Thursday, December 15, 2016

Culture Shock: 3 years later

Alright, so I'm in the middle of my 3rd year of living in Alabama.  Honestly I didn't think we'd be here this long!  The first year felt like survival mode.  I didn't have a whole lot of culture shock - I was just trying to do my job and get through the year.  The second year was when it all "went down."  I had some horrible experiences last year, I hated my job, and I wanted to be anywhere but here!  This year has been a bit more relaxed.  I spent the summer finding inspiration and motivation to continue in my career, and I've been much happier this school year.

It's true that I felt much more culture shock moving to Alabama than when I moved to Brazil.  I've always been drawn to and felt comfortable with the Latin cultures.  Alabama is the epitome of "The Deep South," and it was a struggle to adjust to living here.  I've slowly gotten used to the way of life here, but there are still a few things that I still find a bit "shocking."

The accents
I'm still not used to hearing Southern accents all the time and I'm still not used to hearing "y'all" all the time.  I hear it all day, every day, but I'm still not used to it!

The formality
People are just a bit more formal here than I'm used to.  It's not a bad thing.  I'm just not used to it.

Bad drivers
Seriously... there are no words...

The low cost of living

This is one main reason why we moved here.  And it's what's kept us here for several years.  I'm still amazed at how inexpensive our rent is and how nice our house is for the low price we pay!

So here in the South we don't really get all 4 seasons.  But we get much more "weather" than I'm used to.  I grew up in Southern California where the seasons are "hot" and "dry" and "hot and dry."  Alabama does get cold in the winter (it freezes occasionally) and it gets hot and humid in the summer.  Personally, I love humidity.  But we also get really bad thunderstorms and tornadoes.  OMG just the word "tornadoes" freaks me out.  I get borderline panic attacks when I hear a tornado siren.  Coupled with the fact that we don't have basements or shelters here... it's a bit scary.  I have nightmares about tornadoes now.

Overall, living here has been a positive experience.  We have grown as a couple, we have grown in our careers, and we have met some really great people.  We have also met some really not-great people, but I'm choosing to focus on the positives.  Here is where we got our first "baby," and for that I will be forever grateful!  While we don't plan on staying here forever, I am thankful for the times we have had here so far!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Quiz your husband

I saw this "quiz" floating around Facebook and I thought it would be fun to share my answers on here.  You're supposed to ask your husband these questions, without prompting, and write down exactly what he replies.  Here's how mine did...

What is something I always say?
“Sheesh mageesh”
This is pretty accurate.

What makes me happy?
“A cup of tea and a good book”
This is also very accurate.

What makes me sad?
“Parents of your students”
Sometimes this is true.

How tall am I?
Him: “5’8”?”
Me: “No”
Him: “5’6”?”
Me: “No!  How tall are you?”
Him: “6 foot!”
Me: “I’m a LOT shorter than you!”
Him: “I don’t know! Then how tall are you?”
Me: “5’2.5”
Him: “Oh… shorter than 5’10” I can’t figure it out…”

What’s my favorite thing to do?
“Be on your phone.”
What?! (Actually that's probably accurate, but in my defense all of my books are on my phone!  I specifically got the 6plus because it's a bigger screen on which to read my ibooks!)

What do I do when you’re not around?
“Be on your phone.”
“What?! Really?”
“No, you like to watch the beauty blogs on the tv”
This made me lol 

If I become famous, what will it be for?
“It will be multiple things.  The first thing is standing up to the person that no one else will stand up to, and some people will love you and some people will hate you for it.  And then another thing… you would be famous for being the founder of “Alone with my tea,” which will be called something else and then people will complain and then you’ll turn it back to “Alone with my tea.”  You will also be famous for um hehehehe for starting a foundation for rescue dogs named “Little Bit of Love.”
This is so sweet.  For those of you who don't know, our dog is named Little Bit and he was a rescue dog!  He's the love of our lives. 

What makes you proud of me?
Him: “I’m really proud that you taught theater without having taught theater before and never gave up.”
Me: “I wanted to.” (give up)
Him: “I know.”
A pause…
Him: “You’ll also be famous for your speed typing.  You’ll work for a newspaper and speed type everything everyone says.”
It's true that I am a very speedy typer... and was typing everything he said as he was saying it...

