Monday, March 31, 2008
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Today is the anniversary of our first kiss. It happened March 27th, 1991. 17 loooonnng years ago, and I was 17 at the time, which means I have been kissing this man for half my life. That makes me feel old, but more than that, it makes me feel very lucky ;)
On another note, here's why the Phillies suck: This year, you could only buy opening day tickets if you bought season tickets, a partial season plan, or at the very least a 6-pack of game day tickets. I haven't missed a home opener since before I got married. Jacob was 5 weeks old at his first home opener, and has never missed one. But this year, because of the Phillies' stupid new policy, we're missing out. I'm thinking about writing a letter, but then, I don't know how much good it will do... obviously they're not interested in tradition, just money.
Now, an update on my bod: I went to see my chiropractor yesterday, and he did an assessment of my injuries from the accident. I have a rib misalignment, the whole left side of my back is in spasm, and my left hip is messed up. I'm going back tomorrow and will likely be seeing him 3x a week for the next few months. He also wants me to wait to go back to the gym for a little while longer, which I understand, but still makes me mad. It's so annoying that someone else's driving mistake is costing me so much.
I also still have the annoying cold, which unlike most colds I've had started in my chest and then worked its way up to my head (usually they go the other way for me). Mucinex is helping with the cough but nothing's helping with the snot situation... bleh. I think I'll have to do Lisa's warm-salt-water-in-every-orifice trick soon. This is always my time of year to be sick.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
The worst thing about being laid up -- again -- is missing my Tuesday yoga class and trainer session -- again -- while there's all this Chocolate Bunny Sex Day candy in my house. This is worse than the Girl Scout cookies...
And on top of the car accident, Jacob and I now have a chest cold. Bleh. He seems to be recovering (fever's down today) but I'm getting worse...
Any way I can just fast forward to 2009...? Oh wait, I just remembered how old I'll be in 2009! EEK! I'll keep 2008, never mind ;)
Sunday, March 23, 2008
On the way home from the ER in our rental, we were almost sideswiped. I think maybe I'm never getting in a car again...
Friday, March 21, 2008
Yesterday I left for the gym a bit early, hoping to stop at Target to pick up a few essentials for Jacob's chocolate bunny day basket. Long story short, I had stopped before turning right to let a handicapped woman and a child finish crossing the street, some idiot slammed into me, and I was rushed to the hospital. As you can see, I'm alive, but my back and neck hurt like a motherbitch...
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
At this time of year, my thoughts always turn to Matt's godmother, whom we affectionately referred to as "Aunt Purple." Not a relative by blood, as his parents' best friend she was nevertheless his favorite aunt and they were very close. I first met her at Matt's brother's wedding, and she and I hit it off immediately and spent the reception dancing together and having a blast -- she was one of the most fun people I'd ever met.
One year, almost half my life ago, she and Matt and I began a tradition of getting together every year for St. Patrick's Day. We would dress all in green, including green false eyelashes, temporary tattoos, mardi gras beads, glow sticks, etc, and we'd go out to eat, drink, dance and laugh, usually at our local Bennigan's. Every year I looked forward to our get-together. It was my favorite holiday tradition, and the only one that truly felt like my own -- no obligations, just fun.
Over the years, I got to know Aunt Purple better, and we became very close. One of the things I loved and admired most about her was her ability to truly be herself in every situation. She knew who she was and she never compromised herself in order to fit in -- and you couldn't help but love her. She adopted me as her goddaughter, and when I had Jacob, she couldn't have loved him more if he'd been her own grandson.
Her early life had been quite difficult. Her birth mother died while Aunt P was still a baby, and her father remarried, then he died a few years later. She was raised by her stepmother and older stepsisters, who never truly accepted her as their sister. Like me, she married young, and also like me, struggled with infertility before finally becoming a mother (she and her husband adopted a baby boy.) Like me, she made the decision to forgo outside work and make her home and family the center of her world.
But unlike me, Aunt Purple had an abusive husband who eventually broke her heart and left her emotionally and financially devastated. For many years she struggled to find a steady job that would pay her bills, but her lack of education and a changing economy made that very difficult. She was frequently out of work, and the jobs that she was able to find didn't pay well and had little or no benefits. Her ex-husband gained sole custody of their son and, without his mother's influence, he became as abusive and self-serving as his father, only calling his mother when he wanted something from her. One day, she tripped and fell on her front step and shattered both of her feet. It took a long time to heal from the injuries, and she missed a lot of work as her medical bills piled up. Eventually, she lost her home and had to move into a cramped one-bedroom apartment.
