Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

COVID and Escambia County

I love my new neighbors in my little house with the sunsets. Early in the morning, as I was hanging my swimsuit out to dry, I saw her and her daughter also out in their backyard, and strolled over to say “Hey!”

She held out her hands in warning. “Don’t come any nearer!” She explained her youngest daughter was in quarantine, her entire high school was quarantined, students, faculty, administration. My friend is a dear woman, she had to quarantine her husband in the basement far away from his infectious daughter, due to health issues. I later learned – not from my neighbor – the school blames a “secret” Halloween party that ended up being a huge crowd event. A super spreader.

Sigh. Honestly, I can’t blame the kids. There is a belief around here that the COVID virus makes you a little uncomfortable and then you get over it. The majority of the adults don’t bother with masks.

We continue to be careful in our little bubble. Today, we drove out to a restaurant we like in the more rural north part of town. We planned, if it were not too crowded, to eat there, but it was too crowded. As we waited, masked, just us and the management and wait staff, not a single other person coming in to order, whether for pick up or for dine in, was masked.

The case rate in Florida is once again rising rapidly. The death rate is rising once again. I have a sinking feeling that the normal big family Thanksgivings will take place here as usual, with a resulting spike in cases and deaths. I am so sick of hunkering down, and I just tell myself to get a grip, I take enough risks, don’t take this one.

November 14, 2020 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Community, Cultural, Eating Out, Florida, Friends & Friendship, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

Tofino and the Heebie Jeebies

Today I woke up with the heebie jeebies, an unexplained restless anxiety with no cause that I am aware of. It happens; it happens sometimes when I don’t get enough sleep and this was one of those mornings when I woke up just before four a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep, and sometimes it happens when some kind of atmospheric pressure shift takes place, and that has happened, too.

No more clear cool sunny days, the air is heavy with moisture and the clouds hang low over Pensacola.

As I read the news, CNN had an article about Tofino: Canada’s Bohemian Backwater and I thought “Isn’t that where AdventureMan and I went when we spent a couple weeks on Vancouver Island?” I checked this blog, and to my utter delight, came across several entries on our stay in Ucluelet, where we stayed when we visited Tofino.

(Sea Star at Terrace Beach Resort; Ucluelet)

I read through the entries. It was like taking a little escape all over again. My vapors lifted. I headed to the kitchen to start a big pot of baked beans and get started on my busy day. I don’t shop often these days, but I needed a birthday card and Target was stocked, better than I have seen it for a long time, with clothing in colors, designs and sizes that are perfect for my grandchildren. Woooo hoooo, such an inauspicious beginning and such a great turnaround to my day, thanks to “Bohemian” Tofino.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Biography, Hotels, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Quality of Life: Sparkles

This started when my grandchildren were small, and I had Swarovski crystal stars which over the years and the many moves have lost a bit here or there. I decided to hang them in a window that catches the late afternoon sun, so that they would cast sparkles around my office walls and ceilings. Some tiny disco mirrored ball casts little white sparkles; the crystal stars send shards of rainbow spinning across the ceiling.

I say I hung them to delight my grandchildren. Haha. It is my own delight, late each afternoon, watching the splinters of light track around my room adding sparkle to my quality of life.

Here is what this year’s Swarovski Christmas Star looks like, missing no pieces:

November 4, 2020 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Experiment, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

I Can’t Look

Today is election day in the United States of America, following four of the nastiest years in our history.

I try to be objective.

We served our country, AdventureMan and I, for many years, most of them outside the United States, sometimes in dangerous circumstances, not always agreeing with the official policies of our country but always, always, supporting them, as we were sworn to do. That is the nature of the “dark” bureaucracy. We serve our country, and we obey the laws.

To see the bureaucracy derided, dismissed and destroyed breaks my heart. To see all the painstaking hard work taken over years and years of persistent policy making tossed aside, along with our faithful allies, enrages me.

