Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Back to Paris

Managed to get attacked last night by a West African taxi driver, in Paris. He blooded my hand quite well. The French police are buying the version it was an "accident" and will not pursue. I notified the Embassy because I feel responsible to prevent him doing this again; he ran away. I must now get an arm full of shots and worry about HIV contamination. Not a great night.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

and we are off again

A future Oxford scholar getting the right attitude.

Oxford was lovely, more later. We toured the library and I was shocked by the changes - they have plugs, computers, and are switching to the DDS! Shocking!

To London this morning, a bit of shopping and tea at Harrod's; then back to Paris on the Chunnel.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

Friday, 4 November 2011

and continuing our tour of the Continent and Britain...

We are at the Old Parsonage Hotel in Oxford and it is so brilliant! Tiny, tiny, hotel with a great bar, ok the Macallan's is only 10-years-0ld but THEY HAVE IT. Rolled in off the train around noon, after big hugs with Billy the owner of the B&B in Bath, with whom we are now life long friends. Had a lovely lunch downstairs while they were readying the room; upstairs for a cuppa in a small (it is after all England) but very well appointed room with included WIFI so you know we are happy.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


I was in Texas, then I was in Paris (thank the Gods), then I was in Britain (thank you Kali) - first to London, then Bath (oh the food, the whiskey, the people, the tales), and tomorrow - Oxford! Too busy at present to write about adventures as I am having them - but stay tuned!


Monday, 31 October 2011

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Paris in October

Just a few photographs from about town for you. The chaps with the spears sticking through them are all about town. We can't figure it out - what do you think. Here are some young chaps who used them for hanging their hats!

And just what room would you decorate around that chair?

And yes that's how we do window/doors in Paris!

Monday, 24 October 2011


Two Paris beauties!

Friday, 9 September 2011

One of those "what were they thinking?

And then you laugh! Please provide your own captions.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Whatever you can...

I know it is easy to have 'aid fatigue', but if you have been watching the news, reading the paper - you know how desperate matters are for the people, the children and mothers in particular, of Somalia. I know times are economically a bit techy in the West of late, but we are not dying, our children are not dying - by the hundreds, by the thousand. I urge you to find it in your heart and pocket to donate whatever you can - these are my go to people for desperate situations around the world.

I am someone's mother; thank you from me and someone else's mother.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Year of the Redhead aye? Huzzah!

As any Redhead will tell you (natural or adopted) we love the attention. Thank you Ian.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


Helen Mirren Has 'Body Of The Year' At 66: Actress Tops L.A. Fitness Poll

What do David Beckham and Helen Mirren have in common? Aside from being two famous Brits, they also have the most desirable bodies. That's right, 66-year-old Dame Helen Mirren has the hottest bod in Hollywood.

The Oscar-winning actress was named “Body of the Year" by 2,000 people who were apart of a L.A. Fitness survey. She beat model Elle MacPherson, who came in a not-even-close second place, singer Nicole Scherzinger, Kelly Brook, who came in third, and even Jennifer Lopez, who came in fourth place. The Dame even bested Pippa Middleton, Kate Middleton's little sister, who came in eighth place with only four percent of the vote.

Mirren’s win should came as no surprise to people who have seen pictures of the Dame topless in New York Magazine. Looks like Mirren's proving that age is certainly nothing but a number.

As for the hottest male bodies? Well, soccer stud David Beckham came out on top, putting him ahead of actors Daniel Craig and Johnny Depp in second and third place respectively.

Helen Mirren is currently set to film the controversial Phil Spector biopic, starring Al Pacino as the famed music producer. The actress will play Spector's defence attorney Linda Kenney Baden.

I love this century!

Thursday, 28 July 2011


Off tomorrow to the MFAH to view the Titian exhibit. I'm taking my stepdaughter, and her friend Gabe. The three of us went together to see the Impressionists exhibit when it was in town; and it was so much fun. They are both very knowledgeable about art, and take such joy in the pieces. It is a pleasure to be able to view the works with them.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

I have no idea WHY,

but someone has created a fake Facebook account in my name, with much of my personal data. I was notified yesterday by a friend who is a geek and has a kick-ass supply of computer/software toys. She has deactivated the account but was unable to delete it. I have only the ONE Facebook page. My list of "friends" is relatively small, so I am not going to erase my authentic Facebook page. That said, should anyone see a page similar to mine but with some rather risque photographs, and comments I would never make - please let me know.

Do let me tell you to tighten your security/privacy settings. This person routed the data through several IP addresses - INCLUDING MY OWN. A bit like having someone look up your skirt - but not in a good way!

Thursday, 21 July 2011


That's Waldo hiding under my skirt, and keeping my seat warm while I make some tea!

And back to Texas and the adorable husband!

