17 December 2008

i am so tired

yup. so tired i have no words. that is why there has been only sporadic blogging lately. in fact i am so tired that i just went to am empty office at work, laid down ON THE DESK, set my alarm for 30 minutes later and took a nap. probably not work appropriate. but i am SO tired.

11 December 2008

Christmas Time

I cant believe it is Christmas time already! Seriously? where did this year go? I always remember my parents saying that years flew by, and i used to think? really? i don’t think so... crazy old people. But I completely understand where they are coming from. The years do fly by. and I can believe it is Christmas already.

And, after really loads of blog posts about Christmas trees and decorations, hearing Christmas carols, seeing lights up everywhere... I finally decided it was time to get in the holiday spirit and I have decorated our flat. Out came the Rat Pack Christmas CD and up went the tree. and whilst these decorations in no way compare to Katie (whose tree is my favourite by far) here you go. our Christmas decorations...

I took an up close picture in an attempt to fool every one into thinking our tree is huge. In fact, it is only 19 inches tall...

this is our tree in its entirety. try not to be jealous people.

i do really like this little jar of gold balls and red beaded coasters. i think its a nice touch.

and last but not least, the santa tray.

9 December 2008

you gotta love kids...

Can you imagine being the teacher in the class who had this picture presented to them? nice.

3 December 2008

a positive thought about the NHS

yeah, hard to believe I know. But yesterday, for the first time in my entire life (well entire life that I have lived under the NHS) I have a positive thing to say about it. Here is the story.

I went to the doctor last week when I was in Tulsa, I wasn’t feeling so hot. They said if it got worse, they could call in a prescription and I could pick it up in Boston as that is where I am this week. Well, I held off as long as possible, but yesterday the point came where I thought it best to get the medicine, especially before I went back to the UK. So the doctor called the pharmacy here in Boston and when I called to see if it was ready for pick up, the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, someone called in a prescription for Kristina Williams. Is it ready?

Pharmacy Lady: ah, let me see.... oh yes, here it is. Oh wait, I don’t seem to have your insurance information.

Me: oh its ok. I live in the UK, so I don’t have insurance in America. I will just pay for it.

Pharmacy Lady: really? its quite expensive.

me: ok...how much is quite expensive? (i am thinking $80 or $90)

Pharmacy lady: well the total is $509.99.

Me: WHAT?!! $509.99?!? That’s FIVE HUNDRED AND NINE DOLLARS??! Is that what you said?

Pharmacy Lady: Yes, I did say it was quite expensive.

Me: uh yeah....no thanks. I think I will pass on the medicine.

Enter the NHS. On the National Health Service prescriptions are £7. that’s right. they are all SEVEN POUNDS! not $509.99, but £7 If I was in the UK I could have bought that prescription. Granted, they probably would not have actually prescribed it to me because they don’t actually like it when you see a doctor (if you actually get to see one) but all the same. prescriptions are at a fixed rate. and that is nice. that is also the only nice thing i will ever say about the NHS. I was not made for socialism people.

As it turns out, Walgreens has a 'prescription insurance plan' where if you do not have insurance any where else, and are not on any other kinds of benefits, then you can pay $20 a year and get all your prescriptions with them on their insurance. That made my prescription on $55.98. So I did that instead. Now I am covered for a year. nice. I got my medicine and, according to my receipt, I saved $454.01. insane!

2 December 2008

oh america

How I love you. as far back as I can remember I have said I wanted to live overseas. i think it was the idea of an exotic land, a culture different to mine own, a new language; it was the pull of an adventure. Now, roughly two years of life in the UK and there is a new pull. America. perhaps it is just the holiday season, thanksgiving food, leaves with loads of colour, Christmas lights and the promise of snow. perhpas it is that the last two weeks i have been in America, the sun has been brightly shining every day. that’s right, SUN EVERY DAY! i was beginning to question the existence of the sun in the UK. here, there is no doubt. the sun exist and comes out every day to bring comfort and joy. i miss the sun.

I miss my family, being in the same time zone as my friends, i miss chick-fil-a, loafin joes, big SUV's, super wal-mart, free drink refills, QT, affordable petrol, affordable anything really. I miss america. I never want to be one of those people who thinks America is the best and that all the other countries suck. One of those obnoxious Americans who constantly pits every experience against life in the US, coming to the same conclusion every time-America is the best. But.... lets be frank here people, America is pretty damn good.

So here I am, sitting in my companies corporate office in Boston, Mass gazing out the window into the glorious sunshine, wishing that this was my home office instead of rainy, windy, cold UK.

20 November 2008

too much to do

How, HOW did I leave it so long to pack?! Oh wait, I know. Because Rhys insisted that we could pack up from crap flat, move into nice flat, clean nice flat, unpack, clean the crap flat (to please the jerk off of a landlord), organise AND pack for 2 weeks in America ALL IN 6 DAYS!!! That is not enough days to do all of that!! so here it is Thursday and I have, well, i have pretty much done nothing!! I guess that is not entirely true. The books are finally arranged in the bookcase, clothes are mostly put away, dishes are put away nicely, and the coats are neatly hung on our new coat racks. However nothing is done in the bathroom and everything in the living, bar the books, is strewn haphazardly around on couches, tables and floors. I have a lot left to do. least of all packing for America.

We leave tomorrow. And not tomorrow in a relaxed, well planned fashion either. I will get up hurriedly at 630 to rush to get ready to catch my train, to go to work, to take a cab from work to the airport to meet Rhys. Not exactly the ideal way to leave for a trip. Worse thing? the suitcases I need to pack for America are still full of stuff I have yet to unpack from the other house!! yeah, good planning Williams, good planning.

19 November 2008

language barriers

When I first moved to the UK I posted quite a bit about the language differences. Even though we both use English it is really two different versions of it. For a while now I have not had any problems. I have changed my word usage and grammatical structure to fit that of the crazy Brits that I live amongst. See? I even say things like 'amongst'

However, this morning was a bit of an issue. I went to the local cafe where I get breakfast when I forget to pack mine and I asked if they had oatmeal. The conversation went something like this:

me: Hiya, do you have oatmeal? (notice the hiya...another great British-ism I have picked up)

cafe lady: ummm...let me see. (she walks over to the bread and roll section) No, it looks like all we have is regular brown. I can give you a brown roll?

me: No, I don’t mean bread...I mean oatmeal, like soup.

cafe lady: oh, like lentils? No, we don’t have lentil soup.

me: No, not lentils.... (ok, MAJOR mind blank here!! what in the world do they call oatmeal in the UK?!) umm.... I am trying to think of what you would call it over here... its oat-y and soup-y and you can make it with milk.

cafe lady: oh, you mean hot oats? like porridge?

me: yes. that is what I mean. (all the while I am thinking, hot oats? is that really so different from oatmeal?)

cafe lady: no, we don’t have that. but we do have hard boiled eggs.

me: (cause that is the same?) oh, well ok. that sounds ok too. I will take some of those.

So my language barrier this morning got me two hard boiled eggs instead of oatmeal. they were tasty though and I thoroughly enjoyed!

18 November 2008

facebook and organic food.

There was a time when I boycotted facebook. I thought it was stupid. I refused to jump on the bandwagon of internet communication. When people asked 'are you on facebook?' I took great pride and joy out of my resounding answer of 'NO' My thought was that if you really wanted to talk to me or keep in touch that much, then you could call. That is what a phone was for. If nothing else, email at least. Oh, how mistaken I was. I have happily been on facebook for just over a year now. It is not only an excellent way to kill time whilst bored at work, but it is also a fantastic way to keep in touch with people, especially as I am so far away. I love seeing pictures, reading the stories, and having bits of conversations with people that I normally wouldn't. I had lost touch with some people that I considered to be important. Through facebook we are back, reacquainted and communicating on a regular basis. Plus all the pictures are great when you have nothing else to do and are stuck at a desk, staring at a computer screen. I am a facebook convert.

The same can be said for texting. Come on now, is that even a real word? texting? I think it is a made-up word, like journaling or facebooking. Text is not a verb; adding 'ing' on the end should not automatically make it one. I say it though, just like I say journaling. I don’t think anyone actually says 'facebooking' I just couldn’t come up with another noun we have magically turned into a verb. But the point is, I used to boycott the text function. I thought, and regularly said, if you want to talk to me, call! (are you surprised I still have friends? gosh, I sound like a jerk here!) But it’s true. I thought it was so impersonal, so short, so….blah. But I love it. It is really quite handy. I do not, nor will I ever, use text lingo. lol, 4u, 2u, l8r etc... that is still moronic to me. But the general idea of a text instead of a call is good. Saves time and money. Plus sometimes it is nice to be able to just ask one question and then move on. I am a texting convert.

