Friday, May 16, 2008

Twice in Two Years... Enough is Enough!

Yesterday was a jumbled day in more ways than one... I had such focused plans for the day, and a to-do list (in my head anyway -- I never tend to put those things on paper!) to complete, including some more work on the children's story contest, which absolutely MUST be wrapped up in the next week so I can get the winning booklets assembled and ready for the Awards Party on the 31st. I was planning on spending a good part of my day on that, while alt-tabbing back and forth between some regular office work, and catching up on anything else in cyberspace, per my usual...

But I also had a doctor's appointment for my monthly check-up -- 7 months and counting! Although for some reason I appear to have had the due date off by a week -- my doctor has it down as August 5th, and for months now I've been calculating it as July 28th. (After all, who was there when this little bean was conceived -- her or me?!) I waited in the doctor's office for nearly 2 HOURS before I actually saw my OB/GYN. Now, I know she's in great demand and you have to expect these kinds of delays, but two hours seems to be stretching it just a wee bit. I literally fell asleep in the waiting room, if you can believe it. I was reading there for a while, but then started nodding off, surrounded by a dozen other patients waiting their turn. Each time a name was called we'd all look up, surprised that it wasn't yet our turn.

I had expected to be back to the office by 4:00, given that my appointment was at 2:30 and the cabinet médical is only 4 métro stops away. Plus, she usually has me in and out in a flash, just checking to make sure everything is on track and there are no major problems. I had a few issues to address with her, but I've learned now to make it quick... Basically just little typical pregnancy ails (trust me, you don't want to know!), and she gave me the prescriptions for all that I needed. But with the delay, I didn't make it back to the office until nearly 5:30, and all of a sudden I was incredibly behind schedule. And for once I really needed to leave on-time to make it to the SCBWI event I was attending at 7:00 -- all the way on the other side of the Seine, in the Montparnasse neighborhood.

Bridget was warm and wonderful, sharing a bit about her creative process and lots of images of her work -- both in progress and as a finished product. I fell in love with her book, How Do You Make a Baby Smile and knew I had to have it. But when I told Bridget afterwards that I wanted to buy a copy, she told me that she had hoped to give me a copy as a gift for my baby on the way, with (and this is the best part!) her signature and a drawing inside. So she's going to give it to me the next time I see her, probably at the end of the month for the Red Wheelbarrow Contest Awards Party.

Afterwards, I had dinner with a group of SCBWI France members, and headed home exhausted just before midnight -- an exceptionally late night for me these days... But unfortunately, my night was far from over, as terrible news awaited me on my arrival home. Actually, I got a call from my boy when I was in the train, and he had just arrived himself after spending the evening with his father. When he told me what had happened, I was immediately distraught, and completely oblivious to the stares from people around me... He kept saying he was hoping that it was only an attempted break-in, because he couldn't get into the apartment and couldn't yet tell if anything had been taken. But I already knew that he was holding out hope for nothing -- it was clear that it was a burglary. The locks were mangled, just as they had been nearly two years ago in July, barely 6 months or so after we moved into the place. You'd think we would have learned our lesson the first time around... But life gets away from you, and even if the first 6 months after that burglary left us both skittish and suspicious of basically everyone in our neighborhood, a year later we had other things on our minds, namely my boy's heart attack, and then after that my pregnancy...

So many thoughts whirled around in my head as the train dragged its way from one station to the next... What had they taken this time? How bad was the damage? Did they only take insignificant, replaceable things or did they take anything and everything of any sentimental value? I kept trying to tell myself to be rational, to put things in perspective, as obviously the most important thing is that we are safe, healthy and that no one is hurt... physically, anyway. But that still didn't stop me from picturing the worst, and knowing somehow that we wouldn't have gotten off scot free one way or another. Why hadn't we moved sooner? Why hadn't we gotten our butts in gear and made a move HAPPEN? Why had I hemmed and hawed for so long on the few apartments I HAD visited and not made a decision? Why am I so gosh-darn indecisive, PERIOD? My one small consolation, I told myself, was that I had for some random reason grabbed my digital camera that morning, at the last minute as I was running out the door, thinking I might take a few pictures at the SCBWI event. I also had my iPod in my bag, as well as my most important documents... I feared the possible dissappearance of my U.S. Passport, which I don't keep on me at all times, but miraculously they didn't take that, possibly not knowing what value it may have. Or what do I know? Maybe these days people don't steal passports anymore...

In the end, the burglary definitely could have been worse -- things can always be worse, right? But more than anything else, I've come through these experiences feeling like it's definitely a violation of our intimacy, our security... Everything you can imagine it to be, only worse when it actually happens... The drawers turned upside down, clothes -- lingerie, for God's sake -- everywhere, on the floor, scattered on every surface. And on my dresser, where I keep the few pieces of jewelry I own in small pouches in a wooden box, things were topsy-turvy, and I had to go through one by one and see what they had taken. The bedroom is apparently where they spent most of their time, going meticulously through my things to find that rare piece that might actually be worth something. Because trust me, most of my jewelry is sentimentally precious to me, but nothing more than costume jewelry, or sterling silver, my one small luxury. But I do have -- or check that, I did have some gold rings from my childhood, namely one tiny gold signet ring my grandmother gave me when I was 10 years old, with my initials on it, and another ring that once belonged to my grandmother. As well as some earrings that I don't actually wear that often but still held a certain value.

