My Not So Guilty Pleasure: Ireland

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You all may have noticed that I have a tiny obsession (okay, maybe not so tiny) with the little island of Ireland. Why, you might ask, have I imprinted so deeply on a country where the sheep population is about par with the human? The answer? I like sheep. Also, because so many of the “selling points” of Ireland, aren’t that at all – they’re just simply truths. No sales, no manipulation needed to get you there. It’s one of the rare things in life that really is as good (if not better) than people say.  Not convinced? Here’s a taste

First off, the people in Ireland really are as nice and welcoming as you hear. I’ve never known someone to travel to Ireland and to not have a welcoming experience. I remember hearing  a story in the hostel I was staying in, a while back, about a girl who had asked an elderly lady for some travel/map help in Dublin and the woman had hopped on the tram with her and took her all the way to her destination. Having lived in Paris, a city founded on briskness, and Seattle, which is known for its “freeze” – it’s hard not to instantly fall in love with the welcoming arms of the Irish.

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One of my favorite things is that, in Ireland, the scenery really is as beautiful as it looks, and what’s better, you can travel across the country and back in a day to see it.  I’ve taken so many tour bus trips while in Ireland (and plan on taking more), just because one of the best things in the world is sitting on a bus hearing stories about Ireland from Irish natives. Not only do you learn things you might not otherwise learn, while your my face is pushed up against the window, but you also get a great way to meet other travelers and become acquainted with the country (which is especially perfect if you’re running short on time).

The food in Ireland is another thing I’m in love with. Fun fact: they don’t only eat potatoes, so get that garbage idea out of your head. Some of the best food I’ve ever had was while I was in Galway and Dublin. To be fair, I do have an overwhelming love of hearty food that fills you up, makes you want to curl up in a ball and fall asleep with a tranquilly sublime smile on your face – which might not be your thing. I don’t know? Who am I to judge? Also, not just a stereotype, grab some seafood while you’re in Ireland. Such prime dishes.

If you know me well, you’ll probably be aware of the fact that I don’t drink alcohol, as a rule. There are several reasons for this, but the long and short of it is that I’m probably allergic, and I have no desire to pass out in random places after having half a glass. The exception to my rule of drinking is in Ireland, where I absolutely allow myself to indulge in a half pint (which normally I can’t even finish – don’t judge me) of Guinness. I’ve tried it outside of Dublin and it just IS NOT the same. You really have to go straight to the source to fill up on the silky smooth goodness that is Dublin Guinness. Take it from me – if you’re gonna drink: do it in Ireland.

And while you’re drinking, you should probably/most definitely plan on enjoying some amazing music. As a former Irish step dancer, and a Irish music addict, I can promise you that going to the source, once again, really as rewarding as you might think. Whether it’s some more traditional music, or some more contemporary, the Irish know music (and don’t even get me started on storytelling) as well as they know beer. Although you probably would have trouble escaping it, make sure to enjoy some great live music while you’re visiting – and don’t be afraid to sing along.

Lastly, I’ll wrap up the same way I began this loving tale. Have I mentioned sheep, before? Okay, so I love sheep – yes yes, we all know. But mainly the reason I love sheep is because I LOVE wool, and I love all the beautiful things that happen with wool when you knit, weave, crochet and worship it (is that just me? Oh…). Irish wool really can only be matched (perhaps) by the fibers of Scotland (but they actually do have more sheep than people, so really you can’t blame them) and I love every bit I’ve ever bought. If you happen to land on the Emerald Isle, I would highly suggest that you grab some gloves, hats, scarves – or all of the above. Especially if your body tends to keep you in a state of perpetual cold, like me, the items that you get are sure to (like the whole damn country – do you get the point, yet!?) warm your heart.

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The Party Strikes Back – 2015

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There are certain moments in your life that you will hold on to for the rest of your life. Being around 2,000+ other Star Wars nerds was  one of them. From the moment I entered the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum in downtown Seattle I was met with the cutest little sister squad of Princess Leia, Darth Vader and a bounty hunter. They reached about the height of my knees. At that moment I knew I was in for a pretty awesome night.