I also boycott organic. anything organic. again, i think it is stupid. A ploy to get people to buy into something more expensive but that tastes exactly the same. Fair Trade was different. Fair Trade products ensured that people/children were not abused, forced to work for poor wages, in hidious conditions etc... Ever since Hannah really explained the whole Fair Trade thing to me, I have been trying. But organic. phuffhuf! (read: eye roll coupled with annoyed sound)

What really gets me is the improper use of the word organic. Organic reallly means having carbon based molecules in the molecular structure. Think back to Organic Chemistry. that was not the study of chemical free products and production. NO! Organic Chemistry is the study of compounds containing carbon! It bothers me because everything living is organic. Living things require carbon. organic things are things that have carbon based molecules in their molecular structure. Therefore, again, EVERYTHING is organic. I can buy a regular apple for 15p or an organic one for 75p and the word used to describe one over the other....well it could be used for both. people have said that what organic meant was free from pesticides, all natural growing etc... My response was always that 'they' the organic food people, should come up with a new word then. You cant just arbitrarily change the definition of a word!!

but...yet again a change of heart. I am trying to be healthy. remember that one post about these are the things I actually need to do? Well, its about time I started with the food. As I said back then, this is the only body I will have. Yesterday i bought my very first 'organic' product. Organic Honey and Mustard salad dressing. yup. it tasted the same as regular honey and mustard dressing, but I actually felt a bit better about it. i knew it was chemical free. I knew it was healthier for me. and thereby I enjoyed it more. perhaps the lesson to be learned from this is that i should not boycott things, I end up doing it later anyway.

seriously people?!

With all the election hullabaloo, followed by Armistice Day, I have posted a quite a few political posts. Yet despite my best attempts I am simply too opinionated to keep this blog light all the time. What can I say? I have loads of thoughts about government, current events, politics, the world…. And since I think everyone should hear what I have to say, I will post it all here! Aren’t you lucky?

And on that note, what is wrong with the UK when Russell Brand loses his job, Jonathan Ross gets suspended, and the director of BBC Radio 2 has to resign all over a joke about a famous dudes grand daughter, (a grand daughter who let us know forget is in a burlesque show named 'The Satanic Sluts') yet NO ONE has yet to be suspended or lose their job over the death, nay murder, of an 18 month old baby?! Despite the fact that social workers and doctors had visited the boy 60 times, no one stepped in to prevent the torture that this little, defenceless boy. What is wrong with our society that it is ok for public outcry to result in loss of jobs and money for two comedians who took a joke perhaps a bit too far, but its ok to oversee the slow and painful death of a small child?! Perhaps it is even more shocking that the public were more interested in responding to Brand and Ross than to this small little boy. If it were up to me, the entire social services, from the top of the top all the way to the bottom-ANYONE who dealt with this little boy and his family 60 times (including the GP) would be fired. they are partly responsible as far as i am concerned. They don’t deserve their jobs; they should not have the chance to deal with more children. It is wrong. Where are our priorities people?

There was talk on the internet, facebook in particular, about a ‘hate campaign’; people posted names and pictures calling for retribution on the mother, her partner and their lodger. I know that the proper attitude is to forgive. But part of me can’t help but think that now at least they will get what they deserve. Perhaps that is not fair for me to say. But I think it’s about time that the family behind this abuse was ‘named and shamed’ so to speak. Who cares about their human rights…..when you beat a child to the point where facial bones are broken, teeth knocked out, ears bloodied and barely connected to the head, broken bones, stitches needed all over and a broken back….well you have lost all your rights. This is an open and shut case. They have admitted abuse and causing death. They are all 3 being tried and sentenced. Good luck in prison.

14 November 2008

I almost died. reallly.

In all the CPR, First Aid, Lifeguarding types of classes, the instructors always say that when someone is choking to not touch them, but to say 'keep coughing' until they cannot cough anymore. at which point you proceed to do the Heimlich. I remember one class in particular going over the 'keep coughing' rule so much that my friend and I ended up laughing so hard whilst making fun of the teacher that we were asked to leave and come back when we could behave.

so with that in mind, I starting choking today. I was walking, well more like speed walking at a pace that was almost a jog, back to the office. I was eating some carrots as I tend to be impatient and I simply couldn’t wait until I got back to work to start eating them. So here I am, speed walking along the street, stuffing my mouth full of raw carrots. Then I tripped. just a little trip, the kind where you have a stumble but managed to regain your footing without any embarrassment or notice. Well, the trip was the final straw. I couldn’t chew, swallow and catch myself all at the same time. I started to choke. I was coughing and coughing, apparently making quite a scene as several people turned to look. Then, to my horror, I realised the carrot was really stuck and I couldn’t cough anymore!! I was just gasping. I freaked out, as I do, and instead of remaining calm and thinking of something logical I started trying to cough as hard as I could while turning in a circle. The circle bit was probably not conscience movement, but I ended up doing it all the same.

I have a small crowd gathered about by this time. I am still trying to cough while turning in a circle and pointing at my throat. After what seems like hours, but was probably only about 30 seconds, a man realises I am choking and comes over to help. "are you ok?" asks man. In my head i respond "WHKNASFIOHT!!!, does it look like I am ok? I am choking on a freakin' carrot here!! if I cant even cough how the heck do you think I am going to respond to you?" Instead, I keep attempting to cough...only this time I succeed. I cough and up comes the carrot. half chewed and pretty slobbery, the carrot hits the man in the face. To make it worse, bits of carrot even came out of my nose! the crows wanders away, I thank said man for helping and apologise profusely for spitting my lunch on him. He says no worries and walks off. I continue my walk back to the office, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than before. And for some strange reason, in spite of all of the hassle and near death experience, I continued to eat carrots as I walked.

a new flat....

we are moving. And it is very exciting. well, not the actual moving part, but the having a new flat part. I cannot wait. part of me is a bit sad about leaving 35 Fairlawns, I will a few things. That is only a tiny, tiny part though. Most things I won’t miss. I wont miss the mold, the lack of an overhead shower, the year upon year of decay in the bathroom, the crazy old woman upstairs, the piano playing next door neighbour and her musician friends who choose to practice around 2am, the fridge door that doesn’t shut all the way so our food goes off after one day, the washing machine that leaks (you have no idea how many books have been ruined) and sounds like a WWII airplane taking off every time it runs, the kitchen sick tap that is broken and squirts at you, the landlord who hate Americans, and woman, and really people in general. but I will miss the 'idea' of 35 Fairlwans. It was my first home as a married woman. that last bit of the sentence made me sound like i am about 50, but its true. that tiny, one car garage (with room left over) of a flat was the first home that Rhys and I shared. plus from the outside it looked really nice, so that makes it ok right?

Our new place is like heaven compared to the old flat. It is on the first floor, which in the UK means second floor, and it is lovely. An old house conversion, we are one of 4 flats in the building. There is a communal door for the top 3 and then on basement flat below us. our flat is beautiful. I will put some pictures up once I actually remember to take some, but in the meantime, let me try to describe it to you.

The ceilings are vaulted, about 14 feet high. The house was built in the early 1800's, so there is really intricate moulding and trim around the top. All the floors are old fashioned wood. The walls are white and tan and have just been repainted. As you walk in the front door there is a slight entry room/hallway. Immediately to the left is the living room. There is a big bay window to the front, which faces the sun so we get loads of natural light (something we were lacking in the old flat) there are two big white couches and a small table. We will soon be adding a bookshelf and computer table. The bathroom is directly in front of the door when you walk in, to the left of the living room. It was re-done less than a year ago and you can tell. The room is floor to ceiling tile. Big, rough, tan and brown tile. Very contemporary. all the fittings are silver and there are a few glass shelves around. ready for the best part? THERE IS A SHOWER!! yea!! this shower is actually attached to the wall, as opposed to be held up about mid chest level by a piece of string from an old pair of shorts tied to a clothes drying rack. (Interested in the old shower?) This is actually a REAL shower. It has water pressure too!! I am looking forward to washing my hair more than twice a week!! The bedroom is to the left of the bathroom and it is huge! we have a queen size bed (which is leaps and bounds better than the double we have had). the frame is old, rod iron with a great design. There are two wardrobes and we will soon add a dresser as I have more clothes than a small army!

Going back to the front door, if you walk in, through the entry and take a left, there is a little hallway; down at the end of the hallway is the kitchen. The kitchen is about 2/3 the size of what we have now, but it was also re-done about a year ago and it is beautiful!! All new counter tops, silver appliances, tan wood cabinets, and new tile floor. It beats the bright yellow kitchen, with yellow cabinets and yellow appliances of the old flat. Right next to the kitchen, off the hallway bit is a little storage alcove. The washer and fridge are in here as well as loads of room for storage. Oh, and did I mention the fridge is a full size fridge as opposed to the college dorm room sized one we have now?! It is beautiful.

I realise that I probably made that sound a bit nicer than what it really is, but I am excited. Any way you look at it, it is much nicer than what we have now. The way it is divided, the hallways and the tall ceilings give the impression that the flat is bigger than it actually is. Our new flat is barely 400 sq. feet. Less than a one car garage. ah, sometimes my living arrangements make me laugh when I put it in the context of what most American married couples my age have.....

