Please Don’t Stop the Rain

What exactly is life? According to my dictionary, life is the existence of an individual human being or animal, the period between the birth and death of a living thing, a biography. We each get one; we each live one. How we choose to live it can be based on our decisions or based on another person’s decisions. How we choose to look at it is based on us and us alone. Two people could have the exact same life: a decent job, small family, financial problems, whatever. One might wake up every morning with a smile on his face, ready to start the day off and looking forward to whatever challenges he might face that day. If bad things come his way, he can get through it; if good things come his way, even better. His family isn’t perfect but they all care about each other, he doesn’t have the greatest job but it still gets them by. The other one might wake up every morning feeling sort of lost, like he needs something more. What he has isn’t good enough; he feels like he should be promoted, his family wasn’t the “trophy family” that he always thought he’d have, he wants a bigger house, all these problems at work are just putting more stress on him. So of course Positive Man goes to work, there are some problems but he handles them with a breeze. He comes back home to a happy family and they have a nice dinner together that evening. Negative Guy goes to work and there are the same problems but he just gets annoyed and doesn’t handle them very well, making him angry for the rest of the day. He goes home to a happy family but because he’s so stressed about work, he blows up at his kids for making too much noise while he’s trying to rest, changing the entire family’s mood for dinnertime. Why did Positive Man have such a better day? Well the answer’s obvious, isn’t it? You can live your life wanting more all the time, thinking that it will make everything better but the truth is, whether you have a bigger house or a better family, it won’t make all of your problems disappear. You can wake up not wanting to go through another day at your job and just look at everything that happens as a plot to make you miserable or you can wake up knowing that today’s going to be another great day because if it isn’t, you will make it be. Why do we always feel the need to point out why life sucks most of the time? Why when talking to friends, you tend to tell them more about what’s bothering you rather than telling them what’s really lifting your spirits? Change one letter in the word Love and it spells out Live. To love life is living; if you’re not enjoying it, you’re not living life at all.

The family left for the weekend so I just did whatever. Friday night, I was watching Don’t Forget the Lyrics! and a very familiar song came about. Go on youtube, look up Marylene by Martin Circus and tell me if you recognize it at all.. you should. Saturday morning, Adriana came over and we made pancakes and two different types of cookies: our own creation-type thing, and double chocolate chip. We (being the greedy people that we are) put them in our own separate bags and hid them in our rooms, away from the families; cookies don’t survive longer than a day with a French family. On Sunday, I just went to church and then went back to Rambouillet, where Adriana and I went out for lunch. I spent a lot of my free time watching the fourth season of Lost. Because I stupidly made a promise not to watch the fifth season until I got home, I have to find other ways to fill my life with my favourite TV show. One of those things, you ask? I bought myself a birthday present. Now what could I buy that is connected to Lost, and makes missing the fifth season so much more worth it? April 25th is Lost in Paris day! Yup, some cast members are coming to Paris and we all watch the first episode of the fifth season together! Of course, I’ll be on a balcony, probably quite far from them but I will be in the same room as some of the actors! I’m so excited and I’m looking forward to seeing which cast members are coming.

Even though the “Dedicated Readers” window doesn’t show it (which you should sign up on if you have not yet done so), there are actually now 40 people registered to read my blog. I don’t know how many people still actually read it on a regular basis but it really is comforting, knowing how many people want to hear about my life in France. We’re almost at the 3-more-months point! I really am looking forward to coming back home and seeing everyone this summer. It’s the last day of March, and April starts tomorrow so everyone, enjoy it! Love always
Please Don’t Stop the Rain – James Morrison

Sleepyhead

So we’re finally coming up to that day when you guys can start pulling out your “100-day Countdown” calendars that I know you’ve all been keeping in the bottom drawer of your desks. Saturday, March 28th –my sister’s birthday- is the day that I’ve officially been here for 200 days and the day that I have 100 days left. It’s so weird that I’m going to be counting down in double digit numbers soon enough and it makes me realize that I really don’t have that much time left here. Then again, I don’t really have anything that can make that time go slower. Everyone knows the saying “Time goes by when you’re having fun” and if you think about it, in April, I have my vacation and my sister comes (SO excited!). In May, Steph, Donna, and Katie are coming to visit (wahoo!) and then I really only have to get through June, which is my last month here. Is it even possible to avoid having fun while being here? And then, why would I even want to do that?

