The smell of mandarin oranges always brings me back to my childhood in Lebanon. Whenever I peel one of these delicious small fruits with my fingers, I travel back to the holidays at my grandmother’s house, almost seeing again, before my very eyes, the impressive Christmas tree with all of its decorations, flickering lights, and the nativity scene, with its decades-old figurines, at its foot.

The last Christmas I celebrated in Lebanon was in 2005, and I couldn’t help but find my first few American Christmases rather lackluster. But then
I got used to it, and I began to find magic in every little new tradition that was being born every year.

This year, I am very much looking forward for Christmas, and the magic of the holiday season has not even been affected even by the recent presidential election. In fact, I am so happy to be able to write that things have taken a truly wonderful turn in the last few weeks.

I’ve told you in September about becoming a French professor at the Alliance Française, less than two weeks after becoming a US citizen; I’m glad to say that I’m very happy to be able to do such a fulfilling and intellectually job (and to teach in such a beautiful building!). 

It is especially rewarding to get to know retiree who have had impressive careers and lives, and think that even I am only a few months short of turning a quarter of a century old, I am the teacher and they are my students, and I am actually able to give them something extra, and enrich their lives the same way they enrich mine.

There are also two more good news I cannot wait to share.

The first: after a two-year-long apartment search that felt as stressful as trying wedding dresses** (to put it mildly), I am happy to say I’ve finally moved out of my aunt’s house and currently live in a gorgeous little flat of my own. 

And I cannot describe the feeling of tranquility and most importantly of independence - the idea that I made this happen by myself, with my own talent, my own ressources.

Of course, I cannot deny that I received precious help to get here. There were people who saw talent and potential in me and opened doors to wonderful opportunities. There was my aunt, who graciously hosted me for a little over a year, which spared me more of the stress I endured in 2015, when I had to move from sublet to sublet every few weeks while looking for a permanent flat. This stress was so intense that it wrecked my health and caused me to stop blogging for a few months. I'm so grateful this period is behind me. 

My aunt also gave me precious help with packing my belongings. And going with me to buy furniture at Ikea. And carrying it into my flat (ok, her husband and my landlord deserve most of the credit for that, since they did the carrying, let's be fair!). And putting it together for me because I can't hold a screwdriver correctly. And giving me decorating tips because she's a born genius. And essentially helping me not loose my mind because moves tend to make me very nervous, and not without good cause, remember the #Toenail?

You may say I'm useless, but I prefer the more politically-correct term "decorative". 

The second great new is something those who follow me on social media have already found out about, because I simply can’t shut up about it. At the beginning of this months, exactly five and a half hours after I signed the lease, I went to the Petsmart cat adoption center, where started I volunteering earlier this year, and adopted an adorable all-black nine-month-old kitten named Julia

She is simply perfect and I am so in love with her. I can’t believe that after waiting for so long to be able to have a cat, she is actually here. She is my Christmas miracle and just having her around makes me feel like I could never want for anything else.

2016, on both personal and global levels, has been a year with a lot of ups and downs (some say it was a Gemini, I say it was a Sagittarius ascendant Virgo). I’m grateful for the positive, obviously, but also for the lessons in resilience. I feel as if for the first time, I’ve managed not only to tie up many loose ends, but to find a sense of security and stability that I had probably not known before.

And I am more ready than I had ever been to welcome a new year, new experiences, new opportunities, new challenges, new friends, new love, and possibly another new kitten.

On French Girl In DC, the highlight of these past few months has been the arrival of three new regular bloggers: Diane, Elise and Gloria. Their contributions have been a wonderful addition to the blog, and a lifesaver since, with my job, move, and everything else, I've struggled a bit to find time to create content, but I am not willing to give up. Writing, both fiction and this blog, is still very important to me; it is in fact the one part** of my identity that has been here all along.

I am taking advantage of this winter break to redefine my goals for this blog, plan content for the new year, and find a way to balance teaching and blogging when I get back to work. The book I told you about is still on the way, and will be published in 2017. Elise and I are also working on a very exciting project, which we will tell you more of very soon, so stay tuned!

I am finally on vacation until early January (can you believe how fast the past three months went? I sometimes wake up and still feel like we’re in August!) and while I will be spending the holidays with family, catching up (in person and via Skype) with friends I haven’t had the time to see, and spoiling my 9- and 11-year-old cousins, I really look forward to nesting as much as I can, enjoying my newfound loneliness, cuddling up with my Bestiole***,  and reading the many books from the Alliance Française library!. 

And there’s, of course, the undeniable appeal of Netflix. 

Lastly, let’s not forget that while many of us are blessed with family, friends including furry ones, food, shelter and love in this holiday season, many people around the world are going through terrible suffering. There are as many ways to help as there are living beings in need of it, so please consider donating time or money towards a cause dear to you. This year, my heart is in Aleppo; I’m contributing to Doctors Without Borders’ efforts to help this besieged city’s injured inhabitants, and I strongly encourage you to do the same.




*I’ve never tried wedding dresses (okay, just this once for fun), but I know, from reality TV, bridezilla movies, and first-hand experience how stressful anything bridal can be. Which is why I’ll probably give up on my childhood princess wedding dream and have something simpler when the time comes.

**Okay, there's also the "crazy cat lady" part that hasn't changed since I was two years old. And the crazy shoe addict part as well.

**Julia’s unofficial nickname; “bestiole” roughly means critter in French.

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