Saturday, December 27, 2014

'To change is difficult. Not to change is fatal." ....


    For those who might not understand the ethos behind the charity that I'm working for here in the UK, (Group B Strep Support) I thought I would share the latest post I wrote for their (our) blog. In addition to being the Social Media Coordinator, I launched their blog back in October and this is the post that I am the most proud of so far. It also gives the best insight into the kind of work we do and what is on our plate for the New Year. While the content here is a vast departure from the Rover norm, it still is very much the a day in the life of CC Bella and though ya'll might enjoy reading how I spend my days.
*If any of my readers are here in the UK, please sign the current petition at the bottom if you feel so compelled.



“To change is difficult. Not to change is fatal.” William Pollard
Guidelines for group B Strep screening and education.

    First and foremost, we must remind everyone that routine screening of all pregnant women for group B Strep carriage is not recommended by the UK National Screening Committee nor the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Screening for the most common cause of life-threatening infections in newborn babies and babies under three months is not currently recommended. Screening does however routinely take place in countries like Australia, Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Dubai, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lithuania, New Zealand, Oman, Poland, Spain, Slovenia, Switzerland and the USA. Just so we’re clear at how far behind the UK is on this issue.


    The current UK policy is centred around a ‘risk factor’ approach to determining which babies are at-risk. Risk factors include Mum carrying GBS this pregnancy, high temperature during labour, labour starting or waters breaking prematurely and having previously had a baby infected with GBS. The hope was that this strategy would reduce the rate of early-onset GBS infections in babies by up to 50%. Unfortunately these hopes have been dashed by the fact that the rate has barely changed. Furthermore, up to 40% of babies who do become infected are born to mothers without any of these clinical risk factors. So then how is this particular strategy working for us? It simply is not.


   In those countries that do offer universal screening to pregnant women to identify group B Strep carriage, including the US, they have seen much progress. Rates of infection have reduced by up to 86%! What’s even more frustrating is the fact that the current risk based strategy here in the UK was introduced in 2003 after research came out in 2002 stating that antenatal screening strategies would prevent more cases of group B Strep infection in newborn babies than risk-based strategies. So then why would one opt for the less successful approach? We simply do not know.


   These risk factors are showing us time and again that they are not accurate predictors of GBS infection in newborn babies. In a UK study from 2011** we learned that 21% of women carried group B Strep at delivery.  19% of women with NO risk factors still were GBS carriers. 71% of women WITH risk factors did not carry group B Strep. Again, how is it not clear that this strategy is epically failing us? There is, of course, the argument that the reason the rate of infection has not changed much is because of better reporting; i.e more group B Strep cases are being documented since 2003. Well, that may be, but if the risk based approach was actually worth its salt then wouldn’t we see some marked difference/decrease?


   The other argument would be that of cost. Surely the amount of money that is being spent on treating avoidable infections (due to lack of screening) is more expensive than a simple ECM swab test? Last year Public Health England estimated the cost per test was only £11. £11! And isn’t it interesting that the NHS will fund tests for smoking in pregnancy, but not the cause of life threatening infections? They also recently introduced Maple Syrup Urine Disease testing for all newborns, a condition that affects an estimated 1/116,000 babies born. Clearly it’s important to identify and treat those babies as well. But why then are we not also screening for something that 2-3 out of every ten women carry, a bacterium that produces a 1/300 chance of baby developing a group B Strep infection, an infection that kills 1/10 of these sick babies?!


   To add insult to injury, there seems to be a stalwart resistance to change and education across the board.
  • Public Health England has had since 2006 a standard for processing swabs that test specifically for group B Strep in their UK Standards for Microbiology Investigations B 58.
  • NICE: The 2008 and 2011 reviews of the guidelines for ‘Antenatal care: Routine care for the healthy pregnant woman did not update the sections relating to group B Strep in the light of new evidence since 2003, despite requests by a number of stakeholders. The NICE ‘Induction of Labour’ and ‘Postnatal Care’ guidelines contain no mention at all of babies born to women carrying group B Strep.
  • UK National Screening Committee: During the 2012 public consultation, 212 written responses were received and 207 were published on their website. Of these, 93% were in favour of introducing screening for group B Strep in pregnancy and fewer than 4% were against. To say this decision, which went against the opinions of the overwhelming majority who took the time to comment, was hugely disappointing would be the understatement of the year.
    This topic is especially pertinent as we near the end of 2014, because between the New Year and 2016 these guidelines will be coming up for review by the UK National Screening Committee. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists will also be reviewing their group B Strep guidelines. We move forward into 2015 with the firm belief that “We seem to gain wisdom more readily through our failures than through our successes. We always think of failure as the antithesis of success, but it isn’t. Success often lies just the other side of failure.” Leo F. Buscaglia




If you would like to be kept up to date with what’s happening and/or join the cause, please email us at info@gbss.org.uk and/or follow our Twitter feed at @GBSSupport. Please also sign the current petition: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/60515
 


**(Intrapartum tests for group B streptococcus: accuracy and acceptability of screening Daniels JP, Gray J, Pattison HM, Gray R, Hills RK, Khan KS; GBS Collaborative Group. BJOG. 2011 Jan;118(2):257-65. Epub 2010 Oct 13. Full article at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1471-0528.2010.02725.x/pdf

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

365 days, 4 seasons, 1 extraordinary anniversary....

Today marks my one year anniversary of living in England. I know, I can hardly believe it either!


