Sunday, August 20, 2017

One of my heroes

This is Shaban, a wonderful man and new hero of mine. He is a major part of Charles and Karen's support system. I doubt I can list all the things he does for them, but he does a lot - he's their driver, as none of them drive anymore and I don't blame them. The roads are horrible and there are adults and children all on the edge of the streets which would make anyone nervous. He takes care of everything around the compound and is always happy. He laughs at everything which makes him fun just to be around. Charles told me that Tanzania is half Christian and half Muslim and Shaban is a Muslim. When Charles asked him if he would have a problem working for Christians, he replied, "Do you see that tree out there? God is the trunk and Christians are one branch and Muslims are another... all part of the same tree." I love that and I love Shaban. He is amazing!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

First Day Out

This elephant was the first major animal that we saw and it was on the first day! Initially it was standing right in the middle of the road, but as we waited, we noticed it was obviously the lookout as four or five others crossed the road. It was really exciting, but it took a day for me to realize I wasn't watching some IMAX movie. I would love to relive that day, but I'll just have to wait till the next trip and hope for the best.

And we saw lots of baboon families, thankfully, because this was also the first day and I know I didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. They weren't even spooked by vehicles as the many gazelles and zebras were.

I've been back a month today and I still look at these photos daily. I'm so happy Charles, Karen, and John are there or I know I'd never have had this experience. I'm a lucky girl!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Another type of angel

This is Rachel with her two sons. Rachel does all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry (and seemingly a lot more) for Charles, Karen, and John. She's a good cook, always happy, and very special for putting up with three extra people for nine days. And when I say laundry, I mean bending over a tub on the ground and washing everything by hand. All the women there wash that way, but I'd love to see her tub on a table. Maybe she wouldn't like it, but it sure hurt my back just watching her. Her sons stopped by one day after school to meet us and were very polite, as were all the people we met.

I'm so happy that she is one of the many people taking care of my brother and his family. It sets my mind more at ease, especially because of her diligent work and cheerful attitude. They are so blessed to have her!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Guardian Angels at Work

This majestic guy was eating and resting very close to the road and his mate (presumably) was under another tree nearby.  She was panting heavily so we assumed that she had provided his meal and was exhausted, while he was loving life. It was an unbelievable sight.

Before I got to Africa, I was seriously concerned that I wouldn't be able to see a lot of the animals due to my macular degeneration, but amazingly, we saw elephants, baboons, giraffes, and more right by the road! Chris, Brenda, and even our guide said that it was very unusual to see so many so close. But I explained to all of them why we were so lucky.
Since Mom joined Dad in heaven they have become my guardian angels. My previous angel was a man named Harry who, with his wife, were dear friends of my parents when I was a little girl. They were quite a bit older than Mom and Dad and I'm not even sure how often we saw them after leaving Dallas when I was four. So I digress, but Harry is also still in the mix.

Anyway, since Mom died, my life has run so smoothly that it's almost creepy. From moving to Katy and making so many new friends to no glitches on any trip I've taken since, I've been incredibly blessed and I attribute it all to my guardian angels. I'm pretty sure Dad was in charge of the safari and brought all those animals up to the road so I could see them. So it wasn't just a coincidence or good luck... it was my guardian angels hard at work!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

I'm finally back!

Actually, most of you know I've been back for 10 days. Truth be told, I just forgot last Sunday because I was out of the habit. I promise I'm now back on track.

This was one of my favorite photos from Africa. This little boy is three or four and is a student at the school on Charles and Karen's property that Karen started. She trains the teachers in the Montessori method and it's very obvious that the children love the activities. This little boy has a tray of salt along with different letters of the alphabet that he must trace in the salt. As you can see, he did great and he was proud!

This trip was so monumental for me that until something more dramatic happens in my life, I will continue to post photos with the story behind them. I'm just so happy that Brenda and Chris want to go back in the next two years and are willing for me to tag along. They are great traveling companions and I love them both dearly!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Three Days till Africa!