Saturday, I went out for lunch in Versailles and then explored a cute little area of Paris for the afternoon. On Sunday, I went to church and then met up with Adriana and some of her friends for lunch. Adriana and I went back to Rambouillet, went to our usual café and then went to the movie Gran Torino, which was actually not too bad. This is already the last week of March, which is kind of exciting because April’s the best month of the year! It’ll be nice once it comes.

I remember a few years ago at camp, a pastor said a sermon that I have never forgotten. It was a story about a father and son talking about climbing mountains. The point of the story was that in order to get to a higher peak, you have to climb down the mountain you’re on and then climb up the other one; there’s no shortcut. I’ve always kept it in mind, usually when I wasn’t feeling so good about life and I always thought to myself, “It’s okay; I’m only getting to the bottom of the mountain. Things will get better soon.” At this point in time, I can only think, “It’s going to be a long way down from where I am now.” I mean, things only keep getting better and better but I know at some point or another, it’ll have to go back down again. I’m just hoping that instead of like last time when I tripped over a tree root and fell off the edge of the cliff, there might just be a nice little, shaky suspension bridge partway down, connecting me to the next mountain. And to think that each mountain gets higher and higher… I’m only looking forward to it.
Sleepyhead – Passion Pit

Electric Feel

There are two words in the English language that I believe should not exist together. You hear the start of it and get so happy and excited and then the second word comes and your happiness goes to an all-time low (unless you’re of course my mom, or crazy). Think you know what I mean? Okay, let’s try this. Spring (yes, you can feel it: the warmth, the birds chirping, lemonade and popsicles, a whole new beginning), oh and just wait for it: Cleaning. Felt that huge drop in happiness? I have somehow always managed to get out of spring cleaning almost every year; I think my parents eventually gave up in trying to get me to do it because they knew there would be no way to convince me into doing it. This year however, was a change. My arm muscles are really almost too hard from all the sweeping, raking and mopping I’ve been doing. Gardening has really not been one of my favourite things to do. I’m one of those people who don’t really see the point in planting a flower. I mean if it’s some kind of fruit or vegetable, I could help a bit but really, not my thing. Anne assured me it won’t be an everyday thing; let’s hope so.

So my week… well it was pretty normal. On Wednesday, I went for a really long walk in new shoes. Not the best idea. I have a pretty high pain-threshold, which in some ways can be a good thing but since I wasn’t in THAT much pain, I just kept walking and walking. When the pain started getting to me, I stopped to take off my shoes, thinking that my feet would just be a little bit swollen. Definitely huge open wounds on both heels and they are still there. I’ve had quite a bit of trouble walking or doing anything for the past week and they’re not scabbing over or anything. On Saturday, the family left for the rest of the weekend. Adriana and I went to Paris to go to a craft store and buy crafts! Afterwards, we went back to Rambouillet to buy supper at the grocery store, which consisted of chicken nuggets, pop, chips (Bolognaise flavour – as if they have dill pickle here), and mint chocolate chip ice cream. How healthy, eh? Anyway, we met up with Aimee and ate our supper while watching The Little Mermaid in French, which was definitely interesting with the French songs. We started watching 27 Dresses afterwards and didn’t even have time to do the crafts; I guess we have something we can do next weekend. Sunday, I went to church and then just came straight back home because I couldn’t walk.

