(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, June 30, 2008

corporate life and the French revolution.

Recently, I've had some breathing time to ponder my various experiences in the corporate regime. I'm wondering, fellow Francophiles, have you ever considered some of the similarities between the corporate hierarchies and the factors surrounding the French Revolution? (yes my mind works in mysterious ways ... and today's barracuda earth image is seeming appropriate for my little missive)

Well, I've noticed that in the down times of business desperation, the conduct of the players is reminiscent of those on the scene during the revolutionary period. Contrast and consider ...

Ancien Regime ~ Frustration mounting with the existing power structure (Monarchy, Aristocracy, Clergy) ...

Office Regime ~ Frustration mounting with existing structure and poor results (Senior Executives, middle management, HR) ...

Ancien Regime ~ Wars and misplaced alliances (America) pushed France into insurmountable debt, which was transferred down to the populace via deprivation and unfair taxation.

Office Regime ~ Poorly devised plans and competitive strategies create unrealistic expectations that yield insufficient returns. Expense and recuperative burden are transferred down to customers and employees via fee increases and unfair pay reductions.

Ancien Regime ~ The Roman Catholic church, largest landowner in the country, gets in bed with the monarchy by issuing their own tax and worsening the struggle for the most basic need of citizenry, food and nutrition.  The tax is presented to the people as a way to reduce other increases by the monarchy, but in reality improves the riches of the monarchy AND the clergy.

Office Regime ~ Human Resources, by all accounts an area meant to represent a company's strongest resource ... aligns with executive leaders to exact higher profits by eliminating expense through job cuts. These changes are presented to the worker base as an opportunity to save other's jobs by improving expenses.

Ancien Regime ~The stage is set for leadership and citizenry unrest.  Plots are plotted and schemes schemed.  A coup is in formation.  A new regime is installed.  The leaders, heady with power, form new and ever-more unrealistic programs of cleansing and destruction.  Advocates are enlisted, underlings promoted quickly to assist in implement ever more fantastic changes and solutions.  Heady with power and momentum, observing the ease with which power structures are disassembled ... the feeding frenzy expands as the newest adherents to the regime revolt and take out their new masters.  Change is rampant, progress stalled, chaos ensues.  Executioners become the executed.  The streets flow with blood.

Office Regime ~ Existing power structures fall out of favor when unrealistic profits and dividends fail to materialize.  A new executive branch is installed, having made their own unsubstantiated commitments of revenue to the never satisfied constituents.  In order to distinguish themselves from the prior regime, propaganda campaigns are issued ... blaming former plans and leadership for the shortfalls.  A cleansing period ensues eliminating vestiges of all prior processes and programs, with AND without merit.  As the dust settles, it quickly becomes evident that the new regime is no more capable, and in many ways less, than the prior.  Factors driving the downturn in profitability are multiple and widespread, many outside the control of the corporate institution.  

Sensing an opportunity for expedited advancement, the middle management class that helped the new executives into power turn on their leaders and submit their OWN plans (also unsubstantiated by fact...) for unrealistic returns to stability.  The constituents, desperate for profitability, grasp at the new plot and oust the newest power structure for an even less experienced group of incompetents.  Successively shorter rounds of purge cycles take place.  More innocent bystanders are left bloodied in the wake.  Competence is eroded to the point that all progress is stagnated.  Paranoia is the rule of the day.  

Ancien Regime ~ Control the citizens through fear! Vive la revolution!  Off with their heads!

Office Regime ~ Control the workers with fear! All hail the new strategy! Be thankful you have a job, or else...!


sound familiar?

Friday, June 27, 2008


I've been a bad blogger. This week I've been in California where I've been working in Mignonne with my daughter to prepare for our 2nd year anniversary shindig.

Now I like to think of myself as a pretty hard worker. But every time I come down here, I am reminded of the unique aspect of physical labor. Working in corporate life can be exhausting ... but the more I am removed from it, the more I realize that stress (real or self-imagined) can drain one's energy quickly. Your physical being longs for fair play, but balance is unachievable when your psyche is flat as a pancake, mowed down by the machine of corporicana (like that?!)

When you are working at your own endeavor ... and it involves more physical work such as design, being on one's feet 8-12 hours a stretch, interacting with customers, selling, smiling, drawing upon creativity ... these things too can be exhausting, but in an entirely different sort of way.

Instead of being exhausted and coming home to numbly sit, perhaps with remote in hand, and stew over office politics ... spending another sleepless night, I have come home exhausted every night, past eleven, and dropped into bed and slept like the dead. I wake UP with sore feet! But it is a peaceful kind of tiredness, one that provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I'd rather be this kind of worn out any day.

Our event was a success, a great turnout. I may write more on the subject, either here or at our shop blog, Je Suis Mignonne.

I'm returning home Sunday, where I will resume my big countdown (it will be less than 2 weeks by then, gasp!) ... and resume my more dedicated blogging ways. One thing I will be contemplating is how I achieve balance in France, making sure to create time and a rhythm for writing, while in the midst of a thousand frenzied projects. I've just rediscovered a tiny bit of my raspy writing voice ... and I don't want to lose it. I've missed the virtual pages these last few days...I want to sustain that need to write.

My kingdom (or at least a couple of free nights room and board in Brantôme) for a foot massage!

Monday, June 23, 2008

a bunch of characters.

well, I tried to take a nap and was unsuccessful. So I figured I may as well share some observations regarding the Bloggess Summit held Saturday night in Portland (in case you missed the newsclip at 11:00 coverage ...)

It was the first blind date I'd had in more than ten years. I arrive at the esteemed Jo Bar ... and say "Hello, I'm meeting some friends tonight at 7:30 ..." trailing off hopefully as if she will say "follow me".

"Okay, name?"

"Um I don't know whose name the reservation is in".

"Okay, how many in your party?"

"Um, I'm not sure ... either 3 or 4 women."

"Okay, what do they look like?"

"Um, I'm not sure, we've never met in person".

Eyes me dubiously. Points to a booth where a lone woman is seated. "Is that one of them?"

(to myself ... um didn't I just say we never met?")

I make my way to the table, towards an attractive woman with reddish hair in an updo.

"Are you meeting a group of women tonight?" (prays the answer is yes). She gives me the once over.

"I didn't know you were coming!"

Ice is broken and Function of Time and JNRR are officially chatting! Soon, two other beautiful women arrived and we were embarked upon our lovely evening.

First, let's address the drink choices ... which I confess had some influence on my character assignments. FOT started with a very no-nonsense vodka, neat, with a twist of lemon. Moi, Jo's version of a Gin Fizz with my requested Hendricks, chambord, a splash of soda and bitters. B did SATC proud with her Raspberry Lemon Drop. Saving the best for last ... LBR ordered the Jojito. At first, not making the connection to Jo Bar and JOjito, (and I believe her unfortunate imprisonment in queso land ... ) she ordered a HOjito vs. a JOjito.