11 November 2008

11th hour, 11th day, 11th month

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep,
though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

It was the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month that the Great War finally drew to a close. And the world would never be the same again. I do not have the words to describe the war. I don’t think anyone does. Even those who fought in the trenches, who watched comrades fall, who came back wounded, destroyed; even they couldn’t find the words. It was worse than any horror imaginable. The roads leading to the trenches were covered with the bodies of dead men and animals, carcases too laborious to move, bodies too numerous to count . The wrecked shells of supply carts and ambulance wagons lay scattered across the fields. entire plains collapsed and barren due to the heavy artillery bombardments. Shell holes made some areas impassable. The unyielding downpour of rain made travel and life even more difficult, creating slimy pits of mud that simply swallowed equipment and men alike as they passed. Even remaining stationary didn’t help. The platforms and make-shift shelters the men tried to build simply crumbled and sunk; more often than not creating additional causalities. It was atrocious. It was hell.

Today is the day we honour those brave young men who fought in those bloody trenches. Today is the day we honour ALL the brave men and women who have served in the armed forces in some way. Be it the front lines, the sea, the air, the nurses station or the home front. each and every person who has so selflessly given their time, effort and sometimes even life for the protection and defence of country, humanity, life, and freedom. We honour them.

I went to the ceremony today at the cenotaph on Whitehall commerating to the very day the 90th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War. I can not even begin to describe how simply amazing it was. Thousands turned out on this very special of Tuesdays to celebrate and honour the thousands before us who have so bravely served. But today was different. Today was extraordinary. Today Henry Allingham, Williams Stone and Harry Patch all laid wreaths at exactly the 11th hour. Henry and Harry are both 110, Williams is 108. They are the last 3 surviving British vets of the First World War. Mr. Harry Patch is the only, THE ONLY survivor who saw active warfare in the trenches. He served in Passchendaele. (Click here and here to learn more.)

I got to Whitehall nearly 2 hours before the service was scheduled to start. I was determined to have a clear view of the veterans. When I arrived barely after 9am, the street was already filling up. By 10.45 there was not an empty spot of tarmac or sidewalk visible. Thousands had come out to show their respect. When the 3 men were wheeled into sight, deafening cheers and thunderous applause erupted from the crowd. Tears sprang into my eyes and began to pour down my checks. even now as I write this I am beginning to well up. The 3 men were so bravely holding their heads as high as their frail and aging bodies would allow, gripping their wreaths of poppies. they were remembering. Williams Stone allowed his wreath to be placed on the cenotaph by a member of the Royal Navy, Harry Patch had his placed by a Royal Marine. Henry Allingham refused to give his up. He so badly wanted to lay the wreath himself. but he couldn’t move. he was chocked up, confined to his wheel chair. he was shifting and fidgeting in a futile attempt to place his poppy wreath on the monument. he refused to let go. my tears came even harder. there was not a single eye that was not moist with the heartache that comes only from seeing a once strong, proud, and well decorated war veteran struggle with the simple task of honouring his comrades. He finally released the wreath and it was laid. The imagine of that struggle will forever be implanted in my memory. His determination even at 110, even after 2 World Wars, even after mustard gas poisoning, even after years of hard work, toil, and countless deaths around him...even then he still had his spirit left. he still wated to be strong. that is true courage. I will never forget the faces of those 3 veterans. It was a honour to see them in person. It was a dream come true.

After the service had ended and the 3 veterans were wheeled to 10 Downing Street, I made my way over to Westminster Abbey. During this time of Remembrance the grounds of the Abbey are covered with crosses, wreaths and poppies. Today, scattered between the rows and rows of make-shift memorials, were numerous veterans spanning all the wars. This must be a proud moment for them. They are honoured regardless of the popularity of the armed forces or of the current war. they are respected. they are looked upon as the heroes they truly are. even more tears fell. I was overwhelmed at the amount of lives impacted by war, both past and current. I have always had a soft spot for the military and I have always been interested in learning more about various conflicts. But today, more so than ever, I was reminded just how important, how truly significant, our war heroes are.

We Will Remember Them...

10 November 2008

travelling circus fair of random events and life lessons

Can I name my book that? is it too long of a title? do you really need a title before you start to write? If you put all my journals and essays together, I have written roughly 20 million books. Yes, 20 million. No exaggeration. I would like to edit those 20 million, throw out the crap and make what is left into one book. I know, no big news. I have mentioned this countless times before. But I feel newly inspired. Why you ask? Because over the course of the last 4 days I have had 7 people tell me that I should write a book. All of those 7 people are quite intelligent. I respect what they say because I know were they have come from. They are not the “Joey’s” of the world who consider a good read to be the back of a cereal box. So I figure maybe it’s worth a shot. Not that I am a big ‘signs’ person, but I think I’ll take this as a sign.

I have also been told recently that my blog is a bit abstract; that there is not enough mention about who I am, background etc… So if that is the case, and my emails seem to indicate it is, I suppose there are a few things that must be said. I love anything fried, I prefer beaches to mountains every time and I love airport food. I would rather run 200 miles through the desert than be a millionaire in a place without sunshine. I want a Weimaraner for a pet, I would like to have a goldfish called Taco that lives in a non working blender in the kitchen and more than most things in life, I want a 1996 black, hard top Defender 90. I once challenged two 300 plus pound men to an eating contest that consisted of a roll, side salad, mashed potatoes and a 72 oz. steak. I lost. Oh, and I hate to lose.

I was born on a warm, sunny day in April. The last day to be specific. Perhaps that is why I love April and dread May. May is a blah month. Aside from school graduations, nothing exciting ever happens in May. (Sorry if you were born in May, nothing personal.) From that day in April until I went away to university, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Middle America was what I considered to be my hometown. I suppose it will always be my ‘hometown’ but I since 2000 I have claimed a variety of cities as home…Tulsa not included. I have a dad, a mom and a brother. I have always, and will always think my family is the best family in the world. Collectively they are smarter, funnier, more attractive and better adjusted than any other family in the whole world. Fact. As a warning, if you disagree with this position, I will not listen to you. You are wrong. In addition to my mom, dad and brother, I also grew up with 2 Chihuahua’s and a Golden Retriever. Tasha, Blackie and Winchester respectively. I loved each and every one of those animals. I loved that Blackie was always a bit fat and had to take pills because she had asthma; I loved that Tasha lived for 18 human years, lost all her teeth and had a giant tongue that constantly hung out of her mouth; I loved that Winchester was so strong he walked you around the block and I loved that he was the sweetest dog ever created! And although I never really loved Tulsa, I loved everything that my life had whilst in Tulsa.

But it was a nice place to grow up and I did enjoyed most things about my childhood. In fact there are few things about my younger years which I remember negatively. Once, when I was about 8 I followed my brother over to our neighbours house. They had a rottweiler. We were all playing in the back yard and I wandered over to their tree house (read: small, wooden fort, not in a tree but instead propped up by poles about two feet off the ground) My brother and the neighbour boy went inside and I was left alone, in the tree house, with the dog. The dog was on the ground, but he was so ginoroums that his head was sticking up through the fort opening. He could sense my fear. He was snarling and barking and no matter how far I backed in the opposite corner, I could still feel his hot breath on my legs. I could only focus on his razor sharp teeth, moist and glistening with dog food and saliva as they prepared to cut through my innocent, frail, shaking 8 year old limbs. This was a dog that played with a bowling ball as a toy for crying out loud! I was screaming and sobbing and since I was only on the other side of the fence to my backyard, my mom could hear me. She kept asking where I was but all I could say was that I was scared. My brother insisted that I was not in the neighbour’s backyard so no one even look for me there. Finally, after what must have been 5 hours (ok, more like 30 minutes) the neighbour recognised my cries as coming from their backyard and rescued me from the giant, ravenous, child eating monster that they called a pet. It was traumatizing. The family later had to put the dog down as it viciously attacked another neighbour. See!? It was not just my childish imagination; that dog would have swallowed me whole! That is probably the most significant negative memory of childhood, but like I said. Those experiences are few and far between.

Still it is those experiences from birth to university that shape us into the self-sufficient, well adjusted, even keeled adults we are all when we finish high school and pack off to college, right? The later part of that sentence is probably very questionable, but it is those early experiences that mould us. They build the foundation, stone by stone, friend by friend, experience by experience, onto which all other life experiences will be based. The foundation we build, and that others build into us, has a large part in determining what we do next. And I suppose it is my background, upbringing and early experiences that make me the brilliant, grounded, genius of a person that I am today. (people, sense the sarcasm here) My enjoyable childhood, supportive parents and middle-America upbringing have made me who I am today. (granted in those parts of the world I am a crazy liberal....) So there you go. I hope that satisfies everyone. A bit of background and radom-ness regarding me.

7 November 2008

little griffin says it all!

how adorable is that face? he is even do the cool kid finger point to his shirt! tell me this is not one of the cutest kids you have ever seen!

The Youth of Britian

I have some serious concerns about the youth of Great Britain after this morning. To be honest, I have had concerns since the gum story of last week. Today just cemented those fears.

Ever been run over by a scooter? no? well let me tell you, it is not a pleasant experience. Clapham is overflowing with people at peak time. The station is packed, brim to brim, with little room to even move. 2 school age boys were attempting to ride their scooters down the platform. Casualties were plentiful. Bags knocked off shoulders, briefcases dropped from hands, and my foot. my foot was a very painful casualty. As i am still defiantly protesting the onset of the winter despite the absence of a summer, I am still wearing flip flops. Flip flops and scooter wheels do not mix. my foot still hurts. crazy youth.

on a high note for the young of GB, I saw one school age boy, around the same age as the two scooter hoodlums, take HIS OWN MONEY (i know it was his, i heard him say) and give it to the Poppy Appeal. Such a worthy cause. (Click here to read all about it) apparently not all was lost on the young.

