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Friday, April 9, 2021

Day Seven: of Hobbits and Yoda and Second Breakfasts

I find great joy and comfort in the very existence of Hobbits, and in the inversed subject-verb sayings of Yoda. 

Now, let's not get all technical about the notion of reality vs. fictional characters. You know as well as I do that Hobbits and Yoda live in the places that matter: in the minds and hearts of generations of people across the world. Alive, they are.

Without the Hobbits and their traditions, I would have no legitimate excuse to sit down at 9 am with a bowl of yogurt and toasted oats which is not my first breakfast of the day. Second breakfast, merci beaucoup, is a real thing. It is the moment after the rush of the first morning chores, to stop for a nice cuppa...and maybe a snack. 

Hobbits also ground us in their love of home and hearth, in the smallest of small things to appreciate in life, and in the inevitable moment of having to get out and face our fears; bravely, while whimpering and whining, maybe, but fully present nonetheless. 

As for Yoda, besides the fact that he is short and green and wizened, gets angry more often than one would believe a sage really should: his voice and his speech give solace and excellent counsel. Right now, the one speaking to me is a reminder to slow down, open my eyes and come back to the present. "Always in motion the future is." -Yoda

Monday, March 22, 2021

Day Six of the Ordinary: Where's All the Stink Gone? Post-Covid Positives

I must first make an offering of compassion and recognition for the grief the pandemic has strewn across the globe in its wake, before telling my own tale. I am sorry for your loss, for our common loss.

Our family's burden has been narrowed down to the plight of feet no longer smelling...ripe? Body odor is a thing of the past, bad breath too. But: does anyone really know whether or not the kitchen garbage has begun to rot? 

We do not. Papa Noël (dear Ol' Santa) dropped off the Cornona virus on Christmas Eve. Our symptoms were all a little different, like the way each of us first gets a cold; sniffy nose here, scratchy throat there.  I had bad case of the chills, leaving my teeth chattering and my extra wrap extra tight around as much of me as I could fit in. I really thought nothing of it, as I was in my habitually cold room, and wearing shorts. I ran down to the basement; half an hour on the mini-trampoline would warm me right up. About ten jumps in, I realized I felt something akin to "dreadful". This was not right, what "this" was was unclear, but I did not feel normal. By 4 pm, I was a feverish mess, with an ache on the back of my head, shivering and stupid. That was the end of my Christmas Eve, by then, two others were feeling ill as well. We had dinner, I think. Christmas happened in a blur, but the next day I felt much improved.

On the 26th, my oldest called right after Thierry had dropped her off at her home 3 hours away: her Covid test results had just come through on her phone: positive. I really do not think we would have known otherwise, the only other hint of it was that the world smelled burnt in some odd way, but that was fading after day two or three. My daughter had a test because she always got tested before returning to her home she shares with a roommate, it was a pact they agreed upon. 

When we told the other kids, two of them casually mentioned; "Oh yeah, I haven't been able to taste or smell for a week." It is astounding how many things came to mind at that point, but what one of us said, or maybe both Thierry and I, maybe repeatedly was; "WHEN were you going to tell us? WHERE have you been? Everyone knows lack of smell is a dead giveaway for Covid. Etc." The other six of us were tested on Monday: all positive. It was, I suppose, a mild case, although Thierry came down with the "second wave syndrome", poor guy, a week later. One minute he was fine, the next, he was white as a sheet and scaring the crud out of me. In a few days, he was right as rain again.

And now, three months later, not a one of us can smell like we used to. My youngest and I can taste normally: bliss! But the others have remnants of not being able to taste much of their food, or it tastes different, some say chicken tastes bitter. One kid was left at home to cook rice one night and missed the fact that it was burning until the fire alarm went off, good thing the batteries were fresh. I can smell "something burning", and brewing coffee, my shampoo has a scent to it, but the rest is as though the odors of the world had been smoothed over. And no one, but no one, knows if they need to change their socks. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Day Five: Ocean Swimming

Have you ever swum in the ocean? It is positively primeval. It is the one thing I most look forward to when I am near the beach, and a thing I gave up on for unimportant reasons for a time. I would wet my toes, knees, maybe up to my waist, but really rocking along with the waves as they wash over me, one after another? 

