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Packing – Hmmm?

As I approached our impending three months in Brooklyn, I found myself avoiding packing. I’ve traveled extensively for business over the years. I’ve become really good at packing for one or even two weeks on the road, even when that included climates as different as South Texas and Western New York in the middle of winter. So, I figured it wasn’t about the “packing”. So, it must be about what I am packing??

JDT and I traveled to Vietnam / Singapore in October 2019. Our travel involved six or seven flights from San Francisco to Tokyo to Singapore to Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City to Tokyo to San Francisco. A lot of up/downs mostly on airlines that we were not familiar. We made the decision that the safest thing was to travel with a carry on we could put in the overhead and our individual daypacks. The consequence was we would need to do laundry twice during the three weeks. Side story – I love the immersive aspect of doing laundry in foreign countries. THIS WORKED OUT PERFECTLY!!

Back to the travel at hand. Please recall that one of our goals is to live a life centered on experiences, not stuff. This got me to thinking. They have stores in Brooklyn, right? Our “budget” has enough “room” to buy stuff, right? And how does one put everything one would need for three months in a mid-size SUV? Hmmmm?

Have I said how excited I am to experience and learn from what is around this wonderfully exciting bend in our lives?

I will let keep you posted on how this goes.

Stardust

You know how you don’t think that you’re thinking about anything and then realize that some thoughts are coming together and maybe there’s a blogpost forming in your mind? Yah. Me neither. And yet I find myself having thoughts…

Glen and I have belonged to “The Next Big Idea Club” (NBIC) for years. It’s a group of thinkers who curate non-fiction books (self-help/growth/thought/improvement). The curators are Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain and Adam Grant – all prolific thinkers and authors themselves. Every quarter, they send out two books and then there are various methods of connecting with others in the “club” to discuss them. I have utilized the NBIC podcast and Facebook group for this purpose.

On the NBIC Facebook page the other day, I read a blog post by Julie Harris, a fellow NBICer who was inspired by Susan Cain’s Bittersweet to walk alone for 12 hours…completely unplugged. She spent her time listening. And wondering. She shared her awe of the world around her. She learned that throughout her walk, she found herself enjoying the humanness of the people she met – the kindness that she exchanged as she passed young mothers and old couples; the connectedness that she experienced as they passed each other. It made me reflect on all the walks that I take with earbuds in my hears keeping my brain busy on the podcasts or music that I’m listening to, instead of listening to the world around me or interacting with the people I pass. I always smile, but do I engage? Do I allow myself to mindlessly let my brain wander? To just think? Hmmm…Here’s Julie’s blogpost. You might enjoy it.

Thinking about all that walking reminded me of my friend Kathy and her husband Jim (and a friend), who are currently walking 500 miles on the “Camino” from France to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Am I right? Did she say 500 miles??? Kathy is brilliantly sharing their incredible journey in her blog, Andherewego.blog. Recently, her post was about all of the people that they are meeting on the camino – fellow peregrinos (pilgrims) and the people who live in the villages that they pass through. It truly does take a village to accomplish an adventure like that. I am in awe of their journey and what they’re learning and experiencing along the way. Here’s the link to the post that introduces her readers to some of the people they’ve met along the way. And I’m definitely begging forgiveness for sharing her blog before asking for permission! xo KFlo

Then a couple days after reading Julie’s blog about her unplugged walk, I was watching The Beat with Ari Melber and he had Neil deGrasse Tyson on his show. As usual, they talked about all kinds of things emanating from Neil’s latest book, but eventually they moved on to the universe. At 13 minutes, Ari asked Neil a question about what we should do with the information that we are now able to see more of the galaxy than ever before. What does that information mean for humans in our day to day lives? Neil explained that we might look up at the night sky and think, I am small and the universe is big. And he said that it’s a true thought. AND he went on to explain that incredibly, we humans are made of the same atoms as the stars.

Wait. What? We are made of the same ingredients as the stars. We are literally stardust. All the stars, near and FAR (aren’t all stars FAR???) – the stars are literally alive within us. So when we look up to the night sky, we can say YES!!! The galaxy is huge and we are small, but we must also know that we are the universe and the universe is us. Wait. What? We are all literally related to the stars. We are all related! We are all stardust.

