Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Crossing the Bar

Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark . . .
(from Tennyson's Crossing the Bar)

I received word yesterday that a very dear friend of mine passed away Monday night. She was 89 years old, the grandmother of two former colleagues, a one-time neighbor of mine (during college), and one of my aunt's closest friends. She was a sweet, lovely, and loving lady who taught nursing at my college for many years.

It's been some 4 years since I've seen her, as her son moved west and took her with him. But I thought of her many times, including a couple of times yesterday prior to hearing of her passing. She fell asleep peacefully. Her son and grandchildren had been by her side, reading Psalms and other comforting passages. The above quote is from her favorite poem that they also read to her.

Farewell, old friend. I look forward to seeing you again someday in heaven...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

All About Books--a Meme

I got this meme from Inland Empire Girl, who got it from Ravenous Reader, a few weeks ago. I enjoyed thinking and writing about reading and the books and authors I love. I'd enjoy reading about your favorites, too. If you do this, come back and let me know!

Do you remember how you developed a love of reading? I'm certain it came from my parents, who read books to us when we were young. My Grandmother Kellogg did as well. In summers when my sisters, a cousin and I spent a week or two with her and my grandfather, she read countless books to us. A few of the ones I specially remember: A Spy in Williamsburg, Litling of Gaywood, the Little House series and other books with historical significance. A book mobile used to come around to our neighborhood in the summer and stop right in front of our house. The rest of the year my mother took us to the library on a weekly basis. I can even remember fighting with my sisters over who got to read books next!

What are some books you loved as a child? The Little House books, Little Women and other Louisa May Alcott books, Lois Lenski books, any biography, the Childcraft series, the Little Pepper books, the Little Maid books, Heidi, missionary books, My Bible Friends, the Bible Story books, and many, many more.

What is your favorite genre? I like contemporary novels, mysteries (particularly those with women detectives), memoir, biographies, historical novels, classics found in literature classes...

Do you have a favorite novel? I have so many, it's impossible to list them all, but some include all books by Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody series, the No. 1 Ladies Detective series, books by Earlene Fowler, Susan Whitig Albert, Rosamunde Pilcher, Maeve Binchy, Betty Smith (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn), Chaim Potok (The Chosen), Tracy Chevalier (Girl with the Pearl Earring), ad infinitum =)

Where do you usually read? In bed or in my rocker in the living room.

When do you usually read? Always before I go to bed, even if it's just a few minutes, always when I travel and whenever else I can find time.

Do you usually have more than one book you are reading at a time? Yes. I usually have something secular and something inspirational or spiritual going, and then there are the books I teach as well. I don't always thoroughly read them while the kids are reading them, but I always skim and research them anew at the very least.

Do you read nonfiction in a different way or place than you read fiction? Yes. I usually read nonfiction with a pen or highlighter in hand, although I will often have to find one for other books, too. If they are mine, that is. If they belong to the library or someone else, then I still have pen in hand, but a notebook besides.

Do you buy most of the books you read, or borrow them, or check them out of the library? I usually buy most of my books, much to the shrinking of my apartment! I love bookstores and can spend hours going through the piles of books on the tables and shelves. I love the library, too, but don't tend to patronize it the way I did as a kid because it takes me longer to get through books as a working adult. In a way, I would rather buy a book than food!

Do you keep most of the books you buy? I keep them, but love to share them with my mother, my sisters, and my nieces. I keep saying I should thin the book shelves out, but have only done that once or twice...

If you have children, what are some of the favorite books you have shared with them? I don't have children of my own, but I love sharing books with my (teenager) students. I don't require them to read anything I haven't enjoyed or appreciated myself. Books I've actually given to whole classes of students: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and On Writing by Stephen King. Other books kids have loved are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Chosen, My Name is Asher Lev, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, and many more. For children, I like to share any of Shel Silverstein's books, Willy the Wimp and Willy the Champ, any of Arnold Lobel's fabels, The Runaway Bunny, Stellaluna, and many more.

What are you reading now? I am reading Sandra Dallas' Buster Midnight's Cafe and The Writing Diet by Julia Cameron.

Do you keep a To Be Read list? I just have a huge stack of books by my bed, and on the floor in my living room, and a whole bookcase by my rocker, and a stack in my study and . . . =)

What’s next? Not sure. Probably just whatever book I see first. I've been in a Jane Austen mood lately, though, and have several books connected to her one way or another, most recently biographies. She's like comfort food to me.

