In twenty-sixteen, I:  Gazed in WONDER at the Renwick.  Traipsed around the City of Brotherly Love, ate Philly cheese steaks, and admired the Mural Arts decorating the city’s walls and parking lots. Inspected the crack in the Liberty Bell and imagined our forefathers in Independence Hall.  Toasted to Mike’s 62nd birthday. Worried about our youngest son’s lack of direction.  Partially de-cluttered our house, using The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (the Kon-Mari method), successfully weeding out clothing, accessories, kitchen appliances and books.

Flew to Dallas, Texas and then drove to Oklahoma City to attend a friend’s second wedding.  Walked on the grassy knoll and along the route where JFK was assassinated.  Stood beside larger-than-life statues of George W. Bush and his dad at the George W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum.  Walked among tulips and sat with Benjamin Franklin at the Dallas Arboretum.  Stood under a rearing horse and saw a fake rodeo at the Cowboy Museum.  Grieved near a field of empty chairs for the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Stood by as contractors demolished our deck, laundry room and kitchen and then slowly built them again, in much nicer form.

Attended my first husband’s book talk in April at Politics and Prose in D.C., where he discussed his newly published book, Mathews Men.  Celebrated our daughter Sarah’s graduation, with a B.A. in English, from Virginia Commonwealth University in May.  Enjoyed a spread of bagels at Sarah’s house, and later dinner and dirty martinis at Lucy’s, with both families in attendance. 🙂

Wandered through tulips and sunflowers at Burnside Gardens in Virginia.  Visited four gardens around Philadelphia for my second trip to that city this year.  Imbibed in Cabernets and Pinot Grigios at several Virginia wineries.  Let our son’s lease in Richmond expire and watched with trepidation to see what he’d do next; fretted because we didn’t know where he would go or what he’d do.  Felt relieved when we found he took off for a Tribal Design retreat in Vancouver and finally went Hawaii, where he is now leading tours for a hostel in Maui.

Drove around the Ring Road in Iceland over a breathtaking 11 days (in search of a thousand cafés).  Climbed around, behind, and to the tops of waterfalls. Admired sweeping vistas from our Polo VW rental.  Hiked to the edge of ashy glaciers.  Poked around inside turf-roofed houses. Ate cod, cod and more cod, as well as langoustine, lamb and gas-station hot dogs.  Drove over 2700 km and walked 166,100 steps, or 70.4 miles.  Returned home with walking pneumonia, from which it took three weeks to recover.

Laughed at the “Kurios” of Cirque de Soleil.  Had a family reunion at our renovated house for my dad’s 86th birthday in September, where everyone except Adam attended.  Enjoyed sushi and sake with my sister Stephanie, who came from California.  Drove along the Skyline Drive amidst flame-colored leaves to West Virginia in early November to celebrate my 61st birthday and our 28th anniversary.  Enjoyed delicious pizza and craft beer at Pies & Pints. Strolled through the eerie ghost towns of Thurmond and Nuttallburg.  Hiked along the Endless Wall.

Barely survived our contentious election and felt heartbroken over the results.  Boycotted Facebook for a month and a half.  Realized I have nothing in common with 62 million Americans.

Read/listened to 35 books/audiobooks (meeting my Goodreads goal!), my favorites being All the Light We Cannot See, State of Wonder, Circling the Sun, The Ambassador’s Wife, and The Glass Castle.  Saw 39 movies in the theater, especially loving Joy, Eye in the Sky, A Hologram for the King, The Man Who Knew Infinity, The Music of Strangers, Dheepan, Hell or High Water, The Light Between Oceans, Sully, Girl on the Train, A Man Called Ove, Manchester by the Sea, and Lion.  Dined on Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican, French, Japanese and Italian food.

Weighed 5 pounds more at year-end than at the end of 2015, despite continual attempts to lose weight.  Took Pilates and dropped out because of utter boredom.  Walked nearly 251 hours during 276 @3-mile workouts, or about 813 miles of dedicated workouts.

Passed the Virginia Real Estate Licensing Exam but never signed with a broker. Sent my novel to 23 agents to no avail.  Applied for 32 jobs, 23 abroad and 9 stateside.  Came up empty-handed on the book publishing and the job front.  Got discouraged.  Completed a Memoir class and wrote seven chapters of a memoir.  Dreamed about how my future might look.

Celebrated Thanksgiving with Alex and Sarah, and Christmas with only Alex (Adam was in Hawaii through the holidays, jumping off waterfalls, body surfing and leading tours). Felt dismayed at our shrinking family gatherings.

