Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer

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.
Today for Dreaming of France, I wanted to give you my review of a new memoirs, Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer by Vicki Lesage.
I've become blog friends with Vicki, who is an American married to a Frenchman. But sometimes I become friends with an author, and I still don't enjoy their books. When that happens, I avoid saying anything. Joyfully, I can say that I truly adored Vicki's latest book.
I read her previous book, Confessions of A Paris Party Girl, and that was fun, but her second book is better. At least I related to it more. Her first book told the story of a party girl moving to France and ended with her marriage to a Frenchman. This book began with her pregnancy.
I love the insights into the different ways the French handle things, like finding an apartment and going to doctor visits, not to mention the difference between giving birth in the U.S. and in France.
By the time I announced the pregnancy to my boss, I had been employed at my French company about a year. I hadn't quite gotten used to the lax French working style and the fact that they only actually work about half the year, once you factor in national holidays, a minimum of five weeks' vacation, and coffee breaks.
So I was shocked to learn I would be getting sixteen weeks of maternity leave. what would I do with all the time? Sure, take care of my baby. But as someone who has worked every day of her life since age 14, the prospect of four months sans travail was hard to imagine. 
Getting the baby a passport, finding the baby a school, trying to re-establish her party life with her friends, I relished the journey with Vicki.
It was one of those books that I had a hard time putting down. Luckily, I had it on my Kindle, so I could pick it up anytime I had a few spare minutes and finished it in just a few days.
It's available for $4.99 on Kindle or $13.49 in paperback on Amazon. Here's the link: Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer. 
And, this topic is mildly related to Dreaming of France -- I'm giving away a $10 Amazon gift card on Tuesday to everyone who has liked my author page on Facebook since it hit 300. The odds are pretty good cause I'm only at 305 likes. So, if you're on Facebook, stop by my author page and click like. You may win an Amazon gift card and have the money to buy this book or one of my books on Kindle.
Also this month, jumping the gun by a day, it's time for Paris in July.
Head on over to the main website to play all month. I'll still be here dreaming of France every Monday throughout the year and in July too. 

Balloon Flowers

My favorite flowers are blooming right now. And that right now means both that they are currently blooming and they are currently my favorite, until the next ones bloom.
Purple balloon flower. They are gloriously star shaped, but mostly I love how they open, like one of those paper secret keepers that a middle-school girl folds. Then it pops open to reveal the five silken petals.
Do you have a favorite flower blooming in your garden this time of year?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

