What would you do with 10 euros

Upon stepping outside your house you realize that it’s a surprisingly mild day in Paris. The streets are bare for it’s Sunday morning which means a day of relaxation and family time for the local Parisians.

You stroll into an empty park and take in the beauty of the grounds and overall atmosphere surrounding you. A slight breeze stirs the leaves beneath your feet, blowing a piece of paper beneath your feet. Instantly you realize it’s not just paper but yet a bill; 10 euro to be exact.

The obvious action comes to mind and the bill slides quickly into your jacket pocket. You get a little high of having something you didn’t have 10 seconds ago and your mind starts to spin.

You could treat yourself to a warm croissant and an espresso.

Maybe you’d like a new hat or a pair of gloves.

You could have a couple glasses of wine at happy hour that evening

Your mind continues to discover the endless possibilities with what a mere ten euros could do for you.

You continue to walk through the park and into the quiet city and you’re thinking about what you’re going to do with that small bill. You pass cafes, shops and other pedestrians along the way none with a clue of what you found, just a short 10 minutes before.

Continuing on your journey, you come across a boy, and what looks to be his mother. laying on a mattress on the cold streets of Paris but you pass by like you do on any other occasion. Looking back you notice the empty starbucks cup waiting to be replenished with the days essential salary, but has yet to be filled.

Without thinking you return to that empty cup and do what your heart tells you is the right thing to do.

They didn’t beg nor did they talk but you know you changed their day with the faint smile on the young boys face. You aren’t aware of what how they will choose to spend it but you know they can use it. We all can use money no matter how much or how little we have.

You continue on your journey with the vision of that hot espresso and croissant long gone but the satisfaction of your choices elevated higher than you would have imagined.

Life goes on as if nothing had ever happened that day but inside you’ll never forget the smile on that boys face and how you changed his day.

As humans we are consumers; it’s inevitable, but the amount of our consumption is a choice.

Ten euros can’t buy a lot in today day and age but it’s still more than a lot of people can say they have in their pocket.

What would you do if you came across 10 euros laying on the ground in an abandoned park?

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It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.

Every day on my way in and out of Paris I pass the many homeless people along the streets and I simply pass them by like the many others do. I bypass them all, as if they don’t exist not because they are any less important, but because I hate the realization that there are people out there living in such hard situations. The sad truth is that they’re are people in need and even if I want to pretend there isn’t, nothing will change unless I make the choice to do something about it.

I’ll admit, there’s been plenty of times when I could have given someone change and I didn’t, and I have no excuses as to why I chose not to.

Today I did something that I haven’t done in a long time; too long to be exact. I chose to make a change.

I woke up this morning without a plan for the day which is an uncommon feeling  for me as I`m a constant planner. I did my daily Facebook check and found a notification for an event that I has been invited to a month or so before, but had completely forgot about. I`m not one to make rash decisions, in fact it usually takes me a day or two to make a final choice but this was different. Within 30 minutes of waking I was on my way to the local grocery store to pick up supplies to make as many sandwiches as I could.

I got some pretty strange stares from the family because to them, the best help you can give is money. Money can do a heck of a lot don`t get me wrong but it almost seems like the easy way out.  Anyone can give a few bucks away but not everyone is willing to give time.

Not even a year ago I would have done things the easy way and donated and not thought twice about it. This is where its truly evident how much this year abroad has changed me as a person.

I showed up to the meeting place which ended up being a Swedish church in the north of Paris. I had no idea what to expect , only that I was giving my  Sunday to helping as much as I possibly could.

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I ended up chatting with a few other giilrls while creating sandwiches with baguettes and cheese. Then I heard an Americana accent so I turned around and said my go to phrase “you’re Canadian or american am I right?”

988474_10206255761856188_8985002146296347539_n Sure enough he was from Portland Oregon! We did our introductions and I found out he was on vacation for two weeks visiting the city, enjoying the couch surfing activities and apparently helping out the locals. I was shocked to say the least, that here was someone on vacation in Paris at that, and donating their free time to wander the streets of Paris for hours giving away as much as we could.

