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Adventures Archive



August 2022



It’s Bad Out There For Renters

Written by , Posted in Adventures

I have searched for apartments to rent many times in my life. I did it three times in college, once after, four times in NYC, three times in Seattle, and this is now my third time in London. The first time, we had no credit, no rental history, nothing, but I still found a place for us in about three days. The second time, in two days when we had enough with the first place not fixing the illegal gas line in 18 months.

This time? In London, in 2022, amidst dramatic inflation and a serious drop in real wages? It’s something else entirely. We don’t think we have to move when our lease is up in October, but last year our landlord tried to increase our rent 16%. We eventually agreed to an 8% increase, but even that is borderline obscene, so we’re wary about what he’s going to offer this time around, especially seeing what other landlords are getting.

A big caveat up front is that we have two cats, and landlords in London are deeply disappointing when it comes to pets. Legally they are supposed to be open to them, but in practice most are not. We had one estate agent tell us that the landlord’s insurance won’t allow pets. I don’t know if that was true or just an excuse, but if landlords are supposed to be open to a discussion, it seems illegal to have insurance that won’t allow that discussion.

So we know we are already picking from a limited pool. At the same time, we are both employed full-time, and make very decent wages, so we are able to spend more than a lot of people on our housing. Basically, we are in general really well positioned (other than having pets) to find a place, and yet it is still exhausting, depressing, and infuriating.

* * *

Over the last two weeks, we have sought information on 19 flats. Because we are who we are, Austin and I have a spreadsheet with a link to the posting (we scour Right Move, Zoopla, and Open Rent daily), address, viewing, status, date last contacted, and any notes. Thirteen days later, we’ve viewed eight flats, and only one was borderline okay for what they were offering it for.

Austin viewed the first one, and it was fine. Not great, not horrible. Clean (which will turn out to be a rarity) and in generally good repair. But then he received this:

Let’s talk through it.

1. Offer price – I am not buying a home. I am renting a flat. I have no information about it; I cannot get an inspection report, I don’t get references from previous tenants about the landlord. I am 100% reliant on what the landlord decides to charge. If one says it is available for £XXXX/month, I’m going to take that as the price. I’m not going to get into a bidding war to pay someone else’s mortgage.

In fact, just for fun on this one, I decided to look up what the unit sold for, assumed 20% down and looked up the interest rate that year to work out their likely monthly mortgage. They were asking for about £800 more per month than their mortgage. Even if one allows for setting aside a certain percentage for repairs and improvements, there is absolutely no reason to charge that much. None. I wanted to go back with a bid of £100 above their mortgage (so about £700 under asking) but we ended up just moving on.

2. A year is reasonable, and asking people to commit to more than that in a neighborhood they might never have lived in before, living at the mercy of someone they likely will never meet, is not.

3. Yeah, I get this. Makes sense.

4. Another flat we looked at and left after a couple of minutes had a similar process and said that if we wanted them to replace the missing washing machine (which would fit in the current GIANT HOLE in the kitchen), we should put it under requests, but we should really limit such requests. I’m sorry, what? I have a few ‘requests’ that I’ll be making of any landlord – that they have the place completely deep cleaned before we move in, that all expected appliances be installed and in good repair before we move in, that any broken cabinets, busted doors, cracks, scraped up paint, all be sorted out before we move in. None of this ‘as is’ crap, and it is obscene to make people have to accept places as is for fear of not having a place to live.

5. HELL NO. I’m sorry, but a photo and bio? Why? So landlords can pick people who remind them of themselves? So racists can rule out people of color? So ageists can avoid young people or older people? I can’t even believe this made it through because it seems like it is asking for discrimination lawsuit.

* * *

Since then we’ve seen a variety of places. There was one that had a very lovely outdoor space, but the kitchen was janky and the ‘second bedroom’ was maybe the size of one of the small meeting rooms they put in open-plan offices, that could fit a desk and maybe a plant? There was one that was absolutely fine, but there were like 15 other people there walking around and we didn’t like it enough to fight for it. Additionally, while I know everyone can make their own choices, and some people cannot wear masks for health reasons, we are still in a pandemic and would love it if people would wear masks during these showings, but it’s usually just us.

We’ve had a couple just straight up disappear on us. One was rented before anyone had the chance to view it. Another, we signed up for what we were told was the first opportunity to view it, then a few hours before our appointment the viewing was canceled because they had rented it to someone else. Just this week, one was posted in the evening, my partner called first thing in the morning, and was told it was no longer available … because the tenants were renewing. What? How does that make sense?

One estate agency that has posted a couple that we like insists on us completing an ‘application’ before we can even view the place. It’s frustrating because they do have properties that look good, but they want a lot of personal information (including the contact info of our landlord!) that I think is absurd to request just so someone can look at a flat. I don’t want an estate agent calling our landlord for a reference before we even know if the flat has a functioning refrigerator (one didn’t).

By far the most common thing we are seeing are flats that should be 25-30% less than they are due to their size and overall condition. Obviously if someone is living somewhere it isn’t going to be pristine, but these places are almost universally run down and sad, and landlords are asking for basically my entire monthly salary.

Yesterday was the worst so far though. Pictures looked great, and it was in a decent location, close to one of the better tube lines. I got there and knew within 30 seconds it was not the place for us. The two bedrooms were each a decent size, but one of them had a shower in it. Not, like, an en-suite bathroom, but just a cubicle shower in the corner of the room. And in that shower was a toilet. No, this wasn’t a boat. It was an apartment. (And there was no sign this was to accommodate any sort of disability – anyone living in that flat and accessing that shower would still need to go up a set of stairs to get to the kitchen and living room). And the person showing it seemed proud of this set-up.

The actual bathroom reminded me of my college boyfriend’s bathroom he shared with two other dudes. I didn’t go into it.

The main area could have been great – it was really big and open, lots of light. But the kitchen was in bad shape, including missing all of the kick boards under the cabinets. The ceiling had maybe been primed to be painted, and patched a bit, but looked like it was mid-renovation. It was not.

Look, these are not unlivable apartments. The electric, water, and gas all presumably work. I didn’t see evidence of mice or bugs. But they are expensive, they are poorly kept up, and people are fighting over them. This is not an acceptable way to treat people. There is absolutely no need for the housing to be this way. Yes, much of it is very old. But being old doesn’t mean it can’t be kept up well.

* * *

I know that some landlords who read this (lol, none will) will just shake their heads and say I don’t know what I’m talking about. But the thing is, I do! Austin and I were landlords for over three years after moving to London because we didn’t want to sell our home right away in case we had to move back. For the first two years we didn’t have a property manager, and we still managed to get things fixed from 6,000 miles away. The dishwasher broke and leaked, creating the need for some serious repairs. So we cut our tenant’s rent during that time, because they had to deal with construction.

