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Those certain few. Those people so determined to say what isn't true as though it were. Those in the gutters and ditches of society. Those not worth my time or energy... or the time or energy of my valued friends...

They don't see me flirt. They don't see me tease. They don't see me acting inappropriately. They don't follow me to see where I go at night. They know nothing of my personal life. They don't know my friends, my schedule, my plans. They know nothing of me but the person I am when I'm at work.

They see me being professional and smart, ambitious and funny. They think they'll knock me down off my pedestal with their actions. What they fail to realize is I don't even own a pedestal. I have low self esteem as it is. But I'm still better than they are even on my very lowest day.

Why do pretty women always have low self esteem?

We all do. It has a LOT to do with being perpetually single because only the scum bag abusive guys have the guts to ask a pretty girl out. Once with them they beat us until we believe we are ugly so that they feel more secure we will never leave them. It's disgusting. Thankfully I'm not one of those.

For me it's something else completely.

For me it's all about not having finished school, not having a degree, not feeling like I've accomplished anything in my life and feeling like a failure. I have no problem with my looks.

A smart girl like me should have a real career that would allow me to purchase a house or brand new car. A wise woman would have known ahead of time who to disassociate myself from. An educated lady would have the right books to find the answers rather than making it up as I go along.

I'm not a bad person. I don't do bad things. I'm quite smart, witty and sophisticated. Yet, I'm barely scraping by. Why?

Because I love my JOB. I'm good at it. I feel like I accomplish something when I spend time in my office sending emails, balancing the checking account, paying bills and planning events. It's great! That's why I work here - because here I feel like a success. My boss Michael is awesome. My peers and coworkers are wonderful. The two or three nut jobs that try to make me miserable fail to succeed because of the network of wonderful people I surround myself with.

People may talk all they want, telling what they may or may not believe to be true, or even what they wish we're true. The truth is I have a job I love, a boss I adore, wonderful friends who tell me the truth when nobody else will and a life and presence to envy.

They may try all they want to push me off of some nonexistent pedestal, but I have more friends than enemies pushing me up to a podium an helping me to find my voice, strength and faith. A pedestal isn't big enough for us, because I don't stand alone. I have my friends and family with me. We don't need a pedestal. We'll just take the stage, thank you.

Try knocking us off of that.

Let Go.

I watched as the silver stretch-band "Blackwood" coat of arms watch tumbled and spun into the ravine below.  I was letting go of several things at once and the feeling was so incredibly liberating I could barely understand it.  It was time to change a few things... to start over, new and fresh.  I do it so often that I had somehow forgotten that it's possible to do that every singe day of our lives.  We just need to face the day as though it's new and fresh in and of itself.

It's time to let go.  I've done what I need to do... and though I'm far from done, it's time to let it all go.

Escort? Really?!

If I were an "escort" as two people I know (and once called my friends) have openly claimed I am, I wouldn't have saved 8 months for a down payment on a $4000 car. I'd live in a nicer place. I wouldn't need to work. I'd live in Beverly Hills, not roommates with a girl i can't stand to look at. I'd drive a Mercedes instead of a Miata. I'd have hair dressers do my hair instead of coloring it myself. My cats would wear rhinestone collars instead of frayed PetsMart nylon cheapies. It wouldn't have been my first trip to Paris, but my 20th. I'd be on "dates" every weekend instead of doing animal adoptions for free. I'd have expensive clothes, diamond jewelry, pearl necklaces and the best of everything - because I would be trying to superficially compensate for the emptiness in my soul.

Be not jealous of those wiser and fairer than thee.

Gain thee thine own wisdom by observation.

Be thee fairer in thine actions, not in thine appearance.

Heed this warning, all who dare approach.

Do not cross a maiden with a quiet or still temper, for when it flairs, there will be no chance to reign it back in until the damage is done. The worlds will collide, the sky will fall and the earth beneath you will crumble into ash - and that will only be the start of things to come.

Day One

I was escorted through the streets of Paris and straight to the front door of the Musee de Orsay where a ticket was purchased (along with an umbrella and some post cards). The line was a long one and it was quite damp outside. I hid under the umbrella To keep my camera dry, but there was no hope for my short hair. I would look like a horses mane by the end of the day no doubt.

After I finally got into the building, I headed past the ticket counter since I already had one. I got to the museum entrance and was greeted by a woman pointing the other direction.

"I am sorry Madamme but you must check your umbrella at the coat check before you go in."

I was astounded. I grew up watching old movies and love them all, but never had I seen a coat check outside of the ones Bing Crosby and Doris Day showed me in black & white and technicolor. Amazed, I headed off in the direction she pointed me in.

