Author Archives: Kelley

3, 2, 1…

We woke this morning to dreary skies which, I would say, match our sentiments but we’re actually doing okay. We have cleaned the bathroom and changed the sheets for Darin and Marietta. We have squished every possible item into each bag. We have taken our last walk across the bridge and our last stop at the bakery. We have made sandwiches for the plane. We have packed Sarah’s bag for her overnight with friends tonight. We are munching on our last breakfast of fresh, warm French bread with butter and jam. And four of us will be locking the door behind us in less than an hour.

It is time to pack up the camera and pack up the laptop and sign off from Paris for the last time.

This adventure has come to an end.

Or…is it just the beginning?

My advice for you today: Go and chase your dreams. You won’t regret it.

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“Anything can happen if you let it
Life is out there waiting so go and get it
Grab it by the collar, seize it by the scruff
Once you’ve started living life you just can’t get enough” – Mary Poppins

“In the big blue world
We’re gonna go explore
In the big blue world
Things we’ve never seen before
What’s waiting out there
We can never know
In the big blue world
We’re ready to go.” — Finding Nemo

“Your mountain is waiting,
So… get on your way!” Dr. Seuss

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Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 2 Comments

T-minus 1

Our last full day is drawing to a close. And it’s a good thing too.

Elizabeth’s glasses broke right before her class play this morning.
Chili has thrown up four times already today.
There is nothing left to put in a school lunch.

Our day was full and sad and wonderful. I was able to see Elizabeth and Julian perform in their class play. I cannot claim to have understood the whole thing, but I spent most of the time just admiring the new language skills and accents I was hearing from my children. Combine that with a bit of drama and we had a show! What a perfect end to the last day. There was a class breakfast in their room after and Mme Panzani showed us the video of their classe vert (their field trip) that the kids created.

I had a bit of time to get home and grab some groceries so there is something in the refrigerator for Tom and Sarah as well as Darin and Marietta when they arrive early Sunday morning. I think everything is packed and my fingers are crossed that bags are within the limit and Tom can fit everything else in when they come home.

The last day of school can be a bit emotional at any time. Elevate that a few levels for us and you can picture the 30 minutes we spent on the school sidewalk complete with laughs, hugs and tears. No one was immune. But it was sweet and tender and so pure in their emotions. It is a joy to see young people connect so well and so much that it hurts to be apart. Especially when there is no prediction of the when or the where of the future. That seems to be the most difficult part of all this. After school my three closest friends grabbed all the kids and we spent the entire evening chatting, cooking, drinking sangria, and chatting some more. They kids did all the things kids do on a Friday evening; all good kids and lots of fun.

When the clock rolled to 11, I knew the good-byes had to begin. And this time it was my turn to be sad. Four women pulled together through our common circumstance. Our feelings were summed up nicely at the table when someone said, “Time started flying by when we discovered each other”. It’s just another sign that we are not out in this world alone. I am 45 years old and I am still meeting people that are making an imprint. I guess that never ends and isn’t it wonderful?

One last Metro trip. One last look at the sparkly Eiffel Tower.

We are going to bed tonight knowing this adventure is ending. But we are taking with us so much more than the momentos packed in our bags.

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 2 Comments

T-minus 2

I am utterly exhausted.

For you, the one or three or seven of you that may read this, my apologies. I have no philosophy to share. No wise words of learning or life lessons. I am consumed by packing up this chapter of my life while, at the same time, baking something for tomorrow’s CM2 class breakfast. It is the perfect message to me that while I may want time to stop for me and my “moment”, it will not and does not. Friends, here, are making their plans for next week and next month and next year. Plans that I am no longer a part of (but they have said I am welcome to return at anytime, flights being so inexpensive). And, at the same time, I am beginning to make plans with friends when I return. An amount of time that can now be counted in hours.

I strongly believe my exhaustion and busy-ness is God’s way of keeping me distracted from the emotional aspect of change. I literally don’t have the time or the energy to spend these last few days reflecting on the whirlwind of this all. I believe it’s a bit of self preservation on my part, too. The good-byes with friends tomorrow will be hard enough. For tonight, I just needed to pack!

