Shake it, Shake-a-Shake Shake it!

This is my blender. I love it.

 

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I am currently in love with making shakes, and not the Chik-fil-A/insanely delicious/add-five-pounds kind. I’ve been having some healthy smoothies to replace breakfast and as a snack here and there, and I’m loving them. Here are my two favorite healthy shakes of late:

The Breakfast Smoothie:

  • 1/2 Scoop Raw Protein Powder (I use Vanilla)
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed
  • 1 c. almond milk (or Soy, if you don’t like Almond – I love Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Vanilla almond milk!)
  • 1 c. frozen mango
  • 1 banana

The Sweet-Tooth Snack/Dessert Shake:

  • 1 banana, frozen in chunks in advance
  • 1 c. almond or soy milk
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 1 Tbsp peanut-butter (you can go healthy or not here, I just use whatever is on hand!)
  • 1 Tbsp truvia/stevia (optional, but it makes it more of a dessert)

Give them a try if you’re looking for some healthy goodness this spring/summer, I promise you won’t be disappointed (unless you’re expecting a handspun Chik-fil-A chocolate milkshake – my personal gold standard for unhealthily decadent shakes, which these are not). Enjoy! I would love any suggestions from readers for other shakes . . .

Do you have any favorite combos?

My First Day of School: Abroad

I wrote this back in 2007, right after moving to France for the year, and I decided that it might be worth sharing. Every time I get nostalgic for travel and life abroad, it helps to remember that it was not actually perfect, as nostalgia tends to render events past. This is the rundown of my first day of classes in Aix-en-Provence . . . complete with angst and cultural frustration, as well as a healthy dose of humor!

The day started with some serious hairspray.

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Now, when I shop, I am definitely a sucker for labels and packaging (the proverbial book-by-the-Covergirl), so when I saw this new L’Oréal product, all dressed up in it’s gold label and welcoming me with it’s shiny descriptive title, who could resist?

Unsuspecting little me had just finished curling my hair and figured I could use a healthy dose of this Satin-spray stuff to make it last through the day. So, I held my breath and sprayed like crazy.

Unfortunately, then I started breathing again.

It was like a direct flash-back to sophomore year bio lab. That fetal-pig-like, cloying smell definitely had a strong resemblance to formaldehyde. That’s right, I think I might’ve just put pig preservative in my hair, because:

Oh.

My.

God.

This is definitely a strong scent. I was pretty sure it was hairspray because down at the bottom it said “fixation forte” so it’€™s either hairspray or some kind of strong glue. It actually seemed to be working reasonably well on my hair, despite the unholy odor, so I decided that it wasn’t worth a re-washing. I could deal with a little formaldehyde.I mean, I passed bio, didn’€™t I? Off I headed for my first day at a new university, hoping hairspray would be my only misfortune of the day.

If only.

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Not only was she a grammar professor, she was a talker. And not only did she have a love affair with the sound of her own voice, she was obviously one of “€œthose French people”€; one likely born holding a pack of ciggies who has spent most of her post-lycée existence smoking her way through excessively vehement intellectual conversations in bars or coffee-houses. Plus she has an accent AND constantly slurs like she has recently downed two-too-many cocktails. Picture your nightmare of an American secretary from the sixties and then hit the translate button into French on her voice box.So, welcome to your first three hour class, honey. Oh no, wait, 3 and ½ hours. So, welcome to Hell. Hope you don’t mind the heat.

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Trying to be positive about three hours of grammar every Wednesday morning didn’™t really make it through the introduce-yourself session. It’€™s hard to be confident and positive when everybody around you is a genius. There were nine people in my class. One works for the Japanese Office of Foreign Affairs and has two Masters Degrees. Another is trilingual (not counting French) and has her Masters in Translation. Another Egyptian guy has learned perfect French (at least, this is what the professor commented) in the past 11 months only and is taking a full class-load at the Institut while also teaching at a French middle-school. Another girl has lived in France for two years and has finished a Masters in philosophy at the University of Hamburg. Another is basically a young-adult genius (she’€™s seventeen, is traveling all of this year and is practically trilingual, although she will be studying Law and Spanish at Cambridge next year). I could go on, but it would just be dripping a little more lemon juice onto the open wound of my pride. The sad thing was I thought I’€™d finished with my serving of Humble Pie. Well, two hours of lectures on transitive and intransitive-ness of French verbs is enough to make you feel like you really know nothing, especially when you don’t know what that means in English. Damn whole language teaching methods. We topped off the class with “a little test, just to gauge how you’€™re doing” and a little public correction (a.k.a. humiliation). It was, without a doubt, a regretfully unforgettable experience.I think I understand why French people all smoke. I definitely could have used something to settle my nerves when I got out of that room.

