talking about diversification, and what wisdom!

“for you do not know what disaster may happen on earth.”

As we walk through this life, we don’t even know from day to day, not from minute to minute, what is about to happen. Setting aside a little extra to cover emergencies, slowly putting the accumulation in different areas protects the loss of the whole.

We intend to sell the big house we are sitting in, once we get moved out. It has served us well for ten years, and we are still young and healthy enough to enjoy it’s generous spaces. But time happens to all of us, and the aging process seems mostly to be a one way street. We know we can’t see around the corner to what tomorrow may bring, but we have decided to invest in the possibility of “aging in place” in a house with no stairs, a house that can accommodate live-in assistance if necessary, and a house with a much smaller yard for Adventureman to beautify.

Early in our marriage, we started each road trip with a song:

Side by Side
Oh! We ain`t got a barrel of money
Maybe we`re ragged and funny
But we`ll travel along
Singing a song
Side by side
I don`t know what`s a-comin` tomorrow
Maybe it`s trouble and sorrow
But we`ll travel the road
Sharing our load
Side by side
through all kinds of weather
What if the sky should fall
Just as long as we`re together
It really doesn`t matter at all
When they`ve all had their quarrels and parted
We`ll be the same as we started
Just traveling along
Singing a song
Side by side
(Repeat last two verses)
Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Daniele Tignino / Emiliano Patrik Legato
Side by Side lyrics © Shapiro Bernstein & Co. Inc.
We taught this song to our son (I think he rolled his eyes) when he was young, and now we have taught it to our grandchildren, so that as we hit the road, they say “We have to sing the song!” It’s a glorious legacy, and another way of sending out our bread upon the waters.

June 11, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Cultural, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Music, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips | Leave a comment

IR8

You’ve known me now almost 15 years – imagine. Do you think of me as an angry person? A hostile person?

Do you think words matter?

Saturday, I received a new license plate. For some reason, the state of Florida believes ten years with one license plate is enough, and you are required to get a new one. When I opened it, I had an immediate reaction – horror. It started with IR8.

You know how it is in traffic – you look at bumper stickers, you look at license plates. People can be amazingly clever putting together personalized plates that can surprise and delight a laugh out of you while stuck in traffic. AdventureMan marvels at how I can figure out most of them, although a few totally flummox me.

It’s a small thing, I kept telling myself, and a lot of people won’t even notice. IR8.

But it bothered me. I had to ask if I wanted to live for ten years with a license plate that gave people the impression I might be angry. Hostile. Irate. It matters to me.

It bothered me so much that last night I packed up that new license plate and registration with my swimming gear, and immediately after my morning swim, I headed over to the tax office, where licenses and titles and all those things that require bureaucratic validation are done. I was in a safe-distancing queue and I kept getting messages that there were only “x” many people in front of me and it would be between “11 and 27 minutes.” As the hours stretched on, I heard the gate keeper explain to people that the automatic messages were deceiving, and the wait was really longer.

I did not become IR8. There were people in wheel chairs. There were women seeking Gold Star Mother plates; I nearly wept. There were service people, just arriving from other states, needing new licenses, and rosy cheeked teens, applying for their first licenses. My need was not the most urgent.

I thought about things. I prayed for people who need prayer. I prayed for myself, that I might find ways I can’t even imagine to be part of the great Creator’s purpose for my life. With the storm just blowing over, it wasn’t horribly hot and there was shade and a nice breeze in the outdoor court where we waited. And waited. and waited . . .

One of the things that has made me most uncomfortable in other iterations of my life is living in countries where I was “special,” countries where I was walked past hundreds of people waiting in line to the front. I suspect special fees were paid by the company for that privilege, and my job was to just go where I was told and do what I was told to do (sign here, sign there, give blood here, have photo taken down there, all in a language which I only spoke socially). Sitting a couple hours today waiting with all the other people was a kind of karmic turn of the wheel.

