25 September 2015

Life in Motion and Two Milestone Birthdays

This man that I love. Yesterday he turned 40. When we first met as teenagers, life seemed an impossibly long continuum. And here, after almost 25 years together, it is racing by. Each day I am thankful for this man who asks for so little and gives so very much. He is a wise, kind, loving, brilliant man. 

And this little gem. She turned 10 a few days back. She tackles each day with a vigor and grace that leaves me humbled and joyful.
Life is beautiful and good and difficult and hard and nutty and perfect right now. There is so much to say and record but there is too much life in motion for me to always pause and do so. 

For the moment, I am just grateful ... and for these two in particular.

29 August 2015

Getting Settled In

We've made it to our new home in our new village. And we are in love. It's market day today ...

17 August 2015

Switzerland: Alpine Days

 Switzerland is a stunner of a country. Truly, it's breathtaking no matter where you turn. We were here three years ago, and since, we've all been longing for a return.

Even though the weather has been cold and very foggy, it's hard not to be content. (Some days the fog has been so thick visibility is limited to 20-30 feet! It's a shame not to see the view every second.)
 Today we took a bus for our excursion. (It was a complete joy to ride and avoid driving the perilous switchback roads ourselves. When Pops' eyes widen and he takes a sharp intake of breath ... you know it's scary.)

And this is where we ended up. The hills were alive with song, as the cows on hillside had bells that sounded orchestral as they grazed. Magical.
We are staying in St Luc in the Valais region, or Val d'Anniviers. This is Lac de Moiry and is a glacial mineral depository. 

And this is Pops wearing a sweater with another sweater tied over his shoulders. I think he looks great, but he sighs and says he's been living in Europe too long ... 
It's been a very good thing for us to have some of this time to unwind together. All the preparing, cleaning, shipping, and planning required for our move was rather exhausting. Not to mention that on our way here, we managed a flat tire (but a miraculously fast, praise God, fix at a garage) and an incident with a scary road rage man. Still shaking that one off.

And of course, once we get to the south, we will have all of the adjustments that come with settling into a new locale and getting the children set up for school. It's been busy.

So our time here, together, is both a luxury and a necessity. Funny how the two can go hand-in-hand.
Preparations, for us, must included planned down-time. Even though we are doing some nutty, crazy stuff ... we really aren't a thrill-a-minute kind of family. We hit a wall pretty quickly if we out-pace ourselves. It's not about planning everything out perfectly ... it's just about knowing it won't all go as planned and it won't be perfect. And that's okay. 

And that is where down-time/family-time becomes a non-negotiable. (And it doesn't have to be a Swiss-vacation. I'm a big fan of stay-cations, too.) 
We have just a couple more days here until we press on.

Pops told me he is already dreaming of returning. He doesn't usually talk that way ... it must be the air up here.

04 August 2015

A New Kind of Adventure

 It's rather incredible we've been here a year. So very much has happened, been accomplished, struggled through, and deeply enjoyed. It is with mixed emotions that we complete our time here at La Cressonnière and move on to the next adventure.
I have never lived in the country before. Never observed the rhythms of farm life nor experienced the pace. And French country life has a uniqueness of its own. Cows taking a walk down the street, ancient stone barns being repaired, fishing at the la petite rive down by the old mill, taking walks after dinner and moving aside to let the tractors pass.

 It has been a blessing living here. We have been grateful for the space to roam and a peaceful respite from a busy world.
And yet, we are ready. This last week has been full of some rattling hiccups requiring hurried mental adjustments. Namely, we have discovered (for a variety of bureaucratic reasons), that we can no longer drive in France after October 1st. It's a long story. The American in me could not conceive of existing entirely without a car and I had a full two-day panic attack. For serious. A major kink in the plans.

I am still wrestling with nervousness, but we have come to a place of peace and trust in the Lord that this too is part of His plans for us. We are moving to a location where we can approach life on foot, bicycle, bus, and train. Not completely what we planned on, but possible. If we had planned to stay in the country ... impossible.
And God is good.

We pick up our visas next Monday (oh have mercy, let them be there and ready) and depart on Wednesday. With renewed visas in hand we will be able to exit and re-enter the country and have plans for a stop in Burgundy and Switzerland as we work our way down south. We shall enjoy the freedom of driving while we have it and prepare ourselves for a new kind adventure ahead.

"Whether you turn to the right or to the left, 
may your ears  hear a voice behind you, saying, 
This is the way; walk in it ..." 
Isaiah 30:21

22 July 2015

After France We're Buying This Boat & Sailing to Cyprus

Portofino, Italy
Just kidding!

Do you have any go-to conversation starters? Talking points or tricks to keep things interesting or surprising? Do you ever find yourself like me ... interested in people but when conversation runs slim ... babbling needlessly about nothing ... or worse ... about oneself? Oh boy.

In the States, it seems that after basic introductions, the next question always is: "And what do you do?" It's our go-to conversation starter. Does it really start conversations? Sometimes, I guess. But I think it's mostly a habitual question.

In France, it's considered borderline rude to ask this question. The idea is that this question facilitates an instant "sizing someone up" based on their profession. Within seconds there is an assessing of their level of education, salary, esteem, worth, etc. Très gauche. I'd never really thought about this before, but ... it's rather true. It's not a conscious thing for most of us, but we're zeroing in on just one facet of a person as the basis to understand someone.

Certainly French people find out each other's professions ... but not necessarily the first time you meet someone. In a way, you earn access to the "inner layers" as time and conversation continue. So, with "what do you do" out of the picture, what do you ask??

