It’s my blogoversary.

It's my second blogoversary. It's also a time when many of us look back and evaluate the previous year.

In all honesty (which I suppose is the purpose of this blog), 2010 was a stagnant year. Maybe it was a transitional year.

It was the year that Five started school, which was a more difficult transition—for me—than I anticipated.

I started off my blogging year with a cracker of a post about my crumbling marriage. (Dead End.)

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Then I joked about using my blog for therapy. (Where am I going with this blog?) And I tried to find an audience for my neurotic navel-gazing. (I need some street cred.)

I began to despair about the possibility of making any lasting friendships in the village. (Notes from a country bumpkin.)

Eventually I realized that airing one’s dirty laundry is a faux pas. (I’m tired of people raising their eyebrows at me.)

In August my friend Suzy gave me a body makeover, which I showed off in her sidebar.

In August I also participated in NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month). I wrote 31 posts in 31 days!

And I ruffled some feathers whilst on my soapbox. (Clean, green New Zealand. Yeah, right. and How tolerant is America?)

I had my first (and probably only) giveaway. (Spring has sprung and a giveaway.)

I started a tumblr, and I wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

I joined in my friend Neil's Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Concert, which did make me feel like a part of a larger community.

Thank you Suzy and Neil, for making me laugh and for your good advice. Thank you to Lisa and Jayne for continuing to inspire me with your replies and e-mails.

And thank you to my mother, Sweet Jane, Aliceson, The Empress, Madame DeFarge, TechnoBabe, and Happy Frog and I for your comments and e-mails.

Thank you to everyone for reading, and thank you for your comments. And a special thanks to a couple others—you know who you are—who have supported me in difficult times. It means a lot to me.

As 2010 draws to a close, I'm noticing a different side of New Zealand. It's a place from which many Kiwis long to escape—because of its remoteness, its provincialism, its lack of opportunity.

Despite the beautiful setting and the friendliness of the people, I do feel isolated and lonely here. I don't know if I can build "real" friendships in this village, or online.

I thought that I had found my purpose in blogging—to make friends—but it seems that most "normal" people want to separate their online friends from their "real" relationships. In time I too will treat my blog more like a column (instead of like a therapy session, or a chain letter to my pen pals).

In the beginning of the year, I wanted more "tiny heads" in my sidebar. Now I care less about the number of followers that I have. Sure, it would be wonderful to have 300 followers.

But I read some excellent blogs that are largely unknown. And sometimes I read "popular" blogs that have inexplicably large followings. I am more convinced than ever that the world is simply absurd.

Happy Holidays to everyone. Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2011.


The lament of a late bloomer.

I believe being a stay-at-home mum was worth the financial sacrifice. It has been a luxury to stay home for another year, and try to figure out “what I should do”.

But to put a brighter spin on things, I think I was born in the wrong decade. This may be the lament of a late bloomer.

I still have no idea what to do. Not really. Earning money by publishing novels is a stupid pipe dream. And I think I have always known this.

I have a whim to make the world a better place—by sharing the delights of Romeo and Juliet and The Metamorphosis with impressionable young people who will not read these texts.

But in New Zealand there is no shortage of English teachers. And French teachers aren't in demand here either (ref. a little incident with nuclear testing in the South Pacific, and a boat called the Rainbow Warrior).

The other deterrent to shaping young Kiwi minds is I need to spend $6,000 on a "paper”. Although I am usually in favour of gaining more education, this seems unfair. I wish the cost of the paper could be absorbed by my employer (The Ministry of Education) in exchange for say, a couple-year commitment to teaching.

If there are no jobs for English teachers, it is probably more worthwhile to toss $6,000 in the wood burner.

I do have a teaching certificate from when I lived in Chicago. I got it when I was about 25 (and confused). I'm pretty sure I had to do something to get it, even if I don’t quite remember what it was. At the time, Chicago was desperate for teachers, and they encouraged anyone crazy or stupid enough to want to teach school to give it a go.

There were trips to the Board of Education, and there may have been testing or evaluation. Even though education in America now has fallen behind, I feel like my previous experience should be worth something.

This is the plight of the immigrant. You need to jump through hoops to get a job you may have been allowed to do in your home country. Of course most Kiwis believe this is perfectly reasonable.

There is a need for teachers in New Zealand, and it would be nice to have a similar schedule and holidays to Five’s. But I also want to get in paid employment ASAP. So instead of trying to inspire Kiwi children, I think I will try to get another grey government job producing documents. Or do the paper to teach school. One or the other.

Yes, I'm happy we cleared that up.


The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Concert

The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Concert, hosted by Neil of Citizen of the Month, is now LIVE.

It is amazing. Watch and listen to these funny endearing performances by very talented bloggers.

Five and I are about 15 or so acts down from the top, in our own special mother-son duet.



Checking in.

Well, instead of posting my usual drivel here, I've been trying to write a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Trying because Adam has been working Saturdays, and I'm stuck solo parenting. Last weekend I fell behind in my word count, and I’m struggling to catch up. I’m not sure that I will make the deadline. Because I can’t multi-task. Or stay up past 11PM. Boo-hoo.

Last Sunday we had a power outage at Wellington Road. It was an individual fault, our second in five years. I was supposed to be baking a cake for the cake stall at the school fair. But, no. Instead we put the meat and fish that I had just bought in the chilly bin (Kiwi for cooler). And made coffee on the camping stove.

Sunday morning.

And there was the school fair. Sans cake.

3 slides for $3.

The stage.

Greasy Hangi at the fair.

How am I supposed to write a novel when life keeps interrupting me?

Yesterday was Thanksgiving. As you can imagine (and I've probably mentioned), Thanksgiving in New Zealand is pointless. There are no comparable Kiwi holidays. But Adam humours me. Because on holidays I turn into a sentimental sap.

The weather has just turned scorching hot. Spring lamb on the barbecue, asparagus, and strawberries make more sense than a big roast dinner to celebrate an abundant harvest. Some years I have plans to create a merry and festive Thanksgiving ritual. Of course none of these plans actually happen. Maybe next year.

I am grateful for the abundance of good things in my life. Even more so after the recent tragedy with the 29 Pike River miners in New Zealand. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving in NZ.


Guy Fawkes Night.

