Seeding Peacemakers Amongst Us

Heart of PeaceNotre DameNotre Dame July 27, 2014Notre Dame July, 27, 2014 candlesOnce again the world has been shadowed by inhumane acts committed in the Ukraine, Gaza, and the ongoing atrocities in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.  I am sickened with grief and shame for the cruelty  that human beings are continuously capable of doing.

Warfare has been a repetitive cruel way of resolving disputes,  that has cursed most of man’s history on earth.  You think human societies would have learned a few things,  after all the wars that have plagued mankind, especially the last two great wars and the atrocious monstrosities of the holocaust.

Sadly no, hate and prejudice remain, and it seems we have only learned to make bigger and more destructive weapons, that require each country to invest huge amounts of money in protecting themselves.  Even more frightening is that these latest weapons of mass destruction have filtered into the hands of terrorists masquerading as rebellious defenders of geographical borders or religious ideologies.

I weep for all the mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters in the name of war, conflicts,  disputes, and everyday violence. War begets war, bloodshed begets bloodshed, violence begets violence and the vicious cycle repeats itself at another time for each succeeding generation.

I can’t change the  world, but I can at least squeak my horror and outrage to whoever has the eyes to read and comprehend my words.  These past weeks has been hard to stomach for any sensitive soul who has any grain of heart felt compassion for all those who have died at the hands of those whose geopolitical and or religious ideology is more important that the lives of men, women and children.

With the 298 deaths of innocent travelers on Malaysian airline, whose bodies were scattered on the wheat fields, shot down by  pro-Russian Ukrainian separatist/terrorists, and the innocent victims on both sides of the ongoing Israeli/ Palestinian war , it has been a bloody and shame filled weeks by any account.

Of course these events have garnered our most recent attention and outrage,  but globally our planet has been simmering in one spot or another with violence for years.  The continuous human carnage in Syria, that seems endless, is now the newest training ground for young extremists Islamic jihadists, who want to spread their violent spores back to their home country.

Add to this the everyday violent crimes that occur everywhere,  especially in my country of origin, and one can easily think that there isn’t a safe place on the planet.

Masses of men  throughout the ages have demonstrated a need to dominate and conquer, regardless of the blood that is shed. Domination, aggressivity, and intolerance without any moral brakes gives way to mass destruction.

Supposedly, it wasn’t always that way, as there is record of some societies that lived in peaceful harmony for many years, such as the Catalhoyuk and the Minoans, up until about 3000 BC.  Catalhoyuk lies on the Anatolian plains, now modern day Turkey and the Minoans on the island of Crete in Greece.

Perhaps we can learn from these societies, where there was more equality in social classes and between the sexes.  The primarily feminine traits of nurture, compassion and empathy were more honoured than traditional male ones of dominate and conquer  by aggression.

Adding fuel to the explosive mentality of brutal savagery is the desensitization of violence and aggression in everyday life.  Look at our media rife with hugely popular bloody scenarios of warfare and seek and destroy games.

Adolescent males are often obsessed with them, and unfortunately those with sociopathic tendencies will act those out in real life, causing mass destruction of lives. Killing your target, by just a click on a screen can be quickly translated to pulling a trigger or pushing a button to release missiles.

Though recent research demonstrates sociopathic tendencies can be inherited, they can also be thwarted  or minimised with good parenting.   Tragically, there are a lot of families that are breeding grounds of violence through abuse and neglect.

None of us has the power to change the world, but we can look into our own hearts. If collectively our hearts are a microcosm of our world, then there is a great deal of cleansing to do to achieve a more peaceful coexistence.

Technology has increasingly shrunk our planet, through travel and the ability to instantaneously dialogue all over the world.  We all have the chance to seed peacemakers across the globe with our words and everyday behaviour.

Strive to be a model of love and peace within your own family. Start now by cleansing your own heart of prejudice, anger, bitterness, and the need for revenge.  Practice tolerance by listening rather than drowning out others with your own opinion.

Strive to resolve conflicts by understanding the others point of view through open dialogue, rather than allowing your anger to wound others with sharp hurtful words that you can never take back.

Teach non violence to your children through not just words, but using your own behavior as an example. Talk to them about the value of kindness towards others and let them be a witness to your own kind acts.

Nurture compassion and empathy with your little ones, showing them your own in how you relate to them, animals and others.  Teach tolerance, respect and understanding of others culture and religious beliefs.

If hate and prejudice can be generational, so can breeding love, tolerance, understanding and non violence.  We reap collectively what we sow in our own families and  society.

Despite the harsh reality, I do know there is goodness of men and women that have walked before us and are in our presence now.  We can’t all have the voice of Saint Francis, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, nor the Dalai Lama, but we can integrate their teachings in our everyday lives, and share within our families and communities at large.

Last night, I attended a demonstration in front of Notre Dame, for the Christians persecuted in some areas of the middle east, the majority who have had to flee their homeland to escape persecution and death.

Following, was a Mass said for those who died on the Malaysian airline and for a prayerful call for peace. Notre Dame cathedral supposedly can hold around 6,000 people and the aisles were crammed with those standing like myself.

I thought about all the prayers and cries for peace that has resounded around those massive ancient stone pillars and walls  since the end of the 12 th century.  The incense slowly permeating the air enveloped me with an inner stillness and calm.

I lingered by the altar till the lights dimmed and savoured the quietness that I love as this magnificent church empties of her faithful.  Many candles were flickering in the deepening dark, giving off a halo of hope that carried me home.








Saint Marie Magdalene and La Sainte Baume; A Very Mysterious Place Indeed

Relic Saint Marie MagdaleneProcession Marie MagdaleneGrotto Marie MagdaleneGrotto Marie Magdalene StatueGrotto Marie Magdalene InteriorHostellerie belowOratoire Hotellerie Sainte BaumeBasilica Saint Maximin 2Tomorrow many will gather in Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume in southern France, to honor Mary Magdalene, as they have for ages.  I wish I could be there again, as I find my heart heavy over all the deaths and violence of last week.  Not in much of a mood to write, I am reposting this, as I seek a peaceful haven from a world I can’t comprehend.

For me, July the 22 nd has been a special day for a long time, because it is the feast day of my favourite saint, Mary Magdalene.

Those of you who know me and who have been faithful readers of this blog,  probably already know about my devotion to this saint, as I have written about her previously in a post last September, 2012.

La Sainte Baume has been like a magnet that continuously keeps drawing me back to her mysterious wild beauty and sanctity.

My most recent photos were taken in May, 2013, except for the torch lit procession, which I participated in several years ago. The procession on the night before, 21 st of July, takes place in Saint Maximin encircling the Basilica , where the her relic (skull) is displayed.

I first discovered Saint Maximin La Saint Baume back in the early 90′s. I was fascinated by the rich tradition and reverence for Mary Magdalen throughout Provence, but especially in this somewhat mysterious area. And yes, this was well before Dan Brown’s writings about her, so he had absolutely nothing to do with my own beliefs and convictions.

Provencal legend has it that Mary Magdalene, after the death and resurrection of Jesus, left the holy land in a boat with several other people, who were close to Jesus. Accompanying her was her brother Lazarus, sister Martha, Joseph of Arimathea, her helper Sarah and several others.

The boat eventually landed at what is now known as Saintes Maries de la Mer, in the swampy part of France known as the Camargue, southwest of Marseille. On may 24, and 25, there is an annual procession and celebration there, that reenacts their debarkation.

All were involved in the Christianization of southern France, especially Mary Magdalene. Lazarus became the first bishop of Marseille, Martha were on to Tarascon, and Joseph of Arimathea went on to found Rocamadour.

After many years of her spreading the teachings and gospel of Christ, Mary Magdalene reportedly retreated to the grotto of La Sainte Baume, where she spent her last remaining years. When she was weak and feeble, she was said to be lifted up and fed by angels.

Geographically, this sacred site is about 30 kilometers west of Marseille, and about 22 kilometers north of the Mediterranean sea. The tiny village of La Saint Baume is at the base of the mountain, and is basically made up of the hotellerie, that has served as a place of pilgrimage for eons; having not only attracted many of the faithful, but forty kings and 15 popes.

Getting there, at least from Marseille, will take you on narrow hairpin roads with steep drop offs, enough to give anyone a little vertigo. The scenery is beautiful and the air is incredibly perfumed with wild thyme, rosemary and lavender, as would befit the saint who is always pictured with her alabaster jar of perfume.

From afar, the landscape can appear rather arid and mountainous as it is in most of Provence. Then suddenly you feel engulfed in a thicket of cooling greenery of the Forêt Dominicale of Sainte Baume. The Dominican brothers, who have guarded the grotto forever, attribute this unusual placed forest to the spirit and energy of Mary Magdalene.

The hôtellerie has been renovated and I was glad to note that the small chapel in back, where hangs a lovely tapestry of provocative symbolism is next on the list. A few Dominican brothers and sisters mill around discreetly amongst the many pilgrims who come for retreats and visits to the grotto.

For those interested in staying there, the room rates are very reasonable.  All the times that I was there, the meals were nice, composed of an entree, main course, cheese and dessert, including really decent red  or roses wines from the area at unbeatable prices.

I love staying in the hôtellerie for the sweet energy that abounds here and so I can be next to the rather rigorous trails up to the grotto. There are two ways up, one in my mind more difficult to navigate than the other, but both will take you about 45 to 50 minutes of steep hiking upwards.

