My Return To Paris | 2018

Paris: My former hometown, nemesis, and cosplay inspiration. It’s been four years since I boarded a plane and landed in France for the first time. “What could possibly go wrong?” I thought when I signed papers to work in a country I had never even visited with a family I had never even met. SPOILER: Everything went wrong.

Well, I guess not everything went wrong. Paris was the city that first got me in to cosplaying, and it was the first city where I started going to conventions, so I guess I do have to attribute those aspects of my life to my time here.

But overall, Paris and I have a love-hate relationship. It was really difficult living in this city and trying to learn a new language and culture…while taking care of four boys. To be perfectly honest I didn’t think I would come back. There was just so much pain tied to this city that I kind of kicked the dust off my feet when I left back in 2015.

But, here I am. 2018 and I’m once again in the city of love. I wish that I could say that this trip has changed my mind about Paris but there have been so many problems during my time here (48 hours) that I’m seriously starting to wonder if there’s some kind of curse on me, associated with Paris. To start things off, the Airbnb that I booked was NOTHING like the listing which resulted in me actually filing a complaint with Airbnb and getting a stipend from them to find a new place to stay. I’m also filing for a refund, but that can’t be processed until Tuesday.

To add insult to injury my computer died right after I got to the city because I brilliantly forgot to bring a converter for France, just England. And yeah yeah this is my fault, not the cities, but it still was added stress.

THEN my Airbnb experience “Yoga under the Eiffel Tower” got cancelled due to the weather, and while I was invited to a yoga studio instead it still just wasn’t the same…and I didn’t get a picture which was part of the package. Boo.

THEN it started raining today while I was heading out to my photoshoot, and I just about cried. If you are someone with curly hair, or know someone with curly hair you’ll know why. It’s not even a matter of getting my hair wet, once it’s raining the humidity is enough to frizz my hair into space. It still was raining just a little bit when I started my photoshoot, but I was absolutely convinced to do the damn thing and so I’m a bit amused/curious how those photos will turn out. Sorry, no blue dress for these ones. I just wanted some pretty pictures of me around the city I used to live in.

After the shoot I got a chance to go over to Shakespeare and Co. which is a really beautiful bookshop in Paris that you all should go to. Mainly because they have a cat that lives in the shop. But also because it has a really cool history of inspiring writers throughout the decades. I also was really excited to find a bubble tea place in Paris that I’d never seen before. I think it’s new, and it was definitely filled with Americans, but I was so happy to have my favorite drink. Oh, and then I ate a crepe. Which is pretty much what I’ve been doing the whole time I’ve been here: eating.

Someone asked me today what I’d been doing with my time in Paris and I literally had nothing to say other than eating crepes. How many have I had? You’ll never know, and I’m never going to tell you.

6 of the Best Style Tips I Learned from France

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A little known fact about me is that I have a degree in fashion design. I don’t usually talk about it because in the professional world I don’t use those skills as much, but I grew up making clothes and sewing and I’ve always loved style. I also grew up watching entirely too many black and white movies, so I have a soft spot for classy clothing and pearl earrings. 1950’s Paris *sigh*. When I lived in France one of the parts that I loved was seeing all of the beautiful European style. I would have loved it more if I was making any amount of money close to a salary so I could buy any of these clothes, but not having the income to splurge made me vastly more aware of the trends and how I would apply them to my own life, once I got back into a position to. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

shoppingSimplicity is Queen
One of the most beautiful things about living in France was how simple the style and lifestyle is. Now it’s important to note that we’re not talking Scandinavian minimalism (although I’m sure there are houses that follow that) but the French have a clean, yet intricate, attention to detail that I absolutely adore. I love the minimalism, mixed with color and patterns and my heart was won over by the beautiful patterns that you can find in so many homes.

Pearls Solve a Multitude of Sins
Having a bad day? Not feeling like feeling you’re usual classy self? Throw on some pearl stud earrings! This is one of my favorite style hacks because it makes me feel like Audrey Hepburn on days when I’m feeling more like Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. And who doesn’t want to look like Audrey? No hands? I didn’t think so. Not ready to throw down on real pearls? I’ve found some really great pairs of studs at Nordstrom that do the trick, while on a budget.

Mix and Max

You’re probably thinking that the French spend millions each year on clothing. And, of course, for some you’re probably right. But some of the classiest women I ever met taught me the very important lesson to mixing where you shop. This means you may have a designer wool peacoat, but your t-shirt is from Abercrombie. This lesson taught me that it’s not just about what you’re wearing, it’s about how you’re wearing it. And another key is to buy quality, over quantity. When you do splurge, splurge on statement pieces that are going to last you years. There’s a really great book I have called Paris Chic that does a great job of outlining Parisian and French fashion. Your wardrobe will thank you for the $1.99 you spent buying it.

