Monday, December 31, 2012

Dreaming of France -- Le Road Trip



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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
I'm not sure why this book sat on my shelf for so long before I finally picked it up to read it. It was a quick fun read with lots of illustrations and love for France.
The author, Vivian Swift, compares travelling to falling in love. She retells the story of her 2005 honeymoon with her husband James, along with relating the travels to previous trips she took starting in the 1970s.
Swift must be drawing and journaling constantly as she travels, sharing her insights and quirky illustrations.

I loved her insights on fashion for tourists and the French,  and the simplest drawings of gates outside buildings or pastries or sunsets.
Here's a photo I took of one of the pages. You can see that Swift illustrated and romanticized the different windows that she saw in French buildings. For instance, she said the top left window could be "poet's garret, maid's room, foreign studentin in the attic." I like the one in the second row from the top on the right, which she dubs "Novelist's atelier." No doubt I'll be staring out of a window like that as I write one day.

My other favorite part of the book was her trip to Normandy and her decription of Gustave Flaubert's desperation to leave the provinces. It sounded so much like my own teenage boys.
"My youth steeped me in an opiate of bordeom sufficient for the remainder of my days," Swift quoted Flaubert about why he wrote Madame Bovary.
And another quote from Flaubert in a letter to his friend. "I loathe it, I despise it. Oh, Attila, when wilt thou return, kind humanitarian, with 400,000 horsemen, to set fire to this land of trouser straps and suspenders." Obviously, Swift has inspired me to read Flaubert.
Swift started her journey in Paris then travelled to Normandy, Brittany, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, Chartres and back to Paris.
I enjoyed travelling through France with Swift and her new husband. You should consider taking Le Road Trip too.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Saturday Snapshot -- Snow

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
I usually run with my friends on Saturday morning, but with a couple of inches of snow falling overnight and still coming down, we cancelled our drive to the running trail. I bundled up and went for a walk. The snow makes it so light outside that the dark morning is bright.
I captured this photo of the snow piling up on my neighbor's Christmas lights.

Hope you have a warm, dry day with lots of twinkling lights.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Writing Resolutions

This is part of the Writing Resolutions blog hop by Meg Waite Clayton.

I'm a writer. That's what I've always said. And after this year, I have the book in hand to prove it. Throughout the year as I'm teaching college classes and going to my children's activities, I have excuses about why I'm not writing more. I'm busy. I'm tired.
But truthfully, if I'm a writer, then why aren't I writing more?
When I was a little kid, I'd start out early in the morning with my notebook in search of adventures that I could write about. I spent hours writing.
Now, I can be distracted by the slightest computer game or Facebook post.
If I love to write, if I'm a writer, then why aren't I writing more?
One book does not a writer make. True, I have two other completed books that aren't published, but am I finished? Are those all the stories I have to tell?
I don't think so.
I'm in the process of writing three books. Why doesn't one of them call to me as I'm lying in bed in the dark of the morning? Why doesn't one of them drag me away from the treadmill on my morning run, or pull me away from the soul-sucking television where I collapse in the evening?
I need to make writing more of a priority because once I'm in the midst of it, I love it. And having people read and respond to my words thrills me.
Here are the three books I'm in the midst of:
A Charm of Finches: 25,000 words is about Maeve, a slightly agoraphobic 34-year-old who decides to change her life with feng shui.
An American Nanny in France: 25,000 words is a nonfiction account of my experience with a French family while I acted as nanny to their American granddaughters, staying in Corsica, the family estate near Bourges, and their suburban Paris apartment.
Autumn in Aix: 26,000 words is a sequel to my published novel The Summer of France. The story of Fia and her teenage twins continues as they adjust to life in France and learn that World War II was not the only time art was pilfered in France.
So why aren't I writing?
I tried to figure that out this morning as I was lured away from my Microsoft Office document by the game Chuzzle.
I think I'm stumped in all three books. I've written some good parts and I'm kind of stuck in a lull. That's why today I gave myself permission to write the parts that I want.
I know some of the good scenes that will happen. So I don't have to write the boring parts or the connecting parts that might be cut later anyway. I'm going to write the scene where Maeve gets stood up by the librarian and plunges back into her fear of leaving her apartment.
I'm going to write the scene where a man follows me throughout the streets of Paris until I duck into a church and sit next to a nun to avoid him.
I'm going to write the scene where Fia reunites with her handsome Frenchman Christophe at his new job in the Louvre, recovering France's stolen artwork and begins to wonder if that Iraqi man she dated is up to something sneaky.
 I'm going to write the compelling scenes and move on from there.
Since this is a resolution, I guess I need to make a stronger promise than that I will write the scenes I'm excited about. I resolve to write at least five days a week and to write 7500 words per week. I hope my estimates are low. I hope that once I'm back in the groove of writing, I won't be able to stop after 7500 words or five days.
Now which one do I turn to first?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Complete

