A Good Home, Adopted HOme, Family Stories, Living in France

At Home with Nancy Ing-Duclos: France

Nancy Ing-Duclos is a TV news producer and online publisher of INSPIRELLE.

Blog Photo - Nancy INSPIRELLE COVER 3

France has been home for almost 30 years.

She loves it. “I can happily say:  ‘Je suis chez moi’ .  I’m at home.”

This spectacular rooftop view of Paris, by the way, is from her home.

Blog Photo - Nancy Rooftop Terrace - Photo Credit Alexis Duclos
Credit: Alexis Duclos

Long before Paris, however, Nancy spent her childhood in Windsor, Ontario.

“When my father bought the house (in Windsor), we were the first Chinese family on the street and the neighbors, I’ve been told, drew up a petition. We felt the need to blend in and soon, the fireworks display on our lawn every Canada Day on July 1st  and our elaborate Christmas lights made our home indistinguishable from other Canadian homes.”

Nancy went to university in Toronto and got her first big job in TV news in the 80’s “at a time when Canada’s multicultural communities were finding and defining their voices.” 

That’s how we met.  Nancy and I were both young journalists at CBC TV.

But a car accident changed her perspective on life.

“So when I met my French husband, Alexis, six months later at a G7 Economic Summit, I said to myself, ‘You never know when tomorrow will be your last day’ ”.

Blog Photo - Nancy at Work

She moved to Paris and worked at various news jobs for years.

“Paris is truly one of the most beautiful, cultural and dynamic cities in the world but once the honeymoon period wears off, the reality can be rude. Moving abroad is a very humbling experience. No one knows you or knows what you have achieved or are capable of.

“I had to start from scratch. I read loads of books, attended classes, explored each of the French neighborhoods in my quest to become a “Paris insider”. And what I learned is I will never feel totally ‘French’ but ‘je suis bien dans mes baskets’. I’m comfortable in my sneakers.”

Blog Photo - Nancy and Alexis

Did she ever imagine this kind of life?

“I always thought the person who married me would have to learn to accept the Chinese culture ingrained in me. In fact, I’ve done most of the work in the relationship by learning to speak French, reinventing my career, tackling bureaucracy and understanding all the nuances of my adopted home, France.”

A car accident had changed her attitude to life.  And it was a car accident that changed her career:

“Covering the death of Princess Diana in a Paris tunnel landed me the position I still hold today with a major American television network.

“I have been privileged to interview presidents and pop stars, produce major live shows from iconic locations. It’s also been sobering to witness the tragic aftermath of plane crashes and terrorist attacks on French soil.”

Alexis built them a small house on a hill, next to the woods.  They and their son Jordan moved to Sèvres 20 years ago.

Blog Photo - Nancy - Paris suburbs drawing

Blog Photo - Nancy Alexis Jorxdan

“Retreating to the suburbs was the only way we could own a house.  I left the city of lights reluctantly but Alexis promised me that if I was unhappy two years later, we could move back to Paris.

“On my first night in my new home, I slept soundly. No more waking up to every creak of my Parisian neighbors, conversations sneaking through walls and babies crying down the hallway.”

Her son Jordan could walk to school and play in the woods. It didn’t take Nancy long to realize that they lived only a short drive to the Seine River; Paris was only 20 minutes away by car.  She decided to learn to drive in France.

Blog Photo - NANCY TABLE SETTING CORSICA

“Last summer, my entire Canadian family and close friends, 25 in all, traveled to France and Corsica to help me celebrate with my husband’s French family.

Blog Photo - Nancy and Family and Friends

“It was pure joy for two weeks. Never have I felt so at home with the people I love the most.”

In 2015, Nancy and two expatriate friends launched INSPIRELLE.

Blog Photo - Nancy INSPIRELLE Team - Photo Credit Alexis Duclos
Credit: Alex Duclos

“We created INSPIRELLE to inspire, connect and empower international women in France. Having experienced the challenges of living abroad, raising a family in an unfamiliar setting with different sets of rules and values as well as reinventing myself at work, I wanted to share stories and resources to help women in their personal and professional lives.”

Blog Photo - Nancy - INSPIRELLE_cover

Sixty contributing writers share advice, expertise, and personal stories on how to navigate and celebrate life in Paris.

Nancy, Alexis and Jordan are now thinking about a bigger home to accommodate visiting relatives or friends.

It will have “a large kitchen with a long dining table to host dinners. We figure the only way to afford that is to move a bit further outside of Paris. We’ll build a beautiful house so everyone will want to come to visit us.

“For me, home is where I am surrounded by family and friends.”

~~

 

 

A Good Home, Family Moments

Pride or The Lack Thereof

My good man doesn’t understand why I like my sister’s old clothes. She shows up with a bagful of clothing and I rummage through them like a kid with a treasure box.

The look on his face says: “At your age, you really should not be wearing your sister’s hand-me-downs.” 

I could tell him they’re not just any old cast-offs: they’re my sister’s cast-offs! But he didn’t have older brothers; he doesn’t understand.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat - bag of clothes

I could say that wearing each other’s clothes goes back decades, to stories like this one: for her first big job interview, my sister wore the light-blue suit that I had just bought with all my savings. She got the job and I shared in her pride. We never forgot that moment or that suit.

I could remind him that my sister did me a favour by accepting my collection of shoes.

Many had been bought on sale in Italy when I worked there.  But some were bought closer to home, after the car accident.  They were a commitment: I would heal, would wear “nice shoes” again.

