Friday, May 15, 2009

Vide Greniers, Shoe Greed, P-see-ko-lo-gee, and Hungry for Hugs

That’s a lot of topics…

Spring is here, the season I await all year long, and shockingly, not just for the flowers!  This is also the season when dormant yard sale signs, colorful and variegated as much as any flowery field, pop up all over local telephone poles pointing the best ways to wander over a freshly green land.  Spring cleaning, why do we do it?  To make room for new, fresh springy stuff (like shoes) – and how do we get the money for that?  By selling our old junk, of course!

Alas, alack, I whine again, why must I be in France?  There are no garage sales here. What is the fun of heading out for a hike in the woods if you don’t hit a few yard sales along the way?   As I have mentioned before, navigating is not really my forté, even if André says there is a ‘better’ way to get somewhere, I go the way I know.  This way I don’t get lost.  I only make exceptions when following the lure of yard sale signs, I once followed a particularly well marked sale for about 20 minutes (by car!) before reaching my destination.    I have also been collecting outgrown clothes etc… for months in anticipation of our annual purge, and Zander has toys all bagged and priced to go, go, go – what to do?

Well, it turns out that the French do have something – called a vide grenier  - empty granary? (OKaaay)  They are organized by local groups and you can sign up for a space for a few euros and sell whatever you want.  So, this Sunday we will be hawking our used children’s clothing, old DVD’s and baked goods in the Grand Place of Besancon.  I am also going to do very simple face painting.  Only problem is I don’t have a folding table – guess our stuff will be on the ground – but hey, that’s where you get the best bargains, right?  Zander, after much debate, has agreed to donate 50% of his proceeds to help us to cover the cost of his new eyeglasses.  Daddie thought he should donate it all.  Zander thought he should keep it all, so this is a compromise.  The little man is hoping for a new Lego set with what he gets to keep.  Callie plans to make some brownies to sell and Griffin some gluten free cookies (yum). As for me, I’m hoping for enough cash to make up for the big mistake I made about 2 weeks ago.  I lost my phone.  This means we have been operating on only one phone, which is not good.  We want to order a new one online (40 Euros cheaper than in the store) but, unfortunately they are out of stock.  Since I have to use my own savings for this, I am waiting for the phone to be back IN stock!  But, even at the lower price, this screw-up means those brown shoes I was hoping for will not be forthcoming – unless the vide grenier is a big success – so, for the sake of my shoes, if nothing else, keep your fingers crossed!  Poor André is just along for the ride, and it’s a long ride –the thing goes from 9am to 6pm – somehow I don’t think we’ll be there all day!

So, this week 2 major things happened (besides vide grenier prep, of course).  Zander had his first counselor appointment and we discovered that we probably don’t have to move.  When we first moved here, we were told this place belonged to the military and we couldn’t stay more than a year.  We checked our lease and couldn’t find anything that verified this so André emailed the landlords. They sent us a letter back, received yesterday, reassuring us that we were welcome to stay as long as we wished!  I know you are all itching to do the Meposian Dance of Joy on our behalf (we wanted to link to the Dance of Joy here, but for some reason our Dance of Joy blog entry Aalsmeer, is missing – we can’t figure out why – we were hoping the backup would come through but we only do them weekly and it seems to have disappeared only a few days after posting…. I wonder if I can try to recreate it?? Gosh, I hate computers – end aside). Alas, the situation with our apartment is not so simple.  Olivier says the landlords may be completely wrong, because they are not the same as the military, who actually own the place – so this means that we need to make sure we have the green light from them, as well.   Man, this is so annoying.  I mean, we have it in writing we can stay as long as we want – wouldn’t that hold up in court?  (Yes, I’d rather go to court than pack my life up).  This is just like that freakin’ carte de sejour. We now finally have confirmation that the immigration minister has given approval, which means André’s carte should arrive in another 2 weeks.  Meanwhile we can’t fill out the kids re-registration forms for the following school year without the CAF number which we can’t get without a carte, which we can’t get until they decide to mail it to us. Gives me a headache just re-reading this – try living it!

And then, there was the therapy.  A bit of a back story.  In college, I went to therapy on my own, André went to therapy on his own. We went to therapy together before we were married.   We’ve gone to therapy together a few times since.  We have read a library’s worth of therapy books on emotional intelligence etc...  Zander has been in and out of therapy for the past 3 years as well and we’ve read a bunch of books on raising kids as well.  So, in short, we know therapy.  Does this make us more capable than others?  Not in the slightest.  My hope is all this effort to overcome our natural craziness makes us function at a level that is only slightly more dysfunctional than the average family – rather than us all being tossed into the loony bin (do they still have these or are they out of vogue?).  I mean, let’s face it.  I have serious issues.  André has serious issues.  Family history on both sides is a dark and tortured cave.  Is it any wonder that Zander is a bit out of whack?  Maybe we should have adopted.

