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Ugly American and UK Customer Service

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In America, I find my behavior acceptably, slightly a bit pushy, American. But I knew going into expat-ing, that that behavior is not acceptable. You don’t yell at the cable company when you don’t have Internet for 3 months. You don’t freak out on your rental company when you don’t have a fridge for 2 months. You don’t write angry emails when you order something online and they let you know two weeks later that they actually don’t have that in stock. You don’t complain when you come at your exact appointed time for a click & collect grocery order and they make you wait 25 mins in the parking lot. You either don’t order changes to your sandwich (no mayo, with avo, just a little bit of beet root, easy on the cheese, and please no weird tangy jams and/or chutneys that come out of nowhere) or if you do, you don’t send it back when they get it wrong and just bring you out white toast.

The ugly American is entitled and demanding…mostly in regards to customer service. But customer service isn’t a priority in the UK the way it is the states. It’s not as if the slap you across the face with your sandwich, but they don’t hustle for tips in the food service industry, and in all other industries, they don’t care to go above and beyond for a customer. They can take you and your business, or leave you. As mentioned with the cable company…for the first time I had a cable company tell me if I wasn’t happy that I could take my business elsewhere. That would never happen with Comcast.

I am happy to say, I turn off the entitled American 99% of the time in interactions with the outside world in Scotland. In my personal life of friends and family relationships, I am however, still probably an ugly American. There have been just 3 times I have gone off the deep end and became the ugly American here. 3 times in 2 years, I think that’s a pretty great track record… The first time was going insane at the aforementioned cable company where the man on the phone told me he would report me for verbal abuse (I seriously wasn’t even Lauren at peak craziness…I had toned it down, honestly, I just have a mouth like a sailor, and I don’t call names…. ever…. so don’t think I’m calling some man on the phone an idiot or anything worse!)screen-shot-2014-08-29-at-8-46-36-amThe second time, is a long complicated story, which did have me go absolutely ballistic at the inefficiency, miscommunication, and complacency of a company…. and I did go absolutely ballistic. I demanded to speak to managers, I exaggerated the outcome of their terrible work ethic, I was enraged. But I am not totally embarrassed to say that it got the job done.   And if I hadn’t had gone ballistic…. it wouldn’t have happened.

This weekend came my third bout of ugly American. Though it was a very tempered version of it…I’m actually not embarrassed, though E is a little. Maybe it’s because I was face to face with someone, maybe it’s because I was in a crowded location. Either way, I didn’t go absolutely nuts….but at the same time, I didn’t get the outcome I wanted. So maybe if I had gone ballistic I would have…something to think about. But I’m sure to this man I just fulfilled every idea he had about demanding ugly Americans.

What happened?

In August when we went to Edinburgh I forgot my running shoes, but had to get training runs in. So Friday night we swung by Scotland’s running shoe store-chain: Run 4 It. I had called to say I was coming, could they have a pair of UK size 7 Asics Gel Nimbuses for me. They did, great. I ran 6 miles the next day and my feet burned. I ran Sunday, feet still hurt, a little less.   I then spent the next 3 weeks wearing them a fair bit, on up to 10 mile runs, only to have my feet hurt, burn, and get blisters. These were not working.

I asked a FB women’s running group I belong to how long do they give a new pair of shoes to break in and comfortable and work? Maybe I needed longer than a month? Maybe I was being picky and demanding on my shoes? The response was no, I had given them plenty of time to break in, these weren’t working, I should return them. It was then that I was looking at my old pair vs. my new pair, and I realized I don’t wear Asics Nimbuses…I were Cumulus’s (for the love of Christ could they not find names that didn’t sound so similar?). Whoops. Had got the wrong shoes. I reach out to the store and explain that I bought the wrong shoes and these aren’t working. That I didn’t have the receipt, but I have the CC statement, and I know which day I went and who I bought them from, etc. I get a phone call from the manager saying to go into my local store and they’ll sort it out, that I shouldn’t be getting blisters. Excellent.

So I went to my local store and explained the situation, they should have received an email, that I was here to switch out the shoes. But they would not let me return the shoes, or do a 1 for 1 switch out (even though the shoes I want are £40 cheaper)…they could only give me a discounted rate on another pair. I went a little ugly American. The manager on the phone wasn’t clear at all…I assumed I was trading in the non-working shoes for another pair. And when explaining this, the man at the shop just kept looking at me and saying, “But you’ve worn them!!” Which was obvious. I had worn the shoes at least 50-60 miles running on paths, trails, and country roads. I said as much. He couldn’t grasp returning something that had been worn and thought I was being ridiculous for implying they would. He kept implying that I was being an absolute nutter for thinking that would take the shoes back.