It was a good day, though. My final Thursday with my friends. We actually had two additions this morning: Sarah and Lydia’s daughter, Emma. They did not have to be at school until 12:45 today so joined us at our favorite bakery and then went to a favorite area for strolling and window-shopping. They left us just before lunch. It was one of the only days we had not made lunch reservations and ended up at an organic burger cafe in the 1st, near the Opera. It was just what we were looking for: delicious burgers, hot, very crispy fries, cold water, chocolate cake for dessert and an upstairs table for final laughs and stories. It took everything I had to stay awake on the Metro back to school and they could see it. I felt like a slug walking home from school and told the kids I just needed to put my head on for a few minutes before I rallied for my evening of packing. I put my head down around 4:20 and said, “You have to wake me up at 5:15”. They did, but very gently. So sweet. Sarah, my life-saver, took charge of making homemade pizza for dinner which was delicious. They turned on Ratatouille as some Disney/French entertainment and we are now close to being ready to leave on Saturday morning.

And although I am ready to fall into bed, I had to turn to this blog. It’s hard to capture for you how I have enjoyed sharing my stories…some important, some not, but all the story of my life this year. This blog was never meant to entertain or educate but, more selfishly, created so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself! In the end, I have something for myself I can always turn to when I think about this slice of my life.

I thought I would share with you an excerpt from a talk that Sarah Kay gave a couple years ago. She sums up, so well, the joy of sharing stories:

“I have always liked coming home and sharing what has happened that day with my loved ones. I like comparing notes. I know other people do, too. I think there is a human instinct to tell stories, no matter who you are or where you live. When I hear other people’s stories, I like to believe that they contribute to my “Encyclopedia of Human Experience.” The stories I hear help me expand my definition of what love is, what pain feels like, what sacrifice means, what laughter can do. I hear a story and learn from it: I agree, or disagree, or build on it, or expand it, or find some kernel of truth inside of it for myself, that lets me know somebody else is also trying to tackle the same confusing questions that I am. To me, having the courage to tell your own story goes hand in hand with having the curiosity and humility to listen to others’ stories.”

I don’t know what my next story will be. But, let’s keep sharing our stories, okay?

Until tomorrow…

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 4 Comments

T-minus 3

And then there were four.

Tom left this morning after a final walk with Chili and parting ways with the rest of us at the Metro near the school. His days will be filled with work and company stuff. We aren’t jealous. But we are sad and missed him at dinner tonight.

Our days are filled with school and shopping. Yes, it’s SOLDES, SOLDES, SOLDES time! (That’s SALES, SALES, SALES, in case you were wondering.) Just like I mentioned in January, there are only two times of the year when stores can legally have a sale and this is the second one. It started today and lasts until around July 9, I think. After dropping the kids off at school, four of us had a quick petit dejeuner and then split up, two going to Pilates and the other two of us heading to Le Bon Marche, the grand-daddy of department stores in Paris. My friend had mentioned how quiet Le Bon Marche actually is on the first day of sales and she was right; very little competition. As the days go on and the markdowns continue, it will get busier. After getting my vegetables for dinner, we picked up the kids (remember: Wednesdays = half days). Of course, they were interested in shopping, too! They proved to be much more successful and we spent two hours shopping in our neighborhood before we needed to get Elizabeth to her last soccer practice. There have been many good-byes throughout the days: people you know you will probably never see again and some you really hope you can stay in touch with. There is a wonderful family moving (back) to the U.K. after nine years here. Their oldest daughter is 13 and will start boarding school next year. They are good people. I hope our paths cross again some day.

And then I decided to pack. Did I mention something a few days ago about taking a nap and knowing I would regret it a few days later? Yeah, that’s pretty true. I’m looking around me and thinking, “When did everything multiple?” Thank goodness for those vacuum storage bags. I’m a believer!

So, this post is short and sweet because, quite frankly, I have a bit of a deadline I need to meet and the only two days I have left are pretty much booked solid. Chili and I will stick with this for, maybe, another hour. I think I’ll tackle shoes next…

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 2 Comments

T-minus 4

Watch out. Crazy woman snapping photos of anything that appears remotely interesting.

I’m obsessed lately. French mailbox. Click. Trash can. Click. Oddly-shaped building. Click. Flowers on the oddly-shaped building. Click. Metro station. Click. Metro station sign. Click. Tom buying tickets at the Metro station. Click. Inside the Metro station. Click. Eiffel Tower from behind the Metro station. Click. 12 million photos of Eiffel Tower. Click.

