Come From Away

The Last Column at Ground Zero – Inner steel column left after collapse of the South Tower on 9/11.

On a recent trip to visit family in New York, we enjoyed a Broadway Play entitled Come From Away. The story is a true one about a small town named Gander in Newfoundland Canada. And this story occurred on a memorable day for all Americans… 9/11. A date, a time, a tragic memory that scarred thousands of families around the world when terrorists plotted and succeeded in bringing down the World Trade Center in New York. These wonderful Ganderites, opened their city, their homes, their hearts to the nearly 7000 passengers who were whisk from the skies and plopped down in a small airport when all flights were grounded across the United States. It was a magnificent play that made me laugh and sob as I sat riveted in my chair for 1 hour and 40 minutes. And in that short time frame I relived the tragic moments of that fateful day.

The title of the play “Come From Away” refers to how we all came from somewhere at some time to be in some place. I did just that when I stepped onto an airplane and traversed half way across America to visit granddaughters and daughters for a lovely “girls extended weekend”. Each of us does this many times in our lives and hopefully at the end of each journey we are welcomed with open arms by the people we love and befriended by the locals that we meet as we ask directions or seek advice.

Set of Come From Away play

From the JFK airport to my granddaughter’s apartment in Brooklyn, our Uber driver answered our questions and got us safely to our destination. He was a refugee from Albania and had lived in Italy for part of his life and spoke Italian, Albanian, English and a little Spanish. He arrived here seeking a better life, safety and hopefully he was befriended along his journey. He came from “Away”. My own granddaughters came from “Away” when they moved to Australia for ten years and moved again to live in New York pursuing careers and college educations. And hopefully they were welcomed at the end of their journey.

The refugee children being held in internment camps came from “Away” seeking refuge from gangs, abuse and terror but unfortunately for them, their end journey wasn’t as pleasant. What made the difference in their journey from all the others before? What makes them different from the Chinese immigrants that helped forge the railroads that traversed America and opened remote areas to easier settlement; or the Irish who helped build our cities into the manufacturing meccas of today; or the Hispanics who toil in our meat-packing plants or harvest the food that feeds us daily; or the Africans that were spirited away from their own homeland and made slaves. All of these “Aways” took the jobs most Americans spurn. And most have been met with derision by the white population, themselves “Aways” from English persecution two centuries ago. Why does the color of ones skin or our heritage define the hierarchy in our society? It shouldn’t, but for some it does.

The falling of the twin towers took the lives of many “Aways” from all countries across the world. People in large cities, rural country farms, distance places, all united on that fateful day because of adversity. The color of your skin didn’t matter when you were being rescued by the firefighter. The police and rescue squads who rushed headlong into the burning buildings didn’t stop to think about who they were rescuing. They were helping humans, just plain people who were living their lives uneventfully until that horrible moment in time when everything changed.

How different things might be in our world today if we all just accepted each other as “just humans”. If we could take away the labels, squash the perceived differences, and live more like the Ganderites on those fateful few days, then perhaps we could relieve the tensions that seem to be dividing our nation at this tenacious time in American history.

After all…we are all “Aways” somewhere.

 

Swamp Things

Mr. Gator

I love swamps. I have traversed various swamps in my day and in each one I enjoyed the beauty of Bald Cypress trees, Tupelo trees, Spanish moss, water lilies, and the slow moving murky waters where a submerged tree stump might be a lurking alligator awaiting his next meal. Best of all though are the magnificent birds that inhabit these scary but beautiful places. Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue, Little Blue, Tricolored and Green Herons, Night Herons, Vultures, Osprey, Anhinga to name a few.

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Anhinga

I’ve been in canoes and air boats and no matter what the vehicle, I find these moments with nature to be restorative. They help me remember the permanence of time…how things continue even in adversity, recover from blows that seem to knock the wind from sails only to grow stronger and more beautiful from it all. Forest fires are devastating but the burn gives rise to new growth. A hurricane, tornado or any of the major disasters wipe clean and when the rebuilding comes, it may be superior in many ways.

