Monday, July 21, 2008

What a weekend!

I didn't write anything for Friday because so far, everything I've written has been--for the most part--positive and healing and all that mumbo jumbo. I was hesitant to get too comfortable with it because I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. For the honeymoon to be over. And that's what happened on Friday. I didn't write about it because my blog has so far been about France. Well, this shoe-dropping had less to do with France than a certain Frenchman. I don't see the point in going into it much since I don't think the cyberworld would like the smell of my dirty laundry. This is supposed to be about France, right? And my relationship with her (not necessarily, her "ites" right?). On that front, the France front, things are pretty smooth.

Friday was pique-nique day. I made sandwiches and other eats, piled 'em into a bag along with a bottle of water and a soft blanket and surprised Sam with my idea of eating lunch in the parc. He seemed excited by the idea, but stressed by the reality. Even so, we loaded into the elevator and made our stressful little way to the parc, scrunched up faces, furrowed brows and all.

I spread our blanket down under some trees and unpacked the picnic bag of goodies. Of course, actually EATING lunch in the parc was a bad idea. What I should have done was feed the children and make Sam a sandwich to eat on the way. Because all the kids wanted to do when they got there was chase the birds. So, I sat on the blanket, feeding the baby in the umbrella stroller, who, by the way, did NOT want to eat any of the things I packed for her (she's having a hard time getting used to French babyfood and by the way it smells, I can't blame her). I'm stealing bites of sandwich in between spoonfuls of mush and secretly swearing at my children for chasing the birds toward me so that I have to shoo them away with my sandwich hand. My husband INHALED his sandwich and spent the rest of his lunch hour yelling at our kids.

I just don't see how it is productive to chase after your children all the time. We were in a wide open space. We would have seen if they had strayed too far. We would have noticed had they fallen down. They always come back, you know? They know where the food and fun is. When I asked him, he said, "Lily could get hit by a bike!" Really? I mean is she REALLY all that speedy? You think that those folks strolling their bikes through the park can't slow down or stop for a TODDLER? And what if she DID get hit? Wouldn't that finally teach her to watch the hell where she is going? (Oh, hush, I'm half-kidding!)

So, what I had imagined to be an idyllic picnic (so to speak) by the lake in the parc, turned into two hours of me cursing under my breath and wishing I had just made him take the two older ones to the parc by himself so that I could get on here and bitch. Or at least eat a sandwich. Or maybe take a shower. Or a nap.

Whatever. That didn't happen. But I've learned my lesson.

Saturday was actually pretty fun. We got up early and went to the appliance store and bought stuff for our new apartment. We got a fridge, a small deep freeze, a micro-wave, a washing machine and a TV. Then, we walked through the outdoor market (which was just in front of the store) and bought lettuce, grape tomatoes, summer melons (they look like tiny yellow watermelons, kinda, but are like a cantaloupe inside, potatoes, purple-y garlic and flat-leafed parsley (what we call Italian parsley in the States, I think). Obviously, that part was a BLAST. We came home and I cooked a simple meal of fried cubed potatoes and a mushroom cheese omelette (well, French omelettes are more like scrambled eggs, just not so scrambly when it ends up on the plate) followed by a small tomato/cuke salad.

After a small nap, we loaded up into the van and went to IKEA. I never knew just how much I love IKEA. We found this nearly PERFECT futon (because, did I mention? I think I did? That our BED did not make it in the air shipment?) and in a PERFECT color to match our existing furniture's color scheme and painfully discovered that the dark blue cover no longer exists. There's a brown that will match but... eh. We'll see.

We found a cool table that extends into a gigantic eating slab and chairs that are only 15 Euro a piece. We toyed around with getting Ryan a big boy bed (and I mean single sized big boy) but I reminded Sam that we had planned to bring his childhood single bed from his parents' house. One of our goals for moving here was to save money. I don't see the point in buying a new bed for 700 bux when we can just get a new mattress for the bed we already have available. I think I won the argument but we'll have to see.

We didn't buy any of the big things we looked at. What DID we buy? We bought a tent. It was in the kids' section, it was only 7 Euro and we saw it as a great place to corral all their toys that are grazing in the floor of the hotel suite's living area.

