Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yvette and Josianne

Once upon a time, about fifty years ago, there were two little French sisters, called Yvette,
and Josianne.
This weekend at the Vide Grenier I met Yvette's husband, and he sold me her childhood laundry-labels...
... and then I met Yvette herself,
who really did not look old enough to have owned something so 'vintage'.


It was a very pleasant way to buy French vintage. I'm going to use the label-tape like ribbon... watch this space!


Tomorrow I'm off to Edinburgh to help celebrate my dad's birthday. It's a real flying visit but I'm looking forward to seeing him.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A penny for your thoughts...

Inside a traditional French house it can be a bit dark on a cloudy day... ... the homes are made to keep us cool in summer, not light and bright in springtime!
But things are brightening up thanks to all the flowers in our garden, indoors and out.

This weekend it was the floral fair for which our town is quite famous. We variously waked and cycled up past the church to the festival, and the boys were entranced by a display of pansies (pensées in French, meaning 'thoughts') near the entrance. Ben and I were similarly impressed by the variety and also the price:
10€ for a box of our choice - that meant 20 plants!

Everybody chose three favourites, and then we collectively chose a few more to make up some good sets.
The boys rolled off home when they got bored (Son 1 clutching a succulent for his bedroom), but Ben and I held out for a really thorough look round.
We came back with plenty of other plants too, but it's the pansies which are the star of the show for the moment!Thanks for your lovely, kind comments on my last post. Do you want to know what I did on Sunday? Ben took the boys out and I visited a Vide Greniers and then settled down in the garden with a novel (I often read something 'serious' for a while in the garden, but seldom a novel) and a beverage of my choice. SEE! Your advice has fallen on receptive ears! Thank you very much, friends.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Third Pause in Lent - Anxiety vs ... What?

Welcome to a third Pause in Lent! The participants are listed on the sidebar to your left, and it's great to see what people are doing and thinking as Lent continues. You'll have to put up with the distraction of my garden flowers again while I do my 'Pause' - I've decided to make these Sunday posts a weekly record of how things are coming on in the garden... Sunny morning vs cloudy afternoon, as you see!
And the title of my post is Anxiety vs... something.
In listening to God, and reading the various books and blogs put my way, I've realised how much time I spend worrying: feeling anxious, about the boys.If you asked me to list my emotions for the boys I'd hardly put 'anxiety' first on the list! Love, pride, care... surely these come first?
But if I measure the amount of time I spend 'feeling' those things like love and pride (in as much as you can measure anything like that!) I am rather troubled to find that I probably spend more time on anxiety than I do on love and pride.
This is disturbing, because if I try to show love and confidence, but am underneath feeling anxiety, that's going to come out, isn't it?
I know that anxiety can be seen as an expression of my love, but I'm pretty sure it's not the best way of showing it!
Now, I have some pretty good reasons for concern, so I'm not feeling anxious out of nowhere. You can skip the list of woes if you don't know me and want to get to the point!
Son 1's bad knee turns out to be caused by a very mild version of a bone disorder that causes lumps and spikes to grow at the ends of the long bones. He hardly has this at a disfiguring level, but may still need an operation(s?) to remove the lumps that are making it dangerous for him to do sport or even run around with his dog. If you add this to his dyspraxia, trichotillomania (very well-controlled now), eye-appointments and underachievement at school due to handwriting difficulties and stress, then you will realise that he and I have spent quite a lot of the last months going from one appointment to another, sometimes hearing difficult news. I fear I am turning into the kind of mum who exaggerates or imagines problems for her child, instead of just accepting that he is who he is! I don't think I am, but some cause for anxiety in his situation...
Son 2 is pretty hunky-dory at school now that he's redoubled, and has made good friends. Fantastic news! But he gets very tired and irrationally angry at times - no surprise for a 12-year old whose brother is getting lots of attention, but it's taken me, Ben and my dad some serious thinking about to handle it well.
So here they are, my jeunes pousses (which means both growing youngsters and sprouting plants - great metaphor).I know that I am anxious about them, and self-awareness has now shown me that I am anxious far too often and about far too much, to actually be doing them any good. Anxiety can push me to make appointments for poor old Son 1 and get his medical and educational needs seen to, but it can't actually do anything else positive. On the down side, anxiety can rub off on them (a cause for Son 2's anger, even?) and can give them the deep-down understanding that things are out of control.
What is the alternative? I took the book 'The Power of a Praying Parent' off my shelves just before Lent, and decided that I needed to go through it for a month - there's a prayer each night for your children. Despite not being quite 'my kind of book' (American friends, have you noticed how we Brits express things differently to the way you're used to? This book is a bit of a challenge in that way) it's still a fantastic reminder that the real way to help your children is to turn each worry, each anxiety, into a positive prayer rather than a pointless pity-party.
I can't possibly sum it up better than Saint Paul did:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6
Don't forget to visit Spiritual Sundays as well as the other Pause in Lent posts!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A nice day's Troc'ing - with a little bit of teaching thrown in...

