A month later……

Since my last post, I contracted the common cold and was laid low for two weeks. It is beyond my comprehension that we can cure so many ills but the common cold still does most of us in and it just has to run its course. It starts so slowly and shows no sign of being menacing. Blowing my nose every five minutes. In Paris, my nose starts running Nov. 1 and lasts until March 31st. It seems to be the price of walking outside so much–to get the metro, see friends in cafes, etc. So who knew that that day turned into two weeks of misery. I had to cancel almost everything. I had a scheduled flight to San Francisco and anyone who has flown with a congested head knows how miserable and painful that can be. I was determined to be well before the flight even if it meant never moving from my couch.

I planned a month long trip to Oakland to see doctor’s, do my taxes, clean and organise my home and probably do repairs. I wasn’t looking forward to the trip. Paris is my home now and going to Oakland is work not a vacation. I still find it painful to wake up there with the news in your face 24 hours a day and none of it good. Scandal after scandal. Who’s going to jail for what financial or political conspiracy? There was one piece of great news that made me jump up and down. Congress and Senate, both I believe, voted to protect millions of acres of National Park land, land that the Trump administration has been trying to get it’s hands on and destroy the protections that have been in place for years. When I ask friends ‘how do you stand it?, the news?’ They inevitably respond, ‘I no longer listen to the news.’ I understand BUT…..how many of us that want things different aren’t listening anymore or reading anymore? How do we stay informed when the media just eats up all the distractions and twittering? My way was to record The Late Show with Stephen Colbert each night and watch it the next day. He always has some political person on and makes it funny enough to be palatable. It helps that he and I are on the same side of the fence.

Then there is the matter of the weather. I picked February and March to be in Oakland in hopes that I would miss the worst of Paris winter. And what happens? Oakland has not had weather higher than 54o and rain most of the time. Not just a little rain, but gales and flooding and high winds. I’ve been dressed like a ski bunny most of the time. And Paris?—gorgeous weather — 20o/21o. I saw a photo of people sunbathing in the Place de Vosges! My timing is impeccable.


Gusty winds and rain will move across the Bay Area in time for the evening commute. Meteorologist Kari Hall has the details in the Microclimate Forecast.

I was in Oakland one week when I learned that a very good friend of this blog, Philippe Melot, had died suddenly. He was fit, rode his bike regularly and hard, ate well, didn’t smoke, didn’t drink. I was just stunned. I still am. But it reminded me to tell everyone I know how grateful I am for their presence in my life, their friendship. You just never know. It will be a shock all over again when I get back to Paris and realise I will never see Philippe again. It just breaks my heart. He loved Americans and was so kind and generous to all of us. He was, in my opinion, a very special man and special Frenchman.

RIP Philippe

The Gilets Jaunes have not slowed down. I am dependant on my friends in Paris to keep me informed of all the activities. One would think nothing happened in the rest of the world if only watching American news. Even NPR only gives the highlights. I subscribe to The Guardian and keep up with the Brexit antics but Les Gilets Jaunes just get small print. A week ago, my friend Barbara wrote: “Violent protests again in Paris on Saturday. Went to the library to return your book and could hear explosions everywhere and smoke everywhere. My eyes were burning at Rue General Camou. Of course the library was closed. I could see gilets jaunes and CRS everywhere. Losing all hope that this is ever going to end.” Now I’ve come to understand that the gilets jaunes are attacking jews. This just keeps getting worse. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/24/alain-finkielkraut-winds-of-antisemitism-in-europe-gilets-jaune

So for the time being, the rain falls in Oakland, the sun shines in Paris. Brexit may not happen until 2021, if at all. The Gilets Jaunes are being courted by the far right of Marine LePen and the Italian President and Prime Minister (both financially supported by Putin??). Meanwhile, they continue to destroy Paris and cost the French government billions of dollars. I do not think this is the way to win friends and influence people. But France is the land of protest. Life goes on except for my dear friend, Philippe, who I will miss terribly.