Waiting for the next one, turning my back to it, facing it full on at a jump or diving right under it? Riding a wave back towards the shore? Feeling the salt on my tongue, the sun on my shoulders? It had been years, and I was poorer for having missed it.

There was a group of women in San Sebastian or Donostia, Basque Country, when I lived there, who met each and every morning for their swim out into the bay. My heroes, and wow: what  way to start your day! I wanted to stay there forever and join their club.

I have never experienced the Pacific or another warm ocean. Nope, it has always been the icy Atlantic for me, on both sides of the pond. The exhilaration in the first hit of freezing cold water, first the feet, then the shins, further up with each step and backing away as the wave recedes, then blam! I am hit in the chest by one that is a little higher than the last. Once you're in up to your neck, you are good, aren't you? Not much else to soak, so you may as well stay and swim. And in the swim is the beauty, the power, the washing away of past, present and worry. Immersion, oblivion and total presence in the here and now.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Day Four: Unexpected Bit of Beauty-Brown-Eyed Susans of the Sand

A flower I remember my grandmother pointing out on our woodland hikes was the Brown-eyed Susan. I often wondered why Susan got her own flower named after her, so it was memorable. Today I saw a new variety of them, growing in the dunes, just like back home, only on a vine along the ground. They were side by side with what I call begonias; which were also growing wild and abundantly, all over the dune.



Brown-eyed Susans evoke marvelous memories from childhood. My grama was the one who took us on outings to places our parents did not take four children, so often it was my sister and I having some "just us" time with her. They were not frequent, but memorable, yes. We hiked in nature preserves, the park with the creek through the middle where we spotted craw-dads, docks down on the Mississippi to hunt for clam shells, which we found incredible with their shine and their very marine-lifeness. Growing up land-locked, I had an odd fascination for all things aquatic, and these sand dune flowers linked past and present, land and sea in a lovely way.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Day Three: (30 Days of Writing about Ordinary Moments)-Healing Heat

I look out from my magnificent PALACE of a shelter; a beach chair almost covered by a rainbow parasol with a window opening onto the waves crashing on the shoreline. I melt and turn awful colors in the sun, but I love the ocean passionately, it's tough. To my left, my husband has fallen asleep on his towel, haphazardly, the sleep of the perfectly content, to my right: my two boys, one sunning in the best angle, the other digging a giant hole in the sand, probably plotting who he might best bury. 

Miracle of all: nothing hurts, nothing is off, everything is well with the world. I am an advocate for the spring, fall, winter is nice and I tolerate summer because things grow in the summer, and green is good. But this warmth is luscious, unexpected in the depths of our normal winter, and my whole being is reveling in it, and in this chance to slow down, watch the waves, swim in the ocean and just be. I am awash in gratitude. I feel great too.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Day Two of Challenge: A Reptilian Moment

The plant-infused patio, with it's white wicker furniture is still warm with a light breeze to keep it all cool today. As I sat and pondered, a little lizard came up to say hello. She is brown and rust-colored, blending in with the floorboards. Curious too: as she darts closer to me and backs up in turn, over and over.

What I know about lizards is from our years of caring for Neen the leopard ghecko. They like the heat and eat crickets. This one keeps returning as close to my bare toes as she and I both feel comfortable with. It seems that she is eating up the quinoa crumbs left over from last night's dinner. Or at least, that is what I gathered by first observation. I saw her tongue dip down between the floor boards and snatch a minuscule morsel of something. A few minutes later, looking over, I saw a flat sort of bug slip back down into the floor, and decided she must be hunting live prey. But she moved to the flat part again and picked up a grain of quinoa: vegetarian after all! Or just supplementing her regular diet of bugs?

