Monday, December 18, 2006


I had written some eloquent words in my head in the last weeks here in England upon reflection of my time here. Now, with just a couple hours before I need to get my bags to Vicki's and meet a few friends for a last meal before I head off early tomorrow, I'm at a loss for words. I'm still questioning frequently why I am even leaving England, but then realize again why with the excitement of seeing my family and my Midwestern Urban family over the next few weeks. It's still surreal it's over and just two short years ago (give or take) I was getting on the wrong busses and struggling to understand the Black Country accent. Wait! I still do that!

Professionally I think I have grown a great deal and have had some challenging cases that I may not otherwise had the opportunity to work with in the States, because there is no way I would work for direct child protection services there. I found I was able to use a lot of my skills toward strengthsbased and solution focused practice, while still balancing an improved skill to be direct with people and challenge their actions when kids were at risk. I had two of the best managers I think that probably work in the area and therefore was lucky to be on one of the best teams in general. In addition, I was lucky enough to meet some people through work that became my closest friends in this country.

Personally I think I have grown a lot, as cliche as that sounds, and although there are a few personal experiences and relationships I wished would have played out differently, I am leaving a happier and more confident person than I was when I arrived. I have had the chance to see and do loads, although there was never enough time to do it all.

I'll miss everyone that I have met through my work, travels, and personal experiences. I'll remember even the strangers who only crossed my path for a few hours or days with fond memories. I'll miss waiting for my second bus these last weeks and staring up at at a castle (albeit a bit of a shabby one). I'll miss little chat breaks with the gals at work. I'll miss greasy egg sandwiches. I'll miss the guys at CAIU and how they always made me feel relaxed in awkward cases. I'll miss cheesey Brit pop and dance music. I'll miss Sarah Hughes Darke Ruby. I'll miss Bathams. I'll miss The Robin Hood when it was still Max's pub. I'll miss Cottage Street and the little water bowl in the corner. I'll miss being driven around in Minis. I'll miss being able to take weekend trips to Nottingham, Liverpool, London, and elsewhere. I'll miss pub quizzes. I'll miss our little house and Brooksie. I'll miss pints of guinness with Tom & Tom. I'll miss dinners at Rachael's house. I'll miss wine nights at Jackie and Martyn's. I'll miss parties with Lesley and her posse. I'll miss the Big Chill. I'll miss Bri's laugh. I miss Rusty. I'll miss dancing more than I think I ever did before (I suppose I'll have to continue that now). I'll miss really good currys. I'll miss the local chippy. I'll miss gray winters. I'll miss the Welsh seaside. I'll miss Camden. I'll miss old English gentlemen that chat away to me at the bus stop. I'll miss hearing people call each other Bab, or talk about the baby (pronounced bAby), or saying Tara a bit. I could go on forever, there is so much more I will miss.

But don't worry! I hope to be back to visit soon!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Farewell you Cheeky Monkeys

Today was my last day at work. I had gotten any casework left done Thursday so I was able to just hang about all day. We had a big lunch from the Chippy with everyone in the office and the Care Management and my team gave me an amazing collection of gifts. How am I going to pack all this stuff??? The highlight by far was a scrapbook put together with various reminders of events, our local sandwich shop and experiences, along with lots of lovely comments and farewell remarks. They even found a "cheeky monkey" to attach to it. I read the first page, which was the minutes from the first team meeting I ever attended and had to close it and save the rest to read alone at home. After saying goodbye to many people at work and having a lovely but emotional day, a few of us headed out for my last night out in Wolverhampton. Now, Wolvo is not the coolest place to go out and Cheeky Monkey's is definitely not the coolest bar or club I've ever been to, but it became iconic for the fun times we had there, often showing up at the end of the night and dancing our socks off. We started at the Little Civic, my favorite pub in Wolvo and Max and Marine also came out to wish me farewell. We got to Cheeky's I think earlier than I had ever been there before but the crowd of smarmy young men soon filled in the crowd . We danced our way away from them everytime they came near. It was a fun night, although I did cry when they played Like a Prayer (which I had asked the DJ to play about five times) because that's Nikki and I's "song."

