“Belle of the Ball” – by Debbie Ambrous

My feathery blue fascinator hat atop my Paris hatbox (Look closely for the Eiffel Tower under my hat). My son-in-law Mark told my daughter Jessica to buy the hatbox for me. Thanks to both of you! Camilla couldn’t have any better.

I’ve always relished being the Belle of the Ball!  Now before you choke in laughter at the idea of me being Belle of the Ball and spew coffee from your mouth and nose, let me explain.  Being Belle of the Ball isn’t all about the most beautiful, curvy, vivacious and perfect knockout lady at the party.  In fact, the one with the top qualifications may not have the title since it involves a state of mind.  The lady who walks into the room with confidence, style and flair, no matter the age, may be the Belle of the Ball since the title can be worn by more than one.

Jim and I went to a beautiful afternoon wedding.  I wore a sapphire blue velvet top with a matching skirt, and I decided to boldly wear my fascinator hat with its bright blue feathers.  If the less-than-attractive Camilla, Prince Charles’ wife, can wear one with poise, why can’t I?  I don’t have her wealth, title or acclaim, but it didn’t stop me.  I grabbed the gold ring and swung into the party as Belle of the Ball.

The buxom, beautiful bride in her radiant gown by her handsome husband was first and foremost the Belle of the Ball.  Love glowed from every pore of her body, and she floated through the room like a princess following a dream coming true.  It was truly her day.

A friend from long ago was another Belle.  As a young woman in the 70’s she elegantly wore the highest beehive hair-do.  Back then we had tea with her in her mobile home that could have been a Provencal gypsy caravan, although at the time I didn’t even know about such.  Zebra and leopard patterned material along with crimson red and dazzling gold accents covered the long circular sofa in her living room.  Cher Bono could have entered singing “Gypsies, tramps and thieves…” I was in awe of her style.  She is still beautiful, a gorgeous blonde with an essence of mystery and panache.  A Bella Belle!

Janet, a natural beauty with extra long silver hair that she has kept since she was a young girl appeared gracefully.  Attractive with very little makeup, she speaks softly with loving care for others.  Still, I must say she is the silver fox!  Madame Janet, Belle of the Ball!

My friend Quail was the gorgeous lady with the curly silver hair, my sister in all ways except sharing the same parents.  With her flawless complexion, beautiful white teeth and perfectly styled hair she could be a model any day.  But it seems that the demand for models of a certain age is going to women on commercials for men’s products.  You know the cute ladies who hop around on one leg while fastening a shoe, or get caught singing rock n’ roll.  A silver-haired man appears, and the kitchen erupts with water and they float off in separate bathtubs holding hands.  Quail bailed out on a raft.  She was Belle of the Ball, and she will kill me when she reads this.

I was drawn to a charming, blonde-haired lady who could have been my aunt, but she is no relation.  Still, I would like to claim her because she was the truest Belle of the Ball.  Her name was Bette, and she wore a fur-trimmed jacket and carried a designer clutch handbag. I offered my card so she could read my blog, but she didn’t have Internet.  Bette lives in the country and enjoys quilting.  I’m glad I met her.

A tiny girl with fur-trimmed boots played with balloons, and I tried to snap a picture of her.  She moved too fast: I needed roller skates.  Jim said someone would film me, and the next day’s headlines would be: “Camilla Crashes Party on Roller Skates.”

I was over the top at this party since I could hear much better.  I have two new expensive hearing aids.  I’ve dealt with hearing loss for over 20 years, and this is the first time I’ve had quality hearing.  Especially in a large group I couldn’t hear.  I would smile and nod or look sympathetic if the tone seemed to go in that direction.  I didn’t always get it right.  This is a true story.

A young lady said, “I have a cat.”   I heard, “I have a cow.”  I said, “Do you milk her?”  She looked at me in shock and disgust!  We straightened it out, but what about the times I didn’t even know about?