When startled, her tail curls up into a high spiral and she rests, motionless, for a moment, like a squirrel caught too close to the house. She looks at me as though she would speak, at least long enough to say; "hey, I have no intention to bite you. You have no plans to squish me, right?" I look back to reassure and remind her that I think she's adorable, but I really would rather she did not scuttle over my feet, thank you kindly. I promise to cook more quinoa tonight. We have reached symbiosis of a sort.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Challenge: Write About What is, Day One: Cheat Day

Decision made: a challenge to myself to write for 30 days in a row about normal, about noting the small beauties of the every day. I am easily inspired by the beautiful and the adventurous,  but it is a little harder to make a silk purse of a sow's ear. I began this post on an average March day in the Midwest; 45 degrees and sun battling with the rain and clouds for dominance, neither winning in a sort of spring mud of a day. I had taken the dog for his walk, taken a Zoom call for work, had lunch with my husband between work sessions on our French with Kids program, greeted the boys when they came home and corrected the kids' essays before they turned them in.




I would like to tell you that I have some inspiration to share from that day, a glint of appreciation for life exactly as it was in that moment. I am sure I felt it, I'm sure it is what prompted me to write, but it has faded, 72 hours later, as I sit out on a patio in the warmth of an afternoon way down south. We left home, husband, me and the youngest two kids, punting ahead of a spring blizzard that swept over the region as we dove in the opposite direction.

Today, I hesitate to claim the right to the ordinary, for it is so very beautiful here, and so warm, and so out of the ordinary for this family who lives in Iowa. My moment of "wow, it is OK for life to continue," came when I lay back on a towel on the beach, and for the first time in 24 years, I could close my eyes and let go. Always, when we have taken the kids to the wild Atlantic coast, or even to a lake or a pool, I have felt the requirement to be absolutely vigilant, watching in two, three, four or, most commonly, five directions at the same time. Today, there were only two swimming, both old enough to know better, and I could relax for two minutes. Extraordinary. 

What do I mean by "life continuing"?  Just that: time passing, everything changing, all of it. Only a year and two months ago I was having a true crises of the soul, a sadness so deep that it could be qualified as depression, as I considered my vast library of children's books and homeschool materials we had acquired over the years. My youngest had elected to attend school full-time, and it was as though part of me had ceased to be useful and good. Who was I if not a homeschooling, Waldorf mama? I had to reevaluate, to reconnect, and it did not happen in a day. 

I can't find that I wrote about that moment, only about the aftermath and lessons learned. I was too sad to write. The action I took was to put out the word to local Waldorf homeschoolers to see who might like to peruse and take home anything useful in my collection, and then give the rest away.

It was still a work in progress when confinement hit, and I was, of a sudden, mother to FOUR children who were learning at home for two weeks, then for a month, and then until the end of the year...and I never took a moment to appreciate the universe responding to my sorrow in such a dramatic way. It would have felt far too self-centered, in any case, but I did have daily thoughts of gratitude for each and every day that we all awoke healthy and together. 

We just do not know what tomorrow may bring, do we? For this very reason, I entreat you to take a deep breath, look around you, not too far! maybe into the eyes of a beloved, out your own window, and thank the heavens for what is...then enjoy it to the fullest!

 

P.S. If one of the mysteries you are trying to figure out right now is short or long-term financial stability, I would highly, highly recommend this online class by Leonie Dawson "Money and Manifesting Multiple Streams of Income", from which I learned a bunch. I mean, I love the American instructors-of-financial wisdom as much as the next girl, but there is something endearing about this 30-something Australian entrepreneur, hippie, mom, artist and eminently successful businesswoman. She makes me smile.