I’ve only experienced one swamp that I didn’t like, one swamp that made me fearful, unsure of survival. A swamp inhabited by bottom sucking leeches and loathsome creatures that cared naught for the beauty of nature, or clean water or clean air, or the well-being of all who inhabited that piece of real estate. And yes…that swamp is the infamous cesspool that has grown and blossomed like a red tide bringing hardship and adversity to all who abide in America. I don’t believe that all of Washington DC is a swamp, but I certainly do believe that the tRump administration has transformed the People’s House, the White House into a swamp of unimaginable horror.  I’ve watched environmental regulations and animal protections wiped carelessly away, the corruption and misuse of our money, your money, the people’s money being squandered frivolously all to fulfill the whim of unscrupulous appointees.

Swamps tend to be self nurturing…an ecosystem that repairs and fixes itself to restore a natural balance that keeps it healthy. I had hopes that my fears were unjustified and that the men and women of the tRump administration would rise beyond their greed and truly devote themselves to protecting and defending all the good that America personifies. But I have waited in vain. I know that the only cure for the decisiveness that has permeated America today is the sweeping of that giant blue tsunami across America this November. Vote the swamp things out of Congress or in tRump’s words “Drain the Swamp!”

 

 

Bake the Bag

Recently I received an email from King Arthur Flour about a challenge they were promoting called Bake the Bag. The challenge lasts for 9 weeks and the object is to bake an entire bag of their White Whole Wheat Flour over a 9 week period. Of course I decided to accept the challenge!

Best Banana Nut Bread ever!

First up was a recipe for Banana Nut Bread which admittedly is not my favorite food item on the planet but since I needed some ripe bananas, I purchased those and moved to the 2nd week challenge of Chocolate Chip Cookies, a recipe more to my liking. It wasn’t a complicated recipe and the end result was not as good as anticipated. The cook time was off for me even though my oven temp is accurate according to an oven thermometer. So this recipe was a bust for me and all recipes that receive that rating travel promptly to the trash can. I’ll stick to the Toll House recipe on the package of Nestle’s chocolate chips in the future.

The bananas finally ripened enough and as I type this, I can smell the aroma wafting from my kitchen. This recipe had an option of adding chocolate chips or butterscotch chips to the batter. Well, I had peanut butter chips and decided that peanut butter and banana is a favorite food group so in they went.

Delicious, delicious, delicious!!! And this from a person who really doesn’t like banana nut bread.

Next up were Brownies and they certainly didn’t disappoint. From scratch, dark chocolate fudgy goodness that was definitely worthy of being a keeper recipe.

Last Monday I cranked out the weekly challenge of Sticky Buns! And they were extremely good. The only change I would make next time would be to use a brioche or sweet dough using bread flour rather than the white whole wheat flour.

I am enjoying the weekly challenges in “Bake the Bag”. Check it out on the King Arthur Flour web site  https://www.kingarthurflour.com/bake-the-bag/  if you might be interested. Next up…Carrot Cake! My favorite!!!

 

For the Love of Friends

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God gave us memories so we might have roses in December – James M. Barrie

Last week I traveled a relatively short distance to visit my oldest and one of my dearest friends. From second grade, we have shared our lives even over great distances and when she met her husband at age 17 and 3 years later tied the marriage knot, he too became a part of my life. Time passed and, oh so many years ago, we kept in contact by writing letters. With the advent of email, we have stayed in touch and we have never missed the annual ritual of sending a birthday card to each other. We both have two daughters and grandchildren now and have lived out dreams and fulfilled most of our aspirations.

So many wonderful childhood memories and so many lifelong events have shaped our lives. And through those many years we have watched each other grow old and witnessed the inevitable scourges of time…the patterns of wrinkles and fading scars paint a picture of lives well lived.

Bí mật giật mình trong quả sung và nước sốt cà chua
A private message

I cried most of the way home that day because illness and age has ripped a familiar loved one from the person I once knew and twisted him into a shell of his former self. He was there inside that shell yet a light had flickered out somewhere within. My friends epitomize what true and lasting love is. Through good times and bad, fortune, fame, loss and tragedy, they have weathered every storm with grace and dignity…stood by each other and through those years they have woven the fabric of a beautiful family. They have lived what most people eternally seek…days and days filled with love in the Spring, Summer and now Winter of their lives.

