Friday, January 31, 2014

Blogging Every Day

No one may have noticed it, but I posted on my blog every day this month.
I didn't necessarily make that my goal, but once I started posting and I got so far, I thought I might as well continue and try to come up with something every day.
I've made a lot of blogging friends through my love of books, and I regularly participate in blog memes three days a week. There's my meme, Dreaming of France on Mondays, First Paragraph on Tuesdays with the beginning of a book I'm reading, and Saturday Snapshot on Saturdays.
That only left me four days to come up with other topics.
Before I became a book blogger and an author, touting my own novels, I wrote a lot about my family.
As a matter of fact, when I got busy writing about books, one reader said to another reader, "I guess Paulita isn't blogging any more."
What she meant is that the only thing I blogged about was books -- mine and other authors' books.
So I'm trying to hit a happy medium -- writing about my family, my life, my job, my dreams, my observations, and also books that I read.
I'm not sure it's made a difference, and I haven't really committed to blogging every day for the rest of the year, or even next month.
But I appreciate those of you who take the time to read my blog, and those who leave comments too. It makes me feel a little less alone in the world.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Extreme Cold Weather

The cold weather has prevented me from running outside for nearly a week.
The school kids got a day off on Tuesday because of the extreme cold. The temperature was -17 Fahrenheit on Tuesday morning, that's -27 Celcius, and the wind chill was -30 Fahrenheit.
Wednesday morning, the air had warmed up to -9 degrees. That's -23 Celcius. Every school district in the county was closed except one other town and us.
Our town doesn't have school buses. Instead, everyone is close enough to walk or they get dropped off by their parents. The superintendent said he doesn't close school for cold weather unless the wind chill is at -18 degrees. Did he want to walk to school at -17 degrees?
These are snow rollers -- apparently a rare snow phenomenon. 
I thought it was still too cold for kids to walk to school. I decided to prove my point by walking to the coffee shop, which is actually closer than the school.
I set off in my warm boots, hat, gloves, scarf and winter coat.
 After nearly a mile, my cheeks were so cold, and my thighs in my corduroy pants were burning hot, in a way that thing probably feel right before frostbite. (Earl joked that maybe my corduroys rubbing together caused a spark, and I forgave him for the fat joke.)
I walked into the Starbucks just in time to keep from freezing.
I could see one of the barristas making comments about people being crazy to walk through the cold weather for coffee. I explained that I was trying to prove a point that the superintendent was wrong to have school that morning.
My son is lucky because he can drive to school. But there are plenty of kids in the city who can't get a ride; their parents leave for work before the kids go to school.
Standing at the Starbucks thawing, I called Earl and asked him to pick me up. He was just out of the shower and came to get me. Then we drove up toward the school to see if anyone needed a ride.
We found Tucker's friend Sam walking toward the school. He hopped in the backseat and we delivered him at school.
When the snow is just wet enough and in an
open place, the wind catches it and causes
it to roll up like a rug. Isn't this cool?
As we headed back home, we saw another boy walking. We stopped for him and ferried him up to the school too.
I also felt really bad for the crossing guards who stood outside to make sure the kids crossed the street safely.
This morning, the temperature had climbed all the way up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 Celcius), so I pulled on two pairs of running tights and an extra fleece.
I ran for about 34 minutes in the cold before returning home. It felt great to get back out there, but when I walked in the house, the sweat from my run, the cold outside and the warmth of the house all came together to hit me with a wave of nausea.
Still, I'm happy that I could run once again.
The weather forecast calls for some snow tonight. I'm still planning to get out there and run before the predicted storms next week.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Scattered

