Monthly Archives: March 2009

And now you will pay

My homecoming on Saturday was wonderful.  I was greeted with a Welcome Home banner and balloons:

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And also with a cake (made by Tim’s mom), and a homemade sign made by David:

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Margaret ran into the living room, giggling her Margaret giggle, which continued for minutes.

And then the real fun began.

Margaret has decided to punish me for being away for a week.  She’s on me like white on rice. She wants to be carried everywhere, and she throws a tantrum if I put her down for any reason. (Last night when I put her down to make dinner, she screamed, “I want uppies” about a hundred times. I am not exaggerating.) She cries all the time. Real tears. Not fake tears.  She wants to sit on my lap every time I’m sitting down. (I draw the line in the bathroom, so she stand outside screaming at the top of her lungs.)  She orders me around, and if I don’t do exactly as she wants, she cries and screams, choosing a phrase to repeat over and over again, with increasing volume. She is on my last nerve.

David is able to tell me how much he missed me, and so he’s pretty normal. Emma really minded my being gone (of course, it’s fine if she travels for two weeks without me, but when she’s the one left behind, it’s another story. She wanted me to promise never to leave the country again without her.)  But like David, Emma can voice her sadness.

But Margaret is going to make me pay. It’s almost like she’s testing me to see if she can misbehave so much that it will make me leave again.

It both breaks my heart and is so damn frustrating, at the same time.  At times I think that if I hear her repeat the same phrase one more time, I’m going to go out of my mind.

My mother would say that it’s payback for when my parents went to Germany when I was five, and I refused to let her out of my side for over a week.

I know that we will both live through this. And that she will go back to normal within a few days.  And there will come a day when she won’t miss me when I’m gone (or if she does, she won’t admit it.) 

God, give me strength.

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I <3 Paris

But of course, I have a few suggestions to make it even better:

1. “To go” cups. I like to take my coffee with me. The only place to get a coffee to go is at Starbucks, and they are few and far between.

2.  Faster service. I realize that we are way too fast-paced here in America. Like with eating.  But there are times when slow isn’t charming – like when I’m standing in line for the cash register.  The cash register attendants in France are sloooowwww.

3. A law which requires people to clean up after their dogs. I don’t think that requires any further explanation.

4. Stores open in the evenings. Everything seems to close at 6:00.  (I suppose there is some charm in this, but with little free time, except in the evenings, it was a drag.)

Of course, there are a few things that are definitely better in France:

1. Dollar coins (and two dollarcoins). Love them. 

2. Great public transportation – You’re always a few blocks from a Metro station. You can get anywhere by train, and we rarely waited more than 5 minutes for a train. (Except when the workers go on strike, which apparently they do frequently, but fortunately, it didn’t happen while we were there.)

3. Farmers’ Market every day. Always in a different place, of course.  But fresh fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, and cheese every day. Makes my mouth water to think about it.

4. No snow. Not that there’s much we can do about this one, but I wanted to note it anyway, since I came home to snow on Saturday.

That’s my list. For what it’s worth.

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More thoughts on Paris

I’m still processing my trip to Paris. We saw so much, and I learned so much about French and European history, that I need time to process it all. (Although I don’t think I’ll ever keep all of the King Louis straight – what’s the plural of King Louis? – couldn’t they have used a few more names so they didn’t have 18 Louis and 4 Henrys?) 

1. There is nothing subtle about France. As our guide, Fr. Ed Udovic frequently said, the motto of France is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” The palaces, churches, and monuments are over the top. 

In Gothic churches, the middle door always depicts the Last Judgment.  In this one, Cathedral du Notre Dame in Amien, you can actually see the damned being led into the mouth of the Leviathon. Yikes:

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Sacre Coeur on Montmartre. (Just up the hill from the actual Moulin Rouge, which Emma thinks is cool):

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(Moulin Rouge):

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You really can’t get a sense for the scale of Napoleon’s tomb, which is at Invalides. But let’s just say that it’s about 20 times the size that he was:

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Fontainbleu (where Napoleon had the audacity to install a throne):

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2.  Nearly everyone I met was very friendly to Americans.  I know that this was not always the case, but I have to say that people were willing to use whatever English they had to communicate, and most people very helpful.

3. There is a museum for everything in France.  Case in point, we went to the Museum of Public Assistance.  I got the sense that it was not frequently visited – go figure- but I was surprised that it actually contained some interesting things.

The Mona Lisa (this is probably one of the worst photos of the Mona Lisa ever taken, but I wanted to prove that I really was at the Louvre):

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Winged Victory (ditto):

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Nice butt:

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4. There are a lot of churches. Well, maybe it just seemed like there are a lot because we visited every one.   (I may have lost count, but I think we toured ten.) Actually, the more amazing thing is the size of the churches, which according to Fr. Ed contributed to the decline in church attendance in France, which is currently only at 15%.  According to Fr. Ed, the government owned the churches (and still does), and was therefore responsible for building new ones.  It was cheaper to build a few big churches than a lot of small ones, so they built massive churches to serve as many as 50,000 parishoners.  The working-class had to work six days a week, and the last thing they wanted to do on their one day of rest was spend hours traveling to and from church. Not sure if it’s true, but it made sense.