A bientôt,

Sara

The Crack of the Bat

Away on this side of the ocean

When the chestnuts are hinting of green

And the first of the café commandos

Are moving outside for a fine

And the sound of spring beats a bolero

As Paree sheds her coat and her hat

The sound that is missed more than any

Is the sound of the crack of a bat.

There’s an animal kind of a feeling

There’s a stirring down at Vincennes Zoo

And the kid down the hall’s getting restless

Taking stairs like a young kangaroo

Now the dandy is walking his poodle

And the concierge sunning her cat

But the heart’s with the Cubs and the Tigers

And the sound of the crack of a bat.

In the park on the corner run schoolboys

With a couple of cartons for props

Kicking goals à la Fontaine or Kopa

While a little guy chickies for cops

“Goal for us,” “No it’s not,” “You’re a liar,”

Then the classical shrieks of a spat

But it’s not like a rhubarb at home plate

Or the sound of the crack of a bat.

Here the stadia thrill to the scrumdowns

And the soccer fans flock to the games

And the chic punt the nags out at Longchamp

Where the women are dames and not dames

But it’s different at Forbes and at Griffith

The homes of the Buc and the Nat

Where the hotdog and peanut share laurels

With the sound of the crack of a bat.

No, a Yank can’t describe to a Frenchman

The rasp of an umpire’s call

The continuing charms of statistics

Changing hist’ry with each strike and ball

Nor the self-conscious jog of the slugger

Rounding third with the tip of his hat

Nor the half-smothered grace of a hook slide

Nor the sound of the crack of a bat.

Now the golfer is buffing his niblick

And the tennis buff’s tightening his strings

And the fisherman’s flexing his flyrod

Like a thousand and one other springs

Oh, the sports on both sides of the ocean

Have a great deal in common, at that

But the thing that’s not here

At this time of the year

Is the sound of the crack of a bat.

Dick Roraback is a former sports editor of the Herald Tribune. His springtime elegy has appeared in this space since the 1960s.

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Thursday afternoon was Opening Day for the Oakland Athletics Baseball team.  Although I have missed the last three seasons, I have always gone back for Opening Nite. Not this year.  Friends posted many photos on Facebook. As I looked at them, I could see the green grass, the blue sky, Jeanni in a sleeveless blouse (it’s still really cold in Paris), the smoke from Opening Day fireworks rising over the Coliseum.  I felt such nostalgia.  I could feel the sun on my shoulders, the happiness of the first day of the season when everyone is in 1st place.  But I couldn’t hear the crack of the bat.  What a sound that is.  Every baseball fan loves it–the ball hitting the sweet spot and the absolute certainty that it will be a home run..  It’s only a sound but it’s more than a sound. It’s six months of the year.  It’s Ken Korach’s voice rising in exhilaration at another A’s homer.  They seem so much better at that than at small ball.

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When I moved to Paris, all my friends in the Bay Area had the same two questions: “What about baseball?” “What are the Oakland A’s going to do without you?”   No one could believe I would miss a season of Baseball.  And that was when I was just coming for one year!  This will be the fourth season I am missing.  

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Subscribing to MLB.tv turned out not to be an option for me.  I could only get the A’s when they played on the East Coast and it was daytime.  So I’ve been subscribing to audio.  Last night as I was doing something else, a dialogue box flashed across my screen; ‘The Angels now lead the Athletics 1-0.’  Wow, the game was on! And I was awake.  I hurriedly found all the right buttons and heard Ken Korach, one of most favourite people in the world, announcing the top of the 1st inning, Game 3: A’s vs Angels; Game 3 of the 2018 season.

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We baseball fans, just like the players, are extremely superstitious when it comes to baseball.  Within the first twenty minutes of listening,  two A’s dropped the ball, blew two chances for a double play, missed an outfield fly ball and all in all played just like minor leaguers. By the bottom of the second inning, the score was 3-0 Angels.  “Nothing has changed” I thought to myself.  “Maybe it’s my fault and I shouldn’t listen to any more games” second thought.

