Top Ten

Photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from our balcony on the day we moved back to the U.S.

Photo of the Eiffel Tower taken from our balcony on the day we moved back to the U.S. ¬†Even Paris looks a little sad ūüôĀ

Top Ten Things I Will Miss About Paris:

  1. The food (where do I begin? daily fresh baguettes, cheese, wine, escargots, p√Ętes…)
  2. The slower pace (i.e. long lunches, walking everywhere, no rushing)
  3. The challenge of daily living (true!): learning the language, understanding the culture, and other obstacles were actually invigorating and instrumental in personal growth
  4. The kindness of the French people
  5. The cheap and delicious wine
  6. The easy and accessible public transportation
  7. The international culture/diversity
  8. The expat community
  9. The arts and culture– surrounded by museums and monuments
  10. The beauty around every corner (as evidenced by the architecture)
  11. The light
  12. The Eiffel Tower
  13. My cozy and beautiful (rental) apartment
  14. Oh wait… I said it would be a Top Ten list. I could go on….

 

Top Ten Things I Am Enjoying About Being Back in the U.S.:

  1. My pets, friends and family!
    The kids are thrilled to reunite with Sophie!

    The kids are thrilled to reunite with Sophie!

    Our cat, Kiki

    Our cat, Kiki

  2. Customer Service. ¬†It’s good to see it still exists. I had forgotten.
  3. Saran Wrap. TOTALLY better in the U.S.
  4. Air Conditioning
  5. Going back to work
    My view from the Edge set on WCCB-TV. Happiness :)

    My view from the Edge set on WCCB-TV. Happiness ūüôā

  6. Krispy Kreme (a rare treat. but still)
  7. Wow– everything is easier here! (except doctors’ offices. Seriously, a 20 page form each time you visit?!! ugh)
  8. Barnes and Noble
    One of my happy places :)

    One of my happy places ūüôā

  9. Living in a house with children vs. living in an apartment with children
    A backyard! Baseball!

    A backyard! Baseball!

    Fun with cousins

    Fun with cousins

    IMG_1110

    GO OUTSIDE, KIDS! I haven’t said that in a while!

  10. The movies. Complete with legit popcorn and cup holders. The French don’t eat in theaters (or sporting events). Which is probably why…. fill in the blank… they are skinnier than we are.

 

Top Ten Reverse-Culture Shock Moments (so far):

  1. The air conditioning. It is freezing me out. The kids and I are always shivering, everywhere we go. Can’t get used to it!
  2. The food is so… UGH. What used to taste great to me now seems bland at best, pollution at its worst.IMG_7234
  3. The noise. My ears are bombarded by television, radio, XM, conversation. And because it’s all in English, I hear everything.
  4. My house. It’s too big. The colors are too bright. And we have too much stuff.
    My makeup drawer. This is all the stuff I did NOT take to Paris. Which means I haven't used it (or missed it) in a year.

    My makeup drawer. This is all the stuff I did NOT take to Paris. Which means I haven’t used it (or missed it) in a year.

  5. Driving everywhere. It sucks. As I loaded school supplies into my SUV, I actually wished I had my little push-caddy and was walking home from the store. My husband says his SUV feels like a tank.
    Kate in Scott's "tank"

    Kate in Scott’s “tank”

    The first time I got behind the wheel in 13 months. I took a photo in case it was our last.

    The first time I got behind the wheel in 13 months. I took a photo in case it was our last.

  6. Television. I have my beloved 500 channels back, and sadly, disappointingly, there’s nothing to watch. ¬†(except WCCB of course ūüėČ
  7. Strangely, I am surprised to see so many people in workout clothes/loungewear. I can’t wait to unpack mine.
  8. Dang, people actually do their hair here. I knew that reprieve wouldn’t last.
  9. In a city with a zillion mega-grocery stores, I’m still looking for good bread…
  10. Everything seems so cheap here (compared to Paris). I went out to eat with my kids and the bill was $16. I called the waitress over and told her she’d made a mistake, and left the kids’ meals off the bill. Nope, all three meals were there. This same meal in Paris would have been easily 50 euros (more than $60).

