Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

The end of the year is here and the speed with which it has arrived is amazing.  We had a good Christmas here.  I had some small goodies for my mother to unwrap and treated myself to some practical things to use around the house....a new toaster oven, a new wireless mouse, etc.  My major splurge was to have my diamond ring repaired, having lost one of the stones a year or so ago. Below are a few photos of a few days before Christmas. 

I managed to do a little baking (one frantic afternoon!), as I did want to do something for the staff at Bloom.  I purchased some decorated cookies and added my almond bars, chocolate truffles, and ginger thins to make two bountiful trays.  The staff were surprised and delighted.  A few neighbors got a much smaller version of the same thing....and, of course, I had my portion!

In the midst on all that, there has been major upheaval at Bloom and I remain the reluctant leader of the pack.  On this occasion, Bloom is going from 3 to 2 shifts, making the staff work 12 hour shifts, which will be a major conflict for those who work two jobs.  They also refuse to even provide a "regular" schedule so that those who need to work two jobs can find a second one. And, of course, South Carolina, is one would expect, is a "right to work" state, which means the employer has all the power and the employee has none.  I wrote a letter to the owners on behalf of the Bloom Family Advocacy Group and did all the kerfuffling to edit, get signatures, etc.....what a headache.  The last time we did something like this, the owners sent a standard "form letter:" acknowledging the receipt of our letter.  This time we asked that they address the problems stated, so we have heard nothing!!  The 12-hour shifts will begin of Jan. 1, so they have just waited it out.  It's obvious that the bottom line in their only concern.....

On the kitty front, Zorro got hit by a car about a week before Christmas. He didn't show up for two days. Everyone was concerned but couldn't find him. On the third day he showed up, all scraped around the right ear.  He ate ravenously and then went missing for another two days.  By that time, emails were flying after each feeding and other feeders were even stopping by at feeding time to see if he had shown up.  He then appeared again and has been regular.  I think he was just doing what people don't do.....resting and recuperating!  

I had a great treat on Monday night.  Linda, who was a co-creator of our local Drinking Liberally group was coming to town for a few days and she asked around for those who might be available to get together.  Harry, the other co-creator, came up from Savannah, and Cheryl and I joined them on-island at the Frosty Frog.  It had been two years since I'd seen Linda (since she moved to Charlotte), and I've seen Harry only a few times since he moved to SAV.  It was a fun gathering and so good to catch up, especially with folks who love to laugh and have easy conversation.  It was a perfect way to spend a dark, rainy night!

As a new year approaches, it's time to look back at 2014 before "letting it go"!  Unlike 2013, which was a difficult, trying year, this year has had many high points, most of them centering around friends.  My small group of close friends here has strengthened, which is comforting. This was also the year that many long-distance friends visited - Jim & Anthony, Cheryl, Sandra & Howard, Bill & Betty, Dennis & Carol, Ann, and most recently, Linda (hope I haven't forgotten anyone).  And of course, the high point of the year was my trip to the UK and the UK Aramcon Reunion.  It was even better than I'd hoped and it was wonderful to see everyone together....just like old times!  Unlike previous years, I'm thankful to  also have had the time to do some things for my own enjoyment.....and I did thoroughly enjoy them!  While there were the usual ups and downs, the low points were the death of my kitties, Gabby (TMPKITWWW) and tinsy, little rat-tail girl, Chloe.  Their loving attention is still missed

Enough of looking back!  Onward to the New Year!  It seems that 2015 is going to be a wonderful, productive year.  For months (while I've been doing nothing!), I've become aware of myself saying, "in the New Year".  It seems that "in the New Year",I'm going to be doing wonders!!  I'm going to...
  • Eat more healthily.  The holidays have really put me off my routine and, in an effort to get back, I've purged the house of most temptations.  The others I will have eaten by Jan.1!
  • Restart my walking routine and alternate it with yoga.  With the exception of Christmas week, I've maintained yoga but have let my walking go entirely.  i need to do them both as walking controls my weight.
  • Lose weight.....see above!  With all of my partying in the UK and over Christmas, I've put on about 10 pounds, in all the wrong places.  January is the time to get serious about losing it.  
  • Strengthen my meager meditation practice.
  • Better maintain relationships with friends.
  • Declutter the house and garage.....have you heard me say this before?  I really would like to do it but find it so hard to start.  This is the year!
  • Explore Zentangle more.  I enjoyed it and it is a hobby/activity that is easily taken out and put away.  Unlike painting, it requires few materials or space.....just my kind of thing!  I'd at least like to do it enough to see improvement...or whether there will be improvement!

I'm sure there are other things that I've neglected to mention (already forgotten), but that is the basic direction I'd like to go. Those of you who know me, feel free to place bets on which will actually be accomplished!  However it turns out, it is good to get a new beginning, a fresh start, and to give some thought to the future.  I've long since given up making resolutions, but it doesn't hurt to set intentions that will make life healthier, easier and more fulfilling.

Whatever your intentions for the coming year, my hope is that 2015 is filled with good health, happiness, prosperity and joy.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 20, 2014


It's been almost a month since I posted last and I don't know where the time has gone, though I have been running around like the proverbial headless chicken!  Most week days I've left home before 10AM, if a yoga morning, or 11AM and not returned until around 3-3:30.  There have been some days that I've just eaten a bite and gone back out, not returning until after feeding the ferals.  But don't ask me what I've been doing - I've not done much for Christmas and I certainly don't feel that I've done anything worthwhile or constructive.  

It has been a very social time and I've enjoyed seeing friends.  Jim and Anthony stopped in twice on their way to and from DC.  Cheryl and I met up once....all of which was lots of fun, with time passing much too quickly.  I had Thanksgiving with another friend from my synagogue days and one of my "Progressive Ladies" group invited me to her Christmas brunch, which was very nice.  Chris and I also went out for a leisurely Sunday lunch to celebrate her birthday, to catch up after her trip to a family wedding, and to fortify ourselves for the remainder of the holiday.  It has all been fun, but a lot packed into a short time.  It is literally a "feast" season and the rest of the winter will probably be famine!

