Colmar was the first town I ever visited in France and also the first class trip I ever took with my Spring Abroad Program, (IES Abroad Freiburg: Language and Area Studies). We took a bus in for the day and walked around town after visiting the Colmar’s St Martin’s Cathedral. This Alsace town is just as pristine and quintessentially French as it appears in these photos.
To top off the experience, a few of my new friends and I went on an hour long search for a cafe to share an Escargot appetizer. (Most places were closed because it was Sunday). We all ordered in subpar German as we’d only been in Europe for a few days and were still somewhat jet lagged. The waitress answered back to us in English as most Europeans will do to you despite your best efforts to speak in the local languages. Since we all shared one pricey Escargot platter I had exactly one Escargot, which I can only describe to have tasted like chicken. Some things are universal I guess.
Be sure to follow my travel adventures on instagram at: @colormeadri
After many of years of pretending to be cool and unique by being a hobby photographer who didn’t have an Instagram account, I woke up and realized, wait this is actually really cool. You can put up pictures and people will actually see them and care! I expected to make my account and then get over it pretty quickly, but I am more or less still committed to updating it and seeing what other people put up, particularly accounts with nature photography.
My all time favorite Instagrammer is Konsta Punkka, a nature photographer from Finland. I am even more in love with his work now because a few weeks ago I commented on one of his photos (along with hundreds of other fans) and he responded to me! It’s the little things in life right? I first learned about him watching a travel vlog from the Vagabrothers on YouTube. Konsta is a magical human being who gains the trust of wildlife creatures such as foxes and squirrels and gets them to pose for selfies, albeit very professional and well edited selfies, but selfies nonetheless.
I was worried before getting the account that if I joined Instagram I would put too much weight on how many followers I had or care when I lost them, but that should never stop you from sharing your work with other people if that’s what you think you want to do, that is, if that’s where you are passionate.
Plus, did you know that a bunch of Instagrammers apparently use apps that automatically follow and unfollow people and comment random generic things on people’s photos? I always tell my friends I am for all intents and purposes a social media grandma, therefore I did not know this. So that’s another reason why you don’t have to feel upset if you wake up one morning and realize you’ve lost a few of your followers, because Instagram is after all an instant gratification platform with finicky users who may or may not actually just be robots at any given time. I find this of comfort at least.
This “advice” can stretch more broadly to day to day life. People aren’t paying as much attention to your every movement and flaw as you think so just keep on moving through your life the way you want to. Put out there what you want to and strive for the goals that you set for yourself. Aziz Ansari said in an interview last month that if he were going to fail at something, he’d rather “fall on his own sword”, that is, he’d rather fail delivering his own writing and jokes than to play it safe following the directions of others.
So all you artists and movers and shakers out there: keep making cool stuff, keep sharing it with the people you love (and also total strangers if you so desire), and keep on dreaming, even if you don’t make your hobbies into anything more than hobbies income-wise. We create to express ourselves, whether people are watching or not.
I’ve been feeling pretty low most mornings if I’m to be completely honest. Sometimes I combat this by stopping by the new Yoga Studio my boss just opened in Charleston, (Yoga Power if you’re interested). This morning I decided I’d try to throw away loose papers, maybe gather up all the stray hair ties and bobby pins that seem to multiply themselves around the house. I did this for about an hour or so. I was really quite surprised how good that felt. Somehow this materialistic based action felt as if it was clearing away existential dread.
Secretly, this photo of flowers in Baden Baden, Germany has absolutely nothing to do with what I’m talking about right now. (Shhh don’t tell anyone!)
I suppose it makes sense that pairing down my belongings would give me a sense of security. I’m hoping within the next year or so to move back to Europe. There’s a lot I’d have to figure out to make that a reality. Most of the journey will just be figuring out more about my career goals for the future. Some of the journey will just be getting the courage to believe I can make such a drastic change again after years of moving back and forth between school and home and foreign destinations. I want to be settled somewhere. I want to grow roots, but I loved the life I lived abroad. I love the confident person I became there and though my path doesn’t appear clear to me right now I hope to carve out my own destiny slowly: one form submitted, one epiphany made, one leap of faith.