Although, just as i was starting to regain my confidence in the new generation, i overheard the following conversation on the train.

boy 1: So Obama. you like Obama?

Boy 2: Dont care. doesn’t matter

Boy 1: Oh, look at this article about that girl. Palin. she didn’t even know that Africa was a continent. she thought it was a country. (inreference to this article in today's paper)

Boy 2: Idiot

Boy 1: I heard her parents were brother and sister. gross.

Boy 2: well that’s probably why she didn’t win. no one wants a president with a mum and dad who are brother and sister.

Boy 1: and they want her to be president in 2012.

Boy 2: I wont vote for her.

Nice. I had to bite my tongue to suppress my laugh. that was truly a fantastic conversation. and such an interesting interpretation on why Palin and her party were not elected. Clearly because her parents were brother and sister.

I am back to questioning the youth of Britain.

6 November 2008

Guy Fawkes

Last night was Bond Fire Night. A celebration/remembrance/giant party for Guy Fawkes day. For those of you unfamiliar with Guy Fawkes, click here for an explanation.

I was home last night, I did not partake in any celebration or even attempt to watch the fireworks. Instead I sat on my couch, continually turning up the volume on the T.V. in an attempt to drown out the fireworks exploding all around. But it got me thinking about Guy Fawkes back in America. It is safe to say that less than 5% of Americans celebrate or even recognise that Guy Fawkes is an actual day, that Bond Fire Night is an event that people plan parties around and spend money on. But when I was growing up, my school celebrated Guy Fawkes.

All my young years of schooling were spent at Holland Hall. It was, and still is, quite an uppity, posh private school in Oklahoma. My parents sent us there to get a good education. They took us out because it was ridiculous. Ah, I digress. The point is, there was this one British teacher in the upper school. He was a proper Brit. (or at least he has become one in my memory) I cant remember if he agreed with Guy Fawkes, or the British who burned him, but every year he has his students and their families, and pretty much anyone else, make effigies of Guy Fawkes. Giant, life size people of this man that attempted to over throw the British government. Then on the 5 November, he would plan a 'Bond Fire Night' Everyone would gather down on the football field with wooden crates, sticks, firewood etc... and we would start a giant bond fire. Then a bunch of elementary and middle school kids would throw these life size effigies into the fire. It was a recreation of the Guy Fawkes execution. We re-enacted it every year on the football field. I thought it was great.

Eventually someone complained, saying it was inappropriate for young children to burn effigies, it was unsafe etc, etc... and the teacher had to stop. I don’t know if Holland Hall still celebrates Guy Fawkes. I am not sure if anyone in America really celebrates it. But when i move back, I will. My family will have our own bond fire night; even if it is only in back garden in our grill! we will make mini-effigies and burn those instead. what a fun way to learn history. what a fun memory.

Picture of the fireworks in London last night.

Hula Nia

Since I have often posted pictures of my niece and nephew back in America, i decided it was time to post a picture of my niece on this side of the ocean. and here she is...little hula nia! how precious is this picture! it is from the summer so she is a bit older now, but still. enjoy.

4 November 2008

i hate american airlines


me: hello, i would like to change my flight please

aa: why?

me: because I need to stay longer in America.

aa: oh, well you cant change your ticket. it is not refundable

me: ok, i don’t want a refund though, i just want to change the departure date.

aa: oh. well you cant.

me: why not?

aa: because I don’t know how to do that.

me: ok, well can I speak to some that does?

aa: fine. you will have to wait quite a few minutes.

me: how long is quite a few minutes?

aa: quite a few.

1 hour and 27 minutes later....

aa: ok, i have cancelled your ticket.

me: what?! WHAT?! i did not want you to do that!!

aa: oh. i thought that is what you said.

me: NO!! i just wanted to change the date.

aa: oh, well you cant change the date because the ticket has been cancelled. and it is non refundable so you don’t get your money back.

me: that is insane! you have cancelled my ticket, not given me a new one and i am out the £614 that i paid?!

aa: yes that is correct. can i help you with anything else today.

me: give me a manager. NOW! (insert any number of explitives and gritting of teeth)

aa: ok. you will have to wait quite a few minutes.

42 minutes later a manager comes on and reinstates my ticket, but i still don’t have the changes i need. i say forget it. i will try again later.


me: hello. i would like to make some changes on my flight please.

aa: que? oh, what?

me: i would like to make some changes to my flight please.

aa: what? i dont understand.

me: i need to change a date on my airplane flight.

aa: oh. i dont understand. que? what you say?

me: look i am not trying to be rude, but can you put me on the phone with someone that actually speaks english?

aa: oh yes. hold on por favour.

38 minutes later (yes I timed it)

aa: hello, can i help?

me: yes, i need to make some changes to my flight.

aa: ok. no problem. let me look....oh wait. you cant. its not refundable.

me: i know that. i just need to change my return date. i will pay the change fee.

aa: ok. but you cant.

me: why

aa: because you cant.

me: why cant i?

aa: because i said.

me: because you said?! (seriously?! did he really just say that?!)

aa: yes. because i said you cant.

me: i would like to speak to a manager.

aa: why?

me: because you are a useless and stupid. you are wasting my valuable time by doing absolutely nothing. i have never before called anyone worthless before, but i think you will be the first. (ok, i didn’t say that) because i need someone that can help me and give me a straight answer. (i said that instead)

aa: ok. fine. it will be a long wait. you are in a long queue.

nearly 40 minutes later a manager comes on. tells me he will change the flight. i give him the dates. he comes back and says i cant change the itinerary that much but because he is so kind, he will do almost everything i want. i just have to lose one leg of the trip. WHAT?! i cant make 2 changes, only one. so i have to sacrafice one leg of the flight if i want to change the international portion. WHAT?! i am told it is that or lose the flight. i do that. i am stupid for doing that. what options did i have? nearly 5 hours in total spent on the phone to American Airlines. I am short one leg of my trip now. out the original £614 plus the £94.80 change fee. i got screwed. everyone boycott American Airlines!

# 93473456 why I love my husband

ever had one of those moments? you know, the one where you are hanging out with a really cute boy that you like a lot and you say something stupid. or do something silly. or worst of all, you try to be witty but it is only funny in your head so you are met with a fake smile and awkward silence? one of those moments. in my case I would become utterly humiliated, so much so that i would simply stutter around my word, unable to recover and my face would become such a bright shade of tomato red that it was actually glowing bright enough to guide an airplane to ground in deep fog. those moments are horrendous.

never having those moments again is one of my favourite things about being married. I am not sure if it is marriage in general or being married to Rhys. but it is perfect. not once since we have been married have i been fearful of sounding or looking foolish. we embrace the 'goofiness' equally. i never really thought i would reach the stage with another human where i could be completely and utterly myself. when i imagined what it would be like to be married i assumed i would think of my spouse as a best friend, the person who knew me the best, a soul mate etc... but i always just knew that i would have to hold some of my Crazy in. thankfully that is not the case.

perhaps it is because williams is equally as ridiculous as me. perhaps it was just meant to be and that is who all marriages are (married people: is it like this for you too? tell me. i need to know.) but last night we sat on the couch and made faces at each other. gradually we advanced from faces to strange noises. then we proceeded to make up our own lines and story endings to the T.V. programs that we were watching. yes, all of those things make us really cool. my favourite of the night though was whilst Rhys was doing his crossword I took a pen and randomly filled in squares with the number 7. for some reason i found this to be quite humorous. looking back now, it was not funny. but rhys is so good natured, he just leaned over and kissed my forehead. I didn’t feel stupid at all. he is the best. and this is one of the many reasons why i love my husband.

(as a side note, i do feel stupid for telling all of you this)

31 October 2008

generally i wouldnt but....

I really dont like Halloween. I never had and I cant really imagine myself chaning my mind. That said, i felt this picture was a bit too good to pass up. happy halloween.

Why Pumpkins Shouldn't Drink

30 October 2008

Clapham at 16.52

This is an excerpt from my journal last night. I thought it was quite an eventful entry so I decided to share it.

“I got to Clapham Junction at 16.52. my train leaves at 17.03. Within that 10 minute window of time, the following things happened.

• A group of 3 teenager, 2 girls and 1 boy, were talking very loudly a ways down the platform from me. The conversation went like this:

ratty hair girl: urgh, i don’t want my chewing gum. It has no flavour (said in really whiney voice)
skinny jeans girl: well put it in the bin retard
ratty hair: there are no bins… ah… I don’t want it!!(said in even more annoyingly whiney voice if that is possible)
punk boy: spit it on the track….here I’ll do it for you.

