A.W.O.L.

Random photo of Teddy standing dressed as Ace Halloween 2009

Another random photo of me dressed as a naughty school girl. It backfired because everyone thought I was someone’s daughter!

The strange thing about blogging is that you feel a responsibility to followers and friends.  I have been absent without leave for a few weeks and can’t help but feel guilty about it.  Like most of us, life has intervened into my usual routine and I have been a little frazzled.  Lots of new contract work has kept me busy but my mind has been blank despite all the opportunities for people watching.  I wondered if my health was deteriorating but my psychiatrist seems happy with me – I had some wonky blood results (that’s a clinical term…) which raised anxiety levels.  My cholesterol levels shot up but my inflammatory markers that indicate plaque, risk of stroke or heart attack were good.  My extended Irish family has a huge file on our family risk of heart problems in the main hospital in Dublin, so I have always been proactive about eating well and exercising.  But I can’t think of anything nicer than a baked potato smothered in butter…

Then I had a skin biopsy.  My dermatologist just went straight to the point – “I am taking a biopsy to check for basal skin cancer”.  Yes, it also appears in the Irish family – dang those genetics.  Why couldn’t they just leave me money in their will??  I didn’t truly enjoy my short vacation in San Diego which is why I haven’t blogged, although looking back there were some lovely moments including finding ancestors graves.  The news has just been so awful that I have started watching Fixer Upper instead of CNN.  We finally got around to ordering a new door after Hurricane Harvey only to have the wrong one delivered…  Teddy wondered if I made a fuss but there was no point; many of our residents have lost everything.

One of my friends housed their neighbors whose house was flooded.  The children just moved back last week and my friend was sad – what a beautiful person she is.  All of my contract work dried up immediately after the hurricane because no-one was able to or wanted to hold conferences in Houston.  One of my employees had a wee party for their staff in the garden of the office.  It was so much fun and I won the raffle for 4 tickets to Kemah which is our equivalent of Coney Island.  Well, I have no kids and don’t know anyone who has apart from my angel friend.  Apparently her neighbor was overwhelmed that a complete stranger would give them a gift.  No one could have felt happier than me, paying it forward feels good.

Two of the events that I have worked for recently have incorporated the conference contributing or volunteering to the Houston Food Bank.  Thank you!  One day when I was working at the airport, I helped a volunteer by translating for a passenger who only spoke Spanish (then three more turned up).  After that, I was still standing there when two men came up and said very loudly and incomprehensibly, “Haw Missus, how do ye get out of this airport?”  The volunteer looked perplexed.  Was it Serbo-Croat or Icelandic?  I recognized the accent from Glasgow in Scotland where I grew up.  Laughingly, I said, “Come over here boys!” Their faces lit up when they heard my (much posher, think Maggie Smith) Glasgow accent.  One of them had his arms wide open and said, “Gie us a cuddle” which I did and the other one hugged from the other side, kissing my ear.  I sent them on their way and laughed at the look of horror on the elegant volunteer’s face.  They were either oilmen or mariners who had travelled from some far flung place, Kazakhstan perhaps?  A few refreshments had been imbibed but there was nothing sexual about the cuddle.  It was one of kinship and comfort in a strange place.  Gosh, I felt homesick for the first time in years that day.  Despite all the turmoil recently, Texas mostly feels like home.

Get ready for some fun blogs and sorry for my absence.

 

The Teddies

Bye, bye, Teddies


In one of my posts about Hurricane Harvey, I mentioned my dilemma about my mum’s collection of Teddies. As a child, she and her siblings had very few toys. One year, when I was an adult, she shared that she had always wanted a Teddy of her own. Growing up poor, my presents to her were usually practical – clothing or money. I had a complicated relationship with my mum because of her strange mental illness (and mine) but I adored her. The Christmas after she told me about her Teddy longing, I bought her the largest Teddy in the box (which was very expensive) and put it in a huge box with lots of tissue paper. The look of delight on her face when she found the Teddy was priceless.

