An Expat Still Has The Right to Vote

I hope my blog story is not a surprise to the thousands of American’s living outside of the United States. Unless you have given up American citizenship you are still entitled to vote in every mid-term and Presidential election, even if you no longer live here full-time.

Mike and I haven’t been in the United States for the past three elections – be they mid-term or Presidential. That however has never stopped us from casting our vote. We were in the country of Panama in 2012 when we cast our vote in the Presidential election.

Many of the American embassies will forward your election ballet to the United States – free of charge. Each country has their own procedure for doing this and their own timeline but it is an option for expats. Allow at least three weeks lead time however for them to get your ballet on American soil before the deadline.

The last day to register to vote in these mid-term elections was October 6, 2014. Knowing this, one of the first things Mike and I did when we arrived back here in the US in July was to update our voter registration information so that we could vote in the mid-term elections.

Here are some helpful links in case you are an expat but you have never registered to vote:

Vote from Abroad.org

Democrats Abroad

Republicans Abroad

According to the Association of American Residents Overseas,

Many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%.  All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline which differs by state.

The right for US citizens who reside overseas to vote was not part of the election standards until 1986. That year the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) was put into law.

Seeing that someone went to all the trouble of giving me a law to use I think it only fair that I do so as much as possible.  I hope you will join me.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

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A Walk amongst the Art

I love art. When Mike met me I owned quite a few paintings and sculptor pieces. He had never actually met anyone who would go to an art show and drop $1,000 or more on a painting, until he met me.

This coming weekend here in Olympia is the forty-ninth Olympia Arts Walk. Mike is doing his best to remain calm and while he won’t be able to keep me away at least he knows I do not have it in my mind to buy anything. Honest.

The city of Olympia has hosted these events twice a year for the past 24 years, one event in the spring and one in the fall. For this event 96 local and small business owners have opened their doors and they will be displaying artwork from mostly local artists in their establishments.

Over this two-day event, Friday, Oct. 3 from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 4 from noon to 5 p.m., I will be armed with a map of the participating downtown businesses and I’ll be strolling along the arts walk path.

Cover art for the forty-ninth Olympia Arts Walk.

Because there are over ninety artists participating there is no way for me to see all of the artwork, most of which will be for sale. It will therefore be enough for me to just walk amongst the art for a time, to get to meet some new and hopefully interesting people, and to see some of the new businesses that have opened in the city’s core during the past year.

There will be food for sale, musical performances by various bands scattered throughout the downtown area and a new event, a Culinary Throwdown, to keep everyone entertained.

The Arts Walk was created as a showcase for local talent and it is a signature event here in Olympia. Many of the younger entrants of the event have actually gone on to study art at a university because of the positive feedback they have received from participants. There are many ways to give back to ones community and providing encouragement, and even becoming a patron of an aspiring artist isn’t a bad way to go.

Raised as I was in Buffalo, NY, I was exposed to the world-renowned Albright – Knox Art Gallery and I even took art classes there as a child. While the teachers were nice it didn’t take long for everyone to see that I wasn’t the second coming of Grandma Moses. I have however always appreciated artistic talent in others, no matter the medium.

The Arts Walk is not just a showcase for painters. There will be sculptures, Native American art, bead work, pottery, jewelry, photography, woodworking, blown glass and perhaps thee-dimensional art pieces.

Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” I have always found this to be true. Good works of art move me and take me away to other places, to other times, to other dimensions. I am therefore looking forward to my walk amongst the art.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

American TV Reflects Badly

So many of the television shows other countries watch come from the United States. Where this becomes a problem is that we had so many people think these shows are a reflection of what the people in the US are like. What they fail to be told is that so much of what we watch on television is for entertainment purposes and contrary to the titles most of these shows are not based in reality.

We think due to the low cost of producing these shows they are being sold to all these countries and their affiliates on the cheap so they get hours worth of these classics;

  • Storage Wars
  • Ice Road Trucker
  • Kitchen Nightmares
  • Diners, Drive-In and Dives
  • Fast N’ Loud

And I mean hours and hours of each show. They run mini-marathons of these shows on a sometimes daily basis.

