Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear Grandfather

Photo of my Grandfather - taken this winter
Thanks everyone for the awesome comments on my recent dating posts and the encouraging words about going outside my dating requirements and dating the Short Australian. I hope to get back to some fun dating posts soon...

But sadly this weekend wasn't really about fun and dating. It was mostly about family. My grandfather passed away 2 weeks ago. And while he was old and it wasn't a tragedy, it is still sad. He was the center of our family in many ways. I worry that we will not see each other as often. It was nice to all get together this weekend. I enjoyed catching up with my cousins. I wish I could see them more. I wish we got together for happy occasions and not just when someone dies.

Anyway, this weekend I've been reflecting a lot on family and what it means. And I've been thinking a lot about my grandparents. They were hugely important and influential to me. They lived about 2 hours from us and they visited us often and we visited them often as well. My brother and I would spend a week or so each summer with them. They had an amazing house in Ipswich, MA looking out over the ocean. Some of my best and most vivid memories of my childhood take place in that house. I can still remember how each room smelled. I can remember where all the objects (collected from their numerous travels) were placed. I loved that house. And I loved my grandparents. And they loved us - and never ever forgot to tell us just how much they loved us.

They were great and amazing people. My uncle said it best: they were great role-models. For everyone. They did so much for their community, their church, their friends, their family. They were role models to me and to many around them. They touched so many people. When I think of the kind of person that I want to be, I want to be like them. I can't actually think of better people. It was not only their love for their loved ones that was inspiring but also their love for each other. They were married 62 years. And in a world full of broken relationships and broken vows, I always think of them as role models for the type of love I hope to have some day.

Their religion was important to them and their faith in God was very very strong. Their children and grandchildren do not share that faith, but as my cousin pointed out, that was to some extent, okay with them. They would have been happy if we had embraced God and religion (and certainly expressed a certain level of disappointed to our parents for not ever bringing us to church) but they didn't turn it into an issue. They loved us for who we were even if it wasn't exactly who they wanted us to be.

They always encouraged us to do great things and to be better people. They always supported us. They loved to hear of my travels. My grandmother loved to write and encouraged me to write. My grandmother emailed me every single week until she entered the hospital a couple months before she passed away. That was really special. I attribute my passion for traveling and for writing to my grandparents. They truly inspired and supported me in so many ways.

I'm sad they are now both gone. It's been a hard weekend. There are no words that can do justice to the relationship I had with them. There are so many amazing memories that I tried to write down but seemed trivial in black and white on a computer... maybe some day I will find a way to better express my life for them. Maybe some day, I will try to re-tell the great stories they told (my grandmother was a great story-teller and my grandfather and my uncles and father were great subjects - I fear those stories will be lost and I would like to write them in my own words drawing upon what my grandmother has already written - perhaps I will include some stories in this blog). But for now I will leave you with the words I spoke at the funeral on Saturday:

Dear Grandfather, Grampy, Grumpy Grampy, GG,

You are no longer with us but you and Grammy will always be here with us. You are in the taste of fresh summer raspberries. In the smell of mint leaves and roses. You are there with the birds that fly in the early morning light, in the call of a seagull, in the smell of freshly baked cookies, in the taste of a ginger snap.

You are there in our memories of long summer nights and lobster dinners, of games of Scrabble and cards, of trips to the library and to the beach. You are there in the memories of penny candy and magic bags, of ice cream and clams and feeding the birds on your porch in Ipswich. You are in the words ‘Gee Whiz’, you are there in my father’s smile, in the sound of the ocean in a seashell, and in the magic of Christmas.

You are there with us always in memories of the past, but you also with us here in the present. You are there in the heart of your children. You are there in the accomplishments of your grandchildren. You are there in the laughter of your great grandchildren. You are there in the loving memory of your friends. You were the center of our family. Of our universe. You will live on in our memory. You are always with us.

Dear Grampy. You taught us so much. You gave us so much. Your love for all of us was undeniable. And you never failed to tell us how much you loved us. Your love for us always shined so bright. We are all so blessed to have had you in our lives. We are all better people for it. There cannot be better grandparents, parents, great-grandparents. friends or neighbors than you and Grammy. Your love was everlasting. May we carry it with us. And may we be better people for having experienced your love.

Dear Grampy. You are now with Grammy and Uncle Bill. But please know that we love you - all of you. And we will miss you. Know that you are missed. And do not miss us. But watch over us and take care of  just as you have always done and as we know you always will.

