Local Colors Festival Roanoke, Virginia

Local Colors Festival

 

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Normally, most of my spring is filled with traveling to the girlie’s soccer games.  We found ourselves with an empty weekend and I wanted to head to downtown Roanoke. I love strolling around downtown, perusing the shops, often stopping in the Taubman Museum and heading to the rooftop of Center in the Square. And of course finding something yummy to eat.

I checked to see if there were any events happening over the weekend and found out that the Festival of Local Colors would be taking place.  I was excited to be in town for a festival. They add such vibrancy to a day downtown.

The Local Colors Festival is an annual event that celebrates Roanoke’s diversity and promotes multicultural understanding. This year was its 27th annual festival.

They also offer educational and services throughout the year. To learn more about them you can find their website here and their Facebook page here.

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We went out to lunch with one of our sons and his girlfriend and then took in all the sights and sounds and smells of the festival.

The booths listed on the map represented a wide range of heritages which included: American Indian, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, Norway (Finland and Sweden were represented here as well), Philippines, Romania, Russ, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Somalia-Bantu, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Ukraine, and Venezuela.

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Some booths offered information. Some booths sold foods associated with the respective culture. And others sold wares from their homeland.

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The information booth sold raffle tickets, t-shirts, tote bags, water bottles and more. They also had maps available with the times and locations of booths and performances.

There were performances held on the stage at Elmwood Park’s amphitheater and also educational programs at the library, which is adjacent to the amphitheater.

We wandered into the amphitheater to enjoy a few of the performances. The Capoeira performance was finishing up as we found a seat.

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We then watched the 15-50 dance group. They are a group of Blacksburg Chinese women ages 15-50. I believe all of the members are students, Virginia Tech employees, or spouses of employees. It was such graceful dance set to beautiful music.

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As we sat and watched the dance, a group slowly formed in front of us that I suspect was going to take the stage in the future or had possibly already been up there.

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The next performance was Tricolor y Siete Estrellas who were representing Venezuela. During the stage set up of the microphones, the sister in the front described her instrument. It is called a cuatro and has four strings.  While it looks similar to a ukulele, it is not the same and it is played differently as well. It is used in the traditional Venezuelan Joropo.

But while waiting for the other band members to finish setting up, what she said about diversity is what struck me the most. I don’t have a direct quote, but it was about how “we all complement each other.” All races, all people, all colors…we complement each other.

And I thought that was such a beautiful truth.

I marveled at all the different cultures just right here in Roanoke.

I marveled at how the United States is filled with many cultures. Many that I know so little about.

I contemplated the sights that I came upon during my recent overseas trip. All that I had seen during my first time leaving the U.S. soil. The serenity of the canals in Amsterdam. The awe of seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

I thought about my upcoming trip to Scotland. About how although I identify strongly with my Scottish heritage, that is because that was the piece I have always known. My maternal grandfather was born in Nova Scotia, Canada to a father from Plains, Scotland and a mother from Wigan, England. Both having emigrated to Canada as children. His mother died when he was young and his Scottish grandmother came to live with them so the Scottish side was talked of often.

My mother used to ask my grandmother (her mother) if she knew her ethnicity. She would always laugh and say she was a mutt. Despite the negative connotations associated with the term “mutt”, she didn’t feel it was a negative thing, just a humorous way of stating that she had no clue as her family had been in the foothills of Kentucky and Tennessee for many years.

Amy Lyon Smith with her grandma and mother

I think a lot of multi-generational Americans would find this to be the case with their history. When I took the DNA test with Ancestry.com, which I shared about here, I had no clue what might turn up. Turns out that I was more British than the British (my results were 79% Great Britain and the typical native is 60%). As I began to trace my maternal grandmother’s line, it would turn out to have a strong German lineage. While her maiden name of Van Hoose has been traced back to the man who brought it to America, Jan Frans Van Husum, it is not know if he was Dutch, Danish, Frisian, or German. Her mother was the union of a Yount (Jundt) and a Redwine (Reitweil). Quite a few names on my maternal great-grandmother’s side appear to be Palatinate German.