Actually it's four days because I'll leave here Wednesday morning, meet Chris and Brenda in Amsterdam, and arrive at the Kilimanjaro airport on Thursday evening. It's hard to be excited at this point because I'm very anxious and a little nervous. Once my bottom hits that first airplane seat, serious excitement will take over. I have to first take a 3-hour flight to Detroit with a 3-hour layover. Then an 8-hour flight to Amsterdam where I'll have another 3-hour layover. Then a 9-hour flight to Killamanjaro where we will be met by our safari tour guide and taken to a hotel, billed as the gateway to the famous Tanzanian ‘Northern Safari Circuit.' Then four days of travel through the Serengeti in our own private Land Rover.  The last day our tour guide will take us straight to Bunda, where Karen, Charles, and John live.

I still have to go to Verizon to decide what travel plan I need. I have an app for texting, so will really just want to access Facebook during the safari so I can post pics. Once we get to Bunda, I'll be able to blog, which will be on July 3rd. However it might not happen till the 4th, so after you've all finished your beer, eaten your hot dogs, and watched fireworks, check back here. 

The next two days will be frantic as I finally pack, make sure I don't go over the 33-lb limit for inside Tanzania, try to cram it all into carry-ons, and take the dogs to their respective caregivers. And then... let the games begin!!!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ten Days till Africa!

I'm happy to report that week 2 of my exercise regime went well. I only missed yoga on Monday because the gang left early and I just needed a little quiet time (pretty sad excuse). But I went to my three Zumba classes and still love it. The only bad part is that after class I pretty much drive home blind because apparently when I'm really tired, my double vision kicks into high gear. Once I'm home and cool it goes away, but I have the route memorized and it's only 10-15 minutes away, so what's the big deal? And when in doubt, I close one eye and I get oriented again.

Monday I met Kay for lunch in Sugar Land, which is 30 minutes from Katy (maybe that's why I talked myself out of yoga) and ran into one of my wine-drinking neighbors in the restaurant. How weird! Kay had just come back from two weeks in France where her son got married, so I loved hearing all about it.

Yesterday I went with a group from Heritage Grand to Krause House where we did line dancing with the girls. One of the women's granddaughter was there and she did current dancing, which the girls seemed to enjoy way more than our old lady line dancing. But it was good exercise regardless.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Gang's All Here

Their visits are always short, but much appreciated. Joe and Mary Jane came in Friday afternoon and Rob got here Saturday morning. We went into Houston for lunch at Federal Grill with Kitty, Cathy and Mike, and Jim and Sharon. The rest of the clan was at the Astros game, but we managed to have fun without them. The food was great and the company was better. It's always so much fun to get together with Kitty and cousins whenever they're here. The gang is heading out in the morning, and although our visits are never long, I always love having them here.

Also very good news is that I found a new Zumba class at the Y and went three times this week! So I'm hoping that two days of yoga and three days of Zumba will be my summer routine. I really love the new class (thus far) and even though I'm not great at it, it's actually lots of fun.

It was a great week!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Loving Life!

I really enjoyed my first week with no commitments, but am starting to get bored, so I'll have to find a project or something next week. I also didn't make it to any exercise classes because they were cancelled on Memorial Day and Wednesday I met Kitty, Cathy, Trudy, Chris and Kristin for lunch. I'd picked a place halfway between Cathy and me because it was just supposed to be us, but as happens regularly in that family, if anyone gets wind of lunch, they join in. And it's always fun regardless of who shows up.

Fortunately I'm getting more steps in now because Simon is having balance problems (like mother, like dog) so can only go for a short walk in the mornings. So we all go around the block while he does his business and then I take him home. Glory and I then take a long walk like we used to and I'm actually getting some exercise. Simon has really slowed us down and he doesn't mind going home early, so it's working well. The vet is still trying to figure out the problem, but she thinks it's related to the diabetes. As long as he doesn't walk too far it doesn't seem to be a problem.

