Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friends, Food, Thanksgiving and Flying Squirrels!

Yes, we survived down, one to go!!  Actually, it was fine because we took the easy way out.  We didn't get back here until very late afternoon on Tuesday.  So, Wednesday was spent getting settled in and situated.  No longer eating meat, I made a new recipe for stuffed acorn squash, which is definitely a keeper.  Then on Thanksgiving day, I went out and got my  mother a traditional Thanksgiving plate, with which she seemed pleased.  We both agreed that it was nice to have a relaxing morning and an easy clean up!!  I always thought that women got the short end of the "holiday" stick, so I was fine with going this way.

After lunch, Pamela, a new friend I met on the way to the Rally to Restore Sanity, came over for dessert.  She stayed quite a while and we all had a good chat.  Unfortunately, she's moving back to California in January.  She's been here a year (her elderly mother lives here in an upscale assisted living home) and not been able to find a job or meet friends with whom she has much in common.  She joined me for Living Liberally a few weeks ago and we found we had lots to talk about, and I think she enjoyed spending part of the day with us.

My trip to NC wasn't without excitement, this time in the form of a flying squirrel!!  Earlier in the week, my mother had told me that there was a squirrel on her enclosed porch and that her kitty was trying to get it.  When I got there, I looked for it but couldn't find it.....and assumed it had gotten back out into the wild.  Then, Tuesday morning (the day we were to come back), as I was making coffee (my mother still in bed), her little kitty flew through the kitchen with something in his mouth.  Immediately I knew what it was and was afraid he was taking it to Mama as a gift!!  As I followed him to the bedroom, he went under the bed, growling.  I checked in every few minutes.  Finally, he was out from under the bed, standing over the squirrel, who was lying flat on his back with his white tummy full exposed.  Tuffy turned to look at me and in a split second the squirrel hopped up and flew under the desk!!  Once my mother was up, we finished packing the car and the mission then became getting the squirrel out of the bedroom.  I spent well over and hour and a half chasing him, with no success.  Somehow he found a good hiding spot and just held up there.  Finally, around noon I said we had to go or we would be driving at night.  So, we opened the window from the bedroom to the porch a little, stuffed towels under the closet & bedroom doors, hoping he would find his way back onto the porch and out the same way he came in.  Thus is the story of our getting back to SC so late.  I just hope the little fellow got back outside.  He was a young flying squirrel and sooo cute.  I told Mama I wish he knew I was just trying to help him out, but to him I was just something much larger than a cat chasing him!

For me, as I grow older, my Thanksgiving list becomes shorted and more crystallized, as I've learned that the best things in life really are not things.  In spite of the ups and downs, I'm thankful to have this time with my mother, especially those moments that are good.  Knowing that "our friends are God's apology for our family", I'm immensely thankful for my friends......and wish they were much closer in proximity!  Those family members who are close to us now (and they aren't necessarily those I was closest to growing up) are also much appreciated.  Good health also has to be close to the top of the list, and I've been so fortunate in that respect.....and have become more aware of it as I've gotten older. Enriching experiences, large and small, are the condiments that add joy to each day....sometimes a short exchange with a total stranger can be the high point of a day, like my recent chat with a lady in the cat aisle of a store who was getting outfitted for her new kitty......little commonalities that are shared with someone else whom you might not otherwise know.  And finally comes the abundance of "things" that makes my life comfortable.  The list could go on and on, but these are the things for which I'm most thankful.

Though it's after the fact, I'm sending this Thanksgiving poem to friends and other readers.  While it's nice to note our blessings on Thanksgiving day, I like what it says able looking for/recognizing "bits of pleasure in each hour", which I'm trying to perfect.

I’m Thankful for You
Thanksgiving is the appointed time
for focusing on the good in our lives.
In each of our days,
we can find small blessings,
but too often we overlook them,
choosing instead to spend our time
paying attention to problems.
We give our energy
to those who cause us trouble
instead of those who bring peace.
Starting now,
let’s be on the lookout
for the bits of pleasure in each hour,
and appreciate the people who
bring love and light to everyone
who is blessed to know them.
You are one of those people.
On Thanksgiving,
I’m thankful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!
By Joanna Fuchs

Friday, November 19, 2010

More Than You Need/Want to Know...

