This summer, especially in contrast to last year, has been one of my very favorites. We traveled halfway around the world and then traveled back again. On our way from Paris back to Dubai I had to pinch myself. What was I doing on a plane bound from Paris to Dubai in the first place? And more than that, the craziest shock of life about it was I was flying back "home" to a place I couldn't even locate on a map a few years before.

Last summer we spent 2 months in a villa next to a dirt lot that was under construction. No driver’s license allowing us to head to the mall during the day for an escape from the constant noise. No internet, no swimming pool and no television to distract us from the jackhammers. (See posts from June/July 2009 in case you don't remember that story...) This summer we have wifi and internet connections wherever we are, we are able to drive to theaters to watch movies and we have TV with pay-per-view. And not once have I broken out in a sweat wondering how many times I could say "excuse me" in attempting to understand someone's broken, heavily accented English before it would appear rude. Not even in Paris. It's not as daunting to me anymore.

Last summer we spent our days reading and playing endless games of monopoly. This summer we’ve had no time for board games yet. Books, we have still managed to squeeze in before bed or on our stream of sometimes seemingly endless plane flights.

Last summer we would sleep in late to make the days seem shorter and go by faster as we waited for Design Guy to get home. This summer we slept in late because we were exhausted from non-stop days of fun (and, ya, jet-lag too).

Last summer I would read the National newspaper cover to cover because time was all we had and it would kill two hours of that time. I still read the newspaper most days but it doesn't always get the attention it deserves.

While this summer has definitely been one of our very best in terms of great memories, last summer, in hindsight, offered us some good memories of its own. Looking back it was actually sort of fun (albeit in a weird way) to have no outside stimulation or electronic entertainment most days. At the time it felt boring and alienating. Then, even that was a routine we got used to. Really, I have found in reflecting on the last year, you can get used to anything. Lemons will always be able to make lemonade if you take action and accept what you've been given. It may not always taste exactly right, but anything is drinkable… if it wont kill you....

Last summer we had to rely on each other for amusement. We were creative. We had more time to talk and to listen. God gave us a slower pace as we adjusted to our new situation.

This summer we had everything we could ever want in terms of fun and diversity. Time with family and old friends and time to enjoy another new culture, Le Tour de France and amazing cathedrals. But each summer brought us something unique. And while I'd take this summer over last, a million times over, I am realizing my greatest lesson in comparing the two is about balance and not taking what you have for granted. What makes life a really great adventure or a not so great one? It's how you choose to view the situations you are given and how you bring balance and gratitude into living your life.

Now that we are back from our travels and non-stop pace, we will make sure to balance the rest of the summer with some of those "read the paper from cover to cover" and "monopoly” days we learned to enjoy last year. We will be grateful for all of it, the great days and the challenging ones, the busy ones and the quiet. You really can’t have one without the other. Both offer gifts.

My view is clearly different this year as I look out my window and compare it to the one we had last summer. I see blue sky- even through the humid haze that covers it some days. I never ever want to take what we have now, or even what we had then, for granted. There are lessons in both summers. Going through last summer got us to this fantastic one, so I will take it all.

Wow, it's amazing what a difference a year can make......


french connection

I just returned from my first trip to Paris. Ever since I took French my freshman year of high-school I've felt I was living on the wrong continent. I should have been born a French girl, darn it. Only a trip to Paris could prove me right.....or wrong.... Maybe I was just glamorizing the whole French thing. I was warned... "they are rude" ,"they don't like Americans so say that you're Canadian" ," look how they treated Oprah".

After our trip to Rome I began to have my doubts. I thought for sure I must have gotten it all wrong. Why would I be thinking I was a Parisian girl trapped in an American body this whole time? Rome was fantastic, friendly, relaxed and so photogenic, I felt like I BELONGED in Rome. Silly me. I thought that all this time I was meant to be a Parisian when really I was meant to be a Roman girl. Surely nothing could compare to the high that trip created in me.......in fact, I decided that when my French course expires this September, it is really Italian I should be taking. That accent comes so much easier for me.....yep, I'm destined to be Roman girl....but to be fair......I still really needed to compare the two cities

I'll be honest. Although I couldn't imagine liking another city more than Rome, I wanted to like Paris more. But on our first day I wasn't sold. I felt an odd loyalty to my first European experience; to the picturesque streets and old world feel of Rome. I loved the way the streets were narrow with gradual slopes and hidden alleys, buildings of all different shades of old brick and stone. Rome was instantly comfortable, friendly and animated. Paris on the other hand with her monochromatic colored buildings, and more manicured, vast streets took me awhile to get to know. But, by the end of the second day, I could feel myself falling in love. Paris proved to have all the hidden nooks and crannies of Rome along with wide avenues made for cars and long walks. The best of both worlds.

