It was around the 1940’s, while World War II was in full-swing, hopefully to be over soon. In America, soldiers would go to bars to flirt and have some fun before they got sent off to their next assignment. The ladies enjoyed themselves as well, but if a guy got too fresh with them, they had pointed hairpins that they could use to set him straight.

At one such bar, a young man named John Thomas was socializing and having fun. He had his eye on an attractive lady with great legs. Claire Ewalt was sitting next to him, minding her own business as best she could in a noisy bar, until that clumsy guy accidentally spilled his beer on her fancy new green skirt. His attention tore away from the other woman, and he profusely apologized, offering to have her skirt cleaned. Claire declined his offer and said she would wash it herself. Unfortunately, in washing it by herself, she ended up ruining that skirt. But it did bring John Thomas into her life.

One thing led to another, and they ended up falling in love. He wasn’t Catholic, so Claire’s parents didn’t quite approve. Love won, and they ran away together to get married in 1950. John and Claire Thomas began their new life together filled with the utmost love and devotion. He did end up converting to Catholicism which blessed their marriage with faith and love.

Over the years, they moved several times as a military family, living in Illinois, London, England, elsewhere, and eventually settling in South Dakota. They had four children, one daughter and three sons: Cynthia, Lawrence, John, and Stephen. While they didn’t have a lot of money, they still maintained a life of simplicity, love, and a close family bond.

As their children grew older and settled down with their own families all over the United States, Claire and John ended up moving themselves to Texas where they finally put down roots to remain. Throughout my life, they lived in the same house in a great retirement community with a golf course in their backyard. I always loved visiting them and can even remember the welcoming smell in their house. My family and I lived in Saint Louis, Missouri, so it was a lengthy drive, but I always looked forward to visiting with them.

There’s even a family video recording of my grandparents meeting me for the first time after I was born when we flew up for a family reunion in South Dakota. My grandma had tears in her eyes as she welcomed me. As a child, my brother and I would play dogs with my grandma and grandpa. I can remember with fondness how compassionate and loving they were. It was always a great treat when Grandpa and Grandma Thomas came to visit. Throughout my adolescence they were always so supportive of me and were always so proud to hear about my accomplishments in school, band, choir, theatre, and beyond. They were even able to attend my Senior Vocal Performance Recital, which was the culmination of my Bachelors degree in Music at Webster University.

The love between my grandparents was always visible. They were always holding hands, placing their hand on the other’s leg, stealing kisses, and being affectionate with each other. I remember one time while we were driving somewhere with my Dad and Grandpa in the front while Grandma and I were in the backseat. Grandpa reached back to caress his wife’s leg, but he didn’t look behind him, which caused him to touch my leg instead. I cleared my throat and said, “Grandpa, I think you’re touching the wrong leg. That’s mine.” It was a funny moment.

My Grandpa always had a positive attitude. He was silly, laughed all the time, and created different voices and sounds to put everyone in a good mood. In all my time with him, I never saw him complain once. He was completely devoted to his wife. He was an admirable man with quiet strength. When my father played the guitar during their visits, my grandpa would always chime in singing.

I last visited my grandparents in 2012. It was after that time in August that my grandpa’s health began to steadily decline. They moved to a nursing home where he could receive more care. In December of 2013, he was hospitalized for serious issues, and we thought that we would lose him. But he surprised everyone and held on. Over time, he gradually lost the ability to speak coherently. My family would FaceTime Grandma, and she would include him in the video calls. One Christmas, we called them, and I sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” for him. He opened his eyes to listen. It hurt to see his health declining so much.

Last Sunday, on the day before my father would go into surgery for a major spinal fusion, we received word that my grandpa, his father, had passed on to Heaven. We were in the middle of Costco shopping for our dinner that night. We all just formed a big group hug and cried together in the middle of the store. And that night we grilled some great New York Strip Steaks with salad and red wine, toasting a great man.

His body was blessed, and he will be cremated. He will be buried in a major cemetery for veterans in the Dallas area. That internment ceremony will be next year when my father is able to fly to be with his family. I’m very glad that they will be waiting for him to be there along with everyone else. I wish I could be there too, but France is very far away, and I won’t be able to afford the plane ticket.

