Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Steps and Gifts

I should have kept track of the steps I walked and the stairs I climbed. I lost weight on my birthday trip to Paris. Yes, even with the crepes, the wine, the pain au chocolat, the croissants, the baguettes, the fromage (all multiplied by the eight days we were there and the many meals we ate each day), I lost weight. I rubbed my eyes a few times to make sure I was reading our home scale correctly. Yeah, I did.  And, yeah, I dropped lbs.

Goal number one for the year of 50, lose a few pounds . . .check.

Oh, there are so many more. Reverse the aging on my face will be the next undertaking. That involves quite a few more steps (and an increase in minutes spent on my skin care each morning and night) and quite a few more dollars (or Euros if I chose to go on the French approach to skin care -- a spritz of Evian, a rub of Caudalie serum, a swipe of soin des levres, a bit of nuxe huile moisturizer and I'd be tres chic.

Goal number two for the year of 50, change up the skin care routine and take off lines, spots and all the other bits that age me (yeah, not my birth year) . . . beginning to take place.

Interestingly enough, the steps in Paris and the skin care routine all take money, dollars, Euros.

Goal number three for the year of 50, find additional ways to supplement income . . . hmmmm. I've a few ideas.

One, yes, write more and publish aforementioned writings for a fee (not free).

Two, go back to Paris. Bring one or two outfits. Bring an empty bag for a carry-on to be filled for the way back home. Bring an empty suitcase to fill for the way back home. (Because I am not paying for a checked bag). Shop the flea market and find vintage linens, dishes, flatware and all sorts of other bits to re-sell back in the U.S.

Who's in? We could leave on a Wednesday, shop Thursday through Saturday and fly home Sunday. I know we can find a great deal on a flight. And, I've already the perfect apartment search company to help us find the perfect apartment. The name Paris Perfect. The name matches the service, the experience, the whole thing.

I'd also spend some euros at Monoprix. It is the CVS meets Target meets Walgreens meets Twin Liquors store of your dreams. If only I would have bought more soap, more lip balm, more lotion, more creams, more sponges (yeah, kitchen sponges are a thing).

Because I have buyer's remorse since my trip, I've done some online research. I looked at the map of the flea market and found the three booths I loved so much. All have websites and e-mail addresses. I've found the vintage store down the street from our apartment and will be emailing the owner to find out about some handbags, scarves, sunglasses and shoes. And, since I can be a dog on a bone when it comes to shopping, I researched shopping and shipping from Monoprix. That's a bit tricky. You have to sign up for a service that ships from an address in Paris, to which Monoprix will deliver. Then, you ship it to a U.S. address that then sends to you.

That's a lot of steps. None that will help me lose weight. But the products will help me lose lines and age spots.

Yeah, detail that it feels kind of scammy. The reviews seem legit. Gosh, I wish I had the Paris Perfect greeter's name and contact info. He was so helpful. So friendly. I know he would be so willing to shop and ship for me. No extra steps for him. He lives there.

Goal number four for the year of 50 . . . make a French friend willing to shop and ship. Anyone?

Goal number five for the year of 50 . . . maintain my existing stateside friendships. That's a bit more realistic. And, if they travel to Paris, they'd shop for me . .  no problem. Well, maybe if I would have bought them souvenirs they'd be more likely to shop for me.

But that's not reason to buy souvenirs. I know that, they know that. Surprisingly, I did not stock up on too many souvenirs. I found two special things for me and a few knick knack things. I bought the magnet, ornament and art work. The girls spent their money on snow globes and Eiffel Towers. I found their Easter dresses. We did visit a stationery and papier store where we found a few journals and note pads. A few soaps and pharmacie items rounded out our souvenirs.

I thought about buying Christmas gifts for friends and did not follow through. Ugh. That was a missed opportunity. A few more steps to a few more shops and I probably could have figured that out.

Now for the fourth parts, I'm looking online at the many, many gift guides posted by various bloggers and Instagrammers. Black Friday and Cyber Monday provided hours of ideas and rabbit trails to visit. Lots of steps.

Goal number six for the year of 50 . . . avoid rabbit trails. Steps outside in the beautiful weather should have been the activity. I might have even found a rabbit trail or two. (This would help continue my accomplishment of goal number one as the remaining Halloween candy is still ever so tempting and I'm really not walking miles a day now that I'm back home.)

