Monday, March 20, 2017

In Other News...

For those of you who are new around here, I lived in Morocco for two and a half years with my family when my husband worked for the Peace Corps there.  (I also wrote a book about our time living in Morocco, which you can find on  Even though my husband didn't work at the U.S. Embassy, much of our life in Africa was heavily dictated by the Embassy rules because my husband was working for a U.S. government program.  Even if we were just a bunch of hippies, two standard deviations from the Foreign Service norm.

We lived in a massive house that was built both to impress and entertain, chosen from a pool of houses pre-approved  by the Embassy.  Complete with a house staff and lots of security.  We got to use the U.S.P.S. to mail and receive packages at the Embassy.  We had diplomatic passports for travel.  Our kids went to the American School, where the kids from most of the Embassies located in Rabat went. Where the general of the Moroccan Army's kids went and the King of Morocco's niece went.  We lived in a social bubble of privilege; hobnobbing with people from all over the world wondering who was gathering intel from whom for what end.  And everyone speculated about it in whispers from the comfort of their own informal cliques, which form spontaneously when you're an expat.  

We participated in the mandatory fun of Christmas parties at the U.S. Ambassador's house and the Hail and Farewells that welcomed new arrivals to the Embassy and to say goodbye to those departing at the DCM's  (Deputy Commander of Mission) residence.  It was all part of the gig.  Mandatory fun was rarely any fun at all, but it provided lots of fodder for the bubble gossip circuit. Although, we never suspected anything as salacious as the story that hit the papers a few months ago.

The news that the DCM's husband, Labib Chammas, was convicted of sexually abusing their Moroccan cook.  I'd met him on a few occasions at some obligatory functions and always thought he was a bit weird.  But then again, I thought that about at least 50% of the population of the Embassy bubble. The expat world is a magnet for eccentrics.  However, I never expected sexual predator weird.  Which is exactly how sexual predators operate.  Covertly.

But, what is truly remarkable about this case, is an American man in a position of power (his wife was next in command at the Embassy after the Ambassador) was convicted of sexually abusing a Moroccan woman.  This in a country where women rarely receive justice for crimes of sexual abuse.   In fact, they are often victimized by their abuser and then the justice system.  Just a few years ago in 2012, a 16 year old Moroccan girl named Amina Filali was raped by a Moroccan man and her court ordered punishment for his crime was to marry him.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Rather than comply with the judge's order for her to marry her rapist, she killed herself by ingesting rat poison.

In a world full of atrocities where men often get away with crimes against women.  In a time when the world seems more divided by nationality than ever.  Where the only certainty is that injustice exists and even thrives, especially for women and those without financial means.  This time justice was served and a Moroccan woman prevailed and an American man served prison time for sexually abusing her.  An outcome that wouldn't have been likely if it was handled by the Moroccan system.

While the outcome in this case is promising, it's only one story out of millions.  And  it only leaves me with more questions.  Like, how many other women have been victims of this man or other men like him?  And how many victims are likely to endure the shame, humiliation and condemnation to speak up and be heard in the pursuit of a conviction that isn't likely to occur?   Even here in America. And how many more sexual predators are out there because sexual crimes are under reported?

The article detailing the matter in The Daily Beast can be found here.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

I'm a Cheater

He's twenty years younger than me. We both have someone else. But, it doesn't matter. He makes time for me.  And he makes me feel young and beautiful.  He appreciates that I'm older and I can afford the finer things in life.  Especially him.  Because nothing is free, especially kept men. Because he's paid to  keep my secret. Driven only by my desire.  The desire to look like a natural redhead.

I'm ready!  Let's do it!

It all started out innocently enough, as these things do.  He was my dance instructor by night and by day he's a hairstylist.  One day six months ago he texted me out of the blue looking for a hair model.  You know, a real challenge.  Like someone who has mousy brown hair and insists on coloring it herself from a box.  Someone so careless she doesn't even bother to use the same color twice.  Who only uses semi-permanent color out of fear of commitment.  With more stubborn grays by the day, that are anything if not impermanent.  Where could one find a woman so desperately in need of a color makeover?

I'm your girl!  Have your way with me!

And he did.  His capable hands knew exactly what to do.  Taking me from a dark auburn to a bright copper.  It was everything I didn't even know I wanted.  Before I knew it, complete strangers were stopping me to compliment me on my hair.  Which, I'm not going to lie, is a little creepy.  But, in a nice creepy way.  Except for the woman at the wine tasting, who remembered seeing me (specifically, my hair) somewhere before, but I'd never seen her before in my life. I think she was either on a lot of meds or off of her meds completely.  But, definitely one of the two.  And then there was the drunk lady at the hair salon who said I looked like Merida from Brave. (I can't even write the completely inappropriate stuff she said to my hair stylist.  Suffice it to say, she wanted him to have his way with her.)  So what if the compliments I get come from inebriated people?  Either way, I was on a hair high when it hit me.  

