Saturday, August 27, 2022

Why Write? Why Not! 5 - Just Write (Final of this series)

This is the last of the series on Writing.  Because I think I've said enough for now and also, I want to share other things!  Things like adventures, life, and beautiful places.  So to wrap this up, let's talk about motivation and the dreaded writer's block.

A woolly sweater, a warm cafe, espresso, pastries oh and some editing!

Getting started - may seem like the hardest part.  You can spend a lot of time getting ready to write and never get around to it!  However, don't beat yourself up if it is taking a while for words to appear on the page.  

Be patient.  Forgive yourself.  Maybe the feeling just isn't right.

Like most writers, I have a folder of ideas and bits of writing. I often write by dictation as I drink my morning coffee, telling myself the story I see in my mind.  I send it to the word processing program and look it over.  Often there are some strange words that only my

Surround yourself with things that inspire what you want to create.  These are from the setting of my current novel.
Cards & booklets for the setting of my current project

phone thinks I say.  So that gets cleaned up and more details are added.  I print it out and take my manuscript everywhere I go. I edit by hand and at the end of the day, I am at the keyboard to add the changes.

 But like all writers, I have times when I get too busy, lose interest, or even feel blocked looking at the blank page. So how do I motivate myself to get back in the saddle and write on? (yeah, bad pun.)  First - my strongest suggestion - tell yourself it's okay.  Surround yourself with things that relate to what it is you want to achieve. Then get on with it one word or act at a time.

I used to keep a calendar/ledger book on my bedside reading table. In the column running down the side, I would write how many words I had written that day. (Bless the word processor for making this easier.) If I was about write zero, I would add a postscript to the day right there in the ledger book, something like: “I couldn’t write today, it was very hard. All my head wants to do is scream but that won’t help anything. Maybe if I tell you, my little writing journal, it will help me. Help me get through another day and allow me to put on the corner of this page that I have written some thing. And maybe one day something eventually will allow me to write again the way my husband believes that I can.”  

Then I tallied the words - for example that was 77.  Yes, there were days when I couldn’t even do that.  I know that if I look back 7 years to when my husband battled cancer and lost, there are months of blanks.  But knowing that little book was waiting for me to put words to pages, was a tiny push. I knew it meant a lot to him for me to succeed. It pushed me. A push can start an avalanche.

Find your push. The act of writing is writing, no matter what the subject. And it kept me on track. Ten books later, I no longer need the book-keeping.  I have pages and folders full of manuscripts.  I know what it takes is putting words on the paper or screen and I do it every day because it gives me joy.

You can do it. Whatever your project or how hard it seems, don't despair.  Your creativity is unique and doesn't need to be like anybody else's in the whole world.  

Find your inspiration.
Readers always inspire me!

Just Write. By which I mean create.  A book, a poem, a love letter, a garden, a shed, a beautiful meal, or anything that gives you joy.   It doesn’t matter what, you will know it when you feel it.  The driving passion will trigger a part of the brain.

And it all counts because even that angst I felt blocking me seven years ago added up and became some thing that added depth to the character in another novel later on. It’s something that sometimes inspires a poem or even... a blog!  

Thanks for reading my "scribblings" -  it means a lot to me.  You and the world you create every day matter to me. 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Why Write? Why Not! 4 - It's about Passion

Part of the Passion is sharing.  My next book is set here!

When I say I’m an indie writer, people often ask, “Do you sell a lot of books?”  Which makes me smile. Not really important. I don’t count them.  I don't pay for advertising, I'm not famous, and I won’t sit outside the bookstores peddling my wares. When a new book comes out, there will be anywhere between twenty and forty sales that month and then it tapers off to a couple a month.

I don’t have to count them to know they sell. At the end of the month, royalties are paid and I know that I must have sold ten books last month. (Which is cool as I only put out 2 books last year and one is not even on the market because it's still waiting for some translation work from my partner.)

The separate payment stubs meant that one was an eBook and the other nine were paper or hard backs, but I didn’t run to my author dashboard to analyze which was which.  Because what I love is writing and telling stories.

If I worked for someone else - say - a publisher, I’d have to chase the statistics to sell more. I’d have to go to book signings or do podcasts. And that would be the death knell to how much fun I have dreaming up new stories. To use my favorite French expression of disgust, “Beurk!”

I love the fact that I control every aspect of creating my novels except for the costs of printing. But at least I get to choose how much or how little I make on the royalty.  And I love that.  I keep my prices down because I can.  I choose to make a dollar or a euro per sale.  That seems fair to me.  I've more than made back what I put into it.

There was a cyclone blowing outside -
but I was in another world 

My real reward is that day I first hold the book in my hand. Plus I am an impatient soul. Life is short. I could never deal with the delays, restraints, and finality of being published by a company - assuming I could find one who would want my mixed bag writing style.

 And why did I not go the traditional route and send off my books to the big 5 publishers or even all those little ones? Easy, I did. Back in 2005, when I wrote the first draft of CSA, I naively sent my manuscript to over 20 US publishers at great expense. I was based in France and if I had wanted those 300 pages back I needed to send a return postage. I didn’t. Months later and for the next year, the rejects trickled in.  These photocopied, standardized text notes with my book title inserted were disheartening. My husband told me it was unimportant and to keep writing for the love of writing.  If I needed to make money, I could tutor French people in English!