What is my favorite food?
Him: “Umm ohhh let’s see… popcorn.”
Me: “You just said ‘popcorn because that’s laying right there.”
Him: “hahahahaaha”
In his defense, I DO eat popcorn a lot.  But my favorite food, which he really should know, is fresh guacamole!

What is my favorite restaurant?
“You really like Rodeo, but you like the place in San Jose with the salads better.”
Actually the place with the salads was the University's food court... and apparently I talk about it a lot.  I just really miss having a fresh salad every day for lunch!  Rodeo is a local Mexican restaurant and I like it because it's very authentic, and Mexican food is my comfort food.

Where is my favorite place to visit?
I would have been more generic and said, "The beach," but Italy is also cool.

If I could go anywhere, where would it be?
“The rental that we stayed at with the Coopers in Paraty.”
I don't have any posts of that house in particular, but I do have a lot of posts about Paraty!
Do you think you could live without me?
“Technically yes.  But only for a few hours.”

How do I annoy you?
Him: “Whoa! Getting real!  By publishing my life on your blog.  Hehehe… Umm… uh… by insisting on answers.”
Me: “No, for reals though.”
Him: “Well sometimes you do!  And it’s things that you know what the answer is…”

What is my favorite movie?
“Always always always forget them… Ok, uhhh… I’m sick I can’t think…" (I prompted him a little mentioning the show that my students just did this past week, "Singin' in the Rain," which is also my favorite movie...)
"I thought there were a few others that you liked.  Like, um White Christmas.”

Who is my celebrity crush?
“Morgan Freeman… who could resist that voice?”
Ummmmm.... actually I was thinking more along the lines of Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth...

You get a phone call that I’m in trouble… who am I with?
Him: “I don’t answer phone calls that I don’t know the number to... but if you’re in trouble you’d be in trouble with the law.  No, that’s not a good one.  You’d be with Rosana doing something… getting in trouble with Rosana.”

Me: “Doing what?”
Him: “Doing what isn’t part of the question.”
This is probably accurate.  Rosana wouldn't do anything illegal, but she'd find plenty of ways for us to have some fun! 

Well there you have it, folks.  I guess he does know me pretty well! ;)

And here we are trying to get a cute picture...


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Easy Curly Hair Updo

I did this hairstyle a few days ago, and I got sooo many compliments on it...which I thought was strange because it took literally 3 minutes, and I felt like I just threw it up.  But everyone at work told me it looked so fancy and asked why I was so dressed up.

It's a super easy hairstyle, and I'm sure you can figure out how I did it just by looking at these pictures...

Did you guess???

Here's how I did it:

I had 2-day old hair, so I simply spritzed it with a little water and added a little bit of mousse to tame the frizz... (curly girls know what I'm talkin' about!)

Then I grabbed a bit from the top section and twisted it into a bun and secured it with a couple of bobbi pins.

Then I grabbed a bit from the middle and twisted it into a bun and secured it with a couple of bobbi pins.

Then I grabbed the rest of the hair and twisted it into a bun and secured it with a couple of bobbi pins...

It's literally just 3 buns on top of each other.  I added a flower because I was feeling flowery that day.  But this would look elegant with some sort of sparkly headband, or even some sparkly pins in the buns.

Tag me if you try it out!
Instagram: @juliesmitharthur

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Whole Foods Haul Update || My new favorite product!

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Do you remember my Whole Foods Haul from this summer?  We don't have a Whole Foods near us (closest one is 3 hours away) so I tried to stock up when I was passing through on our road trip.  I now have an update to share with you.  I've loved everything I bought, but my favorite BY FAR was the Alaffia African Black Soap.  

This soap is awesome.  It truly is multi-purpose.  It's gentle on the skin and doesn't dry you out.  Peter uses it to wash his hair.  I use it as a body wash and shaving gel.  I love that it smells like peppermint but isn't a strong scent.  I also love that it is all-natural.  Luckily for us, I anticipated that we would love it, so I bought a large refill bottle!  We are going to need to refill it soon.  I know this is something we will repurchase and stock up on whenever we go to Whole Foods.  I'm sure you can find it other places as well.  I found the Tangerine scent on Amazon here: (affiliate link)

The other products are awesome and work how they're supposed to, but they're not as life-changing as the African Black Soap is.  The sunscreens are great because they're bad-chemical-free, the diffuser works fine and looks great, but I'm sure any other diffuser would work just fine.  The glass pipette bottles house Peter's beard oil, and the small plastic blue container did once hold coconut oil for ease of portability, but alas! my dog got ahold of it, somehow opened it up, ate all the coconut oil from inside, and chewed up the container... 

