Archive for the ‘Expat Living’ Category

You know I love my library. You can find me (pre and post virus) in front of their community board perusing the tacked notices. Everything under the sun. Free blood pressure readings, classes, tax help, computer assistance, events, etc. This is where I discovered the writing course that I enrolled in last winter.

When I lived overseas I yearned for the library. Now that I am back stateside I don’t take it for granted. One of the first things I did was sign up for a card at my local library.

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It’s the only place in the world where you can go and sit indoors for hours without feeling like you have to buy something to eat or drink. In complete silence. All without spending a dime.

But that’s not all it offers. It has plenty of books, computer space and more.

Sadly but understandably all the libraries are currently closed. So, how can we still keep sharp and engaged? Check your library’s website. What are the virtual offerings? Many are now (due to the crisis) doing on-line story times for kids. As well as on-line book clubs.

There is also something cool that is offered free of charge at many libraries in North America. All you need is a library card. It’s called Lynda.com (now renamed Linkedin Learning) and offers 14,000 educational courses. I think that’s amazing. And I also think that there are probably a lot of folks taking the ZOOM, How to Organize Your Home Office and Learn to Budget courses.

As a side note. If you do not have a library card or live in North America I believe you can still sign up for a monthly fee. They are currently offering a free month. I’d say, if you are interested, then this is the month you’d want to try it.

So have a look at your library’s website. Wherever you are in the world. See what’s available remotely.

We will get through this together. Stay safe.

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I recently received a “Happy 11th Blogging Anniversary” message from “Wordpress.” It’s a yearly occurrence and it always causes me to reflect.

What has happened in the last year? What has changed in the past eleven years?

Quit smoking. Lost my dad. Moved half a dozen times. Embraced new friends. Explored exciting places. Mother-in-law passed away. Tried different hobbies. Accepted unique challenges. And so much more.

That’s sort of what I usually share each year with the folks who follow my blog. Of course, with a big thank you attached.

I had a lovely year. Wonderful Fall. Was looking forward to a lot of new things and celebrations in 2020.

This year’s 11th anniversary update was going to go something like this.

I was going to share that I started Weight Watchers the week before Christmas. Like who does that? Everyone knows that you wait until January 2nd! But I went with a friend.

That I completed my 2019 book challenge (100 books) on Goodreads. Like who does that? To be honest though, I was still reading the last pages on New Year’s Eve. But I did it. Won’t do it again.

I was going to share my attempt to sign up for a writing workshop this past Fall. The librarian said the class was full but took my name/email and said she would pass it along to the instructor for the Spring class. I then totally forgot about it. Apparently my request was buried deep in a pile somewhere until the workshop leader contacted me just before the new session began.

That I tried something for the very first time. Tamarind. I lived in Malaysia for five years and never tried it. Resided in India for a year and it never passed my lips. Just for the record- it’s delicious. Tastes like a date. Also supposed to be super good for you. I also tried Husk Cherries at a local outdoor Market. They look like cherry tomatoes in a husk but taste like pineapple. Amazing.

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I was going to share that I started a Women’s Walking Group. Because I met a woman in the deli line who was new to Rhode Island. Knew nothing about the area. I asked if she liked to walk. She said, “Yes, but I don’t like to walk alone.” I told her that we would accompany her after the holidays. She wrote her contact information on a piece of paper. I finished my shopping and when I reached in my pocket for the paper it was gone! Back into the grocery I go. Retraced my steps. and spied the paper on the floor in aisle 5. A seed was germinating. So I contacted a handful of women I knew to gauge interest in a group walk. Everyone responded happily. But then something got in the way after only one walk.

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That I did my first Alzheimer’s Walk with a group of friends. To raise funds for a cure. My friend has early onset Alzheimer’s and I pray that someday soon it will be eradicated.

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I was going to share that I am making an effort to explore locally. Walking, shopping and supporting small local businesses. I’ve lived away for so long I am appreciating being close to home. I am enjoying the peacefulness of nature every day.

That I am trying a new aluminum free deodorant. Keep you posted on that one.

I was going to share that I am trying to be more focused on reducing packaging. We are great recyclers and compost kitchen scraps but there is just so much more to be done. Maybe I should buy more in bulk. Like toilet paper.

That I was on Grand Jury duty for six weeks beginning in October and I would do it again in a hot minute. Murder, madness and mayhem. I would have paid them.