No show does more harm than Man vs. Food. This show makes everyone think that Americans are gluttonous and wasteful of precious resources and food. There are so many hungry people in the world who watch this show with disbelief where the host sits before a mountain of food and tries to stuff ten pounds of food down his throat in a single sitting all for the pleasure of having his picture taken or to win a t-shirt. It is hard to watch this show on so many levels.

Because of these awful TV shows, we had people ask us if the people in the US really were gun-toting, gum-chewing hillbillies and they wanted to know if these reality shows were real. We were happy to tell them that none of the so-called reality shows are real.

They also get sold better quality shows like;

  • CSI – all of them in the franchise
  • Law and Order: SVU
  • Criminal Minds
  • American Pickers
  • Pawn Stars
  • American Restoration

And watching hours and hours of these shows is easier to deal with. They need help in the comedy arena however since they currently are only getting two shows;

  • Two and a Half Men

and

  • The Big Bang Theory

How they love Two and a Half Men. Everyone loves Charlie and his caustic, suggestive humor, and they love Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory. Watching marathons of Two and a Half Men wears thin quickly but I am a fan of Big Bang so at least I had that to watch.

We have now been back in the US for a few months, and the new television season has begun. This is the first time we have seen any new shows in three years and I must say I am impressed with some of the offerings. I only hope that the cost of running these shows in other countries is low so that viewers can move away from so much garbage TV and start watching good dramas with good acting.

While I am grateful that we had anything to watch to help pass the time while traveling abroad, I am happy to be enjoying some good shows this season. Some of my favorites so far are;

  • Gotham
  • Red Band Society
  • Madam Secretary
  • Blue Bloods

The world really is watching. I just hope the next time we head off to live in a foreign country I can watch five hours of Gotham or Blue Bloods and not five hours of Duck Dynasty.

What TV shows are you watching and what show would you like them to send to a foreign country to show off our best acting and writing prowess?

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

About Face

While Mike and I were traveling I needed to be on social media. Mostly I needed to be on so that family and friends and my parents could make sure we were safe and doing well. We did everything from Pinterest, to Twitter, to LinkedIn and yes, even Facebook while we were away and they served their purpose.

I was however never in love with any of these social media channels and I found facebook to be my least favorite one. When I learned that you could un-follow someone’s posts without actually un-friending them I realized it was all a fake numbers game and I set out to see how many people were actually even reading my posts. The number wasn’t as high as my follow number suggested so I un-friended everyone who had un-followed me. I mean if none of these people were even going to see or read my posts why on earth was I reading all of their posts I wondered? And if you can tune out someone exactly how is this social behavior?

All of these supposed social media channels are therefore nothing more than media outlets. People want higher and higher follow numbers but they do not necessarily want to connect with anyone or have a dialogue on anything meaningful or even share anything useful with anyone else. There isn’t anything social about any of them.

The other down side to all this social media sharing is where I began to learn how so many of the people I once considered good friends were completely misguided in their political and social views. Foolishly I thought that since we were friends in grammar school or high school we should still be connected today. It was through their postings on their social media channels that I learned that many of them had not evolved in their thinking and many of them were just not the sort of people I would want to associate with. I realized we just didn’t have anything to talk about. Learning so much about some of these people only saddened me more.

Since the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections I have noticed an incredibly high number of postings (by people whom I assumed had high IQ’s) being posted without first fact checking the post. Some of the stories they posted were misleading while others were downright lies. This made me sit and wonder, didn’t anyone fact check anything before they posted? I think you know the answer to this.

Realizing that all of these people were just exercising their right to free speech, and thinking ahead to the 2014 mid-term elections and the even more horrific thought about the 2016 national election still to come, I came to the larger realization that I too had free speech rights and I could do with my social media as I chose. And so I chose to hit the delete key. I wish I had done it months ago.

