Saturday, November 28, 2009

Julie & Julia

I just finished reading the book, Julie & Julia, and I'm so jealous of its author that I feel like giving up writing forever. You'd think I would find her story inspiring. She started out with a blog, I have a blog. She's funny, I'm funny. She came up with an unusual subject for her blog- to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year and I...well, there it is. I don't have any unusual ideas.

I considered working my way through The Bartender's Bible: 1001 Mixed Drinks in a year and blogging about it, but I'm not sure they'd let me blog in rehab, where I expect I'd wind up.

Julie Powell started with a blog, which became a book, which became a movie starring Meryl Freakin' Streep! (Julie wouldn't have said "freakin'", by the way.) Granted, Julie is smarter than I am and has a husband who tolerated a messy house while she worked on her project. My husband would divorce me before he'd tolerate a messy house. Seriously.

*sigh* I don't expect, or even need, that kind of success. But i would like to be able to entertain readers on a regular basis and make a little money at it, too. I used to do that, you know. Friends and family stop telling you to get off the computer when your writing generates cash. If all you do is write on a blog they tend to shake their heads and worry about you.

Yeah, I slipped in a little dig. That's how Julie's book is making me feel today. Bitter. And a little hungry.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


On September 23, 2008, Dorothy, a female chimpanzee in her late 40s, died of congestive heart failure. A maternal and beloved figure, Dorothy spent eight years at Cameroon’s Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center, which houses and rehabilitates chimps victimized by habitat loss and the illegal African bushmeat trade.

After a hunter killed her mother, Dorothy was sold as a “mascot” to an amusement park in Cameroon. For the next 25 years, she was tethered to the ground by a chain around her neck, taunted, teased, and taught to drink beer and smoke cigarettes for sport. In May 2000, Dorothy—obese from poor diet and lack of exercise—was rescued and relocated along with ten other primates. As her health improved, her deep kindness surfaced. She mothered an orphaned chimp named Bouboule and became a close friend to many others, including Jacky, the group’s alpha male, and Nama, another amusement-park refugee.

Szczupider, who had been a volunteer at the center, told me: “Her presence, and loss, was palpable, and resonated throughout the group. The management at Sanaga-Yong opted to let Dorothy's chimpanzee family witness her burial, so that perhaps they would understand, in their own capacity, that Dorothy would not return. Some chimps displayed aggression while others barked in frustration, but perhaps the most stunning reaction was a recurring, almost tangible silence. If one knows chimpanzees, then one knows that [they] are not [usually] silent creatures."

The Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center was founded in 1999 by veterinarian Sheri Speede (pictured at right, cradling Dorothy’s head; at left is center employee Assou Felix). Operated by IDA-Africa, an NGO, it’s home to 62 chimps who reside in spacious, forested enclosures.

Szczupider had submitted the photograph to “Your Shot,” a magazine feature that encourages readers to send in pictures they have taken. The best are published on the website and in the magazine.

—Jeremy Berlin

Monday, October 26, 2009


Now that the kids are out of the house, it's my turn to focus on what's important to me. I find this song inspiring as I set out to be more than someone's mom, someone's wife.

Sometimes, I feel the fear of
uncertainty stinging clear.
And I can't help but ask
myself how much I'll let the fear
take the wheel and steer.

It's driven me before and it seems to have a faint,
haunting mass appeal.
But lately I'm beginning to find that I,
should be the one behind the wheel.

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there,
with open arms and open eyes, yeah.
Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there,
I'll be there....

So if I decide to waiver my
chance to be one of the hive
Will I choose water over wine
and hold my own and drive?

It's driven me before, and it seems to be the way
that everyone else gets around,
But lately I'm beginning to find that
When I drive myself my light is found.

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there,
with open arms and open eyes, yeah.
Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there,
I'll be there....

Would you choose water over wine,
hold the wheel and drive...

Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there,
with open arms and open eyes, yeah.
Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there,
I'll be there....

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Virginia is For Lovers

About two years ago, Jake took off for his ill-fated attempt at living on his own in Virginia. Friends of his from high school (Mia, Kevin and Tim) were renting a house in Lynchburg and told him they had an extra room that had his name on it. He went for it.

