“Janice” – by Debbie Ambrous

Janice loved all creatures, great and small.  Horses were her favorite.

Janice loved all creatures, great and small. Horses were her favorite.

Serious talk.  Straight from the hip.  That’s my style today. None of Jim’s witticism or his incredibly weird stuff will appear on the page.  Jim’s warming up on the sidelines, stretching and getting into shape for next time. But I am not talking about him today!  He is out of the game on the bench. 

Honest, intelligent, caring, generous, loving, pretty, modest and cheerful are words that describe a lady I will call Janice.  Janice is my middle-name, and I hope the lady who remains anonymous and somewhat timeless, because she would want it that way, would not mind bearing my name for a short time.   I am forced to recognize and use the past tense in my wording when I wish to do otherwise.7198012_7198012-R1-008-2A_1 

Janice had radiant good-looks, dressed simply with good taste, had impeccable manners and showed an interest in everyone around her, making them feel special.  She was well-educated and rather wealthy.  In a word, she was perfect.  Even her laugh was perfect, not too loud, just a harmonious happy sound.  Jealousy creeps in when some people meet so much perfection.  I saw it happen.  People whispered and talked behind her back; at least only a few did so.  Janice attracted people with her love and sincerity.   Yet, it is difficult to feel confident around so much flawlessness.  That summed up my predicament.  I wasn’t jealous.  At least, I don’t think I was.  I just felt like my slip was showing and my socks didn’t match.  Understand? 

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Read Chapter4 – “Why Didn’t I Pack A Big Floppy Hat?” in the book A French Opportunity (Click Here to Order You Copy.)

Janice helped so many people, but never bragged about it.  I would ride with her in her nice, spotlessly clean car to some of the houses or apartments.  She would describe the situation in a lowered voice, saying, “Now this is a young divorced woman with two children who is struggling after being mistreated badly.  We will be helping boost her self-esteem and gently coaxing the children out of their fear and depression.” Janice spoke about the circumstances in a hushed voice when we approached, although no one could hear except me.  It seemed that she had a gentle approach of privacy for the individual even in the way she spoke about them.  007A silly thought popped into my head.  She reminded me of a sports commentator at a golf game saying, “Ladies and gentleman, the sun is struggling to come out, the course is drying up, and in case you’re just joining us, the leaders have just reached the ninth hole because of delayed starting times – – David Simms is clinging to a one shot lead over Peter Jacobsen … but the real story is out on sixteen where a driving range pro who shot an opening eighty-three is making a run at perhaps the most legendary round of golf in Open history, Johnny Miller’s sixty-three at Oakmont – Ben Wright is in the tower at sixteen…”  I could see Janice in crisp, white golf gear, in fine form, making all of the perfect strokes, pulling through against all odds.  On the greens beside her, I was fumbling the ball like I was playing an entirely different game.  Somehow, I sent the football to the hole with a splat, scattering the turf but landing in place at the hole.  In other words, I lacked finesse, but my heart was in the right place.  Those sweet folks I had reached out to help could see through my stained jersey and know that I sweated and ran for them.        Sports Commentator – “Ladies and Gentlemen, I can’t believe it! She is dancing a jig on the greens.  Hey guys, focus the camera in to her feet.  Look at those socks!  She has red-flowers on the right foot and purple polka-dots on the left.”


Where was Jim during the game?  He was on the golf cart, racing around scaring rabbits, little old ladies and helpless toddlers.  He skimmed around water holes, splashing my jersey but missing Janice’s pristine, precisely stylish outfit.  Then, he joined us at the clubhouse with his tall tales and bad photography. Janice laughed at Jim and praised his good qualities.  I told you that she was a smart lady. (I know I said Jim wouldn’t be in the story, but I couldn’t help myself.  He was begging and threatened not to cook supper.)

I wish I could say it all ended happily.  I wish it continued the same.  I wish I could join her in the car again because I know any ride with her would be worthwhile.  Janice had very serious problems.  She died young.  IMG_0453

Later in a city many miles away in a sports arena, I was seated by a young woman and two children.  When the event was over, I walked down the row, and they followed slowly.  I turned and introduced myself.  The young woman said her name and introduced her daughters.  She said she lived in Janice’s town, so I asked if she ever knew her.  To my surprise, she said she did.  Our eyes locked, and I knew her story without another word spoken.  We hugged and held each other tightly. 

I’m taking my name back.  The real Janice is playing through, using the right strokes and feeling more confident.  Now, where is my golf cart?

