Monday, January 10, 2011

Happy 2011

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. So I didn't. For two (plus) months. I turned my back on the "project" and retreated into the background. But I'm baaaack. Yes, after a month of health issues, infections, a root canal, what I assume was the common cold, constant nausea, a much needed European family holiday vacation, and a partridge in a pear tree, I'm back!

Happy 2011! Finally! Can we agree that 2010 was a bit rough? Okay, maybe "challenging" is a more appropriate word choice. But before you think I'm being egotistical, self-absorbing, or anything else that is socially unacceptable these days, let me offer up that I’m not just referring to my life. Let's reflect.

While I stepped off a plane on January 1st to a new city, new job, and a new life, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake took almost six-hundred-thousand lives in Haiti. We're off to quite a start for 2010! I am now an Au Pair to two French children. I am on top of my game. I am in control. I am not fooling anyone.

Because one earthquake just isn't enough, a second one hits in Chile; one so powerful, it shortened the planet's day by a microsecond. However, it didn't shorten it enough to make the time pass faster in a job I realized I was quickly starting to loathe. So during the winter vacation, I took off with a special someone to Corsica to get away… far, far away!

I return from vacation and was immediately hit with what I convinced myself was a bout with death—it turned out to only be the flu. But because the snow won't cease and the French are so cold, and most of all, I just miss my family and warm-hearted Californians, I start brainstorming for a change of pace.

I learn the feeling of relief after finally quitting my job. I learn that Easter really is for rebirth and new beginnings. I learn that Barcelona is easily one of my favorite vacation cities and that it takes 6 hours by car to return to Lyon from Spain because Eyjafjallajokull Icelandic volcano has erupted, canceling all European flights. I don't care though because the pendulum is on the upswing...

Until it's not. Despite reading all of Oprah's and Women's Health articles on how to boost your mood, sleep better and look great, I can't seem to master any of it. Although grateful for the American family who brought me in, I quickly find myself over-worked and underpaid (who are we kidding, I was never paid!). I become stressed--stressed that I don't have another immediate option; stressed that I'm losing my French, losing my health, my hair and my mind. To make matters worse, can we really live in a world without Gary Coleman?

The World Cup is in South Africa, a huge sinkhole has opened up in Guatemala and I'm on weekend in the South of France. Though I never mentioned this until now, I have successfully managed to inadvertently set a mattress on fire using only a hair dryer and my savvy. The mattress is in the apartment of my friends who let me vacation there for the weekend while they were out of town.

Something-something-something in the media about Wikileaks and internal reports, but I can't really tell you much because honestly, I was completely oblivious to everything. Everything except being the most fortunate "homeless" girl that ever lived because after calling it quits with the American family, I spent four days in London with my very best British friend, two weeks roaming around Croatia, the islands and the Adriatic Sea, and then ten days with Rachel, road-tripping from Paris down to the South of France.

August arrived and I was either drunk off of relaxation or hell-bent on not yet giving up France because I signed up with a third (and FINAL, I swear to God) French family as their Au Pair to three awesome girls in the center of the city. It also doesn't hurt when your job starts with a week vacationing with them on the coast of Spain. During their second week of vacation, I sneak off to the Italian coast to explore everything mozzarella covered and garlic infused. Not a bad summer.

Here's a real tragedy: I turn another year older. I spend it with my new French OBGYN, which makes me feel even older. I'm nostalgic for previous birthday parties spent with frilly dresses, party favors, the Moon Man from McDonalds and colorfully wrapped boxes of Barbies. However, I put on my incredible new party dress, to spend an incredible night on an incredible riverboat/peniche, eating incredible vanilla and strawberry cake, and blowing out a candle for what I plan to make an incredible year.

Oh, the delightfulness of the French. They make unforgettable pastries, they speak beautifully; they enjoy their lives. When they're done, done with their (minimum) 5 weeks of vacation, they complain. They stir, they storm, they strike, they set cars on fire and they make the front page of the NY Times.

But the strikes don't bother me because the French policemen are easy on the eyes. I am keeping my head up (literally). I am going with the flow. I am okay until I'm stuck listening to my host-dad (fill in the appropriate blank) his new girlfriend for 3 hours. I am now sleep deprived, annoyed and longing for my independence again.

Did I mention that I love Thanksgiving? Did I mention that it's up there on my list of Top Favorite Holidays, along with Black Friday and the Vernal Equinox? Did I mention that baguettes and fromage, no matter how chewy, carb-y and creamy, will never take the place of my mom's turkey and Trader Joe's pumpkin pie?! Did I mention that nothing sounds more appealing than an entire day sitting around with family, admiring the dysfunction and keeping our aggression passive? No, I never mentioned it because Thanksgiving arrives and cue the arrival of my tooth infection that leads to a root canal, and two more weeks of other infections. But I'm still thankful because in two weeks, I will be vacationing with my dad and brother for the holidays.