I had said I didn’t think I was being ridiculous, because this is the first time I bought shoes in the UK, all my other running shoe purchases were in the United States, and EVERY. SINGLE. RUNNING. STORE. I had ever been to and bought from offered any where between a 30-day to 90-day return policy on worn running shoes. How else would you know if they work for you or don’t? They only way to test running shoes is to actually run in them! screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-3-05-35-pm

 

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I was pretty annoyed but I thought hiding it well…until he said, “Well if that’s the case I’m going to move to America.” Which I think was quite sassy and further implying I was lying and making this crazy excellent return policy up. My response was, “Well pack your bags then buddy.” At this point I knew I wasn’t going to get to exchange the shoes….and I wasn’t fighting for that anymore. I am stubborn and felt insulted and at this point I really just wanted this man to: a) acknowledge that I’m not lying or crazy in thinking that I could return running shoes, b) That I’m not insane for thinking they would return a pair of used running shoes, and c) that in comparison to American running shoes their return policy sucks (ugly American wanting foreigners to succumb and admit America is the best).

yes!

yes!

So yeah…I didn’t win the battle. But I also feel that while being an ugly American, I was a pretty toned down, well-mannered ugly American. It’s funny because generally I am the first person to air grievances on why America sucks. There’s a big joke here that I’m a wanna-be Canadian (it’s true!) but yet in these certain situations I am left longing for my homeland. Where the customers are always right, and customer service is second to none (you think returning used running shoes is revolutionary, one of my clients is a medical marijuana dispensary and we return and exchange WEED for the love of god).

So I wasted £145 on running shoes that hurt my feet. And now am praying these newly ordered shoes work (because it’s a new model of course and that changes everything). I let the ladies on my online running group know that the UK return policy is not as generous as the American one. And have wised up and added “running shoes” back to the list of things I only buy in American…. along with any electronics (Apple, Garmin, Bose), Mexican food items, and pumpkin scented everything.

My body tells me no

But I won’t quit, cause I want more.

But not too much more. Just 10 more weeks. Then I’ll quit any and all marathon attempts.

Remember when I said I was marathon training? And then promptly didn’t talk about it for 3 ½ months? Surely you thought I wasn’t still pursuing the NYC marathoning because…well you know….Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 10.23.46 AMBut I have been training! I have actually been running a sh*t ton! I started training with a coach the week of June 14th. I decided to get a coach so that I’d have a more individualized plan in general, but more importantly so I can talk to someone specifically about my hip issues and the plan can be altered as it needs to due to pain. I actually had to take off running about a week and a half early on because of arch pain (how random) and it was great to have her there to suggest my cross training and what I should do and maintain. I also went to a PT as well as a podiatrist. They couldn’t actually figure out what’s wrong, but the confirmed it was muscular so that was good. And that is pretty well healed. Seems to just bother me on trail running when the pavement is really uneven or rocky.

I had decided to see how this coaching and training was going and (gasp!) not talk about running until I was feeling good that I could take on the 5 boroughs. 2 weekends ago I had a 15 miler (my longest thus far) and thought this would be the deciding run. To be honest, I haven’t booked my flight yet because I’ve been worried I won’t be able to pull through and run it. Even though I’ve been really impressed that I’ve been running about 35 miles a week for the last 5 weeks, I wanted to get a long run down. And my 12 and 13 milers weren’t proving to be an accurate indicator as they went poorly (for reasons other than my hip).

So 2 weekends ago- I ran 15! And it went great! Not only did I run 15 on Saturday, I ran my 5-mile recovery run on Sunday. Felt pretty good. But there was a little feeling of unhappiness in my hip and I said to E, “Pretty sure my hip is gathering the troops to stage a coup.”

Monday was on off day. I was in the car driving somewhere, and all of a sudden I felt a little twang of angriness from my hip. I decided to just ignore it. Tuesday I ran 10 miles. The first 5 went great and when I turned around my hip sent out a couple twangs of angriness and I realized my weekly 35 miles are not going to be so easy anymore. I finished my run and emailed my coach- something I do every Tuesday letting her know how my week went. I mentioned that my hip is getting angry, a pain level of 1-2 that just rears up sporadically. Then E and I had planned to go golfing and in the hour drive, my hip went nuts. It got worse and worse as I sat in the car and I immediately emailed my coach letting her know.

She gave me Wednesday off, Thursday I was to run 8, and Friday off (Friday is always off because I work and ride), with 10 on Saturday. I felt better Thursday morning but not good enough…so I told her I thought it best if I took off Thursday as well…. it’s a “recovery week” after all and I needed it. Friday my legs were so knackered (I got in over 25K steps) from work, riding, cleaning (for a party on Saturday) that I wore my compression pants to bed…but my hip was feeling decent. I ran my 10 on Saturday, and a 4-mile recovery run yesterday. My hip is achy. Today I have a 6-mile fartlek run and then I’ll be off tomorrow (Tuesday) with another 15 miler this Thursday.

