Monday, June 30, 2014

The moonth of June

Here are my comments on what you said in the month of June. Luckily, there's no gloom in my heart or my weather.

One of Gustave Caillebotte's most well-known paintings
tRa proposes the theory that I first learned about Caillebotte through Masterpiece, the game of the art auction. I forgot to check before I left home, but I tried to confirm that hypothesis through the interweb. Unfortunately, the information remains inconclusive, although I wouldn't be too surprised to learn that tRa is correct.

While reading about my interviews, Anonymous noticed that the subtitle of my blog read "Oh my God only twelve weeks left!", and she encouraged me to reframe my thinking. She felt the sentiment should be: "Wow, I have twelve glorious weeks of summer left!" I thought she was right and changed my heading. Of course, now only seven glorious weeks remain.

Responding to the question of whether the ultimate reward for winning the Nobel prize is money or a permanent parking spot at UCBerkeley, M Anthony shares this article about the subject. Seems like it's clear to the professors —a place to park is priceless!

Although she hasn't always figured out how to leave a comment, my mother emailed my personal account to let me know what an incredible jewel we have in our smallest heirloom. Thanks, Mom, I agree! We'll try to keep our treasure "safe" for future generations.

Keep on responding, I love to read your comments and it assures me that there are actually people out there that read my thoughts!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen (Part I)

The blogger app doesn't like more than two photos, so here are two from our first days in Denmark. Interestingly enough, we haven't stepped foot into central Copenhagen and we probably won't before we go to the train station to leave.

We went to Kronborg, a castle near Elsinore, the supposed castle of the fictional Hamlet. We traipsed up and down the stairs from the dungeons to the long ballroom. Very cool!

View from inside Kronborg Castle
That's Sweden on the other side of the water, although it was a part of Denmark when the castle was built. The cannons are there to make sure all the ships paid their customs dues.

PS Extra points if you can name the movie the blog title comes from (without using the world wide answer-giver.)

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Next Steps

There are so many choices to make, it's hard to figure out where to start.

I guess I'll start with the long-term decisions. I need to create a new timeline for my novel, taking into account where it stands now, and the reduced amount of time I will have to write in the fall.

Additionally, I have to come up with a workable schedule for daily writing. Plus, I still want to redecorate our back room so that it becomes an office for me.

As far as this blog goes, once school starts in the fall, changes will be made. I know that I won't be able to spend the time to write a daily blog. But from that fact, the questions start to mount up. How often will I post? Once a week? Twice a week? On which day(s) should I post?

And once I make that decision, some of what I have learned this past year creates new questions. For example, blogs work best (i.e., are most popular) when they focus on a single subject. Although I have had great fun writing about lots of random stuff during my year of leave, a future blog should aim for a narrower target.

Then there's the title. If I had to do it over again, this blog would be called something else. I don't know what and if anyone has any ideas, I'd be happy to consider them.

For the short-term, I may give myself a free day now and again over the next couple of months leading up to school. At the moment, my honey and I are currently in Virum, a suburb of Copenhagen, visiting friends. It might be quite fun to play hooky once or twice, especially over the next two or three weeks.

Danish meal on a Danish patio
I'll try to let you know, with photos or a post that tells you I'm skipping, but it's  possible that I'll just miss a day. I'm sure you'll all survive somehow.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A Year and a Day

Last year, on June 27, 2013, I started this blog. I wasn't sure what I was going to write about, how long I could do it for, or even how to post a photo. But it has all worked out pretty well.

Except for two days early in the year when I found myself without internet access, I have posted a unique blog every single day. The commitment I have shown to this blog and to the random collection of family, friends, and strangers who read it, staggers me when I think about it.

On many occasions, I have stayed up after midnight, gotten up before 6am, searched for a topic when I had nothing to write about, and written in spite of wanting to do anything else but write.

I wonder about the amount of time I have spent on this blog, writing, editing, writing, learning how to post photos, videos, writing, thinking about blog topics, and writing, writing, writing. Certainly more than 365 hours.

And I have learned a tremendous amount from writing this daily blog over the year. How to put my butt in the chair and just write something. How to craft a short essay about a variety of topics. How to relax if it's not perfect, because eventually it will be. Or it won't be, and you still need to relax.

I've written about it before, but writing this blog every day has also given me much more confidence in myself and my writing. It has been a gift as much as a burden.

