Sunday, 4 March 2018


Just because I've taken a time out from my day to day life to come live in Paris for a year, time marches on for everyone else. Family and friends are still going to work. They are still planning vacations. Seb and Charlie are still going to school.playing with their friends, playing Minecraft and PlayStation.  People are still coping with the daily trails and tribulations that make up our days.  They are also still enjoying the daily gifts that give us pleasure ~ they are savouring delicious meals with friends, reading a good book, watching their kids play, going to  concerts and movies, catching up on the latest must see series on Netflix ~ all the mundane stuff that gets us from day to day as time marches on. So as my life continues in Paris, so does everyone else's life continue where they are.

And Abby is still fighting cancer.

Everyone who knows me knows that my granddaughter was diagnosed with stage 4, high risk Neuroblastoma in November 2016.  She has endured very aggressive treatment for the last 14 months.  Chemo. Surgery. Stem cel transplant. Radiation. Immunotherapy. Countless procedures that no parent should ever have to witness their child suffer through.

But here's the thing ~ as the adults fret, and worry, and cry and hope and pray ~ this little angel just keeps living her life. She watches Barney and she holds on to her WhoWho (who has accompanied her every single minute of every single procedure every single time), she laughs, she smiles, she sleeps and I hope she dreams.  I hope she dreams of the times when it doesn't hurt, of those days when there are no pokes and prods and people with masks surrounding her.  She is my hero.  She reminds me that no matter how bad things are, you get up and you carry on.  She gives me strength and courage and grace.

I'm not sure why I'm writing about Abby today.  Well, part of me does. Tomorrow, she goes back to CHEO (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario) for the week.  She finished her last treatments in early January.  Now come the scans and bone marrow tests and MRIs to tell us if the torture she has endured for 14 months did its job.  It's hard to explain how I'm feeling right now.  Part of me can't wait to hear the results.  And part of me wishes time would stop right now.  It's so scary to wait for news that will decide a little child's life. Not being home makes it worse.  There's guilt that I'm not there for my son and for Abby. Derek knows I am thinking about them both every minute of the day, but I feel like I should be there.  Logically, I know that nothing will change if I get on a plane and fly home.  It won't change or influence the test results.  But I wish I could just hold Abby in my arms and  whisper how much I love her.  So I am getting Derek to do that for me every day.

Ah, Derek ~ my son has been so amazingly brave and strong for his daughter during this ordeal.  He has been by her side constantly and has seen and heard and experienced stuff no parent should ever see or hear or experience.  He has endured personal hardship in addition to Abby's cancer that would have brought most people to their knees.  And yet he keeps going.  His love and devotion to his daughter know absolutely no bounds.  He has given up so much to be able to be Abby's comfort, her rock, the face she sees when she wakes up in the middle of the night or the arms who hold her while she suffers through yet another poke or prod.  My fears about this week and the results they might bring include what will happen to Derek.  I can't imagine what is going through his mind the last few days and how he will manage in the coming week.  I wish I could take all his pain and worry and anguish away.  I wish I could give him back this time with Abby, pain and cancer free, where he could just enjoy time with his little baby girl like any dad and daughter should be able to enjoy.  I can't do that either.  All I can do is hold them both in my thoughts and hope that science and medicine did their job.

On that note, I also have to give thanks to our Canadian single payer health care system.  As horrific as the past 15 months has been, the one thing we never had to worry about was how we were going to pay for Abby's care and treatment. I'm not going to use this to preach or attack other medical systems.  I will simply say I am eternally grateful for the excellent and compassionate care that Abby received from her nurses, her oncology team, the volunteers who gave Derek some much needed breaks, the people at Ronald McDonald house, Graham, who co-ordinated her treatments and appointments, the Lamplighters who helped out with an iPad so Abby could watch her beloved Barney, and so many other people who were part of Abby's journey.  Abby's long road has been shared with so many talented, dedicated, kind and compassionate people.  I have always believed that whatever the situation, no matter how  bad it is, there is always something to be grateful for.  I am truly grateful that Abby was born in Canada, where we have access to quality first rate heath care, and for the people who have worked tirelessly to help heal her.

So this week, we will hopefully get some answers.  I never ask for much but today, I will ask  whoever reads this blog to think of Abby and her family and to send good thoughts to the universe on this little girl's behalf.

