Friday, March 31, 2017

Crazy

On Monday, I stopped in the bank to deposit some money. The teller, a young man making conversation, asked whether I had to go back to work or if I was finished for the day.
I explained to him that I have the best work schedule ever this semester.
I have two online classes, so never have to show up to teach those, plus I have four classes on Tuesdays and Thursday. This leaves my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, plus weekends free of work obligations. Sure, I have to grade papers and respond to students online, but having all of those days without set hours is such a freeing experience.
The teller agreed as I left the bank that I had an enviable schedule.

As the weather improved through this semester, I have spent hours walking with Sheila or painting the interior walls of the house, or meeting my writing friends at the coffee shop.

 I ran errands to Home Depot, over and over again, got laundry done, and caught up on all of my podcasts. I was living a life of leisure.
Then on Tuesday, the chair of the department emailed me. A professor couldn't finish the classes she started, could I take them over?
With all of that free time, and with us trying to minimize bills before Earl's retirement, I had no choice but to say yes.
The classes meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8:19 a.m. and 12:09 p.m. for an hour each. And they are 44 minutes away from home.
So now, I leave the house at 7:15 a.m. and make the drive through rush hour traffic. The classes take place in a high school, and they are high school students. They look at me like deer in headlights. Their previous teacher taught high school and college classes.
The first class ends at 9:09 a.m., and there I am with three hours to kill before the next class begins.
 I could go to a computer lab with the high school students, or I could go to the teachers' lounge, which I know from my subbing days, is a place of gossip and laughter. I probably wouldn't get much work done there.
I found a Starbucks just about 10 minutes away and I've been sipping a peach hibiscus tea.
My plan is to use these three hours on grading and online work so that the rest of my day is free. Maybe I'll even get more accomplished since my days are more structured now, but, boy, there better be some free days to come when we move to France to make up for teaching eight college courses this semester.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Fear and Jubilation


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.

Is it possible to be over-the-moon excited about something and petrified at the same time?
That's how I'm feeling these days.
Our plans to sell the house and move to France are progressing. Downstairs right now, some men are updating the bathroom and installing a new floor in the main room.
We are slowly getting rid of furniture, a bookshelf here, a spare refrigerator there, trips to Goodwill each week with books and clothes and kids' items that we no longer need. School papers, pictures, and books that we can't bear to part with are tucked into plastic bins. We'll probably go through them again and again, slowly releasing items that we can't possibly move overseas.
The purging of belongings feels marvelous, freeing.
The living room is painted and free of clutter. I could definitely feel secure showing the living room to potential buyers, but there's much more work to do.
So where's the fear?
Every time I think about that day when we climb onto the plane leaving our three children behind, my heart clutches. Can I really do that? Say goodbye knowing that I won't see them for six months, a year?
Of course, when they went to college, Grace in New York, Spencer in Florida, I survived without seeing them for three months. We managed to stay in contact.
Maybe it would be easier if they had moved away. Then the twinge of guilt wouldn't eat at me.
I guess I'm always the one who has left. After grad school, I packed up and moved to Florida, 1200 miles from my parents. We didn't have cell phones so once-a-week phone calls and letters had to fill the daily gap of contact.
My two oldest children encourage us to go. My youngest, 21 now, has accused us of abandoning him, but that has been a few months so his feelings may have changed. He has his own apartment, but I guess the idea that we wouldn't be here as a safety net seems scary to him. To me, too.
I am sad to sell this house and leave our community. It's like a 1950s enclave, except liberal. It has an incredibly low crime rate and excellent schools. We walk to the library and an array of coffee shops and restaurants. An Irish bar blares out music on St. Patrick's Day and the latest California-style bar celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Pretty much everything we need is within walking distance, including Earl's job, 3 miles away and my job, 4 miles away. We can bike into downtown Columbus, or walk when we have an extra hour.
But I've dreamed of living in France.

