Saturday, May 31, 2008

"next blog"

I am suddenly much taken with observing the travels of younger people. Right now I am living vicariously through three young people, all of whom have blogs that I stumbled on just by chance by clicking on "Next Blog" at the top of my own blog.

The first is a young man who is teaching in Japan. Blair's wonderful prose and photos of Japan and the children he is teaching can be found here.

The second is a young woman who has traveled to Paris. Misadventures of an Art Student in Paris tracks her days in beautiful Paris.

The third is a young man who is traveling with a group of friends on motorcycles from Atlanta, Georgia to Alaska, then south to Key West, then back to Atlanta. Curtis Bonds Baker has some spectacular pictures and the story line is wonderful.

I am so impressed with these young people. I am suddenly possessed with a strong desire to get my own son out there on the road. I think I will share these with him to see if I can get a fire going in his belly.

home again

My sweet cat (Joe) was so happy to see me when I walked in the door. He attached himself to my neck and would not let go, purring in my ear and drooling on my shoulder. (Have you ever had a cat that drools? It is very odd.)

For some stupid reason, I forgot to change clothes before I got on my flight home yesterday, so I was wearing a skirt and high-heeled mules. My legs were so cold for the five hour flight home and my feet were KILLING me! This morning, I found a blister on my foot from walking through the Newark and Phoenix airports in those heels.

I had used my frequent flier miles to upgrade to first class, so at least I was comfortable. The lady sitting next to me was very interesting. She was on the final leg of a very long trip which had begun many hours ago in Africa where she had gone on safari. I listened to her describe the different camps her group stayed in, some very basic and some with more luxuries. She described watching a lioness carry a kill through the tall grass and watching the lioness consume the entire front leg of the impala, "bones and all". Then the next day they saw another lioness (or perhaps the same one) with four lion cubs that were only a couple of months old. The small group of travelers sat very quietly, watching the cubs cavort for quite a while. She saw many other animals and described them all. She also described her shopping expeditions in tiny villages and larger towns. (She was wearing a few bracelets that she had purchased.) She was shocked to see that many of the grocery store shelves in Zimbabwe were nearly empty. On the few nights that they stayed at a hotel, they took the fruit from their fruit baskets outside to the begging children. But the continent was absolutely beautiful and she was very glad to have made the trip. She also travels with close girlfriends because her husband does not like to travel.

All of this discussion did not awaken in me any desire to follow in her footsteps. Maybe I will change my mind as I get older. For now, I am content with more pampered travels. In April 2009, Jane & I plan to cruise the Mexican Riviera. 2010 is the year of Greece. 2011 is South America, with a special trip to Machu Pichu. Now that will be amazing!

Monday, May 26, 2008

freedom and fret

My sweetheart sent me a text message to say his older brother (George) is terminal and is being moved to hospice. Reggie is the baby of the family and George is one of the two oldest brothers. There are three sisters between. For Reggie, this will be the first major loss since the loss of his parents. His father died when he was very young. His mother died at Christmas about 15 years ago. That holiday has never been quite the same since.

This time of life is such a mish-mash of freedom and fret. I feel alive and free to do whatever I wish. I am less encumbered by the worry of what others think of me. But I fret - about my parents aging, about how I will afford to retire, about whether to stay where I am or go somewhere new.

It is small comfort (but a comfort nonetheless) to talk with others who are in this same stage of life. I never once thought about it, even while I watched older friends lose siblings, care for aging parents and deal with retirement. I listened to their stories, but was unable to imagine myself in similar circumstances. I felt sympathy, but not empathy. As with other life experiences, it isn't real until it is my experience.

"The really frightening thing about middle age is that you know you'll grow out of it."

- Doris Day (1924 - )

Sunday, May 25, 2008

out to eat with Daddy

Last night, Daddy and I went to White Orchids, a Thai Restaurant located at the Promenade Shops in Saucon Valley, Pennsylvania. We were shown to our table by the owner's son. My father remembered him from a previous visit. When he mentioned this, the son pointed out his father working in the kitchen.