Santa, his elves and a few of his reindeer even made an appearance at Cheeky Monkey's for my last Friday night in England.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random bus observation

Tonight I had to work late at the police station with an investigation, so I missed Becky's ride to Dudley and had to get two busses home. In my fatigue, I was baffled to see a guy get on the bus wearing a flourescent work vest and carrying a guitar with a few missing strings- in no case. It was raining outside. Just another random bus moment. . .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dudley Beer Fest

I met up with Louise and her boyfriend Chris for Beer Fest this year. There were a few others that were supposed to join and a few guys from the Police that I work with were supposed to meet me but everyone else seemed to drop out. I did meet up with Mike and his friends briefly. Oh well, more beer for me and Chris! Louise was on the cider- slowly but surely. I sampled many fine ales yet again this year and a good time was had by all.

Friday, November 24, 2006


This year we tried to do Thanksgiving a bit more simply. We made the traditional dishes without going overboard and had a fair amount of people but managed to squeeze everyone into the lounge to eat together, as Thanksgiving should be. It was a very nice night and I made sure I enjoyed the food, the white wine and the company, so I did not take many pics.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Top Four Bands to Listen to While Enduring Public Transport

Obviously with Rusty deceased and departed I am left with the joys of the West Midlands Public Transport system; and bumming rides every chance I get. My friends at work that live near me have been incredibly generous going out of their way to pick me up in the morning or get me at least to Dudley after work so I only have to get one bus home instead of two. Namely Becky and Jackie, so I thank you both!

I am quite fond of the train system in England, to be honest, and would happily be a train commuter all the time but in my need to get from Sedgley to Dudley each day it’s bus or nothing. There is an interesting culture on the bus. If I manage to catch the same bus each morning, there are the same people each day. Some arrive on the bus with smiles that know each other and have their morning chat. Then there are the kids on their way to school, playing their music too loud forcing me to put my head phones on to drone out the crap dance music. Although I'm my usual friendly self who smiles at random old people and children and more than happy to strike a conversation if one presents itself, I’m more often on the bus one of those that find a corner seat, that’s hopefully not too dirty or smelly (although that can be hard to avoid) and hide out with my book and/or music. That is the one strength of public transportation (Of course, besides the whole helping the environment stuff)- being able to read loads and listen to the music I want to listen to, and not being stuck with what’s on the radio like I was with Rusty.

So this leads me to my top four bands (this week) to listen to on the bus:

1. Aereogramme

2. Peeping Tom

3. Broken Social Scene

4. Devotchka

Although, I would like to relay a caveat about Devotchka. This morning they almost made me cry in public on the bus with ‘How it Ends.’ But as I came home tonight, they provided some retribution with the drum beats of ‘The Oblivion’ in synchronization with the beats of my heart, followed by the energy of Eastern European rhythms in ‘Death By Blonde,’ parading into the romantic swooning of Queen of the Surface Street, leaving me to think some boy might feel like that about me one of these days and leading me right into Sedgley High Street. Thank you Bus Driver for getting me home safe! Now where’s that Friday bottle of Pinot? The week is gone; it’s time to crack it open!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Good news as I prepare to come home!

Those that speak to me often know I've struggled the last three months or so about what the heck I am doing with myself and whether I want to stay in the UK or return home. I am so happy here and in some ways happier than I have been anywhere else, but the bouts of homesickness always make me realize that as strong as my need to branch out is, my need to be close to the most significant people in my life is stronger. It only is resounded by times when I want to speak to my mamasita but can't because it's 3am there.

It's definitely official, there's no changing my mind now and I am coming home. I'm ready to get back and find somewhere I can build some roots for myself, wherever that may be. As excited as I am to come back and see everyone, I am left struggling with the emotions of leaving England and the people I have come to love so much here (and sometimes even the job, believe it or not). It's made me a bit moody of late but now I am to the stage of being intent on ensuring nothing but pure enjoyment for the next six weeks until I go.

And now, I have enjoyed the good news today of changes in our government that may mean positive changes overall for the state of the country. Nancy Pelosi becoming the first woman ever to serve as the speaker of the House of Representatives; Bernie Sanders becoming the first socialist in the US Senate for Vermont; Deval Patrick becoming the second black governor (of Massachusetts) in US History; and Keith Ellison becoming the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives (for Minnesota). The icing on the cake is of course the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld (although I don't know much about this new fella). Now, just two more years of Bush and hopefully U.S. citizens will choose wisely and get someone with a hell of a lot more integrity and honest values in place of the idiot they've allowed to run our country for way too long.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bonfire Night

Another Bonfire Night at Himley. I just took a couple pictures and they are not quite as good as last November's. The fire was actually lit by a couple of unruly teens earlier in the week and they had to rebuild it at the last minute. It was still huge though and the fireworks were much better this year. Some of us also managed to get in a couple rides at the fair and make ourselves dizzy.