A special "thank you" to those who sent condolences and kind words for Rita.  They were greatly appreciated.  I did go to the gathering for her and knew many of the people there because they are or had been members of the synagogue.  The interesting thing was that many of them were surprised by the information given in Rita's obituary - they were surprised that she was "that accomplished".  It made me value our friendship even more because I DID know she was that accomplished.  We talked about the things that made us who we are - I knew about her family as she was growing up, her practice, her days in NY, Kentucky, Florida - all of those things that were surprising to others.  It's really strange what brings people together and makes it easy (or difficult!) to relate to one another.  Rita was in the same category with Dori, who passed away several years ago.  They are among the few people here whom I would include with my Aramco friends, which is the highest compliment I can pay. 

This chokes me up when I think of it, and I can't help but think of it......the last time Rita and I spoke on the phone, after her first stoke, when her thoughts were difficult to express, she told me that I was a dear friend to her and that she loved me.  How often does that happen?  It always seems so difficult (for me, anyway) to say to those closest to me/us that I/we love them.  So, my dear friend Rita has left me something to treasure forever and something to work on at the same time........a therapist to the end!

Rita's children, Linda and Michael, are the two in the center of the top row of the photo in the last post.  I had never met either of them, but Linda and I had a nice, warm conversation.  Rita had put us in touch when Jan and I went to Chicago and Linda gave us a lot of touristy information.  Jan will like this....I told her how much I appreciated her help and how much we enjoyed Chicago, and that we definitely wanted to visit again and see more.  She asked if I still had her email address and made me promise to let her know when we came.  She would again clue us in to what was happening, etc.........she insisted by saying that it would make her think of her Mom and she would love that. I thought that was so sweet, and so Rita!  Anyway, Al is going back to Chicago with his kids, which I'm pleased to know.  I've got him on my list for some baked goods when he gets back, and just to touch bases with him to see that he's okay.  Rita was the strong one and Al is a creative, helpless sort, so I know he is going to be lost for a it's good that he's going to be with his kids for a while.

This isn't the photo that was in the magazine, but close!

Al-Ayyam Al-Jamilah, the Aramco annuitant's magazine, arrived yesterday.  Usually I don't know anyone in it but, this time, it was different.  Sol and Jilllian were on the cover and there were a lot of people I knew attending the reunion in Orlando.  Now, I got this magazine but somehow I didn't know anything about the reunion in Orlando beforehand (though I did know about the one in the UK!!).  Anyway, I've never been tempted to go to one stateside, but it was nice to see some familiar faces.  There was one page devoted to the UK reunion, which included a great photo of Tom and Eileen (with Martin, wearing one of his snazzy vests, in the background) blowing out a candle.  It was a nice article and a great photo.  With Eileen looking this well, I'm happy to report that she has completed her chemo and radium treatment, and is now released on her own good behavior (??) until May, when she will see the surgeon again.  She has done so well and been so valiant in the face of all of this......I as so pleased that the worst is behind her, and I hope to see her soon.

On Sunday I'm off to NC to pick up my mother and bring her down for the winter, though it seems like winter is far away.  The weather is so glorious that it's hard to believe that we're near the end of November.  It will be difficult to face colder weather when it finally arrives......and it's hard to believe that Christmas is almost here.  I'm usually in great denial, but this weather makes it more difficult to believe that the end of the year is near.

Finally, you may have noticed that I've added a tab at the top of the site for a section of quotes.  I love quotes that resonate with me and have begun to "collect" them.  Finally I decided to add them to the site in case there are others who might appreciate them.  I will be adding to them from time to time so I hope you will check that section once in a while.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How Quickly Things Change!

Al and Rita (bottom row) at granddaughter's graduation
It is with sadness that I report the death of my friend Rita.  Al called day before yesterday to let me know.  I had just said to my mother on the phone the day before that I planned to stop by Rita's on Tuesday before going to Living Liberally.  Little did I know that it would be much too late.  It appears that she suffered another stroke during the night, fell off the bed and struck her head.  She never recovered.  Al said she had been progressing well, recovering her words and putting her thoughts together better, then this just happened so suddenly.

The photo to the left was taken when they were in Chicago at the same time as Jan and I. Rita had a wonderful smile, which you can see here, and from day one we found it easy to both talk to and confide in each other.  She was a trained therapist and I always told her that a few hours with her was like a therapy session!  And I really think she felt the same way.  Her obituary said, "You could ask for no better friend than Rita.  If you were lucky enough to be one, you were lucky indeed."  I can vouch for that!  She will be missed.

