Friday, October 31, 2008

Know what...

... I should be doing right now?

Working on my memoir. To finish it once and for all so that I'd be able to start my novel in less than ten hours. What am I doing instead? Venting on here. I can't help it. If I don't write it out, I'm gonna explode.

What's going on? You wanna know? Well, if you don't, then skip ahead to the pretty parts. If you do... here goes:

So, we go to IKEA for lunch because Ryan is home from school and he never gets to go out with us. I needed to pick up a few things from IKEA so I gave him the choice of eating there or a nearby restaurant and he picked "the bed store" (his name for IKEA). We go early so we can beat the crowds, cuz trust me, when children are on vacation, there ARE crowds. We get our meal and find empty seats JUST.IN.TIME. Behind us are at least fifty people standing in line and we only had to do so for about five minutes.

I'm almost through with my meal and am looking forward to having my coffee when I see a lady over to my right who is reading a paperback. That reminds me that I've brought my paperback copy of "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver (yes, my hippy bible) in my pocket. I have taken to carrying it everywhere in case we have a few minutes of down time so I can get a snippet in and since Sam hasn't complained yet... dot dot dot...

So, I reach in my pocket for the book when these two young teenagers meander near our table. They look down at our plates, standing really close. They seem to be peering at our stuff. I get nervous and take my hand off of my book and out of my pocket in case I have to jet after them (have I mentioned that it was two kids about this age that stole my purse in Paris a few years ago? loitering young people make me...alert, shall I say?). They come over to the other side of the table, one of them looking me directly in the eyes. I smile in hopes that it was accidental, but when he continues unsmiling eye contact, I'm a little shaken and even more nervous. I tear off a piece of bread and dip it into Ryan's half eaten carrot salad and tear into it to stave off the impulse to ask this punk kid if he wants to take a picture instead of keeping staring at me. He moves over behind Ryan and stands almost touching him, leaning over to look at his plate.

I look over at Sam and say, "Hey, these kids are making me nervous. They're standing a little close."

Sam says, "I'm sure it's alright. It's lunchtime. It's busy."

"Then why won't they quit staring?"

I'm saying all of this in English, so of course, Ryan understands and turns to see what I'm talking about.

The punk kid looks down at Ryan and has the nerve to say, "You wanna take a picture?"


"What did you just say?" I say, scooting my chair back from the table.

He gives me a puzzled look.

"Did you just ask him if he wanted a photo?" I say, feeling my face flush and the familiar tingle of mother bear instinct creeping into my belly, causing my voice to growl.

He lifts his chin and says, "Yeah."

"Are you kidding me? You haven't stopped staring at me until you got here! Do YOU want to take a picture?" My hands are gripping the table.


"Then, maybe you should get out of here." I say through gritted teeth.

"We're waiting for you to leave." He says.

"Well," I say and look over at our as yet unfilled ice cream cones, "you're going to be waiting a very. long. time."

"Okay," he says.

"Then move," I say.

And then I turn to Ryan and tell him to keep his hands and eyes to himself (in English) and tell him not to pay any attention to the STUPID punk kids behind him. (I think I sprinkled some profanity in there, but we'll just leave that to your imaginations.)

In the end, these kids' grandmother or something like that, came over and said, "What are you doing?"

The punk said, "We found some spots."

She said, "Why? There are a whole bunch of spots over here," and she directed them elsewhere. And thankfully.

I said, "I'm sorry if I embarrassed you," to Sam who was calmly eating and staring down at his plate.

"You didn't embarrass me."

"Well, you're not talking and you won't look at me." I say blushing.

"It's because I didn't know what to say. Everything I could think of to say to them would have been grossly inappropriate and I was trying to keep myself from jumping up and pounding that kid."

That made me feel validated.

I'm shaking at this point. The adrenaline that surged through my veins unused is now causing my hands to tremble as I feed the baby her food.

Just as I'm starting to calm down, this bitch comes over, slams her tray down, puts her kid up on a stool, scoots a chair over next to Ryan and says, "I'm gonna put my stuff here." Even though there's at the end of the bar where her kid is sitting.

I'm done, y'all. I actually uttered the words, "Fat bitch." And not just in my mental voice. Aloud. Can you imagine?

After that, I'm trying to drink my coffee, but all I can do is repeat my mantra, "The farm. It's for the farm."

As we're leaving the dining area, I am actually LOOKING for the punk kid so I can ask him, "So you found yourself a great spot and didn't even need to be rude to me and my family, huh?" in front of his grandmother. But, lucky for all of us, he was nowhere in sight.


