Tuesday, November 19, 2013

40 Words for 40 Years

1)            Empowered – There were times in my 20s when I felt uncertain, and going into my 30s I felt extremely confident.  Now, in my 40s, I feel nothing but empowered.  I know that my dreams are not too far-fetched, not unreachable, not too fanciful, and completely attainable.

2)            Excited – I get butterflies in my tummy thinking about how God will use me in the coming decade.  He has plans for me, and while they may not be the exact plans I have for myself, I’m excited for what’s in the making.

3)            Energized – Knowing everything I have yet to do and knowing that I can do it all energizes me (and terrifies me a little, too).

4)            Strong – I feel physically strong.  I’m proactive with my body and although my metabolism may have slowed down, I still feel pretty healthy.

5)            Intentional – My life is probably about half done by now.  I don’t mean that in a negative way, only that time is moving along and I want to be intentional in my choices to be certain I keep doing the things I need and want to be doing.

6)            Resilient – I’ve bounced back from very painful events in my life:  my mother’s illness and death, my father’s massive heart attack, moving across the country, my father’s deteriorating health and watching him take his last breath.  Pain, suffering, heartache, and yet I pull through thanks to an unshakable faith in an unshakable Christ.

7)            Thoughtful – It takes so little effort to put a smile on someone’s face.  A kind word, a helpful gesture, a sincere compliment – just thinking outside of myself and reaching out in small (and big) ways to brighten someone else’s day.

8)            Enthusiastic – I don’t want to drag through life as if it owes me something.  I want to live life fully, thankful for my blessings.

9)            Experienced – Experiences make us who we are and inform our identity.  I may not love everything I’ve experienced in my life, but those experiences have profoundly affected me and made it possible for me to relate to others in a human way.

10)        Anticipation – I love routine.  I feel better – list in hand – knowing what to expect from each day.  And while I don’t usually love surprises, healthy anticipation leaves room for something new each day.

11)        Connected – I have a different and unique connection with each person I know and interact with, and that variety of relationships enriches my life and keeps me inspired.

12)        Editrice – I’ve figured it out.  Editing electrifies me (I know I’m a big nerd – a word nerd!).  This is what I enjoy doing, and I think I’m skilled at it.

13)        Seeking – There are so many areas in my life that need improvement.  I’m seeking ways to be better, increase my knowledge, grow as a person, and develop my character.

14)        Appreciative – My blessings are too many to count.  I’m thankful every single day for God’s mercies.

15)        Children – Silas and James:  They make me smile, they make me cry, they make me want to pull my hair out, they make my heart swell.  They are God’s miracles – two pieces of heaven entrusted and on loan to me.

16)        Student – I don’t think you ever reach a point in life when you’re done, when you know enough.  I’m constantly learning.  I want to surround myself with people who have more knowledge than I do so I can soak in their expertise and wisdom.

17)        Emotional – I think I’m getting more emotional with age.  I used to never cry; now I can’t hold it in.  I don’t love it, but I can’t always control it, either.

18)        Francophile – Oh Paris, what have you done to me?

19)        Pleasure – I take pleasure in big things (faith, marriage, children) and small things (macarons, new pens, blank paper).  I pray that my Father takes pleasure in me.

20)        Outlook – I’ve been around positive people and I’ve been around negative people.  You can be a realist but temper it in a positive way without unleashing crap to the people around you.  Even in the hardest circumstances, you can choose to let hope propel you.

21)        Passion – I have many passions in life; it’s hard to contain sometimes.  Live life with passion and be an inspiration to whoever may be watching.

22)        Fearless – I have fears.  Creepy crawly things, banality, and failure.  Time to push through some of these fears (not the creepy crawly ones) and come out triumphantly on the other side.  God is love, and love drives out fear.

23)        Filter – I need one.  In my mind and on my mouth.

24)        Marriage – After my relationship with Jesus, my relationship with my husband is the most exceptional, most unique, and most important thing in my life.

25)        Scleroderma – I hate this word, this disease that took my mother’s life.  She was 49.  I’m only nine years from 49, and sometimes I think, what if…?  But I cannot let my doubts and fears trump my faith, and so I focus on my favorite verse, Philippians 1:21.  That’s all that matters.

26)        Jesus – My everything.

27)        Honesty – I have to be honest with myself.  I can say Jesus is my everything (in fact, I just did), but am I living it?  Time to face some harsh truths.

28)        Laughter – The best sound ever.  My kids’ laughter, my friends’ laughter, my husband’s, the lady at Starbucks – it doesn’t matter.  Laughter is contagious, and the wrinkles are worth it.

29)        Respect – It has to be earned, and it has to be shown.

30)        Friendship – Can you ever have enough friends?  I love meeting new people.  I love getting to know people in a deeper way.  I’m so grateful for my friends – old and new, near and far – because they each enhance my life in a different way.