Returned to Philadelphia (third time’s a charm!) to see “Paint the Revolution” at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  Admired the Gates of Hell and Crouching Woman at the Rodin Museum.  Wandered through the Magic Gardens of mirrors and mosaics and found objects.  Walked and walked through the outdoor gallery of Mural Arts to shake 2016 out of our psyches. Drove home through Amish country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, amidst the clip-clop of horse-drawn buggies and faded laundry flapping on clotheslines.

Cleared our heads in preparation for 2017, when we are hoping for love, peace, healing, direction, confidence, boldness and endless adventure. 🙂


RESOLVED 2013!!! ~ the year’s resolutions in review

Tuesday, December 31, 2013: At the beginning of this year, I made a lot of ambitious resolutions, as many of us do. I believe in making myself accountable, so, before making a new set of highly breakable resolutions for 2014, I’ll review how I did with accomplishing my 2013 resolutions.  To see my original post on January 1, check out: RESOLVED 2013!!!

Thirteen is usually my lucky number, so I hoped this would be a good year. Overall, it was a good year, but in some ways, it was a mixed bag. I am always foolishly optimistic that if I aim high, I at least will achieve SOMETHING!!  I’m sure you all have figured out what a Type A personality I am… sorry!  This I cannot escape…

“It was amazing how you could get so far from where you’d planned, and yet find it was exactly were you needed to be.”
Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

1) Finances:  PAY DOWN MY DEBTS substantially (…by 50%). Save $6,000 for trip this summer to Spain, Portugal (& Morocco?).  Don’t spend money on anything other than travel unless it’s absolutely essential!

I did this pretty much!  I actually paid down my debts by about 50%, but then once I got back to the USA, I went for a couple of months without a paycheck and had to spend more money on settling back in.  So I’d say a 40% reduction in debt.  And I did save the money for my month-long trip to Spain and Portugal. 

2) Health & Fitness: Exercise 4x/week!  Walk, do The Firm aerobics weight training video, or ride the exercise bike at the gym.  Bring healthy lunches to work.  DRINK WATER!!!  Keep track of my eating on myfitnesspal.  Lose 13 pounds and KEEP IT OFF!! (Current weight 66 kg/145 lb; goal: 60 kg/132 lb.) When I get back to the USA, ride my bike outdoors at least 2x/week.

FAILED miserably on all counts.  I went in the opposite direction and am now at 150 lbs. 😦 

3) Writing: FINISH AND PUBLISH MY NOVEL.  THIS IS MY NUMBER ONE PRIORITY FOR 2013!! (I finally read it in its entirety in November & December of  2012, and after 10 years of not looking at it, I couldn’t put it down!!  I was surprised that I actually wrote it… :-) )  Revise it, cutting out 150 pages and fixing all the problems.  Within the year, send it to an editor and then to publishers.  If no one will publish it, self-publish!! Once this is done, begin my next project.

I did manage to revise 37 of my 50 chapters, but I didn’t finish.  So of course I didn’t even try to get it published. 

Blogging: Continue to write my Oman blog until I leave Oman at the end of June. Commit to a 52 week blogging project: one contemplative photo with accompanying journal entry per week.  On this one day a week, I should do some spiritual type of walk, pilgrimage or meditation, journal about it and post an accompanying photo.  I’ll aim to do it on Fridays while in Oman and on Sundays once I return to the U.S.

I did this on most Fridays in Oman, but it dropped off once I returned to the USA.

Finish my Cairo blog (what I can remember from 5 1/2 years ago!).  Edit my Korea blog to show more and larger photos.  I have some beautiful photos from Korea, but the blog doesn’t showcase them well.

Did all of this!

Finally, I added something that wasn’t on my list.  I completed an online travel writing course with the Australian Writer’s Centre in November.  I hope to put what I learned to use in 2014.

4) Photography: Learn to use the manual settings on my camera and experiment with photos.  Get a photo editing program and play around with photos.  Take a photography class when I return to the USA in the fall.

Mixed bag.  Experimented some but not enough.  Didn’t take a photography class.  Didn’t try a new photo editing program. 

5) Language and Knowledge Goals: Try to read a bit of the Quran each night to gain an understanding of Islamic culture.  Study Arabic: Complete Level One of the Rosetta Stone Arabic.  Review Chapters 1-12 in Al-Kitab.  Study 1/2 hour 5 nights/week.  I’m serious.  Really.  (I didn’t do this all last year, and really, I’m not that motivated to do it this year, especially since I will be leaving the Arab world at the end of June. However, I’ll still keep it on the back burner as a goal I’d like to achieve.)