We've visited over and over again. In May, I'll take my 12th trip to France.
And Earl's dreams are filled with retirement plans. He has worked as a reporter for 40 years. It's a grueling business that eats up his days -- sometimes 12-hour days, and causes his eyes to pop open in the middle of the night, worried about making a mistake in a story.
He allowed me to stay home with the kids and I only worked part-time jobs while he carried the brunt of the financial burden. I owe him this. I need to support him in his retirement and carry the financial load for a bit.
Once he retires, we couldn't afford to stay here in this house, plus to pay for insurance and student loans and other expenses. So a move is in our future.
Setting off on an adventure is challenging. In every Disney movie, the main character dreams of what could be out there and something propels her.
I guess it's time to be my own Disney hero, no matter my fears.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Recreating Families

Creating families can be a funny, coincidental thing -- unless it's not.
I met my husband in Florida. We both worked for The Tampa Tribune. I lived in Clearwater and he lived in St. Petersburg. He was in a dying marriage and I was a fresh, straight-out-of-grad school 24-year-old.
On the outside, it would seem like the two of us did not have a lot in common, but once we got to know each other, we discovered that we both came from Ohio, a state about 1200 miles north of Florida.
And we both were born into families with four children, and they fell in parallel genders, girl, boy, girl, boy for both of us. So that's a coincidence.
Next we learned that both of us had lost our oldest sisters. His sister died at 36 when she was hit by a drunk driver. My oldest sister died at age 18 in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire.
That left both of our families with two boys and one girl.

Now, about 29 years after we met, we find ourselves with a family made up of one daughter and two sons, having recreated the families we came from.
When the kids were little, I did wish that Grace could have a sister. Maybe I wanted to mirror the family that I grew up in.
I don't often think about the coincidence of my family and Earl's family, except when I get names all muddled in my head.
If I'm feeling protective toward one of the boys I might call them Kevin, the name of my younger brother. And the other day, thinking about Grace, I instead called her Tammy in my head.
I listened to an NPR story called "When the Brain Scrambles Names, It's Because You Love Them" about how certain names, names for family, friends, co-workers, all get put into different compartments and that's why people (mothers and fathers especially) call their children by the other kids' names or even their pets' names, because they are all in the family compartment.
But I do wonder, did Earl and I intentionally create a family like the ones we grew up in -- or was it just luck that the dominoes fell to create our right-sized family.
What do you think? Coincidence or do we intentionally create or avoid the families we had?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review -- The Enemies of Versailles

I read the first two books by Sally Christie in the Mistresses of Versailles series and enjoyed them, but my favorite might be this final book The Enemies of Versailles. The books stand alone, but it's intriguing to read them in order to see how King Louis XV evolved from a religious, devoted husband to a man who resisted the efforts of his family to force him back to the church as his guilt ate away at him.
But the books are not told through the viewpoint of the king, instead, for this final book, we see the world of Versailles through one of his daughters, Adelaide, and his last mistress Jeanne du Barry. Perhaps there were never two women more different. Adelaide was born as a princess of France. She avoided marrying so she could stay in the luxury of Versailles, and although she tried to do good works, she always followed etiquette and thought the poor should stay in their place. She never had any sympathy for the plight of those outside the chateau.
Jeanne, however, was born into a poor family and went to school at a convent. Her beauty propelled her into the wealth of Versailles and the arms of the King, but she always had a kind heart, even for those who hated her.
This book is full of rich details that help the readers feel as if they are at Versailles, sharing the gossip and the intrigue, but also the emotions of the historical characters. Good historical fiction is a great way to get a grasp on the times the characters lived through, and this one does that. It has stuck with me through the end when (spoiler alert/not really) the French Revolution sees the next king Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette beheaded.
The actions of the king and all of the people in Versailles feel so real as I finished the book last week and saw the health care plan and the budget put out by  the Congress and President of the United States. It makes me realize that the people in power, again, have no idea what middle class and working people are going through.
This book is a fast read and whimsical escape into the past, at least until the end when the reality of repeating history might jar the reader.
I highly recommend it.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can win a copy of The Enemies of Versailles by leaving a comment on my blog and letting me know you'd like a copy.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- French Rhapsody


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 had some extra points on my Amazon account, so I ordered a paperback that I can take with me to France. I'm always looking for something good to read as I travel, and books set in France are
perfect.
I found this book, French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain and didn't even read the summary before I ordered it. I truly enjoyed his novel The Red Notebook, and his other novel The President's Hat was also a fun read.
Laurain is French and sets his books in France with real French people, unlike many of us who write novels about Americans or Brits reacting to travels in France.
This novel tells the story of Alain, who had a band in the 1980s but gave up his music dream and became a doctor. Then he receives a letter that went awry and should have reached him in 1983 that offers him and his band a music contract. Should he track down his band members and try at music again? What could have been if only the letter hadn't gotten lost?
I'll have to resist opening this book until we leave for France. Maybe I should stow it in my suitcase now.
I ordered this book on Friday and it appeared on my front porch today, Sunday. So weird. I have Amazon prime, but I didn't expect it on a Sunday.
How about you? Have you read a book set in France that you love? Please share.
And, if not, I encourage you to try Paris Runaway, It's fast-paced and will definitely put you smack dab in France, at least the way I experience it.
Here's a blurb to tempt you further:
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris, all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France.
I appreciate you sharing your love for France, along with food, books, movies, stories and pictures. Please visit the blogs of others who play along so we can share the love.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review -- Abby's Journey