I'm a cheater!  

My long-standing hairstylist is going to notice that I've changed.  How do I tell her that she's not the only one anymore?  That I'm seeing someone else?  That I didn't mean for this to happen?  It was just a one time thing that accidentally turned into a regular thing.  It's not you. It's me.  I've changed.  But, I don't want to lose you!  We have a history together and I still want you in my life cutting my hair.  It's just that I have someone on the side now.  Just for color.  It doesn't mean anything.  It doesn't diminish our relationship.  It's just that I want you both.  For different reasons.  Please tell me we can stay together and work through this!  

Monday, March 13, 2017

Million Reasons

I could give you a million reasons why I hate that song Million Reasons by Lady Gaga.  But, this post isn't about that.  It's about me writing my novel.   The first draft is three-quarters done.  But, the deeper I get into it, the more I stall on sitting down to write.  I have a million reasons for doing this.  And not doing that.

First of all, my kids.  I mean does anyone finish anything after they have kids?  No, they don't.  You live a life of potential, complete with incomplete projects and thoroughly disappointing yourself once you're a parent.  Your life isn't about you anymore.  It's about providing for your ungrateful kids and embarrassing them even when you're trying not to.  And I know you're thinking, but your kids go to school and they're teenagers, you must have tons of time on your hands.  (And if you thought this: A. you don't have kids  B. you have toddlers C. you home school D. your kids are grown and you're senile.)

I spend roughly 2 hours nagging my kids to get up, clean up after themselves and get out the door every morning. Every other day I spend 3 hours, because my senior has a late day.   Oh, but then you have time right?    Well, then I work out, run errands and walk my dogs.  After lunch is when I write.  But, not if I have to take a kid to the dentist, pick a kid up cause they're sick, take a dog to the vet.  And then, that senior who goes to school late every other day?  He gets home two hours early from school every day.  Basically, he goes to school for lunch as far as I can tell.

Never mind when your toilet overflows, ruining a wood floor and a basement ceiling, and you have an impromptu home improvement project to deal with.  Plus your insurance company, shopping for new carpet, toilets and a vanity.  Not to mention, workmen coming and going to repair your house.  Sometimes calling 10 minutes before they intend to come over.   Then moving into a hotel with your family and two dogs for 10 days (maybe longer) while they refinish wood floors.  Who knew it took this long?

So now, in addition to my family, the dogs, the insurance company and the workmen,  I also need to work around the maid who cleans the room at the hotel.  I know you're saying, but you don't need the maid to clean the room.  Have you ever stayed in a confined hotel room with gross teenagers and shedding dogs for an extended period of time?  Maid service is not optional.  So, in order to make this work,  I  take my dogs in the car with me on errands and then take them for longer walks to make sure they don't get into mischief at the hotel and to give the maid ample time to clean the rooms.  Which means I have to go to the bank to get singles to tip the maid every day.  Then I have to explain to the teller exactly why I'm getting the one dollar bills.  Because I do, if you know what I mean.

Oh, and getting the laundry done at the hotel is no easy task either.  Running upstairs and downstairs waiting for an open washer and timing your loads intricately so no one dumps your wet clothes on the floor and/or steals them.  (I've had both happen in the past, so I'm a bit paranoid about doing my laundry in communal facilities.)  And have you tried to cook in the kitchenette at the hotel with the can opener that doesn't work and cutting up chicken on the world's smallest cutting board with a dull steak knife?  Everything is taking me four times as long to get done at least.

And really, why would I want to finish writing my novel anyway?   Because then I have to decide what to do with it.  And then the scariest part, having someone else read it.  And failing.  Or succeeding.  Both are equally as terrifying.

I've got a million reasons not to write this book.  
And only one really good one to finish.
Because I don't know how it ends.  

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Only Good Thing About Running

Being away from home in a hotel means I can't keep my regular fitness regimen which is pole dance.  Because this hotel is family friendly and doesn't have a stripper pole. Thus, forcing me to cross train.  It'll be good for me, I thought.  Because being away from home in a hotel also means I'm off my regular healthy eating regime.  Because there's a waffle maker at the breakfast bar, not to mention an array of other carbs. Some with frosting even.  But, everyone knows hotel/road trip/vacation calories don't count.  Somehow, even though I don't count them, somehow they still add up.  Which is why I need to work out.