Punk boy proceeds to hold his hand up to ratty hair’s mouth for her to spit her gum in; similar to the way a mother holds her hand to her toddlers mouth when he has eaten a toy or crayon. Weird. She spits her gum into his hand, he rolls it between his fingers until it is in a nice little ball (is this grossing anyone else out? Tell me that is NOT normal) and then he attempts to flick it onto the track. Except he misses. The gum deflects off of the coat of an unsuspecting business women in what appears to be very expensive outer wear. Luckily the gum just bounces off. It lands a few feet away and I think ‘phew! tragedy averted!’ however, before I could even finish that thought, another really fancy woman walks to the platform and places her Louis Vuitton bag right in the gum! Oh, the poor woman. The teenagers ran off down the platform laughing hysterically. I just had to turn away.

• Not even two minutes later a woman who is heavily pregnant comes to the platform. She is holding what I later find out to be a two month old. She is clearly struggling with the baby, shopping bags and coffee in her hand. She is too pregnant to set the coffee on the ground to readjust and she wont let anyone hold the coffee (I asked). Instead she decides to balance the near boiling liquid on top of a bench. Only problem? The bench backs are curved, there is no proper ledge in which to even attempt to balance a drink. As expected the cup quickly slips over, spilling its contents onto the unsuspecting passengers waiting for the train. No one was happy. Pregnant women doesn’t even attempt to apologise. She just looks annoyed she no longer has her coffee! (as an update, I am now on the train and pregnant woman is very unapologetically taking up 3 seats with her bags, talking loudly on the phone whilst her baby is crying.) Despite the woman’s apparent disregard for the feelings and clothing of those around her, the baby is absolutely adorable!

• Whilst the bench people are trying to mop themselves up, a train worker arrives on the platform opposite mine. He is eating a candy bar and when he finishes, in a blatant disregard for anything, he simply throws the wrapper on the ground!! Seriously! I couldn’t believe it. He then proceeds to yell across the platform to his buddy whose is working on mine. In 30 seconds he manages to yell the word fuck 3 times! Woman and children all around. Shocking!

Then my train came. Mad rush to get on. Elbow in the face. But at least I got a seat! Ah glory, home bound at last!”

29 October 2008

give me your address, get a postcard.

I like to write notes. I always have. I used to leave little notes for my roommates in college; I used to randomly put little letters in peoples mailboxes, I randomly give Rhys notes all the time. (read: constantly go overboard with the notes to my husband) I just enjoy sending along a little, unexpected smile. cause that is what letters do. make someone feel special, wanted, excited and appreciated. I like to make people smile. Following that principle, I would like to send out a postcard to everyone who reads this and sends me their address. If you think, oh wait you don’t know me, well that is even better! I like strangers. Even if you think I already have your address, send it again. I would really love to do this so please humour me, take 3 seconds to drop me an email with your address. Local, international....it doesn’t matter. I am really excited about this. Per my map (look at the side bar) people all over the world read this blog....people in places where I don’t even know anyone. how great is that? So lets make some new friends and share some good ole' fashioned snail mail!

Send address to: kristina.williams0@yahoo.co.uk

winter already?!

This is my street. This is my 'community lawn' covered in snow! Snow! And those white dots in the picture is not a camera screw up, its snow! SNOW! Really? It is only October! I can't believe it. Last year, right at the very tail end of winter, it snowed. It was the first time in over 20 years that snow had actually touched down in central London. And here it is, October and snowing. Not just a light, wimpy flake either. Real, proper snow. Glorious.

Mind you I am not ready for the winter at all. I am having a hard time adjusting to the fact that it is winter already here when we have not actually had a summer. This is the first year of all the 26 that I have been alive where I have worn a cardigan year around! That’s right sports fans, all freakin’ year!! June, July and August saw a total of 288 hours of sunshine. You might be thinking, oh 288 hours, that sounds like a lot. But it’s not. Living through 3 months of only 288 hours of sunshine really sucks.

All in all, I am not ready for winter. But alas, if winter must come at least it came with the snow.
Little Avi with his first bit of snow on him!

living in belief or circumstance?

So much of how I view the world is based solely on my circumstances. I like to think that others have this view also, that it is not just a crazy, mixed up Kristina way of thinking as I tend to have sometimes. But really, it is pretty sad. I can have an instant mood change based on external happenings or internal processing. The slightest thing can set me off one way or another. I cry and laugh at the drop of a hat. Some of that I love, but some...well... Until recently it had never occurred to me that there was a fault in living based on circumstances. Embarrassingly enough I just thought that is how I had to live.

There is a fault though, and quite a big one at that. Jesus calls us to believe. I tentatively put forth the argument that He calls us to believe above all else. Believe in Him, that He is saviour, son of God, light of the world, truth, justice, love and peace. If we believe first and foremost, then it should follow that everything becomes secondary because believing (read: trust) becomes the focus and there are less questions, doubts, fears, anxiety, uncertainty. Doubt brings in confusion, it causes unnecessary questions about life, about situations, it causes us to wonder where we are going, why we are going there and how in the hell we will actually get there. Belief eases the pain. Believing in a truth greater than ourselves, believing in a purpose, a plan, a hope; believing that there is a journey, a guide and a path laid before our feet allows us to walk freely, knowing we are protected.

Protected. I use to take issue with that. If I believe than that means it’s easy? It means that nothing bad will happen? I will be protected? I finally found solace to that question in the book of Daniel. It is a common story, the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. To summarise, they refuse to bow down and worship the idol that King Nebuchadnezzar has created. They refuse to bow to anything short of God himself. They are brought before the king, who is furious, and he demands that they worship the idol or face the penalty of death by being thrown alive into a pit of fire. Even faced with certain death they answer “O King, it is not to you we have to justify ourselves. The God we serve is powerfully enough to deliver us from your hand. But even if He does not, we want you to know, we will not bow down and worship the idol you have made” (Daniel 3:17-18). They believed. They believed regardless of the outcome. Belief for these 3 was not dependent upon wealth, happiness, reward or favour. It was belief regardless of circumstance. It was true belief. So yes, believing means that we will be protected; maybe not in the way we as humans see fit, but protected as sons and daughters of the Lord Jesus Christ. Protected and brought into his loving arms in the way (and time) that he sees as best.

Living according to circumstance would have forced Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to not only have worshiped the idol, but given up on their belief long before that opportunity even presented itself. They probably would have given up when they were first taken into captivity, moved away from friends and family, had their names changed, forced to work as slave labour, all the while struggle for food and shelter. If it had been me, I probably would have. About that time I would have felt deserted and abandoned. But that is the difference; I would have chosen to live according to circumstance. Not principle. Not belief.

It is circumstantial living that forces us to question the very promises we need so desperately to cling to. Letting life and mood be affected so drastically but what is around us creates doubt. Doubt is the opposite of belief. This idea comes into focus when I think about my prayers. Often I am asking for something. Direction, guidance, healing, increased faith and so on. I expect that these prayers will be answered. Yet I change nothing about my internally function. I choose to ‘live in the moment’ ‘roll with the punches’, ‘take it as it comes’ and in turn I am affected by circumstance. Jesus says “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways, will receive anything from the Lord” (James 1:6-7) To dissect that verse a bit more, let me offer the Kristina paraphrase “But you ask in faith, without questions and doubting, for when you doubt Kristina, you become like a wave of the ocean, blowing back and forth based on circumstance, easily swayed, easily confused. For you cannot possibly think that you, being of so many different minds and moods, unstable, unbelieving, will receive anything from the Lord” He calls us to believe. To be of sound heart and mind, grounded in the Word of God.

Living in belief grounds us. Circumstantial living uproots us. Belief causes joy because we know what we believe and how we are called to live. Circumstantial living forces us to move easily, to become uncertain and shaky depending on what particular thing is happening at the moment. How can that bring joy? I don’t think that it can.

I want that belief that was shown in Daniel. I want to know, that I know, that I know God will save, ‘but even if he doesn’t’ I don’t want to waver. I want that faith. I want to transition from a life of circumstantial living into a life full and overflowing with belief. As a dear friend, and mentor, once said “Get off the roller coaster of life and learn to live on the plateau.”

24 October 2008

Radiators and Palin

My hairdryer stopped working about mid-way through drying my hair. Normally I don’t even bother to dry my hair, but as I am still in the ever so delicate recovery stage of pneumonia, I figured it was probably best not go to bed with wet hair. I was quite annoyed that I had actually made the effort to dry my hair and instead of cooperating with me, my hairdryer randomly decided it had had enough and stopped. Never fear, I improvised wonderfully. I decided to finish drying my hair on the radiator. I dry clothes on the radiators all the time, so why not my hair? I was quite thankful no one was around to watch me attempt to use our central heating system as a hairdryer. Leaning back in a chair, scrunched against the radiator, tomato red face and shoulders, complete with little beads of sweat running down my face. I burned myself twice, managed to only moderately dry the ends of my hair, wasted half an hour, and then gave up. I went to bed with wet hair.

