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healthcare in the usa
Differences between America & Australia, Soapbox

Health Insurance in the USA

It’s time to talk about Health Insurance in the USA.  I’ve bitten my tongue for the last four years but enough’s enough and it’s time to speak up. Because it’s true what you might think: the health system in the US stinks.  It bites the big one.  It totally sux.

There are three reasons I say this.

  1.  The Health system in the US relies on your employer to sponsor you through the system–to provide a health plan for you
  2.  A lot of people in the US work for small businesses who may not be able to afford to offer great health plans (see above)
  3.   Even with great health plans, seeking medical treatment can send you broke.  Seriously.

Just let me say that this is not a how-to on medical insurance in the US.  I don’t know enough about the system to write one of those.  And, while I try to educate myself on the topic it’s so difficult to navigate and wrap your head around (read: it’s so foreign to anything we think of when it comes to health insurance) that I’m sure I’ve missed stuff.

Our health insurance

We’re lucky, Mr H works for a large firm that offers excellent health insurance.  There are a range of plans to choose from that offer different costs and benefits.  Our first few years here were pretty straight forward.  We went for our annual medical checks at no cost.  Preventative care here is highly regarded here and visits are offered at no extra charge. In other words, your insurance company pays the entire cost of the $250 visit (or thereabouts depending on your doctor).

There are in-network doctors and out-of-network doctors.  The above is true providing your doctor is in your network.  Go outside your network and your health starts to get really expensive.  In-network essentially means your doctor–or health provider–has contracted with your insurance company.

So three years have gone by and all is good.  Mr H’s company pays an extraordinary amount to cover us and we pay around about the same as we paid in Australia to cover us.  We also have a credit card that the company puts money into and we put money into (pre-tax).  This is to cover us for the co-payment we have to make on many of our health expenses.  This is usually true until you’ve spent a certain amount of money and differs from plan to plan and is dependent on your organisation and the plans they provide for you.  Unless it’s a preventative visit you generally have to make a co-payment. (I guess we call this the gap in our private medical insurance in Australia).

Essentially we were paying a fortune and Mr H’s employer was paying a fortune for 4-10 doctor’s visits a year–mainly preventative care.

Don’t get sick unless you can afford it

It’s when something happens to you that is outside the norm that health insurance really starts to suck.

For example, one of the tennis coaches at school got a brain tumour.  He was one of the lucky ones, it wasn’t cancerous and it could be treated.  I’m going to quote the story from his Go Fund Me page:

“…The difficulty now is there are only a handful of neurosurgeons qualified or willing to perform this complicated procedure. And needless to say, despite medical insurance, the costs are staggering. The one neurosurgeon able to perform the surgery has no insurance contracts and is exclusive to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a hospital that MJ’s insurance is unable to contract with.

“So he’s forced to pay out of pocket, and essentially, up front.

“We’ve started this Go Fund Me campaign to help him pay for surgery, for his hospital stay, for the rehabilitation and recovery, and for whatever next steps lay ahead of him in the fight of his life.”

Oh my …

I don’t know how much the surgery, hospital visit and all the incidentals cost but let’s say it was around $500k, possibly a lot more.  I had blood tests at Cedars-Senai when I was seeing a specialist and it cost $5,792.55. No word of a lie.  This is nothing specifically against Cedars either–they all charge this much and it is a very good hospital.

So, his perspective is he’s lucky to be alive, he’s very happy he’s here to tell the tale and wouldn’t have life any other way.  I couldn’t agree more.

But seriously? Get sick and you’ll be paying off that debt for the rest of your life.

There are many doctors out there that don’t have insurance contracts.  That means they charge what they like and you put a claim into your insurance company after you’ve paid the bills.  Fine if it’s a couple of hundred dollars but gets difficult when we start to creep into the thousands, tens of thousands and … you get the picture.

And I get it, these doctors work hard to get to where they are.  They should be able to charge fairly for their services; we’d be lost without them. Or dead.  Yeah that.

But still.

This is where it gets more complicated

So, if that were me above firstly we’d die–where can I find that money to pay for the surgery? I’d have to sell everything and my family would be left with nowhere to live but lucky me I get to have surgery in a nice hospital for a few days.  Let alone trying to fund my son’s College bill next year.  (Plenty more on that I’m sure but here’s my entree story on that topic).

Secondly, I’d put the claim into my insurance.  Because this doctor is not in network I’m penalised.  Take a recent bill we had as a family.  Here is the breakdown of our “refund” quoting from an email I got from them:

“Total Charge $1025.00, out of network write off $626.36 (because we used a specialist out of my insurance network), coinsurance $119.60 (I don’t even know what this means but I assume I have to pay something to contribute), paid to member $279.04.  Please allow 7 to 10 business days to receive the check.”

I won’t hold my breath.  Out of network WRITE OFF?  Seriously? You’ve got to be joking right now.

And I can hear what you’re saying.  You’re saying, “well Gwen it’s pretty simple just stay in network and you’ll get more back and they won’t write off such a large chunk of your bill.”

Well yes, great point. But here’s where it gets interesting.  Many good doctors and specialists AREN’T in network so you immediately have fewer choices.  These doctors don’t want to be at the mercy of the Insurance companies so choose not to contract with them.  And many don’t have to.  To be fair, it’s also a big nightmare for them.

Let’s compare it to Australia shall we?

A doctor’s visit here is around $120. Go to a Medicare bulk billing doctor in Australia and the doctor gets $35? $45? and I pay nothing. Some doctors charge $60 or $80 and then I pay a smaller amount.  So who is the loser here? The Australian doctors or me?  Yep, both of us.

So, for the privilege of our $243.99 every two weeks we pay in health insurance–don’t forget the astronomical amount Mr H’s employer is also paying–I get $279.04 back for a $1025 bill.  (We also pay more for vision and dental insurance btw in case you’re playing along at home).  Oh, and we also may a Medicare tax and a Medicare Surtax each fortnight and God knows where that goes as there is no such thing as Medicare for us.

What’s Obamacare?

I don’t clearly know the answer to this question.  I think it’s the right for every person to have health insurance so if you’re my hairdresser who works for yourself and not covered under a family plan then you can sign up and pay for insurance yourself.  It’s not cheap and not every insurance company provides it. In fact, because health insurance packages differ from state-to-state, many states don’t have options like they might have here in California.  I don’t know enough about it though to speak to this.

What’s to repeal & replace?

You might have heard Trump is all set to “repeal and replace” Obama care.  I don’t know if this means people who work for themselves may no longer be eligible or whether they are trying to bring the costs down so more people can afford it because there is no substance to the arguments that get bantered around.

I do know that one of the arguments people were saying back to the politicians “on the hill” was vote for the insurance you would give yourselves.

I do also know that one of the most contentious points is pre-existing conditions.  This is one thing Trump wants dumped.  So for me, who has high blood pressure due to a pesky but controllable kidney issue, if I move health insurance providers then none of my expenses resulting in my existing high blood pressure would be covered.  I would have to foot the bill for all of it.  Nice and fair.  Way to go pollies.

What I don’t get

What I don’t get is why organisations need to pay for people’s health insurance in the USA.  It would be fine if everyone has access to it but they don’t.  Or at least it doesn’t seem to me that they do.  No, they don’t.

There’s no such thing as a public hospital so people who don’t have health insurance have to go to an emergency department, where they can’t be refused treatment, to be seen to.

I don’t get why doctors have to contract individually with the various health insurers.  Everyone has been up in arms about Obamacare raising the price of health insurance.  But shouldn’t we be looking over both our shoulders here? There are two other parties I can see play a part in this complex equation.

One is our health insurers–they’re setting these high prices. And then the doctors, hospitals and the health system in general.  Why is everything so much more expensive than it is at home?  Let’s not even start on the price of drugs here.  It feels like a conspiracy: everyone is partnered to “get the most effective price for people” yet what it is is a price where everyone can make a bit of money (read: bucket loads) and it’s got way way way out of hand.

I don’t get why the premiums are so god-damned high but you don’t get anything for it.

But back to point one (sort of): I really don’t get why every single American doesn’t have a right to healthcare.

