letting a little 'sunshine' in my life...

These extremely short winter days in England really zap me for some reason. This winter and last I have felt completely and utterly exhausted from late November onwards. Doesn't matter how much sleep I get, I'm constantly tired and when I'm tired, I'm not very pleasant to be around. And let's face it, I don't have many friends here as it is, so I really need to do something about it! Last year this cycle didn't really end until late spring and I anticipate the same again this year. I had never heard of 'Seasonal Affective Disorder' until I moved here, but the more I think about it and study my personal patterns, the more I realise I may be suffering from SAD, and honestly I probably always have but didn't realise the extent of it until I moved to a climate where the winter only allows 7-8 hours of light per day. These 'dark nights' really do exacerbate things a bit!

Will and I both took a Circadian Rhythm test today on the Philips site, and as I expected my results showed that I am much more impacted by these sunless winter days than my darling husband - which partially excuses my periodic moody bitchiness that is worse in the winter.

(Although honestly I can't blame SAD for all of my brattiness because let's just face it - I'm pretty high maintenance full stop and I am the first to admit it. That said, those who know me realise it's much worse when I'm tired, and in the winter I'm tired ALL THE TIME! )

A special thanks to my sister for supporting my stance that it's not ALL my fault by saying: "Yeah I've always thought you are worse in the winter!". Upon reflection, I realise this means she thinks I'm a beotch year-round, but just not as bad in the summertime; however she also admitted she must suffer from SAD year-round because she's never nice, which tickles me to no end. Ah Susie, how I love little pessimistic you.

Anyway, I've just ordered the Lumie alarm clock and I seriously want it to work. The whole theory behind it is that instead of waking you with an alarm, it slowly lights up creating a "false sunrise" and provides you light you so desperately need while also gradually waking you up instead of jolting you with a buzzer. Yes, I realise this sounds gimmicky and stupid, but I'm willing to try anything at this point as it's a long long way until April/May for 'natural' relief of these winter blues.


How quickly the year has passed...

I've been living permanently in the UK for 13 months now. This is my second Christmas here, although I sort of count it as my first because last year I had just arrived really and didn't have much time to think about the holidays really. I just found this pic of Will and I in our Christmas hats last year and I have three observations:

1 - My hair was so short just a year ago - wow! I'm not sure if I like it better in a bob or longer, jury is still out on that one...

2 - I have definitely put on some weight since then - I can see it in my (our) faces. Oh well, happiness (and yorkshire puddings) do that to you.

3 - Whew, thank God I took another chance on Will and building a life here in England - two Christmases ago I never thought it would have been possible.

Now, it's not all peaches and cream here in the UK. The damp damp damp climate and lack of sun in the winter means I get WAY more colds than I should. I am pretty lonely for my family and friends back in the States, especially when it could be at least 6-8 more months before I can make it back for a visit. I also am sad for Will, as I know he has holes in his family life that I can't fill and this time of year is hardest on him. But really, I try to set all of that aside and recognise the fact it would be SO much worse and I'm pretty damn lucky to be living abroad, working in a job I'm passionate about and sharing my life with a man who doesn't mind doing all the ironing. Life is good.


utterly lazy weekend

We have done nothing this weekend. Nothing of consequence at least. And, oh was a weekend of nothing so wonderful! To recap...

Saturday morning we got out of bed a little after 11am. Yes, 11 am ! Unheard of normally because either my bladder or the children who live upstairs wake us up earlier most weekends. Barely awake, we trudged over to the post office before it closed, where I nearly had a panic attack sending off my passport, marriage certificate and UK Visa off to the US Embassy for passport renewal. (Seriously, the entire walk home from the post office I was like OMG what will I do if it's lost? What will I do?! How can I trust that Royal Mail woman? What if they lose it? My life will be over! Must. Calm. Down).

Anyway after recovering from the post office traume and finishing off my organic fair trade skinny latte (which wasn't much better than the ASDA stuff I brew at home), we walked into Gosforth, bought some magazines and had lunch at the Brandling Arms pub, where we then lazed around and read/drank for several hours. Good food, leather couches, white wine and warmth all for less than £20 - can't beat it. We headed home when it was starting to get dark (which is about 345pm these days!), made supper and pretty much did nothing the rest of the night but watch telly and talk about how disgusting the flat is, making promises of cleaning 'tomorrow'. I think I was in my PJs by 830pm - exciting huh?

