Bon Voyage, EuroTrip 2017 (Paris in Springtime)

 

Paris. I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. This is my favorite place on earth. My trip ended where it began in this place that I love. My last few days comprised a trip to the Louvre, delicious noms, making sure I had everything I needed, and a reunion with my high school French teacher and color guard coach. During this time, I also day-tripped to Reims with my buddy, L. I walked along the Seine; ate chaussons aux pommes, confit de canard (a few times), steak frites; and purchased about 10 bags of carambars fruits to bring home (that disappeared way too quickly). IMG_2230

My first time in Paris was in January–it was cold, grey, and wet, but I loved it nonetheless. My second time in Paris was my study abroad from August to December. I enjoyed Paris in the summer and fall, and a brief hint of winter again. In 2017, it was my first time visiting Paris (and Europe in general) in the spring. And boy…She did not disappoint. My favorite place in the world put on a glorious spring show for my last days in Europe.

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I was glad to have this time in Paris. After my mom died the first few hours I was there in Fall 2016, I thought that the feelings I felt then would be my association with the city forever. And in some ways, it will. I will never be able to think of Paris without thinking of my mom–but if I hadn’t been on my way to Paris in 2016, I wouldn’t have seen my mom the day before she (suddenly) died. I thought about my mom a lot those last few days. Everywhere I looked were things that reminded me of her: the beautiful flowers, the advent of spring, meeting up with my high school teacher. All things that reminded me how complex grief can be. I think I love Paris more now because it will always remind me of my momma, two of my favorites that I love the most in the world.

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And with my last few days in Paris, EuroTrip 2017 came to a close. It was *such* a good trip. Though there were some negatives– rain, lack of internet, loneliness, sunburns, and sore feet–those have faded with time, I remember those less than the positives — the art! the cities! the sights! the weather! the flowers! the reunions! the food! Plus, I think I have a good handle on how to tackle some of those problems for future trips (read: in a few short weeks!). Ciao and au revoir to Eurotrip 2017!

2017 Top Ten

2017 was a mixed bag. It didn’t suck as much (at least for me personally, world events is another story) as 2016, but it came with ups and downs. There were some pretty obvious highs, and some pretty obvious lows, namely, still grieving the loss of my mom played a very large roll that filtered into everything. You don’t realize how fundamental someone is to your life until they’re no longer there. BUT I like to take the time to reflect on what made 2017 bearable and okay. Here it goes, in no particular order.

  1. Eurotrip 2017! Eurotrip 2017 was amazing–I’m still working on finishing up the blogs, but other writing endeavors got in the way. Returning to France after the aborted trip in 2016 after my mom’s death was a little hard, and solo travel for so long sometime wore on me, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime trip that I will never forget. In France, Croatia, and Italy, I visited sites, monuments, and museums of importance to my dissertation and enjoying every (almost) every second.                                                                                                                                                                         Me in Ancona Italy checking out the Arch of Trajan. DSC03132.JPG
  2. Fitzwilliam Arthur I don’t think it’s terribly surprising that I got another cat this year, especially after the loss of my mom. This (not-so-little now) kitten is such a goof and I can’t imagine life without him. IMG_3603.JPG
  3. Quilting I finished two quilts this year, one for a friend’s new baby (who is literally the cutest!) and one for my brother. I’m so happy to have found my craft, it gives me such satisfaction and enjoyment. My brother’s quilt was particularly special. When my mom died I was working on my sister’s quilt; she had asked me to make sure that I actually made a quilt for my brother too (a craft I had made a few years ago, I never finished my brother’s, largely because my idea far outstripped my abilities at the time.) I promised I would. So this quilt was super double special, it was for my brother, and for my mom.
  4. YMCA I was kind of bummed to need to find work over the summer, but I *really* enjoyed working at the local Y’s summer camp. I got to hang out with some cool counselors, awesome teens, and delightful kiddos all day long. It was nice to be reminded that I’m good at at other things and be given some perspective on what the world is all about. It made for an exhausting summer of crafts, sunburns, splashes, and giggles.
  5. Miss O I started nannying this year for a six-year-old girl and man. One of the best things I ever did. This kid is smart, funny, and just a lot of fun. Hanging out with her is another great dose of perspective. Oh and she loves Harry Potter so we’re basically soulmates. IMG_4101.JPG
  6. Friendsgiving in Nashville I had *such* a good non-traditional Thanksgiving/Friendsgiving with some of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places. I even brought my cats!
  7. Hard work!  It’s been a productive year! I’ve worked hard, and made some progress that I’m proud of, and I’m hoping that it will only get better in 2018.
  8. Self Care (and)
  9. Networks of Support These two kind of go together, and I think it’s why I feel like I’ve made more progress in 2017 than any before. From professional and personal friends and colleagues, and knowing when take a break, I’m a lucky to have access to a variety of support networks that I have availed myself of this year.
  10. Christmas 2017 This holiday season, to me surprisingly, was harder than last year. I think everything was too new last year for me to really process what the holidays are now that my mom has died. It starts with the anniversary of her death, immediately followed by my, my dad’s, and my sister’s birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, then Christmas…then my mom’s birthday is New Year’s Day. The holiday season will forever be bookended by these bittersweet dates now. However, we did Christmas a little differently this year, didn’t try too hard and didn’t push it. Us siblings got small meaningful gifts for one another and “Santa” didn’t bring us presents this year, but that was all okay. I had a great Christmas, in spite of the sads, and it reminded me how thankful and lucky I am for the family I have, both related and chosen.

