Diego Turned Angel

On Child's Level.pngI’ve never considered myself to be certifiably insane, but – deciding to be a long-term sub for the last month of the school year? – maybe I should reconsider the state of my mental health.

After I resigned from my cushy (and soul-numbing) corporate job in April, I took a three-week long term substitute teaching assignment at a nearby elementary school. I figured it would be a good opportunity to learn some key teaching skills before I started my full-time teaching job in August. And I was right.

What I hadn’t taken into consideration were the facts that:

  • These 5th graders in my class had already finished their state testing and so felt like there was no more learning to be done.
  • They believed that they ruled the world (as the oldest grade in their school).
  • Summer (and graduation from elementary school) was less than one month away.
  • It was a Title I school.
  • I had basically zero experience with classroom management.

Suffice it to say, I nearly died those first few days. I had kids threaten to have their parents sue me when I said the wrong thing, had kids tell me they hated me and I was the worst teacher ever, had parents calling in wanting a parent-teacher conference because they believed their child was being bullied, had to get a counselor involved because a fifth grade boy was following girls into the bathroom and touching them inappropriately… It. Was. Madness.

But I survived. And I am better for it. And, looking back, it was actually a lot of fun. Because – for the first time in nearly eight years – I actually had purpose. I actually felt challenged. And I finally made an impact.

Diego was one of the kids I nearly sent to ISS the first day I subbed. He talked incessantly and, as soon as I got the class calmed down and on task, he (as a natural leader and the class clown) had the power to get them all off task again. I felt like I was constantly battling him for the class’s attention.

And Victor. He was the most simultaneously hateful, cynical, apathetic person I have ever met in my entire life. He loved to argue with me in front of the class just for argument’s sake. He knew I couldn’t physically touch him, so he openly defied me on a daily basis when I asked to speak with him privately outside. He refused to go in the hallway, and I couldn’t physically force him, so for a long time, I lost the daily battles of power struggle with Victor – the most arrogant, abrasive student I can imagine I will ever have in decades of teaching.

But as the weeks went on and I learned students’ names and personalities and values and insecurities, I slowly learned how to individualize not only my teaching but also my motivation and discipline of each one.

On my last week of subbing, the students were supposed to be engaging in silent reading time. Diego repeatedly got off task, reading out loud in an intentionally loud voice and distracting other students. When I asked him to read silently, he claimed not to be able to read without saying the words out loud (this was a lie). He – like Victor – refused to go into the hall with me, so I knelt down on his level and whispered to him quietly.

“Diego,” I sighed. “I know you think I don’t like you, but I do. I think you’re adorable. You’re smart, funny and a natural leader. You have so much potential!”

I shrugged my shoulders and continued as I knelt beside his desk on his eye level. “You are not a bad kid. But right now you are making bad choices. I can see the kind of man you could be, and I really want to see you reach your full potential. You are natural leader with a lot of power to do a lot of good in the world. But in order to do that, you need to start making better choices.”

To my surprise, Diego’s eyes started to water. He was tearing up, and I realized he probably had never been told by anyone that he had potential; that he had value and worth and power to do good in the world. So I went on, “It’s really up to you. I only have a few days left here, so it won’t affect me either way. But every day, you make choices that have consequences, and those can be good or bad consequences. I hope for your sake – and the world’s – you choose good.”

Diego just hung his head and wouldn’t make eye contact with me after that, so I left him alone, but he was surprisingly quiet the rest of the day.

The next morning, the class was working individually on a math worksheet, and – to my surprise – Diego raised his hand and asked for help understanding how to add fractions. He’d never expressed interest in learning before. Encouraged, I knelt by his desk and gently explained to him how to find common denominators so he could add (or subtract) fractions easily. I watched the lightbulb flash in his eyes as he “got” it, and he worked a few problems on his own to show me that he understood the concept.

Later that afternoon, some girls got in trouble for selling homemade “slime” (that ended up clogging the school toilets), and a lot of the kids – exposed to this entrepreneurial spirit for perhaps the first time – were trying to figure out how they could make some side money selling something at school. Diego came up to me and asked simply, “Will you give me five dollars?”

“Why would I give you five dollars?” I asked, not unkindly.

Diego looked thoughtful. “What if I gave you something?”

“Like what?” I asked, forcing him to think through what he was asking.

“Hmm… like a cake?” he suggested.

“That sounds nice,” I told him. “What kind of cake?”

