It Takes All Kinds

Usually the hump days between Christmas and New Year’s are really difficult for me. It is a time of reflection, a time to stare deep into that pit where my soul should be and a time question the clarity of my psychic’s crystal ball. Often, this time of year can be one of longing, regret, self-pity binge eating, binge drinking, binge buying, and binge binge-ing.

Thankfully though, it has been a banner year over here at SWC.

There were the obvious joys of 2008: the birth of my second son, my husband’s promotion, my first level 8 typhoon, the offer of a book contract, watching my first son grow from a baby to a toddler, my trips to Bali, Cambodia, and India, Obama winning the election, and discovering that I can wear the color red.

However, behind these blessed events where the low points of the year: the hospital error that caused my second son to stay in the NICU for a week for invasive testing, the flooding from the typhoon, my unemployment after I, in my infinite wisdom, rejected the offer on my book, the global market meltdown, losing my ipod, and discovering that a Christian charity had acutioned off my soul on ebay for 49 cents.

But what has turned out to be a real boon this year has been my 3 ½ months tooling around the blogosphere. Contrary to what my husband thinks, the people who read this blog (or at least look at the photos) are only occasionally my evil twin sister and my mother and while I extend my thanks to them there are a few others, complete strangers, who I would like to say thanks to. So here is a big fat smooch from me to you. Thanks for stopping by SWC to comment, advise and in the case for some of you, giving it your all with some very nasty pool dancing.

Because of you all I shall continue to remain friendless, pale, and bleary-eyed.
I will blame my extra 10 pounds and cellulite on poor genes.


The Unbearable Likeness of Being

Before heading to India some people warned me that the country was unlike any other I had been to. They claimed that India would surely test the “shit happens” stoner credo that guides my life. Supposedly, my first 24 hours in India was to have me lunging at the sight of any air-conditioned tour bus and begging for mercy at the feet of the elderly tourist that ride in them.

But that didn’t happen.

Instead, the whole time we were there I kept waiting to step over a dead body as one of my friends cautioned me. I had hoped to be flabbergasted by the crawling masses of humanity, the traffic jams, the cows, the slums. I had expected to be assaulted by smells so powerful and so fragrant that I would fall to my knees.

But let’s be real. In today’s economy India is one of the few places in the world where people still have jobs. Like any nation, India has its poverty, some of it staggering. It also has its nouveau riche, its krump hoppers (as they call it) and its terrorist attacks. You might say that India is a complete country-- it has the highest highs and the lowest lows.

What I learned when I was in India was that the world is shrinking. To take from Thomas Friedman, we are indeed living in a world that is hot, flat, and crowded.

I also learned that in my older age, there are just some things I can no longer do. Such as ride on an elephant or sit on a back of a rickshaw while attempting to discreetly nurse a crying baby. And I cannot, with any dignity, gingerly walk barefoot in a filthy mosque compound trying to avoid stepping in pile after pile of bird feces, rat droppings, and other dubious looking substances while trying to stop my two year old son from sticking his hands in it.

And while in the desert town of Jaisalmer I discovered that it was high time for me to stop living my life like I was a collector of unique cultural experiences. For example, at my age I don’t need to live through an “authentic” Ayurveda massage by Dyna, the local practitioner of ancient Indian healing arts, Vedic scholar, and over all sorceress.

I’ll confess that when I first heard of Dyna, I pictured a gorgeous Indian woman in a flowing Sari of saffron orange or some other color that signifies mystic qualities. As I was led down the narrow streets in the old fort city, dodging cows and dog fights and really old women carrying loads of laundry on their heads, I am not sure why I imaged that the location of my massage would be a place that rivaled the beauty and hygiene of a spa at the Four Seasons.

My heart did sink a little when I walked up the tiny steps of an old sandstone building that opened up on to a one room flat (if you will) that had a sheet separating the waiting room from the, uhm, treatment room.

Thankfully Dyna, when she greeted me at the door, did not disappoint. She was beautiful and wore a bright blue Sari (which I was certain held some magical properties). But she did wear an ugly brown sweater over it and it was sort of hard for me to look directly at her face as I would have to stare at the wide crocheted rainbow headband that she wore an inch off her brow. Perhaps, I thought, this sweatband had some magical significance too.

However, all the magic flew out the door when Dyna pulled back the sheet to her treatment room and told me to strip. She pointed to a dirt and oil soaked mat on the floor, the likes of which resembled a mattresses used in an extremely busy crack den.

It is true that what doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you, but what doesn’t kill you can give you lice, flea bites, scabies, conjunctivitis, a nasty cold, and a very strong urge to scrub your skin clean off your bones.

But the biggest lesson I learned from my trip to India came from traveling with two kids under the age of three. With both boys still in nappies, I now know that it is essential to always, always take more diapers than you think you’ll need. Because after several days of travelers constipation, shit happens.

Oh, in case you were wondering, we had a great time. Rajasthan is beautiful.


Are We There Yet?

The first time my husband and I traveled together it was pure romance. Early in our relationship he had plan to spend a better part of three months traveling through much of Eastern Europe and I, back home in New York, had tickets to visit a war zone for a month of R and R. But after a few weeks away from each other we had to finally admit that, well, we kinda missed each other. Being the fearless heart first type of gal that I am, I broke my piggy bank, counted my pennies, lied about my age and bought a student ticket to Vienna via Zurich, Stockholm, Nice, Amsterdam and London.