Today we slept in until after 10, made a lovely breakfast of poached eggs, fresh-baked baguette and bacon from the Gosforth butcher and caught up on The Daily Show whilst drinking coffee. We've watched 3 movies today - Bottle Rocket (hilarious!), The Escapist (predictably average) and Iron Man (AWESOME, oh and I am so in love with RDJ!). We also did a deep clean of the flat, cooked another meal and basically stayed in the entire time. Boring to many, lovely to us. And cheap! After last weekend's Manchester spending spree I was quite happy to stay in.

Oh, yeah. We watched the latest Simpson episode (or the latest one showing in the UK to be more precise). I just don't see how they keep churning them out so successfully. How in the hell do they keep that show relevant after so many years? It started in 1987 on Tracie Ulman - 21 years ago - and still is funny and modern to this day. And oh, that last sentence just made me feel really old - jeez, 1987 doesn't actually seem that long ago anymore. Ugh.

Only one remotely unpleasant thing to note from the weekend, and really it's nothing big. My current 'trauma' is that my Christmas tree is shedding like MAD. I really think it might have pine-tree alopecia or something. I have NEVER had a tree shed this bad, and before you comment - yes, I am watering it. The needles are coming off at such a rate that some of the ornaments are sliding off bare twigs with the the slightest vibration from the wind as you walk slowly past. It's absolutely annoying! I sweep them up twice a day at least, and I have NO IDEA how we're going to get that thing out of this 2nd floor flat (3rd floor US) without a huge mess in the hallways. Ugh, how I miss my old place in Columbus where I could just chuck the sucker out the back balcony and drag it to the street without a care in the world. Those were the days!

Back to work tomorrow. Which means going back to nothing to work on. Starting a new job at Christmas time isn't exactly a thrill a minute, but I shouldn't complain I suppose. I'm just really sick of CBTs and staring at the company logo while drinking vending machine coffee for hours on end. My boss says after the new year things will pick up and I won't have a minute to breathe, so I am trying to enjoy the downtime while I can. He's taking me to our London location Tuesday, which means flying down and back in a single day (the benefit of working for an airline). They call it 'Duty Travel'. Makes me feel like I'm in the military or something!

Ok, so enough droning on for now. I'm going to attempt to blog more in 2009, but hopefully my subject matter will be a little more interesting by then.



(sur)Reality Check

Generally speaking, I’m starting to forget I live in a foreign country. Sometimes when I used the word ‘home’, I’m actually referring to here rather than the good old US of A. The transition has been slow, subtle and admittedly painful at times, but it’s happening nonetheless. My vernacular is evolving at an impressive pace, as well as my wardrobe. I’m still glaringly American to everyone here of course, but I am pretty sure I seem less American than before to those Stateside. Basically, I’m acclimating, simple as that. Yet sometimes I have these weird almost out-of-body moments where I become acutely cognizant of the fact that I am an alien, that this culture isn’t MY culture and that really, truly I don’t understand what it’s like to be British any more than they can possibly understand what it’s like NOT to be British. These moments occur less and less frequently these days, but when they do, it’s quite powerful.

I had one of these strange epiphanies today on the Metro, coming home from work. ‘Epiphany’ isn’t exactly the correct word to describe the feeling though, it’s more like a sense of ‘deja-vu’ combined with ‘what the f*ck?’ and ‘where am I?’ all rolled into a ten-second mini roller coaster of the mind. There wasn’t any one thing that set me off today on the train… like every other day, I was reading my book and ignoring everyone around me, constantly stopping mid-sentence to make sure I hadn’t missed my stop. About the third go at double-checking the station sign, I became hyper-conscious of the people around me talking, and how different they sound to me. And then I noticed their clothes and their faces and started thinking about how they grew up compared to me, and within a few seconds I was like ‘Oh my god, I’m in a foreign country, this isn’t my life, this feels so weird.’. A momentary panic ensued followed by the reassuring announcement that the next stop was Regent Centre, which means I was almost home. Home. That’s what I thought instinctively, I’m almost home. And suddenly I didn’t feel foreign or weird or misplaced anymore.