There is not one moment I would redo in my entire life (OK, there are a butt-load of moments I would redo in my life as a mother and a wife, but those have to do with the most personal instants), but if I were to redo the professional bits, here is where I would start, with the incredible Leonie Dawson, who teaches us to become the helper/healer/best human that is within us to shine through and make the best life for our families whilst doing so...earn money from what you know best and love doing.) The classes I have found the most incredible and useful, from just starting out to ready to sell your offering, in order of how far along you are in your journey and what that journey is:

40 Days to Sell Your E-course:

https://leoniedawson.mykajabi.com/a/17744/zeNUTzpp

 

 40 Days to a Finished Book: 

 
https://leoniedawson.mykajabi.com/a/16702/zeNUTzpp

 

 Sell Like a Star!

https://leoniedawson.mykajabi.com/a/44084/zeNUTzpp

 

This post contains affiliate links, a first for me, but the classes have given me such a boost of get up and go, confidence and kick in the pants, that I wanted to be an affiliate.  Leonie has a gift and gifts should be shared. I have taken all four of the classes and I am gleaning many, many things from each. 

 

Friday, March 5, 2021

Day Seven: Waking Up

Going to sleep is better, but as waking up has become a habit of late; I suppose that appreciating how very wondrous it is could lead to less resentment and more gratitude. 

I used to think the frequent wakings at the end of pregnancy were to ready us to wake up with our precious baby later. Not that it takes a whole lot of training to hear the cries of one's newborn, they have a set of lungs on them, those babes. 

Then, it would follow, that this learning to function (barely) in a highly sleep-deprived state must be preparing a mother for...no, nothing makes any logical sense, never mind. And then you hit "middle life" and the regularity with which nights are interrupted is exactly like being pregnant or having a newborn all over again. Except there is only oneself to nurture at that hour, perhaps that is the power in it; finally, time to be alone with just you and the world, in silence.

Later, once it is sometime past 5 a.m., waking to a new day remains one of the great renewing graces of life. I may not feel refreshed, but I feel the pure possibility of every single chance that this sunrise and this day might bring.

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Digging Drama Denoues and Size 1 Needles

Sometimes a girl's gotta' call in the troops, or the stronger arms with shovels. To illustrate: you take a shivering friend of your son's home from swim practice down an unknown dead end, and there happens to be an awful lot of snow and ice just in front of the house. Your big ol' truck sinks further in the longer you wait to make sure said kid gets let into house. (You do not know this, or you would have waited down the street a bit further.) Kid waves, you take off to head home...and go nowhere. "Spinning"'s original meaning: the tires spin, the car goes not. And it turns out to be an act of universal benevolence, because the same shivering kid (no coat, everyone knows coats are uncool), is back again. Did he see you needed help and arrive with a shovel...and a coat? No, he is truly locked out and no one else is home to jump to the rescue. "Hop in and warm back up." 

 

This happens throughout the cold and snowy regions of the world. There are known techniques to dislodge a vehicle, and as a Midwesterner, I know them all. After a neighbor loaned us a doormat to lodge under one tire, hoping this would be the key to a little traction, then promptly disappeared into his house, we had tried about all we had at hand. Pushing, reversing, gunning it in 3rd gear, starting all over again. With the marked absence of any other helpful neighbors appearing to lend a hand, I had to face the painful music and call home for shovels and brawn. It was dinner time and dark.

Of course, the men felt they had to take over, which would have perhaps miffed me in earlier times. As it was, I had 20 rounds of decrease to work on the back of a baby bonnet on size 1 dpns* of various lengths, It was a bit dicey to keep all of the stitches on that 4" one I had to throw into the mix: all in all, there was nowhere else I needed to be. Having been deprived of any knitting during last weekend's campout and severely limited during the subsequent work week, by Wednesday evening, it was time to knit again.



*Notes for the non-knitter: My mother-in-law calls these needles "smaller than Mikados" in fun. A dpn is a double-pointed needle, size 1 is the diameter of a fat toothpick. The parts we are not knitting are held on 4 of these while we knit with a fifth. It is just the thing for working small bits in the round. "In the round" equals no sewing up seams when we are finished.

Illustration credit: https://www.instagram.com/richardduijnstee/

 


Monday, February 1, 2021

Invitation to a Challenge: Accepted!

