Solo Travel – Facing My Ferris Wheel Fear in Paris

Journey Soulo Kristine Castagnaro travel solo trips

Check out this video! It’s 1 minute 26 seconds long!

One of the things that I love about traveling solo is how it opens up opportunities for me to face my fears. I’ve talked about this before… facing my fear of massages in Nepal, facing my fear of heights in Japan.

My fear of heights. I can’t seem to shake it. But I have had a lot of nervous fun trying in Belize, France, and even here at home in Hawaii!

Even though it was technically a “business trip” for Journey Soulo, my last trip to Paris was no exception.

My business partner, Toni Takeno, and I were there to research our upcoming trip with clients in May (psst! You should come with us!). When Toni & I saw that there was an opportunity to go high in the sky and film it…. well… here’s what happened!

I don’t like you, Mommy

“I don’t like you, Mommy,” I whispered into my mother’s ear. “I love you.” I giggled, tickled with myself. I thought I was the cleverest 5-year-old she could ever meet. I nestled into her lap, certain I would fit there forever.

I asked her a few years ago if she remembered this moment, which is still so vivid in my mind. She said, “No, but do you know what I do remember? I remember the exact moment when I realized your world no longer revolved around me.”

- The rest of this post is at Families in the Loop, an amazing parenting site where parents let loose.

(photo credit: arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net)

 

Dear Russell, don’t be mad…

paris-russell-dont-be-madDear Russell,

Do you remember saying goodbye to me before I left for my trip to Paris? You kissed the top of my head and said, “Be safe. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Of course,” I promised as I got into the taxi headed for the airport.

Russ, honey… now don’t be mad but…

I kinda did something just a little bit stupid.

It was the fourth day of the trip. Toni and I were taking a leisurely stroll along the Seine, stopping to browse the wares of the various vendors. I felt so blessed to be there. The day was bright and it felt like only good things could happen – as though the sun was shining rays of luck down on us rather than the same old boring rays of light. Mere moments after I mentioned to Toni how much I loved you, we happened upon a group of six or seven elderly gentlemen gathered around a man crouching on the sidewalk. At first I thought he was a magician. He was shuffling three small boxes on a red square of carpet at his knees. He was asking those huddled around to guess where he had hidden a white marble. Of course, I realized almost at once that he wasn’t a magician at all, he was a scammer… taking the money of those poor elderly gents as they chose the wrong box again and again. It was a shell game.

I felt sorry for them in a way. It was apparent that their tired old eyes simply couldn’t keep up with this man’s flying fingers. But the crouching guy was smart… he let them guess correctly every once in a while to build up their hope and keep them coming back for more.

The thing is, honey, I knew where that white marble was every single time. It was almost frustrating, watching one man leaning on his cane guess wrong time after time. In exasperation, I pointed to the center box…

“It’s in the middle one,” I whispered to Toni. “I don’t see what’s so difficult about this.”

The swindler must have overheard me because he popped out of position and strode right to me. He pressed a 10 euro note into my hand and drew me to the middle of the circle. Before I knew it, I was crouching down too, scrutinizing the boxes, considering his insistent offer of double or nothing.

I decided to go for it. I felt like somebody needed to put this guy in his place. I reached into my wallet and pulled out ten euros to match his own. Suddenly there was a lot of angry hand-waving from the man and discontented mumbling from the grandpas behind me. The man disgustedly snatched the original bill out of my hand and snapped it in front of my face.

Oh. It wasn’t a ten. It was a fifty.

I stood up to go. “No, no. Merci, but there’s no way I’m betting you 50 euro.” I tried to back away but stumbled over a metal walker precariously supporting a man who must have been in his late eighties. I tried to apologize for my clumsiness. In response he reached into the frayed pocket of his wrinkled cranberry sweater and pulled out a fifty euro note.

Honey, two things flashed through my mind as he gently offered me his crumpled money.

  1. I totally couldn’t take this old man’s cash. He was disabled for heaven’s sake. He needed that money to keep the wheels on his walker oiled and ready to roll. And what if, by some fluke, the stupid white marble eluded me?
  2. That would NEVER happen, because I knew where the marble was, like six times in a row.