Just as lunch was approaching, I was allowed in the building to another waiting area. I kept getting those deceptive messages, only this time they were telling me I had lost my place in line (!) Others reassured me to just wait, that my name would be called.

(At the top of this post is a photo of the old vault – I am thinking the tax collectors office used to be an old bank, because look at that vault – is it not a wondrous work?)

When I was called to the window, I felt sheepish explaining I really could not live with the license I had been randomly issued. I would like to trade it in. The gentle clerk just laughed. “I hear it every day,” she said. “Can you believe they are still sending people licenses with 666 on them? It’s a random thing. There are ethnic groups that don’t like certain numbers on their plates, and other groups who don’t like what the numbers add up to. It’s a very common thing.”

And, like magic, she typed a few letters, swished out and back, and voila, I had a new license plate, no charge. She was even really nice about it.

In our family, we have a word for these problems; first world problems. We have enough. We have a roof and food to eat, we have friends to love and activities to share. We have everything we need. AND I am so so so so grateful I don’t have to live with IR8.

June 8, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Florida, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues | 2 Comments

Maskmaker, Maskmaker, Make Me a Mask

When I headed to the YMCA on Wednesday, it was with a heavy heart. I have loved the reservation only swimming; I have actually felt fairly safe with so few people, and the respect for protecting one another through keeping safe boundaries. Already rumors are abounding that the Governor is about to move rapidly forward with his “evidence based phase-in” headed toward the new normal, and will open gyms.

The same day, I received my word that my sister, who was very sick this winter and was told over and over by her doctor that it was only severe bronchitis, has tested positive for the corona virus antibodies. She had it all along. She kept asking. They told her no.

That, along with my mother’s death from the virus, makes me cautious. We come from long-lived people. We are no match for this virus.

So I headed into the Y knowing that once the gym gets back into full swing, I may have to withdraw until I am certain the virus has diminished in our area, and that the “evidence” is supported by full transparency of the medical examiner’s reports (currently being censored / withheld by executive decision of the very governor who is telling us we will go forward making decisions on these unavailable statistics, nationally reported to be underreported in the state of Florida.)

Excuse me, but WTF??

So I wear my mask into the Y, but I take it off to swim, all that chlorine and I feel safe enough. One of the lifeguards gasps and says “I LOVE your mask! Did you make it?” and I told her I did, that I had made about 150 and given them all away.

“Would you make me one just like it?” she asked.

The mask is made from some fabric I found in the souks in Tunis, when we lived there forty years ago. It is a deep sea blue, and purple, with some black and white for drama, with Berber jewelry motifs, triangles with five pendants, crescents, hands of Fatima. I bought ten yards of the fabric when I saw it, and have used it through the years in projects and quilts, a little here and a little there. I loved it that she had the same immediate emotional response to the fabric that I had.

“I don’t know if I have any of that fabric cut for masks,” I told her honestly, “but I will look.”

I swam my mile and headed home, feeling lighter. I had my tasks outlined for the day, but I am nearing a point where I can’t go further – I’ve already packed items we need, like that spare tube of toothpaste, and my vitamin C serum. I got a little carried away with the packing . . .

So I scurried the rest of the morning, full of energy, and in the afternoon I rewarded myself by allowing myself to go back to mask-making, a place I haven’t been for nearly a month. Masks aren’t hard; I figured out a way I like to do them, and I really like to do them, I like the process, and I love working with the fabrics. Even better, my young friend asking me to make her a mask just like mine breathed new life and hope into my spirit; I was able to finish about fifteen masks and offer them to other staff members and life guards when I went in this morning. As I was working with them, I found just one piece of the fabric she loved, that I love, and it was enough to make her a mask, just like mine.

People around here are more reluctant to wear masks than people in places like Seattle. When I walked in with a selection of masks in lovely fabrics, people were delighted to be able to choose something that pleased them. One lady, when I offered, didn’t hesitate, she said “Oh, I know exactly what I want, I can see it!” and chose a dark blue batik with turquoise stars. Another woman chose a Florentine style ivory print with cranberry and green, and gilt highlights. It was fun for me to see them choose, and I can only hope they will like them well enough to wear them as we work to protect one another from this lurking virus.

