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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.

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VISA GRANTED!!

Well, that didn’t take long! I mailed the package out on Wednesday and received my Visa approval notice this morning at 9:34AM. I’d say that was $150 well-spent. My stress level is dramatically altered.

Biometrics - stamped approval

Biometrics - stamped approval

Subject: UK Visa Application @ New York (Ref: ######)

Your UK visa has been issued.

Delivery times:

Within the USA: Next business day
Outside the USA: 2-5 days

Your passport will be dispatched from the New York office
and will be delivered by UPS

Not ones for adjectives are they? But I’m not complaining! According to the UPS tracking #, my passport (with Visa) is currently sitting in Louisville, KY and should be arriving here magically tomorrow — at which point I am officially an unofficial guest in the UK effective August 26th, 2011 through Dec, 2014.


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Camping + Biometrics + Taxes + 7 Clicks (eeeee!)

So today the Girl and I were talking about flight reservations. She’s coming here for two weeks in August and, when she returns, I will be going with her. As I was pulling up the flight calendar I noticed that I didn’t have to click “next” in order to see my leave date. Two little months popped up right next to each other — July and August — right there, all in the same little window. The reality of that was a bit jarring. I keep thinking that I understand that this is happening and then some tiny something happens that sends a fresh wave of “OMGWTFBBQ” running down my spine.

That and it’s only 7 clicks on the “next week” button in google calendar.

I can say that, at this point, I am equally as excited as I am terrified. And I am a lot of both, all at once.

Tax Man Done-eth

Tax Man Done-eth

In terms of preparation, my 2010 taxes were completed today. I’m delighted to say that I only owed half of what I feared I would. It’s still a lot of money but it’s better than it could have been and leaves me with a bit more padding in savings which is helpful as life has been expensive of late. Now that the tax preparation is done, I can start the loan process. I called Sallie Mae today and they said they don’t work with my University. I am not sure what the next step is. For a brief moment I began to fear that I would not be able to get loans at all — but I know that that musn’t be the case. No one but the very rich can afford that much tuition simply from savings so there’s got to be a way. I will need to set the alarm to wake up early and call Goldsmiths when I return next week and see what they have to say.

I also finalized some bills on my house today — finished transferring homeowner policy from personal to commercial, paid the last invoice for the landscaper and the last water bill. It’s weird how removed from the house I feel already. I think once I gave permission for the renters to paint the walls beige and periwinkle (ack!), it ceased to feel like mine.

Tomorrow at noon I have my Biometrics appointment at the USCIS. I have been assured (and reassured) that this does not involve rubber gloves. It does, however, involve a crap-ton of paperwork and a great deal of anxiety. I’m just hoping I have everything they need. They don’t make it very easy, I’ll tell you that much. Once that’s done, I believe all that’s left to do is mail my supporting documents to the British Consulate in New York and wait.

In less-stressful news, I went camping this weekend with friends and had a wonderful, relaxing time. Had lunch with my Mom since we were down in her neck of the woods and spent the rest of the time talking, laughing, staring at stars and hoping not to be tackled by racclowns. (Racclowns, btw, are the hybrid of two of my irrational fears — clowns + raccoons. They are largely your average raccoon, save they have big floppy shoes, a white ruff collar, a big red clown nose and they tightrope-walk across clotheslines carrying little umbrellas. Also, they eat your face.)

Last night I opted to stay in and spend my fourth of July cleaning my damn room because it looked like my suitcase wretched all over the bed and I have to re-pack it again tomorrow night.

Tonight I spent the evening enjoying sun + sushi with friends and then came back here and prepped and printed documents for my appointment tomorrow.

Hoping for a little time in the pool with friends tomorrow and then packing up and heading out at the crack of dawn for Oakland, CA on Thursday. Will probably post a quick update tomorrow about the Biometrics appointment – and then won’t have much to say until next week. In the meantime, here are some camping and general pics for posterity.

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[slickr-flickr tag=”07052011″ items=”6″ type=”gallery”]

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thumbnail Daffy Campers zoom
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Visa Application + Summer Frenzy

Summer Frenzy

Crazy lines at the car wash

You know how you think it's an awesome idea to go to the car wash and then you remember it's 4th of July Weekend?

So, last weekend I went to New York. This weekend I’m going camping with some friends. Next weekend I’m driving 12 hours (both ways) to Oakland, CA for a conference. As much as all of this is amazing and fun, I am running on fumes at this point and feeling a bit frazzled. It’s a good problem to have as far as problems go — too much fun stuff to do — but knowing that doesn’t magically give me extra energy to enjoy it.

And for the whine-cherry on this self-pity sundae, I miss the Girl. We saw each other so much last year (comparatively speaking) and this year decided to travel a bit less to save money and decrease stress while I was in transition. However, the reality of seeing her only 4 days out of 4.5 months sort of sunk in today and I got all soppy. Every song on the radio made me teary-eyed and every smooching couple gave me a homicidal twitch. It doesn’t happen often, thankfully, but we’re coming up on 2 years in an extra-long-distance relationship and it’s getting harder. I think most folks don’t realize how hard the distance is. Friends see us together when she visits Portland, but largely the relationship is conjecture – a thing I talk about but that doesn’t seem quite real. I think folks don’t necessarily know what to do with my intermittent grief about missing her. From the outside it looks like adventure on the horizon and a super cool experience, which it is. And also it is days on end of grabbing 20 minutes to an hour on skype where the 8 hour time difference puts us at the tail end of her day when she’s exhausted and in the middle of my work day when I’m distracted. Maintaining our connection over time and distance is exhausting. And I am lucky (we are lucky) that we love each other enough and that our connection is strong enough that we can not only withstand it, but grow inside of it. Even still, sometimes it really, really sucks and today was one of those days.