Most of my father’s line originates from different parts of England, but I have some family lines on all except my maternal grandfather tracing back to the 1600’s in America. At that point, I am at 9th great-grandparents, which means there are over 4,000 direct ancestors and sifting through the ones that I’ve been able to trace to the point they left their homeland for America is a slow process.

I am just one person. One person filled with a history of differing backgrounds. My DNA may show that I am predominately a certain ethnicity, but my genealogical records will show pioneers coming from different areas of England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Denmark and all the little towns amongst them that I’ve yet to discover. It shows them coming into Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania to name a few. It shows them settling in the frontiers of Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. And eventually, you make your way to me…born and raised in Collier County, Florida.

I am just one piece of the diversity of Roanoke, Virginia.

Roanoke, Virginia is a microcosm of the diversity of the United States.

The United States is a microcosm of the diversity of the World.

And we all complement each other.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Friday Faves – Edition 15

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They say time waits for no one.

And I would say they are right.

Friday seems to roll around faster and faster as the school year winds down for my children and as I approach my departure date for my trip to Scotland with my mother and aunt.

While my week on the whole wasn’t as intense as last weekit still had plenty of ups and downs.

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The oldest had Prom on Saturday night. That day I had to take the girlie to a soccer game in Charlottesville. I walked in the door 5 minutes before he had to leave to pick up his date. He told me that parents were taking pictures in front of the prom location, The Hotel Roanoke. The hubby and I headed that way to have a chance to snap some photos. We arrived before him, but I had no idea where the group was taking photos. Long story short, I was not where his friends were taking photos and by the time I threaded my way around the building, the large group had dispersed. The group began taking couple photos. It was windy. He wore his hair down. My photos are not usable. And I left on the verge of tears with only the pictures I grabbed while he tried his tux on a few nights before.

I moped around a bit and then decided to sit by the creek still filled with water. There is something about rushing water, whether it be a creek, stream, river, or ocean that just soothes my soul.  I decided to practice one of my favorite types of photography – long exposure. I shared a few over the week on Instagram.

Sitting there listening to the music of the water as it played across the rocks, my soul gradually found peace.

He had a lot of fun at Prom. And in the end, the day was really about him, not what photos I was able to take to preserve my memories.

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I spent Mother’s Day in Blacksburg cheering from the sidelines for the girlie’s soccer game.

But not before I was presented with tulip bulbs and chocolate from the hubby and kiddos.

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The girlie also made me a clay sculpture of a camera.

It felt wonderful to feel known so well.

Tulips…Chocolate…Cameras…

These are a few of my favorite things (cue The Sound of Music).

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This week my Papa had a stroke (he is recovering and heading to rehab) and my close friend lost her father. It really made me want to be sure to cherish the relationships I deem so important.

I knew that I wanted to spend some quality time with the girlie after the loss of our dogso we decided to watch the Harry Potter series.

Because… I’ve never watched them.

What?!

I saw some pieces of the earlier ones, but you are lost if you don’t follow the storyline. So I stopped trying and figured I’d watch them all in a row at some point in the future.  That time has come.  We are halfway through the third movie.

 

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One of my big faves this week is that I finally decided on a camera and it came in on Wednesday!

I went with the Sony Alpha 7 II, which is a mirrorless camera. I bought it with the 28-70mm lens. I do plan to add more lenses, but I will not be doing that before my trip to Scotland. I would say that it is the same size as my Nikon D3200 and perhaps slightly heavier. However, it is a full frame camera and I suspect smaller and lighter than my second choice of a Nikon D810, which is still a camera I might want to add someday (if you want to see what that beauty can do, you should check out Deborah at Circadianreflections because she just added it to her gear).

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At the same time, I also ordered the Lowepro Flipside 300 camera backpack.  The layout is inserted by velcro and can be rearranged.  I have not tried it out, but am hoping that I can put enough other things inside for it to be my carry-on to Scotland. What I liked best about it was that the zipper is on the backside so there is not a need for concern that somebody may open your pack as they pass by you.