I’m pretty geeky by nature. I was raised by a huge sci-fi geek family and that has definitely translated over into my adult life. I’ve travelled around the world visiting geek events and I loved being able to be in my home city and have the same kind of beautiful community. If you’re in the Seattle area, this exhibit is only available to see until October 4th! The costumes are beautiful and well worth the trip!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the night – shout out to my friend Ben for putting up with me throwing my camera at him as I ran to ask cosplayers to take pics with them. 

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Bathtub Gin & Co.

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2205 2ND AVENUE SEATTLE, WA 98121

If you know me, you’ll know that I love going to a speakeasy more than anything. Last night I got to go to a new one situated right in between downtown Seattle and Belltown, and it was so lovely I thought I would share. If you’re looking for a dim-lit laid back atmosphere for after work Friday wind-down I would definitely suggest grabbing drinks at this little spot (and I DO mean little – maximum occupancy is 39 people). Situated in a rustic vintage building with decor to match, the creative drink concoctions and beautiful interior really make it a must visit spot.

Ordered: Alice, Wonderland (of course) – A gin mint mixture beautifully topped with flowers

Where:2205 2nd Ave, Seattle, Washington 98121

Went: Friday, September 4th at 5:30m (it filled up pretty quick after we got there)

Wifi: No

Reservation Needed: No, but get there early for the best spots – expect to walk down an alley to find this spot.

Life of Pi

“Why do people move? What makes them uproot and leave everything they’ve known for a great unknown beyond the horizon? Why climb this Mount Everest of formalities that make you feel like a beggar? Why enter into this jungle of foreigness where everything is new, strange and difficult?

The answer is the same the world over: people move in the hope of a better life.”

It Takes A Village

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Wow, it has been a WHILE since I’ve caught everyone up on the crazy that is my current life! Throughout the past weeks I’ve been moving, working, applying for jobs, moving AGAIN and trying to keep my head from spinning so hard it falls off.

Luckily, I am #blessed (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) with the best community a girl could ask for. Sanity saved.

So, what HAVE I been up to? Well, I’ve moved into my permanent housing situation in a beautiful Seattle neighborhood that is close to nature, parks, Puget Sound and a short bus hop to downtown. Sometimes I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I’m so happy to be back home, it seems surreal.

The whole moving escapade has been quite the adventure because I started off staying with a friend on her bedroom floor, my first week back (thanks Claire!), graduated to a temporary living situation with some rad Seattle chicks. And a month later, I was lucky enough to land (kind of bumpy, but I’m still in one piece!) in my current abode. I’m living with a couple of fantastical chicks, now, and I’m sloooowly pulling together my heavily Pintrest inspired living space.

I would just like to reiterate that none of these things would have been possible without the amazing community I’m a part of. I have the best friends a girl could wish for, I’ve had more support and love than I could have ever imagined, and my mother has been a darling bringing down/moving boxes. Oh! And this time I’m in the same country as these people so I can actually hug them and say “Thank you!” You all have made the miracle of this transition happen. Thank you thank you thank you!

What’s up with the rest of my life? Well my job has been keeping me on my toes, and is filled with fun every day, my housemates are awesome, I GET TO HANG OUT WITH MY FRIENDS, and I get to see my family whenever I want to. Sheesh. It’s all just too much. When they say “cup overflows, “ I think I finally understand what it means.

I am so incredibly happy to be back in my city. But I also recognize that my joy in being back is amplified because of the adventures I’ve been on abroad. While it might seem like regret for leaving Seattle might be a feeling that hits right about now, that’s not the case AT ALL! I’m just so happy to be where I am right now.

Will this be my forever stopping point? Who knows. But in these moments I am happy. I love being surrounded by people I love, and I love having the adventures that pop up and meet me every day.

Enough with the frilly stuff??

Okay. Fine.

Just know that moving back to one’s own country, after having adventures in another one, CAN be done successfully. It takes a lot of hard work (A LOT), and a lot of patience with yourself, but it can be done.

