Monday, September 30, 2013


After travelling Sunday, my friend and I have arrived in Boston where we will be joining Mayflower Tours Rails and Sails tour. I have spent no time in New England so this will be a new experience for me.

As we left our hotel this morning, I noticed an antiquarian book store.  The Brattle Book Store, established in 1825,  is one of Boston's oldest antiquarian bookstores. Despite my recent book weeding adventures with Maman, I had to visit.  They have so many books that they sell outside in the alley too.
Books and Bricks

The shop is stocked with so many interesting books that I could have spent the day browsing. My friend, Mary, bought a book on the lives of the saints. Resolutely, I walked out empty-handed. On the wall of the shop was a mural depicting the faces of authors. 

A Mural on the Bricks

Boston is enjoying sunshine and warm temperatures so we spent the day wandering. We will be joining a tour tomorrow so today we are relishing our independence. Tours are a good to way to visit an unfamiliar area but I find that I do not always feel sociable. Even with friends, I like to wander on my own sometimes and discover sights that are off the beaten track. A house front, an iron grille, a lovely garden have the power to enchant me.

Mary suggested that we look for the Cheers restaurant. We found it on Beacon Street and I ordered Boston Baked Beans of course. Mary had the Boston Clam Chowder.
Boston Beans and Boston Chowder

After lunch, we walked to the waterfront and saw the old market and the customs house. This would be one of the oldest markets in North America. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, our tummies were full so all was right in the world!

Tomorrow, after a sail in the Boston harbour, we will board a bus for Portland, Maine.

I was thinking of Boston books as Boston is  a bookish city.

I enjoyed Walden by Henry David Thoreau when I read it in university.  If I had time, I would visit Walden Pond. The Bostonians by Henry James was a novel that dealt with feminism and the role of women. There is a 1984 movie version with Vanessa Redgrave. One of my favourite authors of journals and poetry is May Sarton who lived in nearby Cambridge.

I picked up the Beacon Hill neighbourhood newspaper, if I lived here, I would visit the Athenaeum on Beacon Street where there are frequent lectures by noted authors. Boston is truly a cultural and literary mecca.
A Feminist and Literary Centre

Friday, September 27, 2013

National Weight Stigma Awareness Week

Did you know that this is National Weight Stigma Awareness Week in the United States? Many of the over 55 year age group are uncomfortable and critical of our body shapes which are quite distinct from our weight.

Right now, I am wearing a size 14 in most clothing but I feel at my best when I wear a size 10. I am 5'3" so when I wear a size 10, I do not look the same as a person who is 5'9" wearing size 10. It seems to me that many of us wish to be taller or leaner or to have longer legs.

I walk 4 days of the week for 45 minutes and visit my personal trainer twice a week. I can leg press 140 pounds and use 45 pound weights for my upper body. I am strong but I am not slender.

I have no cholesterol problems because I eat a diet of fruit, vegetables, chicken and fish. Obviously, I need to fine tune my diet if I wish to wear a size 10. Many fellow bloggers can attest to the fact that it is possible to lose 2 sizes. While I would like to lose these 2 sizes, it is important to realize that whatever size I wear, I will still be me. The people who love me will love me if I am size 10 or size 20.

The media leads us to believe that if we change our bodies we can transform our lives. While weight loss may lower blood pressure, prevent Type 2 diabetes and give us more energy, it will probably not impact on our established relationships. If we are strong confident role models to younger women and we feel satisfied with ourselves, good health should be enough.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Difficult Days

My suitcase lies mostly packed beside the bed. We don't have a spare room so Monsieur complains just about every time he comes into the bedroom. I am having a hard time finishing my travel preparations. My mother-in-law has been in acute care for 3 weeks and left us today. We went to the hospital to say good-bye and to the care home where she had lived for 3 years to pick up her personal belongings.

The first time that I met her was at Bowen Island about 26 years ago when I, the girlfriend of the time, finally got to meet the Mother. Dressed in matching culottes and top, eager to impress, I was handed a paint scraper and told to start on the window sills.

My mother-in-law was a wealthy woman who never forgot the practical parts of life. The doctor remarked that my mother-in-law was tough and the lady across the hall at the care home mentioned that she had a "good brain." She liked to do the New York Times crossword puzzle, listen to the CBC radio   and to play bridge. Later in her life, when her mind was not as sharp, she could still win regularly at trivia.

I have been lucky with my mothers-in-law (I have had two). Each of them has provided me with a sort of alternative mother and a different perspective on life. I stayed friends with both of them regardless of my relationships with their sons. It's good to have older women as friends because there is a lot that one can learn from them.