I consider myself pretty much in shape, with all the walking I do here, but I must admit I found myself at times getting breathless towards the summit, stopping briefly before the final onslaught of stairs you have to climb to get into the grotto. Both trails are beautifully covered with canopies of hickory, oak, linden and european yew, some of which all well over a thousand years old.

The Druids considered the european yew, taxus baccata,which is indigenous to the area, a tree of death and rebirth. How fitting that they abundantly line these paths walked by Mary Magdalene, the most faithful of all the apostles to Jesus. Legend also has that it is a pilgrimage for women’s fertility.

One of several fresh water streams rushing down the mountain is said to be sourced by Mary Magdalene tears. In hiking up, I could feel her heaviness of heart accentuated with each breath and pull of muscle. The ascent is meditative, inviting us to bring forth our own tears and pain for deliverance.

As in our spiritual ascension, our awareness becomes sharper, our feelings within swirl to the surface. I found myself wondering also about all the other seekers before me who persevered up this same path with faith.

The grotto, finally reached with much gratefulness, welcomes us in her dim humid coolness. Occasion drips of water seeping out of the walls of the cave breaks the silent contemplation. Votive candles everywhere flicker in the darkness, their flames beckoning hope and prayerful intercession.

The descent(opposite to what I took to ascend) was in some ways more difficult to navigate than the ascent. I passed others already exhausted, trying to climb this wildly savage trail that was difficult to decipher which turn to take next, perhaps mimicking life. Back at the Hotellerie, one feels a quiet sense of triumph and relief from the rigors of the climb.

Mary Magdalene leaves behind a legacy of faithfulness, courage and utmost love and devotion. In a time when women were viewed with little merits of leadership, except from Jesus, who was the world’s first feminist, Mary left her country of origin for unchartered waters to preach the good news of her beloved rabbi Jesus.

Not surprisingly, She was the last to leave the crucifixion of Christ and the first to discover his resurrection. She invoked the jealously of the other apostles, especially Peter, who eventually usurped her power and mission to Christianise lands beyond.

Perhaps through historical analysis of treasures, not yet discovered, or through validation of what has been uncovered, can the truth of her relevant significance be redeemed. Though the early church fathers accorded her as being the Apostola Apostolorum, or the apostle’s apostle, the Gospel of Mary was never canonically recognised.

As in all things in the universe ,there is a time and season . Truths can only be revealed when people, as Jesus prophetically claimed have the ears to hear , the eyes to see and the hearts to understand.

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Bastille Day Celebration, Another Perspective

feu-artifice-paris-tour-eiffelThe French national holiday was yesterday, and as usual I had mixed feelings about the “celebration”.    This all stems from my own perspective and some very strong visceral feelings I have had about the origin of the whole historical event.

The first and last time I visited the Conciergerie, a former prison, where a lot of the royals were kept before being guillotined, I suddenly felt overwhelmed with too much grief and tears as I approached the room of Marie Antoinette and quickly had to get away. The same repulsion occurs if I try to visit the array of items from the royal family at the Musée July 14 2014Carnavalet.

The Fête Nationale  started as a commemoration of the storming of the Bastille on July the 14th 1789.   Years ago, the holiday was bizarrely held on August the 15th, the immensely important Catholic celebration of the Assumption of Mary, until 1880 at which time is was changed to July 14th.

The Bastille was a fortress/prison in Paris, which was notorious for imprisoning those who had fallen out of favour with the king.  This event serves as a beginning of the French Revolution, which eventually did away with the French royalty.July 14 2014 Tuileries

This uprising was brought on by the great disparity of social classes, that lead to growing resentment against the privileged aristocracy and religious hierarchy, and the absolute dictatorship of the monarchy.   The economy was depleted in part due to helping the Americans fight their own revolution, in addition to rising food prices, poor harvests, and in general, poverty amongst the working class.

Unfortunately the French revolution was one the bloodiest in history that cruelly pitted different social classes against one another, especially the French royal sympathisers.  The worst bloodshed, known as the Reign of Terror, took the lives of many innocent citizens, including hundreds of clergy and religious, who were guillotined without any real trials nor mercy.

It is this regicide and genocide that casts a deep tragic shadow over the event that I defile-du-14-juillethaven’t been able to reconcile.  Additionally the revolution destroyed thousands of works of art that once filled the major cathedrals and churches everywhere.

Religious hatred and intolerance fueled these scandalous ravages with fervour.  You can see many decapitated statues in the Cluny museum that once adorned Notre Dame.

From the ashes of this tremendous social, religious  and political turbulence, the Republic of France was established and has evolved over the years to a country that today proudly proclaims “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” .

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man as seen in the photo has a strong American connection.  First of all it was drafted by General Lafayette, along with the help of Thomas Jefferson, both inspired by the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

Extremely prominent is the Eye of Providence at the top of the document, which all Declaration des DroitsAmericans see every day on dollar bills and is also on the reverse side of the Great Seal of The United States.

It is a symbol of free masonry meaning the all seeing eye of God. I find it ironic that it is on a French declaration that occurred within the revolution intending to secularise France, which today maintains a strong separation of church and state; though you would never know it by all the holidays they have of Catholic significance.

As an American who is fortunate to have double nationality(American-French),  it is a nice reminder of the long-held friendship between these two countries that has weathered many disputes.

Regardless of perspectives, the French always put on a spectacular show.  The parade down the Champs Élysée seems nowadays a moment to show off various military divisions, the military vehicles, tanks and of course aircraft that zoom overhead in formation.

Wanting to avoid the crowds on the Champs Élysée, I had all good intentions of Cherry july 14 2014catching the air show on the lawn of the Tuileries next to the Louvre, but arrived too late to catch any big aircraft, having to settle for the helicopters. Oh well, the scenery is Port Royal CasernPort Royal Casern 2july 14 2014 Port RoyalLegionnairesBar Port Royalalways enjoyable from that area at any time.

The infamous and still mysterious Foreign Legion  always parades and even gave a concert in front of Opera Garnier.   In several places one could get to meet the various soldiers and be introduced to their vehicles.

At night the huge open air concert on the Champs du Mars in front of the Eiffel tower, where the first Bastille celebration occurred, is wildly popular, followed with a light and firework display. This year it paid homage to the many millions killed in World War I, many on battlefields in Northern France, whose physical topography remains pocked by the war.

Likewise as popular, are the firemen’s balls, a tradition that dates back to 1937, where the first one was held in Montmartre.  Throughout Paris, the firemen, who all are trained EMTS open their fire houses for fun filled frolic and dancing till 4 am!

Last night the music was blaring in the courtyard of  the Port Royal casern and in addition to firemen, there were marines, sailors, and even some Foreign Legionnaires enjoying the drinks and girls, ever willing to be photographed.

I try to see the festivities now more as a celebration of the unity of France; of her culture, her monuments, her arts, beauty, lifestyle, people and the many glorious things this country offers.

I can love both countries.  There is good and bad on both sides of the pond, depending on your point of view and what you value in your life.  People are people, all with the same basic needs and desires.  There is no utopia, other than the one you  strive to create in your own heart and lives.









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Releasing Your Broken Heart To Heal

releasing heartsYou already know the searing pain, that keeps shredding  every fibre of your heart, until you feel so broken, you really do not know how much more you can endure.  You talked about it to your friends, till you are fearful they don’t want to hear anymore.

Maybe you have thought about getting help from a therapist or signing up for weekend retreats practically guaranteed to heal a broken heart.  Yet, there you stand paralysed with grief and beaten down by the painful truth.

Despite your best efforts or none at all, the pain is still there, as raw as ever.  You thought you didn’t have any more blood to  bleed, but it is obviously still trickling out, one drop at a time.

Maybe you have read every book you could get your hands on, and googled way past midnight in search of some help.  There are loads of quick fixes out there.

You know how it goes.  Ten ways to heal a broken heart.  Fifteen sure fire ways to forget your ex.  Some may offer good practical advice to follow, but leaving it totally up to you to heal yourself is rather difficult.

After you have tried it all and somehow you still find yourself in the same pain you started with in the first place, where do your go?  Even worse, you start to wonder, why even care anymore?

Dark thoughts start to creep in such as : give up you fool!  No one cares about your pain.  After all, those “other folks” have their own pain to deal with, so just get over it !

You have already felt stupid for even getting yourself involved with him/her in the first place.  You may have heard from some righteous ones: you made your bed, so lie in it my dear, till you either  rot away or learn your lesson once and for all.

Trashing yourself with belittling words you somehow feel you deserve, are only  echoes from a critical parent or others in the past.  Do you really want to keep punishing yourself?

Sure, why not! Who  cares?  I am nothing more than discarded flesh left on the roadside for the vultures to take pleasure in devouring whatever rests of my pitiful life.

You may feel some have it and some don’t and I am obviously not one of the lucky ones. Beaten up and bleeding, you end up retreating even more deeply into a dark void of no return.

When no more effort can come forth, and when only you realise how  broken you really are, can you give up trying to figure it all out.  There is no figuring it out in the first place!

Reaching the bottom of the barrel where only the dredges of souls ever reach, initially feels like the end, drowning in their own pain and misery.   Broken and beat, you feel defeated, yet pain sometimes has to empty you out in order to make room for healing.

If any of you have been rejected or abandoned by someone you love, or broken by life’s many trials, certainly you can identify with the above desperation and pain, because you know  these feelings all to well.  Loss of someone you loved is a death without the coffin.

