State of the Union

In just over a week I will turn 34 years old. For the first time in my life, I am acutely aware that I am aging. I have lines appearing in my face which I never thought I'd see. The Briggs & Noorduyn women age gracefully & relatively wrinklefree is what I've been told (aka the lie I've been sold!). My skin and bones don't heal as quickly as they used to do. Also, I used to be able to sleep 12 hours straight without having to get up to pee - as if that would happen now!

Over the past year or two, I often find myself saying things about very young people which are either unusually wise or totally not empathetic enough, especially considering I used to be quite quirky in my youth myself. Most suprisingly, I often sound like my mother these days, or worse (best?) yet, one of my grandmothers. And not always the really sweet and kind one!

I know that this aging process has been going on non-stop since the day I was born and all, but suddenly it's very real and present in my daily life. Outside of the lines in my face, I actually haven't minded the fact that I'm aging and that it's noticeable. I like myself and my life a hell of a lot better with each passing year. (Plus, if the lines in my face get me down, there's always botox, right?)

I am comfortable in my own skin these days, literally and figuratively. I get along with my family better than ever - mostly because I'm mature enough to understand now that we can love eachother despite our faults and philosophical differences. I've utterly enjoyed seeing my parents become happier now that their nests are empty and their children are taking the world by storm in our own way. Sure, I miss being a super thin and energetic 19 year old from a physical perspective, but there is no way in hell I'd want to go back to that 19 year old state of mind. I was too opinionated, too immature, too impatient, too depressed, too serious and too worried about what other people think of me. I was also not remotely self-aware enough to know that I didn't know everything and that I wasn't always right. Each year I become more aware of how fallible I am. I have come to realise that it's far more about the journey in life than the destination.

Daily life isn't so easy right now. I'm struggling with recurrent illness and as a result, I'm quite depressed. This new digit being added onto my age is felt more succinctly than ever before as I wonder whether or not this is just the start of long-term battles with poor health and depression. Despite the fact I'm unwell and quite down, I still wouldn't swap out the life I have now and the person I am today for the insecurity and false certainty of my younger self. I'll just push through and make do and have faith that there is a lesson to be learned in all of this, and I'll be better off in the end.


Why I am against capital punishment...

I wrote this little ditty as a response to a thread on a forum I frequent where we are discussing the execution of the DC Beltway Sniper:

I don't believe in the death penalty. I feel very strongly that violence begets violence. The death penalty perpetuates a viscious cycle which I believe has longterm negative consequences on society, including desentizing society in regards to the taking of a human life. I also believe that capital punishment violates the Bill of Rights, specifically in regards to the 'cruel and unusual' punishment statement - there is no such thing as a humane method of putting a person to death! Also, it is a useless act of vengeance because it doesn't undo the original crime and bring the victims back to life suddenly, and the criminals themselves have innocent families who then suffer from a life being taken as well. What good comes of this viscious circle?!

I won't even get into the cost aspects nor the fact that America's image in Europe is further tarnished by the existance of the death penalty, nor the hippocrisy of a Christian nation supporting capital punishment in any form.

Lastly, I think it is very difficult to provide a fair hearing when the death penalty is on the table because there is the possibility to have jurors who are hesitant to convict based upon facts because it could result in someone dying OR to have a juror who is hugely pro-capital punishment and the fact it's on the table sways their judgement in regards to sentencing. I served on a capital murder case jury several years back and the death penalty was taken off the table for exactly these reasons - it was too distracting and we would have potentially had a hung jury if the death penalty had been an option.

I then started thinking about how I might feel about capital punishment in relation to someone close to me - say a predator who might hurt my sister, my mother, one of the children in my family, etc. If a horrific event befell one of them at the hand of some psychopath, would I change my stance on capital punishment? Really, truly would I still feel it's wrong?

