Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tucson's 10West: the future holds promise.

Having been to Austin's SXSW, Portland's NXNW, and numerous multi-day events in NYC, I've seen how vibrant and idea-infusing a multi-focused festival can be for a city.

Each city has its unique features and focus. SXSW started as a music festival and added film and tech. NXNW was similar in its focus on music. New Orleans has Entrepreneur Week, with the aim to showcase New Orleans as a "Startup City", and now Tucson has its own multi-track festival: 10West, bringing together its own flavors of entrepreneurship, technology and the New Creative Class.

The 10West Festival aims to foster a creative and technological environment with the long-term goal of attracting and retaining talent in Southern Arizona. As Executive Director of the festival, Greg Teesdale describes it, it's: "the 20-40 year old demographic, the streetcar line geographic, and the October 18-24 chronologic." Teesdale has been a pillar of the Tucson growth ecosystem with his many roles, including curriculum advisor for Startup Tucson and a member of Desert Angels (the third most active venture group in the United States).

The idea of having a localization for an event and a movement, which 10West is, helps bring focus to a town's economic development. It also creates a center where geeks, artists, and bankers can come together, meet each other, exchange ideas, learn from each other, and network. And, in a town like Tucson, similar to Austin and Portland, all three contingencies participate, relish, and enjoy the very creative energy existing in each town.

The inspiration behind 10West came last year when Idea-funding founder Larry Hecker, some key players at Desert Angels and other startup initiative organizing groups felt there was an opportunity to leverage various events into something collective, bigger, and with a larger scope.

While "this thing," as Teesdale calls it, didn't have a name, mission, logo, or website, they held it at Startup Tucson in February 2014 and from there all themes and definitions were decided.

This year it's grown into its own. The Tech track features workshops, panels, and talks on cutting-edge technology (3D printing, virtual reality, "Internet of things"). The Entrepreneurship track has sessions on: building a company, access to capital, essential skills needed (and more). The Creative track addresses the live-work aspect with network mixers, music, entertainment and programming on the business of entertainment. The festival closes with an Art Walk along East Toole Avenue on October 24th featuring musicians, food trucks, artworks for sale, art sculptures and performance artists.

The importance of bringing these three components (entrepreneurs, investors, and artists) together cannot be underestimated. I've seen the power of the momentum created at these sorts of events, an energy that creates a ripple-effect, spilling into nearly every aspect of a town and its development economically, financially, and artistically. From what I've seen of the enthusiasm Tucson's business leaders have for its future, 10West is sure to grow into a vibrant annual event that will be drawing an international audience. Held in October, the Tucson climate is the minimum of attractive features. Amazing, healthy food and a diverse vibrant culture drawing from the Native American and Mexican influence adds another star-feature unique to the Southwest.

It easy to see from the 10West website that this festival has grown immensely from a handful of groups to include significant supporters including the Arizona Commerce Authority, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, New York Life, Desert Angels and many others, in-kind sponsorships from partner organizations Hotel Congress, Rialto Theater, Tucson Museum of Art and Connect Coworking, and media sponsors including Clear Channel Outdoors, Arizona Daily Star, Arizona Bilingual and others.

All the organizers and supporters believe there is no magic bullet to jump start economic development overnight, and are in this for the long-haul through cooperation and participation. They believe if there are a series of small wins every day, and keep these wins coming, Southern Arizona will easily be seen as a vibrant cultural and technological place to thrive professionally and personally.



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Startup Tucson: Part I

When we first considered our move to Tucson, AZ, I thought, "what could I do there?" Having visited since 1984, I thought maybe I could do a "Julie, the cruise director" type job at one of the many retirement communities.

I began researching the job market and, by chance, if there was any kind of startup scene like I'd been familiar with in New York.

It was with great surprise, and delight, to see that not only is there a startup scene, but it is growing and vibrant. I quickly found some of the key players and associations and began bookmarking their sites, signing up for the newsletters, and taking note of their names.

Justin Williams and StartUp Tucson are what seem to be the center of this movement, and after arriving in town, was eager to start attending some of the events. I called the office after missing one of their "1 Million Cups" morning events, hoping to get some information on a particularly interesting business (InCycle Water). You can imagine my surprise, and delight, to have reached Justin directly after having followed him electronically for the last 1 1/2 years. He was, of course, very friendly and welcomed me to any event. One week later I made my way to downtown Tucson, which like many downtowns across the USA is experiencing a revival.

