Bits ‘n Bobs

Thanks to my friend, Mad, this expression has become one of my faves! It has come in handy so many times in the last month since I first heard it that I have decided to do a blog post every once in awhile, called “Bits ‘n Bobs.”  It will be a collection of things I have learned, encountered, or experienced along this journey of mine, that may or may not be worth a dedicated post. Each day is so full with new information, new ways of doing things, ingenuity I must employ, etc., that it might be fun (for me and for future reference) to write about them. No particular order, priority or importance, just random bits and bobs picked up along the way.


People have been asking me about the process of letting go, (see post “Letting Go”, January 27, 2019), about the actual doing of it…HOW? For many of  us, our stuff weighs us down, maybe more than it uplifts us. It becomes a burden, and so we don’t think about it, and it grows into more stuff. So, best to get an early start, before it is left to our kids. I am assuming here that anyone going through this process to this degree has children that are grown, or mostly so, and is beginning to look at “the rest of your life”, rather than just another phase. Not meant as a depressing thought, and more as a freeing one!

So, how to begin. Briefly, I did it in what I think of as layers. You know how we save stuff often because we just don’t know what to do with it at the moment so, we put it on a shelf, in a drawer (how many “junk drawers” do YOU have??) in a closet, etc.? Well, most of those things are not can’t-live-without items…so I start there. I might pick closet, or drawer, or chest of drawers. For example, I had a whole drawer in a chest in my den full of maps…maps to everywhere I’d been, and maps of all regions of France, maps of places I might go…time to let go of the maps! We have Google now, and can always get a new, updated map free from AAA, if a member. These are the things that are the easiest…if it’s been in a drawer or closet since you moved there, DELETE it! Another example is that my coat closet had NO LESS than 20 coats in it…when guests came, there was no room for their coats! And yes, I did wear every one of them…sometimes! It was hard with some of my favorites (and I just asked myself if I really needed it, and had I gotten good use of it, and if I could do without it?) One by one, I let them go. I do confess I bought 2 new coats, but they served the same purpose of several of  my older ones. Now I am down to 5 coats!  (P.S. it helps to have basic black in coats…they really do go with everything, where the colorful coats I had were limited in their use!…just sayin’. You can use scarves for a pop of color!)

Next, I might ask myself these questions: : “Do I want to PAY to move/store this? How many times have I used/looked at these things in the last 5-10 years? How many more times will I want to look at them in the time I have left (5, 10, 15 years..not to put an end point out there!) Who would really want these things? Would I want my children to have to decide what to do with these things? These are all questions that really help the process of letting go.

So I might go through this same process more than once in the same places…layers…the first time through, toss out a few things, next time more…often I realize that the rest can go, too.

Photos, letters, diaries, journals – if you really don’t have time to go through these (before moving, for example), ok, keep them…and plan a date when you will begin the final pass through with those. Or, read a few, decide if you even want your offspring to read them (and they probably won’t even want to), get a chuckle or a tear or two, and then toss…as I said, you’d probably never get to them again.

Kids’ stuff. Most of this – their early drawings, report cards, handmade projects, they don’t want or even remember. They might like to SEE them again, or have now, but YOU don’t have any obligation to keep them any longer. I have a plastic tub for each…whatever fits in there, I will store for them for 1 year; then they must decide or take or toss. Stuff FOR the kids?…realize that most of it, they have no interest in…especially not “brown” furniture…today it’s all “industrial,” minimalist; “ Wayfair, you’ve got just what I need” – get it now, toss it when the trends change! Wedgewood china, silver (real) flatware, punchbowls (who ever really needs a punch bowl anyway???),  trust me, they won’t want it!!! Yes, even if it belonged to your grandmother…did they know your grandmother??) Even consignment and NICE auctioneers or antiques dealers won’t take it…they are inundated by all of us baby boomers downsizing…they have no more room, and it isn’t selling…millennials do not want it!

With all my “precious” objects, I do ask myself: “Am I able to let this go?” Usually there is an immediate, embodied or emotional response, “NO,” or a weak, “Eh, I don’t know,” or a “YES.”  Anything but a definitive answer, preferably that you feel in your BODY, not just in your head, is the one you should listen to. Marie Condo’s famous, “Does it bring you Joy?” is another question…I don’t use it. Joy comes to me in lots of ways, and objects usually don’t JUST bring me joy…it is the CAN I let this go question that I feel the answer to in my body, in my heart. Sometimes even a tear lets me know. Funny example: I collected wind-up toys for a few years, proudly showing my crazy collection to anyone who would watch…jets with pilots who ejected, bunnies who did a perfect flip, doggies who rolled over, kangaroos who jumped with a baby popping out of their pocket! Seriously, I did this as an adult! What do you think my embodied response was to letting them go?….NO!!! I couldn’t. Go figure.

