Friday, March 28, 2014

The Grass is Always Greener...

Back when I used to work at the music school, not a week passed when someone didn't say to me "Oh, I'm so jealous! That must be such a fun job - getting to sit around and play the guitar all day."

And to be honest, it was a pretty neat place to work, but there wasn't much sitting around and playing the guitar.


In general when I think of my former life, I remember how I worked very long hours for very short pay, and how I had to deal with an incredible amount of office politics... because musicians aren't exactly known for being even tempered.


I remember how I got work calls at home at all hours of the night and day. Like the time the phone rang at 2am: "Hi, um... we have a little issue here - you know that concert grand piano that's on loan for tomorrow night's show? Well, um... one of the volunteers was trying to move it, and it seems they accidentally sorta broke off the front leg, and the nose kinda smashed into the ground, what should we do?"


In general, I sorta felt like I spent my life trying to squeeze blood out of a proverbial turnip.


So, I couldn't help but smile and feel a sense of commiseration when Dar over at An Exacting Life mentioned in a recent post how people always assume that since she works at a library she gets to sit around all day and read books.


In fact, I seem to have run into a lot of examples of the "grass is greener" syndrome lately.


CatMan and I were chatting with a fellow on the bike path the other day. Turns out he used to do real estate up in Winter Park, a little ski resort town outside of Denver.

He was chuckling about how at least twice a week a couple would wander into his office and say, "We're looking for a nice place that we might be able to turn into a bed and breakfast."


It reminded me of all the people who would show up whenever I advertised a teaching position saying, "I've always wanted to quit my corporate job and make a living as a music teacher!"

To which I'd generally respond "OK... so have you thought about how you're going to handle living under the poverty level?" Because... sadly, "starving musician" isn't just a euphemism.


And I couldn't help but chuckle when I stumbled upon this open letter to Gwyneth Paltrow.

Apparently Gwyneth was recently asked about the stress of raising kids while making movies, and made some rather unfortunate comments about how it would be so much easier if she just worked a normal 9-5 job - the letter was one working mom's hilarious response.

Oh dear! Apparently even the rich and famous can succumb to lusting over how the "other half" lives!


In a certain sense, I think it's just human nature. We're all way too familiar with the struggles that we personally deal with on a daily basis, yet we always put our best feet forward in public - so I guess it's reasonable that other people might think our lives are just carefree and easy.


I also think that our society tends to encourage "woe is me" syndrome, which makes it even harder to keep from wallowing in a pool of self pity when we look at the perceived idyllic lives of those around us.


And I'm in no way immune to this myself.

Every time I'm chatting with someone in another part of the world about gardening, I find myself grumbling about how easy it must be if you live someplace with more rainfall than we enjoy - because, you know, in that case the grass really is greener!


Of course, I neglect to consider little things like slugs, and root rot, and lack of sunshine, and mold, and allergies, and the fact that weeds like water too - never mind what it must be like to try to hang your laundry to dry in a wet climate!


I'm sure there are a million other ways in which I assume that other people's lives are easier than they actually are, and it all got me to thinking, there must be countless examples of this sort of thing.


So here's your opportunity to vent all of your grass is greener pet peeves... I'm dying to know how it is that people assume you've "got it easy" when it ain't necessarily so!









40 comments :

  1. Oooh ... I could go forever on this one but I'll limit it to just a couple:

    As a wedding photographer I get told all the time how nice it must be to get paid thousands of dollars for "snapping a few photos on a Saturday afternoon". Right. Nevermind the 60+ hours a week I put in on marketing, editing, bookkeeping, taxes, shooting other sessions, etc. And giving up my every weekend when everyone else is off at the lake or at the beach - I'm working for 8-12 hours on Saturday.

    The other is: It must be nice to own your own business/work from home. You get to set your own schedule, take time off whenever you want, wear whatever you want, etc.