I’ve reached out to my hip doctor here (side note: I have appointments with the Blackhawks hip surgeon and my old shoulder doc at Northwestern Hospital n December for 2nd opinions) to talk about a cortisone shot. Although I haven’t found anything positive about it’s treatment of pain online…I’ve actually only heard about how getting the shot is the single most painful thing anyone has ever had. Which right now top of my list is getting an IUD, followed by falling off a horse, with a close third place of dislocating a body part. So we’ll see if I end up going down the cortisone route.

Otherwise…just wait and see how I can manage. I’m not buying my flight yet. Which sucks. Also sucks because I want to buy this long sleeve but refuse until I know I’m really running the marathon.Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 11.58.21 AM

Last year, when the pain was so bad I could hardly walk (a horrible limp) and had to take over 2 weeks off moving at all, then had to slowly build up mileage which resulted in no real taper, and no run longer than 16 miles (with a 3 mile walk after) and back to back 10’s. But I did all that, and I ran the marathon, and I was fine. I mean, sure I was sore post marathon (as EVERYONE is), but my hip didn’t freak out like crazy. So I’m thinking (or hoping) that if I do my long runs, and scale back the recovery weeks in between, take off more days when I need to…. it won’t get so bad where I’m sofa-bound for weeks at a time.  Time will tell.  Until then, happy running.

Edinburgh in August

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

Another option in Edinburgh (August or otherwise) is a free walking tour with Sandeman! Highly recommend it.

When we moved to Scotland just over 2 years ago, I had heard something about the “Royal Tattoo” and how it was this crazy big show of bagpipers and performers that only takes place in August at the Edinburgh castle and I realllly wanted to go. But there was about 2 weeks left of the show and the mark up on tickets/available dates were sure to make that impossible.

To top it off, when my mother was going through my dad’s office after he passed away, she found a file on Scotland that he had started for a trip they had been planning to take. On a sheet of yellow legal paper (typical Ray fashion) was the word TATTOO. Obviously, it had to be done. So we had planned my mother and her friend Pat were coming to visit in August and we would start the journey in Edinburgh. (It helps that in the summer there is a direct Chicago to Edinburgh flight). But when my mom came last year I never blogged about her trip. I was a bit overrun with things (also never blogged about my 2 weeks in Croatia…it’s coming I swear!): mainly visitors and vacations. And despite the fact that I’ve been a less than stellar blogger lately…I’m attempting to make up for it. So here’s a little combo post about why you should totally visit Edinburgh in August.

When my mom and friend came, the 3 of us had the place (a really fabulous and ridiculously expensive Air bnb) to ourselves for Friday and E came down on Saturday for Tattoo. This past weekend, E and I went down to Edinburgh for my birthday weekend getaway and stayed at The Carlton Hotel. Both really nice…but you should know, ridiculously expensive in August. Why?

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

Just a little wine spill in our Air Bnb

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

We got to enjoy a beautiful fireworks display with our wine at night.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Aka The Fringe.

The Fringe is the world’s largest art’s festival. It spans for the entire month of August. In 2015, there were over 50,000 performances of over 3,300 shows at 313 different venues. They say the city doubles in size during this month not only with tourists (to see the shows, but also to try and see summer in Scotland) but with all those performers as well.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city...reason enough to visit.

And Edinburgh is a beautiful city…reason enough to visit.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Edinburgh Castle in the middle of the city.

Last year, I didn’t try to tackle any Fringe shows with my mother and her friend. I’m sure I could have, but there was a lot of the city to see, catching up, etc. It would have made it all a bit more rushed. And in hindsight, I agree with that decision since I knew nothing about Fringe. Now I’ve come back from 6 shows over the course of <48 hours and I think I have my wits about me and would be able to lead the charge for a weekend excursion back. (Which I totally am going to plan for my birthday again next year with some friends). So here are my tips for Fringe.

