Category Archives: USA

Inspired

So I’ve been quiet here. I’ve been working more hours than I care to admit, and we’ve been traveling as usual, and we’ve had some serious emotional hurdles the past few months. I’m a happy person, and writing about sad things tends to make me feel awkward. Like I’m asking for attention. I was English to the core before I even got here.

But today, the sad will get talked about. Not because I have anything particularly worthwhile to say. And it’s not even about London. But what I have to say, well, it just feels like it deserves it. And it’s personal and sappy. So, there.

I grew up where those bombs went off yesterday at the Boston Marathon. I wasn’t born there, and I didn’t go to elementary school there, but I went to college around the block and came into my own there. That neighborhood was my anchor, a place I visited in my early days at Northeastern because I’d visited in high school and felt cool knowing my way around. And as the years went on, it took on new meaning. Boylston Street became the place I went out with friends at night, and returned to shop and eat the next day. It’s the place my amazing bridesmaids took me for my bachelorette party, the place I watched a friend finish the marathon four years ago to support another friend’s mother who’d recently passed away, the place I made the “SO MANY RULES!” joke to my best friend which has gone down in (our) history.

Directly behind where the first explosion was, I had my first date on Newbury Street with the man who became my husband. (A year earlier, three doors down from the second explosion, I had a first date with a man who did not become my husband because I met the one who did.) I celebrated a friend’s graduation at the restaurant on the site of the second. Ordered a glass of pinot grigio when I was 20 years old at a Thai restaurant just to the left, and cheered quietly with my best friend that we were served. I waited for that same best friend outside her office on countless spring days, on the spot where people lay on the ground yesterday. Many years later, in a snowstorm, I walked my crew of Brooklyn friends–in town for a hockey game at my alma mater–down the cross street of the first explosion. We passed both locations on the way to a bar that–while it has been renamed and reopened three times since–was the first bar I ever went to based on a suggestion in my first text message ever, which also happened to be from my future husband. These, among countless other memories so ubiquitous it’s difficult to even pull them out.

We’re so incredibly lucky, given the odds stacked against us, that all of our family and friends are safe. If I had to put a quick number on the amount of people we know who we care deeply about who were less than a five-minute’s walk from what happened yesterday, it’d have to be close to 100. My (unofficial) future brother-in-law is safe. My best friend Rebecca is safe. Three people who stood up with us at our wedding were in the immediate vicinity, not including one of their wives–our amazing friend Jane who ran yesterday. Three more could have easily been there. And that’s just counting our bridal party. Eight years after we moved, we still had people checking in on us. Emails flooded in from former and current colleagues asking: Was my sister safe? Were my friends safe? Was I safe?

I said earlier to someone that it’s difficult to digest the enormity of this as I focus on the well-being of so many individuals. “Curious” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about what explanation will eventually come for this. But right now, I’m just so happy that the hundreds of people in my news feed today on Facebook are alive and more fiercely proud of our city than ever. And no, I did not think that was physically possible.

(Some [blurry] shots from that night on Boylston, just for fun.)

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Happy Christmas

This morning I got an email from the US Postal Service alerting me that our mail forwarding period is about to expire. This made me feel emotions. Surprise, mostly. A year! Almost a YEAR since we moved to London. I think I’ll save the sentiments for the actual one-year anniversary at the end of January, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Last Christmas we were feeling weirdly grounded as everything actually spiraled out of control. This time last year we were hosting Friendsgiving at our apartment, knowing it was the last time we’d host a big group of people for awhile, and that it was certainly the last celebration in that JC apartment. I remember the deliberation over it — thinking we wouldn’t be able to do it at first, because things would be so crazy, and then ultimately deciding to throw caution to the wind. I remember being distinctly worried about people leaving serving trays at our place and them going into storage for a few years because I wouldn’t be able to get them back to them. Turned out OK.

In the midst of that, Melody was HAVING A BABY. I mean, A REAL HUMAN was born unto the Abergs and I literally ran out of work to get to the hospital. In a cab. I’ll admit it. I took a taxi to get there faster. It was not cheap. WHO CARES.

Chris flew back to the US yesterday to spend some time in Jerz before heading to the farm. I’ll be making my way to Boston on Friday evening, so this is the first time I’ve slept in our flat alone and it feels…not weird. I actually feel so comfortable and at home in this flat and this city that it was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. (Different from when he went to Barcelona three weeks after we moved here and I was absolutely freaking out in our temporary flat.) I’m excited to get home, but I’m equally excited to get back. Partially just because I really do love it here, and partially because Brynn and Jeff are coming back with us to visit for a week. I can’t wait!

