Saturday, September 14, 2013

Of Puppy Love and Loss

Posted in Family tagged , at 10:07 pm by graceandpoise

R. J. C.  1999-2013

Darling Dog,

I love you, and I miss you already.  I am so grateful we got quite a bit more time with you than we thought we would.  And I’m grateful you were able to share your love with the man who became my husband, and even (though briefly) with my baby boy.  You will be missed so, so much.  Enjoy that great big wide-open field you’re romping through, that never-ending buffet of people-food, and that big cushy bed where nobody calls you a “big lug” and makes you move over.  You were the sweetest, best dog anyone could hope for.  Though you weren’t without your challenges, you were above all a great big dog-shaped ball of love, covered with an abundance of blonde fur.  I love you, and I’ll remember you always, my sweet old boy.


your girl


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Silly Bunny – Babies are from Storks!

Posted in Family at 2:26 pm by graceandpoise

Who knew the Easter Bunny was trying to encroach on the stork’s territory?

This is our sweet, life-changing Easter Sunday arrival.  Some of you may be disappointed that we avoided the temptation to name him Jesus Resurrection.  Guess those of you who fall into that category will just have to learn to live with it.


Thursday, January 3, 2013

Christmas at Home

Posted in Family, Home at 6:03 pm by graceandpoise

There’s nothing better than spending Christmas at home with the ones you love.  Especially when you are pretty sure you won’t be able to do it again soon.  And you’ve got to admit, this is the cutest (and, might I add, the sweetest) dog ever.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ms. B

Posted in Family, Friends & Other Travelers, Generalities, Home at 11:29 pm by graceandpoise

I was still in middle school when my older brother started coming home raving about all the great things he was learning in his new Humanities class from “Helen and Bob.”  My brother, an extraordinarily smart young man in whose mind very little was deemed comment-worthy, was thoroughly enamored.  I, looking up to him as I did (though I’d have denied it to my last breath back then), couldn’t wait until I got to high school and could take Helen and Bob’s Humanities class.  I had no idea what “Humanities” referred to, but I knew I wanted to take the class.

I was fortunate enough to have Helen – or Ms. B (I never was quite as forward as my brother) – as my English teacher in addition to taking the Humanities class she team-taught with Bob.  She was known for pushing her students hard, making them do a little more, a little faster, and a little better than they thought they could.  Her special mix of tough, comical, intense, wistful, wise, and hard-driving made her one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.  The addition of an undeniable and genuine enthrallment with the art, poetry, or literature she was teaching made her my favorite teacher ever.  And I’m definitely not alone.

I owe Ms. B a lot of things.  I am still known, on occasion, to tell people “you don’t need to have a point to have a point” (this befuddles them every time).  During my junior year of college, studying abroad in Paris and having gotten my hands on a year-long pass to the Louvre, I would sit at the feet of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, writing letters to my mom or my friends, looking up from time to time to study the statue, echoing Ms. B’s “ahhhh.”  She and Bob are the reasons the names Khufu, Khafre, and Menkure pop into my head every time I see a photo of Egypt’s pyramids.  Ditto with Ur, Uruk, and Lagash, whenever someone mentions certain parts of Iraq (happens more often than you might think).  Many a museum visit has been made exponentially more meaningful because of that Humanities class, from seeing the Stele of the Law Code of Hammurabi to gazing at the frescoes by Giotto in Florence’s Santa Croce, Vermeer‘s scenes of Dutch domesticity, Degas‘ dancers, or Georges de la Tour’s exquisitely wrought candlelight.  She’s the reason I know what a “Pre-Raphaelite” is, and why I have a special fondness for this painting.  Ms. B is the reason I have never, ever, written the word “alot” (until now, and she’d probably still try to have my head for calling it a word).  She’s also probably a large part of the reason that I have been so successful with my writing in my current job; her standards were high, and so mine are too.  She’s the reason I still tell myself and others, “Say it three times and it’s yours.”  And she’s the reason that, after all these years, I not only went out of my way last month to visit Canterbury Cathedral, but annoyed my companions by reciting the entire “General Prologue” to the Canterbury Tales, in the original Middle English.

Ms. B is retiring this year.  It’s a great loss to the students who haven’t had the chance to experience that special thing that is a class of Helen’s, but she has made a profound and positive difference in more people’s lives than most of us can hope to make in multiple lifetimes.  There is a retirement party this week, and you can bet if I weren’t three timezones away and not independently wealthy, I’d make darned sure I was there to show my appreciation.  As it is, I can only say from afar, “Happy retirement, Ms. B., and my door – wherever it may happen to be located – will always be open should you get bit by the travel bug.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

It Simply Has to be Real

Posted in Family, In DC at 6:46 pm by graceandpoise

This is my first Christmas back in the States in quite a while.  And I want to do it right, because I can.

