So, New Zealand!
I don't think I have any New Zealanders on my friends list, though I used to know 3 back in my Tad Williams message board days. Now I only know Australians. *waves to the Australians*

So, I'm learning a lot about New Zealand. Like, I always thought it was really close to Australia. And I was excited when I decided to move to New Zealand, because I thought, I'll get to see my Australian friends, too, hooray!!!!

But, get this. At it's closest point, it's 900 miles away from Australia. That's a really long way! That's how far Wisconsin is from where I live now. I used to travel to Wisconsin, summers with my grandmother returning to the now-defunct family farm. Sure, it's a manageable flight, but it's not exactly the easy breezy weekend trip I had planned. I mean, right, I think about a little zip-over to Wisconsin all the time.

Then again, I guess New Zealand is as close to Australia as anything can be. Who puts continents all the way on the other side of the world, anyway? Not very efficient.

Also, I thought of New Zealand as a quiet little country. Maybe a cozy city or two about the size of my own Richmond, but lots and lots of towns and quaintness on the way to the majestic beauty of the wilder-than-wild wild. (Speaking of the wild, do you know one of my favorite things? There were so few ground predators that birds decided flying just wasn't worth it, so they evolved not flying. I just love that! It's so human of them. "Oh, well, it was just too much work to go off and see the great wide world. I'm just going to sit here and watch TV.")

ANYWAY. Point being that Auckland, the city I plan to move to... I pictured it quite small, like Richmond. Well, I actually wasn't too far off there. The Greater Auckland Area has a population of 1.2 million, and the Greater Richmond Area has about that,, too. But all the pictures of the city center show a bustling city. Richmond doesn't look that bustling. Maybe it's just because we don't have a marina. Not like theirs, anyway.

By the way, did I mention I've decided to move to New Zealand? I decided last week, and now I'm completely obsessed. You would think I was packing my bags and going next month, the way I've been talking non-stop about it. My brain thinks so, too. But I won't be able to go for 5 more years, when I'll be a legitimate occupational therapist and, therefore, actually have a job when I move. (One that doesn't involve cleaning hotels or watching children, you see.)

So this has taken a lot of pressure off my shoulders, really. Now I'm obsessing about things like how to get rid of everything I own and move around the world, how to get group fitness certifications that will allow me to teach at the local gyms (you know, where the Les Mills gods live), how to spend my minimum four weeks vacation per year (OMG I may never come home!!!!), and how to take my cats with me.

This is all five years off, but that's what I'm doing now. Instead of obsessing about the next year of getting prerequisites and volunteer hours and trying to get into the OT master's program (and what if they don't take me???!!!) - then 2 and a half more years of work. So I've stopped worrying about that. Now it's when I've graduated from grad school, as if it's a sure thing, written in stone.

And all I have to do is land my NZ job and buy a plane ticket! It's really much more fun to spend my days thinking about that. Sooooo much better for the soul.

So if you see me walking around with a giant smile on my face, that's why!

I'm moving to New Zealand.

It's astounding.
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I cannot believe it's March. In a few hours, it's March.

Of 2011!

It makes no sense to me.

March of 2011. Just say that to yourself. Am I the only one having a hard time with this?


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Happy Monday!

**My mother had an emergency surgery last week, and is doing pretty well. It's getting pretty hard to keep healthy boundaries with my family, but I'm getting back on track.

**I'm pretty sure I'm going to go back to school and work toward a master's in occupational therapy. There's a lot I find really exciting about this. I love all the job possibilities, all the ways this knowledge of the human body and mind can be applied. It's a lifetime worth of learning, and I'm excited that I've found a new love for science on this path of health and healing I've been walking the last few years.

**I am not sure how far to go with my Registered Yoga Teacher training. I hate to give up, but it's also sucking up money faster than I thought it would. A credit card I meant to be a back-up for the program expenses is already almost full. So I might have to take a longer view for the program after the upcoming month (which is already paid for). I am going to look for employment that pays me better, but even so, I need to stock away an emergency fund before I go back to school full-time. (Suze Orman says so.) So I am considering other things, too, like giving up my apartment (sob!) and finding some roommates to share a house.

It's a little overwhelming, but it's exciting, too. I can envision a whole new life for myself, and even as tough as things are economically, I feel really lucky to live in a country that affords me such freedom of possibility.

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I was surprised by the replies I got to my last post, though I shouldn't have been - Lord knows I read Miss Manners enough. I was expecting people to defend themselves or their friends for the practice. I must emphasize I'm generally a fan of potlucks, and think they have their place, particularly in groups where someone's house has taken over what might have been the church hall function as a social gathering place in previous generations. I would just rather be asked than told. Yes, there is a difference.

