Right now the voicemail on my cell phone is stacking up. Emails- over 300 and counting- are waiting in my inbox for reply (and more arrives every hour). I've been back from our Paris trip for approximately 32 hours and I've not yet spoken to anyone except one of my best friends and my mother. Instead, I have a compulsion to finish the blog entries for the trip as my first priority.
And so it begins here, with the account of our Christmas Eve and following day…
Christmas Eve was really quite stressful in that I had a very long list of "to-do" items I hoped to cross off in just that short 24 hour period. In no particular order, these included:
Get in a workout at the gym
Accompany my husband to Sam's Club to purchase 4 new tires for his car
Declutter the house so the woman who cleans for us would have an easier time of things
Wrap Jonathan's Christmas presents and place under the tree
Pack for Paris
Gather the last minute items onto our trip Itinerary and print everything out
Finish a major training module for HUD (a work assignment due by MDT)
Purchase the items I needed to make Christmas Eve dinner
Make Christmas Eve dinner
Attend Christmas Eve mass
Take my parents back to Woodbridge after the festivities
Pick up my refill prescription at CVS
Open presents with Jonathan since we would be out of town the next day
Wow! Reviewing my list just now it seems I really stuck myself in a corner- I don't think anyone could easily accomplish all of that in one day. I know I certainly wasn't capable. I got almost everything completed except that in the rush I forgot to go to CVS and never got the chance to pack before midnight.
Spending time with my parents was enjoyable. As I watched them watching the choir sing on Christmas Eve I cried. Listening to my mother's beautiful voice as she sang and remembering that I've not spent a holiday with them since I was 17 brought the tears. It was a lovely service focused on the retelling of the story of Christ's birth. I do not feel as close to God as I did a year ago and I know it is mostly because I've been too busy with work, my parents, traveling and other things to really put time and effort into our relationship. I've not been reading scriptures regularly and my prayer life has been limited to calling out to God only when I'm really up against the wall in frustration. 2009 will be different. I *will* make time for cultivating and deepening our relationship.
After the service, we returned to our home where we chatted and felt merry while Jon and I opened our presents. I was thrilled with everything we received. Two items in particular stand out in my memory (one because it is a mystery!). The first item was a lovely apron that was actually on my wishlist. It arrived with no card or return address and so sadly I do not know who gave it to me. But I am grateful. The second item has a story behind it. While visiting Jon's brother and family in Des Plaines over Thanksgiving I fell in love with the woman of the household's soft and fuzzy throw blankets. She had so many and they were beautiful and very warming on chilly days while sitting on the sofa. I inquired as to where she had purchased them and she told me and I told myself that one day, when I had time, I'd browse for them myself. That was the end really of the conversation. But seeing how much I loved the item, without any suggestion or request on my part, she purchased one for me for Christmas in my favorite color and had it sent to me. I actually cried when I opened it on Christmas Eve. Receiving presents from friends and loved ones that you'd put on a wishlist (to make things easy for those who may not want to try to guess what you want) is lovely and appreciated. Receiving presents that are so perfect from one who has come to understand you well enough to know what you'd love even before you think to ask for it is amazing.
After the gifts were opened we returned my parents to their apartment and came back home. It was after 10pm and I still had not finished my work assignment or packed. The training module was proving to be a nightmare. Just as it had been for weeks, no matter what new technique I tried I could not get the audio and video to match. I really really hate Adobe/Macromedia Flash. I worked on the training literally all night long. I had plenty of time as our doctor had advised me the best way to adjust to Paris time was to deprive my body of sleep the night before we left so that I'd naturally be inclined to fall asleep on the plane over the Atlantic and wake up in Paris refreshed and ready to begin the day. By 5:30am I'd had enough of figuratively beating my head against the wall and I wrote my manager to explain that I just couldn't get the audio and video in sync and so would remove the audio leaving the training text and video only. It's hard admitting you can't do something; I was very disappointed in myself. After weeks of trying to do this on my own having never learned flash programming before I won't beat myself up anymore though.
So now it was 5:30am and I still needed to pack. I was so tired, but got everything in my suitcase and carry-on and double checked all the essential items (passport, itinerary, camera, etc). I realized in the rush of the day I had forgotten to pick up my refill from CVS and seeing as how it's blood pressure medication I could not go without. I had to call another CVS - the 24 hour one- and have them fill it again so we could pick it up on the way to the airport.
We kissed our wonderful doggies goodbye and headed off to the airport a bit after 7am, stopping by the pharmacy of course on the way out of town. We arrived to BWI airport in plenty of time for our 11am flight to Atlanta. This was the domestic segment of our trip- we would then board a plane in Atlanta destined for CDG airport in Paris. The trip was smooth and uneventful, although there is quite a bit of turbulence when flying over the Atlantic. I was very tired and slept most of the way, waking only occasionally to ponder all the exciting experiences we would have in Paris and my upcoming elite status with Delta airlines. Once we landed in Paris it would be officially- I would have flown over 25,000 actual miles on Delta planes in 2008, qualifying me for elite status. This means free upgrades to first class on domestic flights and those to Central and South America, priority boarding and baggage handling, and flight mileage bonuses when flying. Plus of course I'd heard the airline staff treat you as if you were actually human when you become elite. I was so excited! I set my watch to Paris time (6 hours ahead of Eastern US) and prepared for the best to unfold.