This serves to just accentuate the pain;  knowing they are alive and well but have no desire of being with you anymore, especially if they have already taken up with someone else.

Acceptance is a hard bitter pill to swallow, but we have zero ability to change another person, so there isn’t another way to deal with this pain other than releasing our hearts and pain to a higher power.

This higher dimension belongs to the Divine One, I choose to call God, the All Knowing. The one that creates all life, the universal energy that births stars and galaxies infinitum.

Listen closely, as I am about to share something rather radical to your ears.  The Love you have carried in your heart for this person, never stemmed from you in the first place.  Pure love doesn’t come from you!

No, this love came from a higher source where only pure love exists.  This love does not have any need to be returned, nor has any expectations tied to it, because it is the purest energy of the Divine One and it is freely given to all.

When we love someone, we have only borrowed that love from the forever realm of divine love that is constantly swirling around in that other dimension that only our soul remembers, but our human mind can’t comprehend.

In that way the love you feel and have felt can never be lost, but only returns to the universal pool to await for you to share it with another, but only after you have first filled your own heart to heal.

You see, your own heart is a pitcher waiting to be filled to the brim with this Divine Love for yourself and all humanity, because we may look separate, but we are not.   Pain and despair scourges out that which limits you, creating more room for love to enter.

A heart can be filled with this divine love, but can’t really give pure love, if human will is always trying to fill their own empty heart to fix their lives,  rather than pour forth freely what they already have within themselves.. 

So if this love didn’t initially come from you, and now is being resisted, then it is time to give it back to the Divine Love Source.   After all, love is mysterious in the way it even connected you to that  person in the first place.

When the bonds of that relationship are weak and become severed, there is a reason, even if we can’t understand why.  There may be fundamental differences. that may or may not be known to you, that would not be able to sustain the relationship for long.

It could be the timing is not right, or that there is another person waiting in the wings of your life that wants to come in and will provide a much more fulfilling relationship.    Sometimes the Master Gardener weeds out those who would have only brought you even more pain than you now feel losing them. 

That other person may have come in your life as one your teachers, albeit a painful one. Surviving pain and despair can change the way we come to see life, orient us to the real priorities of being here, and opens us up to making needed changes in our life, if we don’t allow ourselves to become bitter, angry and hardened.

Acceptance is hard, but it can be the path of freedom to things we can not change.  Giving in and surrendering allows us time to heal, when our hearts are battered and weary.

We can give up our broken hearts to God, even though we can’t understand His ways. Even if you are agnostic or atheist, certainly you can posit that there is a higher power, energy or consciousness greater than your own human mind.

I would like to propose some rituals that have helped me and patients who have suffered the same pain as you have now.  They only require a will to do them.  They work in the spiritual realms, beyond our complete human understanding of how.

Mentally, try to picture all the love in your heart that you had for that person tied to a balloon .  Now, mentally imagine letting go of the strings of that balloon and see it slowly drifting toward the horizon, till it disappears from sight.  A mantra to accompany this and be repeated as often as needed would be “I release you (name of person) in the name of love. ”

Another mental imagery is to visualize using shears that cuts the bond between you and your lost love, saying the above mantra over and over.   Healing takes time!

This is for those who feel comfortable using a more pronounced ritual.  Take a white and green candle. First light the white one, as white is the color of purification and say the above releasing mantra.  Then light the green candle for yourself, as green is the color of healing and say “With this light I pray that my broken heart heals.”  Amen.

Even more concretely, you can also write words of your love on a piece of paper and tie them to a helium balloon and then go to a field of flowers, a lake, river or ocean, a park or your backyard and say your releasing mantra, as you let go of the balloon.

I might add an even more powerful spiritual gesture of releasing is called tonglen, from the Buddhist tradition.  It is basically connecting with the suffering of others by taking on the hurts and pains of others who are suffering around the world with the very same pain your feel and releasing it for them.

This is a beautiful and powerful conveyor of compassion for yourself and others. Compassion must start within your own heart for your own pain, before it can be fully given to others.

You can visualise gathering up all the broken hearts in the world, along with your own and doing the same mental or formal rituals or releasing with your breath.  All are powerful rituals that work in releasing pain, because,  they work in the spiritual realm, where healing comes from in the first place.

You are never alone in your pain, even if you feel that way.  I may never meet you, but I care about your suffering.  That is why I felt compelled to start this blog and to write this particular post.

Broken hearts can heal over time, and in doing so, become healthier hearts to hold love for someone else who is coming to you.   That person will be more in line with your soul energy and your soul’s path.

Acceptance, surrendering and releasing are ways for you to cleanse your heart and invite healing to come into your life.   Remember, you came into this world to learn about loving yourself and others.  You will love again!





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What I Have Learned After Two Years Of Blogging

I started this blog on June the 14th,2nd-anniversary 2012, and in two short years it has grown quite a bit, according to my stats, increasing by almost 1000%.  There were two main reasons why I wanted to blog, one spiritual and one personal, which I will entail later.

After two years and 183 articles, I don’t know if I have accomplished all that I set out to do, but at least it has been a learning process for me and there have been some benefits , which were never in my mind in the first place.

My primary reason for starting this blog was a spiritual one.  To those of you who know me personally, or have been faithful readers from the start, that is not a surprise.

I have had many blessings in my life, and besides my children and grandchildren, have been lucky enough to enjoy one of the most beautiful professions in the world, at least in my opinion!

Being a therapist/healer is very nourishing for me spiritually because to be able to help someone suffering in pain, confusion, fear, grief, etc gives me great joy and has been my life purpose.

I consider my patients as some of the most beautiful persons in the world who had the courage to reach out for help.   Helping someone on a one to one basis is wonderful, but I wanted to give back to the universe by offering whatever knowledge I have to reach and help those in need, that I will never know.

The first months of the blog offered more mental health topics and inspirational ones, but I learned that readers were seemingly also very interested in my experiences, thoughts, discoveries and perspectives of  living here in Paris and France, so I started to incorporate more of those in the blog.

Surprisingly, the two most sought out articles have been Thrill Seekers and Death On Mont Blanc and France Welcomes Bare Breasted Femen Protestor, which I can’t understand.  Perhaps thanks to Google, which mysteriously governs the digital world, and whose algorithms are totally beyond my intellectual capacities.

I can only hope that a few people have become more cautious before they consider hiking around the dangerous slopes of Mont Blanc.  The Femen article needs an update as their demonstrations in Paris has turned to acts of violence and desecration.

Rue Saint Denis, A Haven For Street Walkers and A Slice Old Paris comes in third, again surprising to me.  I do love that seedy old street and  neighborhood and find myself in the area to get my monthly supplies of greek yogurt, feta and now some Turkish stuff at my favorite Kurdish grocery.

I went there last week, and can report that the street walkers are still out in force, and some were as outlandishly dressed as ever.    Business must have been slow, as one even tried to pick me up!

Marie Curie, Catherine de Medici and Camille Claudel have so far drawn the most interest of the historical persons that I have written about . I like to use them as examples or models to elicit understanding of how mental health issues can affect our lives.

Erotomania Delusional Love,  Anger, Danger Ahead and Alexithymia and Mr Spock have been the most popular mental health articles.  The Anger post I can understand, but again surprised by the others, as fortunately they are much more rare.

Besides learning that I am practically clueless in predicting any article’s popularity, I have learned that writing is very difficult.  I am a therapist who blogs, but I find it much more easy to express myself verbally than using the written word!

Therefore, I have gained tremendous respect for professional writers who have a spent their entire life dedicated to this art.   I have met a few in Paris and they are certainly in another stratosphere.

My only other serious experiences in creative writing was back when I was in graduate school and the first year of my practice.   I was a restaurant review critic for a mid size city magazine.  My pen name was La Gourmande Romantique, which was necessary to eat out incognito and at least I got paid somewhat by having my meals reimbursed.

Frankly it was fairly easy to  write about food, which to this day is one of my passions, as I am known to sneak in a few of my culinary escapades and  delights every so often.  It was then that I learned one of the most helpful writing tips from a patient, whose husband was a journalist.

Knowing I had an article due in to my editor the next morning, she told me to just start writing as badly as I could, not worrying about words or anything.  It worked like a charm and I still use it when the words don’t flow, which happens more often than I like.

The easiest articles for me to write are on mental health issues and inspirational ones.  The most difficult are the historical analyses portraying how the personalities of  famous people were shaped by their childhood and the mental problems they suffered.

Those posts take several days research and many cross checking of biographical data, a lot in French to make sure the facts are correct and that I get a good feel of their lives.   I enjoy investigating them, but sometimes feel disappointed, after investing so much time in writing them, when they do not seem to attract as much attention, at least initially.

I have learned that I can adhere to some degree of discipline and organization in sitting down to write for the blog,  neither of which I am gifted in.  I am disciplined about writing clinical notes and organised in my practice and in the kitchen, but resist both in other aspects of my life.

Being a very sensitive person, I have always sought out harmony and peaceful contacts with others, so I have skillfully avoiding getting into any real controversial issues with anybody, preferring to keep quiet and keep my own opinions to myself.

On very few occasions, I have ventured out of my safety zone to write about issues I feel strongly about.  I have learned that all it takes is one post, such as I did expressing my concern about the lack of gun control in American, for some people to come out of the woodwork with aggressive comments on Facebook, though not on my blog.