Instead, I got, "Don't worry if you can't afford it, come anyway."

Whether I can afford it is beside the point. I don't avoid gift registeries because I'm too cheap to buy a gift. I avoid them because I don't like being told, "Buy this for me." I don't like having services or goods demanded of me for the privilege of attending an event, period.

From now on, I am on the record as a conscientious objector. I won't go to any parties that order guests to bring contributions, and I won't go to any event that has a registry listed in the invitation.

Why I haven't been to any parties this year.
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Dear Friend X,

I am having a party! I'm honored to have you come and join me to celebrate. I am delighted to have you come over to my house and share your delightful company.

But please don't come unless you bring food, because I'll only take hostessing duties so far. We all know times are tough, and you don't expect me to make do with what I have, do you? And really, waiting for you to *offer* to bring something is so inefficient, don't you think? And so we can stay with efficiency, I've enclosed the three stores I'm registered at, so you won't go through the trouble of buying me something I don't like. And don't bother wrapping it, either, just hand it over.

In fact, let's just skip all of that, and you can mail me twenty bucks at your earliest convenience. I really understand if you can't make it to my party, but I know you'll be there in spirit! You are one of my dearest and closest friends, so I hope you don't doubt my sincerity.


the hostess of 2009

In the interest of full disclosureCollapse )

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Next Saturday - April 4, at noon - at Gold's Gym Willow Lawn, a Les Mills Master Trainer (squee!) will visit us to lead us in a BodyVive class. (Check out video samples under "Programs" at Les

I think BodyVive is a really fun class. I'd describe it as upbeat cardio and strength training that you can tailor to your own fitness level. I enjoy it enough to think I'd love to teach it. So come, check it out, and let the management know if you think it would be a good addition to the schedule.

If you aren't a Gold's member, ask me about class passes.

See you there!

Burning Houses
sick, sad
Last week, there was a fire on Oregon Hill. It destroyed three of the Albemarle Street row houses, and the center one was yellow. I moved into the lower floor of that duplex when I was 10, moved out of the upper when I was 14. (The upper one was better, so when we had the chance, we took all our stuff upstairs. It also got me away from having porn and snakes shoved in the mail slot by teenage male bullies.)

I have so many memories of that place, and I can’t quite decide how I feel about it being gone. In one way, I feel it has nothing at all to do with me, with who I am now. But then - and the feeling I can’t shake - it does seem a bad omen, a place you called home falling in flames.

We always used to worry about fires on Oregon Hill. Most of the houses share walls, and are made of old, terribly flammable material. Mom referred to the lot of 'em as “tinderboxes.” I once came close to burning the yellow row house down myself, when I was lazy about cleaning up a small bit of spilled kerosene before lighting the heater. I put the fire out with my strawberry bed ruffle. I was proud of my quick thinking, but Mom was mad at me for not being more careful and for destroying the bedspread, one she had made for me years before when I loved Strawberry Shortcake.

In another Oregon Hill house, over on Laurel Street – it was much later; I was about twenty - we had a crazy landlord who tried to commit insurance fraud. My mother had overheard a conversation that made her suspicious, anyway, and then coincidentally went back early one morning after we’d moved out. (We’d left a few things behind, having been kicked out rather abruptly and having years of stuff accumulated, on top of not ever being the most organized of families.) She found an oil-soaked mattress next to an open gas valve in the basement. The fire trucks came quickly, and the fireman my mother talked to said it would have blown up the whole block if she hadn’t found it when she did.

My mother had often quoted the Wallflowers song - “Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn,” I think it went? - but she didn’t really mean it.

Sometimes when I drive through Oregon Hill, I have the oddest feeling. So many of the days of my youth were there, and every spot seems to recall something from one of those happy and miserable days. Aside from my grandmother’s neighborhood, it’s the place I know best in the world. It has changed so much with all the renovations, though, all the yuppies who’ve moved in and started an actual, functioning neighborhood association.

It’s not the place I knew at all, and this late fire seems to be a closing chapter in that part of my life, another connection severed.
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Lake Anna
After we’ve finished digging out from the Massive Snow Ought Nine, some of us are going to take a trip up to Lake Anna State Park over the weekend. sleepinbeauty and jumpintheleaves are the prime organizers, and it had been so long since someone else was doing the organization on this sort of thing, I didn’t realize how nice it is to be one of the people who just shows up. So, thanks ladies!

