Friday, February 27, 2015

Love is in the Air

When Grace finished college in December, she moved back in with us. I, of course, was thrilled. I consider Grace one of my closest friends and love having her around. That's not to say we don't annoy each other occasionally...
One of the difficult things for Grace, as she turned 23 in January, is dating while living at home. At Thanksgiving, she started dating a guy who she liked. They grew closer and ended up dating for three months. Then, the Monday before Valentine's Day, they went out one night, had a lovely time, and she didn't hear from him again. Usually they texted each other several times a day, sharing news of their lives.
She finally got a text from him on Friday before Valentine's Day. He said he was busy all weekend so she should go out with her friends and have fun.
That is the last she heard from the guy.
This is one of Grace's new headshots for her acting career
I know Grace liked him, and I know she was heartbroken, but she surprised me by not wallowing in it.
Last week, she had dates with three different guys. She created her own version of the Bachelorette. She'd come home and say, "Chad is not getting a rose."
But while she was trying to assuage her broken heart, she accidentally met a guy she really liked. And that's why, now, a week later, she's had half a dozen dates with one guy. Sometimes, they have two dates per day, meeting for brunch then later for drinks.
"See!" I said. "This is what it feels like when you really like someone."
With the other guy, the one who disappeared, she'd be figuring out her schedule and saying things like, "Well, I have to work early tomorrow so I don't think I'll go out tonight."
With this new guy, she stayed out until 3:30 in the morning without a thought for the next day's schedule.
Last night, the new guy picked her up here at home. We never met the guy she dated for three months, but we met the new guy last night, after a week.
After I came home from teaching yesterday, I had worked out. I still wore a sweatshirt.
"Aren't  you going to change your shirt?" she asked. She must really like him if she wants me to make a good impression, I thought.
So I changed into a more fashionable shirt with a cardigan, and I was ready when he showed up.
He came to the door and knocked, and she brought him inside for awkward handshakes. He's even taller than Earl, which is like a pot of gold under the rainbow for Grace who stands 5-foot, 10-inches tall. He seemed nice and personable, he has awesome dimples, and he makes my daughter smile.
Whether it lasts or not, Grace knows what it's like to fall hard for someone.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Growing Up

On Sunday last weekend, Spencer took the bus home from college through the snowy countryside. We had about six inches of snow on Saturday that made the roads quite a mess.
Spencer came home so he could attend the visiting hours at a funeral home for one of his basketball coaches. The basketball coach was 46 and died of colon cancer. He wasn't the head coach, but an assistant who focused more on teaching the boys how to be honorable men rather than only on winning. He wasn't aggressive enough for some of the hard-core parents. But once high school basketball is over, the lessons he taught are much more important.
Spencer called from the car when Earl picked him up at the bus stop. "Will you have some food ready?" he asked. "I haven't eaten all day."
And, of course, as he does at school, he's lost about 15 pounds this semester.
So I had two plates, one of breakfast, pancakes and bacon; and one of leftover dinner, spare ribs and mashed potatoes.
As he settled into eating, he turned to me and said, "What is his family going to do now that Coach Hall is dead?"
I explained to him about insurance and the teacher's union, and his wife probably has a job.
But that wasn't what Spencer was asking. He didn't focus on the finances of taking care of a family.
"Yeah, but those kids don't have their dad any more," he said.
It broke my heart and made me proud of him all over again.
We live in such a materialistic world, but Spencer saw the important parts.
When he went to the funeral home that night, Grace went with him and she said he made a point of talking with his coach's son, a freshman in high school. Spencer talked with him until he got a chuckle and a little relaxation in his shoulders after standing beside his dad's coffin all day.
I complain about my kids sometimes, but I need to remember that even when they fall off the track of finishing school and getting good jobs, they're good people growing up to be people I'm proud of.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Birthday Dreams

So, my birthday happens to coincide with my Dreaming of France meme, so I thought I'd just post a photo of me in France.
I was 20 the first time I traveled to France, with my boyfriend on a group tour. We saw Europe from a bus in a fun student tour that covered way too many countries.
Here we are on Cannes Beach during the tour. 
A few years later, at 23, I returned as an au pair to two American girls visiting their grandparents. In this photo, I'm with the daughters of my friend Danuta as well. We still see Danuta and her husband Michel almost every visit to France.
Then Earl and I went for our one-year anniversary trip.

Fast forward through other trips with the kids, without the kids, Earl and I visited Paris for our 20th anniversary trip five years ago.