What books would you like to reread? Anything by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Night of Rain and Stars (because I've now been to Greece), anything Jane Austen...

Who are your favorite authors? Anne Lamott, Elizabeth Berg, Elizabeth Peters, Susan Whitig Albert, Earlene Fowler, Carolyn Hart, Chaim Potok, Elie Wiesel, Thomas Hardy, Isak Dinesen, Alexander McCall Smith, Jane Austen, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and many more...

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Simple Woman's Daybook

I got this meme idea from Karlene at her blog, along with the picture to illustrate it. Try it if you like it!

Outside my is dark, nearly midnight.

I am Thinking...that I should be getting ready for bed instead of sitting here writing this, especially because I want to read awhile before I turn out the light.

I am thankful family, my job in a Christian school, God's continual blessings...

From the kitchen...I don't have too much going on there right now as I was away for the weekend. There is some fruit and fresh vegetables. That's about it =(

I am on-line photo album of my trip to Greece and Turkey earlier this summer. I took more than 1000 pictures, so I have a lot to go through and choose from.

I am going...spend all day tomorrow working in my study. I have a lot of work to do to get it organized, but once done, it's going to be great!

I am nightgown (sleeveless shorty)

I am reading...Sandra Dallas' book, Buster Midnight's Cafe. This is the second of her books I've read in the past three days. She can really capture the character and flavor of the Old West!

I am hoping...that my niece gets home from Austria safely...and soon (sometime tonight).

I am hearing...the TV...sports report...Red Sox lost to the Angels...sigh...

Around the house...I have books, books, books. I need to find a home for all of them, but I'm afraid that will be difficult unless I get rid of some of them...

One of my favorite spending time with my family...or traveling...both of which I've done throughout this past month. What a luxury!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week...besides organizing my study...I want to get my lesson plans done for the first couple weeks of school and finish updating the staff and student handbooks.

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you...

Retreat to Rangeley

You'd think that after three weeks of travel that included two weeks of rest and relaxation on an island in the Aegean, that I wouldn't find myself needing more retreat time. But if that retreat includes the whole family, there is never enough time like that. So, last Thursday found my family (except for one who was still on the orchestra tour I was on earlier) en route through a driving rain to my sister's cabin on Mooselookmeguntic Lake (don't you love that name?!) in Rangeley, Maine. It's a place we've been retreating to for nearly 25 years.

My parents, two sisters and their families, and I plus three dogs and two of our nine cats made the trip as well. Fortunately, the rain had stopped by the time we arrived, and didn't start again until we were well on our way home on Sunday. That left three days of beautiful sun lakeside.

We enjoyed just hanging out, reading, sitting in the sun, talking, walking, and relaxing together. And, there was no internet there, so we were essentially computer free as well! As a result, I read three books in two days =) Friday afternoon, we went into town, and I took time to go browse at my all-time favorite bookstore. It's name, "Books, Lines, and Thinkers," has got to be one of the all0timne best names for a bookstore. And the proprietor handwrites recommendations and reviews on post-it notes and sticks them on the book covers. Quaint and charming, I love this bookstore!

Oh yeah, and I added to my collection of beautiful sunset photos of the lake...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How Firm a Foundation

In church this week, as part of his sermon, the pastor shared some interesting information about an old beloved hymn, How Firm a Foundation. Quoting from the sermon notes:

"A believer's stability in this life, as well as his confidence for eternity, rests solely on the written promises of God's Word. The direction of the living God for our lives is very definite. It is found in a firm founda- tion-- the written revelation: 'Thus saith the LORD'.

"In the first stanza the sure foundation of the Christian faith is established as being the Word of God. This challenging questions is posed: What more can God do than provide His very Word as a completed revelation of Himself to man? The succeeding verses personalize precious promises from His Word:

"Verse Two-- Deuteron- omy 33:25-- as thy days, so shall thy strength be.

"Verse Three-- Isaiah 41:10-- Fear thou not, for I am with thee, be not dismayed, for I am thy God...

"Verse Four-- Isaiah 43:2-- When thou passest through the waters, I will be with the....

"Verse Five-- II Corinthians 12:9-- My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness....

"Verse Seven-- Hebrews 13:5-- I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.....

"This hymn was sung at the funerals of American presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. In addition, it was the favorite of President Andrews Jackson's beloved wife, and on his death-bed the warrior and statesman called for it. It was the favorite of General Robert E. Lee and was sung at his funeral. The American love and familiar preference for the remarkable hymn was never more strikingly illustrated than when on Christmas Eve, 1898, a whole corps of the United States Army Northern and Southern, encamped on the Quemados hills, near Havana, took up the sacred tune and words (see Brown, p. 206)."

