Not My Fault!?

My career as a stand-er, sitt-er, pass-er-outer, and pick-er-upper extraordinaire, began in 2004 when I began working at a chiropractic office in Amherst, NH. I loved working there, the positive environment, the message of health we were bringing to people, and I had fantastic colleagues to boot! It was also a perfect place for the exchange of many articles of hand-me-down clothing, shoes, and scarves….and just as many creative ideas.

As the Director of Joy, I had many duties and responsibilities there, one of the most pertinent and ever-present, included standing and greeting each patient as they walked in the door and handing them a daily read. These daily handouts inspired life and energy to flow into their brains, and exude out of their being as they would receive their adjustment and leaving the office. I faithfully conducted my tasks day in and day out, standing there in my little blue shoes sometimes, until I was blue in the face.

Next came hostessing at the Cajun Queen in Charlotte. Another job involving standing and greeting for days on end. Oh, how I longed to make banter with or lead interpretive dances for those walking in. But instead I just stood there, stone statue, smiling, sometimes not smiling when it hurt my face too much, and bringing six more people to a table “With the jazz band.”

What followed were many other bouts of sitting, standing, jobs, many of which I requested a treadmill workstation for, yet was denied.

Here I am in France. The mountains beckoning me to run through them, and ski down their slopes, yet for a little while each day, as part of my job, I am required to sit (or do sit-ups) with Tom as we wait for Julie to arrive from her daily mountain excursions. Thankfully, both Tom and I have oodles of books to read, mountains of our own papers to assemble airplanes out of, Justin Bieber songs to download, and Twitters to update.

My friend Molly inspired me this morning, by sending along the daily word of wisdom, which essentially said, when you’re in a situation, or with someone or something that is presenting you discomfort or frustration…who is it that needs the adjustment? Is it them? Or is it you? Are you in control of what you are stepping in? Perhaps it’s a way of leading you to shift yourself in a way that will bring you to where there is not this itchy, stinky, unsettled feeling. It causes you to examine how you got there in the first place, and I think, it may just be a great way to light the flame behind yourself to get you going in the direction that is right for you.

Yesterday, in the grocery store, I handed the woman a huge paper bill to pay for my seven shopping carts worth of Pillsbury doughed items. That was what I had, as that was how I had been doled out this week’s shopping budget. I sort of enjoy the feeling of carrying around 500 Euros and felt it was a pity to break it. The cashier thought it was a pity to break as well and gave me nothing less than A LOT of grief about it, even though I had exact pennies for the change! “Please!” I pleaded with her as she threatened to make me wear that awful dunce cap and do the dance again… “It’s not my fault!”

James Taylor sings in his wonderful song, “Shower the People” the words:

You can play the game and you can act out the part 
Though you know it wasn’t written for you 
But tell me, how can you stand there with your broken heart 
Ashamed of playing the fool.

Maybe I am misconstruing his message; but it does seem to ring true, when we are trying to wear shoes (or in my case yesterday, snowshoes) that are not ours, we find ourselves in defense of our actions, or sleep walking and doing something we regret. I tried to convince the people at the ski shop that it wasn’t my fault my foot was too small for the snowshoes, but they just were not buying it.

I have observed being here, that a lot of French woman do not wear makeup. For some reason, they don’t feel the need to cover up their serene as a crystal lake complexions. I   think this is the ladies that are truly living out their passions, they are in the right place and they are loving every minute of it. Every part of them just glows!

I’m not suggesting we stay stuck in our teepees, building our fires, conducting our rain dances, and never venture out into the world to explore. I am simply saying that when you are in your element, as WHO you are…the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place in ways that inspire, enthrall, and utterly surprise you with how amazing they really can be. You are constantly pinching yourself wondering when you will wake up from this glorious dream-like reality.

A few nights ago, I had a dream that I was seated alongside a pianist who was clearly possessing a bit of talent. He was telling me to do as he was doing, as he whipped out Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, and Beethoven. In the dream, I could not for the life of me accomplish this feat and I wondered what on earth I was doing sitting on that bench in the first place, when it frustrated me so much that it was not the tune for me.

It could be that we have no semblance of free will and everything will happen as it may. Or it could be that making the choice to find one’s tune, it what means to be on your way home….

What do I know? It’s all French to me.

— Emily —

I Put the A** in U and Me.

After a lovely morning of practicing my contortionists poses in front of the mirror (which for once, you can assume is NOT a joke), and simultaneously balancing my coffee mug with my pinky toes, Julie decided that yesterday was the day for me to use the wooden skis we rented, and she brought me up to the top of a cliff for my first ever official ski lesson.

The lesson involved mostly how to walk in ski boots like they are a pair of stilettos, followed by how to carry them, and your skis, and your poles, and still look oh-so “Devil Wears Prada” as to not look like a “snow bunny” –the name they apparently give to the short bus skiiers. Was that politically correct? It was basically what SHE said!

