Two years ago today, I lost my best friend and baby girl, Carma. Last year today, I was escaping my grief by preparing to leave on my Grand Adventure in Europe. This year today, I have finally gotten enough courage and faced enough of my pain that I decided I could finally have another puppy in my life again – meet Phantom (because his face reminded me of Phantom of the Opera and I’m a nerd), a toy Australian Shepherd.
Not going to lie, its been a bit hard having a new puppy because it reminds me how much I miss my Carma, but I know she would be happy as long as I am happy – and I know she would have loved to play with her little brother!
It has been awhile since my last post, so I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve been doing:
About 8 months ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. As my mother is the executor of the estate, her and my father have been dealing with consolidating all of the worldly belongings of my grandmother’s. Thankfully, most of her things had been sold/given away when she sold her home over 15 years ago, but she still had enough stuff to fill a 3-bedroom condo – all of which has now been moved to my parent’s house and a storage unit.
So what have I been doing? Well, basically I’ve been helping my parents deal with the estate, clean up our house, get rid of the random stuff that we haven’t used in over 15 years, and train their crazy 70 pound puppy named Zippy who likes to jump up on people like Tigger (she is currently laying on the chair next to me). And in the course of all this, I have finally gotten convinced to take the LSAT to prepare for my likely career as a lawyer (Dad also keeps dragging me to his Alma Mater’s law school reunion events. His thought: ‘Well, if she has to get a law degree, she has to get it from UNC-Chapel Hill’).
So thats a quick update on my life! And because I hate studying for tests, I’m going to be spending some extra time before I leave for Europe on July 5th writing some blog posts to update everyone about how my trip went! (Honestly, if anyone has anything to help me procrastinate, I would love it!)
Despite my unfortunate end to the first leg of my 2017 Grand Adventure, I have exciting news!
Over the past 14 years, I have traveled to 33 different countries and taken over 70,000 photos (insane right?) Now that I have free time (yay graduating from University! And also, not say yay, but I had a ton of free time lying in bed sick in Colombia….), I’ve been going through all my photos. I realize, why keep so many beautiful photos alone on my computer? So I decided to post them for all to see!
If you want an awesome photo for your wall, or if you want to give me a little ‘birthday present’ – check out some of my photos! (My favorites are from Hawaii or the Galapagos).
These are not (by far) all my photos (I still have 55,000 more to go through…) But these are some of my favorites from the past 4 years! And over the next month, I’ll be posting new ones each week on Monday.
One last thing: If you really like a photo but are interested in some changes to it, let me know! I am happy to edit them to fit your needs/preferences!
If you follow my travels, you will know that any flights I take are far from uneventful. To be exact, I cannot name you the last time something outrageous didn’t happen on one of my flights. I can, however, tell you the most outrageous (albeit, in some lights, possibly deserved?) thing that has ever happened to me on any trip. Ever.
For a little background – over the past four years I have been a student of Krav Maga (Israeli Military Martial Arts), practicing at the UBC REC center normally twice a week. Over that time, I have achieved a yellow belt, first stripe status (and would have already tested for my second stripe, but I’m always out of town when testing occurs…) Needless to say, after four years I’d consider myself very devoted to practicing Krav Maga, which caused me to get two things: a practice knife and a practice gun, both of which I use to prepare for my belt tests. And since I’m moving back to America, I brought them back in my luggage, with all my other earthly possessions still in Vancouver, so I can practice at home as well. But I was smart – I put them at the very top of a checked bag filled otherwise with clothes, at a place easily accessible by TSA, and totally expected my bag to be searched by TSA. No doubt.
Also – both the gun and the knife are 100% plastic, 100% solid (meaning they cannot be modified into a real weapon), and the gun is a comically bright banana yellow. Both are very clearly fake, no question. (The knife
And to be clear, I knew it might be a red flag for TSA, but I honestly did not think it would be that big of a deal. Turns out – I was wrong.
