My mother found this photo of us in her archives. It was taken in 1982. In 1982, my mother was just a bit younger than I am now. It’s weird to think about.

In 1982, we saw “E.T.” at the movies. Ronald Reagan was president. In the summer, we went on holiday for a couple weeks to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with family friends. We had to drive two days in our Buick station wagon to get to the sea. At the beach, we rode our bikes on the boardwalk, and we showered in an outside shower. My shampoo was called “Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific”. I wrote bad poetry about the ocean. And I promised myself one day I would live by the sea.

I started wearing a bra. Most of the girls in my class already wore bras. I remember it was difficult to persuade my mother (who was a feminist) that I needed a bra. We went shopping with family friends, and I found a trainer bra. I think the size was AAA. I was proud to wear it under white tops, so everyone could see I was (finally!) wearing a bra.

In the summer, my mother drove us around the suburbs in a Corvette. We listened to Prince sing about “1999”, a year that seemed impossibly far away. I became better friends with my neighbour, Sarah, who had gone to Catholic girls' (private) school. She was the same age as me, but more mature. She wore a AA bra and expertly applied makeup. She took me to her family’s house at Buckeye Lake. I tried to get her to teach me about makeup and boys. I practiced kissing my pillow, and I prayed my boobs would grow.

In the fall, I started middle school. (Junior high.) Seventh grade. Sarah became “popular”, and I was an orchestra geek. We weren’t really friends any more. I liked mini skirts, leg warmers, and saddle shoes. I took French, instead of the more practical Spanish. My English teacher, Mrs. Dupler, let me borrow her copy of The Clan of the Cave Bear, a book which was not age-appropriate. (Thanks, Mrs. Dupler.) Mr. Dove was my social studies teacher. He was young, hip, and politically aware. In class, to review for quizzes, we would play a quiz game with real buzzers. Mr. Dove was one of the best teachers I ever had.

Edited to add. Tim Dove really deserves a post of his own. Look for the next post in this series, "The Teen Years: An Awkward Time".


Happy birthday, Mom!

In New Zealand, today is Anzac Day. We did not make it to the dawn service, but we woke up to see helicopters flying towards Wellington.

In the US, today is my mother’s birthday. This year, we won’t be celebrating with her in person. Hopefully, we will have a video call.

My friends say my mother has a young spirit. As some of you know, she is a blogger. (You should pop over to her blog and say hello.) She is liberal and funny, and she has amazing style. She always has been a force to be reckoned with.

When I was growing up, my mother drove a Corvette, and she listened to Prince. So this song goes out to you, Mom. Happy birthday!



Recently, I watched “Chinatown” (1974) again. "Chinatown" was the last movie Roman Polanski filmed in the U.S.

I guess no one likes Polanski any more. But this detective movie is almost perfect. It is strangely timeless. The cinematography is fantastic, and the screenplay is cleverly plotted (one of the best ever written).

It's interesting to consider this film in a historical context. It is set in Los Angeles in 1937. The film alludes to swindles by L.A.’s first families in procuring water for Southern California and acquring land, and the city's corruption.

Chinatown is a neo-noir in the tradition of Raymond Chandler (“The Big Sleep”). Jack Nicholson’s character, Jake Gittes, is bitter, and somewhat detached to his surroundings. He is a lone hero on a quest, alienated from the outside world.

Nicholson and Faye Dunnaway have great chemistry. "Chinatown" made Nicholson into one of Hollywood's top leading men. Maybe the twist at the end of the film is a bit tarnished. “Chinatown” is still a masterpiece.

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Where am I going with this blog?

For the last few months, I've been having difficulty writing. I don't need a psychology degree. I know why. I'm having a nervous breakdown. And I'm lying on the couch watching "America's Next Top Model" and "Project Runway".

Instead of having this nervous breakdown, I was going to write a screenplay. Luckily, I realized that I don’t have the right connections in Hollywood to sell a screenplay. My ex, the con artist, and that girl I knew in high school? I'm clearly delusional.

And where on earth am I going with this blog? Recently, I was chatting with someone on IM who said blogging is like having penpals. When I was little, I had lots of penpals. (By the way, I’m still looking for my penpals on Facebook. Samantha? Britta? Where are you?)

