24 July 2008

French beaches...

So I've been without internet (although it was advertised that we would! argh!) since leaving Paris and I've been going through a bit of withdrawal. Perhaps it was a good thing since my Facebook/Blogger dependencies were getting in the way of real life -- and who really wants to be on the computer when on vacation?

After leaving Paris we headed north to Normandy to visit the D-Day beaches and the war museum in Caen. Mr. JB is a total history buff and was really excited (and he was sick of Paris, he's a small town boy at heart). I'd like to think of myself as a pacifist, but it was hard not to be moved by the displays.

At the war museum in Caen there was a temporary exhibit on 9/11 that brought tears to my eyes more than once. I will never forget the day of the attacks. It was a beautiful day in Ottawa and I had just moved home from Europe and had started teachers' college. When a friend got the phone call that the towers had been hit she told her boyfriend that it wasn't a funny joke and hung up. When he called back and told us to find a television, we all knew that it was not a joke at all. I had never been so scared in my entire life. I didn't have a land line nor cable (which I think was a blessing in disguise). My cat hadn't even moved in with me yet so I was all alone.

Reading all of the information at the museum about World War II really brought things to life for me. I have a renewed appreciation for what the soldiers did, and are doing now. Standing on the various beaches -- Juno and Omaha as well as Cote de Hoc (where the Allied soldiers had to scale cliffs to get to land and were basically picked off by the enemy) -- I felt so grateful that people had come before me to make sure that I would live in a world that is safe.

After Normandy Mr. JB and I said goodbye to our travel mates to head south. I had already visited the Cote d'Azur and I wanted to go somewhere different. I am so glad that I chose Biarritz! As soon as we arrived at the train station (after a very long day of train travel) I could feel all of the stress melt away. Biarritz is a popular spot for families and it seems German tourists. It's not as expensive as the more touristy spots, the food is wonderful and everyone is so laid back (as one would expect at a seaside town known for surfing).

We decided that since we were already in the southwest that we should visit Lourdes, as any good Catholic should. Am I ever glad that we did. The day was cloudy and cooler and we got a little bit of rain so I wouldn't have been able to lounge on the beach anyway (a girl has to be practical, yes?). Mr. JB and I visited all of the important sites in the life of St. Bernadette (who saw visions of Mary on eighteen different occasions). The church was absolutely beautiful and all of the chapels on the site were phenomenal. We were most impressed with the underground basilica for St. Pius. I lit more than one candle for all of us infertiles and said many, many prayers. I was too hungry to wait in line to get dunked in the healing springs (and there were so many sick people waiting in line that I would've felt guilty taking a spot for someone in worse shape than I was). I was overcome more than once with the feeling that someone was hearing my prayers.

So tomorrow is our last day in Biarritz before we head to Barcelona. I'm getting pretty homesick. I've thought more than once that I would love to transport my house and all of it's comforts (like a bathroom big enough for me to comb my hair without hitting the door!) to Europe, but alas, that is not possible. I guess the best thing about vacations is that we remember what we've left back home.

But I do have to admit that a day at the beach tomorrow may take some of my homesickness away, even for an afternoon...

17 July 2008

Paris Boulevards

So my love affair with Paris continues.

It's funny that I don't even feel like a tourist -- I know the metro, the good places to eat, and secret spots that only native Parisiens know. Like I've already said, I feel more at home here that I do back in Canada. How strange, since I only lived here for 18 months.

Yesterday, on my third wedding anniversary I took Mr. JB on a tour of my Paris. He saw my old neighbourhood, the outside of my old apartment building (which is being renovated so he couldn't really see my window), my bakery, my grocery store, my metro stop.... It seemed endless! My ever-patient husband was getting information overload, but he listened intently to all of my little anecdotes about each and every thing.