So that BIG thinking will have me pondering some new ideas on my next walk and it brings me to a big gratitude…

For twenty+ years, I’ve been a part of a book club. We are a group of women who came together while our kids were roaming the halls of elementary school and we were sitting on the sidelines of the soccer and baseball fields cheering them on. We’ve literally read 100s of books together, shared more bottles of wine and more recently cocktails than we should admit to and many, many delicious meals. We’ve shared so many laughs that I blame my “laugh lines” on them and we’ve shed more tears than I might want to remember. We’ve shared our hearts and souls and still last week when we met, I learned deep things about these friends that surprised me.

So before I close, I must share my deep, heartfelt gratitude to these women who during various recent challenges, have provided me so much care and love – I can’t imagine getting through these times without them. xoxox

And finally, I want to remember that as I journey through life – walking, thinking, listening, talking, looking at the night sky…I want to remind myself to always have an appreciation for my humanness, for my weaknesses, for my strengths and for the importance of all the connections I have to all the people in my life because…

we are all stardust.

Five-Sixteen-Five

Remember “normal”? Well, this is about as normal as it gets at the Thomas house.

“Hope is the last thing you lose.” José Alcaraz

Five –

Home from Europe for 5 days. Hope. Hope that Glen can gain some strength. Gain some weight. Feel better.

Sixteen –

UCSF for 16 days. Hope. Hope that the doctors can help him gain strength. Gain weight Feel better.

Five –

Home for 5 days. Hope. Hope that the magic of UCSF has done its work. Hope that the feeding tube will help Glen gain strength. Gain weight. Feel better.

At Cambridge (my place of work for 22 years), we often said, “Hope is not a strategy”. And yet…there are times when you do everything that you can until all you have is hope (or some might say faith). You have to let the experts do their work. The other day, when I told Glen about José Alcaraz and his quote, he said something about him being 19 years old and what does he know about life and hope? Well, it’s all relative.

I never lost hope. I never gave up hope. And going back to Annie Lamont’s prayers – Help, Thanks, Wow…plus Grace…we’ve lived them all and are now full of hope and gratitude.

Paradox – Paradoxes – Paradoxing

Sunset from the hospital parking lot

My high school friend, Kevin responded to my last post saying that he appreciated the “courage” it took to write about this journey. At that point, I didn’t really think of my posts as particularly personally courageous, but this post might change my thinking as it doesn’t show my better side.

Glen taught me this word – paradoxboth things can be true. (Glen has taught me many things.) Disappointment and hope, for example. Fear and hope. Dislike and hope. Annoyance and hope. Read on to understand my thinking about these paradoxes.

For the past few days (four?) I’ve woken up with the hope that today would be the day. Today would be the day that Glen gets to come home. The day when he could be in his own surroundings with visits from friends. When he would be comfortable in his own bed. And…the day when I wouldn’t have to face the bridge traffic. When I wouldn’t sit in a hospital room with all the sights, sounds and smells. Ugh. The smells.

But let me back up a bit. We’ve known for years, that a feeding tube could (would?) be in Glen’s future. During cancer treatment he fought HARD not to get one. It’s never been on our priority list of “must dos” during our lifetime. (Yes, that’s snark.) And here we are grateful for this life-saving tool.

Now I’m going to back up even more…There’s a reason I didn’t go into the medical field. I hate medical stuff. Okay, maybe hate is a bit strong, but I am really uncomfortable with it and don’t like to be around it. Over the years, Glen has put me through the medical wringer many times for many days/weeks/months. I know that sounds very self-centered and self-involved because literally he’s the one in the wringer, but let me have a moment, if you will…

So after experiencing long treatments and recovery for meningitis and cancer, there came a day when he needed some sort of a stint or something in his neck. (Seriously, I can’t keep track of the details of his ailments.) So we both remember that as I stood over him in the recovery room, watching him come out of anesthesia…I looked at him with tears in my eyes and said…I’m done. Next time you need some procedure or a trip to the hospital, you need to find someone else to do this with you. I’m done with you in hospitals. Now, I hope you know that those were empty words, yet they were sincere.

