Thursday, March 31, 2011

Where I Might Have Been...

And so it is that I miss being there for another milestone of a loved one ( the first being my father’s 60th birthday.) Today my little sister turns 16. My little sister, who promised me she would never grow up has gone and done it. She’s a real person, and now she has wheels to prove it. While the rest of the world I feel has silently been holding its breath for this glorious day to come, I find it hard to inhale the air that has allowed my dear sister to reach this become one of outgrow her childhood. And I cannot help to think where I might have been had you not entered this world, Claire.

I might have...

- Just gone for being a cool kid. Sure I was head cheerleader and joined just about every club imaginable, but you being born made me think about what was important...what I wanted to reflect on those younger than me, so I spread out. I was not just friends with the cool kids, I socialized and even (gasp) hung out with people outside of my race and social status because you made me realize that great people are not limited to high incomes, white skin, or my same ideals. I remember you getting pushed off the bleachers one day in elementary school for not wearing the cool color of the day, and you coming home saying that those girls were “just so immature.” How could I possibly ignore the fact that my little sister at the age of 7 was seeing through the facade that popularity and social nonsense brings?

- Not gone to Texas A&M. Now to anyone who really knows me, it isn’t like that was my total first choice. I wanted out of Texas...but that school taught me that being a good, moral person is the best way to get through this world. It provided me with friends that are irreplaceable, and a job that is very valuable. You helped me to realize the importance of family, and with a family of Aggies that we have.. I couldn’t not choose this great university. While I still cannot get over the city, the close minded attitudes of some and almost ignorant devotion that typical “Aggies” have... you made me realize this school had a lot to offer anyone, and if it was good enough for most of my family, it was great enough for me.

- Been a softball player . Eek. The day you were born I was playing softball (ok on defense, poorly on offense). I was switching between being a pitcher and catcher, and Grandma came to pick me up to tell me you had arrived. In the middle of the game I threw off all of my gear, grabbed my bag, and ran across the field to get to you. Had you not been there I might have adopted a love for Big League Chew, tight white pants and a sport that allows too much sitting.

- Not had the courage to come here. Claire- don’t let me knock the next decade of your life, it WILL be fabulous...but the thing is as you grow older, as there is less structure and formal landmarks to identify life can start to feel a little lost. A bit loser-ish. Here I was at 25, with a great job living in Dallas...but I was a bit behind. I had yet to find a boyfriend let alone a husband, and I had yet to find a place I felt I belonged. During those nights when I was not just wallowing in my own self pity and doubt, I felt like if I didn’t do something with my life I might let you down...make you not look forward to the times ahead. So I went for it. You helped me get here. Had I not felt the need to be an example of someone who does things a bit differently (and randomly), I might have settled. Become complacent. And of all things, that is not something I want to show you is acceptable. There is too much great out there to settle for the good. I cannot promise greatness with each experience- London has already had its fair share of difficulties, but I can promise you the chance of it.

Claire - I don’t have a house that is my home, a man that loves me besides Dad, or children that are dumb enough to think I’m perfect...but I have you to live for. Ever since the day Mom and Dad took us to Ninfa’s and fought us tooth and nail not to name you Noel ( Lindsey and Laura thought it perfect since there are no other suitable names that start with an L ) I have been so happy that you entered my life.

I push on because I know I need to keep going for you. I reach for the stars because I don’t want to be a hypocrite when I tell you to do the same. I try to be a better person because I already see you avoiding the mistakes that I’ve made since 1985 and it makes me so happy.

I can’t ever think I have nothing left to look forward to because each day that you grow brings me joy. I don’t lose hope in what looks impossible because if I can’t seem to get it then it better sure as hell must just be waiting for you. I love you, Claire. Always be unique, don’t worry as much as me and know that just you being around...just existing...has made me better.