My mom will be coming to visit for about a week, my husband will be here, and my husband’s parents and sister are going to drive down to spend part of Christmas day with us.  Because Christmas is a time to spend with family if at all possible.  We will take my mom to the late church service on Christmas Eve, because that’s what you do.

There will be presents – lots of them.  All wrapped prettily, thank you very much (well, I can’t vouch for the ones my husband will have to wrap on his own – I have a personal rule about not wrapping my own gifts – but most of them will look pretty).  And the presents will be under a tree.  A real tree.  Because that’s the way it’s done.

I haven’t been able to have a real tree for a lot of years.  In Korea, I was away the one weekend they were selling actual trees.  So I bought a fake, silver-tinsel, Charlie Brown kind of thing.  It was convenient, because the lights were already on it.  It sparkled.  And it ended up being pretty useful, because they don’t have noble firs for sale in India.  But I had to beg my family each year to send me Christmas-tree-scented candles.  Even then, it just wasn’t the same.

You know, there are some things that just make a thing what it is.  For me, at Christmastime, it is the combination of glittering lights (whether from the tiny lights on a tree, or reflected off the million golden ornaments in a booth at the Christkindlmarkt, or emanating from the candles set in a homemade advent wreath on my mother’s coffee table) and the unmistakable, inimitable scent of a fir tree.  It is simply not Christmastime without those.  Don’t get me wrong, it can be Christmas without those (December 25th does happen), but not Christmastime.  The magic just isn’t there if those things are missing.

This year, I will have to compromise on having the whole family together, as my brother will be unable to join us.  I will probably end up having to compromise on the food, because my husband wants to “do something different” and his mother shudders at the idea of a real Christmas goose.  But I will not – repeat not – compromise on the tree.  The tree requires no time off and no plane ticket, and is not subject to the need to please others’ tastes.  Thus: no excuses.

When you’ve got the opportunity to do something right, you do it.  So the Christmas tree?  It simply has to be real.  End of story.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Good Trip, Terrible Timing

Posted in Family, Foreign Service Life, Travels at 7:05 pm by graceandpoise

I recently went on a trip out to get an on-the-ground view of the portfolio I now cover.  It was a very good trip, and I’m glad I went.  I just wish the timing had been a little better.  The day before I was supposed to leave, my husband’s long-nagging hamstring injury flared up in a major way, so much so that he was having trouble moving around.  Nevertheless, he insisted I leave on my trip, so we made sure he had ice and food in the house, and off I went.

First, I went via Paris . . .

. . . to Madagascar.

I had a great time there, got to meet some colleagues face-to-face with whom I’d long been talking only via email and phone, and had lots of good meetings that gave me a better perspective on the situation there.  While there, I kept in touch with my husband – spottily – via email.  His injury wasn’t getting any better, the doc had told him to rest it and scheduled him for some tests, and meanwhile he was taking some time off work, feeling lonely, and ordering delivery because it hurt too much to try and actually go anywhere.  I then moved on to Comoros . . .

. . . which I found to be a beautiful – if poor and underdeveloped – place, with people who have hearts of gold.  Similarly to my time in Madagascar, I had a series of interesting and useful meetings, and learned a huge amount about Comoros that I didn’t know before.  However, on my second morning there, the colleague I was with told me at breakfast, “Your husband called the embassy to say he’s going into surgery for his back; he said to call your mom if you want details.”  WHAT?!?  Needless to say, I was immediately a basket-case.

The subsequent call my colleague kindly let me make to my mom revealed that my husband had gone in for an MRI, and they had sent him immediately to a surgeon, who had taken one look at things and found an open operating room right away.  Seems he had a ruptured/bulging disc in his back (thus the “hamstring” pain that had been bugging him since last winter), and the docs were shocked he could move around at all.  I got to talk to my husband later that day, and I told him I was going back to Madagascar to book a flight home.  A back-and-forth ensued, which ended with me capitulating to his insistence that I go forward with the rest of my trip.  So, distraught, worried, and lonely, I went on to Mauritius . . .

. . . which was, true to its reputation, beautiful.  And full of couples, in love.  While I was there alone.  With a husband in a hospital bed on the other side of the world.  Whom I’d have given anything to be there for.  It was beautiful, though, and with a visit there that spanned a weekend, I even managed to get out on a boat once.  Sadly, as far as work was concerned, the Mauritius leg of my trip was considerably less productive than the other legs had been, which only served to make me want all the more to be home with my husband (and to make me feel like all the bigger of a cold-hearted boor for heeding his pleas to continue on with my trip).

All’s well that ends well, though.  When I got home, my husband was happy, and wandering around like a normal person who hadn’t just had back surgery.  Who knew there were surgeries in the world that actually made people feel BETTER instead of worse?  Heaven bless good doctors.  Bottom line:  glad I went, just wish I’d timed it differently.  Nothing can substitute for actually seeing the places/people you are always talking about.  But nothing really substitutes for being there when loved ones need you, either.  Now I just have to figure out how we’re going to afford a mushy, couple-y vacation to the Indian Ocean . . .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What I Neglected, Part IV: Vegas and Zion

Posted in Family, Travels at 6:51 pm by graceandpoise

Toward the end of Home Leave, we went to visit my brother in Vegas.  It was one of the best trips down there I’ve had yet, because we went out to Utah and did this crazy hike at Zion National Park.  It’s called the Angel’s Landing hike, and it’s supposed to be one of the most difficult day hikes in the U.S. or something.  I have to say, it wasn’t that difficult, but it sure was cool!

