journaling

Mini Memoir Monday: The Missing Spoon

I woke up with sweat coursing down my face. My blanket and pillows had fallen to the floor. The branches of the large oak tree outside my window screeched against the glass panes. In the eerie glow of moonlight, I managed to free myself from the tangled sheets and escape my room. I held on to my throat, hoping it was not too late.

Heart pounding, I ran downstairs to my parent’s room. How much longer could I go without oxygen? I threw the door open, and raced to the bed. It was king-sized, and I jumped into it and swam through the endless sea of blankets to find help. My mom was out of town, so I shook my dad’s shoulder with all my strength.

English: A set of six Apostle spoons.

English: A set of six Apostle spoons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Daddy, Daddy, I swallowed a spoon!”

He groaned, and turned around, but my alarm did not wake him.

“Daddy!” I shouted. “Wake up, I’m dying!”

He shot up and asked what was wrong.

“I swallowed a spoon,” I repeated.

He examined my neck with his fingers. It was dark, which could explain how he missed the large, hard protrusion in my throat. I knew that if I looked in a mirror, there would most certainly be the outline of a spoon. I could even feel the ornate carvings of the decorated handle underneath my skin.

“I can’t breathe,” I pleaded. Why didn’t he believe me?

He took my hand and we walked to the kitchen together, me still holding my throat, afraid that if I swallowed too hard, the spoon would end up in my stomach. He flicked the switched and I had to squint for a moment before my eyes would adjust to the harsh light. Electricity buzzed through the lights and refrigerator. I had never noticed how loud a room could be. The kitchen seemed much bigger, the blue tile floor went on forever.

He opened our utensil draw and studied it for a moment. I stood on my tippy toes, trying to peer in as well, but I was too short. “Was it one of the big spoons or the little spoons?” he asked.

I squeezed the enormous lump in my throat. “The big spoon. Definitely the big spoon.”

He took the big spoons out of the drawer and began counting them. “Seven, eight, nine, ten. Nope, no big spoons are missing.” He put them back in the drawer.

I felt my neck again. The lump did seem smaller than before. “Maybe it was the little spoons.” My cat, Smokey Love, brushed up against my leg, thinking that it was time for breakfast. I picked her up and held her close to my chest. She rubbed her head against my neck.

My dad took out the little spoons and counted those. “There’s twelve of these, but I know for a fact that we’ve always had ten big spoons and twelve little spoons, so you, my dear,” he knelt down and brushed some hair behind my ear, “did not swallow a spoon.”

A rush of relief ran through my body, and I threw my arms around my dad. I was going to be ok. He carried me back to my room and tucked me into bed.  Moonlight filled the room with a soft blue glow. The wind had died down, and the tree was no longer hitting my window. He kissed me goodnight, and I turned to my side to fall asleep. I took a deep breath and felt it go down my unobstructed throat. There were ten big spoons and twelve little spoons, and all was right with the world.

Years later, when I was buying my first set of utensils at Crate&Barrel, I realized I was looking for a set that had twelve little spoons and ten big spoons. Funny how we convince ourselves to believe the things that make us feel safe.

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Blood and Nutshells


When reading about character development in See Jane Write, I got a great piece of writing advice that also poses an interesting question for everyone. “Think of a childhood story that would summarize each of your characters. What is their nutshell?” You don’t need to include the story in your book, you just need to know it to understand the character.

My nutshell story is from when I was eight years old and  I was waiting around the playground after school. I was watching other kids jumping off the swing set and I really wanted to try it. A fifth grader stood in front of my swing and told me I shouldn’t do it because I might get hurt. That made me want to do it more. Next thing I knew, I was pumping my legs as hard as I could. I swung so high I thought I would go around the pole in circles. I let go, knowing that I was going to jump higher and further than any other kid. And I did. Except I landed on a fence face first.

I stood up and looked around, but no one was watching. There was shooting pain coming from the right side of my face and when I closed my left eye everything was blurry and gray. I put my sleeve against my face and saw that it was covered in blood. Since no one was looking at me, I figured I would just stand there until the blood stopped and I didn’t feel so dizzy, and then I would go to my after-school art class. I was afraid that if I told someone, I would get into trouble and miss my the class.