I've had four, very brief phone conversations with my 20-year-old son today, each one ending abruptly.
He's just a little frenetic. I don't think a lot of planning goes into his life. And I'm trying not to be a helicopter mom, but rather a safety-net mom, there to catch him before he leaps from a dangerous place.
They started a new semester at college yesterday and after his accounting class, he told me that the book is $300. That includes access to the online portion with quizzes, so we can't buy the used book.
I knew, but he didn't, that we had some credit with the school from financial aid. So this morning, I got online and ordered books for his class. It requires some back and forth between his schedule and the bookstore, but I finally managed to order books for three of his classes and the cost was $550. I clicked on financial aid for the payment then text messaged him at 8 a.m. before I left for work.
Around noon, I called him to see if he'd gotten my text message.
"No, what?" he asked.
I told him he could pick up the books at the bookstore.
"Okay, but I'm getting ready to go to lunch so I'll check after lunch."
And with that he was gone.
Here's Spence at his dorm after being sick all day,
but I was leaving him and wanted a picture
A little while later, he called and said the guy at the bookstore said Spencer needed to approve financial aid to pay for his books. I tried to talk to him about the meal plan too, but he said, "I gotta go, I'm gonna give blood right now."
"Donating blood, right?" I asked.
"What the f-- other kind of giving blood is there?" he asked.
"Language," I warned.
"Oh, sorry." I could hear his buddies around him laughing.
"Sometimes people sell their blood," I explained, remembering my college roommate who went every week to sell her plasma for the cigarette money.
"No, I'm just donating," he said.
"Okay, I'll call financial aid and make sure you can get the books," I told him as his voice faded from the phone.
I called the college and got everything straightened out.
It had been about 45 minutes since I talked to Spencer, so I thought he might be finished donating blood. I called him.
"Mom, I'm right in the middle of giving blood."
"Okay, I thought you might be finished. Call me back so I can tell you what you need to do."
In a little while, the phone rang.
"I've only got one percent left on my phone so make it quick," he said.
That's when I just became exhausted with these bursts of conversation followed by some sort of activity.
"Pick up the books tomorrow and call me when you can talk for more than five minutes," I said.
My head just reels from the various directions he is headed in, like a fly buzzing around the room, zipping here, zipping there.
Two and a half more years for him to get through college, hopefully. Maybe he'll be a little more focused by then.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- Someone Else's Love Story

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

I wanted to use this book for my First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser, but I enjoyed it so much that I finished it yesterday. I'll still feature it, even though I'm not currently reading it. The book is someone else's love story by Joshilyn Jackson. I carried the book with me to a swim meet on Saturday and my friend Betsy said, "Oh, her books remind me of yours."
I wish. I really enjoyed this.
Here's the intro:
I fell in love with William Ashe at gunpoint, in a Circle K. It was on a Friday afternoon at the tail end of a Georgia summer so ungodly hot the air felt like it had all been boiled red. We were both staring down the barrel of an ancient, creaky .32 that could kill us just as dead as a really nice gun could. 
Also this week  is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read  and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser.
Here's my teaser from page 55:
Because I knew then. William Ashe was going to save us. William Ashe was the brave one, the bold one. He was the great god Thor. I wanted to lean across my son's head and press my mouth to his and taste him and let him suck all this certainty out of my mouth. I wanted to be his, or maybe just be him.  
I can highly recommend this book.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Grace in Paris

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
In honor of Grace's birthday, here is a picture of  her in Paris on her most recent trip. Here in the Luxembourg Gardens, she is definitely dreaming.
I can't wait to see how you're dreaming of France.

Birthdays

Grace came home from university on Friday night so she could go salsa dancing with her friends from home. And we celebrated her birthday today before rushing her back to school for a mandatory meeting.
One of the hardest things about kids going away to school is not getting to spend birthdays with them.
Grace was in New York for two of her birthdays, and it's sad when we aren't together.
Her birthday celebration had a theme. We went to the restaurant Bon Vie and she had ham & gruyere crepes with fried potatoes. Yummy.

I'm the only one who decided a raspberry martini seemed like a good idea on Sunday at noon.
We convinced Tucker to come along and he actually enjoyed the food. The bread they served, he proclaimed the best he'd ever eaten, rivaling that of bread in France. He shared some of what we ordered and loved the fried potatoes with onions and the French toast with fruit.
He did, however, take note that there was only one TV in the entire restaurant and it was way over by the bar. That was a drawback to him.
Earl and I made Grace a vision board, sometimes called a dream board. I needed help from my friend Sheila to find the material and the batting for the board. She had them in her newly-organized craft room. I also had to go in search of staples for the staple gun and ended up with furniture tacks to hold the material in place. The pale green fabric has a damask design, which adds a definite French look to it. I had some teal ribbon that I thought would clash but actually added a nice pop of color. I hope Grace fills it with all the things she dreams of.
She also got a journal that quotes Audrey Hepburn on the front -- "Paris is always a good idea." And the journal has some France-themed quotes inside, like "Will exchange kisses for a trip to France."

A scarf, and a giant coffee cup along with a bottle of hazelnut syrup rounded out the gifts.
As I wrote in the birthday card we forgot to give her, Grace is the daughter I always wanted.
Lucky me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Saturday Snapshot -- Growing Up Swimming

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme, post a photo that you (or a friend of family member) have taken. Then leave a direct link to your post on West Metro Mommy. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
I'm spending this morning at a swim meet. Swim league championships. This is my 7th year in a row to go to high school league champs at the same pool. I know exactly where we will sit so we can get good pictures. But, this is my final year because my baby boy is a senior.
Here's a picture of him being adorable.
This was the age when he used to walk down the stairs, one foot at a time holding onto the rungs under the railing, and when he got to the bottom he'd say, "Here's Tucker!" Oh, what I would give for that kind of excitement now.
And here he is a few weeks ago in his manly hairiness and a Speedo, which really looks good on no one.
When I was looking for a swim picture of Tucker, I found this one from when he was 11. 
Compare it to the one of him a few weeks ago. 
 He still pushes the goggles up to his eyes as a nervous habit. 
Hope you all have a warm and fun weekend. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Story Would You Tell?