    Now, mind you, yes it's awesome that I can edit and do bookkeeping in my yoga pants and a tshirt if I want. And yes, I can take time off whenever I want. But ... the more time I take off the less I earn. So there's a limit there. And on the other hand, my schedule is not completely flexible - I have to be available for my clients when THEY need me. See the above mentioned bit about working weekends and evenings.

    It's not all sunshine and bonbons and leisure over here on the self-employed photographer side. :)

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    1. Oh my... I can totally relate to having to be at work while everybody else is having their day off - that's life when you work in the music world. Plus the whole idea that the self-employed have it made because they can charge so much per hour. Of course, there's a HUGE difference between working hours and billable hours!

      I read somewhere that some obscenely high percentage of all small claims court cases are people suing their wedding photographers for "ruining the most important day of their lives." So I am quite sure that your job is no picnic!

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  2. I am delighted to let you down! Because my grass is the greenest it's ever been. I no longer make enough money to live on so my rather small savings are gradually disappearing, but hey, I won't live forever and they may last longer than I do. I'm sure that lots of people would be envious of me not having to get up for work every weekday morning, but they probably wouldn't like never having meals out, holidays, new clothes, convenience food, magazines, coffee-house visits, cinema visits, new music, in fact anything other than animals that costs money. :) Apart from the fact that I would love to have more money to give to the woman who rescued my 2 dogs, it suits me just fine. I have the greenest grass in the world. :) xx

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    1. Awww... what a sweet comment. I personally think that spending money is overrated - especially when you consider what usually has to be done in order to earn said money. Here's hoping you can find a way to reach equilibrium while keeping that grass green! :-)

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  3. Green grass? Oh yes, we has it! In the paths, in the flower beds, in the veg patches, and quite a lot in my compost heap, too. You know something else about all that rain? It washes stones down the driveway and nutrients out of the soil. All the same, I'd hate to live somewhere parched and brown.

    I'm with Cathy - no alarm clock, but no money either. This mostly doesn't bother me and I only really notice it when I'm discussing projects with someone who has lots of money, and doesn't appreciate that various options are ruled out by lack of funds. I'm not going vent my frustration with people who think I've got it easy because actually, my life is pretty good. Mind you, I was quite happy with my life when I had a full time job, too.

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    1. Ha! I was wondering the other day why it is that I can't get grass to grow in the yard but it has successfully invaded one of the flowerbeds! I think I've got nothing to complain about in that department though. :-)

      Have to say that I too enjoy the no alarm clock no money life. And even though it would be nice to have the funds to install a sprinkler system, I'll take my life over sprinklers any day!

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  4. Work calls at 2am? I'm not envious of that!

    I think I'm fooling myself with this currently . . a lot of my thinking right now is dreading this one last (giant) project I have to finish for school. So my daydream of choice is all the free time I'll soon be enjoying when I'm not spending 30 hours a week on writing. ha! The rational part of my brain knows that after school is done, then I need to go back to my share of household tasks (that my hubby is picking up the slack on now), as well as taking better care of myself (exercise and cooking from scratch haven't been happening), and on and on. Those 30 hours will disappear fast!

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    1. Eeee gads... are you writing a thesis? CatMan always says that school is where you pay people money to torture you. I'm quite sure it will be nice when you're done and no longer have anything hanging over your head, though as you mentioned, it probably won't be a panacea either.

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    2. It seems that way . . you only need a 2 on a scale of 1 to 5 to pass, so a normal person would write the bare minimum and get it over with, but that's proving to be very difficult for me.

      I have to agree with CatMan :)

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    3. I too suffered from "good student syndrome" back when I was in school - which is a big reason why I didn't go on to pursue an advanced degree. I fear I made myself a tad bit crazy. Anyhow, here's hoping you're happy with the results when you get it done!

