The Annual Christmas Never Ending Email Parade Extravaganza

December 24, 2012

Nothing is quite as festive on Christmas than sitting in a Chinese restaurant and eating fried rice and making jokes about the cats and dogs that might be in it. So, this year, after a flurry of emails, this is what my family decided to do.  It only took two weeks and three thousand reply-all emails to put this brilliant plan into action.

But today, sadly, there is a hitch. One of my sisters, in a passive aggressive attempt to ensure that everyone shows up on time (some of us lack the intricate time management skills it takes to arrive at a destination without being an hour late) suggested that everyone go to the online menu, choose their dish and email back with their choices. That way, the first person who arrives can order for everyone, then we can gobble down our food and pay the check before the ultra important part of this joyous holiday…..Nap Time.

One of my other sisters, who doesn’t have to worry about Nap Time, didn’t appreciate the true meaning of Christmas, the lord baby jesus christ, being shoved to the side on his big day in order to accommodate two toddlers Holy Sleep Schedule, and decided that the adult way to react was to refuse to come to dinner.

I can’t believe I didn’t spend 12 hours on a plane so I could be there! This is the family I know and love. This is the drama and bullshit that was so lacking this year at Thanksgiving. It’s nice to know, even when I am too far away to stir the pot, things are back to normal.

I’m staying home this year. Whether I like it or not, this is where home is. As much as I secretly wish for it to be somewhere else, somewhere warmer, somewhere where they speak english, somewhere closer to my family, I can’t keep running to the US for every “last” holiday I will get to share with my Mom She is still sick, but I can’t fix that by hopping on a plane. And all this back and forth was exhausting, financially, emotionally and physically.

Luckily, I didn’t make this decision until December, after a conversation with a friend that helped me realize I didn’t *have* to go to California again for Christmas. By that time it was too late to invite anyone to come to our house. Everyone already had plans. And we turned down all invitations by saying we wanted to stay here, since we have never celebrated Christmas in Paris before.

So it’s just me, David, Maza and piles of cheese, bread, wine, foie gras and champagne.

Merry Christmas mes amis!



December 1, 2012
This year was extra interesting because my Belle Mere came along. So the first week I was in California, I was asked constantly to translate words like “yeast” and “zest of lemon” and all the other back and forth conversation between my Mom and my mother in law.

Thanksgiving was unusually calm this year. Each and every one of my sisters showed up (usually at least one has to go to their husbands side of the family). Everything ran so smoothly that it felt strange and unfamiliar.

I was watching Charlie, but got a little distracted filling up my wine glass, and when I found him, he had gone up stairs and put himself in the dog kennel and shut the door and was playing with a bone. Makes me wonder what goes on at my sisters house.
We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium

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The aquarium is full of really big stuff
and really small stuff




Bought some crabs for dinner

And on her last day we went to the gun range. She had always wanted to do this, and I never had. It was really fun.
soon to be explained useless dog can be seen in the background
So, after getting home from dinner, David and my step dad sat down at the table in front of their laptops, and I gave the dog a treat since we had just enjoyed a nice meal and I felt sorry for him. My Mom and my mother in law were still outside talking, but I was tired so I decided to go to bed. I walked past the couch and did a double take.
There was a drunk, snoring man sleeping on the couch. I asked Rex who it was and he said he didn’t know. I looked at the useless dog curled up in his bed two feet away from the stranger on the couch and shook my head in disgust. By then my Mom and mother in law had come back inside and we all stood there staring and laughing while Rex tried to wake him up. For me, this was just something I was used to after living there for two months during the fall. The house just has a crazy aura. Nothing surprises me.
Eventually the guy woke up and stumbled out the door and disappeared. I shrugged and thought it was good he had ignored the computers and the gun case full of guns which were all in plain view and only took a nap on our the understandably comfortable looking couch. But my poor mother in law took the guns, locked her door and couldn’t sleep all night.
After another week spent with my friends in Sacramento, I put on my lucky socks and flew home. 
Oh, one more thing, remember when  the Mean Parisian Pregnant Lady lady told me this apartment was  lucky for getting knocked up? Well, my friend who stayed here in September and my friend that came and checked on Maza while I was gone are both pregnant. Strange.

