Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Preparation Day*

I'm taking the day off work today to get my act together. I fly to San Francisco tomorrow to apply for (and hopefully come home with) my student visa. Mom and I leave early tomorrow morning (our flight is at 8:30), so the New Year festivities will be slightly abbreviated for me this year. Either that, or I'll just be completely exhausted. :)


*This kind of makes me feel like a missionary again. Speaking of which, I really hope there are some sister missionaries serving right in Paris that I can go on exchanges with. What a blast that will be!

A Note From France

As I've been going through all the stuff I moved from the townhouse back to my parents', I found a notecard I had sent to Jessica and Happy while I was in Europe with my family last May (2007).



Isn't it cute? I loved the pop-up Eiffel Tower.

Here is what I wrote:

Hey, ladies!! We're off to Berlin in the morning, so I just thought I would drop you a line from Paris before we left. London was great, Paris was FAB-U-LOUS, and I absolutely need to move here. We'll see what Germany and Italy have in store for us next! Thanks for holding down the fort while I'm gone! See you soon. Love, Sar.

Over the past few days I've been having some minor freak-out moments. When I think too hard about moving to a city with 11 million people, by myself, without knowing anyone, I kind of get nauseated. But then I see things like this notecard, and I realize how comfortable I am there, how much I flat out love it, and how well I communicated with everyone in Paris when I was there with my family (I definitely took on the role of official spokesperson).


I'll have two full weeks to adjust to Paris life before school even starts, so I'll be able to figure out where the grocery store is, how long it takes to walk to the Metro, how long the train ride is, and how long it takes to walk to school. I'll have time to go see some exhibits, and maybe even go on my first out-of-country adventure. I'll stop in to go to Institute on my first day, call the missionaries to figure out which ward I'm in, and get myself unpacked and my shelf in the kitchen cupboard and fridge stocked so I don't just eat panini and crepes for a week straight (my immediate family knows that this is a serious possibility). The second day I'm in town is when I go to school to have my language skills tested. Once that is done they will determine which class "level" I belong in and I'll know more about what my class schedule will be like. That's the 22nd... and classes don't start until Feb. 10th. So, really there's no good reason for me to freak out.


I'll also be taking a LOT of pictures. So prepare yourselves.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Days of Auld Lang Syne

As I have spent some time thinking of things I want to do or change in 2009, a few things have come to mind. I am not going to call them New Year's Resolutions, because I think that gives me too much leeway to "give up" if I don't keep them up within the first few weeks of the year (and considering what the first month or two of the year will be like for me, I'm not going to set myself up for failure. I know my limits.).

So, instead, I am setting goals for 2009. I will share them with you. (I hope they don't bore you to tears.)

The first goal is what inspired the title of my post*; it's the one I've been thinking about the most over the last month or so. Last year I took a "Writing Your Personal History" class to fulfill one of my last English requirements for my minor. Because writing at least 250 words in my journal every day was required to get a good grade, I wrote every day for as long as I was in the class. But, as you might guess, a couple of months later I had dwindled down to only a couple of times a week. When my wonderful friend Camille went missing and was later found dead near Bridal Veil Falls, I abandoned it altogether because I couldn't bring myself to write what I was feeling and thinking about. It was too painful--too final--to write it down on paper. But I feel really strongly about writing my personal history. I have a terrible memory, and I want my children and their children (should they be interested) to have access to all of the memories that will too soon fade away.

So, with that abbreviated version of my thought process, I want to share with you a new blog project I started. It's called "This Time It's Personal," and the purpose of the blog is to provide prompts for people who want to write their own personal histories but don't really know what to do. I make no claim of expertise. The only thing I'm an expert on is failing at journal-keeping. So... if you're interested in writing your personal history (or encouraging your children to write theirs), join me in my journey. You can go to mypersonalhistoryblog.blogspot.com or just click here to check it out and read about how it is going to work. I posted the first prompt just a few minutes ago.

If you like what you see there and want to share, I would love for you to link to it on your blogs. The more, the merrier (and frankly, I think the more, the "successful-er" we'll all be at keeping journals or making progress on our personal histories)!!

My second goal is a bit more simple. :) It is:

Exercise at least three times a week for 40 minutes or more.

Exercise wasn't something I ever thought about when I was younger. I played soccer and danced for years and years, so I never needed to think about it. But since abandoning soccer, clogging, and track, I've never been really consistent about exercise unless my grades depended upon it.