Extraordinary is defined as very unusual or remarkable.
synonyms: remarkable, exceptional, amazing, astonishing, astounding, marvellous, wonderful, sensational, stunning, incredible, unbelievable, miraculous, phenomenal, prodigious, spectacular.
Yes to all the things. I have had a remarkable, exceptional and incredible year in all that I've seen, done, experienced and learned. It is also astounding, miraculous, and phenomenal that I made it! (haha) I jest, but only partially. Nothing changes the fact that I am unbelievably grateful and spectacularly blessed for this opportunity. Even that though doesn't change the fact that this was also a very trying year for me personally. I cross this finish line feeling as one might expect at the end of a verrrrry long marathon; triumphant, emotional, wiser, positive, but also bloody exhausted.
On one hand, it feels like I've been gone from L.A and the States for two years while on the other the 12 months have flown by at warp speed. The 7 1/2 months prior to getting my job were excruciatingly slow. Since then, I can harldy believe that we're two weeks away from Christmas!

Having a job, especially a job that I enjoy, has been a godsend to my sanity and my sense of contribution...not only to our household but to the world in general. Being the Social Media Coordinator for a charity that is heavily steeped in the medical and political arenas has proven to be fascinating! It's given me a prime seat to better study and understand British culture. But this is not a post about my observations on the English...those I shall reserve for the one woman show coming soon to an American living room near you. Ha! Now, before anyone gets offended, that's not to say that my observations would be negative. Every culture has their pros and cons, we're human for Christ's sake...all perfectly imperfect. And the bottom line is, shit is fucked up everywhere.

Instead, this post is about my year as an Ameri-Brit. A title, in fact, I can absolutely not claim. Even if I've been able to charm a few people into looking past the apparent obnoxious accent and overt friendliness, some of the most basic characteristics that make me who I am are quintessentially American...so much so I think they can smell it on me before I even open my mouth. That's okay though. I can laugh at myself and my American-ness. I can even laugh at, roll my eyes, and groan at all the ways in which Americans as a culture can be completely ridiculous and downright embarassing, but at the end of the day goddamnit I am proud to be one of them. Like I said, shit is fucked up everywhere. So there's that.

On the whole, this year was about was testing and pushing boundaries. This year tested
  • my identity,
  • my independence
  • (and more specifically my identity in relation TO my independence),
  • my personal space,
  • and my patience.
Oh Jesus Christo, my patience. All of these are fantastic lessons, but they are also fantastically uncomfortable, so when you're learning them all at once.... like I said, you end up flippin' exhausted. These are battles I'm continually winning and/or losing on an almost daily basis, but the fact that I keep fighting the good fight is forcing me to break through barriers and push past my own boundaries. It's  also teaching me to see the bigger picture.
I will probably always struggle between my desire for partnership and my intense need for solitude. It's about finding that sweet spot, that middle ground. With the help and love of a good man I'm learning to navigate the waters of interdependence and appreciate it's benefit, and despite the struggles we went through this year we've grown alot and make a bloody good team!  But I also still know when I need to look out for number one. For example, I'm taking me, myself and I to Edinburgh for Christmas. I went from 0-60 as far as alone time when I moved here. Apart from a night or two here or there when Tom had to travel for work, I haven't had any time just to myself that didn't also involve laundry, cleaning or cooking. And as many of you know, I NEED my introvert/hibernation time...otherwise, I gets cranky! As lovely as it was to spend Christmas with Tom's family last year, wandering the streets and galleries of one of my favorite cities, dinner at McKirdy's and curling up on a couch to read and journal sounds like HEAVEN for this year! I also need the space alone to truly look back on 2014 and process it all in more detail. Unfortunately, feelings may have been hurt in this decision, but this is just basic Courtney Maintenance 101. I won't and don't need to apologize for taking care of myself to be at my best. I remember preparing Tom that this is who I am and what I would need from time to time. I think I even said something to the effect of, "I;m gonna need alone time, I may even have to go farming in Egypt for a month." ...So ya know, he was warned :-)

I can't say my dream of living in England has lived up to the hype in my mind, but it's still been a dream come true and that's the gold, isn't it! How many people get to say that? Good, bad, and ugly, I am living an epic life.

I'm not sure how long my time in England will be, but trusting the Universe and it's divine timing has served me pretty well thus far, so when and if it's right to make another move I will know. Besides, Tom and I got up to some super rad adventures in 2014 (Prague, Brussels, Abu Dhabi/Dubai, Wales twice, Hamburg, Dublin, and the Cotswolds) so it's with a smile that I look ahead to 2015.



And there's always Coachella in April to look forward to, two weeks of California sun, fun and friends!!



Wishing everyone a fabulous holiday and a very Happy New Year!


  Till next time... love, hugs and other 'drugs'.
XOXOXOXOXO















Tuesday, September 2, 2014

#SerenityNowSeptember


   Today was the first day of my third week at my new job! It has been quite awhile since my last post so this may indeed be news to some of you. I am now the Social Media Coordinator for the charity Group B Strep Support (www.gbss.org.uk) 3 days a week. Pretty great role for me eh?! It's a really sweet gig; an amazing cause and a very cool team of people. The seven months of searching and rejections may have been arduous and painful, but my pioneer American spirit and persistence finally paid off! I'd never heard of Group B Strep before so if you're like me here's the skinny:
The charity's aim is to prevent preventable cases of group B Strep infection in babies. Basically, Group B Streptococcus (GBS) is a normal bacterium which colonises up to 30% of adults in the UK, without symptoms or side-effects. It is most commonly found in the intestines, as part of the normal gut flora (bacteria living in the gastrointestinal tract). It is also often found in the vagina of adult women. It is known as a ‘commensal’ – an organism which lives on another without causing any harm.GBS can, however, occasionally cause infection, most commonly in newborn babies. And the UK unfortunately does not automatically test women for it.
    *Since I am now getting paid to be the official hashtagqueenofallthingshashtag, its only right that I take a moment to plug our merry little band and cause. You can find us on Facebook at Group B Strep Support, on Twitter @GBSSupport, Instagram groupbstrepsupport, YouTube and Pinterest. #GBSaware #spreadtheword #savinglittlelives 
Also if you are a UK resident, please (and Thank You) sign our current petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/60515 *


