Monday, April 24, 2017

travel

I admit I'm tired of travel. If only I could be like Samantha and wiggle my nose and be where I want to be after the twitch.

There is the worry about schedules. Will the planes be late and I miss connections. That can happen n train trips too.

The discomfort is worse when I enter the US, the fear of what might happen even if I have my Esta form. I've told the US government that:
  • I didn't help the Nazis in WWII
  • I am not a terrorist
  • I never kidnapped a child
They still can hold me or turn me away because they want to.

For homelanders this is the type of stupidity all foreigners are subject to.

We carry:
  • Our laptops as clean as possible
  • Our marriage certificate for different last names explanations
  • An Xray of my skull to show the metal placed after I broke my face for body searches
  • A list of passwords for social media in case we are one of those asked
So far we only had glitch when we drove in from Canada  2.5 years ago and I passed secondary processing and ended up with a 3-month visa.

The alarm sounded Monday morning at 3 a.m. By 4:30 we were on our way to Toulouse airport. This time the parking garage code worked.

Time for a breakfast of a croissant nicely over baked, my favorite way, and I savored the last bite.

We were under a pirate flag, although there have been few reports of pirates in the Garonne River. Amusing.

The flight to Charles de Gaulle was on time for us to walk, not run to our connector to D.C. And unlike our last trip we didn't have to go thru security a second time.

The Air France staff spoke four languages (really should be a requirement on all international flights) and were extremely pleasant so different from our Delta flight from the US in March. No problems with baggage delivery to the plane either as happened on Delta.

The safety message was one of the most clever I've seen with mix and match outfits and cute moves by the models.

Watched three movies and Mom, which I had read about in the New Yorker
  • Cloclo
  • Florence
  • Bridget Jones Baby (what my former housemate calls a nincompoopy movie but fun)
And I napped.

Customs and border control were a breeze. The new automatic kiosks make it easy even though being fingerprinted twice and photographed twice seems just a dite inefficient.

The border guard asked me if I had brought any gifts.

I said one teeny, teeny soap.

"Teeny, teeny, or teeny, teeny, teeny?" he asked. Then admitted to just "messing" with me. I told him since I was so tired, I'd failed to come up with a smart-ass reply.

In response to my questions he said there were times he did get bored, but it was the easiest and best paying job he ever had. He doesn't understand why so often the grouchy people are just back from vacation.

My teddy bear suitcase and Rick's green one arrived in record time.

My friends were waiting at arrivals and we took them out to eat. When in the D.C. area soft-shelled crab is must. And a Kahlua sombrero or white Russian is something I seldom get.

Some catch-up on our lives and we staggered up to bed. Some people claim to fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, but Rick's even sleep breathing began as his head descended to the pillow. I wasn't far behind.

If only all our trips were like this.









Saturday, April 22, 2017

Margaret and me

I was in bed with Margaret Atwood this morning.

Rick slept next to me in his Henry David Thoreau "simplify, simplify" t-shirt. Outside the church bells rang 8. Muffled sounds from merchants setting up for the marché penetrated the windows.

Margaret wasn't there in person, but was in an article in the latest New Yorker, the gift from my husband that keeps on giving weekly. Never is there an issue that I don't learn something. This article was so vivid it felt as if she were there and sharing my cup of tea.

Atwood has always been one of the my favorite writers. As a writer myself comparing me to her is like comparing a marathon runner finishing in less than three hours and a baby crawling the same course over weeks, if not months.

My 11 published novels and a couple of poems do not stand up against her seemingly endless list of novels, essays and poems.

We do share things in common with some difference. We are both in our seventies. I'm three years younger, although young is not a term for either. She's traveled the world, I've traveled much in Europe and North America. To a certain degree we both are iconoclasts at least a little bit. She has lived in the wild. To me, wild is a camp ground that has hot showers.

*****
Here's some quotes from the article.

"Fiction has to be something that people actually believe."

When it comes to women's rights and the current need to protect them yet another time. "After sixty years why are we doing this again?"

On the Edible Woman "(A reviewer in Time said the novel had the 'kick of a perfume bottle converted into a Molotov cocktail.')"