Abby and her proud new daddy

Mrs Claus and her granddaughter

A dad and his girl

always holding on to WhoWho

Peek a boo :)

Abby's 2nd birthday :)

This face!

happy grandma

this girl is styling!

another medical procedure, another WhoWho moment

cuddling Abby a few days before I left for Paris

My 3 loves ~ Charlie, Seb and Abby

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

It's Later Than You Think..............

Things that have made me happy the last few days ~

Le Salon  ~ every Wednesday, a group of us gather at a little brasserie on Ile St Louis in the late afternoon to share a drink and talk about whatever strikes our fancy.  Sometimes 10 people show up, sometimes 2.  Regardless, it's a way to connect to friends who are either living here or who are passing through on vacation.  We usually end up laughing until we snort (well, I do ;) ). But we also have these wonderful discussions about politics, religion, the orange monster in the US, what's going on in our world (both personally and the one we all live in).  It's something I look forward to every week.  I'm not always able to make it, but every time I go, I leave feeling happy and so blessed to know so many people who love Paris the way I do and who are exactly the kind of people I want to surround myself with ~ kind, compassionate, intelligent, witty and funny as hell.  Last week's Salon was no different ~ there were only 4 of us (the frigid February weather might have had something to do with that) but we chatted and drank and laughed for a few hours. #goodformysoul :)

Sharing meals with friends ~ whether it was delicious homemade dumplings at a tiny place in the upper Marais, a perfect French classic meal at a perfect Parisian bistro in the 6th or a homemade meal in a sumptuous apartment in the 7th with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, it wasn't the food that gave me joy ~ it was the people I shared that food with. So much of the pleasure I derive from being in Paris is the time I spend with friends.  These friends feed my soul, they keep me grounded, they remind me of why I took the biggest chance I've ever taken in my life and came to Paris for a year.  They make me laugh, they sympathize, they listen and they share.  They do what friends do ~ they are there for you, in good times and in bad.  They make me realize how much I have to be grateful for and remind me to never take anything for granted.  

Sharing a drink on a rainy Monday evening 


sun setting behind the Iron Lady

my view as I enjoyed dinner with two cherished friends

Meeting new people ~ I finally met a longtime Facebook friend on Wednesday and although we didn't have a long time as we both had to be somewhere else within the hour, it was one of those times where you just click.  It felt like we had known each other for years and the conversation just flowed so easily.  After our goodbye hugs, I walked from the 5th to Le Salon on Ile St Louis and this was my view:

This was one of those moments of pure joy ~ going from one friend to join others, the sun was shining and reflecting off the Seine, the blue sky filled the space around Notre Dame, and all was right with my world.  At that moment, I was exactly where I needed to be and doing exactly what I wanted to be doing. 

On Sunday, I joined 4 friends and we took the train to Provins, a medieval town about 80 kilometres South-East of Paris.  As an aside, my monthly Navigo pass includes Zones 1-5 and so I was able to take this journey for free.  No advance tickets needed, just show up at Gare de l'Est, trains depart and return hourly. Oh how I love my Navigo, let me count the ways lol.

Although it was brutally cold and windy, it was also one of those cloudless sunny days which yielded an amazing blue sky perfect for taking photos.  I was dressed warmly in my NorthFace down coat and Bogs boots, and added a hat, scarf and gloves to ensure I could walk in the frigid temperatures for hours.  And we did.  We stopped for a 2 hour lunch (2 hours because the service was sweetly very slow, but we didn't care because we were warm, drinking wine and making new memories with wonderful friends. :). We spent the rest of the time wandering this way and that, enjoying the views, laughing and getting to know each other better and just having the time of our lives.  The afternoon flew back and soon it was time to get the (free!!!) train back to Paris.  I had a date (!) and needed to ready myself (as much as a 57 year old grandmother can ready herself lol).  This day was just another example of the joy I get from being here ~ of course for the pleasure of being in a Unesco designated destination, but mostly for being able to share this time with friends and build common memories ~ and laugh.  OMG, did we laugh ~ on the train there and back, walking around frozen to the core (with memorable descriptions of how the cold was affecting our various body parts), at lunch despite (maybe because of) the sweet, very slow service (and non-Parisian prices!!) and just walking around, not really caring where we were going, just enjoying the moment and the people we were with.  A truly wonderful day and I will be going back to Provins when it's a little less cold. (My cheap Canadian ass is already looking at where else I can go for free with my Navigo ~ Versailles is on the radar.  Well, I almost made it there last week but the RER had other plans, so my friend and I just ended up back in Paris, eating and drinking wine.  Ah, how we suffer ;) )

just a little 1000 year old church.  That's all

Honestly, could that sky be any bluer!!!

