connect!

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both sides, now.

Me. Circa 2003.
In the throws of dating in my 20s. 

Having had a mild holiday season, last week we finally got that bone-chilling, stay-at-home, gloom and doom January that sweeps through town every year. While it is nothing compared to what the east coast got this past weekend (I hope everyone stayed safe and warm indoors), with the exception of today, which is mild and sunny, it's been, well, January in Paris. 

Yesterday, to beat the Sunday early evening blues (that I honestly thought would dissipate after high school), the three of us decided to go to our favorite local café for a drink. 

Because it was around 5 o'clock on a Sunday, the place was empty with the exception of a couple sitting at a corner booth drinking tea. We chose a table at a respectful distance from them, only to be told by the server that they had reservations coming, and was asked to sit at the table right next to the couple. 

I usually don't love practically sitting on top of the only other patrons in a restaurant, especially these small Parisian cafés, but in this particular case, I felt bad for them, a young couple in their 20s. I imagined they didn't want a baby sitting right next to them, but they seemed super engaged in their conversation that thankfully they didn't to notice.

Upon minutes of sitting in the empty and not to mention silent café waiting for the menu, it took all of 30 seconds for us to realize that the couple who were so engrossed in their conversation next to us, next to us as in we shared the banquette, next to us as in my arm was rubbing against the guy's bag, was in the process of breaking up. 

Not awkward or anything.

As we sat there, the tension and hushed drama as the girl plead and negotiated in a frantic loud whisper for the guy to stay with her was just painful, as Aurel and I scrambled for small talk to mask the heartbreak that was taking place a mere foot away. At one point I heard her complain that he hasn't "liked" her photos in over a week, and then my heart really broke for her. For both of them actually. Dating in your 20s is already tough. Dating in the heightened age of social media sounds like it must be a nightmare. It is already rife with uncertainty and insecurity, but now you have to worry about "likes." Oy vey. These poor kids.

While it's been years since I've had one of those heart-wrenching breakup talks where the conversation just goes around in circles, I certainly have not forgotten them. We all have a file stored in our memory comprised of all of those breakups and people we've dated, where you just shake your head wondering why. Why was it such a big deal? Why the drama? Because it is a big deal at the time and I understood the pain this girl was feeling right then and there. Being married with a baby certaintly doesn't erase the memories of what I remember to be one of the most confusing times of my life. The pure torture of wanting to work it out with someone who you know in your heart isn't the right one for you while being all dramatic in the corner listening to Wilco's "I am trying to break your heart," sadly made up certain parts of my 20s. (I'm pretty sure I was humming that song in the above picture. I recall not being thrilled on that gorgeous evening on an L.A. rootop bar over ten years ago.) Maybe it's a rite of passage before entering your 30s, and by law of maturity, that you have to have at least one of those really fucked up relationships, sometimes with such an awful person, that when you meet the right one, you cherish them like the preciousness that they are. 

I wanted to scooch closer to the girl and say, "Hi there, you don't know me but I'm you in like, five, maybe ten years. Trust me when I say you will one day look back at this moment and feel empowered that you got through it, and maybe just maybe you will even be friends with this guy. You will bounce back from this." But as her tears dripped into her cold cup of tea as she was getting dumped on a Sunday evening (talk about Sunday night blues...shit), asking the guy on repeat why it wouldn't work out between them, I could see she was lightyears from this reasoning and probably wouldn't want to hear from some exhausted-looking lady who was wearing her baby that t'inquiète, ça va s'arranger! 

As their breakup continued to fill the room, Aurel and I quietly looked back at some of the past relationships we've had that resulted in one of these talks, nodding in recognition the exhaustion of it all. When our drinks finally came, before we took our first sip, we acknowledged our baby who began to squirm around in his sleep, oblivious to the life and experiences he will one day have to trudge through, and smiled with relief that those crappy relationships that you emotionally wear like a battle scar are long behind us. If it weren't for those tests in life, we may have never met, and if we never met we certainly wouldn't have met our baby Michaud. So with that, we clinked our glasses to being a little older, a little more seasoned and for having graduated dating in our 20s. Thankful for being able to look at it from both sides, now.

my best self. rewritten.




