Category Archives: BLOG DEPOSITS

Words About Self Care

Words About Self Care.

Most of us will agree that self-care is important. As a PGR (postgraduate research student) I hear the term tons, though in so many different contexts, it’s easy to see that there are many variations of how it is defined. According to my Facebook recommendations, self-care for me involves citrus bath salts and Groupons for golf specials in Barcelona. Um, Okay. (1)

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. And, if you are like me, and manage long-term conditions and/or the fallout of them, self-care is about understanding those and how to live with them.

Self-care is not to be confused with shopping therapy and self-indulgence, although for many this is a fine (invisible?) line. It’s tough, what with all the Treat Yo’ Self images for “self-care” that focus on green drinks in mason jars, gluten-free, fat-free, carb-free, non-caffeinated, protein-powdered, non-dairy foods (?) and skinny bitches doing impossible yoga positions on the oceanside dock of a resort in the tropics that cost more (per night) than I paid (total) for my first car.

Self Care in my 40s has taken many (mostly) positive forms. For instance, I take vitamins now instead of illicit drugs. That’s a start, right? I practice yoga. I take walks outdoors most every day. It’s not like we haven’t heard for years to eat better, be more active, and get more sleep. Why are these simple things so damn hard?

To combat the hours I sit on my ass at this laptop, I exercise. I engage in unsightly squats and terrifying sit-ups. I’ve even been known to jump on the rowing machine at the gym. (It doesn’t like this, BTW.) But my favorite form of self-care involves (of course) bespoke shoes. Fins, that is. That’s right, bitches. I swim.

I forego aquatic Mp3 kit and groovy swimming apps. My rotating arms calm my racing mind. In the chlorine, I listen to my breathing, I focus on my pacing, and I listen to my inner voices that the outside world often drowns out. In the water, I can hear the voice in my center when it says to me:

You can do this.

You are capable.

You are strong.

You are on the right path.

Oftentimes things that are heavy on my heart become weightless in the pool. A problem with my research that I can’t work through becomes fuzzy and floats away, and for an hour or so I think of other things. Or I think of nothing at all. My muscles, my memory, my form, my strokes are all that glide me through the chlorine. I’m not going to tell you that afterwards, all the solutions to my scholarly struggles melt away in the sauna, then congeal with clarity when I return to the laptop. But it has been known to happen. Clarity in the chlorine.

  1. Mental strength building (it’s not just me, it’s science!)
    Regular exercise reduces inflammation and insulin resistance in the brain, which fosters new brain cell growth, which is why it is often employed in ADHD therapies. Swimming allows you to burn off excess energy, which helps “train your brain” to concentrate on one thing for a longer time.
  2. It’s better than running.
    Q:What other cardiovascular activity works as many muscles at once more than swimming? Running, cycling, cart-wheels?
    A: NONE
    Not everyone’s joints (and backs and tits) are built for running. When you compare swimming to running, you can burn more calories swimming laps in the pool than you can running for an hour. Also, regular swimming can delay the effects of aging by reducing blood pressure, increasing muscle mass, improving oxygen and blood flow to the brain, and increasing cardiovascular health.

Also, you runners out there? Will you PLEASE stop trying to recruit? If you want to run a 5K, have at it. But can you go three consecutive days without mentioning it? #ShutTFup #challenge Thanks.  Oh yeah. And constantly-posting Cross-fitters? You’re welcome to get in on that too.

3. It will make you healthy.
Regular swimming can reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and stroke. It can also boost your mood and help you lose/maintain weight. Swimming is a resistance exercise, similar to weight-lifting, but without the possible negative impacts of weights, because swimming places almost no stress on your joints and bones.

So am I saying go find yourself some chlorine? No. I don’t know YOU. You might not have access to chlorine. You might not even know how to swim.(2) I happen to be a full-time student on campus with a pool and a butt-cheap gym membership. Last time I tried to get back into the water, even though I was working full time, I couldn’t afford the pool dues. So when I graduate, I will reassess. That’s how it works.

You have to actually put some thought into what works FOR YOU rather than going with what you used to do, or by buying into the pre-package glossy images of “Self Care”. Sincere (meaning effective) self-care must be tailored for the individual. All individuals, not just graduate students. Finding a healthy balance in your life takes work. If you can’t find it because you haven’t been thinking about it and working towards it, then I submit you may just be a lazy bastard. Which is OK too, so long as you own it and don’t whine in my direction.


Posted by on January 17, 2018 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Resolutions, Shmesolutions.

Resolutions, Shmesolutions.

Happy New Year, bitches. (my Devoted Dozen!)

A new year marks the moment when many people put loads of energy into changes and fresh starts. These are both good things – changes and fresh starts – and often necessary components of living a good life.

And let’s face it. Many of you fucked it up in 2017. You need a kick in the ass and a chance at a fresh start.

No_resolutions_calvin_perfect the way I am

But as important as a boot in the butt is, so are reflection and gratitude, which (if you are doing them right) involve the same level of honesty.

Reflection involves looking back on what has been and measuring the value of it on what will be. The blessings, the sorrows and everything in between – they will all come again in the next 365 days of living. It is possible to be a product of your past and not a prisoner to it.


Gratitude also involves dipping a ladle into the stock of your life. Recognizing the role that others play in the positive things in it, giving credit where it is due, and forgiving yourself (and others) for mistakes that were made. Giving thanks also entails remembering that only stones tossed and tumbled become polished gems.

Resolutions Shmesolutions. My plan for 2018 is to keep living my life.

We tend to categorize our living paradigms through lenses of positive and negative. Being a dreamer is often mistaken for optimism, just as being realistic can get you labeled as a pessimist.


I don’t like those labels, certainly because they are reductionist, but also because I have found humans, as a general rule, to be much more complex. The glass is not half empty. The glass is not half full. It’s neither and it’s both and you’re missing the point. The glass of life comes with free refills.


And in my house, tonight, it is being filled with prosecco and joy.

In 2018, my goals will be realistic, my efforts genuine, my laughter easy.


I am going to be playful and mindful and happy.

Playful in my outlook towards life and love, mindful in my views of others and their experiences of the world, and happy in my skin, my space, my mind, my heart.

I can’t promise to be a better, kinder, gentler person. I’m not a good liar.
I won’t dedicate myself to new lifestyle regimes around health or fitness.
I’m too lazy. I love my body. And I love whisky.

I DO promise to show up in this space and continue to share life’s little treasures with healthy doses of humor and foul language.
Because I’m fucking charming that way.

broke my resolution
Happy New Year, bitches.


Posted by on December 31, 2017 in BLOG DEPOSITS


A Box of Baubles

Merry Merry to my Devoted Dozen!
…and all other brave souls who dare enter here! [Insert piratey laugh here]

Christmas in Scotland is such fun. The decorations are lovely, the pubs and menus are bursting, there are parties, prosecco, and jumpers, Santa Runs (for those who are fit or insane) and mulled wine everywhere you look.  And, just like in the US, the stores play Christmas tunes that seep into your skull like syrup on spaghetti.

My personal holiday traditions are few but important, including the annual Haters Guide to Williams Sonoma Catalog, where my soul mate Drew takes the piss out of the pretension and nonsense for sale there:


Drew says: Go peddle your Christmas in cup back in Arkansas or whatever. Vibrant mix, my ass.
real hillbilly Christmas in a cup is just a roasted squirrel, a packet of raw grits, and a copy of the Duck Dynasty Christmas album
(which really exists and is literally titled Duck The Halls) all whizzed up in a blender.”

Everyone has a holiday tradition or five, and I’ve written about them before (scroll the archives for more if you’re bored). Hurricane, particularly, lived at Orange Level (the Homeland Security “high risk”) for at least a week until every inch of our home had been smothered with holiday cheer. Or garland.

The one tradition that I love the MOST is having the tree. It doesn’t have to be real or grand, but I love having a tree because we decorate ours with stories. (I bet you do too.) Speaking of stories, let me start at the beginning.
I began writing this post last year on a plane to Vienna.

Yes, I am aware of how that makes me sound and I don’t care. Part of this Mid-Life Crisis Package Deal was that while we lived in Scotland, we would 1) see as much of Scotland as we could and 2) travel in Europe as much as we could.

We also decided to travel a little less in exchange for traveling a little better. At our age, hostels, for instance, were OUT. Again, aware of how this sounds, let me be clear in expressing how many fucks I don’t give. In my mid 40’s I have no desire to sleep in a frozen dormitory with a dozen strangers and walk down a corridor to pee, only to have to queue up there waiting for the dude in front of me to finish flushing his system of what I can only assume is the absinthe-coated roadkill he must have eaten for dinner. (Seriously, what have you consumed that makes poo smell like burnt hair?)

