I believe in miracles.
I try to change the world every day.
I love my husband, my friends, and my family.
I plan my next great adventure constantly.
I think most occasions call for a dress.
I write what I know and believe.
I had never really thought about it – where I was born, who I was born to, or even what the implications of being born are. It wasn’t until right before the last presidential election that I was confronted with my own privilege; the privilege that exists in merely being born in the United States. Just by being born, I was given the privilege to work. The privilege to travel freely between borders (usually without a visa). The privilege to exist outside the shadows. I hesitate to use the word privilege because I didn’t earn any of it – and when I was a kid, a privilege was something you earned. It doesn’t matter – I didn’t earn any of it. Perhaps you could argue that my great (great-great? great-great-great??) grandparents earned it, but I don’t know anything about their story, so I couldn’t tell you if we “earned” it or not.
This realization brought me to tears as I realized that so many of the students that I fight for on a daily basis are at risk for having their work permits revoked, or worse yet, being deported, having their families deported, or any other horrors that I can’t possibly imagine. The fact that we require people to live in the shadows in this country is appalling to me. Many of those who would be impacted by the revocation of DACA were brought here as children. They did not choose this life. They have, however, worked legally, paid taxes, and contributed to society in a positive and meaningful way. Many of my DACA students outperform their citizen peers in one way or another. I have many DACA students who have graduated from college with degrees in high-need fields. They are filling a void in this country; why do we believe it is okay to relegate humans to the shadows? Some don’t even speak Spanish, they have assimilated so well. Others have grown up believing they were citizens, only to find out differently when they started applying to college. You can blame their parents (if that makes you feel better), but that doesn’t change the lack of humanity and how we treat people that we deem as not having “earned” the privilege to be here.
And while we’re talking about privilege to be here…
I have served high schools with large refugee populations. Their stories aren’t different from my DACA students, but the difference is that we’ve deemed them refugees and awarded them asylum. We’ve given them immediate status without a waiting list. We have immigration lotteries for countries we deem to be “more worthy” of awarding immigration to. I don’t seek to take anything away from those students or families, but let’s not pretend that there’s a huge difference between the two stories.
Human is human, at least how I was raised.
Consider this. What did you do to deserve to be here? I’m not asking what your parents did, what your grandparents did, or what any other family member did. Why are you here? How did you get here? What privileges did you earn by merely existing?
I’m not asking whether you worked hard.
Whether you got a fancy degree.
I’m asking what you did to earn the right to live outside of the shadows and without fear.
For me, it just so happened that I was born into the right zip code to two parents who also happened to be born into the right zip code on the north side of the border.
Wow. It’s been a couple of days. Last week, we were preparing to host my in-laws from Houston, who were coming into town for the wedding of a family friend. Thursday evening, my brother-in-law called to let us know they wouldn’t be coming because his job was requiring him to stay because of the upcoming weather. My husband’s parents, however, did make the trip. They are still here but are headed back to Houston tomorrow to assess the damage.
My brother-in-law and sister-in-law had to make the difficult decision to evacuate with their baby late Sunday night. Their neighbors had to evacuate in chest-deep water with their baby. I don’t want to get into this more because it’s not my story, but I’ve had a lot of difficultly sleeping for the last few days. Sunday night was rough.
I suppose I could talk about kindness. I have many friends from college in Houston, and I reached out to one of them (that I didn’t know all that well) when I heard my family needed to evacuate. Not only did he immediately offer up his cell phone, his wife’s cell phone, and his home to them (if they could get there and gave me multiple routes to consider), but he provided phone numbers for rescue services that weren’t yet overwhelmed. My staff member immediately texted her parents in Houston for resources they had. Seeing people pull together made my heart grow three sizes (because I’m a grinch).
One of my staff members wants to plan an volunteer day for our team, so maybe I’ll have more to share later, but right now I’m just in shock that it got so bad so quickly. I’m hoping that my in-laws return home to minimal damage, but I know that’s unlikely.
If you are looking for places to donate, Steph, Katie and Pinky have great options on their posts.
Last month, we spent a long weekend in London celebrating my husband’s birthday. It wasn’t something that we planned at all, in fact, if you follow me on instagram, you’ll know that we planned it in about 4 hours. We had been kicking around a few ideas (Dove Mountain? Supposed to rain. LA? My best friend was busy. Half Moon Bay? Too expensive. NYC? Too humid. Anywhere in Texas? Too hot. East Coast? Too much like work.) My husband brought up London (probably as a joke)… and well, hello MilesAAver award! We booked the 10:10pm direct to Heathrow, threw a few things in a suitcase, and away we went.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if you book one of these tours. I only recommend tours I have personal experience with.
I thought about staying at the Marriott County Hall, but I have only stayed at the JW Marriott Grosvenor Housein the past. For a long weekend in London, I decided to stay with what I know. I know where the closest tube stops are. I know how to get there from Paddington Station. And, honestly, I really love the rooms. We used Marriott points since rooms were pretty pricey. Since I’m platinum preferred, we had lounge access, which helped with food costs. We had breakfast in the morning, afternoon delights (cookies, snacks, and scones) in the early evening, and sweet and savory treats in the evenings.
