I've promised you some TEDxAustin updates and finally they've begun posting the videos so that I can actually share the speeches that impacted me.  I'm not going to post them all at once but over the next few months.  Some of the speakers were good and some were exceptional, and some of them just had incredible messages. I'm only going to share the ones that truly shifted me internally in some way. Everyone is different, and what made me have an Oprah 'a-ha' moment, might not be the same for you, but, there is a lesson in all of them, and this video, especially, is incredibly touching.

The speaker in this video, Gilbert Tuhabonye, absolutely made me dissolve into tears.  He has experienced unspeakable tragedy (I'll let you watch the video...it's more impactful) and yet, he moved into a place of not only  acceptance but joy about life.  I have been using his story as my barometer these days when I am frustrated and angry or feeling betrayed and hurt. 

That is not to say that I diminish my own feelings, I believe that they are valid and I'm feeling them for a reason, it's just that Gilbert's journey helps me to respond differently to my feelings -- to say, ok, I'm really hurting, and that's ok, is there a way that I can turn this around and make it positive -- where can I find the joy?

And yes, I still stomp around, and complain (and, uh...give a bad driver 'the finger'...because I might have done that yesterday...) but, Gilbert is my 'check and balance' -- and for that message I am truly grateful. 
As an aside, my sister has done a lot of work in Burundi, where Gilbert is from, and I've spent a great deal of time studying ethnic conflict in this region both of which make this story all the more palpable to me. (If you watched it, I'd love to hear what you think...)
 
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Attributed to Gary Olsen {Click for Source}
Several years ago the Canadian and I had a rather dramatic argument about money.  We're actually pretty much on the same page *most* of the time about this topic, but, at the time I wanted a new dining room table and he wanted a vacation.  He thought furniture and other accouterments were frivolous and unnecessary.

We left the argument unresolved and he went out of town to Dallas that evening for a week long client engagement.  That week he was working with a colleague who lived in Dallas and one evening this colleague (we'll call him John) invited the Canadian over to his place.  When the Canadian walked into John's apartment he saw a giant leather sofa, a 60 inch TV and two bar stools. No art. No other furniture. Nothing that made the living space interesting, inviting or warm.

When the Canadian called me that evening, he apologized profusely.  You see, he had a moment of realization that without me in his life, he too would be the bachelor with the leather couch, two bar stools and 60 inch TV.  This goes along with my theory about 'boys left unsupervised'.

You see, I think that boys left unsupervised manage to accomplish things, but in a manner which is generally highly uncivilized.  Yes, they get their hair cut, but it's by the $5.00 barber versus a stylist.  Yes, the house is 'tidy' when mom comes to visit, but open the oven and 6 pizza boxes fall out.  See what I mean? Uncivilized when unsupervised.

I have wondered how he would fare in London without the civilizing/supervising influences of his favorite Texan.  Well it's interesting.  The Canadian is a fabulous cook, so it's no surprise that he's managed to feed himself rather well well...that said, I've begun to notice the slow unraveling of his civilization when he tells me on the phone about his life in London...

For example: Does he have a laundry basket? No.  He uses the washing machine as his laundry basket...just shoves all the clothes in and washes them all at once as soon as it's full. Also, he has been there a month and only two days ago purchased paper towels.  What has he been using to clean the kitchen for the last month?? Toilet paper.

 
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I know I owe you some updates...
i.e. the continuation of the Mr. Big story, and the TEDx update.  TEDxAustin, still has not posted their videos (which are kind of central to what I want to talk about...) so I'm waiting on those, and the Mr. Big story is taking a backseat because I feel like I need to purge about packing up my life and moving it to London.

Here's the thing about packing overseas, at least in our case.  It's not 'let the movers come pack everything' and it's not 'store everything and start fresh' or 'sell everything and buy new' -- it's somewhere in between all of these.