Dear Grampy. You are no longer with us,but you are always with us. And your legacy lives on within us: your friends and family who are gathered here today not to mourn your passing but to celebrate the life of a great great man.

We love you Grandfather, Grampy, Grumpy Grampy, GG. We love you.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Short Australian

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It was a typical Saturday night in the new rather boring life of the International Woman of Mystery. I was having I'm Attractive Single Friend C and Hot Married Friend L over for a drink and the plan was to head out to the bars. Hot Married Friend L brought her hunky husband and I'm Attractive Single Friend C brought her new man who I'm naming Silver Fox because he is an attractive gentleman of a slightly older age...

So, that left me the odd woman out - as usual. I don't mind. I love Hot Married Friend L's husband - he's great! And I was excited to meet I'm Attractive Single Friend C's new man. But I have to say, it was one of those nights that I wished I had a plus one to sit next to. Sometimes it's tiring always being the 3rd wheel or the 5th wheel as it may be.

After some drinks at my house, we decided to wander down to the local pub to get some food and some more drinks. The couples were all cuddly and I was sitting there alone. And suddenly someone observed "Hey International Woman of Mystery, there is a handsome man sitting at the bar and totally checking you out!"

"What? Where?" And then I saw him. He was sitting alone at the bar. He was handsome... And he was totally checking me out! He kept turning around and looking over at our table. I was obviously the only single one there.

By this time we were finished eating dinner and I'm Attractive Single Friend C and the Silver Fox decided to head for home. It just so happened that the seats at the bar next to the cute guy opened up. I decided to seize the opportunity and go sit next to him (Hot Married Friend L and her husband joined me). We immediately started talking. As soon as he opened his mouth, I was like "So... you're Australian?" Kind of hard to miss the accent. Plus, he was at the bar alone (which is not so weird considering it's a local sports bar), so we had been speculating that he was from out of town.

So, the Australian and I continued our conversation even though Hot Married Friend L and her husband decided to leave. He was interesting and cute - although slightly older (confirmed age of 38)  than my usual boys . (What is up with me and older men these days)?

And then he stood up. Uh - oh... It wasn't quite as bad as that Sex and the City episode where Samantha meets an extremely short guy at the bar (similar scenario, he'd been sitting on a bar stool), he did come up somewhere past my chest... but he was definately WAY under 6 feet (my minimum requirement) and absolutely MUCH shorter than me - of course, I was wearing 4 inch heels...

I wasn't too surprised though. I'd gotten a feeling that he was short. I was just wishing he would be that short.  Anyway, turns out we are more or less neighbors. We chatted. He walked me home. There might or might not have been some kind of goodnight kiss. He has just texted me to ask what I'm up to this weekend (although sadly, that is kind of devoted to my Grandfather's funeral). I might or might not reply.

BUT I TOTALLY checked off number 6 from the dating challenge: relax on the height requirement. Ok, technically, I might have to go out with him again... And maybe I will.

I know. I owe you an update on Stockholm and on the Tour Guide. Coming soon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day

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Dear Valentine's Day, 

Here you are again. No matter how much I try to wish you away, you keep popping up again every single February 14th. 

What kind of holiday are you anyway? Encouraging a celebration of love through the exchanging of cards and gifts. The giving of flowers. The going out to dinner... You are so commercial! A holiday created just to get people to spend money in the name of  "Love!" How disgusting! 

And you are so discriminatory!. What about us single people? How do you think you make us feel? Why do you need to come around and REMIND us that we have no special someone to love and no one to love us. No one to buy us chocolates or jewelery or take us out to dinner. Do you think we REALLY need to have this thrown in our face? 

How would you feel if I started a single person's holiday? Where all the single people can celebrate their freedom and their ability to date multiple people and not feel guilty about it? And we remind all the coupled up people that we never have to pick up anyone's dirty socks but our own, we never wake up freezing cold because someone stole all the covers, and we never have to think about anyone's feelings or do things we don't want to do. In fact, we can do whatever we want! Take that Mr. Couple Valentine's Day! 

Ok. Dear Valentine's Day. I'm just about done with my little rant. But to you, I say Boo!

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Needless to say, that as a single girl, Valentine's Day is not really my favorite holiday. Luckily, living abroad there has much less pressure to have fabulous Valentine's Day plans although I notice an increasing adaption over the years. This year I saw more Swedish people posting cute messages about Alla HjÀrtans Dag than ever... 

