Friday, March 17, 2017

It Was..."The Year Of the Cat"

One of my absolute favorite songs of all time is Al Stewart's "Year of the Cat".  I'm sure I listened to it over a thousand times my second year of university.  My most sincere apologies to my roommate, who probably has a much different reaction than I do when she hears the song now.  It popped up on my playlist last week during my morning walk and made my day!  I was 19 again and replayed it at least three times to accompany all of the memories that were passing through my head!  I played it again when I got home at ear shredding volume just to hear the instrumentals!  This song makes me wish I could play the piano and the saxophone.  It also brings me back to the year that changed my life.

 Feel free to have a listen while you finish reading the rest of this post.

My second year in university was one of my favorite years.  It's the year I finally got the hang of going to college, the year I was a resident advisor in a freshman dormitory, the year I finally declared a major (which I never used) and the year I met my husband.  I have fond memories of that year and they all flood back when I hear this song.  I am sure I have romanticized those memories to some extent which only makes them better!

Getting the hang of going to college, in my case, involved figuring out how to study.  I cruised through high school, making mostly A's, B's and the occasional C with just enough effort.  In retrospect, I could have done so much better but things like boys and my "cool" reputation were much more important to me then.  What a self-centered mistake all of that was!  Anyway, I figured out just how much more effort was required in order to make good grades, while working and remaining socially active (I still had my priorities!).  Some of the classes were even interesting!  Tax Accounting was not one of them... second year literature was!  This should have been a red flag for me to study something other than accounting.  If I only knew then what I know now....alas, hindsight is 20/20.

I met my husband at the first football game that year.  We were set up by mutual friends.... it was an old fashion blind date.  He came to my dormitory to pick me up for the game and I remember seeing him for the first time in his brown leather huarache sandals, plaid polyester cuffed bell bottom pants and thinking he was very thin and not as tall as I had expected (the only thing I knew about him was that he played a lot of basketball thus my expectation of someone about 6' 3" or more)  He was smart, funny, ambitious and a gentleman. Due to his persistence we continued to date that year.  I like a guy who knows what he wants.

I spent many an evening studying to this song, talking on the phone to this song, hanging out with my dorm friends to this song, shooting pool in our favorite watering hole and dreaming about life to this song.  I never expected that 40 years later I would hear it and have the same feelings I did way back then!  It stirs something inside me.  Music can do that.

Some songs I can't really associate with a specific time period or year but The Year of the Cat will forever remind me of my second year at LSU.  Good times!  If I had to go back I would do it all over again....and maybe study something other than accounting.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Feast To Famine

Today is one of my favorite days of the's Mardi Gras!  This is one day I can wrap my head and my heart around.  I love a good party, therefore Mardi Gras is right up my alley and I happen to smile when I see the colors purple, green and yellow together!  I also love food... so whether it's Mardi Gras or Pancake Day to you, either works for me.  Today is all about indulging or over indulging as the case may be.  Party on!  Eat those pancakes!  Empty the larder!  Throw me something mister!

The first two months of 2017 have been a veritable feast.  I've traveled to some lovely and interesting places.  I've spent time with some of my favorite people. I did not make any ridiculous resolutions this year so my diet has not yet begun.  The signs of excess fun, food and frivolity are beginning to show which can only mean it's time to dial it all back and refocus.  Time to slow it all down, be more introspective and shut out some of the chatter.  Maybe it's time to stay home for a while (maybe...). It's definitely time to use more discipline when it comes to eating and drinking.  Cue Ash Wednesday.

Ash Wednesday is the beginning of 40 days of living simply, praying more and fasting.  Through these practises we are able to focus more on the journey Jesus made for us and prepare for Easter. Time spent living simply can bring my attention away from the material aspects of life and more to the spiritual ones.  By praying more I have something better than the Internet to connect me to something much more important than anything online.  By fasting I am reminded of the discipline it takes to lead good life in the midst of temptation and can remind me there are many who are in need every day.  This leads to one more part of Lent, alms giving.  This is a great time (well, any time is a great time) to give a little more to our favorite charities or give our time generously to those who need us.  Lent is hard work, right?  But hard work reaps great benefits!  One more reason I love Mardi Gras....Ash Wednesday.

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

I did not learn to speak French or Spanish fluently.  I have not become the next great American writer...yet.  So, now I am learning to not become the next Ansel Adams!  Yes...I am taking a photography class.  Another one of my efforts to not let my brain turn to putty.  The good news is...I love it!  The bad news is...I have a lot to learn.  Maybe that is good news too.