And here we are…15 days into his next hospital stay. I’ve been here for 14 of those days for 10 hours a day (Glen will note that that’s not completely true because sometimes I was late) watching him, watching the nurses, and thinking to myself…WTH did I do in my past life? How do I deserve this? I must have done something truly horrible to someone. Yes. It sounds like a self-pity party. And I have my moments of feeling sorry for myself. AND I also think that I mostly rise to the occasion, to the need, to my role of attendant. I won’t say nurse – will never say nurse because as I have stated over and over and over…I AM NOT A NURSE/CAREGIVER!

So back to where I started this post…hoping that today is the day for Glen to come home. He needs to be home to recover and reassemble his life. And here’s the paradox. Or a paradox because there are actually many. While he’s in the hospital, I’m an extra attendant. The responsibility is not mine. I can advocate for him and help him, but ultimately, it’s not me. You see, as the extra attendant, I can push this lovely red call button and when pressed…voila! The real nurses or caregivers arrive and take care of the patient!

And when he comes home…well…there’s no red button.

So as our blog title states – Can we? Will we? I’m going to say that in this case…I can. I will. But it doesn’t mean that I have to like it. I’ll be paradoxing because…both things are true.

Sunrise from our yard this morning.

Normal

Does anybody really know what normal is? Does anybody really care? (You should be singing a Chicago song as you read those questions…)

I spent many of my professional years working with my friend, Diane and hundreds of teachers to raise our capacity to successfully teach students learning English as their second (third or fourth) language. The specific training was called “Project G.L.A.D.”. One of the things we learned about was how the brain worked and a key strategy to increase learning was to connect new language to emotion.

Since learning that idea, I’ve often reflected on my own learning and life experiences and I’ve found that it’s really true. Emotion plays a large role in learning and in memory. Thus, I have a clear memory of this specific moment in my life though my childhood friend, Cindy, will confirm that my longterm memory is horrid. (She tells me stories from our early years and it’s like I wasn’t even there.)

This memory is clear and it involves another childhood friend, Janice. Janice, my mom and I were standing in our kitchen. I can picture it clearly…the kitchen cabinets were stained green. My dad surprised my mom and lovingly sanded and stained them one summer while my mom was with my sisters on a high school youth group trip. It took him the full ten days that they were gone. As soon as he got home from work every day at 6:30, he changed clothes and went to work in the garage until late into the night or early morning. It was a labor of love. The 70s kitchen look was completed with its yellow tile counters, lovely speckled linoleum floor and copper-colored appliances. The family room (really a family “corner”) had large orange and yellow flowered wallpaper, an orange chair, a console-style tv, and an “antique green” kitchen table.

So back to the memory…The three of us, Janice, my mom and I were standing in the kitchen and I made some dumb teenage comment about something not being “normal”. My mom reacted quickly by “snapping” me on my cheek with her fingers and asking me, “What IS normal?”

Huh? She shocked me physically and emotionally with that snap. Thus the event and the question stuck in my memory. And I remember my 13-year-old self thinking – it’s just a word…sheesh – lighten up. But it obviously caused me to do a little more thinking about the word. I mean…”normal” is just me-my world, my realm. It’s my life. My friends. What kind of a question was that? Normal is me.

Clearly, my mom made an impact on my thinking because here I am, 50 years later, reflecting on her question, “What is normal?” And who gets to define it?

No need to perseverate on a metaphysical, moral, or emotional definition of “normal”. And I’m not going to go to the dictionary like I usually do. For today, I’m just going to think about it in personal terms. I’m going to say that Glen and I will be learning how to live in our new “normal” world. His feeding tube will change how we live. It will create a new “normal” for us. And it will be OUR normal. Not yours. Not theirs. Ours.

I don’t think Glen would mind me inviting you to join us in the journey of learning to live in our new normal. Some of the journey will be shared here on the blog. And Glen really meant it when he invited y’all into our home. So please…join us as we redefine our new “normal”. I can assure you that there will be some bumps along the way. It just might be a wild adventure!

And finally…Thank you, Mom. Thank you for “snapping” me into questioning my thinking. For making me stop and examine life from the viewpoint of others. For being ahead of the times.

Normal. What a weird word.

