Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Kicking

Kind of a blah week. Lots of news, lots of stuff going on, which of course means I've been busy and tired.

Exciting things for the weekend: the weather was nice today, a friend is coming over for dinner tonight, and another friend planned a last minute trip to come see me this weekend. If those things aren't a pick me up I don't know what is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Buttered or Stuffed?

The word of the day at French Word-A-Day is beurré, meaning drunk. I did a double take when I saw this because I had learned that bourré means really drunk, and I've been corrected when my mauvaise prononciation made it sound like I said beurré. You are not buttered, he told me. You're bourré, you're drunk. The beurré/bourré issue was discussed in the comments section; evidently other people were confused too. Word-A-Day's husband said you can use both, and one reader posted that beurré is a corruption of bourré. My guess is that the word you use depends on where you're from, and probably on your accent. I'm going to stick with bourré and leave the beurre for cooking.

I also noticed last week that she used the term une chipie but defined it as an ill-tempered woman. I was told that une chipie is a little girl who likes to play tricks and generally be kind of annoying and smart ass-y, a bratty little girl. The two definitions are in the same sort of general area, but still quite different. Another regional variation? I know that some of the girls at the schools had backpacks with a Chipie character on them, so if the term comes from the character then it seems normal that different regions would have different meanings.

Of course I know that different regions will acquire different slang and terms. In the northeast "wicked" is not a reference to the Salem Witch Trials but means "super cool!" I say pop, the east and west coasts say "soda," and in the south they say "coke." I talk about my tennis shoes while you talk about your sneakers or gym shoes. It's normal that terms change in different parts of the country, but it sure makes language learning a lot harder!

Along the same lines, when I was in middle school we used to shout "oh, ash! wipe it off!" whenever someone made a mistake or did something ridiculous. I think the idea was that ash was supposed to be dandruff, and there was an accompanying motion of brushing the ash off your shoulders. This was only a thing at my middle school. There are five other middle schools in town and not a single one of them ever did this! Talk about regional slang!

Anyone else have funny stories about the differences in vocab between regions?

Emotionally Drained

I'm a very emotional person. I cry during sad movies and books, sad stories on the news upset me, when I'm happy about something I'm ecstatic, and when I get really angry about something (which thankfully doesn't happen often) I'm really angry. It's a conscious choice. I could be more calm about things, but when I'm not emotionally involved and feeling something all the time, I feel dead inside, as if I'm not fully participating in life. I like being emotionally invested in my life and having intense feelings.

Sometimes though, it's too much. Sometimes there is so much going on that my brain turns off my emotional center for a period of time. It's had enough and it can't take anymore right now, there's too much to process. The past several days, for example. There is so much going on in my life right now - an amazing girl from a local support group for young adults with cancer passed away, I have a friend who is dying, another friend who is going to get a second transplant, I'm worried about my 93 year old grandfather who lives by himself, I have friends who are having problems with each other, I'm worried that my gvhd is acting up.... there's a lot going on.

So as strange as it sounds, my brain has put me on emotional break, which just means that I'm calm about everything and nothing penetrates the calm. I can't react emotionally. I say what I know needs to be said, and I can feel a sort of detached empathy, but I can't get worked up about anything. And I do mean can't. I want to be able to feel things, but right now I just can't. I feel detached and matter-of-fact.

And that's a big relief right now. I need a break. I just hope it doesn't last too long.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Updates from France

Let's take a break from cancer for and talk about France.

Long time readers will remember my friend D, who worked at one of my schools and became my friend, until I realized that she is one of those girls who dumps her friends once she gets a boyfriend, and is actually pretty self centered and majorly lacking a backbone. I left France not knowing if I was going to keep in touch with her, despite her big show at the end about our sincere friendship and how much she would miss me. Since she spent most of the year seeing her (now ex) boyfriend instead of me, and the last time we went out together was a disaster, I didn't really take her at her word. But when she had heard that I had relapsed she emailed me in a panic with all kinds of professions of friendship and caring, and I remembered the times when we were good friends, like when we spent 10 days at her family's apartment in Canet a couple of summers ago. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? She recently joined Facebook too, which makes keeping in touch easier. She's finally done with her latest loser boyfriend, the famous Arno, and had recently met a guy on Meetic, the French online dating website.

My most recent message to her, at the beginning of April, had been kind of emotional. It was a message that most people would have responded to thoughtfully and quickly. She usually responds to me within 24 hours, but not this time. I was kind of waiting for her response, and made up all kinds of excuses for her late response. Well, she finally responded to me yesterday. It was mostly about herself. Things aren't going to work out with the Meetic guy, and as far as everything I wrote to her, it sounds like she didn't understand what I was saying AT ALL and gave advice that wasn't really relevant. Thank you D, for taking 10 days to respond to a message that needed a quick response. Thank you for not understanding, and thank you for brushing it off with irrelevant platitudes. I haven't responded yet, and I'm not sure that I will.

