New Year Resolutions – What I am NOT Going To Do in 2013

  • I am not going to get sick. No sore throat, flu, sniffles.
  • Not going to moan about getting older, even on my birthday.
  • Or groan about going to work, when fortunate to have a job.
  • Complain about cleaning a house that I am lucky enough to co own. (along with the bank)
  • Get organized. Realistically my number one resolution for past decades…ain’t gonna happen.
  • Make eggnog (have never made eggnog)
  • Write another book…The Frenchman would kill me!
  • I am definitely not joining a health club to keep fit since studies show health club joiners drop out within three weeks.

According to experts most resolutions fail within the month. They recommend that for the greatest chance of success make only one resolution and stick to it. Which brings me back to my number one goal, stay healthy, cause if you are in good health you can handle all the rest of the crap life throws at you.

During my break, I flew to Chicago and shopped til I dropped my first day back. On day 2, I woke up with a sore throat that morphed into a sinus infection. But I was not going to let illness interfere with my holiday, so we headed north to the cabin in Wisconsin. Ten days later, my brain still felt like marshmallow, my teeth ached, my nose burned, and my lungs constricted. No way could I get back on a plane for a nine-hour flight with my head full of muck, so I went to Urgent Care.

I was not alone.Read more

French Wedding Is All About the Food

family with the groom

family with the groom

A French wedding is less about the pomp and ceremony and more about the food, especially in Normandy, the northeastern region of France that offers land and seas finest fare.

A cold, grey weekend in December, we attended my nephew Ben and Lea’s wedding at the mayor’s office in Le Havre, an industrial city dominated by oil refineries and shipping docks. Bombed and destroyed during WWII, it was rebuilt in a Stalinistic style of cement cubes. The civil ceremony held at the Hotel de Ville was a bit carnivalesque especially since a display of Christmas toys and giant ferries wheel added color to the somber architect of town hall. At the imposing entryway, a petite, meticulously coiffed blond woman, mother of the bride, greeted us with air kisses and ushered us up the red carpeted stairs where people waited around like at a bus stop. At precisely 14:25, another wedding party exited one door of a main hall and we entered.

My handsome nephew, Ben, dressed in a tux, stood at the front and guests filled the seating area. Then the wedding march played for 25 seconds, while bride’s stepfather walked her to the altar. Lea wore a white ivory wedding dress with a bodice and long trail. I marveled that the balconette stayed in place throughout the festivity, though obviously she was more well endowed than I.

IMG_3879

newweds with their cake

The mayor’s assistant conducted the ceremony in a friendly, fast food style service. After citing constitutional acts, she announced that Ben and Lea were joining in matrimony for the republic. During the ring exchange, she invited the proud, « paparrazzi » parents behind the pulpit to snap photos. Then she announced that they would repeat their vows on the top of the Ferris wheel, which at first I thought was a joke. The witnesses, a young blonde women in a black dress with an oval opening revealing a tattooed spine and a slender punk haired young man in black suit, stepped forward to sign the official papers. In less than 10 minutes, we were whisked out of the room and the next wedding party wave entered.Read more

Written Acts of Kindness

On Thanksgiving Day, I dragged through the work feeling sad, wondering why bother to connect kids and cultures in my job as an international schoolteacher and ex pat blogger. I suffered from writer’s angst about my upcoming memoir publication. I missed my homeland, friends, and family, including both Big Kids now living in the States.  Like the November weather outside my window, a dense fog settled in my soul. Then I received an unexpected gift – the Written Acts of Kindness Award – from a friend I have never met personally.

Kathy and I took Dan Blank’s Build Your Author Platform Course  in 2011. Now we follow each other all over cyberspace! Kathy is a grandma on the go, retired family nurse practitioner, cancer survivor and inspiring writer, whose strong faith and sense of purpose comes through admirably on her blog site, Memoir Writer’s Journey. She is working on a memoir about the power of hope through her faith in God.Read more

The Great Thanksgiving Hunt Abroad

Ever since I moved to Europe thirty years ago, I have been hunting for Thanksgiving a l’américaine. My first year abroad I invited French teammates and they ate the food in courses, one dish at a time. The next year in Germany, the team turnout was so great, there was standing room only; we never sat down to dine. Another year French relatives replaced the turkey with chicken. Tom Turkey seemed gluttonous even for the hearty-eating French.

Thanksgiving in Normandy, 1984

Thanksgiving in Normandy, 1984

When I was living in Dijon, I invited a Franco American family for what turned into another Thanksgiving fiasco starting with the great turkey hunt. Local merchants explained that whole turkeys are obsolete until the official slaughtering date on December 8th. I finally found a black market butcher, who ordered me a clandestine turkey, smuggled from abroad. I was stuffing the bird when the family that I had invited called to cancel as their child had the flu. We postponed Thanksgiving until Tuesday night since French children have no school Wednesdays.Read more

A Dozen Tips to Endure Back Pain

I am up before dawn to see my chiropractor for the early bird special. With a 7 a.m. appointment, there is no wait; we beat the city traffic, and best of all Le Frenchman can chauffeur me there. For as long as I can remember I have suffered from chronic back pain. The decline began in college when a Big Mama landed on my back on a rebound in a basketball game. After that I walked so crooked that my college roomies tilted the pictures in our apartment to make me feel better. I have tried every treatment that exists, except surgery, and have become resigned to the fact that, okay, my back hurts, but life goes on.