Is Gratitude a Platitude?

Hmmm…Is it trite? Does it roll off of our tongues too quickly and easily? Is it possible that it’s overused as a term?

For years I wrote regular “gratitudes” on Facebook. Something like this on a day like today:

Gratitude 1) air conditioning to dull the heat wave outside our windows 2) health insurance that allows Glen to be in the hospital for more than a week and I don’t worry that we will lose the house 3) the US Open to distract me and let me spend some time zoning in on nothing that really matters (to me)

Those are good, right? They’re real. They matter. And yet, I feel like at moments in life like this moment…they aren’t enough. Sometimes it just seems that there aren’t words to describe my sense of gratitude. The thesaurus shows synonyms like “acknowledgement, praise, appreciativeness, gratefulness, honor, obligation (?), and…grace.

Ahhh…grace. There it is again.

So with Glen spending Day 11 in the hospital, I am grateful for many things in addition to 1, 2, and 3 above. I’m grateful that our “kids” have been able to spend a few days with me at the hospital. I’m grateful for the friends who have called, texted, FaceTimed, visited, and generally kept Glen (and me and the kids) in their thoughts. I’m grateful for my doctor who really listens to me, who doesn’t just poo poo my feelings. I’m grateful to all of the caregivers (read: nurses and CNAs) at UCSF. I truly have no idea how they do their jobs with such patience and elegance. I’m grateful for today – Niels and Blair arranged for Glen’s friend, Steve and Niels to hang with Glen for the day so that I could have a day “off” to regroup a bit. I’m grateful to my “sisters”, Kathy and Lorraine who gave up their day to just hang out with me. A pedicure and a trip to Target go a long way toward rejuvenation!

And I’m grateful for Glen. He’s been to medical hell and back more than once in his life and he just keeps looking forward. He has learned to go into a zone that allows him the grace to get through the hard days and nights. The grace to trust the medical experts. The grace to accept the process and even embrace the process. He has learned the grace of asking for and accepting help. The grace of recovery. And he has the grace of gratitude.

Another definition of gratitude adds, “a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. So is gratitude a platitude? I don’t think so. Not when it’s backed up by real appreciations and believe me…we will be ready to return all of the kindness that we have received.

Our gratitude is not a platitude.

Grace

If you haven’t read the last post with the long title … read it before this short follow up.

I was driving home from the hospital when I realized that Annie Lamont forgot one. She forgot grace. The prayer of grace. Grace is the prayer that gives you strength.

The grace to be patient with yourself. The grace to be patient with others.

The grace to cry. The grace to laugh.

The grace to admit your failures and acknowledge your successes.

The grace to admit that sometimes life is hard. And the grace to give yourself the space to struggle through the hard things. That hard things are to be expected and even welcomed. The grace to argue with yourself and work out the solutions to the hard things.

But above all – Grace. Its the prayer that tells you “You’ve got this. You can do this.” And above all…”Be kind and patient with yourself.”

Grace. It’s a powerful prayer.

For those of you who haven’t known Glen for long…and for those who have…

Where one door closes, another opens.

GTPTOH – Glen Thomas Path to Perfect Health (https://gtptoh.blogspot.com/ if you are interested in that journey) –

That was the name of Glen’s blog that he started in 2008 when he received his cancer diagnosis. He started off as the sole author and as he went further into treatment, I took over. Luckily for his readers, he renewed his writings as he was “clearing” the fog of cancer treatment. I’ve been thinking about his blog a lot in the past few days. Here’s why..

You’ve probably figured out that we are not in Europe. After our week+ in Paris with Blair, we went to Nice where we regrouped and decided that we needed to get home. And still…we spent a week in Nice. Or I should say that I spent a week in Nice because Glen was never able to leave the apartment. Glen is the master traveler planner, even when he’s not at his physical best and he booked our flights (first class all the way thankfully – not sure what the outcome had been if we had to travel like mortals) and we got home after two long days. Home is always a welcome place to be when you feel like crap. And trust me, he felt like crap.