I chose to ignore the whole “don’t look down” thing.  That’s a loooonnng, straight drop…

We hiked to the top of that.

Oh yeah – and we weren’t just at Zion…

We really did spend time in Vegas too, but for some reason I tend not to take any photos there (but trust me, we had fun)…

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What I Neglected, Part III: Road Trip

Posted in Family, Home, Travels at 4:04 pm by graceandpoise

My husband and I took a fabulous road trip, up around the Olympic Peninsula, across to Whidbey Island, up to Anacortes, and across to the San Juans.  One week, just the two of us and a hybrid car.

Olympic National Park…

Olympic Peninsula beaches…

Cape Flattery – the sopping wet northwesternmost point…

Lake Crescent…

Port Townsend…

Ferry Rides…

Deception Pass…

San Juan Island…

… aaahhhhhhh.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What I Neglected, Part II: Home

Posted in Family, Home at 7:19 pm by graceandpoise

How could I neglect home, you ask?  Well, I guess in one sense I’ve been doing it for years.  That’s one of the deals we make when we get into this line of work.  But no, really – the answer is: I was lazy.  I realized that, now that I’m back in the States and living a pretty normal life, able to call my loved ones up on the phone and all that, I don’t have a bunch of “isn’t this crazy?” stories to talk about.  So I started saving them up.  And that leads to ridiculously late blog posts sometimes.  So without further ado, earlier this summer, I went home.  It was truly wonderful.










Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year at Home, now Back in India

Posted in Family, Foreign Service Life, Friends & Other Travelers, Home at 8:14 pm by graceandpoise

I rang in the new year together with my wonderful momma, a bottle (and a half) of moscato d’asti, and a couple of sleeping animals.  It was a pretty quiet new year’s gathering, as you might imagine, but I had bags to pack and had been running all over until then trying to accomplish everything on my always-too-long list of things to do.  I had a great time at home, though, even if it was pretty busy, and I’m glad I took the time and spent the money to go (just wish I’d been able to spend just a little more time there).

I keep telling people about my great long list of things I want to do, people I want to see, places I want to go, foods I want to eat, etc, etc…  There’s always a long list every time I go home, and it only grows if I’m coming from someplace where I can’t get a lot of stuff.  Allow me to share a short sample of some of that list from this trip…

  • Hang out with the mom – check!
  • Get a few last-minute Christmas presents for family – check!
  • Eat steak – check!
  • Visit my brother and his girlfriend – check!
  • Eat Mexican food – check!
  • Shop for shoes – check (but still didn’t manage to finish the list of needed replacements for worn-out pairs)
  • Buy some additional Christmas presents for the hubby (his “big” gift this yr came from India) – check!
  • Visit with J & S (and F); R & J-P; E (and K and P); L & K & M – check (except for F, who I’ll have to make a point of visiting next time); not-check; check; check!
  • Eat some of my favorite homemade, mom-cooked meals – check (though the list on this one is virtually never-ending)
  • Spend some major snuggle-time with my cat – check!
  • Go to La Conner and spend some time exploring the shops, and maybe find that beautiful wooden box I’ve been looking for – not-check (next time I’m home, maybe)
  • Pick up some Beecher’s cheese to bring back with me – check!
  • Get my hair cut – check!
  • Eat some Ezell’s fried chicken and yummy rolls – check!
  • Clean out all the unnecessary stuff (old clothes I’d kept around for painting and such, old papers, mementos of this and that…) from my room chez mom – not-check (top of my list for next time, though)
  • Buy some beef jerky from B&E Meats to bring back with me – check!
  • Go to the Pike Place Market – check!
  • Go to the eye doctor – check!
  • Eat lots of crispy, crunchy, non-dangerous fresh vegetables – check (though I could always have done better on this)
  • Visit some of my favorite places in/around Seattle – check (mostly)
  • Drink some good wine – check, check, check!

So after the enjoyable low-key new year’s night, and long day-or-three of travel starting the next morning, I’m back in India.  Had one of those rather ridiculous “welcome to India” moments before even getting off the plane, when the cockpit was unable for the longest time to get any response from the airport authorities about where to park the plane, meaning we spent about 45 minutes on the tarmac just sitting there after landing.  Luggage was also slow in coming, so I didn’t get home until about 4-ish in the morning.  All this is to say, I’m now crazy-tired.  It’s only just 8 pm, and I’d like nothing more than to be snuggled into bed right now.  Mmmm, bed.  G’night, all.

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