Sure enough, I checked my umbrella and coat, receiving a number in return. I tucked this deep within my back pocket and headed once more for the pointing lady. This time my ticket was given a date stamp which thrilled and delighted me, and the way was clear to enter.

Incredible works of art lined every wall in what once stood as a train station. I marveled at the masters hanging from every wall... Monet, Manet, Renoir and Cezanne left me breathless - but at my first glimpse of a Van Gogh, I drew a sharp breath. This is what I had waited my whole life to see.

I suddenly realized that there were more than just the one. I looked around me and there I stood in a room FULL of Van Gogh! There was the Starry Night and the Cafe in Arles! There were two infamous self portraits! And lo - just beyond all of this hung the piece I stood before and wept over, having long ago convinced myself I would never get to see. There was Van Gogh's Bedroom in Arles. I must have stood before this piece for no less than 20 minutes, taking in all of the depth and beauty of the thick primary colors. My eyes stung with tears I refused to release, nor to blur my vision of this incredible sight. All my life I had waited. All my life I never believed the day would come. And yet here I was, close enough to feel the layers of paint if I cared to risk being thrown our of the museum or worse. It was very nearly worth that risk.

When I finally left the museum, the painting was so firmly lodged within the confines of my memory that I knew a photo would only have served to skew my perfect vision of the work. Half dazed I began the walk back toward the hotel.

I looked up into the eyes of a familiar face and found myself quite surprised to find Thomas Jefferson staring back at me. Apparently he was a French Ambassador at one time, before the war. I stopped long enough to take a photo but continued on.

I criss-crossed multiple bridges here and there, taking photos along the way. Between two bridges I spotted a woman coming toward me. When she thought I wasn't looking, she tossed a thick gold ring on the ground before me. Then she bent over to retrieve it and asked if it was mine.

"No," I responded. "it isn't mine. I'm not married and that's a mans ring."

"It must be your lucky day," she said. She placed the ring in my hand and started to walk away. Confused (but not much, as it's not the first time I've witnessed or been part of a con) I continued on my way.

"Madamme," she called after me, "would you have any money for a Coca Cola maybe?"

All I had on me at the time were Euros, and nothing smaller than a 20 much to her misfortune. The con had been good enough I gladly would have given her a Euro for the novelty ring. Instead, I offered to take her with me and u would buy her a Coca Cola. She seemed to not be interested in the prospect. I knew she wanted the money and not the soda, so I gave her back the ring regretfully and went on my way, wishing desperately that I'd had a coin in my pocket for her so I could have kept the ring for my shadow box.

I made it to the Eiffel Tower once more and to a small shopping mall where I sat to have a Beniette and some tea. There I sat to write for a bit before finally heading up to my room on the hotel. I was already lost. I had fallen in love with Paris.

Night One

My traveling companion made reservations at one of the nicest restaurants in all of Paris for the evening. Apparently Jean Georges opened a restaurant in Manhattan, New York some years ago. It was so successful that eventually he traveled back to Paris to open another. It had an obvious American twist on the cuisine.

Before we left I was trying to get ready and couldn't decide between a dress or slacks. As I worked on deciding, I came across a large shopping bag among my things.

"That bag is for you by the way," my friend said to me. Surprised, I hurriedly opened it. Inside was the most beautiful jacket I had ever seen. It was a stunning blue velvet with remarkable embroidery designs all over it. The intricate design was one I had admired in a shop window on our way to the museum that morning. I'd never seem anything so beautiful. I had fallen in love with it then, but the shop had been closed. Someone had gone back to the shop after dropping me off and purchased the coat of my dreams for, not even fully knowing my size.

I immediately tried it on and it fit like a glove! That second, I knew I would never in my life forget my trip to Paris. I would also never forget the generosity and kindness of my Paris benefactor.

I put on the nicest dress I has brought with me, knowing full well it would pale in comparison to my gorgeous new coat. Then on went the knee-high gray boots I bought specifically to take to Paris the month before and pinned my hair up. The look was completed with a bit of red lipstick and we were ready to hit the door.

We took a taxi to the restaurant and walked in moments before 7pm. Much to the Paris tradition, the restaurant wasn't open quite yet. Traditionally in Paris, people dine rather late in the evening. To be in a restaurant before 9pm is unusual and decidedly American to the French. They greeted us with a hearty American "hello" rather than the native "Bonjour" I had gotten accustomed to. Because of the time we came in, they knew without a word that we were Americans.

