Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Puzzle

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 4.54.13 PM

This happens.

A very average day, nothing spectacular posted. All of a sudden, a spike in stats so obvious . . . but my WordPress doesn’t say where it is coming from, Stat Counter doesn’t say where it is coming from or what it is about. I am stumped!

Update: They are all coming from Germany. Spammers? Hackers? Did I write something about Germany? (That’s just me puzzling out loud . . )

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Blogging, Germany, Statistics | | Leave a comment

Spring: Hope Eternal

Yesterday we had a crew at our house helping us get the gardens cleared out and some replacements put in. Most of our plants had survived the first great freeze, but the second freeze did them in – or so we thought.

Even the bougainvillea, which people assured me would not thrive in Pensacola, shows signs of coming back. The Plumbago, originally a native of South Africa, is showing some tiny signs of resilience. The grasses survived; we even took part of the Pampas grass and started a new area elsewhere. The mints, the lavender, the thyme, oregano, cilantro, the parsleys, the rosemarys – they thrived. The sages are coming back with a vengence. The drift roses are blooming early. It is truly a fabulous Spring, full of hope and a little replanting.

One of our very favorites, the Mona Lavender (which is not a lavender at all, but a gorgeous shrubby plant) totally bit the dust. My cherished begonia looks melted. I have accepted that it’s not coming back.

plectranmonapot

Unknown

Pensacola this week is a sea of azaleas. Who knew azaleas came in so many vibrant colors? While many yards are that intense fuchsia, there are also yards full of white, pink, deep coral, light coral, deep burgundy azaleas. I smile every time I see them and think of our Saudi friend living here, who called them Ah-za-LEE-as. We call them that now, too, just between AdventureMan and me. :-)

I can only guess that something in the great Pensacola freeze ignited in the azaleas an urge toward survival that resulted in the most amazing display of luxurious, abundant blossoms I have ever seen.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

azaleas

degroot-azaleas-2009-1

azaleas-1

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Beauty, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Weather | Leave a comment

Blinded by the Light . . .

Yesterday I had my annual eye exam. This is the South. I could hear them all talking in the back, talking about personal things, and OTHER PEOPLE! I used to run a library, and one of the very very first things I would tell my library workers was NO PERSONAL CONVERSATIONS when we had the library open. Keep your private life private! I’m not all about the library being quiet, but I am about it being not-annoying. Hearing gossip, hearing details of your last medical procedure, hearing about Maizie, bless her heart, who just lost another husband – these things are not my business, nor the library customer and are not appropriate for a discussion where the public may be listening in, even when they don’t want to be.

OK, OK, I know these are dated professional standards, but I can’t help it. Please. Do not burden me with overhearing your latest disaster unless we are friends and sitting down together over a cup of coffee.

At 30 minutes past my appointment time, I went back to see if my paperwork had been misplaced only to be told they were just a little behind and I would be taken soon. Fifteen minutes later I was in the office.

Now, when they dilate your eyes, you can still drive yourself home. It was a little bright, but I managed. Things are a little blurry.

Fast forward to last night, driving home, WOW. Every streetlight, every headlight, even the beautiful thin crescent moon had a spiky halo. It was like I had that sparkle lens you can put on your camera, only this was on my eyes.

starry-night

This morning when I got up, I thought it would be all over, but my eyes are still dilated, and still sensitive. They must have given me a wallop of a dose.

But for the drive home, it was all Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds . . . it was so incredibly beautiful, it felt sort of surreal.

Screen shot 2014-04-04 at 3.26.13 PM

April 4, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Privacy, Rants | , | Leave a comment

The Clothes Dryer

Screen shot 2014-04-03 at 8.43.08 AM

I was talking to my Mom last night, asking her how her mother coped with having twins. She was trying to remember if her mother even had a washing machine, and thought not. She was only four, but she remembers a woman who came in and did ironing every day, and she thought maybe she also did all the laundry.

Imagine. Imagine doing diapers for twins by hand, in a wash tub with a wash board. It gives me shudders, but women worked harder in those days, life was physical. They also died a lot younger. Hmmm . . . having said that, my grandmother lived to 105.

Clothes dryers came much later. Even today, most women in the world hang their clothes to dry, some even lucky enough to have special racks or lines for that purpose, others hang them over shrubs and bushes and fences surrounding their homes.

Today’s meditation from Forward Day by Day caught my attention; in Germany the last time I lived there, I did without a dryer, hanging my clothes on racks, and I did just fine. I had the time, I had the space and it was just a different pace of life.

