·         Friday, 31 August 2007

Mark’s on the Road Again - Jeeping Home to Me!

Mark, and 399 other trainees, completed their AmeriCorps training somewhere near Atlanta, GA last night. 


Here’s the first road warrior report from Mark as he makes he way west in the tiny, old, ragtop Jeep Wrangler that once belonged to our son.  (Caleb bounced away lots of miles zig-zagging the USA in that same Jeep.  He lived in the desert so he often referred to the ragtop Jeep with no A/C as the “Hair Dryer”!)


Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2007 08:04:31 -0600
From: Mark
Subject: Trip report - 1

Here I am on the other side, riding with Eric the King and feeling just fine.  OK I am through Atlanta and I made pretty good time of it.  left about 6:50 and got through atlanta at 9:40.  Stopped for gas and to tighten up my side mirrors.  the highway speed kind of loosened them and I had to keep pushing the driver side one out so I could change lanes.  Thought I'd update and let you know.  Next message in a couple of hours.  Back to eating miles.  Think I'll continue the royal trip with a little Queen.




Excerpts from Trip Report 2 follows:

Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2007 12:00:19 -0600
From: Mark
Subject: trip report -  2


Here I sit in Alabama within sight of Mississippi gased and eating a turkey sandwich from Subway.  Travel is going well and I decided to check just how accurate my odometer is.  It seemed to me than I was not eating the miles I should be.  Sure enough those larger tires subtract almost 11% from my mileage which means I have been speeding when ever I go the Speed limit and there are police everywhere.  It also means I have better gas mileage than I thought I had.  tank one 14, tank two 20.  it seems like the jeep got better and faster on non SC gas.  Go figure.


It seems that Mississippi is only 150 miles across so unless the gas is much cheaper there I will not stop again until Louisiana.


…I always drive safely and now I will drive legally because I know the jeeps secret.  I am making good time but it will still be 30 hours of driving.  I want to be there.

… Next leg is the Gipsy Kings to keep it royal.  Tell the kids to drive safe, there are a lot of police on the road this weekend and tickets are never nice

I am going to drive some more but feel free to write because I will check in again soon.

Love Mark


While Mark is Away…

It is hard to focus when a spouse is far from home.  I spend my time here moving from odd task to odd task.  I feel in limbo. 


I am not a good lady in waiting.


I divert myself by sorting through all my clothing – garments that have been stored away for 3 years. 


I must assemble a suitable work wardrobe, so this is a start.  But, not only have the clothes been stored while we were in the Peace Corps, they were originally purchased for a different climate and for a younger me.  I find myself disposing of most of them – They will be off to the Salvation Army.


I do laundry, I iron, I putter about.  I cannot settle.


I work, in spurts, on a media mail project.  I spend too much time e-mailing.


I do not write.  I do not weave.  I did spend an hour in the hammock with a novel yesterday.


I do not eat.  I nibble.  I drink coffee.


I am half, not whole.


We have been happily together almost 24/7 all summer.  In our cultural and geographic isolation in Ukraine, we spent most of our time together.  Being apart seems very strange.


·         Thursday, 30 August 2007

Treat people as if they were what they ought to be,

 and you help them to become

what they are capable of being.

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This Property is an Official Backyard Habitat!

There is a sign prominently positioned near the entrance to the back yard.  It indicates that this property is an official wildlife habitat.  Even without the sign that is pretty clear.  Many species of birds visit each day.  The water in the Koi pond draws them of course and so do the diverse trees and shrubs shading this oasis.  There are small birdhouses and feeders everywhere.


As I sip my morning coffee, a pair of hummingbirds perform a small ballet right outside the sliding glass door.  They discover the feeder I put out last night.  They take turns sipping sweet water between their intricate aerial routines.  They are oblivious of me.


How tiny they are.  They jet about so confidently.  They are barely lager than Spidey (the hearty spider that resides in the motion sesor light outside the door).


Near the waterfall, a pair of large turtle doves shyly investigate bathing opportunities.  They take turns splashing in the water.  It is as if they are spelling one another.


Further away from the house, a flock of small, chattering birds flits off in rush.  They are quite social, all cheeping and peeping at once - So much to say and in such a hurry too.


A lizard skitters across the patio and pauses on a rock to give me the eye, as I step through the door and out into the world of nature. 


The New Mexico air is cool, the sky is bright.  The moon lingers overhead, even though morning is well underway.  I pull up a chair and linger too. 


·         Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Fortune Cookies …

The slip of paper in my fortune cookie at yesterday’s lunch says “ This is a prosperous time of life for you.”


I wholeheartedly agree.  I am thriving, flourishing, rich in all that matters…I am prospering.  Life is good.


In some cultures, people warn others not to share their joy in the abundance of life, least their fortunes take a turn for the worse.  But in my own religious training and the culture of my family, I have learned the great lessons of gratitude and joy.  If one is truly grateful for the good received, they will share their wealth, their joy.  And in so doing, be fit to receive more.


“A grateful heart a garden is, where there is always room, for every perfect godlike grace, to come to perfect bloom…” I sing, remembering my mother reciting the words of Mary Baker Eddy’s lovely song to me.


I sing more songs.


And now, I may even do a little dance.


Good Quote…

Happiness is inward, and not outward;

and so, it does not depend on what we have,

but on what we are.

- Henry Van Dyke



·         Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Can Openers…

Mark’s fancy, manual can opener put me in a dilemma.  I was trying to open a large coffee can, so I was feeling a bit desperate -  I want my morning coffee and I cannot make the can opener work.