I am so in the Christmas spirit this year, which is a marked improvement from the past, oh, three years or so. I’ve felt like Christmas crept right up on me in past years, and I didn’t have time to enjoy it. So I made darn sure this year was different. We started with the Southbank Christmas market the weekend after Thanksgiving, shopped on Columbia Road and bought our Christmas tree the first weekend in December, spent a weekend in Germany at the Christmas markets in Stuttgart and Esslingen, and walked up Oxford Street (like the lunatics we are) this past weekend. I’ve sufficiently excited myself. I bought wrapping paper at Marks & Spencer with little royal guards on it. I wrapped at least one present every night for the past two weeks, while drinking wine on the sofa. I bought pine-scented candles at John Lewis. English people help out a lot by unabashedly wish you a merry or happy Christmas, without bothering for a second to first check what religion you might be. I asked about using the term “holidays” in an email subject line and I was told that no, that would not make sense, and people would be confused. It IS the CHRISTMAS break.

I’ve never been in an airport anywhere NEAR Christmas, but this year I’ve found myself back and forth to Brussels, back and forth to Stuttgart, on top of the upcoming trip to Boston at the end of this week. I’m prepared for a hairy terminal three at Heathrow on Friday afternoon and keeping fingers crossed my flight is not delayed by a second. I need to get home, and get some Dunkin’ Donuts.
I’ve packed a carry-on with mince pies, cookies, and chocolates from Belgium, Germany, and England to make sure they get to the US in one piece. Hopefully it all makes it through security. I will probably sit there on the ground outside security and eat the entirety of the package of Fortnum & Mason mince pies if anything goes wrong. I will not share any with the officers.

Apologies for the few and far between posts that are pretty much just rambles of emotions. Perhaps I’ll find where my clever, biting wit went in 2013.

The BBC and This Blog

I wake up pretty early now. Too early for work. But too late to go to they gym. I’m trying to change that. (You might say that what I should have been doing with that time was writing this blog.) But until then, I actually, for the first time in my life, have time to watch the news in the morning before I go to work. So I find myself watching the BBC every morning and am, over and over, impressed. There’s a lot happening here right now with the BBC. It seems that there was a former much-loved presenter, three decades ago, who did some bad stuff to kids. And now everyone is crying a “crisis of confidence” in the BBC. Oh, how they have no idea HOW GOOD THEY HAVE IT.

I’ve talked with my mom a few times about the news here. She has come to the (only half joking) conclusion that because the BBC is—technically—owned and operated by the government, that it is most definitely propaganda. (N.B.: They are run entirely independently.) While there is certainly programming on the channel that I think is meant to soften public gripes (e.g. the Tube documentary that clearly intended to introduce whining commuters to the soft, lovely personalities behind the control room doors so they’d ease the heck up), the news is not in this category. I feel lucky to watch REAL news every morning; news with a global focus, and with fair, but pointed questions, where everyone comes away looking mostly happy with how the interview went. There doesn’t seem to be any unspoken prize for making your guest feel the most uncomfortable; no pat on the back and “job well done” for making someone cry on air. To be clear, this kind of stuff most definitely exists in the country on other stations and other programs—so this is not a statement about this country’s superior culture. But the BBC, man, that is just good, solid reporting. And they even manage to balance some personality with it, so it’s actually enjoyable to watch. And Chris and I really love our weather person. Her name is Karen. She has nice hair and is always happy about this shit weather. Ya gotta give her credit for that.

I, personally, am feeling no crisis of confidence in the BBC. But perhaps that’s just that I have the context of what the news can be, and how poorly the world’s events can be reported on. Perhaps it’s that I studied journalism in a time just before this sensationalist, wannabe mud-raker style took over, and I have an idealist’s view of what the news should be and know that the BBC pretty much nails that.

Sorry this post didn’t have pictures of Europe in it, guys.

They’re Coming to America

So, I decided somewhat last minute that I needed to get back to the US for some time this summer. Since I’d expected to have a real job at this point, I didn’t think that was going to happen. But since I’m still freelancing, and…quite frankly, kinda livin’ the dream right now (whether I want to be or not)… I decided I needed a week of real summer. I needed to see some ocean. I needed to see my family, and spend a week on the farm, and have ice cream from Somerset Creamery.

So I’m flying from Heathrow to Boston on Monday, for a week. This will only be my second international flight alone, and frankly—I really am totally uncomfortable with that. I’ve been doing really well lately on our short flights, and not freaking out. But 7 hours is a different story. What’s the lamest thing that can happen to someone who loves to travel? To suddenly, in their late twenties, develop a moderate-to-intense fear of flying, and intense-to-severe claustrophobia. It’s better if Chris is there so I can squeeze his arm, and to make me feel like someone will take care of me if suddenly the Xanax turns on me. That said, the prospect of reading Game of Thrones for six unadulterated hours is getting me through. I wonder if I’ll get a flight attendant who decides they don’t care if I keep my Kindle on through take-off, or one who will require me to go BALDWIN. Reading is as good for me as Xanax. (How’s that for an advertising tagline?)

