Saturday, December 12, 2009

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out, Kid

It's inching, or flying, towards Christmas and my mood is a bit topsy-turvy. I love Christmas, but being homesick and missing my mom usually means that Christmas it a bit of a difficult time. I recognize this, I don't avoid it, but my mindset isn't as bad as it was last year. I like remaining positive, it makes my natural tendency towards physical displays of frustration more infrequent.

So on this postive note, here are the things I love about Christmas-time:

Cadbury's Hot Chocolate
Present buying
Christmas trees
Receiving Christmas packages
The Christmas Movie Classic: A Christmas Story
Eating chocolate and watching the above on Christmas eve

And, on a slight downer, things I don't like about Christmas:

That Crap Christmas Song
No Advent Calendars left at Thornton's
Storing Christmas presents
Wrapping Awkwardly shaped Christmas presents
Christmas boredom
The Christmas Comedown - which happens just after presents are opened.
Not being closer to my next-of-kin
Missing my mom slightly more because she loved Christmas

Tomorrow we're going to see the second most famous Christmas story of all time. (This one being the first)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is something people in the UK just don't get. This is understandable, as the whole concept is giving thanks for a harvest which allowed pilgrims to survive on their own WITHOUT the British empire. To British people, Thanksgiving means a turkey roast dinner without roast potatoes or yorkshire puddings.

To an American, Thanksgiving usually means family,canned Ocean Spray cranberry sauce, Zeigler's apple cider, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and commencement of Christmas movies. Or at least it does to me.

This year there will be no canned cranberry sauce and what's left of my family is almost 3,000 miles away. It's times like these that I miss my mom with every fiber of my being. I miss waking up to turkey smells in the morning, my mom's homemade turkey gravy and the day-after-thankgiving turkey soup. I miss drinking coffee on the back porch with her and fighting over what has to be done. I miss her complaining about how my sister never stayed long enough for dinner. Some things aren't the same without my mom around.

I am lucky though, I have a great mother-in-law who makes an effort to do Thanksgiving dinner for me every year. Because we are all at work, it'll be shop bought turkey loin things that just need to shoved in the oven. But it's the thought that counts.

I'm bringing some of the pseudo-Southern charm to the table (I am really from Florida afterall) and making sweet potato casserole and Nigella's version of corn souffle.

Being an expat means bringing a little bit of home to your new life. Though sometimes, I wish I could just catch a plane and be home again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pop-Tarts, Smores and Graham Crackers...

Being an American expat (or the partner of one) often means trying to explain American concepts like s'mores to unsuspecting (often drunk) Brits.

This past weekend I was talking to a few fellow McGuire grads on a course, this was in the bar at probably around 11pm. One of them asked me where I was from, then it got on to pop-tarts for some reason. Everyone mentions pop-tarts, they're one of those 1990's fads which even the 10 year old holiday maker will remember with fond memories.

After discussing pop-tarts and Lucky Charms (oh so magically delicious) the conversation went on to s'mores. Of course this is because the best flavour of pop-tart is the s'more flavour. After using great articulation to pronounce S'more in my semi-drunk state - I ended up having to give a semi-lucid explanation. "It's marshmellow with chocolate, put between two graham crackers. You either toast the marshmellow or put it in the microwave for a few seconds so the chocolate can melt between it."

Then I had to try to explain what a Graham cracker was... with much laughter being had at the thought of the name Graham for a cracker (again, it was getting late) I had to conclude by saying repeatedly that a graham cracker is like a digestive biscuit, but not quite.

Click here for a more descriptive explanation

I Beat Myself Up

So that's where that bruise is from...

I tend to beat myself up about EVERYTHING in my life that isn't perfect. I could do the job I have in my sleep (and the week after a McGuire course I often do). I don't like my living situation (who would after 3 years of living with the inlaws). But most of all, I'm not happy with my speech. That's the worst one of all, because hell, I should be overjoyed with my speech.