We made good use of that material and in the end decided we definitely needed to invent a Hojito cocktail. With ingredients guaranteed to bring out your inner ho. but I digress.

A few snacky tidbits were consumed (fondue and half shell oysters. double slurp.) And lots of conversation. There were many bloggable moments and lots of laughter.

The topic of our girls made repeat appearances throughout the evening. We all agreed that we just hadn't worn the foundational garments to do our gals justice. Thus the shoe cleavage vs. ... But in addition to a new cocktail, we invented a new dessert title just awaiting a recipe invention. Anyone out there want to take on "squeezecake"? There's cheesecake ... there's beefcake ... but our girls are clamoring for the pièce de résistance ... along with a little squeeze!

We had a variety of interesting conversations about France, about men and love, about writers vs. authors, about our individual and collective stories and the unique experience that is blogging. There just were not enough hours in the evening.

Let me take a minute and tell you how gorgeous and true these 3 women were. I'm sure some of you (like me) wonder about the personalities behind the blog personae. I mean, are these characters invented by humdrum people... or worse... weirdos and freaks! .... hiding behind the screen? Is this fiction writing at its finest? bottom line ... is this for real?

Well I can't vouch for all of blogdom. But these 3 women were as real and true as it gets. Seriously, it would have been interesting NOT to have exchanged names ... and just given it 5 or 10 minutes. I would have been able to match them precisely to their blogs and I am sure you would as well.

La Belette is just as you would picture. She arrived in a very chic ensemble, black and white silky skirt with black top and sexy black boots. Softly waved hair, the kindest smile emanating from the reddest lips. She was such a great conversationalist and conveyed a real interest in everyone at the table. Made sure to pay attention to all of us! Displayed such great care and interest in each of us, providing encouraging insights and feedback. Her laugh was very infectious. Ultra-feminine.

B exuded modernity and a hip charm. Petite and pretty, clad in jeans and the sexiest lizard skin boots on the planet. In chatting with her, you knew that there was a sparkling intellect and wisdom beyond her years. Very witty and a very sweet smile. Extremely articulate. The observer of the evening. Very observant and wry. She imbued us all with an excitement and interest in her upcoming adventure and we plied her with questions on the lead-up and plans for what she will soon be embarking upon. Not just a slight level of envy on our parts ... as well as pride in her accomplishment and confidence in her ability to make it an amazing journey.

Now. Miss FOT. Birthday girl and Gemini. Fabulous personality, funny as hell. Serious side ... get her talking about her work and you see a passion emerge. When I arrived, her hair was gathered in an updo and I didn't recognize her at first. A little into the evening, she let her hair down and the locks cascaded. She gregariously showed us her recent and BIG ASS tattoo, the catalyst for and meaning of she described in great detail. She is every bit as gorgeous as the photo on her blog and so were here peep toe shoes. Hilarious humour. She put a whole new, non-valley girl pronunciation twist on the TOH-tally. Multiple impersonations which I'm sure relate to her Gemini self. We were treated to a British FOT which was very entertaining! and NObody can emit a more appealing squeal of delight than this gal. Especially in the face of a tempting dessert. All this and yet you knew she could be very no-nonsense and in control, whenever and wherever necessary.

So I went in with one set of assumptions regarding character assignments. My new friends might be surprised because they've changed. for all of the right reasons, mesdames! *wink*

Function of Time - Miranda.
La Belette - Charlotte.
B - Carrie.

hmmmm. wait a minute. where does that leave me?!

I admit, I felt like the grande dame at the table. For a variety of reasons, I can very much relate to Samantha. Some might make their own assumptions about this comparison and I doubt that this post is the place to dissect them in detail. But I am ridiculously and fiercely independent. I can most definitely relate to and endorse love of the heels over head variety. I've been known to turn the tables on one or two men. But I'll have to leave the more detailed descriptions and observations to one of my dinner companions. I most certainly cannot lay claim to a physical resemblance being at least six inches shorter than the gorgeous gal. Never having been accused of being shy, however, I can also proudly embrace my inner sexpot. well there's that and, of course, I was absolutely the ... um ... most mature one there (and we aren't speaking about behavior).

Oh. I'm the two toned slip-on showing a little skin.

(postscript. It was fun using the topical nature of the movie, Sex And The City, to showcase our evening. But in addition to character comparisons, the validation of the true character of the four individuals involved was extremely gratifying.)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

prévision de ces bloggers de femmes.

I have to get on the road and drive to California, so I don't have the time to do justice to a review of a most satisfying evening. Until I can, I'm providing you with a few hors d'ouevres to whet your appetite.

We wanted to do a "guess the bloggess's cleavage" bit, but decided a "guess the bloggess's chaussures" would be a tad more circumspect.

yeah, we know. also a tad boring but isn't the trick to always leave'em wanting more? so for now I give 3 important elements of our evening.

cocktails. cake. chaussures.

(oh and please rush over to FOT's blog and wish her a happy birthday! we celebrated the coolness that was her last night. while you're there, tell her to get her butt in gear and get to blogging, won't you?)

Guess Who? (and yes, I have the SATC character assignments ready, never fear!)

Saturday, June 21, 2008

3 week send-off. or the bloggesses take Portland.

what better way to celebrate my 3 week countdown to my big French unknown than dinner and drinks with bloggess-extraordinaires such as La Belette Rouge and The World According to B, and maybe even Function of Time!

The rendez-vous is set for the ever fashionable Jo Bar, part of the Papa Haydn enterprise. of the delicious desserts and captivating cocktail fame.

Hey! there will be 4 of us fabulous women there! Kind of like our own little "Sex and the City" scene? hmmm. I'll have to report back on who is which character.... might be fun.

Don't you think it ever so kind for these talented women to commemorate my milestone in such a fashion?

well. okay. maybe it really wasn't about me. and I just kind of invited myself as a tag along. to bask in their glory and hope some of their writing mojo will rub off on me.

but it IS a coincidence worth reinventing in my favor, don't you agree?

Friday, June 20, 2008

my french connection. part deux.

Its been awhile, friends, but when we last left off ... my semi-foundling daughter had just been accepted into the bosom of bilingualism à la Ecole Bilingue de Berkeley.

Her first day at school was memorable. There I was, single working mother leading my already very independent daughter into the little school. Looking around at some of the other parents, we did stand out a bit. The American parents were mostly well heeled Berke-lonian types ... some academic and others looking every bit the corporate dad and trophy wives. Yes, one thing for certain was these parents were INVOLVED... both parents. So, no matter their wealthy backgrounds ... I will say that the large percentage were very present in their kids' lives.

