I Came, I Saw, I Ate Gelato Every Day

They say it’s not how you start, but how you finish. Since I started by leaving EVERY form of payment in my apartment (fortunately, realized that before getting on the bus. Thank you, Jesus!) and finished by vomiting twice this morning (went too long without food/caffeine, oops), I’m going to define this trip by the middle. ūüôā

If Rome was a person, we probably wouldn’t get along. It’s because it’s neither my opposite nor like me, but some weird, confusing mash-up in the middle. The airport and roads of this ancient city are ill-marked, or inconsistently marked, or not marked at all. It seems to expect of you innate knowledge of the place. The lifestyle/people, too, seem unrushed but also impatient, which is just downright exasperating.

Rant (almost) over. I booked my trip in March and got a heck of a deal. The hotel ended up being the main reason why I could swing it – it should’ve been called Hotel Hellhole. I don’t consider myself a princess, but shampoo, a washcloth, a bath towel, and working toilet in a hotel I was paying for were expected. But since I don’t travel for the hotels anyway, I decided to make the best of it, assuring myself I’d feel better about it all after some food and sleep.

Mornings. For 2 euro, I’d get an Americano (black) and a delicious pastry filled with either cream, chocolate, or both. Real Italians shoot their coffee at the bar (they’re tiny cups bc the coffee is strong and delicious…all you need) & are on their way. Since it was my one time to hook up to wifi, I lingered over my coffee like a true American. I already miss that coffee – it was as good as you’d expect.

I headed off in the brilliant Roman sun for my 1st day, which consisted of a walking tour, booked so I’d be sure to see the things I cared about most (the Colosseum, Michelangelo’s Pieta and Sistine Chapel). I left extra time to get lost, which I promptly did. After a few re-routes – keep in mind I had zero cell service, so I navigated everything off of directions I printed before my trip – I turned a corner and caught my first glimpse of the Colosseum, our meeting point. This 2,000-year-old masterpiece is the whole reason I came (Ancient Roman history is my 2nd favorite, right after Egyptian), and as clich√© as it sounds, my breath literally caught in my throat. I choked on the emotion of seeing it in person. Now reflecting on my trip, that one moment made all the hiccups, frustrations, and hours of travel absolutely worth it. It’s¬†magnificent.

Our tour guide, Ivanna, was great & we discovered our group consisted entirely of Americans. One of them – Marcus – is also a PNW’er, so we buddied up for the day. Super fun! I touched the Colosseum and tried to take it all in while listening to our tour guide and not getting separated from the group. We walked along cobblestone streets, taking in architecture ranging from centuries to thousands of years old. Statues lined the Imperial street, including the two dudes who really got me into Roman history, Julius Caesar and his nephew, Augustus. We saw the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona with Bernini’s fountains, ate gelato (whiskey mousse was my favorite, YUM), and wound our way through circuitous, narrow streets. After a lunch break – pizza, prego & grazie – we headed to the Vatican. I was informed the museum contains millions of artifacts and spans 9 miles, so unfortunately I didn’t get to see my favorite statue of all time, the one of Augustus with children about his feet. We DID see Raphael’s¬†The School of Athens piece as well as a breathtaking room of intricate tapestries. My bubble was burst to hear the kind of men Raphael and Michelangelo were – not terribly scrupulous – but it¬†was¬†a good check on reality. These guys were regular dudes with great talents – no different really from the rest of us!

The Sistine Chapel. No photos are allowed in there, but that’s for the best as it forces you to just drink it all in. It’s bigger and taller than I thought, and incredible. I spent the most time in the center of the room, head rocked back all the way on my neck under¬†The Creation of Adam. I couldn’t stop looking at it. While Michelangelo painted the ceiling, the paintings lining the walls were by other notable artists, including one my favorites, Botticelli. I was the last to rejoin my group as I just wanted to stay there.

The tour concluded, Marcus and I zipped over next door to St Peter’s Basilica to see the jaw-dropping Pieta, sculpted by Michelangelo when he was just 23. St Peter’s is amazing in its own right, containing more gold filigree than seems possible in one place. We hopped on the metro back to the center of Rome, and Marcus showed me a Roman grocery. It was fun to see how the Romans really live, like how you weigh and sticker your own produce, they don’t like major bills, and apparently there’s a separate line if you want to use cash. Marcus laughed at me when I got stuck in self-checkout prison, trying to manually bust through the gates, not knowing you’re supposed to scan your receipt to be let out. Yeesh. A funny moment that was a highlight from my trip.

The food. A whole lot of pasta! I got gnocchi Bolognese with prosecco my first night, and it was tasty. And to borrow from Julius Caesar, I came, I saw, I ate gelato every day. Usually as a mid-morning snack. I had spaghetti twice in one day and limoncello, a tasty Italian drink I’m going to look for in the States. Fruit drinks are delicious there, too, and which I recommend since produce is hard to find.

I spent my next day getting hopelessly lost before finding Piazza Navona again – but eating gelato at Rome’s best gelateria in the process, and then went waaaay in the wrong direction looking for Campo d’Fiori, a centuries old street market. Happily, getting lost allowed me to see more of the city, including mind-boggling architecture and Egyptian artifacts from when Rome and Egypt were quite cozy (I’m looking at you, Cleopatra). At last I found it and grabbed a quick lunch from Forno, Rome’s best bakery, munching it perched on the edge of a fountain. Romans call to you from their booths and restaurants, trying to get you to purchase from them. I spent the remainder of the day shopping the stores before hopping the metro – exactly like NY subways and very crowded – back to my hotel.