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Thanks to intercontinental travel and my recent bout of in-flight air-conditioning and contamination, I a€™m coughing like it’€™s my job, so during my hour break between classes, I rushed back to Rue de la Mule Noire to grab some cough syrup and a little bread for lunch before I speed-walked my way back to the Institut. This is the part where I went up and down a total of 12 flights of stairs twice trying to find the right classroom. I won’€™t bore you with the details, except to say that I don’t know why you can’t just get to the entire second floor through one staircase. It seems a little counterproductive.

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So, a million years later when I found the right room, I sat myself down between a Chinese girl and a Scottish girl. Of course, the Scottish girl and the American next to her were speaking in English and I would’€™ve given a small appendage to just join in guilt-free. I miss being able to communicate, like a fiend. But I only let myself have a few words and then I went back to trying to talk to my new Chinese pal in French.

Fact: It’€™s hard to be truly friendly when you can’€™t even begin pronounce somebody’€™s name.

Finally, a German girl came in and started a really fun chatty conversation. The five of us girls basically have all of our classes together, since we’€™re all going through the classes for the “French Society Diploma”. I guess we’€™ll get to know each other pretty well.

Misery Loves Company

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The professor who finally found his way into the impossible-to-access Salle Mistral was remarkably jolly looking. Seriously, if he had white hair, a beard, a slightly larger gut and the tendency to give lavish gifts to strangers, he could give Santa a run for his money. A little easier to understand than Professor Pack-a-Day the Grammarian, I started to enjoy this guy. He was dressed to the nines in a navy suit, whose jacket buttons were straining a little to hold themselves together. He would jokingly try to say words in English once in a while and every fifteen minutes, while talking about French Government and Patriotism, he would spontaneously start singing the French National Anthem at the top of his lungs. Definitely Amusing. He also let class out about a half hour early . . . which, today, means that he could possibly be one of my favorite people alive. Standing to leave the room, he announced: “Jeunesse de mon vieux pays, la France éternelle vous salue.” . . . to which we all must have looked as confused as we felt, because he then attempted a translation in English, saying, “Babies of my old country, take care and keep cool!” before leaving the room in a flourish.

The next class started out a little more awkwardly. First of all, when Monsieur G. started going off on a little tirade about how he couldn’t believe there were only five of us I sort of tuned out for a minute . . . only to realize that the otherwise-entirely-proper Chinese girl next to me was having some serious burping issues. She proceeded to burp constantly for the next two hours. So as I tell you about next class, picture two hours with the politely-burping wonder next to you. I won’€™t write each burp in, because that would take too long. I’€™ll leave it to your imagination. Just know that it was incredible. I have never heard somebody burp that much for that long. Not loud, because I doubt the professor heard them, but definitely unmistakable, although none of us acknowledged it.

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That was almost as weird as the physical appearance of our professor. When I first spotted him, I thought immediately of a jack-o-lantern, only less orange and with more teeth. I ha€™ve since changed my mind. He is either some long-lost descendent of Frodo Baggins or his mom cheated on his dad with a Sasquatch, because he is the hairiest man I have ever seen in my entire life. Bar nobody. And he wasn’€™t even showing any abnormal amounts of skin!

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The hairy Professor proceeded to have a very fast, very one-sided conversation about politics for an hour. Seriously, I don’€™t even hear people talk that fast on the street. Finally, German Girl looked at him and asked him to please talk a little slower. He didn’t really, but he tried, so that was nice. Despite that, he was very nice and we ended up having a lively political discussion about the practices of Initiative, Referendum, Impeachment and Constitutional Revision. After two hours, we all stood. Six o’clock in the evening and classes were finally over for the day.

It had been eight interminable hours, seven of which were pure lecture, but I had survived my first day of school.

Hook Me.

First, before you can proceed with giving advice, you must watch this video:

I’m in Phase 6.

Asking that horrible “what now???” question.