The difference was the cost associated with that involvement. Not just the checks that would need to be written. But the days off to be in class, on class trips, at class functions, and fundraising. See, a whole lot of fundraising goes on in a private school. No matter how rich its student body. These costs were much higher for a parent like me ... but that is no different than thousands of other single moms throughout the land.

But anyway. When I went to gather my daughter at the end of the first day, she was quite upset.

"I kept asking where was the bathroom and no one would answer me!"

"Really?" I replied. "No one spoke to you?"

"Yes someone spoke to me Mommy", irritated. "But I couldn't understand them!"

You see, the Ecole Bilingue is an immersion school. During the first year, typically kindergarten, the children are fully immersed in French through play, songs, class activities. The children learn to read French before they learn to read English (assuming they haven't learned at home). As they progress in school, every subject is presented separately in French and in English. So there is French reading, grammar, spelling, etc. And French math, science, history. Exactly replicating school curriculae in France. Coupled with all of the same required courses in English. According to U.S. standards. Somehow they manage to fit it all in. Plus music and art and drama and physical education. It is really quite remarkable.

During the first few years, I became acquainted with the families of the kids in my daughter's class. When my son enrolled, this was the same for his class. Over the years, I became close with a few families who had sets matching mine (daugher and son, same age, same school). Some of these friendships remain until today.

During elementary school years, I didn't have any real connection with my own love of France except via my kid's education. Here and there, I took a French class. Or attended a function at the Alliance Française de Berkeley. But not much. Their language ability quickly surpassed my own. Finally, I paid them (!) to speak French with each other. Fifty cents an evening, we kept track on a sheet on the refrigerator ... and it would be added to their allowance if they managed 45 minutes or so!

Part of the EB experience is an exchange trip to France. During their 4th grade school year, the class corresponds with a class in France, near Paris. This culminates in an exchange trip, where a pack of 4th grade Frenchies arrive to stay with their correspondant ... and vice versa. Johnelle's trip took place right around the time the first Iraq war broke out. There was a huge degree of angst on the part of the parents, with several deciding at the last minute not to send their kid. Fear and misplaced paranoia overcame them.

Parents were encouraged to chaperone, but of course this wasn't an option for me ... still single parent with 2 kids in a school that required a king's ransom (or amazingly dexterous juggling of creditors) to support the experience.

But I could embrace the concept of hosting a French kid. Johnelle's correspondant was named Aude. A pretty, wispy girl with blonde hair and a sharp tongue. Johnelle and her were not a perfect match, but we made the most of the experience. And with that trip, my young 4th grade daughter was bitten by the travel bug.

This began a series of exchange hosting and our association with SWIFT. . I think it likely that I enjoyed the hosting more than my kids most times, although one visitor became a lifelong family friend and much like my 2nd daughter. My kids groused about having an extra kid around, having to attend the prerequisite get to know you picnics and several sightseeing trips while here. But I banked all of those visits towards the future. I became a go-to mom for the international exchange program. Something told me that my receptivity might pay off in the future.

When the time rolled around three years later, my son also had his exchange experience. I still had not set foot on French soil! My time would not come until much, much later.

My chance to cash in my chips, so to speak, with the exchange program came when my daughter was 17. A number of factors converged and we wanted to get her out of the bay area, with an opportunity to study elsewhere. My many years of assistance were reviewed, and the program director agreed to devise a special 4 month stay just outside of Paris, where she could attend art classes and live with a French family. We jumped on it!

The best part of this plan was finally, my time had also come. I was to go to France at the end of her stay, for a 2 week visit and tour. She would have the opportunity to show me around; and we would explore an unknown area of France together. I won't repeat what I've written before, really more the travel logistics of a first time visitor. But there are many things I'll cherish and chuckle over, regarding that 1st trip. Let me tell you, there's nothing quite like a trip to a foreign country with a teenage travel guide. Here's some of my favorite recollections and experiences:

Checking in to my little hotel, the Jeanne D'Arc and upon spying peeling wallpaper and no tub as promised, somehow making myself understood to the less than hospitable clerk that I WOULD see another room and right away. And receiving a new room promptly!

Walking for over an hour with my daughter in search of some nebulous, out of the way Tex Mex restaurant so she could have guacamole. We tromped and tromped, she couldn't find it. Finally, when my fury was about to erupt as well as her tears, we found it. Looking back, we both agree the food was terrible. But do we laugh!

Discovering a tiny little restaurant near my hotel in the Marais, le Grand Dane, hosted by a lovely elderly Danish woman. She presided over her postage stamp with maybe 8 tables as if it were haute cuisine at its finest. The food was tasty, the company divine. We returned again and again over the years, until sadly she finally closed.

Being dragged out to the Place des Vosges (one of my most favorite places on earth) at 11:00 p.m. to march the arcades in order to "walk off our dinner". My daughter was convinced that her love affair with Camembert had made her obese and this was the only way. Have I mentioned her inheritance of a hard Irish skull, complete determination, and ability to drive you absolutely bonkers if you don't concede to her will?

Hours upon hours of walking the city, particularly the Marais and Île Saint-Louis, with tears in my eyes at the untold beauty that is the museum and architectural wonder of the city of Paris.

Laughing fits in the basement rooms of the Louvre, where one can see the original stones and other fantasies which were once the foundation of a fortress in the heart of Paris, built to defend against the Normans and the dratted English invaders of the 13th century! Why were we laughing? who knows, it seems that my daughter was enacting a corpse scene at the moment.

An anecdote-filled TGV ride in what we thought were first class, no smoking seats only to find we were in a smoking coffin, I mean cabin ... and giggling our way through the cars as the train flew through the countryside, on our way to ....

Avignon! be still my heart. A most incredible ancient city, former papal seat for 6 or 7 popes and home to the most incredible Palais des Papes. This was a nearly unplanned visit, other than the train ticket. We arrived to rain, and ran down the main street's cobblestones near the train station ... darting in to a tiny hotel and navigating our stay.

Strolling a small park near the gorgeous Pont d'Avignon and listening to my now nearly grown daughter sing her childhood school song, Sur le Pont d'Avignon and feel the tears and pride swell, rapt amazement at the marvel that was me. That lonely, broken, striving, dreaming girl. The marvel that I was even still alive. Survivor. Now a woman. Accompanied by her daughter and revelling in the miracle of the moment that was my first foray into the land of my dreams.

I'll end there. I stumbled across some site the other day where you could have your blog posts rated for verbosity. Today, I think I'm about a 103 on a scale of 100.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Yeah, I know my last few posts have ranged from frippery to enervating. I'm tired. I worked my ass off yesterday (would that it were literally so ...) and thusly am in a purely visual mode.

A few pictures and comments is all I can muster up for the moment. I have another day of yard work and outwardly trivial tasks to check off as my big day draws near. she-womanry is no easy task.