My final day. I decided to live like a true Roman and take my time. The goal was to hit the Roman Forum, and happily I had to go by the Colosseum again to get there. This time I perched on the high wall and just stared at in the morning sun. I was very content and became more so when a middle-aged Italian man who drums up business for tours stopped to talk with me, even after I told him I’d already done a tour. He stopped by again later to talk some more, really making a great morning even better. Then, the Roman Forum. Wow. Ancient ruins of Roman life, unsurprisingly just as random in the roads as the rest of the city. ūüôā Above the forum is Palantine Hill where the royals and officials lived, like Augustus. To walk in the same places as those people 2,000 years ago was pretty incredible. Next was the obligatory gelato stop (twist my arm) before venturing out for Knights of Malta, which spoiler alert, I never found. But! I saw Circus Maximus along the way, the place where chariot races a la Ben-Hur took place. I finished the day at the Spanish Steps before enjoying a big dinner of more spaghetti.

The people. Friendly up to a point, and then you sense impatience. Loud. And yes, the Italian men are¬†very pretty. Some of the soldiers and/or polizia were ridiculously good-looking. I joked to myself, “This is Marcello, automatic-rifle-carrying soldier by day, Armani model by night.”

I ended the trip very grateful. Grateful for my life, my city, my country, and the means to be able to have incredible adventures like this Rome trip.

 

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Who Are You Wearing?: Interview with Joseph of the Multi-Colored Coat

a-deep-pit

I’m making a beeline (pun unintended) for 2 biblical characters in heaven: Abraham (my opening line? “Dude, you’re CRAZY”) & OT Joseph.

Joe is my guy. He’s the guy of anyone who had a vision and then suddenly found themselves tossed in a pit, wondering why the heck where they are is the exact opposite of where they should be. Max Lucado wrote a book on him and sermons are preached on “pit to palace” journeys. Joe’s story is incredible…but¬†conspicuously lacking one thing: what was he thinking for 13 pit-to-palace years?

I’ve studied Joseph’s story & can’t find anywhere – including where he’s mentioned in the NT – his state of mind. We know in the end he was merciful & gave God the glory, and we know he was a clueless kid in the beginning (really smart telling your brothers¬†who already hate you¬†that one day they’ll bow to you). But in the middle, where it counts, we’re not told a thing. Except. Just one little hint:

“‘Only remember me when things are going well with you again‚ÄĒtell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And since I‚Äôve been here, I‚Äôve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.’‚ÄĚ Genesis 40:14-15 (MSG)

This was when Joe was in prison for doing the¬†right¬†thing & interprets fellow-prisoner-cupbearer’s dream for him (spoiler: cupbearer was getting out of Dodge, which is why Joe wanted a ride). This it, peeps…no other indication of his mental state, if he still believed the vision, etc. No angry outbursts, no throwing himself on the bed in tears like a Disney princess in distress, no soulful songs of deliverance belted out in his cell. Joseph shut up pretty quickly from his early years of careless sharing.*

We’re not even told how he reacts when day after day, as he waited in anticipation, the cupbearer didn’t come back. Did he slowly lose hope as he eventually realized the cupbearer forgot him and no help was coming?¬†

I gave up, assuming Joseph’s mental state didn’t matter to the story, and it’s about¬†doing¬†what’s in front of you where you find yourself. That’s what Joseph did. Check it out:

“As it turned out,¬†God¬†was with Joseph and things went very well with him. He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master. His master recognized that¬†God¬†was with him, saw that¬†God¬†was working for good in everything he did. He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide. He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him. From that moment on,¬†God¬†blessed the home of the Egyptian‚ÄĒall because of Joseph. The blessing of¬†God¬†spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.” Genesis 39:2-6 (MSG)

“But there in jail¬†God¬†was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer. The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners‚ÄĒhe ended up managing the whole operation. The head jailer gave Joseph free rein, never even checked on him, because¬†God¬†was with him; whatever he did¬†God¬†made sure it worked out for the best.” Genesis 39:21-23 (MSG)

Joe succeeded at everything he did, quickly being promoted to the top (trial roles for when he’d become¬†2nd to Pharaoh?) in both situations. But did you notice something? It had nothing to do with Joseph’s ability. Remember, Joe was a spoiled, careless 18-year-old when he was sold into slavery. It was¬†God’s¬†doing –¬†God¬†favored him in everything he undertook. Joe gets no credit here, and by the time he interprets dreams, he’s learned that lesson.

Fast forward to a few days ago, thinking yet again on Joseph’s story & the exasperating lack of info. How am I supposed to know¬†how to be¬†in the middle of¬†my¬†story without your example, Joe? Heavy sigh. I thought again on the one hint (“get me out of here, I don’t deserve to be here”) and what I know he did (ruled where he was purely by the favor of God). I thought about what God’s been saying to me about doing what He has for me to do while I wait for the “palace.” I thought about attitudes regarding where we are and where we will be.

And then it hit me. I know what Joseph’s mind set was during those 13 years.¬†

Joseph kept busy during those years, right? Potiphar only had to worry about eating – Joseph took care of everything. In prison, Joe managed his fellow prisoners. He wasn’t sulking in a corner in despair or planning prison breaks. He did what God favored him to do.

Now, my next thought was, “Ok, so he resigned himself to his fate. He gave up on the vision. He didn’t think God would come through. It was a pipe dream. He settled.” But remember that little hint? Let’s look at it again:

“‘Only remember me when things are going well with you again‚ÄĒtell Pharaoh about me and¬†get me out of this place. I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews. And since I‚Äôve been here,¬†I‚Äôve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.’‚ÄĚ Genesis 40:14-15 (MSG)

Does that sound to you like a man who’s given up?! No! Joe walked in the favor of God where he was at, but he knew his stay was temporary. He didn’t stop hoping or believing that God would make things right. Like Job – “because even if he killed me, I‚Äôd keep on hoping.¬†I‚Äôd defend my innocence to the very end” (Job 13:15, MSG) –¬†he wasn’t going to let his contrary circumstances keep him from maintaining his innocence and believing God would come through.

