Saturday, January 18, 2020

Romantic Goodbyes

In spite of the weather warnings, Earl took off on a flight to Orlando this morning and is now somewhere over the Atlantic on his way to Iceland, and hopefully, on to Paris by the time I wake up Sunday morning.
I don't want anyone to get an idealized impression of our marriage. We have a typical marriage that has stretched over  nearly 30 years. We fight about stupid things, about nothing. We yell sometimes or ignore each other out of spite.
As today got closer and we realized we'd be away from each other for over a month, we got kind of sentimental.
A goodbye selfie -- it was the only one good of me even though it wasn't good of Earl. He was turning to kiss me. 
In the afternoon, we stretched out on the couch together and watched a few episodes of Modern Love, a new Netflix series based on the New York Times column of the same name. The love stories don't focus only on traditional romance, but friends, family, quirky love stories.
So I left for work Friday evening with a warm glow.
Early Saturday morning, I got up to use the bathroom then climbed back into bed. Earl curled around me as I announced I had to get up in 8 minutes to teach.
He groaned. "Can't you just lie here with me?" he asked.
His words reminded me of the song "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol. Because in 2020, every romance needs a soundtrack, I played the song and before it could finish playing, my alarm went off.
We kissed goodbye this morning as I left for work and I won't see him for 35 days.
Sometimes, the anticipation of an absence can be the most romantic thing of all.
Hope everyone else has a soundtrack for their weekend.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Travel Snafus

There was a time in our lives when our basement held several sizes of crutches and a kid-sized walker. I tore my ACL, Tucker broke his ankle on a trampoline, Spencer broke his ankle playing football. I liked to claim that we weren't accident-prone but just really active and that's why we always had medical emergencies.
Perhaps the same thing is happening now with our travel plans. It's not that we're unlucky, but that we just travel so much -- we're bound to get glitches.
You may recall that the strike in France caused havoc for us when we were headed to the States back in December. After our train was cancelled, we rented a car and zipped up to the airport early before the freeways were closed, spending three extra nights at an airport hotel so we could catch our flight. All's well that end's well, we got back in time for Christmas and Grace's wedding.
Earl is scheduled to fly back to France on Saturday. We both have tickets, but I plan to stay on and teach until the end of February.
This morning, I opened my email and Icelandair informs me that a big snowstorm is expected January 19 and 20 so flights may be cancelled. Where is that big snowstorm going to be?
I realized as we flew over from Paris to Reykjavik then Reykjavik to Orlando that we had come way out of the direct flight path.
My estimation of our flight line from Paris to Rejkjavik to Orlando
I had forgotten that we would be in the arctic as we flew over, and we never saw the sun that day after we left France, landing at 2 p.m. in the dark of Iceland and then flying to Orlando, never catching the sun.
Since then, I hadn't even thought about the dark of Iceland, until I received that email about snowstorms and possible delays.
Icelandair is being proactive; they'll let us change our flights to leave Thursday or Friday to avoid the snowstorm.
The only problem is that we aren't in Orlando to catch the earlier Icelandair flight.
Originally, Earl and I would have driven back to Florida with Mom and Dad after the wedding, spent a few days then caught the flight in Orlando.
Since I wasn't going back, Earl opted to stay in Ohio with me and the kids.
The family
 He has a flight scheduled for Saturday to fly into Orlando then to catch the Icelandair flight to Rejkjavik, then Paris -- unless it's cancelled.
I checked to see the cost to move his Orlando flight. Since it's last minute, the costs are high, more than we paid to fly to Paris.
He could rent a car and drive to catch the Friday night flight, but then we'd have the rental car cost, the gas and a hotel as he drove 16 hours to Orlando.
The real question is, where is he likely to be stranded?
In Orlando, he can rent a car and go to my parents' house an hour away.
He can relax in the sunshine while stranded
Reykjavik is a bit more difficult.
Landing in Rejkjavik during some daytime hours
  If he gets stuck in Rejkjavik, we already know that the price of two cheeseburgers is $31. Will he sleep in the airport? How long until he gets out to travel on to Paris?
One of the reasons he is headed back on our regular flight is that we had a hotel room reserved for two nights in Paris and we can't get a refund for them, so he is forced to spend two nights in Paris, sitting in cafes, visiting museums. Sounds dreadful, doesn't it? If he is stranded in Iceland, there go the hotel rooms.
And he has a train scheduled for Tuesday, January 21st. Although the strike is still ongoing, SNCF assures me that 9 out of 10 trains are running. We might lose money for that cost, too, if he doesn't make it back.
Traveling is expensive and cancellations are even more so.
I have tweeted Icelandair asking when we will know if the flight is cancelled. Perhaps we could get reimbursed for the flights, and he can return to France later with me, but that is 37 days away.
Before I opened the email this morning, he had sighted heavily and bemoaned that he wasn't looking forward to six weeks away from me. It's more like a month, I had reassured him.
Still, if it's between staying in frigid Ohio or returning to the South of France, I know what I would choose.
Our friends Derrick and Kris Facetimed us this morning, and as Derrick stepped out of our construction zone house, the brilliant blue sky shone above him. He had a winter coat on, but there was no denying the twinkling sun above him.
So here is us again, stressing about travel plans but knowing that wherever we are, huddled inside in Ohio, under the sunshine of Florida, or in the construction zone of our house, we're lucky to have friends and family close by -- everywhere but Reykjavik that is.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Wedding Joy