One of the biggest things I’ve been learning, lately, is just to let go of my trying to control my circumstances, and to really dig deep. I have so many things I could stress out about, but taking a step back and approaching them each individually has proved to be so much better than curling up in a ball and trying to hope the problems go away.

Not only does glorifying stress not help solve the situations at hand, but it prevents me from enjoying the beautiful little things around me in my day to day moments. Yes, I am so thankful to finally be back, but that doesn’t mean things have been easy every step of the way. AND THAT’S OKAY.

I’m fine admitting that I don’t know what’s going to be the next step, moving forward. I mean, I didn’t even know where I was going to live until weeks before I would have been homeless.
BUT.
Something always comes up. And I have faith that it always will; because in the end, my fate and my future are not in my own hands. While the hard work is mine to dedicate myself to, the direction I’m heading is from an always-faithful Father.

This life is crazy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m back! I have no idea what the next step is in half of the areas of my life, but I know I’m on the right track, and FINALLY that’s enough.

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Doing Seattle Summer Right: 5 Ways To Rock With A Limited Budget

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Coming back home to Seattle has been pretty amazing, but the reality of moving back (or really, moving in general) is that it costs a lot of money. And, even though I am working, having to fit moving costs and living expenses etc. in definitely drains the “fun budget.” That being said, I’ve actually had such a busy social life since I’ve been back – the secret being that I haven’t spent $1 on any of my amusements. How have I done it!? Well a little bit of luck, a whole lot of crazy and some fun tricks I’m going to let you in on! Grab a notepad or iPhone or whatever it is kids are using these days, because some of these things I didn’t even know about before moving away. Ready? Okay, let’s go:

1. Volunteer: One of my favorite things to do is to volunteer at events. Not only do you generally get back stage access/get to meet the artists (how I met Mary Lambert!), but you also get to give back to your community! It’s a win-win, right!? I volunteer at the Fremont Abbey a lot and I absolutely love supporting such an amazing community of artists and musicians. Whether it’s working with the bar, the glam task of stacking chairs, or being a volunteer painter/artist during a show, there are always so many ways to help out! Oh! And volunteering = free entry to any show at the abbey.

2. Know your community: Along the same lines, there are some awesome community events in Seattle that are free. During the summer there are free outdoor movies in most neighborhoods, Shakespeare in the park, free museum days and all kinds of festivals with little to no cost. Don’t think that not having a huge budget means you have to sit in a corner all summer!

3. Check your assets: You might not even know what you have access to, but you might have freebies already! I’ve just taken to reading any and everything that comes into my hands and guess what!? I found some awesome events/passes through my local library and my bank (weird, right). If you bank with Bank of America, for instance, you can get a free pass to the Seattle Art Museum, Northwest African American Museum and Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and many others in cities other than Seattle.

4. Get to know people: We have a saying in our classroom that “It’s better to make friends than enemies. Because you never know what you’re missing out on with most people.” People in Seattle have some of the most eccentric tastes you could probably find and making friends is an awesome way of finding out about awesome things going on around Seattle that are fun, low budget and may be something you’ve never done before! This is how I’ve ended up at the semi final Women’s World Cup game, concerts and COMING SOON: hikes that are going to kick my ass (Paris has left me so out of shape it’s an actual tragedy). Don’t burn bridges – build them! (Another favorite is to join up with a Meetup group!)

5. Keep your eyes open: I do a lot of awesome things that are last minute and random and awesome, and the reason for that is because I love looking around reading signs, picking up fliers and going to things that might not be on my normal agenda. For example, I love going to pre-screenings of movies. And companies love me going to pre-screenings of movies. I’ve seen some great documentaries and movies (the last one being Inside Out) for absolutely free just because I picked up a flier that was “admit one” for a pre-screening. There are several spaces you can find tickets, but a good starting place is with Universal pictures, which does a lot of pre-screenings that you can sign up for notifications for (and usually you can bring a friend!).

Do you guys have any money saving tips for summer????