When I finally arrived in Vienna few days later, Hub was standing at the airport looking around like he lost his wallet. In honor of my arrival, he had booked into a much better hotel and ditched the dive that he had been staying in. There was no need, but I didn’t protest too much. I liked that in his mind, I was a traveler of high standards, a bon vivant, a woman of substance, even perhaps dear reader, a trophy wife in the making. Who was I to crush him with the truth of my less than dignified travel history of roach motels and youth hostels that looked more like over crowded Russian prisons? Since I began my stint as a world traveler somewhat early in life, I had applied the Barbizon philosophy. I may not have been a war correspondent, but I was going to look and travel like one.

Spending a few weeks with my then future husband in Central and Eastern Europe I began to get a glimpse of how the other half travels. The other half goes to all the museums. They see every recommended site listed in their Blue Guide. They may actually have a private guide. They go antique hunting. They care about eating in the best restaurants, and pack the proper shoes to do so. The other half does not, for example, strike up conversations with the locals in a bar. They don’t accept invitations to attend tribal weddings (or funerals), they do not eat snake brains just for the hell of it nor do they think a little case of dysentery is like another stamp in the old passport—it proves that you had been somewhere.

My husband may never know or perhaps he may never care to admit that though we travel very well together, we really do approach the whole endeavor differently. Because ever the adventurous one, I have learned to let go of all of my former travel habits (and I’ll admit that it was not difficult to trade bed bugs for a 5 star hotel, sight seeing, and museums).

So now, several years after our first trip together and with many trips under my belt with husband and kid in tow, I am a fully indoctrinated 5 star hotel ho who demands on all the fixin's.

But as my husband and I age, it seems that our approach to traveling has changed. As an expert in Art History, Archeology, mountaineering, and an antique road show know-it-all and gastronome extraordinaire, my husband needs to see every last sight, climb every mountain, shop for the rarest of all old beauties (but not too old). Usually he wants to do this in the shortest amount of time possible, which means that the whole family has to keep up. I, on the other hand being the mom that I am, want to dump the kids off with the complimentary hotel baby sitter and hit the spa. I never do but I have been known to fantasize about it the entire trip. I mean can't my old man just sit on a beach for a few days?


So this week, we are going on a trip that is sure to dazzle the senses. It won’t be a drug trip but I am sure it will have its moments where I wish, with an almost 5 month old and a 2 ½ years old kid that drugs, in heavy doses where involved. That's right, the whole SWC household is packing up and heading to India. Rajasthan, baby with a quick jaunt into Uttar Pradesh (Agra) to see the Taj Mahal, of course.

Am I fucking nuts?

Well there are a few planned 5 and half hours car rides on unpaved roads, the chaos of New Delhi, the I’m-not-sure-how safe-it-is air travel and the threat of the thousands of years old microbes that could do me in.

And there is our 8-hour flight from Hong Kong to Delhi. Thankfully, I have managed to get us upgraded to Business class.

We are leaving this Friday.


10,000 Maniacs

Once there was a man named Jim. And Bert and a guy named Harry, who thankfully I did not kiss. There was a Karl, yes, with a “K” though he was nothing like Karl Marx. There were also men with more exotic names: Rumaldo, Mario, Roberto, Maurizio, Costas, Vasilius, Adjin, and Hassan.

Before I dated and married the man of my dreams I met regular guys in the likely places.

At the grocery store, a boy named Trevor. After one date—dinner at the Olive Garden—I caught him lurking in the parking lot of my apartment building enough times to call the cops and get a restraining order.

The bar guy was called Alex. Another bar rat named Mike although he spoke with a thick accent that told me he was from a place much further away than Texas. Which reminds me of Jacob from Texas, who I also met at a bar. And then there was Ben, the bar tender.

My personal favorite was meeting a guy at the library—Michael. We shared the love of books but he dressed so poorly on our first date (who wears long gym socks and shorts at the age of 30?) and then he got all huffy with the Indian waitress at the Indian restaurant we went to because he, as a Swede, knew the difference between the her fake chapatti and the real thing.

Which reminds me of the waiter that I knew from my favorite Indian restaurant. He hounded me for weeks for a date. In a gorgeous act of fate, my evil twin was visiting me in NYC and he took her out instead. And this brings to mind Tucker who I met in a restaurant and whose real name turned out to be Raj because his white American hippy parents gave birth to him in India.

And I will always remember Moe from a Fashion Week party in Soho. Moe turned out to be my next-door neighbor’s best friend, which turned out to be really awkward because he knew where I lived.

And speaking of knowing where I live, I have met a couple of delivery guys in my days (okay, so sometimes the UPS guy is really cute) there was Rudy who delivered a new bed and then came back an hour later to ask me out on a date and then there was David who delivered office supplies at my work-study job in college.

Then there were a series of now faceless guys I never called or who never called me in my college years.And then there were guys who always called or asked for your number and you wished they hadn't-- like those peter pan types—the balding, aging gents who, when I was 20, didn’t remind me of what my husband would look like in 15 years.

Of the memorable Peter’s was Gary who demanded that I take his phone number after he nearly ran me over in front of my dorm. I thought he was stalking me because I saw him all the time. It turns out that he lived next door.