    Ok, back to the matter at hand...Having a reason to get out of the flat, a purpose beyond cleaning and cooking, working for the greater good, interacting with people, and earning my own poundage has done alot for my sanity! It's also been interesting finding that balance between working what are essentially two part time jobs; SM Extraordinaire and 'Housewife'. When I was at home all day every day I made a point of carving out time to go to the little gym in our complex most days, even if it was just for 30-45min. Although it is here that I must come clean and confess that in my nine months of being here I can count on ONE hand the number of times I've done yoga... And even then, they've been half-assed attempts on my own at home. I haven't stepped foot into a class (to my defense here, there are no classes in Haywards Heath and treking back and forth to Brighton has been more effort/energy/money than Ive been willing to expend or could afford). I don't know why I've found it so hard to keep my practice, but the bottom line is that I have been a baaaad yogi. And since starting my job I haven't worked out at all, even on my days off. (I spent the time catching up on cleaning, laundry, cooking in advance, all while still maintaining my much anticipated Skype dates.) On top of all that, our landlord is trying to sell our flat so a move may be in our future. SO.
    In my efforts to raise awareness for GBSS, I've re-realized the motivating power of challenges (like the ice bucket or pie-in-the-face), and daily themes like #MotivateMonday, #ThrowbackThursday, and #FollowFriday. I also remembered my 100 days of Happiness challenge that had been very therapeutic.
While on my walk home from work today, as I was brainstorming for work (mind-mapping as they would say here) I thought of a theme and challenge for myself, #SerenityNowSeptember, to earn back my good yogi status, return to taking/making time for myself, and delegating various errands and meals to TomGong....thus creating balance in this new arrangement and routine.

     I suddenly got really psyched up to break the seal on my Rodney Yee yoga DVD that I bought 2-3mo ago and began walking faster.  I knew I had to resist all distractions or temptations so as soon as I walked through the door I turned off my phone, changed, grabbed my mala beads and rolled out my yoga mat. Boom! Serenity NOW. The 60min sloooow yoga burn section I selected was perfect! I even took 5 extra minutes for some chanting. Shrim (Shreem) = the feminine seed sound/mantra for the energy of abundance in ALL forms. 
(Even though I'm starting on the 2nd I count this double-duty as Day 1 and 2 )




   Who wants to join me?! Who couldn't use a lil more serenity or balance in their life? You might be experiencing a major shift in your life or a small one like me. Either way any kind of change generally calls for some degree of re-calibration across the board. It doesn't have to be yoga or chanting, I'm just a nerd and a hippie like that. It could be asking for more help, or if you're a control freak like me asking for help period. It could be a workout, a walk around the block, a bath, or a 'Happiness Hour'... whatever will bring you some serenity now.

    If you do decide to join in, I'd love to see what you're doing ...Feel free to tag me in your photos on FB or Instagram or mention me in a tweet if you prefer Twitter, etc. 




Till next time, love, hugs and other 'drugs' ....
& a September of serenity!
XOXOXOXO

Friday, July 11, 2014

33 = The Year of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-ness

    As we approach the Full Moon (a Super Moon nonetheless) tomorrow as well as the beginning of my Abu Dhabi birthday trip adventure, it seems fitting that I could not sleep last night...at all! Maybe too it was the natural sugar and 'overwhelment' from the pre-birthday celebration with Tom's family where they lovingly bestowed upon me a glorious gluten free/dairy free chocolate cake and my very first Kindle! All these things combined finally brought to the forefront my thoughts and feelings surrounding the close of my 33rd chapter. 
My 33rd year has been by far the most ... magical? courageous? exciting? eye opening? frustrating? dichotomous? I wish there was a word that could sum it all up, that "even though the sound of it is something quite atrocious, if you say it loud enough you'll always sound precocious". Oh wait, there is. Hand down, 33 has been the most Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious year of my life!
     It also has been a year of two very distinct seasons; Summer and Winter...metaphorically speaking of course. Although moving from California to England could easily lend a very literal interpretation as well ;-) I went from a bustling and independent life where I juggled work during the week, rehearsal and teaching yoga on the weekends and fun with friends to a period of almost total seclusion. There was an ebb and flow with a rhythm as steady as the ocean. The momentum built from July to December and helped everything to fall effortlessly into place  to get me to the UK. Once I was here though, there was no languid "Indian Summer" or delicious "Autumn" to ease me into this new spiritual season. In fact I was welcomed with a bout of the flu my first week in. The ebb and flow seemed to have disappeared. There was no movement at all. (Granted, the House of Stark had been predicting it all along. *Insert laughter from Game of Thrones fans)
I knew by my ankle length down parka that I was embarking on this new life at the start of the English winter. I just didn't know I was also arriving at the beginning of my personal winter. For example, I figured my dismal job search was due merely to bad timing with the holidays, but once the holidays were a distant memory and still nothing had changed I stopped judging it. I keep putting my CV and applications out with the same gusto and hope though. It was about a month ago that I had this seasonal epiphany and reminded myself to just let it go and trust. Instead of imposing my ideal or vision on the situation I'm trying (trying being the operative word) to surrender and simply steep in the experience... like a nice cuppa English tea. The last seven months haven't been easy or comfortable. It hasn't been what I expected or hoped. It's OK though!
There is a reason for every season, and this one too shall pass at some point. This dream of moving to the UK was seven years in the making so after all that hustle and bustle and movement and reaping, it is clearly time to let the fields rest for a bit...maybe plant some new seeds. What do I want to focus on next? It's also a time of foundation building for Tom and I...if we can survive this year and all the ups and downs then I think we'll be ahead of the game.
    As I lay awake last night and this morning, a list of all the things I've learned or have been reminded of this year flooded my brain and I hastily scribbled them down from about 3-5:30....So in absolutely no particular order, I give you...