This reinforces my position that I am not cut out to  deal with certain issues that can be considered divisive.  Aggression and anger from others makes me run the other way. I came into this world to help build understanding of each other and to cross bridges of healing.

Nevertheless, I have learned that  expressing myself is good for me.   In being the therapist, the focus is on the patient, as it should be in order to help them understand themselves and heal.

The blog has allowed me to connect with some interesting and talented people from all corners of the world, that I would have never known about before.   It has also been very helpful in keeping me immersed in my maternal language, which all expats can understand, when we suffer from occasional lapses of words, substituting the foreign words from our adopted countries.

My original personal reason for starting this blog was to provide a digital chronicle of my life for my grandchildren,  who live in the states and I can’t see them as often as I would like.  We all have stories to tell, and although they are still too young to even remember or care that I have a blog,  I hope someday they might enjoy reading what their Mimi did here on planet earth.

 I would like to thank all my faithful readers and especially those who have shared my posts on Facebook and other social media, and have taken the time to comment! 

Since all my posts are written from the heart and take at least 6 to 8 hours or more to write, your comments on the blog are my only tokens of your appreciation!

I hope I can continue to share, inform, help, interest, amuse or entertain you!  I would love to hear from you about what type of posts you prefer or have enjoyed in the past. Hugs to all!

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Irresistible Istanbul

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAHagia Sophia Holy Mother MaryHagia Sophia Christ and Mary and JohnHagia Sophia naveHagia Sophia intricate columnsThe ferry ride across the Bosphorus, in the blistering hot sun, provided my first view of the magnificent Hagia Sophia slowly becoming more visible, as the ferry slowed to dock in Eminonu, the old city’s port.  Newly arrived, I felt suddenly  plunged into a kaleidoscope of colorful  sights, smells, and sounds that might as well been 100 years ago.

Masses of humanity surrounded me, each scurrying here and there, amongst the sun bronzed hawkers of roasted corn, trinkets, fruit juices and ring shaped sesame breads(simit) piled high on wooden poles.

Making my way through the thick crowd with trailing luggage in order to find the tram was not an easy feat.  Figuring out how to charge up the Istanbulkart( a transport card) at the tram station wasn’t either.Chora Church mosaics

The air-conditioned tram gave me brief respite from the heat before it finally arrived at Sultanahmet, called the “old city” as if other areas of Istanbul aren’t old enough already.  Meandering through the park led me through the wide strip called the Hippodrome, where Roman chariot races were held and that ran in front of Hagia Sophia and the nearby Blue Mosque.

With just a generalised idea on how to get to my hotel, and with poorly marked streets, I followed a descending path towards the sea, relying on my excellent sense of orientation to get me there.  After a few wrong turns, and finally asking for directions, I arrived at my destination.

I usually prefer to get an apartment, but not finding one with a balcony and view, I Basilica CisternCistern MedusaGreek Patriarche Istanbuleminonu-pierSea of Marmara view from my hotel balconyIstanbul Woman making MantiKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAeminonu-pier (1)opted for a hotel, which promised both.  The balcony overlooked the blue Sea of Marmara,  was wonderful to sit out with occasional cooling breezes, looking at the ships sail by, though marred somewhat by the construction cranes used in digging a tunnel that will run under the sea to the Asia side of Istanbul.

Straddling two continents, Istanbul really does come across as the crossroads of the East and the West. Since it was my first time here, the most obvious notable culture was the landscape dotted with multiple mosques and tall minarets blaring calls to prayer fives times a day.

I was immediately struck also by the friendliness, easy smiles, and helpfulness of the Turkish people towards me and all tourists, who filled the streets.  I felt safe except for the young little boys with sticky fingers that seemed to come out of nowhere around the tram stations, but fortunately for me quickly scattered away by the sharp eyes of policeman.

Istanbul was for a long time the center of Christendom, and that aspect really called me to devote my second day(a Sunday) sifting through the ages of her Christian religious significance, with Hagia Sophia first on my list.  She was the mother church of all Christians till Constantinople was conquered by the Ottomans in the mid 15th century.

Hagia Sophia left an indelible impression on me, whose energy seared through my psyche.  I was totally in awe of her beauty, however ravaged by time, earthquakes, the forth crusades latin christians, and when many of her priceless and exquisite mosaics were sadly painted over after being converted into a mosque in 1453, by the invading Ottoman.

Hagia Sophia stayed a mosque till 1935, at which time it was turned into a museum.  The magnificent dome surrounding by mini domes dominates with Blessed Mother Mary and infant Jesus gazing over the entire nave as a permanent witness of Hagia Sophia’s original spiritual significance.

Hagia Sophia that we see today replaced an earlier church, and this monumental building was completed in 537 taking only five years and 10 months to build, which is in itself an incredible feat, considering that Notre Dame took 87 .  Though the original dome collapsed during an earthquake and was rebuilt only to be damaged again during another one, the entire church has stayed intact, miraculous surviving several more earthquakes in her history.

The sweet energy of Holy Wisdom is still there. impregnated in every stone crevice, as if patiently awaiting being reconsecrated again a church. However improbable that is, it would be her second miracle, a triumphal celebration of her original beauty and purpose of being a center of Christian worship on that site from the 3rd century till 1453.

The Basilica Cistern was the second most impressive architectural marvel seen.  Built beneath the old basilica, by the Romans in the fifth century, it had the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water for the residents of Constantinople, and it remains perfectly intact.Baklava and cafe at spice marketOrient Express Cherry Topaki Palace Topaki Palace courtyard KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA Topaki Palce sultan bedroom fountain

The 336 marble columns and arches, softly lit and reflected in the water are impressive , as is the whole ingenuous construction.   The prevailing mysterious atmosphere, where drips of water are heard falling into the basin is eerie.  The three heads of Medusa, decorating the bottoms of three columns, one of which is purposely turned upside down has for many years intrigued all who venture down.

Next on my list for that sunday was to see some more mosaics at the Chora church, now a museum, that once again suffered the same fate of being damaged while it was turned into a mosque. The mosaics are exquisitely stunning in the artistry, with minutely detailed designs depicting  Christ, Blessed Mother Mary and the apostles.

Searching for a Mass to top off the day was challenging at best, but walking in the former old European merchants quarter, we were lucky to find one at Saint Mary Draperis, a small and rather hidden, but pretty Catholic church where Mass was said in Spanish.

A Bosphorus cruise was initially spoiled somewhat by a massive rainstorm, but nevertheless was lovely when the rains stopped and the hot sun reappeared. The cruise didn’t go all the way to the Black sea, but was ample enough to see all the major sites on both banks.

The spice market was absolutely marvellous and even though I went back twice, I could have spent hours more going from one stall to another of brightly colored mounds of spices, dried fruits, teas, oils, and dangling dried vegetables.

All of my senses were overwhelmingly titillated and thrust into immediate over gear, especially visually and olfactively, with the incredible sweet and pungent odors that engulfed me at each step through the dimly lit labyrinth of corridors, where it was easy to get lost.

Aside from the spirituality of Hagia Sophia, I wanted to see the Greek Patriarchate church of Saint George.   The Greek Patriarch Bartholomew I Cherry Blue Mosqueof Constantinople resides there and is the spiritual leader over 300 million Eastern Orthodox throughout the world.  It is considered their Mother Church after haven been driven from Hagia Sophia during the Ottoman takeover.

After lighting candles, we were lucky to have arrived just in time for vespers. Though there were only four of us in the church, the priest did come and bless us with the sweet incense swinging from his smouldering metal censer. .

I felt much sadness for their loss of Hagia Sophia and the great schism that has since divided Christendom into multiple branches of Christianity.   I prayed that one day there can be reunification at least of the two main streams of Christianity sadly divided today.

Another key place I wanted to visit was the Florence Nightingale Museum, located within the northern headquarters of the  Turkish Military.  After faxing a copy of our passports along with a request to visit, it was an easy ferry ride to the Asian side again, where we were met with several strict, but quite understandable scrutiny and searches before being able to enter the compound, which was beautifully landscaped I might add.

Cameras were not permitted, therefore no photos.  Florence Nightingale, considered the founder of modern day nursing, came here in 1854, along with 38 nuns to care for British soldiers during the Crimean war.

Her treatment room, and living quarters were in a large tower, that once comprised the a British military hospital and offered a wonderful view over Istanbul.  We were guided by a handsome and very knowledgable young military officer who spoke impeccable English.  He explained that Florence and her helpers drastically reduced the death rate by their care and treatment.

In addition to showing us around the museum, he was wonderful in answering my many questions about  past Turkish military engagements and history.   I was especially intrigued with learning about the Turkish revolution that overthrew the Ottomans in 1923.

Lead by Mustafa Ataturk, considered the father of the modern day Republic of  Turkey, he courageously turned Turkey into a secular nation providing women with equal rights and the right to vote, before several other European nations. He modernised the whole educational system, and literally brought many socio economic reforms that improved the daily lives of the Turkish people.

The Archeology Museum was very interesting, especially in recreating the many layers of history that all contributed to modern day Istanbul.  Topaki Palace certainly had many opulent  rooms filled with gorgeous richly colored tiles, but overall the energy there felt scattered and oppressive, especially visiting the harem quarters.

The Blue Mosque is very impressive from the outside, especially lit at night with pretty stained glass windows throughout and a monumental circular chandelier suspended from the dome. I had brought my own scarf, but capes and skirting was provided for women, along with plastic bags  to carry removed shoes.