Witnessing the changes in people we love brings us face to face with the reality that each of us will one day step through life into death to the unknown beauty of what we hope awaits us. Most everyone at one time or another has heard the analogy of a fetus in utero…safe, warm with all of its needs constantly and fully met and the fear that ensues when the birthing process begins. A fetus is thrust into an unknown world and this is scary, just as we are afraid to face the reality of our own eventual demise.

I am so thankful that my life has been blessed with these special friends and I hope I will have many more days/years with them. There is a peaceful comfort now in just being around old friends. They know me. My strengths, my weaknesses, my very inner self. We have history. I love them both and each time we reconnect, it is as yesterday, nary a missed beat. I think of you both each and every day.

Be well dear friends.

Oh, By The Way… Home Warranty Hell!!

For the past six weeks I have been without a refrigerator. Trust me this is NOT a pleasant experience and if you have experienced it then you know how frustrated I am right now.

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Background…I purchased a home warranty policy for the first time this year because I was worried that my ac was 20 years old and might kick the bucket. Well, so far (and I am holding my breath) the ac is still cranking but my refrigerator conked out. No worries, file a claim with the home warranty company, right? Only a $45.00 service call charge for me and it will be all fixed. In my dreams! Easier said than done.

After a couple of days the first (yes there has been more than one!) service company came out to diagnosis the problem. He determined that the compressor was bad and ordered a new one. One week passed and he came to install the new compressor. Next I received a text from him saying the new compressor blew the mother board and oh by the way it will be two-five weeks before the parts are here. After I flipped out, he said the mother board had to come from China. I yelled that I knew there were planes flying out of China each day and I was willing to pay for overnight shipping. Didn’t happen and the home warranty company said they don’t offer overnight shipping of parts.

So I waited and waited and waited.  After another two weeks, I called the first service person for an update. He told me that the new compressor was in but he was still waiting for the Mother board and oh by the way (starting to get the feeling in my gut that this is a living nightmare and something isn’t just right moment) three different supply places said this compressor is the right one but LG says it isn’t and oh by the way…the home warranty company wants to send out another company for a second opinion. And oh by the way, can first repair person come by and pull the compressor that he put it that blew the Mother board. I said it was inconvenient and no way in hell am I letting him take away what could be evidence that he installed the wrong compressor which caused the mother board to fry!! I don’t know that for a fact, but count me seriously suspicious at this point in time.

So I wait again for the second company to come and diagnosis the problem. And oh by the way, please pay this company another $45.00 service call fee.This one unscrewed the plates behind the refrigerator looked at it (no diagnostic tools) replaced cover plates and left and I haven’t heard from him since. And oh by the way…he isn’t authorized to work on LG products. Question??? Then why did said home warranty company send him out to diagnosis it??

So I wait and eventually fire off another angry email to people on the other end of cyberspace and receive a notice that a third company will be coming out a week from now to diagnose the problem. And oh by the way…that will be another $45.00 please. By this time I am blowing a gasket and am at my “breaking point”. And oh by the way the name of the third company scheduled for next week is…wait for it…Breaking Point!!! Is this kharma or what???

I called and eventually get hold of a manager who only succeeded in making me angrier if that is even possible. And adding insult to an already old, tired, frustrated, angry woman, she had the audacity to offer me $389.00 to resolve the whole issue. This on a refrigerator that originally cost $3000. She must have though I was brain-dead or just maybe this is the run around scam that they pull on everyone. I have no way of knowing, but count myself wiser and more knowledgeable at this point in time after digging further on the internet into this company. Turns out that all those glowing reviews that enticed me to choose this home warranty company may have been falsely secured by them offering incentives to previous customers to write nice things. At least that is what the BBB and a judge determined when they fined this company over $800,000 in a class action lawsuit for a breach of rules that clearly state you can’t solicit new customers with lies from previous customers.

