Bon anniversaire

I’ve had a busy week. That being said, day before yesterday marked my Blog’s fifth birthday. When I launched it on May 5, 2009, I didn’t know what to expect. To say that I’ve been surprised is an understatement. The creative community of classes that I’ve taught and individuals that I’ve connected with that have embraced my writing style has shown me that you can tell a whole story, make people laugh and even leave people speechless— in a few hundred words or less.ParisSpringtime

Throughout the year, I’ve connected with others and shared spontaneous moments, jokes, meaningful events and, really, my life. To celebrate, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable posts— those that received a lot of activity (through comments and likes) and those that caught fire as my greatest hits went around the globe.

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I started my Blog because I wanted to write for travel magazines, then it turned into sharing my travels and the people I met along the way, later, it became a way to inspire people to create and write their own stories, from a source we always have within us: our memories. Since then, you’ve shown me time and again that communication can bring us together in new and profound ways. You inspire me every day. Thank you for making my five years with you so special. 5thBD

She’s Got It

I’m looking at the last several blog posts and they’re loaded with book reviews. Last fall when I signed up for Goodreads I promised myself that in 2013 I’d read 20 books. I’m currently on my 20th. I could have posted about the places I went or the things I did but instead I concentrated on meeting my goal.

Other than writing, working and reading books, I’ve decided that one of my goals for 2014 will be to learn or re-learn French. Why? I think of the idea every Fall while in my kitchen preparing Julia’s Coq-au-Vin or baking her Queen of Sheba cake, Because for me, there is nothing more quintessentially French than speaking the language. ETIn high school, I think my French was okay. I have no idea whether I could speak it in any real conversational way, but the combination of wonderful teachers gave me a great accent and a functional French that worked as far as it went. We learned verbs. We drilled in conjugations. We practiced more tenses than anyone uses in a lifetime.

Could we use them in conversation? Of course not! That wasn’t part of the program. We barely spoke sentences. But, could we conjugate!

Then came my first trip to Paris. The memories are too dire for words for me to detail here, so let’s just say that whatever joy and sense of accomplishment there had been in speaking French went right out the window as a result of my (then) sensitivity to criticism.

Fast forward a decade later and I’m living in Berlin. I began each morning with a French morning talk-show and in the evenings listened to French songs while preparing dinner, partly to rebel against learning German! So, with due respect to Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf, one cannot learn a language through the songs— although I’ve entertained any number of people with my rendition of “Ella Elle L’a” (hear France Gall’s hit at the end of this post).

And there were shopping trips to Paris. I still could not have a conversation— at least not a normal one about things like the weather or politics or to elaborate on the meal. But, put me in front of a street vendor where I have to haggle and I became as fluent as anyone ever needs to be.

I’m sure I will be a wiz at French now. That’s because I finally learned to use the histrionics that are so key to a successful French conversation that I can now incorporate into speaking! Without the gestures and inflections and almost cartoon-like behaviors, you’re just not speaking French.

From a French person’s perspective, it isn’t French if it isn’t over the top with passion.

So, these many years later, what have I learned? It’s not about the verbs and their conjugations. The French may have all those tenses to choose from but even they’ll tell you that they operate in three and leave the rest to the grammar books.

The secret is this: skip the language-correctness, drop the sensitivity and focus on the accoutrements. Because the fact is, until you can do a decent shrug and pffft!, you’re just not speaking French.