I’ve read everything I can about Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Katniss Everdeen, Lucy Pevensie, Bella Swan (yeah, yeah, get over it), Cimorene of Linderwall, Veralidaine Sarrasri, Meliara Astiar, and a whole slew of even-lesser known protagonists. I’ve really tried, but Game of Thrones moves a little slow for me (just being honest). I’ve watched BBC’s Sherlock (again and again and again) until I just can’t cry about the Reichenbach Fall one more time. I fangirled as much as I could about Lost, and I’ve enjoyed a fair amount of Dr. Who and Supernatural of late. I’ve even watched a whole pack of Downton Abbey (although, lets be real, it is a little hard to pay attention to sometimes) and I’m currently show-less! (I just can’t get in to Madmen’s slutty husbands, despite the snazzy fashion. )

Somebody throw me a series that I just can’t put down, for pity’s sake!

Suggestions?

The Blair Witch Project: A Roommate Drama

The steady pounding resonated through the entire house.

THUD.

THUD.

THUD.

THUD.

THUD.

Each contact was made with such force that I felt anxiety resonate in the pit of my stomach . . . and no small amount of concern for the floorboards. My roommate, Blair, was demonstrating what Caitlin (my other roommate) likes to call her “T-Rex impression”.

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Welcome to my Week Three True Confessions of an Annoyed Roommate, inspired by nearly 11 months of living with Blair, or what I sometimes like to call:

The Blair Witch Project.

It has been a long year, and living with two Craig’s List Specials is always a regular roulette game, but this year brought some particularly interesting spins of the barrel.

Russian roulette

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Rewind to that first e-mail . . .

how it all began

So unassuming, no?

A few short months later it is October, Blair’s then-boyfriend Sam and she were constantly on the fritz because she didn’t really care about him and was just dating him because she didn’t want to be (gasp) 24 and single. At this point some of the niggling issues from the summer months started to really blossom into full-blown concerns.

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Examples?

How about the time that one of my very best friends and her fiancé were visiting from Virginia and, on a Saturday morning, when she had nowhere pressing that she had to be, Blair was unbelievably rude to both of my guests. She actually asked if they could get out of the bathroom and get ready somewhere else because she wanted to shower immediately instead of waiting 5 minutes. Later, when I brought it up with her, she said, “Well, I should get priority, I mean, I live here. I get priority over, like, guests.

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These friends have visited me since that unfortunate run-in and opted not to stay with me, based solely on Blair’s presence in the apartment.

Or there was the time that Blair blew up at me for sitting on the couch next to her, because she needed personal space, which I clearly have little to no respect for, considering how I “always have to use or take” whatever it is that she is using. Like the couch. Or the living room.

There was also that time that I was peeing. You know Peeing; it’s an activity that takes around 2 -4 minutes typically? Well, in that time, Blair managed to knock on the bathroom door three separate times. The third time she knocked she said, “I’m sorry but on a scale of like 1 to 10, it’s like a 9!!!”

Still not seeing why life with Blair has its difficulties? Maybe you have to be there, or hear the interchanges for yourself. Here is a conversation that actually took place, to the best of my ability to jot it down:

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Blair: Um, can you not put my bike in the back pantry area? I don’t want people to move my bike.

Me: Oh, sorry. Actually, I moved it because It’s kind of driving me nuts to have it in the middle of the kitchen, and my niece Izzy actually pulled it down on top of herself by accident the other day  [Izzy was 2 years old at the time], so I think we need to figure out a new place for it.

Blair: Hmm. Well, it’s a really expensive bike and I use it, like, every Saturday for triathalon training. It’s a really high quality racing bike and so it needs to be well-taken care of. I’m not sure where else it could go.

Me: Well, there is the back pantry area, but then there’s also the basement, or upstairs in the hallway outside your room, or even under the front porch, bike-locked where my bike used to go.

Blair: Oh no. No, there is no way it is going outside. It needs to be completely protected from the elements. The tires can’t get to hot or too cold because that will mess with the air pressure, no. It’s not going outside.

Me: Well, what about the basement?

Blair: No, I am not dragging it up a flight of stairs every Saturday morning when I want to use it.

Me: Are you sure? I mean, there is always the bulkhead door, which is right on the side of the house, we can just leave that open for you on Saturdays, it would be easy enough to lift it right out of–

Blair: No. I – I don’t want it anywhere where I need to bring it up or down a level in order to use it. I already have to carry it down the front stairs, that’s enough.

Me: Okaaaaay, well that pretty much leaves us the back pantry area, or, I guess if we really had to have it in the dining room area, we could.

Blair: Or the kitchen.

Me: I’m not okay with it being in the kitchen anymore Blair. It’s a high traffic area with a lot going on, and we all have to use the kitchen daily, it’s just not working.