We also bought a knife, since I've been cutting all the veggies (including the POTATOES) with a butter knife since the kitchen of our hotel suite must be just for show (otherwise it wouldn't be so dismally ill-equiped... it has like six serving dishes, but no potato peeler, no cutting knife/board... it has a salad spinner, but no salad bowl... like the management asked the employees what they had at home that they weren't using anymore and the crew brought in little odds and ends). *deep breath* I can feel myself going to that place. The place where I vent. And I apologize in advance because I really didn't want to go there. I'm not picky, really. In fact, living in a car and in a tent on the side of the road and in a camper on the back of a pickup truck has all made me pretty resourceful if I do say so myself, but when you make someone pay rates of upwards of 500 dollars a night for a FOUR STAR kitchenette, you should, by gods, have a freakin' cutting knife. Right? Some dishwashing liquid? A sponge? Handtowel? (All things we've had to purchase that we have ample enough of if our AIR SHIPMENT EVER GETS HERE!!!!)

Okay. Rant over. Sorry. Whew, I don't know about you, but I feel better.

So, I bought a knife and a little plastic cutting board and some drawing paper for Lily because she loves to color. We stopped in the little restaurant and bought the kids ice cream cones which they GREATLY appreciated (duh).

After IKEA, we drove over to the laundry down the street from where we used to live because it's the only one we know of (and the only one we've seen with a parking space or two in front). WHY did we go to the laundromat on a Saturday evening? Oh, well, because the TWO DRYERS this hotel has for it's gods know how many suites were broken. So, Sam ran over to the grocery store for change JUST as it was closing (so they let him use the ATM but not didn't let him buy lemon juice for dinner *shrug* Whatever... it just gave us an excuse to eat something else.. .you'll see what). Then, while I stayed with the kids, he ran the clothes to the laundry and put them in the dryer. It's fifty cents for seven minutes and you can't pre-load your money. So, it was funny that he had to keep going back over there every seven minutes to put money in the machines. In the mean time, since we didn't have lemon juice for our tabouleh, Sam ordered us PIZZAS from the pizza wagon! Yes, THE pizza wagon (thank you, Mr. Grocery store man for NOT letting Sam buy juice).

We chomped on pizza and giggled as Papa ran away every seven minutes to deal with the dryers. When it was all done (and gone), we went back to the hotel, hosed off and went to bed.

Sunday morning, we got up early, loaded up the kids and set out for Sam's parents' house in Haute-Savoie. They had invited us to come back out and visit so we weren't hanging around the hotel room with nothing to do all day. Though I knew we could find stuff around Lyon we could do (like go to the park or take the kids running around the city), I was actually looking forward to going to Haute-Savoie. The kids SO love to go there and I love to eat there that it just seemed like a nice break. Still, I told Sam that it would be better if we get there around 10 and leave around 3 so that we have the perfect amount of time there (I get the feeling that his parents, while they LOVE us to death, get a little sick of all the activity/screeching/etc... I would if I weren't used to it, you know? Heck, I AM used to it and I get a little sick of it myself.).

As we set on our way, I broke out my camera, planning to capture road-trip France for you guys. First of all, I apologize for the snapshottiness of the pix, but that's exactly what they were. Secondly, PLEASE pardon me if the windshield made it into the pix... It's dirty and had I known I'd be taking pix, I would have washed it, but... well... there you go.

Toll plaza:

This is an American restaurant (a French guy went to the States and wanted to recreate what he found there... beef eating)... It's the Buffalo Grill:

Hay bales and irrigation... funny how much is familiar here with the States, eh?

Rest stop:

Nuclear power plant (or as Ryan likes to call them "lightning factory"):


Getting "mountain-y":

Deer Crossing:

Equestrian on a bridge:

Gas Prices (per LITRE!!!):

On our way...

Heavyweights, slow down!:

Roundabout coming up:

Macumba... a HUGE night club that people come from all over Europe to visit... lucky us, it's just right down the road from Pepe's house:

Flags outside of Macumba:

Pepe's house:

Crossroads (on the ride home... this is where we decide to go to Lyon...):

Military memorialin Lyon:

We got there around 10:30, as planned. The house smelled like gigot d'agneau--roast lamb--that my father in law is famous for. My tummy growled from the get-go even though we had snacked on a few shrimp chips in the car. Thank goodness Pepe showed up just after. He went to the garden and cut a few heads of lettuce for me to wash and spin while he dug up the potatoes.

In the mean time, Sam suggested we go up to the grenier (like an attic) and look through our old stuff to see if we had any dishes and stuff that would help us out until our ship shipment gets here. I only thought I would find a pile of plates and a box of shoes or something. And I did. But I also found a bag full of our stemware, a wicker laundry basket (that I LOVED, btw), my old shopping caddy--yes, folks, I am now OFFICIALLY a French housewife--my iron, my French no-name brand dust buster and another treasure... A box of goodies... Our old love letters and all the stuff from our wedding--the programme, the menu, the little lacy stuff they put on the plates... all stuff I and my friends made by hand days before the wedding! I even found the little pillow I made the night before our wedding, for our rings to go on!

