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Sunny London (Part 3)

Because clearly I couldn’t be fussed to write part 3 of my arrival to London, and because I’ve been here for 2 months now without having finished my blog about arriving here, I’m going to simply cut and paste three emails I sent to friends shortly after my arrival and then I’ll get on with the business of actually writing a proper update about school and life and the like.

Email #1:

So – day 3 in London and things are starting to normalize a bit. I’m sitting here, still, next to overflowing suitcases in The Girl’s living room (Correction: *our* living room. Still getting used to that!) as I haven’t yet worked up the energy to drag these last two upstairs. In my defense, I’ve been busy viewing random historical sites at the behest of my nerdy-awesome girlfriend – who was equally as driven by her desire to make the most of her weekend car rental as she was to wow me with UK history. I have learned, thus far, that the Salisbury family line were not an attractive lot and that the ye olde public toilets rarely have toilet paper. Oh, and that toilet paper is called Loo Roll. Oh, and that there’s usually a cafe with cake waiting at the end of being dragged through something educational whilst jetlagged. 😉

Funny story – I had to use the “loo” and we stopped at a petrol (gas) station. Before I went in I asked “Do I ask for a restroom? or bathroom? or?” and The Girl said “Ask for the loo or the toilet.” Of course I wasn’t going to say TOILET — Who says TOILET?!?! Feeling excited to make use of my new UK slang, I walked up to the counter and asked “Do you have a loo?” However, the man behind the counter didn’t speak much english and, confused by my accent, furrowed his brows and repeated “Dyahavvaloo?” I said “No, no… DO YOU HAVE A LOO.” – careful to enunciate each word (though I didn’t speak louder – a fact of which I am proud.) He repeated back “DYAHAVVALOO?” At which point, my spirits were dampened and I simply said “Toilet???” At which point he rolled his eyes and pointed to the clearly marked Toilet sign directly to the left of him. *sigh* Tourist Fail. At the pub later that night, I was informed that I should ask for the “Shit hole” next time. Somehow I don’t trust that advice. 😉

Email #2

As for me and my horse, it seems we are being fully domesticated. This weekend is a trip to IKEA so that I can begin inserting myself into all available corners of The Girl’s bachelor existence. I have been informed that I get to pick the colors for the walls in the office. I’m planning on being ridiculous about it. Tonight we made muffins. The joy at finally getting to do such a mundane deed together resulted in The Girl’s spontaneous composition–“The Muffin Song”–which went something like this:

Ohhh, we made muffins.
Muffins in the eveniiiiing.
And then we kiiiiissed.

Had a bit of a Dusty Springfield vibe to it, I’d say.

Email #3

Here’s some of what I’ve learned about London so far:

1) “Just around the corner” translates into at least a half-mile’s walk and “a bit of a walk” means at least 1.5. By virtue of this, I’m getting to see a lot of London on foot. Exploring a city with your tootsies and/or on public transit is a really different thing. You’re forced to interact with all your senses as well as with your heart and mind. Today I was told stories of road trips in the US, the names of humdrum familiar states and cities dripping like jewels off the tongues of bright-eyed adventurers. Yesterday, a woman asked me “Why would you come *here!?*” I said “To London? Or to Hackney?” She said “Both!” I said “Because it’s something I don’t know yet.” That seemed to satisfy her. Little conversations. Little connections. None of which I’d have if I weren’t waddling around on foot.

2) That said, probably best to make a slower transition from a sedentary driving lifestyle to a “OMGLONDON!!!” walking lifestyle, as my torn calf muscle can attest to. Live. Learn. Cuss a bit. Move on.

3) Don’t listen to the people who tell you not to smile at people in passing. Maybe don’t make lingering eye contact, creepypants – but it’s OK to smile. I don’t feel obligated to ingratiate myself but I’m having an adventure, so often I’m smiling when I’m out and about. Last week I was randomly offered a cookie by a shop owner who was eating one behind the counter. Clearly I’m doing something right if people are giving me cookies. COOKIES!

4) They really like the word cock here. I’m not kidding. There’s Cock-A-Leekie Soup. There’s just plain old Cock Soup. There’s “The Famous Cock” which is a pub. There’s Cockfosters, which is a borough. And I’m sure that’s not the half of it.

5) Everything is CUTE here. Jesus. Cobbled streets, twinkly lights, shiny red double-deckers, old ornate pubs, smooshed-together brick houses and fruit and veg markets on every corner. Really, London. Get it together. You’re a postcard of yourself.

