In Memoriam

Luckily it’s been a really slow and boring week, so I can dedicate a blog to something really important without feeling like I have to play catch-up.

My Great Grandma Myrna died on Sunday.

Honestly, it was the absolute best case scenario. She was 96 and just sort of faded – there was no pain, and she wasn’t sick. It was just her time to go. Considering this is my first time dealing with the loss of someone I actually had a relationship with, I’m feeling pretty lucky. I’m definitely being eased into dealing with death.

I loved bragging to people about her. “Oh, you don’t have any grandparents left? That’s a bummer. I have four, PLUS a great-grandparent. Crazy, right?” And it wasn’t just the idea of a grandparent I was bragging about, either; Gram’s physical condition was never the greatest, at least not since I’ve been alive, but mentally she was putting me to shame right up until the very end.

How many 96-year-olds do you know that know how to operate a computer? That own a computer? That have an email address? That have a Facebook account?

Check “all of the above” for Gram! I mean, really. How awesome is that? She would even print out some of the cute emails she got. She gave me some once, and I’m pretty sure I saved them. :)

Gram’s inability to die became something of a running joke in the family. She’d get sick, or fall and hurt herself, and everyone would rush down to Tampa because “this might be it.” But within a week or two she’d be back to normal, and everyone would laugh and shake their heads in amusement. She was like the Energizer Bunny. For some reason, though, when I got the message from my mom that “gram’s not doing well,” I knew things really weren’t good this time and had time to prepare myself a little before getting the news.

I visited her during spring break last year, and I think that’s the last time I saw her. It was the first time we ever spent a significant amount of time alone together, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But I had dinner with her on Shabbat, and we had surprisingly easy conversation. She bragged about me and my writing to all of her friends at the table, and I was just so overwhelmed and flattered. I didn’t even know she had read anything that I’d written, let alone kept up with it.

I went back the next day for a little while in the afternoon, and we just sat in her room and hung out a little bit. She showed me her computer, and actually got to talking about her life. I can’t remember what I did last week without writing it down, but Gram was telling me about life during the Great Depression and I was just… blown away. Absolutely floored. I really wish I’d written down some of her stories because I really don’t remember much, but I remember that her father ran a business that had wealthy clients, so her family wasn’t hit too hard. Imagine, my great grandma was one of the lucky ones!

But what’s even cooler is that she worked during a time when women didn’t have to, and were frequently discouraged from doing so. She went out and got jobs and helped support the family. And she became this absolutely amazing painter! God, you should see her artwork. No wonder my family is so artistically inclined – it all came from her. She kept up with her crafting at the nursing home too, though a lot of it was making beaded necklaces and stuff like that. And she was Bat Mitzvahed, this year! She turned 13 when girls didn’t have them, and she always wanted to do it. So she did, at 96 years old. Awesome.

I remember leaving that day with an entirely different perspective of her. I was just in awe that I hadn’t known any of this until now, that this amazing woman had been sitting at all sorts of family gatherings and I hadn’t even bothered to think about what she might’ve been like before she became Grandma Myrna. That day she gave me one of the necklaces she made, and I took it back to Miami with me after break ended and hung it up next to my bed as a reminder. Of what exactly, I’m not sure. But right now, I’m really wishing I had it with me in London.

Now that she’s gone, I can’t really be sad for her. She had a long, amazing, fulfilling life, and she was constantly surrounded by people that loved her. I’m sad for me, and the fact that I learned to appreciate her far too late. But I feel so lucky to have three generations of amazing women to look up to and model my life after, and can only hope that I have my grandma until I’m nearly 50, and my mom until I’m over 70.

And if I can be half as awesome as Gram, with her colorful clothes and sharp mind and amazing attitude… well, I’ll have accomplished something huge.

I love you, Gram.


Basically, this entire week has been comprised of nothing but fangirling and doing fandom things. You have been duly warned.

