Featured

Are We in Ancient Rome?

Luck has it that I had a chance to go to the Smoky Mountains, so I took full advantage and nestled for 5 days in Appalachia. I didn’t realize how badly I needed a break until I took a break. During my reflective pause, I made time to process the last six months and also steel myself for the next season.

The Culmination

We have this culmination of things. We have the narcissistic President, the virus, the death, the fear, BLM, the riots, the virus, the unemployment, the hunger, the murder hornets, the fires, the hurricanes, a potential twindemic, inside out education, the economic consequences…I could go on, but what the hell for? I mean, really, there’s no reason.

How this Shit Show Gained Momentum

People don’t want to believe that their President gives ”No Fucks”. We aren’t wired to believe that a human possibly has zero goodness in their soul. We are all taught from a very young age that everybody has some goodness inside of them. We’ve all seen this meme or something akin.

This is a mountain of spiritual beetle dung.

Our President, who has the emotional intelligence of a 4 year old, is incapable of taking responsibility for his depravity. If <insert fucked-up thing here> doesn’t present him in a good light, then it is fake or it didn’t happen or someone else did it. No accountability. No emotions. No empathy. Inside him, where compassion normally sits, darkness resides.

That not every person has good inside them is a hard lesson to re-learn. We’ve seen this play out before. The President isn’t the President for the people. The President is the President for his own personal gain. The people just don’t know what they have in front of them. They believed his lies.

The Roman Theater

Here we are sitting inside this quagmire of dysfunction desperately trying to get back to normal. If I pull back and peer down, I see what is redolent of Ancient Rome and the entire US is an arena and the citizens are unwittingly part of a nationwide gladiator game. Some are spectators, some are gladiators and some are part of the aristocracy.

A Pandemic, American Style: A Short Play

Act One
Scene One

At Rise: As we walk through the tunnel into the arena and look into the stands in the context of modern day America, we see an explosive scene.

Setting: An ancient Roman gladiator arena filled to the brim. Threaded throughout the arena is the Virus. A part of the equation that could be a variable but has become a constant because of the President.

NARRATOR: On the right side, we have the people refusing to believe that a President of the United States couldn’t give a flying fuck about them.

{People on the far right side of the arena}
BOOMERS: Trump is the best thing since J. Edgar Hoover
Yay! This is going to be some show
Raises their flag on their boat
then the boat sinks
because they didn’t have the money to maintain a boat in the first place because they lost their job at the beginning of the pandemic
but they have to keep up with the rest of the crowd
and pretend like everything is OK
because how would it feel NOT to be a Republican.

⬆️ Scary thoughts and actions of the unmasked, gloriously unaware.

NARRATOR: Looking over to the far left side of the arena we see the acutely aware that the President can’t see past the mirror.

[People on the left side of the arena}
Yup!
Fuck Trump
and puts on a mask and marches
Mothers on the front lines
Sons, daughters, fathers, sisters, friends
falling in line behind
Middle fingers UP!

⬆️Courageous acts of the high vibers.

NARRATOR: A step to the left of the people on the far right sit the stubborn children of a bygone era where America was once the best country in the world.

{People to the left of the far right. Chanting}
We are Number One!
Best in healthcare
Best in military
Best in technology
Best in transportation
Best of the best
Everyone is equal
(except for women
and African Americans
and LatinX
and LGBTQ
and the uneducated
and the disenfranchised) trailing off
CHAD: Shhhhh. Quiet.
KAREN: (screams) Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps!!
CHAD: What did I do with my Trump flag?
KAREN: Pull your mask up over your nose.

⬆️The cheerleaders with the rose-colored glasses firmly and safely on.

NARRATOR: A smidge to the right of the people on the far left are the ones who‘ve given up and who know the current system is irretrievably broken and are itching to walk away.

{People sitting slightly right of left. Quiet}
(Collectively thinking)
I can’t. I can’t anymore.
What do I have to do to get out of here?
Escape this shit show
Is Asia or Central America open to Americans yet?
I should buy a van or customize a school bus
Go off grid
Pop up somewhere else

⬆️They’ve raised their hands in submission. Time ta go.

NARRATOR: The Aristocrats are sitting on either side of center aware of the deceit, but are waiting to return to factory settings.

{People sitting slightly away from everyone else}
Ugh
🙄
I had to cancel my vacay this year
We have to pretend to be Canadian
the next time we travel internationally
Start practicing
saying, “Sorry, Sorry”
Oh, you got Thai food? Thanks!

⬆️”How inconvenient,” think the comfortably numb while filing their nails and watching Amazon Prime.

NARRATOR: ♾ And we have a huge amount of Gladiators who are on the arena floor fucking FIGHTING to survive.

⬆️ The healthcare workers, the food workers, the farmworkers, young parents fighting. I could go on.

