Tag Archives: Florida

Ready…Set…GO!

BAM!

My final semester at university has begun! I am so excited to finally say those words, er…type those words. Haha! I graduated from high school back in 2008 and it has taken me 8 years to get this far to my final semester to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree. I know that it should only take 4 years to get your Bachelor’s Degree, but I took two semesters off to participate in the Disney College Program internship in Orlando, Florida for a year from 2010-2011. Then 2013-2014 I had to take a year off due to medical problems so that I could recover and get my health back to normal. Finally, I started classes again the Fall of 2015 and now…after all this time, I’m so close to the finish line and I’m so excited to graduate in December!

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The best news? Only two classes stand in my way of completing my goal. This last semester, I am taking “Survey of Asian Art” and “Music Appreciation”. Now why those two you may ask? Well, as an Art Major, I am required to take a Music, Theater, or Dance class and I didn’t mean to put it off until my last semester, that’s just how it happened, so Music Appreciation it was. And, I needed one more Art History elective class, and I really am a BIG appreciator of Asian culture, so I just HAD to take that class when I saw it was an option, haha!

So…please wish me luck!

– Soleil

 

What It Feels Like To Be Me

I have found the past two weeks of my life have been difficult. Why is that? I know why but I hate to admit the reason. Admitting it feels like I’m giving up, like I’m a failure, and that hurts.

When I was in sixth grade, my Memere was diagnosed with Colorectal Cancer. She underwent chemo-therapy and surgery to remove it and then she was fine. But it came back. By the time I was in high school, it had returned at least three times. The summer I finished my Junior year and was waiting to begin my Senior year in the fall, the cancer had been back and had spread to her brain. She had surgery again that August to take out what they could in her brain, but they couldn’t take it all. From that date on, I watched her deteriorate before my eyes.

My mother and I went to my Memere and Pepere’s house every day to help take care of her. These were my mother’s parents and my mom wanted to be there to help not only Memere, but to give Pepere time to himself, too. By the time I started school, she decided to stop with all of her chemo-therapy and radiation treatments. As I watched her get worse, I began to have panic attacks in school. Suddenly, while in classes, I would feel like I couldn’t breathe and I’d ask to go to the nurse’s office, and she would let me call my mom, begging her to come and get me so we couldn’t go and see Memere until she could talk to me enough to calm me down and finish out my school day. By Christmas she was in a wheelchair, weighed as much as I did at that time, and had trouble swallowing her medicine and food. One week later, she couldn’t even get out of bed, then she had trouble understanding, and by the second week of January, she was gone.

I remember so clearly, the Friday before she passed away. My high school was gearing up for our annual Relay for Life event and we had a meeting for the whole school in the auditorium. It was a sort of review meeting, to go over what we had done last year and to see videos, and to explain to the Freshmen and new students of that year what Relay for Life was and why we did it. I stood up when one of the teacher’s giving a speech asked who had family members and friends close to them with cancer and then sat back down and when that same teacher started to talk about her own experience, well, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I was sitting in the very last row of the auditorium, in the very middle. With friends on either side, I suddenly felt so trapped. I knew I wasn’t going to make it if I tried to squeeze past all of them to get out to the aisle, so I got up on my seat and jumped over it to the floor behind me. I ran out the doors. In the foyer outside, one of the substitute teachers was waiting for the meeting to be over, I guess I must have looked terrible because she asked me what was wrong and the next thing I knew I was sobbing in her arms telling her all of the horrible things I’d been living through for six years and how it’d just gotten so much worse in the past six months and that I didn’t know what to do anymore. How I just wanted to go home and see my Memere. How she was dying and there was nothing I could do about it.

To be honest, I’m not sure where I would have run to if she hadn’t caught me and expressed her concern. I probably would have ended up crying alone in the bathroom, stuck in my own misery until someone found me.

And then, my worst fear came true. I told my substitute teacher on Friday that my Memere was dying and that Sunday she passed away. That was probably the worst day of my life so far. I cried so much. I still do. It’s hard, losing someone you love. I’m not sure that you ever really do get over it. You keep loving them even though their gone, and that is okay. But I felt so lost after that. I became so tired of forcing myself to smile and pretending to be alright. When we went on our Senior Trip to Walt Disney World in Florida five months later, that was the first time I actually smiled and laughed and it wasn’t forced. I meant it.