Provins town square

the medieval fortifications that surround the old part of town

On a more personal note, it was a happy and sad week.  Not going to share more than that, but it is what it is.  Life is change.  Things happen to  bring you joy and things also happen to remind you that life happens when you are making plans.  We can't control anything that happens.  All we can control is how we react to those changes and try to live this short but amazing life we have been given.  We try to be there for the people we love in the best way we can.  I try to remember that I'm not responsible for everything that happens and that even if I was somewhere else, those things would still happen.  I have no control over any of that.  The only thing I can control is my reaction and to ensure that those I love know I love them and would do anything for them.  Besides that, I get to live my life the way I need to, at this moment.  Nothing is forever, and this time in Paris isn't forever either.  But it's here and it's now.  It's what I needed to be able to do to soothe my soul and be able to move forward with no regrets. A good friend constantly reminds me that "It's Later than You Think" ~ so live your life, here and now.  It's all part of Letting It Be :). I'll leave you all with a few more moments that gave me joy and happiness this week: 

a sliver of moon in the amazing blue sky of dusk

29 Avenue Rapp ~ an amazing Art Deco building that has to be seen to be believed

I took a walk through the back streets of Montmartre yesterday despite the cold ~ I was rewarded by this view that brought me to tears and reminded me I am where I need to be at this moment

A random little door that gave me joy

I just loved the cobweb peephole and the owl door handle

yes, it does :)

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Sunday morning musings..........

Just a few random thoughts before I go out to enjoy a sunny afternoon in Paris..........

I continue to find moments of pure joy, where I just let myself go and nothing else matters except the beauty in front of me at that instant.  Sometimes it's walking down a street and realizing I live in Paris.  Sometimes it's happening upon something totally unexpected, like a free exhibit in a tiny library where I learn about a new artist.  Sometimes, it's revisiting places that have brought me joy in the past and realizing they still do.  Sometimes, it's walking past somewhere I went to with my ex husband and being able to smile at a memory, without anger or regret. This happened to me last week and it was so good to realize that the past cannot hurt me anymore.  It's just that ~ the past.  It is what it is and I've moved forward and am here, now, in the present and loving my life.  That is pure joy.

The people in my life also bring me joy ~ surrounding myself with kind people, who care about others.  Surrounding myself with intelligent people, who can have meaningful discussions about our world and how it affects us all.  Surrounding myself with sarcastic, witty people, who can make me laugh until I snort. What is even better is that my friends feed all these needs for me ~ the time I spend with them makes me happy, makes me think and makes me laugh.

As I listen to Stevie Nicks sing about being afraid of changes, I realize I am not afraid of change ~ I welcome it.  I seek it.  I revel in it.  Life is constant change ~ some good, some bad.  You can't control that change.  You can only control how you react to it.  That has been my mantra for the last four years and it has helped me get here ~ get to the point where I am able to Let It Be and just enjoy this life.

So I'm going to leave you with some photos of things and people that bring me joy ~ Happy Sunday :)
Seeing trees in bloom in February makes me unreasonably happy

I'll never, ever tire of this painting 

the blue sky of Paris at dusk

my three loves ~ they are always on my mind

memories that help me when I miss home

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Moments of joy.............

When you live inside your head, it's hard to stop the noise.  Your thoughts are full of lists, conversations, worries, love, sadness, what ifs, whys and why nots.  It's hard to live in the moment because you are constantly talking to yourself, about the past, the present or the future.  About what you have to do. What you should have done.  Or not done.  About the people in your life.  About money, time and love.

But sometimes, the noise clears and you get a moment.  A moment of pure joy.  Of pure clarity.  Of pure being.

This post is about those moments.  I find myself having them more and more often. That is the gift that Paris gives me.  Moments when I can just Let It Be.............when the past or the future cease to exist and the only thing that matters, the only emotion I feel, is right now.