On to updates...

Running: This week has been sucky because 1) it has rained every day all day long. So, I have run every day in the rain. 2) I was in a lot of pain leftover from Sunday because I forgot that you should go out the DAY AFTER and run a 30easy so I didn't get mine in until Tuesday. Then, Wednesday when I did my speed training, though it went super duper well, I was hurting all day afterwards. Yesterday morning I was supposed to do a 20easy, but didn't feel well in the legs. But, Sam said that if NOT going was going to make me cranky all day, I should just go. I went. It sucked. Because he was in a hurry, I cut my warm up time down to five minutes (from my usual ten or fifteen) and THEN, only got 13 minutes in before I just couldn't hack it anymore. I was in TEARS my shins hurt SO BAD (and had for several minutes already). I could barely walk back home. Had one of the park attendants come by on one of their golf cart thingies, I would have totally flagged 'em down. So, I had to take today off and will take tomorrow off, too, just so I can do my long haul on Sunday (11 miles). I have to do a 25k next weekend and don't want to overdo it. But now I'm gonna hafta find some exercises for shin splints. 3) I've caught something from the neighbor's daughter. She was complaining of a cold and a neck ache and at the time, I brushed it off as an excuse for her not to go to her swimming competition so she could stay and make bread with me (because miraculously her neck ache was gone the next day) but now I'm eating humble pie (let's just hope I heal as quickly as she).

Writing: As I said in the beginning, I have a few loose ends to tie up in the memoir before starting my novel. I doubt I'll be able to tie them up before midnight tonight. I should have been working on it all week, but Ryan has been home from school and I have had my cooking protege here every day this week. I can announce that the topic of my novel has changed. Remember how I said it would probably be a mystery set in Arkansas? It is now going to be a sci-fi and I won't reveal the setting just yet. I had a handful of ideas I pitched to Sam and I'm going with the one he liked best. (As an aside, he always seems so surprised that I can be as creative as I am. When I told him the different storylines, he had a huge amused grin on his face. When asked why he looked like he had just swallowed a canary, he says, "No, nothing. You're just crazy. The stuff you come up with." I can relate to that. I have a friend who is a kazillion times more creative than I and who is wicked good at coming up with all the little nuances of her characters and settings. Hi B!!!).

Miscellaneous: What misc? Between dealing with almost all of my kids being here almost all day long and the teenage neighbor coming over and hanging out for hours and not getting everything done and not staying in touch with all of my friends and constituents and gearing up for NaNoWriMo and putting up veggies, etc, I don't have any time for any damn misc. Check back later.

Okay, well, I'm gonna get back to working on the memoir and see if I can get anything accomplished before midnight. Don't be surprised if November is either 1) drier or 2) more verbose a month. This contest either makes me so busy I can't do anything but write the novel OR, it makes me write non-stop all over the place. We'll see what happens.

Until then, I salute you!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And.... We're back.

Another rough week with an intriguing, pleasantly surprising and, for lack of a better expression, Erin (it's my new favorite word) finale. I wrote on Thursday that speedwork was successful. It was. But since I had missed Wednesday (which was supposed to be my speedwork day) I had to choose between doing the 20easy and the 35tempo paces that were supposed to follow it on my running schedule. I didn't want to run on Saturday since I was planning on doing a half-marathon distance today (Sunday) so it had to be one or the other. I went on Friday and set out to do the 35tempo, but couldn't help but run pretty decently fast for me (a 10 minute mile), so, instead, I just did the compromise and did a 20tempo-ish.

So, THEN, the plan was to lay low on Saturday. No walking, no stress, no standing, just relaxation and good eating and lots of sleep so that I could get up Sunday morning and do my half.

Weeeellllll, 1) I got up early, cleaned the kitchen and taught the neighbor's older daughter (we'll call her "E") to make pancakes. There was some standing involved.

Then, 2) I went to the farmer's market with Sam (the neighbor's daughter watched the kids at our place while we went together...oooooh, a market date!!!) and ended up getting a BUTT LOAD of veggies to put up and since I'm stubborn about taking the car anywhere, I forced Sam to take the bus, but then to walk back. Well, the walk back meant that we were weighted down with such heavy eats at brocs, caulis, cabbages, carrottes, etc. Not great for the feet.

Then, 3) I wanted to get as many of these things blanched and into the freezer as possible, so I stood in the kitchen chopping, washing, blanching, cooling, etc (I roasted some eggplants and zukes for more pesto). So, there was MORE standing.

