Every year my husband’s family gathers in Chincoteague, Virginia on Veterans’ Day Weekend. For many years we have been blessed with gorgeous weather, lots of wildlife, lots of good seafood, and abundant fuzzy pony sightings on neighboring Assateague Island. We are now on the third generation of youngins’ who have participated in this annual pilgrimage. But this year there was a first.
This year there was a rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility scheduled for Saturday, November 11.
At about 7:00 AM lots of hardy folks in numerous layers of warm outer wear started gathering on the causeway between Chincoteague and Assateague. There is an unobstructed view of the launch site, which I think is about 3 miles as the crow flies. Although I wouldn’t advise a crow or anyone else flying near a launch. However, that’s exactly what happened.
We were all gathered on the causeway at 7:37 AM, freezing our butts off, waiting for the big event when some idiot pilot decides to ignore the restricted airspace and take a joy ride! A launch window is only open so long so they had to scrub. The launch was rescheduled for the next morning at the same time.
The next morning, we all gathered on the causeway at the same time. I think there might have been even more people on Sunday. It was a little warmer and the mood was upbeat.
They “lit the candle” (that’s what the cool people say) right on time and up it went! I was underwhelmed by the actual rocket, which was smaller than I expected but had an impressive flash. What was cool was the after boom (I don’t know what the cool people or anyone else calls that officially). About ten seconds after liftoff there is this incredible, deep, rumble, like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Walls shake and folks reflexively Ooh and Aaah. There is also an impressive amount of smoke left behind on the launch pad.
It was incongruous to see a rocket being launched so near a natural wildlife refuge. However, the fuzzy ponies weren’t phased in the least. I guess they’re so used to seeing tourists exhibit goofy behavior that nothing phases them. They just kept munchin’ on that salty marsh grass and bloating.
Afterward the launch everyone walked away looking satisfied and for hot coffee.
I must say Chincoteague did a great job of hosting the event on both days. Traffic control, signage, and even first aid were provided by local law enforcement. But it was all low key in keeping with the Chincoteague vibe.
Thank you for visiting.
My husband and I enthusiastically offered to keep my sister-in- law’s dog at our house while she and her
husband attended a wedding further North.
Mollie is a Shetland Sheepdog. I think technically she’s considered a Blue Merle, but she’s white with
markings on her head and cute as hell. She looks like a cotton ball on very tiny legs. She’s also very
ladylike which is a sharp contrast to our 18-month- old Boston Terrier, Beans. They’re the Beauty and the
Beast of the K9 world with a large dose of hyperactivity thrown in. We found ourselves yelling at Beans
more than usual simply because of the contrast in styles.
This translated into pretty much every doglike behavior. When Mollie drinks, her little pink tongue juts
out quickly and quietly with not a drop left on the floor to show her efforts. Beans sticks his whole face
into the bowl, slurps loudly, and trails water all over the house. Sometimes he wipes his face on the cat’s
head, which is hilarious! Oddly enough the “Cat From Hell” doesn’t seem to care.
When we let the dogs outside to do their business, Beans took off like a bat outta hell and popped a
squat almost immediately. Mollie delicately worked her way down the stairs and was immediately
assaulted by Beans who apparently wanted to help. We started taking them out separately in deference
to Mollie’s feminine sensibilities. We also fed them separately. This was not because the dogs have poor
mat manners but because the CFH always horns in.
Beans wanted to play non-stop. He loves to share a tug toy with anything that moves and was constantly
offering Molly the other end of a rubber ring, which she declined. Beans has amazingly strong jaws and
can tug with a great deal of force, in fact I don’t even play tug with him. Mollie preferred sitting on our
laps and looking pretty, understandably so. But there was an incredibly sweet moment near the end of
the visit when Mollie went into her crate, came out with a fuzzy toy, and offered one end to Beans.
Beans gently took the other end and played “tug” on Mollie’s terms. Beans may be obnoxious but
apparently, he’s not stupid. Maybe that’s why my husband and I are so goofy in love with this dog.
With guest pets, much like children, there is always the issue of different homes, different rules. Mollie
is fed treats; which Beans is not. Mollie barks a lot more than Beans. During Mollie’s visit, Beans’ default
was, “when in doubt bark with the other dog because there must be something going on that I don’t
know about.” This created the effect of Beans hoping around, barking his fool head off, with a confused
look on his face.
