Viva La French Diet- Live to Eat and Lose Weight

15999751-french-iconssetAmerican women have long envied svelte, sophisticated French women who indulge in forbidden culinary pleasures yet remain slender. The French, who savor high fat chocolates, high cholesterol cheeses and high priced wine, to boot, should be role models for the rest of the world. Ironically, the society that lives to eat could set health trends. French focus wholeheartedly on food.

A French dinner party conversation is a lesson in verb conjugation. The discussion revolves around what is being eaten in present tense, what was eaten in the past and what will be eaten at the next millennium. Mealtime is still sacred. So much emphasis on food makes one less likely to eat anything, any time of day. Snacking is limited to once a day at 4 pm sharp. La gouter, which means taste, not gobble, not gorge, gives one permission to sample a sweet or savory treat.

French females remain lean by running the country, flitting from one chore to another, while balancing precariously on high heels. Not only do they work full-time, they collect the children from school, buy baguettes daily, and pick up fresh produce in open markets. They take time to fondle tomatoes, pummel melons, and squeeze nectarines testing for ripeness. They wait in line to order fresh cut chops, but butchers beware. No wrath is greater than that of a French woman’s who has been sold poor quality cuts of meat. French women are never more demanding than during transactions dealing with food.

The French savor foods with full flavor that pack a punch, pungent cheese that singe nose hair, Dijon mustard that puts hair on the chest, and coffee, so strong, that hair spikes straight up.10127676-cheese-composition

It is not so much what the French eat, but what they don’t eat. Deep-fried meats and fish, chips and crackers and our beloved sandwich are taboo overseas. Serving size does matter. Crackers, sold in tiny, palm-sized mini boxes are nibbled, but only at the aperitif. Petit fours, pinky sized tarts, éclairs and cakes are served in bite-sized pieces for dessert.

Petit aptly describes the French and their serving sizes. Food is served in mini courses on plates ascending in size from doll-sized saucers to starters to entries on full size dinnerware. Then the plates shrink again up to the grand finale, a sculpted dessert that leaves most of the plate empty for artistic effect.

Serving food in courses forces the diner to slow down. The traditional French meal lasts hours. A dozen plates will have been used for each place setting. By the time the first courses have been eaten, the brain will have hit the snooze button and no longer send those subliminal messages calling for cookies, cakes and ice cream.

The French are also major producers and consumers of yogurt and milk based products. Laitage is a standard dessert and there are 100 different varieties of puddings and yogurt products. The French got it right again. Recent studies prove calcium consumption reduces weight.

Chocolate, too, has gotten a bum rap in the past. Now the propensities of chocolate are being tooted for health benefits. The darker the chocolate, the fewer calories and more of those mood-boosting endorphins. French women adore chocolate, but rather than devouring the whole bar, they only indulge in one piece of rich, high calorie, ultra dark chocolate from a fancy box that costs more than my mortgage.

Another anomaly, whereas beer-guzzling Americans put on beer bellies, French wine drinkers remain lean and studies show that imbibing improves health. Red wine is beneficial for the heart, helps lower cholesterol and aids digestion.7992041-assortment-of-baked-bread-on-wood-table

Darned if those cultivated, French connoisseurs haven’t gotten the best of us of again.

Their savoir-faire and appetite for pleasure “à une bonne table” created a lifestyle where wellness is assured by living to eat right.

Back to School Tips for Teachers

back-to-school-suppliesAs if passing on knowledge and sharing wisdom was innate, I was born with the educator gene. I come from a long line of teachers. My grandpa coached at the college level and my grandma taught high school English. My mom helped children get off to a good start as a kindergarten teacher and my dad guided them through the perils of adolescence in secondary school. My sisters taught in the Midwest, my sisters-in-law teach in France, and I am proud to say that my son enters the ranks in the Minnesota school system.

As teachers navigate the electronic age, we must adapt new tricks to capture students’ interest and hold their short attention spans. We rewrite curriculum, update files, correlate data, document schemes, track outcomes, learn how to differentiate and better motivate, following the latest educational theories, yet the essence of teaching never changes. If the teacher can’t connect, kids tune out.