Since then, I've read a lot on the subject. Only 1 to 2% of new writers get published by the big companies.  Thousands of unsolicited manuscripts arrive at the major publishing houses every day.  These go into directly into huge "slush" piles.  The odds are large that when the lowly lackey who sorts the unsolicited manuscripts reaches yours they will glance at it and note that you are not Kylie Jenner nor have you climbed Mount Everest with only one prosthetic leg and put it on the 98% stack to receive a standard, “Thank you for considering our Publishing House. Unfortunately your submission doesn’t fit our needs. Good luck with your future writing projects.” 

Why our readers loved the blog... the south of France!

Fast forward, 5 years and 3 books into "writing for the love of it," my husband and I started a column for Yahoo about life in France. I was really writing it for my mom who was terminally ill and wanted me to be “Published.”  To our surprise, over 700 people checked out our first blog on day 1.  By the end of a week thousands had. We kept writing and even made a little money - about 45 dollars a month!

I realized the readers didn't care that I wasn't famous - they enjoyed the stories.  I decided to go Indie with the goal of selling affordable books.  I would publish my own work for no cost up front with KDP. It was the right thing for me.

As I said I am an impatient soul. Being published by a company - assuming one could get published - is a long process. The average time is 9 months to 2 years to wait after finding one who says, "Yes!"

Everyone has a story and people love to share and to be a part of other people's lives.  We're only here for a little while - so why not?  Your personal success or mine does not depend of finishing anything.  Success is breathing and being.  It's the doing and dreaming that give us real satisfaction.  

It's all about finding your joy.
You know what? Every post you put out there is a personal expression of who you are and the freedom we have to share.  It's amazing! 

 I'm rarely there on Instagram or Twitter but when I do get there I see an astonishing outpouring of what it is to be human.  Facebook is where I feel like I'm part of a family of friends, a few of whom I've never met.  

Keep on chasing your passion.  Keep on sharing your stories and know that I'll be checking in because I love hearing about the way life looks through your eyes.  

PS And yeah, guess-ti-mating from my royalties, it's somewhere over nine hundred books sold online so far.  And you know what?  That's way more than I ever expected!

My homework this month - learning about Fauvism for the next book.
And this is why I love to write.
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Thursday, February 3, 2022

Why Write? Why Not! 3 - Fear

There’s nothing like a cyclone outside  
to focus your thoughts on writing!
It’s not like I’m going out today as Batsirai   
blasts past us on La Réunion. I have time.  
So, is it lack of time that keeps people
who say they want to write from doing so?

When I was young, (In my 20’s and teaching middle school core classes), my husband said, “You have the potential to be a writer.” I laughed. “I don’t know how to write! I write computer programs and teach children Math and English but that’s about it.” He gave me one of those smiles and said, “You know better.”

“You write poetry, and songs.  I find your ideas scribbled on grocery lists.  I hear you sing in the shower. It’s all creation. Don’t let the work you do for money keep you from following your muse.” I loved his faith in me. But I didn’t really believe. Each year, a few poems  a song or two were all that went into my personal journals.

I wrote a lot of short stories but they were written with built in errors to serve as grammar exercises for my English students to tackle. Even so, the folder full of ideas slowly grew and eventually needed a big rubber band to keep it together.

Christmas was always a joy, even the year we set a $15 gift budget - $7.50 each that is! Fast forward to the years of luxury, when a double income meant the good life. Christmas shopping meant “The City” (SF) and giggling like kids as we peered at decorated windows and bought gifts for everyone. Late in the day, we sat in deep comfy chairs at the Royal Oak Pub and sipped hot cognac.

The twinkling lights, the soft jazz background music and our pile of treasure always kicked off the holidays.  Then last stop of the day - North Beach - where a takeaway pizza or giant burrito would top the ritual. Old radio shows filled the hours as we shared our dinner on the long dark drive back to the often foggy San Joaquin Valley.

One December, as we settled in our favorite corner where ornate art-deco lamps cast a warm glow across the oak tables, he said he’d found the perfect pre-Christmas present for me. I opened the bag from City Lights and smiled wryly at the book “If You Want to Write,” by Brenda Ueland. I was unconvinced. Surely a writer needed a big desk, pretty notebooks, reams of paper, and a zillion cool tools - like antique pens or super-sonic moon pencils….

You know what? It only took a blank page, time, and passion. My husband was right. I could write. He gave me the perfect gift. Belief that I was a writer and will always be a writer. 

Last month I bought another copy of “If You Want to Write,” in ebook format to carry it with me every day.  Chapter one: “Everybody is Talented, Original and Has Something Important to Say.”  Brilliant, right?

She knew what stops most writers from ever beginning: FEAR. And you can beat it.  You want to write? Then start.  If it’s too scary to let anyone else see it, then write for yourself.  

A writer is just someone who writes. It doesn’t matter what, it doesn’t matter if anybody ever reads it, what matters is the joy of creation. Sure we leave footprints in the sand, but high tides and storms will wash them away. Don’t write for immortality. Create because it makes you feel alive. If you want to write - WRITE. I believe in you.

