Friday, June 17, 2016

My immigrant Story in The Guardian (and a Celebration)

As time permits I read about the news on the web and from a variety of newspapers as those shown in the collage above.  I don't read them daily but as often as I can.  In April and May I read stories on The Guardian in the Opinion section.  They were pieces written by immigrants to the US.  Below are some stories taken from my computer screen.

Then I noticed this caption: "Tell us how you got here ... We want to hear from the broadest possible range of people.  Young or old, from near or far ..." you can read the rest in my picture of my computer screen below.  Click on pictures to enlarge.

The immigrant stories on the newspaper were from people who had had a difficult life in their home country, such as the story of May 31, 2016, of a young man living in a refugee camp of 30,000.  Many of the immigrants to the US did not speak English well, such as Rossana Perez, story of April 5, 2016, who immigrated to the US from El Salvador when her husband was kidnapped.  Most people in the US now believe that immigrants are coming from third world countries only, are uneducated and a drain to the country.  At the end of May I decided to send my 200-word story to the Guardian to show that I came as an immigrant from an industrialized country - Paris is certain cosmopolitan.  It was not an escape, it was a choice.  I also spoke fluent English; please see my post "A New Year Party to Remember" about a party in London where I also mention my trips to England. Since a teenager, I had taken the ferry from Dieppe, France to Newhaven, England, almost a dozen times.  Below are old postcards of Dieppe harbor station.

The Opinion Editor replied that she was interested in my story and to send her a 600-800 words piece with some pictures, by the following Friday.  I wrote the story and sent her several pictures, which I'll show below.  I sent some from the time when I arrived in the US when I was young - my senior face is not as fetching!  I did not have a digital camera then and it was not easy finding old photos.  The caption under my photo on the newspaper story reads "I still remember when my hometown was liberated and Mother and I walked on the Champs-Elysees."  I was just a kid then and I did not think a picture of me as a child was appropriate for my immigrant story.  Photo below was taken around Christmas in San Francisco with my pet cockatiel Diego.

For several days I looked for my story in the Guardian but did not see it.  I thought that the newspaper must receive a tremendous amount of stories - what were the odds that mine would be published?  The Guardian is an English newspaper founded in 1821.  It has become one of the most visited news site in the world.  So I was quite surprised last Tuesday, June 14, 2016, to see my picture and story in the newspaper.  Below is a photo around another Christmas but with my pet parakeet Dimitri.

My piece had been slightly edited.  While reading some of the comments to my story I realized that the newspaper had used, in the heading, a sentence that was not in the printed story, but in my email to the newspaper.  When I sent my email containing my essay I told the Editor that I did not know if it would be of interest to readers since I had not been a destitute immigrant, uneducated and terrorized in Paris.  Even though I think it is wonderful that the US accepts immigrants (well, not that many anymore from Muslim countries) not all immigrants are refugees fleeing torture and certain death in their country.  I wrote that I did have a glamorous job in Paris, an apartment, a car and that, actually coming to the US had hurt me financially since I had a higher salary at my job in Paris than in San Francisco.  It did not matter to me because I had not come "for a better life" or in pursuit of the mighty dollar.  I had come to travel, for adventure.  Financial gain had not been my purpose.  This statement was not in my story so the heading sentence was confusing to readers.  I wish instead they had used "I came for travel and adventure."  But maybe happy stories are not as interesting to readers.  Below are two more photos I sent, taken in San Francisco around 1967 or 68, one with a little neighbor.

 Growing up in Paris, our apartment building was in a "Cité " made up of apartment buildings around a closed courtyard.  On the right side of the courtyard was the Metro Goldwyn Meyer studio in France (MGM-Paris.)  There, they showed films to distributors, repaired them, dubbed them, etc.  My little friends and I would play in the yard listening to the (loud) sound of westerns, horses, etc., coming from the always open studio window.  The boys in our group were the cowboys and my girl friend and I were the Indian maidens.  I got to really dislike cowboys (our boy playmates were rough) and decided that when I grew up I would go to the Indian country.  I came to the US to visit the country, learn the culture, visit Native American areas and listen to jazz, live.  I had a large collection of Blue Note jazz vinyl albums.  My favorite jazz artist was Thelonious Monk.  Money was never in the equation as I said above.  Below is the courtyard in Paris where I played as a child (located near the Sacre-Coeur of Montmartre.)

