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

In the past, I compiled my favourite posts for my blogoversary. This year, I don't feel like doing that.

I wrote less on my blog and read fewer other blogs. It was easier to engage on Twitter and Facebook.

I felt like I could better describe my emotional state on tumblr than on my blog.

I'm still not sure why I have this blog. It's not for attention, I don't make money, and it's getting more difficult to be honest about my life online.

But I plan to continue.

Thank you for reading. Best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous 2012.

Written on iPod Touch -- because I spilled coffee on my laptop. A LOT OF COFFEE. I hope in 2012 I have better karma and am less clumsy.


The Sixth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Concert

The Sixth 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.

And look for me about twenty acts down from the top, with my own special take on a New Zealand folk song.



Dog days are over.

After an absence, I feel pressured to write something notable in this space. However, this is beyond my present capabilities, if indeed it was ever within my grasp.

I’m still lurking at home like a furtive, prehistoric cave-dweller. I suppose I could begin by telling you that things have improved for Six. He's going to a new school, and he's settled in quickly, like a fish to water. No more panic attacks about going to school, or being at school.

Six's new classmates have welcomed him into their group. He is popular. In his first week, he was invited to a birthday party, and he was Student of the Week.

So, I’m relieved the dog days with the former school are over. I wish that we'd changed schools six months ago. Oh, hindsight. The notion that it was my social responsibility to change the school's culture seems quaint and naive. HAHAHAHAHA.

I’m grateful for the friends who listened to me blather about my problems with the former school. But I still have post-traumatic stress. I’m disappointed that nobody with a child in Six’s class helped me talk to the school. Were my expectations too high?

Why didn't anyone say, “This is not acceptable. I don’t want my child to see another child being bullied.

Instead, the culture of bullying was ignored. I heard, “Oh, the school is naughty about that.” If our family had problems at school, we must be the problem. “You need to be more resilient.

If only I was what Kiwis call a European New Zealander, and also a man with a certain income. Then the school would have listened to my complaint. My social class, gender, race determined my worth.

New Zealand prides itself on its egalitarian society. The first country to give women the vote. However, in many places, even my little village, it's influenced by the stratified aspects of British culture.

And I'm disgusted, repulsed, by the stern school headmaster's role in the British psyche. As a single mother, I need to defer to the headmaster's authority. Really?

Such a pity we no longer cane students that we unjustly accuse.

My apologies, but I don’t believe that education is meant to produce mindless sheep who will become puppets of a British-inspired regime. I am a republican (note the small “R”), and maybe I'm hindered by my American sense of entitlement. I want to dump your tea in the harbour.

No dark sarcasm in the classroom.

I've learnt about the limitations of my community. We like to believe that in the face of adversity, when something in our society is wrong, we would do the right thing.

Yes, I'd hide Anne Frank’s family in my attic. OF COURSE.

But the reality is—most of us measure personal cost and find it too high. And we're quiet, standing stoically in a queue, barely concealing our loathing of The Other, hoping to remain unnoticed, whilst flying under the radar.

Sorry, no comments for this post.


I did not want to be the allergy pioneer parent.

Six has an invisible illness. He has life-threatening allergies to peanuts, egg, and milk. He is also allergic to dust mites, flowering grass, and pet dander. And he has hay fever and eczema. It's a daily struggle for us.

Allergies are so difficult to explain to someone who hasn't dealt with them. People just don't understand.

I realised there would be hiccups when Six started school. But I didn't want to be the allergy pioneer parent.

In Six’s first year, risk minimisation was left to his teacher, and it worked out fairly well. But this year his teacher didn't have the same level of vigilance or interest.

Then the unthinkable happened. Six had an anaphylactic reaction—to a sandwich that I'd packed in his lunch.

The school didn't contact Adam or me. It was Six who told me what had happened. So, I spoke with his teacher. She was defensive and denied it was anaphylaxis.

I was surprised Six's teacher didn't recognize anaphylaxis. But I was determined to work through health and safety issues with the school.

Adam and I spoke with the principal, and I worked with the school’s public health nurse to document an emergency plan for Six.

Things didn't improve. Six faced bullying about his allergies from his classmates, and shockingly—from his teacher.

I talked again with Six’s teacher and principal. And I wrote several letters of complaint to the school. The school’s position is that Six doesn’t have “life-threatening” allergies. (Because we haven't provided the school with an EpiPen.) They believe Six is faking illness (e.g., fever) to get out of doing “difficult” work.

I don’t have the words to describe how traumatic this year has been for our family. I am disappointed in the way the school has responded to our concerns, and I'm worried about the impact this year has had on Six.

The complaints process has been a dead end. I don’t see any willingness to work on the classroom or the school culture. The only solution available to us is to move to a different school.

No comments for this post.


I can be wishy-washy.

In my last post, I suggested that a relationship can be disposable, like a broken laptop that's too expensive to repair. Do I really believe this? I don't know. I can be wishy-washy.

What kind of blog post is this anyway? Aren't I supposed to give an opinion and try to persuade you to embrace my point of view?

Well, I guess I believe some relationships become toxic. We need to end these relationships, am I right?

Accept that what was once in bloom withered, perhaps revealing its true poisonous self. Or maybe things just ran their course. Nothing lasts.

According to Jung, my personality type is able to end relationships. Don't laugh. Once I make up my mind, I can do it. Ask any of my exes. We may be Facebook friends, but they are dead to me.

I joke that I have awful taste in men, but it's true. I always choose the wrong men. The wounded, the shiftless non-providers, the unable to commit, the co-dependent. Men who take advantage of my good nature.

Yes, male reader. This rant is about men I chose. It's not about All Men.

It was me, not them. Or it was them.

I don't think I've experienced requited love from a man. Nobody cared about my happiness as much as I cared about his.

