Thursday, January 31, 2013

Natural? Curly

I was born with curly hair.  My mother always reminds me that the nurses combed my hair into marcel
waves. I smoothed, straightened and generally fussed with my curls in my teens. In my twenties, married,with a child and as a full-time student, I let my hair go natural. It was dark, healthy and young.

However, my hair has now been coloured for twenty years and it is definitely thinner, finer and drier. I find it time-consuming to manage my curls naturally. I use sulphate free this and silicon free that.  I scrunch, air-dry and sometimes diffuse. I only see hairdressers who specialize in curly hair.  Hats are my friends. If I get a look that I like, the west coast weather can affect it in no time.

I spent three years with straight hair courtesy of the Brazilian Blowout. It was costly, unhealthy and
warnings about formaldehyde were issued. But it was ever so easy. Planning my two months in Europe
this spring, I am in a quandary:to straighten or to stick to the natural look?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

It Takes a Village

I live in a village that transforms every few weeks into Storybrooke, Maine, the setting of the television series, Once Upon a Time. I've never watched series but it is a favourite of my daughter. Vintage-style signs are hung and window displays are changed. For thirty years, I have shopped in this village sharing stories with the merchants about growing children and aging parents.  My father walked into the village every day before his hospitalization. The local coffee shop woman knew that he wanted his coffee with some hot water added.  Once, he collapsed on the pier and a woman in one of the nearby restaurants went looking for my mother.

What makes a village? Not vintage signs or props.  It's taking the time to listen to the shopkeeper's story or sharing your own joys and challenges. It's listening and caring about the elderly customer or remembering the girl that you taught many years ago.  It's meeting people of like mind in a coffee shop.
A village is about caring and connecting. Neither shopping malls nor online sites can provide us with this human contact.
Post office-museum in my home village
Aurélie dans son restaurant à Paris

You can find a village in a quaint surrounding, in an arrondissement in Paris, in a barrio in Mexico or wherever you take the time to connect with people on a personal level.

Aurélie's restaurant La Pomme d'Amour is at 316 rue St. Jacques in the 5th in Paris. I lived above the restaurant, ate, studied, practised my French and brought many a Canadian visitor there.

Monday, January 28, 2013

On the Road

Photo taken on the Camino de Santiago
In a few weeks I will be packing my bags and heading off again.  Retirement has provided me with the freedom to travel.  I love the thought of new places and the challenge of creating a  temporary new life in a different city. My next apartment will be in Montmartre. I am anticipating the joy of discoveries: new markets, new bakeries, a French hairdresser, bookstores, small museums and galleries.

Throughout my life, I have yearned for far off lands where the locals speak a different language. I read and studied languages. As a young girl, I wanted to be a foreign correspondent or an interpreter for the United Nations.  Reality intervened and I became an English as a Second Language Teacher and a librarian in a French Immersion School. I live in an apartment about 2k from my mother and my daughter. I taught in the school district that I attended as a child. Forty years ago, I did not know how to make my dreams come true but I enjoyed the path that my life has taken. Non, je ne regrette rien. What were your childhood dreams? How were those dreams incorporated into your life? Are we ever too old to have new dreams?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Do I have to Buy This?

I enjoy clothes. I always have and I probably always will. Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved creating vignettes with my wardrobe.  I was ecstatic to have a daughter to dress when she was young.
She got her revenge by wearing black from the time she was fifteen until  she was twenty-five.
I am not the tallest, thinnest or prettiest woman in any room. Certainly not the youngest. But seldom do I appear in public without having considered the details of costume.

I love reading The Vivienne Files and consider Polyvore like dress up dolls. I have worked with a personal stylist and know what looks good. But do I need to buy everything that I find that suits me?
It's almost like a starving person who is afraid that she will never eat again. My closets bulge with attractive clothing in the brown, orange and teal shades. My drawers are jammed with good foundation garments and hosiery. Wicker baskets reveal a plethora of accessories. And I love it all!

