Paris/COVID: Thanks(giving) anyway?

My favorite co-working café a while back, will it survive?

A reminder I’m not my usual self: Christmas lights going up on our street courtesy of local merchants’ association, after all they’ve been through, made me cry, with gratitude.

Resetting holiday attitudes and expectations… I’m usually a grinch about the Beaujolais Nouveau event, third Thursday of November. It always seemed a fake marketing ploy dreamed up by the vintners’ lobby in 1985 to rake in cash with too-young, too-acidic beverages calling themselves wine. However…this year, I was treated to a memorable bottle with a weird name: Beaujo Beau from Domaine Anthony Charvet, AOC Chiroubles.

Recommended by our favorite local restaurant owner Bertrand Disset:

Do check out La Bicyclette, his bistrot: real chef (Slavica Marmakovic), fresh ingredients, gorgeous creativity, charcuterie from l’Aveyron, natural wines, low prices, great press, offering take out during confinement, our family’s hooked.

Tasting this wine sparked my curiosity and I learned that Beaujolais Nouveau wasn’t invented in 1985, but is one of the surviving French wine festivals all over France, vestiges of traditional fêtes des vendanges, grape harvest festivals that used to be a thing. When I was a student here, all the French kids used to take off in the Fall to work in the vineyards and enjoy camaraderie and banquets prepared by the vintners’ families.

Live and learn! Vive le Beaujolais Nouveau! We need all the holidays we can get these days. This one is connected to a real terroir.

The other event I’ve always hated is Black Friday. How could anyone sully our miraculously non-commercial Thanksgiving with such a display of crass greed the next day? OK, I know Thanksgiving is an idealized version of Early American cooperation between indigenous people and colonists. When my kids were little I researched it so I could present it to them in good conscience. It seems that there was a historically-documented meal where “pilgrims” and native people celebrated abundant local produce and European survival in the New World (what happened next is less a reason to celebrate). Question: could our US Thanksgiving mythology be a template for future inclusivity and stewardship?

Meanwhile French businesses adopted Black Friday to my chagrin. But COVID has changed the context and when I see how small businesses are struggling, I have to welcome Black Friday for their sake. Reset.

And there are other things to celebrate this year.

No matter how you voted, a respite if not an end to election hangover.

If you’re reading this, congratulations for being alive.

If you’re a parent of teens in France: remote working means more adults are at home paying attention to the comings and goings of their teenagers, who have to communicate more about their outings: where, when, why, how long… to fill out the required dérogation. It’s become much easier to form alliances and keep them safe.

This helps us to find a balance between restrictions and permissiveness, keeping in mind current mental health challenges for young people: increased rates of depression, suicide and anorexia:

And… Thanksgiving is starting to appeal to a French audience! Monoprix features a special shopping section on their website:

….with a recipe for Pecan Pie that lists maple syrup instead of corn syrup (Gasp! my South Georgia ancestors are rolling in their graves!)

But upon closer investigation… maple syrup has 200 fewer calories per cup than corn syrup and contains actual nutrients contrary to its ultra-refined alternative! So perhaps a new era will dawn in that area as well?

Welcome news! Last night President Macron announced lighter confinement rules for the holidays, starting on Saturday November 28th when non-essential stores are allowed to reopen.

A final word: over the years I’ve figured out that I’m a pilgrim in France, grateful for all the support I’ve received from “the natives.” We expats watch Emily in Paris on Netflix and laugh at the cultural caricatures we recognize from our attempts to adapt to our French hosts, but in truth we all love France, we’re grateful to here.

Happy Thanksgiving from a pilgrim,


Paris/COVID: Curfew Day 1

Yippee another challenge to keep our brains from aging too fast!

De-scheduling dinners, open mics, evenings with friends, not to mention Halloween… wondering how our friends in the restaurant, hospitality, theater and music worlds are going to re-imagine themselves for the nth time. Theoretically it’s not as bad as confinement, but then again, we were all just picking ourselves up, brushing ourselves off, and fantasizing about getting back to some semblance of a rhythm, in this city of lights, now going dark again. It has to be done with 30,000 new infections just yesterday. Our frontline health workers and vulnerable ones have to be shielded.