Guy Fawkes Night marks the celebration of a failed plot to assassinate Protestant King James in 1605. (The plan was to replace him with a Catholic head of state.) As part of the Commonwealth, New Zealand celebrates Guy Fawkes Night, but it is just an excuse for fireworks.

In the cities, there are public fireworks displays, but Guy Fawkes is really a night for amateurs. For a few days before Guy Fawkes, fireworks are on sale to the public. (The range of fireworks that are available doesn’t include firecrackers or rockets.)

Friday was Guy Fawkes Night. On his way home from work, Adam bought a box of fireworks.

It had been a scorching hot day, but at 7PM an enormous bank of clouds was rolling in from the south. The wind began to pick up. Gales are common in the Roaring Forties, and we are accustomed to fickle weather on Guy Fawkes Night. Adam is adept at lighting fireworks in wind and rain.

Wellington went forward with its fireworks display. But the conditions up the coast were bad. We decided to postpone setting off our own fireworks.

"We'll do it tomorrow night," I said.

Five was disappointed and tried to stall. When the rain began to bucket down from the night sky, there were tears. The gale blew down the street sign. (This happens from time to time.) There were several power cuts.

But by Saturday afternoon, it was calm enough for Adam to build a bonfire in shelter of the back garden. (It is lovely to sip a glass of wine by the bonfire.) We ate fish and chips, and while we were waiting for it to get dark, we roasted marshmallows.


A bonfire in the garden is almost better than camping.

When it was dark, we could see a few stars. Neighbours from all around began to light their fireworks. We moved to the front garden, which has more open space. Adam lit the wicks of the fireworks that Five chose from the box. The fireworks had names like Gemini and T.N.T. There was noise and light and the smell of gunpowder. And then inside for hot cocoa before bed.


It's National Novel Writing Month.

Juli: So I’m doing NaNoWriMo again.

Adam: Didn’t you just do that?

Juli: Last year.

Adam: I thought it was a couple months ago?

Juli: You're thinking of NaBloPoMo. That’s when you post on your blog every day. NaNoWriMo is the novel writing challenge, when you write a book in a month. I think NaNoWriMo is easier than NaBloPoMo because you don’t need to show everyone what you’ve written...

Adam: (trying to walk out the door) O.K.

Juli: (still talking) And I think NaNoWriMo has helped me to gain confidence. Now I know that I can crank out books in a month (or two), and... (trails off when she realizes that she is talking to herself)

When I tell everyone that I am participating, NaBloPoMo and NaNoWriMo are much more effective challenges. Then I am shamed into completing them (or at least trying to). If you want to follow my progress, or add me as a writing buddy, go here.

About five years ago, I made an outline for this book, which is now stale rubbish. So I have started all over. My first step was to start brainstorming on my tumblr.

Now it's time to turn this book into something real--or a First Draft. Wish me luck!


Giving up on Halloween.

Oh, Halloween. I used to be so excited about designing costumes and buying kilos of lollies (Kiwi for candy). I festooned fake cobwebs about the house, and made tombstones out of polystyrene.

Not this year.

Halloween used to be my favourite holiday. Over the years, I've stubbornly persisted in celebrating it. In ninth grade, I was the only one who wore a Halloween costume to school. When I moved to San Francisco, their Halloween was my mecca, and made my obsession with witches and haunted houses look tame (if not quite normal for an adult).

Halloween parade in San Francisco
But since moving to New Zealand, a country with no reason to celebrate Halloween, I've been going through the motions. I mean, despite my best efforts.

I had already given up Thanksgiving and July Fourth. But I tried to keep Halloween in my heart. I did my best. Halloween was like my Christmas. Or my Rocky Horror Picture Show. Because Halloween is the ultimate day for theatre geeks, creative types, and what polite people call eccentrics.

However (as you know), in New Zealand, Halloween happens in the spring. The days are getting longer. The idea of Halloween (the spirit of it, if you will) is completely counter to the season that it is actually in. There are no spooky bare trees or other metaphors for death. The earth is teeming with life. There are baby birds, baby lambs, and green grass.

And against this spring tableau, imagine two dozen children (tops) who are possibly wearing costumes hastily purchased an hour ago at the $2 Shop. They are wandering around in broad daylight, among wildly blooming geraniums, hoping to find the odd couple of families in the village who are participating in that “American holiday”.

Last year, I decided to turn Halloween on its head, and make our garden into a fairy grotto. I thought it would make more sense to have an Easter-ish approach to a Southern Hemisphere Halloween. Needless to say, this idea was a flop.

“What are you, a beer wench?” asked Adam.

Scary fairy in the grotto.

“I am a scary fairy,” I said, with my teeth clenched.

Celebrating Halloween feels slightly (or to be honest, completely) ridiculous. I always imagine Adam and I will have a big “fancy dress” party at Halloween. We will turn our house into a haunted castle, and make the kids carve pumpkins (which are not in season), and dip their hands into cold spaghetti. There will be a bonfire in the back garden. Our party will be like the Peanuts.
Adam is lukewarm about my Halloween ideas. “I think my sister is planning a lunch on Sunday, October 31st,” he said.

Who has a family “do” on Halloween? Yes, that’s right. People who don’t celebrate Halloween.

So, I give up. I’m not going to force Halloween on people any more. On Halloween, we will close our curtains. We will pretend we aren’t home. (Just like all the other Kiwis.)


My love-hate relationship with Ohio.

A friend in the village told me that she has been to Ohio.

“Ohio is so ugly."

I was a bit hurt. “Where did you go in Ohio?” I asked.


Columbus, Ohio is my hometown. Lyrics about going home always make me think of Columbus. I am nostalgic for its neighbourhoods, and its bars, cafes, and galleries. But when I was growing up, I couldn’t wait to leave Columbus. Opportunities seemed so limited, and I heard the call of the big cities.

It has been nearly two decades since I lived in Columbus. Sometimes I am annoyed being from Ohio is STILL one of my defining characteristics. Provincial Ohio and its cornfed jock Midwestern values—I am too sophisticated to be from Ohio! (OK, not really.)

I have a love-hate relationship with Ohio. In my teens, Ohio seemed like a battleground in the culture wars. Ohio State (which was then the nation's largest university) helped make Columbus a progressive city. But at the same time academics and artists were criticized by deeply held pockets of the conservative right, and accused of undermining traditional “family values”.