The food was divine! I could go on for hours about the tuna roll wrapped in filo dough, salmon sashimi, thinly sliced scallops, incredible cod and fantastic chicken samosas, but anyone who knows me well knows that I do love food and have a food memory that lasts like no other. This, however, was so decadent and mouth watering that it is unlikely I could ever do justice with my writing in just what my palette experienced.

That evening we walked back to the hotel rather than taking a cab. It was a nice evening out in Paris and the rain had stopped. It took about a half hour to get back, and when we did I jumped straight into a bath.

I have often judged a hotel by the bathing facilities within. While in Norten Hardenburgh, Germany in 2003 I found the bathroom to rival all others with a jetted tub. I finally met its match, if not its superior. The French certainly know a lot about comfort and relaxation.

It was the perfect way to end my first day in Paris.

Ah, Paris. How I love Paris.

The Tower

I awoke shortly before 10am but not without prompting from my friend. I'm sure that otherwise permitted I would have missed half of the day for sleeping in. I was still tired.

My eyes fluttered and suddenly I remembered where I was. As quickly as a shot, I jumped out if bed and raced to the window. There she was - the beautiful Eiffel Tower, just beyond my window. It hadn't gone away in the night. I had really seen it. I truly was there, in Paris, in person. I had seem this dream come true. I was there, within walking distance of the one city I had longed my whole life to see.

As my friend went to get some croissants and orange juice for a breakfast, I got dressed and ready to go. I knew I would spend a portion of the day alone since it was a business trip for my roommate du jour. I was perfectly ok with that. Nothing much could happen to a person in a city as glorious as Paris!

Our first destination was the tower, certainly. Being that close, I could practically feel it calling to me from the room. It was only a short walk and a bridge over the river Seine and there she stood in all her magnificent glory, that wondrous structure Inspiring artists, poets and composers world wide to create some of the greatest masterpieces known to man. I felt tears begin to sting my eyes. I knew it would get stronger as I got closer.

Suddenly and quite inexplicably, the years of Spanish I took in school came flooding into my memory. Oh how I wished they had been French lessons instead! Quite to my dismay, what little French I did know was getting so mottled with the Spanish I barely spoke that I realized I would probably be better off speaking Japanese than I would anything else, and most of that was gone at this point.

Well, I thought to myself, if I need or want anything, I can point and say the french polite word for please - if only I could remember it!

I was so deep in thought that I barely noticed suddenly that I was standing beneath the heart of the tower. There it was, towering over me and leaving me uncertain of what to say, only being able to mutter "wow" over and over.

All my life I had wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and walk through Paris, and here I stood in that moment, beneath my destination in all it's magnificence.

I made it to Paris!!

The Room

By the time the train finally made it to the station, it was quite late. After taking the cab to the hotel, it was far later. Several trains had been delayed so the taxi line was astronomically long. My fingers were numb by the time I got into the warmed cab, and I tried hard not to shiver the whole way to the hotel.

Finally I was headed up to the room. I was Beyond exhausted and knew it wouldn't be long before I was out cold. I walked into the room and refused to let my friend know, but the room alone took my breath away. It was utterly elegant with a large bed in the center, a couch and two smaller chairs around a table, and all facing the windows where draped hung from the vaulted ceiling to the floor. The bath was one of the finest I have ever seen, complete with bath salts and a service tray. The stone sinks were of a cream granite and the loveliest I've ever known to exist. I tried not to gasp, but the bathing room truly made me stop mid-sentence.

Then the curtains were flung back.

There before me, larger than life and more beautiful than any photo could ever depict, stood the proud monument, the Eiffel Rower herself. I nearly cried.

It was several long moments before I remembered that I had cameras with me and should take a photo or two.

Suddenly the tower broke into a sparkling celebration of dazzling lights and again I stood in awe of this wondrous creation.

When finally the two days of traveling caught up to me and I began to sway in place at the window I decided it was time. I didn't want to close the curtains though - I wanted to see that amazing structure when I woke up right away. After all, nobody had pinched me yet. I still wasn't convinced that it wasn't a dream.

The Picnic

The train to Paris stayed stationary in Lille for several hours. I don't know if they ever found a doctor on board for train car #2 but they never mentioned it again. Shortly after asking if there was a doctor on board, they finally got the ok to open the doors.

After a few more hours hunger set in at full force. It was nearly 9pm by the time I got to eat.

The gentleman sitting next to me on the train and I had been talking for quite some time. He was an American like me and a genuine nice guy. He went to the front of the train and returned several minutes later with two white paper sacks and something tucked under his arm. As soon as he produced the "all day breakfast" in a sack, the bag of bread and two bottled of French white wine, he was my new best friend.