Where once I am unpacked, and have satisfied the adorable husband (clear your minds!) by going to see the doctor about the rather near-death respiratory infection that has been going on now for just three days.. all will be well. My lungs feel like a docking station for all new arrivals of pulmonary destruction devices (it's national security, ha!)

I shall recount for you my many adventures over the past weeks. Until then - go out and some you wan


Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Go to my Facebook page and see the gorgeous photographs of the children's Switzerland trip. Brilliant!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

and now...

Massachusetts! but first Newark... really? apparently you just can't get there from here, so ...Newark.


Thursday, 14 July 2011

How much do I love THIS?!!!

Helen Mirren shows woaca, and any age - how it's done! Love it!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hard choices..

Yesterday I had to make the choice between the Prayers and Ritual Dance at the Verizon Center, or the lunch for sponsors with the promised appearance of HIs Holiness. Argh... At the lunch I was regretting my choice, and then - the Universe does that thing it does and an old/new friend appeared. A lovely woman to whom I felt an immediate bond. I love it when that happens! She is from Philadelphia - where my children went to school (at Penn), A is now attending medical school there, and they have their house there because they love the city....Her husband attended Penn for medical school! She has four gorgeous children, and a grandchild, but looks like she's just getting started! She is one of those 'glow-y people', those who simply glow with good will and beauty. I'm looking forward to getting to know her much better over the next few days. What a grand gift.


Later that day.... Our Katie is in town, doing her save the world through politics thing, and was sweet enough to make time to see me. I did a little bit wicked thing..... I played matchmaker between our Katie and my new best buddy Zach (the wonderful young man who works downstairs at the only good restaurant in this very mediocre hotel that has a very accommodating and kindly staff). We had a brilliant time. I'd been up since 0530 hrs, hit the gym, did the studying, and then the l o n g luncheon, so I was dragging a bit, until I was infected by their youthful and passionate energies. Zach led us from one great restaurant to another (they were all booked up, so REALLY good restaurants!); until he finally (bless his heart) found us a place that was just right - excellent food and wonderful service in a totally lovely atmosphere, SEI. It was a very lively dinner with Katie and I regaling Zach with stories of Morocco, and him telling us some of his stories.

From our time in Fez

Once we made it back to my hotel, and I sent them down to the Metro, I came upstairs washed my face and collapsed!!! I fear my nightly telephone call with the adorable husband was barely coherent. But a great day! What a lucky girl am I, aye?

And now I am 'up and moving', had my tea, and must get dressed and off to Prayers at the Verizon Center. Today is the first day of the Empowerment so it's really an exciting time.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Dalai Lama audio and video | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama audio and video | The Office of His Holiness The Dalai Lama

I'm a little late with this, but I've been studying so much...

This is an article regarding Texas education (which if you did not know affects the entire usa! When they approve the contents of textbooks, they go out all over the country...) There are quotes from my brilliant cousin-in-law Casey McCreary!

July 9, 2011
School Counselors Fear They Will Bear Burden of Budget Cuts and New Exams

In the fall, the anticipated consequences of a $4 billion reduction in state financing to school districts will begin to become apparent to Texas students and their parents: fewer teachers, bigger classes and sparse extracurricular programs.

For some, though, the most drastic change will come in the spring, when the state’s approximately 350,000 new ninth graders will be the first to take the end-of-course exams that are part of the new standardized testing system known as Staar, the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

The new assessment program, which is so complex that the superintendent of the Perrin-Whitt school district nicknamed it the Franken-Staar, was established during the 2009 legislative session. Some educators welcome the program, a significant overhaul of the current system, but others view it with trepidation.

Outside the classroom, the burden of rolling out the new exams will fall primarily on counselors, who help students meet graduation requirements, and on curriculum specialists, who make sure what students are being taught matches with what they are being tested on. Some districts also employ testing coordinators, who handle scheduling and the actual administration of the exams.

But predicting reduced state aid, many districts have already eliminated many nonclassroom positions for the coming school year. That means remaining employees will have far more responsibilities, a particular concern for school counselors, who have long worked to define their role as separate from that of testing coordinators.

“With finances like they are, there’s not going to be extra people to help,” said Sherry Sunderman, the coordinator of guidance and counseling at Conroe Independent School District in Montgomery County, north of Houston.

Many counselors worry they will be given more duties on the testing side and that instead of advising students, their jobs will become “more clerical,” said Sylvia Lopez, the director of Dallas I.S.D.’s counseling services. Resources traditionally devoted to counseling students on career and college plans may now be used to explain and administer the new testing system, which includes complicated new graduation requirements.

Counselors “are going to have to be really monitoring students’ graduation programs to make sure they are taking the right courses and passing the right exams,” said Casey McCreary, an assistant executive director at the Texas Association of School Administrators who advises districts on accountability issues.

