Help! I Need a Haircut!!

Ok, I admit it…I’ve had a haircut every 4 weeks ever since I can remember, like clockwork, need it or not, and have been having my copper highlights refreshed every 8 weeks for the last 10 years! I can remember my mom saying, (one of her “momisms”) that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory! And actually, hers was…always the perfect cut, color (for many years I highlighted her hair for her), perm, style…hair in perfect condition with her home “hot oil” treatments every few months! Until the day it all fell out from chemotherapy, it was beautiful! It never had a chance to grow back, unfortunately, but she gracefully accepted that fate

and even got ok with the peach fuzz that began to come back in! One of my unpleasant memories from childhood is that every night my mom would roll my hair in little sponge-and-clip curlers before I went to bed..this beginning when I was probably 5 or 6!! And as I got older, there was the ritual of sitting at the kitchen table while my mom permed my hair with a Toni home perm kit, a very smelly and trying experience with an outcome that was never very pretty…kinky, tight curls that made me feel like a frizzy Shirley Temple. As I grew up, I “put my hair up” in curlers every night, and during the day the curls would fall and my hair would be half stick straight and half limp waves. A constant battle.

I guess I come by this continual haircare ritual honestly, and I can say that over the years it has become one of the things I do to take care of myself. No manies or pedies for me, no regular massage, no eyebrow waxing, no weekly facials, just a good haircut and I feel fine! The copper color thing started about 13 years ago after I broke up with the “love of my life.” Kind of a “I’m gonna wash that man right out o’ my hair,” thing, I guess! I was getting gray, my blond highlights were beginning to not show with the gray, and I felt I needed something fun and just a bit on the edge – only young, punky teenagers were doing it then, so I thought I’d start a trend among the women-of-a-certain-age set.

Now, after almost 8 weeks without a cut, and several months without fresh copper streaks, I am beginning to look like Methuselah! And it seems there’s no time in sight when hair salons may reopen! It is even one that has been mentioned by our Minister of Health here in France, as being one of the next businesses to reopen, and has been followed by much ballyhooing, of course, because of the required closeness between stylist and customer, etc. I haven’t yet spoken to my friends about how they are handling it, and I do see lots of women these days with gray roots showing about 1/4” or more, and looking scraggly like me. What is the answer? I realize this is an activity where it is nearly impossible to implement social distancing, but what will we all do? And once the doors to salons DO open up again, my goodness how long will we have to wait in the long line of folks ahead of us?

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m finding that alchemy is needed again to transform my thinking about this and other similar situations that are presenting themselves. My hair is fertile ground for an experiment: how long can I really go? Can I trim it myself? (I have hair scissors and often do little snips here and there…but a big trim?) With a new world coming, is this still a priority? How does this change the image I have of myself, or does it? Will people even notice!!?? Do I care if they do or don’t? What exactly changes in myself as my outside look changes? You get the picture. What begins as a question of, maybe vanity or superficial thinking, can be peeled back into areas of self esteem, self image, what role do others play in my behavior? While I am pretty convinced I do this self-care stuff for myself alone, the questions brought about by change beg for answers in this new reality we are facing. I’ve spoken mostly about we women here, but men need haircuts, too! I must say most men I know whose hair has grown a little long over the ears and in the back look SO MUCH better! Ha! And their hair is not so difficult for a non-professional to cut. Of the many services I used to avail myself of, this one has stumped me the most as to how to do without it! Hopefully, it won’t be too much longer!!

Just on a serious note, in case anyone hadn’t thought of this and might want to join in…. I have heard that many of us out here who have had to forego the services of our self-care providers, plan to give them an extra payment when we next see them. Many of those folks (and I was one too) are independent contractors who depend on someone being in their chair to make any money, and their wages are often barely living ones. So, when I next get my hair cut and colored, I am going to pay my gal at least for one extra haircut I would have gotten in 2020 BC (before Corona!)

The Alchemy of Covid-19

I try not to think about it…tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. Living in the present has never been more challenging, or more important, more necessary. There has never been a time, in my almost 71 years, when I’ve been reluctant to think about the future. It was my hopes for the future that pushed me forward. And yet I know for a fact that the future does NOT exist. It is a figment of thought. Just as is the past. Past and future are thought forms only – the past is gone and resides only in our memory of it, and the future is not yet, except by our imagining it.

It has taken me two months to be able to bring up this blank page and sit with this keyboard to begin a blog post. Thoughts have crowded my mind, then left it empty; they have brought joy and excitement, as well as sadness and even hopelessness. I have been keenly aware of my good fortune, as well as selfishly desirous of more. The time has been rich with material to expound upon, yet my muse has been silent. “French a-Musing” this blog is called…so where has she been?

At last writing, way back in mid-February, I was recovering from a sprained foot and ankle, and had finally located an apartment for the long-term after living in Airbnbs for 2 months following a fire in my last apartment building. I was looking forward to my trips to Amsterdam and Paris, a visit from my sister, and another from my daughter and her husband. My first spring in France since moving here was about to unfold with all that it held for me to see and experience. Spring in France after all is what poets write about, with the fields of lavender, love in the air, and songs in the heart. And I was finally going to experience it fully. This is what I had dreamed of, and it was happening. Life in France was good and I was happy beyond my wildest imaginings.