Prior to the lesson, as I was making breakfast, we got distracted talking about yoga retreats, so I grabbed my computer to look up a few spine-twisting hot spots and some fun facts. Since it’s normal and acceptable these days to have 50 million tabs open at one time without your computer spontaneously combusting, I had my Facebook open at the same time. Who would be Facebooking at 1am your time? I’m not sure. Someone from college had seized the day and decided to tell me of all the stupid things I did to them as a friend back then. It was nice of them to bring it up, especially since on an everyday basis I don’t dislike myself enough, and I definitely needed the further reminder of my many past mistakes. If I am being honest, I will say I actually was prepared to face any skeletons in my closet. However, I did not exactly see the point. She did not tell me what I said, I’m assuming by her words that she has no interest in rekindling our friendship, and we both spent a good number of our time back then throwing equally firey darts at each other; I thought that was understood and respected. All is fair in love and war? So, I wrote her back, tried to stop hitting my head against the wall, and then hit the slopes.

It was still on my mind while I was trying to cut off my right foot, as I am pretty sure that is the ONLY way it will fit into one of these ski boot contraptions! I think they make them for people who have the foot bending capabilities of Gumby. As I was grunting away and wailing my foot against the wall, I decided that skiing is NOT for me! Nope. I only like my two feet and I am going to be a giant poop until I’ve proved it to myself and everyone else. That lasted all of two minutes. it all became much more fun the second I put those ski boots on and began balancing a book on my head like Julie told me, “For POISE,” she yelled while hitting the back of my shins with a ruler. Is this the ballet class I took when I was 10? Or learning to ski?

We meandered to the bunny slope where of course I was hopping all over in a matter of seconds and ready to hit up the rabbit hills and moose tracks. How could I have assumed anything about this wonderful hobby?! It’s great fun. When do we get to go fast?

It’s the same thing that happened with my pre-conceived notions of cross-country skiing. I also decided, before coming to France, that it was a good idea to assume exactly how it would be living here. In this perfect image, people were running and flocking to me from far and wide and I was a glorified goddess in the community. This isn’t TOO far from what is happening right now, but there are some tweaks in the fantasy. Namely, I don’t really know of anyone yet to inform of my goddess status….except for the cashier’s at the UMarche….which are not so keen on the idea.

After our ski school, Julie wanted me to run her through some yoga. An idea that had me chomping at the bit! I’ve been waiting to do yoga with her since I arrived! I assumed this would happen at noon, as we had planned. WRONG. Our newest chalet company, Jay the Harbor Master on Martha’s Vineyard, arrived at approximately 12:13 and foiled the plan for Breathe of Fire and Backward Upside Down Left Side out the Window Seal Pose. So, Emily serves lunch, Emily kills some time with dinner prep and a nine hour nap, and then Julie reappears. Thankfully she didn’t catch me in mid-slumber since I was recording my dreams with her iPhone. She still wanted me to perform a private yoga lesson for she and I, which I was happy to do as we could levitate the afternoon away and turn our negative thoughts to zeroes (along with our waistlines), and concentrate on clarity and other terms of the existential sport world. The only juggling act was trying to somehow get dinner ready by seven and start our yoga at six as she wanted. 

It all worked out though, despite my assuming the worst: that I wouldn’t have time to burn the chicken, and the salad would be just a big pile of lettuce due to lack of prep time.

After dinner, I forced myself out of the house, where I was hoping for some live music and to be serenaded in French; sadly I found none and began writing my name on a napkin with hearts and sheep around it, so no one would talk to me. Who else wanders into the restaurant than the only two people I know in this entire country?! Just when I assumed my evening was doomed. Are you seeing a pattern? Assuming is just no good!

My grandfather used to always say the simple yet true phrase, “Ya, never can tell.” He was really good at saving his breath and only saying what needs to be said. He makes  agood point; assumptions can be all-encompassing or un petit peu, which perhaps is the determining factor in how much you end up being surprised and fooled. Understand through compassion or you may misunderstand the times. I wonder what it feels like not to assume….

How does one not succumb to the urge to make an ass out of themselves? Perhaps it requires doing a little research before simply taking something for granted and making it a fact in my own little head (I naturally assume my head is small as most hats go over my eyeballs, I’ve done the research so I think this is a safe one). I will give it a go tomorrow, well, that is assuming tomorrow goes as planned.

Assuming nothing and loving it,

— Emily —

Rumi-nating on the Breath

Pale sunlight,
Pale the wall.
Love moves away.
The light changes;
I need more grace
than I thought. 