I wonder sometimes if these moments will cease occurring, or if it will always be like this for me? I’m so intrinsically American, and proud to be so, that the thought of losing these periodic moments makes me sad in a way. I don’t crave to be different – I don’t want to stand out all the time. But I also don’t crave to be a nationality I’m not, nor to lose touch with the culture that formed me from infancy. Only time will tell I suppose… wait and see, wait and see.


i hate my immune system!!

I have been sick for about 2 months off and on, with a few good days here and there but mostly sick sick sick. Will and I keep passing bugs back and forth and it's exhausting! I mean, I'm so tired of being ill that I'm actually laying off on booze and taking supplements. Seriously, it's that bad. The funny part is that I'm not really getting super sick - just mildly - but it's been going on for so long now that I'm not sure whether or not I could pass a drug test. Over the last couple months I've had to buy enough Sudafed, ibuprofen, Nurofen CF, Night Nurse and other various OTCs that I think the Boots pharmacy staff is starting to suspect I'm running a meth lab rather than self-medicating. Please please please let this be the last of my colds for awhile!!!


Rinse and repeat...

This week marked two major anniversaries for me - it's been a year since I moved to England, and a year since I started back at Acxiom. This week also marked two other significant events in my life - my (second) last day working at Acxiom and my first Thanksgiving abroad.

Leaving Acxiom the second time around was a bit more anti-climactic than the first time I left in 2005. I guess because I always had one foot out the door from the minute I got there, and I never really bonded with that many people. I did my job, did it well and then got the heck out of there at the end of each day as quickly as I could.

Thanksgiving wasn't very traditional at the Boddy household because we didn't have a big family 'do or anything, but the meal was nice nonetheless. I loved cooking it, and I loved eating it even more. Sadly, no pumpkin pie though. :(

On Monday I start my new job as a Project Manager, and I also turn 33 years of age. I look at next week as Fresh Start, Part 2 for Julia Boddy. I'm not sad about getting older - I don't really mind it at all right now. And I'm definitely not sad about leaving Acxiom - can somebody please remind me why I left project management in the first place? Oh yeah, wait, I remember... had something to do with a certain Briton I can't get enough of. Ah well, I get best of both worlds now I suppose. The Best of Britain, so to speak. :)

Anyway I'm too busy playing Facebook scrabble to write anything more than this simple post. Catch you on the flip side yo'.



The price of (partial) freedom = £595

I haven't blogged in forever and there is so much I need to say, but alas all I can think about today is the fact that I've finally gotten my UK Residence Permit. YIP YIP YAY! It cost me tons of paperwork, a dreary drive to Sheffield, a day off work and £595, but the end result is my emancipation from dependency upon an employer to stay in England. As the letter they gave me with the stamp stated, I am now free to setup my own business or work wherever I want in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, i don't qualify for the Dole quite yet but that's definitely on the short-list for the next 3-4 years. :)


long lost friend and fading memories

American night !
Originally uploaded by
There used to be a time when Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was a major staple of my diet. As in at least once per week, usually more often. I would sometimes add shredded cheese, or jalepenos, or tuna or chili but in the end my main love was the boxed mac and cheese itself. And it was a long lasting love affair we had together, probably the longest one in my entire life. Until last June, when we parted ways once I realised how many points M&C has on weight watchers. And alas, I sure did miss this American classic !

I think it's been about a year since I actually ate any Kraft Mac & Cheese. At first it was because of WW, and then it was because I moved to the UK where it's not sold. In April I smuggled two boxes back with me from the States; however I had resisted the urge to eat this dear friend until tonight, a night when Will is out and I can be an indulgent American junk foody with little or no whining.

My plan was to skip lunch so that I was super hungry, then make the M&C for an early dinner and eat the whole box myself. As I boiled the noodles, I was so excited. I added a wee bit of shredded cheddar, some fresh ground pepper and some Cavendar's Greek seasoning and then dove straight into a huge bowl. At first it was bliss, each and every bite more satisfying than the next. For about six bites, that is...Let's just say that I'm SO glad I didn't put a load of salt into it like I would have back home, because apparently my tastebuds are changing here and super salty processed foods like mac and cheese, um, well they kinda gross me out!