I was going to share that I saved up my pennies and finally made an appointment to see if I was a candidate for Lasik. I was scared stiff (these are my eyes!) but had the procedure. I no longer have to wear glasses for distance. I did not like having to be so careful with them. I could never get over the cost of prescription eye glasses (or the horrible decision making process in choosing the perfect specs. Absolute hell for a Libra)and wondered why one Italian company basically owned all the glass companies in the entire world. I am now back to the cheap cheetah cheaters (or any print I want) for the fine print.

That I was thinking of starting a community day or project to assist folks that needed yard work or simple chores done. Something I had the pleasure of being involved with when my eldest was in university. Within a month of me thinking this my town (and the neighboring town) hosted an event called “A Day of Giving. Like it read my mind. Like Facebook and the government. lol.

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I was going to share that I had a lovely Fall visit with my youngest in Burlington, Vermont. I happily attended two of her classes. One was taught by a professor who is also an author. Had coffee, a chat and got my book autographed. The title is <"Black Is The Body" by Emily Bernard. Visited a farm and hiked to the top of the hill to take in the glorious colors. Finally ambled out to the whale sculpture on the side of the highway. It’s called “Reverence” and symbolizes the frailty of the planet.

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That I had a fabulous time visiting my eldest in Oakland, California in January. Saw a wonderful play (Becky Nurse of Salem) at Berkeley Rep. Ate fabulous Ethiopian and Indian food -how I missed it! Watched “Queen and Slim” at a cool neighborhood cinema. The movie is “edge of your seat” material. Went on a hike with views of San Francisco Bay. Attended two law school classes. Visited Oakland Museum and enjoyed everything. Their “Burning Man” exhibit was fascinating.

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I was going to share that I had a business idea. Something fun and right up my alley.

That the youngest and I were going to Florida to visit my brother for Spring Break.

You’d be totally caught up with me.

Then everything changed. Went sideways very quickly.

We were beginning to hear about this virus. Cruise ships. Passengers stuck off the coast of Japan in quarantine. It still seemed so far away. Literally and figuratively. I start to think, “Is there anything good that actually comes out of a cruise?” Honeymooners throwing their new spouses over the side. Airborne illness again and again. People missing from the manifest. Then the big one. The
Corona Virus. But it’s not just the cruise lines.

My husband said, “Why go if you don’t have to?” Truth. Plans canceled.

The youngest, a junior at university and an RA, arrived home two days before Spring break was due to commence because she was ill. While at home her campus closed. On-line classes only.

The oldest, a law student in her final year and also a TA for undergraduates, had all campus courses canceled. Then the entire Bay area was directed to “Shelter in Place.” Graduation ceremony canceled. Even the Bar Exam pushed to the Fall. It’s unbelievable. Trying to figure what the best way (and when) to bring her back to Rhode Island.

Each and every day there is something new. We are glued to televisions, computers and phones. Looking at numbers, graphs and trends.

Schools, libraries, restaurants, businesses, cinemas, salons and more begin to close. Advised to stay close to home and stay far from others. If you are elderly do not leave home! Always ensure six feet between you and another person. Six feet apart or you’ll be six feet under! Practice social distancing. Wipe down packages. Wear masks.

It’s so, so, so surreal.

I received (and so did you) emails from every company I ever had contact with in the last two decades. Theaters, restaurants, utilities, schools, churches, cemeteries, genealogy sites, on-line shops, doctors, banks, car shops, etc. All letting me know the steps they are taking because of the Virus.

This week I had a look at some old blog postings from the Winter of 2018-2019 when I was listing/sharing ideas on ways to avoid the winter blues. I will update them, if necessary, and share them again for the days ahead. And any new ideas that pop into my head to combat the Virus blues.

You are now officially caught up.

We are all in the same boat. We are all in the house. We are all in this together. And we are all going to get through this.

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We are all just walking each other home.

Stay safe and thank you for reading!

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#11 on the list. To fight cabin fever this winter.

Challenge yourself. 

Recently I mentioned being exhausted and that I would soon share the reason.

Exhausted might have been a slight exaggeration. I was being a tad dramatic.

But here’s the reason.

I challenged myself at Goodreads. My personal goal is to read 100 books in 2019. I know, right?

