Tag Archives: America

Two weekends of hometown touristin’ (pic spam time)

Sunrise over Houston

After really enjoying looking a little around my new hometown of Houston a few weeks back, I gave it another go for two weekends… but for different reasons.

Reunited… if only for a weekend

2 weeks ago my bestie Clio came all the way to Houston to see the bump (and me, I hope). We spent a lot of time discussing the serious issue of what R-Patz was going to do now, and whether K-Stew had done it for publicity and what the heck was going to go down with TomKat (you know, the important stuff). We also shopped until we dropped (hello Nars Orgasm, OPI blue me away and some cunning black tie-up wedges), visited the Cheesecake Factory and watched an appalling amount of trash: basically, did everything I have been missing since moving here and getting me back on track to feeling human.

However, I did feel that Clio should not be held captive and forced to give me the social interaction I have been craving. So we took a quick jaunt down to our local seaside town of Galveston and its ‘pleasure pier’. It was fun, although honestly? British peeps should think an over priced Brighton without all the yummy food stops or the impressive shopping lanes… yeah, a little limiting. As if to prove my point, the weather was also terrible British-esque, which led to a disastrous hat decision by me. Anyway, looking quite a lot like our honeymoon Brighton photos (but with the tremendous addition of young Clio) this is our Galveston pic-spam:

Clio declined joining in on one of these pics… wonder why?

I don’t know WHY I put this hat on

It was fun… and when we got home poor Walter got to be ridiculous and have a much hated bath:

Very unflattering whale-like photo of me… but Walter looks cute

All over now with a consolatory cuddle

This weekend, hmmm… well I don’t know if I was scammed. I signed up to a cake pop class on Groupon. The company *looks* legit on their website… and when I emailed them, they were responsive and booked me in for this weekend. Now, weirdly, the website does not have an address, but the Groupon coupon did. So along I went this Saturday morning. The address listed: 907 Franklin Street was an abandoned (and locked) office. But at 909 (an apartment complex) the concierge told me that Tastee Tees was 2 doors down – 917, next to a restaurant. Indeed, 917 was next to a restaurant. But, it was locked and I could only see a hallway with lots of doors coming off. So I called Tastee Tees… no answer (but I did get a professional sounding answer phone). I didn’t find this that odd, as I didn’t expect them to be answering if the business does not open on a Saturday, but they were teaching a class. Left a message… nothing… left another… nothing. Rang incessantly (thinking that if I uninterrupted the class enough they might answer). Eventually a woman answered with just as single “Hello”. “Hi,” I said, “Is this Tia [the owner of Tastee Tees]?”. “Yes”. “Hi, I am trying to find my way to your cake pop class and was wondering if you could tell me where it was, please?” *cue lots background noise…* “Hello… hello? Hello?”. Nothing. No call back. And they didn’t answer when I, and subsequently Wes, phoned back several times.

So… really weird. I was seriously excited to go cake pop making (I actually woke up on Friday with the words “Do you know what tomorrow is? Cake Pop Day!!”), so was seriously disappointed, and I will be seriously ticked off if I was scammed. What do you think? Is it a scam? Is that plausible? I’ll keep you updated. In the meantime, not to have the whole day ruined, I explored the ‘Historic’ ‘Theater’ and ‘Skyline’ districts of downtown Houston. It was awesome: very different to the rest of Houston (and much more Southern looking). Beautiful parks, and quite a bit going on:

When I got back, this time, Robert was being ridiculous:

Tourist-time in Houston and New York

I have been being a tourist. First up, in my new hometown of Houston. Last Saturday I was at somewhat of a loose end, so decided to explore my local ‘hood a little. Houston is huge and so I quite cherry picked a few smaller things to do. First up, antique shopping in Midtown. Midtown has a toad with a lot of antique shops along, each with quite a different flavour and I had fun perusing all the nik-naks. I photogrpahed this for Wes who loves antique highchairs, but as I am not a fan per se, he decided not to get it.

Then I went onto ‘The Orange Show’; quite a unique little place. And very hard to describe: just a $1 to see, it is basically an old, but very very small, theatre build by an eccentric who after writing a book on health and longevity wanted to encourage people to eat oranges. Throughout his life, he collected lots of ‘scrap’: pipes, wheels, seats and so on, and build a tiny theatre / maze in bright colours for people to watch his show. The show is no longer running, but the theatre is restored and you can wander around and just ‘play’. It’s kooky, fun and quite engaging.

Next up: Hermann Park and its Museum of Natural History, including their incredible butterly garden. The onto B&N for a coffee, a cookie, and a curl up with a new book on their big sofas 🙂 I had forgotten how much I like just going out and exploring.

