Bearded Dudes and the Quest for Coffee.

On a wet Thursday, when you needed big galoshes or a boat to wade through the streets of Paris,...

Your Inner Glamour.

Greetings darlings. Yesterday was the last day of Fashion Week in Paris, so I’m late in blogging because I...

The Royal Order of Marvelous McQueens.

Let’s face it, there’s probably nothing more comical than family dynamics, except maybe the divine right of kings… and...

Le Cakies.

Sunday night Zoe was sitting in front of the stove monitoring progress.  “I like to watch them bake,” she...

Marais on a Thursday.

Another spring day, 70 degrees and sunny. You envision the Marais, jump on the metro, emerge into the sunshine...
Bearded Dudes and the Quest for Coffee.
Your Inner Glamour.
The Royal Order of Marvelous McQueens.
Le Cakies.
Marais on a Thursday.

Plato, anyone?


Back when, in Greece, before Starbucks or phones or internet, people might stroll to the town center in the morning and run into neighbors and friends and strike up conversation. A popular thing to do as Athens had pretty good weather, nice architecture and the food wasn’t so bad either. They’d gather together under some olive trees, maybe with a hunk of goat’s cheese, bread, figs, and in the glow of good food and sun, they’d chat – about family, other neighbors, society, you know – the gamut. As time went on, regular meetups gave rise to some animated talks. That’s what happens when folks get together – carry-over conversations beget jesting, guffawing, and also – great exploration of their own and other’s ideas.

Kinda like when your 3 bff’s come for a sleepover Friday nite and over pizza and soda you get to talking about your 9th grade class, who said what to whom, who aced the math test Monday, who failed the math test, who recently got into trouble with the headmaster and is going to be stuck Friday staying after school. On to diatribes about the cruelty of homework, the injustices of gym, and the current status of your friends’ boyfriend. From there to heated debates on classic vs. contemporary fiction, Jane Austen vs. J.K. Rowling, politics in America, and current best places for lunch in Passy. Next thing you know, it’s Saturday afternoon and most important topics have been covered.

This is indeed, what happened in Greece. Word went round about the scintillating talk, the spirited exchange of ideas and before you knew it, the meetup had a following. It took an organized fellow named Plato to take the reins and over time to establish what is now called – the first school in Western civilization – The Academy. Plato’s Academy started with a bunch of friends under some olive trees chatting up a storm. He had studied with Socrates, the famed logician. Plato saw the potential in the situation – realizing quickly that a dedicated group might be just the thing to start something new. Shared inquiry. He foresaw conversations about the vagaries of human nature and all its permutations turn into meaningful explorations about: what it means to know oneself, how do we truly know another, what is the nature of friendship, etc onto larger social issues – how best to govern a society, how best to maintain order, and so forth. Solid stuff.

But you might be wondering what the hang-up is with Plato, et all…? From chatting to dialogic discourse, we arrived at the foundations and principles of our Western civilizations. Yes, that’s great and all! But the answer is our blog’s topic today is the direct result of having a teenager in the house. Think back to the foggy days of yore – how, at that certain age, the Quest for Meaning hit smack dab in the center of your soul – one day you were only concerned with the next chapter in your cat novel series or getting the last pudding in the fridge before your sister got it, the next thing you know, you are wondering if there is a God in heaven above and grappling with the ethics and morals of it all. Trying times.

Said teenager’s aim at the moment is to join the school Philosophy Club. Whose motto is something along the lines of, “A civil discussion of challenging ideas is a powerful method of personal growth and social engagement.” Sounds on the up and up. The Club, however, is only open to the grade above and higher. To contend with this perceived slight, our teenager hunkers in a corner of the school basement with some pretzel bread for lunch and a book of Rene Descartes, the French philosopher. He’s the cheeky one who said, “I think, therefore I am.” and “An optimist may see a light where there is none, but why must the pessimist always run to blow it out.” or “Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.” Useful ditty, that.