While I was cleaning I found a list I made in January of New Years Resolutions. I was surprised to remember that a lot of goals I’d set for myself back in January I had already accomplished now. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but at least I’m further than where I’ve started. For now I’ll focus on being my best self, including on days where I don’t really feel my best, or don’t really know where to begin to grow.
What do you do when you need some new energy in your life? Write about it in the comments below 🙂
Yesterday evening after an ACT tutoring session, I drove down to First Presbyterian Church and added my name to the sign up sheet for the West Virginia Symphony Chorus, a group I used to sing with for a few years in high school. I couldn’t remember whether I used to sing alto 1 or 2 so I just wrote: “A1?” . The lights in the chapel were turned on high; I entered as the choir was singing the entrance to John Rutter’s Magnificat in more or less perfect harmony. (I’m not saying it was bad or something. I’m just pointing out the comical fact that there’s only so much a choir can do learning a difficult piece of music for the first time. Don’t get me wrong, it was the loveliest sound I’d heard in a long while.)
WV Symphony Chorus Christmas concert December 2011
Since I’d arrived late and missed a couple previous rehearsals, a woman was kind enough to share her music with me, whispering to me about parts she found difficult or things that the director David told us to keep in mind. Members I had known previously were turning around in their seats between movements to wave to me. I felt like I was coming home again. I’ve been in Charleston again for a few months now and have been making the efforts to re-integrate, to make future plans for myself, but last night was the first time I’d really felt settled. I’m looking forward to upcoming rehearsals 🙂
I admit to not actually reading Kon Marie’s popular book Spark Joy. I did however watch a few YouTube videos of the woman cleaning other people’s homes. If you have a computer or watch television with any frequency, it’s likely you’ve at least heard a mention of the Japanese organizational sensation.
Kon Marie basically advises that when cleaning the home, to reevaluate all the items one owns, actually hold them in one’s hands and determine whether the item makes us happy or not. Then of course we have to think about function, and then sentimental value in evaluating our stuff. (She also has very interesting ways of optimizing space once we’ve evalated our items. Most of these tips involve either rolling our items, standing them vertically, or a combination of the two).
Kon Marie also advises to clean your home not room by room, but item by item in five larger categories of items: clothes, books, paper, kitchen, and then miscellaneous items (referred to as komono in Japanese).
Using Kon Marie’s tips has helped me a lot to get rid of even more items that just aren’t adding to my life anymore.
Food Politics has always been a great topic of interest of me. In fact it is the social issue that got me interested in studying Sociology in undergrad. I’ve just finished the documentarySugar Coated, and I think it does an excellent job at raising awareness of the health and social consequences of the sugar industry. It’s available on Netflix which I think makes it pretty easy to access for a lot of folks.
It’s not that sugar in itself is bad. Of course the sugar that is in fruits and vegetables occur naturally and we need to eat it to survive. However, sugar in the modern world is added in large quantities to almost everything we eat and given as many as 48 different alternative names that disguise it’s presence. Processed foods in particular are marketed to people often as being low fat, low calorie in order to attract sales, but in order to make up for the blandness of foods which have lost some flavors in the production process, unreasonable amounts of sugar are added to them.
Mmmm desert in Victoria, Canada. You have to live a little some times.
Reported findings of medical studies over the past few decades on sugar consumption have often been deemed as inconclusive. It is highly likely that the sugar industry has invested lobbying money in order to downplay the effects of overdose on sugar and the consumption of some modified sugars which may be hard for the body to digest. In the past it was difficult to conclude with certainty to the public that heavy sugar consumption could be linked to many non-communicable diseases and conditions such as blood glucose issues, tooth decay, cognition related problems, and even increased risk for heart disease or cancer. This is largely in part to the reality that illnesses are influenced by a myriad of factors, and without the ability to isolate them in medical studies proving a link between sugar and disease is difficult, but over time more and more experts have been trying to warn consumers of the health risks of heavy sugar consumption.
As with anything, don’t just take my word as truth. Explore for yourself. Watch this film. Read some books. Talk to your doctor or dietary specialist and get that important second opinion, but whatever you do, read the labels on your foods! Don’t just be satisfied with vague statements on the front of the packaging that claim “healthy”, low calorie”, or even in some cases claims of “no added sugar”. Read your nutrition facts. You may be surprised (and slightly disgusted) by the amount of sugar we let slip by us. Take control of your health today. Our health is one the most important things we can protect in this world.