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  5. Don't you think we all have some idealized version of work life in our minds? Right now I'm in a pretty sweet spot (I work per diem as an occupational therapist and I have a lot of control over when I work) but the thing with a variable work schedule is ... it's variable. Typically most work hours are available when the 9-5 crowd doesn't want to work--weekends and holidays--although there are some weekday hours available. I'm not paid if I don't work and I don't get benefits (I get a higher rate of pay than full-time staff when I do work but ... I have 26 years of experience and I'm getting paid at the exact same rate as a new grad doing per diem). I have flip-flopped with how I feel about working per diem but the thing is, it works for my family life. We don't have anyone available to take care of my elementary-aged children in the event of sickness or snow days (and we had 8 of those so far this winter!) ... sometimes my husband works nights or travels and that complicates our lives more ... and I love it that I have time available to hang out with my kids in the summer and volunteer in their classrooms. Sometimes it's hard to deal with the "but don't you want to work more/shouldn't you be working more" attitudes that I get from others and I've been working through that these past few months. Truth is, we've made financial choices so I don't HAVE to work a job with regular hours and can focus more on my family life.

    A quick word about stay-at-home moms--when your kids are school age and more independent, it's a much easier gig, but if you've ever spent whole days at home with 2 kids 2 years apart in the early years, it's a CONSTANT responsibility 24/7. I'm so glad I did it (I worked every other Saturday and that was my "break") but anyone who thinks it's easy is smoking something ...

    Being satisfied with work has so much to do with attitude. Yes, I know there are crazy demands and insane bosses and I've had those over the years (I worked full-time for 15 years) but, as you mentioned, Cat, the grass isn't greener anywhere else ... if you truly hate what you do/where you are, you either need to change your situation or how you view it, because you'll never change "the system".

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    1. Oh... so many true words here that it would be hard to quote them all! Flexible schedules are definitely a double edged sword, and as for raising kids... well, you'll note that I don't have any, and there's a reason. My Ex had a young daughter from a previous marriage and we had her every weekend. I loved her to pieces, but was always very happy to hand her back to her mom at the end of our 2 days. I wouldn't say that experience scared me off, but it certainly cured me of my rose colored glasses in terms of what it would be like to have kids of my own.

      I couldn't agree more with your conclusion. If the minuses of your situation are outweighing the pluses... you can't sit around waiting for someone else to make it different!

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  6. Every job I've ever had has been envied by others. But they were jobs-with the interesting as well as the tedious, with the regular hours and the the overtime, with the good bosses and the bad bosses, and the coworker support and the coworker tantrums. It's all been there--the good and the bad. A job is a job and there's a reason why they pay you to do it. If it weren't work, people would be lining up to do it for free. Anyway, that's what I've always tried to tell my kids.

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    1. "... there's a reason why they pay you to do it." So true!! There was much to love about my job at the music school, but it was still a job!

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    2. I once decided that the best job is something that most people hate but you don't or something that's too hard for most people but not you.

      Like my mom's a night owl and could get paid more to work the night shift. And the obvious--nerds do engineering and programming. Me, I don't mind thinking inside the box (sometimes it's hard to get all those interesting shapes to fit in there, so it's challenging) or doing some repetitive work (I get a thrill from checking things off the list or moving things from the in-box to the out-box).

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    3. Oh yes! Every once in a while when I'm faced with technical problems running my websites I'm tempted to descend into woe is me land. CatMan is very quick to remind me that if it were all so easy that anybody could figure it out, then everybody would be doing it, so I probably wouldn't be enjoying the life of leisure that I currently do!

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  7. Hmm, not thinking of immediate examples of people thinking the grass is greener on my side, but whenever I hear this saying, I remember the counter that a therapist offered when I was complaining about the grass being greener on the other side, career-wise. She responded, "The grass is greener where you water it."

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    1. "The grass is greener where you water it." I LOVE that one!

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  8. Ha, yes, the grass really is greener in places that get more rain! Even the trees and sidewalks are greener sometimes! It's awesome! We have awesome wildflowers, though, so that's good too.