From then on, Teddy (my husband) and I would buy her Teddies at any opportunity and she loved every one of them. They were perfectly arranged on her immaculate lacy white bed every day. As she was approaching her death, she asked me not to give her Teddies away. My husband and I teased her relentlessly with various nefarious scenarios. Our favorite was that we would put them all in a little boat, set fire to them Viking style and send them off into the North Sea. She would be torn between laughter and tears. Anyway, my mum died suddenly at age 69 in 2002 and those dang Teddies have followed us to Africa and America. Our three Egyptian cats became very allergic to the heavy allergens in Houston (tree pollen, mold and other stuff) so the Teddies had to go into the attic.

After Hurricane Harvey hit us, I realized that this was the time to let the Teddies go. I sprayed them with anti-allergy formula and gently wiped them with anti-bacterial cloths. Then I lined the boxes with tissue paper and took them to the nearest evacuation center a few miles from my home. I knew that charities rarely accept soft toys because they may have bacteria on them but I ‘persuaded’ the volunteer that these were obviously never played with, many still had their tickets on them. For some reason, I felt happier that they were going to the Catholic Church. Surely they would treat them with reverence? To my surprise I was tearful as I left the Teddies – one last link to my mum. I am usually more pragmatic but this has been a very hard two weeks on me mentally.

Volunteering has allowed me to feel less impotent. I held the hand of a colleague who had lost everything and told him I would pray to Saint Jude. Heavens knows that we will need some prayer, magic and good will to get through the next few weeks. Please let our country stop thinking of how much this will cost and just do it. I studied economics at college and realized long ago that we could function perfectly well without money, stocks or shares. The Netherlands had a crazy period when the country was very rich when Tulips became of a form of currency. Yes, really!! If we chose to, we could share our wealth more fairly. Tears welled up when I saw a man on CNN give up the last generator that he was ready to buy to the lady behind him who needed it for her father on oxygen. I hope that the modern miracle of weather forecasting and social media allows for many lives to be saved during Hurricane Irma and then Jose. The 1900 Hurricane that hit Galveston killed more than 8,000 people. Be safe and kind. I light a virtual candle for us all.🕯️


I am plagued with migraines just now so please forgive me for not responding quickly to comments and follows.

Hope

A little boy repairing the damaged headstones Picture courtesy of the Atlantic Press

A little boy repairing the damaged headstones
Picture courtesy of the Atlantic Press

Two news stories made me have hope for my country.  The image above is of a little boy cleaning a Jewish headstone at the cemetery in Missouri.  Many of the headstones had been desecrated in a hate crime.  A Muslim activist group has raised over $100,000 dollars to repair the damage.  One Jewish lady interviewed on CNN intimated that the various bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers were damaging to the Jewish communities psyche.  Who is doing it?  I am pretty certain that white supremacists are at fault and hoping that the Muslim community is blamed.

This sacrilege got front page news, as it should but just a week ago, the town mosque in Victoria, Texas burned to the ground.  At this stage they don’t know if it was arson or an electrical fire.  The Rabbi handed over the keys of the synagogue to his friend, the Imam, so that the worshippers would have somewhere to pray.  Other Christian churches followed with similar offers.  A crowd-funding effort has raised over $850,000 to rebuild the mosque.

Victoria, TX Mosque Picture courtesy of ABC 13 news

Victoria, TX Mosque
Picture courtesy of ABC 13 news

All of our hearts should be singing at these kind acts following at least one hate crime.  The world looks at us tentatively with current political tensions very high.  Are we Russia’s friend or not?  I hope we treat them with the same suspicion that we have always done, along with any other state that wages war or terrorism on innocent people.  It feels as though people who have been bigoted and racist in private are emboldened to come out from their filthy shadows.

I was the victim of a white on white hateful moment this past Sunday.  I was sitting at the traffic lights waiting for them to turn.  A truck screamed past me on the left turnaround lane and the passenger was shouting filthy cuss words at me whilst giving me the finger.  Initially, I had no idea why until Teddy explained that he had been in the inside right lane wanting to cross over but I was a couple of feet away from the car in front.   Why didn’t he beep or flash and I could have moved up?  He looked just like you would imagine, white skinhead with tattoos – just as well he didn’t know I tick the Hispanic box, eh?