And 4) Since we were nearly out of flour and organic sugar cubes and the next day (today) was Sunday when ALL STORES are closed, we went to the supermarket. More walking.

Finally, 5) By the time we got home, hosed off the kids and got ourselves into bed, it was midnight. The clocks fell back last night in France so it was technically only 11, but still, *shrug*... I woke up the first time around 4:30 with the baby. Then again later at 5:30. Then 6:30--where I took one look out the window at the fog and said, "I'm not runnin' in THAT!" and plopped my head back down on the pillow.

Eventually, (around 8) I got up and headed to the park. My feet hurt, my knees hurt, I was pessimistic about the fog, I hadn't eaten enough the night before and was sure I was gonna be hungry, but I left anyway, promising only to do what I could.

But... Long story short... I did it. I should put exclamations by that because that's how I feel. I DID IT!!!!! Not only did I finish, but even WITH that damn heavy hydration belt, not enough sleep, not enough to eat and only one carb gel (what was I thinking? I have a huge stash of them, why didn't I take more?), I shaved 27 minutes and 10 seconds off of my half-marathon time from January 14, 2007.

It's a Personal Record (or PR as sporties know it). And a damn fine one. Think of how much faster I had been able to finish had I just had optimal conditions!!!

The best part is that I finished in 2:53:19!!! And my average pace was 13:13!!! That's 30 seconds per mile UNDER the minimum pace for marathon finish! I'm on the right track!!!

If I continue to train just as I am right now... AND IF I DON'T GET INJURED... I can finish the marathon in time.

However, I've decided that that's not enough. I want more. I want five hours. I think if I cross train and drop another 20 pounds, I'll be able to kick that marathon's ass in 5 hours. So, I've decided to continue my training as planned, add biking twice a week and swimming hopefully three or four times a week and then some weight/abs training here and there (once or twice a week after runs). That, along with more closely following my old Weight Watchers lifestyle that helped me drop (and maintain) 42 pounds in four months, I SHOULD be able to drop 20 more by Jan. My sis, who's also doing the marathon with me, said she's committing to doing the same thing (she did her half yesterday and did it about 7 or so minutes faster than I so we're at about the same training level right now). I told her that the day AFTER the marathon, she and I can hit a chinese buffet and really dig in (they have one there with my fave all you can eat sushi!!!), but that until then, it was bread and veggies, beans and fruits!

So, cross your fingers on that one.

I have only one thing to say about the book and that's that I'm procrastinating. I figure the parts that need adding are addable in December. We'll see if I can get the lead out of my ass this week and put on those finishing touches before NaNoWriMo.

Sam is letting me read pretty much the whole Kingsolver book to him. It's AWESOME. He laughs when I laugh, cries when I cry and even asked Ryan today if he wanted to raise chickens. Ryan's response: "Can we do it right now?" That's my question, too. I look forward to this farm with a child's impatience. But I know that there are steps that have to be taken. Thinking about the farm and knowing that it's becoming a family endeavor makes those steps that much lighter.

I took the stack of my "hippy books" (i.e. books that talk about how to get back to basics, doing organic farming, even how to build your own house out of trees from your own land by making your own freakin' lumber) into our bedroom and night before last, we fell asleep each looking at our own respective "hippy book." That's hot, isn't it? Every time I think about it, it makes me get all romantic-y and stuff. He's REALLY hot when he's reading how to put in solar panel shingles and windmills. I have a feeling that he'll spend his spare time engineering different experimental ways to put power back onto the grid (other than the job he's working already and getting paid for).

Wanna hear a funny/sad story? Sam and I went to take the bus and there were these two kids sitting there. They were probably about 10 or 11 (or so). One of the kids asked if I wanted to sit down on the bench and I said no, but thanks anyway. Then, Sam and I started arguing--but using our inside voices--about whose way of getting to market is faster... We did this in English. So, these little fuckers (pardon my "French") started saying the things they knew in English, just to be little fuckers. Things like, "Hey, fuck you beeetch!" and "Suck my deek!" and so on and so forth.

They're kids and they were unaccompanied. I know this and I know they would probably act differently in front of their parents, but I can't HELP it.... Kids like that really piss me off. I've never witnessed this phenomenon in the States (maybe it has to do with not having lived downtown in any big American cities? you city dwellers tell me? are tweens little punks just to be little punks?). I mean, I've "babysat" a lot of little punks at the library when I worked there, but they were mostly respectful about their language at least. These kids were little assholes (speaking of language *blush*) and when I'm around these kinds of kids, I can't help be feel stressed out. I didn't acknowledge them, but instead spoke French very loudly so that they'd know that I understood both their French and their English and that maybe they should just talk amongst themselves instead of going out of their way to annoy us. But I didn't want them to know it was working. *sigh* Such a paradox.