Oh yeah, I also misplaced a 7 year old child. There, I said it.

So it's official, marijuana is still illegal....But wine isn't!

I've mentally checked out of my job, this project, and I'm trying to muster up what little energy I have left. Instead, I focus on improving my French and reading every book in sight. Escapism.

I'm in need of family, which I fly to meet in Milan December 20th. This turns into a two week adventure with the boys, including Paris for Christmas and, wait for it, yes that's right, Barcelona for New Year's Eve. We tour the sites, we spend way too long in museums, we eat flan every day for breakfast, we make inside jokes, we quote youtube clips, we see Europe together and we spend what is now the Best New Years I've Ever Had eating The Best Paella that has ever been made. We each eat our 12 grapes of good luck, even the soft ones, and hope they keep their promise.

Similar to last year, I spend January 1st on my way to Lyon. This time, I'm greeted with open arms and the best chocolate cake I've ever eaten in my entire life.

So it's official-- 2011. I'm a believer in new things, new beginnings; out with the old, in with the new...hence my shoe collection. I'm ready to take the lessons of 2010 and start anew. This past year has taught me a lot, from keeping track of my scarf and gloves, to learning to accept help from others. I've realized that I'm stronger than I thought, but it's okay to let your guard down once in a while; that at times, you just need to jump and most likely, you'll land on your feet; and even when you don't, just get back up and dust yourself off. I've realized that when all is said and done, I have an incredible support system; and that seriously, no but like seriously, no one makes baguettes like the French. So at the risk of begging, please be good to us 2011!

Happy New Year.


  1. Hi Lauren,

    Just found your blog and I am going to have to keep up with it. Love your about description and think your reasons for embarking on the Au Pair venture are great!

  2. Hey hun, Best British friend here, can I add to that title. Best NigerianBritish and overconfident friend? Nah, your has a better ring to it.

  3. Lauren, someday when you write your book and they make a movie out of it, I hope you remember your middle aged, mom reader, (who indeed did wonder what the heck happened to the au pair girls blog that she is living vicariously through)! I want a signed copy of the book and front row seats to the movie ; D. Looking forward to hearing what 2011 has in store for you.

  4. Welcome back! I'm so jealous of all your European travels and can't wait to read more.

  5. Cheers to a fantastic, wonderfully French 2011!

  6. Absolutely fabulous way to sum up the year!

    Um, would love to hear more about this whole mattress-blowdryer fiasco...

  7. I am so happy you are back! I wondered: Did she drop off the face of the Earth? Was she, perhaps, murdered because she misplaced a child? I hope you have the happiest of New Years! Gros bisous!

  8. Glad to know you're back, Lauren!
    I honestly tell 2010 was a quite a year, specially for you. But, trust me - 2011 will be epic! No, seriously. It will :)
    Have a great week, L!

  9. Your best yet, Lauren!!!
    with love,

  10. OK-I read this the other day and was like "What a GOOD idea!!". Wouldn't be interesting to see an outline of your year to come on January 1?

    Jealous of your Barcelona'ing-what an awesome city. You have to love a place that has been working on a cathedral for a couple 100 years and still has no end date in mind. I can only dream of that type of easy going project management.

  11. What an interesting and action-packed year you had. Thanks for a very amusing article.

    Two things: did you find the child, and did you have to replace the mattress? :)

  12. "C'est Magnifique!"

    I loved this. So much.

  13. Wow...I hope your 2011 turns out to be loads better than 2010! You exhausted me just reading about it. But then again, I live a rather quiet life in a small town in North Carolina where everybody is nice, sweet iced tea is in every fridge and someone, somewhere in a five mile radius is frying up a batch of old fashioned Southern fried chicken!

    I hope you us up to date on your trials (and the triumphs!)


  14. I can't believe I missed this post, but I came around right. First of all... your dad must really have been waiting for that sale! Haha that's awesome! Lol.

    Isn't it crazy when you look back on what a crazy year you've had. All in all I think you had some pretty good ups, and downs too. Everything happens for a reason and if not for the crazy stuff you'd be bored ;)

    Oh and P.S.- Thanks for sharing all the traveling you've done when I get my little 3 weeks a year!! :P

  15. Hi Lauren,

    I know I'm getting repetitive but... Your writing is so easy to read. I love your phrasing, the (self)irony, the references - it's addictive. And I'm not just saying this to flatter you - I'm definitely gonna keep an eye on your blog... for perfectly selfish reason as I'd always use more positive, energetic, and intelligent people in my life.

    Keep on doing your thing and don't let any doubts and/or rejections let you down.
    In a true Bridget Jones style (the movie as this is NOT in the novel), I like you just the way you are. :D