thejessence

The energy of the mind is the essence of life. – Aristotle


Leave a comment

Cheers, slainte, salut

If I had access to unlimited funds, you would not be able to pin me down because I would tie up any loose strings and travel the world.

The world is an exciting adventure. Right now, I have a total of 13 countries under my belt (that doesn’t include airport only stops) and have many more to go.

A few months ago, I got the chance to revisit a few of my favorites and add a new one to the list. It was a quick trip, with a little taste of each, but a savoring of previous visits and new craving for more.

Tower Bridge

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) It’s not London Bridge, it’s Tower Bridge.

London was my first big city experience. I went there before I went to NYC or LA. It will always be a favorite on the list and the place I’ve visited the most.

The highlights of London are hole in the wall pubs and the Tower. Make sure you get the house-made cask beer and take the tour with the Beefeaters. After your tour, go see the Crown Jewels.

Then you can awe at how Jim Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, electronically broke in to the Tower. “In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king. And honey you should see me in a crown.”

Eat some fish and chips. Word of warning, the fish may have the skin still on it. Fearful of British dishes? McDonalds is 100 percent better than the traditional American establishment. Drink an orange Fanta. It’s not fake orange, it’s more of Orangina without the pulp. You’ll be Googling ways to ship it to your house.

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Grab some tuppence and feed the birds at St. Paul’s.

I’m also a big fan of going to the cathedrals. If you only have time to go to one, go to Westminster Abbey. It is the burial place of many, many renowned Brits, as well as monarchs and other royals.

You’ll feel creepy stepping on the cracks in the floor to avoid stepping on someone’s burial place.

St. Paul’s is great too. Mary Poppins fan? This is the church described in her song, “Feed the Birds.”

My favorite place on earth is Scotland. Well, as a native-born Texan, I’m required to say Texas is my favorite place, with Scotland a close second.

Bagpiper

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) As you walk down the Royal Mile, the sounds of bagpipes fill the air.

Whether it’s Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness or the Isle of Skye, I love it all. It feels like home. Someday I will live there. #LifeGoals

This round I went to Edinburgh and was there during the 2017 Fringe Festival. Get you a good Scottish ale and walk the Royal Mile. The lad who sold me a coffee and oat white stout said you’re free to walk the street, drink in hand as long as you’re not being a ****. Might check to make sure that’s true outside of the festival though.

Edinburgh Castle is mandatory. It’s on a volcano. You’ll feel like royalty. If you’re into history, it’s a phenomenal artifact and great stories. Mary, Queen of Scots. No, she’s different than Bloody Mary.

Not into history? The views from the top of the mount are fantastic. You’ll see all of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Edinburgh Castle is a lot of walking, but well worth exploring in the cool, damp air.

I know there are a ton of Outlander fans out there. The story book comes to life in Edinburgh. Sure, you need to go to Inverness too. But the winding streets and closes that pull you back to older times make it all real. You’ll be singing “Skye Boat Song” the entire time.

This round I added Ireland to my list. But to be honest, I don’t remember anything aside from Guinness.

The beverage was always just ok. Not bad, not great. A foreign beer that everyone knew the name of.

Guinness 1

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) In Dublin? Go to Guinness.

But since I enjoy tasting new beers, especially those dark and malty, I think you naturally have to pay a visit.

After the experience, I will tell you that if you’re in Dublin, skip everything else and go to the Guinness brewery. You’ll spend almost an entire day there learning about it. It’s not just a history lesson where you read boards of information about how it’s made. It’s an experience.

The standard ticket comes with the small tasting. During the session, instructors will walk you through how to drink the beverage and the subtle notes you’ll notice as you take your gulp.

If you’re lucky, you’ll be in the room with women who don’t like beer. Make friends around you and offer to take their shot glass sized beverage off of their hands.

Pay the extra money to take the pouring class. It’s well worth it. You’ll learn how to properly pour the beverage and get to drink your pint.

Guinness 2

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) My husband also like the Guinness brewery. Slainte!

The brewery even has food such as beef stew made with the brew and potato and leek soup. All foods that pair magnificently with Guinness.

Needless to say I have a new appreciation for Guinness and get it more often here in the States.

The brewery even has some different options at the bar at the top if darkness isn’t your thing. If I remember correctly, there was an IPA and lighter options.