I almost felt guilty questioning why this man was spending his time doing what we all should do. Why is it that being a good citizen has become something so uncommon? I’m not going to lie, I feel amazing after once again stepping outside of my comfort zone but it’s almost pathetic that it’s taken me this long of being in Paris to volunteer my time. 10989125_10206254892794462_5182212868713125330_n (1)

This whole experience today was life changing, to be honest. It opened my eyes to a global crisis that I bypass every single day. It’s impossible to help everyone in need, but even just by donating a couple hours of your week, you can make a small change in someones life.

We often take for granted the things that most deserve our gratitude

We as humans complain, its natural.

Au pairs, myself included complain a lot. Once again natural, especially in our circumstances. It could be the smallest thing but yet we still have to let the world know that it’s bothering us. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather bringing me down but lately I’ve noticed a higher level of negativity towards not only my job but life in general. When I sit down and actually lay out exactly what I do have in my life, not only physically but emotionally as well, i’m beyond blessed.

I’ve decided to create a list of the things I take for granted to really show how fortunate I am to be in the situation I am in currently.

1. I have a safe roof over my head which I actually look forward to coming home to.

2. There is always more than enough food to eat and a variety at that.

3. A job that may not be what I want to be doing for the rest of my life but for now this is what I have chosen.

4. A beyond kind and caring host family. I may be 21 but it’s still nice to come home to a family that considers you their daughter and treats you as one of their own.

5. I get paid always on time or in advance which is something that the majority of my fellow Au pairs are having issues with.

6. I wake up in the morning and I’m alive and breathing.

7. Technology. t’s crazy how much I rely on it for the majority of the things I do throughout the day. I can call my family in Canada in the matter of a minute, or message my friends with a few swipes of my finger.

8. I have an abundance of clothes to wear and to keep myself warm. If you’re friends with me you’ll constantly hear me complain that I have too many clothes and I’m not going to be able to take them all back with me to Canada or I will have to take another suitcase. I’ve decided that the clothes that I don’t absolutely need I will donate before I leave instead of creating more stress than I need.

9. I’m not cheap, I’m just frugal. I’m fortunate that this was something that I acquired from my grandmother Cress, who can make a dollar last longer than anyone I know.

10. I have a voice. If you know me well enough I’m not the type that let’s things pass me by and always speak up when I am not happy with something. I know for a fact that my other grandmother Chute gave me this attribute and couldn’t be prouder.

Hearing the stories of my friends and their current situations within their families really makes me appreciate what I have. I’ll admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t want to pack my bags and head home but what I’ve learned in the past is that running away from a problem never solves anything. I’m fortunate enough to have a close enough bond with my family here where we can openly discuss issues that come about no matter what problems arise. I’ve come to the conclusion that living a life of perfect happiness may be acquirable but unrealistic, for me anyways.

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I’m in France, essentially living the dream and how many people can say they’ve done that?

Without struggle there is no progress.

Not only is it the phrase that gave me strength to be the woman I am today but it will be on me until the day I die.IMG_1017

We often reflect on the hard times in the past and see them as negative, which is the obvious response when we experience things we’re not particularly happy or fond of. What about if those experiences shaped who we are today and are the reason for the current lifestyle we live. I know that would change my thoughts on my past completely.
Would I be living this life in Paris today if I hadn’t of gone through what I have in the past few years of my life? Probably not, actually no there’s no probably about it.

I’m here in this city because of those times but now I no longer see them as being bad or unfortunate for happening. At the time yes, when things wouldn’t go as planned and life seemed to change directions every single day, I felt a sense of failure almost. Failure in the sense that I didn’t know what was next; unprepared even.

I’m 21.

I’m not perfect.

I’ll never be perfect,

but i’m me.

I need to continue to remind myself this each and everyday. Being a perfectionist I always feared doing the wrong, but what truly defines the wrong when you are the only one who can decide where your life goes. I definitely am not eager to come across failures in my life but I do believe that with every negative comes an ever larger positive. Of course as anything it all takes time. Did I wake up the next morning after deciding that I needed a fresh start and know exactly what I wanted to do? Nope, but sooner than I thought life worked it’s way out and lead me here.

