Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Exhilarating New Challenges~

Exhilarating New Challenges~

I’m still acclimating to my new role in the corporate liability unit for the insurer that employs me. While I’ve developed a comfort level with my casualty position that feels almost as if I am coasting in some respects, I am celebrating the challenges of my expanded responsibilities.

Last week I found myself completely enthusiastic, intrigued, uncomfortable, stretched intellectually and energized. I felt excited by having to delve into something new, interact with a different workgroup, and learn unfamiliar case law to which I can still apply my years of experience. Ultimately, I have the chance to use the tools I’ve honed over my years in casualty insurance claims, apply them to representing the interests of my company, and work with new team members to formulate strategies that appropriately manage risk.

It has been a long time since I’ve experienced such exhilaration at work. I am so grateful to the managers who recommended me for this opportunity, which affords me a chance to pursue a different career path that I’d never considered.

The lesson~ be open to any opportunity. Change is more often than not a good thing. It keeps us feeling alive. I plan to continue to embrace opportunities for change and growth with the intention to live every moment to the fullest.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Billy Joel is still The Entertainer at 65!

Billy Joel is still The Entertainer at 65!

This past Saturday evening I had the pleasure of attending Billy Joel’s concert at National’s Park in the District of Columbia. It was energetic, engaging & funny. I’ve been listening to Billy Joel at least since The Stranger was released in 1977 – the year I graduated from high school. I was hooked! I went back and purchased the earlier albums during those episodes where I joined Columbia House Records – get 12 albums for 99 cents plus a bonus album and buy just 12 more in the next 2 years for the low price of $9.99 plus exorbitant shipping and handling! I would complete my required purchases, quit and rejoin again a few months later.

Billy Joel and Elton John were the song masters of my youth, the performing musicians that spoke to me in my formative years. While I still appreciate both and have actually seen Elton John in concert more frequently, it is Billy Joel’s music that touches my heart and soul. It speaks to me as clearly as Mozart’s Requiem, which fills me with joy and haunts me all the same.

While Elton John’s music feels a bit dated to me, Billy Joel’s does not.  It feels nostalgic, but not dated. It feels joyous, uplifting, sentimental, introspective, reflective, resilient, and heart rending.

Yes, Billy Joel appeals to a particular demographic. I’ve never seen so many over 40 white people gathered together in one venue in the District of Columbia during the 20 years I’ve lived in the area. That was actually startling to me. But it was also fascinating to see so many people of a certain age attending a stadium concert, dancing in the stands, and singing their hearts out to every song.

Billy Joel is still first and foremost an entertainer. He is engaging & funny & he appears to completely enjoy performing. He hasn’t released new material other than classical in two decades; but he doesn’t have to do so. He can rest on his laurels and the music he created over 25 years and continue to pull in the crowds.

Every selection performed was a memory for me from Piano Man to Zanzibar to Scenes from an Italian Restaurant to Goodnight Saigon – which always brings me to tears. This concert was exhilarating. And I thank Billy Joel for enduring through tough times; I appreciate his angst over 9/11 & his support of Sandy victims; I value his contribution to my appreciation of music; I offer my condolences on the recent death of his mother Rosalind – the subject of Rosalinda’s Eyes; and I thank him for his commemoration of American life over the last 35 years from the closing of the factories in Allentown to the devastating changes in the commercial fishing industry, to the honor afforded to our Vietnam veterans to his reflections on loneliness and loss of trust or faith.

I had a great time Saturday and my emotions ran the gamut from Allentown to Zanzibar. Thank you!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Americans Should Open Their Eyes ~ There Are 2 Sides to the Gaza Story

Americans Should Open Their Eyes ~ There Are 2 Sides to the Gaza Story

Perhaps I am one of the few Americans who are tired of the U.S. Government’s perpetual blind support of Israel since it was carved out of territory belonging to others and made an independent state in 1948 after the Holocaust of World War II.

To create the State of Israel, Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin stole, designated or or appropriated land from those of Palestinian or Arab descent, evicted them from their homes with what they could carry, and left them stateless.  I don’t know about you, but I would feel resentment.

My experiences may be somewhat unique to that of the typical Israel apologist. During my childhood in north central Indiana my family were friends with people of Arab descent who had been forced from their homes. They lost their homes, personal possessions and sense of identity. Yet our friends had the good fortune to emigrate to the U.S.A. and start over. Those who did not have those resources are still feeling the pain and anger of decisions made by foreign potentates 68 years ago. The anger is passed down generation to generation.

Additionally, in 1978 I had the privilege to study at my university’s campus in England. Among the international student body were several students from countries in the Middle East, including Jordan. During the December holiday vacation, I backpacked through Europe with some fellow students and stopped in Geneva. One of the young women attending our school, Harlaxton College, was spending the time off with her father in Geneva. She invited us to lunch. My fellow traveler and I showed up at our friend’s Geneva residence at the Hotel Intercontinental, to be greeted at the door by a butler and finding her father was the Jordanian ambassador to the United Nations. Despite being slightly underdressed for the occasion in our college student ratty denim garb, we were treated with kindness, courtesy, and genuine welcome. We were also given a gentle lesson on the Palestinian / Israeli dispute by a well educated, thoughtful diplomat who had gotten his MBA from Southern Methodist University and had served the U.N. in New York. He was a true diplomat. But it was eye opening to me to be shown on a map where people had been forced from their homes and given an explanation that we Americans did not often hear as to why tensions had not eased.