Students adjusting to the new exams face a “triple jeopardy,” Ms. McCreary said. With Staar, high school students will have to perform better on harder tests and take more of them. Under the current system, standardized tests do not count toward final grades, and students must pass four exit-level exams to graduate. Now, for the first time, students will have to achieve a cumulative score across 12 end-of-course exams to graduate. And their scores on the exams will count toward 15 percent of their final grade, with the option to retake the exam three times if they do not pass.

That could have students playing a game of risk with their scores — opting not to retake one test with the hope of scoring higher on a future one. Setting up a process to guide students through these decisions, one that involves parents and a “team effort” between curriculum specialists and counselors, is crucial in preparing for the new tests, said Sara McAndrew, the executive director of curriculum and instruction at Northside I.S.D., the state’s fourth-largest district, in San Antonio.

As the new school year draws closer, Ms. McAndrew said, schools are still missing details about how the rollout will work. Though the Texas Education Agency will unveil sample questions in August, it will not publicly release full-length primary test forms until 2014. “We are still a little in the dark about exactly what these tests are going to look like,” she said.

Ms. Lopez said she also has questions about the new system, like “who is going to keep track of the kids and where they are and how many exams they’ve taken.”

But she said that she expected growing pains. “Anytime there is a change like this, there is going to be a struggle,” Ms. Lopez said. “There is always a transitional period. Staar is going to be a lot more rigorous, but hopefully this will help our kids.”


Monday, 11 July 2011


After making the long trip from Texas to be here just for the weekend, to lend his support and see His Holiness - the adorable husband has returned home to Houston. I requested housekeeping NOT change my bed linens so I can sleep on 'his' side of the bed that still smells like him. Yes, I am silly in love with my husband! How cool is that?

Another inspiring Teaching yesterday. The crowds are growing. The adorable husband, as he always does, found me a GREAT restaurant, steps from the Verizon Centre - Clyde's. They have FANTASTIC crab cakes, and a brilliant staff - lovely and very friendly. I crawled there through the oppressive heat after the Teaching, desperately hopeful that they were open on Sunday. They were! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh! Two of the waitresses are particularly lovely (photos coming). I shall be 'appearing' there all week! :-)

Afterwards. the crowds had thinned out, a bit, at the Tibetan street market, and I found some great shirts for the children; as well as such a cute bag for my Sarah. Q and A have their happiness - those two are climbing in Switzerland this week!

Breakfast has arrived. Time to get to it - the gym, prayers, Teaching; and there is what should be a interesting talk tonight I want to attend. On the first night's teaching (various teachers from around the country, and the world, on various topics of interest) they had 900 seats, and 3000 PEOPLE showed up. How brilliant is that?!!!!! So, they are now holding all teachings at the Verizon Center in order to accommodate everyone. I love it. You would not believe the energy in that place.

I don't know if I am becoming any 'wiser', but I feel an amazing happiness, peace, and such compassion for everyone (yes, everyone...)


Sunday, 10 July 2011

First Day of Teaching of the Kalachakra

We had the first Teaching yesterday. I think the adorable husband (who came all the way up from Texas just for the weekend, to see what it was all about, and support me) was suitably impressed, and then we had a lovely evening together. I am going to do my prayers this morning as he sleeps, so I can stay here and have breakfast with him. Then he will leave for the airport, and I shall go to the afternoon teaching. They have begun the Mandala - oooooooooooooooooh so beyond beautiful. I am surprised they have shown it on the screen, as technically those taking the vows are not to supposed to see it until the Day of the Empowerment - technology I suppose. I told the adorable husband about all the years of study and preparation the chaps who create it must undergo - they are practically sacred themselves.

His Holiness's address on World Peace went well, though it did not receive the attention the Casey Anthony trial did!! He looks good, still a little stiff after sitting for long teaching, but moving about well. Yesterday as He was leaving, someone shouted out from up in the stands, "We love you Your Holiness!", and he threw us some kisses. The bloody house came down! It was grand.

I apologize for my crappy photographs and films, but my great little digital camera takes NOW to die - well, I do suppose it was not by choice aye? I have my iTouch, and will do my best with that, and post things from the Kalachakra website.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Kalachakra 2011 - July 9 Peace Event

Kalachakra 2011 - July 9 Peace Event

GO JETER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Hoo-rah!

JULY 8, 2011, 8:00 PM
Some 3,000 Hit Quirks

As much as the Derek Jeter’s pursuit toward 3,000 hits has been chronicled around the clock, the moment he finally does reach the milestone — in the age of high definition and smartphones — will be even more inescapable.

The question of when has been discussed thoroughly. Just three hits away, it will likely come this weekend at Yankee Stadium against the Rays. But how it will finally happen is anyone’s guess.

Jeter will become the 28th player in history to accomplish the feat. The first 27 have done so in various ways and circumstances.