As my mother tried to instill into me when I was young girl, and still to this day reminds me of, “life is not perfect”. Of course I took the hard way and didn’t listen but I learnt from it and I truly believe that much stronger from the struggles I’ve faced. As much as we want our plans in life to pan out the way we foresee them, sometimes obstacles may open more opportunities that wouldn’t have had.

Growing up is never easy

Something that I’ve recently realized, and has been tough to actually want to come to terms with, is the fact that I’m growing up whether I like it or not.

When we’re younger all we want is to be older, have more independence and be essentially free from rules. So here I am, now a considerably amount older with more freedom than I want sometimes, and all I want is to reverse back time; when life consisted of unlimited ice cream and doing cartwheels on the soccer field.

I’ve been away from home for the past 4 years now but this time is different. I can’t just drive an hour on the weekend to spend time at home or be involved in the annual activities like I used to. I’m used to being able to do anything and be anywhere but that’s impossible in my current situation. I missed out on the annual girls trip which I have gone on with my grandparents, aunts, mother and cousins for years. Of course it’s upsetting not the be able to do everything but that’s life as I’ve come to realize. There will always be things we want to be doing and places we want to be no matter where or what we do.

When I was home I dreamed about being abroad travelling and here I am abroad and dreaming about home. That’s what life seems to be all about; having to make sacrifices simply because we can’t do everything we desire. Imagine having everything in life go perfectly as planned to your utmost satisfaction. Do you think you’d be happy?

More than likely, not.

Growing up I was very fortunate to have the guidance and love that my parents gave me which helped shape me into the person I am today. At home I had a very satisfying life to be honest. I had a car, a roof over my head, a well paying job and was always surrounded by family but that didn’t mean I was happy; or at least the happiest I could be. That’s simply because my time had come to find my place in this world outside of the comfort of my surroundings. Over the past five months I’ve been able to see a whole new person emerge from this body and I’m not about to let her leave.

My happiness is determined by my own choices.

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Goals not Resolutions for 2015

I think it’s important not to set high resolutions that are unrealistic or unpractical. I know that in that past  I’ve definitely done this to myself and then wondered why they were never successful. This year there will be no resolutions just because its a brand new year. Heck I wake up every morning and its a brand new day so what’s the difference. A new day means the ability to start fresh and change the things I’m unhappy with. With that being said I am going to set realistic goals for myself for things that I would like to accomplish throughout the year.

1. Start and finish a french novel. 

2. Travel to at least 3 new cities, notice I wrote cities and not countries because there specific cities within countries I’ve already been to that I need to see. Greece is a must once summer hits, Venice in the spring and fingers crossed for Prague at some point. Oh and Barcelona… Let’s just say there’s no end to my travel list.

3. Gain 10 pounds. Yeah most people might want to start that diet they’ve been putting off for 5 years now, and here I am just wanting the opposite.

4. Read more. Having ebooks are awesome but I’m constantly distracted doing other things on my Ipad instead of reading.

5. Pay off my student loans. I’m able to comfortably do so, therefore I think I should before I watch my interest accumulate when it doesn’t need to.

6. Take a cooking class in Paris. This is something that I’ve wanted to do but once again haven’t…

photo: Codiqua

7. Enroll in the Integrative Nutrition Course.  DONE!

8. Actually start doing yoga or at least gain more knowledge on the sport. 

9. Attend a language exchange meet up in Paris. I have been saying that I’m going to do this for the past 4 months and i’m determined to actually follow through with this before I leave.

10. Go to bed before 11 every night. I have a habit of staying on my phone until past midnight because I leave it plugged in beside my bed which isn’t going to happen anymore. This chick needs sleep.

I’m looking forward to what this new year has to bring. I’ve decided to go back to school and will be starting classes in March on top on my french classes I’m also enrolled in. I’m going to be busy that’s for sure. I’m here in France till at least the end of July and then after that my plans are undecided which may sound a bit, i don’t know. irresponsible? absurd? Actually, I’m finally at a point in my life where the unknown is no longer a fear. Here’s to many new adventures.

winning the jackpot when it comes to finding a host family

Winning the jackpot, now wouldn’t that be nice. Though, I’ve come to realize that money doesn’t always mean happiness and that winning the so called lottery can actually refer to many other things in life, such as family. I really enjoy this quote as it’s been ever so true in my life so far here in Paris. The only reason that I’m even here is the fact that I essentially gambled with finding a family, not knowing what they would be like before arriving. In this instant I won but only because I made the decision to chance the unexpected in hope of hitting the so called jackpot, and here I am a winner.