The question "WHY" is the one most asked the world over when a human who is lucky enough to live in a perfectly comfortable home decides to pack up and spend a few days or maybe a week performing the seemingly torturous rite of camping out. 

I had plenty of time to ponder the notion this weekend, as I put myself into exactly this scenario, in January, in the Midwest. It is easier to justify a camp-out in the clement weather of the other three months, I suppose. Being out of doors is a pleasant experience for part of the year.  But I had been invited to join the Scouts, and I find that an invitation to a place that is out of one's comfort zone, when accepted, is the sort that can take you places you would never have discovered on your boring lonesome own. Besides, I do believe in spending more time outside than in, I just don't always get around to doing it.

The outdoors; a beautiful, snow-covered landscape, was calling to me, my husband had warmly welcomed me to join them, and all the work I needed to do at home had been done. The only voice still sounding a small alarm was the pending weather forecast: 33 degrees F, with rain beginning at noon, it said, ending by 8 p.m., then snow. Ah well, they could be wrong. There was snow on the ground, I like snow. What was the likelihood that we get rain in January? The new system of two sleeping bags should mean not repeating that one time when my toes froze all night during a November camp-out. I knew how cold it could be, and yet, I was going to do it again. 

As I said, I was given ample time to reconsider the entire concept, in-depth, while standing around, under a picnic shelter with the rain pounding down, my toes growing cold and the smoke from the portable woodfire stove constantly burning my eyes. It did not only rain, it rained for ten solid hours. The dads encouraged the boys to take a hike to warm up. All were game, so we left to walk along the Hennepin Canal, an engineering marvel that was scarcely ever used. This had the mixed result of warming us all up, getting to see some scenery, as well as my first in-person coyote sighting, and drenching our outer layers and, in my case, the inner ones as well. 

I spent the evening as mindfully as possible. There were discussions on history, on why we go camping, on a love of nature as experienced up close. I was not feeling much love, but I was intent on paying attention to these moments out of time, in another existence. The challenge was to stay the course, in good humor, come what may, to serve the purpose of letting this experience for the young scouts be all that it could be. We knew the morning would bring snow instead of rain, and the arctic beauty that had begun with the trees icing over as the temperatures fell would surely take our breaths away in the morning. 

The ideas of adding tarp walls to the shelter to protect us a bit from the rain and wind was offered, accepted and executed. Pre and post hike, the little fire in the mini cooker smoked and steamed us into some semblance of warmth. There was no card playing; social distancing and circling the fire on picnic table benches and a few chairs did not allow for games, there was no sketching or journaling; too wet, and there was not even cooking to be done. COVID regulations preclude the sharing of food this year, so each scout arrives with their food ready to be heated in individual packages. No meal prep, darn, that would have constituted an activity in P.C. times.

Dinner, when it arrived, was a fabulous feast. My husband and son had been experimenting all year, and they have precooked meals down to an art. Mostly dad cooks, and my kiddo packages the portions. Tonight we were having rice cooked with fresh mushrooms topped with garlic-sauteed shrimp. It was so good.

The night, which we all agreed, should not begin before the rain stopped, was a cozy one. At least in my tent it was, since it was the only one with more than one person. I followed the techniques my sweetie recommended for getting into the sleeping bags as dryly and as warmly as possible. It was a true feat of planning and execution in some crazy positions. Wet shirt and wet socks changed in car, wettest layers (first coat) left in car, dash to tent, remove snowpants as entering, turn them inside out and slide them between the two layers of sleeping bags for warmer recovery in the morning. Bottom half inside the sleeping bag, I look around to see where I put my other coat, thinking I might put it too in between the layers. I finally realize I am still wearing it. Coat off and quick, into the bags all the way, hat on, scarf handy to keep over face. Zip. 

