Douse yer head!

If you feel compelled to write something on facebook in ALL CAPS! Douse yer head. If you feel you must attack others or fudge the facts to make your point.  Douse your head.

If you cannot tell by my post here, I am just a little worn out by people who are running around like their hair is on fire.  Screaming (fill in the blank) and calling it "political participation" or "leadership".  And so before I go and douse my head in a bucket of cold water...

Quick update on my quest to move to New Zealand for a little longer:  NZ Immigration had another round of considering applications on July 25 and my points were not enough to get the invite to apply for the Work/Visa.  I am still stuck in the job offer conundrum.  Meanwhile my application stays in the pool for another round.  My current plan is to visit New Zealand before the end of the year and set up possible interviews for that period.  Then if I do spark some interest I have time between then and Sarah's wedding in March to apply for the work/visa and get my paperwork in order.

If I needed a reminder of why I like New Zealand, I have been getting one during these Olympics.  I do not have television cable service, so I get only snippets of Olympic coverage on  This has forced me to be creative.  I regularly check the New Zealand Herald for additional news.  Not only do the Kiwis celebrate every medal--no matter if it is Bronze, Silver or Gold--but they have their own kind of medal count.  Their medal race between countries is per capita, so they come out on top.  It is a quintessential Kiwi way of doing things--remaining humble while riffing on something tongue in cheek.

I also started participating in a writing group.  Max, Steve and Dave are quite serious about their writing and meet weekly.  I am excited and a little nervous about participating.  It is a wonderful motivator to work on my novel.  Lots more reading too.

Right now, in addition to reading Max and Steve's submissions, I am reading:

Robert Persig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Billy Collins, Sailing Alone Around the Room:  New and Selected Poems

Susan Casey, The Wave

And watching a new season of Inspector Lewis (Masterpiece Mystery).

Also riding my bike on days when it is not over 100 degrees and dancing at Zumba a couple of times a week.  Work?  I refer to the top of my post (at least it pays well).

New Shapes

I recently had the luxury of having an inspiration, the time and resources to pursue it, and the pleasure of bringing it to fruition.  And it was strangely unsatisfying.  Hmmm. Sacramento Self-Help Housing has an annual "Let Them Eat Cake" fundraiser around Bastille Day.  There is a cake baking/decorating contest and everyone has a lot of fun eating a casual dinner and lots of cake.  When my friend Desli invited me to attend (since I am in town), I said yes.  And then inspiration struck.  I could see a tiered cupcake holder making a streetscape topped with hand-drawn houses on them.  After spending a couple of days in San Francisco with UK Sarah I decided I wanted my cupcake sculpture to be called Streets of San Francisco and feature the places we visited.  I remembered shrinky-dinks and found a kit on Amazon.  Target had the cupcake holder I needed and I was ready to bake.

I should also explain that I am a pie baker.  I do not typically make cakes and/or decorate them.  I have none of the fancy tools. I do not even own an electric mixer any longer.  So I met a few challenges along the way.

I also decided to do a second simpler cake.  When I was at Harriet's house and we were making homemade pasta and I was reading and saw a sheet cake decorated like the American flag with blueberries and strawberries.  I decided I would bake that as well with strawberry cake and call it "Berry Patriotic."

Other than taking significantly more time than I expected, and one panicky moment when I thought I would never whisk my whipping cream into something that I could use as frosting for the flag cake, it all worked out.

The evening of the fundraiser arrived (Wednesday July 11) and it was blazing hot.  Marcos kindly went out a few minutes before I left and turned the car's air conditioner on full blast so the cakes would not have a melt down on the way.  I got there without mishap and here they are:

Streets of San Francisco cupcake sculpture and Berry Patriotic cake

It was great to see many of the people from the affordable housing world--all people I really enjoyed working with--and some of my friends from Sacramento Friends came too.  As the evening wore on I felt more and more like I was visiting my old life (and it confirmed that I did not want it back).  And I really became aware that I do not yet have a new life.  I am still in a holding pattern waiting to hear from New Zealand immigration, waiting to figure out where I will live next in either New Zealand or Sacramento area.  My life is still intentionally transitory and it is very unsettling.

It is true that I know longer identify myself as strongly with my work.  I am blessed to have a part-time job that pays well enough for me to have the resources and time to explore what else I want to do.  In CTI co-active leadership they taught us about the utility of being able to say "not that."  I can laugh and say, "Baking cakes?  Not that."  Executive Director? Not that?  This is helpful.  At the same time I am noticing that I am holding my breath for my life to take on a new and lasting shape.

Here are some close-ups of the Streets of San Francisco cupcake sculpture.

Farewell New Zealand

I have spent the last week doing everything in my power to get an offer letter for any job so I can apply for a work-visa before the holidays.  On Friday every door shut and I closed one myself.  On Saturday I made the decision:  it is time to go back to Sacramento and regroup.  It turns out the cheapest flight for several weeks leaves on Christmas Day. Let me give a more full explanation so you can understand the dilemma.  As I have mentioned before, I cannot apply for a work-visa without an offer letter from an employer with a full-time job that pays over $55,000 a year.  I have a skill that is on the shortage list, but I am not under 30 or with a Kiwi-partner so the offer letter is a prerequisite.  Auckland Council made a verbal offer and then backed out when they learned I did not have a work-visa.  For more complicated reasons, I closed the door on Synergine.  And the restaurant job does not pay $55,000 a year.

And now New Zealand is beginning to close for the Christmas holiday and summer.  People were not kidding when they said everything shuts down until the end of January.  It has already begun.  Immigration is closed from this Friday to January 4 and with lots of other people taking some of their 6 weeks of vacation, my application would probably take longer than the month they say it will take as a minimum.  That meant another 3 months without the ability to earn any income.