Mark 8:34. If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

A few years ago, a young husband and wife started an intentional community in rural Ohio. They share the house with others committed to simple living, to daily prayer and worship, and to issues of justice, especially around hunger and care of the earth. The farm not only yields enough to feed the members of the house and volunteers, but also supplies thousands of pounds of food each year to the local pantries.

I was struck by one story about their common life. They decided to get rid of the clothes dryer. After all, it’s not a vital machine, they determined. They could use a clothesline and conserve energy and money. Hanging clothes to dry would be an exercise in patience, in slowing down, as well as in planning and coordinating the wash with others in the house.

This small sacrifice provides powerful insight into the faithful witness of this group of people. I don’t know if God wants me to give up my clothes dryer (please, God, I hope not). But I do believe God calls us to sacrifice, to make hard decisions, to give up important things, so that we can take up the cross and follow Jesus.

April 3, 2014 Posted by | Aging, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Living Conditions, Survival, Work Related Issues | 2 Comments

Swapnil Chaturvedi: Private Excretion

There really are everyday heros, if you have the eyes to see. This man is bringing dignity to the poor, who have no place to pee and poop privately. He left a fine job in the United States to start a campaign to provide private toilets for the countless poor in India who live without any toilets at all, and are forced to perform their daily functions in public.

Swapnil Chaturvedi’s life had all the trappings of the American dream — a college degree, prestigious engineer job, wife and daughter.

But when he returned home to India in 2007 after four years of living comfortably in the U.S., he was horrified by the country’s lack of basic sanitation, and decided to leave his cushy life behind to help, Mental Floss reported.

Fifty-three percent of Indian households defecate in the open, because they don’t have access to working toilets — a practice that leads to malnutrition, stunted growth, poor cognition, disease and other hampering conditions, according to the World Bank.

Even when there are toilets available, many locals decline to use them because they’re not vented properly. Women and girls often choose to defecate outside because the communal restrooms aren’t secure — leaving users vulnerable to getting harassed and attacked by onlookers.

“Men often gather around toilets and if we ignore them they try to touch and feel us,” Afsana, a young resident of Bawana, told CNN-IBN.

Women like Afsana are the reason that Chaturvedi has committed to his work.

“If somebody asked me why I started this business, there is only one reason: for women’s dignity,” Chaturvedi said in an interview about his company.

In 2011, he launched Samagra Sanitation –- a program based in Pune that works with existing communal restrooms and incentivizes locals to change their hygiene habits.

The company improves ventilation, accessibility and cleanliness in communal bathrooms. It also turns locations into community centers that offer rewards program for users, among other perks, to inspire people to take advantage of the facility, according to the company’s website.

Samagra, which is a Gates Foundation grantee, dubbed its program the “LooRewards Model.” It has already gotten involved in three slums in Pune, providing services to more than 3,300 people daily.

But Chaturvedi says he’s just getting started. He wants to see his program expand to help more than 50,000 people daily, which is why he launched an IndieGoGo campaign in the hopes of raising $50,000 to achieve his goal.

“We can live without Facebook, we can live without smartphones,” he said. “But we cannot live without relieving ourselves.”

To contribute to the IndieGoGo Campaign, click here

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Character, Charity, Civility, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Health Issues, India, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Six Foods Healthy Eaters Won’t Touch

I love this article from AOL Everyday Health News because they make some great suggestions – like if you really love salted nuts, mix them half and half with unsalted nuts to cut the amount of sodium you take in. We do this with breakfast cereal; we mix Bare Naked Nuts and Fruits with Quaker Old Fashioned Oats; it still has enough sweetness, and we add a little cinnamon and sunflower seeds to pump it up.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Most of us are familiar with the typical no-no foods like sugared soda or anything deep-fried, but have you ever wondered what the experts steer clear of? Everyday Health’s nutrition mavens dish on the foods they won’t eat, and share tips for making healthier swaps.

1. Hot dogs, bacon, and sausages. Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RDN, CDN, Everyday Health columnist and author of Read it Before You Eat It, said she would never eat these processed meats, and for good reason: A diet high in processed meats like bacon and sausage can increase your risk of dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease, according to recent research.