Have you ever listened to the Moth Radio Hour? I hear it on my NPR station and have an app on my phone so I can listen if I missed the radio broadcast. People usually tell stories that are funny or tragic. They either make me laugh or cry.
I asked Grace what story she would tell on the Moth Radio Hour. She thought maybe she'd tell about the parties her French friend threw while she visited Paris. I suggested she could tell the story about her sorority sister who sabotaged her romance then slept with the guy herself. No, she decided, she would tell the story about flying home from France in tears when American Airlines bumped her up to first class. I posted briefly about this story in December 2011.
I'm not really sure what story I would tell. I wonder if I've written a blog post that would make a good Moth Radio Hour story.
I'll try occasionally to tell a brief story on my blog that could expand into a Moth Radio Hour story.
I'm not sure why, but I've been thinking about the incident that made Earl get serious about dating me.
Earl and I both worked as reporters for the Tampa Tribune in Pinellas County, that's the little peninsula that stands between Tampa, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. St. Petersburg and Clearwater are in Pinellas County.
Earl covered the courts and I covered city government in Clearwater. Earl started working there about a year before I did. He was married at the time I met him, but it was a rocky marriage. (That's a story I'll let him tell.)
He and his wife, Elaine, decided to separate in January, and I had a two-bedroom apartment so I offered to let Elaine have the extra bedroom. I'd met her a few times when we all went out together. I was 26 and figured they'd be back together in a few weeks.
I saw Earl most days at work, but never told him that his wife didn't spend nights at my apartment. Some days I'd find evidence that she had been in the apartment while I was at work, but I rarely saw her.
One day I had an assignment to cover Gasparilla, that's a pirate day celebration around Mardi Gras, and I was going to ride a boat across Tampa Bay. I could take a friend, and I asked Elaine if she wanted to go with me.
"You should take a date," she said. I wasn't dating anyone.
"Take Earl," she suggested.
And I did.
Earl was picking me up early, at 8 or 9 a.m. The night before Earl's early arrival was the only night that Elaine spent in my apartment. She was there when Earl came to pick me up.
Eventually, Elaine moved in with the man she was spending time with, and Earl and I started dating. We went back and forth a hundred times. Earl would break up with me and go to marriage counseling with Elaine. Then he would come back and say he couldn't stop thinking about me. He'd show up on my doorstep with a 6-pack of Dos Equis, which was a new beer at the time. Finally, Earl decided to get a divorce.
We continued dating, but as someone just coming off a divorce, Earl wasn't too serious. We still went back and forth until I met Sergeant Randy.
I met Sergeant Randy through work. He was a cop, and I was working on a story about prostitutes -- a new program that punished the "johns" more than the women. I rode along with him one night as he staked out prostitutes, and they arrested the men who propositioned them.
I remember sitting in the front seat of the cruiser with Randy and we had an instant flirty rapport. He made me laugh. Now when I think of him, he reminds me of Ray Romano from Everybody Loves Raymond.
He asked me out, and I said, "yes."
The next day, I told Earl that I was going to start dating someone else.
I loved Earl, but the anguish of the back and forth was too gut wrenching for me. I figured it might take him years to get over his divorce, and I was ready to move on. His marriage counselor told him that I was only "a flash in the pan."
That day, after a goodbye lunch and lingering kisses, Earl decided he was ready to get serious. He wanted to be exclusive.
I'm not one of those conniving women who planned to force Earl to get serious. I truly found Sergeant Randy attractive and I'd had enough of waiting for Earl.
To this day, Earl remains a little jealous of Randy and refers to him as Katzenjammer, because he has a German sounding last name.  We haven't stayed in touch, but he did come to our wedding party and give us a gift of margarita glasses.
And whether Earl admits it or not, now nearly 24 years after we married, Randy had a role in bringing us together.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

To Gym or Not to Gym?