My mother-in-law wanted no obituary or service. Monsieur will go tomorrow to make the arrangements and I will go back to trying to pack the suitcase. This has been a year of much change.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Grand Prix d'Art

It's fun to recognize locations in the village.
We have a fun event in our community every September. It's called The Grand Prix of Art. A number of artists, adults and youth, participate in a plein air painting competition that takes place at various outdoor locations in our village.
The boardwalk passes in front of the restored cannery workers' houses.

The artists choose an outdoor site by lottery and have 3 hours to complete a painting. The paintings are hung in the old Britannia Heritage Shipyard Chinese Bunkhouse and the public are invited to view the finished products and to vote for the people's favourite. All of the paintings are offered for sale.
This is a youth entry. I walked past this site today with Maman.

Saturday was painting day and there were artists and spectators throughout the village. My friend and I went to view the paintings yesterday. I am amazed at the quality of the paintings. We enjoy identifying all of the community venues. After a drizzly morning, the sun broke through and we were able to walk along the boardwalk and to drink our coffee outside.

My dad used to call this Christina's park because my daughter once played music here with the school band.
On Sunday, I will be travelling to the east coast to experience autumn in a different location. This is my favourite season as I love the golden tones but I feel some sadness because my mother-in-law is slowly passing. This year, Monsieur and I will both have suffered the loss of a parent. It makes me aware of the time I spend with Maman who will be having her 82nd birthday on Saturday.
My mum and I like to wander together.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman

Right now, Monsieur and I are going through a rough patch. Besides the relationship issues, my mother-in-law has suffered 2 strokes in the last 10 days and is receiving "comfort care." My mother-in-law played a role in our couple life early in our relationship. We spent many week-ends with her on Bowen Island, travelled with her in a motorhome, and I cruised 5 times to Alaska with her when she no longer had Bowen or was able to travel. She and I used to go to plays together and we have even cried together at times. During the last few years, Monsieur has chosen to visit his mother alone and I have respected his wish to have a closer private time with his "mom". His  mother has an "o", mine has a "u".

Yesterday, was my second counselling session. Only I attended and we talked about how I show love and how love was shown in my family. There is a book The Five Languages of Love by Gary Chapman that Monsieur and I read several years ago and that I revisited last night. I am a "book person" and a problem solver so, in times of stress, I try to solve my problems by reading.

The five languages of love, according to Chapman, are affirmation, service, time, gifts and touch.
Which languages we value most depends on our family of origin and our early experience. I am the eldest of four children, 3 of us born within 5 years. According to the questionnaire, my greatest needs are for affirmation and for touch. My mother does not like to "palaver" or brag about her children which is probably why affirmation is so important to me. "Conscientious" and "hard-working" have always been my labels at school and at work. I have always strived to do the best job that I can. I felt  joy when my dying father placed my Sorbonne graduation picture above his bed and told everyone about his "smart" daughter. As my mother had another child on the way when I was only 5 months old, I had no time to be the "superstar."

My parents kissed almost every day of their 62 year marriage. Whenever my mum was leaving the hospital, my parents embraced at length. Dad sat in the wheelchair at the window to watch mum drive away and mum honked (forget it was a hospital zone) as she pulled away. Each night when we were children, my mother tucked us in and kissed us goodnight. We are a quietly affectionate family. Interestingly, neither of my husbands have come from cuddly families and darling daughter would balk if I tried to kiss her.

I enjoy giving gifts, providing service and spending time with those that I love. I feel happy when my loved ones feel happy and feel frustrated if my efforts are not appreciated.

I don't believe that life is as simple as any book or family system therapy makes it sound but I do believe (as the teacher-librarian person that I used to be) that we are more likely to be successful, the more tools that we have in our toolbox.

Today, I will go with my husband to visit his mother and to say good-bye to a lady who was also my friend.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

An Afternoon Reading Sheryl Sandberg

Yesterday morning, my trainer, Rose, loaned me her copy of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. I had first been introduced to this book by Materfamilias and had only just read some of her impressions of the book. In Lean In, Sandberg, the COO of Facebook talks about how well-educated women have not reached the top positions of Fortune 500 Companies in America.

Today's women, who are better educated than ever before, are under-represented in leadership roles in business and in government. One of the reasons for this underrepresentation, according to Sandberg is that we undervalue our potential and our worth. While a man applies for a job for which he is 60% qualified, a woman will hesitate to apply for the same job unless she feels 100% qualified. Sandberg asserts that women's undervaluation of their own potential leads to weaker negotiation with employers.
Women can not play a 50% role in the power structure until their partners play a 50% role in the home. Most of what Sandberg says, makes complete sense to me when I consider my personal circumstances.