I know every new year we say this, but can you believe it's already 2016? How fast it all goes, right? I remember this time last year I felt a bit "off." I could not understand why I wanted to sleep 12 hours a day, felt disenchanted by pretty much everything especially my plan of "Chariots of Fire" slow-motion success and glory I had sketched out for 2015, had an irrational hatred towards lentils (seriously, they were really pissing me off) and a fondness for radioactively colored "foods" like imitation crab and Dorito's. Well, that explanation is sitting over on the couch entertaining himself with his newly discovered feet. With 2015 behind, where I look back at most of it with this wistful nostalgia of being such a special time in my life (forgive the cliché), I'm looking at 2016 and the new year with a different eye than I usually do and rewrote the script a bit. 

I used to start off every year with an exhaustive list of goals, resolutions and how I was going to make that year the best ever and be my best self. While I appreciate the sentiment of self-improvement and achieving goals, by the end of January I'd be burned the fuck out, and just plain sick of "my best self," because to be frank, she's really annoying. My best self doesn't always have a sense of humour because she's too busy being "the best," she sees setbacks as failures instead of experiences, she puts actual importance in the false self-validity that is social media, and she thinks one missed workout will determine her entire summer. In short, she kind of sucks. It's like, take it easy, you're not Madonna. 

For 2016, while I have goals I'd like to achieve, passion projects to continue, baby weight to shed, and places to experience, I'm not merely defined by this and if I don't get around to all of it this year, as the French say, ça va. I'm grateful for the present and what I have right in front of me. In the fall, I received a part-time job that I absolutely adore writing about France for a travel company, I live with my dear love and a mini version of him, I get to carve out time to write and to do some youtube workout video that I scream at, and we got a Vegetti to make those zucchini noodles. It's little things, but it works for me right now.

So I may be little chubbier where in some photos taken over the holidays make me still look pregnant (awesome), my interests may have shifted from Fashion Week to formula, and a high-five worthy goal lies in the proper execution of a goop meal (finding the ingredients I think are half the battle!), but it's just perfect for now, taking it not day by day, but hour by hour. Perhaps this is the evolved version of my best self, the rewrite, and I like this chick. She's fun to be around and definitely more flexible with what life throws her way.

So I wish you a very happy New Year and cheers to your best self! Whatever the script may be...

adventures in baby-raising vol. I: avoid getting kicked out of places.

my new ride.



Getting around Paris with a now almost ten-pound baby attached to me has limited my daily jaunts around the city, keeping me at home more than I'd like to be. It is also cementing the additional baby weight onto me where I feel like I will be in a perpetual state of stretch pants since nothing fits yet. Between the gray bone-chilling weather that is winter in Paris, it taking about an hour to get out of the house where I always forget something and having been recently reminded that we now live in a world where attacks have become a new norm, has made leaving the house increasingly undesirable. 


I look back on my early Paris days of 2009 and marvel at just how carefree life was. I had no attachments and felt safe from senseless acts of violence as I blithely lived out my Paris adventures as if I was Brigitte Bardot. Never did I imagine that I would be a matriarch to a household several arrondisements away from where I started, and living with the fear that I could be helpless in protecting my baby from this new world we live in. Unsettling doesn't even begin to describe how this feels.


When I do leave the house now, after days in when it starts getting a little too "Flowers in the Attic" as I watch the season progress from my window, it is usually for a good reason, like going to the market, the post office, or one day in particular getting my baby's passport photo taken.

I feel like in general getting passport photos taken is such an arduous task. Very few people look attractive faced front and center with their hair tucked behind their ears with their lips pressed together. Can't the standards be changed to something a bit more glamorous, or at least appealing? I feel bad for government officials who have to look at these terrible photos all day long. When I look at my official document photos (and well, photos of me in general at the moment) I wonder, "God, do I really look like this?" My photo on my French resident card is particularly unfortunate. My eyebrows are uneven from an ambitious plucking session where one eye looks like it has a caterpillar sleeping above it, and the other is in an eternal state of inquiry. It is so noticeable that the last time I was at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I was asked what happened by the customs agent who then advised me to always get my eyebrows shaped by a professional. Merci.