Now¬†I see the example: do with joy and to the best of my ability what’s put in front of me while I wait for God to fulfill the vision (for myself, for others) no matter how seemingly impossible. And it gets better. Two years go by before the cupbearer remembers Joe. Although it probably didn’t feel that way to Joe, this was the perfect time…if the cupbearer spoke up for him 2 years earlier, he’d have been released & finished out his days in some normal job. Instead, he needed to develop 2 more years for when Pharaoh needed a dream interpreter. What I love? On that day, Joe¬†woke up in prison, but went to sleep in the palace. It took 13 years for him to ready for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14), but when it was time, it happened in a day. Joe is released from prison and catapulted into his vision, all for his good and God’s glory.

And He’s doing the same for us.

 

 

*Note: Isn’t it amazing how the very mistake he made¬†(bragging to his brothers) is what God used to get him¬†the¬†fulfillment of his vision? He needed to grow up into the vision first, going through a period of¬†humility &¬†reliance on¬†God’s provision. What an encouragement to us, that God really does work all things together for our good! (Romans 8:28)

 

Relax, Just Do It

hang-loose

“Relax” he signed to me again, appropriately the same hand signal as “hang loose.” I smiled and nodded, but I knew I was screwed. This is as relaxed as it gets, dude.

The dude was an indoor skydiving instructor. He’d told us in the beginning the key to successful flying is staying relaxed, so I instantly knew I was in trouble. The most relaxed I do is not squeezing my arm tightly enough to leave bruises (it’s happened before). I decided after the excursion that the for real skydiving I did last year was easier, since all I had to do was plummet through the air with another dude strapped to my back. None of this “hang loose” stuff.

Massage therapists have also yelled (read: slight exaggeration) at me for my inability to relax. I think I’m helping by holding my leg up for them…apparently not. So hard to please people these days. ūüėČ

My boxing coach was the first to say “relax as much as you can” to me. She was the first to see the why behind the tightly-coiled muscles…I was self-protecting. She went on to say – as she yanked and pulled on my lats, loosening my pain-emitting left shoulder – that it’s hard to give up control of our limbs, especially¬†if we had insecurities in our past. Just last night, after working some more on my improving but sometimes still screaming shoulder, she said I’m constantly sub-consciously guarding with that shoulder (makes sense. The heart’s on the left) and she doesn’t know how to get me to give it up.

Isn’t it funny how the very things we use to protect ourselves can cause the most pain? That’s because we were never meant to save ourselves, or others. There’s only One who can heal the original wound and free us from our self-medicating. But I digress.

Indoor skydiving. It’s fun. You should do it. If you struggle with relaxing like I do, then do the for-real skydiving. Also fun. You should do it. Moving on.

Sometimes it’d be really great to full-out relax mind, body, and emotions. The wear and tear¬†get to me. Song lyrics often flit through my mind, and one I’ve related to since 1995 is Jars of Clay’s “He” from their self-titled album, same year: “Exhaustion takes over / Will this someday be over?” For 21 years I’ve known exactly what they meant. It’s when life itself, the things you can’t escape, wear you down. It’s not, “I’m tired of this. I think I’ll stop now.” It’s when you’re weary in your bones, body and soul, from something you can’t quit, but must push through or wait to end. A painful past that taints your present. A loved one making harmful decisions. Chronic pain or illness. A seemingly impossible dream. Your own weaknesses and shortcomings that frustrate you. I can relate! And often I want to quit.

I actually say, almost daily, “I give up.” I don’t – I know I don’t – but I say it to vent steam, to alleviate the pressure. The exhaustion. Will this someday be over?

Yes. That’s the beauty of getting older and racking up more experiences. I know it will. It’s a lie that says it will always be this way. And even if it WILL, God is still good and working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). I can repeat negative, feelings-based things (and admittedly, I often do) like, “I’ll never change, they’ll never change, it will never change. I’ll always hurt. It’ll never get better. It’s hopeless). OR I could speak the truth. I can speak back to my feelings, which are fickle and easily swayed:

“So let‚Äôs not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don‚Äôt give up, or quit.” Galations 6:9, MSG

I don’t have to listen to my defeated feelings. I can choose the truth in the Word: “Summing it all up, friends, I‚Äôd say you‚Äôll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious‚ÄĒthe best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” Philippians 4:8, MSG

NOTHING is impossible or beyond His lavish provision: “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37, MSG

“God can do anything, you know‚ÄĒfar more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!” Ephesians 3:20, MSG

Every story containing Jesus tells me His desire is to heal and restore people’s bodies, minds, and souls. No one – myself¬†included – is beyond His ability or desire to heal.

I can even tell my guard-dog shoulder to relax: “And you? Go about your business without fretting or worrying. Relax. When it’s all over, you will be on your feet to receive your reward.” Daniel 12:13, MSG

A flight instructor’s “hang loose”¬† signal can’t get me to relax, but God’s signals through His Word? Yeah, I can exhale that tension now. Yeah, I can find rest and strength in the exhaustion.

And you can, too.

 

 

 

 

 

I Know How Paris Ends (aka Here’s a Recap of My Trip)

Paris¬†has¬†been¬†around¬†for¬†centuries,¬†surviving¬†multiple¬†wars¬†–¬†pretty¬†impressive.¬†Seems¬†nothing¬†can¬†take¬†this¬†city¬†down…¬†Am¬†I¬†setting¬†you¬†up?¬†Yes.¬†Because¬†I¬†know¬†how¬†this¬†city¬†will¬†fall.¬†Lung¬†cancer.¬†Cigarettes,¬†bread,¬†berets.¬†It‚Äôs¬†a¬†package¬†deal.

