the october cocktail hour: festivals, reunions, and farm tours, along with the more mundane things in life :-)

Saturday, October 15: Welcome to our October happy hour! Come right in, get comfortable and I’ll mix you up a drink. It’s the perfect day to sit out on our screened-in porch.  Would you care for a Moscow Mule (vodka, lime juice and ginger beer), an Appletini, a dirty martini, or a Cosmos?  I’m happy to say I’m expanding my bartending capabilities.  Of course there will always be the old standbys of wine and beer.

I can also offer soda or seltzer water with lime if you prefer a non-alcoholic beverage.

Please, do share what’s been going on with you.  I’d love to hear about the end of your summer and your early fall.  Have you been on vacation or explored new areas close to home?  Have you indulged in any daydreams? Have you changed jobs or gone into retirement?  Have you seen any good movies or read any page-turners? Have you tried out any new restaurants or cooked anything wonderful at home?  How’s your garden?  Have you had any special family gatherings?

Admittedly, I’ve been imbibing on whatever alcoholic drink I can find to drown out the sorrows and frustrations of this election season.  I’ve been spending way too much time reading everything that comes along in the news and on Facebook about the election, including keeping tabs on the various polls.  I have been trying to post only intelligent political articles on my Facebook page, without sinking to the level of the trolls and haters.  All my Facebook friends are perfectly clear on who my candidate of choice is and ISN’T.  As I don’t care to infect my blog with U.S. politics, I will not discuss my preferences here, other than to say I’ve been evaluating my friendships in light of all that I’m seeing and hearing.  In addition, though I’ve never been much of a political person, for the first time in my life I’ve actually donated money and volunteered to work the phone bank during a political campaign.  Anyone who knows me knows that I absolutely despise making cold calls of any kind, so this is a big step for me, and one of which I’m quite proud. I cannot stand by idly and not participate when so much is at stake.

I’m not going to discuss the campaign any more except for some comments I’ll make toward the end of this post regarding friendships.  Enough said.

I totally missed posting a September cocktail hour because in the middle of September I organized a big party/family reunion for my dad’s 86th birthday.  The only person who didn’t show up was my youngest son, Adam, who is trying to settle in and carve a life out for himself in Maui.

Soon after we returned from Iceland at the end of August, we went with my sister-in-law, my son Alex and his girlfriend Ariana to Cirque de Soleil at Tyson’s Corner.  It was a spectacular show titled Kurios: Cabinet of Curiosities, with fantastic costumes, acrobatics and amazing feats.  What a way to immerse ourselves back home after our fabulous trip abroad.

You can read about our Iceland trip on my blog about my European travels: in search of a thousand cafés.

Cirque de Soleil - Kurios ~ Cabinet of Curiosities
Cirque de Soleil – Kurios ~ Cabinet of Curiosities

It was hard to return from Iceland’s cool and sometimes frigid weather to the heat and humidity in Virginia. I always prefer cold weather to hot, so I was glad for the escape.  But.  Maybe it was the sudden change from sweltering to cold and then back to hot that caused Mike and I to both get sick on the trip, that and the tendency to go, go, go while on vacation.  When we returned home, Mike got better while I got worse.  I was diagnosed with walking pneumonia and I suffered through three weeks of pure misery.  When I felt slightly better, I walked my daily three miles in the heat, sweated profusely, then got chilled; after these attempts at my normal routine, I was wiped out for days.  I repeated this several times, thinking I was better, but then was knocked back down.  Finally, I surrendered to the illness, rested a lot, drank fluids and pampered myself.  Finally, by mid-September, I was fine again.  What misery that was!

On September 4, Mike and I want to the Virginia Scottish Games and Festival at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia.  Mike was particularly interested in watching the Border Collie sheep herding, but it turned out there was only one Border Collie and he was herding goats.  Apparently this Border Collie costs $7,000!  He was very keen to round-up the goats when his owner gave the signal.  We watched a parade, ate haggis (which I’d never had) and Scotch eggs, and checked out the shiny British cars.

We stopped at the Living History exhibit, where a man taught us a bit about Scottish history.

Living history
Living history
Scottish paraade
Scottish paraade
Scottish parade
Scottish parade

The week before the Scottish Festival, we had a faux painter paint our dining room (from a deep red to a Sherwin Williams Whitetail and Intricate Ivory using a troweling process); the week after, she did our foyer (using a stippling process with a Sherwin Williams Cooled Blue, Rivulet , and Thermal Spring glaze mixture).  I am pleased with the results in both areas. 🙂

It’s been a long year of renovations, painting, landscaping, and KonMari-ing, and our house feels like new now.  We’re exhausted by the whole process and are now ready to relax for a good long while.  We still have to renovate our upstairs bathrooms, but I won’t be ready to dive into that project for a long time.