The next day I flew to NYC for a training conference. I go to the hotel at 3, and knew I only had one afternoon to ‘see’ New York so I forwent the usual tourist options (which I would love to see sometime) for a 4-mile stroll (trying to get the exercise in). I walked from my hotel in Harlem (Harlem in itself is quite a fascinating site) down to Central Park, and was shocked at how beautiful and large Central Park was. It was nice to see so many people out and about being active, and how diverse the groups of people were: in their ages, their dress, their race, their activities.

I explored the park for a while and was ejected out – oh how convenient, on 5th Avenue. I meandered the shops, and admired the architecture

Learned there is a place called ‘Trump Tower’ the contents of which intrigued me, but turned out to be quite predictable:


I went to the Lindt store… But really, where I wanted to go was:

[caption id="attachment_1333" align="aligncenter" width="535"] Tiffany & Co

Yes, with my new brown hair I totally put on large sunglasses and pretended to be Audrey Hepburn.

I am not the most conventional person in many ways, and rarely ‘fit in’, but I can also be very conventional in others, and sometimes… it is nice to be a cliche. I love Audrey Hepburn, I love her style, and by proxy, I love Tiffany. My parents (rightly) did not shower me with the 17th birthday VW Polo, and the endless parade of Ralph Lauren and Kickers shoes many of my peers got (I was not deprived in any way… I went on up to 4 holidays a year for freaks sake.. they just didn’t see the point or value in filling my life with those sorts of luxuries). But, on my 16th birthday: ta dah! A Tiffany necklace. Someone once said to me, “I don’t know why you wanted the necklace EVERYONE had”, but that was why I wanted it! It was sort of like a rite of passage (it wasn’t even an expensive one, just the Elsa Perretti small open heart in silver) and I got to do it, and got the magic blue box with the white ribbon (yes, I am a sucker for advertising). I loved it! And since then… I loved Tiffany & Co jewellery. Sure much of it is very affordable now – and T&Co made a decision to make it so – but heck, I can still choose to feel like a Princess. I think the jewellery is pretty, and extremely well made, and why not decide it is special? I am easily pleased 🙂 So, I went and wondered around THE 5th Avenue store and enjoyed it.

After that all sorts of pregnancy aches and pains were kicking in, and I was limping, so I got a cab back to the hotel, and ate take out pizza with netflix, surrounded by my goodies. Who says the life of an academic is hard?

What a haul 🙂

Happy 4th July!!

Time to appease the American right and wish y’all a happy American Independence Day! Some people are thoughtful and ask if I ‘mind’ being invited to a July 4th party. Not at all! To be honest, America is such a powerful nation, which Brits think of as quite advanced, that the English can quite easily forget the fact that America was ever a colony of England. Plus, our attitude towards the colonial past is generally one of awkwardness and embarrassment, and the modern take on our overseas territories is “take a vote… if you want independence… it is yours!” so there is no worries about those who defeated us in the past and separated off, as we tend to think “Yeah.. probably shouldn’t have fought that anyway…”. BNP withstanding. Plus, ya know, aside of worrying about their poor human rights record, it did Britain pretty well that America gained freedom; German doesn’t suit us 😉

Terrible pre-4th July decision to cut my own bangs 😦

That being said: I have not celebrated July 4th before. It is the day before my birthday; on my first year in the US I went camping for a long weekend, for said birthday, and forgot about it. For my second year, I was deep in grant writing mode – trying to catch up from the wedding – and similarly forgot (I think I only realised when I rocked up to an empty office). For this, my third, year I am a PERMANENT RESIDENT (which is about as close to a citizen as I will ever chose to get myself) and I was going to celebrate. We didn’t have any invites in Houston (sob) so no parties… so I insisted on a parade. Wes was wary about the quality of a small-town parade, but I explained that we don’t really have parades at all in England, so it would all be new an exciting to me.

Fire trucks!

Apparently I got the true experience: the mayor in a posh car, marching bands, annoyed looking children failing to complete some focused activity adequately enough for the parents (this time: skipping), mediocre fire trucks, stacks of cars of varying interest (CHECK OUT THE LINE OF DELOREANS IN THE GALLERY), political parties handing out propaganda and some poorly decorated floats. Oh! And stacks and stacks of candy which parade participants lob at the crowd. I think this is the main point of parades actually… so much candy.

The main problem was that the candy and beads were mostly aimed at children… and I didn’t have a child (apparently it is bad form to knock children out of the way for candy). Next year my pretty…. next year.

Oh, but next year I want to be IN the parade. I am serious. It is a new goal. And I also want to wave a Union Jack for a joke… but Texans have too many guns 😦

Tonight: Fireworks. Whoop!
Tomorrow: My last birthday without a stinkin’ child getting all the limelight: double whoop!

22 weeks of Firework(s)

21 weeks

Whoop! It’s over the half way point, Firework weighs over a pound and it’s been way too long since my last update.

So, what has been happening?

Kickin’ his little legs back, resting his head on his hand and chillaxing.

