Thursday, December 16, 2010

xmas card 2010

Shimmering Snowflakes Holiday 5x7 folded card
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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas vacation has technically begun

True, I technically have one more day of work before the lights go out on 2010 professionally speaking, but mentally, I am already there.

Although we saw alot of shows in 2010, our annual show tally took a big hit given the events of 2010.  So, on Saturday, we hit a double-feature theatre day so to speak with the matinee of WHEN WE ARE MARRIED (a J.B. Priestley play at the Garrick Theatre)

and LEGALLY BLONDE (a fun but goofy musical based on the film of the same name and showing at the newly renovated art-deco Savoy Theatre).

Both show receive a thumbs up from our perspectives and were definitely worth a few laughs, and a nice "feel-good" reaction at the show's conclusion.  The Budman surprised me with a dinner at the newly renovated Savoy Hotel River Grill between shows.  Interestingly, the elderly couple seated next to us at dinner, who were Savoy River Grill regulars pre hotel renovation, told us repeatedly throughout dinner that there "used to be a view of the Thames from the restaurant."  We can confirm there is no longer a view but it was still a lovely restaurant with a great ambience.

I like the way that Christmas Vacation 2010 has kicked off!

why am I not surprised

It has been a little over a weekend after Missy's arrival in London, so we began to worry when day 6 hit and she had eaten mas!  How can that be?  This little cat is a porker (in the sweetest sense of the word) so we determined that a trip to the vet was certainly in order.

Of course, I was in Warwick on a business trip when this situation erupted so a concerned Budman took off a bit of time from work to rush Missy to the vet. Good thing we did as she had lost about 200 grams of weight in a week or about 11% of her body weight in 6 days. Not a good situation, not a terribly convenient one either.

After tests, blood work, and a bit of forced syringed feeding, the only thing our vet could really say is "What is it with you two and your menagerie of cats?".  Code for "we can't find a thing wrong with her really". Other possibilities emerged as explanations for the loss of appetite, such as stress from the journey to a new home in the UK, new pet owners, and perhaps even the death of her previous owner.  Whatever the reason, we were charged with trying to find something - anything that she would eat.

Next stop, Sainsbury's where we walked the pet food AND seafood aisles for canned, dry, or moist food that Missy might eat.  We bought one of everything!  And after the taste test that ensued on Sunday, we have found one tin of wet cat food that she will eat.  That's the good news.

The bad news is that Ginger, who is only allowed to a special type of cat food due to HER heath related issues, and who is now blind and deaf, apparently has a nose that still works really well.  She has now been dubbed as "nadar" as the moment Missy's food is put out, "the nose knows" and she takes off in the direction of the other food.

One cat who won't eat, and one cat that only wants the other cat's food.
Yea....'nuff said.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

All things royal

Of course the moment that THE wedding was announced, the race to get the first "William and Kate" merchandising out the door was on. We can certainly expect the obligatory plates, mugs, pictures, tea towels, etc. but do I really need a souvenir oyster card with their mugs on the face of the card?

For those who are not in the know, an "oyster card" is a plastic chipped card that allows travelers in London to pay for underground train and bus journeys instantly. And yes, the card is set to get a special makeover to feature an image of the happy couple.


It has been noted on the Transport for London website that locals and tourists will be able to snap up the one-off cards but time is of the essence as they will be produced in a restricted volume. Hurry, hurry!

As for me, I think I will take a pass on this souvenir item. Quite frankly, I have my wedding souvenir already earmarked. You see, the happy couple have picked April 29th, 2011 as their wedding date, and this particular Friday has been declared a national holiday (translation: a day off from work). The preceding weekend is Easter, and in the UK, Good Friday and Easter Monday are both national holidays as well. When I combine the 3 holidays and 4 weekend days, I can take 10 consecutive days off for the price of 3 vacation days. Now that is a souvenir I can get on board with.
And before you say, "Bah Humbug - you live in the country, you should celebrate the day in the city", the Budman and I have already decided we are fleeing the country during this royal spectacle. I can watch the wedding like the rest of the world...on TV.

Apparently this week is already being dubbed as the most unproductive work week of 2011.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Now that is something I can get on board with

Last week, all UK (and for that matter, the US and the rest of world) were all aflutter with the news that Prince William and Kate Middleton were finally engaged.  After 8 years, the dude finally pops the question.  Gotta give it to the gal for hanging in there.

