Tuesday, May 31, 2011

And so it ends....

The blogathon ends today...but the blog doesn't. In fact, this is just the continuation of a great journey...learning about new people, places and phases in my life.

I want to thank Michelle Rafter for birthing this great blogathon...and for allowing us all to participate in her brain child! Three cheers for her!  Once again, I've met some great people during the blogathon. I also had the opportunity to learn new things about blogging...and I'm exiting the blogathon with a new 'theme' day- 'Feature Friday'- a day I'll feature biographies, autobiographies, or memoirs! 

Yes the road ahead looks good...so although the blogathon 2011 ends...the blogging road still stretches out in front of me and I'm excited to see what it holds.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Earthquake March 11 2011- by Shelley Kaylor

Shelley with her lovely family all around her
It is with great pleasure, I introduce you to Shelley Kaylor.

She is not only my dearest friend...but she is also a woman who I highly respect. She is a wonderful example of how to live life to the fullest. When you read her guest post, which she so graciously agreed to do for me, I know you will want to convince her to get her own blog...something I've tried to do...she actually started one, Shelley's stories and stuff and only has 2 posts...maybe you can nudge her into blogging more regularly. So without further delay...here is Shelley.....

Living in Tokyo, Japan, I'm used to having a few slight tremors every year, but on March 11th, I had no idea what was coming. Let me back track to the day before. 

Shelley with her youngest children at Disneyland the day before
My husband and I had decided to take our two youngest children, Jake and Lydia to Tokyo Disneyland. Through the years I have learned that after spending a day at Disneyland, my body needs the next day to recuperate. So on March 11th, I let my husband, Steven, know that I was going to relax, rest up, clean house, stay in my PJs, and not answer the door if the doorbell should ring. Being the great man that he is, he knew that's what I'd need to do. 

I remember I took several naps off and on so the day was passing quickly. Lydia came home from school and went directly to her upstairs bedroom. Jake had just walked in the door and came into the Great Room where I was sitting.  I was asking him how school was when the earthquake began.  It didn't take long to realize this quake was stronger and longer than any I had experienced before in my twenty-two years of living in Japan. 

Our house is large and running from the Great Room, to the front door seemed too far away and dangerous. At that same time, being in my short Summer T-shirt PJs, I was thinking, "If the neighbors see me they'll think I am nuts," but when the shaking intensified to the point I thought the second floor would be coming down on us, I yelled for Jake to follow me; I opened up a window and dove out through the screen, busting it in half, and rolling on the smooth stones below. 

My hair wasn't done, I had no makeup on, and I couldn't have looked worse. I stood up, saw that Jake had jumped out after me, and saw Lydia standing in shock in our carport yelling out, "Mommy Mommy!!!" I grabbed her and Jake and went around to the back of my van where I didn't think anything could fall on us and was hoping nobody could see me. I remember thinking, "Thank God I'm not naked!" But in my shock, I completely forgot about the two houses behind my van which had an even better view of me than my other neighbors. 

Everything was a mess
As soon as the quake ended I peeked around the van to see if anybody else ran out. I could only see children so I dashed back in the house. I ran upstairs to grab some clothes, only to find out that all my clothes were pinned under fallen dressers. Every shelf was empty, every dresser fallen, with broken glass throughout the house. It was a mess!  The dressers were too heavy for me to lift. 
The T.V. fell out of the case

Eventually I was able to pull out clothes that were not inside dresser drawers but pinned underneath. From there I drove to my oldest daughter's house and my husband's work to make sure all were safe. Several strong quakes hit while I was driving. Very scary!  
Everything had fallen everywhere

Since that time, I feel as if I am finally beginning to get back to normal. The constant tremors shook more than my house. They shook my nerves. Yet, in it all, we are very thankful to be alive, to have a home still standing with only a few visible cracks that can be repaired. Many others had a more difficult hurdle to cross, but from what I've seen, many are helping out and all seem to have smiles while doing it. Even with it's earthquakes, I love living in Japan.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Her Prince has come...

Katrina singing at an upper room concert

It seems a Prince has come flying in to capture my Princess Katrina's heart. He flew down to San Francisco and surprised her on her arrival back from New Zealand...he surprised her by proposing to her- wow, what a welcome home!

I wonder if I have prepared her enough for this life ahead of her. I am excited for her to experience all the joy, laughter and peace which I know will come from embarking on this shared life. I pray for all the unexpected things which might show up on the road ahead. 

One thing I know, my God loves my princess even more than I do. I can leave her in His hands and know He will lead and guide her in the way she needs to go.  
Princess Katrina and Prince Micah

Friday, May 27, 2011

Feature Friday- The Mitford Sisters

I'm not sure what drew me to purchase, The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford family by Mary S. Lovell.  It certainly was not the cover which drew me to the book. I flipped through the 640 pages and realized I wanted to purchase the book- I bought it about a year after it was published (It was published in 2003).  It turned out to be a very fast and easy read.

I've always said "truth is stranger than fiction" and the story of the Mitford sisters proves this saying. In fact, if someone wrote a novel with what happened in the lives of the Mitford sisters, it would be considered too unbelievable! I mean who would think to make up a story about a sister who befriends Hitler and another sister who is a Communist ...whilst yet another sister marries a Duke; oh, and let us not forget the sister who marries a Facist. 

