Happy, yet well prepared, wanderer

I love to travel, and a lot of the fun for me is doing the research ahead of time. Learning a few words of the language, something about the culture, and what options are available for activities and sights. I carefully create a folder with an itinerary showing where I will be with phone numbers and contact information, vocabulary, transportation schedules , maps, and information about sights. However, once all the research is done I am ready to play it by ear.

I do this regardless of how I travel: bicycle (only once), walk, cruise, automobile, train…Just thinking about it makes me want to start planning to head off somewhere far away from the craziness of my life right now.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

My Managerie

Pets wrap their furry little selves around our hearts.

Black Labrador retriever with pheasant.
Siamese cats.
We are Siamese if you please…

I grew up with pets. we had my faithful partner in crime Misty and three to seven cats, depending on whether there had been kittens lately. Most of our cats were Siamese and I don’t recall that we ever had problems giving away kittens. In this day and age it would have been considered totally irresponsible to have as many kittens as we had.

I am a responsible pet owner (or servant, depending on perspective). We prefer to have only one pet (my husband grew up in a household with no pets). We live in the city and our first pet was Star.

Obese Sheltie
Star on arrival.

We got her from Pet Protectors, She was a beautiful black and white Sheltie, who had been brought to the vet to be put down because she was obese. She weighed a bit over 50 lb, and should have weighed 20-25 lb.

Black and white sheltie.

She was about 8 when we got her and her tummy rubbed on the grass when she went off the sidewalk to go potty. It was pretty sad that anyone had let her get so fat, she loved to walk with me. But  by the time we had her the excess weight had damaged her knees, so she walked very slowly, even when she was down to ideal weight, she maxed out at about 1 mile per hour. One time when someone called my husband told him that I was out “standing the dog”. It took about a year but with diet and exercise she got down to 25 lb and remained there for the rest of her life, she was about 16 when she passed away, so she had several happy years with us. She had a really sweet personality.

Our one period of having two pets was because I tend to be a bit of a softy and agreed to take care of my youngest sister’s cat for three months in 1992. This was to keep peace in the family while she stayed with my dad and allergic-to -cats stepmother.

Silver tabby cat with flowers.

She had named him Allan and for some reason I never cared much for the name, he was about 6 month old so I called him “kitten”. The three months turned into 17 years and I always called him kitten and he actually came when I called (weird for  cat). He was a grumpy, fussy bachelor who did not care much for kids, taking swings at my nieces when they got too close. He was fastidious about going outside and not using his litter box unless it had snowed, then not letting us rest until the box was clean.

Tabby cat exploring.
Inspecting the new realm.

About a year after Kitten left for the sunny garden spot in the sky I came home from a trip and felt sad to have no one home to welcome me. My son and I went to the Humane Society the next day and came home with our Empress.

Someone had, in one of those unfortunate kitten naming events, given her the moniker “Binky”. She had grown to an elegant and substantial brown and black tabby. Since she had already been chipped as “Binky” we gave her a title, The Empress, and licensed her as “Empress Binky”. We call her The Empress and Your Highness mostly. There was a wink at PG Wodehouse and the Empress of Blandings in the name, because she has an eating disorder and was off her food when we brought her home. Like the Empress of Blandings, she got over her stress and we now have to keep a close watch on her diet.

While the paperwork we got from the Humane Society said she lived with other cats and dogs, she says that is not true and her delicate temperament is unsuited to any role other than only pet. She snuggles us into submission to her every whim. My husband, who never even let Kitten on the bed, sleeps with the empress. If I could photograph them without waking them up, I would title the picture “The Other Woman”, but it might be too racy to publish with both of their heads on the same pillow!

I also have puppy friends: here are Ginger, my Grandma’s dog, and Sam, my half sister (we have different mothers, can you tell? ). We all like to walk. Sam is also an avid fisher-woman.

Two spaniel mix dogs: one corgi-lier(King Charles Cavlier) and one sprig-ador.
Double trouble.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Menagerie.”

A List of Advice

1) A list is a great way to organize your thoughts, your day, your life…It can get you going and keep you going when things seem crazy or overwhelming.

2) Once you have the list stop for a minute and see if it has achievable items on it. “Write a novel” doesn’t work for a Monday list, better to have write for an hour. (Save the novel for a weekend!)