Here’s our stippled foyer.  The three paintings to the right were ones I picked up at the Longji Rice Terraces in China and had framed.

Foyer with Chinese paintings
Foyer with Chinese paintings

I planned a big family reunion for my dad’s 86th birthday on the weekend of September 17.  My sister from California and my brother from New Jersey came, as well as my sister and her whole family from Maryland.  Sarah came for part of the time and Alex and his girlfriend were also here.  Adam was the only one missing, sadly.  We shared a lot of food and drinks and infectious laughs, especially playing Apples-to-Apples and a rip-roaring game of Charades.  My siblings and I have always been game players, so it was great fun for all of us to be together and let loose with some crazy competitions.

Sadly, I am unable to post pictures of our whole family together as my sister from California does not want her picture posted, and she of course was in many of them. 😦

On September 24, I went to Richmond to attend a day-long farm tour with my daughter.  Sarah wrote a great blog about it: Where Farmers Grow.  I hope you’ll check it out.  She’s a fantastic writer. 🙂

We started our tour at Victory Farms.

Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms
Victory Farms

I didn’t know okra plants had such pretty flowers.

After touring three other gardens, we ended up back at Victory Farms, where we enjoyed a feast of small plates prepared by Richmond chefs.

Back at Victory Gardens
Back at Victory Gardens
feast at Victory Gardens
feast at Victory Gardens

Sarah’s friend Colin, marketing director of Ellwood Thompson’s, a locally-owned and independently operated natural food market, got us the tickets for this event.

Sarah and Colin
Sarah and Colin
Sarah and me
Sarah and me

Shalom Farms, our next stop on the tour, partners with community organizations and existing nutrition programs to meet the needs of families and children. Among others, their partners include after-school programs, food banks, and community kitchens. In 2015 over 200,000 servings of Shalom Farms produce was distributed through local partnerships to meet the growing needs of nutrition programs in the greater Richmond area.

We both found the work at this farm inspirational.

Shalom Farms
Shalom Farms

Shalom, a 6-acre sustainable farm at Westview on the James in Goochland, Virginia, is an agricultural learning lab for visitors and volunteers of all backgrounds. In 2014, over 4,400 volunteers and visitors gained hands-on education and experience, helping the grow over 250,000 servings of fresh produce, according to their website.

Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery , our third stop, supplies its brewery operations with on-site hop, barley, rosemary, hay and pumpkin farming.  We were able to enjoy a beer here and listen to some good classic rock-n-roll.

Tricycle Gardens is an urban garden whose mission is to grow healthy food, healthy communities and a healthy local food system. Their aim is to restore urban ecologies and create beautiful public spaces throughout Richmond, Virginia.

Tricycle Gardens
Tricycle Gardens

I made the mistake of standing in line at the porta-potty near the compost bins, where I was devoured by blood-sucking mosquitoes.  I must have been bitten at least 20 times, and it made the rest of my time at this garden miserable!

On September 30, Mike and I went into D.C., which we don’t do often, to China Chilcano for dinner, followed by a play at the Woolly Mammoth.

China Chilcano

China Chilcano

me at China Chilcano
me at China Chilcano

At China Chilcano, known for its union of Peruvian Criollo, Chinese Chifa and Japanese Nikkei, we sampled some Dorado Dim Sum (pork, shrimp, jicama, shiitake mushroom, peanut topped with golden egg), Bok Choy as Sillao (Baby bok choy, shiitake mushroom, oyster sauce), and Chupe de Cameron (Pacific wild shrimp soup with fresh cheese, choclo, rice, potato, poached egg).  For dessert we enjoyed Suspiro Limeña (Sweetened condensed milk custard topped with soft and crunchy meringue, passion fruit).

At the Woolly Mammoth, we saw another avant-garde play: Collective Rage: A Play in Five Boops.  Woolly Mammoth is always on the cutting edge with their performances, and this one is no different.  In Jen Silverman’s absurdist romantic comedy, five different women named Betty collide at the intersection of anger, sex, and the “thea-tah,” according to the playbill.  I enjoy it, but am always a little taken aback by the radical ideas in these plays.