And lastly, what do I actually do with the stuff I’m not keeping? Much of it has been picked up from my front porch by local charities that come right to your door – Viet Nam Vets, National Children’s Center, Purple Heart, Arc.  Next, I sold a lot of stuff through Facebook’s “Marketplace,” and “Nextdoor,” in most neighborhoods. I also spent some time thinking about people I knew who might like something I had that I hoped might bring joy to someone as it had to me. Surprisingly, I have been delighted to turn something over to someone who really loves it and has “just the place” for it in their home. This does bring me joy. Finally, as a last opportunity to have people I know or who I know really want my stuff have a chance at it, a day or two before I move everything out (either to storage or to consignment), I am holding an “Open House Yard Sale” where people I know can come do a “Cash and Carry” transaction and take one of my family heirlooms or treasured pieces home with them. Won’t that be fun?

(Not exactly a “bit” or a “bob” but something wanting a listening.)




Sweet Song of St. Sernin

Easter Monday

For the second time since yesterday (Easter), I found myself in a pew of Basilique Saint Sernin here in Toulouse. The ”largest religious Roman ediface” in all of France, it drew me into its center as a mother would draw her child to her breast for nourishment. As cavernous and grand, soaring and open a place as it is, there was something intimate about it, something personal and grounding. Something comforting and inspiring.

At first I was a simple tourist. Gawking at the stained glass, the enormity of the space, the height of the vaulted ceilings, the brilliance of the altar, and the awesomeness of its age – built in the 13th century! So I sat down in a pew to take it all in. After only a few minutes

View from a pew in St. Sernin.

there was a breathy sound, and an echo, and then a note. And, tout d’un coup, I was engulfed in sound, the beautiful sound of the organ at full tilt! The organist was really there…this was not a recording…because he would pause, re-play a phrase, and then continue. He must have been practicing, or else just having a marvelous time! And I was grateful in the listening. At the end of one piece, there would be a long silence, and then it would start up again – a different piece, a different rhythm, a different pace. All of it washing over me, filling me, embracing me and reaching into my core. This went on for almost 2 hours!  Tears began to roll down my face and continued during most of the time I sat there. Tears of joy, sorrow, gratefulness, blessedness, disbelief, affirmation, confirmation. Joy of just being here in my favorite country. Gratefulness to all of who and what conspired to bring me here – my parents who sent me, their 19 year old first born, to live with a French family for a whole summer because they knew it would be an experience of a lifetime; the years of French class with wonderful native French speakers who inspired in me the love of the French language; Facebook which created a format through which I could reconnect with my French family after 40 years. Sorrow at the passing 1 week ago of a good friend’s son tragically and suddenly; for the death from cancer 3 years ago of one of my French “sisters.” And finally, disbelief banished by the many affirmations over the past 2 years that my decision to retire and move to France was and is the right one. The upwelling of emotion overtook me, and my tears cleansed me.

Oh, sweet song of St. Sernin, thank you for feeding me with your music and filling me with your spirit. I will be leaving this beautiful city, and a piece of you will live inside of me forever.

She Lives


She lives

       Nine hundred and counting

       Fire in her chest

       struggling for breath

She lives

       Hair singed

       her veil is lifted

       exposing her heart

She lives

       Buttresses flying

       gargoyles still grimacing

       holding her place

She lives

       Ageless beauty

       timeless strength

       Built for survival from birth

She lives

     Tattered and worn

     becoming more real

     through love and care

She lives, she breathes, she stands

      she loves – lady of our


Fire…Destructive or Transformative?

Notre Dame de Paris – October, 2018.

As I was watching the télé while flames and smoke engulfed my favorite and most beloved monument in Paris, Notre Dame, my heart was breaking. With tears in my eyes, I watched, while I was so wanting not to. How can one watch something so sad, so tragic, so devastating? Yet I was compelled and driven to catch every word that was being said, every scene that was being shown, perhaps hoping against all hope that it was all a bad dream, or that it would stop and everything would be ok. I was praying that the destruction of beauty and grace, history and symbolism, structure and spirit would not be for naught.

So, as the hours wore on while Our Lady burned, I kept grasping for reason, for reasons, for reasoning to take over. Grasping for meaning in the tragedy that was playing out before my very eyes. Each time some thought about the why of it, the purpose of it, entered my mind, with horror I dispelled it, as what possible reason or meaning could be found in such a catastrophe?

I went to bed with a heavy heart, and slept.

In the light of a rainy morning, I woke with a start – Notre Dame burned last night! Looking out the window, watching the rain, I began to “see” more clearly. Water is cleansing, Fire is transformative. Alchemy happens when one thing turns into another after a process of the death, in a sense, of the one thing to allow for the birth of the other.  Like metal transforms through fire into a tool, or coal becomes a diamond, or a fetus becomes a human, or a tree becomes a house. One thing must be lost for the next to appear. I began to look at the world around me…everywhere chaos, rebellion, division, unhappiness, revolution, entrenchment into various positions and viewpoints. What can break through these stand offs among us? What can reach into the pool of reasoning and pull out compromise and understanding between people? What can create a common ground upon which to stand? What can bring us together again?