Lady says, “My poodle was run over by a car.”  I smile and almost burst into laughter because I heard “I kanoodled in a car.”  You would laugh too.  Don’t say you wouldn’t if you heard a little old lady say this!

Now I can hear!  I can wear a fascinator! I can share the floor with my lady friends who are beautiful, and who knows I may line-dance next time. Sweet!

My book “A French Opportunity” is now available on KINDLE at worldwide Amazon websites.  In Chapter 4 “Why Didn’t I Pack a Big Floppy Hat?” a wedding party emerges from a church: ”

“I wasn’t their photographer, and I didn’t feel comfortable aiming my camera at the private group, although I was dying to capture the ladies in their extravagant chapeaus and the children just being children.  Instead, I sat on a park bench and enjoyed people watching, basking in another day ending in a golden glow.

Huge, white hydrangeas in a nearby flower shop were so perfect that I wanted to buy them.  I wanted to wear a big hat with a feathery plume and a soft, flowery dress, and walk to buy bread at the corner bakery.  Maybe I would need a French poodle to complete my ensemble.”  Read more on your Kindle or a book that you can add to your bookshelf.  Sweet!


A French Opportunity

“Trails of Nostalgia” – Debbie Ambrous

“What are you looking at?”  Jim questioned me curiously when I sat on the edge of the bed staring at the picture in the frame on my bedside stand.  Lost in reminiscence, I was slow in telling him that I was only looking at the picture of the two of us.  He said, “Oh, I thought you saw a bug on the wall.”  “I did.  An Ugly Bugly!  You!” I shot back at him.

The picture was taken almost fifteen years ago just a few days after I learned that I had breast cancer.  My face in the picture looks much younger than now and happy despite the uncertainty I was facing.  Jim’s hair was much longer than I liked.  He was on a mid-life learning curve.  To complete the picture, I had a teenager daughter at home, a husband who wanted to be a teenager again and doctors planning to fill my veins and my thoughts with scary substances.  Read more in my book released on Amazon –  A French Opportunity.

Nostalgia. I’ve been on a nostalgia trip in many directions recently.  I took my camera along for pictures of some of the best of Alabama not knowing that I had a dose of nostalgia with a kick big enough to drop a mule just down the road.  But first, let’s see the Alabama trail of nostalgia that started earlier before the truckload came to my door…

Camellias – The State of Alabama flower

Alabama Windmill – A work of art and functionality

Notice French dish towel on the right. A lady who thinks she is fancy pants author of French books lives here.

Alabama Home’s Washing on the Line – I had to take the washing off the line and tidy the house when Mama passed away. More pictures were snapped on the Sweet Home Alabama trail of nostalgia, but they must remain saved for another time.  A new trail of nostalgia began with sensory overload at every curve.

My baby book. No, you may not see the page with my birth date!

Old ties from Daddy’s closet

Mother’s handwriting speaks for itself on this faded envelope.

The poster was folded into the envelope. I remember seeing the poster once, and Mama said Daddy had given it to her because she looked like the girl in the poster. She was just that pretty, and Daddy did have a gift of smooth talking. Maybe he was wearing one of those old ties.

This is just a droplet of my dose of personal nostalgia!  I’m sure you have meaningful treasures in your closets also.  They launch dreams of the past and hopes for tomorrow.

Take a look inside the book A French Opportunity at www.Amazon.com and perhaps buy it for someone you love to establish new trails of nostalgia. (Available on European Amazon sites also.)

Click over to the France Storytelling page on the tab above for beautiful pictures – “Nostalgia in Burgundy.”

A French Opportunity


“A Look Inside” – by Debbie Ambrous

Through the lace-curtained window I see company coming, and it’s YOU!

I promised a look inside the old farmhouses.  We would cross the threshold and step gingerly on the creaking floorboards, examine the old household utensils, touch the simple furniture and peer through the old cobwebbed windows.

