Saturday, September 20, 2014

Living life in Ecstatic Motion

I can’t believe that a year ago today I was getting settled in France. There were days when I thought that I would never make it back, and there were days when I couldn’t believe that the time was going so fast. Where did the year go? I see the shadows of its passing: a fellowship to study for my masters, my parents moving to the sunshine state, my older sister getting married and pregnant, my baby brother  turning into an adult, Elisha finding a full time job…but even with all these residues of a lovely year that’s passed I can’t believe that it has. As I reflect on the transition from early to mid-twenties I decided that I would share a few quotes and ideas that I gathered in the last year. They’ve helped me to blossom and my hope in sharing is that maybe one or two of them will inspire you too. Some I’ve shared before in other blog posts or on Facebook, others I may have shared with you personally. Of course I started out with way more than 24, but in the hopes of being symbolic I narrowed it down. Et, voila:

1. “There are years that ask questions and years that answer” (Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God). (Don’t know a page number because I read the book online).

2. “But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason./ In those days, though, the spring always came finally; but it was frightening that it had nearly failed” (Hemingway 39, A Moveable Feast).

3. Olaf is right. “Some people are worth melting for” (Frozen).

4. “But it’s such as pity, a boy so pretty, with an ugly heart.” This goes for many girls too.

5. “By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better” (Hemingway 52, A Moveable Feast).

6. “Relinquishing responsibility and blaming others for what you do is very fashionable, but it was, is and always will be extremely unexistentialist, that is, extremely inauthentic” (Cox 6, How to be an Existentialist).

7. “You can’t claim to be a Christian who believes to be saved by the grace of God and not also experience a great change of heart. If it doesn’t change you and your perspective of the world around you, then you don’t really believe it” (Sermon, Grace Bible Church).

8. “But if they had learned anything together, it was that wisdom comes to us when it can no longer do any good” (Márquez 26, Love in the Time of Cholera).

9. Gratitude changes everything.

10. “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go” (Dr. Seuss, Oh! The Places You’ll Go).

11. “Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90…time is a concept that humans created” (Yoko Ono).

12. “The trouble is: you think you have time” (Buddha).

13. “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela).

14. “Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.” (Rumi)

15. "I used to pray that God would feed the hungry, or do this or that, but now I pray that he will guide me to do whatever I'm supposed to do, what I can do. I used to pray for answers, but now I'm praying for strength. I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things” (Mother Teresa).

16. “I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure if I’d feel like it” (J.D. Salinger).

17. “You know that place between sleep and awake, the place you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I will always love you, that’s where I will be waiting” (Peter Pan).

18. And the unicorn thought to himself, “I don’t believe in humans.”

19. “You don’t have to be Anti-man to be Pro-woman” (Jane Galvin Lewis).

20. Having a rough day? Place your hand over your heart. Feel that? It’s called purpose. You’re alive for a reason.

21. “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly” (Morticia Addams).

22. Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.

23. “When you repeat a mistake, it is not a mistake anymore. It is a decision” (Paulo Coelho).

24. “We do not see things as they are. We see them as we are.” (Anais Nin).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sometimes Lingui-stinks, and sometimes it doesn't

My relationship with running has changed throughout my lifetime. When I was little it was a way to release an excessive amount of pent up energy. In middle school it was a catalyst for change. In high school it was a way to run out a whole lot of teenage angst. Starting in college and now leaking into my adult life running is my favorite way to shut the world out for 30 or 40 minutes and just think, while also a caffeine free way of building up endorphins and keeping me (sort of) in shape.

Just as every runner has met that hill that almost killed their love for running, I’ve finally met French’s killer hill: Linguistics, or, as I’ve aptly re-named it: Lingui-stinks. While my Spanish speaking friends are sitting comfortably with their 5 vowel sounds, I’m having to learn all 16 French ones. Who knew that –ai and –ais were pronounced differently? I surely didn’t. And it wasn’t until I was in France last fall that I learned poule and pull are not pronounced the same…and the difference in what they mean (chicken and sweater, respectively) is an embarrassing error to make. So it seems linguistics is a necessary evil: I needed it to learn proper pronunciation, but it’s so hard. I don’t think I’ve been in a class that was so mentally taxing since high school pre-cal. Yes, some of my lit classes in undergrad pushed me to the limits, but I enjoyed what I was doing. Linguistics is so mathematical and well just blah. So in an attempt to make it more fun I’m presenting on it at the annual Mississippi Language teachers association conference. But in terms of hills: this one feels like a mountain.

