Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Born Every Minute

air COOLER

One of my neighbors on NextDoor had seen these advertised around, and it was surprisingly inexpensive. He ordered, and, very chagrined, posted when it arrived, that it is just a box with a fan in the back and a tray for water. It is, indeed, a “cooler,” not an air conditioner, and has minimal effect.

I laughed, but occasionally I have also bought things which sounded too good to be true, and truly were – not what they were hyped up to be. Glad I’m not the only one.

May 16, 2022 Posted by | Home Improvements, Humor, Marketing, Shopping | , , | Leave a comment

The Paradox of Cool

Months ago, after yet another trip out West, a friend asked me if Portland was as “hip” as its reputation. I didn’t know what to say. Yes, Portland is hip.

I’ve been thinking about “hip” and “cool” ever since.

I know what cool is to me. I’ve seen it. Cool was the Episcopal and Anglican priests I met serving overseas; Tunis, Jordan, Doha, and Kuwait – priests who lived their faiths with joy and confidence, and priests who also loved their Moslem brothers and sisters.

In my own neighborhood, cool is the two retired civil servants who love to cook, and who organize a weekly dinner for the homeless, also providing to the best of their ability for other needs; toiletries, clothing, insect repellent, water to go, toys for the homeless children. They are committed to their work, and their joy in what they do attracts others who serve with them. In their own quiet way, they have created acceptance for their same-sex marriage, just by being exactly who they are: people who care about others.

Cool was ambassadors in the foreign countries in which we served, those accused of going a little bit native, those who were open to learning other ways of thinking and valuing cultures in addition to the one they represented, those who were less concerned with dignity than with creating understanding and brotherhood between our cultures.

Cool was the Kuwaiti bloggers who initiated me into the art and craft, and who often led the way with their courageous evaluations of their own society and societal follies. I learned so much from them. And from Kuwaiti quilters, who welcomed fellow crafters from many traditions, and created space for us to learn from one another.

The paradox of cool, to me, is that it comes to those who do not seek it. The paradox of cool is that if you want to be it, you exclude yourself from it. Cool comes from within, from knowing who you are, from an inner clarity as to what your purpose of existence might be, and from a willingness to risk and to explore.

So I would like to ask – how do YOU define cool? Who do you think is cool? Help me widen my perspective.

May 12, 2022 Posted by | Cross Cultural, Relationships, Adventure, Blogging, Community, Character, Interconnected, Charity, Values, Civility, Faith, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

Intlxpatr Goes Back In Time

We were on our way to gymnastics class, which involves driving over a long bridge, through a congested beach town and down a state double-lane highway, and my grand-daughter, age 8, is utterly caught up in reading a book to me, a book called Crush. It is about junior high, and although she is in 3rd grade, she is always interested in what the older kids are doing.

This book has an advanced vocabulary, so I am loving hearing her reading it out loud. At one point, she comes to a word that the teacher has blocked out, and she asks me what that word might be. The word is “kickass” which does not offend me, especially as it is applied to a girl whom I would definitely describe as kickass. It’s a compliment.

(When I was little, my Mom would send me to the library alone, with a basket of books. Around 10 years old, I had devoured most of the children’s section and started in on the adult section – especially science fiction and psychology. The librarian called my Mom and asked if I was allowed in the big people’s books and God bless her, my Mom just laughed and said “if she wants to read it, let her read it. She can read anything she chooses.” God bless you, Mom, for the gift in having faith in me, and in the free flow of ideas, and in my judgment.)

So I am not concerned about an adult word. She often asks me about words she hears on the playground, and we talk about what she thinks it means and what I think it means. I am outraged at the policies being developed in Florida to impede discussions in the classroom, but in my experience there is nothing that makes a book – or an idea – more attractive than having it BANNED.

When my son started reading, I made it a point to read the books he was reading so I could have some idea where his mind was going. I bought the four-volume set of the books my granddaughter was reading, and read them through (they are comic style, so easily read, each in under an hour).

The books are Awkward, Brave, Crush and Diary by Svetlana Chmakova.