Our parenting strategy has always leaned toward the “laissez faire” model – French for – Let (people) do (as they choose). A bit casual, you might say. Yes, but proven to work out in the end – encouraging individuality and a highly-developed sense of independence. It’s true you might end up with a teenager who says things like, “I’m a radical leftist who dislikes organized religion and who opposes tax cuts and the right to bear arms.” Well, to this we can only (sigh in admiration) say – at least they are thinking for themselves! Our parenting motto has run along the lines of – There isn’t much that a little talking can’t help frame. See, there is a running theme here, after all. Plato’s dialogues began with open-ended questions that were meant to open up in inquiry and to develop ideas. In Paris, the most vibrant city in the world, it is this conversational feast we bow down and try to honor by joining, finding that around every corner just waiting to happen, is something to say.




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The Louvre, over easy.


Last Wednesday, I met a group at the Louvre to go see a new exhibition of paintings by Hubert Robert. Yes, his name rhymes, and in his self-portrait, he bears a striking resemblance to the actor Antonio Banderas, but he’s legit. He’s in the National Gallery (in D.C.) after all! At first glance, his paintings didn’t stir the heart. There was no instant love-painter-connection. But given a second glance, you begin to sense the skillful touch. Robert was known as “Robert des ruines” because he had a thing for old ruins. He lived in Rome for a while, so that does make sense. He practiced what is called, “architectural capriccio or caprice” which means that he painted famous monuments in imaginary landscapes. The canvases were filled with grand sweeps of architectural wonders alongside rivers, mountains, and dogs and buxom ladies doing washing. Our guide said that in painting all those ruins, Robert was “portraying the idea that civilizations are in a constant state of change and that from decay, there is re-birth.” I said, from the laundry, came clean clothes, and that too, was a kind of re-birth.

This past weekend we went with friends to the Chateau – Vaux le Viconte to celebrate Easter. There was the grand Chateau. (Built by King Louis XIV’s finance minister. When Louis saw it, he was madly jealous, so he fired his minister, and based on the Vaux chateau- built Versailles!) There were the formal gardens with ornamental shrubs. There were the reflecting lakes and fountains. And the usual out buildings, stables and such. And dozens and dozens of giant blue eggs atop old stone planters. We sat in canvas loungers and ate sandwiches we had picked up from the Monoprix quick stop. Then the kids followed the Easter trail, knocked eggs down the hill with wooden swords, fished in the stream with nets, and spoke of the 3 foot-high chocolate squirrel that one ticket-holder would win. But how would we get it home, we questioned aloud.

The other night at dinner in Monmartre, we went round the table confessing favorite things about the city. What kept us hooked, what was it that balanced out the sometimes plentiful gripes. Somebody was saying they liked that you could wear absolutely anything, a polka dot pantsuit with a flower pot on your head, and Parisians wouldn’t bat an eye. They would only assume you were heading out in requisite attire to that flower-pot event-y thing… she liked the irony of this level of acceptance in an often conforming society. Someone else liked that people spoke their mind. When Parisians didn’t like something, they told you. Outspoken, prone to outbursts, fits of passion, general strikes…! Yes! I said. Only that morning, I witnessed a man on a motorcycle and a man in a car, after nearly colliding, stop their rides, and literally – taking turns – yell at each other at the top of their lungs for what seemed like 20 minutes. It was actually funny. Like a show. Drama, but over.

Now it was somebody else’s turn and they were saying that they appreciated that riding the metro with a 3 foot-high chocolate squirrel was NOT the stuff of legend. But can you imagine, someone else asked, what could really happen. People making a rush for a piece of that squirrel. It could get crazy.

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Not Wind Food.