When asked how she got her housework done she said, "Look under my sofa, then we talk."

"Her feminism assumes women's rights to be human rights, and is born of having been raised with a presumptive of absolute equality between the sexes."

"My problem was to that people wanted me not to wear frilly pink dresses--it was that I wanted to wear frilly pink dresses."

"All characters have to live somewhere even if they are rabbits in Watership Down."

When discussing nail polish with a friend, Atwood remembered she was wearing red. "How frivolous of you to remember." the friend said. "How novelistic of me to remember it," Atwood said.

*****
The article talked much about Handmaid's Tale which has had a resurgence in popularity because of America's current political climate.

Like all New Yorker articles, it was several pages. My tea was cold when I finished. There were things that needed to be done. Check out the marché, pack for our D.C. trip tomorrow, empty the dishwasher, eat breakfast.

Margaret went her way and I went mine.
 









Friday, April 21, 2017

Greed



Normally when one thinks of greed, bankers and CEOs with inflated salaries come to mind.


But I am greedy. Not for money, but for the experiences I can cram into the day.

When I wake I want to:
  • Watch Télémartin
  • The news on CNN, BBC, France24, I24, Al Jazeera, 
  • Stay in bed and read while sipping tea that my lovely husband has brought me
  • Have my husband beside me also reading or...
I can do all these things, just not all at the same time. That's greedy to want it all.

I want to be in Argelès yet step out the door for lunch at Mikado with my former housemate...the problem? It's eight hours travel time away.

I want to be able to:
  • Write emails
  • Check news sites
  • Play games
  • Check out FB
  • Post photos
  • Write blogs
  • Work on my novel
  • Market my novels
The problem? I want to do it all at the same time.

And at the same time I am on the computer I want to
  • Sit at the local cafés in the sun
  • Chat with friends
  • Take a walk to the beach (ASM)
  • Take a walk to the lake (Geneva) 
  • Take a walk in the woods (ASM and Geneva)
  • Investigate something and or some place
  • Go on Photo Safari
The problem? I want to do it all at the same time.

Now it is easy to see why I am so greedy. I have all these wonderful alternatives every minute of every day. It involves selection and the ability to concentrate on what I'm doing not what I'm not doing.

I'm not asking for sympathy. It would be a wasted exercise. I live in two wonderful places with a wonderful husband with wonderful choices.

The bankers can keep their money. I have experiences that tell me I'm alive every second.



Thursday, April 20, 2017

Juniper

The memories started when my Danish friend asked me the name of the berry used for gin.

A total blank until five minutes after she left the café where we'd been enjoying une noisette.

In a world where parents schedule almost every minute of their kids' time, I was brought back to my own childhood. Personally, I would kill any parent that did that to me and consider it justifiable homicide.

I did take piano lessons for one year, hating every minute of it. Although at the end I did play "Swaying Silver Birches" in the Key of C with a certain competence. My teacher was the daughter of a Boston Marathon runner.

In grade school there were the dreaded ballroom dancing lessons from Mr. Curry, his piano-playing mother and his boxer. The only advantage to the wasted afternoon came later when alumni had a wonderful dance during high school.

And then there was the time when I was sent to my grandmother's friend after school to learn arts and crafts. After a bout of measles, I refused to return. 

Activities stopped me from what I wanted to do after school.

Play.

We lived on 14 acres of land. There were gardens on the side and back, a hill for sliding in winter and covered with violets in the spring. My grandfather's tool house was half converted into a playhouse. I still wish my father had finished it.

No friends lived nearby, but I had imaginary friends. Each lived somewhere on the land. Maida's home was under the juniper bush (thus the memory trigger) and Anita under one of the big rocks left by a melting glacier eons before. June lived under the other.

We had games of being Romans, Greeks, Tudors, cowboys and indians and even the FBI hunting Al Capone. We rode bikes up and down the semi circular driveway that surrounded our pine grove or roller skated on the porch.

After a rain storm when there were puddles everywhere we would build canals until the water ran into one big puddle where the driveway dipped, then splash in it.

In winter, we built snow forts and snowmen until my grandmother had me bring in a plate of clean snow. She poured hot maple syrup on the snow making the best candy.