Ohio is a state full of contradictions. With its industrial and rural regions, Ohio is part Northeast and part South, part booming suburbs and part struggling poverty. With a population of 11 million, it can be a Blue State, or a Red State.

Recently I was upset by a New York Times article about my fellow Ohioan, House Minority Leader John Boehner. In the article (“Boehner’s Path to Power Began in Small-Town Ohio”), Mr. Boehner is practically anointed by the New York Times as the next speaker of the House.

“Can't we just have the election first?” I grumbled to myself while I skimmed the article.

But in spite of the article’s glowing descriptions of Mr Boehner and his humble origins, it did point out a couple of uncomplimentary things about him—like his perpetual orange tan, and his penchants for exclusive country clubs, designer clothes, and fine wines.

Mr Boehner is closely allied to corporate industries like mining, and to a tightly knit group of lobbyists. He claims to be able to cross the aisle to get things done in Washington, but so far he has been a rabble-rouser in "The Party of No".

Although the New York Times article portrays Mr Boehner as a “small-town boy from rural Ohio”, he actually is from Reading, a suburb with a population of over 11,000 in metropolitan Cincinnati. Mr Boehner’s upbringing, as described in the article, is middle class, not rural.

Lately the mainstream media has been focused on the re-emergence of the culture wars. I wonder if depicting a suburb as a small town is an attempt to fold “rural” and “small town” with the middle class, especially since the culture wars increasingly are being waged between rural and urban districts.


In which I finally announce the winner!

I was anxious. What if nobody entered my giveaway? I even felt uncomfortable trying to promote it on Facebook and Twitter. It was like having a party and wondering if anyone will show up.

“What giveaway?" Adam asked.

"Uh, the giveaway on my blog." I said sheepishly.

"I’m going to enter your giveaway. If I win, we can keep the money.” said Adam.

“OK,” I said.

I decided to worry about ethics and fine print if Adam actually won. But Adam missed the deadline, so he wasn't able to enter the giveaway. (Because I have rules and ethics.)

I was supposed to do the drawing for the giveaway on Sept. 12. In America, it was still Sept. 11. This was poor planning.

I read 9/11 memorial posts, and also stories about the dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, cultural scapegoating, and the man-made and natural disasters of the last few years, and I was sad. I was consumed with a kind of cultural malaise. I needed to unplug from the Internet for a while. (Am I alone?)

So I postponed the drawing.

I am grateful for what I have. But on the anniversary of Sept. 11, I couldn’t help becoming depressed about the pointlessness of our human existence. Does this mean that the terrorists have won? Or that Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck have won? I just didn’t feel like doing a drawing for a giveaway. How could I celebrate anything? I am a bleeding heart liberal delicate flower.

(Yawn.) OK, eventually I finished wallowing. I found the will to stop procrastinating. And I needed to bury my 9/11 post.

Let’s get to the drawing! But, before we do. Uh, Anonymous commenter? (You know who you are.) I had to eliminate you as an entrant to the giveaway. I realize that my rules were a bit vague, but I also reserve the right to change and modify the rules if I want. And anonymous entries to the giveaway are not allowed. My apologies.

Whilst on the subject of rules and ethics, I am a bit concerned that my mother, my cousin, or my sister-in-law might win the giveaway. If one of them wins, will it look like nepotism?

(Spoiler: None of them win.)

And now the winner.

(Drum roll.)

Congratulations to Millie, one of the writers at the excellent Gusty Gourmet blog.*

Winner of the Wellington Road $40 Whitcoulls gift card.

I was so pleased a while ago to discover the Gusty Gourmet blog. Like me, Millie is a transplant to Wellington via Chicago. The Gusty Gourmet is a guide to Wellington’s food scene, with absolutely stunning photos and recounts of culinary adventures. Millie is a lovely person and gifted writer. I count myself lucky to be on her blogroll. Be advised that reading her blog on an empty stomach or when on a diet can be dangerous indeed.

And to everyone else who left congratulations and kind wishes, thank you. I really appreciate your support.

*Hopefully, I have counted properly, and Millie was commenter number 21. Don't tell me if I managed to mess this up somehow. Also, if I mention having another giveaway, just shoot me. (By this, I mean that I don't think I am cut out for marketing and promotions. Unless you want to pay me, or you want to sponsor a giveaway on my blog, and then I am awesome at it. Ahem.)


Spring has sprung. And a giveaway!


Flowers are beginning to bloom in my garden, and my blog is in blossom too. I am so excited to have 100 followers here on Wellington Road. You are clever, talented, amazing people, and I am grateful that you keep coming back for more of my neurotic whining and navel-gazing.

I started my journey on Wellington Road without a map. I just wanted to ramble on about whatever was on my mind. So my blog was about where I happened to be in my life. (Basically, I wanted a place to complain and whinge.)

Since I have been writing publicly on this blog, I have been reminded that a writer really wants to charm or entertain an audience—to try to make a difference in some small way.

You all have made a difference in my life. You have encouraged me, laughed with me, and inspired me. I really appreciate it.

I thought it would be fun to do a giveaway to say "thank you" and so I’m having a drawing for a NZ$40 Amazon gift card. (Or, if you live in New Zealand, and you prefer it—a $40 Whitcoulls gift card.)

"I wish I could give something to everyone," I said to Adam.

“Are you crazy?” Adam asked.

You need only to be a follower and leave a comment. One entry per person, please. Entries close Saturday at 6pm (NZST). I’ll put your comments in a random number generator and name the winner in a post that I will try very hard to write on Sunday.

Edited to add. There are no hoops to jump through. You don't need to suck up to me in the comments (but you can if you want to). The giveaway is open to all, local and international.


My love letter to trains.

My father has celebrated a birthday, and in New Zealand, it was Father’s Day. Guess who did not organize cards, gifts, or an outing? (Ahem.)

My plan was to write a post about my enduring love for trains. Instead, here is my silly love letter to trains:

My love letter to trains
How I love you, trains,
And the click clack of your wheels on the tracks.
I listen for your whistle at a crossing.

The hiss and puff of smoke from a steam engine,
From the fire in your belly.
Or the long, low whine of a diesel train.

How my heart races
When you cross a bridge.

How my ears go pop
When you enter
A tunnel through a mountain.

Whether your carriages are filled
With freight, or passengers,
You are going places,
Near and far, night and day.
Fast or slow.

Your carriages are all connected,
And when the engine pulls you,
You make a train.