I¬†was¬†nervous¬†when¬†I¬†left¬†home¬†for¬†the¬†airport.¬†The¬†what-ifs.¬†What¬†if¬†I¬†get¬†sick?¬†What¬†if¬†it¬†doesn‚Äôt¬†live¬†up¬†to¬†my¬†expectations?¬†What¬†if¬†I¬†get¬†lost?¬†Etc,¬†etc.¬†I¬†let¬†God¬†know¬†I¬†was¬†scared.¬†And¬†just¬†moments¬†later,¬†at¬†the¬†bus¬†stop,¬†He¬†sent¬†me¬†a¬†distraction¬†named¬†Trae,¬†who¬†proceeded¬†to¬†hit¬†on¬†me¬†until¬†I¬†got¬†downtown.¬†He¬†was¬†harmless¬†&¬†sweet¬†&¬†calmed¬†me¬†down.¬†He¬†let¬†me¬†know¬†that¬†Paris¬†was¬†filled¬†w/male¬†models,¬†‚Äúsorry¬†about¬†that‚Ä̬†(not¬†sure¬†why¬†he¬†was¬†sorry.¬†He¬†said¬†sorry¬†a¬†lot,¬†though,¬†so¬†perhaps¬†it¬†was¬†a¬†reflex).¬†Fast¬†forward¬†a¬†10¬†hr¬†flight¬†and¬†I‚Äôm¬†standing¬†outside¬†of¬†the¬†Paris¬†airport,¬†waiting¬†for¬†my¬†ride.¬†A¬†truck¬†of¬†French¬†soldiers¬†pull¬†up¬†&¬†one¬†stares¬†at¬†me.¬†Hard.¬†This¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†a¬†normal¬†hard¬†stare¬†that¬†you¬†ignore¬†&¬†shrug¬†off.¬†I¬†felt¬†violated.¬†There¬†was¬†something¬†hostile¬†about¬†it,¬†whether¬†to¬†intimidate¬†or¬†prank,¬†I¬†don‚Äôt¬†know.¬†I¬†ignored¬†him,¬†but¬†was¬†feeling¬†pretty¬†great¬†about¬†the¬†trip¬†remainder.¬†Or¬†not.¬†Gulp.

I¬†spent¬†the¬†afternoon¬†picking¬†up¬†my¬†museum¬†pass,¬†buying¬†souvenirs/candy¬†for¬†friends,¬†sipping¬†the¬†famous¬†Angelina‚Äôs¬†chocolate¬†chaud¬†(hot¬†chocolate¬†in¬†a¬†tiny¬†cup.¬†Which¬†is¬†perfect¬†because¬†you‚Äôre¬†basically¬†drinking¬†a¬†melted¬†chocolate¬†bar.¬†Crazy¬†good.¬†I¬†got¬†it¬†twice),¬†and¬†strolling¬†through¬†Jardin¬†de¬†Tuilleries.¬†I¬†was¬†delighted¬†to¬†find¬†this¬†was¬†literally¬†across¬†the¬†street¬†from¬†my¬†hotel.¬†As¬†was¬†the¬†Louvre¬†(be¬†still,¬†my¬†heart!),¬†Angelina‚Äôs,¬†and¬†the¬†Musee¬†d‚ÄôOrsay.¬†As¬†I¬†walked¬†through¬†this¬†famous¬†garden,¬†I¬†heard¬†a¬†French¬†boy¬†ask¬†his¬†dad¬†if¬†they¬†could¬†eat¬†ice¬†cream.¬†I¬†understood¬†him¬†perfectly.¬†This¬†happened¬†a¬†few¬†times¬†over¬†the¬†week¬†–¬†I¬†could¬†understand¬†some¬†of¬†what¬†was¬†said¬†as¬†long¬†as¬†it¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†directed¬†at¬†me.¬†Otherwise¬†I¬†was¬†lost.¬†I¬†said¬†‚Äúdesole‚Ä̬†(sorry)¬†and¬†‚ÄúJe¬†ne¬†comprends¬†pas‚Ä̬†(I¬†don‚Äôt¬†understand)¬†a¬†lot.

Words¬†can‚Äôt¬†express¬†the¬†manmade¬†beauty¬†of¬†the¬†place.¬†Jaw-dropping,¬†awe-inspiring,¬†makes-you-want-to-weep¬†architecture.¬†I¬†was¬†overwhelmed¬†w/it¬†all.¬†And¬†approaching¬†the¬†Louvre,¬†the¬†whole¬†reason¬†for¬†my¬†visit…wow.¬†I‚Äôd¬†been¬†dreaming¬†of¬†visiting¬†there¬†all¬†my¬†life.