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I am planning to get out this weekend to really test out the camera. This was the very first photo that I took with it. A flower blooming in my backyard.  My friend and I think it’s a peony.

Any flower experts know for sure?

I did not do any editing to this photo. I am still figuring out the controls so I have not moved off of auto yet. The photo settings were: 41mm | f/4.5 | ISO 250 @ 1/60.

As always, I offer a song this week. This one is chosen because as the news has shared Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and AudioSlave has committed suicide. Metal is not my preferred genre, but I was familiar with Soundgarden in the 90’s, with this song being in the Top 40. It came out right as I was graduating from high school. I was 16 and had no clue about where my future might lead.

I have shared on this blog in the past that I have had periods of time when all was not right in my inside world. At various points in my past, I have chosen medication. My worst despair happened with leaving Florida for Virginia. The waves engulfed me. I felt alone. I felt overwhelmed. I did not want to commit suicide, but there were moments when I thought I might not want to live if every day for the rest of my life were going to feel like this. Moments when I thought that I’d rather God call me home than have day after day of this feeling. The thought of people I loved being sad if he chose to do that was what made me not wish to hard for it.

But I had a concerned husband who opened the blinds every day for the sun to pour in, who kept after me to go to the gym, go for a walk, go see a doctor, but do something. I decided that this time I would spend time in nature and exercise and eat differently before I went down the medication path. And that plus time worked for me. This is absolutely NOT the answer for everyone. I am not a doctor. Medicine is the BEST choice for many people.

But whatever you do, don’t sit in despair. Find help. Talk to a professional. If you know somebody who needs help, do your best to help them get it.  In the United States the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A Google search shows that there are numbers in other countries as well.

I’m glad that as a world we are beginning to reduce the stigma associated with issues relating to mental health, but there is still a long way to go.

Today, a family sits alone without a person they love. In the U.S. alone, there are an average of 94 completed suicides EVERY day (based on statistics found at the Emory University website).

This is 94 to many.

I hope that as you go into the weekend and meet people along the way that you offer kind words and smiles. That could be all that it takes to change a person’s day. Yes, some issues go deeper, but when hasn’t kindness made the world a little brighter.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

What a trip to Oude Kerk in Amsterdam taught me about Experientialism

What A Trip To Oude Kerk In Amsterdam Taught Me About Experientialism

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First things first.

What in the heck do I mean by experientialism?

This is not a lesson on apologetics or whatever else may come to mind when hearing this word.

This is about experience vs. materialism. Experientialism is the term used in the book that I am currently reading : Stuffocation by James Wallman. You can check out his website here. You’ll see a recurring theme in most of my recent reads… nonfiction books advocating minimalism, simplicity, experientialism, hygge, etc. Whatever you want to call it (I prefer simplicity as it doesn’t make me feel like I’m trying to fit into somebody’s prescribed box of must do and be a certain way), one of the overarching premises is that material possessions do not bring long term happiness and in fact, can often bring the opposite.

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So what does a trip to Oude Kerk have to do with experientialism?

Well according to a group of psychologists and sited in the book, experiences are more prone to “positive reinterpretation”. Unlike a material good that can just turn out to be a bad choice, an experience “gone wrong” tends to be reinterpreted in a positive way. As stated by Wallman, that’s why we sometimes say “we’ll look back and laugh about this one day.” And one day, we do.

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When we visited Amsterdam in April, one day I wanted to see Oude Kerk (“old church”). I love old architecture and churches tend to be quite magnificent. Oude Kerk is Amsterdam’s oldest building and oldest parish church. It was founded ca. 1213 and consecrated in 1306. It stands in De Wallen. And if you aren’t familiar with where this is in Amsterdam.

It’s the Red Light District.

I had read that it was tame during the day and that there wouldn’t be much to see so I decided we should venture there because I had to see this church. I assumed that perhaps we would would skirt the edges of the Red Light District.

I would be wrong.

That’s fair warning for where this post is going.

We decided not to take the first turn that the GPS suggested as the shops names were somewhat questionable.

