Paris Christmas Windows

American Thanksgiving always lines up with the start of the Christmas season in Europe, which means Christmas markets, mulled wine and lots and lots of lights. I had my first mulled wine of the season at a Paris Christmas market right after browsing Christmas window displays.

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I took this picture of a killer dress that I would totally rock if I had bags of cash.

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Then a couple windows down I saw the same dress on a puppet! How freaking cute is that!!

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God, I love Paris!

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Attitude is Everything

Someone hit my parked car the other day.

I really hate when people mess with my car when he is sitting there minding his own business, but this was a complete accident.  What made this event blog-worthy is the way the lady reacted to her mistake (hint: not well).

Originally I was going to post a rant about the entire incident but after I vented to my friends for a while I realized that even though this lady pissed me off and made herself look a little ridiculous, she gave me a small gift.

So let’s start from the beginning:

I am closing out of my email and getting ready to leave the office when a young guy that works in the building comes running in shouting my name.

“Yeah?” I asked, peaking around my privacy wall (actually it is just a cabinet I commandeered, but it works very well as a privacy wall).

“Someone hit your car!’ he yelled with a little too much glee.  Seriously.  I appreciate you letting me know, but you don’t have to sound so excited about it.

“Oooohhhh” says the entire office at the same time.

I sighed. I slowly rose (my coworker said I looked like Mount Vesuvius just before it lost its shit and exploded). I walked outside into the dark. A girl is standing by my car, shining the light from her cell phone onto my front left panel.

“There’s no damage!”

“Ummm… OK, what is going on here?”

Then the driver shows up.

“I don’t know what happened!” she screeched at me.

“Ok, what’s your insurance information?” I asked

“Oh well, I will give you my phone number but I really don’t think there is any damage.”

“Well it is dark right now and we can’t see anything, I will look tomorrow in the daylight, what is your insurance info?”

“Ok, here is my number, if there is any damage call me.”

It was cold, raining, and dark so I took her contact info and went inside.

I am sure she was embarrassed and frustrated and probably a little nervous.  A crowd of people saw her drive into my car and they stood around to watch the rest of the scene.  If I were in her shoes I would be freaking out about what this was going to do to my insurance premiums because here Italy we are essentially being price gouged by our insurance companies.  But when you drive your car into someone else’s you have to give up your insurance information, its the law, its also what decent people do.

The next day I sent her pictures of the damage and asked for her insurance information.  The damage is all cosmetic and can probably be patched up pretty quickly.  Easy-peasy, right?

Of course not.

She didnt give me her insurance information, instead she wanted to meet after work (in the dark) so she could inspect the damage (in the dark) because her car didnt show any damage.

While I am over-the-moon-happy for her that she managed to hit a parked car and not get a scratch on her own car, she did scratch up mine and I was not thrilled that she was trying to play coy with me.  I was also not thrilled that she was implying I was somehow trying to scam her.

I really, really do understand her desire to sweep this under the rug, or ignore it and hope it goes away.  I have ignored lots of issues, hoping they would give up and go away.  Obviously they didn’t, they got bigger and uglier and I was always left wishing I would have just done the right thing from the get-go.

I would like to say that I grew out of that impulse as I matured but the truth is that I simply learned (the hard way) to resist that urge and take responsibility for the stupid stuff I do.  It’s not fun, and it’s usually expensive, but it’s what grown folks do and so I will do it too.

She finally gave me the name of her insurance company but not her policy number.  Luckily, we both use the same insurance so I called them and explained that she was playing coy.  The agent told me I was going to have to get a police report with witness statements in order to establish that she was the one at fault since she was not cooperating or I would have to use my own insurance and pay the deductible myself.  I have a high deductible.  What I don’t have is bags of money to throw around, so off to the police station I went.

The cops were baffled.  They didnt want to fill out a report for a simple traffic accident.  They asked why we couldn’t have just exchanged insurance information.  They explained that their office doesn’t have to be involved in what they call a “friendly agreement” which is when one person hits another’s car and then takes responsibility with the insurance companies.

This lady stood in the police station and screeched through the double paned glass that she had no idea what happened, she was just driving along and then out of nowhere she heard a noise.  She didn’t know what that noise was, but it didnt sound like metal scrapping (in her expert opinion).  When she got out of the car people were yelling that she’d hit a car (so hard, they said it rocked back and forth).  And yet, she maintained that she couldn’t have been the cause of the damage to my car.

At this point the two lead cops (I am sure they have more official titles but I am civilian, I have no idea what those titles are) called me into the back and asked me what the hell was going on.  I explained the situation and then they started talking about opening a case and rattling off numbers and other cop jargon.

All of a sudden this minor traffic accident blew up.  Now she was going to be investigated for fleeing the scene of an accident and other offenses I didnt understand.

In the end I got the information I needed to get my car fixed and she got a plate load of problems.