In the novel Abby's Journey by Steena Holmes, the author tells the story of Abby, a 20-year-old girl who has battled illness all of her life, suddenly healthy for a year.

Her grandmother swoops in with a surprise trip to Europe, especially the Christmas markets in Germany that her mother always dreamed of visiting. Her father, who raised her alone after Abby's mother died in childbirth, resists allowing her to go, fearing for her health and for what his life might be without her at home. This story changes perspective so the story is told through Abby's eyes, through the grandmother, Millie's, viewpoint, and through the father's voice.
What I liked about this book: This was a sweet book with some lovely descriptions. Anyone who enjoys travel will be carried away to Europe in the author's descriptive passages, like this one about the Christmas market in Salzburg from the grandmother's viewpoint:
Author Steena Holmes
Abby grabbed her hand to pull her close, and together they walked arm in arm, down the street. The roads were cobbled, and streetlights in the shape of stars were strung along the lanes, casting a soft glow onto the shops and people as they walked. 

The music, the setting, the large Christmas trees, the illuminated castle up on the hill -- it was all perfect. Everything she'd thought a Christmas market would be and should be. 
 The characters were well developed with many side twists so that Abby's Journey was not the only complication going on. The support of family and of a charming Canadian village added to the overall positive feel of the book.

What could have improved: The tension and drama in the book could have been intensified so that the reader got caught up more, wondering what would occur. I also had a hard time with the basic premise, which was carried out in the first book Saving Abby. In that book, Abby's mother became pregnant with her and realized she had a brain tumor. She refused treatment so that Abby could be born, thus leading to her own death and Abby growing up ill and without a mother. If it were my daughter, no chance that I would let her wait for treatment if she was pregnant. The life we have is more precious than the potential life, in my opinion, plus the sacrifices that the father had to make in order to raise his baby alone. So those controversies played in my mind while I read this novel.

This is definitely a novel that I enjoyed reading, in spite of, or maybe because of, some of the controversies that went with it.

The publisher has offered one free copy of this book to someone in the United States or Canada, so let me know if you're interested and I'll enter you in the giveaway. Make sure I can get in touch with you to get your address if you win.


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- 55 Days


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 55 days, I'll be in France again.
Can't wait!

Here I am in the French countryside in 1985 as an au pair.


In 1991, I dragged my husband along for the first time.


Bicycling around Provence and across the Pont du Gard. 


Eating ice cream in Aix en Provence.


And just a few years ago in Isle sur la Sorgue in the south of France. 
Do you see a pattern? I'm pretty much always smiling and happy. Well, it's vacation, what's not to like?
I'm looking forward to our vacation in France, in preparation for our move to France in the fall.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Minimizing Memories

My hands are covered with dust and my brain is muddled after spending a few hours in the basement clearing off bookshelves.
I have so many photo albums filled, mostly, with pictures of my children throughout their growing up years. Once Grace hit 12 or so, we switched to digital photos, scattered throughout the landscape of my computer, but easy to carry with me to France.
As I'm easily shifting books into giveaway bags, I wonder what to do with the photo albums. Do I take all the pictures out and save them in boxes?
Do I send the photos to a digital site and ask them to put them all on flash drives so I can carry them with me in my computer? I know that it's about $250 for 250 photos from Legacybox. I probably have thousands of pictures. Which do I discard and which do I keep?
And although I can easily get rid of books, knowing I won't move them to France with me, I can't get rid of my husband's books, so the shelves still hold things like Leroy Nieman paintings and the History of Baseball, not to mention some ancient books that don't even have covers any more. I wonder how we'll ever sort through everything.
I came across a Student Survival Guide to Wilmington College. That's where I went the last two years of my college. Why do I still have this? I've moved it from Ohio to Washington D.C. to Florida to Michigan and back to Ohio for more than 30 years.
That's my brother with his back toward the camera. 
My brother is on the cover but you only see him from the back. Is that why I saved it? I asked if he wanted it and he said yes!

