My Christmas Poem, y’all

“I want to know everything about you, so I tell you everything about myself.”

– Amy Hempel

Until I realized that almost no one read it (see recent WSJ article Bring on the Holiday Letters), I used to write and send out a Christmas poem every year, and I (rather) miss* doing it.

So, inspired by the Journal author’s words that holiday letters (for me, poems) have a of “seasonal warmth,” and her reminders that they

“…bring us together in a way that our relentless digital connections cannot…represent tradition in a world that discards traditions too quickly…and they require real effort and thought: Somebody took the time to write them.” (emphasis mine)

…here’s my latest:

The kids are all grown; the house, empty, almost –
No more lunches to make, no more bagels to toast.
They’re all doing their thing; my job raising them’s done –
And for me and my husband, the fun’s just begun.
Around les enfants, my world used to revolve.
When ma fille was twelve, I found a nouvelle resolve:
I sat down to write books, and I ceased to write verse
For my “holiday letter” – of it, I would disperse.
“Who would miss it?” I thought. Just a relative**  few.
All the others would not; from them, I took my cue.
So I focused my brain on a lofty ambition:
“Why not write a whole novel?” That was my admonition.
“You can do it!” I said to myself. “You have time;
For a break, you can always come up with a rhyme.
When you hear and see things, you are constantly thinking:
‘That would be a good scene! Or way, with them, for linking.’
“Yes, I know it takes months – sometimes YEARS – but, once finished,
You can start a new project, no right-brain cells diminished.
And then, hopefully, readers will love what you’ve written.
Those at home, and in places like France and Great Britain!”
So, not knowing if I would succeed or would fail,
I began to create, it became my travail. 
It’s ‘ton boulot,’ a French friend expressed, when I asked.
(That means ‘job.’) And with that, it’s what I am self-tasked.
Au même temps, I chose, fluency, to re-attain
in French, la langue stored somewhere inside of my brain.
I commenced with a course that I’m still taking now
And I’ve risen in level, and at times, I know how
To think en français; it occurs more and more
When I don’t think about it – then, my “puzzler” gets sore.
I have much more to learn, and to write. But I’m glad
That two books, I have published, and that they can be had
On your tablet or, if you’re old-fashioned, in hand.
You can give them as gifts, put them on your nightstand.
I am writing “Book Three” – it will be out next year;
And to you, I wish holidays full of good cheer! 
* I just like to smile write. Smiling’s Writing’s my favorite.
** One relative in particular did…
 photo 2

Les amis de longue date: old friends, and 5 reasons why I love them

Like many people, I enjoy making new friends. But I love keeping (and seeing) those that I’ve known for a long, long time.*


Nurturing friendships takes time and effort on both sides. Sometimes, despite our intentions, it’s just not possible à continuer. For different reasons, we move on….and not always because we want to.

We relocate to a different community, city or state. We develop new interests that some of our (old) friends don’t share – so we necessarily spend less time with them. We start new jobs, have more (or different) commitments. And maybe sometimes we move on because we realize that we weren’t that close to begin with.

In my novel MAKE THAT DEUX, three young girls become friends. When their experience as roommates in France is over, they’re sad about it – they don’t want to move on. (A sequel is planned…)

In earlier times, it was difficult to stay connected with friends when I moved somewhere new and started a new chapter in life. Phone calls were expensive, and letters took more time and effort than the short messages we send now. Traveling to visit each other wasn’t easy, even for weddings; on the other hand, they were cheaper easier to attend then than most “destination” mariages of today. But everyone (or at least, I) seemed to have a lot less money back then. So we did what we could.

Happily, I never lost touch with certain old friends. I did with some others, but in recent years, it’s been wonderful to reconnect. Sometimes we’ve discovered that we have more in common now than we did before: we share new (or old) interests, or we just have more time to spend with each other.

Which leads me to the reasons why j’aime les amis de longue date:

1. They “knew me when” – back before either of us had much experience with life and love, and were filled with hopes about the future. We went through some thing(s) together, or at the same time. Somehow that “me” and that “them” haven’t changed all that much, despite our separate joys, trials and sorrows.

2. They’re constant. They’re still around, whether we were always in touch or not. The reasons why we became friends in the first place (usually NOT because our kids are the same age, or that we worked in the same office) are still the reasons why we like to get together.

3. They’re flexible, forgiving, encouraging, accepting and empathetic – all things I try to be, too. No matter what we do separately and no matter what our different interests are (or become), we understand each other. We learn from each other, laugh together and are there for each other when times are tough.

4. They don’t have an “agenda” – we’re friends because we like spending time together. We may have some shared interests (we often do) but we’re friends for more reasons than that. We’re in each other’s network of friends, but we aren’t networking.

5. They care. We’re supportive of each other, and we don’t have to know the details. We want the best for each other, and we’re troubled when the other is sad, unhappy or unwell.

