Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday Mantra: Out With The Old, In With The Ugh

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.

Monday Mantra: Chemical peels and time travel should be a packaged deal
Why did I never see this episode? WHY?!
I thought I'd end the year on a funny note. You know, go out with a bang because I am so, so dumb sometimes. *drops face into hands and shakes head*

Cue my background music, please.

Baby did a dumb, dumb thing. Da na na na
Baby did a dumb, dumb thing

Two months ago I had an allergic reaction. On my face. My whole doggone face. Before bed that night, I tried a new product from a product line I've used for years, only to wake up with a bright red face. A bright red, itchy, embarrassing face. I had two in-person meetings that day, to top it off.

The red eventually faded, only to be replaced by tiny little bumps that no one really could see, but I could feel every time I put moisturizer on. I went to my aesthetician who gave me a special facial and put me on a "Get Your Normal Face Back" plan. This plan included coming back for microdermabrasion to smooth out my skin.

Because I really suck at all the girly-girl things in life like makeup, liking things with polka dots (OK, I actually love polka dots, but I'm making a point here), and fancy shmancy treatments like microderm, I had not a clue what that was, but whatever. I was down with the plan.

On a recent Monday I go see my girl to get this thing done to my face. By this point my face feels and looks pretty darn good, making me question whether or not I need to go through with it. But I'm dedicated. I'm all about follow through and accomplishments and stupid responsibility to my commitments.

At the appointment she tells me we should probably consider switching to a superficial peel instead. A what? I ask. She, and one of the head honchos, goes over it with me. It's an organic chemical peel where your face kind of sloughs off the top layer of skin to reveal a new, healthier layer below. I'm not sold on it, but I'm also not terrified (like I should have been). It does involve a fair amount of peeling, which was my concern. I had a work volunteer event that Friday and The Boyfriend and I were having a bunch of family and friends over that Saturday, so I could absolutely, positively not look like a peely faced freak. I told them this. They told me I should be done with the peel by Friday for sure. FOR SURE.

I agree to it. Stupid, dedicated, follow through me.

My aesthetician covers my face with this stuff that, at first, feels fine but then burns like the fires of hell. All the fires, all of them, ever. On my face. Burning.

The burning subsides, the treatment ends, and I go home with instructions galore.

Day 1, Tuesday: My face is super tight, red, and shiny and it looks like I have one of those plastic face masks on that peels off after 5 mins. This doesn't do that. It just stays tight and shiny and plastic looking.

Day 2, Wednesday - 10am: Same as yesterday, but a little less tight. Possibly more red. I hurt a little. I look sunburned. Otherwise, I'm good.

3pm: I. Am. Freaking. Out.

When I yawn, or smile, or, like, breath the area around my chin and lips starts to tear and peel. But not really peel, because you are not allowed to peel the dead skin away or pull or tug or rub or do anything with it except let it do whatever the heck it wants, which is hang there and make me look like a zombie. You know why? Because if you pull or tug or take skin off that isn't naturally falling off you'll end up really, seriously messing up your face. Things like your skin turning a whole different color in those places and causing scars to form and hey, infection. Exciiiiiting!

I have class in 3 hours. The last class, the one where I have to present for 15 minutes. IN FRONT OF PEOPLE. Gah.

6:30pm: I'm at school, lying my ass off that I got a really bad sunburn and this is the result because I am too embarrassed to admit that I paid to look this tortured and bizarre (sorry, school friends). Every single time I talk a new peel section starts. My aesthetician gave me a hydrating spray to put on my face and I spray it on myself every possible chance I can get. I've gone through 1/4 of the bottle in 2 hours. I have to do my presentation, but then I can stop talking and hide in my hoodie.

Day 3, Thursday - 8am: I have never regretted anything more in my life.

I know I'm always talking about not having regrets, but screw that. My face hurts so freaking bad that I'm certain something has gone wrong. It hurts when I put moisturizer on it, it hurts when I don't, it hurts when the sun shines and when my dog is cute and every single second of every single minute of every single hour of my never ending tortuous life.