This is a great site, by the way, for those who enjoy reading. Has suggestions, reviews, etc.

As an aside, since I am in sharing mode, this is also a fabulous site Reading Group Guides. loaded with so much for a reader to digest.

Since I’ve avoided any weight loss challenges that might be beckoning I figured I would go for something that was actually doable. My friend, Nancy, thinks that it’s a bit aggressive. She’s probably right.

I do enjoy reading and learning. So, I am not doing it just for the challenge. But it will help me to stay on track and not veer off with pesky distractions. While still somehow putting a little healthy pressure on myself. Not necessarily a bad thing if it’s keeping me off the streets.

Now I’m like an anteater sniffing around the house. Reading everything.

Hannie, my youngest who is away at university, is sort of uncomfortable with me grabbing books from her room and devouring them. Because, along the way, I’m taking photos of her neon colored, sticky post it notes and personal hand written observations  in the margins while also lending my own running commentaries.

My accompanying texts, “Yes! I agree!” Or, “Really? You thought that?” Like a virtual book club. In my mind anyway.

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So that is number eleven on the list “Fighting Cabin Fever.”

Challenge yourself.

Maybe lose the twenty pounds that appeared out of nowhere once you found an empty nest with no cigarettes. Okay, sorry for that ramble. That was totally for me. All me. 

Could be an on-line course. Or listen to a daily podcast. Do one nice thing for someone else each day. Pull out a jigsaw puzzle. Read more books. Go for regular walks. Learn new recipes to shake things up.

A friend from Malaysia joined the 100sareepact in 2015. This involved a pact between two friends to wear their saree (sari) one hundred times while sharing their saree stories. It incorporated photos of celebrations, heritage, joy, love, cherished memories and more. Very cool movement.

Maybe you could create your own friend pact/challenge?

Whatever you decide to do it will result in a lovely feeling of accomplishment. You will have achieved your goal while keeping busy waiting for the change of seasons.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

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In my last post, I promised to share more information about a couple of the books that are in this photo.

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Going to the neighborhood library and appreciating your tax dollars at work was #5 on Mary’s “Wintry Mix” list.

In that same vein (sort of) I respectfully piggy back on the reading theme in this post for #6.

Go local.

Okay, I really wanted to type “Go loco” above instead of Go local. But I didn’t.

Support not just your local library but the local authors and bookstores. And authors who write about your locale or community.

Honestly, not sure why but I always feel like I’ve got some skin in the game when I’ve got one of those books in my hands.

Like I get all, “That’s my neighborhood. My town. My state. My people.” You can just imagine me with a puffed out chest. And not a puffed out post menopausal belly. Full of pride.

About two months ago I met Jeanne Mc Williams Blasberg at this literary event in Providence. She was on her own so there were a couple of extra chairs begging for middle-aged occupants. Jeanne was kind enough to allow me (and a friend) to sit at her table.

Got chatting, as one does, and I absolutely did the whole Rhode Island thing. That is to relentlessly dig until you find out what or who we have in common. I usually have the energy for it. That night was no exception.

Well, we are both mothers, both lived in California and both did the expat overseas gig. Okay, sure, that could be enough to keep a semi-decent conversation going between people who just met- before the event and during intermission.

Then I found out she was an author.

Wait, what?

She has a book “Eden” floating out there and a new one being published soon.

Truthfully, between you and me, I think I might be an authorphile. You could put me in a room with Tom Brady and a writer and I be like, “Tom, I will totally hook up with you in a few. I swear. Just gotta catch up with Jeanne here.”

Tom Brady dropped like a hot potato by JBM. True story. Ain’t gonna lie.

I’m always curious about every human being but now I have questions galore for this stranger at my table. Her table. She was there first.

“Wait, how do you spell your name? Plasberg? Is that with a P? What’s it about? Where does it take place?”

Blah. Blah. Blah.

I might have been a little loud because, well, I am loud. That’s who I am. And it was in a dark bistro (I know that dark should not matter for sound but neither should immediate radio music turn down when looking for a house number while driving) with a crowd of other ladies all excited to be at a watering hole with their ilk. So their noise level didn’t help mine.

“Eden” is set in my home state of Rhode Island. A fictional coastal town many natives might recognize. A novel about a family and secrets. How the lens might originally be black and white but gets a little grainy and gray (Thank you, Jesus!) with each new generation.

