Tuesday, July 19, 2022

70 de Ani

Câte nu se întâmplă în 70 de ani?  Generații multiple se nasc și mor ... 

Cam așa arăta lumea în luna iulie din 1952: 


  • Cea de-a XV-a Olimpiadă de vară începea în Helsinki, Finlanda

  • Un cutremur de 7,8 pe scara Richter omorâse 14 oameni în California

  • Polonia adopta noua constituție comunistă

  • Se înregistra un record de 44 de grade Celsius în statul Georgia, Statele Unite

  • Avea loc primul zbor non-stop peste Oceanul Pacific

  • Canada aproba să se scoată monezi de aur de 5, 10 și 20 de dolari

  • Avea loc primul zbor non-stop cu elicopterul deasupra Oceanului Atlantic


Astăzi, Polonia și țările fostului bloc comunist sunt democrate și comunismul a fost scos, mai mult sau mai puțin complet, din conducerea majorităților țări est-europene. Zburăm cu rachetele pana la Luna și poate mai departe, curând. Temperaturile de 44 de grade sunt la ordinea zilei peste tot în lume, pentru că planeta se înfierbântă rapid. 


1952 - 2022 - 70 de ani si incă ... numărăm în continuare ...


O viață de om. Viața ta! 


Așa cum multe s-au întâmplat, și bune și rele, în viața Pământului, așa s-au întâmplat și în viața ta: multe, și bune și rele. Așa cum îți place ție la orice moment de răscruce, ca să “tragem linia și să facem totalul” ... poți fi mândru de multe. Câteva realizări care-mi vin în minte acum: 


  • O căsnicie de 48 de ani

  • Doi copii - mai mult sau mai puțin (eu cred ca mai mult - :-) ) reușiți

  • Doi nepoți și mai reușiți

  • Multiple cariere în care te-ai implicat total și din care ai plecat lăsând mereu loc de un “bună ziua” 

  • O casa mare, asa cum ti-ai dorit de cand erai mic

  • Nenumărați prieteni și cunoștințe care te respecta și unii chiar care te iubesc

  • Călătorii peste Atlantic de vreo două ori

  • Călătorii în Europa de vreo trei ori.


Dar în afara reusitelor materiale, mai importante sunt cele spirituale și de inimă: 


  • Ai supraviețuit comunismul cu un caracter nepătat. Cel puțin din ceea ce ne-ai învățat pe noi, câteodată doar în șoaptă și cu ușile închise, mereu am știut care e traiectoria corectă a adevăratei libertăți - de gândire, de convingeri, de cunoaștere și de informare ... 

  • Impresii nenumărate pe care le-ai lăsat în viața oricărui om care te-a cunoscut chiar și pentru două minute! Nu ai trecut niciodată neobservat și mereu ai impresionat în bine. 

  • Un umor singular și original care îți aparține și la care apelează mulți în ceasuri de tristețe.

  • Rude, fini și prieteni apropiați care te respectă și te iubesc pentru că i-ai îndrumat și ocrotit ca pe copiii tăi

  • O onestitate și verticalitate de caracter față de toți, în orice situație - toți cunoaștem foarte bine și avem încredere în cuvântul tău. 


... acestea constituie doar vârful icebergului care ești tu, tata drag. 


În ziua această aniversară, de mare însemnătate pentru familia ta, dar mai ales pentru tine, zi pe care mulți poate nu ti-o dădeau, sunt fericită că ești cu noi și că pot fi cu tine. Sunt fericită că și eu, pentru care toți au prezis un sfârșit timpuriu, la fel ca și al tău, sunt încă aici, pe pământ și pot fi alături de tine. 


Astăzi mi-aduc aminte de tot ce m-ai învățat și nu-mi doresc nimic altceva decât să te asculți pe tine însuți, să-ți asculți sfaturile și să le urmezi! Ai avut mereu sfaturi minunate pentru noi toți - care ne-au adus cu succes unde suntem astăzi. Aș vrea să asculți măcar de jumate din ele pentru binefacerea ta: sfaturi de sănătate, de cât este de important să ai grijă de tine și să te respecți; de cât este de important să faci tot ce este posibil ca să fii independent. Aș vrea să îți amintești când mergeam la spital la București când eram mică și-mi ziceai că trebuie să fiu tare și să nu mă tem de medici și să lupt cu boala. Și mergeam din doctor în doctor până am găsit o soluție, cât se putea atunci, să ... luptăm cu boala. 