So I am waiting. Waiting for my refrigerator to be fixed, waiting for a company to do the responsible good faith thing, basically waiting for hell to freeze over in Texas on a 102 degree day. And oh by the way, I never paid a second or third service fee!  And on the plus side…I have become the refrigerator police and now know that I can manage with very little and not starve to death.

I think I’ll have a cup of tea and try to zen my way to being more tranquil. It appears I am at the mercy of powers of which I have no control, so Ommmmmm.

Addenda: Finally reached the owner of said company and we settled with them giving me $1000.00 for a new refrigerator and as Lady Luck finally returned, the one I want was on sale for $999.99! I am finally free of refrigerator hell!! I’m chilling now!!!

Keep your cool!!!

 

The Great American Read

Image result for pbs logoPBS offers some spectacular programs of great interest and of tremendous educational value. It recently launched a summer program designed to encourage reading as a summer activity. Yes good old-fashioned reading. Through a national survey, they selected America’s top 100 favorite books as voted by readers just like you and me, placed them on a list and encouraged watchers to vote for the book that they believe should be crowned the Best American Read.

My lifetime romance and love of books led me to watch this special and I was delighted to discover some books that I had not yet read as well as some books that were so intriguing that I just had to read them now! Books give me comfort. Books are my crack cocaine. I can’t get enough of them, I am addicted to them and my love extends beyond the words written on pages…words that paint magnificent pictures of colorful characters, intriguing places, and roller coaster adventures in far away places. I am a hopeless Bibliophile who gets a rush from the texture and feel of the paper used within a book, the graphics of the book jacket, the smell of the ink on the paper, the feel of the book in my hands and their sheer presence in my world. A bookcase stuffed with books, a bed with novels resting haphazardly within the folds of a comforter, or a stack of books placed close at hand on an end table, take me back to my childhood where books were some of my best friends, a way to travel and have great adventures within the security of home sweet home.

PBS is encouraging us to vote for the book that each of us believes should hold the distinct honor of being the #1 best American read out of the listed one hundred. And there are no limits on how many times or how many books you can choose as your #1.

So take a moment and check out this PBS special summer attraction at (http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read) and you may be surprised to find some old book familiars and excited to discover some new biblio friends.

What is your Number 1? Vote!!!

And VOTE again in November!!! Your rights and freedoms depend on it!

 

Rites of Passage

This past weekend I jetted my way to San Diego to witness a rite of passage for my youngest granddaughter…high school graduation. Last week I enjoyed a similar experience with my oldest grandson as he too began a new journey into college. Rites of passage are launching pads for young people. Whether they are being pitched into the work environment, academic advancement through college studies, entering the military or taking a gap year to explore the world and all its wonders, it is a new beginning.

New beginnings give us second chances. A second chance to be better, to change attitudes, to become acquainted with the “real” world and all of its problems, speed bumps, rewards and excesses requiring the use of judgement and intelligent thinking to navigate the pitfalls along the way. In their journey, they will have successes and failures and the best we can hope for is that each of these will be learning experiences that will benefit them when they arrive at the next “new beginning”.

Some of us take the long road to reach an ultimate goal and some of us are more goal oriented and driven to pursue those dreams in the shortest period of time. And then some of us make mistakes that slow our journey. Whatever our path, reaching the end of each journey is a joyous occasion and cause for celebration. Balloons, flowers, leis, graduation cards stuffed with cash and filled with encouraging expressions for the future, celebratory food and drink, elaborately decorated sugary cakes, the clicking of many cameras recording the momentous occasion are planned and implemented as a reward for a job well done and an enticement to forge onward to the next life goal.

Goals may change for that is the fluidity of life. A child’s dreams build castles in the air only to become more focused when life itself may force the adjustment of life’s dreams. Most of my dreams have passed now. Many have been realized but a host of others remain unfulfilled. I am learning to accept that many of my dreams, wants, gotta haves may never be, but that really doesn’t matter anymore. I have sweet memories of the many rites of passages of my life and feel blessed to have had the plethora of my dreams reach fruition.

Dream on !!!!