With gifts at Christmas, my family draws names for the adults. I drew my dad. That's so simple. Not. At. All. Another fishing shirt? Bushels of beef jerky? Those gift guides for dads that list out whiskey stones or trendy kicks (can you imagine Tony with trendy kicks) just don't meet the needs of my gift for my dad.

My nephews list out their wants -- oftentimes, cash. The gifts for Chris and the girls are fairly easy . . .again, there are always lists and requests. For the friends I buy for, I can always find something for them. We all like things monogrammed, have colors and scents we love and treats we all go for again and again. I have found a couple of books this year that I want to share with friends. The Hillary Clinton devotional is a calming read. Five Word Prayers is another read that can help you put prayer into practice. Teachers and other special helpers in our lives are also pretty easy. 'Pashmina' scarves with monograms are always a hit. Starbucks gift cards, work, too.

Then, there's G. He's really tough to buy for because he is particular about clothes. His fishing is serious so I can't find anything for him there. Everything else he wants or would like is expensive and he wouldn't want me to spend that kind of money. (I went to Paris, so maybe I can spring for an expensive gift for him.)

So, here's my gift guide for the Tony's and G's. Difficult to shop for, but really don't need or want anything. Happy to shop for themselves and really just want time with family and friends. No special hobbies or collections. Not trendy. Simply a couple of coaches who like to fish, watch sports and fry fish. Oh, my dad likes to pickle things. But, I'm not about to buy any new fangled canning cookbook or kitchen gadget. He's got his tools that still work.

1. Time . . . yes, it could be a watch or it could be an experience. It could be a calendar or an alarm clock. Really, they just want time with their TV or their family. Carving that out and being present is the best present for time.

2. Story appreciation . . . sure, a journal with a special, limited edition pen would be the best way to archive stories. Or, a video camera to record the recanting of times past. Asking to hear a familiar tome, really enjoying it and committing to pass it along would be the best gift for the story tellers.

3. Working light fixtures, smoke detectors, fuses and appliances . . . hiring a handyman could help, but taking care of those items in between the times they 'break' or stop working would be a great present. G is always called into action when an outlet isn't working or a light bulb goes out. Maybe a box full of bulbs would help? Or better yet, someone else learning how to 'fix' those things so dad isn't always the go to.

4.Good fishing weather and water . . . kind of out of one's control, but that possibility of fishing and being on the water is a gift. And, when the weekend allows, it's a gift that is being used. No need for new fishing shirts or any other kind of gear (lures, hooks, poles, line, waders, what?!) just the weather and water.

5. Peace and quiet . . . well. When the desire is there to watch a show or game on television, there's a need for a bit of quiet. No phones ringing. No questions about things not so relevant to the show or game being watched (I seem to care more about uniforms and mascots while watching a game than G does.) My mom used to ask for peace and cooperation while we were growing up and I find myself craving that as well. I know peace and quiet are what would be a gift for G and my dad.

No real gifts to package, wrap and put under the tree, but gifts that would really be appreciated. Yes, I'll find something for my dad and for G, too. And, they'll love whatever they get.

There are a few steps in my future as I shop for gifts. Steps online and in shops. I wonder if they would want to join me on a trip to Paris?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Chargers and Locks

My countdown app reads 1 day, 21 hours, 21 minutes and 51 seconds. OK, now 44 seconds.

I'm going to Paris for my birthday.

The trip is almost here.

While I've started to overthink things (Qtips? Umbrellas? Scarves for the plane? Luggage tags for carry-ons?), I'm trying to take deep breaths, pause and sit in this moment.

I'm going to Paris for my birthday.

The preparation for this trip began in February when I purchased the airline tickets. A tremendous amount of fourth parts has been dedicated to organizing and figuring out this trip. Even while watching Housewives (Dallas has been so so good), I've been looking through Pinterest for Paris spots, reading travel blogs for great restaurants and figuring out the budget for the trip.

The preparation picked up around the summer when I started thinking about the itinerary. It came into full-blown, 'why do I have to go to work because I need to buy Eiffel Tower tickets and figure out the train schedule to Epernay and do I buy a Paris Visite pass for the Metro now or wait and when will weather.com provide a 10-day outlook?' planning about a month ago.

I made dinner reservations for some of our meals through La Fourchette within the last month. I bought the girls boots a couple of weeks ago. I have travel-size versions of shampoo, conditioner, lotion and plenty of little Wisp toothbrushes for the airplane. I bought Euros this week. I ordered WineSkins and a lock from Amazon in plenty of time to not have to rely on Prime.