The next weird France related Facebook thing happened today. D is Facebook friends with F, my teaching nemesis, so F and I are friends too. F is one of those old-school French teachers that you hear horror stories about. She screams at the students, calls them stupid, embarrasses them for making mistakes, and runs the classroom like a military base. The usual targets of her worst rages were the students who have trouble learning. Naturally my games and encouragement and nurturing of the students' creativity drove her nuts. She was very jealous of my friendship with D, and probably also jealous of how much the kids liked me. One memorable evening I was pretty sure she was trying to trap me into saying something she could use against me at school. She used to tell D exactly what she disliked about me, usually about the way I ran the classroom and how the kids weren't learning anything. One time she even told D that she wanted to get certified to teach English to get me out of her classroom. That memorable conversation occurred between them on the phone while D and I were hanging out. I was right there. D didn't say one single word in my defense.

But I also think F was jealous of the incredible experience I was having in France. She confessed to me once that she had wanted to be a translator and used to speak English quite well, but when she got pregnant she took the concours to become a teacher. The story of the pregnancy, which I know from D, is that the father of the child abandoned her when he found out she was pregnant, so she was in a sort of desperate situation. She was only 20, and clearly had dreams of a different life. I have a lot of empathy for her situation, stuck doing something she dislikes out of necessity, but I really can't excuse her behavior towards the kids.

Anyway, F decided to chat with me on facebook this morning! We exchanged pleasantries, and then she was no longer online, but then she was, but then she wasn't... you know how internet problems go. Later she sent me a message giving me her email address "for another time." What?? I'm a little confused by all of this, mostly by the fact that F wants to communicate with me at all, but also by how exactly she wants to communicate. Am I supposed to send her an email? Should I respond to the message? Does she want to chat with me on msn messenger? Does she want to be my friend now or just see how I'm doing? I feel bad for being so skeptical, and part of me really wants to think that this was totally innocent and without any ulterior motive, but I just feel like I can't trust her. I don't want to totally blow her off either, so I'm not really sure what to do. Probably just write a simple response to her Facebook message. I bet she wants me to find her a hotel in New York or something.

As for other colleagues and various people from my town, they couldn't be more lovely. One of my colleagues actually sent me books in English! Others have gotten their students to write me absolutely charming letters and cards to send to me. The women from my pottery class have banded together to ship some of my creations to me here in the US, which is not inexpensive. I exchange frequent emails with many of them. I have been so touched by their kindness and their eagerness to stay in touch with me and support me during my transplant. I'm so lucky that I had the opportunity to meet and get to know such lovely people.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This is what I was talking about Part 2

KFC's Buckets for a Cure

Each Bucket Makes a Difference

For every Pink Bucket, KFC makes a 50 cent donation to Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Together our donation will help Komen for the Cure end breast cancer forever. We urge you to learn more about the disease, how its effects touch nearly all of us, and most importantly, what you can do to join the fight.

That's fantastic. Look, I can get fat on fried chicken and help cure breast cancer at the same time! And KFC will donate an extraordinarily generous 50 CENTS to Susan G. Komen while I'm clogging my arteries! Awesome!

Not to mention the fact that KFC will be turning a nice profit from this. The cynic in me says that KFC will probably raise the cost of the special pink buckets by 50 cents so that they are none the loser and still get to reap all of the PR benefits of having this great, selfless fundraiser for Komen. What a shamelessly self-promoting move.

I find this disgusting.

Check out this great campaign I found out about today, Think Before You Pink, which "calls for more transparency and accountability by companies that take part in breast cancer fundraising, and encourages consumers to ask critical questions about pink ribbon promotions." It's an organization that seeks to expose and stop self serving cause marketing campaigns that reap a lot of benefit for the company in question but do nearly nothing for the non-profits trying to increase funding for research and treatment for low income patients. They also expose pinkwashers, companies that promote themselves as major fundraisers for breast cancer research and yet load their products with dangerous carcinogens.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


My friend J and I, who just relapsed after his first transplant, made a pact to try our hardest not to die (which is unfortunately a lot harder than you might think). I majorly failed at that pact this weekend!

First was my niece's first birthday party. I love little children, children are adorable, but they are dirty little germ vectors. They are always sick and always passing bugs between them. During my 100 days I didn't touch her or go near her because she's in day care during the day and has picked up all sorts of bugs there, including whatever terrible respiratory virus she has right now. She was coughing and wheezing all day yesterday, but did that stop me from holding her? No, of course not! Although when I could feel something rattling in her chest when I held her I did try to pass her off to my uncle, but she starting screaming and grabbed my arm, so I was stuck with her. It will be a miracle if I don't get sick with whatever she has. And in case you were wondering, the worst kind of infection to get when you're immunosuppressed is a respiratory infection!!