I experienced this in my 20’s – and it was hysterical fun – but I am not that tolerant anymore. And Hubby is much too snobby not to have an en suite bathroom. So when we found a 5 day Christmas package in Vienna, we jumped on it. *(1)

It was splendid from start to finish. The flight was made interesting by sharing our row with Ed Snowden’s cousin, who takes wealthy clients on BMW (cars and bikes) tours across Europe. He was bringing a carry on full of Stornoway sausages and Christmas puddings to a dinner party in Germany with friends. We liked him immensely. Heinekens in the Amsterdam airport staved off hangriness and before we knew it, we’d arrived. Our hotel was lovely. We dumped out luggage and walked right back out and headed for the nearest Christmas market – a smallish affair in a square with perhaps a dozen stalls and a small stage on which local musicians were playing carols:

Mulled wine and a skewer of chocolate covered strawberries later and all was well in my world. There was snow on the ground, flurries in the air, and we had five magical days to explore one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

But this post is about Christmas ornaments. Baubles, as they call them here in Scotland.

It’s one of the few things we purchase during our travels, because they are practical (price and size) and we enjoy looking for ones that tell our story in that place and time. We’ve even been known to buy bookmarks or key chains and turn them into baubles later. And while we actually traveled during Christmas last year (2), we look for baubles every time we holiday. Anywhere. Magical moments happen the year round, and not every holiday has a bauble stall:

This is an actual bauble stall (one of dozens) at the City Hall Christmas Markets in Vienna. It overwhelmed me. So we walked 6 stalls down to bratwurst and more mulled wine and all was well again in my world.

We keep these stories in a box, wrapped gingerly in tissue paper, tucked safely in special storage. We don’t like tchotchkes (3) or figurines, things that require dusting and could be, quite frankly, smashed by an excited dog bumping a table in the living room. My (delusional) grandparents used to get me dolls from the countries they visited, but since I didn’t play with dolls, and they had no cultural or cool stories to accompany them, they lived in a secretary, encased in glass, and I often had vivid dreams about them coming to life and exacting revenge on my grandparents for their ignorance and vanity. Woah to the person today who gives me a snow globe; my lack of filter will surely make them cry.

To me, baubles – Christmas ornaments – should hold stories of lived experience. They slumber away the summers only to reappear in long winter days to make you remember and smile.  Baubles are a box of stories.

The first bauble to go on our tree every year is a glass octopus. No other ornaments can go on before the octopus – delicate and only about 2 inches high, it is hung carefully near lights so that its limbs will sparkle and shine. The octopus is a story of two lovers who ran away from the world for three days, to a motel in the Outer Banks, to escape the stress, the accusations, the ignorance, the exhaustion of daily life. The pair walked the beaches, hand in hand, and decided on a future that, while unsteady and unsure, would undeniably include one another. The octopus was purchased in a wee shop by the shore amidst three days of spicy Bloody Marys in solo cups and walks in the sand full of wisdom and freedom. The octopus is a story of love defining itself in its own terms.

It is the first story we unravel every year, because it’s the most important, but there are many others. With every bauble, there is a time, a place, a face, a memory, a joy. There is a fish from Montana, a gift from a father to a daughter, the brass gates of the Texas State Capitol, bought second hand in the Luckenbach post office, a trip taken for a father from his son. A seahorse, a nutcracker, a loggerhead turtle, snowflakes and martini glasses, a stiletto and Darth Vader. All stories. All experiences. All life.

So in about a week from now – when the den of the holidays is over- when all the peppermint bark is gone and you feel like you might stab someone if they offer you another slice of ham- and you are packing away your baubles for another year’s rest, resist the maudlin that comes with too much Merlot or mulled wine.

Remember that you’re not clearing away happiness, you are storing these lovely narratives to give you joy next winter, when they reappear and remind you of people, of places, of experiences, of a life being lived.

Have a story about a favorite ornament or bauble?  SHARE in the comments!!


(1) When the entire 5-day package- hotel + flight – costs the same as 1 ticket to the US? Hells Yeah we jumped on it.

(2) Hearing every bell in Vienna ring at midnight to usher in Christmas Day might be one of my favorite holiday memories ever.

(3) Yiddish word for cheap touristy souvenir crap most likely made in China.



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Posted by on December 22, 2017 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Dorothy can kiss my ass. (Hey bitches, I’m back!)

Dorothy can kiss my ass.

First of all, have you missed me? Of course you have. My devoted dozen. The 12 people who read my blog no matter how lazy I am about posting/sharing it. For any other stragglers, let me say (by way of a non-apology) that I have been busy trying to get this damn PhD and finish my first novel DOBERMANS & DRAG QUEENS SAVED MY LIFE, the first (G-d and publishers willing) in a series of derelict debutante memoirs. Plus, Hubby and I have been blowing through our savings, drinking whisky, island hopping (that’s Hebrides, you fools) and traveling to points on the map new-to-us. (Bookmark: Vienna, Berlin, Prague). I have neglected my wee blog, but put your big girl panties on bitches, because I am back.

And, against all that is holy in my LGBTQ life, I am about to talk some trash about Dorothy.

Last week, my husband and I watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time in – quite frankly – many years. And I was struck by the end where Glinda asks Dorothy what she has learned. Since it’s been a while, I had forgotten about this Midwestern mid century PSA moment. For those of you who can’t recite the film, Dorothy replies:

“Well, I — I think that it — that it wasn’t enough just to want to see Uncle Henry and Auntie Em — and it’s that – if I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard.  Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with!  Is that right?”

I have never wanted to smack a gingham-clad farm girl in my life, but I found myself shouting a stream of wickedness (1) at the TV, including some very unladylike comments about Judy and her sequined shoes. In short, Fuck that bitch.

 Read the whole screenplay, last revised March 15, 1939 here: (

Setting aside scholarly dissections of Baum’s grand metaphors of Oz as the New Deal Era America and the yellow brick road as the silver standard, Dorothy’s answer about happiness really “hit home” for me in an entirely different (stabby) way. I wholeheartedly think that living abroad, at least for a while, is an amazing experience that everyone should try if the opportunity presents itself. Its positives almost always outweigh the negatives.

It’s not hard to google “expat” and find a plethora of websites and blogs that will discuss how amazing life abroad can be for those who are adventurous. As an expat living abroad and doing a PhD, thinking of the concept of home and homesickness (often most piercing to ex-pats during the holiday season) I will argue (loudly) that Dorothy’s sentiments of isolationism and “never leaving your backyard” are wildly oversimplified and (I think) dangerous, not to mention what I believe is so perilous about US & UK politics these days.

Have no fear. This blog will NOT become political.
While I am no supporter of Hair Trump, I can’t be arsed to waste energy in my blog on him either.

When Hubby and I first moved abroad, we were too excited to focus on being sad or homesick. We posted 500+ pictures on social media highlighting that Glaswegians really are the friendliest lot on Earth, whisky is varied and amazing, Scotland’s beaches are extraordinary, haggis is, in fact, delicious, Scots love weird and wordplay street signs, and assuring friends that the drunk riding the conveyor belt in the Iceland checkout line is not me. We posted pics of food for the first time in our lives. We were incredibly (annoyingly) excited for this new chapter of our lives.

Once the newness wore off and a routine settled in, though, there were days when a sinking feeling also settled in my chest – the one that says. Holy Shit. What Have We Done? The research was daunting. The writing suddenly slow and painful. The Stress is real. The UK is fucking expensive. Brexit passed. Shit got more expensive. Opportunities shrank. We couldn’t find work. We missed our dogs. Deadlines moved. Timelines had to be altered.

Shit. Got. Real.Flexibility and Support. The same things that make a good bra worth $50 are the criteria for TRUE EXPAT SURVIVAL.

You must be flexible, know when to give and stretch. And when you are not strong (or have been stretched to your limits), know where to go for support. I moved to Glasgow with an on-board support system the way most people buy cars with SatNav. You’ve met him perhaps? Hubby. I would be way more derelict and zero debutante without him. (Those ratios fluctuate daily.) As a friend on FB pointed out last week, I am the Bonnie to his Clyde. But, you know, without the mass murdering.

Our first Christmas, we stayed in in our new home, Glasgow. Walked the city, took in some holiday concerts, cruised the Christmas festivals and holiday markets. (2) We’d only been here for a few months, but I spent £30 on the ingredients for a traditional holiday dessert made with US ingredients. $8 for bottle of frickin Karo syrup only for Hubby to admit that he doesn’t actual like pecan pie. I was so focused on giving him a “missing piece” of “back home” that it didn’t even occur to me that it was something he didn’t miss at all. He wanted a Cranachan Trifle and Sticky Toffee Pudding (3).

