... but that was Elizabeth Gilbert's Rome.  I should have known my Rome would be different....

As we drove through the outskirts of Rome, and then the heart of Rome, to our hotel, I knew I was going to have trouble understanding the personality of the city.  It was a little provocative, a little intimidating, a little dangerous, a little sophisticated, a little provincial ...  Some cities are in your DNA - they are your lifeblood, you take to them immediately, you feel at home.

Have you been in that spot?  Where you've traveled somewhere new and thought, "Oh, this place.  Somewhere in my spirit I've been here before," and it has been familiar and lovely and comforting?

Rome was not that place for me.  Rome was the guy you date and you're not sure if it's a good idea, but it feels right in the moment.  (and then you break up a few months later because you weren't truly a good fit but you're still left with some positive memories.)

(A few caveats?  I am still not up to date on my Roman history.  I would love to be able to put all of the following in context, but, I can't.  Also, when I say "we drove through ... Rome," in no way do I mean we drove through Rome.  Rome is a city with a magnitude of history, life and human experience crammed down into narrow Vias with suicide mission mopeds.  I mean the cab driver or the bus drove through Rome.)

Layers and layers of human life upon human artifact.  Apartment buildings next to Ristorantes next to Government Buildings next to the Spanish Steps next to Roman ruins next to the Gap (really) across the street from Vatican City.  It is so much living and so much history crammed into the here and the now; a puzzle dumped out and all of the pieces, jumbled, mixed up, lying before you -- It almost makes sense.  Almost.

Shoes and I set out on our own that evening, exhausted, jet lagged, and famished.  Our first Italian language lesson?  Although  most native speakers seemed to appreciate the effort, it was often easier for them to address us in English.  So much for those months of Duolingo ...

The next morning, still jetlagged and still confused from lack of sleep, we wandered around this confusing, hectic, slightly aggressive city.

And even though Rome was confusing, not at all familiar, and a little strange to me, I took Shoes' elbow as we walked and kept whispering, "I can't believe we're here.  I can't believe we get to do this."

(I'm still high on just the fact that we had the opportunity to do this.)

And Shoes, in his Shoes way, gently told me I needed sleep.  (and oh, how I needed sleep.)
But Shoes is the one who asked, upon seeing the following sign, what exactly Italians have against hip hop. I am certain I'm not the only one with jet lag brain.

The city was breathtakingly sexy, of course, in it's own right.

It is roped off, but it is just there.  Ghosts of other lives, laid out so intimately that one could breathe it, touch it, live it.

Shoes and I walked for four hours that first day in perfect, drizzly 55 degree weather.  We drank cappuccinos, meandered, absorbed, and attempted to avoid the extremely aggressive vendors.  Found everywhere.  I don't think vendors have an off season.  (I had never heard of a selfie stick before this day.)

In the afternoon, we took a bus loop with Shoes' mom around the city for a 2 hour everything about Rome history lesson (of which I remember nothing but it was really a very lovely city tour), ate pizza, drank wine.  And then ... we slept.  Oh, sweet, sweet sleep.

I have never been so grateful for sleep before.

And a break from the travel posts.

I know you guys aren't priests, but, this is what's on my unexplained female infertility heart this morning.

I have a really, really difficult time mustering up excitement for pregnancy announcements.  Sometimes an inordinately difficult time.  And I am having a really, really difficult time with them this morning especially.  (Before I come across as especially cold hearted and cruel, please know that I genuinely am eventually excited for all of these new babies.  Very sincerely.)

Facebook has handed me an onslaught plethora of good news announcements in the past two weeks.  And oh, dear hearts.  It is really fantastic news.  I am always so excited when babies are welcomed into the world by parents who are loving, attentive and nurturing.

But it is truly work for me to stay centered in the *absolute fact* that these pregnancy announcements have nothing to do with me and to stay grounded in the fact that my unfortunate lack of success in conceiving is absolutely unrelated to others' successes.  And I spend quite a bit of time trying to rest in that.  What's also true is that sometimes (not all the time) I spend 45 minutes weeping in the bathroom until I realize I'm engaging in the Fallacy of Fairness (it's a cognitive distortion I teach when I facilitate DBT groups.)