As proud as I am of completing an entire year of posts, I wonder if I could harness the dedication I have shown here into other areas of my life. I certainly have several areas that could use a large amount of daily determination.

Tomorrow: next steps . . .

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Query Letter

A while ago, I wrote about the confidence that I have gained by writing this blog. Recently, I had enough confidence to write a query letter.

A query letter is what you send to an agent or an editor, explaining your ideas and hopefully convince   them to ask you for more information, or even better to pay you money immediately for your writing.

After my family's trip to Italy, I knew that I could write a very good article about handicapped travel in that country. I had a lot to say, from our wonderful experience with their SalaBlu office for the trains, to the varied modifications many of the museums made to accomodate us. It was quite a positive trip.

I wasn't exactly sure what to write, but there is a lot of information about query letters on the web, so I took a look.

I read a few examples and after an hour or two, had crafted my own. I sent it off to the editor of our local newspaper.

Nothing happened. In fact, I never heard a peep from her. I didn't mind though. I was happy that I had the knowledge, determination and nerve to even try. I will try and try again, both for articles and for the book.

It bodes well for my future as a writer.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Smallest Heirloom

As many of my readers know, my honey and I inherited many items from his mother Alice, who passed away last August. There are some items that he loves, some I love and luckily, most that we both love.

The smallest of these items is something I had never heard of before, a match safe. I had never really thought of a match safe before, except in the context of camping. And in today's outdoor world, most match safes are made of plastic or metal. They keep your matches dry.

But our heirloom match safe is a wondrous piece of folk art. It is made entirely of different kinds of wood. A small piece of paper inside reads: Box made by John T. Viley — mama's 3rd cousin. went west.

One side has a inlaid picture of Abraham Lincoln. Woods used include wahoo, ebony, manzanita, mulberry, and french walnut.

Apparently John T. Viley also scavenged some wood, as the accompanying list of woods states that the lines under the bust come from a "sliver from log of Mr. Lincoln's home."

There have been comments from the family that it is interesting that John T. Viley chose Lincoln as a subject. The family had land in Virginia, and there are stories about hiding valuables and sitting on the front porch when the Union soldiers rode by.

The other side has an East Indian face made of juniper, agua rita, maple, and cedar of Lebanon, among other woods.

It really is quite an amazing work of art. If the Antiques Roadshow ever comes by, I'd be tempted to take it in.

Another small note inside the box reads "Given to Romulus Payne (1859-1924) by his first cousin John T. Viley who made it."

There is even some art on the top of the box. The boy's face is made of wahoo, his hat camphor, and his tie navajo. The collar is supposedly made from "ash flooring from Henry Clay's house."

I think John T. Viley was very proud of his work and rightfully so. The final note reads: "Made on Staked Plains Texas 1894. Not an inkstain or pencil mark about it. All natural colored woods."

We are honored to have it in our home.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Cleaning House

As many of you know, my house is not the tidiest one on the block. We have way too much extra furniture at the moment, and I have a few wee problems with organization. On the other hand, we enjoy having guests visit.

So before guests show up at our house, there is usually a bit of work to be done. Earlier in the year, I wrote about cleaning up before a party. A party means that the common rooms need to be cleaned, straightened and vaccuumed.

A guest means that we need to totally clear out our second bedroom. Although there is also straightening, vaccuuming, and general cleaning involved, mostly it requires moving stuff. That's right, we merely move all the extra crap from the middle room into the back room, and voila! The room is beautiful.

I wish any of the rooms in our house were this clean . . . 
However, once our guest is gone, the boxes, papers, card tables, magazines, extra blankets and pillows, and all our other detritus gradually completes a return migration to the middle room.

Luckily, at the moment we have a guest for a month. Luca, a graduate student from Italy is staying at our house. This means our middle room is spotless and the back room is difficult to enter. We can only hope that when he leaves, we will finally start sorting and getting rid of stuff, thereby creating two gorgeous, neat rooms.

Yeah, like that's going to happen!

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's Over

On Saturday night, I dreamt about my new job for the fall. I don't remember the exact details of the dreams, just the general subject. The fact that it happened leads me to believe that my leave of absence is over.

Over the weekend, I discussed at length with my teacher friends the pros and cons of which classes I might want to teach, as well as specific curriculum and strategies I could use to teach the students. I'm sure these talks contributed to my nighttime imaginings.