If you said to me this time last year, "Jul, you'll be able to pick up the phone without feeling physically sick in 6 months" I wouldn't have believed you.

But it's the truth, I've also done a phone interview for a newspaper article, talked to hundreds of people on the streets using Deliberate Dysfluency and my kick ass pausing, ran a few sessions of support group, did a point on the check list in front of a room full of people, and made a fool out of myself with Ali G (well someone dressed as Ali G, Elvis, a cowgirl, a princess and a few pirates).

Why isn't that enough for me? Why do I beat myself up about one little phonecall which didn't go 100% but still got my message across. Why do I let a silly comment from someone bring up all these negative thoughts? WHY?!

I need to stop doing it.

Th-th-th-that's all folks.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Looking Back...

I had to laugh at this post, my First American Expat Rant.

Can we say frustrated much?!

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

There's a book out there, which has been out for a long time, called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. I think Fear is a big part of my problem with everything. I've been browsing a lot of expat blogs recently, rekindling my "Stranger in a strange land" thoughts and feelings to add to this blog as I fancy. I was just browsing one such blog, In Tea We Trust, by an American Expat who's lived in the UK for 9 months. She talked about how she is fearful of a lot of things here, I suppose because they are so alien. Everyone has a comfort zone, and as Americans, I think a lot of us are quite cocky while in our comfort zones. When we're in that bubble we think we can take over the world, we became immune to the fear of being "outside."

And then you come to a different country, where you're the "odd one out" and suddenly you think about EVERYTHING way too much. This, for a stammerer, means that on top of the usual over-thinking you do about your speech and speaking situations, you now have a whole new host of random non-speaking (or lack of speaking) situations to muse over:

Need to open a bank account? Even though you've had one for x number of years at home, you'll need about 5 hours of your free time to spend in the bank, and proof of your address. Although, to get proof of your new address you really need a bank statements to prove it. (Figure that one out for me!)

Need to learn to drive, even though you've driven to x number of years in the states (practically since you hit puberty). Well, you'll have to start from scratch in most cases and take a stupid road theory test, and PAY someone to sit beside you and tell you all things you're doing wrong while driving. (This took me over a year of lessons, 2 instructors and 7 tests to only get an AUTOMATIC license!)

Need to find a job, even though you've worked for x number of year and have x qualifications. You'll need to sell yourself to the Brits in a different way.

They say moving is one of the most stressful things you can do, losing a loved one is also right up there. I lost my mom, graduated from college (University) with two Bachelor of Art degrees, and moved to England all in the space of 13 months. As one of my very best friends says: "Julia, you never do anything small."

So, it's easy to guess that my adjustment to the UK has been a very slow process. I think as a stammerer as well, I lost a lot of my assertiveness when I moved here. Whereas before, I HAD to talk to people to an extent. I went to college (UK term: University) classes and did class presentations (which I never did very well in but passed), hell, I even had to do a public speaking summer class. But, then with moving here, the comfort zone of college was gone, the comfort zone of my family was gone, and I was looking for a job and still very much grieving my mom. No wonder I basically became a recluse.

It took me almost three years to try to snap out of this, probably because I was fearful of changing this learned behaviour of: the avoidance of meeting new people, answering the telephone, holding back when I really want to be assertive. And since I've started on this road to recovery as it were, I find that facing my fears is the only way to move forward.

After being quite ill for a week, thank you seasonal/swine/piglet/big bird flu, I need to begin again today; I need to attack that fear that comes from being out of practice with various things. Then tomorrow I get to do a session on Assertiveness to a room of McGuirees! :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Just Juls

I'm just Juls. I'm not one label, I encompass a lot of different things:

I am an expat.

I am an American in England.

I am a person who stutters.

I am a married woman.

I am 25.

I am a girl, or am I a woman now?

I can be over sensitive.

I am assertive.

I am neither an introvert nor an extrovert.

I am a dreamer.

I am a do-er.

I am me.

Like it or lump it, that's who I am.