And next month, we'll be visiting Aix en Provence and Paris as part of our 25th anniversary jubilee. I'm hoping we get back much more often as our children are growing up and our responsibilities are waning.
Hope your dreams of France come true.
Please visit each other's posts and leave comments so we can all share our love for this amazing culture.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Saturday Snapshot -- Book Trailer

Join West Metro Mommy for this weekly meme of photos people have taken and share on their blogs
I wanted to share many of my snapshots that were used in a book trailer for my novel Trail Mix. Most of the pictures were taken by me and my friends on our hikes of the Appalachian Trail, or my friend Noreen and her husband took them while they were hiking the Appalachian Trail.
My daughter put together the pictures and the music to create a book trailer for Trail Mix, which is a women's fiction, adventure story about women's friendships, marriage and raising kids.
Hope you'll take a look at the trailer and give it a thumbs-up on youtube if you get a chance.
My novel has been selling well, and I could always use more reviews if the book sounds interesting to you. Here's the link to my novel on Amazon.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Birthday Prep

I learned quite a few years ago that the best way to make sure I have a good birthday is to make my own plans.
So, everything is in place for a spectacular day.
Today, I went to Trader Joe's and I splurged on a bottle of dessert wine. A tiny bottle of wine that costs $19.99, but it will go well with the chocolate cake with chocolate icing that my husband plans to bake for me.
The icing for this cake is tricky. It's boiled icing that is supposed to harden, kind of like homemade fudge, the kind not made with marshmallow cream.
As I was checking out at Trader Joe's, I mentioned that the wine was for my birthday celebration. A few minutes later, another check out clerk showed up at the line with a bouquet of flowers for me, compliments of Trader Joe's.
So now I have my flowers to enjoy all weekend and the anticipation of my birthday on Monday.

I have to teach from 8-2 on Monday, but my last class has already made plans for a class party. They're the ones who thought I was in my 30s, so, of course, I'm going to celebrate with them.
As soon as class is over, I'll scoot up to the salon for a facial (a gift from my husband) and a manicure (a gift from my daughter).
I've already purchased marinated lamb tips for dinner, so we'll have dinner at home followed by cake and my scrumptious dessert wine.
How bout you? Do you plan your own birthday celebrations?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Intros -- Hello From the Gillespies

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 don't buy very many actual books anymore. Mostly, I buy books on my Kindle or borrow actual books from the library. But just before Christmas, I was browsing for books to buy my kids and this cover and story caught my eye. Luckily, my husband bought it for me for Christmas. Hello From the
Gillespies by Monica McInerney is about an Australian family that sends out a cheery end-of-the-year newsletter until the year that they decide to tell the truth.
Here's the intro:
It was December first. Angela Gillespie did as she'd done on that date for the past thirty-three years. She sat down at her desk before dinner and prepared to write her annual Christmas letter.
After doing so many, she had the process down to a fine art. It was a matter of leafing through her diary to recall the year's main events, writing an update about each member of the family -- herself, her husband, and their four children -- attaching a photo or two, then sending it off.
The book cover alone would have sucked me in, of course. But the book is set in Australia instead of France.
I haven't begun reading this book yet. I'm saving it to have a hard copy book to take on the plane to France next month.
Hope everyone else is reading a book you love.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dreaming of France -- L'Amour Actually

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 seem to be awash in books set in France. I just finished reading Honeymoon in Paris (twice). Once by Jojo Moyes and once by Juliette Sobanet. And I read That's Paris, an anthology of short stories set in Paris. Now comes L'Amour Actually: Falling in Love in the Heart of France by Melanie Jones. It is one of those British chick-lit books with an accident-prone main character who finds herself in a pickle after leaving London to live in Southwestern France.
She's flighty enough to make Bridget Jones seem sensible, but I'm still enjoying the experience.
Reading books set in France is almost as much fun as visiting.
Here's a snippet that shows part of the culture shock of moving to rural France:
"Well boys," I announced, standing up to leave, "I'd better be getting off. I need to do a bit of shopping then get back for the arrival of the furniture."
"No one will come during lunchtime, this is France," said Julien. "Your delivery men will be in a cafe somewhere having a big lunch and a carafe of wine. And the shop doesn't open until three o'clock either."
"Three o'clock! What am I supposed to do until then? What happens if people can only shop in their lunch break?"
 As I was looking at the Amazon link for this book, I had to chuckle at a bad review that says, "Too much elicit sex in it." Ha! Maybe the reviewer meant explicit, but that's her spelling issue. She made me laugh and didn't put me off downloading the book. I haven't come across any sex yet, elicit or otherwise. Here's the Amazon link.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France today and for leaving a comment. Also remember to check out each other's posts so you can share everyone's musings about France.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Saturday Snapshot -- Love