The busiest time of year is also the time I chose to get back into reading.  When my mother was here, I was too frazzled to read and I've never really gotten back into the habit.  It's too easy to get addicted to iPad and forget about books.  When I heard about Gone Girl, I thought it just the type of book I would like and I wanted to read it before seeing the movie.  Boy, was I right about that.....what a tale!  From there I went straight to Wild, which was based on a true story and equally as good as Gone Girl, but in a different way. All were very enjoyable and I'm now reading another one by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl).

In the midst of all that, I've decorated the house for Christmas, which was touch-and-go for a while.  Had Jim and Anthony not come in early December, I probably would have done very little, but their visit spurred me to get going.  At the end of the season last year I bought a 4-ft pre-lit tree with clear lights.  I never even opened the box and pretty much forgot about it.  When I saw the box I thought I may as well see what was involved and, much to my surprise, the tree was together in 10 minutes.  It allowed me to us my white ornaments, which I've had for years and used only once!  It also prompted me to put my large tree on craigslist.....and it was sold and gone the next day.  I'm now on the lookout for a large pre-lit one with multi-color lights.  You will then no longer hear me whine about stringing lights on the Christmas tree ever again!!

Smokey in 2012 
In addition to Mama's ups and downs (she's started trying to get out of bed and they've found her on the mat by her bed about four times, including today!), there is also a frail cat.  Smokey, Mama's old cat, is pretty much "on his last leg".  I now have a better understanding of that phrase as he is having problems with his back legs.  He had to see the vet two weeks ago for severe constipation - I was afraid he wasn't going to make it to the morning to get there  Part of his problem was that his back end was too weak to push (more than you need/want to know!) .  Once that problem was alleviated, I became concerned about a cough and gag reflex, so back he goes to the vet Friday a week ago.  He has fluid collecting around his heart.....and now I have to give him one pill and a liquid medication every 12 hours. Anyone with cats knows how challenging that can be!  So far, it's gone better than expected, but he's just old....and I know his chances of recovery are slim.  He isn't eating very much and is boney....but, he's a sweet, old kitty and I'll do my best for him.

Today was a dark, rainy of four leading up to Christmas.  So, fighting another head cold, I stayed in bed all morning before going to Bloom. Then, I came home, ate lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon working on the slideshow below.  I could make a simple one in much less time, but I do enjoy playing with it and learning new things.  So, it's a labor of love and I hope you enjoy it.  Merry Christmas!

 Christmas Humor

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Busy Days!

It's 6PM, dark as pitch, and I'm already in bed, where I've been much of the day. For the last two days I've felt like the beginnings of a cold and today I had no energy whatsoever.  So, I went to yoga, visited my mother; then, came home and went to bed for the afternoon......getting up at 4:30 to feed the ferals, have dinner and tuck myself in again.  I'm also doubling up on Vitamin C and sipping hot green tea with lemon and honey. Tomorrow has 100% chance of rain, so it may be more of the same for me!

I've fed the ferals all week since my neighbor, who began this, has been on vacation.  Other than it being cold, I continue to enjoy it.  It's nice to be out with them at the end of the day....quiet, peaceful and lots of kitty love.  Blackie is in-your-face loving.  By the time the car stops, she's trying to get inside!  Georgie wants me to come to him, but he's also very loving and likes the attention.  When he finishes his meal, he turns around and does a long, low stretch of the back legs and walks back to the corner (where he gets his second helping!).  It hasn't taken them long to train me well!!  I'm amazed at how many people stop and chat about the trio.....I thought I was the only one keeping and eye on them.  Many people thank us for looking after them, which is heartwarming. Since Joe has been looking out for them for a long time, I figured all of their questions and curiosity had been answered.

Well, the election is over and I almost survived it!  I'm amazed at people with such short memories and who vote against their own self-interests.....usually based on factors not related to the issues. The day after I was in Kroger and there was an older black man bagging groceries.  He was very pleasant and friendly, asking me how I was and so on.  I gave him my usual "fine" and then, for some unknown reason, said, "That's not really true.  I''m having a hard time coping the the election yesterday."  He said, "Mam, I've got three works for you......Forgive and ______!"  He left the last work blank for me to fill in, which I did.  We discussed it a bit and I left with the feeling that, in the overall scheme of things, it would have little impact on most of us.  It was when I got home that I realized that, with his experiences in life which were likely much more difficult than mine, if he could forgive and forget, then I should stop grousing and get on with things.  It was a short but meaningful encounter....and it did help me shake the disappointment and sadness I felt. 

I'm really enjoying my yoga classes and feel better to be doing it on a regular basis.  Haven't been walking as much, but I will as weather and time permit.  My last OLLI class for this session was De-Cluttering and Organizing your Home and Life"......which was taken mostly for motivational purposes. That didn't seem to work as all I've done is make lists but no real de-cluttering!  

Chris and I went into Savannah to hear Drs.Dean Ornish and Andrew Weil speak. They were in town as part of the Gulfstream Live Well. Be Well Program that I attended last year. They were as informative as one would expect and both very supportive of a plant based diet.  We then went to a new vegetarian restaurant within walking distance of the event.  It was jam packed, and the food was tasty.  Savannah has quite a few vegetarian restaurants from which to choose, which is unusual for this area.