Ranking Ireland, honestly, I don’t have it in my top three. Now, I was in Dublin. For a day-and-a-half. I saw Guinness and ate some wine gummies. It’s green and the buses tell you the stops in Gaeilge. Don’t worry, they shout at you in English too.

Maybe I go back to see the country side and castles and eat some potatoes. Until then, I’ll remind myself with Guinness. Slainte!

Eiffel Tower

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Word of warning when visiting the Eiffel Tower. Be wary of pick pockets.

The first time I went to France, I experienced a filthy, smelly Paris at the beginning of the Iraq War when freedom fries were a thing. Literally, people threw trash in the street gutters and water rushed through them twice-per-day to sweep the trash away. I saw people peeing in the streets.

Very few people attempted to speak English and would get frustrated when you would butcher their language to order food.

I did remember the food being wonderful, so I knew it would not disappoint entirely the second round.

French bread > American bread. There’s just something that makes it better. Maybe because it’s actually real food? Maybe because it doesn’t have preservatives?

Paris also has such a thing as pastry shops. I have yet to find somewhere comparable in Texas or Oklahoma. I’m not saying they don’t exist, just I’m unaware of their locations.

French Pastries

(Photo by: Jessica McBride) Patisserie is your new French word of the day.

We’re talking real pastries. Wonderful pastries. This round I made sure I got my fill. Get you a crepe too. There’s all kind of fruit and chocolate varieties.

The lady at the patisserie shop was very friendly. Her voice so musical.

The pasta and Asian cuisine did not disappoint. It was some of the best I’ve had (well outside of Italy for the pasta).

Everyone we met were wonderful people, even if the communication barriers were limited. France moved up on my list after this trip, and on some days it breaks the top three.

It could be because Paris was bidding to host the Olympics. I guess we’ll find out after the next visit.

Of course, everyone goes to the Eiffel Tower. You can purchase a ticket to go up to the top. I think the experience is just to be around it.The lines can be long and the foot traffic around the exhibit can be intense.

When in Paris, one must visit the Louvre. Put on your walking shoes and stroll around. You’ll see everything from art to history. Just knowing the facility was once a palace is cool enough for me.

Les Mis fan? You could very well pass the Saint Michel subway stop on your way to the Louvre to see artwork depicting the revolution in all of its glory. You might even hear the people sing.

There’s more than enough entertainment to spend a week in each of these places, not even including the rest of the museums, historical monuments and cultural exhibits in their respective countries. More importantly, there’s something for everyone, regardless of what you enjoy to do on your travels.

All in all, I encourage everyone to hop on a plane or cruise ship and get outside of the U.S. Take an adventure and get a glimpse inside the lives of people that are not your own. If nothing else, traveling will give you a different perspective of your life here in America.

 

Advertisements


1 Comment

Twinkies

Carlos Danger (Photo by: Jessica McBride)

In March I got a puppy – a cute, playful little boy.

Carlos loves Caramel, she hates him. He runs, squeaks toys, finds baby bunnies (the subject of another blog) and I swear is constantly eating (and pooping).

I took him in for his first vet visit to have puppy bliss destroyed. 

His fecal test came back for a protozoa, which was treatable. Then the vet sadly told me he had demodex. A type of mange, he would lose his little baby hairs on his tiny baby head… and there was nothing I could do.

We would hope he would grow out of it as he got older.

Um, flashback?

Of course God would give me a puppy that was suffering from alopecia.

So, for a month I watched my baby puppy transform into an old man. Helpless.

Carlos didn’t know any different. He was excited about life. Caramel still didn’t care for him, but it wasn’t because of looks.

At the next appointment, an older vet suggested a treatment… so we went with it. 

He grew a lot in six months. (Photo by: Jessica McBride)

In three months I no longer had a balding pup.

It’s been nine months since I took a picture of my head. I don’t typically wear a headband unless I have my hair pulled up.

I have one spot near my temple, but otherwise it’s filling in nicely. 

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a thinning spot on top and the spot on the back of my head growing.

Twelve shots to the head last appointment. We’ll see where we’re at in two months. 


Leave a comment

Silent Symphony and Magic

Have you ever sat in silence and just listened to the noise? The ticking of the clock, the deep breath of a puppy fast asleep, the wind as it winds through rows of houses, the creeks and pops of a shifting structure, the blood pumping through your ears, all creating the symphony that literally is the sound of silence.

