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Friday, March 29, 2013

Easter Memories

This Good Friday is a fine time for you to write about your Easter memories for your Memory Book. For those celebrating Passover, you can do the same. Include the traditional foods, activities, family members that were part of your celebration. Below is my own memories of Easter, written a few years ago for my Memory Book. Maybe something in this will trigger some long-buried memories for you.

Easter Thoughts
By Nancy Julien Kopp

I’ve been thinking about the Easter celebrations of my childhood years in the Chicago area during the 1940’s. When Easter fell in March or early April, we donned spring dresses and coats to walk to church in sharp north winds, even a little snow on occasion.

On one of those bitter cold Easter mornings, I had a new aqua-blue spring coat and hat that I’d looked forward to wearing. Mother told me it was much too cold to wear it. “You have too far to walk to church. You’ll freeze,” she said.

I begged and begged. “Please let me wear it. I’ll wear a sweater underneath.” Tears slipped from my eyes as I waited for her to give in. They were genuine, not a ploy. Wearing that new coat was a monumental need at that moment at age eight.

Mother relented, but I did have to wear the sweater I’d proposed underneath my lightweight, pastel-colored coat. I think I was very glad to have it as my brother and I headed to church to hear the Easter story once again. My parents never attended church
with us. Theirs was a mixed marriage—Dad was Catholic and Mother Methodist, and neither ever gave in to the other. But we kids all attended the Methodist church and Sunday School. Dad polished our shoes every Saturday night so we’d look our best on Sunday mornings. He buffed them to a high shine and lined them up in the living room.

The day before Easter, we dyed eggs in glorious colors. Coffee cups filled with hot water, a dye tablet and a splash of vinegar covered the kitchen table. We arranged the eggs on a big platter with artificial grass as a nest. The Easter Bunny would hide them while we slept that night.

The Easter Bunny usually brought us a few chocolates, jelly beans and a new comic book. He also hid the brightly colored eggs in our living and dining rooms. What fun it was to discover the decorated eggs, one or two of which we always found in Dad’s shoes left out overnight.

Later in the day, aunts, uncles and cousins joined us for a special dinner. Mother usually fixed a leg of lamb or a big ham, glazed with brown sugar and mustard, cloves inserted in the scored top. Many side dishes weighed down the dining room table-- scalloped or mashed potatoes, two or three vegetables, a jello salad, homemade rolls, pickles, olives and pickled beets, and a springtime dessert of some kind, cream pies, berry pies, or a cake with whipped cream frosting. The aroma of all these good things filled our small apartment.

When we were all too full to move, it was time to do dishes.. No dishwashers, but all the women pitched in and they were finished in no time. Maybe not all the women. I had one aunt who always announced she needed to use the bathroom as soon as the cleaning up began. Off she went, and she never appeared in the kitchen again! The clatter of dishes and the chatter of women filled the tiny kitchen. My cousin, Carol, and I were drafted at an early age to dry the silverware, a job neither of us liked. We hurried through our task so we could walk to the park to play the rest of the afternoon.  Occasionally we finished our Easter celebration by going at the movies. We sat transfixed at the fabulous musicals starring Betty Grable or some other glamorous star.
The rebirth of springtime flowers, trees and bushes still symbolizes the meaning of Easter for me. Christ’s resurrection created a rebirth for all Christians, and as He taught us to love one another, I also think of the love of family as part of our Easter celebrations. It isn’t only the ones of my childhood but for today, as well. We will be spending this Easter holiday with our daughter’s family, going to church, having a celebration dinner, and being together. Not so very different than all those years ago.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Got A Story On Dating?

How long have Donald and Daisy dated?

 One of the latest calls for submissions from Chicken Soup publishers is for a book on Dating. The following is what they have on the website to let writers know what they are looking for. Watch for two important pieces of information here.

The Dating Game! 
We're publishing a book on dating! First dates, blind dates, group dates... we want to hear about all of them. Meeting the family, embarrassing moments, break-ups and make-ups... we want all of your war stories. Did you meet your perfect match online? Did you have an office romance or start a relationship with someone who was just a friend? How about first dates after divorce, reconnecting with a person from your past, or even simply finding your happily-ever-after where you least expected it? Tell us everything from love at first sight to dating disasters. For this book, we prefer contemporary stories. They will be favored over stories about events that happened decades ago. We are accepting stories from men and women 18 years and older. The deadline for story and poem submissions is July 15, 2013.