I seem to have forgotten how to use this tool.


It troubles me to think I spent many years working on sophisticated avionics systems and wrangling tools, yet I can not engage this particular can opener. 


What an opportunity for humility.


What to do?  I dug through my handbag and found the old pocket can opener that originally came in a package of military K-rations we bought back in the 1970’s.  I used it to quickly open the other can of coffee that was on the pantry self.


Coffee is now brewed and I am sipping it.  For now the unopened can with the puzzling high-tech can opener jammed tightly onto the rim, remain on the kitchen counter.


Perhaps after a cup or two of steaming black coffee, I can resolve the dilemma.


If not, I am sure when my beloved spouse returns home later this week, he will be pretty amused at his helpless housewife.


·         Monday, 27 August 2007

For all that has been, thanks;

To all that will be, yes.

- Dag Hammarskjold

Mark is off to “Summer Camp”

The checklist for AmeriCorps initial training at the 4-H camp in GA is quite long and rather amusing.  Mark went down the list as he packed.  Bring earplugs, it says.  Earplugs - because it is a dormitory setting and likely to be noisy.  Bring an alarm clock to wake you on time.  I envision a dorm full of ear-plugged sleepers, snoring through the futile shrieks and beeps of myriad alarm clocks. 


I have experienced many packing lists in my adult life (Air Force Basic Training, Peace Corps, etc) and there are always amusing choices and contradictions.  Effective packing is a skill that incorporates some creativity and vision.  Traveling light is a delight - as much an attitude as a fact.  And maybe even a metaphor…


Getting There

We live in the state capital of NM, but the airport here is small, so air travelers must go to Albuquerque, about an hour south of here.  Rather than drive, Mark elected to take a shuttle service ($25).  This is great, but I have to rise in the chilly, pre-dawn hours to drive him to the designated pick-up spot downtown.


This is my first driving venture in our new hometown.  I have only driven about twice since Feb 2005.  I am grateful it is not rush hour!


Our big red pickup truck is not as obtrusive as it seemed when I drove around in Boston in my recruiting days when the truck was shiny and new.  City slickers there would turn and gape at the 4X4 transiting through the narrow streets.  Here in NM, trucks are a typical mode of transportation - working vehicles.


Wrangling through the myriad one-way streets is an opportunity to become familiar with the town. 


House-sitter Jim told us his technique for learning a new city.  He waits until about 3 AM when the streets are deserted and cruises through the town, making mental notes about landmarks.  


A Small Success and a Chance to Choose…

So many things are a challenge when you arrive in a new city or place.  Even with a common language, a move demands significant mental energy.  (I alternate between being so tired and being very stimulated!)


I navigate my way home, arrive at the gate to the property and click the gate-opening device.


I click again. 


I click it a third time. 


I engage the parking brake, get out of the truck and manually open the gate. 


I drive through the gate and attempt to use the clicker again.  Once I again, I have the opportunity (?) to get out of the truck and manually operate the gate. 


Small challenges can undermine confidence and/make one annoyed.  I choose to take a moment to reflect on the situation – and a paradigm shift occurs. 


I am grateful I knew how to manually operate the gate.  I walk back to the truck, feeling good about my resourcefulness.  I pause again and say another thank you for the calm, clear guidance that inspires us when we listen.


So, Mark is off at his orientation training and I am here, orienting myself back to life in the USA.


·         Sunday, 26 August 2007

The large spider that occupies the patio light is rather interesting to watch. 


Spidey holes up during the day, because he has an active night life.  As the sun slips away at day’s end, he pokes his head out of his “cave” and positions himself to greet guests to his web.  His home is cleverly situated to maximize the effects of the motion sensor.  All night long, he manipulates the light to attract unsuspecting insects.  He snares them with his lariat then binds them in silk for storage.  He already has quite a stash – perhaps he is stocking up on supplies, anticipating some arachnid feast day.  (September is the time for many festivals here in Santa Fe)


He is a large bodied spider of impressive proportions.  He is kind of scary really…threatening perhaps, but I reality, not a dangerous creature.  (Why are humans so likely to be terrorized by spiders?)  Spidey is large, but it is really his proximity to the patio door that makes me wish he would relocate.


I am not enamored of the idea of moving him and chemical warfare is not really an option (for me).  My prayerful hope is that he will find his rightful place.  Perhaps he finds having humans around rather disturbing too.


We shall see.


·         Saturday, 25 August 2007

Indian Drums and Chants Fill Our House

The local NPR station(s), much to our delight, reflects the local culture.  Right now that means exuberant Native American drums, bells and chants.  (A side note: people here seem to use the term Indian rather than Native American – as a newcomer here, I am curious about the protocol.)  I expect to hear Mexican music too.


I have missed NPR these past few years during our Ukrainian adventures, so I am grateful to hear the voices of my radio friends again.  When you relocate frequently, the continuity of programming NPR offers makes home seem like home, no matter where that current home is. 


Local affiliates tailor the programming to meet the needs and demands of the community, so there are always new delights as we learn the schedules and programming in our new locations.  In SC/NC, the stations featured many bluegrass and old-timey music programs – banjos, fiddles, dulcimers and the unique harmonies of that kind of music.  In Upper Michigan we heard music from Finland and Nordic places.  In Texas we heard Mariachi, Cojunto, and other forms f Mexican music.  Boston’s stations often played Celtic music.  San Francisco stations were very eclectic.