Oops. Enraged?

One of the things we learn along the road is not to take things personally. We learn to suffer disappointment and watch for opportunities to get back on track. Anger doesn’t help. Name-calling doesn’t help. Confrontation may be useful, but you have to choose your timing, and your battles.

I was raised to be competitive. I have had to dial it back. I learned that focusing on the win all the time drove bad decisions, and an unhealthy attitude – in me, I am not judging anyone else here, I just learned that to be effective in my own life, I had to lay competitiveness aside.

Tonight we will learn the design of our next four years. I can’t help it; I am emotionally involved. I spent the day NOT watching the news, not watching for signs and portents. I took care of business, I quilted, I went to the dentist, all great diversions. I prayed, frequently, throughout the day as I have been praying for four years. I try not to give God advice, I try to remember always to keep in mind “Thy will be done” and yet . . . I have my private opinion of how things would work out best.

Tonight, once the polls close, I will watch.

Whatever happens in the next few hours, or days, or even weeks – or months – I will try to stay level, stay focused, stay the course. No matter how bad it has been, there have been minor celebrations along the way, and I can persevere, I know I can. It would be nice, however (God? are you there? are you listening?) to have a break, to have some normality restored, and to begin to have a longer news cycle, and rest between crises, and even, God willing, some peace on earth, good will toward mankind.

November 3, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Counter-terrorism, Cultural, ExPat Life, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Spiritual, Values | Leave a comment

Quality of Live: Another Perspective

I have the most creative and insightful daughter-in-law. She is a woman I really like, and one of the things I like most about her is that she sees things differently.

One day, visiting her house, as I walked down the hall, I noticed how thin I looked. My daughter-in-law had found a magical mirror!

I found a similar mirror, and when we bought the house, I put it in the same spot.

It’s a small thing, a very small, petty, vain, and gloriously irrational thing, but every time I walk down the hall and see myself as taller, and thinner, it just makes my day. I know it is only an illusion. It doesn’t matter. It makes me happy.

October 22, 2020 Posted by | Cultural, Humor, Quality of Life Issues, Women's Issues | Leave a comment

It’s Personal: Quality of Life

In this endless year of 2020, among all the other changes, life gave us a chance to make another move. My Mother’s death of COVID in April brought a restlessness, and a need to divest ourselves of the sorts of detritus which can accumulate if you live for ten years in one place, which we have never done before. I wanted a smaller house, and I wanted a view of the water, particularly the Bayou. Finding a small house on the Bayou is like searching for a unicorn.

But, the perfect house came available. It was a house we had owned before, and sold, and were able to buy back. The transactions were complicated, and we currently live in our smaller house and have a larger house on the market.

Getting rid of stuff was hard and easy. Some stuff we just tossed. Some we directed to people who might make use of it. Nine boxes full of wonderful finds from the Middle East went to my niece, who is a Professor of Middle East Studies; her children particularly love the clock with the call to prayer.

Every night, we can watch the sun setting across the Bayou from our choice of eight different windows, and a porch. I can lose hours watching the light shift on the Bayou, or a storm blow in from across the waters. I can thrill to the boats passing by, or putting out lines to catch a fish or two, and the dive of the pelican thrills my heart.

“Are you happy here?” AdventureMan asks me frequently, because he knows I am. He can see it in my smile. We both have offices with views out over the water. It reminds me very much of our eagle’s nest in Kuwait, where we could see for miles out over the Arabian Gulf, watch the batteels and dhows, watch families picnic and float around the Gulf in the park across the street, or the occasional horrific car crashes which happened in our front yard. Houseguests were spellbound by the endlessly beautiful and surprising views from our tenth floor tower.

And now, I have the same, a fitness track, a Bayou, a nightly sunset, squirrels, pelicans, hurricanes, an endless source of entertainment.