My two cent’s worth

Cut everyone out and start again.  Everyone buy their own insurance capped at an acceptable market rate.  Have Medicare cover a set portion of every expense then medical insurance can pay for the gap.  If you can afford it then by all means you have the choice to go to a private practitioner and pay them for the extra privilege.  But, if I get a brain tumour and I can be saved like MJ was, don’t make my family eat dog food and live in a caravan park for the rest of our forseeable life just so I can be saved.

Oh and make insurance companies government run.  Sure the government is so hopeless that it could end up being shocking but everyone should be able to get medical attention.  Access to medical care is a right not a privilege.

If doctors and insurance companies weren’t spending so much time (which equals money) negotiating complex contracts the costs would drop.  If organisations are not having to pay for everyone’s healthcare then profits would be higher (or actually cost of goods wouldn’t need to be so high).

The Australian model has its flaws but it works.  I don’t see why the “greatest country in the world” has to have such a shit system.

Footnote

So I open up my piece to edit it and send out and as I’m looking through my Huffpost I see an interesting story about Bernie Sanders and his view on healthcare.  Naturally I read the story in case I learn something more to share with you.

Well blow me over guess what? It seems Bernie Sanders agrees with me. Bernie wants a Medicare system introduced here in America similar to Australia’s.

Here’s the Washington Post’s story on it.

And check out and interview with the Huffington Post & Bernie Sanders here.

Don’t worry Republican voters it will never see the light of day.  But to me that’s a huge shame.  At least a version of it.

Meanwhile, if I keep getting $279 back for every $1025 I spend perhaps I might just consider self-insuring.  I might just come out in front.  One day when I’m bored I might do some financial modelling on that one.

Have a good rest of week,

xx It Started in LA xx

PS: If you want to contribute here’s a link to MJ’s Go Fund Me page.

 

Differences between America & Australia, Posts, Soapbox

My right to do what I want

It’s time for my weekly look at the differences between Americans and Australians.  This happened to me last night. I don’t think this would happen in Australia but I’d love to get some feedback from my Australian friends–or others who may have had a similar experience.

Am I looking at Australians through rose-coloured glasses? Is this being a bit harsh on Americans (not my friends though don’t you know)?  Or is it not a negative thing in a different context, with a different example?

Differences between Americans and Australians: my right to do what I want–you can’t make me

I’m sitting on the tarmac in Las Vegas airport on the last flight to Burbank (LA) and as we’re getting ready to pull back some smart arse starts talking back to the flight attendant.

While getting ready for the safety demonstration, the “hostie” asked him to please get off the phone as it was time to switch mobiles off.  Instead of wrapping up he kept talking.  She asked him again, quite patiently, to “please sir finish your call and switch off the phone.”  He kept talking, showing no signs of wrapping up his call.

Then minutes later when he was ready he said goodbye and switched off his phone. The hostie then reminded him that he must listen to her requests while on board the plane.

“I don’t have to listen to you, I turned off the phone before we took off, I can do whatever I want.”

Here we go.

She reminded him again that he needs to listen to their instruction and cautioned him.  With that she walks down the aisle to continue her checks.

He yells back again saying he can do whatever he wants.  (It’s his right).

The supervisor comes up the back to question him further.

“Excuse me sir are we going to have a problem on this flight?”

To which he says,

“No, she told me to turn the phone off, I got off the phone before the plane took off, she doesn’t have the right to tell me what to do.”

“Well sir, on board the flight you are required to follow our instruction so are we going to have a problem with that?”

“No, I did what she asked but if she asks me to pick my nose I’m not going to do that am I?’

“Well sir she is not going to ask you to do that.”

Blah, blah, blah on he goes about how he flies all the time and has never had a problem and how he’s going to write a letter to Southwest and how he’s already spent tens of thousands of dollars with them.

Then one guy ( who can fend for himself) stands up and says to the guy, “please stop talking, listen to them  so we can all go home”.

But Mr frequent-traveller-who-may-or-may-not-look-like-a-frequent-traveller is adamant he can say and do what he wants.

He is still rabbiting on about how he can do whatever he wants and his rights.

Meanwhile I sit back, three rows in front of him to the other side, and think, do I want to go home or do I want the plane to stop and get him off? My first thought is is he allowed to carry a gun? I’m guessing he’s not.  Or at least not a loaded one. Everyone is a cross between disbelief, sitting quietly hoping the issue will be resolved and looking back at him with intimidating stares begging him to pull his head in.

All he had to do was pull his head in.

I’m relieved when the plane stops and moves forward towards the gate. Now we’re sitting on the tarmac waiting.  The pilot asks us all to stay in our seats.  Is this going to turn ugly?  He must know something is going on.  Right?  How are those rights looking now mate?

Are we waiting for the cops to take him off the flight? Is he getting more ruffled sitting there knowing full well it’s because of a scene he caused?

So now I’m quietly anxious and nervous and text home an update. He didn’t pull his head in before why should he now? And as the minutes are counting down I’m thinking it’s obvious we’re waiting for someone to get him.  What on earth is he thinking?

Are we going to have an incident or are we waiting for him to cool down? But what if he’s waiting to cool down then when we get in the air he loses it?  Like my teenage girl when you think everything is ok, she remembers what happened then relives the anger.

The people in the row in front of me start talking about guns. Do you have one? What do you do? I couldn’t hear much of the conversation but I thought back about Lorie on Twitter and how she thinks if there’s a mass shooter there would only be two shots fired. What if the guy in front of me thinks he’s defending himself and fires a shot? Would he be a good shot and would the guy hurling abuse have a gun & shoot him or shoot the nearest person? What about stray bullets?

Would the guy with the bad attitude think it’s time to pull out his gun. And why am I thinking about who’s carrying a gun? Isn’t that what the strenuous security measures are there for?  But if you’re a psycho then could you get around the security measures?  Can I trust them? And why–if guns are a right and used for personal protection–are we not allowed to carry them on board a flight?

Am I going crazy?

Finally the doors were opened and two ground staff came to escort him off the flight.  I was so surprised to see two women and not security or police.

He was escorted off the flight in a bit of an anti-climax. Thank God. I was expecting a tantrum-like scene that would make my daughter look like an angel. He still didn’t really get it though. He was still playing the it’s-my-right power card and “you just can’t do that” to him.

Here’s the thing. In “the future” post October 21, 2015 (had to get a Back to The Future Day reference in there somewhere), post 9/11, post mass murder after mass murder you just can’t do that. You just can’t do that.

So we’re taking off half an hour later than scheduled but I feel safer. I started thinking about what would happen if we were in the air and he wouldn’t stop. Then what. Would we have to pull together and fight him down. Cause I would. I’d be amongst it. I’m not going down wondering.

So you see it’s not your usual “Difference between Americans and Australians” post.  The rest of the flight–filled with Americans–did not agree with this guy.

But engrained somewhere in many American’s psyche is that whole “my right to…” thing.  And it’s not always a bad thing.  Sometimes it’s used for good and not evil.  But I wonder if America and its taglines “living the dream” or “the land of the free” leads some of its citizens to believe that means they can do whatever the bloody hell they want.  Because it’s their god-given right.

And, by the way, dickheads are all over the world.

In Australia we have dickheads you can put up there on Wikipedia as the ultimate definition of a dickhead.

We have bogans that think they’re tough and give lip.  And in Australia I wouldn’t be scared of guns I’d be scared of the fighting–fists as weapons which do get through the security checks.  But I think in Australia we might be more worried about the consequences. I don’t think we’re prepared to take the chance that we might be black-banned from flying again–or at least for a long time. I don’t know.

That’s where you come in. What do you think? What would you do? Do you think a guy would talk back to–and continue to talk back to–a hostie and then a supervisor on a Qantas internal flight or Virgin flight?

When we landed I felt like doing American/Chinese style woo-hoos and clapping that I landed safely. What a bizarre situation. Come on Chuck Lorre we can make an episode out of this one. Let’s do it.

Meanwhile. I’m exhausted and signing off.  And weirdly, the kids didn’t know what had happened to me but when I came home they raced out of their rooms and welcomed me home with hugs and kisses. Yep, life is short … and too short to be a dickhead.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS:  My congratulations to the crew of the Southwest Airlines 845PM flight 143 from Las Vegas to Burbank who handled the situation with professionalism and putting our safety ahead of their schedules.

