Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I bought a few things at my favorite café the other day. As I was walking out, Laurent, so sweet, handed me something, the sweetest something, as I walked out the door. I got back into the car with my bag of stuff and a tin full of my favorite chocolate covered almonds.

Boy2 - Are those chocolates? Those look like chocolates. Are they Mama?

Me - Yes. And no, you may not have any.

Boy2 - What? Why? You share everything with us, you always let us taste your food and you always let us have the chocolate you get when you have a coffee.

Me - Because you've got bags of Easter chocolate to eat, you don't need anymore and these are my favorites, not yours, you won't feel about them the way I do. These chocolates need to be loved.

Boy2 starts laughing.

Boy1 has known me for 3 years more than Boy2.

Boy1 - Um, I'm afraid she's not joking.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ride with me

Circumstances introduced you to him a long time a ago, probably when you were very young, maybe 8 or 9 years old. Do you remember the first time? You felt unfamiliar to yourself in his presence, laden as well, an electric blanket upon you that someone forgot to turn off.

He has visited you over the years, never invited and never really welcome, like your other dark companions. You thought he left between visits, really left you. You never realized he had a home, your basement was full of other shadowed friends.

You are lucky, he is not your darkest companion, distress. You have another, the darkest of all, who has also been with you for years, forever actually, part of your birthright - how odd is that? An obscured passenger, waiting to lead the way.

You will let him one day, you know that now. You will let your decisions be guided by the one who lives only in the shadows and sees truth in the dark.

Come what may.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Opera Red

A whisper should be felt, not just heard. It should be that close.

When it's not, for whatever reason, when it's just an ear-tease, when it isn't given the possibility to be what it was always meant to be, you eventually stop listening, stop believing. You no longer believe the words because their integrity is in the touch, they must be felt. And you no longer believe that touch will eventually reach you. So you give up. Not because it will have any effect - it won't - but because there's simply nothing worse than wanting and waiting and expecting what you will never have.

Unfortunately, it does not end there.

Some things don't ever fade. You just find a better place to store them. Somewhere that closets the intensity you cannot bear to witness and never touch. Nothing is waterproof, however. That intensity, that opera red, will seep out sometimes, making you think you're bleeding out, from inside your insides.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I don't kiss the boys on the mouth. Never really have. Not because I feel any particular way about it but more because of the way other people feel about it. Yes, I realize how silly that is as I write it.

Anyway, in France (sweeping generalization ahead), the vast majority of families don't kiss each other on the mouth, aside from the spouses, obviously. It was never anything I had really thought about until I moved here and French people asked me about it sometimes. Hey, Nicole, do people REALLY kiss other family members on the mouth like they do in American movies?

Kissing here is different, it's true. There's the whole ritual of la bise, you know, the kissing on both cheeks thing. Which is the standard greeting between all children and adults, women with women, women with men, and some men with men, depending on the relationship - family members yes, friends will more likely get a handshake.

At school, most of the children, even the boys who are trying to be very non-nonchalant about their mothers (WHICH INCLUDES BOY1) give one kiss to them when they arrive to pick them up. Despite the fact that this was not necessairly customary for me, when Boy1 told me to 'lay off the love stuff' when I picked him up from school (and by that he meant hugs), I decided it was better than nothing. So now I get a polite peck on the cheek. Thankfully, Boy2 is still young enough to care more about getting a hug from me than being cool while his friends are around.

Back to the kissing on the mouth thing. It's generally, even by children, considered to be a kiss reserved for people in a romantic relationship. Once, Boy2 turned his head as I was giving him a kiss on the cheek and he laughed and said, "Ooohhh, we kissed on the mouth."

So, the other day Boy2 actually asked me if we could kiss on the mouth. I said no, some families, mostly in other countries, kiss each other on the mouth but that we weren't that kind of family. His reply, "Let's be that kind of family." I said no again. His last attempt, "How about we let eeny, meeny, miny, moe decide?"

Monday, April 20, 2009

Earth of fire

The lock on my garage door is odd. You have turn the key away from the lock in order to lock it. It's completely counter-intuitive. It's not at all what you want to do. I've been locking and unlocking that door for years and it still hits me every time that it's very illogical.