Today I am sending you out a wish for a day full of more grace to easily flow into all situations, to embrace the shifts, large and small, that occur, and to melt into just allowing things to naturally unfold as they will along the yellow brick road of life. Even as the seasons change and vary. In the exact way that it always been meant to unfold for the one whom is uniquely you.

Yesterday, I received my first bit of mail! It came via the guardian, Jeff, as he was coming to fix a lightbulb in our bathroom. The same lightbulb he comes everyday to fix, yet it still somehow is flashing in all of it’s ferocious flourescence. I love it because I can have my raves and dubstep parties in the bathroom after Tom and Julie go to bed, but it’s not the best for doing one’s hair or painting giant fake tears onto your face to mime on the street corners. Also, it’s already caused several seizures (although it could be all the Pokemon we’ve been watching) so we are hoping he fixes it one of these times soon.

Every time he comes to visit, he speaks to me in French, tosses in some Arabic, and adds a pinch of what I think is Spanish, even though we both know he can speak nearly perfect English. He is a really turned around little man who has me confused between whether or not I ask “Ca va?”, “Kayfa Haluk?” or “Como se dice, ‘I have no clue what you’re saying’?”

This master electrician also specializes in mail delivery services, shoveler extraordinaire, and 24/7 laundromat. The guy never stops working –and I suppose if I worked as hard as he did I would be jumbling my languages together as well. Especially considering I do nothing all day and still get all the swear words from other languages mixed up when yelling at the vacuum.

The card he brought me also came with a slip of paper that said, “We tried to deliver you a package and you were not home. What on earth were you doing instead of sitting around at home waiting for a parcel?” In order to get said mail, which I think is a book I ordered, I had to run this morning to the post office to pick it up. The reason for the running was threefold.

1. Tom cannot be left alone very long by himself

2. The post office is only open 8am -12pm (and they still make sure they lock everyone out until around 10…I kid you not, I could not open the door this morning until I rang the bell several times, and for once it had nothing to do with me not being able to tell the difference between “push” and “pull”).

3. I have been dying to run! I love it and miss it. I am excited about all of this skiing stuff, snowshoeing, snow ball fighting, but if you hand me a warehouse full of the world’s finest ski’s, poles, and boots know that I will probably be exuberant because I can use all the new equipment to sail my way down to the nearest running shoe shop for a 10K around the town.

So, I pulled on my bright pink velcro Converse sneakers, and took off jogging into the chilly abyss. Hours later, my lungs are still defrosting. But it felt amazing! Steep hills, icy patches to dance around, and mountain goats to leap over sent my heart literally soaring this morning!

I was singing Bon Jovi, I was humming “Born to Run” and every other diddy that came to mind which involved not having my feet on the ground but instead, my head thoroughly resting on the freshly-puffed pillow of cloud nine.

Every day is a new epiphany, if you’re open to it. Today’s was the elation of jogging through the mountains and having a glimpse of what life could be, how freeing. Granted, I was just jogging to get my mail and the newspaper for Tom (I had to throw in a bribe so I could leave). In losing my breath on my run, in numbing my toes, hands, and cheeks with the cold, I think I found my breath. I caught it, rather. Like when a little kid, or a big kid blows you a kiss. Something you insist upon catching and saving for a very long time. We all catch it in a different way, and indeed have the potential to experience a new awakening everyday.

Have you ever had the wind knocked out of you? Or been running around so frantically that you can barely take the time to breath? Perhaps you have experienced that annoying self-inflicted phenomenon where  you literally CANNOT inhale deeply enough. While suffocation is fun, and saving people who are suffocating is even more fun, wouldn’t you rather find what it is that gives you breath and life and just keep pursuing that instead?

As my pal Rumi says, “Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.” For us modern folks who have more strict rules nowadays on fire pits, witch burnings, fireworks and hand grenades, just take this simple advice: follow that which brings you breath and life.

I would never argue with my BFF Rumi. Which is why I am watching, waiting, and allowing pieces to slowly fall together for the ultimate dream-weaving of infinite possibilities. All that from a run, people should send packages when I am not home more often.

It was all guns and roses and daffodils this morning, a feeling that stayed with me all day, throughout my afternoon walk, where I lathered up in sunscreen and walked to the beach in my bikini and my swimming floaties. They make the cutest and most modest bathing suits here out of a hat, gloves, snow pants, and no less than seven jackets, hand you a pick axe and send you into the wild. Fantasies of beaches and remote islands aside, the view was of course sight for sore eyes after sight for sore eyes and my blood vessels were loving every second of it. That is until, the light changed and I began to realize I was the only eyes out of all my loved ones experiencing it all right now. Suddenly my 7 jackets are all drenched with tears. I guess that is why I need that grace, for when the light changes. I suppose that is also why I take so many darned pictures.

