Earning that Feeling of Satisfaction: What is Next
Apr30

Earning that Feeling of Satisfaction: What is Next

DAY 30: 30 DAYS OF BLOGGING

When I started this venture 30 days ago, I was not really sure what would happen. On multiple levels, I have been surprised. I didn’t really expect anyone to actually read what I wrote, well anyone besides my mom. I have been tickled pink to connect with both friends and family that have enjoyed my writing, as well as, to be of service to a few complete strangers. It is an honor to have each of you here in my little section of the world. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest and participation.

One of the surprises is that I didn’t expect that it would actually be both challenging and easy at the same time. Having my readers here and knowing that you are expecting my next piece has helped keep me honest, but so has the satisfaction of sitting down and sharing my thoughts. The challenging part, unsurprisingly, is that writing for 30 minutes every day does require that one’s day is structured. It also requires that one has time set-aside to be undisturbed. Or at the least, prepared to take advantage of moments in the day when it is plausible to write. Today I happen to be writing from a Cinema while we wait for the movie to start (yay! for reserved seating). I am in the lobby with a Starbucks to go…as we wait for Fast & Furious 8 to start. This is a date with my step-daughter who also lives in Toulouse. We couldn’t very well spend a weekend here with spending some time with her.

Yesterday, I made the choice not to write. I felt a mild twang of disappointment that it would mean I’d miss out on 2 or 3 days in total during the month, but that disappointment was worth the extra time spent with my husband and of course taking a nap. I did get in my 300 squats for the day. I don’t recall if I mentioned that in my original post, but my April goals included both writing for 30 minutes per day and 300 squats per day.

The squats, outside of my birthday, I did every day. Those results have also been surprising. By the end of the first week of squats, I could feel the difference in my running strength and speed. I am more stable when I run and I feel more powerful. I also realized that one reason almost every personal training program that you come across includes squats, is because they not only work a slew of leg and but muscles, but they also work your core (abs and back).

Ultimately, my month of writing 30 minutes per day and 300 squats per day has been exceptionally satisfying. On the writing front, I have been able to be both a bit vulnerable and connect with you, my readers, while also sharing some of my personal musings about the world and how things work. For the most part, my writing has also been improving as I am learning to focus more on the structure of my writing as a write. On the physical front, I feel both stronger and motivated to keep setting goals.

This, of course, leads me to consider my next set of goals. As I wrote in my birthday posts, I would like to become a faster and more efficient runner this year. Squats is the first step towards that goal, but more importantly, developing a consistent running schedule is also important. For this month I am going to set 7 goals in the realm of writing and fitness.

Physical Fitness Goals:

  1. This month I would like to get in runs on Monday, Thursday and Saturday morning.
  2. I will do 300 squats per day 3 times per week.
  3. 3 days per week I will do 200 squats plus my Core Envy work-out from Allison Westfahl, a trainer I have worked with over the years in Denver.
  4. I will continue to do yoga in my yard 3 days per week.
  5. My running goal is to be able to run 3k faster than 6 kph by the end of the month and to maintain a minimum of 6 kph for 5k.

Writing Goals:

  1. I am going to read about writing for 30 minutes per day. I have ordered a few grammar books. I am going to start with Eats, Shoots & Leaves and then move on to Strunk & White and a book of English grammar exercises that I bought, but which has yet to arrive.
  2. I am going to start 3 of my work days with 30 minutes of writing and so on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you can expect to hear from my yet again. And on Wednesdays, I am going to spend 60 minutes going back and reading and revising my April blog posts.

And to end, once again I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone who has found their way to my blog for this first month of my 40th year. I love you.

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Day 30: Satisfaction and What is Next

When I started this venture 30 days ago, I was not really sure what would happen. On multiple levels, I have been surprised. I didn’t really expect anyone to actually read what I wrote, well anyone besides my mom. I have been tickled pink to connect with both friends and family that have enjoyed my writing, as well as, to be of service to a few complete strangers. It is an honor to have each of you here in my little section of the world. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your interest and participation.

One of the surprises is that I didn’t expect … READ MORE!

