I Deeed Eeet! & Thanksgiving Musings

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20 Sept. 2009, Aix-en-Provence

First of all, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all those American readers! I hope you had a happy holiday with lots of good food, family, and friends surrounding you.

It was pretty much another Thursday here. I spent the day writing and grocery shopping. In fact, this is a blog I started yesterday, but one I did not complete. PJ and I went off to see Michael Moore’s latest movie, Capitalism: A Love Story and by the time it was time to leave, I was only partways through what I intended to write and post, so I posted nothing.

Today, I am going to post twice, I think. I am going to quickly revise what I wrote yesterday, post it here, and then finish up what I intended to as a second posting for today. So, happy reading, and check back later to see what else I have written!

***

Sometime in the middle of yesterday’s [Wednesday’s] blog, I crossed over from 49,917 words to 50,000, thus breaking the word count barrier to have “won” NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writers Month. On November 1, I started writing here with the specific goal of crossing this 50k word-barrier within a 30-day time period. I also questioned the legitimacy of my competing, realizing I am not writing a straightforward “novel.” This blog is not fiction. It is about my life. But, as I maintained in similar writing all month, this blog is composed of “fiction by omission”: I do not write about every single thing going on in my life here. It is fictionalized in that I exaggerate for effect, sometimes. It is fictionalized through the limits of my writing and is, for the most part, about the things I see and do in Paris. However, because I am an introspective and reflective person, I have also found myself writing a lot about what I am here in this introduction. I am constantly trying to answer the questions for myself: What is this blog? What do I want it to be? How is it the same or different from other blogs “out there”? What makes it unique? Why should people read it?

For, yes, every blog “out there” wants to be read, else why would people write and post publically? Here is where I have focused on the things I do and see in Paris from the perspective of a person who eats gluten, yeast,  and dairy-free, and sugar-free as much as I can, too, which is most of the time (except when I go to Ladurée to try different flavors of macarons). I also write from a perspective of a person who would probably, most of the time, just like to stay indoors and read the bajillions of blogs about Paris in the blogosphere rather than go out and live in Paris for myself. I am the one, who, after all, spent a gross (in terms of amount and in terms of how much was wasted) number of hours reading from the beginning of petite anglaise’s blog, which she started in 2004 (!). I got all the way through 2004 and most of 2005, I think, before I ran out to get the book, which I read, and then NaNo started. As soon as NaNoWriMo is over, I kind of hope to pick up where I left off. LOL. I created this blog because it was motivation for me, a mostly introverted, somewhat anxious (although that is getting better), unique (is that the nicest way to say “kind of nutty”?) middle-aged woman (although I am loathe to write that. Ugh. Am I really “middle-aged”? At 41, yes, I guess I am) to have some motivation to go out and live in Paris, not just let it pass me by. Which leads me to what I think I need to blog about today, in addition to finishing off writing about Karen’s and my journey on Wednesday November 18 [this is the part I did not complete on Thursday, and which I will finish today, Friday, and post a little later].

But not until I go hang up the load of laundry that just finished and has to be hung up! For a little more about laundry and my other peeves about Parisian living, see here.

*goes away for a little while*

Okay, I am back.

The Grass Sometimes Appears Greener

Yesterday I blogged a little about writer Betsy Shaw and how I  discovered her writing on BabyCenter’s MOMformation blogs. She stopped by and commented on my blog, too! (The one from “yesterday” linked there.) I discovered that she also writes at her own blog called NumbMum. I really liked and appreciated the comment she left:

Wow! How I would love to spend a week, month, or year just walking around Paris. The mere four days I spent there, with a three year old and my 85-year-old mother, we averaged three blocks per day, has left me craving more. I long to return and dream of having days on end, sans children, sans schedule, to truly explore. Thanks for stopping in to comment on my post over at Momformation. I’ll definitely be reading more of your blog, I’m so curious about your experience.