As I work on my masks, I watch the sun glint off the long needles of the pine tree my husband believes is too close to the house. I don’t want him to chop this one down; not only do I have this lovely play of light on dark, but also in the early morning, the smell of pine pitch makes the air seem fresh and maybe a little cooler.

We find we actually like living in less space. The house is arranged beautifully, with open public areas and a door that closes off the family bedrooms and offices. Quality of life is in the details that delight the heart.

October 12, 2020 Posted by | Aging, Beauty, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Moving, Quality of Life Issues, Sunsets | Leave a comment

Only Julia Childs Could Lead Me Into Temptation

I try so hard to be good, and for the most part, I keep myself reigned in. Every now and then, however, I stumble and fall, and this time I did it in a big way.

I got a notice that a local shop/cooking School, Bodacious Shops, was doing a special Julia Childs dinner, a seven course dinner using genuine Julia Childs recipes.

“AdventureMan!” I shouted from my office to his, “AdventureMan, there is a Julia Childs Dinner at Bodacious Shops! They are using her recipes!”

“Book it!” shouts AdventureMan back from his office.

We miss France. We miss French food. We miss travel. We just moved, we have a house on the market, utility bills for two houses and projects for the newest house. We are masking and socially distancing to the point that we never eat in a restaurant, except two weeks ago when we ate outdoors at Flounders. Every item points away from an event like this, and we jumped in with both feet and never looked back.

When the day came, we were busy with normal family projects and a grandchild. When the grandchild got picked up, a storm was rolling in. I got in my nightgown, and settled in with a great book I am reading. At 5:47, AdventureMan called from his office “Don’t we have a dinner tonight?” and oh yes, and it started at 6:00.  LOL, we scrambled. We got there by 6:10, last ones to arrive but ten minutes could happen to anyone.

We were very correct, very socially distanced, and masked, except it was a dinner, so masks came off.

The dinner was delightful. It could have been all formal, but it wasn’t, and it was a lot of fun. Chef Nick is very funny as well as skilled and knowledgeable, and as it is more a presentation than a hands-on course, we didn’t get too messy.

We started with salmon mousse. It was divine. It was as good as anything I’ve had in France.

The next course was Vichysoisse. It was really good. I make Vichysoisse myself, and I am happy to say, this was very similar, tasty!

The next course is mussels, which we love. We eat mussels in the Pacific Northwest, and we eat mussels in France. We ate a memorable bowl of mussels in Dubrovnik. AdventureMan makes a mean dish of mussels steamed in white wine, seafood broth and garlic, so Chef Nick was up against a tough standard. The mussels were good, and I can’t eat mussels without using my fingers, so it was delicious – and messy.

We had a salad, and we had a sorbet, and then a little break before the main course, Boeuf Bourguignon.

I’m used to a little stewier beef burgundy, but I liked this one just fine. It was rich and textured, and had a lot of flavor. I was delighted that they kept the portions French-like, smaller. When food is well prepared and full of flavor, you don’t need to eat so much.

A little French cheese, a Compte and something very soft, a lot like Brie but it wasn’t.

Ummm, there was actually more of the Compte (top one) but I forgot and ate a couple pieces before I remembered to take a picture. Forgive me!

And the evening ended with a lovely very chocolatey chocolate mousse, served in a little pastry puff.

 

Balanced against the risk of eating out in a town where the positive rate for COVID is still hovering between 13% and 14%, we agreed that this was a relatively safe bet. This was not a real downtown restaurant, but a specialty shop were they do cooking classes and special events. The number of attendees was limited by the space, the spacing, and, frankly, by the price.

We felt safe. It was a group of people who love good food, who weren’t drinking too much or talking loudly. People respected the 6 foot rule and wore masks when not eating.

AdventureMan said it was a good risk and a good investment in another way, in that we didn’t have to take a plane or a boat to France.

So yes, it was a risk. And yes, some risks are worth taking.