But the thing is, I'm excited about my new job and it's a good idea for me to be thinking about it. It's going to be a fair amount of work and any I can get done before school starts is all to the good.

Now I just have to come up with a schedule that allows for advance planning, some fun, maintaining time for writing, while at the same time keeping my sanity intact.

No problem!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cabin Sights

I return today, but here are some of the lovely things that can be seen in our north woods.

Moth hiding in the brush
Our state flower (I think?)
More delightful flowers
Back to our regularly scheduled writing tomorrow. Hope everyone had as great a weekend as I did!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cabin Food

As I mentioned yesterday, food is an important part of the book club cabin retreat experience. Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I thought I would share some past photos. I'm sure we are having a lovely time.

The table is set. Notice that beautiful breadboard underneath the bread and that cool tablecloth!

The dirty dishes from another delicious meal, I think this one was breakfast.

Being good guests, we always clean up our dishes . . . even when we have to haul water up from the lake to do so. Cool sideboard, no?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Book Club Retreat

Rainy evening view through the cabin screen
My book club rocks! It is a group of awesome women who love to get together, support each other, eat and drink well, and eventually talk about books we may or may not have read.

As many of us are school employees, our meetings run from September to May. And in early June, once school is out, we go on a weekend retreat to celebrate summer, water, woods and life.

One of our members has a cabin in the North Woods, and the setting is fantastic. Just up a steep staircase from a clean mountain lake, surrounded by trees, bushes and flowers, it's more than one could hope for from a retreat site.

On the other hand, it's less than you could hope for as well, because there is no running water and the outhouse remains outside.

But that doesn't really seem to matter. What matters is sun, dock, lake, laughter, books, wine, food . . . lots of food, talking, and reading.

Our book choice for the retreat is always a young adult book. In other words, a book that you could read in one weekend. That way, even if you hadn't started it before you went to the cabin, it could be finished there.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast for the next few days is for mosquitoes, rain, thunder & lightning, and more mosquitoes.

Luckily, good friends trump bad weather.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Make every day count

You may not have noticed the weekly countdown overhead. I've been counting down the weeks since the first time I started writing this blog. Although there have been times where weeks have gone by and I have forgotten to change the number of weeks, it's been a good reminder that the weeks are passing.

Recently, I have flirted with the idea of installing a countdown widget, or maybe changing the week count to a day count. In the end, I have decided to do neither. Changing the heading countdown to a daily one would both depress and invigorate me.

It would depress me because there are fewer than a hundred days remaining. However, it would be invigorating because it would be a frequent nudge to make every day count.

And it's important to me to make every day a good one. Because a day can be important, no matter how I choose to spend it. Even if I choose to spend it eating chocolate and reading trashy novels in front of the fan while ignoring any to-do list. It's an important day especially if I choose to spend it that way.

Or so I tell myself.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bay Area Wildlife

The hotel we stayed at in Santa Cruz was near the ocean. So near the ocean that we could hear the sounds of sea lions barking. When we walked out on the pier, we noticed that the sea lions were treating the boat launching pads like low-lying rocks.

There were between ten and fifteen sea lions mostly sleeping, but some were swimming and others woke up to protect their spot on the raft. We were no more than five feet away from them and one of the girls got a clever photo of her toes and the sea lions below. We watched them for quite a while, amused at their antics.

Later while walking on the beach, there was a large flock of pelicans, easily over one hundred strong. There must have been a school of fish, because they were continually diving, then flying up into the air  to dive again. I love pelicans and I especially love to watch them dive from a height into the water.

I took a bunch of photos of the pelicans and this is one of the best. I even managed to shoot some video with my new camera. Unfortunately, I didn't get one diving on film. Nevertheless, if I ever figure out how to download the video, I'll post it here first.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Historic Living

First floor hallway
Julia Morgan was a prolific architect, working mostly in California. Way back in November, I was lucky enough to attend a writing event at the Julia Morgan ballroom in San Francisco. The building and the ballroom were amazing.

Recently, on the college trip to Bezerkley, my young friends and I had the good fortune to stay at the Berkeley City Club, another building that Julia Morgan designed. Once again, she did spectacular work. And we reaped the benefits.

Elevator floor indicator — still works!
One of the many charming spaces
The Berkeley City Club started out as the Berkeley Women's City Club in 1930. It was often called the "Little Castle" as Julia Morgan was working on the large Hearst Castle at the same time. Apparently, there are similarities between the two buildings.