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But, as Marty Lurie says, every game is a new chapter in an unfolding book.  No one knows who is writing it or how it will end.  And that’s why we go to games.  Because we love baseball, anything can happen and to hear the sound of the crack of the bat.

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Thank you to my friend, Darcy, who sent me the poem Crack of The Bat.

A bientôt,

Sara

Rosie the Riveter

One of the excellent offerings of the American Library in Paris, is the opportunity to join one or more bookclubs.  I tend to veer towards Mystery Book Clubs.  This year, I decided to challenge myself and joined a Book Club entitled “The Home Front during WWII: USA, France and Germany”.  Our first book was Freedom’s Forge by Arthur Herman.

The second half of the book centered on the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California.  I found myself reading about my own backyard and a bit embarrassed not to already know this history.  When our Book Club leader, Philippe Melot, learned I had lived in Oakland, he asked if I had visited Rosie the Riveter Nat’l Historical Park.  I had to respond “No”.  I knew that a Rosie memorial statue had gone up a year before I moved to Paris and that was the beginning and end of my knowledge.

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Now I’m on my yearly trip to Oakland.  Yesterday I visited the museum/Nat’l Park.  The website opens with this: “An unusual urban national park, the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park (RORI) is located on the waterfront in Richmond, CA. It is the flagship national park for telling stories of the home front efforts across the United States. Park sites you can visit include the Oil House Visitor Center, the Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the historic Ford Assembly plant, Maritime Childcare Center, and more. Visit us and learn!”

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And it took a Frenchman to tell me what an extraordinary museum was less than 15 miles from me!!  He also advised that I look at the website and go when some of the Rosies were there so I could hear their stories.  I chose an afternoon talk by Betty Soskin.  The website said she is so popular that one should arrive an hour early to ensure a seat.  Now 96 years of age, Betty was a young African-American during WWII.  She became a Park Ranger at 85 years of age.  Some people just never stop grabbing opportunities as they pass!!!

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Betty Soskin talking to us Nov. 4, 2017

After I arrived and got my seating ticket, I was shown the theatre room where Betty would talk.  Movies were playing.  I saw one entitled Blossoms and Thorns that told the history of the Japanese-Americans who were sent to camps.  The fear and hate that drove that decision is a lesson we have not learned.  We are doing the exact same thing only the country and religion has changed.  What I find most amazing is that I/we did not learn about these events in High School history classes.  I knew about Mr. Kaiser and was fairly sure that the Kaiser Permanente Health Care plan had something to do with him.  Now I learn that he was the first employer to make sure that men, women and children were insured when they worked for him.  The city of Richmond grew from 23,000 inhabitants to 130, 000 people when the shipyards were working.  Maybe not every adult worked for him but the majority did.

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Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon of World War II, representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II, many of whom produced munitions and war supplies.[1][2] These women sometimes took entirely new jobs replacing the male workers who joined the military. Rosie the Riveter is used as a symbol of feminism and women’s economic power.” Wikipedia

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Kaiser also went to the South and brought back hundreds of black men from four different states to work for him.  His call to work became a part of the Great Migration of slaves and ex-slaves to the North and West during the first half of the 20th century.

Back to Betty:  Betty’s talk of 30 minutes was mesmerizing.  She talked about the black experience and the female experience of being on the Home Front, being paid to do what up until then, had been men’s jobs.  She has since gone on to outlive two husbands, raised a family, has met Obama twice and become a Park Ranger at the age of 85. “Reflecting on her own role in planning for the Park’s creation, and on how she brought her personal recollections of the conditions for African American women working in that still segregated environment to bear on the planning efforts, she has said that, often, she “was the only person in the room who had any reason to remember that… what gets remembered is a function of who’s in the room doing the remembering.” That is a quote from Wikipedia but she said the exact same thing to us.  