Truthfully, the news sorta "came and went" in our household; I got more emails and calls from friends and family in the US wanting to chat about the royal engagement than anything I read myself or heard on the news.  Happy for them and all, but ....don't millions of people announce their engagement every year to far less fanfare?

Then came the news I could get behind.  Apparently, the UK government, as confirmed by Prime Minister David Cameron, will announce a national holiday....another day off of work for all the UK... to coincide with the wedding. 

I suppose I can put up with what will be the relentness engagement and wedding coverage, such as "Will Kate pick a UK designer to design her wedding dress?" or "What day will the actual wedding be held on?" and "How touching that Prince William gave Kate his mother's engagement ring!"   The real news is another day off!

OK, now we're talking!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wish I could take credit

After the PC crash yesterday....and a painful 8 hours on the phone with my company's "help" desk (not), I gave up the ghost at 3 am...a total washout on the PC front.  A complete rebuild from scratch was required but had to wait until morning and a trip into central London.

As I ascended the stairs, I heard the beep of the IPhone and saw a post from a long (and usually very funny friend) on yesterday's was exactly the laugh I needed.

H - Glad to hear you're back and I hate to be the one to tell you. While you were asleep, it was Rip Van Winkle that was asleep for a 100 years while Rumplestilskin was converting straw into gold. Now if we could fall asleep for 100 years on a stack of hay and wake up in a pile of gold, THAT would be a story.

And just to lose the report, there was no extra gold laying about my house.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A page out of Rumplestilskin's book

The silence on the blog has been a direct result of lots of active projects/deals at work and the probate of my aunt's estate. 

Following P's memorial service, I "emotionally" slept for what felt like 2-3 entire weeks.  I know I went through the daily and weekly actions and to-do's of home and work, but it felt a little like driving your car home very late at night.  You know what I mean.....You make it home, but can't remember the drive. Upon further reflection, you have no memory of the road, the songs on the radio, let alone the drive home. 

Well, I can equate feeling that same thing to the last few weeks following P's service:  I wrote those thank-you notes, paid those bills, filed legal documents, and spent way too much time on the phone each night to various and sundry people, businesses, and organizations in the US with a "need" to know of her passing.  Still I have little or no memory of any it. 

Yep, one big blur. 

Or perhaps, one "big sleep".  Now it feels like the time is right for closure, to get things finalized and move on.  In other words, wake up out that 7 month slumber.  So, coming up is my 7th trip to the US in as many months....this time with the express view of getting the court to appoint me as executor of P's estate and getting this "show on the road".  So, step 1 is identified. Spoken in true P fashion.

Still, if you have dropped me a note, sent a card or email, or wonder why the silence from my end, just know that it has been my mind (and body's) way of coping. Me and Rumplestilskin have been over there snoozing under the tree.

I just wish I felt as refreshed as he did after his 100 year nap!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Dr. Peggy Sartain

Peggy Ann Sartain passed away on September 22, 2010 at The Summit at Lakeway in Austin, Texas due to complications from a stroke in April. Born on February 4, 1934 in Arp Texas, she was the eldest daughter of Forrest Lee Sartain and Beatrice Inez Smith Sartain. Baptized at the First Baptist Church in Arp, she later spent her teenage years in Kilgore, Texas. During her professional medical career, she resided in Dallas, and retired in 1990 to Horseshoe Bay, Texas.

Peggy attended public schools in Arp as well as Kilgore, Texas, graduating as Salutatorian from Kilgore High School (KHS) in 1951. Peggy was active in many activities in KHS including being a Member of the "Dog House" Committee, Senior Class Treasurer, Flutist in The Kilgore Bulldog Marching Band, and various choir and drama Groups. She recently attended her 55th class reunion.

Peggy attended Baylor University in Waco, Texas from 1951-1955, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology with minors in Chemistry and English in 1955. Peggy's lifelong love and support of Baylor started during this time. While at Baylor, she was a member of the Baylor Student Congress, Student Court, Pre-Med Club, Sophomore Class Treasurer, Memorial House Council, Summer BSU Council, and Rhapsody in White Choir. To this day, Peggy's lifelong Baylor friends were one of her greatest joys.