Treat Yourself
The French know how to pamper themselves, and I don’t mean going out and coming back with a carload of clothes charged on their credit card. I mean lotions, bubble baths and perfumes. I mean those things that make you feel like gold – even with nothing on. Spending the extra dollars to buy quality skin care products is worth it. Treat yourself, and your body, by investing in some bath salts or some soothing lotions. You’ll be surprised how lovely you feel without even needing to spend money on clothes.

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Scarves
If there’s one style tip that I’m so glad I learned when living in France, it’s the beauty of scarves. From light and airy to bulky and bold, scarves aren’t really something I invested in before I lived in Europe. But I’m definitely now riding the scarf train! A great scarf can not only double your options on a simple sweater, they’re a lot less expensive than buying a whole new wardrobe. And they’re warm. I’m all about the warm. I’ve found some of my favorites at Nordstrom (because, despite popular opinion, Nordstrom isn’t always crazy expensive, if you know the right places to look), but I also love to buy them at World Market.

Kids Wear
One of the cutest things about living in France was definitely the children. The child style goals I now have are insanely high. Like, I kind of want to fly to France yearly so that I can dress my future children. Yeah, that bad. The cute little animals, the cute little patterns. All of it. If you’re looking to replicate all the cuteness (or just see what I’m talking about), you can type in “French kids clothing” in Pintrest and envy away, or hop over to Petit Bateau which has a U.S. website but totally French kids style. J’adore.

Pintrest Is My Friend, And Food

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I have Bisquick in my fridge.
Probably not the most exciting sentence you’ve read today; but it gets better. You see, the adventure lies in how the Bisquick got there. Because it didn’t come from the store.

I’m a self professed stress cooker, so when I came to France and saw everything around me different in the grocery stores, my stressed out self became more stressed about my chosen de-stressing activity.

But never fear, I did figure out a way to get my favorite treats, still. And they’ve been a hit with the family, as I’ve shared recipes with them, too! Thank God for Pintrest. Here are some of my favorites, so you can enjoy them even if you’re not living 5,000 miles away from the US.

 

  1. Bisquick 
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I kept finding recipes that said something along the lines of, “Just throw in some Bisquick.” Which is great, except for when you don’t have Bisquick within a thousand miles of your house. Luckily, this blog has an excellent recipe for a homemade Bisquick which turned out great and worked brilliantly in my other recipes.

  1. Fajitas

 

6b4ecd1d19f414e487fe915ef9f1d09dEvery Friday we have fajitas. I’ve tried and tried to have different meals, thinking the boys can’t really want to eat the same thing every week…but they do. And they let me know. Like when I made stir-fry and one of them asked, “But can I just put the meat in a tortilla and make a fajita?” Unfortunately there isn’t just a pack of fajita seasoning that you can grab at the grocery store, here. Fortunately, this lovely blog had my back. (Also Taco Seasoning – WARNING: A bit spicy)

 

  1. Pizza Dough

how-to-make-pizza-dough-6-copyThere isn’t really an option in France to just order a pizza “without cheese.” And as someone with a dairy allergy, that makes it really hard for me to have pizza, now. But lucky me, I found this recipe that helped me make some goodness at home so I can have a treat when I’m in the mood for a little Italy, and less France.

 

  1. Cake

 

729ce9790aeb33a39a0a92b3604dfed6It was one of my boys’ birthdays a couple of weeks ago, and I was asked to make a couple of cakes for his birthday. The only problem? There aren’t really box mixes in this country (and the few that do exist aren’t worth even trying to make). Which meant heading to Pintrest for a recipe that would tell me how to make a cake from scratch. It wasn’t actually that hard, but following the instructions with two screaming boys running around made concentrating just a tad more difficult.

  1. Icing

 

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This was one of the funniest things I made, not because I haven’t made it before, but because icing is just incredibly NOT French. French people do not ice cakes. The kids could not even handle how much sugar there was, but they loved it. The looks on their faces as they ran and told their brothers about this new treat was absolutely priceless. (Recipe)

Similarities in France and US

Okay, so living in another country can feel like you’re living on a different planet, but there are also a lot of things that won’t seem quite so foreign when you travel to France, as an American. Let me give you some examples:

1. Pokemon: I really find it amazing how pervasive Pokemon is globally. I can remember sneak watching Pokemon when it came out in the mid 90’s (because, let’s be real, it wasn’t a friend of many Christian households, once upon a time) and to see my 8 and 5 year old playing with the cards STILL, thousands of miles away from where I grew up is amazing to me.

2. US Pop Music: It’s really funny in France because most people don’t speak English fluently, but the music in all of the grocery stores is American and a lot of French people listen to American Music. The favorite that I’ve noticed, so far, is definitely Katy Perry with Taylor Swift coming in a close second. But it’s pretty funny that, although people sing along, they have no idea what the words mean, half the time.