The impact of good teaching is life long. Everyone remembers that favorite teacher. My mom recently received 80th birthday cards from former kinder and my dad still hears from old athletes that he coached. After leading the special education department at Yorkville High School my sister, Sue, retired last June.IMG951132

“Over the years, people have asked me what advice I would share with teachers entering the profession,” Sue said. “When I reflect back on my 35 years in education, these are the “lessons” that have served me best.”

We’re all in this together– No matter what job you do at your school, your contributions are important. It takes all of us working together, supporting one another, to help our students have the best possible educational experience and reach their full potential.

Pay it forward– Every single day we can touch a life and make a difference. And most of the time, we don’t even know when we do it. But that individual we influence will go on and maybe even years down the road pay it forward. That is the beauty of it!

It’s all about the relationships– Yeah, the subjects are important and the learning is essential, but when it comes down to it, I have found that the key to being a successful teacher is really all about the relationships that are nurtured.

Kindness matters–   I have never regretted treating someone with kindness. Like the lyrics to the song Nothing More by “The Alternate Routes “says “It is how we treat each other when the day is done. We are how we treat each other and nothing more.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0mk5JRQGLk

So as we say every September in my neck of the woods (France and the French speaking part of Switzerland.)

“Bonne Rentrée!” (welcome back)le_chat_14sept11_197

Teachers remember this crucial caveat.

Connection is the key to unlock minds; kindness is the ticket to open hearts.

Normandy 70th Anniversary of D-Day June 6, 1944-2014

 

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe du Hoc (Photo credit: Gérald Lechault)

I visited the Normandy landing beaches on a cold, rainy, miserable day, a day much like the stormy dawn when 200,000 Allied personnel debarked on D Day, June 6, l944. A fitting day for remembering the 10,000 Allied soldiers who died on the “longest day” of war.

Normandy Invasion, June 1944 U.S. Army Rangers...

June 1944 U.S. Army Rangers storm the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A half-century after the Rangers overtook the strategic German lookout at Pointe du Hoc, I stood on the steel reinforced bunkers and peered over 100-foot drop off above the English Channel. I could picture a 19-year-old American boy jumping out of a PT boat into icy waters illuminated by gunfire. I could imagine him staggering across the dunes dodging bullets, clawing at the red cliffs, crawling through the hedgerows, groping for life in a foreign land. He was one of ours. Disorientated in fields criss-crossed by trees and hedges, trying to maneuver tanks through stone villages, shooting at the shadows that could be his own comrades, he was an American soldier killing Germans who could have been friends in another time and generation.

IMG_3294

Normany – fields through hedgerow (Photo credit: Gérald Lechault)

I am of another time and generation, an American with French-Normand spouse, and German friends. Knowing the fair-minded, kind-hearted, Europeans as I do now, I cannot fathom how such an atrocity could occur. The war-ravaged countryside is not the Normandy I know. On rainy days, Normandy’s landscape may offer a bleak reminder of her sad past, but on sunny ones the murky coastline, black sea, and gray fields are transformed into a tapestry of colors. The beauty and tranquility of Normandy today in a ray of sunshine could drive full-grown men to their knees in tears. I, too young to have understood the impact of WWII, get a lump in my throat every time I return to the land of my in-laws in northwestern France.

Today the sacrifices of the men of WWII, their silent testimonials of white crosses lining the hills above the famous beaches Utah, Gold, Juno, Sword and Omaha hold special meaning. My countrymen, laid to rest in my adopted country, saved my family.

If those soldiers were to land on the Normandy beaches this June, they’d be surprised. Parasols have replaced Rommel’s asparagus (spiked metal posts preventing ships from landing). The 400 miles of wide white sand and dramatic cliff line extending from Le Treport in the east to Mont St. Michel in the west, is strewn with half-naked, live bodies worshipping the sun and sea.

Millions of visitors follow the “circuit du débarquement” along the coast from Pegasus Bridge to Cherbourg stopping at every WWII historical spot and all eight museums. The one in Arromanches gives a general overview and explains how the artificial port was made. The Museum of the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux, containing ration tins, tattered letters, faded photographs, and other mementos of WWII foxholes, is the most affecting one.

Colleville cemetery

Colleville American cemetery (Photo credit: Gérald Lechault)

In Upper Normandy, my late grand father-in-law, Marcel Elie, a Gendarme, used to welcome me to his home in Dieppe by greeting me at the door playing the American national anthem on his trumpet. He blew that same trumpet while riding his horse leading the Allied troops down the Champs Elysees celebrating the liberation of Paris on August 24, 1945.