I liked the very ecumenical welcome sign that said whether you are atheist, agnostic, Catholic, Orthodox, Jew, Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist, to please say hello, hoping that you would find the Blue Mosque a peaceful place of prayer.

After spending hours rigorously sifting through multiple sources for restaurants, including several Istanbul food blogs, Istanbul Eats, Culinary Backstreet Istanbul, Chowhound and yes Trip Advisor, I complied my list of where I wanted to eat, which is always essential research before I go anywhere!

The hard part was finding them, often tucked away from mainstream avenues, which is never an easy task for me, nor for my companion as I prefer getting there by foot, not taxi. Fortunately my good sense of orientation paid off in the end.

I was much more interested in classical Turkish cuisine, rather than any modern fusion interpretations.  I never made it to the one on top of my list Ciya Sofrasi, which I designated for lunch, as they do not serve wines, which for me is something I really look forward to in the evening.

After very copious breakfasts of yogurt with several dried figs and apricots, multiple breads, cheeses, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, along with plates of grilled eggplants and peppers for which Turkey is famous for, I frankly was never hungry during the rest of the day, even after hours of strenuous walking everywhere.

I found the Turkish wines generally decent, with one white outstanding, but expensive in comparison to the food, due to recently added taxes to an already struggling wine industry in this predominately Muslim nation. However, many Turks I met do love their Raki, a potent distilled liquor from aniseed.

Street food is ever-present, but I am never too keen on that anyway due to my sanitation concerns, especially seeing stuffed mussels for sale is blistering heat! I did want to try a grilled mackerel sandwich, freshly prepared along the banks of the ports, but didn’t.  I do a mean version of mackerel myself, sautéed and served with a spicy chermoula sauce.

Because the topography of Istanbul is composed of several very steep hills, I enjoyed all the cardio walking, which I like to do in Paris as well.   Fortunately I have strong legs and am in good shape, so that wasn’t a problem, just getting trapped behind the majority of residents who walk at a snail’s pace, that I am not at all used to here!

Besides all the wonderful memories I have, I did bring home everything on my wish list, including sumac, Alleppo red peper, a lovely urba black chilli pepper, a turkish black tea grown around the Black Sea, turkish coffee and those adorable copper coffee pots. Luckey I have a great turkish grocery in Paris where I can buy most of the spices, teas, cafe, cheeses, kaymak and other delectable Turkish foods, even fresh baked breads on Rue Faubourg Saint Denis in the 10th arrondissement.

Besides Turkey’s ancient architectural splendors in Istanbul and in Ephesus, the most splendid natural resource in Turkey, in my opinion ,is the wonderful hospitality and generous friendly spirit of the Turkish people!

Two times when our transport card was exhausted on the bus or trams, total strangers offered their own pass for us to get through the turnstiles and I witnessed that  for others in the same predicament.  Their genuine effort to be helpful, respectful, and open their hearts and homeland to tourists  made them one of the friendliest countries that I have visited!







Blog En Petite Pause

Hagia-Sophia-IstanbulTime for me to venture out again to explore a city that has often  caught my interest for various reasons, but I never got around to going.   Since living in Paris, I have  learned that besides the fall, June is the best time to get away before the annual European summer vacation influx begins.pause

This is my first time in Istanbul, and I am really looking forward to the whole experience. If you have read my blog, then you know I love old stones and historical places, along with my forever gastronomical longings and curiosity.

Istanbul literally reeks of exoticism and ancient history.   The Hagia Sophia was an emotional experience that will stay with me, having her beauty seared into my psyche.

Founded by the Greeks, on a strategic sea path between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, It was eventually overtaken by Rome.    Constantine the Great brought the city into being the center of the civilized world and Christendom by 330 AD, where it was the eastern capital of the Roman Empire, called Constantinople.

By the mid 15 the century , it was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, who referred to it as Istanbul.  As you can imagine, there are many layers of culture and history that have all contributed to its glory.

It is one of the few cities that is transcontinental, in that half of the city resides on the European continent and the other in Asia!    Separated by just  rather narrow pathway of sea, you can easily cross continents by ferry and bridge!

So while I am either sailing between the two or walking the streets of the Asian or European side, i send you my faithful readers hugs!

Exhibitionism Is Not Art

I am always enthralled to gaze upon the rosy cheeked nudes of Renoir and Botticelli, and the magnificence nudes sculpted by Michelangelo that Musée_d'Orsayexhibitionistic artist Deborah de RobertisCourbet L'origine du MondeExhibitionism at the tour eiffelMilo Moire skedekunstMusee d'Orsay male nudecapture the majesty of the human body, but to throw your genitals open for all to see is not an art form, but just plain exhibitionism.

On may 29, Deborah de Robertis, a young “artist” had the audacity to consider her vulva to be as monumentally impressive as the one immortalised by Gustave Courbet, whose painting, titled L’Origine du Monde (Origine of the World) is in the Musée d’ Orsay.

Ms de Robertis, who hails from Luxembourg, calls herself a performance “artist”.  Up until this recent stunt she was fairly unknown, but since, has gathered at least notoriety in the press and media, if not artistic acclaim.

She explained in  interviews published by Le Figaro, and by the Luxemburger Wort that her recent genital unveiling was not “impulsive” , but “well thought out”.  The day she chose was the day of Ascension, a Catholic feast day and a national holiday in France, though accordingly to her, a non believer, had no significance other than she likes hearing the Ave Maria and compares herself to all women, even the Virgin Mary.  The Luxemburger Wort, said she went on to explain that she felt Gustave Courbet’s rendering lacked the realism she felt was needed, because the artist had painted the model’s vagina closed.

Taking upon herself to correct the situation at hand, she wanted to further enlighten her own interpretation, by making sure all could be witness to her vaginal opening or “le trou” (hole) as she repeatedly made in reference.  That to me is offensive enough, beside comparing herself to all women and the Virgin Mary.

I hold in reverence a women’s vagina, womb and ovaries, and never liked for them to be referred to it vulgar terms. The vagina is indeed the sacred conduit of humanity out into this world, and should be celebrated as the temple of the feminine, as our ancient and more matriarchal societies did.

The Musée d’Orsay, aside from having their artistic feathers ruffled, replied from an administrative point, “that she never even requested permission, which of course , given the nature of the request, it would have been refused”.  The museum and two of the guides involved have officially filed charges of sexual exhibitionism.

Paris, like every big city has its share of kooks and attention seekers, though sometimes I think more here, due to the French having rather liberal thoughts and indifference in general to nudity.

Nude breasts hardly raise an eyebrow, and are flashed about in advertisements, in the media, and entertainment ad lib without a second thought.  Femen, known for their bare breasted demonstrations are charged with disturbance of the peace, not exhibitionism.

Flashing one’s genitals in public though is another thing, and  not only frowned upon, but will get you arrested.  Paris, seemingly has had a wave of these sensationalistic seeking “artists”.

Last fall, again in the Musée d’Orsay, Arthur G, a regional art student stripped completely nude during an exhibit called Masculin/Masculin. He too was quickly escorted out and charged.

Another performance artist, from South Africa by the name of Steven Cohen, was caught parading around Place Trocadéro  in May, dressed in red plumes, red gloves and platform shoes with a live rooster tied to his penis.  Wanting to protest against homophobia, and antisemitism, using the rooster as the symbol of France, may be meritorious, if not for his provocative genital nudity, for which he was found guilty of exhibitionism.

In Cologne Germany, Milo Moire, in my opinion takes the cake for vulgarity and feminine degradation.  Straddling above a canvas totally nude, again using “art” as a disguise for mockery of female genitals and organs of reproduction, she stuffed plastic eggs full of paints in her vagina and then plopped them out to create her colorful “creation”.

I find all these so called performance “artists” as nothing more than using nudity to call attention to their pitiful and extremely pretentious attempts of being an art form.  Good art never needs sensationalism to be recognised and admired for the majesty it offers. 

I think of all the thousands of professional artists who have spent their entire life, along with much sweat and tears, mastering and perfecting their art, be it painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, photographers and writers.  Some lived in abject poverty, denying themselves comforts of life in order to buy their supplies and instruments to  pursue their art, often without any recognition of their talents!

It does not take any talent to hike up your skirt or unzip your pants to expose genitals, nor parade around nude.  I find it a real slap in the face to all the professional artists, who have toiled night and day, consumed with perfectionistic passion to have their art recognised and acclaimed.

I think of the many times when I have been moved to tears and held in trance like gazing at the magnificent works of a Botticelli, Renoir, and Michelangelo, amongst many others,  or having had my mood magically transported by beautiful music of professional musicians.

These pompous “artists” reek of narcissism, believing that their interpretations of their “art” are worthy of any recognition.  Even more pathological narcissistic is to compare themselves to the great masters, whose work were rigorously selected to have the honor to be displayed in the hallowed galleries of the Musée d’Orsay or Louvre.

The classical psychiatric definition of exhibitionism centers around the need to expose one’s genitals to unconsenting others, in order to gain sexual satisfaction, but also through shock and amusement.     I consider it a subtle form of violence and certainly a personal violation, regardless of how much one is accepting and liberal in their views of nudity.

I find myself to be very liberal about nudity, but I don’t appreciate being subjected to having someone’s genitals purposely flashed in front my eyes.  Having been a victim of three incidences of sexual exhibitionism, most recently in the metro inches from my face was disturbing and frightening.

The bottom line is using shock and sensationalism to seek attention through public nudity certainly attracts many eyes, but rarely if ever an empathic response for whatever cause or statement made.

Calling a display of your own nude body as a form of art, especially in public, is just  ludicrous, and is not art, but plain exhibitionism.    Comparing your own nudity as an interpretation of and as having the same aesthetic beauty painted or sculpted by the great masters is the epitome of narcissism!



Gardens of The French President and Prime Minister

Elysee fountainElysee Palace EntranceNo, I wasn’t invited to a garden party-soiree to see these two very historical and unique gardens, but they were open for one of the garden festivals Paris has each year.    The Hôtel Matignon is rarely open to the pubic, but the Élysée Palace is open now on the first sunday of the month.

Both are beautifully landscaped, as you would expect for any official residence of the state, but one felt much more inviting and peaceful than the other. As I have often said before, houses retain the energies of its occupants for those sensitive to feeling what these old stones have lived through.

The Élysée Palace is located appropriately enough just off the Champs Élysée, between the Arc de Triomphe and Place Concorde.  If walking on the right side of the avenue towards the Arc, then it is behind the exquisite Lenôtre cooking school.

Luckily I chose to come around noon, knowing the line would be less, since the French like to eat long Sunday lunches.  After being duly examined and patted down, we stood in line again for further scrutiny before being able to enter.

The whole mansion is hidden from view by the thick vegetation behind a tall blue and Elysee terracegold trimmed fence adorned with the proud and glorious French symbol; a golden rooster. When opened, it provides a lovely view of the only fountain and the mansion in the background.

The mansion was built in 1720 for the Count of Evreux, who financed the majority of the construction from the dowry he received for marrying a young woman of only 12 years old.  A few months later he sent her away, but refused to return all of the dowry to her father.

Louis XV acquired the mansion and gave it to his favorite mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, who was often publicly taunted with cruel words left on the fence.  She is credited with enlarging and embellishing  the gardens to be a playful retreat for her young daughter, who tragically died soon afterwards.

The mansion went on to eventually house Napoleon I and Napoleon III, and since 1874 the Elysée palace has been the official residence of the presidents of France. Not all Elysee terrace lavender and rosesElysee sculpted gardenElysee statuesElysee garden greenhouseFrench presidents have appreciated, nor wanted to reside there, the latest being Nicolas Sarkozy.

Why? Perhaps it was the same unease and sense of apprehension I felt about being there, despite the lovely flowered park and the mansion’s ornate interiors, which I have not yet visited.

It was only in researching its history for this article, that I was able to understand my feelings regarding the energy of the place. Some say there is a curse to this dwelling, which is worthy of another post.

First of all,  it was built with deception, lies and betrayal tied to the greed of the Count of Evreux.   Madame Pompadour’s daughter dying was the first of several deaths, assassinations and illnesses that have plagued several presidents who lived there.

I did like the beautiful perfumed roses, amongst vast patches of lavender and sage that bordered the terrace.  The huge trees planted during the reign of Louis XV were likewise impressive.

Some of the statuary I found strange, such as that of a sheep, but perhaps there is some significance that I am not aware.  Though free flowing champagne is certainly offered for state affairs, at least ordinary visitors had cold water access throughout the gardens, which I thought was a nice gesture.

President Francois Hollande was not there, as he was off in Normandy having lunch with D Day veterans.  Ironically, his rather convoluted love life has been just another page in its history, where previous president Felix Faure died there at age 58 during a sexual tryst with his mistress.

The Hôtel Matignon, (hotel means a distinguished house in French),  is the private resident of the Prime Minister, currently Manual Valls.   You could easily pass  the garden’s entrance on Rue de Babylon in the 7 th arrondissement if, not for the French flag and ever-present gendarmes.

lt was constructed in 1724, by the Luxembourg Prince of Tingry who wanted to Matignon terraceMatignon statue off of terraceMatignon landscapesurround himself in a country park.   When the Prince over extended himself financially, it was sold to Count de Matignon, who bought the mansion as a gift for his son.

From then, this lovely mansion has had many proprietors, mostly aristocratic.  One of the owners was a Prince of Monaco, and even to this day, amongst his many titles Albert II is called sire of Matignon.

The most illustrious and intriguing owner was a professional dancer named Anne Franchi, who became the mistress of Emperor Joseph II of Austria.  Expelled from Austria, by the emperor’s wife, she returned to Matignon, which became a popular social venue, having  befriended the first wife of Napoleon I.

The last aristocrat left the estate to the Austro Hungarian Emperor, who turned it into an embassy.  It was acquired by France in 1922, where it eventually became the first Matignon flowersMatignon glaciere designMatignon ice caveMatignon beekeeperministers residence.

In general I liked this garden more, finding it more romantic and intriguing. The  resonating energy is peaceful and serene, and I wished I could have stayed longer.

There is a very beautiful double alley of 106 linden trees lining each side of the center of the garden. They offer a completely covered thick green canopy of intertwined branches , providing a very shaded and refreshing walk even on the hottest days.

The original glacier or ice cave is still intact and was interesting to see at least the entrance.  All châteaux had these ingenious caves, where huge blocks of ice carved out during the winter were hauled off and buried in coverings and straw a few meters down, as seen in the photo.   They provided cold storage for foods and ice for preparation of ice reams and desserts.

Two times a year, the gardeners choose a theme that they play out with flowers.  They also adhere to organic methods of cultivation, and all weeding is done by hand.

They have  installed multiples bird houses  for over 25 species of birds, who now call this luxurious setting their home.  Of interest was a recording recreating all the chirps and sounds of each species who have nested here, so you could identify them.

It has been a custom for each of the Prime Ministers to plant a tree.  Therefore you will find 12 trees each bearing their name, often of exotic or rare species.

To me, the gardens of Matignon have resoundingly retained the original design of it being a “country estate”, complete with bee hives, which have also been added.  The presiding beekeeper, proudly displayed some of his bees swarming around one of the combs and the honey produced, saying half went to the Prime Minister and the rest to the gardeners and him.

He explained to me that city bees are more productive that their country cousins, because there is less pesticides used within the city.  They are known to fly within a radius of 3 kilometers to gather pollen.

Given that new information, perhaps some of  those beloved and busy bees who are always frequenting my own little garden live at such a sumptuous place.  Minuscule in comparison and certainly much more modest, in addition to being suspended 8 floors up, my balcony garden is nevertheless tended to with much love!





A Sunny Sunday With The Basques

It was one of those rare warm sunny Basque feteBasque children dansersbasque danse 3Basque dancers 4Sundays in Paris, that brings the throngs out to celebrate the sun that has been playing hide and seek for the whole month.  I decided to go to a Fête des Basques taking place on a Pelota court, near the banks of the Seine.  For those of you not very familiar with the Basques, they are a cultural and ethnic group concentrated in the southwestern part of France and bordering Spain.

The Basque area is the western part of the Pyrenées, starting on the Atlantic coast around Bayonne , and winding down to very chic Biarritz and quaint Saint Jean de Luz, then crossing over the border of  Spain to San Sebastian and beyond.   For many years there have been separatist upheavals among the Basques, erupting into occasional violence, though this occurs more on the Spanish side.

The Basque language called Euskara, is amazingly still well understood, spoken and propagated in the whole area, even amongst the youth.  It is completely different from French, Spanish and  all other languages of the world, as it does not have an Indo-European origin.

School classes are taught both in Basque and French in an effort to keep up their bilingual culture. Their mysterious origin is often debated as the geographical area is sandwiched between two very well developed and distinct cultures.

Genetic studies do demonstrate that they have unique genetic patterns that set them apart from the surrounding non Basque population.  Strangely, they have the highest global concentration of RH negative blood types.Basque pelote playerBasque PelotePelote batonsarticle_piment

They seemingly arrived long before there was any agricultural activity on the Iberian peninsula.  Now they are well entrenched in raising sheep, a special breed of pigs, wine making, and growing their famous red peppers, called piments d’espelette.

This has given rise to a formidable production of cheeses made from lambs milk, which is aged in the cool mountains of the Pyrenées.  My favorite is Ossara Iraty, which is firm cheese that has a wonderful nutty basque area-Biarritz-PlageMaisons Basquegateau BasqueIrouleguyOssau Iratyflavor with a pleasant slightly acidic aftertaste.

The Basque pig is pretty with the pink and black markings around the bottom.  They are raised mostly in liberty grazing on chestnuts and mountain herbs.  Bayonne hams and a panoply of  sausages are therefore famous and sought after.

These long red peppers, have earned a AOC protection and are not hot, but have a lovely mild smokey flavor.  In late summer and fall, the Basque houses are often draped with long red strands of this famous pepper that is used liberally in seasoning most Basque dishes.

The most famous pasty is called a Gâteau Basque, which is a very buttery confection filled with primarily vanilla cream or black cherry preserves.  I have found them fairly easy to make and original in that the structure is a cross between a cake and a tart dough.

They are so identified with the Basque culture, that there is even a Musée du Gâteau Basque near Saint Jean de Luz  The region also prides itself on their chocolates, some incorporating the renown espelette peppers.

I love the region’s most acclaimed red wine, Irouleguy, which is as fun to pronounced as to taste.   It is a very full bodied and robust wine made from the Tannat, Cabernet franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.  It can be rather tannique, so it is better to aged for a few years to soften the tannins.

Their national sport is Pelota or Pelote, consisting of two teams scoring points by batting a rubber or leather ball off a large wall called a fronton.  The court is much longer than a tennis court, and the action seems more targeted and intense.

