19 June 2008

Reservations have been made. The child-care is organized. It looks as if we're actually going to go somewhere! Now I just have to get through the next week....
posted by Doc at 14:00 | Permalink | 5 comments
18 June 2008

Dearest Published Author And Therefore Key To My Future,

How are you? Are you properly recovered from this past weekend's debauch in England? Are you breathing calmly and normally? Is life back to normal?

Let me screw all that up for you :°)

Hi Ian! It's me.

So about this little get together in Gay Paris next Saturday:

--Marc and I are planning a little romantic get-away in the city of lights in the days running up to your Abbey thing. (Did you just choke on your own tongue? I know, it's shocking, the two of us doing anything, much less something deemed 'romantic', in a city both of us hate with a passion, but what do you know, times, they's a changin'.) He's coming back home and I will be left in the capital for the entire afternoon before the evening when we all eat goodies from the Auvergne, buy books, tell raunchy stories and finish drunk, nude, and spent by (or maybe in?) the Seine. (I am thinking of the right party, aren't I?)

--During that afternoon, I am hoping to partake of a bit of Gay Paris' best by running with the bulls, or rather the trannies, in the Gay Pride Parade. What better activity to get in the mood? (Actually the Paris version of Gay Pride is something I've had serious wet dreams about ever since I marched in NY these many years ago.)

--I am currently searching out free couch space so that I may get properly sloshed with all your knowledgeable and cultured Parisian cohorts. My long-promised bed has been usurped by a child’s birthday party (how very dare they!), but I hope to have some good news about that in the near future.

--I have, in my goodness and purity, convinced my husband to shell out 300€ or so for a night full of jiggly boobies and overpriced food at Le Moulin Rouge. Any advice on how to handle the emergency workers called to the scene when he’s handed the bill would be appreciated. Will possibly carry a bottle of O2 just in case.

--Have you had any feedback from my very tiny list of Parisian lovers? Do I need to knock the bitches around any?

Hope all is well down there where you are. The French Gals who have started reading your book are mightily impressed by the way. Ludy is very happy it reads like you talk so she’s found it very easy to fit right into the rhythm of it. The only slightly critical thing I’ve heard has been from Kelly—the American with the baby, and that’s just been that she’s had a hard time picturing Norman in her head. The long hair just doesn’t gel with how she sees him.

Happy thoughts and champagne kisses to you and yours,

Me -->ya know, Doc, the crazy American in Haute Marne

PS: I think I’ll post this on my blog for shits and giggles…

So who do I get to meet in Paris next Saturday?
posted by Doc at 10:38 | Permalink | 4 comments
17 June 2008
Ha! Think it’s going to happen?

It’s that time of year again, the calm (hahaha) before the storm. Mr. Manthing has decided we’re taking a break before the begin of the harvest because otherwise he’s going to fall all apart. Again. As in physically and mentally broken. As in like me.


So word has come down from on high (his office upstairs) that a vacation will be taken before the harvest starts!

I won’t mention (too loudly, at least) the number of times this same message has come from that same place in the same booming, god-like voice. “We WILL go away soon!”

Soon is the word that’s up for interpretation. I’ve heard all about how things will calm down soon for years now. Years later, I’m still waiting for things to calm down, for the number of hours spent away from home at various meetings, conferences and other time consuming extra-agricultural-if-very-important activities to diminish (instead of rising), for the man I married, who promised me ‘dull as hell’ and ‘boring’ to reappear. I should probably give up, and I will, soon.

So, back to now. The harvest is starting soon, the last bit of preparatory work will be done soon, details for the baby-sitter(s) will be completed soon and we’re leaving soon.

Or are we?

See, we’re both very different people. Stress the VERY. My idea of a break is a nice all-inclusive something, where I don’t cook, don’t clean, eat well, and see/do interesting things until I’m bored with them with a bit of sleeping in a very comfy bed. Mr. Manthing’s idea of a break is sleeping, sleeping and… well, let’s just say that all the activities he’d consider participating in would take place in-between naps and without moving very far. And sustenance for said activities could be purchased at deep discounts beforehand and kept in an insulated bag for the duration. All very convenient—probably the only time convenience enters into his way of thinking.