3 Countries in 2 Days

November 9, 2012

In less then a week I went from California

Free lending library  

To Paris

To Lyon

it snowed

frog legs and morels

David and his brother both did the same thing with the bones

I was jetlagged and pms’ing and had a nasty cold. Lyon was cold and rainy all day, and my plans of wandering around the city while David was in work meetings quickly turned into me wandering from cafe to cafe trying to stay warm.

I thought if I could just be at our apartment instead of living out of the same suitcase I’ve been using for the last two months, schlepping it from hotel to David’s brothers house, to another hotel, I would feel better, but even there, with my cat and my own bed I felt restless.

The only time I was calm was when I was moving, walking to the store, taking the metro to Gare de Lyon, the taxi to the Orly airport. Sitting on a train. The awkward, uncomfortable feeling I had during my first year here, never confident if I was doing things right, came back. I felt unsure about everything I did. Certain that I stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn’t even want to get bread from the boulangerie. I stumbled over my change and struggled to understand what the cashier was saying to me.

When I was in California, I wanted to be in Paris. And now that I’m in Paris, I want to be in California. And neither place feels like home anymore. I don’t care about finishing the kitchen or the rest of the apartment. Even Maza looked small and dull when I finally saw her after being gone for so long. She looked at me, and then looked at David like, “Who the hell is this person and why is she in our living room”. Or maybe I’m just projecting.

Four days later we were in the Pyrenees for David’s birthday.

 The most exciting thing we did was go to the roman baths. There was nothing else to do but hike, and we didn’t bring hiking shoes.

I tried to take a picture of it empty, but it looked pretty ghetto.

Our cell phones kept beeping to let us know we were out of France and roaming. Which is how we discovered the small country of Andorra (which was just one big duty-free shop) 

3 different languages

spanish Coke

and an enclave of Spain Llivia. Both of which we could see from the car while we were driving around.

Four different languages

But looking over those three countries, instead of being grateful, all I thought was that there was a sea of people as far as the eye can see who can’t understand the words coming out of my mouth.

Instead of just French, now I was surrounded by three languages I didn’t understand. It made me feel more alone. More isolated. And I felt guilty that I was traveling and seeing the world and I wasn’t even enjoying it.

A few days of doing absolutely nothing but driving around, soaking in hot springs, walking and eating, I was finally able to relax and unwind. I was so tightly coiled I didn’t even feel the tension until it was gone. It was just me and my sweetie and that was nice. That was home.

Back to our regularly scheduled program

October 20, 2012

My Mom is doing better and her hemoglobin blood count is holding steady. We still don’t have a timeline, or any answers, but I decided to come home for a month because my ticket to California for Thanksgiving was already booked and paid for.
After dealing with the bitches at the AirFrance counter who didn’t want to give me my emergency exit row seat even though I had checked in online the day before (see what happens when I leave for too long and lose my Paris Bitch Face?) I settled into my seat for the 10.5 hour flight.
Then the plane had to turn back because it had driven over some debris on the runway. Everyone got up and we had a little fete with bottled water, and then 2.5 hours later we were on our way. The guy behind me actually screamed out OUCH like a little girl when I lowered my chair to sleep. I thought my chair was was broken because it wasn’t moving, but apparently he had his legs wedged against it. When I pushed it the second time to go all the way back he actually stood up and screamed that because I was in the emergency exit and had “all that room in front of me” that I was just “going to have to deal with it” and not recline my chair at all and then punched my seat, waking up the rest of my row. I said, “No. You’re going to have to deal with it” and pushed my chair all the way back. The sad thing is he was about 40 years old. The next morning he snarkily asked the flight attendant if he was going to feed him because the trolley was taking too long for his liking. “It’s up to you, you know”he told the attendant. What the hell?
It was so nice to come home to an apartment with an functional kitchen. Just kidding. They delivered the last of our shipment yesterday morning. So now I have an oven in the living room and a kitchen sink in the bedroom.