Sitting in the center of the arena’s maelstrom is Trump. The truth denier.

How it plays out.
A pre-selected few win.
Thousands upon thousands die.

Fin

Could this tragicomedy been avoided? Yes, if our society valued collectivism over individualism, socialism over capitalism, humility over notoriety, high-mindedness over avarice, egalitarianism over misogyny. I could go on, but no need.

In many places in the world, there is a deep human disconnect where people have been misguided to think we don‘t need each other to survive. The US vs. THEM narrative.

This crisis has shown us the undeniable truth that we are all connected and we depend on each other.

What’s missing is EQUITABLE BALANCE.

Did this need to happen? Maybe. 2020 revealed white privilege and the ugly consequences of colonialism. Nothing has ever changed without a cataclysmic shift.

HOPE FLOATS

Act Two: Scene Two coming soon.

Featured

Transit of a Beloved Friend

Sunday, May 24, 2020

In two days, my brother’s best friend and my life long friend, Mark, is going to euthanize. I know that’s a shocking first sentence, but 2020 is nothing short of shocking. I’m watching all of us go from shock to shock.

I met Mark when I was 7 or 8 years old. He was around us a lot. I remember his calming presence. I never felt unsafe around him. When I think about Mark, I feel love and acceptance. He never judged me, ever.

I’ve dreamed about Mark ever since I can remember. Once or twice a year, he would pop up in my dreams. I noticed him there and journaled his appearances through the years.

I would wake up and write, “Well, that was nice. Mark was in my dreams again last night.” It’s apparent to me that Mark made a positive impression on me early in my life.

He ended up doing amazing things and positively impacting human life as well as ecological life on a global scale. Wait, let me switch that around, he impacted ecological balance which positively impacted human life. Thanks, Mark! Being a servant leader and an environmental steward is an admirable and humble way to influence change. We need more of you!

As is all humans way, consciously or not, I processed Mark’s struggle with the dementia daemon while I slept.

Sleeping is sacred to me and bed time is oftentimes the best part of my day. Some use books or gaming or writing or creating or whatever to enter into different realms of time and space. Sleep is my escape.

Naturally, since sleep is big on my to do list, dreaming is my entertainment and flying dreams, to me, are the ultimate prize. I may be revealing my insanity, but FFS, daily life is mental right now. I‘m only falling in line.

There are different levels of dream flying or astrally projecting as I call it. There is the one where I wake up frustrated because yes, I’m flying, but only wobbling a few feet above the ground and traveling at a speed slower than smell. I am laden with a physical body in this dream type. May as well be walking. I wake up and say, “Almost. Maybe next time”.

Then there is the very high in the sky dreams and my physical body is gauzy and nominally heavy. I can see my hands and feet and I watch people and life happening below. These dreams are delightful. I wake up going, “Hell yeah! That was fun.”

Then there is the ultimate flying experience where I’m able to project instantly to places I haven‘t visited before. The adrenaline and empowerment here is righteous and divine. I’ve only had a handful of these that I remember. I’ve no physicality here. Spirit only.

Back down to the level plane, Mark and his family are in Belgium. My family and I are in the US. We are separated by the Atlantic and 6,500km. It seems that an ocean doesn’t make a shred of difference in regards to connection.

I mentioned that I’ve dreamed of Mark throughout my life. The dreams were mostly benign. He would kind of be where I was whether at a beach or a house or on a mountain hike. If I could pinpoint a dream theme, he would be showing me things. I think of Mark as more of a gentle life guide.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve dreamt of Mark twice. I’ve come to frame the dreams as visitations. Astral travel. I’m a mere simpleton when it comes to the universe(s) and forms of matter and energy. Ha ha. Universes(s). Whoop, a conundrum. Universe can’t be plural because the universe is the universe, but is it?

The first visit was on Tuesday morning, May 6th and the second visit, Friday morning, May 22nd.

In the first dream, Mark was hanging out with us in a house somewhere. We were simply “being”. Present were my family and Mark’s family and some shadow figures that felt like they belonged there. The atmosphere was filled with warm light, serenity, happiness and a very chill vibe. The previous and current week had been an anxiety-riddled shitbox and I woke up happy and peaceful with a lightness within that I hadn’t felt in a long while. I sat on the side of the bed and said to myself, “Thanks, Mark. I intensely needed that!”

Later that day, I told my brother, Craig about the dream, and he said, “I had the same type of dream about Mark a couple of weeks ago. He is visiting us from another plane of existence.“ I agreed and we wondered if Mark was visiting others too. If anyone can travel astrally it would be Mark. I have no doubt in my mind.

In the early morning of Friday, May 22nd, I woke up to a blood curdling scream and the scream was coming from me. The scream woke up my daughter and she flew into my room and soothed me back to sleep. I was dreaming about Craig and Mark.