Photo by Jim Ambrous.  I say he is a bad photographer, but he finds gems that I often overlook.  Click to See "Jim's Photography"

Photo by Jim Ambrous. I say he is a bad photographer, but he finds gems that I often overlook.  Jim’s photography is featured on the France-Story Telling and Pictures page.  Click to See “Jim’s Photography”  

Jim has a memo for you.  He says, “I’ll be B-A-A-C-K!  Just imagine Jeff Foxworthy imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you will understand his message.

I love to hear from you.  Just leave a message in the reply area and see other comments also.

Special thanks to Manny Espinal for the golf lingo (click for more).  You didn’t think I would know the golf commentary all by myself, did you? Manny smoothly handled those sports words and sent the golf lingo link.  If you are a sports fan of golf, football, baseball or basketball – See Manny Espinal’s (Like him while you are there, because we certainly do!) South Florida Sports Network click immediately here.

I will ask readers if you happen to recognize the lady in the story – despite my careful concealment – please not comment or ask questions that would reveal her identity.

Could you SHARE this story and the link to the website with those perfect folks and the ones with the mis-matched socks?

“Hurt or Happy – See Paris!” – by Debbie Ambrous

bestbridgeJim and his sister Virginia went to Paris.  I know! I know!  You were expecting a story of romance and bliss with views of Paris through rose-colored glasses, or at least with rosé in a wine glass.  You are possibly thinking: “Just how rich is Mr. Jim since he was in Destin just a few days ago and then off to Paris before you could say kiss my beret?”  A few folks may raise timid hands and ask, “Debbie, why did he go with his sister and leave you at home?  How could you stand for that?” 

Paris diningroom

Why would Jim dine in a Paris dining room while I was at home eating Subway sandwiches?

Answers tumble forth like a saucy mademoiselle:  (a) Mr. Jim spends most of his travel time driving between the IGA Grocery and Discount Food Outlet, hunting for the cheapest bargains.  Last time I checked, he only had a bowl of change to roll in wrappers to exchange for about $12.00 in folding money.  No, he didn’t turn on a dime from Destin to Paris – he went to Paris with his sister too many years ago.  (A+) The answer to why a total Francophile would sit at home while her husband gallivants in Paris with his sister takes a spell to unfold.  Settle down with a cushion to your back for this one.  Maybe even go to the bathroom first.  Jim and Virginia are supportive siblings who stood together solidly, always with a sense of humor, for many years while their elderly parents and step-parents experienced health problems.  They met in hospital rooms, doctor’s offices, nursing homes and funeral homes, with no special reports to Trip Advisor or matching tacky, tourist T-shirts.  After this saga of their lives was over, the bedraggled pair stood together at the last grave site and vowed they would go someplace together in March each year to find some fun.  Virginia specified sun and warmth, but I omitted that part in the sentence above and in most of the travel.  Try finding a warm vacation in March on a Caribbean island on a small budget!  I was appointed as the travel agent, and I turned the computer upside down hunting for the best for them on their budget.  I knew they deserved a wonderful week together with no worries of anything at home.  I stayed behind for this reason.

Paris bath

Soak away aches and pain in this Paris bath.

Going for a bonus answer, I will add to (a) and (A+) above.   This one is more difficult.  I’m dawdling at the keyboard…  Travel to Paris, or any special place, is often for more reasons than the annual vacation or romance.   Far from those reasons is another that is weighed down with somberness.  My fingers fly across the keyboard with ease when I tell about the latest crazy thing that Jim said, but the circumstances that cause friends, family and others to pack and go to a retreat are sad to relate.   Images and words in my mind reach my fingers at a slower, more painful pace.  I see and hear: a sweet child who has lost his curly hair, surrounded by machines, tubes and needles while his eyes see only a gray window view of dullness; a doctor telling a middle-aged mother of three that the biopsy for breast cancer is positive; a surgeon gently giving news to an elderly wife that her husband didn’t make it; an executive briskly informing a diligent, hard-working employee that the company is down-sizing and he is no longer needed; a police officer calling to say, Ma’am, … was arrested for D.U.I.; and the deepest hurt is the experience of a loved one in a coffin covered with flowers.      No, I didn’t personally experience all of this, but some of it happened to me. 

