05 March 2010

A new home!

Project: Joie de Vivre has a new home! :)

Please visit the blog at http://www.projectjoiedevivre.com!

Be sure to update your feed as well, just CLICK HERE to update your subscription!

Merci a tous!

03 March 2010

Getting Clear on Your Purpose

Have you ever had one of those days where you don't know what you're doing or why you're doing it?

Or you feel discouraged about pursuing your dream and you haven't any idea of how you're doing to make it happen?

That was me today.

Some of my appointments were moved around and I felt like I was losing momentum. What started out as a busy week felt like it came to a screeching halt with nothing to do. Well, of course there are things to do, but nothing that made me change out of my pajamas and take on the outside world.

And it's probably because I was cooped up all day. Alone in the house. One of the minuses of working from home, and working alone, there's no one to bounce ideas off of at any given moment. I have to make appointments with my colleagues to hang out. Sometimes, entrepreneurship can be a lonely road.

Oh man, I'm sorry to sound like such a downer today, but it's just one of those days.

So this got me to thinking about my purpose. My purpose behind my business. It's not to make a ton of money. It's not just to take pictures. It's a lot bigger than that. It's a lot heavier than that.

I attended a Business Planning workshop a few weeks ago where we had to write our mission statement. Before the workshop, my only recollection of a mission statement was the one from my high school. For some reason that was the first one I could think of.

And so we went through the mission statement writing process. It's not an overnight process. It's a constant work in progress. But this was a totally intriguing exercise because it really got all of us to think and consider what it is we do, why we do it, and for whom.

I loved hearing some of the mission statements of huge companies such as Starbucks and Disney. Starbucks' is " Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time." Disney's is "To make people happy." I really enjoyed learning how everything in our business should revolve around and reflect our mission statements.

So my mission statement is still a work in progress, but since I'm talking about purpose, I wanted to share it here. To encourage those of you who do read this blog to come up with your own personal mission statement. I don't think you have to have a business to have a mission statement. Your mission statement should reflect you and who you are and why you do what you do. Whatever that may be.

Your joie de vivre may be your mission. Your mission may be your joie de vivre.

So what I came up with to reflect myself as well as my business is "To inspire others to live their passion." I didn't want to keep it narrowed just to photography, but broad enough to span to my other project, including this blog.

Have you thought about your purpose?

Have you ever written a mission statement?

Have you ever just had one of those days?

If you have, I'd love for you to share it in the comments!

Merci a tous,

01 March 2010

Sometimes, You Have to Just Do It

I'm a cautious person when it comes to spending money. I learned to be frugal and thrifty from a young age from my dad. And I'm thankful because it helped me be a vigilant saver and never blow my budget. It's how I socked away cash for retirement (its' never too soon to start!) and it's how I was able to save a nice sum of cash for our wedding.

However, it also makes it harder for me to spend money on myself. Especially the big ticket items. Even if it's for business.

But sometimes you just have to do it.

For the longest time (about a year), I've been wanting and needing a new camera body. But I was able to come up with excuse after excuse.

"We're saving for the wedding."

"I have a camera body that's still good."

"I don't have the money."

I like to think that I'm a natural saver. Pinching pennies and keeping my piggy bank happy. (Okay, I don't actually have a piggy bank, but my bank account thanks me.) And when it comes to spending big money, I start to get agitated and nervous. Running all the reasons why it's a bad idea through my head.

I know, it's a little crazy.

But today, I made it happen. I had to. If I want to further my dreams, I had to invest in myself.

And I'd like to liken this to pursuing any dream or ambition.

How easy is it for you to talk yourself out of something?

Do you find it easy to think of all the reasons why it won't work, why it can't happen, everything that could go wrong, or how it would be impossible?

I know, I do too.

That's fear talking. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the unfamiliar. Fear of possibility.

What steps do you need to take to further your dreams?

Is it calling a contact?
Is it writing a proposal?
Is it meeting with potential investors or clients?
Is it spending a big chunk of change?

Today, when I was about to purchase my new camera body, I started to feel the nerves well up. I wondered what would happen if I just walked out and decided to not buy it. My eyes grew large when I saw the price that I would be owing, but then I thought about what this investment would bring.

Better image quality.
Better output.
Trust with colleagues.
Trust with clients.

Bottom line, this purchase would push my business forward.

So imagine what kind of obstacle is facing you.

What do you need to "just do"?
What are you afraid of?
What would it be like if you "just did it"?

Would you advance in your pursuit of your joie de vivre?

If so, get going!

I know, it's scary. But if you have considered all your options and all your outcomes, and your gut is still telling you to move forward with the "scary" path, it's a sign.

Sometimes, you just have to do it.

Feel the fear. Do it anyway.

Merci a tous,

27 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Saturday Edition

What opportunities do you have?

What could you be doing?

What do you wish you were doing?

I had a recent comment from someone who wanted to start writing again. To that I say, start writing. In a journal. On a blog. In a notebook or pieces of scrap paper. But just make sure you are writing. Everyday. Even for a few minutes, but practice your craft.

The same thing goes for photography. If you have a camera, learn how to use it. Practice. Practice. Practice. Share photos with others.

Or for music or singing. Do it. And do some more.

I think sometimes the hardest part is doing it. Doing whatever it is that we want to do. For fear of criticism. For fear of being questioned. For fear of not being supported in your endeavors.

Trust me, I know there's nothing scarier than speaking your dreams out loud. It's almost as if saying it out loud makes it real. But it's true. And I think that the more you make it known (even if it's only to your inner circle) what you want to do or be doing, it will make it easier to get there.

So, what's your opportunity to do what you want to be doing?

Bon week-end!

24 February 2010

Be Open to Opportunity

Does the thought, "I could never do that" ever cross your mind?

Or,  "Am I good enough?"

Or perhaps, "Why me?"

This has often crossed my mind. I got into the mindset of thinking that I couldn't before I even tried. In high school, I was often timid about trying things - trying out for basketball, trying out for a part in the musical (as dance ensemble), or running for student government. Often, my mind what wrapped around these questions.

"Why would anyone pick me?"

It held me back in so many ways. I actually closed myself off from these opportunities, and now that I think back, I'm wondering what life would be like if I was more open to opportunity. If I had had more confidence in myself back then.

But confidence is half the battle.

And even though I had a strong support system at home, with a family of personal cheerleaders, it was my personal confidence that was shaky.

I think it was when I embarked on my own in a foreign country that I figured out that I had to suck it up and just do it. If I was ever going to do anything, I just had to do it. Be open to opportunity.