Paris By the Numbers

Our family has just celebrated one memorable and enlightening year of living in Paris. During the last 365 days, I have traveled some, but have not been back to the United States. As we prepare to spend our last weeks¬†in the City of Light, I thought I’d begin to process this experience by breaking it down statistically.

IMG_9982

Scott and I celebrating Bastille Day in Paris: July 14, 2014.

This is us when we arrived-- our first day in Paris July 10, 2013.

This is us when we arrived– our first day in Paris July 10, 2013. Look at us! So skinny and sober. ūüėČ

Paris By the Numbers

In the last year, here are the Number of Times I Have:

  • visited a museum: 78
  • seen someone urinating in public:¬†14
  • worn workout pants when not exercising: 1
  • exercised on purpose: 6
  • been to the gym: 0
  • driven a car: 0
  • seen¬†drivers stop and nearly fist-fight: 5
  • had to schlep myself, children and groceries¬†a mile or more due to a protest interrupting public transportation: 13
  • had a Coke or other soda: 2
  • eaten fast food: 1
  • been sick: 2.5
  • tried a cigarette: 1
  • wanted to have a cigarette:¬†25 (sorry, it’s not p.c., but these French women are very chic)
  • been to the top of the Eiffel Tower: 7
  • hosted visitors: 44 ¬†(total nights with houseguests: 96!!)
  • swooned over living in Paris: 365
  • watched any Real Housewives episodes: 0 ¬†(brain cells regenerated: 6 million)
  • missed air conditioning: 20
  • been laughed at for attempting to speak French: 3
  • drunk wine: 335
  • eaten cheese: 365
  • eaten baguettes: 365
  • felt guilty about eating bread and cheese every.single.day: 0
  • worn Spanx: 3
  • pounds gained: 11
  • regrets: 0

Here are a few more statistics for you, from a good tourist website (with an English option).  In Paris, there are:

No less than: 173 museums, 37 bridges, 31 monuments, 3 opera houses, 171 churches and temples, 208 theatres and cabarets, 20 covered passageways, 84 cinemas, 14 cemeteries, 108 Wallace fountains, 463 parks and gardens.  (from www.parisinfo.com)

 

More posts to come… thanks for reading. ¬†Merci!

Haters Gonna Hate

photoI need to offer you, Facebook family, un grand¬†merci.¬†You have tolerated (and even “liked”) my 8,000 pictures of the Eiffel Tower. You have even sweetly indulged every wheel of Brie, loaf of baguette, and bottle of Bordeaux that has fascinated me since moving to Paris last year (and it’s not over yet!). But most of all, you have not sent me hate-mail for something called “living my life.” I’m writing to you now because there is a matter that has put a bee in my beret. We have a fairly tight little group of ex-pat Americans here in the City of Light. And I’m sad to say that many of them (if not most) have been downright persecuted by family and so-called friends for moving here (and then posting pictures of their lives here). They’ve been called “selfish” and “insensitive” for daring to move where their bosses asked them to. It just happens to be Paris. Would they be called “selfish” and “insensitive” if they were transferred not to Paris, but to Pittsburgh? I think not. Some of the people I know here actually sought a job in Paris (gasp!). Can you imagine?!! They actually said something like, “Ms. Boss Woman, if ever a job opportunity arose in Paris within our company, I would like to be highly considered for it.” And then, shockingly, they got the job they wanted! Quelle¬†horreur! ¬†I am actually shocked– by my own ability to still be shocked by haters. When people who live in Paris post photos of their cute kids on Spring Break, it is the same thing as your cute kids on Spring Break, just on a different continent. It takes us the same amount of time to get to a beach in say, Spain, as it does for you to go to Myrtle Beach. We can be in London in the same amount of time (and for about the same amount of money) as it takes you to drive to Boone. This is the reality of living in Western Europe. Is it fantastic and amazing? Of course it is– that’s why we all want to share it with people we care about. I just don’t understand the people who¬†are threatened by this (not you guys, beautiful readers!). If gorgeous¬†pics of faraway places are too much to take, that’s what the “scroll down” button is for. ¬†I can’t cook… like, at all. So imagine how distraught and threatened I feel each night when I read Facebook and see everything you all are having for dinner. Perhaps I should fire off a “food-shaming memo” along the lines of this: “Dear Friend and Chef, How can you be so insensitive as to post pictures of your meals day after day? You know I can’t cook. You know I’ll never be able to cook. I will probably not even EAT a meal that looks like that, much less ever cook one. Do you ever think about my feelings when you post these pictures? I know this is your passion and what you’re good at, but you posting all these pictures of your meals is offensive and frankly, smacks of bragging. I think you should strongly reconsider your posts, and from this point on, only post non-offensive things, like photos of clouds.” ¬†It’s ridiculous. ¬†Look, we all post edited versions of our own realities on Facebook. But it’s still reality. I’m no different, so let me be totally honest: Never once (despite your voiced-disbeliefs) have I edited or filtered a shot of the Eiffel Tower! It always looks that good! But you can bet every single picture of me has had the Barbara Walters treatment. The more filters, the better! ¬†The point is, real, everyday reality is kinda boring. Unless it’s funny. So, just so you don’t think life in Paris is all champagne and chocolate, here is a snapshot of 30 minutes in our day today:

I'm so happy! Trying out Paris's Velib bike-sharing program.

4:45 pm- I’m so happy! Trying out Paris’s Velib bike-sharing program.

IMG_9434

5 pm- Rode our bikes to the Champ de Mars to pick up the kids! Two minutes later, a 6 year old criminal-in-training tried to pickpocket Scott. ūüôĀ

IMG_9456

5:05 pm- Never mind, it’s ok.. kids got to attend a birthday party by the Eiffel Tower. Cool!

photo

5:15 pm- ¬†A few minutes later, a full-on meltdown, because even though he GOT a dinosaur in his goody bag, it wasn’t the RIGHT dinosaur.

So… it’s the same everywhere.¬†Pretty days happen. Kids go to birthday parties. You ride bikes. Perhaps you don’t get pickpocketed in Charlotte. Kids have meltdowns over plastic dinosaurs. C’est la vie. That’s life– whether you’re in Paris, or Pittsburgh. ¬†#nohaters

Grief

One time a few years ago, I was taking a casserole to a friend who had unexpectedly lost her sibling in a tragic and early death. As I drove down her quiet, tree-lined avenue in Charlotte, I noticed on one side of the street a stork yard sign and a pink wreath adorning one house, announcing the happy arrival of little Sophia Jane. ¬†My friend’s house was just opposite, unmarked by the monumental life change that had also occurred behind her front door. In years past, I had always seen those baby wreaths and storks and felt a little jump of excitement for the new parents. I thought “what wonderful news!” and “how exciting” and maybe, sometimes, said a prayer of joy for the family celebrating inside. ¬†This time I thought, how unfair that a family, my friend’s family, had suffered their own earthquake but was suffering in silence, in anonymity. The passers-by on this street had no idea of the agony that was being endured inside that house. No black wreath marked the door, no sign announced the passing of a young life. No one knew to pray as they passed that house of grief.

Tonight I am sleepless with sorrow for my friend Meg McElwain in Charlotte. Many of you know her; others have followed her journey through Facebook or her remarkable guest blog for the Charlotte Observer. Tonight she mourns the death from cancer of her baby son, Mitchell. As I write this, “mourns” seems so impotent. Isn’t there a word more violent that could capture a mother’s anguish in the death of her child? There is no doubt Meg and all who loved little Mitchie have a long and miserable journey ahead of them. If only people who passed their home knew the pain behind their closed curtains. Someone once said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Let me also add, even the people you don’t meet are fighting hard battles, tucked inside their homes, closed off from the outside world, hurting and healing. Remember them as you go about your day, even if there is no black wreath on the front door.