I pray to God and unicorns and Michael J. Fox to take me back in time so I can prevent this from happening. I hate my life and the world and everything in it. I cry. I get mad. I refuse to come to terms with this being my reality. I no longer understand why time travel doesn't exist or why people can't change the past. I'm certain that if I just want it bad enough (and I do...oh, I do) somehow, someway the universe will reverse itself and help me right this wrong.

1pm: I call the spa and talk to two different people. They tell me this is completely normal and that I'll probably peel through the weekend. Excellent. Just what I wanted.

6pm: The Boyfriend has been gone for a week on work travel and he'll be home tonight. I decorated the entire house and had the garage painted in ASU colors for Christmas to surprise him. I was not, however, planning on surprising him with this new zombie look of mine. I cry again. I find crying to be both beneficial and annoying. On one hand, the tears moisturize my poor, Death Valley face. On the other, I can't use a tissue to wipe my eyes or nose or anything because it hurts so doggone much.

7:30pm: He's home. He tells me I'm beautiful and he loves me and he hugs me for like an hour. This, clearly, marks the best part of my whole week. I, ahem, have also dimmed all the lights ensuring lack of visibility to my face.

Day 4, Friday: Volunteer Day. The volunteer shirt is a very bright red color and manages to make the red shade on my face look worse. I am peeling like an orange and the only way to mask it is to layer on about 4.7 gallons of moisturizer, then spritz that other stuff allllll over.

10am: I shine brighter than the North Star. My face could lead lost tribesman from far off lands to Arizona.

I arrive at the volunteer event with dozens (dozens!) of other people. We're at a Salvation Army warehouse packing toys together for Christmas and you can see me across the entire place, probably even through walls. That's how shiny I am - I have to be - to not look like I'm decaying. I stare in envy at every other normal face there.

Aside from that, it was a blast. I mean, I never forgot that I looked like a freak, but at least my heart was happy for the kiddos we were helping.

7pm: I cancel the Barre class I was going to do. No way am I letting anyone else see this. Plus, I hurt. I hurt I hurt I HURT A LOT. Places where I've already peeled are peeling. How is this possible?!?! Also, places where she didn't even touch me with the Fires Of Hell are peeling, like my earlobes and way low on my neck and up into my hairline. I can officially join the cast of The Walking Dead.

11pm: I've reached a previously unthinkable level of calm, considering tomorrow is the holiday party at our house with our nearest and dearest. My friends will love laughing at me. The holidays are all about bringing joy and cheer, right? Check and check.

Day 5, Saturday: Holiday Party. I explain my new look to each and every person the second the doorbell rings. You know, try and face the humiliation head on.

Still shiny. Still peeling. *spritz, spritz, spritz*

My friend tries to get something off my face. It's just my face.

Day 6, Sunday: Now I'm just a big flaky mess. No peeling, all flaking. Not better, nope, not better at all.

Day 7, Monday: I call the spa again and am told this is all still normal. Excellent.

Day 8: Flaky face.

Day 9: Flaky face.

Day 10: Flaky ass face. I have a team meeting with my bosses boss. Life could not get any better, am I right?

Day 11: This is never going to end.

Day 12 - Now: I survived. My face looks totally fine and is baby soft, but I will never do this again, so help me God and unicorns and Michael J. Fox.

After a lot of Googling and calling the spa and more Googling I've come to learn a few things. There are two types of people: Those who actually need (or want) peels and those who don't.

Want/Need Peel
 - Concerned about aging
 - Has scar tissue on face or other damage where a peel would actually help the skin repair itself and look smoother
 - Can go into hiding for up to two weeks. This is only for superficial peels. Medium and Deep Peels are completely different. Very, very serious. Many weeks of healing, a lot more pain, and you need a highly trained professional to treat you

Should Never, Ever Attempt This
 - No damage to skin/no need for repair
 - Not concerned about wrinkles or age spots
 - Unable to avoid the world and people and life for two weeks
 - Afraid of everything I just wrote about in my experience

I hope that helps. If you happen to need or want these, I'm not judging you. You are a much tougher, braver, far more patient soul than  I am.