On the coldest of days, my imaginary friends and I would play newspaper, draw, paint or just curl up with a book before they had to return to their rock and juniper bush homes.

Playing alone made me happy. Maybe I have such an active imagination today because of it. And it didn't hurt my ability to make friends. Maida, June and Anita sometimes were so stubborn I had to compromise.

Today I have a very active social life with friends of all ages and nationalities. I enjoy all the times we spend together. However, I need alone time or I will break. Fortunately, my former housemate, my daughter and my husband and I all have the ability to be alone together in the same room each engrossed in our activities and thoughts.








Wednesday, April 19, 2017

DNA

Just for fun Rick and I had our DNA tested.

I already knew much about both the paternal and maternal sides of my family.

On my mother's side, the Stockbridges arrived in the US on the Blessing in the 1630s. The Sargents fought in the American Revolution.

Michel Boudrot (later Boudreau) left La Rochelle for Noya Scotia in the 1640s much like a ship in the La Rochelle port we saw last spring. He and his descendants were fertile populating much of that area of Canada.


Thus when the results came back I was 97% European with a concentration in England, there was no great surprise. I would have thought there would have been more in France was only a little surprising.

What was a surprise, was a connection to Norway. Probably some Viking while ravishing the English countryside found a pretty local lass and stayed.


The DNA test also traced hunter/gathers and farmers, both of which were in realistic numbers for the development of humans.

What the DNA can't tell me is more about the individuals that passed down their DNA to me. Was one of the hunter/gathers a loving husband and father? Was he disappointed when one of his offsprings wanted to farm?

What did they laugh at?

Did they like mammoth meat and thousands of other questions?

What the test made me aware of was that my existence goes back not just to the Blessing and a ship from La Rochelle but to prehistory. The writer in me, will have to be content to imagine what all my ancestors did and felt.

Rick has done a dueling blog at http://lovinglifeineurope.blogspot.com






Work

I was raised to think that certain jobs were better than others. We all needed a  job which is different from the career say of doctors, lawyers, businessmen.

As a woman pre-women's lib my choices were secretary, nurse, teacher, telephone operator, although my mother didn't fit the mold. She had several businesses, including a direct mail company making stuffed toys. Her workers were all cottage-industry people around town.

Later she had a party-plan clothing business. Finally she ended up, much to her surprise, as a great journalist.

There was the implication that this was all superior to store owners, plumbers, electricians, beauticians, etc.

As for going to university, there really was no other option. I did leave after my first year to be married--HORROR--but after a stint as an Army wife in Germany, I returned and finished with a B.A. Later I would earn a Masters Degree in Wales, but that was many decades later.

My jobs were all corporate, although almost all was in the non-profit world. At least when I drove to work each morning, I could feel I wasn't hurting the world with the products made. My many years with credit unions helped people deal with their finances.

As for corporate life, I could play the politics from the way I dressed to the way I dealt with upper, lower and middle management. But it wasn't me.

I wanted to write and did, squeezing it in at the end of the day. I was able to publish books http://donnalanenelson.com/ and after my alleged retirement for seven years I published a weekly newsletter for Canadian credit union executives. It wasn't work, but an experience to be savored each day.

Now in Southern France, I seldom hear any of my local friends talk about career development or even careers. They have the green grocers, the café, a hotel. Their priorities are more earning a living to support a quality of life vs. earning money to buy more and more more and m...

Many are artists eking out a living but not wanting to live any other way.

Their jobs are interrelated with friendship.  The jeweler will sit down with one of the waitresses from the tea room. The handyman may have his client to dinner. My green grocer gives me hugs as well as the traditional cheek-kisses. We might share a coffee from time to time or even the Sunday when I wandered by and she invited me to share the rabbit she and her son were eating for their lunch.

Anyone in a business suit, stands out.

There doesn't seem to be the combat of my house is bigger than your house.

Sometimes I think the pressure to get ahead and to get that better car or house just feeds the corporate machine that cares nothing for their workforce on any level. They are to be manipulated into thinking they should make sacrifices for the company that will let them go the nano second they aren't needed as much. And if they are needed, make sure they are in debt so their choices are limited.