Things '33' has gifted me/taught me/reminded me:
  • Dreams do come true so it is imperative to pursue them!
    • I'd wanted to live in the UK since 2007, and here I am exploring new worlds, experiencing new cultures,  digging deeper into myself and learning to dance in love with a good man.
    The Universe knows what it's doing...even and especially when I don't.
    • I trust there is a reason I have yet to find a job. Maybe I needed to not only dust off, but dig out my Suzy Homemaker / Courty Crocker skills. Maybe I needed to reconnect with and develop my writing. Maybe I just needed to hibernate. “Someday, everything will make perfect sense. So for now, laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears, be strong and keep reminding your self that everything happens for a reason.” - John Mayer
  • Technology (for the most part) is awesome!
    • I've seen my mom, dad and sister more via FaceTime and Skype then I ever did when we were living in the same country! It also helps me keep my weekly dates with friends.
  • I am very American...and proud of it! (politics and ignorant assholes aside)
    • In all my travels I have never been as aware of my nationality and the American culture as I am living here.
  • I miss driving! (even if it comes with traffic)
  • I LOVE writing! And I am a good writer even if no one else recognizes it yet, .
    • I have also found my niche in Creative Non-Fiction and Personal Essay. I submitted to several contests these past seven months. I've enjoyed pushing myself to become better.
  • The 30's RULE.
    • I see people in my life navigating the middle to end of their twenties and think, "Phew! Fuck that shit!"
  • Relationship (romantic, familial, business, etc) is where our spirituality/maturity/growth and basically all the advice we spout off to other people is tested.
    • It's easy to be alone...for me anyway. It's difficult, although equally rewarding, to be in relationship.
  • I don't love the rain (as once touted)
    • I must amend my previous statement, " I love the rain when it breaks the monotony of sunshine."
  • I carpe the fuck out of the diem (as someone recently told me)
    • For as much as I tend to plan, I also just go balls to the wall sometimes. Hell, look where I am as opposed to a year ago!
  • I am a sensitive Cancer who must continue to 'Do Her Best' at the 'Not Taking Things Personally' tenet of the 4 Agreements.
    • It's hell on a relationship with someone who is also very sensitive.
  • Detachment is goooooood.
    • When I'm able to maintain a balance of detachment in ANY situation or relationship it frees me up from fear/worry about the outcome, helps me see things objectively, and keeps me in the present.
  • I am not a house-wife.
    • I like to have, make and maintain a home and all the comforts and delicacies that go along with it, but it cannot be my sole contribution or identity. I don't do well stuck at home. I have to have roots AND wings.
  • I do love cooking though. It relaxes me.
  • I'm grateful for a loving and generous partner...who also loves to travel as much as I do!
    • We've gone to Cardiff, Brussels and Prague. And we're off to Abu Dhabi tomorrow, hiking in Wales in August, and daytrips to Hamburg, Germany and Dublin, Ireland.
  • Receiving is hard for me when I feel I have nothing to give in return.
    • For example, the awesome gift from Tom's family. I felt embarrassed by the generosity because I was not in a position to give to them this year as I would have normally.
  • Actively recognize at least one happy moment every day.
    • Happiness is about perspective and that is definitely a choice. Acknowledging even the smallest things that make me smile can shift my energy.
  • It never looks like you expect.
    • So be open to any and all possibilities.
  • " I'm a .... Well, I'm a mixed bag really. A jack of all trades, master of none."
    • I still hate the question, "So what do you do?" because I've never been able to answer it with just one thing. I'm okay with that now though.

     Sooooo what better way to commemorate a 2 Season Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious year than to celebrate in equally radical conditions... the heat of Middle East during Ramadan of course! We are off on Saturday to Abu Dhabi, taking a day trip to Dubai on Monday (my birthday) and back at Heathrow Wednesday morning. This is one time when I can officially say I have absolutely no expectations. I've done my research naturally, made my list of Must-Sees and packed a non-offensive wardrobe. The rest, as they say, is rust and stardust! I am taking a new camera for the occasion (thanks to my parents) so I may not post all the pictures until we get back, but I'll post some previews on Facebook and Twitter as per usual. 


Bring it 34!



Till next time....
Love, Hugs, and 'Other Drugs'

XOXOXOXO




















Monday, June 9, 2014

Brussels and Prague anyone?

    A little over a month since my last post and two new trips under this Rover's belt means it's time for an update!