When the blood soaked all the way down to my elbow, a playground attendant noticed and took me to the nurses office. My mom, who happened to be in the school for a parent teacher conference, gave me the present that was intended for my brother’s teacher (a mug that said World’s Best Teacher that was filled with hard candy). I ate every one of those candies as we drove to the hospital and the doctor examined me. I got 10 stitches on my cheek and the doctor told me I was damn lucky I didn’t lose my eye. If it was one millimeter higher, the cheekbone fragment would have pierced my eyeball.

This was me in a nutshell for a very long time (although I must admit I don’t feel like this sums me up anymore because I had a life-changing experience with The Living Course in my early 20s, but that’s a different blog post). If I were a character in a story, here’s what this story says about me:

  1. I was a loner
  2. I was defiant
  3. I wanted to fit in
  4. I was uncoordinated
  5. I was afraid of getting in to trouble
  6. I was willing to accept some pain to avoid punishment
  7. I was lucky

What is your nutshell story, and what do you think it says about you?

I’ll leave you with some comic relief: this is still one of my favorite cheesy jokes of all time.

2012 Review

This is a great survey to fill out each year.

1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?

Bought a wedding dress. I thought it would be overwhelming, but it was surprisingly easy.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My failed New Year's resolution

My failed New Year’s resolution

No 😦 My resolution was to organize my desk every night, and as you can see, I did not keep that up.

My new new year’s resolution is to write at least 750 words a day. I think the key to a good resolution is to start it before New Years to make sure it’s something you can maintain.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

One of Mike’s best friends, Vanessa, gave birth to a beautiful little girl!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Fortunately no.

Mike and me at the first entrance for the Forbidden City

Mike and me at the first entrance for the Forbidden City

5. What countries did you visit? 

China.

6. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?

A finished manuscript

7. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

April 27th when Mike proposed to me and March (I can’t remember the exact date) when my Artist’s Way group first started.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Getting into a writing routine, and starting a story that I really enjoy writing.

9. What was your biggest failure?

BeddyBye, but I don’t really look at it as a failure.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope!

11. What was the best thing you bought?

The tour package to China. It was a great bargain, and I got a taste of a country I’ve always been curious about.

12. Where did most of your money go?

I was unemployed for a few months out of the year so I went through a lot of my savings.

13. What did you get really excited about?

Coming up with a great story idea, and then working on it non stop. I’m spending about 5 hours a day writing! And of course, planning our wedding and honeymoon.

14. What song will always remind you of 2012?

Call me Maybe and Gangnam Style.

 15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder?  Happier

b) thinner or fatter? Fatter

c) richer or poorer? Poorer

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Spent more time in out of the apartment. It’s easy to take NYC for granted when you live here.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Overeat!

18. What was your favorite TV program?

Happy Endings, Breaking Bad and  Damages

19. What were your favorite books of the year?

I’m an avid reader of fiction, but this year I spent a lot more time reading articles in The New Yorker. That magazine is so dense and I’m usually just finishing the last article by the time the next issue arrives. I loved reading Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

20. What were your favorite films of the year?

I just saw Les Misarables and flipped over it. Argo and Looper.

21. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 28. I like a low-key birthday, so Mike took me out for dinner and then we saw Sleep No More a few days later.

22. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Having a housekeeper come once a month.

23. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

Whatever’s on sale at Banana Republic works for me.

24. What kept you sane?

Blogging.

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.

Small actions add up.

I’d love to hear your answers to these questions. Leave a comment!

An Interview with Caitlin Kelley, founder of Africa Volunteer Corps (Part 2)

And now for the completion of my interview with Caitlin Kelley. If you haven’t read the first part, click here. (Or if you’re lazy read this: Caitlin Kelley is the co-founder of Africa Volunteer Corps, an organization which trains Tanzanian volunteers and pairs them volunteer opportunities. Her mission is to utilize the existing talent in Tanzania rather than perpetuating a culture of dependency on foreign volunteers and aid (which in her opinion, and mine) does more harm than good. This also makes more financial sense. When I volunteered in Africa for 7 months it cost $5,000 (Airfare, vaccinations, visas, insurance and food and housing while I was there), but it only costs a few hundred dollars to support a local volunteer. This Tuesday she will be hosting an event called Visualize the Change 2012, where you hear stories of how local volunteers in Tanzania are making a difference. This even is also raising money for her next group of Tanzanian volunteers). And now for the interview:

Caitlin with Desmond Tutu

Has AVC changed at all since you first came up with the idea for it?