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Monday, January 24, 2022

Why Write? Why Not! 2 - Just Do It

   Do all writers suffer from writer's block?  No, but a lot do.  Don't let it stop you.  Keep dreaming!


    I’ll be the first to admit that it’s a lot easier to write when you have a great view. This month I’ve worked from a shaded terrace where palm trees and mangoes frame the blue of the Indian Ocean.  It’s easier when you don’t have a lot of worries to weigh you down. But don’t think I am worry-free.  Everyone carries something heavy.  That is part of being human and alive.

The key is this: keep on writing or preparing to write. Do it every day and have faith in yourself. Tell yourself: I am a writer. I will write today, I will write tomorrow.

Does it matter what or how much?  Not a bit. Will it be a few sketches in a notebook, a description of a character, or a phrase that grabbed my imagination so fiercely that I scribbled it down on a napkin at the cafe?  Cool.  

Durning my darkest days in 2015 I became blocked. This is a part of being a writer and, as is often the case, it was stress that blocked me. My husband was fighting a battle against cancer and the doctors informed us it was fatal, our medical debt was rising, and it felt like my world was melting.

When I penned the first four books, I’d been relatively worry-free. My husband saw I was blocked and he encouraged me to get that fifth book started. I began scribbling the first three chapters while we waited for radiation treatments, and outlined the plot as we sat close and joked around in the chemotherapy unit.

He reminded me that the secret to writing was to write even if it was only a few lines every day. I did and I do. It took a very long time before that fifth book was finished but once I’d healed from the loss of that marvelous man, I kept the faith.  He believed in me and over time I learned to believe in myself.

So, when you feel blocked by life from expressing yourself stick out your tongue at it and just do it anyway. (You know, within reason and legality!) What counts is that your happiness - so dream big and live well.  Write, create, paint, sing, dance, laugh or feel the bliss of contemplating life.  Problems will always arise, but if you open yourself to seeing a way beyond them, you will have the opportunity to express yourself. Just do it - and you will feel the joy.  And if you want to, share your joy with me.  I’m on your side!

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Why Write? Why Not! 1 - Sharing The Joy

Hey, as I begin my 10th book, yes! Wow - 10th! I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. When I’m introduced to someone new, they often say, “It must be great to be a writer,” or, “That’s so cool!” Often they tell me they are thinking about writing a book but don’t know how to begin. Well often, my stories start on the backs of envelopes! When inspiration hits, it often flies as well. No time for that fancy paper blank book! Grab the idea while it’s still around. Maybe it will get used later and maybe not. Collecting those wisps of ideas is the starting point of storytelling. Fortunately, today it rained and that meant I stopped playing and sat down to write.

One of the most poignant lines I know comes from the movie V for Vendetta. The heroine is reading a hidden text that says, "This is the only autobiography that I will ever write and God, I'm writing it on toilet paper."

And you know what? It changes that reader's life. It doesn't matter if the autobiography is true, false, printed, handwritten, lined up in verse, or spattered as paint on the wall. It tells a story that speaks straight to the heart.

They say there is a book in everyone. Sure. Maybe some days I feel like all I have is a comic strip... so I'm taking a break from my work at my writer's desk (aka - the breakfast table) to write about writing!

Yes, I think everyone has something to share - maybe even a book in them. That just makes sense to me - every life is a story filled to the brim. So, if you've been thinking about it - why not join me and just write your story in whatever form takes your fancy?

You don't have to be confined (for weeks as we were last year in France) to the rules of anyone else. (ha ha - yes, a confinement pun...argh) It doesn't have to be a book with X number of Chapters, perfect grammar, or lots of prose.... It doesn't even have to be a book. Maybe you have poetry to share, or photos, or short stories, anecdotes about your family or life. Maybe it's just a "Hey, I'm here and I'm thinking!"
In this digital world sharing has become a way life. And I'm glad. I can post my thoughts and photos and just as easily delete them again if the whim takes me. But take note: That doesn’t make them disappear. Once in a server it will always exist somewhere - remember that whenever you post! I think - so how would I feel about my mom reading this one day?

My only advice - and I know it's biased - is to put out the vibe you want to receive - or as my mom used to say, "In private you can be a mess, but in public - be the best you that you can possibly imagine." I've always tried my best.
Yes, I do cultivate writing in cafes or editing while sitting by the seaside. But hey - sometimes, I'm in my pjs all day just hanging out with a cup of java and writing at the kitchen table and it's all good! What counts is sharing with one another what it is to be alive. So, why write? Why not! You have unimaginable, unique tales to tell. Maybe you'll surprise yourself and write that book! (or a comic strip even....)

Come on over any time. Feel free to join me on my Facebook Page and talk about writing - or about not writing, even! I think the thing about creating is the sharing. The human contact. I want to hear from you - AND - I'll be cheering you on!
Until next time, mes amis, big bisous! (You know sorta virtual French hugs & kisses from La Reunion France)

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Or here to go on the second Why Write Essay

Monday, June 21, 2021

A Real Summer? Thoughts from the Writer's Desk

2020 - What a strange year - the beaches were off limits for a long time

Coucou! Is it Summer Yet?  A long, long time ago - well, the 10th of May 2020 to be precise... In a galaxy far, far away - well, actually at the kitchen table where I write... In a kingdom by the sea - well, a village by the Med - hey! that part's true then!  I wrote my last blog on our 55 days of confinement in France - aka the LockDown as I called it.  We were about to be freed from confinement to the house.