It’s been a super-busy week; working full-time to make up the hours from last week, attending a going away party for a friend, a housewarming for another, hearing stories from T&N about their amazing trip to the Dominican Republic, fatty crafting, a catch-up dinner with D and, this morning, S&M hung out with me at the car wash with coffee and pastries before they headed out of town for the long weekend. I seem to be doing a lot better with small-group or solo hangouts. Right now, there’s a party going on here at the house and, aside from having a smoke on the porch with one or two folks at a time, I’m largely holed up in my room trying to build up my energy reserves for the big group camping trip this weekend.

I’ve been scrambling around all week, beg-borrow-and-stealing camping equipment from friends. I think I’ve got it all squared away now and tomorrow I’ll shop for the essentials which, according to a public poll, are: toilet paper, baby wipes, liquor, and mosquito spray (oh, and food.)

As for the Visa Application:

How was *your* Friday night?

How was *your* Friday night?

I ordered my diploma from Student Records at my old high school two days ago. Magically, what they sent has already arrived. Not-Magically, they sent an official transcript instead of the diploma. It does mention on the transcript that my diploma was granted so I’m hoping it will suffice. I had a skype date with a friend who went through this process last year and he said that the folks at his appointment barely glanced at it all and that I should be fine. He processed his application at the Chicago Consulate with an expediting agent. Unfortunately Portland doesn’t have a consulate so I’m stuck doing this the old fashioned way. I have two months, though. And, according to the statistics quoted to me by the research-minded Girl, 99% of applications are processed within 30 days.

I spent my evening filling out the 8 page appendix to the online application. It was fairly straight-forward, mostly just transcribing information from the CAS email sent by Goldsmiths. But in my head, every little box became a prime opportunity to Do It Wrong(TM) and I was practically sweating by the time I was done. I’m glad I did it tonight, though, rather than waiting for Monday as I’d originally planned. It’s good to know it’s done so I can stop obsessing about it.

The only thing I have left to do is make a copy of my transcript. I can do that en route to my biometrics appointment on Tuesday. Which is right before my therapy appointment on Tuesday. Which is a good thing.

[slickr-flickr tag=”07012011″ items=”4″ type=”gallery”]

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thumbnail What I do instead of filling out my visa application. zoom
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The Task Ahead

After a long wait, I received my CAS information from Goldsmiths this morning. For those who (like me) are confused by the process of applying for a student visa – the CAS is the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies and is issued by the University no more than 3 months prior to the start of your program (or programme if I’m being European about it.)

Until you have your CAS, you cannot apply for your visa. Mine came a few days late but, considering the horror stories I’ve heard about English bureaucracy (and I doubt we do much better over here), I think a few days late is best-case scenario.

What’s distinctly not best-case scenario is the completely confusing and contradictory instructions for beginning the visa process. I’m quite convinced that it’s a sneakily-applied I.Q. test to further filter out the undesirables. Were it not for my patient and research-minded girlfriend and a friend who went through this process last year for the same university, I may well count myself amongst the filtered. My coping skills at this particular juncture are questionable at best and my Girl patiently sat with me on Skype while I slogged through the application process online. This afternoon’s Skype is accurately represented by the following:

After collecting myself, I made a list of required documents and unanswered questions and set to work obtaining what I could. I called student records and ordered a copy of my diploma. I hit the bank to deposit a savings bond to pad my bank account (you need to have all the money for your first year’s tuition as well as enough to support yourself fully for 9 months before they will grant you the visa) – as well as to obtain authenticated bank statements proving my balance. Unfortunately the bank manager didn’t know any more about how to authenticate the bank statement than I did. We blinked at each other a lot and then she plopped her teller stamp in one corner and wrote her name and phone number for verification. Let’s hope that works.

In a few minutes, I’m off to Kinko’s to photocopy things, get two more passport photos taken and collect print-outs of all the paperwork I need to fill out. (Three copies, as suggested by Girl, in case I mangle the first two.)

Next week I have my “Biometrics” appointment — the name does not inspire confidence. It sounds suspiciously like something that involves a rubber glove. I’m assured it’s only fingerprints but I remain dubious.


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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

VISA GRANTED!!

Well, that didn’t take long! I mailed the package out on Wednesday and received my...
article post

Camping + Biometrics + Taxes + 7 Clicks (eeeee!)

So today the Girl and I were talking about flight reservations. She’s coming here...
article post
thumbnail Daffy Campers article post

Visa Application + Summer Frenzy

Summer Frenzy So, last weekend I went to New York. This weekend I’m going camping...
article post
thumbnail What I do instead of filling out my visa application. article post

The Task Ahead

After a long wait, I received my CAS information from Goldsmiths this morning. For those...
article post
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