Sunday, March 26, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Fear and Jubilation

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Is it possible to be over-the-moon excited about something and petrified at the same time?
That's how I'm feeling these days.
Our plans to sell the house and move to France are progressing. Downstairs right now, some men are updating the bathroom and installing a new floor in the main room.
We are slowly getting rid of furniture, a bookshelf here, a spare refrigerator there, trips to Goodwill each week with books and clothes and kids' items that we no longer need. School papers, pictures, and books that we can't bear to part with are tucked into plastic bins. We'll probably go through them again and again, slowly releasing items that we can't possibly move overseas.
The purging of belongings feels marvelous, freeing.
The living room is painted and free of clutter. I could definitely feel secure showing the living room to potential buyers, but there's much more work to do.
So where's the fear?
Every time I think about that day when we climb onto the plane leaving our three children behind, my heart clutches. Can I really do that? Say goodbye knowing that I won't see them for six months, a year?
Of course, when they went to college, Grace in New York, Spencer in Florida, I survived without seeing them for three months. We managed to stay in contact.
Maybe it would be easier if they had moved away. Then the twinge of guilt wouldn't eat at me.
I guess I'm always the one who has left. After grad school, I packed up and moved to Florida, 1200 miles from my parents. We didn't have cell phones so once-a-week phone calls and letters had to fill the daily gap of contact.
My two oldest children encourage us to go. My youngest, 21 now, has accused us of abandoning him, but that has been a few months so his feelings may have changed. He has his own apartment, but I guess the idea that we wouldn't be here as a safety net seems scary to him. To me, too.
I am sad to sell this house and leave our community. It's like a 1950s enclave, except liberal. It has an incredibly low crime rate and excellent schools. We walk to the library and an array of coffee shops and restaurants. An Irish bar blares out music on St. Patrick's Day and the latest California-style bar celebrates Cinco de Mayo. Pretty much everything we need is within walking distance, including Earl's job, 3 miles away and my job, 4 miles away. We can bike into downtown Columbus, or walk when we have an extra hour.
But I've dreamed of living in France.

We've visited over and over again. In May, I'll take my 12th trip to France.
And Earl's dreams are filled with retirement plans. He has worked as a reporter for 40 years. It's a grueling business that eats up his days -- sometimes 12-hour days, and causes his eyes to pop open in the middle of the night, worried about making a mistake in a story.
He allowed me to stay home with the kids and I only worked part-time jobs while he carried the brunt of the financial burden. I owe him this. I need to support him in his retirement and carry the financial load for a bit.
Once he retires, we couldn't afford to stay here in this house, plus to pay for insurance and student loans and other expenses. So a move is in our future.
Setting off on an adventure is challenging. In every Disney movie, the main character dreams of what could be out there and something propels her.
I guess it's time to be my own Disney hero, no matter my fears.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Recreating Families

Creating families can be a funny, coincidental thing -- unless it's not.
I met my husband in Florida. We both worked for The Tampa Tribune. I lived in Clearwater and he lived in St. Petersburg. He was in a dying marriage and I was a fresh, straight-out-of-grad school 24-year-old.
On the outside, it would seem like the two of us did not have a lot in common, but once we got to know each other, we discovered that we both came from Ohio, a state about 1200 miles north of Florida.
And we both were born into families with four children, and they fell in parallel genders, girl, boy, girl, boy for both of us. So that's a coincidence.
Next we learned that both of us had lost our oldest sisters. His sister died at 36 when she was hit by a drunk driver. My oldest sister died at age 18 in the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire.
That left both of our families with two boys and one girl.

Now, about 29 years after we met, we find ourselves with a family made up of one daughter and two sons, having recreated the families we came from.
When the kids were little, I did wish that Grace could have a sister. Maybe I wanted to mirror the family that I grew up in.
I don't often think about the coincidence of my family and Earl's family, except when I get names all muddled in my head.
If I'm feeling protective toward one of the boys I might call them Kevin, the name of my younger brother. And the other day, thinking about Grace, I instead called her Tammy in my head.
I listened to an NPR story called "When the Brain Scrambles Names, It's Because You Love Them" about how certain names, names for family, friends, co-workers, all get put into different compartments and that's why people (mothers and fathers especially) call their children by the other kids' names or even their pets' names, because they are all in the family compartment.
But I do wonder, did Earl and I intentionally create a family like the ones we grew up in -- or was it just luck that the dominoes fell to create our right-sized family.
What do you think? Coincidence or do we intentionally create or avoid the families we had?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review -- The Enemies of Versailles

