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Join us here in The Bistro for a discussion on the entire Gamache series. Feel free to ask or answer any questions about any of the books or the series as a whole.

Discussion on “The Bistro”

Anna – you are one of the most huggable people I know! Thanks for your kind words of encouragement.

And that is the best news of all! I am so glad Julie. We have talked so much lately about being afraid to reveal ourselves because we fear rejection. Happens everyday doesn’t it, not just in the Bistro. And yet, being accepted for who we are is vital for our happiness in big and small ways.
What I loved about Louise’s video recently was knowing how wonderful she is and how accepted and embraced she is and yet she has revealed her darkness to us. We love her all the more because she battles everyday and, not just survives, but thrives.
Another example is the pop artist Adele who has dreadful stage fright. She also doesn’t like flying. She is one of the most successful artists ever and yet she has real challenges doing what she has to do. She also talks about her desire to have a normal life and be a normal person, married and raising a son, while in the public eye. She is so young but doing a good job in circumstances that are actually really difficult in this age of celebrities being ‘owned’ by the public. Yet she seems very genuine and giving despite her desire for privacy.
I do admire people who are open and giving of themselves and do it with good grace, while like you Julie I struggle to express myself and my needs to those right near me. I shall be like Dory…..Just keep trying, just keep trying….

And good for you making a decision about the holiday. I think it is more than reasonable to skip the trip given the situation. I am not one for walks in the heat so I totally understand where you are coming from. A summer trip is very different to an autumn one.

Thanks, Anna. And, because they are my real friends, they DID understand… all is well. Thank you for the very wise advice.

I do like all the things we talk about here. Remember decluttering….I cleared two garbage bags of clothes and shoes from my cupboard tonight. A small but positive step!! The fact that we have been discussing it really prompted me to get on and do something.

I know exactly your dilemma Julie and I can’t pretend I am as brave as the following advice but this is what I would like to do in that situation.
Firstly, friends are people who should respect you and your choices and good friends should understand you so they should appreciate what you like to do and your concerns.
Secondly, there is more than one problem here that may need addressing. These are your friends but it doesn’t sound like their activities are what you want to do. That is fine if they are happy for you to laze at the house while they take long walks on the beach and that can be done without you feeling left out in any way. It doesn’t sound as though the concerns you have are clear between you all…I don’t think they are hearing the problem about wanting to come home early. So do you want to go if you could stay in the house and read books or have the odd walk IF you want to? Would you want to go if you are driving there and back given your eyes etc and part of the fun is being in the car together? Even if the answer is yes to both, do you really want to go at all?
Ideally you should be able to sit with your friends in a calm moment and say I need to get something off my chest. This is who I am and what I like to do…ie read not walk, be organised and come home at the planned time. I am comfortable to stay home while you walk and I am happy to drive myself if you would rather stay and come back later but you are my friends and ideally I would travel with you, but I need to be clear about our plans so I can get home in daylight.
You don’t have to be aggressive and you don’t have justify yourself you just have to explain clearly that these are your concerns.
So much easier on paper but at the end of the day you have to be happy in your choices. You deserve to be respected in a friendship but in order to do that the difficult thing is first being comfortable with who we are ourselves and then we don’t feel like we have to justify that in any way because you don’t. Friendships have to be a two way street.
I think I would be like and wanting not to rock the boat or upset anyone but at the end of the day being unhappy in a situation like that would make me grumpy and I would be extra grumpy knowing it was partly my fault for not being clear about my needs. How often have I done that? Lots!
Friends are very important and we don’t want to hurt them but you and your happiness are important too. If you don’t attend to your feelings then the hurt caused by subjugating yourself can make you unhappy with your friends and they won’t even understand why you are mad with them. Been there and done that too!
I hope it helps but I would totally understand if you ignore my opinion!!