Nausea: The nausea has eased and gone much more intermittent. It has been replaced with a ‘full’ feeling, but generally that front is a lot better. Some days I will feel really quite sick (but never too sick to eat anything) but about 50% of the time – no nausea at all. I have noticed: my sickness increases throughout the week, and eases at the weekend. I also did not have any nausea in my week off from work. I wonder if anyone else has found that even when busy (like… er… moving house) being at home is so much more comfortable than being at work?

Aches and Pains: I am lucky – so far I am back ache, and foot ache, and generally ache and pain free; many ‘bloggers’ I follow report these symptoms having started by now, but I am as spritely on my feet as ever. This is despite having to be off exercise due to some slight (minor) bleeding. Honestly: I have no excuse now. I could swim, walk, bike ride, elliptical all to my heart’s content. It is just my routine has changed so much, and I don’t have a gym here and it is too hot to just go out for a walk / jog when I think about it (seriously, 103 degrees and 88% humidity today). I do want to get some exercise in before I do indeed have all the aches and pains and difficulty moving though, so I will work on it.

Weight gain: 10 lbs. Perfect. My bump is on the large side, which I like. My thighs have also expanded too – yu-u-ck. I suspect that is one of those things you just can’t fight (the thighs, I wouldn’t want to fight the bump).

Medical check-ups: All good. FW passed his 18-week anatomy ultrasound which blew my mind with its detail. We now know (or almost know) there is no cleft lip, there are 4 chambers to the heart… 2 kidneys.. 2 veins in the umbilical chord. We have a pic of his face, and an imprint of his hands and feet. And also, a very giant and graphic reminder that he is definitely a boy. Bit too much of a reminder for me…

OK, OK, its clearly a boy

Mood swings: None really. In terms of inter-personal relationships the same things upset me, and to the same degree.  I may get more tired, and so go quieter more often, but I am glad not to be crazy or temperamental, or for people to have to walk on eggshells around me. That being said, there have been a few crazy moments (aimed at no one) and the issue that if I start crying, I just cannot stop. Witness:

(1) Standing in Walmart with Wes, asking if he had found my plant ‘Seymour’. Wes could not remember which plant Seymour was so I tried to explain. But somehow, all my words left me… so I decided to demonstrate that Seymour was one of those plants with long vines coming off him in all directions… so I began to waggle my arms about like a demented belly dancer, in the middle of Walmart, while staring meaningfully at Wes and going ‘You know… Seymour” *cue even more frantic arm waving*. Which, was funny. So Wes laughed. And I laughed. Then I decided that it was tragic that a 30 year old woman was unable to describe a simple plant, and so I cried… quite substantially, into Wes’ chest for a good 10 minutes. We rapidly left Walmart. Seymour was never found.

(2) Watching BGT the bad comedian made me laugh. Alot. So hard I cried. At which point my body became confused as to whether it was happy or sad, and I just sobbed broken-heartedly. Wes was confused… I was confused… all I could say was that my laughter has turned to tears (as happens when I am not pregnant) but then now I am pregnant, once I start crying, I can’t just stop. So sobs and tears ensued. The comedian went through though to the final, which on balance we think was probably a good thing for me.

Ah Wes: how is the father to be? Good! Generally excited, and supportive, and happy to dispense hugs as and when, and run lotion into my now very itchy skin. Happy to give up his Saturday for 12 weeks to learn the Bradley method, which is husband-coached birthing. Waiting desperately to feel kicks, but also not patient enough to wait more than about 30 seconds for them!

Wonder what he is thinking? OK, I know nothing… but I can be dreamy about it.

Good buys: My best buy is STILL my doppler. I love it to pieces, use it a couple of times a week, and it takes my random worries away. I also love my Snoogle. It was a mother’s day present from Wes and we got it consignment for $30 (deal!), It is so damn comfy, whether you are pregnant or not. It also keeps Wes away by sticking out at weird angles, which is honestly not at all why I like it so much. At all. Nor because it has a ridiculously annoying (to Wes) name that i use all the time – “where is my snoogle?” “Did you wash my snoogle” “Maybe we should get the snoogle” etc etc.

Best bits: Firework now clearly practices MMA several times a day. He can even kick my hand off my belly. Wes is not buying ‘Gerrard’ as a name though, and I won’t have ‘Rooney’.

Now you see it… Now you don’t!!

What I have been thinking about: (1) The biggie was where to give birth. I was always quite pro-home births, and pro mid-wifery and was devastated Alabama made midwifery illegal (booo). I was overjoyed that Texas legalized and practised mid-wifery fairly widely (widely for the US… who it has to be said are somewhat backwards in their birthing practised which can be evidenced if by nothing else, from the higher infant mortality (among other negative outcomes) as compared to Western Europe, even considering only insured people). I was also scared by the strangely high C-section rate in the US (although I sadly understand that the UK is catching up on this: Boo England, boo). When comparing like for like, the US also has very high induction rates, epidural rates and general intervention rates. Fine for some (and really, I don’t judge – just get your baby out in a way you are comfortable with) but not for me. Wes was adamant a home birth was not safe (and probably in our unexperienced case right?).