The reason they all wound up in Virginia in the first place was because Mia had gotten a scholarship to Randolph College. Her boyfriend, Kevin moved up there to be near her and brought along his friend, Tim.

Just weeks after Jake arrived, two guys with guns walked into the living room and demanded money. Tim was shot in the arm and a gun was put in Jake's mouth. Kevin, who had been upstairs sleeping, called the police. In the confusion, Jake, Tim and Kevin managed to run away. The gunman is in jail now.

I don't believe any of the "boys" realized what a dangerous neighborhood they had moved into. Traumatized, they packed up their belongings and returned to Texas where Mia, Kevin and Jake found another house to share.

This past summer, Mia's best friend from Randolph College came for a visit. Her name is Yifei (E-fay). She planned to stay for a couple of months and take some courses at the community college. Jake and Yifei had met before in Virginia and as the days went by in the house they all shared they became a couple.

Yifei has been good for him. She wants him to get serious about his life, quit doing those things that are harmful to his health, go back to school and get a better job. She loves him. And he wants to be a better person because of her.

Late August when it was time for Yifei to return to school in Virginia, Jake went with her to help her get settled. Once there, he remembered how much he liked the area and how much better he felt in that climate. He didn't need his allergy medication or anything else that he had been taking in Texas.

He called me almost daily and I could hear in his voice how happy he was. Finally, I suggested he think about staying. He was planning to move out of Kevin's house anyway and we had been discouraged about the cost of an apartment for him in our area.

Jake did some checking and found that apartments across from Yifei's college were almost half the cost of apartments near us and they included one benefit he couldn't get in Texas- Yifei. Suffice it to say, he decided to make the move.

Jake flew home and packed all of his belongings in a U-Haul hitched to his truck. He asked me if I could ride along to help him with the driving and with the new apartment.

The drive took twenty hours. We stopped at a hotel one night along the way. It wasn't bad at all. Turns out, we like the same kind of music and he even allowed me to sing along (when he was asleep!). We had some interesting conversations about how both of us are heading into a new phase of our lives. I knew I would be giving him advice on the road, but I never expected him to give me some, too.

We both enjoyed the fall foliage we got to see as we traveled up north:

Finally, we pulled into the apartment complex:

Yifei walked over from her dorm.

It's a lovely, quiet complex about a block from Yifei's college. We unloaded everything and set up the furniture:

Yifei and Jake made a fantastic Chinese meal for our first dinner in the apartment:

And then the most shocking thing happened. Jake helped clean up!

I'm told the apartment looks completely different already. I'll post some photos when i get them.

The following day, I got a tour of the campus:

During our long drive to Virginia, I was aware that I had to leave Jake with some good advice. We talked in depth about his future, but I wanted one good line to leave him with. So when I hugged him goodbye I said, "She wants to help you have a better future. Let her."

That was OK, don't you think? Then just for good measure, I hugged Yifei and said, "You're the best thing that ever happened to him."

Fingers crossed.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sarastro Restaurant London

One evening last spring, as we sat in the bleachers watching our sons play soccer, I mentioned to the other parents that we were planning to celebrate our wedding anniversary in London. One couple (Chris and Barb) was preparing for a move there and another couple (Gaynor and Mike)was FROM the London area.

Gaynor recommended an interesting restaurant in the theater district that's advertised as, "The show after the show." It looks like a theater inside, complete with box seats set up for dining.

In September, while making plans to get together with Chris and Barb in London, we decided to check out Gaynor's suggestion.

We sat at a long table in the middle of the floor. The food was good, but the real draw is the atmosphere.

(Look at the women peeking out from their box seats!)

Live music erupted at one point (which seemed to make some people uncomfortable. haha!) :

And what we assume was a bridal party flounced in and sat down next to us.

We had a nice time! I'm glad we checked it out.

After dinner, we strolled around the city, eventually walking over The Thames on a footbridge:

It was very romantic. Too bad I was with my husband. (That's a joke!! A joke, I say!!)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Changing Of The Guard (the non-boring version!)

Our second day in London we decided to get an overview of the city on one of those double-decker bus tours.

