Happy birthday to my mother.

If you are a woman, then you know your birthday is really about your mother. (As in, the woman who probably gave birth to you.) I have just celebrated a milestone birthday. (It starts with a la-la-la, I can't hear you and ends in a zero.) As such, it's the perfect moment to thank my mother (again), for pushing me out the hoo-haw called her VAGINA. And for all her hard work and sacrifice over the last four you-know-whats. I am my mother’s masterpiece.

In my family, there are babies everywhere. My brother and his wife just had their first baby. A day later, my nephew and his partner had their first baby. And here is a photo of my mother with her first baby. Isn't she beautiful?


The Piano.

When I was growing up in Ohio, piano lessons and recitals were part of the musical score. The piano was my emotional voice.

Me at age 8

The piano also has an important place in New Zealand culture. When Adam and his family gave me a piano for my birthday, I was over the moon.

The child and me, 2008

A piano was an important cultural symbol in colonial New Zealand (like in many other countries). Families would go to extreme and expensive lengths to place pianos in their parlours. The piano was a link to the old country, and it was also the family's entertainment centre. Many Maori (indigenous New Zealanders) had a piano on the marae.

Even before I knew very much about New Zealand, the award-winning film, “The Piano”, captured my imagination. “The Piano” was released in 1993. Directed by New Zealand’s Jane Campion (“Bright Star”), it stars Holly Hunter and a young Kiwi, Anna Paquin ("True Blood"). "The Piano" is about a mute pianist, Ada, who is sent to an arranged marriage in 1850s New Zealand.

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"The Piano" is visually stunning. It is a moving and melodramatic story about a woman's search for identity in patriarchal society. Some critics complain that Campion's depiction of colonial New Zealand is not accurate. (Some views of the landscape and the Maori are fabricated.)

But when I am in the bush, it is Campion's colonial New Zealand that I imagine. "The Piano" has been a sustaining influence on me.

Orongorongo Valley, New Zealand


Project Banner.

When I created the new banner for my blog, I was restricted in time, materials, and talent. But I didn't let this stop me. Sure, I could hire a professional. And miss the challenge of staying true to a design aesthetic. (Minima Template, for the win!) Let my ingenuity inspire you. Here is a look at my creative process.

Let loose with the banner challenge, I choose this photo:

The street sign says Wellington Road. (Clever!) But the photo worries me. I just can't make it work. (Delete.)

Next I choose (and publish) this chocolate brown banner. (I like to take risks with my brand.)

The brown is too dark. I need something lighter. (There is no such thing as too neutral.)

It doesn't look right with the navigation bar. (For some reason, it's all about the navigation bar.) How about this?

It looks like the Wellington Hurricanes. (Carry on.)

I'll just change the navigation bar, and I'll tweak my template. Go, go, go! (I can't believe anyone hired me as a graphic designer.)

Don't worry. I'm not trying to be like that Heather mommy blogger (who changes her banner every month). She makes big money on her blog. But she is nuts.


Looks matter.

In 1994, I was hired as a “graphic designer”. My title meant that I could create graphs in Excel and make slides in PowerPoint. (It was the dark ages.) My boss needed his assistant to turn on his computer. We could smoke at our desks. (I am 100 years old.)

Let’s flash forward to 2010. Wellington Road used to be in a bad neighbourhood. It didn’t have a banner. It looked dodgy. A serious blogger wouldn’t live on Wellington Road. Looks matter!

Wellington Road needed an extreme makeover. Our staff has come to the rescue. We demolished it. (We blew it up.) And in just 10 minutes, with a high-end design application (Paint), we created a banner. A Valentine for you, loyal reader. Because this is a bona fide operation. At Wellington Road, we have a banner, and we take blogging seriously.


Heavenly creatures.

When I was four years old, I had imaginary friends. They had names like Pasta, Dr ABC, and Nurse Orange. Pasta spoke to me, and he used to fly beside our car. My child has imaginary friends, too. One is a small mouse named Darcy, who is the same size as your pinky fingernail.

