Autumn in the Northwoods

Autumn in the Northwoods

I spent four glorious days at our cottage in the Northwoods. The air, cool and bright, made for good walking, and the decrease in summer insects made everything downright comfortable.  The tornado damage has been fixed, and our lakefront looks normal again.

However, the lane leading in from the main road still looks as though the tornado hasn’t stopped moving. All leaves from the downed trees have browned, withered, and shrunk up to create more holes in the landscape than when they first fell.

Men have come and chopped up some of the larger tree trunks, and carried away their choices for this winter’s firewood. We are glad of that, but they left much debris and small branches littered about. I spent an afternoon picking up these pieces, throwing them in the wheelbarrow and rolling them back to our fire pit. They make excellent firewood.

Mom and I built a wonderful fire one evening. Labor Day Weekend 004

Leaves are starting to turn red. Two weeks from now, the entire Northwoods will be glowing with fire-yellow oak leaves, red-ember maple leaves, and orange ground cover bushes. The colors will mix up and streak here and there, pop out at various levels, and give the impression of a carefully edited photograph. 

Here is just the beginning:


A Rant and a Blog Break

A Rant and a Blog Break

Maybe I heard too many “Afwan”s  in response to “Shukran”s. Maybe I am old-fashioned, or too sensitive, or too linguistically picky, but I hate hearing, “No problem,” in response to, “Thank you.”

The best response is, and always has been, “You’re welcome.”

The meaning of, “You’re welcome,” is this: I am pleased to have helped you. I will be pleased to help you again. You have not inconvenienced me. You have given me a chance to serve you, and I am enriched.

Whether or not the sentiment true is irrelevant; good manners serve to ease the interactions between people who would inconvenience others, even slightly. Good manners serve to encourage cooperation so that needs are met efficiently. Good manners breed respect between people who fulfill their responsibilities toward others, regardless of how they fulfill them.

The meaning of, “No problem,” is: I encountered no problem in helping you, so you needn’t feel guilty in asking. Had I encountered a problem, I might not have helped you, and if I had, you would be in my debt.”

Now, which response endears you to others? Which response opens the way for further interactions? Which response would you rather hear from others when you say, “Thank you.”?

Your mother has spoken! 🙂

Now, today I am going back up North to our cottage in the woods for the last time this year. I won’t have an Internet connection, so I’ll be busy doing writing, photography, walking in the woods, and sitting next to the fire in the evenings. See you next week!

Women’s Liberation


Women’s Liberation, aka Feminism

(The following post- rant, perhaps- is focused upon life in America these days for women. It does feed into Islam, and connects to Middle Eastern values, I promise you.)

Women’s Liberation– that’s what we called it before the word “feminism” entered the common parlance. Back in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, we American women wanted to liberate ourselves from the subjugation of our minds to the greater glory of our bodies and our services as wives and mothers. We also wanted equal pay for equal work.

None of that sounded so difficult, and indeed, now we are able, indeed expected, to develop our minds, earn our own money, and pay our own ways in all areas of life. We now have equal pay for equal work. 

It should have stopped there.

How did this ball keep rolling, such that now we are expected to keep not only one full-time  job, but two? How did we let ourselves be charmed into the workplace when we still had to come home  to evenings of dirty dishes and and the need to plan the next day’s meal?

Why did we agree to get up at 4AM to get everyone ready, take the kids to day care, go to our other jobs, work  eight hours, then pick up the kids, go back home and cram household duties into our evenings and weekends?  When did evenings and weekends become work days for us, but not for our husbands?

Speaking of husbands, how did their salaries get higher while ours stayed the same? After all, we now have equal pay for equal work, don’t we? A male “administrative assistant” would earn the same as a female earns, and a female engineer would earn the same salary as a male’s.

So when was the last time you saw a male secretary, or a female engineer?  We still have men’s jobs and women’s jobs, for which both men and women can train, but guess which jobs pay more?

The word “balance” is important these days, especially for women who still think they can do two full time jobs, or must do so, whether they can or can’t. Well, I suppose they can. I’ve seen them. I work with them. Their example has nearly redefined the word “balance.”

“Balance” used to mean equilibrium, with the connotation of satisfying all  elements that compose the equilibrium. Now, the word  still means equilibrium, but the connotation is of feeding each element just enough to keep it from crashing through to the other elements.

Today’s “liberated” woman is no bargain for males, either, who are being dragged off their couches and computers after a full day of work to help the wife do her second full-time job, the job at home. 

Let’s not mistakenly support  the illusion that one’s family life is more important than one’s work life. Guess who carries the health insurance? Whose salary pays the mortgage? His salary doesn’t do it all anymore. 

Islam cured me of feminism. Islam gave me the right to stay home, be supported  by my husband, keep my own money, and focus upon the place that really does mean more to me than any other place- home.

Islam also cured me of having to “have it all”  in an anemic, tension filled facsimile of freedom.  Maybe my middle-aged status has something to do with this, but I thank Allah I extricated myself from having to maintain the American feminist ideal.



Where Are You?

Where Are You?

All of you blogging buddies in Saudi Arabia have a nice chance to meet each other, especially in Ramadan. I started thinking that maybe one or two of you could be near me. I go between the Chicago, IL, and the Milwaukee, WI, area. Anyone near there? Care to meet?

Soup for Breakfast

Soup for Breakfast

I must give credit to ~W~ for the lovely soup I made yesterday:

I started with her recipe, but ended up with my own variation. I simply cannot stick to recipes, because I keep thinking, “Wouldn’t a little (insert appropriate ingredient) taste good here?” Then I dig around the cupboard, or the refrigerator, and find something  that needs to be used before it goes bad. Sometimes I find handfuls of grains or pasta that can’t be wasted but are too small for other recipes. These discoveries seem perfect for the pot.

