Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

My dad laughs suspiciously when I call him Daddy. I know it’s a little childish, but it is simply my name for him, because he always makes me feel like a kid in the best way. I know that he’s wiser than me. I know that he will help and protect me if he can. I know he loves me. I’ve known this my whole life.

Earlier today I was very annoyed. Even after talking my husband’s ear off for 30 minutes and texting up a storm with my friends, I still wasn’t sated. I couldn’t get the anger out of my system, so on the drive home I racked my brains for someone who could help. I thought of my dad, because the annoying thing had to do with school and work. I knew he would understand. “Call Dad,” I told Siri.

My dad picked up after one ring. “Hello, my daughter!” he answered cheerily. I filled the next 20 minutes with ranting and whining, and he listened patiently. He was very understanding and supportive. Venting to him was exactly what I needed. He thanked me genuinely for calling and told me that he loved and missed me. He also said that he’s proud of me, which he does often. In fact, he rarely passes up the opportunity. How neat is that? No matter how miserably I may fail, I always know that my dad still thinks I’m awesome. I’m not so naive to assume that every kid is as lucky, so I am thankful.

Thank you, Daddy. Happy Father’s Day.

Family · USA · Virginia · Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., Joshua Tree, & California Mountains

I made it home safe and sound to my poor husband whom I left behind for my spring break. There were a lot of people worried about him. It’s funny because no one seemed to be worried about me taking planes, trains, and buses all over the country by myself, but everyone asked me how Erwann was going to manage a week at home alone. Somehow he survived, and I enjoyed a couple days not only in Kentucky, but also in Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. My pal Aaron even drove into D.C. to join us, and my parents and Will just happened to be there at the same time as well (I’m not kidding. It was actually a coincidence).

Here’s photographic proof.

Shortly after I got home, I celebrated my 25th birthday. I was so spoiled. I even got my mother-in-law. Most people gave me a hesitant look of pity when I told them that she was flying in the day of my birthday, after which I would reassure them that yes, it really was okay, my mother-in-law really is awesome.Here’s photographic proof.

We didn’t have huge plans for her visit because we were mostly just excited to see her, but we still managed to squeeze in a camping trip in Joshua Tree National park. It makes me so happy when Erwann and Valerie get to see each other. It’s also a plus that she’s so much fun, so easygoing, and so adventurous.

After a weekend in the desert, Erwann and I were bitten by the camping bug. We kissed Valerie goodbye and took off almost immediately into the mountains. We have a great new tent, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to protect us from 35 degrees, rain, wind, and hail. It was an interesting night to say the least, but we stuck it out until morning and woke up to a beautiful, sunny day.

The time between then and now are very blurry. I guess I finished another semester of grad school, but I’m not really sure how? It’s been crazy. It seems like a week ago I had a million things to do, and like they just disappeared all of the sudden. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Erwann and I celebrated me being one step closer to a master’s degree with another little trip into the mountains. This time we brought the guitar and sung together by the fire. Also, it was less cold than our previous adventure. I still froze, but that’s an occupational hazard. A fun time was had by all.

Next up on the agenda: a visit from Arin (my friends and I are SLAYING this long distance thing), summer school, a trip back to Utah, and if I’m lucky, some more cold nights with Erwann and our tent.
Kentucky · USA


Kentucky is the furthest South and East I’ve ever been in the United States.

What am I doing in the bluegrass state you ask? I’m visiting one of my very best friends, Arin, and also visiting this awesome part of America, because it’s beautiful!

Arin has been a wonderful tour guide. Thankfully she was (is) actually a history major, and has been filling me in on all the cool facts about everywhere we go. Yesterday she showed me around the University of Kentucky campus, and I tagged along to watch her teach an undergrad history class (LOL is all I have to say about that). Afterwards, we walked all over Lexington, which is just adorable. I even found a cute (symmetrical) door. Nearly every single house I’ve seen has been stinking cute, complete with Southern charm, blooming trees, and a big porch.

Our jaunt led us to Ashland, Henry Clay’s estate. I knew that name, but not too much else. Arin was able to clarify, and the estate is quite gorgeous. There’s even a cute little grave for the kitty that used to live there- How sweet is that?!