There's some stuff percolating in the old writing coffer but it just ain't there at the moment. I think a nice long walk on the beach is going to bring it all together. That's my promised reward this afternoon if I'm a good she-hero and get all my miracles accomplished.

snaps cape. flies away.

its the little things.

no power tools involved.

I am she-woman, hear me roar. I singlehandedly cut, pruned, sawed, clipped, and piled a pick-up truck AND a trailer's worth of yard stuff yesterday. And then a very nice man from craigslist.org arrived with said truck and trailer to load and haul it off.

I even hand-sawed a tree in two for loading. (kisses the guns). THAT'S what I'm talkin' bout. *limps off*

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

better than nike.

While futzing around the internet on a break from home maintenance chores, I googled "do the unimaginable". I was seeking some inspiration.

I'm still reading through the multitude of interesting hits, but near the top of the list, Do Something appeared.

This is actually quite an interesting site for those of you who are charitably-minded. You can pick a cause of your interest and locate a plethora of opportunities to participate in volunteer efforts, propose a project, sponsor a cause.

They have a subscription service so you can get local volunteer opportunities, in the theme of your choosing, broadcast to your phone wherever you are.

You can read about topical issues there as well, they present news and other interesting information.

Worth a look/see.

getting ready to put up my dukes. my French dukes.

The times, they are a changin'. I've gone from a perfectly manicured Corporate Climber to a paint splattered, no fingernail-having do-it-yourself'er in the making.

I've been flexing my painting muscles on my bath walls, just doing some annual maintenance to get my little cabin waterproofed and ship/shape. (Next time, I'm going to be sure to don my gloves). I imagine these small projects as practice rounds. While sparring with my brush, I try to envision similar activities "en France".

So far, no luck. I just can't even imagine any of it. It is actually quite bizarre. Even though I've only had the one walkthrough of my property ... I have lots of pictures. But it ... pretty much none of it ... seems real! That's all right, I'm going to remain focused. In training. Readying for my opponent.

I'm confident when that bell rings, I'll come out swingin'. All obstacles will be down for the count.

Monday, June 16, 2008

in search of my inner happy.

Life is strange. so is blogging. I started this post a week ago, and put it on the back burner. Yes that is the original title. I've done that occasionally. Some have ended up revised, finished, posted; others not. And then this evening, I poured a glass of Heitz 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon...(mmmm)...and clicked on Google Reader. For a bit of a catch-up. Hadn't posted today, it being a busy task-filled day. Had something in mind called France Hands. After seeing Our Juicy Life's post on happiness and reading her interview ... I had to wash my hands of my hands idea, take a deep breath and return to the subject of my inner happy. sometimes you just have to listen to the universe.

The other stumbling block is that my blog is intended to be all about turning one success into another. Corporate success, reinvention success, super woman extraordinaire; see kids ... you can do it! Admitting to a missing happy gene just doesn't seem to fit the formula. So readers beware. Kim's coloring outside the lines with this one.

ahem. (don't worry. that was an ahem. not a self-CPR cough attempting to intervene on a massive cardiac episode).

So. where was I? ah, yes. Many words have been used to describe me throughout my life. For every good reason, happy isn't one of them. Maybe as a verb. "Kim is happy with the project ... report card ... coq au vin". But as an adjective describing my persona ... my core being ... nahh, not so much. Now that doesn't mean I am morose.

I think the number of times I could count myself happy in the truest of senses would be achievable on my left hand. Now I'm not talking the above kind of happy. The I watched Chris Rock and happily laughed my ASS off. or the finally got a great haircut happy. the grooved out contentedly listening to any number of soul satisfying tracks by Billie Holiday or Django Reinhardt or John Coltrane or James Morrison or Al Green or Agustin Lara or countless others on my iPod. or had lip numbing, brain freezing, free flowing, mind blowing monkey *love*. (sorry kids, hide your eyes). All of those are a different kind of happy entirely.

I'm talking about the kind of happy that is giving birth to the 2 most beautiful babies on the planet. bar none. ask anyone. I honestly don't know how I pulled that one off and if I were to pray ever in life, it would be that somehow I didn't fuck that one up. (there's 2 of my limited digit list). Or the laying on the wooden bedroom floor of the house I had dreamed for and longed for and cried for and saved for and fought for until I was 37 years old and somehow fooled them all into letting me have. never mind I couldn't afford a refrigerator or curtains or much of anything else. We just played camping for a couple of months, putting a Coleman cooler in the nook where the refrigerator belonged. and then rented one. (that's 3. digits, that is). And maybe, just maybe, when the final papers arrived for my house in Brantome with a yellow sticky advising me that finally it was done. the kind of happy where when someone asks, "Are you happy?", you can wholeheartedly affirm without skipping a beat.

But even the above were targeted moments of happiness. To be honest, I really can't provide a definition of what it means to be happy. I've been very defensive about happiness. My daughter, in one of those classic mother/daughter rows once used my lack of happiness as proof of my motherly shortcomings. As much as I tried then and other times to deny it, ultimately I must admit she is correct.

There are a number of contributing factors. First off, I'm a good part Irish. yeah I know, leprechauns and rainbows. But most of the Irish I know only get happy-go-lucky after a toss or 2. We tend to be a bit on the dark side. Something to do with being stuck on the island with all of that rain, I suppose. My other part is mostly French with a dash of Austrian. None of these ancestral beginnings are exactly joyous in nature.

Another factor, that will perhaps provide fodder for future blogging, is the entirely dismal first 21 years of my existence. I have to say friends, that my first 40 years were just unbelievably hard work. In every sense of the word. Forgive me for not tap dancing my way through it all. (see what I mean, lack of happy makes one sound defensive).

Lastly. And most importantly of all. I'm really not sure I buy into the whole Happy thing. Now I hesitate in writing that because it might put off my audience. potential future friends. possible partners. people I might need in the future to provide me with employment options. I'm taking a risk with this one. Some certain number of you are likely to think less of me.

Well then. I read OJL's post with care and interest. I mean, how much more eerily coincidental? Was some secret force calling out to me. "look over here Mancha. There really IS an inner happy". When I dissect the 5 principals presented in OJLs post, there are certainly aspects I agree with. in theory. and in reality. and I think much of it will work for a lot of people. I probably could benefit from a little focus on numbers 4 and 5.

Many of my "yes's" to happy questions are in response to big ass, knock down, drag outs that are interspersed with shouts of "great, now are you FUCKING HAPPY?????!!!!" or "Are you happy NOW???". or how about the classic "NOTHING I DO WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY". whatever.

But let me say this. I don't think that LACK of the happy gene equals negativity. moroseness. Not at all. I believe, and many who know me I believe would agree that I'm a glass half full kind of person. A "let's get 'er done" gal. An afficionado of the "how can we" versus "why we can't" approach. That doesn't mean I'm a happy camper. I'm just not an affirmation and positivity kind of gal. Doesn't mean I can't appreciate those who are.