I'm not good at preparing -- preparing for parties, preparing for Christmas. I'm always stressed about it. Once a party or Christmas starts, I'm fine, but the prep makes me grumpy.
This year, between traveling to pick up kids in college and trying to throw a 75th birthday party for my mother, I was extra harried. Well, the party was cancelled due to a stomach virus that passed through my parents and brother's family, but we still got to celebrate Christmas.
I think this pic of the cat amidst the debris of Christmas summed it all up pretty well.

And the kids looked pretty satiated afterward too.
After we celebrated at home Christmas morning, we were headed to Earl's sister's house and there we would see little Caroline. I had planned to sew a princess dress for her, and Christmas morning it wasn't finished. Grace helped me put elastic in the puffy sleeves and I ironed, pinned and hemmed the dress as I watched the clock tick past the time we were to arrive. Earl and the boys went on without us as I continued to work on the dress. Finally, we finished and, although it's far from perfect, Caroline loved it.
Hope your Christmas was magical and created many fond memories, like mine did.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Husband's Christmas Birthday

I never felt a lot of sympathy for Christmas babies, til I married one. He remembers having one birthday party as a kid. His Christmas and birthday gifts were usually combined.
We celebrated today with brunch out and presents very separate from his Christmas presents.
And we ended with a dance dip in front if the Christmas tree. Happy Birthday , Earl.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Saturday Snapshot -- Cats by the Fire

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
I'm almost finished grading papers for the semester, so here is a late Saturday Snapshot of my cat posing by the fire. He rolled over on his back to pose, like Burt Reynolds in that long ago nude photo  on a bearskin rug.



I hope everyone has a joyous holiday.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

First Paragraph, Teaser Tuesday -- The Book of Summers

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
It's almost the shortest day of the year, so maybe it's time for this book: The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall. Here's the intro from the First Chapter:
Friday morning began as English summer mornings often do, with a shy but rising sun and wisps of cloud that were blown away by breakfast. My father was visiting, so I should hvae known it was never going to be an ordinary day, despite its early promise. It was the first time that he was seeing my London home for himself, and I was no newcomer to the city. I was seventeen when I decided on art college, and with the utter resolution that it had to be London. I wanted to lose myself, and it seemed just the place in which to be lost. I can remember the day I left home twelve years ago, my father standing by the car in the train-station parking lot, one gnarled hand raised in farewell, the other already feeling in his pocket for his keys. Then the put-put of the exhaust as he passed me at the station entrance, how he didn't see me that time, for he was hunched over the steering wheel like someone who was already late. I watched him go, the only family I had.
 

Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's mine from page 50:
I've always believed that it was at the szalonna party that my mother decided she wanted to stay on in Hungary. That her life should be there, not at home in Harkham with us. Because afterward, life at the lake house seemed to alter its course. There were still the swimming trips, the lounging in rickety deck chairs beneath the spread of the pine trees, the hot and dusty walks to the shop to buy giant watermelons and packets of cherry sherbets. But there was something else in the air.
 This book sounds a little sad, but I think I'll keep going. What do you think?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dreaming of France -- Montmartre


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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.

For today, I'll share some photos from Montmartre that Grace took last fall when my blogging friend Linda Mathieu of Frenchless in France took Grace on a tour.
 