Well, it's time for that to change. It's time to make healthy living choices my go-to, default, no-questions-about-it way of life.

Since I won't have a car in France, and I think I'll have quite a bit of spare time every day (who knows what my schoolwork will be like), I am committed to exercising at least three times a week for a minimum of 40 minutes. Now, I'm not going to put a lot of restrictions on what counts and what doesn't. I'm also not going to require of myself that the 40 minutes be consecutive. I'm also not going to require that my heart rate reach a certain level, or that I burn a certain number of calories per day, etc. The most important end goal for me isn't weight loss (though that is important for me), but a healthy and active life. My big hope is that by the time I come home, I would rather walk to the grocery store or to work, that I would rather go to the gym and get a workout in than eat Sour Punch Straws and watch TV. It's a big change, and it's going to be really difficult for a long time. I may not be to that point when I come back, but I know that if I am consistent, I'll be much closer than where I am now.

So, maybe two goals isn't super ambitious, but I feel like they're big goals that will take a lot of self-control, discipline, reflection, and TIME. So I'm okay with just having these two main ones to work on.

*I saw on Wikipedia that Auld Lang Syne has been used as a rough equivalent to "Once Upon a Time," so I thought it fit in with the idea of writing my personal history, since I think of personal histories more as an actual story, like a memoir, than a journal.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Traditions

Every year my family gets together with dad's side of the fam for a Christmas party. The party involves soup, hot rolls, chatting, and... hockey sticks.

That's right. Every year we reserve the cultural hall at my aunt and uncle's church the weekend before Christmas and we play indoor hockey. It's a blast. Sometimes we play basketball or volleyball as well, but this year we added dodge ball instead.







I always love getting together with our extended family, on both sides. I never realized how rare it is for extended families to get together frequently, so I feel really blessed that I was able to grow up being close to so many of my cousins.

Another tradition with our immediate family is bowling and pizza the week of Christmas. This year we went to Fat Cat's and did bowling and Costa Vida. Yum.





Hooray for Snowshoeing

I went snowshoeing with my dad on Christmas Eve. We were gone for about three and a half hours. It took me at least that long to warm up again once we got home. Brrrrrr. It was a tad nippy outside Wednesday.

We hiked up our usual ravine, but it was like a whole new place because there was about 5 feet of snow underfoot. Toppled trees that we normally have to crawl under were completely covered in snow and we were able to walk right over them. It was really fun, super cold, AND according to my heart rate monitor I burned 1150 calories. Nice. If only I had three extra hours a day that I could go snowshoeing.


A bunch of the trees in the ravine still had leaves on them.

The ravine we hike in.

This is a funny little sign near the top of the ravine.

The ravine opens up to a few ridges... a few sort of "foothills" on the back of Cascade.
Then... over the southern ridge into a meadow, down the hill to meet up with the road and trek back to the parking lot. (Where, unfortunately, the bathrooms were "locked for the season." LAME.)



Oooooh, I'm going to miss my mountains.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow Day

I wish I could take the day off of work and curl up in an armchair with a great book. I would spend the day reading and watching the snow fall out my front windows. Aaaaah.

Trees covered in snow are some of the prettiest things to me. They look delicate like lace, but pretty (unlike lace).* I also love the look of the Rockies covered in the snow and reflecting a golden, pink, or purple sunset. I hope I get to see that a few times before I go. Especially because there are no mountains anywhere near Paris.**



*I'm guessing none of you know this about me. I hate lace. I think it is ugly, with only a few rare exceptions. I'm more of a minimalist, and so lace just looks gaudy and over-embellished to me. Though there are rare instances when I think it is beautiful. Rare instances.
**I don't know how I'll ever be able to tell direction. You can click here to see a panoramic shot taken from the top of the Eiffel Tower. It's got a lot of distortion, but you can at least see that there are no mountains. :)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just A Month...

until I fly away on a jet plane.

I started packing yesterday. Is that too soon?

I am a classic over-packer. But I'm looking forward to packing for a 5 month adventure, because I'm pretty sure that means it will be impossible to overpack. Suh-weet!!

I have two checked bags, a carry-on, and a laptop bag. I don't actually know how I'm going to get all of my luggage from the airport to my apartment in Paris, but I'm pretty sure I'll be shelling out a few Euros so I don't have to do it by myself.