Inner Courtyard

In some ways I feel kind of stupid for not having my eyes open to what was just over the horizon. It had been in the news about the virus in China, and predictions of a pandemic had been made, in earnest, for the past several years. Is it selective hearing that blocked my grasping it? Or was it the bubble of a world I was living in that shielded me from any hints of the pin that was coming to burst it? How could I have not been prepared? How could this have come up like a squall on the smooth waters of my existence? How could I have not seen that the Universe supporting me in every way to make my dream to live in France come true, might be the same Universe that would teach me so much about acceptance, the importance of staying present, and that each and every moment is to be cherished and adored? The same Universe that brings us one experience, also brings the other, and demonstrates to us in the process, that it is only our thoughts about them that create the “good,” “bad,” “unfair,” “just,” “deserved,” or “undeserved,” description of them. We can choose. Our experiences can be whatever we SAY they are.

And so, I declare that while I have fear, while I have disappointment, while I have thoughts that lure me into negativity, I also have great happiness, appreciation, joy and thanksgiving for my life at this moment; that in every moment I choose to see the good, the teaching, the gem that is there for the scooping up and setting into my personal bejeweled creation that is my life.

Who is that masked woman?

It is hard to remember that it was only 8 weeks ago that I was on a tear to get on with my life in France after a few “nuisance” happenings like my fall down the stairs, the fire in my apartment building, my sprained foot, my nomadic life for 2 months. The day I moved into this wonderful apartment was the very day that France put into effect our “confinement” (same word in English and French!), and closed all but essential businesses. We remain in strict lockdown and have to carry an official paper stating the reason for our “déplacement” (why we’re out of our home) with all accompanying information about us, and signed by us with date and time of departure from our residence. My furnished apartment is bare of personal touches – no lamps, no rugs, no art on the walls, no color, as no shops are open which would sell me such things. I wear a mask whenever I go out and therefore am aware that it can be only my eyes that convey a greeting as I pass someone. I have noticed the blank stares in people’s eyes, even looks of fear as they pass…everyone seems to be mistrustful and suspicious that “YOU could infect me!” We have cancelled all our trips, my family and I, for, hopefully, another time…and I am sad that some may not come to pass. We line up at the grocery store – one out, one in – and at the boulangerie/patisserie – 2 customers or 1 at a time. I haven’t seen my friends in weeks, no meetings for “un café,” or “une verre” at a local spot. Our freedom to come and go has been greatly diminished.

And YET, I face south over a beautifully green courtyard of mature, flowering trees and plants with 3 balconies where I can sit in the sun, read, and nod to my neighbors. The sun fills my apartment with warmth and light, providing all the color I need right now. I hear the birds again – probably the thing I have missed the most about my house back in the States where I delighted in their songs, their colors, their visits to my feeder. Here, they flit from tree to tree, from rooftop to rooftop, and coo and chirp and sing new songs I haven’t yet learned, and I will. I am trying to smile with my eyes more, so people I pass won’t think me cold. Every night there is a ritual of thanks to the health care workers and first responders who are the heroes in the world right now…we go out on our balconies and clap. One neighbor whom I can’t see for the rooftops, plays a drum with a pulsing beat that stirs me to tears, and we all the time clapping to the rhythm. I play Trivia on Monday nights with friends using Zoom; and I chat with my sister and daughter and friends on FaceTime; I LIVE OVER A BOULANGERIE!!!! Yes, you read that right! Every morning (except Sundays) the incredibly seductive smells of baking bread and pastries waft through my apartment, especially in the guest room which is right over the bakery! My Airbnb host in Amsterdam has blocked the same dates for next year and we are keeping our fingers crossed that the trip will come to pass! No one, no thing can take away my freedom to be happy, no matter the circumstances. No thing can rob me of my pleasure in the little things I have come to appreciate so much. Freedom must first come from within one’s heart and soul, then mind and body. If we banish our THOUGHTS that this is “bad” or “unfair” or “restrictive” or “boring,” or “scary,” then we are FREE to create a pleasure in each moment as it comes.

So, there is more to come of the daily happenings or non-happenings here in France. And somehow, it seemed important to share the inner journey of this experience through a first-in-a-century pandemic. Its significance is not lost on me, and I am thankful for so much. We are all witness to history in the making. Many of us will have teaching stories to tell about it. It is the generations that come after us who will, hopefully, benefit from those teachings; so sharpen up your story-telling skills and create what you would have them know about this time, this world, and what alchemy transformed them.

Kalamity Kate/Kate Finds a Home

Part I

I hate to admit it as it sounds rather spoiled of me… I have been to a laundromat only 2 times in my life! The first time, I received a Baltimore city parking ticket for about $45 (this was in the ‘70s) while inside, making it a very expensive load of laundry. The second time was a week ago, and it cost me a sprained ankle!!!  I hereby declare that this is the last of Kate’s calamities! 

I was actually looking forward to going to the “laverie” and took just one load’s worth to see how it worked and whether I’d be game for more. A kind young man who knew the ropes showed me how to work the machines, where to put my money, etc. for the washers and driers. I was done in no time and walked out the door …. and off the curb face first into the  street. Truly, even my nose hit the pavement, my glasses were scratched and I was in a heap of twisted body parts! People rushed over to see if I was okay, and, of course as I have become used to saying, “Yes, I’m fine, merci.” A bunch of young folks helped me to my feet, and I was on my way, hobbling down the street at 1/4 of my usual pace, aware that I was not quite fine, after all.