Anna – I would never ignore you! I think you are right. I probably made it sound like these friends never consider me, and of course, that’s not true, but I do think I’m not being heard in this instance. I’ve decided not to go, and I’m going to just make my case that the plans for this are really not a good fit for me. Last time was in the fall, when everyone was content to spend a lot of each day stitching indoors and watching the wild weather through the picture windows… but this time, it’s July – and everyone will be wanting to spend so much more time outside. It’s a cute little beach town, and they want to explore – but it’s a 3 mile walk into town, (and another 3 miles back, not to mention walking around in the town) – and I’m just not up to it. We’ve been away together lots of times, and other times I have not felt the pressure to join in – and now, I’d be more than content to stay in and let the others do their roaming, but so many more outdoor activities are being planned this time… which I understand – it’s summer, there’s lots of things going on, and the weather is good and conducive to lots of fun things.

Thank you, Anna – I wish I could tell them this in person, but we all live so far apart that the next time we were going to see each other was at this retreat, so I will just have to do it on email and then we can phone if they want to talk more personally. I feel lighter for having made this decision.

I need advice. I can’t figure out what to do. I have three friends with whom I spend quite a bit of time (and I don’t have a lot of friends – more a few close friends than a lot of friendly acquaintances). We are set to go out of town together for a “beach retreat” in a couple of weeks, staying at my friend Becky’s beach house in Oregon. Last time we did that, we were supposedly going to leave for home “after lunch”. I was packed and ready to go before lunch so I would not hold anyone up. We had lunch, then people just kind of lazed around, and finally, mid-afternoon, the others started to “think about packing up”… I had figured I’d be home by 6 p.m., and Vern was expecting me. We got on the road, and of course, because we’d waited so long, ran into traffic (the traffic in Washington can be the worst you’ve ever seen) – a 3 hour trip became a 6 hour trip – it was really quite late at night when we got home, and then I had to make dinner… The whole time in that car, I was stewing.

So, when we made our plans this time I said that I wanted to make sure we got away early enough not to run into traffic. And of course, yesterday, someone says – “we should get our plans set – we will be there til after lunch on Monday…” – I said I thought we’d decided to leave earlier… and people have said they don’t want to just get up in the morning and rush around to leave. They think the traffic will be better, because it’s a Monday instead of a Sunday (maybe they’re right – who knows – that traffic is unpredictable – I do know that it’s awful on Fridays). So I said that I should just drive myself that way I can leave when I want and nobody else has to be rushed. And of course, now there are choruses of “oh, no, you don’t want to drive by yourself – the traffic won’t be bad – and we had a storm last time, which we won’t have this time – why don’t you make something up ahead of time so you don’t have to cook when you get home”…

I’m really angry with them – and upset about this. I don’t even want to go now, but I know if I say that, it sounds very passive-aggressive, which I hate, and these are my friends – I don’t want bad feelings between us. But I feel like I am always the one who has to “suck it up”. I don’t think my solution was a hardship on anyone, and I think my reasons for leaving at a decent time are as valid as anyone else’s reason for wanting to linger. I often feel like the “odd man out”, because I’m not a very physically active person, and everyone else is always going for long walks and geo-caching, etc., which I have no interest in, and they’re always saying”come with us… you’ll enjoy it” when I know I won’t. And I know the time at the beach will be lots of long walks and things, which is really not me. I’d rather be curled up with a book or my stitching.

So… I really want to beg off, but I don’t want it to cause hard feelings. Beyond coming down with a cold or something right before, I can’t think of a graceful way to get out of it.

You are absolutely right Julie….I haven’t seen anyone toting guns on the streets of Rosslyn….thank goodness. Maybe it’s like snakes in Australia…they are dangerous and closer than you think but you don’t see them that often!

I love the discussion of the origin of words and phrases. We have a show called Letters and Numbers….well it’s not in production now but when it was they did a lot of discussion about such things. It was fascinating.

Freezing here…literally but the sun is out and shining. I see there are terrible floods in West Virginia and fires in the West and south.. Be careful everyone and hopefully the weather is calm where ever you are.

Anna, I totally understand where you’re coming from. First things first, though – I’m so glad that Erin has not had to change her viewpoint – to be different in your thinking is wonderful and creative, and soul-supporting. It’s just not something they encourage in most schools, unfortunately. Luckily, she will find it better as she gets older and realizes that “there’s no one right answer” is a good thing.