But I am not up for changing my core. My inner cloudiness. I write from my gut. I believe all writers do. We need angst. We need cynicism and sarcasm and pain and tragedy and dark clouds and tears. The well of tears is where all writing springs eternal. Except for self- help and new age tomes. Okay the well of tears and lots of booze. These are the life water of meaningful writing.

Take a look at Anne Lamott. I turned cartwheels upon reading my first Anne Lamott book. Hard Laughter. Rosie. Crooked Little Heart. that's some real shit, people. I crawled in the bottle with her. Fucking A, when she went dry her author's spirit died on the vine with her. Sorry Ms. Lamott groupies. It is true. Save for her Writing Instructions book; she went all dry and happy and self-helpy. Her story telling DNA done disappeart. If I want spiritual instruction, I'll fucking go to church thank you very much. (when hell freezes over).

The world's greatest Irish authors wrote from the scabby depths of despair. Yeats wasn't waxing poetic about the power of positive thinking. James Joyce wasn't gliding on happy to produce his work. I don't think Beckett's "More Pricks than Kicks" was extolling the virtues of smiling.

Don't get me wrong.

My soul needs to be around happy people. I feed on it. it is life affirming and like a trip to the beach in June. Ahhhh. basking in other's happiness. I find the fact that other people can so easily be happy a resolutely optimistic occurrence. Just as I view those who get married. I mean how much more fucking optimistic can someone be than to walk down the aisle, proclaim their love and troth their asses for eternity? Thank you OJL for reminding me just how important the confidently happy people of the world are to all of us.

There are times I have envied happy people. That upon self-reflection I am convinced there IS something wrong with me. Will I ever be happy with a capital "H"? or will I at least be able to describe a definition of what is happy? Because frankly, even after this verbal dump, I just do not have a clue. In pondering this matter, In reflecting upon OJLs recommendations, In reviewing my history ... tears flow.

but just as one needs sunscreen, I have my own version of happyscreen. I have far too many suitcases in my baggage collection to jump on the happy train.

I worked at a corporate enterprise once upon a time that adopted one of those catchy marketing phrases for advertising campains. something along the lines of "At Blankety blank blank, we don't want you just to survive, we help you succeed."

I'll take survival. thank you very much. that and a helping of looking forward, not back, today.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

father's day.

Thankfully I've met a few good fathers along the way, not having the good fortune to experience a good father of my own.

I've observed men in the world who try to get it right with their own children. and really, that is all any of us can do. make the effort. diligently. establish your own code. live by it.

So to those dads I know that want(ed) to be the best dad they can be ... thanks, recognition, appreciation, kudos. you give the fatherless hope. and you give those fathers-in-waiting a model to aspire to.

Dads I admire for giving it their best:

Floyd Carter
Uncle Alan
Uncle Steve
Grampa Art
Aaron & Luke
Paul W.
Johnny S.
David W.

enjoy the commercially crafted beauty of your day, and remember we dig you the other 364 just as much.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

4 weeks. yep yep.

let the anxiety begin.

as a very nice gesture and in light of recent news events, a good friend sent me an article on self-CPR! Knowing the amount of time I spend alone, she thought it would be good info to have. A little more research reveals opinions are mixed ... but still ... thank you KD!

in this period of frantic anticipation, pending unknown, and chaotic frenzy ... who knows? there may be more than one coughing fit in my future.

*ahem.. cough cough. cough coUGH COUGH!*

ps. I had cookies for dinner to calm my nerves. cookies and red wine.

(image credit: www.mind-body-science.com)

Friday, June 13, 2008

a hunk a hunk of burning love. yeah.

ever since I can remember, I've wanted to be a part of the reading experience. as a child, I was a voracious reader. In first and second grade, I was the irritating child with her hand up volunteering to display my reading prowess. In third grade, nirvana presented itself in the form of the SRA program. My California elementary school class introduced a self-paced reading class. For the entire year, I could read my way through as many books as possible. I ended the year ready for junior high. well almost. I completed nearly 3 years worth of reading education.

I had a very troubled childhood and my escape was books. I think I might have been one of the few children punished for too much reading! "Kimberlee Paige, get your nose out of that book and go outside and PLAY!" Being an only child of parents who moved a lot (among other things) didn't foster a plethora of playmates. I had a set of junior classics that I made short order of. But returned to again and again. Chowed my way through Laura Ingalls Wilder. Early on, I tended to get the fever for authors and themes. Prairie life. Austen. Dickens. Lonely children struggling to survive. Anne Frank. Holocaust books. By junior high school, I was sneaking books home that wouldn't have been approved. Kafka. Tolstoy. Solzhenitsyn. Bukowski. Eldridge Cleaver. Hell, I can't even remember half of the authors. I typically (and to this day) read several books at a time, my appetite was voracious and seemingly unappeasible.

I hit freshman year having exhausted many school libraries. I used my one precious elective to enroll in the creative writing class. In the first week of class, we read a short story where one of the main characters was a writer. A young writer. Whose routine was to go to lunch every day to a diner in San Francisco, and have a hamburger and coffee. Coffee from those chunky beige china mugs that are so common and dinerly. Upon consuming said hamburger, young author sat drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, observing the opera unfold and writing about it. Over 30 years later and that story's details remain with me, clear as day.

That was it. The flame was lit. The picture painted by that author, about the young writer ... was so vivid ... so appealing. I could envision everything in the scene. I could taste that burger. I could smell the smoke in my hair. I was transported. I knew then and there I wanted to do what that author had done. What countless authors I had been having a not-so-secret, lifelong affair with had done. I wanted a shitload of readers, clamoring for moi.

One of our first short story assignments was doled out. My story was about a concert I had attended at the Circle Star Theater. I had been allowed to attend with my step-aunt. (all of my stepfather's family will forever retain the step-title. end of story.) It was a big ass deal for me to be able to go to that concert.

I'll never forget that grade of "A". My first creative writing assignment. First story written. Big old A. Lots of superlatives in the margins. Someone complimenting MY voice! An adult someone. Ms. Padgett, to be exact! There were a series of those "A's" to follow. I felt the fire, folks.

Throughout my life, I have continued to write in bouts. There were years I couldn't go a day without writing. My voice has been silent the last 8 or 10 years. I gave up writing for climbing ladders. Until this blogging thing. I'm kind of raspy. Haven't really hit a groove yet. But I have flashes of my old inspiration. Some of the lines and paragraphs have pleased me. When I write, it is usually just a big free form flow. It is like the stories are in there, just waiting to elbow their way to the front of the line and speak out. I've never understood authors who plot out a story. I mean, like write from an outline.