Anyway, just in time, the bus comes and we all get on. Sam and I are near the middle in the standing up part (where there's this special cushion along the sides of the bus specifically designed for people who want to stand up and lean) and these kids are in the back. But they get up and go to get off and I hear an older man near the middle say, "EH! That's disgusting what you just did!" I look back and see a huge puddle of spit on the floor. Grody. The kid ignores him. The older guy gets louder. "Hey you, young man! What do you think you're doing?" The kid looks at him and proud and smiling says, "Spitting. I have the right, don't I?" The older guy says, "No, not in the bus like that. Who taught you to do that?" The kid says, "Me." And then, the other kid says something in arabic which made the spitty kid laugh. I doubt it was very nice. They said some other things in arabic before getting off the bus and the older guy just started grumbling.

Okay, here's the funny part. I was SO happy those kids got talked to. I almost even said, "YEAH!" after every time the older guys spoke, because he was expressing the exasperation I was feeling with these punk kids.

Sam says, "Yeah, but most people would just say, 'they're just kids.'"

Here's the sad part... they ARE kids. But they're going to grow up. And they're going to be the loser kids who spraypaint people's cars. And other vandalism. Etc.

The other sad part is that these kids act this way because even though they're born here, they don't ever feel like they are home. These are descendents (maybe even 2nd or 3rd generation) of maghrebin families who moved to France just before, during and after the war in Algeria. But because the racism is SO concentrated and part of the culture, these kids never feel French. Why WOULDN'T they spit on the bus? It's not THEIR bus even though they've been taking it all their lives. It's not THEIR country even though they've grown up here. Whose fault is that? Everyone's. It's their parents'... who tell them that they are not from here and that they need to be cautious of white people and need to keep themselves separate. And then there are the actual French people who reinforce it by actually treating them like they are foreigners. And the kids, in turn, fulfill their role by doing the things that make the white people nervous--out of boredom, out of resentment, out of pain--which makes them the self-fulfilling prophecy. It sucks. Because then, the kids who are really cool and respectful and nice get treated like all the other punks... And some of THEM become punks because they have already been treated like they are and so on and so forth.

It makes me mad and sad and a teensy bit scared.

But anyway... blah blah blah... I noticed this problem when I was here ten years ago when I dated a Parisian guy (of Moroccan descent) and had to deal with all the racism surrounding that relationship (from BOTH sides, btw). Sadly, not much has changed in ten years.

To end on a happy note, A's sister E is coming over every day this week to learn how to make certain things. Monday it's bread, Tuesday it's Madeleines, Wednesday it's brioche and Thursday it's cookies. I'm SO glad to find a protege!!!

The kids are on vacation for ten days. A is going to be out of town which sux cuz that means Ryan is going to BORED. But it also means that he can detox a little and we can work on some school work (which I'll talk about next time, cuz there's stuff afoot).

Well, I got a MESS of vegetables to freeze waiting for me in the kitchen (I did brocs and cauli's last night, but I got carrottes, cabbages, leeks and the pesto to finish tonight). Be good kids!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I don't have much...

Kids, I got sawdust. That's all I got to report.

I got tiny gravel in my runnin' shoes.

Lots of Solitaire.

Eating lots of vegetables to counteract all the cheese from the weekend (plus leftovers that came home with us).

I got successful speedwork (YAY).

Utter procrastination on finishing touches on the adoption memoir... they are important but tedious (is that how you spell tedious?).

I got a bipolar marriage. *sigh* And I'll leave it there cuz that's why I'm not expoundin' today y'all. Good morning, GREAT afternoon, shitty evening.

But I did make bread on Tuesday. It was YUMMMMMY!!! And I made the whole building smell good.

ALSO, yesterday, I cooked some of the pasta we made the other night and then whipped up a fresh pesto out of the eggplant and zukes that were starting to wilt.

Today I made a kick ass stirfry of broc, cauli, julienned carrots, mushrooms, ginger, garlic and leeks with a spicy plum-peanut sauce served on a bed of brown rice with an egg scrambled in it... ALL organic and all delish.

Dinner was a humongous salad with a yogurt dressing.

Nothing else to report, really. I gotta go to a meeting tomorrow about my citizenship. Should be Erin (see comments from previous entry).