May 15, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Circle of Life and Death, color, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Tunisia, YMCA | Leave a comment

No, No, I Won’t Let Go!

AdventureMan and I make a great team. He is making sure the outside and the garage sparkle, and I am taking care of the inside, except for his office and his personal clothing. He likes to manage those himself, and I can’t blame him.

There are mornings I can barely face another day of packing, and then I remember Fort Leavenworth, when my riding boots arrived, packed without wrapping, in a box with my evening dresses. There was a part of me that felt outraged, dishonored. Who would do such a thing? And another part that empathized with the worker at the end of a long day, packing for a privileged woman who had riding boots, and evening gowns, and saying “what the hell.”

I learned a good lesson. If it matters to you, pack it yourself. If you can’t pack it yourself, have a special crate built for it.

We were so young, but we saved our money and bought a bird cage from Monsieur Samouda, in Sidi bou Said, Tunisia, and had a crate built for it. We’ve had it for forty years now with many moves and no damage.

I have packed a lot of boxes in my life.

I’m finding that there are some things I can part with easily. And then some things I can’t let go.

 

We met and spent our early married years in Germany. This was our wedding candle, lo, those many years ago. I had to stop burning it on our anniversaries when it started to collapse. It still makes me smile. I can’t let go.

My Mother and Father were in the Wednesday night bowling league in Germany, and they were very good bowlers. They were also on the admin board of the league, and were in charge of the prizes, which they often won. Texting back and forth with my sisters today, I learned that they served on that committee to insure that each of the daughters received an identical crystal cookie tree, which my Mother won each year in the final tournament. Post-war Germany was a wonderland for Americans who lived there. I’m not ready to let this go. One sister let hers go long ago, the other is using hers to hold her jewelry.

I know I should let this pot go – I think it is a fish poacher – and I can’t. We bought it in the Souk al Hammadiyya in Damascus. I can tell I have cooked in it once or twice in the forty years I have owned it, not enough to make it valuable for its utility. The reason I can’t let it go is because of the artistry of the handle. Not even that it looks so beautiful, but the bird handle fits perfectly in your hand. It feels GOOD. I’ve never had any pot or pan that had such a sensuously lovely handle. Someone who made this handle really knew what he was doing, and created it with heart.

When my husband came home today, the first thing that happened when he saw the pot was that he reached for the handle, and then asked “are you thinking of parting with this?” I said “No, I can’t.”

I wish you could put your hand on this bird handle. It’s that special.

We have a family message thread with my son and his wife, who are moving to a larger home as we move to a smaller home. I often take photos and say “would you like this?” maybe with an explanation, and they say yes or no.

This time, AdventureMan texted back immediately: “Not the Kuwait Teapot from the Blue Elephant!” and I immediately packed it to take with us. When we first got to Kuwait, he planned to take me out for Valentine’s dinner, not realizing that it was one of the hugest date nights of the year in Kuwait. On Valentine’s Day, he called everywhere looking for reservations, but there were none to be had.

Being American, we like to eat earlier than Kuwaiti people, so I suggested we dress and go to the Blue Elephant, a favorite restaurant at the Hilton Hotel on the beach, where we were known. When we got there, there were only a few other couples.

“So go in there and beg,” I suggested with a grin, “Tell them we will eat quickly and be out in an hour.” I think he did exactly that. I don’t know what he said, maybe a little money changed hands, but very soon we were ushered to a table, and reminded that we needed to be out by eight, when the table was reserved.

We had a lovely dinner, at the end of which he bought me the little elephant teapot. What I love is that I am not the only one who can’t let go.  🙂

 

 

May 11, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Germany, Kuwait, Marriage, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Survival, Tunisia | , , , | Leave a comment

Confronting My Demons

I was showing the handy man a place under my sink which had flooded a while back and needs repair. It looks worse than it is, but it still needs fixing.