In the spring of 2002, Aunt P was out of work once again and receiving unemployment, which was barely enough to scrape by. One day, she had what she believed to be a heart attack. A friend took her to the ER, and was admitted for tests, but a few days later they sent her home and told her that she hadn't had a heart attack. The hospital bills began coming in immediately, and she decided to try to apply for medical assistance. They told her she made too much money (with unemployment) to qualify. "How much is too much?" she asked. She made $20 a month over the limit for medical assistance. Aunt P reached into her wallet, pulled out a $20 bill, and laid it on the table. "Now, do I qualify?" The answer was no.
In the days that followed, she had dizzy spells and trouble breathing, and she went to yet another ER. She was admitted to this hospital and seen by a doctor who blamed her problems on her excess weight, and once again she was sent home, where she continued to have dizzy spells and trouble breathing. She drew up a living will and named Matt her executor, although he and I both told her we were sure she would be just fine.
A few weeks later, one of Aunt P's close friends, panicked by the fact that she hadn't answered her phone all day, went over to the apartment, let herself in with her key, and found Aunt P's body on the floor. She immediately called Matt, and he and I were both shocked and completely devastated. We requested that an autopsy be done, and when we got the coroner's report, it said that the cause of death was suffocation due to scar tissue that had been caused by a heart attack. Yes, the very same heart attack she'd supposedly never had. She was only 54 years old.
Whenever I hear anyone dismissing the idea of universal health coverage, I wonder if they've ever had the opportunity to watch a person that they loved die due to a lack of health care, simply because they didn't have or couldn't afford coverage. After all, it's not an uncommon thing in the USA -- the only wealthy, industrialized nation which refuses to provide its citizens with this most basic of human needs: across the country in 2006, twice as many people died from lack of health insurance as died from homicide. 11.3% of Pennsylvanians are uninsured, and an average of two working-age Pennsylvanians die every day because they lack coverage. Uninsured people have to forgo routine health screenings, and they wait longer to see a doctor, and so they are more likely to be diagnosed with diseases in their advanced stages. Uninsured people have a 25% higher rate of premature death than those with private insurance, and lack of insurance is the third-leading cause of death for people aged 55-64. Uninsured people also pay more for care, because they don't have insurance companies negotiating lower costs for them. (These statistics are from familiesusa.org).
I'm very fortunate, as a full-time mom who chooses not to work outside the home, that I have excellent coverage through Matt's job. Still, a roll of the dice and I could have easily been in Aunt P's shoes (and to be honest, so could any of us.) She was a wonderful, vibrant human being who was taken far too soon, and her death was completely preventable. For me, the national health care debate will always be deeply, profoundly personal.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
Paris Travel Journal
I tried to sleep in, as we had been out late (by Parisian standards, anyhow) the night before, but it’s hard to sleep when Paris is right outside your window, and pains au chocolat are right downstairs!
Although it was raining, after breakfast we returned to the Quartier Latin, this time for the “literary walking tour” outlined in one of our travel guides. The entire tour would have taken three hours, but because of my ankle we decided to just do a few highlights: the Hemingway stuff. I had read “A Moveable Feast” in preparation for our Paris trip, and was excited to see the places where “Papa” lived and worked in Paris.
74 rue Cardinal Lemoine, where Hemingway lived with his first wife, Hadley, and their son
37 rue Descartes, where Hemingway wrote. This building is also where the poet Paul Verlaine lived (and died).
Place de la Contrescarpe -- a very pretty plaza once described by Hemingway as a "cesspool"... lol.
For lunch, we stopped in at a little pizza restaurant and shared a pie with salami and mortadella, and I had a glass of the house red. Everything, of course, was delicious, and it’s fun to hear French spoken with an Italian accent!
After that, we walked across the Seine to Notre Dame, the famous cathedral immortalized in Hugo’s “Hunchback.” We walked around the outside of the building first, admiring the gothic architecture.
Then we went inside, and in this church, we were actually allowed to take photos (I suspect they got tired of telling people not to!)