Fringe for Virgins

  • You can buy tickets the day of, 5 minutes before a show starts (or even possibly be given them for free), but I recommend doing some research and seeking out shows you want to see, and buying those tickets in advance- that you can do online.
  • Shows are split into categories: Cabaret and Variety, Children’s Shows, Comedy, Dance/Physical Theater/Circus, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Operas, Spoken Word, and Theater…though one show might be in several categories. They all have a suggested age and a blurb about them.
  • Sometimes you read a blurb and are really interested in it, and then you go to the show and it is nothing what you expected.
  • At the Fringe website, you can sort by date, narrow by time of day, and by category. It’s really very handy in planning a weekend.
  • Unless it’s something very highly recommended and publicized, you can buy tickets the week of. There was one (small) show I had wanted to see that was sold out 3 days in advance. And then there was one larger one that was written up in a few publications as the Best of Fringe 2016 that was sold out at least a week in advance.
  • You can’t print tickets at home, but you just pop into one of the many ticket-printing centers, swipe your credit card, and all the tickets you’ve purchased come out at once.
  • If you’re planning on seeing quite a few shows, definitely pull up the venues on a map. Edinburgh is very walkable, but if you only have 30 mins to get from one show in the Meadows to another show on the North Side of the city…you’re not going to make it without a taxi.
  • Speaking of, there is Uber in Edinburgh. Not a big deal for Americans…a very big deal coming from Aberdeen.
  • There is no assigned seating. And even though we were never early to queue, and actually dead last a couple times, there are really no bad seats.
  • There are no bad seats because the venues are TINY. You will be sitting arm pressed against hot fleshy arm at every venue.   It’s Scotland so it’s never warm out, but underneath your sweater or jacket, have something cool on because the venues are hot. And take off your outer layer as you sit down because you won’t have the room to do it mid-show.
  • Shows are generally an hour. We went to one that was 90 minutes. I really wish it ended at 60 minutes. Make sure you really are keen on it if you see it’s 90 minutes.
  • Some shows really might not let you in if you’re late…generally shows start 2-3 mins late, so a small buffer window. But if you arrive RIGHT on time, you’ll be fine. And no one looks down upon you if you’re clearly late because you stopped at the bar first.
  • There are bars at every venue (pretty much) and you can always bring drinks in. I actually didn’t think the drinks were overpriced compared to something like Taste of Chicago.
  • At one show, the comedian (that I really enjoyed), asked for money at the end. But she referred to some people buying tickets. Which led me to believe a lot of people got in for free. But then I felt weird not giving money because I loved her…but also had paid about £13 per ticket. Just know this can happen, but in 6 shows, only one asked for tips at the end.
  • For dining: unless you’re planning on going to places that are strictly no reservation (El Cartel, Ting Thai Caravan), you need to make reservations. Our plans got slightly shuffled around and were originally going to do El Cartel for dinner, but did them for lunch instead. So for dinner Saturday night we went with the only place we could walk into, which was less than good tapas. Thankfully, it wasn’t our last meal on earth.
  • If you’re going to eat at the aforementioned no-reservation places, pad in lots of time to wait. Or better yet, go at an off time. For lunch at El Cartel, they open at noon and we were there at 12:15, which is early for lunch. But we had gotten up and ran 6 miles that morning so it was a late breakfast for us and we beat the crows and were seated right away. The next day, the same thing where we showed up for a late breakfast (11:30) and managed to get seated right away and beat the lunch rush.
Only at Fringe...Smut while you wait.

Only at Fringe…Smut while you wait.

The crowds are madness in August

The crowds are madness in August

My tops 3 (of 6) performances that I saw at Fringe this year was:

2nd runner up: Amelia Ryan: Lady Liberty (Cabaret and Variety/Comedy)

1st runner up: Andrea Hubert: Week (Stand-Up/Story Telling)

1st place: Love, Lies and Taxidermy (new writing/comedy)

If I had more days I would go see the other performances in the same venues as Love, Lies & Taxidermy – most of which have the same cast. Really cool venue, really liked what they did. Had actually wanted to see Every Brilliant Thing (done by them as well) but it was sold out! Alas…

Beyond Fringe

As previously mentioned, in conjunction with Fringe Festival is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Also only taking place in August, dubbed as the “World’s Greatest Show.” And I have to say…. it’s pretty great. With the magnificent background of the Edinburgh castle, more bagpipes than you can shake a stick at, a supremely choreographed routine that has a different theme each year, representations of many different nations, as well as different kinds of musicians, dancers, and performers, topped off with a stunning fireworks display…. it’s incredible.IMG_1415 IMG_1399
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So if you’re questioning if Tattoo is worth it? The answer is definitely yes! My advice would be to buy tickets as soon as humanly possible to get good seats at a fair price. Though there aren’t any truly bad seats…if you’re not in the Royal Gallery or Premier Seats (we weren’t) you just don’t want to be tucked in a corner, or too low so that you can’t see the whole scope of the arena. Even though we bought tickets months out, a lot of the good seats were sold out the night we wanted to go. I compared scalper-like sites but I found that if I bought directly through the Tattoo, paying a little extra for the ceilidh package, I actually got a better seat for less money than buying a normal ticket from Tattoo or a ticket from a third party. Bonus, we went to the ceilidh afterward, which provided one drink and quite a lot of food included, and my mother and her friend got to watch and learn some traditional dances. It was definitely worth is.