I enjoy the diversity.  Of course I look forward to hearing programs such as “This American Life” and “Fresh Air” as well as “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered”.  And “Prairie Home Companion”, which makes me a bit nostalgic for the home of my youth, on the edge of the prairie.  (I get flashbacks to Jello – if you ever lived there you will understand.)  “Click and Clack” and “Michael Feldman” and all the others…


Over the years, we have answered phones during the annual fundraising drive at most of the NPR stations where we have lived. 


Sipping a cup of coffee and listening to NPR really makes me feel at home.


·         Friday, 24 August 2007 – Ukrainian Constitution Day!

Thunder boomers, crackling lightening and winds though the trees – so much unexpected drama last night.  Before bed, I strolled out to a clear space near the labyrinth to view the light show dancing over the mountains SW of here. 


Long after I showered and climbed between my cheery yellow sheets and placed my head on my plump pillow, a loud crash resonated throughout the valley.  Mark leaped out of bed to catch a glimpse of the action through the bedroom window.  I lay quietly just listening.


Today We Should Have Internet (and a Land Line)!

I am waiting today.  It is almost 2PM and still no sign of the individual who will connect us to the world.  I am eager to collect several days of e-mail and to visit some local websites and to post updates to my journal. 


I am chomping at the bit because I am eager to explore Santa Fe, but I am trapped here waiting, waiting, waiting.  Somehow I cannot concentrate on tasks as I wait.  I have kind of puttered around, rater than moved forward on any one project.  And that is OK really.  Puttering is a pleasant preoccupation.


I am a little less patient than usual today, perhaps because we had to spend several hours yesterday, attempting to arrange for our US Postal Service mail delivery.  There is no mail box in evidence here.  Up the road there is a consolidated box.  We phoned the post office and went through the convoluted processes of voice mail answering myriad questions to get us to the correct agent.  In the end, we were directed to the post office. 


Our visit to the post office involved hours of waiting and then no clear answers.  The supervisor advised us that our delivery person will call today; so far, no call.  There will be a return trip to the post office to get a key and sign paperwork.


It seems that a routine action like this would be quite easy to complete.  Of course these annoyances do not reflect the local community.  We have moved frequently enough to know that bureaucracy is rampant across the USA.  (If we were in Ukraine, a chocolate bar might facilitate the process, but here in the USA, we just wait and wait and wait.)



We visited a Wal-Mart recently and as we left, loaded down with bags, a cheerful employee stopped us at the exit and asked to see our receipt.  We adjusted our bags so I could extract the receipt from Mark’s pocket and then handed it to the woman.  She glanced at it, highlighted the date and amount and handed it back.  


She stopped everyone exiting and each time marked the receipt and handed it back.


Just what is the point of this odd procedure?


·         Thursday, 23 August 2007

The Koi are a Joy…

What a pleasure to rise each morning, pour a cup of coffee and wander out to the visit the Koi.  They greet me with a fishy dance that probably just means “feed me, fed me, feed me” but I like to anthropomorphize their behavior - clearly they are happy to see ME.


I squat down and stroke several of the fish as they splash by, impatient for their morning meal.  I scatter a few handfuls of feed and watch them dine.


As I watch the antics of the fish, I can hear a neighbor’s horse neighing.  I also hear some goats bleating.  The wind rustles through the Aspen trees and the waterfall in the Koi pond babbles gently over the rocks. 


I glance across the yard.  Our small red portable picnic table and our colorful hammock look inviting under the trees.  I walk toward them, and pause to investigate the gnarled face carved into the tree near the patio.  The unique carving is actually made of plastic, but looks like part of the tree.  Boughs on either side of the wizened face reach up almost like arms.  I have a quick flash of the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz – the angry ones that reached up above their heads and gathered apples as ammunition against the resourceful scarecrow.  I smile.


I wander around the corner of the house, near the pottery studio.  A small lizard escorts me.  I focus my eyes on the purple mountains in the distance.  The scent of roses reaches me.  I take a few steps and choose a small blossom to enjoy on my desk; a perfumed reminder of my happy start to the day here in our pleasant temporary home.


A Rainbow Welcome.

Last night as we strolled across the church parking lot, a beautiful rainbow arched overhead, as if to welcome us. 


·         Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Off to Albuquerque

There is a commissary, a base exchange (BX) and a medical facility at Kirtland AFB in Albuquerque, about an hour south of here.  As an Ai Force retiree, I am happy to visit the base to take advantage of the benefits I have earned.  I am happy to see active duty people, goal-directed individuals, smiling, fit, cheerful and confident.  I am also happy to save money! 


Our past experiences tell us that a trip to the commissary may save us many $$ (I stock up on deli turkey and that alone pays for the gas!) but, there are other perks that come along with such visits.  Visiting military installations, you have a wonderful opportunity to meet motivated, proud young people.  And yes, we load up on staples at a significantly reduced price, but the real reason I persist in using my retiree benefits is to see these young soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines face to face.


We returned from Ukraine (Peace Corps) in mid-May.  We are in a new residence.  Stocking the larder will be fun (and pricey).  All the basics from salt and pepper to cleaning supplies and more…our receipt will be yard long and amount to about $300!  (I still reel at the price of things here in the USA!)


Later, when evening falls, I have the opportunity to go to Wednesday evening services at my church.  This will be my first visit here in Santa Fe.  Wednesday evening services in a Christian Science Church are about gratitude.  I have so much to be grateful for.


I am so glad to live in a community where I can go to church.


