The France Conundrum: Reflections on Young Love

The France Conundrum {}

France or your partner. It’s a recurring theme of young love on television. We all remember The Hill’s Lauren Conrad’s ill-fated choice of choosing Jason, her then boyfriend, over an internship in Paris. However, I was surprised to learn that the France Conundrum dates back to 1998 and the first season of Dawson’s Creek. America’s sweetheart Joey Potter is forced between spending a year in France or climbing into Dawson Leery’s window night after night. Like Lauren, she chooses Dawson over France.

France seems to be imprinted on our cultural consciousness as a turning point in our young adult lives. And by “our,” I mostly mean the cultural conscious of twenty-something females who rallied for LC over Heidi and preferred Joey to Jen. Somehow we related to these women, and yes, their choice to pick love over France. We grit our teeth while simultaneously yelling at the screen, “Choose Paris, Lauren!” Perhaps we connect with these women because they are reflection of our own experiences with love and life during the vulnerable period that is our early twenties. Or maybe we relate because we’d like to think we’d choose France over love.

When I was 22-years-old, I chose my then boyfriend, now husband, over spending the summer in Wyoming working at Yellowstone National Park. Reading that even now makes my heart hurt because, oh, the adventure! I chose to stay in South Carolina for love. While I’m glad I did, I do wonder about that lost Wyoming summer. I imagine long hikes, vast wilderness and the sky high Rocky mountains. It’s hard to say I regret the choice since I’ve driven across the country three times.  My life hasn’t lacked adventure or choice.

While Joey is obviously a fictional character, it’s worth pointing out that LC finally made it to Paris and has probably been there countless times since. Though the choice between France and love might be a youthful misstep, perhaps the lesson here is that we all end up in France or some far off land on our own timeline.

Unedited image originally from The Brooklyn Museum, used under Creative Commons.

Extreme Thrifting: How to Survive the Goodwill Outlet Store

Goodwill Boston Outlet Store {}

A few months ago,  I crossed over from a casual thrifter to an extreme thrifter. I came to this realization while thrift shopping with my mother. I was frantically pulling items left and right, almost regardless of label or size. Yes, my laid back days of thrift shopping were long gone. Enter the Goodwill Outlet Store near Boston in Roxbury, MA.

The Goodwill Outlet Store is a magical place where every item of clothing costs $1.75 regardless of size, brand or style. It has hundreds of pieces of clothing waiting to be purchased. But don’t be deceived, the Goodwill Outlet Store (and others like it) isn’t for the faint of heart. They’re a totally different ballgame than shopping at a typical thrift store. They require rolling up your sleeves and getting a little dusty. However, if you invest the time and effort, you can make some amazing finds. And if you’re like me, the $1.75 price tag will make that diamond in the rough all the prettier.

Tips for Surviving The Goodwill Outlet Store

Though my tips come from how to survive this specific store, I’m sure they can apply to any secondhand outlet store. Keep reading to find out how to score big!

Bring Cash
Self explanatory, but most important to know especially in our debit card ruled lives. They take cash only!

Check it Out Before Committing
The Goodwill Outlet Store is, in a word, overwhelming. It’s basically a warehouse space filled with about 40 to 60 huge rolling bins that contain everything from clothing to housewares. The first time I popped my head in, I was a bit shocked. It is a totally different shopping process. It took me three times to muster up the courage and energy to get digging. Get your shock out of the way, then dive in!

Be Ready to Dig
Usually “digging” entails going through every hanger. At the Goodwill Outlet Store, it means literally digging. Like pulling out a hundred items from a bin before you see the bottom. It requires patience and endurance to make the find.

Don’t Go Hungry or Thirsty
Since this what I’d consider a physically active activity, you’ll want to be hydrated and fed before you arrive. You might get over heated or feel your tummy rumbling, which can distract you.

Don’t Go Pretty
This isn’t your afternoon out with the girls. You’re probably going to get dusty and sweaty so don’t wear your favorite jeans. I also like pulling my hair back so I don’t get overheated and so my hair doesn’t get in the way.

Leave Your Jacket In Your Car and Your Purse at Home
Since you’ll be getting hot, you won’t need your jacket inside. Also make sure to leave your big purse at home so you can have your hands free at all times.