The dreamscape. A room. Craig is asleep. Mark is awake kneeling beside him and telling him something. I am invisible. I couldn’t hear what Mark was muttering, but Craig slowly woke up shaking his head left to right. Craig’s eyes flew open and he was about to say something. I decided to stop whatever was about to be said and since I didn‘t have a physical body, my only option was to scream as loud as I could so they both could hear me. And they did because they both looked my way and I woke up.

That morning, I made a conscious decision not to tell my brother about the dream. I didn’t want to distress Craig. A few hours later, Craig called and told me that Mark had made the decision to euthanize in three days on Tuesday, May 26th. At that point, I told Craig about the dream. He said, “You knew before I told you.” Yep, I was visited again and with some news this time. Whoa.

Photo by Andrew Preble on Unsplash

Interconnection. Like a stand of Aspen trees, we are all one organism . There are only a few things that I know and this I know.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Two days later, on Monday, I channeled ”Tita” from the movie, ”Like Water for Chocolate” and with all the love I could muster, on the eve of Mark’s departure, I made him a transition candle. It burned for 3.5 days from Tuesday morning until Friday morning.

I worked up a little candle making video . Watch if you please. It was the least I could do.

Here is a video showcasing the release of Mark’s book, “Riding the Waves of Dementia”.

Mark left a beautiful family, legacy and lasting impressions on everyone that was lucky enough to be around him.

See you on the flip side, Mark!

Intentional Living Whack-A-Mole

The living with intention concept is popping up madly in my day-to-day. Like in that game, “Whack-A-Mole”. I try to thwack it down, but the “pay attention to me” and this alternative, but necessary way to live is wagging a finger in my face refusing to be ignored.

Starting the Path to Intentional Living

The seed of living my life intentionally began (again) in earnest while I was visiting Japan. I was super impressed by many things in Japan, but the two most impactful things was the utter lack of trashcans and the washlets. I found myself turning in circles looking for trashcans and there were NONE. Anywhere. (more about the washlets in a separate post, maybe.) The culture around the “I’ll take it to go” mindset that’s deeply ingrained in my American psyche was disrupted. There are 7-Elevens and the like on every corner in Japan’s major cities. I practically lived at the Family Mart. I ate a lot of sushi, onigiri, chicken on a stick and drank gallons of Kirin Milk Tea, but I didn’t know what to do with my plastic bottles, wrappers etc. (since there were no trashcans around). I quickly learned that it’s expected that you take your trash home and throw it away there.

I was appalled at how much trash I generated. I began to take notice of my personal waste footprint and I realized, to my embarrassment, how mindless and irresponsible it is of me to casually throw away so much trash. At home in the US, I was blissfully unaware of my actions. I throw things away, bit by bit, as I move through the day and what I was doing didn’t really compute, (la la la – that’s me with my head up my ass, la la la), but if you haul trash around in your bag all day and throw it all away it at once…it hits home.

If little old me has that much trash at the end of each day; how much does a family, a village, a town, a city, a nation, a country, a continent? And then I almost fainted from overwhelm. A few weeks after my return from Japan, and accepting my cowardice for never clicking on news stories about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I sat down and read about the swirling vortex of trash and thought about how much of that garbage is actually mine and I felt like shit.

There it is.
It’s a thing and we created it.

>Forward> <Backward< >Forward>

Back in 2008, my family and I moved super ahead in living with intention. We composted. We gardened. I dried our clothes on a line in my backyard. We did it for a few years and then the kids got older and the whole after-school activities weekend sports took up all my time. It’s hard to mother, wife, work full-time, dry the clothes on the line and also tend a garden. Too hard. I gave up the garden and the clothes line. Who’s life goes two steps forward and then one step back? Two steps forward ~ Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat. Mine does.

I’ll call this Phase Two: The Redux.

Back to intentional living. During the kid-raising phase, life tended to steamroll forward and I was semi-unaware of life outside the parenting loop. Some years later, I’ve popped out the other side and I’m sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk, looking around. Fuck, what happened? The kids are in college (or jail or wherever) and my awareness of a world beyond parenting is back in focus. I was thinking I should jump back into eyes wide shut mode, but I can’t. I don’t have the “I’m raising children” excuse or “I’m too busy being a wife” excuse anymore to do sit around and stare at my nails.

Anyway, the climate is fucked.

Knock, Knock?
Who’s There?
Zero waste project.
Zero waste project who?
Exactly, zero waste projects experimented on, so get on it, girl or lady or woman 🙂 Who am I? That’s another story.

The Zero Waste Project

What is Zero Waste? Well, every person leaves a personal waste footprint. I’ve left a detestable waste footprint on the Earth (being the mindless bumbler that I am). Zero Waste is a movement towards an increased awareness of our personal trash footprint and finding solutions leading to a decrease in the amount of trash going into landfills, oceans and other places. (I made that definition up. Maybe I’ll use it for my pitch to some angel investors or something when I go big).

