Five reasons I’m grateful this week

I am most grateful this week to be back stateside with my family, and in good health, after our international trip. This grateful post is fueled by my patched recollections of the past few weeks, as memories were made and time flew by. I am sure that I have forgotten something, and that makes me even more thankful for knowing that we were so blessed during this trip. We had headaches, trials, and times when we were less than best, oh yes, but I prefer to focus on the positives, and there were plenty…

Chouchou

I hadn’t thought of it until we were already in France, but I’m pretty sure Chouchou went along with this whole trip just for me. He doesn’t speak French and was lost in conversations most of the time, but he continued to smile and be the best sport.

There were many cultural differences I had failed to prepare him for – la bise (the kiss) the most surprising for him.

Big oops – after a while, I had forgotten these small cultural variations, and although I should have taken better care to prepare him, Chouchou was very flexible and forgiving.

Despite the language and cultural differences, he adapted quickly and easily, and was patient with me all around. When I was on the verge of tears wondering if the Uber would pick us up at 4:30 am for our flight, he told me, “It will be here.” When we were in the airport waiting to go home and I worried, watching people board, then debark twenty minutes later, he said, “Everything will be okay.” Whenever I started to worry, he was my calming force and reassured me.

The kindness of strangers

We decided, foolishly, to take the metro into Paris, from CDG. Foolishly, because we had in tow: two roller suitcases, a trunki/ride & roll suitcase for Mon Cœur, a stroller, and my purse. Oh, and Mon Cœur (MC), a fiercely independent, headstrong, and curious toddler. Our hands were full. Although we only had one change of lines to make, it still meant multiple trips up and down stairs, through tunnels, and turnstile entrances.

Did I mention…we arrived at about the same time as morning rush hour traffic? For every flight of stairs up or down, there was a wonderful Parisian offering to help carry the luggage or stroller and sometimes multiple strangers helping with both. Even after we dropped off our luggage at our AirBnB, and were just metroing with the stroller, there were always people willing to give up a seat or help with the stroller up and down the stairs.

After the first day of using the metro, we decided we should try to navigate the bus system better – there would be no steps and we’d be able to see more of the city. I am so thankful to a beautiful Parisian woman who was waiting for a bus right outside the Palais Garnier and helped us decide the best route.

This was after running into a team of RATP security men and asking them en français to help confirm if we were going the right way. They told me, “I don’t speak much English.” I had to explain to them, en français again, that I spoke and understood French. This was by and large the exception to the rule for us. Nearly every other français was friendly, charmed by MC, and eager to help us.

Friends and excellent hosts

We went mainly to visit two sets of friends, one near the France/Spain border, in Biarritz, and the other two hours south of Paris, in Bourges. They always have their door open for us.

We are so lucky for the exchanges that spurred these relationships – one just one and a half years through an introduction by a former colleague, and another that began back in 2003 with an exchange through my sister’s high school.

Our hosts introduced us to varied French cuisine, cathedrals, and castles. They went the extra mile to see us off at the train station, and came prepared with un goûter (snack) for the car ride back to their house. They treated us like family, and provided us warm and cozy places to stay. They served us delicious food that stuck to our ribs, and lingered in Chouchou’s memory – my mission this month is to try to reproduce many of the meals we had in the homes of our hosts!

Fair February weather

We encountered almost no rain, the sun shone on us every day we were there. We did get caught in rain and some hail during a walk on the evening before we left – it made for a good adventure though. We were truly lucky for our trip, that the weather was so mild. At a few different points during the trip I felt silly for all of the winter clothing that I had packed.

One day, while we were port side at St. Jean de Luz, it felt like a summer day. We were sitting at a café having lunch, I felt warm rays hitting my back, and I smelled a cigar that reminded me of my Papa. I had an instant memory of his ashtray, a blue-grey circle, with frothy white waves for low walls to contain ashes, and a lighthouse on an edge that completed the nautical effect – essentially a monument to a seafarer that consumed his whole side table.

