Writing 101

An Update Over Coffee

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you about school. Classes are going well. I’m a little overwhelmed with three PR classes taught by one teacher, but that’s okay. I’m making it work. I’d tell you about how miserable my leadership class is. My group is…interesting, to say the least, but that’s okay. I’m making it work. You’d be proud.

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you I graduate in May and that I wish you could be here to watch me walk. Sometimes it’s like a looming dark hole, but sometimes it’s a bright shining door. I’m really excited. College was good for me and I’ve grown, but I’m ready for the next adventure.

If we were having coffee this morning, I’d tell you about my big plans, where I wanna travel. I’d tell you the stories from travelling in London and Italy, and I’d tell you that I wish you’d been there.

If we were having coffee this morning, when I’d finished my rambling stories, I’d thank you for everything you’ve done for our family. I’d thank you for the legacy you left for us before you got sick.

And you’d tell me how proud you are of all of us.

Today’s assignment was to present an “update” over coffee. I started writing and then I realized who I was writing to. My mom’s dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s about seven or eight years ago. The last family trip we took was to Paris in the summer of 2008. I have a lot of good memories with him from long before that, playing in his garden at the home he and my grandma shared in New York until he was moved to a nursing home a few years ago. It’s been increasingly difficult for all of us to go visit him because it’s so sad to see such a strong man become a shell of himself. Some of the most recent memories I have of him are sitting at breakfast making him coffee. Once he had me put something like 11 sugar packets in his cup. That was before I started college and before I started drinking coffee. I treasure the memories I have of him and I know he’d be proud of me and wherever he is mentally, I pray he’s happy.

Writing 101

Uncertainty

Today’s challenge is to use one word as inspiration for your post. There was a list of about six words available for us to choose from, or we could pick something else. Today, I decided I’m going to free write for 15 minutes and then I’ll edit and post and see how that goes. Thanks for your continued interest!

I think uncertainty is part of life and it isn’t always a bad thing.

I’m uncertain about a lot of things in my life. I don’t know what my plans are after graduation in the spring. I just officially declared my major last semester and I still have second thoughts like 12 times a day. This is the part of the semester (you know, the 14 weeks between the first week where I have an A in every class and finals, where I pretend like just passing is acceptable and calculate the minimum grades I need on my finals to pass) where I’m uncertain what my GPA this semester is going to look like, and that’s a scary thought because my scholarships depend on my grades.

And I’m okay with all of that uncertainty because I know I have some constants, whatever happens; the most important being that I’m surrounded by people who want me to succeed.

My psychology professor this semester keeps talking about planning. The class is called Psychology of Leadership and covers pretty much what it sounds like it would cover. We learn about different leadership styles, explore our own, and learn how we might be better leaders in the future. One of the points the authors of both our textbooks and my professor keep making is that planning, having a vision, is essential for planning for the future which is, in turn, essential to good leadership.

The other day, we were talking about planning and executions of those plans, and she asked for some examples. So I said that I plan on graduating in May, so I have to take all of the appropriate classes to achieve that goal and she wanted to know about my plans after graduation. Well, I don’t actually have those at the moment. And I said as much. And she looked almost personally offended that I don’t have my entire life planned out and that sparked a 20 minute lecture on needing to plan or you’ll end up somewhere you don’t want to be and that’s not a good thing, blah, blah, blah.

Naturally, I came home and told Roseanna and then we laughed about it. And then she told me about one of her professors who has asked them to set goals for themselves and to sit down with her and discuss them and the whole shebang. And she said that everyone has different ideas about long-term and short-term goals. And some long-terms goals might just be getting to graduation. And after that, life might be a big black hole of mystery and dragons.

Basically, as uncertain as I am about so many things in life, I’m enjoying my life as is, even without all the plans. It scares me sometimes that I don’t have it all totally together, but mostly, I’m okay with that. I’m sure (and so is my support system) that I’m going to find my passion and go with it and I won’t know what hit me. And until then, I’m certain I’ll be uncertain and happy with that.

My London Adventure

Mistaken

Every semester, when we get to finals week, I’m always ready to go home. Because that means I can sleep and hang around the house and not shower for days (I’ll admit it; I’m not ashamed. Showers are hard.).  And this semester was no different. It came to finals and I was ready to go home (in reality I was ready before our coach tour, but it was worse last week).  I just wanted to skip these last two weeks and be on a plane home. Fast forward. Bam! Home!