We all need ice-breaker questions. It's weird when someone starts off asking about your innermost feelings five seconds into the introduction. Talking about the weather is benign and acceptable, but it seems the real key is to ask a question that offers opportunity for follow up conversation threads that you can both participate in. That's the real cache, right there.

I run dry and feel dorky just like the next person. But I've been trying to be more thoughtful about my conversations and it takes practice! Here are some of my favorite conversation starters, both my own and swiped from others:

1. Memory: Tell me about the house you grew-up in or associate with your childhood. Or, Where did you live in 3rd grade? Be specific!
2. Location: Do you live around here can actually open up discussion if you follow it up. Suddenly, there is opportunity to talk about where they grew up, if they like living where they do, if they've ever moved or would like to travel. All sorts of options.
3. Funny Fib: I had fun showing people the above photo I took in Portofino and telling them that after France, we were "considering buying this boat and sailing to Cyprus". Heh, heh. But it did lead to to lots of "would ifs" and "can you imagine" conversations.
4. LastsWhat was your last book read/board game played/movie watched/hike/ice cream cone ... 
5. RandomWhat was your last online purchase? If you wrote a book, what would it be about?
6. Compliment: This is tried and true, but always nice. Who doesn't like to be complimented on their shoes or shade of lipstick or even their cute baby.
7. ObservationYou seem like a (outgoing/introspective/thoughtful/mindful/well-read/humorous ...) kind of person. How would you describe yourself? This is such a better alternative to "Tell me about yourself." You've started with an observation of your own, a compliment (hopefully), and you are then asking them about their own perspective.

So, after initial niceties, what are the fun, juicy, lively questions you like to ask or have been asked? Do any of these ideas above register with you? I'm genuinely curious!

Converse with me!

15 July 2015

A View Through: Le Coq

Don't you just love a little spy-through window? Makes the view awfully exciting.

13 July 2015

Tour de France en Normandie!

The Tour de France was everything we expected and more.

To be honest, we didn't really know much about it prior to this summer other than it was a really big bike race. It is a really BIG bike race! It's an obsessive sport culture and if you are into cycling,  you will be riveted to the event. And France is waaaaaay into cycling.
 What was so incredible was that the race was coming through just down our road! I'm not sure that it has ever taken that route and it hasn't come through the main city in the region for 30 years!
 The racers and their massive entourage were set to come by at about 2:30 pm but we were encouraged by our neighbors to set up a picnic site by 11:00am.

The caravans come through for a couple hours before the racers in very elaborate vehicles tossing candy and trinkets. What was nuts was the speeds at which they were racing through (60-90km/hr!). There is absolutely no shoulder to these country roads and kids were skittering and diving all about for the loot. After about a minute of participation, I told the kids I would just buy them some gummy bears if we could please watch from our chairs and spare our lives. (Apparently, kids get seriously injured every year!?!)

But really, the people watching and excitement in the air were just fascinating. I could have happily sat there for more than the 4 hours that we did.
 Just before the racers were to arrive, 5 helicopters raced overhead and landed in our neighbor's cow field. Presumably, media helicopters?

My mother was texting me from back in the States and watching the racers live and giving me a play-by-play so we would know when to expect them. We heard a roar from the crowd and suddenly, there they were, whizzing by!
 And in a blink ... they were past! Was it worth all the excitement and anticipation for just the few blurred moments? Oui, oui!

One of the most fun days we've had. 

09 July 2015

Village Preparations: Tour de France

It's Tour de France season here and if you can believe it, the race is coming right by us! Literally a 5 minute walk from our house. C'est incroyable!

The whole village has been bustling with activity to get everything show-ready and the excitement is palpable.
 Everyone is decorating their homes and sweeping the walks.
 The tell-tale neon arrows up to assure the riders ... keep pedaling this way!
And every old bicycle from every old barn has been unearthed and set up for display. It's the 102nd year of Tour de France!
There are RV's already lining the road from Tour de France groupies that apparently follow the race throughout France. I guess they just sleep on the side of the road and are ready for the next day when it comes!
Our road into town will be completely shut down tomorrow, so we made a voyage in today to pick up groceries and such. We have plans for a long road-side picnic tomorrow to join in the festivities. We're told to set up 3 hours early for a good spot and to see the caravans that come through beforehand.

Off to watch some highlights of today's race on the telly ... à bientôt!

07 July 2015

A Beautiful Woman on Market Day

It was market day and this beautiful woman had some shopping to do. And doesn't she look elegant?

In general, I think aging is a more respected process in France. It's a sign of honor to be referred to as "Madame" and when in doubt, always preferred to to the younger address of "Mademoiselle." Mademoiselle is for younger women and girls. As a friend explained, "Why would you want to be referred to as a girl? It's a pleasure being a woman!" Isn't this refreshing?

My husband's smart and gorgeous grandmother, Gigi, once told me she didn't like to be referred to as "cute," even when meant as a compliment. I didn't really understand the comment at the time, but I think I do now. Cute in exchange for beautiful or elegant or attractive has a different ring to it altogether. We don't cease to be women once we've left a certain season of life.

While certainly youth has it's signature beauty and aging has it's trials, no matter the country, I love the respect and appreciation given to women of "advancing stature" ... whether that is at 35 or 85. I love that women can present themselves with confidence and be considered beautiful at all ages.

Isn't this a good mindset to take on and habit to pursue?