(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, December 26, 2008

california, here I go ...

wrapping up the California portion of my trip, had a nice finish yesterday with a Christmas dinner at Laura & Mike's. We've kindly been included in the family circle for the past few years, which has been especially nice since we opened Mignonne. We've found ourselves without the energy for Christmas cooking and such ... and these two are wonderful hosts, chefs, friends.

Laura is the daughter of my longtime friend Christie ... so our (Christie and I) kids all know each other and are friends as well. It works out great!

We had a very impressive standing rib roast, cooked to perfection, with yorkshire puddings and potatoes and green beans. Bottles of champagne, and wine, and eau de poire were consumed. For appetizers, Johnelle prepared albondigas from scratch and there was a date pudding with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

We were all sated. hiccup.

Now we will be driving northward to Eugene for a stopover with family tonight and then on to the coast by Saturday night.

As long as mother nature cooperates!

So, no profundities or witticisms appear to be forthcoming at the moment. I'm really a bit tired and feeling like somewhat of a hobo. About all I can muster is this rather dry travel update.

so there you have it.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

happy kwanzaa baby jesus.


so the final countdown of madness and mayhem will bring us soon to the big day ... the day where fevered consumerism peaks in a mad and merry outburst of shredded wrap, burst bubbles, tipsy tippling and gastronomic excess. Interspersed with pigskin battles and familial meltdowns.

or not!

me and mine will be sharing dinner with friends. somehow in all the flying back and forth to France, preparing Mignonne for the holiday season, sleeping on couches and other general distractions ... Santa's shenanigans got lost in the shuffle and kerfuffle.

whatever your big day consists of, may it bring you at least a smattering of what your inner visions longed for!

and if santa baby shimmied down your chimney with something extraordinary, drop me a comment so I can be envious from afar!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

mon devoir.

I've gotten a late start on my programme de noel.

My assignment is to read a small book, subject: the 2CV, and summarize, in French, each chaptre.

being a slim little gem, I thought ... piece of cake.

sigh.

last night a dj saved my life ... well okay, my trip. sorta.

I got a night out in the city where hearts are left high on hills and cable cars run halfway to the stars ... it was quite a treat.

I figured I'd better have at least one post about an experience I liked ...

Cocktails with one of my mostest bestest and dearest friends ... followed by more drinks and some of the hottest dj music I've heard and bounced my money-maker to in ages! we slurped some delicious "poire" concoction that tasted like more and so I did! and did! and DID!

we closed the place up at 2am on a Monday night!!!

and then, someBODY (hmmm) got a bright idea to segue to a kiddie park and take a twirl down the slide in high heels and landed ker-PLUNK ... right where the magic happens ... and I've been kinda limping along for a few days with a shiner on my tailbone. good times, good times!

good thing no inspections are in order cos man, I'd have some 'splainin to do!

I do loves to dance folks, and mister man was spinning the old school mixed with today like nobody's business.

Monday, December 22, 2008

the times they are a changin'

In addition to visiting my family and friends, the main reason I returned to the states was to help out in our shop during the holiday season.

which seems to have gone strangely missing.

things have been generally okay in our tiny boutique. Slower than last year, granted, but given what I've seen and heard about here ... it could be worse.

Customers, when they do appear, many times spend a half hour or more browsing and then depart with a thanks. Others share what they are seeing out and about this season. A couple yesterday arrived after their fancy brunch in the city. It was at a large hotel in San Francisco, in the best restaurant. They told me 2 tables were occupied in the entire restaurant. This on the Sunday before Christmas, a week-end normally packed everywhere during prior holidays. They had been to the SF Galleria mall and described it as a ghost town.

When I arrived here in Portland, my friend and I visited a large mall in search of some stuff for French friends. Granted, this was still a few weeks before Christmas ... but it was startlingly quiet.

On the other hand, last night I hit a small outdoor shopping area in search of the Apple store ... very popular in these parts and it was fairly bustling.

Most people I speak to are at least uneasy. many are scared of what 2009 will bring in terms of the economy, etc. And yet, I know of many new businesses being launched next year (small bars, restaurants, boutiques, etc.).

Personally, I hope the world's consumers turn away from corporations and big box money-makers and turn back to their smaller, local providers in the community. After all, it appears our friendly government will bail out the big guys.

Its the little guys that need your help. and optimism. and support. If everyone just shuts down, it will be much worse. I say take your budgeted disposable income to your local business owners. with a smile and nod of encouragement. 2010 will come that much more quickly and with a positive bent.

Friday, December 19, 2008

welcome back. here's your hat, what's your hurry?

this morning I awoke, looking forward to a lunch with some former colleagues and friends in San Francisco. I took my time getting ready, it is always a treat to venture into a city with some style, which San Francisco definitely is.

I made my toilette and went to my car. I'm staying with my daughter in Oakland and have been doing street parking. I can see my car from her flat.

I got in the car and noticed some papers on the floor in front of the passenger seat. I groused to myself a bit about which kid that had borrowed the car had left stuff on the floor. Suddenly I felt a bit of a draft. "Don't tell me they left the window down too?!", I thought and absent-mindedly pushed the automatic button to close it. I heard some gritty grindy noise and looked over my shoulder to see that no ... no kid of mine had done anything to my car. Instead, some lovely citizen had vandalized my car and there was a pile of shattered glass on the seat, the floor, etc.

So much for lunch. my day. etcetera. Flurry of calls to and from insurance agents. auditors. glass repairers. walked to buy something to seal up the window.

Sat here fuming for the afternoon.

Fucking hell. get me outta here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

i can't believe i'm saying this, but maybe bigger isn't always better ...

a couple of observations regarding these united states of .... since I've been here

as I exited the people loader / unloader and entered Washington Dulles, I was assaulted by the sounds of barking masses. That's right, hordes of big people pushing and scurrying while barking into some sort of device.

if they weren't elbowing their way around, they were sat, overflowing the chair, yakking into sometimes unseen gadgets strapped to their ears. Or they were staring transfixed into some handheld device, heads bobbing to the beat of music plugged into their ears.

I can also report that these large humans certainly couldn't credit their girth to the ample servings received while in transit on aircraft between said airports. since one is served doll food.

perhaps American cars are bigger because the people seem to be as well? hmmmm. dunno. Other things that are bigger. EVERYTHING! lol! Okay, I have spent hours and hours now at BricoDepot in France. Which is considered a BIG store. BricoDepot would fit in the paint and tools section of the Oakland Home Depot. I mean, the Oakland Home Depot is at least six to eight times larger. It is VAST! I wandered around while getting a key made (only $1.47 per key by the way! HELLO Brico Depot!!! but I digress) and as I was wandering I didn't discover any products or sections not on offer at BricoDepot. Just that there must be five times as much in each aisle. What is the necessity of all of these consumables?

I was reminded of the circle I dosie-dohhed out of not long ago. The one where we all strive to make more money to buy more things to put in bigger houses that cost more money that we work more hours to get more money so we can buy more things to put in ... well you get it.

regarding this device fixation. I said to a friend, 'please don't tell me I was like that ...'. She stared at me a bit ruefully and tried to tiptoe around my question, telling me ... 'well, sometimes you would look at the phone and see who it was and not answer it ... but your phone was always ringing and if it wasn't ringing you were looking at it to check stuff'.

are people really that incapable of conducting their lives without technological assistance? or connection?

it has really gone over the top. couples sit in restaurants and talk on the phone to others. or send and read emails with their PDAs, rarely exchanging a word with their dining partners. People are out shopping, shouting into cell phones as they check-out, nary a word to the person working to acknowledge the transaction. Individual diners sit and talk into cell phones, many times hidden little bits on their ears and covered up with hair, which is equally confusing!

If the above isn't bad enough ... it is all done Loudly! Very, very loudly! While in France, I've jokingly told folks that Americans are like the labradors of the world.

You know ... kind of big and bouncy and 'here I am, look at me, be my friend' sorts ... tails wagging and big grins on the face.

But I can also tell you ... comparatively speaking ... Americans are LOUD. And frankly, it is annoying.

Americans don't just talk loudly on the phone (which of course they do and in the most inappropriate situations). They talk loudly to each other. In restaurants. At theaters. In the bank. Didn't anyone ever teach these people about using their 'small' voices? Because just like bigger cars, roads, malls, platters of mass produced 'cuisine', bigger voices seem to be all the rage.

I haven't decided if it is the labrador factor. OR if there is a desire to be the center of attention. If they think they and what they have to say are that much more important and must be shared in elevated tones.

I'm on sensory overload.

Friday, December 12, 2008

i don't know how

I am going to last 3 more weeks.