We gave up our YMCA membership last spring to save about $65 per month. The Y is 10 minutes or so away by car and Earl was working evenings so he would be left home without a car while I worked and Tucker went to school. I wanted to find a gym that was close enough for him to walk to. Tucker also wanted to work out here in town (not that he would walk to it, being a self-respecting 17-year-old). So they both got memberships at a small gym that has 24-hour access. The cost is about the same as what we paid for our family membership at the Y, but I'm glad they are going regularly.
As for me, I decided I would just run and not join a gym. And that has worked well up until this week. As the temperatures dipped down below 0, I had to find an alternative way to run.
I signed up for a gym trial at the fancy LA Fitness gym about half a mile away. Still, the temperatures forced me to drive to the gym for my trial membership.
I ran on the treadmill both yesterday and today. Yesterday, without a television screen in front of the treadmill, today with a television screen. The channel wouldn't change so I was stuck with CNBC -- some business news program at 7 a.m.
Me and Najah running in the snow in December.
We kept running outside as long as we could.
Some thing I forgot since last running on a treadmill. I sweat a lot when I run inside. Although the temperature beyond the glass might be -2, inside the sweat is soaking through my clothes and dripping down my face.
Some thing I forgot since visiting a big gym. The people who work out in big gyms look pretty even when they're working out.
I do not.
I can clean up okay. In clothes, with some make up and my hair straightened, I look attractive. But I don't want to worry about looking attractive while I run. My hair falls out of my ponytail and then gets plastered to my face from sweat; my face turns bright red; my thighs are definitely chubby but they can run several miles.
I run in the same clothes that I have had for 10 years. I don't see any point in upgrading when the clothes aren't worn out, and they still work just as well. That means I'm not too fashionable. Everyone else in the gym is fashionable, except a woman I saw in some sort of culottes and I figured that was a religious decision.
The first day, I didn't consider that I'd be running in shorts. I've been in running pants since November. And a few miles in, the skin on my thighs started to rub raw. Okay, that obviously means I just need to run more, not that I should stop!
So today, I put a pair of  tight, Spandex-type shorts under my slick running shorts. The spandex shorts would keep my thighs from rubbing, but I didn't count on how the running shorts would look over them. I probably would have looked better just in the Spandex shorts as the other shorts rode up.
Maybe no one noticed, maybe I was the one judging myself, but I felt ugly. No one wants to go to the gym and feel ugly.
That probably means I need to find a different gym.
The gym has a lot of weight machines, but they seemed to be fairly occupied by guys with big muscles who carry around gallon jugs of water. Too intimidating.
Unfortunately, the forecast calls for more weather too cold for running outside. I'd better find some place to keep running until spring finally arrives.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Morning Blunder

This morning, I did something good to help other people.
I was driving home from my run at the gym when I saw two middle school kids walking in the dark with their backpacks on. The temperature on my car thermostat said 2 degrees.
I wondered if they didn't know school was canceled.
I'd woken up that morning around 5 and pulled up the local weather station with its list of closings. It listed every school in the county, including ours because the temperature hovered around -2 degrees Fahrenheit. That's -18 Celcius.
Two weeks ago when the temperature dipped down this low, they closed schools for two days.
I had driven past the kids already and was debating whether I should go back and say anything to them.
I turned the car around, stopped and, on my phone, pulled up the page for the local weather station again. I double checked that our school appeared on the "closings" list.
Then I drove back down the road, rolled down my window and told the kids, a brother and sister, that schools were closed. I asked if they wanted me to give them a ride back home since it was so cold.
We live in a small town, so that's not as dangerous as it might seem to big city people.
I also told them my son was a senior in high school.
They climbed into the back seat and told  me they were in 8th grade and 6th grade.
"I'm going back to bed," the boy, who was in 8th grade, told me.
I dropped them in front of their house, about half a mile back. Then drove home.
As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that my neighbor was pulling out of her garage. She teaches at the Catholic schools, and I wondered where she was going. My list said the Catholic schools were closed too.
That's when I got worried.
According to the list, my college was closed, so I was in no hurry to take a shower. I had all day.
I came inside and searched for the closings page on the computer. The list showed only a few school delays and closures. Our school district and the college where I teach were not on the list.
"Oh, no," I told my husband. "I just told those kids there was no school. I don't even know their names."
At the same time, I needed to hurry to get ready for work.
I called my friend who lives down the block from the kids. Her 6th grade son knew them and called them. Then her son, a senior in high school, picked them up and gave them a ride to school.
She saved the day for me, and for them.
I figured out finally, that the page I was looking at on my phone was the page of closings from two weeks ago. It called up the same page I'd looked at without refreshing it.
I nearly caused a number of us to miss school.
It's fairly embarrassing and is a reminder to me not to meddle in other people's business, even if I'm trying to be a helper.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- Marie Antoinette's Head