31)        Awareness – I hate watching the news because it is so depressing.  But I can’t ignore what’s happening in the world and in my community.  If anything, awareness should increase my compassion (severely lacking in that one!) and compel me into action.

32)        Priorities – I can make a list, but it means nothing on paper if I’m not living it.  Talk is cheap.

33)        Dignity – This is a really important word for me and it should be for you.  We are valuable, and our dignity should be valued.  Expect nothing less.

34)        Flawed – Yeah, I’m not perfect.  GASP!  It’s true.  I have lots of flaws, probably too many to count.  But it’s through those cracks that Jesus seeps in.

35)        Model – I may not be 5’9 with a 25 inch waist, but you don’t have to be a model to be a role model.  Act in a way that is worthy of your calling.  People are watching.

36)        Motherhood – A thankless job, but a noble calling.  Just when I think I have it figured out…

37)        Music – I grew up listening to my Dad sing.  He could have been a professional had his own father not discouraged him.  Music stirs my soul, helps me feel alive, encourages me, lifts my spirit, energizes me, comforts me, fills me, inspires me.  Music colors my world.

38)        Struggles – I’ve had many struggles in my life.  Sometimes I remind God that I’ve had my fair share and to move it along to the next person.  But I know that there are no guarantees that more struggles – even harder struggles – are not coming.  I don’t dwell on it.  I will face them if and when they come, because I won’t have a choice.

39)        Chocolate – Thank you, Jesus, for the cocoa bean.

40)        Shoes – I will always, ALWAYS love a striking stiletto.  Size 8.  Thank you very much.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Paris: The Fashion

The last of a four-part series on my experiences and observations in the City of Light.

Paris:  The Fashion

By sheer coincidence (really!) we happened to be in France during Paris Fashion Week.  Of course my fashion receptors are always up, but it was especially exciting to be on the lookout for Parisian style.  There were 15-20 shows happening each day for a week and a half, but I spared Jayson the trauma of getting dragged all over the city to see the latest shoe or catch a glimpse of a well known designer.  My favorite shows (Chanel, Valentino and McQueen) were all taking place the day after we were leaving anyway.

In Paris – the epicenter of all things chic – every week is fashion week.  On the Metro from the airport to the hotel, I couldn’t help but immediately notice the men – dressed for work in slim navy suits and equally nice shoes, some with scarves around their neck – looking so incredibly sophisticated.  A few hours later, after settling into our hotel room, we walked to the corner bistro for lunch.  I couldn’t help glancing down at the shoes of the women seated around me (I always check out women from the feet up).  I was surprised to find basic, low-heeled shoes that were scuffed.  Scuffed!  Decidedly non-Parisian, I thought.  I later realized how much abuse shoes get because of all the walking Parisians do, and on cobblestone streets no less!  I decided to forgive the scuff marks.

The fashion in general was effortlessly chic – simple, stylish, elegant and well put together.  Everyone (male and female) wore skinny jeans.  Moto jackets were everywhere, as were ankle boots.  Also popular, much to my chagrin, were sheer blouses.  Jayson saw more bras than ever necessary.  He couldn’t turn to the right or left without noticing it, and I couldn’t blame him.  And although it was apparently warm enough for transparent tops, almost everyone wore a scarf.  Go figure.

Another trend was denim shorts over tights.  This was popular on natives and tourists alike, mostly on women in their teens and twenties.  Finally, I spotted this Kate Moss tee (seen below on Rihanna) over and over again – on both men and women.  Kate followed us all over Paris.
Along with denim shorts, tights, and Kate, there were many people wearing Converse sneakers.  In fact, US brands were displayed on so many people it almost felt like we were in the Big Apple instead of the City of Light.  Jayson marveled that so many guys were styling NBA caps – last we checked, Paris does not have a basketball team.  But Nike, Adidas and New Balance were ubiquitous regardless.

While walking on the Rue Saint-Honore, known for its many museums and upscale boutiques, I noticed red soles.  First one pair, and then another.  After walking a bit further, (fine, I followed them like a stalker), I looked up to see the famed Christian Louboutin boutique.  I drooled at the window for a while before we went across the street for lunch.
Another meaningful visit was to the original Chanel Boutique at 31 Rue Cambon.  Above this shop is the apartment where Coco Chanel lived in the 1920s and 30s.  While the apartment is not open to the general public, I did peruse the boutique, where I’m happy to report every employee was exceedingly polite.
Something I wasn’t expecting was the overwhelming emotion I felt passing by the Guerlain shop on the Champs-Elysees.  Founded in 1828, Guerlain is one of the oldest perfume houses in the world.  The reason it means so much to me is because Shalimar by Guerlain was my mother’s signature scent.  Walking by the shop and seeing the scallop-shaped bottle in the blue velvet box took me back to my childhood, watching my mother in her bedroom as she got ready for a night out – dabbing just a drop of the very expensive perfume behind her ears.  Such sweet smelling memories!
During another walk, this time in the Latin Quarter, Jayson and I came upon a photo shoot in progress.  A photographer was crouched down taking pictures of a lovely model leaning against a post.  I couldn’t help but watch for a bit and take my own photos.  I know from my position as Fashion & Beauty Editor of our city magazine how much work goes into planning these things, so it was nice to be a spectator and enjoy the glam aspect of it all.
Not once did I see anyone in public wearing pajamas, sweatpants, or oversized clothing.  From the catwalks to the streets, Parisians always look chic.
OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Paris: The City