I had a lovely day teaching in different parts of Toulouse today - in a chateau this morning (now part of a modern business) and in a second French company this afternoon. In between the two lie various Troc Shops... It seemed to be vintage china day. These pleasant pheasants have been used as a sugar bowl - there is still sugar inside!!! It's soaking in the sink now...
This is an art deco-type shallow bowl with a small pedestal -
here's a bit more detail!
This is a copy of a vintage American milk bottle - frankly, I've just always wanted one and it was 1€...
A tile from the owner's parents' home in the mountains, I'm told...
This beautiful stand was very cheap, because the base is sadly crumbling. I think I'll be able to use it with care, though.
And even the dog is interested!
La chienne qui chine!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

As sure as eggs is eggs...

Our friends' hens are laying again... What shall we make with the eggs we've been given, boys?
"Omlette!" says Son 1. "Crèpes!" insists Son 2.
And something for my packed lunch tomorrow, thinks mummy, delightedly...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Three little maids...

On my wardrobe hang three little white tops - two antique and one vintage. Above them are my wedding shoes, an antique bonnet, a Gucci scarf, two straw hats and my grandmother's crocodile handbag. (Inherited vintage - as ethical as a dead reptile can get.)
They are all under the watchful eye of Aunt Selina (Ben's side of the family). At first I thought she was quite severe but now she is my ally - the only other woman in a house full of males. See her slightly knowing smile? I find her quite supportive.
The blouse above came from a braderie in a Toulouse suburb. My dad gave the jade beads to my mum after a visit to China.
I bought this antique broderie angalise blouse in the late 1980s and wore it ceaselessly. I was not a normal student.The jade beads were another Chinese gift from my father to my mother.
And finally this is the antique shift I wore under my going away outfit when we got married in 1990! Look - you know what I was wearing underneath!!
The jade beads on it now were my father's gift to me after that famous visit. The fair trade bracelet was a gift from my sister and the green stone heart came from Ben's sister.


None of it new, little of it bought by me, but a collection to brighten our bedroom and cheer my day.


I freely confess that I'm not a very communicative blogger at the moment - sorry that I haven't commented on more of your posts, especially the Pause in Lent ones! I am reading them when I have the time, but life seems to be a full-time occupation at the moment, with very little spare for blogging. Perhaps that's as it should be, though?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Pause in Lent - Routines and Rituals, Part 1

I'm a Nonconformist, by nature, nuture and religious tradition.As a child, I showed my nonconformist nature in positive ways (refusing to join in bullying, swearing etc) and in absolutely stupid ways (refusing to try horse-riding just because other girls liked it).
My parents brought us up to challenge contemporary wisdom and to think for ourselves. It was odd, that as very 'establishment' people, they managed to do this, but now I look back on my mother's life, I think I can see a very strong streak of protecting us from people who would make us conform to outside influences.
And by religious tradition, my mother's parents (who lived with us) were Welsh Nonconformists and fiercely proud of it - my grandma had been a Calvinist preacher in the Welsh valleys of the 1930s. They joined the Methodist church when they left Wales, and so we were Methodists too.
All of this nonconformism matches my childhood experiences - some of it is really positive and some of it is absolutely stupid! The positive stuff is a real emphasis on personal knowledge, understanding, and committment, of and to Jesus. The silly stuff is exemplified by my grandmother's refusal, all her life, to attend the supurb Methodist Convenant Service, because 'It Comes Out Of A Book'.
So this is what brings me to Routines and Rituals. My nonconformist nature (small 'n') means that I spent my entire life hating to be constrained by routines such as rotas for household tasks, and as a consequence I have lived in a messy house nearly all my life up to a few years ago. Our home is still messy by some people's standards, but not by ours, so that's what matters, I've finally twigged.
My Nonconformism (capital 'N') taught me that the noun 'ritual' had to be prefaced by the adjective 'empty' or 'meaningless', because a relationship with the Living God was new every day, individual to each believer, and could not be replaced with ('meaningless', 'empty') repeated habits of worship.
I imagine you've noticed that both of these are on the 'silly' side of nonconformism? Whilst true, they are only part of the truth, and paint the idea of 'rituals' and 'routines' in their most negative light. In fact, both household routines and spiritual/religious rituals are part of a happy discipline that keeps me going though good times and bad.
This last week, when I had a migrane and the boys were struggling under mountains of homework, I felt so happy to face a basically tidy house because I'd kept up to date with some daily household routines even when I didn't feel like it. Letting the work really pile up (obviously it did a bit...) would have made me feel far worse.And I hardly felt spiritually top-notch either, but because I have a routine/ritual of thanking God for five things each night in my Gratitude Journal, and because my Lent book has daily readings simply set-out, I kept on going with these things too. It wasn't either my Cleanest or my most Godly week, but both cleanliness and godliness kept on going thanks to the fact that I've overcome much of my fear of routines and rituals.And finally...
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness..."
"But only in a very abridged dictionary!"