“Got enough dish detergent?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

I had hoped he hadn’t noticed. I had been pulling things out from under the sink so he could better see the damage. I hadn’t realized how many bottles of Dawn I had, it was embarrassing. I counted as I packed them away for the move. Nine bottles.

I am really uncomfortable about it, and I know where it comes from.

Growing up in Alaska, things would disappear. I remember my mother measuring us around August and ordering snowsuits. I remember her saying that the last boat would come in and after that it would be too late. People down the road had a cellar where every carrot, every potato, every home-canned tin of salmon or halibut would be toted up on a blackboard to get them through the long winter.

Later, when I married, I had a short overlap in Heidelberg with one of my sisters, whose one word of advice was “When you see something come in to the commissary or the PX and you think you might need it, buy it.”

Living in my early married years in Tunisia and Jordan, I always had to have plenty of some things with me – shoes in graduated sizes for my growing, American footed little son (yes, shoes vary by country, and German shoes are too wide for me, and French shoes are just right), books bought ahead to encourage his love of reading, chocolate chips because they just weren’t available, underwear that fit, things like that which impacted on quality of life.

It became a habit.

Every now and then as I go through the pantry, throwing out expired foods, I get a laugh. One year it might be an excess of mustard, another year I have a load of chicken broth, another year pickle relish, and always, a good supply of chocolate chips. Old habits die hard.

So now it comes to downsizing. I have too much of so many things. I have too many clothes, some from twenty or thirty years ago which I still wear. Too many swimsuits, because when they go on sale, I stock up. Too many towels (but some old ones I keep in case of hurricane, or flooding), too many sheets. We have too many books, and I am getting rid of bags and boxes full, too many fabrics (I got rid of a lot at the beginning of the year, before I even knew I was moving). As I pack boxes, I can hear the Afghani mover at my Kuwait apartment overlooking the Arab Gulf who said “Madame, you have too many things.”

He was right, and his words have echoed through the years, “you have too many things.”

Too many fabrics, too many threads, too many books, too much furniture, too much art. I haven’t even tackled the kitchen yet. I have beautiful brass trimmed copper pots and pans I bought in Damascus forty years ago, how can I give them up? Who will give them a good home? Who will love them just for being beautiful, and hand made?

I have old French things, from the antique fairs and flea markets, lovingly gathered through the years – old copper bedwarmers, a French cavalry trumpet, old tin milk containers. I won’t have space for all these old friends who have brought me so much pleasure, just by their existence, all these years.

My newest strategy is when I have a problem getting rid of something, I will move it. I expect this will be a continuing process, that in our new smaller digs I will look at things differently, more callously, and that necessity will give me some necessary ruthlessness.

Anyone need an extra Christmas tree . . . ?

May 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Biography, ExPat Life, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues | | Leave a comment

New Normal at the YMCA

“You think it’s safe?” my good friend asked me, not hiding her concern. “It’s not too soon?”

“It might be,” I replied, “And I really NEED to swim.”

There is a new system for the new normal, I discovered as I arrived a little early for my reservation. Yes, reservations open two days in advance for a 45 minute swim in the lap pool. Today, when I walked in, past the blue lines marked on the floor to keep us six feet apart, there was a man waiting at the door with a little thermal gun-like object which he pressed close to my forehead (I was holding my mask in my hand, LOL), before I could get through to the membership card kiosk. Chatted briefly with a friend who recently lost her husband (old age, not Covid) and then headed for the main desk, to check in for my reservation.

She pointed out the new entry for the pool, a door I had never seen anyone use before, and when I got into the pool area, I was greeted with more information on the new way things were being done. I dropped my bag, marked my lane with my equipment, and showered.

Even though I arrived early, there were two swimmers there before me, and it was still fifteen minutes before the reserved time – no one waited. We all went right to swimming.

