Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Every Monkey Gets His Turn in the Barrel (3)

It’s such a common expression in our family that when I thought to title this post with this title, I checked, and sure enough, I have used this same title twice before. I didn’t know I was allowed to do that. It’s all about days when you’ve tried to do everything right, you’ve tried to maximize your chances for success, but everything seems to go wrong. We’ve learned, as the monkeys concerned, that it’s all about loss of control, and a smart monkey will just roll with it.

There is a part of me saying “Oh woe is me.” It’s a part of me I hate, the catastrophic thinking, which is not thinking at all, but we feel what we feel.

It will always strike at the worst moment, this monkey getting a turn in the barrel phenomenon. Last time, it was Viking notifying us that a major trip was canceled, a day before we were leaving on another major trip, and big decisions and a lot of telephoning needed to be done. This time, disaster struck an hour before the book club meeting that I was to lead. While my husband worked his end, I walked away. I said I’ll deal with it after book club.

We’re not people who like drama. We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family in Panama City. We had a condo on the beach, big enough for the six of us in the nuclear family, with sunsets and wave action and a great gathering with lots of hugs.

Thanksgiving night, we got news that one of those we had hugged tested positive for COVID. All of us are vaccinated, so we weren’t too worried. Then the next night, one of the six of us tested positive, and the next morning, another. Adventure and I tested negative, and immediately went in for our booster shots. This is not a great time to be facing an illness, even a mild one.

We bought a new-old house back early in the COVID epidemic, a smaller house, but a house we have loved for years. It’s in good condition, but we wanted to modernize critical elements, put on a new roof, fix the chimney, install tankless heating, upgrade the electricity, make it safer for aging people and more energy efficient.

The people who built the house decided, at some point, to cover their beautiful parquet floors with wall-to-wall carpeting. When my son and his wife bought the house from us, they lifted the old carpets and loved the parquet. Unfortunately, the floor was spotted with white paint, but little by little, they were working on those spots when they sold the house back to us.

We hired a company to come in and refinish, refurbish and restore the floors in four bedrooms, and scheduled it for the first week in December so we could be all moved back in and settled by Christmas. This is what my house looks like now – we have packed out almost everything from our bedrooms:

Chaos

We have a VRBO scheduled starting Saturday when the movers come to move all the furniture out of the bedrooms.

Yesterday, as careful planners often do, my husband called the flooring company to make sure everything was on track. It wasn’t. They were planning to call us to tell us that the work can’t start until Wednesday, and “likely will finish on Saturday,” which sounds way too iffy for us. AdventureMan got busy calling the movers who cannot shift the first date.

When I got home from a really good book club meeting, a meeting so good I totally stopped spinning around my hamster wheel of anxiety and forgot, for that hour, that we were facing calamity, I was ready to do my part. I got an extension on our VRBO. It’s costly, but it is convenient and will provide us with a calm, serene location while our home is in upheaval. Sigh. It’s an investment in our mental health.

I’m sad about Christmas. I’ve been working on cookies, and I put up outside lights, but inside, Christmas is lacking.

Lights

Rosettes: Swedish Christmas Cookies my mother taught me how to make

I am a woman of faith. I know that somewhere in all this are multiple blessings. When the good God shakes me out of my comfort zone, I am forced to confront my own darkness, my own failings, and sometimes my misplaced priorities.

I know all this will pass, and in the end, we will have floors we love and it will make us happy in small ways for years to come. I know that this Christmas will be very different, and less structured than before – and a part of me believes that this might be a good thing, too. Shaking things up now and then allows for change, and fresh air in stale traditions. Spending ten days in another location will be a sort of enforced retreat. It won’t be without daily obligations, but my routines are seriously disrupted, and I might learn something new.

Rolling around in that barrel from time to time might just be a good thing.

(P.S. The EPIC book club book was Code Girls by Liza Mundy, and was about World War II and its transformational effect on American women’s lives. Once consigned to babies and kitchens, they were sought after and recruited to do the tedious work of code-breaking. Their work with the Army, Navy and intelligence services was exciting, instrumental in the Allied victory over both Japan and Germany. It is an inspirational book.)

December 2, 2021 Posted by | Advent, Adventure, Aging, Arts & Handicrafts, Books, Character, Christmas, EPIC Book Club, Family Issues, Home Improvements, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Renovations, Sunsets, Thanksgiving | Leave a comment

There’s No Place Like Home

Back in Pensacola; we love our sunsets and the Wolf Moon setting over the Bayou Texar:

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Pensacola, Sunsets | Leave a comment

Sunset and Gibsons in Apalachicola

We arrive back in Apalachicola mid-afternoon, relaxed, happy – and ready for a nap. Apalachicola is full of people. We know from experience that many of the people are day trippers, and by late afternoon they will be gone. Hey – it’s a get-away. A vacation. Naps are not just allowed, they are encouraged.

