Monday, June 28, 2010

Why MC Hammer Pants Aren't Making a Comeback

I once read that the ability to be happy is nothing other than the ability to come to terms with how things change. Though I still haven’t dissected the “how”, I have accepted that time provokes change. It’s inevitable, I get it.

Remember those magical days when the sun was shining, the birds were singing, I had pep in my step, and my French life as an Au Pair was going oh so swimmingly? Well, let’s just write it off as the “Honeymoon Period” and never speak of it again; because as we discussed, things change. There comes a time when you grow out of your favorite pair of shoes; when you realize that McDonalds Happy Meals make you more nauseous than they do happy; when you come to terms with the fact that Hammer Pants will never come back into style (Ditto Overalls, legwarmers (outside of the dance studio), sideways baseball caps and men with piercings); But most of all, there’s a time when it’s blatantly clear that if you keep volunteering as an Au Pair, you’ll end up passive aggressive with a dollop of resentment and wishing that Xanax was sold chocolate covered.

Here’s the truth: I love kids. I really do. (Well, I think I do. Or I did. No, I’m pretty sure I still do. Well, whatever.) This is despite the fact that I really didn’t love one of them very much this morning when they threw a tantrum to be heard three houses down. But as I was saying, I love kids. I love their appreciation for simplicity; for creativity; for everything chocolate and sugar coated. I love baking “Kitchen Sink” cookies with Julia and then packing them up with her book for a picnic in the park (even if my arm is still itching from grass allergies). Or when she pauses to put down her book and superfluously inform me that she has a friend, "Margo, who once lost her tooth, swallowed it and pooped it out a week later.”

I love building Lego houses with Sage and then agreeing with him as he un-rhetorically demands, “Isn’t this the most awesome thing ever, Lolo?!” I love that little-Lauren insists on jogging with me every morning, (even if it does mean I have to wake up an extra hour earlier so she can go). I love pretending that it was the kids who ate all of the gummi-vitamins or that they were the ones who added lemon sorbet and Italian almond biscotti to the grocery list. And I love the verbal acumen they provide when they inform you the mistakes of your dating life, the better choice of shoes to go with that dress, or that your bras are “so much smaller, no, but like a lot smaller than our mom’s.” Thank you, kids. You say the darndest things!

But, in the interest of full disclosure of the things I love, I love me. That's right, I said it! I love my life. I love doing things for my life. And yes, I do love me more than those candid and delightful (when they’re not shattering my ears and my patience) little quislings. (Did I mention we had a very difficult morning?!) A bit arrogant? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely. But when one finally does get to that point of realizing their own time matters, it’s a pretty relieving revelation.

However, for a person who welters between balancing their insidious tendency to please others with their newfound appreciation for their own self, I suppose it’s important to ask how much of yourself you're giving up and if your own needs are still being met. And if they’re not, if you find yourself feeling over extended and underappreciated, it’s time to finish that dream you had the other night where you were in a plane about to go skydiving, but afraid to jump. It’s time to abdicate the despair, embrace the unknown, and trust that the parachute will release.

Time for another change. Time. To. Jump.

  • Thursday, I leave for London
  • Summer weather... finally!
  • Music from the jazz festival last night was amazing!
  • I'm done packing!

Monday, June 21, 2010

La Fête des Pères

“Lolo, where does your dad live?”

“He lives in a land far, far, away called California.” I replied.

“Are you going to see him this weekend for Father’s Day?”

“I wish I could, but much to my surprise, being your nanny hasn’t yet afforded me the opportunity to invest in my own private jet to fly to California.”

“But don’t you think that all he really wants for Father’s Day is a big hug and kiss from you?”

“Julia, you are absolutely right. I’m sure that would be one of the best Father’s Day things I could do.”

So Dad, if you want to fly me back to California for the weekend to receive a hug and kiss from your only daughter, then I’m absolutely okay with it. ;) Until then….

Internet, meet my dad:

He’s Italian. He’s well-dressed. He cooks better than any restaurant I’ve ever been to and in true Italian fashion, he talks with his hands flailing about. He hasn’t been seen without a beard since the late 60’s and I’m fairly certain if he shaved it, I’d unknowingly walk right past him on the street. He loves his chocolate at 72%, his coffee iced, and his kids at his side. If given the opportunity, he would spend his days outside hiking, exploring, adventuring; while passing the night watching The Andy Griffith Show with my brother, myself and a brick of chocolate. He doesn’t lose his temper, he doesn’t raise his voice, and he doesn’t know how to use the turn signal in the car. But it’s okay because he trusts me; trusts me to drive his new car when I’m home, trusts that I’ll choose the right path, trusts that I’ll ask for his help when I need it.

He refuses to let a winter go by without skiing a Black Diamond hill, a summer pass without frequenting the music festivals, or dessert plate with Cannoli get past him. At 59 years old, he can still out-hike his 25 year old daughter on the trails of Montana de Oro; or any wilderness trail for that matter. He’s the type of person to seek the good in people, open up his home and invite them over for dinner and some good conversation. He’s a genuine listener, a first-rate advice-giver, successful therapist, and compassionate father. But more importantly, he knows when to employ each role. He’s balanced, likes his alone time, loves all things organized and has quirks that still make me laugh.