As vrea sa te asculți și să-ți dai seama cât ești de scump și neprețuit pentru noi toți. Știu că vorbesc pentru noi toți când spun că cel mai mare cadou pe care poți să ni-l faci este să ne rămâi aproape și-n putere cât mai mult posibil. Eu una abia aștept să celebrăm și 75  si 80 și așa mai departe ... de ani împreună. Doamne ajută! 


Astăzi, sper că vei găsi în jurul tău dragostea și umorul pe care le-ai răsădit și răspândit o viață întreagă și pe care ți le oferim din inimă înapoi și însutit. 


Îți mulțumim pentru tot, dar în primul rând îți mulțumim că ești cu noi! 


Te iubim mult! 


La mulți ani!  

Monday, July 04, 2022

A Different Kind of Independence Day

We went to a neighborhood Independence Day party last night. Everyone decked in their best red-white-and-blue attire. There were vanilla cream puffs and strawberries, summer cocktails and free beer - all the American staples of a good summer bbq. 


We even had a DJ and people danced. It was great fun. 


It was supposed to be great fun, that is, until you started to think about it for a minute. I had been thinking about it for days, weeks in fact. I had been thinking about how this year, in particular, I don’t have anything to celebrate on July 4th. What am I to celebrate? The loss of freedom that I feel every day? The corner of the world that I am in that is shrinking as I see it? 


Waking up this weekend, every day, I have been opening the news with fear: I know the weekend is full of parades and community events. I am opening the news thinking “I wonder how many mass shootings we’ll have today?” That’s no reason for celebration. 


The DJ opened his set with the “God Bless America” song. The lyrics went something like this and some people swayed and sang along: “I’m proud to be an American where at least I know I’m free” - and all I could do was to look around and say “Well, I am an American and I don’t feel all that free. Our black neighbors don’t feel free. Our gay friends don’t feel so free. What is this day for and who is supposed to celebrate it, exactly? White straight men, maybe, even those ...?” It’s harder and harder to drink to that ...


Earlier in the year I bought a cute summer top that is more or less patriotic - especially for this neighborhood party last night. But I could not bring myself to wear it. I could not let my eyes bleed with donning the colors Americans feel so much pride about on my body. At least I have that freedom for now, to wear what I want and the patriotic attire was not mandatory. 


I know things are so much worse elsewhere, but it’s still gut-wrenching to witness the one country in the world that consistently has sent their men and women to die protecting other countries’ democracies (or so we’re told) botch a little bit of its own democracy. Every. Single. Day. I thought it was painful to be born in bondage and un-freedom, in the middle of the Romanian communist era. But it is infinitely more heart-breaking and painful to lose the freedom you had. The freedom you moved hell and high water to get and protect (by voting if nothing else). The freedom you’ve built your life on.  


This year, I cannot “celebrate” in the proper sense of the word. It’ll be a low key, just-the-two of us kind of celebration on this day, outside of that neighborhood party which we joined to say hi to friends. The patriotic napkins laying on my table are just for those people like me, who dreamed about what this country could be. For those people who came here full of hope, hoping, banking on freedom and who feel hurt and cheated and wronged. Also for the people who are born here and who are wronged by this politocracy without end in sight. Make no mistake: there is no democracy (the word “demos” means “people” in Greek) in America. What rules this country is the almighty dollar and the people in high-places on the political ladder. I thought, like millions of others, that “we the people” can make a country. But alas we have been lied to ... 


This year, I am wearing black for Independence Day and thinking of Mr. Johnny Cash. If I could sing along to a song, I’d sing this one, with a small change: 


“I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down

Livin' in the hopeless, hungry side of town

I wear it for the prisoner who is long paid for his crime

But is there because he's a victim of the times


Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose

In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes

But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back

Up front there ought to be a Girl In Black


And I wear it for the thousands who have died

Believin' that the Lord was on their side

I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died

Believin' that we all were on their side


Well, there's things that never will be right I know

And things need changin' everywhere you go

But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right

You'll never see me wear a suit of white


Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day

And tell the world that everything's okay

But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back

'Til things are brighter, I'm the Girl In Black”


Someone smarter than me said it best: there is quite “a distance between the American Dream and the American reality ...”  nowadays. (Bruce Springsteen while speaking to Barack Obama).

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Town with the Best Crab Dish

My heart’s heavy writing this, given the recent developments in American life, but stories, as they happened, beg to be told. We never know for how long we might have this freedom to talk about them. Or how long we might have on this Earth before they are buried with us. And so ... storytelling will go on. For a bit longer. 