3. American/British Flags: Most French people don’t really like anyone who isn’t French, but I see SO MANY American and British flags. I see them on backpacks, t-shirts, sweaters and pretty much everything else. It’s like the 4th of July every day.

4. Coca-Cola: If there’s one drink that you can pretty much count on in most restaurants it’s Coke. It’s the American drink found in grocery stores, vending machines and pretty much anywhere else where drinks are sold. When I first came to France I drank a lot of Coke because I was really home sick. But, fun fact: I actually hate coke, and don’t know why pouring poison in my body reminded me of home.

5. Disney! Of course! I live right next to Paris Disneyland, which I haven’t been to yet. But I’m sure that I’ll be headed there at some point in the future (how can I not!). In general, there is about the same amount of Disney influence in Paris as there is in Seattle. Kids here love the movies, and I already own a few more than I did when I lived in the US. What’s nice is that the DVD’s come in English and French, so you can watch either version.

6. Nutella: Fun fact – I had never eaten Nutella before coming to France. But now I’m addicted, like the rest of the world. My favorite it Nutella and banana crêpes. Drool. I also learned while I was in Germany, that Nutella is actually an Italien brand and comes from the combination of the words “nut” and “bella”. Weird.

7. Video games: Video games and gaming are exactly the same in France. They’re just as well loved and the same games are played. My au pair brothers love to play Clash of Clans and own pretty much every type of gaming console.

8. Frozen: Let’s be real, “Let it go” is still echoing off the sides of the Eiffel Tower a year after it’s release. Lucky for me, I happen to LOVE the movie. But it’s still pretty funny how many times I’ve watched it since I’ve been here. I will say it has some of the best dubbing I’ve seen, though, and the characters in French are as good as they are in English.

9. Game of Thrones: Yep. Popular here. Lots of people watch the series, and I can’t wait until the next season starts because I will be watching each episode in our home theater, which has a screen the size of the wall.

10. UNO: Again, games seem to translate well across seas, and Uno is loved by French and Americans alike. It’s really fun to play with my au pair kids because they’re able to work on their English numbers and colors, while playing a game that I absolutely love. I never travel to a house with kids without my deck of UNO cards.

BONUS:

SOCCER: Ok, so it’s not called soccer here. But football is pretty huge in Europe, of course, and France is no different. I love being able to play with my boys, and I love that we can all sit around the TV and enjoy watching a game we all love, and that needs no translation.

Things that are the same in France

The Most Excellent Adventures

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Musee D’Orsay

Ok ladies and gents it has been WAY too long since I wrote a blog post!

First off, welcome to December, everyone!

Let the Christmasness commence (even though it’s been Christmas in France for the last month).

The last couple of weeks have been complete madness: filled with birthday parties, cooking and adventures, so it’s been hard to sit down and collect my thoughts in this little bucket I call my blog.

But I am determined to hash it out. Fight my crazy and Write! Write! Write!

Ok. Well, first off, Goalvember is over, so let’s go over my goals and see what happened!

Open a French Bank Account: In France you can always depend on two things. First, the bread is always going to be amazing. Second, the process to do anything is going to be fifteen steps. So, after five trips to the bank I’ve finally accomplished getting an appointment with someone who speaks English…next week. Well, better late than never, right!?

Design more: I may have waited until the night of November 30th, but I DID finally use my sewing machine, and now I can’t stop! I love to sew so much, but it’s been a bit hard with having to start over in the art supplies department. But now that I’m set up I’ve been creating, and I’m going to be working on a new project now…but I’ll write that in my December goals.

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A little doll I created this week as the first project to be made on my sewing machine. I think I’ll call here Coco. Like Chanel, duh.

 

Etsy shop up and running: This has to do with my December goals too because I’m thinking about shifting the emphasis of my Etsy shop, but more info to come!

Go to a tourist/outing every week: The weeks have been crazy, but we’ve been out and about pretty much every week (with the exception of last week when we brought the party to us!!) and we’re going to keep going strong. This week I’m going to Art Ludique to see an exhibit on Takahata and Miyazaki, which I am SO excited about. I’ve been marathoning films from both as preparation, but it’s going to be so much fun to actually go see the sketches and art work!

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Musee D’Orsay

 

Have an amazing “Friendsgiving”: Oh. My. Word. Did we have a good Friendsgiving!? Yes. Yes we did!! I was so happy with the way everything and everyone came together to make Thanksgiving dinner such a success. It was a little bit chaotic to get ready for, but I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. I definitely think it goes up there on the top of my “favorite Thanksgivings” list.

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December goals
Goalcember? Hmmm…maybe not.