The perfect solution seemed to be a birthing center: staffed by midwives, doctors on call, some availability of medical professionals, but a better track record of allowing extended labours and reducing interventions. I was really excited, and really excited to find a place near us I liked the look of. Wes was wary, but got more and more supportive, and was coming to check things out at the center. BUT…. but…. and this was my personal decision, which I respect others may not make. I was wary of some of the birthing center reviews…my issue was that while ~99% where over overwhelmingly positive, the one that was not, was of course, devastatingly tragic (I have not provided the link here as I find the stories very upsetting – email me if you would like it). One bad review, with the worst possible end, occurred at our birthing center. I felt like there was one neonatal death that could have been prevented by a hospital birth. This shook my confidence a lot. But, I didn’t change my mind totally until a read a lot of birth stories and saw how quickly and unexpected things can happen… Sure, I don’t know that these women and babies wouldn’t have been just fine (or indeed, better off) in a birthing center. But, what sold it for me was that my list of questions grew and grew for the midwives:

What do you do with breech births?

What do you do with sudden (mid-labour) breech births?

How accurate are you pre-labour weight estimates, and what is the maximum size you will deliver?

How experienced are you with narrow pelvic arches?

How rigorously do you check for chords wrapped around the neck pre-birth (and double wrapped) and what do you do about this situation?

How long do you allow pushing not to progress before transferring to a hospital?

How rigorously do you check for meconium, and what do you do about its presence?

It went on and on. To me: it just said: too many risks. Or mayeb: not enough trust from me. I believe the majority of young, healthy, women with straight forward unproblematic pregnancies will be as fine in a birthing center as in a hospital, and probably a lot more comfortable and relaxed and have an more enjoyable experience. Say 60% will have a better experience and outcome at a birthing center than a hospital (I am making these figures up). I believe that of the remaining 40%, 50% might not care where they were or may like a hospital more; and say 40% will have interventions in a hospital that could be prevented at a birthing center. The remaining 10% probably need an intervention, be it minor or major (see here for an example of someone who really HAD to have an epidural – a minor intervention), and most of those will be transferred to a hospital, just fine. But the odd person will not make it through the experience – for various reasons. Travel time… or presenting a situation /  in a way the midwife did not expect, and just like in hospitals, something will go wrong. And of those, some will have a tragic end wherever they are. But in a hospital there is more emergency care and more varied expertise. I think in that tiny number cases, you could stand a better chance in a hospital. In my mind, I played off a much increased comfort for me, and maybe some easier outcomes for Firework against the possibility of needing extreme, but rare, damage limitation.

The higher intervention rate is due, in part, the ability to sue Doctors. It’s not an entirely good nor bad thing. But midwives are not accountable in quite the same way – another factor in my decision.

I feel good about my decision. And I utterly applaud and support anyone who chooses another birthing method. This is my decision for my peace of mind. And I am interested in other people’s view and opinions. For now, my task is to find a hospital that provides midwives, personal tubs, birthing balls and all the crunchy-goodness my heart desires. AND will let me labour a long time if necessary. AND perform certain doula techniques such an perineum pressure. And let me squat and kneel and generally be undignified. And not strap me to a damn bed (not a practise in Europe, but some places here practise ‘continual fetal monitoring’).  But is right above a pretty powerful NICU, with several doctors, surgeons and neonatal specialists right there.

Yeah, yeah – I want it all. Blame my socialized-medicine upbringing where nothing is out of reach ‘coz you can claim you have ‘already paid’ so have to get what you want – there is no recourse for the NHS to say ‘well, find another Dr / hospital / insurance company’ etc.

(2) Slate has been annoying me. They have been running articles on why some people choose not to have children, and how it works out for them (generally, just peachy). I find these articles interesting, like I find articles on why people do choose to have children interesting. What is annoying is that Slate seem to be encouraging a huge divide between those who choose to have, and those who choose not to have, children. That those with children are foisting their decision on others and demanding that all go forth and multiply, while those who choose not to are angry and embittered at those who choose to for forcing their offspring on society. Slate would have you believe: that those with children think those without are selfish and vacuous,  with empty hollow lives, while those without think those with are often selfish, and boring, and importantly: no side has any interest in hearing about the life of the other’s.

Surely this is, in the main, artificial? I don’t give a fig if people choose not have kids – sometimes I do give a judgmental fig about people who do, when I personally think they shouldn’t (my bad I know…). I don’t find either life choice more valuable / meaningful / interesting. I had friend’s who were parents who were really interested in my pre-pregnant life… equally my Godmother chose not to have children, and my best friend thinks she may well choose not to – and both love that I am pregnant, love to see pics, love to ask about it, and can’t wait until they can see the little one. Don’t we all feel like that? That as long as people are making choices that make them happy, without being too inconsiderate to others, then all is good?

