Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Someone else is living your French life

I'm pretty sure there used to be a blog with this title, but I can't find it anymore. So to the anonymous blogger who came up with the great title, thank you.

I think the original blogger meant the title to reflect the feeling that many expats in France have that their life there isn't what they thought it would be and that someone else is living the amazing, idyllic French life you thought you would have, complete with gorgeous boyfriend and perfect apartment overlooking the Seine, whereas your reality is more along the lines of a 9m2 former maid's room and long, lonely weekends.

I dealt with my own share of frustrations in France, but overall I had a great time. Now that I'm back in the US, everyone in France is living MY French life. It's la rentree, the time when everyone goes back to school and work, so so the fact that "my French life" is most likely over, or at least on a very extended hiatus, is on my mind a lot. I would be so ghttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifrateful for one last run in with my monster class, or another altercation with the agent comptable, or even getting stuck in a transportation greve (strike). I find myself nostalgic for the bureaucratic garbage, the brain dead idiots in Picardie, my yogurt stealing neighbor, teaching, my coworkers, my students, being able to go to Paris whenever I wanted... the list goes on.

I'm insanely jealous of everyone in France. I'm fully aware that it isn't a perfect life, and I know there are plenty of problems one encounters living in France, but that's the life that I want. Everyone in France is living my French life. If you live in France, no matter how miserable you are, I WANT YOUR LIFE. Sadly the chances of anyone willingly exchanging lives with me are very slim, but if you're up for it, we can arrange something! My mom will cook you dinner every night, if that helps sweeten the deal. She's a fantastic cook. She also likes to bake :)

So guys, when the going gets tough, just remind yourself that there's a girl in Michigan who wishes she were dealing with your tough goings. On the other hand, I know that there are probably people who are, in fact, miserable enough that they wish they had my life. At least I have a good health care policy, a roof over my head, and food on my table every day. Sadly a lot of people can't say that.

On one level, my point is that we should all try to be more content with what we have because there's always someone worse off (and wouldn't it suck to be the person at the bottom of that list who really is the worst off?), and there's always someone who is jealous of you and wants your life.

On another level, I really am saying that someone else is living my French life and I would like it back, please. Hand it over.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

How the Kindle makes bibliophilia worse

I love books. I have always loved books. I used to beg my parents to read me my favorite stories over and over again. We aren't really sure exactly when I began to read because I would memorize books so quickly and be able to recite them by heart. I was the kid who was always reading under her desk during class. I never thought it was a problem until my last year teaching in France when I caught one of my students doing it. My first instinct was to think it wasn't that big of a deal, until I realized that it would set a bad example for the other kids to let him get away with it!

I still don't think it's a big deal.

My parents got me a Kindle for my birthday before I went back to France for a second year because I had trouble finding books in English in my small town, and even in Paris you aren't guaranteed to find the book you want. What an amazing present!! As long as I am somewhere with wireless I can get almost any book I want. It's amazing! One of my favorite features is the free sample feature. You can download the first several pages of a book for free to see how you like it before you buy it. I love it. I love being able to try out books.

I'm afraid I've become a bit of a Kindle addict! Real paper books don't interest me the way they used to because I love my Kindle so much. That's terrible. I know there are some books I could never read on a Kindle; any Jane Austen, for example. But I have several paper books that I need to read and have been meaning to read, and for some reason they just don't make me want to read them the way my Kindle makes me want to read. I also have books I've been meaning to order from Amazon that I haven't ordered yet because I'm so captivated by my Kindle!

Then there's the ability to browse for books! I can always have new books! All the time! I can look through hundreds of books a day! Their enormous store is always open! I can sit in bed and look for books! It's amazing! This is another reason why I don't want to read the paper books that I already have in my possession but have yet to read. I'm kind of addicted to looking at new books all the time! I don't know if it's the appeal of being able to look at all those different books all the time, or the idea that there might be something better out there.... I really don't know. I just know that I'm hooked on Kindle, and I may have been spoiled for real books forever!

One of my favorite books when I was a kid was a book of American tall tales that my mom's graduate adviser gave me. By far my favorite story was, and still is, the tale of John Henry. Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are pretty cool too, but John Henry holds a special place in my heart. My friend Get Yourself Connected and his tale of machines taking over railroad work that used to be done by men reminded me John Henry and the great folk songs about him. The Boss has a pretty mean version of one on his album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Jackpot! .... or not

This week is chemo week AND photopheresis week, so I'm going in to the hospital every day for infusion. Yesterday I thought I had hit the cancer center jackpot: when I got to infusion I was sitting next to a cute guy who looked like he was my age! I can probably count on one hand the number of times I've seen a patient my age at infusion!