"I grew up watching old movies on TV as a kid. As crazy as this is going to sound, I've always wanted to eat a meal while on a train in Europe." I took a bite of the olive bread and chewed thoughtfully. I figured maybe I should have been more specific about that particular bucket list item. "But I must say," I chewed on the tough bread, "this olive sourdough goes quite well with the French Chardonnay."

My seating companion laughed heartily at me, and from the seat in front of us I heard an unmistakable snicker of a man trying desperately not to make it seem like he was listening in.

Several laughs and "another 20 minutes" announcements later, the meal was finished, my eyes were heavy and the conversation grew more faint. The gentleness in front of us stood up and greeted us with a smile.

"I don't know what you were saying," he confessed in an Edinborough accent, "but whatever you said to make him laugh, keep doing it. It's infectious!"

The three if us burst into laughter. Mere moments later the train. Egan to move at long last and the train car broke into applause and cheers.

While many people would be bent out of shape because of the massive delays and unlikely circumstances (one track flooded and one broke. The only open track had a train break down obit moments before we were to start out again) I have always believed in making the best of a bad situation. Laughter is key. If I can make those around me laugh, things go much smoother.

So there you have it.
I had a picnic on a train bound for Paris with laughing, charming people all around.

And just as I finished writing this one, an announcement came over the public address system. The train needs to stop again. A two hour train ride had become an adventure spanning two full days. In the end, it means that I have been traveling for THREE days!!

Here's to adventure!
(I'm holding up my plastic French Chardonnay wine bottle in a toast right now, but I will spare you the photo.)

Is There a Doctor On Board?

Flying in to London was basically uneventful, other than my excitement and enough turbulence for the lady next to me to have a white knuckle grip for the remainder of the flight about 3 hours in.

Once to London, it was a train ride to a cab to another train statin. That's where the adventures began. I boarded the Euro Star for Paris and was actually physically beginning to sway before being allowed to take my seat. Exhaustion from the many hours of traveling and so little sleep were beginning to catch up to me.

Finally on the train, I was unconscious before the train even left London. I vaguely remember waking up long enough to close my gaping, drooling maw, but not really enough to even have the strength to open my eyes. Finally, after what felt like an hour or two, my eye lids flickered.

The train had stopped on an angle. We were resting on a bend in the tracks somewhere before Lille, out in the middle of the French countryside. There was some traffic ahead they announced, but the delay would only be about 20 minutes. I admired the tiny little church in the distance as it rested on the edge of a tiny little snow drifted town, but was quickly asleep again.

An hour later I awoke to a much darker landscape, but only a darker version of what I had previously been looking at. We had not moved.

The traffic ahead had gotten bad I guess. Somehow I managed to nod off once more, and when I woke up we were at a station in Lille, France.

"Ladies and Gentleman," the first train manager said, "we are still talking to the station master about letting us open the doors here for any of you who choose to exit in Lille. Hopefully we will continue our journey to Paris soon." The best I could figure, a 2 hour train ride was quickly becoming 10 or so. Still, I was on my way to Paris, so who was I to complain? Things could be worse.

The second train manager had an announcement next. He began in French but after a moment shared the translation.

"Ladies and Gentleman, if there is a doctor or physician on board, can you please report to cabin #2 please? Again, is there a doctor on board? Please report to cabin #2 quickly."

Yeah, things just got worse for somebody else on the train. I am very glad I am a patient person.

It's now 9pm and by the best I can figure I've been traveling for two days on two meals and two hours of sleep. However, I'm in France and could almost walk to Paris from where I am. Almost.

Since there is still snow on the ground out there and my warmest coat was a leather motorcycle jacket, I think I will just wait for the train.

I just hope the doctor makes it on time.

Small Miracles

This has been the weekend to remember, and believe me it's not over yet.

While in church yesterday (and anyone who knows me will understand that sentence alone is no small miracle) I spoke with an interesting character. He believed that it was a small miracle that men learned to always have half-full lungs. He said it was a learned defense mechanism. When a woman asked if a particular clothing choice "makes her arse look fat" a man is doomed of he must first inhale before he answers. He believed the half full lungs were a small miracle.

Michael, my boss and close friend, normally isn't accompanied when he goes to church. He goes alone and does the audio mixing. He enjoys the service, but he never has his own company with him. This time was different. Some sort of small miracle granted him not one, but two companions for the Sunday service.

Another small miracle would have to have been that for the first time in quite literally months I haven't had to wake up to an alarm clock even on the weekend. Saturday was spent doing laundry, picking up a thing or two at the dollar store, visiting with people I otherwise never get to see on the weekends and generally just remembering what it's like to have a day off and nowhere to be but doing whatever I liked. It felt like a miracle.