What do you do when you have one day to spend in Baltimore, MD? More like half a day, really, after having breakfast in DC and driving up. 


Well, we started by going to TripAdvisor and asking that very question. And what do you know?! They have lots of lists of “10 things you must do while in Baltimore” and the likes. 


We had never been to the largest city of Maryland, although we had been in smaller towns throughout the state, and had driven through the whole state en route to elsewhere. We read about the city - some sites warned that it’s the most dangerous city in America and one of the most dangerous in the world. Others advised that as long as you stick “around the harbor”, you’d be fine. The fact that we talk about the “good” and the “bad” parts of towns is a sad thing all in itself. But such is this world. 



Like I said: if you’re looking for your own list of what to do, the internet is full of ideas. Here, I’ll just tell you about our day. First off, we could not do “10 things” that TripAdvisor suggested, simply because of lack of time. Although we did fewer things, we still left with an impression. 


First, we were worried that parking might be a problem. Just like DC, we were thinking: parking must be scarce and not cheap. It was almost true. We did find parking within very close proximity to where we wanted to be quite easily and it was not very expensive, but it was hard to know how much ”time” to buy. Having not been there before, we were not sure how far anything was from anywhere (maps don’t account for visiting time, and taking pictures, and stopping to eat some crab), so it was hard to come up with a set amount of time for the meter. We kept buying 2 hours and running back to buy additional time. It was fine, in the end. 


We stopped first at the American Visionary Art Museum (AVAM). I will have to tell you: this was easily one of my favorite museums ever. It is not very large, but it is gorgeous, inside and out. It is beautifully done, with original architecture, a mix of construction and art materials, and attention to every detail. Inside, the exhibits are thoughtful and insightful - two things we so desperately need more of these days. 


Among the several exhibits, these are the ones that really stuck with me are: 


  • Healing and the art of compassion (or the lack thereof!) - What is compassion? How does it operate in our daily lives? What happens when our lives are devoid of it? Why are Americans so violent? What happens when the world is driven by lack of respect? - the exhibit does not so much answer these questions, as it forces us to look inside ourselves and come up with the answers. A real deep-dive into who we are and how we can be better. 


  • The Axel Erlandson’s “Tree Circus” exhibit. You can see a live example of a shaped tree. A Swedish immigrant, Erlandson shaped trees in fascinating ways by making them look like gazebos, or some other kind of canopy.

  • The painted screens of Baltimore - one of the things Baltimore is known for. A Czech immigrant, William Oktavec, first opened his shop here, where he made the first painted screens. They are window and door screens that are painted with nature landscapes. The museum recreates one of the row houses (another thing Baltimore is known for) with painted screens. 

  • The Esther Nisenthal Krinitz exhibit. Esther was a Jewish immigrant from Poland, and Holocaust survivor. She told the story of her life, growing up in Poland, how she lost her entire family to the Holocaust, and her move to America by creating these intricate embroideries. They are half art, half storytelling and all gut-wrenching sadness mixed in with a faint sense of hope. If you go through the whole exhibit and you do not come out moved and shaken, you don’t deserve to be called human. It is, by far, one of the most emotional displays of art that I have seen in a great while. Definitely deserving of at least one visit and a deep pause. 


After the museum, we headed around the Inner Harbor, which is a short walk away. The Inner Harbor is part seaport, part tourist attraction, located on the Patapsco River. 


Pretty soon we realized that it might take us a while to get to the opposite end of the harbor from the museum - the end where it looked like “everything was” - more museums, parks, and several eateries. We were torn: should we walk? (it was a gorgeous April day!) Should we take the water taxi? Will we be back in time for our meter to just have expired? We were not sure. So, we drove and parked on the other side of the water. 


There, we walked around, taking in the busy harbor, the beautiful architecture - a mix of modern and old , lots of red bricks and lots of glass and steel, too - shooting the city skyline from various vantage points. We settled for dinner at The Phillips Crab Deck - an outdoor deck right over the water. The wait for a table was insane, but it was worth it because we got almost the best seat in the house - away from many other customers and right above the water. 


I can tell you: I have had crab in many places in my life - some of them seaside shores, and some inland. But I have never tasted a better crab dish than the ones in Maryland. The blue crab is considered the Maryland state food and they do it justice! Although the crab cake was delicious (all crab, no filling!), my favorite course was still the Maryland vegetable crab soup - it’s a tomato based chowder, filled with crab and veggies. Deliciously seafood-y and full of flavor.  



