Sunday, September 17, 2017

The End is Here

You know what? I look at the stats for this blog from time to time and the number of people who are reading this have been very gradually diminishing. I'm fully aware that part of the problem is the fact that I only write once a week and it's hard enough for me to remember to post something, so how much harder must it be to remember to read it?

But I'll start posting more on Facebook when anything momentous (or just funny) happens and I think I'm gonna wind this down as of today. Feel free to comment if you feel strongly about it, or just email me occasionally, ask what's going on, and I'll be happy to report in. It's been over seven years since I started this right after I retired. And the older I get, the less exciting my life is. But at this age, that's the way I like it.

Love to you all and happy trails!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Back to Normal

Well, almost... the traffic in Katy is still obnoxious because we have one of the only north-south highways west of Houston that is passable. It's hard to get anywhere bypassing the freeway, but small price to pay for the devastation of Harvey. And then there was Irma... I have a cousin in Sarasota who just posted that she evacuated. Thank God! Now just hoping she has a house to come home to.

Other than storm issues I was happy to get back to yoga and Zumba this week. I'd really missed it and was even sore after yoga. Our teacher always says we can do it at home, but I have dogs. Watch this to see what happens when I try it at home...

I also was surprised when a woman came up to me at Costco and said I had the healthiest basket she'd ever seen. I told her it didn't happen until I was in my 60's (she was probably 40-ish), but was very proud. Not something I ever dreamed I would hear.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Beginning of the Aftermath

My good news is that I got Glory into the vet Wednesday morning and she was pain free almost immediately. It also happened to be time for her annual exam (I had no idea), so killed two birds.

The water is still rising in some neighborhoods near the reservoirs. My cousin, Charles, had to evacuate and sadly, that's all I know. I'm sure they're safe, but have no idea about the level of damage to their home. I am just so proud of the people in and around the Houston area, as well as the whole country, coming to help. It's good to be a Texan at times like this.

I drove into town this afternoon for lunch with my Heights friends. They all stayed dry, too, but the traffic going and coming was horrendous! The toll roads are free now, but people on the freeway kept swerving over into the toll lanes and then jumping back over before thy hit the cameras (which were off). I don't know if they were all just lookie-loos or actually had someplace to go. It was like rush hour, so I watched my alcohol intake since I had to come back in the same mess. Whew, I made it!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Damn, Harvey!

What can I say that you don't already know? It has now been raining for four days and we expect one or two more. We've been able to drive around our subdivision until today. A few homes have flooded at the back (I'm in the front). My street is still clear, but one of the main through streets is under water. A fire truck has been in here all day, turning people away from the water. While we've had neighborhood parties the last three nights, we decided to meet this afternoon instead of this evening. But that wasn't possible. The bayou close by has dropped over a foot and a half since this morning, so that's good news. I still have plenty of food, although I'm out of some of my favorites. But compared to what the rest of this area is going through, I have absolutely no worries. I feel guilty that so much suffering is all around me and the only thing I can do is pray.

One of Glory's dewclaws is growing into her skin and she's definitely in pain. I sent an email to my vet, not really expecting an answer, but she replied immediately and told me what to give her for the pain (Simon's arthritis pills). Then later she called to give me the name of an emergency clinic that's open, but when I explained that I can't get out, she said just to keep giving her the pills until their office is open again... hopefully Wednesday. This just sucks for everybody. I'm so sorry.

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!