We finished off our day with wine, chips, jelly beans, and playing dress-up. You might be wondering why two grown-ass women were playing dress-up, but we actually have a really great excuse: Arin is engaged!!! As of two weeks ago, Arin is marrying her high school sweetheart, John, whom she has been dating for the better part of a decade. I am so beyond excited for the two of them. We are already very busy with wedding plans, and she already has her dress, hence the dress-up. It’s just perfect for her, and we were able to try on a veil and play around with some hairstyles.Today, I got the tour of Arin’s hometown, Danville. It’s pronounced dan-vull. And apparently the Appalachians are the app-uh-latch-ins. I feel very strongly that the correct pronunciation of a city is that of the locals, but regardless, I’m having difficulty getting used to that. I was able to meet a couple of such locals, such as: Arin’s future mother-in-law, brother, sister, and nephew. I was so happy to finally put some faces with these names I’ve come to know so well.Our next stop was Perryville (pair-vull), the site of the “battle for Kentucky.” There is a mass grave there for the confederate soldiers who never got buried, an old cannon, and the original fence. Very cool; there’s so much history everywhere.

So far I’m pretty enamored by Kentucky, but sadly I already have to leave. Arin and I are off to Charlottesville, Virginia tomorrow, where we’re meeting up with another member of my tribe, Margaret. I know I’m in for a fun-filled, long overdue girl’s weekend!
About Me · Family

Mrs. Hickel

FRI-YAY, it’s Friday! Friday is Alisa day. Monday through Thursday are jam-packed with school and work, and on the weekend I try to spend as much time as possible with my hubby. So, a few weeks ago, I decided to set Friday afternoons aside FOR ME, and only me. Usually I stay at home and nap with my fur babies. Today I had some serious online shopping to do, but unfortunately I had to stop by the county records office to pick up a copy of our marriage certificate. I mailed the original off to the social security office awhile back, and they never returned it to me.

As I was walking through cloudy downtown Santa Ana, I got a phone call from an unknown number. I answered in a slightly annoyed voice, because I hate phone calls and I hate strangers. To my surprised delight, there was actually (what sounded like) a polite and efficient government worker named Justin on the other end of the line.

“Hello, is this Mrs. Hickel?” he asked.

SQUEEEEE! Mrs. Hickel! That was the first time a stranger referred to me as Mrs. Hickel. A bunch of people have been calling me Madame Hickel for over six months, but that felt more like a joke, because “Madame” sounds so old. Mrs. Hickel, on the other hand, sounds more real. It sounds like me, and I’m happy that people (and the U.S. government) are starting to refer to me that way.

Although we’ve only been married for six months, as of last week, Erwann has officially been my boyfriend for four years. It definitely feels like four years have passed, because so much has changed. On the other hand, our relationship still feels fresh and exciting, so it’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. We met in 2012, and I know we both feel lucky to have found each other.

In 2012, Erwann introduced me to all the best French things that I wouldn’t have found on my own. It wasn’t until he came into my life that France started to feel like a second home. We also spent a month in Portugal and then four months apart. In autumn of that year, he came to Utah for his first Thanksgiving and his first Utah winter. In Utah, Erwann said he felt like he was in “the real America.”

In February of 2013, Erwann’s tourist visa ran out and he had to go back to France. We spent another four months apart. In May, I graduated and immediately left to spend the summer in France and Portugal with him. Erwann spent the summer working at horrible temp jobs, trying to save as much money as possible. At the same time, he was also searching for any possible job in the U.S. Finally, he was offered something in Orange County, California. I was somewhat reluctant, but mostly ecstatic that we were AT LAST going to actually live in the same city.

And so for the first time in our relationship, we settled into real life. Over the next two years, I bounced between a few jobs, all of which I hated, and Erwann worked hard to refine his coding skills. We made some friends, adopted some cats, enjoyed the brutal Southern California winters, and whined about the traffic. By the end of 2014, I had quit my first “real” job and decided to go back to school. Erwann’s visa was going to expire soon. We had talked about it and decided to get married, but it was not yet official. Christmas came and went and there was still no ring.

Then, in January 2015, Erwann surprised me with a weekend trip to Catalina and proposed to me over dinner. The time between then and August is all one big blur of wedding plans, unemployment for Erwann, my stressful first semester of grad school, hating my new restaurant job, finding my first teaching job, and then WEDDING WEDDING WEDDING. After all the madness, we struggled to settle back into real life. The whole year had led up to that big day, and it was all so much fun. Going back to work and school sucked for both of us. However, we then got to plan our first trip back to Europe in over two years, and I spent the holidays with my new French family.

After that, as always, it was time again to calm down and get back to normal life. And here we are. We go to work, we watch TV, cuddle kitties, sleep on the weekends, and make plans for our future. As it turns out, normality as Mrs. Hickel ain’t so bad.

