Six-Word Sunday: May 29, 2011

The best weekends have three days.

I'm taking a break from my stories about PARIS! FRANCE! to say almost nothing (except maybe  PARIS! FRANCE!) delights me as much as the three-day weekend. Well, there's the four-day Thanksgiving weekend which is nothing if not pee-your-pants exciting.

And a little daytrip out to the islands with friends at their beach house is pretty much perfect. Especially when you get home Sunday night and realize it's not really a school night. Yeehaw and giddyup!



Whenever I travel, my favorite thing to do is to go for a run and explore the area. In fact, it's something that I crave. In 2011 alone I've run in some pretty darn cool places: through the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, around Central Park in Manhattan, up Heartbreak Hill in Boston, and now I can add Paris to that list.

There's something about seeing a place in the early morning light, before it shakes the sleep off and starts to stir, and when that place is Paris it's an order of magnitude more amazing. Let's just say when you start your day with a run up the Champs de Mars and around the Eiffel Tower, it's bound to be a pretty good day.

And it only gets better when you follow that run with a trip to the Musee de l'Orangerie. It came recommended to me by FCA and it was amazing. L'Orangerie was Claude Monet's gift to Paris. Simple. Peaceful. Breathtaking. There are some amazing pieces in the permanent collection downstairs--I minored in Art in college, so I can totally geek out over art, especially the Impressionists. But as amazing as some of those pieces were (Renoir, Matisse, Cezanne), nothing prepared me for the power of The Water Lilies. It wasn't just the paintings themselves, but the entire experience. Two naturally lit beautiful white rooms with four larger than life paintings. I was overwhelmed. Monet, himself, actually painted these pieces. Every single stroke. I sat down on one of the benches in the center of the room to soak it all in and that's when the music started playing. It, like the paintings, was very simple. It started softly and then began to swell. It was impossible for me to not get caught up in it. Even thinking about it now, I'm overcome with emotion. It was a sensory beauty that I've never known. It was so powerful--I was so overwhelmed by the beauty I was moved to tears. I sat there for a very long time, just *being* there.

As I left, I paused in the vestibule, exhaled a deep breath and thought if I lived here, this is definitely where I'd come to find peace and solace and reconnect with myself. When I got home to Seattle, I actually read the museum guide and was so delighted to read that was Monet's intent:
When he donated The Water Lilies to France right after the First World War, Monet wanted to give Parisians a peaceful haven by inviting them to contemplate the infinite before painted nature: "Nerves overwrought by work would relax there just like the relaxing example of those stagnant waters, and for whomever inhabited it, this room would offer asylum for peaceful meditation amidst a flowery aquarium..."

To coin my own little phrase, I'm going to call what happened to me in l'Orangerie my "emotional artburst," and little did I know that was only a precursor for what was waiting for me the next day at Musee d'Orsay (suddenly the retelling of my grand adventure has lost its chronological edge and has taken a turn toward the thematic. What does this mean? I'm feeling particularly verbose about my time in PARIS! FRANCE! The good news, there's going to be a lot more than just Part II. Today's theme: "When LMNT went for a run and then wept openly about art").

Where was I, oh yes, Musee d'O-Oh-my-goodness-rsay. Okay, to say I was excited to go here is a slight understatement. When minoring in Art one takes their fair share of Art History courses. If any of you ever had Art History, you know what I'm talking about when I remember the always darkened classroom, with dual slide projectors advancing you through the different movements: Baroque, Renaissance, Realism, Impressionism, Pointillism, Cubism, Futurism, Pop, etc. And slide tests, ugh, slide tests. Painstakingly memorizing the hundreds of works flashed before you in class, the name of the work, the artist, the date, the style, and how you can distinguish that work from others. At the time it was so very tedious and sometimes I had problems telling Gauguin apart from Cezanne (except when Gauguin moved to the islands and assumed a more cubist approach, or was that Cezanne, or Matisse? See?). Well, when I set foot in d'Orsay all those images, the whirring sounds of the projectors, all those facts memorized came flooding back to me. And let me tell you, the slide you memorize is absolutely no match for seeing the real thing. So many of the paintings I had studied, had memorized for the lines, the colors, the subjects, were lining these walls, just inches away. The colors are so much more vibrant, the brushstrokes so much more passionate, the pieces so much more powerful.