What I have to decide with every single, tiny, item in this house is represented in this packing diagram:

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So, you see, each item has to go through the chart -- the main tree being to keep or donate, and then if I keep it, does it go to storage (in which case I need to pack that now before the movers get here) or just leave it for the movers to pack.

But sometimes, there are things I want to give away, or toss, or they require an entirely different action, in the 'Do Something Else' category.  For example, I have all of my *stuff* from my wedding that has needed to be put into a scrapbook or album of some kind.  Uh...mind you, I was married over five years ago, but we are not going to talk about that...in any case, I sorted it and organized it but now it actually needs to be put into a scrap book.  Awesome.  One MORE thing to do while I'm packing my life up, taking an obscene amount of coursework, driving back and forth to New Orleans, writing papers, researching my dissertation -- and you know, having a drink once in awhile.

And each thing I pack requires a thought process, like, do I need this in the next year or more? Do I think I will still want it?  Do I feel like I need this in London given the limited space? Do I want this now? Would someone else want this?

For every action, there is a re-action. For every item, there is a to - do list. Pack it. Donate it. Throw it away. Give it away. Make a damn scrapbook.  So once the decision is made, I STILL have to do something about it.

Sometimes I just walk into a closet with the intention of tackling it, and I just wind up staring at it for twenty minutes feeling utterly crippled with indecision and then I turn around and go drink a bottle of wine.
 
It all started when Sonia went to the grocery store and brought home a coconut...

And then, I had an idea...
You see, Sonia and I had been hard at work on research all day long, and I felt like maybe it was time for a study break.
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The makings of an excellent study break.
So we decided to go bowling.
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The pins are set up.
And I go first...
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Not tooo bad...
Now it's Sonia's turn
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Coconut roll
And it's a strike!!
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X!
And then it's my turn -- and I took a little 'Ph.D. frustration' out on my 'pins'
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You can just barely see the coconut to the top right of the grate.
Notice that you don't see any pins? That's because I scattered them all over the house with my aggression.
And then Sonia tries to replicate her earlier success...
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Gutter ball
All this goes to show...you never know when a coconut at the grocery store will become a study break for two relatively crazy girls...(and now, you'll never look at a coconut the same way again)...
 
I left Austin on Friday, just before the SXSW rush...

Not to get too sidetracked, but SXSW is a big deal. It's a week long Music, Film, Interactive/Technology 'gathering' with thousands of bands playing across the city and hundreds of films and exhibits *everywhere*.  As a person who tends to loathe crowds, I was happy to escape the city and hightail it to Nola. (However, I saw via Twitter that International Woman of Mystery was in town for SXSW -- why didn't she tell me?!  I'm gutted)

I spent the night in Houston, and as it turned out, some old high school pals organized a bar and hockey game get together for that same night so I figured booze and fighting was a great way to spend my evening.  I'm finally at a good place with hanging out with the folks at my high school (high school was a really traumatic experience for me...) and a few of them have circled back around and become really amazing friends, including one couple in particular, whom I will call Mr. and Mrs. Heart. 

The Hearts were highschool sweethearts (hence my moniker for them) and went off to college where they subsequently broke up and married other people.  By our 10 year reunion they were both in the process of a divorce and, after seeing each other at the reunion, all of their original magic rekindled, they finished their divorces, and a few months later they married. 

They have an amazing gratitude for each other that I really admire, and I know that the experiences of their first marriage make them treasure what they have together.  They've been married a few months longer than the Canadian and me, and the four of us have a blast together so it was fun to drink and watch some hockey with them  (Houston Aeros versus Manitoba Moose in case you're interested...and the Moose won...and there was one REALLY good fight, my favorite part of any game)

I was bummed that the Canadian wasn't with us to drink (and go to the hockey game!) but we all had a great time together, nonetheless.  I made it back to my hotel room by around midnight and was on I-10 headed east by 8:15 the next morning.