 

I felt so blessed. This morning, as I opened my shades, the huge Flower Moon was setting over toward the west, the sky was clear and it was glorious. Now, in my favorite lane, as I swam toward the far end of the pool I swam into shimmering sunlight, and then back into the darker area, back and forth. My first lap was a little rocky, I lost my breath. It’s been two months since I last swam. With the extra 15 minutes, I might come close to my mile, a goal I had reached earlier this year only after months of build-up.

Slowly, the rhythm returned, and I was going back and forth, in and out of the sunlight, and building speed. Around eight, an old swimming comrade arrived and signaled to ask if it was OK if we share a lane. He is always considerate, and sensitive to boundaries, and I was happy to be sharing with him.

Six swimmers in four lanes, and two women exercising in the nearby exercise pool – eight people total, sharing this wonderful, clean, sunny space. What luxury. I felt safe.

I came so close! I came within one lap of completing my mile. It was 8:45 and while no one was pushing me out, everyone else was leaving, so good little lamb that I am, I left too, so the crew can do whatever it is they need to do before the next swimmers arrive, for the 9:00 slot. I didn’t go into the changing room, just dried as best I could and wrapped a Zambian kikoy around me for the drive home, using my towel to protect the seat of the car.

This is not me, this is a photo I found online to show how kikoy can be worn to get one quickly and modestly home rather than having to dry off and change.

I thought I would be tired, exercising hard after two months of no swimming, but no! I had energy! I tackled the linen closet, organized medical kit, linens, boxes of supplies for the upcoming move, and boxed up excess for people who might need them.

May 8, 2020 Posted by | Africa, Civility, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Exercise, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Hygiene, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, YMCA | , | Leave a comment

We’re Still Married

AdventureMan and I are risk-takers. We set a goal. We identify the resources. We make a plan. Well, he makes his plan and I make mine. We are both strong willed, and under risk-taking, we set ourselves up occasionally, for conflict. Under “we’re still married,” we are pretty good at talking through the disagreements.

Two places we shine: travel and moves.

A lot has happened since I last wrote.

First, what I call “the great pause.” On March 13, I went to the YMCA, swam a mile, did a water aerobics class, and said good-bye. As little as I like to think about it, AdventureMan and I are in the vulnerable category. He has had a cough for over a month, and I know it is time to shelter-in-place. When I get home, I tell AdventureMan the plan. To my great surprise (which tells me he really was sick) he agreed, and he went straight to bed and slept all day, and then all night, and then a good part of the next day.

He was not so good about staying at home, but it is the beginning of gardening season, and his only trips were to Home Depot for mulch, and more mulch, and plant food, etc.

I quilted, at first, something I have longed for the time to do. I tried a new style, more modern and graphic. The first is called Corona Pandemic and the second is Corona vaccine.

 

 

They are just quilt tops for now; I have not yet quilted them. I found, with all my social responsibilities cancelled, my life quieter, it was very zen, very meditative, being able to quilt satisfied my heart, gave me time to think.

My mother called, from Seattle, and mentioned she needed masks for her medical appointments. I dropped the quilting and started mask making, making three immediately for her and mailing them off. The mail was slow. She called the day of her appointment; the masks had not arrived. It was a moot point, as the facility nurse had begged her not to go, there was too much opportunity for contagion, and my mother cancelled her appointment. We had a great conversation.

She never got the masks.

Late that same afternoon, she suddenly got tired, so tired she needed help going to bed. Shortly, she started throwing up. Just after midnight, an ambulance took her to a local hospital where she was given a corona virus test and sent to a hospital in downtown Seattle where they treat corona virus. Her test came back positive.

She was in Seattle. She was given hydroxychloroquin. She was given a second medicine in testing when her immune system raged into overdrive against the virus, destroying her own organs. She got the very best, most innovative treatment available in the world, and still, the virus won. In the end, she refused intubation and a ventilator – her pragmatic doctor said it probably wouldn’t have saved her anyway – and she requested hospice. This was evidently a first, as they had no hospice relationship in place for covid patients, and had to figure it out. They did, and my mother passed away in peace, and in no pain.