I've only been here one week and I am squirming ... I feel completely cut off from my new life and completely foreign to my old life.

We had our 3rd annual Holiday Reception at the shop last night and it was well attended and successful. It felt like the climax to my visit and now ... I want to go HOME. I wish Christmas was next week so I could be preparing for some quality time with my little family and then moving on my way.

Nothing else holds much appeal here, I'm afraid.

One thing is certain, I'm changing my return flight plans. and soon.

Monday, December 8, 2008

updates from the road

well, it has been a busy few days. I've managed to pack in all of the following:

1. Huevos rancheros at a local mexican restaurant! yum!
2. Art show at Portland's First Thursday
3. Dinner at Paley's in Portland (delish, and I was informed it was voted one of top 25 restaurants in the U.S. so go me!)
4. Vintage thrift shopping with Kathleen, lunch and a mad shopping spree in search of turtleneck sweaters...
5. Checked out "A Christmas Tale" with Catherine Deneuve. One word - deep! American tales of dysfunctional family holidays got nuthin' on this!
6. Escorted to the beach by good friend Tom to retrieve my car and check on my place. it is still as cute and quaint as ever...decisions, decisions...
7. A wonderful brunch with lots of ex-colleagues, also hosted by good friend Tom (on Sunday)
8. Hit up Sephora to buy a couple of unlocatable-in-France items...
9. Cooked dinner for five last night ... duck!

and today I am driving to California ...

I still miss Brantôme ... thankfully I've received texts from JY and dogsitter that confirm the boys are hanging in there, so that's a relief.

counting the days till I go home... will post more soon! got some 'expat returns to land of origin' cultural observations brewing in the noggin'!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

the sparrow has landed...

well, that may be a bit presumptuous ... but as I am inspired by the sparrow ...

yesterday I received my 3:00 a.m. wake-up call from monsieur JY and when he arrived, singing, at 3:30 I didn't know whether to choke him or hug him!

in any event, I abandoned mes petits chiens amid much last minute chaos (mad search for fr checkbook, alas non) and we departed. in gale force rains and wind. and pitch black. and Rag Mama Rag cranked up on the disc player.

with help from friends, I discovered a direct TGV from Angouleme to Roissy/Charles De Gaulle Aeroport in Paris. In fact there are several throughout the day. For those who'd like such information for my area, there is also a daily 7:00 a.m. train to Roissy/Charles De Gaulle Aeroport from Limoges. The train arrives in Terminal 2. There is a simple to find-and-take shuttle train from Terminal Two to Terminal One, should you need it (and if you are flying United Airlines to the states, you will). Use the above link to SNCF and be sure to type in Roissy as your destination. also fyi, the train ride is about 3 hours.

We arrived around 5:15 a.m. to a deserted station ... no open cafés or such. JY benefited from the coffee machine and I produced a 'nut bar' from my bag to complete his petit dejeuner! We loitered and laughed and did our little dance (as always) until finally he decided to collect my bags from the car. For a while there, I didn't know who would win out, JY or the winds ... he took it all in stride like the personal super-hero he is.

After he left, I found my way to the platform and boarded. I brought one bag of clothing and one empty suitcase ... my backpack with laptop and my traveling bag with complete with nouvelle vie sentiments!

When I checked-in, the United rep asked if I would prefer to streamline my itinerary (because I made last minute changes to my flight which used frequent-flyer miles, I had 2 stops before Portland) and I said absolutely. Unfortunately, she couldn't find an open seat so I left girding my loins for a very long day. On top of it all, I had lost my business class seating due to my changes and was facing all of these 'legs' with no leg room! (economy seating). So I wasted miles on better seating that I ultimately didn't experience.

Well, the first leg I was in Econ Plus, 2 seats to myself (on the plus side) and the food was shit ... absolute shit ... (on the downside). Lean Cuisine deserves a Michelin star compared to what I was served. And when did they eliminate free drinks from international flights? I paid $6 for the shittiest bottle of cloyingly sweet Chardonnay I've ever tasted.

grrrr.

When I landed at Washington Dulles, I had happy(er) news. Somehow that darling woman at Paris/CDG worked magic on my itinerary and instead of flying next to San Francisco and on to Portland and arriving at 12:17 a.m. ... I was confirmed for direct to Portland, arriving at 8:00 p.m.ish!! yay for me!

Within 15 minutes of this news, my flight was delayed an hour! *lmao* And then the juvenile couple with screaming baby twins from hell arrived in the waiting area .... and, upon boarding, imagine my glee at finding said couple seated in front of me. So, first I spent $9 (5 and 1/2 hour flights smack at dinner time no longer rate so much as a pretzel bag ... ) on a further piece of shit salad consisting of limp lettuce, diced cheese product, bacon 'bits'-read fako baco, and mush diced tomatoes .. and then I spent 5 hours sleeping fitfully whilst said couple passed the alternately screaming infants like batons at a marathon. Not once was a bottle or pacifier spied ... nor was a willing breast exposed for the sake of nearby passengers. We were all fit to be tied.

sigh. But I DID land at 9:00p.m.ish, was actually greeted at the airport for the first time in my life by my dear friend Kathleen who took me straight to her amazing beautiful old home in Portland and ensconced me in my own private and well-appointed bedroom and my own bath assigned to me ... the bed is a dreamlike cocoon of memory foam and down duvets ... the bath is stocked with luxurious personal comfort goodies. Unfortunately, only one bag arrived with me but the travel gods remained somewhat merciful and the one that arrived DID have my clothing ...

And so, 27 hours later, I put myself to bed. slept like an angel. awoke to the scent of freshly-brewed coffee. I'm now lounging and writing and wondering how long I can take it (the states) before I can finally return home.

because yes. not 24 hours here and I know that France is now home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

while I'm in the states checklist ...

lolling about this morning, I had this stellar notion to compile a list of stateside wants and to do's. time will tell if this was a blogworthy enterprise.

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Eat some Tamarindo mexican ... preferably a few times including brunch and sangria.

2. Eat some Cactus mexican ... preferably including breakfast and mexican coffee.

3. Eat a few breakfasts that include eggs and bacon and homefries and strong coffee.

4. Visit my Orygun peeps.

5. Walk on the sands of the beach in Seaside, Orygun ...

6. Hug and kiss my offspring.

7. Visit my Oaktown (and surrounds) peeps.

8. Have a night on the town with some of my peeps...maybe include a few shakes of my moneymaker.

9. Pick up stateside shopping list items for me and France-living friends .... (requests accepted).

10. Fill the empty suitcase I am bringing with agonized-over items now in storage...

(takes stock of list ... hmmm... a little heavy on the eating quotient...note to self, revise list)

Any suggestions from my studio audience?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

reverie.

Summer at Blue Creek, North Carolina

There was no water at my grandfather's
when I was a kid and would go for it
with two zinc buckets. Down the path,
past the cow by the foundation where
the fine people's house was before
they arranged to have it burned down.
To the neighbor's cool well. Would
come back with pails too heavy,
so my mouth pulled out of shape.
I see myself, but from the outside.
I keep trying to feel who I was,
and cannot. Hear clearly the sound
the bucket made hitting the sides
of the stone well going down,
but never the sound of me.

~Jack Gilbert

I read this poem in the November 10, 2008 issue of The New Yorker (an indulgence I've yet to set aside in my new life abroad). It touched me in ways that surprised me. At first this segment resonated ...

"I see myself, but from the outside.
I keep trying to feel who I was,
and cannot. Hear clearly the sound
the bucket made hitting the sides
of the stone well going down,
but never the sound of me."

As I reread the poem, I was transported back to a summer at my great-grandparents' house in Roseburg, Oregon. I was 12 or so and had a first glimpse of, heretofore unexperienced, freedom.

I was free to stay at a new girlfriend's house. Boys loitered on the curb like vultures who had somehow spotted a fresh kill, circling..circling. We first swam in her pool ... a luxury to me compounded by the fact that there was no fundamentalist cult member judging my swimsuit, my swimstroke or the decibels of my laughter. After we finished our swim and donned cut-off jeans we made our way out to the curb and conspired to take a walk to the river.

The poet Gilbert's words urged me on to attempt to 'see myself. keep trying to feel who I was.' Perhaps I had a little more success or perhaps those were just his words, not his feelings attempted.

As I think about that day walking down to the river, a hot stifling August summer day, I can almost resurrect certain moments. The dust we kicked up as we walked the path, and how it settled down as we got deeper into the woods bordering the river. The smell of the greenery that began to emerge from the trees and fern nearer the water. The sweat trickling down my already dry back. The excitement I felt walking alongside that 13 year old boy, John Alsen was his name.