I guess I kinda feel like this about most of my friend’s life decisions: I have some who have decided to give up work (permanently, and temporarily; with- and without children; some with plans (travel!), some without) and people have all these opinions about it. I only have questions: Is this making them happy? Is this likely to lead to increased long term happiness? Is it relatively cost free (cost can have a wide definition) to and non consenting adults or any children? Then go ahead: hike the Appalachian, become a wedding planner, sit and watch TV all day, work for the church – if you like. Just. Be. Happy. It is all we can ask, and all we can measure true success by.

Best hike Ever?

Canyonlands. Not the best hike ever. But pretty cool.

Writing about hiking is hard… you take an amazing trip, are blown away by a place and want to tell people when you get home. You spend every step composing poetic, and probably circumlocutory prose to bring your friends right there into your experience. The you get home and you are, of course, woefully inadequate. You resort to clichés, and erase them, and then are left with nothing, so return to them, with your tail between your legs to avoid a blank page. So I will write very little, and just say

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

Hidden Valley. Possibly the best hike in the world.

My friend recently ran the Maob ½ marathon in Canyonlands. I was all signed up, but unable to compete at the last minute. This was OK, we had an awesome hiking trip planned after. So I went to kill 3 hours at the closest trail to Moab I could find: Hidden Valley. Best. Single. Hike. Ever.

Hidden Valley Trail

I started with a 45 min steep hike up deep red rock.

Up, up, up

That was impressive enough, but as I got over the crest of the climb before me everything changed completely: a mile of the most intense blues and greys I have ever seen.

It seriously was like one of those Gladiator-type scenes where someone almost dies and a glimpse of their loved one in heaven sends them back. I am serious. The whole thing blew my mind. After a mile, there was another beautiful descent, but alas, I had to return to collect my friend at the finish line. I am resolved to return and complete the full trail.

*This* was the candidate for best hike ever. But we also explored:


We didn’t venture into the main park of the park, but did explore a cool little trail to a bridge. I liked this trail because it was very different to the rest of the Moab landscape – verdant and marshy in the midst of red rock and desert. No best hike ever, but, pretty cool.

Actually, Canyonlands was better than I give it credit for

Arches National Park

Eh, famous for its, well, arches, but perhaps it was pregnancy nausea, or the inclement weather, or my too high expectations,  I was not blown away (metaphorically… in a climb to see one of the biggest arches on an exposed ledge, I was). But this park has several short trails where you can indeed see lots of arches, but often (although not always) from a distance.

The rest of the road trip, was just that: more road than trail. We hit 4-corners: a neat place where you can stand in 4 states at once,

One of the four states: do you know the other three?

and eat Fried bread (A Navajo classic)

before journeying onto Flagstaff,


a very cool college town with some amazing and highly recommended gourmet food my friend treated me to.

It was a wonderful road trip: the kind Brits are not lucky enough to take in their homeland. And one of my only proper i.e. multi-day road trips. But… I should have written this post earlier, before the memory faded and I was left with just my ‘phone pictures, some awesome memories (did I mention Hidden Valley Trail?), five new pins in my map… and the newly dawning realization I still owe my friend $160 for the accommodation.

baa shíni’

A few thoughts on the new immigration law….

It is a sad day for me. There are so many things I love about Alabama, I even wrote a post defending it against the popularized view. But slowly, I have been faced more and more with the stereotypes, and I have had to give in. I no longer want to live here, and I certainly don’t want to raise children here. I have met many wonderful people here, and I have learned many wonderful things from them. But this new immigration law was the final straw, and here is why:

The new law states that if there is “reasonable suspicion” about someone legal status to be here, the police can stop them and request they show their immigration status, and can hold them “without bond”. All non US citizens are required to carry their immigration papers with them, at ALL times, by law. This overrides the previous requirement that we carried our passport; now we have to carry forms such as our DS-2019, which can only be replaced twice EVER.

Clearly this is deeply impractical (I go hiking in Alabama for several days and I know it is going to rain and I am supposed to carry this with me, when it will likely get damaged? I go to a music festival and I am expected to carry around several flimsy pieces of paper?), but I *guess* this could be circumvented if the US produced some card like the US State ID that was more practical. But, it is not about practicality to me. It is about making anyone who looks, or sounds ‘different’ a second class citizen.

Let me explain. Currently, in the UK and the US there are laws to protect individuals from law enforcers discriminating against them because of how they look, or how they speak (and actually for many other reasons, including in the UK, their sexuality and religion… the US is not universally quite so… enlightened). You cannot be stopped and searched, or detained for these reasons (hence in high areas of knife crime in the UK, where stop and search is legalized, law enforcers are legally bound to stop and search a racial distribution approximately equivalent to the racial distribution of the area. I don’t believe that has ever caused any problems). You are basically protected from the following scenarios:

“A policeman pulls over a pretty girl to tell her she needs to fix the tail light on her car. He likes her cute foreign accent. He asks her on a date. She says no. He takes offense and decides to make her life difficult. He asks her to show her papers… she can’t, so he detains her for 24 hours. Perhaps when she realizes what is happening, she will change her mind about that date?”.