Missed Calls…

One of the problems of a bigger living space is that we miss cell phone calls.  The phones ring (yes we each have a phone), but by the time we respond and rocket around trying to find the phone that is ringing, the caller has given up and disconnected.  Sigh….


So, leave a message, or ring a while longer please! 8-)


Friday – we will have a local landline and phone number, a snail-mail box – and INTERNET!  8-)


·         Tuesday, 21 August 2007

I am “Home”…I am Happy

I wake from a deep sleep as the sun creeps into the bedroom window.  A cool breeze tempts me to roll over and sleep a bit longer.  It is quiet here.  When is the last time I slept so well?


I wake in a room surrounded by my own possessions.  I feel at home.


The past few months in the USA have been filled with plans and travels.  Even when we were in our SC bungalow, we did not really feel at home. 


We were also reeling from the reverse-culture shock that people seem to downplay.  Some people seem oblivious to this phenomenon.  Some Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) find a few counseling sessions useful for navigating life in the USA after 27 months abroad.


Peace Corps service is a bit deceptive.  It is not like touring.  As a PCV, people integrate with a community.  Often PCVs are isolated - If not geographically, psychologically.  Wise ones have learned to reach out…they know community s what makes the difference.


I loved my months in Ukraine – the warm people, our very cozy flat in Crimea, the rhythm of our life.  As we “decompress” here in our new surroundings, we are aware that the return to the USA is challenging, difficult…yes hard.  I wonder about our counterparts in our initial training group.  Have they stepped off the plane and simply resumed life as they knew it before they opted for a Peace Corps adventure?  Or are they astounded by the prices of everything?  Are they wondering why Americans focus so mush on shopping, consuming, decorating…?  Do they feel part of this culture?  Are they grieving the loss of the culture they left behind?


I adamantly believe that one of the largest lessons retuned PCVs (RPCVs) can share is that while America is a wonderful place, there are many things we can learn about living with people.  The word abundance takes on new dimensions…we speak of people, not things….


Here we are in our new home (not really our own – we are grateful to be  house sitting in a lovely 27 year old dome home, caring for the gardens, grounds and Koi ).  We feel as if we are starting over.  We remember how simple some things were in our tiny Ukrainian flat.  We talk abut how much our Ukrainian friends would love this beautiful setting we are in.  They would be joyful and would celebrate.  These people often seem pessimistic, wary, afraid of showing their feelings, suspicious….yet, they would invite their friends to this place to dink, to talk, to sing and to dance. 


I wish I could invite my Ukrainian friends and my PCV training group to come to Santa Fe, to relax and to enjoy a magical, mystical visit.


I often say, Life is good and life is short …Here in this wonderful magical place we will call home for some months ahead, life is good…and we hope it is not too short…but we will live, and dance and enjoy…and that may be my real Peace Corps legacy…just be happy, and grateful…dance, sing, love and live…


…Or, maybe this place really is magic… I am home and life really IS good.


·         Monday, 20 August 2007

One More E-Mail Post

We just finished a lovely afternoon visit/orientation with the owner's cousin.  They are great fun.  She read all my journals and was very pleased with our early efforts in the house.  ("You have flair!  I am glad!")  They coached us on some of the details about caring for the Koi and the gardens.  They are very nice people.


The air here is balmy, the sound of the waterfall and the breeze though the aspens is so soothing.  The sky is brilliant blue.  The beautiful purple mountains saw-tooth across the horizon.  It is lovely.


We have made our nest pretty cozy already. Most of the boxes are already unpacked.  The kitchen area is a delight - the island and counters are talavera blue and yellow tiles that remind us of our Spain days.  We have many blue and yellow dishes and punches of red so it looks as though we shopped to decorate the space.  There is a fireplace there. 


Mark has a loft area as his office and editing space.  I have a pleasant area for my desk (with another fireplace). 


After our one room living experiences, it is wonderful to have spaces devoted to specific functions.


The owners had such fun with their 2.5 acres.  The labyrinth is quite overgrown, but the Koi pond and waterfall is lovely.  There are many creative details.  You can feel the love that has gone into this space.


We made a quick trip to Trader Jack's (groceries – FYI: $2 Buck Chuck is $3 bucks in Santa Fe!  Tee hee hee!)  and Mark stopped at his work site to drop off papers.  It was fun to meet some of the Habitat staff.


On the negative side, our delightful adventure with Sprint Broadband has come to a screaming halt.  It was great while we had it!  Service in beautiful Santa Fe is negligible...It is worse than dial-up.  I tried for hours last night to receive and failed.  I cannot access the website.  Mark wet to the Sprint office and they told him that the service will (may) be available sometime in 2008.  They also indicated that the salesperson on the phone probably found it easier to lie since he was not working face to face with him. 


Sooo, we will explore other options for our Internet access....  We will mail this and collect our e-mail at the rest stop down the road - Internet access there 24/7!


We are happy and excited about the adventures here.  It is wonderful to have a real sense of home again.  More later...


Life is good....



On a Beautiful Monday Afternoon in Santa Fe


We are so Grateful for this Wonderful Opportunity.

This house sitting arrangement allows us to do AmeriCorps/VISTA service.  We are excited about doing some garden work here n the grounds too. 


·         Sunday, 19 August, 2007

E-Mail from Santa Fe

Well, we have arrived and are unloading the trailer.  We spent Saturday night about 150 miles from here after a long day.  We got up early and found the remaining part of the trip was not a climb as we thought it would be!   The road was wonderful and not a climb at all!   Yay!   It was a beautiful dive in the early morning sun - sunflowers border the road and the mesas and mountains create a beautiful vista.