Two weeks ago, I did my first personal waste inventory. What’s a personal waste inventory? It’s a starting point, mostly. I laid out my week’s trash on the kitchen floor and examined it.

If you want to nerd out with me, watch the Initial Trash Analysis video HERE.

My trash told me a sad story. With the data points collected, I mapped out some very simple steps to less waste production (like I’m a bona fide trash scientist).

Making the Jump to Zero Waste

Baby Steps. Practically everything is our society is wrapped up “to go”. Think about the grocery store. Even our vegetables that have their own protective skin come wrapped in plastic or we put them in plastic bags. Why do we need to put them into something? That makes no sense and hasn’t ever made sense to me. People get stupid upset when I throw my veggies into the cart with no plastic protection.

The convo generally goes like this:

Person: “OMG, that’s disgusting. What are you doing? Put your veggies in a plastic bag!

Paige: “Why? To protect them from what? The plastic bag the check out person is about to put them in? The air? Acid rain?”

Paige: “You are simply doing what everyone else is doing and not super thinking about your impact.” Some see the point. Some don’t.

It’s like a plastic conspiracy to make us “think” we need all this plastic for hygienic purposes. We don’t. It’s not keeping us healthy; it’s killing us.

Easy First Steps to Get Started (anyone can do it!)

Problem: Boxes
Solution: Bulk staples. I buy my pasta, oats, peanut butter and coffee in bulk. I bring my own mason jars from home and fill them up at the store.

Problem: Paper coffee filters
Solution: Reusable coffee filter. No more filters are going in the trash.

Problem: Paper towels
Solution: Dishtowels for clean up and cloth napkins at the dinner table.

Problem: Polyurethane kitchen sponges
Solution: All natural Japanese Tawashi brushes. These are seriously bad ass.

Problem: Plastic water bottles
Solution: Pack your own reusable water bottle before you leave for the day.

Problem: “To go” coffee or tea plastic cups
Solution: Pack your own reusable coffee cup before you leave for a day out.
Tip: If you’re having a coffee or tea at the “to go” restaurant (starbucks etc.) …ask for a ceramic cup. What a novelty!

Don’t lose any more sleep over how much trash is being produced and ACT. I dare you.

Join me on my journey to Zero Waste. Next video is coming soon.

Stumbling Into the Past in Kyoto

IMHO, the entire country of Japan should go ahead and be declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kyoto is my third stop in Japan and although Tokyo and Hiroshima blows the doors off anything I’ve seen in the world, Kyoto shot itself into the stratosphere last night.

Japan is experiencing a deadly heatwave, so we’ve had to lay low during the day. Therefore, as soon as the sun began to go down last night, my daughter and I jumped outside. We were raring at the bit to wander the Arashiyama area of Kyoto. Our ryokan, the Arashiyama Ranzan Hotel, is located beside the Katsura River.

I chose this ryokan for two reasons, one; it has an onsen and two; it’s close to the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the Tenryu-ji Temple.

Here is a cute video of a lotus field at Tenryu-ji Temple.

Meandering

Next is the stumble upon part. We were walking beside the river and had stopped at a vending machine for refreshments with the intention of hiking to the Bamboo Forest. We noticed a lot of people in traditional kimono boarding the cutest boats. I admired the swinging lanterns on the boats. Romance defined right there. Fascinated, we snapped pictures and continued walking the river’s path. (I later discovered we had taken the wrong-ish path to the forest and good thing we did!)

The boats began to form a chain. Things were getting super interesting at this point. I mumbled, “What do you think is happening here? Is it a nightly event?” This is like a dream and we’ve entered.

We kept walking along the path and saw little gondola like boats and became even more intrigued. Why is there fire on the bow of the boat? Why are there ducks on prow lines? Are they powering the boats with the ducks? Are the ducks trying to swim because they are avoiding the fire or is the fire for lighting purposes. It is getting dark. We were excited and clueless too. So many unanswered questions that begged later googling.

Video of my total ignorance. I later found out what we had witnessed, but first we continued to the Bamboo Forest. Since the mysterious fire/duck event pushed up back time-wise a little while, we got to the forest too late and there was no more light. The Bamboo Forest was awfully spooky at night and it’s not lit up at all. Nope.

Discovering What We Saw

Back at the hotel, I discovered we had witnessed Cormorant Fishing or Ukai. The universe lined it up for us like this. Heatwave ➜ Sunset Touring ➜ Wrong Path ➜ Ukai!! Heck, yeah.

Cormorant Fishing is an ancient art dating back to the 9th Century. The performances happen in Kyoto from July to September. It was amazing.

Serendipity! Cant see what we stumble upon next on our travels.

So ❤️ Japan!!

