If I love France so much

why don't I just GO there? I was recently sent this link http://www.escapeartist.com/embassy30/france.htm to titillate me further. But travel to France seems almost as difficult as travel to my other obsession, the 18th century. My stumbling blocks are 1. I don't feel like I really know enough French, 2. I don't have enough money to last for long in a foreign country, 3. What would we do with the cats? 4. What would we do with an apartment-ful of stuff? I'm sure there are perfectly reasonable answers to all these, but it's a bit overwhelming. Meantime, I keep making lists and working Google to search for substitutes. I found a good page of 18th century movies here: http://www.costumes.org/HISTORY/100pages/18THMOVI.HTM. It includes some of my favorites, a few of which are:
Barry Lyndon
Dangerous Liaisons
Tom Jones

Also I stumbled upon a syllabus from Prof. Nicole Vaget, who taught a course at Mt. Holyoke in Spring 1999 called Love and Seduction Rococo Style. Jeez, what am I DOING by not at least sneaking into her courses??

The Getaway Box

I've been having random childhood memories pop into my mind for the last year or so. Maybe it's because I'm slowly trying to detox, and old lost stuff is starting to bubble up.

A recent memory: For several years, probably between the ages of 11 and 14, I used to keep a shoebox full of emergency supplies stashed in my closet in case I suddenly needed to run away. Among other things, it contained the following:

  • a can of sardines
  • a can of condensed milk
  • a film canister containing wrapped bouillon cubes
  • a field guide of edible wild plants (for after I'd finished the sardines, milk & bouillon)
  • a jack-knife
  • a piece of gum
  • a quantity of string
  • safety pins (to use as fishing hooks at the end of the string)
  • waterproof matches in a plastic bag
  • a candle stub and small Dickensian candle holder
  • a set of 4 plastic cards with basic survival instructions printed on them, such as what to do if bitten by a brown recluse spider or struck with hypothermia
  • a mirror (for signalling to planes, as described on survival cards)
  • a "stove" made in Girl Scouts--a tuna can in which you coil a strip of cardboard, then cover the cardboard with wax

Just like everyone else, I was a strange child. I was obviously planning to live in the woods (rather than going to the city and living in a box, seeking a job as a ho) much like the main character in Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain. Obviously a book that influenced me plenty. To this day I am prepared to live in a hollow tree and eat squirrels and nettles... as long as I had a really really good reason. Maybe as a form of political protest.

Playground songs

This morning I was cracking myself up by singing the Billboard Song that I learned as a kid--jumping rope may have been involved. (I confess I cheated a little by looking up the lyrics online recently, though every version seems slightly different.) Here's the version I remember:

As I was walking down the street one dark and rainy day
I came upon a billboard, and much to my dismay
The sign was torn and tattered from the storm the night before.
The wind and rain had done its job and this is what I saw:

"Smoke Coca Cola cigarettes, drink Wrigley's spearmint beer,
Kennel Ration dogfood makes your wife's complexion clear.
Simonize your baby with a Hershey candy bar
and Texaco's the beauty cream that's used by all the stars.

"Take your next vacation in a brand new frigidaire,
Learn to play piano in your grandma's underwear.
Doctors say that babies should smoke until they're three,
and people over 65 should bathe in Lipton tea."

This put me in mind of a song my mother sang, "Sweet Violets." The first verse goes like this:

Sweet Violets
Sweeter than the roses
Covered all over from head to toe
Covered all over with sweet violets

There once was a farmer who took a young miss
In back of the barn where he gave her a
Lecture on horses and chickens and eggs
And told her that she had such beautiful
Manners that suited a girl of her charms
A girl that he wanted to take in his
Washing and ironing and then if she did
They could get married and raise lots of
Sweet violets
Sweeter than the roses
Covered all over from head to toe
Covered all over with sweet violets.

I love this technique of the trick rhyme, or not rhyming the way you think it will. Which reminds me of the immortal "Miss Susie" clapping rhymes. There are some versions of my favorite, "Miss Susie had a Steamboat," at this link: http://www.gameskidsplay.net/jump_rope_ryhmes/jump_miss_susie.htm.

I like pretending I'm 8 sometimes... pretty often actually.

Born to Run

I've been running for fitness since 8th grade, with a few gaps here and there (undergrad, marriage). Running makes me feel great--afterwards. But the tough part is making myself get up and running so that I can reach that satisfied "afterwards" zone. I just started running again after a hiatus of about 15 months and I'm remembering a lot of tips and tricks I've used over the years to KEEP MOVING. Here's what I do:

1. Getting started. I don't let myself talk me out of it. I am a huge "self-talker" and excuse-maker, so I have to handle myself like a reluctant toddler if I want any results. I trick myself into going out the door by saying, "OK, just get dressed and put your shoes on and we'll see what happens." After that, I promise "I'll just run for a while and if I get tired I can always stop." Soon enough I've finished my run without stopping (probably because my balkiness to start becomes stubborn-ness to finish).

2. Hills. If you run on a machine hills are no problem because you can just program them however you're inclined. (Ha!) But where I live there are real hills and they're not always where I want them. So to psych myself out:

  • I concentrate on my ankles. If I work on just flexing my ankles and pushing off smoothly from the toes over and over again at the back end of my stride (that is, when I'm picking up the back foot to put it in front), I find I can ignore what's going on at the front of my stride. So by doing just ankle work I can keep myself running without noticing (much).
  • I run with my arms. This is similar to the ankle thing. When I used to run track I noticed that if I worked on pumping my arms at a steady speed, my legs would pump along at the same rate. If you want to speed up, just pump your arms faster. Miraculous.
  • I shorten my stride. I picked this up reading about hiking the AT. When going up a steep slope I just take smaller steps. It may end up taking a bit more work to get to the top, but it may also even out because taking regular-length strides up hill is REALLY exhausting. It preserves strength to just kick little hobbit steps into the hill.
  • I shorten my goals. This is a variant of my "getting started" trick, which is that I promise myself I'll just get to the next tree or rock or mailbox or whatever. When I get there, I pick another thing and head for that. On steeper hills I pick things that are really close together--like only 3 yards apart--so I keep accomplishing things during the long haul up the hill.
  • On the other side, stretch out again. Some runner's mag clued me in to this one--when going DOWN hill, it doesn't take much more energy to take a long step than a short one. And because of the slope, you actually gain ground as you sort of let yourself fall down the hill. It's like the invisible bridge in Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade--put your foot out really far in front of you and then just let gravity carry it down, and you with it.

3. Keeping on. Maybe these are wierd hippie ideas, but on a dull stretch or when dealing with extreme temperatures I find a little visualization or mental distraction can help me avoid thinking about what I'm doing. For example, sometimes it's fun to pretend to be a running animal, like a goat or something, instead of a person. If the sun is really blazing I'll think about it entering my crown chakra and pouring down my body until it comes out my feet, leaving golden puddles in each of my footsteps. And my tried and true distracter is to count dwarves--by the time I remember the names of all the dwarves in The Hobbit, I'm usually pretty close to being done with my run.

To close, I do often enjoy running while I'm doing it, as well as afterwards. But since I'm inclined to be a bit lazy I need to keep my tricks about me as I may need to apply them at any time...