The morning rewards us with a snow-covered wonderland that is every bit as beautiful as we had hoped. Bliss! Yes, it was worth it. Head out and enjoy where you are today, even if it means breaking out the mittens and scarves and boots. Consider this my invitation and challenge.


 


Tuesday, January 12, 2021

French and New Writings


 

Dear Reader,

I may have mentioned that we are in the midst of big, fascinating changes in our home. Today is my birthday and I am about to pose pen and take up a good book, (et un petit café) but before I do, I wish to share that I have still been writing, just almost all about languages and French. This is where I am posting these days, take a look, I kinda like this post: Sharing French.

Tomorrow I will post a link to a free pdf on language learning here, stay tuned.

Joy and peace and the happiest new year to you!



Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Retirement...What Comes Next? Giving Thanks for What Is

"A year ago"...just the words are evocative of so much for every human on the planet, but they feel particularly poignant today, at home in this huge nation of the ever-dissatisfied and ready to believe in fairy tales called the United States of America. No, I will not take on the big picture for longer than a phrase or two, but if you are on the outside, looking in, please have a thought for the sane left here. We are hopeful, we are grateful, but we are mourning as well, for the loss of life and livelihood that need not have been as great, for the families grieving today. And still we deny. I choose to affirm, to believe in new life.

(This is where I was hiking a year ago, back when travel was a safe thing to do, remember?)

 

Enter the new homebound entrepreneurs; housewife and househusband starting all over at 50.

We have taken a leap of faith, but not an unusual one, the way I see it. MY quarantine conclusion is one I have already written about in a previous post: using the time at home to unvent* the online French school Commence le Dream.

While I was in the midst of creating the concept, I mentioned to my beloved husband that I would need his particular gift of a French voice in order to record the lessons that would be dialogs. He grumbled, as husbands do: "I am not an actor, I am not into radio, I do not like cameras..." And one day, in his inbox appeared an early retirement offer from his employer, and he started to consider his options.

Retire? Start over? Start a business that I love? Mais oui!

There has been some heart-skipping excitement around here for the past few months.  It is a combination of anticipation, relief, wonder, gladness, and Now What?! And that is just me.
 
Thierry, who is leaving a career and a place of many friendships, strong connections and a decent living, has additional layers of feelings. 

We felt much the same when we bought our first house when we were 25, in an urban environment where even the realtors acted as though we were trying to do something not quite kosher, making a large purchase so young. We were committing to the unknown, to a huge project; like now. It was so frightening it felt intoxicating.

The next big move was just five or six years later; moving from France to Iowa. Again; thrills, chills and what-ifs competed for space in our minds and souls. And, we did it anyway. We are primed for one more.

In the mean time, I have been raising five children: navigating the ever-changing landscape of these beautiful souls as they develop, soar, crash, and pick themselves back up, over and over. I have had to learn and relearn to make time for meditation, exercise and reading. I have figured out how to keep families on two sides of the Atlantic part of our lives; on a budget. Every day, we must reinvent new ways to thrive as a couple and as a family unit: through homeschool, public school, triumphs, regrets, sickness and health. Building a business? Piece of gâteau.

We still have kids to raise, college tuitions to help navigate, food to be put on the table, and big dreams to live out. We plan, however, to do it on our own terms, in freedom and in gratitude for all that has been and all there is today. 

This is Thanksgiving week here. Have a marvelous holiday, whatever it might look like this year. Giving thanks for family, loved ones everywhere and dear readers that you are. 

 

*Word coined by Elizabeth Zimmerman, who recognized that there is nothing new under the sun, but sometimes one stumbles upon a method that seems like it is entirely novel, so "unvent". 


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

French Learning: Skip the Boring-Start Speaking

As my husband and I prepare to launch the first of a half a dozen French programs I have been dreaming up for years now, the topic on my mind most often is how to best help someone who wants to speak another language. This has been ruminating about for some time; since I was 19 and noticed that many of the exchange students went back home after a year abroad fluent in French, yet others were still woefully inadequate as speakers of anything other than their native tongue. Why? I had no special skills or gifts in learning, I was certainly not the kid who finished my year with no accent. I did, however, end the year with fluency in French. Were we not all immersed and thus in the most favorable conditions for acquiring a new language? It was not the old disadvantage of age; we were all between 16 and 19 that year. In the following years, patterns would emerge, some involved method, some the company one kept. 