The Flow of Anger

When I landed a customer facing job at a major American airline, I wasn’t prepared to learn as much about anger as I did. Boy, was I surprised (but not too) that the airline’s index of recurrent training included the psychology of anger and how to manage the emotion.

To add insult to injury, I also lived with an angry person. After a day of experiencing angry passengers, I would come home and get some more anger piled on top. It’s exhausting on a myriad of levels, but at the same time, it’s manageable (sometimes).

This is What I’ve Learned

Anger is not innate, it’s 100% learned and 100% choice. For what seems like forever, I watched and absorbed and learned the complexities of the emotion. Males, mostly, aren’t taught how to manage emotions like frustration, hurt and most importantly, fear. The same with females, but to a lesser degree. Women are generally socialized to react in a more thoughtful manner to stuff. It all boils down to what is learned from your nascent environment. And on a more organic level, beyond question, I feel the impetus to anger is fear. Pin dropped.

Working at a major international airport five days a week for years and having too much downtime in between flights and not interested in hanging out in the break rooms with my peers, gossiping, I sat in the departure lounges, watching humanity walk by. It was absolutely fascinating. More than once per day, I helped a person identify why they were freaking out and to understand that, in most instances, nothing bad will happen as a result of a travel hiccup.

Let me give you a “for instance”. This situation occurred before electronic ticketing. Lost or “perceived” lost tickets used to be a huge, hairy issue. One day, a lady came running up to my gate completely flustered and angry and frustrated and yelling and all the things that come with fear. Everyone in the departure lounge stopped and stared at her, eyes wide and mouths open in shock. My gate partner was mumbling, “This is some bullshit, Paige. Call security.”

Instead, I let her emote. When she took a breath, I said, “I’m here to find a solution to your problem, so let’s work together and fix this. I promise that we will work it out, but first let’s find some privacy.”

I led her away from prying eyes and ears and sat down with her on the lounge seats. She deflated and de-escalated immediately. The key? I showed her that I cared by saying, “share with me the thing that is scaring you the most,” and she did. I gave her permission to be vulnerable. I assured her that even if her ticket was truly lost, she would still arrive at her destination. All the fear came tumbling out. Guess what? The ticket was in her bag the whole time (as was usually the case), but people tend to check their decorum at the ticket counter.

Allay the fear, allay the anger. I’m not saying it’s simple because it’s not, it takes some finesse, but acting as a guide to a less blurry picture and realization that shit is going to be OK is magic. Seeing the relief ripple through a person’s body is palpable and evident.

By no means am I saying that I don’t get angry or scared or anxious. I do. All the time. I’ve learned how to manage my anger, by helping others manage theirs.

The Unconsciously Angry

What about the people whose anger is the default? What I mean by “default” is the people who get angry at the slightest bit of wonky imperfection. Even if the data shows over and over that the outcome of whatever happened isn’t life threatening, they still flip the fuck out? In my observation, this group is mainly unconscious of their behavior. There are some outliers, thankfully.

This is a tough bunch to crack. The day ruiners. The distrusting. The controllers. In other words, the perfectionists. Perfectionists have a distaste for frivolous or perceived frivolousness types.

Exploring anger is rarely an option for this group. It’s easier to blow the fuck up than sit down with it and choose a different reaction to the fear. Why? Because taking a look inside and accepting that, “yup, all the bits of our lives are not in our control.” That is some scary ass shit right there.

Yeah, they might apologize for the explosion a few hours or a day later, but do they really mean it? Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. It all depends on how willing they are to reveal vulnerability and accepting the non-exactness of life.

The worst part of anger is how it negatively affects the offender and the target(s) (unintended or not). The collateral damage runs deep. It’s like balling up a shiny, new piece of paper and although you try and try to smooth it out, the wrinkles remain forever.

In the Moment

In my experience, when it comes to managing an anger moment for the afraid, the logical approach flies out the window and humor becomes the substituent salve. Having a laugh kills fear. Laughing simply stops it dead. The humor approach is just plain hard to institute. I’ve seen it backfire like gasoline on a flame and oppositely, I’ve seen it act like water on a flame.

Using humor is my preferred way to defuse anger and frustration. It works even on the toughest exterior-ed people. Make sure you laugh with/soften the outburst with an aside and don’t giggle or laugh at it or at them. There is a difference.

Anger is a choice..the evidence is irrefutable. My unsolicited advice is when the anger shows up, make a choice to work through it and everyone ends up with a smile. Is an angry outburst worth it if you look at the bigger picture? Nah, most likely not.

“Easier said than done”, you might say.

Maybe, but I promise the more times you choose a smile over hostility, smiling becomes the default.