So we’re trying to figure out what to do—not an easy task considering what interests me is very much too expensive and too busy and what interests him makes me want to bang my head against those 80-cm thick walls separating us from the outside. I guess I should be jumping for joy, because this is honestly the closest we’ve been to doing something together since our honeymoon (rolls eyes at the memory of that debacle), but there’s still that (very large and loud) part of my brain that seriously doubts that this plan will come to fruition. And God knows that just kills all motivation I could possible force myself to muster.

posted by Doc at 10:55 | Permalink | 0 comments
15 June 2008
Putting the Father in fathers day

I don’t know how, especially considering that MP3 was on another food strike last night, but we managed to sleep late this morning—late being 9 AM. And since we were all in bed by 9:30 last night, it was indeed a long, blissful night of sleep.

I came down to feed the wee monkey and get the bread. Marc was standing pitifully in front of the toilets when I came in, looking as hung-over as a teetotaler can, and asking for permission to go back to bed. Of course you can! Don’t you realize that if you’re up the plan is all screwed? GO!

The other monkeys all awoke shortly thereafter. So I fed them, got them dressed and changed, and, in the case of Pooplette, re-changed as she decided to pour the contents of her bowl all down the front of herself and all over the floor. Mission accomplished (and the milk left on the floor of course, because I’ve got only two hands, no really, just two) and we climbed the stairs, monkeys in order of age, for the traditional attack of the feeble-minded.

Monkey-1 had, of course, made his Fathers Day present at school—a jar of ‘Sweet Word Jam’. Pooplette had painted a picture at the crèche, and MP3 is a gift in and of herself. I carried along brekky (which was brought right back down again because I’m married to a neat freak and hey! Crumbs! In the bed! OH HELL NO!) so he was happy.

Afterwards he was informed that today he gets to play dad because I am in pitch-and-toss mode and if he wants the house in some semblance of shape this is how he needs to help out. So he did. And I imagine at the end of the day I won’t be the only one claiming back pain…

posted by Doc at 16:24 | Permalink | 1 comments
12 June 2008
A rant, and no I'm not nice today

I’m probably going to piss off a lot of my readers today, because this applies to a lot of them. But I just don’t care. I really don’t. Your complaining is making my eyes bleed every single day, and I just don’t feel up to it anymore.

France. Wow! Is it possible to pick apart a country any more than you have? Unemployment, customer service, the weather, the people, the lack of, dare I say it, English speakers, the food, the taxes, all of it. There is not one single part of France that I haven’t seen torn apart in the Blogosphere. Not one.

You bitch about child care—how unavailable it is, how inconvenient the waiting lists are, how one must run two blocks in the rain to the door because there’s no parking. Oh dear! Funny, most of you aren’t actually working, so of course you’re not on the priority list. Have you even explored the other various methods of child care? The nounous? The au pair possibility? A crèche familiale? Better yet, have you, in this great plan you have of bashing France to make the quasi-unattainable dream of returning back the The States seem so great, priced out American child care?

Parking is a pet peeve for a lot of you, too—most of you who live in cities or larger towns with public transport. USE IT! Christ, whenever I go into one of those big places, I take advantage of the park and ride. Beating your head against the wall over parking in France is just stupid! So what if the bus stop is two blocks from your appointment! Do you honestly think you are going to park any closer?

Unemployment? Gah! This leads me right to my next bitch point. OK, it is hard to find a job in France. I’ll give you that. It’s also very easy to not find a job in France. And half of you aren’t even honestly looking too damn hard. I managed to find a job within months of being allowed to work. Me! In Haute Marne! Where there are cows, fields, and more cows! Why? Because I speak the language—French that is. If I had a penny for every time I heard (or read) someone complaining about their own French skills, or rather their lack thereof, I could afford to send you all back wherever it was that you came from. Look, I spoke maybe two words of French when I got here. I wasn’t brought up bilingual. I took classes, I learned, and oddly, I managed to integrate myself into France. I didn’t spend all my free time sitting around with my anglo, English-speaking friends pissing and moaning about how hard it all is. I bit the bullet, I adapted, I struggled, sure, but I got through it. And now? Wow! I speak French, not perfectly, no, far from that, but well enough to play a major role in the local tourism board, and the village’s comité de fêtes. I can get through an interview for the newspaper, write letters and even a dissertation for school, do everything by phone, and have a real conversation with my French friends—yes, one can have real French friends—but it’s rather hard to see that when you’re constantly stuck with your regular expat group speaking your native tongue all the time.