First off, hats off to Ms. Shaw for even attempting to see *any* of Paris with a three-year-old and an 85-year-old, even three blocks of it! Oh my goodness. I cannot imagine! Still, what a great challenge as a Paris bloganista: to write about things to do in Paris with an 85-year-old and three-year-old! I would love to tackle that as an explorer and writer. That would take some creative thinking…

Second,  this part of the comment really struck me,

I long to return and dream of having days on end, sans children, sans schedule, to truly explore.

I thought to myself while reading, “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.”

This is me. Days on end. No kids. No schedule. Time to explore.

On the one hand, I am grateful for my status. I really do have the time and the ability to walk around Paris, camera in hand, with freedom and impunity (lol — not that I am doing things deserving of punishment. I just mean without hassle, of course). This has been a truly wonderful gift, and I do not want to waste it nor take it for granted. This blog is an attempt to NOT take Paris for granted.

Yet, there has been some “punity” in my being here – the separation from my children.

In what has become THE MOST controversial decision of my life, hands down, I arrived here in 2008 after leaving a life, home, and family in Colorado. My two sons, now ages 13 and four, safely situated with their fathers, from whom I am divorced, are not with me. The reasons I chose to do so are complex, very personal, have been much debated, and have left me disowned by some family members and friends and highly disapproved of by others.

It’s been a little like “Under the Tuscan Sun” (the movie and/or the book) except my husband did not cheat and I have kids. The situation is the same in that I was a woman who in mid-life was falling apart.  I met (re-met, really) someone who gave me hope that not all hope was lost in life, and it just so happened he lives in Paris. My life path forced me to choose, and the choice I felt I needed, that I *had* to make, was to walk the path that led to Paris.

Like I wrote, it has been debated and questioned by many, so whatever you think reading this, go ahead and think it. I can tell you, too, there are a lot of mitigating factors in it all, ones I don’t really want to write about here, but ones which might make you see and understand the “gray areas” this all touches upon.

Some just cannot understand why I do not go “home” this very instant and put my children ahead of myself, sacrificing my needs for theirs, just as other good mothers and fathers have done for centuries, and as was done for me. To those people I have had to say that I have had such a conviction about being here in Paris that it has taken every ‘should’ and ‘ought to’ and left them in the dust — not in a selfish, self-serving, self-centered kind of way, but in a way that left me capable of even considering leaving my kids, it was that powerful of a conviction.

Some people hear and kind-of understand that type of powerful conviction. Some cannot. It is a divisive topic, for certain. At any rate, I am guessing that one of my Great Lessons in Life is to be able to stand my ground when I know something is the thing I *need* to do, but when others vehemently oppose it. So be it. I know I feel for me that I have done exactly what I needed to do, and that all shall be well in the end, when the fat lady sings, or when the final inning is played.

However, there are days when I think I might kill to have my sons with me, I miss them so much. Did any of you see “The Box with Cameron Diaz? The premise of that movie is a “What would you do?” kind of scenario where a strange man comes to a suburban household and tells the wife and mother of that household that if she presses the button on the box he has had delivered to her house, someone she does not know will die, but she will have a million dollars, no strings (other than the someone dying part). The story is set in 1976, so the million is really like a billion in today’s terms, right? She decides to push the button, and it unleashes a set of consequences that make her realize she should have never pushed the button (okay, so I just ruined the first third of the movie for you, but it goes on after that. It’s a weird one, one by the same director as “Donnie Darko” so you know it is going to be bizarre. It would not be a bad one to see on DVD after it comes out, as I did like it and recommend it for the “thoughtful factor” — it makes you think).

When it comes to my sons, I sometimes wonder, if someone came to my house with a box and said, “If you press this button on this box, then you can have your children with you, but someone else’s child is going to die,” would I consider doing it, just to have things in my life more resolved and my children with me? Some days I might consider it more than others because I miss them so very much.

In the end, though, I know I would decide to not do it.  I know what it feels like to lose a child, in small part (a late miscarriage I wrote about in the post called “I Am…“), and because of what has happened with the separation from my youngest, and I would not wish those experiences on anyone. I have had friends and acquaintances lose children and witnessed the suffering it causes. Having seen that suffering, I would stay separated from my own children *forever* if I knew that such an action could *prevent* someone from losing a child. It is that painful of a loss, and if I could spare someone that pain, I would.

