We will see a fox.

Boaz can spot animals in the wild so easily that walking with him anywhere sometimes feels like walking through a very laid-back zoo. We’ve seen owls, bats, deer, lizards, hummingbirds, so many rabbits and chipmunks, a blue heron, muskrats, a dozen raccoons, ibex, river otters, a wild baby pig, and a few other things I can’t remember right now. 

In rural France his specialty is hawks and falcons, and we’ve seen more than I can count. I can count about three before I lose interest.  

We’d really like to see a fox. The man who owns the 17th-century farmhouse we’re staying in says the forests around here are full of foxes, but he says we won’t see one. “You won’t see a fox.” he said just last night. Then he went on to describe foxes as reddish-brown, medium sized, short legs, angry. Pretty good description. We can pictures it in our mind's eye now I guess.

There are also supposed to be lots of buzzards, and those buzzards are in luck because there are so many dead things. 

On a trail by a cornfield we saw two shrews, both dead, very small and soft-looking. We didn’t touch them. (Did you know shrew skin is tastes sour to cats? A cat owner told us that the other day.) Shrews have snouts that make them look like adorable little fur-covered elephants, or adorable little woolly mammoths.


Outside a pastry shop we saw two tiny tiny black mice, both dead and bloated, lying in the middle of the street. We looked at them as we ate macarons that tasted like lemon-cheesecake. 

On the highway on the way to one of the many castles we saw a dead animal the size of a small duffel bag, with a white face. We’re still trying to identify what that one was.

I’ve decided the difference between being able to speak a language and being able to speak it fluently is knowing the little ways to express yourself when something unexpected comes up. I can ask for lemon-cheesecake macarons at the pastry shop, but if the cashier makes a joke about not giving us our change, all I can do is stare at him nervously, without blinking. I know there is something funny and normal to say back, but I don’t have a clue anymore what it is. When France gives us surprises I have nothing to give back except long, silent pauses. 

The part of France we're in is mostly countryside so most of France’s surprises for us are small, dead animals. It presents them without comment and we stare back without comment, positive that there is something good and normal to say, that we used to know but we’ve forgotten. 

I hope we see a fox soon, a live one. You know, reddish-brown, angry, with short legs.

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Veil models are really not selling it.

Here's a tip for people selling veils on Etsy.

Get a friend to model a veil for you, get a camera, and then right before you take the picture, tell her that she left the stove on at her apartment, or tell her that you hate her. That seems to be what makes for the perfect veil product shot.

Also whatever you do don't let her look at the camera.

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Say Mnyes to the dress

My seamstress has a name that starts with T and ends with the sound of breaking glass, and she has the best reviews on Yelp. 

She also has four trophies for Great Business and Seamstress and Tailoring, but I think she may have bought them herself, so pretend I didn’t mention them.

I’ve never had a seamstress before and on my way to her house I wondered if maybe she’d written all those great Yelp reviews herself, but when I met her I felt much better. There was no way she could have written them, because her English wasn’t great. In fact, for the first ten minutes I was there, the only word she said was “Mnyes.” Would you like me to use that in a sentence? No problem. Here are things she said “Mnyes.” to:

Sorry I’m a little early. 

You have really beautiful flowers out there. 

Should I take my shoes off? 


Are you asking if I’ll come upstairs? 

Oh, what a room! 

What, should I change here? I’ll just take my clothes off here.

I don't know one word in her first language, let alone one word that can do so many things. I wish I did, because when you can get that much mileage out of one word you don’t really need others. I assumed her catchphrase was the extent of her English vocabulary, until she started pinning the bottom of my dress and I started glancing absentmindedly around the room.

“It will really help me a lot if you look directly at your eyes in the mirror.” she said, in absolutely perfect English. 

“At my eyes?” 

She was back to “Mnyes.”

There was a giant mirror leaned against the wall a few feet away, and I stared at my eyes in it.

How much time do you spend looking at yourself in the mirror? 

Growing up I always wondered if, were I for some reason put up to the task, I could recognize my face out of a line up of twenty other caucasian faces. No hair, no birthmarks, and no eyes, just empty sockets in an empty face. You know, the things little kids think about.