I arrived in Nola in the afternoon and am staying with one of my closest friends from school (she's also getting her Ph.D in International Development at Tulane) , whom I will call Sonia.  Sonia is hilarious and a package full of very interesting components.  Like, she's half African American and half Guyanan, but, the Guyana part is really Indian (like South Asian Indian) so she looks more Indian than African American but was raised in an African American family in Washington DC (so the contrasts between looks and attitude are funny and interesting).  She's got this unimaginably wild hair, which, when the humidity hits, grows exponentially.  It's pretty fabulous.  I love her dearly and I so appreciate the use of her guest room.

This morning, I woke up (I'm a super early riser and am always awake before anyone else in any home ever is...) and stumbled into the kitchen for coffee. I made my usual french press concoction and then headed to the couch to sit down, read email and drink my coffee.  Now, I should preface the next sentence by saying, this house is spotless.  There's no clutter, there's no mess.  Anywhere. 

So, I sit down on the couch, and feel something somewhat uncomfortable underneath me.  I shift to see what was the culprit and pull out giant strings of Mardis Gras beads, which were hidden behind a couch cushion.  That seriously made my morning. 

Nowhere else in the world, would you find yourself inadvertently sitting on random Mardis Gras beads. I Heart Nola.
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Good morning New Orleans, you never fail to make me happy. {Click for source}
 
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[Click for source]
When the Canadian and I made the decision to move our lives to New Orleans in January of 2010, we just had no idea we'd fall in love with our new, albeit temporary, home.

I didn't think I could love a city as much as Austin -- but honestly -- and (shhhh, don't say a word to anyone else) I might love it a little bit more.  But before all of my Texans have a heart attack, let me explain.

New Orleans has the most extraordinary resilience and the deepest soul, I think of any city in the U.S.  It's magical, truly.

You really can only understand it by living there, by spending time with the locals, by hearing their stories, by seeing the remnants of Katrina, by walking the French Quarter as the sun rises with beignet powdered sugar coating your shirt, by walking Aududon Park as the sun sets behind the giant moss-covered oaks, by having coffee at Rue de la Course, by drinking (the best) mint juleps at 10 am at Atchafalaya, by hearing jazz music floating on the breeze, by being hugged and kissed by a million people on Bourbon Street after winning the 2010 Superbowl, by seeing beads hanging from power lines, by sitting on the front porch of the Columns hotel having a cocktail or the revolving Carousel bar in the Monteleone having another cocktail, by wandering Magazine street on a lazy Saturday, by sitting in a global seminar at Tulane (with heads of state in attendance) listening to the president of Tulane talk about how he escaped the Katrina floods by golf cart, then a boat, then hot-wiring a dump truck in order to flee the city.

These are the memories and the stories that I carry in my heart from my time in New Orleans and why I love it so very much. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to have lived there and experienced what this extraordinary city had to offer.

Today is Mardis Gras.  (Hence my posting about New Orleans today), and I know, the party is well underway as I write this.  I'll be heading back there on Saturday to spend a week meeting with my dissertation committee and visiting with the amazing friends I've made in the city and in my Ph.D program.  I will do my best to post some daily updates and photos because I will be getting my 'fix' of Nola, rest assured!

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{Click for source}
 
Remember when I told you I had a couple of surprises?  Well here's your first one!  The Canadian has been in London for three weeks and is guest posting about some of his observations on life as a Texpat.  Enjoy!!

England is not Europe, and other thoughts on living here for three weeks.

Greetings from the Canadian.  The Texan (aka, your usual blog poster) asked me to write a post about how the first few weeks in London have gone, to share with you all.  While most of my time has been at work (I’ve been working 55 or so hours per week), I’ve definitely had time to get out and explore a bit, and here are a few things that I’ve noticed:

Whenever I travel somewhere, it’s in my nature to compare it to other places:  New Orleans reminds me of the Caribbean.  Buenos Aires reminded me of Paris, and for that matter, so did Vienna.  London’s a bit of a weird one, mostly reminding me of Toronto and Ottawa – this is unsurprising, considering that York (Toronto’s original name) was settled by Loyalists, and Ottawa is full of Westminster-style parliament buildings.   But there’s one thing that’s for sure:  London’s nothing like the rest of Europe. 