We started with the Tod Mun Khaopod - Thai Corn Fritters. These were round balls that consisted of whole kernals of corn and a dough that held the corn together, served with a thin, sticky, sweet sauce. These were okay, but I was left wishing I had ordered the Lettuce Wraps instead.

I ordered one of the specials for my entree - Scallops and Eggplant. Daddy ordered the Green Curry Bowl with Tiger Prawns and Tofu. (You can order a curry bowl with one of five curries - Masaman, Yellow, Green, Red or Panang. Then you can order from a list of toppings to the curry - marinated chicken or beef, tiger prawns, scallops, mussels, calamari or tofu - or any combination.) My entree was great, with perfectly grilled scallops and eggplant that was a great consistency and flavor. But Daddy's curry was divine. You can order curry mild, medium or hot. Daddy's was medium and it was perfect.

For desert, I had a pumpkin creme brulee. Daddy had Molten Chocolate Volcano bundt cake. Mine was okay. Daddy's was good.

Daddy and I love to eat. I would definitely go back here again. But I would try the lettuce wraps, I would try the Pad Thai (picture from their menu, at right) and I would try a different dessert. I would definitely have the green curry again - definitely!!!

White Orchids on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 24, 2008

on the way to Allentown PA

Just as I arrived at the Avis lobby in Newark, NJ at 11:45 p.m. EST last night, a man and his wife brushed past me and got in front of me in line. I'm sure they knew they were behaving badly, but they did it anyway. I travel extensively, so my car is always pre-assigned. I don't sign any paperwork. I just get in my car and drive away. But because the couple jumped in front of me, I had to stand there waiting for them to finish their negotiations. At that late hour, there was no agent (or line) dedicated to the "preferred" customers. Finally, a different agent finished with her customer and motioned for me to come over. I handed her my Avis card, she looked me up in the system and immediately told me my parking space number and I headed out the door to find my car. (Why wouldn't they have a sign posted with this information? A simple check of the driver's license at the gate would prevent folks from driving out with the wrong car.) In my parking space was a Chrysler 300. I've been wanting to buy one of these, although recent gas prices have made me rethink. But still, I was happy to get the chance to drive one for a week.

I headed west on I-78. Although I am traveling on business, I came a few days early to spend the holiday weekend with my father & stepmother in Allentown, PA. The drive out was a breeze in that Chrysler 300. I've recently driven both the Cadillac CTS and the Lincoln MKZ. Both of them were incredibly beautiful cars and were fully loaded. In contrast, this Chrysler 300 had much fewer bells and whistles. Both the Cadillac and Lincoln felt incredibly heavy and were slow to respond to braking. I frequently had the "oh crap, I'm not going to be able to stop in time" feeling in those cars. But not the Chrysler. It stopped on a dime. The handling was easier too. Of course these were/are all rental cars, so what was loaded and how the maintenance was handled is completely unknown. Couple that with my overall lack of knowledge about cars and you have just a gal telling you how she felt in the three cars! (There is nothing scientific about this comparison!)

I still don't think I will buy either of the three. Right now I am looking at gas mileage. I suspect most of us are! I do know that I will jettison my SUV within the next 3-4 months. Now I have my eye on the Mazda3 four door sedan. I figure I can get one for my son with limited add-ons and get one for myself fully loaded and still come out better than if I bought the Caddy, the Lincoln or the Chrysler. There is no comparison with those three, really and I prefer to buy American, but this may have to be the year of the exception!

Tomorrow: A review of White Orchids, a Thai restaurant that Daddy and I are visiting tonight. I can't wait!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

off to NJ/PA

Tomorrow I head to the airport to catch a flight for the holiday weekend. It is almost 9 p.m. here in Phoenix and I haven't done the first thing about packing. Why do I always do this? I wait until late on the night before my trip to pack. When I get started, I frequently find that I need to wash something to take with me. Then I am up late getting everything done. So I don't get enough sleep and I am tired before I begin the trip. I need to be there two hours early. The flight is five hours. Then I have an hour drive. That is eight hours - after a full day at the office.