Instead of whimpering to any tinman or munchkin that would listen, Dorothy could have stopped to enjoy the wonders and delights of her adventure. But no. Instead she pursued with single purpose returning home to heal Auntie Em, who was neither broken or in need of Dorothy to return, quite frankly. The next Christmas, we walked around Vienna for the week, Mozart’s music, cathedral concerts, Eugene’s libraries, the Holy Roman crowns and Hapsburg crypts. We drank mulled wine and hot punch at the markets watching ice skaters in snow flurries, and heard the bells of the entire city ring at midnight, ushering in Christmas Day.

Fuck Dorothy and her idea that happiness (or your heart’s desire) can only be found in your backyard. That simply isn’t true. Certainly not for us. Happiness – and Home – can be found in so many places, in so many faces. You won’t know what glorious moments await you if you are too scared or too comfortable or too complacent to ever leave your own backyard.

I’m not blind to the fact that not everyone has the means or opportunity (or drive) to travel abroad, or live as an expat, for a matter of years much less a lifetime. And not all expat adventures go well. (Just ask a girlfriend of mine who had to flee an eastern country because of a stalker!) But I believe that great things don’t happen without risk.

I’m not suggesting I live a zen life without stress or sadness. Much of what I am currently engaged in with my research and writing involves intensity and hunger and pain in remembering those who saved my life when I could not save theirs. So I cry when I’m sad. I don’t feel guilty or weak or lonely. Not every Dorothy is brave enough to engage with the great wild world; I remind myself why we came here and the goals we decided were worth all the risks to pursue.

Oh I miss crawfish etouffee, Honey-baked ham, and Ranch dressing, but it doesn’t take a witch threatening to kill my dog for me to see that I have Great Happiness in my life (and “Home” that reaches well beyond the confines of my “backyard”. Happiness can be found in enjoying the life that’s right in front of you, right here, right now.

PS Hurricane is making landfall in about 5 days. So those of you in Glasgow may feel a disturbance in the Force. You have been warned. We’ll do a meet and greet at Oran Mor’s whisky bar Sunday 26 Nov.

(1) Ha ha.  See what I did there?


Posted by on November 18, 2017 in BLOG DEPOSITS


All Done 2016 (Er – Roadtrip Part Deux?)

All Done 2016
(Er – Roadtrip Part Deux?)

I sat down yesterday to write a piece about Christmas ornaments. I started it. I really did.

Three hours later, I had four journal pages, one scary Vonnegut-esque doodle, and a complete rough draft of the introduction to a book I am collaborating on. Then I fixed myself a White Russian, did my nails, and watched Harry and the Hendersons.

This is in my list of TOP TEN favorite movies. 
To get the whole list (because you know you want it) subscribe to my blog.

This morning I tried again.  By my second cup of coffee, I was well into our vacation photos and Quantum of Solace. Work simply can’t compete with holiday movies and vacation photos, especially when you’ve been lucky enough to travel somewhere amazing with a fabulous partner.

If you want to know whether another human being will make a good partner/mate for you, go on holiday with them.  Mackula gave me this advice in college, and it has been a tried and trusted method of establishing the limits of both pain and patience thresholds for me and those who travel with me.  While my mid-life crisis has many appropriate adjectives (we use them on a revolving basis) the main one we use is Adventure. I like this one best because it is 75% positive connotations.  The other 25% is what happens on all adventures, all holidays, all road trips. Sometimes less, sometimes more, but like most math in my life, I am not concerned with how accurate these percentages actually are. They are close enough for me so I am sticking to them.

The destination is not the test, the journey to it is.  Anyone can sit their ass on a white sandy beach with aquamarine waters, pina coladas and steel drums, but not everyone survives the 1-hour car ride, 5-hour flight, 2-hour layover, missing or broken luggage, rude (and often smelly) passengers, disturbing snacks, 2-hour airport shuttle, and 1-hour check-in that finally gets you to the damn beach with a shred of grace.  There are all the small comforts of home that can never be exactly reconstructed while traveling – well not with my travel budget anyway.

And using this clumsy metaphor, I will state that 2016 has been quite the journey.

And for many, it has been the Worst Road Trip Ever.

It’s been a very interesting year for me, in large part because I am an Expat in a midlife crisis. So while I am thrilled to be tackling a lifelong goal and committed to ticking off ‘bucket list” items (a term I abhor) along the way, I am a woman removed from a homeland that has become embarrassing to me in many ways.

However, being exposed to a mere fraction of the political coverage that my friends and family in the US suffered through was a joy.  I feel much less traumatized than they do, which for me is quite the role reversal, generally speaking.


Around Guy Fawkes Night (aka Bonfire Night,) I started having some very interesting politic conversations. The particular one was with some girlfriends – two British, one South African, one Mexican, two Sottish and one French, all of us currently living in Scotland.  They were all terrified of DT being elected and, of course, wanted my opinion.

Growing up, it was bad manners to talk politics or religion at a party or as a guest in someone’s home.  Here in Scotland (especially after the past two years of referendum and then Brexit) it’s as common a topic amongst strangers as the weather.


I have never been very comfortable talking politics, but I’ve have engaged in more political discourse this past year than my entire life prior. The Journey of 2016 started with serious turbulence.

Soon after we moved, HB2 indicated that the monkeys were running the circus in my home state. And since many of my friends are members of the LGBTQ community, not to mention drag and burlesque families, I became vocal in their defense.  (In my way.)


And for some the 2016 Journey became increasingly frightening, even devastating.

You can bring all the iPod music and neck pillows you want, but the train will still shimmy, the plane will still hit turbulence, the taxi driver will make you white-knuckle the arm rest, and if the person you are traveling with bitches about the price of gas, the recycled airplane air, how weak the coffee is, how small the seats are, how disgusting the train toilets are, oh you get the picture… For many this year, the journey was way more than 25% negative.

And I get that.  For some people, a break is necessary.  I fully appreciate that sometimes we have to walk away from people that anger us beyond measure or make us feel unsafe. If the person you travel with has both nothing positive to say and the expectation that you will support their every complaint in some palpable way, then maybe you should break it off with them.

For the record, I also recommend breaking with them in the loudest and most dramatic way possible.  These are the moments you should cause a scene with confidence, because revealing to the world your belief that someone who treats the stewardess rudely is an asshole is doing the world at large (or at least to the people in baggage claim) a public service. Like fire safety announcements about how best to flee the building.

I have not de-friended anyone on Facebook. I have engaged (to both my pride and shame) in a handful of healthy conversations there (also via email and Skype). I would be lying if I said that my opinion of a few people hasn’t changed quite a bit during 2016.  Especially when it comes to the rights of the disenfranchised, ideas of feminism and equity, and the voices against tolerance and kindness.


I will not throw you out of the car on this road trip if you voted for Trump.  But I will slam on the brakes if you belittle me because I didn’t.

And I will leave you stranded in a place with no cell service for the snakes to eat you if you tell me that you think that women should be subservient to men (especially the ones that pass legislation about their bodies), that transpeople are dangerous deviants who don’t deserve human rights, as are refugees, or that the Jews should just get over it already and stop complaining about the Holocaust. Then you and I are traveling on very different roads, and I hope yours is full of sink-holes, interminable construction delays, and ends in a rock painted like a tunnel.

I am also blessed with a Fabulous Traveling Companion. This is not to say that Hubby and I agree on everything.  We absolutely do not.  But we have discussions about how we see the world, and how we want it to change, and the fears and hopes we have for our country.

The trick it not to bitch about the state of affairs more than you talk about what can be done about it.

Admittedly, it’s a challenge to talk about hope when Princess Leia and her mom die within 48 hours of one another. But let’s stop blaming 2016 for their deaths.

Cocaine (and other drugs) were much bigger culprits that “stole” David Bowie, Prince, Carrie, Merle Haggard, Gary Shandling, George Michel, and Alan Thicke from us. And possibly Patty Duke. Cancer took Alan Rickman. Parkinson’s took Mohammed Ali. A freak accident claimed Anton Yelchin.

Zsa Zsa Gabor was 99.

When you look at those we’ve lost (and this is a shortened list) many of them lived long and full lives.

Harper Lee was 89. Gordie Howe was 88. Umberto Eco was 84. Elie Wiesel was 87. Billy Paul was 80. Morley Saffer was 84. Nancy Reagan was 94. Kenny Baker (played R2D2) was 81. Fyvush Finkel was 93. Gene Wilder was 83. Abe Vigoda was 94.