It was not easy to accept that the most sensible thing to do is return to the States and begin again.  Yesterday I made the decision to fly home for now.

I have felt every emotion this week and used a box of tissue.  Now I feel at peace and sad.  Earlier in the week I felt like going back to the States was a failure and a catastrophe.  I found myself bargaining with God and then threatening him (sort of), and that is when I realized I needed to get a grip.  I am in a better place today.  Of course I do not know what the future holds, none of us do, yet I still want to live in New Zealand.  I will figure out Plan B from the States where my burn rate on the savings account is not so much and where I can legally get a job.

I already can list many things that I have learned and redesigned in the almost 5 months I have lived here.  The experience continues to be extremely positive.   I have treasured friends who I will really miss.

If I knew this would be happening when I left in August, I believe I would still go for it.  The arc of my story is still bending so I will not assume there is no happy ending.  I am likening it to when you are rafting down a river and you see a huge rock and deadly rapids and you sensibly go to the bank and portage around.  I will put my boat back in the water a little further down.

This Christmas I will celebrate with friends in New Zealand and then head to the airport to catch the 7:30 p.m. flight to San Francisco.  Sarah will pick me up at the airport at 10:30 a.m. Christmas morning and I will get to celebrate again!  (Although I may be a little worn out).  Hugs for Christmas sound really good right now.  And kisses from Radar.  And sleep.

My intention is to return to New Zealand.  Let’s see what happens next.

It's complicated...

On the one hand, I have experienced God answering big prayers in awesome ways in the last two weeks.  Sarah Harriet ended up with two jobs--so rich in work that she could be generous and share with her roommate.  Kate's daughter Gina got the teaching job she needed--the one with the short commute and at the school where she really wanted to work.  And I got a call from Auckland Council offering me a short-term contract. On the other hand, I have not exhaled yet about Auckland Council, though it is the "dream" job in many ways.  I will be working with the Tamaki Transformation Programme (more on that in a future post).  First though I have to work through many hoops to get my work permit.  And hope that Nandita, who will be my supervisor at Auckland Council, is willing to go through the hassle.  All in a time and space when it seems everyone goes on leave.

When Christmas is in the summer, as it is here.  Then school is out for the summer break and holidays.  Apparently it is much like between Christmas and New Years with the  added "bug out" of an August in France during January.  Thus getting my paperwork done will be an extra challenge.

So I ask you to keep praying for me to get a job.  If anything, you can pray more specifically that I work well with the Medicine agency who is charged to figure this out and that NZ Immigration processes the paperwork quickly.  (I will count it as a miracle if they do!)

I would say "Nothing that is worthwhile is easy."  Except that sometimes it is easy, and sometimes not.  And persistence and patience are virtues I will keep practicing.

Meanwhile, while I waited for the call from Auckland Council I went for a walk along the bay.  It was SO BEAUTIFUL today: blue sky with fluffy white clouds, pohutakawa trees starting to bloom, the sea a brilliant color.*  So beautiful that if beauty were like drinking water, then I was drinking from a fire hose.  It helped me remember that it will all be worth it if I can find a way to stay.

*Before you chide me about not providing a photograph--I do not think there is a camera invented that could have captured how stupendously beautiful the image appeared in my mind.

Chicken and Egg

I am making progress toward my goal of immigration.  I passed my medical exam today.  I had some anxiety about it; not based on any facts; just a sense that this was a hurdle that could keep me from my goal.  It was about as likely to be a problem as my criminal background check by the FBI.  The mind does not always regulate itself well, and I have woken up a couple of times in the night with baseless fears. I do not resent the need to take these steps.  Afterall, the health care system is terrific compared with US and many other countries and they do not want people with expensive and serious illnesses to move here just to take advantage.  Similarly, you cannot retire here unless you bring your own medical insurance.  Just as I knew in my waking lucidity:  I am in fine health.  And now my paperwork is signed off.

Next up is my fingerprints.  Just to tell you how uncommon it is to get ones fingerprints taken... I went into the St Heliers Community Policing Station and asked to have my fingerprints taken, much as I went into the Sheriff Substation in Sacramento to do same so I could take my kids on school field trips.  They said they only do this in one location:  at the downtown police station.  And I would need to make an appointment.  And the next appointment was likely to be 4 or 5 weeks away.  All true.  It is actually lovely that they are not as obsessed with security.  You just walk onto a domestic flight (with a ticket of course), and so forth.  Sometimes I wondered about all of the fingerprints taken in the US; does anyone do anything with them really?  Or are they just piled in a back room in the Sheriff Substation?

The really big chicken in this whole chicken and egg immigration business is an offer letter for a job.  As soon as I have that I can submit my work visa application for a 2 year visa.  And during that period I can apply for residency.

I started out looking at a number of work options with detachment.  Options had a way of narrowing themselves down.  While I am still applying to other positions, the most promising job is as a consultant with Synergine.  I went in on Monday and talked with the staff some more and I am excited about the possibilities.  However, until some contracts come through they are not comfortable with making a promise about a job.  Fair enough.

It is funny how I always intended to enjoy my sabbatical through November, but when actually faced with trusting that it will all work out (and on that timeline), I am worried.  It reminds me that faith is not faith if the outcome is definitely known.

I have faith in God that this will all work out.  I am trying to trust and accept that the details may be different than expected.


P.S.  You know you are acclimating to your new culture when you read about the mere possibility that Richie McCaw may miss the All Blacks game against the Wallabies this Sunday and you get sick to your stomach.  He has been playing with a fractured foot.  The talent on the All Blacks is very deep, and it is just rugby. Yeah, right.