Things I learned the last time I visited the US: It’s really weird to be “home” and not have regular use of a cell phone. It’s really weird not to walk to the grocery store. It’s really weird to suddenly crave terrible food you didn’t know you missed.

Aside from that, this will be the longest Chris and I have been apart, since, um, I think, ever? Guess we’ll see how this goes!

But I am thrilled to get to spend some time with my family, and wear SHORTS!

Upon my return, we will be heading to Paris on Friday, the 24th for a long weekend. That day we’ll celebrate two really amazing things: First, our 8TH MONTH living in the UK, and second, the date that, ten years ago, Chris and I played cards at a dorm room kitchen table and sealed our fates forever.

OLYMPICS. OLYMPICS, OLYMPICS, OLYMPICS.

I totally did not expect to be this excited about the Olympics. I was with everyone else in my new country, whining about what it was going to do to my travel plans and getting to and from our friends’ flats. I was with everyone else in my new country thinking something (if not many, many things) were going to go horribly wrong. And while I don’t want to speak too soon: it seems like things are going swimmingly so far. (HA. SWIMMINGLY. I swear I wrote that before realizing it was a pun.)

We started our Olympic journey at a pub on Friday night to watch the opening ceremony. While probably one of the most fun nights we’ve had in London so far, it was also sort of a strange atmosphere to watch what ended up being an extremely cerebral event. We had lots of pints and trouser-dropping and a drinking game happening, while we were being read William Blake poetry by the country’s premiere Shakespearean actor. Cool, Americans! What was strange was how excited we all were—8 of us together—compared to the rest of the Brits in the room. No one clapped. No one cheered. No one made a peep when Team GB came into the arena. We had to cheer for everyone. After all of the crazy patriotism we saw here leading up to and during the Jubilee, I really just didn’t know what to make of that. We stayed for the entire ceremony and the pub didn’t even kick us out and kept serving us. I was shocked.


I should have asked them to mark it: “Reserved: For the loud Americans. You probably don’t want to sit anywhere near this table.”


Still early.


Before Chris spilled a full beer on Katie trying to get to some pickled onions.


Megan tries on Matt’s USA glasses. They are determined to improve vision.


Things are getting more serious. Thanks to our drinking game, we’ve all already stood up and said “God Save the Queen” five or six times, much to the chagrin of our fellow patrons. But I actually think we all really love her maybe more than they do. In typical English fashion, though, no one said a word to us. They all just went home seething, I’m sure, and we have informed another ten years’ worth of of stereotypes, at least.


Merrills!


My man, Kenneth Brannagh.


Jimmy’s USA “pants” which were the biggest hit of the evening.


American ladies in London.


Nice, normal, American lads in London.


Oh, wait.


Matt showing off his amazing knee socks.


Brother and sister.

Guys. We found our people.

It was really hard to understand the significance of so many of the elements of the show in the loud pub. Without hearing the explanations of some of it, we were—frankly—a little confused. I was guessing at the literary references because I only caught half of them, and was so excited when I saw J.K. Rowling pop up that I didn’t even hear that she was reading J.M. Barrie. So the next morning, in our hungover state, Chris and I watched the whole thing again on the BBC website from the couch. So my official ruling after this, is that it was totally awesome. I cried, like, 30 times, because I am pretty sure I live in the coolest city on the planet, in one of the most amazingly historically-rich countries. For a person who is as obsessed with history and literature as I am—I kind of felt like that ceremony was made for me. Voldemort! Anyway. Some “Moments in Buffering” for your enjoyment:



A little interjection: I am loving this P&G campaign with the parents, and can’t get enough of all of the ads with the word “mum” in them. I am so happy it’s happening here in the UK, too, because I saw it sort of launch when we were home in May in the US and I thought it was just absolute genius. Moms love things like dishwasher detergent and hand soap! EXCELLENT brand work, P&G.

So last night we went to our first Olympic event! Team GB vs. Brazil women’s football at Wembley, and it was awesome. I’m pretty sure I’ve never waved a flag in my life, of any nation, but I am shocked how quickly I got really into it. Chris picked up a pack of little plastic Union Jacks for £1 yesterday, and I was so pleased. I was downright CHUFFED, as they say here, that he was getting so into it. (Best word for “happy” ever.) So we waved them around and had a great night with our real English friends Colin and Rox, and we WON!