Not long ago, I finally watched "Heavenly Creatures", directed by New Zealand’s own Peter Jackson. "Heavenly Creatures" is the precursor to "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Lovely Bones". (There is a theme about imaginary worlds running through Jackson’s work.) "Heavenly Creatures" is based on a true story that happened in 1950s New Zealand. Two teenage girls retreated into an imaginary and obsessive world, and it turned fatal. A young Kate Winslet stars. (Kate Winslet is one of my favourite actors.)

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I have always lived in imaginary worlds. When I was five years old, I started writing stories and scripts. I created elaborate plots for my Barbies. At night, when it was time to go to sleep, I acted out all the parts in my stories. During the day, I directed my brother and my friends on the school playground and in the neighbourhood.

Now I'm a woman in a car who is talking to herself. While I'm driving, I have imaginary conversations with people. I write letters and emails that I'll never send. I walk around the village, listening to my MP3 player, and I pretend I'm in a music video.

Blogging is like having imaginary friends. But you reply. I'm not having a conversation with myself.

You are robots, or you are real.

A post-apocalyptic world. The ice caps and glaciers have melted. The last humans are living under small bio-domes, scattered all over the world. Sometimes we risk everything, and leave the safety of the domes, to swim in chemical seas filled with mutant sharks and terrorist pirates who want to harvest our organs. More often, we remain in the fortresses provided by the domes. We plug ourselves into an alternate reality, where we're connected online. Being online consumes our energy, leaves us physically and mentally wasted, but we can't stop ourselves. We have avatars who live in this imaginary world, because we are social creatures who need the connections we find there.


Dead end.

Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates is about a couple in the 1950s who are let down by the American Dream. They yearn for something better, and they come up with a plan to move to Paris. Their plan puts a band-aid (American for plaster) on their stagnant marriage. The movie with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio is superb and depressing.

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Adam and I have been talking about “separation”. Rather, I’m talking about separating, and Adam is upset. He doesn't want to separate. He wants to work on our marriage, go to therapy, etc. I don't want to work on it. I hope I'm not deluding myself, but I feel like I have outgrown our marriage, and it’s holding me back. I have dreams that are bigger than yearnings. Sometimes I wonder if my feelings are “normal”. (We have been together for about eight years.) I have been trying to persuade myself my feelings are just a “seven-year itch”, and my marriage is not a dead end.

Over the last year, my friends have talked about “therapy”. This is what you say when someone confesses she is having “issues”. Aren’t you two going to go to therapy? Most people don’t want to hear about problems with my marriage. They make sympathetic noises, and try to make their escape as quickly as possible. Awkward! One friend (sorry, Amy) gave me that horrible Laura Schlessenger book, The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands. Schlessenger is a by-product of the socially conservative 1950s. It's criminal to peddle such horrible advice to vulnerable women.

I am all for therapy. Therapy is great. I love talking about myself, even if I need to pay you to listen. (Are you sure you don’t want some junk from my house?) But I don’t want to go to therapy with Adam. (Mind you, I will go, if he asks me to.) I don’t want to work on our marriage. Some friends say, Maybe you should just go to therapy yourself then? Or, You could go with him to therapy, to get him started. Or, What are you afraid of?

I'm not afraid of my feelings. I know how I went from being in love to wanting to go my own way. I take responsibility for all the things I did and didn’t do. And I will tell you all about it, if you catch me in the right mood. You want to know what I’m really afraid of? I’m afraid that if I go to therapy, I will persuade myself to give my marriage another chance, and I'm tired of giving men more chances.

I love Adam, and I’m happy he is the father of my child. (He is not abusive!) I was happy with him for four or five years. But I just don’t want to live with him, or be married to him any more. He was what I needed for a time, and now maybe he’s not. Let’s not even talk about the different countries stuff right now, mmkay?

Coming soon: In which I try to stop procrastinating and find a new place to live.


I was unfriended again on Facebook.