I was thinking about Betsy’s comment and how the grass is always greener on the other side! I remember those harried days of having a newborn and an almost-10-year old. The school activities. The 2 am feedings. The stomach flu. The diapers. The busyness and fatigue that comes with family life. To be Betsy and parenting in a cross-cultural setting must be so very challenging, I imagine. Having read some of her blogs, I can get a glimpse of how it is. I also know just how challenging it is in one’s own culture to parent, and I know how challenged I have been as a person living in another culture without kids. To experience another culture both as a parent and as a self would be beyond my capabilities right now, I believe. It is better for me right now that my children are not here. Perhaps that is why they are not here:  a wisdom greater than my own has had a hand in this to orchestrate things to be just the way they are, and they are for the best.

When I read her comment, I remembered how, during the 2 am feedings and the harried schedule of school days, I wished to myself to be taken away, to escape, to be away from it all…. I daydreamed about foreign places. I dreamed about Paris. I thought about walking Paris’ streets, sans enfants, as I might have done when I was younger, before kids, but never had the opportunity to do so. I guess I got what I wished for. But at a price. I don’t think I would wish for things to have gone any differently. I deeply feel I am here — that I was brought here — for a purpose. The way I met PJ, the timing, the manner, the way my other life fell apart: I feel that my life wanted me here at all costs. I feel that wild horses could not have changed this path in my life, and I am glad I came. I don’t know that I really had any other choice, though. This was, I believe, a part of my life path, and my life wanted me on it. Those of you who have had some radical life experiences may know and feel what it is that I am writing about — you have experienced that kind of powerful life-altering thing in your life, too. So I know you get it.

To those who would argue that leaving children behind is always a wrong choice, no matter what, and feel that there are always choices and that I made the wrong one, well, then, I will just quote the late Jimi Hendrix on that one:

I’ve got my own life to live / I’m the one that’s gonna have to die / When it’s time for me to die / So let me live my life the way I want to.

(If Six Was Nine)

Or, if that is too 1960s and too liberal and selfish-sounding for you, then I will put it like this:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

(Matthew 7:1-4, Bartleby.com)

Basically, I will just say it is my row to hoe, not yours. You are not me. You have not walked in my shoes, nor experienced the things that led me here. Really, no one but me knows what happened to me, and how things played out inside of me, to lead me here. So you can think what you want, but I know what I know.

I do hope, however, that someday I can take Baby J, who at four is not a baby anymore, to play at the memorial playground in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. For he and his brother are my children and I do love them so. I hope they feel that love from me, and that there will one day be reunification for us all.

***

Those were my musings on Thanksgiving Day. After the movie, I got home and called both of my boys. My oldest was with my sister and her in-laws at their home in western Colorado. My youngest was with his father and grandmother in northern Colorado. Both were about to start eating turkey when I called them just after 2 pm their time, 10  pm my time. My littlest came on the phone to say in his wee voice, “Happy Thanksgiving” and trade “I love you’s.” The eldest and I managed to say “hi” to one another before I talked to my sister for a few moments to wish her a Happy Thanksgiving, too.

I have so much bittersweetness about my situation. It has not been an easy path to walk. It reminds me, too, of just how lifesaving this blog has been, just as I imagine Betsy’s has been for her, too. We *all* as moms, as people, have tough rows to hoe! Some of them are of our own making, for certain. Not denying any beds I have made for myself, for certain, and in them I lay. I guess I am just saying I am glad I have a place like this, a place which gives me inspiration to get “out there,” write, and share with others a part of  this experience called “Life.” Without people like petite anglaise, and Betsy, and so many other writers and readers out there in the blogosphere, I would feel a lot more alone in the world.

So, today I am thankful for this, amongst other things: that I have a blog which is one motivation for me to get out there and continue to live life and live it as well as I can.

Over and out (until the next post, that is :)).