Someone on LinkedIn recently asked everyone what they planned to do the second they retired. There were a ton of answers like sleep in, take longer vacations, play with the grandchildren more, but the response that drew the largest number of ‘likes’ was the man who answered, “stop doing social media”.

What do I do with all my new-found free time now that I have deleted my facebook account? I’m reading more books, I’m writing more stories, I’m cooking and experimenting in the kitchen once again, I’m connecting with more fellow bloggers, and I’m taking longer walks.

Oh, yeah…, and I’m smiling more.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

Corn As High As An Elephant’s Eye

When we traveled I was always on the look out for something unique to do and for information to glean that was more about topics off the beaten path. Even though we are currently ‘resting’ here in WA I am still constantly on the look out for something fun and unique to do here in the area and recently I stumbled upon Schilter Family Farms.

The farm began 75 years ago by the Schilter family who had emigrated here from Switzerland. At that time they were dairy farmers. Over time one of their sons decided that he wanted to help with the farming duties. That son, Fred was married to a woman named Patti. Fred and Patti had five children. Over time the family phased out the dairy farm and decided to grow vegetables instead. Fred and Patti’s son Jeff decided that he too wanted to work on the family farm, and so it went. Today three generations of Schilter family direct descendents work on the farm.

Sixteen years ago the family decided to begin building corn mazes for the general public to enjoy. It was the first corn maze in Thurston County, WA. They offer a different corn maze theme every year which they design themselves.

In the past they have had a Mariner Maze (that is Seattle’s major league baseball team), a CSI- Corn Scene Investigation maze, a Kasey Keller Corn Maze (born in Olympia Kasey played professional soccer with the Seattle Sounders), and last year’s Big Foot Corn maze.

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Some of the sights from the Schilter Family Farm and Farmers Market.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This year however marks the 75th Anniversary of the movie, The Wizard of Oz, so it makes sense that this years maze would be dedicated to the movie. Complete with a swirling tornado, a little house and a tree this 5 acre, 10’ high corn maze will be open to the public from September 27th through October 31st. You have one hour to make it through the maze before they send in the flying monkey’s to help you get out (I jest but someone will come looking for you to make sure you don’t spend the night in the maze). There will be signs and markers from the movie along the way and a map to help you traverse the whole thing.

Fall is my favorite time of year. It always has been. With the leaves turning spectacular and bright colors to the chill in the air, to the cooler temperatures and the need to wear layers of clothing I’m a happy girl. I also have the opportunity this weekend to walk through my very first corn maze. I’m excited. All of the traveling I’ve done around the world and I’ve never had the opportunity to walk a corn maze and now it’s going to come off my bucket list.

The only thing is I don’t know if I should be singing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, or ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’.  Either way, and with either tune, I’m off to see the wizard.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

We’re Having a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

My husband loves hot and spicy foods. He adds jalapeno’s to my homemade soup. He puts hot sauce on just about everything I make. Not because it doesn’t take good but because it would taste better if it was on fire (I jest, he just loves spice in his foods).

No matter where we have traveled in the world Mike was always on the lookout for hot sauce we could buy and keep in our refrigerator. Sometimes he found hot sauce and mostly he didn’t.

In countries where one would expect to find good homemade hot sauce, like Spain, Panama or even Mexico, hot sauce just wasn’t as readily available. While living in Mexico Mike searched for weeks until he stumbled upon a small local and independent restaurant not too far from where we were staying that made hot sauce. It was so good Mike went back week after week and the owner was incredibly pleased. Finding good hot sauce during our three years of living abroad was the exception however, not the norm.

What I didn’t know was that in all our travels Mike secretly harbored a desire to do one of those eating challenges where hot sauce took center stage. They don’t really do eating challenges outside of the US so he never had the opportunity to test his endurance, until recently.