It was great to step inside one of the few main co-working spaces in Tucson. And, while, I'd arrived a little late (still getting used to driving and where to park, having not done much of either in about 25 years), it was great to see the number of people gathered for this early morning event. I'd missed the main presentation but was able to hear several teams of students who'd participated in the Startup Tucson STEM Summer Camp. One team suggested a way to make Craigslist safe for kids who want to sell their electronics, bikes, etc. Another team wanted to develop an app that was connected to a tracking device in sneakers to help prevent kids getting lost (like in Disneyland, parks or stores), or help them get found.


After the event I introduced myself to Justin and we set a date for lunch. Meeting at a family-style restaurant on the far West side of town, I got to learn a little more about Justin and a lot more about the startup scene in Tucson. (More on this in the next article!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Normandy's French Tech

On Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 at the Mémorial de Caen, the cities of Le Havre, Caen and Rouen made their official presentation to add the "digital label" French Tech to their region. It was back in November 2014 that they dropped off their case, and four months later they are getting their chance at the D(igital)-day meeting to officially claim their space in the digital realm.

It wasn't just a day of presenting their case, however, they presented the elements of their Normandy candidacy, unveiled their common banner and presented their first Normandy French Tech (Nft) meeting, dedicated to startups and entrepreneurs in Normandy.

The first Prime Minister Manuel Valls was in Normandy a month earlier (Feb 13) to underline the importance of the reunification of Normandy, alluding, as well, to the successful collaboration of the cities involved.


(original article)

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The World Wide (Wanton) Web of extramarital sites

Every now and then I find myself riding my velib behind a city bus (or in a metro station) with one of these advertisements. It still kinda shocks me.

Here is a website blatantly advertising extra-marital affairs for women. Maybe it's just their marketing angle, but other than searching for images for this post, I'd never darken the URL of this site. To me, to be in a place so dark that I'd consider actively seeking out an extra-marital affair, let alone, finding myself on a site where it's treated so flippantly would be one of darkness, despair, and dealing in sin.

There's plenty of lore out there how the French are more casual about having affairs, certainly it seems older generations accepted "the other women." However, I know this "concept" is not as accepted as it was in prior generations.

According to Wikipedia, Gleeden claims to be an online dating community and social networking service primarily marketed to women, specifically those who are already in a relationship. The site, launched in 2009 in France, touts more than 65% of users reside in the European Union. 


They've also taken obvious imagery. A woman (in red) eating an apple, with a site name emphasizing EDEN (and GLEE), indicates the woman blissful in her choice of eating the apple, committing the first original sin. Other images show a bride still in her wedding gown, with her fingers crossed behind her back indicating she never intended to keep her marital vows.

A quick search on "pub gleeden" (pub is French for publicity) reveals the suggestive taglines.

I think the reason why I'm finally posting this, after seeing these ads for so many years, is it still shocks me. Aside from my obvious judgement, I doubt this kind of site would exist, be funded, or publicized so publicly in the United States.

When I view sites like these, I also go into an apocalyptic morbid consideration of what future generations will say about us in 100 years. What does this say about our society? Definitely fodder for a heated debate on both sides, I'm sure.


* Update: My husband sent me a link of a video where they registered and paid for the Salon du Mariage (Wedding expo) under a false name, unveiling at the last moment in front of a crowd of laughing fiancées (women) and angry fiancés (men).  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mrs. Mayor, I have an idea!

Starting in the beginning of 2015 these posters have been popping up on various scrolling billboards throughout Paris. They say "Madame Mayor, I have an idea! Until the 15 March you can propose ideas for the participative budget."

I love this idea! I always have so many ideas that I think would improve "customer experience" (i.e. inhabitants) lives in Paris. Of course, posed with this opportunity, I am sadly drawing a blank as to what to propose! Have I adapted so much to differences in this city, country, culture that originally bothered me? Now there is a novel idea!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Capital Koala: a capital idea!

I've posted on social media sites quite a few times over the past year about my new favorite web site, Capital Koala, a loyalty program for families to save for their children's future, with the main objective to help prepare financing higher education. Through its plug-in (or site directly) Capital Koala reimburses up to 30% of online purchases made by its members directly into a savings account for their children. Members can invite as many friends and relatives as they like who can also contribute to the child's savings account through all their online purchases as well. It becomes a team-effort savings account. I think it's brilliant: I need/want to buy something anyway, why not buy it online and have my son benefit too?! (PS: name defined below)

INTRODUCTIONS: I'd thought about contacting the company to see about securing an interview, but it wasn't until after I was featured on the About.me site in an interview when my passion got into action. After I was featured on this site, I got a lot of views and compliments. Looking at some of the other profiles, I saw the co-founder of Capital Koala. Eureka! I didn't hesitate to let him know how brilliant I thought his site was and how much I use it. He got back to me and we settled on a date to meet.


