Friday, June 29, 2007

vivi gets a job

Well, it's not a real job. I mean, I am making a little money, but it's not...

Wait. Let me start over.

About a year ago, a friend of my family contacted me to ask if I'd be interested in doing some freelance work. She herself had been so successful freelancing that she actually had too much work, and was exploring creating a team of writers and after reading a big of my blog (thank you, internet!), she decided that I could indeed string a few sentences together and would I like to be on the team? I said yes, of course, and never heard from her again.

Until last week.

Turns out she was waiting for authorization from her clients to contract out some of the work, which she got last week. I got my first batch of assignments and have been pulling my hair out ever since.

So, I'm freelancing. Some people call it technical writing, but that's kind of a misnomer because I'm not especially writing about computers or codes. I just have to become a mini expert about some subject and then write about it before moving on to the next subject.

So basically, I write term papers for a living.

I'm not going to lie to you, the first week was ridiculously hard. I was too slow and bit off more than I could chew and for a while there I really thought I'd lost the job immediately after I started it. I'm starting to get into a rhythm now and things are flowing a bit more smoothly. Now I just need to keep up the momentum. This is the first time I've worked in over three years, so admittedly I'm a bit rusty. I've been writing every day for the last ten days and already I find myself having to walk away from the computer for an hour or so to let my hands rest and my eyes uncross. But, I'm getting into a routine and slowly, things are falling into place.

Stéph has been an awesome cheerleader and I'm thrilled to finally be able to contribute something. It's starting to look like the possibility of us actually going on a real vacation on our own this year - which we haven't been able to do since we were married - is getting closer to reality. With that goal in mind, it's a bit easier to spur myself on.

I don't know if I'm going to do this forever, but for the foreseeable future, I'm going to give it everything I've got. Obviously, I can't tell you everything about my job, but just know that I'm busy, but I'm happy. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to work. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a little sighseeing and a birthday wish

Monday I hopped on a bus and went north, up to the city of Reims, to meet up with Oiseau Anglais. We had an excellent lunch, followed by a little stroll through town. I'd been to Reims only twice before but hadn't had the chance to peek inside the cathedral, so Mme Oiseau graciously took me on a little tour.

Notre Dame de Reims

This is the place where French kings were crowned, so you know, it has just a little bit of historical importance. After World War I, it was nearly bombed into oblivion, but luckily the locals knew what an important treasure they had, as they quickly set about restoring it. The inside is just as lovely as the exterior:

chagall glass

While we walked around the cathedral, Mme Oiseau pointed out the Carnegie Library:


Our own Andrew Carnegie donated the money to build this after World War I. Isn't it lovely? Too bad it was closed; Oiseau tells me it's just as lovely on the inside.

All too soon, it was time to get back on the bus and head home. I really had a wonderful time getting to know Oiseau and I'm looking forward to our next visit!

tippy top

In other news, today is my sister's birthday!! I love you Junior, and I hope you have a most excellent day!

Monday, June 25, 2007

a clue to my current state of mind

I just got back from a really wonderful afternoon in Reims, getting to know a really lovely English Bird, and have only just realized that I've been wearing two completely different dangly earrings all day.

I'm afraid my new friend, and anyone else that noticed my "interesting" choice of accessories, must now assume that I am completely schizo.

Details coming soon.

Friday, June 22, 2007

a quiet fête de la musique

Yesterday was la fête de la musique, or musical festival, which was an all night event that happened in towns all over France. All of them, it seems, except mine. Elle ne bouge pas trop, notre ville, as they say, or in other words, our town is not exactly a rock n roll, happening place. I had a little compensation, however, because I was flipping through the tv stations last night and found the opera La Fille du Regiment on the Arte channel. I missed most of the first act but I was just in time for Dawn French's entrance at the top of the second act. As soon as she appeared, I was thinking, "Is it? Could it be her?" But of course!

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Nicked from here

She was high-larious and I enjoyed the hell out of that opera. Stéph knew I was loving it because I kept him awake guffawing at the television. Oh well. I had to get my music in somehow!

Well I'd love to tell you more, but you see I have a little thing called A Job now, but you wouldn't be interested in that, would you? *evil laugh* But seriously, I'm very excited to be working from home but I've got a big assignment due Monday which I actually need to finish Sunday because Monday I'm running away for the afternoon for a long, long overdue visit with a nice English bird. As soon as I can get a break from running around in circles I'll tell you all about it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

less of me to love

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you probably already know that we've been trying to start a family for about a year and a half now. I always knew that I'd have trouble getting pregnant since I was diagnosed with PCOS about eight years ago. I had every symptom except the cyst part, which showed up last year, and we've been working on that issue ever since. For about six months, we tried to get the cysts to go away with medication, and while they have reduced in size, they're still bigger than the doctor likes. He would have liked to remove them, but there was one problem: I kept gaining weight. As long as I'm overweight, he told me, the cysts will only come right back. The only solution? Lose 20 kilos (44 pounds).