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11 thoughts on “I Deeed Eeet! & Thanksgiving Musings

  1. Little did I know what I was saying when I spoke of longing to be in Paris, sans children.

    I get it now. I can’t imagine what you have been through but have been around this world enough, and have been through enough and have been honest with myself enough to know better than to ever judge any ones decisions in life. Especially a mother’s.

    For the record, we did make it further than three blocks, my mother, the 85-year-old, first came to Paris in 1949. We dragged her to Montemarte and the Musee D’Orsay. The bateau bus was our saving grace. If our rental flat hadn’t been on the fifth floor, without an elevator, we might have had a bit more energy.
    And Isla, the three, now four, year old. She loved a particular sculpture in the Musee D’Orsay, a fallen woman, not sure what the title of it was, or what the attraction was. She also enjoyed hopping around the museum. Museums are her favorite place to hop.

    • pariskarin

      Oh Betsy, what a sweet comment!! I know — I figured you did not know when you commented that, and while it made me really thoughtful, I in no way wanted to write in such a way that would make YOU feel bad, do you know? But I could so very much *understand* your comment, too, and it made me really count my blessings as well. I kind of feel like I have to make my stay here in this time without my kids really special — to not take it for granted. I think that would really *honor* my separation from them, does that make sense? So in a way, this blog is trying to honor in the best way the advantages in my being here. Your comment reminded me of that, too.

      And it is true: the grass is always greener, is it not? LOL!!

      I am so glad you got to see the things you did with your mother and Isla. It really has intrigued me, too — if that were me, what would I do? Where would I go with them? Good thing for the bateau bus and the fact that Isla likes museums! Paris is her kind of place!

      Thank you again, Betsy, for your words up there. 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Adventure, Continued: Cimitière Père Lachaise « An Alien Parisienne

  3. Pocketful of Shells

    You can only be the best role model to your children after you know who you are.

    Sometimes that takes a while to figure out.

    And contrary to what many theorize, children can blossom and grow in so many multitude of situations. Not just Mommy-Daddy-Sister-Brother.

    • pariskarin

      Thank you for your good words on this topic Shel, as always. I am trying to trust that it is so, that it is for the best right now. On the good and strong days, I understand and know deeply exactly what you write. Then a birthday comes, or a holiday, or a harsh word from another, or, even worse, the silence from those with whom I am estranged because of my being here, and I wonder.

      But all in all, I know what you say is true, so I go — only forward! 🙂

  4. Ken

    So, without an American Thanksgiving, You are also without the “black friday” shopping event? How do the french know when the holiday shopping season has begun?

    Looking forward to PJ’s rundown of Capitolism: A Love Story

    Congrats on meeting the nano 50k. now that you know that you can put out the word count, do you think that the pressure would be an aid or distraction if one really wanted to “craft” a story? Where is the line between motivation and inspiration?

    I think if I became serious about blogging, I might be like a number of friends who have several specialised blogs in addition to the personal blog.

    FATE:

    Reading about the people you’ve met through either their blog or your own, plus your descriptions of your own convictions combined with my own life expiriences lead me to the question of “fate”. I’ve had so many moments of serendipity, things that could only have happend by the right people being in the right place at the right moment after having the right expiriences, information or skills. Sometimes I’ve over-thought decissions so much that the moment passed me by and others I just jumped without thinking, but right or wrong, I would see it through. Somehow this was tied in my mind to my integrety making a decission to me is kinda like making a promise. For a while, I was really concious of “impact” and today I am still evolving my vision of impact. The dichotomy of my motivations are wholey selfish and non-selfish, I want to be a famous unknown. I want to have a huge impact in making the world a better place because it will make me a better person, is that selfish or what? The evolution came as the reality of life sets in. I will not be a millionaire or world leader. The world is not going to hang on my words or actions. That being said, just as small moments in others lives have impacted mine. While arguing for a cause, I may not change any minds, but plant the seed that may grow to an evolution in thought. I’ve downsized my expectatins and this is what I was getting at in the blog about thinking about my brother, the influences we have either intentionally or unintentionally and who will remember us and why.

