Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Bird in a Basket

We’re home from tutoring, and I ask my granddaughter if she would like some strawberry crepes for an afternoon snack.

“How about Bird in a Basket?” she counters. This girl knows what she wants.

My husband is even better than I am at teaching the grandchildren to cook. He has them doing eggs over easy, eggs sunny side up, omelettes and even baked beans.

She watches me cut the hole, butter the bread and turn on the stove. She is attentive at my elbow as I break the eggs into the holes. (She says she is not ready to do it herself.) And then, as it cooks, she loses interest and runs off to chat with AdventureMan.

She can smell when they are finished; she has the family nose. She handily eats the whole thing!

April 6, 2021 Posted by | Cooking, Cultural, Food, Generational, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

The Covid Conversation

It’s been an interesting week. Last week, there was no swimming. It was a welcome break in terms of sleep; no alarm, being lazy (LOL, being lazy is sleeping until 0600 instead of 0530) taking a walk now and then when I needed movement . . .

It was also handy because at my annual skin scan, my adorable dermatologist wrinkled her brow as she looked at me through her magic magnifier and said “Oh! we need to take care of THAT!” and THAT was prominently on my cheek.

(A brief aside because I cannot resist – when I was shown to the exam room, the tech asked if I wanted a gown and I said yes, and then, not being a smart-mouth but because I wanted to understand, I asked “What is the alternative? Like I stand here naked? Do people do that?” Sometimes I really am a stranger in my own land, and maybe I’ve missed some growing lack of self-consciousness? The tech laughed and said “No, there are people who will NOT take their clothes off!” I tried to comprehend that and totally failed. “So what’s the point of a skin scan?” I asked, “How can they be examined?” The tech said “We pull at their clothes a little and look underneath, but yeh, it’s not complete.” Totally boggled my mind.)

I have never been so happy about masking in my life. Having a big crispy spot about the size of a quarter on my cheek makes me feel like a teen-ager again, like every eye will be fixed on my boo-boo.

With my mask covering my big blotch, I got my second COVID vaccination. Yes, I might be suggestible, and then again, I am not a big baby, but my arm was sore almost immediately. By evening, I had chills so bad I was taking hot baths to feel warm enough. I had a headache just between my two eyes, and I was SO tired. The next day, I felt the same. Finally, the second night, I took an Aleve and slept wonderfully. The next morning, I was fine.

So I really needed the week off from swimming. One funny thing about the COVID vaccination, and again, who knows, it may be in my mind, but all of a sudden I have a sharp sense of smell again. It comes from my father’s side of the family, some of us have it and some of us don’t, but I think it had faded, and right now, it is noticeably back again, and oh, what joy it brings me.

So all the health drama is over now, I am back at swimming, and we continue to have work done to make our house safer and more energy efficient. A roof inspector, seeing our stack of photo albums (labeled Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, etc.) asked us if we had ever been to Alaska, and that started a great conversation, one we are hearing over and over as more people get vaccinated.

“We’ve decided we don’t want to wait any longer. We don’t know how many good years we have left. We are going to travel now, while we can,” he said.

He and his wife want to see Alaska. They want to see France. We had a great conversation, and I sent him some information by e-mail.

COVID has had its gifts, and awareness is one of them. Couple after couple have told us the same thing, this feeling of urgency to do it now, while we can.

We have four trips booked. One, a passage from Japan through Kamchatka and the Aleutians and the Alaskan Gulf, we’ve had booked for over a year. Another is a trip which COVID cancelled, but we want to do it and have scheduled it again. Another is coming up soon, a trip with our family to New Orleans, where we will continue to socially distance in a VRBO near Magazine, near the Audubon Zoo, near the Saint Charles trolley and several of our favorite restaurants with our family, and one back out to Yellowstone and Glacier, staying in cabins, mostly with kitchens. We’re good with take-out; in fact we’ve grown to really like it.

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite

It’s not a hardship for us. We are introverts. We travel quietly. We stop and observe. I take photos. At night, I write reviews and research possibilities for the next day’s route. Part of the fun I have in life is finding really fun places to stay, some of which, like El Tovar at the Grand Canyon, or Ahwahnee in Yosemite, (LOL, “Yo! Semite!”) have to book far in advance, like sometimes a year out or more. Right now, several of the most popular cruises are already booked in 2021 and 2022 by people a lot like us, yearning to be back out on the road.