But....I am retired. I walk, go to fitness, visit my mother, dine and go to movies, theatre and opera. Probably the same as many other retired women. Is my fascination with clothing an artistic expression of myself? Is it insecurity that prevents me from emptying the garbage without a thought of what I look like? Why does M. Là-bas never think of this? Could it just be like playing dress up?  Does anyone else ask these questions or is it just January and time on my hands?  Have you ever tried a shopping diet?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Great News!

Four years ago, I visited The Oaxaca Learning Center in the city of Oaxaca de Juarez. I was looking for a sunny place to volunteer in my future retirement. The Center provides tutoring for the young people of the Oaxaca region in order that they can stay in school.  Many of the graduates go on to attend university thanks to the program. The funding for the Center comes from a rental apartment and bed and breakfast on the premises.  Guests may volunteer as they wish.

Oaxaca is a fascinating area and I felt truly comfortable in the apartment.  As I was leaving, I asked how I could help.  Gary Titus, the founder of the Center, had just met a young girl, Maria, who had a scholarship to attend the Teaching Program for Native people of Mexico. She is Zapotec and planned to teach in a small village when she graduated.  Unfortunately, she did not have money for living expenses. She required a stipend to pursue her dream. Maria is exceptional. During her four years of teacher training, she has provided me with a progress report every month.  My sister, Janis and I co-sponsor her and we travelled to Oaxaca to meet her.  This morning, when I got my December letter, I was astonished.  Maria has applied for an exchange with the University of Granada in Spain and has been accepted. What a great experience for a young girl from a pueblo in the Sierra Madre del Norte.

Monday, January 21, 2013

January Escapes

January is a great month to curl up with a cozy throw blanket, a cup of tea and a good book. It doesn't need to be great literature. Sometimes a spellbinding mystery is all you need.  My favourite kind have plucky women protagonists and are often set in exotic locales or small villages. I can read out a whole series once I get going.  It's left over from my Nancy Drew days.

Has anyone read the Aimée Leduc series by Cara Black? I started with Murder in Montmartre because I am renting there in March. I continued through the series and visited murder sites in several arrondissements.  The plots get a little farfetched at times but I enjoy the characterization and the settings. If you enjoy Sue Grafton, you would probably enjoy this series.

I am a bookwoman.  I have worked in public libraries,  in school libraries, in a small independent bookstore and for a French book wholesaler. My addiction to reading would explain the series that I am
currently reading:the Miss Zukas series by Jo Dereske. Miss Zukas is a librarian who lives in the mythical town of Bellehaven in Washington State and solves mysteries with the help of a friend, her mother and an elderly aunt. Great for a Sunday afternoon read. Right now, I am reading the final book in the series: Farewell, Miss Zukas.

Does anyone have any other suggestions of mystery series?  What do you like to read during the greyish month of January?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Hope Springs

Today is my sixty-first birthday.  My father died sixteen days ago. Last year, I visited him at the Extended Care Unit where he lived for a year and we looked for snowdrops.  I am confident every year  that I will find a snowdrop in bloom on my birthday.  It is my sign that however dark and cold it may be at this time, there are brighter days ahead.

I am 61 years old. I have had a father for all of my life.  He lived a complete life and enjoyed every part of it.  He followed his dreams and, as he grew older, encouraged his children to do the same. I left for Paris last year at the time of the snowdrops knowing that I could possibly return to a world without Dad. But I came back and we saw the geraniums  together and later the autumn leaves.  I returned from my most recent trip with M. Là-bas 16 days ago and Dad died that night. Just before the new snowdrops. My dad was a gardener and liked me to wheel him in the hospital garden to look at the flowers and the greenhouse.  I know that somewhere he is watching for the first snowdrop.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


This is the beginning.  I know nothing about blogging except that I really enjoy reading about other people's day to day experiences and discovering that it truly is a small world. This is a new year and a time to start new things:planning my next adventure in Paris and wondering about this retirement thing and what my second year will bring.

The highlight of my first year was celebrating my graduation from the Cours de la Civilisation Française de la Sorbonne atop the Eiffel Tower with my mother and sister. This was my 60th birthday present to myself. Not sure what comes next. There are so many choices.  It is really the most free and exciting decade so far!