Collection of Beautiful Things (V)

I have been in a really happy mood recently.  It feels like my soul has wings and is bursting forth towards the heavens.  (If you’ve read one of my most recent posts, you can probably guess why.). The world is beautiful and rosy and shimmering in magic.

On my phone, I have a collection of screenshots.  These photos are things that touch my heart and soul in some deep way.  They are beautiful and wonderful and thought-provoking.  This small snippet of photos are varied in topic, but I think each and every one of them have an element of beauty to them, and they make my heart happy.  Some are reminders of God and corresponding verses, some are reminders to adventure, and yet others simply beautiful in motivation and illustration.  Beauty is multi-faceted, isn’t it?

As I am working on other posts to show you soon, I thought I would try to spread the happiness and beauty I am feeling and seeing, with the rest of the world.

Ciao for now,

Julia

I do something rather unglamorous.

I do something unglamorous.

And honestly, I love every minute of it.

At my church, I am part of a program that works to provides aide and help for kids with disabilities, while also creating a safe and inclusive space for them to learn and grow.  I have been a part of this group for at least three years.  And for the duration of those years, I have been a one-on-one to a little girl with Down Syndrome.  (I will be calling her PG throughout this post, as PG stands for “pretty girl”, which is my nickname for her.)

When I started with her, I had little to no experience working with kids with special needs.  I had babysat a group of kids several times prior, with one of the children being on the Autism Spectrum, but that was it.  PG used mostly ASL, had poor use of words,  used braces on her feet, and was honestly a challenge for me when I started.  She will be in first grade this coming school year, and my goodness, how she was grown.  She uses little to no sign, her word usage is incredible, she can write her name and her hand writing is beautiful, and her manners are improving everyday.

Working with kids with special needs is a very unglamorous job.  My hands, arms, and sometimes my legs, have been covered in marker.  My clothes sometimes get covered in drool and bits of chewed food.  Most recently, I had a white shirt get covered in Oreo slobber.  I have had my hair pulled, my fingers bent back the wrong way, and I’ve been pinched and kicked.  I have even had things thrown at me, or I’ve had to block things that were thrown. I have been (very unintentionally) choked, and at times I become a human jungle gym.  There was a period of time where PG liked to bang her head against my chest, if she was sitting in my lap.  And more often than not, working with kids with special needs is a full contact sport.  There are a few kids at my church that don’t like touch, but the vast majority of kids in the program do.  And more often than not, physical touch is used help restrain.  PG is a runner, so I spend time running after her, restraining her, and physically bringing her back to the task at hand.

The past three days were VBS (Vacation Bible School) at my church.  On one of the evenings, PG had diarrhea very early on in the evening.  (It was due to something she ate, and her parents were fine that she stay for the rest of the evening.). However, she got a little in her underpants, and for the rest of the evening, she kept trying to put her hands in her pants.  And though I washed my hands many times with soap and water, by the end of the evening, I smelled like diarrhea.

And all of the parents of the kids in this program, and all of the volunteers who work with the kids, undoubtedly have similar stories to tell.

I want it to be noted, though, that a lot, if not all, of the unglamorous traits of helping kids with disabilities, are simply traits of working with kids.  Working with kids really, of any age group and in any capacity, is beautifully messy.  Working with kids with special needs simply adds another layer of messy beauty.  Kids with special needs are still kids, dealing with the normal issues and challenges of being a kid, but with additional (and oftentimes individualized) traits that come with their diagnosis.

Working with kids with special needs is so unglamorous and frustrating and exhausting and messy and challenging and at times, exceedingly overwhelming.  It is even often a thankless job.  But.  It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and could ever do.

I love my PG.  She may not quite know my name, but she knows she is safe with me.  She knows my face and my voice, and she knows I am here to help her.  She knows she can have fun with me.  In fact, one of my most favorite things is when I can get her to belly laugh.  I love when she hears what I ask her to do and she does it.  I love when she can say “sorry” or “thank you” or “please” without prompting.  She loves to sing and dance, and I love when she sings along, or does the accompanying motions.  I love when she grabs my hand or sits in my lap spontaneously.  She loves to read, and will often “read” me a story, which I simply love. She loves big, gives great hugs, and will walk up to complete strangers and say “hi”.  She knows Jesus, and that makes me so happy.