How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

In every condition, --in sickness, in health,
In poverty's vale, or abounding in wealth,
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea, --
The Lord, the Almighty, thy strength e'er shall be.

Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismayed
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

E'en down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never, forsake!"

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Storks and Swallows

I was surprised at how few different kinds of birds I saw on this trip. I thought there might be a lot of interesting wildlife in another part of the world, but I saw very few animals and birds that I wouldn't find right here in Massachusetts! That was a little disappointing.

On Syros, the most common birds I saw were English Sparrows! I only saw sea gulls occasionally at the Ermoupolis harbor. There were doves and pigeons everywhere, of course. In Turkey, besides pigeons, I saw swallows, barns swallows mostly. At the Carpet School, there were several nests plastered at the roof of the covered deck by the entrance.

But then, there were the storks. My sister and I went with one of the ladies on the tour (mother of a young cellist) to a shop run by a woman. On our way there, we passed by two gigantic stork nests with several storks perched atop. I was fascinated by this sight.

The lady, by the way, was the first female shopkeeper in the city of Ephesus. For weeks, every morning when she went to open up, she found notes slipped under the door telling her how wrong it was for a woman to operate a business and that she belonged at home. But she persevered, and now she is one of several women running a successful shop. She came from a family of educators.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Food Fare

Traveling in a foreign country is always challenging on a number of levels, not the least of which regards nourishment, especially if you have "special dietary needs" such as vegetarians require (at least half our group is vegetarian). For that reason, we had our own cook along on the trip, and for 2/3 of the time in Greece, she prepared our meals (with help from the musicians).

The rest of the time, we were on our own. Not being a vegan made it easier, but I must say, we are rather tired of bread and cheese (delicious as that was) and hard boiled eggs (at least they weren't runny) by the time the trip ended...

I am one who likes to capture every ounce of the experience, so I often took pictures of the food and, as a result, can visually share the gastronomical delights (or not) we partook of throughout the tour.

Photos above: "The best pizza in NYC" that we ate prior to taking off on the tour. Eggs at the Camberra Hotel in Ephesus.

Wheat Thins and Cheese Whiz that was first confiscated at Paris security and later retrieved by my sister. The security agents took it from my nephew, not knowing what it was, and then tasted it and tried to keep it!

Family and friends eating our own food at the Two Hearts Campground in Galissas, Syros.

The orchestra director (right) and her husband eating at the camp with a former concert mistress of the orchestra (now traveling as an alumni singer).

Typical breakfast for me at Hotel Benois in Greece.

My niece (right) and a friend helping to separate the wraps for delicious falafal sandwiches at the camp.

Vegetarian fare at Camberra Hotel in Ephesus that the staff prepared for us while we waited interminably for our buses to arrive from Romania to take us to Istanbul.

The delicious soup appetizer from the Camberra Hotel.

My nephew and sister having a last ice cream cone in Ermoupolis, Syros. He said this was the best ice cream he's had in a long time. It
was delicious. We partook of it several times during our stay.

Orchestra members enjoying fresh-picked peaches for lunch in Ephesus.

Enjoying pasta at a
restaurant in Galassas.

An outdoor restaurant in Ermoupolis that made a wonderful Greek salad. The bread and pasta was excellent, too.

My last breakfast in Greece.

I have no pictures of eating in Turkey because we did that on the sit-down meal except for the one that our merry dozen ate at El Torrito near the Grand Bazaar. It all was an interesting gastronomical experience for sure =)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Jigity Jig...

Home again, home again. I am happy to be home, but this trip was a great experience. The first two weeks were completely peaceful. The last four days were crazy, chaotic, completely fascinating and full of adventure. I can't begin to explain it all here, but suffice it to say that traveling anywhere outside of Europe is a challenge, no matter if you're on your own or with a group of 81 musicians.

The orchestra I was traveling with has been doing this for 35 years, and done at least 75 tours all over the world, but there are always unforeseen situations...but, oddly enough, it is often that craziness that we remember, long after the tours are over and done. This tour, there were seven of us who have been involved off and on with the group for more than half of those tours and several others for at least a third of them.

We awakened by the 5 a.m. call to pre left the lovely Hotel Benois in Greece on Monday afternoon and for the next 4 days spent most of our time on the road, or on ferries. 6 hours from the island of Syros to the island of Samos. Another couple of hours on a ferry to the mainland of Turkey. Another hour or so on buses (81 people require two buses) to Ephesus. And hours of waiting in between. Arrival at our hotel in Epehesus was sometime around 2 a.m.