What a heady feeling!  And yes, the 7 months of freedom that followed were wonderful.  But with people on the move again, it was inevitable. The 30th of October 2020, we were re-confined.  A Second LockDown...

It was a horrible feeling... And though less restrictive, I just couldn't blog about it - I felt too bad. I couldn't write, I couldn't read. My interpersonal relationships became minimal. It seemed like the whole world had only one topic and all anyone wanted to do was blame somebody or complain.

It felt like we were cut off 
from everyone
 November, restrictions eased.  Yippee!  Up to 20 km from home for up to 3 hours... But with a curfew from 6 pm to 6 am. I was sick and perhaps it was the virus. I slept for a week. Thank goodness Y was there! The winter was cold and dark. The only bright spark was a curfew amnesty on Christmas Eve so Y and I could celebrate with his family.  New Year's we clinked our glasses at home and hoped for 2021 to be better.

Non. 2021 began as 2020 ended. Borders and stores were closed. The ski stations followed suit and never reopened.  We tried snow-shoeing but the time and distance limits made it difficult. And it got
worse!  In March - 16 departments imposed localized LockDowns & re-confined over over 21 million people...

Then - not an April Fools joke - all non-essential stores and activities shutdown. A Third LockDown!  Despite being allowed to travel up to 10 km and a later curfew, it hardly mattered.  There was nowhere to go and nothing to do. Seriously, walking is not my sport!  

France was Closed for Business

But, hope arrived! May 18th cafes and restaurants could serve outdoors, curfew was pushed back, and stores reopened. (Those that had survived!)  June 9th saw indoor dining. Half the country has had its first vaccination and cases are falling. This week they announced we can go mask-less outdoors as long as we are not in a crowded place. And on June 20 no more curfew!  And it's Summer at last!

So!  Maybe it's going to be
a good summer to write!

 Best of all, I feel well and can write again.  You know what that means!  Hopefully it means I'll show up now and then to write a blog and share with you a better summer than 2020.  Will it be a "real" summer?  Nobody knows for sure.  It won't be like the "before" times, but maybe we'll all feel a little more free.  Hugs? Well, not yet! Ciao for now. Until the next time, dear friends.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Day 55 - SkyLines from the French Lock-down: Tomorrow - the Day of Liberation

Salut les amis, pour la dernière fois dans cette serie de blogs! (Hi friends, for the last time in this series of blogs.) When midnight strikes tonight the lock-down in France will end. I will stop writing for a while after this post. I'm sure after so many weeks, that makes you smile for us. We are going to be freed from this "Confinement" tomorrow. It's supposed to rain, but I think I'll be doing a happy dance anyway!
View from the vineyards looking at Argeles sur mer and St. Cyprien

Day 55 - We both woke up early and listened to the rain patter on the roof. Eventually, I rose
The planter by Chez Elizabeth
a green grocery in Argelès.
and rolled up the shutters. "Je vais me lever dans dix secondes," promised Y, my French partner. I knew that his "I will get up in 10 seconds" meant nothing of the kind and so I assured him that that there was no need to hurry. "C'est dimanche, prends ton temps." (It's Sunday, take your time.) I put on The Commodores singing "Easy like Sunday Morning," and headed downstairs for breakfast. He was only minutes in catching up. We handed our phones back and forth so we could share the posts of all our friends telling us their plans for tomorrow. Nobody was too worried about the weather. All they could think about was how great it would be to leave the paperwork behind. No more one hour limit on how long we can stay out! 

 I think back on my decision to shelter at my partner's house in Argelès sur mer instead of my village of 1,000 people with only a tiny épicerie. I knew I'd end up driving to the grocery store a lot because the little store only carries fresh fruit and veg. What if we needed a pharmacy? The doctor? How many times could we walk around my tiny village before it got to be a drag? We wanted to be together and here, there were more options for bread and basic supplies. 

I know some of my friends worried that this would test our new relationship to breaking point. I laughed and said I could always grab my cat, the guitar, and my suitcase and risk the 375 euro fine to drive to my place if that happened.  We had taken our time last year getting to know each other. In October, we finally decided to share a life full-time. We smiled through the 48 hours of international travel by bus, train, and plane that culminated in 30 days of staying with various in-laws. I was pretty sure I'd chosen the right guy
I love my village but it is small!
with whom to weather the pandemic storm. 

 Tomorrow makes eight weeks since the French government announced that we should stay home excepting one hour a day to deal with basic needs inside a perimeter of a kilometer from the house, I told Y that I intended to write a blog post for each day we had to be under "Lock-down." I felt I needed to do something structured with our time at home. I planned to write about the news from France.  But the moment I began, I realized that wasn't what I wanted to share. Any news outlet could tell you the news. Only I could share the intimacy of a mixed culture new life of two people very much in love faced with a life of confinement while the Covid-19 pandemic raged. And so that is what I did.

  I never expected to be doing this for 55 days! I look back now and see that I have shared almost 400 photos with you during these daily musings. I told you on the first day that I wanted to share the positive and that as the size of our world contracted, we would stay in each other's lives this way. It has been an interesting journey. We have, to quote the fantastic comedian, Carrie Snow, "Gone through the fire, come out with a tan." Because of you, we are still feeling connected and loved. We care about you too.