Happy Birthday, Claire Elaine

Monday, March 7, 2011

Setbacks and Sidetracks

Look Right, walk left. Two basic things that are told to anyone visiting London. In case you prefer not to have your head ripped off by a Briton, you will quickly learn these two rules when walking down the street, crossing the street, walking up the escalators, running for the tube, etc. It is simple really, except for the fact that it goes against the natural instincts of 121 of 196 countries in the world.

No big deal, I've been here for a long period of time before. I'm a pro. I rock looking like a local. I can even do it while texting and drinking coffee. One thing I did forget, however, are the uneven sidewalks. It is like right as I get my strut down, my ipod on the right song and a smile on my face a big rock reaches out and grabs my toe as if to say " wake up! you aren't there yet!" I guess these roads have seen a few posers in their time. It's ok. They'll learn to love me.

Two weeks in and things are looking up! I have my luggage and my friend Jenn and I have found our new home in the shape of a small block of flats on Lorne Road in Finsbury Park. Finsbury Park is a great area for several reasons: it has two of the best tube lines that can get me into central london within 20-30 minutes, Arsenal is nearby which never leaves a dull moment on the weekends, the park is huge and great for our future picnics in the spring, and it is different than any place which I have previously lived. Sure it does not have the glitz and glam of the finest parts of London, but it is new for me.

Move-in day is a time I do not wish to think about. ever again. Moving day misery is never something to write about. I do not know who has a great time moving in unless they are not the ones performing said move. Let's just say Jenn and I probably should not have gone out in Wandsworth the night before.

Finally we were there. It might not be permanent, but for the next 6 months at least I had somewhere to call home. Sure I didn't have sheets for my bed, a blowdryer, a towel, plates, or silverware...but I had a roof, a room, and a rockstar flatmate to call my own. Sunday came around and I had the place to myself for a bit because Jenn was in Newcastle for work. Groceries were in order! After a successful trip to our nearby supermarket I entered our stairwell looking forward to that "settled" feeling. It had been a long two weeks of trials, adjustments, and bad luck. No more! This was my time! Now if I could just get this stupid door unlocked..

After about 30 minutes of trying to wedge the wrong key into my door, meeting my neighbors by asking them if they knew a magical way to fit the wrong key in the right door I realized I did not actually have the ability to enter the home that I'd established a mere 24 hours previously. I actually did not have the key that would unlock my feelings of settlement.


The two questions I had so often lately been asking myself entered my head: where do I go? what do I do? Blame it on the exhaustion of moving. Blame it on the beer, chicken and chips I downed at Nando's. Blame it on the rain that poured down on me as I wondered the streets of North London, or on the fact that I hadn't (nor have) concrete answers to those two questions, but I was done. Done being angry, done being upset, done attacking my issues head on and staying positive. I was just done.

Thankfully for true friends in low places (and for the first two months of blogging this will either mean Meghan or Jenn) I was able to stay at Meghan's boyfriend, Neil's flat. I showed up with a bottle of wine as a gift, but proceeded to drink it all by myself while I called my manager to tell him why I was not going to be at work in the morning. Trust me, drinking that wine was more of a gift to Neil and Meghan than having to witness me going through this without a bit of a relaxant. After spending a full day in a cafe outside of my estate agents' office, the landlord finally showed up around 4:00 to let me in to my home and give me the right key. As per the usual, customer service here was stellar.

I walked in to find relief and a hot shower, but that I was not yet "home." Sure I had a bed, but it was not really a bed unless it had some sheets on it. I couldn't sleep on top of my softest sweatshirts forever. Where were my pictures and my decor that would scream "late 20 something goddess" to everyone that walked in? Why is the light in my room so dull, where are the curtains, how do we cover this ugly carpet, and where are the things that will hide the white on the walls? Things needed to change, but I hadn't the energy to conquer these hurdles anytime soon.

