Joe, Where Are You?

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I walked into the kindergarten class of Ms. Sawyer in Pontiac, MI where I was going to tutor kindergartners who were not “kindergarten ready”. In other words, the kids did not know colors, shapes, identify numbers and letters and sit still for about 10 minutes. About 95% of the kids qualified for both free lunches and breakfasts. Sometimes this was the only food they got for the day. I was told not to give the kids any gifts so as not to create a classroom problem.

Ms. Sawyer introduced me to the five kids I would work with once a week for about a half hour per child. Joe was a large chubby little boy who would be one of my kids. The first week, we sat down and just got to know each other in a separate space right outside the classroom. Joe was charisma personified and wanted to take me on a tour of the school rather than sit still. He could not sit still for any amount of time. I asked Joe to tell me about his life and he squirmed. When I took him back to the classroom, the kids were sitting on the floor waiting for a story. Several kids shouted for Joe to come and sit next to them.

I worked with Joe all year and found ways to help him sit still learn a little. I found when I was teaching him about animals and singing “Old McDonald had a Farm” with him that singing had an amazing calming effect. So, we sang songs about shapes and colors. I knew this was not going to work in the classroom but Joe was catching up. And his home life was getting worse.

One week I came and Joe had been suspended. He was under a table for story time and lifted a table with his feet which turned and landed on another child. It was termed violent.

The next week I changed things a little. I got permission to let Joe visit the therapy dog at the end of the half hour if everything went well. Joe and I got a lot done. Each week he hugged and snuggled with the large Golden Retriever therapy dog. His dad got out of prison and things improved a little. By the end of the year, Joe was up to speed.

During the year, Joe found his way into my heart and now after fifteen years I wonder where he is and how he is doing.

Les Élysées du Vernet, Paris 2006

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In 2006, my daughter and I traveled to France on a short vacation in Paris, Normandy, Brittany and the château country. We went in May and my daughter had a special Mothers Day gift for me. She had booked dinner at Les Élysées du Vernet near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

I had no idea what to expect. She had verified the reservation and informed me that it was a Michelin two star restaurant. The taxi got us to the restaurant just in time for our reservation. The entrance to the hotel was not impressive. But, stepping through the door was like stepping into another world. It was an elegant and secluded escape from the world. Almost like stepping into another time. As soon as it was clear that we had reservations, we were accompanied to the door of the restaurant pictured above. Just taking in the room before me made me wonder and anticipate the kind of meal we were going to have.

We were ushered to the table and my daughter immediately got a flute of champagne as a greeting. She got the menu with the prices and said to order what I wanted. My menu had no prices. I am allergic to crustaceans and quickly eliminated any dishes with shrimp, crabs, lobster or prawns. After ordering, we had a little time to look around the room. I noticed there were many empty tables and Char had a hard time getting a reservation. I am always curious so I asked the waiter when he came back. There was only one seating per evening and the diners arrived at twenty minute intervals. The service was a smooth and well ordered operation.

My appetizer was carpaccio in a vinaigrette. The meat was tender and the vinaigrette was just the right acid counterpoint to the sweet saltness of the beef. My water glass was being refilled before I ever had a chance to empty it. Right after the plates were removed, a little glass of a celery drink arrived. We got an amuse bouche between each course. We had several people attending to our table.

The table next to us finally had their diners arrive. Two men walked in and one had a small Cairn terrier under his arm. I am fine with dogs in restaurants although it is not allowed in the United States. After the diners were seated, one of the waiters brought a silver bowl on a silver platter. When he arrived at the table next to us, he carefully lifted the bowl of water off the platter and served it to the thirsty dog. I just had to laugh.

My daughter had told me the ceiling of the restaurant had been designed by Eiffel. It was so gorgeous that my eyes were drawn to it time and time again.

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I had ordered a pigeon dish for the main course. Many of the selections had a shellfish component. The waiter assured me that they were country pigeons and their feet had never touched concrete. It was served in a wine reduction with broccoli. And, it could not have been better. And another amuse bouche before the cheese board.

At this point, I left the restaurant to go to the restroom. When I returned to my table, i sat down with the assistance of the waiter. He removed my used napkin and replaced it with a fresh, warm napkin. Just another moment when I went, this is a new experience.

They had a cheese specialist, a fromager. The board must have had more than thirty cheeses. It was overwhelming. So many choices and so many cheeses I had never seen or heard of before. We made our selections. We had a variety of tastes from sweet to salty. Textures from hard to soft. Cheeses from cows, sheep and goats. It was amazing.

Although we were full, we decided to have a dessert, a baba au rhum. On the menu, it was listed as a dessert for two. How big could it be? It was huge. It was the size of a small watermelon. The sight of it made both of us laugh. I was good to be in a place where the waiters are not trying to rush you out to turn the table. So we waited a bit. And we ate a small part of the very big dessert.

This was an epic meal. It was the kind of meal where you don’t want to sully your mouth with food so the experience will stay with you. The experience has stayed for quite a few years and is still one of my best food experiences.

My Garden…..the beginning.

My garden did not start as a garden. I had decided when I moved in that I wanted a no fuss yard. When I moved in there was no garden; there were no trees on the lot. How much the yard has changed since I never had any aspirations for having a garden. At the time I worked outside and had no desire to spend time outside when I got home from work.

When I moved in, there was a grassy berm which followed the curve of the corner. It kept kids from cutting across the yard on the way to and from school. On the other hand, my son complained frequently about how hard it was to mow.

My original thought was to make it easier for my son to mow the yard by placing a few plants on the top of the berm. I went to a plant give away at a local farmers market where gardeners who had thinned their garden gave away surplus plants. I picked purple iris and white iris since the yard had come with lilac bushes to match.

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When I planted the iris, I learned that it was no ordinary small grassy mound. The previous owner had used it as a dumping ground for changing the driveway. He had thrown some dirt and grass seed on top to cover the mess. My planting the iris included digging up small concrete rocks. I wasn’t sure the iris would survive much less thrive. But, thrive they did. Iris need well drained soil and they certainly had that condition. Three irises became many……

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As neighbors stopped to tell me how much they enjoyed my yard and I no longer worked outside, my garden got larger. I found a great deal of pleasure working in the garden. Now, the garden is a calm and relaxing pastime.