Examine Your Finds
Things get donated to the thrift store for many reasons, one of which is holes and rips in an item. Sure, more of the items at the Goodwill are not damaged, but some are. Make sure to examine your finds carefully for imperfections. If you don’t know how to fix them or don’t plan of fixing them, leave them behind for the next digger.

Happy Shopping!

I hope these tips help you survive the Goodwill Outlet Store and others like it. As I mentioned, it is a lot of work, but you can score big. Don’t believe me? Just today I picked up items from 7 for Mankind, The Loft, Banana Republic and Levi’s. And get this, some items were even brand new with tags! You just can’t beat that.

New Year, New Those Graces

New Year, New Those Graces

For the past two years, I’ve been wanting to switch Those Graces over to a magazine layout that aggregates content on the main page as well as providing a more traditional blog layout. I didn’t plan to do it this week, it just kind of happened when I started playing around with layouts over the weekend! There’s still some fine tuning I have left to do, but I didn’t want my site to be down for more than a few days.

If you’d like to know how I achieved this layout or any sort of blog nitty gritty, please comment below and I’ll do a post in the near future! As for now, I’m going to make sure to get some sleep and fold some laundry.

2013: The Year I Became Brave

Thank You 2013 |

At the end of my solo cross country road trip in August, I stopped at my parents’ house before heading to Boston. I sat at the kitchen table with my mother and she said to me, “I couldn’t do what you did. You’re brave.”

At that moment, I knew I accomplished something others regarded as brave, but I didn’t feel brave. I didn’t realize the magnitude of driving 10,000 miles by myself across 34 states through violent rainstorms and the scorching sun. I climbed mountains and sat alone by the ocean. I felt moments of extreme happiness and extreme sadness. My trip tested me in every way a person could be tested, and I came out better for it.

The road trip was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself because it taught me to be myself and let me become who I’d been all along. I chipped away at all the walls I had build between myself and everyone around me. Over time, I found easier to connect to both my friends and people I had just met. I was myself, unapologetically.

I’m not sure what 2014 will bring. Based on 2013, I know I’ll learn a lot about myself and work towards becoming the person I want to be. In past years I made resolutions and promptly tossed them out the window. This year I plan to stick to my plan to grow as a person.

I hope you all had a wonderful New Year and a great start to 2014. Thank you for continuing to read my blog. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such a lovely community here on my blog. Without readers, I wouldn’t be blogging. So thanks and here’s to a wonderful 2014! Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see more of this year on Those Graces!

Goodbye, Little Hannah: Coping With the Loss of a Pet

Hannah |
I originally planned a Christmas outfit post for today, but when I sat down to write about how Christmas really went, sharing my outfit seemed pointless. I wish I could say Christmas in Pennsylvania was relaxing. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time with family and friends, but I also spent a large part of my time and emotional energy caring for my family’s cat during her last days.

We adopted Hannah from the local SPCA when I was 11-years-old. I picked her out because she was sitting a cage near a window, meowing. In short, I felt bad and wanted to bring her home. We brought her home to join Muffy, a calico cat my dad got me after I got my tonsils removed at age 7. Though she was laid back, she loved to explore the house. One time she managed climb into the ceiling of our toy closet and fell through, landing in a pile of stuffed animals.

Hannah |

When Hannah hit 15-years-old, her health started declining dramatically. She was on antibiotics for a bladder infection a few months ago, and I hoped she would recover. However at Christmas, it was clear she didn’t have much longer since her lung function was starting to fail. Since it had been more than a decade since I had seen a pet in such shape, I wasn’t quite sure what was happening so I googled “Signs your cat is dying.” I went down the list of signs, and sadly Hannah was showing most of them. In Hannah’s last days, I made peace with the fact that she didn’t have much longer. I spent a lot of time grooming her and letting her sit in my lap. I encouraged my family to spend time with her as well.

On the last morning I saw her alive, I woke her up and she let out two meows. She sat in my lap for some time as I groomed her. I let her go back to sleep and got ready to head back to Boston. Hannah passed away before I got a chance to say a proper goodbye for the last time, but I’d like to think she knew I loved her and cared for her the best I could.