Wooly Mammoth
Wooly Mammoth

Before the play, we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine, which was included in the price of our theater ticket.  Mike was awfully blue and I awfully pink. 🙂

We haven’t done much else these two months other than taking our trip to Iceland and recovering from said trip.  I have watched a number of good movies, notably Hell or High Water, in which a divorced father (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother (Toby Howard) resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas. I enjoyed this movie and felt some satisfaction at the brothers’ attempts to get back at the bank that tried to cheat their family out of its inheritance.

I also enjoyed the atmospheric The Light Between Oceans, in which a lighthouse keeper and his wife living off the coast of Western Australia raise a baby they rescue from an adrift rowboat.  I went to see this with my sister from California as she stayed an extra two days after the rest of the family left the reunion.  After the movie, we enjoyed sushi and Sapporo and hot sake with Mike at Arigato.

One day last week, I went to see The Queen of Katwe, in which a Ugandan girl’s poverty-stricken life becomes more promising after she is introduced to the game of chess, for which she has great aptitude. I love this movie, as I always love movies that take place in foreign and exotic locales and feature an underdog rising up to meet success.

As for books, I have read some captivating books.  Here’s what I’ve read since we last met for a cocktail hour: Glaciers; And the Mountains Echoed; The Disappeared; 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.  I listened to my first ever audiobook, Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (read by Hope Davis).  I’ve never listened to an audiobook because I can be a terrible listener, with my mind always wandering off.  But, despite a few wandering thoughts where I lost the thread of the story, I was engrossed in this book and LOVED IT!! I’m now sold on audiobooks.  I’m looking forward to listening to a lot more during my daily 3 mile walks.

I’ve now added another exercise to my walks, a Tuesday-Thursday Pilates class.  I’ve never done Pilates, but I’ve done Yoga.  Both of them I find excruciatingly boring.  But I’ve decided I like Pilates better and I think I’m getting stronger as a result of it.

In addition to Pilates, I’m taking a Memoir class at the Reston Community Center on Monday mornings.  The class is for 55+ people — that includes me!  I’m finally beginning to write a memoir; I’ve dreamed of doing this for a long time; because of the weekly deadlines, I now have four chapters under my belt. I’m getting positive feedback on it too, which encourages me to go on.  Because of this class, I’m reading Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach.  I’ve always been told that if you want to write in a certain genre, you should read a lot in that genre, so in that vein, I read and enjoyed immensely Pat Conroy’s The Death of Santini: The Story of a Father and His Son.

Of all the books I’ve read, I think I enjoyed The Disappeared the most.  Here’s the review I wrote about it on Goodreads: This book tells the poignant and tragic story of a young Cambodian man who was forced to leave his country during the Khmer Rouge reign and genocide, and who, while in exile in Montreal, meets and falls in love with a 16-year-old Canadian girl. Their love is beautifully and poetically rendered, and is physical and spiritual at the same time. The story is written in 2nd person, an unusual point of view. When the borders of Cambodia open again, Serey, the Cambodian student and musician, feels compelled to return to his country to search for his family. It is over a decade before his lover, Anne Greves, is able to travel to Cambodia in search of him, and when she finds him, they live together with the dark cloud of the country’s genocide hanging over them and reverberating through their lives. Serey is secretive about his days and when Anne comes to find out he is working for the opposition, she rebels against his secrecy and fears for his life. Beautifully rendered, this book reminds us of sweeping tragedies in countries where peasants or the disenfranchised take up arms and kill off intellectuals and musicians and teachers. Like China’s Cultural Revolution, and like the Nazi extermination of the Jews, it is a dark and grim reminder of the horrible things human beings do to each other when embraced with hatred and fear.

I guess this book struck home with me because of the political atmosphere in our country during this 2016 election.

In regards to that, I’ve been looking closely at and evaluating my friendships.  I read a great article posted by my favorite philosopher, Alain de Botton, on Facebook, from The Book of Life: What is the Purpose of Friendship?

The article starts with: “Friendship should be one of the high points of existence, and yet it’s also the most routinely disappointing reality.”  And then it goes on to say that relationships have a purpose which are boiled down to the following: networking, reassurance, fun, clarifying our minds, and holding on to the past.  I know I can look at most of my friendships and say they have one of these purposes.  They say friends come into our lives for a reason, or a season.

I truly wonder if we can hold on to friends forever.  Maybe I lived in a fantasy world, but I used to believe I could.  Sometimes I still like to believe it is possible.  But how can I really be friends with people who don’t share my basic values of inclusiveness and love for all of mankind; how can I be friends with people who harshly judge and even condemn those who are a different race, religion, or sex than us? How can I be friends with those who condone ugliness and hatred?