This blog is like writing to ALL my penpals at once. It’s like a mass email to everyone that I have ever known in my life. Like a Christmas newsletter:

Dear You,
2010 has been so awesome. Five started school. We are going on holiday somewhere, but we still need a warrant of fitness for the van. And I’m in denial about my Twitter addiction. Wishing you a happy rest of 2010!

This blog’s title should be “Keeping up with Juli Ryan of Wellington Road”. I should get plastic surgery--move my muffin top to my ass. Keep teaching Five bad words. Dump Adam for an All Black. (The All Blacks are the NZ rugby team.)

I keep trying to exploit the crazy. But this blog isn’t anonymous, so I feel a bit shy. What if I get an e-mail from my mother? Or, what if someone in the village refers me to a therapist?

Don’t despair, reader. Eventually, I will find my way with this blog. And here are some great blogging tips that I have picked up along the way.
  1. On your blog, never compare people you know in real life to sheep. This is bad.
  2. Never beg readers to follow you. This is looked down on by hipster bloggers. Instead, have a giveaway. Or pimp your posts on Twitter. Apparently, this is OK.
  3. Your political views alienate at least 75 percent of your readers. Don’t discuss.
  4. Consider putting up a Donate button, so next year maybe you can afford to go to BlogHer.
  5. And don’t mock your husband on your blog. Be nice.
Oh, who am I kidding? Using my blog for therapy is probably wrong. I should go back to writing about Facebook and my vagina. And for some reason, people want to read about dairy-free pikelets.

Edited to add. Uh, not everyone that I have ever known in my life reads my blog. Obviously.



Autumn is about endings. But these school holidays have been delightful. OMG. Really. I feel like a hobbit. Like, in the opening scenes of "The Fellowship of the Ring"? When the hobbits are living a peaceful life in the Shire, and the ring is just a magic trinket?

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I mean, OK. Solo parenting all day is tough. A couple of times, I have texted Adam with messages like, I’m losing the will to live. And, still? New Zealand is a fairy land. Years pass like days. And this gypsy autumn weather has cast a spell on me.

The past few weeks have been full of (dare I write this)...happiness, the days melting into each other. Five has been charming me, and I've been savouring these last weeks of his baby self.

Yes, it's bittersweet. This may be the last time echoes in the corners of my mind. The last time he lisps, or the last time he wraps his arms around my neck, or the last time he demands my attention, so he can give me a two-hour monologue about his super powers.

I am still the centre of Five’s world, but my time is (rightfully) passing. Soon the influences of school and his mates will change him into a different (and equally wonderful) little person.

But, until then? After crisp mornings, these delicious, nearly hot days. I want to gather them up like brightly colored eggs, and stuff them in my basket.

Fertility symbols in autumn. It doesn't need to make sense.

The rituals of this new season, with Easter chocolate (everything is better with chocolate) and hot cross buns.

Going for a wander under pale blue skies.

Civic Square, Wellington

A visit to the museum.

A giant leap for science at Te Papa.

By a calm sea. Putting on his wetsuit and going for a swim, or just lying in the warm sand on the beach.

Looking towards Kapiti Island.

Longer and colder nights, under cosy quilts. Ordering firewood, and conjuring up a few fires in the woodburner.

The woodburner. For the next few months, we will be best mates.

Five playing with his cousins and his mates. Learning to ride his bike on two wheels—his earnest, little wobble. Going for bike rides in the grassy acres of the park, or all the way down to the train station.

And riding the miniature trains in the Marine Gardens.

Funny old men drive the trains at the Marine Gardens.

Packing away our summer clothes, and buying new gum boots, rain jackets, and slippers. Playing board games. Cuddling and reading books.

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Movie Tie-in Edition

Watching cartoons and movies together.

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A hearty new menu of soups and roasts, and pumpkin and potato, and apples and pears, cakes and crumbles, and soon feijoas.

Blueberry rhubarb crumble. It's what's for breakfast.

It's like a book I don't want to finish. My life is beautiful. I am blessed, and I am grateful.

Want to see more photos of my life (over the years) in rural New Zealand? Check me out on Flickr.