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Day 28: Rose City

Today has gone by in a flash. Life with several little ones often does. Somehow we all got in a little work, some laundry in, some bags packed, loaded the dishwasher, charged the car full of luggage (as we say in French: charger la voiture) and headed off towards Mamie et Papi, les Taties et les cousins. After a mostly tranquil drive we arrived.The littles and their big, were greeted by family and chocolate. The parents (us) managed to sneak out unnoticed after giving everyone kisses.

The weather today was a perfect spring day, the kind of day that I think of, when I think about France. Sometimes, I am surprised to discover that I live in France and not the U.S.

As we drove into Toulouse, the Rose City, we were greeted with blue sky and green leaves gracing the boulevards as we drove to the center of town. Our hotel is quaint, clean and comfortable. Perfect for our plans. First on the list, is taking a nap. Then dinner and an evening out.

Apparently the nap needs to happen sooner than later, as somehow I have already filled 36 minutes in writing two paragraphs. Ha!

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Day 27: Thursdays

Thursday is one of my favorite days of the week. The babies are at their nursery all day long and I have the day to myself to work, get in a run, and maybe enjoy some sunshine. This week Winston is on vacation (spring break) and we have plans to see a movie in the afternoon. The challenge with one whole day to myself is that it is too easy to fill it up with stuff and not get it all done! I have been working on that feeling of “success” by making a plan the night before.

Today I had a plan. I got up, I wrangled the kids into clothes, and food into their bellies and then got us out the door. My husband had made a 9 AM appointment with the local mechanic for his car, so I also moved the car seats from my car to his, so I didn’t have to make two runs across town. I dressed in my running shoes and I headed out the door. I made it to the mechanic only about 20 minutes late.

At the mechanic, they said, “Oops! We meant to make the appointment for Friday.” I said “On the paper right here you wrote “jeudi.” The guy responded, “yeah, that was me, I wrote it, but I wasn’t thinking. I made the appoint for Friday. The parts come in today.” Out the door went my plan. And then I thought, well, the husband is gone, if they can have the car done my noon tomorrow, we are still good. I explained the situation to the mechanic. He agreed. They will try and get it done today (dependent on part arrival), but will DEFINITELY have it done my tomorrow noon. Ok. I left the car. And I ran home.

I literally ran home. It actually only took me 18 minutes. I felt great and I discovered that it is exactly 3 km from the mechanic to my front door. I’d expected it to be longer. It is a boring drive. Sometimes it seems soooooooooo far just to go to the grocery store, which is located in the same shopping center as the mechanic.

It started me thinking about our dependence on cars. Before I moved to France, I thought that Americans were more dependent on their cars than the French. This is not true. American big city dwellers (New York, Chicago) that have good public transportation don’t use cars any more than French big city dwellers (Paris, Toulouse). Smaller town and rural French communities are completely dependent on their cars. I think I have in fact spent more time in my car here in France, than I did when I lived in the US.

I only live 3 km from the grocery store. This is a totally bikeable distance and even a walkable distance. If only. If only there were actually sidewalks. About ⅔ of my route home I ran on a dirt trail next to the traffic, which was passing me at a rate of 50 kph to 70 kph (30 mph to 45 mph). I also don’t live that far from the Creche (the babies’ nursery). The creche is half-way through one of my 30 minute running routes. Theoretically, I could easily walk the kids to the creche in the stroller and run home it would probably take me 45 minutes round-trip. Maybe I should start doing this a few times a week.

It also got me thinking that I could take a longer run all the way into Bayonne and along the river. A 10k from my door to the Ardour. Not a bad idea at all! When I got home, the sun was shining and I decided to do a little yoga for runners and my core work-out. My run had after all only taken me 18 minutes, which is not a complete workout. 30 minutes later I was inside taking a shower and getting ready to work. The best part of coming home was walking into the house. W had cleaned all the parts of the house that count. The kitchen counter, the dishes in the sink and the floor in our hall entry and the living room. These places seem to have a special sort of gravity for stuff. I am always cleaning them and they are always dirty. (Before you get too excited, he cleaned the house in exchange for mom taking him to the movies this afternoon.)