Craig Biggio, the last to reach the sacred number in 2007, was thrown out trying to stretch number 3,000 into a double. Wade Boggs’s 3,000th hit was a home run — unconventional for a player who had only 118 homers and two double-digit home-run seasons in an 18-year career.

Pete Rose did what Pete Rose seemed to always do: singled for his 3,000th against the Montreal Expos in 1978. Rose finished his career with the most hits in history, 4,256 — 3,215 of which were singles, also the most in history.

Paul Molitor went a more strenuous route to reach the plateau in 1995: he tripled. Molitor remains the only member to leg out a three-bagger for number 3,000.

In his final season, Rod Carew reached the milestone against the Twins the same day Tom Seaver won his 300th game against the Yankees on Aug. 4, 1985.

Seven years later, George Brett entered his day four shy of the mark and managed to double and single three times in his first four at-bats to reach the mark against the Angels — with Carew in the opposing dugout as the Angels’ batting coach.

Not all went as planned, however: Brett was picked off of first while talking to Angels first baseman Gary Gaetti, who Brett reportedly said had asked if his family was in attendance to witness the landmark hit.

Then there’s Roberto Clemente. He doubled for his 3,000th hit in his final regular-season at-bat of 1972, a night after a controversial error ruling took away what would have been number 3,000. The hit would turn out to be the regular season at-bat of his career; he would die in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve of that year.

Saturday, 2 July 2011


Our neighborhood, and my little house

The challenge for the 'new Morocco'
By Elise Labott, CNN

Moroccans on Friday approved a referendum on constitutional reforms by more than 98%, the country's interior minister said. Morocco's King Mohammed VI has promised that these reforms will usher in an era of greater freedoms.
I just returned from Morocco, where there is some reason to be hopeful that amid the uncertain course of the Arab Spring, there may be some blossoms of progress.
While I was in Morocco, King Mohammed VI unveiled the new constitution, developed in coordination with a variety of political parties and civil society groups.
The new, elected government that will result from this constitution will be accountable to parliament, have an independent judiciary and provide equal rights for women and minorities.
Now some might call that move a model for how to modernize and hold onto power.
While Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh have responded to calls for regime change with military force, King Mohammed has stayed in place by offering to surrender some of his powers - answering his country's reform movement with promises that he will shift from an almost absolute to a constitutional monarchy. He has certainly gone further than King Abdullah of Jordan in offering political reform.
Morocco's King Mohammed VI has fashioned himself a reformer and modern monarch since taking office in 1999, promoting women's rights, easing up on human rights abuses and even investigating abuses during the reign of his father, King Hassan.
But genuine reform has been slow. The country is rife with corruption; there are still political prisoners and freedom of the press does not include criticism of the monarchy.
Inspired by their brothers and sisters in Egypt and Tunisia, young activists organized on Facebook to give the monarchy the push it needed to speed the pace of reform. Tens of thousands Moroccans with the February 20 movement, named after the first big day of protests, have taken to the streets.
They are happy for the king to reign, but not to rule.
They want a system like Britain or Sweden, where the monarchy plays an important symbolic role, but does not meddle in the affairs of state. These hopeful young Moroccans want jobs and an end to corruption its members say stems from a network of royal cronies.
In March, the King answered their calls in a speech promising substantial reform, which resulted in the constitution being put to a vote. February 20's answer to the King: Cosmetic touches won't cut it.
Indeed King Mohammed retains key powers. He remains the head of the military and Morocco's highest religious authority. He also presides over various committees and councils which suggest that he will still play a large role in ruling the country.
Most of Morocco's political parties say this is okay – for now. It's important, many politicians told me, for Morocco to remain stable as it moves on a more democratic path.
Many believe that the new constitution is a good first step and, while not perfect, supporting its passage will give the king the confidence to continue with greater reforms.
And a large number of Moroccans believe the challenge for Morocco is not how good or bad the constitution is, but rather now it is implemented. It will fall upon Moroccans to consolidate these new responsibilities and deliver on the demands for change.
The stakes could not be higher.
A moderate Islamic country, Morocco has had its fair share of terrorist attacks, most recently a bomb at a Marrakech café which killed 17 at the hands of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
While mainstream Islamic parties like the Justice and Development party hope to move the country toward a Turkish model, which marries Islam and democracy, the country's banned Justice and Charity Islamist movement favor a more extremist brand of Islam and are moving into poor Moroccan neighborhoods to spread their vision.
With an intense campaign for the referendum's passage by the government, political parties and on radio and television, almost to the exclusion of room for serious debate about its merits, it is a near forgone conclusion it will be adopted.
Whether the new constitution can satisfy the demands of the people and at the same time maintain the popularity of the king is an open question. If not, February 20 says it's ready. Its mantra is "Mamfankich." Translation: "We will never give up."

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

With so much bad news out there, this brought a smile to my face...