Junior High is a lot like childbirth – as you get past it, you forget the pain. These books are so REAL. As I read Awkward and Brave, I was right back in the middle of all that turmoil. We forget! At that age, they are learning the painful lessons of being different, being rejected, suffering bullying, learning accountability, learning how to make a friend and to be a friend, learning how to deal with authority, learning so many things! And many of the situations are very uncomfortable, even as a grown-up. We all know what it’s like to be on the outside, looking in.

The saving grace of these wonderful books is the message that an act of kindness makes all the difference. That you can find a group that shares your interests. That the kind of friend you want is the friend that saves you a place at the lunch table, and maybe even shares tastes of their lunch.

The second set of books I discovered was the Friends series, by Shannon Hale. Once again, we are treated to the real nature of friendships, that there are cliques and pecking orders and false friends. There are betrayals and secrets and ganging up. Learning to be a friend depends first on figuring out who WE are; it gives us the confidence to discern. These books are all about learning about who we are and discerning who our real friends are.

In my life, with all my moves, I’ve been so lucky, I’ve always found some really good friends, and some will be reading this right now, friends even from far back in my childhood, my high school days, university and various places we’ve been stationed. Some friendships are based on common interests. For me, the best friendships are based on ground-level communications, where we open our hearts and share our realities, and hold one another up when we feel we may be about to falter. Some friends are always going to be there for you when you hit bottom, and are essential in the recovery process.

Today I got an e-mail about how continuous learning builds neuroplasticity, and neuroplasticity seems to be a defense against Altzheimer’s, even if you have a plaque build-up in your brain. I’ll take whatever learning I can get, and these books that take me back to the immediacy of middle school. I’d forgotten how much we learned there. I think I built a new synapse or two re-experiencing the horrors of that age, and I am thankful to the enthusiastic reading of my little granddaughter for an unexpected educational journey.

May 6, 2022 Posted by | Aging, Books, Character, Civility, Community, Friends & Friendship, Interconnected, Parenting, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Values | Leave a comment

Eid Mubarak 2022

Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim friends! May your Eid be full of family and all the blessings of life. Peace be upon you!

May 1, 2022 Posted by | Cultural, Eid, Faith | Leave a comment

Coming Up: Red Desert, Dinosaurs, Petroglyphs and Night Skies Travel

Denver, Red Desert (WY), Dinosaur Monument (UT), Moab, Breckenridge, Denver

We take small local trips, but this is our first Spring Out-West trip since last year. We’ve got some highlights – seeing our niece in Denver (early readers know her as Little Diamond) and getting to know her growing children, staying in the Elk Hunting capitol of the world, Craig, Colorado (well, just because who knew?), exploring the Red Desert of Wyoming and visiting remote and rarely seen petroglyphs and pictographs, on through the Flaming Gorge to the Dinosaur National Monument, and then down to a cabin just south of Moab where we will be heading down to the Canyon of the Ancients, near the four corners area of the United States, for more exploration of ancient ruins, focusing on petroglyphs and pictographs. From there, a family meet-up in Breckenridge, a stay with my sister in Colorado Springs, and back up for one last family visit in Denver before we fly back to Pensacola.

Monument Valley Petroglyph

Grand Escalante Petroglyph
Moab Petroglyph

The trip focuses on remote locations, petroglyphs, pictographs, and lesser-visited sites with dark skies, where we will stay mostly in cabins. We are always up to try to find an unknown gem, like the Traveler’s Rest Cabins, where we stay on the east side of Glacier National Park. (I see they are now for sale; I can only hope the new owners are as wonderful as the current sellers.)

Sometimes when choosing a hotel or restaurant, I am hooked by a clever name, so in Rock Springs, WY we will stay at the Outlaw Inn. It’s a Best Western, not a cabin, but I love the name. Rock Springs is also famous for herds of wild horses and outdoor activities.

The whole trip is outdoor activities, with an occasional visit to a specialty museum or two to help us understand what we see. We have two reservations at Arches National Park, the earliest reservations we could get so as to have the benefits of fewer people and the glorious morning light hitting the arches, and reservations for a sunset cruise on the Colorado River, for the same reasons – views with the glorious light of sunset. My husband wants to eat at a famous restaurant, the Sunset Grill, overlooking Moab, so we will make reservations far in advance – the place fills up quickly.