It was slow going at first. Some friends planned a trip to the Czech Republic and the little voices in my head somehow held me back. I gave myself reasons why I shouldn't go. I gave myself excuses. And instead of going to Prague (granted it was a coooold winter), I stayed in town and explored two smaller cities alone. I kind of wish that I had gone.

But as the year went on, I learned to be more open to opportunity. I took some karate lessons and quickly learned that I felt totally ridiculous doing karate. In other words, I learned that it was not my forte.

I took a trip with friends to Vienna. We decided since we were already in Vienna (after a 21-hour bus trip!) we should go see Budapest. So we did. And we found a family that rented out rooms as a mini hostel and on top of that, we sneaked into the orchestra pit of the Budapest National Opera House. I'm not even kidding. Part of me was paranoid that the guards were going to get us (they had big guns, and by guns I mean things that shoot bullets), but I followed my fearless friend Elana, and we looked out into the Opera House. It was an amazing ten seconds.

And all this was possible because I became more open to opportunity.

So what if you turned those earlier questions upside down and said, "Why not me?"

I could.

I can.

Why not try?

Since moving to Dallas, I've let this become my motto. I've had to build an entirely new base of friends and colleagues from scratch. Without knowing a soul. And it wouldn't be possible if I wasn't open to new opportunities. Open to meeting people. Open to chances.

I'm not saying jump blindly into opportunities. But I am saying to consider them. Think about it. Will it cause any harm? Or will it add good to your life?

You never know what opportunity may change your life.

Help you find your joie de vivre.

Be bold. Be brave.

Try new things.

Meet new people.

Be open.

Merci a tous,

22 February 2010

Joyeux Anniversaire!

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I'm not one of those people who necessarily dreads their birthday. I actually enjoy celebrating. However, I do kind of cringe at the idea of getting older.

Not because it's scary.

Or because I haven't accomplished everything that I wanted to by this time.

Or because I'm afraid of aging.

But simply because I can't believe that hitting the age that I only ever imagined being.

I can still remember my favorite birthday celebration. It was my twenty first birthday that was celebrated in Lyon, France while I was studying abroad. My wonderful posse of friends planned an amazing surprise scavenger hunt that involved bar hopping. And when you turn twenty-one in a country with a drinking age of eighteen, and grew up in a country with a drinking age of twenty-one, it was a treat to ring in the milestone birthday!

And it wasn't because I got to drink all night. Because quite frankly, that night I spent hugging la toilette.

It was the thought and the care put into the evening. It was all the careful and meticulous planning by my friends. It was the amazing surprise and that everyone was able to keep secret. It was spending a wonderful evening with wonderful people, eating yummy food and getting adventurous with different kinds of drinks. It was about having fun with people I loved being with. It was the celebration. The jubilation. The feeling.

For the longest time, I had always dreamed of having a surprise birthday party. And for my milestone birthday, I received my wish!

I hope that I can bring that kind of celebration to my loved ones for years to come. Make it special. Make it memorable. Make it fun. It's part of my joie de vivre. Celebrating and expressing love to everyone who is meaningful in my life.

And tomorrow is my birthday.

I can't believe that epic anniversaire in France was six years ago. Sometimes I can remember it like it was just weeks ago.

And now I'm an adult. With a husband. And a house. And a fledgling small business. And a passion for helping others live the life they were meant to live. Little by little, inspiring others to discover what they love, and how they can make it happen.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Joie de vivre. The joy of living.

This is my joy.

Merci a tous,

19 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 5

Yay, this blog is just over a month old! And it's been a fun journey so far.

So for today's Friday Night Reflection, I'm piggybacking off of yesterday's post on "Pursue Happiness" and thinking about what makes me happy.

What makes you happy? What/who do you love?

I love simple things.

My husband.

My family.

My friends.



Red Velvet Cake.

Beignets from Cafe du Monde.



La vie francaise. The French life.

Salade Lyonnaise. Specialty salad with bacon, poached egg, and vinaigrette from Lyon, France. My favorite salad on earth!

Crepes. Crepes with Nutella and bananas. Mmmm.

The metro. Or the subway in New York.


Photography. Photographing people.


Deep conversations.


What do you love?

Write it down. Let stream of consciousness flow. You might be surprised what you come up with. And maybe a step closer to your joie de vivre.

Bon week-end!

18 February 2010

Pursue Happiness

I think this should be a motto.


Pursue Happiness.

Go in the directions of the life you've always wanted, even if the steps are little. I was talking to a new friend today about this. She just finished her residency for medical school, but also loves photography. She's decided to pursue happiness and only work part time as a doctor, and go towards building a photography business.

I commended her choices. She made a decision. One that I'm sure was not made lightly.

She chose happiness.

And in a world where it's so easy to choose money, notoriety, status (or whatever you want to call it), it can be hard to see why anyone would let go of a "set" life.

She has tapped into her joie de vvire. It's not necessarily medicine. But she is a doctor.

Pursue happiness.

I'm not saying to shirk responsibilities - bills, mortgages, jobs, etc. But find what it is that makes you excited and start taking the steps to dig deeper. Explore it. Does it make you happy? What can you do to add happiness to your life?

Because sometimes, I think while we may be running around trying to get our lives and our money straight, it's easy to neglect our spirits. Are we happy with what we're doing? If not, what can you do to make it better?

How can you get to your joie de vvire?

Pursue it. Find happy.

Merci a tous,

15 February 2010

On Encouragement

One of the most powerful things that we can give to others is encouragement.

Encouragement can change the world. One person at a time.

When I decided that I wanted to study abroad in France, I had the wholehearted encouragement from my family. They assured me that it would be an amazing time. While I had no doubts about this at all, it was so nice to have that kind of back up support, cheering me on my way.

Often, I think encouragement can be overlooked and taken for granted. Like when I get crazy busy or stressed out in my own life, I don't take the time to encourage those around me. Instead, I start looking for points of criticism. And this is where things can take a turn for the worst. I start to join others in speculating "why" something wouldn't work. How it could never happen. What a failure it may be.

Or perhaps, there are times when things aren't going quite as I planned, and I have friend who is experiencing amazing success. There are two paths to choose from.

To criticize. To be jealous. To get upset.


To encourage. To support. To celebrate.

It's all about perspective.

It's easy to criticize. To tear someone done. To look for flaws. To join the masses of people who exist merely to point out all that is less than perfect.

But imagine a world of encouragement. Where everyone was supportive of your success and choices. Where accomplishments are celebrated and dreams are realized. Because of a little encouragement.

In a world filled with doubt and anxiety, a little encouragement can go a long way. In the times when I feel that something just isn't going to work out, a word of encouragement can turn it around. In a moment when I feel like "I just can't anymore," an encouraging hug or sentiment can be just the push that I need to keep going.