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Chocolate, Civility, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Eating Out, Food, France, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant | , , | Leave a comment

Wooo HOOOO Biden / Harris!

After more than three long depressing years, slogging through a presidency of a man I find totally unworthy to be the leader of the USA and the free world, finally, a breath of hope, a breath of fresh air.

 

I applaud Joe Biden, a decent man, with the stones to choose Kamala Harris, his sole genuine challenger in the Democratic race for the nomination, who challenged his position on race, and said it hurt her personally. I applaud him for listening. I applaud him for choosing a warrior woman, an unafraid woman, whom he can trust to tell it as she sees it. My position is that a leader needs to be surrounded by people who will tell the truth as they see it, and help him / her see different perspectives.

 

And Wooo HOOOO, Kamala Harris, WARRIOR WOMAN! Tell it! I may not aways agree with you, but I trust you. I trust your integrity, I trust your work ethic, and I trust your love for the United States of America and your compassion for our peoples.

 

Go team go! Fight, team, fight! WIN, TEAM, WIN!

August 12, 2020 Posted by | Character, Cultural, Leadership, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Transparency, Values | Leave a comment

Pensacola Beach: COVID? What COVID?

We are in the middle of some stormy weather, which in Pensacola means gloriously powerful thunder and lightning storms, here one minute and gone the next, or maybe lingering for hours, followed by hot sunshine Yesterday, with the side streams of Tropical Storm Hanna blowing by, we had an intensely thundery and stormy day, some periods of torrential rains, followed by sunlight, followed by heavy rains, followed by blue skies – and light sprinkles.

We stayed inside almost all day, then in late afternoon where suddenly everything lightened, we headed for our son’s home, and their lovely large back-yard and nice large warm pool. What luxury! An old friend was visiting, and we social-distanced in the pool.

Today, I told AdventureMan I wanted to go to Flounder’s for lunch. AdventureMan looked at me and asked “Do you think we could risk eating there? Outside?”

We haven’t eaten in a restaurant since March 12th. We’ve ordered out, even from Flounders, and taken it home to eat.

But Flounders, one of our favorite places to eat (part of the McGuire’s Steakhouse chain) has lots and lots of room, lots of seating, indoors and out. Of all the eating-in-a-restaurant risks, this one seemed pretty low. After a big rain, everything seems to sparkle, the air seems clearer – and we need a vacation. I said “yes.”

We drove to the beach, found a parking place immediately – always a good sign – and were seated in the high-ceilinged, semi-covered area, where large booths for six and eight people are separated by these signs:

Although there were two groups of eight seated near us (really once very large group) unmasked, there was plenty of distance. It was a real mix – the parking lot full of licenses from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky – even one from Oregon (!), maybe hiding out down here from the Feds, as so many do. Have you ever noticed how on those old Crime shows, so many of the criminals were ultimately found in Florida? Or California? Actually, my Mother is from Oregon, and I have nothing but sympathy and admiration for those Oregonians showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter and all the white women showing up in yellow T-shirts (Moms for Black Lives Matter) and the grandpas with their leaf blowers – they really know how to protest with good will and a sense of humor.

OOps. I digress.

People were social distanced. We had plenty of space.

They are using a new, condensed menu, but we knew what we wanted and the waitress told us we could order even if it didn’t show on the menu.

Seafood Chowder. Flounders is famous for it, and it is truly a magnificent taste-treat.

As usual, I forgot to take the photo until I was half done. Apologies!

My husband loves their grilled grouper sandwiches, and he always shares a fry or three or four with me because they are so delicious:

 

I had my usual – Baja Tacos. Here is the truth – they also have a healthier fish taco, grilled, served with a mango salsa but I really love the deep fried Baja Tacos. I usually can’t eat more than one, so I bring them home and have a fish taco salad for another meal.

We had great service.