It brings me great pleasure that I could show him a part of my life that preceeds him. I know that if it wasn't for Paris toughening me up, I wouldn't be the person that he fell in love with. I arrived in Paris a very naive 25 year old. I'd been away from home for university, but I always had the (mostly dysfunctional) safety net of my family. In Paris I learned that I had to stand up for myself, to be assertive and most of all, to be true to who I am. Not only did I learn how to stand up and defend myself in all sorts of situations -- being called horrible names since I am a visible minority, being tough with students that didn't give a rat's ass about learning English, getting my work permit even though a French bureaucrat didn't feel like giving it me -- I learned that I could be good on my own. I didn't need anyone to make me whole and that I could rely on myself for what I needed. Don't worry, I'm not going to run off and become some bohemian blog writing ex-pat, I love my life back in Canada. But before Paris, I wasn't really sure of who I was.

I took Mr. JB up the Eiffel Tower (although all I really wanted to do was laze around at a cafe and watch people go by, but I couldn't take the poor man to Paris and not take him!) and it was so neat to be able to tell him what everything was. It's a spectacular view (although better at night) and it is quite romantic. I witnessed more than one marriage proposal while visiting the Tour!

Tonight we went over to a friend's house for dinner. When I lived in Paris I not only worked teaching English at a university, I also gave private lessons. It was a great tax-free way to make pocket money! I gave lessons to a little boy, A and also picked up his little sister, M, from school on Thursdays. I saw M the last time I was in Paris five years ago, but I hadn't seen A since I left in 2001. It was so wonderful to see them! A has just returned from spending a year in North Carolina and although he didn't really enjoy it, his English is great. His mom did mention more than once that it was because of my lessons, but I know I can't take all of the credit. A and M's mom also suggested that we do a house exchange -- our place in Southern Ontario for theirs just outside of Paris. Now that would be awesome!!!! Their place has a beautiful view of the Eiffel tower and is only 20 minutes from the centre of town. I guess I'll have to start saving my pennies as soon as we get back!

So tomorrow is our last day in Paris. I always get so sad when I leave this city. I always feel like I leave a part of my heart here. The one place that I had to take Mr. JB was my happy place. The photo above is the name of the boulevard in my old neighbourhood that I would walk on the way to the RER station to work. One day I was walking towards the station and the sunlight was peeking through the trees and as I walked along the boulevard I felt so at peace. I could hear birds chirping and kids playing the in background. Every time I feel sad or stressed I think back to that spring day when I realized that I lived in the most beautiful city in the world and that it was all at my fingertips to experience.

I will always carry the image of that perfect walk in my heart -- it's gotten me through so many painful things. If I could package my happy place I would be a millionaire and there would be fewer sad people in the world.

I'm sending you all big, big kisses in Paris. I hope that I will have internet in Normandy. If not, you'll have to wait until the south of France for an update!


13 July 2008

Smelling the Sunflowers

One of the reasons why I love France so much is all of the history. Although I am a very proud Canuck, I just can't get over how everything in Europe is so old! Take for example the apartment that I lived in, it was 400 years old! Canada only turned 141 on July 1st, as a nation we're mere children!

Anyhow, today we visited Versailles. It was a beautiful day. We didn't get the rain that was forcasted and it was perfect weather for sightseeing. The four of us were pretty bleary eyed and we took turns having the sleepies, but we had an incredible visit. JY and I had been to the castle before, but our other halves hadn't. We visited today because the fountains were going to be on for their "eaux musicales" -- basically loud classical music plays while the numerous fountains were on (I know that my description doesn't give the spectacle any justice, it was truly beautiful).

We visited Marie-Antoinette's little retreat where she would go to "get away from it all" which I find hilarious since it was on the same property as the castle. Apparently when she departed the castle so she could have some alone time the servants and her attendants would have a big send off ceremony!

I was glad to see more of the grounds since the last two times I visited Versailles I did a tour of the castle -- which is breathtaking. Room after room of velvet brocade wallpaper, HUGE oil paintings taking up entire walls, beds topped with feathers and of course the famous hall of mirrors. If you haven't seen Sofia Coppola's movie about Marie-Antoinette you should check it out, although it doesn't do the castle justice. I absolutely loved the beautiful gardens. There were some crazy tall sequoias and all of the roadways were lined with perfectly manicured trees. I just wish I could have one of the gardeners at my house so my flowers and trees looked half as nice!