While we’re at it, please send special good vibes to all of us parents of teenagers chafing at the bit. If they’re caught outside after 9pm, they’ll be detained by the police until we can pick them up at whatever precinct, and we parents will have to pay 135€ ($160) the first time, 1500€ ($1760) after that for the privilege of getting them back.

And… just to make things more interesting, invitations to super-spreader all night parties with no adult supervision are being shared because schools are on fall break for 2 weeks and the young feel entitled to blow off steam. Attempts to help them understand the gravity of the situation ping off them like raindrops on a parapluie.

If anyone else is in this boat, please DM me. I have a strategy. Not terrifically fun from an admin POV, but potentially more economical.

To be continued!

xxxxxx Aliss

Paris/COVID: Beyond Burnout


Thank you all who read and responded to my previous post about disconnection and burnout. Have you ever noticed that when you make a public statement, you get echoes of agreement and the universe also switches into fact-checking mode? I heard from a lot of people experiencing similar feelings and a lot of people defying the odds in every area:

-Close friends and relatives on both sides of the Atlantic, evidently not social distancing from their partners, have chosen to have babies, one due in October, one in January.  Disproving toddler/teen parental burnout predictions, one couple already have a 2½  year old, the other have 4 (!) preteen and teen boys, 2 each from previous relationships. Our local swan couple above are raising new triplets.

-A family member in Florida, a retired doctor, still living independently, is celebrating a century of life this month.

-The Paris city government is setting up Paris Plages along the Seine and our canal, with temporary sand beaches, boardwalks, water sports, ziplines and fresh water swimming.  The grand opening will feature a movie theater overlooking the water, where lucky ticket winners can watch movies from boats.

-Committed climate warrior, Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, is more determined than ever to rid Paris of car pollution, closing streets to traffic, narrowing avenues to make room for more bike lanes.

-We elected her for her green platform, but we must now radically change our transportation habits ASAP, faster than anyone foresaw. Double-long buses block intersections, the Metro is often crowded, not everyone wearing masks. Remaining traffic clogs available asphalt, honking rabidly. Cabbies and emergency vehicle drivers can no longer access certain parts of the city. What about families with handicapped kids or elderly parents? You can’t balance them on your handlebars… We all have to think twice before moving around and plan much extra time, money and/or rain gear. Kudos for our perseverance.

-Otherwise, cafés and restaurants are spilling across sidewalks, with tables, improvised partitions, bright parasols and awnings.

-People in my building took up a generous collection to help the widow of our neighbor who died of COVID in April.

-The traditional Bastille Day parade took place yesterday Place de la Concorde, ending with a moving tribute to healthcare heroes. A big salary and bonus package for health professionals has been signed. Eiffel Tower fireworks were televised last night, crowds discouraged, but many gathered anyway. President Macron has announced masks will be mandatory in all closed pubic spaces starting August 1st.

-My US cousin, a dedicated young nurse who was very ill with COVID, has recovered and is buying a house for herself and her adopted rescue pup.

-Another young friend, nurse and single mom, had to isolate from her little son while caring for COVID patients and then got furloughed. Reunited with her little boy, she’s created a patio and vegetable garden behind her apartment building.

-A young Broadway sound designer, out of work until at least January, took 60 hours of training to volunteer on a crisis hotline and adopted a rescue dog.

Shoutout to:

-Peaceful protesters wearing masks.

-US SCOTUS judges who retain a degree of independence from the party in power.

-Staff at the assisted living facility where my mother lives, who have taken such good care of the residents that there hasn’t been a single case of COVID there. They work long hours, outside their job descriptions, organizing Zooms, FaceTimes, window visits, room to room happy hours with music, socially distanced walks outside… unable to hire additional staff because no one wants to work there during a pandemic.

-To everyone on the front line: grocery store employees, sanitation workers, teachers, delivery employees, farmers, progressive lawmakers, and all those everywhere who keep going and keep us going, day after day.

Bravo, thank you for the inspiration.