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
I'm reading another book for FranceBookTours. This one is called Marie Antoinette's Head by Will Bashor, who lives right here in Columbus. The book is about the hairdresser to Marie Antoinette. Apparently the hairdresser was quite a character himself. The beginning section puts me off a little because there are notes on sources, notes on royal titles, a chronology and a really long list of historical characters, but the actual writing is entertaining. Here's the intro from the Prologue:
Captain de Busne, Marie Antoinette's last bodyguard, took her back to the cell where she awaited the hour of her execution. He had just accompanied her to the revolutionary tribunal where she was tried and convicted, but on this occasion, Captain de Busne was also guilt of unpardonable crimes. He had held his hat in his hand while escorting the fallen queen, he had taken the trouble of fetching a glass of water for her, and finally, he had offered his arm to help her down the dark staircase leading to her fetid prison cell. Later that day, Captain de Busne was denounced by the tribunal and arrested for his criminal behavior.
Also this week  is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read  and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser.
Here's my teaser from 8% on my Kindle:
When finally freed from its curling papers and LĂ©onard's comb, Julie's hair took on a bewitching charm. he had divided it into zones with each one presenting different visions: here emeralds, there pearls with a little flower, and a few blossoms that seemed to pierce through the curls.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Last Love Movie Review

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
I first heard about this movie when they were calling it Mr. Morgan's Last Love. I learned about it on Sim's blog Chapter 1 - Take 1. Apparently, somewhere along the line, they changed the title to Last Love. It stars Michael Caine and Clemence Poesy (Fleur de la Coeur from the Harry Potter movies).
Matthew Morgan (Michael Caine) is an American widower living in Paris who can't get over the death of his wife (Jane Alexander) three years before. He rarely goes out of his apartment. He's given up.
One day on the bus, he meets Pauline (Poesy) and they strike up an unlikely friendship. Pauline reminds Morgan of his wife when she was young. Morgan reminds Pauline of her father who died. The expectations are a little off.
After Morgan tries to kill himself, his adult children show up in Paris and assume that Pauline is after his money.
I love the scenery and the feel of France throughout the movie.
This movie is in English, but from the ending feels more French than American. Some of you know my feeling that French comedies are often more tragic than funny.
I'll say that the ending is sad but hopeful.
Here's the trailer.

Missed Wedding and More Croissants

On Saturday, my plan was to drive the four hours to southern Kentucky for my aunt's wedding.
My Aunt June, my father's sister, was marrying an old high school crush at the age of 75.
She's been married before and has had some tough times. Her first husband died when their little girl was only 4 or 5 years old. She remarried a man who had an alcohol issue and they eventually divorced. We thought she found happiness with an older man she knew in high school. They were married for a long time, but he was sick most of the time.
When Aunt June saw Paul at a high school reunion, they hit it off. They have only dated a few months but they were eager to get married, reminding family that they have a limited number of years to spend together.
So on Saturday they were married.
Grace and I had planned to go, but on Friday when I went to pick up Grace from college, she was sick with a fever, headache and upset stomach. She felt a little better on Saturday, but not well enough to spend eight hours in the car and I didn't want to risk getting all of our relatives sick. We stayed home and got updated on the wedding from my cousin Melinda and her daughter Morgan, who we love.
Morgan stood up with Aunt June. She's just so vibrant and beautiful.
I hope Aunt June and her new husband are very happy. They're starting with a two-week honeymoon.
This morning, Grace is feeling a little better so I made chocolate croissants from Trader Joe's. Like the croissants I blogged about yesterday, these croissants had to be set out the night before and they rose, ready to be baked the next morning. As I baked the croissants and make cafe au lait, Earl cut up some strawberries. Then we watched a House Hunter's International set in Paris. The single woman got a nice apartment in the Marais for $525,000. Terrific morning.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Snapshot -- Breakfast

 To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme, post a photo that you (or a friend of family member) have taken. Then leave a direct link to your post on West Metro Mommy. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
Part of living the way I want my life to turn out (see my post from Thursday), means enjoying treats that I want in my future too. So I have no problem buying these mini croissants from Trader Joe's and letting them rise overnight.

They're so tiny when I lay them on my battered cookie sheet the night before. The next morning they've risen so high.