As I was walking today, I tried to assess my reaction to this.  Firstly, I was shocked because I have never been the recipient of such undeserved rage in the place I live. Then I was angry – really angry.  I started to imagine what I would have liked to have done.  If we had been in a carpark, I would have gone straight up to him and told him how disgusting his behavior was.  If he attempted to hit me, I would have kicked him in the testicles to down him and then would have beaten his face until it was bloody.  I am just an ordinary person who has self-defense skills and I have had to defend myself with violence on a couple of occasions.  Mostly, I just dream about Barbie dolls or Syrian limo drivers.

This is what happens when you live in a hateful society.  Be kind to your friends and neighbors, give a stranger a smile.

 

 

 

Random moments of happiness

mountain-laurel

Mountain Laurel

I am struggling to write and read just now. Many apologies to all my wonderful followers and those I follow for being absent. I have talked about my chronic anxiety and depression many times so no need for any further explanation. Between sad bouts, I experience moments of great happiness, for which I am thankful or life would not be worth living. These are some of my recent moments.

Mountain Laurel

Close up of mountain laurel blossom

Close up of mountain laurel blossom

My lovely neighbor with green fingers gifted me this tree a couple of years ago because it wouldn’t thrive in her garden. I was very anxious because my fingers are not green (blackish) and then this year we had flood, excessive heat and finally a terrible cold snap. Some of my tropical plants died but the lovely Laurel has new growth and exquisite lavender flowers. They have an intense fragrance which my neighbor could smell as she approached my house. I now just buy plants and ask my gardener to place them in the right spot – it is working, so far…

The Dead Grasshopper

dead-grasshopper
This poor little green person probably did not survive the hard frost and fell out of our house planks. He was perfectly preserved and so green. Normally these noisy critters frighten me because of how they jump but I do like their songs. It was fun to really examine his little body and hold it. There truly is beauty in death. After I took his photograph, I left it on the rock. When I went outside later, some lucky bird had eaten a freeze dried snack. I wonder if she thought, “they are usually juicier than that?”

The Tulle Filled Nest

Romantic front door

Romantic front door

This is a photograph of my front door decorated for Valentine’s Day. My Mountain Laurel neighbor loves to decorate her presents with ribbons and tulle – almost too nice to open. I keep them to use myself and had created a bow with pink and white tulle sitting atop the beads. We had a windy day and suddenly the bow was gone. A squirrel or bird probably has a pink tulle lined crib and I just smile at the thought. Maybe they also had the freeze dried snack…

The Syrian limo driver

During my recent contract work, I was paired with a Syrian-American limo driver. He was courteous, respectful, articulate and charming. You probably expect me to say something about executive orders and how nice Middle Eastern people are but the truth is he was Cougar Eye Candy. I am purring softly as I write this. He was tall, slim and handsome with dark hair, white skin and the most exquisite grey/green/blue eyes with long black eyelashes. I flirted outrageously in Arabic and English, wondering what I would have done with him were I 30 years younger…

The Spanish Translation

In a previous post, I talked about the coffee barista from Jerusalem who is Muslim. He works at my local Argentinean/Venezuelan Café. Those two sentences somehow encapsulate the interesting diversity of Houston. This week I went in for my usual cappuccino and he was serving on his own. The lady in front of me could only speak Spanish and although coffee guy looks Hispanic, he can’t speak it. I offered to translate and I think I got three beef empanadas correct. The lady looked Latino/Indio and was utterly confused by the blonde Texan lady translating to the ‘Spanish’ guy. It’s a wonderful world.