I plan to do a separate post on the Pacifica BB cream with a demonstration of how it looks before and after.  It's great as a primer and also to wear alone on "no makeup makeup" days.

So that's my update!  I highly suggest you try the soap.  It's awesome!


Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Many of you might remember that last year my friend and I created a new website called We-Teach-Music.  WELL... we recently did a complete overhaul, redesign, and relaunch! We'd love it if you'd go and check it out.  And please share it with anyone you think would like it!  While we are specifically performing arts teachers, we think anyone involved in education will find the blog relatable and/or useful.  

If you like to use Bloglovin, We-Teach-Music is found here.

You can also follow We-Teach-Music on Twitter.

And we're on Facebook!

Instagram and Pinterest coming soon!

What can you expect from We-Teach-Music?  

- Articles answering your fundamental music-related questions, such as, "Can I sing when I'm sick?" and "What does a conductor actually DO?"
- Helpful ideas for parents.  Ex: What kind of Christmas gifts do teachers really want?
- Fundraising ideas for teachers.
- Free things!  We've designed some posters and printables, and we have more coming soon.
- Shop Our Faves - we've conveniently linked all of our favorite classroom, office, and closet items.
- Resources: We've compiled an ever-growing list of the most useful resources and sites for teachers.  We continue to add to the list as we come across other great resources.
- Lesson plans that we love!
- Music repertoire ideas
- Video examples
- Our favorite things, funny anecdotes, lessons we've learned or are learning along the way, and much more!

We are sooo excited about this new venture.  I hope you will check it out!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Summer Vacation Vlog Pt. 2

Here's the second vlog of our summer vacation road trip.  (See Part 1 here)  For the second part of our vacation we spent almost a week in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  We spent time with our good friends and Peter's family.  We went to Lake Michigan, played games with our friends, ate a lot of good food, and had a grand ol' time.  Take a look and hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer Vacation Vlog #1

Here is the first installment of our Summer Vacation Vlogs!  We took a two week roadtrip and ended up in Michigan.  For the first part of the vlog we went to Nashville, TN to visit some friends.  It was pretty fun.  But I was a horrible vlogger and forgot to include shots of me explaining where we were or what we were doing as we were doing them.  So instead I had to insert a very flattering and not awkward at all narration... (can you sense the sarcasm?)  We got to do some sightseeing, but most importantly we got to spend quality time with my bff and some other awesome friends!

I wasn't able to vlog everything we did because some places didn't allow cameras and also we were having too much fun and I just plain forgot!

I hope you guys enjoy.  Look for vlog #2 coming soon!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Self-Discovery: Beauty and Bread

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread."

This has been a summer of self-discovery for me.  I've realized a few things: skinny isn't good enough (essay on this topic coming soon), everyone needs some sort of art form in their life, and rest is often underrated but so, so important.


"Skinny isn't good enough," is a thought I had one day as I was reflecting on my journey of Pilates.  I started doing Pilates on and off last February, but it wasn't until this summer break that I began taking it seriously.  I go to individual Pilates sessions twice a week with my trainer, and I've become obsessed.  I love that it doesn't aggravate my asthma, it makes me feel tall and strong, and my confidence has drastically improved.  I want to reflect more on this thought I've been having - skinny isn't good enough anymore,,, I want to be strong, capable, and lean.


As a teacher, it's so easy to get bogged down with the mundane tasks of life - survival, getting through the year, lasting until summer break.  As a music teacher, it's easy to lose sight of the beauty of music.  My students can barely read music, and getting them to do a simple crescendo/decrescendo is like pulling teeth.  I was on the brink of quitting my career forever.  I fantasized about being a clerk at Hobby Lobby or a checker at Publix.  I was burnt out, exhausted, and unmotivated.

And then I found the New York City Ballet.