Perhaps, in my psychotic way I believe all these photos will end up in a beautiful photo book. All 15,000+ photos. I mentioned this number to my friends at lunch last week. One of them questioned my number and I said, “I just took seven pictures of your food.” No further explanation was necessary.

Today included a bunch of “lasts”. Tom leaves for a business trip tomorrow and when he returns early next Monday morning, Elizabeth, Julian, Chili and I will have gone. Sarah, our almost-an-adult-but-not-quite-yet daughter, will take on the unbelievable responsibility of remaining in Paris without any other family members for slightly less than 24 hours. Yes, of course, she is staying with another family during this time. But still. Due to the inconvenient timing of all this travel, she will also be the only family member in Paris to greet our next guests when they arrive Sunday morning. She will serve as hostess and tour guide and will probably do so in a way that is far beyond what she should be able to at her young age. But ever since she started proclaiming, “I do it!” at age two her tenacity (and stubbornness) for independence has been quite clear. There are times we need to remind her “it takes a village” as not everything can be accomplished alone; at least not well. But I have no doubt she will not only be fine but thrive on this opportunity.

In any case, today was the last day Tom walked the kids to school (perhaps forever but I didn’t mention that to him). Today he and I went to our favorite Italian restaurant for lunch where the owner gave us a shot of something as our toast good-bye. It made my eyeballs sting. Tonight we shared our last dinner together until July 19th. We were together for our last bedtime prayer in Paris and then Tom took Chili for his last evening walk across the bridge. I tagged along, too, not saying too much except, “Well, we did it.” I did make an announcement after school today that they better be prepared for some tears! And, of course, as we ended our prayer before dinner Sarah made sure to look at me, smile and say, “You’re gonna cry, aren’t you?” They think they know me so well. Geez.

Despite that, it was a fun day. I had a great run this morning between delivering kids to school. Tom and I shared the best bruschetta EVER. I walked to a market I have been wanting to go to only to discover them packing up. So I just decided to take a picture of the mess left behind and move on. I ended up walking on a raised pedestrian walkway above an old viaduct that now houses great design stores in the east part of the city. Long Metro ride home to be at the school on time. Elizabeth went to a friend’s house to make crepes so I met them on our bridge a couple hours later and enjoyed talking with my good friend (Elizabeth’s friend’s mother) for about 30 minutes. We were all kind of lazy tonight. In fact, this is how we spent part of our final evening together:

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They put in a request for quiche so I obliged with a light and late dinner followed by a French card game. It felt early, due to these long days, but it was time for bed when we wrapped up and sealed the night with prayers and hugs.

I love this family. I smile when I think about where we will be the next time we share a table.

Until then, do not be sad; there is lots of fun and excitement to be had. I’m feeling a little bit “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”-ish right now. Because who better to conjure up thoughts about adventure and joy of life than good old Dr. Seuss.

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.” – Dr. Seuss’ One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

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This is a little dried goods store I have been wanting to go to. Closed between 13h – 16h. Pooh.

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Remnants of the market I was hoping to get to.

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This is for you, Jody!

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Noter Dame from the far east side.

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I museum I want to a couple months ago but walked past again today.

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Loved the clock inside.

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It’s like a facade…but not.

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Started the meal with bruschetta.

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Ended the lunch with Tiramisu.

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It doesn’t take much to get everyone to eat outside for lunch.

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Eiffel Tower from the Metro.

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In the Metro.

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Looking for the Metro.

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Buying tickets to the Metro.

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Entering the Metro.

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From the side of the Metro.

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Looking back at our bridge (under the Metro).

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We don’t have sodas in the house, but Sarah thought this would be a special treat considering it says, “Share a Coca-Cola with your family”.

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Family card game!

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She is not winning.

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This is the result of Tom’s attempt at our own portrait.

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Moment saved by someone that took our picture.

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Looking back at our corner.

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Just doesn’t get old.

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Tom and Chili’s last evening walk.

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Down the bridge.

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 4 Comments

T-minus 5

We have been talking about how Paris has made an imprint on our lives so we decided tonight we would put our imprint on Paris!

After a meal of tomato tartes, cantaloupe and cherries, and baguette cereale (a meal voted to be one of the last we have together here), we headed down the Seine for what turned out to be a 4-hour walk. Chili included.

As always, the Eiffel Tower provided a great background. As soon as we passed it, we decided to cross the Seine and head down the steps to be closer to the water. What a great surprise as that side has already been transformed for the summer…cafes, monkey bars, art sculptures, wooden-plank benches, painted mazes and hopscotch. One surprise addition was a grand wall of chalk. Our imprint won’t last long; it may be gone already! But it was fun to capture for that moment in time.