I sat between my mom and my husband, holding hands with both of them as Grace and Jack exchanged vows Saturday evening.
This picture is from the hotel where they prepared
The place was filled with people who love and support both of them, the emotion bubbled over as both of them wiped away tears, pledging themselves to their marriage and each other.
A friend snapped this picture during the ceremony. That's me and Earl in the foreground,
apparently the only evidence the two of us were at the wedding together because I haven't found another picture.
Things weren't perfect. Some people sitting in the back couldn't hear well. I had forgotten the corsages for myself and my mom, along with the boutonnieres for Earl and my dad back in the hotel room. The book arch which was supposed to rise above the happy couple's heads, continuing the book theme of the wedding, did not rise to the occasion and instead was draped in a semi circle on the floor.
But no one fretted about any of those things as Grace and Jack had their two right hands joined together in a hand-fasting ceremony that combined the tartans of both historical families.

We started the day at a downtown hotel where the bridesmaids gathered to get ready. Lots of coffee, some mimosas, one prepared bridesmaid brought sandwiches from subway.
My ever-prepared friend Deb sent a steamer with me to the hotel. Jess, one of the bridesmaids, steamed everyone's dress
A stylist arrived to do hair and makeup for the bridesmaids, and me, but the bride and bridesmaid decided to do hair for the flower girls when they arrived.
Two flower girls getting their hair done by the bride and bridesmaids
My favorite picture of Regan as she realized no one was going
to give her "cat's eye" makeup for the wedding.
We ran out of time at the end and hurried to get everyone ready for pictures while the limo waited impatiently.

Grace getting dressed by the bridesmaids
Earl arrived at the hotel for some pictures as he saw Grace in her wedding gown for the first time.
The limo took all the girls to the venue while Earl and I frantically drove separate vehicles so we could return the minivan Mom and Dad had loaned us for the past month.
Safely inside, I wanted to stop and talk to everyone but had to scurry to finish the tasks Grace had left me with. Two wreaths needed to be placed on tables to finish the centerpieces. And the decorative arch needed to be moved in front of the book balustrade which rested on the floor since it couldn't rise to become an arch.
The book arch still served its purpose on the floor. Each table at the reception had an author theme.
Spencer escorted me in while Tucker did videography. The ceremony was beautiful as they shared their heartfelt sentiment about their love story. 
Pictures followed, then a dance between Grace and Jack, 
I love this picture of the two flower girls and the ring bearer watching the first dance. 
Next came a dance between Grace and Earl, to the theme of the Godfather, which started slow then sped up a bit to a swing dance. 
We surprised Grace with a Ben Folds song called Gracie about watching his daughter grow up. 
Jack and his mom danced next to a song from Into the Woods.
They cut the cake and then dinner followed, with so many wonderful people to greet and so many fabulous songs to dance to.
I chose the DJ after hearing him at our friend Deb's daughter's wedding. I can highly recommend Mark Dantzer if you're getting married in the Columbus area. He kept the dance floor hopping right through the last song "Shut up and Dance With Me."
I didn't get to talk to everyone nearly enough, but I felt the love, and I know Grace did too. Whether you were there or not, the support lifted us.
I'll end with some pictures.
Thanks to everyone for going on this journey with me.
Grace and Tucker

Spence and Tucker with rabbit ears

Grace with some far away cousins. So good to have them all together

Spencer and Kaitlin

Earl and I were there too. 