John Glenn was 95. Edward Albee was 88. Arnold Palmer was 88. King Bhumibol Adulyadej was 88. Janet Reno was 78. Leonard Cohen was 82. Florence Henderson 82. Fidel Castro was 90. China Machado was 87.

Greta Zimmer Friedman (age 92), the woman in an iconic photo shown kissing an ecstatic sailor celebrating the end of World War II by smooching a nurse in Times Square, died in September.


E.R. Braithwaite (age 104), the Guyanese author, educator and diplomat whose years teaching in the slums of London’s East End inspired the international best-seller “To Sir, With Love” and the movie of the same name, died in December.

But some who died were Middle Aged.  They make us uncomfortable and scared because they are closer to our own ages. We lost two trans-pioneers, Lady Chablis (59) and Eva Destruction (Alexis Arquette) who was only 47. Sharon Jones, like Carrie Fischer, was only 60.

And Miss Cleo was only 53.

Remember her?  The woman who would tell you who your baby daddy was.
Because you just weren’t sure…

So while I wouldn’t really be shocked if 2016 “claimed” a Kardashian, I suggest that we circle our wagons, find our voices, and focus on kindness in 2017.

I have every intention of seeing Rogue One in theatres before 2017, and I will be sure to share it with friends and loved one close to me.  While I dressed as Princess Leia for countless Halloweens, my memories are precious to me because of the friends and family that populate them, those who filled my days with love and laughter, not an obsession with The Force.  The everyday people who meant the most to me – and still do.  The same is probably true for you too.

Shane Tomlinson (33) and Jonathon Vega (25)
Murdered by fear and ignorance and hatred in an Orlando night club
along with 47 others.

These are the faces seared into my 2016 memory. Not politicians, not rock stars. These beautiful faces.

Because they remind me that progress stumbles.  Every road has obstacles. Every journey has the potential for peril.  The important thing is to learn, to listen, to love.

I am not without fear.  But I am filled with hope that dark hours can be healed with light.


The greater the storm, the brighter the rainbow.

Put 2016 in the books and take a moment to enjoy one of the greatest songs, by two of the greatest artists, who I imagine are enjoying new amazing collaborations in the afterlife.

Under Pressure




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Posted by on December 31, 2016 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Highland Road Trip: Part One

“Sat Nav Sally versus the DASH”

A rental car, a sat nav unit, golf clubs, hiking boots, a small cooler, plenty of Smidge (the world’s greatest midge repellent), a handful of Highland reservations, and we were ready for a road trip to the tip top of Scotland.  Along with three other couples ready to get their holiday started, we bumped and bustled about in the rental car office that was tucked into a chain hotel reception area. The small space was under construction and next to the hotel’s restaurant and smelled of waffles and sheetrock dust.

wafflesWaffles in the UK, to be clear, are made with SUGAR.  A ton of it.  Actually in the batter, and even the sometimes with chunks of tablet (a heavenly butter-brown-sugar-caramely-fudge-like thing that haunts the dreams of dentists) rolled into the batter.  So it’s like sugar-cone funnel cake batter with huge brown sugar cubes rolled into it.

Someone had stolen the navigation chip from the on-board Sat-Nav in our Ford Focus, so we were provided with an after-market unit that plugged into the car’s USB and hung from Garfield suction cups just over the dash.  Paperwork signed, ready to hit the road, we sat in the idling car, patiently trying to plug in our flat’s address. But the unit was stuck in German and wouldn’t allow any menu changes, so Hubby walked back inside.

This graphic of horror depicting a child dying is standard
In every Ford Focus sold in Europe.

When he returned, he was accompanied by a rental car honey (they are always these skinny men with string ties that look like they walked out of a Robert Palmer video in 1987) shimmied noiselessly into the backseat, where he easily slid between the seats, leading with one shoulder and deftly maneuvering all the things on the dashboard.  This service was accomplished with the pseudo half-eye roll and passive aggressive inhales that accompany all retail jobs where the customers are idiots.  (So, I guess, all retail jobs.)  He was actually a little flummoxed when he couldn’t manage to get the unit to stop shouting “GEHEN SIE AUF DIE ROUTE” at us.  (1)

boil-water-noticeMeanwhile, I sat quietly.

But, he smugly advised us that he had thought ahead and brought another one with him. This one, however, wouldn’t power on at all. Car Rental Honey had become visibly nervous.  “Hmmm” noises were all he could muster.  Now the pseudo-eye rolls (the ones that start with a sharp look to the right, then go quickly skyward with a fluttering eyelid) belonged to Hubby, who told him plainly, “We must have navigation.  We’re headed to the Highlands for a week and they have unreliable cell coverage, so we can’t rely on our mobiles.”


Meanwhile, I sat quietly.

We waited for about 15 minutes, listening to a 1980s station play the Boy George hour. When we see Car Rental Honey bee-lining to us, Hubby looks at me purposefully and says “Do NOT kill him.”

After what I can only assume from his pungency was a smoke and waffle break, he was returned with a third unit – this one from 1996 that had no dash mount and plugged into the cigarette lighter.  When it powered on and said “Welcome” in English, and Rental Car Honey bolted from the backseat like we were going to drive away with him if he did not.  It was hard not to be a little offended, but Hubby, unruffled as ever, programmed in our flat’s address.

“The menu’s stuck in Spanish,” he said.

“Proceed to the route,” Sally SatNav said.

“But she is speaking in English, so let’s just leave,” I said.

“Proceed to the route,” Sally insisted.

“Turn her down,” Hubby said, easing out of the parking lot.  Going in for another round of State fair flavored attitude and a new unit was clearly out of the question.  I pulled out my iPhone and told Siri to get us home, and in tandem, Siri and Sally SatNav delivered us safely across town. (2)welcometohiglands_sign

Finally! Inverness, then Strathpeffer, via dinner in Dingwall, where we found a small restaurant that, like many in Scotland, is unpretentious and yet has amazing food.  No reservations, no problem.  It looked like a place that might be serving bagged salad and generic Italian food and yet the braised vegetables, venison medallions, and rack of lamb were extraordinary.  For those of you who think that Scotland has terrible food, you have no idea what you are saying.


Admittedly, I did not take this photo.  But I DID take a photo of our meals that night and texted them to GB, just to rub it in. #ThatswhatSiblingsDo

When we arrived in Strathpeffer we were routed up the side of a small hill where we were informed by the “ding ding” of Sally Sat Nav that we had arrived at our Inn.  Despite her assertion that “You have arrived” and the very positive sounds repeating from her (think the technical-chime equivalent “ta da”) we were not only NOT at our destination, we were nowhere at all.  To our left, forest, to our right, trees.  In front of us, a dead end road, behind us, the road leading back to Dingwall.  So we called the Inn. And we learned that in addition to being not-so-great drivers, and signage not being a particular strength, Scots are also really bad at giving directions.

I used to think that no one could be worse at giving directions than Hurricane.  She once, as a part of (very serious) directions, told Hubby to “go round the doo-lolly that takes you past the hardware store, then go along that road with all the corn fields.  It goes up and down a bit but when you get to the top of the very big hill, turn left at the top. That’s our little neighborhood.”  No shit.  And when we asked for more (street names, for instance) she huffed as if we were exasperating children and said it was clear enough – and that nobody uses street names anyway. No shit.


I guess if I lived in this neighborhood of mutant children,
I would want thru-traffic to be cautious too.

So the innkeeper tells us to look for a sign (which turns out to be an 8×10 piece of paper stapled to a power pole) that says “Bunny Drive” – a sign we pass three times before we actually see it.  Nevermind that the power pole is situated across the street from an enormous 17th century inn with a large sign in front.  As in, a massive landmark RIGHT WHERE WE NEEDED TO TURN.  But forget that.  Nevermind the enormous Tudor inn with manicured trees and wooden sign the size of a mini Cooper – Look instead for the HANDWRITTEN 8×10 PIECE OF PAPER that looks like a yard sale that happened 3 weeks past.


The innkeepers were nice.  They escorted us through the mountains and over the woods to the inn, the path of which resembled nothing in their directions.  We were greeted by two mutts (mixed breeds are called mongrels in the UK) named Scooby and Keith, and by virtue of these pups, we instantly forgave the innkeepers for being directionally challenged eejits.  The bed was cozy, the showers hot, and in the morning we enjoyed a full Scottish and headed to our first golf course. All signs of a good holiday.