Sleep wrapped in red toile with the delights of Paris waiting outside. -

Sleep wrapped in red toile with the delights of Paris waiting outside. – St. Andre des Arts apartment

The bonus answer, difficult to write, has no special award except more love for those who have traveled down these sad roads with anxiety, fearfulness, grief and heartache.  Beauty, peacefulness, a glimmer of hope and a place to find laughter with no traces of hurt are desperately needed after, or even during these trials.  Yes, that is why you will find a brother and sister in Paris together, young children at Disney World possibly for the last time, a widow on a cruise and a young man hiking the Appalachian Trail.

wandering to find hotel

Virginia agreed to travel with Jim, probably thinking since he could show her the world with his considerable experience.  She may not have weighed in his lack of a sense of direction.  They wandered around the streets of Paris and then could not find their hotel.  They wandered some more.  They caught the attention of a helpful lady who offered assistance.  She asked the name of the hotel.  Jim said they couldn’t remember, but it was something-something-Eiffel Tower.  She looked at them in pity and said she was sorry she couldn’t help them.  They were on their own. 

take this stairway

Take this stairway to St. Andres  des Arts apartment.

You don’t have to be on your own when you go to Paris.  Talk to the helpful folks at I Love Paris Apartments. They understand Alabama English and much more.  Tell them Jim sent you, and right away they will know to plant a GPS device on your head, or locate a seeing-eye dog for you.  Now I’m kidding, but you will be in good hands with a wonderful experience to last a lifetime or until you return again for the umpteenth time. 

living room

Snuggle on this comfy sofa. – St. Andre des Arts apartment

bedroom window

Peer at the street below from your bedroom window –  St. Andre des Arts apartment

                                                                             I asked Jim for his sister’s phone number and called.  Virginia, would you like to go to Paris with me?  I know you would prefer a warm island in the Caribbean, but I noticed that Paris is warmer than South Alabama.  

Read about my trip to Paris! CLICK HERE

Read about my trip to Paris!

All photography is the property of I Love Paris Apartments.  Merci and thank ya’ll, with special thanks to Porter Scott and the owners of St. André des Arts

“Umpteenth Second Honeymoon” – by Debbie Ambrous

038We stepped over the threshold to another second honeymoon on the first day of 2014.  A second honeymoon is a special time for romance away from daily responsibilities, and it occurs any number of times after the first honeymoon – according to my definition.  What is your definition?  Now, fluffing up the pillows and setting the stage for this umpteenth second honeymoon, soft music played and ocean waves crashed when we smiled in unison at our suite in the Henderson Park Inn at Destin.  A tray with wine, roses, grapes and chocolate was sweetly centered on my side of the king-size bed.027  Henderson Park Inn boasts many shiny awards from Trip Advisor, Southern Living and Condé Nast magazines and several others.  Facebook shows 59,145 likes, and with good reason since the atmospheric inn has been voted the most romantic hotel in America. 

Jim and I had our first honeymoon just down the road a few miles away in a private beach house that was in the family, so to speak, at the time.  July summer heat with no air conditioning was the special ambiance; a fan placed strategically at the foot of the bed and left in that position later led to many jokes at our expense.  No Jacuzzi bathtub or rainfall shower with massive glass doors.  A dinky small shower enclosure with walls coated in blackish, green mold was in the corner, or did I wash in an early eco-grey water treatment device? Passion must have been running high for me to step into that cubicle of doom without complaint.  I kept my eyes closed and my arms close to my body so I wouldn’t touch the cruddy walls.  No one said I should pack Tilex with my negligee.  If you’re reading this and you’re part of the former family, thank ya’ll for reading my blog, first of all!  Secondly, merci for the use of the cabin; somehow we’re still married, just a little green when we think about the eco-creepy shower – forgot to mention that earlier in my thank you note.

113From the moment my feet touched the wooden-planked front porch I felt the special comfort that soothes away the outside and creates a haven for couples to connect at Henderson Park Inn.  Jim was fulfilling his suggestion that I accepted in (You may want to click and read if you didn’t see it previously.) “A Wedding and A Funeral.  A bit of end-of-year sale shopping was involved, so we left the beautiful inn by the ocean for a couple of hours.  I found a DKNY blouse for $19.00, a Ralph Lauren blouse at 75% off and jeans, plus an Ann Taylor blouse just made for me. 

Now, isn't this "Bonjour" blouse perfect for A French Opportunity?

Now, isn’t this “Bonjour” blouse perfect for A French Opportunity?

