August 28, 2023

I'm on vacation with my family for several weeks.  

Please stay tuned.  I love my followers and I'm grateful for your support.  

More confessions will continue next month. 

                                                                                                                                                Photo: Amy Shamblem

Au revoir et à bientôt

August 1, 2023

learning French, French is difficult to learn, online French Youtube video classes


After taking French classes for ten years, I'm still not fluent.  

That bums me out.  Why is this taking so long?  I love studying French, but it's a bitch to learn.  

My journey of learning French began when I was in high school.  After two years, I knew the basic nouns, adjectives, and verbs and how to construct a sentence in the present and past tense.  I loved it!  But I had to give up French in order to fill my schedule with classes that were necessary for my career path.   

I had always wanted to get back to learning French.  So, some forty years later when my husband and I planned a trip to France, I realized the need and the desire to study French again.  Language classes were offered at the Carnegie Literary and Learning Center, just a twenty-minute drive from my house.  Before the class began, I bought the grammar book and dove into the first two chapters.  But it was overwhelming.  What little I had retained from high school didn't help.  What had I gotten myself into?  Learning French was going to impossible.  However, my husband encouraged me to try the first class.  And you know what?  It was fun! 

My teacher was born in France and she taught the language well, but at times she would put people on the spot and embarrass them.  Despite these tense uncomfortable moments, I stuck with the class.  Then after three years, Madame Monique moved away from Lexington and we had a new teacher, who had a completely different teaching style. Mademoiselle Erica is more informal and the class is more relaxed.  In the course of seven years, we've studied more verb tenses (imperfect, conditional, and subjunctive) and we are learning much more vocabulary.

After ten years of class, I can understand spoken French pretty well, as long as it's not slang or spoken too fast.  For the most part, I can read and understand the written word.  But speaking the language is another story.  French is hard.  There are so many rules and exceptions.  Sometimes you pronounce the last consonant at the end of a word and other times you don't.  The nasal sounds are tricky—I'm still trying to master them.  A lot of words are pronounced the same way so you have to understand the context of the sentence.  For instance, worm and glass (ver and verre) are both pronounced 'vair' which rhymes with fair.

Recently, I've been listening to two online sources that are help me speak and understand French better:  French Mornings with Elisa  and Comme une Française  Both Elisa and Geraldine present interesting topics that teach the nuances of the language and show how to speak more like a local.  C'est fantastique!

It's nice to have alternative ways to learn the language.  These options help me pick up French a bit faster.  That said, learning the language is still going to take time.  It's me who has to change my perspective and not freak out about learning it rapidement and tout de suite.  For me, it's natural to rush things and to feel accomplished.  Bien sûr, I need to chill and have fun.  I need to study a little French each day and embrace the joy that comes with learning the language I love.    

À la prochaine!  

July 1, 2023

Apathy and neighbors
                                                                                                                                             Image by Judith Peck


Nothing is harder than the softness of indifference. Juan Montalvo, Ecuadorian author

I'm beginning to accept the fact that many of my neighbors don't give a shit. 

Here's the reason why:  I am the secretary on the board of our neighborhood association.  So, when the president of our neighborhood and I sent out reminders to neighbors about our monthly meeting, only four people showed up.   

On top of that, elections are coming up and no one wants to serve as officers.  There are only three of us on the board:  the president, who is also the treasurer, the vice-president, and me.  We have been serving longer than the one-term we had agreed to fulfill.  But so few are interested in getting involved and filling our shoes. 

If it weren't for the members of board, membership dues wouldn't be collected, which help pay the electric, the water and the maintenance bills for the beautiful entrance islands of our neighborhood. Without funds, the colorful entrances that bloom from spring to fall would suffer and go downhill.  Not only that, the islands would be bare during the holidays because nobody would step up to decorate them.   

I guess our neighborhood mirrors what the world has become.  This me, me, me world where many only think of themselves.  

You might be wondering what the board has done to engage neighbors and I will tell you we've done quite a bit.  We've posted newsletters on Facebook, organized the yearly neighborhood yard sale, created attractive yard signs that neighbors can display when they pay their dues, improved landscaping, and decorated the islands to make them festive for the holidays.  