More happy moments to come…

Bah humbug

Krampus, courtesy of AV Club

Krampus, courtesy of AV Club

Nothing I do can get me in a festive mood – I am so grumpy that it is funny.  Every year I love decorating my 7 foot tall, expensive, fake tree decorated with ornaments from our childhood and from all over the world (but not this year).  I create a snow village under the tree that occasionally a cat has peed on or wrecked.  One year our little Egyptian terrorists (cats) raided Bethlehem and the nativity scene.  I used to say that I was spiritual or an atheist depending on my snarky mood but now I know I am a lapsed Catholic doomed to spend eternity in Purgatory or worse…

Most years I host a Christmas party in the house but this year Teddy said ‘No’!  He was quite right – that would have tipped me over the edge.  While he was in Scotland on business, I decorated ‘somewhat’ with my best ornaments hanging from our chandeliers.  I even painted our outside furniture and adorned the porch with some discreet fairy lights and decorations.

As most of you know, I volunteer at an airport which is a hub for Latin America, in particular.  I love it or I wouldn’t still be doing it after 8 years.  I wore my regulation Santa hat (apparently my reindeer antlers don’t cut it??) and my red and black banded tights, with my non regulation miniskirt…  The first person that irked me was another staff member – I was racing across the terminal to help someone and I said, “Ho ho ho!” to him.  He responded, “Or something” with no smile, looking at me as though I was a ‘Ho.  WTF!  This was balanced by another staff member who stopped me on my return to ask me if the elves were still on strike – the kids loved that.

I often work in the international terminal when the Central American flights come in.  This week it was something special, with Abuela’s (Grandma’s) in full traditional clothing coming in from Guatemala and El Salvador.  Many families had traveled with their whole family from other states just to meet their precious relatives who they may not have seen for many years.   Children from this region look entirely Maya and one little poppet who looked adorable in a little white furry jacket.  She looked like a little Maya angel tree-topper.  After three hours, I wondered if the Maya gods would reward me for sacrificing one of their precious children…who were now screaming and kicking my door (I am jesting, of course).  To my credit I kept smiling and reassuring everyone in bad Spanish that their relatives would be out soon – (hopefully not from holding cells).

It was perhaps all the Christmas social events leading up to now that provoked this Krampus spirit within me.  I am feeling very sensitive and every thoughtless comment bothers me.  You will love this one, “I preferred it when you were the happy, smiling Kerry”.  Really, really??  Guess what, me too!! “Your hair is getting a bit long”.  Are you my stylist?  Poor Teddy said, “You have spilled something on the floor”.  Biting sarcasm ensued regarding my qualities as a serf to his Highness.

Driving is always bad here but right now there are demons at the wheel.  Why don’t you all go through the red light – it’s only there for decoration?  What terrible gift are you going to buy that’s worth racing for – just use Amazon like a normal person.  They employ demons to drive their trucks…  Now the weather Gods have turned on us.  It has gone from freezing to about 80 degrees – everyone is sneezing, wearing fleeces with sandals.  Today, I tried to turn the tide.  I went to my favorite coffee shop to speak Arabic to my Palestinian friend.  I can tell he is missing Jerusalem – it’s colder there.  Then I went to the Salvation Army kettle and chatted to the old man about the stupid weather.  I asked him if he needed a cold drink because it was so damned hot!  I passed by the pet store and bought Toffee a knitted toucan filled with catnip.  Katniss got a knitted dog because I thought she would love to savage one…

On a more serious note, I am deeply saddened that road rage or any bad mood could make someone fire a gun and kill a child.  Even worse, kill innocent shoppers at a Christmas market or attack fleeing evacuees in a war zone.  It is within all of us to find our inner angel and love our fellow man.  Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Super Solstice to all!

 

 

 

A precious moment

istanbul abu dhabi 259

I was going to complete my week’s blogging with some more flower photographs but I had a precious moment today that I thought I would share with you. Those of you who regularly follow my blog know that I have been unwell of late and seem to be having a protracted recovery. This week I have turned a corner and regularly walk to the local cafe for a delicious cappuccino. It was previously a bakery and the owners retired. We were all excited that a new Argentinean bakery and coffee shop was opening.