But, too late now, we have to deal with what we have and I am not afraid to ask for help.  That is why we had the meeting at school. They hooked us up with an organization to help kids and they have been trying to help us.  What a great concept!  We need this in the US.  You are in trouble and people come to your house, find out what you need and try to help you get it.  They thought it was very important for me to become less isolated, so, they assured me they had resources to help me find a course to a learn to speak French. (Sorry - all full until the fall).  They thought it would be important for Zander to have an activity to help him make friends and integrate with the language and suggested a great drama program (Sorry - all full until the fall).  Now, they’ve succeeded in getting us in to see this psychologist (p-see-kol-o-gee) who helps troubled kids – and even had a translator there to help out.  Maybe third time will be the charm?

Going to a psychologist, this was a positive thing, a comfort zone, even.  I mean, we know our way around a couch (although lying on these is definitely out of vogue – they need to change that saying) Going to our first meeting with Zander’s new therapist, we had in mind our usual concerns.  First, how did we hit it off with her and how did she interact with Zander? (This is the single most important thing, in my mind) Second, our usual questions.  In the beginning, we had to look up such questions on a website (for one example, see: http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/questions-to-ask-your-therapist) but now, no need, they were practically memorized.  What kind of philosophy do you have?  How do you work with children?  What do you do for the parents?  How is payment handled?  etc… etc… etc…  On top of that, of course, we were wondering how the language barrier would be handled. 

Well, have I mentioned lately we are in France?  France, France, France, France, France!!!!   This, my friends, is no ordinary couch.  This is a French couch!  The rapport was not very good between Zander and her – but, at the same time, he was in a room with the counselor, me, André and translator and it was very hard to communicate.  But that was not the real issue.  She didn’t ask any questions as to what Zander’s problems were, or why we were there, how we were trying to deal with things etc….  (NEVER had this experience before with a counselor) and seemed offended by all our questions.  (Although, to her credit, she seemed very intelligent and did try to answer them).  She just didn’t understand WHY we wanted to know what she would do to help Zander – the most we could get out of her was that they would ‘play games’ and ‘talk’ and she wouldn’t be revealing what he said, or telling us what to do at home.   When I asked if it was like play therapy (which Zander has done before) this didn’t translate.   She was all like, you are here for Zander, not for you, why are you asking these questions?  She said she would be willing to talk to us if we wanted, or just to Zander, if we wanted. When I asked why she would want to talk to us, if she wasn’t going to discuss Zander or tell us what to do at home--she got offended again. (Seemed a logical enough question to me)  I tried to backpedal a bit, saying that asking such questions was normal in the US, perhaps this was cultural?  Offended.  She kept saying things like “This is not a quick fix.  I can’t tell you a, b, c and then he will be d – you have to be patient and give it a chance.” I tried to express how we understood it’s not so simple – we weren’t wedded to a particular method other than helping him be happy.  I told her  I had been in therapy before, that I know things take time.  That I am willing and able to invest time and energy into something to get eventual results, but I want to know what I am getting myself into.  Her response “Why?”  ARGH!!!!   Um, doesn’t everyone want to know?  Do most people say, here’s my kid, he’s annoying, good luck and then walk out? 

So, needless to say, we have probably gotten off on the wrong foot with this woman (or maybe I should say, on the wrong planet!), which is not what I wanted to do, for sure.  It is free and it’s what we’ve got, for now, so we’ll just see how it goes for a few weeks.  She doesn’t speak English very well, so I don’t know how she’ll connect with Zander, but only time will tell.  I will go on faith, for a little while anyway.

Finally, I’m lonely.  I know.  It’s only 7 weeks until our month long visit home.  But I miss hugs.  I miss hugs so much.  I never realized how important hugs were until I was thrust into a hugless universe. OK, OK, I know, I still get snuggles from the kids and André but I’m talking about extracurricular hugs here.  In France, people kiss cheeks but only with friends so that’s not happening too much to me anyway – but nobody hugs.  When I lived in Mt. Airy, I got hugged all the time.   My friends at BBY hugged me in the morning at drop-off, my gym friends before or after yoga.  I hugged people I knew that I bumped into on the street or running errands.  I saw my mom and dad once a week and got at least 4 hugs out of that visit – probably more.  And, how could I? I’m forgetting the kids who hugged me.  The BBY kids and Jenks kids and the Cubs Scouts and neighbors and kids I babysat through the co-op all hugged me, some I even got to snuggle and cuddle with.  I think I probably got at least 10 non familial hugs on an average week day.  HUGS are important.  They tell people you care.  They tell people you love them.  They help you feel less isolated. They discourage body odor.  It’s a bit frustrating because I have to fight the urge to hug some of the people I really like here in France.  My tradition is a hug at the beginning and the end of any meeting with a friend.  I am well-versed enough in the culture to just kiss at the beginning but, at the end (when the French person just wants to walk away) I have to fight my urge to hug them and end up doing a strange contortionist type thingie that they must think is some sort of seizure.   So, when you next see me in person, please, give me a hug.  Then, halfway through the conversation, give me another one and, at another random time, then, once again at the end too – I’m sorry but I think I won’t be able to help crying when you do.  Have to store up for another year in the hugless universe.

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