I’m so happy to see you. Come in, sit down, make yourself comfortable and sit a spell.

Beyond this peaceful scene, outside the log-fenced yard, the scene was changing.  My life was changing.  All of us go through our daily routines, rushing to work or school, perhaps sitting at a desk and smiling.  People ask, “How are you?”  We routinely say, “I’m fine.”  Often we don’t share a look inside to the child’s bad report card, the husband’s cutting remark at breakfast, the close relative’s alcohol problem or the overdue notices on delinquent payments.  Some people are very open though, sharing every detail.  Other lives are a complete mystery with nothing shared.


No industrious farmer’s wife lives here anymore to dust and keep everything spic and span.

Should I allow a look inside my heart?  My heart isn’t so unique that it will cause any surprise.  It’s very much like yours.  It beats harder for those I love.

Quilts were not hung as artwork when Mama was little. They were piled thick for warmth in a house with no central heating.

We raked leaves at Mama’s house on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  I dug amaryllis flower bulbs – hers have huge red blooms.  Mama directed me to crape myrtle bushes, little beginners that I could dig out for my yard.  Narcissus bulbs were added to the pile in the back of the Jeep.  We waved “good-bye” and said we would return Sunday.  I planned to bring photos of the rooms from the old house.  I knew they would bring back memories for her, and she would tell stories that would be a look inside from an early time in her life.  She never saw the pictures.  My brother called early the next morning and said the ambulance was taking her to the hospital.  She had fallen and injured her spleen.  Emergency surgery was successful, and she did improve but…  Early in the morning of November 27th she lost consciousness and died peacefully.

Mama used one heavy iron on the clothes on the ironing board while the other was getting hot by the fire. I don’t think her broom was quite as prettily shaped as this one. I remember a lady going door-to-door selling hand-made brooms when I was a young girl. I saw a field of broom straw nearby. Hmm…

The days went in slow motion.  The days went in fast motion.  I needed a haircut.  I never got one.  The house needed dusting, and the bathroom needed to be cleaned.  Done and done.  The list continued, but you know it already either by experience, or you’ve heard it.  Down the list of bad stuff, there was some good stuff also such as delicious food prepared for us by loving hands, hugs from family and friends, memories re-lived as well as hope, especially hope.

Kitchen corner

From November 17th to November 27th there wasn’t much laughter.  However, husband Jim is a man like my humorous father. Humor can help through the worst of times.  Mama, who was 88 years old, responded better to Jim than most of us for some reason while she was in the hospital.  Her mind was more confused after the operation. She didn’t know me.  Jim told her, “This is Debbie, your daughter.”  Mama said, “Debbie’s so pretty.  She’s so sweet.”  Then she said to me, “We haven’t met.”  Jim tried to keep our spirits up.   One day Mama told Jim, “You wouldn’t believe that I’m 95 years old would you?”  Without hesitation Jim said, “No ma’am, you don’t look a day over 88.”

Mama spent her honeymoon night in a bed like this. She said their friends beat on pots and pans outside near the window – a custom at the time. I’m sure my Dad laughed. It was probably funnier to Mom later, not at the moment. I wonder if stringing tin cans on the car bumper of newlyweds was a revised version of that custom.

I have willingly shared a look inside my heart, but I’ve never shown pictures of my aged mom since she was very frail, and it wouldn’t have been fair to her.  She was a natural beauty when she was younger.  Anyone who knew her would say the same.

Myrtle Reeves
Born April 30, 1925
I saved the best picture for last.

My book “A French Opportunity” was published on Amazon at the beginning of these sad days.  It was time for me to be happy, jump for joy.  Those feelings were sidelined.  Mama never saw or read my book.  She would have read every page with her magnifying glass.  I would have pointed right away to her cookie recipe in the book.  I found a yellowed, handwritten copy of the recipe when we cleared out the house.  She would have laughed.  Mama would want us to laugh.