Didn’t do any of this!! 😦

6) Travel goals:  IF we get a semester break in January, go to either Sri Lanka, Kathmandu, Zanzibar, Morocco or Prague.  Go to Spain, Portugal & Morocco (a kind of Moorish adventure) this summer for 5 weeks.

Went to Nepal and Spain and Portugal.  Decided to drop Morocco off the list and go back another time.

In Oman: I only have 6 more months in Oman, so my goal is to see everything of significance that I haven’t seen. On the list are: Ar Rustaq, Ashkara Beach, Little Snake Canyon, the Oryx Sanctuary, Persian steps of Izki, the Damaniyat Islands (snorkeling), Sumail, Wadi Ghul and Al Khitaym, Safari Desert Camp in Wahiba Sands, Sinkhole Park (in Hawiyat Najm Park), Wadi Abreieen, Wadi Dayqah Dam, and Barr al Hickman beaches.  Visit the Chedi for a day at the pool.  I’d also like to see the Arabian horses in Adam.

Went to Ar Rustaq, drove by Ashkara Beach, went to Little Snake Canyon, tried in vain to find the Persian steps in Izki, hiked at Wadi Ghul, went to Sinkhole Park, Wadi Abreieen and Wadi Dayqah Dam.  Went to the Chedi for brunch.  Never did all the other things. 😦

In the region: Visit my new friends in Abu Dhabi.  Take a weekend trip to Al Ayn in UAE.  If we have a long weekend, visit the Islamic museum in Doha, Qatar.

Didn’t do any of this. 😦

Back in the USA: Take weekend trips around Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Tennessee.  Try to save for a trip to California to visit my sister and Jayne over the Christmas break.

Went to all these places except Tennessee and West Virginia.  Am going to California from January 2-13.

One thing I really want to do on my travels is to linger and be more observant.  I want my trips to be a kind of spiritual pilgrimage, where I am totally present to each moment.  I want to be aware, keep a journal rich in details and take time with photos, learning about and experimenting with the manual settings on my camera.

Didn’t really linger as long as I would have liked, though I did off and on.

7) Family goals: Have my husband Mike and my two sons, Alex (21) and Adam (20), come to visit me in Oman for 11 days. (They arrive January 1!)  Try to talk online more regularly with the boys and Sarah in the next 6 months.  When I return home, spend quality time with each of my family members individually and together as a family.


When I return home to the USA, spend time with my daughter Sarah (28) in Richmond.  If Mike is open to it, work on our marriage. Reconnect with my father, my sisters and my brother.

Spent time with Sarah.  Mike and I are working on getting used to each other and still trying to decide about the future of our marriage.  Reconnected with my father and my sister Joan, but haven’t still seen my brother in New Jersey or my sister in California (will see her January 2, 2014).

8) Social: Cultivate new friendships with great discernment. Cultivate at least one new friendship in Oman and one in Virginia. Make more of an effort to talk to my close friends regularly.  Invite someone somewhere once a month, either to come by for dinner or a movie, or to go on an outing. Reconnect with my old friends in northern Virginia and Washington.  Plan a get together with my old high school friends.  Attend the fall York High School gathering.

I cultivated a nice friendship with Tahira in Oman and of course spent time with Mario, Anna and Kathy, Mona Lisa and some time with other co-teachers.  Reconnected with my old friend Susan from my Richmond stockbroker days, and with Sarah, a Korean friend from my single days.  But honestly, I haven’t really cultivated friendships since I returned home to the USA.

Finally, DON’T attend a single social gathering unless my heart is really into it.  Forget about making an appearance unless I REALLY WANT to do so.  And, don’t let any person disturb my peace of mind with his/her criticisms, unsolicited advice or intimidating tactics!  I have fought hard for my independence and self-esteem over the last 5 years.  Guard them relentlessly.


9) Cultural: Visit the museums in Oman that I haven’t seen.  Go to 1 show during the spring at the Royal Opera House.  Get involved in more InterNations activities.  Keep an eye out for other cultural activities.

Did some of this, but not others.

When I return to Washington, attend Jazz in the Sculpture Garden on Friday evenings.  Visit the museums and art galleries in Washington.  See good movies in American cinemas!! Find new places to listen to live music. Explore the rich variety of ethnic restaurants in Washington and northern Virginia:-)

Have done a lot of this, but never made it to Jazz in the Sculpture Garden.

10) Home sweet home: Move back home to Virginia, after my Moorish adventure, by early August.  Reacquaint myself.  Settle in.  Learn to see my old home with fresh eyes.

