Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dreaming of France -- What do you love about France?


Thank you for joining 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.

This morning, as I drove my college son back to college, because he had missed his bus, he asked me why his father and I hate the U.S.
"We don't hate the U.S.," I hastily said, and he knew that already.
We don't want to move to France because we are unhappy with the United States, we want to move to France because we love it.
Mostly, people could say, "Of course, you love France. You've only been there on vacation."
But I did spend three months in France working as an au pair, so I have some experience working in France.
While there, traveling from Corsica to Bourges, we spent a few days in Aix en Provence. A relative we were staying with, took me to the main street of Aix -- the Cours Mirabeau, and while we explored shops along this street, I had a strange tugging at my heartstrings, as if this was the place I belonged.
I've felt that every time we traveled there.
Here's a plaza in Aix en Provence
We also appreciate the culture in France -- the importance of long, slow meals. The emphasis put on education and music and art. The value of spending time with family and friends.
Enjoying dinner at a Moroccan restaurant with friends in Aix en Provence. 

A musical interlude by our friends' children. 
 And all of these things draw us to France without even talking about the food and wine.

Without even considering the beauty of the diverse scenery throughout France and the glory of the history.
We biked across the Pont du Gard, a Roman-built aqueduct in southern France. 

We realize how fortunate we are to live in the United States, to have been able to raise our family here, to earn a good living that may allow us to move to France in the coming year.
What do you love about France?

Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Student Musings

I've only done the bare minimum on my blog recently, which usually means Dreaming of France, and sometimes Tuesday Intros, just because books are still available to distract us from things.
Of course, I'm still teaching college (university) and the students frequently either infuriate me or delight me.
Like the student last Friday who walked up to the desk to turn in his assignment.
Student: I just wrote down some ideas instead of a whole counter argument paragraph.
Me: That was the whole point to write the counterargument and the rebuttal.
Student: Oh, I wasn't really listening.
Me: (tearing my hair out)
We only had class on Monday this week because of Thanksgiving (Lucky me!).
This is a class selfie from a long ago class. My current classes
have 15 to 20 students in them, but it's the only class picture I have.
One of my students, Tyler, who has missed a lot of classes, stood in front of my desk with an essay in his hand. "I'm so sick. The only reason I'm here is because of you," he said. I could tell that he had a cold, runny nose, sneezing.
"Well thank you," I responded. Then I added the same thing I tell my children, "If you make sure you don't miss classes unless you're sick or an it's emergency then it isn't a big deal when you do miss because you have a cold."
As he started to walk back to his desk, I called out, "One of the students in my 8 o'clock class has chemotherapy every week and he's still in class every day, but thanks for coming while you have a cold."
Nothing like a little guilt to make students feel bad.

I don't want you to think that all of my students are slackers though. I was chatting with my class about how happy I was to spend Thanksgiving with only my husband and my three children. I said that after dinner, we'd have game night. Then I pondered how happy my 24-year-old, 23-year-old and 20-year-old would be to stay home and play games with their family.
"Wow! You have kids that old?" one young female student asked. "I thought you were like 30."
Her grade is now being adjusted upward.

The semester is nearly over now, three more weeks,
and aside from one student who emailed to complain that I shouldn't have talked to the class about the election, my students have pretty much been a delight this semester.
Hope it's the same in January when we start all over again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Intros -- Fa-La-Llama-La


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'll be reading and reviewing Fa-La-Llama-La by Stephanie Dagg for France Book Tours. I read and reviewed Stephanie's previous memoir Heads Above Water where she described her family's move to France and attempt to start a camping and fishing vacation retreat. I guess she has
successfully done it now, because she has llamas and goats and all sorts of barnyard fowl. I'm sure this new novel, which she describes as a romantic comedy, will be just the mood lifter I need during the coming weeks.
Here's the intro:
"How are you fixed for the next week or so?" my cousin asked.
Talk about a silly question. I glowered at my phone.
"Joe, it's nearly Christmas," I reminded him. "I'm temporarily living with my parents, as I know you know. I will be eating too much, which is bad since it will go straight to my hips, and probably drinking too much, which is also bad, but given recent events, I'm not sure I care. With any luck I'll forget about them."
The events that Noelle wants to forget about are losing her job, being dumped by her fiance and the death of her grandmother, so she takes a pet-sitting job feeding llamas in France over Christmas.
Hope you're reading something to raise your spirits or to challenge your mind.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Mont St. Michel


Thank you for joining 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.

