Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Easter Chocolate

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.

As we move toward Easter, I thought back to our weeks in France before Easter last year.
In the United States, we see a lot of Easter eggs and bunnies, but in France, the animal choices are wider.
Fish are big for Easter. Maybe it has to do with the fish as the symbol of Christianity.

But they also branch out into other animals, like horses.

And this cartoon rooster is quite a stretch, but I'm sure anyone would be glad to find this in your Easter basket.

And here's a cute kitty too.

No matter the shape of the animal, the chocolate is surely phenomenal. 
Hope you find some delicious chocolate in your Easter basket. 

Catching Up

Sorry to be MIA for so long. My week has been partially wonderful and partially explosive.
Tuesday was my birthday.
It started out with a lovely run then breakfast with my husband and daughter at Pistace Vera.

I had my hair cut and  emerged for lunch at Bon Vie totally different.

Then I went to work in the evening.
Some time that night, Tucker let both cats outside (they're indoor/outdoor cats), but only one cat returned home. The younger one didn't come to the door. At 3:30 in the morning, I heard Tucker outside in the rain calling for him.
"Don't get arrested for skulking around," I warned him as I got up to check on Tucker.
The next morning as we hurried out the door to work, Tybalt still hadn't shown up.
Tucker got up around 9 to begin looking for him. As Tucker got more and more worried, I posted on our local Facebook page with a picture of the missing cat. I went to Ohio Pet FBI and posted. I called the non-emergency number of the police and the local animal shelter and the local vet clinic trying to find the cat. Instead of going to the gym after work, I came home and walked the streets shaking a container with cat food in hopes of luring him out.
Searches online told me that outdoor cats are usually within five houses, unless they've been trapped somewhere or accidentally relocated. Accidentally relocated would mean that a cat climbed in the back of a truck or in a wheel well and driven away. Another possibility would be that the cat got scared, sprinted from his normal neighborhood and couldn't find his way back, according to the Pet FBI research.

As I walked the neighborhood, gaining steps on my new Fitbit, I pictured our poor cat stuck in a shed or a garage, unable to get out. Or maybe a possum or raccoon had fought with him, leaving him hurt. The website warned that cats are silent when injured, even if I was close by calling his name. They don't want to alert any predators.
When Grace got home from work, we wandered the neighborhood again, stopping random people on the street to show them pictures of Tybs. The AEP guys going door to door. The kids skateboarding. We were getting desperate as the sun began to set again.
Finally around 6:30, a call came in. The young man had found a very nice cat on his porch. He'd been there since this morning.
Tucker and Grace went to fetch Tybs and the drama for the day ended.
Thursday, I determined would be the day I'd catch up on all my lagging work. I ran and showered then got down to work. Tucker told me he needed to film me doing something for his videography class -- 50 shots at least 3 seconds each. He wanted me to do something interesting.
"Too bad you don't have a talent," he said. He had wanted to film his father drawing a picture. It's not too interesting to watch someone grade papers or write stories.
He finally decided that I should play Scrabble.
But, at 10:15 as I put in a second load of laundry, also not worth filming, the phone rang. Grace couldn't move her neck and was in a lot of pain. I drove to pick her up at work. Got her home, medicated. Called to make doctor's appointments, took her to the doctor where she was diagnosed with a pinched nerve and muscles in spasm, picked up her prescriptions,, dropped everything at home then headed to the college to testify for the harassment hearing.
After I complained about a student in one of my classes, the college's Title IX rep filed charges.
She said I could send in a statement, or testify by phone, but the best idea was to attend and give my testimony.
Feeling anxious, I showed up and sat in the faculty kitchen waiting for the student to complete his testimony. He had denied that he hugged me, saying he'd only shaken my hand.
Up until I heard that, I'd continued to believe his inappropriate behavior was due to a cultural misunderstanding. By lying about it, he as much as admitted that he knew it was wrong and wanted to hide it.
The committee, made up of one student, one faculty member and one administrator, listened to me then asked questions. From the questions they asked, I thought they were leaning toward the student's version of events.
"How uncomfortable would you be if this student were in your class or still here on campus?" the male faculty member asked.
I came home Thursday feeling defeated. I wondered if I could avoid teaching at that college, maybe getting by on one of my jobs.
Friday was another sprint -- teaching, then a lovely afternoon of a facial and pedicure, making a casserole dish of macaroni and cheese before Tucker left for work, a quick trip to the gym, getting Grace comfortable with her still inflamed neck muscles and pinched nerves.
After 6, I sat down at the computer and checked my email. The student accused of harassment had been suspended for a year. Now I have a year to not worry about running into him in the halls, and next year at this time, we'll be preparing to move to France. Our schedules might overlap by one semester only.
Saturday, I ran with my friend Noreen then spent the day tackling our complicated taxes.