Mollie’s people came back for her on Sunday night and I’m sure she was glad to see them. She’ll be back
for Thanksgiving and I’d like to think Beans and the CFH will be glad to see her. I’m not so sure about
Mollie, but I hope she enjoys the change of pace if nothing else.
Thank you for visiting.
I was fortunate to spend my Fourth of July weekend as the guest of a couple who live in a lovely home on Chesapeake Bay. I arrived on Saturday afternoon, about two hours before my hosts’ annual Fourth of July celebration began. I had been asked to arrive early, get settled, and help with a few chores.
Our hosts provide crabs and corn while everyone else brings a side and their beverage of choice. This leads me to a hosting issue which I hear frequently. When hosting such an event is it better to assign sides or let the chips (and dips) fall where they may? If it’s a large event such as this, I like the free-form event. Folks get to make their specialties and if someone doesn’t show up, there isn’t a hole at the table that the hostess may feel obligated to fill at the last minute. But I know it bothers some folks to have too much of one thing and not enough of another. In this case we had a lot of pasta salad and one guest was heard to remark, “With a little planning this wouldn’t have happened.” I guess my thought is, who cares? Thoughts?
Several couples spent the night and I was in charge of breakfast Sunday morning. As usual we had an assortment of diets including vegetarian, pescitarian, and pregnant. With the help of another guest I made a huge load of bacon, pancakes, homemade blackberry syrup, fruit salad, and watermelon salad. For future reference, that combination seemed to work really well. Two of the couples peeled off to go home and the remaining six people spent a relaxing day puddling around in the water and eating leftovers.
On Monday we gave our hosts a break and went to Calvert Cliffs along with the other remaining guest couple. I almost hate to promote it, but this is an amazing 4 mile hike along a shaded path through forest and bordering several different ecosystems. You end up at a small swimming beach on the Bay with an amazing view of the cliffs. It’s also dog friendly, and our Boston Terrier swam for the first time. We headed about seven miles down Route 2 to Soloman’s Island for lunch. Again, found a dog friendly restaurant with shade and really good sandwiches. That night we took our hosts out to dinner. Really nice day.
On Tuesday, one couple went to check out Chesapeake Beach, two of us went to a small-town parade, and two of “us” stayed on the couch all day watching Robocop movies. I love a parade, there’s something about gathering with other people on Main Street America and complaining about their children that I enjoy. That night the other couple treated us all to pizza.
We could see fireworks from different localities from our hosts’ backyard every night. I also love fireworks.
This trip reinforced several of my best practices.
1) When you have a group staying at your house for several days, it’s helpful if people can entertain themselves, at least during the day.
2) It’s OK for people to do different things. Guests shouldn’t be pressured to participate in activities that don’t interest them. When someone on vacation is forced to do something they don’t want….it shows and takes away from the enjoyment of others.
3) Don’t complain or make negative comments about anything. If there is a serious safety or comfort problem, don’t whine about it, suggest a solution. “I know we need some room in the fridge. Mind if I toss this mayonnaise-based salad that was out on the sun for 10 hours?” “I know it’s just me, but do you mind if I turn the AC down just a couple of degrees?” You know stuff like that.
4) If you bring a pet, take responsibility for it! The first night, my bad cat woke everyone up at 5:00 am yowling in the hallway. Once again, my apologies.
I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend.
Thank you for visiting.
I am ashamed to say that before I visited Kuwait, I had some preconceived notions that seem incredibly ignorant to me now. Much of this naiveté stems from my previous notion that the “Middle East” was a fairly homogeneous place. I thought Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait were all pretty alike in terms of customs and culture. Turns out, much like the different countries of Europe and even regions of the United States, there are marked differences among the individual nations.
With this in mind, here are some of differences and similarities between Kuwait and the U.S. that struck me.
Kuwait City is overrun with fast food joints. McDonalds, KFC, and Wendy’s are ubiquitous. One of my grandson’s first words was “Starbucks.” There are also some obvious knock offs like “Slim Chickens,” the name of which I found hilarious! Can you imagine giving a fast food restaurant in the U.S. a name that implies anything other than humongous portions?