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We Can Do It!” by J. Howard Miller was made as an inspirational image to boost worker morale

 

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Norman Rockwell‘s Saturday Evening Post 1943 cover featuring Rosie the Riveter

If you happen to be in the Bay Area or if you live here and, like me, have not seen this amazing National Park, I encourage you to go.  I was told by a friend that public transportation goes right up the Visitor’s Center.

A bientôt,

Sara

 

Hip Replacement Surgery–Part 2

I can be honest now, now that it’s all over.  I was terrified.  When I first heard I might need hip replacement surgery, I was a bit cavalier.  Ho hum.  Then I was given a reprieve.  My doctor thought that because my pain wasn’t constant that the problem might not be bone on bone but due to inflammation.  That reprieve lasted until December 18, when the Kaiser surgeon called me and said that the arthritis was bad, advanced and that taking cortisone shots would be a very short lived band-aid.  The surgery was back on.  Only this time, I wasn’t at all cavalier.  I was really scared.

Until I had this operation, I’d never been in a hospital.  I haven’t even had my tonsils out.  When I closed my eyes and tried to visualize what might happen, all I could see was a big knife going into my back side deep.  That’s as far as I could get.  I’d shiver and try to distract myself.

I talked to a lot of people.  99% of my friends raved about total hip replacement surgery telling me that they were walking, dancing, doing yoga so much better than before and had no sign of anything irregular in their hip.  I heard them but I think the information didn’t lodge anywhere important or as one of my parents used to tell me “it went in one ear and out the other”.

Hip replacement surgery has come a long way since doctors first starting researching and experimenting with the possibilities in 1962.  I have titanium in my hip.  Initially it was stainless steel.  The ball part of the titanium is stuck into the hip socket tightly and only loosens up as the bone accepts the implant.  In the past, the replacement could come loose after only 10-12 years and cause more pain.  I’m under the impression this replacement could last the rest of my life.

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An X-ray showing a right hip (left of image) has been replaced, with the ball of this ball-and-socket joint replaced by a metal head that is set in the femur and the socket replaced by a white plastic cup (clear in this X-ray). from wikipedia

I had this surgery February 23rd.  I was released to my friends’ home February 24th.  I couldn’t go to my home because of so many steps.  On March 5th, I left my friends’ house and came to my own home.  I thought the 45 stairs going up to my front door would take me 30 minutes to climb.  It took me 5 minutes.  It was easy.  I followed instructions and used a crutch.  California stairs, as opposed to New York stairs, are not high and much longer.  That’s my observation anyway.  I didn’t have to lift either leg very high.  I was so excited.

The next day, a Physical Therapist came to my home and told me I should start using a cane.  He said I was walking well.  I was given exercises to do three times a day.  Today, I can walk around my house without even using the cane.  I go slow and step carefully.  I have to go up and down 10 stairs to go to the bathroom.  Easy peasy!

Today I have two big problems:  The first is trying to respond to all the people who have cared enough to write me an e-mail and ask after my recovery.  I tire easily and it’s hard to keep up with the correspondence.  This is what a friend of mine would call a luxury problem.

The second challenge is balancing out activity-meaning my leg and foot are towards the ground: I’m walking or sitting at the computer, making a meal with rest–meaning my leg is elevated and above my heart.  Each day I feel different but I have learned to follow directions and I err on the side of caution.

I’ve seen three different PTs and each one says that this operation is one of the best inventions of the 20th century.  I now agree.  Two months ago, I was checking on my will and my living will.  I was scared and non-believing of all these other folk who related tremendous success.  And here I am today, feeling in great spirits, pleased as punch with my progress and looking forward to my return to Paris!

I also have a lot of gratitude to the friends who have brought me over prepared food so I wouldn’t have to stand too long to make meals. To those who have driven me to stores or gone to the Library for me.  Especially to my friend Susan who flew out here from Arizona to help me transition from chez Koch to chez Sara.  She was a hard task master but I listened.  I hope I don’t have to have another surgery to remember how precious all these friendships are.  You know who you are.