I’m beginning to think that I agree with the final paragraph in this article: “We should dare to be a little ruthless. Culling acquaintances isn’t a sign that we have lost belief in friendship. It’s evidence that we are getting clearer and more demanding about what a friendship could be.”  That’s where I am now.

It’s been the nastiest time I’ve ever lived through in the history of my country.

So, on that note, I leave you to go forward into this great month of November, when the election will be upon us, and to make decisions with good conscience. What we decide in November will be of grave consequence to the future of our country.


14 thoughts on “the october cocktail hour: festivals, reunions, and farm tours, along with the more mundane things in life :-)

  1. What an interesting blog! You certainly have been busy. If you’re interested in audiobooks, I’ve listened to many wonderful ones. Just let me know your genre, fiction or non-fiction. The political scene is a headache. I cringe each day we’re closer to the 3rd debate. There is always something new to be scandalized over. Enjoy the holiday seasons to come and thanks for being so entertaining. You rival Bourdain on CNN!

    1. Thank you so much for dropping by for cocktail hour, Eileen! I’m so happy you did. My life has been busy, but all this activity has been spread out over 2 months, so not quite as busy as it looks in one post. 🙂 As for audiobooks, I’d love to know your recommendations on fiction books.

      As for the election, I know I should watch the third debate but I’m not really even sure I can bring myself to do it. But I guess I’ll force myself to sit through it, as horrible as it will likely be.

      I wish you happy holidays too, and let’s hope we all survive this election! Thanks for the compliment about being entertaining. You’re too kind! 🙂

      1. You and me both on the debate. I’ll sit there and hold my nose. If you like excitement and challenging situations, try one of Kathryn Le Veque’s audios (Medieval Romance Queen), particularly one read by Brad Wills. He awes me each time I listen to one of his.

  2. Funny, I got sick, too, as soon as I left Iceland and spent my first week in Germany hoping that my cold would go away so I could actually visit with friends and family. The abrupt change in temperature in Iceland and the biting, bone-chilling winds were not what I was accustomed to. I even had to borrow a wool sweater, hat and mittens to survive. Iceland is rough country, but I would love to go back (during the summer). The landscape is incomparable.
    About elections and friendships – I have been amazed about how some very intelligent friends are voting for the wrong person. I don’t understand it. It is a very emotionally challenging time on our peace of mind – and friendships.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you got sick after Iceland too, Annette. That weather was pretty unpredictable. Some days nice and sunny and cool, other days biting, with frigid winds and even rain. And that in August! I would definitely consider going back again on the Icelandair stopover! I agree with you about the election and the friendship dilemma. I will never look at some of my long-time friends the same again; I don’t even know how I could ever remain friends with them knowing their political leanings. It’s sad and really depressing. Take care; I’m glad to hear about your Iceland trip and I hope you have a peaceful fall. 🙂

    1. I guess I’ve been somewhat busy here and there, but this blog does cover two months, so I feel like I’ve had a lot of down time. I’m sure you had a great time in England and Manchester. I bet it is hard to get back to a normal routine after all that travel, yet in some ways it’s nice as long as you can still enjoy the memories through writing your blog. 🙂 Thanks so much for coming by, Carol. 🙂

  3. My life is so much quieter than yours, which means I don’t have a lot to share. Our weather is becoming distinctly fall-ish, and I am spending time quietly indoors, working and playing with my alcohol inks. Trying to learn, and loving the process.
    As to the election – I am dismayed (to put it mildly) at the directions it has gone and is going. I hear little of substance about the real issues, and far far too much from the one side at least of ugly, nasty. demeaning comments. It upsets me greatly, and I fear for the direction our society is taking, following blindly and believing whatever we hear and see without any investigation or search for truth. In an attempt to preserve my sanity, I’m trying to play ostrich for these last few weeks – but I am only being minimally successful at that. So your pictures and stories of your many and varied activities are a welcome diversion.