Other titles I considered for this post:

 - Bad Decisions That (Hopefully) Lead to a Better Life
 - Stupid Things I Do So You Don't Have To
 - Why Time Machines Should Exist and Be Available For Rent

Also, this will be my last post for the year. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas (or whatever you celebrate) and a Happy New Year (or whatever you celebrate)!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: My Father's Voice

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
The Boyfriend and I recently saw The Theory of Everything, a movie about Stephen Hawking's life and his relationship with his first wife, Jane. The movie was beautiful and the acting was insanely good, but the thing that made me pull out the tissues to dry up my eyes was the same thing that got me when I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: the resemblance to my father.

My dad was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (M.S.) and by the time I was three he was almost entirely immobile. When I was four he had to be whisked away to the hospital in the middle of the night in the worst snowstorm we'd ever had. I distinctly remember the rescue team carrying him over the tree that had fallen across the bridge in our yard, blocking the exit to the ambulance. From that night on, my dad spent the rest of his life in a nursing home.

Because my dad had such an advanced level of M.S. it was impossible for him to even speak. We used an alphabet board to converse with him, having him blink when we had hit the right letter, slowly piecing all the letters together to form words and, eventually, sentences. It was long and arduous and not nearly as impressive as the very similar yet slightly different methods both movies portrayed with their own version of the alphabet board. Although I know it's silly, anytime I see something remotely better than what we had to work with I feel equally angry and jealous.

When I was 14 (that was a big year for me and life and poetry, if you haven't already figured that out) I ran across an old VHS tape. In it, I heard my father speak to a one-year-old me at my one-year-old birthday party. Outside of watching that video, I have no memory of his voice in person. It was a surreal and other worldly moment, like listening to a ghost speak to you for the first time.

I hope all of you take the time to appreciate and love the people in your life. Not just now, because it's the holiday season and we all seem to be a little more thankful and grateful and kind, but because you never know when your life will change. You never know when your yesterday's will become wishing wells you throw your silent prayers into, collecting each and every plead for a second chance that you'll never be given again.

Singing Birds - Society6
My Father's Voice

My father’s voice was proud and strong,
Within it rang confidence, strength, and song.
It was deep and clear and demanded truth,
It held no lies and it longed for youth.
My father’s voice was stolen away
By the dark of the night, by the light of the day.
It was stolen by the wind and blown into the sky,
Never to be heard again, set free to fly.
His voice was soothing, his tone was calm,
It echoes through my mind, it echoes through the walls.
It can drive a person crazy, it can calm a baby’s cry,
It left his soul so fast that I couldn’t say goodbye.
I hear it in my sleep, in my dreams it fills my mind,
It whispers through my music, it screams throughout all time.
It was taken by the sunlight, as the sun shall rise and set,
I will try and try to catch it for it knows it owes me debt.
I’ll not give up my fight and I’ll listen for the noise
Of the whispering and echoing of my father’s voice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

In the World of Wellness: A Colorful Christmas Dish


Wellness is a term widely used that has multiple meanings around health and positive life style changes leading to well-being. Here we will use the term "wellness" as a means of defining a life free from disease as well as a way to explore alternative medicines, what they offer, and what this could mean for you.

Every month I'll do a post on a health and wellness related topic. This will give you a chance to explore other options, become informed, and make the best overall decision for your own well-being.


In the World of Wellness: Green, red (OK, purple), and delicious. What could be better? Probably dessert, but stay with me here, people.

A Colorful Christmas Veggie Dish

  • 1/2 - 1 pound of Brussels Sprouts
  • 4-5 colorful carrots - yellow, purple
  • 1/3 cup red onion, diced
  • Sea salt, pepper, and Italian herbs 
  • Olive oil

1. Preheat large pan with a bit of olive oil.

2. Grab your Brussels Sprouts, chop the bottoms off, and remove the outer layers. Then, slice those babies up. Grab your carrots, peel, and cut them into quarter inch slices as well. Dice up about 1/3 cup of red onion.

3. Place all your veggies in the pan, add a little more olive oil, and sprinkle with your preferred amount of seasonings (I like 1 TBSP of Italian Herbs, 1/2 TSP of sea salt, and a sprinkle of pepper). Remember, start small, taste, add more. 