Five of the six Mitford Sisters
Lovell does an excellent job of researching her subjects and in turn relaying the information about them to her readers. She is able to reveal facts about their lives without moving into the grayish area of 'gossip'.  At points in the book, I felt as though I was right there in the midst of one of the sisters' fiery discussions. When the last page was turned over, I thought about the family for days. I did some research myself. The more I found out about the family, the more intrigued I became.

I won't spoil the story by giving you any specific details....you will have to read the book for yourself!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

She Returns...

My daughter, Katrina, arrives tomorrow night. She has spent 9 months in Geraldine, New Zealand and now she is coming home. Katrina is like a whirlwind...I know she won't just come home...she'll blow in sweeping us all off our feet...after all, she is Katrina! 

I can't wait to hear about her time in New Zealand. I can't wait to hug her and sit next to her listening to every thing she has to say. Can you tell I'm excited?!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Last year, during the blogathon, I did a post on Lake Chelan, Washington.   This time I decided to focus on the actual 'downtown' area of Chelan. I was never able to explore it before, so I didn't have much to say about it. Now I've had a chance to see it....

1. It is small; in other words, easy to get around.

2. There is a great shop- Main Street- which features local painters...great pieces!...they also have local jewelry and some clothing (which I doubt was local- but might have been). It was a fun shop to go into and I managed to come out with a necklace!

Although, there are some nice restaurants, I would not purposely go to Chelan to eat. The prices were a bit steep and the food was just 'average'. 

church built in 1898 still standing in great condition
3. There is a log church which was built in 1898...it is still standing and has been kept up in great condition.  A small beautifully landscaped  garden surrounds the church. In the garden, at the side of the church, there are some memorial plaques.

Garden at the side of the church.

4. The view from anywhere you stand in the center of town is spectacular. The mountains (or hills) surrounding the town are breath taking.

All in all, if you are going to Lake Chelan, you should take some time to explore the center of town. There is even a free downloadable audio walking tour you can take! Definitely a great tool in getting the most out of your exploration of Chelan.
You can drive just a over an hour away and see Leavenworth. If you like sweets, you can stop over in Cashmere, WA and pick up some of their famous Aplets and Cotlets. (Speaking of Aplets and Cotlets ....that would make a great blog for another day!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Theme Post Day #2- 5 Favorite places to write

Today is the theme post day #2 for the blogathon. The theme for today is .... My top 5 favorite places to write are..

Uh oh, this was a tough one for me. I have ONE place I love to write....at my desk...with all my writing resources around about me....with my cluttered computer.  So my first favorite place to write is at my desk. I rarely like to write anywhere else....but then, depending on which country or place I'm in, my desk may be in a different position.

Jane Austen's desk
Traveling throughout the world, my desk was whatever suitcase I was lugging around at the time. When I lived in Japan, my 'desk' was actually a little vanity with mirrors facing me. When I moved to Ghana, my first desk faced a concrete wall- I don't think I liked that very much. When I moved to the next house, I made sure my desk faced a window....I loved being able to look out the window while I was musing away. Over the next few house moves, I made sure my desk was situated in front of window. So I guess, my second favorite place to write is looking out a window. 

My third favorite place to write is next to my husband...while he is doing something totally different. Every once in awhile, I like to look at him and maybe even talk to him. But heaven forbid, if he decides to talk to me while I'm writing...more often than not, he will not get any type of a response. In fact, my children learned this was the best time to come and ask me for something...while I was in the midst of writing..

"Mom, can I go out with my friends and come home really late"

"Sure Hon"

"Can I take 50 dollars out of your purse mom"

"Sure Hon"

You get the picture! Speaking of pictures, my fourth favorite place to write is facing my bulletin board, which hosts a myriad of pictures. I love to look up and see pictures of my family and relatives...friends...and now that I'm looking up at my board, I notice a couple who I've forgotten who they even are! (note to self: make sure to remove pictures of people you have forgotten).

Hmmm....so that leaves me with my fifth favorite place to write ....I'm not sure what that would be. I know what it would not be. It would not be in a bathtub. It would not be driving in a car. It would not be while I am babysitting my granddaughter. It would not be when I know I have another appointment breathing down my neck. I guess the fifth favorite place I want to write would be ...at my desk...with as few distractions as possible...and with pandora playing on my computer so I can click a thumb's down if I don't like the song...like I'm going to do right now!

*Jane Austen's desk picture courtesy of Guardian.co.uk

Monday, May 23, 2011

How Was Your Flight?

Getting on airplanes and zipping across the world is the most natural thing in the world to me. I’ve been traveling on planes since before I can even remember. I thought that I had experienced everything. After all, I had been on planes that made emergency landings due to sick passengers. I had been on other planes that started off down the runway and then suddenly stopped. “Oops, sorry folks, our electrical system has malfunctioned; give us a moment while we work on it.” That happened three times before we finally took off. Just when I thought there was no more to experience, my family boarded an Egypt Air flight bound for Ghana.

Egypt Air was the fastest route to get from Ghana to Singapore, at that particular time. My family traveled on it so many times; we knew the stewards and stewardesses on a first name basis. The trip had been uneventful from Singapore to Cairo. Now we were boarded and ready to head from Cairo to Accra. Everything was going smoothly. In fact, there was one point in the flight that my husband and I looked at each other and wondered if we weren’t dreaming. There had been no major catastrophes. The kids were behaving. Everything was just great. That was right before we landed in Kano, Nigeria.

