Wednesday, 28 April 2010

My first blog giveaway... Free coffee!

Read on for your chance to win, but first, I have to put it out there that this is the most attractive, and certainly the cutest, All Black...

In case you're not familiar with the All Blacks, they are New Zealand's national rugby team, intimidating their international opponents pre-game with their performance of a Maori warrior dance, the Ke Mate haka. They're a pretty big deal down here in this land where rugby is the unofficial national sport - for a relaxed country these guys get fierce. But isn't my husband cute at 16 months in the All Blacks uniform his mum made him? (This is what happens when I live at my in-laws. The baby books come out in full force. Sorry Dan.)

Dan's out right now anyway, he's doing some extras work on the side and filming a music video for a tune that will become the official World Cup song of the All Whites. That's right, the All Whites, NZ's national football/ soccer team. The ying to the All Blacks' yang. And if you think that's awesome, you're in for a treat: NZ's black and white name games go on and on. 

Guesses on the national basketball team? The Tall Blacks. Yes, ladies and gentleman, that's right. For some reason I don't think that name would fly in the NBA. But still, this is just the beginning. When our friend Mike started listing off NZ's national sports teams last night I started to pick up on some themes. 

So…for my first blog giveaway, I'm going to do a quiz about New Zealand's national sports. 

Listed below are a smattering of the professional sports team names of New Zealand. Blended into the mix are two espresso based drinks also common to New Zealand. Your task, for the prize (!), is to identify which two are the names of coffee and not sports teams. 

On Monday I'll draw the winner from all correct applicants and send you a coffee, somehow. I'm industrious. It's not much, but I'm not sponsored by the Kiwi Awareness Council yet so it will have to do. 

Without further ado... New Zealand's National Sports Teams:

All Blacks
All Whites
Flat Whites
Tall Blacks
Tall Ferns
Silver Ferns
Black Sox
White Sox
Black Caps
Long Blacks 
Iron Blacks
Ice Blacks 

OK, I'm a bit shy about doing a competition and nobody entering - so please go for it! Plus, it's good to learn about New Zealand, my little paradise these last five months. 

Good luck!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Fighting for Invisible Things

I'm in the invisible industry, which means that much of what I'm going after can't be seen. Things like faith and creativity and passions and ideas feel abstract because they're not tangible. They can't be quantified on a resume, they don't always pay the bills. But just because something is invisible doesn't mean it's not important. I think most people would agree on that, but describing the invisible remains a challenge. 

A book I've read recently that nails the invisible world of the creative process is The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He skips the flowery stuff and gets right to his point, which is that if you are going to do anything creative, anything good or worthwhile or generally helpful to the world, you will be opposed. 

Pressfield names the opponent Resistance and he describes it like this: In the fight for life, Resistance "repels us from it. It shoves us away, distracts us, prevents us from doing our work". Resistance makes things that should be simple confusing. It makes us feel stupid for pursuing an unseen or beautiful or important thing in the first place. He calls Resistance the "root of unhappiness" and says "to yield to it deforms our spirit, stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be. It is evil and prevents us from achieving the life God intended when he endowed us with our own unique genius. Genius is our inner spirit - everyone who creates operates from this sacramental center. It's our soul's seat, our true north."

His description can sound intense, but I like that he goes for it and doesn't try to justify himself. If you've faced Resistance you'll know how sticky and thick it can be, how it slows you in your tracks and makes you forget what you're even doing. You'll know how justifying yourself can be an unending cycle that leads nowhere. 

Coming from a charismatic Christian background I'm no stranger to talking about the spiritual realm and believing that there is an opponent to life. I've been armed for spiritual warfare since I was about five! But I loved reading this book and applying the concept of Resistance to the creative process. Creation is powerful, so of course it will be opposed. How could I overlook this?!

Anyway, if you're in the thick of a creative battle I suggest you dip into this book - it's a triple shot of espresso to your motivation meter and will remind you that what you're working towards is worth fighting for. 

Anyone else facing invisible opponents to creative pursuits? Here's to pushing through.

{photo from flickr: it'skay [kala] }

Friday, 23 April 2010

Vintage shopping Kiwi style

My new friend Mel's been taking me around Auckland, vintage style. I'd already fallen for kitschy Kiwiana but I'm still falling. Yesterday one of the shop owners had a tattooed outline of New Zealand on her neck, creeping up from her collar - it was awesome! Kiwis and Canadians can somehow get away with patriotic tattoos in a way that Americans just cannot. Not that I'm planning an eagle in flight across the small of my back or anything.