While traveling across the west I was very excited to visit the Blackfeet Nation in Browning, Montana.  I was a bit sad that most of the reservations I visited did not look very prosperous.  Still now it is a treat for me to visit the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians at their Reservation near the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina.  I wrote several posts about it, such as Cherokee Indian Market and Festival of Native People.  By now I have visited 48 US states (not Delaware and New Hampshire) as well as the US territory of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean region (as well as Mexico and Canada.)

Here is the link to my immigrant story on The Guardian:
I hope you will read it.

Having my immigrant story published this week was like a gift, in a way, since our 49th wedding anniversary is today, Friday June 17.  My dear readers may recall that I published a post in 2012 on our 1967 wedding in San Francisco and I included some wedding photos - click here to see the post again.  I wish that next year, in June 2017, we may be able to travel to San Francisco for our 50th wedding anniversary, but with my husband's illness, it is uncertain.  Today, to celebrate, we had lunch at a small Colombian restaurant called Kiosco.  First, we were served a garbanzo salad then my husband had Bandeja Paisa/Grilled Steak, Chorizo, Pork Grinds, Maduros, Avocado, Rice and Beans w/an egg ($15) and I had Cerdo en Salsa de Pimienta/12 oz Pork Loin Smothered in Black Pepper Gravy with Rice and Beans ($10.50.)  The food was good with generous portions.  For dessert my husband had the Tres Leches Cake, and I had the Coffee Flan ($5.50 ea.)  The restaurant is located near the Square in Marietta, next to the historic 1860 Murray House.

Before we left for lunch it had been quite warm - 93 F or almost 34 C.  But then a severe thunderstorm passed by and it cooled the temperature to 75 F or 23 C.  We sat on our back porch for a while.  Trees have grown so much in our backyard that it has become a green oasis.  We cannot see anyone around our house.  These is some color though because we placed our house plants outside about a month or so ago and they have come alive with new growth and flowers.  Even our Christmas cactus is blooming.

Looking up I realized that we had a mimosa tree now.  I had never noticed it among all the pines.  In France, a mimosa is a small shrub with bright yellow flowers with a delicious fragrance.  The Latin name is Acacia Delbata.  It was introduced in France in 1867 from Australia and now the shrub is growing wild in the French Riviera region.

The mimosa flower is so popular in France that several Provencal towns celebrate it yearly in spring with festivals and parades.  A medieval village is even called "Bornes les Mimosas."  It is one of the most florally decorated towns of France with its streets lined with flowers.

My mimosa tree is not the same; it is an Alizia julibrissin in Latin, also called a Persian Silk Tree.  The flowers look like they are made of pink silky threads above a white or yellow base.  I believe it is growing wild in the South and is invasive; there are many of these trees along our road.  We did not plant this mimosa tree, it just came up.  As I was looking up at the tree I saw a little butterfly hoping from flower to flower.

Before lunch my husband went to read in the front yard which is the only area with a little sun.  He planted herbs and flowers there in several pots.  There are some wild periwinkles among the weeds, too.

As I was taking his picture I could see something bright yellow in the distance.  It was a sunflower plant growing on the hill that had been clear cut of trees last January by the Water Commission (for an upcoming water main.) 

The sunflower plant had grown well out of the wood chips left from the cut trees.  It looked pretty and happy.  So I'll end this post with this happy flower.  After a week of hate, terror and grief in Orlando, Florida and in Britain, it may give us hope that some kindness and love may still grow around us just like this little plant did out of a bleak hill.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Bulloch Hall 34th Quilt Show ... and more, part II

My post on the first part of this quilt show was published on March 18, 2016 - click here to see it.  This is the continuation of it.  Before stepping up to the attic we stopped in the Sewing Room and saw the quilts below.  Quilt 112 by Christie Fouts is called "Lucy with the Sky with Diamonds."  It was a challenge quilt - a piece based on a song.  Quilt 115 by Marie Huston is called "Bubblegum Iris" and is based on her garden where her variety of iris smells like bubblegum.  Quilt 118 by Nancy French is called "Mountain Meadow Lily" because the blues and greens remind her of the colors of the Great Smoky Mountain Park.  Click on collages to enlarge.

As my husband was reading about the quilts I walked slowly by each quilt and took their pictures.

Quilt 137, standing behind the bed, was made by Linda Wirtz as a gift to her daughter-in-law who went to the University of Alabama.  The quilt used the anchor, symbol of her Delta Gamma Sorority and is entitled "Anchor Aweigh" to the Future!"  (pictured in center of collage.)

I took some close-ups too.

Some Halloween quilts were displayed in the Civil War Room.

Below is a model of C.S.S. Alabama, displayed in that room, and an information panel.