We don't always get to do what we want to do. Does it sound like I'm stating the obvious? I'm not.

So what do you do when unlocking the door means turning the key towards the lock? What do you do when you can't do what your intuition tells you to do? When the creases in your soul are yelling at you to do something other than what you absolutely must do? I'm no longer talking about garage doors.

I don't know.

I suspect you try to unfold your soul, unfold it all, and take a look at what has gathered in those pleats. A story lies there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lâcher prise

Lâcher - to let go
Prise - a hold, a grip

I wish I had more grace.  I wish I knew more about history.  I wish I learned lessons more easily.  I wish I were more serene.  I wish I knew what I am supposed to be doing.  I wish I didn't use self-destruction as a coping mechanism.  I wish I drank more tea and less coffee.  I wish I had more tools in my tool box.  

I had a dream the other day in which I jumped off a beautiful cliff.  I didn't hesitate, I just jumped and wondered if I would be afraid.  I wasn't.  It felt amazing.  I felt relieved and free.  It wasn't a suicide jump, it was a lâcher prise.  It was a hold I let go of.   

Question of the day:  when was the last time you let go of your hold?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tried and true

Tests, by nature, are designed to reveal.   Level, rank, resources.  Character, motivation, determination.    

I took a class in graduate school  - testing theory.  Not that it has helped me in real life.  My tests are never fair and the grading scale is harsh and no one ever seems to have the proper test taking skills.  

So I've revised my methodology.   The tests are over.  It's now trial by fire.

Question for the day:  when was the last time you were tested?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Well I never

Someone actually called me capricious this weekend.

Capricious? Come on. Whimsical, maybe. Occasionally unpredictable, and even that's a stretch, because, really, if you know someone really well, are they ever? But capricious?

I was hoping it was a language thing, the capricious flavored mud was slung in French. Slung, is really the past participle of the verb to sling? Sling, slang, slung?

Anyway, back to not being capricious. I asked for clarifications and just got more mud, it means the same thing in French as in English. Governed by caprice. Willfulness, whims, vagaries. It just got worse as it went on.

Given my reaction, there was a vague attempt at sugar coating the mud.

Apparently, I wear my capriciousness very well.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

And not only that, but she also refuses to get undressed

Yesterday I had my second visit at the office of La Médecine du Travail. If you work in France, theoretically, at some point, you're supposed to be seen by a doctor working at the Work Medicine Office. The idea being that some people don't take care of themselves and if you integrate a medical visit into professional life, more people will get regular check-ups. There are also those high pressure jobs where stress can have major effects on health and then very high-risk or physical jobs where physical condition is important.

I teach English. You can see where I'm going with this.

For my first visit, two years ago, I didn't know what to expect and I just kind of went along with everything.

But not this time.

I walked in and gave my name. The receptionist asked me if I had brought some urine in with me. I hadn't. She asked me if I would like to urinate in a cup for her. I wouldn't. She stared. I waited. She asked why. I said that I had already urinated in a cup once for my GP this year and once for my gynecologist this year and I thought that was just about enough urinating in cups for me. She showed me to the doctor's office.

A very nice doctor. She asked me if she had had any health problems since my last visit two years ago. She. As in me, but in the third person. I know I'm a princess and all regal and everything but I was surprised by the royal we. This continued while she asked me about smoking, exercise and work problems. I kept my repsonses monosyllabic to avoid saying, "No, she doesn't and yes she does and no she deosn't."

Then she asked me to get undressed. Now, I'm all for getting undressed when the situation calls for it. But this just didn't seem like one of those situations. Why did I need to be in panties and a bra in order for it to be determined that I'm physcially apt to teach English?

So I said no. She looked at me oddly and offered possible explanations as to why I wouldn't want to do that (period? prude?). It wasn't either of those, I really just didn't feel like it and didn't see the point. She huffed and puffed and pushed up my sleeve to take my blood pressure, listened to my heart through my t-shirt, and pushed my pant leg up to see if I had puffy ankles.