Btw, as can be contested to by our current houseguest, you should totally come visit.

Love love love,
Stacy


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Hopping the Pond (Part 2)

So – the last 24 hours in Portland.

Mom’s partner Celia kindly drove her up to Portland so she could stay the night with us. The *intention* was for her to get a ride home from D the next morning as, clearly, she’d be too bereft at the loss of me (such a Leo!) to drive safely. Thing is, tho, stubbornness is genetic and I had to get it from somewhere. Guess who? Just as well, though, as I gave Mom my car when I left and she had to get it home somehow. Off topic: I love the fact that Mom now owns two VW Beetles – one green, one yellow. The only thing better than owning a car that makes people punch each other randomly (SLUGBUG!) is having *two* cars that make people punch each other randomly.

I don’t remember much about the last night, to be honest. I think largely it consisted of glazed expressions, mild nausea and an overwhelming feeling that I was forgetting something so important that the entire fabric of the space-time continuum would begin to unravel the moment the plane lifted off the tarmac. Somewhere in there was dinner, some friends popping by to pick up clothes that didn’t make the “is this worth $70 in luggage overages?” cut, a bit of crying, and far-too-many cigarettes.

The next morning, after sorting out my final details and donning my predetermined airplane outfit (all grieving-widow black, natch), I stumbled out into the living room to the smell of bacon. D&L had, very sweetly, gotten up early to cook a spectacular breakfast. The lovely JK (she was an integral part of planning my going away party as well as simply being an outstanding human being in general) had just arrived as well to help us caravan to the airport. Everyone was buzzing around, Mom was chopping things to keep herself busy, Girl was packing up her last minute items, D&L were cooking and, after being advised that I was pale, sweating and shaking, I was banished to the front porch with JK where I took deep breaths until I got a hold on myself.

I nibbled a bagel halfheartedly, cursing the nausea for ruining my chances at enjoying such a delicious and well-intentioned spread, and held hands with Mom as the reality of leaving sunk in. I won’t lie, there was some ugly-crying going on. Kindly, everyone else was suddenly HIGHLY FASCINATED by their breakfast plates and made room for Mom and I to have our moment with minimal awkwardness. And then, it was time to go.

We piled ourselves and our luggage into two cars and hit the road. Again, I couldn’t tell you what we talked about in the car. All I remember is being worried about my Mom and still convinced that I was forgetting something globally catastrophic. The goodbyes at the airport were fast and fraught and sweet and hard. But the well-wishes were just as palpable. And as folks pulled away, the Girl and I lugged our baggage inside and started the business of actually leaving.

One thing – the Girl and I booked our flights separately since she had a round-trip and I didn’t. We’d called the airline to try to get seats together and they’d told us that the only seats available were two middle seats, one directly behind the other. Now let me tell you, the prospect of a middle seat is no fun for anyone but, for a fatty, it’s the stuff of nightmares. We took our plight to the woman at the counter and, as sympathetic as she was, it sounded like she wasn’t going to be able to do anything for us. She did, however, suggest that I grab an airsick bag and make gagging motions to entice the person next to me to swap seats with Simone- which was funny. “Works every time!” she said. But somehow, over the next 15 minutes of luggage wrangling and joking conversation, she pulled a fast one on us and, as we arrived at the gate we found ourselves with sneakily upgraded tickets. Economy Plus at no extra charge *and* two seats together! Whoever you are, United Check-In Lady, we love you!

Also, props to United Economy Plus — not only did the seatbelt fit me but, with the extra leg room, the tray table even came all the way down. It bumped my belly a bit but it was doable. The armrest wasn’t the most comfortable thing in the world but it came down and felt tolerable. Luckily, however, I was with the Girl and I could put it up and relax – the relief of that was immense. As the plane rattled down the runway and the tears began to come again, I wondered how on Earth I’d have managed to wrangle the immensity of leaving without her beside me. I watched Portland get smaller and smaller in the distance and felt a strange mix of grief and the tingles of excitement creeping in around the edges.

This was really happening. After two long years of preparation, of skype dates and months between kisses, of paperwork and uncertainty, of hard emotional work and profound epiphanies — I was really moving to London. I was really going to be with the Girl. I was really going to try on not only a new city, but a new continent, a new culture and a new direction.