The boiler acted up, and we had emergency repairs sorted out the next day. Meanwhile our first landlord here spent at least 18 months requiring us to run our gas off of giant propane tanks that ran out every three-four days, because they couldn’t be bothered to get the required permits for a legal gas connection to the mains. (They also never properly registered the address for the building, so we didn’t exist on those find my address forms on literally every website.)

As landlords we allowed multiple pets. And the rent we charged only JUST covered our mortgage, to the point that we had to dip into our savings each month. Last summer we agreed to sell because we didn’t like being landlords, it just felt … weird.

And I think it kind of is weird. Like, I get it if someone has to move away from their home but will be moving back. But owning multiple properties? Doing it as one’s ‘job’? Making one’s living off of gouging people who need a safe, secure, healthy place to live? I don’t think it’s okay, and I think it’s why so much of the housing stock available now is so expensive and so very very sad.

We have another viewing tomorrow, and we’re waiting to hear from our landlord next week what he wants to charge next year.

Wish us luck. And please wish even more luck to the people who have very little money to spend on rent and who need to move now. It’s just brutal out there, and we need to figure out a better way.



March 2021



Life With Near Regrets

Written by , Posted in Adventures, Move to UK: Before You Go

I’d love to live my life with zero regrets. And for the most part, I do. Choices I’ve made when I have as much information as possible have generally been good choices. They haven’t always been popular with my family (declining my admissions offer to UCLA Law School probably ranks high on that list), but I’ve never done anything that deeply opposed my values.

I have, however, made some decisions that, in hindsight, were not the best. In nearly all of these cases, the decision would have been improved if I’d had a bit more information, or if I’d fully understood the consequences of my actions. That doesn’t necessarily mean I would have made a different choice, but life might have been a bit easier if I’d better known what I was signing up for. That’s probably not a unique experience. There are probably loads of people looking at their partners or children or careers and thinking “yeah, if only I’d known about X, I probably would have done Y, and saved us all a lot of stress.”

For me, the biggest near-regret has been moving to London for my partner’s job.

Moving anywhere new is hard. I’ve never moved anywhere that wasn’t home to at least one person I knew. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t know anyone in New York City when I moved there in the fall of 2002, but my housing was sorted ahead of my arrival, and I was there for school. I had people to help me, and it wasn’t a country with a different currency, or language, or customs (for the most part). And even when I did move to a new country the first time, I spoke the language, and I once again had a university helping me with everything from housing to banking. It was a tough transition emotionally, but the logistics were all sorted.

This time, when my partner and I moved to London over three years ago, I spoke the language and knew the customs better than the last time, but we had almost zero support in the lead-up to and after our arrival. The risks and challenges we’ve experienced are not the same as what others have experienced, but given how many of us live in a country other than the one they were born in (as of 2017, about 258 million people), I know that — even in a pandemic — there are individuals who are choosing to move to a new country.

We made the choice mostly because my partner had always wanted to live overseas. I liked my career for the most part but didn’t love it, and was definitely open to a change. We’d bought a house just a couple of years earlier, but when my husband lost his job as part of large lay-offs at his company, we agreed that it was as good of a time as any for him to look for something outside the US. My partner works in a field where workers are in high demand but not necessarily in high supply outside the US, which meant that in some ways it was easier for him to find work overseas than within the Seattle area.

I know there are many people who bemoan ‘foreigners’ taking ‘their’ jobs (these people are generally known as xenophobes), but there are a lot of reasons why companies might be open to hiring someone from another country. They might want to diversify their workforce, the job description might include skills that are harder to find in local candidates, or they just might have enough money to offer a sponsorship and so don’t want to limit their candidate pool.

In nearly all jobs in all organizations, there is a serious power differential right from the start. This is not unique to immigrants; every time a person is hired, they are taking a much larger risk than the person doing the hiring. They are trusting someone they don’t know to treat them fairly, pay them a reasonable wage, and not put their mental and physical health at risk. Potential employees need jobs, and have at most a handful of interviews with a few people to determine whether their potential employer can be trusted. In our case, making that decision when I’d also likely be giving up my career and we’d be moving away from friends and family carried a different kind of weight, and required an even higher level of trust. In the end, my partner secured three offers from companies in three different countries. With not a lot of time (about an hour)to consider the final offer, we agreed on London.

Here is where my first near-regret comes in: we didn’t fully appreciate how big of a risk we were taking in comparison to the company doing the hiring, and as such, we didn’t require adequate compensation. And no, I’m not just talking about the pay (which was, frankly, deeply insulting, but then many tech salaries outside the US are embarrassingly low considering the level of skill they demand). I’m talking about the entirety of the contract.

Once there is agreement that the potential out-of-country employee and organization are a good fit, many companies consider their job done. They will likely assist with securing the visa because they need that to comply with the law, but many treat that as the beginning and end of their moral duty to their new hire. I disagree, and if I had known at the time what all went into moving overseas when one is not a student, my partner would have negotiated his contract very differently to ensure that the company was offering proper support.

And proper support is much more than a couple of weeks at an Air BnB, some money to ship a handful of boxes, and a visa.

And speaking of visas, governments need to provide more information about their terms. My second near-regret is not requesting much more detail about all the restrictions and requirements associated with our visa from the immigration attorney my partner’s future employer secured. All we got was a letter telling us the dates within which we needed to enter the country, and directions to go pick up our permanent visas at a nearby post office within 10 days of arrival. That was it. There was nothing saying if, for example, the sponsored employee parts ways with their sponsoring company, they will not be able to leave the country until they secure a new visa, if they want to keep working in the UK. That’s information one can only find if one knows to go looking for it.

But back to that original near-regret: there is a huge difference between starting a new job in one’s own city or state and starting a job in a completely new country. Employment laws are different. Tenancy laws are different. Banking laws are different. It’s hard enough to jump into a new job and learn about the company culture and one’s place in it; add on doing that while not knowing where you’re going to be able to live and it can be extremely stressful. I would have required that either the company hire a relocation company to work on our behalf, or provide us with enough funds that we could fully pay for a relocation company on our own. Such a company can help find a place to live, set up necessary financial and other accounts and documentation, bring pets over, and provide support to partners who don’t have jobs lined up.