A bientôt,

Sara

Hip Replacement Surgery–Part 1

Today I have a new hip, a round, probably cream colored ball, that replaces the round top of my femur, which is attached to a stem that fits into my thigh bone and has been placed in the empty socket where my old arthritic hip used to be.  Got that? I am nine days post-surgery and, for the second time in two days, feel a burst of morning energy.  I’ve made a few lists of things I can actually do and started checking them off.  I’ve begun the process of straightening and sorting all my belongings that made it over to chez Koch, my home away from home.

Chez Koch is where two remarkable and generous friends have let me stay for the first ten nights of my recovery.  It is a ranch style house, the only steps being the two very small ones that allowed me in the front door.  Between lots of naps, I’ve slowly been learning how to walk again with the aid of a walker.  My Physical Therapist at the hospital said “you have wonderful posture.  Were you a dancer?”  Meaning that if I stand erect and walk, the surgical leg moves directly behind me slightly stretching the thigh skin, exactly as it is supposed to do.  Then he said “You walk like Frankenstein”  In my cautiousness, I was forgetting to bend my knee of the surgical leg.  This produced a few chuckles from the watching staff.  Dancer and Frankenstein describing me within two minutes of each other! Well, as they say “only in San Francisco”.  It turns out there is a Ballet showing in the City at the moment called “Frankenstein”.

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Kaiser San Leandro Medical Center

For the record, I didn’t like being in the hospital.  It was my first time and, hopefully, my last.  It wasn’t the constant poking and prodding that I’d been warned about, it was the double speak.  I had the orthopedist who performed the surgery.  I had a Joint Care Coordinator, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a day time RN and a night time RN and both of them had trainees.  I had a substitute doctor as my surgeon was unavailable when I awoke Friday morning.  Each of these people knocked carefully on the door of my single room at Kaiser San Leandro Hospital.  Each entered with an opinion or feedback.  Almost all the opinions and feedback contradicted each other.  For me, already scared by someone having taken a scalpel to my backside, opening up a fairly large portion of said backside to go in and out of the hip area, not to mention drugged silly with anesthesia so as not feel the above mentioned activity, I just wanted one person to be decisive and tell me exactly what to do.

Not to be.  I had immediate problems.  I couldn’t stand up long enough to get anywhere to take a pee.  My blood pressure would drop to the floor, giving my stomach a good shuffle on the way down so I thought I might vomit.  I’d break out in sweats while shivering.  This all turns out to be normal if one has low blood pressure to begin with and then adds anesthesia to the mix which drops blood pressure even more.  I suppose it’s nice to have that information but what I felt was weak, vulnerable, lonely and wanting someone strong to tell me what to do.

By Friday afternoon, I had a mini-meltdown, no one would agree what should happen to me.  I thought I was in a crazy house and wanted out.  I called my friend Jane and she came and got me.  Kaiser I’m sure was happy to see me go.  I’d like to think I’d been mirroring back their very bad communication efforts and they wanted me GONE but I think that would be a bit arrogant.  I’m sure I was just a difficult patient.

From Friday evening, February 24 thru Saturday, March 4, my world became my bedroom, my slow trips from bedroom to bathroom and then slow trips from bedroom to kitchen.  The most difficult thing physically that I had to accomplish was hauling my surgical leg up onto the bed when getting ready for a rest.  I had to use a bungee cord that I would hook around the insole of my foot and gently pull the leg up, followed by the good leg, until both legs were safely propped on a pillow.

It’s been a kind of nether world.  Not much exists outside of these walls. Friends have been bringing me meals and doing shopping for me, often staying for a bite and a visit.  Everyone wants to know about me so I have perfected the story.  I see the paper each morning and that the same man is still President but it feels so far away as not to really touch me.  I’ve read four mysteries. It’s not a vacation from life, it’s more like a detour.  I’m off the track I know.  I don’t know this one very well so I’ve slowed down to a crawl and trying to pay attention.  The problems of my normal track aren’t the problems of my today.  Today, it’s how to balance out activity and rest so as not to push myself too far.  Today, it’s the fine line between pain meds and laxatives so that a secondary pain doesn’t take over all my attention from my healing hip.  These are huge problems to me.

