The Wizardess of Oz

An American's Adventures in Australia and Beyond

Category: Temporary Repatriations

Meet the Parents… and 50 More Family Members

“We’re not paying for your wedding.”

I raised my eyebrow at my mom, annoyed but not surprised. My parents are very traditional, and very religious. They’ve never been happy that I don’t impose the same rules on myself that the Catholic Church does. In this case, cohabitation with my partner.

“Well then, don’t expect one.”

It may not have been quite as snappy as that, but that was the gist of the conversation. My dad had taken the English Muffin onto the patio of their serviced apartment in Queenstown to give him the “what are your intentions for my daughter” speech – something that grates on me as a independent adult capable of having my own intentions for myself, but that I understand is something my dad just can’t not do with any of my boyfriends.

Having never dreamed about my future wedding, I wasn’t too bothered by it. I’ve never gone out of my way to live with my boyfriends, it’s just he way life worked out. I moved interstate with one [“What do you want us to do, Dad? Get separate apartments?”], and happened to fall in love with my roommate [“Was I supposed to kick him out of the house the moment we realized we had feelings for each other?”]. Most times, I’d probably have preferred not to have lived with them! I like my space, and don’t mind being alone, so it wouldn’t have been huge loss as long as we lived near each other. But regardless of any qualifying circumstances, this was a line my parents had decided to draw.

At any rate, my sister will probably have to deal with this before I do, since she and her [now live-in] boyfriend just celebrated their 5 year anniversary. I’m sure she will find a way to break my parents resolve; she’s always had better money-extraction skills than I have.

Other than this uncomfortable exchange, the “Meet the Parents” episode of my relationship with the English Muffin was a nice one. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful place for it to happen [Queenstown, NZ], and we spent much of the 6 days we were all together being outside, exploring New Zealand [also known as Heaven on Earth].

See? All Friends Here!

See? All Friends Here!

The ridiculousness that is NZ

The ridiculousness that is NZ

Same

Same

Fast-forward six months, and the EM and I were preparing for a trip to the USA to celebrate two weddings that were fortuitously planned 4 weeks apart. So naturally, I decided it was important to cram in meeting most of my aunts and uncles [of which there are 15], about 2/3 of my cousins [of which there are 30, not counting spouses], and my siblings [of which there are 4, including my brother’s wife] into those 4 weeks. Oh and maybe 50 or so friends.

Did I mention the English Muffin is an only child with a tiny extended family?

However, the EM works in recruitment, and he’s developed social skills that include being able to talk to anyone, make people like and trust him, and be a good listener. This is also why he makes a good romantic partner, as he’s pointed out to me [darling, why are you on eHarmony?]. Plus he’s English, which means that if nothing else at least he’d be polite.

Thus, he was not only able to rock the family get-togethers, he actually was a bigger hit at BOTH weddings than I was! I had one of my aunts swooning over his accent [“What did you call it? A bin? Say butter again!”] and he after-partied at my university friend’s wedding long after I had collapsed in a heap in our hotel room. At the end of the first wedding, my Seattle friends’ boyfriends were hollering, “Someone get this man a green card! Come to America!”

Repping the Afterparty with the Bride

Repping the Afterparty with the Bride

Cheers!

Cheers!

All in all, a pretty successful trip home for him, even if I was feeling a little bit like chopped liver. Just because I don’t have a posh English accent!

I did have the chance to meet his dad, who happens to live in Connecticut after falling for an American woman [apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…], so for the two people I had to meet, an exchange of 90 or so seems fair. Right?

Til next time, xoxoxo!

Gangsta in Philly

Picture this: I’m rolling down a city street somewhere in Philadelphia on a 90-degree, 89%-humidity day. Windows are down, I’m car dancing in my maxi dress and Tori Burch shades, possibly singing along to a little Lady Gaga, and eventually I realize that the quaint brick building have been slowly replaced with graffiti-ed concrete. All good, it’s a city, this happens. I stop singing.

Then I notice groups of men huddled in doorways and sitting on stoops, ladies cross the road with babies on their hips, not even checking for traffic. I roll up the windows and turn down the radio. I glance again at the printed out Google map and silently curse whatever evil algorithmic gods they’ve created that like to send Orange County-ified suburban chicks through the worst neighborhoods in the country. Good ‘ol G Maps had put me smack in the middle of West Philly, and the Fresh Prince was not shooting hoops anywhere in sight.

Fortunately, I was driving my grandmother’s 1997 Lincoln Town Car, which looks a little something like this:

gwagonAnd between that and the rolled-up windows (good tint, thanks Mom Mom), I was able to look more like a pimp than an incredibly out-of-place Californian on my way to the Jersey Shore. I still tried to make myself look a little crackheady just in case, but I navigated West Philly without a hitch.