One of the little "chapelles" around the perimeter of the cathedral
Matt tries to blend in with the spooky gothic-ness of Notre Dame, lol
We left Notre Dame and crossed back to the Latin Quarter. There were so many cute little shops, and it was time for souvenir shopping. And, when my ankle pain became unbearable, a stop in a boulangerie for another café crème and pain au chocolat ;)
Rue de la Huchette, an old, winding street full of places to eat and shop
We topped off our day with a boat ride along the Seine. We walked along the river to get to the boat, and saw a few cool things along the way:
Le Grand Palais, an exhibition hall
I love these teensy little French cars!
Just thought this tree outside Le Grand Palais was really cool-looking
The Pont Alexandre III bridge
The sky looked so pretty!
The boat ride was a nice, warm break from the cold and rainy streets of Paris, and along the way we we got an extra-special treat:
Un arc-en-ciel! Très beau!
After our boat ride, it was time to say au revoir to the sights of Paris, because our flight would be early the next morning. On the way back to our hotel, we saw a fruit vendor and stopped and got some fraises:
They had some competition from the pains au chocolat, but strawberries are still my favoritest food ;)
I really wish our trip had been longer, because there was so much we didn’t get a chance to see or do (or eat, lol). If – no, WHEN I travel there again, I would love to rent an apartment for two weeks, although I suspect that still wouldn’t be enough! I’m trying to convince Matt that we could live very happily in a little farmhouse outside Paris, but he’s not yet convinced that he could learn enough French to survive…
I cried a bit when our flight took off. Although I missed Jacob, I really did NOT want to come home. Life is so much better when you’re traveling – no work, no cooking, no bills to pay, and someone comes in and cleans your room for you! Add to that the magic of Paris and… I’m surprised they didn’t have to drag me kicking and screaming into the airplane.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my attempts to take you with me on my travels!
Friday, March 14, 2008
Paris Travel Journal
I awoke on the morning of 8 March to sunlight streaming through the window of our hotel room. Paris looked beautiful, and I certainly didn’t feel any older ;)
Looking out at my Paris :)
We kept our boissons cold on the windowsill, à la Bill Murray in The Razor's Edge.
After another breakfast of pains au chocolat and other deliciousness, we went back up to our room to make plans for our day. Part of me wanted to just sit all day and allow my ankles some time to mend, but, I mean, it’s Paris! I ignored the pain, donned my ankle brace, popped a few preventative Aleve, and we set out for the Canal Saint-Martin.
We strolled along the canal for an hour or two, enjoying the less-touristy neighborhood and the beautiful scenery. Even though Paris is at a higher latitude than Philadelphia, it seems spring comes a bit earlier there – trees and flowers were beginning to bloom, and everything was just lovely.
Matt said that when we live in Paris, he wants to have an apartment in a building like this, with a little balcony. I'm holding him to it ;)
After our stroll, we got on the Métro for a few stops toward Père-Lachaise Cemetary, where some very famous people are buried. But first, we stopped in at a Sandwiches Turcs shop (roughly the Parisian equivalent of a cheesesteak place in Philly – there’s at least one on every major street!). Warm sandwiches served on yummy bread with, of course, frites.
We walked towards the cimetière, which I’d first wanted to visit when I read that it was where Jim Morrison was buried – not that I’m a big fan of The Doors, but visiting his famously defaced grave, as I told Matt, is a “thing” (my description of something that people just need to do or have for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend). Then when I’d read more about the cemetery, I’d learned that many, many important and famous people had been interred there (Édith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Frédéric Chopin, etc), and decided it might be an interesting place to visit.
As we approached the cemetery, we saw a man selling maps at the entrance. We said “Bonjour,” but he was American and could tell we were, too. He asked us where we were from, and we told him, and he asked if we had any “greenbacks” – he would sell us the map for two American dollars rather than two Euros, which he called “Monopoly money.” We looked at one another, forked over the $2 and said thanks, wondering if the guy had any clue that the dollar is worth considerably less than the Euro! We figured he must have been in Paris a looooong time ;)
The cemetery is something to behold… you step off a noisy, crowded street into a quiet place with tall trees and cobblestoned streets… it’s like stepping through a door into another world.
It’s over 100 acres, and the graves, memorials and tombs are all really interesting to see. There are memorials to the victims of the Holocaust, to people who died for the French resistance during World War II, and to the soldiers who helped liberate the Nazi concentration camps. Matt and I both got a bit emotional reading the markers.