This is why we need to be warriors for our own happiness.

Can men and women be friends after they have sex?

"Once my lover, now my friend. . ."

No. I don't think so. Probably not.

Written on iPod touch


I broke my laptop.

Sometimes I am clumsy. Last week I tripped over the cord to my laptop. The pin on the end of the cord broke off in the socket of the laptop.

The cost to repair it is NZ$400 (with a one-year warranty). This is about half the cost of a comparable new machine, which is NZ$900. In New Zealand, even with the high Kiwi dollar, computers are expensive.

It costs a lot to ship a computer to a small, remote country. It's also nice to have the right plug, if you know what I mean.

Are laptops over anyway? I just read an article that said by 2015, most of us will use only tablets and smartphones. I'm writing this post on my iPod touch. I already can do almost everything I need to do with this hand-held device.

Without a laptop, Six and I are doing some things the way I did Before. I'm buying paper newspapers, going physically to the bank, talking more on the phone, writing with a pen on paper. Life seems slower.

I'm sad computers aren't made to last. I had a relationship with my laptop, and now it's over. A three-year-old machine that was going fine and only needs a simple repair is rubbish.

You may disagree with me, but many of us treat human relationships like our old computers. After the warranty expires, when we "start getting real", we see people as they really are, with all their flaws. We may decide the cost of maintaining these relationships is too high, and just buy new.

Written on iPod touch



Once again, almost a month has passed. I’m not going to make excuses for not posting. You have a quasi-real life, and you don’t have time to read blog posts, am I right?

I wish I could tell you I was busy with my own REAL LIFE and forgot to update my blog. But to be honest, I haven't been able to complete a post. I'm not blocked. I just can’t commit to an idea.

Should I continue whinging about my divorce? Or should I complain about Six’s school?

I want to keep hiding on the couch, numbing myself with downgraded cable. (L.A. Ink!)

In our relentlessly positive thinking culture, melancholy isn’t on trend. Unfortunately, it’s what I’ve got. As Shakespeare once said, “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

It's still winter.
As I type this post, it’s still winter here in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m bundled up as if for an Antarctic expedition. But I’m in my lounge (Kiwi for den or living room), which is the room I’m currently heating.

Insulation is marvellous, but it’s lacking in most New Zealand homes, including mine. So, Kiwis are quite expert in the technique of heating one room. And putting on another wooly jumper.

Landlord: I bet those new double-glazed windows are making a big difference though, eh?

Me: (unconvincingly) Uh, yeah. Definitely!

Landlord: Just harden up, FFS.

Can I ration out my firewood to last for the rest of the winter?
“Is it really cold enough tonight for a fire?”

“Should I put more wood on the fire if I’m just going to bed?”

For the last few weeks, these are some of the questions that have been occupying my mind.

I’m realizing that, in spite of my pitiful efforts to be frugal, I need to order more firewood. Dammit. Winter is cold.

Social media isn’t supposed to be social
So, it looks like we’re going to face more pressure to video chat. Which will rid us of the ENTIRE POINT of the Internet.

First we were asked to use our real names. Now we need to video chat with each other?! I might as well talk to some REAL LIVE HUMAN BEINGS in my village.

On cyber gossip
As we all know, social media is a fantastic way to procrastinate. Twitter or Facebook is where we go to gossip about the important scandals of the day. Casey Anthony, Dooce, Amy Winehouse. Everyone is just so grateful. Because it gives us all something to talk about. You can almost feel the relief, as everyone joins in. At last, a topic we can all get worked up about!

Six’s school continues to insist there's no bullying problem: “There may be one-offs, but these are dealt with at the time. Also, you need to tell us when bullying happens. Otherwise, we don't know about it.”

Over the last two terms, I’ve made several complaints to the school. So, I'm a bit upset at this "one-offs" quip. Because making complaints has become my part-time job. Which is obviously stressful for my whanau (Kiwi for extended family).

The school has dealt with my complaints by getting defensive and fobbing me off as an isolated crank.

Why would the school take this ludicrous position? There's no bullying? Come on. Don’t ALL schools have problems with bullying?

Maybe the school is worried that bullying reflects poorly on our community. I can understand this. However, since this school has had recent issues with teachers bullying teachers, it's reasonable to suggest there may be a “culture of bullying”.

The school should instigate a zero tolerance for bullying policy. Stat. And perhaps educate the teachers on staff about what bullying is. Because some of them seem quite uninformed. BTW, one complaint about an issue is always enough.

I'll be attending the next Board of Trustees meeting. If I can get off the couch.

I didn’t make a complaint about this, only because Six wasn’t at school on the day. (Thank God.)

FTR (I can't believe I need to say this), if a child comes to school dressed up as Hitler, he should NOT be permitted to spend the day marching around the school grounds gesticulating. FFS.


Ten things I never want to hear a man say again.

Men say a lot of stupid things. They are simple creatures and not that difficult for most women to figure out. But I am a slow learner and also a wishful thinker. This is a lethal combination when it comes to forming relationships with men. Yes, I am a doormat.

Here are some things that will tempt me to pull a Lorena Bobbit if I ever hear them again.

10. I’ll call you.
This old nugget has been men’s exit line forever. Give me a break, guys. I know at the very best, you’ll wait three days (or a week) to ring me. Or you will just disappear off the face of the earth. Don’t leave me waiting in the wings. Just say “Bye.”

9. My wife and I are getting a divorce. Yes, I’ve filed the papers!
Ladies, if you ever are unfortunate enough to hear this line, be smarter than me. Run for your life.

8. Who were you talking to?
Mom, is that you? Jesus. This type of guy is way too into your business. He will ring you fifteen times a day. This is not a good thing.

7. You are the only one that I am...
All your warning bells should be going off. A relative of this line is “But it didn’t mean anything.”