Maza was a hot mess from having to nap all day without me, so David came home frequently to find she had gone Dexter on her toys and left their insides all over the place.
A few days before I arrived David told me he was cleaning up his bachelor pad, but there was still a lot of evidence of it when I got here.

a door knob is not a toilet roll holder

empty fridge

sheets washed, but the bed wasn’t made

After two months of starving, I finally had a proper lunch. We went to my favorite brasserie for dinner, which is just  hole in the wall two blocks down, but the owner is an old man, and you know how I have a thing for old men. Plus the plat du jour is always good and the drinks are cheap.
We woke up to find something that gives apartment owners in France nightmares just thinking about it. The upstairs apartment is leaking into our hallway. I’m refusing to think about it because I know that this is going to turn into a big hot mess. Bienvenue chez moi. Never a dull moment.

There is already water damage from the ceiling all the way down the wall to the floor

Another Uplifting Post About Bone Cancer

September 10, 2012

Like Ella said, there is laughter during sad times. Fall on the floor pee your pants a little bit laughter. Cackles and belly laughs. During the weekends, when all three of my sisters are here, we look at old photographs and tease each other mercilessly. Lydia and I are terrible together. We tag team our victims and assault them with below the belt hits. We spent most of Saturday showing our brother in law pictures of us as kids in bathing suits and asking him why he wouldn’t shave his John Waters pedophile mustache and did he want to share with us anything about his experience being an altar boy.

The babies bob around and my Mom takes millions of videos. We are enjoying and celebrating every day and my Mom is almost 100% back to normal and going OCD in the kitchen, cleaning it from top to bottom and windexing the kitchen counters every night.  I chase her around like a toddler trying to get her to stop and take a break. Every time I turn around she is doing something super important, like scrubbing the back door or wiping off the top of the fridge. Except for the moments in the morning, when I count out pills and squirt liquid oxy into her mouth or change her pain patches, it’s easy to forget that she is sick.

I’m so angry I could hop out of the car and beat the shit out of the person who honks at us when my Mom takes too long to pull into the suicide lane. I’m calm on the outside, but I could scratch the eyes out of anyone who even looks at her wrong. I want to freeze this moment in time and never leave. I think if I pray to a god I don’t believe in, or scream at the top of my lungs that my Mom does not deserve this, a miracle will happen.

But most of the time, it’s just beautiful moments that fall together organically, exquisite and simple and full of joy. 

Luckily, my step-dad is a doctor, so we don’t have to worry about dealing with the hot mess of figuring out what’s going on and what our best options are. But no one bothered to tell them that the blood she gets in her transfusions  is not covered, so they got a huge bill they weren’t expecting. We are organizing a blood drive so in the future they won’t have that problem, but when I told David he was livid. He started talking about lawyers and appealing it and googling health forums. It was so naively cute and French. Here in America we just shrug and say how thankful we are that our $3000 a month premium covers most of it.

Before the treatment made her so sick, there was no talk about life expectancy. But even if she didn’t have a blood disorder with an 11th chromosome deletion, something so rare that there isn’t much research on it, it’s not a long time. My little Countess Bathory/vampire can only drink other peoples blood for so long. The clocks in the house tick tick tick incessantly counting down the moments we have left. The world feels different now.

I’m glad I had that terrifying cave adventure. That feels like a cake walk compared to this. And I got through it. I had no choice. And I will get through this.

The fear and pain and anger and sadness brew inside my chest and make it hard to breathe. The first week the tears just dripped and dropped like sweat so much I hardly noticed them. Every good moment was bittersweet.