It was such a big deal that US Customs agents pulled me into the back room, called the RCMP, had both Customs and the RCMP question me, filed a full out report, and searched through all my bags – TWICE. Lesson learned, don’t fly with fake guns. Because despite being clearly legal on the TSA’s website: “They are okay, but please pack them in your checked bag”, you will get pulled over. And it will cause a problem. But unlike real guns, there is no procedure to declare you have a fake gun, and there is no guarantee TSA won’t just confiscate it (thankfully they returned mine.) So there is literally no way to bring one without causing trouble at the current administration’s TSA checkpoints.
For those curious, here is the full story:
Check my bags, no problem. Get through security check, no problem. I’m in a trusted traveller program (well, two of them: Nexus and Global Entry), so everything is a breeze. Get up to the Customs agent (you do US Customs in Vancouver if you are flying straight to the states, which I was), he passes me through – again, no problem. Walking to leave the area when a guard approached me, “Lena Raxter?”
Me: “Yes sir?”
Him: “You’ve been selected for a random screening, please come with me”
Me: (thinking) Shit, if this is some of the bullshit executive order, try-to-deny-an-American-entry-back-into-my-own-country, I’mma be super pissed.
Him: “If you just have a seat, an agent will be with you soon”
Me: (not thinking, mainly because this is super weird and has never happened to me in the hundreds of international flights I’ve flown) *takes out my phone to check the time*
Him: Ma’am, please, no phones. Please come with me, is there anything I should know about your bags?
Me: Yes sir, I have a fake training gun in one of my duffel bags that I use for martial arts.
Him: (With an expression that I thought was surprise on his face?) Oh, okay, thank you for letting me know. We’ll get your bags. Here, this border agent will help you.
Me: (sits with the border agent, still a bit pissed, wondering if I’ll make my flight)
Guard 2: (asks tons of questions about where I live, my criminal record, etc. etc., repeating at least three times ‘So you lived in Vancouver?’ and I’m like ‘umm…. I just said that?’ Still wondering if this is another of the Trump-era witch hunts.)
Original guard, whispering to Guard 2: “We have her bags and have removed her from the flight” Wait now, WHAT????
Now, I’ll admit firsthand, I did get a bit defensive. Why? Because number one: you removed me from the flight???? Maybe I heard him wrong, maybe he just removed my bags, but I have pretty good hearing y’all.
And two: when the border guard started talking to me about my fake training gun I use for completely legitimate purposes (my yellow belt was also in the bag the gun was in), he made a point of questioning my judgement.
Guard 2: “What level are you?”
Me: “Yellow belt, first stripe.”
Guard 2: “And what does that mean?”
Me: (Explains in deep detail)
Guard 2: “So that means you should have good judgement?”
Me: “Well, um, yes, I would think so?”
Guard 2: *rant about how I couldn’t have good judgement because blah blah blah (summary – bringing this fake gun is bad judgement)* Rant included: “Would you bring a fake grenade on a plane?” Well, no sir, I wouldn’t, that is actually illegal.
OKAY, dude no. Lets remember: I put it at the top of the bag. I stated immediately to the first guard that I had it. The gun is banana yellow(on purpose, because I never wanted people to mistake it for a real one). I can, in vivid detail, explain what I use it for and my qualifications I have attained through the practice I have done using the training weapons. Just to stress this, I never concealed I had it, while at the same time making it extremely accessible. And also had checked into TSA’s requirements: “Please pack them in your checked bag.”
(Now, maybe I should have told United at the gate that it was in my bag. But I honestly had completely forgotten – after all, I was carrying around four 50lbs bags plus a backpack and a giant jacket stuffed with other jackets. So it completely slipped my mind.)
But no sir, please don’t question my judgement for following the very regulations that our government has set. When I was doing something that was completely, 100% legal according to TSA’s website.
Side note – I also got really pissed when he said “And I’m here to protect my country and say who can go into it” – Again, sir, No. Because this is my country too. I’ll give you leeway, because you are guarding entry to my country and hey, maybe it was a real gun – but when I am upfront and clear, don’t act like I am trying to subvert the letter of the law for the nation I was born and raised in.