Originally, the club was a social one, although it also served as a residence for women members. There are currently still four members who live there. They have been residents since before the women's club became the Berkeley City Club in 1962. (Men were newly admitted as well.)

I must admit to being jealous. It's a beautiful building, with everything in it designed by Julia Morgan, and there are many ways to be social. The Berkeley City Club has a restaurant and there is a group for every interest. Wine drinkers, readers, card players, brunch eaters, theatergoers, all have the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people.

But the crown jewel of the Berkeley City Club is its pool. It is an indoor swimming hole in an absolutely gorgeous hall. 25 yards, it is a classic lap pool. It is open all day, and frequently used by members.

In fact, they are so protective of their pool, caps are required of all swimmers with hair below their ears. I was surprised they let me get away with no cap. It's the best indoor pool I have swum in.

Our room was small and had no television, but that didn't matter. The girls' favorite feature was the view west to the Pacific Ocean that could be seen from the toilet. At times we could even make out one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It's my new favorite place to stay in Berkeley.

Monday, June 16, 2014


The problem I have as I sit at the computer is that I am feeling no desire to write. Although this has happened to me many times before, I don't think that I've written about the phenomenon yet.

Most writing advice is to put your butt in the chair and get it done, and that's what I've been doing, day-in, day-out, for almost a year now. Often times it takes me as long to get started writing, as it does to write the entire post.

I keep a list of over twenty blog topics, but none of them seem right to me for today. After writing a sentence or two, I check my email, facebook, or look at some images of "unmotivated" for this post. Here's the one I picked:

So this is me leaving early. See you tomorrow when I will once again put my butt in the chair and write about something meaningful.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My New Job

I have written about looking for jobs and about the interviews I had, but I haven't yet written much about my new job. I am a little apprehensive as the upcoming year is going to be very different from what I have done in the past. 

For the last five years I supported first grade English Language Learner (ELL) students. Although that is not my favorite age, they are pretty cute and they love learning. Plus they still want to please the teacher.

But the new job I have accepted is at a middle school! 

That's right, I will be supporting 11-14 year old students as they learn English. Students of this age are not always interested in learning or in pleasing the teacher anymore. However, they are cute in a different way and they understand shades of gray in a conversation. There are positives to focus on.

For a good portion of the day, though, I will have my own classroom and will be teaching newcomers. The principal stated that the school has over thirty students that are completely new to the country and possibly new to school. That will be a big difference for me.

The rest of the day, I will be co-teaching content area classes, like science and math. Thinking about teaching middle school math makes my head explode. Luckily, one of the young women I was with in California has offered to tutor me if I need it.

So it is very likely that during the next year I will be spending much more time working. Working smarter as well, I hope. My dilemma is likely to be how to write and continue to have a life while at the same time being an awesome teacher. I'll have to find a balance.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Signs of Berkeley

My recent trip to the Bay Area included San Francisco, Berkeley, Palo Alto, and Santa Cruz. While a good time was had in all cities, Berkeley yielded the most interesting signs. Here are some of them:

Promoting self-esteem, telephone pole style

High pressure trash decisions

Efficient use of existing sign to promote your cause

A more valuable prize than the money awarded

Friday, June 13, 2014

German spellcheck

Recently I have been doing some writing on my computer in German. Spellcheck doesn't really know how to handle foreign languages. My niece told me to download a German keyboard, but like spellcheck, I don't really know how to handle that advice.

Spellcheck wanted to help, but what perplexed me is that the words it suggested often made no sense to me. For example, when I typed in himmelfahrt, it thought that I should change it to "himself arhat". 

OK, himself is a word in English, but arhat? What is arhat? Is that even a word?

I had to look it up to see. And amazingly enough, it is a word. In Sanskrit!

It means a "perfected person who has attained nirvana". So when Christ was making a fahrt to himmel, he himself was actually an arhat. 

Turns out spellcheck is even better than I thought, making translations at the same time it checks my spelling.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Kristi Himmelfahrt

Although we have a separation of church and state in the US, Christianity underlies many of our holiday traditions.

However, when I was in Germany, I experienced a national holiday that was truly Christian. It was called Kristi Himmelfahrt. That translates to Christ's heaven journey. In English we call it the Ascension.

It was a Thursday and almost every store was closed. There were no signs to inform customers why stores were closed. It seemed to be assumed that everyone knew that it was Kristi Himmelfahrt. And everyone did know!