And life seemed to get better after that. I graduated and was sad about it, but it was okay. I started college and for my second semester I went to work at Walt Disney World in Florida as a part of their Disney College Program. I made a new friend and he became my best friend. But when I came home, I don’t know why, but my panic attacks came back. Slowly at first, so I just thought that the OCD habits I was picking up were normal. But when I went back to do a second DCP the following year and the habits became excessive and the panic attacks became so frequent that I was calling my mother and crying to her every day, begging her to come home even though I had a month of my program left to complete, I knew something was wrong.

But I finished my program and my dad and younger brother picked me up and brought me back home. And I was okay again. The panic attacks subsided and the OCD dwindled to being barely noticeable. And then it was back again, so much worse than before. This time the OCD controlled me. I couldn’t do anything without doing it as a habit of so many counted steps, so many taps of my fingers, so many buttoning of the same button, or zippering of the same zipper, over and over and over again until I felt as though I was insane. And I often did question my sanity during this time. I swore I was going mental, that I’d have to be handled with extreme medical treatment. I was terrified!

And the panic attacks became paralyzing. I couldn’t speak or move or even think when I had one. Just the same flash of fear that I was going to die consumed me until suddenly my mother or brother came to my rescue, pulling me out of my stuck state, forcing me to interact with them, to talk to them, to explain what was wrong and what I was feeling.

By Christmas, after roughly eight months of going through this uncontrollable torture, of jeopardizing my job and school attendance because I couldn’t get out of the house in time because I was doing habits, of not going at all because I was having a breakdown, I told my parents I wanted to see a doctor. I ended up with a psychologist. He met me every week and spoke with me, gave me things to do to try and control my anxiety and OCD. And he recommended medication. But I’m stubborn. Medication was my largest concern of the whole thing. It was my worst nightmare coming true. I needed medical help and that was the last thing I wanted. Because, accepting medication as the answer meant that I wasn’t normal. That I couldn’t cope like every other normal human being could. That I was different and was going to be different for a very long time. In my eyes, it meant defeat, that I had let these anxieties and OCD habits take over my life, and I had lost.

It took a year for my psychologist and parents to convince me to even try taking medication. I was prescribed an SSRI (or a Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor), which helps to regulate the serotonin levels in your brain. And when I did, I felt sick for weeks. I didn’t go to school and I failed all of my classes from lack of attendance alone. I literally spent days dragging myself out of bed only to curl up in a ball on the couch and watch things to keep me happy and not focused on myself. Mostly, it was the Disney Channel.

And then, suddenly, I began to feel “normal” again. After taking the medicine for an entire year, I actually felt like my old, “normal” self again. Two years after taking it and I felt completely alright and expressed to my doctor that I wanted to ween off of the medication to see how I did without it now that I felt cured. They agreed and the process began. Originally up to 20mg of the SSRI, I dropped to a 10mg for 30 days and then 5mg for the following 30 days.

And now we’re back at present time. Precisely two weeks ago, I stopped taking my SSRI. Since then I have had two panic attacks. Both have been cope-able. The first was more tolerable than the one I had today. And it was today I realized that without the medication, they’re just going to get worse again. I can’t be a normal person without the medication. I can’t feel like a normal person taking the medication.

I feel so defeated.

I see my counselor about all of this tomorrow. I will start taking my SSRI medication again so that I can be myself, but what frustrates me the most is that I wasn’t like this when I was younger. My panic attacks didn’t begin until my Senior year of high school. My OCD didn’t start showing up with the panic attacks until two years after that. So why can’t I just be normal like when I was younger? The answer: I can’t. I will most likely be on this medication for the rest of my life and that’s disappointing. But if that means I can feel like my old self again with the help of the medication, then I have to learn to live with it.

That’s my update. Sorry it’s so long and deep and boring.

Look for my words again soon!

-Soleil

The History of Downtown Charleston, SC!

I’ve made a liar of myself. I never did make that 9/12 post I promised. For that, I apologize. In case it might happen again:

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So, I wanted to finish up my South Carolina trip recap in this post. Let the fun begin!

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This was my dinner at Jestine’s Kitchen in Downtown Charleseton. It includes some awesome Soul Food: Brown Sugar Glazed Ham, Mac & Cheese, Collard Greens, and cornbread with some real Southern sweet tea.
Trying to get to Jestine’s it started to downpour! Since Ant and I didn’t have an umbrella, we got soaked, of course. It was a cold rain, too.