The pedestrian-only street scene (filled with tons of other runners, walkers, rollerbladers, bikers and dogs) went from near the Eiffel Tower to Musee D’Orsay which took us almost all the way to our original destination: the lock bridge just west of Pont Neuf where we had decided was the place for us to leave our family lock.

We picked out the spot, memorizing the details of the location and threw the keys in the river. Unless that bridge is destroyed by some natural disaster, our family lock is here for all of us to return and see. I wonder which one of us will be the first to get to see it again?

We proceeded further on our quest for a final Berthillon ice cream cone. We all have our absolute favorites now but some, like Tom, are still trying new flavors. He had both flavors of peche (peach) tonight, peach from a tree and peach from a vine. Yum! Julian stuck with his favorite sorbets, citron vert and poire (lime and pear). Elizabeth: chocolate and coffee. Sarah also went with the coffee and noix de coco (coconut). My combination included my favorite from this year, coconut, and the first flavor I ever had 11 years ago: chocolate blanc (white chocolate). And then we made our way ALL the way back home. Since it is light out until after 11, it certainly did not seem like 10:45 when we turned the last corner, but everyone feel into bed. We have abused our bodies these last few days, soaking in every minute we can of our time. Sleep will come on the plane. Until then, just try to keep up with us. You, also, may be ready for a nap by the time this week has ended!

 

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 1 Comment

T-minus 6

My friend, Barb, sent me a note today that said, “Have a safe trip back to Wisconsin — I won’t say “home” because home is where you make it, as you have discovered, and you can have more than one. You will always be able to call Paris ‘home’ now.”

As I sit on my rented brown couch in my rented living room/dining room/office/kitchen/family room in my rented apartment on Square Alboni, I can see Julian’s lunch box on the counter all laid out for tomorrow. Sarah’s final grade report is on the kitchen table where we put all the papers that need to be discussed, reviewed or signed. I am close enough to hear Elizabeth’s little cough as she is sleeping. Our bedroom light is on, meaning Tom is still reading the book I gave him for Father’s Day. And Chili’s blanket is on the chair although I don’t see him as he must be snuggled up next to Tom. He knows when it’s time for bed. My red fleece is hung on the back of a kitchen chair as it got a little chilly during the rain storm late this afternoon. And I can hear the boats on the river as it closes in on 23h; time for the Tour Eiffel to twinkle at the top of the hour. The boats, with their tourists, will hover around until that happens.

I love this little apartment. It is our home. I picture the kids bringing their own families to Paris some day and making sure they walk this area saying, “This is where we lived! Right here, next to the train and the river and the bridge and the Eiffel Tower. And there is our bakery! And this is where we walked our dog and this was our code to get into the building. Let’s see if it still works.”

Because I know that’s what I have done with my kids. I have driven down 16th street in Newton, Iowa, pointing out the sidewalk we used to get to school. Pointing to my friend’s homes and the light post that served as “base” for Kick-the-Can every summer evening. They know all about Ewers Drive in St. Louis, where Tom grew up and how he lived right down the street from Grant’s Farm and those famous Clydesdales. And we drive them past our apartments in Orlando and go to our old church in Bloomington, MN. All of those places have such a strong hold on us. We try to remember all our old phone numbers and addresses; even our friends’ phone numbers! Do you remember yours?

We are returning to a lovely home. The Big Yellow House, as we call it. It is our home and I am sure each one of us, Chili included, will sigh with relief and comfort when we climb back into those beds for the first time in a year. But will we look at our space differently? Will we relish in the ability to have our own space again or will we call to each other in the evenings to come into a room together because it just feels lonely? Will I get bothered by the fact that I can’t see or hear everyone from where ever I am at? It will be interesting to see.

I do know that by spending a year renting, I don’t ever look around a room and think, “I really need new curtains” or “I should replace these towels” or “I should look for something for the table”. It has been so freeing! I hope I can hold on to that because I am so happy here and it has nothing to do with the age or the shape of the furniture, the design of the bedding or the art on the walls. We don’t think about any of those things at all. The art work isn’t even ours! And yet it’s home just as much as a home filled with all our one things. We don’t feel like we are using a place that belongs to someone else. This is our apartment. So much so that we don’t even want to think about the fact that very soon, this will be someone else’s home.