And now I'm off to have dinner with a neighbor. We've worked out a super barter deal. I did her taxes for her and now she's going to plant all my new flowers for me in return. I'm elated because I hate to garden and the landscapers can't get to it for a couple of weeks. You know how I love a win-win!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Summer Begins!

So sorry about yesterday, but it didn't feel like Sunday until it was too late. Manuel came out for dinner and stayed until my bedtime, so i just didn't want to stay up any longer. And for all of you who may be thinking there might be a relationship here, you're right... we're good friends and nothing more. And I'm perfectly happy with this arrangement. Sorry to burst any imaginary bubbles that may have formed, but he is and always will be just a very dear friend.

Last week I tutored Thomas for the last time and mentored the two brothers for what may or may not be the last time. Mentors are encouraged to continue on from year to year with their mentees, but I never really felt like I had connected with these two boys. I'd already decided to tell the counselor to ask them if they want me as their mentor next year or if they'd prefer someone new. So imagine my surprise when Sean, the 5th grader, told me on Wednesday that he hopes I will be his mentor again next year. It really made me happy. He'll be in junior high, but not far from here, so I guess I'll see him again in the fall. The 2nd grader is another matter, but we'll see how it goes.

Bottom line... I'm really looking forward to my first week with no obligations (except exercise classes). Let the games begin!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Let the games begin!

I just finished my last tutoring session with Alaeldin until the first of August and while I'll miss the extra money, a break will be good for both of us. I spend too much time trying to find things for him since he doesn't do schoolwork, but I look at it as time well spent. His dad told me today that their family is going to Sudan this summer because that's where he and his wife are from. They'll be gone a month and I'm flying back the same day they are... what a coincidence.

And tomorrow will be my last day tutoring Thomas, too, also until the first of Aug. I think I've finally convinced his parents that he needs to hit it again before school starts, but it remains to be seen if I really have. Regardless, I'm looking forward to my vacation from all my kids, too. I'll still be seeing Tristen at Krause House, of course, but all my school-related activities will be put on hold. Yee haw!

Until I was a teacher, I never knew that teachers are just as excited about summers as the kids are. And when I'd tell my students that, they were always surprised (so I had to tell them every year).

Sunday, May 14, 2017


I got my typhoid and yellow fever vaccines this week and I'm not happy. First of all, they were very expensive and secondly, the yellow fever is still red, swollen, and hurts. Fortunately my nurse friend told me it's not uncommon. I had to go to a health clinic recommended by my GP's office and the guy was a serious weirdo.
This sign was one of five in the consultation room regarding cancellations, showing up late, etc. The vaccines were very expensive and he even charged me $25 just for writing the prescription for anti-malarial medication. What a ripoff! But the bottom line is... I'm ready to go. Still waiting on my passport (due to the bruised face photo), but I've been told if I haven't gotten it by the end of May, I can expedite the process, for a fee of course.

My take on all this is that this is my trip of a lifetime, so even though I may bitch about the little things, it just doesn't matter. I do feel I need to shelter in place between now and June 28th, just so I don't break a bone or get infected by someone, but since my worst accidents happen in my house, that's probably not necessary.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Busy Week

STAAR testing is this upcoming week, which is Texas' standardized test, so I did a lot of tutoring. I saw Thomas three times to review and I feel like he's as prepared as he could be. The only thing I couldn't get him to agree on is that he should work all the easy problems first and then go back to the others. His thinking is that he wants to get the hard ones over first, so his brain can rest on the easier ones. This is his first year of testing, so I didn't hammer too hard, but did try to explain that the test is timed and he doesn't want to run out of time before doing the ones he knows. We'll see...

I went to a birthday lunch with some old friends, a birthday dinner with 20 of my new friends, and hosted a Kentucky Derby party yesterday. Add in errands, walking the dogs, and exercise classes and it made for a pretty busy week. But because of the testing I won't be tutoring or mentoring this week, so feel like I'm on vacation. Looking forward to it!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

I'm So Excited!