My mother is doing better, which is always a relief.  Even tonight, when she was a little out of it, she wasn't in distress.  She has now had a string of days when she's been stronger and alert, even at the evening meal. Sometime ago I mentioned that because I offered to put together a spreadsheet of anyone having a relative at Bloom I somehow became the leader of the pack!!  All who know me know that isn't my thing, especially since there have been so many ups and downs there over the last year.  Because of the upheaval, the staff seemed so down and anxious that I suggested that some of us get together and treat all shifts to a meal.  No sooner than I sent an email to see if anyone was interested than I got this back in a flash...
Well-- food is something they get for free every day.  Also, we give to the Christmas Fund and that is certainly a way to show appreciation. Actually, I wish we could customize the fund because some caregivers are very deserving, and others are not. Call me sour grapes if you want, but I do not see why we should give an extra reward to those who are just doing their jobs, or worse yet, to those who are not doing their jobs.
I'm going to avoid tying that comment to political views (you can do it yourself!), but this lady has attended one meeting but has complained about everything......not actually wanting to do anything but wanting everything "customized" to her liking.  My prompt reply was " I assume that's a NO!"  She then backpedaled a bit saying she guessed we looked at it from different perspectives (we do, and I'm happy I'm not that mean spirited!).....ending with a smiley face!  I left it there. Yes, there were enough people very willing to chip in for the staff, though I did the leg-work.  Since many of the staff are from the Caribbean, we treated them to Jerk Chicken, Rice and Peas and Slaw, from a Caribbean restaurant owned by one of the worker's dad.  They were surprised and pleased that we would do that for them.  They were able to all sit down together and have a leisurely meal, rather than eating on their break (and, no, Bloom does not feed them!). I was happy that we did it.  That was yesterday (Thursday) and the Thanksgiving celebration at Bloom was the day before.  So, I'm hoping things will settle a bit, but that isn't likely with the holidays coming up.

! confess to not even wanting to think about the holidays!  The Christmas tree is usually up the weekend after Thanksgiving, so if I'm going to do anything, I'd better muster the energy soon!  But, lets take things one at a's wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Winter Has Arrived!

Today has been our first introduction to winter.  The wind gusted through the night and this morning it was in the low 40s, with the wind still gusting strongly throughout the day......burr!!  It looks like it will be in the 50s or 60s for the next few days, which will be much easier to deal with if the wind subsides. November is also here, which means two things: we survived the Halloween hype and the days are now shorter.  When it gets dark earlier, I get nothing done (as opposed to very little!).  November signals that the remainder of the year will fly by at record speed.

My big news is that I'm now technologically empowered.  I've stepped into the 21st century! As much as I resisted, I finally caved and bought a smartphone!!  There was never a doubt that I would love it (as a gadget, not necessarily a phone!), but I couldn't justify the cost, especially since I already had an iPad.  But I started looking around and found a deal I could go for and never looked back.  At some point I will give folks my number, but I have to build up to that!  It is actually my old cell number, but when I originally gave it to people I assured them that it would be a waste of time to call me on it because I seldom kept it charged or with me.  I am doing better on both counts, so you may stand a better chance of reaching me on it. There will still  be times when I probably won't answer - while driving, at mealtimes, when on my walk, and so forth.  At some point I will get into the phone part, but I'm not rushing it. I have found it very useful on my walks as that tends to be a time when I remember things that need to be done or something comes to mind.  Now I can just whip out my phone and make or dictate a note!   There's an app for grocery lists, which is great as it eliminates the possibility of leaving the list at home, which happens more than I want to admit.  

My new project, feeding the ferals, is going well and is as much fun as I'd hoped. It's really nice to go out around sunset and have time with them and it's amazing the number of passers-by who stop and ask questions or thank us for taking care of them.  Like me, they kept track of which ones were there and when.  As for the kitties, the original two, George and Blackie, are friendly.  I can hardly get the food prepared for Blackie being in the back of the car winding around my arms, wanting to be stroked.  The last two times George has let me stroke him and approached me with his tail up.  Zorro is new to the group and they haven't figured out how to incorporate him yet.  He only comes out of the brush far enough to get his food and the slightest move will send him back.  Friday was the closest they have come together so there is slow progress.  It IS very enjoyable and I'm happy to be doing it.

In the photos, you will notice my pimped-out car with political signs front and back.  In a few days they can be removed, but that doesn't negate the fact that it now looks like I live out of my car!!  I have reuseable shopping bags, a yoga mat and towel in the back seat.  The back area is full of cat food and accouterments, my plastic box to secure groceries and my bag for cold foods.....You get the picture!

My mother seems to have reached a plateau and has regained some of her strength.  It is just hard to know what to expect from day to day or even from one part of the day to another.  Yesterday and today she was awake and responsive, but there will be days when she's out of it and non-responsive, or totally in a world of her own. She continues to eat well, which has been her saving grace.

I did recently take a day for myself and spent it at the library. I went for yoga in the morning and a class on meditation in the afternoon.  It was a nice change.  I've started a yoga class there on Wednesdays and Saturdays (intending to do it at home on Mondays).  The instructor is in her mid-70s (less depressing than a young, perky gal!), a little wacky, but does a good job.  It is more "zen" than most, ending with about a 20 minute meditation at the end.....the class runs about an hour and a half.  I'd forgotten how much better I feel and how much more aware of my posture I am when doing yoga regularly.  I hope to get that feeling again! 

I've been to another Olli class as a guest of my friend Chris and have two more coming up in early November.  I also attended another Mom's for Demand Action for Gun Sense meeting, which was depressing as there were so few people in attendance.  I'm rationalizing that it was just because it's this time of year and people are getting busy. I've also voted early and volunteered to drive anyone to the polls who may need a ride. Needless to say, I'm on pins and needles about the election and am glad it would be over soon.  If I have to listen to one more ad of John Barrow trying to be a republican - with his homespun humor, exaggerated accent and his "Daddy's gun" - I will scream!!

Tom recently asked for the photos I took at the reunion, which made me think that I would provide the link to the slideshow - don't know why I didn't do that sooner.  It is:
Feel free to share it with anyone who might enjoy it.