I ended up throwing away a little under half of it, which is such a shame considering how much I used LOVE mac and cheese. I mean, seriously, I could eat it five days a week back in the day and now I can barely eat one bowl.

What is wrong with me ? I feel so un-American, so un-me! Couple this with the fact that I could NOT remember the American terms for a couple of food items this week, such as aubergines and sunblushed tomatoes, I am really freaking out about my obviously fading American-ness. I can cope with the changes in my spelling and speech, because I'm basically paid to write emails and talk on the phone all day long and my primary interfaces are English; however losing my American food identity is just completely unacceptable! Next thing you know, I'll prefer tea over coffee and calling cookies 'biscuits' ! And the final step is everyone telling me I 'sound just like Madonna' - fuck that shit !

Time to watch some American cooking shows online and get my new British-leaning self in check. Or maybe I'll watch Scrubs. Enough Zach Braff can cure me, I'm sure of it !!



I recently became reacquainted with an old high school friend through email. She found me initially on classmates.com, which I refuse to subscribe to because it's 'pay', so after a week or two of clever profile changes, I was able to tell her where to find me on other FREE sites and eventually we connected. Her name is Amy (yeah, can you believe that - yet another Amy to add to my list - so now we have AmyMo, Acxiom Amy and HighSchool Amy). Myself, Amy and a girl named Kim were fairly inseparable in high school for 2 years, yet somehow I haven't connected with her once in the 15 years past. Probably doesn't help that I moved away from Ohio as soon as I could find an excuse, and didn't return for 10 years, and I pretty much blocked out everything prior to 1996 in my mind at the same time. Coping mechanism in part, but probably mostly due to sheer laziness on my own part - keeping in contact with peeps is hard work !

For obvious reasons, this sudden contact with HS Amy is bringing back a LOT of memories from those days, most of which are much more pleasant and fun in hindsight than reality actually was during my high school years. Thank God for that, huh? Given that I'm not usually prone to nostalgia about those days, I've been in a weird head space over it all as of late. It's quite interesting to me how much I've changed since those days in many ways, while at the same time I think I'm very much the same person deep inside. Amy sure seems to be able to relate to the now-Julie just as easily as the then-Julie, and we haven't spoken in 15 years. Given, we were VERY close back in the day, and I don't get super close to people easily so it makes sense she and I are getting along via email fine, but it's just weird considering I'm 2x as old now as I was when I saw her last.

The other side effect of this reunion is that I'm having dreams about high school again. Any time I am reminded of that time period, my dreams change for awhile. Some of the dreams are pleasant, but there is this recurring one that I can't shake that's not so pleasant. I keep dreaming that there was some problem with my graduation processing in 1993 and they revoked my diploma in modern day, forcing me to go back to High School as a 32 year old woman. And everything I hated about HS is 10x worse as an adult, yet I can't escape because I HAVE to have my diploma to hold a job. The dream situations is completely ludicrous of course, but somehow upsets me every time I have it. I mean, seriously...what's more frightening that having to deal with teenage angst at 32 years of age? Nightmare, I call it.

This weekend I started thinking about what I looked like back then (cringe!). Somewhere in this flat I have some really hilarious pics that I need to scan in and post on flickr. Absolutely shocking how nerdy and misfit I was back then - omg. Seriously, big hair, big glasses and bad clothes. Enuff said.


Interesting side effects

I have had a crap weekend in general, although one interesting side effect is I've discovered a bit of independence because of it.

Will has been in the hospital this weekend. At first they thought it was an appendicitis, but after testing and an overnight stay, they decided he's ok and sent him home, albeit still pretty miserable. Of course the whole hospitilazation and Will being ill aspects were frightening, but since he's gonna be fine I'll instead focus on me! :£

I've done very little driving here in the UK, but of course this weekend that had to change. I was scared out of my mind at first about going it alone but I forced myself not to stay at home and worry to death ( British hospitals have STRICT visiting hours and I could only see him 2 hrs each day! )

So anyway, not only did I drive myself to and from the hospital, but I went to the gym, to the grocery store and then just forced myself to drive around as many roundabouts as I could find, and let me tell you - there were no Griswold moments! As a matter if fact, I was so pleased with my driving, I was actually skipping to the car after the gym today!