The first morning after carb loading, I went down to the fitness center to redeem myself.  I'll just use the Stairmaster.  Hops on and can't figure out how to change the settings.  Ok, the treadmill it is!  I can't get the start button to work.  Seriously, what is wrong with me?  Alright stationary bike, looks like it's you and me.  You know what's worse than riding a boring, monotonous stationary bike for 10 minutes and seeing you've only burned 10 calories?  Watching Fox News while you do it because you  can't figure out how to change the TV channel either.  Ugh...this is just not working for me.  And I was desperate.  Not desperate enough to not eat waffles though, but desperate enough that I decided to run the next day.

The only thing good about running is when you finally stop.

But, for the love of free cookies (which I'm also eating every day, because come on, free deliciousness), I've got to do it because god knows I'm not going to stop eating.  

So, I drop my youngest off at school and head to the park next to it where there's a nice trail with a view of the mountains.  I start running.  See?  This isn't so bad.  And it's gorgeous.  I feel so engaged with my surroundings.  Mostly because I was being cautious on the rocky trail so I wouldn't roll an ankle.  And also because I was watching for rattlesnakes who call Ute Valley home.  I should do this every day!  Also, I may have been running downhill when I thought all these thoughts. 

I had different thoughts running uphill.  I should mention, I live at almost 7,000 ft.  Hey, I bet it burns more calories running at a higher elevation than it does at sea level.  So, I could actually run less distance for the same result, I think.  That sounds right, right about now.  Oh wait, you know what's even better than a sustained heart rate for optimal fitness?  A variable heart rate.  Stops running and starts walking. This is completely justified. I only stopped running for my health, not because I wanted or needed to stop.  Even though I totally wanted to stop.  That doesn't count.  Sees someone coming.  Starts to run again.  Passes a 75 year old man walking so I can claim I passed someone while running.  Starts walking again when I get in front of him.  Hears him catching up to me.  Starts running again.  I will not be passed by a 75 year old man walking at almost 7,000 ft, I have my pride, you know!

When I don't run into anyone for a while I remember that mountain lions also call this area home.  Then I remember there's lots of deer to eat, so they have plenty of food so, they wouldn't want to eat me.  Except, I run slower than a deer.  Runs a little faster.  Wait, does running entice mountain lions to give chase?  I should probably stop running, not because I want to, but for my own safety.  Which bonus, also varies my heart rate.  WINNING!  Encounters other people on the trail.  Remembers reading the sign at the trailhead that said,  For your protection, secure your valuables in trunk.  Also remembers I left my purse in the front seat of my minivan.  Runs faster.  Gets the parking lot in my sight line and starts walking. Everyone knows you need to cool down by walking after a run.  The fact that my run contained a lot of walking is just a technicality.  

The only thing good about running is when you finally stop.

The only running that isn't stupid is when you're racing to be the first to the waffle maker at the breakfast bar.  Which totally counts as cardio if you do it right!

Monday, March 6, 2017

This is No Vacation

Today we're moving into a hotel for five nights while our water damaged wood floors caused by an overflowing toilet are being refinished.  And while I'm excited about the new floors, I'm not excited about moving my 4 kids, 2 dogs and 1 husband into it.  Mostly, because I'm the person most affected by this temporary relocation, since I work from home.  Which also makes me the go to person to work around the workmen's schedule for at least the next month.  So, while my kids look at this like a fun vacation, this is no vacation for me.  Well, it is kinda a vacation in that I won't get any work done writing my novel.

Like any vacation, my kids are super excited and asking a million questions.  The same ones over and over.  You think that once they're teenagers, they wouldn't do this anymore.  But, really, it just means they have more detailed questions than toddlers and no matter what you say, they always think your answer is stupid.  And then they google it to prove you wrong.  When they're in their 20's do they skip asking and go straight to google?  I'm being too optimistic aren't I?  Don't even answer that, I don't even want to know right now.

So, as my kids ask me if they still have to go to school when we're in the hotel (Ummmmmmm....YES!), I have other concerns.  Namely, my labs, who are used to their routine and having a lot of space.  Not so much Bonnie, who's very sweet and docile.  But my dog, Clyde, who thinks he's the protector of the house.  Who fiercely and foolishly thinks he defends us from other dogs, deer, bikers, the postman, people he doesn't know in general and sometimes just the blowing wind.   Oh and sometimes he has accidents, especially when anything veers from his normal routine.  What if I go to the workout room and they (meaning Clyde) completely defile the room and/or bark incessantly?  Or will I forget to put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door and he mauls the housekeeper?  There is so much potential for disaster.

