Friday, April 27, 2007


My iPod has taken a dump on me. Last night it just started skipping songs, so I reconnected it to my laptop and went through about 3-hours of "restore" tips from apple, all to no avail. It just drives me crazy how computers and their peripherals can suck up hours and hours of your time when they go wrong. I would seriously love to see a study that actually evaluates time-saved vs. time-lost by technological "developments". I have a sneaking suspicion that the net total would be in the negative numbers.

Either way, I'm seeing this as divine punishment for asking my mum to take back the iPod she bought me at Christmas. If you were here for the first post of the year, you'll remember that I felt kind of bad that I didn't want the shiny new one but at the same time had no "use" for the additional functions. Well, now I have no functions. So that showed me.

After 1yr apple won't even repair it for you. They basically say, send it back and we'll send you a replacement for $249 + $6 shipping fee. Um, yeah. I can get a new, upgraded version for $100 more and a refurbed upgrade for $199 including a 2-year warranty. I guess this is the point, they want to you purchase a new one which of course then requires you to get all the new accessories because they moved the headphone jack or something equally as random to make all your existing accessories useless. It's all a sick, captialist ploy.

I sure am regretting the $88 I spent on tank tops about now (although the brown and white spotted one I am currently sporting looks and feels rather nice.) Sigh.

The fall-out from Imus. Never in a million years did black rappers expect that the firing of some aging white, right-wing shock-jock would put their feet so close to the fire.

Cable news continues to run with story of the growing movement aimed at censoring rap music for its degrading treatment of women. Def Jam's Russel Simmons is now wading into the debate, calling on rappers to restrict their use of such archetypal rap prose as the "n" word, "ho", "bitch" and the like.

This is becoming an interesting debate highlighted by some comments from various rappers in the story. While some rappers said they would think twice about their language but doubted if their peers would do the same (in other words, I'll follow the majority), others argued that they are simply a mirror of the culture and society that they talk about in their lyrics not a creator of it. Some. like Ne-Yo, made some very good points about the responsibility of parents to bring up their children appropriately, paying attention to what media they are exposed to, as opposed to censoring artists in potential contradiction to the first ammendment.

It was actually very refreshing to hear some intelligent and eloquent thoughts from rappers whose lyrics typically stretch no further than stories of pimps, hos, homeys, sex, drugs, and murder, interspersed with four-letter words. And it's certainly not an easy, or new, debate. The question of whether art immitates culture or visa versa, and how far society's definition of "free" stretches in our philosophy of "free-speech"... these are all very gray areas with no easy solutions.

Although I have typically thought that Americans often mis-use the first ammendment and continually contradict it in practice, one thing I am beginning to see is how much society itself polices this. "Free" does not mean free of consequences. Imus' firing, while on the surface appearing to contradict the doctrine of free speech, demonstrates that public opinion steps in when the line of what is "socially acceptable" is crossed.

There is beauty in this because that line is ever-changing, moving and morphing with our society itself, but then I also recognize that many great things (artistic, political, societal) have been achieved because someone was willing to cross that line. In addition, it's worth noting that those who control the mass media still control the message (although this is becoming less the case with the internet), and if the media silences controversial voices, that in and of itself is a restriction of our first-ammendment rights.

It would have been more constitutionally appropriate to let listeners vote with their radio dials - if you don't like what Imus says, simply don't tune-in. If his ratings go down then he gets axed anyway. Similarly, if rap continues to decline in popularily, eventually rappers have to change to keep sales up or face extinction.

All very idealistic.... and I could go on forever, around-and-around in circles in this big grey area. But, anyway the point is that it's not a simple issue and it's actually a pretty interesting debate, bringing up memories of my degree which was in Media & Cultural Studies. It occurs to me that my degree actually applies to something in real life after all....who knew?

A new favorite quote

How true this is. Thank you to those of you that put the fire up my butt (Elena!) and the light in my life.

"Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light."
-Albert Schweitzer

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Best laugh of the day

Couldn't resist posting this video of W-Dawg dancing with the black folk for Malaria Day.

Dear GOD. Roll on November 2008.

I HATE American Idol

This wasn't what I was initially going to post but, right as I was about to initiate a short post about how I am the child-carer supreme (will cover that in a sec) I noticed it was 8pm and time for one of my favorite shows, "Bones". Sadly, as seems to happen every other week, that hideously overplayed show A.I. is sucking up yet another 3 hours of television time and has postponed all good tv shows in it's path.


I just don't get it. I watched the first 2.5 seasons and just lost interest. There's only so many times you can hear some feeble-voiced teenager with a ridiculous hairdo kill your favorite pop-tunes before you want to scream "NO MORE PLEASE NO MORE!"

It doesn't matter how cute Ryan Seacrest is or how snappily dressed he is this evening, or even how much I enjoy watching Simon Cowell stereotype the British male as rude, egocentric, tactless, and unfeeling (which I find far more enjoyable than Paula Abdul, American Sycophant) - too much is just TOO MUCH.

Additionally, the show has scored minus points with me by continually screwing with Fox's prime-time schedule. House, Bones, Standoff... it's casualities have been numerous.

Hubbie is now channel-hopping for alternate solutions... looks like porn and some woman yapping about demonic posession. Where are the Christian right when you need them?

So, I'm without my weekly dose of David Boreanaz, he of Bones fame, previouslty of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame. It's a sad time. Please pause for a moment of silence..............................................................

Aaaaaaaaaaaanyway, what I came here to say is that I am the Baby Whisperer. See here

Honestly, that was it. Got a bit side-tracked.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I am a woman of ACTION!

Wow, my waist is small!

Spurred on by my moment of political activism, I acted upon another goal I set for myself in an earlier post.

No, I didn't get a boob job and head to the local store for a wonderwoman costume (and after seeing the above picture I don't think I'll be doing so any time soon either).

What I did do was sign-up for a writing class.

I'm starting off with baby steps. No big commitment that is going to make me feel like, to paraphrase my friend Elena, I have to give up Christmas, New Year, and personal hygiene. It's a one-time, weeknight class appropriately titled "How To Stop Thinking You Can Write & Write!". In short, a class that attempts to get your literary ambitions out of your head and onto paper. It's not until July, so I can be done with honeymoon and Mum's visit... no excuses for not going!

There are other classes too, similarly non-commital. Classes on things like the art of a good plot, developing great characters, and even one on Travel Writing. So, I can build myself up slowly. I just know that if I enroll in some multi-week, online course, that requires me to log-on every night and do "homework" and meet "deadlines" (the mere thought induces a panic attack) then I would puss-out. Maybe that's down the road but right now I wanted to set a goal I knew I could achieve.

I have some ideas for some things I would like to write about. Travel articles is obviously one of them, however I have what I think is a unique and interesting idea for a non-fiction book, and some fledgeling concepts for fictional stories - short or long I don't know yet.

Inch by inch...

And to prove I put my money where my mouth (keyboard?) is

Dear Michelle,

Thank you for your generous donation of $25.00.Your gift will be immediately put to work building a campaign to change our country and our politics for the better. Looking for more ways to get involved?Head over to where our growing set of tools puts the future of this campaign in your hands:

On you can...... build your own profile and connect with
supporters near you ... find or create your own local or national group ... create your own personal fundraising page and track your progress... find events near you or plan your own... chronicle your campaign experience on your own blog. There will be much more to come in the weeks and months ahead thanks to your support.