    1. I envy your quiet life, Carol. Our weather too is become fall-ish, which of course I love. And playing with your alcohol inks sounds like great fun and very satisfying and peaceful. 🙂

      Actually, I feel like my life would be fairly quiet right now, except for the worries going around in my mind about the election. I have days where I’m like an ostrich myself, but then I want to make sure I’m not missing something important, so I get caught up in it all again. I feel like I should just unplug and turn up to vote on November 8, and try to ignore all the hoopla going on around me. I find it all disheartening and highly disturbing, and am actually feeling depressed much of the time. I’m glad you enjoyed my stories and diversions; that’s exactly what they are, simply diversions, to keep me from dwelling on the nastiness all around me. Take care and keep peaceful, Carol, and enjoy your quiet artistry! 🙂

  4. My goodness Cathy, you are a busy person! You cram more into your month than I do in a year! Sorry to hear you were ill after Iceland, that’s a bummer. I always get ill after a long haul flight, but usually just a cold that lasts for a week or so. It does put me off flying long haul though. September was mostly spent travelling up the eastern side of the UK and ending up with a week in Scotland. I think you should visit Scotland and see it for real. You’d love it. You can read all about my adventures on my blogs – I am slowly putting together the places I visited including gardens on the garden blog. Being away means as usual catching up with WP – I will get around to reading the rest of your Icelandic adventures, but this week I am heading to Barcelona for a few days with my daughter for her 40th birthday. As for your political problems, I am going to keep quiet. It is a worrying situation and I can’t quite believe that Americans have allowed this situation to happen, my fear is that we are heading for disaster and if so Brexit will be a thing of the past. Hope Adam is doing well, and I love the colour of your foyer – sounds so posh to have a foyer, like in a hotel 😀

    1. Hi Jude! I guess it might look like I was busy, but remember this covered a two-month period. It feels like I’ve had a lot of down time where I haven’t been doing much of anything. That reunion took a lot out of me! As for getting sick after Iceland, we actually got sick about 2/3 the way into the trip, and the flight and returning to sweltering weather in Virginia didn’t help!

      I’m so glad you had a great trip up the eastern side of the UK and Scotland. I know you met Jo and I’m sure that was special. I would love to visit Scotland and will definitely have to drop by your travel blog and read all about your travels.

      Barcelona for your daughter’s 40th b-day!!?? That sounds fabulous. What a way to celebrate. I love that city. I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time. 🙂

      I’m really afraid we are heading for a disaster here in the USA. No matter who wins, we may have a total breakdown here; I think there will be violence, riots, and, I hate to even imagine it, but anarchy. I have been so depressed, especially to know that so many Americans harbor such hatred and venom for people outside of their smug little world. I’m waiting till after the election; at that time I’ll decide whether I need to go abroad again.

      Thanks for the compliment on the foyer color. I love it too. As for Adam, at this moment he’s doing okay, but I’m sure he’s having his struggles as well. I just try to keep hoping the best for him. He does love Hawaii and I think it’s a good place for him; I’m just sad that he’s so far away.

      Thanks so much for dropping by for the cocktail hour. Have a great trip to Barcelona!! And happy birthday to your daughter. 🙂

  5. Hello, thank you for inviting me to join you on the porch for another cocktail hour. I know you have told us news from two months, but I still think you manage to fit a lot into your time! I’ve read The Light Between Oceans, but didn’t realise it was a film too. I enjoyed the story, and thought it was quite thought-provoking. I’ve just finished another Alexander McCall Smith book, and one by Dawn French, called According to Yes. Both books were easy, light reading and just what I needed. Our news features your election build up every day and we are astonished at what we see. It must be very difficult times for you all. You really should try and visit Scotland some time – there is so much to see, and so many different types of landscape – and the people are lovely too. 😉

  6. HI there!!

    Always nice to read a new happy cocktail hour with you though I am sad for all of America right now, I cannot imagine being in the middle of it as an intelligent, concerned and enlightened individual such as yourself. I also fear there will be tremendous upheaval in America no matter who wins, and you are not the only ones holding your breath over this, as funny as the SNL skits are, they are also rather scary as they nail the crisis rather painfully.

    Not sure if you are back to sweltering temperatures but we sure are! Our weather just north of the boarder is making it feel like it is still summer! Today we are in the mid-20s C and tomorrow we will be in a real-feel 30 C with humidity, and we should be getting our winter coats out of storage by now normally. Everyone is happy but of course, no snow = very high food prices next year and drought. We had a bit of damp Autumn but nothing like when I was a kid. Nothing is like it was when we were kids, though, is it… 😦

    I will take a nice cold beer if you have one handy please, or perhaps a wine of your choosing as you have such excellent taste in wines as I well know!