I don’t even have any more problems with customer service, including the powers that be at the prefecture. Why? I’ve learned how to speak to them. In addition to learning the spoken language here, you’ve got to know the unspoken one. You can’t expect them to be just like Americans doing the same job because—NEWS FLASH—You Ain’t In Kansas Anymore, Dororthy! Yes, they are pains in the ass. Yes it’s horrible that you have to run around doing everything for them. Deal! That’s how it is here. They’re not picking on you and your English-speaking-ness. They do it to everyone. That’s just how it is. Acknowledge and move the fuck on.

And as far as American food goes, the raw ingredients are out there! Go forth and learn how to actually cook something without just opening a box. Chicken wings? Doable! Cheese cake? Totally doable! Chocolate chip cookies? Cut up a friggin’ bar of chocolate instead of whining about how tiny the chips are here.

I just get so frustrated with all of you out there who come here, for whatever reasons, and then get so sad that it’s not at all like back home. And then you get stuck there, mired down in how French France really is. Of course it is! So shut up, and either adapt, integrate and move on with your life, or pack your shit and go the hell home—and complain how much you miss France. Which begs the question: Is it France, or is it YOU?

Oh, one other tiny little thing that really makes my skin crawl—those fields of tiny yellow flowers you see in May? It’s RAPE, not canola. Canola, as a word, didn’t even exist before 1978, when it was coined from Canada Oil Low Acid—indicating the low levels of uric acid. It was originally trademarked but is now considered a generic word for the OIL obtained from a very specific, now mostly genetically modified type of rape. .

Thank you. I’ll put away my soap box now.
posted by Doc at 11:40 | Permalink | 21 comments
11 June 2008
just bitchin' again

I’m writing this in a migraine-induced aura of pain, so forgive me if my thoughts aren’t coherent or even half-way understandable. I’m tired, my head is spitting itself open, and I’m alone, again, for three very long days…

…Not that being alone is such a bad thing, really. It’s actually how I am most of the time, with the exception of bath time and the occasional hour or three on the weekend when we do things as a family, where things means we go look at the next piece of farm equipment the Alpha-male is considering buying, with, of course, a trip to McDonalds tossed in to make it look respectable. I’ve often made the comment, even to Marc, that I feel so much like a single parent so much of the time that I wonder why I’m bothering with the rest of it. His response, in his typical sense of reasoning, is, “Maybe, but I’m paying for it!” Sometimes I really wonder if he realizes just how much more he could pay for my single-parenting skills—not that I’m at the point of making him discover.

I got through another weekend full of his friends, rather unscathed this time, and not as tired as I usually am. Last year when we did the big birthday weekend I was eight months pregnant. And huge. And Very Very Tired. And with the exception of the cakes, which were handled by the au pair who was better than yours, and a salad brought by the vivacious Vivi, I did all the prep work, most of the rest of the work, and a huge amount of the cooking, until I was tossed off the grill by a friend of Marc’s who proceeded to either over- or under-cook everything. This year was significantly different.

For starters, there were only 12 of us. We should have numbered one more than that, but he got stuck at work with something that needed immediate attention. (This made me sad, as he is a nice chunk of eye-candy.) For another, the menu was American—Carolina-style pulled pork barbecue, fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, chips and Coke, with beer and champagne tossed in to make the locals less afraid. It worked—there were only enough leftovers to pull off lunch Monday, by which time, of course, I was sick of all of it. I do have to admit that fried chicken goes pretty well with champagne. I feel so redneck chic now it’s crazy. Time in the kitchen was significantly less than other years, and I was treading on very familiar turf. You can take the girl out of the south… and all that.

