I will be home for Christmas, snow and travel plans permitting. My suitcases are packed and I am ready to go. The advantage of travelling 'home', is that I have the essentials at mum's, and the clothes I pack (with the minimum room I am allocated after filling shopping orders) are not normally those I wear here, because of the difference in temperature. The problem with being so organised, so long before my departure date, is that I am sure I will forget something. My pages of 'things to do', are piled high and I have ticked all that I have packed, and have my usual last minute check list by my bed, as a last minute check list has to be prepared when I book my flight, to ease one set of stress levels.
Watching my stress levels are not dissimilar to watching the electronic lights on a stereo system. They go up and down depending on the volume, base, treble and tone. I have each stress item compartmentalised and the levels in each compartment rise and fall, and then rise again.
Packing is in one compartment, although that particular compartment is split into smaller areas. That of completing the task of personal shopper was completed, and the level dropped to almost a whisper, but a 'ping' on my phone sent it back up to maximum, and yet another 'can you' sent the green light into the red zone, just below, 'explosion'. The second compartment is whether I have enough room to stack the variety of objects accumulated. Thirdly, I have to check the weight. Dragging the suitcases to the bathroom, hauling them onto the bathroom scales, I am sure is an action with which most are familiar. Never take the scales to the cases. Weighing the case several times and taking a general average, I hope that my scales are somewhat accurate, and reorganise the cases to more evenly distribute the weight.
With the packing stress levels being erratic until they are safely in the car at Heathrow, I turn my attention to the other items which require attention.
Being organised is not one of my strong points as I have mentioned before. The fact that I was packed and (almost) ready to go on Sunday, was someone of a miracle. However, my disorganised brain could not comprehend and the pre-flight jitters started on Monday. As I am flying on Thursday, this was going to be a very long week.
I decided to see if it was possible to get my hair cut on Sunday. Being disorganised, I called Sunday morning to try and make an appointment. It was hardly surprising that my hairdresser was fully booked. (Not having his permission, I am not going to write his name, but he knows who he is! ) My hairdresser is an artistic genius. I have followed (stalked is such an ugly word) him from one company to another, and dread the day he ever thinks of retiring. I first met him when I made an appointment at the mall, about 8 years ago, before I moved out to the USA. He moved from one salon to another, and fortunately the salesperson in the original salon let slip, in a very loud whisper, that he had moved. Tracking him down, he assured me that he had not had time to go through his client list to send me an invitation to his new place of employment. Unfortunately, when he left said establishment, there was no loud whispering salesperson to give away the secret. Samantha found him on a social site on the Internet and sent him a note, Fortunately, not only did he forgive me for tracking him down in such a way, but he welcomed me to the new salon. I just hope he never leaves Austin, as I truly love the city, and I would find it hard to convince Dana we would have to 'up and leave to follow my hairdresser'. The bottom line though is that I did not get my hair cut on Sunday, but I still love my hairdresser to pieces!
By Sunday evening, I was rather frazzled, still having four days to go, and checking for anything that I have forgotten, (ridiculously so as if it is not on my list it is not relevant,) so the yearly tradition of driving around looking as the Christmas lights did not have the usual warm and fuzzy appeal. However, tradition is tradition and I left the house with the rest of the family, including Frank, the dog, and we drove to get the traditional 'Blizzard' (ice cream treat from Dairy Queen) to be eaten whilst 'ooh'ing and 'ahh'ing at the beautiful decorations. We headed for the place in Austin that have the 'best' lights. There are a couple of roads where the inhabitants have decorated their houses, so elaborately, it has become a local tourist attraction. I think it is relevant, at this point, to mention that before our outing I was wearing a sleeveless summer dress. As I had no intention of getting out of the car, I put on a pair of grey trousers under, and a blue fleece cardigan over the dress. I completed the outfit with a pair of flipflops. As we approached our destination, ice cream treats in hand, we were stopped by the huge amount of traffic leading towards the dazzling spectacle. Not only were cars queuing to drive along the road, but there were crowds of people cluttering the pavements. The inhabitants of the houses were outside their houses, cooking barbecue, toasting marshmallows and watching the people, watching their houses. At the end of the first road was a vendor selling plastic multi coloured light sticks. It was the most amazing sight.