June 21, 2011
After 3,000, Even Dirt Will Sell
Derek Jeter’s 3,000th hit will be a cause for celebration, marketing and — not least of all — digging up dirt.

After the game, a groundskeeper will tote a shovel and bucket onto the field to scoop five gallons of dirt from the batter’s box and shortstop’s patch. In baseball’s version of preserving the chain of evidence, the bucket will be sealed with tape and verified as the dirt beneath Jeter’s feet with tamper-proof holograms.

“It will be scooped in our presence,” said Cosmo Lubrano, an authenticator for Major League Baseball who would prove the dirt’s veracity if the 3,000th hit occurs at Yankee Stadium as he follows a bucket-carrying groundskeeper, probably Dan Cunningham. “We’re there as a witness.”

The dirt — from Yankee Stadium if all goes perfectly, but from some ballpark, perhaps Citi Field July 1 to 3 — will find its way into a vast and lucrative universe of celebrity memorabilia and collectibles, much of it orchestrated by a company named Steiner Sports. Tablespoonfuls of the dirt will be poured into capsules to dangle on key chains; ladled into disks to be framed with photographs of the hit (in what is called a dirt collage); and glued into the interlocking NY carved into commemorative bats.

“That bucket of dirt will go a long way,” said Brandon Steiner, the chairman of Steiner Sports, who has a memorabilia partnership with the Yankees and a marketing deal with Jeter.

The selling of Jeter’s historic hit — he is six short of 3,000 as he waits to heal from a calf strain — actually has its own campaign name: “DJ 3K,” and a logo that will appear on much of the merchandise capitalizing on his achievement. It is quite a list: T-shirts, caps, jerseys, bobbleheads, decals, cellphone skins, wall murals, patches, bats, balls, license plates and necklaces made by two dozen M.L.B. licensees.

Modell’s, the venerable New York sports goods chain, is not going to miss out. The chain’s Times Square location will stay open past its midnight or 1 a.m. closing time as long as fans keep shopping on the day or night of the accomplishment.

”We’re locked and loaded,” said Mitchell Modell, the chief executive of Modell’s.

The ingenious and sometimes crass rush to cash in on sports achievements is hardly new, whether it focuses on championship teams or great players. Each new chapter, however, adds some new flourish in the grab for nostalgia dollars, whether in the form of a new product or a different commercial approach.

The so-called “hot market” for Jeter’s 3,000th hit — the player’s equivalent of a World Series championship — will test his sky-high popularity during a season in which he is batting .260.

“I’ve been here for 13 years,” said Howard Smith, the senior vice president for licensing of Major League Baseball. “And other than the home run race in 1998, this is the most significant business we’ve done for a hot market for a player.”

Warehouses of some of the biggest licensees, like Majestic and New Era, which are accustomed to supplying stores with World Series merchandise, are ready to deliver their Jeter material to retailers. Modell’s distribution center in the Bronx is preparing to ship to its 94 New York and New Jersey stores.

“Between the New York market and how revered Jeter is, it’s going to be a huge event,” said Michael Johnson, a spokesman for Majestic, which is producing an array of jerseys and T-shirts.

And already, John Killen, the president of Wincraft, one of the 24 licensees, said he has booked substantial business for his Jeter flags, lanyards, pennants, travel mugs, pins and magnets.

“Short of someone of Jeter’s caliber retiring, you won’t get an event bigger than this,” he said.

And, Jeter will get a cut of some of it. For all the licensed products sold by the likes of Rawlings, Nike, Majestic, Louisville Slugger, Fathead and New Era, he will share royalties with M.L.B. and the players’ union; he will also share in the sale of products sold under his deal with Steiner Sports. Already, he has designated proceeds from the sale of a silicone bracelet to benefit his Turn 2 Foundation.

Everything Jeter touches or wears as he pursues his 3,000th hit carries value. So will the bases he steps on. In deciding what to provide for sale, Jeter controls his cleats, wristbands, bats and batting gloves. The Yankees control what they provide to him, like his uniform, warm-up jackets, and caps, as well as the dirt, the bases and the pitching rubber.

And Steiner, through his deals with the Yankees and Jeter, can sell whatever he gets.

Jeter will probably ask to keep things — perhaps the most valuable items like the 3,000th hit ball — for himself.

“When the time comes,” said the Yankees’ president, Randy Levine, “we’ll sit down with Derek and his representatives and reach a mutual accommodation that’s good for everybody.”

Steiner said that he has already collected the jersey, batting gloves and cleats Jeter wore when he got his 2,994th hit on June 13; Steiner expects to get those items, and his cap, for every hit through 3,000. The dirt and bases (which could be switched every inning) will be added to the bounty only for hit No. 3,000.

Jeter is not likely to provide an extra bonanza by changing into a new game-perspired jersey every inning.

“That wouldn’t be Jeter-like,” Steiner said. “He’d never wear 10 jerseys in a game. Maybe two.”