Ironically, I have my own very different table story that my mother used to tell about La Petite Mademoiselle (c'est moi). I was such a polite well-behaved little child, that I would never touch or ask for any treats on the coffee table when I was visiting. Once I didn't eat my cake at a children's party because I had no fork. I was polite and "knew my place." As a bright girl, I didn't raise my hand for fear that people would consider me "a know-it-all." Although I was a scholarship winner, I was devastated at having to "go into the draw" for a grad date. I probably would have traded my high grades for any boyfriend. I am not embarrassed or ashamed of this time of my life because I really did not know anything else. Had I been born in 1969 as Sandberg was, my outlook would have been different.

When I married in 1974, young women did not have the same sexual freedom as they did 20 years later. It was expected that if a young man and woman had a committed relationship for a period of time that they would marry. A responsible young man knew that he would be the principal breadwinner and so focussed on career while his young wife worked outside the home until the children were born. I worked as a bank teller and was overjoyed when my daughter was born after 10 months of marriage. Certainly, career, nannies or husband's participation in the household were the furthest things from my mind!

I accept that the choices that I made at this time were not the best ones for me personally or professionally but they were the choices that I knew how to make. I read Betty Friedan and I experienced the discomfort of a life that didn't feel right. At 34, I chose to leave that life and started a different one. Sometimes, when I hear of a 39th anniversary, I feel a little sad for the life that I left and I would have enjoyed having more children. But I have accomplished some other professional and personal goals. Sandberg clearly states that we can not have it all. Nobody can. Her daughter cries when mummy leaves just like any other child.

As the women's movement (really the people's movement) is more established, younger women are able to make more informed decisions about their lives. I can't go back to the 70's and change history.
But tomorrow, I will be celebrating the birthday of my 38 year-old daughter who leads an independent life on her own terms.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Packing Again

Each time that I travel, I return home vowing to carry less with me. I haven't got to carryon mode because there are always countless situations ahead and I just don't know what clothing that I will need.
I read The Vivienne Files  daily and I purchased a helpful ebook called Travelling Light by Imogen Lamport but I still find it difficult to eliminate that extra baggage weight that becomes uncomfortable and inconvenient on travelling days. 

In October, I will be spending 16 days touring in Eastern Canada and New England. I will be travelling with a group to see the fall foliage and there will be some dinners with the other tour members. I have decided that dark brown dress pants, a brown jersey skirt  and a pair of brown casual pants worn with beige, creme and orange tops should provide me with enough options for layering.  In New York, I will be going to the New York Philharmonic and to Motown the Musical at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre. I think that my brown dress pants should take me to both events and I will probably wear some soft, low boots with them.I'll look at the weather before I leave but will probably just take a light raincoat and hat.

I board a ship in Québec City to travel down the coast to the Panama Canal and up to San Diego. It is likely that it will be warm and humid for this part of the trip.  My thought is to switch out the dark brown pants to beige capris to be worn with the same beige, creme and orange tops and pack two brown and orange sundresses that can be worn sightseeing, for casual evenings and over my bathing suit. I still have formal evenings to consider but my dress brown pants, a long taupe skirt,  and a couple of sparkly tops in gold and bronze should suffice.

If I am able to stay within my plan, my footwear, scarves and jewellery should coordinate with all of my outfits. This is a completely different type of travelling from my sojourns in Paris but I am committed to lightening my load!

I really, really liked what Janice Riggs planned for A Femme's book tour and my wardrobe is just a switch from navy to brown.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Canadian Book Challenge and Revisiting My Boxes

Monsieur and I live in 900 square feet  which, since living in Paris, I find more than ample for one person with friendly visitors and not  many belongings. I have just discovered another interesting new blog 66 Square Feet where the author, her French husband and a cat live graciously in an apartment in New York. However, the displaced Monsieur has set up a practise studio on our enclosed balcony and I have many boxes of books which I fully intend to reread in retirement.

Which brings me to my first book of The Canadian Book Challenge: Paris Notebooks by Mavis Gallant. My copy is an old Macmillan paperback, yellowed with age and purchased for $4.95 Canadian sometime in the eighties. Paris was just a dream then and the writings of Mavis Gallant were a foray into a fantasy land. This reading will be from a totally different perspective. I'm going to start reading today and will write my first review for The Book Mine Set later this week.

I admire Mavis Gallant as do many other international readers and writers. You might enjoy this trailer from Youtube. Do you ever reread books and find that you are reading from a totally different perspective? Do you believe that it is what we bring to the book that makes it rich and meaningful to us?

Crusoe's Daughter

Last night, I finished reading Crusoe's Daughter by Jane Gardam, the selection for discussion at Cornflower Books Reading Club. If you are interested in an online book group, you still have time to read the book before  September 28 when the discussion will begin.