 

 

 

 

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To the left we have me, soaked, and to the right we have me with my hair dried off and with an awesome flip to it now! Yay!  IMG_7881

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also took a really cool historical tour through a portion of Downtown Charleston in an open-carriage pulled by two mules.

St. Philip's Episcopal Church

St. Philip’s Episcopal Church

It leans slightly to the left because of the earthquake that happened in the 1800s. Also, John C. Calhoun is buried here. In case you’re wondering, he’s the man who created the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. Also, Edward Rutledge is buried here, too. He was the youngest signer of the Declaration of Independence and eventually became the 39th Governor of South Carolina.

Powder Magazine

Powder Magazine

The Powder Magazine sat on the edge of the original Charleston city border, which was surrounded by a 17-ft. wall made of mud and palmetto logs. They built a wall around their city because 13 prior attempts to colonize the South (one of which was Roanoke) had failed. The Powder Magazine dates back to 1713 and has walls that are 2-3 feet thick, made of brick, and the roof was stored with sandbags in the case that if there was an explosion, the sound and impact would hopefully be muted. This same wall was very successful during the Revolutionary War. Charleston was able to hold out against the British for four years (compared to Boston and Philadelphia, which fell in under a year), because the wall was built from palmetto logs, which are very absorbent of water and so are very spongey. This sponge-iness allowed for difficulty to surmount and destory and/or invade the city. Since the British couldn’t break the fort walls, they retreated back North. This victory for the city of Charleston is why South Carolina features the Palemetto as its State Tree and on its State Flag.

Charleston had five major fires in its history, and the fire of 1861 wiped out a good portion of the city.

I also learned that in 1704, the Spanish sent several hundred men from St. Augustine, FL to Charleston o wipe out the southermost English colony, which at time was Charleston, SC. The Spanairds attempt failed but the English sent back a retaliation force and burnt St. Augustine to the ground. This allowed English domination in the South.

Then there is King’s Street. It’s the main shopping street of Downtown Charleston. Our tour guide informed us that King’s Street is the highest point in Charleston, at 11-ft. above sea level. Also, it’s named King’s Street because it was owned by the King of England. In fact, it is still owned by Queen Elizabeth II today, so if you live on or do business on King’s Street, you have to pay taxes to the Crown.

Other Fun Facts: Charleston is known as the Holy City because it has so many different churches and was one of the most religously diverse cities of its time in history (in the American Colonies, anyway). In fact, the oldest Synagogue in the country is here and was established back in 1750.

St. John's Lutheran Church

St. John’s Lutheran Church

St. John’s Lutheran Church was established in 1734 and is well-known for it’s great iron-work gates with date back to 1822. They are so signifigant because these gates are one of the few original iron-works in all of Charleston. That’s because during the Civil War, a lot of iron was taken from around the city to melt down into weapons for the war.

The Unitarian Church in Charleston.

The Unitarian Church in Charleston.

The Unitarian Church was made in 1722. (For the record, I took this photo off of Google because my photo wasn’t nearly as good as this). I’ve never heard of Unitarians before this carriage tour. Unitarians believe that everyone goes to Heaven and that there is no Hell. Thomas Jefferson didn’t share their beliefs, so during the Revolutionary War, the Unitarian Church was used as a stable for the soldiers horses.

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These brick homes were built by the US Navy during WWII for soldier housing barracks. After the war, the Navy donated the buildings to the city to be used for whatever they wanted. The city ended up making them public housing.

Extra Fun Fact: All of the bricks used to make these homes, plus all of the old historic buildings in Downtown Charleston were handmade by the slaves on Boone Hall Plantation, which I featured in a previous post.

Old Marine Hospital

Old Marine Hospital

The Old Marine Hospital was designed by Robert Mills. After WWII it became the Jenkins Orphanage. One of the orphans who ended up living here created a dance that caught on and became well-known, even to today. It’s known as the Charleston, and was named after the city it came from.

The Old City Jail

The Old City Jail

Front of the Old City Jail

Front of the Old City Jail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The city of Charleston chose the location of Potter’s Field for the Old City Jail because for the first 150 years of Charleston’s existence, it was the farthest end of the city’s limits. Potter’s Field was settled between Franklin and Archduke Streets and was where the poor and the people of no faith were buried.

Fun Fact: The College of Charleston tried to build a new library not too long ago, about a block away from the prison, and they dug up over 500 bodies. So, the area known as Potter’s Field still had bodies below the homes and streets and old city prison built on top of it.

This being said, I’ve definitely decided that if I EVER moved to Charleston, I would NEVER EVER live in the area known as Potter’s Field.