And because we were in Baltimore and because it was a warm day, we had to pair our food with a National Bohemian (or the “Natty Boh”), the local lager of the city. Just like the name discloses it: it is a light lager, perfect when coldest on a hot day. 


After dinner, we took a drive around Charles Village - a residential neighborhood just outside Johns Hopkins Medical School - to take a look at the famous row houses. The neighborhood began its development in 1869 and it’s added multiple acres to the original 50 over time, and as far as I could find it continues to today. 


I like taking drives through cities just to get a feel of the vibe and the lay of the land. You can tell a lot (how vibrant or not, how safe or not, how boring or not) a city might or its life be just by driving around and taking in the architecture, the availability and mix of retail or restaurants, the presence or lack of green spaces. 


This whole adventure took us the better part of one day - maybe 6-7 hours. It was enough to sample just a slice of Baltimore and whet our appetite for a coming back trip. We hope to do that sooner rather than later. 



Outside the World Trade Center in the Inner Harbor, a piece of scrap metal from the New York World Trade Center which collapsed on 9-11-2001 lies in plain view, for permanent remembrance. 
Click the picture to view all the pictures from this trip



Thursday, June 09, 2022

The Town Where Every Turn Was a Left

I reckon all people go to Beaufort, NC (pronounced “bow-fort”) to see the wild horses on Taylor Creek or on some other nearby island. That’s what Our State Magazine promised us, and that’s what we were chasing in late March, earlier this year. We didn’t really know what to expect much. I had read about the town being an old hangout of Blackbeard, the English pirate who operated around the West Indies and the Eastern coast of Britain's North American colonies. I also read about the new and somewhat high-end Beaufort Hotel for which it was impossible to make a reservation all of last year, if you can believe that much! I mean, who goes to Beaufort, NC right? But the end of March is not a popular time for Eastern North Carolina, and we did find availability this year (since we booked during the winter). For the life of me, I never understood why Eastern North Carolina is not more popular during colder months. Spring and late fall are my favorite seasons to escape to the beaches around here because the crowds retire home, inland. But then again, I am not what you call your typical beach bum! Quite the opposite: I want to be as far away as possible from the beaches when the true bums are there. How do you fill 48 hours (or less) in Beaufort, NC, you ask? Well, let me tell you. We got into town late on a Friday night, almost at closing time. We didn’t know this but lots of businesses are closed for the season in our coastal communities during winter - precisely because the beach bums are not there, I guess. The Black Sheep restaurant was the only one downtown that was open. It’s on the water, but it was almost 8PM when we got there and pitch-black outside. We sat on the patio (we always do, since the pandemic) and the breeze was strong, but it was nice and it smelt like salt and algae. We headed for a nightcap at Beaufort Hotel after that. The next day, the only full day of our trip, we first had breakfast on the upper deck of the 34° North Restaurant which is adjacent to Beaufort Hotel where we stayed. The hotel is quaint, smells new, and very nicely decorated. The only complaint is that you absolutely must do the valet parking because the self parking is across the street, in a dark alley which looks run-down and ominous at best. The breakfast was great, many choices, but the view from our table, right on Taylor Creek, was even better! The boats of locals are parked right under your table. A gentleman was selling one of the yachts that morning to some kind of big shot CEO person who came down from somewhere North with an army of legal people to buy his retirement toy, I guess ... Just part of the local crowd. Across the river from our hotel, there is a patch of land that looked like a wild refuge, but we were not sure how to get there or what it was. We looked for birds and wildlife, but it was all still. After breakfast, we headed to downtown Beaufort to visit the Maritime Museum which is actually well done. For those interested in a complete history of this area, the museum does a good job documenting it, and taking you through it. There are several rooms dedicated to the turmoiled times of Queen Anne and the piracy years, and Blackbead, the pirate, truly dominates the memory of those times. The museum library is impressive, if not by number of books, by decor alone: a fully wood-paneled room that reminded me of a log cabin, its quiet atmosphere invites you in to stay a little and learn more. We then browsed through the local shops downtown, and my husband tried the ice cream at Beaufort Creamery. After all that, we headed out of town (took every left turn Siri told us to take, and there were always left turns - I wondered how did we not end up just doing a big ol’ circle) to look for the wild horses. We headed North towards Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge, about 45 minutes from Beaufort. We drove for what seemed forever on this skinny road right by what we found out later that it was Core Sound, parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape was pure marsh and you’d expect to see fish jumping