4. Cook on medium to medium-high heat for about 15-20 minutes, making sure to stir as you go. The length of time really depends on how crispy or not you like these particular veggies to be. I believe Brussels Sprouts taste the best when they're nice and crispy vs. soft. In fact, I'm pretty sure Brussels Sprouts have a bad rep because they're usually served all squishy instead of nice and firm. Crispy is key here, folks.

5. Serve!

See, really easy and pretty. Perfect for the busy Christmas day!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: Sleep

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments


It's been one of those weeks, friends. One. Of. Those. Weeks. 

I put up two Christmas trees - TWO - in an attempt to make the inside of the house look like a winter wonderland because Phoenix never looks like a winter wonderland outside. 

On Sunday I got up at 5am, ran/walked a 5K, came home and attempted to finish unpacking every single box and hanging every single picture that was left from the move- and then reorganized the garage so it looks as beautiful as a garage can possibly look. 

I tried to keep the kids (dogs) entertained and happy, only to have the giant one accidentally bash me in the face with his even more giant rock-solid skull. It's a miracle I'm still alive right now.

Basically, I started about 776 projects assuming I would get every single one of them done and still be able to go to bed at a nice, reasonable hour like nice, reasonable adults do. 

Pfft.

I hope you all haven't been as holiday crazed as me. If you have, I hope you at least didn't get knocked in the skull by a beast of a dog. And if that happened, well, I hope you had an ice pack on hand. 

AmsterDAM Society6

Sleep

Sleep is a word that I know not so well,
We have been acquainted,
Though I bid it a farewell.
Only in my waking, in my yawning, in my haze
Have I wished some sleep upon myself
To get me through the day.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday Mantra: When Parents Become People

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: Whether we like it or not, parents are people too
Annie Olinick

"It is easier to build up a child than it is to repair an adult."
 - Frederick Douglass

I've seen that quote many a time. It strikes me as one of the most important ones to memorize and live up to. I can see it in people I know. The ones who are unstoppably strong and confident, in all the right ways. The ones who needed more hugs and reassurances that they were loved, that they were enough. I can see it in myself, in all the ways I wish I was different, better.

A parent has the greatest responsibility of anyone out there. It's their job to raise us wild, crazy kids into mature, responsible, healthy adults. That's no easy task, given how different each person can be with personalities, beliefs, thoughts and goals and ideas. 

As a child, you look to your parents for absolutely everything - advice, guidance, life examples, wisdom. You expect them to be almost perfect because, in some ways, you need them to be. One of the most important (and hardest) lessons I ever had to learn was that my mom wasn't just my mom. She was a person, all on her own, with hopes and dreams, disappointments and failures, weird ticks and personality quirks. On some level, I knew this. About her, about all parents. But as her daughter, as a child, I had certain expectations of her as my mother. 

I've realized that there is a point where my mom stops being my mom and she becomes her own person. The person she always has been, always was, long before I was in the picture. The person who can handle certain things and needs me to handle others because she just simply cannot do it. The person who sometimes needs to trade places with me because life has left her alone and she doesn't know what to do next. The person who has her own beliefs about God and the world and what's right and wrong and who will never see eye-to-eye with me on some things that drive me absolutely crazy.

I find it equally comforting and sad that many of my friends can relate to this. We've all had the "What were/are our parent's thinking?" talks. We've made pacts to stop each other from doing those same things in life. We, I think (I hope), won't end up doing them because we have seen and lived them first hand. We will, I'm certain, make our own mistakes. We will fail and mess things up and try and try and try, but at the end of the day I hope we will have built our children up to be strong, compassionate people. I hope when our children see us as people and not just parents, they'll be proud. 

I struggled writing this post. There are so many things I could say from my perspective as a child, which is of course going to be completely different than that of a parent. I have no perspective as a parent right now, unless you count my four legged children. I know there are good parents and mediocre parents and parents that should never have been parents in the first place. I know that most (most, not all) parents try their very best to be good examples to their children. I know this. 