In the hallway in the lower level of our church, we have a painting of Jesus, surrounded by the kids from our congregation that have passed away.  It’s a beautiful painting, and last night at VBS, PG stopped to look at it.  She pointed to Jesus, and said, “That’s Jesus.  He died.”. I was a bit taken back, but I said “Yes, you’re right.  But He’s not dead anymore, right?  He’s in Heaven.”.  She continued to look at the painting, nodded her head, and said “Yes.  That’s Jesus.”.  Then she grabbed my hand, and walked away.  That moment made my heart all kinds of happy.

And my most favorite story to tell about PG happened when I was feeling incredibly overwhelmed and stressed.  It was before she was in Kindergarten, so she was part of a class that had kids ages 3 to 5.  On this particular Sunday, there were four kids with disabilities; PG, her younger brother with intellectual disabilities, and identical twins with Autism, but with complete opposite preferences in terms of physical touch.  I was the only trained volunteer (for kids with disabilities) in the room at the time, and was feeling a bit overwhelmed.  There was another helper, who is absolutely incredible.  In a moment when the twins got angry and upset, this amazing helper was right beside me, trying to figure out which twin needed physical touch to calm down, and which didn’t.  It was also in this moment that PG‘s younger brother was stepping on kids and taking toys.  I began to get worried that PG would have a issue, and thus causing this helper and I to put a child under each arm, and get out of the room.  But as I stood up to make sure there weren’t any more issues, PG caught my eye, smiled really big, and started to sing “Jesus Loves Me”.  My heart pretty much overflowed.

Working with kids with special needs is hard. There are times I find myself frustrated and exasperated.  There are times I look for help, and I am learning it is totally okay to say “I need help right now; I can’t do this by myself”.  I make mistakes sometimes, and sometimes I make them a lot.  But I learn something new about PG everyday, and I learn new ways of helping her.  I have loved watching her grow and learn and blossom into the beautiful soul she is.

I do something unglamorous.

But I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

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Let go and embrace His plan.

Hey guys, sorry its been a it.  I promise I am working on several posts; most notably the results from my survey.  But right now, I’m feeling really happy, and I don’t want to work on those posts.

Some of the major details I’d like to keep secret for awhile longer.  I’m feeling incredible happy, and my soul is singing, and I don’t want to do anything that could potentially ruin this.  But I am learning some really important things, and like all things, I wanted to share it with you.

I am learning, that in order to fully embrace what God is going to do in your life, you have to let go of certain expectations and plans you may place on Him. 

Let me explain.  I’ve been single for three-wish years. (I did date someone at the beginning of the year for two-ish months.  And because of that short duration, I consider it simply a tiny blimp on my “single” timeline.). And I’m getting to the point in my life where I’m beginning to think about my future and getting married.  So it would seem natural that I would be looking for a relationship, right?

Last year, when I applied for a summer position at a Christian camp, I thought for sure that I would meet the man of my dreams at the camp, and the rest would be history.  I began to place that desire on God, and I expected Him to follow through with it.  However, when I wasn’t offered a position, I thought God wasn’t keeping His promise.  I think I was more hurt by the fact that I wasn’t going to meet Godly men, and the future I had built before me involving a Godly man from camp wasn’t going to happen, than I was with the actual rejection.

When this past fall semester started, I had the same mentality; The man I am supposed to meet will be in one of my classes.  He wasn’t.  Then spring semester started.  Same thing.  Then I started a new job.  Still, I had the same mentality.  And as of right now, the same result.  I was beginning to think this illusive man would be at this college I’m transferring to in the fall.

But, well, all I’ll say, is sometimes, maybe, God has a different plan.

What I’m learning, is if I continue to place that expectation of meeting my Prince Charming at a certain place at a certain time on God, I may be missing out on His true plan for me.  I need to stop trying to confine God to what I think He should do, and when I think He should do it.  “I am not skilled to understand, what God has willed, what God has planned”, so why should I try to think I do?

I am also learning that nothing I do could ever screw up God’s plan for me.  Ever.  I am not that powerful.

I used to be so worried that the right guy would come along while I was in a relationship.  That while I was with one guy, the “right” guy would catch my eye.  I used to be so worried I would get stuck in between my timing and God’s timing.  I used think I had the ability to royally screw up God’s plan for me.  And I used to think anything I did in one relationship could directly affect my chances of meeting Mr. Right.