Note the deadline of July 15th. That gives you ample time to have a story to submit. The other important thing I noticed is that they say they prefer contemporary stories. It doesn't sound like absolutely only, but I'm guessing that they will give the contemporary stories precedence over stories about dating 40, 50, or more years ago.

Chicken Soup also prefers stories written in first person or about someone who is very close to you. Now, that opens the door for an older writer who can compose a story about a son or daughter dating, or even a grandchild. Again, the #1 preference is a first person story, something that happened to you.

So, put on your thinking cap and see what you can come up with for this one.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Writing Exercise--Finding Spring

It's been a hard winter around the USA and we're all gnashing our teeth waiting for a spring that seems determined to stay in hiding. Writers find much in the changing seasons to write about. Poets especially feature poems on one of the four seasons or something that represents a season. Weather plays a definite roll in each part of our year, as well.

I couldn't resist using the picture above of the little girl smelling the lilacs. For a writing exercise, compose a paragraph describing what you see here. Use as many sensory details as possible. Does she smell, see, hear, touch or even taste? Use the sensory details but be careful not to overdo. A little goes a long way.

Next, try writing a short poem using the picture as inspiration. Use the picture and your desire to see spring in full bloom. Send your efforts to me via the comment section. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Book Released Today

Today's the day that the newest title in the Not Your Mother's Book.. anthology series is being released. This is the fourth title thus far with many more to come. Earlier themes were On Being A Woman, Dogs, and On Being A Stupid Kid. 

My story, There's A Small Hotel, is included in the book. You can order the book from Amazon here. It comes in both print and ebook editions. Click on the book cover that says Look Inside to see the table of contents and a little more. I like being able to do that on Amazon. It's akin to standing in a bookstore thumbing through a book to determine if you think you'll like it or not. 

I scanned through the table of contents and recognized several author names besides my own. It's always nice to be in the company of friends.

My story is about a hotel we stayed in several nights when driving through Germany one summer. We spent 4 nights at this charming place which turned out to be a Hungarian hotel in Germany. With a Hungarian computer keyboard. And a charming Hungarian owner. 

Anthology books make a nice gift plus they're great to leave on your bedside table to pick up and read for a short time before drifiting off to sleep. I like the fact that you can enjoy the book in dribs and drabs rather than read straight through like a novel. 

Check your local bookstore for copies of this series, too. If they don't have it, suggest that they order these 4 titles. As the cover says, it's A New Anthology for a New Century

For writers, take a look at the submission guidelines and the future titles listed on the lefthand side of the page. Click on each title to learn more about the kind of story they are seeking.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Slow and Steady Wins The Race

This poster made me spiral back 20 years to the beginning of my writing life. I had hopes of becoming a published writer but I knew that it doesn't happen overnight. It sometimes doesn't happen even over months or years. I figured out pretty quickly that patience and  perseverance were keywords in the writing world.
I also learned that success wasn't going to come unless I worked at it. Nope, standing still was going to get me nowhere in a hurry.

It's Ok to take some time to achieve your goal of being published. In fact, I think it's to your benefit. If it happens too fast, you probably won't appreciate it as much as you might otherwise. 

If you work at your goal on a slow and steady pace, your chances of reaching it are pretty good. It might take a year for one writer, 3 years for another and even longer for a third. But if they stand still, they'll never attain the goal. Do writers get discouraged while working at that slow and steady pace? Of course they do! It's only human to want things to happen in a hurry. 

The old fable about the tortoise and the hare is one to heed in your writing life. The rabbit sat down but the tortoise kept moving slowly toward his goal. We know who won the race. Find a picture of a turtle and put it near your workspace to remind you to keep plodding along in your writing world. 

me nowhere in a

Friday, March 22, 2013

Finding A Topic To Write About

Writers frequently whine about finding an inspiration to write, searching for that perfect topic. Sometimes, it's right under your nose and you look past it. This picture of sunflowers got me to thinking about my state. Kansas is known as the Sunflower State so why not incorporate the sunflower into a story or poem? Even a nonfiction piece. 

When you're stumped for a subject, take a hard look around you. What is your state known for? What great tourist attractions does it have? Do you have controversial politicians? Are you known for a major disaster? Do you have professional football, basketball or baseball teams that are worth writing about? Does your state have a presidential museum? What about the historical events in your state? There are any number of subjects related to the state you live in that you can write about. 

Our Kansas Authors Club sponsors an annual contest. The theme this year is Our Town. Besides the usual short story, feature article, inspirational and memoir categories, there is a theme category which gives better prizes than the others. Same in the Poetry Division. So, I'm going to narrow my thoughts to my town rather than my state for this one. If you reside in Kansas and are interested in submitting to this contest, see info here.