“A policelady’s husband comes home, furious. An man of Indian descent has smashed into his car and didn’t have car insurance, so could not cover the damages. The police were called but the Indian man was here illegally, and so could not be prosecuted. He drove away (something similar actually happened to my husband with a different racial group). The car needs some $5,000 worth of repairs and the policewoman finds this out at she leaves the house to go to work. 10 minutes later she sees a group of young Indian men standing on the street. Her blood boils. Why are they just hanging around? Don’t they have jobs to go to? One of them drops a piece of litter. Ah ha! She pulls over and starts giving them a hard time, and asks them to prove their right to be there. She detains them for 24 hours. That will teach them a lesson”.

Whether these are far-fetched or not, the problem is that US citizens who are white, and sound American, are protected from this. Foreigners (and, admittedly any US citizen who does not) are not. Therefore, all legal immigrants have lost what I think of as a basic human right: To be free from persecution due to the colour of their skin or any other factors reflecting their origin. Why would I stay in state that mandates persecution because of how you look? We have become second class citizens, and why the heck would I stay in a place that has legally made me so? Why the heck would I stay in a place that does that to anyone?

What has disgusted me most of all, is the response of some Alabamians. Here are some examples:

-“Well, I don’t know why you worry, it’s not going to affect you [because you are white, blonde and female]”

They don’t realise that, in eyes, that makes it effing WORSE.

-“But our state really needs help with this issue”.

Then put something across the board. Instead of police being called when there is “reasonable suspicion” if someone wants to enter high school, make it a law that EVERYONE has to prove citizenship when they enroll. Make it that when the police come to the scene of a crime, everyone has to show ID that shows their citizenship. Yes, it would be a hassle, but if your so desperate to save help your state, you can do it. You are supposed to do it anyway, I believe, although the police have no enforcement method. And even more importantly, I strongly believe in the following quotation:

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power” ~Benjamin Franklin. Often interpreted as:

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

-But, we need to save our state from The Mexicans. We need to keep ‘The illegals’ out.

I don’t think I even need to discuss these ones. If my child openly used language like that, without seeing anything wrong with it. I would think I had failed as a parent.

I will concede that this is not even the worst of the law. It is just what touched me. The law also says you can be prosecuted for transporting or helping an illegal immigrant. So, if a young child gets very sick, you can be prosecuted for giving him or her acute care. The cries of ‘oh, but you won’t be’ leave me cold in a state who is happy to sanction such actions by law.

How disappointing Alabama. And how tired I am of seeing people who are wary, or unsure, of me and my friends because many of us are foreign. How sad I am to go out and about in Alabama and find such insular people that they have never really interacted with ‘foreigners’. It may well not be their fault, but perhaps that just makes it all the sadder.It seems clear to me that Alabama needs much more integration. It breaks my heart what a segregated society it is (seriously, different racial groups hang out in different areas; I have had places described to me as ‘the black area’. I am not sure I have ever even seen an African-American in Whole Foods). Laws like this are only taking away an enriched and enlightened life from you and your children.

And you are losing some of the very brightest and best people. I know excellent scientists who are (American and) leaving because they don’t want to raise their children in such a climate. I know some amazing Scientists who don’t even want to move here because of it. You are shooting yourselves in the foot.

When I first commented on the segregation between blacks and whites here, I was once asked “well, whose fault do you think that is?” and I replied that I thought it was the fault of both blacks and whites. I now do not agree. The attitudes and responses I see from white Southern people (and yes, sorry, you have all been from The South), that I so far have not seen from black people, lay the blame squarely on one side of the divide.

I would say I have met some Southerners who are very sorry that this has been passed, and some who agree that a universal law (i.e. ALL show citizenship, regardless of race) is absolutely the only way forward, and some who simply want to reasonably discuss and learn. And I love these people. But that is not the majority. Let us not forget that I left my old church because at Bible study group, people went on a rant about foreigners and when someone said ‘but many of them are here legally’ I genuinely heard the response:

“Oh you don’t know. You don’t have to smell their cooking. They are not in your backyard”.


I don't approve of this cartoon. But Alabama, this is how you are forcing the rest of the world to see you. http://theperplexedobserver.tumblr.com/post/6800089685/interfaith-march-planned-against-alabama

Why I am sorta anti-drug

Well, that was just for the sake of a catchy title; I should more accurately say: “Why I am pro reducing (not eliminating) some prescription medications where possible”. Partly because I am British and we fear many drugs (except birth control which we apparently hand out like tic tacs) and their effects. We have a (possibly overblown) fear about medicated personalities and tolerance and addiction and about, quite frankly, not manning up and dealing with the fact that sometimes life is tough and it is not always going to be a level playing field.