We found several of the graves that I wanted to see, but unfortunately, the cimetière was closing and they kicked us out before we got a chance to see Jim Morrison’s famous grave. Ah, well.
Sarah Bernhardt, actress
Oscar Wilde, Irish writer. The tradition is for female visitors to leave a lipstick kiss on his tomb...
Gertrude Stein, American writer who was born in Pennsylvania and spent most of her life in Paris (hmm... why do I feel drawn to her? lol...). Her love, Alice Toklas, is buried in the same grave, and her name and dates of birth & death are etched on the back of the stone.
Édith Piaf, famous French chanteuse (singer) and subject of the recent film La Vie En Rose, for which Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for Best Actress just a few weeks ago.
After leaving Père-Lachaise, we went back to the hotel room to relax for a bit before setting out for the Latin Quarter for dinner and a show. On the way back to the hotel, we spied a flower vendor on the street and Matt bought me a lovely little bouquet of daffodils… my favorite!
Getting off the Metro in the Quartier Latin, we knew we had found the happenin’ part of town. The streets were crowded with people our age and younger, smoking and laughing. There were lots of bars, clubs, shops, restaurants, etc. We found a place to eat dinner, and ordered moules (mussels) à la crème, steak with a creamy bleu cheese sauce, and for dessert, and apple tart that made me weak in the knees.
After dinner, there was a very special show I’d been hoping to see. Can you guess what it was?
Yes! The Rocky Horror Picture Show, of course! The Paris RHPS cast was THE BEST cast I have ever seen, and I could only understand half of what they were saying! They do some of the more traditional callbacks in English, but they have their own French callbacks as well, and their props and costumes are flawless. Best of all, they get really involved with the audience, and there is never a dull moment in the tiny basement theater where the show takes place. My favorite moment was during the Janet bedroom scene, when their Frank-N-Furter, played by the delightful Antoine, came over to me (we were sitting right in the front row) and asked me a question in French. I just looked at him helplessly, but he quickly switched to English: “Do you like sports?”
“A little,” I replied.
“Well, you’ll like this one!” he said, grabbing my ankles and, well, basically dry-humped me while yelling things like “We will try out for the Olympics! We will be the French-American team!” as I melted into a pool of helpless giggles in my seat.
After the show, we chatted a bit with another American who'd been in the audience, and then it was time to head home. (It really was beginning to feel like home...)
All in all, I’d have to say that it really was a rather wonderful day… and, as was the point of the trip in the first place, the number 34 was the farthest thing from my mind ;)
Coming soon: Day 5!
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Paris Travel Journal
On Day 3 of our trip (Day 2 in Paris), we woke up refreshed after finally getting some decent sleep. After showering and getting dressed, we went downstairs to the lobby of the hotel for breakfast, where we got to savor our first *real* French croissants! Coffee, pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants – my new favorite food!), mini-baguettes, frommage (cheese), salami, and dried apricots (soooo tender and sweet – nothing like the ones we have here!) were also sampled by moi. Matt the non-foodie had a bowl of cereal… and got the “I didn’t fly over 3500 miles to eat cereal!” from me. LOL.
After breakfast, we bundled up and set out for Le Tour Eiffel! I was soooo excited… I felt like I would *really* know I was in Paris once I got a glimpse of the famous Tower.
We took the Métro (Parisian subway) from our hotel. The subway system in Paris is similar to the one in New York; there are many different lines which run to all parts of the city, and you’re never more than a few blocks from a Métro station... ours was half a block from our hotel.
After we changed trains from the one that took us from our hotel to the one that would take us to Le Tour Eiffel, a man with an accordion boarded our subway car. Once the train started moving, he started to play, and it was so pretty and so Parisien that I almost cried from sheer happiness.
We had to get off the Métro one stop early because the one nearest the Eiffel Tower was closed for repairs. We came out of the station, rounded the corner, and I gasped – there it was! The very symbol of Paris!
We took many photos along the walk towards the tower, crossing a bridge over the Seine.
We walked along the river until we reached the Tower. The closer we got, the more amazing it was. It’s HUGE. As we walked underneath, Matt asked “why do my feet hurt when I look up at it?” I had to laugh, because I really did marry my mother – she gets “pains in her feet” contemplating heights, too!