It was a long walk home and up that amazing flight of 55 steps to the apartment, but I made it, a bit shaky and needing to rest. Little did I realize that by walking home and up the stairs, I was disqualified from an “emergency” call that would have gotten the medics to my home to pick me up and take me to a clinic for help. Therefore I had to sit tight until I could get down the stairs and through town to the doctor.

It is a little over a week hence and I am coming along just fine. The concern that I might have had a small fracture was alleviated after my “radio” (x-ray) 4 days later (couldn’t walk well enough to get out of the pedestrian area where I live to meet a taxi or a friend who had offered to drive me) that showed it was “only” a sprain. By then my entire foot (even the bottom), ankle, toes and all were black and blue and swollen, and I was lucky to find a shoe that fit. My Renestance* team member, Laurence, had gotten me a wheelchair so that all I had to do was get down the stairs and off we went to the “Cabinet Radiologie.”82253269-B898-4961-89BF-B29EA851E1EF

Laurence managed to get the Lab to take an xray without a doctor’s scrip as I had not been in France long enough to have the French insurance and a docteur who could prescribe it. We promised we would have one by the next day! The doctor here is a gate keeper, kind of like in the U.S., who writes your scrips for everything. It is hard to find one as many are full and not taking new patients. You only need him/her for this purpose…you never even have to see him for a check-up, etc., and you can change to someone else if you want to. We found one that same day who could see me the next afternoon, and I was delighted with him. I liked that he recommended I massage my ankle and foot many times per day to get the blood moving. He took me as a new patient…so that mission is accomplished. How much did the visit cost without insurance? 25 euros (about $27.)! How much was the xray and report without insurance? 33 euros! I will submit both of those to my private insurance that I had to have in place when I applied for my France visa, and they will be 100% covered. If I had had my France insurance in place (the application is in the works), it would have cost me $0!!!! I also got a splint to wear from the pharmacy with the doctor’s scrip, and it cost me 33 euros which will be totally reimbursed by my private insurance. Anyone living in France without insurance would still pay only 25 euros for any doctor’s visit. That’s it…no deductible, no co-pay, no filing forms, getting EOBs, etc. Once I am on the French system, those visits and any medication or prescription will cost me nothing. There are supplemental policies which most people have to cover the bigger medical events like major accidents, surgeries, disease management, etc. I will find out about all that later on and report about it, as well.

Pharmacists here are much like doctors. They can even prescribe minor medications (which in the States might require a doctor’s scrip), and they do quite a bit of consulting when you come in to fill one or ask for a recommendation. Homeopathic remedies are sold at all pharmacies, and the pharmacists know which ones to recommend and how to take them, etc. They will recommend one of those often before you get a medical prescription if they think you could benefit. Vitamins and supplements are sold at the pharmacy counter as well, and seem to rank right up there on the list of valued options!

So, I am learning my way around the medical system here and hoping not to learn much more first-hand! I am ready to get back on my feet again and, perhaps with a bit more caution and slower pace, move back into my active, and wonder-filled French life. I am learning how terrific the ex-pat community here is who have never failed to come through with any of my, so far too numerous, calamities…and even just for answers to questions that have come up. I am learning to ask for help when I need it, and accept it when it is offered…something that has not always been easy for me. And most of all, I am learning that whatever comes, in whatever form, it is all part of the cycle of life – sometimes moving clockwise, and sometimes counterclockwise, and always still making complete circles. There have been some challenges of late, and I am going with them, not fighting them or complaining about them, and just remaining grateful for this incredible dream come true of living in France! 

* Renestance is a women-founded, women-owned business here in Montpellier which serves people like me in their moves to France. They work exclusively in the Occitanie region, and boy! could the whole of France use them. For various fee-levels (all of which are reasonable) they will work with you for your first year, beginning when you first decide to apply back home for a visa, in every aspect of French life and bureaucratic red tape (for which the French are well reputed). They help you with the medical insurance, home insurance, medical issues, finding housing, setting up a bank account, socialization, getting involved in organizations, learning the language, etc., etc. I could never have done this without them!! And I love them all like friends!

Part II 

So that happened on a Thursday. Friday through Sunday, I was totally incapacitated. Monday, I had already scheduled an appointment in the afternoon to see an apartment that came available. I knew the area where it was and just somehow had a good feeling about it…it was a neighborhood I had lived in for 2 weeks before moving to Montpellier last April when I was checking it out as my possible new home for a year or two. I was worried I would miss the chance to see it and perhaps get it if I had to cancel my appointment because of my ankle! However, Laurence, who rented me the wheelchair the day before, pushed me all the way over to the apartment after my xray on Monday…by then I could walk pretty well, so was able to climb the just ONE flight of stairs to the apartment. 