Then I found this newspaper clipping.

My best friend got married 32 years ago right after she graduated from college, and I was the maid of honor. I held onto the clipping. Then I was the maid of honor again at her second wedding. She finally didn't invite me to the third wedding and this one has worked out. I don't think I need to hold onto the newspaper clipping any more.
Some things are easy to discard. But what do I do with all those photo albums?
If I was moving from the UK, I could load them all into my car or a moving van, but I can only take things on a plane.
Any advice? What would you do?

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Every Step I Take

I trudged up the stairs, each foot weighing a hundred pounds. What was the point of taking the stairs when no one was keeping track of it, no one was giving me credit for the staircases I climbed or the miles I ran.
No one even knew how many beats per minute my heart pounded for my resting heart rate -- all because my Fitbit broke.


Sigh!
The clip on the back, where the charger plugs in, pulled loose from the band, and the little computer circuit fell out too.
As soon as it happened, at around 9:30 in the morning with 7000 steps under my belt, I wanted to climb back into bed. Walking  anywhere seemed pointless.
Of course, I'm being a bit sarcastic, but people like me, who are competitive and inspired by beating our own records, are motivated by things like a Fitbit. I've always made sure I run or walk in the morning, but I could spend the rest of the day sitting in front of my computer if I'm not careful.
The Fitbit got me moving, a minimum of 250 steps for nine hours a day.
I loved checking on my resting heartrate and seeing it slowly decline to 58 beats per minute -- that's nearly athlete level resting heartrate.
Here's what the Mayoclinic website says:
A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.

Some "friends" joke that they don't need a computer telling them what to do, but the Fitbit never told me what to do, it kept track of what I did.
For instance, I slept every night, but I never knew exactly how long, or how many times I woke up or became restless, until the Fitbit started keeping track.


The Fitbit might not always get it right. Sometimes it might think I'm sleeping when I'm only lying in bed reading, but I suppose that counts as resting too.

And, of course, it kept track of my daily steps. For anyone who gets a Fitbit, the daily goal of steps is usually set at 10,000, which equals about 5 miles. I could pretty much always reach 10,000 steps a day so felt good about it. Then, in January, Fitbit suggested that I needed to up my game. It wanted me to set my goal at 14,500 steps a day. It said my average steps were already in the 13,000 range, so I increased my goal. If I don't run or walk in the morning, I have very little chance of meeting my goal, but most days I reach 14,500 steps and some days I knock it out of the park.


So, now, what would I do without my Fitbit?
I knew from previous experience that Fitbit had a good warranty. I received my first Fitbit a year ago in February for my birthday. It broke at the charging sight about three months in. Here's where I first blogged about it. I contacted Fitbit and they sent me a new one. Simple enough.
So when my latest Fitbit broke, I emailed the company and sure enough, within a day, they responded that they could replace my current Fitbit.
Does it make sense though? I've already gone through two Fitbits with the same flaw. I was extremely careful when plugging the second Fitbit in and unplugging it. I knew how delicate those pieces could be, and I still broke them.
My neighbor was showing off her Apple Watch. Apparently, it does everything the Fitbit does, plus more. I looked at the cost and choked a little -- between $300 and $400.

"You push a button and it repels all the water from the watch," she bragged. 
Oh, how I wanted one. My Apple Watch envy flared. I imagined swimming laps and having them count!

In class, as I made the students bring papers up to me rather than walking around to them (What's the point if I don't get credit for the steps?) one of my students showed me her Fitbit Blaze. It's like an Apple Watch but not as extensive. 


The whole square of the watchface charges so at least I wouldn't risk breaking it in the same way as the others.
In its email, Fitbit offered me a free replacement of the same Fitbit HR or said I could take 30% off another Fitbit product, like the Fitbit Blaze. They cost $199, so that would still leave me on the hook for $130 after the discount.
Meanwhile, as I weigh the pros and cons, every step I take is wasted because no one is keeping track.
What would you do?