I had never seen a Pelote game became, so it was for me, confusing to know how  and why a point could be scored, other than hitting the huge wall.  The whacking sounds were thundering to my ears, magnified by using solid wooden rackets.

The folk dancing was wonderful to watch; the women in gaily colored skirts and men in white pants sporting red bindings, red scarfs and red berets.  Red is certainly the predominant color, even in the decorative trim of their houses in the Basque country.

The Basque Association is quite active here in Paris and besides promoting tourism and staging cultural events like this, offers courses in Basque dance, choral Porc Basquemusic and language.   Waves of Basques have emigrated in the past to other countries, most predominately to America, Canada, Chile and Argentina.

Bakersfield, California and parts of Nevada and Idaho have a large population of Basque descendants.  I was surprised to meet an American one here in Paris at a gastronomic salon, where she was passing out samples at her husband’s cheese stand.

Having grown up in the states, she came to the Basque region in France to reconnect with her cultural heritage.  She fell in love with a Basque  farmer, married and now helps in the production and marketing of their cheeses.

Though she heard Basque occasionally being spoken by her grandparents, she wasn’t completely fluent in the language.   Now the mother of two children, she stated that Basque was their household language, and her children and their friends prefer to speak in Basque rather than French.

By the end of the festival, I found myself wishing I could sport a red scarf around my neck.  Who knows?   In my Irish family tree, there was a mysterious adopted one, supposedly found shipwrecked off the coast of Ireland and said to possibly have come from that area. After all, I am RH negative, love red peppers and red is one of my very favorite colors to wear!



Paris Opera House; Charles Garnier’s Passion Triomphed Over Depression, Anxiety And Grief

Opera garnier (1)Charles Garnier’s professional charlesgarnierdestiny was to be as marvelously rich and world acclaimed as his opulent architectural masterpiece; the Paris Opera, rightfully named in his honor.  This immensely talented man was unstoppable, yet his personal life was over shadowed with constant battles of severe bouts of depression, anxiety, doubts, hypochondria and grief.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to relish again this magnificent palace of opulence that is the largest opera house in the world, and has housed the world’s greatest opera singers and ballet dancers for over a hundred and thirty nine years. There is a sense of reverence as you enter these hallowed halls.

The grandeur that  Charles Garnier designed and incorporated in all of his creations, came from a man who was raised in the most humble of settings.  Jean Louis Charles Garnier was born on November 6th 1825, on Rue Mouffetard in Paris.

At that time, it was a very poor part of the city , albeit colorful with vegetables merchants hawking their produce in Opera grand staircase panoramapalais_garnierOpera Garnier cupolaOpera TapestriesOpera grand stairwayOpera long roomOpera long room 2the stifling malodorous smells given off by the very polluted river Bievre,which is now covered over.  His father was a blacksmith, who also repaired horse-drawn carriages, that he would rent out.

He was said to have been a sickly child, who would in turn become a frail teenager.  Because of this, his father gave up hopes that his son would someday take over his blacksmithing business.

Looking back over his life, perhaps this was a form of grace that opened the sky of possibilities to other worlds beyond his dreams.  He was late in starting primary school, but was noted to be gifted in math and geometry.

He was named “le braqué”, or bird dog, because he was a willful and Opera frescosOpera entranceintense child.  In his teens, he started drawing classes at the École des Dessins, which opened to provide poor children exposure to the drawing arts for free.

His teachers were the first to describe him as “a bundle of nerves” that would eventually worsen and plague him, throughout his entire life.  Two of his classmates would later become sculptors that he would later employ in building his masterpiece.

Because of his developing talent and newborn passion for sketching, it was his mother, Felicité, who made sure to Opera private logesOpera Mosaic floorOpera Archesprovide him with all the pencils and supplies needed.  She is given credit for suggesting the possibility of him becoming an architect, after learning that architects could make a decent living, that would allow her son to rise above their struggling existence.

In those days architectural students learned their profession usually by being an apprentice with established architects of the day.  Some also would study classical designs at the very prestigious École des Beaux Arts.

By a stoke of good luck, the renown architectural renovator Viollet le Duc took Charles under his wing, and later hired him as a draftsman. This fortuitous turn of events would prove to be a double edge sword many years later.

His artistic intensity and talents would lead him into being admitted to the acclaimed  École des Beaux Arts in 1842, the same year his brother Gustave was born.  By 1848, at the age of 23, his architectural projects won the Prix de Rome, which offered him five years of foreign study in Italy.

Charles took up resident in the Villa Medici in Rome, which treated him to his first taste of luxurious surroundings, that he had never experienced before.  Besides studying and sketching on site the marvels of Roman architecture, he would occasionally go on excavation digs of Roman ruins.

Because he wanted more exposure to other styles, he requested and was given permission to study in Greece , as the French had recently opened a school in Athens. Charles recounted seeing the Acropolis for the first time with as much emotion and glorious reverence to  stature and beauty that he would incorporate into his own future creations.

The power and beauty of Corinthian columns must have touched a deep artistic chord in his psyche, along with Greek mythology that he would later weave into the Paris Opera house.  He loved hands on experience in these ancient ruins, as if he was soaking up the remnant energy of the master builders long before his time.

Along with an archeologist, he assisted in the excavation of the Temple of Aegina. He then traveled to Constantinople to savor and marvel at the Byzantine use of domes and spirals.

His return to Paris, ended up being too stressful, perhaps not only because of the counter-culture shock, but the realisation that his formal studies had come to an end and he was now expected to perform professionally.

He ended up having what was recorded as “a nervous breakdown” that required being hospitalized over a year and half.  At that time, he also started to have obsessive worries of having serious and grave diseases, which ended up plaguing him the rest of this life.

After his hospitalization, he found a job working as a governmental architect for the 5th and 6th arrondissements of Paris. In 1858, he married Louise Bary, a woman, who would become his center of gravity and provided the much needed solace for the rest of his life.

Ironically their apartment  at 90 Blvd Saint Germain overlooked the Roman thermal baths of the Cluny Museum. Life took on the trimmings of middle class success, such as dinners for friends, and attending concerts and operas.

Friends described him as a bon vivant and open hearted guy who loved to play the piano and write and sing his own operettas.   Paris was in the mist of being revamped by Barron Haussmann, whose massive urban renewal would change the physical outlay  of the city.

Besides gutting slums, and creating wide and sweeping avenues, that required demolition of many houses, he was charged with creating a new neighborhood around the future site of the new Paris Opera , as the original one was destroyed by fire.

This was during the Second Empire with Napoleon III in power.  He launched a contest to find the winning design for the future opera house.

Charles Garnier finished 5th, out of 171 applicants, which allowed him to compete in the second and finale round.  That was surprising enough, that a young and relatively unknown architect even placed into the finalist circle.

Empress Éugenie had favored and pressed to have her friend Viollet Le Duc win the competition.  Against all odds , Charles Garnier was announced the winner in 1861, who was as shocked as the whole artistic community of Paris.

The jury cited his proposition as having “rare and superior qualities”.  Despite the allegorical acclaim, the Empress in meeting Charles, rudely and critically complained  about his design, saying “What is this, it’s not a style, it’s neither Louis 14, nor Louis 15, not even Louis 16″!

Taken back, Charles quickly replied, “but Madame, its Napoleon III”.  Excavation started in the fall of that year, and that is when monumental challenges began for Charles.

The spot chosen in the 9 th arrondissement of Paris was already known to be slightly swampy, but when non stop water started sprouting up, it was discovered that underneath they had struck a phreatic lake. Pumps worked around the clock , but to no avail.  Undaunted, Charles conceived of an ingenuous idea to work along with mother nature, rather that trying to conquer it.

He constructed a huge concrete cistern to contain the water,  that with the weight of the water, would also would add stability to the whole structure.  Despite on going criticism, mostly from his former mentor Viollet le Duc and increasing costs, Charles doggedly persisted.

Three years after construction had begun, Charles and Louise lost their only son at the age of two years and a year later his wife suffered a miscarriage.   Despite the monumental grief, he persisted until construction came to a halt during the Prussian siege of Paris from 1870 to 1871, during which he and Louise sought shelter in the parts of the Opera already covered.

In 1872, Louise gave birth  to their second son Christian. Resumption of the work necessitated Charles to make several more demands for increased funding, which brought on more criticism and pressure for completion.   He also found out that his only sibling, Gustave, who oversaw the work, only when Charles had to be away had been stealing monies from the opera house fund, that he had squandered away in frivolous drunken pursuits.

On the 5th of January, 1875, the doors finally opened with a lavish gala and a standing ovation for its creator, Charles Garnier.  The majority of reviews were overwhelming with praise for the glory he had brought to the city of Paris.

Fame and fortune finally raised him into the circle of celebrated personalities and dignitaries of the time.  He was commissioned to do the opera house at Monte Carlo, and the Observatory of Nice.

He and Louise thought leaving Paris would be good for him, after all the enduring stress and they constructed a villa in Bordighera, on the Ligurian coast of Italy.  Though he spent most of the time there, but kept the  apartment in Paris, to which he would often return.

Though life was idyllic in his new villa by the sea,  he still had episodic  bouts of severe depression and anxiety.  Totally unfounded doubts around his professional  capacities taunted him and he continued to constantly believe he had contracted a severe illness.

Towards the last years of his life, he discovered that his only remaining child had contracted tuberculosis, and was not responding to treatment.  On August the 3rd, 1898, Charles Garnier died of a stroke in his apartment in Paris.