We fell into bed and slept soundly until we were awakened by the 5 a.m. call to prayer. We finally got up at 7 so we could go to the ancient ruins of Ephesus before it got too hot. Only problem: we had to walk some 2 miles. It was a HOT two miles, but we finally arrived, and the sights were worth the effort.

We took a little side trip to a Turkish carpet making school and got a tour (and a bit of pressure to buy, of course). It was quite interesting though, and the carpets were beautiful, albeit quite expensive. They gave us some delicious Turkish Apple Tea, and later, I bought some to enjoy at home.

Tuesday afternoon, we were supposed to make our journey to Istanbul, but the buses that were coming from Romania did not arrive until 8 p.m. and then the drivers had to sleep, so we did not leave until 1 a.m. Wednesday and then drove all night and all morning from Ephesus to Istanbul. It took 12 hours, the last part fighting traffic and being lost in tight little side streets with two giant buses. Our relief at finally arriving at our Hostel was tempered by our first glimpse of the Chill Out facilities. I prefer not to dwell on our dismay, though, as the 4 hours (as opposed to the entire day) we had left to sightsee were frantic, but well worth it.

We saw three main sights: The Blue Mosque (loved it), the Haigh Sophia (a little disappointing inside but outwardly beautiful), and the Grand Bazaar (overwhelming and a little frustrating, perhaps mainly because we were so exhausted). We were going to see the Turkish Baths (and even experience it), but I chickened out at the last minute. I found out later that they were closed to women by then, so I didn't really miss out after all.

After a night in the somewhat dicey hostel, my sister, nephew, and I took our leave from the group and made our way to one of Istanbul's four airports to fly home via Paris. Flights were uneventful, and we got star treatment in Paris, with a jetway-to-jetway escort that included a rush through security and bypassing a couple hundred people in line to board the plane for our last leg home. Let's just say that we appreciated Air France's TLC.

I got home home at about 10 p.m. Boston time, but it was 4 a.m. Turkish time, so that made four days in a row of very late nights and arduous travel. To say I fell into an exhausted sleep would not be exaggerating. It was good to get here. Good to have a shower in my own shower. Good to see my cats (they were thrilled to see me). Good to hear my parents' voices. Good to be able to say that in spite of the problems here in this country, there really is no place like it. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to see the places I've seen on this and other trips. We are blessed. There's nothing like travel to help you realize and appreciate what we have to be thankful for in this country.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Beyond the Sunset

My nephew indulged me and went for a walk just about sunset tonight. We walked down a road to the opposite end of the beach across from our hotel and we watched the sun set in its spectacular glory. I told him this would be our last sunset in Greece, which made me a little bit sad. It's been nice to have such a relaxing time with little or nothing we had to do. Our next four days will be busy with travel and sightseeing and shopping. But for a little while, we just enjoyed being still and appreciating the beauty of the setting sun...

Ships Ahoy!

We've seen quite a number of ships and boats and yachts, as you might imagine. A couple of nights ago (Thursday I guess), when we went into Ermoupolis, we saw several huge yachts and sailboats moored along the harbor's edge. There was also a cruise ship anchored in the bay. It was the two enormous yachts, however, that caught our attention.

They were both out of George Town, Grand Cayman Islands. One of the violists googled it and found that when it was last purchased, in 2003, it cost 23 million euros. That's something close to $36 million!!! It had a crew of 5 twenty-somethings, two girls and three guys, all tan and fit of course. It really was beautiful. The other, even bigger one, was a yacht for hire, but I don't know the details of that one.

Ermoupolis is the major shipping port of the Cyclades Islands. It is also the metropolitan capital for that group of islands, besides being the capital of the island of Syros. It's a very busy port, with tankers and freighters coming and going, besides all the tourist vehicles (ferries and yachts, etc.). We've enjoyed watching them move in and out of the harbor.

Photos: an old row boat that we pass on our way up to the campgrounds for meals; various yachts in the Ermoupolis harbor; a cruise ship protesting the fact that the British Museum continues to hold on to the Parthenon marbles that Elgin "stole" back in the 19th century. All efforts to even buy them back have gone useless. The British Museum claims that they can preserve them better than the Greeks can. The Greeks believe that the marbles belong at the new Acropolis Museum that should open next year. This cruise ship made me laugh at its blatant politicking =)