D'Orsay is home to a number of Degas' ballerinas (so lovely), more of Monet's notable non-water lily works (you know, the ones you leaned for your slide tests on the Impressionists), and my favorite artist (and my second favorite painting of all-time) Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Bal du moulin de la Galette. To see this piece in real life was absolutely amazing. I could have stared at it for hours. It was so beautiful it brought me to tears, again. Internets, I'm not sure if you know what I'm talking about, or if I'm just some sappy art nerd (possibly both), but being surrounded by all of these works from the masters deeply touched my soul. I can recreate the feeling in my mind, but it starts to take on the feeling of slides being projected in my mind, a really good rendition but nothing like experiencing it in real life.

When I go to an art exhibit I like to take my time and absorb the energy from each piece; I want to attempt to see and feel what the artist saw and felt. And as I made my way through the museum, it became very clear to me that everyone has their own way of appreciating the art. This really played itself out as I was losing myself in a Toulouse-Lautrec--I've never even liked his work all that much (think Can-Can dancers at the Moulin Rouge), but I was transfixed by one of his grand pieces. It was a canvas that was roughly 12 feet by 12 feet. There I am, just amazed, mouth agape, and working on redefining myself as someone who might actually be okay with Toulouse-Lautrec, when a couple I had seen earlier do a light-speed walk through of the Monet room, blaze in front of me. The young woman stopped for a nanosecond, looked the piece up and down and said, "That's kind of cool." The guy she was with, who had already moved into the other room,  asked,"What is?" And she responded, "Oh, just some big painting." I clutched my heart and made an audible gasp for air and then talked myself down out of hysterics. Even though I'm quite convinced that I was winning the award for "most impacted by the 'big paintings,'" I had to remind myself that there is no right or wrong way to experience art (even though deep down I'm pretty sure I was doing it the right way). Plus, the faster they moved out of there, the faster I could go back to being completely absorbed in the art and my emotional artbursts.



Oh, Internets! France is so French; French and fabulous--the art, the history, the architecture, the macaroons. Le sigh.

Being there was a dream come true and so much of what I had dreamed was really true: there are cafes everywhere (on every corner like Starbucks here in Seattle, only in France it’s charming), Sundays are all about going to mass and then heading to one of the many public gardens or parks with your family, people honestly wear scarves and blue and white striped shirts, you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone with a baguette in hand (or in a lot of cases in the basket of their bicycle), mopeds and scooters are the preferred mode of transportation, and the wine, chocolate and pastries are even better than they say. Oh, and I think everyone smokes, and I never thought I'd say this, but they smoke in such an elegantly French way, even the teenagers. And you want to say, "Kids, stop sucking on the cancer stick," but they're just being French, they can't help it. Kind of like the North American tourists who don't know any French can't help the fact that they think the best way to translate English into French is by saying their English phrases louder and slower, "DO. YOU. HAVE. ANY. BREAD?"... "BREAD?"... "BREAD?" Maybe the French are smoking just to calm their nerves after being yelled at by tourists all day long.
How about we jump in to LMNT’s adventure in PARIS! FRANCE!?
The objective of the adventure: to just *be* in Paris--no pressure. To do whatever I want, whenever I want, looking cute, and not waste any of my precious time waiting in line for a tourist trap (more on this later), unless it was whatever I wanted to do at that point in time.
Work wrapped up on Friday afternoon and I arrived with a handful of colleagues in PARIS! FRANCE! The rest of the weekend was going to be about me achieving my objective alone, but Friday I was completely down with kicking off my adventure by playing power tourist with coworkers. As good little power tourists do we hopped on the Metro and went straight to the Arc d'Triomphe. And can I just say that when you climb the stairs from that station. BAM! There it is!

