I'm packing my things. My things. I've worked hard for these things. Some of them define my life, some of these things I've used only once, some of these things comfort me. But they are just things. Things that shed light on the person I am and what has made me who I am. And I am packing them up for them to move out of my reach into a house that I will be living in in a few months time. They will be staying with a man, who, in a few months time I shall call my husband. Who's name I shall take as my own. A person who I shall share my things with.
Never have I ever paused as long and thought as hard about what I am doing as I have now. I am leaving almost everything. I am taking me, everything I am, all I use to go through my day to another city, another place, that I shall live. A place that I shall hopefully call home once I settle in. But it will be a strange place and it will be foreign and it shall at times be lonely. A part of me is so sad. A part of me, bereft.
Everything is leaving me and changing. So quickly. Time is going so fast and so slow all at once, and I find myself struggling to keep up and cope with it.
I shall assume the identity of a man's last name and be known as his. I shall not be making a name for myself anymore but for us. I shall take my boxes of my things, unpack them, and share them with him. They will no longer be mine. But ours. The very idea.
I wonder how I got here sometimes. I wonder how I happened upon this man, my fiancé, how we dated, how we're engaged, and now how we're preparing to be married. How did this independent, determined-to-be-moderately-wealthy, moderate-feminist woman decide to get here. When did I decide to choose this path.
It's in those small little choices, they all add up to here, this very moment that I find myself: sitting in the corner of my messy, unkempt room with boxes scattered about acknowledging that I am about to be a married woman. These are the shoes some women dream of being in. I never did. I was not one of them. I wanted to be single till I died. I never wanted to rely on any man. I wanted independence, to see the world, to live life unhindered. But that's not what my Maker had in mind.
So here I find myself looking at those empty brown boxes asking myself if I'm scared. And I am. I can't explain how scared I am. It envelopes me, keeps me comfort in this corner that I sit on the floor of my room. What if it's a bad choice.....what if my marriage fails.....what if he can't stand me.....what if I can't share my things....what if I lose my identity....what if I change to something I never wanted to be? The "what if's" could swallow me whole. The gravity of the potential of this choice is hitting me.
So where do I go from here? Stop packing? Leave the open-mouthed brown boxes empty? Or do I keep packing?
My good friend Sarah told me "If you want a great marriage, you get on your knees everyday and pray. You stay in the Word. Everyday. You pray Gods will to be done, and that Todd seeks Gods face daily. But you dont let fear rule you, Michelle. That gives the enemy victory and basically tells God the victory He gave you isnt good enough. You surrender Todd over to the Lord everyday....and you don't make him your anchor. Only God is your anchor." Most comforting and truthful words that could ever be spoken into the heart of someone who is fearful and unsure of the future.
So I will continue to put my things in those empty brown boxes, maybe turn up the music a little louder, and make God my anchor. There are few guarantees in life, but thankfully, God is one guarantee I can count on. Daily.

Hello home.

Charlotte, North Carolina never had a happier visitor.
I practically skipped through customs and danced around the terminal during my three hour layover. I laughed when I saw the American toilets with their seats intact and their toliet paper rolls standing at attention, I cried when I saw that I had free wifi throughout the airport, and I hugged the Starbucks barista and was about to give him a kiss when I remembered that my fiancé wouldnt like that too much. I even looked over the fact that they gave my drink to another customer. I was in America. Land of the free, home of everything wonderfully familiar to me. It was then that I realized how American I was and how proud of that I was. America is a great place.
I wandered the wonderfully American terminal shops and listened to the delicious sound of American accents. I watched the American moms fuss over their American kids. I watched the American customers complain about their orders at either Starbucks or some American restaurant. I watched the American business men talk on their phones and make their plans. Before I went through security to get on my last flight home to Florida, I stepped out the doors of that airport terminal and I inhaled the smell of America. It was glorious. It smelled like freedom and deodorant. It is an amazing smell.
I went through security and made my way onto the plane. I chatted with an American soldier as we went through.
Once on the plane, me and the two ladies sitting in the same row started a conversation that lasted the majority of the flight. I told them about my life and my tales of having seen the world ( just Europe). They told me about theirs, one a grandmother, the other a motivational speaker. we discussed our lives until we landed and wished each other luck as we parted ways. I couldn't have met finer ladies.
I used the free wifi in the airport terminal to text my mom and tell her what I was wearing and where I was standing. I did this until a familiar green truck rolled up and a devilishly handsome man whistled at me. My fiancé came down on a Thursday when he should be working to pick me up.
Then it hit me. It was as if all the hours I hadn't slept during the past month hit me. I struggled to put my luggage in the bed of his truck and crawled into the passengers seat. I was as good as dead. Poor man probably thought I wasn't excited to see him. All I could do was lay my head down on his travel duffel bag on the compartment between him and I and say hello.
Hello to the love of my life and hello to my home.