Upon graduation from Baylor, Peggy attended the University of Texas at Galveston Medical School, graduating with Medical Doctorate (M.D.) in 1959. Her medical training continued at Memorial Hermann Hospital/ Washington D.C. General hospital as she completed her internship in 1960 with a specialty in Pediatrics. Finally, Peggy completed her pediatric hematology residency at Children's Medical Center, part of Parkland Memorial Hospital, in Dallas, Texas in 1961. During her professional medical career, Peggy described herself as a "plain, ordinary, no-frills person" who had a job she adored: working with sick children. Between 1960 - 1989, Peggy was a pediatrician specializing in Oncology and Hematology at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. Her career began in 1960 when she joined the Hematology One Program at Children's Medical Center for a one year internship working in medical research focused on children's blood-related diseases; this resulted in a 29 year career at only one hospital, Children's Medical Center.

A "no-nonsense", plainspoken, and extremely straightforward physician, Peggy's primary focus was to serve as each patient's advocate, in which the needs of her patients were paramount above everything else. Peggy's impact to medicine was not limited to treatment of children and their blood diseases. She also served as an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in which she mentored and taught hundreds of medical students in the pediatric oncology-hematology specialization as well as being a prolific medical researcher and author of many articles and studies in this field, including contributions to the Southwest Medical Journal, the Journal of Pediatrics, The New England Journal of Medicine, Southern Medical Journal to name a few. Additionally, she was selected to participate in two separate US/South Vietnam Pediatric initiatives with the South Vietnam Children's Hospital in the early 1970's, living abroad in Saigon and travelling extensively during this time.

In 1979, Peggy was a founding board member of the Ronald McDonald House in Dallas. Peggy also served as "camp doctor" and founding board member at Camp Esperanza/Camp John Marc for seriously ill children. Known as the "Big Kahuna" to thousands of children patients, colleagues, and co-workers, she was beloved by all. Her honors and accolades were many. Being an incredibly modest individual, it was not uncommon that these honors were never mentioned by Peggy. She was however most proud of the honor bestowed upon her by her alma mater, Baylor University, when in 1990, she was selected as an Outstanding Alumnae of Baylor University. That same year she was also recognized as an Outstanding Baylor Alumnae by the Dallas Baylor Women's Council. Upon her retirement, the Peggy Sartain Library and Conference Room was named in her honor at Children's Medical Center in Dallas.

Upon retirement from her medical practice, Peggy led an very active life in Horseshoe Bay including active participation in the Horseshoe Bay Women's Golf Association, the Horseshoe Bay 19 Hole Club, past President of the Highland Fling Golf Tournament, Trustee of the Church at Horseshoe Bay, past board member of Hill Country Community Theatre, past board member, Secretary, and Treasurer of the Horseshoe Bay Homeowner's Association, Dallas Baylor Women's Council, Life Member of the Baylor Alumni Association, and Baylor University Heritage Club. Her greatest enjoyments were "watching the deer and Texas wildflowers grow", playing golf, being an avid reader and crossword puzzler, watching Dallas Cowboy and Baylor Bear football, and playing Tuesday afternoon bridge with the Horseshoe Bay gals.

Peggy was preceded in death by Forrest Lee Sartain (father), Inez Smith Sartain (mother), Nancy Sartain Robinson (sister), and Larry D. Robinson (brother-in-law).

She is survived by Holly Robinson Young (niece) of London, England, Amy Robinson (niece) of Farmers Branch, Texas, Robert "Buddy" Young (nephew-in-law) of London England, Mary Jane Denson (cousin) of Troup, Texas, Carolyn Peacher (cousin) of Alexandria, Virginia, Bettye Salvans (cousin) of Quinlan, Texas, second and third cousins, many friends and former colleagues, and thousands of former patients.

A memorial service was held at The Church at Horseshoe Bay on Tuesday, September 28, 2010, in Horseshoe Bay Texas, with arrangements by Clements-Wilcox Funeral Home in Marble Falls. Upon cremation, internment will be at Ebenezer Cemetery in Arp, Texas. In lieu of flowers, Peggy's express wishes were to have any donations made in her memory to go to (1)Special Camp for Special Kids-Camp John Marc, (2) The Church at Horseshoe Bay, and (3)the Marble Falls Public Library.

Peggy had a great passion for life, humanity, and a wonderful sense of humor - she will be greatly missed by those who had the pleasure of knowing her.

Please access www.clementswilcoxfuneralhome.comif you would life to see the photos that celebrate her life.

It has been a whirlwind summer and early fall

Given the pace of summer, my work and personal travel schedule, and support for Peggy, well...something had to give in my schedule. And one of those things turned out to be the blog. I have alot to update family and friends on, but the most important one is the passing of my beloved aunt, Peggy.

