It is freakin' cold. The trusty puffy coat I bought from the men's section at Old Navy like 7 years ago that adds 10 pounds to all the wrong places is once again my constant companion. Recently I was wahhhing about getting out of bed and facing...who knows what outside....will it be raining (il pleut)? Hailing (il grêle)? or just burr-tastic (tres froid)?
As of Christmas 2014, I will have missed 4 out of the last 5 Christmases at home. Much to my poor mother's dismay, traveling for long periods of time remains one of my most favorite things ever.
|Tree shopping with mom in 2011, my last Christmas|
at home. Joel got to partake in the epic and brutal selection
process for the perfect tree.
|2012 was my worst Christmas ever as I was SO sick and had to work...therefore, there are no photos. So here's one of the many jolly Dunkin' Donuts ads I saw whilst in Korea.|
|Christmas Day, Thailand, 2013. All I wanted was to sit here, drink a piña colada, and chill.|
Interestingly, the epic Christmas excitement has not translated to adulthood. I like Jesus fine, but don't care for going to church nor the depiction of him as a blue-eyed white boy (in the Middle East? Schyeahhh right). Far more intense is my STRONG dislike, inching toward the H word, for overconsumption, particularly calendar-dictated overconsumption. I've boycotted Black Friday for years and have expressed my distinct lack of interest in gifts, unless the person really wants to give me something, because that's just nice and fun. My issue is with the, oh I have to get you something on this particular day, the more the better so you know I really care! mentality. I don't think a person is bad or wrong for thinking that, I think it's so ingrained in our culture that many (most?) of us feel bad or wrong if we don't feel that way.
My favorite part of having Christmas away is that I can buck all the traditions I don't care for and just enjoy the stuff I like.
One complication has popped up this year, however. I babysit two girls, ages 4 and 9, who LOVE stuff. Toys, dolls, coloring books, puppets, costumes, you name it. They haven't yet seen trash island or learned about slave labor (God bless 'em), and they think stuff is simply fun. So I've been facing this dilemma- do I buy them something for Christmas?
|Photo credit: Start With the Heart|
My initial idea was to make some elaborate project, which just didn't happen. I also know that like all children, toys are number one for these little ladies. So, I bundled up and went to the center of town determined to get these little ladies some stuff.
Long story short- I bought no stuff. The Made in China princess toys, the plastic boxes of crap, the overpriced kits they'll forget about in a few months...I just couldn't do it. I wandered from store to store, each bustling with list-carrying adults and children screaming "mama!" from two aisles over. I looked, contemplated, and eventually put the item back, time after time. As you can imagine, this became quite frustrating. Finally, I had a little conversation with myself.
I have been doing A LOT of self-helping lately. I'm drinking the Koolaid of personal improvement all day err day. I'm reading, meditating, affirming, mantra-ing, thanking, questioning, seeking. It's awesome and challenging. Most recently, I discovered Byron Katie. If you don't know who she is, check her out right meow. She wrote Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life, which is truly extraordinary. To super duper sum up her deal, you put all stressful thoughts under Inquiry aka you do The Work by asking four questions. So I started doing this with my shopping dilemma. I figured out that I felt like in order to show the girls that I care, I had to buy them stuff. But that's not who I am, and that's not how I show people I care. I'm their babysitter, not someone else, so I should express love in my own way.
So, I made them an ornament with their family name on it, and a little card to go with it.
|The back. I think they liked it :)|
|The front of the ornament|
|The lights of the Christmas market.|
There was a Saint Nicolas parade last weekend. I went with Céline, my awesome neighbor/language exchange partner/friend and my new friend Martha, a British student working as an Au Pair and taking French classes here in Nancy.
|An American. French and Brit enjoying the festivities (and free soup!)|
|One of the cool mechanical animals. Its eyes moved!|
It turns out that since Nancy has a parade for Christmas every year, they like to change up the theme. Can I just say how much I love France? Enough people were like, "Christmas themed parade AGAIN? Nah, let's do the Renaissance," which was actually the theme a couple years ago. They've also done "tales," which sounds rad, and this year was circus-themed. Mechanical and elaborately painted circus animals, a merry-go-round, mimes, and marching bands (one of which had a penchant for instrumental Lady Gaga) covered the street.
Another fun event that Joel and I attended was the Saint Nicolas "Pyrotechnics Spectacle," which was VERY interesting. A little background about Saint Nicolas: Here, he is NOT Santa. Saint Nicolas is the Patron Saint of Lorraine (the region Nancy is in). He looks like this:
|Credit: Nancy Tourism website|
Clearly confused, I asked one of the girls I babysit to explain it to me. This is the story, verbatim:
|All the main streets were lined with confetti|
"Wait, what? He's buying beer?"
Yeah. But while he's there, the lady says, I am sad because my children have been gone for 7 years. Saint Nicolas says, I will avenge their death. And he goes to the man's house in the woods and says, I really like your chest, can I buy it and everything inside of it? And then he and the man fight. And then Saint Nicolas makes the kids come back to life.
I asked her about the Western music. She shrugged and said he has a donkey so maybe that has something to do with it. Amazing.
I will end this post with a life lesson from the same evening. As I mentioned, it seemed the whole region (including the two of us ) was desperately trying to see the fireworks, but we couldn't see much of anything.
|Our firework view from the plaza...weak sauce!|
Well, like I said I've been on a big self-help kick, and part of that is a No Settling policy. Instead, I go for it and kick as much ass as possible and, most importantly, trust that the universe has my back. So we booked it out of there, and stood just outside the plaza assessing our next move. Then we realized that right there, 30 feet away from the packed view-less space, was an amazing view with hardly anyone there because they all thought they had to get into the plaza to enjoy the show. The experience really resonated with me. Go for it. If you think you're worthy of something and make an effort to get it, rewards follow.
|Our view when we decided to go for it|