6. But I always go to my mother’s house for Christmas.
He really should have married his mother.

5. Let’s split the cheque.
Feminism screwed the women of my generation. We were brought up to think we were equals with men. This took away our ability to recognize shiftless non-providers for what they are.

If a guy tries to split the cheque with you, in less than a year’s time, he will need to borrow money because he “didn’t get paid”. Or he won’t be able to afford to buy you a ring.

So, if he doesn’t pick up the tab, and you somehow end up together in the future (because you are an idiot), you’ll be supporting this guy. Consider yourself warned.

4. You live too far away.
It’s amazing how men will cross the earth and go to the moon if they think there is a chance they will have sex with you. But if you just want to hang out and watch a movie, all of a sudden “you live too far away.”

3. Want to see a naked photo of me?
Only if it comes with dinner and a movie. And a big diamond.

2. Don’t think so much.
This is insulting. It’s kind of like “Shut up”, with a side order of “Lie back and enjoy it.”

1. I have a cold.
A man with a cold. This is self-explanatory.

If you know of any other lines I should watch out for, please add them in the comments.


On sexting.

Flixster - Share Movies

You are probably bored with the story about U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was recently "exposed" for sexting with women on Twitter and Facebook.

I’ve made my share of jokes on Twitter about Weiner's sexting. I hope I didn’t come across as judgmental or mean-spirited.

Because of my own insecurities, I’m still trying to figure out what Weinergate means about my relationships online. Maybe I’m taking it all a bit too seriously.

I can’t help feeling sorry for Weiner and the women with whom he sexted. This is because I can be secretive about certain things too.

I'll admit that I've sexted with a man online. At the time, I thought it was a positive way to get a need met. But now I think sexting exploits women, even if the women are willing participants.

In these online relationships, men aren’t required to be accountable, or deal with pesky complicating emotions. They can lie about who they are, and the relationship is easy to hide. To ignore someone online, you can just turn off your computer.

Sexting also allows men to have a certain droit du seigneur, especially if there is a power differential. And I feel like these encounters can be somewhat transactional. Women prostitute themselves to men’s fantasies in exchange for a small fee—the men’s attention.

Women are sexy and compliant, and men can skip all the romantic hassles. Sexting is like a throwback to the confusing attitudes in "Pretty Woman".

Of course, women are supposed to avoid taking sexting too seriously. Just have fun. Don't think so much. These online relationships are fantasies. They aren’t meant to progress to real life.


Dear Juli

Occasionally someone emails me and asks for relationship advice.

I'm not qualified to give relationship advice. But in the spirit of “if you can’t do, teach”, I'm going to share the knowledge I've gained through painful life experience. I am fickle, so I may only do this once. We shall see.

Dear Juli:
I'm from Indiana, and I've fallen in love with a great guy. The only problem is, he lives in New Zealand. What should I do?
–Pretty Woman

Dear P.W.:
Don't be an idiot. Don’t fall in love with a Kiwi. Have a brief affair. (Is the sex really that good?) Then say goodbye forever. (Unless you are from Russia and have no family.) Try to meet someone from Chicago.

Falling in love accidentally is a myth. Falling in love isn't like stepping in dog shit. Well, actually it's a lot like that. Don’t fall in love with this guy. Snap out of it.

If you've already made the mistake of falling in love (and you want to be in the same country), you'll need to get permission to live in New Zealand. (Unless you want to get him a green card. Which I don't recommend, unless you are particularly masochistic.) This will be an invasive bureaucratic hassle.

In the movies, the wrong people always fall in love. And after 90 minutes, they live happily ever after, or they die.

You are not a character in a movie. Or a teenager. (If you are a teenager, I don’t want to know about you having sex with the best body you'll ever have in your life.)

This may not be what you've read in women’s magazines. But falling in love isn't something that happens in spite of yourself. Choose who you fall in love with. You don’t want your relationship status to be “It’s Complicated.”

Obviously, I haven’t followed my own advice. My speciality in life has been impossible relationships. (My motto is: The more red flags, the better.) So, unless you want to write to a blog like mine, don’t fall in love. Because love stinks.


I'll try anything once.

Blogging every day in May didn’t happen. HAHAHAHAHA. Yes, that's the sound of me laughing. I'll try anything once. But I should have set a more realistic goal—like, brushing my teeth every day. Let’s move on.

So, camping over Easter weekend was fun. (Mostly.) We camped next to a rain forest. (It rained a lot.) We spent our afternoons debating—would the tent leak? (It didn't.)

I was impressed by the facilities. (Free electric barbecues! Power to charge your mobile phone! Rubbish collection!)

We ate well. Steaks and burgers and sausages and chicken wings. Porridge for breakfast and proper coffee. Easter lollies and chocolate.

The Bogans were our neighbours. Uncle and his three teenage boys, Niece and her young two kids, and a couple of dogs. They had two caravans and two tents.

After our first night, they shared secrets about the camp ground. They'd been going there for years, and they had the best camp site. They knew where to find dry wood. Did we need more tent pegs or another tarp?

“I wish we had a caravan,” I said.

Uncle told me about the deal that he got when he bought his caravan, and how to get around paying the rego for the whole year.

“An’ ya can come up ‘ere if ya sep’rate from ya pa’tna,” Uncle said. “Ya can stay ‘ere ‘til youse get set up.”

Apparently, this was what he had done when his wife kicked him out. I didn’t mention that Adam and I had separated. It was too complicated to explain.

The Bogans were unruly, but nice people. They always had a fire going on the bank of the river. (They were burning old furniture.) They drank and played music—but not too late. They looked after a dog someone had left in the campground.

But I couldn't help thinking of a scene from “Cold Mountain”.