Grace and Jack with my mom and dad

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Day Before A Wedding

I woke up to rain this morning in the dark, the day before my daughter's wedding.

The forecast is for rain, but I'm not sure that matters when everything will be indoors. The temperature is supposed to be 68 degrees (20 Celcius) which is very rare in Ohio in January.
I try to picture Grace's day. She and Jack are having breakfast together to eschew the tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding.

Around 11, her bridesmaids will gather in the hotel room and they'll do hair and makeup. I contemplate taking along some bottles of sweet bubbly, would they have a glass to shake nerves or could we end up with tipsy bridesmaids? Bananas and granola bars? A meal?

The limo will pick them up and drive them to the wedding. I can already hear the echos of laughter as they run from the hotel to the limo, hopefully with a helpful doorman holding an umbrella over Grace's head as she holds the sparkly white skirt up to keep it dry.
The flower girls will scramble into the limo, foregoing car seats just this once.

Earl and I will drive together, maybe stressing about things we've forgotten or maybe holding hands as we realize that our little girl will be married within the hour.
All of the planning and the debating will culminate in these few hours, when Grace, who has been on her own for a few years already, joins together with Jack, with our blessing.
It's not the same as it would have been a hundred years ago when a daughter leaves her parents' home for the protection of her husband.
Grace is a strong woman surrounded by examples of strong women. I picture a circle of all the women who have loved her -- me, her aunts, her cousins, her grandmothers, her homeschool moms, her homeschool sisters, her theater mentors, her college and work friends -- all of us together lifting her up as she starts this new life.

She isn't giving up part of herself when she marries. She's adding to her story and following a different path.
One that will take her on many adventures.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Impending Nuptials

It's a funny thing when your daughter is getting married. People ask if you like the groom.
An early photo shoot with a wolf
I'm not sure if they do that when it's your son, because my sons have not gotten married yet.
But the first question from people when we tell them our daughter is getting married is "What do you think of the groom?"
They ask as if he hasn't already become a part of our family, which he has.
Are there people who dis their daughter's soon-to-be husband?
I fear the answer is yes. 
There are many qualities one could look for in a husband for your daughter -- maybe he could be rich, or have a status job, or be a brainiac. Maybe he could be royalty or be famous. Maybe he could be as beautiful as the morning. Maybe he could be handy and fix our cars or take care of all our IT problems. Jack might have some or none of those qualities as they get married.
But the one quality that Jack has that can't be compromised on is love.
We have no doubt how much he loves Grace.
And, in the end, that is the one quality that cannot be missing in a marriage.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Five More Days

The wedding is quickly upon us, only five more days.

I had planned to spend the day with Grace on Sunday. She was bringing her wedding dress over to try on again (it felt safer to keep the dress here instead of in her apartment where the cats might spread their fur or sharpen their claws). We are staying at our friend's Deb and Greg's house.
When Grace arrived in the afternoon, she had spoken with the DJ to finalize the songs and the order of events.
"I'm feeling very anxious," she said as she carried the big white garment bag stretched over her head.
"Is it the wedding? The DJ? The dress?" I queried.
"No, World War III." (In case I look back at this years from now and don't remember, the U.S. assassinated Suliemani, the second in command in Iran and tensions are high waiting for retaliation).
I know the current events are stressful, but I think her anxiety is deflecting away from the wedding. We talked and when she had calmed down, she tried on the dress. We showed it to my friend Deb who knew all the right things to say so that Grace felt bridal and confident in how she looked in the beautiful gown.
Next, I tried on my two dresses. Deb helped me find a purple dress back in September, but it's kind of form fitting and not the kind of dress I would usually wear.
I had found another dress that looked good, but wasn't as dressy.
Dressing room selfie
I tried on both the red dress and the purple dress.
The purple dress was voted the favorite, so that's what I'll wear for the wedding.
Grace and Earl practiced their father/daughter dance and I whisked her off to have coffee and some sustenance, not telling her that we had organized a little bridal tea.
It started last week when her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law lamented that she hadn't had a bridal shower.
That was her wish. They're getting rid of all their things to move to France. It seemed silly to buy them new things.
A tea fete-ing Grace seemed like a good idea. The seed had been planted but didn't begin to germinate until Sunday morning when I called La Chatelaine to see if they could accommodate 10-15 people around 3:30. Yes, they could.
I texted people. Other people text people. As you can see from the picture below, we had a good turnout for a 7-hour turn around.
Grace was surprised and slightly annoyed at us, but truly overwhelmed at the love from everyone.
The gang, including three baby girls. 