And thus kicked off the last leg of my visit home: the land of my parents. Because my parents were born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I still have dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins, cousin’s babies, etc. scattered across the region. Plus a couple of kickass grandmothers that needed to be lunched with. So off I went, to the Jersey Shore (the classy part of it, not the caricature that MTV turned it into), to various parts of the city and suburbs of Philadelphia. Lunches were had, dinners were had, babies and grandmothers were kissed, and I nearly sweat my body weight in water thanks to a massive heat wave and nearly 100% humidity for the week I was there.

A quick 24 hour layover in Southern California, one last gluttonous In N Out Burger meal, and I my epic trip home ended nearly as soon as it began (or at least that’s how it felt, in reality it was nearly 3 weeks later). Philly 1 Philly 2 Philly3 Philly4 Philly5 Philly6

 

A Wedding in Mexico

Well, it finally happened – MY BROTHER GOT MARRIED!

After months and months of anticipation and planning, I jumped on a flight with my family down to Cabo San Lucas, strapped myself into a (very tasteful, swear) bridesmaids dress, and stood up at an altar on a beach trying not to ugly face cry while my brother promised to have, hold, love, protect, respect, etc. etc. his fiance for the rest of his life.

I don’t really even know where to start to describe the long weekend that was the Brown-Epler nuptials. Maybe the ridiculous five-star resort, or the private villa we rented and crammed with bridesmaids, complete with indoor AND outdoor bars, an infinity pool, and a private maid? Or maybe the AMAZING, super-emotional wedding ceremony on the beach on a perfect Mexico afternoon, followed by a delicious, bridesmaid-dress-busting dinner and dancing with some of my favorite people on the planet?

Hell, describing it doesn’t really do it justice, so here are a bunch of pictures:Flight to Cabo! The Backyard The Kitchen Spa, Anyone? Javier, Bring My Yacht Rehearsal Party Sisters and Bridesmaids Coronas All Day YayyySurprisingly, I was incredibly well-behaved at the wedding. I think it may have started with making sure I was carefully pacing myself with the wine during the meal so I didn’t end up drunkenly slurring out my portion of the speech my sisters and I prepared for my brother. The pacing must have continued, because I definitely had some fun, but between “Blackout Bethie” (baby sister’s alter-ego) appearing at the end of the evening, and my other sister shutting down the photo booth with a fit of laughter that ended rather unfortunately, I looked like the dull older sister. Maybe I’m just getting old. I did manage to get a hairful of pinot gris unintentionally splashed into my hair for stupidly taking my drink on the dance floor, so at least I smelled like I normally do on a big night out.

And then that was it – wedding was over, all the planning and panicking and payments were finished, and I was preparing to get on a plane for the last leg of my trip: the visit to Philly to see the family that couldn’t make it to the wedding. Though I was excited, I couldn’t help but feel like the balloon of excitement was slowly starting to leak air. Fortunately, my absence was making making hearts (or a heart) fonder down under, so there was still something to look forward to even when the party was over (a topic for another post entirely).

And up next: PHILLY!

Sin City: Las Vegas

So my epic trip back to the USA kicked off late last week. The first order of business: Las Vegas.

Because I have lived in a couple of different states in the US and have friends in both, combined with the fact that people in their twenties tend not to stay in the same place for too long, I had the fun task of trying to corral as many friends as possible into one place so I could get my quality time in with them all at once. Because I know my friends, I knew the best way to gather them from their various ports-of-call was to tempt them with a weekend of debauchery. So naturally, Vegas was the first thing that came to mind.

Growing up in SoCal meant that Las Vegas was a dangerously accessible four hour drive away, and all through college and until I moved to Seattle it was a fixture in my social life – from a spontaneous trip (jump in the car Saturday afternoon to rip it in one night), to thoughtfully planned trips for birthdays or other occasions. So coming to Las Vegas this time around brought up a strange combination of nostalgia and trepidation. Trepidation mostly because I’ve been out of practice, and Vegas is a harsh, unforgiving bitch – if you aren’t ready for her, she will chew you up and spit you back out, crumpled and broken. Kinda like this guy must have felt the next day:

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I landed in LAX, was immediately collected by my best friend (Boston) and a friend from home (Orange County), and we began the familiar drive across the state of California for the Nevada border.

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However, as soon as fast food restaurants were open I began my campaign to be reunited with my favorite meal on the planet: the number one from In N Out, with a few tweaks from the secret menu:

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We made our way through Death Valley’s searing 115F heat and finally rounded the last desert mountain that brought The Strip into view, a place that looks dirty, smoggy, and lifeless during the day. We checked into the Wynn and immediately went to the poolside bar to work on whatever buzz we could get in the ridiculous heat.

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Now, I could bore you with a detailed description of our every move thereafter, but to be completely honest I don’t even remember all them myself, plus the old adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” might apply for some of us, PLUS my parents read this blog and frankly Dad doesn’t really need to know the gory details, just that I had a good time with my friends.

So for those of us who were there, I have compiled a small collection of things to help jog your memory/safely remember the events of the weekend, and have included a few TOTALLY safe for work photos.