Going home..

We made our way back to Madrid to Bella's cousins house. We arrived in the evening and met them at their new apartment. Their new apartment was much bigger and could accommodate us in their living room, they told us as we walked up to their apartment.
We had to leave the apartment at 6 in the morning to get to the airport to fly home. So I figured we would get to bed early and wake up early. Haha. This is Spain and people don't sleep here. I should have known better. Of course I realized this when I walked into the apartment and I saw their friends hanging out in the area we were assigned to sleep in. It was then that I knew we wouldn't be sleeping.
My body had gotten accustomed to the lack of sleep I supposed, primed from graduate school and now traveling Europe and not sleeping was part of it's function almost. So we chatted for a good portion of the night and then went to sleep for 3 hours when everyone went home and/or to bed.
But for some reason I couldn't sleep and neither could Bella. I think we were both nervous and excited about going home. Either way we didn't sleep at all. When our alarms went off we showered and quietly left, already having said our goodbyes the night before.
We traveled down the almost desolate street, with the exception of the occasional bum or drunk, with ghengis and baby Kahn. We made our way to the shuttle and from there got off at terminal 3. My flight was leaving in 2 hours, Bella's in 2 hours and 40-odd minutes. We said our tearful goodbyes. It was strange to think the person I have been spending the most amount of time within the past month I wouldn't see for many months. I got lost with Bella, slept in the same room as Bella, stayed up all night with Bella, ate with Bella, talked with Bella, read with Bella, cried with Bella, cuddled with Bella, argued with Bella.....and just like that....with one plane flight, I would never do that again. It was so weird to think that all those experiences we just had and shared would be over. We would never be able to continue our adventures or have them again.
That sad thought made me take a Tylenol PM while walking through Madrid's security. I also hold that sad thought responsible for making me purchase expensive tax-free Dior perfume before boarding the plane. Once I was on the plane and the engines were droning midair though, I couldn't help but smile through my drowsiness. I was going home. I can't wait.

Cadiz, beach time!...or not.

We spent a few days in Spain then decided to go to Cadiz, which is on the southern tip of Spain. We hopped on the train in the evening after spending the day in Madrid and decided to spend the night on Cadiz's beaches. When we arrived we walked around the little beach town and enjoyed it's breeze and salty air. We ate at this, of all places, American restaurant where Bella got a burger and I got quesadillas. We were in the middle of eating when we realized that we couldnt spend the night on the beaches. That's really not something two girls should do. So we set out to find a cheap hostel.
We found that a lot of the hotels and hostels were already full so when we found a hostel that looked like an old spanish house had one room left, we booked it. Little did we know that this place would help us have the third most unpleasant yet memorable night of our (at least my) trip. As we made our way up the old marble staircase to our room we were greeted by a dutch (maybe german) man who was just exiting his room and looked at us in surprise and said "oooohhhh american girls??? Welcome!!!" From then on we knew this night was destined to be memorable.
The room was a bit sketch. The windows were wide open, with no screens, to the street. The comforter and multicolored mismatched sheets were sure to have seen better and cleaner days. We were certain the closet contained a dead body but both of us were to scared to see if the ideas our imaginations incited were true. And the shared bathroom down the hall....well let's just say we tried to have zero physical bodily contact with any part of it. We called it a night despite the dilapidated state of the place and snoozed off into dream land.
That is of course until Bella jolted upright in the bed and grabbed me and said "did you feel that?!?!" I groggily awoke and asked her what she meant. She started to panic, so I woke up pretty quickly and started to ask her what was wrong. She stated in an alarming voice that she had got bitten by a spider on her foot and I needed to look at it. Bella has a bad history with bugs that bite her, she's extremely allergic to them. I looked at it and saw two diminutive bumps on her foot. I told her there was no reason to panic, it was probably mosquitoes. Well that made it only a little better. She groused a bit about it and then we both went back to sleep again.
Until she got bitten again. And again. And again. And this is how the night went. All night. Till I finally decided to just stay awake and read a book on my iPad and guard Bella from the bugs and do something with toothpaste.....something that only Bella and I will ever know. Then at 5 o'clock in the morning Bella said she had had enough. So we picked up and left.
We went to this square by a church which happened to have wifi in it, watched people breed their dogs on the front steps of the church and accessed the wifi to find a more legit hotel. We found this "five star" hotel at a reasonable price about a 45 minute train ride away. So we got on the train and by 7:30 we were saying goodbye to the southern coast of Spain and it's mosquitoes.
When we arrived to the station we grabbed breakfast at a small cafe and each stared into either our coffee or in Bella's case her coca cola.
We got to the hotel early so we wandered around then decided to just see if we could use the pool until we could check into our rooms. We did so. As we were laying out by the pool I reflected on the "five star" hotel we were staying in. Hotel Jerez was nice, but it wasn't five star by American standards. Five star for Americans means the newest latest technologically advanced hotel. Five star for Spain, even most European countries, means an old dignified hotel that offers plush but old style amenities. Yes, there is a bathrobe in the room, but no cd/iPod player; yes, it's immaculate in the rooms, but it is by no means new, the rug on the floor is old but expensive. It's interesting to see and note those variances in standards according to the culture.
We spent the rest of the afternoon lounging and leisurely enjoying our dinner. We watched the news at night and blogged until we passed out. Only to repeat it again the next day. It was a great way to spend the last few days in Spain. And I could find myself ready to go home but aware that I would miss these precious last days in Spain. Oh well. All good things must come to an end sometime mustn't they?