Steiner also plans to sell the official lineup card, and replicas of it, and package fans’ ticket stubs into collectibles. He also hopes to develop photographs of the hit at Yankee Stadium to sell before fans leave.

“This won’t be the circus coming to town,” Steiner said.

Smith, the M.L.B. executive, said Jeter approached the marketing with some trepidation, fearing that it might seem all too much. Smith said that during a recent meeting with Jeter and his agent, Casey Close, “I explained how appropriate it was for us to market these products. And Derek is like, ’I don’t want to take the limelight’; he felt weird about it. I said, ’It’s appropriate to be recognized; you’re a generational athlete.’ “

Jeter’s return is scheduled for June 29, when the Yankees play the second game of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers at home, followed by trips to Flushing and Cleveland, before returning home to play Tampa Bay ahead of the All-Star Game.

“We have to be ready,” said Lubrano, the Yankee Stadium authenticator. “He could go 5 for 5.”

Thursday, 16 June 2011

How is this possible in the 21st Century?

ELEANOR HALL: Afghanistan has topped the list in a poll of the most dangerous countries in the world for women.

The international legal aid centre TrustLaw surveyed more than 200 gender experts.

And the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch says she was surprised by the appearance of India high on the list as Sarah Dingle reports

SARAH DINGLE: No nation would want to be top of this list.

The TrustLaw poll found that Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world but some of the lowest opportunities for women to access education or healthcare.

One judge said the lack of hope that the situation would improve meant Afghan women faced an even worse situation than women in other troubled nations.

Linda Bartolomei is from the Centre for Refugee Research at the University of New South Wales.

LINDA BARTOLOMEI: Women from Afghanistan along with their families have been fleeing as refugees very topically to Australia for many years. So tragically I am not particularly surprised.

SARAH DINGLE: Ms Bartolomei says she's worked with female Afghan refugees in Australia and overseas.

Recently she visited a large community of Afghan refugee women in New Delhi, India, a country which also features on the list for its rates of human trafficking and female infanticide.

LINDA BARTOLOMEI: The stories they shared of rape and sexual abuse in Afghanistan, of the denial of women's rights were really quite horrifying.

SARAH DINGLE: Coming in a close second to Afghanistan is the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC.

TrustLaw's 213 gender experts including aid workers, health professionals and journalists, said the ranking was mainly due to staggering levels of sexual violence in the country's east.

Last month one of the authors of a study into this issue found that on average four women were raped in the DRC every five minutes.

Linda Bartolomei says these numbers are horrifying.

LINDA BARTOLOMEI: We worked in a refugee camp in Africa where there are a number of women from Congo.

And I do now remember being deeply moved by an account of a woman who was parenting not only her own large numbers of children but also the child of one of her daughters which was a child of rape in Congo.

And in discussion with that family I came to learn that this was actually something that was very common.

SARAH DINGLE: Pakistan and India were ranked the third and fourth most dangerous countries in the world for women respectively.

The South Asia director of Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly says at first she was taken aback

MEENAKSHI GANGULY: They were looking at women at risk which is just survival risk. Now as soon as you consider survival you will look at South Asia and you realise that the child, the girl child is at risk every stage of her life because she is just not as valued as her brother is.

SARAH DINGLE: Meenakshi Ganguly says there's also been a recent spate of honour killings against women in India as arranged marriages become less common.

MEENAKSHI GANGULY: The truth is that as India advances and as women step out they do find their own partners and those partners are not often popular with their relatives. And in an effort to dissuade them there have been attacks on both women and men who have married out of choice.

This is a new phenomenon. This is sort of almost like the cost of progress.

SARAH DINGLE: She says globally attitudes towards women have to improve. But also people who violate the law have to be seen to be brought to justice.

ELEANOR HALL: Sarah Dingle reporting.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

being a parent is tough, anyway you come at it.

Warnings and tips for stepparents

(CNN) -- I marvel at how many people live in blended families and how well they seem to manage.

Forty percent of Americans have at least one steprelative in their family, either a stepparent, a stepsibling or half sibling, or a stepchild, according to the Pew Research Center.

My husband grew up in a blended family, with steps and fulls and halfs. He had a very close relationship with his late stepfather and even has a friendly relationship with an ex-stepmother.

We have a big trip planned this summer with the all the siblings, three full and three steps. Sometimes I feel like an anomaly. I live in, and grew up in, a nuclear family. My husband and I have been married for 13 years. My parents have been married for more than 50.

Stepparenting includes emotional minefields

Knowing how hard parenting is in a traditional family, I couldn't help but wonder what additional issues stepparents face along the way? And how do they manage to forge meaningful relationships with their stepchildren? I decided to interview some stepparents to find out.

I found that the parents willing to share had many similar insights, even if they may have used their words cautiously. I also spoke with some experts on the subject.