Now, here I sit in a Boeing 777 winging my way toward London, where I will catch a train to (drum roll please)........PARIS.

Aaah, Paris!!

I've dreamed of this day for as long as I can remember. I've always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower in person, touch the ancient walls of Notre Dame, stare into the dark waters of the River Seine, travel the Champs-Élysées, see the Arc de Triomphe, grace the face if Napoleons tomb and enjoy a true baguette at a sidewalk cafe in Paris!

I never thought I would actually get to go. In fact it was exactly one year ago today I wanted desperately to make a daring escape from Scotland but couldn't catch my secret flight home because of a severe kidney infection, in no small part due to the trauma endured in the care of someone I expected to trust when I got there. In the end, all I wanted was to go home and never set foot on foreign soil again.

A friend of mine went to Paris while I was in Scotland last year and again over the Christmas holiday. I admit I was jealous. I never really thought I would get the chance. It was a bucket list item, but one I never expected to come to fruition after I got back in June of last year.

Yet, due to the small miracle of knowing one generous and amazing person, here I find myself winging my way to London, where a train ticket awaits me at the station in order to take me to Paris.

I sit here on the plane, unable to sleep due to the excitement, wanting to scream out in joy. I truly never thought this would happen or I would see this day. I expected to go to my grave as an old woman, having never seen Paris, dying a penniless old maid, known only for never having been a success at much of anything. How many times do I have to prove myself wrong?

If I can go to Paris in March less than a year from the Scotland escape, any miracle is possible.

Wounds can heal. Hearts can mend. Life can go on. Goals can be reached and dreams can come true.

All I have to believe.

I Can't Do It

Here's a crazy story for ya - and believe me I'm far from comfortable with telling the story - but if I'm going to put it all out there, this goes along with the territory I suppose.

I won't mention names or places or fault or blame. It's in the past and it's time to let go of it and move on. It's hard to do. I've tried before. Just a couple years after I learned to deal with one horrible memory, I was suddenly, violently reminded of another. I was a grown woman before I truly remembered either event, but I was 27 when I was reminded of the worst one by a face from the past.

It's one of the hardest things to write. I can't seem to force my hands to spell the words I need. Never am I at a loss for words when I sit down to write. Writers block is a foreign concept to me. I've been very blessed that way. But even though I know what I want to say, what I NEED to say, I can't seem to force myself to say it. I had horrible things done to me when I was young and I never told anyone because I was too afraid of what people would think of me. I never wanted to be the victim and have people feel sorry for me, but all I did by not telling someone about what had happened was victimize myself. Even now as I struggle to find the words, I fear the pitty I know some of you will undoubtedly feel for me - but DON'T! Do not pitty me, it was I who refused to tell and I who will be found at fault.

No less than a half a dozen times now I've sat back in the chair and wondered how to proceed. I want to tell the world, and yet I don't. I want to let go of everything painful in my past so that I might begin to do something about the self-destructive road I've put myself on, and I think at this point writing is far more therapudic than talking to a therapist for me. If I'm going to tell a stranger everything about me, why not tell the world??

When I was 4 years old someone pulled me behind the bushes not far from my own front door and did things they shouldn't. They even brought a friend. Until some bizarre series circumstances revealed this in my memory, I had completely blocked it out. I remembered at 26 years old. It was an incredibly traumatic, sudden realization for me. I cried for days. Once the memory started, it didn't stop. I remembered the details, like the branches of the bush scratching me on the arms and legs and my mother later asking why I was so scratched up. I remember telling her that I was playing in the bushes and her eyes grew wide. She told me never to go back there again - but it wasn't the last time I was pulled back behind the bushes. It happened many more times after that. I never told.

Again I find myself sitting back and staring at the screen, knowing full well that I have done all but state the fact and I know I can't force myself to. My hands are shaking and my mind is reeling. What have I done in starting this post? What have I done? I'm meant to let go of the past, not let it control me as it seems to do. It's controlled me so often and so much - and I never even remembered any of it until I was 26 years old. Yet it's played a vital part of why I'm such a horrible person. Still I'm afraid to tell anyone. We were only children, all of us. I should have run away. I should have told. But I didn't want anyone to get into trouble so I lied. I pretended like I was fine. I wonder if I ever will be.

I can't do it.

Honestly I just said those words right out loud between sobs. I can't do it. I can't even now tell anyoone about what happened all those years ago. I don't know how. I'm sure anyone would be able to figure it out by now, and it's a shame I've put so much time into writing this because I doubt now that I will ever have the courage to post it... and I haven't even mentioned the second time - when I was nearly a teenager.