Back downstairs we entered the Master Bedroom.  On the bed was quilt 15 displayed by Nancy Summa who says "I inherited this quilt in 2015.  It was made in 1884 by my great, great, great grandmother, Anna Maria Woodruff.  Entirely hand pieced and hand quilted by Anna Maria."  On the wall, above the fireplace, was quilt 17 "Clementine's Star" by Lynn Rinehart - it is shown at the top of this post.

In the Library was quilt 7 called "Red of the Month" by Jan Antranikian.  The pink quilt next to the piano is "New York Beauty" by Nancy Summa.  Quilt no. 8 in black and orange, above the fireplace, is called "Optical Illusion" by Meg Latimer.  A guilt member was sitting in front of the quilt to be raffled away (I bought several tickets but did not win it.)  On the sofa was quilt no. 12 "The Road Home" by Joan Lindley who completed this almost finished quilt because ... "Miss Edith, my sister-in-law's mother, was not able to complete this before her death at age 96."

We sat a bit on the front porch on two inviting rocking chairs.

It had been a sunny and warm March day.  It was hard to leave such a beautiful historic home - we walked on the grounds then had to drive back home.  On the way we passed by "Mimosa Hall" where I had been to an estate sale in the fall of 2014 - read about it here.  Now there was a pretty tree with pink buds in front of the house.

Looking at the pictures I took lately - they are mostly of our two cats, Cody and Mitsouko.  There were cats in some of the quilts we saw - here are three of them, then I'll show some of my cat pictures.

News from the home front - our move to Nashville is not moving fast - almost at a standstill (will be lucky to move by the end of 2016.)  My dear readers know that my husband has Alzheimer - he is in the middle stage I think.  He has no short term  memory at all so he cannot help me much.  For example if he looks at the table at a cup of coffee then at the window - he already forgot about the coffee.  It is not that he does not remember, it is just that there is no memory impression left anywhere on his brain.  He loves to pet our cats, and to look at nature outdoors.  Mitsouko was stopped in the den playing with something.  I looked down and it was a tiny snake.  I took it outside, placed it in a planter and it disappeared - still alive, fortunately.

The disease has taken all my husband's initiative so he gets bored and likes to get out on little trips.  A trip to the grocery store takes a couple of hours as he stops often (and I lose him.)  He was shy but now has lost his inhibitions and likes to talk to strangers - it can be embarrassing for me.  Constant care giving is not easy and very stressful - by the time I could work on clearing out our accumulations, I am physically and emotionally exhausted.  I do everything I know to slow down the disease - cook a good Mediterranean cuisine - which takes time, and give him Coconut Oil, walnuts, blueberries, anchovies, etc.  There is little to slow the disease and no cure.  Big Pharma spends $$ trying to sell drugs like Prevagen (that our neurologist says is useless and has many side effects) but they are ineffective and the risks are great.  Mitsouko, our grey Korat, does not forget to harass Cody ...

My husband was diagnosed in 2009 but I did not talk about it on my posts (and my husband was reading my posts then and correcting my grammar.)  Friends told me that I should mention it as it is a condition that should not be hushed up.  We all need to do more to raise awareness on this terrible disease and support increased research.  I am one of 15 million unpaid Alzheimer caregivers in the US - one in three seniors die with Alzheimer or other dementia, and in the US every 66 seconds someone develops the disease.  I talked to my husband yesterday to see how his memory is holding.  I asked him his name - he knew it was Jim, but could not remember his last name.  He does not know the day, month, year and even my name, and cannot count or tell time anymore.  I asked him in which state do we live? No clue - Texas, maybe he said - no, I replied.  So I said "does Georgia rings a bell?"  he looked around and said "ring, ring!"  I asked him what he was doing - he replied he was trying to find the bell but the bell was not there with answers.  He has not lost his sense of humor, yet.  So we laughed.  I told him he sure needed a bell or something.  We laughed some more --- we laughed - what else could we do?

At least we have sun in Georgia most of the time, and beautiful days.  It would be harder somewhere where the sky is grey.  It reminds me of an old French song by Charles Aznavour called "Emmenez-moi" which means take me away.  It is about someone living in the north and wanting to be taken away to a wonderland, where unhappiness would be easier to bear under the sun.  I found it with the lyrics on youtube.  I hope I can paste it - for me it takes a while to start.  The refrain melody says:

Emmenez-moi au bout de la terre
Emmenez-moi au pays des merveilles
Il me semble que la misère
Serait moins pénible au soleil

which translates into:
Take me to the end of the earth
Take me to a wonderland
It seems to me that misery
Would be less painful in the sun


This week we bought several plants - annuals and herbs.  It took him two days, under supervision, but he planted them all.  He even noticed a little frog that had decided to hop into a Coleus plant, named "Spiced Curry." 

