The Election

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It is easy to say “I will move to Canada.” I read that the Canadian immigration site crashed on election night. As an expat in France, l can tell that it’s not easy moving abroad, even for an educated person like myself and with the help of my French husband.

The language is a barrier (although that wouldn’t necessary be so for most Americans in Canada). But as a practical matter, to get an apartment we had to show that our rent was no more than one-third our monthly income. And since my husband was the only person with a job and we wanted to live in Paris, we had to deposit one-year’s worth of rent in an escrow account to sit there until I found a job. Even then, I had to wait until after my four-month mandatory probation and show documentation from my employer. And we had to wait three months for the landlord to return my 20K euros.

The reason I tell this story is that the people who Donald Trump will hurt the most, middle and lower income families, by blocking the minimum wage increase, trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, reducing taxes on the rich and funding to government agencies, can’t afford to relocate to Canada.

It’s those that live in the bubble of wealth and privilege, who can escape the wrath of Trump. My brother said on November 9th, “I guess I really live in a bubble.” and he lives in Houston, Texas surrounded by life-long Republicans. Yet when I was in Houston in September, I did not see one Trump sign. As a matter of fact, I only saw two Clinton signs and one was on my brother’s lawn. Granted Houston is a more progressive city than most of Texas, but still, there was not one Trump flag waving as far as my eye could see. What we were all blind to was the silent support for this wretched man.

A few last words for the well-off who are considering leaving the United States: Don’t. Do what my brother and his progressive friends in Texas are doing. They are recommitting themselves to progressive causes (like the Southern Poverty Law Center, stuffing envelopes at Planned Parenthood or registering voters) with time and money. They are subscribing to real newspapers that do real, fact-based reporting (like NPR and the New York Times). They are calling their members of Congress (not tweeting or posting on Facebook) to let the Republican representatives of Texas that there are voters there who are not OK with hiring racists for the Trump Administration. Read conservative news to educate yourself on the other side. I’m starting with writer David French, staff writer of National Review, who himself experience harassment from the Alt Right, which I will now officially call White Nationalists/Nazi (interview here).

When I’ve been crushed by disappointment, I mourn, I replay, I question. But as soon as I get up to make a to-do list, or go look for this or that thing, the change of environment and focus immediately helps to make the next few hours a bit more tolerable than the last. And so…the healing has begun. Now, a few weeks later, as I emerge from the fog of disappointment, I can start healing by doing. I hope that each person’s actions will build upon one another. We have to be dedicated and vigilant in holding Trump and his administration responsible for their words and actions.

In sum, stay and fight for your country.

 

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Family Photography

In one of my past lives I was a wedding photographer. It gave me a flexible work week and merged a bit of the creative with the business.  Yet even after charging 400$/hour and calculating the true cost of time in consultations, dropping and picking up the film, editing, delivery to the client and the all important wedding day, which I always arrived to early, my hourly rate netted at 100$. That’s not bad but with one wedding a weekend that hardly can afford the basic luxuries I long to have. More established photographers expanded their business to family and pregnancy portraits and had a studio or a house that they could meet clients. I didn’t have a studio or house and I realized that was not the type of photography that I was not interested in. After hours and hours shooting weddings I did leave the business with a strong belief in paying for experience. The last year of doing weddings I struggled to convince people why their uncle who just bought a digital camera did not have the institutional knowledge I had to manage family and wedding dynamics and still tell a beautiful story.

When I got married it was a nonnegotiable that we had a good photographer. ED7A7746 I already knew who I wanted from my past life and I was not disappointed. I only wish I had booked her for longer. After Stella was born I noticed there were not many pictures of her and me and us as a family. I was referred to a Parisian photographer who spoke English and had a photojournalists style that I understood. I set up the RDV and told Maxime. When he asked the price I told him 300€ including all the files plus four 8×10″ images. He said “You were a photographer.  Why can’t you put your camera in a tripod?” I responded “It doesn’t work that way. What she’ll capture I never can on a tripod with self timer.”  The following week Cybèle photographed our family, and as I expected, the images did not disappoint.

ED7A7716Fast forward a year and we are in our new home, Stella is busy walking and is quickly changing into a little girl. I again made a RDV with Cybèble and put in the calendar. ED7A7136After the shoot, Maxime said “Really, again we paid 300€ ? Is it worth it because we seem to have good pictures of Stella that you take.” How soon they forget. I reminded him how lovely the original images were and that I still don’t have a lot of images with Stella. A few days later our images arrived. As we sorted through them, Maxime tagged almost everyone as his favorite and said “I see why we hire her. These pictures make me so happy.” Stay tuned for round 3 next year which I think I can book with no questions.

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All photos by Cybèle Desarnauts.

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Moving

IMG_0801My family and I recently made the move out of Paris to the lovely tiny village, Saint-Rémy-Lès-Chevreuse.  It’s a 45 minute RER ride to Chatelet/Les Halles (1eme) and takes me now in total about 60 minutes door to door.  In the morning on the 7:03am train I see the sun rise behind the changing suburban to urban landscapes.  Before, I was either rushing to two metros or a long bus ride. Though the morning bus was lovely as I passed by the post-card looking 6eme buildings and cafes, across the Seine in front of the Louvre and down the Asian noodle street Rue Saint-Anne but it doesn’t compare to my tranquil life in Saint-Rémy.