Yet each year, fewer and fewer pay dues to support the neighborhood association.  Most neighbors are perfectly fine with the few who pay the annual fee to keep the neighborhood looking good.  Last year about 100 neighbors out of a total of 400 paid their membership dues.  This year, eighty joined.  Twenty percent.  I'm not surprised, yet I'm disappointed.  If more people paid their dues and joined the neighborhood association, we could do more landscaping, have better holiday decorations, and even organize social events.  But only a handful care.  Apathy runs rampart.  And I haven't a clue for the cure.


C'est dommage  

June 1, 2023


I feel guilty taking Ozzie to the kennel. 

When my husband and I go away on vacations, we want to leave him with people we trust.  There are several options.  We could keep him at home and have a neighbor check in on him during the day and evening, but Ozzie is social and I'd think he'd be lonely.  Not only that, he could break something or hurt himself.  

A pet sitter lives in our neighborhood.  Though this option would be convenient, I don't know her well enough to have her watch over Ozzie.  And who knows how Ozzie would feel with a stranger in the house.  So, we always leave him at the kennel.

We like Keshlyn Kennel because: 

  • The cat rooms (or townhouses) are spacious and have windows to let in sunshine.  
  • The townhouses have a covered litter box, a cat condo, and toys. 
  • The kennel is less than five minutes away from our house.
  • The staff is friendly and willing to do everything I ask such as play with him, brush his coat, and feed him dry and wet cat food. 

Still, I worry about Ozzie while we're away.  Is he bored?  Is he nervous?  Does he miss us?  Is he sad?  Do the barking dogs bother him?  (I could go on and on with the questions.) 

I rest a little easier knowing Ozzie is familiar with the kennel.  He was less than a year old when we first kenneled him and by now, he knows the routine.  In fact, the employees tell me Ozzie heads straight for the cat condo and settles right in.    

On the day of our flight, I bring out the pet carrier.  Ozzie spies it and trots away dragging his belly low to the ground, trying to make himself look small, hoping I won't see him.  Sometimes, he'll hide under a bed.  Poor baby, he knows what's coming.  He knows he's going to leave home.  I catch him and nudge him inside the carrier.  No crying or squirming, he calms down immediately.  

Once he's settled, I grab his tote bag that contains heaping helpings of kibbles and lots of cans of wet cat food (in a variety of flavors, of course).   The bags also has his toys, his brush, and a blanket.  He will have all the comforts of home.

I think about Ozzie all of the time while we're away, never knowing how he truly feels.  But the owners of the kennel tell he does just fine.  So, Ozzie might actually enjoy this little get away, this home away from home, this a little cat vacation.  He may not be miserable at all.  He could be having the time of his life.  He might even be hoping to stay a bit longer.  It's me who has to get over bringing him to the kennel.  I'm the one who has to stop worrying.  It won't be easy, but I have to get over feeling guilty about leaving my sweet pet behind.   

À la prochaine! 

May 1, 2023

loss of friendship, mourning
                                                                                                                                                                                                                Photo: Ian Taylor


I didn't know how to express my sympathy for an estranged friend.  

Debbie and I had worked together in the clinical chemistry lab at the University of Kentucky.  We had been good friends for fifteen years.  But on the afternoon I invited her over for coffee and dessert to tell her I was pregnant, she was more shocked than happy for me.  Maybe she felt a child was going to interfere with our friendship, that she'd have to compete.  Maybe she was jealous.  Who knows?  She left my house with the saddest look on her face.  And though she was civil to me at work, she became icy from that day forward.   

Four years later, I retired from the lab but I still stayed in touch with the lab crew.  We'd celebrate retirements, the holidays, and special occasions.  One winter, a lab manager invited everyone to her farm for a little get together.  I reached out to Debbie, trying to patch up our shaky friendship.  I offered to drive us to Mary's party.  But that day, the weather turned snowy and the thought of traveling 25 miles away on rural roads in southern Kentucky made me nervous.  