I went on to successfully teach English to the Spanish and later to the French, then French to Americans. The running joke between my students and myself was; 

"How did you learn French so well?"

"I live with my teacher. Don't suppose your partner would object to you moving out for six months, would they? Get a local fellow/gal." 

Right, how about that  of French we were working on again?

The idea of learning with a partner stuck with me, and grew into a plan to make it easy to do. Speak each day with the one you're with? Oui. Sure, you can wake up and say; "Let's speak in French today," and way to go, if you do! But having a method that incorporates meaningful dialog and a script makes it easier to implement. So I wrote one; the original French with Kids, for people home with children, to accompany a daily rhythm. Did I finish recording it and put it out into the world? No, but I am recording right now. Then I wrote one especially for this year, for Corona Times, for two adults to share; at home, across the world via video, anywhere; French at Home. 

As to method, way back when, I began in a strictly prescribed trio of lesson plus workbook plus group exercise used by the language schools of the 90's. That worked sometimes, but what worked best was a student interested in learning, engaged in their own progress and conversations on topics relevant to their life. 

A friend of mine hit on the prime impetus for language and for the dialogs we use today; "a statement should elicit a response. If you tell your child, "go take a shower," and they understand, you will see them head to the bathroom. You both see a direct correlation between what is being said and the answer; spoken or acted upon." In other words, use language for communication. 

The other key element was frequency words, or basing the dialogs on the 500 most used words in the French language, I started at the top, and added in what I know people use every day at home, with a partner or with a family. 

The next post is the email I sent out to a few people to find testers before launching the paid version, this is a free test, and I still have a spot and a half left (meaning; if you do not have a speaking partner, I have one who needs the same. Send me an email.) I am looking forward feedback, because this is all about YOU speaking French, the progress you are making, the ease with which you communicate in French. 


            





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Friday, September 18, 2020

Alignment...in the Eye of the Beholder

My mind was occupied almost the entire time my body was participating in my gym class this morning;  chattering a mile a minute in time to the music; "isn't this just swell? I am strong and vibrant. I'm going to return home and write one humdinger of an inspiring blog post about how fantastic I feel today. It is all going so well. Everyone deserves to feel as good as I do right now, let's cheer them all up and share this abundance of joy."

One: The French at Home: A Conversation program is about to go live for a first round of testers. (The website is up, but the "free mini-course" link is sending readers on a merry-go-round of pages that do not end at the signup page, so more on that when I've fixed it.)

Two: I slept enough hours to feel good when that 5:00 alarm sounded. Small but mighty victory.

Three: My wrist/thumb has been sore, but I decided to weight train anyway. Arthritic thumb confined to a brace all the way to my elbow? Yes, but HERE I AM. I am showing up, growing and making the most of this fabulous life I get to live. 

Back home, I had breakfast, watered the vegetables, new shrubs and flowers, tossed in a load of laundry, all mostly one-handed, and headed upstairs to the office to write. I opened up my laptop, began typing and yelped. pain. I tried a few more key strokes and had to give up. 

The universe may be falling into place as it should, but the wires are all crossed on the messages I am getting. Instead of making progress on a hundred dozen projects, I iced my wrist and had a day of reading, meditation, hovering as my kids did their at-home schoolwork, phone conversations with family, and wondering what it was that life is trying to tell me. Should I not be accomplishing something? Or is the picture bigger, the neglected parts equally needed to fulfill a life and make it whole? 

-Typed with six fingers. Take care, lovely, marvelous readers, and good night. It will look better in the morning. 


