Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Married and Living Together

I decided I need to do a happy post after that last "I hate the world" post. Next week, Josh and Lou are moving in with us. They'll be inhabiting our guest bedroom, sharing with house duties, etc. And, yes they'll pay rent like real roommates. They're married...we're married. And soon, it'll be like we're all four married. Soooo many people think it's freaky weird that two married couples have decided to share living space. They ask, "Well...I long will they be there? What will y'all do about groceries? Where will they put their car? Are you sure that's a good idea?" Well, first of all....NUNYA. And secondly, yes, I'm sure it's a brilliant idea. What could be more fun than doing something everything thinks is weird with another married couple who shares your same values and outlook on life? We'll cook and eat together, play music together, budget our limited monies together, build a new deck and play in the yard. And all the while, we'll be giving them a cheap place to live that doesn't tie them down, and they'll be giving us a little safety net while we try to jumpstart our home business. Sounds pretty great to me. But some people are naysayers. Oh well. Poo on them. The video below pretty much sums up how I think our life with Josh and Lou will look like: sheer delight over splitting one $5 sandwich four ways. Yesss!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why the English are Happier, Despite the Dreary Weather

This post is long overdue, but better late than never, I suppose. Doug and I traveled to Europe in February, thanks mostly to our dear friends Josh & Lou who graciously let us crash at their place in Italy for ten days. We stayed with them in Florence and then traveled on to London for a few days and spent a full day in Oxford, England (my favorite part of the trip, aside from frolicking around with Josh and Lou). In order to get from Florence to London, we had to take a two hour train ride from the heart of Florence to the airport in Pisa. We sat on the train in front of a young British couple and across the aisle from an elderly British couple (the two couples were not traveling together). We all started chatting because we felt relieved to know we were not the only people around who spoke zero Italian. And so my story begins...
The young guy behind us started telling us about his travels around the world and was excited to learn that we were from the United States because he and his girlfriend had never been. He asked all sorts of questions about life in the American South: "Is it really a hickville like in the movies?" And, as the conversation progressed, we began talking about how much time we Americans spend at work, what our healthcare debate is all about, why the rest of the world was glad we elected Obama, and so on. Big issues for a couple of 25-yr-olds on vacation. I tried to be honest without sounding like Debbie Downer....though he did ask me at one point, "how can you live there?" Anywho, I don't want this to be a three hundred year long post, so I'm going to try and sum up the conversation. Here's what he told me:1. He is a nurse in a psychiatric dept. in an English hospital. He gets 8 weeks vacation every year. This is normal for nurses, though most other working people only get 4-5 weeks. Only.
2. It is illegal to advertise for prescription drugs in England.
3. Last year, he took a 6 month sabbatical to travel the world...he did not get paid, of course, but walked right back into his job as if not a day had passed.
4. Working women who become mothers receive 6 months paid time off, and after that can take up to a year at 50% pay.
5. Taxes are high.6. Laws are not as tough on crime as they should be (though you could argue ours are too tough).7. Only psychiatric doctors are legally allowed to prescribe drugs for mental illness...including anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds.

Here's what I told him:
1. If you are unemployed, you are likely to have terrible, if any, health coverage.
2. We (Doug & me) pay $200/month for insurance, but because our policy requires you to pay the premium for a full 365 days before they'll cover anything pregnancy related, if we got pregnant now, we'd owe thousands of dollars. (Everyone's baby-having is already paid for in England)
3. Working women who become pregnant are considered lucky to get 6-8 weeks paid time off.
4. People our age are lucky to get 1-2 weeks vacation time. No one gets 8 weeks...and if they did, people would certainly raise eyebrows and wonder if he/she ever worked.
5. Every other advertisement we see is for prescription drugs, and any doctor can prescribe mental illness meds.6. Americans rarely take vacation, are terribly stressed, overweight, and unhappy, and think that we are the greatest country on earth.
So. Having had a long an in-depth conversation with this young couple (the elderly couple chimed in occasionally: "Seems like Americans are really manipulated by their news networks"), and having had similar conversations during my time in Norway, I have to wonder. What is our problem? We know we're not happy. We know we work too much. But we do nothing about it. My final two cents in my conversation with Darin from England was this: "We Americans just cannot figure out what the hell our values are." And I absolutely believe that. The only thing we can agree on is that money is king in this here nation, and plenty of individuals and corporations have sold us to the devil to make a dollar. Yet we have hardly lifted our heads. Is it because we don't know what we really want besides fancy houses and cars? Is it because our country is so young that we can't get our values in a row? Is it because so many news shows broadcast fear tactics 24/7? Why can't we get it together?

Barbara Kingsolver notes that we live "in a society whose holy trinity is efficiency, productivity, and material acquisition." And we'll go after those things, no matter the cost. We've lost ourselves, our values, our culture. We are but a sad shadow of the people who founded this nation, wrapped in a fancy plastic package and unsure of how to get out.

So much for not sounding like a Debbie Downer. Oh well.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pretty Food

I gave the blog a face lift, so I wanted to post a nice pretty photo to celebrate. This is a photo of some delicious dried fruit at a market in Florence, Italy. It tastes as yummy as it looks. I think I'll get a food dehydrator and try to make my own. Mmm.