The earth fell away from beneath my feet. It’s a terrible thing to lose a mother. I’m the oldest, and while my relationship with my mother was complicated, she was always my mother. Now, I am so thankful for the seclusion, so thankful not to have to be around people because I can’t count on myself to be me. There are times I just fragment and fall apart, apropos of the smallest thing, a thought like “I need to call Mom and tell her about . . . such and such . . . ” and even before I complete the thought I am in tears, because I can never call her again.

I am not comfortable with my own melodrama. I prefer not to fall apart in public. I thank God for this period of shelter-in-place and social distancing, for the protection it gives me against my own vulnerability, my own fragility. And it gives me space to see these frailties in myself, and learn to live with them. One friend wrote in a condolence note not to worry if this death resounds throughout the rest of my life, that when you lose a mother, you never get over it. While it sounds negative, I found it comforting to know how totally normal it is to feel so lost.

I found comfort and solace in my mask making. I made hundreds of masks. I kept jiggering the patterns until I got one I like, where I could insert a nose-piece without breaking all my sewing machine needles. It gave me time to grieve, and it gave focus to my time.

 

Yesterday, I gave away the last six masks. I have nearly two hundred more in the making, and I am hastening about my current project so that I might have time to finish the newest series. As a quilter, I hate waste. I have fabrics from years back that I love and hate to part with, and the masks are cut 9″ x 15″ so I have lots of wonderful fabrics I can use and know they will live a useful life. One series of masks is from an old cotton souk dress which I wore out; it is soft and well used, but I couldn’t throw it away. It will now live on in ten new masks.

“What new project?” you ask.

My Mother’s death spurred me to look for a house to downsize. It is part of the plan we made when we moved here. We are aging, and healthy, but we have seen how that can change at any time, and I found a wonderful house which we did not buy. Then my son texted us that he and his wife were going to look at a house, and long story short, they contracted to buy that house and wondered if we would like to buy their house.

Would I?  I love that house! AdventureMan and I bought that house once before, to use as a retirement house, but then we sold it to our son and his wife.

They both have very busy lives, and very significant jobs during normal times. This pause has given time for new ways of thinking, and we are trying to get a move done before the world moves on and we lose this window of opportunity. Under the best of circumstances, a move is disruptive. Under normal circumstances, a move would be nearly impossible, in terms of having time. Right now – it is possible.

It is all happening very fast.

We haven’t done a move in ten years – the only other place I have lived for more than ten years is Alaska, where I was born. I am so thankful for this time, for the fact that we are still healthy enough to organize, to pack boxes, to plan actually for two moves, as we are sending furniture to the new house of our son and his wife; they will have more room and we will have significantly less.

AdventureMan says ruefully “When you are living in a big house, there is no incentive to downsize.” He is so right. I wake up in the wee small hours of the morning and obsess  over where things will go. The majority of our boxes are books we are not ready to part with and my quilting supplies. I have some irrelevant but beautiful items I am not ready to part with – our wedding china, which is beautiful, and French, and AdventureMan’s set of German glasses, water and red wine. We have used our china for family dinners, but not so often, and I remember using our crystal maybe six times in the ten years we have lived here. I could give them up. I’m not ready.

Today we were packing up children’s books to give away. I had thought four boxes, and AdventureMan was not ready to give up so many. We ended up giving up two boxes of books, and . . . we are still married. AdventureMan and I do particularly well in two stressful situations, travel and moving. We’re still married.

I keep thinking of my Mom. She might be disappointed I am giving up the big house while I am still young and healthy, but I am not so sure. I remember visiting her in Seattle and often going to look at condos and townhouses when she was my age. She said it was her and Dad, but I always thought it was so my husband and I would buy something in Seattle. Even after we bought a house in Seattle, though, when I would return to Seattle, we would go looking.

Mom always loved a view of the water. In our new house, we have some view of the bayou, where in late afternoon, the sun shimmers off the water. I look out and think “Mom will love this.”

This is my Mom, better days, sitting by the harbor in Edmonds, WA.