3) Don’t neglect regular stuff: always put things like “eat lunch” and “feed the cat” on the list. We do so many things each day that get taken for granted. A list is a great way to see all that we accomplish. Mundane is important.

4) Celebrate every check mark!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Satisfaction of a List.”

C is for Cloud

Ice cream castles in the air:

Pink clouds.
Pink clouds.


Clouds of steam rising from a thermal area in New Zealand

Clouds of steam at Te Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao
Clouds of steam at Te Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao

Choppy clouds at sunrise in the Tasman Sea:

Choppy clouds at sunrise.
Choppy clouds at sunrise.

Dawn at Four-mile beach in  Port Douglas, Austalia.

Dawn at Four Mile Beach Australia
Dawn at Four Mile Beach Australia

Choppy clouds in Bend Oregon at sunset:

Choppy clouds at sunset.
Choppy clouds at sunset.

I think this is my favorite cloud one, the cloud echos the shape of the mountain.

Cloud and rock mountain from White Emperor City on the Yangze.
Cloud and rock mountain from White Emperor City on the Yangze.

Inspired by Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Clouds

Morning in Africa

I am not a morning person. Not really a night owl either. I have a couple of good hours around 10 in the morning most days.

Elephant at Sunrise, Masai mara
Elephant at Sunrise, Masai mara

Since I can’t seem to get up early to take pictures except when I have jet lag here are some pictures taken when I was up early because of jet lag.


Sunrise in Mulundi Village, Kitui, Kenya.
Sunrise in Mulundi Village, Kitui, Kenya.
Lion taking an early morning stroll.
Lion taking an early morning stroll.
Hot air balloon flare at dawn.
Hot air balloon flare at dawn.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Early Bird.”

What’s Your Tribe?

Throughout history there has been a tendency for religion and politics to be mixed together. Caesar was worshiped as a god. The emperor in China was the central figure in religion as well. The divine right of kings…Even here in the US with our separation of church and state religion is becoming more and more intertwined with politics. It seems to be one of the defining elements in being Red or Blue.

Discussions of politics and religion tend to fall into two categories



Depending on whether the people involved agree or disagree.

Yes-Yes conversations tend to be pretty smug. Yes-No conversations are either confrontations or attempts at conversion, but there is always a sense that people think they are right.

Media loves a good conflict so they play up these differences. The type of conversation where there is nuance: “yes, but…”, “no, but…” or an honest “I don’t know” met with thoughtful discussion does’t seem to happen anymore.

Political and religious questions are often posed by someone trying to determine if you are a member of his or her tribal group. The story of people being required to say “Shiboleth” in the biblical story (Judges chapter 12) is a record of a simpler approach: if you couldn’t pronounce the word properly you were assumed to be an Ephramite (enemy tribe in the story) and killed.

I avoid discussing politics and religion for that reason, I usually either don’t fit in the box properly or, more and more often these days, don’t want to be affiliated with the owners of the box. Frequently because of how they treat people who don’t agree. We don’t, for the most part kill people literally but character assassination happens pretty often.

While I avoid discussions for the reasons above I think that both religion and politics are areas where the deep conversations, ones without foregone “right” answers are needed. The world is more complex and interrelated than it used to be and people do not live in isolation any more. We need to be learning about each other, the values both shared and different, looking for solutions that aren’t simplistic party-line approaches or “the Bible or Koran or Sutras or Hindu teaching says this” so we don’t look further.

response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”

My Baby’s Birthday

Sweet Baby James
Sweet Baby James

The tree peony is blooming, right on schedule. It was blooming the day he was born.


Birthday Cake and Boy
Birthday Cake and Boy

Almost every year I have baked him a cake. I made a dinosaur cake when he was five, a wild west cake when he was six, a space cake when he was seven… One year he said he wanted a cake from Safeway and it almost broke my heart. He got over that phase pretty quickly (my cakes really do taste better). He discovered and fell in love with tiramisu when he was twelve or so. Since it is kind of a pain to make, I only ever made it for his birthday and it became a tradition. It seems strange to not be gathering the ingredients for it. It feels a little melancholy when these little traditions get edged out of our lives.