As I approached their office building I was met with a common situation in Paris, or maybe for startups in Paris. Their name was not on the building or door. The unique-to-Paris part is that in order to get into most buildings you must have a digital code. And, digital code I did not have. Typically, my smartphone couldn't find any network so I called my husband to look on the web for a general number. As he did I waited for someone to either enter or exit. Finally someone left and as I ducked inside, I asked if they knew the company. They said they thought it was on the fourth floor. Sure enough, they had a small sign pasted next to the company they were subletting from... Ah, the life of a startup!

Heading up to the offices I smelled that familiar scent I've known since 1993: the smell of anticipation and inspiration brewed with success. And coming out to greet me was a handsome young man with a broad smile and easy-going nature.


Alexandre Martin-Rosset, the younger of the two founders of Capital Koala, is a bright, thoughtful man with purposeful determination for his company's future. Coming from a middle-class family in Avignon, Martin-Rosset worked every summer since he was 16, always thinking about saving for university. Granted, tuition fees are not nearly what they are in the United States, but students must shell out money for rent, transportation and living expenses. The idea of a company that helped people save money for school began percolating as he labored each summer. After graduating from Sciences Po (Aix en Provence, May 2009) he went to London for a one-year internship as a Marketing Assistant for a company that imported design furniture from France, Italy, and Denmark. Heading further West, Martin-Rosset went to Boston, MA to study e-commerce strategies at the Harvard Extension School.

In the United States Martin-Rosset discovered the "cash back" concept at Walmart and other stores and thought about bringing something like that to France. After school, Martin-Rosset went to work at Chaussons Finance, a consulting firm in Paris, for three months until he went to the ESCP Europe Entrepreneurship Specialised Master for seven months. It was here he met his future business partner Jean-Yves Bernard who had more business experience, and whom he pitched his idea after one month.

BEGINNINGS: They fine-tuned and hatched their idea in school, winning the Best Project Prize in March 2010, after which they integrated into the school incubator for two years. Starting in April 2012, they worked, gratis, out of Deloitte's headquarters in Neuilly-sur-Seine, where they developed their own proprietary technology. All along they were winning competitions throughout Europe.

With just one bank (ING) and 100 online vendors on board, they beta-tested the site with family and friends for six months. They moved into their present co-sharing space in April 2014 and currently employ eight people, three of whom are in Paris and five developers just outside the city perimeters. Each developer is devoted to all aspects of one browser (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and one for the website. (I mentioned some problems my husband had using the plug-in on Safari and Martin-Rosset admitted Safari and the Mac OS were especially troublesome but that they were aware and working on it.)

BUSINESS MODELS: Based on their original business model (a commission for each savings account (Livret A) created with a partner bank), Martin-Rosset told me they had $1 million earned income. After four years they felt this model too limiting. Going forward in 2015, they've switched from a commission-from-the-banks to a percentage-from-the-vendors model. Now, each bank simply promotes them to all bank customers, and their revenue comes as a percentage of all sales from vendors.

Forgoing the formal contracted relationship allows for an easier engagement for the banks (usually reticent to part with their money) with Capital Koala as a simple marketing vehicle. And, as part of the marketing budget, vendors are motivated to promote Capital Koala as another win-win way for people to spend more. The more people spend, the more the commerçant makes, the more Capital Koala makes, and the more money that will eventually get versé (deposited) into your child's saving account.

SUBSCRIBERS: With 1,500 vendors it's easy to make nearly every purchase you could need or want online. I'm so in love with this platform that I confessed to Martin-Rosset that once, after having bought 100€ of face creams in a store, I returned them the next day so I could re-buy them online via Capital Koala and have my son benefit as well! He nodded, smiling, saying that he gets lots of emails like that and that they average 200 emails a week from satisfied clients.


Serving 70,000 families, 95% of whom are in France, Capital Koala also reaches subscribers in Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Divulging more on the client profile, Martin-Rosset explained customers range from wealthy families with just two parents contributing to lower socio-economic families with lots of relatives and friends contributing. This is a good time to mention: you can add as many sponsors as you wish. They also added, in January 2014, a relationship with UNICEF so clients could donate a percentage of their cash-back savings to benefit this charity.