Give some thought to writing about your own town, state, or even the county you live in. All you need to do is open your eyes and see what's there.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

These Rules Can Work For Writers, Too

Some sage advicefor the way we conduct our lives in this poster. The title is Rules to live by... and as I read through it, a thought occurred to me. Most of these rules can be applied to those of us in the writing world. Let's look at them, one by one.

Express gratitude:  Do you ever send a thank you note to an editor when he/she accepts your work or even when they don't but have taken time to write a personal note to tell you why they are not going to use your work? Besides being good manners, the editor will more than likely remember you when you send in another submission. It's not easy to say thank you for a rejection, but turn that negative into a positive and perhaps you'll benefit.

Keep your promises:  This one's easy. When you have a deadline, meet it. Editors have deadlines, too, and they need you to keep to the schedule.

Say "I love you":  You don't have to use those exact words but a bit of appreciation to either your editors or your readers will go a long way. 

Share your love:  Isn't it better to share with others than to keep it all to yourself?

Laugh at yourself:  I laugh at a lot of my earliest writing. How could I have written that, I wonder. I know some writers who feel shamed or humiliated by their earliest works. Not necessary. Have a good laugh and be glad that you've grown as a writer over time.

Use words of kindness:  That old saying "Honey attracts more flies than vinegar" holds true when dealing with your editors or your readers. Let kindness rise to the top like cream and push cruel remarks off the nearest cliff lest they come back to haunt you.

Consider others:  Try not to put yourself ahead of others. Give thought to their feelings. Yes, writing is a competitve activity but the one who pushes everyone else out of the way in order to get ahead could end up being the loser.

Do your best:  I'm glad this one is the final rule. Whenever you write a story, a poem, or an article aim for the top. Give it your all. If your best isn't good enough for your work to be published, that's OK. A steady diet of striving for that goal will eventually pay off.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Final Days In France and Then Home

JP656/BR-S Hawker Typhoon (replica)
Entrance Hall of  Peace Memorial Musem

We arrived home today filled with memories of our trip to Paris and the Normandy area of France. On Monday morning, we disembarked from the Bizet and boarded a bus to begin our final day of our French River Cruise. The luggage had all been loaded earlier in the morning and off we went to our first stop. The Peace Memorial Museum in Caen, France. 

We spent three hours in this excellent museum, which is divided into three sections. The first exhibits showed all that led up to WWII after the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the end of WWI. Too many people around the world ignored the increasing sound of war drums during the 20's and 30's. The second section of the museum dwells on the war years. Heartrending photos tell much of the story along with timelines and text.  The visit is finished with a look at the rebuilding years following the war, including the beginning of the Cold War, Korea and Vietnam. 

Two restaurants and a fine gift shop as well as a library filled with WWII records round out the museum. It would have been easy to spend a full day here. We had been to the Normandy D-Day beaches only two days earlier and seeing the photos and then an amazing film brought that earlier visit to life. 

The film is only 17 minutes long and not one word is spoken, nor written on the screen. The gigantic screen is divided in half with the Allied Forces shown on the left side and the German troops on the right. Being a writer who loves words, I found the film managed to convey so much with only the clips used to create the story of the war. Not a word but a powerful message for anyone who views it. 

We ate lunch in one of the restaurants which offered a marvelous view of the parklike grounds around the museum. 

Back to the bus for the 3 1/2 hour drive to Paris. We'd gone only 20 or 30 kilometers when the rain turned to huge flakes of snow which melted as they hit the road. A fitting end to a trip fraught with inclement weather. We reached the Novotel Hotel in Roissy en France, near the Charles de Gaulle Airport at 5 p.m. An hour later , we were settled in our room and then at the bar for a final drink with friends from our tour group. The hotel had prepared a buffet dinner for all in our group who wished to eat there rather than find a restaurant elsewhere. Since it was still very cold and rainy, we elected to partake in the buffet. I expected it would not be so hot but was I ever wrong! Ken and I had salmon prepared in a sauce, similar to a Bernaise Sauce, that was outstanding. Nice salad choices, vegetables that were excellent and three lovely Parisian desserts plus the wonderful breads we'd been eating for two  weeks. A glass of wine was included with the meal. 