You do the work of a thousand horses.

Only the switch of points
Sends you, or holds you back.

The little steam engine.

Cargo train heads south.

Parliamentary Express

Steam engine

Happy Birthday, Dad. And Happy Father’s Day, too. Thank you for sharing your love for trains with me.


Earthquake in New Zealand.

Early this morning, a 7.4 earthquake struck Christchurch, New Zealand. I've received e-mails from people checking on us, so I thought I’d write a quick post to let you know that we are OK. Thank you so much for your concern.

We live in a small coastal village up the coast from Wellington (in the North Island). Wellington is over 200 miles from Christchurch. I slept through the earthquake, but Adam said he felt it at about 4:30 a.m.

Christchurch is the second largest city in New Zealand. So far, no fatalities and only a couple of major injuries have been reported. There was quite a bit of damage to some buildings. Some people are still without power or water. But all in all, our nation was very lucky.

Edited to add. Reports are now indicating that the Christchurch earthquake was a 7.0 or a 7.1. It was still a huge quake! It is nothing short of miraculous that there were so few major injuries. Adam also wants me to tell you that there are lots and lots of earthquakes in New Zealand. There are four or five fault lines in Wellington. Every year we feel a few earthquakes. One day it will be the Big One. We're double-checking our disaster supplies. More than a little relieved that it wasn't us--this time.


It's over.

It is Midnight. The last day of August. My month of blogging every day is over. In the beginning of the month, I told you that I wanted to do Nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) as a writing exercise and a personal challenge. I also wanted a shiny Nablopomo badge for my sidebar. Well, it was a long haul, but I kept going until the end.

One of the things I learned is that you publish a lot of bad stuff when you publish a post every day. It’s miserable, and I whined about it. (I take solace in whining.) But I learned something else. There is an inescapable honesty in these bad posts. They are naked. They are what they are. I had to be a bit courageous to publish these bad posts. I had to just let it all hang out.

Unfortunately, I was not successful in my Nablopomo. Even though I published a post for every day in August, I was late publishing some of these posts. I missed my deadlines. So, I will not get my shiny Nablopomo badge.

But it's OK. I will keep going. Just not every day. Because publishing a post every day is really miserable.

The Tell-Tale Post, with apologies to Edgar Allen Poe.

I had been very nervous. Very, very nervous. Nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) had sharpened my senses. I heard every little sound. But I was not crazy. No. Look at how calmly I tell you this story.

I can’t say how I first got the idea to do Nablopomo. But once I had the idea, it haunted me day and night. I liked posting on my blog. I didn’t mind that it didn’t bring me any money. Not having many page loads did not matter. But I think it was the tiny heads who were following me, with their tiny eyes. Whenever I saw them, I felt so anxious.

Now, you will think I am crazy. But I just wanted to lay my head on my pillow and go to sleep. I even felt a bit relieved. I didn’t really need to publish a post for Nablopomo. My computer was using its screen saver, so I could not see the tiny heads with the tiny eyes. I listened to the rain falling on the roof of my house while everyone else was sleeping. But then I heard a low sigh. I thought it was the wind, or a mouse. Maybe it was Adam or Five. But no. It was my blog, sighing as it heard Death approach. I knew that sound so well. It was like the sound of a clock, ticking away the minutes until the deadline to publish. I grew resentful of my blog, demanding that I publish a post every day. My anger increased, and I felt as if I might delete it.

But I stopped myself. I lay frozen in my bed, but the hellish ticking of the minutes continued. Tick, tick, tick. My blog’s terror must have been growing larger. Would I publish a post? Now, at this dead hour of the night? The house was silent, but the ticking grew louder and louder until I thought it must wake everyone and the neighbours too. Tick, tick, tick.

I shut down my computer. But for many minutes, the computer closed applications and began to install updates. Still, a tick, tick, tick, until the computer stopped. Finally, all was quiet. I rested my hand on the computer, and it was still. Maybe you think I’m crazy. But I hid the computer in a drawer. It had been a long day. I didn’t want to publish a post. I picked up my book and began to read. But then, there was an alert on my phone. I had a DM. I looked to see who was there, with an easy heart, because what did I have to fear? My blog with its tiny heads was shut down inside my computer.

It was @ThreeOfficers on Twitter. They were from Nablopomo. My father had alerted them when I did not publish a post on my blog, and suspicion had been aroused. They were obliged to look for a post. I lied and told them I was planning to publish a post, but I had been feeling ill. I said, I will turn on my computer and you can search for it. You will see that I have a post to publish. Then I gave them permission to remotely access my computer.

@ThreeOfficers was satisfied. They found some drafts for posts that had not been published. We chatted on Twitter about the Emmys. But before long, I really wished they would go away. I had a headache, but still they chatted. Why would they not leave me alone? I continued to chat on Twitter, but I heard a ticking sound. It was the tick, tick, tick sound of the clock. It grew louder and louder, but of course @ThreeOfficers could not hear it. I argued about Glenn Beck and Koch Industries, and I grew more flustered and annoyed. Oh, God! What would make it stop? Anything was better than this suffering, this pain. I felt that I would die if I continued to hear the ticking of the clock.

“OK!” I yelled in all caps. “I WILL PUBLISH THE BLOODY POST!”


Does sex make it impossible for men and women to be friends?

Harry: Would you like to have dinner?... Just friends.
Sally: I thought you didn't believe men and women could be friends.
Harry: When did I say that?
Sally: On the ride to New York.
Harry: No, no, no, no, I never said that... Yes, that's right, they can't be friends. Unless both of them are involved with other people, then they can... This is an amendment to the earlier rule. If the two people are in relationships, the pressure of possible involvement is lifted... That doesn't work either, because what happens then is, the person you're involved with can't understand why you need to be friends with the person you're just friends with. Like it means something is missing from the relationship and why do you have to go outside to get it? And when you say "No, no, no, no, it's not true, nothing is missing from the relationship," the person you're involved with then accuses you of being secretly attracted to the person you're just friends with, which you probably are. I mean, come on, who the hell are we kidding, let's face it. Which brings us back to the earlier rule before the amendment, which is men and women can't be friends.
When Harry Met Sally... is a 90 minute meditation on the impossibility of men and women being friends. Movies and TV suggest to us friendships between men and women must result in some kind of romance, but I want to think there is a wider range of possibility in these friendships than what Harry and Sally faced.