FranceBookTours -- From Here To Paris Review and Giveaway

It's time for another France Book Tours review. This one is From Here to Paris by Cris Hammond. 
Ever since I first read A Year in Provence, I've enjoyed memoirs about ex-pats who move to France. This one was no exception. Make sure you enter the giveaway at the end to win a copy of this ebook, which is open to everyone in the U.S. and internationally 
The author had lost his job in California and started a new business taking pictures of boats in San Francisco Bay then selling the pictures online to the boats' owners. During the grueling work, he got smitten by the idea of spending time in France and ended up buying a barge that would travel up the rivers and canals of France. He had to deal with renovations of the barge, learning how to take the barge through the locks without getting bowled over by much larger ships, and life in France. The scenes in France were colorful and took me right there with each glass of wine and each painting the author created. Once he had his priorities straight, living in France, he started drawing and painting again. And he was able to sell his paintings to earn money. It made me nudge my own artistic husband. "Couldn't we move to France if you started painting?" I asked.
My husband read the beginning of this book and enjoyed it -- laughing out loud even -- so I had to buy a copy for him to read too. 
The book had a number of funny stories along with remembrances from his childhood and life with his father. One of his difficulties moving to France was the language, like his morning trip to the bakery to buy a croissant.
As I stood there, gazing upon the scene of sensual delights, I would be overcome with a feeling of imminent doom. Since arriving in St. Jean de Losne, I had come every morning to this little family-owned boulangerie presided over by Madame La Pattissier herself, and had asked her for the same thing: one croissant and one baguette. Did her eyes brighten with recognition when she saw me? Did she smile warmly and say, "Bonjour, Monsieur Cris. Comment ca va?" and then reach for her most perfectly formed croissant? Did she call to her husband in the back to bring out the cart of loaves he'd just pulled hot from the oven?
Non! Every morning she looked at me as if I had just run over her cat. The problem was that croissants and baguettes have a sex, a gender, and at that hour of the morning, I could never remember which was which. Normally, I don't concern myself with the gender of pastry, but in this shop it was critical, because I wanted just one baguette and one croissant. There was a female way to say one, which was une. And there was a male way to say it, un. If the gender of the number didn't match the gender of the pastry, in this patisserie you were dead meat. 
Although I enjoyed reading about this life on a barge, it definitely convinced me that I wouldn't want to travel through France on a barge. They move so slowly. It would drive me crazy. My husband and I decided that barge travel probably wasn't the best choice for type-A personalities like me. Traveling on a barge might not be my first choice, but I definitely enjoyed reading about it.
Cris Hammond is a nationally known artist, cartoonist, and entrepreneur. His comic strip, Speed Walker, Private Eye, was seen daily in over 150 newspapers across the country, from The Miami Herald to The Seattle Sun Times, The San Diego Union, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune. His paintings of ships and the sea have appeared in galleries in Sausalito, San Francisco, Tiburon, and Carmel, California. He led special effects teams to Academy Awards for Special Effects in motion pictures including Star Trek IV, Innerspace, and The Abyss, among others. In 1994, facing penury, he left his artistic pursuits, bought a briefcase and a couple ties, and went out and got a real corporate job. Eight years and four more neckties later, he walked into his office one morning and was ambushed by the waiting Exit Interview Team, which informed him that he was, as of that moment, “out on his ear.”
After a suitable period of bi-polar careening between panic and reflection, he realized that he was too young to retire and too old to go looking for another corporate job. So, he sold the house, bought a barge in France and started painting again.
Now he and his wife, Linda, spend half the year in California living and working in their tiny art studio near San Francisco, and the other half doing the same thing on the barge in France. Piloting their 1925 Dutch barge Phaedra, they’ve meandered through more than 1200 kilometers of canals and rivers and negotiated more than 850 locks in their travels from the Rhone wine region, through Burgundy to Chablis and down the Seine into Paris.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nature in the City

Sitting on my front porch this afternoon grading papers, I took great joy watching a silly bird trying to build a nest in three different places. From looking it up, I would guess that it's a Carolina Wren. But it could be any kind of wren. It has a loud, musical call and did not seem to mind flitting closer and closer to me.
We have two Black-Eyed Susan hanging plants on the front porch and Earl recently attached a bird house to a nearby tree.

This little bird, with a sharp beak and long tail, flew into both plants carrying sticks and leaves. He also stuck his head into the bird house and looked all around before discarding that idea. Luckily, for the black-capped chickadee, who actually went in the birdhouse to see if he could fit. He's a little chubbier.
The weather, at 81 degrees, is perfect and in the garden along the front of the house below me, I could see peeks of pink zinnias and purple asters along with a strand of purple delphinium.
The colors and the birds helped make the afternoon of grading papers much more pleasant.
Later in the day, the cat realizes birds are building a nest on his front porch. He is quite perturbed.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

First Paragraph, Teaser Tuesday -- The Paris Architect

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.
My husband just finished this book really quickly and enjoyed it, so I'm going to dive in. The Paris
Architect by Charles Belfoure is set in 1942 Paris as an architect tries to design "a secret hiding place for a wealthy Jewish man" that will help hide him from the Germans.
Here's the intro:
Just as Lucien Bernard rounded the corner at the Rue La Boétie, a man running from the opposite direction almost collided with him. He came so close that Lucien could smell his cologne as he raced by.
In the very second that Lucien realized he and the man wore the same scent, L'Eau d'Aunay, he heard a loud crack. He turned around. Just two meters away, the man lay face down on the sidewalk, blood streaming from the back of his bald head as though someone had turned on a faucet inside his skull. The dark crimson fluid flowed quickly in a narrow rivulet down his neck, over his crisp white collar, and then onto his well-tailored navy blue suit, changing its color to a rich deep purple. 
I feel like I could use this opening as an example for my Creative Writing students -- the way the main character connects with this everyman who is then shot. The rich details, although they're sad.