 

Not much. The idea came to me in a flash, in a complete eureka moment, and it felt like the entire vision downloaded from the universe all at once that night. There are ways that we might expand how we implement the vision. For example, there is a huge need for teachers in Tanzania so we are planning how we might create a special program just for teachers. And there are some great possibilities in potentially working with for-profit companies. But the original vision–of incubating African leaders for African development, of unleashing the incredible potential lying dormant in Africa’s young people, in making sure Africans are the ones in charge of improving lives in their own societies–has remained unwavering.

I love what you said about downloading the idea from the universe. I’ve learned from The Artist’s Way that there are so many answers and ideas floating around us and we just need to be perceptive to them; willing to download them from the universe. But every great idea needs funding to become a reality. What are you looking forward to about your upcoming fundraiser on Oct. 9th?

I’m really excited to inspire people with stories of grassroots African activists and the incredible work they are doing to create positive change in their own communities. In this country we tend only to hear stories about the bad things that happen in Africa, and we are aware that there are people in need, but we never hear about the many amazing local people who are doing incredible things to make the world a better place. We as a global community will improve many, many more lives if we can put fire under the momentum of those local people who are already doing great things in their own societies. 

When I was raising money for my work in Africa I met a lot of people who were angry that I wanted to help in Africa when there is already so much poverty in America. Why do you think people should care about Africa when there are so many local problems?


I believe that all human beings are our brothers and sisters. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” We don’t need to have an either/or mentality about doing good. It’s wonderful to care about multiple causes. For example, obviously I am quite dedicated to Africa, but I also give a lot to causes in the U.S., especially education, the environment, and women’s health.

What changes are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?

We’re expanding! For our pilot year (this year), we placed 7 Tanzanian volunteers to work for a year at 7 development projects. Next year we want to place 20. Our model consists of investing in leaders, so for every volunteer who goes through our program, the ripple effects are huge. Earlier this year, when I saw what our volunteers had accomplished in such a short period of time, I thought, “These are only 7 people. There are 1 billion people in Africa. How many more like them are out there?” So I can’t wait to see what happens with a bigger group.

Also, most of our current volunteers have applied to extend another year, so I am really excited to see what they can accomplish with a second year and how they grow. They already inspire me so much, so I can’t wait to see what they can do with more time and experience.

 

How can people get involved?


By helping spread the word–to friends and on social media. And donating is a great way to make a difference for a cause you care about. Sign up to give a regular amount every month. Even a small amount is great because when nonprofits know exactly how much money is coming in every month, we can spend less time fundraising and more time doing good. We are also currently looking for people to help us with marketing and communications, grant writing, and event planning.

 

Wow, Caitlin, you have a long and exciting journey ahead of you, and you’ve already come so far. Was there ever a time when you wanted to give up? What made you keep going?

There haven’t (yet) been any times when I really wanted to throw my hands up and walk away, but there have been plenty of challenging moments, ones where it can be hard to see how we will move forward. But there is always a way. A few years ago, we spent a year preparing to register (i.e. incorporate), including 2 months of meeting for hours every week to hammer out 20 pages of by-laws, taking a 10 hour bus ride to the capital, only to show up at the ministry and be told that we couldn’t register the way we had planned because of a law no one (not even the lawyers we consulted) had told us about. It brought us almost completely back to square one. And it was another 2 years before we got registered. But, like many unexpected setbacks, it work out for the best because we ended up being able to register in a different way that gives us a lot more flexibility for future growth.

What keeps me going is having  a sense of humor, embracing every challenge or failure as an opportunity to grow, and believing with every fiber of my being in our mission. Life is inevitably full of barriers, especially when you are trying to create change, so you just have to remember that impossibility is an illusion. If it’s possible within the realm of physics, it’s possible. You just have to figure it out.

When things are hard or frustrating I try to take some time to connect with the bigger vision, by meditating or writing, or even talking to myself. It reconnects me with my passion and excitement and that fire in my belly. It helps me come back to knowing that every boring task or frustrating problem are all steps up the mountain, all pieces of the bigger goal.

