Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Adieu, Émile

As we stood outside in the back of the house, looking at the little courtyard and the terraces, my daughter-in-law said “We call this the cat crossing. We don’t know where they all come from, but there are always cats crossing.”

Soon we had one who came regularly, a cat like we have never had before. He was young and scrawny (we’ve had young, scrawny cats before) and his left eye was opaque. He showed up faithfully around the time we fed our indoor cats, looking for a meal, thus Émile. We bought separate bowls, and kept him – and his comrades – fed. Even when we travel, our housekeeper/ cat sitter would make sure he never went hungry.

The only way we knew he might like us was that when he heard our voices, he would come hang out. We were never able to get closer than 3 feet away from him, and even 3 feet made him goosey. We would thrill when he would spend a day or two up in his niche, a safe little place surrounded on all sides. Late in the day, he would wander away until meal time the next morning.

Emile with a fresh white squirrel

He was, like most cats, a ferocious hunter, and was proud to show off his latest squirrel or bird; what cat doesn’t love a fresh hot meal?

But one day, about two months ago, he started looking a little peaky. The last time I saw him, he was having trouble with a back leg. He disappeared.

Cats do that – outdoor cats. When they are unwell, they go somewhere. Sometimes they get better. We’ve had cats come back before, but I don’t think Emile will be back. The other cats have disappeared, too. There may be some kind of a cat virus going around, or, God forbid, someone may be poisoning them.

We would have liked to provide for Emile, to take him to a vet, get him immunized, get him checked out. We would have liked to give him affection. We would have liked for him to trust us.

And a part of me, thinking like a feral cat, imagines that none of that was of any interest to Emile. He seemed happy with the life he had, free, with a free-range menu supplemented by these strange two-legged beings who put out offerings for him on a regular basis. We sort of knew that this would be the way it ended, that he would ghost us in the end.

Being pragmatic, knowing the probability of this particular kind of ending, doesn’t make it any better. We’re still sad he is gone, and thankful for the time we had him in our lives.

July 24, 2022 Posted by | Circle of Life and Death, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Living off My Fat: Adaptation

It probably all started growing up in Alaska, where my mother would measure us in July to order our snowsuits as soon as the new catalogs came out. We lived where ships didn’t come in the winter, so supplies for the winter needed to be ordered – and received – before the ships could no longer navigate the channel.

Then came our life in Germany, where we lived by what my sister called “Commissary rules.” Her one word of advice as a newlywed leaving Germany, while I was staying, was “When you see something in the Commissary or PX you think you MIGHT need, buy it.” Definitely a no-regrets philosophy.

When we were sent to live in Tunisia, in the late 1970’s, we were instructed to take everything we might need for the next two years. Some things – chocolate chips – we learned to live without. We adapted to new foods, new ways of doing things. One of the great treats was the fresh, gorgeous, silky olive oil; I would take my jar to the little olive oil vendor at the nearby souk and he would weigh my jar, fill it, subtract the weight of the jar and charge me for the oil, which made everything taste French.

I did have a two-year supply of shoes for a growing toddler, also clothing for him in graduated sizes, and two years of age-appropriate books I could pull out of the closet. We were able to mail-order through the embassy pouch, and my mother was able to mail me little extras. One year, when I was running the Christmas bazaar, she was able to find red and green Christmas fabrics in July, at a discount, and mail them to us for our crafting. It was such a luxury!

In Qatar, I was always bringing back duffels with quilting rulers and rotary cutters for my quilting friends. In Kuwait, it was books for my book club and American sugar for a friend who liked to bake. Kuwait had sugar, but more coarse, and American sugar melts more quickly for a finer result. Who knew?

There are items from the past I still have in abundance – dental floss, women’s underwear, shoes – and staples I buy but no longer use in the quantities I once did because we no longer live a life where we entertain a lot nor prepare for unexpected people on temporary duty who need a meal and an exchange of currency. I am trying to bring down my supplies of artichoke hearts and pimentos, beans and rice, canned tomatoes, chutney, Tupperware and hand soap.