Well, on Monday, I finished my finals. And all of a sudden, at 10 AM, it hit me. I didn’t wanna go home nearly as badly as I had about two hours ago. And then I realized that I equated being home with being done and I just hate finals (who doesn’t?). And now I’m very sad to be leaving.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited to eat Mexican food and meat that doesn’t scare me and see my family and sleep for a week, but I really am gonna miss this place.

It’s beautiful here. And it’s unique.

I’m going to miss walking through the park on my way to class.

I’m going to miss the sandwiches in the grocery stores.

I’m going to miss the adventure.

I was mistaken. I’m ready to go home, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to this wonderful place and all it has to offer. But don’t worry, London, I’ll be back.

I did learn, however, that I need to stop rushing the end of my semesters. They really are the best days and I need to enjoy every second I’ve got. So, tomorrow, I’m enjoying every minute. And I can’t wait!

See you soon, Texas!

My London Adventure

For Good

Wicked

Last night we went to see Wicked as our “end of semester treat.” And this week marks a lot of lasts. We had our last art class. We took our theater final. Our semester is quickly winding down.

And this semester has taught me a lot. I mean, I learned about London and its history (more than I like, if we’re being honest). I learned about Children’s Literature. I learned about Art and Theater. But I really learned about life.

I learned about the unfamiliar. I learned to cope with living with 5 other girls. I learned about grocery shopping. I learned about a different way of life.

And I met some of the most wonderful people on the way.

At graduation, 2 years ago, a few girls sang this song. And I had never seen Wicked, so I never really had a context for this song. Lemme give you some context. In the musical, Elphaba meets Glinda and they are stuck as roommates. They eventually become best friends and this song a duet is near the end of the show, when they have gotten over their differences and are parting ways forever. So, woah, go graduation. Good choice, ladies.

But, in context of this semester, I know I have made a few really close, really strong relationships. And I also know I will never see most of these people again. And for some of them, that’s not such a bad thing. I know it isn’t going to be bad for me to never see them again. They taught me what they needed to teach me, and that’s that.

I think it’s valuable to learn that. Sometimes, you just have to let people go, because they weren’t meant to be in your life forever. And if you learn what you were supposed to from them, they never really leave, because your relationship with them was fruitful.

My flatmates taught me so much. They taught me patience (which is going to be an ongoing lesson, for a long time; but they did help it along). They taught me to bite my tongue. They taught me the  value of communicating. And that sometimes, you just have to walk away and cool off, all of which I knew, but needed to practice.

My roommates taught me to be confident when I get dressed up. And apparently it is okay for me to wear a mini-skirt and not look like an idiot. Not that I think I’ll be wearing them a whole lot. But apparently I can dress cute and not look dumb. And also, Ali was apparently right, and you have to wear mascara with eyeliner or your face doesn’t look right.

In addition, if nothing else, they taught me I don’t ever want to live the 5 people to whom I have no relation. 2 other people is a stretch. Not 5. Ever again.

My teachers taught me a bunch of things. Dr. Romig taught me about understanding Children’s books. And reminded me how much I love to read. I forgot how important it was to me because I was always so busy, that if I was reading, I knew I should have been reading a textbook, and Sneaky Gabi got around that by just not reading. She reminded me that reading is good for me and reading fixes my life.

Ian’s Theater class reminded me how much I love theater. I love the fun of it. I love watching it. And I need to do something with that when I get home. And I learned I can appreciate a show without loving it. And he taught us to express our opinions, which is not a thing we are frequently taught. He taught us that just because your opinion “might be rubbish, it’s your rubbish” and we need to be proud of that.

The Holcombs introduced me to all kinds of new foods I had no idea I liked, because I was so sure I didn’t like them. Uhm, hello. Try new food. You won’t always like it (fish and chips) but you might be pleasantly surprised (Thai food). And Mrs. Dr. Holcomb gave me some pointers for studying, because that is a skill I am still honing.

My new friends reinforced my feelings about family dinners (which have always been a big thing in my family).  That needs to be a thing for me, always. That’s a deal-breaker. We need to eat together, and talk. Not just eat in front of a movie or show or a phone. Dinner is a good time to socialize. But don’t talk to me with a mouthful of food, because that’s gross. And I learned all kinds of new games for a night in. That’s been wonderful.

And I learned how much my parents taught me, how much they instilled in me: good manners; intelligence; common sense. You don’t show up to someone’s house to eat without something to contribute. You always offer to help with the dishes, even if no one else does. You say please and thank you. If you go to someone’s house and they serve you something you’ve never had, you try it and pretend to like it, even if you don’t; you can always get something when you get home. You look both ways, twice when you cross the street. Pay attention to what’s going on around you. Don’t be a space cadet.