On Thursday, Margaux came to London! It's spring break at UM and she was spending ten days visiting friends in Europe, and I was her first stop. I met her outside my flat when I got out of class, and she passed on some AWESOME birthday presents from the rest of the Marauders! I seriously love those girls. Among some jewelry and other randoms, they all chipped in to get me soap carved into a bust of Alan Rickman. It's absolutely terrifying, but equally as hilarious! I had some errands to do at the mall, so we headed over there and I took her to Olympic Park as well. It's so cool that that's my "usual"; just seeing Olympic Stadium from my bedroom window. We went to Spoons (a nearby pub) for dinner that night, and went to bed at a fairly reasonable time (after Margaux got her fill of fanfiction, of course).

We attempted to get an early-ish start on Friday, but after I got up, Margaux crawled into my bed and went right back to sleep. So I planned our itinerary until she woke up, and we headed out in the afternoon. Our plan was to do as much Harry Potter sightseeing as possible, so our first stop was King's Cross. She took the obligatory photo at Platform 9 3/4, and then we went to the British Library because it's literally right there. They won't let you into the reading rooms if you don't have a pass, which was really disappointing, but there's this really cool exhibit about restoring books and audio clips that we spent some time at.

From there we went to Leadenhall Market, which was the inspiration for Diagon Alley, and met up with Amanda. The two of them hit it off immediately, which I knew they would -- they're both Ravenpuffs! ;) By that time it was close to 4 and the market was basically finished, but we walked around a bit and spent some time looking at expensive clothes and browsing in Waterstone's. A trip to London would be nothing without having tea, so we killed two birds with one stone and went to the Tate Modern for tea and the Millennium Bridge. Margaux's friend Olivia, who also goes to UM and is studying abroad, met us there. The tea and scones were great, as was the company! We spent ages just sitting around and chatting (...and reading tea leaves).

After parting ways with Olivia (who said she'd go to Greece with me in May, by the way! Eeeeek!), we headed back to Queen Mary. We all wanted to go to bed early that night, but we ended up hanging out in my flat's kitchen until like 1 am. I love when my friends become friends! Actually, it turns out that they've probably met in the past. Amanda lived in Miami for awhile, and they have a bunch of friends in common. SUCH a small world!

Margaux and I didn't go to bed until 2, and then we were up at 5:15 to go rush for Sweeney Todd tickets. Imelda Staunton (Umbridge in Harry Potter) is in it, and that night was the first show in previews. There were three girls there before us, who'd gotten there at 5. We ended up making friends with the guys on line behind us. I exchanged numbers/Facebook/Twitter info with them. Yay for awesome British friends! :) We got tickets when the box office opened at 10, and then realized we were right on top of Trafalgar Square. We walked from there to Buckingham Palace (stopping in another Waterstone's on the way, because that's what nerds do) to sightsee a bit before heading back to campus to nap for a few hours.

That evening, we had tickets for the London Eye at 6. We had a quick dinner at a noodle place before our time slot. It was just getting dark as we were going up, and it was absolutely breathtakingly beautiful! It may cost a decent amount of money, but man, it was worth it.

The show was at 7:30, so when we were back on the ground we figured out how to walk to the theatre and made it just in time. However, when we got to our row, my seat number didn't exist. Yes, I was sold a ticket to a seat that's not a thing. So they gave us two new seats, apparently the last two that were left, that were in the first row of the dress circle instead of first row down in front of the stage. Basically, we got some of the best, most expensive seats in the house for the same price as obstructed view. Excellent? Yes yes. :) The show was really amazing. Not quite my taste, but Imelda Staunton was fabulous! We stage doored afterwards, but she only signed for like five people (including Margaux). Of course. That's just what happens to me. I'm glad she got it, though; she wanted it much more than I did.

Fun fact: everything in central London is obnoxiously close to everything else. Did you know that? I sure didn't. But we walked around a little bit and all of a sudden found ourselves in all sorts of places. Back at Trafalgar Square. Leicester Square. Piccadilly Circus. Tottenham Court Road. Oxford Street. You name it, we found it, and all putting in no physical effort. We stopped for a waffle and gelato in Leicester Square and saw some drunken girls get kicked out, which was... interesting. It ended up being too late to take the tube back, so Margaux got to ride on a double decker bus for the first time.