It has been an instant success both with regular gringos and many different Latino people who live here. We have a local wealthy population of Latinos who have immigrated from countries that are unstable, such as Venezuela, and also from Mexico. I really enjoy hearing all the dialects chatting about how delicious the pastries are. They have a funny chalkboard outside that implores us to eat pastries because skinny people are easier to kidnap. The nice young man, who I assumed was Latino, asked me if I would like a pastry. I said, “I would but I am not going to…” The man next to me said, “Didn’t you see the sign outside saying skinny people are easier to kidnap?” We all laughed and I told them that I lived too close to the cafe to regularly eat pastries.

The young man asked me where I was from (Scottish accent) and I, in turn, asked him. To my surprise he said Jerusalem. “Arabie or Hebrew?”, I asked. His face lit up with delight when he realized I spoke a little Arabic. I wished him a good afternoon in Arabic and he beamed. Eventually (good coffee is slow) my coffee was ready and I thanked him in Arabic. He said, “It is so lovely to speak Arabic!” We forget that immigrants can feel lonely in their new country and, let’s face it, Arabic speakers are not particularly popular right now. I was always very grateful to Egyptian taxi drivers speaking a little English to match my little Arabic. Pay it forward, folks and have a good weekend!

The interview

k interview suit

This was the best I could do with a hastily taken photograph that wasn’t sharp but I hope you get the picture. I have not been blogging much recently and the reason why was I submitted my resume to an events company and they asked me to interview. My dear friend had just gifted me a gorgeous Michael Kors dress that fitted beautifully. It had a high neck and long sleeves – perfect for an interview but I had no jacket. I decided to go to my favorite thrift store and found a jacket that was brand new, with the tickets on, ($200) for $10 – what a find! The company offered me the job (which may vary) on the spot but mostly I will be meeting VIPs at the airport and making sure they get safely to their destination.

My first weekend was chaotic – two major events were in town, flights were delayed by weather and the road conditions were terrible. I discovered that night driving with a new lens is difficult. I can see much better but there are flashing halos everywhere. To my utter surprise I like my new job and hope they like me. In the midst of all this my husband launched our new website on Friday and we have our first customer! I will focus on that in the next post but once again thank you to two friends, one who recommended me for the job and the other for the gorgeous dress. Not only that, they were supportive and loving in the midst of my angst.

Eye, Eye, Captain

kerry cyborg3

Would you sleep with this woman?

You know that question was rhetorical. Who doesn’t want to sleep with a cyborg in bright pink PJs? For those of you who are new to my blog, I had three bad things happen recently. My husband was laid off from the oil industry, my beloved mother in law died and I unexpectedly needed eye surgery to treat a subcapsular cataract that had formed in my left eye. Everything had to happen quickly to take advantage of our existing health insurance and last week I had eye surgery on Wednesday.

We turned up at the clinic and things proceeded quite quickly…until they couldn’t find a vein. After two attempts, the charming southern anesthetist was called and inserted the IV. This meant that my pre medication, commonly known as a medical margarita, was late in being delivered. The schedule was a bit off and suddenly I was being raced into the operating theater. Before that, I had been asked on numerous occasions which eye it was, confirmed my identity and was reassured that no-one was going to take out a kidney. From previous procedures I knew I wasn’t as Margarita ‘happy’ as I usually am and was a little concerned.

I was taken first to the laser which was going to chop up the cataract and the remains are vacuumed out. Despite the numbing drops and the pre-med I was completely aware of what was happening and could even feel a slight burning at the end of the laser procedure. Utterly terrified I kept completely still and followed all instructions. Then I went across the room to another bed where the new lens was implanted into my eye (until death, I hope). I kept hoping the happy juice would kick in but no….I was utterly aware of everything. It was like torture but with no pain. I felt the various procedures, one by one and although it was fast it felt like an eternity.