LOOKING FORWARD: We chatted about the business environment in France and what Martin-Rosset has lined up for 2015. Knowing France has had its challenges in change, I asked if it was easy in the beginning to sign on the banks. As to be expected in France, a country invested in maintaining tradition and traditional methods, it took about nine months to get a traditional bank on board compared to the online banks.

Martin-Rosset admitted, despite the past year's impressive efforts to help entrepreneurs and startups, starting a new company in France is hard. He spoke briefly about the size of the market in France versus the United States. (Here's an excellent review of the US vs France startup market/business.) Stating something I'd not considered, but see to be true, Martin-Rosset commented this generation is the first one that is very open to new business practices. He feels there still is competition between generations whereas in the U.S. it's easy to see several generations working together and accepting changing business and business models.

In terms of concrete developments in 2015, look for a much-needed website update, a mobile app (finally!) and other back-end developments for the site and proprietary technology.

COMPETITION: When asked if there were any other "cash back" programs like this in the world, Martin-Rosset cited Upromise (but which is a part of Sally Mae) and Kidstart in the UK. With an opportunity like this prime for the development, I asked him if they planned to expand into the US (and if I could help! ;))

Aside from having only two world-wide competitors, Capital Koala, isn't concerned about taking over and becoming a world-leader. Surprisingly, but refreshingly, they are simply focused on France with some ideas of later expanding into Spain and Germany.



NEXT BIG THING: Martin-Rosset's real interest lies in going offline. Eighty-five percent of all purchases in France are still brick-and-mortar sales. Martin-Rosset wants Capital Koala to be in the local boulangerie (bakery) as well as the boulangerie.com (not an actual partner site!).



He's very keen on digital payment systems and seeing this incorporated more in the B-&-M stores. He's currently working on "things" in area. Martin-Rosset feels this will be the "judge year" for Bitcoin and new payment systems will be changing a lot in years to come.



While he sees a world of opportunities, he has no plans to sell Capital Koala, which is also refreshing. Working during the first wave of dot-com where that was the 2nd question everyone asked (the first being "what's your business?"), I'm encouraged to meet young entrepreneurs who want to own their business, grow it and remain independent. Martin-Rosset feels this is important for customers too, of which he may soon be one (he's getting married in the summer ;).

WINNING COMBO: Martin-Rosset is the best combination of entrepreneur for France, and his particular business, today. He had a personal need for the product he's now created, he is invested in his home, homeland, country, business and its future, and he understands his constituencies. He knows the struggles traditional banks have in quickly adopting these new ideas, he knows how commerçants are eager to exert themselves in this increasingly crowded marketplace, and he understands the French mentality around money. Unlike the commercialism-buy-buy-buy attitude in the United States, the French are used to saving, and especially saving for children. A conservative culture, they are a society that generally doesn't spend a lot, and lives within their means. (This can also be attributed to, perhaps, until recently there were no credit cards.)

With 800,000 babies being born each year, Martin-Rosset is correct in feeling that he has an unlimited supply of new clients. If he captures even 1% of these families, this client relationship has the potential to last 18 - 20 years. With numbers like these it's hard not to see a bright and enduring future for this win-win, feel-good, profit-sharing, home-grown enterprise!

AWARDS

- Lauréat de l'ID d'OR "Transformation Sociétale" du Grand Prix Innovation Digitale 2014
- Lauréat du S.C.O.P.S. 2013 de Paris-Dauphine Université dans la catégorie "Programmes relationnels / Fidélisation"
- Startup de l'année 2013 à l'Internet Managers Club
- IMC Award
- Prix du Grand Jury Made in ESCP 2012 "Les 5 plus belles Start-ups ESCP Europe", Prix du magazine L'Entreprise, Prix Paris Business Angels, Prix Regus, Prix CJE, Prix Kitinova
- Lauréat du concours Graines de Boss 2012
- Coup de ♥ du Jury de la Startup Academy 2012
- Lauréat du concours Neuilly Labs Nouveaux Médias 2012 (Ville de Neuilly sur Seine - Deloitte)
- Coup de ♥ du Jury du Trophée des startups numériques 2011 (Telecom Sud-Paris)
- Lauréat Scientipôle Initiatives 2011 (Région Île-de-France)
- Lauréat BPI Innovation (anciennement OSEO) en 2010
- Lauréat du Prix Innover Entreprendre 2010 de l'ESCP Europe (Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie de Paris)


WHY KOALA?
Oh yes, about their name: As they explain on their website:
- "Capital" because they propose a new saving solution and because "it's Capital to prepare for the future."
- Koala because it's for children: a koala is sweet, soft, nice, and equipped with a marsupial pocket (like the kangaroos!) so it's a beautiful image to evoke a child's savings.
- Also: "Koala" is understood in all languages, and this sounds sufficiently "web", a little like the sites we know: "gOOgle", "yAHOo", "kOAla". Voilà! That's how "Capital Koala" is born, and that's it, you have already memorized @(*0*)@ ... (this is a smiley koala).