...at that point, Blogger crashed, leaving me with this post open and unpublished...but since it was still  here this morning, I'll consider it a keeper. I went back to the gym today and only did things that would NOT hurt. You know, one-handed pull-ups, one-handed push-ups, with a (gentle) clap on the way up? I did not. I worked through an Essentrics routine and did squats. I am also typing with all ten fingers. Carefully. 

I've added the above photo of a beautiful, beautiful road, tree-lined along the water, the way I like my paths to look. It reminds me of country roads in France. The end exists somewhere, perhaps, but the flowing water and the trees are right here, beside and above you, a reminder that what you feel, hear, see, smell and know in your heart to be true holds sway over the invisible end. Permission to jubilate.  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Spaghetti Sauce, Pesto and Other Joys of Being Home

Back in the dutch oven with you. I gave the weepy sauce a mournful look, but then instantly it came to me that this year, it was OK. 

This is a radical thought to have in the year 2020 of the Common Era, I know, but here it was, bubbling up at me from a big, blue pot on my stove. 

This year, I would be home and able to supervise the sauce from beginning to end. Too soupy? No worries, back on to simmer you go. No need to quickly can and or bag and freeze it until I was good and ready to do so; no "surprise tomato substance with no date" found two months later in the deep freeze. 

In the ten years since I began working and being called away at odd hours or out of town, there may have been a year or two in which free tomatoes did not coincide with ideal canning moment. As usual, last week, we made both spaghetti sauce, from my grandmother's recipe, and piperade, from my husband's grandmother's recipe. Hard to tell which is which in the deep, dark bottom of the big freezer. A quick sauce is better than no sauce, certainly, but a perfect sauce...is even better. A perfect sauce that has been properly canned and labeled? That is living life to the fullest. 

This comfort may be small, but it is grounding and real. 

Ditto for the pesto; the temperatures were dropping to 50 tonight? Crud, my friend, that is how you lose an entire crop of the pansy stuff. Go out in bare feet in the moonlight to harvest basil: check. Wrap in damp towel, knowing tomorrow I will get to it: check. On hand we have pine nuts: also check. We are never without fresh garlic. We are cooks.

Finding joy in the perfect cup of tea, or in being home to cook, home to complete a project, no matter how small, is a tiny burst of joy in a day. 

The sauces were not bad either. 

Recipes? Sure, go ahead, especially if someone just called you with an offer of free produce. Bon appetit!


Spaghetti Sauce

A lot of tomatoes: all the ones you don't want to use for piperade or for a tomato salad with fresh mozzarella and basil, with a vinaigrette made from a mild vinegar; red wine works nicely, the rest of them then:

(cored, peeled (drop in boiling water, remove leaving skin behind)

Garlic (1 clove per 3-4 tomatoes)

Basil (a few leaves, to taste, if dried; 1/4 teaspoon to 3-4 tomatoes)

Oregano (1/4 teaspoon to 3-4 tomatoes)

Olive oil (for sautéing)

Salt 

Maybe a dash of pepper

Mince garlic, and sauté in the olive oil until golden

Add tomatoes, cook half an hour over medium low heat, reduce to simmer, add basil, oregano, salt, simmer until liquid has been almost all the way reduced. Taste for spices once every hour or so, add salt, pepper, others as needed. 


Piperade

Is much like ratatouille, but minus the aubergines; garden harvest plus, you guessed it, onions and all the tomatoes you have been given or harvested. 


Pesto

Classic recipe

2 cups of basil leaves, rather packed

1/3 c pine nuts

3-4 cloves garlic (depending on size and taste for garlic)

1/4 c olive oil

1/4 c Parmesan

Salt

In food processor/blender/coffee grinder or Nutribullet, blend basil, add pine nuts, blend, pour in a tiny stream of olive oil as needed to continue mixing.  Add garlic, blend, Parmesan and salt, blend and add olive oil to help with mixing until you have a nice paste. Serve (or rather, add a tiny spoonful) to pasta or anything else.

A word of advice: use copious amounts of mouth wash before venturing forth into the world again.