serendipity avoided

I visited Washington, D.C. seven times before
I moved here in 2009. I stayed at the same place five of those times.
That place was literally blocks away from Eric’s office.
He was right there. We could have
passed each other in the streets years before we met. But we weren’t
supposed to meet yet. I love thinking about that.
You really never know what is around the corner, do you?
There is always a bend in the road.
(“there’s no bend in my road”…name that movie)
 (This is me when I thought politics was my calling in life)
That place where I stayed during my visits recently got torn down.
At first, I was really sad because it held so many memories
for me and my friends. I felt kind of like Kathleen Kelly when
she lamented the fact that her book store would probably
turn into “something depressing. Like a
Baby Gap.”
But things got better for Kathleen Kelly.
And for me, when I discovered they were turning that lot into a
Trader Joe’s, which I am obviously okay with. In fact, to take it one
step further, I sort of see that building as a metaphor of my
growth–my human evolution from child tourist to grocery-buying local.
I don’t think that is a terribly outrageous thing to say.
I like my grocery-buying, local self, anyway.
And this…why does it suck me in every year?
No one else cares.
Those bios kind of make me miss life on the Hill.
And then I don’t miss it any longer.

three years later…

 (Waiting to board the plane to London. Aside from my wedding day, the happiest day of my life.)
Last month, three years ago I had a life-altering experience. I went to Europe.

Lots of people do that, I know, but it was a really big deal for me. Huge, actually. Ever since high school, I had a little envelope tucked away in my dresser drawer labeled “Europe savings”. Every once in a while, I would manage to put away one hundred dollars or so, and then Christmas would come, or something equally expensive, and I would have to use the money, and start saving all over again. No matter how long that envelope stayed empty, however, I knew it would happen one day. I knew I could fill it somehow.

In college, I majored in European history, with a minor in European studies. So, I was kind of absorbed in all things European. By the time my senior year rolled around, I had already ruled out studying abroad as too expensive. And the little envelope in my drawer was empty.

I began to wonder if I could be more pro-active in making Europe a reality. The summer after I graduated would be the last time I had no real responsibilities. I would have to get a real job soon, and real jobs do not make allowances for people who list travel as a hobby. Funding might also be a problem, since I would have those things called bills. So I made a decision.

I weighed my social life against the possibility of working my little butt off and stuffing that envelope full of more than a hundred dollars or so. My friend Jennifer was studying abroad in Salzburg at the time, and I had a million conversations with her about the possibility of visiting her. She was going to be done with school soon, and she would have time off to travel. It could not be a more perfect situation. Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and get a job. I had had a job for my freshman and sophomore years, but I quit after that to focus on school. As nice as it was to not have to worry about working for three semesters, I couldn’t shake the daydreams of European adventures.

A couple months before my final semester, I applied for a job as a waitress at a Chinese restaurant in town, and was hired on the spot. I couldn’t work a lot of weeknights, due to school, but I worked every single Friday and Saturday. I became something of an anti-social person, but I don’t look back on that year as terrible. I spent every spare moment doing homework or asking Jennifer a million questions about what I should pack, what train pass I should buy, and what countries we should go to. Planning is always half the fun.

I worked hard for a couple months, then I took a good look at how much I had earned, and averaged out how much I would make over the next few months. I was working every free evening I had, but I still wasn’t making my target goal of $3,000 for a three-week trip. After much thought, I came up with a really logical explanation as to why it would never work out, because logic made me feel better about giving up my dream (you can’t argue with logic, right?) and I told my mom.Later, my dad came up to me and said, “So your mom tells me you are a quitter.” I was taken aback: I am no quitter (Logic quit, not me). I couldn’t start life in the real world with debt, that was my biggest problem. I have a healthy fear of debt instilled in me by my own father. So I gave him my list of reasons why it wouldn’t work. He agreed with me, and said that maybe it wasn’t the smartest move financially. See?

But then he came back a little while later and told me that he and my mom were going to help me buy my plane ticket for my graduation present. I cannot express in words my excitement at that moment, so I will leave it to your imagination.When I had enough money to buy a traveling back pack half my height, I bought one. When I had enough to buy a train pass, I bought that. When I had the next chunk of cash, I got my passport. We bought my ticket, and my life changed. No, seriously. I had wanted to go to Europe for as long as I could remember, and it was finally actualizing. This blurry vision in my head was becoming more clear, and I was finally allowing myself to think this was really about to happen.