But I’m learning I am not a god, and therefore, I do not have the power, nor ability, to screw anything up.  I do not have the power to override God’s plan for me.  Nothing I do could ever cause God to change His mind about what He’s planned for me.  Everything I have ever done, and every relationship I have ever been in, or will be in, fits perfectly into God’s design for my life.  There is something so freeing in realizing that.

I am truly very happy.  I woke upon this morning in a wonderful mood, and have pretty much been smiling ever since.  And, I feel closer to God than I have in a long time.

Let go of any and all expectations you have of God, regarding your future, and embrace His plan.  I promise you, it is beautiful and better than anything you could ever imagine.

Ciao for now,

Julia

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13 Reasons Why.

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This is something I wanted to talk about.  I think it’s incredibly important.  However, I put off watching the show after I heard my brother’s comments and opinions on the show. (He isn’t a fan.)

*Let me provide you with a brief synopsis:  This show is based on the young adult book of the same name.  Hannah Baker commits suicide, and instead of leaving a suicide note, she records 13 tapes.  Each tape is addressed to a particular person Hannah blames for her suicide.  The tapes are to be passed through the people consecutively, one after the other.  If a person decides not listen to the tapes and pass them on, there is a threat that there is an identical set of tapes that will be released to the authorities.  The show focuses around Clay Jensen, who receives the tapes at the beginning of the show.  He was Hannah’s friend, and had a crush on her, and so he finds it very difficult to listen to the tapes.  He is the 11th tape, and as he works his way through the tapes about his peers, he challenges their “stable” handling of the tapes and Hannah’s death.  However, Hannah’s parents are filing a lawsuit against the school because of bullying, and targets one of the 13 students.  This further makes the situation between Clay and the others tense and sometimes dangerous.*

Before I get into the nitty gritty of my opinions, I want to make something very clear: Suicide is something that needs to be talked about.  It is a dangerous choice that many people, teenagers especially, decide to make.  It’s devastating and impacts many people.  The year after I graduated high school, my class lost two people to suicide, in the span of two weeks.  Suicide needs to be talked about.  But there is a difference between talking about suicide and handling suicide

Though this show talks about suicide, it doesn’t handle suicide.  Let me explain.  This show focuses on a young girl’s suicide, and how it affects her high school.  Suicide itself is talked about, and the ripple effect is examined.  But it is does not handle suicide.  It doesn’t talk about the warning signs, or ways to help.  If anything, the show focuses on bullying and harassment.  These things is still important to talk about, and definitely a key factor in many suicides, but then the show should be labeled as a show focusing on such.

I also want to make it clear that, as of writing this, I have yet to finish the show.  I am less than half-way through, and in all honesty, I can’t take any more.  I initially decided that I wasn’t going to write about this show until I finished it, but honestly, it’s having a negative effect on my mental and emotional state.  I’m watching it slowly, and it’s still getting under my skin.

I have never really considered suicide.  (Well, there was one evening four years ago, for about a span of forty-five minutes, where I desperately didn’t want to wake up the next morning.  But that was due to a heart-wrenching situation, and I already it mentioned here, point 3.). I love my life.  I am full to the brim with excitement about my future.  If you were to stop me in the street and ask me about my hopes and dreams, and my plans for the future, my eyes would light up and I would get very excited to talk about those things.  I’m saying these things to paint the picture of how much I love my life, and am not suicidal or depressed.  But this show is causing me to have scary thoughts. Thoughts such as “What would my room say about me if I was gone?” or “Am I the ‘real me’ to my parents, family, and friends?” or even “How would my death impact others if I was gone?”. 

I will be 21 this year, so these thoughts are scary to me, because life is still so bright before me.  But now imagine these thoughts in the minds of depressed teenagers.  The gravity of that situation is enough to shake me to my core.  And if suicide is the second leading cause of death for teenagers ages 15-19 (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), is it not terrifying that a show that creates these types of thoughts is advertised for teenagers in that demographic?