It's funny that its taken me over 6 months to overcome my fear of driving alone, but I guess I just had to be forced to face it, and Will strapped to an IV for two days did just the trick!

Probably helps that we have the mini now too ;)

Will is napping now so am gonna drive around for awhile. Just can't run out of gas because there is no pay at the pump here and I can't be hassled!


Geographically Challenged Americans

Now, let me preface this entire entry by stating that I know for a fact that a lot of my American friends totally understand that London is a city in England and that although I don't live there, they accidentally refer to me living there due to the fact I go there a lot and/or they have never really heard of the city where I really do live. This entry is not about those of you in that category...this entry is about the people who seriously have no clue about the United Kingdom's geography in general. Here are some gems that I have encountered with fellow Americans in the recent past. Certain names are not being mentioned as I want to protect the awkwardly innocent. And some of the conversations are being drastically shortened, as you guys can google for yourself.

Example #1:

While home on holiday this month, I had the following conversation:

Anon: "So, how is life in London?"

Julie (laughing): "I'm sure it's great, but I don't live in London."

Anon (confused): "But I thought you moved to England?"

Julie: "Yes, I did. But I don't live in London, I live in Durham."

Anon (silent & confused looking, most likely trying to figure out why I am talking about a city in North Carolina): "Oh."

Julie: "It's in the Northeast of England, 5 hours drive from London."

Anon: "Oh, I guess I didn't realise England was that big."

Julie: "Hmm"

Example #2:

Conversation with a different person, prior to moving to England in November:

Anon: "So, are you going to live in England or the United Kingdom?"

Julie: "Both"

Anon "What does that mean?"

Julie: "It's a long story.... look them both up on google."

Example #3

Yet another conversation of this genre...

Anon: "So where exactly is Durham anyway?"

Julie: "Well, it's in the Northeast. It's actually pretty close to the Scotland border."

Anon: "Oh, really, I didn't know the UK bordered Scotland?"

Julie: "It doesn't. Scotland is PART of the UK. So is England. And they border eachother."

Anon: "Okay I'm really confused now. Where is London then?"

Julie: Long explanation of the nuances of the United Kingdom, Great Britain, England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland

Anon: "You don't know what you are talking about, Ireland is NOT part of the United Kingdom."

Julie: "Ireland and Northern Ireland are different countries."

Anon: "Whatever."

Example #4:

So, about a month ago I rang up TRowePrice the other day to change my address to my Durham flat. Their system didn't accomodate international addresses easily, so I had to go over it with the lady about 4 times to make sure she got it right. She even repeated it back to me one last time so we could ensure the mail would get to me, as frequently Americans incorrectly address mail to me and it takes longer than normal for the Royal Mail to sort it out and get it to me. This week I received a confirmation letter from TRP saying they had changed my address. Here is how the new address read:

Julie Hicks
24 Monument Court
Durham, London

Um... seriously? London is NOT a country people !! Luckily the dear old Royal Mail figured it out by the post code and the letter was delivered anyway. Really looking forward to calling TRP to correct it - can't wait to explain why London shouldn't be on the address at all. :)

Example #5:

Not the last of the stories I could tell, but it seems silly to belabour this any futher so I'll only give one more example. This took place on a conference call recently, and one of the participants was himself a Brit living in the US. He chose to stay completely silent during the entire conversation though.

Julie: "We're taking the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam this weekend, I can't wait."

Anon #1: "Ooh, so you're crossing the English Channel by boat?"

Julie: "Um, no... I'm pretty sure it's the North Sea we're crossing."

Anon #2: "No, I'm pretty sure you have to cross the English Channel to get to Amsterdam."

Anon #1: "Yeah, I crossed it once to get to France and I got SO seasick. I can't believe people actually swim across it!!"

Julie (feeling doubtful now): "Well, I am pretty sure we're not crossing the English Channel. The English Channel is not anywhere near Newcastle. That said, I'm no expert on geography, so maybe I'm confused?"