The¬†next¬†morning¬†I¬†was¬†up¬†early¬†(thanks,¬†jet¬†lag)¬†&¬†decided¬†to¬†enjoy¬†petite¬†dejeuner¬†at¬†the¬†hotel.¬†As¬†I¬†was¬†consuming¬†as¬†much¬†coffee¬†as¬†possible¬†–¬†oh,¬†and¬†some¬†croissants¬†–¬†I¬†noticed¬†the¬†music¬†that¬†was¬†playing.¬†Music¬†in¬†English¬†plays¬†a¬†lot¬†in¬†Paris.¬†The¬†songs¬†playing¬†that¬†morning¬†were¬†covers¬†of¬†American¬†songs.¬†First¬†was¬†‚ÄúFat¬†Bottomed¬†Girls‚Ä̬†w/banjos.¬†Alright.¬†But¬†I¬†nearly¬†spit¬†out¬†my¬†coffee¬†when¬†a¬†man¬†w/clear¬†diction¬†said,¬†‚ÄúOh¬†my¬†God,¬†Becky‚Ä̬†&¬†proceeded¬†to¬†sing¬†‚ÄúBaby¬†Got¬†Back‚Ä̬†jazz¬†style¬†(there¬†was¬†even¬†piano,¬†peeps).¬†What¬†just¬†happened?!¬†I¬†got¬†to¬†the¬†Louvre¬†15¬†minutes¬†before¬†open,¬†visualizing¬†on¬†the¬†walk¬†being¬†the¬†1st¬†in¬†line.¬†Buuut¬†there¬†was¬†already¬†a¬†line¬†when¬†I¬†got¬†there.¬†Dang¬†it.¬†I¬†made¬†a¬†beeline¬†for¬†the¬†Mona¬†Lisa¬†(tip:¬†get¬†there¬†early¬†so¬†you¬†can¬†see¬†her¬†w/less¬†people¬†&¬†then¬†move¬†on¬†to¬†the¬†rest)¬†&¬†then¬†explored¬†for¬†another¬†3¬†hours.¬†I¬†controlled¬†my¬†zeal¬†as¬†much¬†as¬†possible,¬†keeping¬†a¬†calm¬†exterior¬†while¬†squealing¬†on¬†the¬†inside.¬†So¬†many¬†amazing¬†works!¬†Sculpture¬†&¬†paintings¬†&¬†rooms¬†w/incredible¬†interiors¬†(never¬†have¬†I¬†seen¬†its¬†equal)!¬†I¬†saw¬†works¬†by¬†all¬†but¬†1¬†Teenage¬†Mutant¬†Ninja¬†Turtle¬†(no¬†Donatello).¬†The¬†Louvre¬†was¬†a¬†fortress¬†–>¬†palace¬†–>¬†museum,¬†so¬†even¬†the¬†building¬†was¬†a¬†work¬†of¬†art.¬†Afterwards¬†I¬†explored¬†downtown,¬†got¬†lost,¬†and¬†relied¬†on¬†the¬†map¬†to¬†get¬†myself¬†back.¬†I¬†like¬†getting¬†lost¬†in¬†strange¬†places,¬†though,¬†because¬†you¬†see¬†more.

The¬†next¬†day¬†I¬†was¬†bright,¬†chipper,¬†&¬†ready¬†for¬†Montparnasse¬†Tower¬†(tallest¬†building¬†in¬†Paris)¬†&¬†Musee¬†d‚ÄôOrsay.¬†I¬†went¬†to¬†Starbucks¬†where¬†the¬†barista¬†&¬†I¬†shared¬†a¬†good¬†chuckle¬†when¬†I¬†tried¬†explaining¬†my¬†name¬†was¬†the¬†same¬†as¬†a¬†bee¬†(abeille).¬†Apparently¬†I¬†butchered¬†the¬†French¬†because¬†he¬†only¬†got¬†it¬†after¬†I¬†pantomimed¬†a¬†buzzing¬†insect.¬†Armed¬†w/a¬†grande¬†Pumpkin¬†Spice¬†Latte¬†avec¬†soya¬†lait,¬†I¬†marched.¬†And¬†marched.¬†And¬†marched¬†until¬†I¬†realized¬†I‚Äôd¬†miss¬†the¬†street¬†about¬†a¬†mile¬†back.¬†Oops.¬†But¬†then¬†I¬†wouldn‚Äôt¬†have¬†found¬†this¬†amazing¬†bowl¬†I¬†purchased¬†underneath¬†Les¬†Arts¬†Decoratifs.¬†#brightside.¬†I¬†walked¬†through¬†a¬†less¬†touristy¬†–¬†and¬†thereby¬†sketchier¬†–¬†part¬†of¬†the¬†city¬†until¬†I¬†reached¬†the¬†tower¬†&¬†got¬†a¬†360¬†view¬†of¬†Paris.¬†Hi,¬†Eiffel¬†Tower!¬†Pretty¬†cool.¬†Heading¬†back¬†to¬†the¬†d‚ÄôOrsay,¬†a¬†friendly¬†man¬†said¬†hello,¬†asked¬†how¬†I¬†was,¬†&¬†then¬†hammered¬†rapid¬†French¬†at¬†me.¬†He¬†ended¬†w/a¬†question,¬†and¬†catching¬†only a¬†word¬†(rest¬†or¬†meal…they‚Äôre¬†only¬†a¬†letter¬†different),¬†I¬†said,¬†‚ÄúDesole?‚Ä̬†He¬†replied,¬†‚ÄúNon…non‚Ä̬†and¬†turned¬†away.¬†Good¬†talk.¬†Two¬†other¬†guys¬†tried¬†to¬†get¬†my¬†attention¬†(I¬†think¬†like¬†the¬†guys¬†passing¬†out¬†their¬†CD‚Äôs¬†in¬†Seattle),¬†but¬†I¬†said¬†‚Äúnon,¬†merci‚Ä̬†(no¬†thank¬†you)¬†&¬†kept¬†moving.¬†They¬†kept¬†moving¬†with¬†me,¬†saying¬†‚ÄúExcusez-moi‚Ä̬†but¬†I¬†kept¬†going.¬†They¬†yelled¬†something¬†after¬†me,¬†but¬†joke‚Äôs¬†on¬†them¬†because¬†I¬†didn‚Äôt¬†understand¬†a¬†word!¬†(Tip¬†#2:¬†use¬†your¬†city¬†smarts¬†to¬†not¬†get¬†ambushed.¬†You‚Äôll¬†be¬†fine).¬†After¬†a¬†baguette¬†poulet¬†(chicken¬†salad¬†sandwich…they‚Äôre¬†big¬†here)¬†I¬†took¬†on¬†d‚ÄôOrsay,¬†the¬†Impressionism¬†museum.¬†A-ma-ZING.¬†Renoir¬†is¬†my¬†all-time¬†favorite¬†artist,¬†and¬†I¬†didn‚Äôt¬†know¬†they¬†had¬†his¬†painting¬†(the¬†picnic¬†one)¬†there¬†–¬†it‚Äôs¬†not¬†my¬†favorite,¬†but¬†it‚Äôs¬†the¬†one¬†that¬†made¬†me¬†love¬†him.¬†I¬†nearly¬†took¬†a¬†knee.¬†Degas,¬†Rodin,¬†Monet,¬†Manet,¬†Van¬†Gogh…all¬†there.¬†One¬†of¬†my¬†favorite¬†parts¬†of¬†the¬†museum,¬†though,¬†was¬†a¬†‚Äúfete‚Ä̬†(party)¬†room.¬†It¬†was¬†a¬†ballroom¬†w/gold¬†molding,¬†mirrors,¬†and¬†chandeliers.¬†The¬†2nd¬†day¬†I¬†visited¬†d‚ÄôOrsay,¬†I¬†went¬†straight¬†there¬†because¬†I¬†loved¬†it¬†so¬†much.¬†I¬†turned¬†around¬†to¬†see¬†a¬†woman¬†about¬†my¬†age¬†come¬†in¬†&¬†the¬†look¬†on¬†her¬†face¬†was¬†exactly¬†how¬†I¬†felt¬†–¬†pure¬†joy¬†&¬†wonder.¬†I¬†imagined¬†standing¬†on¬†the¬†side¬†of¬†the¬†room¬†waiting¬†to¬†dance.