I won't go into detail about the specific announcement that brought this on this morning (this morning I am actually very glad that there are a few readers who would have seen the same pregnancy announcement that sent me over the edge - it is keeping me discreet and appropriate.)  But oh.  How I have thoughts.  And how, how I am trying my best to give those thoughts over to Jesus.    The mature, loving part of me knows,  I have no place to judge and our journeys are our own.  The immature, very sad part of me who really just wants to start my own family thinks, This is absolutely ridiculous.  How on earth are they expecting and I am not?  (This one is all types of complicated in all the ways and has to do with my experience in the church, my experiences with my Former Husband .... Actually, as I'm typing this out, it's becoming very apparent to me why this one is hitting me so hard.)

Fallacy of fairness, my friends.  Fallacy of fairness.

A short update on where we are with family starting right now:  (I'm not sure if I shared this before; time became a little crunched and confusing with the holidays, going to Europe and getting back to work afterwards.)  We are currently working on our adoption application and, oh dear hearts, the questions.  All the questions.  They make sense; If I was setting up an adoption I would want to ask all of those questions as well.  But let's be clear:  I'm having to go into details about my former marriage I haven't thought about in years.  And it's triggering.  And I'm also having to give a detailed account as to why there's a separation from my biological father.  Very triggering as well.

As we work on that, I consented to four rounds of Clomid.  Just to see.  That's really the subject of another post altogether, but suffice it to say Clomid is a tricky beast of a medication.  And it is really tricky when I spend all day counseling children and families -- including foster kids who have been through the worst of the worst (I really have to recognize the fallacy of fairness during those sessions.)

So there's my confession.  I'm not always a loving or a nice person.  But I'm trying.  Good sweet Jesus, how I'm trying.

A combination of delirious excitement and overt exhaustion kept causing me to gently touch Shoes' arm as we sailed over France saying, "Look at the French clouds.  Look at the sweet, puffy little French clouds."  Sweet puffy french clouds quickly gave way to getting through customs in a country that was enveloped in heightened security, though.  Soldiers with guns in the airport.  Extra scrutiny at customs.

It took us a year to get to the right terminal after touching down.  Well.  Not really a year.  More like an hour.  An hour of reorienting ourselves to an airport that was not American, finding our way, and a terminal train that was completely shut down to an "unidentified piece of baggage" found in the terminal we were trying to get to.

We stood on the train platform for several minutes while more and more people flooded the area.

Before we go further I should mention I really know nothing about French culture.  What you're getting here is my own impression of what I experiences - and that experience isn't even informed by a specific region of the United States.

I watched the French airport guards, feeling the culture differences immediately.  Oh, these French guards in their fancy reflective vests, sweetly accessorized by their stripey European scarves.  These French guards with their ... manners?  So many "Madam, sil vous plaits" and demure smiles.  (maybe it's just that "madam" sounds so much more refined than a twangy "MA'AM?"  I suppose the other thing I should mention is that I fall out of love with American culture every time I travel.)  Here, on this train platform, is where I begin to realize what deep poop I'm in when it comes to the French language.  I had spent months learning basic Italian phrases for Rome; Shoes assured me he would do the same for French.  He did not.  My mother in law assured me she spoke conversational French; simply put, that did not work out like I expected.

I have absolutely no idea what Native French speakers are saying.  At any point.  More on this later.

We did get to the appropriate terminal in plenty of time.  Situation 2319 appropriately attended to, I suppose.  We sat in the airport at Charles de Gaulle for approximately two hours, staring at each other blankly and staring at the media coverage being displayed on the terminal television, waiting for the flight to Rome.  We did not need to speak French to understand the heartbreak and fear of a country in mourning.  We knew that story ourselves.

At this point, I could see that there were many of us about to board this plane that were dead tired.   All of my thoughts had stopped making sense at that point, and I had an absurd urge to buy all of the macaroons at the little Airport stand a few feet away.  All those mint green, pink and brown circles of light deliciousness ...  My head was swimming.  My eyes were hot.  And I kept remembering the time I completely freaked out on Former Husband after working a graveyard shift because I was convinced that he took the "wrong way" home with all of the red traffic lights on purpose to make me miserable and to keep me from sleep (don't worry if that doesn't make sense.  It really makes no sense no matter how clearly I explain it.)  Oh, fatigue.  How irrational you make my brain.