“Do you remember when Jude Law’s character and that crazy preacher go up to the lopsided cabin, and they get drunk on moonshine?" I asked Adam.

"The room is spinning, and the women are dancing around and lifting up their skirts. And they get turned in for being deserters.”

It was a strange, tangential thought.

But aren't all holidays an odyssey? Adam and I went on a journey together. While we camped in the ruins of our marriage, I was happy to pretend we were still a couple. One last time.


Jigsaw falling into place.

The week before Easter, Adam and I decided to take Six camping over the long weekend. I don’t remember how this decision came about. Maybe it was temporary insanity. Or maybe in the wake of a separation, you sometimes try to put your family back together, like a jigsaw falling into place.

I wanted a change of scenery. And even though Easter wasn’t “my day”, I would get to spend some time with Six.

"This is great for Six," Adam and I said.

On Thursday the weather was glorious. By chance, Adam had the day off. Since rain was forecast for later in the weekend, I did my best to persuade Adam to leave a day early.

But Adam wisely rejected my impulsive plan. There wasn’t enough time. We wouldn’t be able to get to the campgrounds before dark.

I was disappointed. “Oh, well. Six has swimming in the morning anyway." We would leave the next day, as we had planned.

I love making lists. I found a camping checklist on a website, and I assembled camping gear in my head. Duct tape, laundry pegs, mess kit, first aid kit. Sleeping bags, food. Adam and I each would bring food for a few meals.

I patted myself on the back. We wouldn’t waste time "negotiating" over what to bring. Since our separation, I had really grown. I was more independent, and better at communicating. Less controlling. I had evolved. Maybe Adam and I would be a new kind of couple. Living separately, but still doing things together.


Disney is the Illuminati.

When I lived in Chicago, my boyfriend (a hobby conspiracy theorist) joked that Disney was part of the Illuminati. (It was 1995, before Dan Brown's Angels & Demons.)

The Illuminati is an old secret society. Some conspiracy theorists are convinced that American presidents and other world leaders are Illuminati members. The crux of the Illuminati myth is that members are engaged in mind-control.

Apparently, behind the wholesome surface image of many world organizations (like Disney) is a regime that seeks to gain power and control of the world’s resources. So, if Disney is the Illuminati and is engaged in some sort of mind-control, what values does it transfer to us?

Yesterday, I complained that the royal wedding and the killing of OBL remind me of a Disney movie. I didn’t even need to explain why. Disney’s cultural influence is so pervasive that it was understood.

Was it fair of me to use that comparison? Can our perceptions of life reflect what we have seen in the movies, or is it the other way around? I don't know.

Disney’s portrayal of stories similar to the royal wedding and destroying evil (e.g., Cinderella and Aladdin) is overwhelmingly American, white, middle class. Against the odds, Cinderella marries her prince. Jafar is a conniving, hook-nosed villain who gets what he deserves based on his fundamental nature.

These myths and stereotypes are the undercurrents of Disney movies, which are childhood staples in America. What are the repercussions of our children seeing these ideas and images?

I don’t really believe that Disney is manipulative. But I do think the continued popularity of these ideas reflects a conservative worldview in terms of anti-feminism, religion, and the representation of “other”. Disney surely would respond that my criticism applies 21st century morality to movies made in a different time.


It’s like we’re stuck in a Disney movie.

I am eager to regale you with tales of my Easter weekend camping trip. But first I need a time out to talk about Two Recent Events That Seem Like They Are From a Disney Movie. Please indulge me. Just a few words here about the royal wedding and killing the bad guy.

I have nothing new to add. But sometimes I wish I could react like everybody else. Like a normal person, someone who likes gridiron or rugby and believes in God. My reactions to these two recent events showed me that my opinions are not in the mainstream.

The royal wedding
I enjoyed the spectacle as much as any of the forelock-tugging commentators. Oh, I had thoughts about everything, and I shared them on Twitter. It was an enjoyable evening in New Zealand. Discussing the hats. The dress. The exchanging of vows.

After the kiss on the balcony, like most people in New Zealand, I went to bed. In the morning, the party was still going on. And there was more to discuss. Then there was an awful Will and Kate movie on TV. It was great fun.

But last weekend, it seemed like everybody in New Zealand was a staunch royalist. Only shrews and curmudgeons would make dare make any republican comments on Such A Day. Obviously, I am both a shrew and a curmudgeon. I’m afraid I will never understand why we need the monarchy. Can I still be a Kiwi?

Killing the bad guy
I heard about killing of bad guy on the radio when I was driving home from the supermarket. (I am so old school!) Like most people, I was relieved to know the bad guy is no longer at large. And I hoped his death meant the closing of the secret prisons and the troops going home.

When I got home, I turned on the TV and flipped over to CNN. (CNN is one of my few remaining cable channels. I don’t want cable, but regular TV reception in the village is spotty. Maybe I don’t need a TV.)

It was just a few minutes before the President’s news conference. In between CNN’s efforts to stoke up the fear (“The number two is out there! Don’t travel! Etc.”), they showed disturbing images of young Americans chanting "U-S-A!" and waving flags in front of the White House.

Did those kids think it was the end of the Second World War? I was disgusted and confused by the frat-boy nature of the celebration. What were they celebrating? Good triumphing over evil? 9/11 avenged? War on terror won?

As I listened to the President’s speech and read the varied reactions on Twitter, I realized that my opinions place me on the fringes of American society. Maybe I'm not an American anymore. Most Americans don’t understand or care that the rest of the world is appalled when they show us their unbridled glee.

So, I guess I am two for two. Over the last few days, I wasn’t in the majority. But I rarely am.


Easter in New Zealand.

Where did we leave off? With a broken marriage, needing to shift to a cheaper house, overwhelming disappointment in Six’s school, and a job search? Well, in the next month, I promise I will tell you more about these things.