This is the scenario that has lead to my latest blog outburst:

So, my sleep schedule has been a little messed up. It started last Saturday after a slightly emotionally-charged (but fully resolved) day. I got up from bed at midnight and listened to some podcasts online, watched a trashy chick flick and fell asleep somewhere between 3 and 4, getting up ~8 am for church. I was a little tired, but it didn’t stop me doing everything I needed to do that day, pretty cheerfully, and having guests over the evening to sample the champagne for the wedding. And sample we, or at least, I, did. Amazingly I slept very well that night 😉

Monday – no sleep. Nothing was bothering me, nor making me anxious. I just felt excited and spent the night watching trashy movies, catching up with friends in England, snuggling my cats and yes, looking at the odd wedding website. I fell asleep at about 6.30 and had to get up at 8.30 / 9.00 for work. There were no serious effects… apart from skipping my workout (heavy lifting on no sleep? Nay!) there was nothing other than a little tiredness. Here is my email about the day:

“I am shattered! All achey and tired, but OK really 🙂  Little difficult to concentrate but AM doing a very boring grant review. Meeting with Donna in 40 mins, I am going to ask for some help with my job apps and if I can apply for a new grant – I need to be faculty for it, and Donna may well agree to that (without the accompanying salary hike) for a year. Exciting!

Hopefully I will sleep like a baby tonight :)”

I don’t think this sounds like someone at the end of their tether. We had guests over that night, I worked after until about midnight, then fell asleep at 3 am (after, yes, more trashy movies. I am the master of these mwah ha ha).

Next, again, about  a 3 am sleep, maybe 4, but I just didn’t feel tired. I mentioned it to people in the UK and as long as I was still at work (I was), not unhappy (I wasn’t), not unduly tired (I wasn’t) and not missing out on anything in life (heck I was still zumba-ing and doing my weekly HIIT sprints with no problem) they found it funny and cute, and were surprised I had not expected it before.

“You’re getting MARRIED in 2 weeks, we’d be worried if you were blase”.

Have wine and a hot bath / don’t work or talk to anyone after 10 / watch the wedding scene in 16 candles with cocoa were the pieces of advice I received; until I  mentioned it to my PCP. I sorta wanted her to smile and giggle and perhaps have some lifestyle-advice gem I had missed (try a cooler room, don’t be hungry, stablize blood sugar with a light snack… anything). As I clearly wasn’t bothered by it, (in fact, I secretly liked the fact that it made me feel ‘bridal’) I was shocked when she prescribed a benzodiazepine.

I took it that night, fell asleep in 30 mins, slept through my alarm, was groggy the next day and dissolved both  asleep, and into tears, at my desk. Ick! I told my fiance – he said I needed Ambien, a different type of pill. Many of my friends (US friends) had warned me about this, and advised against it. I said that I didn’t think I did – I didn’t think I needed pills at all. He said, I just needed to take it earlier in the evening.

Anyway, I didn’t take it the next night, but my not sleeping sorta bothered my finace and even though he went to sleep ~2 am at 3 am I took 1/2 a dose and dozed off, because I was worried if I didn’t sleep and he found out I hadn’t taken it, he would get frustrated. The next day, I said that I didn’t think I needed anything, but he was fairly insistent I did, and that I needed Ambien and I was scared about an argument / lecture if I didn’t sleep again so I took the tablet at 9, as he suggested, fell asleep at 9.30 and then apparently had the weirdest 1 & 1/2 hours of my life – which I don’t remember. Falling asleep on the floor 1/2 undressed; sleeping sitting up, sleep walking, drinking frikkin’ coca-cola (full fat, this has upset me most), standing in front of doors asleep, crying in my sleep. I woke up then and watched Grey’s Anatomy (NOT my choice 🙂 ) and Michael McIntyre (absolutely my choice) quite happily for a while and fell asleep.

I. Don’t. Want. To. Take. Drugs. That. Affect. My. Personality.

Wait for it. See? My personality is to get hyper and excited about things, and then I crash out when it all gets too much. It may not be ‘ideal’ but it doesn’t affect my life, and anyone who has CHOSEN to be in my life has CHOSEN to put up with that. I always say when I am dating someone “the door is open. I am not doing to force / persuade / emotionally blackmail you into going out with me. If I try and change it will end up being temporary and it won’t be ME. I am who I am, and you don’t have to sign up to that”. Most do; I remember only 1 who didn’t. But sleeplessness nights and being excited and running on a lot of energy has been a feature of my life, periodically: when I first went to Cambridge; when I wrote my PhD thesis in 10 days; when I first moved to Alabama. It is who I am and it doesn’t bother me.