I should back up in case you are new to my blog. This trip included myself, my husband, and our 13,15, and 17 year old children. While I am not naive about what my 15 (almost 16) and 17 year old sons know about, I like to pretend that my 13 old daughter is blissfully unaware of adult things. We decided to take the bridge a little closer to Centraal Station ( I took the title photo from there with the Kerk’s clocktower in the back.)

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We sandwiched the girlie in between us as we walked toward the church in case the shops had adult accoutrements in the windows. Yes, we did pass the shop named Condomerie and they were not the only shop with similar items. We also were not the only people walking with children.

 

I understand that not all cultures have the same feelings about sex. I had a friend who was born and raised in Poland. She found it interesting that quite a few Americans have no problem with their children watching levels of violence that they will probably never see in real life, but cringe at them watching sex scenes which are real life. And I admit that I’m in that camp. I squirm a little if I’m watching a romantic scene in a movie and my kids are watching it too (even PG-13 has steamy scenes now).

But nevertheless, here we were, skirting the edges of the Red Light District. We rounded the last corner to the right and I was looking at the church. We made it!

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But apparently, if I had looked to my left I would have seen the scantily clad woman with her red curtains drawn back and standing at her window. My husband informed me of my missed vision. I asked him if the kids had seen. The boys had. And now I felt like a bad mother.

I had a hard time really taking any photos by then. I just wanted to leave. The light and lens angle weren’t in my favor and I had just brought my kids past a prostitutes window. There were people all around near the church and in my desire to not seem like I’m taking photos of people on the street, I ended up not taking the photos from the base as I would have preferred.

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My son however doesn’t have that same feeling of discomfort and rather enjoys street photography, as evidenced by his photo above.

But we were still stuck with a dilemma. How to exit? We stood near the canal assessing our situation. Back from whence we came and pass one window. Or left or right along the canal. I could see numerous windows along in one direction. I could see sign names, but wasn’t sure if there were windows in the other direction. I could hear women banging on their windows to get the attention of any passerby. We were standing near a green piece of metal, that encircled inward, presumably for men to urinate behind. At least that was what the smell in the air indicated. I was mortified that there was no preferable choice for leaving. My children were less mortified and wanted me to make a decision.  In the end, I opted back from whence we came. I figured the boys would have no interest in ogling her since their description had indicated that.

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We left and went to Centraal Station where we boarded the hop-on hop-off 24 hr canal ride that we had purchased. My kids like to process experiences by talking about them. I let them know my preference for discussion of it in private, way too concerned about what others might think about what type of parent I was taking my teenagers past prostitute windows. And the sad part as I read what I have written is that I let fear of judgement rule the situation.

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Experiences, like photographs, sear in impressions. Experiences, good or bad, create stories to tell.

I have found that when things go wrong in an experience, it burns the memory in a little deeper. Like how on our first overseas vacation we witnessed a police chase in Amsterdam, somebody almost missed getting on the metro in Paris, and we were within a 1/2 mile of the Paris terrorist attack on the police officer. But those are all stories for another day.

Do I wish we hadn’t walked past those things? Absolutely!

Can I go back and change it? Nope!

Was it memorable? You betcha!

Years from now when we talk about the first time we went to Amsterdam, my kids will say “Yeah mom, remember when you wanted to see that church in the Red Light District and in the process you took us past a prostitute. And then you stood there like a deer trapped in headlights trying to figure out how to get out of there.”

We will look at this moment of experientialism through positive reinterpretation.

And we will laugh.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Moments of Gratitude

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Reflect (verb) | think deeply or carefully about.

Gratitude (noun) | the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

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I am the reflecting type.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time then that statement will come as no surprise to you.

I recently came upon a segment from Thoreau’s Walden, which I finally read in its entirety at the beginning of last year.

The piece spoke deeply to me about existence in the present.

There were times I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands. I love of broad margin to my life. …I sat in my doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance.

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One of the ways to remain in this present moment is to practice gratitude.

I am not always good at taking the moments to recognize all that I am grateful for.