Thank you again for your donation. Obama for America

An attack of conscience

This week Target has a 2 for $12 tank-top sale, so cheap it was impossible to resist.

Tank tops are my wardrobe must-have, especially now that I am working from home a lot. You can wear them to the gym. You can wear them over a swimming cozzie. You can wear them with shorts. You can wear them with cropped pants. You can dress them up with a shirt over the-top or dress them down by layering them. They work for work, working-out, playing, relaxing at home, and vacationing. Put quite simply, they are FAAABULOUSLY versatile. And at $6 each, fabulously cheap too.

= $12!!!

So, I just got back from lunch, having spent 35 minutes choosing between polka-dots and stripes, browns, greys, and pastel blues. I spent $88 on tank tops. (Ok, so I threw 3 pairs of socks and t-shirt in there too but that's still a lot of tops.)

Driving back to work, feeling very proud of myself (what savings!) my cell phone rang. The number was blocked, so I figured it was my work voicemail paging me and answered it.

"Can I speak with a... " (pause to check the name on the call-sheet) "...Ms. Carter please?" asks the monotone voice on the other end. Oh great, I think, a telemarketer.

Here, I have to fess-up to being pretty horrible to telemarketers. As a sales person, you'd think I'd have more respect, but honestly the majority of them are robots and rude to-boot, so I can't muster-up much in the way of patience for them. Usually, I try to find a way to put the phone down on them before they get a chance to launch into their carefully rehearsed script. Hey, I know time is money and they shouldn't waste their time on me because I aint gonna give them any money.

Back to the blow-by-blow.

"Can I ask who's calling?" I say, planning to use this as a way to extricate myself from the conversation by claiming not to be me, and for "me" not to be available right now.

"This is Bob calling on behalf of Senator Barack Obama," he says.

Ok, maybe not a telemarketer per-se but still someone wanting money I can't afford to spare.

This usually would have been my cue to say "I'm sorry, she's not available right now," but for some reason I instinctively hung up the phone without a further word.

For one light and two stop signs I didn't think much about it, but then niggly little thoughts started creeping up from my conscience. As my friend, Elena, would say I was sensing a lack of alignment somewhere. It was like I'd made a weird move and my hip had clicked out of joint - I needed to do some wiggling around to figure out how to pop it back in. (The hip reference may seem random but I actually do have a bum hip that needs surgery. It clicks in and out all the time.)

"First, you have a walk-in wardrobe full of clothes," the little voice inside my head was saying "and you just spent $88 on more tank tops."

"Second, you are a democrat who is always bemoaning the state of affairs whenever Republicans are at the helm."

"Third, you spent a good 20 minutes writing a comment on your friend Elena's blog yesterday about personal and collective responsibility."

Can you see where this is heading?

If I choose to spend $88 on tank tops I don't need, then I must have at least $20 to give to the election campaign of one of the most promising and inspirational politicians in America since JFK. And if I don't, then I have no right to moan about "my guys" being bullied by right wing lunatics. Equally, I could take back 4 tops without any consequence to my ability to get through the summer, and give $20 (or more) to, if not Barack directly, the DNC or some other organization which is in alignment with my political or social ideals.

Which is what I intend to do.

* OR *

A crush on a fast man

Last night I managed to sneak Dancing With The Stars onto our TV. Generally speaking, I've sworn-off all the horrendously-formulaic reality shows however I've loved the whole ballroom thing since I was a kid. This show has been around forever in England and it was about the only thing Mum, Dad AND I could agree on watching on a Saturday night.

And who did I see swishing and sliding across the floor? Olympic speed skater, Apollo Anton Ono.

The result of his sashaying is that I think I have a crush on him. He's just so.... cute. I even found myself saying to hubbie that "he seems like he was brought up well." (Well, HE DOES!)

"Yes, have you ever seen an interview with him?" says hubbie innocently, "He's very grounded."

Meow... I know what I'd like to do on the ground with him!

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Gerli Life calls BULLSHIT!

I think the reason why I post my random thoughts on this here blog-thing, is just so I can get fabulous tirades of "wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee-you-self-obsessed-female" from friends and family.

Sometimes, even though you suspect that you are perhaps being a little self-critical and melodramatic, you need to hear it from someone else.

As always, my 'someone else' was my friend from "The Gerli Life", Elena.

Ok, that is such bullshit, I can't even stand it. Oh, the sacrifice and drama of it all, the I must grow up now and give up this dream nonsense. Have you lost your mind entirely???Don't let these ridiculous people with their sad, pathetic stories of self-sacrifice talk you out of being a writer. Being a writer, or an artist, or what have you, is something you define, not some crackpot living in a hovel w/ unpaid bills and a collapsing ceiling. Please stop reading these magazines. It's like saying that to be a successful actor you have to be a starving artist for X number of years, have no friends or family, blah blah blah. Everyone has their own path. Some people strike up a conversation in a bar and 2 months later are in a blockbuster movie and they're off and running. Some others do the struggling, self-sacrifing bit all their lives to get nowhere. Ditto with writing. Yes, you do have to put in the time, because stuff doesn't write itself, but I think having to sacrifice your friends, family, job, sanity, fun, travelling, dog, personal hygiene, health insurance, Xmas and New Year's - well, that's just nuts. Obsessive people can do what they want, you do it your way and please stop with the nonsense. I will not let you, in good conscience, give up on this writing thing of yours, it's too much fun and too important for you. And I will not allow you to turn it into suffering and then end up not doing it because you don't like suffering. Don't even argue with me about this,
I will not. And that's all I have to say about that.

Isn't she fabulous?! Of course, she's abs0lutely right. There is absolutely no need to forego personal hygeine to prove myself a true creative-type. Anyway, I couldn't give up lathering myself with all that yummy smelling stuff from Bath & Body Works.

I also have to give props to my no-nonsense Dad who, even though he expressed this through my Mum, read my blog once and ended up wondering why I'm always so busy self-analyzing myself all the time. I don't think he intends to read it again, but in case he does... don't worry Dad!

It's kind of funny, because I don't view my posts that way. They're often just random streams of consciousness, things I think about, consider, wonder about... I can see how they could come across this way (as self-doubting), however, without context or the frame-of-reference of spending actual, physical time with me. Ask my husband, he'll tell you any day that I'm probably one of the most self-certain people he knows (feel free to chime-in here dear for moral support).

Don't worry folks. I'm not becoming a basketcase who spends most of my time on a psych's couch. I don't spend all my time doubting myself, I just have thoughts about different stuff and I care to share it.

I love it that you all call "bullshit" 0n my agonized thoughts.

I agree. Total bullshit.

(And sorry for all the swearing Mum; it's written not said. Does that get me a pass?)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Is there passion without poverty?

If I spent as much time actually writing as I do agonizing about whether I'm fit to be a writer, I might actually have published something by now.

As part of my promise to myself to more pro-actively pursue being "a writer", I subscribed to Poets & Writers magazine this year. Two issues later, I finally "found the time" to read one of the issues. I placed "found the time" in quotation marks because the reality is that I have time aplenty to read these magazines, I just choose to do something else instead.

While reading a writer's profile in the magazine today, it occured to me today why I may have been avoiding reading these magazines. Sacrifice.