Now, I'm not saying that I myself was an expert on the structure & geography of the United Kingdom before I met Will, but I was a little more knowledgeable than these folks - and none of these folks are stupid or uneducated at all! They just suffer from the stereotypical American syndrome of geographical naivete. I myself suffer from it, and since moving here, I find myself regularly hearing the name of a country or city I never knew existed. I have to ask Will to explain where it is, or I google it if I'm too embarassed to even ask, usually when with stranger. And so far I have found wikipedia & my iphone to be my lifesavers. Thank God for both!

BTW check this out if you are interested in the real scoop on the UK:



...and the countdown begins...

Will and I are off to America on Tuesday. We're doing several days in Ohio for general visiting and also my mom's wedding, then 3 days in Vegas with Karen and Jeff, then 3 days in San Diego just us, followed by 4 more days in Columbus with the fam and friends. It's going to be fun but the jet lag is going to be continuous I believe, as we're traipsing back and forth across the timezones on multiple occasions. My guess is that by the time I make it back to the UK, my sleep schedule will be that of a 3 week old infant - erratic and inconvenient.

I'm really excited about our vacation. The trips themselves are exciting of course, but I'm also grateful for the time off of work. I need some time to recover from the pace my first 4 months back at my old employer have subjected me to. Jumping right into a position you already 'know' leads to becoming far too busy far too quickly and my head is about ready to implode. I think two weeks without email, without my phone and without travelling to and fro London will be just what I need to refuel. I think I am more excited about NOT having to work than I am about all the wonderful things we're going to do for those 2 weeks. God, I sound pathetic don't I?


Public transport pro?

As I travel to Teddington from Durham today, it strikes me that I'm becoming a bit of a pro at utilizing mass transportation. Three months ago I used England's infamous rail and tube stations cautiously and with loads of self-doubt, constantly worried about getting lost or always fumbling like a fool with my bags whilst simultaneously riding an escalator or buying a ticket. Three months ago, a four-plus hour journey to Teddington via public transportation would have put me totally on edge, and by the time I got there, I would have been frazzled. Today I feel incredibly cool and content during my journey, which seems to be a dramatic shift within me. So now I am starting to wonder exactly what has changed.

It's obvious to me that I've become one of the Average Jane commuting masses. I "fit in" somehow, instead of always sticking out like a sore thumb as I did in the recent past (or rather I came off like a car-dependent bus-phobic Middle American to be more accurate). Here is some proof…

I pack my belongings in the manner most optimal for the journey ahead. Roller bag if long stays, backpack for short ones, purse inside backpack if tube AND train, outside if tube only. Always keep both sunglasses AND an umbrella in my bag's side pocket when an outdoor hike is required, as the weather changes rapidly here.

Before departing, I put my Oyster card &/or train tickets in my right hand outermost coat pocket for quick access to the ticket scanner or to show the porter.

Amazingly, I can now both collapse the handle on my suitcase and carry it up tube station stairs all with one hand & in one smooth motion without missing a step (the key is proper thumb-on-handle placement).

I have mostly broken my American habit of always walking on the right side of the gangway, and instead I can weave in and out on the left with ease.

I have memorized all the tube and train stops which I frequent, usually down to the level of knowing which side the doors open at each station, and also what carriage to be on for the post-departure race for first in queue at the taxi stand.

I have all the various fares memorized, and I pay for my tea with exact change whenever possible to keep the snack trolley vendor happy and efficient. Hell, I can even walk up the escalators on the left like a sprinter without feeling any awkwardness, no matter what type of heels I'm wearing!

I assume this change has occurred in me slowly over time, but for some reason today it seems dramatic and sudden. I mean... sure, I still get lost or trip over the tube gap from time to time still, but its less scary than before and usually due to me being the clumsiest person alive instead of due to my public transport naivety. And that subtle difference makes me feel so good.

Sent from my iPhone.


America shopping list

I'm going to be stateside in a little over two weeks and can't wait to do some shopping!

Here is my list so far. Some of this I can't get in the UK at all, others are just way cheaper in the states.