In the past couple of weeks I've become infatuated with the New York City Ballet.  I've watched all their videos on YouTube.  I've determined my favorite dancers (Tiler Peck and Robbie Fairchild), and I've listened to podcasts that the dancers put out.  I've watched clips of all the side-projects the dancers are a part of (ex. Robbie Fairchild was the lead in An American in Paris on Broadway), and I even got my mom obsessed as well.  I declared that I wish I had been a ballerina, and I've researched dance classes for beginning adults in my town.  To put it lightly, I've become obsessed.

It's like a new passion was awakened inside of me.  A passion for ballet and the music they dance to.  A passion for expression and aesthetic experiences - something that has been missing from my life for several years.


This summer has actually been very busy, especially compared to last summer.  Last summer I was putting up almost daily blog posts, whipping out DIY after DIY, and also sleeping a lot and drinking a lot of tea.  This summer I have barely had any time to think, much less blog.

But the one thing I was missing - rest.  Rest for my body, mind, and creativity.  That might sound like an oxymoron, especially after I just spoke about having my creative passions reignited.  But honestly, any art, DIY projects, music, stories, etc. I could try to create right now would come out feeling forced and frustrated.  I have needed this time to just let my creativity rest.  Let my mind be free to wander and think about whatever I want.  I think there is a lot of good to come from just daydreaming.  Getting lost in thought.  And eventually, when the time is right, I'll begin to create again.

And the more I allow myself to rest, and the more I think about life and music and art, the more I want to keep learning.  I find myself not feeling the urge to pick up a paintbrush, but instead wanting to delve into a theoretical analysis of Bach's B minor Mass.  I find myself thumbing through old music history books and notes, reading for pleasure books like "The Conductor's Art," or "Choral Music Through the Ages."

Art inspires art, and the more I can continue to be inspired by learning, the more enriched my life will be.  Rest is good.  Let yourself rest every once in awhile.


John Muir said, "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread."  We all need art and self-expression.  Without it, life wouldn't be worth living.  I've discovered a few new things about myself this summer, and I've rediscovered my love, and need, for beauty and art.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Whole Foods Haul || Health and Beauty

Some of my favorite blog posts to read (and YouTube videos to watch) are "hauls."  I love to see what other people pick up when they shop at my favorite stores!  If you missed my Trade Joe's Haul, click here.

We don't have a Whole Foods near us (the closest one is 3 hours away!), so when we get the chance to go to one, I try to stock up.  Whenever I go to Whole Foods, I try to look for brands that I can't find at any stores near me.  You can order many of these products online, but I prefer to buy in-store because then I can color check, smell, and most importantly, not pay for shipping!

Here's what I got:

Alaffia African Black Soap (Body Wash/Shampoo/Shaving Soap/ and more) - Natural ingredients, fair trade, supports Bicycles for Education, Maternal Care Project, Reforestation Project, School Supplies Project, and Eyeglasses project.  The peppermint smell is yummy and not overpowering.

Side note: My 5th and 6th grade students sang a song for their end of the year concert called "Fanga Alaffia" and it is a song of welcome.  I love that this body wash is named that!

Pacifica BB Cream - All natural, mineral ingredients.  Gives an illuminating, perfecting tint to the skin for a natural look.  The ingredients are very beneficial to the skin, as well.  It has a shade matching tint, but it is very sheer coverage.  Don't expect it to work like a foundation - it's more of a primer.

Now Bamboo Ultrasonic Oil Diffuser - Heat-free diffuser.  The bamboo looks very pretty on my kitchen counter.  It diffuses pretty well!

Badger Sunscreen Cream (Zinc only, no crazy chemicals...) I got SPF 35 and 30 only because they didn't have any more 35s.

Blue Glass Bottles with Dropper and small blue jar - for us to use to mix our own bear oil (for Peter, obvs), massage oil, and other essential oil-based tinctures or beauty items.

What are your favorite health and beauty items from Whole Foods?


Monday, July 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Health and Beauty Haul

I don't know about you guys, but some of my favorite blog posts to read (and YouTube videos to watch) are "hauls."  I must be very nosy, but I love to see what other people pick up when they shop at my favorite stores!

We don't have a Trader Joe's near us (the closest one is 3 hours away!), so when we get the chance to go to one, I try to stock up.  Whenever I go to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, I try to look for brands that I can't find at any stores near me.  Certain brands, like Burt's Bees, can be found at Walgreens, Walmart, and sometimes even grocery stores.  Trader Joe's has their own "house" brand of many household and beauty items, so I grabbed a few while I was there.  