The biggest challenge to the majority of the stepparents I interviewed was the ambiguity about their role in terms of discipline.

Vicki Peet, stepmother of two, described a "feeling of uncertainty" in dealing with her stepdaughters, particularly in challenging situations.

The plight of stepmoms on Mother's Day

Dave Larmore, a stepfather to two boys, noted that "trying to figure out where out where you fit in, in terms of discipline, is the hardest part."

Matt Olmstead, stepfather of three, agreed that "the hardest part is discipline." In his case, his stepchildren have a very active and devoted father, so he said, in terms of discipline, he "wants to be respectful of that other parent."

Mark Haffenreffer, stepfather of two, also told me that the hardest part for him was, "learning to discipline in a way that was acceptable to everybody."

Stepparents have "a lot of responsibility but none of the authority," says Jenna Korf, a stepparenting coach and writer for the website, NoOnesTheBitch.com, which is devoted to stepparenting with the focus on the stepmom/ biological mom relationship. She added that, "a great deal of the challenge and stress that is experienced in blended families is due to the dynamic between families."

Psychologist Dr. Sally Howard of South Pasadena, California, is a stepparent and a psychologist who leads workshops on stepparenting.

"Very often, the stepparent feels like an outsider to the position of the biological parent, who is the insider with the child," she said.

Peet shared a similar sentiment, saying that she sometimes felt it was "three and one," (her husband and his two kids -- and then her.) Even now that Peet has two kids with her husband, she added, "sometimes, I still feel separate, that it is the three of us (she and her two kids) and her husband and his children.

Howard describes stepparenting as a multistaged process. In the beginning, there is "a fantasy stage where the new couple dreams of a new and unified family," she said. "The kids often dream of getting the old family back together."

Stage two, she said, "is often one of culture shock" as "there are two distinct family systems and cultures being lived in a very intimate space." She recommends "maintaining a sense of curiosity, and attempting to put words to feelings instead of going into blame." She also added, "patience is important."

The following stages involve experimentation and "trying things that are different, and using understanding to create a stepfamily culture."

The honeymoon stage arrives "when there is more intimacy, authenticity and spouses have a team problem solving ability. There is a new sense of "this is the way we do things." She added that the entire process can take four to seven years.

Howard said she has found stepparenting to be "humbling."

"I grew up in a stepfamily. Both my husband and I are mental health providers. I imagined stepparenting would be smoother for us than it was," she said.

So patience and self-compassion seem to be important elements in this multifaceted process, but what other nuggets of wisdom could be learned from these modern families? What one piece of advice would these stepparents pass on to new stepparents, especially in light that all of them seemed to have forged loving, meaningful relationships with their stepchildren?

I found it interesting how many of them said the same thing: "Let your stepchildren come to you," Peet said. Korf's statement mirrored that, "let [the relationship] evolve naturally."

Larmore advised: "Don't be too heavy handed, and take (your stepchildren) on their own terms."

Haffenreffer agreed, "Don't be overly zealous, let them come to you."

Olmstead said, "Don't overthink it."

Tiffany Payne, stepmother of one, added, "Keep your focus on what's best for the child, and don't let the grown-up nonsense get in the way."

Dawn Olmstead, who has one stepdaughter, said, "Think of yourself as a champion. You're not there to replace anyone, but to champion their feelings, and sense of security."

Korf suggested that stepparents seek community. "Support is out there. It is not always easy to find, but it is there, and people who are not stepparents are not really going to understand."

"Becoming a Stepfamily" by Patricia Papernow has been an invaluable resource to Howard and her patients.

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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

This is a move toward democracy?

Egyptian general admits 'virginity checks' conducted on protesters

Cairo (CNN) -- A senior Egyptian general admits that "virginity checks" were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or "virginity tests."

But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

"The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine," the general said. "These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs)."

The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

"We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place," the general said. "None of them were (virgins)."

This demonstration occurred nearly a month after Egypt's longtime President Hosni Mubarak stepped down amid a wave of popular and mostly peaceful unrest aimed at his ouster and the institution of democratic reforms.

Afterward, Egypt's military -- which had largely stayed on the sidelines of the revolution -- officially took control of the nation's political apparatus as well, until an agreed-upon constitution and elections.

Mubarak denies ordering shootings

The March 9 protest occurred in Tahrir Square, which became famous over 18 historic and sometimes bloody days and nights of protests that led to Mubarak's resignation.

But unlike in those previous demonstrations, the Egyptian military targeted the protesters. Soldiers dragged dozens of demonstrators from the square and through the gates of the landmark Egyptian Museum.

Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty report, described to CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum's grounds, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute.

"They wanted to teach us a lesson," Hosseini said soon after the Amnesty report came out. "They wanted to make us feel that we do not have dignity."