When we land, whether it’s Bozeman, Denver, Juneau, Portland or Seattle, we always give ourselves enough time to visit a local store to stock up on water, apples, oranges, peanut butter, crackers and necessities like tissues, paper towels, toilet paper, insect repellant, sunscreen – anything we might need and not want to carry in our suitcases. It gives us a lot of flexibility, so we don’t have to worry about finding a meal when we are remote. On the other hand, we love a good meal, so we plan to find places in advance, and make reservations. It works for us.

I’m getting excited just writing about it. Planning trips has gotten me through the COVID desert; even just doing the research and getting reservations gets my blood going faster as we anticipate new sights and experiences, new adventures.

And yes, I’m taking you with me 🙂

April 28, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Eating Out, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Spiritual, Travel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

JoAnn Gives Me a Breath of Hope

JoAnn ad this morning

Just when I had begun to think our USA culture of tolerance and inclusion was a thing of the past, I opened my e-mail this morning to discover an ad from JoAnn fabric with Ramadan offerings.

It doesn’t get much more middle-America than a trip to JoAnn fabrics, where people are buying fabric to make their own clothes, re-upholster their own furniture or make their own quilts or Easter wreaths. I was delighted.

Here are some of the fabrics they are offering for our Muslim friends who are about to celebrate their month of fasting en route to the Eid.

How cool is that?

April 3, 2022 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Marketing, Quality of Life Issues, Ramadan, Shopping, Values | Leave a comment

Litany of Penitence: Ash Wednesday

Angel on the Alexander Column, St. Petersburg

Sometimes we go into a church service and we breeze through it, consumed by our own agendas, worries, cares, hopes – we are not really in a conversation with God because while he may be speaking, we are not listening.

Today started out to be that kind of day. I was a lector, and I had a long passage. I was focused on getting through it without stumbling, and hoping I might illuminate rather than obscure what the passage was about. I was paying attention to the words, but they didn’t really touch me.

When I was done, I joined the congregation (a good showing for the early hour of 7:30 which allows those who work to start the day by checking off this block, attending the service of Penitence and receiving the imposition of ashes.) It isn’t a joyful service, this one, where we have to acknowledge who we really are and all the ways we fail.

And then a great and unexpected blessing fell on me, a good friend walked in and sat with me and as together we went through the Litany of Penitence, the words seared my soul. “Deaf to your call to serve.” “Impatience” “Intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts” “Uncharitable thoughts.” Ouch. Ouch. And Ouch!

It’s a beautiful day in Pensacola. A day when it is possible to believe that the Lord may restore us.

(The normal type is the Celebrant (in our case, the Priest) and the italics are our response. This is from the Book of Common Prayer.)

Litany of Penitence

(The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling)

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

(The Celebrant continues)

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:  for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord
.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

March 2, 2022 Posted by | Character, Climate Change, Community, Cultural, Faith, Lent, Quality of Life Issues | Leave a comment

NATO and Balalaikas

I could hear AdventureMan laughing as he read his book, and he called out to me “You’ve got to hear this!”

He’s reading an old Philip Kerr novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts, and he has come across this quote that is only funny in a gallows humor sort of way, considering current events in the Ukraine.

“Listen!” he begins to read:

Garlopis put the car in gear and we moved off smoothly. After a while he pressed a switch to operate the car’s electric window.

“Electric windows. Isn’t it wonderful? You look at a car like this and you think of America, and the future. When Americans talk about the American dream it’s not a dream about the past. That’s the difference between the American dream and a British one, a French one, or a Greek one. Ours is a dream that’s always about the past; and theirs is a dream that’s always about the future. A better tomorrow. Not only that, but I sincerely believe they’re prepared to guarantee that future for us all, by force of arms. Without NATO, we’d all be playing balalaikas.”

The story starts in 1957. It came out in 2018. It could not be more timely.

I’m having a hard time with this invasion, this invasion of the Ukraine to “defend the Fatherland.” Ukrainians say they are NOT Russians, the same way Iranians say they are not Arabs. They voted to be an independent country around the same time the Soviet Union collapsed. I heard the Ukrainian President say that “the Russian bear was going to have a very hard time digesting the Ukrainian porcupine.” I am praying that the Russian bear backs off in dismay, and respects the porcupine’s boundaries from now on.