Unfortunately we weren’t offered the services of a relocation company when we moved, so I was the one who navigated the rules and regulations set up to make moving that much more difficult. For example, we needed to get an ID number from the UK so our belongings wouldn’t be taxed upon arrival. If we hadn’t done that, we might have had to pay part of the value of items we already owned just to get them back! I was the one who found an apartment via a private landlord; a relocation company would have known that we should have instead rented through an estate agent to help secure our bank account, as banks in the UK don’t accept private landlord leases as proof of address. As I didn’t have a job for the first few months, I was able to devote a significant part of my day just doing life administration and searching online to figure out what I didn’t know. It was physically and emotionally exhausting, and it was happening while I was getting used to living in a new country, far away from family and most of my friends.

Consider banking. This is where my third near-regret appears. It’s hard to do pretty much anything in a new country without access to funds. Paying for things in the wrong currency ends up increasing the cost, as exchange rates are often not favorable to the purchaser, and wire transfer and conversion fees add up. We didn’t realize that my husband’s proof of employment (and the need for an account into which his paycheck could be deposited) would not be sufficient for us opening a bank account when I arrived. We read that Metro bank, for example, was especially kind to people who moved from the US (narrator: they were the WORST), but it took us a dozen visits to four different banks and like six different branches to finally open an account. If we’d known this, we would have explored opening an account in the US at a bank that had branches in the UK so we would have an existing relationship.

But that’s not something one should have to sort out. One of us had a job, and the company confirmed that. The financial sector should allow people to open bank accounts with proof of employment OR proof of address, instead of requiring both. Someone who has just moved overseas doesn’t have an address, but they do need a bank account. If they have a job, let the employer take on the responsibility of confirming that, and allow that person to open a bank account. Allow their partners to open their own accounts without proof of employment (but with proof of address once they have found a home) to ensure they are not being financially abused.

Housing is a challenge for pretty much everyone who isn’t rich, and looking for housing was one of the biggest concerns I had when we arrived. Which is where my fourth near-regret rears its head. We basically took the first place that fit our needs and was affordable, and we paid for that. A year and a half after moving in, our gas was shut off when we learned that the gas connection to the building was illegal and could have exploded at any time. This is on top of the fact that the landlords refused to perform the paperwork required to get our address registered with the Royal Mail. If we’d either negotiated more than the two weeks the company paid for our temporary housing, or had negotiated for a relocation company, we might have been able to do more research into trustworthy landlords. And if landlords were willing to accept our rental and credit history in the US as proof that we could rent here, we might have had more options. As it was, we got our first flat by having enough money to offer to pay the first three months up front. That’s ridiculous! No one should have to do that.

After taking on all that risk, moving one’s entire life and family across an ocean, sometimes it still doesn’t work out. Perhaps the company was less than honest about what they were looking for from the employee. Or perhaps the employee learns the company is less than ethical, or is asking for work but not fairly compensating for it. Perhaps the company just loses money and has to lay people off. Perhaps the employee is struggling with the work. What happens to those visa holders?

Nothing good. We were so lucky that my partner found work and got a new visa prior to the pandemic, but if he’d been let go after March 2020? I don’t know what we would have done. There’s nothing we can do about it, but I’d have another regret to add if I didn’t include this here: the government must also allow workers who are no longer with their sponsoring company more than 60 days to sort out their lives. Currently, the sponsoring company has to immediately let the Home Office know when they have parted ways, and then the Home Office (eventually) sends a letter to the visa holder saying they have two months to find a new visa or get out. Now, with delays and back-ups that letter might not come for as many as three months, but there’s no guarantee, so visa holders have to assume that they will need to leave the country within eight weeks. That’s absurd. Six months should be the bare minimum; a year would be better.

It also creates opportunities for abuse within companies. If the sponsored employee is being mistreated, or the terms of employment differ than what was discussed during hiring, what can the employee do? If they quit, they may need to leave the country! And what’s to stop the company from immorally letting the employee go if the employee isn’t a perfect cog in the machine? Are employees meant to stay silent when they witness bad practices or poor employee treatment because in the first two years than can just be fired at will? These rules give employers even more power, and we know companies cannot be trusted to do the right thing when they have that much power.

There are also some pretty insidious rules related to access to benefits, as though someone who finds themselves in a shit situation should be forced to suffer because there are an immigrant when they encounter it. When the furlough scheme was implemented, I raised to my boss that someone needed to get clarification that having our salaries paid by the government wasn’t considered a public benefit; otherwise they’d need to ensure they weren’t furloughing any people working on visas. What a silly, unnecessary stress during an already challenging time.

If I knew what I know now before moving here, I think we would have done a lot of things differently. We might have chosen a different company’s offer to take. We might have picked a different country, one that is more welcoming to people who weren’t born there. I’m happy we live here, and we aren’t planning on leaving any time soon, but we know part of the reason we are able to still be here is because we have access to resources.

With all that said, things have generally worked out for us. I’ve found a decent job working with a wonderful boss and delightful co-workers who could not have been more supportive during the pandemic. I’ve gotten involved with soccer (football) again and love playing every week when we aren’t in lock down. My partner has become extremely involved in organizing and worker rights, and it’s been wonderful to see him flourish there. We’ve made great new friends and deepened friendships with those we knew before. And prior to the pandemic, we were doing wonderful things like spending Christmas in Scotland, or traveling to France repeatedly for the World Cup. Living in London has worked out, so I can’t say anything above is ultimately an actual regret, but those are some lessons I wish I’d learned before we signed on the dotted line.



December 2020



Oh 2020…

Written by , Posted in Adventures

It’s almost a new year! According to the world, it’s time to make resolutions, set new goals, recommit to being our best selves!

It’s also about to be Friday. Like any other Friday. In much of the northern hemisphere, it’s cold out. It gets dark here at 4pm. There’s nothing very motivating about knowing I’m going back to work on Monday (though I am lucky I have a job to go back to).

Do you remember this time LAST year? In the US, folks were so excited to kiss 2019 goodbye, because we knew by the end of the year, we’d (if there is a god) have a new president ready to be sworn in on January 20. Hopefully Elizabeth Warren, or Kamala Harris. But definitely not Trump.

Many of us set goals. Travel more. Spend more time with friends. Finally apply for that stretch position at work.

And then … COVID happened. For most of us, the goal became survival. For some, that was physical survival – keeping the lights on and food on the table, or avoiding getting sick while working an essential job. For others, it meant mental survival – extroverts trying to figure out how to get any energy when all social interactions are behind screens, parents trying to support kids who had no energy release or social outlets. As time went on, we saw more and more people showing how little they care for others. People taking vacations or unnecessary trips for jobs that weren’t at risk, possibly spreading the disease. People refusing to wear a bit of fabric over their nose and mouth when near others. People screaming about MA FREEDUM while dismissing concerns of people protesting for actual threats to their freedom (e.g. folks fighting to defund the police and get others to recognize that Black Lives Matter).