    My figurative grass is pretty green, too, actually. The obvious situation is that I work somewhere with a pension (and the pension is in good shape financially) and I work only 40 hours a week (actually now I have a part-time job with only 30 hours per week) and they used to never lay people off; so long as you could stand doing two or three people's jobs during hiring freezes you could keep your job. Oh, and good benefits. The only bad parts were low pay and low status (and too much work during the hiring freezes).

    And being white, American, born to loving parents, with good genes for health, no horrible accidents, etc. gives me loads of green grass to chew on. And now that I'm a grown up and can pick my own foods, live somewhere warm with an intellectual yet casual culture, have my own house, etc., that's several more haystacks of very green grass!

    I've learned a few surprising things about other jobs I've had.

    Camp counselor - You don't lose weight from all the exercise (unless you are very overweight to begin with) because the unlimited free food cancels that out. (I did get bigger muscles, though!) No suntan, either--it was way too hot to ever want to come out from under the shade.

    Office jobs - ha, they are so not routine. At my employer there are hundreds of faculty and thousands of students, so all kinds of exceptional situations are always popping up. Also I learned that in general, if there is some kind of super-annoying rule, it's probably been created in response to some situation that makes sense. Like if you want to get your name changed, you can't just show us your driver's licence with your new name--too easy to fake. We want your original marriage certificate or whatever. And it's all because this one gal tried to change someone else's name to her own name so that it looked like she had earned degrees.

    Other things: I'm lucky to never, ever have to shovel snow. However, sometimes the temperature doesn't drop below 80 degrees for two months. And our autumn colors are quite subtle.

    I'm lucky to have long, wavy hair, but it gets tied up in knots easily and can easily look like witch hair or clown hair. I am afraid to ride in motorboats or convertibles if I don't have something to tie my hair back because I will never get a brush through it again. (Now that it's getting thinner, it's not quite so bad.)

    I'm very lucky to be small so I can fit into airplane seats, but it's hard to reach things sometimes. Also, people like to pick me up--usually that's kind of good, though. But if I need to pick someone up (like to drag them from a burning vehicle), then it's not so good.

    I'm lucky to live in a place that has what at least used to be the second largest college library in the country. But the parking is virtually nonexistent and the public transportation system is pretty terrible.

    I'm lucky that they moved the airport that used to be basically across the street from me and are replacing it with better things. But now I can't walk home from the airport and my property taxes are going up.

    Eh, that's enough complaints for me!

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    1. Ha! Well if that's "complaining", you must explode when you feel gratitude!

      Your camp counselor comments made me laugh. I loved working at a summer camp, but my one word of warning for anyone considering it would be - don't expect to get a lot of sleep!

      I also love the part about the crazy rules - you are so right, they're never quite as arbitrary as they might seem!

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    2. Right--I used to think I was energetic until I got that job as a camp counselor. No!

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    3. I found it amazingly horrifying how little sleep those kids seemed to operate on - and this was back when I was in my 20's and could still theoretically keep up with them. But holy moly! Lights out was supposed to be at 10, but I don't think we ever succeeded in getting them to sleep before midnight, and then their alarms would start going off around 5am because, you know, they had to get up early to work out and do all of their "girly stuff" before the official wake-up call at 7:30! These were 13 and 14 year old girls - the world's most neurotic demographic. Oy vay!