Before the 20th century, men and women lived and worked in separate spheres, and friendships between the genders were rare. Even today, friendships between the sexes have ambiguous boundaries. Voluntary gender separation is still common. (Think of those parties when men may go off to one corner, and women to the other.)

Friendships between men and women can be so intimate. Sometimes sexual interest and sexual appreciation flare up. However, this is different from having sex. It is about the possibility of what could have happened if circumstances were different. Or it can be reassurance that we are still attractive or sexy. These kinds of attachments can and should be a support system. But can these friendships really work? Or does the presence of desire doom friendships between men and women? And what about the awkwardness of its absence?

Men and women tend to be subtle and creative when building friendships. Men probably get more out of it. In a friendship with a woman, men are able to share their feelings or personal reflections, something that they might be less likely to do with other men. Maybe women benefit because friendships with men are light and fun. (I was going to add that women can find out how men think, but men actually are not that difficult to figure out. They are simple creatures.)

Platonic relationships between men and women seem unlikely in our culture. People outside these friendships often assume the couple is having sex. If they are not having sex, the number one thing men and women do in these friendships is talk. And a spouse may be just as jealous of talking as of sex.

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I'm not writing a post tonight.

“I’m not going to write a blog post tonight,” I said to Adam. “If I miss a post in National Blog Posting Month, I think it will make my blog persona more sympathetic.”

“I’m sure people want you to complete it,” Adam replied. “People don’t want the All Blacks to lose.” (The All Blacks are the New Zealand rugby team.)

“If I post every day, it's annoying. And it’s kind of showing off,” I said.

“You should finish it. It was a personal challenge that you set for yourself. It’s not about other people,” said Adam. He clearly doesn’t know anything about blogging.

“It is about them because they are my audience. They read my posts,” I explained. “So, wouldn’t it be more entertaining and dramatic if I wasn’t able to finish the challenge? It could be a plot twist. I struggle but come up short.”


“O.K. It was just an idea. I’ll write a post. Besides, I still might fail, without throwing the challenge on purpose.”

“That’s right.”

I have been in my pajamas all weekend. There was lots of sun, but I didn't go outside. I have been lying on the couch under a blanket, watching a Keeping Up With the Kardashians marathon and girl movies. I asked Adam to go to the shop for more cold remedies. I drank cups of tea.

It is Midnight. Nablopomo is keeping me up past my bedtime. I’m not writing the post I had planned to write. Instead of writing this post, I want to go to sleep. I should have written this post earlier. Maybe tomorrow I will write a better story.

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Edited to add. Since this is a "blog with integrity", I need to tell you the truth. I fell asleep before I clicked on "Publish Post". And I missed my deadline--by 10 minutes. So, I failed my personal challenge. No shiny Nablopomo badge for me. (But this is a clever plot twist. Now my blog persona is just like Sandra Bullock in "The Proposal", or Meryl Streep in "Doubt". No, I'm like J-Lo in "Maid in Manhattan". AMIRITE??)


Friday night drinks.

I’m a hypochondriac. The Internet diagnosed me with whooping cough, so I asked Adam to pick up cough syrup for my "Friday night drinks" on his way home from work.

Adam tried to save money by getting the cheap cough syrup at the supermarket, but I wanted the expensive cough syrup from the pharmacy. The cough syrup you need to show your ID to get because it has drugs in it. (Not the placebo for two-year-olds.) I was disappointed. It was like getting oregano when you try to buy pot. Adam was all tough love. He said if I want drugs, I need to drive to the pharmacy and get them myself. Thanks, Adam.

I probably just have a man cold. All I want to do is lie on the couch and watch stupid TV. Like, tonight I watched The Bachelor. Adam ruined it because he was gagging, and I kind of lost it. By this, I mean I stomped off to the kitchen, and I started throwing dinner dishes in the sink. It was very satisfying until I broke my favourite bowl. Then I cried as I wrapped the broken pieces in newspaper and threw them in the rubbish bin. Outside by the bin, I fell on the ground, sobbing, and kicking my feet. I wanted the mind-numbing hit that only The Bachelor can provide. I wanted a new drug. (I would have embedded this video from YouTube, if I had been allowed. Boo!)

Edited to add. I just found out I can watch The Bachelor on TVNZ's OnDemand, but I have lost interest. Now that I can get it on the Internet, the street value of The Bachelor has gone down.
Edited again to add. The street value of The City and The Hills is still high.

Edited again to add. If I ever get over this whooping cough, I'm going to buy a new bowl.
Edited again to add. What exactly is in that cough syrup for two-year-olds?

Edited again to add. I think I'll drink some more cough syrup and watch The Bachelor.


Sick and cold.

How does New Zealand's clean, green image measure up with its houses?

All of us have been sick with colds or flu. And if I wake up Adam with my coughing, he makes me take his vile cough medicine. (Have you tried this stuff? It's horrible and kind of scarily effective.)

A recent study has shown that New Zealand’s cold (and mouldy) houses increase people’s likelihood of becoming ill with colds, flu, asthma, respiratory illness, and other allergies. But part of our national identity insists that you just “harden up”, or “put on another wool-y jumper”.

Our houses often are so cold in winter that it is warmer outside. (I’m not kidding.) New Zealand is notorious for houses much colder than the 18 C recommended by the World Health Organization.

This is because many of our wooden houses have inadequate insulation (or are not insulated at all), and they also can have lots of single-pane windows. Since it is expensive to heat these houses, many Kiwis, especially those with lower incomes, will heat and live in just one room.

Obviously, houses that are not insulated are not energy efficient. Most houses do not have heat pumps. Many homes need dehumidifiers. And even if an “energy-efficient” household does not use much electricity, it still may use a LPG heater, or vast quantities of wood to heat the home with a log burner.

When I came to visit New Zealand, Adam’s mother said, “Bring all of your wool-y jumpers. Because you will want to wear all of them at once.”

I scoffed. I wanted to tell Adam’s mother that Wellington doesn’t get that cold in winter. I used to live in Chicago! Wellington is a subtropical climate. On the coldest days, the temperatures might drop only to 6 C (42 F).

But I didn’t realize the subtropical climate is a myth. In New Zealand, winter is inside. If you are an immigrant moving to New Zealand, bring your wool-y jumpers and be prepared for chattering teeth.