While I was positive at work (despite my blush of embarrassment when having to repeat my lockout story), people proceeded to tell me that Finsbury Park was actually not all I thought it was. "Don't worry - I made the same mistakes too when I first got here" was the comment that stung the most. Or maybe it was the fact that everyone came to the consensus that I should not be living there, but in their neighborhood...which was west London. Well thanks. Glad you guys were there when I was trying to make this decision. Thanks for the vote of confidence from all of my "buds" in
Assurance. Hope you sleep well in your west side comfort as you leave me with one less hour of sleep tonight with your comments spinning doubt in my head about the contract I just signed. At a time when I really could use the great feeling of being accepted and feel like I had a place here, I go home feeling like I didn't wear the cool color to school today. Like everyone noticed my jeans weren't from the Gap, like I didn't watch the new show on MTV last night, like I was in school again. Good thing I'm so over my teens and mature now and your opinions clearly have no affect on my everyday mood!

What are setbacks really supposed to tell us? That things are harder than they appear? That the fantasy we have in our mind exists to tease us of what can never actually happen? Reality has hit hard this past month. Even now, 10 weeks in, I am still faced with setbacks that are slowing me from everything I wanted to get out of London. It isn't just a locked door or some lost luggage. Setbacks and sidetracks have seemed to just settle their way in to my life in every form. even here. How did they get in the country so easily?! Some have been because I had bad luck, some happened because I've been taken advantage of during a pretty vulnerable time in my life, and some happened simply because I just did not know any better.

But setbacks and sidetracks will not deter me from finding what I want here. A quest does not become an odyssey unless there are a few chapters in there to keep everyone entertained. I will go forth and conquer, not back in retreat. I will carry on, keep going..marching even...on the LEFT side if that's what you want. And when I get there I will know I have found it. All exhaustion, doubt, and negativity will fly out the window and I will know this is where I was meant to be. What I was meant to have. With who I was meant to share it. Now I just have to figure out what it is exactly that I am questing...

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Materialistic: describes a person who is markedly more concerned with material things (such as money and possessions) rather than spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values. – Wikipedia
Materialishtic: describes a person who is markedly concerned with spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values but sometimes, can become concerned with material things (such as money and possessions) when they seem like they are all that she has to make her prepared for her new journey. – Me

I awoke with a nasty looking hairdo but a fresh attitude about my move thus far. After all, I had landed safely in London! Customs took its expected time. No worries, though. It’s New Year’s Eve and everyone just wants to get home. After landing I decided that nothing was going to get me down, because I was here!!!

Turns out, one of my bags was not. It happened to be the bag with all of my clothes, toiletries, medicine, and shoes.... the perfectly packed bag. “It’s ok” I thought, “it must be due to the holidays. Everything will be fine.” That evening, I had a grand time having a beer with Jenn on the river and watching horrible (or should I just call it British) television.

Day 2 – still no word from Continental. I call the parentals to not only slot me in during their prayers but to keep checking the website. I decide it is ok to wear my tracksuit for 3 days in a row.

Day 3 – nothing. Go to church in tennis shoes for the first time. Donate half of what is in my wallet. Bargaining with God for my stuff or trying to be a better person in times of trouble? Not sure, but I hope it works.

Day 4 – Ok Seriously? Tears of frustration, between tears of fear and worry pile out. . Since I start my JOB tomorrow, I am forced to go shopping. Continental have given me a generous budget of $75 (not £) with which to secure shoes, slacks, a sweater and toiletries. Let’s see what I can do at Oxford Street on a Sunday.

Day 5 - I show up to work in pants that are about 6 inches too long and everyone else is wearing suits. Awesome. Have decided to take the extra $25 USD given to me for my per diem to invest in a dart board, cut out Continental’s logo and affix it to the background of said dartboard in order to create a visual of what my mind, body and soul would like to do to this airline. Instead, I rage and tell these important people I’m meeting this “funny” time that I’m going through. Maybe they will think I can show strength in times of adversity. Sure I can – as long as you don’t follow me into the bathroom.