My Little Free Library, one of the best birthday gifts ever, helps me keep my books from overflowing.

We are happy, these days, to be living with less. We are still caught by surprise by rolls of baking parchment we are still using from Kuwait, dental floss leftover from our years in Tunis and an excess of Christmas decorations we still need to pare down. We try to go easy on ourselves. “Ah,” we sigh, “it’s a process.” God grant that we live long enough to use up all those supplies we bought “just in case.”

July 5, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Christmas, Circle of Life and Death, Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Germany, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Shopping, Stranger in a Strange Land, Travel, Tunisia | Leave a comment

Ignoring the Law

I still get ads and info from Qatar sources. Living in Doha was such a vivid experience; experiencing the life of a country going from a sleepy little village to a mecca of skyscrapers was an astounding experience.

Qatar was full of contradictions, and the treatment of domestic workers, all imported from mostly Asian countries, was abysmal. While some few families treated their servants well, most did not. Contracts were not honored. Few had any time-off, most were on call 24 hours a day.

So this new law from the Ministry of Labor is . . . interesting. I find myself cynically wondering if this legislation will have any impact on how Qataris treat their servants, or if it is just national window dressing?

Not to be hitting unfairly on Qatar, it brings to mind the Florida Sunshine Laws. Florida passed some truly progressive laws suggesting that citizens of Florida had a right to know what their elected officials were doing, and how they made their decisions. I know – amazing stuff, even in a democracy. Florida took a lot of pride in those laws, and for many years, those laws were, to a great extent, observed and enforced.

Fast forward to Florida in the times of COVID and there is not a mention of the Florida Sunshine Laws. Some of the Sunshine Laws have been amended, to protect Law Enforcement and court officials. Most of the Sunshine Laws are now just ignored.

How does this manifest? How about the governor telling the Health Department not to publish health statistics, and telling them not to count people from out-of-state who come here and catch COVID. How about not allowing them to collect all the statistics, just every other week? How about not publishing the transmission rate on a daily or even weekly basis?

How about concealing how Universities recruit and select college presidents?

Publishing laws that look good on paper is one thing. Writing the laws so that they have teeth, and can be enforced, is another. Having a police force on the city and county level which will enforce laws as written is another. Having courts that will support the enforcement of the laws as written is another.

Having an independent legislature is another critical factor, we have to ask if the intention is for them to represent our will as citizens or if they exist to rubber-stamp gubernatorial stage-craft?

One of my friends at church mentioned yesterday that the state of Florida now has a holiday, Juneteenth, the explanation for which is not legally allowed to be taught in Florida schools, where any acknowledgment of the history and damages of enslavement might make young white school children uncomfortable.

When people behave badly towards one another, whether in Qatar or in the USA, maybe feeling uncomfortable is appropriate.

June 20, 2022 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Civility, Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, fraud, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues, Qatar, Quality of Life Issues, Social Issues | Leave a comment

Back in Kuwait

No, No don’t get excited. It’s a metaphor.

When I lived in Kuwait, I would tell my friends it was a lot like living in Alaska, and I loved the look on their faces. Then I would explain – in Alaska, people wait eagerly for good weather, and when it comes, they can’t get enough of it. We are outdoor people.

For much of the year, Alaskans are trapped inside, and have to be good at finding things to do to keep themselves from going crazy.

In Pensacola, as it was in Kuwait, the temperatures are very hot. Kuwait was mostly very dry, and had sandstorms, unlike Pensacola, but shared having a long coastline, and heat with humidity in the summers.

So now, as in Kuwait, I am up early, to get to the pool and swim my laps, so lovely and cool. If I need to grocery shop, I try to shop on the way home, so as not to have to venture out again as the day heats up. I get home, and tend to the Little Free Library while it is still in the shade. Most of the rest of the day I spend inside, except for picking up grandchildren at their camps.