out of the water, or egrets and herons hovering over the reeds. But there was not a soul! Nothing but sky and sun and water and wind. We passed one of the trails (the only one we could eventually find) in Cedar Island about 4 times before we actually figured out a way to stop and explore it. After that, we made it all the way to the beach where huge driftwood trees were laid to rest forever. The beach was tomb-like, quiet and serene. Again, not a soul disturbed it. There were no people, either, just us, the ocean, the water-washed trees, and lots of shells. Nothing more. We headed back towards Beaufort and on the way back we found the Elliott Coues Nature Trail which is part of the Fort Macon State Park. Fort Macon is a restored Antebellum-era fort famous for the Battle of Fort Macon (1862) fought during the Civil War and (we didn’t know then, but we do now), the second most visited park in North Carolina. It sits right on the beach and in addition to miles of trails, it has a fully restored fort complete with cannons, fortifications and other artifacts of the real wartime days gone by. We did not visit the fort, we stuck to the nature trails. The wind was absolutely insane on the beachfront trail! Not only our hair and hats felt like they were blown away, but our entire heads felt like they were being yanked off our bodies and thrown somewhere in the high tide! It was on the Elliott Coues trail that I got the worst call I would want to get from family nowadays: that my sister’s family had Covid. This was their first time since the pandemic started and it made everything for that weekend taste just bitter-sweet from then on out. On the way back towards dinner, we stopped by Mill Whistle Brewing, one of the couple of local breweries in town. We tasted such concoctions as BoFirt Sunrise, DitDot and Radio Lot. Their tasting flight tray was a circular saw blade made of wood. Dinner was at Aqua Restaurant, a bit more inland, not with much of a view, but what an experience! Although their menu changes regularly, I cannot recommend enough the seafood curry with tuna, shrimp and lobster in a coconut milk curry soup. If Blackbeard’s ghost would have come to haunt and kill me that night, I would have died full and happy! We drove slowly along Taylor Creek away from downtown and towards our hotel (after taking a left from our parking lot and another left on Front Street - because, like I mentioned before: anything worth seeing in this town is always on the left). As our car lazed away into the dusk, we saw a pod of dolphins swimming around in the creek. You know that the iPhone had to come out and Google had to be asked: why are the dolphins in a creek and not in the ocean? “Taylor Creek” is not really a river, per se - it is very similar to a sound, because it runs parallel to the ocean. So, I guess it’s as good enough as the ocean itself. It was eerie to see them in such a narrow stretch of water, though. Unfortunately, the light was so low, the sun all but gone so we could not take any pictures that would have proven how carefree and beautiful these graceful creatures were. The next morning, we had a delicious, fresh, local breakfast at Turner Street Market Restaurant. We sat on the sidewalk and talked to the town’s puppies venturing out into another quiet, lazy, off-season, sunny, chilly March day. A family of four, parents and two little girls, armed with rubber boots and aluminum buckets were picking up trash downtown, the girls not older than 6 or 7, because this is how you ensure that the next generation does better than we ever did - you teach early, by example, and you teach that your home town is where it all starts. We could not head out of town before we visited Blackbeard’s “House” on Hammock Lane. Nicknamed “The White House” (I guess simply because it is white), or “Hammock House” (we learned that a “hammock” is actually a “fertile, raised area by a river”), the house is a couple of blocks inland from the creek, but allegedly in 1709 when it was built it was right on the water. Debris buildup moved the river away and the house more ashore. It was an inn during Blackbeard’s time, and he allegedly spent some time here, but as a guest and not an owner. There are records (like this one: https://blackbeardthepirate.com/history.htm) everywhere on the internet about it, for the curious. It is not open for visitation. I was just in awe that something this old in an area ravaged by merciless hurricanes that religiously strike the shores virtually yearly, sometimes several times a year, can possibly still be standing. But there it was - typically Southern and West Indies in its beauty, a picture speaking louder than words. And also on the way out of town, we finally did see the wild horses - they were grazing on the other side of the creek (momma and baby and all), on that brush island we saw from our hotel’s restaurant’s patio, on our first day. Having come so late into our view, and us almost having missed them, they looked like chimeras - I could not believe they were real. But I took some shots to prove it and so you all can’t tell me that the wild horses of North Carolina are pure hearsay. They were the perfect coda of this short but meaningful trip of exploring parts of our state that are mostly off the beaten path, but rich, flavorful, colorful, wild, and wildly and historically important nonetheless.



The wild horses of Taylor Creek, Beaufort, NC
Click on the picture to see the entire album from this trip




Thursday, April 28, 2022

Dear Pat ...