I don’t want to sit here and boast about how amazing my life is here in Paris but boy, is it ever good. I’ve taken way too many things for granted in my life and being here is something I’m not about to let myself do again. I have the most amazing family here and am ever so fortunate to have found them or for them to have chosen me of all people to be apart of their family for the year. I’ve heard horror stories from other au pairs with their own situations resulting in many of them leaving which makes me that much more grateful.

This past Saturday, which is typically a day off for me, I was awakened by a slight knock on my bedroom door only to find that it was the father, inviting me to go to the supermarket with him to grab some groceries. Some groceries meaning 2-3 weeks worth. Of course I was more than enthused at this idea as it’s become a bi-weekly event for us, actually more like a language exchange date. We talk English on the way there so he can practice and than french on our way home for me. Following our expedition to Auchan we ate an Indian styled lunch that the father prepared and might I say was very proud about. That afternoon the family invited me to go to the cinema with them to watch Paddington, and I accepted the invitation of course. The movie was by far one of the cutest family films I have watched in a while, and being able to experience it with the three of them made it that much better, especially since I’m missing my own family over this holiday.

Yesterday morning, before I left for Paris the family asked me if I would be home for supper this evening and as the majority of Sunday evenings the answer is yes. They were more than thrilled at this response for some odd reason and therefore explained they would be cooking my favorite sweet potato fries which I haven’t had in 4 months, accompanied by a new red wine he had bought of course. This family has no obligation to do these small things for me, but gosh am i ever appreciative. The fact that they are making such an effort to make me feel as comfortable as possible in this foreign country is beyond what I expected when being welcomed into their family. While the mother did the nightly routine with Perrine the father and I enjoyed a bottle of red wine and had a pretty in depth conversation about the importance of spending time with your children. That’s one thing I notice with this family, is that they really focus on making the weekends family time with just the three of them.

It’s just the small things that really make the difference for me.

– Coming down stairs every morning to a fresh cup of coffee already prepared for me.
– the dad gave me his train ticket to London and back (okay this one is a bit more than a little gesture but very appreciated)
– they make an effort to make meals that they know I will enjoy
– after my showers at night there’s always a cup of green tea waiting for me in the living room
– they invite me to their family events and social gatherings as if I’m another member of the family
– they are never more than a day late with my weekly pay

It’s as if I was given the best of both worlds here; a good job and a great family.

How to enjoy your job no matter what is it you choose

My job may not be something desirable for many, I mean, before coming here I really didn’t even have an interest in even being around children but as you probably can tell, that’s changed a bit. I must admit at the beginning it was harder than I had imagined it to be but frankly I believe that it had to do with my general attitude and outlook on the situation. Even though i’m only 21 I too have had jobs which I dreaded going to each and every day, but I learned to make the best of the situation. In the world we live in today, I feel we should be lucky to have a job and that it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to love your job as much as her? wishful thinking in most cases. Photo from: Dumb Little Man

1. Find the things you enjoy in a job atmosphere.

Try and put yourself in a place where you are completely happy at work and visualize what you are doing. For me I saw being organized, traveling often, baking up a storm, and most of all having a connection with my fellow peers.

I can honestly say the hardest task in my current job was finding a comfortable relationship with the family; especially their child. It took almost 2 months to finally feel like I was doing the right thing with my life and had chosen the right family for me.

2. Figure out how to incorporate those into your current situation.

Of course this is not always possible. Imagine having chose to work at a bank but have the desire to be playing soccer on the field. Instead you could think of how you’re feeling when doing those activities. For example, if you’re the captain of leader on the team than put those skills and abilities into action at the workplace.

Baking was something that I really missed as it’s not just a hobby for me but psychology relaxing. It’s where I’m able to use my creativity and independent skills to come up with a successful end product. Oh course there’s no such thing as always being successful but that’s life; we live and we learn. Once I found that sense of comfort in my “workplace” I started slowly organizing time specifically for baking or spending time blogging. It’s like anything in life, you have to make time for the things that are important to you.