Chris outside Wembley before going in!


All those empty seats. Tsk, tsk, London 2012.


Filling in those obviously empty seats.


Team GB wins!

It feels kind of awesome to be able to genuinely root for two different countries in this thing. There are just so many amazing athletes between the two. Phelps! Lochte! Wiggins! Wieber! Armitstead! The horses!

Speaking of: Chris and I watched an equestrian event on TV the other day and we thought they were just like, being announced and walking around, but it was an actual event. I still don’t understand what happened.

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Missing.

I’m not. I’m here. Living, breathing, attempting to continue a normal life after a crazy whirlwind of a trip back to the US and, frankly—utter chaos on both sides of the Atlantic.

Important things happening:

  • My baby sister graduated from college on Sunday. God bless the internet, because Chris and I watched the entire webcast, which means I saw her get her diploma right up close, and had better seats to the whole thing than some of the speakers sitting on stage did. I took about 30 screenshots, because it was as close as I could get to taking photos. I know it’s not the same as being there, but I saw it all and heard her name and watched all of her friends, too. It was better consolation than I imagined or expected to get.
  • We are going to see Elvis Costello at the Royal Albert Hall tomorrow. I am what you would call “stoked.”
  • We booked a 3-day trip to Norway for the Jubilee weekend. We’re flying RyanAir on the way into Oslo, which I have never done before, and I am terrified. I have no idea what to expect of it. It can’t be good, though. It just can’t be. Please save your horror stories for when my feet are safely on the ground. (Knock on wood.)
  • Finally, all of the photos you never wanted:

MOM AND DAD IN LONDON!



ONE GLORIOUS DAY WITH AL, KOB, and CALLUM!



And, THE FRAWLEY-HAWES WEDDING!



Which left time to get reacquainted with MR. ABERG THE SMALLER!


Going, Going, Back, Back, to… Newark.

So, our first trip back to the good ol’ U. S. of A. begins tomorrow. We fly from Heathrow to Newark, spend the night with Chris’s family in Secaucus, and then head up to the Hudson River Valley for Frawley-Hawes wedding festivities! From there we’ll spend a few days with friends and family in NJ, and a few more with other friends and family in MA, and then fly back from Logan on Sunday morning.

I have to admit—it feels like a really strange time to be leaving and Chris and I have been saying that a lot since we planned this trip. We feel like we’re just getting into the swing of things here. And I am just starting to get really into job-hunting, and we just saw my parents; it feels like we’re uprooting at a strange, volatile time. That doesn’t make me any less excited to see everyone and happy about the time I’m going to get to spend with my friends this week—because believe me, I am THRILLED for the next few days. That’s obviously enough to get me up and over any weird feelings about leaving here! But, it’s worth noting. Because I think it does mean we’re really happy here and we worry about our potentially limited time in this country. There is so much to see and do, and so much setting down of some roots to do!

Yesterday, to prepare for our trip, I went to Primark. I bought a maxi dress, two sweaters, an (cough—Union Jack—cough) iPhone case, a pair of colored jeans (I’m going to wear pink pants and you’re going to like it), and two shirts for £30 (less than $50). Aaaand, it was soooo weird, I was at the one on Oxford Street and the lights kept going out so I was freaked out the cash registers were going to be down (they weren’t) and I would be late for lunch with Yael so I didn’t even go to the second floor. Sooo (so weird, again!) I went back to the one in Hammersmith today to fill in my incomplete research from yesterday. And, another £15 on three pairs of shoes and gifts for you folks at home (hey, big spender!) and I feel like I really gave it my full attention.  Yael and I discussed yesterday how to describe Primark, the most glorious of glorious stores there is on this side of the pond. Because it really is a complete mash-up of 30 different American stores. It is like Forever 21’s clothes selection wiiiith a million other things incorporated. And the dresses are nicer and less skanky. And it might even be a little bit cheaper. They also have baby clothes and a huge shoe section, and a huge pajama and undergarment section, and bathing suits, and stuff for dudes, AND housewares. I know. My mind is blown, as well. The accessories might not be quite up to par with Forever 21’s, is my only complaint. I’m still sussing that out. I’ll get back to you. Honestly, when we really break it down here—and I know this is going to be controversial—I might be happy to trade Target for Primark. I mean, I can get my sponges and Clorox wipes elsewhere. Where can you get Union Jack iPhone cases and sunglasses and cowboy hats and imitation Spanx all in one place?!

Anyway: time to pack! I will try to keep updating while I’m away, because I got some very good advice about posting and readers and such, and you would think after spending my professional life urging marketers to blog frequently to build a dedicated and loyal readership, some of that would have sunk in. Pot, meet Kettle.

Love,

The Kettle

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