Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Things Not Missed (At least not much)

As promised in the last post, here are a few things that, surprisingly enough, I don't miss here in France--well, at least not much.

1) Our mini-van! This is a complete shocker to me. Before leaving, I really worried about surviving carless for an entire year. Surprisingly, I hardly miss it at all. Because Lyon has such great mass transportation, I can get just about anywhere I need to go, often in less time than it would take to drive. I enjoy the exercise walking to and from the metro station, and find that the walk home helps me decompress a bit from work so I can better focus on my family by the time I get home. I thought that grocery shopping would be impossible without a trunk to fill, but I've learned that you can dangle an impressive number of plastic bags from a double stroller. On the few occasions that we've rented a car, I've felt liberated upon returning it--no more gas, tolls, parking meters, traffic jams, crazy roundabouts, etc. Most of all, I definitely don't miss wrestling the girls into their car seats on a regular basis.

If you'd asked me before coming if I could survive without a vehicle, I definitely would have said "no" (I'm still not sure that I could in Illinois). It's taken a change this drastic to break the addiction and open my mind a little bit more to some alternative options. Will I be happy to have our Honda Odyssey back when we return? Absolutely. However, hopefully I will be a little more willing to ride the MTD bus occasionally as well.

2) Walmart. No, this is not going to turn into a bash-the-big-box-store post. I've done far too much business with Wal-Mart to hop on that bandwagon without being a complete hypocrite. Even so, I've become partial to shopping at a small grocery store. The selection may not be quite as large, but I really enjoy getting my exercise walking to the store, not parading through it.

3) Our dryer. I thought that hanging up all of the laundry would be an impossible challenge for a family of four. Admittedly, it is sometimes a pain, but it's not nearly as inconvenient as I thought it would be. Even better, folding laundry is much easier when you can see all of the laundry hanging from a glance instead of rooting through the whole laundry basket for the other pink sock.

4) All of our kitchen gadgets. In packing up to come, I had to leave behind so many fun kitchen toys--our waffle maker, George Foreman (i.e. panini griller), cookie press, Kitchen Aid mixer, fondue pot, electric skillet, toaster, potato masher, juice press, garlic press, cake platter, mini-muffin mold, popcorn popper, etc., etc. The amazing thing to me is that not only do I rarely miss these things, I hardly even think about them! It's amazing how much you can do with a few simple pots, a skillet, a cookie sheet, a 9x13" pan, a mixing bowl, and a hand blender. (Of course, we did have to purchase a springform pan as well after arriving--there was no way I could survive an entire year without one of Jason's cheesecakes.) The one possible exception to this rule is our microwave--consuming leftovers isn't nearly as fun without it.

5) The kid's toys. As I packed up our entire Little People village, I felt certain that my daughters would be traumatized without their beloved play things. In truth, quite the opposite is true. They never seem to think about them. Even more, they don't even play much with the toys that we did bring with us. What they want is someone to play with, not something. Building a fort with a friend is ten times better than building a train track alone. I think that's why anytime you ask Brooklyn what she wants to do, she invariably says "a craft"--for a craft is much more than a creation--as a child, it's creation that happens together.

6) Our clothes. We packed away a lot of our wardrobe. I fussed and fretted over what to bring and felt certain that we wouldn't have enough to get by. In all actuality, our modest wardrobes are plenty sufficient, even when the laundry gets backed up and you have to wait a couple days for things to dry. Even more surprisingly, I've noticed that I still have some clothes that I never wear! I've realized that our wardrobes don't need much in terms of quantity--just a few "staples" that we enjoy wearing and help us feel good about ourselves.

All in all, being geographically separated from my "stuff" has definitely helped me identify where my treasure really lies--here with my family. In contemplating the unenviable task of getting the four of us back home with all of our loot, I've been tempted to leave everything and come back empty-handed with just Jason and the kids..... (plus the cameras and the laptops and the DVDs and our books and some chocolate---I guess I'm not near as anti-materialistic as I'd like to think!)

As much as I don't miss most things very much, I miss people all the time. Our kids have taught us how quickly stuff can break--I just feel grateful that given a bit of care and attention, relationships can last.


Anonymous said...

Another wonderful entry Milkweed! Although the heated leather seats are nice, my back porch has been "hot enough" for over 50 years without being pre-heated. So ... I'll be happy to return your Ol' gold/tan Odyssey over to your family on July 2d. Oh, and don't worry about me buying a replacement vehicle at Wal-Mart. Keep Smiling!

Megan Ficek said...

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy keeping up with the Wheelers with your blog?

Tanja said...

Thank you for the latest blog -- I had to think about some of the things you wrote - and I agree with them ... but ...(did we not had a fireside about the word "but" - I guess I have not broken with this bad habit yet - "but" I am working on it).
... but I do love to drive with my new car. I believe I went grocery shopping every day the first two weeks - just for an excuse to drive the new Volkswagen Golf (Oldtimer - 22.01.1990 - my car and I share the same birthday :)
- so I am of a certain that you will get back to drive the Ol' gold/tan Odyssey with pleasure. :)

Clothes - yes, I will have to bring some of them to the Red Cross Store (except that I got them from there in the first place - when I needed to spend money on something in order to reward me for some things done).

I am starting babbling - Sorry. Thanks for the blog. Have a great week.

Tanja said...

P.S.: ... but I do miss Wal-mart or maybe more the good cheap American products - especially medication.

chou said...

Ah, I'm so glad that you miss people. We miss you!