If, in the past few weeks, you happened to be in Paris, you’ll have noticed that people seemed nonplussed as they faced the bitter Northern winds, wearily tightening their grips on their dull winter wraps. This past Wednesday, to combat the gloom of yet another cold day, I clad myself in lycra and Nikes at the ridiculous hour of 7am and turned a steely eye toward the top of the hill. Andrew had left a few days earlier on yet another mission, and I was holding down the fort. But the natives were a restless bunch; a good deal of time had been spent subduing heated debates regarding efficacy of school curriculums, homework and housework. There had been conversations like the following: Me – Put your dirty clothes in the hamper. Respondent – Where are these ‘alleged’ dirty clothes. Me – All over your room. Respondent – I don’t see any of those things. Therefore, no action need be taken at present. or, The Accusor – Hey! Who ate my pudding! The Accused – How was I to know it was yours. There was no nametag on it saying, ‘This is hers.’ Therefore, the pudding is free to be eaten. It was like living with 2 lawyers, except not as swanky an apartment.

The Champs Elysee is considered a glamorous locale, but early on a Wednesday morning, the hazy mist of yesterday’s tour bus fumes hanging damp on the trees, the green cleaning trucks spraying down the sidewalks, debris running down the gutter, it was just another hill to climb. I waited at the light at Matignon, eyeing the Metro entrance, the usual route back home, but not today. Today would be different! The walk sign turned green giving pedestrians seconds to scurry across the widest avenue in the world, cars chomping at the bit to go the second the light turned. I dodged across and started a slow jog to the Arc.

It’s longer and steeper than it looks, distances hard to measure on this scale. I panted by windows of well dressed people already congregated in warm cafes. I envied their beautiful lattes. The wind was whipping down the avenue, I was pushing up it. Times like these, it helps to think of other things. Our youngest had told me about a recent school outing to the Louvre. They had walked over to the gardens with a photographer to make their school photo. What a fun idea. But they’d met the same wind. Not so good. The solution they’d said, “to Photoshop out the wild hair.” Hmmm. School photos gotten sophisticated these days. Then they had had lunch. Outside!? Yep! Where? Right there. And a bunch of kids had all packed pasta. What a coincidence! DD had ravioli. Stuart had spaghetti. Jules had lasagna. The teacher had fusilli. Apparently, the spaghetti in the wind was a problem. Like hair, it gets tangled. Not ‘wind food’ the kids said. Photoshop it out. Haha.

By this time, feeling the burn, I’d reached the top, the Triumph to my right, the twelve radiating avenues fanning out, fun to maneuver in a bus. The hardest part was over, and I didn’t really mind the cold now. It’s always good to have something to compare things to. Heading toward rue Victor Hugo, that would be a piece of cake, as it was full of shop windows to look at, plus it had a lot of trees and it was flat.



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Your Inner Glamour.

Greetings darlings.

Yesterday was the last day of Fashion Week in Paris, so I’m late in blogging because I was out modeling. Yessss. Life is hectic when you’re a writer AND a fashion model. (wink) Write a few sentences, walk the runway.  Back to the next paragraph. Then into the Chanel dress! I mean, the energy it takes for the dress changes alone is enough to make you crave four baguettes with butter. Exhausting, but someone must toil thru. Those 6 inch possum tail boots paired with the cinnamon lace one piece jumper and boxy black jacket in geometric designs don’t sell themselves. If those sweet ladies who sit in workshops and sew all this stuff don’t get paid, we’ll all be guilty. So, get out there and SHOP!

It’s a worthy mission, revealing all the artistic fashion creations to those devoted social media fans who like to imagine what they will be wearing next September. Countless people dream of throwing off the injustice of sweatpants for the lightness of walking around in rose chiffon trousers with hand-sewn metallic beading and platform sequined sneakers. Don’t you?! Your wardrobe makes an important statement about yourself because your wardrobe yells, “This is who I am.” So be the sequined sneaker or leather motorcycle boot you want to be! It takes spirit and spunk to corral your inner glamour, whatever direction it may go in. You can do it! Allow yourself to express your inner flash and jive. We’ve all got it going on and the world needs to see it.