Traveling this Summer? How to Avoid Foreign Transaction Fees (or try to)

Get Ahead of the Fee Game
OK, why the big, wallet wallop on foreign transaction fees? I understand there is a cost associated with exchange rate conversion, but does it really cost $2.50 or more to conduct transactions from a foreign ATM? I think not. Here we are, living in the age of increased access to global movement. Imagine all the business and leisure travelers dropping into ATM’s and sliding their cards across the globe constantly. The sheer amount of money that banks are racking up in foreign transaction fees is mind boggling..just cashing in on the low hanging fruit. Oodles of money.

I swear, becoming a flamingo with my head in the sand sounds better every day or I could open a bank and charge all kinds of evil, little fees that me and my financial co-conspirators hide in the small print.

Photo by Tony Reid on Unsplash Head in Sand

The more I learn about money and finance, the more I seek to skirt these dastardly fees. Fees are insidious creatures that creep up and take small nips from your stash. I began paying attention to fees and got annoyed. Not paying attention = money wasted. I’ve found that either people are ignorant of the fees or most likely; the case is that we don’t pay super attention because, “Oh, well, part of life. Blah.”

Screw that. Let’s nip this fee shit in the bud.

Steps to Take Before Your International Vacation
Before traveling internationally, do these things:

  1. Check with your bank about non-issuing bank ATM fees for foreign transactions.
  2. Check with your credit card issuer about foreign transaction fees.
  3. Check with your bank about debit card foreign transaction fees.

If anything, at least you will be aware of your spending costs.

Now that you have an idea what your spending costs will be, at what point do you decide; should I simply grab enough cash to get me through the entire foreign vacation? Or should I use my credit card or my debit card? It’s all so confusing.

The Average Foreign Transaction Fee
To offer a comparison, here is my personal lineup.

State Employees Credit Union Purchase Cost 1% Non SECU ATM Fee .75
Wells Fargo Purchase Cost 3% Non WF ATM Fee $5.00
Capital One Credit Card Transaction Fee 0%

The clear winner here is the Capital One credit card which, I will undoubtedly use for most things during my travel this summer as well as reap the buying rewards. For cash, the State Employees Credit Union card. The Wells Fargo card will sit, untouched, in my wallet.

Non sequitur hotel and transpo hack: I prepaid for my rail passes and hotels using the Ebates portal, so money back there and free hotel nights using Hotels.com Double score.

After a fair amount of research, I found the following:
Bank of America and Chase charge a 3% transaction fee and $2.50 to $5.00 for non-issuing bank ATM fees with these fees being the norm across the board with HSBC, Suntrust, Citibank and PNC Bank (with slight variation).

I also found that Capital One and Discover credit cards charge 0% on foreign transaction fees. Go, Cap One and Discover!

A Simple Example of a 14 Day Family Vacation Abroad
Assuming a Wells Fargo debit card is in use:
7 visits for cash at a non Wells Fargo ATM at $5.00 per withdrawal = $35.00
Food: An average of $150.00 a day at 3% per transaction = $63.00 (or thereabouts).

This spending cost is around $100.00 for this family and the above doesn’t include shopping, gifts, transportation etc. That’s ALOT of money wasted!

Truly, only a few simple steps need to be taken to get a feel for foreign spending costs. This is especially beneficial if you have a kid living abroad or travel often on your own dime.

For now, I feel about 3/4’s in control of my money. I certainly don’t feel completely in control, but this is what I do know. My money is not in control of me anymore.

Here’s to Summer! Clink.

What Happened When I Deleted My Social Media Apps…

Scrolling through Facebook. Scrolling through Instagram. Scrolling through Twitter. Seeing far too many people spending more time showcasing their lives rather than actually living them. Every twenty five minutes, I waste ten minutes (at the minimum) scrolling. All day long. And sometimes in the middle of the night.

I admit it. I’m guilty. I fell in line (like all good lemmings). I post on Instagram and comment on Facebook and retweet on Twitter. Out of the three social media apps, in my opinion, Twitter is the most innocuous and funny.

A while back, I stopped posting on Facebook. Easy enough. Incremental change. Then, a few weeks ago, I resolutely pressed and held the home button on my iPhone for that extra second. My app icons trembled with fear. I pressed x, x, x and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter fell off my screen. Sucked back into app store limbo for eternity.

For a few minutes afterwards, I felt powerful, courageous and triumphant. Twenty five minutes later, I felt a twinge of panic and confusion. Fear rolled in like London fog. (more on that to come)

What precipitated the social media wipe out? It wasn’t an impulsive act. A few things contributed to sweep-age, but mostly it was this. A month ago, my daughter’s phone was stolen. During the following three weeks, she learned how to live without a phone. On one of those days, she had to navigate the Tokyo bus and train system in order to meet her friend outside of customs at Narita. We chatted on the laptop the night before and we walked through the process of how to meet someone old-school style and how to navigate the world without google maps and google, for that matter.