When I came back downstairs, my mother in law saw the look on my face when I went into the bathroom to wash the dust off of my hands. She said, "Did you rediscover your happiness up there?" I smiled and said, "And my youth." How I wish the nostalgia could last. If I could just bottle it up and spray it on myself every time he gets on my freakin' nerves or walks away while I'm talking to him... But, then, I'd be a millionaire, wouldn't I?

So, just after noon-ish, we sat down to fried cubed potatoes, gigot d'agneau with little whole mushrooms floating in the savory, tomatoed juices, fresh salad, summer melons and yummy bread. A rich, bitter coffee washed it all down and did just the trick to put the lid on the pot.

Pepe lay down on the couch to snore, Sam put Lily to bed and Ryan went out to play. I grabbed an afghan and took the baby out on to the grass to nurse in the shade and breeze. TaTa Fabienne showed up with stories of a festival that had taken place up on the mountain--I was jealous but even had I known about it, I wouldn't have been able to go... SHE'S our babysitter, LOL--where they had an immense tartiflette (it's a sort of pie that has potatoes, lardon, onions, creme fraiche and reblochon cheese in it (like my favorite pizza in Lyon)) and other goodies. But just as she was finishing up the story, we heard thunder. And though I would have loved to have paused life's DVR and feel that stormy breeze forever, the storm inevitably came, forcing us to run into the house.

Well, had it ended there, things would have been fine. Had we loaded up the kids and the attic stuff, kissed the in-laws goodbye and made our way to Lyon, things would have been just peachy. But we didn't. Though I hounded Sam about leaving, he kept disappearing--to the bathroom, back up to the attic, to the garage, etc. Probably doing legitimate things, but dallying. I could feel another storm brewing. And sure enough, as the baby was screeching and Ryan was whining about not being able to go outside, my father-in-law shot me a look (no description available folks, just trust me, it's not a pretty one and it is completely primative) that said, get your noisy kids out of my house so I can watch the Tour de France on the TV, before he grunted, cursed and pretended to scoot closer to the TV (though, of course, he was already on the edge of the couch).


Had we only left a few minutes earlier.

So, I found Sam and said, "Time to go." Though I would have liked to have gone through a few more of our belongings and though I KNOW that old people don't mean to be crotchety--I mean, DUDE, they spend their whole week in silence and peace and while a FEW hours of noisy grandchildren is a pleasure, as I said, I can see how it can wear--it was TIME TO GO.

I loaded the kids up, even though it was still sprinkling and let Sam load up some of our stuff. We practically blew our kisses goodbye as we were backing out of the driveway (not really, but almost might as well have had). I know how to take a hint.

And I wasn't that stung by it. Frankly, I think it was a mistake to go back SO soon. But that's neither here nor there. The trip back was uneventful. Ryan and Laurel slept. Lily teetered back and forth between, "I 'anna chip," and "I 'anna cuppa." So, I tottered between taking road-trip picks and doing her bidding. The evening ended in tabouleh, jambon de Paris (ham), cornichons (VERY sour gerkins), saucisse de Strasbourg and a teensy sprinkling of shredded gruyere. I chased mine with a sweetly dark Pelfort brune (beer) and Sam had an Adelscott (beer with just a hint of whiskey in it).

The hosing off of the children went fairly quickly and afterward, I settled into bed with a book.

Okay, this is an aside. You can choose to read it or not. It's dirty. Not like that, you pervert. What I mean is that it's gritty. It's about why I'm here. Really why I'm here. Yeah, sure, I'm here because Sam's company wanted to send him here, but that's not why I'M here. I have a purpose. When this whole thing started out, it was a three-fold purpose and it has evolved into a five-folder. And it's also about what's working and what's not. Because even though I wanted this to be about my MAGNIFICENT FRENCH HOMECOMING, I'm realizing my humanity and I need to share that. So, skip over the parts you don't like if you find them too whiny, melodramatic or extraneous to what you're looking for from this blog. But if you're really wanting to know how I'm doing and what's going on, feel free to follow along.

Okay, the five-folder:

1) Write. While I'm here, I plan to a) do the final revision of my France memoir and publish it, b) publish my YA novel, c) finish my pregnancy/adoption memoir and d) start two other projects I have in my head (maybe three).

2)Run. While I'm here, I want to a)run the Lyon semi-marathon in September, b) run the Houston marathon in January, c) run the Paris marathon in April and d) MAYBE, IF I don't get pregnant, run the marathon in Athens (THE Marathon... with a capital M). This is a lofty dream since my feet and knees are screwed, but I'm going to give it my all.