But, first we have to get to the hotel.  And the kids need to pack everything they'll need for the week. Including sports uniforms, a dressy outfit for the basketball banquet, work uniforms, contact lenses and solution.  Not to mention books, backpacks, laptops and hopefully a writing utensil or two.  And guess who gets to remind them of all this while they fight over who gets what piece of luggage.  And then guess who gets to take all this luggage to the hotel because everyone else will be at school and/or work?  Me.  It's the worst part of the vacation, without the actual vacation part.

My days will be spent running to and from the house to let the workmen in and lock up when they leave every day.  Driving the kids to and from school.  Ensuring the dogs get a long walk so they're less likely to destroy things.  Figuring out what to make for dinner, since we'll have a stove and a fridge.  Doing laundry. Driving kids to sports. And going to this basketball banquet I tried to get out of with the excuse that we were in a hotel and it would just be too much of a pain.  (When my kid called me out on anti-social...which is totally and completely true.)  Wait. This is basically what I do every day.  But now I'll just be doing it in a tiny apartment instead of a house.  And then the next week we'll be doing the same thing, when they stain the floors.

What could possibly go wrong?

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Laws of Home Improvement

A few weeks ago, our bathroom on the main floor overflowed overnight and when I discovered it in the morning, it was already raining toilet water in the basement.  Which is why our bathroom is currently gutted awaiting a new wood floor, vanity and toilet.  The work is slated to begin next week.  In the meantime, I've been spending more time in the other bathrooms in my house contemplating how dated they are.  It's still 1987 in the bathrooms in my house.  Do you remember how stylish homes were in the 80's?  No?  Because they weren't!  And although we've lived in this house over a decade, something must be done.  And it must be done right now.

 I'm not good at math, 
so I don't understand how these home improvement projects keep multiplying.

It's the Law of Home Improvement: as soon as something in your house gets improved, you realize how terrible everything else really looks. It's the exact same thing with cleaning, which is precisely why I don't clean very often. Why start what's destined to be a total pain in the ass and a helluva lot of money only for your kids and/or dogs to ruin?  Except once you get the idea, no matter how impractical, you can't stop yourself from imagining the possibilities. And how much better your life will be. Which it won't because you'll be broke and constantly worried about your new stuff getting broken. So, you become a raving bitch. But, of course you don't know that at the start of a project.

It started off innocently enough, I ran downstairs to the guest bathroom to pee. (I didn't realize how many times I peed a day until I had to go either upstairs or downstairs to do it. Which means my ever faithful bathroom buddies, my Labrador Retrievers, Bonnie and Clyde, also have to go up and down the stairs to watch me pee. It's a whole potty parade!) So, I was sitting on the toilet with two dogs staring at me, when I diverted my gaze from them to really look around. There's only one towel rack and we were on the verge of having two house guests. I know! I'd just get a couple hooks to put up to accommodate more towels.

But, you know that's not how it happened.
There is nothing that "just" anythings in home improvement.
Burning your house down would just be easier than improving it.

I studied the stock of towel hooks at Home Depot and Lowe's. Requiring at least five trips, before, it became clear to me. If I was getting new hooks, I'd need a new bath towel bar, hand towel loop, toilet paper holder, drawer pulls, faucet and light fixture to match. Obviously. Sure, I had only a few days til house guests arrived and I had other more important things to do to prepare the house for the floor to get sanded, but this would be a quick and easy install. I'd do it myself. Easy peasy. I'd be done by the time my husband got home.

But, you know that's not how it happened.

I got as far as taking off the old hardware, which is when I needed a drill. I went out to the garage, took the battery off the charger and attached it to the drill. And exactly nothing happened. It was dead. Why do we have a drill that doesn't work in our garage? I knew we had another one with a cord, so I went looking for it. I found the drill bit in the size I needed to drill new holes, but no drill. Meaning, it was somewhere tucked away in one of the boxes that line the high shelves in there. And I'd need a ladder to get to them. And now I think I finally know what Meatloaf was singing about when he said, "I'd do anything for love, but I won't do that." You had me a ladder. I'm not climbing a ladder to search through heavy boxes to find a stupid drill. That's when it was clear to me that I was going to dump this project on my husband to finish. Which is exactly what I did.

In order for the new light fixture to fit, the mirror glued to the wall had to come off. And when my husband was painstakingly removing it because it must've been attached with superglue, it broke. But, rather than help him with any of that, I went back to Lowe's to find the perfect mirror to match all the other new stuff in the bathroom.  I had no choice really, the Laws of Home Improvement dictated it's what I had to do.

To think this all started with one toilet that overflowed. And ironically, the only thing our insurance doesn't cover for that project is a new toilet. So, if you need me, I live in the toilet aisle at Lowe's now.


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