That should be a bumper sticker, “Impossibility is an illusion.” As you can see, Caitlin has a huge and challenging dream but she’s tackling it with perseverance and passion. I know she will succeed because her mission is truly good, and she has the drive. If you’re in the New York area, I’d love to see you at her event, Visualize Change, on Tuesday, Oct. 9 from 5:30-9:30. There aren’t enough people in the world like Caitlin Kelley, so when you find one, it’s important to give them as much support as possible!

Disposable creativity

“Many of us wish we were more creative. many of us sense we are more creative, but unable to effectively tap that creativity. Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often, we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves. Sometimes we have specific creative longings we would love to be able to fulfill – learning to play the piano, painting, taking an acting class, or writing. Someimes our goal is more diffuse. We hunger for what might be called creative living – an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (pg.5)

If you haven’t read The Artist’s Way yet, for gosh sake just click on this link and buy it already. Every creative person I know attributes the growth of their creativity to this book. I’m not over-exaggerating. And if you’ve been following the HeSo project for a while now, you’ll remember that when I interviewed Lisa Bourque, a fabulous life coach, she said the book changed her life.

It is Julia Cameron’s opinion that everyone has the potential to be creative and that creativity is a like a muscle that grows the more you use it. Creativity is not just for the arts; it can be used to improve your outlook on life, the way you problem solve, or handle your relationships.

One of her famous exercises is “the morning pages.” The first thing you do every morning is fill three pages of paper. There’s really no wrong way of doing this. If you have nothing to say you can fill the pages with a grocery list.

Sometimes the pages become very negative and your “censor” comes out. Your censor is that voice in your head that tells you everything you do is garbage. Julia suggests that it’s better to let the censor out on these pages so it gets exhausted and won’t distract you when you want to do something more creative and challenging. It sounds silly but when I dabbled with the morning pages before, it really did help me feel more free and confident when I was working on my creative writing later on in the day.

My boyfriend has been doing these morning pages for over a year now (way to go Mike!) The pages have taken many twists and turns for him. They started off as an outlet for his censor, then they became an outlet for his story telling, and now he’s using that time to compose music – something that he’s always wanted to do. Sometimes what we always want to do is the hardest thing to do because we give it so much weight. We think, to do that something poorly would be worse than not doing it at all. By using the morning pages to compose he’s getting the practice he needs without the debilitating pressure to produce something “good.”

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s a void in my life. The BeddyBye project felt very exciting and creative at first, but now as I’m talking to safety commissioners, manufacturers, and parenting associations (I’ll write more about this later) I’ve entered the more taxing, stressful part of the project. I write a lot for this blog, but it’s not the same as creative writing, something I’ve loved doing since childhood (I remember writing stories about how I was born on Mars and raised by apes. I made photocopies and tried to sell them to the kids on my block. I guess I invented vanity publishing!). So I decided to instill some creativity back into my life and embrace the morning pages again.

I started this past Friday. In the morning, before breakfast I spent 30 minutes writing a short story. I used The Writer’s Toolbox for inspiration. The Author, Jamie Cat Callan, offers a bunch of suggestions for first lines. I picked a random one and started writing. The opening line was: “Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something.” I ended up writing about a daughter finding out that her parents have had an open marriage for her entire life and she’s just now meeting her father’s girlfriend of 16 years. I don’t know where that idea came from, and for the life of me I would never have thought it up if I just sat at my computer and tried to come up with a story.

The exercise helps you to see that everyone has a wealth of untapped imagination inside them and you just need a safe place to let it out. Knowing that I didn’t need to complete the story, and that it didn’t need to be part of something greater was liberating. It’s what I like to call disposable creativity. I know that sounds terrible, especially in our green-conscience society, but looking at creativity like it’s a finite resource is not productive. I’ve been in many writing classes where people hold on to stories that aren’t working, and I think it’s because they’re scared they won’t be able to come up with anything else, when that’s simply not true.

Today was my fourth day of morning pages and I’m going to continue for at least 17 more days (research shows it only takes 21 days to form a habit). Does anyone else want to join me? It doesn’t need to be writing, you can start every morning strumming a song on the guitar, drawing a picture, or dancing. The point is to start every day off in a creative, non-judgmental fashion. I guarantee you’ll feel more creative and excited for the rest of the day! If you join the challenge send me some of your work or your reflections and I’ll add it to the blog!

Turning a Negative into a Positive

So many of us are in jobs we hate. We complain about our bosses, our co-workers are stupid, and we’re being under paid. You know you would do everything better if you were in charge. Right?