I won’t show every church, but here’s the chapel in the Vincentian Mother House.  St. Vincent’s remains are encased in a wax effigy, which is in a sliver box above the altar. What’s interesting about this chapel is that generally, the sight lines in a Catholic church point to the altar. In this one, every sight line points to Vinny:

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The church of St. Denis, which is the only church in Paris which still has a joubet (the big thingy that separates the altar from the people. They were all removed after Vatican II):

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Window depicting St. Vincent DePaul:

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5. I realized on this trip how little I know about World War I, which Europeans refer to as “The Great War.” (If I’m the only one who didn’t know this, you can skip this paragraph, and we’ll just chalk it up to inadequate history teaching at Shamokin Area High School.) Europe lost 30% of it’s males between the ages of 16-15. In the Battle of Somme, 350,000 men were killed in one day. Every church in France has a World War I monument.

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More tomorrow…

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Wish you were here

Bonjour…we’ve been running around since our arrival in Paris on Saturday morning.

Wow. There are a lot of churches in Paris. And we’re on a mission to see every one. 

Not sure how much I said before about the purpose of this trip.  DePaul University was founded by priests from the Congregation of the Mission, also known as Vincentians (because the order was founded by St. Vincent DePaul.) The Vincentians, and the Daughters of Charity, a “sister” (no pun intended) order of nuns founded by St. Louise De Marillac, ministered to the poor,  sick  and orphaned in France and transformed the way France treated the less fortunate. The Vincentian order has always been small, and now they’re numbers are dwindling. Within 20 years, there will be no more Vincentians, so DePaul is sending groups of faculty and staff on these trips as part of an effort to instill the Vincentian values in the university to prepare for the time when there are no more Vincentians.  (The way that the Vincentian mission translates to a university is in providing access to an excellent education to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it.)

Things I’ve done so far:

1. Eaten a lot

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(This is a photo of me with Marie Donovan, our interim dean of the School of Education. The photo would suggest that we’re drinking a LOT of water on this trip, but we’re actually eating food and drinking wine as well.)

2. Gone to a Gregorian mass at Notre Dame Cathedral.

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(I like this one because it shows the flying buttresses.)

3. Gone to Saint-Chapelle to see the amazingly beautiful stained glass windows.

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(This photo doesn’t do it justice, mainly because I’m a lousy photographer.)

4. Gone to the largest flea market in Paris (disappointing.)

5. Gone to dinner last night at the home of Jim Haynes, an American who has lived in Paris for 30 years and hosts a dinner for up to 50 people in his home every Sunday night. It was nothing like I expected it to be – it’s a small apartment, so we were elbow-to-elbow. But we met interesting people, mostly other Americans and Brits.

6. Had an hours-long bus tour of the city of Paris.

7. Posed for many pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. (Our hotel is right next to it.)

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(Me with my colleague, Denise Mattson.)

The high point of the trip for me so far was today at the Church of St. Laurent.  While we were touring the church, the organist and trumpeter were practicing. The acoustics were magnificent, and it was so beautiful it gave me goose bumps.

Things I haven’t done:

1. Slept very much.

2. Gone running (that’s on the agenda for tomorrow morning, as we’re starting later.) I didn’t bring proper clothing to go running along the Seine, so we’ll see how warm it is. I may wimp out and go to the fitness center in the hotel.

Gotta run…off to eat again!

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Are we there yet?

I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post that I’m leaving for Paris on Friday.  I’m going with a group of DePaul leaders, to spend a week “walking in the footsteps of St. Vincent DePaul.”  (It’s like a pilgrimage, but with less spirituality.)  It’s an all-expenses paid trip to tour Paris, learn about St. Vincent and the Vincentian mission, and get to know more of my colleagues.  Assuming I have Internet access, I will be blogging about my trip next week. Otherwise, expect a very looonnng blog post when I get back.

With two days to go, my anxiety is rising. I think I’ve mentioned before that I do not like to travel, particularly internationally.  (Shorter domestic trips don’t bother me much.)  Actually, it’s not that I don’t like to travel. It’s that I don’t like the thought of traveling. Once I’m there, I’m usually okay, even on long trips.  (I come by this honestly – my dad hated to travel.  The only place he liked to go was the cottage. The man HATED Florida.)