Blair: Well if we lived in Boston or Somerville, it would be normal. Lots of people who use their bikes all the time keep their bikes in the main entryway or one of the main rooms. I don’t think it is that unreasonable to keep it in the kitchen. Maybe I want it in the kitchen.

Me: Well, we have half of a house available to us, and we live in the countryside, so I think we can probably manage to find another place for it. Now, if I have everything straight, your requirements for your bike’s storage are, that it be safe and protected from all of the elements, that it be on the main level of the house, that it be accessible, particularly on Saturdays when you need to use it. Is that right?

Blair: *pause* yes.

Me: Well, then it sounds like the only place that will work for both of us (as a compromise) is the back pantry area. It is fully protected from all the elements, it has a lock for safety, it is on the mane level, and it’s about five feet total difference from where you had already been storing it, so it fits all your location requirements.

Blair: *pause* Hmm. Yeah, no. I just don’t like that. I just don’t like it.

And that was the end of the conversation.

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You get the picture. I could go on and on. We could talk about her one-hour bath habit, or the leaving-beer-bottles-in-the-bathroom habit. We could shoot the breeze over her passive-aggressive notes and catty methods of handling confrontation. Ultimately, though, what it boils down to? Blair is not somebody that I can live with in the future. We actually asked her to move out once, back in November. It was a long and difficult conversation, and what did Blair do to handle it? She ignored it completely, and called our landlord up, telling him a sob story about how it just wasn’t possible for her to move in the near future. Clearly, the only two times when it is remotely possible to find a roommate or an apartment are in September and June (???). On top of that, she had a really big test to study for . . . something related to her work (like the business person’s equivalent of the GRE). She was quite clear that she could not possibly move out and also efficiently prepare for her exam . . . the exam that she conveniently rescheduled. Twice. Before taking it one Saturday morning after she had been out drinking beer at all hours of the night with Sam. Needless to say, Blair’s nonexistent “studying” paid off, and she scored embarrassingly low on her test, proving how much of a priority the whole thing really was. By that time, we had all but given up hope and moved on as far as the whole roommate conflict went. It wasn’t like we could force the issue – we all signed the lease and our resident manipulator clearly had no plans to allow herself to be ousted before the our term was up.

After Christmas there was a clear shift.

Blair’s tactics changed dramatically post-conflict. She realized that picking on me was counterproductive since the landlord had 5 years of positive experience in my favor if lease renewal became a question. Instead of challenging my every word, Caitlin became the target of every sarcastic jibe, caustic quip, and passive-aggressive comment that Blair could produce. Simultaneously, Blair started to butter me up like I was a fresh white roll and she was Paula Deen at a Cracker Barrel on Thanksgiving. Despite all the flattery, friendliness, and fawning, there were still moments of clarity when I could see (cue Cindy Lauper) Blair’s true colors shining through . . .

Even in the little “jokingly” sarcastic things she said, I could tell she was biding her time and biting back the negativity that comes so naturally to her.  One day she cut her finger while slicing veggies – not a big cut, but I’m a baby when it comes to getting hurt, so when she came running upstairs to show me the tiny cut, I gave her all the sympathy I could. She asked if I thought she needed stitches, and after looking at the very small cut, I proclaimed her in need of a Band-Aid and some triple antibiotic ointment, both of which I provided. After cleaning up her finger, putting ointment on it, and putting a few bandaids around the cut, she said thanks and went down the hall to her room. Every few minutes, though, she would call out, “It really huuuuurts! I’m such a baby!”. After the third time or so, I chuckled and replied, “Yes, you kind of are.” She stopped mid-complaint in front of my door and let out a miffed laugh, saying, “ You are SUCH a fucking bitch.” This is the second time that she has used this come-back on me “jokingly”, and I called her out on it. “Wait, I clean and bandage your little cut and when I agree with you that you’re being a little babyish about it, that makes me a fucking bitch??? I don’t think so.” “No,” she admitted. “It might make me honest, but not a fucking bitch.” I left it at that.

returnables

I thought the label was a nice touch.