I knew I had to take the bet. I knew it with a certainty that in hindsight seems somewhat misguided but I felt like I had the potential to be a hero… to stand up to this rip-off artist and his hustling ways… to give the elderly men surrounding me some measure of justice or hope for a better, albeit limited, future or something like that. And I would get a good story out of it to boot.

I pulled out fifty euros to the cheers of the frail old men behind me. Toni later told me it was just a general murmur of approval, but at the time, I heard cheers. A man wearing a jaunty hat congratulated me with a hardy pat on my shoulder. I resumed my squatting position and concentrated as the scammer man arranged and rearranged his three little boxes in an arrogant attempt to confuse me. His movements slowed and he lifted his hands. Palms up, he invited me to choose. I pointed to the box on the left, confident and somewhat self-satisfied. He flipped the box over and there was only red carpet. The white marble was not there.

He was a magician!

I jumped up and shrieked!

And that’s when I learned that I can do magic too. With that single high-pitched yelp, I had managed to clear the entire sidewalk of every human soul except Toni and myself. The con-man scooped up his carpet, shushed me with a furious finger to his lips and took off down the walkway. The man with the cane – he disappeared. The walker guy in his cranberry sweater – vanished. The entire entourage (each of whom I now understand had their own unique role to play in this shakedown) had scattered.

My 50 euros? Poof.

I looked at Toni.

“Only you,” she said, shaking her head.

I couldn’t think of a clever response because the part of my brain in charge of self-preservation immediately started a mental list of reasons why you shouldn’t be mad at me even though I had just blatantly ignored one of only two simple requests you had made of me.

So, honey. I would like to humbly submit to you, in writing…

The Top 3 Reasons

Why You Shouldn’t Be Mad at Me for

Doing Something Stupid in Paris

Reason #1: What’s really important is that everybody is safe and that nobody got hurt.

Reason #2: In the end, it was a bargain. Yes, 50 euros is roughly $66.27. The whole experience was about ninety seconds long and both Toni and I learned a valuable lesson. So, if you give that lesson a monetary value of let’s say, $40, and divide it by two (for Toni and me) and subtract 30 seconds…the whole thing only cost about $12.50.

Reason #3: I promise never to do it again.

Russell, if it helps, I want you to know, I really enjoyed the whole experience. For that minute and a half, I was having the time of my life. Now, I must admit, for a couple hours after, I was acutely aware that you might not be as understanding as you usually are about this kind of thing. So, I’ve created a list of the trinkets and treats that I didn’t buy on the trip to try to make up for the money that I lost.

  •    

Sorry, honey. I actually bought everything I wanted exactly when I wanted it. I didn’t curb my spending at all. I couldn’t help it. For some reason, I wasn’t able to look at my run-in with this racket as a bad thing. It was a just a lesson learned. Another one of my “little moments” in a foreign place. Another entertaining story to add to my cherished collection.

I hope you are not mad. I almost didn’t tell you. But who doesn’t love a story with a surprise ending?

——–

For those of you who have been wondering where I’ve been lately, I’ve been here: Journey Soulo. My good friend, Toni Takeno, and I have started a business that supports and encourages people who dream of traveling the world. We’ve got blog posts and videos, an online travel course designed to build courage and confidence, and we’re hosting a trip to Paris in May 2014. So, I’ve been a bit distracted. But I’m back!

All Signs Point To Old

I had lunch with a dynamo of a woman recently. She’s 89 years old. Sharp, witty, and fantabulous. Everything I want to be at her age. Any age, really.

As we were leaving the restaurant she said to me, “Kristine, you are obviously in your late forties. I want to tell you, you look great. There’s not a wrinkle on you!”

Well.

I am not in my late forties. And I knew the polite thing to do was to accept the compliment with grace and thank the woman. But I couldn’t do it.

“Actually, I’m forty-two. But I appreciate the compliment very much.”

“Forty-two,” she said. “Well, you’re a young one then!”

Holy shit! Wait a second! That means that an eighty-nine year old woman’s gut instinct was to categorize me as NOT YOUNG?

I felt sick. A burst of heat emanated from the center of my body. There’s no doubt. It was my very first hot flash.

 

Want to be a better mom? Leave the kids at home!

Families in the loop has posted my latest! I’m very grateful for their support.