Also from my college years were guys I met when I was an undergrad and they were in graduate school. There was a guy named Jon who was really cute and smart but I didn’t know what to say to him because he actually read Karl Marx and I only dated a Karl. Then there was this German grad student who I went to a party with. Sadly he got weepy and drunk and professed “erotic love” for me. I can’t remember his name but that phrase will stay with me forever. Then there was the Dutch grad student (oh the joys of going to college in NYC) who I shamelessly turned into my straight guy friend (every girl needs a male ear to lean on) even though I knew he liked me.

And since we are talking about guys from other parts of the world there were a couple of guys I met at the same party in New York --Rory from Ireland who is an unforgettable hottie. Thankfully I lost his number because he had “this will end badly” written all over him. You know the type. And from this same gathering was Philip from Israel. And on separate occasions Mikhail was also from Israel, Wahid from Morocco, a couple of guys named Roberto from Italy and Ecuador, and a beautiful Robert from New Zealand and another lad from the common wealth, Tobias. Rafael was a dreamy guy from Brazil and randomly there have been more than a few Greek men, including Yanis who, I’ll admit, I asked him for his number. And there was Jean-Pierre who I met on the Metro in Paris.

And less you think me fussy or not willing to hand my digits over to blokes born in the US, there has also been a Rodney, a Bill and a Eugene.

Don’t be alarmed. Yes, my list is long. But it is merely a record of all or most of my relatively harmless fully clothed brief encounters with the weaker sex.

Okay, so I am a recovering international man-eater.

And now that I have confessed, tell me, who is in your closet?


Working at the Car Wash

Growing up, I wanted to be a prima ballerina and a marine biologist. Then I wanted to be a lawyer for about two minutes. Then came the long period of wanting to be a Duran Duran roadie followed by an even longer stint wanting to be an archaeologist. And then I thought about revoking my citizenship to become a Greek philosopher. Finally, I settled on being a journalist. I carried the dream of being a reporter all the way across country to college where I landed some very juicy internships that only proved to me that I didn’t have the stomach for “getting a story” at any cost, i.e. my dignity. So I thought, maybe I would become a writer. A writer like Virginia Woolf, a writer like George Eliot, Kate Chopin, or even better, I would become a writer like Judy Blume. Maybe not. Or maybe I would do something grand.

And then came the defining moment of my life, the moment when the earth opened up and a hand dragged me into the underworld, transforming my destiny and making me the woman that I am today.

I remember it all so clearly. I was at the end of my junior year in college having coffee with a professor who I idolized, feeling like a student at Aristotle’s knee, except, we were women sitting in some West Village pseudo intellectual haunt and it was still the Clinton era.

Anyway, this young professor asked me what I was planning on doing with my life and I said that I wanted to travel around the world looking to join a worthy cause that came with some really hot rebel soldiers and fight a great historic battle against the powers that be from some remote jungle location. I would fall in love with the tragically romantic populist leader (think Che as played by Gael Garcia Bernal) and together we would win over hearts and minds across his developing nation. He would rule his country with me at his side. A bloodless coup would oust him and all our comrades. The people would be in tears. Fabulously wealthy leftist Europeans would take up our struggle and my rebel lover and me would live in exile in Paris. We would become celebrities among young idealists everywhere. From our country house in Aix en Provence, Gael and I would charm them with stories from our combat years. Our children, precocious and beautiful, would play at our feet. The birds would sing.

A relatively easy and achievable dream, one would think.

But the professor lacked my faith. Playing the part of mentor in an Oscar winning performance, she started messing with my plan. She planted the seeds of doubt. She corrupted my soul. She showed me the dark side. Basically, she murdered my spirit. And years later, I would come to find out that it is just like her to do that. Of course, my evil twin sister was so on to her, but did I listen? No. Anyway, being young, impressionable and on that day, most likely suffering from a hangover, I took a big bite from her carrot.

Without going into the painful details, I followed a career path that the professor laid out for me with all the aimlessness of a Zombie looking for dinner. Truly, I was never happy doing what I did for many years with middling success. And yes, every once in a while, I would look up from my desk and in the reflection of my computer screen I would see a hint of the woman that I could have been.

And why am I thinking about all of this now, many, many miles away and several years after the fact? Obviously, this is a symptom of having too much time on my hands. So what I am saying here people is that I think I may need an actual J-O-B. I don’t mean this phantom job that I call myself having as I slog away on the computer day after day. I mean an actual get dressed in the morning (or at night should I decide that I could peddle my wares on the street) grab a cup of coffee and head out the door kind of job. I need a job that pays. But with 10 million Americans out of work, I figure I may have some competition. What can a girl do with skills that include: public speaking, surfing the web, in-line skating, master spin artist, expert pillow tester and chocolate taster?

I am racking my brain trying to figure out which jobs I might be qualified for so I thought I would open it up to you— my one loyal reader. You keep me blogging for better, for worse. Thank you.

Anyway, go for broke. The person with the top three suggestions will win a pretty tin of almond cookies—sent directly from Hong Kong.

**I decided to stop offering the can of tainted milk and toxic toys as no one seemed eager get in on that action.

And the cookies will be store bought, don't worry!


We're the Save'ums

Cool fall weather has arrived in Hong Kong at long last. Of course, I write this knowing that in a matter of minutes the weather will change to a damp chilled-to-the-bones days of pollution and fog that characterizes winter in these parts.

But anyway….

This morning, in commemoration of the changing seasons and in the effort of turning back time, I broke out all of my face creams, lotions, oils and started applying them in earnest. But that is when I noticed that most of my creams had turned to water or worse: some gloppy form of way beyond its shelf life mess. It seems that while I have spent the past couple of years aggressively evading the care of my skin that my beauty products shriveled up and died.