Why Netflix And I Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

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Can I just say: I love being back in the U.S. Will I always live here? Probably not. But at the moment I am having a pretty splendiferous time of it. Coming back to Seattle was not an easy decision. There were a handful of people who thought I should stay in Paris, and others who thought I was crazy for choosing to move back from Europe at all.

But in the true middle finger to the world approach I adopted from my time in France, I could care less what their opinions are.

Because, when it comes down to it, this is my life. My decisions. And I’m the only one calling the shots on which direction I go. I would definitely encourage those who feel like Paris is the Mecca for happiness to move there themselves. (It was not, and never could possibly be, for me.)

ANYWAY…Being back in the good ‘ole US of A has been so much more of an adjustment than I ever thought it would be. It’s funny, but you don’t really even realize how many things you get used to when you’re living in another country. Like bananas.

French bananas DO NOT taste the same as the ones we get here (or fruit in general). And at first that really bothered me. But over the course of 10 months I guess I got used to it, and I wasn’t even aware of the fact…until I got back to the now watery tasting ones in Seattle.

Beyond the fruit revelations, I’ve also experienced so many levels of culture shock from being back. And as weird as it sounds, one of the hardest things I’ve encountered is keeping up with English/English speakers!

While obviously I haven’t forgotten how to speak English, I do have quite a bit of difficulty (still, after 3 weeks!) of finding the correct words for sentences, or speaking conversationally. There are a couple of reasons that I think are to blame for this. On the one hand, I obviously didn’t speak English in France, unless I was with one of my friends or the family I lived with. But on the other hand, I just didn’t really speak that much in general! Now looking back on the past year, I’m realizing just how incredibly silent I became. It feels so odd to be able to express myself without checking my vocabulary for the simplest form of a word and I keep having these moments when I think “Wow! I can read/respond without thinking to that!”

Is forgetting you’re fluent in a language standard after living in a country where it isn’t primarily spoken? Maybe it’s just me.

While I was living in France, I also didn’t have a phone for pretty much the entirety of my time there, so having the ability to call/text/use my smartphone outside of a Wifi zone is the oddest feeling. To be absolutely honest, I still kind of get freaked out when I get a text or phone call.

And despite the general joy of being back in my hometown, there are some things that will NOT be being reintroduced into my life, one of which will be Netflix/Hulu. Both of these sites were absolute addictions prior to my moving…and I guess that makes sense – I love movies, and I always have. BUT the mindlessness and the numbing effect that comes as a package deal is not okay.

In fact, that is one of the biggest things I’m observing and trying to keep from slipping into while in the U.S. Numb distractions.

I never noticed before how much over stimulation there is in the United States. Let’s all take a step back for a second and observe a few: There are more TV shows than we could ever hope to watch (but you’re expected to keep up with all of them), there are more activities than you’ll ever have time to do (how do you not run, do yoga, rock climb and go on a 10 mile hike EVERY DAY!?), more food options than you could possibly choose from, and more technological (sorry, mom) shit than you could ever possibly need. For instance, my iPhone 4s is like six generations behind, and I’ve only been gone for a year!?

Clarification: it still works fine. It still calls, texts, connects to Wifi and my data plan and takes decent photos, and yet…since I’ve been here all I’ve heard about is the latest smartphones and people calling generations that came out two months ago ‘ancient.’

The craziest part is that in spite of all of these 5 million things to keep us occupied, every person I’ve talked to since I’ve been here hates their job, and is constantly trying to escape through said distractions. And don’t even get me started on how messed up the whole, by age 22 most of us are in more debt than we’ll be able to pay off for 20 years, thing.

Okay, I’ll stop ranting. Like I said, there are so many amazing things I love about the United States, also. But one of the biggest things I’ve had to start doing since being here is simply saying no. NO NO NO NO NO. I don’t want to engage in this frothing at the mouth competition to impress people I don’t like in order to create a life where I’m constantly plugging in to something to forget I hate it. NO!