I was so excited, but he was with the nurse, so I decided to wait until she was done to say anything to him. But it turned out she had been taking out his IV because his infusion was done, and he stood up and left before I could even get out a simple hello!

Can't a girl catch a break?!?!?!?!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Meet the Wigs

A few weeks ago I went to the wig bank at the cancer center and picked out a couple of wigs. These are the first wigs I've ever gotten in my whole six years of treatment. Usually I wear scarves.

Meet Aubrey!

Meet Karen!

As you can see they are very different from each other! My natural hair is dark and curly, so they're both quite a change for me, Aubrey in particular. I've also never had a hair cut as cool as either of these - the cool bangs, cool layering, etc. Usually I go pretty basic - long layers, some face framing, and that's it. The last time I had hair that long I was in high school! I prefer Aubrey; she's a little more fun, and looks better on me. Who would ever have guessed I'd look good as a red head?

I decided to get some wigs because I thought they might give me a little more confidence when I'm out in public or meeting new people. I've only worn them a few times since I got them, and the first couple of times I think I was more self conscious than I am just wearing a scarf! I was worried that the wig would shift and look funny on my head, or that it was easy to tell I was wearing a wig, that it looked terrible on me, that the hair was tangling, etc. I hadn't gotten wigs previously because I'd heard that they are itchy and hot, and because I like accessorizing my outfits with scarves. Turns out wigs are indeed itchy and hot! But I do like looking a little more "normal" when I go out in public. I blend in rather than standing out.

The other reason to get wigs is that despite the Rogaine my hair doesn't appear to be growing back. Reasons that my hair isn't growing back yet are: still waiting to grow back from the chemo I got eight months ago (unlikely), the chemo I'm getting now (which shouldn't affect hair growth), and hair gvhd. I know a few girls, all around my age, who have hair gvhd. One is totally bald, one has extremely thin hair (thinner than mine is now) and doesn't wear a wig, and one who has thin hair and wears a wig. Rogaine does say that it takes a few months to work, and I've only been using it for two, so there's still a chance that I'll see some regrowth in the next couple of months. I can also try a higher dosage of Rogaine and see if that helps (buy Rogaine for Men instead of Rogaine for Women. Because obviously my life isn't already embarrassing enough!).

I can't tell if my hair is growing back or not, but I am starting to lose a little bit of hope. I haven't totally given up, but I think it's best if I start trying to get used to the idea of being mostly bald forever because it's going to take a long, long time to get used to. I hate the idea of my hair never growing back. I really don't mind being bald for a few months; I understand that it's a necessary evil when it comes to chemotherapy and getting healthy. I comfort myself with the knowledge that it will grow back. But what if the hair loss is permanent, what do I say to myself then?

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, if I have to sacrifice my hair to stay alive, it's a small price to pay. It's just a really, really sucky price. I miss my hair. I miss washing it, running my fingers through it, the way I look with my hair, I miss it blowing all over my face when I roll the windows down in my car. I always liked my hair. Not to mention, if I thought I'd have a hard time finding a guy who would put up with the cancer thing, it'll be even harder to find someone who will put up with cancer AND permanent baldness. Imagine coming home to someone who looks like a cancer patient every day. I can't blame anyone who doesn't want to sign up for that.

It makes me extremely sad to think that I'll probably be mostly bald for the rest of my life. That every day I'll wake up and put on a wig, and then take it off at night. That I'll never see my natural hair again.

A small prayer to the universe: Can I have my hair back please?

I guess until then, Aubrey and I will be spending some time together. It is kind of fun to play dress up with wigs, but I really hope it isn't something I'll have to do forever.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Apparently I'm really old

Last night at French conversation group I brought up this article from the New York Times about the phenomenon of 20somethings taking longer to "grow up" - be financially independent, getting married, having children, starting a career. I actually didn't think it was a very good article, but that is beside the point. I was sitting with a woman in her late 30s, a guy in his 40s, two college students, and one guy who just graduated from high school and is starting college in a few weeks. I summarized the point of the article, and the high school kid says "yeah, that's a big problem for my generation."

I looked at him and exclaimed "how old do you think I am?!?!" I know that to a 17 or 18 year old a 26 year old seems ancient, but let's keep in mind that the article was actually about my generation, not teenagers!