I really enjoyed it. Jeanne incorporates historical events-whether economic collapse or a world war-as a back drop to give the reader a feel for the time and its social mores.

Okay, Jeanne is not native to Rhode Island but she has a place with us now. Not everyone can be born here. We just don’t have the room. But as people leave or the older folks depart then spaces open up and we need to be welcoming. And then supportive.

When I was at the library poking around I noticed they had a section, by the check out desk, that had books written by local authors or about the area.

Well, why wouldn’t I read them?

I brought home Mary Cantwell’s “American Girl: Scenes from a Small-Town Childhood.” Mary was an editor and columnist for the New York Times but grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island. This book is filled with lovely memories of her childhood in this seaside town during the 1940s and 1950s. It’s like finding someone’s diary. I feel like everyone has a story. Hers was a pleasant one. Added bonus was I had a better understanding of the town’s history after reading this simple, old-fashioned memoir.

As you can see in the photo I had also grabbed Bernie Mulligan’s, “I Made It.” A story set in the town of East Providence where I was raised. I didn’t read it yet but I will. I had too many open books at the time.

This book is about a woman who was fully paralyzed from polio. She also had four sons under the age of seven when it happened! Can you even imagine?

I am so surprised I never knew about this. It’s a story of family love and commitment. Her husband fixed up an old bus so that she and her family could travel. When he passed away the neighborhood kids collected 6000 books of Green Stamps to buy a Winnebago. Or a caravan for my European readers. The newly licensed young neighbors all took turns driving her across the country to the Pacific Ocean. Oh my gosh. That’s God’s work right there. Makes me proud to be a Townie. I definitely have to read this.

Couple of books from Ann Leary in that photo. Northeast girl living in New England. I love her books. She just gets me. LOL I mean, I just get her. She’s married to comedian Denis Leary but I feel like she actually might be the funny one in that relationship. These two books (in the photo) were good but I loved, “The Good House.” I remember laughing out loud while reading it. Very few authors make me LOL. I also really liked her book “The Children.”

Not in the above photo but here is another book I recently enjoyed. Staying with the local vibe.

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When I was born my parents lived in a tenement. I get it. When my husband and I bought our first home it was in Providence. A condo on the East Side. In a freaking tenement! I still haven’t heard the end of that one. But when I walked in, after the Boston group that owned it did their rehab and tagged the three floors as condos, I fell in love with the original wood floors gleaming on a sunny day. I coveted the fireplace that had been there for ages.

We’ll take it!

What I didn’t consider was that the bathroom had no heating. At all. That original, like the drafty windows we could barely open, wasn’t always a good thing.

Still. So many fabulous memories in that place. No regrets.

Anyway.

I consider the purchase of this book a trifecta. I supported a local book store Twenty Stories, a Providence author and really enjoyed this memoir. Filled with quirky tenants, boyfriends and lore.

That’s it for my #6 on getting through winter! Enough about books already. I’ll lay off bookspeak for awhile. I’m exhausted. Yes, it has to do with books. I will tell you why in another blog posting. Not the next one. But someday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I missed Autumn in New England when I was away.

Leaf peepers visit from all over the country and the world to experience the changing foliage. It’s so beautiful.

And who doesn’t love bright orange pumpkins?

I remember, when we lived in Kuala Lumpur, my neighbor Jean’s husband got very creative one Halloween night. There weren’t any orange pumpkins available in our tropical environs so he got his hands on a watermelon and carved it accordingly. Made me chuckle but also realize how humans acclimate.

When our children were young it was always fun to visit the pumpkin patch and pick out the perfect pumpkin. We’d bring it home to decorate and/or carve it. Scooped out the innards, rinsed the stringy seeds, dried them and later roasted them in the oven.

Here is an old photo of Hannie and her carved pumpkin when we lived in California. 25 was our house number at the time. Placed by the front door to greet trick or treaters. Snagged the idea from my old friend, Betsy. Visit her site Farmhouse Wares for cool home and garden items.

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Hannie is a bit older now and in her second year of university. She came home for a weekend in October to celebrate my birthday. So appreciated! Of course, we went to find the perfect pumpkins.

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Some things have changed since then. Like the number of our house. But some things remain the same. Like our happiness while decorating pumpkins.