On the plane, many children.  By this point, loves, you must know how much I adore children.  And I have so much empathy for families when I fly.  But way in the back of the plane, way back, way, way, back was a family with a very small Terrier in a carrier (the fact that that rhymes was extremely humorous to me in my exhausted state), two teenagers and a toddler.  There are four things I remember about that leg of the trip:

1.  The terrier did not stop yapping the entire flight.  And by yapping, I mean the most horrible, awful, high pitched yap of a dog that I have ever heard in my life (and yes, of course that  impression is completely tainted by how sapped of being we were at the time).

2.  The little one had a very, very difficult time adjusting to the altitude.  She sounded absolutely miserable - screaming,  crying, inconsolable.

3.  The French flight attendant who continued to gently plead with the mother to, "Madam, pleeze, just try to walk zee child around.  Just stand up and walk her around."

4.  I turned to Shoes and said, "I would give just about anything to have a parachute to jump out of this hell at this very moment."

Also, there was an Italian woman who continued to insist to the flight attendants that Air France carried ear plugs for its passengers.  The flight attendants continued to insist they did not.  I would have given over all of my Euros for those mythical ear plugs at that moment.
In any case, I did not jump out.
We were, in fact, fine.
We touched down at Fiumicino without incident.
Dog and Toddler survived.
(and the poor babe calmed down as soon as we touched down and her ear pressure adjusted.)

{The pictures will start soon.}
In a strange turn of events, in which the Travel Gods smiled down on us, Shoes and I had the incredible (really, incredible) opportunity to visit Paris and Rome in early January.  (Ok.  The Travel Gods were really Shoes' mom, who had 1 kajillion airline miles to use, and she so very graciously shared them with us.)  I adore traveling, you guys.  Probably the product of living in Europe until I was 9 years old, but the experience and the culture and the visual sights and the smells and the sounds ...

It is the best.

As we geared up for January, December, therefore, was a very quiet  month.  Subdued, toned down, pared back.  Because ... Europe. Quite honestly?  December was also a grief filled month.  Shoes and I have been trying to start our family for a long time now, and in early December, we thought we had it.  You know?  I  mean, we really thought we had it and my mind had skipped forward to holding my precious infant and nurturing and diaper changes and attachment and bonding and ... and then we weren't.  We weren't pregnant and all the feelings.  (I'm not suggesting it was a miscarriage; it was most likely me reading my signs incorrectly.)

But oh, dear hearts.  The grief.  I mean, The Grief.  As in, me sobbing on my bathroom floor and Shoes holding me gently by my shoulders quietly saying over and over and over and over again, "It's ok, it's ok, it's ok, it's ok."

I am ok, by the way.  That was just a hard one.

So it was easy to look forward to leaving the country.  In my concrete sequential way, I made my packing lists and my souvenir lists  and researched what to see and where to eat.  I made a complete list of phone numbers and addresses for my own mother, who watched our precious Rosie for us while we were away (Jesus Bless My Mom.  I mean, really, please.  Bless her.)

I typed out a detailed memo to the parents of my clients and ensured they had an assigned therapist covering their needs.  I was ready.  So ready.

And then, three days before we were set to leave, Charlie Hebdo was attacked and it seemed like our trip was in the air, suspended.  Of course, that wasn't the most important thing.  The most important thing was the loss of innocent, creative artistic souls.

I've been in politically unstable places before.  Did you know that?  I'm not sure if I've shared that before.  My family moved to Clark Air Base in the Philippines exactly six months after the RAM coup attempt in 1989.  That period of my middle school years was filled with armed guards, curfews and murders outside the base gates.  All of those memories were triggered as we were waiting at the airport, ready to take the first leg of the flight to Rome.

We had all the wonderments about the safety about what we were doing.  We weren't sure if we were going to be able to get to Paris after Rome.  Weren't sure what was going to happen as we took off and landed.

We went anyway.  Seattle to Chicago.  Chicago to Paris.  Paris to Rome.  22 hours of travel.  It was exhausting.  And exhilarating.   The flights went beautifully, except for the very last leg of the trip, from Paris to Rome ....