On the day of the baby's passport photo, I bundled him up in his Michelin Man puffy coat that sends him in such a screaming frenzy and stuffed him into the carriage, where all you could see was a little head floating in a sea of plush. While he doesn't love being constrained, the soothing nature of the stroller has him asleep within seconds. And thank God for that. I'm not an advanced enough mommy to handle walking down the street impervious to a wailing infant. 

It was a late autumn day where the city under the blanket of foliage looked like it had been gilded with a paint brush. I was wishing that the baby would wake up to see his first autumn; the leaves falling from the trees similar to the way that the first sprinkling of snow falls. 

I arrived at the photography shop that I carefully selected, as they specialize in infant passport photos. Pushing the door with one hand and with the other stabilized on the stroller, it would not open. I tried again, but to no avail. A man inside the shop could be seen through the window watched me struggle, but did not offer much more acknowledgment of my presence than staring at me with indifferance. It was then that it occurred to me that the store was closed for lunch, something after all of these years in France, I still fail to take into account. With ten minutes left of his break, I politely nodded to him in a way that I thought communicated that I respected his break and would wait. I clicked the break of the stroller and took my phone out to do what all new parents do when they have a free moment: take yet another photo of their baby sleeping.

As I was snapping away, hoping that a fresh fallen leaf would find its way onto the stroller for his official "look! baby's first fall" pic, the door of the photography shop jolted open. 

"Qu'est-ce que vous voulez?" The man who had been staring at me through the window said with some force.

Sensing that I had somehow disturbed him, I didn't answer his jarring question asking me what I wanted, and told him that I was more than fine with waiting until he reopened at 3 pm. Since it was such a beautiful day, I had no problem hanging out for another five minutes. He ignored my sincerity and motioned with impatience for me to come in. Okay. Being a new stroller driver, entering the store consisted of a few thuds, bangs and cumbersome maneuvering of my new wheels as I tried to get up the small stoop. Watching the baby shift from side to side as I awkwardly handled his vehicle while the man huffed in my ear from my inexperience only made me nervous, not to mention really hot as I felt like my scarf was slowly trying to strangle me.  

I was asked again what I wanted but this time with a little more gusto, I told him passport photos. 

"French passport photos?" He barked. (Yes, barked.) 

I confirmed French, as well as a set of American sized photos. 

"We don't do that." He said pulling his head back as if my request was simply unheard of. 

I explained that the difference between a French and American photo is merely the sizing by a few millimeters. Surely a photography store is able to create different sized photos, right? 

"No." He insisted, shaking his head to underscore the impossibility.

Okay, no problem. I'll just get a set of photos compatible for French documents, I told him. 

He then peeked in the carriage and flung his arms up in the air.

Now what did we do? 

"Mais, il dort!" He responded to my thoughts. 

Well, of course the baby was sleeping, he was fresh out of the womb. That's what babies do, they sleep, I wanted to tell him. I also wanted to remind him this was my first time taking passport photos for a newborn and came to him because I assumed it was not his. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) I don't have a quick tongue in French and couldn't convey a snippy response to his apparent distaste for us. Once he was done shaming me for having a sleeping newborn baby, I'd had enough and asked him to simply ease up. 

"Doucement, monsieur," I said to him, gently holding up my hands to press against the aggression he was imposing upon me. "Soyez gentil."

"You don't think I am being nice?" He turned to me with wide eyes.

"Well, frankly, not really," I admitted with a shrug. 

"D'accord, on a fini," he said, tripping over the stroller to open the door. "Cassez-vous, alors. Bon journée."

Not quite sure what was going on, as my brain was translating, I stood there frozen in shock. Cassez-vous? Wait, what was going on? He was not just telling me to leave his store but telling me to get the hell out. Cassez-vous! Who says that to a customer? A woman? A new mother? At least he was speaking formally in vous...and then it occurred to me that it was possible he was speaking in plural, which meant his rage was also directed towards a newborn who dared to fall asleep in his "studio." Seriously. What. An. Ass.