I think some of the novelists have done that. Having found a formula. I'm speaking of the Jackie Collins form of writing. Can be an entertaining read. Having never read any autobiographical insights into Ms. Collins, I guess I am really talking out of my ass. Maybe she starts with a few of her characters first, I don't know.

I'm not far enough along to know how it should work. I mean, the kind of writing that isn't telling life stories. Other than short stories.

Some girls dreamed of being a wife. Some a ballerina. Some a doctor or lawyer. For me, from the age of 13 or so, I wanted to be a writer. Where did that girl go? How did she get sidetracked and waylaid? well, that my friends is a whole other story. or ten. ones that I am sure will be told.

How about you? has your flame of burning love burned long and bright? or is it a flicker?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

courage. adventure. endurance.

my great-grandmother Margaret (Stangl) Carter was quite a woman. I was given cause to think of her today when reading Halfway to France's comments on not being a wearer of pants. Shocked at the revelation, it made me think of my great-grandmother who for years refused to wear pants. That led me to comment about even a woman who lived in sod houses and prairie times eventually gave in and made herself a pair of polyester pants. Then I started thinking about Margaret. (see how my mind works? I mean rambles? Think YOU find it irritating, pity me ... I've had to live with this all my life!)

Anyway, back to Margaret. I'm going to tell you a little bit about her story, as I know it ... passed down through the years and maybe not 100% accurate. but I'm sure 98%. Well, I'll guarantee 95% and in today's media, that ain't so bad.

Margaret came from a big family in Austria. I mean, she had like 7 or 8 brothers and sisters. She lived in a castle. I used to think that was romantic until I found out they lived in rooms in the castle. Which was old and decrepit. But anyway. Margaret had an uncle who had emigrated to the United States. In 1911, when Margaret was about 14, her uncle Josef and his wife Bertha came back to Austria for a visit. He offered to take any of the family back with him when he returned. Get them set up. He had a big ranch in Java, South Dakota. Well a big property. Farming and animals and the like. And no one to really help him. He had a wife, but as I know it ... they had no children.

Well, no one in the vast Stangl brood was willing to take up Uncle Josef on his offer. No one, that is except Margaret. Margaret thought this sounded exciting. "Weren't you scared, Grandma?". soft chuckle. "Well, I thought it would be an adventure you know. And Uncle Josef promised to send me back in four years." So not one of those other Stangl kids, including the many boys took the trip. Margaret's mother made the uncle promise 2 things. He would send her home in 4 years and he would make sure she remained a Catholic.

Margaret slept with her aunt the first year she arrived, as she was afraid to sleep alone. Margaret didn't speak English and her early years of adapting were hard. But she did it.

Well, the years passed and WWI erupted and there was no return in sight for Margaret. No Catholic church either. Margaret caught the eye of a handsome son on a neighboring horse ranch. Floyd Alan Carter was taken with Margaret when they crossed paths at a town dance. Floyd was enlisted in the Army but the war ended before he was sent overseas.

Margaret and Floyd married. They lived in South Dakota for many years before tiring of destitution in the tough land. The moved west to Roseburg, Oregon.

Why do I prattle on about Margaret? well. the talk of women and pants got me thinking about Margaret. She never returned to Europe. She never saw her mother, her father, her beloved brothers and sisters again. She never worshipped again in a Catholic church. She slowly lost her native tongue, although I can remember her singing in German. and speaking a few phrases. She and her family wrote back and forth in the early years.

I often asked my great-grandmother why she never returned, later in life. There were a number of implausible excuses, the plane ride (she eventually had done and there was always a boat). The money (in later years, they could well afford it. Even as tight as my great-grandmother was!).

I wonder did she use up all of her courage in that first journey. As tremendous as it was ... did it change her in ways I'll never understand? Margaret Carter was a woman of endurance. I think her life ended up being a series of challenges to be endured. Endless ship ride. vast plains and prairies. sod houses. unforgiving dust and dirt and wind. multiple births. only one daughter alive. I also know she had an enduring love for her husband and family. In the end, endurance was adventure enough.

I come from a series of enduring women. I, too, am a survivor. Unlike my great-grandmother, I'm discovering my courage for adventure a bit later in life. I hope I do as well as Margaret.

I have some pictures to rustle up and share a bit later.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

shameless promotional skullduggery.

I'm not past it. Right now at Je Suis Mignonne we are selling the very hot and totally exclusive poster commemorating our 1 year anniversary and designed only for us by Hannah Stouffer. Hannah Stouffer of the Grand Array fame. The ever-so talented illustrator and graphic artiste extraordinaire whose commercial work has been commissioned and appreciated by Benefit cosmetics, 1800 Tequila, Vanilla Coke, Ready Made magazine, indie pop band Au Revoir Simone to name a few.

Hannah and my daughter Johnelle, attended art school together and she has been a terrific supporter of ours, and vice versa. I'm telling you, it is an honor to see young women of talent and creativity find their way in the world so successfully.

But getting back to the poster! It is a lovely ready-to-frame 12"x18" art piece that is unique and feminine ... kind of like our shop! and many of my readers! Affordably priced, I think you just might want to spring for one for you AND a friend! It is available only at Mignonne. You can buy it online and we'll ship it to you ... simple and pain-free beauty, what more could you ask for? well okay. if you are personally opposed to skullduggery, at least tell a friend. (told you I was shameless).

Monday, June 9, 2008

poetic pause.

I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain'd,
I stand and look at them long and long ...

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,

They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented with the mania of owning things,

Not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years ago,
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

- Walt Whitman
from "Song of Myself" (1855)

for bête de jour, in remembrance of his recently lost Pablo.

day 33 helpful tips.

One of the loose ends remaining to be tied is ... what to do about mail? I mean I already have mail going somewhere I don't reside and then I'm moving in 33 days and who do I know who can pick up my mail and then what to do with it all?

Well, you folks may already be on the money with this one, but for those who aren't I did a little research and came up with Earth Class mail, a mail handling servicer located right here in Beaverton, Oregon! They offer real street addresses (Seattle, Beaverton) and a number of PO Box addresses scattered across the U.S.

This company receives your envelopes and sends you online images of the outside of the envelope ... you select which you want destroyed (shredded) or opened and further scanned, page by page, for your review and resolution. You can also have them forward you the physical mail to an address anywhere in the world. They will retain an archive of your mail, per your request.

They are bonded and insured. They hire employees with government security clearance (including many retired veterans). In fact, they don’t allow any recording devices into the mail handling area, not even pencils. You pay a flat fee based on your volume (starts at $9.95/month), and they also offer business service. You have to submit a notarized request of service which proves it is YOU requesting your mail change. So it would be pretty difficult for someone to defraud by way of this service. They have a first month free offer, which I have enrolled in and will report back to you with my evaluation of their service.

If it works, it sounds perfect. I have a similar, independent bill payment service (Paytrust) which I've used for years with success.