I'm trying to detoxify my health and beauty items as much as possible, so I look for natural ingredients (that I know what they are).  Some of Trader Joe's items aren't completely natural or organic, but I found these to be better than conventional items you would find at Target or even Sephora.  And these are way cheaper, too!

Here's what I got: 

All-in-one Facial Cleanser
Antioxidant Facial Moisturizer
Antioxidant Facial Serum
Vitamin E Oil (does contain other oils)
Jojoba Oil (100% pure jojoba oil)
Citrus Body Wash with Vitamin C
Lemon Kitchen Hand Soap (I mostly just liked the packaging)
Aloe Vera Gel (body moisturizer, does contain other ingredients, not 100% Aloe Vera)

Hope you enjoyed getting a peak into my shopping bag.  What are your favorite things to get at Trader Joe's?


Saturday, July 23, 2016


Time has flown by this summer!  I did not think my blog would get so neglected... Last summer I was able to post so much, but this summer I didn't post very much.  For a couple of reasons: 1. Lack of inspiration, 2. General busy-ness.  I have kept myself very busy this summer, with teaching private lessons, going to Pilates sessions, doctor appointments, and vacations.  All in all it's been a pretty successful summer, as far as summers go... except for this blog.  And now I'm at a crossroads and don't know what to do...

I'm going back to work in a few weeks, and I'm sure my blog will be neglected once again.  I'm also running out of ideas for posts and feeling generally "blah" about the whole thing.  When we lived in Rio, there were hundreds of things to post about.  We were constantly out exploring the city and doing new things.  So I felt like there was something of interest to share on here.  Now we are just stuck in a routine - work, eat, sleep, repeat.  There is nothing interesting to explore around where live, and even if there were, it's way too hot at the moment.  I'm not doing many DIYs at the moment, and even if I were, who would care? There are so many blogs of full-time DIYers, and just a quick glance at Pinterest will show you that anything I could attempt would be irrelevant.

Sorry for the negative-Nancy post, but that's just what I'm feeling at the moment.  It's hard to be creative on command!  I DO think I'll keep my blog active though, because you never know what the future holds.  I'm hoping that in the future I won't have to work full time, and then I'll be able to designate more time for the blog.

In the meantime, here are some life updates:


We are staying in Alabama for at least one more year.  We both signed contracts and are working for the school.  I'll have a modified schedule, so hopefully I won't be as busy and stressed-out as I was last year!  (If you remember, I wanted to quit my job almost immediately after school started, and then again at least once a week throughout the year...)  It feels very strange to start our third year in one place.  My wanderlust is definitely kicking in, and I'm hoping our summer vacations can tide me over for the time being.

I'm already stressing out over my schedule and how I'm going to fit everything in.  I have to fit my private students in somehow, I want to continue doing Pilates two times a week (or three!), I want to join the community orchestra, and I also want time at home with my husband and dog.  I really hate being gone from the house for 12+ hours a day, so I'm really trying hard not to over-schedule my afternoons/evenings.


I'm editing a couple of vlogs of our vacation, so hopefully I'll be able to post those here soon.  I also have a couple of Whole Foods and Trader Joe's "haul" posts to share.  We don't have a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's near us (the closest is 3 hours away), so when we get the chance to go to one, we stock up!


I recently had a thermography scan done, and it found that I might have some thyroid disfunction... which I've been suspecting for so many years.  But getting the doctors to do anything about it is like pulling teeth.  I've also been experiencing some major bloating and stomach issues.  So I've decided to take matters in to my own hands and try to turn my health around.  I'm going on a strict diet - closely following the blood-type diet... cut out all dairy, gluten, sugar, and certain other things (nightshade vegetables, potatoes, etc.).  I'm also switching over to as many natural products as possible (would you like me to do posts about natural products I love?), and I'm adding some supplements that are beneficial for thyroid function.

Ok so that's about it for the updates.  To sum up, blog is "blah," work hasn't started yet and I'm already stressing out, Whole Foods Haul coming soon, and strict diet plans are happening.  

Let me know if you want to see some of my natural product favorites and I'll work on some posts before school starts back up.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Free Stock Photos

These are some photos that I took around my neighborhood that you are welcome to use! 