Technology and Family

I am glad that I had the capability to keep up with friends, family, and readers by posting photos to Instagram. I am grateful for the ability to video chat, as I was able to call my mom a few different times: to let her know we arrived safe, for Dad’s birthday, and right before we left to say “see you soon.”

It’s because of this technology, too, that mom was able to share news with me of my Papa’s passing. When she told me I circled back to the scent of cigars at St. Jean de Luz.

His celebration was yesterday, and the reunion of family reminded me of what a wonderful host and community organizer my Papa was, and that my mother is. I am lucky to have been raised knowing this love and the open door to neighbors- where everyone can come to a house and feel at home whether neighbors, friends, distant relatives, or immediate family.

Can you relate? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Five reasons I’m grateful this week

This week we are gearing up for our trip and getting super excited for the adventure and to see dear friends. While we are away, check my Instagram for daily pictures!

Old fashioned fun times with MC and Chouchou

Taking a permanent marker and some balloons blown up to make faces, and then just sitting and tossing them around. It seems we don’t take enough time to just have fun anymore. It was nice to press pause on life and just sit on the floor as a family for five minutes.

Ridiculously warm February weather

Great for walks and working in the garden. I was able to deadhead our Chrysanthemums and also had ambition to trim back our Rose of Sharon – trying to convince Chouchou that splitting it isn’t too ambitious of a project!

An independent little lady

She wants to fold laundry with me, crack eggs for her breakfast, make the coffee, but “I do it by self, okay?” If I can find a way for her to pitch in, she is right by my side, helping me.  And if I can’t, she is motivating me to figure it out!

Old friends

Dinner with an old friend and pal who loves and accepts me for me and allowed me time and space to be. It’s nice to have friends where words aren’t necessary and you can just be.

Our upcoming vacation

We haven’t taken a vacation in about 4 years, and this will be our first family vacation and we’re going all out with an international trip! We are packed and ready to go! We have an amazing house sitter and know that our fur and feather babies will be well taken care of so we can relax and enjoy. I also just found the most amazing app that can be used online or offline and will help us navigate Paris easy peasy. Space in our luggage is at a premium so I am glad to not have to pack my arrondissement map book. I think in the end the app will also save us time trying to find our way around (where’s the adventure in that, though?!), and help plan our daily itineraries.

Dear Dad: it’s been a year


This time last year we had transitioned Dad to hospice, knowing the end was near. He fought the good fight, and we’re so lucky to have had the time with him that we did. The last conversation we had was about Hot Lips Houlihan, and I’ll never forget the smile, his impeccable, gracious smile, he had despite the pain.

Dear Dad,

It’s been a year now since you’ve passed. As much as we miss you, we know you’re in a better place. I swear I heard morse code the night mom called to say you had passed – it was you talking to me. I remember being eight years old, sitting at the little red desk you made with your telegraph key and your Morse Code books and you teaching me all about it. You had a way to inspire and energize me in the way you shared your knowledge and view of the world.

Remember the poem I read at your celebration of life? It seems duplicitous now looking back after we lost Millie. She gave me my strength and force to have a brave face for you. But we are trying to love and go on, knowing that you are taking care of each other.

You can shed tears because they are gone, or you can smile because they lived. You can close your eyes and pray they will come back, or you can open your eyes and see all that they left for you. Your heart can be empty because you can’t see them, or you can be full of the love you shared. You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday. You can remember only that they are gone, or you can cherish their memory and let it live on. You can cry and close your mind and feel empty, or you can do what they would want: Smile. Open your heart. Love….and go on.

I found some old photos, and was walking down memory lane…

Dad Genius

You always had the hip technology and could answer any questions we had about computers. You were also able to answer any random question about what something was or how it worked.

I remember when you first showed us how to insert a floppy disk and play the games on your Apple Classic. We’d spend evenings just playing lemonade stand, the “Paul Bunyan” pioneer game, the helicopter game or a host of any other intriguing games.