Also, moving some boxes in the garage I found a very old oil painting that I had done in the mid to late 1960s.  It was supposed to be a self-portrait but I did not like the portion around my mouth and chin and thought I had thrown it away (as so many of my paintings) but there it was.  I took it to the kitchen to snap it for y'all.

Memorial Day is here - take a pause to remember.  Summer will follow now.  I hope everyone will have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Birds, puppies and houses

To get us started on our move to Tennessee our daughter and son-in-law rented a truck and came for several days to pick up some of our furniture for our Nashville house.  It is just a dent - maybe 5% of our things, but a start just the same.

It will take several months to go through all our accumulation of 40 years for the move and it will keep me busy.  I still took time to take pictures in our backyard.  We moved our house plants outdoor as the weather was mild.  On the leaf of one of the plants was a tiny frog - I had never seen its kind before - it was the size of a coin.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Our first tea rose for the season was very pretty.  In the 1970s I planted an heirloom pink climbing rose bush - I forget its name now.  It has survived neglect all these years and gives us a profusion of blooms with many petals.  It climbs high and I can see it, eye level, from the second floor window.

A family of yellow finches adopted our bird feeders.  Their bright colors would be a splash of sunshine under any weather.  I took their pictures through our kitchen window that has a screen so the pictures are not as clear as they could be.

Other birds would come to the feeders, but the little yellow finches did not like that.  They would fly around them or sit on a branch and impatiently wait, and then come back and resume their feeding.

My husband will miss this backyard that attracts so many different birds.  Our Nashville house has a small yard with hardly any bushes and trees.  Here we see such a variety of birds - many I cannot photograph as they fly away so quickly.

One bird was unknown to me - it had the body of a sparrow but the striped head of a finch.  Anyone knows what it was?

I had some old pecan nuts that I threw under the bird feeders.  A little squirrel kept running back and forth with the nuts and took all of them away.

The chipmunk's head was hard to see among the red rocks.  He is well camouflaged in the top photo.

Last week we drove to Tennessee to stay with our daughter and family.  We did see a robin by their house.  But I was in the car and too far - it flew away as I came closer.

Our daughter and family live in Brentwood, Tennessee.  It is a suburban town south of Nashville (only 13 miles from our future house downtown.)  They chose this location as they worked in towns in opposite directions and Brentwood was in the center of their commute.  They live in a nice house, not a maxed-out fortress like those now being built in the area.  Brentwood is in Williamson County which also includes the cities of Franklin, Fairview and Spring Hill. The area is pretty with rolling hills and farms.  The Harpeth River runs through it.  Native Americans were the first residents of Brentwood.  European-American white settlers came next in the 1700s, dislodging the Native Americans.  After the Civil War small farms growing tobacco and other crops were cultivating the land.  Brentwood was incorporated as a city in 1969.

Brentwood is not a "city" per se - it has no real downtown or the usual Southern "town square" with a historic courthouse.  It is made up of subdivisions, churches, schools, grocery stores, restaurants and banks - no sidewalks - you have to drive everywhere.  It used to be mostly spacious farms, fenced-in pasture lands - but the land is being sold to wealthy residents and promoters who build oversized houses.  In 2006 Williamson County was the 11th wealthiest county in the country (and still is in the top 20,) maybe because famous country singers live in and around Brentwood, such as Dolly Parton, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Garth Brooks, Keisha, Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood, etc., as well as well-known athletes and other celebrities.  I also read the 90% of the new residents of Brentwood and adjacent localities are not from Tennessee.  Driving around the county we can still see how pastoral and peaceful it must have all been.

Driving about 4 miles away to the grocery store, we pass some pretty landscape with trees, an historic house and barn, but suddenly come upon a huge McMansion in the middle of a field - it is startling.

As you drive down the county roads you still see some lovely farms with horses running free.  But, maybe next door to an old house there will stand a gaudy, incongruous and artificial French-Normandy castle meets British cottage mega house.  Then there will be an empty lot for sale followed by another McMansion of a totally different style - an oversized brick a gogo pretentious abode.  It has an Italian look, but with big Southern columns and weird windows on the roof looking like antlers.  Next might be a 1960 era ranch.  What a series of discordant architectural styles.