The¬†next¬†day¬†I¬†headed¬†to¬†Starbucks¬†again,¬†hoping¬†my¬†barista¬†friend¬†was¬†there.¬†I‚Äôd¬†say,¬†‚ÄúRemember¬†me?‚Ä̬†&¬†we‚Äôd¬†share¬†a¬†laugh¬†over¬†my¬†name.¬†Instead,¬†it¬†was¬†a¬†very¬†nice¬†girl¬†who¬†spelled¬†my¬†name¬†‚ÄúBise.‚Ä̬†Alright¬†then.¬†Off¬†to¬†Notre¬†Dame!¬†It‚Äôs¬†just¬†as¬†majestic¬†as¬†Disney‚Äôs¬†Hunchback¬†of¬†Notre¬†Dame¬†illustrates.¬†I¬†loved¬†it,¬†it¬†was¬†stunning.¬†I¬†waited¬†in¬†line¬†to¬†then¬†climb¬†the¬†bell¬†tower.¬†I¬†was¬†terrified¬†climbing¬†those¬†interior¬†stairs.¬†No¬†problem¬†jumping¬†out¬†of¬†a¬†plane,¬†but¬†nearly¬†paralyzed¬†by¬†stairs.¬†ūüôā¬†In¬†my¬†defense,¬†I¬†messed¬†up¬†my¬†tailbone¬†twice¬†on¬†stairs,¬†so¬†we¬†have¬†bad¬†blood¬†between¬†us.¬†The¬†view¬†from¬†the¬†top¬†was¬†spectacular.¬†I¬†especially¬†loved¬†the¬†gargoyles,¬†both¬†on¬†top¬†&¬†from¬†street¬†view.¬†I¬†imagined¬†what¬†life¬†was¬†like¬†for¬†the¬†clergy.¬†That¬†was¬†what¬†I¬†loved¬†most¬†about¬†Paris¬†–¬†the¬†dreaming,¬†putting¬†myself¬†in¬†their¬†shoes.¬†Then¬†it¬†was¬†the¬†Musee¬†de¬†L‚ÄôOrangeries,¬†which¬†was¬†more¬†Impressionism,¬†including¬†a¬†whole¬†wall¬†of¬†Renoir!¬†I¬†then¬†rested¬†in¬†Tuilleries¬†w/gelato¬†from¬†Amorino¬†(a¬†chain¬†sweet¬†shop).¬†A¬†nice¬†man¬†walking¬†by¬†wished¬†me¬†happy¬†digestion¬†&¬†we¬†chatted¬†a¬†bit¬†in¬†English¬†when¬†he¬†realized¬†immediately¬†I¬†wasn‚Äôt¬†French.¬†It¬†was¬†a¬†nice¬†break¬†in¬†the¬†people-watching,¬†of¬†which¬†there‚Äôs¬†plenty.

On¬†my¬†last¬†full¬†day¬†I¬†visited¬†the¬†Louvre¬†&¬†Musee¬†d‚ÄôOrsay¬†again.¬†I¬†did¬†a¬†drive-by¬†of¬†my¬†favorites¬†but¬†explored¬†new¬†areas¬†mostly,¬†including¬†Ancient¬†Egypt,¬†my favorite¬†from¬†history.¬†I¬†saw¬†a¬†real¬†mummy,¬†people!¬†It¬†was¬†a¬†little¬†creepy¬†taking¬†pictures¬†of¬†a¬†body,¬†but¬†also¬†cool¬†(note¬†to¬†self:¬†name¬†future¬†band¬†‚ÄúCreepy¬†But¬†Cool‚ÄĚ).