Knowing we would be living more “compactly” than we were used to, we had some concerns. We wondered what it would be like for the kids to share a room. Would it feel like staying in a hotel room where no one ever settles down? Absolutely not. These kids are fantastic, sharing their space so easily and without hassle. We have enjoyed our nights reading together in their room, rotating backrubs and foot massages with Chili moving from one bed to another just looking for the perfect snuggle spot. We have rotated in and out of that little bathroom but, really, no issues besides some reminders that “Other people still need to shower!” Most of us like to linger in the tub. I have no idea who they get that from.

Even the tiny kitchen worked just fine. The space was limited so we had a bit of bumping around as we tried to get dinner on the table or lunches made in the morning. We will always remember the purple-handled set of knives (really, a set of steak knives but it’s all we had to work with) that bent to the right every time you cut through something. When she gets her own apartment, we will probably purchase Elizabeth a set of the Teflon, clip-on handle cookware because she thought it was so cool. I tried to reminder her of the lovely brushed stainless-steel All-Clad cookware I have at home, but she was impressed with the clip-ons. The kitchen served it’s purpose and new French dishes were created with favorites to bring home.

I can’t wait to have a dryer again. And a water softener so our guests don’t mistake the towels in the bathroom for sandpaper or have to drink out of cloudy glasses. I am looking forward to a vacuum that can suck up more than a hair at any one time, although I only have hardwood floors and one small rug here so it wasn’t a big deal. I can’t wait to have a specific place to hang my coat or put my umbrella when it’s wet. And a nice pillow. Yes, that will be a treat.

This is our home and our memories of Paris will be grounded in this place. We have celebrated birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, an Engle Staycation, hosted many guests plus friends and sleepovers. Chili knows the place so well he can sense when the elevator is coming all the way to the 6th floor and we have no idea how he does it. And when we are all home, he can relax and sleep and eat because don’t we all relax more when we know everyone is home, safe and sound? I am reminded of the song, “If These Walls Could Talk” as inside these walls we lived our life. We built a home. How wonderful these walls felt as we returned at the end of a long school day or even a wonderful vacation. To come in, slip your shoes off and be home. I’m trying not to think about all the “last times” I am experiencing this week but I just know closing the door for the last time on Saturday is going to be tough.

And just in case you were wondering, yes, I cried through almost my entire last service at the Cathedral this morning.

 

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 7 Comments

T-minus 7

I was all set with my blog post for today. And then came the news that a dear colleague from Disney lost her husband to a massive heart-attack this morning. Our age. And the reality and brevity and fragility of life came front and center once again. Was I really just thinking about whether I should get a new swimsuit before I come home? How insignificant of me.

Recently, Tom was reading from one of his favorite book series and explained to me that this author isn’t one that has found overwhelming success or writes novels that are going to win international awards. But he loves the nuggets of insight he offers that can stop you in your tracks for a bit. Here are a couple that stood out to Tom and, in turn, me especially has we have reflected on our year and our lives as we move forward:

“Should a man reach eighty, he has only had eighty Septembers.”

“Today, my friends, we each have one day less, every one of us. And joy is the only thing that slows the clock.”

It’s time, isn’t it? Time is the resource we have to use as we see fit. At Disney, whenever a meeting is shortened or cancelled, the facilitator usually says, “I’m giving you all the gift of time”. Really, it’s one of the most overused phrases in my business world and, although I’ve used it myself, it’s like nails on a chalkboard to me now. I’m sure you have your own phrases that drive you crazy whenever you hear them.

But it is true that time is a gift. And even more true that each day we live is the same length as the next guy. What did you do with yours today?

Today I napped. So did Tom. It was fabulous. We spent the entire morning shopping for a few items the kids really wanted to travel home with and then met Elizabeth and Julian’s classmates and families for a picnic lunch on the Champ de Mars. Lots of fun. But when we returned around 3:30 and the skies were cloudy, well, there wasn’t anything more perfect than wrapping up with the fuzzy, grey blanket and closing my eyes on the couch for an hour or so. Typically, I get a little anxious on days when I am not checking things off my list. But, for some reason, not today. The fact that I have so much to do and didn’t do any of it may be haunting me by Wednesday or Thursday this week. But I am at peace with it. It’s quite out of character for me but I’ll take it.