Dear Pat, 


You are officially an online baby now! Your birth, 14 years ago today, was announced on my blog (https://wander-world.blogspot.com/2008/04/from-heart.html) and every year since then I have posted a blog, a picture, a ... some sort of an entry about your existence. You better behave: there will be a record for it somewhere and you might not get elected to Prime Minister. 


I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday, really. I was waiting for a phone call any minute to hear that you made it into this crazy world. Your dad called and congratulated me for being an aunt. I was speechless. With joy, emotion, and an infinite love that split my heart right open and inundated my whole body with this warm, safe, comfortable feeling of happiness. I was an aunt, but you ... ?! You were here! You were real! You were no longer your mommy’s plan, nor in her tummy anymore. You were here, (almost) two months earlier than expected and you were going to get this life thing started, no matter what. 


Over the years, I have always looked to keep that light, that joy, that unbridled happiness in my heart every time I see and think of you. Every time I hear about some new accomplishment you have made, some new adventure you embarked on, I look to associate you and your endeavor with the light and the happiness you brought into this world. Not only for me and your entire family, but for the world itself. I knew on your first day that you have so much promise packed in that tiny, premature body of yours. Your fight to breathe, to grow, to mature was fearless - I look for that in every day of your life. I wish nothing more in this world than for you to be aware of the amazing being that you have brought into this world - to see this as clear as we see it, too. 


You have given us all those things over the years and so much more. 


Through the challenges of growing up, maturing, fitting in, finding your own voice (literally and figuratively) you have remained that pure, innocent, good baby that you were on your first day on this planet. You have stayed curious and interested. Engaged and energetic. More than anything, you have stayed empathetic and caring to everyone around you. 


I have loved watching you grow into an almost young adult now (back when I was your age, I got my first legal ID in Romania - I was an “official” member of society). Just like you came into this world early, by your own schedule, you move through the world at the rhythm of your own drum. Your originality and your “system” makes sense to you and although we may not always agree with it, we can see that in the end you surely know what you’re doing ... Most times. 


I am always looking forward to your next adventure, to your next project. Will it be another game meant for kids older than your age that you crack in no time flat? Or will it be a new recipe you want to try? Or will it be a new art project (a sculpture or a painting or a drawing or something you build from nothing) that you’ll ace and maybe sell for cash? Will it be a new podcast or a new improv play? I never know, but I know it’ll be done well and from your heart and I know I will love it. 


On your birthday, I wish you these:


  • Always make the world matter. Make your presence in this world matter. Whether you will be the Prime Minister or a second-grade teacher, a stock broker or a clown - whatever it is - be amazing, be excellent, be the best that you can be. God put you on this planet for a reason - once you find that reason, make the best and the most of it. It's the only way!
  • Don’t ever lose your ingenuity and sense of wonder ...
  • Don’t ever lose your sense of self. There is no one like you in the whole world and I have seen a lot in my “old age” (as your brother tells me) and you are pretty darn cool. As long as you do you, you’ll always come ahead. I promise you! 
  • Don’t ever lose your curiosity and your desire to learn new things. There is so much to learn and you won’t have time in a whole lifetime to learn it all - use this time wisely and know as much as possible. 
  • Don’t ever stop putting yourself in others’ shoes: think about how others feel and try to be there for them, especially when they are broken. You have done this so well and effortlessly as a child, don’t let adulthood put the doubt of bias in it and don’t shy away to help others. 
  • Don’t ever, ever, ever stop having fun! Life is serious, stern, and at times gut-wrenching. Squeeze every minute of fun out of it that you can. You have been able to always light up a room and put a smile on people’s faces. Don’t ever lose that! 
  • ... and lastly,  never stop sharing it all (your thoughts, your love, your compassion) with everyone around you. The world needs more of your thoughtfulness, your respect for the weak, and your kindness ... Always share that and life will return it to you ten-fold. 


Happy birthday, sweet child! I am not saying “young man” because you will forever be my sweet child ... no matter how old. 

Love you to eternity and further ... 


Your “cool” aunt. 


PS: also remember to feed Eevee and make your bed, too. ;-) 



Happy birthday! 
I am running out of space to add one picture for each year, but this year I still made it! 



Saturday, April 09, 2022

Birthday Blues

I am 47 today.

In the words of Anne Lamott, born tomorrow, an Aries who has been put on this planet just to remind me who I want to be when I finally grow up, “God, what a world. What a heartbreaking, terrifying freak show.”