It’s hard to sum up my trip at this point. I think I’ll continue processing it over the coming days. I’m incredibly blessed to have been there, to make a dream reality. So for now I leave you with my wisdom should you travel to Paris one day. #yourewelcome

What to Know (aka I Like Making Lists):

—¬†The¬†streets¬†are¬†narrow,¬†so¬†Parisians¬†adapt¬†via¬†tiny¬†cars¬†(which¬†have¬†suspicious¬†marks¬†on¬†the¬†backs…parking¬†=¬†bumper¬†cars)¬†or¬†old¬†fashion¬†bikes¬†or¬†Vespas¬†w/blatant¬†disregard¬†for¬†vehicles¬†&¬†pedestrians¬†alike

—¬†Speaking¬†of¬†vehicles¬†&¬†pedestrians…cars¬†are¬†crazy¬†&¬†pedestrians¬†must¬†walk¬†w/reckless¬†abandon/preparedness¬†to¬†jump¬†back¬†for¬†your¬†life.¬†I¬†like¬†to¬†think¬†I¬†blended¬†in¬†w/my¬†nonchalant¬†street-crossing

—¬†Style:¬†leather,¬†black,¬†boots.¬†Women¬†have¬†long,¬†limp¬†hair¬†(very¬†pretty,¬†clearly¬†not¬†obsessed¬†w/volume¬†like¬†Americans),¬†no¬†make-up¬†or¬†a¬†red¬†lip.¬†Men¬†are¬†shorter¬†and/or¬†slight¬†w/super¬†cool¬†hair/facial¬†hair¬†combos.¬†They¬†sling¬†their¬†jackets¬†over¬†one¬†shoulder¬†or¬†tie¬†sweaters¬†around¬†their¬†necks.

—¬†Do¬†your¬†homework¬†before¬†you¬†go.¬†I¬†was¬†grateful¬†for¬†articles¬†that¬†let¬†me¬†know¬†to¬†always¬†say¬†hello/goodbye¬†in¬†shops,¬†not¬†to¬†expect¬†ice,¬†&¬†to¬†use¬†French.

—¬†Waiters¬†are¬†snooty¬†no¬†matter¬†how¬†nice¬†you¬†are¬†or¬†how¬†much¬†French¬†you¬†use.¬†They¬†will¬†get¬†annoyed¬†w/you¬†if¬†you¬†don‚Äôt¬†understand¬†their¬†attempt¬†at¬†English.¬†Is¬†this¬†a¬†generalization?¬†Probably.¬†But¬†this¬†is¬†my¬†list,¬†so¬†deal¬†with¬†it.¬†ūüôā¬†Everyone¬†else¬†was¬†nice.¬†I¬†think¬†making¬†an¬†effort¬†goes¬†a¬†long¬†way¬†(read:¬†don‚Äôt¬†be¬†the¬†obnoxious¬†American¬†demanding¬†your¬†own¬†way.¬†When¬†in¬†Rome…). Smile¬†&¬†say¬†‚Äúbonjour‚Ä̬†&¬†‚Äúmerci‚Ä̬†a¬†lot.¬†Worked¬†for¬†me.¬†One¬†security¬†guard¬†was¬†gruff¬†w/the¬†people¬†in¬†front¬†of¬†me¬†but¬†smiley¬†&¬†jokey¬†w/me.

—¬†‚ÄúTake¬†away‚Ä̬†=¬†‚Äúto¬†go.‚ÄĚ

—¬†Elevators¬†are¬†called¬†ascenseurs.¬†Not¬†important;¬†I¬†just¬†think¬†it‚Äôs¬†funny.¬†Makes¬†me¬†think¬†of¬†Jesus¬†ascending¬†into¬†heaven…in¬†an¬†elevator.

—¬†Bring¬†extra¬†euro/euro¬†cents¬†for¬†tipping.¬†I¬†thought¬†like¬†in¬†the¬†US¬†paying¬†w/credit¬†card¬†would¬†allow¬†you¬†to¬†add¬†the¬†tip.¬†I¬†thought¬†wrong.¬†Embarrassing!

—¬†Bathrooms¬†(toilettes)¬†smell¬†like¬†they‚Äôre¬†not¬†clean.¬†I¬†witnessed¬†public¬†bathroom¬†cleanings¬†TWICE¬†–¬†so¬†it¬†happens¬†–¬†but¬†someone¬†forgot¬†to¬†tell¬†the¬†odor.¬†Some¬†streets¬†don‚Äôt¬†smell¬†that¬†nice¬†either.¬†But¬†hey,¬†it¬†makes¬†you¬†imagine¬†living¬†in¬†the¬†Medieval¬†Ages¬†while¬†you‚Äôre¬†looking¬†at¬†centuries¬†old¬†architecture.

—¬†Quasimodo¬†does¬†NOT¬†live¬†in¬†Notre¬†Dame‚Äôs¬†bell¬†tower.¬†I¬†know,¬†I¬†was¬†disappointed,¬†too.¬†Thanks¬†for¬†nothing,¬†Hugo. ūüėČ

—¬†Bring¬†walking¬†shoes.¬†Paris¬†is¬†only¬†6¬†miles¬†across¬†&¬†thereby¬†super¬†walkable.¬†I¬†looked¬†up¬†directions¬†to¬†everywhere¬†I¬†wanted¬†to¬†go¬†beforehand¬†(since¬†I¬†don‚Äôt¬†have¬†international¬†cell¬†service)¬†so¬†it¬†was¬†super¬†easy.

—¬†Crossbody¬†bags¬†are¬†your¬†friend.¬†Backpacks¬†tell¬†pick¬†pockets¬†you¬†don‚Äôt¬†care¬†to¬†hold¬†onto¬†your¬†valuables

—¬†If¬†you‚Äôre¬†going¬†to¬†Paris¬†for¬†museums,¬†get¬†a¬†pass¬†in¬†advance.¬†I¬†did¬†through¬†Travelocity¬†&¬†picked¬†up¬†the¬†voucher¬†in¬†Paris.¬†That¬†beauty¬†let¬†me¬†breeze¬†by¬†others¬†standing¬†in¬†line¬†for¬†hours¬†–¬†au¬†revoir,¬†suckers!¬†J/k,¬†sorry¬†for¬†your¬†wait…¬†–¬†and¬†get¬†right¬†to¬†the¬†art.¬†My¬†pass¬†was¬†good¬†at¬†50¬†museums¬†for¬†4¬†consecutive¬†days.¬†#jackpot

—¬†Police/soldiers¬†carry¬†some¬†serious¬†weaponry¬†here.¬†At¬†one¬†point¬†I¬†thought,¬†‚ÄúIs¬†that¬†an¬†AK-47?‚Ä̬†No¬†wise-cracking¬†John¬†McClanes¬†here.