I thought I understood this boy, whose father was a preacher, a hard mean man who liked to humiliate his kids into submission. John's father had caught him in some harmless yet forbidden act and had shaved his head ... all save a Hare Krishna like pony-tail sprout at the top that he bound in a band. John was as hard headed as he could be, in return. He joked about his ponytail and embraced it, ruining the satisfaction for his father who eventually chopped it off ... irritated.

John and I walked companionably down the path and it wasn't long before I felt his hand take mine. I was speechless and excited and about as near to being in love as a 12 year old can be. The group of us spent the afternoon swinging high over the river, revelling in those moments of being airborne just before we hit water in a shock of cool relief and swam lazily back to shore.

At dusk, we'd had enough and stood on the banks jostling a bit and passing a few stolen cigarettes. The red ember glowed and we all felt that sense of being there ... right there on the edge of everything that adult possibilities present in the mind of a teen. John's arm slipped round my waist and we stole a quick kiss. We made our way back to the neighborhood, up the path, mosquitos buzzing, crickets in the distance. Arms around each other's waists.

For several days, this afternoon beamed bright in my mind, a young girl's flight of fancy. Back at my grandparent's house ... I enjoyed the dull routine of cooking, sewing, walking in to town ... and dreaming about young John Alsen.

Home with them one afternoon, the phone rang. It was another of the boys from the group that night.

"Hey Kim ... whatcha doin'? I heard you had fun the other night. John says he got a piece of tit ..." I slammed the phone down. Shaking. Red. Understanding I wasn't going to ever hear from John or speak to him again ...

Carefully made my way to my room. Closed the door to contemplate the ways of love. The ways of love in the real world versus a young girl's reverie.

And yes, Jack Gilbert, I hear the sounds of me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

awards...

okay, I'm going to take a risk here and talk about blog awards. A blogger I recently started reading put up a post questioning what the awarding and meme'g and tagging thing was all about. Being a fairly new blogger, they had questions ...

got me to thinking more about it ... I always have mixed reactions to awards ... on the one hand, it is of course nice to have recognition... when an award is bestowed and there is feedback given about one's writing efforts ... it is gratifying. It is also nice to write about others I admire and/or enjoy. And memes can be fun because you learn something new about the blogger.

then come the rules. I understand that providing some guidelines might help the 'love' get passed along. but they seem to get a little strident at times. somewhat demanding.

Also, since the purpose of the rules is to mandate who and how to pass the thing along ... well, there are only so many blogs one can read and gain familiarity with. So inevitably the same circle of bloggers within a 'following' tend to get hit over and over again. And they seem to come in waves because of this phenomenon as well.

I admit I have found it stressful to receive an award. Kind of damned if I do and damned if I don't. How am I going to come up with new recipients so I don't keep burdening the same folks? How will I find time to read some newer blogs more thoroughly so I know whether or not to tag them? If I don't respond, will I insult the blogger who gave it? How do I react if I am ignored?

what would Jenny do? (since she is my blogging idol ... ) well I kind of know. She always seems to find time to come and comment on my peasant blog, if she receives recognition. But I've never seen her actually respond on her site. But then she's famous. What if I did the research and found out her history includes a series of awards that led to her success? hmmmmm.

what say you?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

suddenly it dawns on her ...


I'm leaving for the states in one week. ONE WEEK!!! crap, where did the time go? there are lists to be made, arrangements to be finalized, blah blah blah

I'll be heading to Portland, Oregon first for the first few days ... a reunion brunch with friends on Sunday and then drive to California on Monday. Spend the next couple of weeks staying with my daughter and friends (alternately, I suspect!) while we work together in the shop.

Thursday, December 11th we host our annual holiday reception and BLOW-OUT SALE (30% off this year, biggest ever!) from 5:00 - 9:00 p.m. Anyone reading that is in the SF Bay Area, please come on by. Details will be here on our store blog, Je Suis Mignonne. There will drinks and food and djmusic ... and of course, MOI! haha-haha!

Once Christmas arrives, we close the shop for a week or so. We will head back on up to Oregon to the coastal cabin (see my sidebar!) and have a little family celebration of our own.

Currently I'm set to return January 16th but may come back sooner ... I am not bringing the dogs and am a little anxious about the situation I was able to arrange for them. So I might return one week early.

While I'm gone, work shall theoretically (ha, no I'm sure it will) progress on my kitchen and home. It will be interesting to see, upon my return, what the new year will bring.

My french professeur, Laurence, has kindly set me up with a mini-program for while I'm away. I have a book to read and chapters to summarize in french and some other exercises which will be exchanged via email. I'm also armed with a list of french conversation groups I hope to drop in on for practice. I'm nervous about backsliding.

Of course I want to see family and friends, but the truth is I think I'd rather stay. sigh. Nearly every time I speak with someone (friends) in the US, I hang up depressed. Everyone is gloomy and upset and the sky is falling and what's next ... I'm happy in my french bubble.

Anyone out there in the states that will be in the Portland or SF Bay Areas 12/3 - 1/15 and wants to meet up ... give me a comment. And when I return, I definitely want to meet up with some of you frenchified bloggers and bloggesses. tout de suite!

Monday, November 24, 2008

blogger album project

Randal with one ell and a bad case of l'ennui tagged me for this one ....

Favoritest Albums ... anytime

1. Van Morrison - Moondance

2. Django Reinhardt - Djangology

3. Edith Piaf - The Voice of The Sparrow

4. Miles Davis - Birth of Cool

5. Aretha Franklin - I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You

6. Robert Johnson - The Complete Recordings

7. Sarah Vaughn - Live at Mr. Kelly's

8. Billy Joel - An Innocent Man



Favorite Newer Music


1. The Bird and the Bee - Again and Again and Again and Again

2. Pink Martini - Sympathique

3. Jet - Get Born

4. John Legend - Save Room

5. James Morrison - Undiscovered

6. Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

7. Ben Harper - Lifeline

8. Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby -


I'm like Randal, I could go on for pages. this wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.

Tag you are IT!

1. Amy Rigby (come ON, I want to know what a REAL MUSICIAN listens to and loves ... )

2. Bete de Jour(not that I don't think he thinks he is to hifalutin to do it...but I want to know what a quirky Brit listens to when he isn't ...um...being all quirky and shit)

3. speaking of quirky Brits, Nunhead Mum of One(what do YOU listen to as you chase your darling son and husband around?)

Sorry Randal, can't come up with 7 taggees ... so flog me.


I'm still working on complying with the following fine print:


Rules and Regulations:
1. Post your list of the seven best albums, the seven bloggers you will tag, a copy of these rules, and a link back to this page.
2. Each person tagged will put a URL to their Blogger Album Project post along with a list of the seven best albums in the comment section HERE at Je Ne Regrette Rien.
3. Feel free to post the “I Contributed to the Blogger Album Project” Award Graphic on your sidebar, along with a link back to this page.
4. Post a link back to the blogger who tagged you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

too many rules. too many tacos.

Randal, le monsieur de l'Ennui-Melodieux hath memeth moi ... and I am hereby acknowledging it with much whining and gnashing of teeth. for there art too many rules. and I have too many tacos to produce.

So Monsieur Double-ell (pronounced the french way ...) I'm honored and shall get to this aprés mon anniversaire! Je m'excuse!


Just to prove my point ....

Rules and Regulations:
1. Post your list of the seven best albums, the seven bloggers you will tag, a copy of these rules, and a link back to this page.
2. Each person tagged will put a URL to their Blogger Album Project post along with a list of the seven best albums in the comment section HERE chez Randal.
3. Feel free to post the “I Contributed to the Blogger Album Project” Award Graphic on your sidebar, along with a link back to this page.
4. Post a link back to the blogger who tagged you.

yet another faux-pas.

omg. that reminds me of something I found hilarious. and embarrassing. at the same exact moment!

In my Friday French lesson, I had to write (in French, of course) a summary of a bad internet shopping experience I've had. This is a typical example of the kind of work we do .... something real life .... and then, during the lesson we discuss all of my *les erreurs* as well as the topic at hand.

anyway, so I was relating a bad eBay experience with a female vendor and in my story I referred to her as la Madame. Because I had previously learned that instead of saying l'homme for when you want to say 'the man' ... did this or that, it is better to say le monsieur.

so Laurence tells me, with a chuckle, that it is not la madame. unless you are referring to someone who was of royalty. or worked in a brothel!!!

well, if I had a euro for every time I've said la madame instead of la dame, I could buy myself and a hot le monsieur a nice dinner somewhere. lord knows how many women I've referred to as being house-of-ill-repute employees!

why oh why didn't one of my French friends correct me by now????!!!

why? because I'm the entertainment, folks.

sigh.

free red cross donation ...


