Monday, September 29, 2014

#MicroblogMonday: Dr. Seuss Trees

I don't think you can really see from this photo, but the flowers on the tree are actually fluffy red balls with spindly things sticking out of them.  They are vaguely sea urchin-y.  And every time I see them, I think of Dr. Seuss.  The trees look a bit silly, really, with their sea urchiny, spiky, ballish flowers.

They make me happy.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Moving Forward

I have another job interview on Monday.  The last few I've had recently went fine, but not out-of-the-park.  I've had a hard time putting my finger on the problem, though.  It wasn't until the other day, when I got the word that I wasn't on the short list (was that yesterday?  I am so sleep-deprived that I can't remember), that I finally realized WHY the last few interviews were not fabulous.  While they were in some interesting PLACES, I really wasn't excited about the JOB.

When you're living in one place, in your own house, with no plans to move, of course it's about the job, right?  But when you're an expat that moves around the world, it quickly becomes about the job AND about the place.  Where might we go next?  Rome?  Mumbai?  Bangkok?  It all seems so exciting at first.  And it's tempting to rate place higher than job.

For a while.

But then, it doesn't work, because you spend a lot of your time at work.  If you aren't satisfied in your work life, then the rest of your life suffers, too. And your personal life can't make up for a bad or stressful work life, or a work like that is just a bad fit.  It weighs you down.

I realized that the last few interviews that I had were for jobs I wasn't excited about.  They were fine.  They were in good places.  They ticked a lot of boxes.  They were good jobs that anyone should be happy with.  But I'm not anyone. . .I'm ME.  And while there is nothing wrong with perfectly satisfactory, I really want something AWESOME.  I want something really, really GREAT.  I want that job that makes me excited to get out of bed, in an office I want to work in, with a great boss.  Oh, and in a great city.  :)  I want the whole package.

This job interview that I have on Monday?  The job is pretty awesome.  I'm excited about it.  It's exactly what I want to do next.  There is such a difference in how I feel about this job as opposed to how I've felt about pretty much everything I've interviewed for so far.  Now I just have to channel that energy and convince them that they should hire me.  :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Knowing What's Right For You

I have been spending a lot of effort of late on my job search.  It's been exciting, frustrating, nerve-wracking, dull. . .all of the things a job search usually is.  I want to do a specific thing next, and I'm pretty set on that. That said, I also recognize that I actually need a job.  I have been weighing a lot of things as I've moved forward--job possibilities for my husband, schools for the kids, overall quality of life for all of us, safety and security issues, etc., etc.  So, it has been this sort of push and pull between wants versus needs.  

Although I want to do a specific thing next, I've applied for some jobs that would give me only tangential experience doing that.  That's because a) there aren't that many jobs out there that do EXACTLY what I want to do next, and b) I'm also trying to meet other objectives, like live in a place that my husband would be excited about.  I've applied for about a dozen jobs overall.  Some looked promising at first, but now don't seem like they are going to pan out.  Others looked like I was a long shot initially, but I'm still in the running.  And then, at about 4am this morning, my oldest woke up for some reason or another, and I rolled over to check my email.  There, in my inbox, was an email saying that I hadn't made the short list for a job in a very nice place, a place that would have been lovely to live in.

And you know what?  I wasn't disappointed.

I mean, of course, there was the initial sting of rejection.  Who wants to hear that they aren't the chosen one?  But after that first momentary disappointment, I realized that what I really felt was relief.  Because now the decision has been made for me, and I don't have to struggle any more over whether to accept a job that isn't exactly what I want because it would be an easy(ish) place for my family to live.  It was a job that would have possibly kind of sucked, actually (they were very upfront about having some substantial long-standing internal personnel issues, and that's not my favorite stuff in the world to deal with).  And, even when not dealing with office politics, the job itself was largely one I have already done.  I wouldn't have been professionally challenged in the way that I know is healthy for me.  I wouldn't necessarily have been excited to get out of bed in the morning.   And I need to be excited to get out of bed in the morning.

I realize now that I pursued the job because it would have been an easy place for my family to live.  But I also have a clarity now that there are other jobs out there that will challenge me AND present a good quality of life for my family, and I really need to focus on those.  Because past experience has taught me that although it can be nice to live in a vibrant city, it can also be really hard.  The best outcomes arrive when a job ticks all of the boxes, both professionally and personally.  And this job, the one that I was rejected for?  It really only ticked half the boxes.  Onward!