Checkout time was noon. I love you spain.
We slept in till just before and then headed up the street to check in at a cheaper hotel. It was clean and nice but nowhere near as posh as the one we had stayed in the night before. But you know what? I honestly didn't care. Shower? Check. Bed? Check. I'm good.
We couldn't get in until 2 so we went to this place for lunch and sangrias. We had intellectual discussions about differences of needs under the cover of an umbrella until our determined check in time. It was a good meal for the price we paid but man was it hot out. Spain in the summer is no joke, hot.
We checked in and waited for about 10 minutes for them to get our room ready. It was while we were in the lobby waiting for our room that the second wave of sleepiness hit us. We passed out again.
When we woke up we went to this plaza close to where we ate for lunch and had dinner there. Specifically tapas. Tapas is something I had been wanting to try for awhile since Id read it on Bellas blog. It's basically a bunch of small plates with a sample of food on each plate and you share it amongst people. It was a sweet idea. The only thing I didn't like about it was when you liked something you wanted to get more of it but you had already ordered all these other plates, however it was a really great way to try a lot of different foods.
After dinner we called it an early night and headed back to bed.
Tomorrow's plans consisted of going into Madrid to stay with Bella's cousins for a few days. It was pretty sweet to see how real Spanish people live. I was extremely thankful they opened up their home to us. Their home was the traditional Spanish way of life. Their apartment building was a few stories high; they lived on the third floor. They had the traditional method of hanging clothes on the outside of their building...which was kind of strange because when you did your laundry and hung it up, anybody walking into their apartment could look up and see our unmentionables.....meh....I guess I'm not going to see these people again.
We spent the evening going grocery shopping, having dinner, and staying up late partying in the streets of Spain. It was incredible. Spanish people do not sleep. At all. When 5 am rolled around I was exhausted, but Bella and her cousins where just getting started.
We ended up rolling into bed not too much later. Because Bella's cousins didn't have enough room in their loft apartment to keep us we ended up staying in this garage of sorts. It was in the middle of construction to be turned into a studio. Just when I thought I had slept wasn't bad though. It had a garage door of sorts on the outside and we were right up against the street so we could hear Spain partying for the rest of night and on into the morning. You know you're getting old when your body has a bedtime and Spain made me realized that I was getting old. Still, I was glad to lay my head down and fall asleep to the sounds of the droning garbage men and drunken spanish conversations, as long as it meant I got to sleep.

The last stop before hell...I experienced it.

I can't even begin to describe my state of mind. The entire night was peppered with sleep but we both never really fully passed out. We changed trains so many times, I honestly really lost track.
We left Florence at 12:30ish and made our way to Pisa where we saw the leaning tower. It was surprisingly diminutive and looked fake, just like a chess piece. Most books call the leaning tower a tourist trap and it is. It's just a bell tower that's was put up improperly (or properly) and that's it. There is nothing else to see in Pisa. I almost regret having tramped across the city with our luggage to see something slightly disappointing. But hey, I can cross it off my life list....that has to count for something.
We made it back in time for the next train to take us to Maliglia (or something named like that). Our plans had changed when we realized we really needed a place to sleep (no duh right?. Originally we were just going to sleep on the beaches of Nice because hostels and hotels are so expensive in Nice, but thats just unrealistic. So we decided to push on towards Figueres in Spain. So pretty much the moment we arrived in Nice we got the next train out to Figueres because Bella said she knew of a really great place to crash there and it was nice and cheap. My kinda of language.
We are currently on the train for Figueres and we have 4 more hours left. My bones ache, my muscles don't know what their function is anymore, my eye color has gone from bloodshot to a yellow jaundice sort of look. My clothes.....well lets just say I'm not the most pleasant creature to be around right now. I feel bad for the poor souls who have to sit next to me.
Bella has passed out pretty consistently on each train despite it's been only for 2 minutes, it's humorous to see her nod off to sleep. Our moods, like the London/Brussels fiasco has been all over the map. We went from giggly to silent, to disbelief at our current situation. For the most part I have been pretty quiet, conserving my energy while Bella expends it and then passes out. I think we've only gotten on each others nerves a few times, otherwise it hasn't been too bad (ie. as in we haven't wanted to kill each other yet). Actually I take that back, I have wanted to pop Bella a few times when she randomly hits my backpack or smacks me. Otherwise, it's been amicable, mostly because I believe were both too tired to do much else......I think I'm about to nod back in a sec.