The "confinement" has been focused on the goal of keeping the health system from being
A Catalan and a French flag.
overloaded. Our part of France has succeeded in that. Today, in the department P.O. there is no one in the ICU with Covid-19. That tells me we have slowed it down to the point where it makes sense to lift the quarantine. The deaths in all of the country yesterday totaled 80 and today the news told us the total had fallen again. 

The north of the country has been harder hit, and so although they are coming out of quarantine, they have been told to be very careful tomorrow and in the days to come.  It is inevitable that some people will become infected even as they try to be careful. The government warns us that a spike in cases is inevitable but that if we can avoid an overwhelming second wave, the health services are ready. We have braced for a slow return to life. The shops will open. We will distance ourselves from others. There will be hand sanitizer and masks. These are not to be feared. They are all signs of love.

I know the things we will miss the most in our far-flung corner of Catalan France are the festivals and closeness that summer usually brings. Our economy has been battered by the lack
I love our agricultural landscape!
of tourism and will be until a solution is found. Our friends with cafes, hotels, boutiques, camp grounds, bars, and restaurants are worried sick that they won't make it through this year. They echo the thoughts of every worker in France. The markets may or may not open. The farmers are feeling the lack of sales and even employees to plant and harvest the crops.

We will keep on having to make do with "Cafe Y and R" for the next month at the very least. He and I know we are among the lucky ones. We have learned how strong our love is these last two months. We've spent hours hanging out together just reading and writing. We've made silly videos and played at being kids together. Yesterday we culminated our antics by re-creating an avant-garde version of Michelangelo's Vitruvian Man. No, it's not for the blog. We were just having fun.

And now it's the last afternoon. He's busy giving the whole house one last vacuuming and I made Soupe Carole earlier so that
We'll always have each other - and espresso!
tomorrow we don't need to think about cooking. (Seems like I was telling you about that soup when it all began. Still a great soup for pennies a bowl.) I'm writing this final blog to you. I love doing this but the other has not made much progress, so it's time I applied myself to my novels and author's website that needs a re-vamp. I'm sure I'll blog again when there is something beautiful to share with you. Thank you for being so supportive! We have loved your comments, emails, Facebook posts and messages. 

This will not be a summer of dancing "La Sardane" - the traditional Catalan dance - hand in hand to celebrate the circle of life. It is a time to keep putting one foot in front of another. This is the
La Sardane in my little village.
year to keep our heads above water, meditate on the good things we do have, and even mourn the lifestyle we have put aside for the sake of everyone we love. However, tomorrow, Y and I will not be grieving. (He'll do that later when he realizes that the beaches are still closed!) No, tomorrow we will feel elation when we step out of the house without the restrictions of the last 55 days
. Although, he's not really a guy for dancing, there are always exceptions.
La Sardane in Argelès sur Mer.
I'm pretty sure that we will be dancing with you in our hearts.

And what of "The Day After?" I don't know. I only know that tomorrow is nearly here. It's the next step. We are all hoping that a solution is found for treating people and that an immunity or vaccine arrives. Whatever else we do now - we will remember how precious every day is and how important every person is. There are no "expendable" people in our lives. Keep on staying safe. Keep on sharing your thoughts when you can. The French will be going outside tomorrow and they will be free. I will be smiling behind my mask as I think about the fact that this quarantine has proven that even though they protest and demonstrate about nearly everything when the chips were down, a huge part of the population followed the rules and the numbers fell. It works when we all work together!

 And although there will be no blog, we will be thinking of you! Adieu jusqu’à ce que nous nous revoyions, nos chers, chers amis. (Farewell, until we meet again, our dear, dear friends.)
The sun rises over the Albères foothills. Beyond them lies Spain.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

day 54 - SkyLines from the French Lock-down: Anticipation

Bonjour nos amis! (Hello our friends!)  I have happy butterflies in my heart as I think about the end of the lock-down. But I can hear my dad's advice to the young me which was, "Nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it is going to be." The years have proved him right. So, when I'm looking forward to something, I try to be realistic and remember to just enjoy it and not feel let down if it's not as fantastic as I've been thinking it will be. Conversely, I remind myself that the dental work will not kill me and to just be brave. Eight weeks ago, we went into confinement. We will soon be free. Anticipation is growing. 
Where I hope to be on "D-day" is in my little village after 55 days away.

Day 54 - The excitement about what the French are calling "le jour de de-confinement" or "le jour de liberation" is building. I'm calling it "D-day." Ever since the day we began this people spoke of what they would do when it was over. The most common phrase was "We'll share a good cold
Espresso to go from Arnaud's this morning.
Will this really be the new normal?
beer with friends at the brasserie" or "Raise a glass of wine in a cafe."  One friend fervently vowed
, "Champagne!" If my parents still lived in Paris, my mom would have exclaimed, "Lunch at Maxim's." My French partner, Y planned for us to sit at a sidewalk cafe, soak up the sunshine, drink espresso, and watch people go by.  It is one of our favorite past-times, especially on market days. I know now that we had a misplaced fairy-tale hope that life would miraculously return to normal.  But "D-day" is real. Things will change on Monday.