 

Moving on….

The Memminger Auditorium was once the Charleston high school, but before that it was a middle school. While it was a middle school, cannonballs were dug up on the school grounds, during a renovation project, that dated back to the Civial War! When the cannonballs were found, the bomb squad was called in because during the Civil War, some cannonballs were explosive rounds and they were worried they might still be live.

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The Daughters of Confederacy

The Daughters of Confederacy building hosts many Cival War artifacts, including some of Robert E. Lee’s hair.

Philadelphia Alley

Philadelphia Alley

This is Philadelphia Alley and it is where all of the Gentleman’s Duels took place. John Luke Wilson, a laywer of Charleston, wrote a book of 28 rules for the duels.

Fun Fact: The most common profession for a majority of the duelists were newspaper editors.

Extra Fun Fact: Charleston was once held captive by Blackbeard in the 1800s. His demands were that the townspeople of Charleston give him a chest of medicine in return for him to leave town. They complied. Our tour guide joked that their city is the only one in America who can lay claim to Blackbeard holding their city hostage for healthcare, haha!

Wrapping up, this trip was lots of fun packed into a quick 3-day weekend. If you’re ever heading to Charleston, South Carolina, I highly recommend doing any of the Historic Tours or exhibits. Have fun and look for my words again soon!

Cheers!

-Soleil

The Road Trip Is Over, Yay!

We left Florida on Monday around 530PM and drove all through the night. We finally made it back home to New Jersey around noon. I was so exhausted that I went straight to bed. I didn’t dare to sleep in the car while we were driving. Since we took my car, I wanted to be aware of what was going on. So, I stayed up. I think I did nap for 20 minutes though, somewhere in VA, but I woke up due to jerky driving thanks to traffic. I took over after that. We took the bridge across the Atlantic Ocean from Virginia into Delaware because we wanted to avoid the morning traffic on the beltway around Washington, DC. Anyway, we made it home safely.

Marty and Kels fell asleep really easy any time I was driving. Marty was the most adorable, sleeping. Kels took a picture while he was sprawled out on the back seat, wrapped up in Kels’ soft plushy blanket. He was so cute all cuddled up. Kels Snapchatted it to me. How cute! Just his nose is poking out, haha!

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Well, I’m finally sitting at home and taking some time to unwind from my 2000 mile journey from NJ to FL and from FL back to NJ. It was such a long trip! But…it was only 3 days. XD It just felt so long!

Oh! I went to the Disney audition. It was a lot of fun. Kels was really nervous but I thought the whole thing was pretty interesting. We were in the first 20 to show up, but about 300 people showed up in total to audition. While I didn’t get the part, I still had a lot of fun! It was a new experience and I found it really cool. Kels didn’t get a part either and she was real upset. But, she does a lot of acting and stagework and her Dad is an actor with an Equity Card, so she takes rejections a bit more seriously than me, haha!

I woke up at 630AM due to a loud and flashy thunderstorm. It knocked out our power for about an hour. So…I just went back to sleep. I was still really exhausted from all of that driving! …So much driving!anigif_enhanced-buzz-26064-1393519867-16

So, I’m going to keep unwinding and watch “Nana” on Netflix. I’m about halfway through the series. If Jae wants to watch Netflix with me soon, maybe I’ll switch to “Naruto” since we’ve been watching it together. Although, I’m pretty sure he’s ahead of me since I left.

Have a great night everyone and look for my words again soon!

-Soleil

Wild Kabuto Appeared!

Oh, I’ve just remembered, too! (And I’m too lazy to go back and edit my first post, so here’s a new one!)

On our way to St. Pete’s Beach this morning, we passed a sign:

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But, I thought that it said Kabuto, so I instantly thought of the Pokemon! Haha!

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That kind of made my morning on the hour and a half drive to the Gulf Coast. Also, I don’t usually sunburn, and I did put on sunscreen (SPF 50!) and I still managed to turn red today. Apparently, I didn’t reapply when I should have.

Now, I’m going to sit and relax on Jaren’s balcony with Kels as we type our stories for Camp NaNoWriMo. I really want to log some impressive wordcount progress in the next few days since I slacked off for two days and didn’t do any writing then. I fell behind my schedule doing that. Blah.

Oh, and even though it’s like 90+ degrees outside (Farenheit) we’re being silly Northern girls and drinking hot chocolate, haha!

Look for my words again soon!

-Soleil

Destination: Florida!