Okay, I was browsing at Mrs. C's (No Place Like It) and found some lift-worthy news... a way to brush up on your French by reading a very entertaining blog de Noël ... Mon Beau Sapin (or My Beautiful Christmas Tree).

Mon Beau Sapin is a French Comic collective that is raising money via unique visitor page views to their site. Apparently this effort is underwritten by orange.fr. Money raised by "clicks" or page views will be donated to the Red Cross and used to purchase Christmas gifts for needy kids.

And the site is pretty entertaining! I promise! See For Yourself!
So you can do some good works for yourself AND the kiddies ... and it is F-R-E-E.

sorry Mrs. C for the blatant plagiarization. I'm unabashedly like that. shameless, really! but it IS for a good cause, right?

(on a side note, apparently refresh doesn't up the ante, so visit again and again)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

i must be crazy.

I'm cooking a mexican dinner for 10 or more Saturday night. My friend Marjo is donating her kitchen! and some guests. Sunday is my birthday so it will be a fitting remembrance of my first one in France.

I'm up to my ears in shrimp and chicken and fish and tortilla makings. I'm starting today, roasting tomatoes and peppers and onions and such, simmering chicken for deboning and perfecting my tortilla making skills for fresh tortillas.

Le menu? Entrée of shrimp ceviche and quesadilla points, Main course of fish tacos with lime cilantro cream sauce and a cassoulet of chicken enchiladas with chorizo. Rice and refried beans on the side (homemade, of course). Fresh roasted tomato salsa. Sangria.

Someone else is doing the dessert.

hmmm. am I forgetting anything? (my sanity is already on the list.)

wish me luck and bon courage. have to stay away from the sangria. or at least too much rum.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

eat my cake.

Another blog award from my generous fellow Bloggess Utah Savage. This one's a treat because it is frenchified. The Marie Antoinette recognition is apparently intended to go to bloggers who have something to say, who tell the truth.

I prefer to believe la Madame was a generous sort, wanting to share her gateau with the hordes at her door. Kind of like my own self-illusion, welcoming all of you hordes (okay, so I'm wont towards exaggeration) for a piece of my (not so) literary cake and sometimes even frosting!

My cake is all the flavors of the world, just like my partygoers arriving for a bite. Sometimes I don't feel like baking and cop out by serving store bought. but somehow you all still keep showing up. so here, have a piece on me.

The seven of you I'm tagging have French illusions like me ... and write in earnest about your desires and experiences in trying to make illusions reality.

In An Old House in Paris ... who is determined to master French, who has fallen in love with Paris, who has begun her dream in earnest.

These Days in French Life ... who is sort of pioneering in France, blazing new trails and taking no prisoners.

Chez Loulou ... She's tasting life in the South of France, living her dream and bedazzling us with photos of beauty. French beauty, I might add.

A Southern Belle Goes to Paris, y'all ... she dreams of her life in Paris, and is working every day to create it ... can you picture the accent?!

Chez Rigsby ... a newly discovered blogman who, like me, is documenting his new life in France.

Notre Vie Juteuse ... well, we are co-conspirators in this life adventure ... we leaped the sea to explore the land of our dreams. And I think the Marie pic will look pretty on her blog wall.

La France Profonde ... she's an old hat at this France stuff down in the Aveyron ... and hey, us 'mericans gotsta represent!

So, again I tried to introduce some new kids to the table. Move over, make room on your readers for the ones you haven't met. Make them feel welcome, won't you?

post.script. Apparently the lack of rules on this particular award are a bit befuddling. What I garnered is ... think of bloggers who impress you with the veracity of their words ... honesty, raw emotion, telling it like it is ... you get my drift. And then recognize them. From what I can tell there can be as few or as many as one wishes. Live life dangerously, just go for it ... Like Marie Antoinette!

not sure about why ...


One morning this week as I returned from an outing, I pulled up to my house and saw la Poste fellow parking his bike outside my door and knocking. I smiled and nodded from the car, getting out. I was expecting he had a package or something I had to sign for.

He asked me if I would like to buy a calendar. He reached into one of the hanging side-rucksacks that usually contain the mail and pulled out a stack of calenders.

"Vous preferez les chiens? les chats? les fleurs?", he inquired.

How much?, I asked. "C'etais votre choix" ... (it is your choice) ...

So now I was flummoxed. Calenders for a donation?! and why?

I asked him if the money was for the village. It took a couple of tries before he understood. No, he said, for me!

I walked back to the car to get my purse. The calendars were clearly printed by the post (they are marked as such). They are more than calendars, they are hardbound with maps and almanac information, emergency phone numbers for France and the Dordogne, post codes and various other stuff.

I offered him 5 euros and he smiled and thanked me. This is my selection.

I'm still baffled. Obviously I missed something ... fundraising for postmen?

anyone?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

le futur ...

my my my ... yesterday in my French group we embarked upon le futur! I have yet to master the present not to mention passé composée and here I am trying to think about adding an extra "R" plus avoir to the end of everything. talk about tongue twisters!

The approach to my French group is actually quite informative. No endless memorization, rote pronunciation drills or disciplined dictées. I am learning about life in France as I learn to speak about it.

The workbooks we use all center around relevant life topics that are current in French life ... we've covered PACSg and socio-cultural norms including how to label/address different family and coupling scenarios. We have lively conversations about the week's political activities ... in all the countries represented (UK, US, France). Barack and Sarah provided much fodder, indeed! These group sessions are supplemented by a weekly 1:1 lesson ... I'm hoping my finances allow me to continue this approach next year. C'etais une investissement dans ma nouvelle vie et mon futur!

This week we did some language and sentence dissection, to be sure. But we were dissecting the lyrics to a popular Bénabar song. Just so happens that J-Y had suggested I buy Bénabar as a way to improve my language and enjoy a new generation of French folk music. He's such a smarty-pants. So I brought the 2 disc CD with me ... which included a DVD of a live concert. Bénabar's music represents a very traditional French genre where the emphasis and importance are more on the lyrics and less on stylized musicality.

After listening to the program's version of the song and explaining the meaning with each other, in French, Laurence broke out her brand-new DVD/TV monitor and we were treated to a live performance of "le Dinér" ... a droll song about all the many ways a couple could avoid a social engagement they aren't looking forward to, and instead stay home ... under the covers!

Did I mention that Bénabar is a talented young man who is quite easy on the eyes?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

am I blue?

last night's festivities included live performance by Rag Mama Rag, a blues duo playing 20s and 30s country blues since 1991.

The venue was La Rhue, a Dutch gites site/camping ground that apparently has delved into the live music arena this year. They are located (as some of you might remember) on a difficult to find country road with little signage or fanfare. After my first unsuccessful attempt, I rang them up for directions (I really wasn't far last time) and drove over during the day to make sure I'd have my bearings. There was a small sandwich-board sign on the side of the road, alerting passers-by to upcoming music. After going there, I think they may be on to something with their formula. At 6 euros per head, plus drinks ... and all they do is fling open the doors and let the band and audience in ... seems like a lower-than-some-others effort business affair.

At the last minute (luckily) I called again to confirm they served food. Which. other than some quiche ... they didn't. I first decided to have dinner in Jumilhac (the closest village) but as I headed out I changed my mind and stopped by The Fiddler's Rest, just outside of Thiviers.

The Fiddler's Rest is hosted by an amiable Irish couple, Ronan and Jo. They bill themselves as serving 'pub grub', but I will give them points for being a cut above that. The food is fresh, hearty and the portions are actually too large. Ronan fronts the house and Jo is the cook. She is great with child right now, and it is entertaining to eavesdrop on her predicaments surrounding sleep and such. The pub is done up nicely, with warm wood stoves, bright red walls and all else you'd expect from an Irish cubbyhole. The downside is, as I'm finding with these expatriate-run venues ... is that it seems rather cliquish ... I've been 4 or 5 times and, with the exception of the one night when live music was on offer, the clientele is predominantly english speaking, mostly Irish or Brit. If you want a spot to go and listen to people bitch about the French, these are the types of places to frequent.

Fortunately, I've never heard Ronan or Jo partake in the grousing ... as proprietors I imagine they are required to listen and nod affably. Thus far, I've never come across someone I'd want to engage in a conversation beyond exchanging hellos (other than the owners). But, the menu presents something outside of the french norm and the hospitality of the owners is genial ... so I'll venture back now and again. Maybe more so in the summer, when they are bound to have more consistent music nights.