I haven’t had the chance to really and truly cry and grieve the passing of my Grandpa Thomas, but I wanted to take the time and write a brief account of the love story between my grandparents that lasted 65 years. Their story and enduring love is an inspiration for the entire family and everyone who knew them. I can only hope that my marriage will endure all those years into the future as well. I never knew my maternal grandfather because he died the year my parents married in 1984, but I had the privilege to know John M. Thomas throughout my 25 years of age. I will miss him dearly, but I know that he is in a much better place at peace and able to run, jump, laugh, and speak in Heaven. He is no longer suffering and in the arms of his Father.

We love you, Grandpa.

Easter 1991

I feel haunted by Death

She entered into my life

When I was fourteen years old

And hasn’t ever left

I feel haunted by Death

She took my cousin when he was ten

She took my uncle and husband to my godmother

Who was also the father of my cousin

She took my grandmother

She took my husband’s father

She took my husband’s godmother

She has taken so many lives

Close to me and of people that I never met

I feel haunted by Death

She plants seeds of thought

That turn into ideas and feelings

Images that involve me and her

The thought that she may take me someday too

Sometimes I imagine how she would take my hand

And lure me into her home in the underworld

I feel haunted by Death

These ideas aren’t new

They’ve been around for years

I’ve never actually attempted

The temptations have stayed in my mind

Sometimes I tell others

And then they help me through it

I feel haunted by Death

I know that I have a lot to live for

I know that I am loved

I just got married

My new life is across the Atlantic in France

Don’t take this as a sign that I need professional help

I’m just sharing my feelings

I feel haunted by Death

But she won’t take me until I’m old and ready

death and the maiden


You might think that you know me

But you don’t

You formulate your biased opinion

Based on your own life experiences

You judge me

Because it’s impossible not to

Decide whether or not you like someone

Free from your own personal viewpoint

You might think that you know me

But you don’t

I try to be kind with my words

I am a compassionate human being

I enjoy discussion

I believe in diversity

I like to be respectful

I don’t mind if you have a different opinion or viewpoint

But when you become personally disrespectful

I have a problem with that

You might think that you know me

But you don’t

Once my trust in you is broken

We’re done

It’s difficult enough to build trust in the first place

So if you betray me

You’ve lost me forever

That’s not my fault

You should have thought about how I might feel

Before you chose to do it

You might think that you know me

But you don’t

I don’t have time to waste on you

Especially when you don’t care about my feelings

Or myself as a person

So I’m just going to move on

You might think that you know me

But you don’t

Guess what?

You just inspired my newest poem

After more than a year of writer’s block

Be proud of yourself

Just remember

You might think that you know me

But you don’t


Last Sunday, mon ange and I accompanied his brother and mother on a hike to La Chapelle Hermone, which is a tiny little chapel located on the top of (I’m not sure whether to call it) a hill or mountain that is part of the Alps. It’s not like the mountain you picture in your head with the snow and dangerous peaks to traverse but still a steep climb with trees, etc. I didn’t have enough room in my suitcase to pack my hiking/climbing gear with me when I came to France, so I made do with jeans, a tank top, and button-down shirt that I kept open. At least I had good shoes for the climb. We drove to the starting point, and as I was looking out the window, I felt like I was entering a forest realm of a fairy tale. There were even some times that I was inspired to write a piece of short prose, but I have a bad habit of procrastinating and/or starting a story that I never finish.

It’s not a secret that I’m wanting to lose weight and get in shape. After only three weeks here, I can already tell a difference in my body and energy. I have a Fitbit, and while it was difficult to obtain the goal of 10,000 steps back in the U.S. where I lived, I have now reached that goal 7 times here in France. C had the good idea to increase my goal to 12,000 steps after I’ve reached 10,000 steps 10 times. That means I’ll have to kick my rear into gear even more. The secret to reaching the desired amount is to go walking and exploring for a couple hours. I didn’t reach 10,000 steps when we climbed to the chapel, but it was a more intense workout than usual. We packed water for hydration, and I had to stop and drink every so often. We picked a day that wasn’t too terribly hot, and when we were hiking in the trees, the shade created a nice coolness.