Well my sister has a great idea. Her goal is to open her own restaurant one day. She manages a fantastic restaurant currently, but there’s always room for improvement. Whenever she finds something frustrating at work she writes down what she would do differently. She also writes down the things that work well. Now she has a book of ideas for her future restaurant.

She is able to turn a negative into a positive by keeping a long term goal in mind, and being proactive rather than just complaining- which let’s face it, we all do too much. As she wrote down her ideas for improvement she realized they wouldn’t be that hard to implement at her current restaurant. She started sharing them with her boss and not only did her boss praise her, she also enjoys her working environment more.

She says, “When you complain, you get wrapped up in negativity and blow your problems and frustrations out of proportion, when really there usually isn’t that big a gap between a current way and a better way.  I find that writing things down in a step-by-step constructive way is the best way to bridge that gap.”

We can’t all quit our jobs tomorrow, but we can still dream. Keep a little book with you at work and start writing down your ideas. One day you’re going to need them 🙂

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.” – Confucius

An interview with the founder of Wild Heart Coaching (part 2)

Here’s the second half of my interview with Lisa Bourque, founder of Wild Heart Coaching. Lisa inspired many people when she quit her job as an Attorney to become a life coach. By focusing on living a more authentic, happy life she has helped others to find their own true passions as well. For more background read part 1!
What would you say to someone who is unhappy with their career right now, but can’t think of any personal passions to drive them to a new career path?
First, get really honest with yourself.  How does it feel to be so unhappy?  Really feel it.  Don’t try to run away from the feeling or shut it out.  You’re feeling this way for a reason.  Get honest with yourself about what isn’t working — is it your environment?  The attitudes of the people you work with?  The type of work you do?  What’s missing?  Then, get honest with yourself about what you really want.  It doesn’t have to be a job title.  But think about how you would like to spend your day — what does that look like?  Who do you work with?  What types of things do you do?  What is the impact you have on others?  Starting to explore these types of questions in an honest way is an important first step.  Because if you aren’t honest with yourself and try to fit into a box that doesn’t fit, it’s going to be hard to make changes.
Second, notice when you do feel engaged in what you’re doing — whether in your life or in your work.  If you don’t ever feel engaged, then it’s time to start trying new things!  Is there something you want to do that you haven’t given yourself permission to do?  Maybe it’s going to a photography exhibit, maybe it’s trying out kayaking, or taking a cooking class.  Whatever is calling to you, try it!  When you start following your interests and allow yourself to experiment, you will get more in touch with personal passions — those things that make you feel happy, alive, and engaged.
A life coach is an expert who partners with you during that process of exploration, self-connection, deeper understanding and awareness, and conscious action toward what you want.  Working with a coach helps you to move forward and deeper more quickly and with greater focus — kind of like hiring a personal trainer to get more fit versus just doing it on your own.  Working with someone who’s main purpose is to help you in this way tends to yield the results you’re looking for much more efficiently!
What is a typical life coaching session like? If someone can’t afford life coaching what would you recommend?
Every coaching session is different!  People have many different issues and goals that they bring to coaching, and the really great thing is that coaching can be applied to many areas of your life.  The only typical thing is that you come to the call (most coaches coach over the phone) with a topic that is important to you — something you’ve been stuck in, a big question that’s been on you mind, a desire to take action that for some reason you haven’t taken yet.  Then I coach you around that topic using whatever tools support your goals or agenda.
Sometimes the session focuses on gaining clarity about what you really wants and what it may look like.  Other times it is exploring your feeling of being stuck and brainstorming new perspectives so that you can take a different approach and move forward where you hadn’t been able to before.  Other times it may be gaining a deeper awareness of what’s going on beneath the surface of everyday life so that you can see the big picture.