Argentierean for NOW,

— Emily —

Visions of sauteed greens danced in my head, as they usually do, upon awakening this morning. It could only mean one thing, Tom and Julie must be craving the same thing! Looks like we’re having garlic white wine sauteed trees, grass, and hilltops for dinner. Last night, I was able to pin down a plan for the day which was to go something like this: wake up, Tom had  a doctor’s appointment, which is a party which I was not invited to. During this time I was free to walk, run, CC ski, snowshoe, look for good prices for emu fur online, clean out my fingernails with a Brillo pad, or go to town and get the groceries for dinner as this was the only time today I was going to be able to. With options like that, what else can a girl do but take the bus to Chamonix, throwing her garbage by the wayside as she walks sideways down the street.

I documented my little journey for you so you can see what a French shopping experience is like for a girl as Savoy as myself. The many treks to the grocery store, my entire time here thus far, and of course, as I keep in touch with my community back in the State-ues of Liberty, have all taught me one valuable lesson: Expect the Unexpected. It’s a lesson I relearn every time I walk out the door. Sometimes my walks and treks conclude in a boiling hot sauna-like experience where I wonder if I have hit the stage of my life including my own personal tropical vacations, and other days I have lost three of my favorite appendages to frost bite. Feel free to keep sending sunshine, because I prefer the roasting days to having limbs scattered about the French mountains.

Every week, I make a rough outline of what I will be making for Tom and Julie and I try to get Sherlock Holmes-esque and find out who will be coming for dinner. I also scrawl out all the little messages and memos I don’t want to forget, which is sometimes how to say something I am looking for in French, and sometimes a spark that ignited in my head that I don’t want to go out before it’s time to light the evening fire. This is what my list looks like when I am done:

You can see I should have stuck to cleaning my nails with the Brillo pad. After writing a cookbook, I either walk to L’Argentiere, the next town, to the nice, cozy, friendly grocery store (UMarche) or I take the bus to Chamonix for fresh air and a bustling city’s worth of  culture. I have yet to fully explore because I am usually on a race against time, but it’s good for me to practice using the buses, and I just done my hair into a beehive and wanted to show it off, so I decided to head that way today.

Here is my walk to the bus stop: Les Grassonets 

The trash cans where I try to avoid messing up my hair while slam dunking the garbage in and organizing the recycling.

So handy to have the trash by the bus stop. Then you can dump all of the dead bodies before fleeing town.
The buses do not stop at every stop unless someone inside hits

the button to request a stop, or is standing outside one of these, looking like a freeze pop.

Thanks to my unnaturally, blue food-coloring complexion, I looked like one today and he stopped.
This is the view I have to endure while I await my chariot.

I felt sort of like I should not be taking pictures on the bus, but this what the only non-skiier on a bus to Chamonix sees. The bus comes approximately every ten minutes. But for planning purposes, you have to give yourself about a half hour plus to get to the city on time.

And here we arrive….you can see there are tons of people out and about this morning, at 10. They get a really late start around here because most folks are skiing all day.

This is the equivalent of the Boston Common, and you can see the clear difference in pace. The good news is, my habit of breaking out into spontaneous power walking doesn’t cause me to trip over all the people on their cellphones who aren’t paying attention.

Here is the produce section at the grocery store, the outside of which I did not take a picture of; it’s a large hotel building with all sorts of stores, hair-cutting establishments, souvenirs and candy shops –something like the Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene, but with a giant mountain hotel above it and huge ski slopes in the horizon everywhere you turn your head to look.

You choose all your fruits and vegetables and then head to the scale, where you weigh and tag your own stuff. This is a great vocabulary lesson, and I often mix things up like potatoes and cabbage, despite the pictures on the buttons, and they give me funny looks. I just tell them I come from Scotland, and they all give me understanding, sympathetic looks. Apparently, that is the right thing to say!

This vegetable tagging is probably a really fun activity for grandmothers, people who like to push other people’s buttons, and children. I think it is brilliant of the French as it saves a lot of time at the checkout line. I can’t wait until they open the deli counter like this so we can slice and weigh our own meats and cheeses. Lord knows, I love me a good Ham hock (whatever a Ham hock is) slice when the security camera is not on.

Today, I ordered at the deli counter successfully and she even gave me cooking instructions, to which I cocked my head to the side and had to use the handy phrase I have never employed so much in my life prior to this trip, (except that week I spent with a martian) …”Huh?” A British man behind me explained everything and we all walked away with meat in our pockets and smiles on our faces. I have to get a paper towel to wipe my keyboard from the barf just now, when I just pictured myself as a comic strip girl with raw chicken in my pocket. Thankfully, this is only a comic strip and none of that was real.