Running has taught me this: one of life’s greatest feelings is finally making it over that hill without stopping or slowing down. I will make it through linguistics. On the other side my French pronunciation will be so good nobody will know I’m American J I guess that means that maybe linguistics isn’t quite so stinky!

Any of my language people have any hints they wanna’ share?

Thursday, August 14, 2014


 “It’s just like ripping off a Band-Aid!”  Who hasn’t heard this? It’s what we’re told when something hard is looming in the future, when we need 20 seconds of insane courage. If we would just ‘rip off the Band-Aid’ we could feel so much better afterwards.  People say it because it’s often true. I think, however, that this little saying is quite unfair to Band-Aids and pain, both the pain they cover and the pain they cause. I think that Band-Aids are a metaphor for life. Yes it’s true what people say, a little pain and then the peace of it being over comes. But so often we focus so much on the little pains that we don’t appreciate the big things that the pain brings us. I’ve learned some of my most precious lessons through heartbreaking pain: the homesickness that I felt the first time I was in France taught me that oceans don’t change people, my last breakup taught me that people don’t change people, and this last summer trying to live in the past taught me that there really are endings that we don’t want and don’t plan for but they come anyways. If I hadn’t learned these things I wouldn’t be how I am today. Who I am today.

I survived the summer that I never thought I would and am officially looking forward to my future which includes:

**Studying French : I recall from one of my earlier blogs when I was still living in Angers and I mused about how fun it would be to study something frivolous and lovely like French literature. I’ve learned since then that there is nothing frivolous about French or literature so it’s shaping up to be a great two years.
**If all goes according to plan I will be back not only in France but in Angers come January. I will be studying there for a semester. YAY!
**Elisha has a fabulous job working at a Baptist Daycare in the 3 and 4 year old room. It just turned full time. She’s happy here and that makes me happy J

I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes of all time from one of my favorite novels of all time Anna Karenina. Anna says:
‘You are looking at me,’ she said, ‘and wondering how I can be happy in my position? Well! it’s shameful to confess, but I … I’m inexcusably happy. Something magical has happened to me, like a dream, when you’re frightened, panic-stricken, and all of a sudden you wake up and all the horrors are no more. I have waked up. I have lived through the misery, the dread, and now for a long while past, especially since we’ve been here, I’ve been so happy!…’

I didn’t have an affair and destroy my family but I do feel as though I’ve awakened from a terrible nightmare. And it’s true, there are few moments more relieving than those that follow awakening from a nightmare and realizing that it’s over.

The Band-Aid covers the wound until it heals. The pain of ripping it off reminds us that even when we’re healed there will be more pain, more nightmares to awaken from. But just as the stinging eventually fades, the nightmares end, and we get to have our new beginnings. So, here’s to new beginnings.

À bientôt


Monday, July 21, 2014

I guess this is growing up

A few weeks ago I visited the past. It was a bittersweet experience that taught me a valuable lesson: the past is in the past. This seems obvious, I know, but for me, it wasn’t.

I recently posted about feeling like, “If you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all.” And for me it does feel like this. But the problem with this feeling is that though I may feel as if nothing has changed, everything has changed. Life didn’t stop when I left. People, places, and things moved on, just as I did. I filled nearly 15 journals between the time I left Hickory last summer and the time I returned several weeks ago. That’s a lot of changing. So in the midst of so much change, how can it be that I feel as though nothing has changed at all?

Last year I was determined to never ‘start over’ again, and yet here I am, re-living my Rouen experience in a dramatically ironic kind of way:

1. I moved to Rouen/ I moved to Mississippi…both places are equally humid, except instead of freezing I’m suffering from a heat rash for the first time in my life…a heat rash! I didn’t even know there was such a thing.
2. I sort of spoke French/ I sort of speak English…when I arrived in France I had to really listen well and work hard to understand the people around me. Here in Oxford, I have the same problem.
3. Walking out of obligation…I love to walk so this one doesn’t bother me but it’s interesting to note that in France I walked because I didn’t have a car. Here, I walk because finding a parking space at Ole Miss is like finding a needle in a haystack.
4. I started a Master’s program in France to teach French as a foreign language. That’s what I’m studying here at Ole Miss.
5. New banks, new friends, new housing, new school, new everything.