 

 

 

For the love of the ‘Deen

I’ve said this before, but I really love Aberdeen….most specifically, Aberdeenshire, and really, all of Scotland. It’s charming and quaint, rural and majestical. In fact, last month a job opportunity opened up for E in Brussels. It’s always been the goal that eventually we would get transferred to Belgium, but when E mentioned it to me, I started to cry. I don’t want to leave Scotland! At least not yet….and to be honest, even though I know it will have to eventually happen, and I’m excited about the prospect of what the next expat assignment will bring, you’ll probably read about the fact that E has moved me kicking and screaming.

So for this Friday faves, I’m going to share 5 links that help me prove just how grand life in the ‘shire is.  Hopefully, this will inspire you to come visit (next year, fully booked this summer already) or make you a little more excited for your upcoming trip to the North.

  1. Aberdeen is Scotland’s “kindest city” and the third kindest in all of the UK. This was based on a study which “measured the average number of good deeds carried out by residents.” This is no surprise to me. There are so many stories of people helping each other out , from lost dogs to kindly neighbors. In my own time here I’ve been free to go after forgetting my wallet at eateries, given gifts by my neighbors, and had my house called up by another neighbor when there was a bad storm.   The people here are nice. See the article HERE.
  2. Aberdeen is the second cleanest city in the UK in terms of air pollution. Well done ‘Donians! See the article HERE.
  3. There are more castles per acre in Aberdeenshire than anywhere else in the UK. I personally fancy the very gothic castles (Fyvie) or the ruins (Dunnotar)…but there’s a castle here that will take your breath away, no matter what you fancy. See the article HERE.

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    Dunnottar Castle….always breathtaking just 15 mins south of Aberdeen

  4. But somehow Aberdeen still has a bad rap. At least people have fun with it. Check out this Buzzfeed list: 32 Reasons You Should Never, Ever Visit Aberdeen. It’s more than adequate in summarizing why I love it here. Check it out HERE.
  5. And where else can I force my husband to take m on Sunday drives, pulling over and stopping suddenly everytime I see a baby sheep or Highland Coo? As I did a 7 days of Sheep on Instagram recently, I’ll just treat you to some Coo pictures now. :)DSC_1032 DSC_1060 IMG_3820 DSC_0104 DSC_0335

Stella in the Country

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I love country living. Even when its flaw (being far from city-centre) becomes more and more abundant (as our social life gets fuller and fuller). I was a little worried initially about feeling alone and closed off- especially when it came to just having contact with people on a day that E is out of town and I have no reason to go into town. I remember one weekend when we moved to San Diego- E had been sent to New Jersey to work and I didn’t leave my apartment from Friday when I got home from work until Monday morning. Hadn’t unlocked the front door! Man, I kinda dream of a weekend like that now with sweet, sweet hibernation.

Anyway. With Stella-dog that’s never going to happen again. But I still was a little worried about actually interacting with people even though I knew I’d be outside. As it turns out- it’s rare that I take a walk with Stella through the woods or down the road and don’t run into anyone. And a lot of time, they want to talk. Everyone is friendly and engaging. Just yesterday I met a 5 year old girl (and her grandpa) who told me all about her new baby brother that’s coming next week, that she wants to be a veterinarian, that there’s a boy in her class that squeezes her hand too hard, and then she likes to feed Disney and Spirit (the horses down the lane) carrots whenever anyone will take her to them. It was pretty delightful other than my worry that maybe Disney and Spirit are getting way too many carrots as I feed them quite often as well and I know of at least one other neighbor that does as well.

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In some ways taking Stella out here is the exact same as taking Stella out in Chicago. Of course we don’t encounter our regular local homeless people or stop in to the same high end shops to get free dog treats (shout out to Lululemon, Barbour, Burton, Brioni, Ugg, Ted Baker, Sprinkles and Ugg), but we do meet and talk with our neighbors, get pets from strangers (more Stella than me), and sniff some dog butts (more Stella than me). There’s just the added bonus of not ever being on a leash, drinking water fresh from the burn, and chasing the occasional deer.

dog water fountain

How stella hydrates: Chicago vs. Scotland

The biggest difference in our typical “go outside” in Chicago vs. Aberdeenshire isn’t the scenery, it’s everything else!

CHICAGO DOG WALKS

ABERDEENSHIRE DOG WALKS

Leash Carrots (for horses)
Standard Collar Light Up Collar or Vibrating Collar (depending on the season)
Poo Bags Head Torch
Money (it always seemed like a good idea to stop at the Sprinkles cupcake ATM) Reflective Vest or Rain Coat
Tennis Ball & Racket Wellies or Hiking Boots
Trainers, snow boots, or flip flops

 

 

I still am loving country living and fear more a re-adjustment to a big city rather than something more rural (I just may eat my words some day). I’m pretty sure Stella has so qualms about her change in scenery either!