I doubt many of us experience silence any more between our smartphone addiction and the constant compulsion to be entertained.

For almost a year now, I’ve been preoccupied with the ‘Outlander’ book series by Diana Gabaldon, which mostly takes place in the 1700s and leaves me endlessly wondering how I would function in a time outside of my own.

The necessity of entertainment is replaced with the essential function of living. Binge watching Netflix is replaced with making sure there is food for dinner. Everyone has a job to do, and time is not to be wasted.

Luckily, I don’t have to worry about churning butter, boiling water to wash the clothes I’ve been wearing for the last week or even spending 30 minutes trying to light a fire.

I do have to be concerned with not eating or wearing the same thing two days in a row, and keeping up with everyone else’s daily “struggles” on social media. #FirstWorldProbs

Even my dogs’ purpose would shift from serving as household enjoyment to hunting and aiding in the home’s survival. However, it’s difficult for me to picture two miniature dachshunds doing anything except squeaking a fuzzy toy and snuggling on a pile of blankets.

It’s almost terrifying to imagine a world of silence without the technology and bustling lifestyle we’re used to today. How does one survive without contacts to correct your vision, a microwave to heat up a bite to eat or a television to sustain a level of noise to mute the silence?

I wouldn’t know the first thing about baking bread from scratch, butchering a chicken, gathering edible plants or building a fire without a match or lighter.

I can tell you how to turn on the XBox with voice commands, flicking the light switch to the ‘on’ direction, which button to press on the microwave based upon the food you want to eat and how to update your status on Facebook. I can’t tell you how any of this stuff actually works.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

 


Leave a comment

With A Suitcase and One Foot On the Train

20160919_221227

Outside of my hotel window, looking out on the Mississippi River in New Orleans. Photo by: Jessica McBride

I sat on the carpet surrounded in darkness in my hotel room in New Orleans, in front of my floor to ceiling window, listening to House of the Rising Sun and eating peanut butter M&Ms.

Luckily I had come back with something other than the putrid pee smell of Bourbon Street and peddlers selling their various wares.

20160919_174941

My fried fish po’ boy, chicken and sausage gumbo and tabasco infused mayo. Photo by: Jessica McBride

I guess there’s a reason gambling men went to New Orleans. The first moments into the French Quarter made me want to run back to the shelter of my hotel and not venture out until it was time to fly home.

20160919_184831

Nothing more French than a fleur. Photo by: Jessica McBride

But, the street performances were beautiful, and my French connection to the city was enough to take hold. OK, and the beignets.

20160919_190438

By the way, Cafe Du Monde is open 24 hours. Photo by: Jessica McBride

In the picturesque ideal of southern charm and big city vices, I also visited the World War II museum. Highly recommended by the way. Spend the extra money and see the 4D presentation of the war narrated by Tom Hanks. After 30 minutes, you’ll come out head high, chest out, bleeding red, white, and blue with tears running down your face and a new perspective of the stars and stripes.

20160920_135630

Photo by: Jessica McBride

As in all my other travels, there is too much to see and so little time. I think that’s a good thing. It’s a draw to a place where the experience pulls you back for the long lasting memories.

Once you catch the travel bug there’s no cure for the syndrome other than a regular dose of adventure, sight-seeing, and voyages. It’s also extremely contagious, just ask a few of us sufferers.

Seeing how others live and view the world and life gives you an appreciation and understanding that is indescribable. It also makes you value and miss the home that you have built with those you love. I think that’s the most potent component of seeing the world.

Sometimes we need a reminder to appreciate the ranch dressing and Dr. Pepper back home.

20160919_192125

A canon, a Scot, a Catholic church, in a historic French city that only a beautiful American sunset can bring together. Photo by: Jessica McBride

 

 


Leave a comment

Thirty Going On Eight

image

Photo by: Jessica McBride

Inspiration is all around us, and yet we fail to recognize it with all of the distractions of our daily life. Our minds are struck with life’s subtle sparkling nuggets and in a moments notice vanish as if they never existed.

Every day I’ve taken a mental note of rarely noticed details that move me to inspiration, and when the finger tips hit the keys the panic pulsates within my veins. I close the laptop and end the idea that captured me.

Recently, I find myself frustrated at life’s possibilities. Not regret, just a childlike desire to do, go and be. Interesting how hitting the big 3-0 leaves you at a point of reflection, adventure and pursuit.