Think about it. Only 68 years have passed since peoples’ homes were taken from them. The Palestinians have been stateless for decades. And then consider that some people in the southern states of the U.S.A. still feel bitterness at the outcome of the Civil War. 150 years after its end. The British and French fought wars for hundreds of years.  It is easy to understand the anger and frustration of the Palestinian people. Do I support Hamas? No. But I also believe that Israel bombing civilian hospitals and residential units in Gaza– even if they do give advance notice – is really no less than a war crime.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflections on Turning 55 ~ Some Amazing Experiences That I Savor

Reflections on Turning 55 ~ Some Amazing Experiences That I Savor

Having grown up in a relatively small town in Indiana during the 1960’s, I’m still transfixed by amazement at the opportunities I’ve been afforded and the wonders of life that I’ve had the privilege to experience.

During a time before computers, video games, play dates, social media, cell phones, GPA, and large screen televisions with hundreds of channels, we relied upon conversation, playing outside, board games, cards, family gatherings, the occasional movie at a cinema and books from the library. Books and my parents taking us on driving vacations to places like Gettysburg, Yellowstone, the Petrified Forest, and the Badlands opened my eyes to the world beyond Logansport, Indiana. The fact that my paternal grandparents lived on a farm in southern Indiana was a bonus. My memories of playing in the hayloft of the barn, tossing cow pies at my siblings in the pasture, and swinging on the porch of the smoke house still bring a smile to my heart.

But the opportunities to travel and meet fascinating people brought the most pleasure beyond the joys of inner peace found after years of challenges, bad relationships, divorce and bad choices. 

My top 55 experiences to date {other than #1, in no particular order}:

1.     Marrying my soul mate on the veranda of the Villa Sirio in Santa Maria di Castellebate, Italy with the local mayor presiding as we faced the Tyrrhenian Sea surrounded by family and good friends;

2.     Cruising on the QE2 from New York City to Southampton, England in 1978;

3.     Climbing up the difficult side to the top of the Great Wall of China;
4.     Sitting on the flight deck of a Qantas 757 flying from Singapore to the old Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong at night and enjoying a wide birds-eye view of the harbor filled with the lights of the city and the boats & ships;
5.     Dining with Madame Nguyen Phuoc Dai, a former South Vietnamese politician and lawyer at her home in Saigon in 1992; I’d seen her interviewed by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes in the mid ‘80’s and admired her resilience;

6.     Being greeted at the airport in Beijing by an immigration official opening a special line for me and my parents;
7.     Climbing Black Virgin Mountain in Tay Ninh, Vietnam surrounded by local children who helped me make the climb;
8.     Traveling by train with only a backpack through Europe in the winter of 1978;
9.     Celebrating Christmas Eve with the Weinmeister family in Salzburg, Austria in 1978; attending midnight mass at St. Basil’s; the trees and crèche were lit with real candles;
10. Attending Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome;
11. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival – Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Robert Plant;

12. Driving a Z4 convertible on a hot summer day;

13. Returning to my roots and deciding that red is the hair color for me!
14. Every time I visit with my parents; I am so blessed to still have them both in my life;

15. Riding an elephant in Chang Mai, Thailand;
16. Attending a Buddhist drum festival in Thailand;
17. Learning to practice wet plate collodion photography;
18. Taking a course in photogenic drawings at Laycock Abbey, where Henry Fox Talbot discovered the process;

19. Studying French at the Sorbonne in Paris for a summer;
20. Sipping cappuccino at a café on the plaza in Siena;
21. Exploring Virginia wineries;

22. A hot air balloon ride in Napa;
23. Snorkeling Molokini in Hawaii;
24. Participating in a Hindu cremation ceremony in Bali;
25. Living for 3 years in Hong Kong;
26. The collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei;
27. Visiting the Temple of Poseidon at Cape Sounion with a girl traveling from Rhodesia.
28. Celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with a Caribbean Cruise;
29. Learning about myself and learning healthy attitudes and ways of living through my years in Al-Anon;
30. Discovering that Natchez, MS is the ultimate destination for us;
31. The beauty of the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC in spring;
32. Making the decision to interview for a position at Chubb – the 3rd time the recruiter called me;
33. Yoga;
34. Commemorating the 150th anniversaries of 1st Manassas (Bull Run), Gettysburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga;
35. My husband taking me to Lookout Mountain / Rock City so I could face my childhood fears and walk across the swinging bridge;
36. Living in Lewes, Delaware; Cape Henlopen State Park; embracing the beauty of the beach;
37. San Francisco – food, wine, walking, ambiance;
38. Riding a Tuk Tuk through the streets of Bangkok, being stalled behind a truck loaded with cut up red meat with three men sitting on the meat;
39. Getting pulled over for a traffic violation in Taipei (turning right on red) and having a police officer point a large gun at me;
40. Sailing on any body of water;
41. Studying mid 19th Century material culture and participating in immersion living history events;

42. Harvesting my home grown tomatoes and eating them with a bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, kalamata olives and feta;
43. Florence; Roma; Venice; Pisa; anyplace in Italy;
44. The Loire Valley in France – visiting the chateau and the vineyards;
45. Wandering around the US Capital Building alone looking for a meeting I was supposed to attend on an evening before 9/11. 
46. Any time I can spend with friends that have positive attitudes, an interest in the world around them, kindness, and enlightenment;
47. Providing a sanctuary for abandoned cats;

48. Books; there is no such thing as too many books;
49. Cashmere;
50. The kindness of strangers; the conversations one can have with people we meet;
51. Working from home at my rosewood desk looking, avoiding a commute;
52. Living in a house with hardwood floors; I hate wall to wall carpeting;
53. Learning to bake bread and having it taste divine;
54. Sunrise and sunset, wherever I may be;

55. Appreciation for my good fortune, good health, good genes, amazing husband, and awesome future.