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Sheepdog in training.

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Wah-bulance

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Quickly becoming the worst blogger out there. In my defense…I’ve had my usual busyness, with a bunch of extra nuts on top: a trip to NYC for my brother’s wedding, entertaining our first 2016 visitors, trip planning, and a last minute trip home. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time searching for a horse to loan (which only resulted in bruises, no horse to call my own), going to doctors, and trying to sorta kinda start marathon training.

I know I’m a shite blogger…and I’d love to be a better one. But honestly, a lot of the time I just don’t feel like blogging. Why? Because there’s a lot of other shite going down that takes up my time, emotions, and energy. But because of that, I wanted to take a quick moment to dispel the idea that twitter, facebook, instagram, and many blog posts might suggest: that life is a rose garden. I’m not looking for sympathy, and I’m not out to share all my grievances (no one has time for that list). I just don’t like feeding into the hype that everyone is having these kick ass lives that you see online, leaving you feeling inadequate and sad. We all know social media only highlights (or exaggerates) the good in everyone’s life. No one is out there bragging about washing their running tights with gum in the pocket, their favorite, most expensive dress not fitting, all of a sudden having a complexion that resembles a 13 year-old, being over budget for the month, feeling like their college education was a bit of a waste and not knowing what the eff to do with their professional life, and their husband coming home at 2am drunk as a skunk. It makes sense though, people either don’t want to be brought down by the Debbie Downer side of life or they don’t want to have to call the wah-mublance for someone who can’t suck it up and move on. But at the risk of seeming like I’m digging for some sort of attention… life isn’t all sunshine and sheep over here.

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My mother in law has been ill for quite some time now. Which makes being thousands of miles away all the more difficult. There’s a lot of stress, worry, guilt, last minute flights, and overall sadness.

We’ve had a very tragic, untimely death of a family member. Death is never easy, but when it’s someone so young, kind, promising, admirable…. it’s really unbearable. Emotionally, I’m exhausted.

I need two surgeries. They aren’t huge, but they both need me to go under, experience immense pain, and continue with pain and hard work for 6 months of 3x a week PT and rehab. As if that doesn’t suck enough…I can’t get them done at the same time, and each surgery would remove me from everything that makes me happy in my life for 6 months.

Aberdeen is an oil city, and oil prices are in the shitter right now. There’s also the whole Brexit thing. Most things are uncertain in North Sea oil and even more uncertain in the UK, and the things that are certain are a lot of my friends are leaving Scotland.

Gun violence is running rampant in my home country, and as is the case every summer, especially abundant in my favorite city: Chicago.

Trump is the republican nominee. People from my home country agree with the hatred he spews.  Enough said.

Those are my qualms.  So I’m sorry for going MIA, lame content, and a huge lack of specific blog posts I’ve been meaning to write because lately…it’s been hard. My heart’s heavy right now, and that’s okay, that’s life. I am fully aware that I haven’t exactly drawn the short end of the stick and there are thousands (millions?) of people going through much worse. But now you know it’s not all drinking cocktails on a beach/brilliant sunshine hikes/fabulous vacations…that’s just what I choose to share on social media. Because even though you wouldn’t feel any jealousy reading about my hurdles, I’m sure you’d get over reading about my pity-party too.

New York State of Mind

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An old favorite….

In early 2015 while happily training for my first marathon (in Paris), after a particularly great training week I decided to register for the NYC Marathon. A couple months later I was barely walking a month out from the Paris Marathon and got the email saying I was in. Panic/despair/depression ensued. See here.

After, I somehow made it through the Paris Marathon, despite being grounded barely able to walk for over 2 weeks a month out. I had regularly been going to the PT anytime pain came up, getting sports massages, stretching, seeing all the quack doctors I could…. I kept being told that it was a muscle imbalance. So post Paris Marathon I decided to defer my NYC Marathon entry the 1-year that is allowed and I pretty much took a year off of running…focused on horseback riding.

Now 2016, I start doing some sprint work, half-ass train for a 10-miler that I wasn’t able to do due to family emergency, and start increasing my days on pavement. And I feel, just slightly, that little twinge of pain I recall from the year before. I decide to go into another PT and tell her what’s wrong and ask for some stretches to stay ahead of the game. Within 5 minutes she tells me she thinks I have a labrum tear, there’s nothing she can do for- go see a doctor.

Easier said than done.

In Scotland, even if you have private insurance, you have to get referred to them by a NHS doctor. So I made an appointment, I couldn’t get in for a couple weeks, then once I got her referral, I couldn’t get in to the Orthopedic guy for another few weeks, then I needed an MRI, that took another few weeks to book, and concluded with another few weeks to get back into the consultation.