So, to everyone who had a hand in my education, formal or informal, I thank you. I do believe I have changed for the better. I have grown this semester (though not physically, because some of us haven’t grown since 7th grade). Thank you. And if this is good bye, good luck.

My London Adventure

You know you’ve been in London a while when…

…You don’t make eye contact with people on the street

Here, that is not a thing. You mind your own business. Plus, if you make eye contact with the street vendors, they might try to sell you things, and you have somewhere to be. No thanks.

…You’ve been asked for directions, and can give them

We must have this look like we know what we’re doing.

…You know which line on the Tube to use without consulting a map

Wanna go to St. Paul’s? That’s the Central Line.

Wanna go to Covent Gardens? That’s the Piccadilly Line. And you may or may not stop there, depending on the direction you’re going. You might have to go to Leicester Square and walk.

Also, the Bakerloo and Northern lines don’t currently stop at Embankment because of work they’re doing on the station.

See?

…Crossing the street is no longer a frightening prospect

We don’t even have to look at the arrows anymore. And, we know how to read the patterns of traffic. Watch those blinkers! (They don’t always use them before they turn).

…You learned to use the maps on the bus stops

They don’t label every stop on every route. And they don’t always stop at every stop. Make sure you’re paying attention and push the button, just in case.

…You learned sometimes the bus is faster than a Tube

Don’t try to take the Tube to Waterloo station from Holborn, you’ll be walking extra. Instead, take one of the at least four buses that stops there. They stop right at the entrance.

…You found the buses are nicer than the Tube if you have the time

London is beautiful if you aren’t surrounded by cement. And you don’t have to walk down any stairs to get to the bus.

…Squeezing onto the Tube at rush hour is no big feat

You move down into the car. You use all available doors. And most importantly, you let people get off the car before you try boarding.

…You know the peak times of the Tube

9ish in the morning is a bad time to travel, as is 5-7ish. Also, don’t expect a seat around lunch time.

…You have the thought “oh, those Americans,” before you realize that used to be you

We were coming home from Richmond last week and there was group of students, much like ourselves, who were being loud. We could hear them from the other end of the car. That used to be us. It isn’t so much anymore.

…You say “sorry” instead of “excuse me” when you run into someone or need them to move

I’ve also heard “cheers.” “Sorry” is the one I use.

…You know you either walk and drink your coffee, or you wait; don’t hold up the people behind you

I do not walk and drink, I would spill coffee down the front of my shirt. I wait until I have stopped moving, like on the escalator or at a Tube stop to take a sip.

…You watch movies and think, “been there, done that”

London Movie Collage

…You also know what else is going on outside the frame of pictures

Shakespeare’s globe is on the other side of Millennium Bridge.

The Houses of Parliament are next to Big Ben.

…The constant noise of the city doesn’t phase you

Listening to people walk by my window is even entertaining sometimes. Sirens and car horns don’t even keep me up anymore.

…The loud silence on the tube is not a thing you feel like you need to fill

There’s this odd silence on the Tube. No one talks.

We used to talk on our way places. Now, it’s almost like conversation ceases when we board. All you hear is the Tube rushing through the tunnels and maybe the wind whistling through the windows.

…There’s a certain level of organized chaos that goes with all public places

I spent yesterday morning in Camden Market. While I was alone, it was interesting to see people interacting with each other: vendors with customers, parents with their children, friends, couples. It was interesting.

…The prospect of the Bank/Monument tube stop walk, while dreadful, is no longer foreboding

It’s a long walk, but sometimes it must be done.

…You know you stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left, period

There are signs everywhere. And you do not want to get in someone’s way.

…You know bicyclists don’t follow all the rules of drivers or pedestrians

Sometimes, they get off, walk their bike across the street, and get back on and keep riding. Sometimes they don’t stop at the light. You’ve gotta keep a pretty close eye on them.

…Awareness of your surroundings is key

Don’t get run over by a bus because you were watching for bikes in the wrong directions. Also, just being aware of who is around you is good. Don’t let that creepy guy catch you unawares.

…You expect to visit the grocery store again in about 3 days’ time, if not less

Seriously. Things here will spoil in that amount of time, especially the fruits and vegetables. If you don’t really need it today, wait.

…You know which side of the road to stand on to get on the bus

Which way did you come from, which way do you need to go?