I'm joining Teaser Tuesday this week too.
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 37:
Celeste was walking back from their balcony with a dead rabbit in her hand. It was impossible for anyone but a baby to live off the officially allowed rations set by the French government, so people had to be resourceful. Even well-to-do Parisians had taken to keeping a hutch of rabbits on their balconies to provide much-needed meat. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

French Honeymoon

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.
Our French honeymoon was nearly a year in the making. We traveled to Europe almost eleven months after we were married. We started in Germany, even going to Berlin. The Wall had fallen just the year before, but we quickly made our way to visit friends in France.
You can see that I was already dreaming of France as I stood outside our friends' country house. Their family received the house during the reign of Napoleon. 
We stopped in the nearby town of Bourges, which is famous for its candy, but we chose a baguette. 
We were in France in early May and the fields of rape seed were in bloom. I don't think they smelled like anything. 
Monday is our 24th anniversary. We aren't going to France to celebrate 24 years of marriage, but maybe 25. I can always dream. 


When Earl and I got married, 24 years ago tomorrow, in a holler in Kentucky, the tiger lilies were in bloom all along the creek in front of my parents' log cabin. We stood in front of an arch of fake flowers that were overshadowed by the tiger lilies which reached up on slender stems and burst forth in a firework of orange flowers.
Here is our small wedding party. Just perfect really. My best friend Tracey,
Earl's  niece Erin as our flower girl. Earl's brother Art as his best man, plus the priest.
Can you see the tiger lilies behind us?

As the climate has changed, the tiger lilies have bloomed earlier and earlier. Last year, they had even finished blooming in Ohio by our anniversary. Where we live in Ohio is four hours north of the site of our wedding in Kentucky.
This year, the spring was late so everything is blooming later.That's why the tiger lilies are in full bloom this year as we celebrate our anniversary.
Happy Anniversary to my husband. Like
the tiger lilies, we're still blooming each year. 
If I had it to do again, I would definitely coordinate the wedding party with the outdoor flowers. Plus, it's a nice reminder about the world around us as the years fly by.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

College Orientation

It's finally happening -- with my third child.
We get to go to college orientation.
My two older kids both went to college, but they chose colleges so far away that we couldn't attend orientation. Instead, we pulled up that first day and unloaded them, ready for school to being.
Tucker has thoughtfully chosen a school only 90 minutes away.
Today, we'll spend the day in parent meetings and touring the buildings where his major holds classes. He'll spend the night in the dorms while Earl and I go to a hotel.
Then tomorrow, "a hearty breakfast" and we'll finish the orientation.
I'm excited, although, I'd probably be a little more enthusiastic if I could get more than an occasional grunt from him.
I'll post pics later.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teasers -- Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer

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 should probably save this French book for Paris in July, but I started it this week so I'll go ahead and share the opening and a teaser here. It's Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer by Vicki Lesage. I previously read and reviewed her book  Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, which was a lot of fun in a Bridget Jones memoir-style. I loved the explanation of all the hoops she had to jump through to marry her Frenchman. Now Lesage has moved on to child birthing and child rearing in the City of Light.  Here's the intro.

"Oh la la," she said, surprised. "I can fit two fingers in there."
Now, if you're like me, I immediately guessed what she was talking about. Here's a hint though, the first chapter is titled "Confessions at the Check-Up."

I'm joining Teaser Tuesday this week too.
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 a teaser from 42% on my Kindle as she prepares the baby for daycare:
 "In the beginning, the babies will drink bottles at mealtimes. As you introduce new foods at home, let us know and we will do the same here. Each Monday, Chef posts the menu for the week. You can check the meal plan to ensure you don't serve the same dish for dinner."
That explains so much about the French, doesn't it? Every preschool and daycare has its own chef. Can you imagine? Pretty different from the lunch ladies with the hairnet at American schools.
I look forward to seeing all of your intros and teasers this week.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Good Meals, Bad Meals

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.
Food is always a big draw for visitors to France. I'm not a foodie. I don't plan specific meals that I will eat or arrange tours at chocolateries or take cooking classes -- not that I wouldn't love to do all of those things.
I can't think of many meals that I haven't enjoyed in France.
Well, one does come to mind.
Earl and I enjoyed the book Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland, and last time we went to France together we decided to eat at the restaurant which inspired the painting by Renoir.
The setting did not disappoint us, but the food was not as tasty as I'd expected from a French restaurant, even a mundane French restaurant.
The restaurant is located along the Seine outside of Paris. We took a train then muddled our way along the streets in search of the river and the restaurant.
We were there in April, so it was asparagus season.
The markets in Paris were full of thick stalks of white asparagus. So we both ordered asparagus for a starter but were disappointed by the limpness (make your own sexual joke here).
Even the dessert, although pretty, was a little bland. 
My favorite meal in France is usually breakfast, and I like to eat it at the hotel.
The pitcher of coffee and the pitcher of steamed milk alongside the basket of croissants and mini jars of jam. Yum.
Do you have a favorite meal in France?
I hope you'll visit each others' blogs to see more posts on Dreaming of France. 

