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The Season of Gratitude

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Has anyone else felt that the holidays came at the blink of an eye this year? It was fall, and suddenly it is full-on Christmastime. I hope my American followers enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday as a time to relax, reflect, and spend time with family and friends. My holiday wasn’t necessarily relaxing, but I am happy that I made the most of spending time with family and friends throughout the week – from Ohio (Cleveland and Columbus) to Michigan (Royal Oak, Rochester, Bloomfield Hills, and Detroit!).

While it has been easy for me to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of the season, from travel planning, to shopping for gifts, to decorating my apartment, I wanted to make sure to spend time reflecting. After all, the holiday season for me is the season of gratitude. I wanted to share a few things that make me feel especially grateful this year and hopefully they will inspire you to think about what you are grateful for as well!

First, I am grateful for creativity. Throughout the fall I have had a huge craving for the arts. If I see or think of something creative, I want to try it! I made candles with my neighbors, which is surprisingly much easier than you would think. You collect old jars you have around the house, melt wax in a pan, pour wax into the jars, and mix in your favorite combination of scents from essential oils or spices (fun fact – turmeric is a great spice to color your candle), and voila – you have a candle! I also painted freestyle with my neighbors in our own version of a “wine and paint” party. This is much more budget friendly and intimate way to paint with your friends – you get to choose the wine, paint at your own pace, and be at the comfort of your own home! I practiced flow painting with family during the Thanksgiving – which was so much fun and also therapeutic. What could be more fun (from an arts perspective) than mixing paint with Elmer’s glue and water, combining colors in a cup, and pouring them onto a canvas in whichever order you would like? You would be amazed how quickly you can look like a professional artist through flow painting! And most recently, I decorated a gingerbread house with my dad so that we could share enjoying the Christmas spirit even though we live far apart. Through all of these experiences, I have found that the arts are one way for me to focus my mind on the present. It helps clear my mind even for a short moment – which frees up space for me to problem solve and reflect in my daily life. It is very rewarding to see the outcome, a tangible and visual example of my work. I look forward to continuing the arts in the new year!

I am grateful for home. I have realized how important it is to have a home – and I don’t mean a physical location. My apartment in Greenville feels like home with all the memories from loved ones, including furniture from my grandma, decorations from my travels, warm candles, and photos of important people in my life. Spending time in Michigan with family feels like home, because my loved ones make it home. Even as my relatives have moved locations, I still feel at home when we are all together. It is the sense of togetherness that makes a place home for me. I can say that my heart feels its best and the most complete when it has a sense of “home.”

I am grateful for flexibility. There is no better feeling than when I have options and I don’t feel “stuck” – whether that means in my life decisions, my daily schedule, or my travels. Flexibility and free time are incredibly liberating and are helping me as I plan for the future. I feel lucky that my job allows me to have work-life balance – to flexibly schedule my commitments at work and at home. I just started the book, “The Power of Now,” and through that I am already realizing that time is imaginary and we should never feel stuck in a situation. Everything can be much more flexible if we separate ourselves from time pressures and worries and focus on the present and what we truly want. I have a feeling I will write a post about “The Power of Now” based on how much it has inspired me in just the first 50 pages of the book.

I am grateful for friendship. As I have moved every year since officially being an adult, and often multiple times per year, I could not be more grateful for the friendships I have made along the way. New and old friends along the way have helped me explore new places, laughed with me on the good days, cried with me on the bad days, and reflected on life. Together we have shared experiences that have helped me grow and prepare for the next phase. I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be without them – thank you to everyone who has been a friend along the way – can’t wait for more adventures together!

What are you grateful for? I hope these reflections help all of us remember to pause and think about the season of gratitude. May the holidays bring you much happiness, joy, and peace this year!

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Home for the Holidays

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Happy Holidays to all of my inspirNational followers! I hope that you have enjoyed a festive month this December. With only a couple days left of 2016, I am reflecting on what it has meant to me to be home for the holidays. Over the past month, I have completed my second to last semester of graduate school and have made the long road trip from South Carolina to Michigan, spending time in various cities in between to get together with friends and family. I have been fully engaged in spending time with loved ones, which has been wonderful for me to disconnect a bit from the real world and to reconnect with friends and family who I have not seen in almost a year.