These are my favorite two aisles, the coffee aisle, and the organic foods section. Note: the organic foods section is 25% baby food, 35% flour, and 60% juice. What do they expect us hippie tree-huggers, rain-dancers to eat? I want organic food and I have teeth!

I asked the woman at the register if I could take her picture, or if she would pose with me for a happy duo-photo.

However, she was primarily focused on getting my money and practicing her French, rather than becoming America’s Next Top Model. So, I just left it at that and asked for my receipt. Some people wouldn’t know fame if it hit them in the head.

The grocery store has 4-5 carts for the entire store and most people do their shopping for the present day, rather than the normal American BJ’s wholesale shoppers who stock up for all three coming Apocalypses and the meltdown of human society. Instead of carts, people load up hand baskets and these really dorky hand wagon cart basket inventions that you PULL through the store like some Fisher Price wagon. I’ve even seen cool people pulling them, but I think they are dweeby and only for the likes of Steve Irkel. I love that at the register they frown upon those who do not bring their own bags. They make them wear a dunce cap and do their rendition of a Barney song in French just to make them feel stupid. Since I don’t want to become a celebrity by showing off my dance moves, I bring my own bags. Here is what my Prada and Gucci shopping bags look like when they are full.

As I said in the beginning of this, the grocery store is about expecting the unexpected. You pretty much can count on the fact that they won’t have any greens, and even fewer organic ones. As for the other fruits, vegetables and items that will be in stock, it’s always a toss up. That is why my artistically crafted menu often becomes kindling in the fire as I have to revise my plan based on what I can find. Like tonight, despite my craving for greens….all we’re going to have is bread and soda water. Cause I just took a two hour nap on my stomach and lost feeling in both of my arms. 

I did not anticipate that coming here would cause me to miss my food processor and juicer so much. I’ve been squeezing carrots with my fingers and it’s just not the same. I also did not expect that today I would get absolutely nothing done except that grocery trip, and writing this blog, because Julie was skiing until dusk. And I did not expect that this blog would have nothing to do with expecting the unexpected, and rather ended up as a narrative of the grocery store.

I suppose you will be expecting a picture of the finished product…

Easily and effortlessly yours,

— Emily —

Words Have I Not

In the village just up the road, Julie has a very close friend whom is suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. Lou Gehrig’s is a debilitating neuromuscular disease in which the muscles in one’s body literally stop working, due to lack of oxygen, nutrition, and a breakdown of the muscular neurons which in turn does not allow proper nerve flow. While a person is in a state of paralyzation due to their motor neurons malfunctioning, they can often still taste, see, feel, and hear. Julie’s friend, Denny, has a complete loss of motor function and has no ability to speak, however his sensory neurons and much of his brain are still active. Nearly everyday, rather than go to apres ski in Chamonix and boogie on the tops of tables, Julie goes to visit him and just be with him, she puts her hand on his arm so he can feel her warmth, she brings him beautiful bouquets of flowers to see and smell, and she recited poetry and sings songs to him that come bubbling out of the wellsprings of her heart. Julie mentioned to me the other evening how it is so powerful when we learn that being with another person, is so much more than all the confused, over-stimulating conversation and activity that we often turn it into, and often times it’s simply the experience of being in one another’s presence.

Much to everyone’s relief and glee (at least, I can only assume that’s what they were feeling considering the parties, fireworks, and dancing), I spoke very little today. I woke up to a chatterbox of my new 8-year old friend, Stassa, who was getting ready to depart from our humble chalet. I listened to her wild stories and “As the World Turns” soap opera dramas as I made her some pancakes for breakfast. I may as well have sent my ears along with her back to Barcelona, because she pretty much talked them off. She would also appreciate that mine are pierced multiple times and perhaps could use them on her own head, since her dad will not let her get hers pierced until she is 12 (tough world)!

After Stassa and her dad left, another unique sound wave echoed through the rooms of the house. Unlike the terror-inflicting boom of the avalanche gun from the day prior, this one was a sound of peace…

And quiet…

And a simultaneous sigh which came from Tom, Julie, and myself.

I got into cleaning mode, an activity which talking is not really appropriate when you’re doing it by yourself. Unless of course you begin singing praises to a bottle of Windex, which is not exactly socially acceptable. I brought Julie’s laundry to the caretaker’s wife, whose expression tells me she does not appreciate my attempt at hair-braiding and cutesy smiles, saying “For Julie,” was saying more than enough. I can not really remember saying more than two short squawks all morning, partly as much of it was consumed with a two-hour nap. Then I walked to town and found most places to be closed, except for the UMarche. I just translated for the first time, the name of this store in my head yesterday –YOU EAT –which is a GREAT name for any grocery store, I wish we were as clever in the U.S.A….but instead we come up with names like “Giant Eagle”, “Piggly Wiggly”, “Shaws” and “Hannaford’s”. What does a big bird or a some dead guy’s last name have to do with my grocery cart!?