…You recognize the landmarks they use on the bus stops

Toward St. Paul’s? Know where that is in relation to my flat. Toward Holborn? That’s near home. Toward Aldwych? I can get us home from there.

…You know you have to ask for the check, or you’ll be sitting a while

Servers will clear your table and still not bring you the check. Ask. Or you’ll be late. On the upside, I’ve never felt like they were rushing me out the door.

…You know you don’t call a taxi; it’s cheaper to get on the bus

Taxi’s are the most expensive way to travel. Besides, a little walking is probably good for you.

…You live in a flat, not an apartment

And apparently not a house, as everyone keeps reminding me. Whatever.

…Seeing people in full business suits is not strange

That’s a perfectly expected way to get to work. So, nice shoes, nice clothes, on a bike.

…Topping up your Oyster Card is different from renewing it

They made it very clear. We needed to renew them because topping them up was just going to add money to them which would then be deducted every time we used it. Not what we wanted from the world.

…You regularly offer people a “cuppa tea” when they come over

But really. We’re all studying? “Anyone want some tea?” All stressed out? “Can I get you a cup of tea?” Just had dinner? “Would you like some tea?” I’m bored. “I’m making tea for myself. Anyone else want some?”

…Movies all of sudden start making even more sense

The uniforms in Harry Potter are standard issue for the schools here, except for the pointed hats; here, they wear top hats.

…Accents are not a thing you notice anymore

It’s gotten harder for me to be able to tell if someone has an accent. I’ve just gotten used to the British accents, and all the other accents, too.

My London Adventure

On The Road Again [and Again and Again]

This post is all about our 10 Day Coach Tour. We spent Spring Break on a tour of Northern England, Scotland, and Wales. It was blast, but not the break I needed, so there’s that.

To start off, I’d like to share a shot poem written by my friend, Emily, over at Mastering History. She read this poem to us on the morning of about the seventh day of our trip. And when she finished, we were not only all impressed by her talent at poetry, but also at her ability to put into words how every single one of us was feeling.

“Ode to Coach Travel” 

We started out with spirits high
Excited, smiling, nice as pie
Music played, voices raised
And out the windows, all just gazed.

Hours passed and we grew weary
Some of us felt rather teary.
But I was feeling worst of all
Terribly, awfully, worse than y’all.

My aching head began to swell
And of my rage, I could not tell
For it was not the kind of day
For being cheerful, come what may.

Running, jumping, bumping, darting
Screaming, yelling, burping, farting
“I’ve had enough!” I loudly said.
“I should have just stayed home in bed!”

But soon the coach began to sway
The noise began to fade away
The cheeks of many soon turned green
And there was vomit to be seen.

Comforted with ginger candy,
I sat back, just feeling dady.
At last, some peace! I sighed, relieved.
I was, once more, no longer peeved.

With that lovely visual, let me tell you a little more about our trip.

We spent the better part of seven of our ten days on a bus. 37 of my closest friends in London. On a bus. For hours at a time. Sounds just like vacation, right? And let me not complain. It was a great trip and I am blessed to be experiencing all that I am; however, when I get home, I will be sleeping for about a month.

Anyway, let me tell you something; packing for 10 days in a carry-on sized suitcase is hard enough when you know what kind of weather to expect. If you could have weather in the 60’s or in the 20’s, it becomes more difficult. I did learn that rolling clothes makes them fit significantly better in a suitcase (my Pinterest addiction, while still very healthy, has at last come in handy). Not sure how that works, but it does. Seriously. Read about it. Anyway. I somehow managed to fit 10 outfits plus pajamas and all the extras (laptop that I would pull out about twice, chargers, converters, toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, towel, all that jazz that you need but don’t really think about until you need it) into a carry-on suitcase (which reassures me that I will have plenty of room for the souvenirs I plan to bring home). Anyway, packing was fun. And most of the places we stayed were one night stops, so repacking every morning was also fun. Somehow it seemed that every morning, my suitcase was getting just a little heavier everyday, which doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, because I certainly didn’t make any great purchases.

Anyway. We spent a night in York. Another in Whitby. Two in each Edinburgh, Glencoe, and Ambleside. Our last night was spent in Caernarvon. And let me tell you that my favorite was Glencoe. By a mile. Even when there was no connection, it was the best. Besides the fact that it was the most beautiful place we visited, it was different.