Here are some independent assessments of the service I located via Google. By independent, I mean they weren't obtained from the company's testimonial page: Review #1, Review #2 and Review #3.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

practicing for france. five weeks.

I guess I'm not happy unless I have a project or 2. and task lists. *chuckle* I am currently residing in a seaside cabin until I depart for France. I've only ever stayed here for a few nights at a stretch, having been too caught up in my old life of 9-5 and lots of work travel. Fortunately, friends and family used the place enough to make it seem viable to me to keep.It was a pretty ramshackle little place when I bought it. In 2006, I put some work into the interior, ripping out the floors and walls and a window and a door ... (well I should say, I hired someone to put some work into it). I reworked the design layout, and we also added a nice deck to the front with two french doors (a favorite of mine) that can be thrown open in the rare event the sun emerges from those Oregon clouds. Not much else has been done to the exterior ... a few plants here and there but no major landscaping. I like the natural effect, my neighbors less so I imagine.Now that I've been here full time for a whole week ... I assembled a list of tasks that need to be done. I feel so industrious today after visiting my local hardware store (I adore local hardware stores ... so more appealing than those nameless big box places). I am now equipped to take on some maintenance issues. Living in coastal weather is an ongoing battle between human and the sea air. Moisture, in this case, is a woman's enemy! Little water stains and mildew bordering on mold spots spring up seemingly overnight. My hardware man advised on an anti-fungicidal spray remover and inhibitor. Next, a primer with stain blocker. Finally a new coat of fresh paint. Wait 3 months. Repeat!

I also have some new household pets, I mean pests. Monsieur Carpenter Ant awaits to carry off my little abode, crumb by crumb. My hardware man armed me with an anti-Monsieur Ant spray for the perimeter and interior of the house. Apparently it creates an invisible wall no ant dares to penetrate. Take THAT! hoh-hoh-hoh!

Then of course will come a couple of applications of weed & feed to my oversized lot to curb weeds, mosses and encourage the grasses to thicken. A goat would be in heaven with my knee high grasses. I've "weed-eated" some paths and clearings, but left grasses as well ... I refuse to give in to clipped lawns and edged beds throughout the neighborhood.

I'm flexing my DIY muscles in advance ... little projects these, which will build my confidence towards the bigger challenges that await me. This may all sound rather mundane to most of you. But after all my many years in cubicleland, these small projects are actually fun and seem more satisfying when accomplished. Look out Brantôme, here I come!

Friday, June 6, 2008

happy(er) travels.

Hey all you pet lovers out there quaking in your boots about the big flight for your babies. I discovered a natural remedy, Happy Traveler - all natural calming product, that seems will work, and came with endorsement of several fellow pet lovers. These fellows went to the doggie spa, otherwise known as Urban Fauna, this week for a shave and a haircut. We won't talk about how the rain has messed up their $50 do's. While there I investigated travel remedies. This is a trusted pet location ... I've been going for years and they love our four legged friends. The propriétaire told me she tested the formula on herself before giving it to her pet (which she claims is her practice, that is love and dedication for you) ... it is an all natural formula with the main properties being Valerian and St. John's Wort. She felt positive effects and witnessed them on her dog as well.

Needless to say I snapped it up. Not sure I'll be trying it on me until I board the plane ... but who knows! many folks who know me might encourage a daily dosage! And my friends at Our Juicy Life, Function of Time, La Belette Rouge ... I'll keep you posted on my tests on my little guys ... you may want the details for your loved ones.

By the way, I was thinking of pursuing product endorsement contracts for my dogs ... but Louis (pronounced the french way) is completely uncooperative. Being a bichon and convinced he is royalty ... he did his damnedest to scoot as far AWAY from the bottle as possible. His attitude was "touch me not and if that bottle touches me ... well, YOU take the risk if you want, I am not responsible. God, I am SO above this!" You'd think I'd sat him next to a skunk or something. Bruno on the other hand was his usual "here I am, look at me, let me lick you incessantly, watch me cock my head, aren't my eyes deep pools of liquid chocolate?" self. frikking adorable, the both of them. hmmmph.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

slightly buggy.

Day 37 finds me going just a little buggy. Certainly I'm happy to be sleeping in a REAL bed and all. But it has rained every day since I got here. Yeah I know it is Oregon and all but come ON it is June 5th. grrrr.

And since I am NO Oregonian I'm just not inspired to say ha, ha HAH ... liquid sunshine ... and tromp around in the freezing wetness with a big ole merde-mange'ing grin on my face!! ha-RUMPH!

So today's houseboundedness finds me camera in hand, taking a little snap of these adorable ladies I picked up last time in Paris. The last time I was in Paris was my househunting trip, combined with buying trip, I took with my daughter, Johnelle. She flew in by way of London and was excited to tell me that design stickers were all the rage in Europe. Not only had she seen them everywhere but Elle Décor UK confirmed it. Once we arrived in Paris, it was true ... they were everywhere! There were stickers for the kitchen, the living room, kids' rooms. There were stickers for windows and walls and furniture. There were botanical, ultra-modern, geometric, old world designs. Maps and boats and flowers and people. Gold and silver and black and white and every color in between.

So being the designaholics that we are. We bought. lots of samples! for the coast, I bought birds and bugs and snails. and calming phrases. quirky and fun.

I can't wait to install some ... en France. *mind wanders .... sigh*

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

gather round little cupcakes.

I've been bad. very bad. the debbil made me do it. (Honest, Stacey!)

Apparently residing in the topsy-turvy other world of non-employment has turned my head upside down. I have somehow confused the idea of a weight LOSS diet and a weight GAIN diet. So much so, that today I ate TWO desserts!!! and one of them felt sneaky. even though I didn't plan it that way.

I had lunch with my friend Stacey today. We met at an old haunt of mine in Portland's Pearl district ... Piazza Italia. Now if you are ever in that particularly seductive area of Portland (not much more appealing to a gal than the pearl) ... you must go there. Their specialty is simple, well prepared Italian dishes. Stacey had the Squarciarella and I the gnocchi. Their bread was perfectly italian, chewy crust, fresh and tasty innards ... not that fake air stuff. We had wine (yum) and then ... I ordered dessert. Not just ANY dessert mind you. but Piazza Italia's jaw dropping Affogatto. The first time I had this dessert I thought I had died and gone to Neiman Marcus' shoe department. It was THAT amazing. and yet ridiculously, in fact DECEPTIVELY simple. You take a frosty iced dessert glass. You add 2 scoops of the most decadent vanilla ice cream or gelato you can find. Using the absolute BEST, FRESHEST coffee beans ... you prepare a shot of espresso and chill it. or let it cool off. whatever. you pour this over the ice cream. top it with fresh whipped cream. devour. sex on a spoon I tell you SEX ON A SPOON!!!!

