Wednesday, August 2, 2017


I am officially half-way through my vacation. I have also gone more than half-way across the US this time around.  Just so happens we had planned a great American tour and we have clocked some miles and enjoyed every minute of it.

Here are a few of the highlights and quirky moments so far!

Zika is makin' me freak-a
Before we landed in Miami there was an announcement aboard the plane reminding us we were entering a potentially Zika-infected area.  As in the mosquito-borne virus that can be dangerous to fetuses.  Yikes! I had forgotten about Zika.  My aunt had bought me natural-based bug spray, but reading online they said the stronger stuff containing Deet was ok for pregnant women (and also recommended for their spouses).  Luckily it appears there are no new active cases this year, but we are still trying to be careful with the bites.

Touchdown in Miami
Sorry to disappoint but we didn't spend more than about 30 minutes in the hotspot that is Miami.  Our true destination while in Florida was my aunt's city of West Palm Beach.  This, as its name indicates, is the city west of Palm Beach Island, where, incidentally, POTUS has his mansion.  There were certainly enough palm trees to turn my plant-loving husband's head.  We dipped our toes in the Atlantic and ate outside in a restaurant that had ceiling fans galore and a fountain with real turtles.
Thanks, Will Smith, for making this stick in my head.

When sandals lose their soles
My well-worn sandals decided to breathe their last breath after that famous trip to the Atlantic. Seems fitting they wanted to see Florida one more time before giving out on me.  As my friend Caro said, good excuse to go shopping.

Florida melting pot
We met so many interesting people in our brief time in Florida.  From a Southern lady who wanted to pray with us on the beach, to a Jamaican-born grandma taking the train back to Miami and the folks hanging out in the pool speaking Spanish and English with each other depending on their mood.  I enjoy hearing and seeing the mix of cultures down there.

From below sea level to the mile-high city and beyond
We left the hot and humid streets of Florida for the cooler mountain air of Colorado where my dad lives.  From the first view of the Rockies in Denver, it was a total change of scenery.  We climbed even higher to 8,000 feet or so in my dad's town.  Luckily we didn't get too out of sorts with the change in altitude except for some occasional dizziness for Remi.
At over 12,000 feet at the Continental Divide

Animals everywhere
To keep Juliette's attention it takes more than mountains (though she likes nature, too).  She got to feed chipmunks from her hand in a ghost town, saw cotton-tail bunnies and deer.  Not to mention the occasional dog to pet.  Have animals, will travel.

Family chill time
Got to hang out with my dad, aunt and sister in Colorado.  Yes, we were sometimes all plugged into our devices in the evening, but we also had homemade biscuits from my aunt, impromptu dance-outs from Jess and Juliette, and charades and guessing games with my sister's fun Heads Up app.  I feel like we made some great memories!

Southern comfort
Now we are back in Alabama in the home I lived in from my early teens.  Is it my imagination or did my southern accent magically come back as I strolled the streets of Auburn?  Why did I find the need to buy big cheap pearl earring studs like sorority girls wear with their themed t-shirts?  Why must I fight down the urge to buy Auburn onesies?
Auburn colors anyone?

I am sure we will fill the rest of our time with fun outings and meals and just hanging out.  That is what vacations are for, after all!  And even sweeter when you are back home.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How to tell the world you are expecting- in ten easy steps

As you may have guessed by the title, I have some big news.  In the form of a big (and growing bigger by the day) belly.  And, no, it is not due to all those French pastries.  At the ripe young age of forty-ish (indistinct grumbling) ahem years old, I am five months along with baby number two.

Frankly, it took me a while to get used to the news as I peered at my drugstore pregnancy test.
And then I started telling other people.  Seems easy enough but there is something of a fine art and maybe a bit of protocol to telling your entourage such news.  If you find yourself in this situation, I have now created this guide...just...for... YOU!

1. Tell your significant other.  Seems logical enough to start with the father.  Remi was pleasantly surprised though we had both hoped a second child would come along.  Just took a bit longer than expected.

2. Tell your doctor.  In France at least, the next step is seeing your GP to get a blood test to confirm. My doc started yawning half-way through my rehearsed speech (yes, I do rehearse these kinds of things) and asked my matter-of-factly if I wanted to keep it.  I guess he sees all kinds of situations and never knows what state of mind the mother-to-be may be in.  "Of course!" I said.