Every door and window is open to you as a child. It’s almost as if living under a canopy with the sides unhindered to view. Today you’re a cowboy. Tomorrow you’re an astronaut. Possibilities never cease and are never out of reach.

I think as an adult we build walls and are pushed to close doors and windows, leaving two or three open as careers and escapes. Why?

Is it a societal push? Is it an internal mental push so the mind can deal with the pains of being an adult?

Puzzling. I think I prefer the child’s view.

I was asked the other day what the next 10 years hold. I smiled, and said something amazing! Though I’m no where near ready for 40, I do know that I want the next ten years to be full of adventure, happiness and inspiration.


1 Comment

Fake and Fancy Free

READER ADVISORY: Some photos and descriptions in this story might be disturbing to some individuals. Use discretion when choosing to continue. Previous blog posts leading up to this story are located at the bottom of this post. It is suggested that the previous posts be read first for a full understanding of this post.

 

To finally catch up to the present day, I will go back to February of this year.

That was my last dermatologist appointment. A week before, I sunk down beyond frustration.

I felt like nothing was working. I was the girl with the headband. What I thought would help me grow my hair was turning into a monthly fiasco of prescriptions and doctor’s appointments with no light at the end of the tunnel. I didn’t see improvement.

So, I told myself that this was it. I was possibly ending any and all treatments for alopecia. I was tired of having my hopes up of one day not having the bald spots. I was done. I was ready to shave my head.

The doctor encouraged me not to give up hope just yet. She suggested taking photos again to show any progress. She said we would take another look at the next appointment and evaluate our options. I received a couple more steroid injections and would come back in a couple of months.

I paced back to my car with my eyes to the ground. To keep the tears from coming I decided to go ahead with my progress pictures.

20160216_093032

Photo by: Jessica McBride

As you can see, my scalp hates injections.

My head was throbbing. I sat in my car looking through all of the previous photos I had taken. The depressed fever set in and big, hot water drops rolled down my face.

I was so tired of being in limbo. Maybe I would have hair. Maybe I would shave my head. Maybe I would look at options at a later date. No answers. No when, no why.

Journalists don’t deal with unanswered questions very well. In fact, a no comment would’ve been better for my emotions.

I decided to make myself options since my body was taking them away. I threw the car into drive and went to Target.

I grabbed three different color scarves and checked out. I sat in the parking lot and taught myself how to tie them around my head via YouTube.

With a quick Google search I was on to my next stop.

I wasn’t real sure what to expect when I walked into the wig store, but I knew that I had to leave for the better.

20160216_114356

Photo by: Jessica McBride

The lady helped me look at options, and answered my questions. I tried a couple on.

I went short. I went long.

I went blonde. I went brunette.

I wore bangs. I went curly. I went straight.

The possibilities were endless. I enjoyed that.

Eventually I could buy several. I could be a red-headed wild child on the weekend, and an elegant brunette during the week. Maybe even a dumb blonde on holidays.

Who cared that people would know it was a wig. That wasn’t the point. This was something that I could do before and after if I decided to shave my head. This was the ultimate dream of being able to be blonde, curl my hair and change my look with no consequence and no commitment.

 

20160216_115319

Photo by: Jessica McBride

I decided bangs weren’t my thing, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford multiple wigs at once. Just a heads up, wigs are VERY expensive.

This would be something I would have to build up over a long period of time, which would also mean that I wouldn’t be able to wear the wig on a daily basis because it would wear out.

I never thought in my younger years (HA!) I would one day purchase a wig for something other than for Halloween or to goof around.

I settled for something more natural to help with the transition for myself and those around me. You’re welcome.

When I returned to work, I encountered something that I hadn’t even realized had been absent from my life for the past four years. People told me my hair looked nice.

… and cue the tear roll.

It wasn’t anything I ever thought about. It was a change I hadn’t anticipated. It was bittersweet. I thanked them, and corrected that it was a wig and not my natural hair.

The questions flew, and it was relieving to discuss. Most of my co-workers were aware. Most that were unaware of my alopecia are now. The conversation was comforting.

20160301_092330

One person asked why I purchased it. I happily explained that I needed it for my mental and emotional health.

Then they took me back several years to when I told them I had alopecia.