Diagnosis: Labrum Tear, Labrum Cyst, and Ligament Teres Tear.

I haven’t had long to process this…an hour or two actually. But here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking I’m going to train and try to run the NYC Marathon. While my original plans were to get as close to 4 hours as possible…I am going to chill out on the time goal, and like a degenerate 5th year high school senior…just try to walk across the stage and get the diploma….errr finish the race and get that medal.

But hear me out, I’m not totally being an imbecile. Basically, due to my history – Both shoulder dislocations COUNTLESS TIMES with torn labrums (spoiler alert- a couple weeks ago I also ripped through my previous shoulder surgery and they are recommending another surgery, post on that in the next few weeks), 2 knee dislocations, my overall hyper mobility…and now these tears in my hip…If I do have the surgery for repair, I will need the surgery again at some point- even if I never ran a marathon again. It’s just the error of my body…my ligaments suck and fall apart apparently. Also, running a marathon will not further damage me for later in life. It cannot be proven it will make me more likely for later arthritis or any other issue. Of course, putting my hip through another round of marathon training will at the time have some impact- the pain will return. I already talked to the doctor about a little cortisone support for the race- he’s down for that. I’m also looking for some professional coaching support to create a plan more tailored for me…. thinking no run more that 15 miles, and more back to back 10 miles type of situation.

I don’t know. Scary to sign up for another pain of marathon in general, without the actual injury pain. Also wish I was a little more conditioned at this stage in the game. But my registration is already paid, there’s no further damage to do, I might as well give it a try.  So, let’s begin focusing on those stupid, cheesy, Rocky Balboa-esque quotes for the next 5 or so months.  Here’s a good start.

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American TV Hack

It’s been about 18 months since I gave my tips and tricks to watching American TV in the UK. See the original post: HERE. Seems about time for an update, don’t ya think.

I have grown slightly accustomed to UK TV. They have pretty great game shows- the Chase and Pointless, some fun UK spins on shows like Bargain Hunters and House Hunters, still loads of reruns of the Big Bang Theory, The Simpsons, and my new favorite show: This Farming Life which follows, “the struggle and triumphs of five very different farming families in some of Scotland’s most beautiful and remote landscapes.” I mean, hello…. my new reality TV dream is to be on that series.Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 7.05.44 PMAnd if you can get cable TV (we can’t because we live in the middle of nowhere) you can get better (read American) channels, and Sky Atlantic is basically HBO a day later…. but you can find all that on your own. This is a tip of those Americans craving our biased morning news programs, over-the-top juicy dramas and weight loss challenges featuring the most cringe-worthy Americaners.

So my first post was all about a VPN and either watching your TV programs on an ipad/computer and/or using an Apple TV airstream to watch them on your TV. Which is all right but not always the best quality because you’re VPN lessons your quality, and then air streaming lessons that a step further.   My new find is Unlocator. Another VPN service that you can use on your tablets or computers, but even better, is designed to be used with your Apple TV.Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 9.01.02 PM

There’s a free week trial, but after that it is about $50 for a year of VPN service. You are given a DSN number to manually input in your Apple TV settings, and then as long as you have an American Cable TV login (Comcast, Direct TV, etc.) can now unlock all the American TV apps on your Apple TV. I will admit the apps are a little limited. But E gets to watch Pardon the Interruption and Sports Center, I start my day with the day prior’ Good Morning America, and we both love having HBO Go.IMG_3334

As with most bootleg ways to beat the system and pretend you’re still in America…. there can be frustrating flaws and hiccups you have to work around. Most notably, HBO Go is really picky and if the weather is not perfect, doesn’t work for some reason. I don’t get it because ALLLL the other apps work, but c’est la vie. How else would I get to maintain a front row seat to the demise of America politics with Donald Trump leading the march?Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 8.57.10 AM

What do you do?

It’s a totally normal question, but I feel it comes with some weight in my present life. “What do you do in Scotland?” I always assume it initially means, “Why do you live in Scotland” and the easy, normal response is, “My husband’s work brought us out there.” Maybe, or maybe not a follow up with what he does. Then there’s the variety of follow-up questions from “Are you working there?”, “What do you do all day?”, “Do you have kids?”, and “So what do you do all day?”

I know these are probably innocent enough questions, and I’m probably more sensitive to them from my vast amount of time unemployed mixed with a preconceived idea that a housewife without babies sits around and eats bon-bons all day. Back when I was not-totally-intentionally unemployed, my life wasn’t glamorous in the fact that I was actually dedicating about 6-8 hours a day job searching, applying, and interviewing…. but of course it did have a lot of extra padded time for the gym and meeting for lunch. But people always asked, “Aren’t you getting bored?” No. I never got bored. There’s always stuff to do and fill the time productively.