We were here by 0830.


The Koi were happy to see us arrive, perhaps because we had food.  We wandered around the garden and then started unloading.  This afternoon there is a BBQ/Potluck we are supposed to attend so I will write later ad provide some details on the place we will call home for a while.  I can tell you, we will enjoy this old hippie dome....


Life is good...



On a Bright Sunday Morning in Beautiful Santa Fe


·         Saturday, 18 August 2007

More E-Mail Notes from the Highway

We are (finally!)  in Oklahoma City now  (almost 11 AM)- we are running behind by about four hours which we lost yesterday.  We ended up stopping at a motel near the OK border (around 7 PM).  We started driving late today - around 7 AM.  Yesterday we were on the road by 0430! 

It is cooler today and there is cloud cover. 

We passed an official exit to Lotahwatah  (lotta water) and a place called Toad Suck Park...Listening to NPR and wrestling with lots of road repairs.  Mark is amiable and a capable driver. 


Another Unexpected Night in a Motel

After a very long day, we elected to stop for the night at Santa Rosa, NM.  We re only about 120 or so miles from our destinations, but far to tired to go on.  We have been truck-bound for more than twelve hours already.  But, the biggest reason for stopping is that we do not know how steep the climb will be.  Santa Fe is about 7,000 feet.  There are no towns on the last stretch of the highway from Cline’s Corner to Santa Fe. Crawling up a lonely mountain road on a Saturday night when you are tired and overloaded seems like a bad idea.


Much of the trip today has been a long slow climb.  The maps do not indicate elevations nor do the city signs. 


So, rather than push on we will sleep well in air conditioned comfort and star the last leg of the journey in the cool early morning hours.


Note: My wonderful Sprint Mobile Broadband does not seem to work here in the Land of Enchantment. 


·         Friday 19 August 2007

We Were on the Road by 0527

About an hour into the trip we realized that we had not changed our alarm clock so we actually started our travel day at 0427.  As the day unfolded, we were quite glad we had.  We really underestimated how slow the going would be on this leg of the journey.


We moved slowly west sans A/C since we did not want to deprive the truck of any of its power.  It was like in the olden days – we had the windows wide open and we had the radio turned up loud.  The local station played only songs from 1972, so we knew all the words and sang enthusiastically.  (Mark was a DJ back in 1972!)


E-Mail Notes from the Highway
It is about 10 AM.  We just gassed up at the Love's Truck Stop in Memphis.  I love truck stops...

The Elvis groupies are out and about - Graceland is probably crowded.  The local NPR station is interviewing a guy with an MA in Southern culture who is talking about how to make a greasy gravy with tomatoes to put on biscuits made of lard.  Now he is talking about boilin' and frying pickled pigs lips (sold at the local WalMart).  Yum.  ????

The heat index here is projected for 105 degrees...we turn off the A/C occasionally because we are pulling a heavy load.  Mileage - don't ask.  (About 10 mpg.)

WE had a great time with Lynn and Freddy and the delightful dog pack.  Family and fined Bob gathered last night to get a look at us...and to eat Freddy's grilled chicken and Lynn's chocolate brownies.  (Thanks for the hospitality Lynn and Freddy)

We hit the road in the pre-dawn hours and listened to a radio station playing music from the year 1972 (the year our daughter was born) so we sang along as we crawled across Alabama on our way west. Destination for tonight: Oklahoma City.   Life is good.  More later no doubt.

From the Road
Read my Updated Journal: www.pulverpages.com



·         Thursday, 16 August 2007

We Sleep Under Star Filled Skies.

I am up, though the three dogs, Lynn and Mark still sleep so the house is quiet.  Freddy has gone off to make the money.  I saw him leave in his lovingly camouflaged truck that he jokingly calls a “chick magnet”.


Last night Mark and Lynn worked on a jigsaw puzzle while I dozed through an old Spenser Tracy, Elizabeth Taylor film.  The dogs lounged around us, occasionally poking wet noses against bare skin to remind us of their presence.


Around midnight we called it a day.  Mark and I slept under a star covered ceiling next to one of Lynn’s large collection of big plants.  The ceiling fan sounds like a summer breeze and wafts through the branches of the plant.  The total effect makes me feel as if we are actually outdoors. 


Of course the reality of outdoors on an Alabama summer night is not nearly as pleasant as the ambience of this cozy guest room.  One of Freddy’s art pieces adds to the illusion of being outside.  The huge panel that covers most of two walls depicts a night time cityscape.  Under the soft glow of a strategically placed black light, the stars above and the painted window of the sky scrapes glow softly.  The effect is lovely.


I wake early and wander into the kitchen.  I pause for a few moments to investigate the little red wagon filled with typically delightful gifts from Lynn.  She presented this offering yesterday, but in the stupor imposed by hours of stressful travel; I was not very responsive then.  This morning I eagerly poke through the loot.  It feels like Christmas morning before the parents get up!


The wagon is piled with fun books, photo albums and candles.  I see a cozy afghan and a bottle of wine (Trader Joe’s $2 Buck Chuck!”).  In the front of the wagon is a plant I entrusted to my sister-in-law when we headed off to Ukraine 2 and a half years ago.  It has thrived and will be especially lovely in our new setting in Santa Fe.  The healthy philodendron is housed in a pot shaped like a cowboy boot.  Lynn has found a couple other small cowboy boots which will enhance the original and make a cozy, clever scene in our new home.