Following this, two RCMP agents (for those who don’t know, they are like Canada’s version of federal police. Kind of like the FBI, but they function as a police force for areas that lack a local police force.) And, like Canadians normally are, they were supppeerr nice.I talked with the officers, explained – in very vivid detail again and with a fully calm tone, which is probably how I managed to make my flight – everything that I had explained to the Customs agent. The officer smiled, thanked me, told me I wasn’t in any trouble,that they were also informed that the gun was fake and comically yellow by the screening agents. They understand, no big deal, everything is fine, they are just required to follow up on this. Then he asks for my address, I give it to him, he says no problem, have a great day.
30min later, FINALLY, after more annoying questions and what seemed like an endless amount of typing into his computer, the US Customs guard finally lets me leave. So I run to my flight, only to find out it had been delayed more and still hadn’t started boarding yet. (Yay! But also, really?)
Here is where I can be at fault – I did pack a fake gun into a checked bag and was taking it across international borders. Despite being super careful and upfront about it, I can understand how it was a problem. That being said, as my angry father is hearing the retelling of this story – “No dear! You do not need to apologize! All you did was pack a fake gun, which is completely legal!” (Dad is a lawyer, for those who don’t know.)And to be honest, if they did this to someone who is carrying a US passport, neither my father nor I can bear to imagine what foreigners are being put through!
But either way: dude – what a freaking crazy experience. I did not, in a million years, realize a comically yellow, solid, plastic, fake gun would make that big of a fuss. As long as there is a story, right?
Also, lesson learned (again) – Canadians are nicer than Americans. Much nicer.
Recently I tried my hand at baking cookies, and found out I’m apparently somehow good at it? Which is surprising, because in general I am a TERRIBLE cook. But by popular demand, I’ve decided to post the cookie recipe here!
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Warning – these contain enough sugar to cause diabetes. Because that’s how Southerners cook.
FIRST: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (sorry ya’ll, I have no idea what that is in Celsius.)
Ingredients (in order of adding to the bowl, with instructions beside them):
In any order:
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
1 cup of all-purpose flour
Now add (in any order):
1/4 cup of water
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Mix everything together. (I used a random spoon because I don’t have anything else. A whisk would probably have worked better. But really, use whatever you want.)
Next: Add 3 cups of oats (the type that take 15-20min to cook, not the quick oats. I think they are called steel cut? (UPDATE – I have been informed they are called ‘Old-fashion Oats‘) Really ya’ll – I am a terrible cook, I don’t know how these actually taste good. I blame the 1.5 cups of sugar.)
Next: Melt 1/2 a cup of salted butter (normally will be 1 stick of butter. You are technically suppose to use 3/4 cups, but that comes out uneven if you get a box of 4 butter sticks. So 1/2 cup works. ALSO – You can use unsalted and then just add 1 teaspoon of salt later, but I’m lazy so I use salted butter.) Pour the melted butter over the oats. Mix together.
Next: Add 1 or 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, depending on how chocolatey you want it to be (I’m a chocoholic, I add 2 cups.) You don’t add the chips before the butter because they will melt (which is fine, but harder to ball up later for the cookie sheet!) Mix together.
Finally: Put the cookies on a baking sheet, put them into the preheated (350degrees) oven, leave in for 12-15minutes, enjoy delicious diabetes cookies!
Whenever someone asks me, “Where are you from?” My response is rarely ‘the United States of America.’ More often than not, I will quickly answer ‘North Carolina’, assuming that whoever has asked will know that NC is part of the USA. This is a strange habit, though – when asked where they are from, most people will normally respond with the country, not the state or city in which they live(d). Any people who know me will also know: I often have to explain the strange behaviors United States citizens have. This is one of them.