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Consider this as #2 on my previously mentioned “cheerful list.” The things that add a bit of brightness to my day once the days of summer have passed. Even though it really is more than just pumpkins. It is time spent outdoors. Togetherness. Creativity. And yes, eating pumpkin seeds.

 

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I have said it more than once.

Autumn came so quickly.

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Seemed like I was just sitting on the shore, drink in hand and watching the evening sunset.

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Then this. Wham! My youngest was heading back to university.

Once the kid left it seemed there were changes every place I looked. Of course, I found some sadness in this. It was like a scorecard I was keeping. Yup, check off one more not-so-happy thing.

Keep in mind, I was also experiencing a New England autumn after being away twenty-four years during this very season. Lot of transitioning. On many different levels.

Leaves on the trees turned glorious, riotous shades and then fluttered to the ground. Skeletons in their wake.

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The ice cream shops were now sporting signs like “Closed For The Season” and “See You In The Spring!”

Del’s, an extremely popular Rhode Island frozen lemonade business, shuttered their stands and trucks instantly went into hibernation.

The birds, who were annoyingly loud outside our bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning, silenced overnight.

All of the neat little nests dotting our yard and stuffed under the eaves had “vacancy” signs on them.

No more pleasure boats zipping down the bay. Now they are white, shrink wrapped objects perched on steel stands and peppering boatyards all over the state.

The sun setting just minutes after my afternoon tea. Okay, I don’t have an afternoon tea but it sounded so good. My point is the sunset was no longer an evening thing.

Even our compost bin eventually went quiet. Crickets. Anyone who composts food and plant scraps knows you practically need a pair of goggles or a gas mask when you open the lid in the summer. Especially if it wasn’t recently turned. Smells and a million, billion fruit flies make a fruit-line to your face. No activity, at all, once temperatures drop.

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But there was one thing that really made me realize the wonderful summer season came to an end and it sort of made me sad. Not as sad as the youngest leaving or as sad as losing and missing our loved ones. But still. Like it was the last and final straw of summer.

The osprey left.

Ospreys are magnificent birds of prey. Huge raptors. Looks like a big hawk or eagle. Moonlight as fishermen. Has a few young ones in the Spring. And then once autumn arrives it quickly flies off in the direction of South America. The ginormous nests, a convenient five minute walk from our house, are in the marshland and built on tall wooden roosts. Now totally empty.

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When I saw the empty nest my eyes filled up. Silly really. Because I know they are coming back in the Spring. I also realize it was some type of temporary Mommy transference phenomenon.

Summer was truly gone.

So, what to do?

The only thing is to shake if off and approach autumn with gusto. Enjoy every minute. Be glad of the different seasons because it is a continual promise. When one ends another beautiful season begins.

Sometimes that is easier said than done. Especially when the afternoon sky is dark and it gets cold. Autumn quickly becomes winter.

In the coming days I will share things that have enhanced and cheered my autumn and winter. I’m normally a happy sort and have been enjoying it. It does not have to be gloomy. It’s all up to me. It’s all up to you.

While we sit and wait for the osprey’s return.

 

 

 

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I just wanted to take a moment to wish all of you a happy Thanksgiving. I am thankful that you continue to read along while I share my thoughts and experiences. I appreciate you and your feedback.

Today I am also very thankful that my family is having a traditional Thanksgiving in our home country. The four of us are actually under one roof. It’s been six years. It’s like a Thanksgiving miracle.

I am super thankful for my family. Even if they drive me crazy. Or maybe it’s me driving them crazy. But there are no words to describe my love. It’s that special.

I don’t just have love for the husband, kids and dog. I have more in reserve. It extends to the entire clann.

And to friends. I am really grateful for my friends and I love them.

When I was a kid if I liked someone I thought they were just beautiful. Like literally. Sure, I got some sidelong glances, maybe some eye rolls, as a result of that thinking. But you know what? I still believe that.

I remember asking my mother a question when I was older and pregnant with my first. After, of course, I wished and prayed for a healthy little baby. Was along the lines of, “What if I give birth to an ugly little sucker?” LOL I’m just being honest.

My mom, with no hesitation, answered with, “How would you know?”

That’s the thing. I think my family and friends are just beautiful. All of them. How would I know any different?

Wishing you all the love of family and friends! I hope you are surrounded by beauty.

 

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