Unfortunately this morning AF decided to come on vacation with us. I had gotten a teensy weensy bit optimistic when we saw our Creighton practioner last week since she said that according to when we BD I had a good chance of being pregnant. I also had sore boobs for the first time in months which she said was a good sign.

Yeah right.

I also know that I have to go on the month-long course on antibiotics to treat the ureaplasma since I'm still spotting despite being on progesterone.

Oh well, at least I have Paris to distract me. Perhaps I can find some more flowers to smell...

12 July 2008

My Happy Place

So we're here, jetlagged and exhausted, but well fed and quite happy with our little apartment in Paris. I'm the only one left awake since my travel companions are all tucked in bed, where I really should be.

The plane ride was surprisingly nice. We flew a charter, with many reservations since the last time we traveled to Europe our flight was horrendous. Lucky for us we had an empty seat to spread out in and although we were in coach, we had enough room to stretch out and get some rest.

We got our baggage and got on the RER to Paris with little effort, but I had my first little adventure when we tried to change from RER to the metro. I got stuck in a door! For those of you that have not travelled the Paris underground when you change from regional train (the RER) to the metro you have to go through a passthrough (I'm too tired to figure out the right words to describe it!) and in order to pass you have to insert your train ticket. Well my friend JY inserted her ticket but only one of the doors opened so she couldn't get through. In my infinite wisdom I told her to just go through with me -- something doable if you're a single person with no luggage. Well JY got through and I got stuck. I credit my extreme flexibility (yay yoga!) for getting me out of the door thinger. Mr. JB apparently was pretty worried since he had no idea what to do AND on top of it he has tennis elbow and can barely move his arm. Needless to say, we all had a good laugh.

We got to our rental apartment in the 13th arrondissement and were all pleasantly surprised. French standards of apartments are very different from those in North America. The apartment isn't palatial, but we do have a washer and dryer and a dishwasher! The 13th is a great neighbourhood and it's within walking distance to the Latin quarter. JY and I foraged for some food at the local Franprix grocery store and we brought the boys a baguette and some goodies for their post-nap treat.

It's amazing how quickly I feel at home in Paris. I sometimes think that I feel more at home here that I do in Toronto. There's something that's so alive and exotic about this city that I haven't felt anywhere else. Honestly, I would be completely content to sit a the brasserie around the corner for the next week and people watch.

So off I go to bed before I just start typing gibberish. Bonne nuit everyone, I'm blowing you all kisses from the other side of the Atlantic!

7 July 2008

Frustration knocking

I've been coasting on some impartial feelings regarding my lack of fertility for a few weeks now. And although a clear diagnosis has made my barrenness bearable (for now), feelings of jealousy and envy have come back with a vengeance.

I've received quite a bit of fertile news as of late. My crazy mother phoned me all in a tizzy to tell me that my cousin and his wife have adopted an 18 month old baby girl from Children's Aid (they are the same cousins that went through IF treatments for almost ten years before conceiving their beautiful daughter). My aunt is really upset that this new baby is not going to look like her biological granddaughter and she got my crazy mother all wound up about it. I kept on telling my mother that they always wanted more kids but I new that my cousin's wife wasn't ready to put her body through the rigours of IF treatments. She's said more than once that she was happy having an only (and I've told her time and time again that I really enjoy being one). It was my cousin that was pushing for a second. I personally think that it's the best compromise. Honestly, I'll never understand why my family members get all worked up about some things!

The second tidbit of fertility is that one of my mom's closest friend's daughter has gotten herself in a family way. It's a pretty big scandal since the daughter got married at city hall and not in the church (something unheard of in my culture of almost fanatic Catholicism) AND that she's 26! Now one would think that at the mature age of 26 one would be able to either make the choice to not have children and not get accidentally knocked up and have a shotgun wedding. I know plenty of 26 year olds that have gotten married then had children. Then again, I know that I sound like a bitter barren lady, but really now!