 I brush beaten egg onto the risen croissant then bake them.
Yum, they're delicious with homemade strawberry jam or honey.
Hope you're having a treat today too. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Education Lie

I stand in front of my classroom looking at their faces, some wary, some eager. The students are a true United Nations. They come from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Central America, the inner city of Columbus, Ohio, and farmland around Columbus. Their skin colors vary from shiny pinkish-white to cafe au lait to burnished mahogany. Their hair styles range from dreadlocks to frizzy pony tails to purple stripes to close-cut shaved heads. Some of the women wear burkas or headscarves. They range in age from 17 to their early 40s. The only thing they have in common is me, standing at the front of the room.
I'm like an actor, especially in these first few classes. I feel the energy rushing through me as I try by sheer verve alone to unite them in their goal to pass this class, an English composition class.  
I promise them that this is only a stepping stone to the rest of their college career. That writing good papers can help pull out a grade in any class where they might be struggling. "This isn't just to torture you," I pledge.
But this time, I feel like a fraud.
I am telling them that education can save them from a life of poverty. That education will give them a love and a passion for life and learning.
I know some of these students will go on to earn their associate's degree. Even fewer will earn a bachelor's degree. Maybe a couple will go on to get a master's degree, like me, or a PhD or law degree.
But the lie I am telling them catches in my throat.
Get a master's degree and you can teach college; I want to encourage them, but I know that the changes made at my college mean that even if I teach all the hours adjuncts are allowed -- if I teach through the summer and am lucky enough to get a fully allowed schedule -- I can earn about $17,000 this year.
The salary I will earn with my master's degree is just a touch more than what I would earn working a full-time, minimum wage job.
Teaching as an adjunct has always been tricky, but our college used to allow us to work up to 30 hours per week. That brought home a decent salary, certainly  nowhere near the poverty line.
Last year, like most schools in Ohio, we switched to semesters. That cut down on some of the hours we could teach.
Then in the summer, they declared adjuncts could work a maximum of 22 hours, as per the IRS rules. But wait, they had more.
We could work 22 hours, but they counted each teaching hour as two hours rather than one. That meant we could teach 11 hours and they would count it as 22 hours, but we'd be paid for only 11 hours.
Yeah, let that sink in for a minute. We get paid for 11 hours, but they count it as 22 hours.
In 2013, I earned $18,000 less than I did in 2012. I'll earn even less in 2014.
Yet I stand in front of these students, and they trust me. They trust me to teach them, to be enthusiastic and supportive.
And I will. The students haven't let me down. And education is still a good way out of poverty, but the route hasn't served some of us as well.
All I can do is cross my fingers for these students and plunge in, hoping they'll follow, and for this semester, continue their dreams of a middle-class life.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Life I Want

This semester, my class load is much lighter due to cutbacks. At first, I spent a lot of time complaining and adding up how much less money I am going to make this year. I also wasted some time worrying about how to pay for college.
Just in time, I picked up The Power by Rhonda Byrne. She's also the author of The Secret and if  you've heard of that book, you know she doesn't have to worry about how to pay for anything. She has sold tens of millions of copies.
One of the things recommended by The Power is to live the life you dream of. For instance, if you want to have a job but you don't, set your alarm every morning lay out the clothes you would wear to work, etc.. If you are single and want to be in a relationship, start making room for that special person. Sleep on one side of the bed. Make room in your closet for his clothes, etc..
So, I examined my life and, overall, I am so fortunate. I have a husband who loves me. I'm healthy. I have a great family, great friends. The work and money thing are my biggest concerns.
The author encourages people to put their dream life out there, so I did. I'd like to make a living full time as a writer and to travel to France, maybe even live in France, once the kids are through with school.
I decided on the days when I don't have to go to work, to live my dream life.
I got up this morning and went for a run. I ran seven miles then stopped by the bus stop to chat with my husband while he waited for the bus.
My plan was to come home, shower and get busy writing. But Tucker had a late start today, so he was hanging around the house. Earl forgot his notebook, so even though he took the bus to save the earth, I had to drive the notebook downtown to him.
I didn't get around to writing until almost 10 a.m. I had Tucker drop me in our little downtown on his way to school. I walked to the coffee shop ready to claim my table and get busy. My friend Leah was working in the coffee shop, so I spent a bit of time chatting with her.
As I settled in my corner, another acquaintance came in and we talked for awhile too.
Finally, I got busy on my new novel Paris Runaway. I wrote about 3000 words today. Ideally, I'd like to write 5,000 words on these days off, but my future life needs to include friends too. So if I have a day where I write and drink coffee and talk to friends, that's definitely the future life I want.
Then I walked home, stopping to buy a baguette and a pastry treat for myself.
Walking home with my computer and a baguette protruding from my bag, I definitely could see myself leading this kind of life. But warmer, because the temperature was around 20 degrees. Flakes of snow began to fall as I continued home.
Once home, I sliced the Gouda and Port Salut cheese in our refrigerator and added some salami to big round crackers.
That was a lot for one person to eat, but after running seven miles this morning, if I don't eat enough, I get ravenous. Then I never feel full.
My goal this afternoon is to do some marketing for my other novels before I clean up the house and cook dinner for my husband and son.
Yes, I think this is the life I want to live. It's just tweaking the life I currently live, but throwing in France, plus writing full time would definitely be my dream.
How bout you? Can you start living the life you dream about?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blogger's Review of I See London I See France

Be sure to take a look at Laurel-Rain Snow's review of my latest novel, I See London I See France.
As an author, I can't begin to explain how thrilling it is to have readers enjoy the words I wrote, imagine the characters I created.
When I read, I'm always searching for those nuggets of truth that I can relate to. I hope readers can find those in my novels too.
Here's the link to Laurel's review on her blog Rainy Days and Mondays.
She also posted the review on Amazon and Goodreads. I'm always happy to have reviews and news of my novel spread to other readers.
Thanks to everyone for their support.