On Tuesday morning as I was preparing to leave for yoga, there was a man exiting my driveway… carrying my push lawnmower to his truck. He managed to steal it and speed off before I could catch his tag number. I know enough about the truck and plates that I would recognize it, but I assume that he may be smart enough not to poop in the yard that feeds him (so I doubt he lives close by). While I did have a hard time being fully present during yoga, it really did help me calm down and come to a place of acceptance. My being upset about a situation that couldn’t be changed was only hurting me. So instead, I decided to focus on what three aspects surrounding it I was grateful about. I documented it on my Instagram story and listed them:

  • I was grateful that my son had just mowed the yard two days before so that I didn’t have to move mower buying to the top of my to-do list.
  • I was grateful that replacing the mower is not a financial burden for us.
  • I was grateful that he chose to steal something outside of my garage door rather than trying to enter the home and finding that somebody was indeed home (I park in my garage so I’m assuming he thought the house was empty).

Reframing it put me in a better place.

But I also wanted to share my gratitude for all of you.

There was an outpouring of love after I posted Monday about the loss of our dog. I have not even been able to respond to all of the heartfelt comments that you have left. I also shared the post to my private Facebook page, which I don’t always do since I have a dedicated blog Facebook page where I share my posts and occasionally other posts that I’ve enjoyed.

The response that I received from everyone was overwhelming.

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But it isn’t just in those moments that I feel gratitude for each and every one of you. It’s in those moments like where I shared about my camera dilemmas photographing the Inside of Versailles and those who had advice to share, did so, even finding me on Twitter to share an article!

It’s in moments of every day interaction.

So many of you who take time out of your to day to share words with me. So many of you who take time out of your day to read my words.

It makes my soul so uplifted.

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While I didn’t make it to Keukenhof when in Amsterdam (time was scarce and I didn’t think the teens would enjoy it quite as much as me.), I did take time to photograph the tulips displayed in the Museumplein.

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I’ve read that tulips symbolize perfect love.

Some claim that different colors symbolize other things.

Whatever the case, they rank up there as some of my favorite flowers.

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Flowers are often given as tokens of appreciation. So I hope you’ll accept these virtual flowers as a symbol of my gratitude for the time that you take out of your lives to pour blessings into mine.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves- Edition 13

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Friday seems to come around faster than I can blink my eyes!

Between editing some photos, running errands, spring purging of household stuff, and life in general… I somehow ended up at Friday (and with my house showing the chaos of my not tending to it!).

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One of my frantic errands this week was procuring ingredients for cinnamon golfeados. My middle son is in his third year of Spanish and chose this as the recipe he would bring in. You can find the recipe he chose here.

I do like making treats, but not ones that require letting dough rise and rolling it out. To say I was nervous about its chance of success was an understatement. But they turned out.

The main reason it’s one of my faves this week isn’t because they tasted wonderful. (we didn’t know star anise smelled like black licorice and would have reduced the amount called for if we knew that it, not the cinnamon, would be the main flavor).

No, it’s because my son carried out all of the steps to create this recipe. INCLUDING, rolling out dough. I was only there to oversee. We bonded as we laughed and wondered how a cinnamon roll with cheese in it might turn out. It was moments spent in the present, creating memories.

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And since we are on the topic of food….here’s another of my faves this week. Our gas grill finally died. And, of course I needed some things grilled. The hubby picked up this handy, dandy Weber charcoal grill.

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Prior to vacation I decided that on May 1st I would do what I am calling a 10-day detox (aka real food, minus cheese and alcohol). I’ve said before that I don’t like diets. I really worry about the message they send to my children and I want them to have a healthy relationship with food. However, I did think that in Europe I would likely eat more than normal because I wanted to try new things. I ate more than one of these croissants at our Paris hotel’s breakfast buffet each day, plus tons of other tasty treats that I don’t normally eat. And let me tell you, they were all worth it! I did not gain weight (probably due to tons of walking), but still decided to do a reset. Hence the need for a grill.

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We’ve had a ton of rain! Last night was a huge downpour. The creek by my house only has water for a couple days after a rainstorm. It rushes quickly enough in the beginning to pose a real danger if you step into it. You may recognize it as the location where I practiced my skills on long exposure photography. You can check out one of the photos that I shared in this post. I took this photo to share another fave.