Today, a run, Trader Joe's, and my parents' taxes.

Tomorrow, I'll start the schedule all over again, with the added chaos of Spencer coming home for Spring Break. He starts with a trip to the dentist for a chipped tooth.
You'll understand if you don't hear from me for awhile.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Dreaming of France -- The Sun on the Water

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.

Isn't it funny that when we dream of a place, we always imagine beautiful weather? I know that my dreams of France usually include sunshine, which makes for such a better photo anyway.
Here's a shot of the west coast of France along the Atlantic Ocean. Our friends in Nantes take us there for walks.

Then here's another sunny shot, this one along the Mediterranean in the Calanques between Cassis and Marseille.

This little harbor looks lovely. I could spend a week or so floating on one of those boats. 
Hope there's sunshine in your dreams of France this week. 

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Snapshot -- Cats and Runs and Chocolate

Join West Metro Mommy for this weekly meme of photos people have taken and share on their blogs.
Today I started off my day with a 10-mile run through my small city and on into the next suburb. For some reasons, there's a cornfield in the middle of the city, and a paved path going through it.

So I took the opportunity to run along the path and found a small brook. Probably, the brook isn't there except in the spring time as the snow melts -- a vernal pool.

I texted my husband around mile 7 and asked if he wanted to meet me at the coffee shop where I would end my run. So we met and bought hot drinks. As we walked home, me sweaty and worn out, we stopped at the salon, and they had time to give him a haircut, so I walked home alone.
When he arrived home later, he deposited a boy of chocolates on the table. "It's your birthday week," he reminded me.
Hope it's going to be a good one.

I made the bed the other morning, and the cat, who isn't allowed to sleep with us at night anymore because he disturbs me, had curled up on the pillows. He refused to move and was still there at noon.

So, my running is going well, my writing is going well, and my family is loving and supportive. Those are the things I'll hold onto as I enter my birthday week.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sexual Harassment

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about misreading signals from men. It seems innocent and frivolous.
Today, it feels much more like the railroad crossing gate didn't come down, and I'm blaming myself for getting hit by a train.
My stomach was churning when I woke up at 5:30. I could feel my student's big arms struggling to wrap around me as I pushed against him and said, "No! That isn't appropriate. No!"
My hands pushed ineffectually at the rough material of his cotton coat as my eyes searched the empty hallway beyond the door,  hoping someone would be outside.
As the professor, I had the power in the classroom situation, yet his physical strength trumped whatever authority I might have.
Still, politeness prevented me from calling out for help or screaming at him. I didn't kick him or hit him. I maintained my civility, as I'd been taught. And when he stepped away, I held my hand out to shake his, showing him the proper way to indicate appreciation for a professor.
I called my husband on the phone before I stepped out into the darkness of the parking lot, and I didn't confide how shaken I felt by the encounter.