There was a published writer, Nathan Englander, aged 37, who had immersed himself so totally in his first novel that he had cut himself off from friends, become delinquent on his bills, and failed to notice (or address) the ominous crack that had crept across the ceiling in his office.

Then there was Dan Barden, trying to bring up his son while pursuing a career as a writer; writing in ten-minute chunks while his son played, was at swim practice, or took a nap, jotting down notes inbetween cleaning the kitchen floor and folding a load of laundry.

I love to write, but do I love writing THIS MUCH?

Perhaps the reason I have put off reading these magazines is because, deep-down I knew that I would have my worst fears confirmed. That writing takes time, agonizing time, and sacrifice. It takes passion, and dedication, an unwavering focus, a singular vision, a certainty that there is nothing more important than telling a story.

I'm not much for the sacrifice and delayed gratification. I don't play the tortured creative-type well. I want to live and enjoy life today. I like to pay my bills on time. I don't think I love ANYTHING so much as to make myself miserable, or ruin myself financially, in pursuance of it.

I mean, when would I travel?

Perhaps, at the end of the day, this is why I am not a writer. Maybe I just don't have enough passion to do what it really takes to succeed. I'm just too scattered, too in-love with too many things in life to focus so singularly on one thing.

This is a sad thought. I've never wanted to be anything else.

Maybe it's time to let go of the childhood dreams and embrace the reality of who and where I am now, to stop torturing myself for not realizing those dreams. Maybe one day I'll find the passion and vision to write 'the novel' but then maybe I won't. Maybe that's ok.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Time to toss aside complacency

There are a lot of things I'd like to say about the Supreme Court's recent ruling on 2nd trimester abortions but there are a lot more eloquent people out there already saying most of it much better than I ever could.

So, my goal is just to post a link to Planned Parenthood to remind all of us that it's time to toss aside our complacency about the resilience of Roe vs. Wade and time to take action. Quite apart from the reckless lack of medical exceptions to this scary decision, the government has no business telling us what to do with our bodies. Ladies, if you value your reproductive freedom, please support Planned Parenthood. You may abhor abortion on a personal level but that's just it - it's a personal feeling, a personal choice. Please protect that choice for other women by signing the Planned Parenthood pledge and/or donating money.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Validating the actions of a madman

Who else is tired of seeing video and photos of the Virginia Tech killer plastered all over the mass media?

While I certainly don't want to suggest that anyone has a legitimate excuse for killing innocent people, it does occur to me that immortalizing him over-and-over-again on our 24-hour news cycle, does little to discourage other potentially unstable kids from doing the same thing.

Of course, there are many factors at play when someone decides to go on a mass killing spree - mental instability, abuse, society, media, culture, upbringing to name just a few - and the news media in and of themselves do not "cause" people to grab a gun and start shooting. However, does it not occur to anyone that, by inadvertently turning Cho Seung-Hui into a kind of subversive hero-warrior, the idea of going all Rambo at school looks kind of glamorous to other disturbed students? It's like they light the match.

I was bullied as a kid and I know what it's like to feel so pushed into a corner and so hateful of the people who did it, that you spend many hours contemplating their demise. While it never occurred to me to find a gun and shoot them (because I grew up in England anyway and couldn't have found one even if I tried; that's a rant for another time) I would sit in bed at night and concoct evil Jackie-Collins-type plots that would steal their future husbands, get them fired from their job, turn their friends against them, and swindle them out of their very last penny. I wanted to take every source of joy in their life away, just as they had done to me. I wanted everyone to see them for what they were - pathetic and mean - and see me for what I really thought I was... better than them. I would show them.

None of this is an excuse to kill people but it does mean I understand the basic desire to "show" the people you felt wronged by, just how wrong they were to have picked on you. And by continually airing these sick videos and pictures, the news media plays right into the hands of Cho Seung-Hui and other young people like him. There are other students out there thinking right now how great it would be to do the same thing, just so they could get their message of victimization and hate out on national news media.

In my opinion, one of many ways to discourage repeat incidents like this is for the news media to refuse to air these videos or publish these pictures. Without the prospect of getting the attention in death they so craved in life, perhaps other similarly damaged youths will think twice about taking innocent lives.

Free Hugs Campaign. (music by Sick Puppies album out April3)

I am posting this video because I'm sick of seeing videos of a madman brandishing weapons, plastered all over the mass media. Instead of violence and mental instability, I choose to propogate love.

Monday, April 16, 2007

MORE on "More"

Elena is going to nail me to the wall unless I reveal the details of #2 in my previous post "Oh! Oh! I have more!"


And what I want to 'do' is take a 3-week vacation on my own sometime in 2008. I've been thinking about it for some time and I think I just need to DO IT. Writing my plans here sort of makes me accountable to those of you reading it. I figure, if I write it here, then I'm going to have to do it or come up with a bloody good explanation as to why I did not. So, you've been given your mission... don't let me flake!

My goal is to go away on an adventure tour of sorts to either China or India. I want to go alone not because I don't love traveling with my hubbie or my Mum and Dad, but because I know that I will mingle and make friends more readily if I am alone. Plus, I want to put myself completely outside of my comfort zone and having someone familiar with me would soften the experience.

Why now? What's the rush? Well, in the next year or two we'll probably start thinking about having kids. Before I make the biggest of all commitments, I want to get some stuff out of my system. Hubbie, of course, doubts that 'out of the system' will be the result at all and I somewhat agree that the more I travel the more I want to travel, but still.... the point is that the opportunity to drop everything for 3-4 weeks and take-off alone probably will not present itself easily once I have kids.

Here are the tours I'm thinking about:


Normally, you say "tour" to me and I scowl. The idea of being zipped from place-to-place and dished up complex histories and cultures in fast-food fashion with a group of 50 baby-boomers, all complaining about how the host country doesn't do things the same way as back home, is the antithesis of a pleasurable vacation to me.

However, GAP Adventures is a unique tour operator that runs small-group tours. Their goal is to provide "authentic adventures in the real world". So, they focus on immersing their travelers in the culture, the history, the sensory activities of the country of choice. No fancy hotels, only decent ones with a local flavor, local restaurants, visits to local villages as well as tourist attractions, and a local guide to give you the insider perspective. I get the sense from researching them, that the kind of people on these tours are going to be the kind of people who jump at the chance to parasail off a cliff or eat fried ants... or something. You get the picture; these will be people that will push me outside of my comfort zone rather than letting me puss-out. I WANT peer pressure to force me to do things I might not ordinarily do. Again, part of the reason why I'd like to go alone.

So, there... that is my plan. The big thing will be, eventually when I'm ready, talking to my boss and explaining that I'd like to take my annual vacation in one foul swoop (and then some). Honestly, I don't think it will be a problem but right now i want to get through this year's adventures - Belize, Stockholm and perhaps St. Lucia.

If only I had 333 years of life left, I might just be able to get through the 1000 Places to See Before You Die.

Bad quiz results

Daily, I have been entering a Travel Channel sweepstakes to win $50,000 to travel the world. After todays entry a pop-up popped-up (as they do) to ask me to take a quiz which would tell me "what sort of traveler" I was.

So these are the questions and my answers:

You've made your way to the great state of Alaska, and the first thing you absolutely must do is:
Head on over to the Salty Dog Saloon in the town of Homer Spit.

A lifelong dream has come true. You just stepped off the plane in Hawaii. Now what?
You're going parasailing over Waikiki Beach, and no one can stop you!