I’m not going to lie, I definitely gloated a little bit.  Justice had been served!  She wasn’t going to get away with her shenanigans!  Hooray!

But now that I have had time to think about it I feel mostly empathy with her.  She probably also has a sky-high deductible or is worried that if her insurance rates go any higher she is going to have to make even more cuts to an already lean budget.  I am sure like the rest of us, she just doesn’t have the time or energy to deal with this crap.  This whole situation sucks.

What I learned from her is that the outcome of any situation is so dependent on your attitude.  She came out of that car ready to steam roll me into agreeing with her that this was no big deal.  The next day she was ready to play hardball about the insurance.  At the police station she was ready to cause a scene.  She wanted this situation to go away and she was ready to fight for it.

What if she had come out of the car ready to apologize for hitting another car?

What if she had asked how we could work together to get the damage fixed without breaking the bank?

What if instead of relying on anger and defensiveness she let the softer, more vulnerable emotions have a say in this interaction?

Things probably would have gone differently, more smoothly.  At least the cops wouldn’t have been involved.

I am a lot like her.  When I am under pressure I rely heavily on my fight instincts.  I get angry and defensive.  I see other people as the enemy.

You know what happens when you see other people as the enemy?  You make a lot of enemies.

I believe that there are times when you need to put on your armor and go to battle, but probably not every time.  Probably not every fight.

In the spirit of this recent adventure I am going to try (I said try!) to be more aware of the times I am relying on my fight instincts and ask myself if there are more appropriate emotions I could be accessing.  Wish me luck.

 

 

 

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Daisy

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After a couple of very sad weeks with no bike I finally found a bike that fit all of my needs.  Her name is Daisy and she is a custom made bike by an American expat here in Italy.  I am not sure when he started making these bikes (called Utility) but they are awesome.  The seat and the handlebars are a little higher than normal so when I ride I am not hunched over at all.  I can seriously ride for hours on Daisy and my back never starts to hurt.  Now I just need a bell, or maybe one of those really obnoxious clown horns!

 

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Hello Again

Hello Again. It’s been a long time. I’m not going to lie, part of my absence has been because I was very busy throwing myself several extravagant pity parties (they were awesome, you should have been there).

In addition to the pity parties I have also been traveling and checking several items off my list of 35 before 35! I will get to those later.

But first, the bad news: My beloved bike, Lullubelle is gone.  She was stolen a few weeks ago.  This is one of the last pictures I have of her and I together.

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I miss her.

So, onto happier things.  I am now in the market for a new bike and this one will be the perfect bike for me.

Here are my requirements:
– High beach cruiser style handlebars so I don’t have to hunch over
– A bell
– A very low middle bar so I can wear a dress without flashing everyone as I climb on and off the bike
– A basket on the front
– A pretty color like pink or mint green

That’s about it!  Stay tuned for updates to the 35 before 35 countdown!

 

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Costumes of Venice Carnevale

It’s Carnevale time round these parts!!!  That means lots of masks, cloaks, and fancy ladies swishing around in big dresses.  

I took a quick trip into Venice on Sunday to see the costumes and soak up the rare day of sunshine.  I made the mistake of staying longer than I planned and I got caught up in the terrible, horrible crowds.  I knew better, but I stayed anyway.  Sometimes I need to learn hard lessons more than once.  It’s my curse.

I did the full Carnevale experience my first year here and I never need to do it again.  It was way too many people packing into St. Mark’s Square and not nearly enough alcohol to keep the party going.  Seriously, would it have killed the event planners to set up booths selling drinks or have waiters circulating with shots or something?  Instead it was just a bunch of moderately sober people standing around in the cold, which is not my idea of a party.

But this year I did witness something pretty crazy.  It was early in the morning before the square filled up with people and I was trying to get pictures of the costumes before I saw something that ripped my attention away from the fancy ladies.

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This guy in a sheet painted with the word JESUS strung himself up on a flag pole in the middle of the square.  I am not sure what he was trying to do but it looked like he intended to hang out on  that pole all day.  The rescue crew was simply not having that.  I stood around taking pictures like the obnoxious spectator that I am and I even caught a few of the rescue crew snapping their own pics.

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So that was pretty much my favorite part of the day, but back to the fancy ladies…

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I think my favorite masks are the doctor masks with the long noses but I love reading about the origins and symbolism behind all of the different carnevale masks.  One of my friends shared this article that gives a great history and overview.

Tomorrow I will be at a local Carnevale party where I will debut my newest mask with outrageous feathers :)  What is everyone else doing for the pre-Lent party season???

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The Five Stages of Dating an Italian Man

When I was breaking the news to my friends and family that I was moving to Italy I got a wide variety of responses but the one I enjoyed the most was giggling with my girlfriends about all the gorgeous Italian men waiting for me.  

And there are some gorgeous Italian men, believe me.