We already know where dinner will come from and that we won’t eat there. The Gibson was recently featured in Garden and Guns magazine as THE place to stay in Apalachicola. It is semi-Victorian, each room is different, it has a lively bar scene and a good restaurant. Under other conditions, a fun place to stay, but in the time of COVID, maybe not so much.

They are doing a lot of expanding, and renovating, and this is a great time to be doing it, before the great onslaught of people breaking free from travel restrictions. Actually, as AdventureMan is picking up dinner, he hears the desk clerk telling someone at the desk, “it is our last room, and it is on the third floor.” So much for travel restrictions.

I had the New Orleans BBQ Shrimp, an appetizer, and the Caesar salad. AdventureMan also had the BBQ shrimp and something else. The shrimp were good, the salad was not great and we can’t remember what else we had. Things rarely taste as good in take-out containers as they do in plates, so not the Gibson’s fault.

On this night, I also got a sunset photo:

So you could see a little piece of our hotel 🙂

February 5, 2021 Posted by | Beauty, Character, Food, Health Issues, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | 1 Comment

A Day Like No Other

I headed for the Y this morning, surprised I was awake and eager – I’d been up late the night before following the senatorial elections in Georgia, finally giving up when I couldn’t stay awake any longer. When I got to the Y, I found all the lanes filled, more than filled, and people waiting. In a state with one of the highest COVID rates in the nation and one of the highest death rates, and a state rated #50 in all 50 states in the health care for the elderly (aaack, I choke even to write this word, which seems to apply to me, but I do not feel “elderly”) I cannot stay in a place where a lot of unmasked people are breathing heavily as they exercise. I came home and walked a mile, then went on with my day.

I fell in love with a beautiful heron.

And his friends:

What a day it was. Two Democrats elected in Georgia, swinging the Senate to a 50-50 split, with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker. As I see it, it is a challenge and a win-win. If this country is going to heal, we have to work together. We have to try to see things from the other’s point of view, and we have to find ways to compromise to achieve the greater good. We have so much work to do just to remedy the great slough of the last four years, work in the fields of justice, environment, health care, infrastructure, diplomatic relations, oh my, so much work to do in so many areas. It’s going to take all of us working together.

So as we are eating lunch and Mitch McConnell is on CNN making an astonishing speech supporting accepting the electoral college votes for Joe Biden, so astonishing it caught our full attention, and then all hell broke loose. There was a rallying speech by our Fearless Leader, who assured his followers once again that the election had been stolen and he was going to march with them (he didn’t) to the Capital where the senators and congresspeople were meeting, and they were to show how strong they were, and not be weak.

We watched in horror as this mob headed to the Capitol and knocked over the barriers and FOUGHT WITH THE POLICE. these followers of the Fearless one who calls himself the Law and Order President. Oh the shame of it! We watched as they broke windows, and lookie-lou’d, phone cameras in every hand documenting their invasion. We watched a sole policeman trying to staunch the mob as they headed for the law-makers chambers. The horror. The shame. I think all America was watching these hooligans with utter horror.

Not the brightest bulbs in the chandeliers; the US government offices are littered with cameras and state-of-the art facial recognition sortware. For the rest of their lives they will be instantly recognized as yahoos and insurrectionists in their FBI files accessible to every sheriff’s office and police department in America. What utter fools.

What did they think they were going to be able to accomplish? I suspect it was not a question of thinking; they were part of a mob and just sort of mindlessly participated not even realizing what they were doing. The last thing they would accomplish was overturning the will of the people, those voters who defeated the sitting president by more than 7 million votes.

As I write this, the Senate and House are meeting again to verify the electoral college votes and probably will agree to research better, more efficient ways to secure the vote in the future, maybe find more standardized ways to provide equal access to voting to all Americans, and to think of ways to more efficiently tally the vote. Joe Biden is safe. He will be inaugurated January 20th. And Kamala Harris will be one of the most important Vice-Presidents in history, providing the tie breaking vote when Democrats and Republicans fail to agree, but even better, working in the background to find ways to get lawmakers to craft legislation that will serve the people of both parties. I believe this.

At the end of this extraordinary day, I looked out and saw this:

Is that not beautiful?