And my sweet husband feels so far away. I always get a bad feeling when I leave Paris. Like I won’t be able to come back. Like I will wake up and realize it was all a dream. I’m not lonely but I miss him and it makes me appreciate him now more than ever. He has never once asked me when I am coming home. He calms me down and watches me ugly cry over gchat. He puts the camera on Maza so he can pet her and make her purr and tease me about how happy his cat is without me there and how he told her all about how I’ve been taking my Mom’s dog to the dog park twice a day and now she will never sleep on my side of the bed.

Mostly I just feel lucky. Really, really lucky.

And to end this on a high note, here is a video of Max explaining what a floop is. I think she might grow up to be a comedian, just like her Daddy.

A floop is when you fart and a little bit of poop comes out

And here is a song I found on Left Bank Manc

Until we get back to our regularly scheduled program at ? Arrondissment, this will tide you over. It’s a hilarious account of an au pair in Paris with a curious case of Money Pores. I think most twenty somethings have it.


September 1, 2012

I’m homesick. I’m sick of being here.

I’m not really into seeing my friends either, since the more I explain why I’m here, the more real it becomes. But I’m restless. That’s the thing about being an expat. You don’t fit in the foreign city you adopt, and eventually you don’t fit in the home town you left. But I love my Mom’s house. Even though she moved in right before I left for France, and it’s an hour away from Sacramento, it still feels like home to me.

Press play on all three videos. This is what it sounds like in my head right now.

I haven’t really left the house in two weeks except to go to the dog park, the hospital or to get groceries. I have hardly talked to my husband, much less anyone else.
My Mom is doing better but not well enough for me to go home for ten days while my friend visits, so while she is in Paris, David is coming here. I feel bad, but she’s a smart girl and she has her boyfriend with her, and she knows how to get around in unfamiliar cities.
We tore out the front yard completely, and are going to start again with all new plants. We had a house full of college kids here yesterday helping us. The yard has been driving my mom crazy since she moved in, so seeing it getting done is making her happy. So maybe instead of a Paris blog about renovating an apartment in the 15th arrondissement, this might be a gardening blog in Stanislaus County for a while. I can only hope.

This is not where I’m supposed to be

August 21, 2012

I should be in Northern France, in Stella, at David’s moms house. I had train tickets. I have all sorts of tickets and plans coming up. Israel, Amsterdam, my friend coming in September, mysteriously elusive kitchen cupboards to sign for and install, dates to go home for Thanksgiving. All sorts of plans, all sorts of things I was supposed to do. I have the documentation to prove it. Lots of bits and pieces of paper explaining the next few months of my life.

Why am I back in California?

Two years is tough to swallow. Two years is not enough time. And when two years shrinks to months to weeks, well how do you swallow that? I can’t live in Paris, I can’t live in California. I can’t live anywhere in the world if my mom isn’t here with me.

I powered through the 24 hours I had to pack. I can do that. I’ve packed a million times. Plus when you go home, you don’t really need to bring anything. I focused on charging stuff and collecting wires and iPods and passports and american dollars. Logistics to and from the airports. I held it together and didn’t read anymore emails until I got into my sisters car in San Francisco.

And now my jet lag buffer is fading and reality is knocking at my door. I don’t know how long I’ll stay. I’m starting to think, hope, it may be for a while. But the child in me is hoping that I can go home, use some of those tickets, go back to my even keeled life and return in November. And my mom will come bursting out of the door and bear hug me for minutes on the front porch, and then bustle around in the kitchen bombarding me with drinks and food and candy.

But reality pounds and bangs until I pay attention, and tells me, I’m going to be here longer than I thought. And come November, everything will be different.

We’ve already gone through losing our dad suddenly. (Oh yes, now it’s we, not me. Now my sisters and I can get along. Now we can love each other. Now we can put aside our differences). I always thought if I had a chance to say good bye, one last hug, it would have been easier. Now that I’m an adult, I understand that it’s not easier, it’s just different.  I have the opportunity to say…. say what? The last hug will still be the last hug, even if I know it’s the last.