Day 6 – I have tried convincing myself that Continental have donated my clothes to small starving children in Africa because they knew that I was the most caring, goodhearted person on that plane.. and that for my understanding I will get repaid tenfold by finding £1000000 on the street or maybe even better, a sugar daddy. My feet hurt because I bought cheap shoes. My pants have mud on them because, as per the usual, it has rained at one point during the day. The cheap button-up under my sweater has given me a nice 5 lbs excess, in addition to the 5lbs excess I’ve already developed over trying to drink back my luggage. I wished I had saved more last year to plan for horrors like this. I purposely bought a LOT of clothes in the States to avoid any of these costs coming over.
Suddenly, an email from my sister alerts me that Continental have found my luggage and it is on its way over right now! Oh thank goodness! It is going to be ok! I AM going to look normal soon! I get home, expecting to trip over my bag when I walk through the door. The door opens and ta-daa!
No bag.

No bag, no sanity.

There is nothing left to do but sit on my couch and sulk. Sulk about the jerk on the flight, the idiots that are employed at Continental, the global mobility people at work who made me take the cheaper flight, the money wasted on bulky blouses and non-tailored trousers, the fact that I may never see my slippers or my new sweater dress again. All hope is lost. I want to start this journey over. I’m drinking wine for breakfast from now on.

Just as I am headed to sleep, *RING*. My luggage was delivered!! It was here, downstairs, delivered by a man named Simon. After hugging him and telling him he was my best friend, he told me I must not have a lot of friends. I replied “ not a lot of friends who bring me a suitcase full of clothes and shoes!!” JOY JOY JOY!!

I carried it with no effort to my room and breathed a sigh of relief as I opened my treasure, my second chance at happiness. This was not just stuff. This was proof of my preparation. My slacks and sweaters were my armour, protecting me from the evils of the world that were so obviously out to get me. My shoes were my mode of transportation - if I were to take the wrong tube line home and get lost in my own neighbourhood, well then damnit- I’ll get lost comfortably. Just as all was lost, all was found. I put on my slippers and took an Advil just because I had one. I sat on top of all my clothes, willing them to be a part of me, to never leave me again .

And I finally thought, “I can do this.”

Monday, January 31, 2011


Oh shit.
Out of all my ideas...all of the thoughts and phrases I think of to describe my daily life, these are the two words I so often turn to when change hits. I knew something was up when I could not finish my margarita at Pappasito’s before my flight. I did fine on the queso, and not too bad on my enchilada come to think of it, but for me to not finish a drink...especially one that is paid for, is a warning sign.

I should have seen it when I yelled at my mom to leave me alone as she tried to help me lift my bag onto the scale. Everything was building up and I stressed over these two idiotic girls whose hollow heads and bright coloured jackets cut in front of me and decided to flirt with the baggage check workers in order to get through before me. Seeing as they were a waste of space and time but somehow were taken first in line, I tried to quickly check in and get my luggage to the Continental desk because I only had an hour until my flight left and
what if a huge pack of Brits or the entire Premier League or vacationers stormed into Houston Intercontinental with no checked bags and left me nothing but a huge security line to go through and I missed my flight and I freak out and then somehow my visa gets taken and I AM LEFT IN TEXAS FOREVER?!?!

Goal #1: Stop thinking the worst and give people around you (no matter how utterly stupid they are) a break.

Finally, the man took my luggage and I parted with my perfectly packed bag (done by my perfectly wonderful sister whose ability to pack everything into one suitcase without a wrinkle is surely a phenom that world travellers alike would love for her to document) and headed to security.

Oh Shit.
Time to say goodbye to my family. Having cried almost every night through December I fought back the tears as I tried to give quick hugs while at the same time convey the message: “I am not abandoning you, the people I love, to selfishly live my life, I just want to be the best Laura I can be for you. I want you to be proud.”

Right. Not sure that it was felt or heard loud and clear but I had to go on to the next task, Security.

While there were only a few people in line, I still tried to go through at lightning speed, at whatever cost to my own well being. Get out computer. Throw it in bucket. Slip off your shoes that should be untied because the heels wear and you get so mad when the heels wear but slipping off is faster. Come on, Duncan, no one gives you a gold star when you take time for yourself, only when you make their lives better. Do all this while walking and moving your luggage because somewhere somebody behind you is judging you for how long you take...just as you judged the man who forgot to empty his pockets in front of you and the guy who could have increased his unloading process by more accurately estimating the number of buckets he needs for all of his belongings.