A month later his son, Christian, followed him to his grave, leaving Louise doubly devastated with grief. Both are buried in his family’s simple plot in Montparnasse cemetery.   Since his death, a gold leafed statue of Charles now adorns the front of Opera Garnier and the square is front is called Place Charles Garnier.

I was in awe during my recent visit by just seeing the  rotunde entrance foyer, which is a teaser of what lays ahead, before another hall leads you into the magnificent grand staircase.  At first sight, I was enthralled with the splendor of it all.

Sumptuous and palatial surroundings of marble, gold leaf, and statues, all shimmered  in the glittering light of huge crystal chandeliers.  Charles Garnier’s genius of interweaving architectural structure with paintings,  and statues are employed throughout the  rooms and the auditorium, whose ceiling was renovated by Marc Chagall.

The private loges are richly decorated with red velvet and offer much privacy, that has given rise to many tales of lustful pursuits of lovers who rent the whole loge.  The surrounding floors are all in mosaic line with velvet covered benches.

The several frescos depicting Greek gods and goddesses, along with astrological signs of the zodiac have fueled theories that Charles was a franc mason.  Though unproven, it certainly would be befitting of this masterful builder to have joined the ranks of masons who toiled with divine reverence in building Notre Dame.

The gigantic cistern is still full of water, now holding  a few fish fed by a machinist and can provide additional water in case of a fire. The cistern was one of the mysteries of Opera Garnier that inspired Gaston Leroux’s famous story and play The Phantom of The Opera.   Recently bee hives were added to the roof, offering a unique honey bearing its name.

Charles Garnier’s life is yet another testimony that despite humble beginnings, mental illness and painful losses, one can proceed to accomplish much in one’s life.  Grief, depression, and anxiety can hinder and slow us down, but with passion and support, these shadowing challenges can be navigated around, much like Charles did with that troublesome underground lake.

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Celebrating International Nurse’s Day, The Lady With The Lamp

I proudly present guest blogger and my talented daughter Aimée Grosz, who has had the courage, and fortitude to practice nursing in three foreign settings.  I can’t think of anyone more qualified to write about experiences in transcultural nursing, than Aimée!


Today is May 12th, and It’s the first time I’m actually aware and giving reverence to this special day. It’s the birthday of Florence Nightingale, the founder of the profession of Nursing of which her birth is celebrated globally as International Nurse’s Day.Florence Nightingale

Florence was made famous by the Crimean War, reducing mortality by two-thirds in establishing sanitary means in the hospital. She was remembered by soldiers at night as ‘the lady with the lamp’ administering aid at their bedside.

When I was a nursing student, I was inspired by Florence Nightingale’s philosophy of healing. It’s a profession that I can say I am proud of, that validates my beliefs in healthcare, an essential science based on the beneficial effects of caring and holistic AfricaPeace Corps tooPeace Corpsguinea wormKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAapproach of the entire individual and their environment and surroundings.

This is a role that I have been blessed to take part in Benin, West Africa and professionally practice in the US, Switzerland, France, and a US military hospital in Germany.

Every single human has a story to tell, and as a psychiatric nurse, I always believed in this basic principle of being testimony to another soul, allowing the voice of a suffering human to be heard, to be understood. I thought if anything, in my role, no matter how complicated, bad, hopeless, or despair a person was in, I at least could be that listening ear at their side and actively engage what they wanted to express, allow them to feel, cry, scream.

There is a satisfaction to being heard and understood; it keeps dignity and respect intact to that individual, and lets them process and be where they need to be. And what is even more important, is the more they hang on and breathe and live, the more hope is around the corner.

I was an avid reader of National Geographic as a child, and learning about other cultures had instilled in me a desire to travel. My first opportunity was after I graduated from Tulane,  when I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to a tiny village with no running water and electricity in Benin, West Africa.

My official title was Guinea Worm Eradication Specialist. The large and short of this tale, is that I went from village to village in my precinct with a guide who translated into local dialect my instruction, telling people to filter their river water supply through a fabric (that would filter the microscopic crustacea that had guinea worm larvae).

The guinea worm larvae grows its cycle inside the human body. To complete its cycle for further reproduction, this gruesome long, fragile thin worm bores a hole and exits very slowly, causing an open wound leaving the person to high fevers, inabilty to work in their farming fields, and having high risk for infection which becomes more deadly than having the high fevers.

This illness, Dracunculiasis, dates back to biblical times, and theories are it may have been the symbol for medicine with the drawing of a worm wrapped around a stick. The reason being is that with guinea worm, a tiny match like stick is attached to the wound because the worm takes over 6 weeks to completely come out. If the worm breaks, it goes back in the body and rebores another hole. That is why it’s very important to have the worm coiled on a stick.

After these village meetings, each and every person afflicted with a physical ailment came out of the woodwork: adults with elephantisis, Gastroschisis, a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall, bacteria eating wounds, malaria, dengue fever.  The Peace Corps issued me a large tin canister of aspirin tablets to give, and believe me, it was considered like gold and very appreciated.

I saw medical ailments that were taught to me in textbooks with photos, but with living humans in front of me and asking for help, all I had was a tin canister of aspirin. Reality was hard, and needless to say this KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAwas very overwhelming during my stay of one and half years.

I felt powerless as I began to observe how healthcare is managed in third world countries, and at the end of my stay became very malnourished and sad from being alone isolated in a village.

Overall, my experience with the Peace Corps though was a window to the world and forever changed me for the good. I learned so much from the villagers about many things.

One of which was their festive celebrations when someone died. They would tell me that the person died no longer suffered and was freed to go back to the other side.

They would have a 3 day wake with KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERALandstuhlKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAKONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAimee Cherry La Grande Cascadecontinual music playing. It reminded me exactly of the jazz musical dirges with a marching band in New Orleans that I saw as child! There were other similarities as Benin was the birthplace of voodoo. But most importantly the villagers taught me the beauty and joy of simple living and the value of being with family.

It was at Payne Whitney Clinic in New York City that I began work as a nurse in acute psychiatric care. I learned so much as it was never tranquil with crises every day. I recognized how one’s culture, religious and dietary habits, and maternal language were so important to healing.

After 3 years there, I still always had my travel desires, and therefore this work experience gave me confidence, incorporating the Big Apple adage, ” If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere! “. This became my launching pad to go discover healthcare in Europe.

Acquiring accreditations to practice nursing in France wasn’t easy. Many sacrifices were made, but I wanted to follow my dream. In the beginning, I worked as an English teacher. Mom was doing her weekly psychotherapy discussions at cafe Jussieu about mental illness and treatment modalities.

At the cafe talks, I started to learn about European psychiatric schools of thought including psychoanalytic ( origins of Freud and Lacan) and France’s adaptation to ‘Western influences’, meaning American neurobiological basis of mental illness. I instinctively remember meeting a French psychoanalyst telling me that “Americans monopolized France with McDonalds, and now they are doing the same by spreading SSRI medications!”.

One of my students told me I could work in a hospital and conduct clinical research studies. I took a one year course at a French university while continuing to teach english, passed an exam in french, and landed a job with Professor Pierre Amarenco in Neurology at Bichat Hospital in Paris.

This job helped me so much because not only did it expose me to French hospital care for patients with strokes and heart attacks, but it forced me to speak french which I built up my fluency.  I loved talking with the French nurses, and I began to miss working as a nurse. It was at that time, I was informed that my American nursing degree was accepted in Switzerland.

Et voila! Off to the French and Swiss Alps at a private psychiatric clinic that was next to Lac Leman with the Alps and the snowy peaks visible of Mont Blanc in the background. I was happy to practice nursing again.

I had the opportunity to care for many english speakers renowned from all over the world who wanted private anonymous care in Switzerland. And particular patients sometimes would carry on with their lavish comfort having their private chauffeur at their beck and call and installing cable satellite to the roof of the clinic so that they could have the comforts of their country’s channels. It was a beautiful historical clinic dating back to the late 1800′s that was a forerunner for treating mentally ill patients with dignity.

The Iraq war was going on at that time, and there was a lack of military psychiatric personnel to take care of the ever increasing amount of soldiers coming back afflicted with PTSD and suicide attempts. I felt called to take the job and move to the countryside of Landstuhl, Germany where the American military hospital was based as the major European headquarter ‘pit stop’ as short term transit to care for soldiers coming from Iraq and going back to the States for further care.

Out of all my nursing experiences, I can say that this one was the most emotional for me. It really was heart rendering to encounter our American youth, men and women, and be witness to their sufferings. I always told people, ” I am not for the war, but I am for the soldier! ” All blessings to every single man and woman who have served. There are not enough words for their sacrifice and courage.

Now, I am living in Paris, France, and I work at Saint Anne Hospital. Last week’s post described the beautiful gardens and statues where I work. I work in a outpatient clinic for Rehabilitation for those with schizophrenia. It’s nice because it places the role of advanced nursing and allows our team to be a forefront in being leaders of our speciality in training other nurses or other outpatient clinics in France.

I have to say that the love and support of my mom has helped me tremendously in following my dreams and sharing my love for travel. A large part of fulfilling this dream goes to her. My mother has a lot of gumption like her father who served in WW 2 as a fighter pilot. I always called my mom my giddy-up girl with the American bravado to follow her dreams. Thank you, mom. I love you!

Happy International Day to all Nurses!