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Oh Rusty boy, the pipes the pipes are calling . . .

As some of you know, Rusty failed his annual MOT. For those that don't know what an MOT is, if a car is older than three years in the UK, you have to get it evaluated every year to ensure it is road worthy. They're all about their "health and safety" in England! Well, Rusty was due on my birthday but I didn't get it done until toward the end of the month. He failed- miserably. There was four or five things that I had to get fixed in order to pass and it would have been about 150GBP to do it. Plus, my road tax (kind of like a registration fee) had also expired and that was another 60 quid. Given I've only got a month and 14 days left in England (not to be too precise or anything) I decided it was time for Rusty to go to the scrap graveyard and meet with his other old neglected car friends. Steve, Bri's boyfriend (or should I say fiance!) helped me find a place and we all took it this morning. After driving among a few land fills and random engineering facillities we eventually found it. I had to drive Rusty on a large scale to be weighed and was offered 51GBP (his MOT cost 40). I accepted and we had to drive it round near a large crane-thingy. I had to take the tires with; they only wanted him for his metal. Typical males, they only ever want one thing! Steve loosened all the tires for me and then the crane man (clearly, I don't know what the hell these things are called so I'll refer to them in simplistic terms) lifted Rusty off the ground, shattering all his windows in the process. I was agasp in shock. Brianna stayed in the car, she was a bit intimidated by all the metal, broken glass and large threatening crane. I can't say I wasn't either, there was a lot of flinching going on. Rusty was smashed up a bit more and added to the pile to eventually be crushed further and become something new. Perhaps he'll be reincarnated as something useful; that would be nice.

Friday, October 13, 2006


Last year two fabulous men took me out for an amazing Greek dinner in Toronto for my birthday. This year, I had to go one step further and actually go to Greece with two fabulous ladies. It was a wonderful holiday and a great last trip before I leave Europe in December.

Nikki and Liz on the plane. All set to go!

We arrived at 6 in the morning in Kos. Feeling very tired after an uncomfortable flight, we checked in and went straight to bed until about 11. Once we got up we sat through a very boring welcome meeting with our hotel rep and then strolled into Kos Town to scope it out. These are some fishermen selling their catch along the harbour.

An altar to Aphrodite amidst some ruins in the centre of Kos Town.

Hippocrates Tree. This tree is said to be around 700 years old, so it actually would have sprouted after Hippocrates time. He was born on Kos though and I think perhaps is said to have taught in the area that the tree is planted.

The view from our hotel balcony. We were staying in Lambi, which is a smaller town just outside Kos Town. It was reasonably clean and the staff were very nice so it met our needs. It wasn't too far of a walk into Kos Town, although as the week went on it seemed more and more arduous. When we first arrived at our hotel, not being familiar with the surroundings and the darkness, it did seem like we'd been plopped in the middle of nowhere given the big field and the incessant crowing rooster. But in the light of day, we were close enough to the beach, bars and restaurants; what more could we need!

The view to the other side with the mountains in the distance.

The first restaurant we went to for our first dinner in Greece was by far the best all week. It was a Fish House Taverna and was nestled away from the main street of restaurants that all looked the same with the same menus.

After dinner we hit a few bars in Bar Street, where they try to lure you with special drink offers. We then headed for Shenannigan's, an Irish bar we spotted that was supposed to have live Irish music. On our way there, Nikki got the silly poses of the week started, in front of a statue of Hippocrates teaching some pupils.

Yes, they were actually an Irish band. The keyboardist recognized us from the restaurant as soon as we came in (he had been eating there as well). Liz knew all the words to all the songs, the waitstaff and bartenders were very friendly, and we soon settled right in to Shenannigan's!

The next day we spent the whole day on the beach. We found a few sunbeds outside a taverna run by a guy named Pedros who insisted he would be marrying me. He was nice and harmless- until he started petting my hair. The hardest part of the day was I had to sit up at one point to reach my beer because the little table wasn't close enough to my sunbed. That evening we headed to the Blue Phoenix near the beach for dinner. We made friends with Simon and Jimmy, our waiters who joined us as we soon became the only people left in the restaurant.

Saturday we rented a car for the day to explore the island. We headed all the way south to Kefalos and stopped for a few pics of the view.