2014 Birthday Cake
2014 Birthday Cake
Birthday celebration 2014
Birthday celebration 2014

Last year I visited him in China for his birthday. He didn’t have an oven so it was a store bought cake again. Shared with his friends in a hot pot restaurant.

Hard to believe that my little five pound peanut is six feet tall! I miss him.

Life is Good

Karma Chameleon, the song, came out my last year in College. I loved its cheerful tempo.

I don’t know much about karma, not only is it from another culture, but I think I may be more of a dogma girl. I like the idea of a set of rules I can live by. The idea about negotiation makes me fearful, especially if the stakes are high. I am not good at it. I always seem to loose my shirt (figuratively), I like to make people happy and in the heat of the moment I tend to say things based on that instead of what would be in my own best interest.

So I don’t know if karma is about what happens later in this life (although personal experience says that the nicer you are the more you get taken for granted and more and more get demanded from you…not exactly what I thought karma was supposed to be). But if it is about the next life I think I want to be reincarnated as my father’s dog Sam. She really lives the good life. Just spending an afternoon with her on the beach is lovely, maybe that is my good karma.

Sam running on the beach.
Sam running on the beach.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Karma Chameleon.”

Body Language

Learning a language is hard and it takes a lot of time and practice to master nuance. Not only that, but you can’t learn every language you might need. I would like to understand non-verbal communication better. A few times I have been in situations where there was no language cross over.

In Africa with people who spoke Kikamba and in China the language spoken had no kinship with English. In Europe most of the languages have at least a few words that make one feel like there is a connection. In both Africa and China, while it is true that younger folks have mostly some familiarity with English, older people (my age as opposed to my son’s age) often don’t have any familiarity with it at all, so I can speak as slowly and clearly as I want but nothing will get through.

Yet somehow with pointing, smiles, exaggerated facial expressions, along with charades, and the occasional drawn picture. many things can be communicated. I would like to be better at that.

I have had a few adventures where my, I like to think anyway, above average language skills in my native tongue have not helped me at all. Where being better at reading people and non-verbal communication would have been way more useful than fluency in the wrong language.

One of the more recent was last year and is outlined in my Let’s Go Fly a Kite post.


In Africa one happened having my hair washed. Mama Munini, our hostess, had arranged for the woman who washed her hair to come and wash mine (for the exhorbitant cost of ~$2). I just wanted it washed, it was in the 90-100 degree F temperature range and after traveling from Nairobi in a very full minivan (driver five passengers and a bunch of luggage, a harambee (tiny church very full of people), and walking about a fair amount for two days with only a wash basin of water to clean with I longed for a clean head.

Mama made the arrangements but had to go off and left me with a lovely lady who scrubbed my hair and scalp cleaner than it has ever been before. I thought we were done.

But then she rubbed in conditioner and carefully bagged my head up in black plastic to let it work.  When she rinsed that out I thought we were done.

But then she started to braid my hair. Since I had no way to communicate to her that I didn’t want braids I called to my son to go and get my supply of elastic hair thingies. I looked pretty odd but it was WAY cooler to have my hair in the braids which I left in for the five days until we returned to Nairobi. I wish I had been able to communicate…but then I would not have been as comfortable.

Munyoki family.
Munyoki family.

A similar situation occured when I went to visit Mrs. Munyoki, specifically Mama Elijah (Mr. Elijah is featured in Reward). I was to meet Mueni (Elijah’s sister) at the elementary school and go with her to visit her mother. I got to the school and she wasn’t there. Not sure quite what got said to whom but I was sent off, as it turned out cross country, with a fourth or fifth grader. He took me through peoples yards and gardens to Mrs. Munyoki, the principal’s wife not Mama Elijah (there are quite a few Munyokis in Mulundi). She understood where I was headed but insisted that I eat first. The rest of my party (including those who could understand) somehow found me there, where I was not supposed to be, eating fresh chapati so hot that they burned my fingers. We all went the last couple hundred yards together, and had to eat again with Mueni and Mama Elijah. I never was quite clear what happened…oh well.

It would be so nice to somehow understand, and yet I treasure these memories of times when I didn’t and somehow connected with people.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take That, Rosetta!.”

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