Monday, April 14, 2014

Je vous en prie

Merci. MERCI. merci. Merci. Merci.

We all know how to say "thank you" in French, right?

Of course! Whether or not we have the accent right, we see that word all the time. It is like "très chic" or "très passé" depending on how old your daughter is and whether she is into Fancy Nancy, (which we totally are).

That was one word I didn't need to learn when I moved here. But the weird thing that I realized today is: I have lived her for over four years and I still say the wrong thing for "you're welcome".

I am not sure why in French class I was taught to say "de rien" as a form of "you're welcome." Perhaps that is what they say more often in Canada? Someone might know the answer to that one. I don't. When I first got here every time I said "merci" people would come back to me with this mumble jumble that started with "je" and ended with what I thought sounded like "grand pri". Like the care race thing.

I finally swallowed my pride one day and asked my friend, "What the HECK are they saying and why doesn't it sound like "de rien"?"

She laughed. "They always say "Je vous en prie", not "de rien".

She then told me of a few more cases of words we learned in school that the common French person does not use in every day life. I can't remember them. Because I was too busy in my mind trying to remember to say "je vous en prie" the next time I heard a "merci" coming my way.

That was three years and a half ago. One time I did say "Je vous en prie" but not after hesitating to remember the phrase and by the time I got it out of my mouth the person was gone, probably mumbling to themselves how rude foreigners are...

I just have that stupid "de rien" in my head. But I am determined to change. And to let word out: Don't learn "De rien" because it is good for "de rien" (nothing). Just learn it right the first time and you won't be the rude foreigner like me!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Working out at home

  Hello, everybody. My name is Kat and I like working out. At home. In fact it is becoming a bit of an addiction. And everything was going fine, I could control it, until I dropped the kettlebell on the floor and it went through my neighbor's ceiling. I invited her to come up and workout with me. I even suggested that we could hang a rope from my apartment into her's and practice our rope climbing skills. It is something I haven't yet tried. But she said no. And told me to stop jumping around as I was damaging the ceiling even more. And then she made me pay to have it fixed. While the guy was repairing the floor in my "gym" I took my workouts to the living room. That is when I learned that it isn't so much slippery, sweaty fingers and the long fingernails that I was trying out that made me slip up with the kettlebell. It smashed right into the flatscreen the day of the big soccer game. My husband left me around that time. 
  It has taken me a few more weeks, but I am here now to get some help. 
  Anyone want to watch my kids? I need to workout and, well, while I have cut my fingernails down, I am trying to be more responsible. I can stop anytime, really. It is just that I don't want to stop. I just need my kids to be taken care of while I try to do my HIIT routine!

Okay, just kidding. But I am going to give you a count down on why I love to workout at home. I used to complain about it and now I am loving it. Besides being able to use a wider variety of weights at the gym, I am not sure why anyone would pay these days to go there! Here is my take.

1. I can shower at home without having to look sweaty and gross to the outside world. In fact, no one sees how much I sweat except for my children. Okay, I don't have air conditioning, but those who have it here in France use it so poorly that I high doubt that is argument enough to go to a gym and use their wart infested showers.

 2. No makeup. Too much makeup. Half makeup. Doesn't matter because my girls are, again, the only ones who see me! Call me 30 but I totally understand the women who wear makeup to the gym, no matter how strange it sounds! When you are 20 you don't need it. 30? Well, this raccoon eyes don't get better with sweat dripping down them, let's just leave it at that!

 3. I can wear what I want, and not have to match. In fact, on a laundry day you might just catch me working out in my boy short underwear and maternity bra. Sexy, I know.

4. I can drink water for free without having to practically lick a water fountain to get it. And if I forget my bottle, I just jog to the kitchen and grab a drink. ALL FOR FREE!

5. I don't have to pack a gym bag, then unpack it or find that I forgot and pull out sweaty, molding clothes three days later.....

6. Looking like a dork, while optional, is not something to be embarrassed about. I hate any little hairs in my face so this is usually what my hair looks like while I work out. With maybe a few more clips added throughout the workout!

7. Any kind of class I want at the time I want it! Gyms have a schedule to keep. I can make my own schedule. Which brings us to number 8

8. youtube is an awesome resource for free workout videos. Try fitnessblender, blogilates, befit, or thedialyhiit. Those are my faves.

9. It is easier to fit it into my day since I don't have to calculate going to the gym, changing, showering, coming home etc.

10. I can try somethings out all by myself without feeling like a complete failure in front of people. Let's just say that with my dance background my zumba should be a lot better than it is.....and no, I will not be trying it again. I almost dislodged my hip the first time.

What about you, do you workout at home? Any good sites or advice or new things to try???