My reaction?

You son of a bitch! How dare you tell me I'm overweight! Do you have any idea what I've been through for the past three years? Are you trying to tell me that fat women can't get pregnant? Haven't you heard all those stories about those fat women who thought they had a stomach ache and turns out they were in labor? GOSH!

Of course, that's what I said on the inside. On the outside, I thanked the doctor and went home and made an appointment with a dietitian.

I knew I needed to lose weight. I mean, I DO have a mirror in my own home. I just take pains to avoid it, is all. And God knows I feel terrible and I'm busting out of all my clothes. If you ever need a reality check, just go shopping for "plus size" clothing in France. That will straighten your ass out pretty quick. Obviously, I just avoided the whole issue by not buying clothes for... well, ever, really.

So I went to see the dietitian. I showed her the results of my last blood work and told her what my goals were and she wrote me up a strict but healthy diet. My biggest problem is that my blood sugar levels were extremely high - diabetes runs in my family and I nearly added my name to the list. So out goes all the good things like dessert and alcohol and even my fruit intake is limited.

Well, it's been two months now and I'm not going to lie to you, it hasn't been easy. Of course, I'm allowed to bend the rules a bit for parties and get-togethers, but I have to jump right back on the diet train just after. But the truth is, the good outweighs the bad - I'm sleeping better, my clothes are fitting better and I even have the energy to walk around more than I did before.

I had my two month check up today, and I'm pleased to report that I've lost five kilos since the end of April. That's nearly eleven pounds. I am very pleased with my progress. As much as I'd like to hurry up and get this behind me so I can work on the plumbing again, I'm content with the slow rate I'm losing weight, which is the best way to keep it off. So yeah, there's less of me to love, but I think I'm pretty ok with that.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

zoned out

I guess that pretty much sums me up right now. Despite the fact that I did have a couple of days of activity this week babysitting my niece, for the most part it's been more of the same - knitting, trying to inspire myself to do some much-needed housecleaning, grocery shopping, etc. Stéph is burning the candle at both ends as the end of the school year approaches, preparing to change schools again (but still in the same town, thank goodness!) which means more meetings and pre-planning for next year, plus sitting on a judge's panel for third-level oral exams in Troyes, not to mention peeling his own students off the ceiling as they're as ready for summer vacation as he is. He's already been to the doctor once for what turned out to be a stress related illness and I'll just be happy when the school year ends in three weeks for his sake.

There are a few very exciting things kind of swirling around in the background, but for now they remain Great Big Maybes so I'm hesitant to write about them, if for no other reason than I'm afraid I'll jinx myself. This is actually something I've been struggling with for a couple of months now: To Post or Not to Post. Stéph and I have made some really huge life changing decisions in the last couple of months and while we've talked about it with some friends face to face, I've really been gun shy about writing about it here. Maybe because once I write about it, it's Out There and it's like an open invitation to watch me fall flat on my face? Or, on the other hand, it's an open invitation to have you guys cheering me on, like you all have done so generously in the past. And isn't that why we blog in the first place? It's all well and good to say that we're just journaling our lives, but isn't it the feedback that keeps us coming back? I'm afraid that if I keep playing my cards so close to my chest, I'm not going to have anything left to write about except the weather and my latest knitting project. I'm not going to lie to you, I wouldn't even read that. So give me a little bit of time to figure all this out. At least I've been tagged for a couple of memes (one was over a month ago but I haven't forgotten!) so I can at least keep writing while I'm contemplating my navel.

And there is some good news - summer break means vacation! We haven't made a final decision on where we're going yet. We've been tossing around this crazy idea of going to Scotland and the even crazier idea of DRIVING there, but it looks like it's just going to be out of our budget for now. If we end up staying in France, possible candidates are Verdun, Calais, Pas-de-Calais (the département where the in-laws are from and where they go for one week every summer), Mont St. Michel, the Loire Valley and Grénoble. Then again, maybe we'll find a cheap package deal and travel somewhere in Europe, which is something else we haven't done together yet. In any case, we're going SOMEWHERE, by God, and pictures will be taken, oh yes.

In the meantime, I'm going to go back to pondering the mysteries of the universe. And maybe tidy up the office while I'm at it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

surreal moment of the day

So yesterday I was walking back from the grocery store and had just crossed the railroad tracks when the driver of a big truck that was parked on the side of the road leaned over and caught my attention.