Many of your knew she had been sick for much of this year, and so, I wanted to take the time to let readers know that she if fact did pass peacefully on September 22nd. She will be missed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

That Good Old Baylor London

I am LOVING the fact that living in London allows the Budman and I to see friends and family travelling to or through London! I have not seen some of these friends for decades and it is always such a blast to catch up with their lives, meet their children (sometimes for the first time), and see London (and often times, Europe) through their eyes.


Our most recent catch-up included dinner in Leicester Square with the McBrayers and a couple of their kids! Baylor buds for almost 30 years.... Kelly, why were we not wearing Cardinal and Straw? Mike and Buddy, Chamber dudes, still!

Where did the time go?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cartier Polo

Due to travel, I had to pass on the Cartier Polo event; Budman had all the fun of the celebrity sightings on this day: Prince Charles in the first photo and Katherine Jenkins in the second one.



I am also reminded that while these people were in suits and enjoying a cloudy and cool day in London, I was catching the full sun and heat in Bahrain.

PS update

Thanks for aunt, PS, is still about the same. Making small but incremental improvement in the recovery from her stroke. She has also improved a bit in the swallowing area as she has begun to occasionally eat things like banana cream pie. It is still a far cry from taking all her meals orally as she still has the feeding tube, but we are at least seeing a little movement in that direction.

She still takes her therapy (physical, occupational and speech) 5 days a week, and has also improved in the "point to the X" object activities.

Last week, we did have a bit of an unexpected situation arise, when she fell from her wheelchair. The good news is that after CT scans and X-rays, we confirmed no broken bones or contusions. We seem to think she is starting to want to be more mobile...but that will require even more careful monitoring moving forward.

Here is my most recent picture of her with a Baylor University Football Gnome. She had a great laugh the day this little guy arrived...especially when I said that we needed the luck of the gnome this year with our football team.

Bahrainian hotel or Baylor University apartment?

Rather than describe my hotel accommodations in Bahrain, I will let the pictures speak for themselves. Blond wood, brown carpets and furniture, no internet connection (perfect for a business trip) and poor lighting. Surely this must be my Baylor apartment from almost 30 years ago?

Sightseeing with colleagues

I will give you the moral of the story in advance: Don't sightsee with colleagues. It can never end well.

If you are interested in knowing why I make this observation, then read on.

Since my business trip to Bahrain was a week in duration and covered a weekend, my three work colleagues and I decided to do a bit of sightseeing on one weekend day. Before I recount our day, let me first introduce you to the rest of my team.

First, meet the solution architect from New Zealand, who we will call "The Kiwi". A big, burly and yet soft-spoken guy who had been on the road already for 9 weeks on this project (please, let that not be a sign of things to come). He was easy-going and informally took on the team lead role amongst the four of us. Next, meet "Costello", a little fireball of a man from Bangalore, India who was our transition expert and could get riled up over the smallest thing - which was incredibly funny. Aptly named because he looked exactly how Lou Costello might have looked if he had been Indian. Finally, meet "P", an easygoing Indian living for the last 15 years in Sydney who was our industry expert. All in all, a very cordial, pleasant, and engaging group.

Since the weekend technically falls on a Friday and Saturday in the Middle East, we were still beholdened to project deadlines and hunkered down for a LONG day of work on Friday. It was decided that we'd take a brief break on Saturday morning and check out the local sights. I mean, how many times were any of us likely to return to Bahrain? Thus, at dinner on Friday evening, we mapped out our route, which was not terribly difficult b/c there were literally only 5-7 things to see and do in Bahrain.

So, Saturday morning, The Kiwi, Costello, P, and Hachie Gal piled into a taxi and commenced Operation Bahrain Quick Tour. With a great sightseeing plan in place, and an air conditioned taxi, we should have been set. Well, best laid plans is all I can say.

The first error in thinking was not to have insisted that our taxi driver, known as "Local TD" for purposes of this post, spoke better English. He was also recommended by the hotel. Although we knew where we wanted to tour, the ability to have our taxi-driver understand basic English words, since none of us spoke Arabic, was kinda essential. At least the car was air-conditioned. The Kiwi insisted he knew where we wanted to go so this was a non-issue. Right! Strike #1.