    I was concidering these things and your review of The Box as I headed out to garden today and on the radio came an old favorite song. It was written about a romance that was “meant to be”, but this lyric could also apply to fate and our decissions also,
    “Think about how many times I have fallen.
    Spirits are using me, larger voices callin’.
    What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten.”
    and it seemed like another moment of serendipity (ok, sometimes we stretch for those moments). There are people who share moments we have expirienced, but somehow gone a wholey different different direction. I found out at 21 the story of how my conception was the product of a date rape by a man who is not my dad and had never heard of until I was told about him. While I’ve been curious about his “aftermath” (mostly if he’s had any other kids), I am sure that I got off way luckier than the fellow that found out he was the progeny of Charles Manson who raped his mom durring a drugged out orgy ( http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/2425750/charles_manson_son_a_gandhiloving_vegetarian.html?cat=37 ).

    You’ve spoke a bit about the battle for affections and perceptions between yourself and your 4yr olds father over this child, but have spoken little about the reactions of the older boy’s father to your life choises. I wonder if time (since you’ve had more time to work these things out with him and your first son) or a different mindset has given him a “she’s gonna do what she’s gotta do” acceptance (or does any disapproval from him just not matter as much).

    • pariskarin

      Hi Ken! I made it here, finally, lol. To answer your questions:

      1. How do the french know when the holiday shopping season has begun?

      Well, I dunno. LOL. Really what I have noticed is that it is about the same as in the States — it starts going full force about a month before Dec 25, which is also about the time it does in the States, too, with Thanksgiving. Christmas lights & specially-decorated windows in Paris go up on or around Nov 20. It’s more or less the same: about a month before.

      2. Now that you know that you can put out the word count, do you think that the pressure would be an aid or distraction if one really wanted to “craft” a story? Where is the line between motivation and inspiration?

      It is a fine line, for sure. I think the time pressure helps people like me who otherwise might not have the self-discipline to create pressure for oneself to write on a schedule. But the pressure can also lead to bad writing, I think, too — only focusing on word count can be a bad thing. What NaNo did was make me aware of the level of work that has to go into writing something of that scope and length of 50k words on up.

      3.You’ve spoke a bit about the battle for affections and perceptions between yourself and your 4yr olds father over this child, but have spoken little about the reactions of the older boy’s father to your life choises. I wonder if time (since you’ve had more time to work these things out with him and your first son) or a different mindset has given him a “she’s gonna do what she’s gotta do” acceptance (or does any disapproval from him just not matter as much).

      With the older ones dad, there is more acceptance, to a point. Maybe because he is of another culture, there is a different mindset, too. One of the mitigating factors is that the eldest lived with me more or less 100% of the time from the time he was 3 until 11. I think that his dad and I have an understanding that it is his turn now. He accepts the responsibility. I really do think his cultural background has a lot to do with this his attitude of resignation. And he has been there for me and for my eldest son in the way that he can and he copes with it.

      Thank you, too, for your other comments and reflections, Ken!

  5. You have inspired me to show my personal blog a little love, just so you know. More to come. Thanks

    • pariskarin

      I read it, Betsy, and loved it! I am glad that you felt inspired. 🙂

  6. Hi Karin – Thanks for stopping by Lunch in Paris – Making far-away choices is never easy for others to understand. I admire that you have maintained the courage of your convictions. And that you have time to explore. As a new mom myself – I feel a happy and fulfilled person is ultimately the best parent – and if Paris does that for you, I hope you boys will understand and even make room for this new richness in their lives.

    • pariskarin

      Thank you, Elizabeth for coming by and commenting! I really appreciate your words here. Many, many have said just the same to me: “I feel a happy and fulfilled person is ultimately the best parent” and I believe and say the same to others, too. Being here *does* do this for me, and so yes, I hope very much that ultimately the boys will understand. Thank you. I really did enjoy reading up at your site, too! 🙂 Congrats on the birth of your son (in the heat! With no fan in the room!! Egads!!!) and may you enjoy new motherhood as much as possible! 😀

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