We walked our way down the Champs-Elysees, through Place de la Concorde and le Jardin des Tuileries, outside of the Louvre, along the Seine to Notre Dame where we happened upon the FESTIVAL OF BREAD! and finally stumbled our way down a quaint little alley into a nice little spot for dinner. 

After dinner we took the Metro back to our area of town, which was quite near the Eiffel Tower. The French do a lot of things really well: architecture, art, pastries, but perhaps the most lovely is the lighting of their monuments; the Eiffel Tower is no exception.

We made our way back to the hotel and I crashed. The next two days were going to be full of solo adventure, I needed to rest up in preparation for PARIS! FRANCE! Part II! The part where I run, eat, drink, cry a little, and fall in love with the city.


Six-word Sunday: May 22, 2011

Returned from PARIS! a changed LMNT.

Internets, believe me I know that I've left you hanging for over a week now. I've been organizing my thoughts, recovering from jet lag, and thinking so much about my future. It's time to get it all out of my head and onto the page here. Take your seat and buckle up, I've got lots in store for you.


Doing right by Monsieur Beauchamp and Madame Hughes

Hey, Internets! I’m in France! Actually, I’m on the plane to France, but by the time this posts, I’ll be in France! If you’ve been around me for the past week you already knew this because seemingly every other sentence I’ve uttered has pretty much been, “When I’m in Paris next week, because I’m going to Paris and going to be Paris,” or something akin to that. To say I’m excited about this would be a slight understatement. I’m freaking ecstatic because, uh, PARIS! FRANCE!

A little over a week ago I got an e-mail from a colleague asking for my help at a leadership conference in FRANCE! It was short notice, but it’s PARIS! FRANCE! So of course I cleared my calendar, and voila! On y va (away we go… which was also the title of the series of textbooks in junior high and high school French).
For the next week, I’ll just be hanging out, in FRANCE! The first part of the week I’ll be outside of the city with the work conference and then LMNT has the weekend to herself in PARIS! FRANCE! I’m armed with multiple suggestions of caf├ęs, patisseries, fromageries, et plus. A weekend in PARIS! in the springtime. Exhilarating and terrifying. Seven years of French, but it’s been 15 years since I’ve used it. I know more than “Bob,” but not much. I know it’s all going to be fine, more than fine, it’s going to be fabulous. But I do kind of wish I would have bought a book or a map or something before I left. Ah, adventure. And can I just tell you that packing for PARIS! FRANCE! is really challenging. It’s like packing for New York times thirty-eight. Because it’s PARIS! You want to impress the city and look cute and not like a back-packing American tourist. Phew. That’s tough, but I’m pretty darn sure I accomplished it and I’ll be looking cute, sitting at the cafes, sipping wine, eating chocolate, and loving every second of the fact that I’m in PARIS! FRANCE!

Okay, mes petits choux, more for you later. From PARIS! FRANCE! Wish you were here.


Six-word Sunday: May 8, 2011

Mom, thank you for everything. Always.
As much as I love, living in Seattle, it sure would be nice to be able to see mom (and dad) more often. I can't believe it, but this is my 10th long-distance Mother's Day shout out to you.

Love you. Miss you.



So, last year was the "Year of Urban Agriculture" in Seattle. When the Mayor made that declaration urban farmers around the town rejoiced because he and the city council also passed new code which allowed everyone five more chickens per residence within city limits. For those of you counting at home that's a total of eight chickens per residence. Hey, urban farmers, how excited are you?

Apparently the urban farmers that live on my block are REALLY excited.

Internets, let me remind you that where I live is not really a neighborhood that would strike you as a hotbed of agriculture. Which is probably the premise of the whole urban farming revolution: Old MacDonald can have his farm anywhere. E-I-E-I-O.

I can understand how some Seattlites would be all into the urban agriculture thing because they are Seattlites after all, and that's what they do. Drink Starbucks, listen to grunge music, and build chicken coops in their tiny backyards. But my neighborhood isn't really typical Seattle, it's a neighborhood in transition. And even though I sometimes (lovingly) refer to it as the hood, it's not that bad. But the hood better watch out, because the hipsters are a-comin' and they've got EIGHT! CHICKENS! EACH! And they also might be packin' something else, too.