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Copy, Paste

 This week at Mama Kat's Losin It workshop one of the prompts was to paste the last thing on your clipboard into the blogpost. This is what showed up on mine:
   In the last year Kayla dropped out of school, lost four jobs and got kicked out of her apartment landing her back home. The latest events in her life leave her searching for a way to stop being a failure, but she seems unable to stop herself from destructive behavior. Back home Kayla has a hard time adjusting surrounded by others who seem to have it all together. Her behavior becomes chaotic as it was in high school before her nervous breakdown and everyone starts to worry it is happening again. Her friends Brian and Cali recommend she forgive herself for her sort-comings and get professional help, but Kayla ignores them. The last thing she wants is someone inside her head. She continues to pretend she is fine all by herself, not realizing that her problems are seen by everyone and no longer hiding.
            Things get tense when Kayla says she saw her father. Brian and Kayla's brother, Kevin, have to remind her that he died six months earlier. Once they show her evidence that he is really dead Kayla hopes to finally find peace, but instead her nightmares and hellish memories come back. The fear they cause makes her behavior worse than before. Kayla's friend Sandra believes that she will not find peace until she is able to forgive her father for whatever he did to her; a suggestion that sends Kayla into a rage.
             After too many instances of strange behavior Kayla's mom takes her to an inpatient facility and suggests she stays there until she is able to function properly. Once there Kayla reveals to her therapist that her father molested her as far back as she can remember culminating in him raping her four years earlier. To her surprise, while it felt good for her to let out the secret, she still doesn't feel healed. Even so, Kayla stays at the facility in an attempt to find peace. Unfortunately that hope is shattered the day that her family comes to visit. Kevin steals Kayla's diary and shares it with their mother. The two of them confront her about her accusations. They tell her to either repent for her lies or never come back to them again.
            Kayla leaves the clinic and her family behind, managing to get by for a few months. When Brian finally finds her he can't believe her fake smile and claims that everything is fine as she looks like a lost lamb wandering without hope. He offers to take her in, scared what she will do to herself, but while Kayla accepts his friendship she refuses to allow him to get too close or help her. Sandra also stands by Kayla, giving her food and friendship, with the hope that she will someday find her way to forgiveness. Nothing seems to convince Kayla to stop her destructive behavior until one day when she wanders into a soup kitchen, exhausted and malnourished. Listening to a story of another abuse victim Kayla's eyes are opened. Eventually it is the unconditional love her friends show for her, as messed up as she is, and the embrace of other abuse victims that brings Kayla the hope of a future. All she needs is a little help from those who have been there before her, and the strength to finally forgive her father, her family and herself.
 A bit long of a copy and paste but I swear this is what came up! This is my short summary for my novel that I sent off to a trusted person who is going to help me slim it down even more and make it into a 200 word query letter. It is not easy, let me tell you! Think book report of the olden days, but super short and yet still good enough to make an agent want to read more. It is hard work, though more hard work in the head as there isn't really any heavy lifting.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The few we have

She is six and a half and for a year now she'd be living on the streets.

I look around me as I run around town, stopping to catch my breath at the thought. How would she survive? What would she do all day long? How would she eat? Where would she sleep? Would she cry to herself every night? How would she fend off evil people trying to take advantage of her? Would anyone care?

I know the answers. She would spend the days hungry and the nights being cold. When she is sick there would be no one to caress her head. There is little chance she would survive life without becoming a drug addict or exploited for sex. There is little chance she would survive at all.

Sometimes I think about it and tears fill my eyes.

When Principe showed me the video from youtube he raised his eyebrows at my tears. I am not a cryer. Never have been.

But five years old and homeless? Somehow he survived, but you can tell from his demeanor that he is a bit of a shell. I wonder how he did it. I think of what he must have gone through and seen during his ten years as a child on the street. I want to write his story and then read the lines over and over again in order to remember. I want to give him a hug and adopt him even though he is now an adult.

"You will always have the poor" Jesus said. It always sounded a bit...cheeky to me, honestly. But I think he must have said it with a shake of his head as he watched this selfish human race dash about their daily lives. It is a shame that in this day and age we certainly still do have the poor. And that is because Christians sit around and talk about how much they would give to the poor "if they won the lottery" or "if they get that big pay raise". What is worse is when they talk about how much someone else should be giving to the poor.

All of this talk, talk, talk instead of giving the few dollars they could set aside now. I wonder how many dollars it would have taken for that boy to eat every day. Probably not many.

I look at Queenie now and then I image her as a scared little six year old hunched over on a dirty, cold city street crying with fear at the big world around her. And I wonder how many are actually out there. Too many. More than the number of tears that swell our motherly eyes as we hear such stories. Too many for this age of technology. Just think if we would find a charity we liked and gave the few dollars we could put aside. Just those few, but consistently. Couldn't we make the world a better place?