I guess what I'm really trying to get across here are two things:

One - We have to accept that our parents are people, too. People who have their own personalities, their own ways of doing things, their own lives. People who will make mistakes and who will let us down, not necessarily on purpose, but because they are simply human. That being said, we have the inherent right as their children to expect a certain level of parenting that guides us, protects us, cares for us, and doesn't leave us wondering WTF is going on in their heads. 

Two - We all have a responsibility to be better people, whether or not we're parents right now. We have a responsibility (to ourselves, to our current children or our future children) to be the best people we possibly can be. To love unconditionally and be fiercely compassionate in all things we do. To set the right examples by demonstrating through our own actions. To build our children up so that they can be even better parents than us. Ultimately, to know at the end of each day with whatever mistakes we made, we gave it everything we had to be the best people our children could have ever hoped we'd be. 


Friday, December 5, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: Sinful Wishes

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
I love this life I've been given, but every so often I get a little ticked off. I get tired of importance being placed on the wrong things. I become irritated when we try and measure people's feelings when, instead, we should be trying to understand them. I find myself churning a little fire of anger inside myself when we tell everyone they must be identical, they must be the same, they must not differ in any way.

Seeds of Good and Evil - Society 6

Sinful Wishes

Holidays are long forgotten,
Empty Christmas cards left wanting,
Tip toeing around religions,
Careful not to have opinions.
Goals and numbers only matter,
Art is simply paint that’s splattered,
Words no longer hold a meaning,
Nothing changes but the seasons.

Children no longer believing,
Kept away from their daydreaming,
Glance away from strangers passing,
Scared of questions worth the asking.
No one smiles, lack of reason.
Happiness is found of treason.
The greatest thinkers being silenced,
Their voices masked by shrieks of violence.

Deeds forgiven to the shameless
And those who shall remain here nameless.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: Simple

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
This week we celebrate Thanksgiving. A time to reflect on the good we've been given in our lives- the people, the experiences, the opportunities and friendships and miracles. A time that often makes us appreciate the more simple things in life that we, too frequently, take for granted. The breath in our bodies, the wind in our hair, the small things that add up to the great things.

Take a  moment today (maybe in the middle of your Black Friday shopping...just a suggestion) to reflect on the simple things in your life. Acknowledge them. Appreciate them. Remember them.

Simply Sweden - Society 6

Simpler Times

Simple was what simple is,
Based on how we choose to live.
Based on checklists, endless tasks,
Buying what we think we lack.
Peace and calm is all we need,
In this we seek simplicity.

Long before the days were full
With goals and chores and things to do,
Long before we couldn’t rest,
Before we couldn’t catch our breath,
Before the days and nights of work
When all our bare feet knew was earth,
We found the joy in smaller things,
Like dewey kisses in the breeze
Or memories of colored skies
When firecrackers lit the night,
When bedtime stories filled our heads
Before our eyelids closed in rest.

Simple things should always be
Our spectacles through which we see.
 The sky that’s blue that paves the way
To new beginnings everyday,
To air that’s cool, to wind that’s still
Where only simple things we’ll feel.
A time of rest, of calm, of peace
In letting go we find relief.

Let us open up our eyes
To peaceful days and simpler times.


I won't have a post Monday as I'm taking the next few days to spend time with the family and decorate for Christmas. Enjoy your weekend, friends!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Mantra: Choose Now

mantra is a sound, syllable, word, or group of words that is considered capable of "creating transformation".

Every Monday I will post a new thought, idea, or focus for the week. When you need a breather from life, when you need a little inspiration, or when you're about to jump over the conference table and strangle your co-worker, remember the mantra.


Monday Mantra: Leap and the net will appear - John Burroughs

Leap - Society 6
I talk a lot about not having regrets in life, or at least about trying to reframe them as lessons. For the most part I live in this way. However, there is one moment in history I would change, if given the chance.

Years ago I was on a Euro trip and one of the stops was Amsterdam. Upon arrival the city seemed pretty normal. After waking up from a much needed jet-lag nap the city was bustling with people, helicopters, and the color orange everywhere you turned. Thousands upon thousands of people had filled the city by mid-day to celebrate the World Cup. Shouts and laughter filled the streets, and a concert was being set up right around the corner. It was beautiful madness; unlike anything I've ever seen. I had my camera near me ready to capture every moment.