It was tough for me to go out on a limb and decide to do what I love. And just go for it. To not have the "safety net" of a regular job and not necessarily knowing where the next paycheck is coming from. And I know that I would have never have done it without the encouragement of family and friends. The encouragement serves as huge source of support to move forward in the direction of my dreams. To find my joie de vivre.

So if you are chasing your dreams, I encourage you.

Go ahead. Reach for it. You will get there.

Encourage someone today. It may be just what they need.

Merci a tous,

12 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 4

It's said that we are the sum of the five people we surround ourselves with. So if you surround yourself with negative people, you'll undoubtedly be more negative. And if you surround yourself with positive people, you'll be more positive.

I've wondered if this was true.

And I can attest that it is.

I used to work in an office environment where I was very unhappy. And I was surrounded by other people who were unhappy in their jobs as well. We would commiserate about how much our jobs sucked and had a very cynical view of our place in the company.

However, as soon as I freed myself from that situation, I found myself to feel much happier. Freer. Able to be spirited and positive, which is more my nature.

And when I think about that it's astounding. Especially when my friends from my old job have commented about my demeanor. They were so used to me being cynical and frustrated, that when I started feeling more positive and happy in my life, it was strange to them. And that is pretty amazing.

So I ask you for tonight's Friday Night Reflection: Who are the five people you surround yourself with the most?

Do they feed your soul?

Do they suck your soul?

What kind of energy do they feed you? Are they helping you uncover your joie de vivre?

Bon week-end!

11 February 2010

Snowy Recharge

I've only ever experienced snow falling twice in my life. Once in France on my twenty-first birthday. And once today. I woke up to a blanket of snow.

Yes, I've played in snow. Yes, I've gone skiing. But, I've only witnessed snow actually falling twice. And today marks the second time.

I grew up almost my entire life in California. I'm a city girl by nature, and snow is pretty much foreign to me. I don't have an appropriate coat. I don't have waterproof gloves.

And it got me thinking.

What are some of life's little mysteries that you are thankful for?

Granted, it might not be snow for most people, especially with all of the snow dumping on the East Coast! However, I think it prompts a moment to consider what are the little things in life that you love and appreciate?

Is it having coffee and journaling?

Is it the ten minutes of peace and quiet in the morning?

Is it rain or a thunderstorm?

Is it your spouse or significant other looking out for you?

It doesn't matter what it is or how it's manifested, but it's important to think of those things. Take and moment, step back, and say thanks.

I remember the morning of my twenty-first birthday. I heard that it might be snowing. I didn't have class that day, so I bundled up in my "Siberia" coat (that's what my friends and I called our long, down-filled coats), boots, and gloves, and headed outside. I took the metro and the funiculaire up to Notre Dame de Fourviere (Our Lady of Fourviere), a huge cathedral in the hills of Lyon, overlooking the entire city.

It was beautiful.

I was by myself, with time to think, and reflect on my birthday, and it was wonderful.

I think sometimes we just need a little quiet time by ourselves. To reflect. To think freely. To recharge.

Life moves too quickly. With the constant barrage of information from social media, the Internet, television, from our friends and family, it can be hard to keep up. I know that I struggle with this. I'm constantly distracted by things that are online, following people on Twitter, reading blogs, a pinging iPhone, and everything in between It can be hard to focus on what makes us happy because we are so busy making others happy.

And while there's nothing wrong with that, it's wonderful to help others and make other happy, there will come a moment when we realize that we have to take care of ourselves too. In order to be able to fully serve others, we must attend to ourselves as well.

The other night I was totally exhausted. I spent the whole day at a workshop learning and improving my skills to build a great business. But at the end of the day, my brain was just friend. I wanted to catch up with all the things that I had missed during the day, such as emails and blogs, but I could hardly form a sentence. My husband looked at me and saw how tired I was, and suggested that I go to bed.

And with a little bit of resistance, I finally surrendered and headed to bed. Because I wasn't doing anyone, especially myself, any good. I had to take care of myself. And he recognized that. And that's why I love him.

With a fresh mind and a fresh perspective, I am better able to serve others. I am better able to blog here. I am able to refocus on my joie de vivre.

Do you need to recharge? Do you need to attend to yourself?

This will help you get clear on what your joie de vivre is.

Merci a tous,

08 February 2010

What do you love to do?

I was asked today what I enjoy doing in my spare time.

What do I love to do? And you know what? I totally struggled answering the question, which seemed strange to me. I know what I like to do, so why couldn't I answer the question succinctly?

Why was identifying what I love to do a difficult question?

Could you answer the question without hesitation?

The question stemmed from a conversation about how to start building a new network after having moved to a new location away from family and friends. Because that is the boat that I am in. I moved to Texas about six months ago from California. My husband has been living in Texas for the last three years and it was finally time to be int he same place at the same time after we got married in July. It was a huge move for me. Especially since I was moving away from everyone I knew to a place where I knew no one.

We brainstormed ways to meet new people.

So I was asked what I love to do.

Well, I love reading, but I know that a book club is just not for me. I enjoy reading for the love of reading and learning people's stories.

I love watching movies, but movie-watching isn't the most social activity. And I also would not be into a film club, analyzing movies and plots. I just like to watch movies for the entertainment factor.

I also love to write posts and read blogs, and are an AMAZING resource for meeting anywhere in the world. However, meeting people in person is more difficult through blogs, unless bloggers are upfront about their location.

After we hashed out some ideas, this question stuck with me.

Then I really thought about it. Like really thought out about. And it hit me.

One of my most favorite pastimes is simply spending time chatting and talking about life. Being social in a one-on-one setting. Learning someone's story and what drives them. Learning what they love and what inspires them. Evolving an acquaintance into a friend.

I remember when I was studying abroad in France, this was what I did all the time. And it's almost like France is totally designed for it--what with the outdoor cafes, park benches, and town squares--it's an amazing playground for talking and building relationships.

And if I was going to have any friends to hang out with that year, it was a must. I couldn't be shy. I couldn't be a recluse. I had to get to know people. And I learned that I loved it. I loved listening to all the stories. I love listening to everyone's experiences.

So what do you love to do?

What is it deep down that feeds your soul and gets you excited?

This is an important and necessary step in finding and identifying your joie de vivre.

The joy of living. What is it that you love?

If you don't know, or can't name it concretely, start thinking.

Merci a tous,

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05 February 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 3

I recently attended a "life" workshop presented by the awesome Justin & Mary Marantz from Connecticut. They really emphasized the importance of having a balanced life, if we're ever to enjoy our lives at all.

One of the things they touched upon was writing down goals. They included a shocking statistic that only 20% (I believe of Americans) have goals. In life. Period. And of that only 4% WRITE down their goals.