So this leads me to my point. Why do I always answer ‘North Carolina’ first? In short – the struggle between the federalists and anti-federalists has left a lasting impression on the American people (especially the South, where most of the anti-federalists were from – ask me about it if you want another history lesson). So now: first and foremost, I see myself as a North Carolina native, born and bred within driving distance of both the breathtaking Appalachian mountains (Canadians – APP-AH-LATCH-EN, not that stupid/wrong way you pronounce it!), and the awe-inspiring Outer Banks.
Moreover, my mother’s family, the Scott Family, was one of the first to settle in NC, and established themselves as one of the most prominent families in NC. In edition to owning huge farms in Alamance County, the Scotts established schools across NC (my name sake, Elizabeth Scott Carrington, helped raise the funds for UNC’s Nursing School, which is why there is Carrington Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill). The Scotts were also pillars in the Medical Community (my grandfather was in the first graduating class at UNC’s Dental school, and my great-grandfather delivered over 6,000 babies in his lifetime – including my childhood best friend’s mother) and devoted themselves to public service (my great-uncle Kerr Scott and his son Robert Scott both served as governors of NC). Robert (Bob) Scott was the governor who “oversaw the creation of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system” and worked heavily to make post-secondary education accessible for all in NC. The Scott family were also huge into religion – Samuel Scott and his wife Nancy Bryan Scott helped start the Hawfields Presbyterian Church in 1755, a church which is still in existence today (it is where all the Scott Family is buried). So, as you can see, my family has a tonof history in North Carolina. No wonder I recognize myself as a North Carolinian first, right?
All of these horrible things happening to the state my family helped create truly breaks my heart… So, over the summer, I made a choice. It became a reality to me that I would not be returning home, because – to be honest – this current North Carolina does not feel like home. But the current North Carolina is not the real North Carolina, in my opinion. The real North Carolina is the 250 years of progressive history that the Scott family helped contributed to. The real North Carolina is the one whose government representatives value its people over the representative’s party politics. The real North Carolina fights for democracy, and sets examples for the rest of the nation on how to prevent discrimination – not how to implement it (I don’t like cursing in blogs but I’mma say it – fuckHB2 and NC’s extremely unconstitutional voter ID laws.) The real North Carolina believes in accessible, quality education for all. Because education is not a privilege of the elite, it is a necessity for a country to succeed.The real North Carolina understands this – the current North Carolina does not.
So in September of this year, I decided to get a tattoo: my North Carolina, the real North Carolina, on my side by my heart, as a symbol of my love for the state and my hope that one day the real North Carolina will return.
Now, to be honest, after the past few months, I really question whether the real NC canreturn. But I am sure of two things – James Taylor’s song ‘Carolina In My Mind’ will always remind me of home, and my tattoo will always remind me that NC once was a progressive state, and maybe, one day, we can be one again (electing Roy Cooper was a great start! Attempting to remove his ability to govern, on the other hand, not so much…)
As I mentioned in my last post, I had a very interesting experience after my most recent whirlwind of trips.
As a kid, my mother would always tuck me into bed and we would take turns saying each line in a old (I’m assuming southern?) nursery rhyme: “Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” For most of my life, I had no idea what a bedbug was – I just thought it was made up, maybe it used to exist but didn’t anymore. As I got older, I found out they really were a thing, but I would probably never have to deal with them, right? Because I always go to nice hotels, and bedbugs won’t be in nice hotels, right? Wrong.
Bedbugs are actually super common. And once you have them, it’s damned near impossible to get rid of them. One of my best friends growing up got bedbugs once; they had to fumigate their whole house. A few years later, my parent’s friends got them too and had to fumigate their whole house twice. So basically bedbugs are the devil. Horrible, terrible little fuckers that just. wont. die.
Fastforward to last week. I actually can’t exactly remember which day I first saw the spots on my hands and arms, but it was right when I got back from Las Vegas. And at first I was thinking – um, why do I look like I was a meal for some vicious little creature? Then I realized – ffuuuccckkkk, ARE THESE BEDBUG BITES?!?!?!?! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.
At first I’m like – “Okay, what can these be? Let’s think of literally everything that they could possibly be and hope it isn’t bedbugs.” That night I go out to dinner with a group of close friends, and since I’m itching like mad I decide to ask them: “What do these bites look like?” Of course, one of my friends there has had bedbugs. And immediately responds “bedbugs.” And I’m like “………fml” Only then, another friend responds “No no, that’s a rash, you are fine; come over to my house for the night, I’ll give you antihistamines, we’ll have a girls night, it’ll be fun.” Well, who do I listen to? Obviously the one that says not bedbugs, because I refuse to accept the reality that I did, indeed, open my home up for housing then set out a meal of my – apparently delicious – body for the little fuckers. So I take my second friend up on her offer, and the next morning I wake up in so much itchy pain that I feel like I am dying and finally give in to the reality that I really need to go to the doctor about this shit.
For those that don’t know – if you don’t have what is called “MSP” in British Columbia, you are not covered by the ‘free’ Canadian healthcare. It costs about $80/month (it used to be $60, but every year BC keeps raising the fees grumble grumble grumble) but once you pay that, you don’t have to pay for any doctor’s visits, etc. and your prescriptions are extremely cheap because they are subsidized. Which is awesome. Only I don’t have MSP anymore. Because when my visa changed from a student visa to a work permit, I didn’t know I had to re-enroll and I’m too damn lazy/don’t live in Vancouver enough to take the time to actually get healthcare here again. So what would be a free doctor’s visit turns into a $120 visit with a $20 prescription for a steroid cream so I don’t scratch holes into my arms (I nearly had, apparently I scratched in my sleep….) Moral of this story – it is more advantageous to just take the time to actually re-enroll. Have I? Nope. Why? Because I leave Vancouver again in a month. Annnnddddd: I’m still too damn lazy. Even though I have endless amounts of free time. Because that involves being productive, and my brain is like “No school! No work! Let’s sleep all day! Vacaattiionnnnnnn!!!!”
Anyway, after this SUPER FUN doctor’s visit, I go buy a steamer (my friend who had bedbugs before said it is the cheapest way to get rid of them, but you have to keep treating everything over and over and over for months – also $140, so my wallet was crying even though I knew my parents would help me pay for it.) AND I STEAM THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYTHING IN MY APARTMENT. My roommate thought I was insane when she came home and I was hunched over the floor steaming every inch I could reach. How many times did I steam my suitcase? Like 3. The couch? Like 5. My room? About 8 times. My bed? Fifteen freaking times. And I washed every piece of clothing, bedding, detachable object in the place at least two times. And put my bedding in the dryer for (and I’m actually not kidding) five hours. On extreme heat.Because I was not about to have bedbugs come back with me on my next adventures. Or get near my face again. That shit was not about to happen.
Well. Good news. The bugs never really came back. I say really because I woke one day with two little bites on my leg where my PJs cut off, and I flipped a shit and put my bedding back in the dryer for 3 hours on extreme heat then steamed every inch of my room AGAIN. BUT – lesson learned – bedbugs are real. They can live in really nice hotels. And somehow after 2 months in hostels around Europe I never got them, but apparently 3 days in America means bedbugs galore! (Can we start a #damnitdonald for shit like this, like they did with #thanksObama?) But then again, it may not have been bedbugs since I never actually saw any bugs, but like….it was bedbugs. Let’s be honest.
Also – if this ever happens to you, don’t bother getting an exterminator, $140 steamer + heating up every detachable thing in your house that fits in the dryer may just do the trick.
And just to reiterate. Because I can’t say it enough. Bedbugs are real. And they suck. And are essentially the devil. Like for real. My arms still haven’t healed. But at least my face has. Bright side?
It has been a month since my last post. Why? Especially when my goal has been to write once a week? Well…. Many reasons have contributed to this, but the main is my insane travel schedule mixed with health issues to end with my avoidance of writing anything.
From the 28th of January until the 12th of February, I was in New York City – which, as you could tell from my posts, was amazing! Super wonderful for my future career, and I had a ton of fun with my wonderful friend Karol.
From the 12th of February to the 15th of February, I was in North Carolina. I successfully surprised my father for his birthday, which was actually super surprising since my mother is terrible at lying. More than once she nearly spoiled the surprise (example: she wrote a doctor’s appointment for me on the calendar, then realized her mistake and quickly scratched it out hoping my father hadn’t noticed).
From the 15th to the 18th of February, I was in Vancouver. I met with a potential employer, and ended up getting the job – only to have it fall through due to sketchy business practices by the company (long story, ask me in person). I also met with a group of friends in regards to another UN-related business venture but I’ll say more about that once it has become more official!
From the 18th to the 21st of February, I was visiting my best friend in Los Angeles. It was so great! We went to Disney, we used the hot tub in her backyard, we went shopping. We basically did everything best friends need to do, especially after not seeing each other for a year. And now I miss her again….
From the 22nd until the 25th of February, I was in Las Vegas. It was…an experience, that’s for sure. Day One – the classic ‘I have to take this call, OMG its an emergency, I’ve got to go’ date-ending excuse actually happened to me! But it was super funny, because it was at like 2am when I was totally okay with just going to bed and the guy had just realized he wasn’t going to get me up to his room. And now I have that story to tell! (If that was Day One, imagine what days 2 and 3 were like. It got worse each night!) Also, cool thing, we got to see Fat Joe in concert!!! For free! Hell yes for women getting into clubs free before 1am in Vegas!
After the 25th of February, I’ve been back in Vancouver. I ended up getting bed bug bites – because apparently they aren’t just a myth from my bedtime rhyme when I was a kid (“Night night; sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite!”) Once that finally stopped making me wanna die from itching so bad, I actually accidentally gave myself a black eye in my martial arts class…. I’m a bit of a clutz…
So yeah! Thats been my past month. I’ll have more free time again, which hopefully means more posts? But we’ll see!
Over the past few days, I have written at least 5 different blog posts about politics – none of which will probably ever be published here because they are basically my endless ranting (something I prefer to keep to real conversations, not one-sided blog posts). Even beginning this completely non-political blog post, as you can see, I have an extreme desire to start ranting again. But honestly, everyone at this point needs a break from insanity, so I decided to write an update on my archnemesis – the Lion’s Mane.
I kept saying I would get a haircut. Over and over during Europe, I’d think ‘As soon as I get home, the Lion’s Mane is getting tamed!’ But, life happens, and nearly a month after getting back from Europe I still hadn’t tamed the beast. I’m super paranoid about getting a bad haircut and had spent two weeks asking friends around Vancouver who I should have cut my hair, followed by hours of research into the best hair stylist out of the options I had gotten. Until one day, while talking to my friend and debating what to do with my hair, my friend looked me in the eye and said ‘Lena, stop procrastinating, just cut the damn mane!’
I’ll let the pictures talk for themselves –
First, a reminder of what the Lion’s Mane looked like, even when it was confined to its braid prison:
And then the fateful day when the Lion’s Mane would be tamed:
Its natural state wasn’t actually too bad that morning – the day before I looked like the bride of Frankenstein.
Pretty right?? So straight and beautiful! AND TAME!!!!! But as I’ve learned, the Lion’s Mane always looks pretty after being manhandled by professions. The real test of a good taming is what the mane does after the first wash, when it is back to just me and the mane in our never ending struggle:
Annndddd the afro returns….. Successful taming? Sort of. It’s not tangling as bad, so bright side – less headaches after brushing.
Throughout everyone’s lives, we have all made at least one resolution that we swore we would keep only to cave in eventually. That first night you experience tequila: “I’ll never drink again” – then two weeks later you get twice as plastered as before. Or the common “This holiday season I’ll be careful what I eat!” Two months later, you’ve still gained the holiday 15lbs. I had a similar situation with my first tattoo. I had wanted a tattoo for years, but once I got my first one – “This will be my last, I don’t see myself as the type of person with more than one tattoo.” Five years later, I got a second one.