I love her great, understated refinement. I love the feeling of being part of her well-mannered, cultured sophistication. When I really think about it, Paris feels more like a city I could really live in. I have a habit of rating every new city I travel to in terms of "could I live here". Rome is a great, fantastic getaway, but Paris feels like it could really be home.

In an effort to keep my travel buzz going I have been googling France. On the plane home I even watched Pret a Porter just so I could see all the places we saw one more time. During my google frenzy I stumbled upon a quiz called "Are you a Francophile?". Hmm...I thought about that for a minute. I love the language, even though my accent is weak and my pronounciation is off. (And my recall.....forget it. For my entire first day there I kept accidently saying "si" instead of "oui". Now that I'm back in Dubai, I can't stop saying "oui" instead of "yes". All the Philippino and Indian workers are giving me strange looks.) I love, love, love the fashion and can't get enough of the je ne c'est quoi for how they put their efffortless looking outfits together. I love the wine and cheese......but then again, I love wine and cheese from every country so that may not count. I love the stylish energy that Paris has, and I love that everyone was friendly and polite. Yes, they were polite. No one was rude or mean to us....even when we admitted to being American and liking to watch Oprah.

So, am I a Francophile? Actually, I think I am more of a Parisphile. It sounds less creepy and there is just something about that city that has called to me even before I went there. I am more convinced than ever that I was a French girl living in Paris during a past life. (Surely that explains why Les Miserables is my all-time favorite musical.) Now, I just have to figure out how to become a French girl again.. in THIS life.......


party in the UAE

The Atlantis stares, mouth open in disbelief. The Burj Al Arab is straight faced and you can see the jealous look in it's eye. There's a new kid in town. She's dominated the hood with her tall, thin good looks for awhile now, but until last night she hadn't tried any moves to take away their thunder. She just sat there patiently waiting for her moment to shine. And shine she did. In fact, she sparkled.

Last night, what was previously known by the name Burj Dubai not only put on her party clothes but she also got a name change. The tallest building in the world is now named The Burj Khalifa. Named after the ruler of the UAE, the name change was a surprise. A profound gesture to let the world know that this country is united and the success of this building is not just Dubai's success, it is something for the entire country to be proud of.

Design Guy got home around 7 pm and the normally 15 minute drive took us around 30 minutes since we had to be creative with our route due to the whole Emirate trying to do the same thing we were hoping to. Along the way cars were already turning the freeways into parking lots. Literally pulling to the sides of the roads to sit back and watch the show that was about to begin. That would have been a good idea, except we were hungry and the plan was to head to California Pizza Kitchen for dinner which is at the Dubai Mall, perfectly located near the base of the new icon.

On our way there we realized we couldn't see the Burj. The usually lit up building, that can be seen from literally miles and miles away, day or night, was in a cloak of darkness. We drove faster.

Once in the jam packed parking garage of the mall we took creative license in making our own parking space. The mall was a swarm of wall to wall people moving in unison to reach the final destination. At CPK there were plenty of seats because everyone was outside waiting for the opening to begin not knowing exactly what to expect. We ordered food and then ran out to wait with everyone else.

It started with music- some low fireworks and the fountains beginning their dance. Then the very tippy top of the building lit up with twinkling white lights. All of a sudden we realized this wouldn't be an ordinary fireworks show. We had heard they would launch over 10,000 of them so we just expected a great show with the sky as the back drop. Well, the sky was the backdrop but the show was the building itself. They began to launch fireworks from the Burj Khalifa so that you saw gold cascading down the building in rapid fire. It literally made the building explode with golden light. It was a blanket of shimmer around the entire thing from top to bottom. The crowd was wild with cheers and chills.

It was amazing to be part of something so epic. I was so grateful to be able to have that experience not only for me and Design Guy but for our boys as well. It will be something they will remember even as old men.

There is a new player in town and she knows how to make an entrance. Yep, if I were the Atlantis and the Burj Al Arab, I would maybe be a little jealous too with this tall super-model now getting all the attention.......

**for pics of the event you can check out my facebook page