City of Hearts

I’ve just returned from Paris, and I will never be the same.

That is the long and short of it.  If you stopped reading right here, you’d understand the general sentiment of this blog post.  I spent a week in a city I hadn’t seen in 27 long years, and in that week I found my heart and promptly lost it again.

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Arriving at the CDG Airport

The last time I was in Paris, I was 11 years old. It was my second trip to Europe, thanks to my generous grandparents, who splurged so the whole family could go on vacation together.  I don’t remember much about the trip, beyond the sandwiches on the trains and how much I enjoyed Orangina.

Experiencing this beautiful city at the age of 38 was like seeing it for the very first time.  It was cold and overcast much of the time, which I think added a bit of mystique to an already fascinating place.  I didn’t have a plan for sight-seeing, just a list of “must do’s” and a little bit of money in my pocket.  (Truth be told, I relied heavily on my credit cards for certain things, like Uber and Lyft when I didn’t want to take the Metro.)

I found Paris, as a friend predicted I would, much changed.  There were no painters perched along the bridges on the Seine, and I don’t know if that’s because they don’t go out in the Winter months, or because they don’t go out at all any more.  All of the gift shops in the heavy traffic areas carry the same merchandise.  There is a heavy Muslim presence there, which I found surprising, and I worry that the French way of life is being diluted.

Still, the good far outweighed the bad.  While I had heard that there were dangerous areas and “no-go zones” as well as Yellow Vest (Gillets Jaunes) protests going on, I didn’t see any of it.  I, along with my husband, brother, and sister-in-law, traipsed around at leisure and fortunately saw everything I wanted to in the week I was there.

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Notre Dame Cathedral – Stunning!

Paris as a city has a pulse. There are a LOT of people there, and it’s a lot like New York in that it’s always moving, always breathing.  People walk everywhere here, and they walk quickly.  I had to really hoof it to keep up.  It’s no wonder they’re all thin, even with all the bread consumption. They ride bikes and take the metro, and they all seemed like they had somewhere important to be.

The people are also – in my opinion – very beautiful. (And not rude at all!  So friendly.)  The women wear minimal makeup and they look put together.  The men were dressed in long coats and scarfs, and were so handsome.  I am convinced I saw an actual supermodel once or twice on the street. Gorgeous gods and goddesses floating down the sidewalk faster than I could power walk.

What else? The food! Oh, the food! Incroyable! Magnifique! We ate at a different place for every meal, which was super fun and felt like real soul expansion.  I tried dishes that I hadn’t heard of and had chocolate mousse for lunch at least twice. I used my very best French to converse with Parisians, and they indulged me as I giggled out the words.

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A la marche – At the market

I so enjoyed the adventure of it all.  Figuring out the metro and getting lost in neighborhoods, only to find the cutest little cafes and bakeries (patisseries), and share laughs with the locals.  I hesitate to share too much here for fear of giving away the magic.

Paris is a city that has had my heart for a long time, and it recaptured my heart and spirit this week.  How is it possible that such a short trip could be so transformative? I think I know –  Total immersion in another culture, if you’re open to it, is instantly life-changing.  Simply seeing a world outside of the one you know. Realizing the world is so big and you are just a small part of it, and that people are at once so amazingly different and so very similar, leads to some shifting in the soul.  I am changed.  I will never be who I was before I left, and I’m so grateful for that.  I am already planning a return trip, as well as trips to other countries.

Until then, I have these most amazing photos and memories to hold close to my heart.

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Can you feel the joy? Radiating happiness.

 

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Don’t Be Beige

Don’t be beige.

I scribbled the words excitedly in my journal like a 15 year old writing about her new crush.  So profound.  Or was it?  I can never tell with these thoughts that occur to me in the shower, or while driving around town, or while I’m half-watching Law & Order: SVU and half-making an imaginary grocery list.  (Does anyone else do that? I’d imagine it’s a normal part of life as a mom/household manager/toddler wrangler.)