Happy Father's Day

An Open Letter to My Dad:
On a trip to California when I was 18 and Kevin was 16
. Look how buffyou were. And I was a brat on this trip. 
From my earliest memories, you have always tried to make me happy -- from buying me sweet tarts at the bowling alley as a kid to telling me a boy wasn't worth my time in my teenage years to watching my kids while I flew off to France as an adult.
I can't think of anything I've wanted to do that you haven't supported.
And because you always thought I could accomplish whatever I wanted, I did too. I didn't know to be afraid to try new things
I guess you are the definition of unconditional love.
At my wedding. You looking dapper in your gray tux.
You gave me the strength to move around the country to various jobs, to travel to amazing places around the world. Your support provided the gumption to raise three kids homeschooling them and to finish that first novel and see you hold it in your hands.
I'm not saying you always approved of what I did or that I didn't disappoint you or get on your nerves. That California trip for one... but even when I made mistakes, I knew they didn't change the way you felt about me.
There aren't many people in the world who offer unconditional love. I guess I'm kind of naive because I thought that a mom and dad always offered unconditional love to their kids. But as I ventured out into the world, I learned that wasn't true. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones to have a dad like you.
Happy Father's Day.
With my three kids when they were little and they
already knew what a great father and granddad you were.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Home Cooking

I once knew a girl who begged her mom to please make macaroni and cheese for dinner. She wasn't asking for homemade mac and cheese, just the kind out of the box. Her mom refused. They were eating out, as they did most every night. Her mom and dad both worked full time so meals from scratch, or even from a box, were a rarity.
My kids would have loved it if I forced them to eat out for all of their meals. I didn't.
I was a stay-at-home mom, for the most part. I wrote a column for the newspaper and I taught classes at the local college, but I was home with my kids nearly all the time.
I baked bread from scratch and mixed up cookie dough. I would make mac and cheese from the box, but sometimes I'd make homemade with fancy cheeses. All of this home cooking made my kids crazy for store-bought cookies and restaurant food.
Since the two oldest have been away at college, they have an appreciation for home-cooked meals, but Tucker still prefers restaurant food.
I was home on Wednesday and Tucker was home and I asked what he would like for dinner.
"I'll fix anything you want," I told him.
"I want penne rosa," he said. "From Noodles & Company."
Noodles & Company is a chain restaurant here that makes some fairly healthy pasta dishes.
Not a great picture. Should have waited for the
 salad along the side to add some green. 
I turned to the computer and found a recipe for Penne Rosa with chicken.
Then I went to the store, bought the ingredients and whipped it up.
I didn't add the mushrooms because my kids don't like them.
I forgot to get the spinach, so ours didn't have spinach. If I do it again, I will definitely add some spinach, but I think it can be overdone.
Tucker and Grace ate early before heading off to evening activities.
Earl and I ate around 8 when he got home from work.
The remainder went into a container in the refrigerator.
When I got up this morning, it was empty and in the dishwasher. Spencer finished off the penne rosa when he got home from work around midnight.
A successful meal even though it was homemade.
Here's the recipe from Noodles and Company at Home Blog.
Tucker agreed that the recipe tasted similar to Noodles, so he grudgingly ate it. But I've promised him Jimmy Johns sandwiches for lunch today as I move from teaching at one college to my evening class at another college. You'd think I could recreate a sub sandwich at home.
Even now though, my kids prefer Oreos or Chips Ahoy to my homemade chocolate chip cookies. And when Spencer was  younger and I asked him what kind of brownies he wanted, he said, "The kind Cathy makes."
I asked Cathy. She said she uses "the red box." Again a mix was preferred to my homemade brownies.
Someday, they'll all yearn for my homemade cooking.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Funny Writing