The gifts are mostly Dollar Store finds, but sister-in-law-Lynn has a real knack for selecting small things that show insight into the mind and heat of the lucky recipient. 


This pile of delights was originally intended as a care package for us.  Lynn and Freddy wanted to mail it to Ukraine, but the actual mailing was delayed.  The dogs discovered the stash and consumed the cookies and candy that were part of the original gift.  And then somehow the gift box just never got to the post office.  Mailing this collection would have set them back a bundle!  And the warm thoughts behind it are greatly appreciated now.


Time to find some coffee, on this hot, sticky morning in drought-ridden Alabama.


Meanwhile Back in South Carolina…

Strider, the Conure that now helps with house sitting our bungalow back in SC, had his first bath.


Apparently he has some duck genes in his background!  Bird was riding on Jim’s shoulder as Jim filled the water dish.  At the sight of the running tap water, bird skittered down Jim’s arm and splashed under the water.


I think there is nothing quite as nice as a shower and apparently Strider agrees.


·         Wednesday, 15 August 2007

We begin our Final Road (Approx 1500 Miles) Trip West…SC-NM

Our big red trailer is jam packed and so is the bed of the pick-up truck.  We are NOT traveling light!  The back seat of Dakota Jack’s extended cab is piled with bags, books, straw hats.  (Dakota Jack is our happy red Dodge pick-em-up truck).  I tap away on my laptop, enjoying the new Sprint Mobile Broadband which allows us to access the internet and e-mail almost everywhere.  Mark has the radio tuned to loud rock and roll. 


Engrossed with my laptop, I am pretty much oblivious to what is going on around me.  This is a good thing since the truck is working pretty hard to climb the mountains.  We labor along slowly.  Vehicles behind us are probably not too happy. 


It is hot.  Alabama, where we are as I tap out this post, has been experiencing drought all summer and lately temperatures have been triple digit for several weeks.  So as we crawl along, sweat rolls down our faces.  I turn off the AC when we limb to give the truck a small break from all the demands we are putting on it.


Going up is stressful, but I find going down worse.  I see the yellow signs that indicate the grade of the road and literally look away.  I prefer not to know.  If there is an emergency brake lane for trucks, I choose to think about something else.  No, I am not one of those people who enjoys sailing down the mountain, dancing around the curves and oohing and aahing about the vista. 


I remember our mother’s response to such roads.  In those pre-seatbelt years, she would sometimes crouch on the floor of the car when we found ourselves in mountains.  She did not even like to navigate on hills.  Perhaps some of this aversion is because we really are flatlanders.  My roots are in Northwest Iowa.


My mind turns to the pioneers who went west so many years ago, before laptops, mobile phones, A/C, and all the other wonders of the world were available.  In their horse-drawn wagons they struggled up and down these mountains.  As the trail became more challenging and the weather became bad, they would be forced to abandon their family treasures along the roadside and proceed without them. 


Our truck is laden with most of our worldly goods.  But at least when we arrive in Santa Fe, there will be a Target store, etc, instead of wilderness.  And our journey will not stretch out for moths and months.  We should be in Santa Fe by the weekend.


We had a duct tape moment earlier in the day.

We were only about an hour into the trip when I glanced in the side mirror and saw something flapping in the breeze.  We stopped to investigate and discovered that three of the metal panels had disappeared!  I try to imagine how the people in vehicles behind us must have felt when the tin-skin went flying by them.


Ever resourceful, Mark pulled out the duct tape (the same roll we took with us to Ukraine – who travels without duct tape?!).  He quickly made emergency repairs and we resumed our trip.  Not an auspicious start, but still I took a moment to share my gratitude with God.  When things go awry, my spouse knows what to do.


·         Monday,13 August 2007

Strider and his big blue house have taken up residence in our front room.

What a happy little creature this bird is.  And, he makes us all happy. 


He skitters back and forth on is perch doing a kind of funny sailor’s hornpipe as we stand round admiring him.  He picks up a goober (a peanut) and holds it with his leg while he uses his beak to pry open the shell.  Later, when he tires of his cage-top playground, he rappels down the front of the cage and climbs back inside.  He occupies himself happily with his bell. 


Strider has been recovering from a broken wing.  He is fine now, but he will never fly.  He still tries to though and that is hard to watch.


He has learned to adopt quite well and already is eager to climb up on Jim’s shoulder (or mine) where he squawks and chatters as he gets a tour of the house.  His tiny bright eyes are intelligent and project humor.  I cannot look at him without smiling.


Lucky Jim.  Lucky Strider.


·         Sunday, 12 August 2007

"All calculations based on experience elsewhere fail in New Mexico."

 - Lew Wallace

I have run across this rather unlikely quote several times as I endeavor to learn more abut the culture of the community we will soon call home. 


What does it really mean? 


Is the Land of Enchantment, which is what New Mexicans have written on their license plates, an enigma or are the people spontaneous or simply unwilling to be pegged?  Santa Fe also has a slogan: Santa Fe, the City Different!  Not exactly clear is it?


I think we will love this place.


The trip begins on Wednesday…


·         Saturday, 11 August 2007

Bird Brains…

House sitter Jim talks about birds all the time.  He wants to get one, but I think he is afraid to give his heart away.


When he lapses into his frequent tales of happy birds who were once part of his life, I listen respectfully - for a while.  Then, of course, I say, “Let’s go to the pet store and get a bird for you!”