Join West Metro Mommy for this weekly meme of photos people have taken and share on their blogs.
Of course, everyone is celebrating Valentine's Day, but when you're two, love is a much simpler concept.
This week, I babysat for my  nieces and I took them suckers -- Tootsie Pops, to be precise.
Little Regan was thrilled with her orange Tootsie Pop.
"I love my sucker!" she said as she hugged it to her.
Ah, if only love were as simple as it is with a two-year-old.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Heating Up

On Tuesday, I was feeling pretty good about my youthfulness as I approach another birthday this month.
I'd been to the eye doctor and he said that I had "young eyes." He said I might not ever need reading glasses.
That cockiness waned that evening.
I was teaching a glass from six to nine p.m. As I stood in front of the class, wearing a blue and gray wool sweater over a camisole, I felt a heater ignite inside of me.
Suddenly, sweat was dripping down my forehead, plastering my bangs against my skin. I surreptitiously reached up and wiped at the sweat.
I pushed up my sleeves to bare my forearms.
But I wanted to rip my sweater off and stand before the class in only my camisole.
Why was I suddenly so hot?
This entire winter, my thermostat has been running high. In bed at night, I sleep in a t-shirt and shorts while my husband is bundled in flannel sleep pants and a long sleeved shirt. Often I kick the covers off, or simply stick my feet out from under the covers, but I hadn't had an actual hot flash before.
I suspected I might be having them the week before, but I was sick, so I couldn't tell if I had a fever or hot flashes.
On Tuesday night, I had no doubt as I suffered through three hot flashes while standing in front of the class.
I had to teach the next morning, and remember the hot flashes from the night before, I wore a sleeveless blue dress, tights and a cardigan. I wore a scarf too, which was easy to unwrap and throw over my chair. But I didn't think it through. Because when I got too hot, I felt too self conscious to take off my cardigan. I just thought the students would judge me for wearing a sleeveless dress when the temperature was in the 20s outside.
By the last class that day, I simply said, "I'm too hot," and I pulled off my cardigan. No one commented on my bare arms.
Nor did they say anything about the way my bangs started to wave as they got wet from my sweaty forehead.
Here' a picture of me and 2-year-old Regan.
No more babies for me now that menopause
 has hit. Well, I wasn't going to have more anyway. 
I'm still not sure whether I should acknowledge the hot flashes when I'm teaching or if I should continue to ignore them. I don't know why I'm afraid to. It's not like they don't already think I'm really old, compared to them.
Although, in one class, when they were talking about age, they asked how old I was, and I told them, 51.
Their mouths dropped open, and one girl exclaimed, "I would have guessed 39 at the most."
Well, she's getting an A, but I still might not confide in them.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Dreaming of France -- That's Paris: An Anthology of Life, Love and Sarcasm in the City of Light

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.

When I found out that Vicki Lesage and Adria J. Cimino were putting together an anthology of stories in Paris, I got excited. What's better than hearing stories about Paris?
Some of these short stories are blips of experience in Paris. Others are more complicated and slowly unwound with the scenery of Paris as the setting.
Cimino wrote a story, "Love Unlocked," about an activist trying to convince people to stop attaching locks to Pont des Arts, a bridge over the Seine. She chains herself to the bridge and meets a man searching through the locks.
"I'm unlocking it." He pulled a small key out of the pocket of his jeans, released the lock and tossed it into the trashcan a few feet away.
"Why did you do that?"
"Our story is over. We broke up today."
"You only wanted to get rid of your lock because the relationship is over? Typical. You're not doing this because you care about the bridge or our environment."
Some of the stories aren't about Paris. They are simply human stories that are set in Paris. Like "La Vie en Rose" by Marie Vareille about a young widow whose friends force her to go out with them after two years of widowhood. In a French bar, she meets a man who doesn't treat her as if she's fragile, and she begins to feel whole again.
In "Le Chemin du Dragon," an intriguing story by Didier Quemener, takes place in Pere-Lachaise cemetery at the mausoleum of Chopin. The young musician is about to make a discovery in the dark of the graveyard.
Along with enjoyable stories, I learned some things about moving to Paris, like the fact I should get an international driver's license before I move so I don't go through the pains that Jennie Goutet wrote about in "Driving Me Crazy." She spent three years and thousands of dollars for driving school, so that she could get her French license.
These stories are lovely little appetizers for those of us hungry for Paris.
The book is available on Kindle at Amazon for 4.99.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please leave a comment and visit each other's blogs to see more examples of people Dreaming of France.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Perfect Size

