Time to Move Mountains – Rise Up Women of the U.S.A

photo-1478012168135-bae821e3dc6d-1

I grew up in a passionately Republican family; one that was racist, homophobic and expressed bigotry on a regular basis. Does this represent all Republicans? No. I am simply telling my story.

Needless to say, this morning when I rolled out of bed to the results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, I didn’t have to “imagine” how people could have voted for Trump. I knew from 18 years of first-hand experience. The power of fear should not be underestimated.

That being said, of course, I was upset with the outcome. As a woman, and a person of color, how could I not be? The next four years are going to be challenging in ways I’ve never had to experience in my lifetime. But whether we want to admit it or not, hate racism and bigotry have all been in the Whitehouse, before.

Women of the United States of America, it’s time for us to rise up.

This post isn’t about right or left or red or blue. It’s about what’s next for us.

I currently live in a city that’s more liberal than most. We try (although, we have work to do) to understand equality and promote it among the people living here. We try. We’re not perfect, and we are on a journey, but we try. I realize that other parts of the country are not this way. Perhaps this election was, if nothing else, a beacon to shine a light on that fact. We are a broken people. We are a broken nation. We are a nation who has been taken in by the false god of fear.

This morning, as I stared at a map filled with red colored states, I tried to wrap my mind around the numbers, the statistics and how exactly this happened. I love analytics. But this was different. Something didn’t feel right. How did the statistics for women voting slide so strongly toward a man who embodies everything we fight so hard against?

Perhaps this is another lesson: the gaps in American equality are not just a problem created by men.

Over the course of the past months we have seen our President-elect slander women again and again. The list of offenses is egregious. Regardless of your stance, the facts are that he’s currently facing, and has formerly been accused of, rape charges.

So why did we, as women, vote for him?

To be honest, I don’t have an answer, but I do know what this points to — a culture where we, as women, are hurting.

A stroll through any history book will show you that existence has never been easy for women. We’ve been raped, defaced, tortured, slandered and brutally killed in our journey for equal rights. And while perhaps not as prevalent in certain parts of the world, these treatments are not just something from the past. And for those of us in the “free” world: Our ballots are our testimonies.

What can we even do to move forward?
You probably already know what I’m going to say.

1-john-418Ladies, it’s time for us to rise up.

It is time for us to speak life, encouragement and power over the next generation, and the generations who came before us. It’s time to embrace a culture that lifts women up, rather than tearing each other down. It’s time for us to introduce ourselves to our neighbors; to hug and care for those who are grieving or in pain.

This is not about politics, I don’t care what side of the “fence” you are, or have been, on. This election is showing us the very real truth behind what airbrushed magazine covers and bright Hollywood lights have done to us. Our nation is crying out for justice. We are hurting. We are stumbling. We are searching for anything to heal our brokenness — even if that means destroying ourselves in the process.

Ladies, it is time for us to rise up.

The next four years will not be easy. Probably for all of us, but it will most certainly be harder for some.

To my sisters who are getting ready for the storm — I stand with you. I will love you. I will protect you. I will speak for you. I will defend you.

Because you are worthy. You are wonderfully made. You are beautifully whole. You are an inspiration. You are valid. You are strong. You are brilliant. You are made for great things. You are powerful. You are so much more than any title.

And we? Together we are immovable, unbreakable and our story will live as long as the stars shine.

Rise up.

 

One Glass Of Unicorn Blood: Shaken, Not Stirred

photo-1452826942781-56e3f80f6a35

If I was Voldemort, art would be my unicorn blood.

Okay, okay. Kinda gross and sort of dramatic. But it’s true!

Before you walk away gagging, let me explain: 

Art is my life blood and keeps me sustained.

And while it doesn’t require a life long curse, it does require a lot of sacrifice. How often is that the case, though? The things we love, the things we are passionate, what makes everything ‘just feel right’ comes at a price.

Adulting.