I took it all in stride until I decided to open my closet that has become a tomb over the past year and blew off the dust from the boxes of shoes that I have hardly worn and dresses that were purchased for special occasions that never arrived. And it hit me.

I have a problem.

Though I live for today, I have a habit of spending for tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t spend beyond my means. I am not a shopaholic. I hate shopping actually, but when I do, I make sure that I purchase exactly what I want, regardless of the price.

Thankfully, I have a natural predilection for being cheap. However, over the years I have accumulated some costly kick ass gear. But oddly, from clothes to cosmetics to shoes to purses to jewelry I have bought more than a few things that rarely see the light of day. It seems that the more expensive the item, the less I wear it out in public.

But no more. From here on out, everyday is going to be worthy of my most luscious ensembles. I am going to be the belle of my own ball, damn it. I’ll admit that it is about time, as most of my stuff is at least fifteen years old anyway.

And I’ll tell you what, I will look so good that no one will ask me why I am dressing like Milli of Milli Vanilli.

Who thought those guys were actually singing these songs?


Day Dream Believer

I am, like loads of people, spending much of my day thinking about Barack Obama. I mean really, it takes a lot of talent and cajones to rise to the top of the political heap in four years. And then I got to thinking… talent is one thing, but to achieve your dreams you need something else: passion, commitment, intelligence and a nice rack doesn’t hurt either. But that’s just me.

Seriously, just thinking about President-elect Obama encourages me to ask myself the important questions of “Who am I?” and “Why the hell am I eating so much ice cream lately?”

So I am announcing right now, that as of today, I am going to tap into my inner Obama, a man that has inspired millions both at home and abroad, and try and be my very, very best. I am going to fight hard to achieve my dreams (even if the dream is just a one nightstand with George Clooney). I am not going to waste any more time on meaningless pursuits (except I may still blog) because, damn it people, I have work to do.

And there is a two-fold bonus in all of this. I will get to tell my children how in some small way, I, like millions of others not only help shift the public debate, re-energized politics, and made what seemed to be impossible, possible by electing a President that knows the U.S. Consitution. I can tell my kids that it was also the day inspired Mommy to get serious and finally put that call in to Clooney’s people.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


Occupational Hazard

After the excitement of Tuesday’s election, I have been forced to settle down to more practical matters.

Today I had to go to the doctor. The problem, it seems, is a growth. For months now I have had growth on my wrist. I know, I know it would have been much more intriguing if I had a growth somewhere else and then later discovered that it was the unbirthed head of an evil triplet. Anyway, this growth is called a ganglion cyst. Apparently, the cyst has formed on the tendon of my middle finger. It seems as though my frequent past time of flipping people off comes with a side effect.

And speaking of side effects, after the visit to my doctor I went next door to another doctor’s office to see about my other growth—the one that I euphemistically call my "belly."

Like flipping people off, pregnancy and birth has some side effects too. Some are more common than others. And I just when thought that I had bounced back from forty extra pounds, loose joints, sore boobs, nausea and exhaustion followed by months of insomnia, I am hit with some new information.


What is this PRSMD you say? According to my doctor I suffer from “postnatal rectus sheath muscle diasthesis.” Funny, I thought it was called (and spelled) diastasis, but what do I know? I am only allowed to practice medicine in Ukrainian prisons.
Basically, it means that my stomach muscles have separated. No biggie you may think to yourself, all pregnant women experience some of this. And you would be correct. But few women have their muscles separate so much that they are faced with the horrifying reality of fitting into their low waist skinny jeans but having to wear maternity tops for the rest of their lives.

This can only be summarized in one word: Yuck.

My doctor, a smartly dressed woman who has an accent that sounds a lot like Nigella Lawson, which I used to find quaint until she told me that surgery is inevitable. Actually she said this:

“Sure you could workout, but there are only a few exercises you can do and your separation is so wide that you really are going to need surgery. So you better hurry up and decide if you are going to have more children. And if another child is in the offing, I would recommend that you start trying in about two months.”

No, you wouldn’t be wrong to scream (along with me) WTF?!

But the Mister has always been geeked for three kids and is now campaigning hard for the next installment. He is, of course, less interested in adopting.

But me? I am not so sure.

Is three really the new two?

Should I drink the Kool Aid?


Who Shot JR?

Being in Hong Kong means that I am one whole day ahead of folks in the US and a little over half a day ahead of people living in Europe.

What I am trying to say is that, it is afternoon here on Nov. 4th and it feels like I am sitting by the phone, waiting, just waiting for that guy (who promised it would be a one nightstand) to call. Or since I am talking about waiting for election results maybe I should liken my current feelings of trepidation/anticipation to waiting for the plus sign to appear after I peed on the stick.

Screw it.

I'm off to get a manicure and pedicure.


Something Wicked This Way Comes

I can’t put a finger on it but I am feeling pretty fucking pissed off right now. For the past several days, I have just been buried in the shittiest possible mood ever. It could be a number of things, like oh, the state of the world, my missed deadline, my sex life, my sometimes annoying babysitter, or my inability to fit into anything that doesn’t scream “fourth trimester.”

Yeah, maybe.

But I doubt it.