And I'm not going to lie... I'm probably going to ship my pillow and my earring organizer over. Mock me if you must, but a good night's sleep and NOT sifting through hundreds of tangled earrings are totally worth the extra effort (and cost).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Yann Arthus-Bertrand

One of the blogs in my Google Reader is Paris Daily Photo by Eric.
Today Eric shared about a meeting he had with Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a well-known photographer (and the genius behind Earth From the Air, one of my favorite series of photographs).

Eric also shared the link to 6 Billion Others, a massive project being done by Arthus-Bertrand. I think it's an incredible project: very personal and detailed, but global and eye-opening at the same time. And the BONUS is that they are going to have an exhibit in Paris from January 10-February 12th. I'm definitely going to make an effort to get the exhibit. (School doesn't start until February 10th, so after the first couple days of getting settled in, I'll be off on some fun adventures, doing some exploring, and going to several museums.)

Check out these two projects. I think they're both fascinating. Arthus-Bertrand seems like a man with BIG ideas and the ability (and resources... wow) to see them through. I wonder if he needs an intern... :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No Christmas Eve Hustle and Bustle for Me

I finished my Christmas shopping yesterday. I hope everything gets here in time (I bought half of my presents online).


Now I just have to wrap everything.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Vision of Students Today - OR - Why I think YouTube is a Great Teaching Resource

Have any of you seen this video before? I think it's fascinating.




Maybe part of why I like it so much is that when I get home from France part of The Plan includes trying to get a job as a teacher at some point.

I think it's important for teachers (and as a trainer I thought this was very applicable to me in my job, so I promise... I'm not judging) to incorporate technology into the classroom. I think it provides an additional audio/visual/interactive element that is very often lacking, and it provides a sense of continuity and relevance between what is being taught in class and the things the kids are Googling or YouTube-ing or blogging on their own time.

Plus I think it allows teachers to access resources that they might not have been able to track down as easily otherwise (clips of certain songs, movies, etc.). Even better, a teacher could upload a specialized video or presentation of some kind. This could be viewed in class or as part of a homework assignment. Even better than that, there's a whole world of potential interactive projects that the kids could record (in or out of class) and post online themselves (or have their parents or teacher upload it) to be viewed in class, reviewed by the teacher, or shared with family and friends.

Maybe you think this is a good idea, maybe you don't. But I'm not gonna lie... when I'm a teacher, we'll be You Tube-ing.

Brian Regan

Another comedian I really like is Brian Regan. He's much less scandalous and still really funny. Here are a few good clips from him.








Monday, December 15, 2008

The Squealing Princess

Hayleigh is quite the squealer. She doesn't seem to laugh so much as just squeak and squeal when she's enjoying herself or thinks that something is funny. I can't wait to see what she sounds like when she talks.

I think Dad took this video last week while we were putting up the Christmas tree at Mom and Dad's.

I wish I still thought peek-a-boo was this funny... there's hours of free entertainment to be had there.


video


Friday, December 12, 2008

SOLD!

Well, it's really official now. My house is sold!! It funded today, and I feel rich.


Don't worry, the feeling won't last. I am moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Photo by TracyO via Flickr.

Oh, So Helpful

This interactive map of the Paris metro/RER systems and I will be best buds while I'm in France.

How cool is this? It's like MapQuest for the Paris Metro and RER system (which is more like a commuter train, because it has fewer stops and goes farther out into the suburbs).

You just enter your beginning and ending metro stops, and it shows you the most efficient way to get there, including the names of the stops where you have to switch, and which direction you need to take on each new line you jump onto. Via this site I discovered that I don't actually have to make two transfers to get to school... I can just hop on the RER instead of the Metro. Hooray!



This is how I get from my apartment to school. Or the Musée d'Orsay. Or the Eiffel Tower. I would also just have to hop over the river from this line to get to the Louvre. Convenient, no?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daaaarling Paper Flower Ornaments

If you don't feel like blowing a bundle of money on christmas tree ornaments, you could make a bunch of these super cute ornaments designed by Jessica at How About Orange. Cute, easy, and budget-friendly. Perfect.

What's That You Say?

Today I came across this quote, and it made me chuckle so I thought I would share. It reminds me of all the literary theory articles I had to read in college.