Gun control or Pro gun
Differences between America & Australia, Posts, Soapbox

Difference between Americans and Australians: guns

Difference between Americans and Australians: guns

Another week, another shooting. But it’s not about the guns. Guns don’t kill people. No wait, the bullets do, no the people do. Wait, who kills people? The cars kill the people. No the drunk people driving the cars kill the people. Wait. The vacuum cleaner does the vacuuming, no the person does the vacuuming. I’m confused.

This is arguably the single most dividing issue between Australians and Americans. And it’s not all Americans and my guess is it’s probably not all Australians either.

After a shell-shock week, my daughter and I have been questioning whether or not it’s time to move back home.  And while my son isn’t as vocal as we are his Twitter and Facebook has had their fair share of “the gun debate” issues.  Mr H? He’s in London so all’s good in his world.

What Americans think about guns

We’ve heard sound grabs of the likes of Donald Trump who shoot their mouth off because they can–to get on TV screens, radios and column inches in the papers and on websites and that’s fine. We expect it. It’s not great but we can live with it.

But you don’t expect it from the media.  At least I didn’t.  You might have seen this clip doing the rounds during the week:

 

It got me—and many, many others—so incensed I thought we should call for the sacking of these ill-informed presenters.

And clearly I should have better researched my stance.  Because in doing more research for this piece I found another Fox News presenter ranting pro guns.  Apparently “they” say that Fox regularly preaches right-wing conservative views.  I found this review on Fox and Friends which made me chuckle.  No wonder I’ve never tuned into Fox News.

Even less surprising is that I haven’t heard anything from either Fox News or Fox & Friends in response to my suggestion–I guess any publicity is good publicity.  Hmmm…

Clearly, for a network like Fox to put these people up there to a national audience this is purportedly representative of America’s views on guns.

And to a large extent it is. Many Americans genuinely believe in their right to bear arms.  And believe stuff like this:

http://twitter.com/sonslibertytees/status/623553547603415041/photo/1

Back to the Fox and Friends story.  When it started appearing on Facebook I did a Twitter search for the show. I found another story on one of the presidential candidates Ben Carson discussing gun rights. Here’s some examples of the response on twitter:

And I had this fun Twitter exchange during the week:

Damn that I misspelt cowboy! That was the last I heard from Kimberly Huggard.

Then there was this:

Nice one Lori.  And there’s this:

Oh look… it’s in response to Fox News again. I’m finally seeing the pattern.

And while we’re on the subject of Fox News presenters here’s another one just for fun:

http://twitter.com/mmfa/status/649407149072781312/photo/1

Thankfully not all Americans share the same views.

OK, so while new host Trevor Noah isn’t American, his audience is laughing.  If you’re interested–cause there are funny grabs there–I’ve chopped the segment down and you can watch it by clicking on this link.

What Australia thinks about guns

Not just the Australia, the rest of the world. Piers Morgan has been very vocal on the issue. Unlike many of the arguments pro guns cheerleaders are outlining, some prominent (and other stupid) public figures, he’s done his research and uses logic and reasoning as the basis of his argument.

But this isn’t really about him is it? It’s about Australians and our general attitude to guns.

Australians haven’t grown up to believe we have a constitutional right to carry a gun so we’ve got a fundamentally different perspective on the matter.

We don’t believe that if we send our kids to College with guns they won’t get shot.  (We believe in sending our kids to Uni without guns and still not being shot).

I wish I was a cartoonist and I could draw a cartoon of a mad shooter coming in with his gun showing the entire class dressed as cowboys drawing their guns from their holsters like they’re Quick-Draw McGraw asking for a truce while they draw their guns so they can shoot him first.

They seriously think that if they don’t arm teachers and don’t abolish gun-free zones this leaves the students exposed and vulnerable.

And they seriously think that it’s better to have an all-out shoot-it-out.

Or, like poor old Kimberly Huggard on Twitter thinking there would only be two shots fired.  Two.  And that is assuming the shooter shot the first one and some hero with a gun in his pocket takes a clean shot and takes out the shooter. How romantic a notion Kimberly. Bravo.

No, in Australia we can’t bear to hear the arguments in favour of guns.  Completely intelligent people just need to say one thing in favour of guns like this…

… then he’s lost all credibility with us.  Really? …. Really?  Seriously?

But what is the difference between Americans and Australians when we’re talking about guns?

Australian comedian Jim Jefferies, also doing the rounds of Facebook & Twitter, best sums up Australia’s views on guns. He’s Australian and it’s stand-up so he swears like it’s 3am and he’s had 500 beers.

If the Americans can get over the swearing it’s educated, logical and bloody funny.

 

On a personal note, scrolling through comments and Twitter have left me feeling sick to the stomach. The indignation and righteousness of Tucker Carlson (never trust someone with two last names) makes me want to pack my bags and run back home.

I love lots of things about living in LA—and I’m thankful I’m not surrounded by ignoramuses suggesting we arm our kids and teachers with guns to protect themselves—but you only have to witness the hateful attacks on those trying to curb gun violence to wonder if they’ll ever stop and reflect.  And use logic.

I’m hoping this country will evolve and look past “my right” to carry a gun which is effectively saying I don’t give a shit about the repercussions to the society I live in, as long I can do what I want.

xx It Started in LA xx

 

Fox & Friends presenters opinion on gun control
Movies and TV, Posts, Soapbox

Open letter to Fox News and Fox & Friends: sack Tucker Carlson & Anna Kooiman

Open letter.

To: Fox News.  Fox & Friends.

Calling for the sacking of your presenters, Tucker Carlson and Anna Kooiman, for their completely un-educated and ill-informed views on one of your shows, Fox & Friends.

Namely for this segment that appeared on Fox and Family on the subject of guns:

 

It is one thing to have a Presidential candidate spin rhetoric for on-air time but it’s another to have your presenters feigning as journalists rant about an issue so sensitive to a nation.

Sack Tucker Carlson & Anna Kooiman

Tucker Carlson and Anna Kooiman should be sacked because:

  • They are a disgrace to their profession
  • They suggest your station is fronted by an apparent lack of professionals
  • It makes America look like nothing more than a backwater populated by hicks.

Their comments are not just uneducated and ill-informed but they are insensitive and should be reserved for the lunchroom. There is no place for such an amateur discussion on television.

Gun control is a topic that needs to managed with care, sensitivity and knowledge. There is no place for rhetoric or personal ranting. You have a duty to society, the American people and, most importantly, the victims of gun violence to take emotion out of the equation.  Emotion should be saved for the victims not for the people who believe in their own opinions above all others.

Regardless of our personal views on gun control it needs to be debated without the obvious bias and fanaticism that fuels this topic.

Shame on you.

xx It Started in LA xx

Tucker Carlson on twitter

Anna Kooiman on twitter

 

Celeb spotting
Celebrity, My LA story, Posts, Soapbox

Celebrity spotting a sport in LA

I’m getting back in the swing of LA life again—thank god!!! I guess that’s what happens once you’ve vented and you know there’s nothing else to do but get up & get on with it.

It’s also what happens when you get out and about. Last week started a “campaign” to get me out more. And with the right attitude comes results!

The other day I had coffee with a friend I possibly text more than anyone—and have done since we moved—my fellow carpool mum. We rarely see each other though so coffee was long overdue. Off to our latest “S” we went. In one and a half hours we saw Paul Stanley, Eddie Murphy & Arsenio Hall. OK not everyone is a “star f#@$er” (as one of my Australian girlfriends likes to call me) but there’s nothing that makes you feel you’re in LA more than the good old celebrity spot.

 

The interesting thing about celebrity “stalking” (I prefer to say watching with heightened interest) is that realisation that we’re all the same: they really are normal people. (OK I have to say most of the ones I’ve encountered over my nearly two years are …. Kanye West maybe not so much).

Paul Stanley for example was up and down from his table the whole time he was there—getting coffees, getting chairs, moving chairs, getting serviettes (or napkins), taking one kid here, taking another there. Sound familiar? (Remember BK—before kids—when you could just sit and enjoy your coffee before getting up & down the whole the time?).

Over the weekend at the Dance concert at school—well done to my gorgeous girl for her dance—out come the parents to watch their kids dance (best place to celeb watch). Every school function I’m at I see one of the original members of Guns n Roses. I love that he’s always there and actively involved. Just a normal dad (actually he may well be at more school functions than Mr H).