I’m so pissed and angry and I don’t understand. I just don’t understand how it could get this bad so fast. I don’t understand how someone so important, so kind, so generous could exist one day but not the next. But I do understand, I’ve been here before, I know just what’s ahead of me.


August 20, 2012

We launched boats

and jumped of cliffs 

and clipped carabiners onto a wire that took us through a obstacle course in the treetops. There was no turning back once we started. There was no way to unclip and say, “Ok. That’s it. I’ve had enough fear for the day” and get down. We had to keep going until we reached the end of the wire,  no matter what crazy nonsense we were facing. But nothing could have prepared me for the cave trip on our last day.

We arrived at 9 a.m. and we were outfitted in a jumpsuit, big clunky rubber boots, gloves and a helmet with a light. How cute, I thought. Just like real cave explorers.

As our guide explained to the eight of us what our adventure entailed, he said something about it lasting three hours. David, Regis and I looked at each other and shrugged.

“Welcome in France” is what David says every time something like this happens. I was secretly happy. Like most things I’ve done that turned out horribly “character building” I hadn’t really thought this through, and 8 hours hundreds of feet underground wasn’t sounding as fun as it had a year ago when we heard about the off trail tour. Last year we went to the cave on a rainy day, not expecting anything special. It was insane. Like a Harry Potter movie. We marched down steep steps for an hour and it kept getting better and better. The first room alone is a hundred feet high and 300 feet wide.

Our group clumped down into the cave and stepped over the rail, off the cement trail for the normal guided tours and onto the actual rocks. Fancy pants.

Ten feet into it was a metal ladder, not as wide as a normal ladder which was propped up on some boulders. We had to turn around in our clunky boots and step on to it backwards to climb down, and once at the bottom  we had to step and turn and jump in a specific way to get off the boulders. It was wet and muddy and dark and slippery and I wanted to die. As I waited impatiently for my turn so I could get it over with I cursed myself over and over again for getting myself into this mess, because I had no one to blame but me. This was all MY idea.

I made it down alive and we started at a brisk pace hiking, crouching, crawling and sliding down stagalites. A few feet away was a drop off of about thirty feet. After a few steps I thanked my lucky stars that it was only going to be three hours long because I was absolutely terrified. Imagine a craggy iceberg, with a thin layer of mud, which you are trying to get climb down in pitch black darkness with rain boots on and a small head lamp to guide you. I felt like any moment I would step wrong and slip over the edge.

After a few hours of hiking up and mostly down we reached a small metal grate. I assumed it was an air vent and looked around frantically trying to spot the door that would release me from this hellish experience. Then our tour guide popped it open and instructed us to crawl though it. After that, it just kept getting worse. The tunnels got smaller and smaller, until I found myself on my stomach, following a pair of boots kicking in front of my face, with my chin scraping the rocks below me and my helmet scraping the rocks above me, only able to raise up enough to pull myself though using my fingers and forearms. I tried to forget that I was in a tiny crevasse with tons of rocks going up 300 feet above me and prayed and prayed that today was not the day there was a cave in.

We finally stopped for lunch and our guide laid down two white paper tablecloths (so French). At first the eight of us sat in silence with our sandwiches and water. It’s really silent underground. I know David, Regis and I were a little shellshocked. This was seriously dangerous, difficult and scary and we had been going very fast with only one short break for water. After a while the group started chatting while I surreptitiously looked around for the door. Surely it had been three hours by now?!? All I could see in the measly beam of my headlamp was another drop off five feet from us. This one was about 70 feet down, and we had walked along it on a tiny muddy ledge about two feet wide.

Then I overheard something that made my blood run cold. We were going to be down here until 4 or 4:30, and it was only 12 o’clock. My stupid ass had once again bit off more than I could chew and gotten myself into a place I didn’t like being. I was crawling out of my skin. And there was no one else who could help me. There were no emergency exits. No shortcuts. My little feet had carried me down into this cavernous cave, and my little feet were the only thing that could get me out.