I had a few of those moments on Monday while I was walking on a sunny February day to meet a friend for lunch.  Whenever I walk in Paris, I usually have a vague map in my head of where I'm heading, but I usually end up taking a detour or two if I see something that catches my eye or if one street looks more interesting than the one I was planning to stroll on.  And so it was on Monday. I happened to walk by the Marie of the 9th Arrondissement by chance.  Every arrondissement of Paris has its own Marie (City Hall).  I live in the 9th so I was pretty excited to happen by my Marie.  I went in and took some photos.
The magnificent ceiling of the main room

A monument to honour citizens of the 9ieme arrondissement who were killed in WWI and WWII

As I entered the courtyard, the sun was shining, people were going about their business and I just felt like I was exactly where I should be.  I remember closing my eyes and feeling the sun on my face, and just being so happy to be there.  So at peace.

I continued my walk, making sure I found rue Richelieu because I wanted to go in and see the newly restored main reading room of the Richelieu wing of the Biblioteque National de France.  If you come to Paris, this building and especially this room are worth a detour.  It's truly spectacular and a shining example of the beauty that is all around us in Paris if you just look for it.

I snuck into this unlock room and took some photos

Look at that ceiling!

As I continued my stroll, I enjoyed the sights and sounds of Paris (I can't enjoy the smells, since I don't have a sense of smell lol).  Being an anal Canadian, I arrived very early to my lunch rendezvous. I realized how close I was to the Palais Royale and so I decided to walk over to kill some time.   I had last seen it the previous week, covered in the newly fallen snow that took Paris by storm (see what I did there?).  Today, the sun was shining, people were out sunning themselves, relaxing and enjoying a beautiful Monday afternoon in February.  I took more photos and suddenly had another moment of pure joy.  I remember seeing the flowers blooming (in February!) and Parisians sunning themselves and thinking how wonderful it was to just be alive right now.  How life is for living, how short it can be and how important it is to just let go and just enjoy it.  Now.  At this moment.

I've had several other such moments in the past few weeks ~ sitting in a tiny theatre, watching a play about a pivotal moment in France's history and thinking how wonderful it is that Paris supports these types of theatres and these types of plays ~ very non-commercial, intellectual and thought provoking. I watched people's rapt faces and how the small audience appreciated the two actors and the well written screenplay and I was so thrilled to just be there.  Visiting the Arthur Penn exhibit at the Grand Palais and marvelling over his ability to depict the ordinariness of famous people and the extraordinary qualities of world renowned others.  Happening upon a Klimt at the MoMA exhibit at the Louis Vuitton Foundation Museum.  Listening to a writer talk about hope and being kind to each other in the era of Trump politics.  Walking through les Tuilleries and seeing the bare trees form a kind of lace frame around the little lakes and walkways.  And spending time with friends ~ cherished friends who have welcomed me home, who listen to my joys and fears and worries, who encourage me to accept the joy of being here.  A dear friend who invited me to share the beauty of another part of France, who drove me tirelessly around for 4 days so I could experience some of the smaller towns and villages that make up this country.  Friends who share my love of Paris and who have come to live here because they understand what this city gives back to those who open their hearts to it.  Friends who have remade their lives and who live those lives on their terms.  Friends who gather around small tables in a Parisian cafe to discuss politics, life, memories and hopes and dreams.  I recently met a new friend who talked about growing up in the deep US south in the 1960s and watching from her darkened window as the Klu Klux Klan threw a fiery cross at the home two doors down from her to punish the man who lived there for promoting a black man at work.  Our group then had a conversation about racism and the current US administration.  These types of conversations feed my soul and my intellect and remind me why I am here and what's important to me. They bring me joy and contentment.

Yesterday I went to a lecture given by Roni Beth Tower,  a woman who wrote a book about finding love in mid-life. She spoke about the challenges of merging two lives, of moving to a new city and new country and leaving so much behind, and of being your true self and opening yourself up to new experiences and a new life.  So much of what she said resonated with me, and none more than what she told us at the end of her talk ~ tell your stories. Write them down and share them with your family and friends.  At that moment, I closed my eyes and gave thanks to whatever brought me to Paris for a year and to that little cafe in the Marais to hear this women articulate what I've been trying to do with my life.

One of my dear, sweet friends challenged me to try to find a moment of joy every day and to share it here.  I love that idea and will try to take up that challenge.  Ultimately, I hope this blog will be about my journey and who I am and who I want to be.  I hope it will be how Paris has changed me and has healed me.  How I have learned to Let It Be.............