– “What if this night could last FOREVER?!”
– Being snuck into the Sports Illustrated party by Ramona the security guard because “You girls HOT”
– The crazy group of dancing chicks at the Wynn pool and the “incident” that required the K-9 unit to calm down some raging man in a cabana
– Raquel falling into the pool at XS
– Spearmint Rhino, Raquel’s new BFF
– Ben Blood’s iPhone and the hours of entertainment it provided
– Aladdin singalongs snuggled in bed with three other women
– “Hold me closer tiny dancer”

I think I can safely say that I conquered Vegas even after being a couple of years out of practice – I made it back to my parents house (mostly) in one piece and can now focus on the long-awaited wedding of my brother! Up next: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico!

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A Plane Ticket and Some Big Plans

A few months ago I received the invitation for my only brother’s wedding in July. Needless to say, this is an incredibly exciting event for several reasons:

  1. It’s a destination wedding at the beautiful Esperanza Resort in Los Cabos, Mexico
  2. It’s a four-day extravaganza where I will be surrounded by my family for a joyous event
  3. I have the added benefit of not only seeing family, but also friends that I have known since childhood
  4. I get to meet some of the women who are very important to my soon-to-be sister (her bridesmaids other than my own two sisters and myself) – and we’re all staying in one of the ridiculous villas at Esperanza
  5. MY BROTHER IS GETTING MARRIED!

That alone would make for an incredible trip, and I have been wigging out in anticipation since my brother told me he was going to propose.

But since I live so far away, a four-day extravaganza must be compounded with extravaganza after extravaganza. And so, here is what else I have scheduled:

  1. An all-out, all-girls weekend in Las Vegas with my girls from California and Seattle the weekend prior to Mexico
  2. A week in Philadelphia/The Jersey Shore to see my extended family the week after the wedding (those who will not be making it to Mexico), and meet some of my cousins’ newest additions to the family!

No travel plans ever seem very real until the ticket is booked, and I’m happy to report that my round-trip between Sydney and Los Angeles was successfully scheduled as of Friday! Now to rebound from that painful impact to my bank account and find a deal on an LA to Philly flight.

I’m nearly writhing in anticipation for this trip – the more I think about it the more I feel that restless anticipation, that “get up and go” feeling that makes me want to hit the road, even if it’s just the road home for a little while. I’m hoping I can pop in a few local trips here in Australia in between in the upcoming public holiday weekends we have here to cut the excitement and keep me distracted enough to not entirely lose my mind.

Here’s to temporary repatriations, weddings, family, and girl’s weekends!

Til Next Time, xoxoxo!

Rediscovering my Foundation

I have been the worst blogger in the history of blogging for the last two (okay, three) weeks primarily for one reason: I sneakily boarded an Airbus A380 on December 20th and flew into the future, back home to the US to surprise my unsuspecting parents for Christmas. In doing so, I managed to prolong my December 20th by nearly 20 hours, so if the world had ended on December 21st, you could say I milked it for all it was worth.

That aside, it was a bit of a whirlwind: about 3 days in Seattle and 6 days in Orange County, finally feeling like it was actually Christmas because the Aussies are usually more excited about summertime than Christmas and Americans are notorious for over-hyping everything, so Christmas is a much bigger deal there than here. But I digress.

My visit home did two things for me: helped me shut the door on a few things from my past that were keeping me from moving forward, and reset my sense of self by being surrounded by people who know me, past and present, and have a clear of idea of what I can be in the future. I think I had started to lose track of my me-ness the last couple of months here. After some self-reflection, I believe it’s because I had stepped away from who I had been to define who I want to be. I had become consumed by the siren’s song of a complete life reset – no past from which to be judged, only a future as I chose to define it. But I made the mistake of allowing myself to forget my past as as well. I had failed to use who I am as the foundation upon which I built who I will be. What should have been the guideposts were forgotten, and I got a little lost.

Fortunately, there are several incredible women I am fortunate to call friends scattered across the US who showered me with love and attention while I was in various cities, and in so doing reawakened the parts of my soul that had started to fade away. They laughed at my jokes, asked for my advice, gave me their advice, reminisced on our shared past, and were so confident in who I am (even though I haven’t felt like her in a couple of months) that I started to be me again. And even more fortunately, I was able to be surrounded by the people who have known since it all began: three amazing siblings and two of the best parents anyone could ask for. It was pure catharsis being wrapped up in the cocoon of people who know me and take me as I am: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

I couldn’t ask to bring the New Year in on a more positive, forward-facing note after my trip. I cannot wait to climb some of the figurative mountains in front of me, solve some of the problems that need to be solved, and throw myself into building something solid and lasting here in Sydney – making friends, finding love, growing my career, and feeding my soul so I can continue this journey of becoming whoever it is I am meant to be. But now I know not to forget to build on the foundation of me.

Facing forward, xoxoxo!

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