It is a great time to do some quilting. I am just about to start when Ragnar, my helper, comes in to join me. (Also, AdventureMan is outside weed-eating and edging, which is of endless amusement and torment to Ragnar, who forgets he was once a feral, outdoor cat, and was lucky to survive.)

I do a couple more things to set up, hoping Ragnar will take the hint and move off to find something more interesting. He doesn’t. In the end, I have to lift him (lovingly) and place him in another room on a blanket we call Blue Mama, because Ragnar particularly loves sleeping on this blanket.

He doesn’t come back, and I spend the morning “back in Kuwait,” enjoying my confinement by working with fabrics and colors I love, patterns I would never wear but enjoy the challenge of working them into quilts.

June 16, 2022 Posted by | Arts & Handicrafts, Biography, Cultural, ExPat Life, Florida, Pensacola, Quality of Life Issues, Weather, Work Related Issues | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Arches National Park and Moab

I love that Arches NP has gone to a reservation system during the busy months. Everyone has an equal shot; you can book a time a couple months in advance. We love the morning light, so we have booked a 7:00 a.m. slot and it is a gorgeous day. There is no line at the entrance booth. There are no crowds at the various arches. It is all so relaxed!

The morning is crisp, cool, and magnificent with a bright deep blue sky.

Please forgive me, I am besotted with the textures and colors and the shapes of the rock and I have yet to show you a single arch.

Our preference, at Arches, is to drive to the very end, to Devil’s Garden, and hike while it is still cool, and then stop at the other arches on our way back. But we always have to stop at the one on the way.

I think this is Delicate Arch from below

I love these rocks that look like Aliens; this rock is on the hiking route up to Delicate Arch

Delicate Arch for sure

A wealth of arches!

Because I can’t resist a good mountain 🙂

We hit the visitors center at Arches, then headed into Moab for lunch. It was around 11, so we were the first seated at Pasta Jay’s, where AdventureMan had a Caprese salad and Saturnalia pizza and I had a pizza Rustica, which was a garlic pizza base and Caesar salad on top. We split a Tiramisu, delicious.

Arches National Park Visitors Center

When we picked up our Thai food last night, we could smell the pizzas from Pasta Jay’s, so we really had no problem choosing where we would go for lunch. Pasta Jays!

The heat in Moab is so dry that it is still cool enough to sit outside to eat. The setting is delightful, but oh! The noise! The Main street of Moab is full of trucks with heavy rumbling loads, squealing breaks and loud engines. There are Vans pulling ATVs, trailers full of kayaks and canoes, a constant, endless flow of noisy traffic.

But the food is delicious.

Caprese salad

Saturnalia Pizza

Pizza Rustica – a Caesar Salad on a thin pizza crust

Fabulous Tiramisu

We are thoroughly satisfied with our lunch, and we are delighted also to head back to the peacefulness of our cabin.

So this is not like FaceBook, this is the real world. In the real world, not everything is perfect. We are really happy to have a beautiful, quiet cabin because with all the driving and hiking, AdventureMan’s back is acting up. It’s been tender a couple days. He insists that the hiking in Arches was actually good for his back, but when I bring up canceling our activity for tomorrow, he only resists for a while.

To me, it made sense to cancel, even though it was something we had really wanted to do, hike the Canyon of the Ancients in search of more petroglyphs. It would have meant a two-and-a-half-hour drive down, four hours of hiking, and a two-and-a-half-hour drive back. To me, that did not make sense with a tender back. Life is short. We can do the hike another year, hopefully find a cabin down in the Four Corner area where we can stay and do a more thorough exploration of several nearby areas. Once we canceled, we both felt relieved.

We also had dinner plans, a totally tourist thing, a Sunset Boat Cruise with Canyonlands, and included Cowboy Dinner. All we had to do was show up. It turned out to be really fun, and the dinner, all kinds of BBQ, was surprisingly good. Canyonlands guide Brandon was entertaining and full of good information, he showed us more petroglyphs and arches, and got us back in time for dinner.