I had written yesterday's blog post in class. After an initial lecture, I gave students the opportunity to catch up on their work before the final exam next week. I'd graded all their papers. As students worked, they asked questions or requested that I help them with an assignment, and slowly they finished, packed up their things and left. Except for the one student who'd made me uncomfortable all semester.
Wondering whether I was making more of his comments than I should, I wrote the blog post "Subtle Signs." I published it before the final encounter, the forced hug, the deliberate disdain for my words that said: "Stop!"
When I got home, I edited my blog, adding the section about the student grabbing me and hugging me against my will. But it's there in the middle. It's importance hidden like a Russian nesting doll.
My body let me know this morning that his actions do matter.
Instead of writing at 5:30 a.m. I went for a walk, hoping activity would calm the sick feeling that fluttered through my middle. I bought a white mocha, comfort food, but it tasted bitter as I trudged home over the ice-covered sidewalks.
I got dressed for work and thought carefully about what I would wear. I planned to talk to the Dean. I didn't want him to think I dressed in a provocative way that might have encouraged the student. I slipped my wedding ring on my finger, another talisman to ward against evil.
Halfway through dressing, I realized that I'd fallen into the societal judgment of women, that something I had done, some way I had dressed, some jewelry I had worn, might have caused the incident.
At the back of my throat, I felt the dryness that arrives right before vomit fills my mouth. I swallowed and urged my body to get a grip.
I planned to talk to the dean after I'd finished teaching for the day, but when I had a break, I grabbed my phone and called him. I thought reporting the incident might settle the queasiness in my stomach. It didn't.
The dean responded suitably. He talked about the student growing up in another culture, but agreed it was no excuse. The dean assured me that he and another faculty member would talk to the student to let him know his action was inappropriate, and that he couldn't continue at school if he didn't change his behavior.
I should have felt relief, but my heart continued to skip within my chest -- those arms coming tightly around my shoulders, my hands pushing against his shoulders to get him away.
I grabbed my bag and walked to the cafeteria. I ordered fries and doused them in ketchup.
After my other classes, I took a quick trip to Trader Joe's. On the way, I called my friend Janine and told her all I was feeling. We talked about how society has taught us to respond by wondering what we did wrong. "You didn't do anything wrong," she reassured me, and I felt better. I bought a small hyacinth plant to cheer me, and some chocolates. Nothing seemed to calm me.
I worked out at the gym, lifting weights, throwing my shoulders and stomach into the rowing machine as I leaned back then pulled forward again.
Finally I came home to write this.
I'm still surprised how big this felt, and truthfully, it was nothing compared to what other women go through.
I guess I didn't expect to feel so helpless. I'm a strong woman. I'm an older woman. I feel secure in myself, but it only took that one incident to reduce me to a quivering Victorian woman reaching for her smelling salts.
But if it happens again, I hope I'm ready to yell, to curse, to fight, and not worry about being polite. And I need to teach my daughter, and all those other young women who feel strong, but might react with politeness when they should react with fierceness -- creating the world we want, not the one we inherited.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Subtle Signs

Men are tricky.
I don't mean to lump all men into the same category, but as I review my life when men have approached me for affairs -- because they were married or I was married -- they somehow never came right out with their interest, but slyly hinted at it and made me feel uncomfortable and guilty.
I might have lost you, so let me start with the most recent example.
I have a student in one of my classes who makes inappropriate comments to me. It started with an innocent post I left on the discussion during the first week of class. I said that I enjoyed running. The first few weeks of class, this student, a native of Mali probably in his late 20s or early 30s, commented on that fact that I run and how great that is for my body.
I tried to change the angle and instead focused on how it helps me emotionally as well.
He stays until the end of class, after all the other students have filtered out,
When he asks a question, I try to respond with an example that includes a phrase like, "My husband says..." or "When my husband and I..."
Then I tell myself that I'm imagining things. I'm old, and not in a Demi Moore kind of way.
The next week as he left class, I said, "Send me an email if you have questions," as I tell all of my students.
"Just an email?" he asked. "Can't I call so I can hear that voice?"
I kind of laughed awkwardly as he walked out the door. Then dropped my head to the desk. That was an opportunity to set him straight, but could I be making more of it than it was?

