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 18: Goals

“Whether we have happiness or not depends on the seeds in our consciousness. If our seeds of compassion, understanding, and love are strong, those qualities will be able to manifest in us. If the seeds of anger, hostility and sadness in us are strong, then we will experience much suffering. To understand someone, we have to be aware of the quality of the seeds in his consciousness. And we need to remember that his is not solely responsible for those seeds. His ancestors, parents, and society are co-responsible for the quality of the seeds in his consciousness. When we understand this, we are able to feel compassion for that person. With understanding and love, we will know how to water our own beautiful seeds and those of others, and we will recognize seeds of suffering and find ways to transform them.”

Thich Nhat Hanh

Spiritual Goals

  1. Being Grounded:

Most of my life I have experienced a strange dichotomy; when the shit hits the fan, I tend to be as cool as a cucumber. I can see right away what needs to be done to provide the most effective triage or pull off the show without anyone ever knowing that something was amiss. At the same time, when my close relations (my son, my husband, my mother) do something that angers me, I can lose that cool with the flip of a switch. I have never been proud of this ability of mine, but I have discovered in the last year, that it is not only emotionally uncomfortable, but it is also physically uncomfortable. It makes my head hurt and my heart race. And I probably look like someone who is going to blow a gasket. And so, I pledge, I set the goal this year, to learn to keep my cool and talk it through later. I need to find a way to ground myself when the switch has been flipped. Maybe it is meditation, maybe it is awareness, maybe it is setting the goal here in front of you, publicly.

2. Finding Connection:

Some people hate Facebook. Some people can’t help Facebook. I adore Facebook, I am full of gratitude for Facebook. Why? Because I am an extroverted shy person. Yes. You read that right. I charge my batteries by social interaction, and yet, I am terrified to interact socially. I am always afraid (and I have been since I was a kid) of bothering people. And so, I give you my number or my email and I wait for YOU to call or write me. If you call me, and I get distracted (which is easy for me to do), then I am embarrassed to call you back, because, well, it’s been 3 weeks. And then I never call.

And so, Facebook makes my life fuller. I am so excited when someone from my past finds me and connects. I love watching your children, your dogs, your car problems, and seeing how our “core being” really stays the same after all these years. I’ll use an example, there was a young New Yorker who joined our staff at the Boulderado years ago. At first, his New Yorker attitude kind of got on the nerves of our Boulder groove, but after awhile, folks couldn’t stay annoyed at someone who had so much love of life, a twinkle in his blue eyes, and a perpetual sense of humor.

I haven’t seen him in person in a good 15 years but found him on Facebook a few months ago and I haven’t been disappointed. Despite the ups and downs, car problems, you name it, everything he posts makes me laugh. I have to control myself from commenting all the time because I don’t want to be that weird stalker from the past. Anyhow, I digress. So back to my goal of connection. This year I pledge to let people in my life know that they matter to me. I pledge to let go of my fear of “bothering” people and instead focus on showing people they matter. I have ended up doing “career services” writing resumes and LinkedIn

This year I pledge to let people in my life know that they matter to me. I pledge to let go of my fear of “bothering” people and instead focus on showing people they matter. I have ended up doing “career services” writing resumes and LinkedIn profiles because it gives me so much pleasure to help people find their inner light and shine it on the world.

How will I achieve this goal? Well, I will start small. First I am going to call my Aunt(s) from time to time. Just like I used to call my grandmother. And then from there, I am going to write a note every week. A hand-written note so, between now and next year, I plan to write 52 notes “petit mots” to share with my world the things that make me smile. And I hope, that by next year I will feel more connected with stronger personal relationships and feel less like a Facebook stalker. 😉

3. Visualization and Gratitude Practice:

I am going to continue a daily practice of gratitude, thinking concretely about all that has blessed me and my family and friends. I will visualize this gratitude love and light going out into the world, and creating a richer fuller world not just for me, but for everyone. We live in an amazing world, filled with amazing people and amazing opportunity. I set the goal to continue to water the good seeds. To create, to manifest spiritual, physical, mental and financial wealth and richness for all of us.

Mental Goals

  1. Meditation:

I set the goal to meditate daily. At least 5 minutes. And once per week for 30 minutes. The times in my life that I have had the most clarity and had the greatest ability to tackle life’s little ups and downs have been when I had a regular meditation practice. Having kids, especially little ones that get up at 6 AM to pee, makes this a bit of a challenge. That said, for the last year or so I have been using the Breathe app on my phone. Many of the meditations are only 5 or 6 minutes long. There is one called “Lion Mind” that I am particularly fond of. When I am tired and unfocused when I feel the world is all rushing in to crush me or when I forget to apply my oxygen mask first, I have found that even a 5-minute meditation can be as restorative as a good night’s sleep. It. Is. Amazing.