It will be my first visit. I’ve had a few near-visits before. One was when I was in Alpha Phi Omega, and I was to go with an acquaintance – Gina - on Memorial Day. I had never heard of it and remember thinking we would be doing something new and exciting. I don’t remember the why we didn’t go, other than a vague recall of flake-out on my part. I learned later that Memorial Day is a pretty busy time there, and we would have been lucky to even get a parking space.

The other near-visit was more recent. I had read a year or two back in Backpacker Magazine, and later in my much-beloved 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Richmond, that Lake Anna was a quiet, pristine, solitary hiking spot in winter. So I thought I would go up this year on my birthday and have a meditative hike. I scratched that after weeks of illness and too many weeks of being alone at home.

In researching the area, in addition to learning the surrounding land was the site of one of America’s earliest gold rushes, I was surprised to find this area of natural beauty isn’t exactly natural. It was created as a cooling reservoir for the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant. It turns out there is a “cool side” of the lake, and a “warm side.” Why, you may ask? Why, of course it’s because one side is to provide cooling water for the station, and the other side is where warm spew from the power plant flows. Because that’s how nature rolls these days, yo.

This is one of the most popular recreational spots in the state, including swimming and fishing. There is a proposal to add two more reactors on the private side of the lake. Now, I don’t know how much you trust nuclear power plants’ environmental regulation, but I would not want to go swimming in that water, much less put my theoretical two-year-old in it. And fishing? I can only picture the three-eyed fish from The Simpsons.

But hiking? I am all about hiking. It will be 4 to 11 miles’ worth, depending on the mood that day. I notice, looking at the trail map, there are some of the category of names I used to make fun of: Pigeon Run, Turkey Run, that sort of thing. I still think they are pretty silly, an attempt to make people feel immersed in the wild simply by naming a path after a creature they may or may not have encountered in their lifetime. I stopped making fun of them, though, when I was on Turkey Trot Road in Goochland one day and did a double-take at a round plump mass of brown. An honest-to-God turkey, who knew?

I note that Lake Anna is not in my Best of Tent Camping in Virginia guide. There is probably a reason – lots of crowds, lack of privacy and cleanliness, maybe a good deal of asphalt – so it’s probably a good thing we’re renting a cabin this weekend. (In fact, it will be novel in itself to be at a state park and have bathrooms and showers in the very space I’m sleeping.)

One of the best things about living in Virginia is a having a crazy amount of geographical variety, beauty, and history, all within driving range. So I’m really looking forward to this time away.

Goodbye Analog, My Old Friend
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Last week, not having cable, I (successfully) made the conversion to digital using a STB. That’s what the all the cool kids call a set-top box, a low-flash black device about the size of a (non-Tad-Williams-sized) hardcover book. The most exciting thing that happens on the box is the amber stand-by light turns to green when it’s turned on.

I noted with interest that the directions specifically instruct – with a rather dire tone – under no circumstances to put it on any surface that will block the ventilation holes underneath. This seems a curious place to put ventilation holes on something that, according to its very name, is supposed to be put on top of your television. But whatever.

My first reaction to my newly digital reception was, “Oh, how pretty!” The picture really is quite lovely, just like watching a DVD. I had never seen Dr. Gregory House look so sharp. (And look! A five day forecast whenever I want it! Sweet.) The thing is, it’s gorgeous, until it isn’t. If you’re using an antennae, you know what I’m talking about. One second, you’re dangling on Hugh Jackman’s every word. The next he is a pixilated mess hanging in space, his punch line suspended in the ether.

There’s enough coming between Hugh and me, you know. I don’t need this.

I might just be an old fogey, but it makes me miss the days of scratchy picture and fuzzy image. At least then you knew you had bad reception. Now you’re merrily sitting there, complacently popcorn-munching, and suddenly it’s all mush. You live in suspense, waiting to see what happens next. And it happens over and over again. It’s like nails on a chalkboard, a jolt to the nervous system.

Banging on the TV has lost all of its joy, as well. You know it won’t help. What has the world come to when banging on electronics doesn’t satisfy? Computers, iPods, STBs – all unresponsive to blunt violence. Le sigh.

I love and hate the digital conversion, as with so much modern. I admit to generally happy use of technology; it permeates my life and is something for which I am grateful. But sometimes? I wish things could just be simpler.

Break out the Buffett
After a week or two of it being what we Virginians think of as very, very cold, we were greeted with a weekend of sunny, 70 degree weather. It's so beautiful. It gives you the feeling of having gone on a cruise ship, and being dropped into a warm climate. There is a happiness in the air, children laughing, people merrily walking their dogs; I think everyone feels like they're on vacation.


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