Eileen posted a great video of current day Abqaiq, which was fun to see.  It seems to be bustling and has definitely been modernized since my time there.  Even so, it brought back great memories.  The video can be found here:


Monday, October 13, 2014

Post Vacation

Vacation seems long ago, and I would be embarrassed to tell you how many times I've looked at my photos and relived the fun of it all.  It was wonderful from beginning to end!  When friends here ask me about life in Saudi, I always say that I met exceptional people...people, who if planted on Mars, would throw a party and then go about making life as liveable and fun as possible.  I'd never really been around so many people with such positive and generous natures, and it was a huge growing experience for me.  The wonderful part of the reunion was to discover they have maintained all of that....the joy for life, positive outlook, and easy humor.  It really was like old times, in the best kind of way.

It had been a long time since I'd been to the UK and I was struck my many things that were differently/better than here.
My last airport experience there was Gatwick, which was crowded, long waits in line, etc.  Heathrow was, airy, easy, and that's without the Arab music and dancing girls!  My bag was searched because I forgot to empty my water bottle, but the young man was so polite and helpful that I didn't even mind.  I came back into Dullas and the personnel were rude and unhelpful...and I'm a citizen!  I can only imagine how foreigners must feel...what a disappointment!
As we were driving from Rickmansworth to York we passed several wind farms, each with 6-8 windmills......something you don't see in this part of the country (nor do you see solar panels in one of the sunniest parts of the country!!)  I find the windmills not at all objectionable in appearance, but Martin said they were quit noisy, which I didn't' know.  In any case, it is good to see other countries moving forward with alternative energy sources.
I loved the fact that garbage collection included composted foods!  At both Ann and Jean's there were small kitchen containers with bags to collect kitchen wasteI've been wanting to compost for a while but don't feel secure enough to get started, AND I'm afraid it might smell with the heat of the summer If it were done in conjunction with garbage collection, that would be great.  I think you can also buy the compost for yards at a very reasonable price....a win-win all the way around!  In that same vein, everyone arrives at the grocery store with their reusable bags rather than pay for plastic bags.  We use plastic bags like they aren't an environmental problem.
The train and metro systems are as efficient as ever.  I've always enjoyed train travel there and am glad to have had the opportunity to enjoy it again.
Anyway, I came home to a week and a half of overcast, rainy days, which made me appreciate the wonderful weather we had in England.  It has now settled into our usual fall weather.....low to mid-80s, sunny and nice. I've managed to walk most days this week and hope to start a yoga class on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  I wish I loved to exercise, but....

The second Saturday after I got back, I thought my mother was dying.  She couldn't was like she'd forgotten how to chew!  Her body was locked and it seemed to be painful to move.  It took most of the following week for her to show any improvement.  Hospice thinks she had a TIA....a mini-stroke.  Once she was more responsive, she spent every waking moment crying, pleading, praying....Oh, God.....Oh, God, help me, help me!!  Over and over again.  It was heartbreaking.  Finally they gave her a low dose of Ativan at morning and night.  While it makes her sleepy, it does keep her from being so distressed. 

By the time that was under control, I had to go to the doctor myself for my locked shoulders and neck.  That is the area I usually carry stress but now, in addition to being locked, the discomfort began moving up into my head and my movement was limited.  I was given meds and exercises, which have helped a little, but only a little. 

Otherwise, I've kept up with my Living Liberally group, touched bases with friends, attended another concert  at the Unitarian churcg, and signed up for several OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) classes with my friend, Chris.  My most enjoyable new commitment is helping with a feral cat colony.  My neighbor, Joe, who has been feeding several colonies for a long time, asked if I'd be willing to help with the two kitties who separated from the main colony.....they are the two shown in the July 31st post, along with the raccoon!  Needless to say, this was right down my alley!  When I went with Joe to see what he does, another black cat showed up....and appeared when I fed them on my own.  So, we may have a growing colony and I'm happy to be a part of it.  I think I'll really enjoy be prepared for lots of photos!!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Friendships Revisited

It's wonderful to have good news to report, and lots of it.  I've just returned from a whirlwind week in the UK where I attended the 5th UKAramcon Reunion.  This has been in the works for months but was not mentioned here because my intent was to "crash" the party.  I was only able to do that with the help of co-conspirators, Eileen and Tom.  They kept my name off all lists, arranged for my hotel accommodations, etc. I hadn't even told Ann until she visited in May, when I caved, in anticipation of it all.  

It's something I've been wanting to do for years and, this being the last year Tom and Eileen would be organizing it, I set my intention to go. As the time approached I became more anxious about it all, but I received lots of support from friends here and from the people at Bloom....assuring me my mother would be okay......but anything can happen at any time!!  I didn't mention it to my mother until my last visit before leaving.  I gave her a pink bunny and told her I was going to be away for a few days and the bunny was to remind her of that AND that I would be back soon.....she was to look after him until I returned.  The hospice nurse said she used it a few times to remind her that I'd gone on vacation and would be back soon, and it seemed to help.

Once away and making a tight connection in DC, I settled and began to relax.  That became easier as I met longtime friends.  Ann picked me up at Heathrow and I was through immigration and customs in no time flat (All flights both ways were smooth and without incident).  Once at Ann and Martin's, I got a second wind and we walked around the lake, along the canal, to the grocery, etc.  The fresh air and movement did the trick and I stayed up until my usual bedtime, waking the next morning at my usual time.  Stephen was spending his last few days at home before returning to Uni and it was great to see a strapping young man....taller than Ann and Martin!

The next day we left around noontime for York, which was about a 4 hour drive.  I was pleased to see the beautiful countryside on the way up.  The first people to discover that I was attending were Janet and Allan, who were manning the check-in desk and saw a packet with my name on it.  Even then, Allan said it took a minute to register as he was trying to place a Brit name Donna Morris!!  So, we were greeted by Janet, Allan, Tom and Eileen.....lots of hugs all around!  We hastily got bags to the room and came back down to the lounge, where we ran into more Abqaiqers....Lois and Tony, Rick and Vicky, Alister and Jane, Andy and Margot, Pam, Carmel, and others.  It was a good afternoon, completed by a nice meal at the Fox and Roman Pub.