Here it is…

I’m a selfish parent, which makes me kind of a crappy parent. I have a solid distaste for parenting logistics. I can’t stand making school lunches. I hate filling out permission slips. Counting out the exact change for a field trip, sealing it in an envelope, and tucking it into my daughter’s backpack for safe delivery drives me insane. Why? A rock-hard nugget of knowing nestled deep inside my belly tells me I’ll be counting out that same damn change the very next day because said child managed to lose said envelope.

It’s not that I don’t recognize or experience the joyful parts of parenting as well. I love the…

Read the rest at Families in the Loop.

 

 

Bladder Betrayal

The kids were invited to a birthday party. I hate going to kid’s birthday parties. I hate my own kids’ birthday parties. But it was at a gym and I decided that I would squish my desire to grumble and try my best to have a good time right along with them.

We were running late, of course, but last minute I ran back into the house and grabbed a sports bra. These days I need one if I drive over a speed bump. I figured it would be a necessity if I decided to hop on a trampoline with the children.

Sure enough, when we arrived, laughing, giggling, screeching children were climbing up rope ladders, tumbling down foam slides and jumping on the trampoline. I told the girls to run ahead while I took off my shoes and socks.

As the children darted toward the trampoline, they passed some other kid’s mother. She was heading towards me. She was smiling and happy. She wiped the sweat off her brow and said, “Wow, that was fun!”

“The trampoline?” I asked.

“Yeah, I wish I could have jumped for longer.”

“Why didn’t you?” She looked fit and strong, definitely younger than me.

“It was that last bounce,” she said. “My feet hit the mesh and my body propelled upwards and I peed myself.”

I quietly put back on my socks.

Photo (which has nothing to do with the post) credit: ucumari / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

One Minute of Peace — That’s All I Ask

Mgazi was eating breakfast at the island in the kitchen. I could dangle a hundred dollar bill in front of her face. She wouldn’t bother to look up from her plate. Nothing gets between Mgazi and her food.

Zaffron was watching Saturday morning cartoons in the family room. Zaffron turns into a zombie in front of the TV. I can wave my hand between her face and the screen and she won’t flinch.  I know this because I videotaped myself doing it once. She didn’t even blink. I’m not positive she even knew I was there. Very little gets between my daughter and her television.

I went into my bedroom. I quietly shut the door and locked it. I walked over to my bed, sat down and pulled out my iPhone. Swiped until I found what I was looking for — a stopwatch app.

How long would it be until one of my children knocked on my door?

I pressed start on the stopwatch. And I waited…

53 seconds.

 

I Had A Vision… And it Came True!

A few weeks ago a friend dragged invited me to a Vision Board class. This is where you cut pictures out of magazines and try to build a collage of everything you want out of your life. According to the instructor, if you make a board and shove it in the closet, your dreams will still come true. It’ll just take a long time. But if I “work” the board. Look at it every day, imagine these things happening to me, my vision of my life will manifest itself more quickly. I’m skeptical, but I’m also post-Paris Kristine so I’m giving it a try.

I took the assignment seriously and glue photos and words that depicted how I’d like to see my life. Happy family, travel, health, writing and photography.

One of the Oprah magazines, which are great for this  because every page is encouraging you to be a better you, had a cute little blue and yellow circle with the words, “editor’s pick.” I cut it out and pasted it on my board thinking that I’d like it represent other people acknowledging and recognizing, even recommending my work here on the blog.

I already get a bit of this from the amazing folks at Families in the Loop. They’ve posted two pieces of mine already:

This month, despite my vision board, I was feeling uninspired and out of ideas. It might have been because I was sick most of the month, or because my house was full of visitors. Regardless, I wasn’t writing. Which meant I wasn’t keeping my commitment to FITL for an original piece every month. Shame on me.
I wrote to my contact there, Melissa, and admitted my lame-assedness and offered up two old posts for possible use on their site. Melissa wrote back, forgave me immediately, and informed me that FITL would be happy to post one of my “classics.” She chose the ballet piece, the one where I’m annoyed at contributing to my children’s bloated sense of entitlement. The problem is that the piece was way too long. Within an hour, Melissa had whittled away my story to an acceptable length for FITL publication

She had picked the piece and edited it.