Take one spine; add two herniated lumbar disks, three compressed dorsal vertebrae, four whiplashes and five concussions, and what do you get? One heck of a backache! My bod has undergone a lifetime of trauma. Bad back is an understatement. Yet if you look at me, you’d never know, because I keep on keeping on.

Here is how I cope with a full-time job, cross Atlantic travel and a semi active life.

laying down in Central Park, 1980s

laying down in Central Park, 1980s

  1. Take mini breaks. I have a yoga mat in my office at school; I lay down and stretch in the middle of the day.
  2. Wear tennis shoes with orthopedic soles. If your feet are imbalanced, your spine will misalign. Heels are a big no-no !
  3. Use both sides of the body equally especially when lifting.
  4. Invest in a good recliner and firm mattress to sleep on and a great pillow.
  5. Alternate heat and cold. Sometimes only an anti inflammatory medicine can help the healing process begin as the muscles will become inflamed to protect the injured area.
  6. Find a good chiropractor!
  7. Try a combination of alternative medicine – physical therapy, massage, relaxation and meditation techniques.
  8. Maintain mobility by staying fit – sometimes it is too painful to sit, but usually I can walk without too much discomfort.
  9. If you have acute pain, limit riding in a car. If you do have to travel, stop, get out, and stretch every half hour.
  10. If it hurts to sit, stand, or walk–then crawl. My Swiss chiropractor recommends getting down on « quatre pattes » as the crawling movement is natural before we became upright, back breaking bipeds.
  11. Swim – there is no pressure on the joints and the water soothes the soul.
  12. Find a good partner even if it means going halfway across the world.

    ... and above Mürren, Switzerland, 2012

    … and above Mürren, Switzerland, 2012

When I get discouraged from the pain, I try to focus on someone else’s troubles. There is always a student, a colleague or a friend that is facing challenges far greater than a bad back. Anyway, I won’t be upright forever in my next life, I’ll be a fish.

Who Says Girls Can’t Get Dirty? Dad’s & Daughter’s Bond in Warrior Dash

As soon as I was old enough to walk, I was off running.  Before racing was fashionable for females, I dashed around the block of old East 19th Street neighborhood. In the winter, I ran circular laps around Jefferson, the first round school in town. In Jr. high, the coach let me run cross-country with the boys. In high school, when the law finally mandated equal opportunities for girls, I joined the track team.

Though my running days are long gone due to injuries, much to my delight my niece Marie was a runner. Though she no longer belongs to a team, she still enjoys a good race. Every July she competes in the Warrior Dash, a fun run where 600 runners lined up every half hour from 8am to 5 pm all weekend.

Her dad, Dick, a heart attack and cancer survivor, dedicated to fitness, joined her. After surgery in April to remove cancerous thyroid tumor, his goal was to run the Warrior Dash with his daughters. This type of cross-country run was fitting for his younger daughter, Hannah, a two time state championship rugby player, because it included army crawls and obstacles climbing.

Dick Carlson & John Pupkes coached daughters in team sports

Dick Carlson & John Pupkes coached daughters in team sports

The five-K run set on a ski slopes at Afton Alps Ski Resort in Minnesota was mostly uphill. Every 100 yards, an obstacle including a ten-foot high wall, had to be scaled by rope. Dick, ever the gentleman, sat on top of the wall to help women struggling to swing their bodies over the barrier. Then as soon as the contestants’ feet hit the ground, they crawled under barbed wire through mud.

“It gets tougher as you go cause your body is weighed down in muck,” Dick said, “and your feet slip and slide.”

But for Marie, a recent college graduate, the whole experience is “fun, fun, fun!”

To add to the gaiety, many competitors dressed in costume. At the end of the race, runners hosed off the mess and enjoyed a beverage, which for many was beer. Food booths sold chicken wings, turkey legs and hot dogs adding to the carnival atmosphere.

“Wear old clothes cause you’ll throw everything away,” Dick said, “except your shoes which are donated to charity.”

The entrance fee was $50 and competitors went home with T-shirts, buffalo warrior hats, participation medals, heads filled with pride and hearts bursting with joy.

“This year was better than last cause my friends ran,” Marie said, “ and so did my pops and sister!”

Thanks to Title IX dad coached daughters in soccer

Thanks to Title IX dad coached daughters in soccer

According to the fifty-six year old dad, “It takes a lot of upper body strength to climb over obstacles and the run uphill was much harder than I expected!

But Marie, insisted, “It was awesome! I can’t wait till next year!

If you love to run and roll in mud, check out this site http://www.warriordash.com/ to find the Warrior Dash in your area. Hit the treadmills and pump that iron! Work it this winter, so you can roll with the warriors next summer!