Yesterday, at my cousin's baby shower (that he threw for his wife AND gave out thank you cards as the guests were leaving! How tacky! The card even said, from Baby E, P and J, argh!), my mother told me that a friends 16 year old daughter has also gotten herself knocked up. I'm not a stranger to teenage pregnancy. All through high school girls were getting themselves in "trouble." Hell, even my cousin got knocked up when she was 16 and my cousin got his girlfriend pregnant last year. But every time I hear of yet another teenager getting pregnant I just feel like knocking my head against a wall. We've been trying for almost THREE YEARS, gone to numerous doctors, read books, gotten tested, been patient, prayed had others pray for us. It just felt like another kick in the teeth.

And lastly, at the baby shower yesterday we got the customary, "So when are you going to have kids?" questions. At least this time I could deflect them with our trip to Europe. But with all of the baby shower festivities (as few as they were at this particular shower) it was hard to ignore my nagging feelings of jealousy. My cousin and his wife (both who are 5 years younger than me) got pregnant by accident. And the clincher was that they got pregnant in the fall -- the best time for a teacher to get pregnant. I had to bite my tongue when I heard that they were having a girl and I was secretly hoping that the shower was going to be held while we were away. But alas, it wasn't.

I don't know how many more times I'm going to be able to stomach being around fertile people before I lose my mind.

I did get to sit with one of my parents' friends that struggled for more than 16 years to get pregnant. I remember when I was choosing which universities to apply to they announced that they were miraculously pregnant. This couple had gotten married around the same time my parents did and they thought they couldn't have children. But when my mom's friend turned 48 she found out that she was pregnant. She calls it a miracle that her daughter was born full term and healthy. As far as I know they didn't undergo any IF treatments when they did get pregnant. I remember being a teenager and hearing her say that her daughter should've been my age and that we should've be friends. Their story definitely gives me hope. I know that I've explored every avenue to ensure that I will one day have a baby, and I've been assured that with all of the antibiotics and progesterone therapy that I'm on will result in a baby-ready uterus.

I just wish that I didn't have hear about so many women getting knocked up by accident.

I hope they know how lucky they all are, because I sure as hell know that they are.

4 July 2008

Travelling light

I am officially excited. In seven days Mr. JB and I will be leaving for our European vacation. It was two years in the making and entailed a ton of saving, but we're almost there. In the back of my mind I was hoping that I would be carting a little JellyBelly with us, but just the thought of a lovely Paris evening eating some tasty French dish, almost erases that bit of sadness.

I spent a year and a half "working" (really, my ten hour Parisian work week that involved a lot more partying and shopping really didn't classify as work in the North American sense) at a university just outside of Paris. I had just gotten used to the idea that teaching was what I wanted to do -- I had fought tooth and nail again the notion that I would become a teacher like my grandmother, great-grandfather and numerous great-aunts. My parents had loftier ideas for my future. They would've preferred a Dr. JellyBelly or a lawyer JellyBelly, but instead they got a mostly happy elementary school teacher. And since I'm at the start of a two month vacation, I really couldn't imagine a better profession! Just don't ask me in the middle of cold and flu season with a bunch of snotty six years if I like my job!

Paris is my happy place. Whenever I feel sad and melancholy I imagine myself walking down a tree-lined boulevard in my old neighbourhood with the sun breaking through the leafy branches. There were many days while I was living in France that I would have to pinch myself. I always felt like I was on the cusp of waking up from an amazing dream, but day after day I would awake and it was definitely real.

I came into myself living in my little fourteen square metre apartment in the 14th arrondissement. It was the first time that I was truly on my own, without the safety net of my family and friends. It was also the loneliest times of my life. I had left behind a boyfriend, that I really should've broken up with before leaving, but who hung around because I was leaving for a year and a half. I shook him once, only to have him coming leaching back before I was to return home. But I'm certain that if it wasn't for my sojourn in Paris, I never would've had the courage to finally pack my bags and leave him for good.