 

May 1, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Circle of Life and Death, Family Issues, Generational, Living Conditions, Marriage, Moving, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Spiritual | 2 Comments

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

Love Never Gets Old

Most of the time, in our lives, “important” days are barely recognized. Valentine’s Day is no exception. I needed to do my daily swim/water aerobics and prepare for a meeting at my house; my husband was busy with taxes, the grandchildren, his own gym-time. Even lunch, our daily date, was a take-out thing, and then he helped me move all the cat equipment – litter, food, water dishes, their carpet – into a room they couldn’t get out of. They are smart cats, and persistent. They can open some doors, but not others.

As he was heading out the door to pick up the grandkids and take them to the park as my group started arriving, I thanked him. “I don’t need a card or flowers,” I said, “helping move the cat litter is True Love.”

I cleaned up when the meeting was over. I was at my limit. I had semi-planned to pull some shrimp out and do a simple shrimp pasta, but by the time I had everything washed up, all the chairs put back, all the meeting things put away and the cat accessories back in the cat room, I was wiped out. My husband found me lying down. He’s, too, was exhausted – playing with a ten year old and six year old will do that to you.

We know it is flirting with disaster, but we decide to try a simple restaurant nearby, not a romantic restaurant, to see if we can get in. It’s Valentine’s Day, one of the major dining-out holidays in the world. We are in luck, it is early enough that we can snag a table, relax, have a satisfying dinner together and head home.

Once home, I gave him his card and he surprised me! He had sought, and found, on the internet, a cup I had owned, and treasured, and used with joy, for several years until, inevitably, it fell on the hard tile floor and smashed into a thousand un-mendable pieces. I mourned the loss of that cup. All these years later – more than twenty-five – he had found it, and bought it for me. I told him I planned to actually use it, not put it on a shelf, that life is short. He gave me a measured look and said “it’s the most expensive coffee cup you will ever use.”

LOL

Life is short. I have all I need, and more. I know what matters. I don’t need a card, or flowers, or even a new coffee cup. I have a husband who will bring me lunch when I am approaching being overwhelmed by a time-crunch, who will help me move the cat litter, who will take care of the grandchildren all by himself when I have other responsibilities, and who will secretly search out an old treasure, and present it to me with delight, because he knows what it will mean to me.

I know what true love looks like. I’m going to use this cup.

February 15, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Character, Cultural, Exercise, Family Issues, Mating Behavior, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Values | , | 1 Comment

Audrix, Chateau de Commarque, and Lascaux

We plan, and God laughs.

If there is something really important to me, I tell AdventureMan, and together we make it happen. Sometimes, though, our plans are more in the line of good suggestions, and what happens instead counts as adventure.

I wanted to head to Lascaux. We’ve been before, like 35 years ago, and at that time, some of the cave art caves were still open to the public. These drawings, deep inside the caves, done by people who lived generations before us, lived hard lives, mostly hunting and gathering, these drawings never fail to call to my soul as they capture the essence of the the animals with mere strokes of the most primitive pigments imaginable. My husband wants to see a castle built into the side of a mountain, Reignac.

So we head out, and very shortly we see that Audrix, a little village mentioned by Martin Walker, is only seven kilometers away, and it would be a pity not to see Audrix. Actually, I had thought we might stay in Audrix, at a beautiful auberge, the Hotel  Auberge Medievale, but it is closed for the winter, we can’t even eat there, they are so closed.

Seven km on a twisting forest road can take a lot longer than you think it is going to take, but Audrix is beautiful.

 

 

 

They have a huge mastodon made out of hay!

 

 

 

 

Such an interesting old church. I’ve never seen a church built like this before, and it is a very small village.

Inside, there was a sung prayer service going on. At first we thought they might be practicing for a service, and sat for a while, but as it all continued, we figured it might be a true service. It was a lovely memorable moment in a long day.

 

Leaving Audrix, we head toward Reignac and Lascaux, but get distracted by a sign to Chateau de Commarque, which mentions its origins in prehistory. That sounds intriguing, and while it is not in the plans, it might be what we need to see.