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Working Woman

People generally praise me for my work ethic, but I truly consider myself a bit lazy, especially when it comes to manual labor.
When I do complete tasks of manual labor, I always expect a pat on the back. I point it out to my husband or friends for their praise.
Yesterday, by the time my husband arrived home, around 7 p.m., I was dead on my feet. I truthfully hadn't sat down except when driving my car, about 10 minutes each way to and from work, and for about 20 minutes when I ate some lunch. I even stood as I had dinner.
I teach from 8-2 and I don't sit down Even if I'm not lecturing, it's easier to see the computer monitor, easier to notice if the students need help when they are working on their assignments, if I stand the entire time. So that's a normal teaching day for me.
When I arrived home, I sat at the table for about 20 minutes reading the newspaper as I ate a muffin. Then I was determined to paint the living room as part of our preparations to sell the house.
I had already filled some spots on the wall on Sunday, so I hoped to get straight to painting on Tuesday, but I forgot about all the prep work required.
First I rolled up the area rug and moved our two couches to the middle of the room so I could get to the walls. Moving couches means the floor underneath needed to be cleaned. I vacuumed then mopped and then put some "Rejuvenate" on the places where the wood had been scraped.
While I had the vacuum out, I vacuumed the walls of dust or spider webs. I sanded the spots I had filled on Sunday and then sucked up the dust with the vacuum. But, I still needed to wash the walls.
Once everything was clean, I meticulously put blue tape over all of the baseboards, outlets, ceiling trim, window and door frames.
It was just about that time I ordered pizza for dinner. I stood eating the mushroom and black olive pizza, knowing that if I sat down, I might not get up again.
During all the prep, I took numerous trips up and down the basement stairs to get supplies, so I threw in loads of laundry, too.
Finally, I was ready to spread out the voluminous plastic sheet that would protect the wood floors from the paint. I taped that in place, too, before I started painting.
I climbed the rickety ladder to paint along the ceiling before clambering down to move the ladder and paint the bottom of the wall, and so I continued all the way around the room.
The room before was a dark golden wheat color.

I've lived with it for nine years now and thought I like it, but as I painted over it with this pale blue gray, I grew to detest the golden wheat color. I couldn't wait to cover it. Unfortunately, that same color is now in the dining room and kitchen, waiting to be painted.
Still have this blue gray paint on my fingernails this morning.
I think it is turning out quite well.

The main color is the pale blue gray, and the wall that juts out over the fireplace is this darker blue gray.

I'll probably use that darker color on the far wall in the kitchen too since the entire house is open from the living room, dining room to kitchen -- open plan, as they call it on the real estate shows.
We haven't painted the trim yet and will probably do the trim for all of the rooms at the same time. I'm hoping to lure my children into painting parties so that I don't have to do it alone.
Exhausted, I went to bed around 10:30 and then couldn't fall asleep until after 1. Perhaps I was too physically tired.
Anyway, I'm rewarding myself this morning. I started reading The Enemies of Versailles last night when I couldn't sleep, and one of the characters was eating a luscious cream puff. It made me crave an eclair, so I ran (literally ran) to La Chatelaine, a French restaurant in Columbus, about three miles away, and bought an eclair. Once I got home, I made a latte and sat down with the book and my breakfast. 

Oh la la! What a reward.
Now back to real life, grading papers and figuring out how to move a piano in the dining room so I can paint behind it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Tuesday Intros -- Abby's Journey


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 am reading Abby's Journey as part of a blog tour for the author Steena Holmes. I think they contacted me because of my love of travel, and the character Abby travels to Europe to experience the Christmas markets.
This story is about Abby whose mother died giving birth to her, and since Abby was premature, she has always had health issues. When her doctor gives her a clear bill of health, her grandmother whisks her away to Munich, Salzburg and Brussels so they can experience the Christmas markets, something Abby's mother always dreamed of doing.
Here's the intro, a prologue which is a letter from Claire, Abby's mother, to her husband, before she died:
Dear Josh,
I've written this letter a thousand times (okay that might be exaggerating just a little, but I have written it a few times now). At first, it was a list of parenting tips, because that's what I do, I write lists. And then you would read it and memorize it, because that's what you do to humor me.
But then I realized that I don't want the last letter I write to you to be solely a display of my inner control freak. But Josh, the list is a good one. It really is. So how about this -- I'll add it to the end of this letter on a separate sheet, so you can post it on the fridge or leave it on your desk, somewhere you can reference it when things get too hard.
 I'm also joining in with Teaser Tuesday which is a weekly bookish meme, hosted Ambrosia @The Purple Booker.
Here's my teaser from page 6, which is a letter to Abby from her mother:
"Don't be afraid to dream great things -- things you think are beyond your grasp.
Trust me. I know what I'm talking about. If I'd given up on my dream for a baby, you wouldn't be here. And honestly, I can't imagine that. 
What do you think?
I'll be reviewing this book on March 16 if you want to come back to see what I think.  