I first started a goals list in 2007 with a 101 in 1001 list. This is a list of 101 goals to accomplish in 1001 days (which is about 3 years and some change). It's a fun list to make if you've never actually written down your goals before. My list included learning to cook, traveling to New York City, and meeting some well-known photographers.

And something that I've been doing only since early 2008 has been writing down my goals. And not just a list, but SMART goals, meaning specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. So instead of just having a list floating out in the world, you have a specific list of things to accomplish, with milestones that will confirm you completed your goals.

There's a statistic that says that if you write down your goals, you are 80% more likely to achieve them. (Sorry, no sources...)

Writing them down is only the first part. You must also review your goals and reassess your progress. When I've done this, I've surprised myself with how much I have accomplished.

So go ahead. Start with a list of 10 SMART goals.

Maybe your joie de vivre is on that list.


PS, if you're wondering how to pronounce joie de vivre, it's [jwa deh vive-re].

03 February 2010

Don't wait for perfect

I think "perfect" is a myth. It doesn't really exist. Just ask a perfectionist. Nothing is ever perfect.

I was reading a post on Marc and Angel Hack Life, called "Less than Perfect is the Perfect Start." They talk about how there is no "perfect" time to start a project, so just start it. Waiting around until everything is set and ready and "doing it right" will just delay the start. Fear of failure paralyzes progress.

Marc says to his friend, “The only way you can fail is by not writing – by waiting around until you have the perfect plan before you start.  Because ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist.  It isn’t human.  It isn’t you."

This is so true.

I remember when I started my wedding photography blog. At first I had started a Blogger blog, but after some time I knew that if I wanted to really pursue it, I would have to buy my own domain name. The fear of messing up held me back. There was something about purchasing a domain name and hosting service that scared me. I know, they make it so easy nowadays, but I wanted to get it "right" and "perfect" which was just silly.

So I bought my domain name. I scoured the internet for how to redirect my domain name to my Blogger blog. And I did it. I was able to go to WPPI (huge convention and tradeshow for professional photographers) with my business card in hand with my own domain name on it. Woo hoo!

After returning from my first WPPI experience, I knew that I had to start hosting my own blog and make it look pretty. With some deep reflection, I knew that my Blogger blog just wasn't reflecting me quite right. I was trying to be who I thought others thought I should be. I got stuck in the "What should I be doing?" and "What is everyone else doing?"

So instead of waiting for the perfect moment to launch my new blog, I worked furiously over two weeks and pulled the trigger. Check it out. This was almost a year ago. And while it's still not "perfect" and I don't think it ever will be anywhere close to perfection, it's so much closer to who I am as a person and photographer. 

And I'll admit it. The same thing happened to me before I launched my website. I was waiting to get it "right" and "perfect" until I got the wake up call that it was a silly expectation to myself. I got it to where I needed it to be, and said "Let's do this!"

I think waiting for "perfect" is an easy way out of pursuing your dreams. There is no perfect. Accept the idea of "good enough" and strive for excellence. Something excellent may not be "perfect" but it's still excellent. And in school, getting an "A" stands for "Excellent"!

So if you've been dreaming about writing a blog, start writing.

If you've been thinking about photography, start taking photos.

If you've been wanting to read a new book, go pick it up from the library or bookstore.

There's no time like the present to start exploring your joie de vivre.

That's how I started this blog. At the encouragement of two amazing people, and support from seventeen others, I just started writing. I almost got caught up in trying to find a name for this project, but Lara Casey and Jeff Holt encouraged me to just start. Start it up and finding the name would be a part of the journey. That's how I came to "Project: Joie de Vivre". This is a work in progress that is just starting to unfold.

So what's holding you back?

Is it trying to to get something perfect before starting? Hey, failure happens. But then you'll be ten steps ahead to get to the next goal!

Don't wait for perfect.

Just start.

Merci a tous,

01 February 2010

Failure Happens

I know, I'll be the first to admit that I fear failure. In fact, I hate even thinking about failure. But, as anyone chasing after their dreams, whether it be a small business, blogging, traveling, or whatever your passion is, failure happens.

And, it's a necessary part of the process.

"QUOI?!" What? "Quel horreur!" The horror!

Let's keep it real folks. I'm not telling your that you are going to fail. But failure happens. And that's when you learn the most.

I distinctly remember the first time that I was at a cafe in Paris. I was freshly off the airplane, still jet lagged, feeling homesick, and around a bunch of strangers. I was vulnerable. I was weak. And I sure as heck didn't want to look like a fool.

I had a few Euros, but was still not too sure about the exchange rate. The typical Parisian cafe is NOT Starbucks. You order. Your order is brought to you. And then your bill. There's typically no physical menu (those that do are usually catering to tourists, and not necessarily a tourist trap), and you just order. So I took a cue from the girls that I was with. They were ordering cafe cremes (espresso with cream) and cafe (espresso straight up with a cube of sugar). I wasn't feeling so hot and just wanted water. But I also didn't want to look foolish/cheap and just ask for une carafe d'eau (a bottle of tap water). So I ordered what I thought was bottled water.

"Je voudrais un Vichy s'il vous plait."

Why I didn't just suck it up and order an Evian is beyond me. Maybe because I didn't want to look like a tourist who associated French water with Evian. I wanted to seem knowledgeable, so I ordered a Vichy. I could have just ordered a Coke too!

Note to readers: Vichy is a type of sparkling water. Which would be fine if I actually liked sparkling water.

So there I sat, in a Parisian cafe, with my overpriced drink, despising myself for ordering the wrong thing. Drink ordering: FAIL.

But that was a total lesson learned for 2 Euros and bubbly water. I figured out that day that I should have gone to the Monoprix (kind of like Target with food), and just bought bottled water sans gaz (without bubbles). Or, I should have just sucked it up and ordered the carafe d'eau, which I did every other time I was at a restaurant or at a cafe not ordering coffee.

Okay, I know, that's not something huge like a business failure. Or running out of money. Or sounding like a fool on the phone to a prospective client. Or screwing up an order and having to reassure your client you know what you are doing.

But failure is also a learning opportunity. Even the best business people weren't born with an innate sense of business. It's learned. Through trial and error. Through failures and successes. I heard the saying the other day that the definition of success is "Falling seven times and getting up eight." It makes sense right?

I think fear of failure is a normal thing. It starts from a young age, when we freak out about a test, and the potential of failure. Failure is constantly and consistently frowned upon from the time we start school through our professional lives with our managers. We are expected to succeed 101% of the time.

But all that success doesn't come without some stumbling here and there. It's not like you can press the "I want to succeed today" button and be done with it. Success comes with hard work, smart work, and lots of hustle.