Thanks SO much for reading me... even through these dry times.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good times...

Let's start with the not-so-good news... Sunday morning, I ran, right? Well, actually, I don't think you could really call it that. I walked my three miles. And then, because I hadn't trained all week (partly because I was still aching from the ten-miler and partly because I'm a woman with menstrual debts I have to pay for a week every month which renders me nearly incapable of getting off the couch without taking Ibuprophen), I walked yet another mile, hoping to warm up. It never happened. But, I thought, "Well, I had better get running, warm or not, so that I can get in my 8 or 9 miles and get back home so we can go eat cheese." I put my ear buds in and pray that my MP3 player (which I forgot to plug in the night before) has enough charge to carry me through the running parts. I pick up my feet and start running.

I'm doing an 11 and I'm not feeling too bad. I'm winded and I'm heavy because I'm wearing my hydration belt (which, by the way, REALLY slowed down even my walking time... still, I'm going to have to train with it because I'm going to want to wear it for the marathon... I NEVER get to the water stations while there's still Gatorade, so I HAVE to have my own stash) AND since I didn't eat enough the day before, I'm a little weak. But I'm huffing along and thinking I'll probably make the 8 at least.

That's when the MP3 goes kaput. After just two or three songs. So, I'm running, with not enough sleep, not enough eat, too much weight and not enough music.

I get to the end of mile 5 (the running mile) and give up. I'm not gonna make it.

The BAD news is that I only did 5 miles. The GOOD news is that that's okay. If I train this week like the schedule says to do, I should be able to do the half marathon distance that the rest of my training group is going to do this coming Saturday. So, cross your fingers on that.

Now, on to the REAL news.

In order to have your carte de sejour (it's like a long stay visa thingy) you now have to sign this contract saying that you'll go to a few day-long classes in order to learn more about French culture and politics so that you can better integrate into French society. If you'll remember, I got them to waive most of it because I've already lived here before, my husband is French and I'm bilingual. BUT, there's this journee civique that I just couldn't get out if since it talks about not the nuances of LIFE in France but rather the rights and responsibilities (which I find interesting that they call it "obligations" in France... don't you think that seems to take away some of the individual agency? I do) of being a part of the national community.

Well, it's an all day affair. 9-5. They even serve you lunch. I was dreading it. I figured it'd be like classes here, where some over-dressed, pompous asshole would stand in front of a classroom walking back and forth (I can't remember what you call that in English... where you walk back and forth... *sigh*... Dammit... what's it called...PACING... DUDE, I HATE losing my English!!!) and spouting out his "knowledge" so he can fill your empty brain. Blech.

But, it wasn't that at ALL. First of all, it was an independent company who is hired out to teach these classes, so it was this really cool chick who actually did a great job of both summarizing history, politics, linguistics, etc. into a concise explanation AND did so while using accessible language!!! I was impressed and actually--the nerd that I am--on the edge of my seat, excited about what I was hearing. VERY cool. ALSO, because I was in a room full of 20 other foreigners, there was very little intimidation between us. We all were able to talk to one another freely and comfortably. I think I even made a few friends (we ate lunch together, talked about profound subjects in French and exchanged email addresses... I call that the start of a friendship... but hey, I'm American *shrug*... I can make friends while standing in line at the grocery store *grin*).

All this is terribly good. It's good because it reminded me how proficient I can be in French and in the subjects that are important to the world, if I just GET OUT of my apartment for a day and SPEAK FRENCH with someone other than my kids and my neighbors. Sure, it was rusty going in the morning, but by lunch, like I said, we were talking philosophy and religion and politics and science!!! AND ALL THREE OF US SPOKE ENGLISH, but chose to converse in French... !!!!!!! THAT'S integration, my friends.

It was a good experience in that it lit a fire under my ass. I've been thinking lately about SOME day, MAYBE looking for a job here. Just to get me out of the house. Wellllll, I talked to the instructor after the class, and she told me that there's still a HUGE need for English instructors here. In EVERY sector (private and public school, business English and even something she called an orientation center). It's this centre d'orientation that really piqued my interest. It's a place where French students (not students of the French language, but actual French people who are students) who are scheduled to go abroad, go to get an orientation about the country they are going to visit. She said that I could probably find a position teaching an orientation for students who want to go to the States.


Can I just say how wicked awesome that would be? I would LOVE that! LOOOOOVE, no, LUUUURRRRVVVEEE that!