Like his “Double Dress Sock” rule. Six year old Lauren sat with him on the closet floor, getting ready for the respective work and school day, as he intently explained that “You always wear two pairs of dress socks because they’re thinner and us Migliore’s have narrow heels.” As I pulled up my second pair of pink argyles, my mom walked in and interjected:

“Who do you want to drive you to school, today? Mom or Dad?”

“DAD!” I blurted out.

And that was that.

Suffice it to say, I’m a daddy’s girl; always have been. There’s something to be said about the Father-Daughter relationship that differs from the rest. They teach. They console. They support. My dad is the role model who taught me to negotiate fairly, compromise appropriately, and love unconditionally. Instead of fighting, we discuss. Instead of judging, we consider. We listen fully, respond accordingly and as a result, I gained self confidence, mutual respect, and pride in myself.

When I called him New Year's Eve because I was homesick, he called me back an hour later with a Southwest confirmation flight number. When I was going through some emotionally tough times, he planned a Father-Daughter weekend for us in Morro Bay. When I was living in New York, he met me there and watched every dance class. When I was nervous to move to France alone, he offered two weeks of himself to aid the transition, and when I was on the verge of frostbite, tears, and giving up Lyon because of the frigid temperatures, the cancelled trains, and the unaccommodating French family, he gave me his scarf, opened his arms and hugged me tightly. But more importantly, he gives me just enough space to discover things on my own, attempt my own adventures, make my own mistakes, and learn the appropriate lessons.

So this past Father’s Day, while I wish that I could’ve been there sitting with my dad on the front porch with his iced coffee as he completed his weekly crossword puzzle, I know that it’s not about the actual “day” as much as it is about the “times”. .. and I look forward to many more times of traveling, exploring, laughing and learning, with the occasional Cannoli (or two).

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. See you in a few months. In Europe. When you come to visit me. (Oh, I’m sorry, did I just make that public and increase the pressure for you to buy your ticket? That’s right I did!) Love you and "tinking" about you!

  • I just got back from Grenoble. Very cute. Very quaint. Very cold.
  • Today is the "Fete de la musique" and there are music festivals going on all day around France to celebrate Summer Solstice.
  • New and exciting plans in the next month deeming the month of July, the month of travel.
  • It's supposed to be sunny tomorrow.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Girls Night

“Qu’est ce que c’est Girls Night?”

“What do you mean, ‘What’s Girls Night?’ Wait, do they not do that in France? It’s--ya know--girls night! No?.” Hmm, How do I explain this to you in French? “It’s when a group of girl friends go out. Restaurant, bar, club, whatever. Just the girls. No guys… It means that I’m not free tonight.”

It means that Alicia Keys is touring Lyon; that we plan to pass the night at Cosmopolitan Bar, dancing to everything pop, trendy, and Lady Gaga induced; that Sex and the City 2 is finally debuting in France; that I don’t intend to hold back my enthusiasm about any of those for any guy.

Aside from Ms. Alicia Keys (or A-lee-see-a Keys, as the French say) forgetting to invite me up on stage to partake in a duet, the concert was-- you guessed it-- amazing. Dancing the night away at Cosmopolitan Bar was a triumphant success, though I’m pretty sure everyone was hoping I’d stop “singing” (But I’ll worry about then when I relinquish the denial that I really can’t carry a tune). As for the Sex and the City, well, I think my friend Rachel hit the nail on the head when she commented, “It’s a fairy tale life of four bff's with a dollop of Prada and a dash of Manolo that only results in me being bitter about love for no reason at all ….Maybe the bitterness is at the outfits and the ability of these women to look perfectly coiffed 24 hours a day. Then again, this is the work of an army behind the scenes …..”

Maybe it’s true about the fairy tale, because aside from The Kardashians and The Housewives of (Fill in your appropriate city here), I don’t know any posse of women who 1.) Have time to meet for daily lunch martinis 2.) Stop on the way home to purchase 400 dollar pairs of shoes with a columnist’s salary, and 3.) Have one night stands with men that are actually that climatic. But, whatever, maybe it is bitterness.

Not to give it all away up front but the film may have been lacking a little bit of substance. Okay fine, it was lacking all substance and could be summed up as a two hour advertisement for Abu Dhabi, exorbitant footwear, Trojan condoms, and the much-expired-though-let’s-give-her-some-credit-for-trying-to-make-a-comeback-in-that-black-sequin-number-Liza Minnelli. But it was flashy. It was fun. And if being entertained by sparkles, sex and style for 120 minutes is wrong, well then, I don’t want to be right. Plus, I should be allowed one gluttonous day out of the year because for the other 364 days (leap year excluded), I’m pretty grounded. It’s all about balance.