Kind of a hilarious story, right? I had a good laugh about it.

You know what else makes me laugh? I saw a recent picture of my French ex and he got fat and ugly! Bwahahahahaha. I'm sure it's super bad karma to be happy about it, but he was a major jerk, so I am getting a hefty dose of satisfaction out of his ugliness and weight gain. This one will make me smile for a long time!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Michigan's East Coast

I spent a wonderful weekend near Tawas City with two lovely ladies from my Gilda's Club young adult group. There are a lot of inland lakes in this area and one of the girls recently bought a house on Round Lake.

The Sand Lake firefighters were having some kind of special weekend, featuring Fireman Burgers, games for kids, and a fireman water balloon fight! Unfortunately we missed out on that one.

There was also this funny Budweiser car at the festival thing.

In the evening we went into Tawas to wade in Lake Huron and look around at the town. It didn't take too long, there's only one main street!

I hadn't been to Lake Huron before, so I crossed another Great Lake off my list of lakes to visit. I've now at least seen all of the Great Lakes!

Although Tawas is small, it does have possibly the best store ever:

I didn't actually get fudge or ice cream here, but I had to take a picture of the sign!

My friend and her husband have a pontoon boat that we took out to the sand bar that divides Round Lake from Indian Lake, set up some chairs, and took turns enjoying the sun and kayaking across the lake.

Looking over the sandbar into Indian Lake. Indian Lake was several degrees cooler than Round Lake.

This is how we set up the chairs - yes, we were sitting in the water.

Kayaking. I'm in the orange kayak!

It was a great weekend! So relaxing, and I was really happy to kayak again, I haven't kayaked in years! The only kind of weird part was that there was hardly any cell phone reception in the area. I had no idea places like that still existed!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What a week!

I had a busy week this week! Of course now I can't even think of what it was that kept me running around so much, but I felt like I was going non-stop. I think it's because I had trouble sleeping and was really tired all week. Why am I still awake right now?

I'm off to northern Michigan again for the weekend! Going to Tawas with some friends. It's a cancer chicks weekend. Pictures and stories when I get back.

Now off to bed!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


My doctor told me last week that my total maintenance chemo plan will last for two years. That means I'll be getting treatment until May 2012.

So I'm stuck here for another two years. I love my doctor and nurse, the hospital and all the staff here and have no desire to get treatment anywhere else. I feel that the team here is the best fit for me and I'm in the best place possible.

But.... then there's wanderlust I can't seem to get out of my system. Being tied to a specific place because of treatment frustrates me. It makes me feel like my life is not my own, that I have no self-determination, like someone - or something - else is in charge instead of me. I should be in charge. It's my life. It isn't only the idea that I want the power to determine where I go, but I love going different places and experiencing new things. I'm stuck in a rut here, living in the house I grew up in, in the same room, in the same bed I've had since I was six (yeah, I know, time to get a new one).

Part of the way I've been dealing with being stuck in treatment again is by imagining what I will do when I'm done. I like to think about going back to France, or different degree programs in different cities I can do. Above all I think about going back to France. It has almost a mythic quality for me. It's a place where I wasn't sick, where I was completely independent, totally in charge of my own destiny, working and traveling and doing all the things normal 20somethings do. I've never had that experience in the US. I spent most of college in treatment or recovering from my first transplant and then I ran off to France. In the US I feel perpetually stuck in adolescence. I can't even enroll in classes and do something productive with my time while I'm stuck here because I have to go to the hospital for so many different appointments. It would be too difficult to schedule. Maybe next semester or next year? And I know I could take online classes, but that isn't that same. I want to go OUT and do things, not be stuck in the house all the time.

I'm just disappointed. I need some change. I am going out and doing things, meeting people, but that's also a frustrating experience because one of the first questions anyone asks is "what do you do?" And I have nothing to say to that. I usually say that I recently got back from teaching English in France, but that was a year ago now. It just reminds me that the majority of the world is living and doing productive things and I am not. It's embarrassing, and yet another reminder that my life has taken a totally different path from anything I ever thought it would.

Everyone join in loud and clear: THAT SUCKS.

Guess it's time for a new two year plan. I like to mope about my problems for a couple of days and then get on with things, make some positive changes. Right now I'm moping, and tomorrow I'll regroup. France will still be there in two years, right?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Summertime in Northern Michigan

Views from our balcony over the west bay