My bracelet.

It’s a hammered metal bangle. It’s a piece of costume jewelry that I found at Anitya, located at 45 rue d’Hauteville in Paris. I wanted to take home a little piece of jewelry to remember this day. The boys wanted to pick out a piece of jewelry for their girlfriends. The middle son has had this girlfriend for some time. We went to a few store, but it was at Anitya where he chose a necklace and ring for her.

The part of this journey that makes my heart smile is that he was so thoughtful about his purchase. He also asked my opinion. Which if you are raising teens or have raised teens, then you know that doesn’t happen often. When I look at this bracelet, I remember that he truly is caring and sweet. Even if sometimes he makes me forget that. 😉

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If you’ve seen my Instagram, then you already know that this is a photo that I took of the girlie’s middle school soccer team. It was for the coach’s gift.

Last night they held their banquet. To say that these girls have had an amazing season would be an understatement. They completed the season undefeated. They are the district champions. Due to the rain, they were only able to have a 10 game season. Yet, in a 10 game season they scored 40 goals, 1 shy from setting the school record of 41. So had they played the other four games…

One of the forwards scored 28 goals, shattering the school record of 13 (which, if I heard correctly, was also her record tied with someone else.) And don’t quote me, but the center-back had 4 goals and 5 assists (this could be reversed), which if you know soccer (and I barely do) is not typical. We play our home games on a turf football field and watching her score a goal from the 55 yard line was impressive! But it took every single girl to make this season possible. A fact that did not go unnoticed.

Not only did the entire team come together on the field, but off the field they rallied around some personal situations.

The coach called each girl forward and offered such kind words about who they were as a player. I admit that I was misty-eyed as he spoke words of encouragement to my daughter.

This year my girlie played a left back. She also played defense for travel this year. But it was an adjustment for her. She had played left forward the years, leading up to this. She was hoping for mid-field, but you play what the team needs and so she did. She worked through the learning curve of moving from an 8 v 8 game to 11 v 11, and from moving to a defensive position.

He spoke about how she played the position that the team needed. As a left foot in soccer, she’s kinda rare. The team was lucky enough to have two left foot players and she was strong enough to play a defender. But where he really made me teary was when he went on to say that she is unselfish on the field. It made my heart well because that is just who she is. I was so happy for her that in her final game, she came in as a center-mid and kicked a beautiful cross to the other player, which resulted in a goal.

The 8th grade parents also came up and said kind words about the team and spoke with love about their children.  I’m not sure there was a dry eye by the end.

It’s again in moments like these that I am at peace with this season of living so far from my family.

Because in moments like these, community IS family.

And since I’m tearing up still thinking about it, I’ll share my next fave.

Plane tickets and hotel rooms have been booked! My mom, my aunt, and I will be heading to Scotland this month!

In the end, the Highlands just weren’t an option because I’m not ready to leave my kids for that long. It was hard to give up as we wanted to see the Isle of Skye and I would love to see Highland Coos and sweeping vistas. My mother and I both had a strong pull to visit the Standing Stones of Callanish, but the Outer Hebrides are much too far. She doesn’t know if she will ever have a chance to return. I am convinced we will return for the Highlands.

We are splitting our time between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Our traced ancestral history is mostly in the areas surrounding Glasgow. Along with sights there and in Edinburgh, we also plan to see Stirling and Doune castle. I am studying public transportation as I will NOT be driving on the opposite side of the road. 🙂

So lastly, I close with a song I love although I don’t have a real reason. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love the sound of Gaelic and envisioned that I would have Percy Jackson-like abilities and miraculously be able to understand it.  Alas, I cannot. This version, however, shows the translated lyrics as well:

I hope that you have a wonderful weekend filled with blue skies and joy in your heart.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

Inside the Palace of Versailles

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Versailles.