Can you find the arch?

Petroglyphs along Potash Road
A couple more arches if you can spot them

A great ending to a great day.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Environment, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Weather | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: On to Trails End, and Moab

The drive from Vernal to Moab was pretty boring, but we had a memorable stop at the Outlaw Cafe in some small town, where we had surprisingly good salads.

We got to the cabin at about three, keys were waiting for us, and the cabin is quirky but had a lot of things we really like. Lots of space, a beautiful deck with a wide expanse of view, and although the temperatures in Moab are in the 80’s heading toward 90’s, the breezes in the Pack Creek Valley keep things relatively cool. The king-size bed is generous and firm.

The rules focus on quiet and mutual respect. We took a look at the pool and hot tub and had no interest. We loved the quiet of the cabin.

I’m a worrier. I love planning trips, and sometimes it feels like a high wire act. Will I be able to get the dates I want for the property I want? Will I be able to fly on the dates we need to fly on? And when I chose this cabin to stay in for five days, I worried that it wouldn’t be as good as the photos. Maybe it was too far from town?

The internet didn’t work, which was a good thing. We were so busy that we didn’t even worry about getting it fixed for the first three days, and that was a lovely blessing. And in the midst of “busy,” we had this lovely, incredibly quiet, beautiful retreat in the middle of our vacation. This was not a luxurious place, unless you consider privacy, simplicity and quiet a luxury – and we do.

You can see our food box on the table – everything we need except for fresh milk for my cereal, which I mix myself and bring with us. We will pick up milk later, at the grocery store in Moab, along with our dinner. There is a stove and oven, a full size refrigerator, a microwave, a coffee maker. There is a large sink, all the dishes, pots, pans, containers we might need.

Although the temperatures are in the 90’s, the cool winds keep us comfortable and we never have to turn on the air conditioning. I need to wash a couple things; I wash them in the sink, hang them on hangers on this porch, and within a couple hours they are completely dry. Sheer luxury.

Although I am not much for sunning, lying out on the bench to dry my hair was another luxury, the breezes faster than a hair dryer.

As I walked around taking photos, it’s a good thing I didn’t know about rattlesnakes. There was one coiled right by the back deck which slithered away while Adventureman stepped out on the deck. He took it in stride. I didn’t grow up with snakes; I might have had a different reaction.

The pool was lovely and we are happy enough in our little cabin and on our little deck.

We head into Moab to pick up dinner; it is Monday, and as is true through out the United States, many places are closed. AdventureMan picks a Thai restaurant, Singha Thai, and we order vegetable rolls, sate and Thai salad. We pick it up and stop at a grocery store for milk. The grocery store is disconcerting; we hear German, we hear French, it is packed with Moab tourists from all over the world looking for something for dinner. We buy our milk and hit the road; it is 20 minutes to our cabin, Trail’s End, at Pack Creek Ranch. We are at the foot of the La Sal mountains.

At sunset, AdventureMan sees twirling lights on a nearby hill. Like the petroglyphs, it is a mystery. We can see vans on the crest of the hill, we can see a human twirling (juggling?) something (flashlights? those balls with lights inside?) as the sun goes down and we can hear singing, but we can’t hear the words. We imagine it is some sort of sunset ritual.

The sunset is full of bird sounds; owl, turtledove, others which shriek a little, and the soft gurgling of Pack Creek. Once the sun is set, there is a stunning quiet, so quiet that your ears might ring with the silence.

The night sky is brilliant with stars.

The next morning, the light paints the distant rock hills with color.

June 12, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Living Conditions, Privacy, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Joe Pickett Guides Us Through the Red Desert, Wamsutter and the Lincoln Highway to Rock Springs, Wyoming

The sun wakes us early the next morning, streaming in our window. The temperature is 22°F and there is a light frost on the ground. All we brought in are our backpacks, so we grab a quick breakfast from our supplies and head out.