The answer is yes, I would still be anti-death penalty, despite the fact that I might feel so angry about it that I'd likely want to kill the asshole with my own bare hands and risk the death penalty for myself in the process. I would still believe it is wrong even though I probably wouldn't be phased if the criminal died at the hands of inmates or from some terrible disease. No matter what tragedy befalls us, I would still believe that a government's money is better spent on the systemic change required to prevent victimization and  protect the innocent than in electrocuting murderers. Capital punishment focuses society on violence and vengeance rather than on reform and prevention. It's a never ending cycle of 'eye for an eye' that does no one justice in the end. It really must stop.


On the outside, looking in...

I've been going through this strange feeling of detachment over the last month or so. A lot of the time I feel as if I'm watching myself from afar and not really feeling or participating openly in the world around me -  not in a "first person" sort of way at least (although I do have loads of internal dialogues in 3rd person like any normal crazy person!).

It's really difficult to put a finger on what's going on with me or what the impetus was to start this blue period, especially given the fact I have been so happy and content all summer. I am partially blaming it on the "dark nights" for sure! I watched the sun setting around 430pm today - that is never, ever a good thing. And it will only get worse in late December, when the sun goes down by half three most days here! Ever since the days began getting super short here in Newcastle, I've started losing the desire to participate in pretty much everything that requires me to leave the flat - except where a paycheck is involved, of course!

I am being really hard on myself for not being as energetic or conent as I felt all summer long. It's not that I'm depressed per se, but I'm just acutely aware of the fact that my energy levels are diving and generally I would prefer to be as inert as possible until the Spring. If it were up to me, I'd stay in the house with Will, the Xbox and my breadmachine and pretty much not see the outside world for weeks at a time. It's really not a very nice way to feel, and what sucks the most is I'm hyper aware of the fact it's happening.

I feel as if I am witnessing my lethargy from afar and hate every minute of what's going on. The 'normal me' is looking in from behind the two-way mirror, screaming and shouting at myself to get my shit together and quit being so morose.

'Get out and exercise!', I'm shouting from behind the looking glass.

'Quit exagerrating! Get off the fucking couch and quit sulking, you're better than this!', I plead.

The whole thing is like some sappy infomercial reinactment of a woman suffering from the 'winter blues', or better yet - an antidepressant advert! Yes, I'm turning into THAT woman, and that IS NOT me. Really, it's not. I guess at least I see it happening and can do something to make it stop. Or wait until the sun starts shining for more than 8 hours a day again.

Dammit, I need to get my arse of the fucking couch and quit feeling sorry for myself.

Maybe after the next commercial break.


“Every man is guilty of all the good he didn’t do” - Voltaire

I’m feeling really cruddy this week, mainly due to being weighed down by a nasty cold or flu of some sort. I went to bed at midnight yesterday and didn’t get out of bed until 11am. I was up for only two hours before going back to sleep for three more. I am barely able to stay awake right now, and it’s not even 11pm yet! I haven’t had any exercise in over a week, and I’m missing a hugely busy and important week at work. I can’t even be bothered to shower, and in addition to suffering from flu-like symptoms, I’m just generally down today. I absolutely hate being at home, sick and useless. I just don’t cope well with boredom. Basically I am just feeling totally blah and it sucks. And then of course there is the guilt issue....

I always feel very guilty whenever I am unwell and have to miss work or cancel plans. Guilty if I don’t stick it out at work. Guilty if I do and then accidentally give someone my cold. Guilty if the house doesn’t get cleaned, and guilty if I DO clean the house when I should be resting. Guilty that I am not 100% my relatively cheery and involved self for my husband. Guilty that personal hygiene becomes nearly the last priority on my list for several days. I mean seriously, have you ever smelled my feet after a few days of no washing. If you had, you'd totally understand where the guilt comes from on that one!