Part three of a four-part series on my experiences and observations in the City of Light.

Paris:  The City

Paris, like most big cities, is beautiful yet dirty.  Being a city girl myself, that’s never bothered me.  My other favorite city, New York, is also beautiful and dirty.  I always look past the ugly to appreciate the beauty within – the spirit of the city.
I had to make a difficult admission before leaving for our trip:  I would be the dreaded “T” word (tourist).  In past travels we have flown through Paris, but we had never before spent time in the city.  As first-timers, I accepted the fact that we would be tourists and that is that.  We would just have to visit the big sights with the throngs of other tourists – cameras and iPhones in hand.

Riding the train into the city from the airport, one thing we noticed was a lot of graffiti on the buildings – “Just like any other city,” I told Jayson.  See, I can be realistic about my perfect Paris.  In fact, it was an interesting juxtaposition of these incredibly old, beautiful, historic buildings with their inspiring architecture, and the modern, edgy graffiti adding another layer of art via vandalism.

When we walked out of the metro station into the sunlight and took in our first official views of Paris, we were almost immediately approached by a homeless man.  Our luggage and ridiculously googly smiles as we snapped pictures within seconds of stepping on the sidewalk must have screamed “we are tourists!”

Mr. Homeless Man held a simple “gold” wedding band and asked us if we had dropped it.  We said no and were immediately looking around to find the poor guy who may have lost his wedding ring, both hands still on our luggage (we may be tourists, but we’re not fools).  So the man says to me, in broken English, “It’s too small for my fingers; why don’t you keep it?”  We go back and forth and I finally accept it, thinking I’ll just give it to our jeweler to melt down when we get back home.  We barely take two steps when Mr. Homeless Man returns to ask for a Euro for something to eat.  Hmmm, sorry, we haven’t exchanged any money yet and have nothing to give.  More back and forth and he finally asks for the ring back!  We think nothing of it and happily move along to find our hotel.

A couple of days later, we’re walking along the Seine by the Eiffel Tower, enjoying an outdoor photographic installation.  A smiling man in his late 20s or early 30s stops us to ask – wait for it – if we dropped a gold wedding band.  Immediately I think “SCAM.”  I mouth it to Jayson.  Mr. Smiley tells us the ring is too small for his fingers but would fit on my slim fingers.  Sure thing there, buddy.  At this point Jayson wants the ring, so he takes it and, sure enough, the guy starts to walks away but comes right back, asking for money.  Jayson gives him a Euro and happily puts his new memento in his pocket.

Later in the week we’re walking in the 5th and notice a gypsy woman eyeing tourists.  My SCAM radar pops up and we start to follow her.  Predictably, she pulls a wedding band out of thin air and starts walking toward us.  I turn around and yell “SCAM!  LIAR!” right in her face before Jayson yanks me away.  I don’t even care about being that loud American, because I’ve had enough, but as we walk away I pray that she doesn’t put a hex on us.

Paris being Paris, there were tourists everywhere we went.  It wasn’t so bad at the outdoor attractions (Eiffel, Jardin du Luxembourg), but the indoor ones got crowded fast.  The Louvre was insanely busy, especially around the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.  People were NOT nice, pushing and shoving to get their pictures.  Everyone says Parisians are rude, but I found them to be helpful and patient.  It was the tourists who were rude.  When we were at the top of the Eiffel (in a very confined space, mind you), a group of tourists suddenly came upon us and literally jostled us out of their way.  I was incredulous at their brashness but they truly didn’t seem to care.  RUDE.

Despite the pushy tourists, scams and graffiti, the city of Paris is truly lovely.  There is so much history in those beautiful buildings and cobblestone streets!  I especially loved the intricate balconies and detailed doors and windows.  Yes, everyone smokes and there are cigarette butts everywhere, but there is beauty at every turn – whether in the monuments, gardens, or the Seine River.  There is art and culture, a relaxed pace, a rich past – a joie de vivre, even.  And, inevitably for such a romantic city, many, many wedding rings.

OK, I’m getting off my shoebox now.