Chez Léonard

Fireworks the other night in Villefranche,
as seen from our balcony.


Well, it’s been a quiet weekend in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Darlene has been resting a lot, still recovering from her throat infection.

I have been wrestling with a new internet connection via AOL after I found out that my attglobal connection left Françoise with a hefty phone bill when we houseswapped with her last September in Cannes. I wanted very much to reimburse her, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Our phone conversation yesterday in French proved to be a ticklish cultural encounter. In my American sensibility, it was a no-brainer that I should pay her the not-insignificant phone charges. But in her French sensibility, this was somehow out of the question, and she let me know that my pressing the issue was bringing her to the point of irritation. I agreed to accept her position on the condition that if, in the future, I unwittingly run up any charges at her house, that she will let me know as soon as she finds out.

At lunch Saturday with her cousins André and Jacqueline, Françoise launched a good-natured discussion of cultural differences between France and the U.S. She asked what bothers me about French customs, and she brought up an American custom which irritates her. When she’s invited to a dinner party in Denver, there seldom are assigned seats at the table. The guests mill around at random, seating themselves in an arrangement that, at a minimum, won’t have alternating men and women, and may also seat people next to each other who really would rather be somewhere else. I told Françoise that my mother, who lives in New England and has a wonderfully continental way, assigns seating at all her dinner parties, but I have to confess that the few times Darlene and I have hosted dinners, we usually let everyone sit where they like. I can see advantages both ways, actually. For me, assigned seating sometimes gives a meal too much of the feel of a command performance, a piece of theater, and so a sense of ease and informality is lost. But I can also see that a host who cares enough to think about seating arrangement is providing a gracious level of concern for his or her guests.

When my turn came, I said I sometimes yearn for the American West’s directness, as opposed to the more elaborate and indirect ways of approaching people here in France. In Colorado or Wyoming, when you want something, you ask for it. You avoid rudeness, but you don’t preface your request with phrases such as “Excusez-moi de vous déranger,” or “Excuse me for bothering you…” I was surprised to learn that my impression of French ways in this area was not shared by Françoise, who said she finds people in general more polite and courteous in Denver than she does in France, where strangers jostle her on the sidewalk as they rush past. I’m not sure André and Jacqueline, who lived in the Denver area years ago, shared her opinion, but they did not dispute it directly.

Jacqueline mimed a very funny version of how Americans eat at the dinner table. She dropped her left arm way down below the table, her shoulder nearly touching the table, while she ate with her right hand. André told the story of an American spy in World War II who spoke flawless German but was discovered when he dropped his left hand below the table at a meal. This lapse in manners cost him his life. Even before hearing this story, Darlene and I have tried to eat with both hands on the table. But I confess that I sometimes cheat, eating with my fork in my right hand as usual, and holding the knife in my left hand as if I am going to cut something, which of course I can’t, because I am right-handed. Now, whenever I am tempted to lapse into American table manners while in France, I will remember Jacqueline’s demonstration.

I just discovered one of the biggest differences in writing the blog in French: Darlene never was interested enough to read over my shoulder and offer suggestions. “You’ve already described how Jacqueline put her arm under the table; just say you will remember her demonstration.” And of course she’s right, soit’s good to have her back as an editor.

Tomorrow we begin the May course at the Institute. I found out from Frédéric, the office executive assistant, that I will be in Avancé I, with Jean as my teacher. “Il est très dur,” Frédéric told me, and I’ve also heard from past students that my new teacher is a demanding one. But I greatly enjoyed talking with Jean at the lunch table, and I am looking forward to working hard in his class. Darlene will have a new teacher and a new group of classmates in Debutante I. We are both jumpy, experiencing the night before the first day of school all over again.

[Update: Part of my jumpiness was dissatisfaction with the flippant tone of my original post, so I am up at 3:30 a.m. revising it, polishing my words in a way that, I realize now, fits more with a French sensibililty. And so I find myself being changed for the better by my time in France.]