Because it was also Father's Day. That's right, Father's Day in Germany is always on Ascension Thursday. Apparently, it's because Jesus was journeying up to heaven to be with his father.

I don't know which seems odder to me — that Father's Day is the same day as a major Christian holiday or that it's on a Thursday.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Tale of Two Interviews

I wrote yesterday that I have accepted a new position for the 2014-2015 school year. Although I applied for more than five openings, I only interviewed for two.

The first school was intriguing. A local elementary school, it seemed a very familiar setting. The interview was only about twenty minutes long and it was clear to me that I did not shine.

There were three people interviewing me and only four or five interview questions. The whole experience felt flat. Perhaps they had already chosen a candidate, but needed to complete their quota of interviews. I don't know, but I wasn't shocked when I was informed that they had offered to job to someone else.

The second interview was a whole different beast. Interestingly enough, I hadn't even applied for the job, as it is not one I have contemplated doing. They sought me out. There were only two interviewers, but between them they asked over fifteen questions. And the questions were smart, intriguing and fun to answer.

I definitely sparkled during the meeting. It felt more like an extended conversation about my philosophy of teaching with friends than a job interview. At the end, they asked me to step out to the outer office and wait for a few minutes.

Then they called me back in and offered me the job on the spot. It was very flattering. I had a lot of conversations over the weekend while I contemplated the decision, but in the end I couldn't resist.

I say yes to adventure.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When Is it Over?

A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me if I would consider my leave over on the last day of school, since normally I would be finished* with work on that day as well.

My initial reaction was to scream "No! It can't be over!" But when my heart settled back in my chest, I wondered about the question. When would my leave be considered over?

Would it be on the regularly scheduled last day of school? If so, that day was yesterday. Children and teachers all over the area rejoiced as the busses pulled out.

Maybe my leave would be considered over when I got a new job. At that point, my mind might start turning away from writing and back toward teaching. If that's the case, in an amazing coincidence, that day was also yesterday. (More about that over the next week.)

Lastly, my leave could be considered over at midnight, Wednesday, August 20th. That's because the following day I have to wake up and go to work meetings. In this option, my leave does not expire until the absolute last minute.

However, I've decided that it doesn't really matter when my leave is over. I'll still be working on my writing even when I go back to work. And I would probably think about next year on and off during the summer even if I didn't have a specific job to contemplate.

Life is fluid's like that.

*I am never finished with my job on the last day of school. I usually have to work 3-5 more days to complete all the required tasks. Ah, well . . . 

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pacific Blue

Here I am in the Bay Area, doing a college tour with my goddaughter and her friend. The colors of the ocean fill up my senses and make me happy.

Put boats in the water and I'm downright ecstatic. I can barely put down my camera.

The air smells salty and I think that California is making a good impression on the youngsters. At least I hope that it is. I'm sorry that my honey had to stay home to work. He would have enjoyed this trip.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saint Michel Memories

When I was recently in Paris, one of the spots my niece and I used to meet was the Place Saint-Michel on the Left Bank. It was close both to where I was staying and a stop on her train line. Plus, there's a fountain and usually some sort of street theater going on, so even if one of us was late, no on was bored. It was my niece's suggestion.

What she didn't know was that I have old memories of the Place Saint-Michel, both the fountain and the surrounding Latin Quarter. Standing there waiting brought back old memories from the first two times I was in Paris.

My friend and I were 18 and we had planned an ambitious trip backpacking across Europe. We started in London, went up to Scotland, across to Ireland, over to France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, the south of France, Spain, back up through France, over to London and home again.

As you might imagine, much of that trip is quite blurry. I remember visiting my uncle in Germany, staying up all night in the train station in Siena, Italy, and going topless in Biarritz, France. I also remember parts of Paris quite well.

I don't remember where we stayed, some cheap but decent hotel, I imagine, but it must have been near the Place Saint-Michel because we hung out there quite a bit. We had French food and some of our first alcoholic beverages nearby. We sat outside, watching the passing parade and felt very grown-up.

I have no idea how long we stayed or what tourist sights we saw, although I know we spent some time in the Egyptian rooms of the Louvre, as my friend was quite interested in mummies and cats. Then it was off to the next country.

What was interesting, though, was that at the end of our trip we went through Paris one more time on our way to London and then the States. We were much more bedraggled, tired, and quite homesick. We did not do so much sightseeing, but in our quest for the familiar, we stayed at the same nameless hotel and we ate at the exact same restaurant.