But whatever... I don't totally hate the day. I just don't love it either. Especially in the US. Today at work it was all flowers and balloons and talk of romantic dinners. I made the mistake of wearing red (seriously, it was a mistake) and all day people kept telling me how festive I was. Gag. And people kept asking me what my plans were! I was like - hey I'm single, I don't celebrate Valentine's Day. Ok - before you all jump down my throat, I know that I could have gotten a group of single girlfriends together to celebrate, but in fact, I don't know too many of those these days and I decided that a quiet night at home with popcorn, red wine and a movie ALONE was not too bad after all. I'm ok with it. 

However, despite my hatred of the day, I have not had such horrible Valentine's Days over the past years. And for some reason, I've spent Valentine's Day in many countries. 

Let's take a look back over the past 10 years and the places I've been (7 different countries in 10 years) and the things I've done:
  • 2002 - Hometown W. Mass, USA - it was just days before I was to leave for Bali, my boyfriend at the time (the one I thought I would marry but then I pulled a runner and took off for Bali - see here for the story. Needless to say it was a bitter sweet day. I do remember receiving a dozen roses - which is possibly the only time I have received roses from a boy. They were beautiful but I was leaving and we both knew it was over. I left for Bali before the flowers had a chance to die. 
  • 2003 - Hometown W. Mass, USA - I had recently returned from Bali and was about to be heading out to China. I had just started dating this guy who I had met at the gym, but the relationship had a clear expiration date as I was about to leave. I think he was babysitting his nephew and I went over and babysat with him. 
  • 2004 - Chennai, India - I was dating the Scottish Boy in China but happened to be on a business trip to Chennai, India with 3 male colleagues. Needless to say, Valentine's Day was not celebrated this year - although the trip was crazy eventful on many levels including the fact that I ended up in the hospital. But that's a whole other story for another day. The Scottish Boy had actually put flowers in my apartment while I was away... I think they were dead by the time I got home to them. 
  • 2005 - Stockholm - for my first Valentine's day in Stockholm, I had my German ex-boyfriend from Bali visiting me. We didn't celebrate the holiday. I was actually more than a little sad that he didn't even buy me flowers. We were not dating -he had another girlfriend and I was still in the "off/on" phase with the Scottish Boy. But, since he was staying with me, I thought he could have at least bought me flowers - especially because I had hinted at it. I suddenly remembered why our relationship didn't work in the first place. 
  • 2006 - Shanghai, China - I was in an "on" period with the Scottish boy and happened to be in China for Valentine's Day (this was during the time when I was commuting back and forth between Stockholm and Shanghai). The Scottish Boy bought me flowers which we proceeded to fight over. He complained about the fact that the Chinese upped the prices for just this day due to this "stupid American: holiday (he loved to take jabs at Americans at ever chance he was given). I pointed out that the flowers were a nice idea... but as I was going back to Stockholm the next day, I wouldn't really be able to enjoy them - I was trying to hint that I wanted something more permanent - like jewelry instead. I settled for a nice dinner. 
  • 2007 - Karlsruhe, Germany - I was single this year and found myself in Karlsruhe, Germany at a Trade show for work. My German colleague marked the day by giving me a Valentine's Day chocolate (which is more than I can say for the German Ex-boyfriend from 2005). The Trade Show was really boring but around 4:00 pm they kicked out all the guests and brought out the kegs of German beer (wheat beer - my favorite) and brought in a band and all the booth owners partied until the wee hours of the morning. It was an absolute blast! 
  • 2008 - Russia - Moscow - I was working in Moscow this year. Valentine's Day itself was very uneventful. It seems it is not really a holiday in Russia.* However, the weekend before, I had a "Super Sexy Valentine's Day Party" at my apartment. The dress code was: lingerie. It was a crazy night! In fact, I was still hungover the following Monday (2 days later) when I boarded the flight to Moscow with my colleagues. This flight was memorable because through my hangover haze, I suddenly realized that I was the ONLY woman on the whole plane and that the entire Russian national hockey team was on the plane with us!! Happy Valentine's Day to me! 
  • 2009 - Stockholm, Sweden - I was dating the Beautiful Swede this year but on the actual day of Valentine's Day, I had a wedding to attend and the Beautiful Swede was not invited. So, the Beautiful Swede and I celebrated the night before (on Friday) by making my favorite fisk gryta (fish stew) and yummy chocolate brownies. It was a really nice night. And the wedding on Valentine's Day was absolutely lovely. 
  • 2010 - London, UK - I was single last year at Valentine's Day although the American Boy had just come to visit and was returning later that week. My good girl friend was visiting me from Stockholm and we celebrated Valentine's Day by having champagne tea. It was a lovely way to celebrate Valentine's Day!
  • 2011 - Boston, USA - I was hoping to be set up on a double blind date with a friend of Hot Married Friend L's Hubby. He was supposed to be flying in from Europe (sounds promising, right), but unfortunately his plans changed and the date didn't happen. I'm home with some wine (I figure that on Valentine's Day it's ok to break my New Year's Eve resolution of not drinking at home alone on weekdays) and my blog and a movie. Off to bed soon! Probably the most boring Valentine's Day to date. Boo-hoo. 
Happy Valentine's Day everyone! I hope yours was better than mine. What did you do to celebrate? Or not celebrate as the case my be? 
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*Funny I started to write this blog last night and I came into work this morning and found a Skype message from my Russian colleagues wishing me lots of love on Valentine's Day! The actual message said: Hi IWM! I wish you Happy St.Valentin's day and ocean of love! <3 <3 <3 <3 Russia loves you! This was about the sweetest thing anyone said to me all day - so that was nice. And I guess that Valentine's Day is getting more popular in Russia!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Returning to London: Part II - The Date