  The last Saturday in May, TomGong and I went day-trippin' in Brussels. We caught the first flight out and the last one back. It was fantastic! I've been to Belgium before (Bruges and Antwerp) so I had a fairly good idea of what to expect but still was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. We both came away shattered from such a long day, but completely satisfied in our undertaking of it. We saw everything on my list and then some. When I say we caught the first flight out that means our alarm went off promptly at 3:30am and we were in the car by 4:15.....soooo basically before the ass-crack of dawn. The day's first bit of adventure came when we parked in the lot for Heathrow's Terminal 5 and then proceeded to get into what looked like the Mini Cooper of space shuttles, called a POD. It is a self-driving transport system that takes you directly to the terminal. Imagine one of the those futuristic rides straight out of Epcot Center and you've got it.


    Already the day was off to a fancy start. Cut to Tom and I reading the paper and filling up on free coffee and breakfast in the British Airways lounge. From fancy to fancy-pants! You'd think with all my travelling I'd for sure have access to an airline lounge somewhere, and yet this was my first taste of elite airline privileges.... mama likey! A London to Brussels flight is an hour if not slightly less, just enough time at cruising altitude to have drink service then touch down again. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
   We then hopped the train from the airport directly into the center of town, got a map from the hotel near the station and we were off. We headed first toward the main square of The Grand Place (Grote Markt) which has  tons of restaurants and some beautiful and eclectic architecture from three different eras. Most notable are Maison du Roi aka The King's House aka the Breadhouse and the Town Hall which is easily mistaken for a castle or a church because of it's gothic fa├žade. We wandered through the Royal Galleries of St. Hubert which is basically just an arcade of chocolate and jewelery boutiques, but the architecture of the arcade itself is exquisite and definitely worth a walk through. There are no shortage of opportunities to do some chocolate and beer tasting but would recommend the places off main squares and more along the side streets/alleys for price as well as selection. The shop where we got 'help yourself' bags of treats even had gluten free chocolates! Also on my list of Brussels must sees are:
  • Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula
  • neighborhood of Grand Sablon
  • the Atomium
    • We didn't feel the need to pay the admission fee to go up into the actual 'atoms'. Seeing the structure from the outside is impressive enough, and there is a lovely Central Park-esque area just beyond it which is lovely and a nice break from the city. The trees in there have eyes and definitely encourage hugging ;-)


     Just three days after this little jet-set, on Wednesday the 4th, our alarm went off yet again at 3:30am for our flight to Prague . The main reason being my 13 (and a half) year old niece is part of an auditioned children's choir and they were on tour. We would get to see her AND my sister (who was chaperoning) Wed and Thur before they hopped over to Vienna Friday morning. Tom and I initially wanted our coming to be a total surprise for my girl but when the itinerary and concert time changed, it was only fair to give her some warning. That being said, the first time we met up with them was Wednesday afternoon for their first concert of the day. While I knew as a ridiculously proud auntie bear I would essentially lose my shit the moment I saw her (and I did). What I wasn't expecting was that the first time she saw us that she would lose her shit too. Her reaction only made mine more intense and I had to look away until I could compose myself and not distract her any more or embarrass myself as a total blubbering fool. I also wasn't expecting Tom to join us in the tears brigade, and yet he was right there with me... although more manly about it of course. She is that cool and awe inspiring a kid! Eventually she and I stopped collapsing into tears and were able to make eye contact, and T and I could just smile and appreciate the performance like normal adults.
The reunion with my sister afterwards was all that wrapped in a hanging on for dear life kind of hug. Tom had only met them via Skype and FaceTime, so while this was their first official meeting seeing him with them was like they'd known each other forever. My niece took to him straight away and loved showing his accent off to all her friends who were equally entranced. Pretty cute!
We actually got more time with them than I expected; dinner that night and after hours chat, parallel Prague Castle tours the following morning, and one final concert Thursday night.
     Family aside, Prague is such a beautiful and cool city! I would definitely go back although to be fair we owned that city in those three days! Other than going back to simply be and enjoy, I can't think of anything that we 'missed.' Definitely pack comfortable shoes as it is such a walkable city and the best way to take it all in. We took the underground once on our first day, which is also very easy to navigate, but the weather was so fabulous we wanted to be out in the sunshine as much as possible. Not that I'll take all the credit, but the initial forecast for those three days was rain, rain, thunderstorms and rain.... that is until I did a lil spell and each day I checked after showed sunny and 70's. Just sayin'.