Things have been pretty quiet.  I've been trying to get a few things done and enjoy my free time before my mother comes for the winter.  I'll be going to NC on Sunday, hoping to return with her on Monday or Tuesday.   However, there are a few problems - lost hearing aid, chipped tooth, etc. - so who knows.  Since Thanksgiving will be very low-key, it shouldn't take us long to get it all together once we get back here.
Our weather continues to be absolutely beautiful, making my walks even more enjoyable.  Now I have much more flexibility as to when I can take them and I've begun to vary the routes, as doing two laps of the circle was becoming boring.  
I did have a very nice surprise, a call from the rabbi, my former boss who now lives in Illinois.  We email but I hadn't spoken to him by phone in a long time, so it was nice to catch up.  
It seems that I've been on an eating-out binge lately, but that's usually the way it goes.... feast or famine.  Not long ago I had dinner with Leigh, from the office at the synagogue.  On Monday I went to the Crescent ladies'  "lunch bunch" holiday luncheon.  It was held at Belfair Club House, which was very nice.  It isn't the type of thing I'd normally go to, but I was invited to go with a lady I've met on my walks (the one with the cute little dog that determines the route and pace of their walk!!).  I knew anyone who was that caring to her pooch couldn't be all bad!!   We had a good time but I think it was mostly because we went with someone with whom we felt comfortable.
Last night I went to Living Liberally with Pamela (we met up there), a lady I met at the rally.  She was one of three of us who would have been traveling on our own had we not met up with the ladies from Sun City.  We seem to have quite a bit in common and she's very down to earth; but, unfortunately she's planning to move back to California in January. Even so, I'm sure we'll do a few things together before she goes......and she did enjoy the LL group so I hope she'll continue to join us.
Am off this afternoon to a gathering for Rita at their home.  I don't think it's actually "shiva" as she wasn't much of a religious person and Al said it would be very informal, "maybe with a few prayers or something......Rita wasn't much into that kind of thing."  It's not an event one looks forward to, but I do want to pay my respects.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Good Friends

I was just recovering from the Rally to Restore Sanity (and two consecutive "midnight-train-to-Georgia" rides) when I took off to NC to check on my mother.  Full of enthusiasm and good intentions, I was looking forward to being there and seeing her.  This was another one of those times when things just didn't go as planned or wished.  So, back I came, hat in hand....glad to be home.

So, it was with special joy that I looked forward to seeing Cheryl and Phil, who stopped by here as part of their extended vacation.  Cheryl sent an email the day of their departure saying they would like to take me for a late lunch on the 12th.  From that, I extrapolated (in my hopefulness) that they would stay the night and we would have plenty of time to catch up.  As it turned out, they could only stay a few we did our very best to catch up in that time!!

Cheryl is my protest partner (two anti-war protests by the Gray Panthers!) and I've seen her more often than Phil, so it was good to see him looking so well after all this time.  We commented on the bond of our overseas/Aramco friends and the difficulty of replicating those types of friendships here.  We all agreed that those experiences gave us a very different outlook from many people here......and for that I'm very grateful.   As a lot of time has passed since our overseas days, there was a general consensus that we don't feel our age......which is great!  It was a very good visit, with the only complaint being that it was all too short.  I hope it won't be that long before we're all together again.
We went to Truffles for lunch, which is right out the back gate.  The food was good, but the friendship and camaraderie were better.  They stopped in the house only a few minutes before heading south.  It was just over all too quickly.  I know they had a long drive and, with darkness falling so early,  they would be driving at night....but, I'm so glad they stopped by.  All I can say is that longtime Aramco friends are the best. Unfortunately, they are strewn far and wide......but it's always wonderful whenever we're able to get together.

To all my friends, far and wide...

Thank You, Friend
Thank you, friend, for all the things
That mean so much to me--
For concern and understanding
You give abundantly.
Thanks for listening with your heart;
For cheering me when I'm blue;
For bringing out the best in me;
And just for being you.
Thanks for in-depth conversation
That stimulates my brain;
For silly times we laugh out loud;
For things I can't explain.
For looking past my flaws and faults;
For all the time you spend;
For all the kind things that you do,
Thank you; thank you, friend.
By Joanna Fuchs

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sanity Prevailed at the Rally, Fear at the Polls!!

It has taken me a few days to recover from the trip and think about how to describe the rally, which basically defies description.  It's hard to express the peace, joy, and delight of 250,000 people of all backgrounds, colors, religions, sizes, shapes, etc. congregated in one place, with one hope - that we can all get along and do what is best for all in our country.  It's reaffirming to see such a (large) diverse group of people interacting in such a positive way.

Leading up to the rally, news reports were saying that it was expected to be an under-30's crowd.....NOT!  As you know, I hooked up with the group from Sun City and I was among the youngest, but their enthusiasm and stamina matched mine.  We old-timers didn't seem or feel to be in the minority, and the younger people were  impressed that we would make the effort, especially those of us from really red states.  Once we arrived at Union Station, we split up into smaller groups, which made navigating the crowds much easier.  I partnered with a lady from the island who had also purchased her train ticket, planning to go on her own if that was the only way.  We wound up having a lot in common and conversation flowed easily.  We had breakfast at the station around 8AM and then headed to the Mall.  By the time we got there (around 9AM) it was already crowded.  We were lucky to get into the first section close to the stage.  Others in our group were behind us and didn't get into this section, so we felt luck to have gotten there when we did. The area directly in front of the stage was thick with people standing, so we moved to the left side under the trees where people who had brought chairs were sitting.  We planted our chairs and made camp.  From there, we were in perfect people watching position.  Over the next three hours, people kept streaming was incredible!!  Around 10AM the jumbo screens came on with entertainment, the funnest of which were clips from the Stewart and Colbert Shows of their teasers announcing the dueling rallies, combining rallies, etc.  It was fun to see the whole progression of the silliness.  There was also music, games, etc.   Even though we were near the stage, we couldn't see it well but the jumbo screen was near and clear.

The whole show was televised on Comedy Central and C-Span.  While Stewart and Colbert did their usual styles of comedy and kept the sanity/fear theme going, there were lots of other surprises.  Keep in mind that two hundred and fifty thousand people showed up with absolutely no idea of what to expect!!  It was only one day before that I found something on the internet that said The Roots and Sheryl Crow would be performing.  In addition to them, were John Legend, the Myth Buster guys, Father Guido Sarducci, Yusuf Islam/Cat Stevens, Ozzy Osbourne, the O'Jays, Sam Waterston, Kid Rock, Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples, Karem Abdul Jabar, Tony Bennett......I'm sure I'm forgetting someone.  Anyway, it was great!!  I have to tell you that the high point for me was Cat Stevens singing Peace Train.  He is a long time favorite of mine and I never in a million years would have expected him to be there.....didn't even know that they were letting him in the country again!!  Unfortunately, it was part of a comedy skit with Ozzy Osbourne (Crazy Train) and the O'Jays (Love Train) and he didn't sing the whole song.  That was the only (slight) disappointment of the day (but I've listened to all of his songs on my walks for the last two days).

The entertainment was great, but interacting with everyone was the real joy of the day.  Yesterday I was thinking of all of those people who had signs that seemed so off the wall and I suddenly realized that, regardless of their political leanings or lack thereof, they were probably there just for that feeling of unity, camaraderie and spirit of the day.  The signs were absolutely great - some serious, some silly and some downright baffling.  I really wish I could adequately describe the spirit of the day, but it's beyond me.  All I can say is that if you ever get an opportunity to attend anything like this, please do.  We all need (especially right now) to feel that positive connection to the rest of humanity.  It was reaffirming and wonderful.

Doing an 11 hour train trip two nights in a row was as grueling as I anticipated, and Sunday was a very quiet, slow day, though I bounced back pretty quickly.  It was well worth it and proved to be a better plan than we realized at the time.  I've read several accounts of people trying to get to the location on the metro and it became almost impossible.  Reports are that 825,000 people went through the metro turnstiles, when the typical day is around 350,000!!  We just walked several blocks from Union Station and we were there. Anyway, I'm mostly revived and feeling good about it all.

Below are my photos.  Those in the beginning are my personal photos.  Unfortunately, most of them were taken into the sun or of the jumbo screen and eventually I gave up as I couldn't see what I was getting.  Therefore, I've taken a few  better ones from the web.  The last section is of signs (also from the web), which were priceless.  It's long but goes quickly.....enjoy!  Expand to full screen to better read the signs.

And then there's the election.......what can I say??  One commentator summed it up this morning by saying that over the last 2-3 election cycles, the American people have been sending mixed messages.  They want change, but they want it NOW!  Never mind that it took us years (of complacency) to get in this mess.  That's about all I can say......that I won't regret!!

For the hard core people, other articles of interest (if these links work!!):
My Day at the Rally to Restore Sanity
Arianna Huffington's Takeaway
Robert Reich: The Real Center of American Politics
Rally Goers Converge of Mall
Buddha Diaries: The Rally (a blog account - getting there by metro)