Work keeps a roof over one's head, food on the table, but here, it is not the need to discuss work-life balance. It is there. The cars may be old, the houses small, but there is time to live.








Monday, April 17, 2017

Rooms

My husband said he had many lives, which got me thinking.

So have I and each with vivid memories starting with my childhood bedroom and its throne-like dresser and marble arm rests. My window overlooked a sloping roof where my Dad made reindeer footprints one Christmas. I still think it really was Dasher and Prancer and his cohorts.

One wonderful year of college before marrying. Such freedom. The rest of college was as a married woman with a disapproving husband. I loved the studying.

An Army bride in German catapulted into a different life that would change my goals for ever.

Being a mother is ongoing even with an adult, adored daughter.

What I do find interesting from each life, there are people who pop in and out. Some are there for decades and with others there are decades between face-to-face meetings.

A couple from our Army days turned up on Facebook. We'd seen them even after we were back stateside, but lost track because of move after move. I'd tried to find them ever so often, but their name Smith made it next to impossible.

They were on a world cruise and we met up when the stopped in Nice. Except for a wrinkle and gray hair it was no different from when we were sharing adventures in Germany, including my and Rosi's first flight after a misadventure at a TV tower.

This week it has been especially poignant with the now grown son of Danish summer people. Small amounts of time together do not mean that those times lack depth of feeling.

My current life is a bit of shock to me. I am so intensely in love with my husband, an emotion and relationship I thought I would never have and didn't want (stupid me). He took me from one wonderful life into another.

I walk thru our flat and see him writing away at the other end of the living room and feel so at peace.

We have treasures like the Andorra palette-shaped rock, which one of our local artists gladly turned into a tiny, tiny palette with his dabs of paint for us. We pull memories out of every day much like a fishing crew with their nets filled with the gifts of the sea. Things, are not people, but reminders of people and experiences. They add to life.

Some of people we are intensely close to we lose track of forever. There is a sadness without regretting the time. There are others that become more than friends, family of choice as those from my trips to Damascus and the woman who lived across the hall from me. And if I spent 11 years sharing a home, the change does not mean the end of friendship, merely a morphing into a different, but still valuable one.


Poor Rick is still being introduced to people from my life and will ask, "Who is this again? Where do you know them from." I can say, things like school, Army, Digital, Polaroid, credit unions." He nods and learns why they come.

I suppose I could think of my life as many rooms starting back to my childhood room where I really believe Dasher and his friends trod. And the room I am in now is not just a mansion but a château of happiness.



Friday, April 14, 2017

Emotion

"That's him," the mother of the young man walking toward me on rue de la Republique said.

He was nearly twenty, a good six feet. I'd not seen him for almost a decade.

The first time I saw, or rather heard him, I looked out the window of my nest. He was in full

throws of a tantrum and was riding in a cart pulled by a bike. My immediate thought, which I still regret was--why can't his mother control him? My conclusion was so wrong.

Something went wrong at his birth.

Over the next few summers, I watched him develop. His walking improved. They told me his speech improved, although I do not understand Danish.

One night we were at a café in the square. He picked up a bike and road, something we thought impossible. Tears were plentiful.

Over the few summers when the family installed themselves in the house across the street, his bedroom looked into my nest. Each night we would wave good night. And each morning we would start the day with a wave.

After a few years, he and his mother stopped coming, but I followed his progress thru his grandparents who made annual treks to Argelès.

This year, everyone is here. His grandfather, aunt and mother all said he was looking forward to seeing me. I was looking forward to seeing him.

As he walked down the street, I rushed into a hug.

He understands some of my English although we need translations. He remembers our waves and what we shared.

He has business cards for his repair business. He worked for over five years, collecting bottles for money, selling Christmas trees, carrying luggage and making repairs to buy a boat. I wonder if any American child would work so hard for a goal.

The boat is beautiful and I saw where he sails her on his mom's telephone. The photo of the boat is on his phone.

We meet for coffee. We will meet again while this beautiful man is here for chats, coffee and hugs.

It is so seldom, I've met someone who has gone beyond their potential to become such a wonderful man.