We were up at 5:30 a.m. as our luggage had to be out in the hall by 6:15. Had the included excellent buffet breakfast at the hotel, then off to the airport where it looked like all of France was being evacuated. Got there at 7:30 a.m. to find huge crowds everywhere. We managed to get through check-in and security and on to a train to go to our gate. The trip itself was uneventful but ever so long. We flew on Air France and both of us were quite impressed with the service. The food, for airline food, was pretty decent. We had a treat in the afternoon which was unexpected--a chocolate covered ice cream bar! 

Our connecting flight was in Atlanta. We got through customs with no problem, then had to go through security again. I walked into the screening booth and raised my arms like a good girl, then stepped through. "Ok Mama," said one of the TSA workers, "I need to pat you down." She kept calling me Mama as she patted and probed. I wanted to tell her I was not her mama, but decided to keep my mouth shut. Then she sent me to a man, who wiped strips of paper across both my palms. He put them into a machine for testing and then told me I could go. Turns out my hand lotion which has glycerin in it was the culprit in this little drama. 

We flew into Kansas City next and spent the night at a hotel near the airport. To say we were tired is a complete understatement. We were up early this morning and headed home down Interstate 70. Stopped at the grocery store and post office to pick up our mail and then on to our house where we were greeted by 4 pink plastic flamingos! A fundraiser for our church youth group. They looked so cute it made me smile. 

We've been doing the Great Unpacking and Laundry the rest of this day. I had hoped to post daily while we were away, but the internet connection was not very good. Sometimes spotty and then often non-existent some days. Frustrating to be sure. Tomorrow, I'll get back to my writing world posts.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

D-Day Remembered

Today was our full day visiting the D-Day sights on the channel coast in Normandy. We left the ship at 8 a.m on a bus. The weather was no better than it has been all week. Wet, cold, and extremely windy. But on with the show! Our program director, Isabelle, is so knowledgeable and a delightful young woman. Not so young as she has recently become a grandmere! But she looks very young. She is our guide for many sights but for some of the city tours and this special one today, we have had special guides who are filled with information but able to parse it out in doses that can be absorbed easily. Today, the guide was a woman named Claire.

Our first stop was at an area that still has the pillboxes that the German gunners holed up in, shooting at the Allied forces who were landing. Some of the remains of the huge guns they used are still there. We walked over a wet, marshy field to reach these areas, slipping and sliding in mud and snow. Yes, snow which is seldom seen in these parts. Lucky us! We experienced it 3 days this week!

Then it was on to Arromanches near the Gold Beach where the British landed on June 6, 1944. Ken and I still observe the day by proudly flying our flag at home. Sadly, many young people in our country have no idea what D-Day means nor its major signifigance. The French people still hail it as one of the greatest days ever!

The American Military Cemetery came next. Walking though the well-kept, perfectly manicured grounds brought silence to our group. Over 9,300 servicemen and 4 women are buried there. We participated in a short ceremony. The group faced a wildly whipping American flag, hands over our hearts, as the national anthem was played followed by volleys and Taps. It brought a lump to my throat and tears trickled down my cheeks. I'm seriously patriotic and these things get me every time. Ken and I walked to the beach and looked out on the quiet waters trying to imagine what it was like that day so many years ago. The guide told us of one visitor who had been master of one of the landing barges. He said it held 32 men and 31 were seasick. They all landed covered in vomit. And yet, they landed and moved on to do the job they were sent for.

Two more stops at Omaha Beach concluded our day. So many memories, so much meaning. Somehow, the cold, wind and occasional rain faded away with all that we'd seen

Tomorrow, we explore this coastal town of Honfleur.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Highlights of Normandy

At last! A connection to the world! The connection onboard has been spotty to nonexistent since Monday, but finally today it worked. Even so, it's so slow, I age a bit more while waiting for a page to come through.
I'd so hoped to be able to post every day but the best laid plans often do not work out.

We sailed from Rouen at 4 a.m. this morning and are now docked in a small but picturesque town called Caubec du Cav. The French flag flies from many of the buildings. Ken is out walking and exploring the town but it was too cold for me to go this early. Later in the day. Cold? Ah yes, it has been winter temps as well as three days when we had snow. Not great amounts but enough to create problems in towns that have little snow and thus no snow removal equipment. Instead, they wait for the sun to appear and melt the white stuff on the ground. Temps have been in the 30's but the sightseeing goes on with the group all bundled up like teddy bears.

Some highlights:

One cold, wet morning we did a walking tour in Vernon where Van Gogh stayed for 70 days, painted 78 canvases and then committed suicide. He is buried in the local cemetery with a simple marker. The city guides we have had are so knowledgeable and gracious, putting up with the weather conditions quite well. We returned to the ship and savored the hot soup for lunch.