So much of 2020 has disappointed me. 70 million+ people thought voting for a racist rapist to have a second term in office was just fine. A smaller minority, but one that includes elected Republicans, have spent weeks claiming an election was stolen when clearly, OBVIOUSLY, it was not. A Republican Senate refusing to provide meaningful, consistent support to those who have been most impacted by the pandemic. Just so many people who do not care about anyone but themselves, or perhaps those who look exactly like them.

It is disgusting.

2020 also took people from us, whether the nearly 350,000 in the US killed by Trump’s failure during this pandemic, or beloved actors like Chadwick Boseman. It took opportunities from us. It took time with family, it took new jobs, it took money, it took energy. There is so much grief out there that so many haven’t begun to process.

A familiar refrain on social media was ‘F*** 2020’ or ‘2020 strikes again,’ to the point that some people started to get indignant at that. Their argument is that things have always been bad for some people, and it’s simplistic and ignorant to just keep blaming the year. Folks, we know that. There aren’t a lot of people out here literally thinking there’s some sort of magic that the numbers 2020 conjure to add to all the bad shit that has happened. But sometimes, one doesn’t have enough characters in a tweet or time in their mind to dive into all that has gone into making an event horrible. 2020 is shorthand for decades, centuries of crap building and building into the mountain we see before us.

My 2020 wasn’t as horrible as it could have been. I was able to see my parents in February, when my dad had surgery. I landed at SFO the same day the last flight from one country in Asia was allowed to land. I was able to visit friends in Seattle just as the first cases were showing up there. When the UK finally went into lock down I was able to seamlessly work from home without issues. And when things started to reopen, my soccer season began, which meant I did get to socialize with people weekly.

But I’ve been mentally exhausted for months. Seeing how poorly things are in the US. Experiencing the horrible response in the UK. Trying to stay in touch even though Zoom meetings suck the life out of me. I’ve been frustrated at not being able to see friends in person, not be able to travel (basically my favorite thing). Shoot, I haven’t browsed a book store in at least ten months and it’s just so strange. And, in perfect 2020 fashion, our refrigerator died on Monday night, so we go into the new year ordering take-out and making due with a mini fridge that fits a few essentials.

So now that 2021 is rolling around, I am not assuming things will be much different. Now, January 20th, that will be a good day for those of us who care about other people, who believe in justice. But we’re still be in the middle of a pandemic. A lot of people who chose to travel or spend time with family outside their bubble over Christmas will be in ICUs or dying from the pandemic, because the vaccine is going to take a long time to get to everyone.

Given that, I’m looking at 2021 as a rebuilding year. At least the first half is going to be just as hard as 2020. I’m not buying any plane tickets just yet, or scheduling any in-person events. My birthday will be spent ordering take-out, because eating in a restaurant is just another way to catch or pass the disease on to others (not that restaurants are even an option in Tier 4 London). Maybe by late spring I’ll go inside a place for more than just the time it takes to grab what I need and go (or to get yet another crown, because my teeth hate me). That’s not totally conducive to the life I want to live, so I’m going to keep focusing on the things I can do while keeping myself and others safe. Working from home (which I know is an immense privilege). Focusing on hobbies I can do at home (reading, sewing, baking). Staying connected through texts and calls. Building my physical and mental strength. And I’m going to continue to focus on building relationships from a place of compassion without compromising my values.

So Happy New Year. May we all manage our expectations for 2021, but may it at least be better than 2020.



December 2020



We Won’t Be Traveling for Christmas This Year

Written by , Posted in Adventures, Random

Fake Tree in the Family Room

This year we obviously won’t be traveling for Christmas. So I thought I’d spend some time thinking about the Christmases I’ve had, hoping that next year we’ll be able to celebrate the way we hoped to this year.

First off – I don’t identify as Christian. My dad is Catholic (not been to a mass not associated with a wedding or funeral that I know of since I was born), and my mom was raised in some version of Protestant. Growing up, we were what I’ve heard referred to as submariner Christians — only surfacing on Easter and Christmas. But even that stopped when my mother’s mom died. Other than a brief phase in high school where I actually got baptized and confirmed (don’t ask), I’ve not felt Christian. And at this point I don’t believe in any version of God, but I know that culturally, the Christmas holidays mean something to me. Not because of Jesus (though, if he existed as described, sounds like a pretty cool dude), but because of the fun times with family and friends.

I don’t think we ever traveled for Christmas. Until I was a teenager, that was reserved for Thanksgiving. We’d drive down to southern California and visit both sides of the family, having Thanksgiving dinner at my dad’s parents’ house. The Wednesday before we’d go to Disneyland, which was AMAZING.

But for Christmas the only family we’d see outside the immediate was my mother’s mom, and she went into a nursing home when I was six, so after that it was just the four of us, with partners added in later.

There are certain decorations that evoke the holidays for me.

  • This green ceramic Christmas tree that my mom puts Hershey kisses or peppermint patties in. One year our dog got into it while we were out. (She was fine)
  • This other green ceramic tree, with lights, that plugs into the wall. It was always in one of the bathrooms. Don’t know why.
  • My maternal grandmother’s fabric advent calendar, with elves and Santa and other associated plastic bits, that stuck on with Velcro. Santa’s sleigh was always the 24th, with Santa on the 25th.
  • These four separate ceramic angels, that when put together, spell NOEL. These go in the china cabinet, and must be reorganized regularly to spell LEON or LONE.

The tree has lots of different ornaments, some special (ones my sister and I made), some just pretty. The star my sister crafted in Mrs. Allio’s third grade class is always on top.

We have stockings my maternal grandmother made (or bought? Unclear). Had them our whole lives, and even now they still get hung, and there are still treats in there from Santa. Santa (my mom), no joke, would individually wrap in tissue paper every item in the stockings, which included things like travel toothbrushes and candy canes, but also as we got older, postage stamps and lottery tickets. In later years my sister and I have done stockings for my parents as well, usually with movie tickets and candy inside. Those get opened on Christmas morning, before breakfast.

Food. Oh, the food. It’s not a huge non-stop feast, but there are some things. Like fudge. Delicious chocolate fudge that I make every year, no matter what. Even in London, where finding marshmallow fluff has been a challenge at times. My mother makes tons of it, and gives it away to neighbors, the letter carrier, anyone really. It’s legit the best fudge I’ve ever tasted.