First stop on the Grand Tour of Bahrain was the Grand Mosque. We had only been in the taxi for 5 minutes when we knew we were in for a hot day. Outside temperature: 108 degrees F. After a few brief pictures outside the mosque, we were allowed to enter the interior, even as non-believers, and take a tour. The only pre-tour requirement: all of us were required to remove our shoes, and Hachie Gal was forcefully put into an abaya and head scarf. No veil required, thankfully. Photo to follow as soon as Costello sends it onward.

45 minutes later, and we have seen only the interior of the Grand Mosque main area. No details on the building, date of construction, materials used, etc...was provided by our tour guide, but rather very lengthy history / philosophy lesson on Islam. Well intentioned but not really what we were after. Strike #2.

After we quietly excused ourselves and exited the mosque, we headed next to see the Bahrain/Saudi Arabia causeway bridge. Why, I am not sure, but 20 minutes later, we arrived at the Saudi/Bahrain border to visit the lookout tower that allows one to see back to Bahrain. Oops, the tower was closed for renovation. So, we saw white dirt and blue sand...yep, already seen that. Strike #3.

Back into the taxi we go and my doubts about the competence of Local TD as a tour guide were confirmed. Next stop was the Number 1 Oil Platform, supposedly the first drilling site in the Middle East. Not really on my top 5 list but there weren't more than 5 sites on the list anyway so I am ready to be wow-ed! Thirty minutes later, lots of driving around in Bahrainian oilfields, and Local TD can't find the location. He's clueless...this in a country that can be driven from tip to toe in 4 hours.

By this time, Costello was getting itchy..impatient...downright verbal with Local TD. Three of us, including myself have been in the back of the taxi for well over and hour and half now...Bottom line: We never found the site. The Kiwi was hogging the A/C airflow in the front seat, and Costello questioned Local TD every 2 minutes, "Do you know where you are going?" Clearly not. Strike #4.

OK, it was REALLY hot now and we only had one more sight left on the list. The team was getting restless, hungry, impatient, and short-tempered. A final stop: the newly restored Portuguese fort. It was actually quite interesting...or should have been b/c it is now SUPER hot. Truth told, this was the only thing I really wanted to see. Upon arrival, we proceeded to walk up to the fort in full-on sun. Not a tree or sign of shade in sight. Twenty steps later, and Costello, with The Kiwi now clearly on his side, declared, "I am done. It's too hot". Sightseeing appropriately draws to a close. We walked back to the car, and Local TD was nowhere to be found. Car was locked up tighter than a drum. 30 minutes later we found him coming out of the cafe area next to the clue where he was or what he was doing. By this time, I have done the mental calculation that I could have actually seen the Portuguese fort in the time it look us to locate Local TD. Strike #5.

Time for lunch. Hachie Gal kicked into overdrive and suggested the Bahrain City Center Mall. It was going to tick all the boxes: Major A/C, lots of dining choices that will surely meet Costello's preferences, no need for Local TD' services any longer, and we can actually stretch our legs. Best of all, Hachie Gal can disappear into a shopping frenzy sans the guys.

8 hours later I emerged from my retail therapy feeling refreshed and ready to face the world.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I am unashamed

OK, so I am travelling with three male business colleagues who apparently think it is "uncool" to admit that they secretly want to take a taxi from the hotel to the HP offices that are only a 5-7 minute walk.

Quoting Cole Porter, no one wants to raise their hand and admit, "it's too darn hot" for walking to the office each morning. Let me go on the record to say that I in fact raised this concern yesterday. Hoots of laughter ensued; cries of "you need to toughen up" ridiculed me as I humbly mentioned I'd like to take a taxi.

OK, the first week we were literally across the street from the client office. Even this 2 minute walk in over-100 temperatures is too much, but what are you gonna do. Second week, we are in the HP offices so in my book, new game. But nooooooooooooo, my colleaugues will have nothing of that and so yesterday morning, the Bahrainian death march ran its course. I was nackered for 2 hours until the water and A/C restored my sanity and curbed my headache.

Today? Hang on a minute. It is 108 degrees F at 8:45 am. Bluntly put, ridicule me all you want. This sister is paying whatever it takes to arrive "sweat-free" at the office.

So, with purpose in my step and conviction in my heart, I stepped out into the Bahranian morning heat and walked 5 steps to the nearest taxi, opened the door, and popped in. Surprisingly, no one was making fun of anyone this morning, as the guys on the team silently followed my lead. sentiment exactly. Apparently, no one wanted to blink first.