Then Saturday night I went out to dinner with the French conversation group.... to a fondue restaurant. Yes, a restaurant where everyone sticks the same utensil that has just been in their mouth back into the shared pot o'cheese. At first I was ladling cheese into a separate bowl just for me, but it kept congealing and it's not so fun to put congealed melted cheese on a piece of bread with a knife, and I eventually just gave up and stuck my fork in the pot like everyone else. More than 600 different types of bacteria live in your mouth!!! Again, if I don't get sick with something, it will be a miracle.

Major, major FAIL. But I had a really good time.

Friday, April 9, 2010

More odds and ends

Since I was so successful with Phase I of my twitter experiment, I decided that I was allowed to proceed to Phase II and check selected profiles of certain people to see what they were up to. That went well the first day, and then I saw something that made me so frustrated that I'm going to have to shut down Phase II. It's something that falls into the category of "someone else is living your French life." [Side bar: I'm pretty sure there used to be a blog of that title, but I can't find it anymore. Either I'm totally misremembering or it's been shut down. Anyone?] Anyway, then I realized, after stewing about it for a couple of minutes, that I could have done the exact same thing while I was in France and that it was my own fault that I hadn't. I have no one to be mad at but myself. Oh well. C'est la vie, as they say, and if I'm very lucky I will hopefully have a chance to correct that someday.

Is anyone else watching Life on the Discovery Channel? It is amazing! It's an 11 or 12 part series about the animal world. They show amazing things and go amazing places - under the sea, to Africa, into the jungle... I love getting an upclose look at places I otherwise would never have seen. I especially love all of the info about life in the sea. I have this paranoid fear of being stuck under water and unable to breathe and then eventually drowning, so scuba diving is definitely not for me. But thanks to the producers of this wonderful series, I get an upclose look at coral reefs, whales, sea dragons, all kinds of amazing things! This is definitely a must watch, I highly recommend it to everyone. Unless you hate nature and animals, in which case, probably not for you :)

The Wii Fit is a great thing. My parents got me one for Chanukkah and I really like it. I hadn't played it (exercised?) in a week or more because the weather has been nice and I was going outside and doing things, but I came back to it today and was more into it than ever. Part of that may be that after lots and lots of trying I'm finally getting better at the different activities. Have I mentioned before that I am completely unathletic and a major klutz to boot? Big thumbs up to the Wii Fit, in any case.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How far I've come

I have a pill box set. It has all seven days of the week, with four boxes for each day: morning, noon, evening, and bedtime meds. The set itself is pretty large, and each box is pretty large. I sit down once a week and put all the meds I need in the necessary box, usually Tuesday because that's when I see the doctor and med changes are made. The pill box set makes life a lot more simple because I don't have to deal with all the containers from the pharmacy, and I don't have to think about if I've taken a particular medication for the day because everything is laid out neatly in its box.

When I first left the hospital, I was taking so many different pills that I could barely close the boxes, and these are big boxes. I felt like I spent my entire day taking pills. It seemed to take hours to sort out my meds every week and make sure I had put everything in the right box.

And now? I'm only taking 5 required prescription pills. I have another that I can take as needed, but I usually take it once or twice a day anyway (my nausea drug). I have a multivitamin and Vitamin D that I take on a daily basis too, and a lotion for the remaining gvhd rash, but that's it. My weekly med organization takes a fraction of the time it used to, and my pill boxes close easily. And on the 9th it will be four short months since my transplant.


Monday, April 5, 2010

Filling Space

I have a lot on my mind, and not sure what to write about first, or if any of it is worth recounting on the internet.

I'll start with my No Twitter experiment, which has been very successful, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to continue it indefinitely. It's so freeing to not care at all what is happening on Twitter. I'm less jealous of everyone in France, feel less ignored and displaced, and am overall happier.

Or is that the change in weather? The weather has been gorgeous this week. Most days it's been in the 70s, sunny, a lovely breeze. In short, wonderful! It's really nice to be able to get outside to walk around and enjoy the weather. I couldn't go outside much during the winter for a couple reasons. One, I am always cold, and taking a walk in subfreezing temperatures isn't my idea of fun, especially bald. You don't realize it until it's gone, but hair really does provide additional warmth. I don't know how people with short hair live through winter. Two, I couldn't risk slipping and falling on the snow and ice and breaking something. Unfortunately tomorrow we're getting rain and it's cooling down for the next 10 days. Spring will be here for good eventually...

It's so nice having a social life. Today I went out for coffee with a friend, Wednesday night I have French group, either Thursday or Friday I'll be going to see a musical, Saturday I'm going to dinner with the French group, and at some point this week I hope to see other friends. I like having a reason to put on real clothes and makeup instead of just hanging around in my pajamas all day long.

Only one of these topics has actually been on my mind to write about, the rest are just useless space fillers. You'll have to wait for the juicy stuff.