Last week, again he was the final student in class; I instructed him to make sure he got tutoring from the students in the library. "But why can't you tutor me? You already know my weaknesses."
I sputtered some excuses, and he agreed to get tutoring. As he began to leave, he walked to the front of the class, equidistant between my desk and the door.
"I feel like hugging you but it's not okay to hug your teacher."
"That's right!" I jumped in quickly. "That wouldn't be okay."
He stepped out into the hallway and blew kisses back at me with both hands. I shook my head.
Perhaps this student simply appreciates me as a professor and I've read the messages wrong. I considered bringing my husband along with me to sit in class. I thought maybe I should mention it to the dean to let him know I'm uncomfortable, but so far, I've done nothing.
Next week is the final class, so I'm hoping to brazen my way through it.
But as I finished my next to last class on Tuesday evening, my student completed his work and walked toward the front of the room. He asked a few questions about studying for the final next week. Then he moved closer and said, "I just feel like I need a hug. You're always supportive."
"No," I said quickly. "I'll give you a handshake" and I reached out a hand but he went in for the hug. My heart started to race and I looked toward the hall, wondering if anyone was around if I needed help. I pushed against the student where his arm and shoulder come together until he backed off.
"But why?" he asked.
"It's just not appropriate," I said.
And it left me feeling slightly violated.
I called my husband as I walked out to the car. He'd seen my original version of this blog post.
"You need to talk to someone," he said.
"I think maybe he just doesn't get it though," I said.
"Then somebody needs to explain it to him," he said.
As I was thinking about the actions and words of this student, it reminded me of another time a man's actions surprised me.
I was 18 the first time a married man ever propositioned me.
Here's a much younger me on the beach in Corsica
 My brother had just gotten married the day before. His best man and I had agreed to go to his apartment and clean up, stack the presents, put away clothes strewn in the giddiness of a couple leaving for their honeymoon.
Marcus and I picked up and then we were finished.
"Okay, that's everything," I said. "We can go."
"Unless you don't want to go," he said raising his blonde eyebrows suggestively.
"Why wouldn't I want to go? We're finished," I replied.
"You know." He tipped his head toward the bedroom.
"No!" I responded. And afterward, I tried to convince myself I'd misread that situation too. Surely my brother's friend, a married man, hadn't meant what I assumed.
When the kids were little and I stayed home with them, a male neighbor suggested that we should spend more time together. I had the presence of mind to say that my husband and I had some free time in the evenings. But again, the suggestion was just subtle enough that I could convince myself I might be wrong about it.
Men need plausible deniability, I suppose. They can always claim they didn't mean what I thought.
But somehow, the way they do it, makes me think I'm somehow at fault.
I should have been stronger, more firm, more independent and they would never have approached me.
Maybe it's time to stop blaming myself and go with the fact that men are tricky.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Romance for Valentine's 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.

As Valentine's Day winds down, I can't help but think of how romantic France is. People fall in love with each other, with the idea of love, or with the country itself.

Being in love in France is easy. We're on vacation. We're doing the things that we both love, eating fabulous meals, seeing amazing sights. 

Here we are in front of the Eiffel Tower in 2010.

Okay, this picture was in Venice in 2006, but our trip was bookended with travel in France.

And here we are in our much talked about bicycle trip through Provence. I'll have to say that during this trip I had some questions about how strong our marriage was, but France helped us to find our center again. 
Love and France go together. I hope you all have a chance to experience love in France, but at least love.
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France. I'd appreciate if you'd leave a comment and visit the blogs of others who decide to play along too. That way, we can all experience the joy and beauty of France. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Student Forebodings

I've been teaching college for more than ten years now, so I've had a wide array of students. But I have to wonder if other teachers have had students predict doom for their children.
That's just strange.
Four years ago, I wrote about a student who emailed me to tell me that he'd had a dream that one of my sons was "harmed" and I received a $300  million payout from the company responsible. Of course,this threw me into a tizzy. I assumed the dream must have meant that one of my sons was
killed, otherwise I wouldn't be receiving a payment from the company that "harmed"  him.
Imagine how surprised I was when a student approached me this week with a similar message. "I don't know you well personally, but is everything okay?" she asked me.
I thought she referred to my attitude in class that night, so I told her that I got peeved at the class before she arrived late.
"But is everything okay with your son?" she asked.
"Do you know my sons?" I asked.
"No, but I get hunches about things and I wanted to know if everything was okay with your son."
Then she left.
And there I sat. remembering when Muhanned had written to me about his dream. His at least had some details, none that I could act upon. Hers was incredibly vague.
I texted both boys and they responded to me.
Now I'm just paranoid about everything. Something could happen to my sons. They could walk out of the house and get hit by a car. They could get sick. Do I need to increase the amount I worry about my children, is that what the message means?
Like last time, I'm going to assume that there's nothing I can do to make sure they stay out of harm's way. They're adults who drive cars and go out with friends. I can't lock them in my basement to try to keep them safe.
All I can do is make sure my relationship with them is good, that they know they are loved, and hope for the best.
But there is something I would like to say to those soothsayers who contact me about a foreboding feeling. THAT'S NOT HELPING!
Unless you have details, like, "Don't let your son drive on Broad Street on February 13," or "Your son should have his thyroid checked for cancer," then your prediction does nothing but make me paranoid.
Should I take the boys for total body scans and then lock them up for safety?
Life is to be lived, and if I'd locked them up four years ago after the first dream, then they'd have missed out on a lot.
So I'll continue encouraging them to explore the world and how they can make it better.
And the next student who has a strange feeling or dream, better come with some details.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Tuesday Intros -- Moonlight Over Paris