TJ gave me a new camera for Christmas, small enough to travel easily but big enough to take decent pictures.  This camera has many settings and options and the only setting I used for the first month was the Auto setting.  I decided I really should learn to use the camera to its full capacity.  Why own a camera that does tricks and never do any tricks?  I am finding out that my little camera can do many tricks!  This makes me very happy!  Now I want to go somewhere other than my neighborhood or my backyard after my classes and practice my new found knowledge each week.  I find myself thinking of my usual photo taking opportunities (grandchildren, sunsets, bonfires, etc.) in my class and how I can utilize my new found skills.  "If only I had known this or that when I was here or there!"  but alas, I am just my house....surrounded by stuff I see every day.  No majestic sunsets, no cattails on fire in the night sky, no waterfalls....just the house I see every day in a neighborhood surrounded by freeways.  Not exactly the stuff that makes a camera jump for joy.

I am sooo looking forward to my next excursion when I can pull out my camera and take control of my aperture or shutter speed and take beautiful photographs.  I have always been a photograph lover and now this class is empowering me.  Watch out everyone!  So far, I have learned....

 to go from this....
to this!
or this...
to this!

not impressed yet?  Come on!  Depth of field....blurred background.... detailed background!  It's my best suburban effort.

I'll try another...
Frozen water
water in motion
All of this with the turn of a button.  Being able to take these pictures makes me want to go sit on a bridge above the traffic just to get one of those pictures of the car lights streaming down the highway.  These are things I have always wanted to do but never knew how to do and my class is teaching me the great mysteries.  Beware blog readers....the pictures on this blog may improve. (Lord willing!)

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where Did January Go?

January blew right by me this year!  I haven't been home much which may be the reason the month seems to have flown.  Mexico City was followed in quick succession by nine days in Madison with the grandsons while their parents celebrated the other grandparent's 40th wedding anniversary in Maui.  We got freezing rain, sleet, a bit of snow and lots of gray skies while they got blue skies, azure water, whale watching and sunset cocktails.  It was an even exchange I'd say.  I got little boy kisses every night and all the mac and cheese I could eat!

And they made "welcome home" cards for Mommy and Daddy!
Then there was a week and a half spent in Houston recovering from a nasty cold brought on by travel, exhaustion and a carrier husband.  The good news is that it rained many of those days which made me feel a lot like the weather and I had no FOMO on any golf games.

We NEVER have standing water in our back yard...that's a lot of rain!
While I was home I caught up with my other grandson, Logan, and his parents!  It was good to see them.  It is amazing how used to seeing each other we become and then a few weeks away seem like ages!  Logan is changing so fast I hate missing any of it!

The end of January is our annual ski trip to Park City.  We usually have friends and/or family joining us on our trip.  This year, due to schedule conflicts, the Super Bowl, life, and time conflicts none of our usual suspects could join us.  This meant that it was just the two of us!  When your husband works from home, time together is not at a minimum.  I was a bit concerned, I hate to admit, about how so much together time was going to work out.  You see, TJ is an 8:30-4 skier and I'm a 10-3 skier.  He is more aggressive than I am on the slopes so I just knew this was going to be either frustrating for him or very challenging for me.  Plus, all that time together!

We are still both smiling!
The ski gods smiled upon us and the snow conditions and weather were both perfect.  One day I chased TJ down the mountain all day, one day we both chased our friend down the mountain and the last day TJ chased me down the mountain so it worked out well for everyone.  Whenever we ran out of things to talk about we would just look at each other and say,  "What a gorgeous day!" and that was enough.  

A few reasons I love ski trips are.... you get to be outside all day in the fresh air, using muscles that don't get used every day, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery God created, and at the end of the day there is absolutely no guilt over eating a good meal and going to bed early.  What was I even worried about?!  We also met up with some friends who live in the area which thankfully added  more to the "What a gorgeous day!" conversations.

Who needs conversation when you get to look at this all day?!
After four days and many hours on the mountain, every muscle in my legs, arms and back feel well used.  My face and lips are feeling just a bit wind or sun burned.  And thanks to the untimely death of my flat iron a day ago, my hair looks like I stuck my finger in an electric socket.  Braids and pony tails to the rescue!  I never go anywhere without taming my locks so the first stop when we get home is to buy a new flat iron before I see someone I know!

What is better than a mountain view?  A mountain view at sunset!  Bring on February!
It's nice to have friends in high places....literally!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Roof Tops and Pyramids

New Year's Eve seems so long ago!  In a moment of wanderlust back in October, I made plans to take a trip with my daughter the week after New Years day.  "Why not" I thought, it would give me a well deserved rest after Christmas.  Just what I would be needing... five days of eating out, touring and spending quality time with one of my daughters.  So, on January 2nd I bid "Adios" to Houston and flew to Mexico City.    It was really quite easy... board a plane... arrive 2 hours later in a foreign country!