Anyway… beige.  The walls in our apartment are beige. I don’t mind it.  It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s fine.  Beige is a neutral – one of the blending colors.  It’s a color that allows all the other decor to be seen. Beige is a good background because it isn’t memorable or noticeable. It does not stand out.

Don’t be beige is my new motto.  So what exactly do I mean when I say, “don’t be beige”?

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I mean show yourself.  Reveal who you are.  Don’t be afraid to live your life at full volume because you think someone else won’t like your song. In order to live a fulfilled life, you need to in full glory and magnificence, without any care for what anyone else thinks.

I think that people are comfortable being beige. Beige isn’t scary. I get that.  They feel beige is safe. It’s polite. It doesn’t offend. I tried to be beige, I tried to please people, tried to blend, tried to step back so others could have the attention.  While blending in and being beige may make others comfortable, ultimately living life this way ends in disappointment and regret.

Two major things I noticed while I was consciously camouflaging myself:

  • There is no benefit to me. – I gained nothing from stepping back, dimming my own light or quieting my passion.  Literally nothing good comes from silencing my voice so that someone else can speak.  I get no life experience, meet no new people, and receive no praise because no one sees me.  And ironically trying to please others didn’t make them like me more ore less.
  • There is no benefit to others. – The people who shine do that because of who they are. Colorful, magnetic, fun, talented. My beige-ness didn’t accentuate them. It only hid me. Worse, being beige causes me to miss out on contributing to the world in a way that only I can.

When I realized I wasn’t being my authentic self, I made a choice to be more colorful. I spoke up when I felt passionate.  I accepted invitations to parties.  I wore the sexy dress without worrying what someone else might think. Creatively, I have so much to give, and expressing that through writing, podcasting, and other venues allows me to contribute something tangible to the world.  My kids see me being silly and it shows them that they can be silly too.  I follow my own rules and beat my own drum and in the same way, peers and friends hear me telling my story and they are emboldened to tell their own.  It’s a beautiful domino effect.

These days, I have renovated my soul. There is no beige. I am memorable. I stand out. I am not a neutral, because I have a voice and I’m not afraid to be seen, and my home – and my whole world – is so much more colorful.

Abstract (April 2018)

People are fascinating.

In general, human beings are amazing and wonderful, curious and passionate and emotional and heroic and dramatic and kind and rude and creative and strange.  I love them. I love the things that make them all so weird and unique.  I love learning about people, too.  About their background, their heartbreak, their achievements, their family issues, all of it.  This is part of why I like to travel.  There’s nothing like visiting a new place and observing the people who exist there, speaking with them and learning about who they are and the things that have happened in their lives, the beliefs and experiences that have shaped their lives and perceptions.

I have this theory that every time I meet someone new, they give me a piece of them, and in exchange I give them a piece of me.  If you subscribe to the idea that we are all energy, or vibration, (and I do), then you have to believe that you leave a piece of yourself everywhere you go and with every person you touch.  Every person I met in New Orleans, especially those I had interactions with, is a part of me now, and I am a part of them.

Isn’t that romantic?  I am absolutely taken with this idea.

Think about it.  Think about the people who you have met in your life who have signed their names on your soul.  The woman who took care of you when your parents were away. The guy who taught you how to cook a new dish.  The rock star who introduced you to Jeff Buckley totally by accident on a rainy day.  That enchanting girl who had the raddest hair cut EVER, who inspired your own brave makeover.  The author who changed the way you thought about something, forever.  ALL of these people (and so many more) are inside you.  If you believe that, anyway. (And I do.)

I had an English teacher in 8th grade who wrote down every phrase sung by Billy Joel in the song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.  (If you know the song, you know there are a lot of them.) He put them into groups by decade, each decade on a different color index card, and had us learn about these events in groups.  I don’t remember everything about this assignment, or how I did on it, but I remember his creativity and passion.  I admired it.  I took a bit of it with me.