On to La Rhue. La Rhue's music venue is in a large converted stone barn, and when I first entered it was empty and appeared promising. Until I was roughly elbowed aside by the first of what were hordes of Dutch groups ... descending en masse for the music. I mean they really were loud, pushy and ungracious. It was a family style occasion ... from 6 to 66 were in attendance. The proprietors were, again, quite friendly. With high ceilings, beautiful exposed stone walls, new wood floor and large music posters festooning the walls ... the spot was visually appealing. Many of the tables were marked 'Reservé', so I had to ask if there was a spot for a single. I was told to choose any seat I'd like. More and more folks clattered in, I was overdressed. They all looked as if they were fresh from a day of milking (except one tall slim beauty with legs up to here clad in tight denim jeans and a pewter-toned belt who ended up sat right next to me).

It was interesting to hear the Dutch accent surrounding me ... loud and boisterous. I soon realized that whatever approach was used with the wood floor could use some rethinking. There might have been too much space or the wood was too thin ... every footstep echoed and pounded.

I made my way up to the bar and Monsieur explained their system. They gave you your own little order form, throughout the night the tally was taken and when you left, you turned it in and paid up. He noted my American accent and asked where I lived. When I replied Brantome, he immediately recognized me as the woman who had called and got his wife. She greeted me warmly with bises, asked if I was hungry, etc etc. Very kind.

I returned to my seat and watched the room fill and morph, as tables and chairs were dragged hither and fro. It was like they all knew each other and were comfortable enough to rearrange the floorplan.

FINALLY, (nearly an hour late) the music began. The acoustics were not perfect, but the music was grand. Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, mississipi blues to east coast rag ... it was great. I believe they were a husband/wife pair ... with him on the guitar and she on a variety ... washboard, harmonica, etc.

Unfortunately, the large group of Dutch (including the glamour girl) talked loudly throughout the entire evening. That, combined with their incessant foot stomping that echoed loudly over the music drove me from my seat and out the door after the first set. Well actually, I grabbed my drink and relocated to standing at the bar for the last song and as I tallied up. Madame made sure to notice me and check on my evening. At break, I bought a c.d. and headed home. I was 50 minutes away so I was still home past midnight.

It may not sound like it, but on reflection I had a fun night. There was one silly frenchman at Fiddler's Rest who decided to hit on me ... drunk as a skunk and half the time I couldn't tell if he was talking to himself or me. And at La Rhue, mercifully to my left was the only french couple in the house. We had fun exchanging eye rolls as we observed the other members of the audience gab and trip over each other!

congratulations, Atlanta, Georgia ...


YOU are my 10,000th visitor! Yes folks, I've been stalking my counter these past few days as I neared the big 5 digits ... and a reader from Atlanta, Georgia just tipped the scales.

You've won an all expense paid trip to ..... blogland! Virtual paradise abounds if only you have the courage to brave the tempestuous waters!

And of course, thank you ever so much for stopping by today. Seems like only last week I installed that counter ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

blues night redux.

Well my last attempt at a Samedi soir was poxed, but tonight I'm trying again. And this time, I've scouted out the locale at la Rhue in advance, filled up my tank and called the auberge to confirm I know what the hell is going on.

Now I have to decide if my ensemble will be the same. I've been freezing all the day, huddled in my room with the radiator turned up AND a fire in the fireplace.

So not sure if the dress, even IF it is worn with warm winter tights and boots, will suffice.

a miniature breakthrough.


On Armistice Day I wandered into my village, drawn by the endless clanging of the oldest bell tower in France. I'd been told that any variety of activities would be occurring throughout my new land ... most coordinated by the local mairie.

I went to our war memorial ... which is where I suspected the action would be. There a surprisingly small group was gathered, listening to a wizened man in uniform speak of the horrors of war. Also in attendance were a small cadre of men in uniform, and what looked to be a unit of some sort of French youth group associated with the military.

My village has a woman mayor (zut alors!) and she was in attendance, being saluted and shaking hands.

I stood off a distance, observing but wanting to signal my recognition that the proceedings were not for étrangers ... out of respect.

I spotted and was recognized by a woman in the audience. She is associated in some way with the socio-cultural committee of Brantôme, she attends my yoga course and collected the fee from me. She has always been very serious with me, a bit cool and aloof in class which until now is only where I've encountered her.

Well, on this day she smiled and nodded at me. Quelle surprise!

Once the proceedings concluded, the attendees made their way as a group through the village ... a short walk over the picturesque L-shaped bridge and past the old moulin that is now a hotel ... up the cobblestoned streets past the monastery turned mairie ... and then down to a large hall where I gather the mayor hosted aperitifs and conversation. I didn't attend that part, feeling a bit of an outsider.

During the walk, Madame approached me and greeted me more formally with bises! I exchanged a few halting sentences with her, I was taken aback and it seems my french flew out my ears and into the atmosphere! I ended with a 'well, I think I'm going to have a walk around town' and she bid me a 'bonne promenée' ...

I was quite surprised by this turn of events and brought it up at my Friday french lesson. My professeur, Laurence, pondered my tale and told me that fewer and fewer French seem to honor the veterans, but pass the holiday by. She felt that the reason Madame approached me was, since she obviously considered the day important to observe, perhaps she was touched by the fact that an étranger would exhibit such respect and show up.

Well, even though it is all mere speculation ... I was happy to be recognized by a local in this manner.

Isn't it funny, that? I mean, Americans are such a seemingly happy-go-lucky lot ... with few traditions and a Labrador-like style just ready to wear their hearts and opinions on their sleeves.

I'm continually struck by the similarities and yet vast differences in human nature as I press forward with my new life. There's the social ones (like my story today).

There is also a veritable rubik's cube of possibilities presented with the male and female interactions. I'm pretty much without a clue with most of it, stumbling my way with a cadre of misconceptions and assumptions ... many of which I'm convinced are completely out of line and yet all I have to go on.

C'est trés drole! And it is very droll as well.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

no words required. f'idiot.

feeling all superior.

Utah Savage recently awarded me with some recognition of the *pass it along* variety. Apparently, we DID learn something we needed to know in Kindergarten ... cos here I am being called a Superior Scribbler!

Utah has a generosity of spirit and is lavish with her praise ... we just need to get her to see the same in herself! Her writing and courage is inspirational ... she has put herself and her life out there in very raw form, and I hope someday to be as brave as her in my writing.

I struggle with these award things because the tradition is to 'pass it on' to other bloggers. I confess I have been fairly insular in my blog reading. Having discovered a core group of blogs that resonate with me, providing entertainment and distraction ... I haven't ventured as far out into the blogsphere as one might. So I think sometimes I've become a bit redundant in the matters of tagging. I also admire some blogs that have authors that are either already too famous for such frippery ... or just don't want to be bothered.

So I'll try and do a mix here, introducing one or 2 blogs that I maybe haven't touched on yet ... and thanking some dear favorites.

First up is one of the dear favorite variety ... La Belette Rouge. La Belette has amazingly soothing properties for a she-weasel. She is entirely relatable ... having had the honor of meeting her in person, I can confirm that those properties translate to the human form. She has a kind wisdom in her eyes that engender confidence in her words, belief in her smile. She can wax rhapsodic on an amazingly wide variety of topics ... from life's gut-twisting improprieties to the secret savings code on this week's best beauty product to insightful tips for budding authors to how to assemble the absolutely MOST desirable J Crew ensemble and many other stops in between. That sense of *ommmmmmmmmm* you get from reading her posts ... t'is the genuine article kids. Not to mention her comments are a balm to my soul.

There's a new fellow I've been reading cos I think he has a novel approach to blogging. Ask A Frenchman blogs on in response to questions he solicits from his readers. That's right, anything and everything you wanted to know about France & the French can get a response straight from the ... erm... cheval's mouth! I find this a bit ballsy ... sluffing off the work to one's readers in order to come up with blog topics ... but hey, it is working cos I keep going back (probably because he hasn't answered MY question yet ... ). He is frank and direct and a bit snarky ... well, you get it, everything one would EXPECT from a frenchman!