Thirteen Reasons Why is not a show that spreads awareness about suicide.  In fact, if anything, it trivializes it.  Instead of focusing on the young girl’s mental state, it instead seems to focus on harassment and bullying.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  Harassment and bullying need to be talked about and some of the things the characters did were absolutely atrocious and deserve to be addressed.  However, not in the way the show addresses them.  For example, one of the students, Tyler, was on the yearbook staff, and began to stalk Hannah.  She hears him outside her window late one night, taking pictures.  What he did was obviously not okay.  However, instead of telling authorities, Hannah decides to sit outside his window as she records his tape, telling those listening to those rocks at his window.  That is not okay. 

The other thing I can’t stand about this show is how Hannah’s word is held as law.  I understand respecting the dead, and their wishes.  But I draw the line at holding those wishes above the well-being of other people.  In the same situation with Tyler, instead of throwing a rock at his window, Clay takes a picture of him while he’s changing, and sends to kids at school.  When he is confronted by Tyler about it, Clay says that what he did was equal to what Tyler did.  I partly feel bad for Clay, because he liked Hannah, he feels the need to honor her and seek revenge.  However, I would argue his actions make him just as bad as the things the other people did.  Also, every person who listens to the tapes seems to think they have no choice in the matter, that they have to listen to them and pass them on.  They seems to hold their reputations and futures above Hannah’s grieving parents, and other students.  Those of who that have experienced the effects of suicide closely, does this sit well with you? 

Now, this show is listed as TV-MA, due to the language and sexual content.  Hannah Baker is sexually assaulted and raped, and from the episodes I have seen, I have reason to believe the rape seen will be shown in detail.  And because all of the episodes are available on Netflix, people have the ability to watch the entire show in one sitting.  This is a lot of emotional and upsetting material to take in all at once.  I could just about handle both seasons of Broadchurch, and I am going to have to find the emotional fortitude to watch the third and final season.  That show was handled gently and with cautious delicacy, in terms of the more unsavory scenes.  But this show, it feels blatant and aggressive.  It feels frank, but not in the prudent or well thought-out way.  (Also, I want to note that the intro music to the show creates a very stark contrast with the nature of the show.  It is a relatively happy tune, compared to the dark subject matter.)

I have not finished the series, but in doing research for this show, I’ve learned that Hannah’s suicide is depicted in full graphic detail.  First off, as someone who is naturally sensitive to scenes like that, I know that moment would cause me serious emotional distress.  But secondly, there is research to suggest that visual, graphic depictions of suicide can increase viewer suicides.  Imagine teenagers, who already are suicidal or have suicidal thoughts, watching that scene.  They may be more compelled to commit suicide.   That scares me. 

The final thing about this show is the way it concludes.  It is alluded that one of the students, the first student named and the one targeted by the lawsuit, is about to commit suicide.  On top of that, it is also alluded that there will be a school shooting.  These are terrifying things, and should not be handled lightly.  However, I would argue that the students involved in these end-of-the-show tragedies, are doing so because of the blame placed on them by Hannah.  I would argue that it was Hannah’s tapes and her persistence that they be listened to, that drove certain people to suicide or revenge through a school shooting.  I think this creates a flawed idea that one can still have an impact on other people after one has died.  Let me put this plainly and has gently as I can: If you commit suicide, you relinquish your control and impact on others around you.  You no longer can tell people what to do.  And mostly importantly, you cannot blackmail people from the grave. 

I have issues with this show because of how it seems to glamorize revenge harassment and how it trivializes suicides.  It doesn’t seem to place things in proper proportion.  I have been a teenager, and I have been in high school.  But this show makes high schoolers and counselors seem uncaring, incompetent, and totally disillusioned.  I have not finished this show, and as of right now, I do not plan on it.

I agree with this article, “13 Reasons Why’s Controversial Depiction of Teen Suicide Has School Counselors Picking Up the Pieces“.  I feel those people that actually want to help are left to try to make this show a working part of the conversation about suicide.  They are left to steer the conversation away from some of the really glaring issues with the show, back towards help and safety and prevention.

If you still want to watch this show, please do so knowing it is a work of fiction and should be understood as such.  It represents graphic depictions of bullying, cyberbullying, sexual harassment, rape, and suicide.  If you already have suicidal thoughts, or know someone who does, please do not watch this show.  I do not know you, but I love you.  I do not know you, but I care about you.  I do not know you, but I want you to live.  You are worthy of life, and beautiful and wonderful. 