This day-long class reminded me of these college prep classes I used to take when I lived in Lyon before. Where I had scads of foreign friends all getting together to talk philosophy and politics and drink coffee between classes and go over to each others' houses, etc. So, guess what? I'm thinking I might sign back up for that. The start date for the second semester is January 26th. Right when I'd get back from doing the marathon. I'm going to look into it and get back to you on that. I'm optimistic.

While the day was positive and entertaining and... what's the word... like "engaging" but not really...kind of like, "enlightening"... AAARGH! I give up. I can't remember the word. SEE? That's the kind of shit that happens after a whole day of speaking French. Of assuming one's French identity. I'll think about it and try to remember the word later... It's like "enriching"... one of those good "e" words... If you think of it, please tell me. Anyway, while the day was positive and some elusive "e" word, it also had its tense moments.

Like, though I thought *I* was late (cuz I got there ten minutes after it was supposed to start), there was a girl who got there about ten minutes after *I* did and the instructor gave her a hard time. Like, I thought the instructor was going to tell her she couldn't stay. And THEN, another lady showed up at around 10:15 or so and the instructor actually took her out into the hallway, telling her she couldn't stay. That she'd have to make a new appointment. That lady left, but came back a half hour later or so with her husband or boyfriend or whatever (a French guy) who stood in the hallway and argued with the teacher--I heard him say that they left home at 7am, but that they had to sit on the highway in a traffic jam for over two hours because of an accident. Judging by how bad the traffic is here and how frequent the accidents, I tend to believe him. However, from the instructor's point of view, this poor woman has already missed two hours of information (that is, admittedly very compactly organized) and thus, really SHOULD reschedule. They left in a huff. The whole time they were out in the hallway, I was really sad for them. For all three of them. I wanted to go out there and hug the poor lady who couldn't stay because I could tell she was crying.

Another tense moment came later. At the beginning of the class, the teacher assumed by my dress or my accent that I was Canadian. But during the introductions, I told them that I was from the States. Throughout the morning, I could feel something a-brewing. How is the U.S. so different from Canada? Why, now that they all knew I was/am American, are they suddenly staring and whispering? Well, because stupid f-ing Mr. Bush--or The Shrub as we like to call him in my family (that's the more polite thing we like to call him)--went around spouting how we are the greatest nation on the planet. *sigh* So, I'm standing there, wearing the weight of the rest of the planet on my shoulders. Such magnificence is sorta heavy, y'all. Back-breaking, in fact.

We danced around it all day and I thought I was going to escape without having to, in SOME capacity, defend my country. But it wasn't to be.

After the mid-afternoon coffee break, we started talking about laicite (I don't know the word in English or even if there is one, but it's about separation of church and state). The instructor asked me about it, about how it works in the States. I just shrugged because, dude, it wasn't a class on the States, it was a class on France, and if I get started talking about the States, we're going to waste valuable France-talking time, right? So, I say so. But she presses. So, I start talking and then she starts ridiculing and criticizing us having "In God we trust" on our MONEY (stressing the money part because of course, ALL Americans are money-hungry, planet-raping, Bush-ass-licking Republicans, right?) and in certain government documents and placing our hand on the Bible (or some other holy book) when we are sworn in or have to testify in a court--All of which I AGREEEEEEEEE is not very laique, but not something I criticize about our country because ours is so steeped in religious culture (um, it's what our country was founded on... we WERE religious refugees at our beginnings, folks). I'm not usually THAT defensive of the States, but it was turning into a bloodbath. And while I'm usually the calm feline licking my paws peacefully, I turn into a stray tabby when cornered.

I came out of that corner claws beared.

The discussion had moved on to more of my own personal political leanings, so I indulged them and said that I'm very much a centrist. That I'm an environmental hippy and a huge supporter of many social causes, but that I am fiscally conservative in that I don't think that there should be government-sponsored healthcare. I think the individual right to decide one's destiny is a basic American belief. One with which I strongly relate. I don't want the government telling me I HAVE to pay for everyone else's healthcare. Just like I don't want to be FORCED to buy insurance if I don't want to. I agree, everyone should have it. I also agree that we should all pull together in the sense of brotherly love and basic human concern to help each other out... the one factor with which I DON'T agree is the government's hand in all of it. I don't trust rich mofos who sit up on capital hill or in the White House, in their expensive suits ON THEIR ASSES driving their SUVs and flying around in their private planes and living in their McMansions deciding what I MUST DO. I personally prefer to GIVE of my own volition. And I do give.

And I said all of this.