A few weeks ago, I was just finishing prepping all of the recyclables to put them out the following morning – Neither of my roommates are much for housework or recycling – when Blair called upstairs to me, “Hey, Abby? Do you return our bottles?” Not sure where she was going with her question, I answered, “Well, sometimes I’ll return the returnable ones, although not very often!” There was silence for a minute, and then she called back, “So, what do you do with that money?” I’m pretty sure I let out one of those sort of disbelieving laugh/breaths where you just say “huh” on a laugh. . . and I said, “Well, Blair, last time it wound up being like 45 cents. So . . . I think I spent 45 cents on something?” She waited another minute and said, “Do you think we should pool that money?” I laughed again – I couldn’t help it! Pool all of our 45 cents in some kind of a jar so that we can, what, buy something off the McDonalds dollar menu by the end of the year? I said as much and was met with only silence, Blair’s favorite communication tool. So, I followed it up with the statement, “Well, you’re welcome to take things back to a recycling center and get the return money yourself, I’m not going to keep track of the extra nickels and dimes.” A few minutes later, after much rustling and clanking, Blair was off the subject and had moved on to something else. BUT, the resolution she had found might just say it all  . . . She had decided to take a bin (that I was getting rid of) and repurpose it for herself (see right). I wish she had just taken them all back and kept the money for herself.

It would have been nice to have some help with the recycling.

So, the weeks passed and finally the time came to have that conversation. You know, the one where Blair got told to start the hunt for a new place to live when our lease comes up next month. I even wanted to have the dreaded Conversation two months in advance so that she would have plenty of time to search for a place, and because I was about to get my tonsils out and my doctors said talking would be difficult for a while.

Little did I know how dramatically the talking quotient in the apartment was about to change . . .

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Blair was the person who initiated our little talk. After weeks of being unavailable, she suggested we all chat while we were home one Sunday night. With a sense of foreboding, I agreed that this would be a good time.

Caitlin’s dread-filled eyes stayed glued to her bowl of Easy-Mac while she practically shook from anxiety on the opposite couch. She sat in silence for almost the entire discussion, while I attempted to explain the situation to Blair in as nice a way as possible. Whenever Caitlin did speak, Blair reacted à la Mean Girls and the two would immediately start to bicker, listing past grievances and citing old spats as ammunition. I had to intervene three times to get us away from devolution into bratty teenaged behaviors, but finally all was said. Blair’s response, however, was a little unexpected.

“Well, I’m not ready to accept that,” she stated abruptly, “It’s not a convenient time for me to move.

. . . what are the odds that you and Caitlin will be moving out of this place?” I floundered for a moment, feeling like a middle school boy who had just tried to break up with a girlfriend and she had refused. Rallying, I finished the conversation, saying, “Well, I understand it isn’t ideal. Moving is always inconvenient, and that is why we wanted you to have two months to get prepared. There is not chance that Caitlin or I will be leaving come June.” So began the silent treatment. In the three weeks following the break-up conversation, Blair said exactly two things to me. First, “Can you move your laundry over?” and, second, “Yeah, I saw it on the calendar.” Other than that, there was no eye contact, no conversation, and no interaction whatsoever. Just a lot of stomping.

This leads me to the part of my story that went badly; the part for which I am partially to blame.

It was a sunny Saturday morning and Blair had risen early and, I’d thought, left, although her car was still in the driveway. Caitlin and I woke up later than usual and chatted pleasantly in the hall while we got ready for the day. As it is sometimes wont to do, conversation turned towards our now-silent housemate.

Cait: How’s she been with you since we talked?

Me: Dude, I think she’s said a grand total of like two words to me!

Cait: Is she really gonna give us the silent treatment for two months?

Me: I know, it’s a little ridiculous, but – Hey, it could be worse.

Cait: True, she could get crazier on us.

Me: I have a feeling we’re going to see several Blairs over the next few months, unfortunately.

Cait: Yeah, lets just hope she doesn’t break and go totally nuts  – I could see it happening.

Me: Well, I think she’ll probably exhibit a lot of different behaviors, but we’ll just have to deal with them as they come. . .

I’m sure more was said, but this was the bulk of it, as far as I can remember. Cait has a tendency to say things like they are, a good quality for a roommate, but a bad one if you happen to be a mean person who is eavesdropping on the conversation . . . which Blair apparently was. Oops.  It turns out she actually cracked her door open to hear better what we were saying about her. Once we figured it out, we both felt bad, but thinking back to the conversation, it was relatively un-bitchy and fairly accurate.

Well, fast-forward a week. It has been 5 days since my tonsils were removed, and I am on 24 hour pain pills and not exactly loving life. Blair has said absolutely nothing to me concerning my surgery or anything . . . amazing lack of reciprocation for a person who asked me to take care of her on numerous occasions when she was sick. So, it was my first day home after staying with my incredible sister for a week. I was on the couch, watching a tv show with a friend who was kind enough to drop by and keep me company for an hour. Which is when Blair came home.