A proper American salon haircut and color (!!)
Flavored cheezits
Canned black beans
Bare Escentuals makeup
Lubriderm lotion
Hazelnut flavoured ground coffee
Any sour candy I can find (!)
Generic Zyrtec
Valerian root capsules
Huge ass bottles of ibuprofen
Kraft macaroni and cheese
Clothes from Banana Republic
New Balance sneakers
Reeses peanut butter cups
Good quality headphones
Skin for my iPhone

Um I'm sure there is more. Got to take an extra bag just in case :)

Sent from my iPhone.


Socialised Medicine, Part 2

Okay, so all didn't go so well with my little SM adventure today. I got to the clinic, started filling out the paperwork and when the forms asked for my credit card number, I got quite confused. Um, WHAT?! I thought this wasn't a pay per use type service! Totally frightened about looking stupid, I asked about the costs and quickly found out that I had stumbled into a private clinic that is not run by the NHS at all. The front office man did a little sales job on me trying to convince me to use them anyway (at £65/30 minutes plus ala carte prices for tests!). I was feeling pretty shitty at the time, had nothing in my stomach as far as sustenance, so in typical Julie-mode, I got mad and the tears started flowing. I would almost feel sorry for the guy at reception had he not made my general paranoia worse by trying to get me to stay and pay.

So, I called up Will and complained profusely which of course made things worse. Not sure how the man puts up with me sometimes, I swear! As my mom has always said, I'm a bit high-maintenance to say the least. (Note to self: Really need to stop using the phrase " I hate your country sometimes... " - doesn't get me sympathy in any way). Poor Will didn't know what to do with me in the state I was, except to say I shouldn't have to pay and he had no idea why I was being asked to do so. That pretty much made up my mind to leave.

I eventually got the guy at reception to tell me where the REAL (aka free) NHS clinic is located, and off I went. In my misery, I didn't pay enough attention to the signs at the station and ended up taking a REALLY out of the way route to Liverpool Street which involved about 2 miles of walking which I could have avoided if I had taken a train instead of Tube at Bank, which I'm pretty sure the reception dude told me but I wasn't listening because of my anger (duh, dumb American girl get with it!). Of course, the difficult journey made me even more upset and my hunger sure as hell didn't help, so when I finally got to Liverpool street, I was in a right state. Knowing my body well, I grabbed a sandwich and some water at the first place I encountered. And then I hit my iPhone.

Have I mentioned that I love my iPhone, and that I can't imagine a life with out it? I had no idea where this clinic was, only that it was near Liverpool Street station. I used Safari to look up the address on the NHS website, then I put the post code into Google maps, used the 'Current Location' function and next thing I know, I had precise directions on how to get to the clinic from where I was standing, in all of about 3 minutes (would have been faster if I weren't also stuffing my face). Thank you Bill Gates. You are a genius.

Ok, so finally got to the NHS clinic, filled out a MUCH simpler form (name, address, DOB nationality - that's it, no HIPAA shite, no insurance questions, nothing...). Turned the form in, sat down on a pretty damn comfy leather chair to wait, and 35 minutes later walked back to the train station with a diagnosis from a really nice nurse practitioner. Luckily, it's just really bad wax build-up and not an ear infection! Yucky I know, but I prefer ear drops and a potential 'syringing' next week to loads of drugs, so now I'm a happy bunny.

All-in-all, my first experience with socialised medicine was very simple and pleasant, once I finally made it to the NHS clinic itself. The fact that I didn't have to fill out a load of forms nor pay a dime truly did offset the fact that I REALLY miss having a car to handle these types of situations. ( Americans have no idea how easy they have it with HUGE parking lots outside of everywhere. But then again, I don't have a car payment or associated hassles, so there ! )

I did learn one key lesson today, one I will never forget:

Medical clinics inside of train stations really ARE too good to be true.

Oh yeah, and I also learned that the NHS are pretty alright.

Socialised Medicine, Part 1

I am writing from a London train, on my way to Waterloo station. I am full of anxiety and worry and loathing. No, its not because of work.

Its because my ears are messed up and I need medical attention. Which means I am about to try out socialised medicine for the first time. Which means that I'm behaving in a typical American way and am scared shitless.