But I am an American girl and I am comfortable admitting that I am out of my depth when dealing with Italian men.  In my (very limited) experience, dating an Italian is like staring in your very own soap opera.  Sometimes exciting, but mostly just full of eye-rolling moments.  

Take my most recent Casanova for example:

Stage One: Romantic “meet-cute”

I was wandering around the canal district of Milan looking for a low-key place to grab dinner and maybe a few drinks.  I normally have *very* good luck when picking a restaurant in a new city.  Sometimes it takes a bit of looking, but I pretty much always find the perfect place.  This time I found a blues club down the street from the canal.  When I sat down and saw the menu I knew I had made a mistake but I ordered a drink and an appetizer.  I am not kidding you when I say that this place had the worst food I have eaten my entire time in Italy.  Really, it was the worst.  

I was paying my bill and getting ready to leave when the pair at the next table asked me to join them.  They turned out to to be cousins and the guy was very cute in an older, rugged kind of way.  We talked for a little while and then the cute rugged guy asked me to dance.  There was music, but no one was dancing.  I said yes and before I knew it a party had exploded around us and everyone was dancing.  Pretty freaking cute right?

By the end of the night he had slipped his bracelet onto my wrist and we’d made plans to meet the next day, and then the next weekend, and so on.  

Adorable.

 

Stage Two: Inappropriate Professions of Love

Do you know what is not adorable?  Being told “I Love You” by someone you just met a week earlier.  Kind of makes a mockery of the sentiment, you know?  I would also like to point out that I barely speak enough Italian to make myself understood and he speaks no english, so there is a very real limit to how much we can communicate with each other.  There were no five-hour long conversations about our hopes and dreams.  No deep, soul-baring confessionals.  Just two people stumbling along trying to understand each other.  So when I am being told “Ti amo, Ti voglio bene, and I love you” by this man I have good reason to doubt that he says these things in earnest.  Rather, I get the sense that this is just what you do in a courtship, you say very romantic things that you don’t actually mean, which is the least romantic thing I can think of.

 

Stage Three: The Green-Eyed Monster

On top of the inappropriate professions of love, there are also the rages of jealousy.  When I didn’t answer a text right away I got the passive-aggressive “Excuse me, I can see that you too busy to answer so I won’t bother you anymore” text (in Italian of course, which doesn’t make it anymore charming).  When I told him that I liked him but he was putting too much pressure on me he gave me the cold shoulder, which was the breaking point for me.  

*Please forgive me for getting on my dating soapbox, but I feel like I have to say this: Ladies, if anyone ever tries to emotionally punish you for knowing and maintaining your boundaries RUN AWAY. A man that doesn’t respect your boundaries will always be trouble. *

 

Stage Four: The Dramatic Goodbye

You can see where I am going with this right?

My grasp of Italian is not great, but I am pretty sure he told me that the bracelet he gave me for good luck would now bring me bad luck.  Because we can’t just agree that we are incompatible, right?  Now we have to start handing out curses? 

 

Stage Five: The Post-Drama Overtures 

So, a week goes by and I get a text from the charming Italian.  Do you know what it says?

“Prrrrrrr”

Really.  I have no words.

 

I am sure stuff like this happens with men in every country, but it feels somehow exaggerated here in Italy.  I can fully admit that I have a dramatic streak and I do like a little flair in a relationship, but shenanigans like this make me yearn for the kind of courtships you find in Jane Austen novels.  I could do with a lot more Mr. Darcy and a lot less Casanova right now.  

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Sono Distrutto

I learned a new Italian saying today: Sono distrutto ~ I am destroyed.  

It is a very dramatic way of saying that you are, well, destroyed.  That’s how I feel right now.  Distrutto.  Not for any particular reason, just life carving away at me until I feel like I am just a shell of an Erica.  

It might be the rain.  It has been raining here for days and days.  The city is flooding and all the yards are turning into little oceans.  Normally I love the rain but this constant gloom is getting to be a bit much.  

Today feels like a day when I should be concentrating on the really good stuff in my life but even that feels like too much work.  I would much rather sit here in my big brown chair and feel sorry for myself.  And maybe eat some ice cream because you can’t have a really great pity party without ice cream, right?

All of this whining is actually reminding me of something really cool I started doing on the first day of the new year…

I read a blog post about gratitude jars (I wish I could remember where I read it so I could link it for you) and I decided to make one myself.  I cleaned out a giant pickle jar and put it on in a conspicuous place in my living room with a pen and pad of paper next to it.  Now, whenever I have something I am grateful for I just jot it down and throw it into the jar.  On New Year’s Eve this year I will spend the day revisiting all of my moments of gratitude for the year :)

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(Don’t worry, the jar has a lot more scraps in it now, this picture is from the jar’s birthday!)

I hope everyone is having a peaceful evening, but if you are feeling distrutto try to think of at least one good thing you could put in your own gratitude jar today. :)

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