He furrowed his brow, thinking hard. “Maybe chocolate or strawberry?”

I smiled. “Diego, if you bring me a chocolate cake tomorrow, I will give you five dollars.”

I had little to no expectation that the little man who’d given me so much trouble would actually follow through in baking a cake, but the next morning, Diego bounded into my room, beaming with delight he tried to hide a bit as he dashed up to me holding a little 9″x9″ foil pan.

“I brought it!” he exclaimed, and I peeled back the foil to see chocolate icing covering what looked like a homemade box cake.

I smiled at him and pulled a $5 from my wallet. “Here you go,” I told him. “You earned it!” His delight as he accepted the money made me smile all the more.

In retrospect, I probably couldn’t have done that exchange with Diego if I was a full-time teacher or if I hadn’t been about to leave that school campus, but I’m thankful for the way it worked out because not only did I finally make a meaningful, positive connection with a formerly disruptive student, but Diego also learned some important lessons about entrepreneurship, determination, and the power of our choices. He finally had someone show him tough love and believe in him for becoming more than he was.

The next day was my last day, and I had essentially no hope for a reconciliation with Victor, but even he surprised me. Early in the day, I kept Victor outside of the computer lab to talk with him before he went in. I gave him a similar speech to the one I’d given Diego, and like the other boy, Victor started to tear up. I don’t think either one had ever experienced a loving “I believe you for better” heart-to-heart. And at the end of that school day, Victor – the thorn in my side and bane of my existence – was the first to volunteer to stack chairs on the desks before recess. He picked up loose papers and helped me tidy up the classroom without being asked, and my heart was warmed by his transformation.

After a tough few weeks, God gave me two amazing reminders of why I’m going into teaching. It’s going to be hard but good. It’s going to be challenging but worth it. There are days I will want to cry in frustration, but I believe there will be great purpose and impact on individual lives. And that’s what I want to be about in this next year and in this next season of life.

A few weeks later, Seth and I were at dinner with some friends – old and new – and one of the new girls asked what I did for a living. After a few moments, we made the connection that she had formerly been a teacher at the elementary school where I’d subbed. “Oh my gosh! You’re THAT sub! I heard you did an amazing job, and all the teachers there want to have you back as the sub for their classrooms!”

I smiled and thanked her, storing up those words in my heart. As we drove away in his truck hours later, Seth turned to me and said with a squeeze of my hand, “Your reputation precedes you. I’m proud to have you by my side.”

I’m glad to be there. It’s nice to be appreciated.

Authentically Aurora

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The Dietitian

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Every year, my company pays for me to have a full physical done. It’s a nice perk, actually, except that every year they tell me in some way or form that I am morbidly obese.

Some years, it’s my BMI. Other years, it’s my Body Fat %. One year, my LDL cholesterol was just 1 point too high. I’m young and healthy, right in the center of where I’m supposed to be on the Height/Weight chart, so I tend to mostly ignore the comments about my supposed obesity.

This year, my Body Fat % was measured at 26.0% by the pinch test, so they brought in an on-site dietitian to talk with me. Insert April Ludgate saying, “I hate talking. To people. About things.” 

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The dietitian and I went over my typical meals and snacks throughout the week. I think I eat pretty healthy, especially considering how I ate my first year out of college.

Cookie SliceBack when I started at this company (and all the bitterness began), I used to comfort myself with an entire Slice from Great American Cookie Company. Every day.

Once I realized that was a terrible life choice, I transitioned to a season where only after a particularly hard day at work would I come home and bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies to eat in its entirety. By myself.

From there, I moved to just eating a dark chocolate bar (the whole bar). Now – eight years later – I allow myself a handful of almonds and blueberries while I watch an episode of Parks & Rec to help me unwind.

I made all of these decisions over the past few years without a dietitian, and I feel pretty good about my food choices. But last week when I told the dietitian that I eat almonds for a snack, she said, “You need to stop eating so many nuts. They are high in fat.”

Almonds.png“Yeah, but I’m eating almonds, not peanuts. And it’s good fat.”

“How do you feel about celery?”

“I feel like I don’t hate myself.”

We moved on from snacks to my lunch choices, and when she found out that I eat salads for lunch – which I think should have constituted at least a tiny smile and “good job” – her first question was, “How much dressing do you put on?” I go to Salata and ask them to half the dressing, I told her, proud of myself.

But there was no praise to be had. Did this woman know my boss? Were they related? “You should really ask for the dressing on the side,” she chided me.