I’m working on this but it’s a challenge.  (See reverse culture shock: the elusive “american dream”)

11) Work:  Finish up my job with University of Nizwa by June 26.  Begin working at my new job in the fall semester.  Apply to teach at least one class in international relations (using my hard-earned Master’s degree in International Commerce & Policy) as an adjunct, in addition to ESL classes.  Apply, once again, for a job at USAID or another AID organization.

Finished my job at UNIZWA and began at Northern Virginia Community College in the fall.  Applied at NOVA to teach international relations but never heard back.  Only applied for a small number of other jobs.  Need to work on this full force in 2014.

12) Eliminate at least one bad habit:  SPENDING MONEY on unnecessary things.  Yep.  I keep trying this one. I have high hopes on this for the coming year. :-)

I did really well at this in 2013, compared to how I’ve done in years past!  Still could get better though. 

13) Spirituality: Begin a meditation practice, starting with at least 10 minutes a day.  Read books about Buddhism, pilgrimage, spirituality, along with my other reading. Read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.   Start reading books about the Camino de Santiago and prepare to do some kind of pilgrimage in 2014.  Attend some services at Washington National Cathedral.

Mixed bag here.  I did a meditation practice early in the year, but as I prepared for my trip to Spain and Portugal and to return home, this fell by the wayside.  Began the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.  I won’t be able to do the pilgrimage in 2014, so I’ve put this aside.  Went to the Cathedral, but not for services.

14) LOVE: Open up my heart.  Invite LOVE to find me…♥♥♥♥♥♥  (Still remaining hopeful on this.)

Still remaining hopeful. 🙂

“I love stupid plans.”
Megan Whalen Turner, The Queen of Attolia

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


In twenty-thirteen, I:  Explored wadis and ruins and painted walls on Jebel Akhdar.  Watched my son Adam collect sand in his eyes as he rolled down sand dunes at a Bedouin camp.  Checked out the Arabian Sea from a watchtower in Sur.  Watched Adam juggle stones.  Swam through glowing aquamarine pools at Wadi Shab into a sunlit cave & applauded as the boys jumped off cliffs.   Kissed my 20- & 21-year-old sons good morning and good night at my flat in Oman like I used to when they were babies. Wore long flowing cotton skirts and Indian cotton tunics to work at my “university” job.  Stood long boring hours at too many “invigilations” at UNIZWA.  Stood along the perimeter of the cattle market at Nizwa souq as men in dishdasha paraded their cows and goats in a circle. Kissed camels with Mike and the boys in Oman.  Visited the massive Bahla fort that, until 2013, evaded restoration for 25 years due to mischievous jinn.  Escaped gunshots, with Mario, in Wadi Arbiyyin.  Watched a tree grow out of a sidewalk at Bimmah Sinkhole.  Photographed an Indian roller at wetlands near Al Amerat.  Enjoyed a Valentine’s Day buffet at the Sahab with Mona Lisa and Beg after an invigorating hike.  Searched in vain for the Persian steps on a 6 hour hike to nowhere on Jebel Akhdar. Drank at least 168 glasses of mango juice.  Had a “Brothers & Sisters” marathon session while sick in Oman.  Enjoyed the blooming roses on Jebel Akhdar and met a visiting Irish couple who read my blog in Ireland and recognized me drinking wine at the Sahab.  Saw tree-climbing goats at Misfat Al Abriyyin.  Watched warily as the British invaded my apartment building in Nizwa.  Sold my GMC Terrain to an Omani man.  Watched all three seasons of Downton Abbey and got hopelessly addicted. Shared oranges, dates and coffee with Mario, an Omani man and his sisters in Wadi Bani Kharous.  Saw the roses on Jebel Akhdar, again, and toasted with bubbly to Sandy and Malcolm, my two British friends. Survived a rare rainy day and floods on a sepia day in Nizwa.  Went seeking the moonrise with Mario amidst the painted rocks of Izki.  Shared Shang Thai with Tahira in Muscat.  Went in search of the “essence” of Muscat on a steamy 42 degree day.  Explored the ruins and gardens of Adam with Mario.Sold much of my “stuff” from my Nizwa flat, and shipped the remainder home.  Said goodbye to my friends in Oman (a nomad in the land of nizwa).