     Some things to watch: The city will nickel and dime you. For example, public bathrooms are not free so always have loose change. In restaurants, double-check your bill. In more touristy parts, you even have to pay attention to things like the bread basket. One might assume that would be complementary, and maybe for locals it is but in some cases unless you ask for it to be taken away they will charge you. So ask! Feel comfortable in bartering. Tom ended up paying something like 5 quid for a tiny pot of cherries. Things like water are waaaaay cheaper on little side streets away from attractions. I would say avoid cabs because they will take the longest, most roundabout route and basically take your pants down as Tom said. Try and look at a map before getting into one so you have some idea how far you're going and can barter if you disagree with the fare. Also, some attractions require you to have a photo "license" ....meaning you can take pics if you pay a fee ahead of time. If you know these little tips beforehand it's fine. It was the only bit about the city that I found a smidge off-putting, but certainly not enough to deter me from highly recommending anyone and everyone to go check Prague out.
What to See:
  • St. Nicholas church in Old Town - very small, but absolutely beautiful
    • check their classical music concert schedule
  • Old Town and the Town Hall Astronomical Clock
  • Charles Bridge
    • Make a wish: A little ways down from the statue of St. John of Nepomuk is a small marker of where he was actually thrown in the river. There is a brassy cross on the stone wall and a small brass plaque depicting this scene above it on a bit of wrought iron. Make a wish and rub the brass cross as well as the St. John above it. Legend says whatever you wish will come true :-)
  • Prague Castle
    • There is a long and a short visit ticket... we got the short visit and felt more than complete with what we saw.
    • St. Vitus Cathedral has the most beautiful stain glass I've ever seen.
  • Petrin Hill
    • Lovely park and switchback path up to the 'fake Eiffel Tower' as the kids called it. We didn't pay to go up because you get enough of a wide city view from the walk up.
    • Funicular railway
    • Mirror maze
  • Kampa Island
    • find the love padlock bridge!
  • John Lennon wall
  • Jewish Quarter
    • Because it's such a small area, we didn't know that there was an admission ticket so it was a bit of a shock, and I can't quite say that you get your money's worth but I also won't say to skip it because it's very powerful!
   As for food and drink, there is something for everyone! There are several vegan/vegetarian restaurants (although I left my list at home), there was even a raw one near my sister's hotel....pizza (Tom ate a 52cm one to himself), gyros, Italian, seafood, chicken wings. On our last day we found a great ramen soup bistro called Kitchen. As for beers I can recommend Staropramen and Krusovice.
Both Brussels and Prague get the Rover's stamp of awesome-sauce approval :-)




   On a slightly more personal note, whilst I still haven't found a job I have been writing more although you wouldn't know it from my (lack of) blogging. I've been exploring what I feel is my writing niche - Creative Non-Fiction and submitting stories and articles to said contests and magazines so send good energy toward those endeavors por favor.
The next travel stop on our agenda will be ..... wait for it..... Abu Dhabi, for my birthday.... which is ..... wait for it again ..... during Ramadan! Ha! Tom booked it before realizing it was in the middle of a religious holiday. For those who might not know, Ramdan is the Islamic month of fasting. No food or drink during the day. Food is at least served before sunrise and after sunset, thank gawd, because with temps being in the 100s there is serious potential for me getting a bit hangry.
Anywho, you know me, I'll do all the research about it, find some way to pull the symbology out of it, tie it in to my birthday and make the most of it :-)





Till next time:  Love, Hugs and other 'Drugs'
XOXOXOX














Wednesday, April 30, 2014

By By By-Line

      This time last year, this very day, I woke up to finish packing and take one last yoga class before boarding the plane that would bring me and the rest of Zion Dance Company to the Brighton Fringe Festival. It was an unbelievably unexpected and amazing five weeks full of side splitting laughter, new friends, emotional performances, good and bad reviews, tying up loose ends, and romance. I met the man that just seven months after some very fine divine intervention I moved to England to be with. Granted, I had wanted the UK experience since 2007 but falling in love was clearly the tipping point to finally making that a reality.
     It's been a whirlwind to say the least. I can't believe that today, exactly one year later, I woke up in a bed I share with the man I love 5,461 miles away from where I started living out my UK dream. Crazy! Sometimes I have to stop and pinch myself to truly appreciate all the epic shit I've done with my almost 34 years. I remember seeing a purse last year in a shop window in the Brighton lanes that read, "My life is based on a true story." Exzachary.
     Granted, the first five months of living in this dream come true hasn't quite been a walk in the park as many of my followers have read. I'm still trying it on let's say, and seeing how well it fits. I've yet to find a job unfortunately. But fortunately I'm now viewing that downtime as an opportunity to refocus on what I want next while stoking the other creative fires burning in my belly...like writing. Twas my New Year's resolution to use that as my anchor whilst trying to find my feet in my new environment, and lo and behold! Not only did I wake up one year later as a UK visa holder and the girlfriend of an English superhero, but ..... wait for it....... as a published author!
     I submitted an article to elephant journal, an online yoga magazine and it was accepted last week and published yesterday (although I didn't get the email till this morning)! It may seem like a small thing to some, but I reeeaaaally needed this victory. I've since been riding this wave and submitting other essays to online magazines and creative non-fiction contests in the hopes of getting more by-lines and building a fairly strong portfolio. 


     Here is the direct link to the article: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/04/the-gift-of-the-ujjayi-courtney-trowman/
I need to get 2000+ views in order for them to feature it in their 'Popular Lately' section. It's short, only 959 words so please, please, pretty please take the two minutes to read it. Even better, if you like it have someone else read it. Thank you! Also, the yoga studio I'm referring to is Goda Yoga in Culver City and the greatest teacher ever is one Mrs. Jules Hogan-Sahay.  If you're in Los Angeles don't walk, RUN to her class. All their classes and teachers are fantastic, I'm just biased :-)





What a difference a year makes, eh?

Love, Hugs, and Other 'Drugs'
XOXOXOX




      

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Looking to Spring from my Slump

     Happy Spring Equinox everyone!



*Before I dive right in, it has come to my attention, albeit covertly, that I may have a new reader or two. To you I say, "Welcome to The Rover!" Don't be shy, feel free to drop me a line, and if you like what you read please spread the word.