Before anyone else reading this post thinks I am a wuss, walk a mile in my shoes. Actually, make that 500 meters and then we'll talk.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pics from Bahrain

For your viewing pleasure....



Hachie Gal and her colleagues in Bahrain.


And of course, Hachie Gal gets her Chili's fix.

My Five Senses in Bahrain

Sight: It’s hazy but bright. Desolate except for buildings that crop up out of the sand. Bright sun on white sand. Blinding. I have spent most of my time on the 10th floor of an office building; as I look up and out towards the end of my line of sight, I see lots and lots of blue water. Small dots on the horizon that appear to be boats.

No odd smells…food or otherwise. Actually, non-descript.

Sound: It’s not a crowded place, so no sounds of hustle and bustle of people, cars, buses, and transportation links. Heck, you can drive around the island in 4 hours. I did wake to the sound of the mosque loudspeaker (just like in Marrakech) announcing prayers. It was loud, but I found it strangely soothing. People of faith going about their business.
Taste: Have not partaken of local cuisine yet…delivery in the office. Does Bahrain even have a local cuisine? Hmmmm.

Touch: my skin is hot and clammy to the touch. It is hot and humid. End of day, shoes covered in dust. Sticky skin.

Still, I am intrigued by this place.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

30,000 hits

Hard to believe the blog has been in existence over 5 years and 30000 views. Thanks for the interest....

First impressions of Bahrain

As I stepped off the plane, I closed my eyes and felt the heat. For a moment was I in Texas? I could have been landing at DFW Airport anytime in a hot Texas summer and I would not have been able to tell the difference. Instead of hearing English or Spanish, Arabic was swirling about me. Yep, definitely some place new.

It did occur to me that it have been years since I had been somewhere so totally different than my collective experiences….unsettling and exciting at the same time.

I tried to take it all in…remember those first impressions. It was a conscious thought. Hot, hot, hot. Humid, ironicall. Concrete buildings. Burkas and veils. Dust – lots of it. And that is before I even left the airport.

It was dusk just as the driver walked me to the car…had it not been as hot as it was, I would have thought it was snowing. A fine dusting of what looked like snow covered every surface….hoods, car rooftops, barriers, road, signage….except it was not snow. It was white dust.
Next impression….turn on the AC, driver man! Whoa - it is hot as Hades!
As we made the journey to the hotel, and the gentle cooling of the car A/C wafted toward me, I relaxed and looked out the car window. A strange mixture of East and West. To the left, a Chili’s Restaurant…to the right, a family of traditionally clad middle easterners…men in long white rooms and red and white checkered hat scarves and women in black from head to toe driving in a luxury SUV. And that sight was repeated again and again. A Starbuck’s collector’s mug from Bahrain is most likely in my future.

The good news is that our hotel is right across the road from the client’s office. The bad news is that I felt I was living in my Baylor dorm room…the blonde wood furniture attached to the wall…the desk, wardrobe, night stand, headboard…flashback to North Russell Dorm circa 1980. To add injury to insult, there was no internet…either old school or Wi-Fi…in the room. How is that remotely possible in the 21st century? And then there was the note to only drink bottle water. This is where I mentally flash forward to the 10 days ahead of me…grrrrr….

Still, I am ready to be bowled over by my first Middle East experience. Let me see what happens and I will get back to you on that one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Bahrain Bound

As I put the finishing touches on my India travel visa application, the news came through…you’re headed to Bahrain. I’d like to think my geography knowledge has improved over the last decade, but my first reaction was Bahr-where?

First stop: Google Earth. I knew it was in the Middle East but where exactly. Answer: Bahrain is located off the XX coast of Saudi Arabia, being an island of XX square miles.

Second area of investigation: electrical current and voltage? Sadly, my question was would my UK hairdryer work (let alone the PC or blackberry). Essentially, think British so I was good to go.

Next question: just how hot is it? Last count, 106 degrees F. Yowza! No matter what you wear, that is too darn hot (quoting Cole Porter).
Still, I was intrigued by what was ahead of me, although I did not mention this trip to the Middle East to my mother -in-law. Better to tell her AFTER I return (wink-wink).

Monday, July 19, 2010

BBC Proms

No, it is not an formal dress event where you and your significant other dress up in a tuxedo and fancy dress and attend a dinner/dance type of event. (Sorry, had to explain that to my US contingency!)


This is the 116th year of the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) Proms and it still remains true to its original aim: to present the widest possible range of music, performed to the highest standards, to large audiences.