We got in line for tickets to go to the top of the Tower. There are three levels; you can buy a ticket to any of them. Matt asked me if I wanted to go all the way to the top. "Mais oui!" While waiting, we chatted with the couple behind us, who were from the Canary Islands, and we sampled some frites from the concession stand. Matt had a coke and I had a café crème that I promptly declared “the best coffee I’ve ever tasted in my life.”
A word about French food – everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING tastes better in Paris. From the obvious things like croissants, chocolate, and rich, buttery sauces, to even things like potato chips, Coca-Cola (made with real sugar -- no high fructose corn syrup!), and mayonnaise. Food is intended to be enjoyed. The point of eating in France is not to just satisfy hunger (which we Americans tend to do by gulping down as many bland calories as we can, as cheaply as possible, while dashing from one place to another) but to really experience the sensual pleasures of food – the tastes, the aromas, the textures. One of my only regrets about our Paris trip is that I didn’t have enough time to sample as many different foods as I wanted... but everything I did get a chance to eat was divine.
After waiting in line for what felt like a hundred years, we finally boarded the elevator which would take us to the second level, after which we’d get a second elevator to the top. The elevators go right up the “legs” of the tower, and it’s a bit unnerving to watch the ground drop away from this tiny car filled with people! Matt looked at my face and teased me about being afraid. I replied, “I said I wanted to go to the top; I didn’t say I wasn’t scared!”
We spent some time on the second level before journeying to the top. We took lots of photos, of course. I stopped in at the gift shop and bought a mini-replica Tour Eiffel for Jacob, as well as a few other souvenirs. Then we boarded the elevator and soon we were about 300 meters off the ground! I tiptoed to the edge to peer down. The view was dizzying. And yes, you really can see all the way to the ocean.
Holding on for dear life!
Matt can't even look!
The view from the top
On the way down, we stopped on the first level, where we mailed some postcards from La Poste and sat for a bit before journeying back down to the ground. There was an ice replica of the Tower on the first level – when Jacob saw our photos of it, he declared it the “Ice-el Tower” ;)
While waiting for the elevator, the tendonitis in my ankles really started to flare up from all the standing I’d done that day. It’s odd; I can walk moderate distances without much trouble, but if I stand in one place for more than ten minutes I can really screw up my ankles. We thought about calling it a day and heading back to the hotel, but I decided to ignore the pain and keep going.
The wheels that move the elevator cables... just watching them turn is enough to make you dizzy!
Au revoir, Tour Eiffel!
After leaving the Tower, it was back to the Métro, which we took to the Musée du Louvre, home of some of the most famous art in the entire world. Before going into the museum, we had dinner in the food court below. Yes, it’s a food court – but nothing like the food courts of American malls. There are several stands serving different types of cuisine from all over the world. I considered carefully and opted (quelle surprise!) for the French: a generous filet of salmon topped with a creamy sauce, vegetable gratin, couscous, and a glass of rosé. (Oh, how I adore being in a city where a soda, a glass or wine or a beer all cost the same!) Matt the non-foodie had a burger and frites. Well... to each their own!
I discreetly put my feet on the chair across from mine while we ate, hoping that would help ease the inflammation in my ankles. Afterwards, we went into the museum and viewed the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and several other Greek/Roman pieces before going up to the first floor to see the most famous painting in the world, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Despite the admonishing of the museum’s brochure that no photographs should be taken on the first floor, people were snapping flash photos of the painting while the museum guards just stood watching. (My dad’s theory as to why they don’t care if people take photos: it’s not the real Mona Lisa.)
The infamous inverted pyramid
Venus de Milo -- I have a miniature replica of this sculpture in my bedroom, which my parents brought back from their trip to the Greek Isles.
Winged Victory -- this statue is near and dear to my heart, because she was one of the symbols of my high school. We had a life-sized replica of her in our "Pink Marble Hall".
The most famous painting in the world -- Da Vinci's La Giaconda, or in English, the Mona Lisa.
By the time we left the hall where Mona Lisa was, I was in tears from my ankle pain. We sat for a bit and then ventured back to our hotel. I took some Aleve and Matt went to the convenience store near the hotel and got me a Heineken, which helped a bit. A quick phone call to our boy, and we were soon fast asleep.
Coming soon: Day 4!