I believe that out of the most horrendous circumstances, great good can come. I have seen this in my own life. People can change. Lives can change. We have choices, and sometimes it takes a good shaking up to show us how we can make better choices. I have hope that today has opened eyes, and opened hearts, and that it has opened a possibility that we can find a way to work together to accomplish great things.

Nancy Pelosi is talking about today being a day of Epiphany, a time of change and healing. My Moslem friends would say “insh’allah.” God willing.

January 6, 2021 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Character, Cultural, Events, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Political Issues, Social Issues, Sunsets | , , , , , | 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

Tofino and the Heebie Jeebies

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

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

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

(Sea Star at Terrace Beach Resort; Ucluelet)

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

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

It’s Personal: Quality of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to Bandon, Oregon

We forget just how big this great United States is. We look at a map, and we think, “Oregon, piece of cake.”

Not so much.

 

This day we are bound for Bandon, Oregon. It’s been years since we have passed through, I don’t even know for sure how many years. The last time I can clearly remember is forty one years ago, our son was a baby, we travelled in a Volkswagon van turned into a camper. We had a little travel crib for our son, we slept in the way back with the seat folded down, and we had our famous cat, Big Nick.

When we got to Bandon, lo those many years ago, we bought a Dungeness Crab, had it cleaned, a loaf of French bread and a bottle of white wine. We found a motel, settled in, got our baby to bed and feasted on that crab. It is one of our most fun memories.

The route to Bandon is along the coast, but we are not always in sight of the ocean. There are some times we are, and those times are spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And my favorite of all, pouring rain and streaming sunshine and roaring waves all at once 🙂

We arrive in Bandon; I’ve reserved at a place we haven’t stayed and it is hard to tell from the online photos how this works. Our reception is less than warm. We walk in and the sole receptionist takes three phone calls before she acknowledges us and registers us. It’s annoying.

Our annoyance totally disappears when we get to our cabin. We discover it is easily accessible (not all are) and we can even take our bags in with some ease. Once in the door – oh Wow.

The cabin is old-timey, but squeaky clean, and with a view to die for. There is a part of me that could stay in this cabin forever.

 

 

This is the view from the balcony when we arrived.

AdventureMan walked the beach, came back, we stretched, walked around, napped a little, and then went to Tony’s Crab Shack for dinner. It doesn’t look familiar, but this may be where we bought our crab forty one years ago.

Tony’s Crab Shack is not a large place, like some counter seating, a booth and a couple small tables. The menu is surprisingly varied, and all up on the wall, with lots of beverages.

 

 

 

We ate something, I can’t even remember what, I probably had crab 🙂 and then we walked around Brandon downtown, which was almost entirely closed up except for a couple bars.

But I wanted to be back in our room for sunset.

The beach at Bandon is beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

Bandon is one of my happy places.

May 2, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Food, Hotels, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Kalaloch Lodge and Creekside Restaurant

OK, I am going to risk boring you. I have a think about lodges and historic hotels. I love the old architecture, the high ceilings, the spacious rooms. I love the restorations and renovations that include gracious private bathrooms (!) and I love the vision that created these lodges in the first place. So I am going to show you lots of photos, because I can’t help myself. Honestly, I have shown restraint, but you may not think so.

 

This is the exterior of Kalaloch Lodge

 

These are some of the cabins. Many of them have cabins with kitchens, and people bring their own food for the week.

This is the wedding pagoda; the signs posted say that the pagoda is reserved from like 1 – 4 for a private event 🙂

The registration area and gift shop

 

Upstairs area

 

Our room looking out over the beach

 

Our view – oh WOW. I just wish you could hear the waves.

Sunset at Kalaloch

 

We ate dinner that night in the Creekside restaurant at the lodge, thanks to being urged to make reservations when we arrived. There is no place anywhere near Kalaloch you can eat without 30 minute drive. Fortunately, the Creekside Restaurant had delicious food, and some great choices for wine and beer.

 

Restaurant is on lower floor; above it is one of the suites.

We don’t often end up ordering exactly the same thing, but this night we did. A great arugula salad and a big bowl full of clams, and some really good sourdough French bread. AdventureMan had a local beer, and I had a dry red wine. Life can’t get much sweeter 🙂 I am very proud that for once, I remembered to take a photo before we started eating.

 

He restoreth my soul.

April 30, 2018 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Cultural, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Food, Hotels, Photos, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel, Weather | , , , | Leave a comment

Wake of the Vikings: Sunset over Saguenay

Ah, I do so love having a view of the sunrises and the sunsets. Here is last night’s late sunset over the city of Saguenay:

Bonne Nuit!

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Sunsets | , , | Leave a comment