When I tell people, I typically show them. The visual element is very impactful to some people, and though I don’t want sympathy, many times it helps them to know I’m not lying, or exaggerating.

When I was initially sharing this piece of me with this person, I made a comment about my bald spots being weird, or gross, or scary.

The person repeated their response at the time, that it was me and that it wasn’t weird or scary to them. It was physical and not part of my personality or heart.

Acceptance.

The biggest thing about alopecia that I can relay to anyone is the emotional pain and anxiety associated with it. Sure, it sucks to not have hair, but after it’s been gone for awhile it becomes the physical portion of you just like a scar or glasses.

Because so many people do not know or understand alopecia makes it somewhat embarrassing, difficult to explain and gut wrenching that your body struggles to make hair.

Additional layers of being a female with a “beauty” issue and that there is no cure and not much known about the auto-immune disease tear into a vulnerable mind and create an anxiety that is difficult to communicate.

I am constantly worried that my bald spots are showing. I am constantly worried that the wig might blow off in the wind. I am constantly worried that people won’t understand.

And while I shouldn’t have these worries, I do.

It’s been four years since my first bald spot reared its ugliness, and I’m still fighting.

20160319_100319

Photo by: Jessica McBride

I took my pictures at the one month mark for the dermatologist. We’ll see what she says next week.

 

 

For clarity on the story above, please read the blog posts below.

Word Vomit

And Then It Appeared

Radius, Diameter and the Curious Spread

Shimmering Dresses and Comb Overs

The Monster Within

Peach Fuzz But Not Peachy Keen

Beauty and the Beast

25,000 Strands Lost

1 + 1 = 2

Bandana Bandaid

Reflection

My Hair is Full of Secrets

Follicles of Hope

Show Me The Progress


1 Comment

Show Me The Progress

READER ADVISORY: Some photos and descriptions in this story might be disturbing to some individuals. Use discretion when choosing to continue. Previous blog posts leading up to this story are located at the bottom of this post. It is suggested that the previous posts be read first for a full understanding of this post.

Every six months, an eye appointment to make sure the Plaquenil wasn’t destroying my eyes. Having to sit in a dark room and click a button when I saw the squiggly for five minutes per eye.

Every six months, an appointment with my regular doctor for blood work. Changing the amounts of my thyroid medicine and prescription Vitamin D.

Every three months, an appointment with the dermatologist. A smile that the bald spot was improving and a, ‘see you next time.’

20151013_111115

Photo by: Jessica McBride- How I feel when I go to the doctor. Luckily I don’t get stabbed like this on my arm.

It gets old fast. Poked. Stabbed. Drained. Same routine. Two pills a day and another once a week.

For a while I was convinced that I was very close to being normal again. Then the days would come and remind me that I was still far from it.

Comments about grey/white looking hair coming from my head and that I should do something about it. Comments that went a little like, ‘I always can find you in the crowd, I just look for the headband.’

My pride was shot. That’s not at all what I wanted people to see.

At the next dermatologist appointment, I was told that they assumed the other patient was back to normal because they hadn’t seen her since. Great for her.

My alopecia on the other hand, had stopped improving. It was time to try a combination of things. An old man at the clinic that is renown for his work with alopecia and hair cases came in. He observed me through a magnifying glass while the other doctor patted my head.

They decided steroid injections was the next step.

If you’ve never had an injection on your scalp I don’t recommend it. It is painful. If they’re injecting an alopecia spot, it’s not just one go. It’s several.

Small liquid pockets settle just under the scalp, resembling the mosquito bites you used to scratch as a child until they’d swell up to form one large lump.

The initial pain subsides in 15-20 minutes. Then a headache sets in for the rest of the day.

I knew this was going to be several rounds of pain. I just hoped that it wouldn’t be without results.

20151117_114216

Photo by: Jessica McBride

For clarity on the story above, please read the blog posts below.

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/word-vomit/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/and-then-it-appeared/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/radius-diameter-and-the-curious-spread/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/07/27/shimmering-dresses-and-comb-overs/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/02/the-monster-within/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/peach-fuzz-but-not-peachy-keen/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/beauty-and-the-beast/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/25000-strands-lost/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/09/07/1-1-2/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/09/12/bandana-bandaid/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/reflection/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2015/12/05/my-hair-is-full-of-secrets/

https://thejessence.wordpress.com/2016/01/06/follicles-of-hope/