It was one of those experiences when you walk in and “just know.” I walked down a short, narrow hallway and suddenly was struck with the light streaming in from the tall French doors across the room which looked out on a beautiful courtyard filled with magnolia trees, other mature trees and greenery and which will be blossoming with flowers and color in the coming months! The apartment, though small, has an open, “American” kitchen and living room. Off of the little hallway is the guest room across from which is the WC, or “toilette,” which is most always separate in France from the salle d’eau (bath room). Off of the other side of the living room is the master bedroom which also has a French door and balcony looking over the courtyard. Each bedroom has its own modern shower and sink! Such a good idea! I neglected to take pictures, so I will post when I get settled there. I will move in on March 16. There are things I will want to do to make the apartment feel like home – it is furnished, and will need one or two more things, pictures for the walls, some lamps, colorful pillows on the couch, etc., but the bones are good and I can envision myself there for quite awhile. The big plusses are that there is only one flight of stairs to climb, there is AC, and a washing machine (no drier – rare in France). I have come to appreciate drying clothes on a rack inside, or on a line outside the window…reminds me sweetly of my mom who took dozens of pictures in Europe of laundry hanging outside the windows…now her daughter is hanging hers out of one!!


Getting an apartment in France, as an American and a retiree can present some challenges. One apartment that, from the pictures, I fell in love with, would not even let me come visit it…the reason: I did not have French income or pay French taxes. I was lucky to find something as quickly as I did, evidently, and even with the apartment I’m moving to, that was a concern of the landlord. I was told that it isn’t even a matter of proving that you have money – in a bank, investments, Social Security income, etc. Not having an income in France means that a landlord doesn’t have recourse against you if you default on your rent…no income to “seize.” As landlords are lower on the totem pole of rights than tenants, they want to be sure they have their bases covered. So, although this was only the second apartment I visited, there were many in between for which I simply did not qualify because of my retirement status.

With that hurdle out of the way, I am breathing easier and things are looking up. As spring is in the air and the sun is shining brightly most days again, I think this string of “other” luck is coming to an end. I am looking forward to a trip in April to Amsterdam and then on to Paris, where I will meet my sister who is coming to visit. We will stay in Paris a couple of days, then take the train down here to Montpellier, and then hopefully visit Annecy before she returns to the U.S. My daughter and son-in-law are coming in May and I can’t wait to show them around and spend time with them.

The adventure continues!

Fire! (and other F words) Part III


The FIRE in my apartment building in Montpellier happened on the evening of January 3, 2020. I had left for the U.S. on Jan. 2! It was such a lucky break for me that I wasn’t there. The building had to be evacuated. No one was hurt, thank goodness, and some folks had to be medically assessed. I still wonder about the 97 year old woman and her 70+ year old son who lived with her – “neighbors” across the courtyard, whom I had observed with curiosity through my 20 foot high windows. Their side of the building was where the fire started in a first floor apartment kitchen, and the flames reached our 3rd floor (French 2e) apartments. When a friend notified me of the fire in an email, it had happened already 3 days before. I anxiously wrote to my friends, the owners of the apartment, to get some information, and it was another day before I heard anything from them. When I did, they said that no one was allowed back into the building, it was locked and shuttered, and I would have to make an appointment with the clean up company to get all my things out as soon as I returned, and should probably look for another apartment, permanently! They told me that while their/my apartment wasn’t damaged by fire, there would be smoke damage to my clothing and other things I had left behind. I would not be able to leave them in the apartment as work on the building would begin as soon as access was allowed, and they would be using it as an office while the work was being done.

I think I stayed pretty calm at first, hoping I would hear more with maybe an offer of help to move or find a place to stay. As time went on with only links and phone numbers for their insurance people sent from the owners, who were also friends, I began to panic! I had a plane ticket back to France in one week and I had no place to go!!

Over the next days in the U.S., after many emails, contacting friends, working with my Renestance team who had helped me so much with my move to France, posting on a womens’ expat Facebook group I was part of from which I had dozens of helpful responses from women I had never even met, I found an Airbnb that was available for 2 weeks upon my return! Great! It was in the pedestrian part of town…so there was no way to transport everything from the old apartment to the new, except on foot, up and down the cobblestones streets, a distance of about 3/4 of a mile! 

My friends were wonderful! They came with boxes, a dolly, packing tape, and lots of brawn to help pack me up and move me out! It was SO much more than I had thought…how easy and fast it is to accumulate “stuff.” I had been careful not to, and just the extra clothing from the States, kitchen supplies, hangars, paperwork added a lot. Linda threw my plush “blankie” around her neck, Gary was pulling the dolly piled high, I had my pillows under my arm, and was pushing my two 4-wheeled suitcases with each arm! I had to laugh at the sight of us, like vagabonds on the move. Actually, I was very aware of the difference between my “misfortune” and that of people who were truly destitute carrying their lives on their backs or in a grocery cart…and in that moment, I actually felt blessed!

The long climb to the 3rd floor apartment, up winding, pie-shaped, shallow, stone stairs was challenging…55 of them in all. After my fall a few weeks ago, I was definitely in a bit of PTSD mode, and took it slowly. We made it. And for 3 septegenarians, that’s saying a lot!!


Two days later, a friend from the U.S. who had long ago made plans to visit me, arrived! Although I had had to tell her that my accommodations were in question, I assured her that we would work it out, come what may! It did add a bit of stress to my mounting sense of “WTF” (sorry…can’t think of a more appropriate expression!), and really, she helped me to stay grounded and present and not go “awful-izing”in my head too much. We had a nice time together, I was proud to show her my wonderful city, and she discovered places we could visit I might have never thought about. I believe, truly, that she kept me sane.

I am still here. At the end of this week, I have to pack up everything and store it away for the weekend, as this apartment was promised to another Airbnb rental before I came along. After they are gone, I can return for 10 more days during which time I must find another place to live! The pressure continues.