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- Elegance

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Better late than never, I'm posting from my current read, Elegance by Kathleen Tessaro.
I was reading a book that had some horrible, cruel scenes in it (see my teaser from last Tuesday) and I didn't stop reading in time to keep those scenes out of my head. So I quickly needed to turn to a book guaranteed to make me smile. I've been reading a lot of Kathleen Tessaro since I read The Perfume Collector, so I knew she would distract me.
This novel is basically about an American woman who wanted to be an actor. She married a British man and five years in finds herself truly depressed and working in a box office. She finds a used book about elegance and recreates her life based on the instructions of the book. I'm enjoying it.
Here's the first paragraph.
It is a freezing cold night in February and my husband and I are standing outside of the National Portrait Gallery in Trafalgar Square.
The opening may not be very catchy, but the book is a terrific escape.

Also this week  is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read  and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your tease.
Here's a teaser from page 301:
"So you think you can just sleep with me and then bugger off without a trace!" Eddie grins. "Cup of tea please, while you're at it. Chop. Chop! My audience is waiting!"
He's wearing a tea towel on his head and has a large faded blue travel rug wrapped around his body.
I look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Snowy Alps


Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
If we're going to have snow, could we at least be in the French Alps?
Grace took this picture in Briancon, France when she traveled there in the fall of 2011.

Overscheduled Sunday

By 1 p.m. today, I was ready for a nap.
I was up just after 6 and met my friend Najah for a run along Antrim Lake.
I told Najah I needed to take a picture of this fallen tree because it would frame the top of a picture, but I never zoomed in enough to make the fallen tree a frame.
These beautifully polished toes ran 7. 5 miles this morning
Mom and I went to get pedicures while I visited her in Florida. The nail technician from Vietnam asked if I wanted flowers on my big toes. Although no one will see them this winter, I agreed to the flower. She dabbed on white petals, then touched them with pink. She added silver along the tips of my other toenails. What fun.
Then I hurried home from my run and showered so I could watch Earl's niece's daughters, 4-year-old Caroline and 1-year-old Regan.
Their dad was gone for the weekend and their poor mom was exhausted, as you would expect. She took Sunday morning to go to yoga class while Earl and I babysat.
Regan is a blur of activity. Her laughs are guffaws. She loves to sing and dance and carry around a baby doll by its head. 
Caroline was thrilled by a gift of a bouquet of suckers. She only ate one while we were there. She lost her bottom tooth when a potato chip got wedged in there and forced it out. The dentist isn't worried and said she'll get her permanent tooth in a few years.
After the morning running then playing with the girls, I'm definitely ready for a nap. I can't believe I had three little ones and we all survived. I reminded Earl that he moved to Columbus when our kids were two, four and six and we didn't move with him for two months. I can't imagine being the sole caregiver for two months with three little kids.
Luckily, I can relax this afternoon before I start teaching again Monday morning.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Saturday Snapshot -- Sunset

 To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme, post a photo that you (or a friend of family member) have taken. Then leave a direct link to your post on West Metro Mommy. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
I love colorful sunsets, don't you?
This one was over the lake by my parents' house in Florida. The color doesn't look as intense online as it did on the camera.
Enjoy your weekend.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Catching Up on Cooking

