Connect to Paris


Reflections on community and connecting:

In the midst of all the tragedies and absurdities far and near, I’ve been blessed to help my son with a citizenship project he’s working on. In the past week, we’ve written to our French senator Roger Madec for information about protecting nature (for a smile, see the correct salutation to use at the end of the letter below…), taken an emergency First Aid course at the Town Hall, researched ways to help prepare and distribute food to the homeless, and attended a town meeting in our neighborhood. All this turned our feelings of sadness and frustration into gratitude for the many people helping other people.

To feel connected:

Free First Aid Trainings:

This past Saturday, 3500 Parisians attended sessions led by Red Cross volunteers in the local Mairies to learn how to save lives in the event of further terrorist 1(Ivan with Mr. Bernard Jomier, Deputy Mayor of Mme. Hidalgo, and Red Cross training team, photo by Lucas Surel)

Because it was so successful, the Samedi Qui Sauve will be held again. To learn how to protect yourself and save others:

For other Red Cross trainings:

Feeding the Homeless, Emotional Support: Serve the City Paris

Current Serve The City Paris missions and campaigns:

Prêt A Manger food pick up and distribution
Monday – Friday 8:00am at Pret A Manger, 118 Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Neuilly
Pick up leftover food from the day before and then distribute in groups to the homeless. Also possible to meet at Concorde at 9am. Finished by 10:30am.
 Missions and campaigns in partnership:
Friday Mission Lunch
Every Friday meet at the American Cathedral 10am-2pm
Volunteers provide and serve a hot sit-down meal to those in need.
American Cathedral 23 Avenue George V, 8eme
Breakfast Mission
1st Saturday of the month in conjunction with American Church in Paris (ACP)
Prepare the Breakfasts Friday night 7pm at ACP; Meet in basement – room G7
Distribute the Breakfasts Saturday morning 8am at ACP; Meet at Reception
ACP 65 quai d’Orsay, 7eme
Sandwich Mission
3rd Saturday of the month in conjunction with American Church in Paris (ACP)
Prepare the Sandwiches Friday night 7pm at ACP; Meet in basement – room G7
Distribute the Sandwiches Saturday afternoon 1:30pm at ACP; Meet at Reception
ACP 65 quai d’Orsay, 7eme
SOS Help
The emotional support line in English is open from 3 to 11pm daily. They run two listener training courses annually. Listener volunteers cover 3 shifts and attend one meeting per month. Volunteers should be over 25 unless they have previous hotline experience. A 15 month commitment is requested. Visit or their FB page for dates of the information sessions, which are held at the American Church
La Soupe Populaire
Help the team at La Soupe Populaire, association centenaire, sert gratuitement, du lundi au samedi, des repas dans son local du sixième arrondissement de Paris.
Distribution de repas tous les midis, sauf dimanches et jours féries
4 rue Clément, 6ème
To sign up for any of the above, just email us your available date and time and number of people volunteering to


Local Town Hall meetings (conseils de quartier) are open to the public. You can find out about efforts to improve all aspects of local community life, including plans for city-wide composting to reduce the amount of garbage and associated pollution. Local reps record and respond to all questions and feedback. Information available on the local Mairie websites for all 20 arrondissements.

Now for the correct salutation to use when you write your French senator: “Avec mes respectueux hommages, je vous prie d’agréer, Monsieur le Sénateur (Madame la Sénatrice), l’expression de ma considération distinguée.” (With my respectful hommage, I pray you to accredit, Mister or Madam Senator,  the expression of my distinguished consideration). This French art form is endangered by the informal “Cordialement” (Cordially)  we all now use in emails. There are entire websites devoted to the almost infinite variations required for different social and gender permutations. Enjoy it while it lasts!



(Église Saint Roch, near the Tuileries, on a recent afternoon)

“…this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire… What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world…” Hamlet (Act II, scene 2, p. 13)

Woke up Wednesday morning, realizing Brussels explosions were not a bad dream and I still didn’t have news of friends there. From the kitchen, I heard my husband’s voice saying, “3rd century BC, Rome wins the Punic Wars…” Right, he’s helping our son study for a history test. I hear the word “Carthage”…My semi-conscious brain forms pictures of Hannibal crossing the Alps with elephants to invade what is now Italy. My God, elephants in the Alps! Then I jolt awake. Carthage! That’s in North Africa, but where?  My thoughts start spinning back to an article I read after the Paris attacks, “What  Isis Really Wants..”* Wasn’t there something about “destroying the Army of Rome in Dabiq (Syria), to bring on the Apocalypse?” At the time, I dismissed it as fanatical delirium. Run to the computer: Carthage, present day Tunisia… Didn’t the Roman army raze the city and plough salt into the land so no crops would ever grow there? When I was my son’s age, that sounded so cruel, my mind couldn’t fathom it… “Roman Army”… Is this some kind of indelible ancestral memory North Africans still carry 2300 years later? Are these the roots of the conflict with Daesh today? If so the struggle for economic and military power predates Islam and Christianity… Centuries later religion became the rallying cry for both sides: Charles Martel at Poitiers, The Crusades, The Janissaries, the Moguls…More recently, the war in Yugoslavia began with an anit-Muslim speech by Slobodan Milosevic on the exact date of the 600th anniversary of Serbia’s conquest by Ottoman Turks.  If all of this is buried so deeply in our collective unconscious but still activates revenge strategies, how long will it go on? How will we ever get beyond it?