For those who don’t know, his cancer (2008) required intense radiation to his throat/neck (plus two different chemos) and as a result, his swallow function has been steadily decreasing, but in recent months it has plummeted. Thus he wasn’t eating much (it was already a liquid diet) and his strength waned to dangerous lows. As Glen is known for his independence and ability to be in control, he wanted to give himself a week plus to see if he could get himself fed and put some weight on. I wasn’t the only one who thought that might not be the best idea, but you know…a wife is just a wife.

Our good friend and fellow survivor, Karyn Kessler came over to visit a couple days after we got home. A little background, when she received her diagnosis a few years ago, knowing Glen’s experience, she came to him for advice. I have a vivid memory of where we sat on the couch when he told her that she HAD to get connected to UCSF. She took his advice. So last weekend when she sat on the same cushion, on the same couch a few years later and saw his condition, she looked him in the eyes, reminded him of their mutual trust and told him in no uncertain terms that he HAD to go to UCSF now, not in another week. Bless her. He listened. Full circle. So he’s been at UCSF since Monday and of course, he’s getting incredible care. He has received a permanent feeding tube and I’m going to let him tell you the rest of the story when he can because…he’s the best storyteller.

But before I go…I have to share something I ran across a couple months ago that has stuck with me. I only have pieces of it…but the pieces stuck and I’m going to share my interpretation of it with you.

Going back a bit, I think that when we were in Canterbury, I talked/wrote about my religious thoughts or better…thoughts on religion. They’re pretty loose and likely not super traditional. I think that I wrote that nature, the out of doors, provided my sense of “religion” or my place for collecting that sense of peace that others find in a place like a church, a mosque, or a temple. I have often thought…If/when I come up against a real life trial…what will give me the strength to see it through? The author, Annie Lamont gives me some insight that makes sense to me.

I recently ran across her writing about prayer. I believe that she has a whole book on this topic – Help, Thanks, Wow – Three Essential Prayers. I haven’t read it and I don’t know anything about her religious beliefs or background, but her thinking (as I interpret it from an interview that I read) resonates with me.

She says that help is is the hardest prayer because you are admitting defeat. You are surrendering. You are admitting that you’ve run out of ideas or answers. Help is a powerful four letter word.

Thanks is the prayer of relief that help is on the way. It’s that feeling that you don’t have to do it alone; that you (finally) caught a break. Thank you is the longer version of the second prayer, but thanks is a worthy prayer.

Wow is the praise prayer. The prayer where we are finally speechless. The prayer of wonder. The prayer of awe. Wow.

And that brings me back to Glen.

First – Help. We had run out of answers and options. We needed help. He got big help from Karyn. (Or she gave him a big kick in the arse which is often the most efficient form of help!) He is getting help from the miracle workers at UCSF. Glen’s also getting help from all of you; he’s being lifted by all of the texts, calls, thoughts and prayers of his friends and family. We feel the love and the support – the help.

Thanks – Relief is in process – it’s on the way. Glen is at the place that he says “gave him life” and he completely entrusts his health, his life to the caregivers here at UCSF. We are incredibly thankful for the care he is receiving. We have a road ahead of us and it will be bumpy, but there will continue to be relief and a full life.

Wow – We are in awe of the professionals that provide care for their patients. They are true angels on earth. We are in awe of you, of our friends and family who stay in touch with us, who lift our spirits, who make us cry (in a good way) and who give us strength, hope and love (and even a bed :-)). This is yet another Wow moment of our life.

And nature, you ask? My church?…You won’t believe the view out Glen’s window. For now, it’s enough.

Dreams and Drama

Trying to figure out what I want to say here as I sit in the bougie British Airways First Class Lounge. I said on IG yesterday that I was a bundle of emotions.

Gratitude – I mean…”First Class Lounge”. Nuff said. And trying to get home with Glen in his current state without that access would be near impossible. One of us might not survive. Or one of us might end up in jail. Could go either way for either of us. And yet…here we are where we have all the help and support that bougie people enjoy. In fact, Glen is in the “quiet room” in a pod where they brought him pillows and a blanket.

I’m in a recliner with a complimentary glass of wine and they keep coming to ask if I want a “topper”. She actually just told me she’d leave the bottle if I like. Do I look that bad? There’s lots of “what can I get for you, ma’am” going on.

Oh those chins..