In order to get to Ghana, the plane needed to land in Kano, Nigeria. After Kano, it flew on to Lagos and then to Accra. This was not a complicated process, but on this day it would prove to be quite the production. Normally, we would wait forty minutes before the plane took off. This time we waited for an hour and a half, but there was no announcement made signaling our departure. The children became fidgety and the other passengers began to pace up and down the aisle asking each other what was going on. Finally, someone decided to enlighten us on the situation.

“We are sorry to inform you that a dust storm has made it impossible to land at the Lagos Airport. All passengers who were going to Lagos should deplane now and a bus will take you to the terminal.”

Well, that seemed like an easy enough request. We settled back in our seats thinking that now all those passengers should get off the plane so we could get on our way. No sooner had we settled back in our seats when a mild uproar started. One large Nigerian gentleman took it upon himself to become the ringleader.

“We will not get off this aeroplane! Of course they will leave us here. We must have an assurance that they will take us to Lagos.”

I believe he cited times when a cousin’s mother’s father had been left at that airport and never made it to Lagos. Others quickly joined him in his rally cry. I looked around for the cabin crew; they had conveniently disappeared. More ranting and raving went on, and more announcements were made instructing the passengers to disembark. By this time the ringleader was fired up and he jumped up onto a seat, waved his fist in the air, and shouted, “We are commandeering this aircraft!”

My husband and I groaned. We should have guessed that our flight was not going to be uneventful. Hadn’t experience long since taught us that? We settled back into our seats with our in-flight magazine which by this point we had practically memorized. Another passenger leaned forward and shouted, “Why don’t you get off so that we can go to Accra.” Apparently the ringleader didn’t think this was a good idea and blustered forth with retaliation. At that point the P.A. system blurted out a very interesting announcement, “If you do not disembark from the aircraft immediately the Nigerian army will come and forcibly remove you from the aircraft.”

All pandemonium broke loose. Several women threw themselves in the aisle wailing. Some children burst out crying because of the loud screaming. Mr. Ringleader shouted for everyone to keep quiet. “They are lying!” he stated. He was not going to be deterred from getting the airline to guarantee transport to Lagos. That was about the time we heard an announcement filtering up from outside the opened door of the airplane.

“This is the Nigerian Army, we have the aeroplane surrounded. If you do not surrender we will be forced to overtake the aircraft.”

I peeked out the window and sure enough there were soldiers surrounding the aircraft. Inside the cabin a few more ladies were fainting. One woman ran down the aisle screaming, “They are serious, they will shoot us!” The ringleader crumbled. He immediately started yelling, “We are surrendering,” as he made a wild dash for the door. Within a few moments the cabin was emptied of the Lagos passengers.

The rest of our flight to Accra went smoothly. Once at the Kotoka Airport in Accra, our friends greeted us and asked, “How was your flight?”

“Oh, it was just fine,” was our response. After all, we made it to our destination, didn’t we? 

*This is something I was asked to write for "Among Worlds" Magazine a few years ago.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

My Favorite Season

Speaking of seasons....I think my favorite one is Autumn...here are some quotes about Autumn or Fall.

Autumn is my favorite season....whether it is the literal autumn of the four seasons, or if it is the figurative autumn of my life. - Anjuli

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
George Eliot

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.
~Elizabeth Lawrence

Autumn wins you best by this its mute Appeal to sympathy for its decay.
- Robert Browning

Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Winter Trees

I know it is spring...but I was thinking about winter trees the other day. They are still alive yet bare of all fruit or leaves. They look dead. They have life in them, but they are waiting for the sun to shine so they can burst forth in awesome color and life once again.

Often, people walk around like winter trees. They are alive but just barely. They breathe, go to work, eat and sleep but they don't live. Life is not just about going through the motions and being there. Life is about living. Even if we are in one place all the time we can bloom magnificently.

John 10:10 says....Jesus came to give us life more abundantly...I love this! It doesn't just say "life" it says "more abundantly"....beyond the 'winter tree life'....a life which is in full bloom- even when the worms are burrowing in at the roots. A life full, even when the vultures plunk down on the branches.

Even in my winter season, when it comes, I don't want to be a winter tree- I choose abundant life!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Feature Friday- C.S. Lewis

I've counted around 8 biographies written about C.S. Lewis...and that is not counting the ones my children were required to read for their junior high book reports. I've read 3 of the 8 biographies and I must say it is important to read more than one biography about a person. 

When I read C.S. Lewis: A biography by A.N.Wilson it definitely was not the C.S. Lewis of whom I had come to know over the years. There were certain premises which Wilson made in the book which I did not agree with. Not because I felt he was doing an injustice to a hero of mine, but more because they didn't seem to ring true to what I knew in all the C.S. Lewis books I had read. (One of the classes I took in University was a class totally dedicated to C.S. Lewis and his books...all we had to do was read every single one of his books and discuss them  and write papers about them. What a marvelous class.) 

Jack's Life: The Life Story of C.S. Lewis by Douglas Gresham gives a totally different image of C.S. Lewis. Of course, this is a more sentimental view of Lewis, since it is written by his step son. Some might say it is almost a biased view; however, I would contend that Douglas Gresham must have seen the 'whole' Lewis...living with him...he saw faults and all...and yet, he was able to write a glowing biography of the man he admired. 