THUD THUD THUD

THUD THUD 

THUD THUD THUD

I could tell she was miffed when I asked a quick question directly to her, and she ignored me entirely, walking away from  in the process. The sound of her bedroom door slamming signaled her final exit, or so I thought, until my phone buzzed.

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Now, I know that there is nothing good that can come of a response . . . I know all the rational reasons for why NOT to engage in a texting battle with people who exhibit characteristics of a narcissistic personality disorder (at least, that’s what I, and all my other friends who work in the mental healthcare field think might be going on). Ultimately, though, sometimes you just get annoyed. And I was pretty darn annoyed at the massive quantity of passive aggressiveness represented in this one short text. So, despite all my better-person-instincts, I texted back rather snarkily. Complete with accidentally saying “want” instead of “wasn’t”, I thought this might shut her down, but I should have known she would be ready with a come back.

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Now, once you dip your toes in this kind of conversation, it’s hard to just stop.

So I didn’t.

How could I let her get away with calling herself confrontational ?

Part 2

Well that was an ouch.

That darned eavesdropped conversation was resurfacing for the first time since it actually happened. It was infuriating on a couple of levels. I mean, first of all, it had nothing to do with what we were talking (or, should I say angrily texting) about – a classic passive aggressive misdirection maneuver. But second of all, she never even brought it up to me in person. There she is, steaming to passive aggressive pieces over something she isn’t even willing to talk about in person. So, I finally came to my senses and realized I was not dealing with a rational person, and it was going nowhere.

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There was no response. Maybe she just didn’t read it. Maybe she couldn’t follow my rambling text-patterns.

Either way, it was back to silent treatment the next day.

These have been some of the recent low-lights of life chez moi, and I won’t even bother going into the hour-long baths, dating of a married man, accusing her boyfriend of being a murderer, long discussions of the vibes of Bonaroo, less-than-subtle comments about my weight, or the neverending supply of empty beer bottles materializing in the bathroom. Quite frankly, it has been a long ten-and-a-half months, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the next 45 days (8 hours and 11 minutes . . . but who’s counting) are going to seem even longer. Anyone with insights to offer or advice on how to survive the next month and a half, please feel free to share them! I’ve begun watching The Walking Dead so that I can gain expertise on dealing with inhuman monsters, but since I don’t think this particular Blair Witch Project will be resolved with violence, I’m not so sure it will do me that much good.

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I hope we all survive.

Eerily Similar

There are some people that look just eerily alike . . . 

Such as, can you always tell the difference between Clark Gable and George Clooney?

Clark Gable and George Clooney

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Or what about Amy Adams and Catherine Deneuve?

 Amy Adams and Catherine Deneuve!

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Who is whose doppelgänger?

Do you have a lookalike? I once had a roommate that looked remarkably like Regina Spector.

lookalikes?

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I wish I knew

who my double might be. . .

Someone once said that I looked like Ingrid Michaelson. Ingrid & I?

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I think its just the glasses/long hair/likes to sing combo.

Somebody else once told me that I look like Norma Shearer, a movie star from the 20s and 30s.

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Maybe, if I hacked off my hair, went all glam-crazy and started posing for anachronistically slutty/artsy pictures.

My personal favorite suggestion was actually made by my brother. . . My true doppelgänger is actually:

Derek Zoolander!

blue steel

Because we can both unleash that blue steel like it’s our job!

Do you have somebody you could audition for a doublemint commercial with? Or do you ever notice  eery similarities between stars of the past and present?

Une Histoire Triste; A Sad Story

Allright, this is one of the first stories that I have written in French. As per certain requests, I have also translated it. Since it’s true that everything loses something in translation, I tried to make it as true to my intent (as the author) as possible. Sorry that it is sad. It is a true story.

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La Mort Subite

Ce père et cette fille sont dans la chambre de bébé. C’est une petite chambre. Mais maintenant la chambre semble plus grande parce qu’elle est presque vide.

Toute la chambre avait été décorée en bleue. La peint a été difficile à trouver parce que la mère a voulu un teint spécifique pour son nouveau fils. Le petit lit à barreaux était peut-être trop petit. Il aurait été parfait pour Nathaniel, mais seulement dans sa première année d’existence. Le père se souvient qu’il s’est inquiété à propos d’un si petit lit. Chaque fois pendant les dix dernières semaines qu’il a mis son jeune fils au lit, il a pensé à ce problème.