Thursday was a golf day for the guys and Janet, so Ann and I went into York.  It's a lovely city, perfect for walking and sightseeing.  The Minster is very impressive, but it's a city with even more to offer....a well preserved city wall, walks by the river, a busy pedestrian area for shopping, street performers, and so on.  I'm sorry the time there was so short and it's definitely a placed I'd visit again.

Tom had organized a dinner on Thursday at Toby's Carvery.  About fifty of us boarded the bus for an evening out. By this time, Lyn and Jacqui  and Dave and Rita had joined the group, and with each arrival there were more hugs, gasps of surprise, and even a few tears!  As the evening progressed, we had a short wait for the bus to return and we all congregated at one old times!

Once back to the hotel, we headed to the bar for one last drink.  Before all orders are placed, in walks Neil, Jenny and Dave, along with Kerry and Sharon and Glyn and Lola......and the party started all over again!  At this point, the old gang is present; as well as Kerry and Glyn, whom I've never met but knew from lore of old!  They left Aramco before my time, but I could see how they could fit right in!  Needless to say, it was a late evening.  The next morning Ann asked what time I went to bed and I said, "You mean after I went to my room and ordered a sandwich!!"  That could have been a better decision than it sounds!

I was down for breakfast on Friday before 9AM. I had no plans for the morning and had volunteered to help Eileen with place cards and goodie bags in the afternoon.  So, in place of trying to rush something in, I went to my room and rested/napped for about three hours......two good decisions in a row!  After a quick lunch, Eileen, Carmel and I did our thing with time to spare, leaving plenty of time to prepare for the evening.

Saturday night's dinner was sponsored by Aramco and was very nice.  The dining room looked great and each table had a lovely centerpiece.  The food was good and the patter even better.  Ali Baluchi represented Aramco and presented Tom and Eileen with a trip to the 2015 reunion in Saudi for their years of putting the UK reunions together.  I even received a lovely bowl of flowers....and I'm not sure why unless it was for coming the greatest distance. It was a delightful evening and great to see everyone gussied up and enjoying the Aramco camaraderie.

Sunday morning everyone began going separate ways and there were lots of goodbyes.  The good thing is that I've reconnected with friends I'd only heard from through others.  We've exchanged emails with the intention of remaining in touch.  I've also met Kerry and Glyn, which is an added treat as I'd heard of them for a long time.  There wasn't nearly enough time to catch up with everyone as I would have liked, but it was just wonderful to be together.  Though we're all older, there is still that connection...the same humor, quick wit and easy friendship.  I can't tell you how much I enjoyed seeing everyone, even though it was for a short time....the most fun I've had in a long time.

Ann and Martin were kind enough to drop me at Jean (Allan's sister) and Doug's in Stockport.  We arrived there shortly before noon and the three of us caught up a bit before going to Abi and Paul's. I'd only recently learned that Abi is pregnant and they'd recently bought a new house....a three story, huge house.  They have lots of plans for it and it's a project for Paul, who has a talent for renovating things.  I would love to see the finished product!   When we got back to Jean and Doug's, Victoria was there with Max.....the super-human child that is always smiling!!  He is as adorable as in his photos and all boy.  He has two speeds...full out and stop!!  He is so clever.....soaking up everything around him and keeping mom and dad busy.  Dinner was at Jean's with the whole family, which was great for catching up.  Victoria showed me a book they had put together for Allan's 60th birthday, which he never saw.  She did a great job with it and he would have loved it....and been so touched that she would do that for him.

Monday we met Victoria and Max at the Quarry Bank Mill.  We did a tour of the mill, which was very good.  There were lots of authentic demonstrations, with textile machinery from as far back as the Industrial Revolution.  The mill is well preserved and interesting to see.  It was also the inspiration for a BBC series, The Mill, which you can read about HERE. I was especially interested in Hannah Greg's story.  She was Unitarian and progressive for her time, as my Unitarian friends seem to be today.  Anyway, we had lunch at the cafe before seeing the gardens, which were beautiful.  The weather was warm and sunny, a lovely afternoon. Dinner was at Gusto, a very modern, attractive Italian restaurant.  It was a fun evening but the day had gone much too quickly.

Jean and Doug took me to the train station in the morning as I was going to meet Ann and the girls for lunch in London.  As we were standing on the platform, Jean asked if I'd like Allan's chain that he wore around his neck for as long as I'd known him.  She said he asked her to take it off and look after it and she knew he would want me to have it.  By this time, we are both in tears.  I was so touched, and it meant more than I can say.  The only thing missing for this whole trip was Allan.  He would have loved being with his two favorite groups, his family and his Aramco friends......and he would have been in his element. I was fully aware of how much he would have enjoyed it.

Ann met me at Euston Station and, after getting turned around only once, we met the girls and Olli (Emily's boyfriend) for lunch.  The restaurant didn't have our reservation, but we actually wound up with a better table....a room to ourselves above the main floor.  We could see the whole restaurant but were out of the noise, so we could really talk.  Katie was on her lunch break and I was having so much fun that she got away before I took a photo.  She looked so professional!  After lunch, Emily and Olli walked us to the station, stopping on the bridge for photos of the Tower Bridge and the Shard, which has been built since I was last in the UK!!  I live vicariously through Katie and Emily as they have the worldly-mindedness and maturity that I didn't seem to acquire until middle age!!

Ann and I took the train back. Margaret, Martin's mother, was home, but Stephen was back in school and Martin was in Holland on business.  So, we freshened up and walked into the village for dinner.  Our first stop was Zaza's, which was booked solid, so we went back to Remo's where we dined the night I arrived.  It was as good the second visit as the first, if not moreso!!  We came home and had a relaxing evening and morning, and a nice walk, before leaving for the airport on Wednesday.  Even the departure was not without excitement.  As we walked to the United area, we could hear AM (Arab Music as opposed to FM - Foreign Music!)  We then saw a man in thobe and qutra and four attractive, colorfully dressed women.  I couldn't resist the opportunity for a photo opp, so I went over and asked.  I was quickly surrounded by the ladies, while one of the guys took my camera and took photos (talking on a cell phone all the while!).  By this time, everyone with a camera formed a paparazzi pack and began taking photos.  It was funny.  Ann, having a good laugh, said I should be prepared to be in EypytAirs newsletter next month!!  How funny!  I was so distracted that the man behind he baggage check told Ann she'd better keep an eye on me!