School in 2015

Speaking of school don’t you wish you went to school now? OK, maybe not to go back but to go now instead of when you were at school and with all you know now?

Being at that Dance concert made we wish I was at school now—even with the added pressure our poor kids have these days. Even though I went to an excellent school I didn’t make the most of all the opportunities I was given. I did ballet (outside school) and I think if I was at a school like my kids are at—where dance and drama are offered as electives—then I would have continued dancing a lot longer. Actually I might actually be a Hollywood star living in one of those nice big houses that sit alongside mine. You can call that either laziness (I didn’t have to go outside school to dance) or peer group “pressure” (supported by the fact others are doing it with me and I’m not “unique”) or a bit of both. I also think dancing has come a long way from the days of classical dancing at my ballet studio.

Diversity is a big topic at the kids’ school—as it is in America. So is LGBTQIA—and a big deal is made trying to inform and educate the kids on these issues. I find it both well-meaning but also a little condescending and so 2008 that they’re on this bandwagon.

Here’s why: We’re in LA, California in 2015. We support same sex marriage—yes Australia it’s legal and it didn’t hurt one bit—and we made Kanye West famous, in spite of the fact that he’s a bit of a knob.  We have openly gay students, we have many kids the product of gay marriages and we have a sprinkling of different nationalities and backgrounds (perhaps not so much socio-economic but that’s not the school’s fault per se).

(As a brief interlude don’t you love that Australia is generally far more liberal than here in the US yet there are more states that have legalised gay marriage?  Shame on you Australia letting a prudey minority conservatives control that line of thinking.)

Anyway …

Diversity is exemplified through the actions of the kids and administration and not by their words. Wait, isn’t there a cliché actions speak louder than words? Hmmm….

What I love is that two boys can get up and perform a dance and receive a rousing response—duh! because they were really good. There were another two boy dancers who were also very good. One boy—who was also a standout at the musical Godspell I blogged about late last year—was a more traditional dancer and he was so good and, alongside the talented girls, was applauded.

These boys are empowered (I hate that word) to get up and join in and perform in front of the school community. The other boys didn’t shoot them down and call them girls, they embraced them—they respected them and congratulated them. And by the way those boys are also on sports teams and participate freely in whatever activities are open to them that interests them–they’re not labelled and pidgeon-holed “dancers”.

You don’t need an assembly telling kids to embrace lots of different types of people you just need to show them. Shoving ideals down people’s throats—no matter how good they are—never worked and it’s not about to now.

Death by firing squad

My Facebook feed has been filled with opinions and tributes for two of the Bali nine guys sentenced to death (via firing squad) for trafficking drugs into Indonesia. This issue runs deep, there are many different opinions and no right or wrong answer (or opinion).

Seeing that footage in the link brought shivers up my spine.  Seeing the media contingent taking photos & live footage and the onlookers also brought shivers up my spine.  As did this news story detailing what goes on at such an execution.

As one of my Facebook & old (as in past not that we’re old!) school friends, Anne-Marie Hardy, put it … ”On a day where the whole country has an opinion, I’m reminded how important it is to listen to each other. Listening, without interrupting and constructing your next sentence takes practice and restraint, especially if we disagree. We are lucky to have free speech, let’s listen freely too.”

I think it’s wrong that in 2015 people can still be sentenced to death. No, no, please no haters or arguments for and against, I can see both sides so just let me finish… in general we were taught no “eye for an eye” and all that. The way some of these countries choose to punish people is so First Testament and being a “feeler” as opposed to a “thinker” I don’t like it.  Particularly if a heinous crime has been committed, like my 14 year-old son said, “don’t we want want to make them suffer through their life rather than ending it?” (He’d be perfect too if he wasn’t a teenage boy).

Anyway, don’t be yelling at me via your screen or device—this is a light-hearted blog it’s not a conversation—or debate—starter, it’s actually a segue.

Consequences and behaviour

I’ve talked a few times now about the kids’ school here in LA and how I mourn the Australian approach to teaching. Here in America (Hollywoodland) they refer many aspects of our education style and system as “Harry Potter style”. (If we’re going to talk condescending maybe we could take a look at that …?).

I mentioned last week about the uniforms and because the administration didn’t believe their role was to police the rules they changed the uniforms.

Well now it seems there’s a bit of good-old-fashioned cheating going on. So you think that would be nipped in the butt before it becomes an issue don’t you? Apparently once again “being strict police officers creates an environment opposite of what we want to create”. Oops. There go those brakes again, screeching to a halt.

Say what? I am picturing the looks on the faces of the headmaster at my son’s school and the principal at my daughter’s school wondering how long it will take for them to burst into fits of laughter.  Or at least die of shock.

Like parents, teachers are not in a popularity contest (did I say contest instead of competition?). Cut if off at the pass, take the bull by its horns, nip it in the butt, there are so many clichés to say stop it before it becomes an issue. How do you stop it? Consequences people consequences. You lay down the rules, you get caught you face the consequences. Can no one else see that?

Many of us back home (in Australia) are in awe of a Kiwi lady named Celia Lashle. She worked in prisons for many years and decided to look into how these men got to where they were. I highly recommend her books (especially if you’ve got boys at home and want/need to understand them better).  You can find them here on Amazon.

Basically one of the things she says is that boys—which we can expand to be we as a community wherever we may be—need to have clear boundaries set and we need to be aware of the consequences if we break the rules or veer outside (or push) those boundaries.

It’s a bloody hard lesson (no harder than those poor boys who faced the firing squad) but if we don’t start by showing our kids what consequences mean then you want to hope it’s not too late by the time they do actually have to learn.

In other words we’re not doing anyone any favours by not showing consequences for poor choices at school because by the time they get to the real world—and they think they don’t need to follow the rules because they can get away with it—those consequences might just be a hell of a lot more than detention. (And if the Breakfast Club is anything to go by detention can be quite fun).

And before you go reading more into what I’ve said I did not mean those two Australian boys deserved what they got, I’ve moved on from there–it was a segue remember?  That’s not a consequence that is strictly black or white, there are more than 50 shades of grey in that one.

I don’t know when exactly I grew up (or how I got so bloody perfect) but life’s not meant to be easy. The sooner we teach our kids that the better equipped they’ll be to deal with it. Otherwise, what does Edward Rooney say?, “I weep for the future.”

Bring me school according to Harry Potter anyday. (I guess I better watch those movies so I know what they’re talking about. Yes, yes, yes, I haven’t seen any of them. No, I haven’t read the books either. Don’t bully me or talk about me behind my back. I haven’t seen any of the Lord of the Rings or the Hunger Games either while we’re at it.  Yes my husband is in entertainment, whatever, move on.)

When I went to school—and every other school the kids have been to—you’re scared to get hauled into the principal’s office. You know you’re in big trouble. But guess what? You usually respected that principal and you knew unless you wanted to get in trouble you stay within the boundaries.  That’s all I’m saying.  Boundaries are actually a comfort zone & policing those boundaries is a community service.

Back out for more celeb watching, this grown up thinking and parenting stuff (and being perfect) is exhausting.

xx It Started in LA xx

IWD
My LA story, Posts, Soapbox

Make it Happen–the new Just Do It

I don’t know why but for me there always seem to be more opportunities open to me as an Expat then as a local in my own country. It could have a lot to do with comfort zone or it could possibly be the opportunity to “put yourself out there” when you’re in a foreign land but I love the opportunity presented to me nonetheless.

International Women’s Day

Today I was fortunate enough to spend the afternoon in the back garden at the Australian Consulate at an International Women’s Day event. Our Consulate General, Karen Lanyon is fantastic: she’s as down-to-earth as they get, she’s a go-getter and an inspiration. And she opens her house up to host events like today that’s like being at your best friend’s place which makes me proud to be Australian because it’s so damned Australian.

I hate going to events on my own. As out there as I am I’m incredibly shy at walking up to a group of people, talking and introducing myself. It’s my idea of a nightmare. Yet, I’ll happily talk in front of hundreds of people without batting an eye.

It’s not everyday I do something for myself so I forced myself out of my comfort zone and was rewarded for it. (For the record I was still pretty bad & didn’t ACTUALLY walk up to a single group of people and introduce myself but I did meet a couple of lovely people).

A panel of successful women bared themselves to us about their success and how they overcame various collective adversities and called out milestones that reflect how they got where they are today. I love hearing about others’ successes especially in the face of adversity.