Because I am feeling all the symptoms of something far more sinister, you know kind of like coming off a three day meth bender where you find yourself laying in a pool of your own vomit and somebody else’s feces.

Ah, how I miss the 1990's.

Anyway, I have the strangest feeling that the persona known to you in the blogosphere as “SWC” or the “Stepford Wife Chronicles” is taking over my life. No, I don’t mean that blogging has taken over my life. I mean that the cranky bitch—the one who carries a gun and smokes a pack a day is unloading her arsenal of rage in my mind.

I know, I know. What I am describing has all the fixin’s of a psychotic break. And I say BRING IT ON, muther fucker.

Anyone else feeling pissed off?


Daily Bread

Yesterday, in another act to be filed under “Royal Waste of My Time,” I had lunch with someone who I thought could be my one and only in the flesh friend here in the gilded penal colony.

When I first laid eyes on this woman a few months ago I thought, "Wow, she is neither tall nor blonde." Later I found out that she had a bona fide job and actually read books. She was an artist, liked a good glass of wife and didn’t cook. She was Bobbie Markowe (Paula Prentiss) to my Joanna Eberhart (Katharine Ross) from the 1975 original The Stepford Wives.

And just like the movie they got her.

I should have known something was wrong from the outset because she seemed too giddy, but I thought maybe she was high or something. Nothing wrong with that, the woman does have four kids after all. But then she randomly threw out the word “scripture” as in, “I’ll have the cob salad. With a side of scripture.”

Okay, scripture in and of itself is not a bad thing—in fact, it should be known that I have a few of my own favorite scriptures, like Leviticus 18-23: “Neither shalt thou lie with any beast to defile thyself therewith: neither shall any woman stand before a beast to lie down thereto: it is confusion.” Righteous.

Anyway after that painful lunch and public prayer, I went home to my sometimes-annoying babysitter who informed me that my kids shouldn’t celebrate Halloween because it glorifies Satan. And that is when I knew that I had taken a wrong turn somewhere.

I mean, Stepford Connecticut seemed scary enough, with the threat of becoming a complacent robo vixen housewife but in reality, it is not a stretch.

But to have to live on a small island with people who actually believe that Halloween--the only time of year when parents can openly send their children out to rustle up the year’s supply of candy—is wrong, well then they are just plum fucking nuts.


Character Assassination

I am but a mere rookie in this game of blogging, but I have been "tagged." After a quick investigation, I discovered that tagging in the blogosphere is not like "tagging that ass" as they say in America, but rather something a bit more refined. I should have known because Mariecel who keeps it real over at Cosmopolite-Kaffeeklatsch is very discerning.

I gather that the rules are as follows: list 7 things about yourself and then get 7 other bloggers to do the same. You know, like good old fashion chainmail. I always sucked at this in elementary school so I am leery about trying to beat my personal bet now.

But sure, I'll play. Though I am feeling mighty evil today so I am changing the rules a bit. I am going to tell you fourteen things that you may not know about me. Then I am going to tag the seven blogs that come up in Blogger under "Next Blog" (look up, to the tool bar, to the left.... that's it).

1. I am not true Blonde.
2. Despite appearance, my boobs are real.
3. I do not believe in wearing workout gear outside of the gym, as in no workout gear as casual wear. And in my universe, wearing a sweatsuit after twelve noon is gauche. So is wearing sneakers with dresses. But, I think tennis skirts are cute and can be worn at anytime of day.
4. I was once held hostage by a rebel group in Latin America.
5. I also have connections in the world of organized crime.
7. I am a people person.
8. I am over big label bags.
9. I grew up in California, moved to New York City, then back to California, then to Italy, then back to New York, followed by brief stints in Ohio, Texas, California again and then back to New York City. Now I live in Hong Kong.
10. I am a Doctor.
11. This blog is an outlet for my evil twin sister who takes possession of my body at random moments.
12. I have a flesh and blood twin sister who is occasionally evil.
13. I hate rules and when people tell me what to do and fashion mandates and acting my age (which by the way, according to the Mayan calendar is either 28 or 163).
14. I have the exterior of a cranky irreverent blowhard but really, I'm just a kitten.

Above, there is one statement that is not true. If you figure it out and tell me the correct answer, I will send you an authentic can of tainted milk or a bucket full of toxic toys sent directly from the manufacturer in China.

And here comes the fun part. These are the random folks that I tagged.

Raili R-K







And I also hit up American Girl in the UK and JB over at Gathered Tribe


Note to Self

Today is my birthday.

To commemorate this day and my various accomplishments over the past few years (had two babies, became an insomniac, ended a long career, gave up a monthly paycheck, moved out of the city and an apartment that I loved, got married, became seriously unemployed, moved to the other side of the world, started eating my way through Asia, acquired a golf cart, lost all my friends, was late for an important deadline, and took up blogging) I am going to eat a pint of Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream and leave you with these immortal words:

"I'm not perfect, I'm not an angel, but I try to live a certain way because it brings honour and respect to my mother. I tell people that when they look at me, they're looking at nothing but a big, overgrown, tough mama's boy. That's who I am."


We are the Champions

Lately, I have been sitting around thinking about all the times in my life when I have won something. You know, like being the tenth caller and scoring tickets to see some unknown band (what do you expect, it was public radio). Or, winning, as in drop your business card in a glass bowel and hope that they draw your name to win that free night at the Banyan Tree Villas in Phuket, Thailand (actually it was my husband who won, but rumor has it that I get to go). Or my favorite kind of winning the-- I am going to stay up all night for days to write the best 1,000 words on what life is like for a chicken (got honorable mention and $75 smackers). Then there is the winning with strings attached, what I call "winning in the capitalist age" also known as the the retail win.