What's funny about this situation is that if it weren't for Michael Moore, I probably wouldn't be going at all, or at least not until I passed out and Will dragged my unconscious body to the A & E. I have heard many horrible stories about socialised medicine in America and I can't imagine voluntarily subjecting myself to its evils! And seriously, how can it be any good if it’s free?! Nothing good in life is free, or so I have been brought up to believe. Despite my hearing going bad, an increase in pain daily and about 3 consecutive weeks of ear "issues", I have yet to see a nurse or doctor. And I was resolute in my decision not to do so until this weekend.

Sunday night I watched "Sicko" and Mr. Moore made me see how silly I am being. The NHS is not evil and it appears that my fears of it being sub par because its free is a misnomer because its not free - we are taxed out our asses here to pay for it.

So now you must be wondering why I am still filled with so much dread as we draw closer to Waterloo medical centre? Well, first of all, I'm going to a medical centre located in a TRAIN STATION. Seriously, how weird is that? Convenient, sure, but is it sanitary? Secondly, although Moore raised my confidence in the UK health system, it totally lowered my confidence in not appearing like a buffoon when using it. In a way I'm thankful that Moore asked all the typical American questions in the film, eliciting bewilderment and laughs from confused Brits.

Saves me the embarrassment I suppose. I mean who WOULDNT ask about co-pays back home? Apparently here its a foreign concept, which lends credence to my fear of feeling foreign.

Almost there now. Wish me luck. Tell my mother I love her should I not return.

To be continued....


an unexpected result

My interest in footy (aka soccer) was primarily spawned from my interest in Will and his general passion for the sport, as well as my desire to share something special with my nephew Elijah, who loves going to Columbus Crew games. Hence I watched parts of the World Cup with vague interest, I learned the basics so I could keep up in conversation with Will, and I got a season ticket to the Crew last year to share with little E. But really, I wasn't all that into soccer on its own. Instead I enjoyed it primarily as a mechanism to feel closer to the two important men in my life.

Fast forward to now, and it's amazing how things have changed. I find myself talking and reading about football with no prompting from Will. I love going to the Boro matches and I don't spend the entire time drinking and talking anymore - I actually watch the match! I know about 80% of the Boro songs, I get genuinely upset when they play like shite and I think I'd even go watch a match in a pub on my own should I be in London when the Boro play. I'm fascinated by the culture of it, and also by the game play itself. Suddenly the term 'the beautiful game' is starting to make a bit of sense to me. And this all just seems a little bizarre.


what a difference a year makes

Cruising to Amsterdam
Originally uploaded by juliehicks75
This time last year both of us were just starting to put back together the pieces of our lives which were fragmented by 12 months of hell, all of it primarily self-imposed of course. Over the last three years, life has been incredibly up and down but I wouldn't take back a moment of it. If the bad times had not occured, I would not be where I'm at now (geographically, or emotionally). I would not have found such beautiful friends for life in AmyMo, or Karin, or Carnes. I never would have finished my PMP certification. I would not have had a chance to see my niece born, or the look on Ed's face when his first child arrived. I wouldn't have witnessed the amazing mother and friend my sister has turned out to be. I would not have had 18 months of intense bonding with my nephew, which has probably brought me closer together with my family than I ever thought possible. And I wouldn't have gotten the infamous brown 'sleeping bag' coat, which got me through one miserably cold Ohio winter. Ugly as it is, I love that coat.

Yes, things were utterly bad for awhile and I was miserable for a long time - and yes, that misery was primarily my own & Will's fault - but I am so absolutely thankful for the direction my life has taken and the gifts I've been blessed with because of this path. And I can't express the depth of my love for this life and this man.

Thanks baby, it was all worth it.



I Heart York

Pink Wall, Red Door
Originally uploaded by juliehicks75
Will and I went for a day trip to York on Sunday which ended up with an overnight stay and a WONDERFUL two-day adhoc adventure. Will hadn't been there in a decade, and I have never been to York myself... and I must say, it is my favorite city in all of England thus far. We both are in love with York. From the wonderful coffee shops, excellent pub scene, incredible restaurants, lovely avenues, and gorgeous stone city walls, this is the place to be. York is exactly what every American imagines 'Jolly Ole England' to be like, and more. If you ever come visit me, I will take you there and you too will fall in love. Lovely lovely lovely place. Screw New York. I <3 York !!