Of course, the shopping still had to get done first. That was Friday’s big activity. I planned on doing it all in the morning so I’d have the afternoon to start cooking. I was also planning a visit to one of the AM’s hospitalized farmer friends (note: Don’t stand under a falling bale of hay—it’s going to fuck you up!), and that, combined with the shopping, would put me home long after Monkey’s bus arrival for lunch. This I’d planned with the AM, reminded him of daily until he finally told me to shut up, even pointed it out to him as he left that morning when he rolled his eyes at me and said he’d not forget. All I’ll say is it’s a damn good thing I know how that man’s head works, or else our son, the one on the school bus, that kid? Who knows what would have happened to him. I have nice neighbors, and fortunately they have grandchildren in school with monkey. Bless them! (I really would like to nominate them for some award because, after all my attempts to get Monkey to eat broccoli for the past three years, they managed to convince him that it’s good stuff. I love broccoli, and now he does too. This is very cool!) And he was taken in by his grandparents for lunch, where he was discovered by his father (only an hour later), with his belly full and ready to attack his afternoon studies.

I spent Friday afternoon trying, sometimes with success, sometimes with less, to suppress the anger I felt about that whole situation. Surely I can—and oddly enough DO—understand how it is that the boy’s father could forget him. If you’ve ever spent time on a farm when there’s work to be done, with a looming deadline, while staring the harvest right in the face and dealing with a plethora of other agri-related problems, you can imagine a world where things like bus schedules and lunches for small children could get spit out as extra baggage by the gray matter. (This is, of course, why Plan B had been put into place.) What I have a harder time accepting are the remarks that will be directed to me in the near future by certain members of the AM’s family who, in my opinion, have either forgotten what the reality of farm life is, or refuse to see that their son has responsibilities outside of anything dealing with that fucking farm, or that I could, just possibly, have things to do other than pretending to be the happy house wife, or want a life outside these four half-meter thick walls that feel like a prison too much of the time.

I need to get out of here, if for no other reason than to put enough distance between my family and theirs so that the two have a future of actually speaking to each other.

But it’s not only my absences that cause remarks. The things the kids do, or don’t do, even when not under my supervision are excellent fodder for their little digs. Saturday, while I was INSIDE cooking, while their son and his friends were OUTSIDE talking, Monkey made a few piles of rocks in the grass. Granted, this is not allowed behavior. He’s already been punished in the past for doing this very same thing. But he was under the supervision of his father, right? Certainly I cannot be expected to cook inside, while Monkey plays outside just meters away from his father, and keep my eye on him as well, can I?

Yes, I can. The remark came this morning, now that Marc is safely away certainly, that I need to pay better attention to what he does outside so their mower doesn’t get damaged.

These are, of course, the same people who refuse to allow their grandchildren to play with sidewalk chalk right outside our kitchen door—an activity that would allow me to cook and clean and keep an eye on them while they take advantage of the rare sunny days we’ve had of late. But no! Sidewalk chalk? Outside? No! If they want to play with the damnable sidewalk chalk I have to pull the car out of the garage, on the other side of the street, and let them play there. I don’t have time for that—not for loosing the time I’d have to spend over there with them while everything in the house piles up, not for the arguments that would surely follow because of the piles of unwashed dishes, laundry, and the all-stick floors. Nor do I have time for the comments that would come from the other side of the family about how that chalk would potentially ruin his wine. (This is purely conjecture on my part, but knowing the man as I do, I can certainly see this happening.)

I could probably wax poetic about all the other problems I have living here, about the cave-like qualities of this edifice they call a house (ha!), the myriad of difficulties I have with the in-laws, the lack of space, light, air, heating, cooling, and the general grunginess of my surroundings, but we’re going to be stuck here for a while longer, possibly another two years—and that’s if everything with the shit-heap-on-the-hill goes correctly from this point on, and I cannot allow myself to get stuck on this particular example of why I will probably spend more than a few days of my life medicated to the point that my head no longer sticks to my shoulders and I drool uncontrollably, because otherwise I will spend ALL of my days medicated exactly in that way. Come January, I will have spent more of my life under this particular roof than any other roof in my entire life. It felt like I was camping in the beginning, those eight long years ago. Now, three kids later, I am beginning to understand the meaning of the word Hell.

posted by Doc at 15:35 | Permalink | 5 comments
09 June 2008

Before I pull my thumb out of my ass and really get nice and bitchy about what happened (and, more importantly, what didn’t) this weekend, I have a question for ya.

Remember a while back I talked about that wonderful English author guy who is trying, in his round about way, to get me to write that best seller? Remember him? Yeah, the dude with the sexy posh English accent! Here’s the thing. He’s having another party, this time in Paris, AND ( !!!) he’s mentioned something about free wine and nibbles.