The interesting thing about the "classics", in my experience, is that  although very few people have read them, we all think that we know the story. Long ago, when I completed a double major in English and French Literature, I studied Daniel Defoe but the novel that I read was Moll Flanders.  Like many people, the extent of my knowledge of Crusoe is that he was shipwrecked, that there were cannibals and that he got all of his work done by Friday. The term "gal Friday" (ugh) is probably a reference to the novel.

Gardam's novel is the story of Polly Flint, a young girl who is left with two odd maiden aunts in a yellow house by the North Sea. Polly, who has few playmates, is fascinated by the story of Robinson Crusoe.  Polly spends her life living alone with a servant, surviving the loss of family, unmet expectations of lovers, alcoholism, war and is eventually given two little girls to raise in the yellow house. Throughout Polly's life, Crusoe is her companion.

 As books and stories have often seen me through the difficult spots in my own life, I believe in the power of  print to render a lonely life less lonely. I don't want to spoil the plot for you so I won't write any more. I would recommend Crusoe's Daughter and I will eagerly wait for September 28 to hear other readers' impressions of the novel.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What is Happening?

Turmoil and sadness continue to reign chez nous. My trainer keeps missing our appointments so my attempts at healthy distraction are being thwarted. Monsieur is moving out of his music studio since he could not come to a compromise with the music school next door. The property owners where I live are fighting among themselves and Belle-mère has had a stroke.

Belle-mère has been a good friend to me over the years and when I went through an earlier patch of trouble with Monsieur, I dealt with the issue of continuing our friendship should M. and my relationship fail. She is, however, 94 years old and will not live forever. I know that she would not wish to live a long time with any motor impairment. She was a physical woman who loved to walk along the seawall and vigorously attack the weeds at her Bowen Island summer home.

Since I have been home from Europe, this year, life has been very difficult. As my husband distances from me, my anxiety level increases. Given that Monsieur suffers from a mood disorder, the rough patches come and go. I always have the faith that the man that I love will return.

Today, I will go to church with Maman who is coming more or less willingly. The theme for September is reconciliation and my small group leader has sent us some readings to prepare for discussion. It seems that reconciliation means different things to different people. For some, it is absolution and for others acceptance. I am not personally responsible for wrongs that someone else commits but I am responsible for the role that I play in perpetuating my own or anyone else's suffering.

I will keep Materfamilias' post Perplexed in my heart and mind because it is a combination of doubt and belief that causes me discomfort right now.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I've Found a New Blog!

I love to find a new challenge! I'm competitive in a nerdy sort of way. That's why I liked being a librarian. Today, I found The Book Mine Set, a reading blog with a Canadian flavour. Did you know that Canada is the home of many authors who are read throughout the world? Every year, in October, I like to attend the Vancouver Readers' And Writer's Festival where Canadian and international authors read from and discuss their latest works.

Earlier in the summer, I read The Navigator of New York, a novel by Wayne Johnston, a Newfoundland author who will be presenting at this year's festival. Although I will be unable to attend the festival, I will be participating in The 7th Annual Canadian Book Challenge at Book Mine Set. In order to participate, you must read and review Canadian books (hopefully 13 before next Canada Day, July 1, 2014). If you are interested in learning more about Canadian books, you will find an assortment of titles on both the Book Mine blog and on the festival blog.

So many books, so little time.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

New Year, More Dreams

When I started this blog, 7 months ago, my dad had just died. Even when death is imminent, the loss of a parent is life-changing. Feelings of loss seem to arise at unexpected moments.  I even miss the time that I spent visiting the hospital and my involvement in the world of the Extended Care Unit. Before my dad became a resident of ECU, I had never really seen the frail elderly who are just like you and me except that they are older.

There is a tendency in our society to close our eyes to ageing and the aged. When I used to walk down the corridor to my dad's room, I passed a lady who was always reading. To my mum, I referred to her as "The Reading Lady." Last year, at the Harvest Lunch, the Lady said a prayer and she was an extremely articulate woman. In twenty years, my friends and I may be residents of ECU, some of us frail in body, some of us suffering from cognitive impairment. But we will still be us!

At the end of September, I will be leaving the West Coast to experience Fall in New England. I will travel to Québec where I spent a summer in 1969 with a family who spoke only French and who were an influence on my life in French. We had great fun at their chalet on Lake Magog near Sherbrooke. In Québec City, I shall board a ship to explore the Maritime provinces, New England, down to the Panama Canal ending up in San Diego. I really do not know what to pack!

This summer has been a difficult one for me for a lot of reasons. We all have issues in our lives that are painful to deal with so we simply use activities or pleasures as distractions. I have contacted a counsellor to work with me to deal with my unhealed emotional wounds. The theme for my small discipleship group for September is Reconciliation with a view to addressing the conflicts in our lives that threaten our relationships.

September is probably a too short month to "fix my life" but I am nothing if not persevering.