I’m embarrassed to admit that now I don’t think I’d have a lot of trouble. I’ve spent a lot of time studying. Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at something, and I’ve put those hours in, a few seconds at a time. Every time I wash my hands in the bathroom I make different faces to myself. Casual glances, normal smiles, shock, boredom, I’m just curious I guess. I haven’t read Malcolm Gladwell’s book in a while so I can’t remember if he has a term for spending 10,000 hours on something that’s probably bad for you.

“It will really help me a lot if you look directly at your eyes in the mirror.” the greatest seamstress kept repeating, every time my line of sight drifted even an inch.

Had she pre-recorded it somehow? Did she practice every night the way I’ve been practicing my Torah portion? 

Boaz doesn’t look at his face in the mirror nearly as much as I do. Bless his heart, sometimes he’ll brush his teeth and then have some toothpaste on his cheek. “How did you not notice that when you were just looking at your reflection?” I ask and it's not rhetorical, I honestly desperately want to know. "How does he do it?" I'll ask myself, as I stare at my reflection in the bathroom at a party while other guests are out talking to other people and not their reflections. Boaz has my favorite face in the world but he somehow never looks at it, not even when he’s brushing his teeth. 

I would rather watch my face than watch some tv shows. Not all tv shows, but some. Malcolm Gladwell, what is this called?

Until 200-or-so years ago good mirrors were sort of a luxury so unless you were hanging out by a pool of water a lot you weren’t super occupied with how the left side of your upper lip was shaped, or what you looked like when you were shocked or bored. And you never knew when you had toothpaste on you, and seamstresses had absolutely nothing to say except “Mnyes.” 

And people had to go around not knowing what other people saw when they looked at them, like that party game where you have a celebrity’s name taped to your forehead and your friends give you clues to help you guess who you are. “You’ve been in a bunch of movies and now you’re in television.” “Once you had a big scandal and it had something to do with phones.” “I think you might have an Emmy.” “There’s some toothpaste on your face, other side.”

After she was finished pinning she had me change, and handed me an indecipherable note on a slip of paper, and I asked her when the dress would be ready. You can guess her response. I have a really good feeling about seeing that dress again. That many trophies can’t be wrong.

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Small Bald People

My sister says that babies only like attractive people, is that true?

Or does she just say that because babies like her and not me?

Aren’t babies blind?

What do we actually know about babies anyway? And, I don't want to be overly critical but there's a chance they're the ones who started it, are tiny bald wrinkly muscle-less things really the best judges of attractiveness? 

If babies don't like you, and my sister's getting in your head, I say don't worry about it. Babies have those weird baby zits. And they don't have teeth. I think you look great.

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On our relay last summer one of my legs was at night - it was the middle of the night, right at midnight. I had to wear a headlamp and a reflective vest that I don't think was actually too reflective. Here is a photo of how dark it felt.

I ran for an hour but hardly saw anyone else. The entire time though, there was this woman right behind me. She was just trailing me and trailing me and I didn't dare slow down because I knew as soon as I slowed down she would sprint ahead.

It freaked me out how silent she was. How was she making so little noise?

I couldn't see her, and I couldn't even hear her, but every time a car passed, I could see both our shadows in the headlights.

She was so close she was almost touching me, she definitely could have outpaced me but she was quietly trailing me just to annoy me. Or she was really out of shape and this was her very limit and if I just kept it up she'd slow down eventually. I wasn't sure which but I ran for five miles thinking about it.

I was so tired but not tired enough to let her pass me. I kept running faster and faster and just when I was sure I'd lost her because I couldn't hear her at all anymore, headlights would come by and I'd see both our shadows again.

She had such a good stride she looked so fit, and the weirdest part was she was able to perfectly mimic my movements - that's when, five miles in, I realized that car headlights make two shadows and it had just been me the whole time. I'm not sure what the point of this story is. I guess I just wanted to let you know that car headlights make two shadows, so you don't make the same mistake.

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