Goal #2 Update the latter part of Goal #1 to include “slow” people and try to give yourself a break as well while you’re at it.

After awarding myself 3rd place in the Security line contest (a close race, but the man on business was able to really cut his time by making his laptop more accessible), I gave myself the next list of tasks to accomplish. Go to bathroom, start calling the bathroom the toilet or loo, and get some water.

Oh Shit.
The only real task I have left to do now is to pass out on the plane and manage not to lose my passport during the flight. Then I am there. Then I’ve really done it. Surely there has to be something else on my American to do list before I move on to the UK to do list . That list involves terrifying things like : find a place to live, make new friends, become the perfect person you have fabricated in your head whose schedule (note: start calling it diary) includes nothing but going to wine club meetings, writing acceptance speeches for the awards ceremonies you will be attending, dating a beautiful man who loves you for who you are, and of course- being in kick ass shape all of the time. What else could I do here before journeying into the land of unattainable expectations?

I thought it best for my nerves to give my friends a call and say one last goodbye. I was wrong. With each call I cried harder and harder all while trying to be stronger and stronger. I kept looking for an answer, a promise from God that would come out of someone’s mouth and tell me that this was about to be the best part of my life and not the scariest. I looked for an EXACT estimate of how long it would take for me to feel settled. I wanted Him to tell me that there was a reason I’ve worked so hard for this moment and that I was leaving everything I knew for something even better.

Then I had to do it. If only to hear their voices on a local line again, I called my parents. The thing about parents is their inherent ability to remove whatever mask you may have on display, analyze what you do not tell them, and then say the right thing. In this case, they knew I was nearing panic attack but mentioned nothing of the sort, and suggested I enjoy some ice cream or do some last minute airport shopping.

Finally, I was able to assign myself another task, get in line and get on the plane. I had stayed in the night before solely to log on at 6:45 and secure a nice window seat, and I was so happy with myself for doing so. I also invested in a cool looking black tracksuit, because when my best friend went on her honeymoon she looked so cool wearing it around and told me it made one a REAL traveller to have an outfit JUST for travel. I knew the next few weeks would be hard. I had been planning and prepping for months, but still had a lot to do after landing. I needed to rest.
While shuffling down the aisle, a family of 3 were sitting in my row, one of them occupying my seat. Great- I think. I have to be the mean person when really they are the ones breaking the rules. After politely informing the man that his daughter is occupying my seat, the man of the family asks if I will take his seat instead, so he can be with his family. “Are you alone? All by yourself? Then why does it matter where you sit”

...and that was when my exhaustion and anger hit. Why does it matter? Why does it matter?! I’ll tell you why it matters! While I am sure this comes as a shock to you, even SINGLE people have rights in this world. I've kept my dreams shoved under a bed of hard work, negativity, and effort to make people happy in a situation that made me unhappy so that one day I could live abroad. I slept in that bed for over two years to be able to stand here today. On my own two feet. Supporting myself...yes just that I could not only get here, but get here comfortably. In a window seat. In my tracksuit. So yes, it matters where I sit you unthoughtful, miserable excuse for a law abiding airline citizen.”

Instead I tried to give him a look and sat in the middle aisle seat that was supposed to be his destination. Which, of course he lied about, and (of course) his real seat was the middle seat, in the middle aisle, next to someone who should have bought a few seats for himself. Overreacting much? Maybe, but no monumental moments such as this should be soured by a man and his inability to understand the significance of my journey- which was supposed to begin in a window seat.

Goal #3: Realize that no matter how hard you plan, someone or something could always be there to screw it up. Also, if you can’t control your airline anger, be content in the knowledge that Ambien solves anything.

And so the flight, the journey, my odyssey, began.