As we entered the first road, Samantha decided, that in order to get some very good pictures, she would have to walk. Not wanting her to walk alone, I said I would join her and jumped out of the car without paying attention to my attire. Having realised that I looked like I had dressed in the dark, in a strange place, with no knowledge of the content of the wardrobe, I decided that this was Austin and as they say in Austin, 'Keep it weird!' Fortunately, the spectators were more interested in the variety of decoration than my attire, and I dare to say that they probably would not have given me a second glance in any event.
The lights truly were spectacular and many were set to music. The houses were not very big, but each one was sparkling very colourfully. As Samantha and I walked along, a group of people crossed in front of Dana, who was driving with Frank (the dog) standing on his lap, looking out of the window. When Frank spotted Samantha, he started to bark, and it seemed he was beckoning her back to the car. One of the women in the group who crossed, was rather perturbed and said, rather loudly, 'who would drive down here'? Have I ever mentioned that there are times when my mouth has a mind of it's own and does not always wait for my brain to assess the situation? This was one of those times. The words that spilled out of my mouth and made their way directly to her ears were, 'People who can't walk'. Fortunately for me, and for whatever reason, tonight was not the night for confrontation.. Very thankfully, I got back into the car, and we continued on. With an hour and a half of light viewing having been completed, we returned to our home, and gave the biggest 'OOOH' when we espied the lights at our complex. For some inexplicable reason, the communal lights are white light bulbs covered with....orange bags. It has become rather amusing to the residents that these very non-'Christmas' lights are religiously put up every year, (no pun intended) the week after Thanksgiving. It would appear that in the deep recess of time, these bags were considered to be very 'couture',
With three days left, on Monday morning my amazing husband surprised me with an electronic notepad for my travels, so that I can post while away, and can access the Internet at the airport. This was very gratefully received, but sent my stress levels through the roof, yet again. Have I mentioned that my 'travelling stress' gene is as irrational as my 'dentist' fear. I do not like to carry too much when travelling trans-Atlantic. I put suitcases in the hold and my 'carry on' is no more than a small (very small) backpack handbag, which is just big enough to hold my passport, purse, possibly book and phone. My selection of genuine fake bags are in no way big enough to accommodate my new, rather small, notebook. I had to get a new bag. Not wanting a full size back pack and wanting to have something that is reasonably 'handbaggy' rather than 'backsacky', we drove to every store that had late night shopping, but to no avail.
Today, I found a bag. After I had been to have my nails done.. Oh yes, Tracie now has nails and they are her own!!! - thanks to Steph, my Richard's beautiful lady, I no longer bite my nails. The story I have been told, is that while I was staying at my aunts, when my sister was born, I would not allow her (my aunt) to cut my nails. When mum came home, she cut my nails, for the last time. I was just over two and a half. this summer, Steph gave me my very first manicure, and I have been going to have my nails done ever since. Mrs. Low Maintenance has become Mrs Low Maintenance, with exceptions. My manicurist is a wonderful lady, who is very interested in the history of the British Royal Family, so spending an hour chatting about my nations heritage, is not considered time wasting to me, so I can justify the manicures.
Samantha left this morning for Vegas, and will spend Christmas with her dad, and Edward, then fly to North Carolina to see Edward's family. Dana is dog sitting. Dana believes he is the one who is having the real vacation. Dana and Frank have plans....a man and his dog...or a man and his step-daughters dog... is the perfect way for Dana to spend Christmas.
Tomorrow morning I will check I have my passport, at least 20 times before leaving the house, then several times in the car. Passport thieves are rife in my car, especially while moving! The whereabouts of other documentation needed to re-enter the USA will be checked a dozen times. (The moving vehicle thieves travel in packs).
Life around me is never dull when I am in travel mode. It is not necessarily pleasant, but it is never dull. I shall, however, be able to report with clarity, and in good time, as to my experiences through the airports and aircraft, on my new super duper notebook, which my husband bought me to write yet....another story.