In a couple months, my time will, again, but filled with work and daily activities. All good things and things I am proud of. Tom and I have discussed how we are going to incorporate things like lingering over the dinner table into our future lives. I guess if it’s important enough, you just do it. And I don’t want to get wrapped up in the details of what I do and don’t have time for. Is it important to me and my family? Well, then I guess I’ll make the time and not complain about it. And if it’s important for me to be a part of a school, community or church committee, then I should be grateful for the chance to serve others rather than complain (as we easily do) about the time and effort it is taking. And if I choose to be a part of a social group like my lovely Bunco group or book club, then shouldn’t it be a joy to welcome these people into my home rather than focus on the time it has taken to prepare for guests or what time they better leave so I can get on to the next activity in my scheduled life? If something is a burden to you then I guess you either need to stop doing it or change your attitude.

Last Sunday we were having dinner with our guests, Jo and Carolynn, and they were asking the kids about favorite parables in the Bible. Mine is the story of Martha, which I’ve shared before. Sisters Mary and Martha are preparing to welcome Jesus into their home. After He arrives, Martha is slaving away, serving her guests, cleaning up after them and working very hard to be the perfect host. Her sister does not help at all. She just sits as Jesus’ feet and listens to him. At some point, Martha is fed up and says to Jesus (and I’m paraphrasing here, just a little), “Could you please say something to my sister? I’m working my butt off here taking care of everything and she’s just sitting here! Tell her to help me!” And Jesus, it His calm demeanor says, “Martha, Martha. You are worried and concerned about many things but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better.” It serves as a great reminder to me especially during those times when I am running around like a crazy woman freaking out about the minutiae of life. Kelley, Kelley. You are worried and concerned about many things but only one thing is needed.

This is the message I need as I head into the next week. Take a deep breath. Enjoy the last walks on the bridge. Spend the days with friends and family. The packing will take care of itself in due time. And relish in the fact that this is my life right now. Right at this moment. Wow. I live in Paris.

This post has been utterly confusing and obviously followed no theme or thread of reasoning. Sorry about that. But I will leave you with one final quote from the Cathedral a few weeks ago:

“Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us, so be quick to love and make haste to be kind.” Henri-Frédéric Amiel

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 4 Comments

T-minus 8

If we had to do it all over again, we would stay here for two years. No doubt about it. You wouldn’t believe the shock on most people’s faces when you tell them you are only here for one year. We are the oddities; people like us and families of professors here on sabbatical.

When we began making plans for this trip and even telling people about our move, one year seemed significant. A large chunk of time from our “regular” life to uproot yourself and your family from all they know. And in the midst of all the preparation, you ask yourself, “Why am I causing myself all this work and (many times) frustration in order to make this happen? I’m comfortable!” But a friend had an answer for that one: “You are doing it BECAUSE you are comfortable.” And she was right.

Living life outside your comfort zone can be exhilarating. Living life outside your comfort zone for an extended period of time is hard work. You are in a constant state of trying to operate through only your inabilities and weaknesses. I even noticed a physical change in me (could have been the days that I walked up to 10 miles…shuttling kids, city-style) because my brain and body had no downtime; no point of relaxation. I find shopping at Target can be relaxing. Shopping here, at one point, filled me only with anxiety. As did dealing with multiple bank accounts. And going to conversation group. And volunteering for a class field trip. Thank goodness I didn’t work this year. I think I would have been a wreck.

But then a corner is turned. Routines are developed. Friends are made. Language improves. And you start learning to remove the unnecessary stressful pieces of your life (is it necessary for me to spend an entire Wednesday morning at a stressful conversation group when I don’t need to master a language? No. Better things to do with my time. And then you start filling that time with things you enjoy. Runs to a bakery you’ve read about. Setting aside Thursdays for girlfriends doing whatever we want all day. Book club. The Cathedral. And, as silly as it sounds, sometimes when Tom was not around during lunchtime and I was eating in, I would spend my lunch hour with people like Jeb Bartlett and Sam Seaborn. Or Jerry Seinfeld. Just little dollops of comfort outside my comfort zone.

11 months later and my perspective has changed from last fall. I can see why people stay longer. As they tell you, “You work so hard during the first year just to figure everything out. The second year is when you really get to reap the rewards.” In many ways we won’t get to enjoy the harvest we nurtured. The kids won’t have the opportunity to solidify their language skills the way a second year would allow for. I can’t sign up for longer-term activities I want to be a part of: Paris Choral Society or Room to Read. And every day I’m discovering or being told about a new park or a new restaurant or even happening upon a grocery store that is (hello!) right around the corner. On Wednesday someone I just met asked me where we lived and said, “Oh, you have the best ice cream so close to you!” Who knew.