I'm revising (maybe reviving) my novel Trail Mix. I figured when the movie Wild with Reese Witherspoon comes out, that might help sales of my own novel of trials hiking on a trail. Rather than the Pacific Crest Trail, which the woman in Wild hikes, my characters are hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Here's my blurb -- Some people will do anything to lose weight. With no previous camping experience, two suburban women come up with the perfect way to shed excess pounds – hike the Appalachian Trail. It's a 2100-mile odyssey, from Georgia to Maine, a grueling experience, even for seasoned hikers. But friends Andi and Jess figure life on the trail can't possibly be worse than dealing with disgruntled husbands, sullen teens and a general malaise that has crept up in their daily lives. Side-effects of the diet may include spending far too much time with a hiking buddy, leading to some startling revelations about each other.
 The whole idea of selling a book based on hiking the Appalachian Trail as a diet plan
sounds funny, don't you think?
Somewhere along the way, my book has gotten too serious. As I'm revising, I read funny things that happened, but I don't feel like I wrote them funny. I'm sitting here trying to figure out how to write funny.
I think I'm fairly funny in life -- at least witty. I'd say some of my blog posts are even humorous, yet I'm unsure how to invoke some more humor into my book. Maybe it's a matter of timing. 
I'm going to go back and try to punch up some of the funny parts.
The release date for the movie Wild is in December. I hope my novel is available much sooner than that. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

First Paragraph, Teaser Tuesday -- Mr. Lynch's Holiday

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 got the book Mr. Lynch's Holiday by Catherine O'Flynn after seeing someone else feature it on First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser. I hope I like it.
Here's the intro:
He arrived on a cloudless day. As he stepped onto the tarmac, he looked up at the sky and saw nothing but blue and the traces left by other planes.
Fairly succinct opening. The basics are that Dermot Lynch takes his first vacation from Birmingham in many years to visit his son Eamonn who lives on the coast of Spain. He learns Eamonn's secrets and becomes the center of the ex-pat community .
I'm joining Teaser Tuesday this week too.
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 mine from page 10:
Eamonn nodded. "That's good." He wanted nothing more than to crawl back into his bed, to finally fall asleep and on waking discover that his father's arrival had been an unsettling dream. "So..." He was still nodding. "Is this a holiday, then?" 
I hope I find some other books to add to my list today as I visit everyone's blog.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Dreaming of France -- Peter Mayle

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 won't say that Peter Mayle sparked my France dreams, but he definitely helped seal them with his book A Year in Provence. I'd already developed a passion for France when I discovered his memoir about moving to the Luberon and renovating an old house. I loved everything about the book -- the quirky characters, the detailed setting, the scrumptious food. The book, with nearly 300 reviews on Amazon, still pulls a 4.4 out of 5 star ranking.
I'll have to say that none of his other memoirs, Toujours Provence or Encore Provence have been quite at the same level. Mayle has also moved into novel writing. His novels all have a similar feel, and dare I say it, plot. The next step is usually fairly obvious; the resolution of the plot just a bit too easy. But they are set in lovely places like Marseille and Corsica, so I get to live there vicariously for a little while.
I'm almost finished with Mayle's latest novel The Corsican Caper. The 162-page book is so similar to his
previous books that my husband swore he had read this one already, before I pointed out that it was just released here in May. This novel has 3.3 stars out of 5 after 45 reviews. I'm afraid it may only get worse for Mayle, but I probably won't be one of those people giving him a low review. I just love the journey too much  and always enjoy traveling with him, wherever he goes in France.
Have you read any books by Peter Mayle? Do you have a favorite?

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Saturday Snapshot -- Sunrise

West Metro Mommy Reads

Today I'm sharing a sunrise picture that I took during an early morning run.

We've been enjoying gorgeous weather here in Columbus. I could live like this all summer. Hope it continues as I go  to my last round of graduation parties this weekend.