When it is time for bed, I bundle up by the warmth of the fire in the lounge. Fleece, thermals, socks, slippers, gloves, and a hat. It's like I'm going on an expedition to Antarctica.

I already have warmed up the bed with an electric blanket or a hot water bottle. To remove the chill in the bedrooms before going to sleep, we use oil column heaters. Then it is a matter of having enough layers above and beneath you to keep you warm through the night.

It's not hard to imagine myself living just like this 50 years ago.

Edited to add. I've been getting hit with lots of spam, so I've had to turn on the CAPTCHA text in the comments. My apologies.


How am I going to blog now?

There was an accident, and all of the traffic was directed off the motorway. Adam travelled three hours to get to a place 20 minutes away. The traffic was all backed up, and there were no alternate routes. So, he had to give up and come home.

I was frustrated. How am I going to blog now? I thought grumpily to myself.

When I'm writing, I like to be in a dark cave, or I need the anonymity of a cafe. If Adam and Five are at home, I am aware of them. It’s difficult for me to focus if they are around, even if they are in different rooms than me. I am hyper vigilant.

After three hours in the car, Adam was starved for human companionship. “Stupid people,” he said. “Why can't they just not crash? It’s not hard to not crash.”

We drank coffees in the lounge. I wanted to write on my blog, but Adam was talking to me. I went on Twitter. I flirted with the idea of going to cafe, but nowhere around here has wifi. After a while, I retreated to the bedroom to “get some work done”. Adam stayed in the lounge. But in the bedroom, I didn’t work. I tweeted. I chatted on IM and Facebook. I read some blogs.

After I read a post on writing by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love, I felt irritated. The gist of Ms Gilbert’s advice was that writers need to publish their work. This is the same advice my ex (the con-artist) used to give me. And I used to feel upset. I thought I was like Emily Dickinson, scribbling in my private journals. I am a writer, even though nobody reads what I write!

Eat, Pray, Love

It is August 17. Nablopomo (National Blog Posting Month) is not over. But I don’t want to write on my blog every day. I feel selfish and stupid and unfunny. I'm not doing any writing that will earn me money. I can’t keep up with reading and commenting on your blogs. And posting too much is annoying.

By writing on my blog every day, I'm just thinking about myself. My voice is the most important voice. And it’s exhausting, having to write about myself every day. It’s like going to therapy. All of this gazing at my navel. Even posting photos feels revealing.

At the same time, I know I’m not revealing myself on my blog. Not really. I don’t know how to portray myself. Not the real me. There is no clear narrative. I’m full of contradictions. I’m funny, and I’m serious. I’m neurotic, and I’m confident. My blog is intimate, and it’s superficial. I pretend it's fiction, not a memoir.

To stretch a metaphor, writing on my blog every day for a month is like being stuck in traffic with my therapist. Maybe it's not that hard to not crash. But I'm hoping there is an alternate route. I kind of want to turn around and go back home.

Now it is late. I am not writing the funny self-deprecating post that I had planned to write. Maybe I will write it tomorrow. But right now, it's too hard to write.


A run in the park.

A while ago, Dana wrote a post about her running route. I promised to bring my camera on a run, and write a similar post. And here it is. . .

I run 5km three times a week in the park next to our house. Running around here means lots of hills. (And some of the hills are intense.) But I am rewarded with stunning views in the park.

Living by the beach means running along the coast, and there is nothing better than running by the sea. Here is my route, starting in the park.










The playlist for today's run:

Memories, David Guetta/Kid Cudi
Young Blood, Naked and the Famous
My House, Kids of 88
Just a Little Bit, Kids of 88
Don't Stop the Music, Rihanna
Just Dance (Trevor Simpson remix), Lady GaGa
Get Shaky, Ian Carey Project
That's Not My Name, The Ting Tangs
Paris is Burning, Ladyhawke
Dance Wiv Me, Calvin Harris/Chrome/Dizzee Rascal
Bonkers, Dizzee Rascal
15 Step, Radiohead

Now it's your turn, for anyone who walks, runs, or cycles. The next time you go, bring your camera. Post the highlights, along with your playlist. Go on. It's fun.


Have you let yourself go?

Inner Critic: From the brink of middle age, at the crossroads of "Have You Let Yourself Go?" and "Maybe Botox Isn’t Such a Bad Idea", we bring you “When We Were Young: The Fashion Edition”. Our featured returning guest is a recovering attention-seeker who used to frolic in fashion. (sound bite of applause) Hello, Juli.

Me: Hello again, everyone.

IC: Would you tell our readers about your “fashion” story.

Me: I used to love costumes. Like many girls, I loved ballet, and I liked to wear my ballet costumes. Later, I became obsessed with square dancing dresses.

IC: What about ninth grade? I understand it was a pivotal year?

Me: In ninth grade, I was the only person in my class who wore a Halloween costume to school. (Halloween was my favourite holiday.) And I had this dress from the Limited Express. The boys in my English class said it looked Amish. And I wore my ballet slippers—as shoes! (sound bite of laughter)

IC: What happened when you went to college? I mean, really. What the fuck happened?

Me: When I got to college, I went through a long, long, LONG phase of wearing black. With the Madonna bracelets and the leather and the Doc Martens, but with flowers in my hair. (I was a bit confused.)

IC: After college, you tried to wear a nose ring to work. And dreadlocks. You worked for an investment bank. Had you lost your mind?

Me: No comment.

IC: You were seen wearing this on the beaches of San Francisco:

IC: What the hell were you wearing?

Me: It was a bridesmaid’s dress. For a long time I felt like I needed to express my individuality through fashion.

IC: Uh-huh. Well, what are you wearing now?

Me: It’s a typical Saturday night. I’m wearing track pants and a sweatshirt. No makeup. In fact, I’m not sure I own makeup.

IC: Your husband calls you "Pajama Girl".

Me: It's an endearment.

IC: So, can we ask—to help (or frighten) our younger readers—what happened?

Me: After I had a baby, I found I just didn’t have the time or interest I once did in shopping. Or in keeping up with all the beauty maintenance routines. And we really couldn't afford to splash out on those things anyway.

IC: But every day, we see other mothers who, you know, go beyond yoga casual for school pick up. Why exactly can’t you make more of an effort?

Me: I wish I had a stylist to put together "looks" for me. But basically, I don’t see the point. I mean, who am I trying to impress?

IC: Your husband? Your crushes in the village? Yourself?