About Me · Uncategorized

I got off Facebook for 40 days and here’s what happened

My mom and I love Lent. If you don’t know, Lent is a Catholic tradition during which you’re supposed to give up something challenging as a symbol for Jesus’ 40 day fast. This happens every year during the 40 days before Easter. I know, I know, we’re not Catholic, we don’t get it, we are ignorant, blah blah blah, we don’t care, we do what we want because we’re rebels like that. A few years back, we gave up chocolate. Once I stopped buying vending machine food (an impressive feat for a starving college student). The craziest thing we did was give up sugar. I don’t recommend that. This year, my mom gave up all processed food. I wish her the best of luck in her endeavor. As for me, I decided to give up Facebook. I know, that’s like a million times easier than processed food, but whatever. It’s different, and I didn’t want it to be food related this year. It was an interesting experience. To be fair, I started writing this less than 20 days into my experiment. But, I quickly began to notice some stuff that I thought I should document before I forgot.

1. It’s not that bad. It’s more of a habit than an addiction. The only thing that made it really hard is when I was sitting around and pulled out my phone absentmindedly, I always had to make the effort to remind myself not to open Facebook. It’s just so automatic, which brings me to my next point.

2. During those moments when I was just sitting around, on my lunch break for example, I got kind of bored. Like, what am I supposed to do while I eat alone, just stare at the wall? It was weird. But it was kind of good too, because I started thinking about bringing a real book or something instead of staring at my newsfeed.

3. I thought my phone battery would last FOREVER. It didn’t.

4. That’s because although I gave up Facebook (and Instagram too, actually), I didn’t give up any other social media such as Snapchat or Pinterest. So in my boredom, or during those times when I just felt the need to *check* something, I usually opened up Pinterest or sent a string of pictures of Poppy and Hazel to everyone I know.

5. However, the Pinterest thing hasn’t been completely detrimental. I spend a lot of my time on there finding fun projects, which I think is worthwhile. We recently took a trip to the local nursery and bought a lemon tree, as well as some potted flowers for me to take care of. New hobbies! It’s been bothering me for a long time that I don’t have a real hobby. Erwann is always busy fiddling around on his guitar, rebuilding an old guitar, or playing basketball. I have always felt like I don’t have my own <i>thing</i>, but now my wheels are turning. I’m not sure if there was a correlation with my absence from Facebook, but I decided to get back into the piano. Again, this has yet to happen, but there is a *plan.*

6. I felt a little bit out of touch. Not because I lost contact with anyone, because I talk to my tribe very regularly outside of Facebook, but because (to my slight disgust) I get way too much of my news from Facebook. I found myself asking Erwann every night, “So, what did I miss today?” I should probably start reading the newspaper or something.

7. It was so nice not to have Jane Doe’s nonsense on my mind. The other day, Erwann asked me, “Did you see what Jane Doe posted about the election?” Then I realized that Jane Doe hadn’t even crossed my mind in a LONG time, and that was a nice realization. I try (but don’t really succeed) at keeping my Facebook as personal as possible, so it was nice to feel a little bit of clarity in only getting authentic updates from my closest friends and family.

8. I don’t know if it’s related or not, but I also called both my grandmas during my time off from Facebook.

9. There is A LOT of other stuff to be doing. I was definitely more productive. I know it sounds so simple, but seriously, if you want to get something done, you should really get off of Facebook. The other night, Erwann was sleeping, and I was bored. Normally I most likely would have wasted a good hour browsing on my phone. Without that option, I got up and pretty much cleaned the entire house at 9 pm. And if you know me at all, you know how absolutely out of character that is. Generally, Alisa shuts down for the day around 6 pm, after which nothing may be expected of her. Now my house is so clean and I have plants.

10. I miss funny animal videos. I know I could look them up on my computer without Facebook, but the fact is, I don’t. Luckily I have my own collection of funny cat videos on my phone.

I’ve still got a few more weeks to go, but I don’t think I’m going to have any sort of earth-shattering epiphanies about The Social Network between now and then. I’m not about to abandon Facebook forever, but it’s been a fun little experiment, and I will definitely be monitoring my time spent there in the future. I like my clean house and my plants.

About Me · California · Uncategorized · USA

Butter me up

I have a very important message for all 10 people who read my blog. Stop everything you are doing immediately and head straight to Trader Joe’s, because you really need to get your hands on their salted French butter.