But second – the guns. It’s scary, absolutely. But speaking as a person who came to the US from another country (Canada), I can tell you that guns are not everywhere, though it seems so from the media. I’ve never seen an actual gun in anyone’s hand, except for a police officer, and I’ve been here for 26 years now. I think you’ll find that you won’t see many (if any) in DC except in the hands of authorities, whether military, government security or police.

I completely disagree that people should be able to have “concealed gun carry” permits, but I have to say that I’d rather they be concealed than worn in a holster on the outside, a la the old westerns. I know it seems odd to say that what I don’t know can’t scare me, but to a certain extent, it is so. Whoever feels the need to carry a gun to protect themselves (a foolhardy thought if you ask me), I don’t want to know about it, and I just want to go about my business while they go about theirs.

The people who are terrorizing people with AK-15s – while they may have bought their guns legally, they are NOT allowed to carry them around with them, and had they been casually walking down the street with a semi-automatic weapon over their shoulder, they’d have been arrested. Those incidents seem like they are everywhere, and absolutely, they happen way more often than they should Absolutely, there should have been a law against selling that kind of gun to anyone, and absolutely, every one of the people that I’ve known about who one day “snapped” and went on a shooting rampage, should never have been able to buy guns legally in the first place. Our laws need to be changed and the gun lobby needs to be shut down, as it has way too much power in DC. But it’s not the normal thing to see any of this, and I’m sure you will find that there is no need to go around being afraid. It’s terrifying when it happens BECAUSE it’s not normal, so we are all shocked. If it were normal, that’s a whole different kind of terrifying, and I’d be first in line saying – “Don’t come – never mind about how good it might be for your husband’s career – you don’t want to be here if you don’t have to be.” Not only that, but I’d be saying it from Canada. Luckily for me, I have that option should things “go south” for us here – I will still be able to live in Canada.

So, as I wrote that, I wondered about the saying “go south” – it means to go wrong. If everything suddenly “goes south”, it means that it all went as badly as you could possibly imagine – the worst has happened. I think it must be from slaving days when a slave who “misbehaved” (especially by trying to escape to freedom) often enough was given the ultimate punishment being “sold south” – that is, to be sold to someone who lived in the deep south where it would be more difficult to escape, and I imagine implicit is that it would be to someone who would much more strict in applying the whip. In Gone with the Wind (by today’s standards , filled with racist language and ideas), Scarlet often threatens her servants with “I swear, I’ll sell you south if you do that again.” We’re given to understand that she wouldn’t, but that this is a common threat. I think it’s also akin to “being sold down the river”, which I think comes as much as anything from Huckleberry Finn (another book that has been accused of being wildly racist, though the Jim character is the only honest and honorable one in the book). I assume the easiest way to move a slave “south” would be on the Mississippi river. I find the whole thing odd, because, for instance, Scarlet lived in and near Atlanta – you can’t get very much further south geographically – yet, the saying continued. Certainly, they didn’t necessarily mean geographically south, but just to someone who would treat them more cruelly.

So – after that interesting interlude – back to the present day, hahaha. Anyway – don’t come thinking it will be obvious everywhere that we’re a gun-totin’ nation, Anna, because, really, most people don’t want to be carrying guns around.

Thank you Julie, Barbara and Peg. I think Erin struggles with English because there is no right answer and she often has ideas that are a bit different to what is expected. She was worried because she hadn’t fl.owed the traditional thinking on TS Eliot and his influences. I like that she is unconventional and she just had to learn to support her views convincingly which is hard if you doubt your ability. The wonderful thing about the A was it showed her she could hold her views and present them with conviction.
I know you all worry about what I think about Americans right now. Fortunately, because I have you all as friends then I know what are you are really like and the caring and wonderful people that you are. It must be very frustrating to have negativity in the media and know that is not what most people are like but media is sensationalist and rarely gives a clear picture of anything….you have to do loads of reading between the lines.
The people we have met in DC have also been lovely. I hope to find some real American friends when I am in town and not just members of the expat circuit. I looked at the local library site and there are book clubs. Politics and Prose is a bookshop that hosts Louise’s events and they have events and book clubs too. So I shall get out in the real world.
I have to say, guns scare us. The idea that there are so many around is a bit freaky and this from someone who qualified on a handgun and semiautomatic weapon in the Navy. Having seen what they can do and how hard they are to handle effectively…..wouldn’t want one in my home or near my children! I think when I heard what Louise said….that when she was depressed she would have shot herself if there was a gun in the house……I mean what a tragedy that would have been. How many tragedies happen everyday? How much wonder has the world lost because guns make it easy to die intentionally or accidentally?
Sorry, not a rant but a musing from afar as I seek to understand the inexplicable.