Love – 33+ years ago we said “I do” for all the reasons and under all conditions. You know “richer and poorer, sickness and health”. Yada yada. We spent our honeymoon in Europe. We didn’t suffer, but First Class was not an option. And we had our health (and good looks🤪).

Sadness – I feel that I really got to know the places we’ve been, but Glen has only seen it through my eyes/words/photos. We didn’t get to do all the things together.

Relief – Glen will be getting home where he can access the medical assistance that he needs. He already has appointments lined up. He has a plan because…well…he always has a plan.

Joy – I get to be home where my peeps are.. Niels, Blair, friends and of course…Dug. Plus I get to play Pickleball and travel with friends and have family dinner night and watch college football and the US Open, volunteer in our democratic process, and and and and…

Disappointment – We had more to do. More dreams to fulfill. More time to explore the world and our new relationship in this time of “retirement”.

Hope – Let’s get Glen to his best level of health that he can achieve and then let’s rethink our dreams. Dreams dashed are just an opportunity for new dreams. Right?

Love you all for reading these posts.

#ILoveNice…I think…

So. Nice.

It’s been a weird time for us/me. Pretty much as soon as we got here, we knew we were leaving. Unpack? Don’t unpack? Get some food staples? Skip it? Do research on what I want to do with the time that we have here? Skip it and just wander?

The answers are…don’t unpack. Skip the staples; eat a croissant. Skip the research (other than the previously scheduled walking tour); wander…a little. I just can’t muster up the energy or the desire to go at Nice like I normally would. And it’s definitely not Nice’s fault. It’s an absolutely lovely city. And I know that I’m missing the opportunity of a lifetime, but I just can’t. I don’t know about you, but once I’m “out”, I’m at least halfway out with one foot on a plane. And my heart just isn’t in it. And maybe I’m missing a travel/wander buddy.

So. Nice.

It sits on a bay in the Mediterranean where the water is a beautiful aqua at the edge and a deep, lovely blue beyond. This is because there really wasn’t a beach here until the Brits started coming and required one so the French hauled in rocks from the Alps to create a beach. As you enter the water, you only have about 6′ before you’re 6′ under because it drops off so quickly. Boats can come almost up to water’s edge. And speaking of boats, this morning I watched a one-man fishing boat hauling his empty nets in right near the shore. Not sure what he was hoping to find. Not sure I want to know!

Did I mention it’s a rock beach? No sand. Can you see the camouflage birds in this photo?

For seven km along the water there is a promenade called the Promenade des Anglais. It’s named for the English “tourists” who put Nice on the map starting before Queen Victoria’s time. They all wanted to see and be seen (remember that scene from Bridgerton?) and they didn’t have the place to do it so the promenade idea was born! It was even funded by the Queen and England’s aristocrats. I just read that after a particularly bad winter, the Anglican Church decided that the poor needed work so they hired locals to build the promenade giving them “dignity, not a handout”.

There are fancy, historical hotels and casinos along the promenade and plenty of beautiful apartment buildings. If you go out to the promenade in the early morning, you’ll find lots of runners, walkers, roller bladers, and bikers. They have added a great bike path next to the promenade to keep bikes off of the road and walking path. Later in the day it’s full of families, beach-goers and voyeurs sitting on the benches looking out to the sea or toward the promenade. There are restaurants down on the beach and those fancy rent-a-lounge places where you can have your cocktails and lunch delivered to your chair.

The eastern end of the promenade – where it begins, at least in my mind.
Le Negresco
Just thought this was a spot of happiness at one of the big, old hotels along the promenade – or as the locals call it – The Prom.
Plus it’s my favorite car.
Okay. Random. But I noticed these dividers in one of the beach lounge places and I really like them!

Near the eastern end of the promenade is the farmers market. It’s there 6 days a week and it’s incredible with produce, local food goods, linens, plants, and of course, cafés. Mondays it’s an antiques fair. Can’t wait!

Anyone need a new st of silver?
Or antique lace?
This is one of the entrances to the market from the promenade. That’s a statue of President Wilson – thanking him for his support during WWI.