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So, needless to say after my all-nighter, I was VERY tired when I finally found my way into my very small bed in my very small London hotel room at 7 am. So tired that I didn't wake up until 4 pm and had totally missed brunch with Sexy Single Friend A - which I was really bummed about. I also woke up with a hangover. But, it was Saturday and I was in London for a short time only, so I forced myself into the shower and met my colleagues for dinner and drinks. But it was an early night this time. I was back in the hotel room by midnight. Although... I have to say, if my colleagues had been up for it (they weren't), I could have pulled another all nighter!

On Sunday I got up comparatively early and spent the late morning at the gym followed by some shopping and then I met M and T for dinner and drinks then back to the hotel to get some sleep before the work week.

Monday and Tuesday were busy with work and catching up with old colleagues and of course paying visits to the London pubs around the office and getting my fill of pints.

Nostalgia definitely set in. It was strange. Here I was back in London, it felt almost as if I had never left. Part of me wanted to stay and never leave again.

But let's put the reflections aside and get to the good stuff.

On Wednesday night, I attended a gathering arranged by The Company for some of our field staff. Of course this involved a trip to the pub after and drinks sponsored by The Company. I had fun catching up with European colleagues and doing some networking. But soon enough the pints got the best of me and I had to go to the ladies room. I walked into the women's room, entered the stall and did my business. I was washing my hands when suddenly a man walks out of the stall next to me. He looks at me, then looks around and then looks back at me and sheepishly says in his British accent "I'm in the women's room, aren't I?"

"Yes, you are actually," I said. And then we had a good laugh about it. I noticed that he was tall and attractive although perhaps a bit older (his age was later confirmed to be 37) than the young hotties I tend to go for and perhaps a bit less "pretty-boy" and a bit more "rugged" then tends to be my norm.

We returned to the bar and ordered another round of pints and continued to talk. He was really interesting. He is an actor and a certified London tour guide. Well-traveled and very outgoing with lots of interesting stories. When that bar closed, we went on to a loungey place and continued talking. My colleagues bailed out one-by-one but this guy had me hooked with his stories about travel and London history. But once again, the lights at the bar came on and the bartenders were kicking us out. Is anyone counting? This is the 4th time during the trip that I shut down the bar/club. Actually it was the 5th! On Tuesday night, my colleagues and I were also kicked out of a bar at midnight when it was closing (some pubs in London close at midnight - most close at 11. Clubs and loungey-type places close between 3 and 6).

The British Tour Guide then safely escorted me to a cab. "Too bad, I don't have an extra helmet with me, or I would give you a ride on my motorbike he said." But before I took off for my hotel the following two things happened:

  1. We kissed. It was nice. 
  2. He persuaded me to have lunch with him the next day before catching my flight to Stockholm. 

"Text me in the morning," I told him.

As I had Thursday and Friday off from work, I got to sleep in a bit in the morning - which was nice since I didn't actually get back to the hotel until 4 am - which is REALLY late on a school night! Upon getting out of the shower, I got a text from the Tour Guide. He was still interested in lunch. Was I? I was interested! Although I was supposed to have lunch with old colleagues... But I'll be back in London soon enough, I can meet them next time... Why not go on a date with the hot British Tour Guide?