El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon

People in Florida are concerned about another wave of COVID following Spring Break. I am thinking here we are, all eager to get back on the road, us restless Boomers, and we’ve forgotten the pounding compelling imperatives of youth – meeting, mating, maybe even committing. But that’s another conversation . . .

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Health Issues, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

“Can’t I Buy You a Diamond?”

“No,” I replied. “How about we buy another house?”

So we did. It’s the house we are living in now, the house we bought, we sold, and we bought back again, and, God willing, I will never move again.

It always cracks him up that I don’t want a diamond. He says it would be cheaper to buy me a big diamond. He is right, but houses are better long term investments.

We had a great division of labor. AdventureMan worked hard, and his career took us to exotic locations, locations we both loved and found intellectually stimulating and challenging to our assumptions. He always chose his jobs in consultation with me.

I handled logistics and finances. I moved us, I packed and unpacked (AdventureMan handled movers on moving days) and I recommended investments, on which we decided together. Until we closed on this house, AdventureMan had never been through the closing process (the first time we had to place a call to the Red Cross in Germany, all planned in advance, who would verify that my husband was alive and well and standing in front of them) so that I could sign the papers with a power of attorney.

So no, diamonds are of no interest to me. I quilt, I cook, I garden, I do upholstery, I strung electrical wires – I work with my hands. When we travel, if I see some little earrings I can’t resist, real gold or real gemstones, we might buy them and they show up in my stocking at Christmas. I am content.

Oh yeh, and I like to buy houses.

AdventureMan knows me well. Last night he looked me deep in the eyes and said “With the pool closed this week, I know you’ll miss the exercise. I am willing to get up as early as eight to walk with you.”

That is a true sacrifice. AdventureMan loves his sleep, and he has earned every moment of it. I have a need to front load my day; I am an early riser and like to get it done. I don’t begrudge his sleeping in after all his years in the military rising at what he called “the crap of dawn,” and I fully appreciate his willingness to get up early and walk with me.

I love walking. This neighborhood is a great neighborhood for walking; the area between the two major thoroughfares are quiet and peaceful. Most of the houses are family owned, people are friendly, and where there are rentals, they are mostly to families with young children who want to be in this particular school district.

We are sort of looking for our next house. No, we are not going to move, but I think this is a really good neighborhood to own a small rental house. We’ve learned how important it is to have a good property manager; we wouldn’t manage it ourselves. I’m looking for something small, something we can clean up and modernize and rent out. I’m not in a hurry; we have enough going on right now with the updates on our current home, but we are who we are – we are people who need projects, who thrive facing a challenge, we are good problem solvers. And I like to have diversity in our investments.

AdventureMan is fully on board. With investments, I am the cautious one, he is more of a risk taker. Together, we do pretty well.

March 1, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Building, Cultural, Exercise, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Fitness / FitBit, Living Conditions, Marriage, Money Management, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | Leave a comment

Best Birthday Ever

A few years ago, I hit a number and I felt like my life was over. Rationally, I knew I was doing fine, but just the sound of the number hit me hard. I remember feeling the same way when I hit 50, and I thought it was going to be terrible, but that very day I went to pick up my photos for my Saudi pass and my photograph was fabulous.

OK, you know, here goes that rationality thing again. The RULES in Saudi Arabia say you are forbidden to retouch photos. The photographer just stood there with a big grin as I looked at photos of me with all signs of aging totally removed. Inside, my heart was dancing. My head knew it wasn’t really how I looked, but my heart danced.

In spite of the heartache of my Mother dying of COVID, this has turned out to be a sweet year. I had some stellar moments, dancing-heart moments. I love our new/old house, as you can guess from all the sunsets I post. Now, my son and AdventureMan installed a Little Free Library for me to care for, and another dream has come true, and my heart dances for joy. My family was together, my grandchildren helped fill the Little Free Library, and we all had cake and ice cream together, masked most of the time.