The first Proms concert took place on 10 August 1895 and was the brainchild of the impressario Robert Newman, manager of the newly built Queen's Hall in London. Lots of iterations throughout the years have ensued but it was Henry Woods participation in the series (he oversaw them for the first 50 years) and then the BBC's involvement which began in 1927 that put these concerts on the map.

Today, the proms run for approximately 2 months (mid July-mid September) with 2-3 offerings a day. Most of the "big gun" stuff is in the evening, and most concerts take place at the Royal Albert Hall. Still, there are over 76 concerts to choose from.

With that said, the Budman and I bit the bullet on season tickets as several programs appealed...

BBC Proms 2010 kicked off last Friday night; the downside is that due to the fact that the Budman felt under the weather last weekend and my 10 day business trip to Bahrain commences tomorrow, this has pretty much thrown the first 2 weeks' attendance out the window.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

The trivecta of summer sports

A decade away from the US has resulted in my switching sporting longer do I have a clue as to what is happening in Major League Baseball.

No, the summer is defined by World Cup, followed by Wimbledon, followed by the Tour de France. Yes, I am glued to my TV for the 1 hour TdF highlights every night. Sadly, this year, I missed the first week due to my Texas trip and I will miss the third week due to my Bahrain trip. Bummer, man.

And who am I rooting for? Answer: Andy Scheck

Saturday, July 17, 2010

quirky little habit

You know, I see this type of thing quite a bit... more than you'd think. For a big city that can seem impersonal and soul-less at times, it is the odd little things that bring a smile to my face and remind me of the small day to day considerations of others.

Now, think many times have you been walking down the street and remark to yourself "Oh dear, someone has dropped a glove"... "Oops, someone has lost a shoe"..."dropped an umbrella"..."lost a jacket". In the US, we would normally just walk on by (sad commentary, I suppose).

Not in the UK...people will pick up the lost item and drape it over a fence, tack it on to a tree, lay it gently against a wall. It is as if people want to say to the person who list the item, " I found your personal belonging and have left it here for your pick-up". Point in case:

In the hustle and bustle of today's world, it is touching someone took the time to pick the item up and display it along the manic streets of London in the hopes that its owner would come looking for it.


Friday, July 16, 2010

The green, green grass of home

No, not what you'd think. Not London.

My recent trip to Texas in early July greeted me with temperatures I was prepared for (upper 90s F) and high humidity (>95%) which I was not. Bluntly put, oppressive.

What I was equally unprepared for was the green-ness of Texas. Green grass, green shrubbery, green, green, green. All that rain had apparently made Texas a Garden of Eden this summer, albeit it a muggy one.

Contrast that to the brown-ness of London, with little or no rain.

Mother nature keeps mixing things up.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Trip 2 and 3

Since the last post, I have made two week long trips back to the in mid June and one in early July. Both trips were focused on my aunt but I also tried that "let's work European business hours", so I essentially worked full days from 2:30 - 10:30 am. Ouch!

Peggy is improving incrementally but she still struggles with swallowing and cognition. The skilled nursing center is a godsend, being a pleasant surrounding, modernly and aesthetically appealing, and staffed by some of the most loving and compassionate caregivers I know. A true blessing.

She receives 3 types of therapy a day: physical, speech, and occupational. She is learning to stand, as well as trying to move herself out of the bed, but speech is still non-existent. Somehow we still find a way to communicate.

During the last trip, I did make a detour enroute to the hill country, and celebrated the Fourth of July service with FBC Waxahachie friends. I had the foresight to wear blue and white clothing and knew the choir special being performed, so I was roped into singing in the choir that Sunday morning. It was great to see old friends, hugs necks and hit that high B in the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

Indeed, there is no place like home.

Friday, June 11, 2010

some days are like that

It has been a few weeks since the occurrence but felt the blog was an appropriate place for an update.

In late April, my aunt (let's call her P), suffered a massive stroke. P lives in the Austin area and has spent the last 6-7 weeks in recuperation and rehabilitation in local hospitals and rehabilitation centers. While progress has been steady it has also been slow. Her speech and right side were greatly affected but physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy is ongoing on a daily basis. She has use of a few words such as YES or NO, but speech is challenging as is use of her right hand and walking. Her eating has also been affected, both from a swallowing perspective but even more so from a desire to eat (hence a feeding tube).

I was able to see her right after the stroke occurred, and visited with her for about a week. Buddy and I will be heading back again in a few days to check in with her, and see progress.