When I go to things like this I get really jealous that I quit the corporate world and wonder if I could have been a Chief Marketing Officer for a large multinational as was my career goal before I had kids.

There were some great highlights and inspiring things said but one thing bothered me.

One woman said she was forced to put herself out there because she learnt her husband (& father of her children) whom she adored and loved dearly was cheating on her. This caused a marriage to dissolve and clearly she needed to stand on her own two feet to achieve her own success rather than rely on the partnership. Good for her, Amen to that sister. Nods, smiles, tears, claps.

Definition of success

But then when asked how she juggles her life she said it’s about “resource allocation” in her personal life the same way she allocates resources in her corporate life. Yep, makes sense, we can’t do everything it takes a team. But then this … “so I don’t cook most nights and I don’t take the kids to soccer training every Saturday or during the week.

Wait. Stop. What? On Saturday you pay a driver to take your kids to their games? Oh, right. That’s why I haven’t been able to let myself lose in the Corporate world because I want to take my kids to their swim meets and tennis matches or water polo training and sit and watch and enjoy them. I don’t want someone to do that for me.

She’s successful to her, but that’s not a success I want for me. And that’s OK. I admire her for what she’s achieved, I’m envious, good for you sister.

She might not have had much choice but to me that’s exactly what I don’t want to outsource. Cooking every night, sure; cleaning, definitely but going to watch my son swim or my daughter play tennis–no bloody way.

When I had my now 14-year-old son I started back at work almost straight away in the old agency I worked for.  He was such a good baby I’d go in (timed when he was sleeping) do a few hours work then leave again. A few times (thanks to my gorgeous neighbour at the time time) I even managed to go in and do half-day media training sessions. It was fantastic.

My boss came in on one of these occasions and said, “You know things are working so well with you coming back into work why don’t you come back early.”

I said absolutely. I’m loving being able to bring my baby in he’s so good, he can sleep and I can work it’s great.

“Oh no. That’s not what I meant,” he said. “I meant you’re probably ready to leave him at home again and start working.”

He totally missed the point. The point was I was happy working but I was happy being a mum and I worked out pretty quickly that I could do both and not have to leave him in daycare.  That’s when I made my decision to quit work and start my own Agency.

Traditional work environments

I learnt pretty quickly that I wasn’t looking for a traditional work environment, I wanted to create my own rules.

I found a client who was happy for me to bring my baby into meetings while he slept and we worked. I found a client who was happy for me to work at home at times that suited me yet delivering on needs they had at the time.

Times changed and when they were school age I thought it would be easier to go back to work. Then I found I still needed to keep unconventional hours, in fact even more so. I quit that job eight months later.

I found a client not long later who (in her words) snapped me up. She was more than happy to work around school hours. Twice a week I’d go into the office after school drop off and leave just before school pick up. As and when needed I would work longer hours but generally I could fit more work into more days just keeping school hours.

To me that’s my success.

Inspirations

One of my close girlfriends I met here in LA is my inspiration. With her husband she runs a highly successful Australian-created international company. She helped spearhead this company into the success it is.

The reason she’s my inspiration is not just because she’s clever and believed in herself and her husband to create an amazing brand but she did it raising four beautiful girls. To me she epitomises work-life balance. She drops the girls at school and picks them up. She works early in the morning, late at night and when they’re at school. There are, of course, occasions where she doesn’t always pick them up or drop them off and she has had the help of nannies over the years and housekeepers so she can cook most nights. But she didn’t want her role as a corporate business woman to interfere with her role as a mum and a wife.

When I first met her my first reaction was oh damn, she’s so nice I could be her friend but she’s too busy. But she took the time to have lunch or breakfast with me, she’d book us in to have dinner with the girls. She took me under her wing and gave me Doctors details and we went to great places to eat and invited me to events around town.

To me, that’s a true sign of success—outsourcing things that help you be a better person, a more productive business woman but without sacrificing being a great mum. Oh, and also being a great friend.

Make It Happen

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is Make It Happen. I couldn’t agree more. But I think we should make it happen for ourselves, for what we want to achieve for how we want to achieve it.

While that woman who got up from her bed and wiped the tears away from her eyes and “made it happen” is someone to be admired I also think the woman who moves countries with her family and sets up a new home and social network for her family is successful, or the woman who sacrifices her career to support her kids and family is successful.

I think we need to put people up on a pedestal who are successful in non-traditional ways.

And to that I salute you all my friends who are happy in themselves and successful in their lives in the way they choose to judge success. When we sisters can put that non-traditionally successful woman up on a panel and learn and admire why they are successful to them and those around them then I think we have truly come a long way.

Meanwhile let’s raise a toast sisters. Cheers!

Xx It Started in LA xx

 

Cultures
Posts, Soapbox

Can we laugh at ourselves? I mean really laugh at ourselves?

Can we laugh at ourselves, meaning Australians , British, American, South Africans, Chinese whatever race you are?  Can we take it when another race has a go at us?  (Hopefully it’s a go at us in jest rather than in spite I hasten to add).

I ask this question because yesterday I was entertained by one of the Bloggers I follow posting an article on her Facebook page, “20 weird things that Americans don’t realise make them weird.”

I thought it was funny, she clearly thought it was funny or she wouldn’t have shared it.  But the responses she got shocked me.  I’m sure she wasn’t expecting that otherwise she may not have posted it.

Before we turn this into a “see that’s why I don’t like Facebook” bitchfest let’s move on from that for the sake of the story.  I happen to love Facebook.  For me it does more good than bad.

You see, lots of people hopped on and got really defensive.  They put their hands on their heart and stood up for themselves.  I’m wondering if it was just me who laughed it off or whether others could laugh it off as well.

By blogging about this I sincerely hope I don’t offend my American friends because that’s definitely not my aim.  I didn’t even share it on Facebook after seeing the barrage of comments and discussion it incited on her page.

Comments like “weird to whom?” “Everyone’s definition of weird is different.”  Of COURSE it is.  That’s the whole point.  Weird is something that goes both ways.  America’s love for canned cheese is weird to us Aussies (& Brits) and most likely our LACK of canned cheese is weird to them.  Newsflash: weird isn’t actually all that bad, it could be a good thing.

Then a person really went on the defense saying “Ah, do the damn math(s) in your head,” (in response to #3 why doesn’t the price on items here include  tax–why isn’t it the final price).  “If you’re living in that state you should know what your sales tax is,” she went on to say.  Isn’t that the point?  Why SHOULD we do the math in our head?  We’re not going to pay that price, they’re going to collect the TOTAL so why not list the full price?  It IS weird.  To us.  Because we’re not used to it (and neither should we get used to it).  We’ve seen it done our way and seen it done their way and we’re happy to give our brains a rest!  And do it our way.

America is a smart country; a) they get lots of tourists who don’t necessarily know you add tax or the tax rate for that state (or which state they’re in from one day to the next) and b) you can see other countries put the price including tax wouldn’t someone wake up and go, “World’s Best Practice, that’s so much easier, let’s change the way we do things.”  Change the bloody way you price things!

I digress again because that’s not the reason I decided to Blog about it either.

No, the reason I decided to Blog about it is because I read this story (which I’d been avoiding clicking into for days) about a CNN report taking the piss out of the New Zealand welcome for William, Kate & George (to me, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to you) on their recent royal tour.

I think we as Australians can laugh at ourselves–we’re a small country who does pretty well at sport, we’ve got some really talented actors and creative guys in Hollywood, not too bad at business and we have a LOT of bogans.  Our most successful comedy shows are those where we take the piss out of typical Australians (bogans or not).

But watching that CNN story made me cringe.  I’m not even from New Zealand and by the way Australians (as a rule) aren’t even supposed to like New Zealanders and this still made me cringe.

So what’s the difference between the San Francisco Globe article and the CNN story?  I think it’s that the CNN story seemed so condescending and ill-informed.

The journalist issued a half-assed apology which said we all got it wrong because she “does humour and satire and maybe we just didn’t get it”.  But I’m not sure it was the right approach.  Save it for Letterman sweetie, or the Comedy Factory.

OK, step back a minute, it’s not many people that greet the future King & Queen of England showing his (mighty taut) bum.  Lucky him.  Lucky Kate.  But, let’s face it that wasn’t why he was showing her his ass.