She jumped in on me and started talking about how poor people in the States don't have good healthcare. I said that I was raised on Medicaid and food stamps and never went hungry or sick. She said, "Well, you don't get to choose which doctors you go to whereas here in France, you can go to any doctor you want." I told her that NEVER in my LIFE had I been treated worse by a doctor than in France. It tripped her up and she wanted to know which doctor, which hospital, etc. She said that I had just had a run of bad luck.

Then, she turned the direction away from me and looked at the rest of the class and said, "Well, either way, France has one of the longest life-expectancies of any developed, Western country." She paused and laughed and continued, "We're also one of the world's largest consumers of anti-depressants."

And I lost it. I said, "You see, you all live a nice, long, healthy life of depression. You have to choose what you want to do for the rest of your life when you're sixteen years old and then you have to crawl around on your hands and knees being subjected to ridicule and discrimination to find a JOB which is usually a job you HATE because you chose what you wanted to do during a time when you were distracted by things like drugs, alcohol, tobacco and SEX but now it's too late because you live in a culture where you're not allowed to change your mind about what you wanna be when you grow up. So, you go to work, you take your medecine and you hate the world around you... Fraternite my ass!!!"

I said it with a smile on my face and a twinge of laughter in my voice, so everyone in the room laughed and the teacher blushed.

I said, "I'm not trying to criticize, here, but you pushed me to it. There are good things and bad about both places. I have LIVED in both places, so I feel like I have the credentials to speak about it."

She blushed again and changed the subject. I felt like I had won.

I also felt like I had let her get something off her chest. ALL of them in fact. I think they all thought and felt the way she did until they heard my side. I also told them all (at another point) that when I first came to France in '98 that I thought it would be all wine and perfume and flowers and baguettes but that I didn't bargain for the homelessness, joblessness and crime. And I reminded them not to think that THEIR own impressions of the U.S. which come from the popular and news media, are any more realistic than my Disney images of France were before I got here.

For a brief period, *I* was the instructor and it felt GOOD!!!

On a side note, and just as positive, guess what I saw in the basement of that building? Just outside the cafeteria in the basement, there's a waiting area. Guess what's painted on the walls down there? BIRDS. SMASHED birds to be exact. Like the ones of a certain graffiti artist? This was no graffiti, folks. It was bona fide art that had obviously been contracted because not only was it on the walls down there, but it went all the way up the stairwell. I wonder if the guy lives there. It's a "foyer" which is like a student apartment kind of place thingy. I took a picture of it with my phone. If I can just figure out how to get it onto here, I will!!! I took it as a sign. A good omen. I'm superstitious like that. *shrug*

Oh, well, I gotta get outta here and go run. Thanks for all the emails of support and love. Right back atcha.

And for those of you worried about my immenent slip into the abyss... Thank you. I appreciate (I mean it, I'm not patronizing here) your concern and I take it and wrap it up in flannel blanket and put it in my heart's closet. But trust me, Depression has become a good friend of mine. He pops in every once in a while to remind me from whence I came. He comes over, talks about our good ole days together and then, when I get a little weary of him sleeping on my couch, he takes the hint and packs up. Sometimes it's hard to get him to move his car out of my driveway, but ... well, you get the picture.

I've never been more optimisitic about my life. I'm just a little iffy about my situation. I'm very fortunate to be able to change my situation... even if it would take some work.

Okay, gotta run... Ha ha ha... get it? *eye roll*

Sunday, October 19, 2008

I'm a cheese whore...

So, I went. Yeah, I got pushed over and I went to the Grand Celebration of the Autumn Birthdays at Sam's parents' house. But I didn't go purely out of being guilted or from begging. I didn't even go for the noble cause of letting my kids see their grandparents.

I went for the cheese.

We did a raclette... FINALLY... I took pictures, but didn't really zoom in on the cheese like I should have. So, pardon that. I concentrated more on the celebration of my daughter's first opportunity to tear in, full body, into a piece of cake. It was fun because she really went to work and the French were a little uneasy the entire time. They expressed their uneasiness as they do any other emotion--with ridicule. The whole time Lolo was smearing chocolate everywhere--the chocolate cupcakes I got up before the sun did to make... along with home-made chocolate frosting--they kept saying "Hey, so and so. On your next birthday, we're gonna let you get half naked and tear into a cake" and "what flavor of cake do YOU want?" etc. It was annoying but I felt it along with a sense of triumph. I didn't want to go to the Grand Celebration of the Autumn Birthdays and since I got finagled and cheesed into going, I figured it only fair that I throw a tantrum and celebrate the messiness that is the American tradition of a first birthday!!!

I'm sure most of you have guessed either through the grapevine, the voices on the wind or maybe just psychic energy... but things aren't great.

Most things are just fine. But there's a marriage a-teetering, I tell you. One day, we're done. I'm done. My bags are packed in my heart and mind and I'm already half way back across the Atlantic and it has NOTHING to do with France. Later the same day, I see a spark of hope and I wrangle and ride it like a rodeo cowboy. But then, later that night or the next day, I have to put the pony out of its misery and shoot it in the head. I have spent most days of this past week in a depressed stupor and that is why I've avoided writing. I try not to write while in the bog. I prefer to pull up out of it and look back (and only then do I drag y'all along). Depression isn't pretty in the moment but can be educational in hindsight.

We'll see.

It's mostly about this damned farm. A farm that I can SEE in my mind. I can hear the land calling me, begging me to come see and to prepare. But my helpmeet doesn't see and hear. He says, "Yeah, I want a house in the country and a little piece of land where we can have a garden." I say, that house must be cleaned and decorated by some other woman, because it's not MY house. MY house is on a farm. I'm not talking silos and combines. I'm talking organic, seasonal, local produce pollenated by our own bees. Wheat from our own fields, harvested by our own hands or machinery and then milled in our own mill into flour that I can then turn into bread and pasta and pastries and pies. I'm talking a green-built, ranch style house set at the end of a long gravel road. I'm talking a nice-sized tract of land completely surrounded by evergreens to keep out the pollen drift from other farms which may contain GMO (or OGMs as they say in France).

He says, "Yeah, that sounds like a nice thing for us to do in ten years."

Huh-uh. I am NOT going to wake up one morning ten years from now, roll up my sleeves, do a watch-check and say, "Alrighty, today's the day!"

Nope. I'm going to research now. I'm going to dream and plot and plan so that when I stumble onto the perfect piece of land, I'll recognize it by it's familiar face I've seen in my dreams a thousand times. I'm going to look at land and plot to buy it and then, I'm going to visit it and see what grows there all by itself and find out ways to channel that stuff. I'm going to spend the next 3-5 years preparing that land by planting fruit trees and aperagus fronds all over the place so that when I move in, I'll be able to harvest. I wanna live just like Barbara Kingsolver. I want to build a house using materials from other torn-down houses. With sinks, toilets, light fixtures, faucets all found on curbsides where peeps left 'em waiting for the trash man to come get them.

I'm dreaming it now so I'll be ready. And I want him to come with me. I love him, somehow, and I want him to be a part of this farm dream. But, he can't see it.

It would be different if he had his own projects or dreams. Then we could compromise. But he doesn't. And I'm not going to spend my whole life waiting around for him to write a thesis about simultaneous football watching and ball scratching. If I'd have wanted that, I'd have married a failed American jock. I thought I was pretty safe going abroad in search of my mate. EHHHHHH! Wrong answer.

Moving on. Ryan, A and I made a gratin de choux fleur (a cauliflower gratin) and I made a brioche. That was all yummy. Then, yesterday, I made organic basmati flavored with raisins and piled high with mixed organic veggies that I had blanched and frozen and drizzled with an organic plum sauce that I made (see pic below). It was an experiment. I wanted to try the veggies that I had "put up" earlier to see if I had done it right. To make sure I hadn't subjected my veggies to freezer burn. Turns out they were AWESOME and I passed the test. So, then, later in the evening, I got together with Ryan and A again and we made LOADS of fresh, organic pasta that is now taking up a spot in my freezer. I'll report back on the results of that when I cook it.

Well, I could write more, but I'd like to keep it light. When all this shade blows over--because it will, right?... forever the optimist--I'll get back to it and start the full reports back up. I just wanted to pop in and say hi and let you all know that I'm writing in my mind even if I'm not putting it on here until later.

Enjoy the pics...


Lolo still clean:

Lolo's mess:

Lily being supportive of her sister:

Lolo, all clean... and playing with a backhoe... That's my girl!!!

Lily loves dogs:

These kids want a dog SO bad *eye roll*

Making pasta with the kids:

Organic basmati:

Organic veggie mix, plum glaze and organic basmati in the background:

Ryan's hungry:

Taking advantage of the last leaves at the park... A family affair:

The park's colors from the kids' window:

SOME big girl learning how to brush those new teeth... who's toothbrush is that anyway?

Nooooo, she's not a Papa's girl...

What we do on Wednesdays when there's no school:

And then we made gratin de choux fleur:


I think that'll probably tide you over for a bit, eh?