Besides, Folgers in your cup, the best way to start my work day is both a run and a clean house. Of course, shortly after I sit down to start working I get a call from the Creche. C is ill and they want me to come get him. For better or worse, his car seat is at the mechanic and so I explained that I cannot come get him until I get the car seat at 16h00. C is in good hands, and today I need to do something with my big kid. The kid who takes care of his baby brother and sister, makes them laugh, changes their diapers, and even sleeps in the same room with them. He could sleep upstairs in peaceful calmness, but big bubba prefers to sleep near his little bubbas. It is adorable.

And so now, with a few hours of work under my belt, my 30 minutes of writing in and lunch in my belly, I am off to see Boss Baby with my 9-year-old baby. I can’t wait. We might even get popcorn.

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Day 26: Loving Discipline

This piece could probably be a book, but fortunately, I have limited myself to 30 minutes. I don’t recommend being a parent to any and everyone; however, when it comes to self-knowledge and exploration, parenting is likely one of the best teachers. Of course, this is only if we have an interest in learning and willingness to take the time to reflect.

As a parent, watching a tiny being from creation (or arrival on your doorstep) as it grows and develops is awe-inspiring. Intimate knowledge of tiny beings is simply amazing. The spark of intellectual curiosity, human curiosity, the innate desire and ability to learn is fantastic.

On the flipside, parenting most definitely has awesome moments that fall more in the category of AWFUL than AWESOME. The number of levels at which parenting can go wrong is impressive and ever expanding. When you have one kid, you start to think that maybe you have it figured out. And then you have a second kid and you start to doubt yourself. By the third or fourth kid, the only thing that remains constant is that you love your kids more than anything. And that candy is more efficient than money when it comes to bribes.

Parenting is not for perfectionists. Or control freaks. In my experience, somewhere around two years of age, a parent learns that you can’t actually make/force/convince another human to do anything. On one hand, parents actually learn this sometime in the few hours to weeks after a baby is brought home, but it really sinks in, when the small human begins to recognize that he or she is independent of mom and dad. And in fact to some extent in control of her own destiny.

I recall distinctly the first time I really learned this lesson. Winston was about two years old and had recently been participating in what I called “nap strikes.” One afternoon as I tried to convince him to sleep, I slowly grew more and more agitated. He remained blissfully uninterested in sleeping. Finally, I lashed out (literally) and slapped his little round bottom. He was shocked. I was shocked. He still didn’t sleep. I closed his door and left him alone for some quiet time. I never again tried to force him to sleep.

Corporal punishment and punishment in general, exist because as humans, we have a desire to force our will on other humans. There is a difference though between punishment and discipline. Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is a strategy that gives people, small and large, a structure and an understanding in which to operate. Writing for 30 days straight takes discipline, as does learning to tie one’s shoes or pass a spelling test. A huge part of parenting revolves around imparting discipline to our children.

Kids thrive on consistency, expectations, and discipline. Successful children get a balance of self-autonomy and loving discipline. One of the hardest parts of parenting (for me) is maintaining discipline and expectations in my own life. And there are still the days in which I wish I could just ask my mom or my dad to fill in. Of course, this is even harder with most of a continent and the Atlantic ocean between me and my parents.

I have found that the times I get the most frustrated with my kids (well the 2-year-old and the 9-year-old) is when I myself have actually failed the discipline game. Sure, my kids may not be responding the way I would like them to at THIS.MOMENT.IN.TIME. But what led up to this moment? What could I have done differently? Generally, it was my own lack of preparation or planning or follow-through. This is a realization as a parent that sucks.

Theoretically, at age 2, my daughter should be able to soothe herself, but she doesn’t. Putting her to bed is like crossing an adorable little kitten with a jack-in-the-box and banshee. Short of locking her in a kennel, which would not be appropriate, I have been faced with two choices. The first, which we tried a bit last week, was just letting her stay up, in hopes that she would get tired and fall asleep. In the end, we had a sobbing mess on our hands, who still wouldn’t sleep.