Jack: A Life of C.S. Lewis by George Sayer is a look at Lewis by a close friend. This was not just a friend of a few years, George was Lewis' friend for more than 29 years. This biography of C.S. Lewis is well documented. 

Most people only know C.S. Lewis as the author of the Narnia Series. He wrote many books and articles. Amazon has an 'almost' complete list of the books he wrote. My top two favorite books written by C.S. Lewis are "Mere Christianity" and "The Screw tape Letters" (I debated on whether to include 'The Great Divorce'- but then I opted for "The Screw Tape Letters"). My least favorite C.S. Lewis books is his Space Trilogy. Although I did lumber through them, I would never want to read them again (as opposed to his other books which I have read several times).

What is your favorite C.S. Lewis book? Or your least favorite?

Thursday, May 19, 2011


Oh yes, I must admit I've stolen this post idea from Jackie of B.I.K.E. WITH JACKIE.  Her post had to do with the top five posts readers seemed to like (based on page views)...versus the top five she hoped you were able to read. Just so I am not totally stealing everything from Jackie, I will do the top three posts readers seemed to like...and then my own top three favorites during this blogathon.

Your top three posts (based on page views)

1.  Unbirthday Parties- a post about a tradition my children and I enjoyed. 

2.  And so it begins - this is actually just a post telling the readers I'm doing the blogathon. Go figure that it would mark second highest in page views!

3. Introducing Nisha! - An interview introducing a great travel blog writer. I was not surprised this particular post was amongst the three top pages viewed. 

My top three posts                                                                 

Since this is a blog about people, places and phases in my life...I would have to say that the readers got two of my favorite posts right off the bat. It was hard for me to decide what my third favorite post is....but I finally knew which one it had to be...

1. Introducing Nisha

2. Unbirthday Parties

3.  Hold on Tight, Mr. Jeeves - A post which not only featured people in my life, but also showcased a 'phase' and a place...so it had all three aspects of this blog in one post.

And in my defense...about the thievery claim...Jackie did encourage her readers to "try this at home on your blog"....I'm just following instructions!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

War Stories

My friend, Deborah, just sent me a text..."Painful contractions every 10 minutes last 24 hours straight. Very exhausted from pain and no sleep"...oh boy, if you are a woman and you have had a baby- you've 'been there and done that'!! 

A few weeks ago, Deborah hosted a Passover Meal at her house. At the end of the meal, we were all exchanging war stories about our various birth experiences. Deborah has never had a baby before and there were some young women who aren't even married. I think they were about to sign a document saying they would never think of having a baby! We were all laughing ... you know those belly laughs... I'm laughing now just thinking of it. 

Why do you think moms love retelling their birthing experiences? I have had complete strangers relate their unique birthing experience. I guess there is a feeling of 'sisterhood' and a bonding which goes along with the sharing of these 'war stories' 

I have three such stories, but all three of mine end in an emergency C-section...each a month before I was actually due. Apparently, although I love babies and having them, my body doesn't like taking care of babies. My body actually tries to starve the poor little things and they come out looking like refugees. Each baby was smaller than the one before, until I had my third weighing just 4 pounds something ounces. Once out of my body they immediately plump up and are just fine. Go figure! 

I never knew this about my body- with my first baby- so poor little guy, we had quite a scare with him. Plus I had another problem, with my first baby, called Placenta Pervia- this resulted (in my case) of horrible hemorrhaging. Thankfully I had great doctors and nurses...and my son is now married with his own daughter!

So what are your war stories? 

Isn't she adorable? Less than a day old!

* Deborah's daughter, Tirzah Jewel, was born at 10.37 pm on May 17th 2011- CONGRATULATIONS Deborah and Daniel (and of course Tirzah) !!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Different Type of Tree

A few years ago, I joined ancestry.com attempting to trace my father's line. Unfortunately, as far as my father's family tree- I kept hitting brick walls. My mother's side of the family seemed to flourish in all different directions. It was tempting to go off on all sorts of wild goose chases, but I stopped myself realizing some of these connections were simply too far removed and not even blood related.
On the tree, hung a single solitary leaf named Margaret Tollefsen. She was my Grandfather Hansen's* first wife. My grandfather and his wife went to China as missionaries and Margaret S. Tollefsen Hansen died with Typhus fever in 1921. It was more than a year later that my grandfather married my grandmother, Letta Teuber. Grandpa Hansen and Margaret had no children. (even though they had been married 15 years) I left her on the tree because she was a part of my grandfather's life and although I did not know much about her, I thought it was important to keep her there.
One day I received an email from someone in Hawaii. She told me her name was Debbie and she was very excited to have discovered Margaret Tollefsen on my family tree. Margaret Tollefsen was Debbie's grandfather's sister and the only thing her family knew was she went to China and died. They thought my grandfather had also died. She was thrilled to see he remarried and had children. We shot a few emails back and forth filling each other in on details the other might not have. For Debbie, Margaret was not just a lone leaf on someone's family tree: she was an important limb on her own family tree. I'm so grateful I did not prune my family tree!
Frederick, Margaret & Olaf Tollefsen
*Grandpa Hansen is my maternal grandfather