Monday, September 22, 2014

#MicroblogMonday: Sneaky Toddler Meals Edition

My kids haven't been eating great lately.  The seem to be living on yogurt and fruit and bagels and Annie's macaroni and cheese.  It's driving me bananas.

I found a recipe for a spinach and cheese pie that sounded delicious, but I knew there was no way they would eat the green stuff.  Then I remembered that baby spinach has basically no flavor, and that blueberries easily mask the color of spinach.  Aha!  Inspiration.  I made the recipe, but used 2/3 the spinach it called for, and then added blackberries (which are much more plentiful and hence less expensive here than blueberries).

The pie was beautiful--deep purple in color, and creamy from the cheese/berry/spinach/egg mixture.  And the taste?  Divine.  Although there wasn't a drop of sugar in the recipe, it tasted like blackberry pie.  You couldn't tell there was an ounce of spinach (or egg, or cheese) in it.  I drizzled the pie with vanilla yogurt.  It was like eating dessert for dinner.

So how did it go over?

They wouldn't eat it.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Cultural Component to Wellness

I'm on yet another wellness kick.  This time, it's trying to eat more plant-based food, yoga twice a week (offered for free by my employer--yay!), and biweekly massages.  I'm still having pain in my side (it's been going on since last October, so almost a whole year)--ever since I had that weird bacterial infection.  I've had a million medical tests, which have shown nothing, and it doesn't appear to be related to the surgery I had to have in December.  Before I dive into more tests or head back to the U.S. for more follow up, I thought I'd give the basic stuff another go.  I've given up the local coffee (crazy acidic) and red wine (ouff...), and I'm drinking lots of green tea and eating my veggies.  So far, I'm feeling a bit better, and I'm cautiously optimistic that the pain is lifestyle based, rather than disease-based.  Fingers crossed.

So, about those massages. . .

I've tried a few different massage therapists here.  The only spa that I know of is CRAZY expensive, but it's quite reasonable to have someone come to your home.  I was a little weirded out by the idea at first, but they are very professional and generally in uniform.  Some have their own tables; others just use a bed.  I normally just throw a sheet over my bed (to keep the oil from destroying my regular linens), and cover myself with a towel.  I try to schedule the massage for after the kids go to bed, after having learned the hard way the first time that my two year old otherwise spends the entire time knocking on my bedroom door.  It's not as relaxing, in any event, as a spa--no dimmed lighting and relaxing music and pleasant aromas.  Still, it's about the muscles, right?  And that part is the same, no matter where you are.

Only. . .

I've discovered there isn't the same sense of privacy/modesty here that exists in the United States.  Massages in the U.S. are very prim and proper.  It's been my experience that you are under the sheet when the massage therapist arrives in the room, and that sheet discreetly covers most of your body throughout your entire your visit.  But here, the therapist stays in the room with you while you get yourself situated on the bed.  They think nothing of whipping the towel off completely during your massage, or having you flip over, thereby exposing all of your bits to the massage therapist.  It's a tad weird for me.  Granted, I'm using only female massage therapists.  But still. . .eek!  I'm comfortable with my body, but a bit uncomfortable with being quite so exposed.  Yet, after discussing this with my local friends and verifying that this is just how it is, it's also fascinating to me that this seems to be the norm.  I can only assume that local women are much more comfortable with their own nudity that those with my Puritanical roots.

The other that I've been surprised by is that it's common here to massage ALL of you. . .including bum, tummy, boobs.  One of my girlfriends has been joking that she no longer needs her husband.  At first, I was a little freaked out--especially because I was laying face up with my eyes closed the first time, only to have the towel whipped off and my upper torso massaged.  It was a bit. . .unsettling.  But, my current/favorite massage therapist (a tiny older woman with hands like steel vices) also does a bit of Reiki and some spinal adjustment work, and I can't rule out that it's helping.

So, my adventures in wellness continue.  Maybe at the end of this I'll both feel better AND be comfortable with the nudity.

Monday, September 15, 2014

#microblog Monday: it's a crazy idea

I've decided that I really want to start my own business.  I don't know what it will look like, exactly, or even how I can make it work.  But I really like the idea of creating something, building something, sustaining something.