Maintenant, il n’y a plus aucun problème.

Ils regardent le lit que petit Nathaniel ne pourra jamais utiliser.

Le père est bouleversé par la tristesse. Son fils est mort tout d’un coup et il lui semble que son cœur est mort simultanément.
Il ne peut pas digérer la réalité d’un « syndrome de la mort subite du nourrisson ». Il ne peut pas accepter que ce soit une mort sans explication.
Il met sa main sur les cheveux de sa jeune fille, les petites boucles douces d’un enfant vivant. Il est terrorisé par la pensée qu’il va la perdre aussi. L’idée qu’un jour elle va mourir est insupportable.
Il pense que son cœur ne pourra pas survivre cette tragédie et il se demande pourquoi il est devenu un papa.

La fille s’appelle Anna et elle a six ans, mais aujourd’hui elle semble presque vieille. On peut voir sur son visage qu’elle a bien compris la mort de son nouveau petit frère.
Elle a toujours voulu un frère. Mais il est parti tout de suite après qu’il est arrivé, et maintenant elle restera toute seul avec papa et maman.
Elle peut comprendre la profondeur de la tristesse de son papa. Elle a vu qu’il avait toujours des larmes dans ses yeux et elle déteste qu’il soit toujours si triste. Elle s’inquiète à propos de sa maman qui a arrêté manger, de dormir, de sourire. Chaque fois qu’Anna va lui rendre visite, c’est comme sa vraie mère avait disparu et les yeux de cette étrangère la regardent comme une inconnue ; comme une autre morte.
Une larme coule sur sa joue et elle commence à pleurer pour la mort de son frère, la mort de sa famille ; la mort du bonheur.

Ils regardent le trop petit lit à barreaux. Après quelques minutes, il prendra sa main et ils quitteront la chambre de bébé. Ils porteront toujours leur tristesse écrasante.

Sudden Infant Death

The father and his daughter are in the baby’s room. It’s a small room. But now it seems larger, because it’s practically empty.

The entire room had been decorated in blue. The paint had been hard to find because the mother wanted a specific shade for her new son. Now the dark night of the deep blue walls cocooned them the way they had intended to cocoon little Nathaniel. And they set up a stark contrast with the pure white crib. This little crib is the only piece of furniture left in the room; a tiny white monument. It was perhaps a bit too small. It would’ve been perfect for Nathaniel, but only during his first year. The father remembers how he worried about such a tiny bed. Each time he put his little son in bed during the last ten weeks, he had thought about this problem.

Now, there is no problem.

They stand there, looking at the tiny bed that Nathaniel will never use again.

The father has been struck by vertigo of sadness; it has swept him away and he no longer has any sense of direction. His son died and it feels like his heart died in the same blow.
He can not digest this reality of “Sudden Infant Death Syndrome”€?. He can not accept that this is a death without explanation; without reason.
He rests his hand on his daughter’s head; the little curls of a child who is still so vibrantly alive. And he is suddenly terrified by the thought that he is going to lose her also. The idea that one day she will die is unthinkable, unbearable.
He thinks that his heart will not survive this tragedy and, standing there, her curls beneath his fingertips, he wonders why he ever became a father.

The girl is named Alexis and she is only six years old. But today she seems almost ancient. You can see on her face that she has understood the death of her new baby brother.
She had always wanted a little brother. And now he was gone right after he came and she will stay all alone with Papa and Mama.
She understands her father’s sadness. She sees that tears have taken up permanent residence in his eyes and she hates that he is so constantly sad.
She worries about her mother, who has stopped eating, sleeping, smiling. Each time she tip-toes in to visit mama, it is as if her real mother is gone, and the eyes of this stranger look at her, unrecognizing; like another death.
A tear slides down her cheek and she begins to cry. She cries for the death of her baby brother, the death of her family and the death of all happiness.

They stand, looking at the too-small crib. His hand is on her hair, tears course down her cheeks. All is silent. After a few minutes, he will take her hand and they will leave the baby’s room. But they will always carry with them their overwhelming sadness.

The end of Raoul: A Melodrama (a.k.a. Le Poisson Rouge Se Meurt)

I wrote this a few years ago and, after I stumbled upon it recently, I decided it was worth a laugh or two. So, in memory of Raoul and also Babette, Enjoy!