You know you are in a great neighborhood when this is right around the corner!
I quickly shifted from Christmas hostess/wife/mother/Gigi mode to tourist mode.  I was greeted at the airport by my driver, (I've never had a driver before!) and when he got to our neighborhood he pointed out the 20 or so places to eat dinner, have breakfast or coffee, try churrros and hot chocolate, or buy groceries all within walking distance.  So far, my impression is quite favorable!  Our neighborhood continued to be a bright spot in the trip, it had everything!

We roamed around the area a bit, had sunset drinks on a rooftop bar and then headed to the restaurant where we had dinner reservations.  We found the restaurant, which was unfortunately closed for the holiday and realized we were a week early for our reservation.  Drat!  Back to the neighborhood for some comfort food and home.  This was about the point I realized I was VERY TIRED from the holidays!  The travel adrenaline had worn off and the harsh reality of exhaustion and possible illness set in.  My much needed sleep came with great difficulty and it became very apparent that a visit to a pharmacy and/or doctor was needed in the morning.  Luckily, we were in an awesome neighborhood and both were right down the street.
The view outside the "clinic"....

I visited the nearby pharmacy and found out that before I could get my prescription I had to see the doctor in the clinic next door.  A short 15 or 20 minute wait later I saw the doctor who was younger than my daughter, in a one room, tiny clinic.  We communicated in our best attempts at each other's languages and she confirmed my suspicion and wrote me 3 prescriptions to be filled next door.  250 pesos or $12 later I had three prescriptions and a doctor visit under my belt.  I felt better already!   I needed to rally....we were doing a 5 hour food tour that afternoon.

I muscled my way through the food tour.  After all, I'm not a quitter!  Five hours, six stops, multiple interesting food tastings and a lot of history and culture mixed together kept me putting one foot in front of the other.  I was full after the third stop....I so wish I could have enjoyed the food truck ceviche tostada as much as I know I would have on an empty stomach!
"Avocados, the bacon of Mexico!" 
Spicy Crickets!

Our food tour was a little bit of everything. The food market was a visual treat as well as the stop for our most unique tastings.  We were introduced to spicy crickets and grasshoppers and some other insects (the new protein).  I bravely tried the little crickets and some other bug that reminded me of a doodle bug but the grasshoppers were just too big for me to handle!  At one stall, a cute little girl and her mother proudly served us many different types of herbs along with a root that made your mouth go numb and tingly all at the same time when chewed up.  Her grand finale was a cup with an edible rose and other flowers, fruit and some yummy chocolate pudding.  It really was delicious!
There was also plenty of normal food at the market!
After our food tour we walked around the Zocalo (main square)with our new found appreciation for the history of the area and admired the cathedral and it's surrounding buildings.  We were done for the day and spent the rest of evening digesting!

The Museo Nacional de Anthroplogia was our activity the next day.  It was very near our neighborhood and situated in the Bosque de Chapultapec or as I referred to it, the Central Park of Mexico City.  You can spend an entire day in that park!  Between the museum, the castle, the walking paths, paddle boats, hundreds of street vendors and restaurants, the area is worth at least a day of your time if you visit!  The museum was a walk through history from 10,000 BC to the early 1900's.  Too much to cover on this amateur blog but absolutely worth a visit.  The castle is at the very top of grasshopper hill (they really like grasshoppers here!) and has a view worth the climb.  Considering Mexico City is at 7,300 ft. what is another 2 or 300  ft?  We huffed and puffed our way to the top and the castle and view were worth the climb.
The "lungs" of Mexico City, working hard so you can breathe!

After an afternoon of culture and history not to mention altitude and low humidity, we were thirsty!  We found yet another roof top bar for a happy hour treat.  This time it was near what will be referred to as the Katniss Everdeen fountain.
My name is Diana, not Katniss!
No wimpy drinks here!
Our final day was spent exploring the pyramids of Teotihaucan.  My body was only beginning to adjust to the altitude.  These pyramids are amazing and the challenge of going to the top was more than I could bear so to the top we went.  I didn't feel too bad when everyone was stopping at each level to catch their breath.  7,300 ft. is no joke!  I really did not expect the altitude to be so noticeable but it took it's toll on my lungs!  The view from the top was cool and the fact that they even exist is even cooler.  The Pyramid of the Sun is the larger one but the view from the Pyramid of the Moon is nicer if you ask me.  The steps to the top of the Moon are also each at least a foot and a half high, talk about a challenge.

All the way to the tip top of the Sun!
Kelly considering whether we really need to do 2 pyramids in one day....