Wow, I need a coffee and need one quick. That's the first order of this beautiful Saturday. Here's to a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Steeped in Britain and de-Britification


On Tuesday I applied for my first proper American job. Eek! Putting my resume together was a strange experience, because it showed me just how steeped in British culture I am. Looking at job descriptions and requirements I felt really foreign, even though for the first time in 12 years I'm actually job-hunting in my hometown. I am steeped in real good.

Moving to Birmingham four years ago I felt a similar sense of foreign-ness. It was hard to get my head around British culture, let alone Brummie culture, let alone this whole job finding business. None of my experience seemed to count, no one had even heard of my small  California college, my GPA didn't translate, I wasn't like other British candidates. I felt like I had to work extra hard to prove myself.

But after time I somehow assimilated. I accumulated more experience as a British employee, with British credentials that British employers would appreciate.  I even learned to make rounds of tea. Over time, I was Britified. Even my accent changed into some mid-Atlantic merger.

But now, after all that effort weaseling my way into the British employment club, I have to push my way into a new club: American employment. And that's a whole other ball game. For that I must de-Britify. Nothing personal, it just comes with moving.

I've already changed my spelling back to American English and I'm calling my CV a resume. On that resume I went to great lengths to explain where I worked and what I did in ways that translate back home.

Also, I'm in the middle of resuscitating  any outward expressions of self-belief and confidence that may, with hope, still exist. I'm doing the opposite of toning myself down and I'm not sure what that's called. In Japanese they'd say I'm “level up-ing”.

I like what Meagan from The Lady Who Lunches blog says about England, how it makes you into a quieter, gentler version of yourself. I want to keep that, but rekindle my American ferocity in order to get me some work.

As I unsteep and attempt to Ameri-fy, I hope to retain some of my British flavor, because I do like the person I developed into over there. I guess it's the challenge of any expat re-entering into her home country: attempting to juggle the best of both.

Have you ever re-entered your home country after a long time away? Any hints helpful. :)

{Photo: flypeterfly }

Friday, 16 April 2010

Old books and what Orwell missed

Auckland City Libraries has done it again. I requested a few books (actually I have 30 on loan - the limit!) and these two beauties came in, straight out of 1956 and 1947, respectively.

I read Orwell for some insight on the people group I just left, and yes, this social prophet had some good things to say. But even though Orwell may have hit the nail on the head regarding civil liberties (1984) and totalitarianism (Animal Farm) he was way off the mark with other trends.

This is my favorite quote:

As for the general weakening of sex morals that has happened during the past 20 or 30 years, it is probably a temporary thing, resulting from the excess of women over men in the population. 

Ha. This was in 1947 - somebody didn't see the 60's coming!

Anyway, I asked the librarian if I could buy these books, but not a chance. I returned them and they're back in ciruculation, ready to bring joy to other book lovers in Auckland.

Hope you have a good weekend!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010 & why I write


How exciting is this? I've just claimed an address on the world wide interweb – not bad for a technophobe like myself.

I though I'd celebrate by uncorking a topic that bubbles up nicely in the heads of people like me who, 1. keep a blog, 2. get a self-named URL and 3. attempt to write a memoir of a season of their life (ie four years in England). Because to do any of the above seems pretty audacious, even a bit pretentious. And pretense is never nice.

So I thought I'd share a little bit about why I write. Because even I struggle with the accusation of being pretentious. I definitely don't want that. When I hear people say “Oh, I could never keep a blog because I don't think anybody would be interested in what I have to say” or voices in my head whisper, “Who do you think you are to write a book about yourself?!” I start to second guess myself. Who do I think I am? I have to have an answer.

I must admit that these voices often come with a British accent, because though England has many fine points, it doesn't exactly encourage wild and lavish dreaming. And it's a country that sees vulnerability as a more a liability than an asset, so spilling your soul on-line or in print does indeed feel a bit counter-cultural there. I know I've drawn in my boundaries markedly during my Britification process. I'm much more hesitant to tell all, and I definitely test the waters with a big toe before diving into the waters of confession. {Brits, please chime in if you disagree! And you know I don't mean everyone in England, I just mean in comparison to America.} Being in England often made me anyway second guess wanting to keep a blog or write a book. But I do it anyway.

