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Whirled Peas ~

Why can’t we all just get along?

Unless you have your head buried firmly in deep sand, it’s hard to miss the sad fact that in this season of Peace and Love to All Mankind, our World is one giant mass of violence, greed and dysfunction.  It’s a mess and it seems that even the smartest minds in the free world have not been able to come up with a solution.  IMG_1003

Until now.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a fun and fabulous winter concert put on each year by the Seattle Men’s Chorus.  It was the perfect entry into this season of joy for much of the world.  This year’s theme – Baby its Cold Outside.  It was solemn. It was joyful. It was whacky fun and it was almost three hours of pure musical magic.  Loved. Every. Minute.

So what could a gay men’s concert possibly have to do with world peace?  Funny you should ask.  Toward the end of the show, after shedding their black suits and ties for Hawaiian shirts, shorts and flip-flops, we arrived at the audience participation part of the show.  Let me set the stage:  Benaroya Hall is a magnificent concert hall.  Large and  sedate.  The audience covered the full social spectrum – parents with kids, hipsters, grannies in Christmas sweaters and hats to match, couples of every strip and dot.   Most of these folks would not mingle on the street.   The conductor set about dividing the huge concert hall into sections for the singing of their tropical version of The Twelve Days of Christmas and everyone happily participated.   When the conductor pointed to a group, these folks – young, old, gay, straight, every shade of skin, leaped from their seats and joyfully (at the top of their lungs) sang their chorus and the refrain “a pineapple in a pear tree”.  Up-Sing-Down. Up-Sing-Down.  Like a well-oiled machine.  Everybody knew their line and valued everyone else’s contribution.  We each became an integral part of the whole.  Something bigger and better than each of us could be individually.  For ten minutes on the afternoon of December 1st we were ONE.  We shone brightly and all was right with the World.  Sounds like the makings of world peace to me.

Blessings for joy and peace and love and lots of home baked goodies.

And here’s a peak at their 2009 Christmas Show. 

Don’t you just love it? ~

It really tickles me when a lovely moment of serendipity strikes. You never know when you go out the door for a bite of lunch who you might meet.  Well, that moment of serendipity struck today when I slipped down to Nordstrom Cafe for a quick mid-day break from the office.  It was noon and the place was packed.  I ordered my half salad – chicken/apple/walnut/feta – yum! and had to squeeze myself into a tiny table along the wall between two other tables.  I settled in, put on my reading glasses and pulled out my current lunch time companion – 65 Things to do When You Retire. It’s a compilation of essays from people like Jimmy Carter and Gloria Steinem and many lesser known but still very interesting and inspiring folks.  They are true stories of people in retirement who found meaningful new opportunities.  It’s sort of a user’s manual for making the most of your retirement.   A few moments later, the lovely woman on my left (I believe her name was Carol) tapped my arm and asked “May I take a look at your book?  I’ve just retired.”   “Of course” I said and I passed the book over to her table.  I then took the opportunity to introduce myself and share my newly acquired knowledge about retirement and traveling on the cheap. Carol was interested, excited and open to all of the possibilities and adventures ahead.  I told her about the backpack and rollie plan and how I had come to be a blogger.  I learned about her career as a teacher and her recent trip through Spain, Italy and France with her daughter who was sitting across the table.  We chatted for quite a while about home exchange, house sitting opportunities and even WWOOFing.   She was a sponge for information and I was thrilled that I had lots of ideas to share!

It was a lovely exchange with a truly lovely woman who, like so many of us, is excited and eager to get on with her new life.  Carol, it was a true pleasure to have met you.  I’m glad fate guided me to that tiny table in the middle.  You brought a spark of joy to my afternoon.  I hope we meet again somewhere out on the road.  I’ll be the one with the backpack and the rollie.

Just a Couple of Crazy Kids ~ another on foot adventure

Since we are now fully committed to the Camino de Santiago trek next September, the hubs and I have upped our walking game significantly.  Every weekend we’re out exploring the city streets and country roads in and around Portland.  It is amazing what you miss when you are whizzing along at 55 mph.  Of course, the beautiful Fall weather hasn’t hurt.  I don’t know how motivated we’ll be when it’s cold, gray and soggy, but we’ll cross that bridge (on foot) when we come to it.

I’m in charge of mapping our routes and coming up with interesting locations and access to restrooms and good food along the way.  So far, so good.  Last week a friend of mine who is always off on one adventure or another, mentioned she had gone to the Portlandia Corn Maize out on Sauvie Island.  When I asked how much actual walking was involved, she indicated it could be A LOT depending on how many dead ends you took in the maize.

Well, thanks to Lois, I thought this would be a great way to try something new and get our walk on at the same time.  What a hoot!  Yes, it is mostly for families with kids and somehow that brought out the kid in us too.   We walked, we laughed, and we got lost over and over again.  But, we enjoyed the fresh air, acres of corn stocks at least ten feet tall, answered silly questions that helped us find our way through the maize, and of course, I sang a chorus or two of “I’m as Corny as Kansas in August”.

Honey, I think we’ve been down this row before.

And, the best part…because we aren’t kids (only kids at heart), we finished the afternoon with a couple of adult beverages on the dock and watched the boats go by.

Nuns on the Bus ~ the ultimate road trip

We travel for so many reasons – to visit family and friends, explore new cultures, fulfill life-long dreams and maybe even live a more adventurous and economical life in retirement.  But, when I heard about this road trip recently undertaken by a group of Catholic sisters, I wanted to share their story.  Brilliant!

