Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Peer groups and alternate paths

A friend and I were recently discussing the book "The Nurture Assumption" by Judith Harris. I haven't read it yet; she has. The book argues that it's peer groups and community that influence a child's development far more than his or her parents. My friend and I both agree, and it made me think of the paths my life could've taken due to influence from my friends. And influence doesn't always mean they were trying to get me to do something -- it was the fact that they did do something that made me want to do it, too.

For instance, I always liked to write and was good at it. Mostly I wrote poetry from a very young age and on into my teens, tapering off as I got older. But I never knew what I wanted to do for a living or how my love of writing would ever pay the bills -- I know I wasn't a good enough poet to make it as a poet, and I also knew that not many people really "make it" as a poet anyway (unless they can make it as a songwriter). So anyway, that's where peers came in. My friend Theresa joined the Army after high school and went to the journalism school for the Army. A year later when I found out (by chance) how the fees worked at the local junior college and that I actually could afford to go, I looked through the course catalog. The only thing that seemed interesting was communication. That would've been the most interesting course to me no matter what Theresa was doing with her life, but her being a journalist probably made me feel a little more confident that it was a possible, real career choice for me. I ended up getting my bachelor's in journalism and working in newspaper all of my professional life so far. As for Theresa, she got out of the Army and decided to go into nursing. Just like her older sister (and her sister's choice of profession surely must have influenced Theresa in that direction).

Another friend from high school, Janell, also wanted to join the Army. I never had any interest in this path but didn't know what else to do, so I went in to see the recruiter with her. I needed to lose about 20 pounds to join. I didn't lose the weight so I didn't join the Army (Janell did).

These friends are no longer in my life -- things really do change after high school and you find new friends that fit your life as it changes. Even so, these people who are zero part of my life now influenced it then and had the potential to make a huge impact on the course I took in life.
Had Janell or Theresa wanted me to move to New York with them after graduation and be writers or actors or waitresses or secretaries, that's what I probably would've done, too.

Friday, 11 May 2007

Notes from a foreign land

Here's just a review of the past week. Last Saturday, hubby and I went to the library to check out the book sale and get library cards. The cards double as a photo ID and a discount pass around town. Most of the discounts aren't too hot (50p off, etc.), but at least now we're hooked up with library cards. None of the books I wanted were in, so we left sans checked-out items. I haven't checked a book out of a library in probably more than a decade, but I'm going to give it a go here. I'm used to just buying books, but I want to conserve cash as our budget is tight in this oh-so-costly country.

Went to the knee doc and got bad news. While it was good that the recent test didn't show any major new problem, it definitely looks like I'm in for lots more knee problems over the years and eventual knee replacement of both knees. I'm young enough that the docs don't want to do that for many years to come, as replacements don't last more than 10-15 years, and replacements after the first one tend to be less successful. He recommended I look into Articular Cartilage Transplant (ACT). It's *costly*, not always covered by insurance, and from what I can tell, the success rates aren't thrilling. So I've been bummed out this week quite a lot, and my knees haven't continued getting better as they had the past couple of weeks.

And then there's the weather. I think we're back to more typical English weather. I don't mind it really, but it has been wetter and colder this week. Perhaps that's why my knees hurt more?

Thursday, 3 May 2007

England's wild ways

There are lots of little things in England that seem a bit odd, at least from the American perspective. One is that hot dogs come in a can. Yuck! I don't know why I find this odd, but I do. But then again, I think most hot dogs are gross (unless they're turkey dogs or veggie dogs, those aren't bad). My husband bought this can but then couldn't find hot dog buns. That's right, he'll eat hot dogs from a can, but only if they are in a proper bun -- he has got standards, ya know.

A few other unusual things about the UK:

  • Bathrooms don't have power sockets -- it's deemed unsafe. Which means I get to blowdry my hair in the bedroom. On the carpet. My husband already calls me Chewbacca because I shed so much, would a little juice in the bathroom be so bad?
  • Potato chips (called crisps) come in a variety of flavors I've never seen in the U.S. -- roast chicken, prawn, beef, bacon. Forget about finding good old sour cream and onion, it ain't happening.
  • You can buy codeine without a prescription. It comes mixed with other painkillers, like ibuprofin. So the people here can't handle a power socket in the bathroom, but apparently Americans are the ones who can't handle codeine without supervision.
  • The mailman will deliver mail, but won't pick it up. My husband searched all over for the drop box for outgoing mail, to no avail. He finally asked the postman what one does with outgoing mail -- the postman gave my husband an odd look and told him you drop it in a mailbox or go to a post office. The nearest mailbox is a few blocks away, they aren't on every corner or anything.