I read the first two books by Sally Christie in the Mistresses of Versailles series and enjoyed them, but my favorite might be this final book The Enemies of Versailles. The books stand alone, but it's intriguing to read them in order to see how King Louis XV evolved from a religious, devoted husband to a man who resisted the efforts of his family to force him back to the church as his guilt ate away at him.
But the books are not told through the viewpoint of the king, instead, for this final book, we see the world of Versailles through one of his daughters, Adelaide, and his last mistress Jeanne du Barry. Perhaps there were never two women more different. Adelaide was born as a princess of France. She avoided marrying so she could stay in the luxury of Versailles, and although she tried to do good works, she always followed etiquette and thought the poor should stay in their place. She never had any sympathy for the plight of those outside the chateau.
Jeanne, however, was born into a poor family and went to school at a convent. Her beauty propelled her into the wealth of Versailles and the arms of the King, but she always had a kind heart, even for those who hated her.
This book is full of rich details that help the readers feel as if they are at Versailles, sharing the gossip and the intrigue, but also the emotions of the historical characters. Good historical fiction is a great way to get a grasp on the times the characters lived through, and this one does that. It has stuck with me through the end when (spoiler alert/not really) the French Revolution sees the next king Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette beheaded.
The actions of the king and all of the people in Versailles feel so real as I finished the book last week and saw the health care plan and the budget put out by  the Congress and President of the United States. It makes me realize that the people in power, again, have no idea what middle class and working people are going through.
This book is a fast read and whimsical escape into the past, at least until the end when the reality of repeating history might jar the reader.
I highly recommend it.
If you live in the U.S. or Canada, you can win a copy of The Enemies of Versailles by leaving a comment on my blog and letting me know you'd like a copy.

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- French Rhapsody

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

I had some extra points on my Amazon account, so I ordered a paperback that I can take with me to France. I'm always looking for something good to read as I travel, and books set in France are
I found this book, French Rhapsody by Antoine Laurain and didn't even read the summary before I ordered it. I truly enjoyed his novel The Red Notebook, and his other novel The President's Hat was also a fun read.
Laurain is French and sets his books in France with real French people, unlike many of us who write novels about Americans or Brits reacting to travels in France.
This novel tells the story of Alain, who had a band in the 1980s but gave up his music dream and became a doctor. Then he receives a letter that went awry and should have reached him in 1983 that offers him and his band a music contract. Should he track down his band members and try at music again? What could have been if only the letter hadn't gotten lost?
I'll have to resist opening this book until we leave for France. Maybe I should stow it in my suitcase now.
I ordered this book on Friday and it appeared on my front porch today, Sunday. So weird. I have Amazon prime, but I didn't expect it on a Sunday.
How about you? Have you read a book set in France that you love? Please share.
And, if not, I encourage you to try Paris Runaway, It's fast-paced and will definitely put you smack dab in France, at least the way I experience it.
Here's a blurb to tempt you further:
When divorced mom Sadie Ford realizes her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has run away to Paris, all she can imagine are terrorist bombings and sex slaves. After learning her daughter chased a French exchange student home, Sadie hops on the next plane in pursuit. She joins forces with the boy’s father, Auguste, and the two attempt to find the missing teens. The chase takes Sadie and Auguste to the seedier side of Marseille, where their own connection is ignited. Since the divorce, Sadie has devoted herself to raising kids and putting her dreams on hold, but when her daughter needs her most, Sadie finds that concrete barrier to life beginning to crack. In her journey, she learns the difference between watching the hours pass and living.

Thanks so much for playing along with Dreaming of France.
I appreciate you sharing your love for France, along with food, books, movies, stories and pictures. Please visit the blogs of others who play along so we can share the love.  

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Book Review -- Abby's Journey

In the novel Abby's Journey by Steena Holmes, the author tells the story of Abby, a 20-year-old girl who has battled illness all of her life, suddenly healthy for a year.