Late last summer I was getting ready for work one morning, when I heard it. The crow of a rooster. I froze because did I just hear what I thought I heard? And then he crowed again. Yes. I'm living next to Farmville. Joy. At the time I didn't think much of it, except I did pause and smile about some cheesy thought that where I live is truly a melting pot where MacBook toting gangsters and chicken-raising crazies and everything in between could all get along. And what a happy lovely thought that was. But that was all before what I will now declare in retrospect the "Year of the Faulty Rooster."

As it turns out, there is quite a debate over roosters within city limits. And I now know why. Uh, urban farmer neighbors? Your rooster is broken. It crows at first light, second light, third, fourth, and 379th light. It crows all day long. I often wondered this since I've only noticed it in the morning when I'm getting ready, but the other day I worked from home and heard it in my living room all afternoon. And then the other night at 10:22 PM. Seriously. Broken rooster.

But there's not much that I can do. If I lived in the master-planned-covenant-controlled-suburban community of my youth, I could call the Covenant Police (seriously, they would patrol our neighborhood looking for scofflaws who had broken the covenant by painting their house non-approved colors, keeping garbage cans in a place where they are visible on the street, building non-approved gazebos, having a satellite dish and then disguising it as an umbrella for your picnic table--all true stories). But there are no Covenant Police in the hood, and it looks like roosters are okay because they have been grandfathered in so they "can live out their lives with dignity and in peace." Dammit. This means I have to respect broken grandpappy rooster. What gives? Where is my dignity and my peace? I think someone left the barn door open.

It also cannot go with out saying... Note to self: if you happen to be flipping through the TV channels and the University of South Carolina is playing a televised baseball game on ESPN, do not assume the rooster call you hear is from your friendly neighborhood barnyard animal. It's actually on the TV, because they are the Gamecocks (but it truly is a spot on impersonation of your grandpappy).



I feel like I need to preface this post with a couple of very important facts: I consider myself a proud American and I support our troops. I love my country and the freedom I have been afforded as a citizen. And I respect the men and women who serve in the name of our country to protect that freedom. I may not agree with all of the political decisions that have led us into or kept us at war, but I do fervently believe that America is a great country, democracy is a wonderful thing, and those that put their lives on the line to defend that should be honored and respected (so long as they are acting with integrity, upholding our standards and acting in accordance to the values upon which our country was founded).

As the news spread on Sunday that we had killed public enemy number one, celebrations erupted. Crowds in Washington D.C. and New York grew exponentially on the TV screen, Facebook exploded with celebratory status updates, and I even heard several rounds of fireworks in my neighborhood. Myself, I found it really hard to be in the mood to celebrate. Do I think that he was a terrible murderous person? Absolutely. Please don't mistake that, I believe he was horrible and evil and killed thousands of innocent men, women, and children--and no doubt had plans to kill thousands upon thousands more. Tracking him down and killing him might have been the only way to stop him, unfortunately. But the fact that we did that doesn't make me happy. Relieved, possibly. Ready to run out into the streets chanting "USA, USA, USA?" No.

Like I said, I think the only way we could stop him was through this course of action. But stopping him doesn't necessarily keep us safe. There is still evil out in the world, and in my mind evil begets evil. Violence begets violence. We just added to it. He murdered, so we murdered, and then who murders next? The vicious cycle continues. What's our responsibility in halting it? Has it already spun too far out of control for us to be able to halt it? Are we doomed to keep the cycle spinning? I hope not, but I fear yes.

In the midst of all this I found myself wondering how all of my friends who are parents handle these situations. When the media is overtaken by stories like these how do you explain it to your kids? If I had kids, how would I explain it to them? Murder is bad, but it's okay that we murdered this guy because he is really really bad and we are in the right? Yes, I think he was really bad and that we are in the right to protect ourselves, but I just can't get excited about killing people, no matter how bad they are. I was mired deep in these thoughts when I came across this link. It doesn't necessarily make my spirit feel like rejoicing, but it does normalize things for me and make me feel better about not feeling like we just won the Olympics.