IMG_1063Deciding to move out of Paris was not difficult for us.  We lived in a 60 m2 apartment with an unresponsive landlord and mold.  Yes, there was the charm of crown molding yet that became irrelevant when my bathroom sink was unattached from the caulking and shifting along the basin.  The landlord told us to re-caulk it ourselves.  I might note that once we moved out, the landlord replaced the wiring (half our plugs didn’t work) and remodeled the kitchen and bathroom.  Therefore, I was happy to take the brico (handy work) into my own hands. I had also begun to tire of the day to day Parisian logistics. I spent one Sunday evening going to three different laundromats looking for available dryers.  Now, I spend my Sundays going downstairs to my energy efficient dryer, grabbing my clothes and folding them with my daughter playing next to me.

IMG_1116There have been a few unexpected discoveries in the house. There is no hook up for our dishwasher so we are back to hand washing until we remodel. The heat is either on or off.  No adjustments in the rooms and the downstairs is far warmer than the upstairs. Strange. The wonderful discoveries have been in our garden. We have 10 healthy rose bushes, a batch of tulips and a beautiful blossoming cherry tree. Stella loves to play in the front yard and chase Chaussette who is now officially an indoor/outdoor kitty. On my way home from the RER, I see cows grazing in a pasture and yards bursting with flowers. I have almost the best of both worlds, living in the peace and quiet yet staying connected to Paris each day with work. The commute can be long and exhausting but also peaceful and easy. It all comes down to attitude and I feel fortunate Stella can have a yard to explore and I can have space for my art. We all have different priorities for our lives and for me, this house and village encompass those most important to me. Here is a selection of images of our house and my daily commute.  It’s all in how you look at it!

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Posted in Baby, Chaussette, Culture, House, Paris | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Perfect Cable Hat with Earflaps

IMG_1525I’m convinced I was a knitter in another life. When I’ve chosen projects I’ve always tried to choose something that was slightly above my skill level and now I’ve settled into a routine where most patterns that I choose I can handle with a few Internet searches. Since having my baby, the majority of my knitting has been baby sweaters and two baby hats.  I decided to try to use some of the stash yarn, which is leftover yarn, from a baby alpaca sweater I had knitted for Stella and make her a hat. This is where my knitting juju was off. I tried a pattern that was so cute with cable and little ear flaps but it was just a bit too small  and every time I put in on her head she was crying.  To make matters worse because it was too small it would start sliding up and cone on the top of her head.  It was completely unsatisfying and I just felt like I had failed by not being able to make a simple cable hat for my baby.

IMG_4397I began scouring the patterns on Ravelry looking for the perfect baby cabled hat with ear flaps which I have now come to realize does not exist. I ripped out the yarn from the hat and tried a new basic pattern. This was now too big so I ripped that out and threw my hands up in despair.  Sometimes when I’m trying to do something and it’s not working and I keep trying and trying and frustration builds, it’s almost as if I’m strangling the situation by doing it over and over and over again. I was fighting with myself all I could think about was I need to get this done so I can start on the baby sweater that I wanted to make. So I stopped fighting with the yarn and needles and went to Zara and bought her an adorable pink had with ear flaps.

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Posted in Baby, Knitting, Paris | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Dressing in Paris

I have written in previous posts about my struggles with dressing in France. Even after three and a half years and having invested in some good pieces, I am still humbled by straight-faced sales people putting me in my place. I remind myself when I see women in my office with amazing clothes that most of them have had a lifetime of French dressing influences and that I’m starting from scratch. Building it piece by piece during each of the bi-annual sales. 

My most recent experience came when I went to a lovely store in the hipster of hipster arrondissements: 4ème aka Le Marais. My dear friend Gena was visiting me to organize my kitchen with the Container Store (another post). She is an interior stylist and truly one of the most stylish and chic people I have ever met. Style is effortless for her and I seek her advice when ever possible for all things beautiful. During her visit I mentioned that I was in the market for a walkable black city boot that I could also wear to work. After one of her excursions, Gena said she spotted a great pair of very chic boots at a little store called Bimba y Lola. It happened my birthday was coming up and decided to make the trip. The sales person was a young guy who spoke perfect English which is always a treat. I never would have tried this style on myself. It’s low cut and pointy toe reminded me of a slick cowboy boot. But the outside gold zipper gave it a stylish appeal.  With something that is a new style for me I always wonder “How do I wear it?”  Gena would just know how to but not me and she had already gone back to the U.S. So I relied on this sales persons honesty. I was wearing skinny jeans rolled up and when I put on the boots I asked “How do I wear these? Can I with my jeans like this?” And he kindly replied “Well that’s not what’s suggested in the look book, but I guess it works.”  I immediately rolled my jeans down. He gave me a few ideas and I decided to take the plunge. They have been a great addition though I haven’t ventured into the dress/tights look yet as he suggested.  I guess I should have taken a longer look at the look book. Next time! 