Internally rolling my eyes, we moved on to protein shakes. “How much fruit do you put in?” I was cautioned to only use vegetables, not fruit, because fruit is “high in sugar.” I also use almond milk, and she shook her head. Another error on my part evidently. “Almond milk doesn’t have the same protein count as regular milk. You need to be drinking soy instead.” But aren’t there hormone concerns with drinking soy?

For breakfast, I eat one hardboiled egg. Surely she can’t say anything negative about that. Oh, but she could. “You should add some fruit to your breakfast.”

“But I thought fruit was high in sugar.” Hadn’t she just told me that?

“But you need to add carbohydrates to your breakfast. Try eating an apple or banana.”

It was a miserable experience. I feel like I’m doing a lot of things right. I don’t eat a Starbucks pastry for breakfast in the mornings like I want to. I eat an egg. I don’t eat pizza for lunch to comfort my miserable self from my life of sitting in a cubicle all day. I eat a salad. I only eat out about twice per week, but I was strongly advised, “You need to be splitting your entrees. Your waist can’t afford to eat an entire entree.”

At the same height and age range, I weigh less than this girl:

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My waist is 28″, and my hips are 37″. I am healthy. Could I afford to work out more? Yes. But I’m already pretty restrictive on my diet, and a little bit of positive encouragement would have gone much further than all of the chastising.

I shouldn’t have been surprised at the treatment, though. This woman is affiliated with my company. I can’t wait to leave.

Authentically Aurora

Our First Christmas

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Several weeks before Christmas, Seth asked me what kind of gifts my family gives for the holidays. Was our gift-giving practical? Sentimental? Minimalistic? Extravagant? “You’re such a generous person, I’m worried that you’re going to out-Christmas me,” he admitted.

First Christmases together are tough. You don’t want to do too little for the other person, but you don’t want to overwhelm them, either. It’s hard to find a balance and make sure your gifts to one another are somewhat equivalent. So I told Seth that I had already planned on three gifts for him – one store bought and two homemade. He gave a sigh of relief (three must have seemed reasonable), and I fully expected to receive about three gifts myself.

But I got fifteen.

FIFTEEN Christmas presents (!) from my boyfriend of eight months. Fortunately, they were spread out over November and December and even January, so I only actually received about half of them on Christmas, but I was still blown away by Seth’s thoughtfulness and generosity.

  1. Vacuum 

On Thanksgiving, Seth asked me if I ever participate in Black Friday. I never have, and hopefully I never will. But Seth loves a good deal, so he planned to venture out to Home Depot or Lowe’s on Black Friday, and he asked me if there was anything I wanted. I laughed, “I doubt there’s anything I want from Home Depot on Black Friday. But thanks for asking. The only thing I can imagine I’d try to get a deal on for Black Friday would maybe be a vacuum – I really need a new one – but I don’t think they sell those at Home Depot.”

The next morning, Seth showed up at my apartment with a $400 vacuum that he got half off at Target. And he wouldn’t let me pay him back. “Merry Christmas early,” he told me with a kiss on my cheek.

Some women might be offended if their boyfriend bought them a vacuum. But as a very practical almost-30-something, I thought his gift was one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I’ve gotten in years.

2 – 4. Apron, Laundry hamper, Chocolate

A couple of weeks before Christmas, Seth and I went shopping together at Marshall’s to pick up some cute (and discounted) gifts for family. While we were walking around the store, I saw an upscale laundry hamper for a great price and mentioned offhand that I should probably get a new one since the one I have now is from high school and has a hole in the bottom.

Seth loves when I wear an apron when I cook, so when we spotted a rack of high-quality aprons, I tried on a few and modeled them for Seth, twirling around playfully in the aisle. My favorite was white and mustard yellow with delicate ruffles along the bottom. And at the check-out line, I saw some gourmet chocolate-covered Oreos that looked delicious, but I exercised self-control and left them on the shelf.

Two days before Christmas, Seth showed up at my door with the unwrapped laundry hamper and a box containing both the apron and the gourmet Oreos. I felt so loved and cherished that he heard my comments and remembered them.

5 – 6. Two Necklaces

The morning of Christmas Eve, Seth and I did our first round of formal gift exchanges, and one of my favorite gifts was a sterling silver arrowhead necklace that he bought from a wonderful craftsman jewelry shop. It’s a reminder of one of the first times I visited his family’s ranch and found an arrowhead in the creek bed. It’s still one of the best arrowheads that’s ever been found at the ranch.