Congratulations to Erin ! Way to go.
Hi Peg. Good to hear from you. Sometimes all we Americans can do is shake our heads too. I hope all goes well Tomorrow and Sat. It is Pride weekend here and security has been increased for the Parade and events. There has never been a problem and I hope there never will be.
Need to check and see how things are going in regard to the voting in England. My English friend is there for the Summer and voted to remain in the EU.
Hope some good comes from the DC events. Things must change in regard to gun laws.
Good thoughts to all.

I’m with Julie about English being easier for me than math, although science classes were always interesting.

And Anna – I’m sure you’re aware but most Americans aren’t like you see on TV or read about! My Canadian friends just shake their heads sometimes rather than ask why?

Yippee! Congratulations to Erin! It seems so foreign to me to have to work harder at English than for maths and science, but that is probably a good way to be – lots of fascinating work in those fields… especially science.

Erin got an A on her English. This is a very proud moment for a kid who thinks she is bad at English and worked really really really hard. I was just happy she saw how the hard work paid off and she isn’t bad at English, it is just harder for her than maths and science.
Thank you for your good thoughts. They work!
Oh, interesting developments on Capitol Hill!

Like Julie said, just email her or the address I put on page 87 and then we can stay in touch if another problem develops or poor Paul tires of his gatekeeper post.

I have just been watching Louise’s interview with her friend Wendy. The link is on her Facebook page. Louise says she can’t watch it and I understand that. It is very open and revealing and, for us, totally wonderful but for her-it lays her life bare. We have been reminiscing about the early days of the Bookclub and our fears of revealing ourselves to people. I look at Louise and her courage and think how amazing she is and how grateful I am that she has given us the courage to talk to each other. I love that she has such genuine pleasure and gratitude for her life. I need to emulate that more. So much to learn from a normal and yet extraordinary person. I can’t thank you enough Louise.

Nancy, Cathryne and anyone else who’d like to be included – I’m just going to jump in and put my email address here. abucksworth@gmail.com Please email me if you’d like to be part of our back-up group that is on email only. The regulars here got antsy when we couldn’t get into the Bistro for a little while, and it really made me realize how easy it would be to lose contact with people I truly consider close friends. So if you’d like to keep in touch even after a catastrophe here at the Bistro, please let me know, and I’ll get you on our list… Poor Paul never realized he was going to have to keep the Bistro open forever…

Hi All and a special hello to Nancy!
I am glad anything I said was helpful Millie. I am thinking of your son as he faces challenges but he will be fine because he has wonderful supportive family to bolster him when things are tough.
The credit issue is an interesting one. We have back up from the Embassy so we have bank accounts and credit cards etc. I think it will be fine. Interestingly BMW deal with diplomats so that has made it easier but we were never intending to go down such a prestige route! Sold Pete’s car yesterday so that helps. He loved that car and it was only two years old so he is a it sad but he will cope!
I can understand having credit issues moving for Australia but Canada. Gee Nanacy that makes it tricky. Glad it all worked out. It sounds like you are having a good summer without firenados and wicked storms. Pete had storms and flash flood warnings this evening when I spoke to him. We have gale force winds and it’s very cold with snow in the mountains. I love weather!

Erin has done her speech but hasn’t texted to say what happened so of course I am on tenterhooks as I know she was very stressed.

I am glad we all the support here. Everyone has their humps in the road but we are all on the sidelines cheering each other on and over the obstacles.

Hi all. Nice to read your posts. We’re finally enjoying/wallowing in/delighting in…summer! The weather here has been perfect. How wonderful it is not to have to wear parkas and boots, hats and mitts, etc. etc. I’m trying to soak up each beautiful day since I know that it just speeds by.