We (mostly she) developed a plan and communicated said plan to her friend who was coming in from Hong Kong. She was right nervous about venturing out sans phone.This girl is Gen Z. She has always had access to instant information. Her generation doesn’t talk to people (that they don’t know). Instead, they ask their phone for the information. I don’t blame her for being nervous and feeling slightly out of control.

Of course, the airport pickup was a success. She learned two things during the respite from the phone.

  1. There is freedom gained in the unplug.
  2. Life is possible without a smartphone. No one died.

I became curious and wondered about her experience. It’s been a long time since I knew that freedom. Was there more kindling that led to setting my social media on fire? Oh yeah. Last month, I was shocked when a woman posted a personal Facebook messenger conversation and asked for social commentary on a Facebook group page. The conversation she posted was relatively normal. Nothing horrific there, except the public shaming that occurred afterwards. That was appalling. Why in the world would someone air a private conversation? To what end?

The entrepreneur porn on Instagram is the worst. “Be an influencer! Follow me to learn how to make money doing this…bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.” For the most part, Instagram is a fabricated fantasy. I’m not saying every account is an illusion, but I have a feeling there is more pain than is apparent behind all the smiles, fancy stuff and beautiful surroundings. I can only imagine people sitting in their normal suburban homes living their normal lives comparing themselves with the world they are seeing on Instagram. Few can compare and the comparisons lead to genuine feelings of inadequacy and despair. The worst part about the phenomenon is that people are comparing themselves to an image that is anything but real.

Social media wasn’t always this way. It’s changed from a simple and congenial way to communicate to this scary monster of deceit and deplorable behavior that is being normalized all over the globe. WTF is going on?

Back to the fear I felt when I denied myself access to the social world of the internet. The fear was real. I felt disconnected and a wee bit lost.
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What happened, though? Nothing, really.

The disruption resulted in a re-connection with the parts of life that matter. Free time flowed back like a butterfly. “Lalala, here I am floating from place to place. Want to do something?” (That was the butterfly talking in a high voice)

In week one, I realized my phone addiction. It is unacceptable how many times I peer into my phone in one day. But eventually, the “need to know what’s going on in the world” addiction melted away.

In week two, I realized that concentrating on my life and the people around me is way more important than seeing and experiencing the world through someone else’s fake-ass social media account.

Look up from your smartphone. Notice what is going on around you. It’s marvelous. This life.

A Brief Moment over Wine and Tom Robbins

When I heard her say, “Tom Robbins..something, something.” My eyes narrowed. I turned to look at her and I cocked my head sideways, like a dog would when he/she hears/feels a meaningful sound vibration. Listening.

We were a group of 10 or so enjoying the Memorial Day Holiday from a friend’s back porch. There were the usuals and the unusuals; veggie burgers, cheeseburgers, hotdogs, chips, baked beans, potato salad, gluten free cupcakes, non-painful conversation (thanks to the small talk Gods, we are past that), wine, IPA’s and the “house cocktail”. I love there was a house cocktail on offer. How unusual!

I didn’t believe I could be more delighted with this gathering of good friends and my good fortune until the mention of the novelist, Tom Robbins. Tom Robbins has a huge cult following among the weirder people of the world. I immediately went from mildly engaged (and mostly entertaining myself in my head) to fully engaged. Kaboom. Present and participating.

The conversation went at a quick pace and somewhat like this:

Did you say, “Tom Robbins?” I asked my friend who sat across the table.

“Yes.”

“You’ve read Tom Robbins?”

“We both have.” (We being her and her husband), who nodded in agreement.

“Did you read Jitterbug Perfume?”

“Yes”

“I read that book, too!”, piped up another friend who sat to my right, “wasn’t that one about a dying God?” I looked over at him with incredulity, triply impressed that three people besides me temporarily inhabiting the same space had read Tom Robbins. I bubbled over with happiness.

“Yes, Pan was dying because people stopped believing in him,” I answered.

I asked the group, “What about Still Life with Woodpecker?”

“We quoted from Still Life with Woodpecker in our wedding vows,” my friend slyly reported with a smirk.

Duly impressed.

And did you like the movie, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues? This was my test. It isn’t possible to honor this majestic novel in movie form. Albeit, the film was a good effort, justice wasn’t done.

“I didn’t even watch the movie,” she replied and took it to a completely different level as a Robbins loyalist. Anyone who reads Tom Robbins knows full well his novels aren’t translatable to screen.

“Wasn’t Keanu Reeves in that movie?” and DINK my other friend cemented his inclusion in our nerd stan for Tom Robbins.

A moment with friends. See it for what it is….grab it, savor it, enjoy it, taste it, relish it, feel it, be present with it. Precious and awesome. And no selfies were taken in the making of this memory.

The little things.

Brutal Barbarism

Yesterday, I walked out of my divorce workshop with Legal Aid completely numb. I went through the machinations of the help session and then that was it. A 15-year relationship simply rubbed away with a notary’s signature.