It was a beautiful day in London. The sun was out. It was almost-warm (balmy compared to Boston actually). It felt like spring. We decided to walk around an art gallery (Museums are free in London which is really great). It was so much fun to walk around with him! He observed things in a different way than me and kept me amused with his running commentary. Obviously, being a certified Tour Guide means he has impressive knowledge of London and it's history. I learned more about the Chelsea area of London in that one afternoon than I had in all my time living there. Too bad I didn't know him when I actually LIVED in London. Funny how that works.

After the art gallery, we sat outside (yes it was that warm) in the sun and had coffee and continued to talk.All in all, it was a great date! I have not had a single positive interaction with a man since the British countryside incident. It was really nice to be back in the dating game. It was really nice to have a man interested in me. It was a really nice date. He was a really nice guy. Unfortunately, he kind of lives on the wrong continent.*

Sadly, the time caught up with us too quickly - I had a flight to catch, So, the Tour Guide walked me back to the hotel and saw me off in a cab to the airport to head to Stockholm.

Although excited to go meet my friends in Stockholm, I was sad to leave London. I wondered if I would ever hear from or see the Tour Guide again.

Stay tuned for the final installment of this trip: Stockholm! There is just so much to tell you. Also coming soon - a Valentine's Day post! It is tomorrow. It is not my favorite holiday although I've had some very interesting Valetntine's Day over the years in many different countries. And I just might have a date (a blind double date) lined up for tomorrow night! And if that doesn't get you excited, I also met a guy this weekend that I need to tell you about. AND are you curious at all about what has happened with the Tour Guide? Has he been in touch? Are we Facebook friends? Is he planning a visit? Stay tuned and find out!

*Note: I can now check number 4 of my list of dating challenges because I can now say that I have been on a date with an older man! http://womaninternational.blogspot.com/2011/01/dating-update-part-ii.html

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Returning to London: Part I - The All Nighter

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The smell of the plane as I entered the walkway to board made me feel nostalgic. It had been more than 3 months since I had last boarded a plane - the longest time in at least 5 years that I had been away from this mode of transportation. I do not particularly enjoy flying and suffer from anxiety before flights (I have a strong fear of dying on a plane), therefore I was surprised by the nostalgia I felt for something that I had formerly decided I hated. 

I was very pleasantly surprised by the fact that the plane was less than half full and I had 2 empty seats to myself. Even more pleasantly surprised was I by the fact that when I asked for red wine (oh yes, after the 10 day detox I was right back to drinking), the flight attendant says, "You know that American charges right?" 
"Yes," I said.
"Well, I don't."
Seriously. Isn't that the BEST line from a Flight Attendant ever? So, I stretched out in my two seats and enjoyed two free red wine bottles courtesy of the awesome flight attendant on American Air! What a nice start to the trip!

I arrived in London at 7 am Friday morning and met my colleagues who had flown on another flight (a crowded BA one) and since our rooms at the fabulous Sloane Square hotel weren't ready, we had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and then went and took long naps and then went for a long session at the gym (yes, we chose the gym over shopping in London - sad I know but bikini season is just around the corner and stuff).

I had been planning my return to London carefully. I wanted to see as many people as possible during the course of the trip. Why not kick it off with an after work gathering at a local pub and invite everyone I knew? Well, why not? That's just what I did. The Facebook invite to the event had been sent a couple weeks before and many colleagues and old friends planned to attend. I also invited blogger friend Life Begins at 30ty who had moved to London just as I moved back to the US. I was excited to meet her and she did not dissapoint. First of all she is beautiful - I can see why Matt79 is smitten. Hell, I was smitten! Second of all, she was fun (see her version of the night here and here - and you should check it out because she sheds light on some different details that I'm not going to go into for various reasons). And third of all, she's just a  really cool down-to-earth girl with lots of great life experience and good stories. I regret that I'm no longer living in London. I would love to hang out with her more! 

Also present were M and T and Sexy Single Friend A who you might remember from the London stories. It was great to catch up with them. It was great to catch up with everyone. I loved seeing my old colleagues and friends. It felt as if I had never left. And I felt very nostalgic for London. For old friends. For old times.* 

We filled ourselves on beer and gorged ourselves with bar food (fish and chips for me). And too soon the lights came on and the music was turned off and the bartenders were asking us to leave.  

But we weren't ready to call it a night yet. Oh no! The night was young. Bars close at 11 in London. So, we decided to go back to the scene of many drunken crazy nights good times during my time in London - good old Valmont Club. We were a smaller group than the pub crowd. But I was excited that Life Begins was going to join as well as M and T, Sexy Single Friend A and my colleagues traveling with me from Boston and various other people. 