I left on Saturday to take Spencer back to college. He didn't really need me since we flew, but I wanted to spend some time with my parents who live about an hour and a half from Spencer's college.
I flew back on Wednesday and was in my back door by 10:30 a.m. I love flying rather than driving for 16 hours.
While in Florida, I received a call from my baby boy (17 years old)  who was home with his father.
He claimed there was nothing to eat in the house.
"How bout all those frozen meals I bought?" I asked.
"The only one left is baked ziti.  You know I don't like ziti."
I had no idea that he didn't like pasta if it was shaped differently.
"I've only been eating Raisin Bran Crunch all week and now we're out of milk," he complained.
So from my parent's house in Florida, I got online and ordered, plus paid for, a sandwich from Jimmy John's that he could eat after his swim practice. Jimmy John's delivers.
I could have argued with him, but I was on vacation, plus he's my third kid and I rarely have the energy to argue with him.
When I came home Wednesday morning, my first stop after home was the grocery store. I planned a meal, homemade pizza, salad, brownies with white chocolate chips.
When Tucker walked in from play practice Wednesday  night and said, "Is there any food?" I pulled the pizza from the oven. He went back for seconds of salad too.
After five years working evenings, usually 4 to midnight, my husband Earl started on days this week. I wasn't there to greet him on Monday or Tuesday evening, but Wednesday evening, as he let me know he was on the bus ride home from downtown, it suddenly hit me. I needed to greet him like a 1950s housewife with a drink at the door.
I couldn't put the "kids" to bed, since he was 17 and it was 6:30 p.m. But I did put on sexy dress with high heels and twisted my hair up into a chignon. Then I put on an apron and poured a glass of red wine. I stood in front of Tucker and warned him, "I don't want to scare you. I'm just playing a joke on Dad about being a housewife for him now."
"Whatever." Tucker's eyes might have rolled up into his head.
But Earl was thrilled when he walked in the house. Unfortunately, it won't be a habit since I start back to work next week.

The cooking continued this week. Before Tucker left for school Thursday morning, I pulled cinnamon rolls from the oven.
Thursday night, I had steaming potato soup on the stove when he walked in and a baguette.
 Since Earl worked evenings, I often skipped making meals for dinner. Now that my husband is working days, guess I'll have to be more diligent. But if I don't feel like cooking, I'll just suggest we head to a nearby Chinese place.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

An Interview on a French Blog

Today, my blogging friend Linda Mathieu has posted an interview with me. Linda lives in Paris with her French husband and travels to all kinds of exciting places.
Here's the link to her blog Frenchless in France
She had some really interesting questions, and I love that she thought this novel was better than the one before. That is the goal as an author to improve. How do I know she thought it was better? She gave me a five-star review on Amazon. The last book only got four stars.
Rather than including another copy of the novel cover, I've posted a picture of the cover that I didn't use. I don't want to get overexposed.
Hope you'll visit Linda's blog and leave a comment so I don't feel like I'm all alone in the blogging world.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

My Parents Eat the Weirdest Things

This post could probably be written by a 5th grader who thinks her parents are weird, but as my parents age they try the strangest things.
Maybe they're onto something because they are in their mid-70s and they're still active, playing golf five days a week.
Here's Mom and Dad with a bunch of chocolate dipped strawberries for her birthday.
Eating chocolate-dipped strawberries is not weird, just delicious. 
My mom says they're just gullible because they're old, but truthfully, Mom has been gullible since I was a kid. She always filled out those Clearinghouse Publishers Sweepstakes or any other giveaway.
In their 50s, they started drinking some mushroom drink, kombucha, which they grew in their refrigerator.
They've always taken a lot of vitamins.
This week, as I stay with them, I've seen them downing a green liquid every morning. It's some sort of Green Superfood that comes in a powder and they mix with water. My dad stirs up two cups each morning with a little whisk. The darker green settles in the bottom. It's supposed to help with hearing and sore joints and I'm not sure what all.
Next, they pull out a jar full of gin and golden raisins. They take a tablespoon of that each morning for arthritis. Neither of them has been diagnosed with arthritis, but better safe than sorry. They've gone through four jars of gin and raisins and have decided to stop because they're  not sure it works.
Yesterday though, Dad read an ad about another supplement that is supposed to help stop whooshing and ringing in the ears. He is ready to order it. Mom is skeptical, but I think she's just putting on a good front while I'm here.
Whatever they're eating or drinking, I'm glad they're healthy. And  I don't think they'll mind me poking fun at their cure alls.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- Gastien The Cost of the Dream

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
This week I'm reading a book for FranceBookTours. It's historical fiction titled Gastien The Cost of the Dream by Caddy Rowland.
Here's the intro: from the Prologue, April, 1999:
Gastien slouched at the table by the window appearing to stare at the painting in front of him. He wasn't really seeing it. Mon Dieu, his hip hurt! Everything hurt. The muscles in his arms and legs ached something fierce, and his hands trembled. It was getting extremely difficult now to recover in the mornings after a night of hard drinking. His stomach felt like molten hell, and his head! Oh, sweet Jesus, the pounding in his head! It was almost enough to make him consider giving up his beloved absinthe, but not quite.
Also this week  is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read  and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your tease.
Here's a teaser from 29% on my Kindle:
"Forgive me, Father, but I don't believe in  your God," Gastien stated. "I learned years ago he did not really exist. If you are hoping for a believer, I am going to have to disappoint you."
I'll be posting a full review of the book on Jan. 15 so check back to see what I thought of the book.