I can still see it so clearly in my mind.

The streets were packed. The city looked gray against the people decked out in their bright orange attire. Down one particular street was a group of teenagers cheering and throwing their arms around each other as they made their way down the path. I had never seen so much happiness and joy emanate from a group like this before. They all moved as one, all high-fiving and hugging in unison, with smiles wider than the street they were walking on.

I stood there, watching this beautiful moment in time, debating whether or not I should take a picture of them. On one hand, it felt invasive. Like I would be intruding on them, stealing away a piece of their celebration with the click of my camera. On the other, in my gut, I knew I would never live to see anything like this again. It felt like I was in Time magazine. Like I was staring at the cover picture, living in the story.

I waited and waited and waited until I'd waited too long. Until the group ended up walking right past me without one single picture being taken.

It's a silly regret, I know. But on the scale of things that are important to me, who I am, and what makes me tick, it rates highly. To this day, I regret not having that moment captured for my own memories. To be able to look back and recall so clearly that beautiful moment of sheer bliss.

This is something I can't change. I can't go back in time. I can't recreate this particular piece of my history.

This is where the lesson comes in to play.

Debating on having a surgery or getting married or moving to a new state - those are big decisions that require a lot of time and research. Taking a picture, buying that antique dish at the French market, trying the Special of the Day at a place you'll never return to - those are the things I'm talking about. The small yet still important pieces of life that come only once and can never return again. The moments that say, "It's now or never. Which will you choose?"

Choose now.

Some pictures of the event that I didn't take, but that these lovely people did.

Telegraph
Pierre Crom
futbol.univision
NPR




Friday, November 21, 2014

The Reflection of Shadows: This Young Woman

The Reflection of Shadows
A collection of moments
I received my new PostSecret book in the mail the other day and I've been flipping through it's pages each night before I go to sleep. There's something about people coming together and sharing their secrets that is exquisite, that draws me in and makes me feel more connected to the world.

There are secrets of love and happiness and hope. Secrets of shame and guilt and fear. And then there are the secrets that get to me the most. The horrible, awful experiences others have endured. The confessions of having been raped, molested, or having such deep thoughts of suicide that you don't even know if the person who wrote the postcard you're reading gave themselves a chance to live another day or not.

Those are the secrets that keep me up at night. That make me question this world that we live in and the terrible things that happen.

I've always wanted to send in my own postcard but the truth is, ever since I started this blog, I no longer have a reason to. I share all of my secrets with you. That is a gift you have given me that I am truly grateful for.

When I first started writing poetry, it always came out very sad. I couldn't have written a happy poem if I wanted to, and I did. I tried repeatedly. But touching on the sad things in life was always easier for me to connect to, whether or not I had experienced them firsthand. However, because they were always so sad I never shared them. I kept them tight and cozy in my notebooks, safe from the question filled world.

This is one of those poems.

I wrote this when I was 14 and I hadn't yet even known anyone who had tried committing suicide. I wrote it one night for no specific purpose other than it felt like it should be written. It felt like something many someone's had pondered at one time or another in their life.


Leave Me Be
Society 6
Melia Metikos
This Young Woman

This young woman, who lightly draws a breath,
This young woman should not dream of death.
She should not be in fear, she should not fear in love,
She should not be in love with someone she can’t trust.
She should not hurt her friends, her friends should not hurt her.
She should never question her existence on this earth.
Her life is just confusion, just a visionary blur,
And with the consequences, it seems the less she learns.
She fights with everybody, the fights last so long,
She wants to keep repeating “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone.”
She knows she has a good life, with all that she’s done wrong,
But deep inside she has a fear that life won't last so long.
She wants to succeed, to make something of herself,
She doesn’t know where to turn or what choices she has left.
She worries about the world- the future, the past,
She worries that she’ll never find a love that really lasts.
She worries about money and whether she’ll survive,
Then she wonders, does it matter, will she be alive?
She knows she has so much love inside of her to share
But then she questions, does it matter, does anybody care?
She cries alone at night, she prays to find the way,
Every morning when she wakes nothing yet has changed.
This young woman, who knows not what is left,
In her life, this young woman should not dream of death.