At the grocery store, I had a huge list of things to buy, which meant a huge bag of things to carry home. A bicep workout I was willing to accept. I went through the store without saying a word except “Pardon” when I stepped on some person’s toes while trying to reach the last box of pig liver donuts on the top shelf, and “Lay off my Eggo” while ravaging the chicken coop for some of their freshly laids. The checkout line was moving at a very fast pace, which made me even more speechlessly frantic than I already was. Then I booked it out of the store and began carrying my heavy burden back to the house to unload it all.

The snow from the days prior had settled and wispy, foggy clouds were settling over the tops of the peaks. There were also muddy patches all over the sides of the mountains where avalanches had come down. The whole view was surreal, and every direction I turned was another ecstatic piece of eye candy. My camera was even speechless. As in, the batteries died after the first 200 photos that I took.

While walking back, I also noticed people’s facial expressions as their method of communication. The way that a father pulling his two children in a sled up a hill grimaces a little, but is enjoying it thoroughly as he labors in love for the sheer purpose of their thrill. The way people’s eyebrows raise when I walk by them wearing turquoise leggings, red boots with orange fur, and a my bright pink 80’s ski jacket…what? They’re all the rage in the States, ask Fergie! (I don’t honestly know how to spell “Fergie”, and I am proud of that fact, so if I spelled it wrong, thus it remains.) The way an older woman’s eyes warn you of where she is going to walk on the sidewalk, so you know that she will be the one walking on the pavement part, while you get to trudge through the slushy side. And the partial smile which breaks out onto someone’s face when a dog presumptuously drops it’s business next to a group waiting for the bus, much to it’s owners embarrassment and dismay.

A wordless bus ride, an invigoratingly silent walk through the city of Chamonix as the red sky melted into my blood veins along with the sunsetting over the mountains, the secret elation of purchasing a new hat (even though I am surprised I ended up in a hat shop and not a pet store with my battering of the French language), ending the day with a quiet and comforting meal with Julie and the professor, and an attempted video chat that turned into my fingers whispering across the keyboard to talk instead, as I think I broke my camera by looking into it. Altogether a day of luxurious silence in all the right places (minus the video chatting dilemma).

Sometimes the most important things in life, we are able to say, hear, explain, and feel without even using our Mariah Carey singing voices. The deepest and most life-changing connections can be made by saying nothing at all. I can honestly say (since I am trying to balance out yesterday by being my usual overly-talkative self) that being in France right now, my mind is the most uncluttered it has been in as long as I can possibly remember…and I can remember being three years old. I have things that I worry about –like if Kate Middleton and the Willie are going to make it, whether or not I can find organic tofu, and working on keeping my abs toned while still enjoying Le Fondue. All these serious issues aside, it is really nice to be in a space of mental cleanliness for awhile. To me, it feels like that space I find myself when taking one of my epic 2-hour afternoon naps. That state of half-awakedness where I am sure that there are the most brilliant dreams awaiting you on the other side. If I just sink into that next breathe and let myself drift off. Or maybe I need to lay off the roofies (the guy at the pharmacy said it would cure a stomachache!)

Now, if only the oven timer had been a little bit more vocal, I think I smell a burning pumpkin squash!!!

More than words,

~ Emily ~

Avalanche Guns and Indians

While I enjoy being woken up by gunshots as much as the next Emily Somelady, today what yodeled through the mountains produced sound that would blow the mind of even the most fierce cannon-loving pirates. After two days straight of fresh white powder falling, in addition to the snow that was already blanketing everywhere you turn, we have a total of 210cm (which translates to 82 inches, 6 feet+, for those of you who speak English) in total depth of snow. Because of the risk of them falling on their own timing and becoming potentially dangerous to skiiers, grizzly bears, and people looking for their lost keys, around here, avalanche control crews periodically shoot off 22 gas- powered guns from the mountains to coax avalanches to fall according to human whim. I am sure it includes some physics and math equations that would fly right over my head. Considering I still have a hard time telling time.

We began the morning with a later start than usual –I should correct myself here and say EVERYONE ELSE –began the morning with a later start than usual, I had the good fortune of being born with the intelligence and soaring GPA in my family and set my clock for three hours too early. I have a hard time telling the number 6 from the number 3, ok? Cut me some slack!

After breakfast of spinach baby food and leftover pork liver mash from dinner, everyone sat around the table, throwing duties, like…skiing, and duvet-fluffing, to the wind. We played cards, and talked about the end of the Mayan calendar. How relaxing. Then it was time to get to work, Stassa’s dad needed relief from her tormenting ways (I hardly call her repeatedly offering him a back massage to be a tribulation, but he seemed to be annoyed by it), so I took her out sledding, we did wintersaults and handstands, and pretended to be snow queens. Not to be confused with ice queens, for that neither of us have to do any pretending. I even let her…. but don’t tell a soul… climb my favorite tree with me and jump into the snow belly first. With our helmets on, of course.