We then headed to Limonas where there was this beautiful cove and I had a good swim. With the exception of the few other people around, it felt nicely isolated.

We then headed to Paradise Beach, where we relaxed, sunbathed and swam a bit more. Do you see a pattern forming here in this vacation?

We headed back North toward the Thermal Springs. We got very lost on the way but eventually made it there nearing dusk.

Why is it I can never get a good picture of the moon? It was beautiful this night as we got ready to go out, and much looking larger than it appears.

We were in the mood for a break from the Greek food and a little Mexican Saturday night, so we headed for the one Mexican restaurant in Kos town. Once again, we were the only ones there so we had the full attention of the waiter, who gave us those silly hats to wear.

And Tequila shots which he had Nikki serving.

We headed back to Bar Street Saturday night and met up with Billy at the Wild Bull (we had met him a couple nights before). It was Greek night on Bar Street and most of the locals were out partying. Hence, we didn't recognize a lot of the music in the bars that night. I managed to stay reasonably sober, I think because I had been out all night the night before but Nikki and Liz tied one on pretty well this night.

Sunday we had another chill day on the beach and headed back to the hotel when it started to rain a bit. The rain stopped so while Liz had her nap Nikki and I hung out by the pool. We met a couple from Wolvo and started chatting with Paul and Ian, two blokes from Coventry. They joined us for dinner and then we inducted them into Shennanigan's.

They had karaoke going at Shenannigan's. I managed to get a couple of my songs in and we sang Love Shack and American Pie as a group. Quite a laugh trying to harmonize (if we even tried) with all five of us.

We were due to catch a boat to Nisyros Monday morning but we missed it. So instead we hopped onto a boat doing stops at Plati- a small island with only one house, Kalymnos- an island known for collecting and processing sponges, and Pserimos- an island with only about 20 inhabitants.

I was the only one to jump off the boat and into the water but Nikki did swim with me for a bit at Plati. The beach was actually really disappointing because there was trash left about but I just avoided looking at it and snorkeled for awhile along the edge of the cove.

We napped on the boat until we reached Kalymnos. It was a nice harbour town where we chilled and had a beer and bought a few sponges. Oh yeah, and Nikki got trapped in the bathroom at the bar. :-)

The harbour at Pserimos. The houses you see are pretty much the only houses on the island.

Monday night we went to a Greek night in Zia, a town toward the top peaks of Kos. They offer it as a package excursion, but we did it on our own with taxis and ordering off the menu instead of the set meal to have it a bit cheaper. It was pretty touristy but the dancing was definitely entertaining. All three of us were starting to feel the effects of the late nights so it made for a nice, chill evening. (We were in bed by 11p that night.)

The dancer is holding that table up with his mouth.

Tuesday it was onto another boat for a day of (mostly) shopping in Bodrum, Turkey.

We walked up a few side streets to see the ampitheatre, but we didn't have any lira to pay to get in once we got there.

Good views from the top, though!

We spent most of the day among the markets and Nikki got her bargaining hat on! She helped me snag a beautiful large tapestry for around 50 quid.

Artisans sewing rugs along the market.

Tuesday night we went to dinner and went to Shennanigan's one last time for our last full night in Kos. We were surprised to find the Rep Olympics going on with all the local reps split into teams with competitions such as karaoke singing and bull riding. Our friendly Kiwi waitress Vicki was there and still friendly as ever, as was Popeye, but the guys behind the bar seemed like they were finally spent for the season and the free shots did not come so readily. We still enjoyed ourselves though.

Wednesday we made the boat we had missed Monday and went to Nisyros.

Upon arrival we took a coach to the volcano on the island near where there is a large crater. The volcano is still active and there were a few small craters at the base with running lava (or mud, as it appeared to be).

There was a few crevasses around the crater and I took a little climb through one. The girls waited with their flip flops on. I wish I would have taken my camera back with me; it was a nice little open topped cavern of sorts as you climbed back.

View from towards the top of the opposite mountain.

Once we came back down we walked around the local town, which was very picturesque and what I imagine when I think of Greece.

We stopped at Mike's Taverna and had a fabulous lunch by the sea.

We had to catch our transport to the airport at 2:30AM so Wednesday evening we went for a low key dinner and had a couple beers before napping a bit in preparation for the trip home. On our way to dinner, we made sure to get a picture with the sing that should read Funny Land, but had been changed to Fanny Land. We're so easily amused!
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