Being sick is utterly made worse by the fact that I let myself feel so damn guilty for letting other people (and myself) down. It’s really foolish of me to be so indulgent in my guilt when I’m sick, but in a way it is sort of cathartic because I don’t allow myself to feel guilty about much else in my life. There are a lot of things in my past for which I feel guilty, but because I do not regret most of my choices despite the associated guilt, I do not allow myself to indulge in masochistic self-abuse over things I would not undo, even in hindsight. Perhaps it’s far easier to beat myself up over trivial things such as taking a sick day than to face the inevitable karmic retribution I fear I may face one day for sacrificing others for my own happiness? Or maybe perhaps I’m way over thinking this all due to the haze of Night Nurse and carbon dioxide poisoning from oversleeping today? Let’s hope it’s the latter.


You just had to ask, didn't ya?

For some reason, I am often asked by people I've just met one or more of the following questions:

1) "When are you going to start having kids?"
2) "Why don't you want any children of your own?"
3) "Aren't you ready to settle down and start a family?" (followed by: "You still have time to change your mind you know, you're still young!")

This post isn't going to be a rant about the people who barely even know me asking these sorts of questions, nor will it be a list of the real reasons I have not embarked on raising little mini-me's. Both are good topics best saved for a day when I'm in the mood to get really clever on your asses.

No, no... today’s post is about the ANSWERS which I'm just dying to give in response, for pure shock value. I guess I'm bored with answering the question reasonably and truthfully, so here are three gems which I've been fantasizing about using on the next lucky contestant:

The "Bore Them to Death" Approach:

(aka "The Green Approach")

"Well, actually that's an incredibly important question, thanks for asking! You see, I am a firm believer that the human race needs to focus on a more sustainable model of reproduction in order to save the planet. People should only reproduce in order to replace themselves once, no more, else we'll run out of precious natural resources too quickly. As such, I've done the maths and I believe there is a distinct imbalance in the ratio of Adults to Progeny within my extended family. Given that my sister, her husband, my sister's ex, my husband & his ex, and also my cousin and his wife have aggregately produced more children in ratio to the number of adults in our family, it's a moral imperative that I withhold from having children in order to ensure that the Adult:Progeny ratio is properly balanced.

You see, I really have no other choice. I mean, sure, I'd like to have kids but sadly everyone else in my family took up all the slots before I had a chance to get knocked up. That's life for ya."

The "Turn It Around on Them" Approach:

(Reserved for people who are especially condescending or rude when I say I don't want children)

"Actually, I'm pretty sure the REAL question here is why did you decide to have children? I mean, you're obviously dying to tell me. And honestly, I'd love to know the reasons, because for the last 2 hours all you've done is bitch about your little ones so much that I'm starting to wonder if I should call children services. I mean, I'm seriously worried that you hate the little buggers. So please, enlighten me as to your reasons to reproduce when you're OBVIOUSLY miserable."

And finally....The "Special Arrangement" Approach:

"Oh, well you see, I have this arrangement with my sister that's TOTALLY a win-win. She's got 7 kids and can't really afford to raise them all anymore. So here's the deal - she's going to send her youngest over here after he's potty trained to live with me until he's 12, at which point she has to take him back. In exchange, I pay for her husband's vasectomy and our shared-son's University education. Oh, and of course I'll cover his room and board while the little one is living with us here in the UK - wouldn't imagine asking her to pay UK prices for food and such!

Yes, I know it sounds a little odd, but it's really a great arrangement. I mean, I just cannot IMAGINE actually carrying a baby for 40 weeks or changing nappies for 2 years, and I DEFINITELY can't deal with a teenager, so this really is a win-win for everyone involved, don't you think?"


Missing the wee ones....

Today is my niece Hannah's third birthday, and tomorrow is my nephew Everett's first birthday. My family are having a huge party for the two of them at a local park today, and I'm super sad that I cannot attend. Some aspects of expatriate life really suck, and missing out on special events like this is one of them.

I spent the better half of three weeks with these two wee ones during my summer holiday this year, and it was such a blessing. I already have a fairly strong and long-standing relationship with my eldest nephew Elijah who is 11, but I barely knew the two youngest because I've lived abroad for the last two years. This year's trip allowed me to get to know them both, and it was a real joy.