That I am in France, amongst the French people as this event of epic proportions is unfolding, is no accident. The love that I have for this country and these people, feels so palpable, and the grief so real. The feeling that I am truly connected with them is, in some strange way, comforting. What I am hoping is that this consuming, destructive Fire will provide the basis for a new connection among people; a common ground from which will rise a structure that will blend the old with the new, and give people renewed hope and identity. At this time of Easter, a symbolic time of resurrection, new life, new beginnings, new possibility, may our hearts be imbued with that message even if our consciousness may not grasp it. May our hearts leap with joy at the opportunity to rise from the ashes of our self-destructive ways and feel love once again. May this Fire, in the end, be for good, for transformation, for rebirth of a new age of consciousness, cooperation, and caring among us all.





Poetry and Prose

The giant wave which has been forever rising, surging,

     and moving toward me

Has broken and washed me from the shore.

I am taken, captured, awakened, cleansed

     by the waters of unknowing 

Released is the fear, doubt, questions.

Possibility is opening its arms, beckoning,

     and I follow, moving toward it

Stepping into the light

Eyes opening, vision clearing

      seeing a path, seeing the arc of the circle

Bringing me home, heart full of love and joy.


Someone recently inspired me to try my hand at poetry. Today, I was feeling so full, so happy, so YES!, that prose was failing me. So, the above attempt jumped onto the page, and seemed to say how I am feeling on this day, 5 days into my France dream. 

And now, in prose, I can recount the unfolding. The trip here was seamless. A wonderful, generous friend drove me to Dulles on Wednesday, airplane flew me to Paris, TGV (train de grand vitesse) took me from the airport directly to Montpellier and I arrived in Montpellier Thursday at 3 p.m. Was met by Dennelle, of Renestance ( the team I have signed up with to help smooth the details of my move to France from the French side. She took me to my Airbnb apartment.

The days leading up to my departure were full indeed. My house went on the market on Friday, March 15; said goodbye to my last patient on Thursday, March 21, and closed my acupuncture practice! 

While I’m not supposed to announce it yet, I had a contract on my house in 15 days! My office « yard sale » was a sell out; I found someone to move me out of my house when I return, who will take everything I’m selling to consignment and will move and store what I am keeping; the inspection on my home was moving forward even as I was packing to leave the following day! A whirlwind, indeed. 

Since arriving here, I have gotten little sleep, walked each day more than I usually walk in a week at home, eaten many of my favorite French foods, spoken French every day (even talking to myself in French for practice), met up with friends, made new friends, hung out with a group of French students who guided a nighttime tour of Montpellier after which we all went to a local hang out for some wine and conversation! I was old enough to be the grandmother to any one of them, and yet they were so interested in me – where I was from, where I learned French, what i was doing here, etc. That was a highlight, for sure.

Things I have learned so far about “being French” – never handle the produce! Allow the merchant to choose your fruits and vegetables for you…it is not ok to pick something up, smell it, squeeze it (“Don’t squeeze the Charmin), etc. No hugging! “Le Bise” is the thing everyone does…you have probably seen it…an “air kiss” from one cheek to the other. Depending on how well you know the person, it can go from one bise on each cheek, to up to 2 or even 3! I forgot to notice what’s done with the hands during this hello and goodbye. I grasped one of the students shoulders, for balance I suppose, and he was curious and asked me about it. I had to explain about hugging in America, and he was amused. Beware the doggie doo on the sidewalks….no pooper scooper law in France! Believe it or not, for as many doggies as there are, I really don’t have to watch my step too much! When eating bread with your meal (and the French seem to eat it with every meal), it doesn’t go on your plate with your food…you just place it on the table beside your plate, and break off pieces as you consume it! And, no hands in your lap at the table! Hands must be showing at all times, so elbows and arms on the table are a must. Otherwise, your hosts, or companions, may wonder what your hands are doing under there! This is a hard one for me as I had “hands in lap” drilled into me from a very young age.

So far, the staples of French life – wine, cheese, bread – are very cheap – $3, $2, $1, respectively for a bottle, small round, baguette. Fresh, organic produce at the open market is inexpensive, too.

Life is good here. I am happy, well fed, walking for miles every day, learning something new every day, stretching my mind, expanding my world view, going where the wave takes me. I have let go, let be, and let live in all aspects of my life, and that feels wonderful. Every day brings a new experience, a new opportunity. Like poetry life is rhythmic and freely moving, and like prose, it is a stream of consciousness that carries me forward onto new shores of understanding and acceptance.