Our little 2-year-old does have sleep problems, but she also has eczema and a food allergy (or two). My consistency and discipline come into play here, because I have been putting off making follow-up appointments with our dermatologist and the food allergist. I just want her eczema to go away. And I don’t want her to be allergic to anything besides peanuts (this is her only known allergy). Allergies are inconvenient. Of course, kids who don’t sleep and wake up crying at 2 AM are also inconvenient. But the reality is when she takes an antihistamine, her itching and her eczema are significantly reduced.

The Gift of Imperfection, as Brene Brown, titled one of her books speaks to this… Certainly, the world works better when we are efficient, but we can’t control the world any more than we can control a 2-year-old. And sometimes, we just have to throw in the towel and go for the imperfect solution. On Monday, I bit the bullet and took her to the doctor. We have a new prescription for an antihistamine and orders to see the allergist. The pediatrician is certain she has another undiagnosed food allergy. Allergies are imperfect, but what can I do?

What I can do, is give her medication to soothe her little body and I can lay with her at bedtime to soothe her little mind. And so, for the last few nights, I have found myself laying down with our future Madame President for nearly an hour before she falls asleep. This solution is imperfect. It is not ideal for getting dishes done, taking care of my older son or taking care of myself. And yet, last night for the first time in a while, I had a child who slept the entire night through. And for the last four nights, she has eventually gone to sleep quietly without melting down or crying so hard her voice cracks.

Laying down beside her and rocking her like an infant is time-consuming. Last night it took more than an hour. Tonight it took 57 minutes (yes, I was timing.) Her little brother fell asleep during the first 11 minutes. And her big brother ALSO fell asleep on the couch waiting for me. It is an imperfect solution, but in the end, it is a solution.

My hope is that with consistency, in a few days or a week, she will relearn that she goes to bed when her baby brother goes to bed. And that sleeping in her bed is actually a nice, comfy thing to look forward to…wish me (and us) luck. In the meantime, I well cherish her hugs and snuggles and the smell of her small head under my chin, because someday she’ll be big. And then my problem will be waking her up…not getting her to sleep!

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Day 25: Cash

Let’s talk about MONEY

The first evidence of the use of numbers by humans is believed to have been for the purposes of accounting. Counting grain, wine, sheep…things that have value.

The first evidence of “money” varies around the world, from cowry shells to precious stones and metal. And of course alongside money and or valued goods, comes systems of economic exchange, such as barter, gift-based economies and other ways to redistribute wealth, such as the potlatch.

Symbolic Value

Some systems have been symbolic. Cowry shells would fall into this category. One cannot eat a cowry shell nor do much else with it, besides, collect it or exchange it for goods. Other systems, such as coinage have actually been based on the value given precious metals. Although one cannot eat gold, humans do value the jewelry and or other luxury goods that can be forged with gold.

Gold Standard

For as long as people have been counting and participating in economic systems, money has essentially retained value in a physical form. When the United States government first started printing paper money, it was linked to the gold standard. The Federal Reserve was supposed to maintain a reserve of gold equivalent to the value of money printed. However, in the last 100 years, we have seen two significant changes to our monetary systems. In much of the world, the cash-based economy is no longer linked to an actual gold standard. And, the amount of “money” in circulation is not actually the same as the amount of money that has been printed. Banks in the US for example, only need to actually have $10 in their coffers to loan out $100. So instead of having a gold standard, you could argue that we now have a debt standard.

Credit aka Debt

The system of credit essentially creates both debt and money at the same time. Despite politicians’ perpetual campaign to “reduce our debt” the growth of American and European economies is in fact based on the creation of debt. Banks make money by indebting their customers. Countries make money by exchanging their debt. Franc, for example, is not allowed to borrow from itself or it’s on federal reserve. If France wants money, it must borrow it on an international exchange. And pay interest.

Individual Investors

You and I are told to make money by investing in businesses, buying property or playing the stock market. All risks that if done right, will theoretically allow us to pay back the banks and grow our assets. This, of course, works when we are both careful and risk takers. What?

As we have seen over the last century our economic system is built on risk and trust. We must have faith in our financial systems and our financial system must have faith in us. The risk is, of course, scarier to an individual than to a bank. Banks don’t have to feed their kids (although the people that work for them do). To alleviate this risk, individuals are advised to diversify their investments. Retirement accounts, buying property, personal savings. Emergency cash kept somewhere accessible (shoebox, mattress, personal safe).