This morning I looked at an apartment that was just ok. Very small yet with a certain charm. After sitting with it for a little while, I decided it isn’t the one.  Later today, I heard about and saw pictures of a beautiful apartment, just what I want, and we will see if I get it. I’m moving forward gradually, hoping that I will reach the finish line before my 10 days are up!

POSTSCRIPT: I have learned that I can get a bit panicky in some situations, especially with great unknowns. And I know that, as I look back over my lifetime, everything, even the times which didn’t feel so good, has worked out. I believe that all things work for good, that it just takes perspective and wisdom and faith. Surprisingly, I have learned that I am very adaptable, so temporary inconveniences, situations that are different than I’ve been in before, new places, new living arrangements, can all be just fine once I get into the rhythm. And most of all, I have learned to trust the process and listen to my heart ❤️  – it never leads me astray.

FIRE 🔥 (and other F words) Part II

Part I ended with gratitude that I escaped a possibly horrific outcome from my fall down the stairs a few days before Christmas. I went on to have an enjoyable holiday in Montpellier with friends, watching the city come alive with twinkling white lights, a sound and light show that illuminated 20 or more of the most beautiful monuments in the Centre Ville for 3 days, little live Christmas trees along the “petites rues” and outside of many shop doors, and, of course, les marchés de Noël (Christmas markets) that lined the grand Esplanade just off the Comédie (central square). The Christmas spirit which, for me, had been fading the last few years back in the States because of the commercialism and early October appearance of ubiquitous Christmas music and decorations, returned, and I was reliving my childhood Christmases once again. No snow, and not even very cold here, yet the feeling of the holiday was everywhere. It was truly a whole city celebration with smiles on all the faces.

For Christmas Eve dinner I was invited, along with another single friend, to the home of some new friends, for homemade fish stew. It was a delightful evening exchanging our back stories together. Our hosts had been living in France for over 15 years, Sunshine from New England, Hugo from the UK, and Susan and I were both from the east coast U.S. On Christmas Day, I had been invited to have  noontime dinner at an elegant Brasserie by the Opéra – the first time I had dressed up since coming to France…I bought a fancy, very French, black skirt for the occasion, and red suede French boots. Champagne and wine flowed, and the oysters slid down like silk! My friend, Juliette, is Vietnamese and French, and her husband, Ian, is a Brit. 





After my fill of delicious holiday food had passed, and I was hungry again, I trotted off to my favorite market and bought some pork patties with cheese and bacon to cook for myself at home. I had had them before and they were delicious. In less than an hour after eating them, I began to feel awful…my stomach was churning, gurgling and the signs of intestinal upset were hard to ignore. After trying to convince myself that I had just eaten too much, I went upstairs to bed. Well that was all she wrote, and I will spare the details of my night. It was FOOD POISONING. I think this is the worst case I’d ever experienced, and for the next two weeks I could barely eat as my tummy just didn’t want anything in there at all…it needed time to recover!

This was the second big F word in this series. 

The expression “Never Two Without Three” had always seemed a bit ominous to me, although I have used it many times in my life. I can’t seem to recall a time, however, when the third had actually, and so obviously, come to pass. 

On Jan. 2, I made my first trip back to the U.S. in 5 months. It was wonderful to spend 5 whole days with my daughter, Katharine, and her husband, Mike, while she was still off from work for the holidays. We “hung out”; did errands together; saw the newest edition of the film, “Little Women;” and visited our 99 year old cousin at her retirement home. We also had lunch at a favorite country inn with my good friend and Katharine’s godmother and her husband; then visited the beautiful country cemetery of St. Thomas Church where my parents, Katharine’s beloved grandparents, are buried. 

My visit with Katharine and Mike was punctuated, however, with a very large exclamation point and a shocked-faced emoji on the 4th day with a horrific piece of news. A friend of mine back in France, who lived in another part of my neighborhood, sent me the following email: “….Not to alarm you, but have you heard from your landlords about the FIRE in your building?” I had not, and thus began the third incident, and the worst of them all !!!

To be continued in Part III coming soon!

FIRE 🔥(and other F words!) Part I


It has been way too long since my last post. December was Full of adventures of the challenging sort and threatened to shake my Foundation and confidence. I’m still hanging on and moving Forward, and so far I’m still in a bit of a Frenzy.


Briefly, a few days before Christmas, I took a FALL down a flight of stairs! I was with a friend visiting a sweet little beach town on the Mediterranean coast, just on the outskirts of Montpellier, and we had stopped at her condo there for a moment. As we were leaving, the sun was setting and the light on the stairway had not yet come on. We headed for the stairs and I stepped out onto the first one…except it wasn’t there! I panicked a bit as I tried to find my footing…and then I took off! Head over heels over head, hitting each of the 12 concrete steps with various parts of my body (I could tell this later by where the bruises were). I said to myself, “You’ve got to stop…this could be very bad..”, and then I did, a few steps from the bottom. My second thought was for my poor friend at the top of the stairs who I knew must be traumatized by the sight of me falling, so I called out to her, “I’m okay!” And I wasn’t entirely sure I was. However, I did break my arm falling down some stairs 20 years before, and knew what that felt like, so I was pretty sure that, miraculously, I had not broken anything!