February 25, 2022 Posted by | Books, ExPat Life, Interconnected, News, Political Issues | , , | Leave a comment

Praying for Peace and Freedom

Our Bishop sent out a message today relating to the invasion of the Ukraine; in it he refers us to Bishop Edmiston’s addressing war and churches:

Watch Bishop Edington’s video message

The Episcopal Church has been in Europe for more than two hundred years. Our churches have seen Europe’s wars unfold. They’ve lived and endured in the midst of the destruction and depravity that war brings.

Our parish here in Paris set up a field hospital during France’s war with Prussia in 1870 that treated wounded soldiers. Our parish in Munich created a clinic during World War I that treated wounded German soldiers and fed families who had no income.

And our churches here have been casualties of war. A church of the Convocation worshipped in Dresden, Germany, until it was destroyed by bombing. Our parish in Munich was closed by the Gestapo in 1942, and its library of eight thousand books was burned.

Most of our churches here were closed during the Second World War. And our cathedral in Paris was used as a military chapel by the occupying German forces.

Perhaps more than any other part of the Episcopal Church, our churches in Europe have lived through the horrors of war—and the pointlessness of war, too. The cathedral’s cloister, a memorial to the dead of the twentieth century’s wars in Europe, is our silent testimony to that truth.

And for a long time—almost eighty years—we have believed that the futility of war was enough to deter it. Today, with war unleashed in Ukraine, we have been proven wrong.

Our faith teaches us that we must stand with the vulnerable and the oppressed. And at the same time, our faith teaches us that we are meant to be followers of the prince of peace, of the one who taught us that violence is always a compromise with evil.

It is hard for us to reconcile those two teachings today, when innocent people are dying at the hands of a military onslaught. Our prayers feel insufficient to defend those cowering in fear and exposed to bullets and bombs.

But we know that the place where war lives is in the human heart. As the prophet Jeremiah teaches us, the heart is devious above all else; and it is in the devices and desires of hearts resisting God’s call to live in love that the first seeds of war take root.

We often begin our prayers with the words “Almighty God.” But the deeper truth of our Christian faith is that we believe humanity has been redeemed, and the world forever changed, by an all-vulnerable God—a god whose love is finally victorious through the vulnerability of a naked man nailed to a cross. It is from that seeming defeat that the victory over death and sin is won forever—even the sin that lies at the heart of war.

And so as we begin our season of Lent, we are called to give up our easy complacency about the durability of peace. We are called to consider again the reminders in our midst of war’s relentless cost to human life and God’s hope. And we are called to pray, and speak, and to labor for the truth that Christ has called us to transform this broken world through the hard work of love.

God of timelessness,

From chaos and disorder 

you brought forth the beauty of creation;

From the chaos of war and violence

Bring forth the beauty of peace.

God of compassion

You saw the humanity of the outcast and the stranger;

Help us to see the evils of our hatreds and suspicions

and to turn them into the embrace of your Beloved Community.

God of peace,

Through your love on the cross

You overcame the power of violence and death;

Turn us away from the love of power

That we may transform a warring world

through the power of your love. Amen.

 

The Rt. Rev. Mark D. W. Edington

Bishop in Charge

The Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe

February 25, 2022 Posted by | Civility, Political Issues | , | Leave a comment

My Secret Admirer Sends White Roses

This morning, just after I returned from my swim at the Y, the doorbell rang and my favorite florist delivered a dozen white roses from “My Secret Admirer.” AdventureMan didn’t bat an eye at the delivery. He knows I love white roses.

It’s been a great month. Last weekend we were in New Orleans for some Ethiopian food, walking around the French Quarter and Market, ice cream at Creole Creamery and grilled oysters at Superior Seafood – and then, more walking so that all that good food didn’t stick to us 🙂

It goes on – the new couch will be delivered tomorrow, God willing. Life is sweet.

February 14, 2022 Posted by | Beauty, Eating Out, Exercise, Food, Holiday, Marriage, New Orleans, Quality of Life Issues, YMCA | Leave a comment