Then begins the usual over-the-hill-hippie tap dance and the long, lame list of why poor Jim cannot have a bird at this time in his lonely life.  I sort of tune it out - respectfully of course.  I have heard this script often. 


I have little patience with people who labor too long over their decisions.  This is not to say I am impulsive or capable of making a big leap  without carefully considering consequences (how many wasted years did I waiver over the idea of joining the Air Force, which, turned out to be a wonderful career and a window on a new world for me???  But I digress).


One thing I have learned: life is short. 


It is good to follow ideas that bring you joy.


Life is about reaching out, taking a happy risk, leading with your heart when the time is right.


And the time is right for House sitter Jim to get his bird.


That’s how we found ourselves at the local pet store with parrots on our shoulders.  We did pirate imitations and fed crackers to the birds.  We laughed away the hours on this fine Saturday afternoon. 


I is good to see Jim smiling from his heart.


And yes, Jim laid claim to a shy Nanday Conure who really needs a loving home.  I can’t wait till Monday when we can pick him up!


And soon House-sitter Jim will be sharing tales with me about the antics of his new bid pal.  Won’t that be nice?


·         Friday, 10 August 2007

At 5 PM & the Temperature Outside is 113 Degrees!

The past week I find myself thinking about dessert life: Baghdad, Phoenix, etc.  It is unusual for temperatures here in SC to be over 100 degrees.  All week the city has been an oven.


How nice it would be to be a happy Koi, swimming in a cool pond…


Very soon this SC heat will just be a memory!


·         Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Koi Ponds…Notes from a Future Koi Mistress…

We will be caring for Koi ponds when we arrive in Santa Fe.  This is part of a house sitting gig and it suits me just fine.  I love creatures large and small.  And, over the years, we have raised turtles and goldfish (and other water creatures, both reptiles and amphibians) but Koi are a new adventure for us.  I think we will like it and will be well suited for caring for these lovely watery creatures.


Koi Pond in Santa FeKoi are Japanese fish.  In fact, they are the national fish of Japan.  But, in the end, they are actually carp…fancy carp, but carp, nonetheless.   They are NOT indigenous to Japan.  In fact, they were introduced by the Chinese.   (These lovely fish come from the Aral Sea, the Black Sea and other locations.)


It was love at first site for the Japanese.  The emperors were fascinated by these delightful creatures and had Koi in their ponds back as far as 200 AD.


Koi are similar to goldfish but there are differences.  Koi have barbells on their upper lips.


Koi really became part of life in Japan back in the 1800’s when farmers in the mountainous Niigata district introduced them into their rice paddies.  These fancy Carp were part f the diet back then. 


Now Koi lead a life f luxury and are valued for their beauty, longevity and heir ability to bond with people.


You can bond with a Koi - scratch its nose and talk to it about your daily challenges as you feed it each evening. 


It will be a joy to care for these watery creatures.


·         Tuesday, 7 August 2007

I Have a Santa Fe Phone Number Now!

Our travel plans dominate my life these days.  I am eager to be on the road.  I am eager to break out of this cocoon and fly. 


I look at my shiny new cell phone and it makes me happy to know that it has a 505 area code. 


Days drag on uneventfully here.  The temperatures are record high – well over 100 degrees.  We stay indoors in a sterile air conditioned womb.  Outside cicadas drone.  The air is still.


We are just waiting to leave.


·         Monday, 6 August 2007

We Paint the Hallway…

The hallway that connects the front of the house to the back door is grubby, dingy, in need of paint.  We spend a few hours and brighten up the walls with a barely-yellow paint.


Our waiting days are filled with such activities. 


I am eager for something that engages my brain.


I do some work on the Media Mail campaign and work on preparing the shoe I am mailing to Ukraine.  I answer e-mail about the International Art Festival in Santa Fe.  I print details on how to become a substitute teacher in Santa Fe.


The days seem long. 


It is very hot outside.  My senses seem dulled.


·         Sunday, 5 August 2007

Our House-Sitting Gig…

I am so grateful to have a place to say when we arrive in Santa Fe.  Mark spent a long time on the telephone talking to our point of contact about our new digs. 


We will house sit for some out of state homeowners who want to sell their house.  Their home is considered eccentric, but the description sounds quite charming to me.  Among other enticing details, there is a fish pond stocked with Koi!


Accepting this wonderful arrangement means we need to arrive in Santa Fe a bit sooner than planned. 


I have become restless so the imminent move and the firming up of our housing situation is a relief.  Life is good.


·         Saturday, 4 August 2007

Yard Sale Tradition…

Part of our yard sale tradition is to dine out at the end.  It is kind of reward for doing all the dirty work and for getting up so early.


Today the temperatures were close to 100 degrees and the humidity drained us.  When the sale was over, we trekked off to Salvation Army to deposit the stuff that remained.  Some boxes went curbside for those people who take pleasure in finding trash they can re-invent.  Today's proceed will contribute to lunch and margaritas on the patio of the local Mexican restaurant, where we can enjoy the breeze!


We got a call last night that confirmed our house sitting "gig" in Santa Fe.  The house is on 2.7 acres (in town) and has a Koi pond, lots of aspens, a pond, a dome, a pottery (empty I think) studio, an overgrown labyrinth...no furniture.  The rather eccentric house is for sale (and has been for about 2 years), so our stay will be indefinite.    The owners are in another state and want reliable tenants to care for their fish.  It is a great relief to have our housing arrangements fulfilled so happily.