Because if there’s one thing I DID learn about living in Europe, it’s that my true friends love me when I have absolutely nothing to give, nothing to share, no way to repay and nothing to contribute. I am loved as I am. I don’t need to impress anyone, and I don’t need to be running around trying to keep up with whatever the next trend to hit the streets is.

Because when it comes down to it, these are distractions from what I really want to do with my life. These are things that kept me, for many years, from really pursuing things I was passionate about. They are pop up signs, advertisements and shiny gadgets that will not make me happy. And while each, in itself, is not necessarily harmful, the amassed collection is turning us into a nation of ravenous hoarders (of wealth, of technology, of perfectly filtered Instagram photos), blind to how blessed we already are.

You Can Call Me A Seattleite

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Well, it has been far too long since I wrote a blog post, but mostly that’s because I’ve felt like I was becoming the walking dead, and not the cool Game Of Thrones kind. Switching countries always sounds much easier than it generally is. Switching continents adds a whole new level of crazy to the mix.

Today is the first time that I feel semi-conscious, so I think I should update all of you lovelies on what has been going on in my life.

On June 8th I hopped aboard a plane, leaving my house at 5am, because apparently that’s the only time frame I can ever seem to find flights. I was pretty happy to have a smooth trip from the house to the airport, but that ended quickly when I got a 113 euro charge for having to check my “over-weight” carry on. The problem with moving, though, is that you reach a point when if you get rid of anything else you’re going to start losing things you actually care about. So, I took the penalty and climbed aboard with Iceland Air.

I’ve never flown Iceland Air before, but I would definitely recommend it. The staff was great…although I might just have been overly happy to speak English to people. I ended up having a 9 hour layover in Reykjavik, which actually is a completely gorgeous (if completely empty) airport. And then it was off to Seattle. The movie selection on the plane was limited so I ended up watching Shawshank Redemption and Titanic, neither of which I’ve seen before.  The first movie made me want to stand up and cheer, the second made me want to punch the back of seat where it was playing. How was Titanic ever considered a “brilliant” love story/movie? I mean, come on.

Anyway.  I flew into Seattle on a beautiful 80 degree (FAHRENHEIT!!!) day that was clear and perfect and allowed me to see the mountains as I came in. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a landscape in my life. After a boring routine through security, I was off to my friends house, which I would love to tell you all about if I remembered anything other than falling asleep and waking up the next day and falling asleep and waking up the next day… until the last few days. Jet lag is rough.

But here I am, now! I’m officially a Seattle resident, again and despite there being more bumps in the road than I could have ever anticipated, I know that I am back where I belong.

This is also the part of this story where I tear up and tell you all how amazing my friends have been over this whole process. I literally don’t know what I would have done without them – there is no way I would be happy, healthy or housed. So thank you to each of you darlings who have supported and loved me on a level that has been so much more than I could have ever imagined, expected or deserved. Thank you for being my family when others have fallen short and for building me up when I’ve fallen down. Someday I hope I can repay you darlings for everything you have done. *cue tissues*

Oceans

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Galway, Ireland

On the way back from school today, I was walking with my two youngest boys, and we came to a crosswalk. We stopped, looked both ways, and I stepped out first with them following. While they happily scampered across the street a car came speeding down the road, slamming on its brakes last minute when it saw me there, standing in the center of the crosswalk waiting for my kids to get across. I eyed the driver defiantly; because do or die, I was not moving until my kids were safe.

This isn’t the first, or the last, time that something like this has/will happened. As an au pair it’s my job to protect and take care of my kids and that’s what I do, even if it means risking my own safety in the effort. First and foremost it’s my job to make sure they come home safe and sound at the end of the day.

But, you know what? They don’t know that. In fact, I would go as far to say they don’t have a clue.
Sure they know I feed them, and pick them up from school, and that I take them to the park. But while they’re happily crossing streets, they have no idea there are cars narrowly missing them. And that’s okay. They’re kids and being oblivious to adult responsibilities is part of the package deal.

Today, though, I started thinking about how I cross my own streets in life, all the time, with God standing guard. I am the kid walking across with little to no idea of the protective measures going on around me.