As you step onto the ground in Brazil, your heart is racing with excitement. Your first move is:
Shove off on a boat trip into the Amazon on the Rio Negro River.

Italy has been calling you for years, and you finally answered. Now you can't wait to:
Jump on a horse and ride that baby through Como and into Switzerland!

The movies and TV commercials got you ... You couldn't resist going to Australia. What's next, mate?
Order a Foster's at the Lord Nelson Pub.

You are in humanity's home country, South Africa. What's your first thought?
Got to hit that Mama Africa restaurant for dinner and a drum circle.

You have found the hidden treasure known as Cambodia. The one thing you can't miss is:
The Tomb Raider Temple, a 12th century tribute to the family of the king.

And here is the bizarre evaluation/result:

What kind of traveler are you?You are an aficionado of the finer things in life. To be pampered is to be loved, and you will find the very best luxury treatment in any country you visit.

I give that a big "HUUUH!?" considering I DIDN'T give any of the following available answers:
  • Check into the Alyeska Prince Hotel & Resort in Girdwood.
  • To the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, please!
  • Find a nice, soft bed at the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio.
  • Experience some classic Italian opulence at the Hotel Villa D'Este.
  • Look for treasures at Katoomba Antiques.
  • This should be on "Best Places to Find Cash & Treasures" ... for the diamonds!
  • The supreme luxury and intriguing history of Raffles Hotel Le Royal.

Who votes for this quiz being broken???

My weekend: a dichotomy of days

It rained all day Saturday. This put me in home-body mode, which wasn't much of a stretch since I had been out on Friday night drinking and dancing. As a result, I gotta tell you that I can't say I accomplished much. I finished reading "Almost French", the book I have been quoting here in my posts and... um... watched three episodes of Season Two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hubbie worked all day and, when he came home, I decided to punish him by dragging him to ULTA where I proceeded to spend $70 on anti-wrinkle, anti-pimple products. I always thought I would grow old gracefully but I can see now that this is just not going to happen. I'm going to resist each fine line with all my might and try to spend my way out of it, testing just about every plump-it-up, even-it-out, moisturize-it-away product known to man. So, overall, it was a self-indulgent day all-in-all. And no... I didn't really get any laundry done.

In contrast, Sunday was spent in San Francisco, being very Sarah-Jessica-Parker-like and having brunch with girls in the city. I drove down there with my new Australian friend CAW (her blog is Hotel California in my links and she prefers that I maintain her privacy, so no real names) who has a convertible. The day was warm and sunny and we zipped down the 80 with the top down, the wind tangling our hair, screaming our conversations over the noise. It was wonderful! Her friends are all single, American girls living in or near SF and this was my first introduction to them.

We parked in Fort Mason and walked to a cool little area at the intersection of Lombard and Fillmore, soaking up the ambience of a city-Sunday. The day after rain, it seemed everyone wanted to be out in the sunshine. There were young couples straight out of a Gap commercial with cropped pants, tank-tops and flip-flops, walking their dogs, leash in one hand Starbucks latte in the other; girlfriends in workout clothes power-walking to-and-from their yoga and pilates classes; and hip, Paris-Hiltonites sassing their way down the street in skinny-legged jeans, huge sunglasses perched on their bleach-blond heads, gold bag flung over one shoulder and mobile phone perched between their other shoulder and ear. Just to see people out and walking is a big thing since you don't see this much in the suburban sprawl of Sacramento. I was also struck at how young everyone seemed to be; Sacramento is definitely an older town. It made for a great atmosphere; the area seemed to buzz with youth and potential. GOD I miss the city.

Anyway, brunch was wonderful. CAW's friends are strong, intelligent, opinionated, well-traveled women (my favorite kind) and we sat and talked for almost three hours! I noticed too, in looking around the restaurant as it filled up, that we weren't the only group of girlfriends meeting for brunch. It seemed every table was filled with groups of girls or foursomes of young couples, brunching after a nice lay-in, probably after partying the night before. The room was loud, full of laughter and chatter and, while the conversation at our table was captivating, I couldn't help but drift off once in a while to soak up the atmosphere and people-watch.

We left at four and drove back north over the Golden Gate bridge, top down, sun still out. As we hurtled in her little sportscar toward the green hills of Marin County, I turned back and looked at the city which seemed to sparkle in the sunlight. The breeze, the brightness of the day, the view... it felt good to be alive.

If only it wasn't so freakin' expensive to live there!

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Posting on this thing is like opening the floodgates to the dam. I think that's why I sometimes avoid it. You think you're just going to post this one thing and then head off to do something in the real world, and then you end up sitting here for 2 hours babbling about all sort of stuff that people probably don't give a crap about. No laundry gets done during this time and, since this is my least favorite household chore (give me 10 toilets to clean over 1 load of laundry any day) I can always seem to find something to distract me from it.

So, the point being that I walked away from my laptop after writing the last post and went to make a cup of coffee. During this brief interlude, I thought more about a couple of things.

1) Things I am finding out about myself now I'm in my 30s.
2) Just "doing it", in the Nike tradition.

So #1:
I catagorically reject the stupid P.I. assessment that I took when I first went to Lyon. P.I. is short for Predictive Index, which is a tool Lyon uses to help them understand the personalities of potential and existing employees. One of these days I'll describe more what this is (and why I'm having such a violent reaction to it) but for your purposes, it's a personality test. Of course, they don't call it that for all sorts of corporate-type reasons to do with semantics (most of which you can probably guess off-the-bat). Anyway, my P.I. tells Lyon that I am a "High A" with a "Lower B". In English this means that I am assertive (not much of a shock there) and that, in the most basic interpretation, I am not much of a people person; I'm not driven by a desire to relate to people, more by a desire to relate to things. (There is a LOT MORE complexity to what these random As and Bs tell us, but I'm trying to keep it short).

I categorically reject this of me now. I did this evaluation four years ago when I first came to Sacramento and when life was pretty crap to be honest. No money, no job, no friends, new city. I firmly believe that my responses on that one day in 2002 were as much a result of my current circumstances as they were of some innate and unchangeable genetic personality trait.

People fascinate me. I love to talk to them. I love to watch them. I love to learn from them. How they are different from one another, from me, is a constant source of wonderment. As I get older, I find that I will talk more indiscriminantly to strangers. Which is how this post started. Last night I found myself talking to the woman serving the wine about her husband, his job, traveling to India; doesn't sound like much of an epiphany, but I would not have done this 10 years ago, gosh 5 years ago. Back then, engaging in meaningful conversation with somebody I met a nano-second ago was unthinkable.

It's true that I don't suffer fools lightly and that I am discriminating when it comes to who I choose to spend my time with. Life is too short to waste valuable time with people you don't like, who don't like you and/or who have a negative influence on you - unless of course you have to for some legitimate reason, such as work in which case you just have to grin and bear it. This will never change about me; I've seen and experienced the result of having the wrong people in your life. As I've learned more about myself, I've learned what I need from the people around me and I search for people that compliment me, complete me and/or challenge me in a positive way.


Life, time, maturity has definitely made me more curious about other people. I spend less time looking at people through the frame of reference of my own personality and experiences, and more time trying to find out more about why other people the way they are. This leads me to rush to judgment less quickly, ask more questions, and make friends with people I wouldn't have taken the time to talk to in the past. This is part of the reason I would like to travel more. Yes, there are pretty places, historical monuments, and great adventures to be had, but also I want to talk to people who live in these places and find out from them what it's like to live in a completely different reality. That's fascinating to me.