Hannah is a lovely little princess who fears nothing as far as I can tell. At only three, she's already very girly, quite strongwilled, and wonderfully independent and adventurous. It takes awhile for Hannah to warm up to people, but once she does, she is chatty and fun. Hannah reminds me of everything that is special about being a little girl and of course that means I'll indulge her every whim if allowed to do so. She and I bonded during my trip in a way I didn't expect - I think every third word she spoke was 'Aunt Julie' by the end of my stay (and I only mildly bribed her, I swear!). For the first few weeks after I left, she kept telling my sister that "Aunt Julie's at work"; however I think the fact I'm in the UK is starting to set in: the other day Hammy declared that she "needs" to go to England soon. With Hannah, everything is a "need" - there is no such thing as "want", it's much more serious than just plain old desire to Hannah!

Everett, or Rett for short, has an incredibly pleasant and kind disposition. He is just a lovely, lovely baby... when he's happy at least. When he's pissed off, he sounds like a Veloci-raptor and people cower in fear for miles at the sound of his shrieks. That said, it's rare he gets upset and it's never over trivial matters. Rett really can't be bothered with trivial I think. He does everything at his own pace and on his own terms. You definitely can't trick Rett into doing something he's not keen on, that's for sure - and I love this about him. At one, he's already a discerning and thoughtful person - something most people can take decades to become. He's also the most cuddly baby I've ever been around. Rett just loves to "love on" people. He is most content when curled up in your arms. Considering that his mother's side of the family aren't exactly big on hugging or PDA (including myself), it's incredibly sweet and miraculous that Everett is such a cuddle bear.

I'm so sorry that I can't be there for your party today my lovelies. And it's likely I'll miss many, many more. I pray that when you're older this won't keep us from being close because you mean the world to me. Please remember that I love you so, so much. And the next time I see you, I promise to spoil you rotten - just don't tell Mommy!!


Healthier Living through Vodka

I will now prove to the world that drinking vodka is definitely a key component of healthier living.

(Note I say health-ier not health-y).

Will and I are on the path to healthier living. We’ve recently cut out all sorts of fattening foods, reduced our portion sizes, stopped eating out as much and are preparing more homemade healthy meals at home. I’m even baking all of our bread now using whole grain organic flours & minimal sugars. And yes, we’re cutting back on our intake of alcohol, because – let’s be honest here – alcohol accounts for a large number of the empty calories both of us have been shoving down our gullets the past 18 months.

Not that we’re excessive drinkers. At least not by the British standard, if that counts for anything? Until recently, we were sharing a bottle of wine with most evening meals and hitting the pub for pints once or twice a week. I’ve done the math(s) on this and figured out that each of us have been ingesting about 2,600 extra calories per week on average – without even really getting drunk!

Here are the hard, true facts:

2 large glasses of wine/day x 4 days/week = 1840 calories
4 pints of lager/week = 760 calories

Mind you, I’m not counting any periodic binge drinking in the equation. Not that we do it very often, but there definitely are the occasional mad night outs where one of us downs 2k calories of liquor on a single night… but if I’m throwing it all up the next day, the calories negate themselves on the way back out, right?

So…. 2,600 calories per week = ~371 calories per day. I would have to run about 40 minutes a day – every single day of the week – to offset that caloric intake. Currently I only run 3-4 times per week at 30 minutes a run. And even that takes up too much of my time. So, dammit, I need another solution.

Let’s face it: I’m not going to quit drinking completely. It’s just NOT gonna happen. Or at least not without me becoming a nun and/or crack addict. And I’m not interested in either of those life paths at this point in my career. I mean, I don’t like the associated fashion choices for a start. So dear me, what is a girl to do?!

Enter vodka, my hard liquor of choice.