    Your beautiful garden photos reminded me to tell you that I finished clearing my garden allotment yesterday, if I want it next summer I have to keep it in good order, de-weeded, raked and ready for fertilizer for the fall. It is a shame how many people went to the trouble of planning and planting lovely little gardens only to neglect them for most of the summer. So much wasted food on the ground! I am often there all alone among the 100 or so little plots behind an old church and it is very therapeutic for me. I am amazed at how much I have enjoyed the hard work and the daily watering especially this past dry and very very hot summer. There was not that much yield, but for my first time, I was quite pleased. Too bad my mother got sick, as she really wanted to help with that.

    Next summer I hope to get a second plot in my mother’s name so I can really grow a lot more than just tomatoes as the cucumbers did not do well nor did the onions and that was all I grew. I did try to grow some sort of kale but really how much of that can you process in a blender or eat in a soup? I will be a bit more adventurous next year but also more practical with what I will actually use as I did waste a lot of that kale unfortunately. So I am guilty of that, too! But my tomatoes! What a treat to have fresh tomatoes all summer and into fall! So much better than the tasteless pink rocks you get from the hot house growers. Ugh! What a difference to taste a real tomato! I had forgotten what they tasted like!

    Your farm tour photos are great, and I am surprised they did not stimulate you into planting a garden in your own yard as a small project!

    As for Sarah’s blog, wow, she really is a very good writer, very observant and original in her descriptive prose! I wonder if a great exercise would be for you two to choose a storyline, plot and characters together, and then write the story separately each of you, and then compare approaches! Was that the first of many blogs for her testing the blogosphere waters or a one-off? I could not find other posts.

    Yes, again, the elections in the USA are troubling to all of us, no matter how funny the SNL send ups are, and they are hilarious! But within weeks now it will all be over. But as you said, then what? What fresh hell awaits America?

    What strikes us here in Canada is we are only allowed a very brief election season, between 3-6 weeks and we thought the 6 weeks was way too long a time to listen to the candidates share untruths and care only about poll numbers. We do not go for ugly attacks here, Harper tried it and he got hammered for it as we do not like that up here. I know in America most genuine politicians would prefer not to indulge in that, but what is happening now, is beyond what anyone could have predicted – the Donald is an American icon for a number of reasons, but the fact that no matter what he does, his hard core supporters do not care. Did you see that disgusting lady in the t-shirt with the arrow pointing down to her you know what, saying Donald could grab her there if he wanted to? That was one of the most troubling images of this whole nasty election by far.

    And how exhausting for you there – it seems almost the minutes you are in office in the USA you are on the stump again within months and it goes on for TWO YEARS when it comes to presidential elections! When does any work get done?!!

    Most countries are not that affected by the elections of other nations but of course, USA is a whole different story. It is Trump’s bromance with Putin that is especially worrying, NEVER MIND his breathtaking pride in his own ignorance of anything that is not about him, but I no longer think he will win – and I do think he will be the happiest of all as he is clearly bored with this whole nomination otherwise he would have taken at least part of it seriously enough to have learned something about world history and what is happening in the rest of the world for example beyond his nebulous plans to “bomb ISIS” – but he will rant as he has already started to do now, that the election will be rigged, allowing him to save face when he loses, and thus play the victim and then, mercifully, hopefully, disappear from the political stage.

    Just a few more weeks before the world changes as we know it right now…. I wish you strength and know the fact that you are out there on the phones making cold calls shows just how very profoundly concerned you are. Our hearts go out to you, my dear Cathy, and to all Americans during this absurdly troubling, disturbing and potentially terrifying election season.

    I also understand your concern re friendships as it is really disorienting when you find out someone you have known and admired for years for example is a fanatic Trump supporter (while we are still on this subject). You think you know someone, then…. Wow, you really didn’t.

    Elections never get that contentious up here, but they almost did over our last prime minister, when you actually decided to hate someone who supported him and his eco-terrorist policies, and who was going to be assassinated if he had not been voted out of office thank God. It can really make you want to leave home when someone you hate so much and disagree with so profoundly is now leading your nation and is the face of your nation to the rest of the world. Believe me, we have had a taste of that up here, too. Our honeymoon with Justin Trudeau is over now though, but at least he is not Stephen Harper and that was all that mattered to us.

    I will be voting for the Animal Alliance Party in future, and I support them each month with a small donation, something I have never done with any political party ever.

    I loved your family reunion photos but am surprised that your sister did not want her photos posted online! May I ask why this is? She has appeared on your blog in the past! She is so interesting if it is the one from California I am thinking of. The other photos look great, everyone smiling and happy, and having a good time though of course having one of your children missing from a reunion is always a bit sad. I think it is awesome that he found his way to Hawaii and that he carving out a life for himself there.