Just like in the States, we are golfers who can’t afford to play the posh links, but luckily, like in the US, there are links here for all budgets.  Invergordorn was one. (Reay was another.) So affordable, in fact, that we hired a buggie (golf cart) which is not all that common here.  Like the country in which it’s situated, golf is a sport for walking, not driving.  Without the driving heat of the US southern states, this is not nearly as bad as it sounds.  Unless it rains.  Or the wind blusters.  Both of which are apt to happen the moment you hit the course.  So we dressed like onions, bought wind-proof lighters, packed plenty of whisky and extra balls, and hit the course for our very first round of golf in Scotland.

We played golf, smoked cigars, drank whisky, and giggled like teens who were skipping school when we ran into other people on the (mainly empty) course. There were more rabbits than people, in fact, fat lazy brown ones who seemed to know the course much better than the locals. Parallel to the 16th hole, we discovered the field in which fat lazy brown Scots rabbits are grown.

Photos, of course, don’t do it justice.  Like trying to capture an entire island or the Grand Canyon without a drone’s vantage point.  Its majesty proves too much for the lens.  So instead, I’ll just give you a pic of Happy Hubby.

A 5-minute downpour on the 10th hole meant that we missed the transition to the 11th and ended up playing some other hole twice. YES.  WE GOT LOST.  ON A GOLF COURSE. A local Scot (playing with his two wee ones in wellies and brellies pulling his bag) told us that he lives on the course and gets lost all the time. SIGNAGE people.

For fuckssake.  Signage, people.  Signage!


We would continue, despite our best plans, to get lost.

Over the next 7 days of our Highland road trip, Sally would ding “ta da” at us as if we had arrived somewhere, when in actuality we were in the middle of nowhere, more or less yielding to a small group of sheep who had decided to congregate and/or nap in the middle of a country road.

There were quite a few things that were more consistent than actual signage in the Highland roads.  Sheep were definitely one.  And you didn’t have to worry about the one sheep that was in the road – it was the bump ty sheep that was chasing it, trying to catch up, that would join it in the road that you would – just narrowly – miss.

Sally would also decide to stop working altogether and the road she showed us traveling, with her reassuring blue arrow, would go blank, and read “unnamed road” when 10 seconds earlier it had both a name and a slew of crossroads. We employed Siri in a supporting role whenever we could, but often we drive blind.

“It’s a bloody island,” Hubby said at one point, when I was threatening to throw Sally out of the moving vehicle.  “Where can we go, after all?  We just drive north until we see water, right?  Then we turn left.”

Yes, these are actual vacation photos.  I promise not to bring out the carousel with negatives encased in cardboard slides, but only because it’s in storage somewhere in Milwaukee.

He wasn’t wrong.  It actual irked me a bit that he wasn’t wrong.  But I get disproportionally angry when something I have paid for (especially tech) doesn’t work.  It’s one reason that I am not allowed to use vacuum cleaners any more.  (3)

But we arrived. We arrived each and every time at our destination.


My growing obsession with Highland Coos was a tranquilizer to the exasperating Sally.

And we always found a few more interesting destinations in between the dots on the screen.  Sometimes we called ahead to say we were running late.  Sometimes we stopped and asked for directions (inevitably these were as poorly communicated as Sally’s “unnamed road” moments) and sometimes we just said “Fuck it” and drove on.

And, just like that first day of golf, things came together as they ought to.


Unsurprisingly, signage for drinking in Scotland is the best of all signage in the country. All other signage is incorrect, misleading, or altogether absent.
So you must be flexible and you must be patient. I am one and Hubby is the other. (Guess which is which ha ha ha)

In the grand gardens of Dunrobin Castle, I listened to the woman next to me, through a thick French accent, call her dentist and arrange for an appointment for the following day because she had bitten into some chocolate and lost a crown from her tooth.  She conducted this entire conversation openly, with little regard to those around her, gathering for the falconry display.

  And when we were introduced to the birds, she knew them all by name. She loved the falcons and owls and hawks, and her energy was childlike and contagious.  That’s her head in the center of this photo, as memorable to me as the birds themselves.

We took photos (both in flight and posing) with the incredible birds and then wandered the museum of exotic taxidermy and ocean-view grounds before heading back to the car. We spent that afternoon lounging on a beach and talking about all of our favorite waters.


The beauty of the Highlands is not to be under-estimated or oversold.  We strolled The Duncansby Stacks, near the north-easterly tip of Scotland, and the
glorious views erased what little remained of our sat nav stress

There are many different ways to arrive at a destination.  You can use Sally or Siri, or try to follow some poorly constructed directions or ill-conceived signage.  But in the end, the journey is the thing.  Hubby calls it the dash. You have two dates in life you can’t control.  The day you are born and the day you die. The dash is what appears between them (on your tombstone), and represents all of the LIFE in between, the life you lived and the love you filled it with.

We’ve been given a lot of advice during our marriage, most of it useless. (4)
Choose your directions wisely!

Directions can be a good thing; don’t get me wrong.  Anyone who struggles with anxiety will tell you what asinine advice it is to tell them to “just run with it”; for some people this is neither practical nor responsible instruction.  And having a general goal or direction is a good idea; I’m talking about flexibility here in broad terms. While I understand that some people need strict structure to everything, including their vacation (more on this in Highland Roadtrip: Part Deux) I also understand this is a virtual prison for me.

Some of my greatest joys in this life have come as a direct result of getting lost.

Meanwhile, in Scotland…

I have seen the sun set over New Mexico dessert and rise over Monterrey Bay.  I have been welcomed in an Arkansas truck stop that seemed to have been designed for a horror movie film set, and I have been shunned by a petite woman who smelled like cinnamon in a small boutique in Firenze. None of these were my intended destinations.

Somewhere near Wick and the Old Pultney Distillery.

I have stumbled into beauty and grace and greatness, and found that often when I am looking for it one place, it is waiting for me in an entirely alternate location.  One that Sally and Siri wouldn’t have lead me to.

One of the reasons that I write is because sometimes I never know where it will lead me, where I will go and how it will change me. I find joy in the writing, but road trips remind me that I find joy in the living. It gives me joy to take the “directions” and re-write them, re-purpose them, or have the courage to throw them away altogether.


And for me, there is virtually no fear in the unknown. Take the 2nd left and see where it goes. Order #4 on the menu without first seeing what it is.  I think that monotony is much more menacing in life than risk.  Every now and then we need to toss the tech and use a map that folds like an accordion – or better yet a compass – to guide us.  Head in a general direction and find joy in the variety of paths and possibilities that exist for us to choose from.

The beginning and the end of a day’s drive are just two dots, and like the two dates of your being – they are fixed and boring. The exciting bit comes between, in the adventure and the journey, at the living and loving with which you fill your Dash.



(1) German for “Proceed to the Route”

(2) I sat in the passenger seat (where the steering wheel usually is) I had vivid flashbacks of a mid-90s road trip to Vegas from Los Angeles, in which I used my very first TomTom GPS toy as co-pilot with a car full of Queens headed to my first same-sex wedding. That unit also had language problems, in that had been programmed for Big Sur and every time we got in the car, it tried to take us there. After three days of recreational drugs, I thought that maybe the TomTom was channeling Kerouac and took to calling it JackJack, which the Queens thought was funny because the wedding party was anything but beatnik.

(3) Vacuum cleaners have one job to do.  Suck shit off the floor.  Dirt, mainly, but other things as well, like the occasional piece of thread or staple.  Or miscellaneous piece of plastic. I do not believe that I should have to pick small items (smaller than a Lego) off the floor prior to vacuuming.  Sucking shit off the floor is its entire raison d’etre.  That is the VACUUM’S JOB, its identity. This is why I bought the vacuum.  And I expect it to DO ITS JOB. This is also why we’ve had 2 burn out and one cause a small fire. And I am banned from using them.

(4) There are always those who think that if your life’s narrative does not conform to the standards with which they are comfortable, you are on the Wrong path and they feel they must guide you to the Right (read: Their) path. It took me longer than it should have to develop the skills needed to cut these people from my life.  It isn’t easy, especially when they are related to you, and often use religion as a bludgeon. But it is possible, bitches.  It can be done.


Forgive the delays, my Devoted Dozen!
Highland Road Trip: Part Deux is coming soon!!

#teamshrop @VictoriaShrop


Posted by on November 3, 2016 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Highland Road Adventure: Prologue

Shit got serious when Hubby and I purchased Tesco golf clubs in June. 

golf clubs
Since we live on this island where golf is ubiquitous, you’d think we’d been playing nonstop, but NO.  Life in grad school equals relative poverty and tee times cost money, dearie.  Plus, riding the subway with clubs can be a wee bit awkward.