“Nuns on the Bus” is literally a bus filled with Catholic nuns who are traveling from the Midwest to Washington, D.C. to spotlight social justice issues and to protest the House Republican budget.   The sisters are focusing on social issues all along the way — holding press conferences and staging protests against the proposed budget cuts which they say will endanger those most in need.

Can I just say “Rock On Sisters!”   Sister Simone Campbell kicks off the tour on The Colbert Report.

Here’s Mud in Your Eye ~

I wrote a post a while back about creating community and my desire to do just that when Les and I take our little backpack and rollie traveling show on the road.  Since we both like to have a “wee nip or a sip” with friends (and just by ourselves too – really, I’m open for a sip pretty much any time if the right people offer the invitation) it got me thinking about the special community we create when we break bread and share a glass with others.

The idea of being able to share a glass and a toast with people we meet around the world is very enticing.  I admit I have grand visions of sitting in a vineyard in France, old wooden tables laden with bottles, fresh local food and Les and I laughing and making a toast to our newly found friends.  Sounds just about perfect.   So, we did a practice run last summer when we went to a Plate & Pitchfork dinner at Viridian Farms.  Warm summer evening, delicious food prepared outside, amazing local wine, sharing a table with the wine makers and new friends.  We ate, drank, talked, laughed until the sun faded and we had to walk back to our car in the dark.  I was in heaven, and although I have already made plans to do it again this summer, I can think of nothing better than to spend our tenth anniversary and my 65th birthday next summer in a field in France.  With wine.  And food.  And interesting people.  Cheers to that!

All this talk of drinking and community eventually led me to thinking about drinking toasts.  It seems like every country where alcohol is consumed has a toast to accompany the first sip.  Who came up with that idea you ask?  Well, let me tell you… It’s said that back around 500 B.C. those pesky Greeks often poisoned the wine to get rid of their enemies, nagging wives, political figures and pretty much anyone else they didn’t want around.  To put his guests at ease, the host would pour wine from a common pitcher, toast to health, then drink before everyone proving that the wine wasn’t poisoned.  The Romans loved this custom so much that they adopted it for themselves and added the practice of dipping burnt bread (toast) in the wine to reduce the acidity.   Fortunately, wine making has gotten a lot better and I haven’t had a glass in a very long time that would have been improved with the dipping of burnt bread.  Bread and cheese, however, is another matter entirely.

To me a toast is about savoring the moment and wishing your companions well.  I personally think it’s a lovely idea and one I’d like to take on our travels, so it seems like a pretty good idea to learn a few of the traditional toasts in other countries.  In China they say “gan bei” (Mandarin) or “gom bui” (Cantonese) which means dry your cup.  Many countries still toast “to your health” – In France its “a votre sante“, in Poland  “na zdrowie“,  in the Spanish speaking countries its generally “salud” and next time you’re in Russia try “za vashe zdorovye”.  If you’re in India, lift a glass and say “tulleeho!”.  I’m not sure when the opportunity might arise but if it does, try these two Zulu toasts “ooogy wawa” or “poo-zim-pee”.

Why not open a bottle of your favorite wine or make a shaker of martinis (preferably pear) sometime over the weekend – then raise your glass and toast the favorite people in your world.

So, how did the toast “Here’s mud in your eye” originate?  It’s said that this toast came from World War II as a wish of good fortune to farmers.  Of course, it’s also been said that it came from the kick of mud thrown in your face from a winning horse at the race track.

“I drink Martinis.  Two at the very most.  Three and I’m under the table.  Four and I’m under the host.”        (a great toast credited to Dorothy Parker)

A votre sante!

Why Not? ~

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently” … and here’s to having friends who help you be a person who says Why not? instead of just Why.   Thanks to Steve Jobs and Apple for the inspiring quote and thanks to a special friend who always brings out the “why not crazy” in me.    I had a lot of time to think about this while we were at the tradeshow for the Bloomsday Race in Spokane, WA this weekend handing out red bracelets and temporary tattoos to thousands of people and inspiring them with the story of the Japanese word Gambaru ~ Never, Ever Give Up.   Why?  Because my friend called and I said Why not!   These race folks didn’t really get that two women (and two brave men) were just there to sprinkle some motivation and inspiration. In fact, I’m pretty sure that lots of people at the event thought we were just a little crazy.  I hope so!  A little crazy is the spice that makes life interesting.  It’s what opens the door to adventure and opportunity and many times crazy is the glue that bonds.

This particular friend, I’ll just call her Sallie, always feeds my creative monster.  She is the queen of  “why not” and then a new idea springs to life – and hang on – ‘cuz we’re off again.  I have to admit not every idea is a winner in the end, but with Sallie the journey is so much damn fun that it’s always worth it.  Worth keeping 10,000 red Gambaru bracelets, toxic fumes and all, piled 5 feet high in your guest bedroom closet for a year, worth talking your hubby into playing along and hauling all 90 bags of them down two flights of stairs and loading them into the back of the SUV and then driving 7 hours in pouring rain to Spokane.  Sallie is a glass 3/4 full kinda gal and she brings that out in me – every time.

The more time I spend on this planet, the more things change and the more important my connection to others becomes.  I value every one of my friends, young and old.  I learn from you every day.  And, here’s to the crazy ones – and you know who you are, my dears.  You are the colorful threads that help me weave this beautiful crazy quilt called LIFE.

By the way, here’s where Sallie first learned about GAMBARU.