Today is Monday, and the school holidays have ended. I am sad. Returning to the forced conviviality of school drop-offs and pick-ups is hitting me like a sledge hammer. Let’s escape for a moment to a happier time.

Easter weekend was a sylvan interlude, a break in the tedium of our everyday life. As holidays should be, right? Like many Kiwis, our family has a tradition of camping over the Easter weekend. But I should backtrack and tell you Easter in New Zealand (and Australia) is very peculiar. In New Zealand, it’s a four-day weekend. I love it.

Celebrating fertility rites in autumn is crazy nonsense. In New Zealand, we exchange big chocolate eggs. Six can’t eat the Easter chocolate eggs sold in the shops. (Because he is allergic to milk.) So, Easter is a reprisal of Christmas. But instead of stupid chocolate Santas, there's an egg hunt at school for chocolate eggs that Six can’t eat. Never mind. Six prefers lollies, and here's a spoiler—over Easter weekend, there were plenty of lollies. Too many lollies. OMFG.

The archaic trading rules in New Zealand make Easter weekend very odd. What I mean is, on Easter Friday and Easter Sunday ALL OF THE SHOPS ARE CLOSED.

There are a few exceptions. Servos (Kiwi for petrol stations) are open. And so are some random cafes that pay increased wages and give a “day in lieu” to their workers. These rebel cafes also pay a fine for opening their doors. (The fine is called something else. Sorry, I am too lazy to look it up right now.)

The rules are confusing and hilarious. Garden centres are required to be shut on Easter Friday, but they may open on Easter Sunday. Pubs are closed, but apparently brothels can open. (I’m not sure if brothels can sell you a handle of lager.) You are allowed to buy wine at a vineyard. Shops open on Easter Saturday.

On Easter Monday (also a public holiday), the malls weren’t allowed to open until 1pm. And people queued up at the mall doors before they opened, eager to spend their money in the Easter sales.

With this obvious demand for consumerism, every year there is lots of talk about abolishing the Easter trading rules. But it never happens. This probably has a lot to do with Jesus Christ. And this is O.K. with me, even though I am not religious. (To Six, the Easter story is a fable.)

I’d rather Easter weekend was a secular event, like Eat Chocolate Eggs Weekend. But whatever you choose to call it, I like that the shops are shut, and we can’t BUY BUY BUY. On Easter Friday and Easter Sunday, there aren’t even any advertisements on TV or radio. It's exactly like Buy Nothing Day, but better. It's so refreshing.

Don’t get me wrong. Year-round, consumerism in New Zealand is low key. What passes for consumerism here resembles America in 1978. Not long ago, shops in New Zealand were closed on Sundays. I believe that selling wine in supermarkets is a recent change.

(Yes, I know some cities in America are "dry" and don't sell booze on Sundays and whatnot. But America is also that weird country that enacted Prohibition.)

Some Americans wouldn’t like living in New Zealand. There is only one high-end department store. Sure, we have our shops. And some of them are very good. But there aren’t a lot of consumer choices. And despite the high Kiwi dollar, goods are expensive. Please don’t get me started on the price of books.

The truth is, I am a lousy consumer. I plan my shopping outings with almost military precision, in an attempt to make them as quick and painless as possible. Even so, it’s irritating to be forced by the Easter weekend to plan ahead, and buy enough bread and milk (not to mention beer and wine) to last until the shops open again.

But it's not so annoying that I’m demanding we abolish these out-dated trading laws.

Anyway, since the shops are closed, Easter is an ideal time for camping. It’s usually a last gasp of good weather before winter really sets in. Easter weather is warm enough to allow you to sleep comfortably in a tent.

Of course, if you have a caravan, you are not held back by changing seasons or rain. Next time: Yes, there was rain on Easter weekend. No, we don't have a caravan.

Our camping neighbours, The Bogans


I fell off the wagon.

Last month, I fell off the blogging wagon. I wrote only one post in the entire month of April.

As a newly separated and somewhat disaffected SAHM, I wanted to blog. But my energy was consumed by Stressful Life Changes and Tedious Tasks.

Adam and I are still rearranging our lives into two separate households. And for the last fortnight, Six was on his school holidays. I really had no time to blog. However, I was able to rant on Twitter. (See for yourself here.)

I whimpered and tweeted. And yet, I missed sharing my musings with you here—those naked, personal thoughts that a sane or normal person would keep to herself. Could I stretch my hours to include blogging? I wondered.

What I needed was some extrinsic motivation. Something to help me recapture the desire to overshare on my blog.

For many people, wages are a good incentive. But wages are rare in blogging. It seems that I must “make do” with another round of NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).

So, I will post every day in May. Maybe the fear of failing this challenge will motivate me to blog.

Project Firewood was a success. Thank you to you and you and you.
You know who you are. I've been thinking about you a lot, and postcards soon will be in the post, full of my scribbled thanks and gratitude. Because I am grateful, even though I am no good at expressing gratitude. You helped me step away from a ledge, and I never will be able to thank you enough.


Thank you, kind beautiful people.

Dear Small, But Devoted Readership:

Thank you, kind beautiful people. You know who you are.

Soon you will be receiving a postcard full of heartfelt thanks from me via snail mail. Something you can put on your fridge. I will use (and keep confidential) your PayPal shipping address. If this is the wrong address for anyone, please email me.

I am so grateful, you lovely people. I am thinking New Age thoughts about you. Wishing you lifetimes of happiness, health, and good fortune.

I know these are bad times for lots of people. I am still mostly out of work in rural New Zealand, and I need help. I hate that I don’t have a book to sell you. All I have right now is this blog. My blog of two years, which I have written for the love. That is, FOR FREE.

