November 1, 2023

seek first to understand, walk a mile in someone else's shoes
                                                                                                                                        Photo by Anastasia Vityukova


Before I judge or make a comment, I try to walk a mile in someone else's shoes.  

This is something I learned many years ago after reading Dr. Stephen R. Covey's book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Stephen Covey encourages us to seek first to understand, then to be understood.  In other words, listen to people's ideas and feelings. 

But many folks are not good at this.  They make rash decisions without looking at a situation from a different point of view.  They may never consider what a person might be going through or why they act a certain way.  There are reasons why people behave the way they do. 

Here's a good example.  

I was present at a neighborhood board association meeting where a neighbor asked if he could replace dead plants at one of the island entrances and be paid for the work.  The president thought it was a good idea, but he had forgotten that the board of directors had a contract in place with a landscaping company that oversaw caring for the islands.  Somehow, that had slipped his mind.  

When I read a copy of the minutes a couple days later and I noticed the neighbor had been given the green light to start working on the island, I phoned the president to remind him of the landscaping contract.  At that point, he realized he had made a mistake by offering the neighbor the job.  He quickly sent an email to the board and neighbors to set the record straight and apologized for the misunderstanding.  The neighbor would need to send a quote so his services could be considered for next year.   

I am hoping the neighbor had no hard feelings.  But our secretary had a fit and quit.  The way I understand it was, she thought the president had gone back on his word.  

I will not judge her for quitting.  One of her relatives was facing a health issue.  Being secretary may have been too stressful for her now.  But it seemed to me that she never tried to understand why someone would say something and then take it back.  

She may have thought the president was being disrespectful when in fact, he is one of the most warm-hearted people in our neighborhood.  What she never considered was walking a mile in his shoes.  It has become apparent to me and some neighbors that our president has trouble remembering things and keeping things straight.  Because he hides it well (or perhaps he doesn't even know himself) she never assumed he had any problems.  

In this world where the majority is focused on themselves, it's time to be more giving.  To be more forgiving.  People may be feeling physically bad at the moment or struggling with underlying health issues.  They may be facing difficult times.  So, think before speaking.  Think before acting.  Seek to understand.  There are reasons why people behave the way they do.  

À la prochaine!  

September 23, 2023

brunch at a chateau in France, rude host, dealing with inconsiderate people
This is what I imagine brunch must have looked like at the chateau


I try everything in my power to avoid inconsiderate people. 

But when inconsiderate people are family members, avoidance can be nearly impossible.

The word inconsiderate is defined as not caring about other people or their feelings and/or being selfish, disrespectful, and rude. Unfortunately and frankly, the word applied to a close relative and I heard it repeated often when our family attended a destination wedding in France.  

Let me elaborate.  My husband and I flew to southern France last month to attend a relative's wedding.  Like the other wedding guests, we stayed at a hotel in Avignon.  The groom and bride thoughtfully arranged for a bus to take guests from the hotel to the chateau out the country.  However, no transportation had been provided for those wanting to come to the brunch, which was to be hosted by a sibling the day after the wedding.  We were told "you are on your own."  

Now I ask you, think about our costs: airplane tickets, a hotel room for three nights, meals, and clothes to attend the affair.  The relative had a car, but she suggested that we make other arrangements:  rent a car or shell out money for a taxi or an Uber to take us to the brunch—which we found out was impossible.  Our hotel was so far from the chateau that a taxi wouldn't have had a return fare and we could not find an Uber driver who would take us. 

My husband and I made the tough decision not to attend the brunch.  We didn't complain about missing out.  We would do more sight-seeing.  But sadly, we felt like our presence didn't matter.  Even my brother decided to forego the brunch because getting there was too difficult. 

So, you might ask, now what?  How do I move forward?  This incident (and there have been so many other incidents even before this one) finally tipped the scale.  I have reached a breaking point.  I had wished that getting to the brunch could have been handled with more compassion and helpfulness.  But given the outcome, a family relationship is now strained.  

You might be wondering why I didn't have an honest conversation about my feelings, but frankly, I'd only get an argument.    

Everybody makes mistakes and deserves to be forgiven.  That may come with time.  But for now, I will have to limit contact.  Actions spoke louder than words.  Bien sûr—for sure, the actions in France spoke volumes.  

À la prochaine!  

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.