With my jaw literally dropped as he stood there holding the door open, he gripped on about how he opened the store five minutes early for me and that I was ungrateful. On the sidewalk I screamed, "I told you to finish! I was in no rush!" but before I could relay even a fraction of my point, the door had been slammed in my face leaving us on the sidewalk with my embassy appointment days away without official passport photos. 

I looked down at the baby whose blue eyes were starting to open, unaware of the mayhem that has just taken place, and was responding to his surroundings. He couldn't process the information fast enough as his eyes flickered to the sounds of cars and pedestrians on the sidewalk, the cool air, and his mother in mild distress grunting in aggravation over getting kicked out of a store. His eyes then followed an gold autumn leaf that trickled from above and fell on to the blanket he was bundled in. He laughed. And it was just perfect. In a world that can be so ugly, sometimes it's worth seeing it through the eyes of a baby's small scope where everything is new and simply beautiful. 

(But really, fuck that guy.) 

we are all paris.




Hi there...if anyone is out there. It has been almost two years since I've posted here and while I'm sure most of the regular readers of this blog have moved on to read about the crazy adventures of another young, wide-eyed and quirky gal who found herself in the City of Light, I've been lucky enough to stay in touch with many of you whom I can call friends of mine, be it in real life or through social media. So whether you are just passing by, or we spoke last week, or we haven't been in touch for I while, I say hello again.


It seems like a lifetime ago, on one fateful New Year’s Day, I asked myself what I wanted for myself for the New Year. What if, I asked myself staring up at the ceiling of my shared Brooklyn apartment, what if I could move to Paris? Heeding to the advice of David Byrne in the Talking Head’s song “Cities” where he sings, “Find a city, find myself a city to live in!”  and having already lived in Olympia, Washington, L.A, and New York, surely Paris was also a suitable candidate in my decade-long quest in finding a city to live in, preferably one I could truly call home.
            
This flicker of an idea was then ignited after happening upon a video of my late-grandmother performing with her jazz band on French television in the late 1960s, and recalling the few times I’d met her, that after living in Paris for over thirty years, she decided that it was one of the greatest cities in the world. As a native-New Yorker, hearing this declaration, intrinsically I raised a skeptical eyebrow, but still, I wanted to know more and decided to "test" the city out.
            
A three-month stint turned into now almost seven years and while Paris has not exactly been the 3x5 postcard that my daydreams convinced me that I would be framed in, my grandmother delivered on her promise that Paris was something to see through the eyes of a resident. Sure it rains over a hundred days out of the year, the brasserie coffee is tangy and bitter, and simple tasks constantly test my vocabulary and patience where learning how to properly explain the complexities of an exploding water pipe would make the difference between a plumber coming sometime that week to at some point that day. But I’ve made it home where the city’s imperfections, like a beauty mark, continue to both intrigue and endear me. 

The tragedies of 2015, however, produce a reality that simply (and admittedly naively) never occurred to me would take place in Paris. As many of you know, I am a new mother. Seven weeks ago I gave birth to a precious little baby boy. He has been our little joy and at times our pocket drama queen who has brought such a special spark to our otherwise quiet life. 


Friday night we were invited to a friend's house near Bastille to introduce our baby. The invitees were a medley of friends celebrating different milestones in their lives: our newlywed friends whom we haven't seen since their wedding over the summer; our friends planning their wedding for next summer; and another couple who is expecting their second child in mere weeks. With the baby inching towards being two months old, we didn't see a problem with taking him out to give my dear pregnant friend a break and go to her. After all, it was not that long ago that I was pregnant and towards the final weeks appreciated having people come to me. 


On the brisk fall eve, we bundled our son up and slid him into the Ergo Baby carrier that my mother insisted on because she is unconvinced that the long piece of fabric that consists of the Boba Wrap will secure her first grandson (despite the many tutorials I have demonstrated.) After a quick stop at Nicholas wine shop, our mini family headed out for a first night out as three since the baby's birth. To put it simply: I was excited. It felt good to be out and to be in a place where I don't feel like I'm playing a role of a mother. I am starting to finally feel like one.