So, I mentioned on facebook that I had a benzodiazepine. A lot of my friends wrote back and said “don’t take it girl! It’s not that bad yet” (one who is a surgeon said that she had even been tempted in her time when she was working on frequent boats of 3 hours of sleep, but had never succumbed)” and an American commented “I am annoyed your friends have that attitude. They don’t know you, and they don’t know the detriment to your life of not sleeping for a few nights”.

Thing is, they do. They know both of those. They know me, they know I am excitable and they love it about me. They celebrate differences in people and support them through and downsides. They know, in my life, I have skipped sleep for a while and been just fine. They have sometimes supported me through it with girlie nights and trashy magazines. They know that I do just fine (heck, I write a thesis that doesn’t need corrections… go figure). They know that if I am not unhappy about it, then all I need is a ‘dear dear’ and an encouragement that this is justification to break the diet and have some cheesecake.

The American who said that, my GP, my fiance – these are the people who do not know me, and do not know how I personally cope with not sleeping for a few nights. These are the people who have not sat down and honestly talked me through whether I have anxiety (I don’t, except now about my last post). That have not asked how my work is doing (quite well thanks, had some good meetings and wrote up a paper). That have not asked if I am too tired to do some healthful exercise (nope, I kicked ass in kickboxing!). These are the people who, in my mind, want to stop me being me.

A while ago I was diagnosed with an infected wisdom tooth just before I was flying. It was a misdiagnosis – it was actually inflamed from slight impaction, but that is what you get with free medical care I guess. Oh no, wait, I paid for it here. My mistake. They have me Percoset for the pain – and it certainly killed the pain. But (shhhhh) so did aspirin and paracetamol. Why shhhh? Because I took the Percoset. It made life so good! It reduced my everyday little worries, it made me calmer, more focused, more attentive, easier to be around. I thought it was great, until my bottle ran out. I asked my (then) boyfriend if I should go and get beta blockers, or anti depressants, or a mild anti anxiety drug to mimic the effects of Percoset in every day life. I knew I wanted to marry him when he looked at me, in the car, at the intersection of Highlands and Clairmont and said  “No baby. You go up and down, but that is you. Your friends and I love you, you don’t need a drug to change that”. He captured exactly how I felt deep down and what I wanted to hear. It breaks my heart that that it not the sentiment I feel anymore, and that I feel my personality is a ‘problem’ to be ‘solved’, without a real discussion of if I am happy with that, and without trying alternatives to manage, rather than change me.

I cling on to my friend David’s words. When I was still settling in to UAB, and wondering if I needed to be more ‘Southern’ in my dress, attitude and so on I asked his opinion. He said “You’re wonderful. Don’t ever change. Be you – but be it knowingly”. It was about a year ago, but these words still help me sleep at night (except this week it would seem 😉 ).

I really love my life. I used to smoke marijuana (in the UK only) until (1) it made me feel queezy and (2) it made me paranoid. But, I was always against it being smoked as part of everyday life. Sure, add it to your occasional party arsenal if you so like. But, if I needed or wanted it every day I would think there was something wrong with my life, and rather than change my mental response to what is my daily life, I’d rather improve the actual life. If my job is boring, I don’t want weed to make it tolerable – I want to change it so that it is and I am LUCKY to be in a position of privilege to be able to do this (which is why I don’t judge others). If I think life it better through a slightly stoned haze, I’d rather change things to recreate that level of enjoyment myself. If I need it in the evenings, because I am bored – I’d rather get a new hobby (maybe that’s why I grow orchids, play video games, write books, weight lift etc etc 🙂 ). If it is because I am stressed at work, I’d rather sort that out differently.

I don’t want to be divorced from my life. I don’t want to miss out on this final 2 weeks of excitement. It’s a once in a lifetime thing. As Daddy said today “If you get tired, the adrenaline will see you though the wedding day and you’ll sleep like a baby for the next week. It’s just two weeks Lek”. I don’t want to be put to sleep ‘like a good little girl’ (unless my life is feeling some detriment from insomnia) while my fiance can keep whatever sleep schedule he likes (he frequently goes to bed at 2 am and naps during the day). I don’t want people to give me something that changes my behaviour without sitting down and talking to me, and deciding if it is the best thing for me, and if I am happy for that. From the bottom of my heart – thanks to Mum, Dad, Stella and Ryan for doing so.


My experience (subjective) is that I am in a state where 40% of the men I interact with are medicated / offered medication for ADD / ADHD (although this is definitely a sampling bias), and would like to offer me ADD medication. If this number is on the increase, in 11% time, will we soon medicate the non-ADD people as abnormal? And when will we stop telling people they are ‘not OK’ for who they are? And that they have the power to change who they are, of they want? And that they are capable of adapting their  lifestyle without a pill, sometimes?

I am not against medication per se, not even psychological medication – I have even advised people to take it. This is just a bad experience, and reveals some underlying attitudes that I would like people to consider and challenge in the light of their potential consequences.

Thank you for listening. You did better than my PCP 🙂