A large glass (250ml) of dry white wine has about 230 calories. A pint of Premium Lager has about 190 calories. A single vodka & diet coke has, on average, about 55 calories.

Yes, I said 55 calories!

That means there are only 110 calories in a double!!!!!

That means that if I replace the same number of drinks I have on the average week with double vodkas & a nil calorie mixer instead of my normal white wine and lager, I cut over 1200 calories out of my diet each week. SIGN ME UP!

Will and I have decided to give this new approach a go. Additionally, we’re not drinking as frequently as before either, so in theory we should start seeing a change in our weight as a result over the next few months.

And now I have proven that vodka is indeed part of healthier living.

Please note, however, that I have yet to do the maths as to whether or not this is a sustainable option budget-wise given that Absolut is so expensive. One step at a time my friends, one step at a time. I’ll worry about whether or not we can afford the car payment once I’ve proven my theory is correct, preferably over a vodka tonic.

Also, I do recognise that this is no exact science, and I realise there may be flaws in my logic. Just give me a break and pour me another double please?


Adventures in American Bashing

This afternoon I got into a heated conversation right in front of my apartment block with a young American medical student who exited our train at my normal metro stop.

During our train ride, said student was loudly lecturing two fellow train passengers about the glorious US health care system and openly bashing the NHS with totally inaccurate information. He was even stating half-truths about the American system, not just the NHS! One English woman tried to correct his inaccuracies (politely and quietly of course). He treated her like she was stupid and inferred that she didn't know any better because she hadn't lived in a 'capitalist system'. He blatantly stated that if Brits HAD lived in a country like the US, they'd realise how better it was than here in the UK (at the same time admitting he'd only been living here for a few weeks!). The nice English lady got off at the very next stop, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't where she had meant to go. :(

I was absolutely FURIOUS for the entire 15 minutes I had to listen to him go on. Passengers were going to the next train down to avoid him. And honestly, he wasn't a wacko by any means - he was just a cocky spoiled American rich kid trying to spread his abundant 'knowledge and wisdom' to the uninformed British. He basically was a living stereotype and it really upset me.

I told myself I wasn't going to say anything to unless he got off at my stop. I made a promise to myself that if he DID get off at my stop, I'd confront him. This was a bargain I made because I thought it was a safe bet I wouldn't have to say a word. I kept thinking, surely he won't get off at Regent Centre, why would he?!

Fuck. I totally forgot about ASDA. American students in Newcastle love Walmart's UK chain, so of course he was coming to my stop - it's the closest ASDA to where he lives. They sell refried beans and Kraft dinner there. It's an American student mecca. DAMMIT.

As soon as we exited the train, I pounced on him. I said 'you're American, aren't you?' to which he said 'Of course I am, I wouldn't be anything else!'. I asked if I could speak to him about the things he was saying on the train. I corrected his misinformation, told him I thought he should wait til he's lived here for longer and learned more about the NHS to judge it, gave him a 'as a fellow American, I feel I must tell you...' speech, etc. I think I totally freaked the poor kid out and made him feel pretty bad; however I just couldn't ignore him, I HAD to say something. He was visibly offending the British passengers with his nonsense and I don't think he had a clue until I told him so!

Anyway, I'm pretty sure he'll never get off at the Regent Centre stop to go to ASDA ever again for fear of running into that crazy Anglophile American beotch who lives across the street. I never saw someone cross the North Road so quickly before - he was dying to get away after I thanked him for listening to me.

Regardless, I feel good about confronting him, but I also feel a little bit like a bully as well. Watch out people, I think I'm turning into an American basher myself. Bah.


American Expat POV on Socialised Medicine

So, I had planned to blog about the anti-socialised-medicine-madness I witnessed while visiting the US in July & August.... but my plans have changed because many others have done the same, much more succinctly than I could myself. I will say that I was totally and utterly appalled by some of the ridiculous stories & spin that was being dealt out in the American media. I truly hope Americans can see through the BS on BOTH sides of the debate and look for a sensible resolution to the travesty which is the US healthcare system currently.