  1. Blog more: Let’s be real. I’ve been slacking when it comes to blogging and it’s a bummer. I really want to remember the good, the bad and the ridiculous during my time in France, and that requires writing. My goal is to post 2-3 times a week. Let’s do this.
  1. Etsy Shop Listings: So I’m designing a collection of little cute things that I want to release in December in my Etsy shop! I’m really super excited, and a little bit nervous, but it feels really good to be creating, again! Stay tuned!!
  1. Have an amazing time in Amsterdam: For Christmas I’m going to Amsterdam and I’m so excited!! I really want this to be just the best trip ever, so here’s to making it rad. (Also, if you guys have any suggestions for places to go, let me know!)
  2. Vlog more: Maybe you know, maybe you don’t but I started (as in 2 videos) Vlogging when I first came to France and then life got crazy and hectic and I stopped. I want that to change!! It is my goal in December to make 1 video per week on my Vimeo channel. Do or die. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme…

 

  1. Stick with the program: I’m part of this fitness accountability group on Facebook that is really really amazing. The group consists of people from back home and people I’ve never met but I love how much positive energy there is flowing through the group. It’s my goal to stick with the plan and workout regularly and eat right. Finding workouts that don’t kill me/ put me to sleep is hard, but I recently stumbled across some that are Zumba/Bollywood style and I’m in love.

 

  1. Get real serious ‘bout French: I’ve kind of been slacking. I won’t lie. I don’t have to speak French at the house, and I’ve really been slacking off when it comes to perfecting my French. This needs to change, even if I have to drag myself to French tutorials every day. It’s so hard to not curl up in a cave of English movies, films and songs, but I don’t want to waste this experience and I want to make sure I’m always learning while experiencing France.

 

  1. Finish classes on KhanAcademy: I’ve talked before about how it’s really hard for me to finish things. Well, online classes are the same. But I’m determined. I’m taking a class on Revolutions through the 1700-1900’s, Computer Programing and Hereditary Biology and I want to finish them ALL OF THEM in December. Reaching high? Maybe. But it’s really important for me to be stretching my mind in multiple ways.

 

  1. Finish The Hobbit, See The Hobbit: Yeah, fun fact: I still haven’t finished the f*ucking book. It’s sitting on my nightstand, right next to my hefty sense of guilt at not doing anything with it. But it has to happen because the last movie is coming out and, as overly dramatic/drawn out/over cinematized it’s going to be, you know I’ll be first in line (Figuratively. I don’t actually believe in waiting in obscenely long lines for films).http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSzeFFsKEt4

 

  1. Storyline a story: I’m midway through writing a story that I’m then going to (hopefully!!) pay one of my darling friends to illustrate into some kind of comic or something, but I really have to get on story boarding it and it’s so hard to get motivated!!

 

  1. Get involved somehow in a French event and meet more French people: It could be/is very easy to only talk and hang out with other English speakers, but I really want to be intentional about meeting people who are actually French. Believe it or not, it’s actually not that easy. Goal: Make a French friend. It’s as simple and hard as that.

    And that’s all for now, folks. Living in France is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m taking it one day at a time, and slowly, but surely I’m making it work!

 

Prayers, thoughts, happy wishes and snail mail are always loved and appreciated. ❤

 

 

To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

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The print that I bought. Love love love.

For a healthy chunk of my childhood Tuesdays nights meant two things: Popcorn and fresh fruit/veggies for dinner and piling in the living room to watch Star Trek. At the time it seemed perfectly normal that our family nights consisted of Sci-Fi shows. Another example would be that every Christmas we would marathon a Sci-Fi series (ex. All the X-Men movies, every Batman film ever created etc.). This was our normal. And it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized not everyone had such a geek infused childhood.

Since I was reared on a heavy serving of Sci-Fi and fantasy, it’s no wonder that I’ve always gravitated toward those things even in my adult life. I read comic books. I watch pretty much exclusively Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV shows. I wake up to the Doctor Who theme song every morning on my alarm clock. The ring tone on my phone is the Legend of Zelda theme…dubstep. Have I earned my geek badge, yet?

One of my new favorite girl power geeks is Jane McGonigal, who is a game designer and author. If you want to look her up, I would highly suggest watching one of her TED talks (especially the one about how gamers are going to change the world) – they’re all amazing. In one of these talks she says:

“Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying, and trying now. Gamers don’t sit around.” 

And while my gaming is definitely not up to par with a professional grade (gaming was always my brother’s thing, and we’ve talked before about how I kept away from things in his corner), I think this quote is fair of geeks in general. Being raised as a geek really shaped who I am because it taught me that, while there are obstacles (black holes, empires to destroy, Klingons) to overcome, there are always ways to overcome them.

Having stories of dragons, spaceships, other worlds, heroes, warriors, heroines and hobbits helped form my own foundation of one of the most important keys to success: grit.

