Dusting Off the Blog and a Review of How to Make a French Family

Welcome, Readers!

how to make a French family

A new book by Samantha Vérant is coming out on April 4.

Picture me with a bucket of water with a little all-purpose cleaner diluted in it, multiple rags, and a feather duster. I’m taking this blog out of storage and cleaning her up, trying to polish up the dusty, dry places in order to present you with a long-overdue post. Grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine (it’s five o’clock somewhere!) — this is me here. Those of you who used to read my blogs at An Alien Parisienne will know what I’m talking about. Buckle up, buttercup. Prepare to read. TL;DR – I’m basically doing fine, still very single, mostly employed, and my friend Samatha Vérant has written another wonderful book called How to Make a French Family and you should go over to Amazon or another book retailer of your choice, buy it, and read it. 



Starting Off the New Year

Greetings, Readers! Happy 2015 to you (I still have a few more days to wish you a Happy New Year, don’t I). I have to admit that I resonate a lot more with ancient culture wisdom traditions and beginning the “real” new year with the Spring Equinox, coming this year on March 20. I mean, we are still technically in the dead of winter, even if it is about 70 F / 21 C today in Northern Colorado. It’s a high altitude plains thing, these temperature swings. In another couple of weeks we could be back to 32 F / 0 C, or even colder. Just the way that Colorado rumbles.

Taken in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, March 30, 2012

Taken in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Paris — March 30, 2012

Anyway, as I was saying, I appreciate the ancient wisdom of understanding a new year really begins with the sun moving into the sign of Aries, with the Spring Equinox, and with all the energy that sprouts in springtime. I happened to stumble across the above springtime photo in my Dropbox files today when looking for something else (I have not touched my dropbox files in months!). Such a pretty yellow flower. Although I am terrible at identifying flowers, Google reminds me this is indeed a forsythia. Forsythia bushes are all over the Parc des Buttes Chaumont and herald the emergence of spring.

I can’t wait for this springtime energy to arrive because, frankly, I feel frozen in my situation and need a thaw and flow of better circumstances to arrive.


It’s Only Just a Bistro

Greetings, Readers.

Well, y’all. I got a job. It’s in retail, 20-25 hours per week, for $8.25 an hour. It is not what I hoped to be doing and because I am a big believer in “fake it ‘til you make it,” I am doing all right, but I really don’t want to be doing it, even still. Honestly, while I thought taking the job at a well-known retailer geared towards families — an offshoot of a famous San Francisco clothing company — was going to quell the household dissent (see previous post), it did for only about five minutes. And then the dialogue shifted to, “It’s not enough. You need to do more.” *siiiiiiigh*

I’m working on it. Have some ideas up my sleeve. But that is not what I want the focus to be for this post. Something much more interesting is going on in my head and I want to share what it is. It has to do with this photo here:

Le Bistrot Gourmand as seen from the film "Just a Sigh."

Le Bistrot Gourmand as seen from the film “Just a Sigh.”

This is a screen shot from my iPhone 5s of the film «Le temps de l’aventure» (“Just a Sigh” in English), starring French actress Emmanuelle Devos and Irish actor Gabriel Byrne. It’s from approximately minute 37 in the film although this bistro figures prominently from about minute 32 in the film.

I have stood exactly where Ms. Davos is walking in the photo above.


A story has as many versions…

A story has as many versions as it has readers. ~ John Steinbeck

A story has as many versions as it has readers. ~ John Steinbeck

Greetings, Readers.

I’m back at the public library, ten days since my last post, to fill out more job applications as no more interviews have been granted up to now. I just wrote this to a good friend:

I’m trying really hard not to give even a centimeter of space to desperation and panic, but of course it is a fact that those thoughts can be like flies I have to swat away and make sure they don’t come into my head. I feel like I am trying to swim in the ocean and my arms are getting really, really tired. I need the rescue boat (a job) to come and fish me out so I can get back to dry land and build my house. I really do not want to drown.

My mental flyswatter works better some days than others, and depending on how the weather is, sometimes I feel like an ultra-survivor. I am Piscine Molitor Patel in the boat with Richard Parker [ref.] and I know it’s all going to be just fine because my wits are with me.

But then there are the days where the flyswatter feels full of holes and the flies are extra thick, and I’ve fallen out of the boat, it’s storming, and I am choking on water.

Part of the changing landscape of my emotions and therefore how the journey is going is connected with the story that I believe about myself in any given moment. When I saw this quote from Steinbeck outside of the library the other day, I snapped a photo of it with my iPhone because I thought, “Well isn’t that true, Mr. Steinbeck. Well-played.”


Seven Letters from Paris — A Review

Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Vérant

Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Vérant

Greetings, Readers.