On our last few international trips, we’ve used TEP wireless hotspots to stay connected and save on internet. I reserved a TEP device from the airport, but when we got to Heathrow, our device hadn’t made it yet! Thankfully, TEP has a few contracted locations, so when we arrived at London Paddington, we were able to pick up a device there. (We also dropped off at Paddington before heading back to the airport. So convenient!) Since I hadn’t activated the international plan on our cell phones, we couldn’t access email, voicemail, or text messages until we picked up TEP (and even then, my voicemail was unavailable all weekend – best ever!).
Long Weekend in London – Getting Around
I booked our Heathrow Express tickets online. We wasted a bit of time trying to figure out how to get the tickets from a machine (you can just use the email on your phone), but it’s the fastest way into London. Booking online ahead of time will save you some money and there’s free wi-fi onboard.
Since we didn’t have enough warning to order a travelcard, we opted for Tube passes. We used day passes. They were a fantastic value for getting around, and we would not have covered as much ground as we did without them, particularly after walking over 15 miles on our first day! We also encountered a fair amount of rain, so it was nice to be able to avoid it when we could.
I’ve tried more than a few times to see the Changing of the Guard, and it’s never worked out. Meesha studied history at the University of London, and she was fantastic! Our group was really small (10 or so), so we could ask questions without any trouble. As we walked from the Duke of York column down to the best vantage points to see the changing of the guard, she gave us a brief history of all the royals.
Instead of finding ourselves in the throngs of people around Buckingham Palace, she took us to the barracks, St. James Park, and Clarence House to see the different vantage points. The tour lasted about an hour and a half and we finished up around noon.
On previous trips to London, I never visited the inside of Westminster Abbey (so expensive!) but the audio tour makes it worth it! We saved a couple bucks by booking online, but this was not a skip the line tour. The line only took approximately 20 minutes around noon though. There is no photography allowed inside. I LOVED the Henry VII fan vaulted chapel; I don’t know if I have ever seen anything more beautiful.
We arrived at the Tower of London when it opened on Sunday, and the lines were long. (Definitely should have booked online.) The next Yeoman Warder tour was scheduled for 11:00 (free!), and it was a great overview of the Tower. The guides are loud, irreverent, and hilarious… so totally my kind of tour. It was easy to hear the guide and to follow the tour, and I think you have to do it. (One, the Tower is expensive. Two, I don’t know if you would get as much out of your visit if you didn’t do the tour.)
After the tour (around 11:45am), we were able to see the Crown Jewels without too much of a wait. It took approximately 15-20 minutes to make it through the exhibit. Again, no photography was allowed, but it was worth seeing. There are a number of videos and exhibits to view before you board a moving sidewalk to see the jewels.
The one thing that was at the top of my husband’s list was going to the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone. I was so excited when I found this tour. Our guide, Maria, grew up in Spain and grew up Catholic before becoming a Jehovah’s Witness. This tour was focused on the Egyptian and Syrian rooms of the British Museums, so there were a lot of religious overtones. I really enjoyed it, and it raised more questions in my mind about how we are more alike than different. (Side note – I still really wish my dad was here to discuss these questions.)
The museum was very crowded (Sunday afternoon), and when we arrived, the line was down the block! Fortunately, we had read that the entrance on the back of the museum rarely has a line, and we were able to make our tour with minutes to spare.
If you’ve been to the British Museum, is the Reading Room not the most beautiful place you’ve ever been? Obsessed.
This is one of my favorite museums in London. Maybe I’m just saying that because it helped me start to sort out my head. Or maybe I’m just saying that because of the glowworm quote. Perhaps it’s because I’m a history nerd and love learning more about World War II. Either way, visiting the strategic nerve center of the British war efforts was totally my cup of tea. At times I felt a little claustrophobic, but I would keep walking until I felt better.
The many quotes by Winston Churchill gave me life. I expect people will have to hear them for awhile. #SorryNotSorry.
London is a funny place for meals. I’ve yet to find many restaurants that I absolutely love. Plenty are good, but I’ve not had anything great yet. I wanted to take my husband to Bella Italia, a restaurant that I visited often on my past trips to London. I was nervous that it wouldn’t be as good now that I’m older and more experienced, but it didn’t disappoint. Everything tastes so fresh, and the prices are still good (but not as cheap as they used to be). They’ve done an overhaul of the restaurants and they seem much more upscale now.
We liked the house Barbera more than the Solandia Rosso (too many competing flavors). The garlic bread is the perfect starter and best enjoyed when piping hot. I liked the beef and red wine ravioli, but the traditional lasagna was good, too. The margarita pizza is a safe bet if you aren’t feeling adventurous. I wish I had skipped the cookie dessert and focused on the gelato milkshake – or just drank more red wine.
Long Weekend in London – More Experiences
This is just the high points of our trip, and I’ll post more pictures for tomorrow’s postcard photos post. If you’re looking for other ways to fill a long weekend in London (I used to do this all the time), here are some of my favorite experiences:
Grab half-price theater tickets at the TKTS booth in Leicester Square
Watch the world go by on the Thames. I love the south bank from blue hour to nightfall.