This has been the real first week of planning for the Africa trip this summer. First of all, my passport photo was rejected because, although I felt I looked really good, apparently my facial bruises were way too evident in the picture. The letter stated that "facial decorations are not allowed unless worn all the time." Seriously? Someone thought those were decorations? But not wanting to waste a moment, I raced to CVS, took another photo and mailed it in immediately.

And this next paragraph is dedicated to Brenda, my nephew's wife who from now on is officially my niece (by my declaration). She has worked so hard on this trip and certainly isn't through yet, but has impressed me immeasurably. We're going to meet up in Amsterdam and then fly together to Kilimanjaro (I had to check the map to ensure the airport wasn't near the Mount). At that point we'll be picked up by a tour for a four-day, three-night safari through the Serengeti. And just viewing the pictures of where we'll be staying makes my tummy flip every time I look at them. And they will take us directly to Bunda where Charles, Karen, and John live. Based on the work Brenda has done so far, I can safely say I never could have attempted this on my own. God bless her!

And now the only downside of my week... I tutored Alaeldin (pronounced Aladeen) yesterday and had a long conversation with his dad afterwards. I explained to him, again, that this is my first experience with autism and I just can't be sure that he's learning anything because he doesn't seem to remember anything from week to week. And then the dad asked, "Well, what should we do?" My heart literally hurt when he said it because the expression on his face was filled with despair. And at that moment I realized that he and his wife are as lost as I am. I do know that Alaeldin knows his multiplication tables through the fives, so by golly I can, at the very least, teach him the rest. We left it with he will talk to the teacher and maybe we will try 30 minute sessions two or three times a week during the summer.

Well, I seem to have be rambling, so will stop now and see you next week. Bye.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

 I'm not gonna lie... this was our first stop after landing in Seattle (per my request). We bought some cookies and chocolate and although everyone did not participate, those who did were happier.

It was a 4-hour drive to our destination on Lake Chelan and it's been a long time since I was in such a beautiful place. I could have stayed for a month! There were 27 wineries in the area and we didn't even attempt to hit them all, but with the help of Yelp and Trip Advisor, I'm certain that we definitely got to all the best ones. Sipping on wine while viewing snow-capped mountains was my favorite part of the trip, especially on the sunny days. However one winery was so totally different that I couldn't help but love it. It was called Karma and was basically a cave built into the side of a mountain. I enjoyed a champagne flight of three different champagnes and they were all full-sized. I definitely got my money's worth, but I was pretty worthless afterwards. It was just so cool!

This was a trip that one of my Katy friends got as a time share from a man in her Sunday school class. I really didn't want to go after New York and with Africa on the horizon, but it was just too cheap to pass up. And now I hope to go back some day in September when the grapevines and apple orchards are all ready for harvest. It's gonna happen!

And on the home front, I had a dog sitter staying at the house and was so surprised when I received a text one morning that Simon had killed a rat in the backyard. What??? My little strange bird, Simon? She said Glory wasn't even interested in it and I would have pegged Glory as the hunter. Apparently I was very wrong. Anyway, the best part of this story is that I wasn't there to deal with it. Hallelujah!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Washington Wineries

Tuesday I had an appointment to get my passport for Africa this summer and will laugh for many years (hopefully) because my face was still bruised. No amount of makeup hid it all and sadly, the photo is NOT attractive. But it's done and I'll just live with it for the next 10 years.

Friday, three friends and I flew to Seattle to begin a week's vacation in Washington's wine country. When we made these plans in the fall all four of us foolishly thought it would be spring here, but how wrong we were. We saw snow on our way here and many of the surrounding mountains are snow-capped. Regardless, it's still beautiful country.

Yesterday we went on a day trip, starting with tasting in a winery, followed by a couple of hours in a casino where I'm excited to report, I won $210! Then we stopped by the Grand Coulee Dam and toured their facilities. It was a long day, but very productive.