I wrote a piece last week about racism in America.  My daughter chuckles at school about how everyone seems quick to say, “racist much”.  They’re so aware of saying the right thing.  So why poke fun of the New Zealand culture and heritage.  Racist much.

I wonder if the shoe was on the other foot if a New Zealand journo poked fun at an “Native American” custom what reaction that would get.  CNN might get the experts in for that one (and hopefully give a rest to the “breaking news” coverage of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight.  Meow).

I don’t agree with everything in the Mamamia story either, I think in their own country Americans ARE culturally sensitive (as I wrote about last week maybe too much).  BUT did we have a right to get defensive about the CNN story but not the San Francisco Globe story?

I’d like to quote the last two paras of the article because it sums it up nicely:

“Just because an event is different from what you are used to or outside your prism of experience, doesn’t mean it is something to be laughed at. And when you’re a national broadcaster, you have a duty to help inform and educate your viewers; to help them understand the context of the news they are watching.

“CNN’s coverage was an insult to those who gave up their time to so generously welcome the royal couple to New Zealand. And it was also insulting to the intelligence of their American viewers; who deserved more from that news report than an appeal to base ignorance.”

Ah controversy.  Gotta love it!  Let me know your thoughts, I’m very interested!

xx It Started in LA xx

photo source: news.nationalpost.com

We're all American
Posts, Soapbox

Welsh Filipina Australian American

Labelling.  I despise it.  Unless a doctor needs it for genetic or medical reasons, quit labelling me.  I never know how to tick those boxes. Would I be known as a Welsh Filipina Australian American?  That’s of course assuming I was lucky enough to be naturalised a citizen of the US of A.

We’ve all heard it before on TV–the reference to Native Americans, African Americans or Asian Americans (or another derivative thereof).

Is it supposed to be a Clayton’s label?  (Timeout: Clayton’s was a drink in the 70’s or early 80’s advertised by Jack Thompson as the drink you have when you’re not having a drink).  Actually it seems like the opposite to me.  They don’t want to label you but they’re going to label you.  Perhaps they were thinking if they put “American” in front of the label then no one will notice there’s another word there so you still get a label.

Am I missing something here?  To me the concept sounds a little …. well …. er …. racist.  Aren’t we singling “them” out?  And by them I mean the people with another label next to the label American?  Doesn’t that scream, “You’re not American American you’re something else American”.

“When do I qualify to be American sir?”

Is it the same as having Diversity day at school yet “showcasing” all things Asian.  Look, we’ve got Asians at school and we’re being “nice” to them and letting them in.  (Gasp: did I just say Asian?  I chose Asian of course because there’s Asian blood in my veins so technically I can’t be accused of being racist.)

In Australia (where multiculturalism is widespread) we’re all Australians.  No one is Native Australian or Asian Australian or Greek Australian or Lebanese Australian or Italian Australian.  That’s the whole point.  Isn’t it?  That’s why we chose to move to another country to be welcomed (just don’t mention the boats) and treated as one nationality regardless of our heritage.

In fact, I find it hard to answer survey questions or forms where it calls for my ethnicity because I’m required to choose between Caucasian, African American, Asian, Native or something else.  Last time I looked I was none of those.  And as we move through modern times aren’t I becoming the norm rather than the exception (although I do like to think of myself as pretty special I must admit).  So how does a girl who grew up in Australia, was born in the Philippines to a Welsh dad & a Filipina mother and married an Australian boy answer that question?  Thank god for the refuse to answer box.

Actually, the Social Security form asks for Race with the available answers being: Native Hawaiian, Alaska Native, Asian, American Indian, Black/African , American, Other Pacific Islander, White. Aren’t Hawaii and Alaska part of the United States of America? Doesn’t that make them American too? Why do they get their own box?  If you’re a Hawaiian or an Alaskan Native how do you answer that question?  And what if you’re not white but tanned?  That there my friends might just be what’s known as a trick question.

In International Schools multiculturalism–or perhaps the broader term “diversity”–is dealt with so beautifully we showcase all cultures rather than singling one out.  That’s becoming the trend in Australia now too: to celebrate the food, culture and customs from all the nationalities in our community.  At the same time.

I’m not really sure if in practice diversity or multiculturalism is better or worse here and how minorities are actually treated as I haven’t been close enough to see it first hand.  Perhaps I can keep observing to see how that one plays out and report back.

I actually suspect that maybe, just maybe, the Americans are slightly better at embracing all as one.  If that’s the case then can we please all be Americans?  Or ‘Mericans.  If nothing but to make it easier for people like me.

God Bless ‘Merica.

xx It Started in LA xx

Tabloids
Posts, Soapbox

Public property: why do we think celebrities’ business is our business?

Update with cause of death: May 5, 2014

We’ve all been shocked by the news of yet another celebrity deaths.  Today’s news is sad because at 25 Peaches Geldof was not only young but she leaves behind two very, very young boys.

Like all my news these days I found out courtesy of a friend on Facebook.  With that I jumped onto Twitter and tried to find out what on earth happened to a woman with so much going for her.  You’re right.  I don’t know her from a bar of soap.  Neither does she live here in LA so I don’t anyone who knows her or knows of her.  But as a mother of two very young boys (11 months & 2) she has at least two things going for her in her life.

It was only a matter of weeks ago designer L’Wren Scott took her life while long-time partner Mick Jagger was about to start a Rolling Stones concert tour in Perth.  And of course Philip Seymour Hoffman not long before that dying of a drug overdose (ironically a heroin overdose like Paula Yates–Peaches’ mum when she was only 11).  And, back home in Australia Charlotte Dawson succeeded in taking her own life after a failed attempt a year or so earlier.

I can’t help but think what’s going on?  It’s 2014.  We have amazing organisations like Lifeline, Beyond Blue and R U OK Day, we’ve seen many high-profile people suffer so you’d hope that it all wouldn’t be in vain–that we can learn from their mistakes and work through a way to live through life rather than end it.

Don’t get me wrong, I can empathise.  But I can’t begin to understand how horrible it would be to live with depression or to be bipolar.  I don’t think logic comes into play when you ask questions about state of mind which makes mental illness all the more sad.  What you hope for, though, is that people who need help have a close and supportive network of family, friends or professionals who they know are there for them.  How do you recognise the signs that on any given day, hour or minute they might need you to sit with them and do whatever you need to do for them to recognise that life isn’t as bad as they think, that life is worth living.

We don’t know what happened to Peaches.  The police have referred to her death as “unexplained and sudden.”  Whatever that means.  And not that we really need to know what that means.  Not that we have any right to understand or know what that means.

Public property

Since arriving here in LA I’ve stopped talking, asking and judging celebrities’ lives.  What makes us think we have any right to know all about what celebrities ate for breakfast, who they slept with, whether they take drugs or where they shop and what they bought at said supermarket?

Before I moved to LA I had a (rather strong) opinion about Michael Jackson.  I would give my two cents’ worth to anyone who’ll listen.  And of course I was right.  Then I found out my kids were going to be at school with his kids and at the same time Paris made a failed suicide attempt and I stopped sprouting my opinion.  All of a sudden it was too close to home–I was sprouting an opinion about someone within a couple of degrees separation of me, he was a person like all of us and it’s not my place to judge (nor do I have any foundation for an opinion).

And so it seems the public thought it had a right to know what Peaches got up to as she was growing up.  This Fox LA piece sums it up very well stating, “Peaches Geldof struggled with a turbulent social life, highlighted at every turn by a British press eager for celebrity news.”

How can anyone expect to be normal when everything you do–no matter how normal–is documented in the press?  Thank god my teenage years and early 20s (ok life until now!) hasn’t been documented in gossip magazines around the world.

One day my son came home and told me a group of his friends were bored in class and were Googling their friend (who has a famous father) with his friend there.  There were dozens and dozens of pictures of him doing normal things–shopping, walking the dog, in the car, even getting frozen yoghurt one afternoon.  His friend was recalling some of the occasions and how he felt about them.

Newsflash: he had feelings about what was happening to him.

He’s just a normal kid whose dad happens to be a successful and rather famous actor.   (And this is a dad who typically stays out of the spotlight.)  Poor kid.

