Tuesday, November 28, 2006

75 views on flickr.com!

Maylin and I do many art projects together. This is the result of one of them. Polymer clay is great -- it's non-toxic and you can bake it to harden it. I prefer to use Sculpey, but the Fimo brand is available worldwide. I can't believe seventy-five people took a look at my one-inch high pig on flickr.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Foreign in the U.S.A.

I felt so at home with John's family in Ohio during our Thanksgiving vacation there. It was such a wonderful time -- getting to know one another better, laughing, cooking, eating, making music, playing with the kids. I wish we could have stayed a little longer. Being with family is good. There's a certain kind of warmth that you can't get anywhere else. It must be all that love in the air.

Stepping out of the coziness of family and home to go shopping or eat in a restaurant sometimes felt like stepping into foreign territory. I've been in France so long I've forgotten how things go in the States. For example, in the airport restaurants, it was a bit startling to hear the service employees calling their clients, "honey," a way too familiar term for France, where we have to use the polite "vous" form for all verb conjugations when talking with someone we don't know. Using the familiar "tu" form is just plain rude unless you're talking to a friend, a family member (with the exception of certain elders), or children. "Honey" is more on a "tu" level, or maybe lower.

The shopping experience really made me feel "etrange" (foreign). First of all, at the supermarket, I automatically started bagging my groceries and realized later that the cashier or bagger usually does that. Doesn't hurt to help out though, right? I always feel funny anyways when someone is doing something for me that I could easily do myself. Even before I went to France. I always tried to avoid having my groceries taken to my car by an employee, except for when I had really heavy items like fifty-pound bags of dog food.

At Target (no, pronouncing it "tar-jhay" doesn't make it French, contrary to popular belief), I removed my cart from its line of nestled siblings from the wrong direction (I forgot that the carts run from the outside to the inside in places like Target and Wal-Mart allowing access to the cart from the interior of the store) and felt discombobulated when it came to paying with a credit card. Slide it through, follow screen instructions, sign paper. In France, most people use a debit card or cash, and our card machines are different where you actually insert your card and type in your PIN.

I'm also having trouble recognizing cars now, when I used to be really in tune with the domestic and import car industry in the States (at one point in high school, I wanted to become a car designer). I'm familiar with most French models of Citroen, Peugeot, and Renault. But ask me to recognize the more recent models Japanese and American cars? I'd be at a loss.

Geez, I couldn't even recognize my preferred facial cleanser by Clearasil (unavailable in France)! They completely changed their look from a bold blue to mostly white. I was happy to notice, though, that Jif peanut butter (ca n'existe pas en France) looks the same as ever.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Back from Turkeyland!

Maylin and I flew out to Ohio to spend time with John's family for Thanksgiving. And we finally saw John for the first time in three weeks! He flew in from the West Coast after his North America work trip was done. It was good to be back together again.

Sorry to be offline for so long, but I will fill you in on our trip later!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Is it a postcard, or is it Caroline's photo?

Taken from the Centre Pompidou. Click on the "my photos" link for more of my latest photos.

Coffee, juice, water, and...

I was on my way out of the gym this morning (did I tell you I'm going back again today?) when I paused to set down my bag so I could put on my jacket. I took a look around and saw next to me a glass-doored case with cool drinks for sale, a coffee vending machine, and a slender, free-standing, plexiglass billboard about my height. Upon closer inspection, it wasn't just a billboard. It was a cologne dispenser! Isn't that just perfect? All those sweaty, smelly guys coming out from their workout can press a little button and enjoy a free spritz of Armani as they rush out to meet the world of sensitive noses. Have you seen these in the States?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

First, ask the right question

I went to the Centre Pompidou today to see the Robert Rauschenberg exhibit with Maylin. Now I remember why I usually don't take her to museums these days. If you like a whirlwind tour of art, take my four year-old daughter with you. If you want to savor each piece and actually have time to think about it, don't take her along. Oh well. I think she liked some of it, but she was pretty antsy. I should have gone straight to the Rauschenberg instead of going to another exhibit beforehand and the museum's main bookstore.