The housing opportunity means we must pack up and head west a few weeks sooner than anticipated.  But what a joy to have a home waiting for us 


·         Friday, 3 August 2007

No Early Birds, Please!

This time, I did not include this statement in my ad.  When you host a yard sale, there are always early bids who show up and think it is OK to come early.  Posting that statement is a waste of time.


I am a rule follower (most of the time).  The early birds show up and want first dibs on things.  And they want to quibble.  It takes strength f character to stay calm. 


I always suggest they simply take a walk.  (I did not say take a hike…) I tell them, come back when it is 7 AM.


Our house sitter is NOT a morning kind of guy.  This is hard on him.  His bedroom adjoins the living room and the window overlooks the porch.  Maybe he should be the one to deal with the inevitable early birds.  He may not be as gracious as I.


I Survived Day One!

The flurry of activity at opening time was intense and traffic was steady throughout the day.  By days end, we had racked up enough change to pay for our gas for the trip to Santa Fe and also to splurge of delivery pizza for dinner!  (Rather surprising since most items went for 50 cents!) 


That princely sum does not count the money for al the books we sold.  We decided, just before sale time, to ask people to deposit a donation (25 cents or more) in a special can.  The money from the book sale will go toward sending the shoes to Ukraine!  (See my earlier post regarding the shoes). 


I made several posters, including photos of the kids who will benefit, and posted them strategically.  People ere very receptive 


This activity stimulated many interesting conversations about how people live their lives.  The quality of interactions at this yard sale was outstanding.  I finished the day stimulated.

Books f


·         Thursday, 2 August 2007

Starting Each Day on my Own…

I really like to have some quiet morning time to just spill all my thoughts out into this journal.  But it just is not happening. 


I have resumed my morning walk though.  At least I get to think my thoughts!  Getting them on paper is another matter.


I spring from bed most mornings, throw on my walking clothes and stride off.    I walk and think and come home motivated and filled with gratitude for all the beauty and joy life offers.  Morning coffee and a bowl of cereal come next.  I browse through the local newspaper for a few minutes and then check my e-mail. 


By then, our house sitter is usually stumbling down the hall and my spouse is up and ready to get started.  The opportunities to write are quickly usurped by other subtle demands.  All my inspiration flies from my head.


Still, this is a time of regeneration. 


The morning walk is prime time for observing the quiet things that go on.  I watch people starting their day.  I greet the trash collectors.  I see geese, rabbits, and an occasional raccoon or skunk. The early risers nod and say hello.  My mind daces with activity. 


I pray.  I count my blessings.  I adjust my thinking.


My evening walking regime includes my spouse.  Sometimes the momentum of the walk facilitates conversation, and other times it is just nice to walk quietly, with no demands. 


There is something inexplicably companionable about walking side-by-side with my spouse.  Words are not important.


The past few years of teamwork in Ukraine have taught us a lot about one another.  Living in one room with another individual provides quite an opportunity to lean about that individual.


Dealing with challenges (unexpected days with no water, or electricity, etc) teaches one to cope, but these challenges also allow one the opportunity to observe their partner in action.  Do they stay gracious calm or at least have a sense of humor?  Mine does and for that I am grateful.


One of my reality shocks on my return to the USA is the amount of whining I here.  At least, I perceive it as whining. 


People here, do not see t spend much time doing anything either…there is a consumer bias…what happened to real hobbies and family time? 


Our Yard Sale Begins Tomorrow

We have hundreds of books piled in the living room.  We are asking for a mere quarter each.  The money will go to help buy shoes for needy children in Kerch (Crimea) Ukraine. 


Mark and I bought about 25 pairs of discounted shoes from Wal-Mart and K-Mart.  (Only 3-7 dollars a pair for good shoes! Even with postage this is a deal!)  We will mail them off to our friend N. at the Beneficial Foundation.  She will share the shoes with kids who need them.  Yes, there really are kids who NEED shoes. 


Most everything else at the sale is priced at 50 cent.  Our house sitter chafes at this…my philosophy of yard sales is to simply pass on unused items from my home to someone else’s home where they may find some joy in the new item.  It is not about the money. 


The whole thing is kind of a social event for me frankly.


I always have a yard sale before we move and usually I have another, shortly after I get settled into the new location.  The first sale allows me to reduce the amount of redundant stuff I haul off to the new place.  The second sale is more about eliminating stuff that just does not work in the new place.  But that second sale also offers a chance to get acquainted with my new neighbors.  And it is fun.


Kerch Kid Kerch Kid in Fur Hat  Kerch Kid in School

Kids in Kerch who really need shoes!  Aren’t they cute?


Shoes for Kerch KidsHere are some of the shoes we purchased and will mail to Kerch.  The stuffed tigers will go too. 


The other photo shows some of the books at the yard sale…we are encouraging people to donate to help with our shoe project. 


Book Sale Books for Shoes for Kerch Kids Project This pile of books is part of our yard sale collection – we purge our shelves regularly.  We would love to mail books to the Kerch Library in Ukraine or to CALEB Library Project in Malawi, but the recent changes to the US Postal Service make it far too expensive to send print materials these days.  The price has almost quadrupled.  (m-bags@yahoogroups.com is a discussion and action group working to reinstate reasonable surface mail rates for people like us)









FYI: If you want to read about our initial Peace Corps adventures, start with January 2005 - that’s when we received our invitation to Ukraine!  We returned to the USA in May 2007. 

Now we are on to AmeriCorps/VISTA adventures in the USA!

Life is good!