So, I reject the pigeon-hole that I was put in the day I walked into Lyon and checked some boxes on the P.I. assessment. That was 4 years ago and represented me, at that moment in time, not me as a whole person. I'm fed-up of being defined by my "HIGH A" and my "LOWER B". While I recognize, generally speaking, every person can be shoved into one of 4 personality-types, I also believe that people are extremely adaptable and intuitive, and can "be" whoever they want to/need to in a given circumstance AND that people can and do change as a result of that thing called life. This is one of the reasons that I'm glad I'm out of my old job and into a new job where everything I do is viewed through the context of my P.I. pattern. I find it limiting. I am bigger and more complex than a 4-point line graph. So there.

God, it's already 11:10 and I'm wasting my Saturday. I'll do #2 tomorrow or something.


I"m taking s**t

My friend, Elena, is giving me s**t for not posting since Monday. Honestly, I've been too busy and haven't really had much to report. I told her it was raining outside and, since she lives in Southern California where it hasn't rained in what seems like forever, she told me to take a picture out of a window in my townhouse to remind her of what rain looked like.

So, this is my dog, Frankie - who thinks he's a bad-ass - looking out of our ghetto door and onto the street outside. He was growling at some unseen threat at the time.

While I'm here, I may as well at least talk about something.

Last night we went to a charity event, a Mardi Gras celebration to benefit S.A.F.E.. The charity's founder, Lisa Schmid, is a former employee of Lyon (the real estate company I worked for) and she had asked me to donate my time to design the event's logo, signage, ads, and printed materials, which of course I did willingly. For a first-time event it was awesome - lots of companies had donated their services and goods. There was jambalaya, gumbo, a chocolate tower, martinis, wine and lots more food... for the $45 admission fee you got all this for free, plus a live band, fortune-telling and the opportunity bid on one of 37 different silent-auction items.

I didn't know what to think of Lisa when I worked with her - she seemed a little skittish - but through working with her on this project and learning more about her in the process, I've found a lot to admire about her. She's smart, witty, and a go-getter. She thinks of something she wants to do and then figures out a way to do it; no pontificating, no letting the potential pitfalls deter her. I like people like that and try to consciously surround myself with plenty of them. I tend to be a "think of all the possible outcomes" kind of gal, which in some cases can leave you in action-gridlock. Having people around me who have the tendency to jump in at the deep-end without knowing how to swim yet, puts a fire up my ass. I like to think of myself as a risk-taker in training; I have the desire to take risks but not always the personality and so I'm figuring out, by watching those who do it naturally, how to ignore that pesky cautious streak and dive-in once in a while.

Anyway, this didn't start off about me. Getting back on track. OH THAT'S RIGHT - I had my Tarot Cards read! Ok, I had a few glasses of wine last night, so let's see what I remember of my 15 minutes of foresight. I remember I picked two cards that had "...of the world" in their title, which pleased my travel-lustiness no end. One was "Child of the World" and another was something else, I don't remember. It turns out that neither actually predicted a career as a foreign-travel-writer for me (bummer) but I think at some point I chose to reject whatever psychobabble the fortune teller was spouting and begin interpreting the cards for myself.

It's all a load of rubbish anyway. When I sat down she asked me if there was something on my mind or a question I needed answering and the truth was there wasn't. So I said "No, not at all. I'm just sort of 'up in the air'", meaning that I just didn't have any expectations. Immediately, she leaned in and said "That's interesting. You're feeling up in the air. Tell me about that," which clued me into the fact that she was looking for the hook that would help her interpret the cards to my situation. Phooey, thought I. You're a fortune-teller, not a psychologist. You're supposed to tell ME insightful stuff, not the other way around. So, of course, I clarified and gave her nothing. "Nah, what I meant was that I don't have any expectations, no questions, I'm just interested in what comes out of the cards."

HA! Take that!

I then spent the next 10 minutes enjoying watching her feel her way through the reading carefuly, searching for expressions on my face, verbal or non-verbal cues, SOMETHING to tell her if her words were 'resonating' with me on some level. I had heaps of fun smiling and saying nothing, giving her very little to work with. After three cards and a very general interpretation that could have applied to Osama bin Laden as well as to me, she asked ME to tell her what the cards meant to me. PUUURLEASE. Give me a break. I know this is a free reading but she could at least of taken a leap and tried to fob me off with something a little more concrete.

Anyway, as I said, I was reinterpreting the cards to what I wanted them to be anyway, so I just proceeded to tell her how fascinating it was that I pulled two "...of the world" cards and how this meant travel to me, and how I loved travel, and how this probably meant that I was meant to travel... blah, blah, blah. She loved it and I think I walked away having really made her feel as though she had done a good job.

Kind of a role-reversal there, but still.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter bunnies... I mean babies... I mean baby

Yesterday, in case it had escaped your attention, was Easter and we went over to my sister-in-law's house for dinner.

Of course, the activity du-jour was playing with my 6-month old niece, Adah.

In an attempt to be considered baby-sitting worthy (as someone who is without-child or baby-sitting experience this, I've discovered, is a long and difficult - although somewhat understandable - process. Would I give MY baby to a complete beginner???) I requested a diaper-changing lesson. It seemed pretty common-sensical but then I was only dealing with pee-pee and not the dreaded brown stuff. I can certainly see, from the amount of wriggling and writhing involved, that poop could be an interesting addition to the process. In terms of when my steller performance will result in the required level of trustworthiness, I'm being my most patient and least pushy ever. IE: Not for a while.

I also managed to score some photos of hubbie with Baby, which is a rareity. While he considers Adah to be just the cutest thing ever, he generally tends to exhibit deer-in-the-headlights behavior when he has to hold or play with her.

I might add that I think this has more to do with him being afraid of getting something wrong in front of his sister (who had been known to direct a much-needed thwack to her younger brother's head when he stepped out of line in their childhood) than actually being afraid of babies. He's a playful sort in general and I think, if left to his own devices and without the beady-eye of mom and dad, he would relax and have fun with her. When we have our own I fully believe he will turn into Fun-Dad while I'll be boring, chastising, only-play-educational-games Mum. (Sorry, I'm going to train him/her to address me with the "u").
Me, I don't care what they think about me. I'm having too much fun playing around and I figure, if I'm making a rookie mistake (a) mom and dad will indeed alert me and/or (b) I'm at least no worse off than they were when this was all new to them! Clearly, I'm an adult and I'm not going to do anything to put her in danger either.
In closing, I had a lot of fun and watching Adah learn and grow in leaps and bounds is an amazing process. I feel privileged to be a part of it.
Oh... and dinner was mighty good too!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Self affirming

Reading Almost French has been a fabulously self-affirming experience. I'm about 1/2 way through the book and I can barely put it down. Although I'm sure on some level of consciousness I knew this before, it's a relief to read that the thoughts, fears, frustrations and roller-coaster of emotions I experience as an ex-pat, are shared by others in similar situations. I am not a selfish, intolerant lunatic and, you know what, it's not just because I'm British either! What a relief; time to throw-off the (probably self-imposed) stereotypes that I have felt chained in for ten years.