    As for family reunions, I really miss that, as my family does not get together unless we have family from Germany over to visit, which we did in August. My cousin who came over is quite wealthy as he is a famous tax consultant for people with even more money that he has. He commissioned me to create a 3m tall metal sculpture for his sculpture garden on his estate in the South of France which I have done all the preliminary drawings for. I am just waiting for his approval of the design so I can create the templates.

    At the reunion dinner we had when he and his family were here, I found out that two of the kids of two of my first cousins got married and I never even got the chance to send a card as I was not even invited to the Church for either of their weddings! This hurt, one not so much but one I thought I was a bit closer to and would have loved to have at least had the chance to send a card and some money as a gift, but we are just not that kind of family anymore that gets together which is sad as we are so few in number.

    I am glad you and Mike are finally over your terrible colds and illness after the Iceland trip. It sure was cold there, I wonder if it is usually like that? I am also glad that you finally stopped forcing it and took some time off to nurse yourself to bettering your health rather than keep up your hectic exercise schedule, etc., to try to force it to go away, which only made things worse. Your body as you get old, as much as it betrays you in not responding as it used to to dieting and exercise, will certainly let you know what it needs if it is sick. I have purchased some of the new Jane Fonda “non-impact” videos for older folks as I feel myself stiffening up by the day despite my 4-8 km daily walks to and from work. It is just all so not fair! But I guess with age too these summer colds will hit you harder than they used to and take longer to recover from.

    This past month now my mother has been in hospital following her bypass surgery. That part healed well, but the leg where they took the vein to do the by-passes has not healed and my mother, who has no tolerance of any pain every no matter if it is a bruise she will wince and make it clear she is in pain with wimpering sounds a week after the fact, which drive the rest of us crazy since a stubbed toe for her is reason to run to the doctor and ask for a prescription.

    Now she really has something to worry about and her resistance is not helping, as she feels she is still in too much pain to do the walking around she should have started a month ago and now her leg is infected and we have no idea when she will ever come home.

    What I learned from this is that I had better take MUCH better care of myself as she reminds me of how helpless I never, ever want to be. What I also realized is that unlike her, I do not have a loving husband who is there every single day to sit with her, and I won’t have one when I am that age, nor anyone in the form of children to check on me in hospital or to see if I am being taken care of when I become infirm. It will all be up to me to make sure I am cared for and what a wake up call this has been to try to work harder to get in shape though no matter what I do I cannot shift the 30 or so pounds I need to lose from around my middle. I never had weight issues there but now everything goes to my tummy and stays there. It is very upsetting and unfamiliar and really pisses me off.

    The only good thing about my mother being in hospital for a month and for sure months to come, is that we never have to worry about who will pay for that as the hospital stay and surgery and all the care is free here. Say what you want about socialized medicine, most of what you hear in the USA is not true. You do not wait years for surgery and yes some people who can afford it will opt to go somewhere like the USA or Europe and pay to get something done asap, but my mother waited all of a week after diagnosis that she needed heart surgery.

    And despite what The Donald says, I don’t think most American families would care about waiting a few weeks for an appointment or a few months for needed surgery never mind it is ALL excellent care for themselves and their children, when it is 100% free. We do not have to go online and hunt around for health insurance providers or deal with Obamacare blah blah it is Medicare for everyone no matter who you are or where you live or how much money you do or do not have. There is only a one-tier system and we fight anyone who wants to make it two-tier. And after being in a terrible car accident in South Africa and getting really seriously ill in Oman, believe me the only place I wanted to go was home to Canada so I could get looked after properly health-wise. I cannot imagine what stress this much cause the average family in America especially if they are making too much for Medicare but not enough for decent affordable care. 

    Enough of the serious topics! Your renovations looks fantastic! What bold colours you chose for the entry way but it really sets off the art you have put up, and I am glad you are displaying more of your travel souvenirs! All that effort to get it means it needs to be shown off! And you did a terrific job with the new wall colours and all the renovations and all that updating! Fantastic! I am sure it has really upped the value of your home, too!

    But why did you give away your scarves?! The way you had them displayed in Nizwa was a work of art in itself! I did the same thing here with mine I was so impressed!

    Not sure that odd theatre you went to though would be my cup of tea! But at least you had a nice date night out and that is the best part, the company and the conversation over a good meal after a challenging play!