We went about two stops when it was announced that if we wanted to see the changing of the guards, we needed to get off the bus and take a walking tour (included in our ticket, thank you very much!).

I talked Greg into getting off, even though the original plan was to ride the bus all the way around in its big circle. The tour guide gave us a brief description of what we would be doing and told us it would take about an hour and a half. That would screw up what we had planned for the day so I suggested to Greg that we ride the bus, get off at Buckingham Palace and watch whatever would transpire. Why not?

So Greg asked the guide if we could do that and he said, "Sure. If you want to be pressed up against the gates and come away wondering why you even bothered, you can do that. Or you can stick with me and get some rare views. I know where to go! I've been doing this for nine years."


He walked our group from one landmark to another while we followed the British flag he waved high in the air. He was an entertaining fellow- he amused himself as much as he did the rest of us.

Finally, he told us it was time to prepare for the changing of the guard. "Now, here's what's gonna happen. I'm going to tell you where to stand and I'm gonna tell you when it's time to move on. Follow my flag! Stick with me- whatever happens, stick with me! Things are gonna move fast!"

He lined us up on the sidewalk, across from the Friary Court on the side of St James's Palace. He told us not to stand in the street or he'd be sent to the tower! He said that we'd get to see the guards coming OFF duty and hear the band.

Our guide continued, "Look at us! We're the first ones here! We have the best view. And here comes another tour. You know what they are? NOT first! hahahaha!!"

We had to be respectfully quiet as the guards marched out, so we didn't get an explanation as to what was going on. But I looked it up later:

A detachment of the ‘Old Guard’ forms up there in Friary Court at 11:00am for an inspection by the Captain of The Queen’s Guard.

Before the band played, our guide quietly told us, "Now, here's what's going to happen. We'll hear a song. Everyone else will stand around to applaud. But not us! We're going to high-tail it THAT way. We're going to stand in front of the gates and get a view of the band walking towards us. You'll snap a photo! Wicked!! hahahahaha!!"

click on the arrow (you might have to click it twice):

And, just as he explained, when the song ended, we ran, following his flag. Then I took this "wicked" shot:

We were then told that as the band passed, we were going to walk along beside them while all the other saps waited for them to pass and then walked BEHIND them.

click on the arrow:

This contingent then makes its way down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace at approximately 11:15 am preceded by a Regimental Band or Corps of Drums.The other half of the Old Guard is already on duty at Buckingham Palace and is inspected whilst awaiting the arrival of the St. James’s Palace detachment.

"Follow the flag!! Follow the flag!! Whatever happens, follow the flag!"

We followed that flag all the way to Buckingham Palace. I couldn't believe the size of the crowd there:

(Look for the flag!)

People were sitting on monuments and fountains:

The St. James’s detachment enters the Palace Forecourt via the South Centre Gate (left of centre facing the Palace) and takes up position beside the Buckingham Palace detachment on the left hand side of the forecourt. Now complete, the Old Guard awaits the arrival of the incoming ‘New Guard’ from Wellington Barracks situated at the Buckingham Palace end of Birdcage Walk.

OK, at this point, I'm a bit confused. My photos don't jibe with the description above. Since you probably don't care anyway (haha) I'll just post my remaining photos:

After saluting the Colour, the New Guard departs from Wellington Barracks preceded by the Regimental Band.

We were lined up once again on the curb and watched as this band walked by:

click on the arrow

That's the last thing we saw. I'm assuming something happened in the courtyard at Buckingham Palace after everyone marched through those big gates, but we didn't see it. Our tour guide says it's hard to see from outside the gate, no matter where you stand.

Even though I didn't have a clue what was happening at the time, chasing that flag was pretty darned fun! (No, I don't know why, it just was!)

Don't feel obligated to read on, but if you're interested in the rest of the ceremony, here it is:

The New Guard enters the Forecourt at approximately 11:30 am via the North Centre Gate (right of centre facing the Palace), marches in-front of the band and halts to face the Old Guard. The Regimental Band then performs the New Guard’s Regimental Slow March as it advances towards the Old Guard. The Old and New Guards ‘Present Arms’ before the Captains of the Guard ceremoniously hand over the Palace keys. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the Palace’s security from the Old to the New Guard.