The only difference is that my crosswalks are life choices – things that might seem scary or unknown, or downright insane. The other side of the road doesn’t always look like a nice and visible place to be. I get distracted by the fact that I can’t see what’s on the other side, or that I’m crossing alone and no one else seems to be walking in the same direction; I get nervous because I don’t have a plan after I cross, I don’t know who or what I will become when I reach that point – and that is terrifying. All I can think about is the other side of the street, but if only I would take the time to see the protecting guidance of my Father I would know better than to fear.

Lately I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like to be an au pair. People have sent me messages saying they’ve thought about doing it, and they want to know if I think they should. I’ve been really careful replying to these messages, because I know giving “advice” on life altering decisions is very serious. And being an au pair IS a life altering decision. You will not come back the same.

And I don’t mean that solely in a, “you’ll have such a larger perspective of the world” way. Yes, you will gain amazing skills such as viewing people different from yourself, new friends and experiences and most likely have a more open mind. BUT you will also have battle scars and wounds from your time abroad. You will have situations that you wish you could have avoided, and problems you never thought you would overcome.

You’ll probably spend time crying – a LOT of time crying. You’ll wonder what the hell you’re doing there. You’ll feel like you’re wasting valuable time in your life, and that you could be doing something more significant. You’ll feel like you’re suffocating, like if you missed places and people any more your heart would implode.

That. That is what it means to be an au pair. And I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that you won’t feel like giving up on a regular basis. Because the reality is, it’s an extremely “unnatural” feeling to be living in a stranger’s house in a strange land with strange surroundings and nothing and no one familiar in immediate reach during your rough moments.
You don’t get to go home and vent after work – your home is your work. You don’t get sick days to stay home and marathon Netflix, you go to work every day, regardless of your state of health. Your schedule is not your own, you get woken up by screaming children and have to be quiet at night so you don’t wake them. Sometimes you’ll wonder if it’s worth it – or whether you should crank your music so loud the walls shake just so you’ll remember that you are there. And you are. Even though sometimes it feels like you’ve melted into an emotional pot the family has forgotten to stir – some kind of strange substance floating on the surface.

Let’s face it, sometimes a lot of the time you will want to give up. A lot of time I want to give up.

But I was raised to keep running a race until I reached the finish line. Whether I have to run, walk, limp or crawl there – I will cross it, and hold my head high.

Being an au pair is hard; it has stretched me in ways that I never knew I could be stretched. It has emboldened me in ways I never thought possible, and it has cut into my heart, replacing pieces I never wanted to admit were rotting. I’ve overcome things that I never would wish for anyone else to experience, stories I’ll never tell to anyone but those who are closest to me.

It has been painful and difficult and crazy and confusing.

But every now and then I’ll catch a glimmer. A faint light shining amidst the chaos that this life brings, and I’ll remember; the life I was called to, to run a good race, to push forward even when absolutely everything is pushing me back. I’ll remember that even the darkest rainstorms result in beautiful color pallets painting the skies.

And maybe that’s what this season is about. It’s a season of stretching. A season of building the muscles that will carry me across steeper roads, higher mountains and deeper canyons.

It’s not easy. Not one day since I’ve been here has been easy. But there have been times when I’ve smiled more genuinely than I think I ever have before. And I guess that is what truly marks a great adventure. Not that it’s a leisurely stroll. But that it’s a trek that leaves you scratched up, worn out and ready to drop at the end – but with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.

We did it.

None of us leave this life unscathed or unaltered. The real question is whether the wounds we acquire have stories that are worth telling for generations.

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The Breakup

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This week marks 5 months of me living in France, and I can hardly believe that it has gone by so quickly! I know that’s probably somewhat of a standard thing to say, but I really just cannot believe how much has happened in such a short amount of time. It simultaneously feels like 5 weeks and 5 years.

As a marker stone for this anniversary of my life in France, I thought I would think back to what I missed from life before living here. The answer: Everything. So then I thought it would be BETTER to think about the things that I didn’t really miss. That worked a lot better.