We woke yesterday to find it had snowed overnight in Rouen where we were docked. But we all bundled up and ventured forth with the city guide for a 2 hour walking tour of this city where Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) was burned at the stake over 600 years ago. Cobblestone streets in the old section of town made walking a bit slipperier than normal but we picked our way carefully as we listened to many interesting stories the guide told us about this or that building, an old church and one built in 1979, so very different from the gothic structures of hundreds of years earlier. The sun had appeared and by the time we returned to the ship for lunch, the snow was gone. Ken and I went back into the town in the afternoon to explore the many interesting shops.

On Tuesday afternoon, we were scheduled to go to several host homes for cake and coffee--always a highlight of Grand Circle trips, but the snow was bad enough that day that the buses cancelled. So, on to Plan B--the host families bundled up and drove carefully to the ship, bringing the good sweets they'd baked for us with them. We then played host to them--a bit of a turnabout but great fun as we all mingled together. These French women have such style. They can wear the simplest of clothes and yet look terrific. A scarf is often used to add that touch of something special. Most of the women had some English, a few fluent, others less so. But we had a good time talking with them, trying the cakes they'd brought and having an exchange of culture and good will.

The food has been incredible each and every day. Not only delicious but presented beautifully. The only reason we don't gain five pounds on these trips is the great amount of walking we do. Some form of entertainment each evening in the loung. Last night, it was a singer who was so personable and professional.

This afternoon, we are going to the Cliffs of Etreat and a small town called Fecamp. Tomorrow, we move on  to Honfleur where we will bus to the Beaches of Normandy where the D-Day landing occurred. A hhighlight of this trip.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Palace and A Championship Title

Saturday night's dinner onboard was as good as Friday's meal had been, as have the breakfasts and lunches. The only reason I won't waddle off this ship at the end of the cruise is that there is a great deal of walking involved. Eat, walk, eat, walk--it all works for the good.

This Sunday morning dawned gray and chilly, even a bit of fog around. But off we went to tour the Palace of Versailles. We have regular city guides on these tours rather than our tour directors from the ship. They are always personable, well-versed people. This mort looked very fashionable. I've noticed that French women add scarves to many outfits, lovely scarves of all fabrics and hues. They add a lot to a plain sweater and pants.

This is only the beginning of the tourist season here so Elke told us it would not be as crowded. We had Elke as our guide, and like so many French women, she was dressed casually but looked so fashionable. We had receivers and ear pieces so could hear her dialogue quite well. We moved from one crowded elegant room to another, receiving explanations about the design, paintings, statues and crs usual. Even so,over 600 rooms but we saw maybe 25 and the piece de resistance--the Hall of Mirrors. The crowd at 9 a.m. was enormous! Elke said that, in season, you cannot faint inside as there is no place to fall!  To see this amazing room is awesome. Great balls were held in this spacious room filled with mirrors and exquisite chandeliers.
Elke pointed out the use of marble, gold, and the tapestries and embroidered hangings everywhere.

We were given an hour's free time, so Ken and I headed to the Tea Room in the palace. It was as might be expected, very gentile, quiet and relaxing with dark wood tables and upholstered chairs that looked right at home in the palace. I ordered a cafe au lait and Ken tried the hot chocolate. We added an order of 4 small macaroons in different flavors. The waiter brought my coffee cup, then set near it a lovely small pitcher filled with hot coffee and a smaller, matching pitcher of warmed milk. I would do the mixing to my liking. Ken's chocolate came with the chocolate in a similar pitcher and a tiny bowl of real whipped cream. The coffee was superb and the macaroons just the right addition. Ken asked for the bill and it was (as I expected) ridiculously expensive. But how often does one have coffee and macaroons in a palace? In the tea room, we felt relaxed, away from the crowds. Definitely a memorable experience.

Tonight, just before dinner, we sail away from Paris to Conflans. There are rumors of snow showers tomorrow. One of the hazards of this early spring travel.

Last night, we looked online for the K-State vs Oklahoma State game, Went to bed feeling so sad that our guys had lost the game. It meant that we were no longer tied for first place. Then, I had a thought. What if KU also lost? Nah, not likely I decided. What a great surprise when we checked this morning to see that is exactly what happened. We lost. KU lost. We are sharing being conference champions. Amazing!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Orsay Museum

The Orsay Museum in Paris

Last evening, we were treated to a Welcome Reception and Dinner. Those in our travel group were not too jet-lagged to enjoy the evening. Started with champagne and appetizers while all crew members were introduced from the navigation crew to the kitchen group and housekeeping, along with hotel managers. Many were from Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Chef is Czech. On a French shihp! But let me tell you, the man knows how to cook French! 