So I actually never got the chance to continue that post during the train ride...mostly because I don't think my mind would have functioned to be able to do that. However I'll pick up where I left off. We had changed trains a few more times until we were finally on a train for Montepelier. That train was supposed to make a stop where we would take another train to Figueres. Or something like that. By now, you've either taken a cue from what I've just said or read Bella's blog ( and know that never actually happened.
Unfortunately someone decided to end their life by jumping out in front of a train. This occurs rather often in France. This was the second time Bella was experiencing this in her travels abroad and my first. The entire process delayed us by 2 hours causing us to miss our train that would take us to Figueres. While this was incredibly unfortunate, we did our best to make light of the situation (ie. a few jokes on the behalf of the person who made this unwise decision) and make some friends.
Two French guys became our new best buds, well Isabella's really. I didn't really feel like talking to anyone because I hadn't slept for about 30ish hours and smelled like dirty socks that had been left in some guy's gym bag for 42 weeks. But once I got past that I managed to play a few card games with them and join in on the conversation. We talked about almost everything. It was interesting to see their perspective and hear their opinions on situations and ideas. Though I doubt we got a realistic accurate view of the French population's beliefs as one of them was an ex-gymnast and the other a recently-graduate fashion student, who was gay. Regardless it was interesting.
Two and a half hours later we got off at a stop that the train company had directed us to get off at so we could get on our next train that would take us to another stop so we could get on the bus that would take us to Figueres. This was the only way they could get us to our destination really, and while I appreciated that they didn't just let us fend for ourselves despite paying our way I couldn't help but resent them a little bit for not just getting another freaking train to take us to Figueres. But as I didn't know how trains operate, I overlooked it. They fed us on the train and I made the huge mistake of having nuts on an empty stomach before I got on the bus. my stomach was cramping hard core before I got off the train and I was afraid I was going to lose everything I had just ingested.
While waiting for the bus to come and take 100 of the 200 people to their destination. "Wait, you say, what happened to the other 100 people?" Well sad to say I have no idea. Bella was determined to get on that bus. The scene was just like what Bella had told me it was like when we sat down on the bus "the last bus out of Saigon." I can barely recall anything but Bella shoving me into the middle of stinky smelly people to be one of the first people on that bus. Now if you know me, you know I'm not a terribly affectionate person, and that I enjoy my personal space. Well that night, personal space was no longer an issue as much as getting on that last bus. I feel like a different person after that experience.
Once on the bus, my body started honing in on the stomach pain which may or may not have drawn a few tears from my eyes (I will neither confirm nor deny this, merely leave it up to the people to make this decision as to whether I'm a pansy or not). Bella thought I was going to die while I coped with the pain and started to feel really bad about the whole situation. The only thing I could think about was how this was so out of a movie. The girl dies after going out on this adventure with her friend, while the friend thinks it's her fault for dragging her out there. Only she didn't drag me....I went willingly. I laughed it off and promised I wouldn't die. I think she still was a little worried until in the midst of my body's desire to put me in pain for eating those nuts, I heard people talking and laughing in a different language. Bella has the amazing ability to understand a bunch of languages and I have the amazing ability to still be curious and nosy about what people are saying even if I am dying. So I asked her what the people were saying. Bella cautiously asked me what who was saying....I think she thought I was hearing the voice of God. I told her the people behind us. She asked me in bewilderment why I wanted to know what the heck the people behind us where saying when I was feeling crappy. I think she then realized I wasn't going to die. Or maybe I was and had decided I'm gonna die being nosy. Either way.
We traveled through the night and arrived at Figueres around 12. We hailed the next cab and Bella told him where to take us. The hotel that was nice and cheap was closed for the night so he brought us to this other hotel that was open.
Grimy, sweaty, stinky, and looking like we ourselves had gotten run over by a train walked into the nicest hotel I have ever seen since ive been in eruope. I really couldn't help but notice the irony of the situation. For €80 a night we could stay. That was a lot. Bella looked at me....I looked at her. And we caved. The man checking us in could have asked for anything...I would have probably given it to him for only a shower and a clean bed. I am so human.
I wanted people to know I was alive so I took advantage of the wifi and texted and skyped a few people then I passed out for the best sleep of my life.