To download, click here.

*Note: For personal use only.  Free to use as desktop images, for blogs, or other personal use.  NOT allowed to be sold or used in whole, or any in part thereof, for profit. When you download you agree to these terms.*

I hope to provide more in the future, so stick around and make sure you subscribe!


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Making Tea (ASMR?)

I don't have ASMR, but I've heard it's becoming very popular on YouTube.  For those of you who don't know, ASMR is a physical response to sounds.  Most people experience "tingling" down their spine, triggered by specific sounds.  For some people the trigger could be whispering; for others it could be pens scratching on paper.  I don't really understand it, since I've never experienced it... But either way, I wanted to make a video of making tea, anyway.  So if you have ASMR, I hope you enjoy.  And if you don't, I hope you'll also enjoy!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Blogger Block

I think it's no surprise to my readers that this past school year has been stressful for me.  I've wanted to quit my job and fantasized over what else I could do since about day one.  I dreamed about one day opening a cafe, I decided I want to quit teaching and become a secretary, I had a quarter-life-crisis, I dreamed about being respected and valued as an educator, and I wanted to move to New York where I could be purely myself.  In the midst of my career-crisis, I determined to try to find an alternate way for me to make some income, perhaps working from home or doing freelance work.  

I thought I could spend the summer and try to build up my blog, transfer it over to wordpress, try to get more followers and sponsors, and generate enough income to become a full-time blogger.  But that idea has gone out the window.  Why?  I've got blogger block.

I have zero ideas for posts, and when I do come up with ideas, I feel like they are worthless or pointless.  And the blogosphere is already so saturated with blogs and lifestyle content, what do I have to offer?  Plus I am so drained from the school year that I don't think I have it in me to generate new and creative content every day.  

So now I'm at a loss.  I don't know what to do.  Should I even continue my blog?  Should I start a new one?  Should I keep it as it is - somewhat of a scrapbook/journal of my life?  

This sucks.

I still want to work for myself, but I don't have confidence that I could make it work and bring in enough revenue to sustain us, at least enough for me to quit my job.  

As the great Tina Fey would say, "Blerg."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Summer To-Do List || 10 Things

I started making a to-do list of things I need to get done this summer.  As I was rereading the list, I had to stop and make fun of myself for a minute.  I mean, come on!  Can I even adult?  But then I remembered: I'm a teacher.  Teaching is hard work.  Working full time is hard, but I think teaching takes the cake.  Thank goodness for summer break, or else I wouldn't be able to function as a human being.  So here are all the things I've neglected for the past 10 months that I need to catch up on now:

1.  Take items to donate.  

My trunk is full of clothes and other items that I've been meaning to donate since about... 6 months ago.  I'm sure they'll enjoy my scarves and coats now that it's 99 degrees out...

2.  Organize my laundry.  

There's a pile of clean clothes and a pile of dirty clothes.  Maybe they'll end up in my closet some day soon.

3.  Cook real food. And maybe lose a few pounds in the process.  

No more frozen dinners and canned soup for lunch.  I'm looking forward to fresh veggies!

4.  Shave my legs.  

Well, there's really no excuse for this one except that I hate to do it.

5.  Wash the dog, wash the dishes, wash the car, wash all the things!

6.  Read a book just for fun!  

I'm talking pure chick-lit, cheesy, lame, easy-to-read, romantic, fictional, fun, not-academic, not-intelligent, don't-require-brain-waves type of books.  If you have any recommendations, leave them in the comments!

7.  Go to the dentist.

And hope for the best.  It's been awhile...

8.  Go to the eye doctor.

And cry as the reality of my old age sets in when I receive a stronger prescription.  I know it's coming, I'm just not prepared for it.

9.  Organize my office, organize my bedroom, organize my bills, organize all the things!

10.  Watch a lot of Netflix. 

And don't feel guilty about it.  I worked hard and endured a lot of stress this past school year.  I deserve to binge-watch mindless TV online! (Or so I keep telling myself...)

What does your summer to-do list look like?

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Just Julie

The city flooded my senses with the promise of excitement.  Adventure is never out of reach in New York City.  Night was thick around us as we walked to the restaurant.  It was a Saturday evening, and downtown Manhattan was bursting with life.  The Empire State Building gleamed behind us, and every street was decked with its finest jewels... The lights in the city sparkle their brightest at night, as if trying to outshine the midday sun.