Despite the fact that I am Gold with U.S. Airways, there was no automatic upgrade to first class. I should have known better on a holiday weekend! That's okay, I have the next best thing, which is an aisle seat on the exit row. I mostly find that I am surrounded by other frequent fliers, which is nice - no small talk, just a quiet, uneventful ride. On my last cross country trip, I spilled an entire plastic cup of ginger ale in my lap. The businessman next to me was so annoyed that he had to help me. I wanted to slug him. But I didn't.

Do you think it is amazing that a huge plane, weighing 64 tons, can actually get up off the ground? I do. Every time we are in take-off, I am thinking to myself that it can't be possible to do what we are doing. But then I have a moment of magical thinking. In that moment I imagine that my thoughts about it not being possible could possibly make it impossible and I convince myself that if I keep thinking about it that the plane will fall to the ground. Too much Tinkerbell as a child, I suppose. So I try to make myself stop. But have you ever tried that? Do it now. For the next 60 seconds, do NOT think about a purple elephant. See? It just doesn't work. I just have to keep believing that there is something else besides positive thoughts from me that is keeping us in the air.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

time does not bring relief

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go - so with his memory they brim.
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, 'There is no memory of him here!'
And so stand stricken, remembering him.

Edna St Vincent Millay (1892 -1950)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


When we were 25, we sealed a permanent friendship based on unique humor and the ability to see the ridiculous in even the most serious of issues. As we approach 50, we still celebrate the strong bond that has seen us through the lowest of lows (Hurricane Hugo, divorce, challenging family dynamics, children in flux) and the highest of highs (graduations, baby births, buying new homes, children surviving tough times). And now we come together over the telephone, 1893 miles between us, to enjoy an entry in a catalog.

It's not so much the item in the catalog that leaves us screaming with laughter. It is the description: "Step Out in an Eye-Catching Pleated Cotton Muumuu". And this follow-up description: "Muumuu fans will fall in love with our more sophisticated pleated muumuu."

Just the word "muumuu" is enough to make me roll on the floor. But the thought of leaving the house in this thing is just scary. (My sincere apology to any readers who are currently wearing this frock - or one similar to it - especially if you just got home from the mall. This item also comes in red, by the way.)

Here's to you, Holly! I've got to sign off - I'm going to step out now!

Monday, May 19, 2008

108 degrees

108 degrees today. And it is still May. I keep telling myself that it is worth it to be hot from May through August/September because October through April are so incredibly beautiful, right? When the rest of my family is shoveling snow in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Colorado, I am outside grilling steaks (oh all right, hot dogs) in my tank top and shorts (me, that is, not the hot dogs -- or steaks). And Christmas dinner out on the patio is an amazing experience. I love it!

But my goodness it is HOT! I want to be naked when it is this hot. Tonight I was wearing a skirt from Horny Toad and a little tee-shirt when I went out to a local restaurant. Despite the air conditioning, which the vast majority of restaurants in Phoenix have, my thighs were sticking to the seats. So I guess naked would not have been better in that setting - particularly for the other customers. Well, maybe that one guy would have appreciated it. You know the type - always hoping for a glimpse. Or is that all guys?

This cholla is hot. This is not my backyard, but I do have lots of cacti in my yard. Amazing how much life there is in the desert. When I first moved here in 2002, I was under the mistaken impression that grass grew here - the green kind you find in yards on the east coast. That's because I lived in Scottsdale, on the east side of the Phoenix valley, where people pay incredible amounts of money to water grass that really does not belong in the desert. Now I live in Peoria, on the west side of the Phoenix valley. Here most folks xeriscape their yards. Most of the plants in my yard would flourish without any watering. And there is always something blooming! Am I blooming? Maybe. Are you?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

"next blog"

Because I am new to blogging, I have been clicking on "next blog" at the top of my blog and taking a peek at what other folks are doing. I've done that every day - sometimes several times each day - and I continue to find some patterns.

I find many families with small children who have started a blog in order to share photos and stories of their kids & life with family members who live far away. Because bloggers have the option to be selective about who they share their blog with, I can't figure out why they open themselves to the world. I would be scared to death that someone would come and try to steal my children! Of course my imagination has always been able to conjure up the worst possible outcome of every step that my son takes. He is 21 now and I still manage to imagine all the ways he might meet an untimely end.