The dinner was superb with many courses, each one beautifully presented by a most attentive wait staff. I was startled when I noticed that the kitchen is below the restaurant so the wait staff must carry all the food up a stairway, not an easy task with so many people to care for. I ate til I could eat no more. The dessert looked so good, creme brulee and next to it was a small piece of Belgian waffle with a scoop of ice cream and raspberry sauce. Ken told me I missed a real treat with the dessert plate. 

We both slept well after going with no sleep at all on our travel day and night. Feeling a bit more human today. A sumptutious buffet breakfast greeted us this morning, including an omelet station, many choices of fruits and juices, delectable French sausages, bacon, gravy with a kind of biscuit, scrambled eggs, cereals, French toast, and trays of pastries and breads that I'll dream about when we get home. 

Then it was off to see the highlights of Paris by bus. We are divided into 3 groups for the sightseeing parts of the trip. Isabelle is our tour director, a lovely young woman who is half French and half Icelandic. We drove through the heart of Paris and saw the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe up close along with palaces and embassies, parks and the Champs de Lysee with all its upscale shops, Notre Dame Cathedral and more. Ken and I left the group when we reached the Orsay Museum. It is close to the Louvre but I liked it much better. The building was once a railway station. The glassed dome and walls around it are exquisite art itself and the perfect spot to display the Impressionist art that the museum is noted for. Sculptures as well as the paintings, even furniture that is amazing art, porcelains, cameos, silver and more. All is presented beautifully. 

We had gotten directions on how to take the train back to the ship, and miracle of miracles, it all worked just as it should.The sun has come out today and it is a pleasant upper 50's day so the walk back to the ship from the station was invigorating. 

I don't usually post on the week-ends but will do so while traveling. There may be days when I won't be able to post, depending on what place we dock in. Tomorrw we visit Versailles and then the ship sails north along  The Seine to Conflans.

Friday, March 8, 2013

We've Reached Paris

We are in Paris after a loooong day Thursday. Up at 6, off to the airport at 7:30 and on to Atlanta on the first leg of our trip. Delta flight was on time and no hassle at all. Easiest security check ever. Only thing was that I got a bit of a shock. The guard at the entry to security checkpoint said to me, "You won't need to take off your shoes, m'am." I said, "You mean because I'm old." He fired right back, "I didn't say that." But there is a new rule that, if you are over 70, you don't need to remove your shoes. Fine with me.

We boarded our flight to Paris after a long walk and short wait in Atlanta terminals. It had been overbooked so they offered some nice things if two would get off. Not us! The flight was fine but nearly 9 hours and no sleep for eithe one of us. I was pretty impressed with Delta and would definitely use them again.

The flight was fine but claiming our baggage was not! About 2/3 of the people waiting retrieved their bags, some marked with colored ribbons, straps of all hues and kinds. The other 1/3, including us, waited and waited but no more bags came sailing around the care baggage area  carousel. The Charles de Gaulle airport seems to have a lack of employees as we saw no one who looked like they might work there until finally one man came by, made some calls, and another15 minutes went by before the bags appeared. 

Next, we were taken to the river ship in a van, driving in early morning traffic and rain. Glad Ken didn't have to do the driving. Two other couples were with us, just as tired as we were. In spite of our fatigue, I savored the sight of so many lovely buildings in this, The City of Light.

After unpacking and taking a most welcome shower, we joined one of the tour guides for a walk in a misty rain around the neighborhood to get acquainted with the area. Mimi showed us where to get a train, ATM 
machine, the post office, a few shops and a lovely park where they sometimes have a hot air balloon ride for 10 euros. Ken has always wanted to go up in one of the balloons, so wouldn't one in Paris be a real treat? But no balloon on this rainy day. 

We noticed daffodils blooming and some spring blossoms on trees here and there. Not a lot of them, but enough to give a hint of spring. Our river ship is docked on the Seine with a perfect view of the Eiffel Tower.  

The crew greets every new passenger with great warmth and energy, all young people who are filled with enthusiasm. They do their best to give those on this tour a memorable time. They represent many other countries in Europe. 