Buying clothes for myself has always been a bit of a chore. From the time I hit puberty, my hips and thighs grew curvy, while my waist stayed small so that I needed a size that not many clothes manufacturers accommodated. I'd buy clothes that were too loose around the waist or too tight in the thighs.
One time, while home from college when my weight had really crept up, I remember shopping with my mom at an Elder Beerman store and we went into the women's section. I got a pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. The thought of them still makes me shiver in disgust.
My own experiences make me appreciate having a daughter who looks good in basically everything.
For her birthday last month, I went clothes shopping for her. I planned to buy her a new work outfit (she has to wear black) and a shirt she can wear for new headshots. She's an actress so she needs headshots to take on auditions.
I ended up with about four outfits because I found so many things I thought she'd look good in.
Surprise! I was right.
Before her birthday, she was going out to celebrate with a bunch of friends. I asked her what she planned to wear that night.
"Maybe this," she said, gesturing toward a tan and black dress she was wearing to work. It was cute enough, but it wasn't sexy for dancing in the clubs.
As I was shopping, I had found a sexy, v-back sweater dress. I left it on her bed so she would find it when she got home from work.
She sent me some selfies as she prepared to go out that night.
The back of the sweater dress has a nice V and cut out to add to the sexiness. She had a marvelous, tipsy time with her friends.
On her birthday, I made her try on a few outfits. She's always into sparkle, and I knew she'd love this 20s-style dress even if it might be too fancy for work.
I caught her coming home from work in this striped, knit skirt.
"Horizontal stripes," my husband said, when he saw it.
"It'll be fine on Grace," I assured him. And it was.

At least I can live vicariously through her and her clothing choices.  

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Squirrelfriend Saga

One day last week, while I was teaching, I received phone calls from two of my children and my husband, along with numerous texts. Generally, they don't interrupt me while I'm teaching, so when I got a break between classes, I called.
Grace was hysterical as she drove to work because as she walked out the back door to the garage,
Squirrelfriend was being attacked by a hawk.
Squirrelfriend is a squirrel that we've been feeding peanuts this winter. He hangs out under the bird feeder or sits on the back porch and makes complaining noises if we need to throw out more peanuts. I named him one morning as we were leaving for work, and I cracked up Earl by calling him squirrelfriend, like  you'd say, "Hey, Girlfriend!"
"I scared the hawk away," Grace exclaimed, "but squirrelfriend just laid there and he was breathing so fast."
The hawk moved to the fence and had a stare down with Grace before he flew up to a tree.
I told Grace I would tell Tucker to guard squirrelfriend from the hawk. He was the only one left at home.
Earl got involved, suggesting that Tucker get a towel and capture squirrelfriend, putting him some place safe. Or, if we was dying, to put him out of his misery.
I don't think any of us could have done that.
This is a hawk, probably, like the one
that attacked Squirrelfriend
Tucker tried to catch squirrelfriend, but he was able to run away and find some place to hide while he recovered.
We weren't sure if his hawk-induced injured would cause his death, but the next day, I saw him. He had some raw patches on his shoulder and his tail was a bit string and unkempt, but he was still alive.
I wondered whether we had increased Squirrelfriend's chance of hawk attack because we fed him peanuts, but Earl said he would have been perching under the bird feeder either way.
I think we would be equally sad if we saw something attacking a hawk. We just have a hard time watching anything die, even though we know that some animals survive by eating other animals.
If Grace had her way, predators would only eat snakes. That might solve two problems in one.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Dreaming of France -- Rue Mouffetarde

This time while we are in Paris, Earl and I are trying a new hotel, one on Rue Mouffetarde, which is a street with a famous market. We generally stay in the same hotel in Paris, but this time we booked a hotel with our airfare, which made it much less expensive.
The side streets along Rue Mouffetarde have some inspiring restaurants.

The host at this restaurant was lurking in the doorway trying to lure people to have a seat. Apparently, the more people who sit down, the more people who will join them. We were happy to sit down, and we received a cocktail on the house in return. It must have been lunch time as you can see from the sun shining on Earl's face. 

Here's another picture at the same restaurant where you can see Earl's face.

And here's a shot down the lane of the row of restaurants. I think we returned to the same one a few times. We aren't nearly as picky as our French friends who stop and examine the menu and debate whether the menu is for the right season. 
Still, it's always fun to let A French person choose the restaurant, and we can sit back to enjoy the ambiance. 
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. Please visit each other's blogs and leave comments. I look forward to seeing what you are posting so I can dream about France with you.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...