When I visited the office this afternoon, I told Frédéric I would like to change my name for the May session, to Léonard. He joked that this would not be possible, because the teachers have already learned my name as Len. But I like how my formal name, the name of my mother’s father, sounds in French, and I’m hoping this little name change will help me dive deeper into the music of French language and culture. Darlene wishes she could change her name, which the French have a difficult time saying. But all we’ve been able to come up with is Fifi, and I don’t think the office would buy it.Posted by Hello

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One Response to Chez Léonard

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, came across this article that I think works well with your blog.

    adhd in kids
    adhd in kids

    Children with ADHD

    There is a perplexing state of affairs in today’s society, there lies a strong correlation between the affluence of a society and the amount of disease that is present. There is also another correlation that troubles many a people and that is with affluence comes disease at an Earlier age.

    Working with children and the parents of these children I often get asked the question, ‘Why are Children with ADHD on the increase?’

    The answer as you shall find is one that is both interesting and challenging.

    Children of today are really no more different from the children of yesterday in terms of genetic makeup. However, if you examine the issue more closely you will tend to find that many children today have been given labels. For example, ‘Oh, those are children with ADHD’ or ‘Those are the children who can’t sit still.’ Or ‘That is the kid that always gets into trouble.’

    These labels are not only destructive but also become a self fulfilling prophecy as it is repeated adnauseum.

    So as a 21st century parent or a parent with a child with ADHD or a parent with children with ADHD, what knowledge framework do you need to equip yourself with to ensure your children live out their true potential?

    Here is a quick reference list for thinking about ADHD
    ? ADHD is a source of great frustration because it is misunderstood
    ? ADHD medications are a great short term time buying device and should be avoided long term
    ? The above point goes for any sort of drug consumption. Think about it for a minute. Unless you have a biochemical deficiency in your body like Type 1 diabetes where your body fails to produce enough insulin or any at all, why would you take an external drug? A body that is in balance is totally healthy. It is only when the body is out of balance that dis-ease symptoms start to creep up.
    ? ADHD is a biochemical imbalance of the mind and body.
    ? The Head of Psychiatry in Harvard states that drugs for ADHD simply mask the effects of ADHD. It does not cure ADHD. This is an important point because a cure implies never to have to take the medication. This means that once you start on medication you will have to be on it for the rest of your life i.e. you have medically acquired a dependency for a biochemical imbalance. That is like stuffing all your rubbish (problematic behaviors) into a closet (medication) where no one can see it. But if you continue to stuff more rubbish into that closet, one day you will not have enough space and need to do one of two things. You either empty the rubbish (the natural conclusion) or you get a bigger closet (i.e. change to stronger medication to control the symptoms). The choice is obvious but sometimes when you don’t have the necessary tools to deal with ADHD you tend to think the bigger closet is the only option.
    ? ADHD children are super sensitive to the emotions around them. Often they pick up emotional cues from their parents without realizing. Many parents come home frustrated or annoyed from work, the child with ADHD picks this up and starts to ’cause trouble’ by becoming restless. Parents frustration increase because they just want some peace and quiet. They get angry which in turn is picked up by the child who then intensifies their activity. Things get way out of hand and some sort of punishment is handed down to the child who has no idea what just happened. The cycle repeats itself every so often.
    ? Our brains are wired emotionally. Positive praise is interpreted as an analytical/thinking exercise. Negative criticism including scolding, name calling, physical punishment all go directly to the emotional brain of children with ADHD. This means in order to ensure you get your message across in the most optimal way, you need to learn how to communicate with your ADHD children the way they like to be communicated with.
    ? Every negative comment requires 16 positive comments to neutralize the emotion. Save yourself the frustration and agitation by practicing positive communication.

    The list is by no means complete. In dealing with children with ADHD there are a certain set of behavioural principles to follow. I will detail these steps in the coming weeks. I’ll also build on the list as you continue to learn about what appears to be a mystical disorder known as ‘Children with ADHD’

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