3. Tell your work bestie who will find out shortly anyway (see step #4).  My great friend Caro was kind of the litmus test.  Her reaction warmed me immensely as she started shrieking with happiness on the phone.  If she was happy for me, I knew most of my friends and family would be, too!

4. Tell your boss.  Although there is apparently no legal obligation to tell your boss before the first three months, it is recommended in France.  Pregnant women are protected from firing in most cases as well.  My stressed-out boss started giggling uncontrollably after congratulating me.  Could have something to do with the fact that my co-worker had just told him the same news a month earlier about herself.

5.Tell your family members.  Now when you live overseas this gets tricky.  I needed to find a time to call them and find a way to naturally slip this sort of news in the conversation.  When I asked my sis if we could FaceTime during her lunch break, she got suspicious.  She knew something was up. For my mom, I told her to make sure she was sitting down.  With my dad, I told him they might need to slow the pace during our upcoming summer trip as I would be a bit "weighed down".

6.  Tell your GYN.  I had tried to call her first.  But she had retired since I last visited her.  So I went ahead and made the appointment with the OB/GYN department at the hospital.  I was frankly a bit worried about being judged for being an over-forty mom.  And though they said it is not highly common, they do see other moms in my age group.  No judging here!

7. Tell your first-born.  Was stressing this one.  As an only child for eight years, Juliette didn't quite know what to make of the news.  At first she said she wanted to stay an only child (too late for that). Thus ensued about a month of unconcealed animosity towards her unborn sibling. Once she saw the size of some baby clothes a friend lent me, she realized this little creature would be like a doll at first. Now she is eager to meet her new baby sibling. But I know it will be a bumpy ride for a while there.

8. Tell your in-laws.  They, too, were taken aback.  My MIL said something to the extent that I wouldn't be going back to work (as some French moms take up to two years off with the second child, though not paid at their full salary, mind you).  My FIL said there would be a big age difference between the two (nine years when baby arrives in October).  I reminded him there are 17 years between him and his youngest brother.  They have both said positive things since then, but they are, how to say, old school French!

9. Tell the rest of your friends.  Do not be offended if I didn't personally tell you by phone or text or FB messenger of my news.  Time differences and time constraints have made it difficult to do so. Plus, it is tough to just announce this kind of thing in a messenger conversation when we don't always communicate through this medium but more by comments on FB or the occasional email.  So, friends, consider yourself now fully informed!

10.  Tell Facebook.  Debated when and how to divulge this information.  No, I didn't have to but as it is starting to show, and I will no doubt post pictures of bébé on social media one day, might as well tell all.  'Tis the modern world.  At least I didn't tweet it.  (@world: baby on way. If u don't congratulate me, ur a loser! #preggers).  Nah, I chose the blog route, true to form.

Did I leave anyone out?  Like I said, no hard feelings if you are just now discovering this news. Better late than never. I'll leave you with a pic of the proud sister-to-be and me.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Push and pull

If I haven't blogged in a while it's because I've been awfully busy.  Which is exactly what I wanted to talk to you all about today.  The majority of you out there work yourselves, and even if you don't work now, no doubt you know that rush of work days that melt into evenings of dinner prep and bath time for kids and falling into bed exhausted.  Only to wake up and do it all again the next day.  There is never enough to time for everything.  Until you retire.  And then you've got too much time.

This very thing struck me the other day as I was driving home and saw the neighbhorhood retired guys who sit on the low brick wall and chew the cud.  Or whatever the French equivalent to that expression would be. I think their wives must kick them out.  I was rushing home from a long day to get Juliette from school.  They were shooting the breeze and watching cars of younger working folks go by.  I don't have enough time.  They have too much.  Push and pull, yin and yang, feast or famine.

Then there is my neighbor, a 74-year old widow and retiree who is lonely and bored.  So much so that she sometimes knocks on our door three times a day to bring us some taboulé she prepared or ask Remi to cut a big celery root for her.  She certainly helps us out a lot by picking up Juliette from time to time when I finish late.  We appreciate her help immensely though sometimes the notion of privacy seems to go beyond her.  She needs to kill her time, while we value any free time we have.

No where do I see the push and pull of time more than with Juliette.  My little big girl is just that lately.  Still sliding tweendom with sarcasm and sweetness.  I see her growing longer and thicker.  I see that little girlness sometimes taking a backseat to funky dances in front of the mirror and acting like she is a singer.  I blame Katy Perry but I know it is kids these days.  If I had a dime for every time I reminded her she is 8 and a half, I would be independently wealthy for sure.