To be continued.

xxxxx Aliss



Paris/Covid: First Wave Aftershock

IMG_1298City life is picking up. It’s wonderful going outside and meeting people again, but I still feel disconnected. It’s not just that we’re not touching physically, there’s a sensation of unreality about everything. The decor is the same, but the way we inhabit it is very different. Everyone has been through big changes, each in their own way, and even though we’ve been in contact virtually, supporting and updating each other, we’ve all shifted internally and externally, so even in person, we don’t quite fit together the way we did before. In relationships, some grievances have fallen away, but others have come to a head. It’s disorienting.

I think I’m suffering from reset fatigue. Over the past few years Paris has gone through terrorist attacks, a migrant crisis, yellow vest upheavals, Notre Dame burning, transportation paralysis, COVID confinement and deconfinement, and #BLM, an emotional wringer of fear, rage, despair, hope and admiration for heroes…

This spring we’ve had to second guess our every habit and reflex, our social programming and attempts at deprogramming. Many of us are also processing parental burn out. I read recently that after all these months of isolation and homeschooling, it’s most intense for those of us with toddlers and teens. This confirms my own experience. These two categories are the ones with the most striking developmental disruptions. Physical changes, moods, experimentation, unpredictability, constant questioning and testing boundaries demand huge flexibility, attention, and presence from caregivers (as do Alzheimers patients, I’m guessing). A lot of my energy, day after day, week after week, has gone into making it through the school year. Mission accomplished! There’s huge relief, but also exhaustion and emptiness. Now what? What new reality do we have to adjust to or create over the summer and in the fall? How will it play out for our loved ones in the US?

A close friend told me how a war-zone seasoned neuroscientist recently gave a talk at her husband’s company to help staff adjust as they returned to work. He said the pandemic has been violently traumatic for health workers, victims and their families, for others in a more insidious way, and that all of us react to trauma as we react to grief, in five stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance, along a predictable timeline. Personally I don’t identify with any of these stages just now, it’s more like low energy and numbness.

Counting blessings. In many ways, confinement provided me a necessary retreat. I’m one of the lucky ones. Still here to look at the sky, the water, the beautiful earth, living creatures, hear music and conversation, walk and dance, sing, taste food and wine, and little by little, reconnect.

xxxxxx Aliss



Paris Lockdown: Turn on Your Inner TV


“Private Moon” Leonid Tishkov, Grand Palais expo La Lune, June 2019

Week 5 

Monday evening, April 13th, when President Macron announced another month of confinement, I felt both relieved and  challenged. Relieved because there’s a potential date to look forward to and challenged because I have to keep playing confinement sheriff to my teenager (whose friends seem to be escaping restrictions and parental control in ways I can only guess at). Not to mention the many questions: how to stay healthy, how to manage as a family in close quarters, how to uplift isolated family members from a distance? And what happens after confinement?

We’re all stretching beyond old habits to fill this time as productively as we can, inspired by the essential people keeping us alive. As we try to stay busy, are there open spaces in our new routines to pick up signals from inside? Whatever you call it, intuition? inner wisdom? consciousness? It comes in different forms like remembering a conversation or noticing a book, coming across a forgotten note on a post-it, following a hunch to call or email someone…connections to our next steps and maybe even a path to reimagine our world?

In spare moments, visualization and guided meditations can hone this access to our deeper selves and help us learn to trust it. I started researching and exploring it a while back when I felt completely stuck. It helped me so much, I wanted to share it with people I mentor and coach.

Here’s a mini workshop I put together for kids and teens so they could use this tool to expand their creativity, self confidence, and problem solving skills. It works well with adults, too renewing our playfulness and innocent imagining. If you’re a parent, listen with your kids.

The first part is a short introduction, “What is Visualisation?”

The second part is a guided meditation, “Turn on Your Inner TV”

Thank you to American bansuri flute virtuoso Steve Gorn for permission to use his gorgeous “Luminous Ragas”

And to Russian artist Leonid Tiskov for permission to use my photo of his magical “Private Moon” (Grand Palais’ 2019 “La Lune” expo). For more about his art:

Now or for future reference…

xxxxxx Aliss