My left hip was hurting a lot, and I couldn’t straighten my left elbow without quite a bit of pain, but somehow I knew they were just badly bruised. My funny bone was in shock and saying, “This is NOT funny.” Finally, I stood up and walked the last couple of steps to the bottom as I felt the need to go outside for some fresh air. At the bottom, I began to feel dizzy and nauseous. My friend was beside me by this time, and very worried. She helped me outside where I sat down again on another step and put my head down between my knees. The nausea and dizziness passed after several minutes and the fresh, sea air filled my lungs and gave me a bit of a feeling of ecstasy!! My body had not failed me! My 70 year old bones were intact! I was alive! 

My friend and I had been on our way to a sound and light show projected on a lighthouse on the sea which was being celebrated for its 140 years. We had a bit of a walk to go to get there, and I assured my friend that I was game.  She and I just kept looking at each other and saying, “How is this possible?” She kept apologizing over and over, and I kept assuring her that I was fine and I was thankful she was there. Along the way to the show, we stopped at a seaside pharmacy and told them what had happened. They rushed to my aid, bringing Arnica in oral and gel form, and I went into the back office to apply it to my throbbing hip and elbow. My friend and I enjoyed a delightful show standing on a pier looking at the lighthouse in all its bedazzled glory, and my heart was full with gratitude for my friend’s help, my incredibly lucky “break”, and that I would still be able to enjoy Christmas at home and not in a hospital!!! I remembered that during the fall I had an image of myself as a tumbleweed, falling lightly end over end, borne by the air and carried over the ground by the wind. Many have said they think that image is what saved me! It probably did.

Just as a postscript, I did develop some pretty awful bruising on various parts of my body, and I did become rather stiff for a few days. At several friends’ suggestions, I did call the emergency number to see if they thought I needed to come in for a head check in case I had suffered any internal head injury (like a subdural hematoma), and after some phone triage, the doctor assured me that I was fine as 4 days had already passed. 

The image of the tumbleweed will be meaningful for me forever.




Flowing with Change

A message from a fellow traveler who is following my blog, asked:

“How are you holding up emotionally? I wonder how long we can be away from all that is familiar with friends/family/familiar spots, etc., before a sense of longing may [over]come?…”

After typing a rather long response for a Messenger message, I realized I had just written my next Blog post, so here, essentially, are my thoughts about that.

Before I left the U.S., I said to everyone, “I know there may come a time when I ‘hit the wall’, when I am suddenly feeling sad and missing « home » and « family » and « friends » and wonder, ‘what have I done?’” Some have told me this happens around the 6 month mark. So, although I’ve only been here 4 months, I have to say I haven’t had the tiniest speck of such sadness or concern. Maybe it’s because I have spent my whole life (or 50 years of it) wanting this; maybe it’s because I’m pretty fluent in French; maybe it’s because I had connections here already; maybe it’s because I’m living in a beautiful, luxurious apartment the likes of which I probably won’t have again; and maybe there’s still time for me to hit the wall. But I don’t think so. I think I am truly happier here than I’ve ever been anywhere, and feel the most at home I’ve ever felt. My heart feels finally where it belongs (« home is where the heart is »), and so far, no pangs of regret.

Now, I must say that I do miss my daughters. They have been for me the reason I want to live as long as possible. I want to see them grow and flourish and have good lives, and how that will manifest. My great sadness is for my eldest, who, although she is doing well, has an incurable disease that could shorten her life by many years…Cystic Fibrosis. Since she was diagnosed at 16, I have lived much of my life never wanting to be too far from her for fear of missing out on precious time. However, she is doing well, great strides are being made all the time, and I truly feel she will be around for a long time to come (she is 35…way older than many who have CF live to be). With FaceTime, I “see” her more often than I did when I was home, and we have enjoyed more real time closeness since I’ve been here!! I still miss her terribly, and will know if the time is ever right for me to return to be closer to her. My younger daughter and I are connected in our hearts, and I can still see her feisty little scrunched up face the minute she was born which said, “Watch out world, and Mom, I’m going to challenge you every step of the way!”….and she has, and we have weathered every storm, which, hard as they have been, have taught me much and strengthened my love and determination for us to find our way through them. She is strong and creative and has a soft interior that is full of love to give and promises to fulfill. We have not lived in the same city for many years, so me being in France is not putting more physical distance between us. I am hoping for visits from her while I am here.

As for friends, I love them all in special and unique ways, and some have been like sisters to me. They will always be in my life and heart, and sometimes we need to acknowledge shifts in the landscape of our life and move into new phases of those friendships. For some, that will be sad, and for me, it is how I have always handled people moving away, or being out of touch, or our lives changing in ways that create big differences between us. Like the old song I used to sing in Brownies goes, “Make new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold!” I know that when I see them again, we’ll pick right up where we left off. And for family members, it is the same. Family bonds are always there. Family is the undergirding of our lives, and while we may find ourselves separated from them for various reasons, they are unique and unlike any other connections – the expression “blood is thicker than water” resonates for me that way. My sister and I have lived in different parts of the east coast for most of the last 40 years! We see each other only about twice a year at Christmas and in the summer, and the rest of the time, we burn up the phone lines, and since being here, use FaceTime often. She will be coming in the spring to visit and get a taste of life in France as she’s never been here. Our relationship is not one of physical presence, AND it is one of “Presence” for sure.