Shopping malls are extremely popular in Kuwait and look just like those in the U.S. with many of the same stores which include Ikea and Sears. Because of the intense heat, indoor malls remain extremely popular and my hosts ran into several acquaintances even on short excursions.
Private vehicles are the main mode of transportation.
Kuwait is a dry country. Alcohol is illegal much like street drugs are illegal in the U.S. This lowered our restaurant tabs and heightened my attention to the food. Kuwaitis are proud of their traditional cuisine and rightly so, it is delicious. Some clever entrepreneur should start a “Kuwaiti Fried KaBob” franchise in the U.S. I’d be first in line. In compliance with the dietary laws of Islam, pork is not served in Kuwait. While I like bacon and ham as much as the next guy, I didn’t miss it.
The malls, and other indoor areas I visited, are spotless. When you leave a table it is cleaned immediately. There is no trash on the floors and the rest rooms are immaculate.
All the bathrooms I used had toilet paper along with a squirter thingy attached to the wall next to the toilet. It looks and operates like the sprayer on a kitchen faucet. I trust that I do not have to explain its use. However, I will share that it’s hard not to flood your hosts’ bathroom floor while learning to use the apparatus. Luckily things dry quickly in Kuwait.
There are five calls to prayer every day with additional religious obligations during the observance of Ramadan. These calls are chanted by a single male voice over some sort of PA system that can be heard by everyone inside or outside. Much like living near a train track, after a while I got used to it as normal background noise.
Car seats for children are not regularly used in Kuwait. In fact, many consider holding an infant in your arms the only safe way to transport a baby. They view strapping a child into a seat beyond your reach and line of vision as tantamount to neglectful parenting. Kuwaitis often tut tut westerners who practice what they view as a counterintuitive and ill-advised safety precaution. It was hard not to gawk at the older kids running amok in cars; climbing over seats, wrestling with siblings, sitting on their parents’ laps, or wedged between a seat and a window.
Kuwait City has feral cats much like many American cities have squirrels, and they are treated in much the same way. Some people consider it a kindness to feed and water them, while others view them as a filthy nuisance. I’m told that nonprofit efforts to address the feral cat population with shelters or catch- and-release programs have been unsuccessful.
Now for the elephant in the electronic room…covering. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not an expert on Islam so I will not attempt to explain the religious, political, or historical ramifications of covering. But here’s what I learned as a visitor. Many people assume that all women are required to cover themselves to some extent anywhere in the Middle East. While I cannot speak to other countries, this is NOT true in Kuwait. I am told that to some extent, covering by female Muslims is a choice that depends on a number of factors including family traditions. It is not expected of visitors or women who are not Muslim. Those who cover do so in all public places and at private events where men who are not first-degree family will be in attendance.
There are degrees of covering which traditionally begins with puberty but can be adopted at any time. Many women cover their hair only. There are also a large number of women who cover their hair and street clothing. These garments are as varied in style as any genre of clothing. There are women who cover everything but their eyes. Then there are women who cover completely, from head to toe, mainly in black fabric, with varying degrees of ornamentation. This includes their faces, hands, and shoes. I saw complete covering only a handful of times during my visit.
I attended an all-female party in Kuwait, what we would call a baby shower except the baby had already arrived. When a male member of the hostess’s family arrived unexpectedly at the front door, he was shoed to another entrance so as not to embarrass those ladies who cover. It was at that point I realized I would not recognize many of the women at this party if I encountered them in public.
In general, all adult females, regardless of religion, dress more modestly in Kuwait than they do in the States. While you see women in yoga pants and tight jeans, you don’t see bare legs and tummies, tight tops, or cleavage.
Thank you for visiting.
This week’s question comes from Susan in Virginia:
“What is the best and most polite way to ask for someone to host me for a few days? I’m traveling to the Phoenix area to visit my mom in a nursing home. I used to live there and became friends with a neighbor and even did some pet sitting for him on more than one occasion. His cat and I love one another dearly. I even did a light vacuuming while he was gone for a week at a time. After we moved to Virginia, we stayed in touch and I find I’m going to be back in the Phoenix area in 2 weeks, and hotels and AirBnB are a small fortune after paying for a flight and rental car to go see mom. Is there a nice way to ask to use his spare bedroom without coming off as rude or pushy? If he says no, I’m OK with that. I want your expert opinion before I ask him. Thanks for your advice.”
Great question and one I have both asked and received.