Dinner was what we expected from your typical Parisian social gathering with empty wine bottles steadily outnumbering full ones, charcuterie and cheeses sliced, vinyl records spinning and rooms sporadically clearing from mass cigarette breaks on the balcony, granting me carte blanche to select the next album with my baby nestled quietly and soundly against my chest. 


Around 10 pm, we decided to call it a night and scrolled down the parental checklist to ensure the baby's comfort for the small trek home: diaper changed, pyjamas on, belly full. Check, check, check. As we put our coats on, the host received a text asking if she was okay. Then, (and pardon the reference) like an episode of Gossip Girl, at the same time everyone's phones chimed from Facebook bings, texts notifications, Gmail chimes, phones ringing. Being someone who does not receive many phone calls or even texts, being included in this digital symphony immediately set off an internal alert that something was not right. Why were we all being simultaneously contacted?  


As soon as the news hit that a series of barbaric attacks were taking place not at all far from where we were, without giving it a second thought, I took my coat off; we weren't going anywhere. 


It's not a cliché when they say children are like sponges. With every half hour that passed with more information streaming in and the milieu at our friends' place going from curious to concerned to crucial, my once sound baby appeared to be absorbing every single one of our emotions. He had gone through the two diapers and was quickly filling up his last one. His pyjamas and onesie were soaking wet from sweat, and his eyebrows remained furrowed as he puffed and moaned from the sudden shift of energy. By midnight, we were out of supplies. His last diaper was full, he had long drank the last drop of formula, and I could not offer my breast because I'd had two glasses of wine and needed to wait for it to pass through my system, which would have taken about two hours. So when a baby is in need, what does he do? He cries. Over the news reports, phones ringing, frantic conversations, we had a screaming baby. 


Uber was not picking up passengers, nor were cabs, as Aurélien and our friends made phone calls to get someone to pick us up. This was like new mommy boot camp, putting my newly acquired skills to the test. How could I calm an unconsolable baby during a time of crisis? Thankfully, relief came around 3 am when a cab agreed to get us. Charging down the street towards a taxi in the middle of the night, with my 7-week-old screaming baby in a declared state of emergency, was an experience I could have never predicted when I decided to move to Paris on a hunch.


I thought having been here for Charlie Hebdo where our home is not at all far from the Kosher Marketwas a level of intensity that could not be surpassed, but alas here we are, again, months later with a heightened level of shock, grief, and fear. 



As a general rule of thumb, I avoid sticking my nose in French politics as I still feel like a visitor here even after all these years, however, the events that took place where there was a universal uncertainty as new information was being revealed by the hour created a conformity with me with Paris, and Paris with the rest of the world.

Mirroring the same harrowing emotions I was swelled with weeks succeeding the 9/11 attacks, I was reminded that you don’t need to be a native of a country in despair to feel its sorrow and the overwhelming response of love and support that Paris received worldwide is living proof of that. I simply cannot wrap my mind around some criticism I have read over the French flag Facebook filter just days after such a gruesome attack. Now is not the time to be sanctimonious or analytical over how people chose to offer support, but I suppose my white-knuckle feelings about this are for another blog post.   

Paris, a city rivals the toughness of New York in its resilience, we are keeping our heads up, we are honoring with heavy hearts the victims, and praying for their families as well as our uncertain future. I no longer feel a divide in the city I am proud to call home, as I am not only a foreigner, but I am a mother, I am an Italian-American, I am a New Yorker, I am Charlie, and like everyone who mourned with us worldwide, I am Paris.

and that's a wrap!




It's been way too long. I know. It's embarrassing at this point. Please believe me when I say I'm not sitting back living the high life because I don't work with children anymore. If anything I'm working more than ever by putting all of my energy into writing the second draft of my manuscript. Being the terrible multi-tasker that I am (which is why I always made a terrible personal assistant), I'm incapable of both blogging and writing a decent book. But also, I don't have much to report. My downtime that consists of afternoon walks, reading, or watching reruns of The Sopranos wouldn't make for a thrilling blog post. Weird, right?  But should I have any exciting announcements, this will be the first place I go, that is if anyone is still checking in with moi.