Here I am, sitting the morning after a show I painted at, and I can barely keep my eyes open. I slept a full 7 hours, but this is one of those moments when I’m blatantly aware that I am no longer the college freshman who did homework until midnight, then sprung out of bed at 6am for work the next morning.

Lately, I’ve been VERY aware of my own limitations.

And let me tell you, it’s a feeling that’s pretty upsetting and kind of annoying. I hate being limited. I hate not being able to do every. single. thing. that pops into my head. I want to travel everywhere, live on Twitter, blog everyday, paint everything, work 80 hours a week and still have time to maintain healthy relationships and exercise 7 times a week.

Wouldn’t that be nice? If only I wasn’t human.

The reality is – I have limits. And I don’t think enough of us admit that. I’m not talking about being lazy, so don’t think leaning back in a pile of potato chips on the couch, while streaming soap operas, is what I’m talking about.

I’m talking about good ole-fashioned lack of ability to have more hours than life provides.

And while I know you gentlemen feel this way, as well – I’m going to call out the pressure that we, as women, feel to be EVERYTHING.

A lot of the time it feels like I need to be the perfect career woman, the perfect blogger, the perfect girlfriend, the perfect daughter the perfect roommate, the perfect friend, the perfect writer, the perfect editor. Oh, and also volunteer every weekend, be devastatingly fit, and have all my student loans paid off like 10 years ago.

(NOTE: I wasn’t even in college 10 years ago)

The point is, this is INSANE.

And I’m calling it.

There is no way to live up to this constant standard of perfection, and while I do very strongly agree that healthy life = happy life. Let’s reevaluate what that means.

Not to compare the U.S. to France, again, buuuuuuuuut…

In France women are not perfect mothers. They don’t have to be, and honestly I don’t think they want to be. Motherhood is just one piece (like being a vegetarian or a yogi) that makes up who they are.

In France there are days and days of vacation time when people literally sit around and “do nothing.” Or, to be specific, they lay around in gardens and on lawns and in front of amazing buildings that look like movie backgrounds.

In France you work so that you have more time to enjoy your life. Not so that you can pay back student loan gods who hold you in shackles for 40 years.

Obviously there are problems with any society, and France is not immune. But the overarching culture is sometimes storybook-esque.

Sometimes that drove me crazy, when I was living there. But now, I think I’m starting to get it.

I’m starting to understand that there’s no way to win in this American system.

Last weekend I got to hear some of the most successful people I can think of talk about their success, and guess what? They still don’t feel like they’ve “made it.”

Why? Because we’re holding ourselves to an impossible standard.

Okay, now the happy part:

We don’t have to live this way. We don’t have to do everything and be everything. In fact, I don’t believe we were ever meant to. courtney-e-martin-quoteLet’s refocus for a minute.

One of my favorite quotes is by author Courtney E. Martin, who wrote a fantastic book called Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body.

“We are a generation of young women who were told we could do anything and instead heard that we had to be everything.”

Every time I read this quote, it’s like a slap in the face and a breath of fresh air.

This has been resonating with me a lot, lately, as I try to tackle 60 hour work weeks while maintaining a semi-normal life outside of my 3/4 jobs. It’s not easy. But I do my best, and I’ve decided that that is enough. I might not be producing my best ever art, or updating my social media/Etsy more than once a month but that’s okay. I’m still pressing forward.

Can I get an amen?

Okay, but really. I AM a huge advocate of hard work. But I also think it’s really important that we realize — we are not robots. We’re divinely created temples. And temples are places to be valued and loved.

So, today, wherever you are in life, that you’re reading this, just know that it’s okay not to have “it all together.”

I give you permission to be tired. To be a little messy. To be a little human. And to love your life, and yourself a little more.