Unknown soldier

Unknown soldier – Colleville American cemetery (Photo credit: Gérald Lechault)

His old heart never forgot. Now, even though my generation never knew the horrors of world war, I too, will remember. When I stood in front of a field of 10,000 stark, white crosses, I felt overwhelmed by a debt that I can never repay. I know the Unknown Soldier. He is my father, my brother, my countryman, who died so nobly, so that today I might live in peace in a land whose splendor offers its own thanks to the skies.

Rest in peace my comrade in arms. You have not died in vain. If my words could transcend time you would know that because of you Normandy today, like the true Normans, remains proud and gracious.

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Woo hoo,school in Switzerland is out for the summer

I am flying back to the Midwest. Keep your fingers I make it, that my flight will not be cancelled due to storms, mechanical problems, air traffic controller strikes, missed connecting flights, terrorist threats, security breeches, or passenger rage.

The moment my feet hit the tarmac I will begin a book promotional tour. I’ll be telling spinning yarns, swapping jokes, and kicking back with the folks at home.

Here is my itinerary.

  • Sterling (Illinois) Library Monday July 1 – 6:00 p.m.
  • Kiwanis Club breakfast  -Ryberg Auditorium CGH Tuesday July 2 – 6:45 a.m.
  • Rotary Club – YWCA downtown Sterling Tuesday July 2 -12:00 noon
  • Book Signing Northland Hills Mall July 3 -9:30 a.m.
  • Friday evening, July 5,  I’ll be crashing SHS Class of 1978 Reunion at the Precinct Downtown as my little sister’s date!
  • In July, I am heading to the Senior National Games in Cleveland as a guest of National Senior Women’s Basketball Association (July 25-29).

In between speaking gigs, I will be escaping to Wisconsin.

If anyone is in these areas at the above dates, c’mon down. Would love to see you!

Hope to see you soon.

As we say in France, a bientôt!

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How Title IX Changed my Life

Celebrate the 41st anniversary of Title IX today.

First posted March 4, 2013 by Generation Fabulous, women writing about women’s issues, as part of the launch for their new site.

Illinois State University lead nation in promoting women's sports

Illinois State University lead nation in promoting women’s sports

For the last fifty some years, I have been listening to people tell me NO!

I ain’t listening no more!

I grew up on the sideline begging to play ball like the boys. The first half of my life, I fought to be allowed on America’s playing fields. In 1972, when Title IX passed mandating equal opportunities for girls, I set the standard for the first girl’s basketball team in my high school. In 1978, I received the first athletic scholarship in Illinois to play basketball for Jill Hutchinson at Illinois State University. Jill, co-founder and first president of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, was a pioneer, who helped raise women’s college basketball to its current level of popularity.

I co-founded the first girl’s summer basketball camp in the Sauk Valley Region of Northern Illinois, so other girls in my area wouldn’t have to go to a boy’s camp like I did.

In 1979, I was drafted into the first Women’s Professional Basketball League (WBL.)  The general public pooh-poohed the notion and unfortunately the league folded due to lack of funds and interest

Then I was recruited to play overseas, but after a year in Paris, non-European women were banned from the professional French league.

So I crossed the border and found my dream team in Marburg Germany.

Kabooom!

A car accident in France ended my career. Instantly.

I started over. Again. But first I had to learn to walk. Eventually, I taught at international high schools and coached girl’s and sometimes boy’s basketball teams. But what I really coveted was a writing career. In my free time, I wrote a newspaper column, and sports, and travel pieces, but traditional papers were dying. I should know. I married a French printer. He suggested that I start a blog.

Decades ago, I wrote my first book and signed with a big name agent, but publishers said that no one was interested in women’s basketball. Another half a dozen years passed, I worked up my courage, wrote another book and finally landed another high-flying agent. Once again, publishers said no thanks; I was not a not big enough name. Undaunted, I wrote yet another draft, interested a third agent, but it was still no go.

I felt like a loser. I moped. I swore. I cried. I kicked the wall. Then I picked up the pen again.

I do not take no for answer.

Damn it! You want something done, do it yourself!