If you don’t know if  you are ready for coaching, just start exploring.  Go to a bookstore and browse the personal growth/personal development section and see what draws you in.  One of my favorite books is The Artist’s Way"" by Julia Cameron.  The exercises in that book changed how I saw myself in my life. If you hear about a workshop or a class that seems interesting, take it! Journal.  Even if you aren’t used to writing what’s on your mind, just go for it.  Start by writing 1 page a day about anything you’ve been thinking or feeling.  Write about what you’re feeling.  Build up to a couple pages a day.  Explore blogs that interest you and stretch you to think about your life in new ways.  I write my blog at  http://www.yourwildheart.com/blog.html and offer useful information, tips, and perspectives for free two times a week.  Many other blogs do too — including the HeSo Project!
If you think coaching could be a valuable tool to help you move toward what you want, I invite you to talk to a coach!  Many coaches offer free sample sessions so that you can get a first-hand idea whether coaching is right for you – because ultimately it’s up to you to create the life you want.  I found coaching to be invaluable in my journey and I continue to work with a coach to this day.  I also see how coaching is of great value to my clients – knowing that makes me happy and proud to do what I do every day.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and motivating story with us!
 Lisa Bourque is a personal coach and the founder of Wild Heart Coaching.  She specializes in helping people who feel lifeless at work to find their authentic path and align their personal and professional passions with confidence and choice.  Visit her website at www.YourWildHeart.com.

Lessons from a month abroad

Me in park Guell

I arrived back home yesterday afternoon. I did not expect to get giddy while walking through Immigration, or getting on the subway, or putting my key in the door, but all those things reminded me that I’m coming home. And I was excited to do so. As much as love to travel, I am always surprised by how happy I am to come back home. To have clean clothes. To see my kitties. To plug in electronics without first having to find the stupid adapter that always gets lost in my suitcase. I know I’m weird, but no matter how many showers I take while on vacation, I never feel as clean as that first shower when you get home.

I came home 5 pounds heavier. I would like to think those pounds are filled with wisdom. So here are some very wise things I learned while traveling for a month:

a window in Salamanca

1. No one says it better than my boy, Bill Bryson, “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” This quote was etched into the bathroom stall in one of the restaurants I ate in in Barcelona. Although I’ve read it many times and have appreciated it, I’ve never read it while actually traveling , nor while on the toilet.  As much as I loved seeing all the sights from the tour books, the real joy is in finding a cup of coffee exciting again. Or taking a picture of a window. I mean seriously when do you take pictures of windows when you’re at home? Travel reinvigorates your enthusiasm for life. By the way, can you imagine how long it took to etch that quote into the bathroom stall?

2. An oldie, but a goodie: try new things. I didn’t want to see flamenco, but it blew me away.

Me trying out new water

While dining out, the worst food I had was when I was feeling homesick and ordered what was familiar to me. Pizza and hamburgers just don’t cut it in Spain. The best food I had was when Mike and I decided to order the strangest sounding thing on the menu. Duck ham (seriously that’s what it said) on top of duck liver pate was out of this world. I can’t believe I almost passed that up for french fries. Other great treats were bull tail ( YUM!), and onion jelly with sheep cheese and walnuts. While walking back to the hotel every day, we knew the fastest way to get back, but we always made a conscious effort to go down a different street, and for that we saw some amazing views, beautiful graffiti, hidden gardens, and old churches. If we only followed the path we knew we would have missed out on a lot.

3. Spanish is hard.

4. A lot can be done while sitting at a cafe drinking coffee. You can’t help but reflect on your life, how it’s going, and where you want it to go. I don’t know if it’s those little tables, or if it’s using a saucer, but you start to ask yourself the big questions. How do I want to spend my money? How do I want to raise my kids? What kind of lifestyle do I want? Do I really want the noise and chaos of NYC? Maybe I should live on a boat for year. Waiter, one more cup please.

5. Ok, because I love Bill so much I’m going to include one more quote. “I mused for a few moments on the question of which was worse, to lead a life so boring that you are easily enchanted, or a life so full of stimulus that you are easily bored.” Here’s one of the catches of traveling a lot – you become jaded start to compare countries. Instead of appreciating each place you visit you say “oh, the Hermitage was far superior,” “this doesn’t hold a candle to the canals in Venice,” or ” It’s no Kathmandu.” This is a horribly pompous attitude to have and I know I’m guilty of it sometimes. I was reminded of how much I hated it when I met a one-upper in Salamanca. When I said I liked the bread, he said, “Really??? You have to try the bread in Paris.” When I said I loved the Cathedral, he said, “Really??? You have to see the Hagia Sofia, in Istanbul.” When I told him that I had seen it and that you really can’t compare the two, he then said, “Well it’s no Notre Dame.” I’m not quite sure how to prevent that snobby attitude, but maybe just being of aware of it is the first step.

