New Adventures Await

Apologies for yet another long pause between posts, but life has been rather busy.

We finally got to bring home our darling new puppy Poe, and he is settling in nicely. He’s immensely intelligent and affectionate, but he can be a bit of a hellion for 3-4 hours a day (the witching hours when Torpedo Poe comes out, we say). Rukia is both exhausted and enamored by her new little brother, who simply cannot get enough of her. I think it’s made her feel like the pack is a little more complete.

We adore our new “baby boy” but I had definitely forgotten how much work a puppy is. It’s truly like having a toddler running around the house at all times. Any moments of silence I have used to work on graduate assignments before the wildness emerges again. But I’m so, so in love and he is so clearly obsessed with his “mama” as well. Our little family is growing.

And in a very strange – but marvelous – turn of events, Jordan was promoted as director of a luxury sector of his company and we are moving back to Paris! For good! Amsterdam, no more!

I was thrilled to start a life with Jordan in Amsterdam, but it is without question far more exciting for me to be returning to and building a life in Paris. We move in – truly – a week today (as of writing this post). That’s how fast this is all happening! And the odd part is that we will be in the city a week before our one year anniversary. It is so, so beautiful how the universe aligns all things so magically.

Speaking of one year, with the chaos of all these changes happening around us and transformations happening so quickly, it’s hard to believe that we are rounding up on our one year anniversary. I have the same excitement to see him when he comes home from work as I did when we first started dating, and yet I feel as though I have loved him for twenty, thirty years… I am so blessed to love and be loved by this man. And in one year we have created the most beautiful little life with the most adorable little family, together.

I told Jordan that his friends who set us up (my clients) made me promise to keep Jordan in Paris and to stay in Paris, myself. Well, I kept my promise! It just happened on the universe’s time, and not my own. Our journey started in Paris, continued in Strasbourg, and now we will begin a new year in Paris, again…

But now the job search begins again! Although my tarot reading side-gig picked up a little over the last month, and I still have the online teaching job that I can rely on, I still have to begin the search again. I already applied to an English school and I know I’m qualified for the job, but I’d really like to venture outside of English teaching. Ideally, working in a museum or in a library or bookshop would be a lovely career to start dipping my feet into. After all, my graduate MASTERS II degree will be in that field, so why not get a head start as our lives together get a fresh start? I’d also like to start making my writing more of a focus, but I say that in every blog post…

Anyway, I’m thrilled that we will be back in Ile-de-France (but also thrilled that we will return to Strasbourg for the Christmas market), because everyone who knows me knows that city is my most favourite in all the world, but I’m especially thrilled for the opportunities this promotion will bring Jordan. He has the potential to do amazing things with this new road he will travel down, and I’m beyond proud of my darling man. His dedication to both his work and his family is so admirable, and he deserves all the success and happiness that the universe can grant him.

Here’s to a new life -and a new adventure – in one week!
xo
C

Blocked

“There’s nothing to writing. You just sit at a typewriter and bleed.” – Hemingway

The only thing I’ve written in a long time is how I’ve written absolutely nothing as of late. And despite being at what is truly the peak of my happiness, endlessly inspired, and, alongside a busy schedule, making the time for writing, I just don’t know where to begin. In my journal I wrote that maybe I wrote because I was filling a void or emptiness, and now that it’s been filled with love and endless joy, I no longer have a writer within me. It’s a scary thought for me to contemplate.

It’s one Hemingway would agree with; he believed it was suffering that created the best writing. But he was an old alcoholic fool, and while I look up to him as a writer, taking his advice would be foolish.

Fitzgerald has said, “I love her and it is the beginning of everything,” and maybe that is a statement I should focus on to drive my writing. My love, my Jordan, was the beginning of a new book in the life of Claudia. So vastly different is this book that I don’t remember even a chapter of the books prior. But this love is difficult to get down on paper.