We passed out almost immediately when we got back to my flat, which was good, because she actually had to get up to catch her train in the morning. I spent the rest of the day not doing work, and at night, Amanda, Liz, and Angela came over to make our shirts for The Hunger Games premiere. :) They came out seriously epic. This might be my favorite shirt that I've made.

I spent all of Monday and Tuesday in serious grind mode. I have two papers due at the end of the month and neither of them had been started, so I did all my research and wrote 900 words for one of them. Pretty solid start. But it was because I knew Wednesday and Thursday would be completely lost!

The premiere was on Wednesday, so of course a bunch of us wanted to go on Tuesday night. Jen, Angela, Erin and I left campus at around 9:45 to head over to the O2 Arena (which is seriously freaking cool, by the way). Security stopped us on the way in and gave us numbered wristbands: clue #1 that this would be better run than anything Warner Bros. has ever put on. Ever.

Amanda, Celeste, and Liz met us there after the play they were seeing ended, and us and the rest of the 25 or so campers present were sent off the premises for the night... or so we thought! The original plan of the wristbands was to get people to NOT camp out, but we formed our line by the bus station right next door. When they realized we weren't going home, they came back over to us and let us line up right outside the arena instead. Clue #2.

It was absolutely freezing that night. Luckily I'd brought a sheet and blanket, and Amanda and I cuddled underneath them while we tried (and failed) to sleep. None of my parts went numb, though, so that was nice. I was just shivering like crazy. But we had food, and the bus station had bathrooms, and everyone around us was nice. If it were 15 degrees warmer, it would've been perfect.

More people started arriving when the tube opened at 6 am, but at no point did anything get out of hand. The wristbands prevented any cutting, and at 9 am we were moved to the official line, where we were held for the rest of the morning. It was SO well organized! They counted us, and to go to the bathroom or leave the line for any reason, security had to move the barrier and then write your number down. It was orderly, and everyone knew what they were doing, and it made me hate WB even more. Go Lionsgate!

At around 1, we were moved to our VIP pen on the red carpet after being given our rubber wristbands that would get us into a screening of the movie (!!!!!!). We had a ton of space, though, so it was actually not bad at all being there for the rest of the afternoon. It warmed up for awhile and we could come and go as we pleased, and I had The Hunger Games to read. Funnily enough, to get to the bathroom from there we had to walk on the red carpet. Like, follow it. In the path the stars would be following it. And we totally became "the girls in the t-shirts." :)

I think arrivals started at around 6-ish. I couldn't really see much, since I was in the second row and behind some really tall girls. But our spots were excellent! Right at the front of the carpet, across from the paparazzi, where the cars were pulling up and letting the stars out. Everyone that was there came over and signed autographs. I gave my camera to Amanda's friend Gerra, who's 6 feet tall, and she took some awesome pictures for me.

Liam Hemsworth came first, and I very nearly missed getting his autograph. He skipped over my book and kept moving down the line, but the girl in front of me helped me stretch it out further and ask him for his autograph. It was so nice of her! We had a nice little respect thing going on; I was trying really hard not to be the jerk that shoved her book in her face, ya know? It worked for the both of us!

Josh Hutcherson got there next, and stopped signing autographs literally at the girl in front of me and directly to my left. He said he'd be back, though, and he wasn't lying! Jennifer Lawrence got there really soon after, and actually signed my book when I was trying to get Josh's signature (they were signing down the line together). That was a nice surprise! Haha. She was like "Sometimes I forget how to sign my own name!" She's such a troll, and I love her.

By this time, Josh was a few people past me. His was the autograph that I REALLY wanted, so I was freaking out. Celebrities never hear me at these kinds of things (I'm too short and quiet and hesitant to be 'that guy'), but I had to try. So I called his name, and he looked at me (!!!!!!!). I held up my book and said "Please?" and he walked back over to me, took my book out of my hand, and signed it for me.

Please allow me to pause while I fangirl.