In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.
-George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dear GF

Mr. Handel,

Thank you for sharing your gift of music with the world. I have to admit that I'm a big fan. You, Vivaldi and Pachelbel turned me onto Baroque Music.




I particularly enjoy:

the Messiah*




Water Music (especially the hornpipe)



and your music for the Royal Fireworks.




Simply gorgeous.



*went to a Messiah sing-in at the American Fork Tabernacle last week. That's definitely what inspired this post. Wow, I just wish I had a gift with music. It literally gives me chills to hear these songs.

Moving Pros and Cons

Pros:
-getting rid of crap I never really needed in the first place
-throwing away things I should have junked a long time ago but didn't
-change is good
-a fresh start (whenever I move, I feel like I have the opportunity to completely reinvent myself)
-not having a house payment, HOA dues, utilities--I kind of feel rich (that feeling will go away rather quickly once January comes around, I'm sure)
-benefiting from the awesomeness of others and their willingness to serve

Cons:
-not being able to find anything in my huge pile of boxes
-Dexter whining his head off the second my alarm goes off in the morning (No snoozing allowed, apparently)
-feeling far away from my neighbor-friends
-no covered parking (Boo for scraping windows)

Monday, December 8, 2008

Moving Day

Saturday was moving day.

Jessica and I both moved out of the townhouse. We had a lot of great help from our families and the Elders from our ward. I'm extremely grateful for their help; they did all the heavy lifting (which means that I came out of the move with only a slightly stiff back, so my physical therapist won't yell at me.)

The only things left at the apartment are the washer and dryer (which will get moved on closing day), some furniture that Jared (the new owner) is going to buy from me, a few things to donate to D.I., and cleaning supplies.

I'll be spending the evening today and tomorrow scrubbing down walls, the fridge, and the floors.

Now I just have to go through all of those boxes and put my life back in order.

Huzzah.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday Faves* - Memories of the Townhouse Edition

It's official.

I'm closing on my house next Wednesday and handing over the keys to Heather's brother, Jared. He got engaged while we were all at Disneyland, so he's going to move in now and spiff the place up a bit before his cute fiancée, Katrina, moves in post-wedding.

So, as a final farewell to the ol' townhouse I thought I would write down some of the best memories I've made there.

1) First, just moving into the place and making it mine. Mom and I painted SEVEN coats on the bottom half of my front room to get it to that perfect shade of deep red. The color chip I chose and the actual paint on the wall didn't match. We kept saying, "Well, maybe one more coat will make it look less fire engine-y".
After two coats of primer and three coats of the 1st red, I took the paint to Home Depot and stood there while the guy mixed, remixed, and remixed again until I was happy. So, now I have an awesome custom paint color 'recipe' in my filing cabinet.

2) Living with wonderful girls: Jessica, Camille, Happy. All great friends, all wonderful roomies. And all soooo different from one another. Wow.

3) Staying up until all hours laughing and talking with whoever was there. You know who you are (and most of you probably don't read my blog, so... whatever). (We can still be friends.)**

4) Having sleepovers with Taylor and Easton.

5) Being the HOA president (HA! Not. That was one of the main reasons I decided to move in the first place [pre-France]).

6) The LeChems (kindred spirits of fun and sassiness that I met in my ward). Two of the most brilliant and gorgeous women I know. If I didn't buy my townhouse, I never would have met them. That would have been a tragedy, indeed. They are wonderful.

7) Dinner parties with Ruth and all of her friends.

8) Putting together piece after piece of "some assembly required" furniture.

9) Painting things that weren't really meant to be painted. And liking the results.

10) Making myself a custom earring holder.

11) Creating some of my favorite paintings ever.

12) Learning so much about home ownership. That will come in handy later.

13) Going to plays with Jessica!

14) Finishing my last two classes via the internet and finally graduating from college.

15) Spending lazy Sunday afternoons on a blanket in the front yard just reading.

16) Crepe parties!!

17) Trying to do areobics in my front room, and mostly giving up. Moving all of the furniture to make room was a good enough workout, usually.


*It's been a while since I've done Friday Faves. Woops!
**Me: Hi, I'm Sarah. And I'm addicted to parentheses.
Group: Hi, Sarah.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Great News

So, considering the current economy and with unemployment creeping up, I've been getting nervous about leaving a stable job with a great boss in a company I love (even in exchange for a wonderful lifelong dream). It wouldn't have changed my plans, but I was thinking to myself:


?????????????????????????


