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Archive for October, 2011

Last year, Eddie and I made a big production out of Halloween. Three families got together to form the cast of the “Wizard of Oz.”

This year, I am sans family. Instead of being part of a big themed costume event, I wore brown, stuck a stick in the buttonhole of my sweater, and called myself a  — wait for it — Stick in the Mud.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t have the Halloween spirit or participate in a celebration.

The college I work for introduced the American concept of Halloween to the small medieval village in the South of France where the study-abroad program is located. If today’s turnout is any indication, the French folks in this area have really embraced the tradition. I think every French family within a 30 km radius came to celebrate with us.

Here’s a slideshow of photos from the event:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It may not have been my usual Halloween, but it was unusually fun!

(And maybe now I can forgive the students for making me watch “Hocus Pocus” last night!)

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After posting my last update, I (not surprisingly) fell into a funk. All I wanted to do was read trashy fiction (Patricia Cornwell, I’m talking about you) and watch “Modern Family.”

Now I’m back.

Here are my top 10 observations about France:

1. French folks haven’t gotten the memo about cigarettes and cancer. Or, if they have, they don’t give a bleu, blanc, rouge crap. Even the mannequins smoke. (It gives new meaning to the sentence, “Check out his butt!”)

 

2. The French revere their produce in a way that Americans don’t. Even heirloom tomatoes, not conventionally pretty, earn places of distinction at weekly markets.

3. The French pay attention to details. Sure, people flock to the Eiffel Tower, but even a lowly door knocker can be a must-see. And then there is the variety and presentation of delightful treasures such as macarons.

4. Americans appreciate personal space. The French don’t. At all. They end up wearing each other like cheap suits. They don’t even give the Mona Lisa any room.

5. Sometimes the French don’t have a good grasp of English. At least they try. (And more French speak English in France than Americans speak French in America.)

6. Though images can often cross language barriers, sometimes they don’t. And some signs end up being unintentionally hilarious and/or weird. What do these signs mean?

It's OK to cross here with your large piece of lumber?

No coughing while wearing a Cleopatra costume? No feeling the bicep of a man made of tiles?

 

Don't let red people reach into your European Men's Carry-all?

7. France is pigeon heaven. They are portly and plentiful. One even roosts in the window above my bed, tapping on the glass occasionally to make sure I’m awake.

8. The French love dogs. They take them everywhere, and let them go everywhere.

9. There may be nothing better in this world than a warm crêpe from a street vendor.

10. Robert De Niro has a side job with a circus.

 

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Tribute to a remarkable woman

So much has happened in the nearly two weeks since the marauding hornet attacked me. The most noteworthy event was not a happy one.

I had to write and deliver my first eulogy. How appropriate it is that it was for the woman who taught me the most about writing and copyediting.

My mentor Pamela Poetter passed away Oct. 1 after an eight-year battle with cancer. I flew back from Lacoste to attend the memorial. I worked with and for Pam for 20 years. Nothing could have stopped me from coming back to say goodbye.

I loved Pam, idolized her, and thought of her almost every day — especially when grading papers. It is because of her that I write comments such as “Are you sure?” and “Yes!” in the margins of student papers. (“Meh” is totally my own, though.)

It is because of her that I met Eddie. (And we all know how that ended up!)

It is because of her that I pursued my various degrees. She always supported me, told me I could do things I wasn’t sure I could, and gave me the confidence that continues to propel me forward.

I’ve never met anyone who had a more positive attitude. Pam never criticized harshly. She always found a way to speak kindly of everyone — even the ones I thought had no redeeming value.

Her struggle is over, but mine is just beginning: How do I live without her? I will try to remember the lessons she taught me, and find ways to write “Yes!” in the margins.

I miss you so much, Pam.

R.I.P.

 

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