I find lots of photographers. In my humble opinion, most of them are not as good as they think they are! One really excellent photographer can be found here. Rick Lee's Thursday trips to the produce aisle at the grocery store net some incredibly amazing photographs.

I find lots of young Asian girls with hundreds of photos of themselves looking cute. They usually have soft music playing in the background and pictures of puppies and stuffed animals. Very interesting! Why don't I see any other specific groups?

I find many blogs that at some point began with the intent of keeping a record of travels. I've saved a couple of them under "my favorite blogs".

Then, as if to point out that I am a typical American who only speaks English, I find hundreds of blogs in foreign (to me) languages. This year - I WILL learn a foreign language. Since I live in Phoenix, AZ - and since I have a vacation to Mexico planned for April 2009, I will begin with Spanish. There - I have made the commitment. Keep me honest.

But this whole experience is really very interesting. What have you found?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

withdrawal symptoms

I was standing in this beautiful place (Huahine in French Polynesia) on April 10, 2008. Today, I am not standing there. And I am ANGRY!!! I don't want to work. I want to play. And I want to be in a place that is stunningly beautiful. And I want to watch tatooed men in pareos walking, talking, driving, dancing, cutting coconuts, or whatever. I was clearly meant to be wealthy and something went terribly wrong!!!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

century plant (agave)

This plant blooms once in its lifetime. In my backyard, I am watching this mystery unfold. The energy the plant uses to send the flower stalk 25-35 feet in the air eventually robs it of life. The flowers bloom, the seeds fall, the plant dies. But while it is in bloom, it is spectacular. In this photo, the stalk is only about 16 feet high. Next come the blooms!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Of my two sisters, the one that is the closest to me in age (ten months older) is the one who leaves me wondering about nature vs. nurture. We were raised in the same household, but we are so different. She struggles with depression. Does the depression cause the inability to move? Or does the inability to move cause the depression?

My reaction to her is bizarre. Part of me wants to hold her as if she were my child, stroke her hair and soothe her, tell her everything will be okay. The other part of me wants to scream "get up and move your ass, soldier", like a sarge would yell at a trained soldier who finds himself under fire for the first time and is frozen.

Ah, helpless - only able to listen and be present in her moments - up or down. Sister.

Monday, May 12, 2008


This morning I saw footage of relief aid being delivered (finally) in Myanmar. A huge pallet of boxes, wrapped in shrink wrap, was being unloaded. Attached to the boxes was a gigantic sign that read "U.S. AID from the American people". For a moment, I felt some pride that my country was helping others, just as we always do. Then the cynical side of me had questions. If we know that Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) hates us, and if our primary desire is to help the thousands and thousands of people affected by the cyclone, wouldn't we be a bit more low key about it? If the packages are already labeled that way, should they be? I felt like the relief aid, while desperately needed, was doing a bit of political work. I even pictured the person who originally came up with the idea and the nodding of heads when the idea was first vocalized.

I wish I wasn't a cynic about these things. I know I would be happier if I could go back to being the type of American who didn't question the motives of my government and its many agencies. But I can't. Patriotism, for me, will always be looking carefully at the "deciders" to see what hidden motives might be there. It is almost impossible to be objective about yourself, so I think the prudent person looks to others to provide feedback.

Who do you ask to mirror you?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

mother's day

My son (age 21) just asked me if he could do "the Mother's Day thing" tomorrow instead of today. I signaled no opinion of this non-celebration of all that I have done for him, my only child. It can wait - until he is ready to celebrate it. I just hope I don't get hit by a truck before he celebrates. That could lead to a lifetime of guilt.

Maybe it means something good that he is not over-anxious to please me. Many adults reach a point in their lives when they suddenly realize that they have been trying hard their whole lives to earn the approval of one or the other parent. Then there are the blame gamers - those who point fingers at a parent and say "you caused this misery in my life".

But as Albert Ellis said, "The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You don't blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the President. You realize that you control your own destiny."

So, Happy Mother's Day!