Today I realized that something I was doing in my mad attempt to make our house a clean and happy house turned out in actuality to be a horrible idea. What could I have possibly done that was so bad you ask?
Well, I simply took everything I could out of all of the cabinets and thought I could tackle all of our household items all at once….
…not so smart.
At first it worked, but over time everything just kept getting messier and messier, and I couldn’t even tell that I had gotten rid of a lot of stuff because the floors were just piled in junk. So I suppose the real error was a false expectation that I could downsize the house instantly. It’s a process that’s going to take some time.
My advice? Just clean out your drawers and shelves one at a time. You’ll be glad when your home does not look like a tornado ran through it like mine.
Spring Break 2014: This is an account of an armed dispute I saw while vacationing in Santa Fe. It happened a while back but in light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, I am sharing this story to add to the discussion on gun violence.
What I wanted out of spring break was to relax, if only for just a day or a few hours. I headed out by car for the mountains of Santa Fe with my mom, ready to get out of Houston and away from the constant stress of academic life. The first day as we were driving across the vastness of the Texas prairie I still felt leftover stress, but I was hoping I’d get over it. The next day we made a stop at a Torchy’s Tacos in Lubbock. A uniformed man in line for food had a gun in plain sight strapped across the back of his belt. Of course this isn’t the first gun I’ve ever seen and in the US its completely normal for police officers to be armed. It’s part of their job to protect people, but that morning the sight of it bothered me, how it was a bit larger than other guns I’d seen, how visible it was. I tried to shove away my nerves but they hung around as I ate my greasy (but delicious) taco.
We hit the Texas-New Mexico border at a town called Farewell, TX. Sitting behind the wheel I drove a bit faster and thought to myself, Farewell Texas! I’m going to the mountains now. I had never been to New Mexico before. As we drove past, the great plains turned to flat, lifeless, yellow grass with bright red dirt. Desert scrubs and yucca. We gained altitude and peculiar dark green pine trees dotted the rolling yellow hills. We passed between desolate highway lanes, and the small roads of run-down and forgotten towns.
Then we hit Santa Fe, with its majestic mountains. Well-to-do people walked around outside of fake adobe houses. Santa Fe was very commercialized, the rich of the town appropriating Native American culture, decor and customs. My anxiety was still in full gear, but was tinged with a sense of excitement. Santa Fe had the wealth that those other small towns we passed on the way did not. I felt myself wanting to live there.
Until we were driving to our hotel and were stopped at an intersection. In front of us was a black SUV and a white 80’s Honda Accord stopped on the road. We thought perhaps the cars got in a wreck and the owners were about to exchange papers. But two men got out of the SUV and surrounded the white car. One man pointed a very large black gun at the window. It was the biggest gun I had ever seen (and I grew up in West Virginia where a lot of people own guns). Inside a Native American man with long braided hair sat still and silent. Then the gunman turned his gaze and met my eyes. What I thought could be my last moment instead became the moment that the men headed back into their car and sped away.Had we saved that man with the long braided hair?
The next day we learned from a cashier we recounted our story too that the event we witnessed was not out of the ordinary for the area. He leaned in close and confided to us, “It’s the younger generation. They like to race cars in the streets and get into fights. Don’t take the backroads and you’ll be fine. And if it happens again don’t tell anyone about it. Don’t call the police. You just look straight and drive away and you’ll be fine.”
We didn’t see anything else out of the ordinary for the rest of our stay and I was eventually able to enjoy some relaxed time in nature like I planned, but because of what we witnessed, the Land of Enchantment had lost some of its enchanting qualities in my eyes. But gun violence is not an issue pertaining only to Santa Fe. Far from it. In the aftermath of the recent attacks in Orlando I don’t quite know what to say, only that we shouldn’t look away. When things of this nature happen we should never look away. We must speak up. Even when we are afraid, we must tell someone.
At the moment I am living at home, full of its comforts, familiarities, and also full of clutter. I mean, I really don’t know how we managed as a family to accumulate so many possessions. Well, I do know. We went shopping and found a sale. We mastered the art of the garage sale deal.
For the past few weeks I’ve been doing my best to pare down my possessions, and I’ve done well so far. I plan to purge more items, figure out what can be sold on sites like craigslist, and donate some clothes, but a strange thing happens when you try to clean out your suburban home. The more items you throw out, the more items magically reappear in their place.