I've tried with No Place Like It before, maybe she is one of those bloggers who is anti-awards...but I have to drop her in the mix because of recent postings concerning her reaction to the elections and being Canadian and having her voting rights mucked with because of expatriate status. At least US Expats can vote! Also because she was subjected to some bullying by her countrymen and instead of ignoring it (it came in cowardly email fashion) she STOOD up to them on her blog and didn't just roll over. MY KIND OF BLOGGESS! And all this time I thought Canucks were mild mannered wussies who didn't know how to pronounce about. *ducks*

Okay, here's some late-breaking news ... a blog just introduced to me yesterday that I just HAD to include because of the raunchy, rock and rolling, irreverent, shockworthy socially relevant content that I am only just beginning to sift my way through ... Pour Quoi Pas defines itself in part in the following way... "This blog is a joint venture by a number of people. All members have a basic “common ground” in their outlook on life. Yet, we are all different. Some of us are religious, some atheist. Some are politically mild and “center-ish” (meaning with no particular tendency nor affiliation) - some are extreme left wing. Some are not even concerned with politics at all, but are about ecology and the welfare of this planet as a whole."

That said, the authors are a diverse cast of characters that are sure to provide, if not some controversy, a lively read.

My fifth recognition was destined for L'Ennui-Melodieux or Monsieur le 2 Ells (as I prefer) but EVERYONE fucking gets to him before I do. grrrrrr. So I'm just gonna say that I love his blog because 7 out of 10 blog readers prefer it more ... and where else can I go and have to read the post at least 3 times before I figure out what the hell he is gone on about this time? And seriously, the man can write. The man can throw down. He can serve you up some poetry, some prose, some satire AND bring home the bacon (I'm doubting there's much frying it up in the pan but what can I say? After all, he still is only MERE man. cut him a little slack). So RG, no passing it on required, just accept my much love and shout out because you truly are one of a kind.


Like I've said, I think part of the fun with these awards is the chance to be introduced to a new blog. So check one out if you haven't seen it. And now I'll have to do some more homework for the future ... (just in case!)
*small print*

*Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends (L'ennui-Melodieux is exempt, if he so chooses).
*Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
* Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
* Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

just out of curiousity.

do most blog readers read comments? or is it only blog commenters who read comments?

being a blog author and regular commenter as well as a blog reader, I sometimes think we fall in a separate category. So I'm curious to know if my blog readers / lurkers read comments.

of course, if they are non-commenters then how will I ever know ... since it is unlikely they will spring up now and reply in unison.

well, if any blog commenters out there know any blog readers, can you ask them if they read the comments and report back?

thanks. good to know you are on the case. much appreciated!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

how one becomes worthy?

another message in a bottle.

I've been ruminating on this for awhile. perhaps all of my life. well okay, maybe just the last 15-20 years or so.

just what is it that one does to become worthy of being loved? I don't mean by one's children. or one's parents. or other relatives. those seem to be a given. the relationship stipulates for love, and from that point love can be diminished and such, but never earned.

but what kind of exemplary (or non-) life does it take to be worthy of another human's love? you know the kind I mean ... the non-related, non-friendship sort of love. now, I've tested any number of approaches and yet appear to have miscalculated on my formulas ... each and every one.

there's the be a good person formula. keep your nose clean, do the right thing, follow the golden rule, and someone will enter your life.

there's the bad girl recipe, be the one his mother warned him about, what men want is more black eyeliner, dress a little slutty with your FMe pumps. you know, be a spinner. unrepressed. unapologetic. fanfuckingtasticly free.

there's the daddy's girl syndrome, where your innocence, batting eyelashes and beguiling nature prompts a desire to pitch in ... do the heavy lifting, open doors and chop firewood. be a boy scout.

there's always the strong and independent woman. accomplished. reliable. admirable. able to stand on her own 2 feet, and even give you a helping hand up. no pressure, no foul ... just quality time with no expectations.

oh, let's not forget the best friend and confidante. intellectual equal. humoristically sympatico. emotionally bonding on various levels while we compare bruises and scars, laughing over the injustice of it all. checking out each other's asses when we think no one is looking.

Throughout my life, I've independently exhibited each of these personas. Later in life, I've carefully adapted many of the qualities of each into the one, pretty cohesive entity that is me.

Whether individually or collectively displayed, it has never really fucking mattered. I'm still alone. don't get me wrong, my life alone has shaped up pretty well. and if it remains this way, when it is all tabulated I will still end up more than okay. on the plus side of the equation.

I look around and see any and every sort of character that has managed to find herself loved. cared for. appreciated. treated with tenderness. and that frankly couldn't hold a candle to the life I've had to lead, couldn't begin to face the obstacles I've overcome, possesses less than a tenth of the moxy and generally witty survivorship that I've acquired (not trying to toot a horn, I'm sure I'll hear about my arrogance ...), not to mention the fact that I fucking clean-up pretty good.

frankly, I've never even really been sure I believe in love. l'amour n'existe pas and all that. (I'm talking love, not lust.) but hell, I want the fucking opportunity. what am I, chopped liver?

reminds me of a book title (slightly amended).

'Face it, they just aren't that in to you'.

Really?

ALL of them?

to quote one of my favorite bloggesses.

le sigh.

no regrets, mind you.

just askin'.

Monday, November 10, 2008

another milestone!


Today I received my 'Carte de Sejour' which grants me the right to remain in France for one year (well until next September, which is when my application commenced ... ) It gave me pause to reflect back when I was just beginning this blog (only April!) and was checking of my very long list of things to do ... including the visa and CDS process. And now another milestone is completed.

Other than not getting booted out, I'm not sure this particular document provides me much. I think I will need to commence with ANOTHER set of documentation in order to be self-employed next year. Which is what I am considering, perhaps a small business.

I think I also might be able to apply for a carte vitale (the privilege of paying into the French health system) ... but to be honest, I have read so many conflicting and competing accounts I am unsure.

I toss a note in a bottle out onto the interwebs seas ... oh please dear readers (or your associates you might inquire with) ... leave me a comment about just what privileges the Titre Sejour or Carte de Sejour entitles me to.

faithfully yours,

no regrets

Friday, November 7, 2008

interesting discussion today.


Had my French class today, the 1:1 session. Our time is usually a mélange of conversation and some written grammar work. Today we discussed the Obama election (YAY!) and the ramifications for the country and the world.

We rambled on to the topic of race and I mentioned how this particular election was momentous to my son, who is half black. This led to a conversation regarding 'metisse', a classification the French use for those of mixed heritage or race. ( Interestingly, the literal translation of metisse is mongrel. ergh. )

This led to a further discussion of what was viewed, by her, as a fascinating anomaly in the U.S. Namely, that the majority of mixed race folks who have black heritage identify their race as black. Since many of these mixed race individuals are half-something else, she wondered if this didn't represent a rejection of their entire heritage.

She also pondered why Americans seemingly don't have an official classification for mixed race folks, similar to 'metisse'. I let her know that there are many labels for mixed race people in America.

We chatted at length...I mentioned that much of American documentation doesn't allow for mixed race designation, rather it requires one to make a choice ... Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Black, etc. And that many people, particularly of my son's generation, struggle with what designation to choose ... "officially and unofficially".

My son, as are more and more people...particularly of his generation, is faced with this dilemma. I think it is true that the majority of mixed race people who include black as part of their 'mix', identify as black.

My son, although lighter-skinned, identifies as a black man. He has some features generally accepted as black ... and others that mirror me. Do I take his embrace of 'black man' as a rejection of me? No ... and he readily discusses his mixed heritage.

We discussed (in my lesson) my opinion that we are at a watershed moment. Just as I believe it was a big step forward for black folks who are of mixed heritage, particularly those who could 'pass' as white, to embrace their BLACKNESS versus continuing to try to pass as white as they did in the 40s, 50s and beyond. Now that Obama has achieved the presidency on the merits of his competence ... running as a competent, qualified candidate vs. a black candidate ... our next leap forward might be more unity of ideals, purpose and being ... versus the continued need to segregate ourselves into groups and categories. Obama represents a new generation, a new ideal of hope, achievement, equality ... that can be sought after regardless of race, gender, etc.

Obama set a great example. Instead of continually categorizing or labelling himself, he freely spoke of his entire background. I think more and more, other multicultural people choose that same route. Why should they have to choose when they are all of these histories and more?

The world is hopeful. There is a frisson of excitement and anticipation in the air. It is incumbent upon all of us to maintain that feeling, to work for what could result from the momentum we've created.

The responsibility does not lie solely upon Obama's shoulders. Or the new government-elect. It is with each of us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

naked french fire dancing. well sorta.


So tonight I'm going to a party hosted by French friends Marjo and Rodolphe.

It is to celebrate the election of Barack Obama!

In their estimation, it is an American-style dinner. We are having hamburgers and Budweiser! I've been asked to bring coleslaw! Yes folks, the countryside here is ecstatic. In fact, over 85% of the French supported Barack.

I adore my newly adopted country and country-folk. I hope we have some American music in the background.

If I were warmer and feeling more ambitious I'd bake an apple pie. You know ... that old American standby.