For new readers who happened to stumble upon my little abode, I've categorized popular blog topics that may suit your interests. If you want to read about my 365 days of starting over in Paris after a soul-crushing break up, Day 1 starts here. Or perhaps me getting robbed by a Barbarella psychopath who still has a handful of my shit, those awesome times can be found here. For those wanting some lighter reading, here are some experiences working for French children. And if you're looking for a little romance, both my New York and France wedding photos and stories can be found here.

For my loyal readers of many years, I thank you. Thank you for taking the time to read the mess that was sometimes my life, and for posting your comments during this fantastic three-year run of Ella Coquine and all of her antics. I could not have gotten through many of these challenging times without you and your wisdom. Thank you. I hope one day to meet many of you.

For flash updates of my life in Paris, I can be found on Instagram
and for published work or book updates, please check out my Facebook page or my features link here!

there goes the neighorhood.




Here we are in the midst of another fluctuating summer in Paris. One day it is sunny and blazing hot and the next it's hailstorm pelting icy chunks of rain onto the cars, my head, and the sidewalks. When the sun does come out, I really have to force myself out of the house, away from my manuscript to enjoy these slices o' summer. Because before soon it will be la rentrée, and I'll complain, wondering where the summer went. 

Two weeks ago, a dreary day had unexpectedly turned into a sunny afternoon, beckoning me to go out to enjoy some of it with a trip to the supermarket. In a large tote, I stuffed a reusable Monoprix nylon sac, my wallet and an umbrella...just in case. 

Purposefully I chose the market located 15 minutes away from my house, on the other side of my neighborhood for maximum sunshine and a little low intensity cardio. During this walk, I soaked up the sun admiring how sleepy my area of the 12th gets over the summer, and snapped a few phone photos of the summer flowers blooming on the sides of the prominade plantée

The streets may have sketched the scenes of a quiet summer in the city, the supermarket, however, did not echo this sentiment (maybe this is where everyone was?). 

While doing my shopping, through the windows I caught a glance of what was once that sunny day I had been basking in, had turned suddenly dark and bit threatening. Good thing I had my umbrella, I thought with a shrug before going back to squeezing and smelling mini cantaloupes.

By the time I got to the checkout, the sky had completely opened up and was pouring sheets of rain, drenching any pedestrian that got in the way of its wrath. Knowing that this sort of heavy rain would only laugh at the pocket umbrella I had brought along you know, 'just in case', I had to wait it out. I stood in the supermarket's entrance with my bags and about 10 other customers who like me, weren't willing to brave the sudden extreme weather conditions. 

With nothing to read but a circular left on the floor, with joy, I had discovered that market was promoting an all American-themed food festival! For a limited time only, the market would be offering a selection of American 'delicacies' such as cake pops, peanut butter, onion dip, popcorn, hamburger buns and whoopie pies. Images of 1950's housewives, a route 66 sign, fireworks, and dancing cupcakes with little faces supported the promotion, inciting a small chuckle that my country is still sometimes hued with this image of 1950's American idealism. To be fair, if my mom's local market on Lawg Guyland had "French week", I can only imagine what kind of clichés that would welcome.

Ten minutes in the steaming supermarket entranceway: The rain was not letting up. A man had stolen groceries which prompted the alarm to sound. No one chased after him. The room was getting more humid by the customer. The cashiers were overwhelmed by the volume of customers. The customers were complaining that the cashiers weren't moving fast enough (like there was anywhere to go...) And the alarm continued to sound. Fuck this. I had my jellies on. So, I left.

Two seconds out in the rain, I had immediately regretted my decision to flee. I couldn't go back; that would only accept defeat. Like a warrior I continued on my journey with the knowledge that there was a café up the street. I picked up my pace and began to run, with my groceries pounding against my hip, my tee-shirt at that point being obscenely wet, and drops of rain gathering under my umbrella drip dropping on me.

I made it to the café drenched and cold, and chose a window seat and a glass of pinot noir to warm up with, and to wait for the rain to subside. It did. Only about an hour later. I went to pay the check but the 5€ bill I was certain I had was a melange of coins that did not add up to the 3.50 value of the bill. 