But no matter! I know that with dedication and a little daily work, I can help get this house back into some state of order. In the meantime I will share with you strategies I have been using to clean house so that you can join in on the fun.
Birds of a feather stick together: In other words, take all of the items that belong together and put them in a box somewhere. For example, if you, like I, have an absurd amount of half empty notebooks lying around, put them all in one place. If you notice that you are leaving a trail bobby pins and hair ties around the house, put those all in one place. Once you’ve done this with some items, you will be ready to take on tip number 2.
You do not need 5 identical dull nail clippers: Once you’ve paired similar items together reevaluate whether or not you really need 10 rulers with faded lettering, or that collection of hotel pens that don’t actually have ink in them anymore. The answer is probably that you don’t need all these things. I promise.
Why are you so strongly attached to that refrigerator magnet from the 2nd grade? Sometimes we hold onto things because we are attached to them emotionally. I totally think that’s okay…to an extent. I also find that sometimes I hold onto an item I’m not even that attached to anymore, but I remember that I used to be emotionally attached to the item and refuse to throw it out in case I decide I want it back. Don’t fall for this one. Just get rid of the stuff. If you didn’t even remember you still owned it, you won’t remember when it’s gone.
If you want a clean house, don’t become an artist! Just kidding. But seriously though, the hardest part about cleaning has been deciding how to keep my insanely large collection of art supplies and paintings under control. Especially difficult is keeping paintings organized and getting rid of old art. I used to hold onto every painting just in case, but I’ve been painting for about 10 years now and have made hundreds if not thousands of paintings. For about 3 years or so, I’ve been reusing canvases and painting over old pictures I don’t like. This helps, but not every painting surface is reusable. Also, I can basically only paint over art done in Acrylic and not Oil or Watercolor. I’ve created around 4 categories to keep my art organized: Paintings I can’t bear to part with, Paintings that I like but would like to sell in the future, Paintings I plan on painting over to reuse the canvas, and Paintings I hate so much that no human eyes should ever see them again.
Fun fact: We used to have a room in our house devoted almost entirely to holding boxes of biscotti cookies that we found on sale at the grocery store. It all started when my mom noticed biscotti cookies were highly marked down at Kroger. It ended with our utility room housing 70 boxes of biscotti cookies. When we realized how ridiculous that was we stopped buying the cookies and ate them all till we no longer had this issue. Find your version of the biscotti cookie room in your own house and act accordingly.
Do I have time to clean out my house? Good question. Maybe you don’t right now. Life is busy. We all have things to do. However, ask yourself, do I have time not to clean out my house? Is clutter taking over my life? If I had to sell this house tomorrow, move out of my apartment tomorrow, etc. would that be a problem? Do I know where my passport, insert other important documents here, is? Everyone is different. Some people have more stuff than other people and some are better organizers. Just because its hard or would take a long time shouldn’t stop you from cleaning house if you think it would improve your quality of life. Just take it slow, one box at a time.
A few days ago I checked out Ariana Huffington’s The Sleep Revolution from the Kanawha County Public Library. I saw her promote the book on a talk show interview with Trevor Noah and I’m really glad I picked it out. I knew sleep was important, but I learned so much, because she executed such a diverse collection of chapters on different topics relating to sleep. As she proudly claims in her interviews, “I’d take it as a personal victory if you fell asleep reading my book.”
Some topics she tackles in her book are the culture of dismissing sleep as a status symbol (in other words, wearing sleeplessness as a badge of honor), the sometimes irreversible health issues that arise from not sleeping, lack of sleep in college, sleep’s effects on our decision-making, the significance of our dreams and our subconscious thoughts, the development of sleep monitoring technologies and sleep centers, and many more enlightening topics.
Also, a key takeaway message she shares is the importance of winding down before bed and keeping electronic screens powered off about 30 minutes before sleep. This is something I usually aim for anyway, but I think I’ll try working on calming down my thoughts before bedtime to truly maximize the great power of sleep.
Though there was one night when reading her book gave me “performance anxiety” and kept me up a little longer than expected, on a whole reading this book at night has helped me to wind down the day and experience restful sleep. I would recommend reading it, (or for the busy bees out there, skimming it or choosing chapters out of it you find useful).