We woke up to the last weekend of confinement to a grey, cloud-covered sky. The wind blew in a cold front last night, but I finished the painting before
Réouverture 11 mai!!!
bedtime so that I'd be finished with my project. I wanted to be free in the morning to go out with my partner and see how the village was preparing for next week's liberation. It didn't disappoint us. There were more people on the street than we'd seen since the lock-down began.  Most people wore masks. Everyone was careful to leave plenty of space for those they passed. It was lovely to see signs in windows that announced "Re-Opening May 11th!" I know the shop-keepers really need our business. We will do our best to spend the money we haven't spent on cafes. After all the workouts at our house, I plan on getting a second exercise mat so that Y doesn't keep stealing mine when he works out and not putting it back where I expect it to be. And besides, it would be nice to each have a good mat for yoga 
instead of one of us working from the rug. I think he is going to buy an electric bike in hopes that by mid-summer we can take our surfing gear to the beach again. It's a lovely dream. Don't wake us up.

The clouds didn't matter. Neighbors and friends were out and about. It was nice to say hello, even from a distance of 6 feet. Some businesses have figured out how to do take away on the street. Arnaud, who runs an upmarket gourmet coffee shop with sweet baked treats to die-for, whole coffee beans and high-end loose-leaf teas for sale, has realized he can do some business without opening the cafe. He's started doing take away dinners. Last week was Couscous and this week it's Tanjine. Y said the Couscous was great. I can't say since it wasn't vegetarian fare but I know how good the muffins always have been, so I'm not surprised that Arnaud can make a jamming dinner. Today he had take-away coffee for sale and if I wasn't being careful about the confinement calorie intake, there were his special shortbread cookies. Like everyone, we are moving less at the moment, so I will wait until next week to indulge in sweets!

We bought espressos and wandered down to the bakery for bread. Y's brother and sister-in-law were on their way home and so we finally got to see them and say hi. In the days and months
No beaches for a while.
"Before the Virus" we met them every Saturday in the cafe. We haven't really seen them since they live outside the kilometer limit. But today they were on business for next week's reopening and so were in the village. It was really nice to have this tiny sliver of normality return though, of course, we stood 6 feet apart and made hand signals of hearts and kisses to represent the "bisous" (those air kisses we usually exchange in France with the ones we like.) We couldn't talk for more than a few minutes today. It was only an anticipation of what is to come. Today we carried our "attestations" stating the time we'd left our houses and had to return within an hour. We stayed inside our limits. 

But soon it will be "D-day" and that's only a day and a night away as I write this to you.
Will my car look like that when I go
to get it in the parking lot after all this time?
Ironically, it may rain. The weather report today threatened us with that. We won't care. Being allowed to go out of the house without a time and distance limit will feel like freedom. We have our plan, as I'm sure everyone does. It won't be a trip to the beach - because just like the restaurants, cafes, and cinemas, it will still be closed. It won't be into the city of Perpignan. That can wait. We take my car and go to my house to open the windows (even if it's raining!) and to check on my neighbors.  I can hardly wait to see my village. I may even shed tears - but they will be happy ones.

We are full of anticipation. And while it may not be as good as we'd imagined the day of liberation would be, my real hope is that the aftermath - the second wave - will not be as bad as worry it will be. We're going to take it slow. We're going to keep to the rules and do our very best to avoid adding to the load on the
We won't be at the cafe for a while yet - but we have a dream!
health care systems. 
Here's to the words that they've mentioned a lot on TV lately, "Une nation libre" - a free nation. And I'm looking forward and wishing we will once again have "Un monde libre" - a free world.  Now there's something to anticipate. And while it may not be perfect or like it was for a long time to come, it's worth working to make it happen - Together.

À demain les amis! (Until tomorrow friends!)
Link to Day 55 the last day of confinement!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Day 53 - SkyLines from the French Lock-down: Music in the Air

Salut, les amis! (Hi Friends!)  It's May the 8th. I saw a Tricolore (French) flag hanging from a neighbor's window to celebrate the day Germany capitulated in 1945. Is it my imagination, or is there more hustle in the bustle of the village as we count down the last three days?
A flower festival at Valmy.
 I'm sure there was romantic music in the air
when we went there - or was it just my imagination?

Day 53 - Today, the first post I saw online said, "Soon there will be singing until the sun sets." Well, it was written in Catalan and read, "Pronto sera el canto hasta la noche," which many of you will agree is the same in Spanish. With the the whole of France waiting for Monday's de-confinement there really isn't much to report as far as the virus goes. The numbers fell again
Today it feels like happy times in my garden.
yesterday with recorded deaths being 178. The mood in the streets is good. But the reference to music made a lot of sense.

Once again, there is happy music drifting in from the neighbor's windows. I decided to leave our windows open and enjoy theirs. After all, I often sit in the stairwell to play my guitar and sing. (The acoustics there are great!) No one complains about me which is kind. Sometimes I recognize a song. But mostly, I have no idea what it is. I ask when I get the chance. As a result, I've added albums by Florent Pagny and Julien Doré. More will follow, I predict. Speaking of French music...