A note of remembrance goes out to Andrew, as his dear mother at 94 years of age, died on Monday. Andrew chatted with her only hours before. She will be well remembered for her eager curiosity of those around her and her liveliness in the arts of the home. She had a great gift of the gab and a keen knowledge of human nature. And definitely, she had the gift of inner glamour. You could see it in her matching pastel pant suits which were immaculate and in the polish and shine of her kitchen floor!


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The McQueens head to the Alps. (part 2)

White peaks appeared out the train window a few hours south of Paris, by the third hour plus, we were in the mountains proper and ready to de-bark. Staying near Mount Revard, for the next week we explored the Rhone Alps of the Savoy up to Montreux, Switzerland. We hiked above Vevey, Switzerland, with its high green meadowland dotted with cows, the blue waters of Lake Geneva below, white-peaked Alps surrounding the lake, a bright blue sky on that day. Intensely beautiful.
We hiked around snowy Semnoz and its cosy ski towns, had lunch while viewing Mont Blanc (Mont Blanc is the highest peak in the French Alps – 4,810m or 15,780ft. high) until more snow blew in while we finished our buttery wild mushroom omlettes with bitter salad greens. The girls each tried the local dish, the tartine de reblochon de Savoie and read their books while Andrew and I finished off our meals with the traditional…coffee.
We hiked the meadows between the beautiful alpine villages of Cusy and Gruffy, which gave us innumerable laughs to consider what the villagers there might be called, Gruffards, Gruffys, Gruffonians…
Everywhere we went there were cyclists in bright bike suits climbing the steep passes and flying down the mountains, practicing, Andrew said, for the Tour de France, which traversed this area.
Our chalet house had a balcony opening up to the far peaks of the Savoy Alps, the rooftops of the small village below, and the quietness in the moonlight. Paris, a world away.
Poets are notorious for their carving in words, distillations of moments we’ve all experienced.  When the Romantic poet Percy Shelley wrote “Mont Blanc” he was here and this is what he had to say:
The last stanza of Shelley’s poem:
“Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:—the power is there,
The still and solemn power of many sights,
And many sounds, and much of life and death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
Upon that Mountain; none beholds them there,
Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
Or the star-beams dart through them. Winds contend
Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
If to the human mind’s imaginings
Silence and solitude were vacancy?”
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The McQueens head to the Alps. (part 1)

We were going to the Alps on Saturday on a 6:45am train. So Friday we had to get it all done. Our Alps house had a No Chiens allowed (no matter how cute and fluffy) policy, so our dog, Skye, who almost always travels with us, couldn’t go! Yeah, poor thing, when she’d been sniffing around the suitcases Thursday night, we’d guessed she was envisioning new terrain, green meadows, French country terriers. But no, instead, everyone had to say their special goodbyes to her and off we trotted to the metro to leave her at a friends house in the 14th arrondissement, her bag packed with her bones, her toy football, the green hedgehog pillowcase off one of the beds so she’d have our scent.

Funny the role that a dog plays in your life. The night before our youngest daughter and I were joking about making an “Introduction to Skye” pamphlet for the sitter. We were saying, “Skye will tell you when she wants more water by rapping on her dish.” She’s so smart! “Skye has a habit of eating any and all discarded tissues lying on the streets in Paris.” She’s not so smart! “Don’t worry if she vomits. It’s probably the tissues.” Yes, it’s disgusting! “Try not to leave hair elastics lying around. She eats those too.” We roll our eyes. “Skye is suspicious of people who hug. She will growl or try to attach to your leg.” What can you say.

We didn’t make the mini-bio. But at the table munching on take out pizza that night, we were wondering about her. Did she sit by the door and whine when I left? No, I told them, because I happened to turn my head back and saw my friend holding her at the window waving a paw as I walked by. That made them laugh, the image of a waving dog. We decided we could write Skye some postcards when we got to the Alps. _______________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear Skye,

You wouldn’t believe how expensive the crepes are in Switzerland! We all made sure to order only one topping, but even then, it cost a barrel.