Upon entering Valmont, we realized that we hadn't really been there on a Friday night before... 

But no worries. It didn't matter that the club was empty and that the awesome dj was not playing awesome music (the music was a bit of a bummer). We grabbed one of the weird padded VIP rooms in the back and ordered countless glasses of champagne and we made our own fun! 

On my way to the bar, I managed to bump into a young (i.e. 25) Spanish guy who when I asked him to guess my age and nationality decided that I must be a 23 year old Swedish woman. I was obviously flattered and proceeded to make drunk small talk with him until he tried to kiss me and then I realized that I needed to abort and run back to my friends. He continued to circle around me all night and for some silly reason I gave him my name and told him we can be Facebook friends. Oops. See, the thing is that I've been a little attention-starved lately due to the fact that men in Boston don't seem to be into me... So, I have to say, I did enjoy the flattery. However, I think it might be time to DE-FRIEND. 

Back in the VIP room the single gals of the group turned the conversation to dating and how men are just idiots. And then Sexy Single Gal E topped it all with a crazy story of a first date that somehow managed to end in Face Licking before she got up and went to the bathroom and left him there! We had a good laugh and drank some more and before we knew it the lights came on and we were once again the lights came on and we were being hustled out the door by the bartenders. 

But we STILL were not ready to go to bed. The night was young and we were drunk on champagne and jet lag. My Boston colleagues and I safely escorted Life Begins to her night bus and we headed back to the hotel to have an after party. Because that is obviously what you do at 5 am in London when you have arrived off a flight from Boston that very day and have already shut down a bar and a club. 

So, we cranked up the music (oh the other hotel guests must have loved us) and soon-to-be-married B entertained my other colleague and I with her crazy dancing and we polished off two more bottles of wine (they were weird medium sized one but still, so not necessary) and suddenly we looked at the clock and realized it was 7 am!!!!! How did it get that late? I mean that early? Where did the time go? How am I still standing having hardly slept at all? Obviously it was time to bed. So, we all decided to finally call an end to a fabulous night and go catch up on our much needed beauty sleep. Cuz after all, this was only day one of the trip!

This concludes part I of the London portion of the trip. Stay tuned for part II where I meet a guy in women's rest room and go on an awesome date and then get on a flight bound for Stockholm. 

*Much more on this topic later. I'm going to give you the fun details and fill you in on the more crazy activities of the trip and then give you my more serious reflections. This trip definitely brought a lot of emotions and thoughts to the surface and made me strongly reflect on my life. But more on that in a later post. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Back to Boston

I'm baaaaack! Feels like I've been gone forever. Doesn't it?

Did you miss me? I missed you all. Very much! I can't wait to catch up on reading your blogs and tell you about my awesome and amazing trip. 

But... unfortunately, I'm going to have to ask for your patience for just a little while longer. It might take me a couple days to get my feet back on the ground and find time to blog. In addition to the whole range of emotions that I'm feeling after this trip... sadly, my grandfather passed away this weekend. My parents called me while I was in Stockholm to tell me. He was 89 (we had all gotten together just 2 weeks ago to celebrate his birthday) and died peacefully in his sleep. It's not a tragedy and it's probably a blessing - he didn't suffer and we all got to see him just recently. But it was a bit unexpected and shocking and it's dredging up a lot of emotions. 

But I do have lots and lots to tell you. And you are very much in luck! While it might take me a couple days to gather my thoughts (and unpack and have some time to grieve), you can see a sneak preview of the London part of the adventure over at Life Begins at 30ty's blog!

Life Begins at 30ty
That's right. On this trip, I had my first ever blogger date with Life Begins who is - as she calls it my "twin sister in reverse!"* And let me tell you she is totally beautiful and totally awesome - but more on that later (when I tell the story from my side). Check out her take on our party night in London in part I and part II.

And stay tuned!!! I have great stories to tell including meeting Life Begins, partying until 7 am, meeting a man in the women's bathroom (it's not quite as sleazy as it sounds), having an impromptu date on a beautiful London day, meeting old friends in Stockholm....

But for now... please go check out Life Begin's version of the story.

And see you soon! 

 *Life Begins is an American girl who moved back to London (she had lived there before) when I was moving back to the US. So, we were going through lots of the same emotions but in reverse. I'm a huge fan of her blog and now a huge fan of hers!