Desperately in need of energy, we stopped for sandwiches.  As usual, I bowed my head at the table to say a prayer of thanks.  I said thanks for the food, but then I thought of more.  I was grateful for such a wonderful husband who loves me and continuously does one job after another without complaining, including cooking for us. I was exceptionally appreciative for our perfect honeymoon inn.  I thought of others who could not be there, and who suffered instead, like our good friend Jack who was in the hospital and my sweet cousin Gayle who would be traveling to her mother’s funeral.  My head was bowed longer than usual, and tears were held back.  A woman stared at me when I raised my head, and she quickly averted her eyes.  “No, I didn’t confuse Panera Bread with a chapel.  No, I don’t get overcome with emotion when dining upon turkey, bacon sourdough bread sandwiches.  But did you notice that I also have avocado?  Now you will change your critical eye!”  Mama raised me not to raise such a fuss.  Those words stayed inside, and I smiled instead.  Could be that she was all worried about me instead of judgmental.  She just didn’t know how happy I was with a second honeymoon husband and 75% off merchandise.

053049Finished with shopping for the day, much to Jim’s delight, we returned just in time for the sunshine to appear.   Cloudy and cool was our weather forecast.  We had one hour of sunshine.  Jim spent half of it in the bathroom, and I spent the other half photographing the dining room, a slight exaggeration but close to the truth.  The weather was suitable for happy hour on the magnificent deck with sweeping views of the ocean.  We were happy all over.  Seated on bar stools, with sunshine temporarily on our faces, I turned and kissed Jim.  He didn’t linger with the kiss and broke away quickly much to my surprise.  He said, “I have peanuts in my mouth!  I didn’t think you would want me to share.” 

073076064Dinner is magnificent at the inn!  These are some of the entrée choices: Pepper Crusted Yellow-fin Tuna with braised baby spinach, soy ginger sauce; Chargrilled French Split Chicken Breast with garlic mashed potatoes, honey roasted baby nip carrots, caramelized onions and goat cheese brulee and Seafood Pasta Rockefeller with jumbo shrimp, scallops, pancetta, spinach and Pernod in a rich cream sauce with hand-shaved parmesan.  The lady at Panera Bread would expect me to get down on my knees at this fine feast!

Too many clouds for a stunning sunset

Too many clouds for a stunning sunset

I dressed extra nice, did my hair and applied my lipstick and lip gloss.  Jim said I looked pretty and thought it was time to kiss me.  I did my best imitation of Lady Mary at Downton Abbey and said, “You will make me untidy.”  Do you remember that scene?  (I’m hoping they don’t ruin the show for the coming season and make it “untidy” like almost everything else on television.) We walked downstairs and out the door for dinner since we are cheapskates, or because I had just paid $500.00 for a necessary medical procedure.   Both true.  Mark my words.  I want a special meal for my next second honeymoon.

090Evening in our romantic suite came without a noisy, rattling fan at the foot of the bed. Soaking in the big Jacuzzi tub with no green mold in sight, I sorted through the little bottles of toiletries and decided on one that seemed to be shampoo.  I lathered my hair luxuriously, rinsed and looked for the conditioner.  Since I hadn’t included reading the toiletries with glasses on my face in my pre-bath routine, there was only one thing to do.  “Oh, Jim, would you come here?  I need you!”  Like any man who is called by a naked woman in the bathtub, he knocked over tables, chairs, and lamps to get there.  I said to the beaming Mr. Second Honeymoon, “Please read these stupid little bottles and tell me which one will condition my tangled hair.”  Reading in a statesman-like manner, he said: “This bottle is mouthwash for your sweet-scented words, this bottle is body lotion for your smooth skin, this bottle is conditioner for your radiant hair and this half-empty bottle is hair remover.”  The honeymoon was over!  It ended with the hair remover comment, or the thrashing he received afterwards.

June brides, plan a wedding with every detail in perfect harmony.  Check the pictures on the Henderson Park Inn website and enjoy a day to remember.  Don’t forget the huge Jacuzzi tub large enough for a baby whale, or me!

Wyland painted the whales on this huge marine warehouse

Wyland (click here for more) painted the whales on this huge marine warehouse. Renowned marine life artist Wyland changed the way people think about our environment when he started painting life-size whales on the sides of buildings in the 1980s. Wyland always thought big. And he never stopped

Read the France-storytelling & pictures page: CLICK “He Loves me, He loves me not, HE LOVES ME!   

Next time, let’s talk about PARIS!  I know that most of you are sitting around hugging the heater or fireplace, wearing your sweats and thick, wooly socks.  Plan ahead for days in a Parisian park so you can toss the socks and wiggle your toes in the grass.ladyongrass  Ya’ll take care and come on back to see us!