There are days….

There are days when things just flow easily, effortlessly and seamlessly. There are days when everything falls into place.

Today is not that day.

From work to my run to errands and administrative crap, it’s been a chore. A slog through bogs, both literal and figurative.

Helsinki’s skies offer nothing but rain, snow and the darkest of days. And, right now, both of us just want to hibernate, as both an escape from November’s nastiness and because mentally we are spent.

Soon enough, all of this will be a distant memory. We’ll soon be on that long overdue holiday, sleeping soundly and setting aside our gadgets and the daily grind for a stack of books and a lounge in a hammock. And, we’ll face reminders of just how uncomplicated our lives really are here in Finland.

But, until then, we just need to get through each of these days where night is endless and seemingly darker than ever….

To The Women Who Choose Not To Have Kids

My own reasons for not having children are complex and varied, and entirely my own. The responses to many I’ve met who can’t get their heads around my own decision not to bear children have been less than kind and often quite judgmental and absurd.
That said, I love my own step-son and my closest friends’ kids more than I know how to express. And, it’s a real treat to be in and a part of their lives.

Thought Catalog

To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say: thank you.

You probably don’t hear it enough. In fact, you probably don’t hear it at all. What you do hear is an array of pro-childbearing responses, such as, “You’ll change your mind someday,” or, “Doesn’t your mother want grandkids?” or, “You’ll never find a husband if you never want to have kids.”

All things considered, “thank you” is probably on the opposite end of what you hear.

But seriously: thank you. Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn’t for you and being true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.

Thank you for not succumbing to the societal pressures. I’ve known far too many parents who had kids because that’s what was expected of them. Working in…

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10 Things Most Americans Don’t Know About America

As an American who has (unintentionally) lived the past 14 years beyond the US borders, this piece is spot on. I absolutely adore my country and it will always be my home. But, seriously, put the bottle down, folks. Take the time to read this and think about it. Please.

Thought Catalog

Imagine you have a brother and he’s an alcoholic. He has his moments, but you keep your distance from him. You don’t mind him for the occasional family gathering or holiday. You still love him. But you don’t want to be around him.

This is how I lovingly describe my current relationship with the United States. The United States is my alcoholic brother. And although I will always love him, I don’t want to be near him at the moment.

I know that’s harsh, but I really feel my home country is not in a good place these days. That’s not a socio-economic statement (although that’s on the decline as well), but rather a cultural one.

I realize it’s going to be impossible to write sentences like the ones above without coming across as a raging prick, so let me try to soften the blow to my American readers with…

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My tribe

family

A sign I spied in a local coffee and cake shop got me thinking about the meaning ‘family’.

I’ve lived the life of an expat for more than 13 years now. It’s a transient existence, and has afforded me the opportunity to meet amazing people from literally all over. But, seeing those nearest and dearest to me on a frequent or even regular basis is, thus, not entirely possible nor realistic.

I was reminded yet again of how truly fortunate I am to be surrounded both virtually and in everyday reality by an amazing collection of not just good people but good friends. Weeks, months and at times years may separate one gathering from the next. It doesn’t seem to matter much in terms of those who are my ‘family’—that special category of individual who represents more than a mere ‘friend’, but someone to share the good, the bad, the mundane and everything in between. They call me on my bullshit, and revel in my successes. They provide that extra bit of a push when I really need it to make a goal or get over a ‘hump’, and they’ll either sit and cry with me or provide the endless stream of tissues when things are just entirely too much to bear.

It was whilst having something as simple as a cupcake at the end of a rather tedious week that I spied a simple sign in a shop. What made it all the more poignant was the company I was in at the time. It nearly brought me to tears thinking about all those amazing people in my tribe (including those at my table at the time) and how much they mean to me. It wasn’t a sense of sadness, but a feeling of overwhelming joy and humility. I’d never have imagined ever being so lucky as to have friends like all those incredible individuals in my virtual tribe who are my family.

Anyone who knows my husband and I knows it hasn’t been the best of times this past year and a half or so. There have been flashes of bliss (e.g., our wedding a little over a year ago was a particularly bright spot in an otherwise crap year). But, still, the uncertainty we occupy in our never-ending immigration woes has certainly been of primary importance and, at times, taken over every aspect of our existence. Throughout this process, though, the outpouring of concern, brainstorming for ideas on ‘what next’, and the continual stream of positive thoughts and reinforcements have lifted our spirits immeasurably. And, that to us is what ‘family’ is all about.

Our country of residence may change; our postal address may need editing a few more times; and, the general backdrop of life will shift and be altered as well. Not distance nor time nor elevator music will diminish the love we feel for those in our tribe. And, that is precisely what family means to us.

World AIDS Day 2011

There are very few days anymore when I do not think of HIV or those who have been lost to the epidemic in the last 30 years. Alas, it is World AIDS Day so I’d like to dedicate at least a tiny space on my wall to this occasion. That is not to say that AIDS occupies a tiny space in my mind or heart.

It’s a bit bittersweet this December 1st. We are for the first time in the history of the epidemic painfully close to prevailing in our aim of reaching zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero deaths Treatment is now proven to be effective with less toxicity and, as an immeasurable added bonus, also prevents the transmission of the virus. The price of drugs have decreased dramatically in the last decade and thanks in large measure to programmes funded by The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and PEPFAR millions of people who previously did not have access to treatment are now enjoying healthy lives once again.

These are great bits of news individually and collectively. They give hope to many. And, yet, there is also much to be less pleased about.

Within the last few weeks, The Global Fund has had to cancel its next round of funding amid very real and shocking financial shortfalls. Why? Because countries including my own which previously promised to contribute to the Fund have not come through. Without those commitments honoured, there is no way to fund programmes in some of the hardest hit and most impoverished regions of the world. Without those funds, those who have been placed on treatment may now find that the medications which have restored their health and improved their quality of life may no longer be available. Without those funds, in short, individuals will die. Senselessly and needlessly.

Thus, on this World AIDS Day, I find myself conflicted. I’m hopeful and angry at once. And, that to me is the essence of this epidemic.

Despite these bittersweet truths, I am mostly and profoundly grateful to know each of those whose stories collectively and individually are far more meaningful and profound than the simple slogan for UNAIDS and World AIDS Day this year or the economic reality of AIDS programming we face today.

So, here’s to all those living with HIV and to those we have lost far too soon. In particular, I’d like to thank those who have shared their stories with me—you have touched me in ways I cannot ever hope to express and honoured me in ways I’m not entirely sure I deserve. I remember you every day and not simply on World AIDS Day. Here’s also to the often invisible and forgotten individuals who dedicate their lives thanklessly to providing much-needed treatment, care and support to those affected by HIV.

Random nonsense

Welcome to my latest distraction.

The state of the world frightens me, and random acts of kindness and silliness thrill me. Rather than simply using my Facebook page to post links and Twitter to repost pithy comments and links to articles, I wanted to find a space that would allow me a bit more space for reflection and pontification. Thus, this space.

The night I met The Cuban, friends from all over really discussed the disconnect between where we were then standing and where we were all from. In what would become a regular occurrence, The Cuban stated, ‘I’m just a tropical fish out of water’. Indeed.

Please post comments if the mood strikes you, and feel free to link to this space. All I ask is that all those who enter this space do so knowing that respect for differences of opinion are paramount. Disagreement is a part of life; disrespect and intolerance are not welcome here, however.

Enjoy. And, thanks for reading!