Will I come back to an economy that is worse off than it is now?

Will I be able to find a job that offers benefits?

Will I have to sell my soul to the devil to afford individual health insurance?



?????????????????????????

Well, yesterday my boss told me that the VP our department reports to agreed to let me telecommute from Paris and just work fewer hours.

It might end up that I do this as a contracted employee, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can just get bumped down to a 20-hour-a-week cap and stay on as a "real" employee. Which would be great, because I would stay 100% vested in my 401k and be able to get right back onto my health insurance.

Either way, I'm rejoicing.

Oh, and today I also got my confirmation from Campus France. With their approval in place, I can now apply for my in-person visa appointment at the consulate in San Francisco.

Hooray!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bones in the Real World: Forensic Anthropology and Genocide

So... I love CNN.

Today I read this article about how forensic anthropology and DNA testing are being used in Bosnia to identify bodies buried in mass graves, which eventually allows the bodies to be turned over to the victims' families.

What a wonderful thing for those families. It's like Bones times a million (but it's actually real, not a t.v. drama). I want to be a forensic anthropologist. Kind of...
But not really, because I'm squeamish. I'll just get my fill from watching the awesome show and having a celebrity crush on David Boreanaz.


Advertise on Your Child's Homework

I think this article is sad, but I applaud the teacher. He ensured that his students' success continued despite a lack of funding. Very cool.

And yet not cool that it was necessary.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's ggggGREat!

I bought these today. I hate math.


Here's to preventing my brain from deteriorating completely.

I found a graduate program that I really like, but I have no idea whether I will be accepted or not (so I won't tell you which one it is {yep, I'm totally prideful}). I'll be studying for the GRE in the meantime, but actually applying to the school will go on the back burner at least until I'm back from Paris (which means I probably wouldn't start school until fall of 2010).

Sarkozy to Obama: A Letter of Congratulations and Support

On the home page of the French consulate's website there was a link to this letter from Nicolas Sarkozy (Pres. of France) to President-elect Obama. I realize not many of you are as interested in Franco-American relations as I am, but I'm posting it anyway to show what seems to be a good example of how this election has been perceived by the rest of the world.

Letter of congratulations from President Nicolas Sarkozy to President-elect Barack Obama :
Mr. President-elect, Dear Barack,
The American people have just chosen you to preside over their destiny for the next four years.
Please accept my warmest congratulations, both personally and on behalf of the French people as a whole. Your stunning victory rewards a tireless commitment to serving the American people. It is also the crowning achievement of an exceptional campaign whose brilliance and high tone demonstrated the vitality of American democracy to the entire world, while keeping them spellbound.
In choosing you, the American people have chosen the path of change, openness and optimism. At a time when the world is in torment and doubt, the American people—true to the values that have always been at the very core of America’s identity—strongly expressed their faith in progress and in the future.
This message from the American people resonates well beyond your borders. At a time when we must face enormous challenges together, your election raises immense hope in France, Europe and beyond: the hope of an open America, characterized by solidarity and strength, that will once again lead the way, with its partners, through the power of its example and the adherence to its principles.
France and Europe, which have always been bound to the United States through their ties of history, values and friendship, will thus be reenergized to work with America to preserve peace and prosperity in the world. Rest assured that you may count on France and on my personal support.
Please accept, Mr. President-elect, the expression of my highest regards.
[Handwritten:] and my warmest wishes.
[Signature] Nicolas Sarkozy
His Excellency Mr. Barack H. Obama President-elect of the United States of America


I read several blogs of American expats in France, and every one of them mentioned how much the French took interest in this year's election (to the point of being very unusual). Everyone over there wanted Obama to win, and a couple of these bloggers mentioned that they noticed a distinct improvement in the way their more casual acquaintances treated them immediately following the election (not that they were super rude before, but after the election they warmed up a bit).
One of my coworkers also mentioned to me how much easier my life in France will be because the election went the way it did.

And as a side note...

I have to say, I didn't vote for Obama (I wasn't really happy with either Obama or McCain, truth be told), but I've been very impressed with him so far. I hope he continues to be frank and forthcoming with the American people and that he follows through with his ideal of bringing Republicans and Democrats together with open minds focused on progress and what is best for the American people. I think that's an ideal that most presidents would say they wanted, so here's hoping Obama can get the right support to make it a reality.