So can we learn anything from this?  WILL we learn anything from this?  Probably not.  I hope though that I can offer you a different side of looking at things–a view from a normal person who until five seconds ago thought the same as you.  In some perverted hole-in-the-sand mentality we think celebrities and their worlds are open slather.  Of course we do, there are magazines, newspapers, bloggers, tweeters, instafans everything to fuel our thirst for news.  Even yours truly has been on Twitter all day trying to find out more breaking news about poor Peaches Geldof.

They might look all confident and gorgeous and successful and rich but they are still vulnerable and have feelings.  They may have wanted to be famous (or at least carve a successful career for themselves) but they didn’t ask for the rest of it.  Neither did their kids.  Especially their kids.

(And if you’re talking back to me now giving me examples of people that might love the spotlight and attention you’re missing the point).

Yes, as I said in a post not so long ago, celebrities fart too.  Just let them fart in peace.

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.  And if you can’t say what you’re saying about someone to their face (and I don’t mean hiding behind a Twitter account) then don’t say it either.

xx It Started in LA xx

PS  Tragically the PS is the final results of the toxicology reports confirming Peaches almost certainly died from a heroin overdose.  How sad.  There are lots of people who’ve gone into overdrive stating the obvious: what about her kids now, what hope do they have.  The sad thing is that many of these people (I imagine) are those that followed her antics as she was growing up or those who buy into tabloid gossip stories.  I’m not perfect but as I’ve said since I’ve come here I’ve learnt that just because they’re celebrities it doesn’t mean they put themselves up to be judged.  We’re such tall poppies we’re pretty quick to judge.

We have no idea how it feels to live in their (real) worlds so back off.  It’s time we stopped making judgements based on the lives we lead.  It’s bad enough being scrutinised by friends and family imagine being scrutinised by the media and the whole world who think they’d do better in their shoes.  There’s enough crazy stuff going on without us focussing on running our own races, staying positive and quit judging or bitching about others.

BBC Story updating Peaches’ cause of death.

 

Furla handbags
Posts, Soapbox

Six months in: the darker side

I posted on my personal Facebook page last night that I’m feeling quite homesick.  No one could more shocked about this news than me.  It was here on this very blog that I shared my delight at reaching the six-month mark in LA with friends, fun and great experiences under our belts.  We were–are–living in the surreal world that is Beverly Hills/Hollywood and we live to tell the tale.

Only earlier that day we were having lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe in the Beverly Hills Hotel where I missed seeing Harry Styles by a matter of minutes.  (We were already seated waiting for our friend who saw him leaving as he was coming in.  He even snapped a pic for his 11-year-old daughter.)

So why so glum?  I’m not really sure.  I miss my friends mainly.  It’s great to make new friends but it’s the good friends you leave behind that you are sad about–especially when they’re not here to share “the dream” with you.

Truth be told I think the whole “money” thing is wearing thin too.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re very comfortable and we’ve done well, we have a great little life in our corner of the world, we always try to make the most of every situation we’re put in and I don’t like to whinge about first-world (especially BH) problems.

So why’s the money thing getting me down? I think it’s because it’s hard to fight.  Just because our family doesn’t believe in designer handbags until our kids are at least 18 doesn’t mean everyone else shares our philosophy.  And not to say everyone needs to share our philosophy.  I value very much the concept that everyone is different because it makes the world go around and makes for a much more interesting place to be.  But seriously why do kids under 18 (or even 25 for that matter) have to have designer hand bags?  Will it make the world a better place and more importantly will it make the kids better people?

I say this also because my daughter and I were out shopping last weekend for a new dress for her to wear to a birthday party and to dinner when we go to Vegas next week.  She desperately needed some shoes and I said if we find a cute bag for a reasonable price I’d buy her one.  We got some cute shoes but no go on the bag.  It wasn’t a biggie because she’s only into bags sometimes and she knew she’d had enough bought for her that day and (for once!) was satisfied with her purchases.

So why am I going on about handbags?  Well because as we walked through the designer handbag section on our way to shoes at Bloomingdale’s we were looking at the new Furla handbags.  They were so cute and, with 30% off, this sweet little blue bag had Miss 11’s name on it.  We both looked at it longingly.  She wanted it.  I wanted her to have it.  But it was not going to happen and we both knew it.  I was cross with myself for considering its purchase and pleased with her at the same time for knowing she couldn’t even ask for it.  We mourned the bag’s departure never to come home with us.  We were doing what mothers and daughters should do: bond over a designer handbag.

But that’s where it ended.  Not in Beverly Hills it seems where my daughter can count on more than one hand girls she knows with designer hand bags.  Some her age, others older but none of them are over 18, or over 25.  I’m not here to judge.  Nor do I have a right to judge.  I suppose when you grow up with it you think nothing of it.

But as a family still “fresh off the boat” from Australia who comes from a(nother) corner of the world where girls don’t have designer handbags I feel sad.  I feel sad that I think my Miss 11 should wait until she has a designer handbag.  I feel sad that girls around her don’t have to wait.  And I feel sad for the girls around her because I wonder what they are going to want for their 18th birthday or 21st birthday (remembering they’ll most likely get cars for their 16th birthday).  And I feel sad because I actually contemplated buying her the handbag.  That’s not us; that’s not what we do.

They say you are influenced by nature AND nurture and there is no conclusive evidence that one outweighs the other.  One of our mottos before we came over was not to change and not to take life too seriously when we got here; to stay true to ourselves.  Easier said than done.  But we must stay true to ourselves because people will like us for who we are not what we have.  We have a lot to offer and I hope that’s what people are seeing and not the absence of a designer handbag, shoes or clothes.

Only in LA.  Watch this space …

xx It Started In LA xx

Style notes: If you’re not like me and wish to buy your Miss 11 a Furla handbag here’s the link (or of course you might like one for yourself):  Furla Candy Bag.

I’m pretty sure Bloomingdale’s ships worldwide.

Housekeepers
My LA story, Posts, Soapbox

To get a housekeeper … or not?

I’m living in Beverly Hills surrounded by people with full-time housekeepers.  When we left Australia I had a cleaner come each week.  I was under the impression it was cheaper in the US so perhaps I’d get myself someone to come twice a week and perhaps (if she was Mexican) she could cook for us once a week and I’d learn a few new recipes.

I sent out some messages saying I’m looking for a cleaner (housekeeper as they’re known here).

The first call I got from a prospective “housekeeper”  didn’t show up.  I gather we were too far away.  The second couple of mates showed up unannounced one day and I thought it was a sign that this would be it.

They said they needed four hours for the two of them to clean my house from top to bottom (and of course they’d do a fabulous job).  Longer if I wanted them to iron.  My house isn’t that big.  It’s about the same size as (actually a bit smaller if anything) than my house in Australia and my cleaner did my whole house by herself in four hours.  And let me tell you she wasn’t the fastest mover.

I think the 90210 postcode automatically jacks up the price.  I explained that it was cheaper in Australia and they discounted their services by $10.  They would not iron saving me more money.  Could it really take these two ladies four hours a week to do what my one cleaner did in the same time?  I don’t think so.

So I got to thinking I may as well pocket that money and get my hair done once a week or lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel sitting by the pool rather than give them my money they were trying to fleece from me.  Memories of my time in Shanghai came flooding back when you were constantly wondering if that was the going rate or the expat rate.  It was decided, no housekeeper for me.

At around the same time I decided I’d start this blog.  It’s now my full-time job (albeit generating zero income–blatant plug sponsors wanted) so the housework is a bloody hassle to fit in.

Enter my family.  I know he was winding me up (which is not that hard most of the time) but my husband has this little bee in his bonnet that just because he’s Mr Hollywood and I don’t have a job that my job should be to perform the housecleaning duties.  You can imagine how elated he was when I decided against hiring the cleaners.  I’m sure he’d even prefer it if I donned a uniform so I knew my place was to clean the house daily and wash, cook and iron.  Ahhh moving to BH and relegated as the housekeeper, how all my dreams have finally come true.

I mentioned we lived in Shanghai.  That was a few years ago.  Ironically before we even moved there he had secured a live-in ayi (maid) to work six days a week.  It was the done thing and he saw no issue with that at the time.

Still on the family (not surprisingly) our house had never been cleaner or tidier.  Everyone would make their beds (because they didn’t want ayi to do it); clothes would be put away (same reason) and if toilets were “soiled” they’d quickly be cleaned.  OK, except my daughter.  She left a trail of destruction everywhere she went and still does.