Said “Namaste,” head bowed and hands in prayer, to scores of Nepalese. Circled around Swayambhunath, a 5th century Buddhist stupa, also known as the Monkey Temple, in Kathmandu. Caught a glimpse of the kumari at Durbar Square. Ate momos overlooking the Boudha stupa.  Watched a cremation at Pashupatinath. Experienced load-shedding, and shivered constantly, in Pokhara. Met wildman Nepali actor Sagar Ansari on the shore of Phewa Tal. Drank an Everest beer at Moondance to the tune of “Oye Como Va.”  Ate pumpkin soup at Love Kush. Learned to say thank you in Nepalese: “Danyaybat.” Woke up to views of the Annapurna range for 3 mornings straight. Watched the sunrise with a group of Chinese tourists over snow-covered Fish-Tailed at Sarangkot. Hiked past terraced hills from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan. Read What I Loved and Arresting God in Kathmandu. Bought royal blue and purple yak wool blankets in Kathmandu’s narrow streets and alleys.  Bought an ornamented Hindu deity mask and a ruby ring and turquoise earrings and Thangka paintings. Listened to Tibetan Incantations in Thamel (catbird in south asia).

Fell in love with balconies, gelato and Spanish fans in Barcelona. Met Antoni Gaudí at Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, & La Perdrera. Saw a futuristic fashion show where a model sported a Peter Pan outfit with what looked like a piece of Kraft Singles cheese tied around his waist.  Got lost on my way to Montserrat. Got lost in the streets of Toledo.  Ate Marzipan Delicia in Toledo. Fell in love with the cloisters at Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. Admired tea roses at Alcázar of Toledo. Drove a Peugeot past giant bulls and windmill farms from Toledo to Malaga. Pretended to be Don Quixote at Consuegra’s windmills.  Bought tiered and colorful Spanish skirts in Barcelona and Andalucia. Enjoyed una cerveza with Aussies Carole & Barry in Ronda, Andalucia. Read Duende: A Journey Into the Heart of Flamenco and then listened to flamenco in Granada.  Read Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucia.  Ate tapas in Seville and endured horrible heat in the Alcázar. Cried at the sight of the candy-cane Moorish arches at Cordoba’s Mezquita. Read Shadow of the Wind.  Ate fresh sardines at a chiringuito along the Mediterranean. Ate churros dipped in chocolate in Granada.  Sipped tinto de verano with Marianne from East of Malaga. Explored the white-washed village of Frigiliana with Marianne.

Had heart-to-heart talks on walks and over wine with Jo of restlessjo in Tavira, Portugal.  Went on a bird-watching boat tour.  Went postal with Jo in Tavira. Cried at the views from the Moorish Castle in Sintra, Portugal.  Enjoyed coffee & pastel de nata with Manuel and his wife in Sintra.  Listened to Fado and songs by Sutil, a band of Spanish boys, on the streets of Sintra. Learned how to say thank you in Portuguese: obrigado!  Got LOSTin Lisbon.  Climbed the Tower of Belem. Trekked up and down the hills of Alfama.  Saw the Atlantic Ocean from its eastern shore in Cascais (in search of a thousand cafés).

Flew from Lisbon via London back to Virginia. Got an iPhone. Got a black Toyota Corolla.  Got obsessed with Instagram. Perused antiques and LAUGH signs in Lucketts, Virginia.  Had a “Bad day in progress: Approach at your own Risk.”  Toured wineries of Charlottesville with my daughter Sarah. Returned to work at Northern Virginia Community College to find my classes overrun by Saudi students. Visited Annette from Beauty Along the Road in Monterey, Virginia. Saw leaves the colors of pomegranates, squash & pumpkins in Virginia’s mountains, for the first time in 4 years.  Collected colorful maple and oak leaves. Turned 58. Hiked through Douthat State Park & to Saint Mary’s Rock. Celebrated Thanksgiving with my sister, my father, my husband and my children, for the first time in 4 years.  Cooked southern grits, a Martha Stewart breakfast frittata, chicken & apple sausage patties, and pancakes with cranberry maple compote for my traditional Christmas brunch.  Got hooked on Ann Patchett.  Lost at Bananagrams, Oodles, and Scattergories. Read The Seamstress and dreamt of Spain. Decided to take off spring semester 2014.  Prepared for my trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco in January.

It’s been a year of adventure, sad goodbyes, upheaval, and readjustment to life in America.  It’s been a year of highs (my trips around Oman, through Spain, Portugal and Nepal) and lows (returning to work at the community college and dealing with reverse culture shock).  It’s been a year of reconnecting with family and completing travel writing courses and exploring my home region of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.  Overall, twenty-thirteen has been a time of great change and many challenges.  I’m ready to settle in and FOCUS, to take solid steps to achieve a number of personal goals in twenty-fourteen. 🙂