Then the sugar cookies. We think it’s a recipe from an early-edition Joy of Cooking. It’s so good – it’s the almond extract. But the cookies are made fairly early on, in shapes like bells, stars, candy canes. And then they are iced. Yellow icing is lemon, green icing is peppermint, and red and blue icings are almond. That’s just the rules. My sister, mother and I would sit around icing them, while my dad watched basketball. I make them now, and end up freezing a bunch because they are SO GOOD frozen. They’re a pain to make but I love them.

Peppermint stick ice cream. The Baskin Robbins version is the best. I think some shops carry it year round now, but the arrival of it to the local shop at the Clocktower (why yes, I did grow up in a suburb out of a Hallmark film, why do you ask?) signaled the start of Christmas to me.

Christmas morning was eggs, potatoes, fruit, and cinnamon rolls. The Pillsbury kind, nothing made from scratch, because the Pillsbury ones are frankly the best.

Sometime in the week before Christmas, we go look at the lights. Often we’ll eat Mexican food first at a local restaurant I like. That’s probably not the best idea when the following activity is sitting in a car with the windows up for an hour or so, but we manage. We play Dean Martin and Nat King Cole Christmas songs and drive around. Some neighborhoods are absurdly decked out, and a lot of people put in the effort.

Christmas eve, one gift. When we were little, it was usually the gift from one of our Aunts and Uncles. In later years, we’ve switched to just giving books, which is really fun, as we are all voracious readers.

When I was 29, I spent Christmas away, because I’d come back to London for graduation. I hung out with a friend in the Lake District. Neither of us are British, and so didn’t realize that everything is actually closed on Christmas. Not most things, EVERYTHING. After that, Austin and I spent one Christmas up in Seattle together. Once we moved overseas, we figured we’d alternate US and UK. So in 2018, we rented a house in Scotland for a week. The owners decorated it for Christmas, we went on walks by the sea every day, and read lots of books. Magical. Last year we had tickets to go back to the US, but our visa situation meant that we couldn’t travel, so this year we were going to make up for it. Except once again, we’ll be in London.

I’ve made a gingerbread house this year, and hung some decorations. We have a tiny tree my niece has named Nigel and my friend has rightfully mocked for being more of a Christmas shrub. Austin and I both have two weeks off. But it’s a pandemic. My parents will be with each other, and we’ll do a Skype or Zoom call and play cards and hang out remotely, but it sucks.

So I think of the memories, and think about how hopefully we’ll get to do them again next year.



June 2019



Nearly a Year of Football

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You know I love football (the kind I grew up calling soccer, not the kind where only like two people on the field touch the ball with their feet). I’m a Reign supporter (and have written in the past about how media fails to support women in football), a US Women’s National Team Supporter, and have just returned from the first of four trips I’ll be taking to France over the course of a month to watch six Women’s World Cup matches. And, as I shared in September, I’ve found a club to play with here in London. This post is a reflection on the last ten months.

Over the season (if my count is correct) I’ve played in about 20 matches. For a few weeks I was lucky enough to play on Saturdays and Sundays, which meant there were some weekends that were all football, all the time. Other than travel or being sick/injured, I’m at training every week, which this winter meant training in rain and snow. (I prefer snow, though it feels more dangerous). I also read a book on goal keeping, because it quickly became clear that even though I’ve been playing in goal since I was a kid, I didn’t have much of a strategy other than ‘stop the ball.’

The book helped me visualize a couple of things, and offered some good off-season strength exercises, but that’s not where the learning has happened. Those weeks of training drills and those 20 matches? That’s where I’ve been figuring things out and improving. I’ve grown in confidence and I feel more comfortable with my decision-making. I’ve got so much more to learn (including how to do a fucking goal kick that doesn’t end up at the chest of the opposition), but that’s what makes this so fun: there’s always more to learn.

Obviously I’ve been putting the work in, but I can also credit support I’ve gotten from our back line, the other keepers on the team, and the coach. One keeper is the team captain, and while she is good in goal, I think she’d prefer to be out on the pitch, somewhere mid-field. She knows about body positioning, and going to ground, and letting the defense know where she is. She warmed me up before matches, and shouted back to me after a goal or before a goal kick, telling me to just relax and keep going. I can’t begin to explain how helpful that has been.

The other new keeper on the team has been an awesome support as well, texting good wished before matches and sharing in frustration when a training has gone by where we haven’t had much time in goal. And the coach has helped me figure out how to fit in with the style of play the club promotes, was extremely patient when it was taking me forever to feel comfortable with going to ground when one-on-one against a striker, and is helping me figure out those damned goal kicks.

Last month the team held its end of year awards banquet. It was delightful to be in a room with so many amazing, talented, fun women. I don’t know all of them well, and in some ways I do still feel like the new girl … but on the other hand there were like 20 new girls this year, so I always felt like I had a place somewhere. I also was voted Most Improved, which, in my opinion, is one of the kindest bits of recognition out there. I worked hard this last year, and was surrounded by supportive teammates who had patience, who didn’t let any frustration they felt towards my performance impact our interactions, and who understood that I was always out there trying my best and working at getting better.


I’m excited for next year. I’m excited to get even more comfortable with my decision-making and my voice. I’m excited to get fitter (cross-training with football definitely helped my half-marathon time; in the off-season I’m going to spend more time on weights to increase my strength). I’m excited to welcome new members to the team and see what we can all do together. It’s fantastic to play with — and against — talented, tough, interesting women playing the sport they love.





December 2018



It’s Been a Bit of a Year

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Six days into 2018 we moved out of our house and over to Resham and Jill’s place for a few days so we could get it ready for our renters. Nine days into 2018 we woke up at 2:15 A.M., corralled Jameson and Tigger into kennels and dropped them off at cargo at 3:30 A.M., then spent the next 18 hours traveling to London, our new home.

It has been a wild ride this year. I documented a lot of it over on my site in the hopes of helping out others who choose to make the move from the US to the UK. Banking was harder that expected. Finding a place to live was easier than expected, but figuring out how to pay for the deposit and first months of rent without a bank account was challenging and involved three different wire transfer services. I left my full-time job, but was able to work remotely for the same organization for nearly six months (which was critical for our finances and my mental health).

I watched my partner try to find his place in a new job that wasn’t entirely as expected (though, to be fair, what job turns out exactly as imagined?) I also struggled with what I wanted to do with my life. Moving to the UK meant essentially giving up my career, which on the one hand, yikes, but on the other hand, sweet. I was good at emergency management planning, but I didn’t like it, and the UK system differs enough that I couldn’t really find work in my field even if I wanted to. So, what to do? Try to build a writing career? Find a 9-5 job that pays the bills? Be a stay-at-home wife and learn to make all our clothes and food since salaries in London are much lower than in Seattle?