When we get there, we find plenty of parking. We start to walk, and my husband asks if we need to bring the umbrellas, and I say no, that it can’t be that far.

It is that far. It is that far, and more. It drizzles on and off.

 

 

I like the sign . . . it is whimsical, and it is a subtle warning. You’d better like the walk, as there will be a lot of it.

 

Commarque is very educational, and people have worked hard to research the history and how things worked. It is a very large site, with different locations to tour. The guide starts with sending you out into the fields to observe a special breed of cows now being bred here, and it helps you understand how this very isolated valley could survive – and protect itself – through the centuries of war between the French and English, and even the French and the Aquitanians, and the Aquitanians and the Aquitanians.

 

This is a defensive fortress kind of castle, with few, if any, luxuries. They have a very good source of water.

 

This is a separate site across the valley.

These are very old habitations. They call them troglodyte dwellings, but it looks like they could have been places where shepherds kept their sheep, or goats – they seem to maybe be more for penning animals in bad weather than human dwellings. Although . . . I think they also said the ground was once a lot lower than now, so those higher places may be for human uses.

 

 

 

Inside the “castle” is a cave for the watch. It is habitable, with furniture. It would be barely warmer than sleeping out in the cold, but maybe drier, but damp.

 

 

 

Remains of an old chapel

 

 

A new stone roof over the old community oven.

 

 

 

A watch post from where the watchman could signal the castles if anyone was approaching.

 

It was very interesting, and very educational. I learned that I am really really glad I didn’t live in a place so grim, so hard-scrabble. We have such easy lives. I should never grumble.

But our tummies are grumbling, and we look for a place in Lascaux to eat before heading to the Lascaux 4 exhibit. We find Le Soleil, the sun, in a little hotel along the main street.

 

 

Before we could get to the restaurant, however, we had to figure out how to use the paid parking. Almost every place we parked had a different machine. In some, we had to input our license plate number, and you could only pay with a credit card. In others, we could barely understand what was required. Here is what was really cool, though. Many of the French tourists couldn’t figure it out, either. This one took coins, of which we had plenty, and our parking ended up costing like 30 cents for one hour.

I love that all the merchants and commercial facilities in Lascaux get into the spirit. On the door of this credit union are copies of a herd of animals found in the Lascaux caves. What a lovely way to honor those long ago people who are bringing tourists to their town.

Of all our meals on the ship and in France, this meal was one of my favorites. The atmosphere actually was pretty poor; it was full of tourists, and children, and was noisy. What was good was the service was helpful, friendly and efficient, and the food was excellent. We each had the same meal – a salad, with a slab of foie gras, a slab of pate’, and a thick slice of smoked salmon on really delicious dark grainy bread. I love finely grated carrots, and the dressing was simple and delicious. It was a very satisfying meal.

We headed up to Lascaux 4, and saw lines of people waiting to get into the “exhibit” which is a reproduction of what you would see in the caves, if they let people into the caves, which they don’t. We decided we would try to get into Font de Gaumes the next day, where you can see real drawings. It’s risky, they only let so many people in, but it is the real deal.

 

 

On the way back to Limeuil, we see Reignac, and decide that Commarque took the place of a visit here. We want to get back to the hotel and kick back. But first another visit to the Intermarche.

 

We stop to look at the Chateau Campagne, not far from where we are staying. It would be a lovely village to think about staying in the future, were we not so happy at the Domaine de la Vitrolle.

 

We barely make it back before dark. We have sandwiches, we have pastries, we have lovely macaroons with chocolate bottoms, I have some apple cider from Normandy (very dry, not sweet at all), we have oranges. After our lovely lunch, we don’t need a heavy dinner. We are in bed by seven thirty, reading, writing notes, and AdventureMan gives a huge sign of contentment and says “Isn’t life wonderful?” We are asleep before ten.

January 1, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Exercise, Food, France, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment