Sunday, September 25, 2011

Another Busy Week and Weekend

Last week was full of the usual things.....walking, Palmetto Animal League, Drinking Liberally, along with the usual activities of life.  All of that led up to a Living Liberally Conference that lasted all weekend.  Our chapter hosted the conference which "imported" liberals from as far away as California.  Linda, our local chapter leader and organizer of the weekend, invited me and another lady (Pat) to represent our chapter.  I was excited to attend and offered to help in any way I could.  I think my major contribution was "flexiblity".  Initially I was only asked to pick up someone from Savannah airport and deliver them to the Marriott Hotel. Then, on the Friday it all began, I received an email from Linda asking if one of the girls from NYC could stay with me.  Without hesitation, I agreed with the stipulation she could handle three cats!  She then asked if I would pick up two guys at the Hilton Head airport and take them to the hotel, which was really much easier than meeting someone in Savannah.  So, other than a few other chores along the way, I had it pretty easy.

The conference was energizing and it was great to be with liberal thinkers.  Lots of good ideas were shared, as well as many humorous stories.  It's just so reassuring to be with people who reinforce one's thinking and values.....and that doesn't happen a lot around here for me.  The conference started on Friday afternoon when everyone gathered at the poolside bar for introductions and mingling.  As one would expect, it was a very friendly, welcoming group.  From the poolside bar, we moved inside for dinner before adjourning for the evening.  Saturday was a long day but very informative.  The session ended around 4:45 and we thought we would have a little time to relax before the party at 7PM but Stephanie, the girl staying with me, needed to hit an ATM and drugstore.  So, we actually only had time to come home and do a quick change before going back to the hotel, picking up three more people, and heading to the restaurant.  The party was at Daniel's, which was a very nice restaurant......great decor, good food and nice ambiance.  We had a room for our group and the party was open to our local members, many of whom showed up. The restaurant gave us special prices and free hors d'oeuvres, which were very tasty......they treated us well.  I'd already prepared Stephanie that I'd probably be ready to come home around 9PM but, once I got my second wind, I hung in much longer than expected.  So, even though I was exhausted, it was a fun, late evening.

Sunday morning (today) was the final wind-down session, with people then filtering away throughout the afternoon and evening.  I volunteered to take anyone to the airport but wasn't called upon, so I came home and collapsed!  It was a great weekend but I was also happy to get home to my kitties and get them settled from having an unexpected guest.  I enjoyed meeting everyone and learning of their experiences.  It was also nice to see two of our younger members, Heather and Jamie, who moved to Virginia Beach and Asheville respectively and began new chapters there.  All in all, it was a great weekend.

The problem.............
Anole on my water bottle.......yikes!

The solution..............
Anole catcher!

Thought for the day from my friend Janeen:

"Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes."
 -William Gibson

Monday, September 19, 2011

Ann and Donna's Excellent Adventure.....

It's been a while since I've written, but grass hasn't been growing beneath my feet!  Ann arrived late on Wednesday the 7th and we hit the ground running.  Since she arrived late at night, I thought a nice walk on the beach and lunch at the Westin might be an easy way to start her stay.  It was a perfect day for a long walk, and lunch gave us lots of time to sit and catch up.  We had enough energy to stop at one of the Tanger outlets on the way home and browse around a little.

I had suggested going to Charleston, which appealed to Ann, so we got on the computer and found the visitor's center and made hotel reservations.  Once things were finalized, we realized they were beside each other!  So, the next morning, we plugged in the Tom Tom and off we go.  The drive up was leisurely and we found our hotel (Hampton Inn) to be well situated.  After checking in, we headed to King Street for lunch and found a wonderful Thai restaurant, Basil.  We ate outside and had a great waitress......she was so good that we asked her where we should have dinner.  We then went to the visitor's center and took a tour of "the peninsula", which contains many of the big, old homes.  After the tour, we took off on foot to cover much of it again.  It was a nice afternoon all the way around......and Charleston is such a pretty city.

For dinner, we took our waitress' advice and went to Pane E Vino, a charming little Italian place.  It was such a nice evening that everyone was dining outside.  One end of the patio had greenery with lights.  The other end had weathered fencing decorated with sheer drapes tied together and decorative ornaments hanging between them - simple but very creative.  Again, we had a pleasant waiter, who provided our laugh for the evening.  We had a glass of wine with dinner...and a few refills.  On one refill he told Ann that he had "heard about those European women!"  At another passing he asked how we were doing.  When we affirmed that "we're fine", he said, "I'll  bet you are!"  We had to laugh!!  As Ann said, "He obviously didn't know who he was dealing with!"

On Saturday we checked out some of the shops on King Street before heading home.  I really did enjoy seeing Charleston again.  I always think Savannah has some nice old homes, but nothing compared to Charleston.  And everything from the hotel to the restaurants worked out perfectly, with very little planning. 

Our only detour was to see if we could find the Charleston Tea Plantation, which we did with no problem thanks to Tom Tom.  It's a small operation but is the only tea plantation in North America.  They have a short video tour, a driving tour around the plantation, and a gift shop.  It didn't take long and was interesting to see, but it made us late for the wine tasting at my local shop.  We walked in at about 5:05 (which surprised me because I thought they closed at 5PM.  They actually stay open on Saturday until 7PM.  The wine tasting ends at 5.), just as he was putting the wine back in the cooler.  Being the gracious guy (and good businessman) that he is, they assured us it would be no problem for us to have a taste of the offerings for that day. So, from the selection, we chose our libation for the evening.  It was then home and a glass of wine out on the patio.

On Sunday I'd already committed to a 9/11 Memorial Concert with Elaine and had gotten a ticket for Ann.  We were to pick Elaine up in her parking lot and were there in ample time.  We waited a few minutes, but no Elaine, which was not like her.  We waited a bit more and then I went to the gate to ask the guard if she might have left a pass for us, thinking she misunderstood our plan and expected me to pick her up at home.  No pass. He called her home three times and her cell twice - no answer.  Finally, I told him we were going to the concert and asked him to let her know if she came home or called.  At that point, I was expecting to see her standing outside waiting for us.....hoping she was waiting for us because she had my ticket!  Again, no Elaine.  By this time I knew something is wrong and told Ann that on our way home we'd stop by the gate again and let them know that if they couldn't call her, they should go to her house to see that all is well.  Finally, in the middle of the concert, I see Elaine come in and sit down.  After it's over (and people stream out four doors) we finally hook up.  As it turns out, she was shopping in the morning and suddenly had a sharp pain in her eye.  She had been in the emergency room all afternoon, until arriving at the concert.  After getting the scoop of the story, the three of us headed to the Boathouse for dinner.  Again, it was a perfect evening to sit outside, catch up and enjoy the evening. After a somewhat harrowing day for Elaine, a good time was had by all.

On Monday, Ann's last full day, we did a bit more shopping before heading to Palmetto Bluff for lunch.  It's such a scenic little spot on the May River and a tranquil place to walk around.  We asked in the Inn about walking paths, of which there are many.  They provided us with a map of trails, which really didn't seem to coincide with anything we could find.  But, we got on a path and walked as much as we wanted.  It was very nice and something I'll pursue on my next visit there.

It was so good to see Ann and catch up in person.  As always, we had lots of laughs, good memories to recount and news to share since our last meeting.  I'll be happy if she enjoyed it even half as much as I did.  One of the nice things was that it was very impromptu, but things could not have worked better if we'd spent months planning it. 

While she was here, my mother was not well with either a bug of some kind or something she had eaten that didn't settle well with her.  By the time Ann left, my mother was feeling better, but upset that her cats were not well (which they aren't - one has an arthritic spine and the other has Irritable Bowel Disease).  So, the second day after Ann departed, off I went to NC again.  I think she is slowly realizing that things are becoming unmanageable for her.....and everything seems overwhelming. We did have a good (rational, unemotional, civil) talk about it on the phone. She said she couldn't "just walk away", and I said that sometimes you did have to walk away.........and that it isn't as bad as it could be, she can come live with me.  If I live to be her age, my only option will be "the home"!  It has to be difficult for her to accept, but I hope she can come to terms with it.....and find something good left in life.  She's agreed to come back with my when I go up again in two weeks for our family reunion.  So, I'm going to try to enjoy these next two weeks of peace, quiet and solitude - Inshallah!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Celebrating Friendship

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
Khalil Gibran
The picture above was a birthday card I received last year.  I liked it so much that I hung onto it, knowing there would be a time to use it.  It epitomizes the joy among female friends, which is why I liked it so much.....and this seems just the time to share it.  Suddenly September has become a time for celebrating friendships, which began with my recent trip to visit Jan in August.  Last week I received a call from Ann (Wassanar, Holland) saying that she could visit beginning this Wednesday.......and I'm so looking forward to seeing her.  She had hoped to come sometime this summer, but plans were postponed when Martin's father passed away and his mother came to live with them.  I could certainly understand the circumstances, but we did say that if a window of opportunity opened, we would make it work.  The opportunity appeared when Katie had a month at home before starting her new job.  So, she will be looking after the household while her mum visits me.  The story is a funny one (which I hope they won't mind my sharing)......I heard through the Fox grapevine that Martin had asked Ann what she wanted for their 25th wedding anniversary, and Ann said she wanted to visit me.  Martin said his feelings were a bit hurt but, when he thought about it, it could have been worse!  He's also getting lots of mileage out of it by telling his friends that he's giving Ann a week away from the family for their anniversary!!  Anyway, I consider it my good fortune that it all worked out and I'm really looking forward to her visit.

Even before that, when I was in Seattle, I received an email from Eileen (Loughborough, England) saying that she and Tom would like to visit around the end of September or beginning of October.  Needless to say, I was delighted by the news.  It's been almost 5 years since I've seen Eileen and even longer since I've seen Tom, so there will be lots of catching up to do.  They've been involved with family christenings, grandchildren, etc. so I haven't heard details of their watch this space.

Ann called on Monday or Tueday before I went to NC to see my mother on Wednesday.  She had become very depressed, I think because she was having great difficulty getting around and possibly being confronted with the possibility of no longer being able to be on her own.   I took her to a bone and joint specialist who gave her a shot in her right knee (which is bone on bone at this point) and sent us to another place to get a support of her left ankle (ganglion).  By the end of the day she was walking better and more comfortably.  That helped her mood, but each time I see her I'm more aware of her frailty.  I'm hoping she will be able to remain on her own as long as she wants to before coming down with me for the winter.  I'm doubtful that she will be able to be on her own after that......although after her fall in "09  I never thought she would be doing as well as she was around her birthday in June.  So, you never know and I'm hoping for the best.

I came home late yesterday (Saturday) and tidied up today.  Tomorrow is cleaning day and Tuesday is cooking.  Wednesday morning is "rest up" before going to PAL in the afternoon and picking up Ann later that night.  While I haven't had much time to make things as "perfect" as I'd like, among friends those things don't really matter.  We'll enjoy our time together and catch up as best we can in the time we have.

Friendships have also been renewed in other ways.  Both today and over the last few months I've heard from friends I hadn't heard from in some time, and it's great to be in touch again.  While it's nice to be in touch regularly, I think time is irrelevant between real and true friends.......whenever the opportunity presents itself, you pick up where you left off.  Maybe it's because I have no siblings, or that I've lived away from my family most of my life, or whatever, I've always appreciated the friends I've made along the way.  As I get older, I'm even more aware of the joy and blessings they bring to my life.

Friendship... is not something you learn in school. 
But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.
Muhammad Ali

Please check the PAL (Palmetto Animal League) tab as I've posted a short update.  

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