Monday, May 16, 2011


The blogathon recommended a guest post for the 16th day .... The guest post for today comes from Nisha of Le Monde-A Poetic Travail  
I cannot begin to tell you how much I admire Nisha.  She is one of my favorite travel blog writers- not just because her blog is so interesting and informative. She stands out because she really loves traveling- not just talking about it.  Also, she doesn't let anything stand in her way. Nisha is willing to overcome things which would make most individuals give up before they even start. Did I say I'm impressed!??!  It is with great honor I present to you this guest post by Nisha...sit back, read and enjoy!!
5 countries from my bucket list
I am a traveler and I have no shame in saying that I am greedy too. I want more & more. Really ! I love traveling so much that if I do not travel for a month, I become restless as if something is missing from my life. It has always been a fulfilling experience whether it is hiking in forests, or admiring historical architecture of a place, or relishing a new local cuisine, or learning something new from local people.
I have been to a few countries. But it is never enough. The list of places to visit grows everyday. Here I am sharing 5 from my bucket list in no particular order.

I have been to many European countries but this little country with its myriad islands successfully eluded me. Never had time or money to visit its serene waters with white beaches.
Oh! How can I forget about archeological findings of Athens including The Temple of Olympian Zeus ? Or city of Rhodes close to the coast of Turkey?

So many Bollywood movies are shot in Santorini and silently I’ve wished to visit this ‘white’ city. It is the kind of place you could die happy at. The crisp, white-painted buildings with blue tops matching with the stunning blue waves of the Aegean all add up to make this a remarkable place to visit, And what about Kos island? Can I afford to miss it ? Absolutely not!

Well, when I can visit Greece, why not Turkey then? What offence has it done to be omitted from my list ?
What do I like about Turkey? The Arabian music, the belly dance, dervish dance by sufis, the exotic food and the culture which in many ways is similar to other Asian countries. Sometimes you should visit a place similar to yours to see how different they still are !
The bizarrely shaped mounds of volcanic rock formations at Cappadocia attract me as much as Pamukkale white hot springs.

What is not to like about Spain?? Once again, I would remind myself the famous Tomato festival, La Tomatina which I am eyeing on for last 2 years ! Laze around the famous beaches of balearic islands.
Visit the Rock of Gibraltor, at the confluence of Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean sea, which the Greeks thought to be edge of the world.
In the end round it up with a show of Bulllfighting in Seville.

Oh, I realized this bucket list is limited to only Europe ! How can it be when I am a world citizen ?  So here is one from other side of the world. :)

Peru offers such a wide range of experiences that it can be difficult to choose between them. Hiking to Machu Picchu is my dream. I am told it is a strenuous hike and one should have strong knees. But I have seen enough photos of this place that these statements can’t deter me. Ancient ruins divulge prehistoric secrets. There are museums to visit, lakes to sit by, waves to watch and labyrinthine cities to get lost into.

Last year I was actually contemplating a solo backpacking trip to China…. Overlanding along with Malaysia & Thailand but it could not materialize as I had to return back to base. The only man made thing visible from the moon is part of this large country. I am hoping to walk on that ‘Great wall of China’ in next 2-3 years.

Hopefully !! Fingers crossed. 

I'm sure you enjoyed Nisha's guest post- if you want to experience more of her travel blog please visit Le Monde- A Poetic Travail

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Emerald Princess


My Emerald Princess- my daughter- is celebrating her 21st Birthday today!! She has so much going on for her this year- with her wedding coming up in October. When I looked at this photo of her...I jotted down some thoughts....

Emerald Eyes
Bloody Lips
Icy stare
A disguise...
to hide
how much I care

Saturday, May 14, 2011

If I had to Choose.....

If I were given a choice, "when do you want to be born?"
Oh that would be such a tough decision. Each decade had its hardships- each decade had its bright spots. We look back on former times and only seem to remember either the very good times or the very bad times. 

If I was born in the 30's- then I would have to live through the Second World War....but then I would be in my 20's during the 1950's, I would like to have been alive during that era (as a 20 something year old) :)

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Power of Love

There are many people who have passed through my life. Some of them I can barely remember, while others have made a lasting impact on me. Francis is someone who I will never be able to forget. Instead of just trying to tell you about Francis, I'll share with you my journal entry from September 12th 2001 (yes, the day after the infamous Sept. 11 and I was living in Ghana, West Africa at the time). 