Anna,I can sympathize with your credit rating problems. We are duel Canadian/American citizens but when we moved back to the U.S. briefly (only 4 years) we found that we had no credit rating and no driving history for getting car insurance. Nothing transferred to the U.S. which seemed a little surreal since we had only moved an hour’s drive away. We also had problems getting our car registered because it was a Japanese model which hadn’t been sold in the States. Somehow everything worked out (and we didn’t have to buy another car..phew!) but at times I wondered if it would. I forget if the same thing happened when we returned to Montreal but each move has had it’s challenges.

Hi, Nancy – that’s so interesting about moving back to the US after some time in Canada – who would have thought that these things don’t transfer at all – you can bet a bad credit rating would follow you everywhere! If you are an hour’s drive from Montreal, are you in Vermont now? I dimly remember (how I remember everything these days) that you said that, but I can’t quite recall.

Something very strange just happened. I came to the bottom of page 88 to reply to Nancy’s post, and started typing. When I looked up, I was on page one, and my reply was going to be posted there. So I quickly copied what I’d written and went back to page 88. I’m copying again, just in case that’s where most of our replies had been going – to page one – when messages were disappearing… Of course, it’s also entirely possible that I just hit the wrong button with my heavy-fisted typing!

Hello all. I just wrote a nice long post which went poof when I went back a page to copy a few lines from a post from Anna. I had written thanks to Barbara for mentioning way back on page 77 that the synopsis for the latest book was posted on FaceBook which allowed to me look for it on Louise’s webpage once I could read again…

I don’t seem to have a confluence of uninterrupted time and energy to comment in a timely manner lately. But I have been reading and feeling the true caring for others that shines so brightly at the Bistro. And sometimes the words here reach further than we realize to uplift, comfort or help another. My younger son is going through a rough time so I read him these lines from a post from Anna on the previous page:
“I hope you remember to be brave the next time an opportunity presents itself because I know you were all brave to post and keep coming back. Revealing yourself to new people is not easy but every risk has its rewards and life is really deciding to step up to each new challenge hoping for something good despite our fears.” I was just what he needed to hear.

Thanks 🙂 Thank you all. But now, it’s past cooking dinner time. There seems to be a crazy amount of business that I must tend to lately which limits my Bistro time. But I care for you all. Big (((hugs)))

I, too, think a new computer is the way to go, Barbara. I would probably get a Surface if I had to get one today, because you could use it both as a tablet and as a laptop. In general, I don’t like Microsoft, and so I’m hoping when the day comes for me to need a new computer, there will be other similar choices from other companies. If I could find a tablet with enough memory to have software on it, that would be the way I’d go – and just get a keyboard for it… but so far, tablets don’t seem to have the capability of running software like I’d want, and I don’t think we are there yet as far as running software that’s in the cloud…

Anna, I never thought of the credit hassles, and like Barbara, I was amazed that some won’t deal with diplomats. I guess because they are here today and gone tomorrow, perhaps some have left debt unpaid when they left… I never would have thought that! I hope he can get things sorted out and can settle in somewhat. I don’t know what public transportation is like in DC, but expect it’s not good enough to forego having a car altogether. Now, New York would be a different matter altogether.

Vern won’t even talk about moving. I’ve barely got him talking about hiring someone for the yard, and he talks, but no action… I will jump at any opportunity, but who knows if he will ever be open to moving until we have to for health reasons. If you wait until you HAVE to move, you have a lot less control over the situation, because you’ve got to take whatever’s available. We’ll see how things fall out over the next couple of years – I do know that I’ve got to do a LOT of decluttering yet, and that I can’t do it all at once, so it’s just as well…

So many details and hoops to jump through. I never thought of the credit hurdle. I’m glad the relocation person and the realtor were of help and likeable. I would have thought that diplomats would have no trouble securing whatever was needed. Then I remembered diplomatic immunity.
Of course, some people behave in ways that makes difficulty for others.
Your life in DC is going to be very exciting, but like everything, not perfect.
Wishing the best for Erin at a very important stage in her life. Remind us when the test times come. Prayers will be raised.
Good thoughts to all.

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