When we were close to the summit, we discovered a series of crosses dedicated to the Stations of the Cross for Christ’s passion. I had never read each station in French before, and as I climbed, I meditated on what Jesus went through. I might have been out of breath and sore from all the climbing, but it was nothing compared to what He experienced. As I reached the top, I felt a wave of relief wash over me and took in the view with awe. I can’t remember exactly how high up we were, but on one side we could see the towns and Lac Léman and on the other, more of the Alps stretched out before us. It was amazing.

We sat down to eat our picnic of ham and cheese baguette sandwiches and nectarines at the steps of the chapel. At first we didn’t realize that it was the entrance, but when people approached to enter it we made room so they could get by. After eating, I wanted to go inside as well. On the wall just in the entry, there was a large plaque with names of people that contributed financially to the Stations of the Cross. One of the sets of names was Mary and Joseph Thomas. I thought that was interesting. Oh, and by the way, they were installed in 1840. The chapel itself was older. I can’t get over how old and historic the monuments that I come across are! The entryway to the rest of the chapel was barred in order to preserve it, but you could still peek inside and read a prayer. C encouraged me to sing something because the acoustics were great. So I sang an improvised version of O Magnum Mysterium without lyrics. In one of the corners, there was a little area of tealight candles. I lit one in memory of my Grandma that passed away this March. She would have loved coming there.


Yesterday was Bastille Day, which is the French national holiday equivalent to the 4th of July in the United States. They aren’t as crazy as Americans are with flags everywhere and all the national pride, but they do have a little celebration. We went to Evian for dinner and to watch the fireworks later in the evening when the sun went down. And if you recognize the name Evian, that’s because it’s where the bottled water is manufactured. I know you’ve seen water bottles with the name on it in your local grocery store or gas station. Well, each and every bottle came from the center here in France that’s in the town right next to where I live! We had several hours to wait between dinner and fireworks, so we explored the shops and walked along the lake. There were tents set up selling everything from churros to cotton candy (fun fact: it’s called La barbe à papa).

When there was an hour and a half before the fireworks would begin, we claimed our spot to sit and watch them. Other people had been staking out a place even longer before us. We chose to sit on some large rocks around the edge of the lake. All the lights around port extinguished when it was time for the display to begin. We oohed and ahhed at the bright fireworks. To be honest, there isn’t much difference between American and French fireworks, but I do appreciate the reflection against the water here in Thonon. Getting back home was a bit of a nightmare. Luckily, he has a scooter, so we were able to weave through the engorged traffic to get home. But 30 minutes or more of sitting on the not-so-comfortable part of the scooter tends to turn your bum numb. I was very glad to reach our apartment at the end of the evening.

And so ends the latest installment of my adventures in France….



I’m losing track of time while I’m here in France. These past two weeks have gone by so quickly, and sometimes I forget what day of the week it is. It’s hard to believe that I’m living my dream, but here I am.

This past Tuesday we went to Paris to visit the U.S. Embassy so that I could get a document notarized that is one of the required papers for our upcoming marriage. This particular document doesn’t exist in America but is necessary in France, so naturally the only place to obtain it would be the capital. It’s been quite a process getting all of this paperwork together. I suppose having all of these hoops to jump through helps insure that you really do want to get married in the first place. I’ve never been married before, nor have I PACS’d (a French civil union that enables both people to have certain benefits in their co-habitation). So naturally I have to have a signed sworn statement in document form that I am single. I suppose it makes sense to have that, but going to Paris isn’t a simple and cheap little trip.

It was a 6-hour ride, and we were squished in the backseat with another person. I took naps when I could, but I also enjoyed looking at the countryside. French countryside at times looks similar to the Midwest countryside, but there are a lot more forests and trees. There were lots of farms and quaint little villages. Cows look different here in France. Also, it’s perfectly normal to be driving along and suddenly, out of nowhere, you see a castle in the mountains. I love it! We also drove under and through hills and mountains. It was really cool to just look out the window and see what passes by.