Francis is dead! I am still reeling from yesterday's news coverage of the attacks on the United States-and just like that he dies!
He was only 57 years old. 
Francis was a unique individual...when I met him 3 and a half years ago he was certainly full of pride. He was soo full of pride no one could stand being around him. His family had told him they didn't want anything more to do with him--he would drink all his money away and yet would never listen to advice. 
I met him in front of the Dome house and he showed me his leg. There was an ulcer that had almost gone through to the bone. I took him to see a specialist and he said Francis had to go on immediate antibiotics and we had to clean the wound daily. If we could get it to stop progressing, then we could have a skin graft done. 
Twice a day I dressed the wound. Francis asked to move into the church, he explained that where he was living was far and it was difficult to travel back and forth. Francis moved in and the cleaning began. 
The crater on his leg oozed infectious agents. I sterilized, cleaned and dressed the wound and when it was time to do it again I couldn't tell that anything had been done! The specialist spoke of possibly having to amputate the leg....he said no alcohol should be consumed, as the sugar content in the strong drink would cause the infection to continue.....Francis was so stubborn....I would catch him drinking and scold him. Many was the time I threw up my hands and said "Forget it, Francis I will NOT help you anymore...NO MORE do you hear me!?"
 Somehow all would be forgiven and back to cleaning the wound we would go. Amazingly enough with alot of prayer and tender loving care...the wound was healed. In the process of the cleaning of the     wound...Francis' heart began to change. 
Unconditional love washed over him and began sterilizing his inner wounds....mercy and grace cleaned up alot of the filth that had settled into his inner being...compassion dressed up the oozing sores of hurt and rejection...before I knew it, Francis had changed. 
He called me 'mama' even though I am 17 years his junior. When I returned from Singapore just a few weeks ago, he threw his arms around me and said "I missed you so much! Please don't go for that long again" I had only been gone for two weeks, I was surprised that Francis would be so expressive, he was usually so staid. Everyone noticed the change in Francis. Friends  were commenting on how different he was. He had a joy radiating from his face. Now he will be standing face to face with the One who gave him that new lease on life... the One who changed a man who everyone had given up on...a man who just over 3 and a half years ago had no apparent hope....a man who went from being rejected to being respected and honored. If he had died three and a half years ago, no one would have even given him a second thought....he had no who cared about him. 
What a difference today....when I stood over his lifeless body there were many who gathered around me talking of how they would miss Francis. He is gone, but the memory of him will linger on. 

*Francis impacted so many people's lives- His family refused to have a funeral for him because they said no one would come. They had never given the 'new' Francis a chance to get to know them. We held Francis' funeral and more than 300 people came for it. His family members who were there could not believe their eyes. After one of the tributes given to Francis, one of Francis' sisters turned to me and said, "I never knew this Francis they are talking about, I wish I had."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reflective Thursday -Lady Jane Grey

I love biographies or autobiographies. More often than not, while reading these books it is apparent that reality is stranger than fiction. Every one has a story, it may not be a very interesting story, but it is a story nonetheless. I've yet to find a biography or autobiography which is not interesting. Even the more tedious ones have gems hidden throughout the pages.

One of my favorite biographies is about Lady Jane Grey. There are so many volumes written about her and her titles, I prefer those written back in the early 1900's or even earlier. One of my favorite books about Lady Jane Grey is the book written by Philip Sidney, "Jane the Quene." (I downloaded this on my Nook).

Philip Sidney's work is well documented. He gives insights into Lady Jane Grey's upbringing which helps the reader to understand her ability to make a stand against all who were opposed to her and her religious thoughts.

Jane Grey proves to be a political pawn in the hands of more shrewd politicians. Her own parents have no qualms about using her for political gain. Her story is a story of intrigue, betrayal and ultimate sacrifice. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with Jane Grey's religious views, there can be no disagreement about the fact this fifteen year old was amazingly strong. Her biography is definitely worth reading!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Day beginning with C.....

I've noticed people are giving 'names' to their blogging days- like "Theme Tuesday" , "Wordless Wednesday" or "Freaky Friday"...etc etc...I just wish there was a day which started with the letter 'C'..so I could call one of my days, "Crazy....." On the other hand, the more I think about it, I'd probably be needing more than one day to start with a 'C' since most of my days are such crazy ones. 

Back to the concept of having nifty names for the blogging days...I'd like to institute one day a week in which I feature biographies or autobiographies of people I think deserve to be remembered. I was thinking of something like "Memorable Monday"..."Feature Friday"....."Thrilling Thursday"....Does anyone have a suggestion for a name for such a blogging day?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sunsets and Tropical Rain

Today is supposed to be a blogathon group haiku  post...I've chosen to do 2 Tankas instead. The normal format of a Tanka is 5 lines...with 5-7-5-7-7 syllables. 
(for the first Tanka - Orange is pronounced with 2 syllables)

sunset masterpiece
brush strokes of red and pink swirls
whispers of orange
hints of darkness peeking through
showcasing a flaming ball 


white sprawling porches
tropical rain pounding down
washing the dry ground
watery sunlight peeks through
sweet scent of rain lingering


Monday, May 9, 2011

Unbirthday Parties

When my kids were younger- much younger- I instituted the celebration of 'unbirthday' parties when they least expected them!  Afterall, I had 364 days to choose from--

"But there are three hundred and sixty four unbirthdays." -- Alice in Wonderland

The Unbirthday parties always followed the same format-- I would bake a lovely cake, pull down my precious tea cups, and put little presents around for each of the children. We all sang and blew out the candles on the cake-- then quickly cut it and drank tea and ate cake while unwrapping gifts.

The tea cups were a special part of this ritual. Two of the cups belonged to my great-grandmother-- (they may have even belonged to her grandmother for all I know!)-- they are delicate with little legs on them-- the other five tea cups were purchased by my husband in Hokkaido when he was on a trip there. We had very little money at the time and he scrimped and saved to pay for this romantically delicate set of tea cups. When he brought them to me, I couldn't believe my eyes- I had always wanted beautiful tea cups and never thought I would ever have them!! 

