Friday, October 15, 2010


As I was browsing through photos posted by my Swiss friend, I was struck by a theme, a common thread that ran through the grouping of pictures.  The faces.  The faces of women who are so dear to me and whose depth of character runs deep and strong.
Look at the faces.  I am overwhelmed when I see them.  These women are my support system, my encouragers, my biggest fans.  Not because of who I am.  Because of who they are.  Solid. Tender. Indomitable. Compassionate. Joyful. Brilliant. Grounded.

 Pay no attention to the quality of the photos.  Some are blurry, uncentered.  Pay attention to the quality of the expressions.  True joy, the ability to laugh, to spread joy to those around them.  The capacity to love far and wide, to bring those they meet into their sphere of care and concern.

 Through thick and thin, these women are real, honest, faithful, steadfast. 

These are the women in my life.  Call me blessed.  God has smiled upon me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Nine suitcases, seven carry-ons, six purses, one Bumbo and one stroller later, with two kids in tow, we arrived en masse at 18 Rue 11 de Novembre, L'Etrat, France, late Monday night.
Armed with nothing but ambition and our Beauchamp know-how (which is all you really need), we proceeded to turn a sparse apartment into an organized, efficient, and appealing living space for the Simmons family.

The players: Aunt Veta, whose organizational skills are legendary and work ethic unmatched; Aunt Donna, whose language skills are invaluable and whose patience and attentiveness kept Tae and Eli from feeling neglected, and who was willing to do anything put before her; Aunt Jan, whose imagination and creativity took the transformation to a whole other level, and matched it with a tireless effort; and me, who, motivated by a mother's love, put whatever I could into making sure my daughter's nest was well appointed. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will let them do the talking.


PANTRY AFTER rubber gloves, masks, and 2 gallons of bleach:



DINING ROOM BEFORE(with the new lampshade we added):



And a little comic relief.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Tumbleweed Biographies

 He said he was Walt Whitman's grandson.  How poetic, WW's grandson running a bookstore in Paris across from Notre Dame.  We were two young girls backpacking around Europe with no place to stay.  Yeah, I know, this is beginning to sound like a coming-of-age story.  But it wasn't at all.  It is, however, a cool memory I have from my two-week rush through Europe with my best friend when I was 18.  We had a very limited budget but a much bigger desire to see as much as we could in the period of time we had off while the plant we worked at back home was in its annual shutdown.
We landed in Luxembourg and made a beeline for Paris.  I remember very little about most of the details, but I remember the highlights.  Taking the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower (with other Americans that were so rude it helped me completely understand the term "ugly American.")  Rushing through the Louvre because we got there 15 minutes before closing, convincing the guard that our camera was not going to flash when we took a photo of the Mona Lisa, and then, of course, our flash going off.  Honestly, we thought it was turned off!  Then to Notre Dame.  And I'm not really sure how we heard about Shakespeare and Company, but we did.  They said you could get a free place to sleep over if you would write in the journal.  So we did. 
It was a fascinating place, with books in every nook and cranny, up both sides of the stairwell and even crammed around each wall of the bed I slept in.  We wrote our stories, and the next morning we were off for Geneva.
I've thought about that place often.  When my son John went around Europe with his cousin Jackson, I told him to look for it.  I couldn't remember at all where it was except that it was close to Notre Dame.  He couldn't find it.  I'm not sure he looked really that hard because my description was so vague.  I think I might have even said I wasn't sure if it even still existed.

The next year my daughter went to live in France, and during a weekend trip to Paris, she found it, tucked away on Rue BĂ»cherie, in the shadow of the great cathedral.  She sent me photos of her standing in front of it.  It was still there!  So the next year when my husband and I went to Paris together, 30 years after my first visit, we sought it out, wondering if they knew anything about the journals I had written in so many years before.  Indeed, they did!  In fact, they were in the process of ordering them chronologically and told me to come back next year, when they would most likely be finished, and I could find my own entry.
I've just returned from a 10-day trip with my two of my sisters and my sister-in-law (as dear as a sister to me), the purpose of which was to help my daughter set up her apartment for her third year of living in France during which time her husband plays professional basketball there.  We took a crazy road trip to Switzerland, then Paris (which is another story for another time), but of course we made the time to stop by Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank of the Seine.  Once again I asked about what I now know to be "The Tumbleweed Biographies."  They are completely categorized by date and every Sunday at 4pm, George Whitman opens up his apartment above the store for afternoon tea, at which time the journals are available for perusing.  Since we had to leave Paris by 2, we didn't get to join George for tea.  I am curious to see what I wrote at 18, a little window into my youth.  Alas!  I guess we will just have to visit Paris at least once more.