      The timing of a new season, this season in particular, one that speaks of sun, new life and growth could not have arrived at a better time. I am also hoping that the equally well-timed full moon before St. Patrick's Day is a whispering of rainbows and a pot of gold. I say all this because this job search, or rather this epically failing job search is officially ridiculous right now. To be fair and optimistic, I do have a lead on teaching some yoga classes for a local personal training business. Yay! However, it's looking like that may still be a month or two down the line. *Sigh
What pushed the job search over the line from "Geez, I never thought it would take this long." to "Whaaaaaaatttt the FUCK is going on?" were the two rejection emails I got this week. Both of these jobs were part-time, basic, administrative positions....with theatre companies! See?! ....Exactly. Both of those jobs combined the best of all my work history, so how in the world did I not even get called for an interview?! I met all their desired criteria and made that clear in my charming, enthusiastic yet professional cover letters citing specific experience and scenarios. Sooooooo? Again I say, WTF?! I'm at a loss. I've tried re-wording my CV. I've switched to British English spellings. I've translated my US education info into UK friendly lingo. I've asked for feedback. At this point, I'm inclined to say with all seriousness that my nationality is working against me. Mayhaps I need to start practicing my Canadian accent. "I'm soory to hear aboot the job." When so many people are applying for one job, I can easily understand that a quick way to narrow the shortlist would be to boot a foreigner. I know they have some kind of Equal Opportunities Monitoring bullshit here because I have to fill out that form along with each and every application, but come on. I'm not saying it's a discrimination thing really, just that maybe it's easier to go with someone who automatically spells prioritize with an s, program with two m's and an e, and who grew up with the metric system but without that annoying American habit of enthusiasm and optimism. 
That or the Universe really does not want me to be working right now because of some other grand plan. I'm trying to be patient and open if it is the latter.  I've even tried testing the waters here in regards to my poetry, entering contests and reaching out to writing/reading groups. Nope, they hate my poetry too.
     Like I said, I do have that yoga opportunity to look forward to but I'm focusing on the present. In a month or so, that will be great. I'm stuck in the apartment NOW though. Ok, stuck is too harsh. I'm not chained up in here. It just doesn't feel right to spend money I don't have to go out exploring. I would feel guilty I wasn't at home looking for and applying to jobs. Besides, since I seem to be unemployable the only thing I can do to contribute to the relationship is to hold down the home front. I've resurrected my cooking skills and gotten creative, perfected the ongoing laundry rotation, and remembered how to iron a shirt within an inch of its life. (I don't even know what that means other than I make that shit look gooooood.) I'm more than happy to do all that because TomGong and I are a team, and it also makes me feel of some use.  It's not enough though. It nurtures our relationship which in turn nurtures me. But I also need something that feeds just me. (And that isn't to say, we never do anything. We have tons of fun on the weekends, and recently saw a grrrreat Fitz and the Tantrums show in London.)
     Basically, I'm in a slump....still or again, I'm not sure. Hence my excitement for Spring and the hope it hopefully brings with it. I read an article in The Telegraph about a '100 days of happy' challenge. It's as simple as it sounds. You find something that makes you happy every day for 100 days, and using the social media platform of your choice post a picture of it. I figured, "Why the hell not?" I always write what I'm grateful for in my journal, but this may push me a bit more to find things in my current situation and surroundings that make me happy. If it's shifts the energy, I'm on board. I've also started a spring clean diet, smudged the apartment with sage, and am in the process of coloring my hair in new fun ways.
     The thought that keeps coming back to me is what if this is supposed to be another Santa Barbara year? In 2007, I tore out of Los Angeles like a banshee and moved to Santa Barbara virtually sight unseen. It was a very difficult year for me. I couldn't find work, and I never quite found my groove no matter how much I put myself out there. In the end though, it hit a re-set button in my life. I realized who my friends really were back in Los Angeles. I met my only Santa Barbaran friend, Steve. Most importantly though, I met Rina and joined the dance company that would change my life forever. I owe much of where I am today to her, that experience... and a little to my own chutzpah. 
        I guess for now though, I have no choice but to bear this tension and continue to be patient.
      


XOXOXO
Love, Hugs, and Other 'Drugs'
      









Friday, February 21, 2014

Branching Out

Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart;
of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants.
The way it stops and starts.” 
--Edgar Allan Poe


     I know it's been awhile since I've posted. I know this because I've had maaaany a request to send out some Rover Love. To be fair, I had been waiting till I felt I had some real news to share, like finding a job, meeting new people, etc. Unfortunately, I still am on the prowl for a job and haven't stumbled into my niche as of yet. BUT, as it turns out I did just return from a quick trip back to California (thanks to the mind-blowing and heart melting generosity of Rina and Mark) so this I feel constitutes as 'real news'.

     Now, before any of you in Los Angeles get all up in arms about "Why didn't I tell you, see you?" yada yada yada. First and foremost, I was not IN Los Angeles apart from exiting and entering the airport. How this all came about was that Rina was initially going to come here, to England, for a week long rehearsal to set our show for the Brighton Fringe Festival. However, with all my personal stress, not knowing when I would get a job, and a few other stumbling blocks pertaining to the cast and theater space we opted to postpone it. She was going to come out that week anyway and just hang, but as she saw me getting more and more waterlogged and gloomy in our Skype dates she asked if I wanted to come home to Cali. Also, being head of the Dance Department at a private school, she was actually setting our show on her kids and ironing out the details. So between that and teaching a Nia/Yoga workshop together on the weekend it became a working vacation.
    