It was my friend's nineteenth birthday, and we toasted to that, to each other and to our trip. Being in a familiar place, even in only a small way felt like coming home, although we were still a day or two from actually getting there.

Curiously, every time since then that I have found myself in Paris, I usually try to spend at least a few hours on the Left Bank. I haven't eaten in that restaurant again, but I notice it. I think back to our great big adventure. We were young and the whole world stretched out in front of us.

Although many years have passed since then and the possibilities of life are no longer limitless, being back in Saint-Michel gives me a tiny taste of what that felt like.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Unfettered Joy*

Joy is something that I usually feel only in brief, broken moments. Riding my bike downhill on a gorgeous day, skinnydipping in a clear lake, blocking a water polo shot that should have been a goal. (Interesting how all of these are physical pursuits and preferably performed outside.)

What jumped to my mind, though, when the topic was first mentioned, was, "What are fetters?"

It turns out that according to the dictionary, fetters are a chain or manacle used to restrain a prisoner. In spite of that, the word is rarely used except in the negative, like uncouth. (When was the last time you met someone couth?)

Seems to me that true joy is always unfettered. If the joy had a fetter, it would somehow take away the joy.

Thinking about it all just reminds me to attempt to create more situations in which I can experience joy. 'Cause it just feels good!

* This post topic brought to you courtesy of my friend W____. It was much harder to write than the post on poodles. Remember, it lies in your power to challenge the writer! 

Friday, June 6, 2014

European Ticks

There are ticks in Europe. I know because one attached itself to me at some point in my latest journey. I found it when we were in the lotion phase of our spa experience. I'm not sure where I got it from though.

I managed to stay calm throughout the rest of our time in the bad, but I resolved to take care of the tick as soon as possible. Luckily, since Baden-Baden is a spa town, it seemed that every second establishment was a pharmacy.

After we left the spa, we walked into the nearest apotheke, and started asking about ticks. Mostly I wanted to know if ticks carry Lyme disease in Europe. A garbled conversation in Germlish seemed to indicate that I should watch the site for that damned red bullseye. I think that babesiosis was also mentioned as a possibility.

The pharmacist sold me a tick remover, but better than that, she removed the tick from my leg herself. I couldn't have done it so neatly on my own.

No bullseye has appeared and I remain free of any other symptoms, so I'm hoping for the best. I hope it wasn't there for very long.

I do know that I will be more careful in the future when I'm out and about walking in any grasses.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

68° Celsius

When I put that number in the Math is Fun conversion tool, it translates to 154.4° Fahrenheit. That is really, really hot. I know because I recently experienced that temperature in the hot air room of the Friedrichsbad spa.

(Very) hot air room at Friedrichsbad
I have always wanted to go to Baden-Baden, a spa town in Germany that has so many baths, they needed to say it twice. I've heard that it was the ultimate in the spa experience. I am pleased to report that we had an awesome time.

We wandered around the pedestrian zone, bought some books at the book store, ate good food, and, oh yeah, spent three hours naked at the Friedrichsbad.

Friedrichsbad is the old bathhouse. It was built in the late 1800s over the ruins of a Roman bathhouse. I guess there have been baths and spas here from Roman times until now, since the hot water keeps bubbling up from the ground.

There are seventeen different "stages of well being" at Friedrichsbad, although we skipped the ones that required extra payment. We decided to have the basic experience for our first time.

If I remember correctly, the stages are: shower, warm air room, hot air room, shower, sauna, hotter sauna, shower, hot pool, warm shallow jacuzzi with jets, cooler pool, shower, cold pool, drying off, lotion, rest room, and finally the reading room. We went on a separate day, so we were mostly on the women's side. The jacuzzi and cool pool are for both men and women.

The hot air room is incredibly hot. You have to wear shower shoes (provided) or your feet would probably get burned. Even figuring out how to lay on the wooden benches on your sheet (provided) was difficult. Luckily, the recommended time for the room was only five minutes. I'm not sure how much longer we would have lasted.

The building is gorgeous and the tile work is a wonder to see. There are signs in each room explaining where you are and how long you should stay. The people who work there were very helpful and friendly. In fact, the whole experience was really wonderful and not like any other place I have ever been.