Then one Saturday morning back in the late eighties you and your friends were so excited to have two computers “talking” to each other across town. This was pre-internet. You understood what was the future and were at the beginning of it all, while also cherishing the Apple Classic.

As a fifth grader, you came to the career fair and set up in the cafeteria with all of your engineering tools. I’ve forgotten all the names for those gadgets, but I remember being so amazed by your knowledge and wowed and proud. And was always so proud of my elementary book reports that were printed out on your dot matrix printer with the cursive font. We always got a kick out of tearing the perforated edges off and making paper springs out of them – we found ways to balance work and play.

Daddy and his ladies

I’ll never forget the nurses telling you at the hospital to get in the delivery room or go out to the waiting room, no standing in the hallway. I told you between contractions to come in if you wanted, but you were always so conservative, so you waited outside in the waiting room.

You got to hold Mon Cœur (MC) later that evening, after you brought me Chick-fil-A and a shake. I’ll love you forever for doing that for me – I was so famished. I remember you coming up the next day to bring mom and were so proud holding MC again. Another girl added to our family.

It’s a wonder we didn’t give you more grey hairs as we were growing up. We should have been easier on you, a house full of women, but you survived it, and you loved us despite all our crazy antics.

What does EIIGY | POCR OFF mean, exactly?

I used to ask mom and would get an eye roll and, “Ask your dad.” Well, I know what it means now that I can read between the lines, and mom offered me some of your teeshirts to remind me of you. My favorite, the EIIGY POCR tee.

Nothing like wearing that shirt and the neighbors coming over and staring at me. Either they didn’t understand or they didn’t like what it said. It’s not a personal greeting for everyone that reads it, but I still get funny looks. I don’t care; when I wear it, I think of you and remember my childhood.

Hugs & Kisses

Well, I think that’s it for now. I love you and miss you. Give Millie hugs & kisses from us all. MC says Skinamarink a dink I love you, Poopa. She loves that song, and every time I sing it to her, I think of you tucking me into bed.

5 Reasons I’m grateful this week

Although I have not taken a moment to blog about my gratefulness recently, I do try to note something each day for which I am grateful. It always helps me to remember those little moments and helps keep a positive mindset. This week has given me many opportunities to feel grateful:

  • Finding my voice and strength to say, “No, thank you.” I can say I tried this opportunity, and I think both sides could foresee that this wasn’t going to be a good fit.
  • Reconnecting with old friends. I am so grateful to have two pals who I have known for so long- they are like brothers to me. We had drifted apart over the years, but when Daddy passed, they stepped in immediately and wanted to help however they could. We’ve been trying to keep in touch better, and we enjoyed coffee together this past week.
  • Time with Mom and Mon Cœur (MC) – we had a special bonding time at the library last week for story time. I would love for us to make it a weekly routine for us three. MC simply adores her Mooma, and I love the time that we all get together.
  • More time to spend with Chouchou – we spent a couple of family days together and got in some nice walks as a family in the mild temps. It poured down rain the last couple minutes of our last walk, and that added some extra adventure, a sprint home, and something to laugh about later! Chouchou was able to accompany us to story time today which was another bonus.
  • More time to create with MC. We’ve painted two canvases and tried collaging this week! I think collaging may require a little more patience and focus – we were frequently side tracked by the amazing trick of spinning a glue stick and it lowering and rising!

What are you grateful for this week?

Grateful

There is much to be grateful for this week:

  • An opportunity to visit with friends and family;
  • New treasures from the Goodwill;
  • A new professional opportunity and the contagious positive and bubbly personality of the manager training me;
  • Gorgeous weather for walks and playing outside;
  • Mon Cœur’s (MC) wit and energetic spirit;
  • A weekend museum date with MC and Chouchou;
  • Seeing and discussing art through MC’s lens;
  • A little bit of recharge time for me; and
  • Organizing and meal prepping so that dinner this week will be a breeze!

What are you thankful about this week?