As I near the six month point in my one year sabbatical, here’s a quick
1. “You Have A Book Here!”: That was what Jean said after being the
first reader of the full draft of the book I am writing. That’s a big
relief, let me tell you! I started writing this book two years ago, and
have been writing four hours per day since arriving in Paris on July 5th.
Now I will take the next four weeks or so doing editing and some more
writing, based on all Jean’s helpful feedback. Then it will be ready for
what my friend and fellow-writer, Debra Snider, calls “beta readers”, five
or six more people to give me more feedback. Then off to the publisher, I
hope. The good news, just to repeat, is that there’s a book now, even if
only a draft. Whew!
2. Next Up – The Future: Yes, I still have weeks of work on the book to
do. But I’m getting ready to shift my attention in January to working on my
other sabbatical deliverable – strategic thinking about Reading In Motion’s
future. I have stockpiled Harvard Business Review articles and various
books to prime the pump, as it were. I’m excited to turn from thinking
about the past, and move on to thinking about the future. Let me know if
there’s something you want to be sure I consider for the future.
3. A Year Is No Vacation: I wondered before leaving for this
longest-ever stay in Paris how long it would be before it did not seem like
a vacation anymore. How long until it feels like we actually “live” in this
amazing city? Well, I can now answer – four months. The first months, every
street held a new revelation, and around every corner was something we’d
never seen before. The restaurant owner wheeling a cart of empty wine
bottles across the street to put in the public recycling bin. The bus signs
that have small, glowing digital numbers on them to indicate how many
minutes until the next bus arrives. The words to use to order coffee in a
café. It was all new and different, densely stimulating, energizing. At
about four months, there are fewer new things, as we walk past the same
bakery for the 30th time, or trudge to the Metro station in hopes of
getting across town to a now-regular commitment somewhere. You have every
reason to be thinking “cue the violins, poor Karl and Jean”. That’s not my
point, though. This experience, rather, has made me appreciate vacations
and all their unique ability to make us notice the world anew. This
experience has also made me love Paris, with all of its wonders and
delights. It has, lastly, made me pay attention to my paying attention, and
not just get lured into living in the fog of daily existence, wherever I am
4. French Food Can Be Fattening: I joined a health club here recently.
While we do lots of walking and Velib bike riding (it’s the same as Divvy
bikes in Chicago – bike sharing) in Paris, my body was missing the regular
workout from my gym in Evanston. I go regularly now, three times per week,
walking there and back along the Seine river, watching the houseboats and
the joggers and the café patrons in the neighborhoods. I love everything
about going to the gym here!
5. The French Love Their Rules: Jean and I went to see the new Star
Wars movie, “Rogue One”, last night. At the ticket booth, they made us pick
our seats from a touch screen. We picked P10 and P11, for no particular
reason. Inside, there were about 40 people, spread all over a theater that
seats 3-400 people. We plopped down in Row P, and threw our coats in the
seats beside each of us. As previews were starting, a couple came and
wanted to sit right beside us in Row P, though there was nobody else in
that entire row. Those were, apparently, the seats they had been assigned
and they were determined to sit there, even when many other more-spacious
options existed. I slowly moved my coat. This was just one small example of
what we are learning about the French – they love their rules.
6. Holidays Aren’t The Same Here: We had six new friends from Paris at
our apartment for Thanksgiving dinner, on the Saturday after that holiday
is celebrated in America. Everybody works on that Thursday here, after all.
That was different, but the food was similar to home – turkey, dressing,
cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie. We played charades until midnight! Next up is
Christmas. Some streets have white lights, but not colored ones, adorning
them. We have a real tree, decorated, in our apartment. Good friends are
coming from Chicago to join us starting Christmas Day for a week here. Then
our son Patrick and his girlfriend Kathy will be arriving for New Years Day
and another week. Then Jean’s Goddaughter and her husband. So, we will have
friends and family around for the holidays. There will be gifts and good
food and singing, same as in Chicago. The main difference will be all of
you who we will miss seeing during the holiday season. Please know that we
are thinking of you and missing you, especially at this time of year. Drop
us a line (I check the mailbox for letters everyday at 4 rue Guy de la
Brosse, Paris France 75005!), send an email, or give us a call. We’d love
to talk, even for a few minutes, and hear how things are for you back home.
If we don’t hear from you beforehand, here’s wishing you and yours a Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year!