We were sitting by the lake in Lausanne, so Andrew was telling Zoe (you know how she likes economic theories!) that this was an example of the economics of supply and demand. The sensational view of the lake and the snow-covered mountains in the distance created high demand, but there were only so many chairs on terraces at creperies that had a view, so the supply was low.

Basically, this means, that our crepes were a good deal and we were lucky to get them! You would have liked the view too because there were a LOT of dogs walking along Lake Geneva.

Hope you are having fun back in Paris.

We’ll write again soon! _____________________________________________________________________

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Love a Blogger Day.

Did you know the day after Valentine’s day is International Bloggers’ Day? Perfectly convenient because you can give your favorite blogger leftover boxes of chocolates, half-price on the shelves, roses (only slightly wilting), or cute cards with red hearts and those shifty cupids, and the word ‘Blogger’ that you scribble in pen somewhere on the front. Bloggers need friendship too. Mix affection with mirth.

Love is still in the air, so think about what your Blogger means to you. All the good times. All the inside jokes. Remember when you spread olive tapenade all over the bread before they could say no. How you laughed. Then ate the bread and tapenade. Remember St. Tropez, you in the striped suit, they in the polka dots, the dog in paisley. How you laughed. Then went swimming in the sea. Days with your Blogger were like that. “We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun.” Try to sing that to your Blogger today if you can find the time.

There are many ways to honor your Blogger. Consider naming a street after them in your neighborhood, or making a fancy hat for the fair and naming the hat after their favorite cold drink. So many ideas. You could decoupage some unicorns and take selfies and paste in the Eiffel Tower. I mean, the chances to connect are endless. Try making a pilgrimage to your Blogger’s hometown. Take a look around. The roots of their inspiration are everywhere. Maybe you’ll meet their third grade teacher. Oh, the tales she will tell. As Dr. Seuss says, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”      

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The dog borrowed your toothbrush.

And other pranks from McQueen central. The following are excerpts straight from the notebooks that I keep on my desk, carry around with me in my purse and write in like a religious monk. In no particular order of things – quoted, jotted, scribbled, and starred.

– “The dog borrowed your toothbrush.” Andrew says this to a daughter who habitually misplaces things. It’s late, she is mooning around, once again yelling “where is my…??”  He sighs. She persists. The dog shakes her head, like – not again, people.

– Zoe gives her Nana advice when arriving in Paris: “Avoid fanny packs and white shoes.” That was advice for the 90’s. Both are the rage now.

– Must find this (rare in Paris) taco place: Candelaria

– “Adequate pants.” She commented when I handed her a clean pair from the laundry. Are they picking up British English in school or is she just hilarious?

– Growing food on factory rooftops in cities: Brooklyn Gotham Greens, Chicago Farmed Here. People are so inventive and revolutionary in their work!

– Need to read this article, “Why I Taught Myself to Procrastinate.”

– Email from an Airbnb host after asking if we could bring our dog, “What exactly is this dog sort?” I look at my dog and ask her, “What exactly are you, dog sort?” snort

– The Languedoc. The Roussillon. Cannot find these on the map of France.

– Just got “The Discovery of France” from the library and should start reading because it might solve the above quandary as it seems to be – historical geography.

– Gotta go have lunch here: Septime, Soul Kitchen, Tuck Shop, Saravana Bhavan, Le Volent Basque, Bistrot Victoires, Laurent, A Noste, La Reparate… and on and on…

– Today, after the musee Monmartre, I went to Soul Kitchen (cross that one off!) and met 2 people: a Frenchman, who went to get a spoon for me because I’d only picked up a fork and knife for my soup. He loves Joan of Arc, quotes poetry, and was back in Paris after months in Germany touring with a theatre company. I’m afraid I disappointed him by my lack of interest in speaking French, but I did introduce him to Leonard Cohen; so I did my cultural duty. Then an American journalist newly arrived in Paris sat down beside us, and I tried to help her think of ways to meet some people. I feel totally lucky to have these Paris encounters.