Although I understand the French better now, the reality is in France I am still an outsider. There seem to be so many contradictions, so many social codes for different situations that make life interesting but also leave oyu feeling a bit vulnerable. Living in Paris requires constant effort: effort to make myself understood, effort to understand and to be alert for those cultural intricacies that can turn even going to the post office into a social adventure. Yet in Sydney everything had seemed so familiar, so easy. I can't even explain exactly why. It was more than the relaxing effects of sun and surf and being on holiday. It was as though back in my old environment i could finally drop the guard I didn't even know I'd been carrying.

I can relate to her comments about constant effort - I think that's what I was trying to say in my previous post about translation. It's tiring. You get used to it and it becomes almost 2nd nature, but then when you spend time at "home" you suddenly experience this lightness, a sudden sense of liberation from chains you had forgotten you were bound by.

I wonder how many other people like me are out there, just looking for the sense of cameraderie that comes from sharing these experiences and the emotions that come with them? How many people just spend time "blaming" the people whose country they have landed in for the way they are feeling because they have no better frame of reference within which to make sense of their tumult of emotions? I'm guessing more than a few.

How wonderful it would be to find these people and share these common experiences.

I sense a book coming on...?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Freed to be friendly

One of the many benefits of this new job I took on is that I can now explore personal relationships with people I previously worked with - colleagues, peers, subordinates, agents... all of which would have been slightly dicey in my previous position.

Now I find I have an embarassment of riches when it comes to people to socialize with. It's a full-time job just trying to get together with everyone! Don't get me wrong, through, I am NOT COMPLAINING. Just last year I was bitching to Joss that our social circle was more like a pimple on a ducks behind (English expression, sorry).

I'm also saying "yes" more to exploring new relationships with people I meet through other avenues. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that mentally I'm less taxed and emotionally less spent at the end of the day. Working from home a couple of days a week takes the pressure right off and honestly I'm relishing not having to deal with the needs and considerations of 900+ agents, 30+ Managers, and 6 other departments. And while the one thing I really am missing is working with my team in Marketing, I also don't have to spend time coaching or managing anyone. Emotionally, this leaves me with a hole in my week but time-wise it's definitely less of a strain.

The only downside of all this friendliness is that most of it seems to happen over some kind of meal... hence my waistline is suffering. With Belize coming up in just a month or so, I can't afford to go in the opposite direction of my desired beach-bod.

As we head into the Easter weekend, I also have good news to report. We closed the first account that I will get commission from! YAAAY! It's a big franchise in Portland, OR (hence my trip there last week) and it looks like we now have a foot-in to other markets they cover, most specifically Seattle who just got in contact with us. I'm looking forward to seeing my first account through the entire sales cycle; will definitely demystify the process for me.

If I don't post and/or if you don't check in before, HAPPY EASTER!

Only the Brits

This is hilarious.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Babies babies everwhere!

The cute one above is Hudson West Prior, my boss Kim's 3-week old baby. He's a sturdy little chap, already more than 9lbs, and he has a wonderful temperament. I visited them at lunch today and held him for almost an hour. He was very kind to me and didn't scream bloody murder at the mere sight of me, making me look like a pro with my rocking and bobbing and swaying motions.

So, that was lunchtime. Who did I have for dinner?

Dinner time was a much overdue trip to see my friend, Conor, his wife, Gen, and their 11-month old quads: Molly, Abby, Libby, and Russ. Anyone who hasn't checked out my link to their blog should do so here - it's a heartwarming story and they are two of the most amazing people I know.

We (hubbie and I) got to watch them eat their dinner, or more accurately smash it all over their cute little faces and then take a much-needed bath. With four of them it's a splish-splash assembly line with 3 people on staff. Mom dips them in, cleans all the bits, hands them off to the "dryer" (a friend of the family). The "dryer" whisks said baby out of the bathroom and onto a towel in the hallway where she or he is toweled-off and dressed. Meanwhile, the "prep" person (another family friend) prepares another baby for mom's dipping pleasure. All the while spectators (that would be me), including dad, googoo and gaaagaa at the "spare" or "dry" baby in the hallway.

Then, it's downstairs for playtime, crawling through the baby tunnel, over adults and fellow siblings, clinging to every solid thing in an attempt to stand and then face planting into the floor, closely followed by tears.

I apologize for not having visual aids but I was having so much fun playing with one baby or another that I didn't pause to capture the moment. Again, check-out Conor's blog to see the cuteness first-hand. Here is just one photo I stole from his website...

So, which baby will be my next victim? Adah Tatah. I'll get to see her royal cuteness on Easter Sunday.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Sharing some personal emails

Further to my now infamous rose and thorns post, Elena and I continued our conversation offline (or online, but offblog). She suggested I share our emails and I agree, so here they are. Now you can see why I love having her as a friend!

(P.S. They're in reverse order; newest first... sorry!)

I know, so do I - you need to move, I've decided.

BTW, I also think you should post these exchanges on your blog, if only in the comments section.

I second that you are an incredibly positive person. Actually I would go so far as to say that you are a force of nature, and you should understand that to mean that in every possible way, you are an expression of nature, of the life-giving force in the universe. that is why I insist that you are a creator of your life, rather than just an observer. And I'm pretty sure you won't argue with that. But I think you sometimes forget who you are, as I forget who I am, in the daily details and little annoyances.

And that's all I have to say about that. For now.


I love our exchanges.

Even if my words do create my world (and visa versa, I'm sure), as you say, then I don't believe that an imbalance between positive and negative words makes my world either positive or negative. For me, personally, and I think for a lot of other British people (at least that I have known in 32 years), the ability to voice negatives enables us to let them go. It's cathartic. I view my life as extremely positive - my everyday demeanor and experience reflects that - and I think my ability to make that happen for myself is a result of this process of flushing the negative thoughts out of my head and into the world. It enables me to move on. I find that when I hold things like that in, I only ruminate on them needlessly and create stories around them that makes them bigger than they are. Once they're said, shared, out there in the "world", I find they feel smaller, more manageable. THIS IS my way of maintaining control over my reality. Get the negative out and only the positive remains! :)

I wish we lived closer to one another.


Precisely! what you just said does not contradict my point, but rather supports it: what if rather than your words describing your world, they create your world? does that not give you a great deal more control over how your life goes? of course, this requires being your word, merely saying stuff doesn't mean a thing unless you follow through, which is your point, isn't it? all I'm saying is that if you are a person of your word, which you are, what you say shape your actions shape your reality. does that track? and then you get to say how your life goes, even if you don't know how you'll fulfill on what you promise, but somehow being your word makes things happen. i know you've had the experience of making a promise, or saying you'd do something, and had no idea how you'd do it, and somehow it happened, in a way that you didn't think possible. consider that it was the action of (metaphorically) throwing your hat over the fence that opened up a space for stuff to happen that you couldn't have predicted.

and this also ties into your very valid insight about intention. if what you say reflects your intention, it just magnifies the power of your intention, doesn't it?

of course, this doesn't mean you should pretend all is well when it isn't. acknowledging how things are is key, all I'm suggesting is taking it a step further - acknowledge what is not working or what you're upset about etc, then create something new. and honestly i think you know how to do that already.