Stacey eyed me dubiously when I ordered said dessert. "large sigh. I guess I won't be visiting Saint Cupcake after all". My greedy ears perk up. "Saint Cupcake? you wanted to go there? I hadn't even thought of it!" (starts salivating disappointedly) then ... bright shiny thing arrives - Affogatto!!! Stacey dips her spoon and then her eyes roll to the back of her head as she is transported to ... Affogatto where but it was heavenly. It was quite entertaining to watch the two of us attempt to politely share this one dish. her spoon. then my spoon. then her spoon (won't she hurry up???) then mine .... presto change-o, no more affogatto!

So as if that meal weren't MORE THAN ENOUGH ... we proceed to knock around the Pearl, and then we part ways for our next appointments. I finish up my 2 errands in downtown Portland, and I'm heading for the freeway when, suddenly and completely out of my control, my car is pulled by some invisible yet Superman-strong force up one block and a left where lo and behold, a miraculously empty parking space awaits just at the curb of .... SAINT CUPCAKE!!!

As mentioned previously, this sly saint fools you into believing you are only HALF bad if you order the dots (mini-cupcakes). But I couldn't decide and now they are so far away from Seaside and so of course to be economical I had to order SIX. cost of gas and all.

So there they are folks. Nestled in their pink box. That's a Fat Elvis on the top left (banana cake with peanut butter fudge frosting and a banana chip for good measure). I already ate one *burp*. The flirty little hussy to his right is Lemon Berry ... yep, yep. Lemon Cake and blueberries in the frosting. Smack dab in the center is Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese frosting. mmmm. Lower Left is the turtle! Chocolate cake ensconced in Butterscotch with a walnut half. The toasty number on the bottom right is Coconut. Vanilla cake with toffee brittle and Toasted Coconut frosting.

The only thing lowfat on my dessert menu was the ice cold 2% milk I washed down Elvis with.

I used to have a saying at work that the only surprises I wanted were the kind that came in little blue boxes. My one true confession at the altar of Saint Cupcake? I've got it bad. I need the kind of surprises that come in little pink boxes. And that ain't good.

Bless me sisters for I have sinned. *my tummy hurts.*

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

daring to think ahead. a little.

so now major hurdles that just weeks ago seemed so formidable and imposing have been cleared. three moves. items packed. items sold. items discarded. remains stored. homes cleaned. homes rented. dogs inspected and chipped and documented. visa obtained. hotels rented. cars rented. car purchased.

the originally daunting and long list has diminished dramatically. sure there are remaining tasks. no milestones. other than boarding the plane. worrying about the dogs on the flight over.

but I've reached a juncture. can I now begin to think about the life that awaits me? my friends, it has been well over a year since I laid eyes on my home in Brantôme. the purchase of my home was long and drawn out. to be told in a future blog. a 9 month process! yeah, I get the significance of the number! I haven't seen my home since I first made the offer to purchase it. it is an ephemeral, intangible remembrance at the moment.

there it has sat. unattended. a bit forlorn. it has been so long, that to recall all of the details of the floorplan, i have to rummage through my paperwork. look at photos. plot maps. call my daughter for reference points. when I bought the house, I had some concrete dreams for it. design-wise.

but now I'm pulling back. the state of the dollar, the state of my finances ... will mean a more modest approach. the major renovations I envisioned (kitchen and new bath) will most likely give way to paint, sanding, elbow grease. one appliance at a time. design in phases. scrupulously trying to retain as much of the age as possible, while improving the functionality where possible.

this much I know. I have a hot water boiler! hoo-Rah! and oil heat in radiators! oh-Kay! I have old wood floors and old stone fireplaces and ratty ceiling material disguising old old beams. I have bugs. and helpful hints about spraying lots of them in the manner the French swear by. I have overgrown gardens and rusty gates and an old stone well. I have beautiful old plants in hibernation, awaiting some love and nurturing.

I've decided to focus on what I have versus what I don't. How to make what I have work well and what I don't have as unnecessary as possible.

I found a lovely article, written brusquely by some irritable, slightly huffy sounding French person, describing the french provincial kitchen. how wholely unneeded are so many items that other nationalities design their kitchens with. very tut tut and tsk tsk (hmm, maybe the author was a closet Brit?!). Kitchens are for preparing FOOD. not displaying. not visiting. non. non. non. but I have also gleaned a lot of good inspiration from this article. clean. functional. basic. useful. compact. all very helpful themes for an old french kitchen.

Well simplicity is good but the kitchen is the stomach of the home. the way to our hearts. the warmth and love should radiate and entice. a place to congregate. not just churn out jaw dropping gourmet cuisine.

I chide myself for trying to attempt designs and ideas in my head when my recollections can be quite off the mark after all this time. be patient. wait till you get there. then you can start your new life in full! but my visions keep returning. (I'm rambling here....yep yep).

Then I remind myself of what a dear fellow I know said to me when I wrote to inform him of my big life changes, that I was moving to France to start my new life. He replied kindly, "your new life has already started!". (thank you Bill, that was an epiphanous moment!) Coming from someone who has actually transformed his life towards his passion, that meant so much.

So despite my internal scolding, I'm starting my dreaming immediately. dammit. not a moment to lose.

day 38. all is good. or as my mirror reminds me. tout est bien.


no, not my age (I wish!)...39 days and counting. today is the first day I can actually say "c'est fini" regarding household moving. I polished the last floor yesterday on my home in Hillsboro, Oregon. Every last stick of furniture, item of clothing and all various and sundry items are removed. Walls are painted, carpets shampooed, rooms cleaned and now ... floors polished. It is up for rent and I have a couple of prospects. Goodbye Suburbia.

The remainder of my time will be spent in Seaside, Oregon (hello, coastal paradise) where I have a little cabin. I will try and snap some photos during my remaining days. Here is one, taken today. A view from my little living room looking out to the front of my property. It is a rainy morning ... so this little corner would be a good place to curl up with a book and watch the raindrops slide down the glass.

Did I mention what a treat it is to be sleeping in a REAL bed again?! well then.

Okay, so another interesting thing about living on the coast is I have NO cable. So basically no television sound bytes. Instead I have internet sound bytes. and radio. And may I just ask what the HELL is going on with the Democratic Primary?? Is someone going to have to kidnap the Clintons to make it end? Does anyone else get the feeling that they are dragging it out while either A-they wait in hopes of some scandal to appear regarding Obama or B-they work to reveal some scandal regarding Obama? I mean, it seems to me that with each day that now passes she is eroding her credibility and her dignity. If they seriously are considering waiting to concede until the convention, they are even more selfish than one might suspect. That would leave roughly 3 months for Obama to run an undistracted campaign versus John McCain. Maybe I am missing some key piece of information due to the fact I have no television news coverage? (yeah right).