If you or someone you know is exhibiting suicidal tendencies or is showing any of the warning signs for suicide, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  The line is open 24 hours a day, and there is even the ability to chat online, if necessary.  Please reach out; there are people to care about you and want to help you.

 

Art to make you Feel

SoulPancake time!  This particular prompt is “List five pieces of art that stimulate your brain stem”.

I love art, and so asking me to choose my top favorite pieces of art is like asking me to choose my top five favorite movies or books; it’s impossible!

*Note: I know this prompt is probably looking for visual pieces of art, such as a painting or sculpture.  However, I see art as a form of powerful personal expression and creativity, so my choices are going to be a compilation of music, photos, paintings, and even a book.  To each their own, right?*

1. Untitled photo of a woman, Man Ray – I couldn’t find a proper title for this image, but regardless.  There is something so captivating about this woman.  I love the fragmented reflections around her.  It’s haunting and sad and dark and beautiful.  Man Ray’s pictures tend to be sexual and dark, but this picture is one that I’d love to hang in my room.

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2. Rhapsody in Blue, George Gershwin- This piece of music is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest pieces ever written.  I love it so much.  Every time I listen to it, I fall in love.  Last Christmas I received a record with Rhapsody on one side, and American in Paris on the other, and let me tell you what.  They are phenomenal, and Gershwin is amazing.

3. The Golden Echo, Kimbra – Kimbra is a modern singer/songwriter/musician.  When you listen to her talk about her music, or watch her sing, you can see how much music means to her.  This album, The Golden Echo, is her second album, and so incredibly packed full of awesome stuff.  It’s the kind of music that you have to listen to with headphones on and the volume up.  Each piece gives me a very different feeling and impression.  Kimbra’s just a freaking powerhouse, and it shows in her music.

4. The Star, Edgar Degas – I love Degas.  I took ballet for several years growing up, so I have a deep appreciation for the beauty of ballerinas and their world.  I love the subtle brush strokes and delicate focus on the dancers.  Whenever I see a Degas painting of ballerinas, a part of me wishes I was still a ballerina.

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5. Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh – I love van Gogh.  My current calendar is a collection of his paintings.  I love the textures, and the brush strokes, that are apparent in his work.  There’s something calming and gentle, and incredibly passionate in all of his works.  I know Starry Night is his most famous work, but I think this one is definitely one of my favorites.  I love the swirls and the colors; there’s something quite magical in this painting.

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I also really like Dance at Bougival by Auguste Renoir, All My Demons Greeting Me as Friends by Aurora, and Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

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What are some pieces of art that make you feel?

Ciao for now,

Julia

 

An end and a beginning.

Yesterday, I handed in my two weeks’ notice at my job.  Tomorrow I start orientation for my new job.  Next week, I have finals.  And in four months, I transfer to my next college to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.  A chapter is ending.  A new adventure is beginning.

I’ve spent the past two years going to the local community college, and working at a local grocery store.  In a way, it feels fitting that as I finish my time at this college, I move on to another job.

Resigning from my job is not a new idea.  For several months, I have been toying with the idea of leaving.  The things I could tolerate when I first started this job, I no longer can.  I even sent out a few applications last September.

Compared to my very first job, this second job at the grocery store was a million times better.  But now, as my list of frustrations grow, this new job stands miles above my current.

As I was venting frustration after a day of work recently, my brother happened to comment that what I was saying were similar things, if not the same, from when I resigned from my first.  Through my frustration, I could see he was right.  But I began to realize, that like everything, my job was good for a season.

I am beginning to realize that everything happens for a season, and for a reason.   I was in a relationship recently, that was very brief.  But though it was brief, I believe it was very important.  It revealed a lot of important things.  And I see my soon-to-be former job in the same light.  I have learned a lot from my coworkers, my managers, and even my customers, and thus am trying not to only view the job, and the past two years, through the lens of current frustrations and angers.

I’ve learned what true compassion and love looks like.  I’ve learned how to understand people, and then how to appreciate them.  I’ve learned to swallow my pride, and to understand that I am just as important (or in some cases, just as unimportant) as my fellow employees.  I’ve learned how to face challenges, and what it truly means to think on my feet.  I’ve learned the importance of expectations, and the importance of standards.  I’ve learned the true importance of following through, and fighting for things I want.