I was never meek or mild, but pre-France JellyBelly had a really hard time standing up for herself. I used to have a hard time stomaching the fact that people wouldn't like me, but I also learned fast that if I didn't stand up for myself (and sometimes it required yelling and swearing, in both English and French) no one would do it for me. If I had only one lesson to take away from my months on Paris, it was to be brave. If it wasn't for the France experience, I'm sure that I wouldn't be the JellyBelly that Mr. JB married -- he has a hard time believing that I was ever a pushover and that I had a hard time standing up for myself!

I can't wait to play tour guide and show Mr. JB all of my old haunts -- the trivial things like the little grocer and the Chinese take-away down the street from old place, where I used to buy roasted chicken and my baguettes and most of all the tree-lined boulevard that I've imagined over and over again.

My biggest question is: how do I pack light for this adventure? I have it in my head that I'm taking ONE bag and ONE backpack (which will house the laptop, of course). I've never been a light packer, but every time I travel I always kick myself for taking way too much stuff that I don't wear or use. I've decided on a mostly black and white wardrobe with a couple of hints of colour to shake things up. I also have three pairs of footwear in mind: running shoes, comfy, but stylish black sandals and black flip flops for trips to the beach. Any advice? I don't want to stress out too much, but I promised Mr. JB that I wouldn't make him throw his back out (as he did on our honeymoon to Italy and Greece!) carting around my bags.

Advice? Assvice? Anything is welcome.

Btw, Happy Fourth of July to all of you north of the border!

1 July 2008

Happy 141!

So I think that I've finally eased into vacation mode as the rest of the country celebrates Canada Day. It may have taken a few days of unwinding and many, many naps to help out my sleep debt that I incurred over the past ten months of teaching, but I'm ready to face some serious downtime.

Last summer instead of taking the two months off to rest and relax I decided to take a summer course. Not only did I have to wake up an hour earlier to get to this class, I also had to drive over an hour to get there. Although the class was great and I'm sure that it helped me get my new position, it was a long haul. So really, this is my first long stretch of vacation since the summer of 2006.

[insert happy sigh here]

My last day of school wasn't as emotional as I thought it would be. The kiddies only got really tearful at the end of the day (one of them had to come back for at least five hugs), I knew that in my heart that I had made the right decision. My twelve boxes have grown a little bit and I also packed away some furniture (my ergonomic desk chair, some shelving and my reading nook). All in all, it doesn't seem like too much. Perhaps it will all hit me when I return in August to move it to the new school. Perhaps not.

I've finished my brutal course of antibiotics. Not only did I have EVERY SINGLE side effect, it was just a pain to take. I've never been happier to have only eight different meds to take, rather than ten! I have noticed that AF was at least four days shorter than it was last month and hopefully, even shorter for the next cycle. I know that I'm due for another month-long bout with antibiotics to actually treat the ureaplasma, but hopefully it won't be too bad (I'm always the optimist). Now I'm wondering, since I did see a difference with my period, does it mean that I had the endometrial bacteria? I'm thinking yes, but I'm not a doctor.

I finally mustered up the courage to meet Mr. JB's best friend's baby (if you're interested in the back story see here). They hosted a barbecue on Saturday and I had run out of excuses not to go. And although it took me a long time to actually hold him, I did without having to run to the bathroom in tears. When we arrived and he was being passed around I couldn't help thinking, "They fight all the time, really they shouldn't have gotten married, but look they have this beautiful baby." But after a couple more babies arrived, I got distracted -- why is it that I have an easier time with the babies of people that I like????

I guess my barrenness is easier to handle now that I have a solution to my problem -- although it seems to be taking a LONG time to get solved. Since we went to the Marguerite Bourgeoys centre in February, it has taken a lot of patience to get to this point. I think that having the thought of the fall being prime baby-making season is helping me cope with all of the IF business. Also having the new position and the new school to distract me is also good.

So here I am, looking forward to a summer full of a an awesome vacation, yoga, good books, no visits to evil infertility clinics and being hopeful. I think that I may just have to put my feet up....

Happy birthday Canada!