As promised, today I’m sharing some of the photos of the interior of the Palace of Versailles.  If you missed my last post where I shared exterior photos and some helpful hints about touring it, you can check that out here.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you know that I bought my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D3200, in 2014. I had inherited some money after my grandmother passed away. She was a woman of very simple means and bright beacon in this world, so this money was extremely meaningful to me. I am lucky enough to live where I don’t have to wonder how I’m going to survive financially so it was important to me that I spend this money in a way that would bring trigger happy memories of her.

Half of the money purchased this camera. My kids were going to be playing soccer and football and I wanted a camera that could capture the action. That was how I used the camera… until…

The winter of 2015. I knew that I needed to find a way to survive what, for me, is a depressing season. I needed to actively seek beauty in the everyday. I started taking photos of nature. I started this blog. I took my Instagram public.

Why do I share all of this? Because, I came home a little disappointed in my photography skills when I reviewed my photos of the interior of Versailles and Notre Dame.

But as I worked on editing them, I realized that my skills have progressed. And while I still am using that same camera with its kit lenses (I actually almost never use the 55-200mm zoom lens, preferring the 18-55mm for almost all my shots), I can see where moments where I wish I had a wider angle lens. Or a moment where a macro lens would be wonderful. When I edit, I see how I really would like to add more than the Snapseeed App to my options, and have been checking out Lightroom. After the bulk of my DSLR, I am looking at the mirrorless options that so many photographers that I admire have switched to using.

And mostly, I realized that I really do love photography.

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. -Dorothea Lange.

Once again, I have more photos than I can share in one post. Today, I have chosen my two favorite places in the Palace… the Royal Chapel and the Hall of Mirrors.

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The Hall of Mirrors is considered the most famous room in the Palace.  One reason being that it is the location of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, ending World War I. Work was started on the Hall of Mirrors in 1678 and completed in 1684. You can find out more about its history here, at the Palace of Versailles website.

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The room is quite stunning, filled with light from all of the windows and reflections from the mirrors.

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I see photos that run the entire length of the Hall of Mirrors without a single person included or just the one person as their focal point. If you are trying to achieve that, then I suggest you follow some of the time frames offered in my prior post. I’m sure you can gauge the size of the crowd by those waiting to get inside.

Had we not been exhausted by all of the walking that we had done that day, I may have tried to go back at the end of our day to capture a less crowded hall.

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Of course, I could not show you Versailles on a Thursday without including at least one of the magnificent doors! This is one the doors to the Royal Chapel.

If you love doors, head on over to Norm 2.0’s blog where door lovers come together each Thursday to share doors from around the world.

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The Royal Chapel was the fifth and final chapel built in the Palace since the reign of Louis XIII.

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One of things that I found interesting about the Royal Chapel was that the design was presented by the Architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1699. He would not survive to see its completion, dying in 1708. His brother-in-law completed the works which were finished in 1710.

It reminded me of a story I once read about motherhood, which could be applied parenting in general. It was about how as mothers we are building a masterpiece, like the cathedrals of old, and will not likely survive to see its completion. About how we would never live there, but if we built it right, God would.

It also brought to mind, that we remember those names who lived in this Palace. But there were countless people whose hard work brought about the possibility of them living there. The people standing in the sun creating walls, people chiseling the finest of details, people cooking, people scrubbing floors.

We should remember those people who spent their lifetime behind the scenes making their bit of difference in the world.

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Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Palace of Versailles – Part I

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Versailles.

I still have a lot to share about the Amsterdam portion of our trip to Europe, but for today I’m jumping over to Paris. My daughter has been learning about World War I and was asked to bring in photos from her visit to Versailles, which means that I am editing those photos first. 🙂

While we were in Paris, we did opt to take a day trip out to the Palace of Versailles. I have so many photos from this part of the trip that I will be presenting them in a multi-part story. We decided the night before that the next day would work best for our schedule.  It’s best to order tickets online.  If you are good at planning ahead, you would probably do this prior to heading to Paris.  We wanted to watch the weather before making our decision.  The concierge of our hotel was very helpful in ordering up our tickets and giving us the printout of the ticket. The cost to visit the Palace and the Estate of Trianon is 20€. The gardens are free unless there is a musical fountain or garden show. If you are under 18 (or under 26 if you reside in the EU), then there is free admission. When traveling with 3 teens this is a welcome surprise (just be sure to have i.d. for any child that might look questionable as to whether they are under 18. Such as my 6’6″ teenager. Only the Louvre questioned him in two entry points, one of which asked for i.d.).