For a holiday this summer, we decided to take a Highland road trip. We decided to drive the North Coast 500 (or most of it) often billed as the “Scottish Route 66”. (1)

Scots don’t really “do” road trips.  People here think that a 3-hour drive requires an overnight stay because they feel that distance is more-than-substantial (it’s not) and they stress about driving the motorways (they shouldn’t) and the weather (OK it sometimes rains here).  And while the Top Gear boys would have you think otherwise, many people live their entire lives on this island without driving or owning a car.  Because owning a car is costly, and public transport here WORKS (something the majority of Americans know nothing about unless they live in metros like NY, DC, Chicago). 

mini parked on sidewalk

Parking is a nightmare, so most people just use the sidewalks for this.

narrow streets of scotland
And driving is especially harrowing on streets built by Romans and “improved upon” by Victorians, often just wide enough for two mates stumbling home in a semi-straight line.

But really it’s more that they lack the natural endurance of the Car Culture Americans.  Scotland can be called a walking culture.  People here WALK. I walk to the grocery store.  And to the drug store.  And to the library.  And to the movies. And to work.  And to pub(s).  And don’t think for one moment, bitches, that the irony of WALKING my big butt to the gym TO EXERCISE is lost on me.


In the U.S., we do everything in cars.  We go to the shops, take our dogs to the vets, visit our Grans, leave our lovers.  We work and play in cars.  We go on holiday in long road trips.  Long.  As in more than 5 hours. One way.  

Summers, there are RVs and overstuffed SUVs filling our interstates, and yes, there are people whose permanent residence is a motor home, many of them deliberately so.  If you live in the South, you use a car/truck to pull a fishing boat or to go hunting or commit acts of vandalism on mailboxes.  In the Midwest, you most likely know at least one relative’s story in which Mad Dog 20/20 and the warmth of a car’s backseat was used to accomplish their family planning.

I can’t imagine that any of my dozen fans don’t know what this is, but in case you share my blog with others, MD (Mad Dog) 20/20 is a ready-to-drink fortified wine and fruit cocktail that is high in alcohol and low in price.  More commonly referred to as “brown bag vino” it, along with ignorant “Abstinence Only” laws are why my home state historically had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.(2) #soproud

Scots just don’t spend this kind of quality time in cars. So when it comes to driving, in a certain vernacular, Scots are often referred to as a particular part of the female anatomy. 

kitty gigglingOr, if you prefer, a synonym for kitten.

And it’s not entirely their fault.  In acreage, England fits almost three times into the state of Texas.(3)  They lack perspective. And experience.

They also lack confidence and the ability to use turn signals, and merge in roundabouts in ways that would make even someone from Florida (who may or may not have invented the geriatric-no-looking-I’m-coming-anyway-lane-merge) spit with road rage.  

So when someone says that Scots are not great drivers, on the whole I agree with this assessment.

And I do so, in fact, from my throne.  As my devoted fans know, I am a Road Trip Queen. (4) 

pin up w carNlipstick

I love a good road trip.
There are some ladies, some traveling companions, some good dogs, and few broken men who would all willingly attest to this.

I have driven to the Grand Canyon with a pack of girls, across the desert with a Doberman co-pilot, across the Midwest with a fisherman companion, the strip of I-15 that connects LA to Vegas countless times (my favorite in a minivan full of wedding-bound queens), across the Colorado mountains with one husband, across the Smoky Mountains with another, up the eastern seaboard, covered most of the states of Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona (twice on peyote), and even into the canyons of California, once with no headlights. I have driven across the state of Illinois to get revenge and across the state of Arkansas to get laid. And that was just in my 20’s.

Bitches, please. 

So when Hubby and I decided to see the Highlands of this island, it became quickly apparent that we had to take a road trip. Hubby loves a good road trip.  It is in the top 5 of reasons why I married him.


Want to know if a man is a keeper?  Go on vacation with him.  Mackula gave me Gospel Truth a long time ago.  And I tested it (at the time, 20 years ago) with my current man, agreeing to go on holiday together after dating him only a few months.  At a beach resort. All inclusive.  Read: No Escape. When things didn’t go exactly as he wanted them to (Hello? Have you ever traveled Anywhere? With Anyone? At any time Ever  in history?) he became as ass. He was an ass to the airline steward, an ass to the resort staff, bitched about every little thing, and was such a nightmare that I actually drugged him the last two nights so he’d crash early and I could enjoy room service with some peace and quiet. (5)

Hubby, by contrast, is the mild mannered Bruce Wayne to my Batman crazy. 

He was not, for instance, ruffled when we were asked to pay a dollar deposit for the remote control the 1988 Zenith 20” TV in a Knights Inn somewhere in Tennessee, two nights after we’d wed. That’s right.  One Dollar for the TV remote.  Keep your island honeymoons, bitches, MY man made sure the pistol was loaded and handy in the room after agreeing with me that the bleach and fresh paint smell was most likely covering a recent crime scene.

bonnie and clyde
That’s right. We have a Bad Ass Romance.

Crap Scottish drivers?  Lorries barreling down thin Highland lanes?  Fear of midges that swarm in cartoon-like clouds?  Sheep as common motorway impediments?  A 1993 Sat Nav unit that is stuck in Spanish? Puh-Lease.

Maps to castles, golf courses, distilleries, and Highland beauty you can see no other way?  Bring it.

passing place w sheep

COMING SOON:  Highland Road Adventure Part One



(2) Ah but there is progress:

(3) Compared to Texas…

(4) Click here for accompanying music Track 1:

(5) I cannot neither confirm nor deny, Senator, that this “room service” was Cabana Boy All Inclusive.

1 Comment

Posted by on August 25, 2016 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Hitting the Pause Button

pause button

As we approach our one-year Scottish anniversary, it is hard not to have thoughts that begin with the phrase “This time last year…”  I think that life can change so immensely and so quickly that we can’t help but in the quieter moments take stock of where it’s all gone.  And I have loads of quiet moments.  I am a writer.  I revel in quiet moments. I am often most productive when the world is sleeping in (or gone to bed) and I can enjoy a quiet moment that lasts for hours. (1)


So in the quiet hours in the beginning of August, I think about “this time last year”. We were in Topsail, where we camped out with friends while awaiting our final departure news.  We were in limbo, playing golf, spending lazy days at the shore, bloating on sun and sand and cigars.

We were ready to fast forward to this next big adventure, even though it meant pressing a pause button on some other parts of our lives. I look at my notes from then, some a bit raw with emotion still, and think now of the benefits of hitting that pause button.

Pressing pause can be fun.  Freezing that moment in time and then going back to retrieve it gives us a thrill.  Like rediscovering your love of Jelly Shoes and Seventeen magazine, or the summer your exchange student used Sun-In, or your devotion and intense discussions about the plot lines of The Guiding Light. (2)

This time 5 years ago, I was celebrating being down to only one job since 9/11.

This time 10 years ago, I was picking tomatoes in a garden in the Smoky Mountains of NC.

This time 15 years ago, I was planning a wedding from my Austin, Texas apartment.

This time 20 years ago, I was living in Los Angeles, California and calendaring chemo.

This time 30 years ago, I was begging my brother (who’d just gotten his driver’s license) to take me with him to see Top Gun for the fifth time. (3)


I don’t think there’s any harm in hitting pause and looking back.  How else can we judge how far we’ve come?  Or how far there is yet to go?  Perspective is often hard to come by; I would never suggest otherwise.  (Like many things in life, if it were easier to do, more people would do it.)

And Nostalgia is Fun.  We love to revisit the books and movies and music of our youth.  We tell stories of the places and people we’ve attached to them; the emotional investment in pop culture is a powerful force.

stranger things poster
We curl up on the couch and revel in the newest variations of it as well.

But to get lost in the “past person” you thought you were? That’s dangerous. And there are few faster paths to misery.

Want to be a miserable person?  Start a bunch of thoughts with these phrases:

“By this age, I should have been…”

“I always thought that by now I’d be…”

“This was not the plan I had for myself…”

“This life doesn’t look anything like the one I planned/wanted/dreamed of when I was…”

“I used to think I would be…”

I used to think I’d be a lawyer. Or a chef. Or a race car driver. Or an artist. I used to think I would be a mother.  I used to think I would be financially stable.  Oh I could go on.  And guess what? I’m NONE of those things.

Why not?  Because life gets in the way.

Illness and Injury. Abuse and Apathy. Lovers and Love. Out-laws and In-laws. Joy and Heartbreaks. Road trips and Bliss. Anger and Rejection. Ocean views and Tee times. Death and Redemption.


We can all count.  We can follow the dot-to-dot numbers that reveal the grand picture of our lives. We can look back and ponder the connections that surprised us, that altered the shape of the drawing. All those points from which there is no return.