After 13 hours in the air and an uneventful layover in Chicago, our plane touched ground in London. I filled out my landing card and the Girl and I parted ways – her to the quick-moving line for UK residents and me to the heaving mass of over-excited tourists and hopeful emigrants. After being in the shuffling for 20 minutes, I got to the sign that said “Expect a 30 minute wait from this sign.” I txt’d the Girl who was already waiting on the other side and she wandered off to pick up the luggage. I’d been advised to keep a copy with me of everything I used to prove legitimacy for my Visa and, with nearly an hour in line to freak myself out, I was completely convinced that something was going to go horribly awry by the time I finally got to the customs official. Instead, she asked me a few easy questions, slapped a few stamps on my passport and all but clapped me on the ass as I walked through.

That was it! I was in! The other side of that customs gate felt like some weird kind of rebirth. As I made my way to baggage claim, I smiled to myself. No more goodbyes. I live here now. In LONDON!


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So, I moved to London. NBD. (Part 1)

I’ve had a block about writing this post. For the most part it’s because I’ve been too busy doing stuff to stop and write about it. That, and the sheer magnitude of experience encompassed in the last month seems too daunting to write about, even in summary. But, thanks to the (sweetly) insistent pestering on the part of the Girl, I am giving it the ol’ college try.

It’s been almost 7 weeks since my last confession. During that time I said goodbye to everyone I know and love, packed up what remains of my belongings, tied up all my loose ends and hopped across the pond to jolly old England where I am now sitting next to the aforementioned Girl who just finished washing up after cooking me sausages. Let this be an inspiration to you — at the end of any huge leap of faith, there is hope of sausages.

My last month in Portland was exactly what I hoped it would be. My days and nights were filled with sweetness, connection and hugging. It’s all a bit of a blur, really. I left home in the early mornings, came home late at night and in between were hilarious brunches, river trips, bluff sunsets, park picnics, waterfront walks, BBQ’s, dinner parties, patio chats and so much more. Some friends threw me an incredibly sweet going away party with living party favors (lily starts to take home and plant) and a banana cake you wanted to put your entire face in. I had a small gathering as well the night before last where the intimate circle came for drinks. One friend brought a little Polaroid camera and took shots that I could take away tangibly, which was such a lovely and perfect idea. Another gifted me with a package that she insisted I not open until I was on the plane. Inside it was a series of additional envelopes to be opened as-needed. I opened the one that said “Sometimes flying while fat sucks.” and inside of it was a gorgeous picture of a rad fatty and the words “You are beautiful!” So sweet. The rest of the envelopes I have saved for emotional emergencies – as I’m sure some will arise over the next year – and knowing they’re here is a huge comfort. Another dear friend gifted me with a pendant of hers, something that she wore frequently and that I’d always commented on as beautiful. It’s something I always have associated with her and having it here with me is such a sweet and strong connection. Another friend gave me a tiny dish with an old map of London on it. She’d saved it from the first Estate Sale she’d organized, saying that I’d helped her somehow to make her dream a reality. These gifts, each one of them in different ways, as well as other more personal gifts I’ve not mentioned, and the equally-as-valuable gifts of time and connection, touched me in ways I really can’t explain. The collective tenderness, connection, hilarity, sweetness and love that I experienced in that last month is an experience I will never forget and never take for granted.

Two weeks before my departure, the Girl arrived in PDX. We’d arranged for her to come for a final visit and so that we could go home together. (I know, I know. *squish*) We spent a couple of nights in Portland at a local hotel just to have some sweetness and respite together and then packed up and went down to Silverton to stay with my Mom for a week. The time in Silverton went so quickly. My Mom, the Girl and I were all working so we had only evenings together, save for my birthday which was mid-week. I kept feeling this (self-imposed) pressure to figure out ways to make each moment we had feel momentous somehow. It had to be SPECIAL!!!!! Truth is, though, that we were all so exhausted that largely we spent each night curled up on the couches together watching movies. That was good, though. The sweetness and comfort of being in the same room was all we really needed – that, and to stock up on normalcy since there was so little to be had in the near-future. Leaving Mom’s house was the hardest part of this entire process. But really, save the cost of the plane ticket, being an hour away and being 24 hours away isn’t all that different. My Mom and I are as close as any Mom and Daughter can healthfully be and no amount of mileage between us will change that.