At the bookstore, I had a truly French experience. I was trying to return an art book I had bought on the 29th of September. I went back last month to return it, but ran into a closed museum due to the social demonstration out in front. So I tried again today and was soooo disappointed to find out they didn't do returns. Not at all! There was nothing on the receipt about this. Well, I was just about to leave huffy and puffy when I realized I could ask if they did exchanges. To my surprise, they did! Geez, if I hadn't asked the right question, I would have been stuck with my expensive, not-so-good art book. This is the way in France. Sometimes, people in the service industry will not volunteer information to help you out -- you have to just expect this. And you have to know what to ask.

The employee told me to go pick out the books first and then he would do the exchange. It was Maylin's lucky day -- she got to pick out two, very nice books. When I went back to the guy, he looked at the receipt and muttered (to himself and to his colleague) loud enough for me to hear that the book was sold over a month ago. I was thinking, he better not penalize me for that -- that's not written on the receipt either!

Fortunately, the exchange went smoothly, but I was a bit put out when he refused to return my smile after the transaction was completed. Ooh -- it's times like these when I wish I was in the States again, pronto!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Are you a long-lost friend of mine?

If so, please see my profile, and click on the e-mail button to contact me. Most likely, I want to reconnect with you, but have just lost your contact information. Out of curiosity (maybe a little loneliness for some strange reason?), I checked my site meter and noticed I have at least one visitor from Indonesia and one from Sweden. I have missing friends who may still be residing there. If you are those missing people or have any information regarding their whereabouts, please contact me! (Okay, now I'm purposely starting to sound like "America's Most Wanted.")

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Maylin's teacher is concerned

Yesterday, Maylin's teacher gave me a surprising report. Remember I brought birthday cake to her class before vacation? Remember the teacher telling me she didn't eat her piece of cake? Well, after a week and a half of vacation, she found that piece wedged in a corner of the classroom. I'm sure it didn't look too pretty. She said Maylin wouldn't say anything about hiding it, but she understands that maybe she was too embarrassed to throw it away -- after all, her Mommy made it.

Maylin's teacher was actually more concerned about her not communicating to her. She never breathes a word to her, and rarely speaks French with the other children. She gravitates towards one of her English-speaking friends for the majority of the classtime. Her teacher said Maylin seemed to understand French, but wanted some evidence that she could speak it. And she really wants to get to know her better -- she's fascinated by the creative mind who makes beautiful drawings everyday. Maylin's teacher knows she's shy, but she really wants me to try something.

I suggested having more playdates with French children, which may encourage to speak more French, but I really don't think it's going to make her less shy around adults. I don't believe you can make someone less shy. I was very timid up until high school. But it wasn't until college when I really opened up. That was a matter of will. The summer before I started my freshman year of college, I made up my mind to be the talkative, outgoing person I always wanted to be. And it worked. I'm just going to let Maylin take her time. I can't change her personality.

Battle of the wills: getting dressed in the morning

Maylin is very particular about her clothes. VERY particular. Yesterday, she was very much opposed to wearing the thicker jacket I was suggesting to her since it was really cold out. Too cold for her favorite coat -- a very thin, bright pink, strawberry-adorned raincoat. She liked this newer jacket before -- in fact, she picked it out herself on the way down to Barcelona last spring. It's purple (her favorite color to wear), but now it seems that its bulkiness is off-putting to her. "It's too puffy," was the explanation she gave me for not wanting to wear it. Of course, she protested in the apartment getting ready for school, and she protested nearly all the way to school. Which means, she wasn't wearing a jacket outside until she gave in.