This morning we rested and then went to a big Easter brunch in Chelan, the nearby town. Afterwards we came back to the condo, took a long walk beside the lake, and then came back for games. Tomorrow we have another day trip and may hit a few more wineries. This is definitely my kind of vacation!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What a Difference a Week Makes (kinda)

Continuing where I left off... I spoke to a nurse in my doctor's office Monday morning and she told me to go to the ER immediately. So I did and they did a CAT scan and there was no bleeding in the brain. The doctor said I probably had a mild concussion and to expect a one to two week healing process (I'm now on day 10). She also said that the headaches were caused by the blood from my forehead draining down into my face... sooo attractive! So I felt better immediately and the headaches aren't nearly as bad now as they were, mainly just a nuisance. So by Wednesday I was feeling pretty good and needed to get out of the house, starting with the grocery store. Then Thursday I got a pedicure and a haircut. Even though I carefully put on special makeup, the blue still showed through on my face and everyone I saw asked what happened when I thought I looked great.

I looked even better yesterday and went to the clubhouse to play Trivia last night. Imagine my surprise when everyone I saw was actually shocked and one woman even told me I looked like a Smurf! So at this point I feel good, but look bad. And I just don't care anymore. Tomorrow I'll be back in my old routine and really looking forward to it. The only bad thing is I have to have a passport picture made on Tuesday, so that might end up being a real joke. And you know what? I don't care!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

And She's Down Again!

It's not my pleasure to report that I fell once again due to my own stupidity. I take Trazadone to help me sleep and it's the best miracle drug I've ever found... not addictive and I sleep better than I ever have in my adult life. The bad news is that one is good but two are terrible. I accidentally took two on Tuesday night because I forgot I took the first one. I realized my mistake immediately, but just assumed I'd sleep even better than normal. But not so... I remember getting up to go to the bathroom and the next thing I'm aware of is waking up on the floor. I had hit my forehead and had a pretty bad headache, but made it back to bed and continued to sleep restlessly. When I got up the next morning I had quite a bump on my head. I didn't feel great but took the dogs out for a short walk, then stayed on the couch the rest of the day. When I was ready to walk the dogs in the evening I looked in the mirror for the first time since morning and had two huge shiners. Dammit!

The next morning the bruising and swelling had moved down my face to the bottom of my nose. And it's only gotten worse since then. Based on Dr. Google, I'm pretty sure I have a concussion, but everything I read stated that the only cure is rest.  I did call my doctor but couldn't get in until the 11th and figured I'd be fine by then so didn't make an appointment. In the days since I've realized that was a mistake because I continue to have headaches daily and am more tired each day. So tomorrow I'll call the doctor again, speak to a nurse, and try to get in sooner. So we'll see, but in the meantime, I'm happy on my couch thanks to Netflix, Amazon books, and wonderful friends who have been to the grocery store for me as well as stopping in to visit. I really think they just want to see how bad I look. Can't say as I blame 'em.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Garage Sale Week

In my neighborhood we can only have one community garage sale per year and it was yesterday. I spent the week sorting through junk and deciding what I could live without. I didn't sell everything I wanted to, but made $110 and got rid of a lot of stuff I don't need. Plus, we make it a party because five of us went together and we had Bloody Marys in the morning, which helped in lowering prices as the day progressed. It was work, but fun at the same time.

And because I was busy yesterday, I visited Tristan at Krause House this morning and tutored two kids this afternoon. I'm not sure I'm really helping Alaeldin because it seems that he really doesn't remember things from one week to the next. This might be a short-lived project, but I'm not ready to give up yet. Also I have to spend a lot of time preparing visual aids and searching for iPad apps to help him learn. We'll see how long I can continue.

But the best news of the week is that I saw the retina specialist on Friday and he's amazed that I've gone five years without needing another injection. He said it's possible that I may never need another one and I don't have to go back for six months! What this means for the long run is that it will take a longer time for my vision to deteriorate. My ultimate goal is to be able to renew my drivers license in 2020. Never hurts to dream!