Oh, P.S., hi, I’m having a love affair with butter. It started at my grandma-in-law’s (is that the right way to refer to her? “my husband’s grandma” sounds so distant) during Christmas when she put fresh baguette and butter on the table with dinner. I was so stoked on the baguette that I was gobbling it up “dry,” which was a big no no to my grandma-in-law. So at her prodding, I paired the delicious French baguette with some butter. Even fresh out of the fridge, it spread smoothly, and melted quickly in my mouth, with the perfect amount of saltiness, and I fell in love.

In Portugal, we also ate butter with toast every morning, and I was smitten again. My poor in-laws’ butter wasn’t lasting the week because of me. Eventually I fessed up about my obsession and told Erwann I was actually blown away by how much better the butter was in Europe. That’s when he said, “You know we can buy good butter in the U.S. too, right?”

WHAT?! There are options other than the rock hard cubes of tasteless lard? Yes, and it will change your life. It’s about $3 for a big block, which for us is kind of steep, especially considering that it doesn’t last us much more than five days, but it has turned my life upside down. Knowing that there is delicious butter to be spread on toast with fig jam (another side love affair) and dipped in tea (sounds disgusting, isn’t) is what has been getting me out of bed the past few weeks.

In order to continue slathering salted butter on every meal, I’ve also started easing back into the gym. I did ab stuff yesterday, and my shoulders are sore…? So yeah, that’s how that is going.

I’ve also gotten back to work and school, which have been surprisingly painless so far. Work is an absolute joy. ESL is the best thing that has ever happened to my self-esteem. At 5’10 with blonde hair, I really don’t look like a normal human to some of my students from Asia, but more like a cartoon character. Someone tells me I’m beautiful literally everyday. They are all so sweet. To reward them, I try to teach them as much English as I can. It’s hard to say for sure, but I feel like I’m doing a good job. As cliche as it sounds, I truly feel like I’ve found my calling.

They even sometimes give me snacks, and I got a bunch of Christmas presents too!

As for school, I’m in my last year!!! My classmates and I remarked how we are like seniors now. We know the ins and outs of the program and of its professors. This semester I have my favorite professor for two classes, and at the moment I’m feeling ready to knock another semester out of the park.

I also have a lot to look forward to during the next little while to help get me through. My bestie Margaret just left last week, my mom is coming to visit for a long weekend starting on Wednesday, I’m going to Chicago, Kentucky, Virginia, and D.C. to see my besties in March, my mother-in-law is coming on my birthday in April, and my bestie Arin is planning a trip out here in May. So yep, 2016 and “Snowpocalypse” are off to a great start.

About Me · Family · Portugal

Cats and Doors in Portugal

Things are going just swimmingly here in Portugal. Other than this stupid rain that just won’t let up. Everyone keeps telling us how unlucky we’ve been, and we’re like, “Yeah, yeah, thanks for reminding us.” The beaches would be so much prettier in the sun.

Regardless, there is still a lovely ambiance here, and we’re taking advantage of every moment. The latter has proved unfortunately difficult for me. Since arriving, I’ve felt extreme anxiety and depression. It begins with a clench in my heart, and progresses to hopelessness, wanting to withdraw, and finishes with guilt.I am on vacation in Europe with my husband! I have no reason to feel anything other than euphoria. And I do! The crazy part of the whole thing is the duality of it. Even though I sometimes wake up in the morning feeling hopeless, I still get up, explore, eat, take pictures, and enjoy my vacation. But it’s not easy. Nearly everyday has been a huge struggle. Nothing is easy. Walking, talking to people, showering, sometimes everything feels like a gigantic obstacle. But that all changed, at least for awhile, when we went to the cat colony.

I crouched down to pet one kitty, and another kitty who looked remarkably like my sweet Poppyseed came running up to me, hopped on my knees, tried to climb inside my coat, and started purring. I grinned like a damn fool, and crouched with her on my knees for as long as my circulation could bear it. The rest of the day was long (but fun!) like the rest, with a lot of walking and talking. I waited and waited to feel my heart clench and fill my body with dread, but it never came.Call me a crazy cat lady all you want, but I will go to my grave insisting that it was thanks to Portuguese Poppyseed. I’m considering looking into making her a service animal and taking her with me everywhere. Cats seriously absorb all the bad in their soft fur with purrs and snuggles. That’s why I’ve spent most of my time in Portugal so far chasing after all the stray cats. Most of them are feral and hate me, but I don’t care. Cats are my drug of choice. Other than cats, I’ve discovered that I also have an attraction to cute Portuguese doors.

They have so much symmetry, color, and charm.

Rainbows do too.