Here are some of the traditional artists.
I wonder if the couple on the left side are French or tourists?
 
I love the sunbeam shining down on this artist.

I'm anxious to see what you all have to share. I know that Esme from Chocolate and Croissants just got back from a trip to France.

Christmas Tree Hopes Dim

We don't have a Christmas tree yet. Things are different this year with two kids at college, one of whom won't be home until next Friday.
We had decided to get the tree Sunday morning with our two boys. Spencer came home from college on Friday. Because of Tucker's high school schedule and Earl's work schedule, this is our last opportunity to get all four of us together to choose a tree until next Friday, Dec. 21.
I told the boys we were going Sunday morning to get a tree. They are forewarned.
Here's where things get tricky. Spencer has yet to come home from a campus party at Ohio State that he attended last night. I last heard from him about 4 a.m. when he assured me they were all fine and he had a safe way to get home. I'm assuming he spent the night some place on campus. The clock is ticking on 10:30. Morning is waning.
I don't want to pick out a tree after noon because it will be crowded, so I have a 12 oclock cut off. Tucker meanwhile is still in bed. He's awake, looking up stuff on his phone, but hesistant to get out of bed where the cat is cuddled up to his knees.
"I'm hungry," he said.
"Well, get up," I replied.
Earl has wandered over to the neighbor's house to help her with drain issues.
Meanwhile, I'm having to adjust the plans that I had ordered in my mind. Picking out a tree, taking photos together, stopping for coffee or breakfast.
Maybe Earl and I should go get the tree just the two of us.
The hardest part is changing my expectations, but I know this is only the beginning of changing traditions.
Here's a tree from a previous year. At least the cat appreciated it. We may have to just settle for a photo this year.
Come to think of it, maybe we could go with pictures of presents too. It looks like this was a banner year for us.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saturday Snapshot -- Family

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
The only photo I should be thinking about is an English Comp essay with marks from my red pen since I have to finish grading lots of essays for Finals Week, but I pulled out an old family photo we used on our Christmas letter in 2008. Four years doesn't seem that long, but when I look at my family, it's a long time.
They've all changed so much. We've all changed so much, especially those two on the end -- the kitten and Tucker.
I don't have a decent photo of the whole family from this fall since the oldest two have been at college, but here's one from this summer before Spencer left for college in Florida. But, I'm not in the pic cause I was taking it. (I really hate photos of myself lately anyway!)

Oh, and here's the kitten all grown up. He never takes a bad photo.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas Music

As some of you know, two of my children are off in college, so my husband and I are home with just our 16 year old. He seems intent on adding extra activities so we are as busy as we were when all three kids were home.
Thursday morning I was debating whether I would go watch him sing with the Singers at school.
The concert for parents was that night at 7, but my husband and I both had to work, so we couldn't go. Luckily, Tucker had two other concerts Thursday -- one at the elementary school in the morning and one at the middle school in the afternoon.
I really wasn't going to go, but I started to feel guilty and decided some Christmas music might be fun.
So I walked down to the elemenatry school and listened to them sing. I loved watching the little kids react with delight when they recognized a song. And they were especially thrilled with "I'm Gettin' Nothin' For Christmas" as the high school kids pretended to slug each other and pull each other's hair.  Last year, Tucker was in the Concert Choir. This year, he has moved up to the Singers, which requires an audition. They travel throughout the city doing concerts. Tonight they'll be at the zoo caroling.
I've tried to upload their song "I'll Be Home For Christmas/Let It Snow" which is appropriate for our family as Spencer comes home from Florida today, but we have to wait another week for Grace to come home from New York. The video refused to upload.

Hope everyone gets to enjoy some Christmas music this season.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sunshine

Today is the coldest day yet this season with temperatures in the 20s, but don't tell the sun.
The sun is brilliant today.
How is it at your house today?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- Farewell, Dorothy Parker

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Last December, I wrote a blog post about a book that I enjoyed called The Other Life by Ellen Meister. Meister has a new book coming out in February and Putnam sent me an arc to read. I'll let you know if it's as good as the last one.
Here's the intro:
Violet Epps stood before the maitre d' in the lobby lounge of the Algonquin Hotel, waiting to be noticed. She cleared her throat and he looked up, glancing right past her.  
"Who's next?" he said.


Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's mine from page 17:
And then the particles settled themselves into a recognizable image. Violet blinked. She wasn't just looking at a mass of floating dust particles. She was looking at a pale gray suggestion of a small woman holding a French poodle on her lap. As she continued to stare, the vision got stronger, more vibrant, until it wasn't a vision at all but a real live person.
 
Would you keep reading? I think it would be hard to portray Dorothy Parker. How can anyone else be as witty? As full of bon mots? I'll see how the author did and let you know.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dreaming of France -- Peaches for Father Francis



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.
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
I finished reading  Peaches for Father Francis by Joanne Harris. She's also the author of Chocolat, the book and movie set in a small town in France where a single mother and her daughter are judged by the people there.
In this new book, a sequel to Chocolat, the main character Vianne is living in Paris when she receives a letter from an old friend who has died. The letter tells her presciently that she is needed back in her old village. The priest there, who had disapproved of Vianne, is struggling with the new Muslim population who have moved to the village. The acceptance of Muslims in this very Catholic country is obviously an issue the whole country is dealing with as they argue about whether Muslim girls can wear headscarves in school. I hadn't considered that the reaction to this mandate might be that Muslim families simply keep their teenage girls home from school.
In addition to dealing with these cultural rifts, this book combines a lot of the things everyone loves about France, the meals and the time to enjoy life, family and friends.
 The story is told through the viewpoints of both Vianne and Father Francis.  There's lots of small town intrigue and a little magic through the chocolate that Vianne finally makes to get a handle on the problems in the town.
The book dragged a bit, until about two-thirds in and then I stayed up much later than my bedtime because I just had to finish it.
It's worth a leisurely read to enjoy the atmosphere and the relationships.
Here's a photo that looks like a typical French village where Peaches for Father Francis was set.  Everytime we drive some place like this, I wonder how the cars will fit up the narrow road, especially when people are walking along.
 
  

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Saturday Snapshot -- Cork

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
My brother lives about an hour and a half away from us. We went there the Friday after Thanksgiving to celebrate with him and he was excited to try a new corkscrew he'd gotten. But when he tried to open the wine, it pushed the cork into the bottle.
As he tried to pour, the cork floated into the neck of the bottle preventing the wine from coming out until a nudge dislodged it and it gushed out.
After that, the cork just floated in the bottle not causing any trouble.
It made me laugh. Family can be so quirky.
My daughter thought to take a picture.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Words and Peace Book Review of My Book

Emma at Words and Peace reviewed my book, and she liked it. She's from France, so it made me a little nervous for her to read it.
Would she think I was fair to the French?
Worse, would she think I stereotyped them?
Would she hate the spattering of Franglish I used?
Go take a look and leave a comment so I don't feel so all alone.
It makes me feel like a real author every time.

Signs in the Sky

For days now, I've walked outside to a cacophony of birds. They are filling the trees and for random reasons taking to the skies to hover overhead before settling back into the bare, black branches.
Today, as Earl and I headed out for a walk, the neighbor was in his backyard with a hose in his hand.
"Don't spray the dogs," I joked. He dotes on the dogs.
"I'd like to spray those darn birds. Why don't they head south?" the neighbor asked.
Earl said he thought they were grackles, dark birds with spots on their backs.
All along the walk, the birds would land on the grass or in the trees -- chattering and chattering before they shot into the sky again.

I tried over and over to get a photo of the grackles filling in the sky. I missed everytime.
And I didn't think anything about it. I mean, I tried to get a picture, thinking the photo of the birds in the sky might go well with my new novel A Charm of Finches, which is what a flock of finches is called.
I even looked up what a group of grackles is called -- it's a plague of grackles.
But I didn't make the connection that the sole purpose of the bird-filled trees might be to serve as inspiration for my novel. Why didn't I see that they were signs to me? (Do you think that's too self serving?)
The birds are filling the trees and the skies to remind me to keep writing.
It's either that or they're preparing for a remake of the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie.
Oh, I hope they're just here for inspiration.