Florida is so wonderful. While, yes, it is hot here and they have humidity, it’s not the same sticky humidity that we get back home. Needless to say, I find it delightful. I really have missed this place and I’m glad to be back.

My road trip with Kels and Marty went by with little issues. I think the longest duration of the trip was South Carolina. It just felt like it took forever to get through that state. We stopped three times for gas and 5 times for food. Honestly, I thought we were never going to get to Florida because of all the stops we took. But, we made it, yay! To be honest, it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be, the drive down I mean. So, yay!

Jaren’s apartment is AMAZING! I would share pictures, but I want to ask before I do. I don’t want him to be weirded out or anything, haha! The decor is very snazzy. It was all done by one of his room mates. This guy has a taste for interior design. It’s like “magazine-ready” good.

Yesterday, after our long trip ended and we finally ended up at Jaren’s, we ended up going to the pool at his apartment community, then to DownTown Disney for dinner. We ate at the Earl of Sandwich, yum! I missed that place! AND, all of DownTown Disney is being remodeled! Especially the West Side and Pleasure Island! They’ll be renaming DownTown Disney to Disney Springs once all of the construction is done, although there are already a bunch of new shops and a parking garage. More shops are planned and a second parking garage!

Here is some of the concept art!

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 12, 2013 – Along with an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands, Disney Springs (as shown in this conceptual rendering) will feature a new gateway with a signature water tower and grand entry.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., March 12, 2013 – Along with an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands, Disney Springs (as shown in this conceptual rendering) will feature a new gateway with a signature water tower and grand entry.

Disney Springs Town Center Concept Art

I do have some pictures I took for you guys, though.

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This is Tampa. I drove by it today on my way to St. Pete’s Beach. I’ve never seen Tampa before when I used to live in Florida, so it was cool to see. Although, I’ve seen bigger cities that are more congested and knit-together.

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Wawa’s in Florida apparently all have walk-in beer coolers. Since this nifty feature isn’t included in the layout of our Wawa’s back home, I can see how some people might be jealous. But, since I don’t drink alcohol (I don’t like the taste, and it usually smells weird), I think it’s just an interesting addition.

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I found this really cool conch shell today at St. Pete’s Beach! I sort of stepped on a part of it, so I went underwater and dug it up and I was like “Oh, a pretty conch shell! I’m gonna keep it!”

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But, it had a sea slug living inside of it, so…I put it back in the ocean. I walked through the waist-deep, low tide water, up onto the sandbar, then past the sandbar to waist-level again and gave him a light toss back into the ocean. Hopefully he was able to bury back into the sand and no one else took him out of the water to keep his shell.

Finally, I’d like to conclude with a picture of me and my friend, Kels, at the beach today. The pose was her idea. I’m the blonde one on the right and she’s the shorter blonde on the left. Have a great day everyone!

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Look for my words again soon!

Soleil

Recapping Before The Road Trip!

So, I’ve been very distracted with “DuckTales” as of late. Really, I’m watching it right now when I should be writing for my practice month of NaNoWriMo. I’m a bad writer, sometimes. Not in the sense that my writing is bad (of course, that’s just my own personal opinion. I like to hope it’s not bad), but that I slack off when I really shouldn’t be. It’s just…sometimes my brain needs a break from the imaginary world I have created and I need to do other things.

Tomorrow, I leave for Florida. It will be a 14 hour drive. I leave with Kels and her brother, Marty. Really, I’m a bit nervous about the long ride because it will be my first long road trip without my parents or a family member (but if you look at our family tree, Kels and Marty are actually related to me and my family by marriage and we’re like 4th cousins, once removed, or something like that). It’s a far stretch, though.

I am very excited, though, that I get to see Jaren! My very best friend! He’s even letting us stay at his apartment, yay! (If you remember, Jaren is the first boy I fell in love with and was mentioned in this post: Love: A Seemingly Impossible Quest). I cannot wait to spend the next four days with him! We’re going to the beach, Downtown Disney, having a BBQ, ah it all sounds so wonderful!

Oh, then my audition at Disney World is Monday. I practiced the 16 bars of “Cockeyed Optimist” that I will be singing singing today with a piano accompaniment. Really, I don’t care if I don’t get the part of Dory for the Finding Nemo: The Musical, but I just really, really want a part! I don’t care if I’m one of the coral actors. Just let me be in this show, please!

Also, I have a new favorite song: Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy.

Look for my words again soon!

-Soleil