—¬†They¬†have¬†really¬†good¬†Italian¬†food.¬†I¬†had¬†delicious¬†lasagna¬†&¬†spaghetti¬†carbonara.¬†Baguette¬†sandwiches¬†are¬†good¬†when¬†you‚Äôre¬†in¬†a¬†hurry¬†&¬†they¬†rely¬†heavily¬†on¬†bread¬†for¬†breakfast.¬†And¬†snacks.¬†I¬†saw¬†a¬†small¬†girl¬†on¬†the¬†back¬†of¬†a¬†moped¬†gnawing¬†a¬†baguette.

Maybe Not Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow

I‚Äôve had several revelations over the past month. Not grandiose revelations, but rather simple, ‚Äúduh‚ÄĚ ones. Mercifully, they haven‚Äôt been accompanied by condemnation, but rather gratitude. I‚Äôm so thankful for simple yet profound revelations that make life 10 times for enjoyable.

One such revelation: I’ve avoided the money trap my whole life. Meaning, I know that being rich wouldn’t make me happy. Sure, having enough to pay your bills, save, and enjoy life is crucial to well-being, but I knew that money couldn’t make me happy in and of itself.

All this time I‚Äôve been patting myself on the back for so cleverly avoiding the money trap, totally oblivious that I was ensnared in another ‚Äď the ‚Äúif/then‚ÄĚ trap. Sure, money couldn‚Äôt bring me bliss, but if___, then___, and then I would be happy.¬† When I pay off my car, when I learn the drums, when I teach a university class‚Ķguess what? All of those have come true ‚Äď I‚Äôm literally living my dreams ‚Äď but they don‚Äôt make me happy. This then leads to guilt, confusion, and a scramble to find something else that will make me happy.

It‚Äôs a total trap. Happiness is no more dependent on circumstances or accomplishments than it is on money. But I wasn‚Äôt just chasing after an elusive future happiness ‚Äď if I achieve ___, then I will be happy. I was also making myself miserable by applying if/then to my past. ‚ÄúIf only I had said that instead, then I would have gotten the outcome I wanted.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúIf only I hadn‚Äôt done that, then this would have happened, and everything would be great.‚ÄĚ

What I was thinking last night as I drifted off to sleep was inspired by Semisonic‚Äôs ‚ÄúClosing Time‚ÄĚ: ‚ÄúEvery new beginning comes from some other beginning‚Äôs end.‚ÄĚ ¬†We talk about ‚Äúsomeday‚ÄĚ a lot ‚Äď someday I‚Äôll get there, someday I‚Äôll be the person I want to be, someday I‚Äôll be happy. How differently would we live if we remembered that today is yesterday‚Äôs ‚Äúsomeday‚ÄĚ?¬†

Spending the present if/then’ing my past and my future isn’t getting me anywhere. Instead I’m stuck beating myself up over past perceived failures (or what I could’ve done better) or longing for a day when I’ll be happy.

But I realized, as simplistic as it is, that no matter, I can be happy today. I can be happy because I‚Äôm completely and utterly loved, accepted, approved, and romanced by my Creator. I can be happy that in Him I have all I need, and anything else ‚Äď work, dreams, accomplishments, relationships ‚Äď just add to my happiness. They‚Äôre not the sole contributors. I can wake up in the morning thinking of my to-do list or bemoaning the monotony, or I can wake up excited for the adventures and love notes God has for me that day. I‚Äôm not so na√Įve that I think this won‚Äôt require work at switching my thinking. I‚Äôve been in the habit of thinking one way for a long time, and it‚Äôs going to take practice forming a new habit. But I‚Äôm pleased with the results so far, which will only motivate me to keep going!

Paradise Lost, Paradise Found

I’m currently reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise,” in which the following poem by Robert Browning is quoted:¬†¬†

“Each life unfulfilled, you see,
  It hangs still, patchy and scrappy;
We have not sighed deep, laughed free,
¬†¬†Starved, feasted, despaired‚ÄĒbeen happy.”¬†¬†¬†

It struck a chord with me. I think we (or at least myself) often believe that having a fulfilled life means having everything just the way we want it with an overabundance of “good” things. Browning, however, leaves room for hunger, sadness, loss. A truly satisfying life is one in which we have experienced a variety of circumstances and emotions.

 

Up until a few months ago, I might have balked at this sentiment. Surely it would be better to stay in a safe zone, a boxed in area of the known, the familiar, the already experienced. Outside of the box is the enormous potential for heartbreak and failure, and for what? The chance at something better than what is already in the box? But earlier this year I dangled a toe outside of the box, scared to death but no longer content with my self-imposed boundaries. I inched slowly out at first, got hurt, but forced myself to inch out further still. I got quite a ways before being wounded again. After a brief respite, though, I was back in the unknown territory, blindly setting one foot in front of the other.

 

I learned (and, in all honesty, am still learning) something valuable. The pain, though at times intense, gave me a power that I hadn’t experienced before. I felt, as Browning alluded to, alive, like I had survived a battle to fight again. The temptation to crawl back into my box was strong, but the empowerment¬†of trying, of pushing forward despite it all spurred me deeper into the unknown.

 

I still don’t know if I will achieve the goal for which I set out in the unfamiliar, but regardless, I know that in the process I will achieve the ultimate goal,¬†a more¬†“fulfilled life.”