If you happen to have lots of disposable income, and you are wondering which nonprofit charity to support, may I suggest Juli and Six of Wellington Road? I only ask because I don’t know how I will make it through the next month.

Maybe nobody knows how they will make it through. But clinging to this precipice is scaring me.

My income has been reduced since Adam and I separated. But my landlords, who enjoy bleeding stones, have raised my rent. (They raise my rent every year. They like to hear me whimper.)

I need to move to a cheaper house. This is probably a good thing, as we aren't happy with Six's school. (More on this in another post.)

In the meantime, there’s the rubbish bill and car maintenance and doctor’s visits. I need to pay someone to mow these stupid lawns. Six needs winter clothes and school supplies. It is past time to order firewood (the method by which we heat our house in winter).

In New Zealand, the cost of living is high. Housing prices here are among the most expensive in the world. Petrol is not cheap either (about US$8 a gallon). There is no such thing as a spontaneous trip to the mall. I MUST combine trips. Food is also expensive (US$10 for a gallon of milk).

I consider my budget so carefully. When Six is with me, we have wholesome meals. But on the weekends, when Six is with his dad, I try not to buy anything. I make a game out of it—how cheap can I eat?

I am working it all out. But I don’t want to choose between firewood and food. I am on the dole, but the benefit only goes so far. Same with family assistance. I am underemployed.

I don’t like putting this out there. No, I don’t have a book. I would love to sell you one. But I have creative skills, a broadband internet connection, and a post shop. Hire me? If you have a spare twenty, will you drop it in my tip jar? (It's in my sidebar.) Let me know what I can swap for money.

P.S. If you are local, maybe you want to buy some of my stuff? YOU CAN CLUTTER UP YOUR GARAGE WITH MY STUFF.


About nuclear power.

After the accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, it was easy to know how to feel about nuclear power. Now I'm not so sure.

In the last decade, I became concerned about global warming. Many environmentalists are in favour of using nuclear power to meet increasing demands for electricity. In the U.S. President Obama has said that nuclear power must be part of the energy plan. China is also looking at nuclear power to meet its energy needs.

It's easy to understand the case for nuclear power. The waste from one person using nuclear power during their lifetime would fill one bottle of Coca-Cola. Just one bottle. If the same person used power generated from coal, the waste would fill box car after box car.

It is a persuasive case. But what about the waste in the bottle? How do you dispose of it? And if the odds of an accident are one in a million, why have there been accidents?

Extraordinary care must be taken in the building of a nuclear power plant. Maybe nuclear plants are too expensive. Cutting corners to bring down costs can have the most dire consequences imaginable.

While I worry about the current nuclear crisis in Japan, I can't forget the other recent energy-related disasters. The ruptured BP oil rig spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The miners trapped deep in the earth, and certainly killed in an explosion, if not first by poisonous gases.

We need to learn how to conserve energy. At what human cost, so I can use a laptop and drive a car?

New Zealand is a nuclear free nation. After nuclear testing by the French in the Pacific (Mururoa), New Zealand became the first Western-allied nation to legislate towards a nuclear-free zone. This means that U.S. nuclear-propelled warships cannot dock in New Zealand ports. We are proud of this stance. It's part of our national psyche.

Nothing in the New Zealand legislation prevents the building of nuclear plants. But New Zealand is one of the few developed countries not using nuclear power. Most New Zealanders are against it.

New Zealand generates about 30% of its power from coal and gas. The remainder is primarily from hydro-electro power. In a worst case scenario, dams could rupture. But that disaster wouldn't be like a radioactive fallout.

If there was a nuclear accident in New Zealand, which is a small, remote country, what would it do to waterways and agriculture? Tourism would be affected. New Zealand exports to world markets would be halted.

New Zealand can't continue to depend on coal and gas. Even with other sustainable options (such as wind), rising demands for electricity will force New Zealand to consider nuclear power.


The river house.

In the 1950s, my granny’s dad built a house by the Susquehanna River, south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We called it the river house. It had three bedrooms and a large enclosed porch. Under the porch, there was a work shop with a second toilet and a primitive sink. After the remnants of a hurricane, the river once rose and flooded the house.

The river house was near a small town where a famous baseball player was born. The house sat back from an isolated little road, which lay like a pale grey ribbon next to a railway line. Twice a day freight trains rattled past the house.

You couldn’t see the river house from the road. A narrow driveway had been cut through a tall hedge, which threatened to swallow your car before you were released into an open pocket beside the house. In the adjacent garden marigolds grew as big as saucers. A long path led to a picnic shelter surrounded by mature oak trees, and eventually to the Susquehanna River.

The river was two miles wide, and there was an island in the middle of the river. But the cooling towers from the nuclear plant at Three Mile Island still towered over you like sentinels.

Three Mile Island was a name whose syllables ran together like the branches of the river. It often seemed like just one word, like Susquehanna. “Three-Mile-Island.”

Of course, everyone knows about the accident at Three Mile Island. There was a partial meltdown of the reactor core in one of the plant's two units. It happened three years before my first visit to the river house.

When I was at the river house, nobody seemed concerned about another accident, or whether it was safe to be there. Maybe they were worried, and I just didn't know. I was only twelve years old.

I liked to daydream on a bench by the river. Sometimes I could hear whistles from the plant at Three Mile Island. People made eerie announcements over a public address system. There were clouds of white steam that rose from the active towers. I wondered if the steam was filled with radioactive particles.

The towers followed me everywhere. I could see them from the hills above the river valley. At night, the lights on the towers made them seem other-worldly, like spaceships in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind".

It didn’t occur to me that someone might try—try!—to crash into the towers with a airplane, or to block the cooling-water intake pipes in the river. Those thoughts came much later, after the river house was sold, and my granny’s dad passed away.


Are you "real" online?