If you struggle with depression or thoughts of suicide, please use this PostSecret resource list to get help. You don't have to be alone in your fight. There are people all over the world that you haven't even met yet that care about you. I know this because I'm one of them.

Monday, November 17, 2014

All Around the World: France and Monaco

Wanderlust: A very strong and irresistible impulse or desire to travel the world.
Hongkiat
Chocolate croissants, lavender fields, cherries to die for, and amore all around you? Welcome to France!

The first time I went to France was shortly after my grandmother had passed away. I wasn't expecting to have the best time in my life, rather I was hoping to take my mind off of recent events. Paris, however, helped me heal in ways I hadn't expected. First of all, I had no choice but to laugh when I wound up staying at the edge of the Red Light District. Not on purpose, mind you, but more so due to a lack of thorough planning and research on where exactly the hotel was located. There's only so much sadness you can have when your hotel is right next to a bright red Sexodrome store.
My hotel, in blue. The sex store, in red.
Before we carry on with the magnificence of France, let's cover a few key things first:

Fact or Fiction: Everyone in France is rude.
  • Fiction
I've been to France twice now and I've never had an issue. I've heard that it depends on where you are, whether you're in a more highly populated, thus more touristy area, or not. I've been to both and I've only ever met very nice people. However, I'm sure this all has to do with how we act while we're there, too. Regardless of what country you go to, as long as you go with a smile on your face, a respect for their culture, and kindness in your heart, you will always (or at least 99.9% of the time) meet friendly, kind, arms-wide-open people.

Fact or Fiction: If you're not good at speaking their language, don't do it. It will just insult them. 
  • Fiction
Find a few key phrases and use them while you're there. It's the effort that counts. I highly suggest learning this key phrase: Ou son les toilettes? It's critical, trust me.

Fact or Fiction: The Eiffel Tower is amazing.
  • Ohmygoodness FACT!
The Eiffel Tower might just be the most memorable and beautiful landmark I've seen to date. I was sure I was going to enjoy it, but I had no idea I would fall in complete and total love with it. The Tower is beautiful, amazing, glorious, breath-taking, all around WOW-ing.

The lovely view you see below is from the top of the Eiffel Tower. If you can, go on the tour offered and enjoy lunch at the restaurant in the Tower. Give yourself plenty of time to take in all the views.
Paris - Society 6
Black Lace - Society 6
While this will sound like a lot of work, I highly suggest you go see all of the sights during the day and then go back to them at night as well. Paris isn't called the City of Light for no reason. The two differences are, honestly, day and night. At night the city lights up with colors all around you and it genuinely feels different- magical. During the day you can see across the city for miles and get a better look at all the beauty Paris has to offer.
Everything You Imagined
You'd think someone who travels alone would be better at navigating, but no. I get lost going from one room in my house to the other, so when I say that the metro in Paris is easy to use, you know it has to be real easy. Like 5 year old operating easy. Not to mention how very Gothic and awesome the signs are.
Metropolitan - Society 6
Montmarte is my favorite area in the city to visit. There's something about it that makes you feel like you've just walked out of a big city and into a little slice of history heaven. The cobbled streets, the shops, the restaurants. It is pure magic.
Montmartre at Night
A trip to Paris isn't complete until you've seen all the sights, and that includes the Louvre. The museum is unlike anything I've ever been to. It feels like you walk out of one era and into the next, room after room. Of course, there's Mona Lisa to greet you and, well, that is just worth it all in itself.
A Dramatic Dusk - Society 6
The Raven and the Louvre
A visit to the Notre Dame is also highly suggested. Inside you'll find big magnificent chandeliers lighting up the interior. On the outskirts of it are vendors selling all kinds of French knick-knacks, but some sell pieces of art. I enjoyed looking at their art work as much as I did walking through this great cathedral.
Notre Dame
While there, why not get a look at Paris from underneath? The Catacombs of Paris do not disappoint. I've been on a similar tour in Italy and I must say these are 10x as impressive and 10x as spooky. Make sure you arrive early because the line for this can be incredibly long.
The Catacombs - Society 6
A day trip to Normandy may also be something you want to consider if you have enough time in your trip. Mont St. Michel is a UNESCO world heritage site for good reason. This monastery survived the Hundred Years' War and (calling all fellow nerds) was the inspiration for Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. If that doesn't get you there I don't know what will.
Mont St. Michel - Society 6
Nice is quite nice, if you ask me. For quite some time I've wanted to go to this popular destination but didn't have an opportunity until last year. I wish I had more time there, which would be my recommendation to you. I only spent a short day, but it deserves much more. The buildings alone are worth the time to stroll through the city. My favorite part, though? The antique market. Ohhhhhhh, the antique market! If only I had brought along a suitcase just for antiques. The range of items available was extraordinary. I've never seen so many timeless, beautiful things in one place before. If you're interested in going to see this specifically, double check when it's available because on certain days throughout the week it's a flower market.