But I'm not. So coleslaw it is! I'll toss back a Bud (ergh) for y'all!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

three months.


The past few days I've been reflecting a bit *sur ma nouvelle vie* ... so many experiences, so many feelings, so many changes have been compacted into what, with a little distance, I realize is a very short time.

I have thought about how little time three months really is. At least in my old lifetime. Not a lot new and different happened within three months. Same corporate Groundhog Days... same dismal evenings ...

Life seems magnified for me here. I've been told I am not the same woman that arrived here July 13th. I think my first month was spent in a state of confusion. Of trying to shed the layers accumulated for survival and protection. Of paying attention to the moments instead of worrying about the coming days, weeks, months, years. My physical metamorphosis is a manifestation of similar changes occurring on the inside.

My dear friend Kathleen calls it being 'present'. For non-new agey types like me, she translates that to an instruction to 'feel your feet'. That's right, think about feeling your feet on the ground. Bringing your attention back to what is happening right now, in this moment, and savoring it. Noticing it. Appreciating it.

I still have my days. Hours. Fearfulness. I'm also noticing that sometimes the fear and worry is being replaced by excitement. Instead of fearing for the unknown future and what it may hold, can I be excited by the unknown? sometimes yes, I'm actually doing just that.

I've never been a patient woman. I'm the kind of person who somehow just 'sees' a situation, how it should be, how it can be, how I want or expect it to be. Once I 'see' it, I desire immediate gratification... seems simple to me.

But that was when I was in control. My lessons in vulnerability are frustrating, requiring patience, reflection and letting go. I'm terrible at all of those. I'm not a good student but it seems that in these new instances, it doesn't really matter. There is no choice for me but to submit to the fates. (or whatever one might want to call it...)

Because I seem to be learning and changing and growing a lot, it just doesn't seem possible that it has only been 3 months (or so for you control freaks!!!)

I can't imagine where I'll be in three more ... or six more ... or ... um, wait a minute, Kim, feel your feet, feel your feet!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

magnifique!


We have been hard at work this week on the new kitchen. I decided to move the kitchen during my renovation to a larger downstairs room with more light, a larger fireplace and access to the sunroom and garden.

Included in the move has been the addition of two new windows, facing the garden, which open up the space to more light and better views of the garden.

Thank goodness I have someone who not only knows how to cut windows in 2+ foot thick walls, but also knows how to do so without the upper floor caving in. Jean Yves located ancient beams to support the new window frames. He has also exposed one stone wall and sandblasted the large fireplace to expose the buttery yellow finish of the stone.

New wallboard and electricity has been installed. This week we have directed our attention to the ceiling. The ceiling had box beams in a dark wood. We have sanded and primed the ceiling, and now have begun the color application. The beams are a light grey with touches of ochre yellow which have then been lightly sanded to achieve an aged patina. The result is a ceiling straight out of the Renaissance. J'adore! Once the ceiling is complete, the walls will be next (one grey, one ocher). The remaining 2 walls are stone.

Then the plumbing finished, cupboards built, the floor sanded and varnished and the appliances moved and installed.

I have 'man hands' (covered in various paints, plasters and silicone) as we have worked side by side, ladder by ladder, to complete the work.

Check out the flickr.com link in my sidebar to see more pictures of the process!

Monday, October 27, 2008

sometimes i worry about myself...

yesterday I got up, did my usual morning routine while marvelling at how dark it still is in the morning. went downstairs and built a fire, prepped the coffee, toasted some bread in the oven, and then hung around muttering as I eyed the clock.

9:15 passed. 9:30 came and went. At 9:45 I was thinking that a phone call would be nice. See, JY hadn't yet arrived for the day and I was befuddled.

10:00 and I see the orange v.w. roll by. I had just finished my first coffee and was toasting by the fire. We have our usual morning and he heads on in to begin his day.

I decide to head to the market and the bank. While in the market, I look at my watch and realize it is now 11:30. So no bank (it is in Thiviers and would be closed by the time I arrive).

I return home, and tell JY that I decided it was too late to go to the bank. He says why? what time IS it? I reply 'midi'. He eyes me quizzically... "midi?! mais, non Kim". "Oui, midi".

Then a rapid fire collection of sentences wherein I deduce something about the clock and the season and ... I ask him, "Tu arrive a quelle heure ce matin?" "Neuf heures!!"

Zut. They DO have daylight savings time in France. hahaha~ I have to remember I'm in a different country vs. planet.

Well, that's okay because sometimes I worry about JY too. harumph.

For example, yesterday afternoon I decided to try again for the bank. I wait until 2:00 and bid my farewells, dashing off. I drive to Thiviers and the bank is closed. Wha-a-a-aaaa???

I walk over to Marjo's agency for a visit and an inquiry? Does she know why the bank is closed? is it a holiday?

"No Kim, the banks are closed every Monday!!" "Tous les lundis?", I proclaim. "Oui, tous les lundis". Merde.

I can't wait to get back to the house and give it to JY. "JY, tu ne me dit pas les banques sont fermé TOUS les lundis", I triumphantly remark.

He calmly regards me. "Oui? hmmm. C'est pas grave".

We both crack up.

On with the day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a pox on my sattidy evening.


So yesterday I got dolled up ... fixed my fabulous new do, donned a dress (!) with my new belt, black tights and knee high black boots (you know the kind!) ... looking good, my friends, looking good.

Hop in the car with my new French smart card, zip off to the petrol station ... and n'accepté pas!

Blast it all to hell, methinks, I'm risking it. Head off into the deep black night on tiny backroads ... searching for La Rhue, the site of a supposed blues night extravaganza. Over hill, over dale, nervously trying NOT to regard my gas gauge which is hovering maddeningly over the band of red.

Okay I know, I'm an idiot. I was also contemplating just what I might do once stranded, sans gazole, in the middle of nowhere. I took stock of an extra coat in the trunk and determined I could sleep in the car. No, I hadn't yet been drinking!

I stop in the midst of a village and pull out my routier, don my glasses and peer at the miniscule lines on the map. I think I need a new prescription as it was impossible!

I keep going, almost now refusing to back down. I come upon a Salle des Fetes with a party in full swing. I get out of my car and sashay on up to a group of five men engrossed in an animated conversation. "Pardon messieurs ... je suis perdu" well that got their attention. The tallest of the bunch ... also the one who had been dominating the conversation before I interrupted, a grey-haired fellow with a commanding presence, proceeded to give me some directions. Another one to the side kept trying to interject in English ... thinking I didn't understand.

I submitted my mercis and get back in my car. Basically I was retracing much of my original trip ... having missed a turn. Well on the way back I still never found that turn.

Now I was faced with a decision. At 10:00 p.m., did I dare risk a further venture out to Chalus where I knew Eric and Amy were performing? Would my luck stretch that far and all the way back to Brantôme?

I was discouraged. I decided to return home. Obviously my gazole amount got me here.

But I am pissed. Music nights in the winter aren't occurring every week-end.

And DAMN I looked cute.

Friday, October 24, 2008

my newly reignited love affair with belts.


kids, is there anything more loverly than reclaiming a waist and considering adorning it again? For someone who hasn't made the acquaintance of her waist in nigh on to 15 years ... I cry "Non"!

All these long years la waist has sat lonely and unnoticed. Primarily because le stomach has captured all of the attention. Throughout this time, Madame has lavished attention on le stomach, carefully shopping for and selecting all and sundry types of flowy garments to drape le stomach in (hopefully) artful deception.

Now that I'm a mere shadow, I have a sudden new interest in belts! Belts high to create an empire look, belts at waist for emphasis, belts slung on hip ...

I brought a few belts with me. They, by necessity, have mostly become the hip slinging variety. I've been looking for the best instrument to punch some new holes.

And while in Spain, I bought the little number in the picture ... a new black belt. Of the cinch it high for an empire look. To go with a cute dress my daughter made me buy. I'm going to don that dress and belt and knee high black boots tonight and go listen to some music. And indulge in some belts of a different variety.

(I would like to add that there is an endless array of utilitarian and not-so-utilitarian uses for belts ... now if I could just find the right unsuspecting victim to demonstrate, my life would be complete!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oradour-sur-Glane

When my friends Kathleen and David were here, Kathleen wanted to visit Oradour-sur-Glane. She read a bit about it to me from the Guide Verte ... we never made it there, so yesterday I decided to play tourist a bit and make the trip.