My hair was a massive fro this morning when I got up. Sleeping on wet hair does that to me. I tried to flatten it by putting it into a pony tail which resulted in my hair looking a bit like Sarah Palin - out dated and much too high on my head. Out came the straightener. much better. Creepy hair moment aside, I did quite a lot of thinking about Sarah Palin this morning. I officially voted, sealed my ballot, and sent it off. I have chosen my presidential candidate. It hurt so badly I almost cried. I know this is another political post, after my Palestine post yesterday, but it’s got to be said. Plus I intro-ed with a funny story to distract you and keep you sucked in. Now you are stuck! ha ha ha!! (read: evil plan laugh)

This election has baffled me. It seems so clear to some which confuses me even more. I just don’t understand it. How some people think it cut and dry is really beyond me. Perhaps it is my weak intellect and underdeveloped view of politics. Perhaps I am too middle of the road. It could be my indecisive manner coming into play, reminding me that there will be 4 more years before I can change my mind. Whatever the reason, it has taken me forever to pick a candidate.

In the pre-DNC days, when it was between Obama and the devil herself, I had no problem. I was fairly convinced that it would be a democratic candidate who would win, and I was praying my little heart out that it would be Obama. I made a solemn vow that I would never, EVER live in a country that would elect such a manipulative, evil, slimly, sleaze bag of a person into office (read: Hillary Clinton) You can not imagine my utter joy when Obama received the nomination. But then I dug a little deeper. I reviewed both Obama's and McCain's policies. I read parts of Obama's books, I read the 17 page personal account given by McCain in 1973 of his time as a POW in Vietnam (everyone should read that regardless of political orientation.) and I sat back to watch the crazy circus show that is American Politics.

Living in the UK during this frenzied election time has made it a bit interesting. I am not saturated with reports, adverts, debates, articles, reviews and media opinions. If I want news I have to search for it. I actually have to read the transcript of debates as they are not shown on T.V., I have to investigate what the candidates actually believe in, how they actually vote. To an extent I believe we will never really know what they believe in because on some level all parties are going to say whatever they think the people want to hear. But regardless, I searched, poked, prodded, researched, read, listened and searched some more in an attempt to gain all the information I could regarding the candidates.

And it has given me a different understanding. Couple that with living abroad and my perspective on this election is quite different. I think that makes it worse. It means that I have to make an educated decision based on the candidates and facts I know, and then vote accordingly. And it really sucks. Which brings me full circle to the people discussed earlier, those people who think it is such an easy decision. Why? How in the world is this easy? I have heard because McCain is old, because Obama gives great speeches, because one is conservative, one is liberal, one supports nationalised health care, one is pro-life....on and on and on it goes. Its not an easy choice for me. Mostly because I don’t like any of them.

I take that back. I do. I like McCain. I don’t like everything he stands for, I strongly disagree with some of his policies. and not to sound ageist, but he is old! But I like him all the same. I like to think that if we met on the street, we would be friends. and since I like some of what he stands for and we wont ever agree with everyone on everything, I guess I will have to pick what matters the most to me and go for that. So I had decided to vote McCain. Enter Sarah Palin. I DO NOT like her. I think she is a moron. literally. I struggle with Palin being a more 'middle-of-the-road' voter; I struggle with Palin as a woman; I struggle with Palin as an environmentalist (only moderately mom, don’t freak out); mostly though I struggle with Palin because I have a brain and evidently she does not!

I have watched some of her debates, I have watched some of her interviews and I have read the transcripts of every major thing that she has done since she was nominated. and I cringe each time. It seems to me that she picks random words, some big words, some country words, some hip-slang and throws it all together, hoping for the best. What comes out is...well there are no words to describe what comes out. It is that bad. And whilst I am convinced that McCain and I would be friends, Sarah Palin and I definitely would NOT be friends. If for no other reason than Ronald Dhal is a fantastic author and anyone who attempts to have James and the Giant Peach banned is no friend of mine!*

Back to square one. I liked some McCain and some Obama. Since I am currently without the power to combine people and make the perfect candidate, I had to choose one. I don’t agree, on any level, with drilling in Alaska. I will be the first to tie myself to a tree if they try to change any of my precious national parks. But after living in the UK, under a nationalised, health care for all system, I in no way agree with Obama's health care plan. I like that McCain has served in the armed forces and is humble, I like that Obama is intelligent, young and somewhat relatable. I hate that I have to choose between these two; mostly because there are only two to choose from.

But I did choose. I voted. And I am not happy with my choice. Part of the unhappiness steams from the fact that I procrastinated in sending my absentee ballet off and as a result had to pay almost $10 to ensure it would arrive by the 4th. Part has to do with my candidate choice. But even if I had voted another way I wouldn’t have been any happier. I am anxious to see what the outcome is. Who will America choose?

* see link for the 100 most challenged books of all time. Seriously! What are people thinking?

23 October 2008

in the words of Jason Pollack

Jason was one of my first friends at university. We had some interesting times together; in particular a really bad break up from my end and some weird friend issues from his. I can still remember the long talks in the Mayfield Lobby. Jason is now married to a wonderful woman, Sarah, and they have a beautiful daughter, Hiba. The three of them make their home in Palestine.

I have found that even the word 'Palestine' can burn bridges. Some one believes it should only be refereed to as Israel while another doesn’t even acknowledge the word Israel let alone the nation. My country relentlessly aligns itself with Israel, it seems most Christians support Israel. Some refuse to even accept there is another side. I have had numerous debates over the past year with both pro and anti Palestinian sides. And whilst I am usually very strongly opinionated one way or the other, this is one issue that has taken me a while to get my head around. Even now there is so much I don’t understand.

But what I do understand is that extremism under any guise is not acceptable. Injustice in the name of God, faith, religion, rights - is still injustice. I also know that blindly accepting something as fact, aligning yourself politically and spiritually with an issue because your family, church, country etc… do so is equally as wrong. and even though the following post is long, read it. It is the first of a series of articles (which will all be posted here) written by my dear friend Jason Pollack. He believes strongly enough in his cause that he is willing to fight. Not fight in the metaphorical sense that I fight for things. But actually make a stand in the face of real adversity. even to the point of arrest by the Israeli army. I think its safe to say no one reading this would want to be arrested by the Israeli army. If not for any other reason than that, this is worth a read:

"Many people come to the part of the world in which I live in order to “follow the footsteps of Jesus.” These people walk along the Via Dolorosa. They have lunch at the Sea of Galilee. They pray in Nativity Grotto. Mostly, they look for new insights in Jesus’ life and teachings by visiting the places that he lived and taught.

Living in Palestine, I am on the same mission: to follow the footsteps of Jesus. I honestly don’t have much use for holy sites, but the words of Jesus are a different story. Since I live in an area of significant racial, ethnic, political, and religious conflict, one passage in particular is often on my mind:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Until I moved to Palestine in the summer of 2006, I was a typical middle-class white American as far as enemies were concerned: I never had any. Sure, my neighbor was really loud late at night, and sometimes a coworker would take credit for my work, but those people weren’t enemies. If I were in real trouble, they would come to my aid. If push came to shove, they would try to smooth things over with me rather than exacerbate conflict. In theory, I should be able to love, bless, and pray for those kinds of people without any significant psychological or spiritual hang-ups (not that I always did).

About four months ago, that all changed. I now have real enemies. People that hate me, spit on me, call me names, and tell me that I am a worthless human being. Sometimes I lay awake in bed imagining ways to hurt these people and fearing what they will do to me. It is a wholly unfamiliar and unpleasant experience.

These enemies are people with whom I would have ignorantly aligned myself only five years ago, before I was exposed to life in the Middle East. They are a group of Israeli Jews who believe that all of the land that made up ancient Israel should be controlled by the modern day state of Israel. They believe that the Palestinians who live here (and have lived here for thousands of years) should be forced out through economic pressure, bribes, or military action.

These individuals are part of the Israeli settler movement, which seeks to move Jewish people into the West Bank and Gaza in order to have Jewish control over as much land as possible. The settlements that have been built on Palestinian land since 1967 have caused economic hardship and restricted the freedom of all Palestinians who live in these areas. Violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians is quite common.

I believe that settlers should not steal Palestinian land in order to build homes for themselves. I believe that settlers should not destroy Palestinian shops, farmlands, and homes in order to frighten them into leaving. I believe that settlers are standing in the way of peace, because their settlements break up the Palestinian territories into non-contiguous chunks of land that cannot possibly make up a real nation. I have had opinions on the subject since I began studying Middle Eastern politics over two years ago, but I was never forced to deal with these people directly until May 15 of this year.

On that day, a group of settlers descended upon a former Israeli military base that directly borders the adventure recreation center where I work (The Jack Forrest Adventure Gardens). The group’s stated purpose was to start a new Jewish settlement on the land, because they wanted to prevent the Palestinians from building a children’s hospital on the same spot. A number of Palestinians and internationals gathered in the area to see what the Israeli Army would do in response. After all, there were signs posted on the road leading to the area that inform Israeli citizens that their presence is illegal in the area (since it is a Palestinian town). The army did nothing. Eventually, the settlers left on their own, but they promised to come back.

They have come back over a dozen times since that initial foray into our lives, and they show no signs of stopping. They have stated their intentions to start a settlement in a number of right-wing websites and newspapers. Each time they come, the settlers spray paint the base with racist and nationalist graffiti, hang some Israeli and right-wing flags, and leave. Each time, we paint over the graffiti, remove the flags, and leave.