I mentioned in my last Friday Faves that we stayed at the Hotel Opera Richepanse, located at 14 rue du Chevalier de St. Georges.  This is located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The metro line 8 was easily walkable from the hotel. Both to the Madeline and the Concorde stop.

Based on Google maps, it is perhaps slightly closer to the Madeline stop, but the Concorde stop is beside Place de la Concorde and Jardins de Tuileries and I enjoyed seeing those spots every day. Speaking of Google maps… the app was VERY helpful in navigating the city.

Versailles is considered Zone 4, so it is not the standard Paris metro ticket for riding around the city. I’m sure it was better to purchase a round trip ticket, but we purchased them one way on either end. The cost was 3,55€ per person (at the time of our trip, April 2017). The metro was a little overwhelming with this day trip being our first use of it. Since then I have found this information sheet  which I think is very helpful to familiarize yourself with prior to traveling on the Paris subway.

We took the 8 line to Invalides, where we caught the RER C to the Gare de Versailles Chateau/ Rive Gauche stop.  It was about a 30 minute train ride from where we got on at the Invalides stop. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the train station.  There are signs everywhere, but there are also crowds all heading that way as well.

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Versailles is definitely a sight to behold.

Originally the site of a hunting lodge for the future Louis XIII, rebuilding of the residence from 1631-1634 laid the basis for the palace as it is today. Louis XIV was the one who would love the place and build it into the masterpiece that it would become. More work was done under the reign of Louis XV.

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Louis XVI would spend a lot of his time in Versailles until the court would leave for Paris in 1789, where Louis XVI and Marie-Antionette would be executed along with over 1200 others at Place de la Concorde during the Reign of Terror.

It was hard to imagine that such horrific events took place at this spot while standing with my girlie and  watching the sun set.

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Back to Versailles.

Here is where I tell you to learn from my mistake.  

I had read if you don’t get there early (i.e. -you are traveling with teens), visit the gardens first and then come back to tour the palace. If you look at the first photo of the palace, you will see a white tent. This is where they do a cursory look into your bag. Then you get in line to see the palace. All of those people in the photo above are in line. There are four or five rows, stretching from near the white tent to near the palace gate. We are in the final row before you are in line along the gate and walking through the entrance. Once inside, they will scan your ticket and then you put your bags through a scanner and walking through the metal detector.  You are then free to explore the palace.

That line to get inside was 1 1/2 hours! I thought it was a requirement to get through security. THIS IS ONLY FOR THE PALACE. There is an entrance with signage to the left of the pillared part of the building for the gardens. We arrived to this crowd around 10:45 a.m., when we left the estate at 4:30, there was not a line! The palace did not close until 6:30. Had I understood that the line was palace security only, we would have done the gardens and Trianons. The Queen’s hamlet was ultimately the destination that I most wanted to see.

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Don’t get me wrong.  The palace was definitely stunning.

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Its architecture was magnificent.

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The history palpable.

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We stood inside the Royal Gate, which was originally torn down in the French Revolution and was re-created with gold leaf and unveiled in 2008.

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Standing inside those gates, it was hard to believe that during a moment in history, this was where the Royal Court stood.

It would be inside these walls that the Treaty of Versailles would be signed on June 28, 1919, officially ending World War I.

My words and photos can’t do justice to the amount of history held between these walls. In a tying together of visits to two wonderful cities, Versailles felt like a good conclusion from a history component to the fact that we visited the Anne Frank museum while in Amsterdam.

I hope that you’ll check back for more from my trip to Versailles… the interior, the gardens, the hamlet and more.

Plus I have plenty more to share from the wanderlust created by Paris and Amsterdam.

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Let your light shine!

Amy