The hills behind the immediate coast are full of apartments and villas, but the city itself is pretty flat. There are at least three aspects of the city. The first is the tourist beach area with the famous hotels, bars, casinos, and the promenade.

The vielle ville which is the old town with the teeny, tiny streets lined with shops and cafés. And then the more residential apartment area a few blocks behind the beach.

This is right behind where we are staying which I would call somewhere between the tourist part of town and the residential part of town as there are definitely permanent people in our building, but also lots of vacationers.

The epicenter of the town is a HUGE plaza near vielle ville. It has a large statue of Neptune (I think) standing in a fountain in its center. The story goes that he was a little too endowed so during the mid 20th century some people managed to have him removed and placed in a less obtrusive spot. Not too long ago, there was a campaign to bring him back. Luckily when they removed him they just cut the granite above his ankles. When they brought him back they just “superglued” him back together and there he is in all his glory.

Sorry out of focus, but cute, no?
Not blurry
Those weird men on sticks? Some sort of art installment that lights up different colors at night. Not sure of the significance. They look like they are made of plastic.
See Neptune in the distance where the buildings part?

There’s also a large play fountain for kids and playful adults. This area of town was a muddy river mess most of the year. When the Brits turned Nice into their playground during Queen Victoria’s day, they required a more “pleasant” environment so somehow they rerouted the river and paved over the muddy mess. All of the fountains and winding pathways in the area represent the path of the two rivers in Nice that begin their journey in the Alps. And to finish the river’s saga, in recent history the city decided that they needed more parking to accommodate all of the tourists so they dug out under the town square to create lots of underground parking. (I think it’s a big $$ earner for them because it’s not cheap to park here.)

There’s also always a controversy when it comes to city government… so there’s a piece of art – 7 huge iron “sticks” leaning against each other reaching to the sky, representing the seven continents that some city politician thought they needed in the plaza. They were created and installed for 2 million francs. The story goes that the citizens weren’t fans, but they lost the battle. Well, time goes by and now the city wants parking, but guess what? They can’t dig under the “sticks” because they are too heavy so for another 1 million francs (or was it Euros at the time?), they moved the sticks closer to the sea where they weren’t going to be digging. The locals are still not fans! And one more detail, there’s a restaurant that looks out at the sticks. It’s supposedly Elton John’s favorite lunch spot. I bet you couldn’t wait for me to end that tale.

The “sticks” are actually at the promenade, but between those buildings, behind the sticks is a short street leading to Neptune and the town square.

The architecture of Nice is incredible. There’s tons of gorgeous ironwork, lots of scrolling details and tile roofs. The beach area has a lot of art deco buildings. At least, I think that’s what they are…I’m no expert. Yesterday I wandered up behind our apartment where it quickly becomes very residential with a few nice, small hotels sprinkled in. The buildings are just gorgeous. The people wandering the streets in that neighborhood weren’t actually wandering. They were headed to the beach or church or grocers or breakfast…all with a clear purpose. I was the wanderer. I’d say that our neighborhood is somewhere in between the feel of Nice vielle ville and the residential neighborhood. Our buildings were probably built in the 1800s with some newer buildings sprinkled in. Most of the streets are one-way with great bike paths and it is NOISY!!! But you already know that we kind of like noise.

Great biking city!
Scenic bike bath right in town!

Before I roll with the pictures to tell the story of Nice, I’ll just add a few notes about the people here. The “real” people, not the tourists. I’ve had nothing but positive experiences. You already met my new best friend at the post office. And by the way, when I returned with my second box yesterday, I got a “Bonjour, cherie!” In only two visits, I’m already a “cherie”. I’ve also made quite a few trips to the pharmacy that I can throw a baseball to from our balcony (okay, maybe I can’t, but you get it) and the woman there is always so sweet and helpful. She doesn’t speak English and we know that I don’t speak French, but so far we’ve managed to get everything taken care in fairly efficient order.

And I am so lucky to have a great boulangerie about 10 steps outside our downstairs door. The woman who is there every morning always gives me two croissants when I ask for one. I’m not sure why, but I’m not going argue with her! Seriously, when I get home I’m gonna have to hit those hiking hills HARD!!!