3)Study. While I'm here, I'm going to read the huge freakin' library of books I bought and brought with me in order to start living sustainably. When we return to Charlotte, I want to buy a farm. I want to grow all of my own veggies as well as have free-range chickens, harvest my own honey, weave my own baskets, even make my own clothes if I have to. Whatever it takes to live as self-sufficiently as possible. This does not have anything to do with being a control freak (though, admittedly, I am one) and it doesn't have anything to do with wanting to cut myself off from the rest of society (as all of you who know me know that THAT... is... impossible...). What I want to do is make stand and start a trend. Eventually, I'd like to have guesthouses on my farm so people can come and learn how to themselves live sustainably. I'd love to have an organic, locavoric restaurant. I'd love to host locavore conventions, even. Burning down the labs and fields of genetically modified plants is NOT how we're going to effectively combat what is happening to us. Standing up and refusing to let people grow our food FOR us without asking what the hell is in it IS the way to fight. Peacefully. Efficiently. Greenly. *stepping down from the pulpit*

4) Shoot. While I'm here, I need to find myself again in my first art and that is photography. While some of it may (and already has) supplemented my writing, I plan on taking it to another level. I miss this part of me and need to find it again.

5) Parent. I love my kids and sometimes, they're pretty cool. But for the most part, it's all an accident. I'm sucky parent. I've tried this parenting by the seat of my pants stuff and it sucks. I suck. I'm not the natural I always thought I'd be and I figure the old cliche rings true that it is better late than never. Before I completely screw my kids up, I'm gonna hafta start trying some new stuff. If I don't, not only will they be all messed up, I will too... (and don't even GET ME STARTED on the whole marriage fiasco, okay?). I'm hoping that diving in and trying new things (wow, things found in BOOKS) might help me out a bit. I've already started a few and they are working, but if any of you know of any good books and are finished with them, send 'em my way (and for the record, I already have a Bible... TWO in fact... one of them is in French... so hold on to those... I'm looking for modern-y stuff, please).

There you go. Whew. Glad I got that down.


What's working? I'm not sure much is working yet. But I can say that there are small things I stop and appreciate every day. EVERY day. Here are a few...

I love that I have to wash the sand off my lettuce. That it is so freshly picked, so locally grown, that I have to fill the sink with cold water and wash every leaf. That there is a PILE of sand at the bottom when I get done fishing the leaves out to put in the spinner.

I LOVE the feeling of seasickness I get when I watch the tree branches outside my window sway in the breeze.

I love pinching off the dried up and spindly stems of the tomatoes I buy here.

I love the scratches I get on the roof of my mouth from the bread cuz I haven't built up a new bread callous yet.

I love the way Laurel becomes a full body grin at the sound of my voice and comes crawling, laughing like a maniac until she finds me. I also love that she's started to dance. She hears music and almost as if it's stronger than her, she can't help but bounce.

That's enough love for one day, eh?

Thanks for bearing with me and...Stay tuned for pix...


Erin said...

I'm coming to visit on your future farm, as those are all things I plan on doing as well, only on a much smaller, sub/urban backyard scale!

Joelie said...


emjanes said...

I love your blog. I'm learning so much from you. I'll be reading this regularly as I already look forward to your next post! You write just like you talk... I love it!

Joelie said...

Awwww, thanks Em! Rock ON!!!

Rozzo said...

WTH is going on? What's this business about dirty laundry?! Sam's not talking about staying there, is he? I don't want you to stay!

xlordashx said...

Hey joelie,
I just got a job where I'll be working with kids 0-5 which means I'll prolly be teaching parents how to parent. So if I come across any good books or anything, I'll let you know!

Catherine said...

I wish we had met while you were still in Charlotte. I love how precise you are about describing France and ... the French! Your father-in-law being ready for you guys to go because of some TV show sounds so familiar! It's so small-town French! When I read your blog, I can't help but remember all the reasons we wanted to move away from France and start from scratch on this side of the big pond.

Joelie said...

Roz... No worries... I ain't staying here!

Ash... Anything you can give me will help.

Catherine... Thank you SO much. I can't tell you how good that makes me feel. It's nice to have my observations confirmed by someone else who has lived both places!!! Don't worry, when I get back, you and I HAVE to meet up!!!

Erin said...

OMG! MACUMBA! I think we went there right before your wedding! Memories...!

Joelie said...

Yep, you did. I think it was the night before maybe? I was SO exhausted from getting stuff ready that I didn't have enough energy to go! What a LOSER! Oh well, it was probably for the best... Don't want hangover face for my wedding, eh? LOL.