Even among the two of us, we ask ourselves if it will, “always be like this,” or if it’s possible that, “two people could love each other so much,” or if we are, “crazy to everyone looking in.” It’s not inaccurate…

We do not fight and very rarely bicker (I can count the times on one hand). We support each other and encourage one another to take it easy on ourselves. We endlessly have something to talk about, while sitting in silence is just as beautiful. We adventure together, laugh together, we are building a little family together. But a love so perfect doesn’t make a good novel. So, maybe I won’t write about love. Maybe that’s not the beginning of what I an destined to write…

I once started a non-fiction book about how to cultivate a happy life, how to assess the things in life that aren’t allowing you to be your very best self, and how to heal from trauma and challenges. This began some time after facing my sexual assailant in court, producing my TedTalk in New York, and overcoming my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But now, when I look back at the chapters of that book (I think I got to about 10 of them), I feel a disconnect from it. So, maybe that’s not what I’m destined to write, either…

A few things I do know well and write about with passion:
Hemingway
1920s Expat Writers
Paris
Following your heart
Eventually, I’d like to pursue a PhD. My thesis would revolve around those central ideas. The focus would be about how the expat writers of the 1920s who lived in and wrote about Paris portrayed this experience as being transforming, perfectly beautiful, and ripe full of success. When, in fact, it is the opposite experience for many expats: it is difficult to integrate, there is no success or wealth in the arts (despite how much France/the city of Paris advertise that they support them), living costs are extraordinary, Parisians are leaving the city because it’s, as Jordan says, dying, and being recognized for the production of English work is even more rare.

I’ve considered beginning my writing about this, perhaps starting with a focus on the lives of some of my favourite expats who have inspired my literary heart. And now that I’ve written it down, here, I feel even more inspired to do so. The only problem is that this is a project that requires immense dedication, and my schedule is pretty solid at the moment.

Have I mentioned I also got another job? Well, I haven’t received the contract yet, but I got a verbal invite by the owner of the company. It’s a Skype-based English Language Learning company that’s run out of France (but could continue with me when we move to Amsterdam). You get paired with adolescents and adults and you engage in conversation with them that has an intentional language learning focus. You assign them homework, and you work with them on a random weekly basis. It pays very well, and I’m considering using this as my secondary work over my work with QKids (a TESOL Chinese online company). I’ll still do QKids when able (another good supplementary income that can follow me to Amsterdam), but I would minimize my current schedule.

But, until that schedule is set and the contract settled, Mondays are: graduate course work + Qkids + Groceries + cleaning + dinner
Tuesdays: graduate course work + Qkids + Groceries + cleaning + dinner
Wednesdays: Strasbourg English School (in person) + (come home exhausted/break time) + write programming for SES + groceries + cleaning + dinner
Thursdays: graduate course work + Qkids + Strasbourg English School
Friday: graduate course work + Qkids + program writing for SES + Strasbourg English School

… so I don’t want to add “Developing a thesis” to that list, or the writing no longer becomes an escape but becomes work…

And! Soon we will be adding a puppy to the mix: Poe. We went to visit him this weekend and he has changed so much. He is (unbiased) the cutest puppy in the litter, and he is already so blue! We already miss him so much and are counting down until we get to bring him home (another month to go). Life will certainly get a lot crazier/busier/more full of love once that day comes.

But… I’m back where I started at the beginning of this blog: writer’s block. I don’t know where to focus my mind, and I’m not sure how to fill it into my schedule without making it feel like work.

Alas, I suppose this was enough writing for today, anyway…

xo
C

Summer Splendors

My apologies that I have been so silent as of late. August flew by in a rush of chaos and commitments and I’ve been too busy to sit down and write in this blog.

I recently got hired at the English school around the corner from the apartment. The location is exceptionally convenient and the staff are splendid. I will be teaching English to a variety of students working at various levels of abilities, but will also be tasked with writing and organizing the structured programming of their Cambridge English curriculum for a new program they’re just introducing this year called, ‘Chatterbox’. I’ll be paid for my time in the classroom as well as my time dedicated to working from home on the program development.

Chatterbox is a four hour block of class that has a theme every two weeks. While I have some material to work with, I’m going to have to extend it with my own ideas. They also have tasked me with continuing this planning even after we move to Amsterdam, paying me for the work I am doing. Once completed, this programming will be used by other teachers every year. It’s quite an honour to be trusted with this, considering they’ve known me for a total of 5 hours, face-to-face.

On top of that, I’m still keeping up with my English lessons online with Chinese students. The work I will be doing with the English school falls outside those hours, so it adapts nicely with the schedule and still leaves me with time to run errands, plan a meal and take care of the dog.

And then, to top it off, my personal side gig has the occasional client request. I had a rush at the beginning, when I first started it back up again, but now it’s quieted down. Because of having found work with the English school, I decided not to spend anymore money on advertising the side project, and just rely on word-of-mouth and recommendations. If I get a client, it’s extra money in the pocket and an opportunity to work on my writing, which I love. If I don’t, I don’t need to stress about it anymore.