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  9. I work from home and honestly, I was one of those people who thought (when I landed the job) that I'd be popping out to mow the lawn and do some gardening--wearing sweats and PJs because I wanted to. I discovered that many work-at-home folks wear PJs because they don't even have time to shower, as they roll over in bed, switch on the computer (or maybe it was never off at all) and work 12-14 hours per day. And every 15 minutes, if you aren't touching the computer, your computer tells the world that you are "away." Sometimes it's 6pm before I even think to look at the clock. Nonetheless it is in field I always wanted to work in, so no major complaints here. However, my sister is a flutist and finally landed the tenured orchestra job that she dreamed of, after 25 years of hard work...only to have the symphony fold 5 years later...after she bought a duplex in that city. Now she's back to running from city to city, playing for a variety of orchestras, living in a garage apartment in a city where she has a one-year gig, while she rents her house out to other people. Her two cats (adopted from me, no surprise) travel with her. It's great to be in demand...but awfully hard to have a life when your jobs are 100 miles apart. When we sit in the audience of a concert, we can't imagine (and don't even think to) how little those musicians are making in many areas, and how much they are sacrificing. So I'll take my 12-to-14 hour days in my PJs and I am grateful. In a different life, I could have a violin in the back of a car with 120,000 miles on it, driving to my next $100 rehearsal. My message: support your local symphony orchestra! If you do dinner out at a local restaurant, and then go to a concert, you'll have invested more in the lives of your neighbors than if you spend $120 on Amazon.com. The way things are going, we may some day have no symphonies at all, except in the very largest cities.

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    1. Oh the working from home thing... When I was still at the music school I worked one day per week from home because I was writing a point of sale database to handle our registrations, teacher schedules, concert ticket sales, etc, and it just wasn't possible to do that sort of work at the school where I'd get interrupted every 10 minutes or so. But everybody assumed these were "days off" for me, when the reality was quite the opposite.

      I think when viewed from the outside, "working from home" can look like you're always at home... but once you get there, it has a tendency to morph into "always at work" if you're not really, REALLY careful! And even when you're working for yourself, there's a real tendency to slip into the always at work mentality if you're not careful!

      And I'm laughing about the comments about your sister and the symphony orchestra because all of the musicians I worked with did folk, roots and traditional music where they didn't have institutions like orchestras to support them. So they always looked on classical musicians with such envy! Truth is, I think the financial grass is pretty brown for all musicians - regardless of the genre.

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  10. I'm not going to complain. I will just mention that I often claim that in my past, I made money as a musician. After high school, I was a music counselor at a day camp. Not the best job because I really can't stand kids. And these were spoiled Long Island rich kids. But I got so much out of it. Like the one day I sent the kids away from our lessons with golf clubs (the golf counselor was next to me) telling them to sing and see how high they cold hold the club -- a thunder and lighting storm was coming in.

    Then there was one kid who musta learned this great phrase from dad "Hey babycakes let me wrap my legs around you." I've often used that phrase myself.

    Then I used to ride the bus in with the kids in our area. One kid was terrified of camp yet mom made him go every day. He'd mumble to himself in a sad little voice "but I don't want to go to camp" -- a an act I recreate still in my adult life when I don't want to do something.

    I guess in my professional "music education" career kids were psychologically scarred rather than enriched. And people wonder why I chose not to have kids?

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    1. Oh my... well at least you had fun with it! I spent every summer working with kids until I was well into my 20's, and I have to say that it probably did have an impact on my decision not to have any of my own. Never would have thought of the golf club thing though! :-)

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  11. Oh, you are SO right! "Woe is me" is totally encouraged, at the same time as we're expected in other ways to put our best foot forward, as you say. And we're all quite self absorbed, so OUR problems seem sooo much worse than anyone else's. I remember some time ago a somewhat sucessful Norwegian actor said to the media (if they didn't intentionally misinterpret her) that she envied people with a regular jog who didn't have to perform everyday, because she (the poor soul) had to give it her all every evening she was on stage. Yeah, I'm sure nurses, teachers, prison guards, doctors and so many other people feel like they can just cruise along from 9 to 5. How relaxing those jobs must be,, no stakes at all for them! ;) Lol. I'm sure I'm guilty of similar thoughts though. By the way, I really love the saying "the grass is greener where you water it". Ain't that the truth.