But it seems from my encounters, people have a really hard time imagining how they would spend their time if not slaving to the man or changing diapers. I don’t really get it because isn’t that all what we’re working towards…getting out of the grind? Well I’m out baby, and this is how I spend my time.

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Horsey selfie.

I do work. Just a wee bit. I have two clients whom I manage their social media and create content. So that’s creating a two week calendar every week, scheduling all the posts, responding to consumers throughout the day, writing blog posts, and a once a week call with my employers. I also work Friday mornings at the stables I ride at in exchange for a lesson, because as it turns out, horseback riding is an expensive hobby. This is not easy work as it turns out…. filling and hanging about 60 hay nets and 30 water buckets, grooming and tacking up the school horses, sweeping the yard, etc.

Speaking of horses…beyond my stable job, I spend a lot of other time horsing around. I volunteer every Tuesday with the Riding for the Disabled Association (The RDA) for about 3-6 hours (depending on need). I take 2-3 riding lessons a week, and take a night class for a general certificate of Horse Care on Thursday nights. The class is two hours long and an hour away. So that’s a pretty large chunk of time where I’m busy and smell like horseshit.

For the last year and a half I also volunteered on the board for the American Woman’s Association. This commitment was 3 Wednesday’s a month: a board meeting, a general meeting, and my position, hosting/welcoming newbies to Aberdeen for a coffee.

Then all my other hobbies: book club, golf lessons every week, actually going out and golfing, running/working out/training for stuff, planning travel and holidays (more time than always anticipated), writing personal blog posts, entertaining guests, meeting friends for coffee and/or lunch, staying in contact with friends stateside, attempting to sew, taking pictures of sheep and coos, and walking my dog an hour, if not two hours every day.

How appropriate...our bookclub book for the month.

How appropriate…our bookclub book for the month.

I might also spend a fair bit of time trying to get Stella to pose for pictures.

I might also spend a fair bit of time trying to get Stella to pose for pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These coo pictures won't take themselves.

These coo pictures won’t take themselves.

Walking Stella is such a chore.

Walking Stella is such a chore.

Leaving the last bit that takes up my time…. Domestic Goddess/Manager of the Fellowship of the Babcock duties. I meal plan for the week, grocery shop and cook. I clean…not well or consistently, but it’s there! I fight with the gym to change membership rates, waste hours rearranging my day for a plumber that never shows, figure out the process of renewing car tax, sort out the weird expenses and bills we still have in the states, help my mother book her travel/figure out instagram, and engage with the neighbors. Phew.

AND. I tend to average about 8 ½-9 hours of sleep a night. WINNING.

So for the past (nearly!) 2 years…that’s what I’ve been up to. It’s a tough life I lead, but have faith I’m never bored and always well rested. Unless we have a 6 am flight…

Friday Faves 4.22

Well, I was sorta hoping for another real blog post…. but it would be about my injuries and I’m hoping to know more next week and I don’t really feel like dwelling on what I am assuming is wrong with me. So instead- my Friday Faves!

  1. PRINCE OF COURSE.
    This is our first halloween together in 2005.

    This is our first halloween together in 2005.  Of course this picture is a) before digital cameras and b) framed in my house.  

    Especially my favorite Prince song, preformed with the Muppets.

  1. My new favorite breakfast. An instant packet of Quaker Apples & Cranberries porridge with a dollop of Rachel’s Organic Apples & Cinnamon Greek yogurt. Yum. And the extra protein keeps me going longer.273923011_0_640x640
  2. Reflexology. And even more so, friends that are getting trained in reflexology which results in me getting free treatments as she practices. Unfortunately it’s hasn’t healed my shoulder, hip, tailbone…but I’m sleeping better and it definitely makes me less stressed. And who doesn’t want a two-hour foot rub with some gal chat. Now I just need friends who are working on getting certified in massage, acupuncture, nail tech, and physical therapy….
  1. Ginger Beer. I consider myself a connoisseur of ginger beer and the best hand’s down is Old Jamaica.

5.  Shake Shack. I only took a snapchat so it’s disappeared into the vast Internet space never to be found again. But was able to nip down to London to see my BFF (of my entire life) while she visited her in-laws. And I had to demand some American goodness for lunch. Cheeseburger, cheese fries, and a vanilla milkshake. We did walk about 15K steps and I needed an American fix dang it!

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Hmmmm….lot of foodie things today.  Probably a sign to get back on my diet.  Until next time….have a good weekend and think positive thoughts for me next week as I see doctors on Monday and Tuesday to try to get to the root of all my pain.