Her grandmother swoops in with a surprise trip to Europe, especially the Christmas markets in Germany that her mother always dreamed of visiting. Her father, who raised her alone after Abby's mother died in childbirth, resists allowing her to go, fearing for her health and for what his life might be without her at home. This story changes perspective so the story is told through Abby's eyes, through the grandmother, Millie's, viewpoint, and through the father's voice.
What I liked about this book: This was a sweet book with some lovely descriptions. Anyone who enjoys travel will be carried away to Europe in the author's descriptive passages, like this one about the Christmas market in Salzburg from the grandmother's viewpoint:
Author Steena Holmes
Abby grabbed her hand to pull her close, and together they walked arm in arm, down the street. The roads were cobbled, and streetlights in the shape of stars were strung along the lanes, casting a soft glow onto the shops and people as they walked. 

The music, the setting, the large Christmas trees, the illuminated castle up on the hill -- it was all perfect. Everything she'd thought a Christmas market would be and should be. 
 The characters were well developed with many side twists so that Abby's Journey was not the only complication going on. The support of family and of a charming Canadian village added to the overall positive feel of the book.

What could have improved: The tension and drama in the book could have been intensified so that the reader got caught up more, wondering what would occur. I also had a hard time with the basic premise, which was carried out in the first book Saving Abby. In that book, Abby's mother became pregnant with her and realized she had a brain tumor. She refused treatment so that Abby could be born, thus leading to her own death and Abby growing up ill and without a mother. If it were my daughter, no chance that I would let her wait for treatment if she was pregnant. The life we have is more precious than the potential life, in my opinion, plus the sacrifices that the father had to make in order to raise his baby alone. So those controversies played in my mind while I read this novel.

This is definitely a novel that I enjoyed reading, in spite of, or maybe because of, some of the controversies that went with it.

The publisher has offered one free copy of this book to someone in the United States or Canada, so let me know if you're interested and I'll enter you in the giveaway. Make sure I can get in touch with you to get your address if you win.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- 55 Days

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

In 55 days, I'll be in France again.
Can't wait!

Here I am in the French countryside in 1985 as an au pair.

In 1991, I dragged my husband along for the first time.

Bicycling around Provence and across the Pont du Gard. 

Eating ice cream in Aix en Provence.

And just a few years ago in Isle sur la Sorgue in the south of France. 
Do you see a pattern? I'm pretty much always smiling and happy. Well, it's vacation, what's not to like?
I'm looking forward to our vacation in France, in preparation for our move to France in the fall.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France and please visit the blogs of others who join in too.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Minimizing Memories

My hands are covered with dust and my brain is muddled after spending a few hours in the basement clearing off bookshelves.
I have so many photo albums filled, mostly, with pictures of my children throughout their growing up years. Once Grace hit 12 or so, we switched to digital photos, scattered throughout the landscape of my computer, but easy to carry with me to France.
As I'm easily shifting books into giveaway bags, I wonder what to do with the photo albums. Do I take all the pictures out and save them in boxes?
Do I send the photos to a digital site and ask them to put them all on flash drives so I can carry them with me in my computer? I know that it's about $250 for 250 photos from Legacybox. I probably have thousands of pictures. Which do I discard and which do I keep?
And although I can easily get rid of books, knowing I won't move them to France with me, I can't get rid of my husband's books, so the shelves still hold things like Leroy Nieman paintings and the History of Baseball, not to mention some ancient books that don't even have covers any more. I wonder how we'll ever sort through everything.
I came across a Student Survival Guide to Wilmington College. That's where I went the last two years of my college. Why do I still have this? I've moved it from Ohio to Washington D.C. to Florida to Michigan and back to Ohio for more than 30 years.
That's my brother with his back toward the camera. 
My brother is on the cover but you only see him from the back. Is that why I saved it? I asked if he wanted it and he said yes!

Then I found this newspaper clipping.

My best friend got married 32 years ago right after she graduated from college, and I was the maid of honor. I held onto the clipping. Then I was the maid of honor again at her second wedding. She finally didn't invite me to the third wedding and this one has worked out. I don't think I need to hold onto the newspaper clipping any more.
Some things are easy to discard. But what do I do with all those photo albums?
If I was moving from the UK, I could load them all into my car or a moving van, but I can only take things on a plane.
Any advice? What would you do?

Dreaming of France -- Fear and Jubilation

Please join this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog . Share with the rest of us your passi...