I open the news every morning and I cringe, I shrivell in a little tiny ball, ready to crawl back into bed and not ever open my eyes again. There are people torn apart  by bombs, ethnical cleansing in Africa and Asia, and who knows where else. I had coworkers who grew up in Venezuela and told me stories about putting mattresses in the windows to shelter them from bullets. I read about women raped and submitted into bondage every second of every day, by the hundreds and thousands. A new book that just came out proclaims that we’re raising now “The Trayvon Martin generation: a generation of kids who face death every day. Kids who know about death before they start living.” How do you start your day and keep finding purpose with this?! 


We have white supremacy and terrorism at home. Forget fighting terror against America. Whatever happened to fighting terror right here, at home. Terror from our next door neighbor, our kids, our teachers. We have people smacking flight attendants for doing their jobs. We have kids hitting teachers in school with little more of a consequence than a slap on the wrist or a shrug. We have world leaders primitively and cruelly fighting just like we’re in the Middle Ages right in the middle of Europe. William Wallace of Scotland would be amazed how little we've come since his time. We have NATO and the EU, we have UNESCO and UNICEF and the UN; and we also have Putin. 


I have three friends fighting breast and head cancers. My own mother has been battling cancer for five years and she’s going and going and going - with what energy, I do not know. 


I have friends who sleep in high-rise basements and metro stations in Ukraine to shelter from the constant bombings, because they could not escape the country - no one wanted to allow them to stay with two dogs. I have friends who have loved ones in Ukraine who might be  stuck there - because they put off leaving thinking they’re enough away from the capital and they'd be safe; now they might not be able to escape because there are no roads left. Because they are not safe, even far away from the capital. 


I have coworkers in Armenia who are sheltering Russians running away from oppression. In our daily meetings we start with things that they need to be able to put these people up - things like pillows and blankets. They talk about the hatred the Russians see abroad, the way they can’t use their credit cards and how they cannot get jobs because no one hires Russians in Europe, at large, or in the former Soviet republics. Everyone forgets that they ran away from the same things we're sanctioning their leaders for.


A friend’s mom, from work, went to the hospital to treat a foot infection with a small surgery. She died of cancer (which she didn’t know she had) three weeks later. My family members, my loved ones are coming out of Covid and we don’t know quite yet what this means in the long run for them. I have friends from work who are battling long Covid and some who have 30 year olds in their families on dialysis for life because of long Covid. 30! And the CDC tells us we can unmask, the numbers look better. 


We have no current vaccine that fights the current variants. We have no treatment for Covid. Much of the world is not boosted yet. Some have never been vaccinated. They said in the news that the continent of Africa will not be all vaccinated till 2028! 2028, people! But Covid is over. Unmask! Unmask on planes! Half of the US Congress seems sick with it right now, but unmask away, I guess. They are 30! With 3 little kids under the age of 10. They were the only income earner in the house but now they are on dialysis and in need of a kidney all because of this stupid, unfair, unrelentless, smart virus we’re (still!) dealing with. (Sorry, not sorry, CDC!)


I adopted an older cat with a history. I wanted to do some good. I wanted to give someone who is hopeless some hope. It turns out she is sick. She will be forever sick and need constant care and medication just to survive. 


My husband went to the doctor the other day with a toothache. He came home after a “small surgery”. When is this pain going to stop? The cutting? The bleeding and all ... This world is breaking my heart. Chipping away at it every second. 


I woke up this morning, on my birthday, to go to a memorial for a dear colleague, another plucky Aries woman who made a difference in the world of journalism who I was lucky to work with a decade ago. Another one of those that came into this world to show me who I want to be when I grow up. We talked about death and God and how peaceful death is. And mostly we talked about life. Her life and what she left behind for others. It woke me up. It was truly the perfect birthday present, considering this world today and the crass awareness we all live in. 


I wake up every day and read the news and honestly, I am not sure where to start walking. I have hope that Elon Musk will find some ways for us to live on other planets, because I don’t think there is a safe place here. (Yes, I am only half joking here). I have two citizenships and I want neither one, truly. The human condition is no longer a safe place. 


Yeah, the world around me is pretty grim right now ... and has been for a while ... 

And yet, today, on my birthday, I feel very strongly that I made out like a bandit in this life. 


I am sheltered and there are no bombs flying over my head. For now, although close, there are no bombs flying over my family’s heads in Europe, either. I have had the good fortune to choose who I married. Twice. I have had the good fortune and blessing to be able to get a divorce and leave an abusive marriage. To make that choice, when millions of women can’t. How lucky is that? I am reading a memoir by Madeleine Albright right now. One of her daughters is an international lawyer whose one of her first customers was a grandmother of 26 years of age. Just let that sink in for a minute. A grandmother. At 26. 