Ultimately, I was lucky enough to get my foot in the door of higher education, a field I’ve wanted to get into for many years. It’s basically entry level professional, and that’s good. I’m getting to see all sides of the field, learning how things work and what the big issues are. I’m only three weeks in, but I’m liking it.

Moving across the world can be hard on friendships. I have done it before – leaving Seattle for NYC, NYC for London, and London for Seattle. Because of that experience, I did know what to expect. Plus, social media is way more of a thing now than when I last moved, and services like WhatsApp mean I can text friends in the US for free. But many of my friends are in different places is their lives now, and they don’t have the time they used to. I left Facebook for a few months but ultimately returned because I didn’t know what was going on with some of my friends, and that was the easiest way to see what was up. Some US friends text with me weekly or daily; one friend sends me updates on my niece (we even managed to have our annual Christmas tea even though we’re eight hours apart). Others reach out with the occasional Facebook message or email, and I try so hard to do the same.

Given all that, this move has definitely been helpful in accepting that friendships change over the years. And it’s also reassuring, because even though I’ve been away from my London friends for years, with most of them it seemed like no time had passed! From my weekly lunches with Sumedh, to my WhatsApp group with Lesley and Alissa, to texting with Simran (who is now not only a friend but a coworker). I’ve not seen as much as I’d like of other friends, but that’s how life goes sometimes.

It’s also been a time of figuring out how to adult on a whole other level. In addition to the aforementioned banking frustrations, we also became landlords, as we didn’t want to sell our Seattle home. We found FANTASTIC tenants, but still had to deal with stuff like utility companies refusing to transfer bills to our tenants, figuring out how to collect rent when we’re overseas (may I recommend to any similarly situated folks?), and managing a contracting job from 6,000 miles away when the dishwasher broke and screwed up our floor and the ceiling below. In 2019, we’ll also have to shift to having paid property managers, which means we might have to cover some of our mortgage with savings. But it’s worth it.

With my writing I try to be honest, and this year-end review has been a bit heavy on the challenges, so allow me to indulge in recognizing the awesomeness that was this year as well:

  • Jason and Kelly already had plans to visit London, which meant we got to see dear friends just a month after moving here
  • Amanda came out for a long weekend (and was a trooper, given she was at the start of her second trimester)
  • Don and Judy visited us after spending some time in the midlands
  • We spent five days in Lisbon, Portugal celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary
  • Allegra, John and their two children spent a couple of nights with us before heading over to Italy
  • We met up with Jamie, Mike, Jesse, and Jamie’s parents in Paris
  • We hosted Stephanie and Gavin for a few days, then traveled with them to Iceland for a long weekend
  • We met up with Danielle and Darren in Berlin and explored Christmas markets
  • We spent an entire week in the Hebrides in Scotland over Christmas
  • I joined a football club and play two-three days a week
  • Austin helped START A UNION and is serving as its first Secretary
  • I ran my first half marathon in seven years

Next year we’re going to see the Women’s World Cup in France with two sets of dear friends, spend a week in the US with Austin’s family, and spend the holidays back on the west coast. We have a list of places to visit in Europe and in the UK. Austin will be busy with the union. I’m still writing, and How Not to Be A Jerk When is still chugging away. I’ll keep trying to find an agent for the book I wrote four years ago. We’ll both keep doing our best at work. And of course, I’ll still be reading and reviewing books for Cannonball Read.

Despite the challenges, I’m happy our little family decided to take this leap. This year — this move — has been, and continues to be, an adventure. Here’s to more of that in 2019.



December 2018



Forced Career Examination

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“So, London it is?”

“London it is.”

Austin and I were sitting in the guest room of our Seattle home at 5:30 AM, debating between job offers he’d received from companies in Copenhagen and London. We had to let London know by end of business that day; with the time difference, that meant by 8 AM we had to have a decision, and we’d only just received the offer from Copenhagen 30 minutes prior.

We were tired, but we were talking about moving to a new city together! It was a fun conversation.

Much more fun than the one that led to it, which started with a phone call from my husband on a Tuesday six months earlier.

“So, I got laid off. They’re calling us into a conference room so I’ll know more in a bit.”

We knew it was a possibility, but hearing the words was jarring. I had a good job, and we’d been careful when we bought our house 18 months prior to make sure we could afford it on one person’s salary, at least for a bit. So we weren’t in financial trouble, but still. Getting laid off isn’t usually on one’s bucket list.

For a couple of weeks, Austin spent some time just thinking about what he wanted to do. He probably wanted to stay in his field of video game programming, but was open to other opportunities. He began applying to companies in our area, but soon asked if I had any issues with him looking at jobs in other countries.

When we first started dating, Austin told me about his desire to live abroad at some point. I get the appeal; it’s fun to live somewhere new (especially when that somewhere has functional public transportation). I also wasn’t happy in my job. I adored my boss and my colleagues, and I was good at what I was doing. But I hated the added stress that came from being in the field of emergency management.

Some people thrive on that call in the middle of the night; I was finding my heart rate rising every time I heard multiple emergency vehicles speed by (which was often, since we lived off of a busy arterial). And that wasn’t irrational stress — for the past seven years one of my areas of responsibility was mass fatality response. When there is a mass shooting daily, it’s just a matter of time before it happens in one’s own town.

And yet even with that stress, I had spent a dozen years of my life becoming good at my job. Really, really good at it. I made a tiny bit of a name for myself in a very specialized component of the work, and leaving that felt weird. I would possibly be giving up my career with no fall-back, no plan, no safety net. For a few months at least, I would be a grown woman with no children and no job, being supported by her husband. I didn’t get married until I was almost in my mid-30s; I’ve been independent most of my adult life. So now, being reliant on a partner for money? I didn’t like the feeling.

Accepting that we’d be moving and I’d be leaving my job also became a stark reminder of how much of one’s identity is tied up in work. I haven’t ever defined myself by my work (I’d say I worked in emergency management, not that I was an emergency manager), but I still could say I was doing something. Once we moved, my answer would be ‘helping us get set up in a new country,’ which was true, but that only works for so long.

After three months in London, my old boss said she had some work for me. We’d talked about that possibility when I moved; she made it a reality. Thanks to her and my new boss, I was able to work 20-30 hours each week, remotely, doing the planning work I enjoyed, but without the stress of response. It was nice, but I still looked for work. I quickly learned that continuing in my field would be nearly impossible, because I didn’t have experience working in the parameters set by UK parliament. Which was frustrating at times, but also forced me to look at options. I was right – I had no fall-back. I would have to switch fields.