The get back up and try to save the world again mentality.

It doesn’t matter if it takes 10 years of episodes *cough Stargate, you keep fighting for what you believe in. And sooner or later, you’ll make a difference…or die trying (and then having an epic burial where your body, grasping your brilliantly shining sword, soars over the edge of woodland water falls in a hand built elven boat).

Either way, the point is developing the desire to always find a way to conquer obstacles. It’s a skill that I think the instant gratification culture of today misses all too often, and is something that I really hope to impart to any kids I work with/ever have myself.

It’s pretty rare that I really disclose how much of a geek I am to people, but since I’ve been in Paris I’ve been trying to get better about it. Despite popular opinion, I’m actually extremely shy by nature, so it’s really hard to put myself out there and really present the things that interest me.

But this past weekend I got an amazing opportunity to go and hang out with some of my fellow geeks at the Paris Manga/Sci Fi Convention and it was So. Much. Fun.

I can honestly say it was the first time I’ve felt at home in France, because even though everyone around me was speaking French, I was able to share so many other commonalities with the people around me. I got to rock a Cosplay and revel in the panels that were in English (translated in French) and it was so cool to see other Whovians and think, “Wow. These people live 8,000 miles away from where I come from, and they love the same fandoms/TV shows/comics that I do!” It was a pretty bonding experience. Especially when I sat next to a group that dressed as all 12 of The Doctors.

My favorite moment, though, was when I found TinTin (or, rather, his cosplayer) who I actually yelled at in a crowd of people in order to get a picture with him. Like I said, I’ve always loved comics, and TinTin is a series that I’ve read probably 10 times. All 20+ of them. (It’s all about priorities when you’re a kid.)

Another amazing part of the show were the artists who were lined up doing live drawings in the styles of their work, and selling their prints etc. I LOVED being able to watch professional artists draw and illustrate. It’s so rare that I felt like it was such an honor. And I bought, and had signed, a Daenarys Targaryan print which is now hanging on my wall and that I LOVE.

All in all it was a perfectly refreshing experience. I feel like I went on vacation even though I never left the city. And the best part? There’s another one next weekend.

Allons-y! May the force be with you.

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Me and TinTin! I was so happy I have a ridiculous grin on my face. Also I got to hold snowy – win.
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Me and The TARDIS.
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Me and my Cosplay as Mels from Doctor Who.

It’s A Wonderful Life

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Wax seals. That I got to break open. I felt like Elizabeth Bennet and I LOVED IT.

This morning started off with the words, “Emilee is today your birthday?” The reply, of course, was, “No…” but when I went downstairs, I started to question whether or not I was right. While I was upstairs showering I had heard the doorbell ding three separate times. I had also heard the classic “Oooh la la” expression as the mother for the kids I au pair ran back and forth between the painting she was working on in the basement, and the front door.

When I finally did come down stairs. I understood why her first question had been asked. At the bottom of the stairs there was a pile of packages. My first thought was to sift through the mail and look to see if anything had my name on it. Some did. And by ‘some’ I mean all. It’s a funny feeling getting a stack full of mail, having no idea it had been on it’s way, but when I saw the familiar names written across each one my heart melted.

This week has been a week that has tried its very best to go wrong. Between running late, forgetting things, having unexpected expenses pop up and extra long workdays, I can honestly say, “Thank God Tomorrow Is Friday.”

This morning I woke up feeling exhausted from a restless sleep and dreading the day ahead. Mainly because on Thursdays I have French lessons, which are mind melting (although good). I didn’t really want to start my day, so I hopped in the shower feeling like a complete grump.

Then came the doorbell.

If you asked me, I would probably say that I’m closer to my friends than I am to my family. I actually consider my closest circle of friends my family in so many ways. Maybe it’s because we’re all strong women who have had to work our asses off to get where we are, maybe it’s because we all have a fire that propels us to challenge each other; iron sharpens iron. But when I think of my five best friends I think of warriors…and world domination – that too. If we’re passionate about something: Watch out.

Needless to say, being away from these powerhouses has made me feel like I’m running extremely low on fuel; like I’m a part of the Avengers team gone accidently rogue.

[Cut scene to this morning]

The packages were amazing and from some of said friends. Somehow they had all arrived on the same day, even though they were sent from different parts of the world. I laughed and cried as I read through letters, munched on American candy and marveled at the wax seals that had been beautifully enclosed on some of the letters.

The mom for the kids I au pair COULD NOT believe that I was loved this much for ‘no special reason’. And neither could I.

How lucky am I to have such friends?

It is really hard to be away from home and friends and family. And even though I’m making new friends and having lots of fun, it’s very different from being away from my main support group. A lot of stress has been building up over the last couple of weeks, specifically financially, because (let’s be honest) healthy bank accounts don’t come from au pair salaries.