3. Don’t give up because it didn’t work the first time.

Two weeks into my contract with my family here I had it set in my mind that I had made a terrible decision and that I was going to have to find another place to work. Why? that brings me back to finding that sense of comfort, which as I’ve learned takes time. Nothing ever comes easy in the beginning and sometimes, well most of the time, we feel uncomfortable with change. Change is scary, but without it you’ll never be able to make any progress in life, therefore it’s essential.

Don't Give Up

If Charlie brown can do it, you can too. Photo: Career Rocketeer

4. Speak up

If you’re not happy with the way that thing are going don’t wait for things to change because they probably won’t no matter how many stars you wish upon. Thankfully I’ve been blessed with my grandmothers genes and have no problem expressing my thoughts, this can at times be counter productive. I truly believe that communication is the key to any sort of success in life. Imagine having a relationship with someone where you didn’t communicate with one another and how many challenges you would face. It works the same its you’re relationships in the workplace.

5. Make yourself noticeable.

As humans we naturally thrive with having recognition for our accomplishments. Recognition comes when we differentiate yourself from others and make an impact in the lives of someone else. This can be difficult especially in my situation where I am the only employee but let me reassure you that it is possible. I’ve realized you’ve got to give a little to get a little and that little you receive i return may just end up being a lot.

I do the dishes, clean the house and do the laundry not because I’m required to as it’s not on my contract but because I want to help out. I want to show this family that I appreciate being a member of their family and am not just another employee, yet more a sister to their daughter. When the dog went missing I took it upon myself to search their town and guess who ended up being the big hero? Yep, it was me. Showing your employer those small things will show that you have higher and more a creditable qualities than they may have thought

6. Forget Perfectionism

I am a huge perfectionist so I’ve defiantly had my quite a few rough patches when of course life, wasn’t perfect. Growing up my mother would constantly say “nothing is perfect, you need to realize that”. I guess our mothers are always right, because it’s true. Nothing is every going to be “perfect”, whatever that word means anyways, because everyone has their own idea of what it means to them. As I’ve learned, we can’t all get what we want in life, but we can make do with what we do have and what is offered to us.

Have you had jobs where you’ve absolutely hated them but stuck it out? 

How to successfully teach children a second language

Learning another language doesn’t come easy, for a grown adult that is, so imagine trying to instill it into a child with the attention span of Sid from Ice age.

Children learn differently than adults and grasp concepts when they enjoy what they are doing. Think about when you were young and the ways that you enjoyed learning, whether it be in the classroom or in your everyday life. For me, that would have been playing games, singing songs, making arts and crafts, and cooking. Once you figure out what it is that your “student” enjoys doing than it will be 100 times more effective for both you and them.

The number one thing that you have to remember is to be patient with them. Put yourself in their position and remember that you too were once a child and your mentality was not where it is today. Start slow and focus on the little things before jumping into more complicated subjects.

For example: Don’t expect the child to understand a sentence before reviewing individual words or the alphabet for that matter.

Applications

Kids like technology especially Computers, phones and tablets. Thankfully we have been blessed to have access to applications and software’s that provide aide in learning languages.

Duolinogo was the first application that I found when actually learning the French language myself and then was able to use it in reverse to teach English. It is a great tool in order to learn the basics of the language but may require more support from the teacher as it can become complicated as the levels increase. I find that the children enjoy the satisfication of completing a level giving them a desire to continue “playing the game”.

Pilo Pop is another application made especially for younger children who may not have the interest or attention span for Duolingo, for example. It challenges the learner to use the correct pronunciation when saying the words indicated in order to pass to the next level. For my host child the accomplishment factor is a huge asset, as I’m sure it is among many children.

Music

In my own situation I know that as soon as I include any sort of song into our lesson, my “student” is 100% interested in what I’m attempting to teach her. She loves music so I know how important it is to make sure she is actually attentive to what I’m explaining.