"By any chance can I pay by card?" I asked, and waited for an exasperated response that they only accept cards à partir de 15€.

It came.

I then asked if there was a nearby bank where I could grab some cash. She informed me that there was a bank up the street and around the corner near the Montgallet métro. 

Génial.

"Merci," I said, "I'll be right back."

A look of concern poured down her face and a nod no.

"But you have to pay first." She said, not at all joking.

"Right, but I have to get money first. I only have 2€ in change making me short."

"Hold on, let me ask my manager."

Okay.

The manager, who was pulled away from her smoke break, repeated that I had to pay my bill before leaving to go to the bank. 

"If I could pay my bill I wouldn't need to go to the bank." I think, or at least I hope I effectively communicated in French.

"Can you leave a piece of ID then?"

That seemed a little hardcore for 3.50, I thought before pulling out and handing over my titre de séjour. The manager pulled down her glasses to analyze it before handing it back to me.

"It's expired, Madame."

Judas Priest! It was true. It was expired. The temporary récépissé that I probably should always carry with me before my appointment at La Cité, I had left at home. Can you blame me for not thinking that I was going to need it? She then leaned over the bar, peered into my wallet and saw my California driver's license and a New York Learner's Permit (braces!).

"What about those?" She asked, pointing down to my wallet.

It hadn't even occurred to me to use a piece of American ID. I plucked out my California license, which always reminds me of spending a half day of our honeymoon at the Hollywood DMV and the unexpected expenses it had accrued, and realized that it was worth way more than a glass of pinot noir. While I knew nothing was going to happen to it, I guess I wanted my collateral to be just a little more even. Now it was me who was being the complicated one...

Realizing that I could have gone to the bank two times already, I had come up with a solution! I opened up my bag of groceries pulled out my packet of chicken breasts that were marked at 5.34€ (more expensive than the wine and equally as important to me as them wanting to be paid) and put it on the bar.

"C'est plus cher que le vin. Look," I said pointing to the sticker, "I will be right back. I promise. I'm making chicken parm tonight."

Says the Italian chick from New York...

Ignoring their protests "Madame! Madame! Non!" I left them in what I imagined were their fists pounding in the air and steam coming out of the ears, and took myself to the damn bank. 

Six minutes later, I returned clutching my cash, my chicken waiting for me on the bar, and two pissed off servers still complaining about me. I handed her a ten, waited for the change (which I have to say, felt a little reluctance on her part) scooped my chicken off the counter and wished them a bonne journée

"C'est pas normal," I caught one saying to the other with a gasp as I was exiting. While the other one reduced me to be so américaine.

I wasn't offended by their response, sure, it was bold especially for our quiet little area. The only thing I could not help but wonder, the one thing picking on my mind as I walked home in the cool aftermath of the storm was: Will they will be partaking in the American-themed celebration at the supermarket the following week? Or did it ruin it for them on the day I forgot to give a fuck?


Happy summer from Paris, all!

turning the page.


So that's it, Tuesday was my last day with the little French tots...forever. Can you believe it? A job that was supposed to be temporary stretched out to two years. And as unglamorous as it was, I learned just as much at this job as I did at my fancy shmancy fashion job in New York and at my temp tax office job here in Paris.

Before closing this chapter of my life, I had an appointment to zip to that I had made three months ago. Christening my sparkling new carte vitale, I went to my first ever gynecologist appointment in Paris before heading to final day of school. Unlike these appointments I have experienced in the States, I did not wait an hour in the waiting room listening to Fresh 102.7 and another 15 minutes half-naked and alone in a cold room (Wait, don't the lyrics to that Natalie Imbuglia song kinda go something like this?). 

No, this appointment was speedy, which for Paris, was pretty shocking. I read about a page in my book before being welcomed in personally by the doctor (not a wound-up receptionist barking at patients in the waiting room asking if they have insurance or not.) The check up itself was routine, and when it was done, I proudly handed over my carte vitale and paid 34 in which 23 will be reimbursed. Parfait! Here's however, the part I was not expecting: she handed me a little sealed paper bag and wished me a bonne journée. Merci? 