But today I realized how insanely rich I am. I honestly felt like I was having a “It’s a wonderful life” moment. When it comes down to it, I have wealth beyond measure, because I have people thinking about me who live THOUSANDS of miles away and who send me love just for the heck of it.

I am so blessed. And I am so thankful.

Thank you to those of you who send me letters, packages, Skype, FB message or any other ways of communication. They might seem little, but to me, they are SO HUGE, especially when I’m feeling alone in my little big city life.

Days like today make me feel so full I could burst. Thank you, more than I could ever express.

❤ Emilee

 

Finding Home

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I can’t draw. Yes the artsy girl said it; because that’s the way I’ve felt for pretty much my entire life. If you grew up in my family you’d understand why. My brother is an amazing artist, and also five years older than me, so his artistic endeavors were always ridiculously out of my league. So, growing up, I never really tried to draw. I figured: there’s no way I can compete, so why even try?

You see, I’m the type of person who likes to be good at things. And if there isn’t a reasonable chance of me being really good at something, I generally don’t do it. I’m not saying this is the best approach to life, but it is just the way I’m wired.

I do like to try new things (and by that, I mean I like to try the same things with maybe one aspect that’s different), but the truth is that new things are really hard for me. I don’t like change and I don’t like feeling out of control when it comes to what’s going on in my life. All this being said: I decided to move to France.

Naturally.

It doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense to me right now, why I made the decision to move. While cultural experience and learning about other people is extremely important to me, I could have done both while staying in the US, or by taking a shorter trip to a different country. But I felt strongly and inarguably that God was calling me to dive in headfirst. Which is fun, until you realize that involves you being under water.

Homesickness is a real beast that you have to fight daily when you’re living on the other side of the world from your friends and family. But I don’t think it’s the biggest threat to ruining your experiences.

The real problem is self-doubt.

And I’m pretty sure that’s true whether you’re living in Paris, Seattle or anywhere else in the world. Life is always full of whisperings that fill your mind. Those little voices which tell you that you can’t do something, or once you are doing it, you won’t succeed or that it won’t be meaningful if you do.

The past couple of weeks I’ve felt really challenged to face my own self-doubt head on. A couple things have contributed to this. When I was traveling to Berlin I had a lot of time to think because, for the first time in months, I didn’t have children running around screaming every day. I took a lot of intentional time to think about what I wanted and what I valued. The people and aspects of my life that I wanted to make sure were part of it long term.

Moving to a new place allows for a sort of self-reinvention – no one knows who you are, so you can be anyone. The thing is, this can be both freeing and completely terrifying. Because it also means reliving the first time you present yourself, again and again, to an entirely new world. What do you tell them? What do you omit? It’s funny how easily we revert to our middle school selves when our rug of securities is pulled out from underneath our feet.

But I feel like it’s important to get these things out there so here goes. My insecurities are:

    1. I moved to the wrong country.
    2. I’m too geeky and shouldn’t probably talk about it.
    3. God time isn’t something I’ll ever be good at.
    4. I’m mediocre at a lot of things, but not useful.

Somehow, when you’re far away from your comfort zone and your support system it’s really easy to have all of these things slam you at once. But here’s the thing. None of these are true, and I’ll tell you why: Because I was made with purpose and passions that matter. And so were you.

So I’m just going to publically address these doubts, since I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a community that taught me to ‘laugh’ at the lies that surround me in times of discouragement.

First off, it wasn’t an accident that I landed in France. From the time I was a kid all the way through college I continued to take French lessons and there’s a reason for that. I wasn’t prepping for moving to France, in fact I doubted that I would ever even visit the country, but I really enjoyed speaking French. At the time it was a nonsensical passion of mine, but it turns out it’s one that is serving me well. Sometimes, with the craziness of living in a new country it’s intimidating to even attempt to speak/learn/enjoy/know French. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is a learning process and something that should be fun.

Geek I am. And proud of it. I’m a fangirl who literally makes a partial living from geeking out over BBC TV shows, podcasts, movies and fantasy books. And THAT’S OK. This week I’ve had a couple of moments where really geeky things have come up and I’ve been super reluctant to share my opinion/love of them because I didn’t know how people would perceive me. Hearing my au pair brother (oldest – 21) blasting the Game of Thrones soundtrack for three hours straight definitely helped. I also mentioned some events and exhibits that I “might, maybe, if you think they’re not dumb” want to go to (aka I WANTED TO GO TO SO BAD) and some of my friends were totally onboard. I will now be Cosplaying and attending a Manga/Sci Fi convention and visiting a Miyazaki and Takahata exhibit next week and I’m SO EXCITED.