Processed meats, like pepperoni, hot dogs, sausage, bacon, and deli meats, are best left for special or rare occasions like a trip to the ballpark or a family event. If beef or pork hot dogs and sausages are staples in your diet, Taub-Dix suggests chicken dogs or sausages may be healthier bets. But beware the health halo of a food like chicken sausage, she said. Just because food items have some healthy qualities — like baked chips or 100-calorie snack packs — doesn’t mean they’re really good for you.

As with any processed food, watch out for sodium content. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day — or 1,500 mg if you’re age 51 or older, or if you are African American, or if you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Love bacon but hate the health repercussions? Use seasonings and spices like paprika and chipotle to add that smoky flavor to your cooking, suggested Taub-Dix.

2. Sugary coffee creations. “Those fancy blended drinks at coffee shops can have upwards of 400 calories and 15 teaspoons of sugar…yikes!” said Johannah Sakimura, MS, the writer behind the Everyday Health column, Nutrition Sleuth.

Unlike naturally-occurring sugars like those found in fruits (fructose), added sugars — syrups or sugars added to food items during preparation — can be harmful to your health. In fact, the added sugar Americans consume on a daily basis can more than double the risk of death from heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons or 100 calories a day of added sugar for women, and no more than nine teaspoons or 150 calories a day for men.

If you can’t live without your favorite sweet coffee drink, Sakimura recommends indulging less often. “If you want to enjoy one occasionally as a dessert, that’s totally fine…but they definitely shouldn’t be a daily or even weekly order,” she said.

3. Stick margarines. Both Sakimura and Taub-Dix said they avoid trans-fat foods, which can raise your heart disease risk by boosting levels of bad cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein — LDL) and lowering levels of good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein — HDL).

Sakimura avoids stick margarines because most are still made with partially hydrogenated oils, meaning they’re loaded with trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans fats you eat to less than one percent of your daily total calories. So, if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, that’s just 20 calories. And since small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some animal products, like meat and dairy, you’re probably meeting the 20-calorie threshold without reaching for factory-produced trans fats like those found in some margarines.

“When I occasionally make a baked good that requires solid fat, such as certain cookie or cake recipes, I always use butter. Butter does contain a large amount of saturated fat, but trans fats are far worse for your health,” she said.

4. Processed pastries. Everyday Health’s nutrition expert Maureen Namkoong, MS, RD, said she never eats processed pastries like Pop-Tarts, Twinkies, Devil Dogs, HoHos, or Hostess Cupcakes.

“The shelf life makes me nervous, too many preservatives, too many chemicals, too little taste,” said Namkoong. She prefers “real” desserts instead of these sugary snacks.

While the jury is out on the long-term effects and risks of preservatives in shelf-stable foods, a good rule of thumb is to eat fewer packaged, processed foods and more whole, fresh foods like fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and oils, and lean meats and fish.

Pay attention to frequency and quantity when you indulge in an unhealthy food.

5. Canned frosting. This is another trans fat offender that Sakimura avoids. When she wants to enjoy a nicely-iced dessert, she makes the icing from scratch.

“Hopefully, the proposed FDA ban on artificial trans fat will be finalized soon and we won’t have to worry about trans fat-laden products any longer,” Sakimura added.

Always read the product label for trans fat info. Why? Because right now, the FDA allows companies to round trans fat down to zero grams if the product contains less than 0.5 grams per serving.

“You have to turn it over and take a look at the label for hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat – that means trans fat,” Taub-Dix noted. There are bound to be similar products that aren’t loaded with trans fats, so opt for those instead, she suggested.

6. Sugar-packed cereals. Namkoong said she never eats sugary cereals because they’re not filling enough and have too little fiber. “The way I see it, the calories and sugar budget are better spent on a yummy dessert that I’ll enjoy more,” Namkoong said.

Sugary cereals your go-to guilty snack? Lower your sugar intake with this tip: “If you really like sugary cereals, and you know that they aren’t good for you, then mix them in a bowl with a cereal that is very low in sugar,” Taub-Dix recommended, so at least you’re getting less sugar per serving.

How to Change Your Taste for ‘Bad’ Foods
A registered dietitian or nutritionist can create a diet geared to your specific needs, but if that’s not an option then tailor your taste on your own by diluting your favorite foods, said Taub-Dix.

How do you dilute your foods? Basically, as noted above with sugary cereals, mix half of the bad stuff with half of the good stuff.

“If you have high blood pressure, and you know salted nuts aren’t great for you, take a handful of salted nuts and mix in unsalted nuts, too,” recommended Taub-Dix.