I notice when someone unfriends me on Facebook. I just can't help it. I guess it's Facebook policy not to let you know who unfriends you. So I puzzle it out with my big brain (that is obsessed with memorizing lists). I mentally go through my friends. I run queries until I work it out. “Was it you, was it you, was it you?” It doesn’t really matter, but I can’t rest until I solve the puzzle. (I am creepy, and I will find you.)

A few months ago, my Facebook friends were only people I know in real life. But I don’t really know my Facebook friends from 20 years ago. I know my bloggie friends better than I know (most of) my high school and college friends. So I have decided to become Facebook friends with my bloggie friends. (I know! CRAZY!) That (sort of) famous blogger who asked me to be his Facebook friend? Yeah, we are Facebook friends now. (My life is so much better.)

On my Facebook, I post photos of the child. (He's real!) His name is on Facebook. But I am still leery about posting photos of him on Wellington Road. Because he is a minor, and I don’t want to exploit his image. (cough) Yeah, even the child doesn’t understand it. He wants me to post photos of him on Wellington Road. And I know it’s dumb, because nobody really gives a shit. But I’m just not ready.


The Glass-Steagall Act.

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The Glass-Steagall Act was also known as the Banking Act of 1933. It was introduced to control speculation, and it prohibited banks from owning other financial holding companies. The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999. (I cried.)

For most of the 90s, I worked for investment firms. I learned that investment bankers are ruthless and self-serving. My first job in finance was at an international bank. My boss was a sales guy, and he was all about his “relationships” with CFOs of Fortune 500 companies. Like Enron. And Monsanto. And lots of other shady companies. But he could not read a balance sheet. He had never studied Finance. The bank enrolled the pair of us in a MBA program at Northwestern. I outperformed my boss in our classes, and my boss gave me a bad performance review. So I quit.

My next job in finance was at a “boutique” investment firm. This firm had some academics on its staff, who were creating financial products that none of the customers understood. But it was an economic boom, so nobody cared, as long as they were making money. My firm spent an inordinate amount of time on the “fine print” in their sales collateral, which informed you that the firm was speculating. They had no clue what they were doing with your money. The only way for a woman to advance at this firm was to sleep with the boss. That’s how my boss got her job (instead of me). I quit.

My last job in finance was at a San Francisco “peninsula” investment firm. I always thought it was hilarious, how we were supposed to “regulate” ourselves. We had a “compliance” department to make sure that the sales guys’ economic claims weren’t too outrageous. We would laugh our asses off at what the sales guys wrote. It was like, “What goes up must come down.” (Seriously.) It was fun to whisper things like “S.E.C.” and watch the sales guys freak out. I don’t know why they were afraid. The S.E.C. never was going to do anything.

In 2000, my firm sold out and merged with an international bank. The sales staff left in golden parachutes, with millions upon millions of dollars. My boss's boss sold out the middle managers. They were forced to leave with a pathetic payout and a “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out”. Those guys were vested, but a few had medical conditions that no insurance company would cover after their COBRA ran out. I quit. (Insurance companies refused to cover me because I used migraine medication.)

Investment bankers are greedy. The lunches. The five star hotels. The limousines. The bonuses. These guys are the aristocrats of our age. There is absolutely no way that investment firms and banks can regulate themselves. It kills me to applaud any idea of John McCain’s, but a re-enactment of the Glass-Steagall Act is necessary. Barack Obama agrees. Of course, the Republicans aren’t going to do any business in Washington. Under your mattress is a better place for your money than on Wall Street.

Edited to add. This post is dedicated to my grandfather. He always encouraged me to keep writing.


Blogs of the day.

You may have noticed that I got rid of my blogroll. But you are still The Awesome, and a special big thanks if you have linked to me.

I have decided to do something different over here at Wellington Road. (Okay, I got the idea from Neil at Citizen of the Month. Thanks, Neil!)

I'm going to choose a Blog of the Day. And then I will post all of the previous Blogs of the Day here. It’s like my new blogroll. Awesome and exciting, right? I KNOW!