The biggest thing I don’t miss is my Netflix account. I know, shun me. But it’s the truth! I thought I would die without it, but honestly, I was using it most of the time to watch things I didn’t actually want to watch and to fill in the void of exhaustion that I would have after work. There wasn’t much “fruit” growing out of this part of my life. Oh, and Hulu got the boot too. The reason was mainly financial that I cut the cord on my Netflix relationship. It really wasn’t them, it was me. As an au pair I make next to nothing, after student loans etc., so I decided to cut all unnecessary costs. It was a really hard decision, to be honest, but in the end I knew it was worth it. You don’t really think about Nextflix/Hulu as costing money, but after a year it’s almost $250 I was spending. Crazy.

Obviously I realize this breakup isn’t for everyone. But I’ve noticed myself being so much more intellectual in the spare time that I now have. If I’m bored, and want to watch something, I go on PBS (free) and stream a documentary or Downton Abbey, or something that I actually want to watch (unlike Bronies). It turns out I don’t need 500 movie options to choose from every night, and the act of actually picking a movie is so much more enjoyable because I CHOOSE the movie. It’s not the suggestion of a suggestion of a suggestion of an algorithm of a choice I made three years ago. Not to say there aren’t good things to watch on Netflix, just that I don’t need access to all of them to stay happy.

My second breakup was with my smartphone. Although I do still use it for keeping in touch with awesome people from home (when I have wifi) I bought a little prepaid phone and (GUESS WHAT!?) it works just fine for making phone calls/texts. While I do like the idea of having information constantly graspable, I’ve realized that it’s kind of cool not to always be checking notifications, but instead be checking what my kids were doing at the park.

Instead of bringing my iPhone, I bring my sketchbook, or my knitting, or a book to read when I go out. I read on the metro, or just sit there silently (or as silently as one possibly can sit on the Paris Metro). It’s amazing how undervalued silence is. My brain goes absolutely wild. I come up with some of my best ideas while catching the mostly empty metro to church on Sunday mornings. I find myself sketching randomness when I’m waiting for my kids to finish piano lessons or PE and then realize: Wait. I DREW that! I finish books I’ve wanted to read for forever and I come up with designs and ideas on how to fix problems. If I have my iPhone out at all it’s because I’m using notepad to write down all of the ideas that are pouring out of my mind.

Next on the kick list, and this one kind of breaks my heart, is fashion. I’ve bought only basics and accessories, like scarves, since I’ve lived here (I think I might have bought a pair of shoes and a coat at some point) and that’s pretty much it. It was really hard at first, because I LOVE fashion and I love being able to keep up with trends, but something I’ve learned (which is oh so French) is that minimalism is okay. I have one pair of American made, sturdy leather boots and they work great for every day basically. Amazingly, I don’t need 25 sweaters and 200 pairs of shoes. Instead I mix up accessories and play with different makeup choices. It’s actually a lot more fun, and still keeps me on my toes in the fashion arena.

And lastly I’ve broken up with waste food. I would call it junk food, but I honestly feel like “waste” is a better word because of how much of a waste it is to my potential. A few months ago I joined this healthy eating/living group and it has been so great. We’re able to keep each other accountable and really push ourselves to work out, or to eat healthy meals. When I first arrived in this house there was so much junk food it was incredible, but after living here for only a few months I see a difference in the way me and my kids eat. Even the parents are climbing onboard!

The result of getting rid of these (and more) unnecessary things has allowed for a kind of renaissance in my creative life. AKA: my mind feels like it’s going to explode all the time. I have too many ideas, not enough time. I have so many projects I want to start, so many things I want to make and create. It’s like the past few years my mind has been storing ideas and suddenly the dam has been breached.

It’s both glorious and mildly terrifying, mainly because I don’t really sleep anymore. But at the same time, it’s incredibly liberating. And I can’t help but wonder: How much more would have been stuck in my mind had I not decided to take a step back from some unhealthily dependent relationships?