And on this point we'll have to agree to disagree. I think your actions shape your reality; that words are only as good as the deeds behind them.


e has left a new comment on your post "Stopping to smell the roses? I'm stuck on the thor... ":

Oh, I do think that you have a greta insight when you say that Americans believe that if they speak positively reality will follow. It's not as easy as all that, unfortunately, but that is definitely that element. And, from my own personal experience, what comes out of my mouth creates my world and my reality. That may be true of many other people. Again, lots lots more to say about this, but I'll just leave it at that.

10 Richest Zip Codes

Hot off the press... the nation's 10 richest zip-codes. A surprising list don't you think?

Top 10 Richest Zip Codes

During the five-year boom in housing prices, from the third quarter through the third quarter of 2006, the prices in the nation’s richest zip codes rose dramatically.For the United States as a whole, the five-year increase in the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index was 63.7 percent, while the increase was 79.5 percent for those zip codes with a median sales price of $750,000 or more, according to Fiserv Lending Solutions, which supplies data and software to lenders.

The following list is the 10 U.S. Zip codes with the greatest appreciation in median property values since 2001. Prices listed are from the second quarter of 2006 and the percentage compares the median increase for the previous five years from the second quarter of 2001 to the second quarter of 2006.1.

  1. Greenwich, Conn. (06831): $2,983,000, 49.3 percent2.
  2. Newport Beach, Calif. (92661): $2,500,000, 132.2 percent3.
  3. Paradise Valley, Ariz. (85253): $1,850,000, 100.4 percent4.
  4. Avalon, N.J. (08202): $1,687,500, 125.7 percent5.
  5. Cambridge, Mass. (02138): $1,395,500, 22.4 percent6.
  6. Glen Head, N.Y. (11545): $1,150,000, 67.2 percent7.
  7. Islamorada, Fla. (33036): $1,150,000, 204.3 percent8.
  8. Chevy Chase, Md. (20815): $1,043,000, 94.8 percent9.
  9. Hinsdale, Ill. (60521): $950,000, 48.4 percent10.
  10. Bellevue, Wash. (98004): $950,000, 83.9 percent

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lunchtime Musings

Aaarrgghhhh.... what is that crawling on my arm? A ladybird (sorry, 'bug' for Americans).

(pauses to flick it away)

Okay... sorry, slight interruption there. I just returned from the picnic area where I was eating lunch and aparently I brought a little friend with me.

So, lunchtime musings. I'll start with an email my hubbie sent to me, which was so fabulous I had to share:

In a number of carefully controlled trials, scientists have demonstrated that if we drink 1 liter of water each day, at the end of the year we would have absorbed more than 1 kilo of Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria found in feces. In other words, we are consuming 1 kilo of Poop. However, we do not run that risk when drinking wine (or rum, whiskey, beer or other liquor) because alcohol has to go through a purification process of boiling, filtering and/or fermenting. Remember: Water = Poop / Wine = Health. Therefore, it's better to drink wine and talk stupid, than to drink water and be full of crap.
Hehe... where's my bottle of wine? I knew there was a reason water makes me gag.

Secondly, as I said in a previous post, I'm currently reading a book about an Australian lass who falls in love with a French man and goes to live in Paris with him. The book is called Almost French and it's by Sarah Turnbull. I'm only a few chapters in and already I'm hooked. The reason for mentioning it today is a line from the book that struck a chord with me....

In her pre-Paris life travels, the writer visits a remote town in Greece and, upon arrival, is amazed to find children running around with koalas, kangaroos and "I love Australia" on their t-shirts, the local bar displaying an Australian flag. When she asks a local what on earth is going on, he explains that much of the community emigrated to Oz after the 2nd World War and that over the years some family members have returned, confused about which place - Greece or Australia - to cal home. So, now I quote....

"Now in his fifites, with every passing year the pull of his village among the vines grows stronger. His life is a constant dilemma: in Australia he feels Greek; in Greece he feels Australian. 'It's a bittersweet thing, knowing two cultures...[and] a curse to love two countries.' The man smiles wryly at his own melodramatic words. But there is sadness in his eyes."
I could not have said it better myself.

A retort or clarification of sorts...

My dear friend, Elena, posted a comment on my "thorny" rant and I wanted to take a moment to respond to her very valid points. Less of a retort, because in fact I agree with much of what she said, and more of a clarification.

Let me first start by saying that in my post I recognize there is more to this subject than what I posted. I agree that it was a very personal and somewhat superficial analysis of American culture, from my own unique and ultimately biased point of view. So, with that said, much was left out about what I think on the subject and why I think it - indeed it was a highly emotional reaction to my environment rather than an intellectual analysis. For the latter, I'm sure I would be less emotive and more logical in my commentary. Unfortunately, there's only so much space on my blog, so much time on my hands, and so much of my ranting that I can put you, my dear readers through, in one go. So, by necessity, my posts are often emotionally driven, random streams of consciousness.

Ok, so that sounded like a justification. Maybe I'm sounding argumentative, but I really felt it important that I respond to Elena's comments for this reason...

Anyone who knows me really well and who is privy to my innermost thoughts and fears, knows that I have struggled with maintaining my sense of who I am, while doing as the Romans do in this country. Anyone who met me 11 years ago when I first stepped foot in California and still knows me now, knows the agonizing process this has been for me and how much I have changed, much of it for the better, as a result. Of course, 11 years is a long time and no matter where I lay my hat, I would have experienced things that changed, matured me. Going through that process in an entirely different culture just magnifies that experience, makes it more intense.

So, I feel compelled to respond to Elena's comments that insinuate that I either don't make the effort to adjust my communication to be better understood by the "natives", and/or don't understand the need to do so. I have spent the last 11 years learning how to better communicate with Americans. I couldn't have survived here without being open to that process and I most certainly would not have had a successful career in communications/marketing without that.

But, here's the thing. While some of it definitely has ingrained itself into who I am and how I negotiate my life in the U.S., a lot of it is still artifice. After 11 years, I still sense, deep inside of me, the British gal's voice - I have just managed to develop a fairly good system of inner translation, a system that takes my true thoughts, feelings, and opinions and translates them into verbal or written expressions that Americans understand and can accept. Some days I do better than others. Some days I just want to tell everyone to eff off and just let me be who I am. Some days I'm just tired of the translation process and want to write or speak in a raw, unedited fashion. My husband knows this... we've had this conversation many times. One of the conditions of our relationship has always been that home is my place to speak unedited and share my innermost thoughts, however jarring, without judgment. I thank him for providing that safe place for me; I'd lose my mind without it some days.

None of this is to say that I expect or demand that Americans "take me as I am". Of course, this is a process of never-ending self-reflection and negotiation between who I am at my core and who I need to be to fit into my environment - this process is somewhat the same no matter where you live. You can't just run around sharing the first thing that comes into your head, without thinking about the implications, and expect other people to like it or lump it. That's just being human. HOWEVER, all this being said, the point of my post in a lot of ways was to express that there is only so much translating I can do - I am still me and I was not born in America. I am different and that does sometimes mean I clash with my environment. At 32 years old and 11 years in this country, I have come to a place where I accept some of that. That, on a personal level, people may take issue with my "thorniness" and that I'm ok with that. There is only so much translating one can do before one has changed the core message.