The lock bridge doesn't exist anymore in Paris because over the years, the locks became too heavy for the railing. Instead, there are places around the Seine where you can place a lock and toss the key into the river. The girls and I bought a heart lock. We wrote our names and the date of my birthday on it and will lock it into place somewhere in Paris.

I'm going to Paris for my birthday.

Today, I was able to work from home. I had several calls and some reading to catch up on, plus I was able to get my hair colored, cut and styled. Caroline and I did our nails this evening (Camille is up tomorrow). I also got to wear my new sneakers one more day before the trip so I can really break them in for all the walking we will do.

I also did the dry run of packing. We are checking two suitcases -- one with our clothes, the other with coats, scarves, shoes and toiletries. The girls are taking three pairs of shoes each and I'm bringing four pair. Yeah, that's it. We have one carry-on that is loaded with snacks, chargers and probably some American Girls and Barbies. The girls will each carry on a backpack and I'll be toting my new Longchamp expanding bag (so, so happy with it!).

I'm going to Paris for my birthday.

Packing cubes are a God send. I purchased a set and borrowed a set (thanks, Allison . . . I'm going to miss one of my original travel partners . . .) and all of the girls clothes and mine, rolled right up into those cubes. Amazing. Invest in these. I'm a fan. Some of you may get these as gifts. Without these cubes, we could not have fit all our clothes. Eight days of cold-weather clothing for three people takes up some room.

We have a washer and dryer at our apartment so we can do laundry if needed. I'm bringing a foldable, collapsible duffel bag which will hold either souvenirs or dirty clothes on the trip back. So, I may not do laundry. I might have to shop for clothes. Or socks. (Do I have the right socks? Stop overthinking!)

This past week, I looked back into one of my pocket-sized journals. I write Christmas gift lists, vacation days and websites I want to visit in it. I also list out things to accomplish during the year. There are Bible verses and quotes from books. I think these journals are telling of my life. I have more journals than I can count. I have varying sizes, some hardback, some paper bound. Over the years, I can see my journey from child to teen to college student to reporter to married to mother. It's a interesting story.

I'll be sad that G and Chris won't be with me on my birthday. I know I will miss them so much on this trip. We will be Facetiming and texting and I'll be sending photos. (Make sure to set up the international data roaming. And, call the credit card companies. Overthinking.)

We are bringing four portable chargers for our three phones and the single iPad. I've started the charging journey tonight. I have no idea the lifespan of these chargers nor do I really know when they are charged -- green light means charged? What about the blinking white light? Thinking red light or no light means zero charge. One of the reasons I began the charging was to figure out what cords went where and how they fit in the charger and then the device.

Figuring out chargers and carrying luggage are the things G usually takes care of when we go on a family trip. I make the restaurant reservations, create the itinerary and check in for flights. I know the details, but G takes care of the big picture items. Luggage, chargers, how to work the television and getting us all seated together on trains, subways, buses and at restaurants where we don't have a reservation.

I'm going to Paris for my birthday.

My husband and son won't be with me. My girls will be. And, my sisters and two dear lifelong friends. I imagine we will figure out the chargers. I can handle the luggage. We probably won't have time to watch much television. . . evenings at the apartment will be for recapping the day and drinking wine.

I'm going to miss G and Chris. I'll miss my travel buddies and other friends who just couldn't make it.

Maybe that lock will be for more than just the girls and I. I think putting that lock on a bridge in Paris and throwing the key in the river indicating lasting, forever love represents G and Chris, too. It stands for all my family and my friends. That heart lock is a tangible reflection of who I am today and will be on November 15, 2017.

I'm who I am because of my family, my friends, G, Chris, Camille and Caroline. I've lived an incredible 49 and 360-something days.

I didn't accomplish all the items on my Before 50 bucket list I found in one of my journals. I didn't go to Africa or Russia and Lithuania. I didn't run for political office. I haven't published a book.

I have been blessed with a husband who loves me and likes me, a son who is growing up to be a solid man, two daughters who completed my family and who are so precious to us. I have parents and sisters who are rock solid in their love for me and have stood by me through some shaky times. I have dear, dear friends, who I've known most of my life and some who have just come into the picture within the last few years, that make me laugh, cry, share my story, help me navigate life.

My phone will be fully charged, along with my heart. The lock will be placed on a bridge somewhere on the Seine in the heart of Paris -- a lasting, forever love for all of you.

I'm going to Paris for my birthday with all of you.