Lunch today was what was termed 'soup and a light buffet' and if that is a 'light' buffet, I'd hate to see a full one. There were many choices on the buffet after we'd been served our soup. I tried to eat lightly but it was not easy. And yes, I did have to try the chocolate mousse topped with whipped cream and the thinnest, crispest cookie in the shape of a dagger of lightning. Yummy! 

Tomorrow, we will have a bus tour of the highlights of Paris, something we've done before but are willing to repeat. In the afternoon, Ken and I are going to take off on our own to the Orsay Museum, which is one filled with Impressionist paintings. Jet lag is keeping us on the ship on this rainy afternoon. I'm writing this in the ship's large and lovely lounge area with a view of one of the many bridges in this city. Even in the rain, it is lovely.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Time For A River Cruise in France

Ken and I are about to embark on an overseas trip. Our home for close to two weeks will be on a river ship like the one above. This will be our fifth river cruise which says something for them. I'm not a fan of the big ocean liner cruises. European river cruises are much more to my liking. Board, unpack once, but you see a different area of the country each day, stop to see sights, shop a bit and soak in the local color. We have found the crew, tour directors and food to be excellent on each of our river cruises. Another thing I like is that I can see land on both sides at all times! 

This trip begins in Paris where the ship will stay for 2 1/2 days, then on up the Seine to Normandy. It follows the path where many of the Impressionist painters lived and worked. It highlights the Normandy Beaches where D-Day happened, memorials, an American military cemetery and a museum honoring those who fought to free France in 1944. We are both looking forward to all that lies ahead on this trip, including a visit to the Palace of Versailles.

We have always traveled in Europe during the summertime, so this will be a slightly different experience with cold mornings and afternoons in the 40's and 50's. Hopefully, we've chosen the right clothes to take with us. There will be 85 in our group. Some of the river cruises have 120 people. One we took with a group of 42 which was really nice. 

For the next two weeks, my blog posts will highlight our travels along the Seine River. They have wi-fi on the ship in the lounge area so I'm hoping it will all work the way it should and I can connect. I may not be able to post every day but will do what I can when possible. So, if you would like to take a virtual tour of this area of France with us, keep checking. 

The only negative in a trip of this kind is the long travel day at each end. For us, it begins with a 2 hour drive to Kansas City today. We'll stay at a hotel near the airport and fly out tomorrow morning. We go to Atlanta where we connect and straight on to Paris, arriving at 6:10 a.m. after what will probably be a night of cat naps, not real sleep. The advice always given is to keep going all day that first day, don't give in to the desperate need for sleep. We have often ignored that advice and opted for a nap of an hour or two, then keep going. It seems to work for us. Jet lag is not a myth. It's for real but I'm willing to deal with it for the benefits received on a trip like this. 

We go with Grand Circle Travel which caters to those 50 and up. They have won many awards and are noted for having outstanding tour directors. We've found it to be true on every trip. Our tour guide, Isabelle, emailed us last week to welcome us and, yesterday, she called us from Paris to see if we had any last minute concerns or questions. What could be more welcoming? Our river ship is the Bizet

We're packed and ready to go, eager to see more of France. Two years ago, we were on a river cruise that took us from Nice to Paris with 3 days in a hotel in Paris. Half of my ancestral heritage is French so I was eager to see this country. Visiting my roots! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Children's Classic Literature

Take a good look at this stairway of books. All are classics in the world of children's literature. Do you have a list of the favorite books you read in the years when you grew up?

What book pops up as the first one you remember reading or having read to you? The first one I remember was a book called Mr. Flibbertyjibbet. I can't tell you much about the story but I do remember loving that name and the way it tripped off the tongue. I remember curling up next to my mother while she read it to me, and other times when my daddy read it to me.

There are so many wonderful contemporary books for children today.Lots of excellent stories and I like to see kids reading them. But I also hope that they will read some of these classics for kids, too. As grown-ups, we hear references to some of these books in our everyday conversation. Things like boys wanting to never grow up (Peter Pan) and the antics of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn whose books use their names in the title.

Lois Lowry's Number The Stars gives today's kids a good look at what life was like during WWII. The Jungle Book has entertained kids for years while subtly teaching them moral values and life lessons.

The Little House books, Nancy Drew mysteries, and The Bobbsey Twins all have special places in my reading memories. As I grew older, I read the Sue Barton, Nurse series. That girl was a nurse in every possible category in every part of the USA. The books had to inspire many girls to enter the field of nursing.

My husband says he read all the Hardy Boys books when he was growing up. And of course, those wonderful books Mark Twain wrote about boys named Tom and Huckleberry.