Part 2 soon….

A bientôt,

Sara

Happy New Year—-from Oakland, Ca.

In France, one has the entire month of January to send out New Year’s greetings.  Sending cards for the new year is popular, sending Christmas cards is not.

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So I’m wishing every one of you a wonderful 2017.  What I wish for us all is an ability to navigate our world, our politics (or their politics as the case may be) and to be the best citizen of this world that we can possibly muster without bringing in more anger, more hatred and bitterness than already exists.  It’s not a new concept but imagine if we did one good, kind deed a day and it spread like “The hundredth Monkey Phenomenon”.  Well, I’d like to imagine it!!!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hundredth_monkey_effect

Yesterday, I got on a United flight to San Francisco to return to my California home for 4 months.  I was taken by surprise in mid-December when I was told that I needed hip replacement surgery.  Actually, I was given a choice.  It seems that doctors today cannot actually say “you must have…..” without fear of litigation.  One of my choices was surgery.  I went to all my friends who have had hip or knee replacement surgery and asked them one question: “In retrospect, if you had had the surgery done when you were first told that you might need it, would you have done it?”  Without exception, they all said yes.  When I was talking to the orthopedist and he was telling me the pros and cons of cortisone shots, I asked him straight out “is there any reason to delay it?”

The answer, not so surprisingly, was “No”

So I’m scheduled for surgery in mid-February.  The curious fact about me is that I have never been in a hospital since I was born.  My father used to joke “Sara, you were born in Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C and they immediately tore it down”.  Yes, of course, I’ve been in many doctor’s offices and had two one-hour procedures (that I can remember) but to have a serious surgery and spend the night, that has been my sister’s realm.  And to say I’m a bit anxious would be an understatement.

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View from my bedroom window

Now, the window I get to look out of is my westward-looking windows here in Oakland.  I can see the San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge that spans from Oakland to downtown San Francisco (4 miles) and the Golden Gate bridge.  Many evenings, there is a sunset that cannot be rivaled.

California has been suffering a terrible drought for going on six years.  There has been rain, quite a bit of rain, in the last couple of weeks.  As my Uber drove me up my street from the San Francisco airport, the landscape looked strange.  It hit me that everything was Green.  Really Green!  And because it rained on and off yesterday evening, the green was sparkling like itty bitty diamonds jumping around on leaves, on new grass. Now sixteen hours later, it is pouring cats and dogs, as we like to say in English, or I’d go outside and inspect the gardens and see all the changes.

My cat, Bijou, stayed in Paris.  She is living with a friend who has a larger apartment than I did and also has children who love cats.  When I said good bye to her on Thursday evening, everyone had a bit of a hesitant smile.  Bijou was moving around carefully, looking around each corner before she let herself into a room.  W and E looked excited but not sure how to react to her.  I taught them to clap their hands very loudly when Bijou jumps up on a counter or somewhere she shouldn’t be. As if by direction, she immediately jumped up on a kitchen counter.  I clapped very loudly, she jumped down and scampered back to the laundry room which is her temporary quarters.  Then I left and felt my heart thudding with sadness.  It didn’t seem right to make her fly two long plane flights just because I have to have surgery.

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Bijou (photo by Fatiha Antar)

Banya, on the other hand, who grew up in Oakland and moved to Paris with me is in kitty heaven.  She was an indoor/outdoor cat, became an indoor cat in Paris and never seemed to adjust.  Now she is home after a long plane ride.  She must have known she was coming home because she stayed calm and hasn’t stopped purring.

 

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I wish I had a smart closing line like Garrison Keeler and could say “and that’s the news from Oakland where all …..”  If anyone can dream up a really punchy line for me to close with, there is a small Thank You coming your way.  Until then,

A bientôt,

Sara