Flashback Friday – Stop and Smell the Roses (Or lilacs!)

As I was going through some old photos to inspire today’s Flashback Friday post, I noticed a pattern.  Check these out and I’m sure you’ll see what I’m talking about:

I'm mad at 1 year old self for not smiling in this photo!

I’m mad at 1 year old self for not smiling in this photo!

Me, my dad, and my younger brother Timmy

Me, my dad, and my younger brother Timmy

When I saw these pictures I just thought they were the most delightful and eye-opening photos (even if I am crying in the first one… grrr).  The photos are different years, and I’m sure that myself and my parents were in different mindsets at each of those stages of our lives.  I mean, I’m probably wearing diapers in the first picture and in the second I was already probably already bossing people around, organizing my own pretend classroom, and hoarding various collections of sorts, while trying to take over the world (yes, that’s the type of kid I was…)    Anyway, I just love this here photo evidence where my Dad is reminding us to stop… and smell the lilacs.

Before I get into that, let me backtrack on my original thoughts of this blog post – which have to do with my Dad.  It is so fitting that he is making us take a break from playing or whatever we were probably doing at that time to smell the flowers.  I am well aware that I get some amazing qualities from my mom… loyalty, a tireless work ethic, the mindset that I can do anything I put my mind to, and more, but I’ve always believed that my dad provided me with just the right amount of opposing qualities to keep me balanced and well-rounded.

My dad seriously being the coolest guy I know.  I mean, c’mon.. did you look at that first picture?  How much cool, calm, and collected can you get!  He’s rocking Ray Ban aviators and a plaid shirt, while holding flowers… lol.  That’s a real man!  He knows the coolest bands and music from the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s.  He keeps an even tan year-round, and he rocks skate/surf tees and tanks.  Oh, I forgot to mention he owned a toy store on Main Street in our town for until I was 18.  The. Coolest. Dad.  Just try to compete with that one, lol.

Anyway, it is just fitting that this laid back, cool Dad is showing us how to appreciate the little things in life.   When life seems out of control, I need to remind myself to look at or think of these photos.  To remind myself to not get caught up in my crazy schedule, the next thing on my to-do list, or planning for the future.  I need to promise myself to stop and appreciate each and every little aspect of beauty in life – whether its nature, alone time, or the company of family or friends.  To not focus on material things.  To not worry about who is doing what or if I’m missing out on something.  Or maybe to stop worrying if I’m on the right path.  Maybe this photo will help me remember just to close my eyes, take a deep breath in, and appreciate where I am in the here and now.

Challenge delightfully accepted.  🙂

– Jessi

Flashback Friday – 7/12/13 – Study Abroad 2007

It was one of the best trips of my life and yet it wasn’t something I could have ever imagined doing in my wildest dreams. In the winter/spring of 2007, I spent four months overseas in a study abroad program through my college, St. John’s University.

Now, I didn’t push for this myself. I remember my mom saying, “You should look into that study abroad program and the scholarships it comes with. It looks like a great experience!” Next thing I knew, I was at a information seminar with my fellow accepted students being told what the upcoming semester of my college life would entail.

My biggest problem:Four months.  I would have to pack clothes for the next FOUR MONTHS?  That was the biggest worry I had.  Hold on… wait… I don’t even own a large suitcase!  The last trip I had been on with the dance team, my mom sent me with her brown tweed luggage.  Okay, so vintage is in now but imagine being the only person toting one of these babies around when everyone else has the updated “upright” luggage.

This suitcase just screams 2007, right!?

This suitcase just screams 2007, right!?

So, I was lucky enough that one of my best friends since preschool, Tara, was generous enough to loan me her large suitcase for this semester-long trip.  With her classy (well, more like up-to-date, atleast) big and black upright suitcase, a HUGE red Nike St. John’s University dance team duffel bag, and a Billabong carry-on bag with flowers on it (sounds like a very matching, complimentary set, right!!?) I headed to the airport in my green velour suit where I said bye to my parents, took a deep breath, and got ready to board my first trans-Atlantic flight.  I was 20 years old.  Was I ready to face the adventures that awaited me?  It didn’t matter either way, the $700 flight and my semester fees were paid for and there was no turning back now.

Obviously, you know how this story ends.  It was the trip of a lifetime!  We were based in Rome near the Vatican (our metro stop was called “Cipro”).  Our school rents gorgeous, spacious apartments in a housing complex called Medaglie D’Oro, and the school was based a few blocks away.  I took 5 classes that semester including Art & Architecture, Italian  Level 2, Sketchbook, Theology, and Anthropology.   Even though we had classrooms, class was frequently held as field trips to other locations like the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, The Pantheon, Vatican City, Villa Borghese, Circus Maximus, Castel Sant’Angelo and more.  There were no classes on Fridays – we were expected to use each 3-day weekend as an opportunity to travel and explore… and that we did!

In addition to living in Rome and taking a group field trip to Brussels and Luxembourg, I also visited Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Siena, Torino, Pisa, Pompeii, Amsterdam, Paris and Barcelona.  Some trips we planned a little in a advance while others I was packing a backpack the night before and hopping on a 4am train.  We booked and stayed in hostels, read maps and tour guide books, and discovered new cities all on our own.  Although I would be amiss if I didn’t tell you that we had our fair share of fun, enjoying both the nightlife and the daylife on what sometimes felt like a four month vacation (don’t worry… I got a 4.0 that semester!)

During my spring break, my parents even came to visit!  They got to see Rome and other cities with me, something they never thought they’d do in their lives either.  Overall, I believe I matured and learned so much about myself on that trip and will always hold that experience dear to my heart.  I saw some amazing sights with some amazing people.  I hope we will all be friends for a lifetime and always remember the connection we have as the “Roma Crew” of Spring 2007.

Some of the group at the Coliseum in Rome during our Art and Architecture class.

Some of the group at the Colosseum in Rome during our Art and Architecture class, the first week of our trip.

Me in "sketchbook class" aka at a random museum.

Me in “sketchbook class” aka at a random museum.

At St. Peter's Basilica on Easter Sunday.  :-)

At St. Peter’s Basilica on Easter Sunday. 🙂