Saturday, February 22, 2020

Going Home to France

How many days since I have been home? We left December 8 our village Quillan, planning to spend Christmas and celebrate Grace's wedding before returning on January 18. We had to leave a few days early because of the train strike and other plans to block the highway, so we camped out an airport hotel for a few days to make sure we caught our flight home.
That all went smoothly, Christmas was low-key, the wedding was beautiful, but I agreed to take on two in-person classes in Columbus, which forced me to stay for another month in the States.
Now, finally, the day has arrived.
I'm sitting at the airport grading papers, ready for my flight to New York,
A glass of wine so I can sit in the restaurant and grade
then connection to Barcelona. Earl will pick me up in Barcelona on my birthday tomorrow.
I have worked like a dog -- getting up at 4:45 a.m. to teach every morning except one day a week, plus I have taught most evenings since the Chinese children did not return to school yet because of the coronavirus. Plus, there is a lot of grading to do for three online classes with in-person components I'm ready to relax and collapse for awhile.
What better place to do that then at home in France?

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Successfully Landed in France

Messages from friends reminded me that I hadn’t updated the story of Earl’s travels.
He landed in Paris Sunday morning, and the same flight for the next day through Iceland was cancelled because of snow storms. He just made it.  
The required photo with the Eiffel Tower -- but he does look happy. 
He caught a train into Paris and settled into his lonely (I imagine) hotel room near the Pantheon, without me.
The Pantheon
That night he joined our friends Linda (Frenchless in France) and Maurice for drinks and we Facetimed so I could see the beautiful views and the fabulous remodel. I can't wait to visit Paris again so I can see the apartment myself.
Earl wandered the city the next day, complaining about the cold until I explained that it was 12 degrees here (-11 celcius).
He went to the Rodin museum, one of the museums we haven't explored yet in Paris, but it was closed "exceptionellement" for a private event.
So, instead, he headed to one of our favorite places, Saint Chappelle, a gothic church that amazes us with the colors of the windows every time.
Soaring windows. When the sun is bright the bystanders are bathed in blue. 

Some details
I don't know if he ventured into any restaurants and had a meal alone, which I have done in Paris, reading a book on my phone or just people watching.
But he did stop by his favorite creperie on Rue Mouffetarde to buy a panini before he headed back to his hotel room.
Eating it on the street like a real American
This morning, he caught the train to Carcassonne where friends will pick him up and he'll return to our new/old house.
I'm sure he stopped at Starbucks because he was thinking of me. 
It will be nice to picture him under the covers in our bed tonight, even though he'll be freezing without me there to warm him with my hot flashes.

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, 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.

Going Home to France

How many days since I have been home? We left December 8 our village Quillan, planning to spend Christmas and celebrate Grace's wedding ...