Friday, June 06, 2014

World War II Uncles

Today, the news is full of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and rich descriptions of beaches that are overlooked by bluffs covered with white crosses.  It's hard for us to imagine that kind of loss of life, but there are many men headed to France who lived through that day. I, of course, am fascinated by all things French, so I love hearing the stories from the anniversary commemoration.
Two of my uncles fought in World War II, but neither of them were at Normandy 70 years ago.
It seems just a few years ago that I sat on an uncomfortable picnic table videotaping my four uncles (on my mom's side) as they described their military service.
Uncle Junior (that's what we always called him, but his name is Luther) was drafted into the army. He was sent to Italy and was wounded three times. Each time, they sent him back into battle.
Here's a picture of my mom with Uncle Junior last year. 
I'm not a history buff, but as Uncle Junior mentioned each battle he was a part of, Earl's eyes would grow wide. He was wounded at one battle, the Battle of Anzio, but recovered enough to be sent to an even worse battle.
"Out of the frying pan, into the fire," he said.
I'll have to revisit those tapes so I can remember more specifically where Uncle Junior fought.
His stories were part of my inspiration to write the character Uncle Martin in my novel The Summer of France. The only thing they really shared though was fighting in Italy and growing up in Kentucky.
My real uncle came home after the war and married a wonderful American woman.
When Uncle Junior got in the war, he wrote home and warned his brothers to enlist rather than get drafted into the army. So Uncle Clarence, the next oldest brother, joined the Navy. As we talked about war experiences that day, he went to the car and pulled out an envelope that had a large laminated certificate that declared he had crossed the international dateline.
Uncle Clarence died a year and a half ago, but Uncle Junior was at the family reunion again this past Sunday. He's thin but cheerful and always loving.
I'm so thrilled that I've gotten to hear my uncle's stories and share in their lives. They gave a lot for the safety of our world and hopefully, they felt they lived the kind of life they wanted in repayment for their service.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

No Room

Have I complained mentioned recently how nerve wracking it can be to raise young adults.
The problem is that they think they are "raised" already, so they don't have to take my advice. Not like when they were little and had to do what I said.
I still have a lot of influence over them, of course, because I'm paying for college.
I brought Spencer home from college and, within a few days, he had a job and is working 40 hours per week. Spence enjoys hanging with his friends, and I had anticipated giving him a stern talking to about adjusting to life with parents, but mostly he's too tired to do more than work. He's still on college student hours, which means I might get up at 5 a.m. and see him getting ready to go to bed... and that leads me to the biggest problem
Our house, our lovely house that looks out into treetops from the front porch, is small.

We have three bedrooms. When the boys were younger, we expected them to share. They rarely did. Tucker took to sleeping on the couch in the living room. Then Spencer  moved into the rec room in the basement.
That's where he slept last year on a futon. The futon isn't one of those thin mattresses that feels like it is stuffed with straw. It has springs and everything.
Since he arrived home this year, Spencer  has been requesting his original bedroom back. Tucker is currently occupying it. This year, as the only child at home, he spread his belongings between two bedrooms. I narrowed him down to one, but it's the one Spencer would like to have.
With Spencer's weird, day-time sleeping habits, Tucker chomps at the bit to play on the Xbox or watch TV in the rec room, which he can't do because Spencer is sleeping there.
"He needs to be more considerate when I'm sleeping," Spencer said.
"It was 1:30 p.m." Tucker replied.
They both had a point.
Grace took over her old bedroom, but on Sunday, we moved most of her belongings to her new apartment. She came home again because she has rehearsals nearby four days a week.
To make matters worse, yesterday morning, Spencer sat on the edge of the futon and bent the frame. He got up complaining that he slept on an incline.
"Okay," I decided, "time to oust Grace from the other bedroom."
Tonight, after I teach, after Grace's rehearsal, I'm driving Grace back to her apartment.
I'll change the sheets and Spencer can sleep there tonight, although he may not go to bed until 5 a.m.
When I finish teaching tomorrow, I'll help Spencer move his belongings to the dresser upstairs.
I guess we're doing a good job of making sure life isn't too comfortable at home.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Updates -- Health