Until recently, the only direct contact we have had with the settlers occurred when a small group showed up and attempted to prevent the children in our summer camp from entering the gardens. When I tried to introduce myself to the leader of the group (Women in Green), she refused to shake my hand, saying that her religion forbade her from touching men, and walked away. We have learned that their group has sent letters to various government ministries, accusing Paidia International Development (the organization I work for) of bringing left-wing activists and anarchists to fight against Jews and of working toward the destruction of Israel.

Our last two encounters with the settlers were more directly confrontational. The first occurred about a month ago, and began with a group of internationals and Palestinians painting over settler graffiti from the week before. A group of about 70 teenagers came onto the site and started shouting at us to leave, that the land was only for Jews. They threw at least one paintbrush and a rock at us when we ignored them and continued to paint. The soldiers who were present just watched. Rather than risking injury, we decided to abandon our painting project.

The second encounter began with an ecumenical prayer and worship service. The former military base is located next to ruins of a Byzantine church, so the base seemed an appropriate location. We knew in advance that the settlers would be holding an event that evening, and we thought we might get kicked out early in the night. We decided, however, that some prayer is better than none, and we went ahead with our plans for the service. Approximately thirty internationals and Palestinians gathered to pray, sing songs, and talk together about our longing for peace and justice in this land.

Sometime in the middle of our service, the settlers decided that they did not want us there anymore. A dozen children put themselves in the middle of our group and started chanting nationalist slogans as we tried to sing. The soldiers sensed trouble was brewing and lined themselves up between our group and the main group of settlers. Their “efforts” to keep the settlers away from us proved futile, and we were overrun by 100 or so angry settlers who pushed, hit, kicked and prodded us back into a corner. At one point, the leader of the group, who had previously refused to shake my hand because her religion forbade her to touch men, shoved me in the chest and stomach and shouted at me in Hebrew. The English speaking settlers shouted at us to “go back to Europe” and “get off Jewish land.” One man taunted our minister for his belief in Jesus, saying “if he comes back, we’ll kill him again.”

Now I have real enemies. They make no bones about what they think of me, and since they want to destroy my work, deport me, and ruin the lives of my friends, I have no problem labeling them as my enemies. I can say that as a follower of Jesus, he never said not to have enemies; he just said to love them. Now I just have to figure out how.

In the aftermath of these confrontations with the settlers, a couple friends and I sat together and talked about the idea of praying for our enemies. We decided we wanted to pray for the individual settlers with whom we have interacted. It was our hope that by praying for them, we would begin to see them as individuals, and not just as the angry mob; that our wrath and anger would be tempered by God’s love. I haven’t done it yet.

I have tried, but with limited success. To actually look at a picture of someone who hates me and ask God to bless that person - to fill them with His love, and to do it without an agenda - is a tall, tall order. To respond to taunts of “Jew-Hater,” “Euro-Trash,” and “Nazi” with blessings seems downright unreasonable. In fact, I have found that I usually end up day-dreaming about ways to “get” the settlers when I sit down to pray for them, and before I know it, I’m angrier than when I started.

I believe part of the answer lies in one of the most incredible realizations that I have made since I moved to Palestine. A cultural realization that has shed light on what it means to follow Jesus: Christianity is a communal religion. Many of us in the west have grown up in a culture that stresses our individuality at the expense of our commonality. This feature of western civilization is relatively unique in the history of humanity. By nature, humans are communal beings, and the longer I live here, and see the community orientation of Middle Eastern culture, the more I realize that Jesus commands are not meant for me. They are meant for us. Let me write out the love your enemies passage again, but this time using the only second person plural we have in English, one that is native to my home state of Texas.

Y’all have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell y’all: Love y’alls enemies and pray for those who persecute y’all, that y’all may be sons of your Father in heaven. (emphasis and pronouns mine)

When I try to sit alone, and pray for my enemy, it does not work. When brothers and sisters in Christ sit together to pray for our enemies, the effect is much more powerful. If I see my friend, who was offended and hurt the same as I was, pouring out his heart in prayer for the one who hurt him, how can I withhold forgiveness? If I hear words of love and blessing all around me, how can I daydream about revenge? It may not cleanse my soul of bitterness. It may not make me into the kind of person who can, like Jesus, ask for forgiveness for my tormentors. But it will put me on the path of following in Jesus’ footsteps by opening my heart to forgiveness.
I am not certain that I have found the answer. I am certain that it will not be easy. But I believe that this aspect of Palestinian culture has helped me understand the instructions given in 1st century Palestine to lead me in my attempts to live as a follower of Jesus in today’s Palestine."

22 October 2008

"Oklahoma....that sounds exciting!" (and some other stuff)

Last night someone actually said that to me. "Wow, Oklahoma, that sounds exciting!" That is the first, and i venture to say the last, time that someone will ever make that statement about Oklahoma. This particular woman said that it inspired all kinds of warm, country, down home thoughts. well...I suppose that is true. those kinds of thoughts do come with Oklahoma, but excitement and fun? Probably not the first thing that comes to mind.

Although sometimes the first things that comes to mind are not always the best. Take my most recent example. About 30 minutes ago I was at the hair salon to get my bangs trimmed a bit. I was chatting away to Rachel, my 'stylist', and the following sentence actually came out of my mouth "so, have you been busy all up in here" seriously. I said that. "...busy all up in here" what in the world was I thinking? Clearly I wasn’t because if I had thought for just a few moments and not said the first thing that came to mind, that particular sentence would not have come out. It created a rather awkward, albeit slightly humorous, few moments as Rachel tried to merely answer the question without bursting out laughing. which she did anyway at which I turned beat red and said i had not idea where that came from. Stupid first thought.

I have had some more normal thoughts lately though. Probably because with this ridiculous Victorian ailment that has kept me homebound for the last week and a half, i have had nothing to do but think. In the past 7 days I have left the house 3 times. But as of this morning, I am officially cleared to go out in public again. I am no longer confined to my couch. Although becoming a couch potato did have its benefits. For instance, I have caught up on all the episodes I missed of The O.C. and One Tree Hill. I had never actually watched either of those shows before, but now I am strangely sucked in. Sad I know, but what else was there to do?

Nothing, except think. And think I did. and slept and wrote and ate. but mostly I thought. and as a result I have some 'confessions' as it were. They are as follows:

1. I call Rhys obsessively. Not in the ‘I am jealous and must know where you are at all times’ kind of way, but more the ‘I still cant believe you actually married me, I love you so much I want to talk to you all the time’ kind of way. But it’s still obsessive. For example, Friday and Monday I stayed home. I didn’t leave the house at all those days. I called Rhys a total of 14 times in those 2 days. And if that wasn’t excessive enough, it's not even an accurate estimate because it doesn’t account for the number of times I called him from the house phone. So yes, obsessive. (as a side note, he does call me too! Just so I don’t look too pathetic)

2. I have no idea where I want to live. Watching the O.C. makes me want to live in Southern California. Gilmore Girls makes me want to live in small town Connecticut. Looking at apartments make me want to live in San Francisco. Movies make me want to live in London, talking to friends makes me want to live in London. Looking at houses makes me want to live in Fayetteville. Rugby, mini rugby and baby Welsh kit makes me want to live in Cardiff. See? I really have no idea. I know what you are thinking; you are sick and have watched too many cheesy teen shoes. True, but haven’t I reached that stage where I should know? Friends of mine have bought houses, people have children, my friends have families and are putting down roots for goodness sake. But me? I am still floating along, dreaming of a town where I can walk in the sunshine, ride my bike with a wicker basket on front, get fresh veggies from the farmers market, go to a show, have a pint at the local pub, sit out by the beach and say to hi to everyone that passes because I know everyone in town and watch all the rugby I want. Pretty much I just combined all the things that I like about the aforementioned cities into one, which probably doesn’t exist. So what do I do then? I still have no idea. And I feel very strongly that I am past that age where I should be equally clueless and influenced by The O.C!

3. Which brings me to confession three. I am idealistic to a fault. I get an idea in my head, think it is logical, and fight for it to become reality. Most of the time its not realistic or logical. and most of the time i choose to ignore that completely and recklessly pursue my goals and dreams that are always a bit far out of reach. Of course its good to set goals, and every one has their dreams. But believing that the lottery is a viable way to build a future? probably not the smartest. thing is, some days i really believe that! I tend to convince myself that the craziest things could actually happen. I am still waiting for Rhys to come home one day and say we are moving to Australia. So I guess the real confession is that my idealism sometimes gets in the way of living real life. I push so hard for the idea of fun and fancy free that sometimes the normal and mundane seem unbearable. Someone once told me I needed to find the balance in life. At the time I told him he was stupid and didn’t know what he was talking about. But he was right. Balance is something I have never been good which is really unfortunate as it is such a crucial part of everyday life.

4. I want to be a rock chick/loner/hippie. I am not sure if you can really combine all of those, but if you can, that is the personae I want. Married, working in the corporate world, aged 26 creates a bit of a problem for an entire recreation of person, but if I could i would become a rock chick/hippie. Think a mixture of a female Eric Clapton, UK x-factor Diana, bits of Nicole Ritchie, and a little bit of early Alanis Morissette. Enter the new Kristina. I would be a long haired, guitar playing, off beat, tattooed rocker. how long does it take to get dreadlocks? Long enough for me to learn to play the guitar?