Sure, only 21 miles separate Calais from Dover, but England is worlds apart from the Continent, socially and culturally.  This is a good thing, and a bad thing.

On the downside, for example, Londoners tend to work more typically American hours.  While I’d prefer a 35 hour French-style work week, with 8 weeks of vacation, that ain’t happening in London.  And while the Victorian era was over a century ago, the British stuffiness of that time is still evident in a lot of ways. 

On the upside, there’s breakfast.  “Breakfast?  Seriously?”  Yes, seriously.  Americans (and Canadians) will often pride themselves on having the best breakfast in the world.  As a kid, I grew up eating gigantic breakfasts daily, and while I can skip lunch or have a light dinner, I still have a ravenous appetite within minutes of waking up.

If, as an American, your travels have been to Asia, Latin America, and Continental Europe, it’s easy to see why you’d feel your breakfast back home is superior:  Breakfast in Central America, for example, is generally rice and beans, maybe a little egg.  In France, it appears to consist of an espresso, a croissant, and a cigarette.  But before you declare victory for the American breakfast, hold the phone, Tyrone:  Behold, the full English Breakfast.
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{Click for source}
Let’s take an inventory here:  Eggs, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes, baked beans, toast, sausage, and bacon.  It’s an American breakfast, and then some.  At my (subsidized) company cafeteria, I can do all that (minus the meat, usually) for around two quid.  Only a pound more for the bacon and sausage, if I’m feeling extra hungry. 

And with all that said, I’m going to get breakfast.
 
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The alluring International Woman of Mystery has tagged me and so...here I go...!

1. If you have pets, do you see them as merely animals or are the members of your family?
Oh Lord, the Rotten One (our sometimes good, mostly rotten, always the comedian, half Shepherd half Husky critter) is a part of the family.  We fostered her and then decided to adopt her.  She is a 'sensitive singer-songwriter' and throws injured looks at me when she feels she's been done an injustice (which is frequently).  Nonetheless, she's ours for better or for rotten.

2. If you can have a dream come true, what would it be? 
Someone to pay me to be a bad-ass and also to finish my dissertation quickly.  Being a bad-ass means doing what I want, when I want and still making the world a better place.

3. What is the one thing most hated by you?
Conflict in friendships. Seriously. Just found this out, but as it turns out it makes me ill, an insomniac, sick to my stomach, stressed, hurt and angry. 

4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
Travel the world doing good for people.  And maybe open a store for women with PMS.  Chocolate covered potato chips, doughnuts, french fries...Thoughts on other options?

5. What helps to pull you out of a bad mood?
Wine, bubble bath, a comedy, a good book, a hard yoga session, a swim, a good laugh with friends...

6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?
Both -- I think it should really be reciprocal otherwise, it's unrequited which is kind of sad.

7. What is your bedtime routine?
PJs, turn on fan, read or watch something on Netflix, fall asleep, wake up at 3 am with insomnia...

8. If you are currently in a relationship, how did you meet your partner?
On the internet :)

9. If you coould watch a creative person in the act of the creative process, who would it be? 
Oh. Peter Gabriel making music - definitely.

10. What kinds of books do you read? 
EVERYTHING! My favorites are generally espionage novels and murder mysteries, but I love travelogues and classic literature...if it's good, I will read it.

11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?
Sexier than ever and radically changing the world for the better.

12. What's your fear?
There are a lot, but my current one is not finishing my dissertation. 

13. Would you give up all junk food for the rest of your life for the opportunity to visit outer space?
Hell. No.  I don't really eat junk food anyway but space is weird and creepy.  Terra firma please.