Personal Freedom & Independence

Gold, actual cash (aka liquid money) is often preferred by those who have lived through some sort of financial crisis. I have several friends who always carry gold coins on them, a habit taught to them by their parents, because of their personal experiences as children during WWII. My mother’s family was for many years relatively conservative with their usage of banks because my grandfather’s family lost their farm and all their money in the 1920s crash.

Financial Control…

Sometimes we study economic systems in school. Sometimes we talk about them amongst friends or family, but mostly we just pay attention to the state of our personal bank accounts. We like the convenience of credit cards and online banking. We personally use cash less and less. When politicians suggest that it would be easier for everyone to move to a purely electronic banking system, we think that might be kind of cool.

But what does this look like in reality? What would the world without cash be like? One argument in favor of electronic funds is that it is traceable, so it is harder for criminals to launder money or for people to hide income and evade taxes. Although, international companies seem pretty adept at the moving and hiding of income and funds, in a manner that would be inconceivable to an ordinary citizen.

In France, if you buy something valued at more than 300 Euros it is illegal to pay in cash (it was previously limited to 3000 Euros). And, in France, if you have a job or if you participate in any aspect of the economy, you must have a bank account. Nothing official is done by cash. Nothing. The argument against cash is that law abiding citizens have nothing to worry about; however, what happens when the banking system is hacked? What happens when your bank servers go down? What happens when a malicious president is elected?

In addition, in France, if you keep cash in your house, by law you must declare how much liquid cash you have in your possession. If you are found to keep cash that is not declared to the government, you can be arrested and your cash can be confiscated. The French used this rule a few years ago to reign in the comedian Dieudonne. They couldn’t get him on Freedom of Speech, so they confiscated his money and arrested him for having it in his home. Arrested for possession of liquid cash. Not drugs. Not prostitutes. His own money.

Implications of Electronic Money and the end of Liquid Funds

What are the consequences of our dependence on the convenience of electronic funds? And whom does it really benefit? Are individual citizens actually coming out ahead?

Banks make money every time an electronic transaction takes place. Banks don’t make money when individuals exchange cash.

Banks make money when individuals deposit their money in a bank. Banks don’t make money when we keep our money in a safe at home.

Banks (and investment advisors) argue that if you keep your money in a bank it will grow, whereas keeping it in your mattress it just loses value.

This last statement was true for many years, but have you watched interest rates for the last decade? In the United States for the last 10 years, interest rates have hovered at under 1%. At the same time, inflation in the USA has consistently been over 1.6% and up to 4%, so frankly, after you pay bank fees, it is quite possible that for the time being, your money is better kept under your mattress or in a shoebox at the back of your closet.

I am out of time for the day, so I’ll just leave this last fact here for you to ponder.

If you bought $836.50 of gold in 2007, it is now worth $1060.00 in 2017.

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Where do French ATMs Go On Holiday?
Apr24

Where do French ATMs Go On Holiday?

From day 24 of my 2017 30 minutes a day writing challenge . . .

For better or worse, me writing for 30 minutes every day means you get to see more of me. The real me. Not just the “me” that shows up at work or on Facebook or out for a cocktail. The “me” that slaps my hand to my forehead when I discover that French ATMs go broke…

Me, Grumpy

This morning I woke up grumpy. My grumpiness can likely be attributed to the fact that I slept most of the night laying on a pile of stuffed animals and a wooden floor next to my daughter’s toddler bed.

Last night marked the 4th night in a row that our little Nana woke up sometime between 2 AM and 3 AM crying inconsolably. It also marked the 14th consecutive night (not that I am counting) that she went to bed long after 9:30 PM, instead of around 7:30 PM like her peacefully sleeping, little brother. Even her big brother was in bed and asleep by 9 PM.

As veteran parents to a 9-year-old and a 13-year-old, we are not exactly sure of the cause or the solution to our 2-year-old’s sleep problems. Part of it may be personality as she is delightfully precocious. Part of it may be that she identifies more with her 9-year-old sibling than the baby, despite the fact that she is only 14 months older than the baby. And as the days go on, it is likely increasingly because she is overtired.