Just down the street from where we are now living in Lacey, WA is a sushi restaurant named Koibito’s and they host a 5 Star Sushi Challenge. This challenge consists of the challenger eating eight pieces of sushi covered with a five pepper and spice hot sauce. The sauce is marinated with cabbage and tofu. The sushi roll was made with hot and spicy tuna.

The challenger has to eat all eight pieces of the sushi roll and all of the hot sauce in 30 minutes or less. I will personally attest to the fact that when his plate arrived at the table I could smell the hot sauce from across the room and it lingered for a time. There was no way I was going anywhere near his plate.

The 5 Star Sushi Challenge at Koibito's.   © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

The 5 Star Sushi Challenge at Koibito’s. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike started off strong and ate the first three pieces in under a minute and a half. At piece number six however Mike took a deep breath, sort of coughed and then I thought he was going to lose his lunch. He said the cough made the hot sauce permeate completely up and into his sinuses and that’s when his eyes began to water and he began to sweat. And yet he kept on chewing, slower, but he kept on.

The clock was ticking and Mike reported that his mouth was completely on fire. He put piece seven in. Chew, chew, swallow…

Piece eight loomed large. There was a lot of hot sauce and cabbage / tofu mix that had to be consumed with it and so with chopstick and fork in hand Mike got piece eight ready.

At this point you are reading along and wondering what on earth was all this for, right? What possible prize would be worth all this agony?

Mike is the proud owner of an awesome new T-shirt!

Mike with his new shirt.  It is a nice one and wearing it now gets him 10% off all future dining.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike with his new shirt. It is a nice one and wearing it now gets him 10% off all future dining. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Mike’s quest to beat an eating challenge has now been quenched and when I asked him if he would ever attempt anything like this in the future he said, “probably not.”

As for me, I am proud of my little fire eater. If by some chance you ever make it inside Koibito’s make sure to look for Mike’s picture on the wall of champions.

His photo will now appear on the Wall of Champions.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

His photo will now appear on the Wall of Champions. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

I have made a video of Mike’s success which you can watch here. It took him 5 minutes and 20 seconds to finish the challenge.

 

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 

 

Will All The Real Bloggers Please Stand Up

Recently I interviewed for a writing job. What I heard them say during the interview process made me do a double think. Their stance was that bloggers, and blogs in general, were considered worthless poppycock because of the lack of journalist integrity shown by blog writers. Blogs, as far as they were concerned, were badly written, the bloggers did not have credible sources and no blogger did any research on their topic. They wrote just what they thought off the top of their heads. In essence, every blog on the internet was baseless as far as they were concerned.

Since I have three blogs I listened to all this hyperbole with my eyes wide open and my mouth firmly closed shut. If you know me at all this was a momentous occurrence.

Who on earth were they trying to sell this ridiculous notion too I wondered?

According to the latest statistical data, there are 172 million blogs on Tumblr and 75.8 million blogs on WordPress.  That’s a whole lot of nothing going on.

Now, I am aware that not every blog online is active. I have seen many of them in my searches on various topics and sadly I know the blog has been deserted. There are, however, plenty of blogs online to read on a variety of subject matters; travel, food and civil rights are among my top three.

Most people who are blogging that I have read are knowledgeable on their chosen topic, passionate about what they are doing and able and ready to write a blog to help others. I guess I don’t read the blogs they were referring too because none of the blogs I read fit the stereotype of the blogger that they opinioned.

Maybe I am just fussier than most. I don’t read every blog out there of course and over time some blogs are no longer relevant to me and I look for something else to read. I also have to be moved greatly to even post a response on a blog because some blogs are interesting but do not require my feedback. It also depends on the mood I’m in when I read them.

I know this company just wanted to make their job seem more than it was, but to disparage an entire enterprise with nonsense and downright lies made me wonder. If their objective of being a leader in the communication industry was so tenuous that they had to disparage bloggers in general, did I even want to work with them?

So, to all the blog writers and bloggers I read and follow, keep up the good work. Get your references annotated, make your links bold and bright and keep up the good fight. I’ll be reading.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince