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!)

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Life's Grand Adventure

I have been keeping a secret for nearly two years now. Well, my husband and I have. We'd started considering moving back to the USA for quite some time but each time we brought up the topic the timing just didn't seem right for me.

At first I felt "I hadn't been in France long enough yet to get to know it, enjoy it, before I just turn around again."

Then there were other reasons where it just didn't seem right.

Then, in the Spring of 2013 life began taking on new directions. My husband's work relocated from filming in Bordeaux (exteriors) and Paris (interiors) to everything being filmed in the South of France. Due to internal politics, we decided to stay in Paris until we knew the show would continue into its 10th season without being cancelled suddenly.

Also, in France, children go to a pre-school/kindergarten called Maternelle and it's a very big part of French life. It's not mandatory but I would say 99.9999999% children go for all three years. My son started in the French Maternelle and we didn't feel like moving him before the 3rd year only to possibly have to move again. I know everyone says children adapt, but if I didn't have to do it, I didn't want to.

So, we stayed put for my son to start his third year in Maternelle (Kindergarten year). My husband began commuting to the South of France for work. Before, when the show (Section de Recherches) filmed in Bordeaux/Paris he was rarely in Bordeaux (one time) and would be on the Paris set for one week, but home at night. Starting in about June 2014, he began going to Grasse for about 3-weeks at a pop, including weekends. The first few times he left for such a stint I was frazzled. The 5-week stint with no visit was a real humdinger! Now, I'm used to it. Although, as a happily married couple, living like we're separated feels odd sometimes. And of course, I won't know fully what it means to our son until maybe years later.

Well the show is going well but we still have this vision of moving back to the States. We've discussed it for five years. But where to go? NYC, or even the tri-state region, seemed out of the question. We both wanted to have space. Have a house. A place where our son could ride his bike without fear of busy city streets. Get a dog again. S-p-a-c-e... And, having lived in cities for 25 years, I too was feeling like it might be nice to get out of a city.

Looking further North we considered Boston but other than my father and step-mother (and her daughter's children) we didn't have much connection. I'd done some Cocktails with Courtney events there, but it wasn't a city we felt any real pull towards...

We thought about New Orleans. I have a lot of Pulitzer cousins there. It's where my grandfather came from. Well, he was born in St. Louis but his 11 other brothers and sisters were all born in either White Castle or NOLA. But other than a lot of 2nd cousins, and the fact that NOLA is truly an amazing example of a start-up city turning itself around after Hurricane Katrina, we had some reservations.

The Research Triangle, Charlotte, and Greensboro, NC were also all places we considered as, once again, I have family in all these areas as well. While we felt we could find jobs, once again we felt that after the initial novelty of the "French family" moving in, my sister, her children, and other cousins would quickly get busy back in their lives and in reality we might not have that family interaction we were seeking.

The last place I ever considered living was where my mother and step-father moved to in 1984: Tucson, AZ. I lived there one difficult year in High School after a wrenching custody battle. Always considering myself an East Coast girl, a New Yorker, and someone who loves green grass, trees, forests, fields, and all that comes from a childhood in Upstate New York, Tucson always felt the most foreign place to me.

And yet, it began looking like the best option. My mother was retired and I know would be able to help with things like school pickups, babysitting, etc. And, coincidentally my (French) husband has a cousin from his (Belgium) mother's side who lives 20 minutes from my mother's home. This cousin, coincidentally, is also a Tucson public school teacher (like my mother). And, she has three sons, all close in age to my son. We felt if he wouldn't have any siblings, at least he could grow up knowing cousins around his age. (All other cousins are older and "into their own things.")

Thinking about taking two Frenchmen to Tucson I did a quick search on "French in Tucson," not expecting much considering it's a one-hour drive to the Mexican border. However, low-and-behold there is an International School with a French section. The fact that my son could continue his French studies, while beginning to learn English, in a creative, encouraging, 0% tolerance of bullying, school was the near selling point.

Choosing to live closer to one parent over another is always something I think COD (children of divorce) always deal with. It feels like a sticky subject. And it is.

And yet, this time the move is under very different circumstances.

And so here we are: 30 days from departure. I sit surrounded by boxes and toys that my son pulls out of boxes. The pangs of sadness are sharper these past few days.

Paris has become my home. I've lived here seven years. I grew into a couple here. I grew into becoming a mother here. I struggled, I fought, I resisted, I changed, I adapted, I thrived here. I feel fully a part of French society today. Being a mother in France will do that, if you speak the language, get involved, volunteer, engage, and participate in your French life as much as you can. And I have.

And yet, here we go. Here we go, go, go on an adventure! (sorry: living with a toddler will do this to you!)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Postcard from Paris (trois)

Bus, car and truck traffic a mess on all points leading to Alma Marceau. The King of Spain is in town. No notices on buses, metros or websites alerting people to use other forms of transportation (or find alternate routes). (For example my bus stopped at Alma Marceau and didn't cross the Seine to points East and South). 

Calling to organize a party for my son I also see they advertise ateliers for 50 euros. I ask for information about this, thinking i could save myself 150 euros (the cost of the anniversary is 200 euros). The woman on the line will not answer my question. Every single time I ask a question about the atelier, she answers with information for the birthday party. I don't even tell her it's a "going away" party because I fear, knowing the French, that she could very possbily refuse to do the animation for a number of reasons (we only do birthdays, we don't do parties for n'import quel raison, etc. etc. etc.)

And, most importantly, navigating the French codes while trying to help my son with bullying from his "friends" at school. My husband, while also feeling pain at this situation, gives the typical French response of, "we should let him learn to defend himself." My American friends give the "go talk to the parents, write a letter to the Principal, buy anti-bullying books and give them to the school!"  Sigh.

Monday, June 01, 2015

"Do you want a Coke?"

Here's a little entry I wrote in my son's journal...

May 27

It was a weird day because we went to the Unicef store to buy you the little blue car that you nearly shoplifted at Romain's birthday party. :?  We were 15 mins early so we waited in front. I noticed a homeless man across the street living in a kind of "Autolib" glass house. He waved but I looked away. Then I realized he may get your attention and I didn't want to say "don't wave to the homeless man" and get into a discussion on avoiding strangers, but he waved at you and you smiled and waved back before I could get you distracted again. I told you not to wave at strangers and to try not to look over at him again. "We don't wave to strangers" and "we don't know if they are nice people or not." (or something like that). Well within about 1 minute I catch him out of the corner of my eye moving, and then I watch him ambling quicker and quicker across the street directly to us, waiving and smiling. "Oh God, oh God" I just keep repeating. Thinking to myself "I hope this isn't going to go badly," as I clutch my large Louie (Louis Vuitton) bag close to my chest. He comes up smiling, extending his hand and says, tu veux un Coke? Over and over again. He tries to shake my hand but I am trying to avoid it and am just simply smiling and shaking my head saying Non. Non, merci... Then he reaches for your hand and (cause you're a nice boy) you extend your hand and shake his. So then he offers his hand to me and I'm not going to be rude so I shake it. I just keep saying Non to the Cokes and eventually he smiles and turns and leaves. (sigh). Now we have a longer discussion on how/why not to engage with strangers, and that you NEVER, EVER go with a stranger for a Coke, a candy, or a puppy. For n'importe quelle raison.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Postcards from Paris (deux)

Today when waiting to pick my son up from school there was a nanny who apparently yelled at a little boy in her charge to not do something. It seems he must've gone ahead and done it and she reprimanded him or said something, leading him to go prostrate in the middle of the sidewalk, tears streaming down his face as he uttered silent sobs of pain.

One of the mothers looked at the boy, and then at the nanny and said, "he's crying." The nanny said, basically, "I don't care. He didn't listen. Don't pick him up. Don't interfere." The mother, and many others now were all watching and all empathizing with this boy...and the mother who wanted to help him. She went a second time to pick him up...he was in the middle of the sidewalk and there were a lot of people coming and going and arriving at the school. 

The nanny yelled again saying "leave him there. He has to learn." The other mother (a friend of mine) has been looking at me and all I can do is give the French pursed-lips "I don't know what to say" kind of expression. I am not going to get involved. This is definitely out of my territory and I know this is a situation that I definitely do not have all the cultural codes and finesse to deal with. (Although there are other times when I don't care and go about asserting myself, codes my bum!)

Finally the other mother can't take it anymore and to, I would say, everyone except the nanny's relief, she picks up the boy who then just stands there and shuffles his way to the nanny who reprimands him again.

Thankfully the double-doors of the school opened up at that instant so no one had to feel more uncomfortable than we already did. (Another very French thing.)     

Postcards from Paris (un)

We know a family who live nearby and sometimes offer to drive us to school (a 10-minute walk). I have done this a few times and find it so upsetting I now decline. A few days ago the we were leaving our home the same time as this family and after being offered a ride twice, and declined twice, I tried to continue walking with my son, enjoying the slightly fresh late May morning air.

They waved as they drove by and then pulled over onto the oncoming traffic lane and parked. The father opened his door and the backseat door and once again, smiling, offered to drive us. I felt so uncomfortable at this point, having thrice declined and now he's parked in the street nearly blocking traffic.

I hurry around to the passenger side, with a huge bag carrying the DVD player we are donating to the school in front of me. 

My son scrambles into the backseat and I then spend the next five minutes repeatedly asking for the seatbelt and "where is the seatbelt" and "can you get the seatbelt..." The other two children are sitting in their carseats unattached. The father is busy trying to talk to me as an adult about various topics and all I want to do is get the seatbelt on my son.

We've had this experience before, as I've mentioned. The father laughs and says, "oh it's not that long a's just a short's not necessary for the short trips." This is a common thing I've seen in this neighborhood of privilege. Mamans and Papas piling toddlers and youngsters into Mini Coopers, Fiat 500s (original and new versions), Porsches (original and SUV versions) and other small cars. It's like a way to cling to their childhood, or to continue the tradition of their upbringing (the French Way), or demonstrate this act of civil disobedience (which the French LOVE to perform in a variety of ways).

Either way, I find it unsettling and I've told my son we will not be riding with them again because it's not safe. Thankfully I have a son who seems to err on the side of caution too. Of course I am well aware he could make up for all this in his later years, but I'll take any cautiousness I can get! :) 

Empty Room

Looking inside
I see a vast grey space
little bubbles of matter
Larger oval veins
all floating, all alone.
The desire to see a little one
filling up
the space
overtakes all other thoughts.
His home is empty.
I want another one.
There should be a baby there.

My most private womanly home
used to be a nightclub for parties.
Now, having sheltered, nurtured and grown
a Being,
it craves another.
My home is rich, clean, ready for a guest.
Waiting, waiting,
Never to be occupied again.

Perhaps it was just his home
will only be his home forever.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Citizen Simon

A few weeks ago I was at one of our local parks with my son and father. My son commented on how ALL of the equipment in the park was tagged with graffiti. It looked like it had been done relatively recently and it really, really looks awful. It's especially "insulting" because the city had just replaced ALL of the equipment in the park just a year or two ago. (Perhaps I should be grateful it took 2 years to get graffitied?)

He said the "old kids" did this and it doesn't look nice and is dirty. He told me to take pictures of all of it, pointing out each side of each jeux for me to photograph and said we would send a letter to the police.

Today I printed out the pictures and my son dictated the letter to his papa. Then we had him write it in his handwriting and his father addressed the envelope to the Mairie (mayor). I like how he also mentioned an "actionable item" for the "old kids" to clean up the park. ;)

I'm so proud of raising a little boy who cares about his environment and is civic-minded. He picks up trash on the streets, beaches, elsewhere (within reason). And he notices how a minority can ruin a place with their "bad behavior" for the majority. And I am just so pleased that he now has a mind to take it to the next level by taking correct actions!

Here is his letter, and the "evidence."

J- 57. Ascension Day at St. George's

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day? Meh...

It's really weird - such a disconnect - to see all these Mother's Day facebook posts when the reality I'm living in (my life in France), it's not a holiday (yet). MD is in a few weeks, I guess, in France. I don't even know. I feel bummed I didn't get out a ton of pics and #tbt photos and gush over my mother... and then there's my step-mom and mother-in-law (but she's over here anyway)... I guess it's akin to when there was that study on how people can get depressed looking at everyone's "wonderful life" posts... For me it was just another sunday, and in fact, quite a long one (too long for S)... I guess it feels weird because I didn't celebrate MD yesterday. We celebrate it whenever it is in France, because we're in France and my husband and son are French. This is just one of those moments when I feel really disconnected from my family, friends and culture, and sad.

However, if I want to focus on the positive - I know I was a great mother to my son this weekend, and in general! And that I know, like Christmas, I really don't ever want my son to feel the commercial  pressure to have to do moremoremore. I don't want him to feel obligated to do anything. I want to foster in him the sense of showing you care about people everyday, not just on Hallmark-designated holidays.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

My day: Surprises around every corner

Coming out of a turbulent week, I'd found myself waking up to this classic bright view...

I continued down the street when my eye was filled with blue...

Only to glance up to see horses leaping into clouds...

When my nose carried me back to my grandmother's garden...

The canopy of green leafy trees wafting sweet pink chestnut was a visual and olfactory treat...

To glance up a little further down and see soft a billowy pillowy... 

Directly across from the (back) entrance to our nation's presidential home...

And more color, flowers coaxing me down the path, coaxing me into a calmer, happier place...

And a little old-fashioned but still very much in use protection in this day and way...

And even some untamed patches amidst manicured splendor, like the lovers in love's exquisiteness...

All carried me softly, like my love's strong embrace, continuing to remind me of God's care above all. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015


My son is in a new realm of play where he imagines scenarios with his school. I am the teacher, or his favorite teaching assistant, and he is alternatively the Director or a good student. The games went so far that we continued to bed...with 26 of his classmates and continued the next morning to the Apple store with them all.

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)

WIHP: First memories

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