The treatment got worse, Hosseini said, when she and the 16 other female prisoners were taken to a military detention center in Heikstep.

There, she said, she and several of other female detainees were subjected to a "virginity test."

"We did not agree for a male doctor to perform the test," she said. But Hosseini said her captors forced her to comply by threatening her with more stun-gun shocks.

"I was going through a nervous breakdown at that moment," she recalled. "There was no one standing during the test, except for a woman and the male doctor. But several soldiers were standing behind us watching the backside of the bed. I think they had them standing there as witnesses."

The senior Egyptian general said the 149 people detained after the March 9 protest were subsequently tried in military courts, and most have been sentenced to a year in prison.

Authorities later revoked those sentences "when we discovered that some of the detainees had university degrees, so we decided to give them a second chance," he said.

The senior general reaffirmed that the military council was determined to make Egypt's democratic transition a success.

"The date for handover to a civil government can't come soon enough for the ruling military council," he said. "The army can't wait to return to its barracks and do what it does best -- protect the nation's borders."

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Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The Big Apple

Quick overview - details to follow: we arrived at noon on Saturday, had lunch at The National, located in the Benjamin Hotel across from the Waldorf. We've eaten here before, and were pleased to see that they have renovated but retained the good service and excellent food we remembered. We settled ourselves into our suite and I ran out of juice and fell over into bed.

On Sunday the adorable husband attended a matinee of The Whipping Man. He could not say enough good things about how very excellent it was. I spent the day recuperating.

The children arrived Monday morning and we had great fun visiting and catching up with their lives. Q had a couple of doctor appointments about her ankle, injured in her training for the marathon, and we took the cutie son-in-law with us to Tiffany's to have them attach my new charm that arrived with the roses, new smaller Kindle with 3G, two adorable antique valentines that the adorable husband found in a shop when we were in Bastrop apparently, and some fun pajamas from the Pajama Game. The gents took off for an invigorating walk down 5th Avenue to the restaurant over near NYU while I finished up, returned to the hotel and made reservations.

It warmed up yesterday but has taken a delightful drop into the 30's this morning. We are off to see Wicked tonight.

I hope you had a warm and loving Valentine's Day!

Friday, 11 February 2011

and we're off again!

The house is all tidy (I hate coming home to a dirty house), the laundry is done, I'm still coughing but MUCH less, off to have my hair made straight and shiny this morning, then packing for a VERY early flight to NYC! It appears I won't die - always a good thing aye? Valentine Day gifts all wrapped; I just need to pick up some cards. Q has a long running vendetta against Valentine's Day, so hers are "not-Valentine's Day" gifts.

I had the dirge for my garden yesterday. Houston has been lying to me for the past two years about having any REAL cold weather and finally when they do I'm laid up with the 'death-flu'. Argh! The cold snap killed everything but my asparagus fern and tough little Russian Ivy. Alas. Alas. Big trip to the garden store when we return, BIG trip. These are good problems to have...

I'm so happy to be feeling better! Excellent timing as well I must say. I will keep you up to date as to how NYC fares and our adventures there.


Thursday, 10 February 2011


Making a plan is the best way to see the gods laugh!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

not dead yet

I continue to breathe, but still with a distinctive rattle! I'm going to try to get out of bed today, for a bit, for the first time since our return from Lost Pines. I still have to fill you in on the rest of that fun trip!

I MUST be well by Saturday - BIG, EXCITING, TRIP TO NYC! I have the Ballet, the theatre, dinner, walking, shopping with the adorable husband, and visiting with Q! YIkes! Even if I have to be propped up with those long sticks they use to hold the olives in Martinis I will be upright - or with a bottle of 18-year-old-MacLeod's in my pocket aye?

And NOW the adorable husband texted this morning, he is "stuffy"; brave love that he is, he is most likely deathly ill!

What a predicament! Could be worse, can always be worse....

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

ug and ow!

The photographs from the Lost Pines trip are over on my Facebook Page.

I apparently picked up the one and only DEADLY germ at Lost Pines and am very close to death again! Crickey, it's turning into a theme. And I have so much to do... I may not be able to avoid the doctor on this one as the adorable husband looks very panicked.

If I don't die (just kidding), I'll be back soon.


Friday, 28 January 2011

somewhere in Texas...

We are having a long weekend (arrived last evening) at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop, Texas. So far, so lovely. We woke this morning to find these long horned steers outside our windows! We will be staying through Sunday, and I hope to get some horseback riding in while the adorable husband hits golf balls.

My wonderful brother and sister-in-law are here with us until tomorrow, which makes it even better as we love them very much and enjoy their company - always good. They live nearby on their ranch in Evant and have of late had a slew of visitors, so this is a much needed get-away for them.

We are leaving now to go ‘antiquing’ – a passion of theirs, and something we can enjoy until lunch ☺.

Updates to follow…