How to feel really old

Last night, I was driving a couple of friends back to their apartment and I was more than delighted to play for them one of my twenty-five cent cassette tapes. I was trying to get my friend, who is around six years younger than me, to guess the artist. The song "I Saw Him Standing There" was playing:

Younger Friend (YF): Ooh. I know this song.

LMNT: Yeah...

A group of women standing on the corner hear the song playing and start dancing and singing along, because it's that good.

YF: Wait isn't this a Beatles' song?

LMNT: Yeah...

Her boyfriend, who is around my age, chimes in from the back seat.

BF: Madonna? Sheena E?

LMNT: No! You guys! It's TIFFANY!

YF: [stares blankly at me]

YF: Tiffany who?

LMNT: Tiffany!

YF: What's her last name?

I died a little right then and there.


Six-word Sunday: May 1, 2011

Sinuses attacked. Breathing impossible. Commence coughing.

Pretty much sums up my week... at least the last four days of it anyway. Here's to a new week and the new found ability to breathe, smell, and taste my food.

A second helping of cheese

Note to self: Be ye not tempted to shop for music under the influence.

Apparently this is a lesson bound to be repeated. Back when I was a senior in college my parents and I were at some pre-graduation wine and cheese reception (emphasis on the wine) and somehow, post-event, we ended up at Bed Bath and Beyond. Tipsy.

Left to our own devices, we waddled our way to a CD kiosk of "The Sounds of Nature." You know, the one where you push on the small thumbnail of the CD cover art and it plays samples off of that CD. Ooooh. We were transfixed and listened to every sample. Twice. Maybe three times. Before my dad could find us and save us from ourselves, we had bought at least 4 CDs (one of which was Loon Song, and it was just as it sounds, loons set to song. In a word: AWESOME). And we knew while it was happening that it was a bad idea, and by bad I mean AWESOME.

So there I was this week, post-happy hour with AP when we waddled across the street to the Half-Price Books where they also sell way-less-than-half-price cassette tapes. And guess who has  two thumbs and a cassette tape player in her car? That's right, this girl. And because I was two margaritas in, every tape I saw was a MUST HAVE (even though I had already bought most of them at full-price back in the 1980s when cassette tape technology was king). Honestly. Most of these tapes are already at my parents house, but a lot of good that does me when I want to listen to them in my car now. So, at $0.25 a pop (you read that correctly, one quarter each) I bought the following masterpieces:
  • Duran Duran, Arena (recorded around the world in 1984!)
  • Kenny Rogers, The Gambler (I don't know any songs on here but the title track, but it's gotta earn me some street cred to own a Kenny Rogers tape, right?)
  • Neil Diamond, 12 Greatest Hits Vol II (mostly because "America" is one of those 12 great hits)
  • Prince and the Revolution, Music From The Motion Picture Purple Rain (yes, somewhere doves are crying)
  • John Denver, Take Me Home, Country Roads & Other Hits (a collection of some of the first songs I ever fell in love with on cassette tape)
  • Amy Grant, Heart in Motion (Baby, baby, I LOVED this one when I bought it the first time in 1991)
  • Huey Lewis & the News, Fore! and Sports (yes, it is hip to be square, don't hate the playa...)
  • Bette Midler, Beaches (Thank you. Thank you. Thank God for you, the wind beneath my wings)
  • Whitney Houston, Whitney Houston (the one where she's amazing before Bobby Brown ruined her)
  • Michael Bolton, Time, Love & Tenderness (I know. There are no words, except maybe... AWESOME!)
  • Ace of Base, The Sign (which I never actually owned on cassette, but overplayed the CD my junior year in high school)
And the piece de resistance...
  • Tiffany, Tiffany (Oh, yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!).
Four dollars later (much cheaper than Loon Song), I was out of there and jamming in the Jetta. Turns out it was a good idea, nay, a great idea. Maybe purchasing music whilst intoxicated is actually an AWESOME idea. And in case you didn't know this already, I believe that children really are our future.