      When Rina first mentioned the California option every cell in my body screamed YES, it could not have come up at a better time, but I also knew it was only fair to have TomGong weigh in before I gave her my final answer. He and I were not in a great place to say the very, very least and it would've been understandable if he had not wanted me to walk out mid-crisis. He knew how desperately I needed it though and didn't  hesitate in giving his blessing so to speak, though his fear was all too evident. When I say we were in crisis, I mean a true critical mass. Our communication had completely broken down. Every conversation so quickly turned into an argument it gave me whiplash. Our 6 year age difference, of which I am the elder, became so blinding it was almost impossible to see past it. I wasn't even sure if we were on the same page anymore....fuck it, I wasn't sure we were even in the same book anymore. I was heartbroken about all of it, but more than anything, just plain confused. While I am aware our relationship had been at a distance prior and always knew we were going to have to find our flow and work out a few kinks, I never expected an utter dismantling of everything that previously made us so fantastic together.  I knew this trip would be an important break for both of us individually, as well as for our relationship. In order to be in space where I could even hope to receive the kind of healing and clarity I needed while I was gone, I took the few weeks before I left to put everything, mainly myself, under a microscope. I re-read books like The Four Agreements and The Mastery of Love (both by Don Miguel Ruiz). I looked at past relationships, old patterns and behaviors, and discovered a role reversal...meaning I saw myself  in the same situation as an ex and I have a very deep sense of empathy/sympathy for him as he had tried to explain to me then concepts that I was trying to convey to TG now. (*total mind blowing moment btw)
The fact is though, "you don't know what you don't know" and everyone has to come to the truth in their own time. Instead of forcing someone's growth or making them wrong for not being where you are, all you can do is focus on yourself, on YOUR side of the street. And that is exactly what I did. I posted The Four Agreements where I would see it every day and focused on shifting my perspectives, my reactions and let go of attachment, specifically to any perceived outcomes. And what do ya know?! He did as well. Our communication improved. We started calmly discussing our issues instead of shouting about them and storming out of the room. Over the weeks, we even started laughing again. By the time February 11th rolled around, I was starting to recognize us as a couple again and felt at ease leaving that story alone for a week and just revel in going back to California.

      I know the CA drought has been awful, but I will not lie and say I wasn't ecstatic to have it hold out a little while longer so I could soak up every possible ray of sunshine. My first morning I bounded out of bed, made myself a cup of tea, grabbed my journal proceeded to roast myself on Rina's porch. It was 10:15 in the morning and I was sweating in the heat....in my flip flops!  HEAVEN, I tell ya.
The entire week was incredible, from getting to dry out my bones to seeing the show (Rina is brilliant) to teaching ...to getting time with my amazing community of friends...to just being HOME. 

       Here is where the opening quote comes into play. The week, while amazing, was not without its emotion. I spent a lot of time beating myself up because for all the years I've said I want to live in the UK, That's where I feel at home, It's going to be great, I love the rain, I'm over California, blah, blah, blah....As it turns out, I am not over California. California is in me. It is where I'm rooted, heart and soul.  I was getting upset at myself because I don't want to be someone who can never recognize being content and is always thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. Then as I delved deeper into my psychology I realized that when I went to the UK for the first time I was still very much in a 'desperately seeking susan' phase. I didn't feel home anywhere. I was 26 living in Santa Monica and had just ended a 7 1/2 year relationship. I had no connection to the city. I had no community, no real friends of my own. I didn't want to return to either Ohio or Arizona. Then while traveling, something about England spoke to me on such a visceral and ancient level that it planted a seed that it was where I belonged, where I would be something, where I would be accepted, finally. Even as I got older, fell in and out of and in love with Los Angeles and built a solid foundation of friends that 26yr old self (unbeknownst to me) kept watering that seed and belief. The other piece that kept me from just settling in 100% to my L.A life was a belief I didn't even know I had till 2 weeks ago! As a kid, my parents always said they didn't care what I studied in college or beyond as long as I could say I was SOMETHING. They didn't have Dr or lawyer dreams for me, but they obviously wanted me to be able to support myself. Yes, I realize that I have many skills. I am a massage therapist, a yoga teacher, a dancer, an Assistant Director, and a writer, but because I wasn't supporting myself doing any one of those things and needed a 'day job' I felt like I was failing. At the end of the day, it wasn't even my parent's voices that I was hearing, I had been listening to my ego. I don't need to be something to be something. I am me....a hodge podge, and that's enough.


     As I said in my last post, I do no regret anything about this move. We all know my hungry heart would never have rested till I did this. (I mean, let's be honest my heart will always want to travel, maybe even live other places for months at a time.) I can now make the most of this opportunity in England by focusing all my energy here, experiencing as much as I can, and learning the necessary lessons because even when it's tough it's still incredible. I came back from California with my reserves full because I plugged into my source for a week.

     I've been thinking of a yoga business name in order to hopefully start my own classes here in Haywards Heath, and I knew it had something to do with the idea of a tree. In the car I kept staring at all those beautiful old Santa Ynez oaks, and it came to me.... Branch Out. Not only does it sum up the kind of movement and message I want to teach but also exactly where I'm at right now. My Golden State roots are allowing me to branch out, dropping leaves as I peel away layers, learn things like how to weather the English rain, and grow taller expanding my reach.


As for Tom and I, I also believe the time here in England will serve us. We will build ourselves a strong foundation if we can continue finding how we dance together. If we can learn to change and grow individually but together, we'll be an unstoppable force. We've definitely taken a turn for the better.

   

(This is what happens when I don't write for awhile. A novel.)

**For the pictures, click here:




XOXOXOXO

Love, Hugs, and other 'Drugs'