– My family say I sound more Southern in Paris. Is this because I chat with more Americans now? Or is this some subliminal longing for grits and gravy?

– Another friend sitting in Le Dome evesdropping on a conversation at the table next to her texted me this: “Three extremely well spoken Englishmen and a Frenchman – Diplomatic/commercial discussions around the exploitation of Iran. Talking of governments, markets, confidentiality, and discreet clients.” Keep listening! Good stuff!

– “Naps are for squirts,” the daughter said when I suggested one.

– Contemplating the world upside down while having your ears scratched – daily life of our dog.

– Seville. The Cotswolds. Scotland. Wales. Sintra. Il de Re. Amalfi coast. Lake Como. Back to Honfleur. Japan. Delft. Mykonos. Places on our list. Andrew went to London last week and joined the Tate Modern. He loves going over to hear the accents. Ha.

– This is what Barack had for lunch with Hollande: Freneuse turnip soup with scallops cooked in floral steam. Free-range poultry from Licques. Stuffed celery preserve with truffles. Parsleyed cream spinach. Cheese course. Organic Reblochon from Mont Blanc region. Dessert – a traditional Paris Brest cake with stewed citrus fruit and a light praline cream. White wine – Meursault Ter Cru. I don’t know what half of it is.

– “3-D printed solar cells could provide 1.3 billion people with electricity.” Wild.

– Sentence in some book that stuck with me, “Do you remember how amusing life could be when we were together.”

– Kneipp hydrotherapy. Did I tell you about the Kneipp trail in Italy? I’d never heard of this kind of thing, but this is what you do – Go find one of these Kneipp trails. Take off your shoes. Walk thru the forest barefoot, thru a mountain river with wooden hand railings so you don’t fall, thru rock beds and other natural materials designed to massage your feet… you are now a more spiritual person!

– Did you know that you must audition to play music in the Metro? Each year the city holds Metro auditions and the winners get a spot in a tunnel!

– Last August when we returned from Italy, a letter was waiting: handwritten, beautifully composed, from one of my youngest daughter’s friend’s mother. She had taken the time to express how much she enjoyed reading my writing by writing a beautiful letter herself. There is great power in the things we make and do. (I intend to surprise her one day, by writing back!)

– There is a Professional School of Chocolate Arts.

– I invited a new friend, a 26 year old American financial analyst, to a party with me this past weekend and a few days later when I texted her to ask if she had fun, this was her answer: “The party was entirely married couples and divorced people. You tricked me!” Ha. It never occurred to me, but I guess this is who we hang out with…is that depressing!?!

– Our dogs full name: Skye Blue McQueen. Our old cats name: Rainbow Coffee Stroller McQueen. You see how challenging we are.

See you folks next week!

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New Frames.


First thing I do in the morning is eye where I left my glasses the night before and stick them on. After so many years of doing this, donning a pair is second nature. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an eventual end, or break one day when your daughter sits on them. So, last Thursday, I spent the morning in at least 5 different shops in search of new frames that would say “smart, yet funny” “brave, yet wise,” to any casual bystander. That or “darn awesome glasses that girl has on!” That would work too.

Afterwards I sought the nearest cafe exhausted from the emotional toil of the vast, yet bewildering selection. So many possible frames, 99% of them round; if you were dreaming of round plastic frames in Icelandic blue, you’d find them. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking for those because I look ridiculous in round frames, even though I’ve tried, only to find the Universe laughing back at me. So, getting nowhere, I retreated to the cafe to shake off what I suspected was the trailing influence of Harry Potter, even after all these years.

I was standing in the entrance way acutely aware that I was in the way. Since I was trying to decide whether to stay where I was on the heater-warmed terrace and deal with the smokers or proceed inside proper, my hesitation was legitimate, even if two of the waiters trays whizzed menacingly close to my head. The sun was out so I jostled my way through little crowded tables and plopped down on the terrace.