Love extravagantly. Be kind to one another. And…

6 People You’ll Meet While Traveling In Europe

6 People you'll meet

While traveling in Europe over the past few years I’ve met a LOT of people. The streets are always filled with travelers eager to get a taste of the art, history and overall experience that Europe has to offer; and as a solo traveler, I am always more than happy to share my journey with them. Toward the end of my last trip I started to take note of the trends in who I was sharing planes, trains and airplanes with and I thought I would share a few with you lovelies. So here they are – have you seen them? Leave a message with who I missed!

1. The Recent Grad:  These lovelies are the class of 20__ and are loud and proud about it. Whether hailing from the “great” U.S.A!, Canada, Australia or some other English speaking country, you’ll probably be able to pick these travelers out of a crowd by their looks of beautiful naivety and their constant need to tell everyone that they’ve recently graduated from college. Little do their beautiful soft minds know, we don’t care so much what you’ve learned from a book, but how you’ve applied it so far. Getting out of your comfort zone is a great starting point, but sometimes I want to tell them to not let that one three month European trip be the last time they push themselves beyond it.

2. The Family: Strollers in tow, these parents aren’t quite ready to settle down behind their white picket fences (at least, not all the time) and are out and about with their growing family. And don’t get them wrong, these families will be climbing mountains with sleeping babies strapped to their chest. I love seeing these families because I think it’s so important to introduce children to travel early on. My love of travel is because from a very young ageI was packed up and traveling all around the US – the fearlessness of travel is a learned attribute and I love seeing these kids learning it at such a young age.

3. The Band Of Brothers: There’s something beautifully bonding about the group of guys that travels the world together. Or at least that’s what they’ve all told me. But it’s not only the dudes who are bro-ing out. Shout out to the ladies who also have some tight knit pacts binding them together over countries and continents. Whether it’s a post graduation exploration, or just because their parents didn’t want them to be murdered when traveling alone (because that’s what happens to all us solo travelers – duh.) these groups can be fun to watch – and that’s pretty much all you’ll probably have the opportunity to do. Groups generally aren’t as inclusive as couples or singles (or even families) who travel. In much of the same way there are pros and cons to traveling alone, it’s a blessing and a curse to already have your friends with you when seeing the world.

4. The Boho Hipster: Yeah, yeah. We know. You are above living under the thumb of “the man” so you’ve decided to spend a “season” wandering the earth seeking enlightenment. Believe me, if you’ve met this person you will know it – mainly because they will be constantly reminding you of their alternative lifestyle. And you know what? That’s okay. Props to them – I don’t know how anyone travels with that many additional restrictions to their lifestyles. That’s right, I’m talking to you vegan, glamper who lives off Nietzsche, vintage wines and posts Instagram selfies of your daily lens flare/travel quote/#nofilter #travelpics #blessed.

5. The Nomad: A bit different from the Bohemian (mainly monetary differences, if we’re honest) this person actually doesn’t have anywhere else to go, and therefore approaches the world as their back yard, ready to be perused and explored. Hobbies may include, but are not limited to: epic story telling, guitar playing, resourceful repurposing, dread lock growing, Volkswagen driving, smoking certain plants that may or may not be legal and hanging out with the locals around dinner tables, fire pits and hostel front doors with long talks and smokes at 2am.

6. The Couple: Yes they’re in love. Yes you’re going to know it at every. single. moment. you’re with them. Whether they’re newly-weds, the couple who just never got their honeymoon or the empty nesters/retirees who are ready to take on the world, Europe called and they answered. While some of these couples may seem like an awkward alliance, don’t pass them by so quickly – some of my favorite introductions I’ve ever had were with older couples who had life advice, travel advice and were just solidly awesome. I love seeing the same enthusiasm I have as a single twenty something reflected in the eyes of couples who have been married for forty years. Wanderlust knows no age.

Happy International Women’s Day!!

Exploress IWD

Love my job, love the strong independent traveling women I get to work alongside. If you haven’t checked out our website, before – now’s your chance!! CLICK HERE! 

#InternationalWomensDay

To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

10368239_471760576260296_6845897016861623759_n
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.