At the end, the operating staff said I was a perfect patient. I can only hope I react the same way at my next torture session when China finally invades the US or whatever other scenario the crazy people envisage. The next day I saw my eye surgeon for a follow up and even he looked horrified that I had been quite so awake. They need you to be in a twilight zone so that you can follow instructions precisely but feel relaxed. This was not like Lasik – then I was so happy I thought I could fly.

The very nice silver lining is that my sight has been restored and I am writing this WITH NO READERS! My baby blues still look adorable and I am recovering very quickly. Drove to the surgeon the following day; been out for my long walk with sunglasses and a hat. I have myriad eye drops to take for weeks to come to prevent infection, inflammation and general mayhem. This is America – it cost a fortune but it was done almost immediately and by an excellent surgeon who I could choose. We paid extra to have the laser seal the wound with no stitches which usually means a quicker recovery with less complications and discomfort.

They had to dilate my eye hugely for the surgery and I looked like a Betazoid on Star Trek with one enormous black eye. This photograph was taken the next day and even the surgeon was surprised that it was so dilated. When I was young and frisky, guys used to ask me if my eyes were black but I was just so excited that my pupils dilated hugely. Perhaps they still do…. 🙂

kerry betazoid

Can you see the mark of Kwok above my eye? It was so weird having one black eye.

Finally – many thanks to all my followers who have been so solicitous about my surgery and other health problems. It has been much needed salve in my current wounds and has helped keep me afloat in a very difficult time in my life. It is hard to imagine the kindness of strangers and those who have become good friends. It is a testament to the goodness of people and I very much appreciate every single comment and ‘like’.

PS My surgeon’s name was Kwok and he marked my eye to make sure they did the left one.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Katniss, the feral cat

Katniss, the feral cat

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers (that’s said in my best Southern belle accent). None of you are strangers, of course, you know more about me than most. One of my dear friends was concerned that I was revealing too much of my soul when I started being really honest on my blog but I think it is good for me and for any one person that may be helped by my revelation and insight.

I hoped today might be almost back to normal but Zhenny the crazy cat had one of her occasional pancreatic attacks with blood in her urine. They happen dramatically quickly so we rushed her to the vet this afternoon. Both the new veterinarian and the assistant were AMAZING. They listened to me (treat her like a wild raccoon and pump her full of injections), the assistant who had lived in third world countries held her like a baby so she did not have to be tranquilized and then rocked her like a baby. In 12 years I have never been able to rock her like a baby. If she does not recover quickly (she probably will) or has another attack soon then we have all made the sad decision to send her to meet Grandma Kathleen in heaven. One of my mum’s many saving graces was that she adored animals.

We are back at home now and I thought you might like to meet Katniss (above). She left for about a week but has been coming every day (and now twice or three times a day) for dinner. Our weather has switched from too hot to freezing so she needs a little extra food although she is a perfectly good hunter. As you know, I am trying to tame her a little so that I can neuter and release her. Then I will cut back on the feeding as there is plenty of prey just in my back yard…

Katniss is the daintiest little girl with a tail longer than her body. We previously called her the slut (kittens, many kittens) but she sits like a lovely little lady with her tiny toes tucked in. Sometimes I imagine she is wearing a black satin dress with some white pumps. It worried me when my husband named her because we only ever have three cats and it felt ominous. Right at this happy moment we have three indoor cats, one on massive pain relief, and a contented Katniss.

You have all been so wonderfully uplifting in your comments about my illness and husband being laid off that I thought you might like this hilarious tale. He has applied for endless jobs which will not be looked at until after the holiday period. One in particular was in Saudi Arabia. We are doubtful about this because their retirement age is 60 (how civilized?) and they rarely take anyone over 55 unless they have specific skills. He certainly has the skillset and some Arabic but there are plenty of contenders in this slump. Two nights ago he noticed a missed call from Saudi Arabia on his cell phone. He waited until it was morning and then called the number back, with some excitement. Can you believe it was a wrong number? What are the chances of getting a wrong number from the exact town in Saudi that you applied to? With our current luck he was phoning the local branch of Al Qaeda and we will get even more strange clicks and cut-offs on our phone line!

Thank you all so much.