A very kind and generous friend sent me an e-book copy of Samantha Vérant’s Seven Letters from Paris. What follows is a review I just posted to Amazon and is a reflection of my real feelings about the book. This review is unsolicited, and something from my heart. I am writing it in part because I know the importance of a good review to an author, and hey: it’s good karma! You never know. I might one day tell one of my own stories and this is my storing up in the goodwill karma bank. ;-)

I’m going to be doing this more because I was also the recipient of TWO MORE books in this past couple of weeks — one I blogged about already here, and one is from a Facebook giveaway from none other than Samantha Vérant’s page for Seven Letters from Paris. More on those as soon as I finish reading, can write a review, and head to the public library, which is where I am frantically typing this up because the Boy is with me today, we still don’t have Internet access at my parents’ home, and he is dying to play Minecraft for a few. Haha. So, let me not tarry.


Dreams and Dreaming


A view of Longs Peak from my parents’ home. Did I post this photo already? Anyway, it’s worth posting again because it is a lovely mountain — Longs is on the right with the “keyhole” and Meeker peak on the left.

Greetings, Readers.

I’m finding my rhythm again with blogging and finding it’s a little hard to do when Internet access means going to the library or to Starbucks. Add to the mix that I am still job searching at the moment, and getting into that rhythm is not the easiest of things (although I have had a couple of promising interviews for jobs where selections have not yet been made, as of this past week. I’m crossing my fingers!).

Living with my mother and stepfather as well as going back to “square one” (AGAIN) is not how I envisioned my life at age 46, and yet I am finding it is a perfect time to dream, to allow myself the space and the time to create through envisioning what it is I hope my life to be from here on out.

First of all, those of you who have been following since An Alien Parisienne know one reason I started to write the blog in Paris was to give myself a good reason to go out and live life. I was so riddled with anxiety the first year I was in Paris, I could barely leave the apartment. No longer eating foods with gluten and dairy beginning in 2009 was the start of my shedding anxiety and bouts of depression in my life.

Five-and-a-half years later, it’s had a profound effect: while my situation of joblessness and living with parents, and being financially insecure would have completely freaked me out years ago, I find myself generally approaching life with a relaxed and positive attitude at this point, free of debilitating depression and anxiety. It’s nothing short of remarkable. I know from a very deep place within that “It’s going to be okay.”

It took a lot to process through the sorrow of the past couple of years, the reasons why I had to leave Paris and all the fallout from it. (Honestly, I’m just too lazy to link everything in, I don’t necessarily want “pingbacks” on those blogs connecting to this one, and if you are curious, I know you can find things, if you want to read. Look up An Alien Parisienne and Do Overs in Denver.)

Up until a year ago, I was still really suffering a lot. I have learned, however, with Zen-like manoeuvring, that letting go, coming into a present-time neutrality within oneself, really is the way to come to peace with things to which we have attached ourselves and things of which we have had to let go. It’s funny that in “looking for ballast” sometimes the best thing we can do is “drop ballast” and float even higher above our circumstances.

Still, feeling my feelings first and then letting them go has been key to this, to make sure they are not swept under the rug.

So what about dreams? I’m dreaming so much these days! Mostly my dreams have been about getting a job so that I can begin to find a way to build a “tiny house.” What is such a thing, you ask? It’s building a home onto a flatbed trailer around 8’x18’ or even longer: 20, 26 or 32-feet. (Omigosh, I’m sure some of you want metric, so… There are roughly three feet in a meter. These homes are something like 2.5 x 6 meters. And about 13 feet high, so four-ish meters?) I have been keeping a pinboard on Pinterest of my dreams for a home of my own like this, my very own hippie-gypsy portable house! You can find the pinboard here: Karin Pinterest, Tiny Homes and Small Living

I dream of making a couple of loft areas for Julian and I to sleep, or maybe a little sleeping nook on the ground “floor” for Julian, as I have seen in some designs of tiny homes on wheels.

I want to park it someplace peaceful, and go to my simple job (the one I will have with low-stress) because living in one of these homes, while radically small in some ways, does not require even full-time work to live and eat and be and have fun in life. There is no more striving to have more, to buy more, to keep too many possessions in a home, no money that is used to pay for upkeep of these things. I want this kind of a life.

I dream of getting back into yoga. I miss it so much. I follow my school in Paris, Ashtanga Yoga Paris, on Facebook. I just saw this helpful video last week where owner and instructor Linda Munro demonstrates how to release tension from one’s neck and shoulders. It’s here, if you want to check it out on YouTube: Neck & Shoulder Relaxation 

Soon, I think, I hope I can go back to a yoga studio. I do so much better in a group setting for yoga than in a home practice, but I have to do something, so maybe I need to re-think this.

Sometimes I dream of romance in my life again. Mostly, though, it upsets me (I’m laughing at myself a bit here, but it’s true — I find it upsetting because I have had a lot of upsets!). I try not to invest myself too much in this area in my mind right now, but yes, I think about how someday, sometime, I want to be with that person who has a similar understanding of how I see life. Probably someone who likes tiny houses, minimalist living, and yoga, haha! Or someone who understands why I want these things.