Holy cow. I need to take another look at that board!

And I’m hoping that you’ll take another look at my post, in it’s expertly edited form:

MY KID’S BALLET CLASS TICKS ME OFF

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas – Mommy Juice Style

Kinko! For God's sake, please don't poop in there! Bad kitty!

Kinko! Bad kitty! Does that look like the litter box?

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave me to me…

  • a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Two Little Loves –  Zaffy and Mgazi, of course, the best daughters a mom could ask for
  • and a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Three “Take Ten”s – you know, when you’re feeling a little like you are going to lose it. Like you might snap. Like your head might pop and spray brain tissue across the room (Hey, if it reached the Christmas Tree I wouldn’t have to go digging around for those lost ornaments!) Like you are about to smack someone right then and there even though there are witnesses. Breathe. Take ten.
  • Two Little Loves
  • and a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the fourth day of Christmas, my stinkin’ cat whose about to get kicked out of the house gave to me…

  • Four Kitty Turds –  Every morning without fail, I wake up to find my otherwise adorable feline friend, Kinko, has shat somewhere in the house — on the kids’ bathmat, on the kids’ bedroom carpet, on my husband’s pants. (Hey, Russell, it’s not just me that gets annoyed when you leave your clothes on the floor!)
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • and a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the fifth day of Christmas, my pawn broker gave to me…

  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings – yeah, money’s a little tight.
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Six Hairs a Graying, Teeth Decaying, Kids Disobeying, Spittle Spraying, Thoughts Betraying – I’ve had a bad day six, just sayin’.
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Seven… seven… damn! What rhymes with “swimming”? Brimming? Skimming?
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

  • Eight Maids a Cleaning – I don’t own cows, what do I need Eight Maids a Milking for? Now, if a cow produced wine… well, then, this would deserve a rethink…
  • Seven Diets a Slimming <– lame
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the ninth day of Christmas, my therapist gave to me…

  • Nine Days Xanaxing – Can you imagine? Nine anxiety-free days. *Blissful Sigh* Thank God for therapists who are willing to treat people who don’t actually have anything wrong with them! Without all my perfectly normal worries and fears, maybe I’ll finally get some sleep!
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven Trees a Trimming <– blech
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the tenth day of Christmas, my children gave to me…

  • Ten Morns to Sleep In – Holy crap! The Xanax is working!
  • Nine Days Xanaxing
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven… seven…. seven… nothing
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my true love  gave to me…

  • Eleven Tears a Wiping – I’m not crying because I’m overwhelmed, scared, and feeling as though I’m not good enough. I’m crying because I’m pissed!
  • Ten Morns to Sleep In
  • Nine Days Xanaxing
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven Periods of Skipping – OMG! It’s Meno Clause!
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my credit card gave to me…

  • Twelve Brookstone Products Humming – What? Did I say something?
  • Eleven Tears a Wiping
  • Ten Morns to Sleep In
  • Nine Days Xanaxing
  • Eight Maids a Cleaning
  • Seven – why are you even reading seven? There’s nothing to see here!
  • Six Hairs a Graying
  • (72 bucks for) Five Golden Rings
  • Four Kitty Turds
  • Three “Take Ten”s
  • Two Little Loves
  • And a Marriage that is Stress-Free!!!!!!!!!!!!

First image courtesy of m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Last image courtesy of photoexplorer / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thoughtless Words Get Me Into Trouble (Again)

Families in the LopSo, I was asked to contribute to a Chicago parenting site called Families in the Loop last month. Their tagline is “where parents let loose.” In other words, they say what they actually think, not what they are supposed to think. And they swear a lot. (They’re all kinds of awesome.)

So, I wrote this piece called “All I Want for Christmas is to Knock Out My Kid’s Two Front Teeth.” Zaffy had lost her top front tooth, her third one. And it was upsetting to her, just like losing her first two. She vacillated between exhilaration and terror. Laughing and crying. Poor thing didn’t know what to feel.

I felt sorry for her. But I was also annoyed. That’s what got me into trouble. She turned on me when I helped her with her tooth and then I turned on her in a very un-grown-up like way.

It’s not always funny.

PARENTING FAIL: FEELING LIKE A BIG PILE OF “SHEET”