It figures that he'd be the person to hear me when I tried that. We're getting married one day, after all. He's into smart girls with glasses, and we both have Christmas lights up all year round. He's also super adorable, and short. Most girls are like "ohhhh why is he so little?!" But when you're 5'3" in the morning on a good day, 5'6" is quite perfect. When he saw a sign a fan had that said she'd come from Tennessee, he said "There are easier ways to meet me than coming to this!" ...Now I just have to figure out what they are. And no, stalking homes and hotels is completely out of the question. But you're all invited to our future wedding. ;)

Basically, they're all flawless human beings and I love them all. Liam stayed out signing autographs for AGES, which was fantastic. They kept us in our pen for a while to let the celebrities clear off the carpet before taking us inside to the screening, and on the way I nabbed a poster! We had to check all our electronic devices before we went into our respective theatres -- I just thought it was so nobody recorded the movie, which I understood, but the fact that I didn't have my camera made me FURIOUS when it turned out that the screenings were introduced by the cast! AAHHHH! They were only in there for a second and only the producer said anything, but still! Josh gave the three-fingered salute and aaaahhhhh it was wonderful.

Speaking of wonderful... this movie. HOLY FEELINGS, BATMAN! I was freaking out excited beforehand, not nervous at all. I'd only heard good things about it so far, and it more than lived up to my expectations. It was different than the book in ways that said "yes, we know this is different, but this is a different medium." They made a movie, not a book-turned-movie. It would've been impossible to have the movie told from Katniss's perspective, like the book is, and have it be half as fulfilling as it was. Information was inserted in a way that made sense and felt organic.

I won't say it was perfect, as there were some little things that I would've changed ever so slightly. But overall? UNFFFF. I was blown away. It simultaneously humanized and dehumanized everyone, even characters I'd only previously seen as ruthless killing machines. But every death truly got to me (yes, even the deaths of the Careers), and physically seeing these kids killing each other was incredibly disturbing.

Can I talk about Rue's death for a second? I was expecting to cry, but not as much as I actually did. Good god. There were tears rolling down my cheeks. I wasn't sobbing, but I cried through the whole scene, and probably would've continued if Katniss hadn't found Peeta almost immediately afterward. The girl they cast as Rue is just so beautiful and so adorable, and this clever, sweet, gorgeous, innocent child died from a spear wound to the stomach. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Ugghhhh.

It took me a minute or two to buy into Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss: at first, I saw Jennifer on the screen. But as soon as we got to the reaping, I was fully on board. Josh Hutcherson, however, took no convincing. From the first second we see him, he IS Peeta. I love that character so much and I was so nervous about him being ruined in the movies, but Josh was absolutely flawless (and I'm not just saying that because I'm biased). The cave scenes were phenomenal, and I can see why he loved filming them so much. I was just a melted puddle of fangirly goo.

Basically, I'm really sad I have to wait for it to come out in theaters on the 23rd to see it again. IT WAS THAT GOOD!

...And I've been a zombie ever since. :P We left the theatre and came straight back to campus, where I promptly got into my pajamas, uploaded my pictures, and passed out. I got 8 hours of sleep before class this morning, and I'm still running on fumes. It was so beyond worth it though!

I love fandom!

Climb ALL The Things!

Someone explain to me how it's March already.

No, seriously. When did this happen? How do I only have three weeks of classes left?

(Actually, I know the answer to that one: British school is BIZARRE. That's why I only have three weeks of classes left.)

But let's not get TOO ahead of ourselves just yet, shall we?

Last week, I handed in all my assignments and got to laugh in the face of preparing for round two, as I had better things to do. On Wednesday, I met up with a guy named David, who I am apparently related to in some distant, confusing, second-marriage, twice-removed sort of way. I know it's been explained to me before, but I honestly have no clue. In my family, someone tells you you're related to someone else and you just roll with it. So I took the tube out to Brixton to meet him, and he showed me around the market a little bit before we had lunch at a little Japanese place. I had a good time until he said he doesn't like Bon Jovi. Not cool, man.