On our way back, we had the clever idea to built a snow castle for our highnesses to enjoy tea and crumpets while sunbathing, fanning ourselves, and feeding us grapes…because there are no pool boys to do it here.

The alarm sounded that the people inside the chalet were hungry. So, in I rushed, transforming myself with my usual air of adulthood. After I fed them all hot dogs, donuts and pine needle stew for lunch, with oyster crackers of course, Stassa and her dad decided it was time to hit the slopes and take advantage of their last day here and the fresh powder with which we had been bestowed. Tom and Julie settled in for nap time, and suggested I go find something to do outside. I didn’t feel like cross country skiing through a snowbank at the time, and they warned me against boogie-boarding down an avalanche, as well as jogging on the main street, I decided to start occupying myself like an adult, I did some mild clean up, pierced my navel with a pen, and then pretended to read like a normal grown woman.

I lasted about three chapters, which were great chapters mind you, before I tiptoed to the hallway, slipped on my snow gear, and got my batooka back out that door…to finish the snow castle of course! If anyone wondered what a mature young lady like myself was doing, I would just explain that I was lost, and expected to set up camp here in this igloo overnight. I also considered blaming the barometric pressure change on the imbalance in my cerebral fluid; if anyone asked, I would just beg for sympathy and hope they toss some money into the hat I left out by the igloo’s front door. 

My imagination pictured the entire village of chalets coming out to join me and show me some new techniques, and together we would be building a great igloo empire. But alas, I woke up from my hallucination and realized I was alone in my construction project.The entire process of igloo-building took me about two hours, but it’s complete with steps, hutch, mini bar, and a moonlight window in the master bedroom….ok, ok, so it’s missing a roof, but I think it will be a nice summer home at least, as soon as I get that sea glass tile bathroom shower installed. I’m having someone come by and appraise it next week.

I learned three valuable lessons today while playing in the snow:

1. I have a lot more respect for the Inuits. Especially as Gortex most likely was not invented then yet.

2. Like any dream, igloo-building takes believing the impossible, living in the moment and a zest for life. Toss in some passion, perserverance, a little foresight, an open mind and you have yourself a recipe for anything you wish! The one and only difference between igloos and my dreams, are that most of mine involve sand between my toes rather than snow down my shirt.

3.  I might change my life’s path to snow-fort building. I can remember some really good ones from my youth, minus the one that buried me alive, which was by far the warmest. There was the Swiss chalet of 1990, the quaint cape of 1996 and the mansion with many rooms at Beth’s, in which we held our 8-person drumming circle and winter solstice spiral dance ceremony in. I suppose it helps when your friend’s dad has a snowplow and can make a snowbank the size of Mt. Everest to start with.

I also learned why 10-year old’s don’t need Botox, it’s because they aren’t nearly as OCD about their snow forts as I am….

Off to play with my Barbies, I mean… read a novel and sip Vervaine,

— Emily —

Tommy-O and Julie-tte

“Now, let’s go to the candy store and blow all this money…” Tom looks at me, in all seriousness, as we are heading through the bustling square from the ATM machine to the car to meet Julie. I burst out into uncontrollable laughter, I’m not even sure that is ladylike these days. We had just eaten lunch at Le Restaurante of Old Horsehoes (Le Fer a Cheval) and were given instructions to wait by the car until Julie came back from purchasing…I forget what it was exactly…maybe another Foi Gras Sandwhich with a side of fries at McDonald’s? While I am busy envying some little girl in a white fur coat with matching white tights and white boots, who gets to go on one of those quarter slot machine horsey rides (I can’t tell which made me more jealous, the horsey ride or the awesome outfit), Tom has cramp-on-ed his way down the road towards the adult ATM slot machine. I race after him and we walk together the rest of the way to the fountain of wealth, where grabs his Euros and heads to get his sweet tooth operation underway.

When the whole fiasco is done, we leave carrying an orange bag (which to any species out in nature would be screaming “Keep away!”) stuffed full of jelly beans, some weird fluffy things I could not identify, fudges, and enough sweet bells and baubles to fill a hollow leg. Tom and I work to keep his confectionary confessions on the DL, because otherwise Julie will bust him and hide the goods. It’s a rather adorable example of how these two look out for each other, enjoy having a good time, and know each other inside and out. The good news is…despite Tom’s hidden candy addiction, they are both devouring their vegetables like two grizzly bears who stumble upon a raspberry patch and begin to question their commitment to carnivorocity. You just wait, we’ll all be drinking veg-tastic blends with spirulina and kale before this trip is over!