We all have regrets. I regret not kissing Captain America when I first had the chance, when we were teenagers.  I regret selling my Harley Davidson Heritage Classic Softail. I regret trusting some people and not others.

HD heritage classic softtail

We can drive ourselves insane with “If-then statements” but in the end, there must be an acceptance of ourselves.

The comparisons between what is and what could have been can fill your head and poison your heart.  It makes you blind to the joys that are in front of you and eats away at your compassion. Your bliss turns to bitterness because you think your life should be different, somehow better, something other, than what it is.


The constant comparisons (to others and/or to other “versions” of yourself) are destructive because they focus on the negative.

And in your misery you start to make those around you sad and frustrated and miserable too.

Much of my research these days is on voice and identity development.  Investigating the connections between the sins of fathers and the torments of sons, the thwarting of daughters and the supremacy of mothers, the prejudice and resilience, fortitude and compassion, the complex tincture that resides in inherited narratives.  And it occurs to me that you don’t have to be a researcher to be intimately interested (dare I say obsessed) with the past and the people and times that populate it.

But no matter how much we might want to, we can’t go back to 1986.

start the next chapter
Nor can you go back to 9th grade, or to your sophomore year in college. I have friends who struggle to get past the life that they thought they would be living “by now” or “at this age”.  They grapple with their quality of life because they are comparing their reality to some imagined idealized version of their lives. Living in the past is making their present miserable.

I have four girlfriends who, in their 40s, had their first (and for three of them only) child.  Not one of them will tell you that their life plans included having a toddler when most of their peers were having midlife crises. And not one of them would change a thing.  Because embracing your life brings great joy. If you are living in the past (or a past “ideal you” that is in your head) then you are going to miss out on all the great stuff that’s right in front of your face.

Ferris Bueller life moves fast quote gif Imgur
Hitting the pause button, taking stock, looking back at “this time last…” is healthy (and fun) so long as you don’t make it an indefinitely loop.

Even if we miss the days when our kids were younger, when we were thinner, when life’s problems could be sorted during a quick ride on your ten speed… take a deep breath, put on your Big Girl Panties and move forward.  If you want to a look back onto something amazing at “this time last year” in 12 month’s-time, then make it happen.

accountable for your life


  • (1) Seems like an urban myth, I know, since I am such a loud personality, but reading and writing for hours has always been something I treasure. Especially on the beach.  With a cocktail. Or three.

  • (2) For your viewing pleasure here is THE GUIDING LIGHT – the Dec 23, 1987 episode. #classic #spauldings  #shanes #OMGthecommercials
    An entire episode for you 12-23-1987
    #priceless #80sfashions

  • (3) Which he did. Because he rocks.


Posted by on August 2, 2016 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Deb Does Rome 2016


At 3AM the alarm sounded, but we were already awake.  Tossing and turning, we always get excited the night before a proper vacation starts.  When I had been asleep, I had been having a dream about my friend Katy getting married on a moving bus that was circling a fountain in the middle of what looked like an Italian mobster movie set. The bus was full of adorable but ill-trained blonde labs who got paw print on my satin dress, and no one cared, including me. This is how my brain prepares me for the flight to Rome.  Fantastic.

I had wrenched my knee at the gym two days prior to vacation (of course), so the only thing (laundry notwithstanding) that I am worried about is keeping pace with Hubby, Mr. Lets-See-If-We-Can-Somehow-Climb-To-The-Top-That-Building-Over-There. Which ordinarily is quite interesting.  We’ve been escorted out of a few building (access interdit!) but we’ve also climbed things like the Arc de Triomphe and the Tour Effeil (but did we have to climb them both in a single day?) I am always rewarded for these adventures by a glass of something adult and a happy husband, so I never complain.  After looking through the little guide book we’ve used to plan our visit, I have packed enough drugs and Voltarol (think: Ben Gay) for our vacation.

pain killer cerealBreakfast of champions

So with big circles under our eyes, a note for the flat-sitter, a disturbing lack of coffee, and a nagging feeling that I need to do laundry, I pop some pills and we get into our taxi.  Bring on Rome.

The last time I was in Italy was March of 1995, on back-packing trip with two large handsome American men, one of whom was my boyfriend.  So on the bucket list, sex in Italy has been ticked off the list. Back then, we skidded through Rome because the heat and the rain and the crowds were overwhelming, so we grabbed lunch and got back on the train and headed to Firenze, where we spent two days relaxing and touring in the sun.

So Rome is a new adventure in every way. Rome is our first holiday while living as expats. Rome is six unadulterated days in a hotel, with proper luggage, hot showers, dinners out, art shopping, cigar smoking, piazza dancing, quality wine drinking, and grown up sex. Ah Rome.


The art and beauty of Roma is overwhelming. 
I missed it in my 20’s and had no intention of missing it now.

We have paninis and beers in the Amsterdam airport on our connection and we listen to the announcements that make us giggle every time we hear them.  In Amsterdam, they call your shit out if you fuck around and are late to your plane.  As in, by name:

VICTORIA SHROPSHIRE this is your final boarding call to flight 1205 to Rome. You are causing a flight delay.  If you do not come immediately to gate 42, this flight will leave and your luggage will be offloaded.

They run a tight ship here, we notice.

Unlike in Rome, where no one seems in a hurry to do anything.  Including on-time flights (we circle the airport twice) or getting you out (takes 30 minutes on a shuttle bus to get to the terminal) or getting out of the way (the shuttle bus scratches mirrors with another bus as it squeezed through a too-small opening) or driving you to the hotel (our pre-arranged ride was late, and we drank an entire bottle of wine in a nearby café while waiting (1).

All of which lulled us into some strange sense of travel security that was quickly smashed by the driver of our hotel taxi (and every other bus or taxi we took) who drove like a maniac.  Like the traffic cameras were all secretly clocking them for Formula One pole positions.

pole position

ROMA TRAVEL TIP #1: No matter how excellent the wine, if you’ve had too much of it (on top of pain killers) you will toss your paninis after a ride of any duration with an Italian taxi driver.

That night, after showers and settling in, we proceeded to overpay for a glorious steak dinner with two more bottles of wine (speaking of pace cars) just blocks from our hotel, then crashed into a sound sleep. For about 4 hours.

Which is when we awoke in pools of sweat, roasting in our little* hotel room. We turned the thermostat off.  But it wouldn’t turn off.  We opened the window, which let in a nice cool breeze (it was mid-February) but also the noise from the street below, which started around 5 am with delivery trucks. On our way to breakfast, we asked about the Geriatric Temperature Settings and were asked by the fashion model hotel clerk, “did you open the window?”

Why yes, we did.  (Did I bat my eyelashes? I might have.)

“OK then,” handsome hotel clerk says, looking at me plainly.

“OK then, what?”

“The temperature settings for the hotel are set to ‘winter’ so if you want to be cooler, you must simply to open the window.” He smiles at us with what I can only describe as the Italian version of “Bless Your Heart” and we catch our early bird taxi to the Vatican.  Surviving that, we had a quick espresso. (3)

(And we sleep with Roma Truck Deliveries as our early morning wake-up call. All Week.)

Ah, Rome.

We start with a tour of the Sistine Chapel.  My favorite panel is the one I call “Drunken Moses”, which is a panel as far from the altar as possible, and away from the inevitable pack that gathers under God and Adam. MOSES THE DRUNKEN AND DISGRACED.  Who knew this gem was in the Vatican?  In the Sistine Chapel no less.  I felt less like of an imposter after having viewed it.

drunken moses

ROMA TRAVEL TIP #2: If you want to view the Sistine Chapel, pre-book the walking tour that starts one hour before the museum opens to the general (ticket-holding) population.  You will not regret it.  The general way that most people see the chapel is with 300 other folks, all squeezed in like sardines, looking up and trying to sneak photos without the Swiss Guards catching them(4). If you go early, you not only get a nice history lesson (in beautifully spoken English) but you get 20 minutes to wander around the Chapel with only 20 other people.  AMAZING.

drop the f bomb
Overwhelmed by art appreciation, I may or may not have cussed in one of the holiest places on Earth.

The bronze used to make the canopy in St. Peter’s Basillica was sourced by melting and reforming pagan items and ornaments that the Pope(s) confiscated from pagans.  I think this makes it the most amazing repurposed piece of art in the world.

The Holy Doors were open, since 2016 is a Jubilee Year, but again, not really a photos opp for a MethaJew like me. Around 10 am, we left in order to escape the swelling crowds, and congratulating ourselves on not visiting this city in the height of summer with its crowds and madness. Hubby Mr.-Lets-Climb-Up-There led the way as we (paid to) climb to the top of the Basilica. The way up (and down) is close and narrow and shallow, tilting steps with little air/windows are not for the faint of heart. (Hubby had to climb part of this at an angle, as his shoulders were wider than the passageway.) And at the top, the view is worth it, and I reclaim my title as Mrs.-We’re-Here-Why-Would-We-Not-Do-This.