Seth bought me another necklace as well, but evidently it’s still in Turkey waiting to be shipped. He knows I love the Star of Bethlehem and all the science behind it, so he bought me a gorgeous Star of Bethlehem necklace that I can wear year round to remember how awesome our God is and how He has written a love story of poignant beauty in the stars.

7 – 9. Candle, Lotion, Shirt

Similar to the three gifts from Marshall’s, Seth demonstrated his active listening skills when he presented me with a Pomegranate Spruce candle I smelled and liked at a Cracker Barrel while waiting to be seated; some floral hand lotion we both liked at Bath & Body Works; and a really soft graphic tee we both loved at a small boutique near the family ranch.

10 – 12. Mirror, Theology Book, Carving Set

Seth had a full-length mirror he was planning to get rid of, but I didn’t have one in my bedroom, so he offered to drop it off at my place and mount it in my room for me. It has a white frame that goes well with my bedroom decor.

Seth also gave me an 800 page book on Systematic Theology, partially because he knows I love to geek out over that stuff, and partially because he wants us to read through it together and develop a joint faith statement. That may sound awful to some people, but it sounds pretty fun (and romantic!) to me.

Seth spends a lot of time in his woodworking shop, and I’d mentioned wanting to sit in there by him and whittle on some blocks, so Seth bought me a nice wood carving set. We’re talking about starting a joint project together.

13 – 14. Handmade Scrolled Centerpiece Bowl & Mounted Antlers 

In all of that time in his woodworking shop, Seth evidently had been spending a lot of hours working on Christmas gifts for me because, on Christmas Day, Seth presented me with a gorgeous wooden bowl that he carved himself with detailed scroll work. I was stunned. I figured he was talented, but I didn’t know he was this talented!

Seth is also still working on mounting the antlers from the buck I shot over Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas to me!

15. Handwritten Love Letter

And lastly – maybe my favorite gift of all – was a three-paged love letter in which Seth recounted some of our best memories and explained some of his favorite things about me. How I managed not to try at the initial reading is beyond me, because I have read it multiple times since Christmas and teared up at his sweet words.

Seth and I had a great Christmas together. He outdid himself, and I was stunned at his thoughtfulness. Some gifts were practical; others were romantic and sentimental. Overall, I spent my Christmas feeling very loved and cherished. Life is good.

Authentically Aurora

Sunshine Blogger Award

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Some of my favorite days are the cool, blustery days where the golden rays of sun shine down and warm your chilled hands and face even as you snuggle under a cozy, oversized sweatshirt. Serendipitously, I recently learned that there is a word for this phenomenon: apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day.

I like that word. Apricity. And it’s what I want to be to the world: the warmth of the sun on a cold day. The warmth of the Son on a proverbially cold day. That’s what Jesus came to be – light in the darkness; warmth to the cold. Neither dark nor cold actually exist; they are the absence of light and heat respectively, and Jesus came to freely give all He had to those who had none. Apricity – the warmth of the sun on a cold day. 

Little Sunshine over at Sunshine Ave recently nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award (an aptly-named award for a blog so named)!  Evidently…

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”.

…something I aim to do both on this blog and in everyday life! I am honored to have been nominated for this award and gladly accept! Thank you, Little Sunshine, for the nomination!

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for this award
  4. Write the same amount of questions for the bloggers you have nominated
  5. Notify the bloggers you nominated

Rule #1? Check!

Rule #2? Here we go…

Little Sunshine posed the following 10 questions for me to answer:

  1. What is your biggest dream?
    • This question makes me think of Rapunzel in “Tangled”. rapunzel-dream
    • I’ve had a lot of dreams over the years, and I’ve been blessed to see most of them come true. I used to dream of somewhat superficial things – visiting all 7 continents, releasing an original album on iTunes – but now I consider those more of life goals. A dream is something precious and intimate, interwoven into your heart. And these days, my dream is more like a vision – to be a wife and mother, full of life and joy, radiating light into the world and growing more and more into the godly woman I’ve been uniquely created to be.
  2. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
    • As mentioned in #1, I’ve had a goal for a while of visiting all 7 continents. I’ve been to about 30 countries and 5 continents, all of them wonderful experiences, and a year ago, I would have definitely said that I most want to visit Australia and New Zealand. But Seth is an American through and through; a homebody of a patriot, and we are taking a trip to California later this month, which is about as foreign a trip as this cowboy wants to take. And after imagining exploring California with Seth, there’s no place I’d rather be.
  3. Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?introverting-coffee-book
    • Introvert. Definitely. This surprises most people when they first hear it – mostly because I’m a pretty social, outgoing introvert – but my perfect day involves curling up in a quiet little nook with a latte and good book… or finding a secluded park where I can walk and think and listen to music on my earbuds… or staying home to clean and organize my apartment… or sitting alone in the silence to work on my latest art project. Mmm. Perfection.
  4. Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?
    • Yep. When I was in 2nd grade, I decided that I wanted to go to West Point and be an engineer. But what we want as sweet, innocent, idealistic 8-year-olds is not always aligned with reality, so although I am living the dream of having an engineering degree and working at a major oil company in Corporate America, I have discovered that the composite of the bureaucracy, politicking, process nazis and inauthenticity of my current workplace comprise something akin to my personal hell. Which is why I am changing careers to teaching… where I can spread my cynicism wisdom to the next generation.
  5. Do you usually follow your heart or your head?
    • My head. Sometimes going with your gut is a great option for quick decisions, but for any decision that allows for more than a few seconds to go with your first instinct, I have found that emotions are subject to the whim and fancy of the day and may not hold up longer-term. I prefer thinking through the logic of various options, examining my intentions, considering the ripple effect of whichever choice I make, and of course consulting God in prayer.
  6. What are you most thankful for? by-grace-through-faith
    • That while I was still a sinner, Christ did for me. Even though I am undeserving of being rescued from my sinfulness and total depravity, Jesus willingly took on the punishment I deserve (through his death and resurrection) so that I could be brought into a right relationship with God. Nothing compares with that – no family relationships, no dating relationships, no job or financial success… Without God’s love and mercy and grace, I would be like the walking dead.
  7. What’s on your bucket list this year?
    • Finishing my teaching certification. And maybe getting my CHL.
  8. What’s your favorite food ever?chocolate-is-a-girls-best-friend
    • Peanut butter. Or chocolate. Let’s go with chocolate covered almonds as a fair compromise. 😀
  9. What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
    • “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:36-40
  10. Which of the places you’ve traveled to inspired you the most, and why?
    • My favorite trip I’ve ever taken was to Germany at Christmastime with my family, but the place I’ve visited that most inspired me would have to be South Sudan, mostly because that trip helped to right my perspective on so many things in life. We are profoundly blessed.

Alright! Hopefully you all now feel like you know a bit more about me! Here are my nominees (I liked Little Sunshine’s questions, so answer these same questions if you choose to accept)!

  1. MyLittlePieceofQuiet
  2. Salvageable
  3. InsanityBytes
  4. MrsSpike
  5. BlissfulBritt
  6. SingleStrides
  7. INFJRamblings
  8. MySweetJesusBlog
  9. BeautyBeyondBones
  10. TheRoseQuartz
  11. Captainsspeech

Authentically “Sunshiny” Aurora

The Frugal Woman’s Shopping Spree

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My mom and I share a CVS Pharmacy card, so we double up on our points, meaning that I occasionally get a huge printout of coupons for use on my next visit. Last week I hit the coupon JACKPOT:

  • $3 off $15 lip or eye makeup
  • $3 off $9 Revlon cosmetics
  • $1 off $5 candy or chocolate
  • $1.50 off $4 body wash

Candy? Chocolate? Cosmetics? Yes, please! And BONUS! Body wash was on my shopping list already since I’m almost out!

It was like the stars aligned. The pharmacy fairies sprinkled some of their white powdery angel dust on me, and suddenly I was a pillionaire with coupons galore to save on all of a woman’s favorite things!

All day long, I looked forward to my shopping spree at CVS Pharmacy, and lo and behold, the bounty was indeed plentiful:

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All told, I saved nearly 25% on my indulgences (and items I needed to buy anyway)! Seth is a value shopper and, last time he heard about my frugality, rewarded me with a kiss. After hearing about my purchases at the pharmacy, I wonder what he’ll prescribe this time. 😉

Authentically Aurora

Today is a Day for Chocolate Cake

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Sometimes you have a boss who says that you don’t ask enough questions and are therefore incompetent, resulting in a poor performance rating (no matter that one typically asks questions when one does not understand anything; not vice versa).

Sometimes that same boss, once you start forcing yourself to ask more questions, provides the feedback that you require too much oversight, resulting in a poor performance rating.

On days fraught with such inane and contradictory feedback, one must go home and eat a small piece of dark chocolate.