Some servers were masked. Some were not. It appears they have their choice. Some customers wore masks, some carried masks, some had no masks. Where we sat, there was a lot of fresh air, breezy air, and a lot of space, so we did not worry too much. No more condiments on the tables. Everything looked very clean.

Sometimes you take a risk. This risk was a much needed mini-vacation at a time when we are not comfortable with airplanes or even hotels.

The beach scene is a different story. We could see crowds of people, no masks, no social distancing, around the jet-ski rental places. In spite of the huge red-lettered signs saying DANGEROUS SURF. DO NOT GO IN GULF it looked to me like a hundred or more people swimming around in Casino Beach. We saw lots of large groups. Lots of cars from other places. I can imagine the servers have concerns, especially if they have families, or need to stay well to keep a roof over their heads. The visitors seem oblivious to the health boundaries necessary to prevent transmission. When one person in ten in Escambia County is testing positive, they are exposing themselves and taking the virus back home with them to wherever they came from.

So for us, having a meal out in a restaurant was a unique event. I can’t imagine the conditions are such that we can be comfortable making it a habit. It was a fling. It was nice while it lasted. I hope there are no repercussions.

July 25, 2020 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Community, Eating Out, Florida, Food, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida Breaks All Records for COVID Cases

First, to those of you who know me and are far away, we are well.

My Mother died of COVID in Seattle, in April. It was a shock. Although she was 96, she was mentally fit, very sharp, and her mother lived to 104. We all expected Mom to break her Mom’s record.

We don’t live in the biggest hot-spot, the Miami/Dade County area far to the south and east of Pensacola. No, we are in the eighth worst hit part of Florida, and part of the 18 greatest concerns for COVID according to the study out yesterday.

No one I know here has gotten sick. Almost everyone I know has the luxury of staying home, working from home, not needing to interface with the public unnecessarily. It is stunning, however, to think that one person in ten in this area has or  has had the virus.

These graphs are not from the Florida Department of Health website. The person hired to design that website designed a great, comprehensive website to transparently share information. She was fired. She says she was fired for not agreeing to manipulate the information to make things look not so bad in Florida. Our governor is a total toady to President Trump, who is doing nothing to provide leadership to our country in fighting this pandemic, not providing comfort to those who suffer from it.

 

 

These snapshots are from her new website, which has much more accurate presentations of the situation in Florida than the official site. She, and others, gather information which may be obscure, but is available to the public, and publishes it. Her website is Florida Covid Action. She is a hero.

I live in a county where I have friends who support Trump and believe that the Democrats are over-hyping the problems for political reasons, so that Trump will lose his bid for re-election. They also believe masks are unnecessary. They don’t see any reason to socially distance. They perceive restrictions on their behavior as violations of their First Amendment rights.

So Trump has mandated our schools to open as normal – that means in August. The schools must offer an in-school option, which has many teachers frightened and/or furious. They also offer a remote school-day option, 6 hours in front of a computer, and an independent option, where a student completes a curriculum on his or her own. Those who attend school will not be required to mask or to social distance.

My grandchildren are 7 and 10. Their parents face having to choose the least bad of the three proposals. Parents all around the state are debating what to do. Many parents work, and child care is almost impossible to find and very costly. Many parents will have to send their children to school or leave them unattended and unsupervised at home.

The pediatric cases are for my county, Escambia County. The highest rate of transmission is among those 15 – 24. They’ve closed the bars, but the rate remains high, and rising. The rate of transmission among children is also rising.

I am outraged. We have handled this contagion worse that a third world country. We know masks work. We know social distancing, plus masks, plus conscientious hand-washing can flatten this curve, bring the number of cases down, and expect a rational re-opening. Nothing we have done, especially in Florida, has been rational. God help us. Lord, have mercy on us.

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Civility, Community, Cultural, Florida, Health Issues, Hygiene, Interconnected, Leadership, Living Conditions, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Safety, Social Issues, Stranger in a Strange Land, Transparency, Values | , , , , , , | Leave a comment