    As for good movies, I have not seen anything this summer though I finally watched The Theory of Everything and A Walk in the Woods and Spotlight. Tried and failed with Maps to the Stars and a few other duds I could not sit through, like The Paperboy and a few others I cannot remember.

    So finally you are appreciating the wonderful world of audiobooks! I have been hooked for a long time, and could not do my walks every day without them!!!! I always have a few different ones on the go.

    I think I would like to look for The Light between Oceans movie though when I go to the Library next week. Usually I look for the audiobook of movies I want to see rather than go to the cinema.

    I spent a month in Uganda, and it is a terrific country, with its coppery sandy roads and lush green foliage everywhere. I loved Kampala and would be happy to do a work placement there, though I doubt that will ever happen again. It would have been far preferable to the year I spent in the DRCongo in Kinshasa, that is for sure.

    Ah yes, friendships. It is a bit painful to see how it is divided into those four categories, as true as they are, though I would add a category – that you are friends with someone because you respect and admire them and just plain like them so much, and you hope to learn from them! I do know most of mine are based on shared memories not only of the past, per se, but when you have shared something extreme, as you and I did living in Oman, or with our friend Uttam in Kathmandu where I had so many adventures spending so many months in Nepal, half of them with my beloved cat Bonkers, or with my few friends from the United Nations,… these things all define who I am and are the subjects of the stories of my life, and if I have no one left who was there as a witness, sometimes I wonder if they really happened at all. I just know I really need these kinds of friends in my life and I cherish them so much and not only because I am stuck in Canada where none of them live, or because I have no kids around whom I create new memories or friendships for that matter.

    But I do think some friends can be in your life forever Cathy, though the role they play in your life is what changes, evolves, transforms. I believe we need the idea of lasting relationships in our lives as much as we need the actual relationships, sometimes, too.

    I sure hope we are still are exchanging travel and work stories for a good few years yet, too!!!

    It’s funny, but the strongest relationships I have, all gathered together on facebook since I lived overseas for almost 20 years in 5 or 6 different places, are with my former ESL colleagues. The ones from Japan especially are very dear to me, as it was such a strange time when we were there in the late 80s / early 90s, when there were so few of us and no internet or cable tv or anything and how we had to create our own social lives within the confines of Japanese society as there no English pubs or English shops or English signage or anything pretty much back then, and we were quite the novelty. I was also married then and my colleagues all knew my ex-husband and, never mind how much they helped me get my job in Oman and prepare and write my thesis when I finally did my Masters!!

    Tomorrow would have been my 26th wedding anniversary! Wow, what a shame. I will always love the man I married; it is the man I divorced that I don’t much care for or miss.

    My plans are being finalized this week to commence another degree, a post-graduate Bachelor of Social Work. I know I know it is not what anyone would have expected but I think teaching ESL overseas is finished for those of us who don’t want to teach children pretty much or who don’t want to live in China or the Middle East, and since there is such a strong social net here in Canada, I am hoping, … no, I am counting on there being lots of jobs for the next 20 or so years in the health care service industry, where at the very least you need a BSW even to work in intake or data entry.

    You need certification for everything, everything is so specialized now and since I am only happy when I am studying it seems, and with my 74 year old boss just waiting for his own dad, 101 years old and still living at home alone, to no longer be around so he can retire and move out West to be with his kids and grandkids, I have to start looking out for my future now.

    So, two years of online prerequisite courses based on my estimation of how much longer I can expect my boss to keep me employed, then ten months of intensive in-class course work with three placements, should bring me some job security I hope, I PRAY, and I hope some more.

    I am just waiting for some final email responses to some last minute questions before I start the first two courses online of the nine I will need to take before I am ready to take the social work degree to completion. I am actually quite excited about this, more so than in any of the other ideas I have had lately about retraining and requalifying for a brutal, ageist job market. My plan is to request the study practicums no one else wants which will probably be in the field of elder care/Alzheimer’s sufferers. Fine with me. I just hope I get the answers I want in those two last emails I am waiting for.

    So that is my big news this cocktail hour! I am so anxious to hear what is next on your list of things to do and plan for!!! Have you looked at any job ads lately? I heard from my platonic spouse W in Saudi that he has handed in his notice but I do not yet know what is next on his list or where teachers are looking to go next as there is 100% turnover there every year where he is working! Wow, how awful is that? What have you heard from the ESL grapevine?

    And what is next on your list!!?? I guess we will have to wait and see who is elected POTUS to find out….

    Until next time!!! xxxxx

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