Everyone has seen the imposing structure of Mont St. Michel in Normandy which sits at the edge of the sea and sometimes is surrounded by water when the tide comes in. The rocky island has been inhabited at least since the Roman Ages. It got its name after the Archangel Michael appeared to a bishop and told him to build a church there.
Grace took this picture in 2011. . 

Here are some shots from inside the walls. 
Here's a close-up of the spire. 

A statue of the Archangel Michael 

The ubiquitous flower boxes outside French windows. And the awnings are pretty beautiful too,
not to mention the stone building. All gorgeous. 
Have you visited Mont St. Michel? What was your favorite part? 

NaNoWritMo -- National Novel Writing Month

I started out so strong in November with National Novel Writing Month.
The goal is to write a novel in one month. Well, 50,000 words, which doesn't quite reach novel length, but it's a sprint and a marathon to get the bones of a story done in such a quick amount of time. I've written parts of other novels during November, and I've even succeed in getting to 50,000 words a couple of times.
This year, I was determined to succeed. The first week, I was ahead of the daily word count.
I'm working on a novel that I'm calling The Wedding-Dress Theory.
Because I'm unsure how much of the plot I'll share when the book is published, I'll just give you the general idea that this is the story of a mother and adult daughter who have a tenuous relationship, and a tragedy prompts them to attempt to visit all 50 states in three months.
My successful writing paused on November 8. I was anxious about the election and couldn't seem to sit down and write. I assured myself that it would be better the next day. But the next day came and it was worse. I woke up to a new reality.
I spent time soothing my children, soothing my students, pretending that everything would be okay.
Part of the difficulty though, is that this wasn't a normal election with a candidate from the other side. This was a candidate who threatened people of color, people of other religions, women, -- pretty much the majority of the country has something to fear from his election.
People who voted for him claim that it wasn't racism; it was about jobs or the economy. Well, if they looked at the economy compared to eight years ago, they'd realize that wasn't true. In the U.S., we have 4.9 percent unemployment. During the recession, it reached 9.8 percent. Nearly half of those looking for jobs, have found them. No economy is perfect, and I realize that I live in a city with even lower unemployment, but I don't believe the economy claim.
In addition to Trump appealing to racists, I think a lot of people were afraid to have a woman president.
The past, nearly, two weeks have been depressing, like a death -- a death of the country we thought we lived in.
I unfollowed people on Facebook -- cousins who posted things like "protestors are paid" or "Suck it up Buttercup" bill.
This morning I cancelled brunch with a high school friend. We meet halfway between her house and my house. We've been friends more than 30 years. She's not political, but she is conservative. We don't talk politics, but so much of my life has revolved around the election, that I can't imagine talking to her about my life without referencing the despair I've felt, and that would be dipping into politics.
I still have a chance to finish NaNoWriMo. I'm only working one day this week, so I can write and write and write. (Plus also run and swim and lift weights, my way of dealing with the extra stress.)
Our family is having Thanksgiving with just us -- me, Earl and my three children. Not even significant others will be present, since Grace's live-in boyfriend is flying to New Jersey to be with his grandparents. I don't feel too stressed about cooking for just us, so even on Thanksgiving, I'll be able to work on NaNoWriMo.
Right now, I'm at 22,000 words. Only 28,000 to go.
I'll try to update you next Sunday to let  you know if I've been able to shake off my feelings of doom and dig into writing again.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Tuesday Intros -- But You Are in France, Madame


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.

Catherine Berry is a lover of France like me and her family  actually moved to France for a year. That's what her book But You Are in France, Madame is about. I have to admit that the title confuses me a little bit because I'm not sure where to put the emphasis, like were they lost and someone said, "But you are in France, Madame." Or did she want to do something the way the Australians do it and someone said, "But you are in France, Madame." There are just so many places to put the emphasis. Here's the intro from Chapter 1.
"Congratulations, you are Italian!"
"That's all I have to do to get my Italian passport? It's that easy?" my husband replied.
"No, now we do the paperwork!" Grinning widely, the embassy official rose from behind the counter to hug and kiss my husband, resulting in a spectacular near miss of cultural proportions.
And so began the paperwork, lots of it...and the spiral of confusion (ours), smiling affability at our confusion (theirs) and hours waiting in the embassy queue, just to be told why the documents we had been instructed to find at the previous visit were no longer the right ones.
Time was running out for us. We had been talking about our year in France for years, family and friends were worn down with cheering us along from the sidelines of our hurdle-strewn marathon to the airport tarmac. My husband and I, both Australian-born, but of European descent, knew that if our family's French adventure were to be anything more than a three-month touristy jaunt, we would need extra documents. Either my husband had to get his Italian passport, or I had to have a British one approved. Both seemed an even better option; hence his misleadingly optimistic exchange above.  
 Thanks for visiting and I look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Nature


Thank you for joining 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.