It's not like your joie de vivre is going to be served up on a silver platter with a note that says, "Here you go, have a blast!" A real passion takes time to be discovered. It takes work. It takes endless nights of self introspection and asking yourself, "What lights a fire in my life?"

And it may take a couple of tries. It may take a couple of projects. Some may fail, but imagine what success could look like.

For someone like me, who has been paralyzed by the fear of failure, I'm taking a page from my dear friend, Lara Casey, "FEEL THE FEAR, and DO IT ANYWAY."

If you fail, you'll know what it looks like. You'll be able to know how not to do that again. You'll be able to know how to make it better. How to fix it. How to make progress.

Trust me, these are things I have to tell myself. All. the time. When I fail, I dust myself off, and figure it out. Try again. Do it again. Because I know that I'll be able to find a better solution. I will have learned from my mistakes to create something amazing.

Failure happens. It's okay to fail. Imagine all the lessons you can learn and become so much better for it.

Your joie de vivre will thank you for it.

Merci a tous,

29 January 2010

Friday Night Reflections: Step 2

Sometimes I don't know how I made it through an entire week. From Monday through Friday, it's a constant high speed chase. And then, when I sit down to think about what I did during the week, I can't for the life of me, remember. Or when Monday comes rolling around, I can't remember what I did on the weekend. Do you ever feel that way?

Sometimes I feel like I have five-thousand things to do on my to-do list. And for whatever reason, I think that I can remember them in my head. Crazy right?

And then, when I try to remember what is on my to-do list, I can't remember a thing. Ever feel like this?

Overwhelmed? Don't know where to start?

So for today's Friday Night Reflection, start with writing down all the things you need to do.

Every last thing.

From going to the post office to doing your taxes to calling a few contacts to get started on a new project.

Write everything down.

Then prioritize you list based on what you get can done quickly, what will take a few hours, what will take a few days, and what will take a few weeks.

Then, get to it!

Reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed. You'll be closer to finding your joie de vivre.

Bon week-end!

27 January 2010

You are not who you were...

I was having a conversation with my husband about the notion of dating that somehow morphed into a conversation about life experiences.

And I was lamenting about how my social life in high school were not my favorite memories. High school wasn't a total wash, but I just felt like there was a lot more left to be desired from my experience.

So my husband says brilliant things with great execution, and said, "Well imagine if you didn't live that life, we might not have met, and we'd be totally different people. And you're not that person anymore."

Whoa. It's so true.

And I don't think this concept is necessarily original or new. It's something I've thought about a lot. It's something that I consider and reminisce about with my husband. I always ask him, "What if we didn't decide to do the things we did? Imagine who we would have become..."

I think all too often people think that they are stuck with who they are. As if it's impossible to enact change in one's life. That all the things in the past define who you are as a person today. While I agree that life experiences of the past do shape the person I am today, I am not who I was. I am not the same person I was when I was sixteen. I am not the same person I was three weeks ago. We are constantly evolving and growing from those past experiences, and we are not who we were.

Imagine who you can be. Who do you want to be?

I'm not talking about falling into an existential crisis and feeling ennui about "Who am I? Why am I here?" But more so, it's the idea of where do I want to be? How do I want to leave my impression on this earth? What is it in life that drives me? What is my joie de vivre?

Looking forward. Remembering the past and accepting it, but moving forward. You are not who you were.

Are you happy with who you are? If the answer is yes, SWEET! You're already ahead of the curve.

If the answer is no, what makes you happy? Is there something out there that you've always wanted but have been thinking, "I could never do that."

Consider the possibilities.

Consider the opportunities.

Growing up I was always shy. I was quiet and reserved and preferred being in the sidelines, listening. It wasn't until I was in college that I started to flex those "outgoing" muscles. I've never been one to strike up a conversation, but if someone talks to me, I will gladly chat with them. So bit by bit, I started to introduce myself to friendly faces. I tried to start the conversation. It was sometimes hit or miss, but at least I tried. In high school, I probably wouldn't have tried that. In college, I was not who I was in high school.

After college, and early into my first "real" job at a company, I always admired my friend's ability to talk to anyone. ANYONE. Without hesitation. Without fear. I wanted that. I wanted to learn from her. So little by little, as I was starting my foray into wedding photography I would go to photographer get-togethers. ALONE. I didn't even bring a wingman! This was seriously some nerve-wracking stuff for me, especially when I have always thought of myself as a shy person. But I put myself out there. I felt the fear, and did it anyway. And in retrospect, I'm so glad that I did.

I gave myself a crash course, on-the-spot training on how to talk to strangers. It wasn't so scary. I'm still working on piping up in larger group settings, because I still recede from conversations with more than five or six people and listen. However, I'm not who I was. I'm not the girl paralyzed by fear that I was when I was fifteen.

I am, who I've become.

And it's constant refining and evolution, but that's the beauty of life.

What's your opportunity?

Merci a tous,

25 January 2010

Thoughts vs. Actions

I've been thinking a lot of about thinking lately. I'm sure that sounds funny. I've been doing a lot of reflection to identify and concretely find my passion. Because passion makes me feel alive. Having a purpose makes me feel on top of the world. It makes me feel like I am here on earth for a reason.

I recently read Chris Guillebeau's post titled What You Don't Do Doesn't Matter. Basically, he talks about how he was thinking about doing certain things, such as buying flowers, doing something for someone else, completely emptying his inbox, sending more money to Haiti. And yet, that's all it ended up being: thinking about it.

And he made a very good point writing, Thinking about someone doesn't help them.

This struck me.

Because it's so true. Thinking about doing something is not the same as doing it. It may be nice to think about going to the gym and working out, but's it's not the same as actually getting out of the house and breaking a sweat.

And while it's wonderful to reflect and think about all the amazing things I want to do, it has no bearing if I don't take the steps to get there. That's what this blog is. An action. An action put out into the blogosphere. A step closer to finding my joie de vivre.

This also applies to my professional life. As a wedding photographer who recently moved to a completely new market and a totally different state, I've been thinking about ways to get my name out there and connect with other vendors. I have been thinking about working with other wedding vendors and organizing photo shoots. But until this point in time it was just a thought.

I was feeling discouraged. I was feeling frustrated. I was almost ready to throw in the towel.

Enter Lara Casey's Making Things Happen Intensive. After attending, it reignited my fire for my fledgling business I had a new perspective and realized that no one was holding me back but myself. Seriously. The entire fall season I had just been thinking about doing it. No wonder it never happened.

But now I'm making it happen. I'm taking the little steps and putting them into action.

Because thinking is not doing.