Lost passport

 The year was 2003 and Principe and I had recently arrived at our house for the year in San Diego, California. Principe was doing a year abroad there and I followed him. We were going to rock it out in Cali. I was ready.

Our trip to Tijuana was legendary. Not for what happened while there. In fact, I have no recollection of that. It is famous for what happened right before hand. Because it was the second day for our two Spanish roommates and that afternoon was to be the first of many hilarious stories about one of them.

During the day we gradually got more and more excited about going to Tijuana. We were newbies and had no idea what we were going to do there, but the newness was exciting. We were all dressed up, getting some dinner together, when Jorge* came upstairs.

"I can't go," he said in Spanish. "I can't find my passport. In fact, I really have to go back to the library. I have to go back and see if I left a few books there. Maybe it is where my passport was. Because I had it today to make a photocopy and then I can't remember if I brought it back or maybe I left it. Oh, my god! It is going to be stolen, won't it? Where do I have to go to get a new one? I shouldn't even bother going to the library. But I should go in case, right? But it won't be there. Someone already stole it."

  He rambled a bit longer until I practically dragged him out to my car and told him to get in. I heard him say thank you about 100 times before we drove the five minute drive to campus. I hadn't stopped the car yet before he flew through the door and ran Bolt style down the campus sidewalk. I stood outside, leaning against my cool, grey Ford Taurus, wishing I could afford said campus for about ten minutes before I saw Jorge coming towards me with a HUGE smile on his face. Exactly at the place where he left his books was his passport AND.....the envelope of scholarship money he had not yet noticed losing.

My jaw dropped to the floor. Holy cow, who is this guy? I thought.

We told the hilarious story to our roommates and while they laughed they were more anxious that Jorge get ready more than anything. Stories could be told in the car ON THE WAY TO TIJUANA.

Ten minutes later Jorge comes back upstairs. This time dressed, but says the same thing, "I can't go."

"Why not?" asks Principe.

"I lost my passport again. I know it is in my room, but with all the unpacking I have to do I can't find it!"

We ended up going without him. He ended up finding his passport two days later and giving it to the rather responsible Spanish roommate whom we ended up dubbing "Abuelo" (grandpa). And he never lost it again that entire year!
Our San Diego roommates....and a few friends!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

No reason for negativity

I had an epiphany the other day. You could say a light bulb went on in my head (those little buggers start at 7Euro here, BTW, are they that expensive back home??). It was as if all the grey in the world was whisked away by the Toulouse wind. My world got a little brighter. Due to the light bulb, I'm guessing.

   Anyway, I was listening to Joyce Meyers, all intense and set on listening in order to change my life when she said, "There really is no good reason for negativity."

   And I was all.......hmmmmmmm. No good comes from negativity. Is that true? I thought about it for a few more seconds because the light bulb was one of those energy saving bulbs and then I went "Ha!"

  Nothing good comes from negativity.

  Lately Firecracker has been a real handful. I am talking two tantrums a day and even the rain makes her on edge sort of handful. Turning four is tough I guess. As is watching her sister get attention from learning to walk, maybe. And chatterbox (that is the baby), while super cute with her chubby legs walking around (or falling while flailing her legs about, as we like to describe it) is teething and crabby about not being allowed to chew on the tablet. Sometimes I have two yelling and screaming at me at the same time. And sometimes, while it is rather unusual, sometimes Queenie joins them in a holler about not wanting to learn to read or screaming that she will "NEVER, NOT EVER GO TO SLEEP!"

  And then there is the bit about Principe not coming home ever until ten o'clock at night. Every. Single. Week. Day. He leaves at 8:40 and comes back around 10. There are nights he comes home later. But there is rarely a night he comes home earlier. And by earlier I mean he comes home at 8.

  Of course there is also the part about me getting about 8 hours of work done a week that also eats at me. It is incredible how quickly the day goes by. And how tired I am by the end of it. Right now I am sitting between three mountains of laundry. Principe asked me what the hold up was on his ironed shirts. And I still have to make some birthday invitations and party decorations. I will be organized some day even if it kills me.

  And of course there are those pesky things called breakfast, lunch and dinner that crazily enough need to be prepared Every DAY! I know!

  There is quite a bit to be crazed out, stressed and down right negative. I could probably fill every second with a gripe or moan about something. Like the pen marks on the carpet or the fact that Firecracker just can't seem to obey anything these days or that my kitchen floor is sticky. Again. I hate sticky floors.

  But it won't do any good. No good at all.

  I thought about that during the day and then, as I was rushing out the door to get the girls from school I read a text that caught my breath: J* just passed away.