"Excuse me, where is the factory?"

I turned back in the direction I had just come from. Looming above us, not 500 yards away from the railroad tracks, was a facility containing no less than one dozen silos and at least three ten-story buildings surrounded by nothing but fields and the dinky grocery store across the street. Blazoned across the top of the closest building in letters five feet high was [Factory] of [Our Town].

"Um... it's right there."

"Oh, is that it?"

"... Yes."

I mean honestly. But still, that was the second time since we've moved here that I've been asked for directions, so that's alright.

Monday, June 11, 2007

picnics galore in paris!

Man, what a weekend! I was invited to not one, but two fabulous picnics in Paris, happening on the same day. What's a girl to do? Why, make like a social butterfly and wing my way across Paris to do them both!

I started off by meeting up with Flare and making our way to the Parc du Champ de Mars to meet up with some knitters for World Wide Knitting in Public Day. We had an excellent view:

World Wide Knitting in Public Day 2007

and I even remembered to take out my camera, although I only took a couple of pictures. Here's Sarah, who organized the gathering, and two people I was happy to meet, Vicky and Shana:

World Wide Knitting in Public Day 2007

So after a couple of of hours of knitting (and sweating - honestly Paris felt like South Carolina on a typical summer day), I bade my farewells and slowly made my way to the north-east part of Paris, to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont for the Paris Bloggers Picnic. What an event! I met so many fantastic people, I can't even begin to name them all, plus authors of blogs I read and hadn't met yet, plus old friends that I've made since I first ventured out to meet bloggers two years ago. I had such a wonderful time chatting and sipping wine and munching on delicious goodies that I forgot to take my camera out, once again. Well, I did manage to whip it out in order to document this:

a shocking turn of events

One of the hosts, Mickelino and kylie mac gettin' it on in front of God and everybody! I was sufficiently shocked.

I had such a good time jabbering on Saturday that I completely lost my voice! Either that it was the shock of having two bloggers going at it in my lap. Anyway, thank you so much to Flare for being my gracious host this weekend and great big kisses to everyone in Paris! Let's do it again soon, y'hear?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

on feet and fiber

My birthday just had its last gasp. Yesterday I bought some new sandals with some birthday money from the in-laws:

summer sandals

I wish to God I could wear thong sandals, but I just can't, which I learned the hard way. (Story time!) Thanks to genetics and taking dance classes from six years old through college, my feet were ruined (I almost typed it "ruint" like a good southern girl) by my late twenties. I had to see a podiatrist somewhere in my early twenties - planters warts being an occupational hazard of barefoot modern dance classes - who told me I was suffering from bunions and advised me to wait as long as I could before having them corrected, as the recovery is pretty rough.

Six years ago, after being fed up of weeping in pain after doing something so mundane as grocery shopping, I went to another podiatrist (nothing sinister there, I'd only moved) and pretty much told him that I wanted the surgery that very minute. So, to make a long story short(er), I had the surgery done on both feet at the same time, which entails breaking the big bone of the foot and resetting it with a rod and a pin, and left me in a wheelchair for six weeks and crutches for another month. I hated being dependent on others for such a long time, but it was so worth it in the end. In fact, a year later I joined an aerobics class and when my sister asked how my feet held up, it took me a minute to remember why she would have asked me!

So anyway, back to the thong shoes - the doctor told me that there was a small chance that my feet would go out of alignment again one day and the easiest way to avoid this was to never wear thong shoes again. Which I promptly ignored. Because, hello! Thong shoes are cute and inexpensive and comfortable!

All of that changed just after I got married. Stéph and I were walking downstairs out of my garage apartment and I slipped on the carpeted stairs. Stéph caught me just in time, but I landed toe-first in - yep, you guessed it - thong sandals. Broke my big toe in two places. Felt real good, too. I learned my lesson and endured all the jokes - married for one week and he's already pushing her down the stairs!

So, yeah. That's the thong sandal story.

Right, on to the fiber part of the title - I received a box from my sister today:

some more of mom's yarn

More of Mom's yarn. The blanket is only half done, but since I don't crochet I'm just going to finish it off and call it a lap blanket. I don't know what I'm going to do with the rest of the yarn, though. It's all acrylic (bless Momma's heart!) but there are some really fun colors in there. It looks like Mom tried to get rid of it at one point:


Speaking of yarn... someone asked me what's on the needles right now, and since my sister already knows what I'm making for her, I don't think she'll mind a preview:

on the needles

Can you guess what it's going to be?

Monday, June 04, 2007

weekend on the run

This weekend we were busy, busy, busy! It's not very often that we're on the run like that, but there was a lot going on.