I also, again, would like to emphasize that my commentary on the differences between how Americans and English complain (or as Elena put it "whinge" - good word, that's exactly what we do) was not a complaint in and of itself, but a recognition of difference and an expression of personal frustration. The fact that I'm this way and Americans are not and that this creates some level of frustration (on both sides) is not a surprise to me, nor am I seeking to "solve" it by trying to change me or "them". It is the way it is and I've come to accept it. I write about it as one of the many things that I find interesting, challenging, frustrating... wonderful... about the experience of living in another country to which you grew up.

And that is what this blog has become for me... a place where I can share some very personal and extremely biased, often very emotive, perspectives on my innermost thoughts and challenges with living in a foreign country. I accept that in doing so, I will often not present both sides to the argument, I will be unfair, biased, narrowly focused and yet frequently over-generalize.

Equally, I thank Elena and other, wonderful friends like her, for sharing with me in their comments, the other side of the coin. The dialogue is stimulating and thought-provoking - how wonderful! Just forgive me if, once in a while, I feel a need to respond or clarify from a personal perspective.

Over and out...

Sunday, April 01, 2007


I'm obsessed with travel.

After putting down my book about an Australian who moved to Paris, I read the Travel section of the SacBee (which is kind of laughable really... they get as far as Grass Valley most weeks), then proceeded to pick-up my Budget Travel magazine whilst clicking away on TiVo to watch Passport to Europe (my favorite show) and Samantha Brown (I go green with envy at the mention of her name) visiting the Greek Island of Crete.

At the beggining of the show, Samantha does a brief introduction into today's destination and then the theme music kicks in. Right at that moment I look up from Budget Travel and butterflies flitter around my stomach, tears prick my eyes...

I live for my next trip. The culture shock, the smell of a different place, the different food, the different architechture, the sound of a foreign language, the sound of foreign music...

When I think about having children, I think about the prospect of not being able to travel and I consider that perhaps children are over-rated.

Belize can't come soon enough....

Stopping to smell the roses? I'm stuck on the thorns.

On weekdays I go to the gym at around 4:30... am. (I'll pause for you to take that in). I've been doing it now for almost ten years. It just happens to be the most convenient time for me; there's not much else going on at 4:30am and so there's fewer excuses for not going - except sleep and god knows we sleep enough in life as it is.

I'm usually still 1/2 asleep when I shuffle into the "Family Fitness" close to my house, hand over my key fob for scanning and then head straight for the coffee maker. The coffee is terrible - clearly made by some eighteen year old whose coffee comes ready-made from mother or Starbucks - but if you put enough sugar in, it gets a pass. Heading toward the locker rooms, there is a white board on the wall facing you and on that white board the staff of Family Fitness usually write a "quote of the day", presumably to motivate you to move your flabby, suburban ass. Without stopping, I usually scan the quote and contemplate it's application to my life as I head to the locker rooms, passing various overweight men, grunting as they chest-press too much weight with shoddy form. (I used to be a personal trainer, so I know the difference. 95% of the gym is in bad form, believe me.)

One of last week's quotes was up a couple of days, so it had the opportunity to sink in a little more than most.

"You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses."
The quote was attributed to "Ziggy", who research now tells me is a character in comic strip by Tom Wilson. Not exactly prolific, but there you go.

In my early morning pre-coffee, pre-cardio haze it occured to me that I spend a lot of my time on thorns. This whole blog is about thorns. Random rants was set up basically to give me a place to bitch and complain about other people and sometimes even, myself.

Yesterday, while out and about with my husband, he turned to me and said (I paraphrase here dear, so don't pin me to the wall on this one) "Why can't you just be nice? Why do you have to be all over my shit all the time?" I was on a 1/2 serious, 1/2 joking sarcastic roll at the time and didn't think I was being particularly mean and so I said "I AM being nice. This IS me being nice. Would you LIKE ME to be mean to you? Because I can!"


Those of you who know me know that this was said with my typical tongue-in-cheek tone but still... why do I have to be so... so... thorny?

The answer lies in my upbringing - us Brits delight in sarcastic, biting, self-depreciating (other depreciating) humor. We like nothing better than to bitch and complain about other people, the state of the world, the price of a loaf of bread... anything unfortunate enough to come up on our radar. And the thing is, it's not done (most times) with the slightest amount of malice. It's not about the people or things we're moaning about. We're not trying to change anything, we're not attempting to poison others or even convince others of our point of view, if we're complaining about this person or that person... we're just simply... venting. We complain about people we love as well as people we hate, it doesn't mean we like or love them any less. It's our form of therapy and a lot cheaper I might add! It's understood amongst fellow Brits (and I find, too, many other Europeans and even Australians) that a bitch-session about a mutual friend is not the end of that friendship, or even a comment about the whole person, it's just a venting of emotions about that particular incident or characteristic. We're not judging the other person and we don't judge one another as a result of that "venting" either.

The trouble is, this just doesn't translate in the U.S. To Americans, who were not brought up this way, we're just simply being mean, judgmental, disingenuous, and gossipy. We always appear to be complaining and worse, it seems that we don't intend to do anything about it. Americans are so accomplished at the art of the intentional complaint that they don't understand complaining for complaining's sake. If you're going to complain it had better be about something that warrants your complaint and you had better know what you want the other person to do about it. There are books and books on the self-help shelves about just this thing, in one form or another - the art of channeling your negative emotions for positive impact; it misses the point for us Brits.

Complaining without intent is viewed as just poisoinous to Americans; bad vibes, bad mojo, too much focus on the negative elements of your environment. Americans truly believe that if you can keep the bad stuff hidden (in that you don't talk about it openly) you can maintain the artifice of positivity and that artifice, eventually, will become your reality. By not giving voice to the "negative", the positive will triumph.

I was about to write right here that, of course, this doesn't apply to every American out there (which it doesn't) but then realized that I was doing something uniquely American - couching my opinion and/or thoughts in modifiers and qualifications, get-out-of-jail-free clauses that allow those reading this post to discount my opinion as not applying to them. You see, when Americans do voice an opinion that can be viewed negatively by someone, they love to do it in such a way that they ensure you can read it as not applying to you. Americans, whether they know it or not, are all accomplished, amateur politicians.

It's interesting, because the very thing I'm writing about it being read by Americans right now - you? - and this cultural difference is probably evident in your reaction to this post. It probably seems like I'm complaining about Americans... again. And that's just the point. I don't see this as a complaint. I don't! I've lived here for almost 12 years. I'm still here. I have American friends. I work with Americans. If they (you?) were so intolerable, do you think I would have stayed? (Especially with my obvious lack of patience for anything I consider intolerable). Of course not. But even after 12 years I realize I can't shake the fact that my formative years happened in another country, another culture, a whole other reality. I don't think the same way as my American friends, family and co-workers. I don't express myself in the same way, I don't react to things in the same way, I don't do things the same way and, you know what, I'm okay with that.

The question is, can the people around me be ok with that?

One thing I've discovered is that it takes Americans some time to figure me out, to understand me. Most don't know what to make of me at first. For those who take the time, I'm ok with whatever the end result - like, hate or indifference. Hey, they tried and if they didn't like what they found, that's alright with me - I don't like everyone I meet either. For those who don't take the time, usually because they're afraid of someone who challenges their own sense of reality, I don't have the time for them. I'm better off without them in my life.

So, although roses are darn pretty, I'm content with pricking myself on a thorn once in a while. It's cheaper than therapy. Anyway, I have my American husband to remind me to smell the roses once in a while...
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