And back to the nice word again (don’t worry, I won’t connect it with that other one): Spring. Spring in France is absolutely wonderful! Today, we had a high of 18 and it was almost TOO hot. It’s not even officially Spring for another four days but it definitely feels like it. It’s so nice to sit outside the café, have a drink, and listen to the music of the lonely carousel (which has a kid on it every once in a while if it’s lucky). I now know what Spring in March actually feels like and I love it! It’s so weird to think that March is already almost done but I hope everyone enjoys the last of it! Love always
Electric Feel – MGMT

Traveling Light

Friday was a good day for me and I just felt a happiness that could not be destroyed no matter what happened. I really don’t know what it was that day but I just couldn’t stop smiling and I just felt superpositive about everything possible. I decided to take advantage of my mood by trying to start a conversation with the waiter at our usual café (yeah, definitely didn’t turn out too well) but it was really for the fun of it and even though he went up to our other waiter during the conversation while he was “thinking” of an answer to the question I asked him and they both started laughing, I think they both found me and Adriana quite entertaining. And even though we did make fools of ourselves with our horrible grammar, I’d like to think that we made their day complete. However, maybe we’ll stay away from that café for a couple of days… It was Friday that something happened that I’ve never felt before in my life. Back to when I first met Antoine and he would absolutely refuse to say “hello” to me or when I used to pick him up from school and he’d say, “You’re not supposed to be here, my mom’s supposed to get me” or when I’d try to play with him and he would totally leave me so he could play alone, I really didn’t care at all. I always thought, “Okay, I’m here to be in France, not to be best friends with a four-year-old. If he hates me, there’s nothing I can do about it. He hated his last au pair, how could I be any different?” But slowly, he started to respect me so I would return that respect. His family still had trouble with him; his mom always explained that his father was the only one who Antoine liked in the world so I still gave him his space. He started talking to me; he started answering my questions with answers other than no and hugs became a normal thing. Soon, Antoine and Alice always trying to fight against me turned to Antoine always taking my side against Alice, “No, Janelle gets to decide; she’s older than you.” I really did feel flattered because this little boy who wouldn’t let anyone into his own world was finally letting me see a part of it. The little things mean the most in life and it started with those random hugs. Last week at the dinner table, he said to me, “Tu es très belle, Janelle” and my heart melted. Friday morning, I was walking him to school and we were about a metre away from each other and a dog barked. He got so scared, ran and grabbed me. I was so taken aback that a little boy would run to me and depend on me to save him from one of his big fears; I mean, when you’re a kid, that could be the scariest thing in the world and you’re trusting someone else to keep you away from that danger. Something definitely opened inside of me at that moment. That afternoon, Antoine and I were doing puzzles and just really enjoying each other’s company and that’s when it really hit me. I was really starting to care for him and I felt it from him as well, an unconditional love. I know that mothers always talk about how you can never love your own kid more than anyone else and it’s a different kind of love, a love that no one else would understand. But that Friday afternoon, for a few split seconds, I think I felt it. I know that it’s probably a thousand times stronger when you’re actually a mom but I really do think there was something there. I know I’m making a difference in this child’s life and I didn’t think before I came here that the kids would really affect mine but you have no idea how much they have. To feel that these kids depend on you and want your approval so bad, it’s one of the best feelings ever. And then I wonder if they’ll remember me; I don’t remember much from when I was four and six, nothing of significance anyway. But really I guess from me being here, it could very well shape them into who they’ll be in the future and I really hope that I had an impact on that in a good way. That evening when Alice told everyone that a lot of times, Antoine eats in the cafeteria alone, I was concerned. I mean, I really am probably one of his only friends. Every time his mom asks who he wants to invite to his birthday party, there’s never an answer. How devastated will he be when in four months, I just pack up my bags and leave, possibly never to see him again? I am dreading that day; I really am. I mean, I’m of course still looking forward to coming home and seeing everyone but to leave these kids is really going to be so difficult. PS The only picture I have this week is of Elsa at 4 months old; she LOVES to smile! ☺

On Saturday, Adriana, Aimee and I went to Versailles to go to our usual Versailles spot (with the most magnificent 10 dollar chocolate mousse). We then shopped around the mall before realizing that we were all too tired to keep on going. Today, I went to church and then went out for lunch with a friend. Afterwards, we went to the movie Marley & Me and yes, I did cry. What’s with me and crying during every single movie possible these days? I went back to Rambouillet where I went out for dinner with Adriana (yummy ice cream) and now I’m here!