View from our balcony. That café at the corner was strange. I think they are money laundering or something because the same small group of men were always there. An occasional tourist might have sat down for a bit, but then just back to the regulars. All they every drank was espresso so I don’t think it’s paying the rent….intrigue!

I also make a daily trip to a café for an afternoon pastis. And depending on where I go, I either get a cup of potato chips or a cup of bar mix. At the potato chip place, the server is an older woman who is elegant and lovely. Everyone at this café seems to be a local because she chats with all of them in French. Obviously, she can’t chat with me, but she always makes a point to engage me for a moment and she knows my order and just brings it to me when I get there. Tonight I was sitting next to this lovely French woman, Sara, and after we awhile began chatting. Oh my gosh. Somehow I ended up in tears, she ended up in tears and we are now IG friends and are meeting for my last pastis tonight. More to come….

But…Who’s going to be my evening grab-a-Pastis buddy when I get home?

One more thing before I end this rambling thing with photos of vielle ville, I want to make another point about this type of “dwelling” travel. Even in the matter of a week, when you frequent the same places and try to communicate in their language (when traveling outside the country), you quickly become a bit like “Norm” where everyone may not know your name, but they recognize you and treat you a bit differently. It’s so worth it.

So vielle ville. Speaks for itself. I’ll describe a few of the photos.

I ended up having breakfast at this little café a couple times. I love to sit and watch the world wake up.
That’s the café
My breakfast view
The church square
This older woman walked by where I was having breakfast several times. The last time she came she had a houndstooth suitcase trailing her. And it turns out, she sells things from it in front of the church.
The church
This woman was walking to the beach. She went by twice because she had forgotten something. This was 8:30ish am.
Why are fishmongers always such a happy lot? These guys were just singing it up. Reminded me of Pike’s Place.
And the butcher was always busy…no matter the time of day.
Umbrellas hanging in one of the streets. So dramatic.
Seating at an Indian restaurant.

As Our Time Dwindles

It is Sunday morning here in Nice, the end of a week. We begin our journey home on Tuesday and arrive Wednesday evening, California time.

I have been so overwhelmed by an incredible variety of emotions. Jim Kelley always talked about different kinds of emotions. In has words, real and fake. Two simple examples – sadness would be very real and anger would be quite fake. He taught me that something, almost always internal, contributed to that anger. And understanding all of this was a key to a healthy emotional life. While I struggle with his word choices, I agree completely with his conclusions and struggle to find better words.

Failure is something that I have really struggled with emotionally over my life. Yet, I have grown to so fully appreciate of the personal benefits I have gained. It has just been mostly after the fact.

I learned during my last epic struggle (2008) to not go inward, but to do everything I can to go outward with my struggles. To fully engage with friends in a real and meaningful way. To not find the solution myself and then share the results, but to engage them while in the struggles. As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard not only for me but for them as well, as most people are fixers. And being in a situation like this one can feel incredibly helpless. However, one thing the previous dwellings taught is that there is incredible power in community. In friendship.

It is 100% my choice how I view these 55 days in Europe. I can choose to be angry and filled with regret. Or I can choose to see the so many wonderful aspects. That wonderful English garden in Canterbury that will change the way I live into the future. The views out of the glorious windows in Paris and Nice that provided the backdrop for my mind to imagine. Wonderful drives to Chartwell and RSG for incredibly different yet meaningful experiences. The ruggedness of Scotland and a deeper appreciation of Scots. David! Blair’s wonderful life moment of celebrating her 30th in Paris. I choose all of that wonderful stuff.

We’ll be home soon. And I have the choice of what to do going forward. Real change has always come hard for me. I believe it comes hard for most. I have a stinking suspicion, just like with my cancer diagnosis, change did and will come. Never, ever to the extent we promise ourselves, but yes, real change. And here is the deal, I would benefit greatly by your help. Frankly, the change won’t be as complete or as fulfilling without it. So, I invite each of you into our home to share community. For some it will be the evolution into something bigger, and I am sure more wonderful. For others, it may simply be less casualness, and more realness, between us. Come by for a visit. It doesn’t have to be announced. I’ve learned over the years (thank you Mike Quillin) that those are often the best kind. And you’ll know if it is a difficult time that will require a shorter stay than we all would hope for.