I remember that day vividly, checking the weather constantly, anxiously trying to make the right decision whether to go or not.  Driving out into the country in the snow was something I didn't feel comfortable doing.  I called Debbie to tell her it wouldn't be safe or smart to drive given the road conditions.   

But Debbie got angry at me for backing out.  She felt obligated to go because she worked in the lab and didn't want to disappoint the manager.  She felt it would reflect badly if she didn't attend.  I felt sure Mary would understand.  But Debbie didn't.  She was furious at me.  

My husband told me to move on.  Let the relationship go.  Ever since I had known Debbie, she had the habit of constantly being pessimistic.  Her negativity would bring me down at work.  In a way, it was really for the best.  To be blunt, Debbie was toxic and I was better off without her.

Fast forward thirty years.  I still stay in touch with my lab friends.  That's how I found out about Debbie's illness.  She had been diagnosed with ALS, a slow-lingering disease.  We wanted to show our support for her and chipped in to help pay some of her hospital bills.  But no one expected that she would pass away within eight weeks.  She had only retired a month earlier.  

I struggled with going to the visitation.  My husband said it might help me with closure.  Not that I really needed that.  I had long accepted our broken relationship.   

But it didn't take me long to make up my mind.  I felt going to the funeral home was the right thing to do.  To go say kind words to her family.  To point out Debbie's positive attributes, to recall her talents.  And I was able to do that for her mother and sister.  They clung onto my words and clasped my hands, wanting to hear stories about Debbie, wanting to hear good things about her.  

Afterward, I stepped into a separate room where she was laid out.  Her silver hair was perfectly coiffed.  She was dressed in a gorgeous white gown.  The casket was strewn with red roses.  But I felt nothing.  No sadness.  Just numb.  It was hard to grieve for a person who felt you weren't good enough to be a friend. 

Twenty years ago, I ran into Debbie at a shopping center.  Meeting her out of the blue startled me and made me feel uncomfortable, but I invited her to call me so we could go out for coffee and catch up.  She never did.  And now she's gone forever.  

I was told by a friend that I was brave to go to the visitation.  Maybe so.  Debbie and I had parted ways so long ago and we weren't close anymore.  Our friendship was beyond repair.  But that didn't matter. Paying respect and saying good bye felt like the right thing to do.  


Rest in peace, D. 

April 1, 2023


regrets, hindsight, insight
                                                                                                                                          Photo: Gabrielle Henderson 


I don't always make good decisions.  And as a result, I end up having regret.  

To illustrate, last month I entered one of my manuscripts in a pitch party.  Minutes after submitting it, I knew I screwed up.  The text could have been stronger and it did not reflect my best work.  

I sulked over the manuscript for days because this submission opportunity only happens once a year.  Talk about feeling down.  And stupid.  A chance to have a select group of picture book agents request my work—gone.

When I looked back at this misfortunate circumstance, it became apparent to me that a lingering migraine had altered my reasoning.  Being foggy-brained is an effect of having a migraine.  But since I was pain-free, I hadn't realized that making good decisions was impaired.  If I had been thinking clearly, there would have been no way I would've submitted this version.  My migraine brain deceived me into thinking the manuscript was in good shape.  And I made a bad choice. 

Now, it's water under the bridge (or the toothpaste is outta of the tube, as my husband would say) and now I know (most likely) that a silent migraine served me a heaping helping of regret.    

Feeling miserable, I turned to the internet to find articles on remorse and regret.  I found a helpful post written by Gila Gam titled Reframing Regret: from Hindsight to Insight 

Since I can't do this piece justice by rephrasing, I quote Gila: 

"Beating yourself up about the things that went wrong, doesn’t help things go right. Don’t regret anything that has taught you valuable and worthwhile lessons. Replace regret with reflect. To reflect is to try and understand what your regrets are trying to tell you. It means looking for insights in order to draw lessons from the experience. The goal of reflection is to move away from regret to make better decisions and take action toward better future outcomes. 

"Remember: life is meant for exploring and experimentation. You are likely to fail many times, but    
“nothing ventured, nothing gained.” When you accept that risks must be taken and setbacks must be   
experienced in order to achieve anything meaningful, then you recognize the futility of regret because there’s a valuable lesson in everything you do. Your life’s lessons allow you to grow. The biggest risk is not to take any risks, and the greatest regret is an unfulfilled life, or a life not lived fully. 