Cruelty

I don't watch the news. That doesn't mean I'm uninformed. I listen to NPR and feel like I'm fairly well schooled in issues of the day, even if I didn't know who Snooki was for years.
Yesterday, I heard on NPR that a man in his 50s was pushed in front of a subway train in New York and the man died. They were searching for the man who pushed him.
I thought how awful that was. I pictured him falling to the middle of the tracks as the train came speeding in.
Today though, I went to the YMCA to run on the treadmill and they have five televisions spread across the front of the room. One of the televisions had a morning show that showed a picture from a New York newspaper. It showed a man holding onto the platform and scrambling to get up as a train with its beam of light closed in on him. The headline said, "This Man is Going to Die."
I was horrified. The man was looking at the oncoming train and the platform looked strangely empty, as if everyone had backed away in fear. And someone stood there taking a picture of this. Where were the people pulling on the man's arms to help him back to the platform?
This was an awful story when I heard it on the radio, but my stomach just churned upon seeing the picture and the evidence of how horrific it was.
I wish people of the world would be less cruel and more kind.
So I can get this image out of my head, would you share some kind stories?

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- Traveling with Pomegranates

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.

This week I'm reading Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor. Sue Monk Kidd is the author of The Secret Life of Bees, but that's not what drew me to the book. The travel memoir is about Kidd who is on the cusp of 50 and having a hard time with who travels with her daughter, a recent college graduate, to Greece. I'm on the cusp of 50 and my daughter is turning 21 this year, so it seems like these women took the trip that we will not be able to afford this year. But my daughter and I would probably go to France instead of Greece.
Here's the introduction:
Sitting on a bench in the National Archaeological Museum in Greece, I watch my twenty-two-year-old daughter, Ann, angle her camera before a marble bas-relief of Demeter and Persephone unaware of the small ballet she's performing -- her slow, precise steps forward, the tilt of her head, the way she dips to one knee as she turns her torso, leaning into the sharp afternoon light. The scene remids me of something, a memory maybe, but I can't recall what. I only know she looks beautiful and impossibly grown, and for reasons not clear to me I'm possessed by an acute feeling of loss.
Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's mine from page 66:
"You are wearing pomegranates," he says abruptly. "You are mother and daughter? I pause halfway out the door. "Yes," I tell him. "Mother and daughter."
"Demeter and Persephone. All right then." He motions us back inside and starts the car.
 
What do you think?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Dreaming of France -- Bandol


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
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
Six years ago we took the three kids to Europe. They were 14, 12 and 10. We took a night train from Venice to Bandol, France along the Mediterranean. We walked off the train tired from lack of sleep on the train.
Since the sun had risen, we'd been watching the coastline and the sparkling sea. The train station was up a hill from the town, so we traipsed down, pulling our suitcases behind us. As we walked along, I smelled the most wonderful scent -- wisteria was blooming in great sagging bunches along the walkway.
Even though it was April, we played on the beach.
Here's Spencer at 12, a much skinnier version of the boy he has grown into.
The kids buried Tucker in the sand.

This was the view from our hotel room.
 The kids counted the time in Bandol as their favorite, but who doesn't love a vacation on the beach?
I'd say one of the biggest mistakes people make when vacationing in Europe is travelling too much. With kids, pick a central place and do day trips.
A place with natural attractions, like a beach or skiing or hiking is perfect. That way, the kids are distracted and having fun, and my husband and I were only there to soak up the culture, which we can do in any town in France.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

NaNoWriMo Ends

Usually, if I don't write 50,000 words toward a novel as part of National Novel Writing Month, I would consider it a failure. I only wrote 25,000 words in November, but I'm not beating myself up about it. I wrote more than I might have if I wasn't doing NaNoWriMo.
When I started, I planned to continue writing my memoir An American Nanny in France. But as I started writing, I realized that I wasn't feeling it.
Instead, an image kept coming back to me that one of my friends had told me about during her childhood. As we were running one day, a flock of birds flew overhead and Stephanie said, "That's how many people will be at my wedding." She said it was thing they said when they were little kids.
So that is the image I began my new novel with. Three little girls playing in a field when a flock of birds flew over. Then the novel jumps ahead to one of those girls as a grown up who is not satisfied with her life. She's a near agoraphobic and has cut off most of her social ties. She decides to change her life through feng shui and channeling her childhood friends. 
I'm calling the novel "A Charm of Finches," which is what a flock of finches is called.
So, I didn't succeed at NaNoWriMo, but I'm not counting it as a failure. I started a new novel and I have nearly a third of it written, so that can't be all bad, right?