And while I believe that thinking and reflection is so important to the process, taking action is even more powerful. So if there's something you've been thinking about doing lately, why not do it? Why not figure out the steps that will get you one step closer to what you want to do or what you want to be?

Want to be a helicopter pilot? Go find out the requirements for becoming one.

Want to go to Europe this summer? Start researching for tickets and hotel prices. Look for advice on blogs.

Want to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity? Go to their website and find out how to become a volunteer.

It's a lot easier when you break the steps you need to take down into baby steps. It's a lot less intimidating. And a lot more doable!

What's your joie de vivre? What's your first action step?

Merci a tous,

22 January 2010

Friday Night Reflections

So this project has been in existence for just a week, and it has been an amazing ride. So much so that I realized that I've written the length of an essay everyday for a week. It's crazy because I never write that much on a regular basis, let alone everyday. It's astounding what a little passion fueling your fire can do!

But I thought that I'd mix it up today. And bring a little more interactivity to the table.

Finding your joie de vivre doesn't just happen. You have to find it. You have to dig for it. You have to seek it out.

In the first steps for discovering your joie de vivre, think about what makes you feel happy. What makes you feel whole, like a complete person?

For me, it's surrounding myself with family and close friends. Spending time with my husband. Having a home and making it ours. A good book. A good conversation. Laughing until my belly aches. Traveling to and exploring new places. A home-cooked meal.

So I pose the question, What makes you feel whole?

Bon week-end! 

21 January 2010

My life one week out

I've never been so excited to blog in my life.

I don't think I've ever been this excited in my professional life, period.

Just a week ago today, my life was rocked in an amazing way. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions and just laid it all out on the table. I started to open up to what I want in life, what is holding me back, what makes me feel happy and whole, and what I want to make happen this year and in the years to come. A day of self-reflection so deep, that my head started to hurt. But in the best way possible.

I walked away with a new perspective on life. With a new drive and new enthusiasm for what I'm doing.

I generally don't consider myself easily excitable. It's tough to get me really enthusiastic. But after Lara Casey's Making Things Happen Intensive, I've been the MOST FIRED UP, I've ever been. Ever. About anything in my professional life. And it's such a new feeling to me that I'm still riding on the most amazing natural high even seven days later. It's unlike anything else.

And those who experienced the intensive know what I'm talking about. It's an indescribable feeling, but the feeling is there.

For everyone else - my friends, family, and contacts - have seen this new side of me. And they probably think that I drank the special Kool-Aid or started taking some crazy pills or joined some kind of a cult. Because I haven't always felt this way. And suddenly, pretty much overnight, it's like my life took a SERIOUS 180. Serious.

And I had no idea it was coming.

I've had my lows, and probably my lowest moment was working in a stifling corporate environment. It was the most frustrating experience that I've had in my short existence. I wasn't excited about the work. I wasn't excited about most of the people. I wasn't excited about the company. At all. I had a generally disenchanted sentiment for the entire thing. Managers who didn't listen (except for my one manager who was AMAZING and was my silver lining for the 14 months she worked with me). Budgets that I managed that were three, four, five times my annual salary. Expectations that were completely unachievable. I felt like I was set up for failure.

And I don't think anyone likes that feeling.

I think it's a universal good feeling to succeed. To meet goals and exceed expectations. This was always what I shot for. In high school. In college. Even in France where I didn't understand the grading structure at all. I've always aimed high and shot for success. But after enough time at this company, I felt like I had not progressed in my career at all. I felt like I was shuffling papers for the sake of shuffling. Talking the talk. Playing the game. And all for what? Making other people's bonuses bigger? Are you kidding me?

That was the old me. By the end of my time there, I was just apathetic. I was cynical. I had no kick in my step. I wasn't excited. I was unhappy. My silver lining in it all was that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn't going to last forever. I had a vision far removed from a cubicle life. I had a vision of bigger and better things that I could define. That I could decide.

So here I am. At a crossroads. And I'm so excited.

While I don't know where this project will take me, I have confidence that it will be an amazing journey. It's total uncharted territory. It reminds me a lot of when I moved to France. I didn't know what I was doing, where I was going, or what kind of experiences were going to change my life for the better. I just knew that I could speak French and would get by.

That's how I feel about this blog. I know that I can write, relaying and sharing experiences that have made me feel like a whole person (like the best version of myself), and hopefully helping just one person find their silver lining - their joie de vivre.

And that if I keep doing it, I will be achieving my goal of helping others find and see the best version of themselves. Because we all have it in us. Deep down. We just need to dig.

If my life can take a 180, I know it's possible to find your joie de vivre.

Merci a tous (thanks everyone),

20 January 2010

Appreciating the Little Things

One of my fondest memories from France is just sitting in the park and taking in the beauty all around. Stopping. Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life and enjoying the moment. Savoring the experience. Observing life.

(Parc de la Tete d'Or, photo from Flickr.com)

I was lucky enough to have found a place to live just a ten minute walk from one of France's largest urban parks Parc de la Tête d'Or (Park of the Golden Head, literally) that was built in 1857 (Sometimes it astounds me how old and how much history lies within Europe. I think it's because the United States is still so young in comparison to the whole of Europe). To me, it's very reminiscent of Central Park. It just has that vibe. I would go to the park on occasion just to walk around and think. And it was some of the best thinking I could have done. No distractions. No interruptions. Just reflection.

My friends and I would meet at the park for picnics and fun. We'd lie around on blankets and stare at the sky. We'd eat une baguette avec du fromage (French baguette with cheese) or grab a gaufre avec Nutella (waffle with Nutella) from the park vendor. We'd take time from our regularly scheduled programming to just...relax. It. was. stellar.

A couple of months ago, when I was in a "I'm in a new place and I have no friends or family around" type of funk, two of my friends that I studied abroad with called me. It was so good to hear familiar voices.

They said, "Guess where we are."

I said, "California?" (Because well, I knew at least that they were calling from there.)

They said, "Yeah, but guess where!"

I had no idea. I was cooped up in our air conditioned apartment trying to beat the summer heat. I had no good conjectures.

"We're at the park!" They said, with such joy in their voices. "Lying on a blanket, staring at the sky."

In that moment, I was brought back. Brought back to a place where time ticked by a lot slower. Where all the distractions were muted. Where the sky was blue and the sun was warm. And it felt like nothing else mattered.

You know, I long for those moments. Where it feels like everything has stopped, even for a few minutes, to take in the scenery and appreciate the little things. The green grass. The blue sky. The chirping birds (as long as they aren't too loud!). To be able to take a deep cleansing breath. To thank God for all the blessings in my life. To be alive and healthy and living life as much as I can.