  It was a second before I could compose myself but when I tried to call Principe I couldn't talk. Thankfully I didn't see anyone at school and was able to quickly rush away with my teary eyes unnoticed.
  J* lost his battle to cancer. He fought so long and hard and then lost.

  I was very good friends with him, but we hung out a few times and as our friendship circles intertwined we ended up at two weddings in Europe with J*. He was always so easy going. So happy. Living life how he wanted. Moving from China to Spain back to California. He was the epitome of California. Just really cool.

  And then it hit me again: there is no reason for negativity. No good comes from it. Because, in the end, this is the only life we get, and who wants to live it being negative? Of course there is a time to mourn, I'm not saying that. But that aside when it comes to the daily grind, we should leave each day behind with a smile on our face. Because the one thing we can't get back is yesterday. We can't even get back an hour ago. A second ago. What is the point in spending, wasting really, our time griping and complaining, being mad or frustrated or annoyed. It isn't an easy habit to get out of. Especially when a four year old suddenly decides she needs mom to stand outside the potty door every time she pees now. I have better things to do than give in to her separation anxiety, don't I? Or do I? Because is getting dinner on the table five minutes from now more important than making sure my four year old knows I love her enough to stand outside the potty door while she pees? Probably not. Because we can eat in 6 minutes, too. No?

  The light bulb is still on. And as it is energy saving I expect it to last quite awhile. At least until I have to stop repeating to myself "there is no reason for negativity." But I know one thing: I will change. And I will see everything as positive every single day. And I will not lose more time doing something that will gain me nothing.

The first few seconds of this video show why I have deemed her "Chatterbox". She does this all day long.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Through the eyes of an expat

There are several blogs out there written by an expat. One blog in Spanish became really popular in 2013 when a Spanish woman moved to Germany and started blogging about her life there. She can pen a great read and have you spitting your juice over the coffee table at her tales of a hot-blooded Spanish woman living in the efficient, cold-blooded Germanic country. The only problem is that when you take the humor away she was just constantly criticizing the country and its people about everything. Even though it got a bit tiring for me, she is coming out with a book so that isn't the case for many people.

The thing is that it is easy to criticize another country. We all do it all the time. One of the crosses an expat has to bear is hearing about their mother country from the eyes of outsiders. Especially during elections! Gah! Opinions run wild and news in the host country can go so far as to outright lie. It can be exhausting to listen to and try to defend.

It goes the other way too, though, and expats have to be careful, mostly when around other expats, not to mistake human nature for a societal flaw.

Like the time a friend of mine was driving home, almost to her house, only to be blocked by a delivery truck who couldn't have cared less about the traffic he was blocking. I was proud of her when she said she finally got out of her car and in broken French asked the guy to move over so she could be on time to pick up her daughter. The guy was a jerk though and it took another driver calling the police for the delivery man to move over. And then my friend did the easy thing: she blamed the whole experience on how rude the French are. Now, I do question the French theory that they are the most polite of all Europeans (and in their opinion WAY more polite than Americans) based on some observations of my own. For example the fact that they constantly butt in line at the metro. Or they never want to give up a seat on the bus or metro even to a pregnant lady. They won't get out of the way for a stroller. They refuse to pick up their dog's feces even if it is at a child's park.....

But back to my friend. I asked her if it was possible that the guy was just a jerk? Of course she said yes. But it didn't change her opinion of the French.

It did however change my perspective on how I was talking about and drinking in my experience in France. During my first year in Spain I had a hard time coming to grasp certain differences in the culture. Much had to do with my disillusionment in job hunting, getting a job and then the company dissolving and then being pregnant while jobless and basically friendless in a big city. Needless to say I had a lot of time on my hand to find things to criticize.

While it may sound asinine to say, I reinstated in myself that day that ALL COUNTRIES AND CULTURES ARE DIFFERENT. That even goes for the Western, modern countries where everyone dresses like we dress in the States (if not better) and lives in house and has electricity and running water. While in the back of our head's we all know that every is different, but when we see that we all dress alike and are all addicted to our iphones or androids there is a push inside us to believe that we are really all the same. Humans may be the same, but cultures are not. And when you decide to live in a different culture you are going to find out just how different they are from you. And there will be oh so many things to easily pick on.

But picking on them just might ruin your stay. If you say it often enough you start believing it, right? So keeping that in mind when looking at the other culture, I tell myself to try not to openly criticize all the time, but perhaps step back and see it from a different angle. In the end, my culture isn't right about everything. And their culture doesn't have it all wrong. Is is possible that we could learn from each other? Of course, once we stop rolling our eyes!

I'm looking in the mirror here!

Have you ever had an experience with another culture? Was it good or bad? Was it what you expected?


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