Fast forward to 2014 in 90210 and I’m living with three sloths who absolutely don’t do any of the above.  How ironic they’re cleaner with a full-time live-in helper than with me as the full-time “help”.

Take this recent exchange between Mr H & me:

Mr H: “I see my dinner suit pants are still on the chair.  I’ve been waiting to see how long it would take you to put those away.”

Me: “Oh, really.  How funny.  I’ve been waiting to see how long it would take YOU to put them away.  Last time I looked I wasn’t an ayi.”

Mr H: “But it’s your job.”

Me: “Oh is it really?  I’ve moved to Beverly Hills to become a cleaner.  Lucky me.  I am moving up in the world.”

… and so the conversation went.

Maybe I need to rethink my logic and hire a full-time housekeeper if nothing but to teach everyone how to clean up after themselves again.

xx It Started in LA xx

Psst … if you would like to sponsor my full-time housekeeper I’m open to a deal.  Anything to avoid me donning the chamber-maid outfit.

Travel
Posts, Soapbox

A small world with incredible opportunities

I got a call from a really good friend of ours to tell me that he & his family are moving to London for 2-3 years.  Evidently his recent visit over here with us inspired him to take on an adventure of his own.

This got me thinking about our life and what we’re up to.  One of the things I’m afraid of by being here in LA as the kids get older is their desire to stay–as we get older and want to go home they get older and want to stay.  Heaven forbid they’ll want to buy a house here and settle down.  Especially with access to Hollywood they could be “stuck” here if they choose to be in the Entertainment Industry for example.  I know, how lucky they are to be here and have access to contacts they would never dream of living in Australia (much like we never did!).  Also choosing to work in the industry as an option makes them extremely lucky.

But there’s that element of “control” to take the family back as one cohesive unit so we stay together.  My kids and I missed not having my family around as they chose to go back to Wales and I chose to stay in Australia (and Shanghai & LA as it turns out).  I want to be close to my family and babysit my grandchildren (… just had to pause as I said something like that out loud so soon in my life) when the time comes.

Back to my friend.  He has grown up in the same Australian city: gone to school, married, worked and started a family there.  He recently also bought a beach house so his roots were firmly entrenched where he was.

Success–and an adventurous spirit–can move you to a different part of the globe regardless of whether you’ve moved as family through various expat assignments or stayed in the one spot your entire life.  Perhaps I need to focus on what’s best for us all in the moment rather than plan ahead to something that may or may not happen.

And should it be that my kids get the opportunity to move and travel for work then I should actually be the one person who is happiest for them because I know how rich their life will be as a result.  Of all people I should recognise how lucky they are to be gifted the opportunity–and how lucky they are to share that experience with their kids.

xx It Started in LA xx

(Who knows where it will end but what a ride.)

RKOBH
Posts, Soapbox

Parties 90210 style

I started watching “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” the other day.  Seriously?  I don’t know what to think.  Apart from being hooked I don’t why on earth these kids would subject themselves to “starring” in this show.  I’m sure they think they’re so much better than everyone else and that people want to be them.  (No one is denying they’d like just a little bit of their money).  It’s really sad.  For me it always comes back to, “what do their parents think?”  Are they so far removed from the real world that they think the same way (after all the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?).

So it got me thinking about my kids growing up in Beverly Hills. Thankfully, we’re not in the flats so our worlds are vastly different and (it feels like) the only real thing we share is a postcode.  Having said that the kids have friends that live there and they seem normal too.

I’ve mentioned that my kids go to an exclusive private school and there are a large number of uber wealthy families there.  The school is a lovely nurturing community that has welcomed us with open arms, both as a family and for the kids.  Not for one minute does this warm welcome feel put on in any way either.  So, to me my reality doesn’t fit with the premise of the Show.

In the episode I watched they were planning a party (one that hardly anyone attended I might add!).  When planning their list they named people from outside their clique “groupers” (pronounced by them groopers–as in “groupies”) yet they were planning to invite them.  I guess they need the groupers as much as the groupers need them? (Groupers are bottom feeders in fish terms lowest on the list, when translated to #RKOBH speak means those who want to get invited to the “cool” parties .  I thought things like that finished in high school, no wonder these girls don’t have jobs.

Recently my son went to a birthday party at the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  It was on Saturday night and the hosts had cordoned off an area for the party guests.

It was a pretty swank affair for Year 8 kids (same in Australia; Yr 9 in UK)–actually it’d be a pretty swank affair for me I have to say.

The party gave everyone lots to talk about and the girls had to decide what to wear: to get really dressed up or play it down a little and just look “nice”.  The party girl wore a designer frock and from all accounts the girls went all out to look glam.  I would’ve loved to have hosted that Red Carpet event for this blog now I think of it.

Luckily for my son “what to wear” wasn’t a big deal for him.  The big deal for us what what on earth do you buy a girl who has everything?  We decided on Pink (by Victoria’s Secret) Body lotion & matching scent plus threw in a packet of Tim Tams with instructions on how to eat them.

Maybe they’re a bit young but I’m sure none of the people at that party were thinking of whether they were an “it” crowd or “groupers” or whether their friends are uber wealthy, slightly wealthy or just rich (or heaven forbid normal!).  Sure, there’s some jockeying of positions and the size of people’s houses get talked about and where they holiday in the summer but I hope these kids don’t make it to future series of “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills”.

Maybe I’m already localised but I’m hoping these kids ham it up for the cameras.  I’m sure they do.  It’s just like none of my friends are anything like the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills”.  I think they’re more like Brandon & Brenda, Dylan, Kelly, Donna & Steve.

xx It Started in LA xx

Postscript: I saved this article to draft and went to lunch at my favourite Cabana Cafe at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  Who should walk in but the two “stars” Morgan & Dorothy.  Get out of town.  Too funny.  Only in LA!

Posts, Soapbox

Allowances: do we or don’t we & how much?

Every year around the beginning of the year we go through a similar scenario–rather scenarios, plural.  It’s the start of a brand new year and you have the best intentions to improve yourself.  Make a fresh start.  The kids are another year older and it’s time for them to “step up”.

One of the topics for discussion in my house this year revolves around an allowance.  I’ve played with both sides of the argument and have changed my stance several times.  This year we’re moving back towards the “allowance method”.

So what is an argument for and against?

In favour: it gives kids a budget and a sense of responsibility regarding how they’re going to spend their own money.  They earn money and that’s the money they have available to them to spend.  Then (of course) you don’t simply get money for nothing (earning suggests you’ve done something for that money) so there are jobs to be done in return.  This also means I’m not shelling out “mall money” or buying bits and pieces every week because there’s no “allowance pool”.

Against: kids live in your household and should help around the house, why pay them to help out?  (Frankly where I’m sitting now I can’t think of any other “againsts” but I’m sure you can help out on this one.

Clearly I’m in favour, thus adopting this approach this year.

How much is reasonable?

At the school my kids go to there are some uber wealthy families.  My son mentioned casually one day (before we started talking allowances in our family) that one of his soccer mates gets a weekly allowance of $750.  How did they arrive at that figure? I want to have been a fly on the wall the day they discussed that one.  Or didn’t they? Did the parents just go,

“Here son, it’s time we gave you an allowance. Will $750 cover your weekly expenses? Of course, we’re still going to send you to school, pay for your books & lunches but just in case there’s anything more you need we think $750 is reasonable.”

And what if they’re divorced and both of them go,

“Here son I think $750 per week is a fair allowance.”

Score.  (I don’t think that’s the case by the way).

I don’t even get $750 per week.  And I’d know how to spend it.  But actually if I was getting that–with everything else paid for–I’d be buying myself a house & using it for mortgage payments.  He’s probably not even saving up for a car like my kids will have to.

We’ve agreed on $10.  You get $1 taken off for each job you don’t do or if you failed to clean your room and there are credit dollars available for doing extra jobs.

And the situation in my house is we haven’t started yet.  I’ve drawn up parameters and they’re still on the computer waiting to be printed. 

My daughter (because she doesn’t want to do the jobs) has decided she “doesn’t want an allowance this week” like it’s optional.  That’ll be until she wants to hit the “Mall” on the weekend!

Stay tuned …

xx It Started in LA xx

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