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Being a Mother

IMG_3409I never saw my destiny as being a mother.  I thought I had bigger more creative things to do with my life.  As many know, my life has had some tremendous creative success albeit not financial, but nevertheless, I do believe having an active art and creative life is crucial.  Which I try to do the best I can.  During my high school and college years I did quite a bit of babysitting for a small set of families.  It was great.  I got the opportunity to hang out in beautiful houses in Palo Alto and Portola Valley. Drive their nice cars and be given ample spending money when I would watch the children for the weekend. It was the playing that got a bit old.  Especially when they were 2-3 years old, so much time was sitting and playing and sometimes just moving toys from one point the next.  On the flip side, the evenings were sprinkled with gems.   One little boy having to say goodnight to everything we put away in the refrigerator or giving me a kiss between each slots of his crib.  People said the old cliche “It’s different when it’s your own.”  I did not believe them…until I had Stella.

A friend asked me the other day “Do you like being a mother?” Seems like a pretty stock question with another mother cliche answer “Of course!”  But for me, my answer is different with “I enjoy being around my daughter much more than I thought I would.”  “Really?  That’s a strange answer” she replies.  I thought my time with my baby would be filled with more crying and attention demands than watching her discovery of the world and her sweet expressions. I am happy to have a job to go to each day but I am equally happy to rush home on the metro so I can get an extra 20 minutes with her before she goes to bed.  IMG_5314I’ve also practiced a trick that my friend with twins said that if he gives his daughters his undivided attention for a certain amount of time, that will fill their reserve for him to have time do what he needs to do.  I see that first hand with Stella.  One night I was trying to play with her on the floor while on the phone with a friend from the U.S.  After a few minutes she knew my attention was not focused on her and she was not going to be ignored.  I reminded myself that for most of her life to date, myself and her dad have been her whole world.  Now with the NouNou taking some of our place, she needs that connection with us to bookend her day.  This is not a labored responsibility as I thought it would be but fulfilling that I can see the affect first hand of her getting fulfilled with my love and attention.

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My New Baby

IMG_2034Having a baby in France is special.  While pregnant, you can cut in the front of the line at grocery store, post office and SNCF train ticketing office.  The special treatment is not just when waiting line, people all over the country take pity on you.  While on holiday in Provence at 8 months pregnant, I was at a busy brocante and needed to sit down for a drink.  When the waitress approached me, I asked for bottle of water and she said it was for full meals only.  I pointed to my stomach and said “S’il vous plait. Je suis enceinte” / “Please, I am pregnant”.  At that moment she kindly looked at me and said “Bien sur” / “Of course”.  She frequently checked on me and made sure I knew where the bathroom was, which can be challenge.  For non-pregnant people finding and being allowed to us a bathroom is not easy.  There are public toilets which are fine in an emergency but with my center of balance off, trying my luck in a make shift port-a-potty did not seem wise.  Typically, if you need to use the bathroom at a café, it’s standard to purchase a coffee at the counter.  In general, 1,20€ is a small price to pay for a clean place.  But being pregnant, I could use the bathroom up to five times in a three hour outing it did not seem wise to ingest up to five espressos.  Therefore, I tried my luck with kindness of baristas.  I would waddle in, point at my stomach and repeat the phrase “Je suis enceinte. Est-que ce possible je utilise les toilettes” / “I am pregnant.  Is it possible I can use the toilet?” and 99% of the time they would say yes. In a few instances the barista would look at me upon entering and just point to the toilets.

I went into labor at 2:00am and arrived at the clinic 12 hours later with little progression.  My mid-wife arrived and we decided to wait.  And wait we did.  I was in a small 3-story clinic 30km south of Paris in a peaceful neighborhood. Maxime and I took a few walks around the block and wandered up and down the quiet halls to pass the time between contractions.  At 8:00pm it was decided to give me morphine to help progress the labor. The baby was eager to get started but not to move from phase 1 to phase 2 (we needed to get to phase 3).  The morphine resulted in little progression so we went to try the large bath tub.  While that was super relaxing, it was now 1:00am the next night and I had not had any sleep. I found it insane when people at the clinic told me to try to get some sleep. Who can sleep when you know hour are hours away from meeting your new baby?  So after the bath, we moved to an epidural which apparently can not only ease the pain but help you relax so your labor progresses naturally to the next phases.   In France, epidurals are the norm.  I had sworn off an epidural because in the U.S. when an epidural is used, it frequently leads to a C-Section (and no, I don’t have a statistic for that.)  But in France, they are administered by giving you a few small doses over the course of your labor and you are still actively involved in the labor.  You can feel much of the pain and move your legs with some concentration but it takes the major edge off.  And it’s a great tool to help have a safe delivery. And that is exactly what I had.  Within 3 hours of having the epidural and 30 hours of labor, Stella Simone Bridoux was safely born at 7:27am weighing 2.9kilo 46cm and I wouldn’t change one minute of the experience.

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Posted in Baby, Culture, Paris | Tagged , , | 4 Comments