We were dropped off in the middle of the city with just our backpacks. The real adventure began in figuring out where we were and how to get to our hotel. We walked and walked and occasionally asked for directions until we got to the correct metro station. As a tip, you shouldn’t ride on the metro if you’re claustrophobic. It gets really cramped and crowded. After several stops, we reached the Gare du Nord and made our way to the surface.

Our hotel was in the 10th arrondissement, and it was actually in a good central location to get to places. Of course, it started raining as we were trying to find it. We finally reached Hotel Picardy, and sighed in relief. At the front desk, we checked in and got our key. The elevator was tiny, but three people could fit in it, provided you didn’t really have luggage. We reached our room at the end of the hall and opened the door to find a quaint little room. It looked nice enough for the price and location. Then we opened the door to the bathroom and found that there wasn’t a shower curtain, nor was the showerhead able to stay fixed on the wall. Oh, and if you wanted to take a bath, there wasn’t a plug. So! We would have to get creative later on.

My appointment at the U.S. Embassy wasn’t until the next day, so we had the evening to do a bit of exploring. Last year, mon ange was in Paris for the Japan Expo. He bought a lock, carved our names on it, and left it on a fence in Montmartre by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Our mission was to find the lock and bring it back home with us. We set out on our quest. We saw the basilica at the top of a hill. In order to get there, we had to climb about 250 steps. That was quite a workout! As we were walking along looking for the lock, we heard a young man singing an aria at the base of the steps of the basilica. He had a box where people could leave money, and there was quite a crowd gathered around him. He was good, especially to an untrained ear. C urged me to go up next to him after he had finished and start singing myself. I was too self-conscious and didn’t feel comfortable. Plus, I hadn’t had a chance to warm up. He said I was better then the young man, but I just didn’t want to do it. We moved along, but part of me wonders what would have happened if I had actually gotten up the courage to sing in front of those people… We reached the spot where he remembered putting the lock, only to find that the fencing where he had attached it was no longer there. It was gone! He was disappointed, but I assured him that it wasn’t the end of the world. We can always get a new lock and put it somewhere here in Thonon.

We headed back to our hotel, and when we finally reached our room I was ready to attempt to take a bath. Mon ange made a makeshift plug for the bathtub which actually worked. He’s creative and handy like that. Oh, that was an extremely soothing bath! We had to get up somewhat early the next morning, so we headed to bed.

The next morning, we packed up and checked out of the hotel, making our way to The Avenue des Champs-Élysées, which is basically the fanciest street in Paris. The American Embassy is also in the 8th arrondissement, so we figured that we could walk around and look at the shops while we waited for my appointment at 2pm. Picture all the fancy brand names that come to mind, and they were all there along that avenue. They’re huge stores with fancy displays that do their best to tempt you to come inside and buy something. They had Tiffany and Co., Yves Saint-Laurent, Abercrombie and Fitch, the Disney store, and so many more. We went into Zara and each bought a shirt as a memory of Paris that we can practically use. We also got some magnets, one for our fridge, and some others for our parents.

After several hours, it was time to make our way to the U.S. Embassy for my appointment. Just outside, there were guards stationed to make sure that everyone wanting to go to the embassy had good intentions (aka no terrorists). There was quite a line already, and I was early. I told a security officer that I had an appointment, and showed my passport. He presented it to someone and said that I could go straight on through. I didn’t even have to stand and wait in line. I suppose being an American has its perks sometimes. I left my phone and Fitbit bracelet with security and went into the building with my paper I needed notarized. When I got inside, I took a number and waited. I was 914. After they called me, I gave them the document and was told to go to the window to make the payment. It cost me $50 for them to officially sign and notarize a piece of paper. I personally thought that’s a ridiculous amount of money, but what else could I have done? Nothing, really. I waited for my name to be called yet again. This time, I raised my right hand and swore that everything on that document was true. I signed it, and then I was done. All that waiting and money spent for a trip to Paris just to sign a piece of paper saying that I’m single and have never been married. But hey, at least it’s over and done with! There aren’t much more things I have to do before I can get married. It’s exciting! Now that we achieved our main goal, all that was left was to waste a little more time before meeting our ride to begin our journey back home. We walked to the Eiffel Tower, and I took many pictures along the way.