Soon, my graduate program begins again and I’m taking two courses this upcoming semester. My intent is to be completed by September of next year and that should be easily achieved if I keep at a two-course pace. Of course this will make life even busier and my schedule even more packed, but I’ll manage; I always do. The courses I am taking this semester are:
Introduction to Research in Library and Information Studies & Records Management. Maybe this experience will help make me an ideal candidate to work in the administration of a museum when I get to Amsterdam… we shall see.

AND THEN! I’m not sure if you noticed the updated page on my website, but I fueled my love of Paris into creating a *really* beautiful itinerary for anyone visiting. For just a few dollars, you get an instant download of this beautiful PDF, as well as a link to all my favourite restaurants in the city that can be synced to your Google Maps on your phone. All photos in the itinerary are my own, and all suggestions are not too “touristy” and truly coming from knowing the city like the back of my hand, and wishing I had these details on my very first trip to Paris.

Jordan and I continue to discover beautiful corners of this magical city, including a new favourite restaurant that sells pizza by the slice and the most outstanding antipasto plate you’ll ever put in your mouth! Don’t be fooled, Italians reading this – the pizza isn’t soft despite how it looks. It’s crunchy and phenomenal.

Two weekends ago, Jordan and I had the pleasure of visiting friends in Geneva, Switzerland. It was about a four hour drive from Strasbourg. I had been to Geneva nine years ago but it’s completely unrecognizable from when I was last there. It’s transformed into a city that is truly alive at all times of the day, and the work they’ve done around the lake is phenomenal.

It continues to be one of the most exhaustively expensive cities in all of Europe, but it was truly a beautiful weekend.

And it was that weekend that put Jordan’s brain into “puppy mode”. Our friends got a new puppy and we had discussed for a while about getting a second dog. Initially, Jordan really wanted a dachshund, which I adore as well. But after meeting a puppy Australian Cattle Dog on the boardwalk in Geneva, Jordan’s mind did a switch (and Jordan’s Google Searches were full of ‘Bouvier Australien’ images…).

Rukia is an Australian Cattle Dog, but likely mixed with Husky or Shepherd. She is exceptionally larger than a standard Heeler, but her temperament, especially when she was younger, is much the same. They are loyal dogs who adapt to training and commands quickly, are not high maintenance, are not overly excitable, who just love their family to no end.

As if it was destiny, despite Bouvier Australiens being very difficult to find in France, Jordan happened to find a farm that was just 50 minutes away. We contacted the owner and asked if we could come see his dogs with our Rukia, and he was very welcoming towards the idea. I told Jordan that if I didn’t feel a connection, it wasn’t meant to be, but let’s give it a shot…

Instant connection with a little puppy with a spot on his eye and on his back (like Rukia!)…

So, meet Poe. He’s white right now but he will become blue like the puppies you see above. He was the only dog in the litter of 7 that had a spot on his back and I was drawn to him immediately. He was also the only puppy who, when lifted up from the pen, didn’t make a single sound (the others cried for their mom). I fell in love with this little bandit. Little bandit of my heart…

Normally, people don’t choose the dogs they put a down-payment on until they’ve grown up a bit, but the owner said he could see the attachment I had to my spotted baby, and he would save him for me.

We decided on the name Poe because, firstly, it’s “year P” for dogs born in France; it’s a law that they are registered with a name that corresponds to the letter (like a hurricane). Secondly, Jordan came up with the name idea and the reference to Edgar Allan Poe who, if you know me at all, you know I am a very big fan of his writing, but also Jordan and I both have a connection to and love of Ravens, so we thought it would be very fitting for our first animal together. On top of that, I told Jordan that Poe Dameron is a great Star Wars character so there is a secondary nerdy connection to the name, as well… hehehe…

He will be ready to leave “the nest” by the first week of October which is coincidentally one of the weekends that my parents will be here. Our plan is to hopefully pick him up with my parents on their last Sunday. I can’t wait to visit him bi-weekly and watch how he grows. We are both so excited and cannot stop joyfully planning for his arrival. It’s like we are having a little baby! Our family is growing…

Life continues to be beautiful and the opportunities I’m being gifted from the universe are endless, and I am so grateful. Every day with Jordan is a blessing, and I am just so happy all the time. It’s amazing what following your heart and risking it all for love can do for you…

xo
C

Playing Tourist in our Backyard

What a beautiful weekend playing tourist in our own backyard.
I use that term loosely, as we were still in the Alsace region this weekend, but an hour and a bit from our apartment in Strasbourg. I don’t remember the name of the village where this St. Barnabe Spa Hotel was, but it reminded me a lot of being up-North in Canada.

