Monday, January 25, 2010

The joy of loose, or at least looser, jeans

I finally located some roomier jeans. Thank God. What with my ill- fitting bras, is there such a thing as a comfortable bra? and all my clingy, unforgiving waist bands, why did I get rid of all those stretch jeans, I was vying for the Miss Irritable USA, or is it World, title. Too tight waistbands could start wars if enough women were subjected to them on the same day.

Admitting you need to go a size up in pants, at age 44, is kind of like adapting to a new country. You've got to be flexible. And to think I had imagined France, by osmosis, would render me chicly svelte. I didn't take the cost of all that emotional eating (did you know chocolate is an anti-depressant?) and wine drinking, into consideration.

There's also that little problem of no snow to slide around on. My primary forms of exercise in winter were cross country skiing, which I could do by stepping out the door at my house in Vermont, and ice hockey, which I played twice, sometimes three times, per week.

My turning my back on France simply because she has temporarily lost some of her physical beauty reminds me of the kind of men, I don't know any personally but have heard about them, who take issue with their wives for losing their figure when pregnant.

How shallow am I?

After all, none of this is France's fault. She made me no promises. She did not ask me to impregnate her with all my vain hopes and fantasies of escape into a better, more beautiful, more art -filled, better- coffee-filled, thinner, blonder, world where simply riding my bike down the street, carrying that fresh baguette under my arm, breathing in the air, and perhaps wearing some funky, decidedly- Euro shoes, would render me forever complacent.

I simply expected too much from her. Nothing less than transformation: The chance to be someone else, the bragging rights of a third language -- I can brag of temporarily bi-lingual children- and a swishy- sounding address. A somehow more meaningful existence.

But a country, or a city, or a town, or a house, no single place can provide this for anyone. Because, in the words of Buckaroo Banzai- "Wherever you go, there you are."
And, yup, last time I checked, I'm still here.

Related BabyCenter post over here.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

I need to be slapped

To think of the days I spent, sitting in my beautiful, sunny, warm post and beam house that my husband built, lounging by the Finnish masonry stove, reading to my children, occasionally glancing out the window at the rolling countryside, dreaming of life elsewhere. You know, somewhere different, somewhere exciting, somewhere that didn't make me feel as if I was falling asleep at the wheel because I had traveled the same damn road so many damn times.

To think of how obvious it is, to everyone but me, that I got that wish. I so got that wish. I'm living, breathing and smelling that wish. And all I can do is complain about it.

But then I catch myself, or my readers catch me, mid moan, and I realize, just as many of you said, I will most certainly be laughing about all of this one day. And I want to be laughing with fond, entertaining, ridiculous memories, not cursing myself with regret for not carping the diem, that is seizing the day.

So, one week into this new place, our new digs, and I'm realizing that kids are amazing. It's the crusty old grownups who have a problem behaving. It's the grownups who need a finger wagged in their direction and to be told, "I don't like your attitude."

Esther and Isla like it here. They don't care about the stains on the floor or the lack of comfy chairs or, the furry bathtub or this is a big one, the fact that we no longer have access to a kid-friendly DVD library, we don't even have a TV, like we did at the last place.

They think the long narrow corridor, the one that originally made me think of an inner-city crack house, is the shit, and they spent all morning pushing every toy they have with wheels on it, back and forth through it.

I spent a whole afternoon scrubbing every painted wooden door in the place, there was definitely something growing on them, and scrubbing the base boards in the corridor, and the effect was instantly gratifying.

Inspired by that experience, I made room in a cabinet and started to put some of our books and games away, and rearranged Esther and Isla's room in a way that made it feel less like a cheap hotel and more like a kids bedroom.

I bought us all new pillows and bug-proof mattress covers so now I don't get that vague feeling of my skin crawling when I lie in the beds here.

The place is even starting to smell a bit better. Just us being here, infusing the rooms with much-needed life, along with garlic, chilli powder and a dash of cumin, is dispelling some of the desolate air and replacing it with something decidedly more hopeful.

And the sound of Esther hitting runaway high notes on her new recorder could send any bad spirit with ears off in search of a new dwelling place.

We had our favorite neighbors over for a glass, or three, of wine last night while the kids, there were six of them at one point, stirred up some more good energy, yelling, screaming, strewing the place with odd socks. Why do kids always take off their socks when they come inside?

This morning, Ian and I lingered over our tea in the kitchen. We listened to French radio, picking up snippets here and there, "They are talking about the weather, right?" and discussed the fireplace-- it works, we just need some wood-- while the kids watched BarbaPapa reruns on YouTube, and I determined that it wasn't even remotely close to the end of the world.

Then I finally got started taking our clothes out of our bags and putting them away. This is huge.

Speaking of moving forward, I've written about Esther losing her favorite stuffed bear here.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

It's Tuesday, this must be France

Our new, temporary, home

I'm sitting in our new shabby rental, and I'm not talking "shabby chic," trying not to cry.

The radiators work, it's dry, sort of, there are plenty of windows, big ones, that let far more light in than any of the houses we've been in so far. It has potential.

But it's a temporary home, again. How much work do we want to put into finding that elusive potential hidden somewhere underneath layer upon layer of neglect and abandonment?

It kind of reminds me of when a friend is dating, or heaven forbid, married to, the wrong person and they spend so much energy trying to convince themselves, and everyone else, to see the "good sides" of this person and overlook the giant W (for wrong), or even D (for danger) flashing like a neon sign on their loved-ones forehead.

The problem is, and this is a big one for a girl with the nose of a hound dog, this house has a certain smell. Let's just call it, "eau de desolation."

It's the kind of smell that assaults your senses when you first walk in, then slowly your nose gets accustomed to it and you can almost imagine it's not there anymore. Almost.

Do I get out the incense? Burn some sage to dispel the evil spirits? Get an essential oil thingamabobby and plug it in in hopes of disguising the problem? Start an apple pie business and keep the place smelling of apples and cinnamon 24/7?

We've been back for two days, we've been lollygagging in the warm arms, and kitchens, of Ian's family in England, and I've only just begun to slowly unpack our bags. Inertia and ambivalence has paralyzed me. I can't find anything, not even one pair of clean underwear for Esther. Or Isla's allergy medicine.

So why am I blogging instead of organizing and cleaning? Because I can. And I'm not in a car, or on someone's front steps, I'm inside my shabby house, enjoying the Wifi that floats into my window from the neighbor's house.

But that's not the only reason I'm not cleaning. It's pure stubbornness.

I'm still not convinced we can go through with this move. I'm still thinking someday our prince will come, maybe we should keep our bags packed and ready by the door....

On a lighter note: We had a lovely time in England, trying to bread the world record of cups of tea and mince pies consumed in one sitting.

We tried to stay the night, on the way home, in Bergue, made famous by this must-see French film, but there was no room at the inn, so we travelled on to Lille. Yet another amazing French city I'll never really see unless I run away and visit it without my family.

But I get to see this much, on a frigid, early morning walk:

Lille opera house


Lovely Lille

This sidewalk smells good

Hotel Paix

The last feeding at Hurley on Thames

Let the river take us where it will....

On the way to get a haircut.

"I wish I were the Queen and all these swans were mine."

Walk to Marlow

Happy thoughts

"There has to be another chocolate here somewhere."

Strappin' on the fancy shoes.

An angel appears.