The complete quote from Hamlet is much darker than what I selected above:

“I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air—look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world. The paragon of animals. And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me.”

And yet… there are signs of hope, people protecting themselves, but responding to barbarity with love. All three Abrahamic religions teach us that forgiveness opens the way to grace. Some say grace can break the chains of karma (call it the weight of history if you prefer). Tomorrow is Easter for Christians. Renewal. Can we believe in noble reason, infinite faculties, expressiveness, angelic actions, divine understanding, for the beauty of the earth, this goodly frame, under this brave firmament?

I hope so.

Much more to say about this week….xxxx Aliss

*Article in the Atlantic:

Dreaming on the Sky


Looking up, projecting inner visions on the sky, our infinite screen, opens imagination.  What do we want to take with us into the New Year?  What do we want to leave behind?  What bridges do we want to cross?  What do we love so much that we can’t not do it?  When we put our hearts fully into a dream, it changes us and our “reality.” Most people hate the word commitment, but here’s another way to look at it:

“As long as we are not committed, doubt reigns, the ability to withdraw remains and inefficiency always prevails. Concerning all acts of initiative and creativity, there is an elementary truth,the ignorance of which has countless consequences and aborts splendid projects. At the moment we fully commit, Providence also goes into motion. To help us, all sorts of things take shape, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. An entire chain of events, of situations and decisions create in our favor all manner of unplanned incidents, meetings, and material support that we would never have dreamed of encountering on our path…Everything you can do or dream of doing, you can venture. Audacity contains genius, power, and magic.”  Goethe, The Power of Commitment

Let’s throw our big dreams for ourselves and the world into the sky: health, happiness, creativity, abundance. No dream too big to come true.

Happy New Year! xxxx Aliss


Love Forever True

DSC02401I’m inspired by these two creatures living on the canal around the corner from my building. Year in year out I see them swimming together, cob and pen, raising their cygnets, feeding, flying over the water.

If there’s one thing I wish everyone for the New Year, it’s love.

xxxx Aliss


Yet In Thy Dark Street Shineth


Joyeuses Fêtes=Merry Christmas and Happy New Year=Happy Holidays

The waters of life continue to flow in tears of sorrow and tears of joy. My friend Marilyn lost her young daughter this week and yet in darkness she was a source of light, giving thanks for the years they had together and allowing her child’s life to give life to others. Thank you to everyone in distant countries holding her in their thoughts. I believe the love we send out is never lost and maybe even saves the world. As we start another trip around our sun, our moon reflecting its light, I’m grateful for my family, friends, and home. Wishing you all radiance….

Christmas Countdown


This is our advent calendar, one of my favorite Christmas rituals 🙂
Every night from December 1st to 24th, I put a china figurine
(collected from years of Epiphany king cakes) into one of the little drawers with a tiny chocolate. I start out with toys and animals and gradually
switch to the Nativity theme so that a tiny baby Jesus in the manger is in
the last drawer. It’s pretty intense, like being the Tooth Fairy every night for three and a half weeks, but my son loves it, of course. Sometimes I forget to do it before I fall asleep and have to run frantically to my secret figurine and chocolate hiding places, and sneak them into the calendar before he sees me! When my daughter was at home, I was doing double
duty with her calendar, a big felt hanging Christmas tree
with numbered pockets. Traditionally, the treat is just a piece of chocolate, but one year in a commercial calendar I bought, there were little plastic
gumball machine toys in the windows as well. I could never find one of
those again but saved the toys and put them in the next year’s
calendar compartments with a chocolate. It was always really fun seeing
how the kids reacted to a tiny plastic hotdog, a roulette wheel, or a pair of
dice. Then I got the idea to use the king cake “fèves” (“beans”) 🙂
Trying to keep journaling, something I’ve done since childhood. Unstructured-blowing-off-steam-not-meant-for-prime-time, it helps me stay focused and make sense of non-stop barrages of information we all get every day. When I look back over the last month’s notes, I see changes, more fear, but also more love. If you have thoughts, please let me know.
Thank you everyone for checking in and liking or following my blog! It’s really carried me these past few weeks since November 13th. I love doing it and love your feedback!