Paris really is a fascinating city. You hear so many different languages of all the different nationalities visiting France’s capital. It’s easy to get lost with all of the complicated web of roads. People can be rude, but it’s normal. It’s a crowded place full of people trying to get somewhere. They’ll walk across the street without caring that traffic could be approaching. They’ll push their way through the crowds. And they don’t look very happy either. Then again, people that smile a lot are seen as potentially having a screw loose. There is quite a lot of trash everywhere, and parts of the city don’t smell pleasant. But despite all of that, it’s so full of history and life. C doesn’t like Paris, but I do. It’s a complicated place, and if you want to visit, make sure not to expect a fairy-tale that so many films paint in your mind. It’s not somewhere you can just spend two days like we did. Maybe a week at least to hit the main tourist attractions and also discover secret treasures. I definitely would recommend a trip to the City of Light and Love.

Until next time!


At The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

At The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Heat Wave

Happy Friday!

This past week, we’ve been experiencing record heat here in France, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any cooler any time sooner. As someone who has been raised on having air-conditioning readily available in every house and establishment, I’m experiencing a bit of difficulty adjusting to a life where having air-conditioning is a rarity. Apartments don’t have it, and every few homes do. Here in the Haute-Savoie region, only about two months of the year are very hot. The rest are rainy, dry, and cooler. I bought a fan to circulate air in our apartment, and it’s a life-saver. My skin is naturally oily, which is annoying. I put on foundation every day in an effort to reduce having a constantly shiny face, but I also find myself constantly wiping my face with a paper towel. Hopefully I’ll get used to this soon. On the bright side of all of this unbearable heat, it’s not as humid as back in Saint Louis. A dry heat is much preferable.

A few days ago, we went to Amphion to see where mon ange grew up. It’s a lovely little suburb that’s nice, quiet, and peaceful. We visited his father’s old house and left his scooter there to go walking around the neighborhood and beyond. As we walked, he told me little stories about all the trouble he would get into with the neighborhood boys. It appears my fiancé had a bit of a bad boy reputation. Don’t worry, though. He shaped up to be quite a fine citizen.

From his old house, you can actually walk to several beaches at the edge of Lac Léman. It’s absolutely beautiful there! The water is so blue and clear! There were a lot of people sunbathing, reading, swimming, playing, and having fun. It made me want to jump into the water too. Walking along the path and observing everyone was fun. It’s interesting to hear all the French being spoken. Once I even picked up what sounded like British English being spoken by a visiting tourist. It’s strange hearing English here. I’m getting so accustomed to French being the primary language. Sometimes I actually struggle to find English words! Fortunately, C has a few friends that do speak English that I can keep up my mother tongue. I have a strong suspicion that when I return to the U.S. after these three months I will have a bit of an accent. When I spend a lot of time surrounded by a foreign language or dialect, I’m like a chameleon, mimicking the accent. We’ll have to wait and see.

We spent yesterday re-designing the layout of our apartment. Now it’s looking much better. There’s a bit more open space to move around. Our cats felt a bit disoriented having all of their old places to hang out taken away, but they appear to be adjusting well. They’ve found some new places to hide and lay around.

Tomorrow is the 4th of July, also known as U.S.A.’s Independence Day. To celebrate, we’re organizing a little party and BBQ at a park by the lake where we can cook burgers, play music, swim, and have fun. It’s also a good way for me to meet new friends. I’m looking forward to it!

And now it’s time for me to get on with my day and do something productive. It’s already almost 4pm here, so I’m not sure how productive we’ll actually be today. I think it’ll be a lazy day in an effort to stay cool.

Have a good weekend!


La vie est belle

La vie est belle

This is my 300th post on my blog! Yay!

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve written that many over the past few years! Looking back over the years, it’s quite amazing how much I’ve gone through and accomplished. When I first started this blog, I was in university. I’ve gone through a lot of break-ups and dating disasters. Scary things have happened. Traumatic things have happened. Wonderful things have happened. Beautiful things have happened. And life goes on. Where would we all be without these ups and downs in life? Probably in a coma or dead. But anyways! Let’s return to my current adventure!