One of my (old) friends often says, “Friends are the family that we choose.” Some of my dearest friends aren’t the oldest ones; I met them sometime more recently along life’s journey. But for inexplicable reasons, we may feel as if we’ve known each other for a long time. We hit it off – we just connect.

I think they’re going to become some of mes amis de longue date.

* Especially my best friend, mon mari – the family that I chose, and who chose me.

My most FAQ: la question posée le plus fréquemment, and a diagram

“I’m coming out, I want the world to know, Got to let it show…”

– Diana Ross


By far, the most frequently asked question I’m asked about my novel MAKE THAT DEUX is: “Is it autobiographical?”

If you go to the FAQ (Foire aux questions) tab above, you will see at the top:

“Is MAKE THAT DEUX a true story? No, but it is based (loosely!) on a true story.”

HOW loosely? Regardez: 

photo copy

Not drawn to scale

I must have a bit of French ancestry*, because I like mathematical concepts; quelquefois, my mind just prefers to look at things that way. The above diagram is an example of that, kind of.

Voici l’explication:

1. What Really Happened – Yes, I really spent the year 1979 – 1980 on UNC’s Junior Year Abroad in Montpellier, France. I arrived in August and came back to “the States” the following June. I left my college boyfriend, with whom I was madly in love, behind in Chapel Hill; we kept in touch with handwritten letters and a few very expensive phone calls. I have documents (and witnesses) to prove all of this.


2. My Memories – As you can see in the diagram, some of What Really Happened is entrenched in My Memories, but not all. And some of My Memories did not really, well, happen (probably).

Pourquoi? Parce que…hmm.  A., “Studies have shown” that memories tend to center around emotional events. Though I’ve always been a pretty emotional person (hopefully, in a good way), fortunately obviously, not all of my experiences during my year in France were full of drama and emotion. Some of them were though, and those were the only ones I remember.

I think.

Because, B., according to some scientists, “the very act of remembering can change our memories;” for us humans, it may even “be impossible.. to bring a memory to mind without altering it in some way.”

In other words, some of My Memories did NOT really happen (difficult for me to believe, but okay, because that fact was helpful when I wrote my fictional story),

photo copy 2

3. MAKE THAT DEUX – Many of My Memories made it into my novel, but not 100% of them. Simply put, my story was somewhat different than Jenny’s.

And to answer that “autobiographical” question: Look closely at the diagram above and you see that, although My Memories overlap What Really Happened, and MAKE THAT DEUX overlaps My Memories, only a small portion intersects all three areas.

And I’m not “coming out” telling what that portion is…I guess we could say, see #1. above.

Or we could say, qui sait? (who knows?)

Finally, you may be wondering, “So then, what IS that part of MAKE THAT DEUX in the diagram that’s outside of My Memories (and, necessarily, What Really Happened)?”

C’est la FICTION!

“My book’s coming out, I want the world to know, Got to let it show…”

* My mother’s maiden name is Bellamy: Belle Amie?

Les lettres

In my novel, the protagonist and her boyfriend (for now, I’ll call them by les pronoms français, Elle and Il*) exchange a lot of letters.

Elle has to wait weeks before she receives her first letter from Il — even though he writes to her the day she leaves the U.S. for France, his letter takes that long to arrive. She answers it, but the two don’t wait for the next letter from the other in order to write. In fact, during the year, Il writes to Elle at least once a week, and she writes to him almost as often. They talk on the telephone less than once a month, because phone calls are very expensive, and difficult to make.

How things have changed!

Neither Elle nor Il could imagine writing letters (emails), texts, tweets or updates (let alone posting photos) that the other would be able to view immediately. And if they were able to Skype or Facetime, I dare say their story might have turned out quite a bit differently. Might have.

But they don’t even imagine doing those things. The fact that their handwritten letters have to travel over an ocean by U.S. airmail makes each piece of mail from the other treasured and special. That’s why Elle, at least, keeps all of Il’s letters. That, and also because Elle is the more sentimental.

The fact is (or, the story is), Elle and Il deal with being apart while in love without the ease and speed of today’s communication methods. They wait, hope, and long to hear from each other. They think about what they write down on paper, in ink — especially when using those blue 22 cent aerogrammes. They read between the lines. They (at least, Elle) analyze. They pour their hearts out to each other. Their letters are private.

They do talk on the telephone occasionally: when drama arises, and on Christmas, of course. But their letters continue.

Today, most of us don’t write letters like theirs. We still send cards (though I believe that’s declining) and sometimes we write “formal” handwritten notes. When we write on a device or a computer, do we write differently? I think we do. When responding to an email, we may still read between the lines, but we almost have TMI — we even know the time it was written. We know our messages can be forwarded and shared and therefore, public. We are careful in what we say as a result.

Remember the letter that Elizabeth receives from Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, the one that he hand-delivers? Maybe the methods lovers use to express themselves in writing have changed. But I’m not sure that what they say has. . .

* names will be revealed later this year when the novel is released.

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