Julie was born and raised in Maine, her father the pilgrim, and founder of the Hannaford’s food stores. (For this reason alone, my mother would love her, since my mother would probably cut off her left arm to support all that Hannaford’s stands for) If you can imagine the kind of person who accepts others as a “dear, dear friend” in the blink of an eye, you have just imagined Julie. She reminds of a photographer friend/former high school teacher of mine in NH, Marsha Vandermey (those of you who know Marsha will be able to use the reference); they are the same astrological sign (Virgo), and have the same never-squelched energy and zest for life.

Both of these women have also been responsible for my exposure to hypothermia in my work for them, and they are crack-of-dawn black coffee drinkers. I can see the wheels in Julie’s head turning, probably inventing things much more useful than a wheel, as she plans her day, and mentally reorganizes her glove compartment, all the while balancing her mug of coffee in her right hand and re-grounding her chi with her left-wing. Her muesli cereal, to fuel her for the morning on the slopes, chills out at her side. In her mid-70’s (though I wouldn’t give her a day past 56), she is fit as a fiddle and healthy as can be. She maintains her girlish figure (as in she is literally a size 14 in GIRLS’) by indulging in her love for skiing, yoga, power-walking, swimming…you name it, this woman does it, and she will travel all over the world for it. Every winter, she threatens Tom that he cannot eat any chocolate for two months if he doesn’t join her in her chalet in France. So here we are in l’Argentiere, where Julie goes out everyday to make snow angels on the ski slopes, and downhill on the Olympic Women’s Run (that is no joke). She is an avid skiier and has a zillion ski friends, with just as many stories, to prove it. Speaking of friends, Julie has friends all over the world, some of whom are sultans, princes, pre-madonnas, Madonna, and probably even Queen Sheba herself. We will be meeting many of these as she has all of her friends over for dinner, tea, crumpets, and lively conversation a-plenty. After my first conversation with Julie, my ego was too big to fit through the door, because she is such a complimentary person. Thank goodness for self-depreciation. She has a true interest in other people and focuses on their strengths and accomplishments in every conversation. If you want someone who makes you feel like a million bucks, Julie is not your girl, she makes you feel like ten million more. 

Tom Mullins, also in his mid-70’s, was the Associate Director of Harvard University’s Center for Middle Eastern Studies. He has been to nearly any country you can think up in your big bad, soaring imagination. I have observed thus far that he is quite organized, with his iPhone, iPad, and scratch pad. His ability and passion to organize may surpass my own… although granted, he has had slightly more experience than myself. Speaking of experience, in asking Tom some questions about himself, as he is quite a human mystery, he handed me a well-typed 3-page handout covering all of the major topics such as his education, marriage, children, and occupational experience. The paper says it all, but I know in reality, it barely skims the surface of all that Tom’s kind face and mysteriously-sparkling, doe-like Bambi eyes have seen and embarked in throughout his life. He is an everlasting ATM machine of knowledge, and stories, and all it takes to hear one is to know the PIN number. He also has a great sense of style, and when he is not updating his Twitter at 3:27am, he is using this fashion sense, along with his debauneer charms to captivate the attention of ladies far and wide. Julie says that Tom has girlfriends in every country and sees it as her personality responsibility to rescue him from the dodgy ones. Today, Tom and Julie are headed to Italy for Julie to ski the morning through, and Tom to have a chat with his long, lost Italian waitress girlfriend. It’s a win-win for both of them! For many, Tom remains a complete mystery, in all of his Transcontinental travels and suave ways. 

Besides skiing, one of the favorite past times of chalet guests is to conjure up stories about Tom’s many past lives, to which, Tom does not protest. He just continues to twinkle on, and offers us all some of his decadent Swiss chocolates.

Julie and Tom are truly a match, only a brilliant author like Shakespeare himself, (or the infinite possibilities of life itself) could devise. Every time we hop into the car to go somewhere, the love in the air permeates through the Fiat like perfume. When it comes to life, love, and the pursuit of Foi Gras Happy Meals, they truly understand the concept that there is no time like the present!

What are they doing with a girl like me in France? How did I get so lucky? Simple answer, Julie dislikes cooking! One man’s trash is another raccoon’s treasure! I am along for the ride, cooking, cleaning, poo belling, and witnessing as they sail on their love boat, launch a thousand ships together like kites in the wind, and most importantly talk about which candidate will win the election. All the while, I am sure to drink the same wine Tom does, and take careful notes in hopes that some of his kind-nature and chic stylings will rub off on me; maybe if I learn to ski like Julie, I can even bring back some of the keys to unlock the life of my dreams as well.

Here is to Tom and Julie, mes nouveax amie!

Until the fat lady’s vocal chords share their melody,

— Emily —