The retail win is always a good kind of win if you go in with steel clad balls. It is the time share win, the no purchase necessary win, the 30 day free trial win. As long as you don't buy, you win.

So today, I made good on a retail win. I cashed in on a "Face lifting and contouring facial" from The Organic Pharmacy's Hong Kong Spa called, The Farm. And no, The Farm is not on a farm, but on the fifth floor of one of the many, many high rises in HK, only this fifth floor has a balcony that looks out on to some other buildings and some trees.

So I made my way in the building chanting the retail win mantra: get in, get out , which as I rode the slowest elevator in the world, started to sound a lot like the Missy Elliott song that was playing one drunken night many, many years ago at a bar in Key West where I danced on top of a table and someone slipped me a dollar (I count this as another kind of winning by the way). Later, she asked for a lap dance, but I had to explain that though I was single, I was straight and destined to become a suburban mom.

Back at the Farm, they finally opened the door after realizing that I wasn't the Fed Ex guy but a non-paying customer who was going use up all of their spa goodies (get in) and then, after firmly telling the sales girl that I was not going to fork over USD $ 6,543.82 for a bunch of spa treatments, I would leave them with a fake smile and generous tip (get out).

Perfect. Until I saw the pretty little jar of anti-aging serum that only works with the anti-aging gel which only works with the never grow old cleansing cream that works wonders with the, you-can-take-it-with-you toner. And because it is all organic, you need the special organic cloth to gently apply all of this eternal youth.

Okay, yes, I know that a hot date with Dracula is cheaper (he pays when blood is involved, right?). And if you happen to find a twenty on the floor of the bathroom on said date it is also a form of winning.

And there is that winning grey area. The "it-can't-be-stealing" win because you were already home from your "free" facial and when you notice that the sales girl put a jar of their signature cellulite cream in your bag (retail value:$386.99).

Won anything lately?


At the Weekend

Don’t you just love when British people say “at the weekend” when we Americans know that it is “on the weekend?” I mean, come on! As if we need to have any further confirmation that the lilypad of a landmass called England is better than the U.S. of A.

You Brits already have the higher currency, universal health care and politicians who have not had lobotomies. I've watched CSPAN. Ya’ll can throw down in Parliament.

Anyway, this weekend I have decided to take a bit of a blogging break. Let’s see if I can cure myself of this most strange addiction and actually focus on my “serious” writing.

Plus Hub recently said to me, “It is pathetic that the most exciting thing going on in your life is a blog.”

Just how do you Brits say “ouch" in fancy English?


Break Me off Some of That Sexy

Just when you thought you couldn't feel any older, you remember your first crush.


That Four-Letter Word

Yesterday I exercised my right as an American citizen living abroad and dragged the baby and my husband to the embassy to cast my absentee ballot.

That’s right, I voted.

And since I didn’t get one of those little stickers that showed that I performed my civic duty, I am going to tell you the three reasons why I ventured out with newborn baby in tow to expose my breasts in public, sweat like a roasting pig, and put my health at risk by breathing in billions of suspended particulates just to cast a vote that may not be counted until days after the fat lady sings.

1. My children and yours will inherit the earth. Just because my kids currently live in pollution that looks like this, doesn’t mean yours has to.

2. Taxation without representation. If we are legally bound to bailout the fatcats and rescue the small frys while everything else is going straight into the shitter, I shouldn't I have a hand on the flusher?

3. If you don’t vote these people or these people will vote for you.

So, please fucking vote.


Confederation of the Most Holy Redeemer, Or The Silent Scream

Jesus seems to be following me everywhere, and I don’t mean that hot young Mexican dude whose pious parents decided to name him after the most holy of holy. I am talking about the divine man himself--you know the one-- that guy who is on all the T-shirts.

Anyway, this is not the first time I have had the honor to come face to face with Jesus and his busy band of PR reps. When I was nine years old, I was a passenger on my beloved grandmother’s spiritual journey. She went from church to church looking for some sanctified purpose in life and I went with her because I loved her and she always took us out to breakfast after a morning of worship and speaking in tongues.

With every visit to a new church someone from the pulpit would point to us in the crowd and implore us in their most ominous voice to “accept the lord Jesus as your personal savior” or something to that effect. Between us (my sister included), we have been “saved” about 654 times.

I am not sure why my grandmother “saved” herself so often, but I know why I did. I had developed a healthy fear of Satan-- having seen the Exorcist, Friday the 13th, Halloween and some really scary movie about a woman trapped in some mental ward. It was called “The Silent Scream.”

So, been there, done that.

But lately, in my pollution filled days here in Hong Kong, it seems like everyone I meet is on a mission to save me. I have been invited to attend church, bible studies, and women’s scripture groups. Its like my soul is on 80 percent markdown at an after Christmas Day sale.

Look, I respect god and Jesus and Adonai and the Prophet and Shiva and Ganesha and Buddha and the laws of the universe, and the we are all one philosophy. I support responsibly practiced religions and accommodating, tolerant faiths.

But can’t a girl get an invitation to a book club that isn’t reading the Bible?