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 picked up this book after I saw it reviewed on someone else's blog. Of course, it's set in Paris!
Moonlight Over Paris was written by Jennifer Robson. Apparently it's set in post-war France (World War I) and the main character, Lady Helena, after a broken engagement, decides to move in with an aunt in Paris and live a bohemian lifestyle.  Here's the intro:
Helena had heard, or perhaps she had read somewhere, that people on the point of death were insensible to pain. Enveloped in a gentle cloud of perfect tranquility, all earthly cares at an end, they simply floated into oblivion.
It was rubbish, of course, for she was in agony. Pain seized at her throat and ears, so fierce and corrosive that she could sleep only when they drugged her, and even then it chased her from one nightmare to the next. She hurt from her scalp to her fingernails to the soles of her feet,, and despite that very real reminder of her state among the living, she knew the truth, too -- she was dying. 
Although I haven't read any further, I'll give you a spoiler that I think she survives because that's what the book is about.
I look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Dreaming of France -- Football

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.

In honor of the Super Bowl and the end of football season in the United States, I thought I'd post a picture of my boys playing European football, also known as soccer.
When we traveled to Europe in 2006, my boys carried along a small American football, which they passed back and forth whenever they found room to play catch. But one morning in France they headed down to a well-maintained soccer field across the street from the hotel and within view of the Mediterranean Sea, where they kicked the soccer ball around.

After a few weeks traveling around Europe, it was nice to settle in the hotel room and let the kids entertain themselves.

One afternoon, a few French boys showed up at the field and my boys played soccer with them. They didn't speak the same language, but they used some hand motions and the international language of soccer to play together. 

From the balcony of the hotel where we took the previous picture, we also took this picture of the Mediterranean. 

And from the soccer field, my husband took this picture of me sitting in the sun on the terrace while reading a book. 

And here's a photo I took of him on the terrace as he kept an eye on the soccer field. I would love to be sitting there now. 

I imagine if we had moved to France, my boys might have spent many an afternoon playing soccer with French children. 
Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France. I'd appreciate if you'd leave a comment and visit the blogs of others who decide to play along too. That way, we can all experience the joy and beauty of France. 

French Book Giveaway -- Taking the Cross

Only one year, 103 days until my husband and I plan to move to France. So I have another French book to give away to a reader as I clear our shelves.
This one is Taking the Cross by Charles Gibson. I received this one from FranceBookTours and my husband reviewed it on my blog. Here's his review of Taking the Cross.  

Here are a few lines from him describing the historical novel:
Gibson’s interest in history wins out in a well-written account of sacrifice in the face of religious intolerance.
Early in the 13th century, Pope Innocent III wanted to solidify the Catholic Church’s hold on Christendom. In that era that meant converting heretics — basically anyone, including Christian sects — who didn't follow Rome’s interpretation of Catholicism. Failing that, there was always the crusader’s sword. 
The suspense and action of battle will give the hardiest reader of war stories the shivers. The violence is graphic but not gratuitous and is true to the age.
This one is set in Languedoc, the area of France that we plan to move when head to France.
If you'd like to read this historical  novel, or if like me, you think your husband or partner might enjoy it, sign up below to win.
Leave a comment and then make sure you click on the rafflecopter button to say you left a comment. There are some other options for entering to win too if you want to increase your chances.
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Thursday, February 04, 2016


Wednesdays end up being fairly hectic in my life. I teach from early through the afternoon, work out then go to Writer's Group. So I rarely cook on Wednesdays.
Then comes Thursday, lovely Thursday where the day stretches out before me and slowly unwinds any way I want it.
I start with a run and get all kinds of ideas. This morning, as I neared the end of my 6-mile run, I decided to make muffins. I shared that recipe with you last week.
When I walked in from the 32-degree morning, Grace and Earl were in the kitchen making breakfast before leaving for work, and Grace made a sad face that muffins wouldn't be ready until later, but there should be some here when she gets home (depending how many Tucker and I eat).
I added raspberries to this batch since I was running low on blueberries.
I'd already decided yesterday that I'll make lasagna for dinner. So after I finish grading, and catch up on Facebook, I'll head out to the grocery store to get lasagna fixings and that may take a bit of my time this afternoon.
I'll make it early, before Tucker heads to his evening class and Grace goes to rehearsal.
Cooking, when I have the time, is a joyful activity. Eating is even better.

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'...