Anyway, it happened. That glorious three-week trip with a good friend who knows Europe like her own backyard, and all the memories that come with it. Every June, since 2009, Europe sneaks into my thoughts more often than other times. Yes, I still dream about Europe, but my visions are crystal clear now, and they come with sounds, smells, and tastes…and hours-worth of stories. If I had not gone after all, I would have survived. But I don’t think I would be the same person. There is something about facing a myriad of excuses, and just working really hard for something in the future, that strengthens you and makes you a little bit braver.

This realization comes to everyone who works hard for something they want, even when it is not easy or fun. It comes in small challenges, and big challenges, on a daily basis and over the span of years. This just happened to be the most visual of mine to date, and the end result just happened to be England, France, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Germany, and Austria.

“maybe the cops will show up?”

That is what I always think when I get up early on a Saturday
morning to make homemade pop tarts.
I made these little suckers on this rainy morning, because they popped
 into my head last night, and I couldn’t stop thinking about
them when I woke up. (recipe can be found here)
But as I was about to roll the dough a little before 8:00am, I glanced out the window
 next to the table I was working at, and saw a young man in a white tank
and baggy jeans, talking to a woman in a shift dress. They looked no older than I.
I thought they were just chatting casually, but then I saw him hold out his arms and shrug,
and the muscles in her back tightened and she jerked her shoulders down as
 she spoke to him. Then she walked inside. I went back to my pop tart dough until
I heard his loud voice talking into his cell phone, just beneath my window, saying, “[girl’s name].
 just let me come inside real quick! [girl’s name]….[girl’s name]…look, I just want my TV and then
 I will be out of your life. Just let me get my TV and I swear, I will be out of your life!
 I’ll get a cab. [girl’s name], you can’t lift the TV, I don’t want to mess with you sending
 it to me. I’m right here, I’ll get it and leave. Just let me in.”
Then I heard her voice. She opened the door??? Then I heard her use choice words
to tell him to get off “her” front porch right now or she would call the police.
Then there were footsteps, then she was yelling at him, telling him to get out,
 then he emerged from the main door holding a large flat screen TV the length
 of his wingspan. Then he went to the middle of the parking lot, set the TV down,
and called a cab (either his voice is really loud, or my walls are paper thin).
Then I heard her calling the police from inside. She didn’t ask them to come, she
just wanted it to be on the record. Then the police came. The dude
 and his precious TV were nowhere to be seen.
Do you think a pop tart would brighten her day, or reveal me as a total 
creepster neighbor? For the record, I did not ask to be a part of any of this. 
I did not ask for a front row seat.

one time we had a lot of fun

Happy 4th, ya’ll*!
I know most of you have already forgotten about the 4th of July. But I have not.
Which is why I am just now posting these pictures.
I thought that was as good an excuse as any. Kind of like the one I made for myself
when I didn’t unpack from this trip until a couple days ago.
Eric and I flew down to good old Oklahoma to be with my family, and spend
Independence Day at the greatest party ever. It is an annual tradition that has most
of the population of Oklahoma excited every July.
Maybe it’s kind of weird to leave our nation’s capital on the holiday that celebrates
 our country’s birth, but it is actually not a fun time to be in DC. The tourists will literally trample you alive. So, we flew home. Also, the fireworks at my parents’ house are no worse than those that explode over DC on this sacred night. I am so serious. And another reason to be in Oklahoma? There was actually a BREEZE. In DC, we heard later, it was miserably wicked hot. What is happening, Oklahoma??
 I didn’t notice until I posted this picture that Eric was the only one looking at the camera. And then I laughed. The following picture is really normal, too.
Well, that’s pretty cute I guess. (I can’t handle the cuteness!!)
 My sister, Julie and her doll that is alive, Alice. Also pretty cute.
More cute. Ugh. Stop it, nieceys.
Eric, pretending he doesn’t see me, and then taking 5 flattering pictures in a row. And my beautiful sister-in-law in the background (the mother of two of my adorable nieces).
Possibly the most amazing 4th of July picture EVER. Jennifer, Emily, and Sally (my youngest sister who got engaged that week!!).
The fireworks show was the absolute greatest of all time. 
Let’s just say, the yard was entirely covered by shrapnel afterward (I think I had some in my hair, too), 
it was all timed to music, and my mom did not ask how much it all cost.
So it was fun.
I’ll be back soon to talk about last Christmas.

*Even though I am from Oklahoma, I actually never say “ya’ll”
One final thing: if you are wondering why I posted pictures from my iphone instead of the incredibly beautiful ones that Eric took, well, that is a good question.