It’s a beautiful day at 22°F

“Why would you want to go to Rock Springs, Wyoming?” asked my new brother-in-law with genuine bewilderment, at the end of our trip as we were spending time with him and my sister.

I didn’t know he had been born there, and still has family there. No, we had chosen this obscure route because of a series by C.J. Box about a game warden named Joe Pickett, a series we have both read from book one to book 22. In Off the Grid, Joe is tracking a crazy bear into the Red Desert when he finds a bunch of terrorists and naive young people putting together a magnetic pulse bomb to create havoc in the civilized western world. (Honestly, I don’t even know how to describe the plot to you, sometimes it doesn’t have to make a lot of sense, you just sort of have to roll with it.)

I had never heard of The Red Desert before, and I had driven that stretch of Highway 80, the old Lincoln Highway, several times. It was always just a place to get through, but this time we would be looking at it with different eyes.

It all started in Qaqortoq, on our Wake of the Vikings trip (just type in Wake of the Vikings in the search window of this blog if you want to more about that trip). In Qaqortoq, AdventureMan asked me what I would do if I lived there and I told him I would learn to spin wool, something I’ve always wanted to do. He said “If I had to live here, I would kill myself or drink myself to death.”

On this trip, we passed through several towns about which he felt the same. We like being remote on trips. He doesn’t like the idea of living remote.

The field irrigators are on, and the spray etches patches of fairy ice onto the grass.

It is a beautiful day, and we stop often, just because we can. It is cold, but it is also beautiful. These rocks, we learn, are called fortification rocks, because in territorial wars people could use them to strategic advantage.

note the bullet holes. Bullet holes were everywhere.

There were mountains in the distance capped with white snow. We began seeing pronghorns, and at one point, when we stopped to take a photo, I almost stepped on a dead elk, probably hit by a car. There was no smell, probably because it was still so cold.

Pronghorn

Baggs, Wyoming, is at the border between Colorado and Wyoming and is at the southeastern tip of The Red Desert. Baggs was where AdventureMan said he would kill himself if he had to live in a town with 411 people.

AdventureMan mentions there are routes into the Red Desert coming up, and I counter saying that they are tracks, not routes, and if we were to go in, and get into some trouble, it is very remote and we might be those tragic elderly people who foolishly thought they could survive, but couldn’t. Honestly, I would love to see the Red Desert AND I know we are not the people we once were. I think we could survive a lot, being who we are, and I also know it is not wise, at our age, to tempt the fates. I can’t really tell whether he is disappointed or relieved by my response. My best guess would be – both.

That’s the tip end of The Red Desert in the background. If you look at the Google Map of today’s journey, you will see a big empty space in the middle, a biblical “trackless waste.”

Just around lunchtime, we enter Wamsutter, a boom-and-bust town with several past lives. AdventureMan finds the Hacienda Mendez, where we have our first taste of cactus salad – it is delicious.

Dining area
Bar
Crispy chips and tasty salsa

Cactus Salad – Nopal Salad
Mexican Burger

Shrimp Tostadas

And on we go, down the Lincoln Highway toward Rock Springs, the Red Desert to our left with high tabletop plateaus guarding the tracks leading to the interior, and the Great Divide Basin to our right, along with the Killpecker Sand Dunes (Wikipedia calls them the largest living dune system in the United States. I didn’t know that – did you know that?)

We head into Rock Springs and find our home for the next couple of nights, The Outlaw Inn. I could not resist the name.

They gave us a really great room, with two bathrooms, one with a toilet and shower, one with a toilet and tub. Just pure luck.

Calamity Jane in one of the party rooms

Dropping our gear, we headed out to explore Rock Springs. We wanted to find the college museum, but when we found it, nothing was open. In Joe Pickett’s world, this was where his daughter April went to university, a rodeo college. What we did find was a wonderful museum, the Rock Springs Historical Museum, and a wonderful docent who was willing to answer all our questions. This museum was wonderful. It included a full jail, and a padded cell as well as well-curated exhibits of communications, health care, etc. through the earliest history of the county.