What can you do in these cases? You try to make an inventory of what's missing in order to give it to the police in your statement, and then of course to the insurance company for any possible reimbursement. But unfortunately, this time around, all that was taken was jewelry I've had for years but held onto, once again, more for sentimental value than anything else (also more than likely because we really don't own much of value -- how reassuring is that, huh?!). So I don't have any receipts, nor any recent photos of my wearing the pieces. So no chance of recouping anything for them from the insurance company.

In any case, more than anything else I was just numb from the whole mess, and my stomach was tied in knots. I thought I might get sick last night before finally crawling into bed, but I did finally manage to fall asleep somewhere around 3:00. This morning I woke up feeling not much better, and I knew it was pointless for me to try to go in to work. I rarely call in sick anyway, but this was just one of those times when it had to be done... For my own mental sanity more than anything else. And I needed to get some extra rest as well -- I'm glad I laid down for a while, because a few hours later I started feeling a bit better. My boy took care of the major formalities, including the official statement at the police station as well as the phone calls to our insurance provider and to the locksmith, who spent several hours this afternoon installing a new, heftier system on our door, although it's far from a guaranteed form of protection from any future break-ins. We can only pray that we will be out of here before that happens again...

Because more than anything else, there's that one French expression that just keeps trotting through my mind, and no matter how hard I try I can't seem to get rid of it: "Jamais deux sans trois..." Say it ain't so.

Friday, May 2, 2008

On the Road Again

Tuesday evening I was chatting away with Jenn on the phone when she mentioned that she would be making a little road trip to visit dear Doc of 10, rue de la Charme on May 1st, France's own Labor Day. She wondered if I would be up for joining her on the road for a little adventure and lots of laughter... The clincher to the deal, of course, was that my boyfriend would have the opportunity to knock himself out playing tennis with her husband, while I could goof away the day guilt-free with my pal Jenn. So everyone would come out happy!

And what a day -- full of more silliness and tummy-clutching laughter than I ever could have imagined -- and I'm tellin' ya, I think the baby got a little exercise in there as a result! Armed with what we thought would be a fistful of fun music to keep us company (which fell short as for some reason the car's CD player was on the fritz... Mr. C?!), as well as lots of bottled water, we hit the road fairly bright and early, chattering away for the first half of the trip. I thought the car would put me to sleep, as it tends to do more and more these days, but for some reason I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed yesterday morning, in spite of the lack of caffeine beforehand. My mood really varies from one day to the next!

After locating Doc, the three of us piled into the local brasserie/restaurant, pretty much the only place open on that hallowed workers' day off, and wound up spending the next three hours laughing until tears rolled down our cheeks. I seriously thought the baby might wonder what the heck was going on, because just the day before I had been falling asleep with exhaustion after returning home from work, and here I was guffawing while downing enormous garlic-infused shrimp and glass after glass of -- yes, that's right, water! [What did you think? That I was downing WINE while pregnant? I'm not THAT French, my friends...]

One of the highlights of the afternoon came in the form of the following exchange, which I have faithfully reproduced for your entertainment. Now, just imagine the scene: seated around an ordinary café table are us three gals from North America, drawing all kinds of stares from the local village Frenchies because of our raucous laughter and more than likely the ENGLISH we were speaking... We've just finished our main dishes and, while trying to disguise the hilarity our burping older neighbor is causing us (seriously, you'd think he was having a competition back there, all by his lonesome!), are contemplating the dessert menu. These days dessert pretty much consists of one word for me: C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E, so I was leaning towards a chocolat liegeois, as ice cream was a definite requirement as well. When Doc said she was going to order another particular ice cream speciality of the house, I took a closer look at the menu and realized I might be missing out...

Doc: Yeah, I'm gonna go with the *****.

Me: The *****? Hmm, what's in that? [Looking down I see that not only is there chocolate in that concoction, but coconut as well...] Oooo, I'm going to have to have one of those too!

Jenn: That'll make it three.

Me: Trois *****!! Wait -- who's going to order that?!

[We fall all over ourselves once again as we realize the awkwardness of the order and how pathetically hilarious it sounds... Trust me, at this point it didn't take much to send us into fits of laughter -- we're seriously lucky they didn't kick us out for rowdiness!]

Doc: Seriously, you do the honors!

Me: No way! I couldn't even get that out if I tried!

Jenn: [between gasps] Come on, you know you want to!

Just then, the waitress came over to take our dessert order.

Waitress: Et qu'est-ce qui vous ferait plaisir, mesdames ?

[Ah, the choice of phrasing -- of course! We all looked at each other, completely incapable of holding back the laughter -- I swallowed hard and knew I couldn't get it out without making a complete fool out of myself...]


(The waitress continued to stare down at us patiently yet uncomprehendingly.)

Doc: Trois africaines, s'il vous plaît. [Through gritted teeth -- and then turning to me.] Wimp!!

[Cue laughter once again...]

We gobbled those babies up in mere seconds, and even now I'm regretting not getting a photo of those bowls of perfection...

* Disclaimer: No offense was intended by this exchange! I know it's not exactly PC, but you have to admit it would be funny for ANYONE to have to make such an order in a restaurant!*