It never happened, of course, and a few years ago, I finally surrendered. But I knew those shoes had to go to a special person. Someone who wore the same size and would understand.

My sister understood. My sisters always understand more than I tell them.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat full

They’d also understand why I bought this strange-looking coat, another thing my good man can’t fathom.

“Why are the sleeves different?” he said when I first wore it some years ago.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coatsleeve 1

Blog Photo - Cynthia coatsleeve 2

“And those buttons!”

I said each purchase contributes to funds for families in the Himalayas. That didn’t change his mind.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat closeup

It’s been over-worn. When the zipper got stuck last week and I had to step into the coat, cane and all, in the middle of a restaurant, he wasn’t there. And a good thing, that: he’d have turned white with astonishment — a difficult thing for a black man to do.

Blog Photo - Cynthia coat zipper

“You did what?” he asked, when I mentioned it. 

“It was a struggle! And when I looked up, giggling, other patrons burst into laughter,” I blithely continued.

“And that didn’t bother you?”

“Of course not!”

You should have seen the look on his face. 

The issue, you see, is personal pride and dignity.  It seems I’ve lost all of mine.

~~

Dedicated to my sisters, and to my husband, who love me, no matter what.

A Good Home, Pets

The Caregiving Cats

We’ve heard it said: pets often sense when something is wrong, especially when their human companions are ill.

Blog Photo - Jerome on injured knee

Our family has observed this in action recently. Our son-in-law broke his leg while skiing, requiring surgery and weeks of recuperation. Our daughter takes great care of him, of course. They’re a very caring couple. And  they both noticed that their cats, Jerome (above) and Simon (below), have been extra attentive. 

Blog Photo - Simon on lap3

What’s even more interesting: Simon tends to be reclusive, and Jerome tends to be edgy at times. But they have both been showering our son-in-law with attention and affection.

Blog Photo - Jerome on lap1

It’s not just the cats in our family that have stepped up when someone is ill.

The canine crew has been just as observant and affectionate.

Kinu, the gentle-giant, was my constant companion through pain-riddled days after a car accident. Sometimes, he would put a paw on the side of the bed, as if to reassure me.

Blog Photo - CR and Kinu

We’ve seen similar behaviour from our younger daughter and son-in-law’s pets too, staying extra close when someone is ill.

Blog Photo - Julius and Dawson Sleeping

But right now, it’s Nurse Simon and Nurse Jerome to the rescue. They keep our son-in-law company when our daughter goes to work, and their actions make him smile.

Blog Photo - Simon on lap2

As our son-in-law (and anyone who’s been laid up with injuries and been helped by their pets) knows, that’s a true gift.

Blog Photo - Jerome on lap2

Bravo, Simon and Jerome. And to all the canine and feline family members who help nurse us back to health. 

A Good Home, Autumn, Autumn Colours, Blessings

Autumn Blessings

Photos by Hamlin Grange

~~

“In the midst of it all, however, we keep giving thanks. I keep reminding myself that there is no perfect moment in life when all our problems are solved forever. So, let us seek out our blessings wherever they are, whenever they come, and be grateful for them.” (Cynthia, in a note to a friend.)

Autumn is bittersweet.

Blog Photo - Autumn road ahead

It’s the most gorgeous season of my year — its colours so brilliant, they glow. 

Blog Photo - Autumn Tree and Fence

But Autumn also brings a warning.  Of the freezing cold of December, January, February and March. 

My meditation coach would remind me to live “in the moment”.  St. Paul’s writings declare that worry solves nothing; the key is to find contentment in your present situation. 

Blog Photo - Autumn Jacko

~~

Will I ever get used to Autumn, in all its fleeting beauty? Or is its brevity key to its glory?

Decades of witnessing Autumn and I am still in awe of it. Every year.  

Blog Photo - Autumn Leaves CU

It is, I know, a gradual arrival; colours brighten and deepen on apples, wild berries, shrubs, trees and vines.

Blog - Ripening apples in tree

And yet, there is always a day in October when it catches me by surprise. Every year.  

Blog Photo - autumn - trees on N Road

Suddenly it’s Autumn, arrived fully dressed. 

I catch myself holding my breath…. because there are still sights like this, moments like this, that take one’s breath away.

How can it possibly be this beautiful? I wonder.  That same question, every year.

I wish it could last a bit longer. The resplendence of it, the blazing glory of it, the time before strong winds and heavy rains strip the leaves from trees and leave them naked.

Blog Photo - Autumn Trees 1

I wonder: without the leaves that clothe them, do trees shiver in the cold? Do they regret the passing of their most beautiful season? Or do they give thanks for the respite of winter? For the leaves that, having fallen, will now plenish the soil around their roots? 

Blog Photo - Autumn trees 3

But there I go again. 

So I return to the now. The wonder and splendour of now.

Blog Photo - Autumn Vines Wall Wide-shot

I give thanks for the gifts of this particular autumn. The passing parade of colours outside,  the constant love of my family inside.

The steadying hand of my husband; the care and kindness of my daughters, sons-in-law, and siblings during challenging times. These are love’s own true colours.

Blog Photo - Autumn and sign on door

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This Autumn, there’s also Myrtle the Purple Turtle, published 28 years after it was written as a bedtime story. Our family feels doubly blessed that Myrtle is touching other lives. 

Life goes through its seasons, yes. Some days are a trial, yes.  But:

Let us seek out our blessings wherever they are, whenever they come, and be grateful for them.

Blog Photo - Autumn Trees 2

~~

Dedicated to my family.