My faith is extremely important to me. It’s something that influences the way I see the world and the way I interact with those around me every day. But it hasn’t ever been easy to be a typical “Christian.” I remember praying when I was younger that God would make me “sweet” and not so strong willed…because that’s what good Christian girls were, right? But I’m learning that God doesn’t design women on a scale of sugar and spice. He designs us according to his purposes. And sometimes that means feisty, passionate, strong willed women come out of the mold. What are important aren’t the personality characteristics – it’s the condition of our hearts.

And last but not least my favorite: I can’t draw. I can’t do anything well enough to be worth doing it. Has anyone else heard this doubt before? A lot of the time this one seems to climb onto blank pages when we’re trying to write, or when we have a really great idea but no immediate way to accomplish it. One of my favorite quotes is “Comparison is the thief of joy.” If we live our lives in constant comparison the only place we’ll end up is in a puddle of our own tears. There are always going to be people who are ‘better’ at things than us. And there will always be people who are ‘better’ than them. Trying to hold yourself to another person’s standards will never allow you to accomplish what you’re called to.

Instead, why not start to build a legacy one day at a time; piece by piece. I’ve really been challenging myself to draw or go out of my comfort zone artistically every(ish)day because I know that when I do, and when I clear my mind of the self discouragement, beautiful things can happen.

Step one is acknowledging my own imperfections and insecurities and that mine seem so much more exposed while I’m living so far away from home. But maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe it’s teaching me that there’s beauty in vulnerability. It’s uncomfortable and awkward, but it forges the parts of me, which will become fundamental in creating a person that much more certain of who they are. And I’m ok with that.

I Don’t Care: I LOUVRE It!

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Wow! It has been a WH-ILE! Sorry for the silence on the blog front, but I’ve been trying to settle into the Paris life, and it’s taken me the past few weeks to even feel remotely partially through the process. Moving across the world is hard. Moving a second time, to live with a different family is (even though it seems like it should be easier) harder.

But I’ve finally started to feel like I’m ready to step off the wagon and start exploring my new home. And after unpacking, and getting into the rhythm of things, the dust is finally starting to settle.

So, here are the updates of my life!

  1. Let’s talk spiders. No matter where you go in France there are Lord Of The Rings sized spiders crawling up the walls. That might be a slight exaggeration, but they are HUGE. I can’t even tell you how many of them I’ve killed, but I know that when I go back to the US I will most definitely be the braver for it.
  1. I got promoted! I’m super excited about the ability to work with the website I’ve been a contributing writer with for the past year, except now I’m a *drumroll EDITOR! I’m so excited to start new projects and really be able to pour myself into writing, photographing, editing and traveling. There are some super cool projects coming up, so stay tuuuuuuuuned @TheExploress!
  1. Church: The last couple of weeks I have loved being able to attend Hillsong Paris, which is absolutely amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed being able to go to church, but it has been such an awesome way to meet other people who are living in Paris and from all parts of the world. My favorite thing, though, is that the sermons are in English AND French simultaneously. It really is just the most beautiful thing.10678667_819611111422254_5419823618893278652_n 1797967_10152746031020505_2671417041007696703_n10704138_702182236530113_4894031641390018656_n
  1. I’ve been illustrating! I’ve never really considered myself someone who likes to draw, in fact I used to tell people I hated drawing. There are a few reasons for this, including feeling like I’ve always lived with someone who was better at it than me, but now that my next closest artistic rivals are 5 and 8 I started following a path I’ve wanted to for a bit, with a combination of paint and pencil, which I’ve absolutely loved.Hobbit Illustration
  1. I’m going to Berlin next week and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve wanted to visit Germany for so long and I can’t wait to visit such a beautiful city while on holiday. I’m lucky because for most of the holidays that the kids will have off from school, I will also have off to travel, so I plan on taking several more trips throughout the next year, trying to see as much of Europe as I can while I’m living here! If you have any suggestions for Berlin sightseeing, shoot them my way!
  1. Every week I’ve decided to visit a museum, tourist spot or historically significant place. I have a lot more “every week” goals I’m going to be implementing now that I actually live in a place where I’m able to create an active schedule (aka a city that actually has a population under the age of 60) but I’m going to be adding them little by little. This week me and two of my friends decided to follow in Beyonce’s footsteps and visited the Louvre, which was amazing. Our adventure included singing (“Prince of Egpyt” in the Egyptian part, trying to sing “Hercules” in the Grecian part and “Les Miserables” in some French parts), getting temporarily lost in the museum and having in depth conversations about the inaccurate proportions of male figures both in painting and sculpture representations. All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better time, or for better friends to adventure out with.

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Even Heroes Get Homesick

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Paris, France

“But all night he dreamed of his own house and wandered in his sleep into all his different rooms looking for something that he could not find, nor remember what it looked like.”