So, from beginning to end, it was a fabulous vacation and the kind of break I needed...with friends and family.  With the exception of Allan not being there, it could not have been better.  I ate too much, drank too much and had too many late nights; but, somehow, I kept the pace and returned feeling renewed, energized and lighter is spirit. A special thanks to everyone for welcoming me as warmly as you always have and for making this an exceptional vacation.  It's difficult to express how much I enjoyed seeing everyone and I hope it won't be so long before our paths cross again.

My apologies for such a long post.....and for a long slideshow.  I wanted to be able to remember it all.  So, take time to view it when you can relax and enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the trip.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Fall is in the Air

It's hard to believe that September is here and speeding along.  We all know how quickly this time of year flies by......and we're already seeing Halloween and Christmas items sharing the same aisles in store.  I can't even think about it!!

Photo from Eat Sleep Play Beaufort
I've continued my pattern of whirling from one thing to the next, without accomplishing anything worthwhile!  One day I went over to Beaufort for the afternoon.  When I left, it was sunny and bright, but by the time I got there the conditions had changed.  A storm was blowing in and the oaks along Bay Street were swaying, with the Spanish Moss blowing away from the water.  It really was beautiful.  On cue, the maarsh grasses are turning from a brillent greens to yellow, on their way to brown.  It seemed like I caught the transition from summer to fall, and it was a fantastic afternoon!

I've maintained my usual  political interests; but, now that election is in the air, I attended the opening of the Democratic Headquarters.  Joyce Dickerson and Brad Hutto, who are both running for Senate seats, were there and seemed very impressive.....though they have an uphill battle in this territory.  We can always hope!

One of the most enjoyable thing I did was have my friend Chris and my neighbor Ana over for an afternoon of zentangle.  I first heard of zentangle when Chris told me that her sister did it and explaing what it was.  I came straight home and googled it, intending to give it a try someday. Then, when Cheryl was here she asked if I'd every done it and, since I hadn't, we did one on the stop.....and it was lots of fun.  So, I took a page from her book and invited the ladies for an afternoon.  The thing that surprised me was that we really got into it and there would be very quiet moments when we were all in the "zen zone".  We somehow decided to start with a circular one and then, for the second one, they replicated something from the book and I completed one I had begun the day before.  All in all, it was a very good afternoon and I think we will do it again soon.

For some reason the cover slide and the captions don't appear when viewed on tablets or iPads.....I've tried everything I know to correct it and haven't found the secret yet.  The photos are pretty self-explanatory, but if you view it on a laptop, you will see the whole thing. 

I also went to see "The Hundred Foot Journey", which was a very enjoyable movie.  In addition to enjoying the movie, I was pleased to learn there is a sequel to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."  The new one comes out later in the year and is titled "The Second Best Marigold Hotel."  It appears to contain most, if not all, of the original cast AND Richard Gere!  Sounds like a winner!

Isn't he cute!
Look at the goatee!

You won't believe this......but I now have my very own goat!!  I've named him Gus and he's as cute as we all know goats to be.  Gus was sent to me by Cheryl, after watching all the goat videos I like or share on Facebook.  They really are cute little creatures with their own indomitable charm.  I remember going to the wild animal park in San Diego years ago.  There was a children's petting zoo and I got such a kick out of the goats.  That was in the day of the wrap-around skirt, which a lady happened to be wearing.  There was this little goat walking behind her with half of the skirt flap in his mouth, chewing away.  It was so funny and it took her a while to realize he was there.  I've loved goats since!  

For those of you who may not be convinced of their charm or may have missed my many goat postings of Facebook, I'm going to leave you with one of my favorite clips.....of Buttermilk the goat. Enjoy!

 If you want one more giggle, have a look at a goat stampede!

You've probably accurately surmised why I get very little accomplished in the course of the day!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Faster I Go, the Behinder I Get!

I'm just checking in as there isn't a lot to report. It feels like I've been going non-stop, but as I look back on the calendar, not much has been happening.  With the exception of the last 3 days, my mother has been crying inconsolably for three and a half weeks.  She didn't appear to be in pain and couldn't articulate what the problem was or what anyone could do to help.  It was very difficult to see her in that state and Hospice has put her back on Cymbalta, which may account for the last few days of peace and calm.  

The mornings are my time to sit over several cups of coffee, check emails and wake up slowly.  Given the choice, I never plan to get out before 11AM!  It is then time to go over to Bloom to help Mama with lunch.  Once that's done, the afternoon is mine; but, since she has been on the crying jag, I've also been going over for dinner.  You can see that doesn't leave much time to get anything else done.  I'm hoping that will change if all remains calm.

I did treat myself to a day in Savannah, going to several of my favorite shops and coming away with very little.  Shopping is not my thing, and the trip reinforced that.  I walked through the entire mall and came away with nothing!!  It was at my first stop that I lucked into a few items.

Eating is a common thread around here and I've had some different invitations lately.  One of my neighbor's wife is at Bloom where my mother is, and he (John) and she (Ruth) eat at our table every day.  They have two daughters, one of whom lives with John.  They invited me over for dinner one night, along with several other people.  It was a relaxed and comfortable evening which allowed me to meet several more neighbors.  Two weeks after that, Ruth died suddenly after not feeling well for several days.  John, as much as he grumbled and groused, was devoted to her and their absence has left a void for the regular lunch bunch.  