Aside from the week at my Mom’s, my last month in Portland was spent in the home of my sweet friends D&L. They were infinitely patient with the sorting process which left suitcases in their living room for days and days as well as just being genuine joy and light to be around. D sat with me while I packed things, tried on silly hats, laughed with me and read me her stories. We spent a bit of time in the pool together. L introduced me to the Glee Project and cried with me at the same silly moments as well as constantly chasing the cats out of the house so as not to set off the Girl’s allergies. And together they were just the most welcoming and easy place to be for both myself and my Mom. D actually offered to drive my Mom home to Silverton after she dropped me at the airport — this on only 3 hours of sleep after an on-call shift. Their kindness and ease in sharing their space during such a chaotic transition just affirmed all the wonderful things I already knew of them, and will never be forgotten.

Also, I have to say that the Girl deserves some kind of medal or perhaps an actual trophy for putting up with my harrowing mood swings during those last two weeks. Between stress hormones and general overwhelm, I was a handful to say the least. She was grace under pressure and a constantly safe space to rest my over-full head. She maintained her excitement even when I was terrified (or possibly terrifying) and helped me feel grounded in the midst of all that change. I’m a lucky girl.

So – more to come. For now, it’s 8 hours ahead and bedtime. I leave you with some pics of my last weeks in PDX.

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Where to Begin?

So much has happened since my return from NOLOSE and I have been too swamped with enjoying it to sit here and write it down.

First, my Visa arrived — all iridescent and affixed permanent-like to my passport. Entrance granted until nearly the end of 2014. I keep pulling it out of my purse and staring at it like it’s a portal that I can’t get through just yet. Last night I had a Back To the Future-esque dream in which I was tossing all of my belongings haphazardly into the back of my VW Beetle – clothes in paper bags and belongings all akimbo – as I prepared to hop in and get the speed up to the 142MPH(?) required to jump time and place. Time and place are 80% of what I think about these days. I woke up stressed and laughing (which seems to be my default state right now.)

Second, I’ve had some personal epiphanies that are really helping me come out of the strange slump I’ve been in the last two months. Bit too fresh and raw to post about here but I’m sure I’ll be mulling it over for its own “lessons learned the hard way” post one of these days. The important thing is that I feel nearly myself again and I am walking in more joy than I have in a long time. It’s all quite fledgling and I’m having to do a lot of daily (sometimes hourly) reminders to myself to maintain my new perspective but I feel excited to have a few new tools under my belt for navigating the more challenging parts of my psyche.

Third, I’ve had some really fun moments of connection with people I already know and love and some new folks that I’ve been meeting over the last couple of weeks. NOLOSE was full of that kind of connection and the trend has continued since. Two different friends took it upon themselves to facilitate introductions with two other amazing women whom I’m excited to learn more about — one a talented activist and writer who is working on her PhD at Yale in anthropology, another a powerhouse of a spoken word artist/writer who is doing some amazing body-positive work in the world. The first woman I met at a BBQ and adored immediately, the second I’ve just begun to engage with via Facebook. I take it as a sign that I’m moving in the right direction that I’m getting to meet such amazing, mindful, intelligent, passionate and creative women. I have a sneaking suspicion that these are the first of many such connections I will be honored to make over the next few years and that, layered upon my existing network of just-as-amazing women, will help to set a foundation for something I haven’t managed to even wrap my brain around yet.

Fourth, I had so much fun this weekend. Fat-positive dance party on Friday night with sweet friends, birthday party hopping on Saturday night, Fatty brunch and laze-about day on Sunday, and a wonderful dinner with a dear friend tonight after which I got to hold an adorable chicken! (Felt a bit bad having just eaten chicken prior but, you know, circle of life. Sorry vegetarians.) Looking forward to a visit with my Mom tues-thurs, a movie night on Friday with a friend and then another amazing weekend of rad fattiness with an out-of-town guest and all the community-gathering that will accompany her visit as well as the Chunky Dunk on Sunday.

Fifth, I said my goodbyes at work today. I had to go in for a meeting and realized while I was there that it was likely the last time I’d have to go in before I moved. Strange thought. I hugged the folks that mattered, took some photos and walked out the door with my first taste of finality, bittersweet on my tongue.

Sixth, I booked my plane ticket to London this morning. I don’t even want to talk about how much it was. But it’s done. Same flight back as the Girl. I wasn’t able to select seats but I’d like to see someone argue about who gets to sit next to the fatty — I figure it’ll work out. 😉 Leave date is officially August 26th.