6. People can be extremely self-conscious. While on our way to a restaurant we saw a toddler running around a fountain. He was having so much fun that we decided to sit on a bench and watch him. He ran around the fountain maybe five hundred times. It was super slippery and he must have fallen an equal number of times. Each time he fell he would crack up laughing. and then start over again. He was insanely adorable, and we could not stop laughing. Eventually his dad picked him up to leave and when he walked past us he asked with an accent that sounded like the Terminator, “You find something funny?” At first I expected him to laugh like it was a joke, but he looked like he was about to kill us. I was shocked and really I couldn’t get it out of my head for days. How could he be so offended by us laughing? I thought it was obvious that we were sharing in the kid’s joy. My only guess is that he thought we thought his son was stupid, or that we thought he was stupid for letting his kid fall down so much. Either way, why was his first assumption so negative? It makes me think, did I ever get self-conscious because I thought someone was laughing at me, but perhaps that were laughing with me?

Traysaurous

7. I learned that when I’m tired, hot and hungry I become Traysaurous. It’s not pretty. I think I scared off I few kids – and maybe Mike too. No, actually he was brave enough to take this up close picture. On a serious note, I’m tired of always feeling tired. This trip has not only prompted me to take flamenco classes, but I’ve also decided to go to a sleep clinic. For years I suffered with insomnia, restless sleep, and sleep walking/talking. My roommate in Salamanca told me I stood up in the middle of the night and said, “this tent is filled with bees,” and then I tried to open an imaginary tent zipper. My brother told me that I woke up one night and asked if I could pay for the bus ticket with American cheese. One of the most annoying parts of this trip was that I was sleepy almost every day. I wanted to wake up fresh and ready to see the sites, but instead Traysaurous came out a little too often. I think my quality of life would greatly improve if I could get 8 hours of fantastic, uninterrupted sleep. With no bees or American cheese.

The power of writing

Write everything down. I´ve heard this advice before, but I never take it seriously. I bought a beautiful little moleskin book before coming here, and I´ve made a conscious effort to write down everything I learn, observe, or need to do. When I look through it I´m amazed at how much I´ve already forgotten. Two days ago I played a game called Pitufar, and I said that word so many times while playing the game I thought I´d never be able to forget it. However, that night I was telling my host mother about it, and for the life of me I couldn´t remember the name of it. Good thing I wrote it down.

Not only does writing help you remember, it also helps you clear your head. I was starting to panic about all the things I need to do before leaving Salamanca. I was going over and over the list in my head (even translating it into Spanish). However as soon as I wrote the list down I realized I only had five things to do. And they´re not even difficult. But when the list was just floating around in my head it was hard to get perspective on it. Now that the list is on paper I can distance myself from it, and I can think about more important things such as whether to get wine or sangria after class.

I suggest buying a pretty notebook that you don´t mind taking with you everywhere you go. Now I´ve tried this before but I´ve always been too intimidated to write in a pretty journal. I think, I must fill these beautiful pages with beautiful thoughts. I can´t put my grocery list in a Moleskin, what would Picasso or Hemingway think? (If you´re not familiar with Moleskin, they´re handmade journals that have been used by all the great writers and artists of the past – at least that´s what they tell me). Here´s what helped me. I scribled all over the first page. I made a big fat mess, and now anything I write in the book will be an improvement over the first page. Try it. I atually think the more messy the pages the better. I like flipping through the pages and seeing all my different handwritings, and doodles, and side notes. It´s almost like a visual of how my brain works.

I also love writing in a moleskin at restaurants. When a waiter sees one they automatically think you´re a food critic or a writer for a travel guide. As soon as I bring mine out, all of sudden the waiter becomes super attentive. I get free glasses of wine, and sometimes they let me try some of their specialties for free. I kid you not, this has happened three times since I got here. Maybe I play it up a bit. I have been known to take a bite, look up as if I´m thinking about how to describe it, and then write down a few notes. Usually I´m writing about how my day went, but the waiter doesn´t need to know that.

On a side note, today was my last day of classes. I´m going to miss my helpful teachers, and my fellow classes. Don Quijote is an excellent school and I´d highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn Spanish abroad. Today for the first time ever I spoke in Spanish without thinking. I said three sentences to a guard at a museum and I thought to myself his English is good. And then I realized, oh wait I´m speaking in Spanish!

My tiny class