One of my favorite quotes comes from the fabulous Ernest Hemingway, who in his memoir wrote, “By then I knew that everything good and bad left an emptiness when it stopped. But if it was bad, the emptiness filled up by itself. If it was good you could only fill it by finding something better.”
I’m pretty sure I quoted that last year as I left for France and a year later, something that hasn’t changed, is its truth in my life. I’m filled with the absolute emptiness that comes from leaving behind a life and a life plan full of familiar faces and places and dreams. Starting over, again, sitting at an unfamiliar kitchen table, again, I realize that change is inevitable. Sometimes we choose the change. Sometimes fate chooses it for us but either way dwelling in the past will get me nowhere so here we go, again.

The joy comes from knowing that I’m getting paid to do what I love: teach and study French…pretty good trade-off for starting over fresh.

More to come,


Thursday, June 19, 2014

If you close your eyes...

Maybe it’s my literature background but I always like to find themes and symbols in my life. Last summer’s theme was being Hadley in a Hemingway world. This summer my theme comes from the chorus of what I’ve been told is an old news song: Pompeii by Bastille. The first time I heard the song on the radio I had no idea that the band’s name was Bastille but that seems fitting, kind of like a sign. The chorus that struck so close to home that I immediately whipped out my phone to look it up, goes, “But if you close your eyes, does it almost feel like nothing changed at all? And if you close your eyes does it almost feel like you’ve been here before. How am I gonna’ be an optimist about this?”

I’ve been home from France for nearly two months now and yet part of me doesn’t believe I went. If I didn’t have 10 journals and hundreds of pictures to prove it to myself, maybe I wouldn’t believe it at all. I close my eyes, and I don’t believe a year has passed. I must have learned things but I don’t feel like anything changed. To punish me the fates have given me a summer full of it.

I’m moving to Mississippi because I got a paid fellowship there and the opportunity to study what I love: literature and linguistics, in French. A BIG change, for my soul who had been promised a return to North Carolina. Then, my sister announces that she is having a baby in October and getting married in July. Then, my parents announce that my dad’s work and God’s plan are moving them to Florida. I had already felt homeless because of going to a place where I don’t know anybody, and now, my parents are moving and I really am.

It’s 2 am. I’m sitting at what used to be my favorite homework spot—the kitchen table. Maybe it’s because I come from a big family, but I’ve always worked best in the middle of the chaos. And isn’t that the role of the kitchen? Living rooms see movie nights and pizza parties but all the interesting stuff starts in the kitchen—the fights where plates are smashed, broken hearts crying on the floor, dinner baking in the oven…family life, at least in my house, revolved around the kitchen, the sun in my family’s home life solar system. Now I sit surrounded by boxes and the truest form of chaos (as anybody who has ever moved knows quite well). Yet, if I close my eyes, it does feel like nothing has changed: Adolescent Christmas breakfasts in bathrobes wondering what ‘Santa’ brought; burnt batches of cookies as I learned how to do it on my own; fifteen and smashed plates as my mother and I screamed it out (yep, embarrassed as I am, this happened); twenty with the first real boyfriend who came home to meet my family, and then twenty and a half, when the broken hearted version of myself came home after learning the hard way that Taylor Swift is right and I would do better things than, “Dating the boy on the football team”; twenty one and then twenty three, hugging my baby sister with tears as I left for France; now twenty three and three quarters, surrounded by boxes and chaos.  If the walls of this kitchen could talk they would tell you the story of my childhood. And we sit here together, for perhaps the last time. ‘How am I gonna’ be an optimist about this?’ This bipolar mess that we call life, with its extreme moments of joy and sorrow and change, but mostly a lot of mundane walks to the bus and homework assignments at embarrassingly late hours of the night…for this question I like what Brad Pitt has to say in his role of Benjamin Button, “For what it’s worth, it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

I’m visiting Hickory for the last week of June. I don’t get to stay there but I get to start something new and exciting. Can we call this optimism and courage?