Blog posts by fellow expats which I think my (very few) readers should read and digest to help get some anti-conservative global views from fellow Americans. Be sure to read the comments as well!!

This American's Experience of Britain's Healthcare System

Socialism Fever: America Is Dying

And Here We Go Again, The National Healthcare Debate


Red Alert: International Ban for Mr. William Boddy !

Attention world. My husband, Mr. William Boddy, is hereby banned from purchasing any new denim jeans. If my husband should approach your house of commerce in an attempt to buy jeans of any sort - blue or coloured alike - please turn him away and notify me immediately. It is a moral obligation of all mankind to remind Mr. Boddy that his jeans collection outnumbers his wife's 2.5 to 1! Mr. Boddy has put the world at great danger with this imbalance of nature. You see, it usually starts with jeans but the next thing you know it's a huge collection of shoes followed quickly by man-bags - and I just can't allow such a travesty in our home.


English Epiphany

Jesmond Dene Waterfall
Originally uploaded by julieb1975
Last weekend we had a really lovely day here in the Northeast - warm, sunny, gorgeous. Will and I decided to go for a picnic and walk in a nearby city park called Jesmond Dene:


I had a really great time in the park, and it's amazing to me that we live only a couple miles away from this beautiful oasis. We took about a 2 mile walk while we were there, and all I kept thinking was "this is why I live in England, this is why I love it here". For the last couple months I have been feeling insanely homesick and constantly questioning whether or not I can ever truly adapt to living in Great Britain. In hindsight I realise that the two biggest reasons for this anti-UK period I was going through were that I miss my family and that there is a serious - and I mean SERIOUS - lack of sun in this country during the winter. Unless you're a vampire, it is physically impossible to avoid letting the 'dark nights' of winter in the UK get to you. It's just not right to live somewhere with so little sun in the winter - I can't IMAGINE living in Alaska where they don't get sun for months.

Anyway, now that it's starting to brighten up, warm up and get pretty darn green around these parts, I am falling in love with the country a little bit more and missing the US a little bit less. Funny how that works....


Hey sister, soul sister...

I made a huge mistake tonight. I let my iPhone pick the music for my 30 minute walk/jog using the Genius feature. I thought I had picked a safe song – “Andy, You’re a Star” by The Killers. I figured the Genius would create me a fairly rocking list of songs to “jalk” to along the streets of Gosforth. Unfortunately instead the big G decided to host me a playlist full of songs by The Decemberists, Bright Eyes, The Pixes, Death Cab for Cutie, Iron & Wine, and Spoon, along with some Coldplay, Damien Rice and Imogen Heap thrown in for fun. Well, let’s just say that a huge majority of the songs on that list are associated in my mind with my sister Susie and by the end of the 30 minutes I was missing her so much that it hurt more than the running itself. The most evil part is that because I was using my C25k iphone app to monitor my run progress, changing the playlist wasn’t an option without losing my progress in the application. ARGH I HATE YOU APPLE GENIUS!

So...I miss my sister. A lot. More than Kraft Mac & Cheese. More than Wendy’s even - and that’s saying a lot. It’s not that I don’t miss the rest of my family and friends immensely – I miss them all every single day. But being away from my sister is like missing one of my feet – I feel unbalanced and a little bit disabled. No one in this world can aggravate me as much as Susie can – she knows the buttons to push going back 30+ years. No one can appreciate and comprehend the person I have become as much as Susie either – she’s the only person who’s been engaged the entire time. My sister and I are opposite sides of the same coin, and living this far away from her physically hurts. God knows we don’t see eye-to-eye or get along all the time, but throughout my entire life - since the day she was born - Susie has been the single consistent beautiful thread in the patchwork quilt that is my life. I learned what family is really about through being a sister to her for the past 31 years and through her returning the favour to me. Having 4,500 miles between us doesn’t diminish our relationship but it damn well makes it harder to communicate and impossible to have shared experiences, and I mourn those facts a lot these days.