On the drive home, while I was processing that little death, I ruminated on the three people on the periphery of my life that died this week too.

And then the death of a women’s right to her own body sent me to bed when I got home. I never go to my bed and just lay. It’s not something I do. I might sit down on my recliner for a few minutes and talk to my dog, but being sideswiped by life and rendered immobile isn’t a regular occurrence. Damn.

What kept popping up for me over the last few days was anger. So much anger and disappointment. I watched the barbaric anti-abortion legislation being signed in by Georgia, Alabama and Missouri. I considered the consequences of the legislation.

It makes me sick to think of the horrors we are going to witness as a result. Especially with social media and how it will all play out online. Oh, don’t be fooled. We are going to see some foul stuff happen. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter aren’t always perfect pictures of women holding colorful balloons in front of the Eiffel Tower.

I thought of the demise of Planned Parenthood and how the torches and pitchforks have set it alight and is almost destroyed. Planned Parenthood is a safe place for women and families not only to prevent unplanned pregnancies but to foster healthy, safe environments for expecting parents. The hypocrisy of it all.

And then I thought of that scene from the movie Dirty Dancing where Penny had to suffer through a botched abortion.

And then I thought of the criminalization of abortion in Northern Ireland and then the loophole where a women from Northern Ireland can get free abortion care in England and Wales under the National Health Service…and I grabbed a ray of hope.

I scrabbled around to try and figure out why this is happening? We are backsliding. Ten years ago, people were talking about our nation backsliding and I waved it away, counting on legislation somehow getting killed in one house or the other. Today, the bills are passing and I’m alarmed.

I vividly remember marching on the Mall in DC at the National Organization for Women March for Women’s Lives in the early 90’s. What a day. I’ve never seen so many people in one place supporting a cause. Not for one millisecond did I entertain the idea that I would have to do it again. I found myself wondering what I can do?

All this bullshit and for what? Because we spoke up. We put our foot down and said, “No more!” We came out in droves and told our stories. We rose. We revealed the beasts around us.

The result…a women gets raped by a man and is criminalized for taking action and the victim receives a harsher penalty than the rapist.

No wonder I took to my bed. No wonder I’m mad. We all need to get mad. Will our anger make a difference? I’m not certain, but we can’t sit and watch and pretend it’s OK.

We just can’t.

Here, Take a Swig of This

At that moment, I was here, “Wow, can I screw up this parenting thing any more?”

Out of the blue, (well, not entirely out of the blue) I get a text from an old friend who was reflecting back to a thing that happened years ago.

She said, “I’ll never forget,” [that I said], “take a swig of this, Bron…” (Bron = Daughter)

I wasn’t exactly sure what she was referring to, so I texted back, “What was it?”

Old Friend: “You, handing a bottle of Benadryl to her in the back seat. She was just a baby in the UHaul…lol”

Me: “I was such an excellent Mom just plying her with drugs for the long haul trip…”

Old Friend: “It was awesome…I needed that example. I was strung so tight!”

Me: “You are more relaxed now, though. Yay!”

Old Friend: “Yup. No need for perfection anymore. I truly don’t give a shit.”

The moment when you realize how much your words and actions impact others.

My friend and I’s exchange brought me here. In the months leading up to the panic of the birth of my daughter, I repeatedly asked myself – what kind of parent will I choose to be? My response was the same as it was since I was about 18.

Paige’s 7 Parenting Tenants

1.There is no value in hiding things/life/dumb stuff/bad stuff from the children.

2. Don’t throw up a wall between parent and child. “I am the parent and thou shalt obey me” is steep bullshit. It doesn’t work. Create mutual admiration, respect and trust.

3. Things don’t have be perfect.

4. Attempt to stop worrying. It will turn out OK.

5. Be vigilant and also be chill.

6. Introduce the world religions. Let them choose or not.

7. Do your best not to fuck up your kid. Forgive yourself right now because it’s full out trial and error time.

Sounds about right. 7 is an auspicious number.

20 years later, my daughter is flying to Japan.

I was worrying myself into a puddle about the decision to send my daughter by herself to study for 5 months to Japan. The thoughts were rampant. Have I done the right thing? Is she going to be OK? Will she flourish? Am I going to have to go get her? Is she eating? Does she have enough money? I was completely overwrought.

At the perfect moment, when I needed it the absolute most, my friend reminded me of my own parenting rule. Insert parenting tenant number 4 here; “Attempt to stop worrying. It will turn out OK.”

Here, take a swig of this, Paige.

And it did turn out fine and my daughter is fine and I am fine. She trusted me and I trusted her.

AND there is nothing more precious than a genuine friend.

VAN LIFE BY DESIGN

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Retired in 2013 at age 33. Life is Good.

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