Me: (yawn)

IC: This has been “When We Were Young: The Fashion Edition”. Join us next time when we discuss "Why Your Mother Looks Younger Than You”. (sound bite of applause)


Wild weather.

Heavy torrential rain has set in. The sea is boisterous, and the wind is roaring. We live in a rural village, and it’s not unusual for us to lose power during a storm. There could be a slip (Kiwi for landslide), or there could be flooding. I’m worried our power might go out before I can publish this post.

“Why didn’t you write the post when Five was at school,” Adam asks.

“Apparently, I need the pressure of the deadline,” I reply.

Wellington is in the roaring forties latitudes. It is exposed to strong winds through the Cook Strait. Gales and heavy rain are common. If you visit Wellington, you will notice how weathertight the houses appear. Houses have to be made to stand up to wind, rain, and of course, earthquakes.

It is almost midnight as I type this post. It is satisfying to be warm and dry inside during a storm. I will fall asleep listening to the wild weather.


Is talking on the phone too intimate?

People don’t talk on the phone anymore. This is OK with me. I don't like talking on the phone.

But you used to ring people to invite them out for coffee. Now it seems like talking on the phone is infused with special meaning. It's too intimate to ring someone on the phone. You may send an e-mail, but you probably post on Facebook or Twitter.

If you live in New Zealand, you send a text. Almost everyone I know sends texts. You don't talk to people on your mobile phone, unless you are on a “calling plan”, or you use your phone for work.

There must be quite a few of us plebs who don't want to be locked into a plan. The rates to talk on the phone are prohibitively high for us. The work-around is to pre-pay and send texts. But maybe ringing on the phone is too intimate anyway.

Since I joined Facebook, I have re-connected with lots of people. But most people don’t list their phone numbers on their profiles. They must think Facebook will give their phone numbers to telemarketers, or the paparazzi. Or someone will "stalk" them. Because they are celebrities, and they have privacy concerns.

Only one person from Facebook has rung me on the phone. And I was so stunned. All I could say was, “What the fuck are you doing ringing me?” And I wonder why people don't ring me.

Facebook is a strange place. You could be on Facebook all day, and nobody would try to chat with you. Is everyone waiting for someone else to initiate a conversation? Do we hope the one person with whom we want to chat will appear online? Or, are we afraid the people we don’t want to talk to will find us? And we will be stuck chatting with them in a Facebook version of hell?

I hoped it would be different with my bloggy friends. Surely, they aren't as paranoid as my Facebook friends. But it seems like almost everyone has been scarred by--I don’t even know what. Match.com? Missed encounters on Craigslist? The internet in general?

I guess most people want their internet life to be in a different sphere from their Real Life. They want to be anonymous on the internet. The Internet is pretend, and a phone call is real. So, I only have talked to one blogger. It was on Skype. And it was without video.

I probably should examine the role of gender in all this. Is it OK for married men and women to ring each other on the phone or Skype, or to chat over IM? Is this a slippery slope? Can men and women really be friends, or does sex always get in the way? Discuss amongst yourselves.


Am I neurotic?

Whenever I feel anxious, I jokingly say I’m neurotic.

I will be first to admit I have some neurotic traits. Like, I'm mildly OCD about putting things where they go. I can be a perfectionist. I'm kind of highly strung.

Of course, many people believe they're neurotic. Some of you take pills to help you with anxiety. And if I took pills, I'm sure I would be less neurotic. But what does it mean to be neurotic?

*I am easily disturbed.
Yes. Loud noises disturb me. Like, if my neighbour is using a weed whacker, a skill saw, or a chainsaw. Or if Adam is playing a stupid game on the Xbox when I’m trying to “do important research” on the Internet.

*I change my mood a lot.
Nah. I’m not that mercurial. I'm sensitive to the moods of other people though. Because I'm psychic.

*I get irritated easily.
Yeah. Fuck yeah. Also, I’m a lousy actress. I’m not able to hide my feelings.

*I get stressed out easily.
Yes. I'm better at letting things go than I used to be. But if people are observing me doing a task, I get nervous.

*I get upset easily.

*I have frequent mood swings.
Not really. I range from manic to depressed, but those are extremes. Let's just say I’m consistently grumpy.

*I often feel blue.
Not usually. Sometimes I feel sad. But this is normal, right?

*I worry about things.
God, yes.

*I am seldom relaxed.
Nah. But I do have a regular need to be alone.

*Carl Jung said neurotic people have issues with the meaning of their life.
Carl Jung and I would not get along.

So, I am slightly neurotic.

Take this test to find out if you are neurotic:
Are You Neurotic?


My blog persona.

The "Juli Ryan" on my blog is a persona.

She is like a character in a novel.

Please don't confuse the Juli Ryan on the blog with the Juli Ryan in real life.

I’m not a bookish introvert who almost always procrastinates.

OK, this is a lie. Yes, I am.


My big night out.

It was a rainy Saturday night. The playcentre was having a fundraiser at the hall in the village. I had a slight cold, but I still felt like I should go. And maybe it would give me something to write about on my blog.

"I thought you were sick," said Adam.

It was too late to get a sitter. When I left the house, Adam was lying on the couch by the fire, sensibly nursing his cold, and watching a movie. Did I really want to go out? I asked myself.

I drove carefully through the rain and parked my car near the hall. At the door, I said hello to A., who was standing outside with a group of people.

I looked inside the hall. Tables were arranged in intimate groups in front of the stage. Everyone was dressed up. I felt like I had stumbled into a private dinner party in my gum boots. Showing up alone on a Saturday night seemed like a faux pas. I should be here with someone, I thought. H. said hello, and I saw V. and T. get up from their tables.

I had a panic attack. This village is too small and insular. I wish I could be anonymous.

I fled to my car. I got in and sat stupidly in the dark, listening to the rain falling on the roof of the car. I took a few deep breaths and tried to calm down. I should go back, I thought. I’m already here.

Through the passenger window, I watched the people standing outside the hall in the yellow glow of a street light. The eave of the hall sheltered them from the rain.

I imagined asking Twitter for help. No, I couldn’t tweet about this. Hiding in my car was too pathetic. I checked the time on my phone. It was 10pm. I didn't want to miss the Nablopomo deadline. I had two hours to publish a post on my blog.

I drove back home.

"That was quick," said Adam.