Try and find songs that are both educational but also of interest to the child. A great way to start is with the alphabet and then nursery rhymes which are typically spoken slow and easy for the child to understand. During seasonal holidays I like to include traditional songs into our lessons but in English. I’m been very fortunate to have been supplied with my books that include CD’s pertaining to the activities as well as traditional children songs in English.

Games

If you’re able to get your child away from an electronic game then bring out the old school board games and try and introduce vocabulary in English throughout the game. A great one that I have found is Guess Who or Qui Est-Ce. When playing this game, be sure to ask questions in English which are repeated helping the brain to memorize certain phrases and words pertaining to the game. Bingo is also a great choice when learning vocabulary and can be fun as well. The great thing about the world we live in today is that all of these resources are readily available online typically free of charge or are simple enough to create yourself.

Books

Try and find bilingual books where you are able to read the same story in both your native language and theirs. Another good option would be to find activity books where the children are able to essentially have fun while doing activities throughout the story they are reading. Make sure the stories are not too difficult when beginning or the child may become frustrated and disinterested in what you are trying to accomplish.

From personal experience I’ve noticed that kids are uninterested in listening to a book where they aren’t able to understand frankly anything that is being told. Don’t be discouraged if the child has no interest in listening to you read them a picture book even if you may think that it’s simple. Grasping a language takes time and starting off with a story isn’t typically the most effective way to grab their interest in learning.

You can find the book I find most effective by clicking here. 

Crafts

Try incorporating activities where the child is able to be involved in the creation of something where you can point out objects in English. For instance painting is a great activity where you can use the different colors as a way to incorporate vocabulary while having fun at the same time. If you aren’t already on Pinterest I suggest you create an account because you will be able to find endless, and I mean ENDLESS ideas and activities to do with just about anyone. Be aware though, it’s addicting!

So there you have the most successful methods I’ve been able to use in order to teach french to my host child. Being an au pair is one thing and having the responsibility to also teach a second language to someone can be a difficult taste. Be patient, be aware of how the child leans best and most of all have fun!

So this is what growing up feels like

it’s Friday night and i want nothing more than to stay at home with my host family enjoying unlimited glasses of wine and talking the night away about nothing in particular.

I feel old. 

Not even 2 months ago I would have wanted nothing less than to jet out of this house as soon as the parents got home from work, and now everything has changed. This is not to say I don’t love a good night out with friends but I’ve learned to appreciate other things in life that are also important to me.

This family has not only accepted me into their house but has taken me in as one of their own children. I finally feel like a part of this family and not just their employee.

I look forward to nightly routines of setting the table together while enjoying champagne then diving into the red wine when supper is ready. I must admit the conversations we come up with are often bizarre and random but that’s what makes it so enjoyable. For me, I need balance in life in order to be happy. Balance having a safe and secure home setting while also having the ability to be sociable with friends and enjoy what this year has to offer.

As many young people (and older, who am I kidding) I love going out and having a few drinks with my friends.. okay, when we go out there’s usually more alcohol involved than a few but hey, I’m 21 that’s what i’m suppose to do. That maybe happens once every two weeks if i’m lucky which is fine by me.

So you may think why wouldn’t you go out on your nights off, right. I could sit here and write plenty of “excuses” as to why I’m not partying this year away but I don’t feel an explanation is needed. We cannot be defined by certain actions that we portray in our life as we’re always changing whether be for better or worse. Before coming to France I always felt that I had to be involved in everything that me peers were doing even if it wasn’t something that appealed to me. Let’s say I was to miss out on a night out during the weekend because of prior commitments, it would’ve just killed me knowing that my friends were there having fun and I was missing out, therefore creating a tension towards what I was actually doing instead.

Than it finally clicked in this little brain of mine that

First, One night is not going to change my life significantly Secondly, I'[m going to feel a heck of a lot better than they will tomorrow morning. Thirdly and foremost, I’ve learned that being happy relies on how you interpret what you’re doing.

Once I focused on what I wanted to do myself and accepted my decisions I’ve become a completely different person. When I say completely, I seriously mean my demeanor has shifted from negative to positive. Okay, i’m not happy go lucky 24/7 but I truly believe that I’ve finally found a sense of satisfaction in my life where i’m able to be at ease with any decision I make.