It is hard to express much about Oradour-sur-Glane. A small, unprepossessing village outside of Limoges ... one really wouldn't have thought much about it. It did have a little tram which ran to and from Limoges, which deposited city visitors on the week-end for a short trip to the countryside. The town had a reputation for a peaceful life ... and offered picnicking spots, fishing in the Glane and many restaurants and cafés which were pleasant to visit outside of the city of Limoges. The town also had 3 schools, a boys' school, a girls' school and an infants' school (like our kindergarten).

For many speculated-upon reasons, Oradour-sur-Glane became a target of Nazi destruction on June 10th, 1944. But at about 2:00 p.m. that day, the Nazis rolled in to Oradour-sur-Glane. Most agree that what was to follow was retribution for acts of Resistance by the French. None of these acts were directly tied to Oradour citizens, but they would pay the price. By 7:30 p.m. the village and all of its inhabitants, save six, were destroyed. In all, 642 people were murdered, including 193 children.

The townsfolk were herded into a public square where they were told they would undergo a routine check of their papers. During the course of the day, men were separated from women and children, and then groups of men were taken to various barns in the town. The five surviving men were all from the same barn. In their account, they relay that machine guns were volleyed at all of the men in the barn, and then the barn was locked and set afire. Five men ( I read the account of one, a 19 year old at the time) found their way out, injured but alive.

The women and children were taken to the cathedral. The same story exists, first they were shot and the buildings were then set on fire, those trying to escape were shot dead. One woman managed to hide behind an altar, then get herself up to a window where she leapt 10 feet to the ground. She helped another woman and baby out, they were all shot ... the woman and baby died. This one woman crawled to the garden, where she lay among rows of peas until the next day when someone arrived to find her.

After killing all of the inhabitants, the SS soldiers looted the village and set the entire thing ablaze. Apparently, they returned the next day to dig two huge pits and tried to conceal the remains. Later, the inquiry into this atrocity uncovered the truth.

When de Gaulle came to visit the town, he ordered it left as it was, that the ruins be preserved so future generations might not forget. He also decreed that a new village of Oradour should be built, near the ruins. It took 9 years for this village to be inaugurated. When it was, the village was required to wear mourning, no color was allowed, walls and shutters were painted grey. It was a solemn time.

Some of the SS Commanders responsible for the massacre were brought to trial and convicted, but an act of amnesty (in the interest of national unity) gave a free pardon to all those accused or convicted. This included sentences of death, hard labour and prison for the massacre at Oradour.

Because the government took this decision, the Village of Oradour broke off all relations with the state for 17 years. It returned the Legion of Honour that had been bestowed upon the village. The families refused to place the ashes of the victims in the memorial raised by the state. Instead, it financed its own monument, erected in the cemetery. During the time of this rupture, little aid was provided to the citizens of Oradour, making their lives even more difficult.

What occurred that summer day is truly unfathomable. The slide show below shows you the ruins I walked through. It was a sobering experience and gave pause to consider man's inhumanity to man. The cemetery was heartbreaking, whole families wiped out, faces of little children looking up from the memorials. The new Oradour shares this cemetery with the old, and with the memorial. Near the statue erected in memory of the massacre are two glass coffins, housing the bones and ashes of the dead.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

zut alors!


I had a completely different post in mind for today, sharing with all of you a trip up north I took and my reaction to it. BUT...

on my return home, I had a brief call with my friend Marjo, and she casually stated, "I heard a restaurant in Brantôme burned today ... !! a grill of some sort, I don't know the name."

When I left today, the main road had a deviation and there was a fire truck ... but I couldn't see around the bend in the road and honestly thought it was just some city activity.

All the way home, I wondered if it was my favorite little spot, Ben and Babette's. I have taken every visitor I've hosted to Ben and Babette's. A restaurant that looks perpetually closed (and unusually, they don't serve lunch), from the outside it is quite unassuming and on the inside, very rustic.

In possession of an old open wood grill and equally old iron oven, they serve up delicious and generous servings of grilled meats with seasonal accompaniments. In the winter, big pots of homemade soup may surprise you tableside for no extra charge. Monsieur Ben is often seen bicycling through Brantôme.

Je suis desolée! I am most sorry to tell you that yes, it was this very same restaurant and not only did the restaurant suffer complete destruction but apparently the upper 2 floors as well, which is where I believe the owners and family resided.

That's a picture of the fire department removing debris, two large containers of charred beams and other items so far.

I was unable to find out if Monsieur and Madame and family escaped unharmed. What an upsetting turn of events and I wish them all the best. Quelle dommage!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

today I feel French ...


For some reason, today was a day where I really felt like I am living here. Like, hey people I AM ALL LIVING IN FRANCE AND SHIT!

ahem.

I went to the Prefecture in Périgueux for the 4th time with my last, previously missing document (recovered this week-end). It was basically a form letter with pictures at the bottom of 5 taxation stamps. Apparently, monsieur has to affix my 5 'timbres', purchased for the princely sum of 55euros each, to these pictures and then send my file to Paris. Even better news than finding the previously missing document is today his opinion was that I wouldn't have to get an extension. But keep an eye on the dates just in case. I was so pleased I jumped up and, after a few mercis!, ran out and forgot to ask him my questions about getting papers in order to run my own business.

I'll just look forward to another trip to Périgueux. Which actually is true, the little city is beginning to grow on me. I headed off back to the parking lot and then decided, what the hell ... why not stroll around the city? It was around 11:00 and what else was going on? We've paused this week on my house (another story) so ...

I headed up one of the tiny streets in a shopping district I unearthed the last time I came here. I just took a deep breath and let myself enjoy strolling along with others, pausing to window shop at boutiques, the fromagerie, the patisserie, etc. I discovered a coffee bean vendor and ducked in and bought a bag of beans. I continued strolling and came across a hair salon. I looked inside at several attractive stylists and smartly-dressed patrons. There was a 'avant and aprés' display in their window, with many clients looking better for the visit. I completed my internal debate and went for it. Lo and behold, they had time to take me and the lovely and well-coiffed Celine did my hair. I actually ended up loving it! I left the length and added soft layers all over. She took the time to show me how to replicate her style. I have some of those adorable, super-short bangs (just a few) that I've always wanted but never got. It was the first time in years I have sat in that chair and not looked at myself with distaste, internally disparaging my fat chipmunk cheeks!

I left feeling like a million bucks ... I moved on to lunch in a little spot discovered last trip. The one with the 10 euro Plat du Jour that was so delicious. It was slightly rainy today so everyone was inside. I entered to discover the entire restaurant (small, actually only 24 seats) was filled with women! I felt right at home and today the Plat du Jour was only 8.50 euros! I got out with wine and coffee for less than 12 euros. I mosied along to Monoprix and bought some hair stuff for my new do. On the way back, I popped in to a candy shop I had spied earlier and bought Etienne (J-Y's son) a little Halloween treat.

As I continued back to the car, again doing my best to be fully present in the moments, I really felt a sense of belonging.

Tonight, I finally attended the yoga course I discovered about a month ago but haven't enrolled in because of visitors. It is in Brantome, taught by an older French woman. Seven students, 6 French and me! It was a little unnerving, especially when Madame asked me (I think!) to introduce myself to the class. Of course, after I said a few sentences and laid down, I spent about 15 minutes wondering if that REALLY was what she asked me or if I just made a damn fool of myself! ha! But everyone was kind and welcoming, especially since I arrived sans mat. A couple of the women loaned me their extra blankets and I made do.

My journey progresses and it was all in all, a good day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

blog fatigue.

well, I wouldn't exactly call it that ... but I've noticed a lull in my inspiration. Not to mention that whole self-editing thing which means some of what has been happening in Francy-pants is just not publishable.

I had a really strange week. I was sick for 2 days with a bad cold that felled me. I was in bed for 2 days. Then I had a couple of really late nights, and a visitor for 3 days. In the middle of it all, I had several unproductive trips to my prefecture in Perigueux, attempting to wrap up my Carte de Sejour. It seems I had lost an important paper, which I thought was just for instruction but is apparently required. By Friday I was exhausted, frustrated and somewhat emotional.

Saturday, after depositing my visitor at the Gare Perigueux, I returned home. I decided to bring order to my room (my bedroom is my haven, the one finished room in the house). It was in turmoil after 4 plus straight weeks of guests. I folded clothes, organized stuff, etc. I placed a huge pile of papers and folders on my bed, climbed in and began sorting. After several hours, I found the paper I needed stuck in a random folder. Zut.

Following said discovery, I remained in bed. I slept 12 hours plus, and have now awakened.

I wish I felt refreshed but I don't. I have a rendez-vous today for lunch with a woman I met in French class. I think that is a good thing as I'm feeling a bit blue still.

No visitors next week means I hope to revive my more regular posting schedule. my fingers are crossed.