So why would I dare to use my
precious tea cups for my little children in an unbirthday party? Why not just go and get some cheap cups? There was a reason that I chose to use the cups not just for special guests but for my little children- and later in many, many 'unbirthday' tea parties for other little girls (after my girls grew too old). The reason was that I didn't want to keep those cups for 'some special day' and finally wake up to discover that my life was over or the life of someone I loved was over and I had never had a special day-- so I decided to create those special days.

Actually, I can't take full credit for this thought or this plan. I came across this very thought when I was researching material about my grandmother to write her biography. At one point in her life she was a prisoner in a Japanese Internment camp in China. My mom was also in the camp- and in my mother's interview she talked about how at the POW camp, my grandmother brought out all her fine china and her beautiful dresses and she declared to the family that nothing would be 'saved' for a special day- because every day is a special day!! So it was, that each day they ate on nice plates and they dressed in their best dresses, because they never knew if that day would be their last day.

I think it is important for me to make each day my 'special day.' I might not celebrate an 'unbirthday' party. I might not eat off of fancy plates. I might not even drink tea out of delicate tea cups. But I must decide to make each day a special day.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

I feel about Mother's Day as I do most other 'specialized' holidays....I wish we would just remember our Mothers all year round and not delegate it to one particular day. If we are calling and talking to our moms regularly- Mother's Day will be just like frosting on a cake....just making it all the more delicious. If we wait only for Mother's Day to do something special for our mom then we will have quite an empty relationship with her.

Every day should be Mother's Day...Father's Day...Children's Day....inotherwords, every day should be a day to celebrate and make each other feel special!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness

There are some people who you just meet once in your life and they make a big impact. The one time you've heard them speak or interacted with them marks you for the rest of your life. Several years ago, I was in a meeting where Gary Witherall spoke and I must say, I have never forgotten him or what he said!

Gary Witherall appeared to be just another guy; however, when he stood up to share his story, you knew there was something different about him. I was in tears the entire time he spoke. He was an unassuming man-- He didn't talk eloquently, but his words were powerful. 

Gary shared of how his wife was working in a Pre-natal clinic and a Palestinian refugee knocked on the door and when his wife opened the door- the man shot her three times in the face/head. Gary talked of how when he was told of the tragedy he rushed there to find his beloved wife of 6 years dead. He fell down next to her and felt a blackness encompassing him...but at the same time God spoke to him, "You have a choice, are you going to hate or are you going to forgive"

He said that everything in him wanted to hate and be angry-- he said he had taught about forgiveness for years, but now that he had to make that choice and it was the last thing he wanted to do. As he continued to hold his wife's lifeless body, he knew that he had no other choice except to forgive. He shared that this is a 'pearl' experience in life-- pearls are created by sand getting into that oyster and causing friction and then the pearl forms- and in our lives when difficulty comes- (the sand)- as we allow God to form it within us- it becomes a pearl.
Forgiveness is the most important thing in life- it sets us free!!

*Gary Witherall's book, "Total Abandon" is available on Amazon.com.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It takes all kinds....

It's been a crazy few days with lots of rushing around-- I decided to stop all the rushing and just sit down and think...think about what I wanted to 'blog' about-- I started thinking about who I am today...and then that led me to think about the process that led up to me being who I am today.....Memories...I can remember some of the oddest experiences...like the time....

“Mom! David is naked again!” I yelled, bending my twelve year old head further down into the book I was reading. Out from the kitchen dashed my mother waving a spatula over her head. David took off with his six foot tall, muscular frame and streaked across the porch and down the driveway. The race was on.

The neighbors always seemed to know when David was at it again and they rushed out to the fence and grabbed their favorite spots.

“He went that way, Auntie!” They yelled as they pointed down the road.

“Down towards Rosyth School.”

My mom’s stern voice drowned out all the other voices. “David, stop right where you are!” He stopped and meekly followed my mother home.

David was a twenty four year old American trying to start a business in Singapore. A colleague found him with his wrists slit and begged my parents to help him. When he arrived at our home he was almost catatonic. After a few weeks he started responding to us, but he still wasn’t himself. At least I hope that running around in the nude wasn’t his normal behavior.

The first time we realized he was coming out of his shell was when a friendly neighbor alerted us to the fact that David was naked in our front yard. Sure enough, there he sat in a lotus position. Quite an audience had gathered to take in his performance.

Some people have a tendency to bring home stray cats; my mom brought home stray people. Most of them had serious mental and emotional problems. David was actually one of the milder cases. One girl tried to kill her sister. When she came to live with us she insisted on repeating the phrase “Hey Gurl, I go kill you gurl!” Her voice sounded deep and raspy, sending shivers up and down my spine.

Despite the general insanity that reigned in our home we lived quite a fulfilling life. The people who came to us emotionally broken would end up leaving patched up and put back together. It is no wonder that when I grew up I adopted my mother’s habit of bringing people into my home. When I got married it never dawned on me that my husband wouldn’t be thrilled to have interesting people come and stay with us.

”Honey, look who I brought home…oh by the way, we need to take turns watching her at night because she is a bit suicidal, darling.”

“What do you mean, a ‘bit’ suicidal??!!”

That was just the beginning. There were others who followed, but of them all Theresa stands out the most.

“Sweetheart, it might be a good idea if we hide the knives. Just a precaution, you know in case the voices in her head…”

My husband’s face said it all.