French Antique Market - Society 6
Antique Market
Eze. A little place I never knew of before and now, will never forget. Not far from Nice (you could do both in one day), this little community that sets high on the hills offers views, food, and memories you'll want to capture while walking through the little streets browsing the spice carts or the art galleries.
When in Eze - Society 6
Walking through Eze
The view from on top
If there's one thing I love more than anything else about France (yes, even more than the Eiffel Tower) it's lavender fields. What can I say? It's the aromatherapist in me. Unfortunately, I was about 3 weeks early to the full blooming lavender fields so I had to settle for seeing two tiny ones from a distance. I can hardly complain, though. Look at this view! In fact, this was my favorite part of the trip last year.
Outside of Marseille Society 6
We went to the Luberdon region, a picture perfect area of Provence dotted with little villages everywhere. We stopped briefly at Lourmarin and Bonnieux before heading to my all time favorite place, Roussillon. This little village hosts the breathtaking views you see above along with the best meal I've ever had in my whole life. Seriously. We had lunch at Hotel Le Clos de la Glycine where you must absolutely, positively dine if you go there. While I may have missed lavender season, I was right in time for cherry season, the best surprise of the trip.

The cherries they served have ruined me for life and I'm not even kidding. I like cherries, a lot. But these cherries...these cherries are (to this day) the best thing I've ever eaten, ever. My mouth doesn't even know what to do with itself when I eat "normal" cherries now. My taste buds are all like, "Ooo, cherries! I get to eat cherries!!!" and then after it realizes they're not the same ones I had in France it gets depressed. Have you ever had depressed taste buds? It sucks. Everything goes bland, the world turns gray. It's awful. And it's all this restaurant's fault. Between the sweet, rich cherries and the homemade cherry compote I will never be the same.
The most amazing dessert in all of ever
Cherries that rock your world
I needed a moment to cope with the fact that I would never eat cherries this good again. I might have taken longer than the 5 minutes I promised. Maybe.



The only lavender fields I got to see. From a distance.
Paint Splatters - Society 6
On this trip we also took the opportunity to go to Monte Carlo, Monaco. Thanks to James Bond I expected a much larger place than I found, however, it was still quite spectacular. The wealth in this place is out of this world. I enjoyed my day there, but I also felt out of place. You know, being normal and not wealthy and all that jazz. I could afford gelato and a post card and that was about it.
Monaco - Society 6
It should also be noted that James Bond and his film crew are a bunch of liars. See this picture below? That's the Monte Carlo Casino. In the middle of town. It was squeezed in between a bunch of other buildings and not at all what I expected. We took the opportunity to go in and check it out and let me tell you, it looks nothing like what Casino Royale would have you believe, my friends. Unless there's a secret walled off room or basement or something (which, I suppose, there could be) they just made the whole doggone thing up. It is impressive, but it's also...small. Like, really small. Fancy, though. You can't even go in unless you're dressed up. And they are serious about security there in ways I've never seen at American casinos. If you want to check it out be sure to leave your bags at the hotel and dress in your Sunday best.
The Monte Carlo Casino
If you ever have the chance to go to these places, take it. Don't hesitate for one single second. The world is a beautiful, magical place that deserves our awe.