Ha! Novice parents often think that tiring a kid out will help them sleep. Experience will show said parents that sleep deprived small people sleep worse. Not better. Exhausting your kid to get them a good night’s rest never works (except for good physical exhaustion like swimming or hiking).

The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep: Simple Solutions for Kids from Birth to 5 Years

To me, a successful weekend is one in which I feel rested by Sunday evening, I have had some good family time, and my house is tidy. Then when I get up Monday, I feel ready to go out and meet world head-on.

Not today. Not this Monday.

To start the day off, after rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and finding some matching socks, I made a few phone calls, booked an appointment with the doctor and dropped the big kid at school and our littles at the nursery. So far, so good for a sleep deprived mama.

My next destination should have been a 3 minute stop off at the ATM, but to get cash I first needed to find a parking spot.

To get cash, I must park…

France celebrates on average 5 Monday holidays between April and May. Today is not technically a holiday, but it is a Monday. And in France banks are closed on Monday.

Our region just finished Spring break, following a weekend of summer-like weather, which means the banks and the ATMs have been hit by the first wave of TOURIST SEASON. This may be my fourth year in France, but I am still American trained, and so none of these things cross my mind as I pull up to the bank.  Instead, my focus is on the parking.

Our bank is across the street from a police station and a library. There is only parking on one side of the street. This means that for once, blatantly, illegal parking is a bad idea and that there is heavy competition for the existing legal parking spots. On the first pass, I go by several theoretically open spots, but none of them are appropriately sized for my rather large Ford C-max (a small car in the USA).

Picture of parking against traffic in franceThis is a quick photo I shot of the parking situation on my second pass. My readers from orderly and rule abiding countries: do you notice anything odd about the direction of these parked cars?

Parking in France is a nightmare …

For me, the first frustration is that the French generally don’t believe in designated parking spots and it is rare to find street parking with spots indicated by lines.  Even when you find parking in which a town or business indicates parking spots with lines, compliance seems to depend upon the mood of the people parking that day. One would think that parking in a relatively rural area such as ours would be easy, but it’s not. I think parking in Paris might actually be easier because in Paris people have fear of parking police.

The Essential Driving Guide for France (Essential Driving Guides in Europe)

The second irritation for an American is that it is perfectly O.K. to park against traffic. Indeed, I learned quickly when I arrived in France, that if I see a good parking spot on either side of the street, I better just park. If and when I take the time to turn my car around first, someone else will zip up, pretend not to see me maneuvering and park in the spot. The French seem to think this is perfectly normal. They also excel at avoiding all eye contact in this type of situation.

Bus Driver: The Most Difficult Job in France

Truck and bus drivers around the world have a tough job. In France, it is particularly challenging. Not only are the roads tiny, narrow, and rarely straight, but the signage is terrible and people can’t park! Indeed, I think that French bus and truck drivers would gladly give up their 10 AM glass of beer or wine in exchange for American parking rules.

In front of my son’s school, someone boldly (or naively) painted directional lines indicating legal parking zones. In practice the only place parents do not park is in the middle of the crosswalk and the handicap spot. And this is true only because there is an actual policewoman or man at drop-off and pick-up policing the crosswalk!

As a result, each morning I must not only carefully maneuver into my own parking spot, I must also often watch in silent horror at the “forced to be patient” bus driver who must navigate all the random parking and against traffic parking that relegates the two-lane street into a single lane of traffic. To compound the situation, the school busesin our area are actually tour busses: Le Basque Bondissant. In a land of tiny roads, they are HUFrench School Bus: Basque BondissantGE.

And so the poor tour bus driver must maneuver this boat on wheels through psychotic parents who disregard all parking rules. Often the driver’s only choice is simply to block traffic until it opens up enough for the bus to pass through.

Rest assured that there is always some wayward driver in the mix that made the mistake of passing by a school on the way to work. You can identify these drivers by the whites of their eyes, the lack of children in their car, and their use of the horn. BEEP. BEEEEEEEP!!! Because honking at a school bus always…MAKES. IT. MOVE. FASTER.