    Maria

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    1. I think the "woe is me" thing is sorta similar to the "busier than thou" attitude that is so prevalent these days. It's almost like we don't feel like we have permission to enjoy our own lives or something like that.

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  12. Oops, I noticed Melissa already mentioned "the grass is greener where you water it" quote. Oh well, it bears repeating I think. :) So many wise words from your readers here. "There's a reason why they pay you to do it" <--- so true! I guess most jobs can be hard, even the seemingly glamorous or mundane ones.

    Maria

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    1. Ha! I actually thought you were quoting Melissa's comment - well any way you slice it, it's a great saying!

      And I think you're right, I'm sure even the glamorous jobs have their drawbacks. I mean really... think about what it must be like to be famous. On one level I'm sure it gives you a sort of validation that you just can't find elsewhere - but imagine the reality of it. Every single thing you did would be fodder for public comment, and frankly, I don't know anyone who's perfect enough to be able to withstand up to that sort of scrutiny.

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    2. I would absolutely never want fame. There are already too many people out there whose names I've forgotten but who know me! But I learned if you ever have self-esteem issues, just work with little kids. When I was with the Brownies, they would all want to hold my hand. I said they could each have one finger, so I could accommodate up to 10 little kids. You just don't get that kind of love in grown-up land!

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    3. Awwww... reminds me of when I worked with the little ones at the YMCA. It took so little to make them really happy.

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  13. Thanks for the links, Cat! In addition to being able to read books all day, apparently I now have endless time to volunteer because I no longer have kids at home. Grr!

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    1. Ha! Well, by that logic, those of us who never had kids in the first place ought to be dedicating our entire lives to public service!

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  14. As a semi-stay at home mom, people like my sister think I have all of this free time. I get a whole 9 hours a week without children, which is usually spent cleaning or running errands. When I was in college and interned for the Jane Goodall Institute, people thought I got to play with chimps all day. Instead I was doing office work and talking to all of the people who got to work with chimps. Then when I worked at the animal shelter in AZ, people thought I got to play with animals all day. Rather I was working with kids, developing curriculum, cleaning cages, etc. It was a sweet job, but working at a shelter is rarely as exciting as people think.

    In terms of the "woe is me attitude", I think a large part is that advertisers and the like are trying to get that out of us. We are constantly bombarded with the idea that what we are is not enough. It's hard not to get depressed. As someone who has had severe depression since the age of 12, I'm far to familiar with that feeling. I notice the more I pay attention to what society/advertisers think I should think of me, the more depressed I get. For example, I keep getting the message that in order for my husband to stay faithful, I need to be constantly in shape, dress sexy but also in fashion, be a stripper in the bedroom, do my makeup and hair everyday, and probably get plastic surgery to correct my flaws. It's overwhelming to say the least. How do you NOT become woe is me when that is surrounding you everyday?!

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    1. Sadly, I think you are correct. The advertising industry preys on all of our insecurities and wants us all to think that if we just buy their product we will magically be transformed from inadequate to perfect. I try to remember something one of my yoga teachers already said "At your core you're already perfect, yoga will help you to realize that."

      And I don't know how you managed working at an animal shelter. I think I would be overwhelmed by the emotional weight of it all.

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  15. One of your funnies explains my life to a tee. When folk tell me how lucky I am not to have to go to work(I'm retired) I just agree with them.
    Yup! I sit around all day eating bon bons and watching my stories and the government sends me money.
    Marie

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    1. Not a bad job if you can get it! :-)

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  16. I live in England. It rains a lot. Our grass IS greener :)

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    1. Ha! You know... come to think of it, I'm not entirely sure that we would even have grass here if somebody didn't plant it. At least not the kind of grass that lawns are generally made of - ours is the tall spiky kind.

      I was noticing on my bike ride yesterday that the areas that aren't irrigated are pretty much just yucca, rabbit brush and thistles. Maybe I need a new saying... "the yucca is always yuckier..." doesn't quite have the same "je ne sais quoi!"

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