Thank you for your e-mails after my post on my separation. I had never closed comments before. Maybe it was a mistake. But at the time, I just felt, rightly or wrongly, that I couldn’t bear to have someone “Like” my post (or not “Like” it). And I thought Adam might read it. (And he did. But I will save that story for another post.)

There are two ways in which people think about their online personas. Some people believe their online selves are separate from their “real” selves. They may be anonymous online or use a pseudonym. If you do this, you can be hidden. In some circumstances this can be good. You can tell people as much or as little about yourself as you want.

The online dimension is fictitious, like a dream world. These people often believe that once you turn off your computer, you leave your online persona behind. They set up boundaries between online and “real” life. They confide extremely personal things online, things they would not tell people in “real” life. But they won’t give their phone number to people they meet online.

Other people try to combine their online and offline personas. Last year some bloggers talked a lot about being "authentic" online. I try to be the same person online that I am in "real" life. Maybe you do too. Especially on Facebook, where our online and offline worlds have collided.

But it is nearly impossible to be the same self online as your “real" offline self. Even if you try to be “authentic” online, you still will be different from yourself offline. For example, you may reveal more about yourself online than offline. But there won't be verbal cues to go along with what you have revealed. And why have you repressed these things in "real" life?

Talking to someone on Skype, on the phone, or face-to-face gives you more information about a person’s identity. This doesn’t make one source of information more true than another. Each form of communication reveals some things about a person’s identity, and it hides others. The self that is revealed in one area is not deeper or more authentic than a self revealed in another. This is because there is no one location where you can find the true or real self.

For more about the psychology of being online, please see this excellent article that I found on Twitter via Andrea.


Christchurch earthquake.

Thank you to everyone who was concerned about me after the Christchurch earthquake. We are OK. We were in no danger, and we didn’t even feel anything.

Today began like an ordinary day. I weeded the garden, and I did a load of washing. I was going to go to the supermarket, and I intended to write a post on my blog (now postponed). After lunch, Five’s school rang. Five had a sore throat. He wanted to come home.

When Five and I returned home, I read on Twitter about a 6.3-magnitude earthquake in the city of Christchurch. It quickly became clear that Christchurch had suffered a devastating quake.

Christchurch is in the South Island, about 200 miles from where we live (up the coast from Wellington in the North Island). After a massive quake in September, Christchurch has suffered many aftershocks.

Despite only being a 6.3, today’s quake was more severe than the September quake. It was closer (only about six miles from the centre of the city) and shallower (only three miles underground), and it occurred at lunchtime—when the city was full.

At the time of writing 65 people have been confirmed dead. The number of fatalities is certain to rise. Rescue workers are working through the night, trying to save people who are still trapped. Since we are only a small country of about 4 million, in times of crisis, it really feels like family. Across the nation our hearts are aching.

Photo source: Stuff.co.nz


More dirty laundry.

I've been thinking about the best way to tell you this. In my bewilderment, I even went to some other blogs, looking for a template. Do I try to write about it like DWK or Waffle? Or Jessica? What did Neil write? Or BHJ, when he wrote about his “monstrous freedom”? My mother’s advice is to say as little as possible.

Bringing it up, just talking about it, feels wrong. It's like airing dirty laundry. People don’t want to know about it.

I realise (as with most things in life) there is no instruction manual. Fifty percent of marriages end in separation, but there is no right way to tell people about it.

Adam and I have separated. I have written a lot about my marriage on my blog. After the dust settles and some issues are ironed out, maybe I will write more about it.

There is a finite number of ways to talk about how separation sucks. I could tell you how afraid I was to leave. I could tell you I felt as if I was swimming under water, and I surfaced.

I am enjoying the prospect of being single and doing whatever I want. I sometimes feel waves of relief.

But there is also sadness. And anger. And guilt.

Even with a more equitable child sharing agreement, I don’t want to pack Five’s duffel bag for the weekend. I hate not seeing him for several days.

Hearing about someone’s breakup is tiresome. It's only entertaining up to a certain point. Then it becomes uncomfortable. I know this, and I don’t want to alienate you.

But  don't know how much self-control I will be able to muster. I don't have a stiff upper lip.

Closing comments for this post.


In which I chat with the President and CEO of My Bank.

In this exciting new age we can publish our own op-eds. Each of us are important people with our own bully pulpits on the Internet. We have opportunities to speak out and be listened to on any matter.

We are such powerful influential people, and we have a right to think highly of ourselves. We are just like Dooce (whose series of op-eds about her washing machine brought a powerful company to its knees).

The other day I wrote a thoughtful post about recent changes at My Bank in America. (I still have a little money invested in America. Because I care.)

As I expected, I soon received a call on the phone. It was My Bank--the Office of the President and CEO. Now that’s priority customer service!

President & CEO: Hello, Ms. Ryan. This is Michelle G____ from the Office of the President and CEO of My Bank. I'm responding to a piece you published in a "social media outlet".

Me: Uh, thanks for taking the time to ring me, Madam President. Please call me Juli.

CEO: You are a valued customer. We do understand your concern about the account fee and the increased balance requirement.

Me: You do?

CEO: But we need to raise your fees as a result of the new banking regulations.

Me: Shouldn’t you tell me before you make changes to my account?

CEO: Yes, we should. If you had just looked at the fine print on your statement online.

Me: (contrite) I never look at my statements online. I just check my balance periodically. It isn’t easy to find my statements on your website.

CEO: Is there anything else?

Me: (after a pause) I found my statement. It says the minimum balance requirement won’t change.

CEO: Well, there is more fine print on a statement that is no longer available for viewing online.

Me: Wow. I’m so ashamed. If only I was better at managing my money.

CEO: On your statement is where we let you know about any changes to your account.

Me: I believe you! Why would you mislead me?