While those moments have been fewer and far between, I'm going to make time this year. In fact, there's a park just footsteps from our street. And although it's no Parc de la Tête d'Or, it's still a place where reflection can happen. Where everything can just stop, even for a few minutes. To take deep breaths. To take in the little things.

To find the joie de vivre.

Merci a tous,

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19 January 2010

On Being Authentic

You know, I used to be an unhappy person. I tried to hide it, but deep down, I had all these negative vibes running through me. I wasn't good enough. I wasn't pretty enough. I wasn't smart enough. I wasn't running with the cool kids. I used to compare myself to others, and that didn't help any. I longed for a boyfriend, and yet no one ever asked me out. I had prepared to resign myself to a life of loneliness and cats. I was ready to write it all off.

And that was just in high school.

In college, I did what most college kids do. Tried to "find myself". Looking back, the whole "finding oneself" journey is so much bigger and longer than four or five years of college. It's a constant work in progress. Well, there was one thing I knew for sure when I started college. I wanted to study abroad. If there was nothing else that ever did in college, that was on the ONE THING I had to do. Had to.

So I did. And it was the best thing I could have done for myself.

And yet, I'm not going to pretend, I actually had a slow start to having fun in France. I thought that I had to run with the cool kids and this was my chance. No one knew me. Everyone was new. I thought that was what I wanted. But seriously, who defines who the cool kids are? It's so arbitrary. It's so subjective. And those few weeks that I spent trying to wedge myself in with who the other kids had dubbed the "smoking clique" were such a waste in effort. Looking back, I so glad I'm not that girl anymore. Luckily, I quickly learned that my heart bonded so much more with the other people in my group. The ones who were a little more quirky. Laughed louder. Had a nerdy side. Because let's face it, I was that group.

I'm so glad I woke up. Because the girls (and couple of guys) who I surrounded myself with, spent time with, ate lunch and dinner with, grabbed a cafe creme (espresso with cream) with, were who helped me have my best year ever. Once I stopped trying to be something that I wasn't, I was finally able to breathe. Take deep cleansing breaths as myself in my own skin. And being happy with it. I realized that I couldn't deny my authentic self. No matter how hard I tried.

So I know it sounds cliche, but, be yourself. Be true to who you are deep down and own it. That's the best you can do.

I learned the hard way that I couldn't be something I wasn't. No matter how much I thought I wanted it. I think it was like the little devil on my shoulder pushing me towards what I wasn't really. I didn't have much in common with those girls. And that was probably why we just didn't click. And it took a swift kick to the head (well, figuratively, of course) to realize how dumb I was being.

I believe everything happens for a reason, and for me this revelation was life changing. I learned that I'm not for everyone, and everyone isn't for me. And that it's okay. Really it is. When we have time to examine our lives, our hopes, dreams, goals, and our true authentic selves, the right people for us will come. We'll be surrounded by those who lift us up and encourage us.

Be authentic.

This is one of my goals as I walk this journey for finding my joie de vivre.

Merci a tous,

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18 January 2010

The Phone Call

This blog isn't even seven days old, and it's totally rocked my world. For real.

Last week, I had the opportunity and sincere honor of attending Lara Casey's Making Things Happen Intensive in Dallas. And it was amazing. It was empowering. It changed the game.

I mean, I knew that this intensive was going to be good. I just didn't know that it was going to be that good. I had no idea that I would walk away with my dreams on paper and spoken aloud to a group of strangers turned friends. I could have never predicted what I would experience that day.

In fact, I almost didn't have this experience. I had known about the tour and I had been following Lara's blog posts (which, if you need firing up, go read them, NOW!), but based on the cost alone and the current state of my business, I just couldn't justify the cost. No matter how much I tried to rationalize it, it just wasn't in the cards. Or so I thought.

Lara Casey, who is seriously one of the most amazing women I've met to date, ran a contest on her blog for a free seat to one of the intensives. And thanks to the amazing people who attended the first Making Things Happen Intensive in Watercolor, FL, they organized a scholarship and raised $700+ to send a lucky person to the intensive. Amazing. I read through the post and I read the other comments from other inspiring folks with their stories. I thought that there was no way my comment would win. But on the other hand, if I didn't at least try, I would never know. So, I did it anyway.

Monday afternoon, I was running my usual errands, and I received a phone call. I didn't recognize the number so I didn't pick up. Later, when I checked the number, it said it was from North Carolina. Hmmm. I didn't know anyone from there. But then, I checked my voicemail. It was a message from Southern Weddings Magazine, calling about the Making Things Happen tour. My heart started beating. Fast. I tried finding the best spot in my house to make a phone call (reception is spotty at best, and I didn't want to miss a second), and called them back. And left a message.

Twenty minutes later, I received a phone call. It was Emily of Southern Weddings Magazine
. Then the phone signal started to waver. I rushed outside so that I could hear what she was telling me. "Story. Liked. Offer. Partial scholarship." These were the words I heard. Thankfully, I found a spot on the front lawn that had better reception and repeated the details back to Emily to confirm I heard them correctly.

They were touched by my story and wanted to offer me a partial scholarship to Making Things Happen.

My heart was racing at that point. I thanked Emily and said I would get back to her in 24 hours.

I literally started pacing. Around my house. Pacing. I probably looked crazy. But I think better when I'm active.

So I considered my options. I could turn it down and potentially regret it for the rest of my life. Or I could take opportunity by the reigns and quite literally, MAKE IT HAPPEN.

I talked to my husband. I explained the story. I told him about the books (another blog post to come). I told him about the signs (also another story). He said, "You should do it."

The next morning I nervously typed out an email to Emily. I laid it out on the table. I spoke from the heart. I told her I couldn't not take the opportunity. About ten minutes later, I receive an email from Lara herself, inviting me to Making Things Happen and thrilled to offer me the partial scholarship. A-MAZING.

I did a happy dance. I jumped up and down. I was fired up.

It was the phone call that started it all.

I totally didn't think that my little comment on a blog would leave a mark. But I also would have never known if I didn't try.

I love Lara's quote, "Feel the FEAR, and do it ANYWAY."

Seriously, what's the worst that could happen?

Is there anything holding you back? Something you've always wondered or wanted, but haven't tried because of fear?

Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

It just might change your life. It could be your joie de vivre.

Merci a tous,

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17 January 2010

Deep Conversations

There's nothing quite like a deep conversation. The kind that digs deeper than the weather or everyday activities. The kind that challenges you and makes your heart smile. The kind that you never want to end.

lily pond
(Author's collection. From Monet's Garden in Giverny, France 2003)

I relish deep conversations. I cherish each and every moment, and when they are over, I try to replay them in my head. Because they were that good. The conversations impact my life and make me rethink what I'm doing. In a good way.