14. Would you rather be single and rich or married, but poor?
Could I sleep around a lot?...just sayin'

In all seriousness living in poverty, no, but needs met and married probably.  I don't need a lot of money to be happy but I don't want to struggle to pay bills.

15. What's the first thing you do when you wake up?
Get out of bed and make coffee, take the coffee back up to bed and get on the internet and start answering emails and reading expat blogs while drinking coffee.  I am a useless ball of wax before coffee.

16. If you could change one thing about your spouse/partner what would it be?
I wish he aimed better when he peed.  (Love you, honey)

17. If you could pick a new name for yourself, what would it be?
I actually like my name (and kept it when I married...) but my mom told me the other day she wished she'd named me Scarlett since I remind her of Scarlett O'Hara...(wtf?!)

18. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing that special someone has done?
I'm working on that right now in a friendship.  I'm actually not sure, but I'm trying...the forgetting part is really tough and probably takes a better person than I am.

19. If you could only eat one thing for the next 6 months, what would it be?
Oy....uhhh...probably french fries...covered in queso.

And now, you're tagged!!
1) Is there such a thing as too much cheese?
2) TexaGermaNadian
3) Conjugating Irregular Verbs
 
I have a few blog posts that need some attention -- like, the continuation of my Mr. Big story, and also, one of my favorite bloggers, International Woman of Mystery has tagged me! But, all of that is on hold because today is
Texas Independence Day and My Birthday!!
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{Click to view source}
You see, I was trying to be born on a special day.  My due date was actually Valentine's Day, but when MomE went to the doctor on Valentine's he took one look at her and laughed and told her to go home -- it wasn't happening anytime soon...come back on Leap Year (Feb 29th).  That's right, I was almost born on the Leap Year...but even though MomE was having a few light contractions, she didn't go into labor until March 1st and I was born on March 2nd -- Texas Independence Day. (If you're curious about this special day, you can find some info here)

My family has always joked that it is somehow appropriate, given how fiercely independent I actually am, but I like that my birthday is a state holiday...so if you're a state of Texas employee, enjoy your vacation today!

I actually spend my birthday the way most people spend their New Year -- with resolutions or as I call them, intentions.  Also, my birthday falls around the Lenten season, and while I'm not Catholic I like the idea of giving something up, or taking on a challenge. 

So, this year for my birthday Lenten-ish (since I'm starting it on my birthday which is kind of close to Lent) challenge: 40 Days of Yoga.  I've decided to do both meditative yoga at home (for the days I can't get to the classes) and then more challenging yoga in the classroom...I'll let you know how this all goes. 

My intention for my 35th year is Detox"Detoxification (detox for short) is the physiological or medicinal removal of toxic substances from a living organism," (wikipedia).  After having some seriously toxic experiences in 2010, I want 2011 to be toxin-free.  This includes my own responses to negativity as well, because I'm only toxic to myself when I don't handle the external negativity very well.  This goes further along with making sure I continue with my healthful eating habits, taking on daily exercise/meditation, and surrounding myself with positive people and experiences.

I had planned on a 9 am yoga class this morning, but since I've been up since 3 am (and it's now 4:40), I might either do the 10:30 am class or meditation at home.  Detox is also letting yourself sleep in if you've had insomnia :)

So, I hope YOUR Texas Independence Day, wherever you are in the world, is awesome!!
 
Apologies for the delay, but with the Canadian in town (and the fact that I won't see him again for seven weeks), it's been a little busy!  Also, tomorrow is my birthday so stay tuned for the goods on the awesomeness that is Texas Independence Day and my 35th Birthday.

And now, for your last installment of 28 Things...