Yes!  We do!  To the Moon!
We decided to be adventurous on our way back to the city and took the bus.  Seemed easy enough, there was a stop at the pyramids and several other people got on the bus with us back to Mexico City.  Our first stop was in a small town and 2 police climbed onto the bus and walked the aisle, checking out each person.  They were followed by a man with a video camera who recorded each passenger and then proceeded to record each person who boarded the bus.  I am not sure whether I felt more or less secure after this.  One thing for sure, even though I was hot and tired, I did not close my eyes to rest on the ride back.  We arrived at the chaotic bus station, found a ramshackle taxi and arrived safely in our cozy, cute neighborhood!  We had a very typical Mexican lunch of tacos and beer.  Kelly then stated that she could  just sit there all afternoon and drink beer!  It seems so long ago, already!

You gotta love a place that serves 7 different kinds of salsa with their chips!
Mexico City... where the dollar goes a long way, the food is great, the history is interesting, the air is thin, you can't drink the water, the traffic is epic, and there is never a lack of things to see or do, and rest for the weary!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Wink Wink

Do you believe in fate?  What about coincidences?  I read a book called When God Winks: How the Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life.  To be honest, I only read parts of it.  It's one of those books you can read a chapter here and there...a pick up and put down book.  The main theme of the book though is "are they really coincidences?".  I have always been interested in noticing life's little coincidences.  I, for one, believe there is a higher power at work when things happen that make you stop and take notice.  Or quote Forrest Gump, "I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floatin' around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happenin' at the same time."

Recently, I have had God winking at me with both eyes.  For instance...I wrote my last post  on November 30, very late at night and most people did not read it until the next morning, December 1st.  I just polished up something I had written back in March.  I felt like I needed to publish one more post in November and editing an old draft was the easy way out.  In the post, I mention my friend Debbie who lost her battle to cancer.  Imagine my surprise the next day when it was called to my attention that December 1st was the day, exactly 5 years ago that she died.  Wink, wink.

Earlier in the week I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't spoken to one of my daughters in while.  I had a dream about her one night... an anxiety dream.  You know, one of those dreams where you are in turmoil running away from certain disaster?  She was in the dream and when I woke up I decided I needed to call her that day.  I called her from our land line and we had a lovely conversation and she was in no danger of certain disaster.  At the end of the conversation she mentioned how glad she was that she called me.  I said, "I called you!".  She replied, "No, I called you on your cell phone."  We were talking on my land line.  I checked my cell phone call log and there it was, she had the exact time I called her and somehow we were automatically connected.  Wink, wink.

It's nice to notice the coincidences as we go through this life.  There are times when you find yourself in just the right place at the right time...or the wrong place at the wrong time and wonder "why you?".  My theory is, we are right where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there.  There is a reason you see that long lost friend one day in the grocery store.  A reason you are late for something.  A reason you took a different route on your daily commute.  We make thousands of choices every day.... don't you ever wonder why you made some of them?  I do.  Wink, wink.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

10+ Women, 10 Years, 100 books

I was doing a little housekeeping on the blog today and found this unpublished little gem.  Before the year is over I figured I would publish it in honor of the great women, the great books and the ten years we have been together.  Cheers to our monthly "meetings"!

We started as a group of friends and strangers, interested in reading books and discussing them.  Ten years later we have evolved into a group of friends, who in spite of scheduling challenges, are still committed to meeting once a month and discussing our most recent read and whatever life has dealt us.  Some months we discuss more about life than we do about the book, it all depends on the book... and life!
In the early years we met in each others' homes, in the dining room or the kitchen.  There is something intimate about being in someones home.  This intimacy lead to some memorable discussions over the years... most of which cannot be shared on the blog.  Sharing intimate parts of our lives brought us closer.  People who know certain things about you can only be considered close friends.  Book discussions brought us to places we never expected!

Our group has seen members come and go over ten years.  There is still a core group of about five of us who have been there from the beginning and another four who have been with us for a long time.  Some members drop out because they relocate, and we still miss them and talk about them from time to time.  All good, don't worry!  Life's commitments have forced a few to bow out as well.  When I moved to Toronto for a few years I continued to participate in the club by reading the books and calling in for the meetings.  I was the phone that got passed around the table.  At the time there were a couple of new members I had not met and they only knew me as the phone at the table.  I missed out on some good times I'm sure!

Over ten years, we have gone through graduations, job changes, deaths of parents, divorce, marriages of children, becoming grandmothers, winning and losing to cancer, turning the big "0" (50 or 60) together and the death of one of our treasured members.  We still take pause every now and then and throw out a famous Debbie quote.  "This...doesn't just happen.",she would say, referring to her loveliness as she headed home early to get her beauty sleep.  She is gone but never forgotten.

After a meeting, at one of our members' homes last spring, I wrote most of this post.  I did the math and counted the books, roughly, and was amazed.  Ten years sounds like a long time but it sure doesn't feel like a long time, especially when it is full of (mostly) good books and good friends.
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