“Have you ever been afraid to go to a pub or a party?” I asked.

“No, I just work through it,” Adam replied.

"Hmph," I said.


They think we live in grass huts.

Recently, I posted some photos of Wellington.

"I didn't expect Wellington to look so modern," someone commented.

“They all think we live in grass huts,” said Adam. “But the building in that photo is Art Deco.”

In New Zealand, Wellington is known for its architecture. It has a variety of architectural styles from the last 150 years. In addition to Art Deco, Wellington has post-modern architecture in the CBD. In other areas, there are nineteenth-century wooden cottages.

Buildings have been lost, but some of Wellington looks like it did 80 years ago. The National Library of New Zealand has posted some photos from its collection in The Commons on Flickr.

When I first came to New Zealand, I spent most of my time in Wellington. I still enjoy going to "town". But after a few years, I was drawn to a New Zealand that I found in rural villages, in the bush, and at the beach. I no longer hear the siren call of the cities.


Is BlogHer like a sorority?

Even though I'm not going to the BlogHer conference in New York City, I still like to read posts about pre-conference anxiety, what to wear, what to bring, who to hang out with. Then the posts AT the conference, and especially, the posts AFTER the conference. I wonder if going to BlogHer is like sorority rush. . .

It is the end of September, but the first day of sorority rush is hot and humid. I join hundreds of girls who are talking loudly to each other in a ball room in the student union. It is chaotic. The clamour of their voices makes my head ache.

I don't know if I want to join a sorority, but it seems like it might be a good way to meet people. I look at the computer printout of the rush schedule. It lists all of the sororities that we are going to visit. I have never heard of some of them.

My rho chi (rush counselor) leads our group of 30 girls out of the union and across the street. We won't find out to which sorority our rho chi belongs until rush ends.

As we walk up Greek Row, our rho chi points to some steps that lead to a gate in front of a brown two-storey building. We will meet by these steps before and after the next rounds of rush parties. We will go to the student union to get our bids.

For the first round of rush, we go to all the sorority houses as a group with our rho chi. The first house is across the street. We wait on the path in front of the house, and at the scheduled time, all of the girls in the sorority come running out of their house, singing and clapping like cheerleaders. They are wearing tee shirts and sweatshirts with Greek letters. Our group forms a line. As we walk up the path, we each pair off with one of the sorority girls and go inside the house.

My sorority girl leads me to a corner in a sitting room. She talks to me for a few minutes. Then she introduces me to another girl and another. We are all wearing name tags. I can’t hear what anyone is saying. After 15 minutes, the sorority girls form a line again in the foyer, and they sing another song as we leave their house.

Every sorority house that we visit is the same. In some houses, we stay downstairs in the living rooms and parlours. In other houses, they give us a tour of the entire house while they talk to us. Girls that I knew in high school belong to a few sororities. Two of the "best" sororities have houses that are tiny and cramped. In other houses, all of the girls who live there sleep in big dormers. I don’t want to live in those houses. I think one grey house that is made of slate or stone bricks and shaded by a big old birch tree is beautiful.

The sororities are not allowed to give us anything. Even a plastic cup could be a bribe. I tell two of the sororities that I am a legacy. The girls at those sororities introduce me to lots of girls. I talk a lot about myself. I tell another sorority full of mean girls that I am a legacy, but I can tell I should not have said this. I don't like them, but I'm disappointed when they don't ask me back for the next round.


Clean, green New Zealand. Yeah, right.

I am posting every day for the month of August for Nablopomo (National Blog Posting...). There is a theme for the month, which I mostly will be ignoring. The theme is (drum roll) GREEN.

New Zealand being clean and green is accidental, not deliberate. New Zealand's clean, green image is a result of its remote location and late settlement by humans.

Because of its isolation and small population, New Zealand is at a disadvantage compared to some other countries. It has marketed itself as clean and green to command premium prices for exports, and also to encourage tourists to travel long, expensive distances to visit its forests, lakes and rivers, coastline, and wildlife. New Zealand's exports make up 90% of its GDP. It also is dependent on its landscape-driven tourism industry.

While New Zealand is a beautiful place to visit, it is an ecological disaster. Since the Europeans arrived in New Zealand, over two-thirds of the native forest has been cleared. Its soil and waterways have been polluted by intensive farming and pesticides. The Manawatu river is the one of the world's dirtiest rivers. Deep-water oil drilling without a failsafe is occurring off the shores of New Zealand. Governments have ignored environmental initiatives related to air pollution and industrial emissions.

Although New Zealand made some admirable stands, such as banning nuclear warheads from its shores, its high CO2 emissions are among the worst in the OECD. Overseas, New Zealand is perceived as a country with clean air, but the air quality in cities like Christchurch in the winter is shocking. Coal is mined and burned (along with natural gas) for about 30 percent of our household electricity needs. (There are some other commerical and industrial uses.) New Zealand also has one of the world’s highest rates of car ownership. Greenhouse gas emissions are high, as New Zealand has more cows than people. New Zealand’s household waste and energy consumption also are high compared to other developed countries.

New Zealand’s oceans are being emptied, and there are no sustainable fisheries. Many native species of birds and other fauna are on the verge of extinction. None of the animals or crops and few of the trees harvested are native to New Zealand. Pests like possums and rabbits pose a threat to New Zealand’s economic welfare. Corporations are pressuring farmers to move away from free-range, grass-fed cows to indoor factory farming. And corporations are trying to bully New Zealand into accepting genetically modified (GM) crops, which are a threat to the country's biosecurity.

The marketing strategies of "clean, green" and “100% Pure New Zealand” are politically and commercially driven. 100 percent is a bold statement, which eco-tourists and consumers interpret differently than they did 10 years ago. Unfortunately, New Zealand’s “clean green” image is just not the reality.


Almost famous.

I am almost famous. I look good and feel great.

Suzy, Queen of Quid Pro Quo, has kindly posted my photo in the sidebar of her popular blog for the month of August.

Well, OK. I had to pay Suzy $20. But I did get a tee shirt.

For the uninformed, Suzy is a stand-up comic and actor who lives in Hollywood. She has ghosts in her apartment, and most people are afraid of her. She sometimes falls on her face.

Suzy’s blog is deliciously funny and better than sex. Go experience it. Enjoy it. Buy a tee shirt. But be sure to leave a comment about how good I look. Or else.

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