Last night I had dinner with my friend Elaine, whom I hadn't seen for months.  Several ladies from my synagogue days joined us, along with one of their neighbors who had lived in Saudi at one time  (our time overlapped by two years). The synagogue ladies wanted to get us together and it was great to talk with someone who shared parts of that experience.  Her husband worked for Alcoa and they lived in Al Khobar, but we still had lots to talk about and the other ladies were enthralled.  It was a good night - varied conversation, lots of laughs - and it was especially good to reconnect with Elaine, Sheri and Cokie.


About the only other thing of interest was an art gallery talk by Mary Edna Frazer.  She's a batik artist and many of her pieces are aerial views of topography.  Most of those in the exhibit were of the Lowcountry and were quite striking....and familiar.  It is an interesting process and, in addition to being talented, she has plethora of interests - one of those people who seems to do it all!  You can see more of her work HERE.  It was an informative morning followed by a tasty lunch with my friend Chris.  

Almost forgot to tell you that we now have a Whole Foods store on the island......or Whole Paycheck, as some people call it.  About a week after it opened I checked it out and, though expensive, it is a great store and shopping experience.  I was especially interested in the hot food bars which included many vegetarian and vegan foods, including several Indian dishes.  The shelves are also stocked with many items not found in our local grocery stores...I came away with $40 worth without even trying!

Well,, that's about it!  Since I had not photos to deal with, it gave me time to do some playing/experimenting, which you can see from photos above.  I'm hoping this entry will work better than the last few....the last one was better, but the photo captions didn't appear on my iPad (showed up on laptop, but no tablet).  Anyway, now that summer is drawing to an end, things will probably settle and I am not likely to have as many opportunities to take photos.  You probably need a break from them anyway!!

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Comes to an End!

I'm in the yellowish blouse...
The last couple of weeks have been busy in a fun kind of way.  There has been a lot of things to do and I've tried to do as many as possible, beginning with a music evening at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation.  It featured the "talents of Argentinian musician Daniel Bellone and German performer Angelika. Together they blend traditional Sanskrit chants and mantras with instantly accessible melodies and modern instrumentation."  It was very relaxing - the kind of music you could just close your eyes and go with....very soothing.

The following Friday, my neighbor Ana and I went out to lunch at the Sea Grass Grille.  I"d not been there before and the food turned out to be very tasty.  I had a Greek salad and asked the the dressing could be on the side.  The waitress explained that the vegetables (variety of tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, onions, etc.) were marinated in a dressing and put on top of the lettuce, and capped with feta.  Well, it was scrumptious.....I may have to go back again to try to figure out what is in the marinade.

That same evening I went to a fundraiser for Bakari Sellers, a tall, handsome young man of 30 who is running for Lt. Governor of SC. For such a young man, he was certainly impressive.  The Lt. Governor deals with the care and well-being of the elderly in the state, so I bent the ear of his aide Isaac for quite a while. The event was held at Ruby Lee's, which I'd heard about for both its Lowcountry food and its good music.  So, I was happy to be able to check it out at the first time.  It was a small place with a warm atmosphere, very welcoming.  As I came in, I was given a Seller's bumper sticker.  Then I spotted the president of our democratic club and asked about a sticker for Vincent Sheheen, who is running for governor.  He had some in his car, along with mirror covers (which I really wasn't to crazy about.....but he offered them to me for free AND he put everything on my car).  So, once he pimped my ride, I felt like a moving advertisement!!  Anyway, it was a full day and I enjoyed it all.

On Saturday I had lunch with my mother and then drove to Beaufort for the Dragon Boat races.  Jan and I saw them when we went to Victoria, BC and it was fun to watch.  I'd been thinking about it for a while and really didn't make up my mind until after lunch on the day.  I got there around 2PM, had no problem with traffic and arrived in time for the last four races.  About 3PM it clouded over a bit and was very pleasant on the waterfront.  I didn't stay for awards, but the timing was perfect for me to stop for a little shopping that TJ Maxx.....another pleasant afternoon!

Tuesday of this week, Cheryl came for an overnight visit.  We have been very lucky to meet up for lunch whenever she visits her sister, but it was especially nice to be able to sit down and really catch up.  After resting a bit from the long drive, we went on a short tour of downtown Bluffton, which didn't take long at all.  We wound up at the Church of the Cross watching the May River flow by.  Cheryl's mother was spending time with her sister Bonnie in Camden. They were meeting up around lunchtime on Wednesday for Cheryl to pick up her mother.  Before the scheduled time, we rode out to Palmetto Bluff for a quick look around.  It was a very pleasant morning, not too hot, and that certainly added to the enjoyment.  We then all met up at Cracker Barrel for lunch.  It was a pleasure to see Cheryl's Mom again and to meet Bonnie.....and it's always great to see longtime friends!  We didn't have a lot of time, but we made the most of it.

Everything else is just incidental...
  • I got another Groupon deal that I couldn't refuse and treated myself to a massage and facial, the first one I've had in a long. long time.  It was very relaxing and theraputic. 
  • I've also treated myself to housecleaning services every other week.  That was one of those things that just hung over my head....I never felt the whole house was clean at the same time and it always worried me.......not enough to get it under control, just enough to be a constant irritant.  I've let that go and am enjoying a clean house.....and the guilt-free ability to enjoy other things!
Local Wildlife Update:
Two feral cats have broken from the larger colony and now reside at the corner where I turn to visit my mother.  There is a black cat and a yellow one.  Frequently they are joined by a friend.

We first noticed the raccoon showing up for dinner.  Then it was lunch and now we think it is both!  The funniest sight was seeing the two cats, presumably full, lying on the pine straw and between the two was the raccoon, helping himself to the leftovers.  We call him the cleanup crew!!  Animals are so great.

We have a large group of turkeys in our development, but I frequently see this one hen roaming around on her own.  Since I've been trying to get photos of the raccoon, I had my camera with me this week when I ran into her.