I dream of independence in any case: taking care of myself and taking care of Julian, no longer living with parents or dependent on anybody. I dream of this freedom. I’m thankful I am living in a place where I believe, perhaps optimistically (of course optimistically!), my dreams are possible.

Of what do you dream? Have you taken the time to daydream with freedom? Not an insistence of “I HAVE to have these things NOW” like Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I just finished reading that book at last — I got a copy at the library. I have seen the movie a gajillion times but never read the book cover to cover until now!). I mean dreaming with the freedom of, “Wouldn’t it be nice? The world will meet me in my needs! I’m free to imagine!”

Dreaming like this right now is pretty much all I’ve got, besides job applications, Facebooking (making that a verb, like the French do), and watching Home and Garden Television channel on my parents’ TV. It’s a rich dream life I have. I also believe when I dream like this, many of those dreams can become a reality, in some shape or form.

So here’s to dreaming dreams. I hope you have some enjoyable ones of your own!

**BOOK GIVEAWAY!** Deer Hunting in Paris

I’m really excited to report I’m one of the winners of a copy of Deer Hunting in Paris by Paula Lee! Thanks to Sion of blog Paris Imperfect, one I’ve been reading since its start in 2010 and one whose writer I’ve also been privileged to call “friend.”

I hope to blog more soon, but my mother’s gone on vacation and taken the WiFi hotspot with her! I’m stuck with Starbucks, the Library, or my phone. It’s the phone on which I’m pecking this tiny missive now with my right pointer finger. ;-)

Soon, Readers, I hope to share more thoughts, but for now I want to share my excitement about this book. Please read Sion’s terrific Q&A with the author!


paris (im)perfect

Deer Hunting in ParisIf the title doesn’t tip you off, I can confirm that Deer Hunting in Paris packs a ton of surprises.

Recently awarded the 2014 Travel Book of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers, the tale follows a Korean-American preacher’s daughter from Paris, France to Paris, Maine where our liberal, long-standing vegetarian author falls in love with a conservative carnivore and learns to cook everything from moose liver to deer heart. “Julia Child prepping roadkill,” one reviewer quips.

As someone who leans toward the secular end of the spectrum, steers clear of firearms, and has always been confounded by hunting’s appeal, the book’s subtitle – A Memoir of God, Guns, and Game Meat – announced I would be entering very foreign territory. The fact that I laughed out loud on the first page (and that the funny one-liners kept coming) reassured me that I’d be in good hands…

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Let’s Catch Up, Shall We?

Greetings, Readers.

Welcome back. I’ve got stuff on my mind and need a place to put it. A blog seems as good as any other place to do that. It’s why I’ve been doing it on and off for over eleven years.

But in that decade-plus, things have changed, you know? We’re inundated with information with millions of blogs out there in the blogiverse. And we are vulnerable with putting things online, things that can’t disappear entirely once we do put things there. This sometimes makes honesty hard, and it has to be couched, fluffed up with cushions, so as not to harm ourselves or others via those who would pry and prey.

For me, blogging has always been about the need to communicate, to capture in words something of the human condition, and somewhat anonymously share (as much as I chose, in theory) those thoughts with others on virtual paper. I honestly don’t get the “branding of one’s image” with a blog or using a blog for personal financial gain — not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. So many people have successfully done just those things and my hat is off to them!

But for me, it’s the writing that matters, and the sharing of ideas in a free-enterprise setting. And frankly, while I care about people and care for the friendships I have made via blogging, really don’t care how many people are reading or not reading. If even ONE person reads and starts nodding his or her head and responds in his/her mind or in a comment with, “I GET that,” I’d be pleased as punch! And many, many of you have done that through the years. So thank you. Hats off to you for sticking with me and reading and responding.


Let’s Try This Again


A lake in northern Colorado

It’s kind of funny, this blogging thing.

I’ve been blogging since 2003 — at least the first post I wrote on a blog I registered for myself was in 2003. Eleven years later, I have blogged under other many blog addresses and blogging platforms. But the first blog name I registered at Blogger back in 2003 was “Looking for Ballast.” Almost three-and-a-half years ago, I registered “lookingforballast.wordpress.com” thinking it might be useful at some point. I think that useful time has come.

My prior two blogs were the one I kept in Paris, “An Alien Parisienne,” which had moderate “success” as a blog, and a wide readership, and a rather paltry renewal at “Do Overs in Denver,” a blog I tried to keep when moving back to Denver, much to my shock at the time, due to turns in events in my life.

I’ve not written anything at “Do Overs” for months and months. My other problem with keeping that blog is that I have moved, again, to another location in Colorado. Leave it to me to name blogs after the cities in which I’m living, thinking I might actually be in those cities for a length of time, only to be ejected from them. Ha.

I don’t know if I am going to use this place. I don’t know if I want to keep a blog “proper.” But in case I do, and in case this begins again in earnest, I want it to be in this place.

So let’s see what happens, eh?

Hello world!

Just keeping this one in here to know when I started this blog address. :-)