I’ve always loved libraries, and the first job I ever had, at six years old, was checking out books at the little library in Alaska. The clerk had failed to show up; the librarian was busy with a big time-sensitive book order and I volunteered. She showed me what to do. So easy a six year old could do it, and I had a ball.

I avoided book clubs until I ended up so many years in the Middle East. A group of women I knew and trusted asked me to form a book club, and I reluctantly turned them down because I didn’t want that responsibility. Very gently, they kept inviting me to start a book club and finally, I asked “Why me?”

“You’re the only one who can bring in the books we want to read,” they told me.

I learned so much from these women, and the book club was a huge blessing, a window into the way a lot of women think who are from different countries and different cultures from me. I learned how HUGE it is when ideas can be examined, and discussed openly, even when one must speak indirectly. I learned again and again how many mistaken assumptions I had made, how narrowly I saw the world. Books matter. Ideas matter. Sharing books and ideas challenge our narrow views and give us broader understanding of our complex world, and our fellow human beings.

Tonight AdventureMan is making Pasta Carbonara, which I should never eat, but once or twice a year, I do. It’s not like AdventureMan loves Pasta Carbonara; he makes it for me because I love it. Some of those excess calories come off as I dance and dance for joy.

The year I thought my life was over, some amazing things happened. I’m not going to get all excited, like this is going to be the best year ever, but I am so grateful, I feel so blessed, to have some dreams I know I dreamed come true, and some unexpected dreams I didn’t know I was dreaming also come true.

“In my life, I’ve loved them all.”

February 7, 2021 Posted by | Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Books, Community, Cooking, Cultural, Exercise, Food, Interconnected, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships | | Leave a comment

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King

I love that Google does these special doodles to honor men and women who make a difference. This is their doodle for today, to honor a man who knew how to incite for all the right reasons, and to keep it peaceful. He had a vision. He had the patience to watch his vision unfold. I wish he could be here long enough to see Joe Biden’s cabinet. We’re not there, but we are learning to practice what we say we believe.

January 18, 2021 Posted by | Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, Heritage, Leadership, Political Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Values | , , , , | Leave a comment

Losing Track of Time

How many different ways can we say that this was a year like no other? Christmas morning came, and under the tree was one calendar. I had ordered it from Xanterra, the people who operate the hotels and concessions at many of our National Parks, around June, but I never saw it; as soon as it arrived I handed it over to AdventureMan who hid it. The good thing is that I forget, and by Christmas, I really am surprised.

This time, I was really surprised. It is a beautiful calendar, classic old posters of the national parks. But the dates are just written along the bottom; it is not one of those calendars where you can write down things you have committed to do.

It is really beautiful. And, for me, utterly useless. I have it in my kitchen, but I also have a French one I hurriedly ordered and I don’t much like, but I may replace this beautiful one with the French one because it has spaces to write.

I need calendars to keep me on track. I have great focus. If I am reading a book, or writing an entry for HT&E, or working on a quilt, or organizing a grocery list, I can totally lose track of time. I can’t even blame it on age; I have always been this way. I am almost compulsively on time because I find being late so painful, but one time, I was mortified, I was in the middle of a project and a friend called and asked how I was. I chatted, and she said “weren’t you picking me up today?” and to my horror, even though I had known I was picking her up, even though it was on my calendar, I was so deep into what I was doing that it had flown right out of my mind that I had an obligation.

She was the president of the group, and it was our annual celebration. I dropped everything, dressed madly and ran to the car, forcing myself to drive carefully because I was shaken, and anxious, and utterly mortified. I picked her up, maybe half an hour late, and we got to the restaurant just as others also arrived, only by the grace of God. Some were even later than us, evidently the timing had been unclear, but that is not my excuse. I had it on the calendar. I checked it in the morning. And then I promptly forgot. I still squirm to think about it, and now I use my phone to remind me when I have to do something and I’m afraid I’ll get lost in space again.

I was raised to believe that timeliness is next to Godliness and I have lived many years in a culture where time is more flexible, and “on-time” is relative. So why am I so compulsive most of the time and so fallible on occasion? I probably judge myself more harshly than others would judge me.