The last thing I have to sort out is financial aid. I’m working on it. Submitted my FAFSA over the weekend and it seems to have been processed this morning however I couldn’t pull any of my information out of their system for some reason. Have an email into the university asking them about my next steps. It looks like a mix of direct and personal loans. *sigh* This is the scariest part but I’ll figure it out. I always do.

And now, to bed. Tomorrow, to Silverton.

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NOLOSE 2011

Bridge to Fatlandia - NOLOSE 2011

Bridge to Fatlandia - NOLOSE 2011

I’ll admit it. As I packed up and headed out to NOLOSE this year, I thoroughly anticipated severe social anxiety and feelings of isolation throughout the weekend. This has been my overall experience of the last few months and I saw no reason it should be different there (and in fact, I feared it may be worse.)

Imagine my surprise when, no sooner had I parked the car and dumped my suitcase, my heart just broke open. Deep in the muck and mire of me, my joy got all scrappy about it, grabbed fistfuls of hair, dug her muddy toes into the backs and shoulders of my fears, clambered up to the surface and took roost just behind my eyes, waiting for all the goodness that was coming. There was nothing for it but to be excited.

As I walked through what would soon become Fatlandia that first night, I saw in the faces of those who had arrived carrying those same fears. I saw the clumps of comfortable familiars and the shy ones skirting the edges. I saw the boundaries as false – the ones inside me, those perceived around others. We made room. We forced scootings. We added chairs. We sat. We ate. We shared bites. We talked. We invited. We laughed. I felt fearless and connected.

The feeling at NOLOSE this year, for me, was Abundance. So many people, some familiar, some not. Even those I already know and love I had precious few moments with. There were so many possible trajectories and at the end of each lay some manner of joy. It was hard to stay focused.

The workshops were each powerful in their own right. The pool was a shimmering pile of silly and sweet. Everywhere I looked, people were connecting, though I did see some who weren’t, or couldn’t. I know what that’s like, too. Abundance can be overwhelming and it can be easy to stick to what you know. Even in my joy this year, I only ventured slightly outside the familiar. For those who are brave enough to come alone or with fewer built-in connections, especially those who may be shy or in a rough emotional space, the instinct to be passive about interaction can be hard to break through. I was glad to hear that there was a NOLOSE “buddy” program this year that hooked up first-timers with old-hatters but perhaps there should be a broader buddy program for those who generally find it harder to meet folks/make connections. A Shy Caucus?

My favorite moments of the conference were…well, it would actually be easier to list the moments I didn’t like since there were so few of them but I’m feeling too happy to bother with it. The keynote was challenging in a very good way, the salon performances were heartbreaking and hilarious, the workshops were insightful and inspirational, the flirting was fun and funny, the open-hearted abundance of hugs and affection were much-needed and healing, the fashion was breathtaking, the conversation was political and mindful and also dorky and delightful. Most importantly — the conference felt different than I’d ever felt before. The board was a new kind of presence. Their connection with one another was obvious and affirming. Their unity and commitment to the direction of NOLOSE was apparent. The conference felt IMPORTANT again. It was equal parts rest and reminder of the path that still lies ahead. I felt nurtured and challenged and like I’d been given the tools I’d need to see the work through. I’ve never felt that before at NOLOSE, even though my experiences have been powerful. There was something different about this year. Something stronger, deeper, more passionate, more loving and more profound.

I’m tired and haven’t been in the world much in the 24 hours I’ve been home but the little I have has felt different. I am moving through it with less fear and a more critical and more open mind. I am feeling stronger at my core. I have been reminded of my power and I have been reminded how to use it. I couldn’t ask for anything better, especially as this may be my last NOLOSE for a while.

Thank you, Fatlandians. And to those I met this year for the first time, I am so glad to have the chance to know you.

[slickr-flickr tag=”nolose2011″ items=”10″ type=”gallery”]


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Sunny London (Part 3)

Because clearly I couldn’t be fussed to write part 3 of my arrival to London, and...
article post

Hopping the Pond (Part 2)

So – the last 24 hours in Portland. Mom’s partner Celia kindly drove her up...
article post

So, I moved to London. NBD. (Part 1)

I’ve had a block about writing this post. For the most part it’s because...
article post

Where to Begin?

So much has happened since my return from NOLOSE and I have been too swamped with...
article post

NOLOSE 2011

I’ll admit it. As I packed up and headed out to NOLOSE this year, I thoroughly...
article post
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