I loved the simplicity of our relationship when we were children – bossy braniac Julie and sweetly sinister Susie. The pair of us were known to everyone in our lives simply as “the girls”, yet even from a very early age we were incredibly dissimilar in our approach to life, which in hindsight proved to be positive building blocks for the bond we have now. As children, everything around us was complicated in a very nasty and adult way but the two of us lived in this fun little universe that we imagined for ourselves, a universe protected from the craziness around us and usually ended in either giggles or hair pulling. Of course, we don’t pull hair these days – luckily we’ve moved on and work out our differences in much more "adult" ways (usually involving alcohol). I truly love the complexity and nuances of our relationship now as adults. It’s sometimes painful, sometimes ridiculous, usually bizarre, often funny...and always, always loving to the best of our abilities, even during bad times.

I had planned to write something longer about the reality of being an expatriate with tight family bonds so far away, but the words are escaping me and sadly our dinner won’t make itself, so instead I will finish with some quotes on sisterhood which I like:

“A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.”
Marion C. Garretty

"Husbands come and go; children come and eventually they go. Friends grow up and move away. But the one thing that's never lost is your sister."
Gail Sheeny

“ Sisters annoy, interfere, criticize. Indulge in monumental sulks, in huffs, in snide remarks. Borrow. Break. Monopolize the bathroom. Are always underfoot. But if catastrophe should strike, sisters are there. Defending you against all comers.”
Pam Brown

“You can kid the world. But not your sister.”
Charlotte Gray

“ If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child.”
Linda Sunshine

“ A sibling may be the keeper of one's identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self.”
Marian Sandmaier


Monkey Management 101

I just read a short and succinct book about delegation called 'The One Minute Manger Meets the Monkey'. I am pretty sure the author thought his audience had the attention span of a 9 year old when he wrote it because every fifth page has only one sentence on it, usually consisting of some sort of management mantra or painfully realistic principle. For example, here are some of the more poignant short attention span catchphrases used in the book:

"The Golden Rule of Management - THOSE WHO HAVE THE GOLD MAKE THE RULES"

"Experience is Not What Happens To You; It's What You Do With What Happens To You"

"Never Let The Company Go Down The Drain Simply For The Sake Of Practicing Good Management"

and my favorite:

"Things Not Worth Doing Are Not Worth Doing Well"

(poor punctuation and odd capitalisation directly transcribed from the book)

Interestingly though, I have found this short read quite helpful. I've identified a couple of bad habits I've exhibited in my recent past both personally and professionally, and I have a couple of decent new strategies for trying to keep other people's monkeys off my back (monkey being an analogy for the 'next move' in any project or activity). It was a worthwhile read, although I was a wee bit turned off by some of the fairly old school management style examples utilised, and also by the author's tendency to spoon feed the lessons to his audience. Despite those shortcomings, I definitely recommend it to anyone else fairly green to direct accountability for leading others and probably also for overburdened soccer moms who need to teach their husband's and/or children to clean up their own messes.


Missing home, and a public apology

Originally uploaded by julieb1975
For the last week I have been in an ungodly terrible homesick funk. Doesn't matter that my job is going really REALLY well, nor that my relationship with Will continues to grow closer week in and out, nor that most people I know back home never leave the US full stop, let alone get to live abroad and take weekend trips to places like Nice or Marrakech. For the last seven days, I have been completely and utterly loathing living in the United Kingdom. Every little thing that is different than how I grew up has been annoying me. Any correspondence from my family, especially if pictures were involved, reduced me to tears instantaneously. I have spent the last week feeling sorry for myself, isolating myself from everything around me and generally just hating the fact I live on this god-forsaken island. Hell, I even went as far as to blame the UK for dropping a bottle of wine on our balcony yesterday. My reasoning was that if I lived in America, I'd have a huge fridge that could take cases of wine in it and we wouldn't have to store the wine outside like we do here in the UK, and if the wine wasn't on the balcony, I wouldn't have worn my gloves when grabbing a new bottle and hence not broken the bottle and blurting out 'I f*£%ing hate this country'. The minute it came out of my mouth and I saw the look on my husband's face, I realised that my self-pitying UK-hating self needed to find some perspective.