When I began dating the charming Frenchman I now live with, I was just putting the finishing touches on a romance novel that starred... yes, a Frenchman. I was searching for a romantic song to use as "our song" for the couple in the book. Until I met Y, I tended to listen to music known as "Classic French" - you know, Edith Piaf, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Trenet, and Charles
May is when the artichokes arrive - I grew these!
The variety is called "Purple of Perpignan."
Aznevour. This is not unlike listening to Doris Day, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, or Perry Como. (Yeah, I can enjoy that too, in moderation.) Of course I'd seen and heard a lot of Johnny Halliday on TV and radio. I have a feeling it is not permitted to live in France for years and not be aware of the late, great "French Elvis."  

Then I met this guy. We were nearly the same age and both listed music as something we loved. I made the mistake of letting him see my French Music Playlist. He said with a twisted smile of amused amazement, "C'est vraiment les années cinquante." (Literally "It's really the 50's" but I can see that he meant "It's a bit old-school").  I knew he was worried about my tastes as he added, "I really cannot stand the timbre of Edith Piaf's voice." 

As a person addicted to music from my past, I was ignorant of any French rock or pop music. I'd heard a bit of rap but it was a turn off. I didn't want to tell him that I only had heard a
In May the bougainvilleas bloom.
couple of 80's songs by French singer Jean-Jacques Goldman (who has recently retired and is darn good too). My slight acquaintance with that was because he wrote a song and worked hard to support the "restos du cœur" a charity that provides meals for those in need. It's not meals on wheels - it's an incredible project that collects the leftover goods after the street markets close and donations made to food banks. This is coordinated with restaurants and brasseries that volunteer to make the meals. Pretty cool.

Anyway, I didn't want him to realize how little I knew. I hurriedly tapped my "Daytime Rock" music and he listened to my English language playlist - having quickly scrolled past my Andy William playlist!  His expression showed relief that it did not sound like Edith & co. We both liked the Beatles, Bowie, The Stones, and Queen. I was surprised that he'd never heard of the Eagles, Ed Sheeran, or even James Blunt. 

It just shows you how language-centric each of us tends to be. We think of the big rock stars as "international" because they play concerts everywhere.  (or did before this year!) and although they get air-time on the streams and radio, the person who speaks another language really only hears the sound. At least now, the internet translates the meanings for us all. I can tell you it is hard to understand all the words being sung in my second language. 

Next, my new boyfriend shared his playlists.  His music sounded a lot like my own favorites from the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I like his lists, but I just hear the music and not much of the words. I
An early date, I wrote, he read,
and there was music.
look up the lyrics for the ones I really like. Sometimes I leave the words on the screen and try to sing along. Yeah - not making a video of that! 
The first one he played for me was "La Vie est Belle" - Life is beautiful by Indochine. The first line sold me on them and the song. It is in French, bien sûr but what it says is, "I was born here to be only with you." I could understand it and it was extremely romantic. Yes, I used it in the book! 

We continue to listen to music together. We trade off each other's playlists so we have both languages in our ears. The confinement has meant we play a lot more every day, though now as I write to you and he does his accounts, it is only the music of others we can hear drifting in. 

It's Day 53 and VE day -Victory in Europe. This national holiday is usually just called,"le 8
Flags on the Mairie's in Perpignan
mai, 1945,  le Jour de la Libération, or le Jour du Victoire." It was strange to see Macron lay the wreath under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris without the crowds. The usual choir was reduced to four to sing the national anthem but not the traditional Chant des Partisans (Here is very moving video of it. Has cute guys and a nice bit of background as well.) Rather than line the streets, it was suggested that people hang flags from their windows. The French president maintained the correct distances from the few soldiers and they nodded instead of the warm handshakes I watched them exchange last year. He used anti-bacterial gel after writing in the official book. It is a very different world. 

Normally Sunday would be a day of celebration but the country will still be on lock-down. I suspect the day we will all celebrate here will be Monday, the 11th, the day of de-confinement - our modern day of liberation. 

And so, Day 53 is nearly done. We have two days to go. I know everyone feels a bit nervous about the idea of being in public again. It won't be perfect but we'll do our best. I believe that everyone I know
For now the beach is off-limits -
but Y is hoping that wind-surfing will be allowed!
and love is going to be careful. That's all we can do but with enough of us doing the right thing, we're going to get there. I believe in that and I believe in you. Stay safe!

A demain, les amis! (Until tomorrow, friends!)

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Day 52 - SkyLines from the French Lock-down: Checklists

Salut, les amis! (Hi Friends!)  Remember all those plans we made for doing projects when this all began? The windows are all wide open and so are the doors. Is it really that hot? Nope. I need the air! It's time to check one of my projects off of the checklist. It's a short meditation today  - bet that makes you smile!
View of Canigou from the Vineyard above the village
The first post I saw on FB this morning read, "Bienvenue a été!" (Welcome to summer!) While there is still a month to go until summer is officially here, I knew what our friend meant. I can
This is how close we all are!
A photo taken from my roof. 
smell the warm tarmac out in the street as I sit at the laptop in the kitchen and write to you. It is a welcome feeling after the weeks of grey or wet weather. I'm especially happy about the lack of rain at the moment as I have a few DIY tasks to do that need dry air and an open house. I just hope it will last for a few more days. Fingers crossed! As I type this, I can hear three children making a lot of racket with a couple of old bicycles and a skateboard. I don't mind. It's another sign that life goes on even under quarantine. Our across the street neighbor is telling her husband something in a rather high and loud voice. She's a bit deaf and so speaks louder than he needs her to, but he's good-humored about it. I can't tell what it is as I think it's in Catalan. I've only managed to learn to say "Bon dia!" (Hello) and Adéu (Goodbye) which sounds like Ah-day-oh to me.  It's enough to make them both smile when I try to use the words. From that moment on, though, I am lost. It never seems to bother anyone as long as we all smile.