I find it difficult to categorize myself anymore, and to be honest I don't want to. I don't want to be the person who is 100 different things in a day. I am just me, it's taken me 25 years to learn that but there you go. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Explaining the UK

I found this on Almost American's Blog. I thought my US friends/family may find it useful! ;)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This Land is My Land

This land is my land, this land is your land.'s not my land at all.

One of my reverse expat Facebook Friends (reverse expat meaning she's a Brit in the USA) sent me this great link: She's Not From Yorkshire. I'm always amazed when I suddenly remember that I'm NOT the only American in the UK. Granted, I'm not one for a huge circle of American friends who live in the UK. If I wanted all American friends, I would have stayed in America.

But, sometimes, it's good to remember you're not alone in moaning about the little things that get you annoyed as an American in the UK. Namely: visa costs, citizenship costs, how useless the American Embassy is, and complaining about how no one ever publicly complains.

The other weekend I went to visit an old High School classmate who lives in London. I was extremely surprised when I turned up at her flat (which is amazing!) and heard all the American and Canadian accents around me. For a minute, if you transported the flat to say New York State, you wouldn't have known the difference. Well, except that the kettle plugged in. It felt REALLY strange that my husband was the one with the weird accent. Usually, I'm the one that everyone does a double take with.

It's funny, in McGuire Land (as I like the McGuire Programme support network), that's something EVERYONE picks up on, my accent. I guess, before I was in control of my speech, I would say so very little that no one could pinpoint where I was from. Now, after a few words almost everyone can guess...or get it close. I have been mistaken for Canadian a few times (which is a weird kind of compliment for an American Expat from the south).*

With all this globalization, American expats can now get Oreos in Sainsbury's (white chocolate covered nonetheless) and I've even found Reeses Peanut Butter cups (made in the US, not in Canada!) in the local newsagent (note: I did not say convenience store). And, in the past few years (even since I've moved here) Halloween has become a proper holiday with decorations and parties galore. I can even go to Cyber Candy in London and get candy corn! But, however small the world becomes, no one will ever understand why a girl from Florida is OVER Worked, UNDER Paid, and OVER HERE. I guess that's just life for you.

* I must say that my family is originally from New Jersey and I grew up in Florida, so no I don't have a Southern accent.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


There are days when I miss my mom so much it's palpable. Those days were constant four years ago, when her passing was still fresh like the autumn breeze. Back then everything would remind me of her, a song on the radio, the smell of cigarette smoke, looking into someone's sea-green coloured eyes as I passed them on the street.

Now, however, the loss is like a bit of scar tissue. The wound is still visible in some lights, but for the most part, the pain doesn't effect me as much. It's like a dull ache you learn to live with, it's not fun or pleasant, but you know what it is and that it will always be there.

When it comes to my speech and what the McGuire Programme has helped me to achieve (because as much as I support the programme, I have put the effort in) over the past four month, I can't help but think of my mom. She's the voice in my head constantly telling me to do more, be better, work harder. She's where I get my sense of commitment from, my sense of dedication and hard work. She was a fighter and I think I have that same fight in me. Although I'm not sure if I could ever be as strong has she was, as assertive, as self-confident.

I wonder what she would have said, what she would have thought. Often times, on a bad day, I want to call her and moan about how hard it is or how difficult I'm find it. On the good days, I want to call her and tell her how well I'm doing (how many people I introduced myself to on contacts, how well the session I ran at support group went). If there are two regrets I have in all of this, it's that 1) I wish I'd done it sooner in life (not massively sooner but at least 2 years sooner) and 2) that she was here to see it. But I guess she is somehow.

On that note, I post this link as I kind of public disclosure. It's not perfect, but it's huge step in my recovery.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Feeling Autumnal

So it's Sunday, it's October, the weather is getting colder and the clocks are going back soon to give us another hour in bed and another hour of darkness. It's also the time for crunching on fallen leaves, drinking hot chocolate and almost time for the seasonal flavours in Starbucks. I love this time of year!