It seems like every 4-6 months; I go through a really bad period of missing America, especially my family and friends but also just America full stop, the culture (or lack thereof), the food, the lights, the convenience, the cars, etc. It's only a temporary state but while I'm wallowing in it, I just get irritated by EVERYTHING that isn't American here. And I start getting paranoid that I'm changing too much, becoming more English than before, and that the longer I'm here the further away I drift from being an American girl. The last two spells of these feelings were in June and September respectively. The one in June lasted for weeks and didn't go away until we finally had some nice weather mid-summer. The one in September was brought on by missing my grandfather's funeral and not having my family at my wedding. Neither lasted long, and I really don't think this spell will either... it's all swings and roundabouts as they say over in ol' Blighty.

Moving on to the apology component of this entry. I really, truly must apologise to my darling husband Will for tolerating me during these anti-British spells. I love you so much my dear, and you don't deserve me spurting expletives about your home any more than I would deserve to hear the same about mine from you. You are incredibly compassionate and patient with me during these spells, and I do appreciate you so very very much. Plus, you remind me of the things in this country I CAN'T live without, which of course include you, British bacon and the BBC, although it's a close tie between you and the bacon for first place on that list.



adventures in commuting

Recently I converted into a public transportation princess, taking the Metro and bus everywhere I need to go. There are a lot of pros to this mode of transportation, including but not limited to spending only £50 a month for a bus pass instead of £300-£400 for a car. I also love the fact that I don't have to battle Newcastle traffic behind the wheel but instead wait it out it behind the pages of a good book every morning and night. I've read more books the last 6 weeks than I read the prior 6 months combined. It sort of rocks.

Another happy side effect of using public transportation 5 days a week is that I also get to experience some pretty weird shiznit on a regular basis. Here are a couple examples of recent encounters you might find amusing...

This morning while I was waiting for my bus just outside of Newcastle Central Station, I saw a very bizarre occurrence. A seagull swooped down and placed a tube of lipgloss on the ground 3 feet away from me, squawked and then flew away. Seriously, wtf did a seagull want with lipgloss in the first place?

Yesterday morning at 845am a drunk 19 year old girl passed out drunk in the front of my bus while her friends debated whether or not they were going to drag her drunk ass home yet again or just leave her on the bus to sleep it off. YET AGAIN? As in, being this drunk before 9am is a regular occurrence? Dear me!

Monday on the metro I witnessed a group of 10-year-old girls having a debate about whether or not one of the girl's boyfriends was really gay, or just pretending to be so because he didn't want her to kiss him. Their consensus at the end was that he must really be gay because boys don't say their gay if they're not, and who wouldn't want to kiss little miss as she's, and i quote, 'sexy'... Ten or eleven year old girls having this sort of conversation - seriously my head nearly imploded.

One of my favorite journey-mates is this middle aged transvestite man who periodically gets on our really crowded morning bus cross-dressed to the nines and then instead of facing forward like everyone else does, (s)he stands, facing towards the back, staring blankly backwards at the seated and standing passengers who are all facing frontwards. I love this guy, he really brightens my morning when I see him. I love seeing my British seatmates struggle to discern the most polite way to handle someone facing the wrong direction. Honestly, I really do think the 'facing the wrong direction' part bothers them more than the fact he's wearing a killer woman's business suit with red pumps and a bad wig. Brits don't really care about a person's sexual or wardrobe preferences, but going against the natural order of things on a bus or in queue are really big no nos. Like seriously, I think they'd flog you for jumping in a queue if they didn't have to apologise profusely afterwards.