 

2016 Top Ten, or a lesson in gratitude

This was obviously a hard list to make. 2016 sucked for me like no other year for reasons obvious to most who know me well. I’m not overflowing with optimism about 2017…much of what was hard about 2016 is not going to disappear as the calendar pages flip. However, I am trying to remain positive. Good things did happen in 2016, good things will happen in 2017. I’m going to attempt to focus on the good. What 2016 has done is made me exceedingly grateful for what I do have.

  1.  I know Hamilton wasn’t released in 2016, but this was the year I fell in love with it. I loved Lin Manuel Miranda’s 2008 In the Heights, but only a fraction of my love for Hamilton. I love how it makes American history part of the present, how it takes the history of music, both musicals and hip hop and MORE, and weaves it into an entirely new musical experience. I will never hear “I am the model of a modern major General” à la Pirates of Penzance ever again, George Washington’s rap delivery is now in my head permanently. As a Virginian born and bred, I’ve long recognized how this period shaped the following centuries and how Virginia’s role definitely not always positive, though it was and is frequently celebrated.  This musical takes a complicated time period, doesn’t dumb it down, and makes it accessible to everyone. I LOVE IT SO MUCH. hamilton.png
  2.  While I can’t say that this has been the best year for my family, I am super, super thankful for my family, both immediate and extended.  While things may be weird and different, we’ll figure it out. dsc02666
  3. Good things, I mean really good things, happened to folks I hold dear. Some really great stuff happened: babies, future babies, house purchases, new jobs, new degrees, big moves, and big steps. I am so thankful for these friends of mine, and I’m so proud of what they have done and what they will continue to do.
  4. The high level of shit present in 2016 has made me realize that I have the best, the most bombass friends. The care they have shown me when I’m down, humbles me like a lot. You know who you are, and I can’t thank you enough.
  5. I received a pretty cool fellowship this year, the CoAS Research Year Fellowship. This fellowship has allowed me to not have to teach this year and direct all of my time toward research and my dissertation. In some ways, I’m incredibly fortunate to have been on fellowship when my mom died. It allowed me to take a break without the pressure of teaching to begin to cope with my loss and spend time with my family. Now that I’m not in the first rush of grieving, it’s definitely nice to be able to work at my own pace.
  6. 2016 has seen a boost in my professional confidence, I think. Some of this, I believe, comes from getting a heavy dose of perspective. I love what I do, but there are things that are a million times more important than it. This has had a strangely motivating effect — I’ve gotten more done than I thought possible under the circumstances.
  7. This one is kind of silly, but I read over 55 books. As always, I record every book that I read (or re-read) on goodreads and I met my goal. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that my stress levels are dramatically higher when I’m not reading fiction. A chapter or two, whatever a day, keeps the stress away. I’m so, so lucky that I was always encouraged to read as a child and that I have continual and constant access to books.
  8. I discovered, finally, my craft — I made two quilts, and have started a third. So far these quilts have been entirely made by hand. I love every step of the process and it also provides a ton of stress relief for me, and the pleasure of knowing I made something from scratch. Quilt #1 is for me, #2 for my sister, and #3 for my broseph.
  9. This one is definitely stupid, but I’m grateful for Flonase. I’ve been plagued by seasonal and environmental allergies for EVER. About a month ago I started taking Flonase; I’ve barely had a headache or congestion since. Persistent eye issues also have disappeared. I love it.
  10. I got my mom’s last day— this has been hard for me to think and talk about obviously– it’s literally the definition of bittersweet. For my European research trip, I flew from Indy to BWI, stayed the night with my parents, then left for Paris. I got to spend 24 hours with my mom, that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. She died the morning I arrived in Paris, suddenly. If I hadn’t gone on this trip, the last time I would have seen her would have been Christmas 2015, but I got this incredible gift of seeing her. I know that it was the best visit I’d had with her in a while, a lot of it because I think we were both in better places than we had been in quite some time. She made me my favorite dinner and breakfast, we chatted, and I got to hug her goodbye and the last words I heard spoken by her were beautiful words of love and pride — I totally took for-granted when I stepped out the door to go to the airport that I would be speaking to her the next day to let her know I arrived safely in Paris. I don’t know what I did to be so lucky as to get those 24 hours, but I am so, so thankful for them. And I’m so thankful for my momma.

So here’s to 2016. May its stink fade as 2017 begins.

Planning the Second Time Around*

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been putting off replanning my Eurotrip (previously Eurotrip 2016, now Eurotrip 2.0 or Eurotrip 2017). I think it’s pretty obvious why it has been hard. BUT, I finally did the biggest thing necessary and purchased my tickets for Eurotrip 2017. My plane tickets are booked.

My last two visits to France have both been important milestones.