The Pepsi Challenge

Today, I had the very unfortunate experience of seeing photos of celebrities at three months post-partum. Aside from the shot of Jessica Alba clad in a bikini (does that girl ever wear anything but?) the photo that most put me to shame was of the star who gave birth just three days after I did. I don’t need to tell you that I questioned my womanhood and came out on the side of thinking that I may actually be a man. A very fat man with super-human lactating man-breasts. And you think that’s something? You should see the post-partum facial hair. Off the charts. Straight out of Ripley’s.

Anyway, those photos haunted me all day. I went up the stairs of my elegant Tony Soprano meets Golden Girls cookie cutter mini mansion, ripped off all my clothes and assessed the jalopy that I cautiously call “my body.” I mean, can’t I trade this thing in or something?

My whole former life passed before my eyes and let me say now, in case I get all out of control weepy here, I love my husband and kids. Love them. They are my life. There is no need to call child protective services or think I am heading for divorce court, okay? But I do miss my old body. And I sort of miss the old me. Not me, my life before Hub and kids—no, I would never want those days back, thank you. But I must say that upon reflection, my old life or rather my old body, was pretty damn hot. I was a hottie. I do feel strange writing this, but show me some love. I am just honoring what once was. Because now, unless I opt for plastic surgery, it is possible that my former body,--as the country folks say— “it ain’t never comin’ back.”


The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Blogging. Never thought I would do it and I am not sure why I am doing it now.
--An exercise in narcissism?
--A distraction from real world issues?
--A form of writing while avoiding my “real” writing?

All of the above.

The past few nights, Hub and I have been watching season one of the show Californication. I know, not new in the United States but new to us folks here in Hong Kong, thanks to our local DVD Rental Store. Anyway, I think that Hub not so secretly longs to be like the main character: the sex saturated clumsy but likeable looser, Hank Moody played by David Duchovny. Through the show, Hub is reliving his pre-wife and children days. Actually, ”living” is the more appropriate word as Hub is hardly a one-nightstand sort of man.

Anyway, he likes the show. The writing is solid but the story line screams of a smart fifteen-year-old boy fantasy trapped in fifty-year-old man body. The verdict is still out for me. But one thing that stuck in my mind is when Hank the struggling novelist turned Hollywood writer whore and fellow blogger said that, “Nobody writes anymore, they just blog.”

So true.

I recently stumbled my way through a ton of blogs about every subject under the sun. I can’t decide if the scariest blogs are by the right-wing demagogues, the porn sites fronting as blogs or the blogs by fashionista teenage girls which display photos of their latest shopping sprees (a different sort of porn).

But what I learned as found my way out of the black hole of the blogosphere is that blogs are like books.

Hardly anybody reads them.


Public Holiday

October 1 this year was a day of celebration for millions of people commemorating the end of Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah. In my neck of the woods, October 1 had a billion people celebrating National Day of the People’s Republic of China.

Public Holidays in Hong Kong are sort of like Sundays for my household. The nanny is off duty. We wake up late (8:00 am) and Hub and I spend a good part of the morning trying to stick the other with childcare duties by hiding out in the bathroom or by sneaking in some time online. But after my eldest son has been allowed to watch too much T.V. and we adults feel sufficiently guilty, we muster up the courage to turn it off. Then, Hub and I stare blankly at each other. I know the question that is going to follow.

“What do you have planned for us today?” He will ask.

Now, I am not a party planner, social engagement coordinator or a secretary. I am not Julie McCoy. But, it’s a public holiday, so I'll be festive.

“Let’s go to Toys R Us.” I surprise myself with this suggestion. I mean, the US economy is crashing, the future is uncertain and I really hate shopping but I really, really hate going out among the flood of people—elbow to elbow— when it is sweltering and on this day so polluted that one hour outside causes my chest to feel tight.

For some reason Hub agrees and we set off to Toys R Us in Kowloon. This will require taking two ferries. We miss the first ferry and have to wait. Hub suggests that we go inside our local café. Good idea. We cautiously walk in and spy a table. Hub gives me that familiar nod and rushes off in one direction while I take off to the other. We reach the table, just as a couple is about to move in on it. One swerve of the stroller by Hub seals the deal, the table is ours.

The couple watch us with contempt as we decamp: two strollers, Hub’s giant back pack (don’t ask me why), my extra large bag, eldest son’s (ES) stick that he brought from outside, a baby carrier, and a newspaper. We spread this out over two tables. ES starts kicking the chair of the customer next us and baby is now awake from his nap, crying that nonstop newborn cry.

In moments like these, I leave my body. I look down on my family. I see us the way other people must see us.

We are parents of two young children. Like all parents with two or more young children, we are pariahs. We over propagated. Our precious little loves are actually brats, too loud and too spoiled. As a group, we parents of two or more young children are to be avoided. Get stuck sitting next to us on a plane, train, or even a ferry and well, you must either move or complain, pointedly and under your breath.

And it is not just the single people or the couples with out children who hate us two and over families, it is other parents too. The parents of older children or one child or the people who have managed to leave their young children behind—these are parents who are annoyed at us for reminding them what their lives look like when they are out in public with their own kids.

But let’s change all of this hate.

Next October 1st, let’s celebrate the folks that I call parents or the parent of the young two or more (PYTOM). Think of it as a day designated to getting clipped on the ankle by a stroller, having some snotty nose kid turn around in his seat to watch you eat, or to having your ear drums pierced by the cry of a baby, or to witnessing hand to hand combat between siblings. On this special day, the childless, the parents of older children or of one child could remember that once us PYTOM, we were just like you.