By diluting unhealthy snacks, you’re tailoring your tastes and gradually getting used to food that’s healthier. Another tip from our experts: Pay attention to frequency and quantity when you indulge in an unhealthy food.

“It’s not just about the food. It’s about how often you’re having it and how much of it you’re having,” said Taub-Dix.

April 2, 2014 Posted by | Food, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Marketing, Shopping | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Heidelberg

My high school stomping grounds; this video makes my heart flutter seeing all those wonderful sights with wonderful memories:

March 31, 2014 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cultural, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Germany, Music | , | 1 Comment

Love That Technology, But Sometimes it Takes Me a While . . .

Another way of saying “I’m slow, but I’m slow . . . “

As I was sitting in a meeting, I watched one of our delegates take a photo and then she zoomed in by doing that finger thing that works on my iPad.

“She must be using an Android or a Samsung” I thought to myself, as I have often wished my iPhone had a zoom feature.

And it dawned on me . . .

after owning my phone for three years . . .

and wishing I could zoom . . .

that the delegate’s phone looked a lot like my iPhone.

So I tried it. And it worked.

So the good news is that I can zoom photos on my iPhone. The bad news is that it took me so long to figure that out!

March 30, 2014 Posted by | Afghanistan, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Humor, iPhone, Technical Issue | Leave a comment

Empowerment

I’m working with a group, one of whose goals is empowerment. They are all from the same country, but not the same parts of the country, nor the same ethnicities, but they all get along well with one another and the group does fine. I admire each of them, and even better, I like these women.

00RoundTable2

Here’s the LOL, empowered people have ideas and opinions. We have a format to adhere to, and empowered people come up with other ideas and alternatives. Here’s the problem: other ideas and alternatives, especially good ones, mean a lot of extra focus, it creates more work for facilitators and program managers. Sometimes you need permissions, sometimes you need transportation arrangements, and always, you need to assure a delegate’s safety. All this on top of the changes that will have to be made because of this unusual weather.

First, yesterday as I met the group, I had to apologize for the weather – usually mild, sunny Pensacola was having a howling storm; sheets of water being blown by a raging wind, tree limbs falling, the sky grim and dark and grey the entire day. In the midst of this, I was with one delegate on a tour of the Port of Pensacola, where it was like being in the middle of a huge storm at sea, with squalls. The man giving the tour carried on, they had a great discussion while the wind howled around us and at times the rain fell so hard on the tin roof that we couldn’t hear one another.

00DelegateWindstorm (Those lines you see coming in through the door are wind blown rain. The drops on the camera lens – ditto)

Here is what I truly admire about this group, all their empowerment is for the good, their suggestions are making this visit even more productive and helping them exceed their goals. Their alternatives were doable, and will be accomplished. I can also tell you that at the end of a day dealing with a lot of good ideas and changes, my brain is happily fried. Guess the LOL is on me.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Adventure, Afghanistan, Bureaucracy, Character, Community, Cross Cultural, Customer Service, ExPat Life, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Interconnected, Leadership, Pensacola, Political Issues, Social Issues, Women's Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Jesus Declares All Foods Clean

I watched a woman eat a cockroach yesterday. (When did all restaurants start having TV’s in them??) It was at the worst time, I was eating lunch, and the only thought that allowed me to continue was thinking about this verse, where Jesus declares all foods clean.

Christians who are looking for where Jesus the Christ declared all things clean (halal, kosher) look to Mark 7. Today, in Forward Day by Day, the author of the meditation combines todays lectionary readings with Matthew 12:34: For from the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks.

Mark 7:15. There is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.

Words are powerful. Our speech, for better or worse, can either build up the kingdom of God or attack it. We might want to dismiss the power of words, but all we have to do is look to history.

Throughout history, often before the murder of a people, propaganda started. People would listen to the hateful speech of their leader, and then they would act (or not act). “They are just words,” people would say, but those words wormed their way into a nation’s mind, allowing callousness and cruelty to grow.

At the same time, the words of great men and women inspired nations to work toward equality. Their words moved individuals to change or to act. Even in our personal lives, we can all think of those healing words of a dear friend. We can also remember the cruel taunts of bully. Words are important.

Words come from within us, and once they are released into the world, they live. Within each of us is the potential for the infliction of great harm or the gift of grace. We must choose our words carefully because our hearts, our souls, and even our lives depend upon our words.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | Character, Faith, Food, Interconnected, Lectionary Readings, Spiritual, Words | Leave a comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 397 other followers