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Traveling throughout 2016 has reminded me of the importance of home. I have absolutely loved living abroad and exploring, but it is even more rewarding when I can go back home to share memories with my loved ones. Home is what helps me relax, reflect, and rejuvenate to learn and grow from my past experiences and prepare for my next adventures. Traveling has also taught me that home is not a place, but the feeling I have when I am with family and friends. This has explained why I have often felt at home, even when I have lived and traveled throughout the world, especially this year. With the feeling of home, then, all of us can experience home at several points in our lives as we move and go to new places. I have found that I feel most at home when I am with my mom and dad since I have known them my entire life, followed by other family members and lifelong friends. As my family, friends, and I have moved and traveled to new places and have had different experiences, we always go back to the “old days” or “how it always was” when we get together. It is such a comforting feeling especially with all the changes we face in our daily lives. My feeling of home as a connection to people has taught me that the people in my life are what matter most to me. I couldn’t be more grateful for my family, friends, and inspirNational followers who have helped me feel at home and have learned and grown with me over the years. I hope that whether you have traveled home or not this holiday season, that you have felt at home by reconnecting with your loved ones. May 2017 bring you much happiness, love, and inspirNational adventures!

La mère est la lumière de la famille

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I’ve always heard that a mom is what makes a home for a family…and it’s absolutely true with my host family in Paris!

Last night, Marie Christine, the mother of my host family, arrived home from her Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) trip to China. I was eager to meet her and talk about our mutual interest in sustainable development and international travel. I was excited to learn that she also works with Michelin (my summer internship will be with Michelin’s Global Leadership Program) and she studied at the University of Salamanca, Spain (as did I in the summer of 2011).

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Source: environmentallysound.wordpress.com

When she arrived, it became clear to me that la mère est la lumière de la famille. Marie Christine truly lit up the home the minute she walked in. Lights literally turned on, and the energy in the home went from somber to cheerful with her presence. She joined us for dinner and talked about her trip to China. Her daughter, my host sister (Marine), was stressed about university exams, as are many of the French university students this week (Quick side note: Your grades determine whether or not you can get free university education in France!). Marie Christine tried to cheer up Marine by giving her a Panda teddy bear which was her favorite animal.

While eating homemade carrot and cheese soup (or as my French translation understands), whitefish, liche fruit, and yogurt, we discussed (in French) our time since Marie Christine was away. I explained that I enjoyed my first week in Paris, and was adapting to the metro system, having classes completely in French, and learning about history everywhere I looked. Marie Christine comforted me by saying I can ask the family to slow down in French so that I can understand. She also clarified any questions I had in English. My host dad (Alexandre) talked about his busy week as an ENT surgeon, although he didn’t go into much detail. Marine discussed her exams and how she thought it was crazy that her fitness class was of equal importance to her other management classes. My first few dinners were just with Alexandre and Marine, where we ate lots of good food (cheese, bread, pasta, avocados, salmon, chicken, and did I say cheese and bread?!) and had brief conversations. I was surprised by the brevity, given the stereotype of long mealtimes in France, but we started eating after 9pm and had early mornings, so it made sense. With the arrival of Marie Christine, though, we spent much more time talking, reflecting, and relaxing. I could tell that Alexandre and Marine were grateful she was back home.

Despite experiencing jet lag, Marie Christine woke up early this morning with her husband. I was surprised to see her and asked her, “aren’t you tired?” She said, “it’s nice to eat breakfast with someone.” How selfless and sweet of her to join her husband for breakfast! I also asked her if I could be late to dinner today because I have a “meet and greet” with my school, and she said “no problem! In our house, there are no problems, just solutions.” What an optimistic mindset that I think could benefit many of us.

While drinking N’Espresso (addicting!) and eating toast with strawberry confiture and fresh fromage, we briefly discussed her work at WWF and how she would work from home today. She described that she loves her job and never feels the need to complain about it. I immediately thought of what I read by Elizabeth Gilbert about planning our lives to include a job, hobby, vocation, and career. Elizabeth Gilbert explains the definitions here and reminds us that they may not always be interchangeable. We must include our job, hobby, vocation, and career when making our decisions for today and the future. Based on Marie Christine’s positive energy, I have a feeling that she balances all of these components of life. I am excited to have the opportunity to learn from her over the next few months. I hope that I can be la lumière pour ma famille en la future.

Happy Holidays from inspirNational!

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As we travel near and far throughout the year and especially this holiday season, may we remember that “life brings us to unexpected places, but love brings us home.”image1

Moving to South Carolina and soon to France have both been unexpected for me, but very exciting at the same time! I have started the holidays in Virginia and Ohio, and now will be home in Michigan for the next couple weeks. I look forward to starting the new year Parisienne style! Wishing you, your family and friends a joyful and relaxing holiday season. See you in 2016 with more exciting inspirNational insights from around the world!