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Saturday Snapshot -- Christmas Lights

To participate in the Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo that you (or a friend or family member) have taken then leave a direct link to your post on Alyce's blog At Home With Books. Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don’t post random photos that you find online.
I didn't manage to capture any of the Christmas lights that I really wanted to but I do think that the displays of Christmas lights are a good sign for the economy. People seem to be going all out this year.
I like the draping on the tree in this one:
 
In this one, reindeer are artfully spread throughout the scene. Those icicle lights are still haning on around here.
And this one, though a little blurry, the person went all out from the stairs at the bottom to the peak of the roof.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Money and Pain

I made a medical decision this week based on money.
I know it's something that a lot of people have to do, and I'm hoping I won't regret it because it wasn't about me, it was about Tucker.
At the first swim meet of the year, on the concrete blocks diving in, his right foot slipped as he dove. The left leg hit hard against the concrete block.
The crowd  went "Oooooh" as he hit the water.
I was timing in his lane, and I didn't think about him being hurt. I watched to see if he would force himself to catch up with the boy beside him, cause he hates to lose, even if it is because of a bad start. He finished the race, a 100 butterfly, but finished just behind the boy next to him.
This is a photo from a summer ago as Tucker swam the butterfly
Again, I was standing behind the blocks not too concerned, except thinking he would be mad that he had slipped. But the boy next to him turned and said, "Are you okay, Tucker? I heard you fall."
And the coach came to the edge of the pool and said, "Did you hurt yourself, Tucker?"
Later she said she was worried that he had pulled something because of the awkward start.
When Tucker hoisted himself out of the pool, he wouldn't put any weight on his left leg and he had a knot on his shin.
The boy next to him helped him to a chair and one of the dads, who is a sports medicine doctor, went over to look at Tucker. I kept timing and didn't think much about it.
I heard the doctor saying, "Do you feel nauseated?" and Tucker nodded. He was shaking and pale. A couple of guys helped him get to the room where the kids rest between events and Tucker lay down. The doctor kept telling him to slow down his breathing because he was going to hyperventilate.
Tucker put his hoodie over his face and breathed into it. I think he was hiding tears.
We got some Advil for him to take and after a few minutes of hovering above him, he told me to leave, he'd be fine. So I went back to timing.
Then someone came in and told me Tucker was throwing up.
The doctor and I both went back to check on him. About half an hour had passed and he was still in a lot of pain, pale and shaking, along with throwing up. The doctor said he didn't think the bone was broken, but we should take Tucker to the emergency room for x-rays.
This is what I wanted to do to make Tucker feel better
but he isn't a toddler anymore
The doctor later explained that the shin is one of the most painful places to be injured because there's nothing between the skin and the bone.
Two guys helped carry Tucker out to the car, acting like human crutches. Tucker still couldn't put any weight on his hurt leg.
In the dark of the car, Tucker reclined the seat and I slowly began to drive in the direction of the Children's Hospital.
I heard his breathing slow down as the car passed through the lighted streets. I had his phone in my pocket and I set it in the console between us. He didn't pick it up, which really worried me. Teenagers are rarely witout their phones.
I started talking to Tucker about the pain and the hospital.
I didn't say it, but I was thinking about the $200 co-pay the minute we walked in the emergency room.
Unfortunately, my earlier bout with a broken nose and surgery to correct it had depleted all of the money we had in our Medical Savings Account. A trip to the emergency room for me, plus surgery probably cost us a total of $2000, and that's with our good insurance. From here on, we were footing the bills directly from our checking account, which pays for two kids to go to college.
I didn't want to choose not to go to the ER because of money.
We decided to take a night to think about it. If we needed xrays the next morning, the doctor could send us to a walk-in place rather than the ER.
So we got back to the house and I ran in to grab the crutches. He was able to get into the house and ease himself into a recliner, where he sat for the rest of the night.
He started feeling well enough to drink some ginger ale and eat some pretzels. Later I gave him a bowl of macaroni and cheese.
This morning, he goes for his scheduled physical so we'll know more. The pain is less, but he still can't put weight on the front of his foot. He may yet go in for xrays. I hate having to make medical decisions based on money, but I know people do it every day in this country. That's crazy.
How about you? Do you put off medical care because of money?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review and Giveaway -- Mine!