Imitation castles next to old country homes - interesting neighborhood ... The European inspired fake castle (on the second row right in collage below) which includes disparate ornaments, was built in 2008 and has 6 full and 3 half bathrooms, a 7-car garage but only 4 bedrooms.  It is listed at $6 millions.  I checked and found that after several fields, they are surrounded by a barn looking building as their neighbors to the right and an ancient mobile home for the neighbors to the left (2 bottom pictures below.) ... The house certainly clashes with the local ambiance.

I researched the web to see if there is a Land Planning Commission in Brentwood and Williamson County.  There is, but I could not find in their zoning regulations anything on architectural integrity, or community harmony.  I did see that a developer had offered to build affordable housing but had been voted down.  You won't find apartment complexes, housing projects, modest neighborhoods here.  The aim is to let high-end grandiose suburban homes take the place of old farms.  The down-home Southern charm won't survive.  This is a shame because there used to be historic large houses in the area, and they blended in the scenery (see the first 3 historic homes below.)  Now it is just a pastiche of style, to celebrate "money" with ego boasting Hummer type houses adorned with huge windows (that don't match the building size,) a tower or two, and a mishmash of styles.  The sense of place and the character of the valley are gone - left are these over-designed, ostentatious and disproportionate houses competing for massiveness (and sprawl is ignored.)

There are many of these multi-million supersized bloated mastodons on the market.  They are not "green," consume enormous amount of energy, and are car dependent (there is no public transportation anywhere that I could find,) cheaply built and encouraged by land developers and local municipalities.  Their garish designs are not in harmony with their surroundings - you don't get a sense of "community" with them  - no harmonious symmetry.  These starter castles on the lush Williamson County farmland dwarf their neighbors' older homes - what is happening to the culture of architecture in America?  Maybe these ridiculously sized, socially irresponsible homes don't use architects, just developers and a plan book.  On the other hand I read that "millennials" (77 million young people aged 18-36) prefer to live in small houses in cities and in the mixed-used communities of urban centers.  They reject living isolated in sterile sprawling mega houses in the middle of a field - so what will happen to the McMansion monstrosities in the future?

You may think that I am a bit hard on this, but I come from Europe where there are stringent national land-use laws.  Urban planning laws are also tougher - my mother, who wanted to add a room and rear entrance to her house, had to wait one year for a building permit - it had to "fit" with the neighborhood, be historically done, even though you could not see the room from the front of the house.  Most old cities in Europe would not have their unique characters if some of their wealthy citizens, like here, had decided to build a mega house in their town, without any regard to their neighbors and environment.  There are many wealthy people in Europe.  Just imagine, just for fun, if one of these Williamson County huge single family houses were built into one of the European cities below - what would they look like in these cities?  In the left columns are: Cinque Terre, Italy - Colmar, France and Dinant, Belgium.  These cities do have their proper style of architecture but here, in Williamson County alone, an assortment of styles have been randomly copied from a motley collection of European mansions.

There is an interesting article on McMansions by columnist Thomas Frank - read it here (Let them eat McMansions: the 1 percent income inequality and new fashioned American excess.)  He says: "The suburban ideal of the 1950s, according to "The Organization Man," was supposed to be "classlessness," but the opposite ideal is the brick-to-the-head message of the dominant suburban form of today.  The McMansion exists to separate and then celebrate the people who are wealthier than everybody else; this is the transcendent theme on which its crazy, discordant architectural features come harmonically together.  This form of development wants nothing to do with the superficial community-mindedness of the postwar suburb, and the reason the giant house looks the way it does is to inform you of this.  Have the security guard slam the gates, please, and the rest of the world be damned."  I am pleased that we will be living downtown Nashville, in an historic district.  It is a Neighborhood Conservation Zoning Overlay district where you just can't build, add or demolish a house at will.  Many houses are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Below are some more areas of Williamson County that have not been built over, yet.

Our daughter read on the web that a local animal rescue shelter needed some help.  They had just found 8 puppies abandoned in a box and were asking for volunteers to keep some of them for a while.  Four of these puppies were in the house when we arrived.  My husband and almost 3-years old granddaughter favored the little white puppy, but it became sick and had to be returned for several days.

The other three puppies were energetic and lively.

The puppies were so cute; I could not stop taking their pictures.

One of the puppies watched my husband pushing his grandson on the swing.  But then they all fell asleep.

Luckily the puppies did not go to the front yard or they would have seen a big, wild rabbit.  He was fat and did not run away when I came closer to take its picture.

We drove back to Georgia, to our cats - without a fuzzy puppy, unfortunately, or ... fortunately?  :-)

There are many photos in this long post, but since I only can post once a month or so, there is plenty of time to read and look at them.  I also had some fun with watercolor and paint.

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