Sometimes I push her myself.  I wish she already could do some things all by herself, like wash her hair and add the conditioner.  Or I wish she understood and reasoned like an adult.  At the same time I secretly don't want her to grow up and value giving watching over her bath time.  I will never get used to the push and pull from this girl, but it certainly isn't over yet.

Even Catki has been pushing and pulling me this week.  Sometimes he is a first class nuisance, getting in my legs every time I go in the kitchen as he reminds me he is hungry.  Banging on the downstairs doors at six to remind us he is...surprise- hungry.  Then this week he didn't bang and didn't meow.  He basically didn't eat for five days which is just not like him.  It took two trips to the vet, two shots of antibiotic and one laced with cortisone to see improvement.  Two days later we heard those sweet meows in the morning.  He was better, though not quite his normal self.  And maybe out of habit he meowed because it was morning.  Sometimes he pushes me to the edge, sometimes he pulls on those proverbial heartstrings.

So whether you are in the push or the pull, remember there is something to value and appreciate in each state of mind.  Don't let the rush prevent you from slowing down a bit and enjoying moments, people, pets before it's too late (or they grow up or pass away).  It's a balancing act worth perfecting if you can. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Peace, love and bla bla

red paint heart palm hands art "He who is not a liberal at 20 has no heart. He who is not a conservative at 40 has no head." 

Apparently it wasn't Churchill who said this.  But rather some French statesmen.

At any rate, it's something my mom quoted to my sister and I quite a lot in our youth.

I am now approaching 43 and find myself still closer to the liberals (#!+@ing liberals, for some of you out there) on most issues, at least in the US.  I am slightly more conservative in France where people already have quite a good social and health care system.

The thing is, there is a difference between saying you care about other people and really caring.

I say I care about the poor, the homeless, those discriminated against, the war refugees.  But what do I do on a daily basis besides occasionally give money to charities or someone on the street?

I often find myself skeptical, wary, of the alcoholic beggar, reasoning more with my head that he'll just spend my euro on alcohol.  So occasionally I have given food instead.

Or the woman who seems to be a gypsy at the intersection who has a ten-year old boy begging with her.  In cold or rain.  My skeptical head says she and her boy are being manipulated by some kind of mafia and my euros will go to the head of that mafia and not her and her child.

But when another gypsy approached me as I loaded groceries in my car and asked for money I gave her a banana and a pack of ultra-sterilized milk.  She immediately pointed to my old boom box in the trunk that I use for work and asked for it, too. I told her I "no" as I needed it for work.

I said to myself I would do something for the refugee camps set up in my region of France.  Instead of going on site (which frankly seemed a bit scary to me) I gave food and toiletry items to the Red Cross.

And when I think about it, I pray for those suffering and in need.

I'm not saying these things to get congratulations.  Frankly they are small gestures compared to those who drop everything and travel across the world to help refugees in Greece or humanitarian aid workers and doctors in Africa or the Middle East.  I have never quite been that involved.  I have never been so brave.

I am just wondering out loud and to you, how does one put their money where their mouth is when it comes to caring?

In our current world climate of holier-than-thou on both sides of the political spectrum, where is the path to, for lack of a better word, righteousness?  No, earnestness.  No, kindness.

Until I figure it out, I will try to be the kindness I seek.

With a smile to the old man who takes a long time crossing the street.  By letting the lady with just two items go in front of me at the supermarket.  By looking kindly at women wearing hijabs or striking up conversations with people from all backgrounds.  By teaching my daughter not to call other children "fat" or that she should play with all the kids in her class.

Kindness and caring are not weaknesses.  They should come naturally.  We all just need a little practice.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Things you only see at Disneyland

Something happens to people when they cross the turnstile to enter a Disney theme park.  They give way to the silly, the childish wonder of it all. But they also keep their adult trappings and each nationality has its own way of reacting.  I did some serious people-watching this weekend at Disneyland Paris, so I know what I'm talking about!

Since we didn't really go far this past summer, we decided to have a get-away weekend at Disneyland Paris.  In January.  When there was snow forecast.  I know!  But in the end it turned out alright, despite the eternal GPS argument and "are you sure this is the right way?" drama.  And I snuck in some pics to illustrate it all.  So here we go on a "magical" top ten list of things you can only (ok, almost only) see at Disney parks.