(...That's sarcastic, of course. I'm not THAT much of a fangirl.)

Thursday was one of those days that I had to schedule for myself on my whiteboard, and it involved waking up an hour and a half earlier than usual just so I'd have time to shower. Yep, one of those. I had two classes and my last scheduled volunteering shift (although there could potentially be more! :D) and I don't even remember what else, but then it was off to Victoria station with Amanda and Lorraine to catch a bus to Edinburgh, Scotland!

Now, each bus ride was about 9 hours long and only cost 17 pounds, so it was definitely a good deal. And we saved money from not spending those nights in hostels. But the first half of the ride was spent with the lights on, and the second half was spent with the heat off and the air conditioning on. And I was sitting next to this enormous French dude who definitely had some personal space issues. Needless to say, I didn't sleep well.

We arrived before 8 am, frozen, stiff, and bleary-eyed, but managed to find our way to our hostel easily enough. It's castle themed and, appropriately, located right below Edinburgh Castle. We checked in with Neal-with-an-A -- we bonded over our oft-misspelled names -- and left our bags in the luggage room before heading out in search of breakfast. Of course, we'd find the American diner. After we ate, we meandered a little bit before heading to the castle.

It was really cool! It was basically a little village inside a fort, not the traditional palace you think of when you hear "castle." It's still an active military establishment, and has lots of interesting exhibits and memorials. I think my favorite was the prison; they created this walk-through exhibit to look like where prisoners of war were kept during the time of the American revolution. There were no cells -- it was a big open room with hammocks and bunk beds. I mean, I'd be okay with being a prisoner in there! :P But the hammocks were swinging a little bit, like there were people in them, and there were conversations playing to make it feel like the prisoners were there and talking to each other. Freaky, but awesome.

It wouldn't be a visit to a castle if we hadn't gotten to see some fancy rooms, too. There was also tons about Scottish military history, and we got to see a canon fired!

When we left the castle, we realized the benefits of traveling without a set agenda. We walked past a whisky distillery experience, and decided on a whim that we should try it. There was a little ride that explained the process of making whisky, and then we got to learn about Scottish whisky, see this gigantic collection, and taste some. I know it's supposed to be some of the best alcohol, but MAN, it was gross. I couldn't even finish the little splash I was given. We got to keep the glasses we drank out of as souvenirs, though. Hah. Hey, it was a fun experience. But no more whisky. EVER AGAIN.

From there, we went back to the hostel since it was now late enough to check in for real, and then stopped at Chocolate Soup for some hot chocolate.

Words are unnecessary.

On the way, we found a guy advertising a free Harry Potter walking tour for later that evening, so we hustled over to our next destination: Arthur's Seat. A mountain, basically. Amanda was all gung-ho about climbing it, until it got really steep and kinda scary and a little more difficult than we'd anticipated. I'm really not doing the climb itself justice (because oh my god), but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, and we made it to the peak!

We were determined not to climb down the same way, so we had to wait for other people to start the descent and follow them, which was rather comical. There was a whole troupe of people heading down at the same time. but we stumbled across some really cool ruins and took a detour to take awesome pictures like this --

-- and then really had to book it down to flat ground to make it to the tour in time. It was so worth it! We got to see some of JK Rowling's old haunts, a school that helped inspire Hogwarts, and where she got the names McGonagall and Tom Riddle. And the guide gave us wands to hold. It was a winner just for that!

Being the geeks that we are, we ate at The Elephant House Cafe for dinner (that's one of the cafes she used to write in). The food was pretty tasty, but the best part was the bathroom, where fans have written messages all over the walls. It's basically a shrine to JK Rowling and Harry, which is so awesome. And I left my own little legacy for me and my Marauders!

We were quite exhausted after that, but we wanted a Scottish pub experience, so we hit up a place right down the block from our hostel. I saw something called ginger beer on the menu and, since my friends said it tastes exactly like ginger ale, I ordered it. Finally, an alcohol that I can honestly say that I enjoy! Do they have it in the US? Hmm.