1424510_10204495246754590_986803764695503958_n
Me and TinTin! I was so happy I have a ridiculous grin on my face. Also I got to hold snowy – win.
10367730_10204495420838942_6958137642204944344_n
Me and The TARDIS.
10734093_10204495355157300_7546682582280193276_n
Me and my Cosplay as Mels from Doctor Who.

I Don’t Care: I LOUVRE It!

DSC_0008

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.

10410113_10204308232079340_4944751815167391274_n

DSC_1290 DSC_1260 DSC_1259 DSC_1277 DSC_1269

DSC_1301 DSC_1293

Lemme take a selfie DSC_1302 DSC_1296

Perfect Weakness

A Ship In Stormy Seas

If I asked you who you were, what would you say?

Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s a question that I’ve been running through my mind a lot, lately and today, I stopped to actually think about it. You see, moving to a different country is a pretty intimidating thing. But the moving itself isn’t the hard part.

It’s having no identity once you get there.

Most people don’t really sit around wondering what their identity is. Most of the time it’s inherent. You’re a daughter because you have a mother. You’re a girlfriend because you have a boyfriend. You’re an artist because you make art. You’re an English speaker because you speak English.

But, what happens when you move away from all that?

You’re a daughter, but your mother is 8,000 miles away. You’re an artist, but you have limited supplies, resources and different mediums available. You know English, but you’re not allowed to speak it.

So the question comes up again: Who are you?

I’m the kind of person who believes that regular identity crisis are necessary and a healthy part of my life, but most of the time it’s because I find myself not knowing who I am, or what I want to do at that moment.

This experience is different.

I wouldn’t call this a crisis. I’ve spent the last year figuring out who I am and what direction I want to go in, so those aren’t issues right now. But, like in any witness protection or spy movie, by moving I have suddenly become a person without any identity to those around me.

No one knows who I am. I can walk down the street with 0% possibility of running into someone I know, or grew up with. I go to the store and they eye me warily, wondering where I came from – since they know everyone who lives in this small town.

I don’t have any favorite spots, yet. I don’t have a community, church or friends, yet. I’m a body in this city, but not yet a person.

When I was thinking about this, this morning, it really bothered me. I, like most people, like to be known. I love acknowledgement, and “words of affirmation” is my love language. – not having anyone to talk with in my native (and therefore emotionally comfortable) language makes feeling “whole” pretty difficult.

So, with my identity shifting, and my surroundings foreign, I was wondering today – what makes me…me? Who am I?

“When my identity fails – You will remain. So I will tether myself to you.”

The nearest (non-catholic) church is more than an hour away from where I live, so I’ve been streaming some sermons while going to the Catholic one down the street. It’s an unconvential way of “doing church”, but I’ve never been very good at claiming the conventional, anyway.

Today I was listening to a sermon about anchoring your soul – or having something that grounds you. The pastor was talking about how, to some people, this anchor might be material, and to others it might be another person (such a spouse)…but, the problem is, those things aren’t going to be able to help you when you’re “four inches from sinking.” The first because, being soulless, it can’t relate to your problem, and the latter because they are as broken as we are.

This week I have felt like the top of my boat is four inches from the waves (aka me losing my mind); with too much weight gathered within its structure, my boat is about four inches from being filled and slipping beneath the water: four inches from disaster. Sometimes I feel like I’m just staring at the side of the boat hoping and praying that no bigger waves come and pull me under.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am confident in my decision to move to France, and I have complete peace about where I am right now. But it’s not easy jumping into a family of strangers, working every day and trying desperately to understand 100% of a foreign language when you have about 80% comprehension (80 sounds like a lot, but try reading a book with 80% of each sentence).

Sometimes I find myself praying out loud because I’m so frustrated with circumstances. Like dogs getting diarrhea and pooping EVERYWHERE, kids throwing punches and middle fingers at their siblings and simultaneous fatigue from a mixture of constantly being around people (introvert alert) and jet lag.

I am not perfect, and situations are not perfect.