I assured him it would only be for a couple of days; just until the City Hall could locate a relative. We were living in Japan at the time and she was a Filipino, so I’m sure you realize that it took far longer than a couple days to find her missing family members.

She used to stand at our back door and talk to ‘someone’ outside. “No you can’t come in. No, they won’t allow you to come in.” She had these conversations with this imaginary person several times a day. My husband finally asked her who she was talking to.

“My sister Amy.” She replied.

“Why do you think we won't let her in the house?” He pushed.

“She’s dead.” she answered.

Okay! I think we had to draw the line somewhere, and stray dead people would definitely have to be where it was drawn.

Hmmmm....after going down that path of memory lane- things are clearer now- no wonder I'm such a crazy person myself! 

*Retrieved from an old journal entry of mine

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Introducing Nisha!

This blog is about people, places and phases in my life....and I'm so excited to introduce to you someone who I think is amazing! Her name is Nisha and she hosts one of my favorite travel blogsShe is a backpacker and does not just write about travel, she actually does it! 

She graciously allowed me to introduce you to her via an interview. I was not the one who did this interview, but I like the questions and her answers and I am sure you will love getting to know Nisha. 

What was your family's/friends' reaction when you first informed them about your intentions to travel alone? Were they supportive of your decision or were they sceptical? Did you have to convince anyone?

For my first time it was a joint idea to let me travel alone. Later it became habit my parents were always concerned as any parent of a girl would have been. Post marriage, my first trip alone to USA was vehemently opposed by both sets of parents since it was for around a year and leaving your newly wedded husband behind was something they could not come to terms with. But my husband was and still is very supportive of my solo traveling. My mother still tries to dissuade me from traveling alone. :)

How many countries have you traveled to?
I have been to 21 countries, each of them holds some special memories. But I feel this world has so many things to show & tell through its people, culture and history that one lifetime is not sufficient to experience it all.

What is it about traveling alone that makes you do it again and again?
It can not be explained in a short answer but solo traveling is about the new challenges thrown at me on everyday basis during travel and also, it gives me a sense of achievement. Traveling alone tests my endurance level. In a way, it helps in building or enhancing my character. As I always say, it tells me about my strengths, fears and weaknesses.

What types of places do you choose when you are traveling alone and why?
Any unexplored place can be my destination, be it abroad or in India. It does not matter if it is a city or a small town in a remote place; a beach or a mountain. My wish list is quite long which includes overlanding in Africa, Siberian train journey from Russia to China, volunteering in Cambodia, single backpacking trip to cover major South East Asian countries in one go etc.  
However, finance is the major key factor and I am open to sponsored trips too. :)

What are the typical activities you indulge in when you are traveling alone?
It is a mix of everything. After a few days of strenuous hiking in mountains or doing some water activities like snorkeling etc, I try to relax for a day or two and plan my next destination before moving towards it. It also gives me time to be in touch with my readers through my blog. Trips to cities are normally relaxed as they involve only sight seeing and walking around.

What types of trips do you prefer Backpacking or a well-planned vacation, when you are traveling alone and why?
Since I consider myself a traveler, I prefer backpacking. In my opinion, those who take well-planned vacations are tourists, not travelers.

What are the major challenges of travelling alone in India? If you have an experience of travelling to international destinations, please provide a comparison.
Travelling alone in India is more challenging than traveling alone abroad. Besides high crime rate; in India people still do not fathom a sight of an ‘Indian woman’ traveling alone to the interiors or lesser known places where nobody comes to receive/drop off her at railway station/bus-stops or accompanies her to find a decent place to stay.

What is the typical reaction of people you meet while traveling?
The most common question I have faced is “Which country are you from?” And believe me, it holds good in India as well, because in our country the words ‘Indian’, ‘woman’ and ‘solo’ don’t appear together so often. 
What are the most important things you pack when you are going out on a trip alone?
The most important things are always just three… Passport/photo identity proof, tickets and my wallet. Rest all can be managed if you’ve forgotten some of them.
But it is always better to pack as per your travel plan & schedule. I have written about the things I had packed for my 48 days solo backpacking trip to Malaysia & Thailand. Here is the link http://www.lemonicks.com/Travel/2010/03/10/the-things-i-am-carrying/
And no, I do not carry a pepper spray ! :)

Any suggestions for travelers especially women when they plan their first trip alone?
Again, there are many points. But my one line suggestion to them is “Be confident & alert, keep your family informed of your whereabouts and enjoy your trip”.

What are the advantages of traveling alone over traveling with family or friends?
For me traveling alone gives me freedom to decide on everything (food, places, activities, plans etc) and responsibility to own up to those decisions, good or bad.
I believe, traveling solo helps me building or enhancing my character. It shows me my strengths & weaknesses and challenges me to improve upon them. I can say, I am a much more confident person after every solo trip.

What are the disadvantages of traveling alone over traveling with family or friends?
Your question invites long answer again. There are many disadvantages but the most common disadvantage is lack of company. It takes a lot of courage and self belief to do solo traveling, especially if it stretches into weeks or months.

 *Questions and Answers are an excerpt of an interview with Nisha. Be sure and visit Nisha's blog.

Where do I begin?

(written on March 28th 2018) For someone with so many words...words that just tumble out even when they are not wanted...words that jump h...