Monday, September 8, 2014

To Turn The Other Cheek

We continue to deal with the issue of the mean girls.  Miss M comes home from school and will tell me about how Anna teases her, or refuses to play with her, or tries to get other girls to be friends with her and not Miss M.  Anna is all of five years old.  And as much as I've wondered what causes such a small child to be so. . .well, mean, I've mostly moved on to trying to teach my child to be resilient.

But how, exactly, does one teach a four year old to rise above it?  How do you explain that some people just have their own stuff going on that has nothing to do with you?  How do you counsel that you must show compassion even in the face of unkindness, because you never really know what is going on with that other person?  To just let it go, and focus your attention elsewhere?

I don't know how to answer her abstract questions about why people in this world can be so unkind.   But, in this age of ISIS and Ukraine and Israel/Palestine, it seems more important than ever that she learn how to live alongside others without hatred, without anger, and without striking back.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Culture Clash

When Miss M first started at her school, she was one of only four American children attending the school.  It is not the best school in the city.  It is not the fanciest school in the city.  It is not where the elite send their children.  There are very expensive, English language instruction "international" schools that fill those needs.  Most Americans, with their obsession for the best, shiniest, newest, most accolade-ridden things around, head straight for those schools.  Hence, the reason there are so few Americans at Miss M's school.

We chose Miss M's school, instead, because we felt like it while it might lack in fancy playground equipment, it provided other things that more than made up for it:  Spanish language instruction, so she could become bilingual; a small, friendly community; and a school-wide, old-fashioned emphasis on values.  They really focus on teaching children individual responsibility, and to care for others.  It is quite touching, actually, to see how kind the older kids, in particular, are to our daughter.  Slowly, the word has been getting out that this is the case, and increasing numbers of Americans are popping up on campus.

Given the emphasis on values, it came as a bit of a shock to see a recent email exchange.

An American child apparently took a piece of her mother's jewelry and brought it to school, and gave it to a friend.  Hey, these are 4 and 5 year olds. . .and it's not exactly a gun.  When the mother discovered that the ring was missing, she notified the teacher, and the teacher sent out an email asking  all of the parents to keep an eye out for the ring, and to ask their children if they knew anything about it.  Okay, so far so good.  It's kind of a cute story, actually. . .kindergardener gets into mom's jewelry box looking for a present for a friend, and takes mom's diamond ring to school.  Whoops!

But after I started giggling, I saw that there was another email, from an irritated parent.  The mother of another child had replied to the teacher's email, but also to all of the other parents in the class.  She said, in short, that it was the mother's fault that the jewelry had been misplaced, and that the teacher shouldn't be asking the other parents about it.  She said the mother had an obligation to keep her valuable items in a more secure place, out of reach of the children.  She chastised the child's mother, and said that she should talk to her own child about what happened to the jewelry, since the child that brought the jewelry is the one who knows what happened to it.  And, sounding quite indignant, she said that she would have of course brought it to the teacher's attention if her child had brought the jewelry home.

Where does that come from, that need to tear down other mothers?  Why attempt to shame her like that, in front of the other parents?  Why become hostile and indignant about looking for a lost item?  I don't understand.  In a school that emphasizes values, it strikes me that being a good example for your kids means pitching in and helping out when a friend has misplaced something.  Children forget things as quickly as they put them down.  Whose to say that her child couldn't come home with a platinum and diamond band, and simply forget to mention it?  One never knows, with four year olds.  

Honestly, I thought the mother's response was a little crazy.  And I would have said, perhaps a tiny bit guilty, had we not subsequently gotten an email from the teacher saying the jewelry had been found elsewhere.

Edited to add:  To be clear, the ring was worth a few hundred, not thousands, of dollars.  And we are still talking about a private school in an upscale neighborhood.  So while I take the commenter's point, it's not quite that situation.  And I am still disappointed by the other mother's response.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Buy This Right Now!

It's an easy, fun read (think behind-the-scenes stuff ripped from The Daily Show and Fashion Week. . .divine!).

Apart at the Seams 

And, the Kindle edition of Apart at the Seams is available on Amazon only $1.99 for today only.  What's not to love?!