As of today, it’s officially been six months since I’ve been gone. When I first signed up for this, I really didn’t look into the fact of how long ten months would actually be. I don’t think I really realized what I was getting myself into. At the time when I signed up to do this, I really was a different person and I don’t mean that in a sense that I was different than I am now even though that is the case but I mean I really wasn’t myself. I’m not the type to share; I feel like I have to be strong in every situation so this is really something that many people who were close to me might have noticed or it could be something that many of you had no idea. Starting almost exactly a year ago in February 2008, something really took over me. I felt like I had lost everything, like nothing mattered anymore, and that I was really hurting those around me just by being there. I really felt like the worst person in the world and I felt like my nonexistence would be better off for everyone. Not only that but everyone who was around me always seemed to get on my nerves for even the littlest things and I hated myself for getting so angry. I knew that something was taking over my mind and my body but I really didn’t know what to do about it and really kept it inside which was one of the hardest things to have to go through alone. I mean really, I have a great family, great friends, I have joys and hobbies, I really was blessed with an amazing life but at that moment in time, I really felt like I didn’t deserve any of it because I was that bad of a person. I went through it for a couple months by myself, keeping everything inside and trying to appear like everything was okay but soon I couldn’t handle this monster that was taking over me. I confided in my mom and we went to the doctor twice where they did many tests and said there was absolutely nothing wrong. I wasn’t convinced at all. I researched and researched during my spare time and finally came up with the solution, showed my mom what I thought it was and we went back to the doctor. They did some more tests and the next week when I was in Quebec, my mom called and said the doctor called with the results. The doctor plainly said to my mom, “You have a very smart girl.” Turns out, I was diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) with something that had depression as one of the symptoms and it was completely taking over my mind and body. Obviously during that time, I signed up for au pairing in France; I really just needed to get away. It took four months of being here for me to feel like my real self again, to feel happy for no reason at all and just to know that people DO miss me, and I DO deserve that. To say something that only the very closest people to me know, and now saying it to every single person who reads my blog, it’s hard; it really is. I’m really not writing this for people to pity me or say nice things; I’m saying it because I thought it might answer a few questions and I feel like the people who have been in my life deserve to know. At this point in time, I can easily tell when it comes back and it tries to take over me but being here has just made me that much stronger and I now know how to fight back. You know, we’re all people. We all go through our ups and downs and nobody’s perfect. I know some of my closest friends noticed a difference as much as I tried to hide it and I really do thank you for understanding. I’ve been in France for half of a year. You take an 18-year-old girl who has family and friends that she sees everyday and put her in a new environment with a new language, new rules and completely new people and changes are bound to happen. I’m now so incredibly thankful for everything that I took for granted but ten months is a long time. I think my thoughts when I first came here were that I would live my life here while the rest of the world would just freeze until I came back home. That’s not the case at all and it really does scare me; I know everyone has changed in their own little ways but I think I could be the one who changed the most of all, especially considering I still wasn’t myself when I left. I am a strong believer of everything happening for a reason, as I know many of you are aware and really, if nothing happened to me during those long five months of last year, I most likely wouldn’t be where I am today. Many people have told me that they’re so proud of me for being so independent and that I’m brave and that they really look up to me but in all honesty, THAT’S something I don’t think I deserve. I didn’t do this to be anyone’s hero or to make myself seem like a strong or good person; I did it because it’s what I needed the most for me and me only. It’s been half of a year that I’ve went without seeing anyone close to me, except for the two weeks that my mom came in November. Has it been hard? Yes, in a way… The first two months were the hardest of all but now I’m at the point where it just seems right. I feel so blessed to have been brought here and I feel like it’s changing me, and my life, for the better.
Traveling Light – Joel Hanson & Sara Groves