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.