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Sometimes you have a boss who happens to be a micro-manager incapable of delegating meaningful tasks, and this boss may present you with strong criticism based on your supposed lack of independence or ability to provide meaningful contributions to the team.

Sometimes that boss will refuse to let facts get in the way of her predisposition to dislike you – facts like your track record for never delivering a project behind schedule, and facts like your negotiating millions of dollars’ worth of savings for the company despite your boss’s inability to provide meaningful work.

On days filled with such frustration and injustice, one must stop by Starbucks for a Grande Mocha Frappuccino.

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Sometimes you have a boss who is so disrespectful and maddeningly incompetent at her role as manager that you have to run into the girls’ bathroom to cry at the office, and you’re not sure if it’s out of anger, frustration, sadness or hopelessness.

Sometimes after you’ve already had a long day of work, the bridal boutique where you returned your wedding dress two years earlier when your groom got cold feet right before the wedding – that bridal boutique sends you an email wishing you a happy wedding anniversary and inviting you and your nonexistent husband to be featured in their magazine.

On days like that, one must go home and bake oneself an ENTIRE FREAKING LOAF OF CHOCOLATE CAKE.

To be eaten alone.

On the couch.

In one sitting.

Today is a day for chocolate cake.

Authentically Aurora

Paris – Day 5

Sunday was our planned day trip to Versailles, so Rachel and I got up early and started our morning at Kozy, a breakfast cafe she’d found on Yelp. It was unremarkable and fairly westernized, with hipster chalkboard menus hung on the walls and written entirely in English. Regardless, any morning begun with a latte and chocolate croissant is a good morning!

We finished breakfast, walked to the Metro, bought our RER C tickets and got on the train for the anticipated hour-long ride. At the Javel stop, we were surprised to spot the original Statue of Liberty out the window. Pretty cool.

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Once at Versailles, we found it to be beautiful but crowded. Our Paris Museum Passes were supposed to gain us entrance to the Palace and Gardens, but at the gate to the gardens, we were told we had to buy an additional ticket for entry since the water show would be held later that evening. I argued with the attendant that their website said water shows were only on Saturdays (it was Sunday), and anyway, that day’s show was at 8:30 PM and it was only 10:00 AM. We would be long gone by the time the water show started.

The ticket puncher wouldn’t budge, so Rachel and I went to the nearby Versailles Cafe to burn off some steam. But the line was out the door. So we went to the Versailles Laduree. They would only sell a minimum of six macaroons at a time; customers had to buy an entire box at once. Beaten down, we got in line for the Palace. Over an hour later, we made it inside, where we waited in yet another line to go through security.

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The Palace was ornate but, in my opinion, not worth waiting for. Even the Hall of Mirrors – the entire reason I wanted to visit Versailles – was so full of people that the effect of the potential majesty was lost. The grandeur of the famous glass and crystal hall was diminished by all the madding crowds.

I also made the observation that all the paintings were of wars, French nobility or Greek mythology. One of the rooms is even called the Apollo room, but there is nothing remotely biblical throughout the Versailles Palace, at least not that I could see. I found that curious, considering how prominent biblical paintings and sculptures are throughout the rest of Europe, regardless of what the current inhabitants believe.

Ready to leave Versailles the instant the tour was over, Rachel and I took the train back into town and had lunch on Rue Cler. I ordered a Cobb Salad from Cafe Central; then we both got Nutella ice cream cones, which we took to a nearby park where little French children were playing, climbing trees and splashing water on each other from the fountainhead. It was interesting watching the French children play; they were very adventurous and active (and frequently without pants…?). Although we were in the midst of Paris, they acted like rural kids would in the States.

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We continued on to the grassy area around Les Invalides, where I laid in the grass for a while before putting in earbuds and walking around the park, quietly singing worship music over the people there. I felt the void of having missed my church community that morning, and I longed for God to be praised in this place.

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It was a beautiful day – sunny and 75 – so Rachel and I walked to Place de la Concorde; then through the Carrousel Garden and Tuileries Garden. We made it back to the greenery around the Louvre, where we were joined by Thomas and sat talking for a while before heading home to our Airbnb. As before, the Metro skipped over our Passy stop (perhaps it only stops at certain stations after a certain hour of the evening?), so we again walked home from Trocadero, rewarding ourselves with much-needed hot showers after climbing the 127 steps to our shared room. And then? Sweet sleep.

Authentically Aurora