When people think of Paris, they rarely picture nature. But just a short train ride from the heart of Paris, in an area still considered Paris, we came across some beautiful scenes. We were on our way to the restaurant Maison Fournaise, which is where Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party took place. (The building was beautiful, the food was so-so.)
After we got off the train and began to walk toward the restaurant, here's what we found.
First was this glorious wall of wisteria.

This was in early spring. I wonder if it filled in even more with dripping purple blossoms.


I loved seeing this camouflaged boat and wondered if Johnny Depp or someone equally intriguing might live on it and cruise up and down the Seine. 


From across the river, we spotted this egret fishing for his dinner.


And then we walked down this lane bordered by fragrant lilac bushes. 

Also today, I'm linking to All About France.

Lou Messugo
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.


Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Sound of Silence

When I walk in my classrooms this morning, I'm greeted with the sound of silence. A few people skim through their phone screens, but most students seem stunned, staring ahead vacantly. Some have swollen eyes that they didn't bother covering with makeup.
"It's going to be okay," I tell them.
I have to be the grownup, even though they are all technically adults.
In our county, we voted overwhelmingly for the first female president 60% for her and 34% for Trump. That means we're surrounded by people who feel the same that we do.
But Trump won the electoral votes. Trump will be the 45th president, and that scares many of my students.
Most of my students haven't had soft lives in the suburbs. They attended urban schools or they came to Columbus from Somalia or Palestine or Mexico. Some of them wear head scarves. Some of them are gay or lesbian. They're going to a community college so they can afford to pay class by class to earn their degree. They thought they were part of America.
Last night's vote convinced them that they'll never be accepted here.
"We've had bad presidents before," I encourage them.
I say things like, "He's probably more moderate than we think."
I make them feel a little better. Maybe this won't affect their lives, but truthfully, it probably will.
It will affect them in the laws that are enacted by Congress and the Supreme Court justices who will be appointed for life.
"We are all responsible for protecting each other," I remind my students. "We're all Americans and we have the same civil liberties. Our work is just starting."
We can't joke about it yet -- maybe never.

Maybe listening to Hilary Clinton will provide some closure.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tuesday Intros -- The President's Hat


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've heard good things about The President's Hat and I loved The Red Notebook by the same author, Antoine Laurain.
Here's the opening:
Daniel Mercier went up the stairs at Gare Saint-Lazare as the crowd surged down. Men
and women hurried distractedly past him, most clutching briefcases but some with suitcases. In the crush, they could easily have knocked into him but they didn't. On the contrary, it seemed as though they parted to let him through. At the top of the steps, he crossed the main concourse and headed for the platforms. Here too it was crowded, with an uninterrupted tide of humanity pouring from the trains. Daniel forced his way through to the arrivals board. The train would be arriving at platform 23. He retraced his steps and stood next to the ticket-punching machines. At 9:45 p.m. train 78654 ground into the station and released its passengers. Daniel craned his neck, looking for his wife and son. He saw Veronique first. She waved, then described a circle above her head, finishing her gesture with an astonished look. Jerome meanwhile made a beeline for his father, flinging himself at his legs and almost tripping him up. When Veronique reached them, slightly out of breath, she stared at her husband.
"What on earth is that hat?"

Uh, oh. Sounds like Veronique does not like his hat. In French class, when we had to choose French names, the one I took was Veronique. Hope she doesn't end up quashing her husband's dreams.
Thanks for visiting and I look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Dreaming of France -- St. James Cemetery in Brittany

Thank you for joining 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.

This week we commemorate Veteran's Day, so I thought I'd share some photos that Grace and Earl took when they traveled to St. James Cemetery in Brittany. Here's a link to more information about the cemetery called Brittany American Cemetery. 


Earl pointed out all of the ethnic names of the soldiers who died fighting for freedom -- for the U.S. and Europe.


I love the sky in this photo.

And the crosses. So many people fought for freedom. 
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave your name and blog address in Mr. Linky below, and leave a comment letting me know what  you think about my love affair with France, or your own passion for the country and its people and cultures. Also consider visiting the blogs of others who play along so we can all share the love.

Dreaming of France -- Caunes-Minervois

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog . Share with the rest of us yo...