Are ya interested? Could ya be? Would you like an invite?

PS—It looks at the moment that I am being granted leave from the mines to actually GO TO this event, so not only will you be able to buy a purty-darn-good book, but you’ll be able to meet MOI—because we all know it’s all about me, right Ian?

posted by Doc at 22:45 | Permalink | 3 comments
02 June 2008
Lifting a weight

A few months back I was hospitalized for a few days. I’d been experiencing a bit of back pain around my kidneys, and since I have a very long and distinguished history with those particular organs my regular doctor sent me right in to see the specialist. After a few days of poking, prodding, and saving my pee in a jug, I was told there was absolutely nothing wrong with me—except that the lining around my heart was a bit swollen, but hey, that’s nothing to worry about.

The specialist taking care of me was stumped. I was obviously a bit exhausted when I arrived (my blood pressure was way, way low but came right back up to normal after a few days of sleeping whenever I could--which was often, or rather ALL THE TIME), but aside from that NOTHING. So the idea was put forth that maybe I’m a bit nutters, although the clinical speak for this was much more polite.

Still, it’s a bit of a shock to the old system to be told that the pain you’re feeling shouldn’t exist. Because pain, ya know, it really tires you out, and it can drag you under when you’re already on the way down. And when said pain is obviously just a figment of one’s imagination…


I visited the regular doc again recently with MP3 (shots, check-up, more on that later) and explained that the pain, well, it’s still sitting right there in my head where it obviously is because God knows no amount of blood-work, X-rays, CT scans and ultrasounds is yielding any results. Maybe I’m just a hypochondriac? Maybe Marc’s right and I am crazy? Who knows…

So she ordered more tests, a series of X-rays and prescribed me some happy muscle-relaxers and juicy pain medication that does not make one drowsy—can’t have that when MP3 has discovered she’s got LEGS! And that they MOVE!

The first day was lovely. I was almost 98% pain free! I almost felt human again. And then everything fell apart. Day two of the muscle-relaxers damned near killed me. I was hurting and when this Doc is in pain, she’s an EVIL MUTHERFUCKER OF A BITCH to put it mildly. Day three was worse, and when I had to repeatedly stop myself from tossing one or the other of the children from the roof because Dammit Leave Me Alone I’m Dying, I knew something needed to be done.

So I called the Dr this time, explained what was happening, and was basically told that I’m strange, that there’s nothing at all listed in the Vidal (French version of the PDR) that can be attributed to the medication, but if I think I’d be happier, then I should just stop taking them. So I did, and the pain went from the red ALARM ALARM SUICIDAL INFANTICIDAL zone to the OK I’m Just Imagining This zone. I never thought being in pain would be a relief, but then I never imagined such a wide variety of painful ouchiness.

Today I had the x-rays taken, and Lo! I’m not crazy! At least not about hurting all the damn time. Other crazy? That’s still up for debate. But this is not a figment of my imagination! I almost kissed the doctor explaining everything to me, and I had tears of joy in my eyes as I left the cabinet de radiologie. Bad news has never felt so good!

And lest I be mistaken for being over-dramatic, the news isn’t that bad. I’m not dying, won’t end up handicapped, or have serious health issues. I am looking at the probability, however, of life-long pain management, and I can totally live with that, because it sure beats being labeled NUTS in a country where folks Go To The DOCTOR for a HANGNAIL.

(MP3 is just fine. She’s growing tall and her head is expanding right on schedule. However, she still isn’t gaining weight the way she should be. She’s eating, she’s eating a lot more than before actually, so we’re making a few small changes in diet, in routine, and we’ll see what happens next. It is rather frightening, though, to have a baby like this one. She’s got the cutest fattest cheeks around, and looks like a cute fluffy baby, but she’s yet to double her birth weight (still got 2.2 kilos to go, around five pounds) and that’s a bit of a concern. And, please don’t think I’m complaining, because I’m far from complaining, she’s sooooo mellow compared to the older two, who were both climbing up and walking down the stairs at this age. MP3 is only just starting to move around—not quite a crawl, but very, very fun to watch! We’ve been blessed with a perfectly LOVELY child, a calm, sweet, cherubic angel! Now if only we could fatten her up!)

posted by Doc at 22:58 | Permalink | 8 comments