Rick Steves Snapshot of Basque Country

Not only do the French avoid designated parking spots, they are perfectly content parking half on and half off a curb. In front of the gate. Blocking the sidewalk. Blocking each other. Blocking you. Blocking me. I don’t think Tetris is a popular game in France.

In a car, the French seem to lose all sense of their normally acute sense of spatial awareness. In a dance club, Americans are known for lacking spatial awareness. They step on people’s toes, bump into people. It’s annoying, but I don’t spend that much time in dance clubs. I do tend to use parking on a daily basis, so accepting this lack of spatial awareness and common sense efficiency, is a daily challenge for this American.

To summarize:

There exist two major irritations for an American parking in France:

  1. The first is a lack of designated parking spots.
  2. The second is that people park against traffic.

So, back to the ATM…I still need my cash!

As I pull up to the ATM it looks like there are 4 open parking spots, but as I get closer, I discover that every spot is just slightly too small for my car. Instead of four randomly sized smaller spots, there should be at most three bigger spots. This is why Americans demark parking spots with lines!

Finally, on my third pass without any movement on the part of the cars already parked, I decided to take the challenge to sandwich myself into the largest of the spots. I activate my parking assist, which causes frantic beeping to emanate from my dash as I come within centimeters of the cars in front and behind me. If I was an actual French person, maybe this wouldn’t be so bothersome for me, because I’d just gently “bump” my way into the spot.

My American friends, you would faint at the number of times I have seen French people bump and squeeze their car into a parking spot, that is what bumpers are for, after all, right?

Finally, I am parked. Happy sigh. I get out and I walk over to the ATM. I insert my card. And I get a message “this ATM is temporarily out of service/funds.”

French ATMs go BROKE

The message is actually in French of course, but that is pretty much the direct translation. So, in France, people don’t work on Sunday. Banks are closed on Monday. And, following four weeks of Spring breaks, finishing up with spring break in the Bordeaux School Zone, there has been an increase in the number of tourists in the area.

What does this mean? The ATM has RUN OUT OF MONEY. The ATM is broke. This is not the first time this has happened to me.

Sometimes French ATMs simply run out of 20 Euro notes and withdrawals must be made in denominations of 50 Euros. Sometimes like today, the machine just run flat out of funds. My French ATM is broke. And, 9:30 AM on a Monday is too early to expect a refill. Doh! I successfully parked my car, but I still don’t have any money!

Bébé Day by Day: 100 Keys to French Parenting

So, where does a French ATM go on Holiday?

It doesn’t. It has a staycation because it is BROKE! 

The good news is that I did make a pot of coffee and so now my rant is over. I have coffee, the sun is out. And, I feel gloriously better. Thank you.

Originally published as: “ATMs and Parking in France.”
French ATMs run out of funds over holidays
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Day 24: ATMs and Parking in France

For better or worse, me writing for 30 minutes every day (except for the days where it I forgot to make it a priority), means you get to see more of me. The real me. Not just the “me” I show at work or on Facebook or out for a cocktail.

This morning I got up grumpy. Possibly had to do with the fact that I slept ⅔ of my night laying on a mixed pile of stuffed animals and a wood floor. Possibly because it was the fourth night in a row Nana woke up sometime between 2 AM and 3 AM crying. And probably the 14th consecutive night that she went to bed sometime after 9:30 PM, instead of around 7:30 PM like her peacefully sleeping little brother…or even her big brother.

We are not exactly sure what is causing her sleep problems. Part of it I think is a lack of sleep. Ha. That is something you get to learn as a parent. Sleep deprived small people sleep worse. Not better. Exhausting your kid out to get them a good night’s rest never works (except for good physical exhaustion like swimming or hiking).

Dad is also away again this week. And we didn’t finish cleaning the house or doing the laundry this weekend. I hate starting my Monday with a messy house. HATE. IT. And, I am not particularly fond of solo parenting either. It is so much more fun as a team.

Where do French ATM’s Go on Holiday? 

