I imagine if you are reading this post on a blog that has no previous connection to mine, there are not just ten things, but there is everything you don’t know about Jennie Goutet. However, having maintained a steady blog for the last four-plus years and having written a 330 page memoir, this exercise is more complicated for those who read my words on a regular basis. So for you friends and readers, here are 10 things you probably don’t know about me.
- I used to spend my summers at the public pool that was a twenty-minute walk away (if we didn’t dawdle). Sometimes I walked the neighborhood streets in just a bathing suit, flip flops and a towel, presenting the perfect picture of ridiculousness. But since we had to swim across the pool and back in order to go in the deep end, the lifeguards were forced to notice us, despite the busy crowd. Once, after I took the test, the lifeguard gave me the thrill of my life by inviting me to join the swim team. I joined, and from there I also did synchronized swimming and water polo. From there, I joined the high school swim team and eventually became a lifeguard for the same pool in which I had grown up.
- When I was about ten years old, my parents agreed to take care of a foster baby. She was only a couple of days old when she came to our house. I was so eager to take care of her, I picked her up in the middle of the night when she started to fuss, without having first warmed up a bottle. Pretty soon she had worked herself into full-out screams and my mom had to come and rescue me before I got too in over my head.
- When I was twelve, I had constant pain in my hip. I was afraid I had bone cancer or something like that - and that was before Web MD! It turns out my hip was coming out of joint as the cartilage tore from excess weight and grand pliés in my ballet class. I needed to have an operation to secure my hip in place with long metal screws. Within a week of the operation, and before I got used to my crutches, I was visiting a friend at her house and was standing at the top of her long, narrow staircase. Suddenly, my vision seemed to blur and I grabbed for the railing, but ended up falling down the entire flight of stairs. Fortunately, no long-term damage was done.
- Right around the time I was having this operation, the doctor put me on a 1200 calorie a day diet. It was pretty easy to do because my mom controlled the numbers. At the end of the summer, I was surprised to see my hip bones jutting out of my purple bathing suit at the pool. When I went off the diet, and entered 9th grade, where I slowly gained the weight back over the course of the year, one of the kids yelled out in front of the whole class, “Jennie has gotten so fat since the beginning of the year!” Somehow I don’t think this helped my weird relationship with food and body image.
- When I was in eleventh grade, I joined the high school drama team and turned down a main part because I was afraid to be on stage for the entire performance. So I got the role of a planet. But once I was up under the lights, I didn’t want to get back off stage again. I had been bitten by the acting bug. My senior year I switched high schools to one across town that had a better drama department. I auditioned for the role of the tragic heroine in the musical “Oliver” hoping desperately to get the part. But everyone had to audition for all the roles, so when it came time to try out for the comic part of Widow Corney, I purposefully sang badly so I wouldn’t get chosen. To my dismay, it turns out that it was exactly what they were looking for and I got cast as Widow Corney.
- I was one of the founding sisters of the Sigma Kappa sorority at my state school. When it came time to choose our first pledge class, the decision had to be unanimous. Surprisingly, we had a large pledge class, and it included someone I had personally championed, despite the fact that she had missed most of the meetings due to her soccer tournaments. It is possible for a large group of diverse women to agree.
- When I was living in New York, I went to a ballet class on the Upper East Side that was quite conservative. I eventually had to stop because I was traveling for work too often. After I was married and living downtown (and had gained a lot of weight from switching to a different anti-depressant), I went to a ballet class in a different school. But there my pink tights and squeaky pink ballet shoes with big bows (because I had forgotten to tie knots and cut them) were completely out of place in the world of grunge ballet. With my outfit, my weight and my lack of skill, I felt so humiliated during the class.
- I knew my husband loved me when I sent him back out into the blizzard because we had rented the wrong version of Pride and Prejudice - the BBC version that did not have Colin Firth. Not only did he go exchange it, but he watched all six hours with me. (I have since paid him back in full, watching every season of Battlestar Galactica).
- I worked for JP Morgan for a short couple of months in between when I quit my job at the Eastern European bank that was closing its New York branch and when I left for the year’s sabbatical in Africa with my husband. I had intended to stay longer, and didn’t mind the very corporate atmosphere and the perks that came with it. But I am happy we went to Africa instead.
- I didn’t expect that when we finally bought our little house in France - twenty years after I had left home for the first time to go to college - that I would feel so rooted. After all those years of traveling and moving from one city apartment to another, there was something deeply satisfying about working with the soil and watching my children ride their bikes down a quiet neighborhood street.
At seventeen, Jennie Goutet has a dream that she will one day marry a French man and sets off to Avignon in search of him. Though her dream eludes her, she lives boldly—teaching in Asia, studying in Paris, working and traveling for an advertising firm in New York.
When God calls her, she answers reluctantly, and must first come to grips with depression, crippling loss, and addiction before being restored. Serendipity takes her by the hand as she marries her French husband, works with him in a humanitarian effort in East Africa, before settling down in France and building a family.
Told with honesty and strength, A Lady in France is a brave, heart- stopping story of love, grief, faith, depression, sunshine piercing the gray clouds—and hope that stays in your heart long after it’s finished.
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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG-13
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