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Dreaming of France -- France on a Sunny Day


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.
We set off from Aix en Provence toward Mont Sainte Victoire, planning to hike up the mountain. The instructions were a little unclear about where we could park and where the trail might start. Soon, we found ourselves in the small village of Vauvenargues.

We ended up parking near a church that had some hiking information on the door. No one answered the door, but a priest wandered out and we asked him for directions. 
Luckily, while we were stopped, we spotted this sky-blue Citroen. 


We also got a lovely view of Picasso's house. Picasso moved near Mont Sainte Victoire after being inspired by Cezanne's paintings of the mountain. 



I hope you have sunshine, or at least some inspiration today. 
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.


Friday, March 03, 2017

Brisk Morning

After weeks of warm weather, winter decided to visit again. Yesterday, the temperature was in the 30s when I got up. This morning, they had dipped into the 20s -- 24 to be precise (-4 C).
But I pulled on my running clothes and headed out. The road was slippery in places, but I managed to stay upright throughout my seven-mile run.
And as the sun rose, I was rewarded for my tenacity.


And I took a couple more pictures to show how the dusting of snow is affecting the spring growth.
These crocuses don't look too bothered by the snow.
Our daffodils haven't bloomed yet. There's a leftover Christmas bulb in this garden, slowly fading. 
These daffodils do not look very happy with their coating of snow. 

Hope you have something hopeful and beautiful in your life today too.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Birth Stories

Tomorrow, my youngest child turns 21 -- an official adult.
There's a story that I can't share with Tucker, so I thought I'd tell you instead.
When Grace was 3 and Spencer was about 19 months old, we decided to try for another baby.
That May, Earl and I went away to Mackinac Island for a long weekend. Mackinac Island is a beautiful island in northern Michigan where cars aren't allowed so people travel by bicycle or by horse and carriage.
After we returned home, I said to Earl, "Let's wait to try for a baby. We'll just enjoy Grace and Spencer while they're young."
A beautiful neighbor who loved to spend time with the kids. 
And he agreed, so we went back to using my diaphragm, although, let's face it, having two toddlers is generally enough of a birth control option.
By father's day, we realized that the weekend away had succeeded in my third pregnancy, so our decision to wait came a week too late.
Since Earl's 40th birthday would arrive before the baby was born, it turned out for the best that we didn't delay having our third child.
With each of our children, we chose not to know the gender of the baby. We wanted the surprise when they arrived.
With a girl and a boy already in the family, the sex of this third baby didn't really matter -- we had one of each, but I always yearned for Grace to have a sister. I lost my sister when I was 14 and at every stage of my life, I wondered how life would be different if my sister was still alive. I jealously watched families with sisters, thinking they stayed closer as they grew older.
Before I ever had children, I had three names that I loved -- Alexandra, Brigid and Francesca.
For some reason, in the midst of my pregnancy hormones, I agree to name our daughter Grace Alexandra rather than any of the three names I had chosen.
So as we anticipated the birth of our third child, I decided we would name a girl Francesca.
Earl talked me out of the name Francesca earlier by threatening to call our daughter Frankie. But the day that Grace stood up to the family and insisted everyone call her Grace rather than Gracie, I realized that our children would let their father and everyone else know which names were acceptable. I'd deal with Earl calling our daughter a male name when the time came.
Because we knew that this would be our final child, we asked a friend to videotape it. She had no idea what she was in for, because Tucker was born at 4:20 a.m. She sat up all night waiting to videotape this final birth.
I've watched it a few times, and in the midst of the squeals of pain, the nurse midwife asked if I wanted to pull the baby out, and I did. I wanted nothing more than to get that baby out of there.
So I reached down and grasped his shoulders and ripped him out of there. Thank God!
As they checked that he was healthy, it took a few minutes for anyone to mention the gender of the baby. Finally, Earl said, "It's a boy."
My first words after the announcement: "You were supposed to be Francesca!"
I imagine how sad it might make Tucker to think that I wished he was a girl instead of a boy.
I didn't.
I'm delighted that Spencer and Tucker have grown up as friends and playmates, swords swinging plus bows and arrows twanging.
Tucker has been entertaining and so devoted to me. A mama's boy from the minute he was born.

And I wouldn't change a thing.

Happy birthday, Tucker.

Dreaming of France -- Leaving Our Kids Behind (A Very Personal Post)

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