I started applying for jobs in March; I received an offer in early November. All told, I applied for 27 jobs. In 19 cases, I received an email telling me I hadn’t moved on to the interview stage. I heard nothing from seven organizations. Two requested more information, one requested an in-person interview. Lucky for me, I got that job. Which I start on Monday.

I’ve been wanting to leave emergency management for awhile, and now it seems like a real possibility. My new job is fairly entry-level, in higher education. I’ve wanted to work in higher ed for a long time; when I was in graduate school the first time I contemplated focusing heavily on higher education administration but the courses weren’t available when I needed them. But now is my second chance, and it probably wouldn’t have happened, or at least not this way, if Austin hadn’t been laid off last year.

It’s funny how things work out.



November 2018



48 Hours in Berlin

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One reason Austin and I were so excited to move to a new country was the opportunity to travel. So far we’ve been to France, Portugal, and Iceland this year (and he’s been to Malta with work). So when our friends said they were going to be in Berlin and did we want to meet up, we found some absurdly cheap flights and a great hotel deal and booked a weekend away.

I first visited Berlin the summer after high school, when my choir went on tour. I didn’t remember much when I returned 12 years later with my sister. She and I had a wonderful time exploring the city and even hopping over to Potsdam for a day trip. Since then it’s been a city I remember fondly. Now, eight years later, it’s just as lovely as I recalled.

It was also so cold. So very, very cold. Not sure if autumn is a thing in Berlin but, if so, it ended well before we arrived. A quick bus to our hotel (which was literally next door to the Tacheles, which sadly is being torn down) and we were off. We hoped some Christmas markets would be open, but they were still in set-up mode. We ended up getting dinner at a tourist-y beer hall that still had delicious food. (The service was borderline hilarious though – took like 20 minutes to order, and another 15 to find someone who would let us pay our bill when we were finished). I even drank beer, as I tend to do when I’m in Germany.

To get a respite from the cold, we wandered into the Ritter Sport factory store and holy crap. I love chocolate, but have never really picked up any of their bars. We decided to get a few samplers and became pretty obsessed with the one with Speculoos cookie bits in it. So good. And of course we found a book store with a HUGE English language section and bought books, because even on vacation we’re the same people as we are at home.

Near our hotel was a delightful cocktail bar, with high ceilings, low lighting, and (probably intentionally) distressed decor. I had an elderflower gin and tonic, which is quickly becoming my favorite cocktail. We returned with our friends the next night.

The next day was apparently Totensonntag, which is a day of mourning before all the Christmas festivities commence. Probably explains the cheap hotel room — very little was open. Austin and I decided to spend about three hours wandering Tiergarten, in the bitter cold. Our friends arrived but needed a nap, so we relaxed and warmed up at our hotel until we met up for another delicious German dinner. As a vegetarian I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find things to eat, but each of my meals was delicious.

Monday was our last day, and we finally got to see Christmas markets! We ate so much – pretzels with cheese, these bread toast thingies with toppings, gluehwein, egg nog, cocoa, waffles with nutella. I know a lot of places in the US have Christmas markets, but those to me end up feeling like Farmers Markets hopped up on sugar. German Christmas markets are just something else entirely, and need to be seen in person.

It was such a short trip that we didn’t end up doing much else, so I know we’ll want to return. And probably when it’s a bit warmer.



November 2018



“As Bad As a Root Canal” Isn’t That Bad … If You Have Insurance or Money

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My first memory of dental work was when I was five or six. I even recall my dentist’s name, although I’m not going to share it here. My teeth were starting to come in, and he could tell my bite would need some correction, so he pulled five baby teeth in an effort to get things moving. The numbing agent started wear off by the end of the fourth extraction, and he didn’t offer to top me up, so I had one tooth pulled with essentially no pain killers.

You can see why I wasn’t such a fan of dental work after that.

Unfortunately, I had five years of orthodontics ahead of me. Braces, neck gear, rubber bands, and finally retainers. On the plus side, I was free from all but the retainer before I hit junior high, so while I looked awkward in middle school, it wasn’t because I had a mouth full of metal (just some bad haircuts and poor fashion choices).

I’ve also always liked sweets, so I knew I had to take care of my teeth. I flossed — and still do floss — every single night. I brushed twice a day. And yet the cavities came. And then the crowns. And the root canals. We tried prescription toothpaste. I got sealants on my teeth. And yet for many years, I feared each visit to the dentist (which I dutifully scheduled every six months) because of the newest filling I would need.

When I moved back to Seattle, I found a new dentist. He fixed some crappy fillings I’d gotten in New York, and did his best to keep fillings from turning into crowns. It didn’t always work, but he tried. In fact, the only reason my most recent root canal happened yesterday and not a year ago is because my Seattle dentist worked hard to make some adjustments.

Every molar in my mouth has some sort of restoration. When I visited my new dentist in the UK and got some x-rays, I was reminded of how lucky I’ve been to have access to dental care my whole life.

And when I was referred for a root canal last week, I was reminded of how screwed up it is that dental care isn’t covered for adults in the US. Even when people over 21 or under 65 qualify for public health benefits, dental care isn’t covered. And I’ve seen first-hand what that means.

For the past five years, Seattle has hosted a public health clinic in the fall. Individuals can, at no cost, receive medical, dental, and vision care. People line up at midnight to be let into a holding area, where numbers are then distributed. Because dental and vision coverage are hard to get in the US without private coverage, individuals are limited to medical + dental or medical + vision for each visit. The floor of Key Arena is converted to a giant dental office, filled with chairs.

Photo by KUOW

I was able to work at two of the clinics, one time as a runner, and one time managing the waiting area for the dental floor. People who had been up all night waited hours longer to be seen by a dentist, then sent over for x-rays and referred to come back the next day for a cleaning, flippers (removable partial dentures), fillings, or extractions. People who have had infections, even abscesses, for who knows how long, grateful that someone is taking their dental health seriously.

It was heartening to see all the volunteer dentists and hygienists, but it was infuriating that it was necessary at all.

I’ve had root canals in New York, Seattle, and London. I can vividly recall the walk into the New York endodontist’s office; there was scaffolding up around the building. My union dental insurance covered the full cost, I believe. The second one, in London, was performed at the dental office associated with LSE, and I don’t believe I had to pay anything for it. And I had great dental insurance in Seattle, so if I had anything to pay then, it was maybe 10%. In each of those three cases, I either had dental insurance (US) or didn’t have income and so qualified for my costs to be covered (UK).

As I sat in the dentist’s chair last week, she talked through my options. I could pay a whole lot of money to go to a private endodontist who has excellent new equipment, a private endodontist with good equipment, or I could pay £60 and go to an NHS specialist. The wait would probably be awhile, and the equipment might not be as good. I chose one of the private options, but the fact that, if I didn’t have money, I could still have secured the care I needed, is a reminder of how the UK is light years ahead of the US in so many ways.