In 2005, it truly felt like a coming of age. The 19-year old that went to Paris came home a 20-year old that knew herself a little bit better, believed in herself a little bit more, and from that point forward she challenged her preconceived notions about the world a little bit more.

In 2016, obviously, my life changed big almost immediately after setting foot in France. Seeing Paris through shocked, grieving eyes was at best what can be described as surreal. Looking back on it now, barely two months later, I recognize that I felt comfortable there, even in the worst possible emotional circumstance (much of that was also thanks to a very dear friend). For a while recently though, the idea of going back made me nervous. Paris will, for better or worse, now always bear the association of being where I learned of and began to grieve my mom’s death. What would it be like returning to this place that I have always loved, that now holds this connection with the loss of one of the most important people in my life?

Before I left for this trip, my mom was so excited for me. Her last words to me were full of excitement, pride, and hope for my time there, for my adventures, and for what I was going to try to accomplish regarding my work. There is no one who would have wanted me to go back to Paris, and enjoy myself, more than my Momma.

EuroTrip 2017 will unfold much like EuroTrip 2016 was supposed to, save one destination. I will not being going to England. My stop in England was essentially only for fun, and in getting reimbursed for my lost expenses by my department, it didn’t feel right to include those monies and London is not cheap. I’m okay with that though — this will certainly not be my last trip to Europe.

Here are the original destination blog posts I made for EuroTrip 2016.

Paris * Besançon * Venice * Pula * Ravenna * Rimini * Torino * Avignon

 

*I had the Step-by-Step theme song stuck in my head the entire time I was writing this post. If you’re a child of the 90s like me, I hope it is in yours now too 😛 

Thanksgiving Without Mom

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This year, I stayed put for Thanksgiving, and for the first time, my family came to me. I thought, perhaps selfishly, I don’t know, that the first Thanksgiving after my mom’s death would be easier for everyone if we did it a little differently.

I hadn’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2011. In 2012, I moved to Indiana and the drive/trip just seemed like a lot when I’d be home the next month for Christmas. In 2012, I spent Thanksgiving with my BFF Ashley in Nashville, and in 2013, 2014, and 2015, I hosted a Friendsgiving at my place.

This year, dad, brother, and sister packed up the car and drove to me. I had loose plans for a good time…show them around town (this was their first visit since moving me in 2012!), go to the movies, eat food, and perhaps go on a hike. We did all of it:

I drove them around campus (it was cold and rainy so a walk was not desirable) and we made a trip to the Barnes and Noble, so we could purchase books that none of us really needed.

We saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (I highly recommend it– I enjoyed it, even if I want BOOKS and not movies of these new stories). Sister even liked it more than Harry Potter (we may have scarred her by taking her to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when she was a wee lass of six– That basilisk was a little scary)!

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I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, successfully, I might add. The only thing I didn’t do was peel and chop the potatoes, thanks to Brother and Sister respectively. We watched Christmas movies after dinner and had a good day.

Friday, we went for a hike in a local nature preserve. It was quiet and empty and it was nice to get out of town and do some woods-walking.

It was a good visit. There was no fighting or squabbling (though, I think I offended my brother when I told him to stop making Macaulay Culkin crack jokes whilst watching Home Alone). The only misbehavior was from my cat who was decidedly rude to my family while they were here (see Sister’s snapchat below).

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My family left on Saturday. I had been worried about them leaving and me taking it not so well, but I was surprisingly fine. Tired, but fine. It didn’t really hit me until Sunday that this Thanksgiving was  different, and even then, the level of that difference hasn’t registered. Grief is a funny thing, it can hide and not show its face when you expect it to do so. I had cooked and served Thanksgiving in my house before, but this time it was for my family. And the only reason that was the case, is because Mom is gone. The finality of the gone-ness still hasn’t sunk in; I was expecting Thanksgiving to put the goneness into focus, but it didn’t really, not in the way I was expecting.

Whatever the state of my grief-emotions, the first major holiday (excepting my birthday, my dad’s birthday, and my sister’s birthday, all of which occurred right after her death) without Mom has been celebrated. And, I miss her.

From the Archive: The Worst Kind of Unexpected

Many of you, those who know me well or even a bit through Facebook, know that Eurotrip2016 didn’t happen. I made it to Europe, but I quickly returned home.

Long story short, my mom died.

Those are words I never thought I’d say, an idea I’d never thought I’d have to come to terms with at least not at this point in my life, but I find myself saying it out loud at least once a day because it seems so incredible that she could be gone.

I will come back to this blog when I do this trip again (TBD – but it’s looking like March is the goal), but I leave you with one of my favorite pictures I took during my three day weekend in Paris. My dear, dear darling friend Lindsey and her beau, Arnaud, took care of me so well. We went to the Jardin des Plantes where I fell in love with this one particular plant (if anyone can tell me what it is, I’d be grateful – it’s the periwinkle blue guy) and took a million pictures of it. This visit to a garden full of beautiful flowers was one that my mother would have greatly enjoyed and I felt oddly at peace. It was a good thing to do and I’m glad Lindsey and Arnaud took me. ❤

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