We also climbed to the top of the Vittoria “wedding cake” one afternoon because as we were strolling through the Forum, Hubby said, Hey there are people up there.  I popped two more pills and we were off. The views were not as good as those from the top of the Castle (yes we climbed that too) but tiny glass elevator that gets you to the roof was trippy.

For a leisurely lunch, we walked into Piazza Navona, bought some cigars, drank a bottle of wine, and watched local artists work as we wait for the Chiesa de di San Luigi dui Francesi to open at 15:00.

Chiesa de di San Luigi dui Francesi houses Carvaggios
that cannot be seen anywhere else.

The only thing more ubiquitous than selfie-sticks are artists. Actual artists.

Artists of mainly excellent ilk can be found all over the city.  Oftentimes, instructors hovering over artists in the Vatican courtyard, in piazzas, overlooking bridges, sketching in churches.  Opera singer students give free recitals to gain audience exposure and develop composure in every other piazza.


If you want to be an opera singer or an artist, and you have the means,
get on a damn plane.

ROMA TRAVEL TIP #3: Stumble in to any church in Italy and see amazing artwork to rival famous museums.  For example, The Church of Mary Magdalene has been lovingly preserved its paintings have survived centuries on display.  And Michelangelo’s famous Moses sculpture is in a small chapel in the bordering neighborhood to the Coliseum, past the tourist carts and gelato shops. If a cathedral is open, and mid-service, stumble in.

Per day, we walked ~7 miles, drank ~4 bottles of wine, and I popped ~20 pain pills. The weather was blue skies and mid-60s the entire time, with only one night chilly enough to need a fleece, but with my personal insulation and general BAC, it was all good.  One evening, Hubby was so drunk we almost caused a scene in the Lindt store, but all-in-all we managed a perfect wine-painkiller-ratio for the duration.  And no bail money was needed.
Having binge-watched the entire series of Spartacus on Netflix prior to vacation (Hey, you do you travel research, I’ll do mine…) The Coliseum tour of the pits and the partially reconstructed stage was a highlight – and when push came to shove, Russel Crowe won out anyway (“Are you not entertained?!”)

Seafood, fresh pasta and veg, gelato and leisurely strolls, sniffing the leather products that hand in every doorway from Trevi to Trastevere, the days were filled with sunshine and art and food and wine.

Ah, Roma.

We had a glorious vacation all based from our sweat box hotel (which, in its defense, was crawling distance from Trevi Fountain).  We walked around political protesters at Piazza di Monte ci Tovio and enjoyed picnic style wine and cheese at Piazza Colonna (creatively interpreting the Marcus Aurelius column battle scenes).


Capuchin crypts. The original repurpose, reuse, redecorate trend. 
Suck on these bones, Pinterest.

We walked through the entire city – from the Vatican museums and cat sanctuaries, to chapels and Capuchin crypts. We ate endless seafood and pasta, and found chocolate and orange gelato that tastes like Christmas.

And the wine.  MY GOD THE WINE.

And to go with that wine? Fresh produce and seafood everywhere you look. #Heaven This is one of the stalls in piazza di San Cosimato in Trastevere, where I might retire.

In the blink of an eye and a (third?) trip to a Pharmacia to restock, we were enjoying our last mild Italian dusk, smoking cigars in the Parthenon piazza while listening to a Pink Floyd cover band, chatting with the Russian maître D (about his Italian girlfriend who might kill him), who had remembered us from two days prior and gave us the best table on the square.

Ah, Roma.

When can we go back?


(1) The good news is that this is Rome! So it’s hard to get a bad bottle of wine, even in an airport lounge café.

(2) Little, as in, when you sit on the front edge of the bed, your knees are 3 inches from the wall that separates bedroom from bathroom. The entire room was about 16X16 feet which included a full size dresser, dressing table, queen size bed and two bed side tables. All with about 6 inches space between.)

(3) The only thing as consistently good as the wine in Italy? The coffee.  Damn.

(4) Suisse Guards will yell at you trained to yell at you like a Marine Gunnery Sergeant; they are allowed to yell at you (no talking in the Chapel), manhandle you, remove you, confiscate your phone or camera, and make no apologies for it. I instantly developed a crush on the tall blue-eyed one with the scar on his chin.


Me & Hubby.  On top of something, of course.
Castel Sant’Angelo, in fact.

Nothing funny happened on our day at the Forum. Except our guide, constantly turning to us and telling us that (fill in the blank) was built by slaves, on her back.

Proof that I mailed a postcard from the Vatican (the only place on Earth with as many gift shops as Disney). If it got lost en route, blame Francis.


Posted by on June 25, 2016 in BLOG DEPOSITS


Finding Happiness in Change

happiness is a way of travel
One year ago, Hubby and I boarded a plane to fly to Glasgow to look for a place to live. A week later we returned to NC, bubbling with excitement and anxiety, with a signed lease and summer full of hard work ahead of us.

a ship is always safe at shore

One year on from that first visit, I am sitting in our sun-filled lounge (combo den + dining room + study) looking down our quiet residential street waiting for the daily parade of parents walking their kids to one of the neighborhood schools.  It’s 8:30.  I have a few windows open and the mild summer morning air is fragrant and perfect, the chill enough to allow me to awaken slowly but not cold enough that my coffee will cool before I can drain it. Again and again and again. I love these mornings.

I’ve been up for a while, as is my custom.  The older I get, I find that I like the easy quiet of the early morning more than the heavy quiet of the wee night hours.

Sunrise in the ‘Hood

I make coffee, I sometimes tidy the kitchen.  I check email, I look at my day. I spend quality time with my Kanban board and post-it notes.  I write, or sometimes I choose to take the coffee to the couch and under a throw there, read for a while.  I do all this until Hubby gets up to join me (as he just did).  He drinks a cup or two also, reads the news, then we talk about what comes next.  It’s the most routine and wonderful part of my day.

My life is much changed since that June flight last year. And while I miss my pups, and best friend (GB), and all of my great friends, I do not miss most other aspects of “this-time-last-year”.  I do not miss that stress, that lackluster job security, that invisible weight of southern suburbia slowly crushing me. I miss my fabulous friends, easy beach trips, and the inexpensive cigars and impromptu golf outings. But there is Facebook and Facetime and Skype, the pups are being cared for and loved, and in a month we will have beach and golf, the Highland way.  Friends who can will come visit us, and those who can’t are loved no less – we’ll see them when we return to the U.S. Those who are true friends are never lost to the passage of time.

true friends

We are eight months into a four-year journey and I am happier than I have been in years.

Our days are (more or less) scheduled around my research and writing, but often take incredible and unpredictable turns.  At least three times a week, we stumble home together and one of us remarks, “That was an amazing day.”  Or we sit in a beer garden soaking up the (rare and elusive?) Scottish sun and say “This day does not suck.” It’s become almost a running joke, the amount of joy in our lives lately, confirmation once more that I am the luckiest bitch I know.

coo beers

This weekend (as it was a year ago during our first Glasgow visit) was West End festival.  We walked around our neighborhood drinking pints, eating BBQ and burgers off of outdoor grills, listening to both DJ’d music in beer gardens and live bands in retail courtyards. We chatted with new friends (and their pup, Cooper) we laughed, we danced. We stumbled home.

We packed up wine and cigars and went back out with the beach blanket to listen to more live music until 10(ish).  Folk music under the swaying branches of maple trees in Mansfield Park is a great way to spend a few twilight hours.  Then we stumbled home again.  We rarely make concrete plans.  We often leave the flat with a vague notion of something we want to do or accomplish, and then we stumble into miscellaneous adventures between here and there and home again.

leap of faith.JPG
I am not a religious woman, but I am one of faith.  And I have loads of it these days.  I have no doubts that the Great Architect has me right where I need to be.
With my perfect helpmate.

We slept in a little today, feeling a bit bloated from the ice cream that we ate as dinner.

Life is good.

Life is Good.  Not Perfect.  We still have money woes like the majority of the planet, and we still have very uncertain futures.  But we are blessed in too many ways not to recognize them.  And we are finding unbridled joy in being away from the constraints that used to define us.

And I don’t want to imagine the return.  I have never been one to worry about the meticulous planning for a future I cannot control anyway. But these days I am living in the moment enough to embrace a “schedule” of vague and open plans.  The kind of vague plans that leads to days full of magic.

true happiness



Posted by on June 6, 2016 in BLOG DEPOSITS