À bientôt


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Becoming Carrie Bradshaw

“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course we wouldn't fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it's comforting to know that the ones you love are always in your heart and if you're lucky, a plane ride away.” Carrie Bradshaw
There is an episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie Bradshaw, in an attempt to save money, takes the bus instead of the taxi. After having water splashed on her fabulous Haute Couture she decides that she has had enough. Well as many of you know, in an attempt to save money, just like Carrie Bradshaw, I took the bus from Paris to Marseilles instead of paying for the train (bus total was about 80 euros roundtrip, train would have been about 300). While it was nice to have the money to buy the expensive purse, the bus was lack-luster and in the future I will likely just suck it up and pay the extra money for the train. I think my time and nerves will be worth the expense.

I loved Marseilles. The sunsets over the Mediterranean, the tagines, the history, the culture, the industry. It’s a beautiful city and if it weren’t for my mom’s imminent arrival in Paris I may never have left.

The man who sat next to me on the bus ride back to Paris was a character. He smelled like a bizarre mix of curry and stale beer (but wasn’t drunk) and seemed kind of nervous. When we arrived in Paris he leaned over and very anxiously asked me how to get to Gare du Nord. I explained that he would have to switch metros but since I was taking the metro to Gare St. Lazare he could just follow me and then I would tell him which stop to take. After giving him his two options he stood by me for two or three stops in the metro and then said that he was getting off because this stop would work too. I explained that he couldn’t get to the Gare that way but he just smiled and said he knew where he was going. But I’m fairly certain that he didn’t. I’m no Metro expert but I’ve ridden it enough to be familiar with the ins and outs and he got off in the middle of nowhere. Strange.

After getting checked into my hotel, showering, and finally eating real food I took a nice nap and woke up feeling refreshed. Then the funniest thing happened. I wanted to go to the grocery store. The woman at the front desk told me the best way was to take the five minute (free) shuttle to the centre-commercial, but it only passes every half hour. My other option was to walk but she instructed me that even though it only takes 10 minutes it’s not very safe. So, I waited the 30 minutes and took the shuttle. Then, having just missed it after my shopping I decided that instead of waiting for the next shuttle I would walk. Bad, bad idea. The not very safe walk turned out to be on a highway with no side walk (obviously). Being my determined self I made it but ripped my favorite yoga pants in the process when I walked into one of the safety barriers to avoid falling down a hill. So I guess, in that way, I’m not so different from the man on the metro. He didn’t take my advice and I’m sure got lost. Though I didn’t get lost, I could have been hit by a car. So I ask myself, what is it about us as people that we always think we know better than everyone else? It took me closer to 20 minutes to walk back to the hotel, I ripped my favorite yoga pants, I could have been hit by a car or fallen down a hill, and I should have just waited for the bus. So as much as I’ve grown and progressed and changed during these last 7 or 8 months rest assured that just like Carrie Bradshaw, my head is still in the clouds and I’m still only a plane ride away.  

With all my love

Friday, April 18, 2014

Love Languages

“Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.” ‒Rita Mae Brown

On my last days of school I had:

* 2 surprise parties
*An Easter Egg Hunt
*A signed t-shirt
*A multitude of hand-written cards
*A serenade of “Auld Lang Syne” in French and English                 
 *And (perhaps the most touching of all) ‘au revoir’ speeches and songs dedicated to me in the maternal languages of my sixth graders (Arabic, Turkish, Italian, French).

As tears pricked my eyes I couldn’t help but to love them. Normally forbidden from speaking their home languages at school, I could tell that they enjoyed showing me what they know just as much as I enjoyed teaching them English. One girl said, “I enjoyed all of your presentations and so did my mom because I went home and told her about them.” Others thanked me for choosing their school out of all the schools in France (I couldn’t tell them it wasn’t my choice.) I really love languages—all of them. Studying Arabic and Spanish and French I’m often linguistically confused but it’s a world that I fit into, like the lucky black dress that hangs in my closet. If there is such a thing as ‘vocation’ I found mine in the impoverished suburbs of St. Etienne du Rouvray. In the arms of students who despite great difficulties and prejudice have beautiful, loving spirits that they want to share and dreams that they want to live. In their innocence and wide-eyed expressions I found love. And now I have to leave. But isn’t that just like life? Chapter after chapter, book after book, heartbreak after heartbreak, love story after love story we move on but we carry the memories in our paper bags and the stories in our hearts.

I leave for Marseilles tonight (*squeal*). One week until my mom is here. Two weeks until I’m home.
Je t’aime