There are two basic approaches.
Inform the prospective host of your upcoming trip and suggest getting together for a drink, cup of coffee, or lunch. If he responds to your correspondence with an invitation to stay at his house, great. If not, you need to be willing to follow through with your get together and pay for it–which is why I suggest an inexpensive visit rather than dinner. Even if he does not take the bait, it may lay the ground work for future visits.
The second option is to simply come right out and ask if you can stay at his home. I would keep it very simple with something like, “I will be in town to visit Mom at the Shady Pines from April 20 to the 24. I was hoping I might stay with you and Mr. Fuzzy Whiskers. I can fend for myself for meals but would like to treat you to dinner one night. Please feel to decline my request, no explanation needed and no hard feelings on my part. There is plenty of time to make other arrangements. If you are not up for hosting, perhaps we could still get together for a visit?” I would not mention the expense factor.
These suggestions are predicated on two basic assumptions: 1) you really enjoy the potential host’s company and genuinely want to spend time with him; 2) you are confident he won’t take this as a romantic overture. That would be awkward at best, cruel at worst.
I hope this helps and you’ll let me know what happens.
Side note: I know how difficult it is to have an elderly relative in a nursing home. Visits are bitter sweet and can be emotionally draining for both parties. We all need to support folks who have had to make this tough transition.
Thank you for visiting,
This week’s blog is dedicated to my K-9 friend Beau Call, who is now sniffing butts in doggie heaven. He was a good and faithful servant. The pic with this post is not Beau, he was much more dignified.
This week I address the challenge of pets and houseguesting.
I would like to thank my veterinarians from Ashland Veterinary Hospital (ashlandvethospital.com) for providing me with their expertise on the subject.
First of all, don’t travel with cats unless you have to. My vets agree with me on this one. Cats are creatures of habit and generally don’t travel well. You’re always welcome to disagree with me, but you’ll have to wait until I’ve staunched the bleeding from my last trip to my sister’s with my cat!
That pretty much leaves dogs, and I must say that some of our best guests have been dogs…I’m looking at you Puddles.
Suggestions for the Guest:
- You are responsible for your dog’s behavior at all times.
“There are people who think their dogs will never do something aggressive…and they do. Even the nicest dogs will snap.” The Ashland Vets advise keeping your dog on a leash while indoors, especially if there are children or other pets in the host’s home. They say that by erring on the side of caution you are protecting your dog as well as those they come into contact with.
- Make sure your dog is up to date on all shots and medications recommended by your vet and find out about the environment where you will be staying. You may need preventative medicines that aren’t necessary in your home area.
- Don’t assume it’s OK to bring your dog with you as a houseguest without checking. This has happened to us.
- Ask permission once to bring your dog. If the host says “no” for any reason, please don’t press the point. That creates an awkward situation for the host.
- Put your dog’s kennel or ground pad in the guest room along with his toys and dishes. Feed the dog in this area and leave him there when you can’t watch him. This will prevent what the Vets call “resource guarding.” Rawhide is a common source of resource guarding.
- Pick up your dog’s poop from the host’s yard and let them know where you have deposited the load so the host isn’t surprised when they take out the trash.
- Don’t let your dog dig in the host’s yard.
- Dogs that jump on people and furniture are not cute to anyone but their owners. Another good reason to keep visiting dogs on a leash when inside.
- Exercise the dog so it is calmer indoors.
- Don’t ever blame the host (or the host’s pets) for your dog’s behavior. Remember, you have created this situation.
Suggestions for the Host:
- I repeat my number one Best Practice for Hosts, “Your ultimate responsibility is for the safety and well being of the family and household you have created.” If you have any reservations about hosting a pet, it is your job to say “no.” You are not required to provide a lengthy explanation. If you provide specific reasons they can be countered with comments such as, “Oh, my dog is hypo allergenic.”
- If you decline to host a guest’s pet, offer alternatives such as a local kennel or veterinarian that boards. “I’m sorry we can’t accommodate Ginger at our home, but I’ve heard good things about ____________.”
- Warn your guest of any issues they may have with a pet at your home. For instance, you may have an aggressive or elderly dog who does not play well with others. Or, your apartment is on the 21st floor and the elevator is slow. You get the idea.
- If you agree to host an animal try to relax and enjoy the visit. Right Puddles?