Some of my favorite memories of meaningful, introspective conversations are from my year in France. Life seemed to pass by so much slower there. Probably because it was so new, and every day was a new adventure. Nothing had become a routine yet.

Something as simple as going to the boulangerie to buy bread was an adventure. The greeting, "Bonjour Madame," the ordering, "Je voudrais une baguette, s'il vous plait," the purchasing, and the closing, "Merci Madame, bonne journee."And if you missed any of that, you could be pegged the rude American. Just sayin'.

In France, I had time. I had time to sit at a cafe and contemplate life. Envision my goals. Imagine my wildest dreams coming true. I had time to think. I had time to have deep conversations.

I was the only student from my campus (in the University of California system) to go to Lyon that year, so I didn't know anyone. At first this thought intimidated me, having always considered myself a shy person, and the prospect of having to make new friends kind of freaked me out. But on the other hand, I saw this as an opportunity to meet new people who knew nothing about me. No preconceived notions about what they might have heard about me. Maybe some people would like me. Maybe some wouldn't. But I was okay with that.

The friendships I made that year were nothing short of amazing. I'm still close friends with them now. And it was during that year in France that I learned what a deep conversation can do for your life. How much you can learn in a span of a couple of hours. How much you can learn about your friends and yourself while chatting into the wee hours of the night. That there is nothing more precious than a handful of friends who you can trust with your hopes, dreams, and fears with. The friends you can ask any question and they won't think you're crazy or stupid.

It's those friends and types of relationships I want to surround myself with. It's those relationships that I cherish most.

And now, while my deep conversations happen a lot less often, I still hold them dear to my heart. In the last couple of days, I've had the pleasure of reconnecting with friends I haven't spoken to in months. Having those conversations I never want to end. Sharing those deep thoughts. Those crazy dreams. The things that fire me up. The things that embody joie de vivre.

In my journey for finding the joie de vivre,  I'm going to connect with those friends more often. I'm going to make time. Because it's relationships like those that change lives. Change minds. Change the world. Excuses are easy. But making things happen is what it's about.

Have you had a deep conversation lately? Have you shared your hopes, dreams, and fears? If you haven't, what's holding you back?

Pick up the phone.

You never know what experience or opporunity lies on the other end.

Merci a tous,

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16 January 2010

Dreaming Big and Out Loud

I think people forget to dream big. They overlook it. They take it for granted. They put it off for later.

Or they never tell anyone. They keep their dreams hidden. Guarded and safe. But safe from what? Safe from achieving those dreams? Safe from pursuing your heart's desire? Why?

Over the last couple of days, that idea has been challenged. The idea and notion of dreaming big was not only encouraged, it was necessary. Mandatory. We had to utter those words, whatever they were. We had to feel the fear and do it anyway. And though it was challenging - I started to literally shake and my voice quavered - I stated my dream out loud. We all spoke our dreams. What we are going to be or do someday. What we want in our lives.

Without big dreams, how do we know where we are going? How do we know where we want to go? How do we know when we have succeeded?

I don't think we can.

After stating my big, hairy, audacious dream out loud, it was out there. It started to materialize. And it's first manifestation is this blog.

I love the French lifestyle.  I love the French savoir-faire (literally means knowing how to do). I love French food (hello Salade Lyonnaise and Crepes with Nutella and bananas). I just love it. It brings back amazing memories and having lived amazing experiences.

And who doesn't want to have lived a life FULL of...life?

I want to live a life full of experiences, whether it be food, travel, photography, adventure, conversation, and wherever my dreams may take me, I want it to be full. Fully lived. Full of joy.

Joie de vivre: the joy of living.

Dream big. Dream out loud.

Live your dreams. Find the joy.

Merci a tous,

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15 January 2010

The Start of a Journey...

Yesterday, I blurted out my pie in the sky crazy awesome dream.

And in an amazing series of moments and conversation, I realized my passion. My deep-down-to-the-core-feel-it-in-your-soul passion. Like the kind that makes you start to weep kind of passion. Like it hits you, hard. Without notice.

passion: intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction

So thus begins this blog.

Why Project: Joie de Vivre?

joie de vivre: the joy of living

Quite literally. That's what joie de vivre means. And I think that the French have nailed it on the head. Having lived there as a child and then again as a young adult, I was able to experience real life in France. Not just as a tourist. Not just on a casual vacation. But I got to live. And I can honestly say that living in France were some of my happiest years of life. It was truly life changing.

Granted, my first stint in France was when I was four until I was seven, but that experience has ALWAYS stayed with me. Always. Twenty years later, I still have memories of those days. How life seemed so much easier. So much lighter. And I think that's because it was.

I learned to speak French because I had to. I didn't go to an American school. We lived in a small town about an hour outside of Lyon, which is two hours by TGV (high-speed train) southeast of Paris. I don't think they had a fully dedicated American school in our little town in the late 80's. And I'm so glad they didn't. I was able to have the full experience. Like a real French kid.

I remember my first word I learned. Poisson. No, not poison. But fish. Ever seen The Little Mermaid where Chef Louie sings about fish? Yeah, that poisson. And from there I just picked up. The resilience of young children. I learned how to read in French before I did English. I had a real French accent. At five years old, I was correcting my parents' pronunciation. Go figure.

I remember my parents had such a happy life there. My mom was able to stay at home. Live the life. My sister was born in France. We traveled to neighboring countries. I mean, seriously, what kid can say that they've been to Italy, Germany, Greece, England, Austria, Switzerland, all before the age of 8?! I can. And I'm so much better for it. I was able to see the world. Appreciate the beauty in each place. Appreciate the unique ways of life.

When I returned to live in France in 2003, it was an amazing year. With a fresh perspective as a budding young adult, I was able to live day to day in the shoes of a French student. Again, while I was there, I attended L'Institut d'Etudes Politiques, a part of the Universite de Lyon system. A real French school with real French students.

And man, do French students study hard. Like fiercely hard. And I think that's why they enjoy their vacations so much. It's well deserved. The French university system definitely introduces you to bureaucracy right away. But it's a system, and it's a system that works for the French. And shoot, they've been around as a country for a very, very long time.

My life in France is unparalleled with any other experience. This is not to say that I don't love my life now. But I think that in the United States, we get so caught up with status and chasing status, that we forget to live. Forget to live the life that we've been given. We forget to serve. We forget to encourage.

It's been a lifelong dream to return to France. To enjoy the food. To savor the wine. To take a promenade down the street. To live. Fully and joyfully.

And so the birth of this blog. It's a project, a path, a journey towards unlocking that passion, and making it real. Making it tangible. Finding the joie de vivre. Living the life I've been given and defining the path on my terms.

This is my journey. Come, join me.

Merci a tous,

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