It was a long slow float into the darkness. . .

but I should begin at the beginning. My usually-chipper Fancy black goldfish, Raoul, started to lose his grip on reality…or at least gravity…yesterday afternoon. I came barreling through the door, exuberant to do my after-school quick change from teacher-woman into regular 21 year old…and saw him. Floating. His little black tummy was facing the wrong direction, but his gills still moved normally and a fin would stick out from time to time, propelling him around the tank like some kind of a wind-up toy that accidentally flipped in the bathtub. It wasn’t until evening that he started to bounce.

Up and down.

Up and down.

Hour after hour, Raoul would drop from top to bottom and then float back up. His comrade in captivity, a sunny Gold Fish named Babette, would help push him to the bottom, showing more love than I thought goldfish capable of.

I went to bed with a heavy heart. I didn’t have it in me to flush a fish whose gills still gasped. Not a Sparrow falls…and all of that. So I closed my eyes temporarily, knowing that hit was only a matter of time until Raoul’s were closed permanently.

When sunshine hit the red curtains, waking me, I slid across the chilly wood panels to take a hesitant look into the round fish bowl. I felt like Francis Scott Key, seeing the gill still wave after a night of darkness, not knowing if death would be the victor. Unlike Key, however, my dawn’s early light fell on a still-floating Goldfish. Without a miraculous cure, the nightmare would not be over, merely prolonged.
So I did what every good fish owner would’ve done. I waited.

8 hours later, the gills still moved as I logged onto the internet with a dear friend and an accommodating apartment-mate to see what the symptoms might indicate. A few moments later, when we realized that I had no “hospital tank”, no medicine for the water and was not likely to feed peas to the little bugger…we logged off. Without bringing peas into things, we’d done all we could…would…do.

So we sat, chatting and laughing; old friends make for fabulous conversations. I sat back to let them catch up and found myself mesmerized by the bobbing of Raoul. The Fancy Black Goldfish slowly bounced up and down in the light current created by my filter. Detached from the conversation, I focused completely on the tank-life. I watched as Babette hovered around Raoul, trying to pull him back down to the bottom. Then, suddenly, it happened.

I know the exact minute that Raoul stopped breathing, because Babette left his side in the back of the tank and sped over to my side. She, and I kid you absolutely NOT, made direct eye contact with me and screamed.

At least, it would’ve been a scream if fish made noise. As it was, her mouth opened wider than I have ever seen ( and trust me, babette has had some gluttonous moments at feeding time) and told me he was dead.

My fancy black goldfish had died. We put him to rest in a glorious swirl of watery grave. And that was all. Babette is, as someone so aptly put it “freaking out”. Her fishy friend is gone. Never again will they walk (swim) the meadows (fish bowls) of this Earth…Never again will they swim in a circular motion together. Quothe the fishy “Nevermore”.

Raoul is no more.

fishy

The last picture of Raoul, taken (unwittingly) only moments before his death. (morbid, anyone?)

Blast From The Past: Cultural Angst

babysitting les enfants

Babysitting Hector and Phélix was sometimes quite nice . . .

When I think back to living in France, it usually is with that rosy nostalgia-induced view that perhaps embellishes a little over time, but life was not always the scintillating cultural magic that it appears to be in the photographs . . . a few days ago I came across the following chat-conversation between another student studying abroad and myself, saved under the title of France: Turning me into a Diablesse Francaise Sans Coeur. It reminded me that there is also a decent amount of cultural frustration inherent to country-changing!

Cakey: a THREE YEAR OLD corrected me today
KM: haha
Cakey: bratty kids
Cakey: and afterwards he was like “Tu as compris? Tu as compris?”
KM: jerks
Cakey: seriously. Three year old jerks
KM: oh man Abby!
KM: you should have punted him
Cakey: I wish I had thought to
KM: haha
Cakey: I’m laughing so hard right now . . . at the thought of punting Hector
KM: good, haha
Cakey: I’m laughing about violence towards children . . . what is France DOING to me!?
KM: killing you . . .
KM: turning us into evil heartless French girls
Cakey: let’s get tattoos that say Heartless Evil French Girl
KM: haha, indeed
KM:or a pineapple with an anti sign over it
KM: (I hope that makes sense to you, if not, ask)
Cakey: I don’t get it . . . anti-pineapple?
KM: pineapples are the international sign of welcome
KM: sorry
KM: I’m a freak
Cakey: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

pineapplevia