I walked happily, not bothered by the hustle and bustle of a big city.  Many noises and smells attacked my senses, but I happily took them in.  New York is a city of promise, a city where life seems to race by, and all you have to do is jump on for the ride.  I wanted to cherish my few short days there, and I was greatly looking forward to dinner with an old college friend, now a bona fide Manhattanite.

Dinner did not disappoint.  I was craving Brazilian food, so we found a restaurant with good reviews and walked in.  They didn't think they could seat us, since we didn't have a reservation, but I started talking to the hostess in Portuguese, and next thing I knew we were feasting on feijoada and picanha.  Many years had passed since I had seen my friend, and we had lots to catch up on.  The meal was delicious, and the conversation refreshing.

I looked at my friend, whose face and demeanor hadn't changed in the past 10 years.  Of course he had grown a little older, and living in Manhattan had no doubtedly had its effect on him.  Everyone changes a little in their lifetime.  But he had the same essence of my fast friend from days gone by.  I told him, "Man, you haven't changed a bit!" and I meant it as a compliment.  He smiled and laughed, and said, "Thank you!"

I asked him if he thought I changed.  He took a moment to think.  We hadn't seen each other in six years.  Since then I got married, moved three times, lived overseas, and learned another language.  In those few years I experienced heartbreak and true love, anxiety and peace, and many, many sunburns.  I lost my voice (literally), and found it, then lost it again.  I experienced deep deep hurt, and a little bit of happiness here and there.

When I asked him, "Do you think I've changed?" I expected him to say yes.  I expected him to notice the years of loneliness, as if they were etched into my face.  I thought he would sense crushing weight of feeling like an outsider, like I never fit in, that rested on my shoulders.  Maybe the condescending comments and pseudo-helpful advice given by well-meaning but disinterested "friends" had permanently altered my features, my personality.  In any case, he would surely notice the 15 pounds I had gained.

But he replied, "You're, very very Julie!"  His smile and laughter were genuine, as if he was surprised by my question but happy I asked.

"What does that even mean?" I said.  "You really don't think I've changed?"

"No," he said. "You're just... you're just Julie!"

I smiled and giggled a little.  Because I knew he was right.  I was "just Julie."  I couldn't be anything else other than "just Julie."  I felt a happy tinge in my heart, and a tiny weight was lifted.  Here was someone who knew the real me.  Someone who I essentially "grew up" next to - a friend who understood me: that I'm blunt, that I like to talk a lot, that I can get very passionate and animated when I'm excited, that I'm adventurous and like trying new things, that I'm sensitive and compassionate even if I don't always show it, that I'm moved to tears by beautiful music, that I often look serious and have a "mean" face, but in reality I'm generally easy going and friendly.  These things are not lost by the years and the struggles.  These things, for better or for worse, are who I am.  No matter how many people tell me I need to change to fit in, no matter how many people are intimidated by me or offended by me, this is who I am and always will be.

My friend didn't know what an effect his comment had on me.  He didn't know that I had been struggling against the current, not wanting to change my course, but feeling so much pressure to conform.  All he knew was that I was his friend and that I had not changed.  After a delicious meal and way too much dessert, we walked back to my hotel and sat in the lobby and chatted for a little while longer.  Soon it was time to part, and I hugged him goodbye.  It had been a refreshing evening spent with a friend who I could be completely myself with.  I didn't want him to leave and my life to go back to reality.  I didn't want to leave New York, a city where anything is possible, to return to my small town, where anything "different" is "weird."

I wondered if a weekend in New York would sustain me long enough to finish the school year strong.  I wondered if I could go back home and survive for just a little while longer... yet here I am, two weeks later, still longing to be back in New York.  Maybe it is the bright lights of the city that never sleeps that keeps pulling my mind away from this small town.  Maybe it is the memory of the never-ending delicious food, the sights, the smells, yes, even the crowds of people and traffic, that stir my heart to long for the city.  Or maybe I want to return to a place where I could be just Julie.

I'm experimenting with different types of posts these days.  I'm trying to be more introspective and concentrate more on my writing.  Please feel free to leave feedback.  Do you like these types of posts or prefer a different kind?  As always, thanks for reading!