VIDEO INTERVIEW of Jean-Yves Bernard on Web-IT.TV, Télématin, France 2

Monday, January 19, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie web & public place solidarity

Over the past few weeks after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I was aware of the use of the Internet and social media. Of course today using the web and social media in times of crisis is nothing new, but I had never used it as such. It also was interesting, for me, from a historical point-of-view.

I spoke with my husband about this when he came home from his business trip. I was telling him how I was, for the first time in my life, using Twitter as a news source on Friday 9 January to know what was happening in my neighborhood. The prior days I looked at Facebook to get the "big picture" news stories but I didn't bother with news channels (online or TV) or Twitter.  I knew it was too early to know what was really happening or what the real story was.

I asked him when the last terrorist attacks were in Paris. He was still living in Normandy and we looked online. The last major attacks (2 bombings) in Paris were in 1995. There was no Internet in France at that time. There was only the minitel. There was no social media. No Twitter. No Facebook. So it was interesting to see how all these venues were now being used during the attacks and in the days after. I, too, was using them in the way I've seen them used in other parts of the world during a crisis.

Every French website I visited had "Je Suis Charlie" on their masthead. The National Police page had crashed a few times during the afternoon. The city transit page listed all the metros that would be closed for the major manifestation/march on Sunday. From the afternoon of the attack to this day, most every website has either: "Je suis Charlie" as a banner or icon on their site, replaced their profile pic on Twitter/FB with the black square and tagline, or has their logo in black & white with a black rectangle diagonally across.

Another aspect I found interesting was how the whole country responded to the attacks visually. My husband was driving a company car* home from Nice and he said all along the highway there were images of solidarity with the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. 

* As an aside: He was driving home in a car used in the filming of his TV show Section de Recherches (http://www.sectionderecherches.fr and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/SECTION-DE-RECHERCHES-OFFICIEL/348738047268). Peugeot has a product placement arrangement with the show and my husband has driven cars on loan down to Nice, and returned others back to Paris. The drive is about 996 km (9 hours).

He commented that all along the highways companies (Ikea, highway and transport businesses) put their brand flags at half-mast. All along the highway digital signboards announced "Je suis Charlie" instead of with highway information. And as he arrived in Paris, one of the major expo centers (Paris Expo Porte de Versailles (www.paris-expoportedeversailles.com), which usually has colorful billboards announcing current and future expositions, were all black simply stating "Je suis Charlie." With three billboards on each side and he said it felt quite eery compared to the Piccadilly Circus-feel that part of the highway usually has.

Another site with more images of how public places throughoutParis "stood" with Charlie.


 

flickr album with full-scale images



Friday, January 16, 2015

#JeSuisCharlie

Attack

Living in Paris during the Charlie Hebdo attacks (starting January 7th) have been nerve-wracking to say the least. Not only as an American, but as a New Yorker who also lived through the 9/11 attacks, I've been especially on edge.

Thankfully, I suppose, I was oblivious to the attacks initially as I was getting my son out from school and taking him home for lunch. It wasn't until shortly before preparing to leave for a playdate when I was notified in quick succession of two messages people left for me on Facebook. They expressed concern for me and my wellbeing...I wondered why they would be mentioning this and thought "what could've happened in Paris?" I went to Google and typed "Paris news" and the results quickly listed the attacks at the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Stunned, I wondered if it was safe to go just around the corner for this playdate. I looked out on the street. Quiet as usual. Senior citizens walking calming back with baguettes and other parcels in their hands. Younger mothers with trotinettes heading off after deposing their charges to one of the three private schools on the corner. Traffic, buses, everything seemed normal.

I figured I could safely get my son and I to the corner and the playdate without incident and if I saw police activity I could duck into one of a few options.

The other mothers at the playdate didn't seem too concerned. However, a family member called me with alarm, obviously because he is seeing American news channels, which are right in the heart of the conflict, and are experts at scare-reporting.