Right now I’m making my way through the forever-favorite book, The Hobbit. I know, I know, all the rest of you read it in 7th grade when you were sporting rainbow braces, but I was off busy doing something else, and never had the chance. With the movies coming out, though, I decided to make it my book for the summer (one of a few).

Obviously it isn’t summer anymore. So I guess I didn’t quite make my deadline…but I’m still determined to finish the book, and I couldn’t be more happy with my decision.

One of my favorite things about J.R.R Tolkein is that, when he writes, he doesn’t romanticize the struggles of the adventures (which, personally, I think kind of makes it more romanticized, in a way). Throughout The Hobbit, again and again and again, he writes that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit longing for home. No matter where he is, how good or bad things seem to be going; he remembers the tranquility of his hobbit hole and longs for it.

I don’t know about you guys, but I often find myself reading books that seem to coincide exactly with the kind of encouragement that I need. Or maybe, I find the encouragement in the books I read, because I need it.

Regardless, if there’s one thing you should know about me it’s that: I love adventures. I love living them, I love writing them and I love hearing stories about them. I love holding my breath while watching adventure movies, getting caught up in narratives and being on the edge of my seat – eyes wide and ready for the grand conclusion.

This hasn’t changed from when I was a kid and I’d spend weeks reading stacks of books about people who took their circumstances and turned them into stories worthy of being passed down through generations. That’s what I wanted then, and what I live for now. I want my life to be a story I can read back to my children; something that will have them on the edge of their seats, anticipating the part when mom _________________ (fill in the blank).

Adventures aren’t just something I think are necessary, but essential for my life. I need to travel, explore and see new things. I need to have my breath taken away by landscapes and oceans, to meet incredible people and take my place among the millions of experiences the world has to offer.

But the perspective of an adventure can be pretty different when you’re in the middle of it vs. when you’re hearing it second hand. Hungry wolves chasing after you might sound exciting from the security of your living room, but while you’re actually running from them– breath staggering, panic stricken eyes wild with fear, it’s probably not quite the same feeling (although, I’ve never been chased by wolves, so correct me if I’m wrong).

As humans, it’s in our nature to romanticize the past. We tell embellished stories (especially in my family) of what happened, who was there and how many obstacles there were; a foot long puddle turns into a raging river, a 10-inch trout becomes a 60-foot whale.

The stories get passed down from one person to another and then to another and another, until nobody even knows, for sure, what the facts are. As the details trickle down, from one person to the next, details get lost and scrambled in translation – especially emotions such as fear or uncertainty; finally, we’re left simply with the grand tales of bravery – unaware that the hero or heroine was having panic attacks before they made their brave, life altering, world saving decision.

I know personally, when I look back, I have a habit of romanticizing my past.

Somehow things always seem better when they’re not in the present. Life seems so much more exciting in the future; so much more secure and certain in the past. But if I’m honest, I realize that just isn’t the case.

Right now, I’m struggling with a Bilbo Baggins mentality.

Maybe I don’t live in Middle Earth, but I would consider my life an adventure right now. I’m in a strange place, with a strange culture and language surrounding me. I have no idea what the next year of my life will entail. But, all in all, life is pretty great right now.

So why am I still longing for the past?

I love the family I’m working with, I couldn’t have asked for a better match in personalities, tastes, hobbies and general atmosphere.

BUT…here it comes: I’m homesick.

I don’t really want to admit it, because I thought maybe I would miraculously overcome nostalgia (and I did for about month) but this week the homesickness has been hitting pretty hard.

It’s not saying that I don’t love the adventure that I’m on. I’m making awesome friends, getting to try new experiences and generally loving life – but there’s still a part of me longing for my hobbit hole (aka Seattle).

I miss friends, I miss my routine, I miss my bike, being able to call people up to go watch the sunset at Golden Gardens, or to WOW to drink bubble tea; I miss speaking and hearing English, and I miss being able to effortlessly talk to random people when I go out.

It’s expected and normal for us to want what we had before, whether it was bad or good, it was known. And who wouldn’t want to be somewhere they know over somewhere uncertain?

But right now, I’m reminding myself of the beauty in learning to love something I’m uncomfortable with. And let me tell you – sometimes it is VERY UNCOMFORTABLE to be living in a country that is so different.

But that’s part of the adventure, right!?

I’m so thankful for all of you who have encouraged me, sent me mail (which seriously makes my week) and have generally uplifted me during this transition. I feel so lucky to have such an amazing community around me, and I’m excited for what’s up and coming in my life – even if it means missing my city a little in the meantime.

Seattle will always have my heart. And striking out into the unknown can be extremely intimidating at times. But I’m learning to accept the fact that even the greatest heroes and heroines sometimes find themselves longing for home.

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I found a beret at a Paris street fair. Needless to say: J’adore.

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