Soup recipes invite improvisation, so my apologies to ~W~ for digressing so readily on her lovely recipe. Hers is more tasty than mine, I am sure,  but mine is a close second!


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Fantasy Reigns

One of the interesting tourist attractions in the United States is the Renaissance Faire:

Last weekend I joined my daughter and her family at the Bristol Renaissance Faire on the border of Illinois and Wisconsin. It is a remarkable event, with re-creations of Renaissance events, costumes, music and activities, The actors recreate various activities of the period, maintaining the accent and vocabulary of the Renaissance.  They mingle freely with the guests, invite them to participate, address them as, “My lord,” and My lady.” They enjoy having their photos taken:

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We spent a wonderful afternoon, meandering throughout the wooded grounds, watching the games, admiring the costumes, listening to the music, examining the clothes and jewelry for sale, smelling the roasted meat and fried everything else, deciding and deciding again what we’d eat. A musician played an instrument called a spinet, answered our questions graciously, and even allowed my son-in-law to sit and press a few keys.  

Then we ate tempura shrimp and vegetables, which wasn’t very medieval, but we were not tempted by turkey legs. Not long after Maghrib, we headed back to the entrance, because the Faire would close before dark.  A harpist sat at her instrument on the dirt path, plucking the strings and making beautiful music, so we stopped, along with other people. My son-in-law admired her instrument, and stroked its frame.

She jumped up and inserted herself between him and the harp, shouting, “NEVER, EVER touch my instrument without permission!” She glared up at my tall son-in-law, and he glared back, not sure whether her outburst was part of the medieval act, as was her costume and music. We stood there, uneasy, and she continued, “THIS is a FIVE THOUSAND DOLLAR instrument! You DO NOT touch it without permission!”

My daughter said, “She’s acting.”

Indeed, her harsh voice had drawn an audience, and she seemed as though she were acting, especially since my son-in-law did nothing except stroke the frame. He might have left  a fingerprint, but probably not.

Her eyes flamed, and she growled in a low voice, “I am SERIOUS!”

“What’s going on here?” I said. My son-in-law did not speak, but my daughter said, “Are you supposed to be a witch?” My son-in-law remained speechless, but his facial expression showed his confusion and disappointment.

The musician raised her arm and pointed over his shoulder, saying. “Now GO! I will NOT play for you,” and turned her back on us.

We slunk off, grumbling, the light mood of the day broken, but I felt anger rising. How dare she embarrass my son-in-law, and speak to him with such contempt!? I turned back to get her name, thinking I’d write her a nasty letter if I stayed angry long enough. She saw me reading her CD labels, and said, “COMPLAIN AWAY! Just don’t touch my instrument.”

I might have let the incident go, had she not gilded the lily with that last remark.  I turned to confront her.

She sat down and started playing energetically, smiling at the guests who tossed dollar bills into her box. I looked at her instrument, at her tip box, at her CDs, and back at her. She was not about to stop playing, as long as I was standing there, so I said to the male with her, “There are ways, and there are ways to ask someone not to touch the instrument.  Perhaps she could pull it out of the path of the people, or erect a gate, or at least a sign. We were very offended at her behavior. Will you tell her that for me?” No immediate response. “WILL YOU TELL HER FOR ME? OK?” He said, “OK”, and I left.

Half an hour later, at the exit gate, I was approached by a woman who identified herself as the “Head of Guest Relations” and asked if I were the woman who gave the musician a hard time.

“SHE gave US a hard time!” I shouted, realizing that the harpist had reported me. After a few heated words between us, the Head of Guest Relations listened to the whole story, and thanked me for telling it. She said, “I’m going to address this issue right now,” and took leave of us, and we took leave of the Faire.

I was angry all the way home, so angry that I missed my exit, thus delaying my return by at least twenty minutes. I forgot about fasting,  Ramadan, good intentions, peace, love, patience, and everything good.

Finally home, I went straight to the computer and looked up the musician’s name. I will not mention it here, since bad publicity is better than none, but I noted that she came with impeccable credentials and accomplishments.  I read everything I could find on her, and found that she had a good reputation, and many fans. Why had she attacked my son-in-law?

Three days later, needing all that time to get over the anger, I felt sorry for her. An accomplished musician, she was beautiful, but so full of herself that she didn’t mind lording it over three admirers who could have walked away blessed by her music instead of soured by her mean-spirited arrogance. 

The incident drove home a reality that must not be forgotten when attending these Ren-Faires (as they are so called):  fantasy reigns. The embroidered gowns and lilting language can charm a guest. The gentle sounds of musical strings and breeze through the trees can lull a lady into a smile, and charm a gentleman into fascination with the facade.

Take delight in the images, let the music pull your imagination along, snap some photos, enjoy the show, but don’t peek behind the veil of illusion, lest a lovely harpist rise up and roar. 

 Copy of Labor Day Weekend 058



Ramadan, oh Ramadan!

Never do I miss my life in the Middle East more than in Ramadan! This year, for the first time, I have blogging buddies in various countries, who will help reinforce the spirit of Ramadan simply by contibuting to their blogs.

One of the nicest blessings of Islam is the sense of connection one can establish with people one would never otherwise meet. THANK YOU, ALL! May Allah bless your Ramadan, and keep you in good faith, good health, and happiness.

Someday I will spend another Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, insha Allah. Until then, I rely upon my faith, my family, my blogging buddies, and my memories to keep me floating above it all.

Ramadan Kareem!  ♥