The good news is that P just relocated to a skilled nursing center in the Austin area a little over a week ago to continue her therapy and rehabilitation. The bad news is that she was re-admitted a couple of nights ago to the hospital with chest pains. Tests are in progress so we will see what the results show.

P is my mother's sister, and is one of 2 living relatives on my side. Having never married or had children herself, P and I have had a special bond that was more than just niece and aunt. Besides her health challenges, there are clearly some financial, legal, etc. issues to address...of which puts me squarely in the mix. This hits in an even harder way than in traditional family relationships between aunts/nieces. Being halfway around the world further complicates these challenges.

Thanks for those friends who knew something was going on with me, and the struggles I am facing. Truthfully said, I have felt a bit overwhelmed and lonely...away from the infrastructure of friends and my support network.

I know this is departure from the usual blog posts but since my blog is my journal of time living abroad, and this is a significant life event for me, felt it was important to note. Not sure what the future holds, except for lots of long distance calls and flights to Texas...for now, important enough simply to know I am a bit blue.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

It's official....and major congrats are in order

Well done, Jordan! 75th pick in Round 2 of the MLB Draft...going to the Cardinals!

ASU Baseball

A little background: Swagerty, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound draft-eligible sophomore, has a 1-0 record, 2.05 earned run average and14 saves in 32 relief outings for the 50-8 Sun Devils, striking out 39 and walking 10 in 30 2/3 innings. The Sachse, Texas native also has played first base and caught some, compiling a .352 average in 15 games this year, but his future seems to rest as a reliever, probably as a setup man if he should reach the major-league level.

The curveball is said to be Swagerty’s best pitch although he can reach the mid-90s with his fastball. Swagerty’s next action will come this weekend when the Sun Devils face off with Arkansas in NCAA super regional competition at Tempe, Ariz.

You have worked hard and been focused...we look forward to exciting times ahead for you ...

Much love,
Uncle Boo and Aunt Holly

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Well, that time has arrived...World Cup fever is grabbing the Brits (and most of the rest of the world by storm.

Although the games will not officially start until the weekend, there is now hourly coverage on Team England and all that this could possibly include. If you can picture the media frenzy for the two weeks leading up to the NFL Super Bowl, you ahve the mental image about right for this event - only difference, 3/4 of the world are following these games, not just one country.

For example, today's newsworthy story was the interesting (not) airport landing signalling the arrival of the English lads (yea, I know...been in the UK too long if I actually pulled that word out and used it in a sentence). Followed shortly after this about how the footballers' wives were not keen on the choice of the Englis team's secluded hotel by the English coach because there was nothing to do in the area, no shopping, etc. Yawn...!

Things should spice up significantly this weekend when England's first match is against...who else, but the USA. As is my custom, I always root for two teams in these types of international competitions, the US and my host country. In this case, England. I just did not expect the showdown to come so early in the games. Oh well!

Hard to believe this is the 3rd World Cup that has occurred since living abroad...with the first one in Korea when we lived in Seoul (remember that riveting Korean battle cry - "Be the Red"? was a big deal but I never understood it), followed by next World Cup which was held in Germany when we were living in Dusseldorf. No, I was never interested in relocating to South Africa, in case you were seeing a trend here.

So, go Teams USA and England. Either way, my team wins this weekend.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Felines of Marrakech

Somehow we always seem to snap the cutest photos of felines around the is our Marrakech photo album.

A very pregnant group of mother cats and their kittens.

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Kits, cats, sacks, and this one going to St. Ives?

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El Bahia baby!

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Raising a head up to check out the tourists.

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Is the kitten free with the purchase of the basket?

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Yea, call me a sucker....

El Bahia Palace

The creme de la creme of the Marrekech historical sites is the El Bahia Palace.

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This 19th-century palace, once home to a harem, is a marvelous display of painted wood, ceramics, and symmetrical gardens. Built by Sultan Moulay el Hassan I's notorious Grand Vizier Bou Ahmed, the palace was ransacked on Bou Ahmed's death, but you can still experience its layout and get a sense of its former beauty.

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Don't forget to look up at smooth arches, carved-cedar ceilings, tadlak (shiny marble) finishes, gibs (stucco plasterwork) cornices, and zouak painted ceilings.

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Fancy a room? Each one varies in size according to the importance of each wife or concubine. American writer Edith Wharton once stayed in the most favored wife's glorious private apartment.

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