Persistence pays off. A decade later, after another couple dozen drafts, I present to you, Home Sweet Hardwood: A Title IX Trailblazer Breaks Barriers Through Basketball.

Illinois State University - 1978

Illinois State University – 1978

With a firsthand account of the monumental Title IX ruling, my book serves as an inspiring lesson in women’s history, but it is more than just a sports story. From expatriate life to cross cultural marriage to motherhood, Home Sweet Hardwood touches on the transitions every woman makes as she bridges the gaps between genders, generations and cultures.

Now you tell me, where would I be now if I gave up a half century ago when the powers that be, said, No!

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Father’s Day Accolades to an Inaugural Title IX Dad

back in the day !

back in the day !

“No daughter of mine will wear trousers to church,” you scolded.

“Why not? God doesn’t care what we wear. It’s the inside that counts.”

To your chagrin, I became the first girl to wear pants to Sunday service. Though not always in agreement with my actions, when I became one of the first women’s professional basketball players, you beamed. At a time when basketball was for boys only, you taught me a jump shot in the driveway, while the neighbors shook their heads and chuckled.

While I invented my own fashion, developed my own career and became my own person, you stood by watching, alternately arguing and applauding, always trying to understand.

No textbook taught how to be super dad in the 70s, so you stumbled along changing to fit the times. You would never meet all the prerequisites for perfect parenting, but you were the best dad you could be for me.

Jim & two of his daughters

Jim & two of his daughters

When tomboy was a dirty word and girls were relegated to the sideline, we never dreamed women would one day star in their own Showtime. Nor could we imagine that you would coach the first girls’ high school basketball championship team (1977) and I would receive the first athletic scholarship in Illinois (1978). When other dads insisted their daughters play dolls, you encouraged my athleticism. Every time you played catch with your son, you’d throw the baseball to me too, so I felt equal to my brother. You taught me how to hang on to a football so expertly, I’d have been a wide receiver had I been a boy. While society insisted sports were harmful for females, you encouraged me to play ball. During the infancy of Title IX, together we fought a steady battle for girls’ sports.

Later, when women’s teams developed and my slender frame took a beating on basketball courts where the game increased in contact and competitiveness, you never said, “You’re too small to go pro.” Instead you helped develop my potential. When my American pro team folded, I stated, “I’m going to France to play.”

“What if you get hurt? What if you don’t like it there?” You tried your darndest to dissuade me. Then after the shock subsided, you offered your support and returned to the gym to rebound.

When I announced, “I’m engaged to a Frenchman,” you were the first to accept a foreigner into the family. Decades later, you remained my most faithful correspondent, sending manila envelopes to Europe filled with local news, national sports and fatherly love.

I grew up during an era when athletic girls had no role models. When others teased, “Hey, jock,” I cringed, but never lost my self-esteem. You never loved me less because I grew up in skinned knees instead of nylons. You encouraged me to be myself even when it meant being different and pursuing a career usually sought by men.

Part of my fight for independence meant defying authority. When I snuck in late one night, you heard the garage door creak and met me at the door in your underwear.

“Young lady, do you know what time it is?” you grumbled.

“No, do you?” I snapped back. “At college, you don’t even know if I come home at night.”

When I was 26, before the wedding, I announced, “You’re going to be a grandpa.”  You looked at me astounded and said, “Well, you always did things your own way.”

And the day your first grandchild was born in Paris, you wore a French beret to the school where you had taught for 25 years.

Jim with granddaughter Nat

Jim with granddaughter Nat

It is not easy being a modern day daughter, marrying a Frenchman and raising a child abroad. Nor is it easy to be an up-to-date dad, whose dedicated coaching developed the talent that took his daughter away.

I was a selfish, smart-aleck kid, too big for my britches; you were too overprotective. Still, we loved each other, in spite of our imperfections. You grew up under the “work ethic” when it was a man’s world, only, yet you learned to accept a modern, do-it-herself daughter who lived by the “experience ethic.” You lean a bit to the right; I towards the left. Often times we were too much alike in temperament and too different in ideologies to get along, yet our differences, like thorns in our sides, spurred growth. I loved you enough to let you be a blundering father. You let me be a belligerent daughter. Through our headstrong outbursts, we learned to compromise, to live modern dreams without losing old-fashioned values.

You were not a perfect dad, nor I, a perfect daughter. But our love was…and always will be.

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