If you cannot bear to have a part of other people's lives enter your life from day to day, and to share your own with them, then French village life is not for you. In my own village the road is about three yards wide. When I open my shutters I often end up saying "Bonjour," to Marlene across the street as she stands on her balcony in the mornings to have her first cigarette. Thankfully the breeze blows down from the church that is behind my house and sweeps the smoke away from my side of the street. 
When I lunch on my terrace,
I have privacy and a view.

The family on the corner are usually getting into the car to hurry off to work but they look up and wave then call out, "Ca va?" (How's it going?) I nod vigorously and yell back, "Ca va!" (It's going {well}). These are the little things I love about my village. There is an intimacy we share after all these years of windows and doors that face one another. It's just like that. I am content with the rituals. Sometimes Dani is in front of her house sweeping the gutter and often has already done mine as well! When I say I will do it, she protests that it is her geraniums that filled both of our gutters with flowers. That's true. But you can bet there are summer mornings when I get up earlier so I could be the one to sweep it!  The children next door on the other side are sweet. Don't tell the older boy I said that - he's thirteen this year. I have a feeling it would be un-cool to be called sweet by "la dame americaine!" His little sister is precious and the last time I saw her, she ran up to hug me. I reflect on the fact that the next time I see her, we will have to keep our distance. I hope to goodness that one day life can be like that again, but I do have doubts. Here in the village where we are spending the lock-down, everyone we know is being extremely conscientious about following good social distancing.

And speaking of life in this village. We got up extra early because we have arranged a morning appointment. When breakfast was finished I said I'd do the dishes since I was staying at home. Y, my French partner, loaded the attestation app in his phone, took his id, the papers for the car
Haven't lifted the protective tape yet,
but it already feels better!
and went off to find his vehicle. For the first time in weeks it was going somewhere! The Service Station that does his "renovation" opened a few days ago. Since it was time for his car to have it's annual service over a month ago, he took the first appointment that was offered. I think he had a happy swagger to his step at this opportunity to go out on a sunny day and not be restricted to only an hour, because the work would take longer than that. 

I got my painting clothes on and set out all the gear. It was time to paint that hand railing in the art-Deco curved stairwell. I know I sorta gave the impression that I'd do it eventually. But those who know me are well aware that once I've decided to tackle a project, I can't really let it rest until its done. The new pot of paint was calling my name. Besides, painting to decorate the house is my super-power.

The cat came over, took one look, yawned as if to say, "Not again!" then went back to bed. This was fine by me. I didn't need any distractions while I concentrated on not overloading the brush, keeping an eye on what I was painting, and not tumbling down the stairs as I worked. Of course, as anyone who has done decorating knows, the most important part of painting is preparation. I have an idea that probably applies to almost
Spring inspires us to do more.
anything we do in life! 

Yesterday, Y sanded down the old paint that was chipped and torn all over the place. Even more importantly, he removed the buildup of time that makes the surface become permanently grimy no matter how much cleaning one does. The taping of the bars where they enter the plaster took a lot of time, but two hours later, I was very happy with the results of the first coat. Tomorrow I can give it another coat and see what we think.  There is a second staircase to deal with in the next few days, but the straight bar should make that an easier job. It still needs sanding, so for the day, I was finished with my tasks.

I was about to text my partner with a photo and say that it was safe for him to come home again, when I heard him call out, 'allo! from out in the street. Yeah, it's a village house, I could hear him, no problem. He admired the new paint and I really felt great. I was as happy as he was that his car is now up-to-date and at a cost that was less than he'd budgeted. So we prepared our lunch, ate and talked about how good it was to have checked a few things off the "to-do" list. We wondered if the energy we felt was the effect of approaching freedom from quarantine or the lovely spring weather. Perhaps, we decided, is was a bit of both. We did the dishes and had our coffee.  I told him that I wanted to sit down to my blog and he said he had some reading he wanted to do. It's still early in the afternoon. Later, we will hear the news about what will happen on Monday when we are released from this confinement. But for now, the sunshine is calling me. I've had my chance to share with you and that is always lovely.  Now I'm going out to sit on the terrace and read with my guy. 

So, if you have a list, and I expect you do, I wish you the energy and possibility to check one or more
The house next door is well maintained, the one beyond that might need a bit of DIY!!
of those "to-do" tasks off before the end of the confinement. If you are already free, then perhaps you can check off a few before the end of the month. However, it's not compulsory! Don't let it get you down. It's easy to make the lists but checking things off can be a pain. Sometimes, if I start to get depressed by how many things are on the list, I take the list and throw it out.  It's allowed. 

A demain, mes amis! (Until tomorrow, my friends!). Link to day 53