Sunday, May 21, 2017

Push and pull

If I haven't blogged in a while it's because I've been awfully busy.  Which is exactly what I wanted to talk to you all about today.  The majority of you out there work yourselves, and even if you don't work now, no doubt you know that rush of work days that melt into evenings of dinner prep and bath time for kids and falling into bed exhausted.  Only to wake up and do it all again the next day.  There is never enough to time for everything.  Until you retire.  And then you've got too much time.

This very thing struck me the other day as I was driving home and saw the neighbhorhood retired guys who sit on the low brick wall and chew the cud.  Or whatever the French equivalent to that expression would be. I think their wives must kick them out.  I was rushing home from a long day to get Juliette from school.  They were shooting the breeze and watching cars of younger working folks go by.  I don't have enough time.  They have too much.  Push and pull, yin and yang, feast or famine.

Then there is my neighbor, a 74-year old widow and retiree who is lonely and bored.  So much so that she sometimes knocks on our door three times a day to bring us some taboulé she prepared or ask Remi to cut a big celery root for her.  She certainly helps us out a lot by picking up Juliette from time to time when I finish late.  We appreciate her help immensely though sometimes the notion of privacy seems to go beyond her.  She needs to kill her time, while we value any free time we have.

No where do I see the push and pull of time more than with Juliette.  My little big girl is just that lately.  Still sliding tweendom with sarcasm and sweetness.  I see her growing longer and thicker.  I see that little girlness sometimes taking a backseat to funky dances in front of the mirror and acting like she is a singer.  I blame Katy Perry but I know it is kids these days.  If I had a dime for every time I reminded her she is 8 and a half, I would be independently wealthy for sure.

Sometimes I push her myself.  I wish she already could do some things all by herself, like wash her hair and add the conditioner.  Or I wish she understood and reasoned like an adult.  At the same time I secretly don't want her to grow up and value giving watching over her bath time.  I will never get used to the push and pull from this girl, but it certainly isn't over yet.

Even Catki has been pushing and pulling me this week.  Sometimes he is a first class nuisance, getting in my legs every time I go in the kitchen as he reminds me he is hungry.  Banging on the downstairs doors at six to remind us he is...surprise- hungry.  Then this week he didn't bang and didn't meow.  He basically didn't eat for five days which is just not like him.  It took two trips to the vet, two shots of antibiotic and one laced with cortisone to see improvement.  Two days later we heard those sweet meows in the morning.  He was better, though not quite his normal self.  And maybe out of habit he meowed because it was morning.  Sometimes he pushes me to the edge, sometimes he pulls on those proverbial heartstrings.

So whether you are in the push or the pull, remember there is something to value and appreciate in each state of mind.  Don't let the rush prevent you from slowing down a bit and enjoying moments, people, pets before it's too late (or they grow up or pass away).  It's a balancing act worth perfecting if you can. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Peace, love and bla bla

red paint heart palm hands art "He who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart. He who is not a conservative at 40 has no head." 

Apparently it wasn't Churchill who said this.  But rather some French statesmen.

At any rate, it's something my mom quoted to my sister and I quite a lot in our youth.

I am now approaching 43 and find myself still closer to the liberals (#!+@ing liberals, for some of you out there) on most issues, at least in the US.  I am slightly more conservative in France where people already have quite a good social and health care system.

The thing is, there is a difference between saying you care about other people and really caring.

I say I care about the poor, the homeless, those discriminated against, the war refugees.  But what do I do on a daily basis besides occasionally give money to charities or someone on the street?

I often find myself skeptical, wary, of the alcoholic beggar, reasoning more with my head that he'll just spend my euro on alcohol.  So occasionally I have given food instead.

Or the woman who seems to be a gypsy at the intersection who has a ten-year old boy begging with her.  In cold or rain.  My skeptical head says she and her boy are being manipulated by some kind of mafia and my euros will go to the head of that mafia and not her and her child.

But when another gypsy approached me as I loaded groceries in my car and asked for money I gave her a banana and a pack of ultra-sterilized milk.  She immediately pointed to my old boom box in the trunk that I use for work and asked for it, too. I told her I "no" as I needed it for work.

I said to myself I would do something for the refugee camps set up in my region of France.  Instead of going on site (which frankly seemed a bit scary to me) I gave food and toiletry items to the Red Cross.

And when I think about it, I pray for those suffering and in need.

I'm not saying these things to get congratulations.  Frankly they are small gestures compared to those who drop everything and travel across the world to help refugees in Greece or humanitarian aid workers and doctors in Africa or the Middle East.  I have never quite been that involved.  I have never been so brave.

I am just wondering out loud and to you, how does one put their money where their mouth is when it comes to caring?

In our current world climate of holier-than-thou on both sides of the political spectrum, where is the path to, for lack of a better word, righteousness?  No, earnestness.  No, kindness.

Until I figure it out, I will try to be the kindness I seek.

With a smile to the old man who takes a long time crossing the street.  By letting the lady with just two items go in front of me at the supermarket.  By looking kindly at women wearing hijabs or striking up conversations with people from all backgrounds.  By teaching my daughter not to call other children "fat" or that she should play with all the kids in her class.

Kindness and caring are not weaknesses.  They should come naturally.  We all just need a little practice.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Things you only see at Disneyland

Something happens to people when they cross the turnstile to enter a Disney theme park.  They give way to the silly, the childish wonder of it all. But they also keep their adult trappings and each nationality has its own way of reacting.  I did some serious people-watching this weekend at Disneyland Paris, so I know what I'm talking about!

Since we didn't really go far this past summer, we decided to have a get-away weekend at Disneyland Paris.  In January.  When there was snow forecast.  I know!  But in the end it turned out alright, despite the eternal GPS argument and "are you sure this is the right way?" drama.  And I snuck in some pics to illustrate it all.  So here we go on a "magical" top ten list of things you can only (ok, almost only) see at Disney parks.

1. Grown men and women wearing Mickey/Minnie ears. Sometimes it is in the form of a winter hat or headband. I saw entire groups of women wearing them, no matter their age.  I wonder if they ever wear them on other occasions.  No matter.  What happens in Disney, stays in Disney.
2. Princesses and superheroes! I lost count of all the girls in their Disney princess costumes or boys dressed as Buzz Light Year or Star Wars characters.  How great that you can be whoever you want to be in Disneyland. I was tempted to buy myself one, just for cleaning the house, but they didn't have my size.
3. Everything Mickey.  Juliette ate off a Mickey-shaped plate at dinner and had a Mickey-shaped pizza for lunch.  Our hotel had Micky-eared caps for the shampoo.  Plus Mickey-shaped bedsteads.

4. In Disneyland Paris you will see signs reminding you not to smoke. And you will see park visitors (I'm guessing mostly French!) blatantly disregarding said rule

5. Possibly the biggest Christmas tree outside of Rockefeller Center.  The French extend the festive season into January so we got to see the mega Disney tree in all its glory. 
6. And if it rains, you'll see entire families bring out stylish ponchos.  To be fair this is in just about any theme park!

7.  Serious Disney bling.  For the wealthier visitors, why not take home a glass version of a Disney castle.  For fifteen thousand euros, it's a steal!  Or a tiara for your little one.  
 8. Photo-ops with costumed characters galore! The Storm Troopers (yes, Star Wars is Disney now!) and of course cartoon characters were out in force.  And each time kids and adults alike lined up to take their pictures with them.  Not our Juju though since she is still afraid of people in costumes...
Stitch was quite popular, too.
9. One too many Disney balloons lost forever.  I can only imagine the tantrums when these babies got lost. 

10.  Big smiles.  So many smiles.  Especially on this little girl's face.