School

Thursday morning all the schools had the red triangle sign indicating Alerte Attentat "red alert", or literally "Alert Attack."

 

Thursday I stayed home for the most part other than taking my child to school. The perpetrators were still at large and even if I live in a "safe neighborhood" I didn't feel like walking around much anyway. I did laundry and parked myself on our sofa, checking out Facebook between finishing a mini-series (The Red Tent, if anyone is interested).

Friday morning I noticed the French flags still at half-mast. The day
was "quiet" until the afternoon. Normally I leave my son in for the after-school activities but this day I wanted to err cautious and get him at 3:00 like many other parents.

Flashback Friday / Times Gone By

Turning down his street at the same time as a police car, siren blaring, transported me instantly to 1940s occupied Paris. A man peered after the police from his doorway. I glanced at him and continued, picking up my pace. The policed passed my son's school and my heart-rate went back down from Fearful to just Elevated. I gathered my son, trying to keep my face happy and normal as he excitedly told me about his day, also noticing other parents with worried looks on their faces. We start our walk back home and stopped at our usual bench to eat his gouter (snack). It was after the third police car went past us the wrong-way down a one-way street, siren blaring, that I decided "enough of trying to act casual. Let's get out of here!" I told my son "oh, do you see the police cars? They must be going after a voleur. (thief) Let's get going and we can finish this at home."

We walked past a steady stream of students and parents and I realized one of the private schools changed their exit to the other side of their building (the street behind) as part of their Alerte Attentat (Elevated Red Alert) measures. One of our neighbors whose son is in my son's class asked if we heard about the event at Trocadero-- there were people with guns and they'd closed it down. I tried to act casual and minimize any drama in front of my son, who knew nothing about what was happening.

Acquiring Information, Releasing Tension 

At this point, safely home upstairs, I began following the news via Twitter. For the prior two days I'd just looked at Facebook and the posts people made about what was going on. With events possibly occurring in my neighborhood, and nearby Metro stations closing, I needed to know more what was happening. I apologized to my son for obsessively looking at my phone for the next few hours and explained there was some news I was trying to follow.

Going into my building that night I thought again about 1940s Paris. I thought how most of my neighbors, while not knowing me, know I'm American. I thought about one neighbor in particular who doesn't like me. And I felt, for a brief moment, like the Jews might've felt back then. Will my neighbor turn me in? Will they report me as American? Are the terrorists interested in finding Americans?....etc. etc. I decided this line of thinking isn't helping me so I switched gears to just generally not feeling safe. My husband came home late Saturday night and I finally began feeling like I could begin letting out the range of emotions and thoughts I had over the past four days. I wondered if, based on the latest US State Department alerts, terrorists would attack churches, what about anglo-saxon churches? I felt, for the first time in my life, scared about going to church. Now I thought about all those thousands and thousands of people who cannot openly worship, or who cannot worship without real fears for their safety.

Even my church, which originally posted online that they would be open Thursday and Friday afternoons as a sanctuary for prayer, announced on Friday that they needed to close their doors as well.


My grocery store (not kosher) put up a piece of paper stating they have the right to, and might, check bags as part of the Alerte Attentat. I was aware of how many times I checked various escape options (doors) throughout my shopping.







Celebrating Hope

Fast forward one and a half weeks later, Friday 16 January: my son's school held their annual "Balloon Release" and the night before visions of machine-gun toting vigilantes bursting into the playground invaded my mind. I remembered the underground labyrinth of rooms that were designated during WWII as shelter in case of a bombing.

Thankfully, the only screams I heard that morning were of 3-yr olds still scared at being in this new setting called "school," children who'd prematurely released their balloons, children whose balloons popped and other tender childhood traumas that only a mother's kiss or teacher's reassurance could provide.

These were quickly drowned out by cries of joy as the directrice rang the old-fashioned bell-on-a-rope signaling the children could finally open their tiny hands and let these instruments of happiness float up to the sky and beyond. The message within this ceremony is explained to the children that like their balloon, they too can go far in life--The Sky's The Limit--with their personal growth throughout their lives. Truly a sweet sentiment, aside from the ecological point of view (which has been debated for many years now).

  

Life in my neighborhood quickly resumed normalcy after the Charlie Hebo events. And while on the outside I'm getting back into the pace of things again, I gather it will take just a little bit of time for me to feel totally free from the fear again. Actually, as I write, the fear is gone...replaced, for now, with just a general heart-ache for our Time, our Days, our World. Knowing it is blessé (hurt), but also blessed.