You might be wondering why meditation is not under my spiritual goals, it could be, but for me (and for science), meditation has been shown to have the power to change the way we think. Meditation and prayer can be spiritual practices, but they are also mental practices. Personally, I am easily distracted. Too often I am like a dog chasing a tennis ball, and not like an owl keeping guard on my neighborhood. To be a good master of my own destiny and to be a compassionate spouse and partner, to be an effective and loving parent, I need to transform my dog mind into an owl mind. Which takes me to my next goal.

2. Effectiveness & Efficiency:

Life’s a funny dichotomy. I can plan something from top to bottom, set business goals and then live my personal life haphazardly. This is definitely a consequence of applying the oxygen mask to others around me first and so a major goal for me this year is to be effective in my personal life. Honestly, I am not 100% sure what this goal looks like in implementation, but my intent is that I want to be able to cross items off of my personal and family care list, to feel less like my life controls me and more like I control my life. To stop and make sure I have what I need before I run out the door (and back in 3 times). To actually make it to the grocery store with my list in hand. To declutter our house and my mind! Perhaps this entails daily or weekly goal setting on the home front.

3. Grammar in English and French:

After three years in the French school system, my son can both out grammar me and out speak me. My spoken French isn’t bad, but honestly, I have never cared much for grammar and at this point in my life it is starting to get a bit embarrassing. J’ai honte que je fasse encores trops de fautes quand je parle et quand j’écris le français. Même en anglais, je ne sais pas biens les règles de grammaires. I know intuitively what is correct and what is incorrect, but I don’t know know the rules.

This year I will study my French grammar and refresh my English grammar. If I wish to be an effective writer, speaker, storyteller, copy editor and proofreader, then I better mind my commas and my gerunds. I certainly don’t want to just Eat, Shoot & Leave. Hee hee!

Physical…back tomorrow with my physical goals …

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Day 10: Sugar Daddy
Apr11

Day 10: Sugar Daddy

Lost in Translation

Traveling overseas or to areas that are geographically and culturally distinct can be both exciting and surprising. I mentioned a few days ago that what I found most surprising when I studied abroad in Madagascar, was that the Malagasy were just like me. In other words, their ultimate, basic human curiosities, interests, etc. were the same. Cultural traditions, taught value systems, religious traditions, celebrations and so on are, as we know, often quite distinct.

Living in France I have gained further insight into the differences between cultures that often arise from distinct languages and cultural traditions. The first is that after spending some quality time with a different country’s bureaucracy and daily life, you learn that many “rules” and cultural certitudes are simply arbitrary. The second is that there are certain ideas and phrases that do not have direct translations from one language to another. Even something as simple as sugar can be quite confusing!

Sugar Daddy

I am not a big fan of sweets. Most sweet things are in fact “too sweet” for my tastes. However, I love to bake. And real baking requires sugar. The first time I went to the store to buy some sugar to bake a cake, I was stumped. Despite France’s reputation for pastries and sweet delights the grocery store only seemed to sell bags and bags of powdered sugar and raw sugar. I was a bit confused, as I’d never before considered whether the French used the same kind of sugars as Americans to bake.

I decided to buy a bag of each. It turns out the “sucre de poudre” is what an American would likely call table or baking sugar. Powdered sugar that we’d use for icing or special recipes is “sucre de glace” or “ice sugar.” Cassonade is brown sugar, but it is generally sold with bigger crystals, similar to raw sugar in the US. I’ve been told that American style brown sugar can be found in some health food stores, but I haven’t yet done the research.

The French also sell quite a bit of sugar in cube form to put in their coffee and tea. British take their tea with milk. The French take it with sugar. Sugar cubes can be found in white sugar and also in raw sugar form or “sucre roux.” This one is confusing to me as the word “roux” is generally translated to the color red, and raw sugar is not red… Caster sugar is “sucre de semoule,” a fact I learned looking up the recipe for making real French Macaroons. Corn syrup doesn’t exist in France, although you can find “sucre inverti” and “sucre liquid,” either for making candy or alcoholic drinks, like a mojito or rum punch.

One thing that is consistent across all cultures, is that children love sugar. And children that have eaten sugar are sticky. I’ve tested this.

And lastly, one of the most amusing aspects of sugar shopping in France, is that one of the main brands of sugar is called “Daddy.” So, if you are looking for a “Sugar Daddy,” you may not need to go any farther than the baking aisle of a French supermarket.

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