In The Life: Mondays

I look forward to Mondays with a mixture of fear and excitement. You see, weekends feel so long in Hong Kong. There just isn’t that much to do here. Don’t get me wrong, HK is a big exciting city but it is a tiny island and the weather and pollution are unpredictable. So, once you’ve shopped yourself to death, visited the historic sites and the tiny museums with the kids more times than you care to count, battled the crowds at Disneyland or Ocean Park one hundred times, went on excursions to see the monasteries, temples, the Po Lin Buddha and the 10,000 Buddhas, then you are pretty much tapped out. And then there is the problem of not having any friends.

I think Hong Kong would be great if you are childless, wealthy and don’t mind spending loads of money on mediocre food and drinks. That said, I really do like Hong Kong but with kids I find myself missing the parks of NYC, the large museums, the various children’s bookstores and of course, my friends.

Back to Mondays…

Monday morning takes Hub away from me, which depending on our weekend together can be a good thing. We all get up early, mostly because my eldest child (a boy 2 ½) gets up at the crack of dawn every morning regardless of what time he goes to sleep and also because Hub thinks that just because he has to get up, I should join him. I haven’t quite figured out why, after two full days together he waits until Monday morning to start talking to me about the important stuff. Moving. Company Merger. Staying.

A few hours later, after Diego, I take my eldest son to school in our golf cart-- yes, we drive golf carts here in DB. It only adds to the effect of living on the set of the Truman Show. Anyway, he goes to school for three hours a day, three times a week. And in truth, it’s my biggest social outing. Usually, okay always, I am disheveled, smelly from lack of shower over the weekend, and have spit-up on my shirt from the morning feed of my youngest son who is nearly three months old. But today I put more effort into my appearance. I am fitting back in to my “skinny jeans” and yes, I know that they were in style two years ago, but these are my SKINNY jeans, come on. So, I am rockin' the s. jeans that thankfully have a low cut waist because I still look like I am four months pregnant. I pretend that I am camouflaging this fact with an extra billowy shirt.

When I pull up to the building that houses my son’s school I see Rugby Mom (RM), she is the Stepford Wife in charge. She, like all the Stepfords that I see on my drive to the school this morning are all wearing their tight work out gear. These are the kind of women that make me nervous. It is not only they way they look —the expats are tall and blond (of very average beauty) and the Asian women are attractive and thin—it is that I have nothing to say to them, absolutely nothing. I can’t crack their code. However, today I manage to say a pleasant and relatively coherent hello. RM replies in her typical glassy-eyed cheery way that leads me to think that she is not really in her body. When we, RM with her child and me with mine get to the door of the building, my eldest son prolongs our encounter by pressing all of the buttons on the security gate so that we have to wait for the caretaker to come let us in. This is bad. I had burned up my useless banter when I said hello. By the time we finally make it to his class we are late—no problem for me as I am always late but for RM, who is always on time, early even, I can see that she is silently steaming.

My son’s teacher, another classic Stepford, greets us at the door asking me, “Did RM tell you about the parenting class?”

Okay, yeah RM mentioned something about a class being offered, but did she tell me about it, as in give me any relevant information, like when it was taking place or where or how much I would have to shell out for this useless knowledge or who was going to be profiting off all of this competitive parenting garbage?


But RM had vaguely referred to a class and I think she uttered the word “parenting” and she is standing right next to me so I say yes.

RM chimes that she is going—actually she gushes saying, “I am definitely going. I can’t wait, I have heard that X is amazing!” British accents can be so annoying sometimes.

Then they both look at me and I start hedging like a bad politician. In my mind I am freaking out. Recently, this teacher busted my son for hitting kids in the class. Is she trying to tell me something? I start babbling. I hear myself saying that two year olds are going through significant hormonal shifts, I stumble on the word menopause—as in, “Dealing with a two year old is worse than dealing with a menopausal woman.”

What the F*ck am I saying? I am mentally kicking myself. Right. Teacher thinks the same thing and shuts the door in my face.

RM gives me a smirk and jogs off to her yoga class. No joke.

I head back to the golf cart and phone Hub to ask what thinks. “Well, RM did say that this parenting class was being taught by a world renowned expert. I would go if I had the time.”

This is a code I can crack.
Translation: You should go because you are the mom and I work and you sit at home all day avoiding your work to write a blog.

“Yeah, okay.” I say.

The class starts next Monday.


Little Boxes

I live in a resort community called Discovery Bay. Also known as “DB” or Dogs and Babies. Word has it that if you drink the water you will get pregnant.

This is a town where the men work and the women workout.

DB is a planned community with hillside residences, tennis courts, and some apartment towers (this is Hong Kong after all). You can imagine where I live. Just adjust your eyes to see through the fog of pollution and gaze up a muscular hill covered with short rocky scrub that from a distance it looks like a greenish velvet. Go along the rushing creek cutting through and over huge rocks. Ignore the flash flood signs. Everyone does. Trek further up the hill until you cannot go any further. On either side of the street, lush grounds of chemically treated grass from the golf course will escort you right up to the door of the exclusive golf club. I’m a member. But you should know that I don’t play and I think that golf courses are an affront to our environment. Anyway, across the roundabout from the club is where the toothless guard sits in his glass booth next to the sign that bares the name of my little neighborhood.

This is where I exist.