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Day 22: Unicorns
Apr22

Day 22: Unicorns

UNICORNS

I am not one who focuses particularly on fashion and trends. Not in the sense that I think I need to keep up with them. At the same time, often in my life, I seem to see things coming to a head, just before they do. For example, last spring all I wanted was to find baby pink and baby blue pillows to decorate a room for my babies. I had to search high and low to find what I wanted and finally had to settle on close enough. This year my colors are everywhere. Ikea, Zara, you name it… I was one spring season ahead of the game.

Screenshot 2017-04-23 00.16.22On April 14th, five days before Starbucks released the UNICORN. I put Unicorns into my subject list. See the screenshot? Google drive doesn’t lie (or if it does, I am not tech savvy enough to make it happen). April 14th. I had to put off UNICORNS because I was in the midst of goal setting. And then I almost completely let UNICORNS fly, until I remembered that one of my favorite toys as a little girl, was indeed a UNICORN.

I wasn’t much into princesses. I preferred playing intrepid explorer or pioneer to house or school or whatever else it was little girls played. I had a nice collection of collectible plastic horses, probably given to me by relatives in my mom’s family as they are all horse people. I like horses too, but not quite as much as they do. My UNICORN  was amazing. She was about twice the size of my plastic horses and she had a real hair (well plastic or artificial) mane. Brushable. And it was iridescent purple pinkish blue. She was beautiful.

A few years later I had a Trapper Keeper. Lisa Frank with a UNICORN on it. Yep. In fact, UNICORNS have been popping up everywhere for the last few years. Startup companies that make a billion dollars (or are valued at a billion dollars) are called UNICORNS because they are rare. So are bisexual women who date married couples. Knowledge which gives me pause, when I see grown women write that they are UNICORNS. On their blog or their Facebook page. I don’t think that is what the mean (at least usually), but I suppose I could be missing something…

Here in France, they do mini-series documentaries on TV every week. I’ve seen them about schools in Finland. Schools in Singapore. Bike paths in Boulder, CO. And legalized pot, in Colorado. One profiled a particular gentleman (or lady) who is a transvestite in London who self-styles himself as a UNICORNS. Apparently, London has a polyamorous movement of people that dress up and go out clubbing dressed as … UNICORNS! You can watch a video about it here (possibly not PG, but it is the weekend, so watch it at home after the kids go to bed).

lisa-frank-unicorn-leggings-07282016Last year, shortly after I saw the bit on British UNICORNS, Lisa Frank decided to release a line of clothing. I was very excited. I actually put a few items in an online shopping cart, only to decide it probably was not an appropriate investment for a pregnant lady. I realize my birthday has passed, but if anyone US side wants to hunt down some UNICORN leggings and send them my way, I promise I will wear them. And even post a picture of me wearing them in public. (Even better than leopard print Alex, if you are reading this!)

I guess, what all these UNICORNhave in common, is that they are rare, unique and special. And so, I suppose UNICORNS are to be celebrated. We also always need a little magic in our lives.  And so, now all we need is a remake of the Last UNICORN and the saga will be complete. Just in case you are wondering, I will confess, that if I was in the States this week, I would go and get a UNICORN from Starbucks. Because. YOLO.

I wonder what my next trend prediction will be?

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Day 21: A tale of Language and Privilege

De-Nile is a River in Egypt

This post turned out to be too much for me to bite off and finish in a single 30-minute session. The idea is not only complex to present, but it is serious and not something to be taken lightly. This is a post to read with a cup of tea and to be followed by a long moment of contemplation.

My look at the word “indigenous” is yet another look at semantics and language. At meaning and usage. Specifically, I would like to show you how I transitioned from seeing the word “indigenous” as a conscientious word to describe native peoples, to being a word that reeks of White Privilege and Colonial Imperialism. This subject has been brought to us originally by a discussion I had a few years ago with my husband. When our discussion started, I was very very lost on a long ride down the River De-Nile. My guess is that most of my readers are probably also bobbing along on a raft that is not as sturdy as they once thought…

This article has been republished on my main blog read: “Indigenous: Is their a hidden  connotation in the popular usage of indigenous” behind this link.

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