In the impregnable darkness, in the belly of the beast, I kept telling myself, “You can do this.” And I had to believe it because that was the only way I was going to get through it.

The sad thing is that even though I was in one the largest, most beautiful caves in the world, crawling over 15,000 year old staglamites, using the knobby small ones for hauling myself up or as a foot hold for sliding down, I was so worried about surviving I couldn’t relax and enjoy the environment, which is pretty much what it’s like to live in France. Sometimes I get so caught up struggling to find my footing, I forget to admire the view.

We emerged 4 hours later, covered in mud and bruises with shaky legs. I felt like I had accomplished something huge. I would have never done it if I had known what it entailed, but I was proud that I had survived. I will never, ever do it again, but I will certainly go back and admire the beauty from the safety of the cement sidewalk. 

France – The Last Days

July 29, 2012

*I’m on vacation, hopefully far away from a computer, so my blog is going on vacation too, back to May 2008, during my first trip to France with my shiny brand new passport and my shiny brand new French boyfriend. This was my first trip abroad and I’m surprised David didn’t dump me when we got home*

Apparently I got bored blogging about my trip to France so I never finished.  If you are bored at this point too, don’t worry, this is the last post.

Here are the pictures of Mont Saint-Michel.  Which really needs no words anyway. It’s still one of my favorite places to visit in France.

very funny, David

Maza loved it too. She didn’t want to leave.

I assume after this, we went back to Rennes and got our stuff and got on a plane because I spent the next year and a half in California before moving to Paris. I think we flew out of Lille? Who knows. 
I do know that David tried to make it up to Maza for leaving her for almost two weeks with catnip and cat grass. Didn’t work.

France Day 12 – Pink Granite Coast

July 28, 2012

*I’m on vacation, hopefully far away from a computer, so my blog is going on vacation too, back to May 2008, during my first trip to France with my shiny brand new passport and my shiny brand new French boyfriend. This was my first trip abroad and I’m surprised David didn’t dump me when we got home*

Our final road trip in a car was to the coast of Bretegne which is famous for having tons of pink granite. It was lovely, but too cold to swim. And of course, I forgot my bathing suit at David’ s friends house. The last place we are going, Mont Saint Michel, doesn’t have elevators and it’s built on a mountain so we left almost everything in Rennes.

The hotel bumped us up to a better room because there was a convention and they wanted the whole floor to themselves.
The view totally sucked.


The scale in the bathroom was the best part. It told me I had lost ten pounds. I knew it was just a marketing trick to make me fall in love with the hotel, but I fell for it anyway. I knew it was exaggerating and lying to me, but it was ok. I’ll pretend to believe.
Truth be told, I did weigh myself when I got home and because of all the freakin’ walking and dragging of overpacked suitcases and never ending stair master mountain I had lost six pounds. Yay France.
I sulked for a while (ok a long time) because I wanted to go swimming in the indoor pool. Finally I sucked it up, put on a blue and white polka dot underwear set that was the closest thing I had to a bathing suit, covered up with a robe and went down to the pool to see if anyone was there. No one was so I jumped in. Swimming alone in my underwear in a fancy hotel was way more uncomfortable than swimming naked with 500 strangers.
We had crepes for dinner. There was an elderly couple across from us and the husband was so kind to her. You could tell he still loved her very much. It was sweet, and at that second I would have traded places with her in a heart beat.
I don’t know if it was the bed or I was just really tired, but I fell asleep and slept for 12 straight wonderful hours. I think Rosemary was right. Two weeks is the perfect amount of time for Europe. It’s not as relaxing as I thought it was going to be. All this traveling unpacking and packing and picking out what to wear and what to eat and when to eat is actually work. Much more of this and I would need a week on the beach to recover. Preferable a nude beach so I won’t have to worry about what to pack.