People in the US like to make fun of British teeth. The reality is, they aren’t obsessed with the appearance of teeth; they just want to make sure their residents get to keep their teeth. In the US, people get care if they have insurance, but if they don’t? Oh well. Never mind the concerns about impacts of things like gum disease on overall health. I find it absurd that dental and vision care aren’t automatically included in all health care in the US. Those are vital parts of our overall health.

Monday afternoon I arrived at the posh dental office. After a consultation, I signed some forms and they got down to work. Even in the 15 years between my first and most recent root canal, the technology has improved. I had almost no pain during the procedure, and some of the techniques she used kept my jaw from aching and kept over spill from the various drilling and equipment out of the rest of my mouth. Near the very end, the numbing agent did start to wear off, but even then it didn’t really hurt. After about 75 minutes she wrapped things up, I popped some ibuprofen, and headed home. I haven’t needed any painkillers since.

I know I’m lucky that I had the money to get the procedure done quickly. But even if I hadn’t, I still would have been able to get care thanks to the NHS dental system.

I’m sure that there are plenty of people in the UK who have had horrible NHS dental experiences, but at least they had access to some care. It’s literally the least a country can offer its residents.



October 2018



Twenty Years

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My time in high school was absolutely fine. It wasn’t traumatic in any specific or unique way; I did well academically, I had some good friends, I had extracurricular activities (choir, mostly) that I loved. By senior year, I even had a boyfriend who I would continue to date throughout most of college. I wasn’t popular, but I wasn’t unpopular, either. I just existed, mostly happily. Sure, there were the typical issues that come up within friend groups — some bickering, some un-returned crushes — but overall, I was happy enough.

I share this because I think my 20-year high school reunion experience is completely colored by my high school experience. Someone who hated high school, or someone who loved every minute and still considers it the best four years of their lives will likely have a different take.

My ten-year high school reunion was fine. I went with a couple of girlfriends, but I don’t remember seeing that many people who I wasn’t already in touch with. I do recall that one person brought a newborn, and that someone (I cannot for the life of me remember who) offered me a swig from a flask in the ladies room (which I took, obviously). But no one ended the night in an incinerator.

Last year, a Facebook group popped up to get people thinking about our 20-year high school reunion, and people posted updates on their lives. This was before we moved to London, so I mentioned we were living in Seattle with our cats, and also that I invented post-it notes. A couple people commented, getting the joke. Others were married or weren’t, had kids or didn’t, lived in the area or didn’t, had successful jobs or were taking care of their home. Nothing totally out of the ordinary. One person is moderately famous, and they posted in the group and seem to still be very nice, so that’s kind of cool.

Once Austin and I decided to move to London, I realized the reunion was at the perfect time for us to coordinate a visit. See our family, go to the reunion, pop up to Seattle and visit friends.

As the reunion approached, I checked the list of attendees and realized I didn’t recognize most of the names. My graduating class had over 400 people in it, and maybe two of the people who had RSVPd by then were people I would have considered friends while we were in high school. I recognized a few names, but some were just … brand new to me. The girlfriends I’d gone to the ten-year reunion with weren’t coming this time, and I started to wonder exactly why I was doing this.

(I’m still not entirely sure.)

The evening arrived, and I was nervous in a way I haven’t really been before. Austin gave me a little pep talk as we walked to the venue, which I didn’t realize I needed. Was I worried about what people would think of me? I don’t think so. I was actually more just anxious that there was no reason for me to be there.

With Facebook, it’s pretty easy to stay in touch with the people you want to stay in touch with. Even though I deleted my account for the summer, in the month that I’d been back I’d found a lot of the people who I’d be interested in meeting up with solo (as is my rule for Facebook friendship). It seems to me that part of the fun of reunions in the past was seeing people one had lost touch with but wanted to connect with. These days, it’s hard to stay disconnected even if one wants to.

But I was wrong. So, so wrong. I had a weirdly fun time. Part of the fun was indeed connecting with people who I’d lost touch with but still enjoyed catching up with (more on that later), but part of it was the utter bizarreness of being in a room with a lot of people that I recognized but just genuinely don’t need to be around. I don’t have good or bad feelings towards them (I mean, I hope they’re happy and kind people, but they aren’t ever on my mind.) We shared four years of our lives, sort of, and then went off into the world, and it all felt both the same and totally different.

It didn’t actually matter whether I interacted with any of the people who hadn’t been my friends. Once I’d chatted with four or five people (including my choir teacher, which was a delightful surprise) I could leave the restaurant at any time. It almost felt like a sociological or anthropological study.

There were some odd components. We were all wearing name tags with our senior photos on them, so people would walk by, look at the tag, and determine whether they wanted to stop and say hi. Also, the drinks were super strong, and there was not a lot of food, so folks got tipsy REAL quick.

So, the women: they all looked and seemed lovely. My mother has a theory that women who aren’t feeling like they look their best won’t show up, and maybe that’s the case, but every single lady at the reunion looked happy and healthy. It was great to see. I have no idea how any of them are in their personal lives (my guess is that many of them hold political beliefs that I would not be okay with, given where many of them live), but in the two+ hours we were around each other, they all seemed fine.

But some of the men: oh buddies.

The entire evening was surreal. I just kept looking around, thinking about how odd it is that 20 years have passed and most of these people seem … exactly the same. And maybe I do too. Some extra pounds, a bunch of tattoos, a couple of piercings, a fucking awesome husband, but I think the essential ‘me’ is the same.

Which leads me to the best part of the night: seeing some old friends. There are a few people who I’ve lost touch with but who were close friends during high school. We hung out near the F wing of school, and were a bit Freaks and Geeks ish. The guys were in a band (as was I, for a hot minute — I played guitar and the only song we played was Free Fallin’). There was a lot of talk of Star Wars. By the time I was a junior, I spent more of my time with friends from choir, but I have great memories of hanging out with the F wing folks.

And that night, I got to catch up with some of those folks, and it was fantastic. Guys who were kind, sweet, and funny teenagers grew into kind, sweet, and funny adults. They all have kids, and many have partners, but they haven’t grown into adult assholes. My memories of them are not false – I did have good friends there, and they were good people. I’ve found a few of them on Facebook again, and look forward to seeing pictures and reading updates about their lives.

I’m happy I went, for sure. It was a trip, and worth it for the conversations I had. Not sure if I’ll go to my 30th (unless Jen and Kelly promise to go with me again), but who knows. Maybe.