I pick up calendars on our travels – and this year there were no travels. After Christmas, I quickly went online to find something I could use, and almost everything I really loved was like the national parks one – beautiful and functionally useless. Finally I found one a travel company had sent me; it has some cool places to visit, and I found a Chihuly calendar with nice big spaces to write; I am using that as my main calendar.

I can only do the best that I can do. Mostly, I am really good about appointments and obligations, but I have to rely on these tools to keep me from doing myself in. Alas, it keeps me humble.

January 2, 2021 Posted by | Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Social Issues | , | Leave a comment

Woman Caught in Adultery

Today’s readings from The Lectionary feature this puzzling story:

John 7:53-8:11

53Then each of them went home, 81while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. 3The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, 4they said to him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.5Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.* 9When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus straightened up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11She said, ‘No one, sir.’* And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’]]* 

“What’s so puzzling?” you might ask.

So many things.

What did Jesus write on the ground?

If women had been present, would still no stone have been thrown?

What did he write on the ground the second time, as the men gathered to stone the woman slipped away, one by one?

Why do women get punished so severely for sexual acts when Jesus was so forgiving? I get that families like to be sure who the father is, providing for babies born to a woman, but it seems to me that women are judged by an unequal scale, and I don’t find justification for that in scripture. I fine it illuminating that while Jesus never dealt with homosexuality, or abortion (that is recorded), he was gentle with this woman caught in the very act of adultery.

The morning readings often provide food for thought as the day works its way out.

December 30, 2020 Posted by | Community, Cultural, Faith, Lectionary Readings, Mating Behavior, Relationships | Leave a comment

After the Storm: Christmas 2020

It rained and the wind blew, knocking over the Christmas trees on my front porch a couple times until AdventureMan grabbed a few stray bricks from our back yard and anchored them firmly. Then, around one in the afternoon, the rain stopped, the wind lessened, and the skies lightened, just in time for us to meet up with our son and his family for a masked and socially distanced service at 2:00.

It was a very odd Christmas – we had to sign up in advance, and each service was limited to 70 people. They allowed family groups to sit together, but each group was separated by at least one pew from any other people. No singing. If someone showed up who had not signed up, they were turned away, unless there was space.

In our church, the policy has always been that there is always space, and you are welcome. We could see that it was tearing the rector apart to have to enforce the policy strictly, but adhering to masking and social distancing has kept us all well and allowed us to continue with attending services in person, as well as on FaceBook and YouTube.

It was wonderful just to be there. It felt awful not to be able to welcome the stranger, nor to greet one another with Christmas hugs and kisses. It’s been that kind of year.

We had a family dinner at our house, our first year using the French china and silver with the kids, but they are ready for it. We all had so much fun.

Christmas morning dawned with clear, cold skies and lots of sunshine. The family came over, we opened gifts and spent the day together, laughing, telling stories, eating French strawberry roll-ups with whipped cream, and just hanging out. Two of us took a long walk with the dog, while the rest engaged in warfare over some game with elaborate rules.

When everyone left, we cleaned up, put the furniture back where it belonged, and AdventureMan got out the bin of old sheets to cover some of our more vulnerable plants against the plunging temperatures to come tonight.

We’ve done everything we can to try to make sure our outdoor cat, Emile, will be warm and protected, which is harder than you might think when we have never been able to get closer than three feet from him. He will occasionally shelter in the covered litter box we have set up for him, with reflective blankets, and he quite loves the heated pad on the bench. We know the cold temperatures are hard on him. We’d love to get immunizations for him, get him fixed, bring him inside, but for now, none of that is possible, and he is so feral we are not sure it will ever be possible.

The sun is going down on one of the loveliest Christmas Days we have ever spent in Pensacola. We are so thankful we made the decision to downsize, and move to this house.

I couldn’t stop; I wanted to get everything in place before I collapsed. AdventureMan, busy with his new toy, a slide viewer, calls out “is there anything I can do to help you?”

I surprised him. I drink little. I called back “In about an hour, when the sun is setting, how about fixing me a Santa’s Helper?” (Champagne and Chambord) and he laughed and said that once the champagne is opened, you have to drink the whole bottle because you can’t really re-cork champagne, and I said I didn’t care, I just wanted one glass.