1. Grown men and women wearing Mickey/Minnie ears. Sometimes it is in the form of a winter hat or headband. I saw entire groups of women wearing them, no matter their age.  I wonder if they ever wear them on other occasions.  No matter.  What happens in Disney, stays in Disney.
2. Princesses and superheroes! I lost count of all the girls in their Disney princess costumes or boys dressed as Buzz Light Year or Star Wars characters.  How great that you can be whoever you want to be in Disneyland. I was tempted to buy myself one, just for cleaning the house, but they didn't have my size.
3. Everything Mickey.  Juliette ate off a Mickey-shaped plate at dinner and had a Mickey-shaped pizza for lunch.  Our hotel had Micky-eared caps for the shampoo.  Plus Mickey-shaped bedsteads.

4. In Disneyland Paris you will see signs reminding you not to smoke. And you will see park visitors (I'm guessing mostly French!) blatantly disregarding said rule

5. Possibly the biggest Christmas tree outside of Rockefeller Center.  The French extend the festive season into January so we got to see the mega Disney tree in all its glory. 
6. And if it rains, you'll see entire families bring out stylish ponchos.  To be fair this is in just about any theme park!

7.  Serious Disney bling.  For the wealthier visitors, why not take home a glass version of a Disney castle.  For fifteen thousand euros, it's a steal!  Or a tiara for your little one.  
 8. Photo-ops with costumed characters galore! The Storm Troopers (yes, Star Wars is Disney now!) and of course cartoon characters were out in force.  And each time kids and adults alike lined up to take their pictures with them.  Not our Juju though since she is still afraid of people in costumes...
Stitch was quite popular, too.
9. One too many Disney balloons lost forever.  I can only imagine the tantrums when these babies got lost. 

10.  Big smiles.  So many smiles.  Especially on this little girl's face.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A winter's tale

The glitter and gold of Christmas is slipping away.  I try to find comfort in winter's beauty.

The black lace of bare branches.

Humble pansies that hunker down in the cold.

Dried hydrangea petals that cling to the branches like faded beauty queens.

Foggy walks.

And sunny walks in parkas.

Frosty leaves.

And fluffy white tufted fruits.

Wild rose hips to brighten naked branches.

 And so many reasons to have a nice cup of tea.

Happy holidays and happy winter to one and all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My wish

Upstairs there are shreiks and laughter as I write this.  My daughter is playing with her two friends. Of course there have been minor disputes, two against one, one against two.  Three's a crowd kind of thing.  But not one of their skirmishes has been anything serious.  Certainly nothing about their different skin colors or religious origins.

My daughter is half-French and half-American, blonde-haired and blue-eyed.  Her little girl friend is Muslim, of Tunisian descent, with dark curly hair.  The little boy is half-Chinese and half-French.  The only time they have ever talked about religion was when Juliette and the girl both said that Santa Claus was in heaven.  There is some skepticism about Santa himself.  That is as close to theology as they have ever gotten.

I wish they could stay as blissfully ignorant about things as they are today.  At eight years old they are united by play, by the pursuit of fun.  They are not divided by their differences.  They don't even care. 

I have a wish this Christmas season.  And for beyond that time.  It's the same wish I've expressed after each terrorist attack.  And now I have that same wish after this election.  A wish for kindness, peace and understanding between cultures.  

There is ugly proof that hate is on the rise.  Towards anyone with darker skin, different origins, a head scarf, different sexual orientation.  And even if I am none of these things, I feel their pain.  And I don't want my America to be a hateful place.

I may not live there anymore, and of course, even in France there are racial issues and prejudice.  Extreme right parties are gaining in popularity over here.

But I continue to believe, perhaps a little naïvely, that peace and harmony are possible.  And that it begins in each simple interaction we have with our fellow human beings.  A warm smile, an extended hand, an honest conversation among people with different views and backgrounds.

I don't claim to be perfect.  I succumb to stereotypes sometimes like everyone else.  But I am hopeful when I see my little girl jump with glee to see her friends even if they aren't exactly like her.

Let us see again with our childish hearts the potential in our neighbors and strangers on the street.  Let us see past appearances and see inside to that which is essential.  

So like the song says. Let there be peace on earth.  Let it begin with me.  And you.