Although you couldn't only do one part of the spa process, I have to admit I really loved the rest room, also known as the quiet room, or the relaxation room. They truss you up like a burrito in a sheet and blanket, then leave you warm and cozy to relax in the silence, broken only by the snoring. (And I wasn't the only one!)

I don't mind being nude at all, so there was no stress involved for me, but I was really proud of my companion who overcame any fear she had and just went for it. Now she can truly do anything else she might be nervous about.

I can't wait to go again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

May Recap - Late

I knew that I was not going to be able to do my monthly recap on the last day of May, as that is my late father's birthday, and I wanted to write about him. But then I totally forgot about doing it at all, at least until today.

They are a fun way to look back at a month's worth of your comments, either on the blog, by email or face to face. I have to admit, this past month has been a bit slow for responses, so it's an easy post to write. In any case, if anyone was missing the May review, here it is:

Many of you appreciated my photos from Italy, and my artist niece loved my favorite of a woman hanging up her laundry. So I've decided I am going to enter that one in the State Fair Fine Arts competition.

I doubt it will get chosen, as the exhibit is juried. Many more pieces are entered than are chosen, but it will be an adventure. Now I just have to figure out how to frame a photo.

Later in the month, I wrote about how my confidence in my writing was growing, and I invited my readers to suggest a topic for me to muse on. So far, I have received three topics and written about one, poodles. Not to worry, the other two are still in the works, and anyone can choose any topic to send to me.

And finally, one of my in-laws loved the photo of my father that I posted on his birthday. She also admitted to missing him and wishing she had spent more time with him. So, hug your loved ones, folks! Give them a call and let them know what they mean to you. It'll make everyone happy!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Applying for Jobs

That time of year has arrived. A few weeks ago job openings started showing up on my district's website. There have been at least five positions posted that I am qualified for. I decided to apply for three of them so far, with the possibility of a few more.

I spent a pleasant Sunday afternoon at a friend's house rewriting my resume and attempting to craft a cover letter that can be modified for each job. OK, it was only pleasant because I was at my friend's drinking soda and swearing at our computers. But at the end of it, I had a completed resume.

The odd part of the whole process was sending off cover letters that stated that I would be out of the country and unavailable for interviews for last week. Apparently, though, my cover letter was not forwarded on with my resume, so my honey received a few calls asking to schedule interviews when I was away.

I know that at least one of the schools where I applied has filled the job. Amazingly, though, at least one school waited for me to return. I had an interview there yesterday and I hope that I did well.

The school looks interesting, although I'm not sure about all the details. In any case, I can interview for jobs until June 20 and after that, anyone without an assignment will be placed.

I know that I will have a job and that is a lucky thing.

Monday, June 2, 2014


Mostly I went on this last trip to hang out with my niece during some time between her two language programs. The original idea was to meet in Germany so she could practice her German skills before going to school for five weeks in Vienna.

But when I think about Paris, I always think about my favorite artist, Gustave Caillebotte. He's one of the Impressionists, but not one that most people know. I'm not even sure I remember exactly how I became familiar with his work.

Before this trip, though, I knew that he had lived in and around Paris for most of his short life. I have always wanted to visit some of the towns he had lived in, see what they were like. If you're lucky, it's those unexpected, out-of-the-way places that give you the best insights and memories.

So I started surfing the spider web. Originally I wanted to go to Petit-Gennevilliers, a town on the Seine where he lived the last part of his life, painting and designing boats. But somehow I found out that there was an exhibition of his work in Yerres, where his father had a property alongside the river when Gustave was young.

It was in Yerres that he had started to draw and paint, and many of his early works were set there. That clinched any idea of skipping Paris on this trip. The chance to see more than forty of Caillebotte's paintings where they were painted? Priceless.

And it was a memorable, priceless adventure. We went twenty minutes south out of Paris to Zone Four on the RER. However, we didn't even know exactly where we were going once we got off the train. Luckily, there were signs with arrows. We had quite a nice walk through what was once a small French town and is now also a suburb.

Eventually, we arrived at Parc Caillebotte. The town had purchased the property in 1973 and has been restoring it and the original buildings inside ever since. The exhibit was fantastic and then we took a walk around the park, checking out the Yerres River, the vegetable garden, and the outbuildings, all of which were painted by Caillebotte, and which we had just seen.

As we wandered, I took a bazillion photos and took great delight in walking the same paths as a great artist had more than a hundred years ago.

More than enough reason to start the trip in Paris.