But, it’s at times like this, when I realize it’s absolutely essential that my hope is anchored on something stronger than my discouragement.

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.” (Hebrews 6:19)

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes think about just packing my bags and going back home. I miss Seattle like nobody’s business. But I also know that there’s a plan and a reason for me being where I am. And, perhaps more importantly, there’s a promise that my anchor is holding steadfast, even when I can’t see it.

My identity, although feeling unknown, is buried deep within the hope of a savior who promises not that things will be easy, but that he will be present. Right now things are tough, that’s just a reality. But even as an outlier to my present circumstances, I have confidence in knowing that – regardless of the way I feel about things – below the raging water’s surface is an anchor that promises never to let go.

832d13a42cb4bc99b49c76a5e26bcf86

Back On Le Train

26512_1374344912067_3839223_n
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Life has been crazy. I haven’t been blogging for the past couple of weeks because all the sudden my life shifted into fast gear and I kind of lost my footing for a bit. Summer has begun, and everything keeps chugging along. Work has been ridiculous – in good, but exhausting, ways.

My work day currently looks something like this:

6AM – Wake up

6:25 – Bus to work

6:45 – Arrive at work

9:30 – Leave work and bus home

10:00 – 2:30 Paint/write/try to catch World Cup games/eat/study french

2:45 – leave for work

3:30 – 7:30 Nanny

8:00 – Come home, eat dinner, paint

10:30 – Go to bed (if I’m lucky)

Repeat.

Needless to say, it’s been pretty hectic.

Mais, c’est la vie.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Next week will be my last week working mornings, which is going to be fantastic since I can then actually stay up later than 10pm and get things done (I’m a pretty hard core night owl). Other than that, here are the top 5 things that have happened since I’ve written last!

lr1e9bj1qanfa412128280

1. France in the World Cup: Sorry if you’re not into soccer (and shame on you), but this had to be #1. France is making me proud with their football playing in the World Cup, and I’m so excited to be able to watch them play Nigeria on Wednesday! I was able to watch the France v. Switzerland game in a French café here in Seattle, with a bunch of French people, while eating French food – and it was the most magical day ever. Best friend dates are the greatest, huh?

2

2. Booked hostel in San Francisco: Booked my hostel and I couldn’t be more excited. I was going to couchsurf while I was in San Francisco, but since I’m going on a holiday weekend there weren’t very many options for places to stay. Also, the hostel is only 10 min walk from the French Embassy, which will make getting to my appointment easy – yay! I still can’t believe I have to go all the way to San Francisco to apply, finger crossing and prayers are completely appreciated that all of my paperwork will go through seamlessly. Otherwise I’m going to be in a bit of a pickle…I’ve never understood where that phrase came from.

3. French tutoring: My French tutoring is no more. It really is the most tragic thing ever, because I really liked my French tutor. But now he’s gone back to Paris, so I have no one to help me. Commence weeping. That being said, I am DETERMINED to keep studying and practicing French so I don’t fall back into the chasm of ignorance before jumping on a plane to Europe.

4. Sending email to church in Paris: This is more of a “I need to do this” but it’s finally time for me to start sending out emails and stuff to people in France so I can get con-nect-ed. I don’t know why I said it like that.

5. Quit my j-o-b…my second job. I have been passing out most days from exhaustion, so it was time to say goodbye to job number two starting next week. There’s just too much work to be done getting ready to leave, and I really want to be able to focus on spending time with my family and friends during the last month and a half (holy shit!) that I’m here. I’m still going to be subbing at the Boys and Girls club through August, but no more 6am wake up calls. Thank the Lord.

5.5. French Kiss: I watched this movie and it is a true gem of the 1990’s: corny and fantastic. It has Meg Ryan in it, so of course it is perfect. If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must.

It feels so good to be back writing, again!

(only 51 days until I leave! Eek!)