It was a chill little place, but by 11 we were basically comatose, so we decided to call it a night. I pretty much went right to bed and got a solid nine hours of sleep, which was disgustingly necessary.

The next morning was fairly leisurely. We were checked out by around 10 and went back to Chocolate Soup for breakfast. Interestingly, one of the songs that was played while we were there was Stone Cold Steve Austin's theme song from back in the day. Definitely unexpected, and definitely a bizarre combo with my hot chocolate and lemon muffin, but it made me love the place even more.

We spent a lot of time popping in and out of shops, as none of us had gotten any souvenirs yet, and we stumbled across a wedding and a little market. There was a free tartan weaving exhibit that we had to see, just because we were in Scotland, and why not? We ventured down the hill and walked around in a rather giant park, making our way towards an equally giant monument. On the way, we stopped in the National Gallery, just because. We climbed the aforementioned giant monument and got some beautiful views of Edinburgh (because after Arthur's Seat we obviously needed more stairs and more beautiful views! :P).

Back on the ground, we ate a questionable-tasting but cheap lunch of a hot dog, chips, and a can of Irn Bru (seriously) before walking down the road to Nelson's Column (and another hill to climb, obviously). It drizzled for about five minutes, but afterwards there was a rainbow, and the lighting was absolutely fantastic, so it was worth it. Seriously, everything in Edinburgh is beautiful. Really high in the air, but beautiful.

Back on the ground (again), we went to the National Museum of Scotland to see Dolly the sheep. We went to some other exhibits too, and Amanda dressed up in some costumes in a kid area and convinced some tourists she was a worker there. She's an actress -- that should explain some things. Haha. We didn't stay there for too long since we were getting tired, so we walked through the graveyard from the HP tour one more time and went back to the market, where I bought a ring that (brace yourselves) actually fits on my ring finger!

At this point, we only had a few hours left in Scotland, and we had yet to try haggis, so we popped into a pub and got some for dinner. Actually, we got haggis, neeps, and tatties. Not really sure what a neep is, but tatties are mashed potatoes. None of it was at all bad, and the meat pie we decided to split as well was quite delicious. We went back to the pub from the night before for a drink before taking some pictures of the castle at night. We still had some time to kill before our bus left, so we smushed onto a couch in one of the lounges at the hostel and busied ourselves for a little while. Lorraine was reading the Hunger Games, the poor thing. Her emotions will never be the same.

And then it was another night spent on a bus. It got progressively better; the lights were off from the beginning, but it still felt like the Arctic until about 3 in the morning. But then the heat was on and the lights were off, and it was as close to glorious as it was gonna get! Nonetheless, I napped for about four hours when we got back to Queen Mary.

(Random final thought about Scotland: bagpipes are always audible. ALWAYS. The place is basically set to a soundtrack.)

When I was conscious again, I headed into central London to meet up with Connor! It's been about four years since I've seen him, if not longer, and it was so good to reunite! It's bizarre to think that our entire friendship is based on a week spent in a treehouse for reality television. He was with one of his friends that's also studying in London. We had tea and saw some sights -- I can now check Abbey Road off my list!

This week has been pretty slow otherwise. On Monday, my architecture class had a site visit at the Royal College of Physicians, and on the tube back to campus there was an ad for Castle. Made my entire day. :) Oh! Jen, Amanda and I made our final bookings for our Eurotrip, which is super exciting! All that's left is to purchase our Eurail pass, and then we're all set. And we're leaving for Paris in less than a month. Holy epic, Batman!

Yesterday was spent sleeping late, procrastinating, and working on a presentation for my British history class that I'm doing in seminar tomorrow. You'd think there'd be more information on how the Cold War impacted British society. Leave it to me to pick the topic that apparently doesn't exist in most literature. I finished it up today, after my weekly Wednesday nap. Seriously, can the sun show itself on a single Wednesday? Please? It's so easy to be lethargic when it's so dark outside!

And now the moon is full and Margaux is on her way to visit me so Moony and Prongs can maraud together once again. :) Should be an interesting weekend!