I am eager for tomorrow, when we have a real adventure, searching for the White Mountain Petroglyphs!

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Beauty, Cultural, Living Conditions, Marriage, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Safety, Social Issues, Survival, Travel, Wildlife | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Chasing Petroglyphs: Outfitting and Play in Denver

Even sleeping in, we are up early, due to the one hour difference in our body time from Denver time. We need a little breakfast, and head over to La Fillette for coffee and breakfast rolls.

Next stop, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, one of our favorite places in Denver. AdventureMan wanted to see the visiting Egypt exhibit (and said it was a total WOW) and I wanted to visit the nature exhibits and see the visit to the Solar System, so we split up with an agreement to meet up for lunch.

Everlasting Storm on Jupiter

Rings of Saturn
Colorado Wildlife

There are several school groups in the museum, which I suppose I could count as Colorado Wildlife, but they were all so good, and I love to see children enjoying museums.

Sale of Egyptian Glass bottles as part of the Egyptian Exhibit

AdventureMan has had a spiritual adventure, viewing the Egypt exhibit, so he is ready to indulge me – I want to drive back downtown to the Union Station area and have Chinese noodles.

I grew up eating good Chinese food, in Seattle. When we were moving to Pensacola, our son sat us down and told us he had some bad news for us – there is no good Chinese restaurant in Pensacola. Nor in New Orleans. I am guessing that the deep south is not ready for the exotic tastes of real Chinese food.

But Denver is another story. We find our way downtown, and search the Union Square area, where a concierge tells us how to find it – just next door to Union Station.

Union Station Front Entrance

Union Station Interior – lots of restaurants, and a hotel, too.
Union Station tracks going to other places in the USA

ZoMama Interior
ZoMama Ordering
ZoMama Dan Noodles

ZoMama Cool Sesame Noodles

This is living! The noodles are house-made, the tastes are fresh and delicious. My noodles are cooked, but cold, perfect on a hot summer’s day. We eat outside, because although it is hot, it is so dry we can manage the heat and we like eating outdoors. AdventureMan strikes up a conversation with another vet, a security guard, making sure the homeless do not intrude on the meals of the customers.

We find our way back to the parking lot, which is really expensive, and it takes us so long to figure out how to get out that our charge goes up again.

We are off to outfit for our trip – hitting our favorite Denver Target, we pick up our car staples – water, apples, oranges, crackers, peanut butter, and AdventureMan’s specialty, two kinds of snacks, a box of thick, chewy brownie bits and another box of lemony madeleines. He chose well; having only one or two a day, they lasted right up to the last day. We also invested in insect repellent and sun screen, which we never used. Our clerk mentioned the incoming blizzard.

Blizzard? We hadn’t heard of it. We headed back to the VRBO and our hosts were busy moving pots and pots, concerned that their lushly blooming garden will take a bad hit from freezing temperatures and snow and hail, the alder branches can break from the weight of the snow, all the blooms will freeze, and who knows what will survive?

We sort, we repack, and we take a nap. We have a great conversation with our hostess and say goodbye in advance; we have decided to leave early the next morning hoping to escape the worst of the storm. That night AdventureMan indulges me for a second time – this time we go to Q’s House on Colfax, get an outside table and oh-my the menu is short but fabulous. I have the Chong Qing Chicken and AdventureMan has Duck Lo Mein. We both have way too much, no matter how delicious it is. We decide to take a chance – we have a refrigerator and tomorrow should be really cold – so we pack it up and take it with us.

Chong Qing Chicken
Duck Lo Mein

A perfect ending to an excellent first day.

June 9, 2022 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Climate Change, Cultural, Food, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Shopping, Survival, Travel | , , , , | 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 | Adventure, Blogging, Character, Charity, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Faith, Interconnected, Quality of Life Issues, Relationships, Values | 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