-E

My Au Pair Story

1090931_10201244334243809_98384347_o

I realized today that I haven’t ever formally shared my story about how I became/am becoming an au pair in France. It’s pretty brilliant, so hold on to your seat. As all good stories do mine starts with:

“Once upon a time …”

I got laid off from my job. Ha. They gave me one week notice, which is insane and possibly illegal (at least morally). Needless to say,  I hit panic mode. I applied for any and every job I could even remotely be qualified for. Then, when nothing happened, I started applying for jobs I was only meagerly qualified for.

This is when I stumbled on adds for taking care of kids. “I can do that,” I thought, “how hard can it be?” I was raised in a family of 5, with a hard working teacher for a mother, and the responsibility of partially raising my younger siblings, so becoming a second “mother” to random kids seemed like a natural enough transition. While applying, I decided I only wanted to work with larger families (3+ kids) so I didn’t get bored. And when I found one that said 5 kids, I knew it was perfect. I don’t know why, but in my mind I convinced myself that the more kids, the busier I would be, which would make working so much easier.

So I emailed off my resume. And got a response! I went in for an interview that week and it went great. They said they would email me back that week. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I think it was somewhere around a month later that I heard back that I got the job. It was nerve wrecking to say the least – mainly because, after months of no work, I had eaten through my savings and didn’t have the next months rent.

When I first started working as a nanny I thought I would work there for 1 year tops, since that was what my contract was for. As the months went by, though, I realized I may need to stick around for a bit longer. See, the family only consisted of 3 kids when I started, all biological children to the parents. Within 6 months there were two more who had been adopted from Africa.

For those who know about adoption, you know it’s a huge transition. There are a lot of aspects that have to come together to make it work, and one of them is the stability of the people around the kids. So I gave myself the time limit of 2 years. After that I would have to move on. It wasn’t that I hated my job, but I’ve seen people get comfortable in “good” jobs that are going nowhere and only realize 5 years later that they’ve wasted their time.

This year, at about 1.5 years I started wondering what I was going to do next. I love my job, and I was determined not to leave it unless something amazing came up. There was no way I was ever going back into the world of zombies, windowless cubicles or retail.

One day, while I was making dinner, my roommate asked me about whether or not I was still thinking about becoming an au pair. I had completely forgotten that I ever wanted to do that (although I have since I was a kid), or that I had told her about it being on my bucket list. But I thought, “What the hell? I have nothing else going on in my life right now. Why not see what happens?”

I hopped on Google and typed in “Becoming an au pair” and clicked on the first link that came up – a site called AuPairWorld. When I first started filling out the profile, I did it as kind of joke. I didn’t think I would get any responses, and I had no hopes about finding a family. But, within 24 hours, I had three families asking for more information and whether I would Skype with them. I couldn’t believe it!

I set up some interviews with families and found some amazing people, but it wasn’t until a few days later that a family in a little town south of Paris sent me a message. They seemed like the sweetest family on earth, and as soon as I had Skyped with them I was sure that they were the family for me. Although the glamour of living directly in Paris seemed like it would be a great experience, I remembered how overwhelming London was for me, and I knew that the countryside was a better fit.

Becoming an au pair in France is a lot harder than it sounds. There are mountains of paperwork, hurdles to jump over and red tape to tangle yourself in. But, through it all, I’ve been so lucky to have an amazing French family to work with. I feel so empowered knowing that I’m taking a directional step in my life; one that is going to produce boat loads of stories to tell my kids someday.

If you’ve ever considered becoming an au pair, I would highly suggest the website I went through. It’s completely free to make a profile, and provides a platform for you to meet families, and for you to talk to them beforehand in a safe space. If nothing else, it’s an awesome opportunity to see what your options are!

It’s crazy to think that six months ago I had no idea where my life was headed, and now I’m on my way to Europe. Sometimes crazy things, like getting laid off, land you in places you never thought you’d be. But the beauty of life, is that those places sometimes lead to better opportunities than you could have imagined.

373857_2675893809976_759427527_n
Seattle, WA