I can’t really explain it.  Part of it is that I don’t like not having my bearings. I’m terrified of getting lost. And since I have a really bad sense of direction, there’s a good chance that I’m going to get lost.  (Yes, on foot.)  I also like to be where all my stuff is. (What can I say – it’s a control thing.) And then you add being away from my kids for a week, separated by an ocean, and it’s enough to pretty much put me over the edge. (I’ve never been a person who lives for travel, but it got worse after September 11, when Tim and I were stranded in London, and Emma was here in Oak Park. )

Strangely enough, I don’t mind flying. I actually kind of like it.  It’s the anticipation of flying that I don’t like.

 I used to put on a happy face and pretend that I liked to travel like normal people do. But that was before I had my revelation that people who always pretend that everything is okay when it’s not are really annoying to be around.  So no more happy face on the travel issue.

It was much less anxiety-producing for me when I was traveling more…I had my airport routine down, had my packing list memorized, knew all the things I needed to do before a trip.   Now that I don’t travel as much, it makes me all disoriented.

Just to clarify, I will be fine once I get to the airport. But with 48 hours to go, I can’t sleep, can’t concentrate (partly due to lack of sleep), and my heart frequently pounds.  It’s bad.

Yesterday, I got some interesting responses to my question. So today I’ll ask another. What’s something that most people in the world think is fun that you find anxiety-producing?

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A list of things I don’t do

My friend Stephanie commented to me on Saturday that she doesn’t know how I do all that I do.  I don’t think I do any more or any less than anyone else does, but I’m very intentional in deciding how I spend my time. (Other people may be every bit as intentional, but I don’t know, since I’m only in my own head and not anyone else’s.)  So then I started thinking about all of the things that other people do that I don’t do. Here’s my list:

1. I don’t clean. I don’t know how to clean. It runs in my family.  (My brother Fred commented one time that if my sister ever wanted to clean, she’d have to take out a book from the library on how you do it. This is true of me as well.) I’m not proud of the fact that I don’t clean, but it is a fact. My cleaning role model is my mom, who would have eliminated meat from the family table before cutting out the expense of the cleaning woman. I do clean the downstairs bathroom every couple of days, and I try to keep the kitchen clean, but other than that, it’s every two weeks when Todja, our wonderful cleaning woman, arrives.

2. I don’t watch much TV, and when I do, I’m intentional about what I watch. Thank you TiVo. (Just FYI, I watch “24”, “30 Rock”, “The Office”, and “Say Yes to the Dress.”)

3. I don’t allow my younger kids to participate in many activities. Granted, this will probably change once they’re in school, and want to take piano lessons, ice skating lessons and play soccer (although I can’t really imagine David playing soccer), and my schedule will have to adjust accordingly. But right now, they’re fine spending all of their free time at home. With me.

4. We don’t go out much. I am a homebody (more on this topic tomorrow, when I talk about my upcoming trip to Paris), and am generally exhausted on the weekends. Thanks to the Internet, I can keep in touch with people without ever leaving the comfort of my house.

5. I don’t ski. Not that people who do ski spend a lot of time doing it, but I just wanted to clarify the fact that I don’t ski. I will never ski. It’s way too dangerous, and it’s humiliating.

6. I don’t garden, decorate, do home improvement projects, or try to fix anything in my house that is any more complicated than changing a light bulb. If you want evidence, just come to our house and it will be immediately evident that I don’t do any of these things.

7. Except for groceries and health and beauty items, I rarely shop. (I find that not shopping really cuts down on the spending.) If I do need something, I buy it on-line whenever possible, and if that’s not possible, and I’m actually in a store, you might want to stay out of my way, because I am a woman on a mission to get in, make a specific purchase, and get out, in as little time as possible.

8. That said, I’m not a discount shopper. I don’t spend my valuable free time driving miles and miles to go to Costco so I can save money. It’s not that I don’t think they have great prices. It’s that I don’t have time to go to these places, and I have found that when I do go, I don’t save money, because I buy things like a 6-pack of duct tape, because it’s SUCH A GOOD PRICE. (Note: we will never use a 6-pack of duct tape in a lifetime – see #6 above.) 

What’s your list of things you don’t do?

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Feeling Pampered now

One person going out of his or her way can make all the difference.

I blogged earlier about my frustration with Pampered Chef; specifically, the Web site navigation, system deficiencies, and customer service wait times.  On Saturday, Tim ran into our friend Mark, who works for Pampered Chef, and told him about my frustrations.  Yesterday at church, Mark brought me a nice Pampered Chef bag, with a baking pan and a recipe book.  He didn’t have to do that.  I never expected him to do that.  I’m sure there’s nothing in his job description about fixing customer complaints.  But because he did that for me, I now have a positive impression of Pampered Chef, when I formerly had a negative one. 

I don’t know if that’s part of the culture at Pampered Chef (my prior experiences with them suggest that maybe it’s not part of the culture), or if it’s just Mark. But it highlights the fact that, particularly in the Internet age, we’re all part of the customer service departments of our organizations.  We may not be able to fix every problem, particularly in a big organization, but the small things matter.

Thanks, Mark.

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