Through on-going issues in management, I am learning the importance of clarity and communication between leadership.  I am learning the sour taste that comes from managerial favoritism.  I am learning the awkwardness and helplessness that comes double standards and hypocrisy in management.

From all of the issues combined, I am learning that if a situation is frustrating, it is on me to fix it.  I am learning that if I ask and ask for more responsibilities or different positions, it is on me to initiate the conversation, and to follow through.  But most importantly, I am learning, that if after I have done that and nothing has changed (or has even gotten worse), it is my responsibility to leave.

I began learning this is in the fall-out of my relationship, and I am learning it even more now: If a situation is directly affecting my sanity, attitude, and future, it is my responsibility to change that.  My well-being should be my main focus.

Something I say to myself, when I am really struggling with a situation, is this: What is more important to you; your sanity and future, or …………. (fill in the blanks)?. When I was in the relationship, it was: What is more important to you; your sanity and future, or not hurting someone’s feelings?  And while struggling with the frustrations of my job: What is more important to you; your sanity and future, or the friends you’ve made and the “comfort” of a job you’ve had for several years?

There should be no shame in leaving a job.  There should be no shame in admitting, “This just isn’t going to work anymore.”.  There should be no shame and no guilt, in searching for a job that better suits your needs and wants, one that will work better with your sanity and future.  There should be no shame or guilt in leaving a relationship that isn’t working.  There should be shame in leaving a situation that is having a negative impact on your well being.

In this moment, typing this on my back porch, in the spring twilight, the importance of this idea is being driven into my heart.  It’s true, though, isn’t it?

I think, sometimes, we put too much stock in how we affect other people.

I had originally planned to resign in August, when I move in to my new campus.  However, the situation at work was becoming so unbearable, that I decided now was the time.  I picked up applications a week and a half ago.  I returned them the middle of last week.  That day, I had the initial interview, and the next, I had the second.  By the time I left that second interview, I had orientation already scheduled.  It all moved rather fast, but as I have been praying for peace and guidance in this situation, I feel peace that this is the right decision.

I am so thankful for this new job that understands my time restraint for over the summer, and then my minimal availability for the new school year.  I am so thankful that this new job is able to provide me with the hours I have been asking for, for months.  I am so thankful that this job allows me to work, as I want to, in order to further build up funds for college.  I am so thankful that this new job provides me with responsibilities and challenges, which is something I have been desiring for a long time.

After my second interview, I told my mom that this new job feeds more mature.  After talking with the managers during the interviews, this new job seems to be exactly what I’ve been wanting for so long.

My time at my current job is coming to an end. When I work these final times, my shifts will be chock full of good-byes and “last times”.  It’s bittersweet and my heart is grieving.  I will miss the friends I have made, and the experiences I’ve had (potential robberies, scandals, even my first social study).  It was at this job that I brain-stormed (rather important) plot progressions for my story and I formed post ideas (some even published, others in the works).  This job has been crucial to my growth as a young adult, a worker, a thinker, a writer, and even as a Christian.  I am forever grateful.  However, I am looking forward to this new job, and even my new school, with anticipation and excitement.  I am excited for the new opportunities and experiences.

A chapter in my life is coming to a close.  A new adventure, bold and brilliant, is beginning before me.

The future is bright, and I am ready.

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Collection of Beautiful Things (V)

Spring is breaking into my corner of the world in a beautiful display.  The sun is warm, the sky is blue, the grass is soft, the trees are green, and the flowers are bursting forth in glorious fireworks of color.  The air is fragrant with the smells of spring; exposed soil, rain, warmth, flowers.  With spring comes this (almost) overwhelming desire to sit outside with a book all day, and ignore all responsibilities.

Spring is one of my favorite times of the year.   I like the feeling of rebirth and renewal, the anticipation summer freedom, and the excitement of campfires and spending evenings outside.  Spring is when my bedroom windows are open (almost) all day, everyday.  Spring is when I wake up to birdsong and fall asleep to the smell of twilight.

Spring is when everything is beautiful and wonderful, rosy and romantic.

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What are some of your favorite, beautiful things during Springtime?

Ciao for now,

Julia