Our morning there was rainy and foggy (did you see the view from our hotel room? Spectacular!), but the sun came out in the afternoon and we had a chance to swim in the pool and enjoy the sauna. It was a weekend of relaxation, which Jordan totally deserved.

Further up from the hotel was another little village (as seen above) where we stopped for lunch. I must say, the vegetarian plate that I had (with the pastry) was probably one of the best meals I’ve ever had in France. It was phenomenal beyond belief! The texture, the flavours, the fresh vegetables, the creamy mushroom sauce… it was a dream. I wish I had another plate of it!

In the evening, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant which was extravagant and magnificent. It was so good that me and Jordan stared at each other wide-eyed in disbelief for most of the meal. What a beautiful experience.

We ended our weekend by stopping at Riquewihr before going back home. Riquewihr (pronounced Rick-Veer) is about 40 minutes from Strasbourg and has easily taken top spot as my favourite little Alsacian village.

I was gasping around every corner and taking a million photographs, sighing at every building and clutching my chest in adoration, and giggling at the little shops, most especially the Christmas shop that was multiple floors and felt like you were in a Noel DisneyLand. I cannot wait to go back here.

As for the week ahead, it’s a holiday on August 15th so I’m excited to have Jordan home with me during the week (*does a happy dance*), and we are headed to Geneva, Switzerland on Friday afternoon. I’ve also reignited an old “company” (side gig) of mine and I’ve already had a handful of clients… I’ve forgotten how much I like creative, spiritually-fulfilling work that is personal and exciting.

Hope all is swell on the other side of the planet.
I continue to live the most beautiful life.

xo
C

Everything is Picturesque

Sometimes I take photos of alleyways that make me gasp, not knowing if I’ve photographed them already. Other times, I find new streets that I am sure I’ve never been down, and a smile spreads across my face as I trot down it, with joy.

And this familiar city can surprise me with events that I never anticipated. This Saturday was the largest market of the year, with the entire city barricaded off to just pedestrians and cyclists. I was expecting more antiques (and regretted not getting the Orthodox Icon) and I had no idea how busy it would be. It was positively overwhelming! You cannot tell from the photos, but you could barely move in the street.

Not only did market vendors set up a booth in every open nook and cranny, stores also had their own racks of Solde merchandise, ready for the picking. I didn’t leave with anything other than some really inexpensive emmental bretzels from Paul (a rarity if you know the franchise Paul).

I lose track of where I’ve been in this city and sometimes come along to parts of it by accident and feel like Indian Jones. That happened today when I just let walking take over, and I ended up on the opposite side of the island in the city centre. The population changes, the storefronts change, and the restaurants have a different vibe (they looked a little more Parisian, despite next to no tourists being present).

I even walked into this woo-woo store (as Jordan calls it) that sold Tibetan and Japanese goods like clothing, housewares, and spiritual items. One of the people working in the shop stopped me on the way out to ask me why my accent sounded so weird, “Is it Italian? It doesn’t sound like an Italian accent but has hints of it.” I explained with a laugh and he proceeded to ask if he could give me a “sound bath” (which is ringing meditation bells around a person) and gave me some free incense.

This is not the first shop owner that has begun treating me like a local. The man who runs the rug shop next to the apartment always waves “Hello,” when he sees me, and even passed along an Iranian salad recipe to me, to make for me and, “[my] love”. A few market stalls are frequented every Tuesday (and every Saturday if I can pull myself out of bed) and the cheese stall owner, the olive dude, and the bread master always say, “Hello” with a bigger smile to their regulars, like myself. They always follow it up with a, “ca va?”

It seems like a small thing or a little kind gesture but it all adds into Strasbourg feeling like home.

I am still as in love with the city as my first day here. And – if you check out the pictures – I did end up grabbing that Hemingway book (in French – It’s actually Hills Like Wild Elephants), as it was only 1EURO50.

That’s another thing that separates Strasbourg from Paris: the prices in stores, in the markets, in the restaurants, in the grocery shops, are all significantly lower than the prices in Paris. It’s almost shocking.

And if you’re wondering (because you know I’m a fan), I didn’t grab the copy of Le Petit Prince; it was too similar to other editions I have, including a French edition I brought with me. I really like my collection to be unique.

The windows are open letting in the breeze from the rain that’s falling.
The heatwave has passed.
I am happy.
Life is swell.

What was life like before all this? Before Jordan?? I do not recall. I truly have no recollection.

Follow your dreams, people, because it makes every day like a fantasy.

xo
C