Delana at du Jour reviewed my book and is hosting a giveaway.
Please hop over and take a look to see what she thought of my book.
If you leave a comment or tweet about her post, or link to it on Facebook, she'll enter you to win a copy of my book in paperback, Nook or Kindle version. Your choice.
Delana is a sassy Minnesotan who moved to Provence, France at age 50 and is making a life over there. From what I see on her Facebook and blog posts, she's having the time of her life.

First Paragraph, Tuesday Teaser -- The Vampire Lestat

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
As I said yesterday in my blog, I'm trying to catch my daughter Grace up on all the great movies and literature she missed by being young. She's 20 now, so it's time. I decided she needed to read, or hear, the real vampire series -- not Twilight. So I went to the library for the book on CD by Anne Rice. I didn't realize until we started listening that I had gotten the second one in the series, The Vampire Lestat rather than Interview with a Vampire. After I dropped Grace off in Buffalo, New York, I listened enthralled for six hours! Here's the intro:
I am the vampire Lestat. I am immortal. More or less. The light of the sun, the sustained heat of an intense fire -- these things might destroy me. But then again, they might not.

Also this week is Teaser Tuesdays. Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Open to a random page of your current read and share a teaser sentence from somewhere on that page. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers.
Here's mine from page 388:
Some of the madness dissolved in me. I stopped longing for my mortal family. I stopped being angry at the cursed thing in the temple cellar, and I thought rather of this new strength I possessed. I would live for centuries. I would know the answers to all kinds of questions. I would be the continual awareness of things as time passed! And as long as I slew only the evildoer, I could endure my blood thirst, revel in it, in fact.
 I haven't read these books since I was in my 20s. I'm so glad I'm revisiting them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dreaming of France -- Chocolat

Here's a new weekly France meme. Please join in. 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
Maybe we can all satisfy our yearnings for France, until we get there again.
Last week my 20-year-old daughter was home from college for the week. I realized that she was missing some vital information from her education. She had never seen the movie Chocolat.
 It has been a long time since I'd seen the movie and even longer since I've read the book. What I remembered about the movie was a woman and her daughter move to a French village and start a chocolate shop. I also remember Johnny Depp was especially luscious. This was still true, but I noticed so much more.
The movie opened on an empty-looking French village with gray stone buildings and cobblestone streets. People poured into a cold stone church while a woman and her little girl in red capes and hoods arrived in town along with a brisk wind. They brought change with them.

What caught my attention this time was the chocolate as it was poured from a pitcher into a cup, or as it was stirred in a big pot, or as the actors bit into each piece of chocolate. The chocolate seemed like the star of the movie -- decadent and sensual.  Juliette Binoche plays the main character Vianne. Throughout the movie, in the direst of situations, her skin looks like porcelain and she wears scooop-necked blouses that show her ivory décolletage. Her face glows with pink on the apples of her cheeks. Vianne seemed so much more alive than anyone else in the movie.
And maybe because I'm older, or mabye because Johnny Depp has received so much more exposure, he didn't wow me this time in Chocolat.
I'm reading one of the sequels to Chocolat right now, Peaches for Father Francis, and  I'm curious about the differences between the book Chocolat and the movie. I may need to read it again.
If you haven't seen the movie or read the book, give them a try.

A Cat Story

If you've read my blog in the past, you know how busy I am this time of  year with 8-10 page research papers turned in from each of my s...