22) Visit a pub with the Rotten One.  The great thing about London is a lot of the pubs are dog-friendly.  She requests bangers and mash.
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{Click for source}
23) James Bond Thames Boat Ride. You should know that I heart James Bond.  I mean I really do.  My sister and I grew up watching James Bond on Betamax...I've seen all of them (at least 3 or 4 times) -- and I think the reason I love James Bond so much is the sexy man/spy combo (sorry, I just realized that was completely obvious...i.e. duh) and also I've not *quite* moved past my own desire to be a spy -- secretly, I'm hoping the CIA will send me an email saying they need me...or maybe MI-6 needs a consultant?  I'm just sayin'...

In any case, remember the famous boat ride scene from The World is Not Enough?
Well, it turns out, I can take a similar ride (just not with Pierce Brosnan...) which I want to do (but if they throw in Pierce Brosnan, that would be simply lovely).  And I'll load the Garbage soundtrack song (the video below is actually really awesome if you've never seen it) on my iPod and look over at James Bond (er, the Canadian) sitting next to me and we'll race around the Thames together!
24) And while I'm talking spies, I'd like to take a visit to MI5 and MI6.  Turns out, it's not a big secret as to where they are...and maybe someone will see me and think "I bet that girl would want to be the spy liaison for the U.S. and the UK."

25) Dinner...with Peter Gabriel.  It's reaching isn't it?  I know.  But you know, if you don't ask....
I've been a huge fan of Peter Gabriel for a couple decades now -- I find his music to transcend genre and pull from all over the globe (something I deeply admire). 

The song Solsbury Hill has been my soundtrack to this London move and it was to my New Orleans move too...and whenever I'm terrified, or anxious, or questioning, I listen to this song, and think what it must have been like for Peter Gabriel, a rising star in the band Genesis, knowing that he needed to move on to something different, but also knowing that move could end his music career...but he trusted the journey - which ultimately allowed for Phil Collins to emerge as the lead singer, changing his journey too.*

I know this is philosophical, but I think about it a lot, even though all of this happened before I was born.  The life of two men were radically changed because one of them took a tremendous leap and left the 'safety net' and went out on his own...

...some lyrics from Solsbury Hill
To keep in silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut
So I went from day to day
Tho' my life was in a rut
"Till I thought of what I'd say
Which connection I should cut
I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery
My heart going boom boom boom
"Hey" he said "Grab your things
I've come to take you home."
More lyrics: http://www.lyricsfreak.com/p/peter+gabriel/#share

So, I really would love to have dinner with Peter Gabriel -- not because he's a celebrity as I'm pretty indifferent to celebrity status -- I don't care about their homes or their children, I don't read OK! magazine -- but when they give me a glimpse into their humanness, their journey, that is when I want to meet them.

* (I'm also a huge Phil Collins fan, so it would be even more awesome to include him in this dinner, but I'm not sure how the Phil/Peter interpersonal dynamic is...does anyone know if they are friends?). 

26) See some incredible concerts -- Speaking of Peter Gabriel, I would really like to see some serious concerts.  U2, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, RUSH, etc.  (Just saw that Neil Diamond is playing at the O2...um, yes please!) Even though Austin is considered the 'Live Music Capital of the World' we just don't have the arena space for the giant productions, and I intend to make the most of living in this international city by seeing the big names!

27) Try some great vegetarian food.  I love eating at all kinds of restaurants and even though I'm a vegetarian (who eats fish...), I will at times try the 'meated' dishes because they look beautiful or are prepared uniquely.  (My artist friend K's partner M makes the most amazing lamb in the world and I usually need a bite or two just to satisfy my taste buds!)  but I love eating at restaurants where they specialize in gourmet vegetarian cuisine and it looks like there are a few great ones in London.

28) Throw a dinner party for my new friends.  I love (usually around Christmas) to have a huge, multi-course dinner party at my house. I'll cook for around 6 to 12 people and we'll open champagne and laugh and visit and probably play games (because I love games).  Entertaining is something that I thoroughly enjoy and I want my new place in London to have a GREAT space for entertaining so that we can christen it with love and laughter and good memories with new friends and hopefully some old ones too :)

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