I love how questions from people I don’t even know very well can provoke a stream of consciousness that floats to the surface and flows onto the page. Thank you dear reader for yours, and if you read this, I hope it was helpful. I hope, for all you readers, that something I write illuminates a dark corner of your mind and becomes of service.

BREAD – the Boulangerie is Alive and Well Here!

It has been on my mind to write a post about bread for awhile now, and a news story from The New York Times today, entitled “French Baguettes From a Vending Machine? What a Tragedy” finally prompted me to do so! Yes, indeed, it would be a tragedy if vending machines for baguettes became a necessity. No question. Bread in France is a way of life…some would argue that it IS life itself. Before coming here, and even on brief visits over my lifetime, I never realized the importance and iconic status of bread in France.

People back home, when I told them I was coming to live here would quip, “Oh, watch out for the bread!” Funny thing about that, I’ve learned…the bread in France, while it does contain gluten, the types of flour used and the process of making it, especially if done in an artisanal shop, eliminates the problems people have with gluten. I don’t think people with Celiac can eat it, but I’ve heard that most gluten sensitivities are not experienced here in France! Wow! How freeing that has been. So, you folks with gluten sensitivities come on over!

So this is a big subject, and I just have to write something about it as it is truly part of my everyday life. The “traditional baguette” is ubiquitous, and what we all imagine when we think of the French, is someone walking down a quaint little street, baguette in their hand, sometimes without even a bag, going home to enjoy breakfast, lunch or even dinner with a fresh baked baguette. One thing I have discovered since coming here over the last 10+ years is that there is far more to bread than baguettes. I have many times walked into a boulangerie and just stood there, looking at all the shapes, sizes and configurations of bread, upright in their nesting places against the wall behind the counter. What do I ask for? Everyone was getting probably what they usually buy, and I had no idea what to say! It took many visits before I began to try each one…baguette tradition, à l’ancienne or de compagne; baguette complet, aux céréales, aux olives, aux raisins et noix; boule d’épautre, boules des châtaigne (chestnuts), pain noir, pain aux olives, pain sègle, etc.

Just for a little history, bread is so revered in France that is actually regulated by law as to ingredients, and in order to be called a boulangerie, the bread has to be made on the premises and have a designation on the window or door indicating it is “un artisan authentique,” or some such wording. Ingredients for the traditional baguette are what you might expect: wheat flour, water, yeast and salt, with some deviations regarding types of flour. They cannot be frozen, and use of preservatives is not allowed. As I discovered upon beginning my life here, bread only lasts 24 hours. And, as a single person, in the beginning I often was throwing 1/2 of it away! However, I’ve learned that most boulangeries will sell you a half baguette! One would think that with so few ingredients, all baguettes would taste about the same. NOT AT ALL. As a total neophyte in the beginning, I bought my baguettes anywhere I happened to pass by, and then I learned about some very special boulangeries surrounding where I live. Oh, my! The difference is very distinct. What you want to go for is a light and crispy outer crust that cracks and flakes onto your plate or lap when you bite it, and a soft center, almost with a tiny sweetness, which must be the salt. No butter needed! In the morning a little “confiture” on a fresh baguette is divine. The end, or heel, of the baguette is called the guignon and is considered the tastiest part of the baguette. I find it almost too hard to bite and (oh! blasphème) throw it away!

In recent weeks, I am finally comfortable walking into a boulangerie and either knowing what I’m there to buy, or asking for a description of the bread, and sometimes a taste! I have found that I buy traditional baguettes less often and usually get bread made with nuts, or whole grains (céréales), or sweeter varieties with raisins or bits of orange…of course those cost a little more. A traditional baguette typically is €1.20 (about $1.50) and other types of bread around €3.20 (or $3.50). It is a daily, or almost daily, pleasure to visit one of my three local favorite boulangeries. Sometimes, I stay and have “un crème” (espresso with milk) and a pastry. One boulangerie, Les Rêves et Du Pain (Dreams and Bread) is so well-loved, and well-known now, that there is often a line outside in the morning just to get in the door! No one seems to mind. We all just wait our turn, most smiling and chatting, until we have our chance.

So, I pray the NYT story is only a blip on the landscape of French life, and that we will hold tight to this precious facet of it for many years to come.

Vive la France! Vive le Pain!


Today marks 3 months since I arrived in France on my 70th birthday on a “long stay” visa. It began as a year’s adventure, and has evolved into an open-ended journey. It is the first time I have traveled to France with no end date and no sense of pressure to get everything done, to see everything I want to see because I’m not sure when I’ll be back. This makes for a whole different concept of time and experience where I can just relax and let each day unfold.

Another American I met yesterday asked me a good question, I thought, which was, “Has your experience so far of living in France been what you expected, or more or less than you expected!?” I answered that I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, exactly, and that I knew for sure I have not been disappointed; nor had any feelings of discomfort; nor nostalgia about my life in the U.S.; nor have I been sad or thought for one moment I had made the wrong decision! I guess that’s saying a lot. I can also go a step further and declare that this feels like home to me more than I have felt at home in a long, long time.

I have wanted to make my life here as normal and unstructured as possible. I am not only living in a new country, I am retired from my very rewarding work as an acupuncturist for 25 years, so everything is new to me. 