Some people were organized enough to bring presents. 

Baby Leah has a twin brother who was excluded from this all female gathering

Earl said he had put a gift card in my coat pocket, so Regan tried it on to look for a secret present,
but it wasn't there. Turned out, he put it in someone else's coat, but we found it eventually 
Flower girls Regan and Caroline attended their first bridal shower and they were both appalled that their mother had purchased a black lacy bra for Grace. Regan hid under the table while Caroline, after futilely trying to convince her mother she couldn't possibly give that as a present, stood by Grace suggesting she shouldn't remove it from the bag. It was funny and so sweet and innocent.
We had many French goodies to eat and played a few games.
Although it was impromptu, it was so easy -- no one had to clean their house ahead of time, no one had to fix food, no one had to clean up. I highly recommend a last-minute bridal tea if you're as disorganized as I am.
Just a few more days and the wedding will be here.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

What Do You Miss in France?

People in the States often ask what we miss while living in France. We usually answer -- the kids. Having been her a few weeks now, we're reminded that we don't see them that frequently even when we're here.
My lame answer is Starbucks, but it's true -- sweet, frothy coffees in a cup as I take walk with friends. I can take walks with friends in France, but it's considered strange to walk with a coffee cup and the closest we have to a Starbucks is a coffee truck that arrives on Wednesday and Saturday during the market.
Au P'tit Plaisir with a line for coffee.
He makes a white mocha, but it's made with syrup rather than thick white chocolate and isn't topped with whipped cream. It's a joy, but it doesn't replace my longing for Starbucks' coffee milkshake.
I think about other friends who have asked me to bring them things from the States, what do they miss? Kris and Derrick want Levi's, only because they're cheaper here. Lou wants graham crackers. Teresa wants cream of tartar.
What do I miss in France that I can get here in the States?
This morning, as I was running in 32 degree weather (that's 0 Celsius) suddenly, my heart soared and a bubble burst from me: "Oh my, I really love running!" and that's when a recent conversation came back to me and I realized that the thing I miss in France is belonging to a gym, where I can lift weights or climb on an elliptical machine or stationary bike.
When I was at the YMCA on New Year's Day, as I got dressed after our water fitness class, a woman came in from the workout room. She was asking everyone how the fitness class was, and I mentioned that I had already run four miles that morning but that I would probably feel the class the next day. She couldn't believe I had run outside and then gone to fitness class.
"I love exercising," I said. And I do. Walking, bike riding, yoga class. I always feel better afterwards.
In our small town in France, there isn't a gym, per se. There's a twice a week exercise class, but that's pretty constricting. The next town over has a yoga class twice a week. There isn't a place to go on my own to work out.
Twenty-two years ago, a trainer taught me how to use the weight machines and said that lifting weights would increase my metabolism, so I started a workout by lifting weights, then moved on to an aerobic workout, feeling certain I was getting a bonus calorie burn.
Sixteen years ago, as I was training for a marathon, I tore my ACL. After surgery, the physical therapist drummed into me how important it was to lift weights so the muscles surrounding my knee were strong to prevent future injuries.
Since I moved to France, I haven't been lifting weights, and I rarely mix up my workout routine.
Luckily, I've been able to join the Y for the time I'm here, piggybacking on Spencer's membership.
Earl and I went to workout yesterday, and I saw a plan for a bodyweight workout that I can do when I return to France.
A future workout plan -- but I hate burpees
Not belonging to a gym is a small sacrifice. I can continue to run in the mornings, surrounded by beautiful mountains and gorgeous sunrises.
The three quills of Quillan early in the morning. 
I can ride my bike 10 miles, stop and have coffee or a drink and ride back home. I can walk and discuss the world's problems with friends close by.
I guess I'll live with not having Starbucks or a gym, but having France instead.

Romantic Goodbyes

In spite of the weather warnings, Earl took off on a flight to Orlando this morning and is now somewhere over the Atlantic on his way to Ice...