First up, on Saturday afternoon, we went to the in-law's for coffee to meet Stéph's German aunt and uncle. A little background for you: my mother-in-law immigrated to France with her mother and two sisters from Germany at the end of the war when she was six years old. They left behind two (or three?) sisters in Germany. The confusing part is no one's really sure why, so we just kind of acknowledge and move on. So my MIL and one of her sisters in Germany have either kept in contact or got back in contact, and now visit each other. Difficulty: German sister doesn't speak French and MIL only speaks very basic German. Fun, no?

So when we got there, MIL had run to the store, so it was me, Stéph, my father-in-law and the Germans. As soon as we established that we had no language at all in common (I managed to try a "sprechen Sie Englisch?" but got a "nein" back) we all just sort of sat down and looked around the room for a while. Finally MIL came back and we were able to talk a little, sharing pictures of the family in Germany over coffee and tea. We were soon joined by baby C and her parents, which was great but I'm sorry to say that C was terrified of Stéph's very-much-due-for-a-trim, scary beard. She was ok just staring at him from a distance with wide eyes, but when her father put her in Stéph's lap, she decided she didn't like it At All. Very funny stuff. Happily, C still likes me but she must be wondering what I'm doing hanging out with such a great hairy beast! (tee hee)

After running a bunch of errands downtown, we made it home by supper time and I got back to work. Work? Why yes! That's because we were off to see Doc and baby Mélanie Sunday afternoon and I finished up her gifts just in time!

monica tank topanouk girl's pinafore
Ta da! More about the knitting here.

It was so just in time that the pinafore was still damp when I presented it to Doc! Anyway, baby Mélanie is just lovely, and Doc and I left the boys with the baby for a while so Doc could step outside and get some fresh air. The Au Pair That's Better Than Yours and I chased after the older kids under the shade of a big lovely tree and had a nice chat before Stéph called down to me from Doc's room to tell me it was time to go. It was rather like having Mom calling you in to dinner! Well, we did have an hour's drive home and it was getting late. By the way, Doc and Mélanie could be home as soon as today, so keep an eye out for them!

On the way home, Stéph suggested we stop for a cool drink, so about fifteen minutes out from St. Dizier we found a little brasserie with lots of tables in the shade. After the woman took our order, Stéph said to me that she had an accent from Eastern Europe. When she came back with our drinks, Stéph actually asked her where she was from! She said she was from the Ukraine and then asked where Stéph was from! (tee hee!) Actually she was very friendly and once we established that we were both Strangers in a Strange Land we had a nice little chat and she did everything except sit down with us! Then when we went inside to pay we met the rest of the family - her sister who has been here for twenty years and the other relatives that came later - and had another nice chat. It was a really nice little family run business and if it weren't so far away I'd be very tempted to go back and try some of their Russian and Ukrainian specialties. In any case I enjoyed myself very much with the little chat; that's one of the things I really miss about the States. If you catch me on a good day I could sit and listen to any old life story and plenty of Americans are more than willing to tell you theirs. You'd be surprised what you can learn!

Well, if you've made it down this far, you may just be as exhausted as we were when we finally got home last night. This week should be nice and quiet, with a lot of catching up to do, since I left everything at the wayside to get those gifts done. Plus, I think I'm gonna need a nap later!

Friday, June 01, 2007

a good day

My littlest French niece is eight months old and her mother recently went back to work. My mother-in-law usually watches her (she's on a waiting list for day care) but she's going on vacation for a week, so I got an email a few weeks ago that said, "C a besoin de sa tata!" (C needs her auntie!)

Yesterday I went to Troyes by bus to spend the day with C. My mother-in-law was there for the morning, C's parents came home for lunch, C's mom and I had a little time to catch up before she went back to teach an afternoon class and then it was C and tata time.

I don't have my own kids to brag on (yet), so you'll have to indulge me a little if I brag on my niece - that is the sweetest, best little baby I have ever sat for in my life! She doesn't get upset when maman goes to work (must be seen to be believed!), she doesn't fuss, she engages well with people but also plays happily on her own and only really cries when she's put down for a nap - but who wants to sleep when there's so many fun things to do?

I have to tell you, I normally dread babysitting, and that always freaked me out because I want to have kids more than anything else but if I can't stand a couple of hours alone with someone else's kids what does that say about my wanting to have my own? For the first time ever, I can't wait to go back and stay with C some more! And because C's mom does read the blog every once and a while (pardon my crappy French) : A la maman de C, merci bien de me demander de garder ton petit ange. J'ai passé une très belle journée hier et j'attends avec l'impatience le vendredi prochain !