Finally, on a more somber topic, it's hard to believe that Allan passed away a year yesterday.  I am reminded of him so often by things that I see or is still just hard to believe - that it happened at all and that a year has passed since.  I'm thinking of his family and hoping they are doing well.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quiet Times

This is a short update as not a lot has been happening....certainly nothing as fun and exciting as friends visiting!  So, I've been enjoying a break; but, even so, found myself dithered - overwhelmed with minutiae that I had imposed on myself.  So, I sat myself down, thought about it, and just let a lot of stuff go.  Things have really improved since doing that.  Rather than starting the day with a long list of things to do, I have a short general list of the major things I want to accomplish.  If I do get everything done, it's great.  If I don't, that's okay, too - none of it is life or death!

Speaking of death (how's that for a segue!), I've contacted funeral homes here and in NC to have as much prearranged as possible when anything happens to my mother.  They are in touch with one another and should be able to coordinate as needed.  For myself, this week I'll finalize my will, advance directive, etc.  Once that is done I'll arrange for my cremation, and I'll be taken care of, too!  Isn't this uplifting!!

Other than that, my hermit side has enjoyed lots of time at home, but I've also been out with friends.  Chris and I just went to a new Lebanese (yes! Lebanese in South Carolina) restaurant, which was very good.  We had falafel, hummus and baba ganoush sampler platter.  It was very tasty and I took enough home for dinner.  They also had shawarmas and it was really the first time I've been tempted to have meat in 6 years.  It brought back memories of the vendors in Khobar.....and lots more.  It was good.  We followed lunch with an art exhibit, where we chatted with several young people whom we really enjoyed.  It was a good afternoon!

We (Chris and I) have also joined Liberal Ladies of the Lowcountry, which is a group that meets monthly at Indigo Run.  It is a whole new group of politically informed ladies.  They have some interesting speakers at the luncheon and the table discussion is always informative.  So now I'm involved in three political groups that meet monthly....that gives me my political fix.

I'm almost back into my walking routine...when the weather cooperates.  Summer storms in the South are typical, but over the years they have changed.  Years ago, they were predictable and welcomed - to break the heat and give a respite.  Now, they are torrential, with sheets of rain, swirling, heavy wind, crashing thunder and lightening!! The photo below shows what has become typical.  It's only recently that I realized that everything flows down into  my yard, so I'm hoping the storms don't become more virulent.  This is about the third or fourth time my yards has looked like this. There have been times that it has rained so heavily that I couldn't see the trees on the other side of the golf course.....scary!

About the only other thing happening was Caribbean Day at Mama's place.  Several of the CNAs there are from the Caribbean and they enjoyed sharing their food and music.  Unfortunately, I had to leave before the food arrived, but it did smell great...and there was lots of Bob Marley that day.  You can tell from the photos that my mother is nearly, if not completely, blind.  All things considered, she is doing well, though lately she has been somewhat distressed.  I don't think she's in pain and she can't articulate what the problem is.  I'm hoping this is a short phase that will soon pass.


My apologies for the difficulties with the notification note AND the site.  It was up last night when I wrote the bulk of it, but it was down this morning and half of it was missing.  So, I'm getting worse instead of better!!  I'm going to stitch with it though, and I hope you will, too!  Thanks to those who let me know of the problem.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer is in Full Swing!

Summer is in full swing and I'm asking my usual question....where has the time gone and what have I done with it???  The Fourth of July has completely slipped up on me and I'm unprepared to celebrate. I did go over to have lunch with my mother, which proved to be a very festive affair.  There was live music and everyone was in good spirits.  I could hear the music when I entered the building, and my first thought was, "Oh, my Lord, Mama is having a fit, wanting to get out of that loud music!."  Little did I know that she had been up dancing!
But, before that, there was my friend David's birthday.  Last year on his 60th  birthday, he suffered a major stroke. His brother came down from Connecticut and spent weeks while David was in hospital in Charleston.  When he had to go home, his local friends took over.  He lives neat me so I took him grocery shopping, to appointments, etc......nothing major, but it was when Allan was dying and there would be days when both David and I would be in tears.  Even so, if you are single and friends step forward to help you, it means a lot.  So, on his 61st birthday he gave a very nice party and invited those who helped in his time of need.  It was a nice event...and a nice thing for David to do.

On my way to David's party I picked up Cheryl, who has been fostering Moonbeam, a baby kitten.  She has been posting videos almost daily of this cutie and all of her friends are wondering how/why she will relinquish him.   He is such a cutie....and totally spoiled by three adults.  He will be in shock when he gets to a normal household that doesn't record his every move!  In any case, I had to see him before he went to his adoptive family in Charleston. 

Two days after David's party was my mother's 93rd birthday.  As you can tell from earlier photos, she is in a pretty good place at the moment.  They seem to have sufficiently adjusted her pain meds and she has a routine that helps her get through the day in reasonably good spirits.  So, we both have a lot for which to be thankful.  

 In addition to these events, I've kept in touch with friends and Living Liberally.  I also attended "Moms Demand Action" against gun violence.  While I'm only a kitty-mom, it is an issue that
concerns me and I was interested in what they had to say.  Those of you in liberal and reasonable states might be surprised that this was not highly publicized.  They didn't' want a lot of gun nuts showing up!!  What a sad and pathetic situation.  The squeaky wheels in our society seem to be totally nuts.....and those who lead them have no scruples, only their own well-being in mind.
In that vein, my next task today is to email Speaker Boehner and tell him exactly what I think of his suing President Obama (we don't know why....he's still trying to manufacture the reasons!).  I began the note last night and consider it my patriotic duty to do this on the fourth of July.  I hope he appreciates the he will pay no attention to the content!

Well, in writing this entry, I know why the time has flown and why I get nothing of consequence done.....although there is lots of time left to do more than I do.  It is just that my "To Do" list is so long I don't know where or how to start.  There are also so many things I'd like to do for my own interest that it's difficult to do those things that "need" to be done.  Oh, well, I guess it will all come out in the wash!!

Happy Fourth

To those on this side of the Pond!

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