So, I expect a goody bag at the dentist but at the gynecologist? What could I have possibly needed to-go? I shook the bag, holding it close to my ear in hopes for a clue. Shake, shake. No clues there.

"That is simply your (enter unidentified word in French here) to send to the laboratoire, Madame." She informed me after witnessing the shake. Because I had done so well during the entire appointment, taking about the history of my lady parts all in French (a round of applause!) I didn't want to ruin the fun by asking her to clarify. I nodded and feigned total comprehension with an exaggerated d'accord before shuffling out of her office.

Out on the sidewalk, naturally I called Aurélien who is usually on stand-by for translation purposes when I have these first time appointments. 

"Hey," he picked up on the second ring, "Did everything go okay?"

"Yeah, it was perfect," I said looking down at the bag, "But I think she gave me a bag of my stuff."

"Okay," he lingered, searching for something, anything to say as the French translation 'un sac de mes choses' was not terribly clear.

What also struck me as odd was that this paper envelope containing particles of my cervix that I was instructed to send through the mail did not require a light proof black bag, a biohazard sticker, or anything to officially notify the handlers that it was a medical delivery. Does this seem strange to anyone else?

"Anyway, I have to send it off to "the lab" now (I've kinda of always wanted to say that)," I said looking up at the clock at Daumesnil noticing the minute hand inching closer to the time I needed to be at school. "Merde. I actually really don't know if I can make it. I wasn't expecting to have to send this off myself."

"You probably should do it before you see the kids, I think," he suggested, "Because they are always curious about what's in your bag."

Gross, gross, gross.

"You're right and also, it is hot today. Do you think the heat from the sun will deactivate my cells if I don't send it asap? Is that even possible?" I asked. 

"Just go send it," he said with a nervous chuckle. "Courage."

I went to the closest post office and as usual the line was long and the place was scorching hot. The usually dismal scene of the post office was animated by a man angrily shouting and cursing at the piece of paper he was filling out, another man walking in with a dog the size of a sofa, and the anxiety that came from holding a bag containing my important specimen. I anxiously looked down at my phone and saw that I was cutting it very close. If the métro ran smoothly with no delays and I caught all three transfers without waiting on the platform then I would be there right on time, I calculated. But as I always say: Paris is a city that is not your friend when you're in a rush. Having been burned many times by trying to push her to move faster, where her wrath comes in the form of a stray dog found wandering on the tracks resulting in a 30 minute delay (yes, this did happen once), I had no choice but to forgo the post office.

Why not just be late? What's the big deal? Good question. The last time I was late I got scolded by the director (Il faut pas, Il faut pas!), they wouldn't direct me to the children, I got yelled at by the maids because I didn't say bonjour to them (I was looking for the children, at that moment it really wasn't about them) and I set off an alarm of a side door that I apparently was not supposed to open. So being late was not at all appealing.

I made it to school on time and following the directions I had received earlier from the parents via text, I took the kids home early. What I was expecting to be a house scattered with suitcases and vacation paraphernalia because they were heading off to Italy the following day, was instead a party...in my honor.

A table was set with wine (they know me so well), Champagne (okay, they know me really well), and an assortment of little gifts to thank me. Around the table were the parents, the kids who each handed me a present and thanked me for being the best Lisa ever and Franck who told me that he was relieved that he never has to speak English again, and Aurélien.

Of course I started to cry. I didn't realize how much they all appreciated me and how much they were a part of my life.

As much as these little guys drove me insane by opening the bathroom door when I was on the toilet, sliding destroyed art projects under the door and screaming voilà, flipping out on Boulevard Magenta because I didn't declare that one of them was cozy, and flipping out as we walked through dark hallways during power outage, I'm really going to miss them. How could I not? But now it's off to the next chapter of my Parisian life, whatever that will be. Aurel and I sat in the cab ride home that night, watching the city pass by, just me, him and my bag of cervix. Who knows, maybe my next experience with children will be with my own. Now that's a thought. Let's see what the lab has to say...