Yes, I am ready to return home for the simplicity. I look forward to walking into a school meeting and having the ability to understand what they are saying. I look forward to walking into a store and reading every detail of a label clearly. I look forward to being able to say, “I can help!” rather than thinking, “I can’t help.” I look forward to walking around without a map or Apple Maps at the ready at all times.

But being ready to be home doesn’t mean I am ready to leave.

Yes, if we had to do it all over again, we would stay here for two years.

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 2 Comments

T-minus 9

The other day someone asked me what special things we were planning to do during our last bit of time here. I told her it was mostly food-related. Now, I don’t know if that’s really true, but food has certainly played a critical role in our European experience. Whether it’s discovering new recipes at home, special destination restaurants as a family or, for me, treats I have discovered during my running or walking journeys, we have acquired quite a few favorites.

Kelley
Favorite meal at home: tomato tarte and vanilla cake with warm chocolate icing OR magret de canard
Favorite restaurant: Pizza Positano
Favorite breakfast: Passy Passion toasted baguette with butter and jam
Favorite lunch: Passy Passion toasted baguette with butter and jam 🙂
Favorite food experience outside Paris: farmhouse restaurant in Bordeaux, Brick Lane in London, organic food carts in London, Dar Poetta pizza in Rome
Favorite “treat”: Berthillon ice cream
Favorite place to shop: Maison Gosselin (fruits and vegetables),
Other food-related memory/ies: first time at Le Volant, training for a marathon by running to bakeries, exploring coffee shops on Thursday mornings, discovering that foods really should only be sold and eaten when in season, the wine cave with Tom and Jody, Wednesday soup nights, a French-Japanese fusion restaurant I discovered with friends just yesterday!

Tom
Favorite meal at home: lasagna, quiche lorraine, tomato tart
Favorite restaurant: Le Volant
Favorite breakfast: French press coffee, cheese, baguette, sausage
Favorite lunch: homemade cassoulet
Favorite food experience outside Paris: Le Piano au Vin in Caen
Favorite “treat”: Le Salvetat sparkling water
Favorite place to shop: Laurent Dubois cheese, all markets
Other food-related memory/ies: ordering fois gras at any possible restaurant, Brick Lane, “Set Breakfast!” in London, Dar Poeta in Rome, spaghetti bolognese at Pizza Positano

Sarah:
Favorite meal at home: vegetable soup
Favorite restaurant: Al Taglio
Favorite breakfast: not a big breakfast but cereal, I guess
Favorite lunch: school lunch of sliced, grilled potatoes topped with roast beef, vegetables and au jus.
Favorite food experience outside Paris: tapas in Barcelona
Favorite “treat”: Prince cookies
Favorite place to shop: Maison Gosselin
Other food-related memory/ies: lunch out with friends, Della Palma gelato in Rome

Elizabeth:
Favorite meal at home: Quiche lorraine
Favorite restaurant: Al Taglio
Favorite breakfast: crêpes
Favorite lunch: jambon and buerre baguette, yogurt, cookies
Favorite food experience outside Paris: Dar Poeta in Rome and Bella Italia in London
Favorite “treat”: chocolate Berthillon ice cream
Favorite place to shop: Franprix
Other food-related memory/ies: first truffle pizza at Al Taglio, eating dumplings with Carmen, making homemade pizza,

Julian:
Favorite meal at home: Quiche Lorraine
Favorite restaurant: Al Taglio
Favorite breakfast: Dutch pancake
Favorite lunch: chirozo sandwich
Favorite food experience outside Paris: fried squid in Barcelona
Favorite “treat”: sucre crêpe
Favorite place to shop: Dia
Other food-related memory/ies: first sorbet and favorite sorbet (citron vert)

We have now realized these lists cannot be contained. They go on and on with baguette cereale from Eric Kayser, falafel in the Marais, lingering over a 2 1/2 hour family lunch at a creperie, hot chocolate everywhere, mulled wine in Strasbourg, brunch in Antwerp, butter from the Courbevoie market and on and on and on…

 

Categories: Kelley's Kilometers | 3 Comments

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