It has been a most excellent day. My daughter in law and I, on our long walk, discussed how while in many ways 2020 has been cataclysmic, for us, it has also carried many blessings. She said she thinks 2021 will be just another year, full of challenges and full of blessings. She has deep insights, deep wisdom and it is always worth listening to what she has to say.

I hope you have had a satisfying Christmas. I hope it ends a year full of challenges – and blessings. I wish you the same in the coming year, eyes to see, ears to hear, the wisdom to know when to act; when you can make things better and when you can only make things worse by acting. I wish upon us all the wisdom to know the difference.

December 25, 2020 Posted by | Biography, Birds, Christmas, Cold Drinks, Cultural, Family Issues, Quality of Life Issues, Random Musings, Relationships, Sunsets | | 1 Comment

Stormy Christmas Eve in Pensacola

Around two in the morning last night the wind started blowing and one of our wind shutters came loose and banged. It banged once, not too loudly, so I didn’t even get up to see if I could fix it. This morning, Christmas Eve morning, dawned with sheets of rain.

I’m not complaining. We have had weeks of beautiful weather – other than when the storms blew in. This early day squall is just that – a small thing. The forecast is that it will usher in freezing temperatures for tonight. The rain should quit by 2, when Pensacola folk start heading toward church services and family gatherings, and tonight and Christmas Day should be unseasonably cold.

I’m sure there has been a Christmas in Pensacola when it hasn’t rained, but I can’t remember it. I am thankful for rain on Christmas Eve; it makes it so much easier to wrap those last presents and cook up a couple more dishes for tonight and tomorrow.

We’ve been introducing our grandchildren to family traditions. They were over for breakfast, and then my granddaughter (7) and I decorated sugar cookies and gingerbread men, while our grandson (10) and AdventureMan made baked beans – learning chefly knife skills in the process. As the icing dried on the cookies my granddaughter and I took a walk to the playground; it was like a summer day in Alaska, around 70 degrees F. Pizza for lunch, and then watching Elf, which they had never seen, and we all howled with laughter.

That night was clear and beautiful, and just after sunset, I went out to see if I could see the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. I could! It was clearly visible with the naked eye! I quickly ran inside to call to AdventureMan to join me, and together we relished the awe inspiring event. In my photo, I see you can even see Jupiter’s moons:

Yeh, it’s a little squiggly; I was using my zoom on my camera, and just breathing made it less clear.

From our house to your house, we wish you a Merry Christmas, full of peace and good will, love of family and neighbors, and comfort and joy.

December 24, 2020 Posted by | Advent, Arts & Handicrafts, Christmas, Cooking, Cultural, Family Issues, Holiday, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Weather | Leave a comment

Humility

Roaring Mountain, Yellowstone 2019

From this morning’s readings in The Lectionary:

Sirach 3:17-31

17 My child, perform your tasks with humility;*
   then you will be loved by those whom God accepts. 
18 The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself;
   so you will find favour in the sight of the Lord.* 
20 For great is the might of the Lord;
   but by the humble he is glorified. 
21 Neither seek what is too difficult for you,
   nor investigate what is beyond your power. 
22 Reflect upon what you have been commanded,
   for what is hidden is not your concern. 
23 Do not meddle in matters that are beyond you,
   for more than you can understand has been shown to you. 
24 For their conceit has led many astray,
   and wrong opinion has impaired their judgement. 

25 Without eyes there is no light;
   without knowledge there is no wisdom.* 
26 A stubborn mind will fare badly at the end,
   and whoever loves danger will perish in it. 
27 A stubborn mind will be burdened by troubles,
   and the sinner adds sin to sins. 
28 When calamity befalls the proud, there is no healing,
   for an evil plant has taken root in him. 
29 The mind of the intelligent appreciates proverbs,
   and an attentive ear is the desire of the wise. 

30 As water extinguishes a blazing fire,
   so almsgiving atones for sin. 
31 Those who repay favours give thought to the future;
   when they fall they will find support.

October 17, 2020 Posted by | Living Conditions, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues | Leave a comment