When I was here in April of this year, I met a few women who have become good friends. I have added a few friends, both women from the States and women from other countries, like Morocco, Vietnam, England, and France. I am part of a couple of groups who meet periodically, and have done some traveling within France so far, including Lyon back in September (see post “The Colors of Lyon”); Bordeaux, in October (and hope I can write about that wonderful experience at some point); and this past week, I traveled to Les Baux de Provence where the grand exposition of VanGogh and a Japanese artist’s images come alive in an immersive musical and light display inside Les Carrières des Lumières ( is a venue carved out of limestone rock. That trip will require a whole blog post to itself as getting there without a car and with the trains on strike and flooded out, was a real “trip.” 

France is a beautiful country. Every day, everywhere, I find something that takes my breath away. I have truly gotten in touch with AWE since I’ve been here. Speaking French every day and hearing myself improve in both my speaking and my understanding of fast-spoken French is one of the reasons I wanted to come. French is a beautiful language, and being able to speak it and have a real conversation with someone is such a feeling of accomplishment and joy. I love walking for miles every day and not having to get in a car to go everywhere. Having legs that carry me has become a daily acknowledgment and true blessing, especially when I think of friends and family who have knees and hips that need to be or have been replaced. Do we take these gifts for granted? I will not take mine for granted again! I recently met and am coming to know, a woman named Jeanette (Mai) born the same year as me, whose mother was born the same year as mine, and whose mother was Vietnamese and father French. She wrote a memoir which I read in two days! (Waltzing with the Dragons) It was such an eye opener for me to read about this woman’s life which was happening at the same time as mine, yet halfway around the world in a war torn country from which she had to flee, and whose mother was banished from the family for refusing to marry, at 13, the man her mother had chosen for her. Our lives to this point couldn’t have been more different, and yet here we are, living in the same town in France, and have discovered that we do have some things in common now. How very fascinating this is for me.

So, yes, I have traveled far in both my personal life development and in distance from my native country, and I am learning new ways of being, new ways of doing, new ways of thinking every day. And as far from my roots as I have come, I believe I am finally home.


Before getting too far afield from my Being vs. Doing post of a few weeks ago, I wanted to do a Part 2 based on a comment from a friend that I thought was worth considering! She said, 

“Your blog gave me something to think about. I’m now wondering if when I’m watching [the news on TV] I’m ‘being’ or ‘doing?’ Or, when I walk to the playground with [my grandson], am I ‘being or ‘doing?’ Your writing got me to think about this dichotomy between ‘being’ or ‘doing?’ Can I do both at the same time? Hmmm…”

Great question. Can we do both at the same time? Can we choose to do one, not the other? What is the difference, exactly! Is it a dichotomy? Indeed, the answers may be as various as the people who are engaged with these two states, and, I propose that what separates the two is “Awareness” or “Presence.”

It is helpful for me to think of what is meant, actually, by being and doing. I got a little help from Siri on this one, just to get the ball rolling.

Being is existing, being alive; it is the nature or essence of a person; it is about occurring, taking place.

Doing is activity, involving effort; performing an action; achieving or completing; acting or behaving in a specified way.

 So being and doing involve action vs inaction; making something happen vs letting something happen organically; action involving effort vs action that arises effortlessly; 

Taking the first of the above two examples, watching the news. Why do we watch the news, to begin with? Some, I dare say, watch by habit, flip it on, let the news wash over us as we sit there, maybe knitting, or eating our meal, or watering the plants, etc. We may have a need to know, to be informed, to not miss anything. Watching the news could be a sort of family ritual, everyone gathered together to catch the latest events in our world. Then, after, it’s on to the next thing. Or, we may sit down, put our « devices » away and make an intention to watch a specific program with a concentration and effort to learn something, understand what is happening, maybe followed by a family discussion to uncover how each has thought about it. Being requires intention, presence and awareness. Doing is more action oriented, perhaps accomplishing something, or checking something off the list. Did that, and that, and that.

(above: “touring” a wine museum in Bordeaux)

In the example of going to the playground with her grandson, this could certainly be another doing thing. She is “watching” him for his parents, letting him play while she reads a book, getting out of the house for awhile. It could also be a “being” thing…engaging with her grandchild, getting to know him and how he thinks, what makes him joyful, what makes him sad; developing her relationship with her grandchild by sharing the outdoors, Nature, play, sharing stories and experiences together. And, of course, usually, an experience like this is not one or the other.

I suppose my point in separating these things was to indicate that I wanted to live more consciously, with more awareness and intentionality. Practicing being in the fullest sense of the word – observing my surroundings, feeling them, bringing them to my interior and not just having an external, check-list kind of experience…not just going places, but having new awareness and immersion in going somewhere, the being fully Present in the doing of something, or in the being of it.

I appreciated my friend’s comments and questioning around this concept, as it is often easy to speak of a concept without having fully explored it! In my next post (hopefully), I will demonstrate these very distinct aspects of a trip I am taking in the next couple of days to an “exposition” of VanGogh’s art in a nearby village in the countryside ( for a preview see: Making the plans to get there were definitely DOING things…and ones that could have been, and were when I was not conscious, very frustrating and almost defeating. However, the BEING aspects of this trip, were present throughout, and, hopefully, will be more so once I arrive and return having immersed myself in this experience.

Being/Doing – what does that mean for you? Comments are welcome!