5. I am a VERY unhealthy eater. I try to pretend I am not, but I am. I eat crap. Sometimes, when Rhys makes me, I eat vegetables. But that is rare. I know I should eat a better variety, I keep saying I am going to change. But I never do. I still eat crap. I still hate vegetables.

They always say the first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one. So I am admitting it all here. I call Rhys obsessively, I often choose to not live in reality, I am 26 and still have no idea what to do or where to live, I am easily influenced by T.V. shows, I want to be a hippie and I eat crap food. Ah! So much better. Now to change the world….

14 October 2008

the good and bad of the weekend

This weekend was both fantastic and hellishly awful. It all started when I ran into a door. A few nights ago night Rhys shut the bathroom door for some unknown reason. we never shut the bathroom door. ever. I was really, really tired and decided right before I was about to go to bed that I needed to use the bathroom. you can see where this is going. I was half walking, half limping, half asleep stumbling along to the bathroom on the route I know very well. and smack. right into the bathroom door. not to be a baby, but it really hurt. that bathroom experience is second only to the time that Rhys left the toilet seat up. I got up in the middle of the night and actually fell into the toilet. it was not nice. i did not enjoy. I screamed and promptly ran into the bedroom to wake him up and tell him of my disgust. he laughed, a lot.

In spite of that, by Friday evening it was looking to be one of the best weekends in a long time. I had a great run Friday evening, 7 miles at a good pace. Friday is pizza night for the Williams Team and my Texas B-B-Q pizza was fantastic. Saturday morning I was up bright and early to meet Kym in Camden. I love Camden. it has been one of my favourite places in London since I moved here. Its like a giant mix of a flea market, state fair and punk rock show. There are more pot smoking, mohawk wearing, facial piercing, tattoo covered, pink haired, dreadlocked men and women in one concentrated place than any other place I have ever seen in the world. its fantastic. we had a starbucks by the lock, then a venture around the market, followed by some super cheap Chinese food in a metal tin. 4 hours later i took the tube back home. Aside from loving Camden, i love Kym. It was great to chat with a fellow Arkansas-an. Home life, people we both know and thoughts we shared about life back in America. More than anything is was refreshing to see that there is someone else out there who shares my thoughts, almost exactly, about life in London and life back home. it was good for my heart and my mind.

*to digress briefly, I must mention that around this time i started noticing it was hard to breath. I figured it was all the smoke and didn’t take a lot of notice, despite the fact that I was coughing and wheezing...

Saturday was also a beautifully sunny warm day. fantastic. Went down to the pitch to watch the Fullers. So many lovely friends along the side lines to chat to. not to mention I had my first try of lime and Kronenbourg. strange, but at least worth a try. I hate to say it but, of course, the Fullers lost. That evening we bypassed the normal pub party as I had the Royal Parks Half Marathon on Sunday. I had been looking forward to this race for months. I had trained, and whilst i did get distracted about 2 months into my training, i was still really excited.

Shoes on, running clothes ready, caught the train at the right time, went to the bathroom, had water, all set. I ran the first 8 miles at a pace which would have seen me finish in 1:42. that would have been a great time! just slightly over 7:30 minute miles. Sadly, it was not meant to be. Not only were my lungs having a strangely difficult time, but at mile 8 and a quarter, my knee popped and I fell over. Just fell right over on the ground. Ricey, a friend who ran it as well came along, picked me up and helped me to the medic tent. I had my knee wrapped, went against their advice and decided to try to finish it. I half-limped, half drug my leg across the finish line. In a sad, sad time of 2:17. At least i finished...but. then started feeling even worse. I couldn’t decide if it was my knee or my crushed spirit at finishing the race in my worst time ever. and not just my worst time ever, my worst time by 20 minutes!! Still, I couldnt shake the sick feeling plus I wasn’t really recovering from the race like I should have been, so off I went to the doctor.

What began with the makings of being one of the greatest weekends in a long time ended with pneumonia. thats right, pneumonia. I cant say that I was really expecting that result but what i thought was just a cold a few weeks ago had managed to settle in my lungs and give me the joyous result of the early stages of pneumonia. that is something that people got in the 1800's. or at least something that only old people get. apparently i get it too. pneumonia. really?! at least the weather was nice all weekend.

10 October 2008

collared shirts, guns and roses and my office.

I have always had somewhat of a love affair with collared shirts. I think it goes back to the age where I first started imitating my brother. He is 3 years and 9 months older than me which meant that anything he did was perfect. It also meant that as a young girl I liked some pretty bizarre things. The first day of fifth grade, which puts me about around 9 years old, we all went around the room and said our name, favourite colour and favourite song. While most had responses such as Spice Girls or Boyz II Men, I said 'my name is Kristina, my favourite colour is blue and my favourite song is November Rain by Guns and Roses' Yeah, not your typical 9 year old girl response.

Those kinds of A-typical attitudes continued on through out my younger years. It quickly translated onto my love of collared shirts. If my brother wore it then it mean I wanted to. I used only wear polo's or button downs. Why I thought that was a good idea I'm not sure. Looking back at some of the pictures I think really? I look like a boy! Not hard to see why since I based my style off of my older brother But I guess we all have our foolish moments. * The realisation of my lack of style resulted in a short hiatus from the wearing of collared shirts. The last few years I can count the number of times I have worn polo's and/or a button down on one hand.

Recently I have returned to my first love and have started wearing collared shirts again. Today I am wearing a light blue and white stripped, three-quarter sleeved, button down shirt. The top is a mock collar with a little ruffle around the top. Down the front, to about mid-stomach level are little ruffles along each side of the buttons. Very stylish and girly, quite a change from the manly collared shirt of my younger years. So girly in fact that one of the guys from my office said, and I quote, "you are looking very girly today"

Interesting thing is that is the only thing they see is the girly-ness of me. It is safe to say that the general population of the upstairs portion of my office thinks that I am useless. Now you might be thinking, really? useless? are you sure that is not just a Kristina exaggeration? Well, its not. I know this for two main reasons. 1) They treat me like crap all the time. 2) The one nice guy upstairs has told me that they think I am useless, and that they say so often. Not a lot of room for doubt there. At this point you might also be thinking, 'Well Kristina, are you really effective when you blog at work so much? Doesn’t that kind of make you useless?' And the answer is no, it does not. I do loads of work, when there is loads to do. But I do what is necessary, unquestionably. The reason they think I am useless is because I refuse to be their gofer/slave/secretary and do all the crap things they don’t want to do. (i.e. ‘can you be a doll and run along and post this for me?’) Also, because they are sexist and racist; they don’t like women, or blacks, or Asians, or really anyone that is not a white male who smokes enough to be mistaken for a chimney. At the end of the day it wouldn't matter what I did, they would still think me useless.

I am the 'girly downstairs' or the 'cute receptionist' (insert any other sexist, degrading and condescending comment here. I am sure I have heard it) So today, with ruffled shirt and 'girly' looks, the thought occurred to me. I don't care. I used to spend at least one day every couple of weeks crying in the bathroom. I avoided them at all costs, I would hide if I saw them coming, I acquiesced to one too many demands and complained to my husband on a daily basis about the horrid attitudes of the upstairs folk. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn't matter in the slightest since I can do nothing about it, but simply rise above it, hold my head high and move on. And it is definitely time to move on. Yes, I am a girl, but I am also unique. I was Slash from Guns and Roses for Halloween one year, I spent News Years Eve at a Poison Tribute concert, I met my husband watching rugby whilst touring around New Zealand, I could spend hours shopping every day and I am well read and well educated. The need for this self-encouraging pep talk? Because no matter what they say upstairs, or how much more I enjoy fashion and dressing up, it doesn’t take away from the fact that I am unique, I am different. It is probably true that I owe a lot of that to the years I spent following my brother around; but I have finally grown into myself.

I distinctly remember sitting on the plane on my way back from Europe in 2004. I was distraught to say the least. I didn't want to leave. I wrote in my journal that I couldn’t understand why I was leaving, why in the world I had actually gotten on that plane. I wanted to stay, I wanted to explore, and I was ready to break out on my own. Four years later, here I am. On my own (well, my own with a husband) living in Europe, being girly, working in the corporate world and still listening to Poison. And I love it. So welcome back love affair with collared shirts. I will proudly wear you in a girly fashion, knowing that I am not useless but in fact quite effective in any number of ways. I will rise above your condescending remarks and negative approach to life office people! I will act with kindness regardless for I know who I am. Why it took a collared shirt to help me move past the immaturity of my office, I just don’t know. But I am glad I choose to wear ruffles today!

* It must be mentioned that my foolish moments resulting from my brother were not just limited to close. Once he told me that he would come and play My Little Ponies with me. Around lunch time he told me to just sit in my room and he would be in shortly. So I did. And I waited and waited and waited. Finally, around the time the sun started to go down, my mother came in and found me sitting alone, in the dark. She asked what in the world I was doing to which I replied that since my brother had told me to sit here and wait that is exactly what I was going to do! Really what he did was simply remove me from the scene all day. He could play and do whatever he wanted without his dorky little sister hanging around because I was just sitting in my room, like an adoring fool.