The Cafe Bonaparte faces the heart of St. Germain square, the old church to the left, the other famous literary cafes just in front and along rue St. Germain, the Louis Vuitton store to the right, so there is always plenty of action. On this particular afternoon, there was also a delivery truck parked in front and a few cars behind blaring horns, a cyclist that shook his head as this happened, and some people speaking English to my right.

Which made me turn my head as I bumped thru the crowded sunny terrace spying a table making a bee-line. I met the guy from New York next to me because I plopped down onto his hat. He’d put it on the empty chair next to him, which, in Paris, is a dangerous thing to do. Blame it on faulty frames. But I hadn’t chosen any yet. However, you could blame it on the dog who happened to be with me even though she’d been no help in the optic shops. She loves cafes. She equates them with unlimited crumbs, and probably unlimited other sundry pieces of food, but that’s not pleasant to think about.

Anyway, at that moment when I should have seen the hat, most likely I was reining in the dog or telling her to behave, which of course, is useless banter. Luckily, wool hats, unlike steel black frames, are not usually breakable, and the dog did smooth things over somewhat with her sly trick of looking up amid messy white fluff with big “Who me?” eyes.  

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The Royal Order of Marvelous McQueens.

Let’s face it, there’s probably nothing more comical than family dynamics, except maybe the divine right of kings… and these two things have a lot in common. First, both are rife with good material as Shakespeare, Woody Allen, and HBO well know. (The divine right of kings is a doctrine started by Europe’s medieval kings, essentially proclaiming that God had chosen them to rule so therefore they could do as they liked, were answerable to no one, expected total obedience, thus rebellion against them was both a crime and a sin.) In my role as a mother, I’ve tried this idea out when times have been tough. You know, Mother, crowned with authority over the kitchen, common room, and overlord of the laundry.

Through the years, I’ve scripted many laws onto parchment, like:

My dinner menu shall not be subject to criticism.

Disturbing the sleep of elder’s shall be regarded as a crime.

Let all know the dog shall be walked.

Woe to any who leave wet towels on bedroom floors for they shall incur wrath, or mold and mildew.

Value thyselves and thy rich interior life.  Or to put it another way – put down that device and do your homework!

Stuff like that. Of course, it never works. Our family dispositions are four people of naturally high drama. And our dog is no better. She is as highly tuned as the rest. Thus, I often envision myself as the Grand Poobah, (from the comic opera, The Mikado) an impressive title with limited influence, a lone conductor, waving the wand, trying to insure harmony.

This past week required special attentiveness. So, I made a pot of garlic-y kidney beans, and worked my magic. After all, I’m a Southerner, and we know how to tune in. Z headed into exam week, and all that entails in the British educational system, which is enough for any philosopher teenager to ponder on. Brain empowering kale smoothies and a new phone to txt her friends about the nastiness of tests. The youngest full of determination to paint her nails, to be in charge. We chat. As soon as she steps out the door from school, it’s always been that way, but now, more than ever, we peer closely, scrutinize and analyze relationships in our lives.  And of course throw in the essential sleepover, popcorn, and a movie with that. Nights communing in Paris ‘garrets’ with friends and colleagues, political parody shows, and emails with some comedic value or new way of doing things to Andrew because things in the world right now, well, could use a bitta’ that.

Family is a transitional work, made up of many parts, the needs, dreams of people mixing and colliding in one space, called home. I like to think of our Parisian family life as ‘performance art.’ While I zip off emails to schools, to committees, to clubs, to tour guides, I whisk the cornbread batter, fend off another argument about who drank all the Volvic juicy, bite my tongue while assuring Andrew I remembered to mail those packages to Texas. The dog is barking again at someone walking down the stairs though I’ve explained to her numerous times that other people live here too. She just doesn’t seem to want to believe it. We all sit down to dinner.

We’re now taking offers from Disney.

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