The main reason is that I think vulnerability is a precious thing. And while I'm thankful to England for teaching me to be more protective of it, I still think it's important and powerful. When I read or hear people's stories, the one's they've vulnerably opened up and shared,  I'm thankful. Their stories make me feel like I'm not crazy for feeling how I do and not alone in my experiences that often seem unorthodox.

So that's really it: I just like to share the things I go through in hopes that they can encourage other people. In my efforts to protect myself I don't want to hoard the little gems of understanding I find along the way. Every time I sit down to write, I want to be thinking how can I serve other people with my story? I don't always think this, but it's a good thing to at least try and think.

When you put yourself forward for anything in life that requires vulnerability, it's really hard to not come across as pretentious. But I think it's a risk worth taking & I hope you agree.

So, that's why I write, in a nutshell. And also I must say I am so grateful for everyone who stops by my blog and tells me that what I've written has encouraged them – it really makes it all worthwhile. So...

Thank you.

Photo by Brandon Page

Thursday, 8 April 2010

THIS is what I've been doing every day for the last 4 months...

It's been a good week for this American in NZ...

I finished the first draft of my manuscript, here in all its glory:

I've still got a long way to go until it's ready for anybody else to actually read, but printing this out and having something tangible is a good feeling.

And then, as if that weren't enough, I saw that ELIZABETH GILBERT will be in town in May for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival! What can this city not do? Seeing her in the program made me freak out - I'm  scooping up my tickets tomorrow. Early. If her seminar is half as inspiring as her TED talk, then I'd better come prepared with pen and LOTS of paper for some serious note action.

Also, did anybody else love Eat, Pray, Love as much as I did? I didn't read it until a few months ago because it sort of passed over the UK. But I love, love, loved it and am interested to see who else shares that with me. Anybody?

Hope you guys are having some excitment this week too.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Adrift without family, panning for ritual

One of the strangest things about being overseas is dealing with holidays. Holidays like Easter or Christmas are rooted in family, and without that root it's easy to feel adrift. That's how I was feeling this weekend, with everyone we knew away with family, and unsure how to distinguish Easter from every other day of the year. In New Zealand both Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays, which is great if you work in an office, but not if you're trying to write a book in a cafe amidst the influx of all those families. Also, Kiwi cafes laugh in the face of the recession and whack a 15% surcharge on bills on public holidays - the nerve!

The question came up - So, what do we do on Easter? Without family or a community or annual rituals like a church service and lunch, or even an Easter egg hunt to celebrate with, it felt like something was missing. And I do miss my family and can't wait to see them in June (hi mom and dad), but we had to get on with things and try to make Easter ourselves. That's the bad/ good thing about being away from home on a holiday, we're forced to create our own rituals.

We've done this ritual creation before in the UK, especially at Christmas. In 2007, our first Christmas in London, unable to face spending the holidays in our damp, claustrophobic studio, we splashed out on a 5 star hotel on We stocked up on chocolates and Baileys from Marks and Spencers and on Christmas day walked two hours to Fulham to eat at one of the few restaurants serving dinner. London is peacefully deserted on Christmas day, and walking through Mayfair and Chelsea with the city to ourselves, looking for a meal, we felt like a modern day Mary and Joseph. Sort of.

In 2008 we opened our home up for an Orphans' Christmas dinner. We took in about ten other internationals adrift in London without family and ended up eating turkey with friends from Thailand, Korea, Japan and America. We watched Wallace and Gromit, played games from our English teaching days and wore our Christmas cracker hats, taking it all in. I was quick to point out that the fruitcake we served, at Dan's insistence, was decidedly not an American Christmas tradition.

These holidays will always remain precious to me, because they're a bit different, and because we were forced to make them into what we wanted them to be. I'm not talking about the religious significance of the holiday, but the activities and traditions we put into place to celebrate.

This Easter we decided to start the day with a banana pancake fest, followed by reading the Easter story together. We went for a walk to Ladies Bay and meandered through the nice houses leading back home, pointing out our favorites. Then we watched Jesus Christ Superstar (because Dan's brother loves it) for another and indeed heretical take on the Easter story, sans the resurrection but with a lot of funk.

So that was our Easter. What about you? What did you get up to? Do you have any rituals I could steal for next year?

{Photo from flickr: Abstract Gourmet}
Related Posts with Thumbnails