Before you go thinking that I'm a royal pain in the ass, I swear I'm not. You get no gown here, no privacy while you undress, you just stand there and do your strip tease while the doctor watches. And sometimes, especially when there's no music, you just don't feel like it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

On needing sweetness

So I went to the bakery yesterday to get some bread. I started off something like this, "Eh, I'll have a loaf of spelt bread, sliced, don't close the bag please." Because they always use these little tapey, plasticy, wrapy things that I can't ever get off without ripping the bag. And since the boys and I never finish a loaf in one sitting, I like for the bag to remain intact. And since the boys are gone for the week, who knows how long that loaf of bread will last me. I'll end up using most of it to make garlic croutons, I suspect. Or maybe I'll stuff something for Easter dinner.

Back to the bakery, while she (baker's wife) is slicing and not closing bags, I'm looking around, and there's a guy behind me looking at me looking around, probably thinking, I'd really like to get my bread today lady. And she asks the question, "Anything else?" Well, maybe it's being without the boys for a week or maybe it's something else absent from my life but all I could think was YES! many things else.

So, that one loaf of bread was followed by an, "Um, maybe 100 grams of assorted chocolates? Dark only, please."

Observing man shifted to the other foot. "Anything else?"

Why did she keep asking me that? It just seemed rude to stop. "Well, maybe 50 grams of nougat - almonds and dried cherries."

Observing man shifts again. I look back at him and say, "Why don't you go ahead and get your bread, I may be here for a while."

He smiled and said, "No, no, please, take your time." I thought about telling him that his body language disagreed heartily with his spoken language, but you know, this is France and the men like to be gallant.

"And maybe that mini tarte tatin."

"And actually, I'll take that last mini kougaloff too."

"Are those chocolate covered almonds made here? Oh, well then, 100 grams of those too."

Polite, observing, foot-shifting man said, "Bon appétit," as I walked out the door.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Night blue

You think, for a time, that a brief séjour in the basement might do you some good. A salt-preserved, self-preserved time out. Your eyes get used to the artificial light, then to no light at all - lights burn out.

You keep yourself busy, you keep yourself company. You could build a whole life down here.

When you come up from this basement, and I swear you will, your hands will be full of all the things you never thought you could do. You try them out here first, in the dark, unaware that it's blue dark - the kind that speaks. You're so weary of the black dark that keeps secrets - but you're unaware of that too.

When you walk up the stairs and leave nothing behind, you will know.

That which is done in the dark is still true.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Forget-me-not blue

Find your treasure. Do it young, when you can find it instinctively, like a heat-seeking missile, no questions asked. At a time when you do not yet second guess yourself, a time limited only by the endlessness of possibilities.

If you lose it, and you probably will, isn't that what youth is also about, wait a few years before you go looking for it again, try out a few more things. Make reasonable decisions, live life in your mind and in the world constructed around all your reasoned choices.

Then remember what you're missing and find it again. But before you do, think about what that treasure really is. What you really want to do with it.

Will you open it, dig your fingers in deep and let its wealth cover your hands?

Or will you turn it into a picture so you can frame it and make it fit into your life - hang it over your lovely fireplace?

If that is your choice, you'll paint the frame blue. The blue of forget-me-nots. A silent and painful nod to what you allowed yourself to lose.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pearl of darkness

A speck of dust, wrongly led. Usually by a shadowy friend, the lighting is very odd when it's time for a tornado. Who knows how you get a friend like that. Usually like an odd family heirloom, no one knows from where or why or how, but a presence is there now, accepted as part of the landscape.

There are those who will tell you pretty stories of an out-of-place grain of sand and a pearl, but that is not our story. Ours is a story of a speck of dust, led awry.

I do not know the physics of tornadoes, I do not know how warm and cold and high and low and wind and dust manage to dance together. But I am from the Midwest, I know the drills, I have spent time in basements. I have felt the chaotic swirl of that tornado for years, lived with its threat, its promise of destruction my darkest companion.

How have I really lived with it? I have dressed it up during the off seasons to take it out, decade and music helping me choose its accessories.