Hopefully, my foot injury is still healing. I loved all the kind words and advice I got from you all on Friday.
On Saturday, I walked a third of a mile before running two miles then walking again at the end. I think walking first helped.
I stopped and bought new shoes on Sunday, getting the exact same kind I had before. I didn't want to try anything new because I was happy with the previous pair and had just worn them out.
New shoes on my feet, on Monday, I walked and ran again. Plus, I took Sally's advice and found a yoga video online to do afterwards.
This morning, after walking at the beginning, I ran three miles without pain. Then I stretched with the yoga video. 
I'm not going to try to increase my mileage for a couple of weeks. I'm just going to run three miles on four or five days a week and keep track of my pain. Yes, my foot hurts  now as I move around the house doing laundry and vacuuming, (it's my day off) but I didn't have pain while I ran. That's an improvement in my book. 
It's probably hard for people in other countries to imagine why I wouldn't go to the doctor after a month of pain and inability to run, but those people probably aren't dealing with the U.S. health system. Unfortunately, it's gotten worse since the expansion of health care.
I am definitely in favor of health care for all and would prefer a single-payer method, similar to that in Europe. Maybe our health care here is only going to get worse before it gets better.
We've always had health care through my husband's insurance. It's something over $100 per week that they take from his paycheck to cover the five of us in our family. 
For a normal doctor appointment, we pay a $25 co-pay, which seems reasonable. 
If we want to go to a specialist, the co-pay is $40. 
We also have a medical spending account that sets aside $2500 per year to pay those co-pays, prescriptions, and other medical expenses. With five people, that money goes surprisingly fast. We've used it to pay for contact lens and dental work plus two surprise costs. 
My husband had a colonoscopy, which is supposed to be no cost since it is considered a screening. But they found a non-cancerous polyp and removed it during the procedure. That meant it was no longer a screening and we had to pay $600 for it. 
Grace's voice teacher was worried about her vocal cords. She wondered if she might have a nodule or if the cords hadn't grown together yet, as they do in the early 20s. Grace made an appointment with an ear, nose and throat specialist.
We paid the $40 co-pay for the specialist, and Grace spent about 10 minutes with the doctor who said Grace's vocal cords looked okay. She used a camera on the end of a wand to stick in Grace's mouth and get a picture of the vocal cords. 
We were really surprised when the bill for the doctor and the facility (which was a typical doctor's office) arrived. Our part was $650. Those two surprise costs ate up half of the money we had set aside for the year. 
Tucker also needs his wisdom teeth out this year, which I think runs around $900 for us. So medical costs really add up.
With an injury, I could go to the doctor, which would probably lead to physical therapy, but I can't really afford it. That's why I self-diagnosed. 
No matter what the doctor diagnosed, I figured rest would be the main treatment. 
I've had stress fractures before and they told me to rest it for six weeks. I've also been doing stretches in case it might be plantar fasciitis or an Achilles tendon.
I try not to turn down the kids when they feel like they need to go to the doctor, but I'm definitely more cautious for myself. The cost just makes it not worth the trip. 

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Dreaming of France -- The French Open

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.
Every summer, some terrific sporting events are broadcast from France. The earliest is The French Open.
That's what we call it here in the U.S. It's the tennis tournament played in the outskirts of Paris.
I had no idea that the tournament went by another name in France, but I found out when we took the kids to France in 1998.
We traveled there in April. We were staying with our friend Marguerite in Paris. She offered to take me shopping for gifts to take home on the last day before our flight. My brother's birthday is at the end of April and he is a huge tennis fan. I knew he would love to have a t-shirt that said French Open. Just like he would have enjoyed having one that said Wimbledon or Australian Open or U.S. Open.
The first problem came as I tried to explain to Marguerite what I wanted. She had never heard of the French Open. But, she had never heard of Monet's Garden either, so I thought it might just be a cultural thing.
Here's a picture of me holding Tucker and standing next to Marguerite in Monet's Garden in 1998.
Marguerite was a single woman in her 70s and probably didn't take an interest in sports.She couldn't be expected to know about The French Open.
We wandered around to different sporting good stores before someone finally understood, "Roland Garros."
The French call the tournament the name of the stadium, just like with Wimbledon in England.
The only place that would sell t-shirts like that would be at the stadium, he told us.
Now my memory becomes fuzzy. I can't remember if Marguerite and I took the metro out to Roland Garros or if I ended up ordering my brother a t-shirt online. In 1998, both options would have been equally difficult. It wasn't easy to buy things online back then, and a French website would not have been prepared for an American credit card.
So I'm thinking about this experience this week as The French Open airs on TV. I saw my brother at a family reunion today and he asked if I'd been watching The French Open.
I haven't because classes started this week and all the kids have moved home. Things seem a little hectic still.
My brother Kevin told me about a great feature this morning that showed some amazing places to visit in France. He has never been, and I'm hopeful that he'll get the travel bug to go see France. Maybe someday he'll even come visit me in France.
Thanks for playing along.
I always enjoy your posts and I hope you'll all visit each other's posts.

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