There was a man I called Uncle as a child, who I believe was Italian and I believe was actually married to my Great Aunt for a time, but I can’t be sure about either of those things.  He had a big nose and a warm smile, and I don’t know if he was from New York or Chicago, but I do know he could cook like nobody’s business.  I remember that I loved going to his house because he fed us extraordinary food (especially compared to normal kids’ fare like mac and cheese) – eggplant Parmesan and tortellini and red sauce that was his own recipe.  I admired his open heart and generosity, and though he died when I was very young, I still carry a part of him with me.

Another person worked at the front desk of a small hotel in England.  She was witty and fun, and didn’t talk to me and my brother like we were children, but rather like we were cohorts.  We tried to be pen-pals for a while but I’m sure I got distracted and unfortunately, I lost her.  Part of her, though, I still have, and I remember her fondly whenever I think of my first trip overseas. It was also in that hotel that I saw BBC News and Absolutely Fabulous for the first time, which is just a random thing I remember enjoying as an 8 year old in a foreign country.

I could go on for ages about the people I’ve met who have taken up residence in my heart and forever impacted me for the better. I wonder all the time if anyone else does this, or feels this?

 

Hitchhikers

There was a meteor shower last night.

Did you see it?  Did you notice them?  Were you, like my family, standing outside, looking up, ignoring the icy cold in order *hopefully* catch a glimpse of something magical?

We stood in the parking lot, the four of us, looking up.  We laughed and talked and danced.  Yes, we danced to stay warm.  We counted twinkles, identified constellations, and hugged each other while giggling about the possibility that if we kept our gaze up long enough, our necks might get stuck this way.

We connected and played and enjoyed each other, imagining dragons as we exhaled smoky white clouds of breath.  We talked about distant planets and galaxies and the undiscovered life that might be staring up at us at the same time.  There were jokes about aliens, stories of great Roman warriors who now live among the stars, and scientific questions about just what those stars are made of and why they appear to twinkle.

I saw one!  I was looking in the right  place at the right time, and I saw a star go from here to there, ever so quickly and quietly.  Before I could point it out to anyone, it was gone.  I mumbled a belated wish to the heavens, but the truth is that in that moment, with my tribe, I was already living my best life. What else could I ask for?

The Gemenid meteor shower came and went, and we lugged our chilly bodies up the stairs to our front door and into the warm, welcoming space we currently call home. Each of us tiptoed like baby birds to our respective nests, and without any more mention of stars, prepared for bedtime.

As I lie in bed waiting for sleep to come, I realized the depth and importance of what felt in the moment like goofiness…

Moments like this are what make childhoods worth reminiscing on.  Moments like this become memories that will amuse us, comfort us, remind us for the rest of our lives of the happy, silly time we had “that night”, looking up at the sky, cracking up at what the neighbors must be thinking about us, musing that we might be waiting for our mother-ship to come and whisk us away to the next universe. (Did we bring towels?)

Yes, the stars showed up and twinkled brightly for us, but it was we who brought magic to the night.

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Happy Day!

I’m vegan, and part Native American so tomorrow is a different day for me.  I’ll still be gathering with my lovely family and eating LOTS of things, as well as concentrating on being thankful and in the moment.

No animal products, and a prayer for those who lost their lives in the “civilization” of our nation.

Here are some links on gratitude, veganism, how you can support the remaining tribesmen and women, and blessing loved ones with love and light, if you’re into that sort of thing.  If you’re reading this, I love you and I hope your day, however you choose to spend it, is full of joy, fellowship, and delicious food.

Ball of Light Blessing (Audio Only)

30 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Native American Rights Fund (NARF)

Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary

One last thought: In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, please remember two important days that come AFTER Black Friday.  The 25th is Small Business Saturday, a day to support small businesses, shop local and purchase thoughtful, sustainable gifts for loved ones.  The 28th is Giving Tuesday, a day designated for supporting whatever causes you believe in, so please choose a charity near and dear to your heart and rain down love and affection (and generosity!) on them.  It will come back to you tenfold.

You are light

You are love

You are MAGIC.

 

Thankful and Hungry,

Jenee