CEO: But I will waive the current service fees effective on the next business day.

Me: (tearful) Oh, thanks so much. I just wish I had known about these changes earlier. I could have saved even more money on fees. I mean, I know it’s not a lot of money to you. And banks need to make their money too.

CEO: Thank you for your kind appreciation. And thank you for choosing My Bank. We do appreciate you ignoring your statements. Not to mention the bailout.

Me: You're welcome. Have a great night!

Dooce got a new washing machine. I got My Bank to waive my service fees. Power to the people of the Internet!


Am I really having a midlife crisis?

Colin Firth joked about his midlife crisis when he picked up his Golden Globe for best actor.

Firth said: “To get to this stage of your life with your dignity and judgment intact can be somewhat precarious. Sometimes all you need is a bit of gentle reassurance to keep you on track but right now this is all that stands between me and a Harley Davidson.”

On Twitter women swooned.

Colin Firth's announcement is really a strange coincidence. Because I think I'm having a midlife crisis.

A midlife crisis happens between the ages of 40 and 60. (I am young, but I am gifted.) It was first identified by my good friend psychologist Carl Jung (whose theories also are behind the Myers Briggs Personality Test).

But what happens in a midlife crisis? I googled and found a handy guide online.

*Unhappiness with the lifestyle that had provided happiness for many years.
No. I'm happy with my lifestyle. My unhappiness stems from NOT wanting to change my lifestyle. I want to stay home and continue working on the novel that I won't publish.

*Boredom with people who had interested you before.
Yes. This is normal, right?

*Feeling a need for adventure.
Yes. But I've been feeling a need for adventure since I was nine years old.

*Questioning choices you have made in your life.
Yes. Why do I choose the wrong men? What was I thinking when I decided to be an English major? Why didn't I buy more coffee?

*Confusion about who you are and where you are going.
God, yes. But this is not new. I have always been confused about these things.

*Anger at spouse and feeling tied down.
Yes. I don’t blame Adam for my feeling tied down. Just for a lot of other stuff.

*Unable to make decisions about where you want to go with your life.
Sobbing. This is obviously the new tag line for my blog.

*Desire for a new and passionate intimate relationship.
No. Absolutely not. If I am ever released from my marriage, I don't want to be shackled to a man again. Unless he is very rich, has no family, and is suffering from a terminal illness.

To sum up, nobody has a clue. Psychologists especially have no idea about how to live life or what it all means. Midlife crisis fail.

For more self-help, navel-gazing, and use of a blog for therapy, refer to other articles in this series, such as Am I neurotic?


Judging vs. perceiving

My timeline on Twitter recently had a thread about the Myers Briggs personality test (MBTI). Have you taken this test before? You can find versions of it online. It's an interesting way to look at different personalities and value systems.

I am INFJ, which means I am Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging. (I am quite Perceiving though.) Only one percent of the American population is INFJ.

The judging and perceiving processes have to do with our relationships with the outside world. A judging style approaches the outside world with a plan. A perceiving style takes the outside world as it comes. All people use both approaches to organize their thoughts and make decisions. But one style takes the lead in the outside world, and the other style governs our inner world.

After my last post—I really think I'm having a midlife crisis—my mother said I'm too hard on myself. This is true. I need to have more compassion for myself.

"And more compassion for others," Adam said.

But it's also my personality. It’s just how INFJ's are. We are driven perfectionists who always doubt we are living up to our potential. We expect a lot from ourselves and from others.

Which type are you?


Enjoy the silence.

I want to tell you what is going on with me. I want to confide in you. But I am afraid. Yes, a little afraid of what you will say or think.

And I am afraid to say things out loud. Because saying things out loud makes them real. If my thoughts are just in my mind, then I can pretend that I am daydreaming. So I am still in denial about these things. I am silent.

I am on the cusp of making some changes. And cusps can be uncomfortable places. At some point a leap of faith is necessary. And I don’t want to bungy jump off a bridge, or jump out of a plane. I may act as if I am spontaneous, but it takes me ages to make a decision.

It is easy for me to romanticize the past. I have a fickle memory, and I gloss over a lot. There are memories of the past that I want to avoid. So I have learned how to ignore them. I can move around them. This is what I do.

There are obstacles in my future. I am sure there will be good things too. But the obstacles seem cumbersome.

I don’t think this is about being positive, or looking at things in a brighter light. My FIL says I should think of obstacles as opportunities. But my obstacles are more like enemies that need slaying. Maybe I am being overly dramatic.

Obstacles are challenges. And I don’t want to be challenged. I don’t want to be the knight in this story. I want to be the damsel.

And so here I perch, summoning all my courage for a leap of faith, while I hope for a Deus Ex Machina.

Image source: Wikipedia

In summer it is difficult to be anxious and depressed. It is work. Gloomy winter weather lends itself to depression. But complaining in summer is just churlish.

I have forgotten what this post is supposed to be about.

Today I sat in the sun, and I ate a ripe juicy peach. Its juice ran down my arm, and my son stunned me again with his kindness. Maybe this afternoon we will go to the beach and swim in the sea. Or instead we will play cards, or we will play with his train set.

I feel weighed down by responsibility and kind of pessimistic about my outlook, but I am so grateful for my boy. He is wonderful.

How are you?

Edited to add. Maybe I am not really afraid of what you think. It is more like I am shedding a skin, and I feel raw and vulnerable. It is confusing. Change was easier when I was younger.

Edited again to add. Uh-oh. I think I was too vague. This post is just about my feelings and my crumbling marriage and going back to paid work. You know. Life. But things are OK, and I am sure they will get better. I AM FINE.

Edited again to add. You probably won't believe this, but I didn't even intend to publish this post. I clicked the wrong button. IT WAS LIKE FATE.