"As you reflect upon your wins and losses, accept the whole package and seek the lessons to apply in the future. Take intentional action to keep doing the things that really matter to you. Be open to change and new opportunities along the self-actualization journey. And most importantly, once you reach success, don’t linger in the comfort zone for too long. Celebrate your accomplishments but beware of resting on your laurels. Move on to something new and continue to be relevant and have impact.

"Life is made up of a series of changes, choices, and consequences. The choices you make today will make sense in retrospect with time and reflection. The road is windy and slippery. Embrace the wobble. Keep walking and trust you will figure out your own way. So, turn the insights into foresight."

Turn insights into foresight.  That's perfect, isn't it? 

For me, that would mean paying closer attention to the effects of a migraine:  recognizing mental clarity can be lacking after an attack and then refraining from making important decisions until the headache symptoms have subsided.  But even if I'm aware, there are other ways to f*ck-up a submission: typos in a manuscript, misunderstanding the submission guidelines, or misspelling an agent's name.  So, to lessen regret, I try to turn the negative feelings into positive feelings by visualizing mistakes as stepping stones that will lead me closer to my goals. 

This wonderful submission opportunity seemed to be the chance of a lifetime and it hurts that I messed up.  But there's always next year.  Until then, I will keep going.  I will remember this situation for a long time, but without regret.  It happened for many reasons:  To learn and to improve.  To understand my limitations.  To revel in my tenacity.  I will keep moving forward along those stepping stones.  And if things backfire or don't go as smoothly as hoped, I will reflect.  I forge on to make things better next time.

À la prochaine!  

February 27, 2023

stray cats, loving cats, caring for cats


I love a sweet stray named Putty.

He's at least ten-years-old.  Putty first appeared on our deck in 2013, when we had Ollie, our first cat.  Putty has outlived Ollie. 

And he still comes around.  Who knows why?  Maybe he likes the kibbles I feed him.  Or the warm yurt he can enjoy in cold weather.  Could it be he feels the love at the Mrvos residence? 

When I first met Putty, he was leery of me.  He'd only approach the food dish after I had closed the door.  But in time, he became more trusting.  Now, he'll come when I call his name.  He'll let me rub his coat, pat his head, and smooth his tail.  

It's surprising he's in rather good health.  He navigates the steps to our deck with ease and he can leap up to the railing to lap water from the bird bath (which I keep exceptionally clean). Occasionally, he'll have a nick or a scrape that heals on its own.  One time however, he had a bloody abscess that required urgent attention.  Luckily for Putty, I was able to find a veterinarian who came to our house to treat him. 

My sweet stray shows few signs of slowing down.  Just more gray hair in the black spots of his coat.

Sometimes, Putty will disappear for days and I'll worry if he had gotten into a fight, if a coyote had found him, or if he had been mistreated cruelly by someone.   

A few years ago, an aggressive stray had roamed into our yard and the two of them got into a fight.  Afterwards, Putty stayed away for nearly six months.  With the intention of luring Putty back to our house, I trapped the tomcat, had him neutered, and returned him to our neighborhood further down the street.  Putty must have sensed our place felt safer and he eventually came back to our house.       

Most of the time, Putty stays close by, either on our deck where it's sunny or on the patio for the shade.  But being a stray, he likes to roam and now that he's older, I fear he will never come back.  

Because he disappears from time to time, I try not to take him for granted—no matter how often he parks himself on the deck, presses his face against the door, and begs for food.  Just like my cats Lizzie and Ozzie, Putty will not go hungry.  

There is something calming about Putty's presence.  He brings me joy even though at times, Putty can be a rascal.  He's been known to be a menace to neighbor's cats.  He'll claim front porches or driveways as his own.  I try to remind others, he's one of God's creatures, so be nice to him.  He has lived his entire life outside facing other strays, dogs, possums, raccoons and coyotes, and all kinds of weather.  He deserves to be treated well.  He deserves kindness.  My sweet stray Putty deserves an abundance of love.    

À la prochaine!