I have been able to get an education. As a woman, I have been able to choose where I went to school and do something I loved. I can read. I can write and I can speak two languages. I can write this blog and I am not scared they will lock me up. I just want to cry with joy for all this! 


I have been able to travel on four continents and learn from other cultures how to look at this life through the kaleidoscope of possibilities and not just through one lens. How lucky is that, you tell me?! 


I live every day with so much love and understanding, so much respect and peace at home that it makes me choke up. I am so blessed and so lucky I feel grossly guilty! 


I have a hearth full of birthday cards staring back at me now. And my cat just sat down, leaning painfully into me with a sigh. Best present I can think of yet.


I have managed to see 47 years of age when everyone has been telling me for 39 of them that I will never make it past 25, and after I made it to 26, that I'd never make it much longer ... There is a blessing bestowed on me that keeps showering  me with bliss.


The reason I am not crawling back in bed after reading news or emails or Facebook posts every morning is because we're supposed to stay in the pain. We're supposed to go through hell, and let it hurt us, and let it change us. This is how we change, and how we grow, and how we learn, and how we get to come out on the other end stronger, and more complete, and maybe, just maybe, even better.


I am 47 and feel like going on 90. I swapped my reading glasses all around the house today (I went from 2.00 to 2.75 in a hurry!), I feel old and slow, but I am still here - and old or not, I am still living my life and trying to keep fulfilling the purpose I was put on this planet for. I hope I know what that is. But like I found from my friend’s memorial today, they might realize what it was when I am gone. And that would be OK. As long as that purpose is fulfilled. 


Also in the words of Anne Lamott: “I have warm socks and feet to put in them”. Today, in this cold, unfriendly, deserted day, the 9th day of April, and the 99th day of the year 2022, I am infinitely grateful for this! 


We drove past a billboard today that read “Hope is not canceled”, and I felt a twinkle in my eye. Hope is never canceled. I’ll live to that thought! 


Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Mostenirea Ta

De ziua matusii mele ...

Astăzi, la ceas aniversar, privesc in urma la cei aproape 47 de ani de viata, si te gasesc mereu, unde si unde, niciodata departe de calea mea ... 


Erai acolo cand m-am nascut, cand eram doar o farama, erai acolo și cand am pornit în lume să-mi caut norocul, pe la 22 de ani ... 


Contributiile tale la cine sunt astazi sunt mari si de multe ori subestimate. De la tine am invatat sa iubesc arta si frumosul in genere. Daruindu-mi in fiecare an de ziua mea sau de Craciun o bijuterie, mi-ai starnit dragostea pentru ele, pentru ceva care sa ma faca sa ma simt mai bine, mai apreciata, ca meritam, ca femei


Mi-ai daruit dragostea pentru calatorii, pentru a vizita locuri deosebite pentru a-mi largi orizontul si pentru a colectiona nu numai arta, suveniruri, podoabe scumpe, dar si cultura, amintiri de pe alte meleaguri. Calatoriile noastre impreuna in Turcia si Washington, DC imi vor ramane mereu aproape de inima. 


De la tine am mostenit darul de a dramui un ban. Te-am admirat mereu ca singura fiind ai avut mereu tot ce ai avut nevoie, ai avut mereu ce ai vrut si cat ai vrut. Independenta ta feroce a inceput mereu cu independenta financiara. Exemplul tau de femeie implinita singura a fost mereu calauza mea in momente de singuratate. 


Mi-ai daruit poate cea mai de pret lectie: mi-ai pus in mana pentru prima data un calculator. M-ai fortat sa invat sa il folosesc pentru ca ai intuit ca fara el nu voi ajunge departe in viata in secolul XXI. Ca si student la Litere, ingropata in carti, mi-a fost greu sa vad partea mai practica si tehnologica a lumii, dar nu as lucra azi pentru o companie de software daca nu ar fi fost pentru ca m-ai fortat sa stiu si sa inteleg calculatoarele. 


Si nu il ultimul rand, m-ai ajutat sa-mi pornesc viata cand am plecat din tara: mi-ai dat banii de drum si o incredere deosebita in mine ca ... voi reusi. 


Ca singura matusa pe care o am ai facut mai mult pentru mine decat ar fi facut 10! 


Pentru acestea si pentru multele lucruri pe care le-ai facut pentru mine, si pentru familia noastra in genere, te iubesc mult si iti doresc astazi, de ziua ta, sanatate, liniste, putere si sa fii mereu independenta, iubita, si implitita peste asteptari!