I loved Black Beauty and Little Women. They were good stories when I read them decades ago and they still classify as a good read.

When buying books for children, don't forget the classics. Let them read the Junie B. Jones books and others so popular today but sprinkle in a few of the classics, as well. Check out the linked titles here to take a trip down memory lane.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Write About Weddings

My niece's wedding cake
Last Friday, we talked about adding some memories of the month of March to your Family Stories and Memories Book. Today, give some thought to writing a story or a description of the weddings in your family.  This is something we should all share with others we care about.

No two weddings are alike. Some are beautiful and elegant beyond description while others are simple but still lovely. There are plenty of humorous stories to tell about wedding happenings--disasters that turned into a funny story later. The one common thing all weddings have is emotion and what better than that for a writer? Even sadness surrounds some weddings because of dislike or perhaps a serious illness in the family at the time of the wedding.

I wrote about my son's wedding 3 years ago on the 17th anniversary of that happy time. You can read about it here. I wrote a story about my own wedding three years ago on our 46th anniversary. Our ceremony and reception was quite small. Read about it at this link. My parents' wedding was altogether different from mine or my son's and certainly nothing like the large wedding my daughter had. See how very different that 1938 wedding was.

I just realized that I have not written about my daughter's wedding which occurred nearly eleven years ago. It needs to be next for sure. Her wedding was just the opposite of mine in size, and wha a grand and glorious day it was.

Maybe reading about the three weddings here today will trigger memories of your own wedding, or your children's or even your parents. Whichever one it is, take some time and write about it so that your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have a record of the wedding days of your family. If you have pictures to add to it, all the better.

Our daughter's wedding in 2002

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thoughts On March

I love turning the calendar to a brand new month. Somehow, it feels like a fresh start and a chance to do the things I didn't get around to during the previous month. Those To-Do lists never seem to be finished. With being away from home nearly two weeks in February, my list has several items waiting for me. 

I can't claim March as one of my favorite months of the year. In fact, it would probably rank very far down on my list. The winter dregs are in it even though that's tempered with hints of a springtime to come before the month ends. The crocus blooms popping up through a snow-covered ground bring joy and hope for more to come in the next weeks. 

Now, is a good time to write your thoughts and feelings about this third month of the year to add to your Family Stories book. What special activities did you do in March? Does this month bring memories of Lent, St. Patrick's Day, Easter or any other religious holiday? Did your family eat corned beef and cabbage every St. Pat's Day? Did you have a special outfit for Easter Sunday if it fell in March? What about the March winds? Kite flying time! 

Here's a short piece I wrote back in 2008 when March arrived. 

Musing On March

Most people know that old saying "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb." And it works in reverse, as well. 

Today in Kansas, March slipped in like a sweet little lamb. She brought clear skies, sunshine and a temperature to reach 68 by mid-afternoon. What bliss after one of the worst winters Kansas has had in a long, long time. 

Along with all those good things, March winds are going to blow today. They'll whip through the trees, which are still recovering from the devastation of the December ice storm. The wind will roll across the Flint Hills with glee, bending the prairie grasses like pieces of cooked pasta. The wind will skip across rivers, stir up the sandtraps on golf courses, create havoc with hairdos and swirl dirtpiles when found. It doesn't matter a bit, however, because those south winds bring warm air from the gulf to our state. So, blow wind, blow. Send kites dipping and dancing through the sky.

Our town has a St. Patrick's Day celebration that grows larger every year. A Blarney Breakfast, races for runners and walkers, and plenty of green beer highlight the day in an area near the Kansas State University campus. Irish music blares through loudspeakers, and on that particular Saturday, everybody is Irish! As for me, I'm Irish every day--at least half my heritage is from that green, green land. 

This year, we also celebrate Easter in March, a holiday tht is both religious and commercial. Whether you celebrate one part of both, it's an important part of the year. For me, Holy Week reigns, and I plan the rest of my activities around church services on Thursday, Friday and Sunday of that week. But I love the commercial part, too, the many decorations and early spring flowers, trees budding, lambs births--all those things that tell of rebirth and awakening. But don't all those things stem from the Easter story of the Resurrection? For me, they do. 

One more thing March may bring is another snowstorm or possibly another ice storm. Kansas almost always gets snow at least once in this third month of the year. I remember one bad ice storm that frosted trees and shrubs in the middle of March one year. The best part about March snow or ice is that it rarely lasts more than one day. 

Welcome March!