A few days ago, we went grocery shopping to a picnic lunch at the edge of Lake Léman with a few friends. We made sandwiches with ham, cheese, and butter. But they tasted nothing like a ham and cheese sandwich back in the United States. The cheese was so much more delicious! I love cheese, and I love trying all different types. It’s interesting how different countries have such different concepts on what constitutes good food. Here, there are much less preservatives, hormones, and GMOs. They still have some, but not as much as what they put into American foods. We also packed some pigeon-heart tomatoes, an apple for me for dessert, a bottle of sparkling lemonade, and one of his favorite drinks, Tropical Oasis.

It was a sunny day but not too terribly hot. Not many people were at the beaches in the area we set up for our picnic. The beach is made up of little pebbles, not sand, unfortunately. After eating, C, F, and I took off our clothes and headed towards the edge of the lake in our bathing suits. I am very pale, almost blindingly so. Living here and spending more time outside will definitely help me catch some more sun. I need proper skincare products, though. Right now, I’m not being very wise and letting myself tan without sunscreen or bronzer… That will soon have to be rectified. Ever so carefully, we started wading into the water. It was very cold, and the algae on the stones made it quite slippery. We all looked a bit like marionettes, trying our hardest not to slip and fall into the water. My fiancé stayed behind on the beach with my camera, taking pictures and waiting for the precise possible moment that we would end up falling flat on our bums so he could immortalize it in picture form. I am proud to report that we didn’t fall. I kept wading deeper and deeper into the water, refusing to just dive in, although that would have been the easier way to get used to the cold temperature of the lake. Eventually, I reached the point where the water was lapping at my shoulders, and that’s when I finally relented and fully submerged. We ladies had a lot of fun swimming around and finding larger rocks that we could stand on. Swimming is a great form of exercise for the entire body, and I hadn’t gone for years and years. I’m very glad that I went, and I look forward to doing it more often.

After the lake, we went back to our apartment to give me a chance to freshen up a little before going to F’s apartment. There, we poured some drinks and talked and amused ourselves watching the cats chase flies around. I owe F a bottle of vodka because I amused myself with several mixed drinks of orange juice and grenadine… We had made plans to go out that evening for some kind of city-wide celebration that was going on. No one really knew what was being celebrated, but that’s what people in France do: celebrate just because. I helped F pick out a killer outfit, and she looked great! After several drinks (me already quite tipsy), we finally set out. When we finally managed to find a parking space on the edge of the lake around the centre-ville, we noticed that this celebration wasn’t really that much of a celebration at all. There were just a lot of people eating at outdoor restaurants. That’s it. We quickly got bored and decided to go to a popular little local outdoor bar called Bodega. I had a little Sangria, and we amused ourselves with chatting. Later on, C met back up with us to spend more time.

I’ve noticed how time loses significance here in France. People visit for hours, talking about everything and nothing. There’s no rush to be anywhere, just to live in the calm and happy moment. Of course, that might also be because it’s so hot out, but I genuinely feel a difference between the attitudes of the French versus American. I do see people on their smart phones doing who knows what, but it’s much less than when I would go out in the States. The French don’t always have their faces glued to a screen, and I like that. My iPhone is only usable in a place with wifi access, so I’ve been getting in the habit of leaving it at the apartment. I used to feel naked and helpless without having my phone with me, but now I feel less of a need to constantly be checking it. Slowly but suredly, I’m decreasing my amount of time spent on the Internet. That’s a very good thing, considering how much I used to depend on it. And yes, I need it to keep in touch with friends and family back home, but I take more pleasure in real, physical moments now. Having distance between me and the one that I love most has been difficult, especially during our past 7 months apart. It’s strange that a computer screen no longer separates us anymore. I much prefer it this way. Too often, couples don’t realize how much an embrace and kiss are worth in long-distance relationships. We definitely don’t waste time making sure the other person knows how much we appreciate their presence.

There’s so much more to write about, but I think I’ll stop here for now. I need to eat some breakfast and maybe try to sleep some more. It was a rough night’s sleep. I didn’t get much…

Until next time!