Furthermore, and this is the point: We spend our Saturday nights and 7 Euros seeing those types of movies because albeit superficial, it’s a reminder that life would be pretty drab without friends. And if you’re fortunate enough to have the type of friends who comfort and console, raise your spirits and then their wine glass, make you laugh, make you think, make you care packages, and make a foster home for your dog when you’re away, then you, my friend, are pretty lucky.

I’m lucky. The people I’m friends with are quite extraordinary and they have impeccable taste; after all, they do hang out with me ;) Some are oldies but goodies and go back to the days of daycare and spandex shorts. Others are newcomers, equally great. The ladies I’m friends with are well informed, fiercely committed, and mindfully sound. They’ve been through marriages, divorces, and the Nordstrom’s sale rack on more than a few occasions. They laugh, they cry, they get frustrated and they get even. They run marathons, race for cures and walk off their dessert. They’ve broken hearts, broken nails, broken diets, and at times, been emotionally broken down. But above all else, every single one of my remarkable friends, if asked on a moment’s notice, can use the correct tense of “your” versus “you’re”. .. And really, what more would you want in a friend?!

So if there’s one thing that this au pair gig has taught me, it’s that real friends are well, really indispensible. To all of my incredible friends near and far, Thanks.

  • I feel the need to brag that I'm going to Mont Blanc tomorrow. No, Rachel, I will not be visiting the pen factory.

  • Congratulations to my newly engaged friend who is giving me a say in which bridesmaid dresses I absolutely will not wear!
  • I'm going to England in 3 weeks!

  • My little cousin is graduating high school next week! Congratulations Cathryn!

  • I'm going to bed.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

This Little Piggy...

This little piggy went to the market. That little piggy stayed home. One little piggy had roast beef while the other little piggy had none.

Here’s your hint: I don’t eat beef… And to ruin the riddle of Guess Which Little Piggy Is Which, the one that went to the market is the same little piggy who tends to three children that are not her own (and after being an Au Pair, having 3 kids is so out of the question). Among the other duties this little piggy manages (while the dad piggy stays home to eat the aforementioned roast beef), she somehow got lassoed into also doing the weekly shopping.

One might think that with my love for all things involving a list (To-do lists, packing lists, bucket lists, shopping list, etc…) that I would find grocery shopping to be an enjoyable affair; but with great chagrin, let me just confess that I hate grocery shopping. Yes, my name is Lauren and I would rather spend an entire day listening to a twelve year-old explain the complete teen Twilight saga until my ears bleed, than grocery shop for a family of five (plus moi). I used to enjoy it (the shopping, not the Twilight). In California, I did; but I was also buying for one person (sometimes two, if you include a pudgy dog or the occasional date night). Furthermore, my grocery jaunts took place at a Trader Joes, which is one third the size of France’s Carrefour market and more times than not, I was eligible for the “10 Items or Less” queue.

Along with grocery shopping, I don’t particularly enjoy meal planning (again, that’s aside from the occasional date night). I would be perfectly content eating vegetable omelets with a side of ketchup or Fage Greek yogurt for the rest of my days, resulting in short and succinct trips to the market. With one lap around the perimeter, I could be in and out in less than twenty minutes with a smile and aplomb, on my way to Golden Spoon Frozen Yogurt a few shops down.

Europeans used to shop in a similar manner: frequenting the quaint little markets for the freshest produce, buying just enough to conclude that day’s meal. But somewhere in the timeline (despite The French’s ridicule for all things American), France became Westernized and those quaint little markets transformed, now rendering a shocking resemblance to those famous “Superstores” that are coming to a neighborhood near you! The assortment of products grew but the patience of customers shrunk. The lines became crowded, the shopping transpired into a chore and in some employee’s distorted logic, the oatmeal became situated in the back of the store next to sanitized shelf milk. I don’t get it, either.

But on this particular week, I rebelled against the crowds, the headaches and the Superstore. I said “no” to the enormous Carrefour and “yes” to the enormous Croix Rousse Open Air Market. A place where one will encounter over a hundred vendors selling the freshest produce from French local farmers. A place so popular, that you spend more time searching for street parking than you do completing your shopping list. A place where the people are pleasant, the air is fresh, the cultures are as varied as the produce, and before you know it, you find yourself immersed in conversation with an elderly Jewish vendor about his recent trip to California. A place where after you lug fifteen kilos of fruit and vegetables to your tiny two-door Twingo, you can walk back to the vivacious market and shop the fashion and household-items side. Then, after some two-plus hours have passed and you realize you only paid for thirty minutes of parking, you wrap up your conversations, take one last visual snapshot and make a bee-line for the Twingo.

To which this little piggy living in France, appropriately went oui oui oui all the way home.

  • Bike rides. Specifically, bike rides before the rest of the family awakes in the morning.

  • I may hate grocery shopping but because I do it, I pick out what we eat, resulting in a fridge full of cherry tomatoes calling my name.

  • The sun is out!

  • I just started reading The Help, and so far, so good.

  • New music aka The Resistance CD by Muse... because Lady Gaga will only take a girl so far.

Photo courtesy of (because apparently everything I bring to France either becomes lost or broken. Camera included.)