It's about the newness of winter approaching. Summer is gone (whatever that is in this country) and winter is on it's way. My travels to and from London for McGuire related festivities are now being done in the dark. I'm finding London contacts especially difficult in the dark, who wants to be stopped by people in the dark? But it's a challenge nonetheless. Speaking of contacts, I missed this past session because I was so tired I literally couldn't have stayed up for the journey there and back (I was asleep by 8:30pm). Also, Pete was given the festive boot by his company (aka the crap kingdom) on Thursday as well. So now he is out of work.

The prospect of Pete being out of work would have scared my sh*tless a few months ago, but with the newness of winter approaching, I think we both know it's for the best. Although, this throws a major wrench (or spanner) in the works for things like a car and a place of our own. Oh one said it was easy.

All in all, I'm feeling very autumnal myself. Trying to get rid of all the dead leaves in my system (negative thoughts, paranoia, unneeded stress) and focus on being generally a lot cooler and chilled. It's difficult for me, being under the cloud of out of control stammering for so long and the iceberg of negative crap that it entails. But, although I'm still really transitional, I think I'm on the way up.

Now...if only Starbucks would bring out their gingerbread latte already...

PS I am also making an effort to get back into reading. (Reading none McGuire stuff, because, well I have a life outside McGuire...of course I do...)

Pete bought me this book a few months ago, after we saw it in HMV and a resisted the urge to buy it for myself:Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I've only just started it, but it's just what I need. A classic tale with added gore, just in time of Halloween.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I've been MIA: McGuire-ing in Action

I keep resurrecting this blog, and then forgetting to post on it!

Things have been really good in the time in between posts. I'm progressing well with the McGuire Programme. I went to my second course in Norwich at the beginning of September, and the month since has been a whirlwind. The Monday after the Norwich course, I disclosed to the Admin girls at my work (they work on another floor) and then to Slimming World the following day (big room with lots of voice projection opportunities). Both were excitingly fearful scenarios which I think went down well. Not that a lot has changed, the girls at work do talk to me more (always good), and I've been given a new job role in work. I'm doing a few days as a PA and a few days in my current role.

Last weekend I went on a challenging Grad Weekend in Milton Keynes, which was a lot of fun and challenging as well. I did some good challenges and worked on parts of the technique that I hadn't worked on before. Namely Hit & Hold...which I'm finding really useful!

This week/coming week will also, hopefully, bring some exciting news...but I'll wait until it's official before I say anything...

I'm also thinking of joining Toastmasters International...just need a car to get to the meetings though. So that's my next mission: save for a car!!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


I've decided to resurrect this blog! This poor blog has been pushed aside and covered over by others things to be done. At one point I wanted to delete it, figuring I had nothing more to say. But I love it, it's a history of years of my life. I miss writing things down to remember. Silly things, important things, things worth mentioning somewhere.

So, where do we begin?

Since this blog was last updated a lot has happened, the highlights being:

My contract at The Newspaper Job ended in April 2008.

In July 2008, I applied for my ILR (UK permanent residency).

In early September I received my information back for my ILR. I also received the most expensive sticker in the world in my passport.

Also in September, I started The Property Job, which was only suppose to be a 2 month contract. I am still there.

In April 2009, the in-laws (who we still live with, long story!) finally conceded and we are now the proud joint-owners of a dog! A Sprinador (cross between a English Springer Spaniel and a Chocolate Labrador) named Bruno. He is the most gorgeous dog and we love him probably a little too much! He's around 18 months old and is an ex-customs dog. He was too pretty to work and was distracted by all the attention he received.

I FINALLY passed my UK Driving Test in May 2009.

I attended The McGuire Programme in June 2009. I'm doing fairly well on it but need to push myself out of my comfort zones more! I'm attending a refresher course in September.

And the most recent news, I've applied for a Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector course at the local college. This is the first part of a diploma course to become a teacher for adults (16+). My assessment/interview for this is next week! Wish me luck!