We spent two nights in the cutest little cabin-looking hotel. And we spent a day hiking. And we didn’t have to deal with a million people. That was wonderful. I didn’t realize how much London stresses me out. There are a million people everywhere, and trying to keep up with the two I need to be with is stressful. Because, even though now I am capable of finding my way home (I’m finally beginning to remember which buses stop here, 21 days before we go home), what if they can’t find their way home? Or what if they’re busy worrying about me? Or what if I have something they need? Big-Sister Gabi doesn’t really enjoy it, and I didn’t really realize it until we were hiking up this mountain, just three of us, and I wasn’t worrying about losing Clarissa or Lisa.

And before someone starts a lecture about “you are not their mother,” I am well aware. I just worry about the people I’m with. It’s just encoded in my genes. I worry about everyone I’m with. Confession: it’s nice when the Holcomb’s are with us, because then I feel much less ridiculous, because they can always use an extra pair of eyes on those boys.

Despite getting soaked during our hike, it was phenomenal.

Glencoe Collage
Some pictures from Glencoe. (:

In contrast to Glencoe, with it’s cute little hotel, we stayed at a Youth Hostel in Ambleside. And, I recognize that I sound like a spoiled brat, but I don’t do sharing my bathroom. When I went and visited UMHB the first time, we toured all the dorms and my mom was really excited when we went through Stribling, because I could have my own room. And I told her that I was willing to have a roommate if I got a bathroom that was my own. And all this came flooding back when we lugged our stuff to the third floor of the hostel and found that not only were the bathrooms not attached to our rooms, but they were coed. Uhm, no thank you.

There was a lot of roommate bonding going on in Ambleside, at least among my roommates. Let me tell you, if you really don’t wanna shower, you can make do with what you’ve got. And let me not say more than that.

By day 10, we were all ready to come back to London. Actually, I think we’re all ready to go home, but seeing as that’s not really an option, we’ll settle for the familiarity that is London, with its wifi and kitchens and slight personal space.

London, it’s been fun, but in 21 days, I get to go home and know what menus mean and eat Mexican food whenever I want and I get my own room and I get  to see my mama and daddy. And I am counting down the days.

My London Adventure

Groceries in Coins

Later this week (Friday) we leave for our 10 coach tour through Northern England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. And it’s going to be a wonderful 10 days with 39 of my closest friends. And I may or may not have an internet connection, so you may or may not get to hear about my adventures through rural United Kingdom.

Anyway. Tonight, Lisa and I went to the grocery store to pick up some snacks and things  to bring with us in case we don’t like the food or need snacky things for the bus or whatever. So we got some nuts and some grapes and some candy bars (because sometimes you just need some chocolate to make things better).

So we get over to check out and we remember some of our friends telling us that at this store, if you do self-checkout, you can just dump your coins in there and if there’s too much, it’ll spit out the smallest number of coins for change. So, Lisa and I, who are carrying about a ton of coins (if you don’t know why, learn about it here), are all for that. We can get rid of the coins? Uhm, yes please.

In all reality, if I knew what they looked like just by size, it wouldn’t be so bad, because I’d use them. Since I don’t, I hate holding people up and usually cave and pay with a bill or the £1 coins, because they’re all I really know how to use. But, at this store, there’s none of that. Everyone said you just dump your coins into the machine and the machine counts it out and that’s how that goes. Very exciting.

Well, that’s pretty much exactly what Lisa and I did. We pulled out these coins by the handful and dumped 6 or 7 at a time into this poor little machine. And the machine was not happy about that in the slightest. We had about £8 worth of coins (and mostly small coins, like 5p and 10p) into this machine when it stopped counting and started spitting them back out. So very logical Gabi picks them out and tries to put them back in. And then a message popped up and said “Please Wait for Assistance” or something. So we’re standing there, a little like lost children, and this guy comes over and looks at the machine and scans his little ID card and proceeds to open this machine. Like, swings the door open.

He was very apologetic: “So sorry; this’ll be fixed in just a moment.” Like it’s the machines fault Lisa and I tried to make it do too much math.

So we’re standing there and he’s like, “So, how much have you already put in here?” And I look at Lisa and told him “Uhm, no idea. At all.” And he laughed a little bit and did some magic and made it work again. So we figured out that we should probably only put a few coins in at a time. So we did that and it started spitting coins back out at us again, and we decided it must be done with our nonsense. So, we paid for the rest with a note and called it good.

But, lemme just tell you, we spent about £25 on snacks and paid for more than half with just coins. Like, almost £15 in small coins. It’s just crazy to me that we can carry that many coins around and be okay with that.

So, that, readers, is how you pay for groceries in coins in London and almost break the machine.