This is what it looked like. I was walking a few feet ahead of Maylin, refusing to carry her jacket. Maylin was bawling behind me with tears streaming down her face, begging me to take her jacket. I continued persuading her to get it on. She continued refusing, even though she was probably freezing in her light cotton sweater with just a tanktop underneath. So, I had to bring in the ominous possibility of her getting seriously sick, requiring her to make a visit to the hospital. The choice I gave her: hospital or jacket. We were just a block away from school when she finally chose to wear the jacket. Sheesh. Can you just imagine what it's going to be like when she's a teenager? I'm going to have my hands full.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Stream of consciousness poem

I bought some pens today after all (!) of ours either disappeared or ran out of ink! I might have found a favorite after trying many -- it's the Pilot V Signpen. It felt so good writing with it that these words just tumbled out of it and I had to keep getting more paper until my pen was done. The poem is very strange and somewhat meaningless, but if you read it aloud with your own pauses and punctuation, you might discover a pretty cool, very complicated rhythm. You might have to read it a couple times to find the right rhythm for you. I find it very musical!

Note: Don't get freaked out. This was a stream of consciousness exercise. It's just what came to my mind quickly. I didn't give myself time to really think about it. I kept my pen moving and stopped only a couple of times.

Read it aloud:

Dipple dapple bubble
snapple crisp crack crumble
cake inside slick slender soupish things
are round found underground
never mind the yolk-stained furniture
I care for not my make-up
stand down sit away afar
in ebony stones stipple stapple
the old man's bone is home to me
where eskimos' elk eat antlers
cold in morning sunshine calculating
every morsel of energy
enveloping the nostril of heaven and life
nook knocking helplessly help me
mind the shoes in apartment B
is behind number four the door is
black binder happy free enough to
cook my dinner on a frightened pan where mold sneaks
and finds a hiding place in light dark
freakish delight I play under
ashtrays alimony bridges broken
where water crinkles lightly towards some forgotten moon
where Martians understand their mortality and
forgive the dying sun my heart is smudged
drudgery dredged unlike holidays gone mad
I flick a memory into apricot shores
open bars and tasteless cigar ash open the cola
and smother with smores my open chest there wounded
mighty bound Christian sound
flood the pre-emptive acts of cobras combative
caring of nothing really just give me fronds
and I'll give you strawberry blonde
shakes me up and ties me down don't shiver until I arrive
you silly goat who smite my metallic dangle my dogged danger
my malignant smile who cares if this makes sense or not I,
said the ant who whispered a slobberish grin please cancel
my subscription again cross the name tick the mark I don't know
anymore wonder why my sockets are emptying themselves
fire in fire out crash the movie stoned in line whatever suits
the cat in the gray suit it smells forgone are the days of
injury helicopters and microscopic melon balls carry me down
to Mama's pasture milk the cow and cash the fairy
she has teeth more than one worth saving separate pawns
in white syrup savor no more cabbages and crawdads simple
crawl towards icicles rainballs and precipices
stuttle glisses grumpy gizzards
fly onto pregnant ground fearless
animal counting one two three
artichokes in harmony fourths fifths
all perfect in perfection
I hear I sound I holler hoo ha! ay caramba!
smashing squashy squishy things under my feet
feel my toes squeak squander all his pay on
bubblegum dreams and ice cream wishes paradise is near
pounce on it my friend my punky antelope friend
who flights upon sighting marigolds honeydew pancake rhythm
oh my soul
oh my handkerchief dropped into yellow water
hold my hand it's going to hurt my melancholy angel
just hush and hear mingling marmalade lardons pardon me
but is this your ape oh yes why thank you but he's changed
he's Henry he's hardened into taffy candy listen I know
who killed the mockingbird ding dong
the witch is dead fine here you take the jelly spoon
and tap the egg don't you'll scare him give me that
you finish bronzing that banana and I'll pierce the naughty neighbor
once and for all and just so you know
money doesn't grow on lizard skin
but if you licked it I'd like it much more
my candle's out find a match with matching gloves
and handbag hold this watch my fingers they are glowing red
innocent kiss my mouth you deranged hippo of yesteryear suck on
monster wax and ceiling paint I understand now
the misery your pain your filthy underwear dismissed from preschool
can't you see what's happening no you're too late take the bottle
and smash the bag the floor will cackle slowly mumble forth
where crepes and bugs collide au revoir

***

I felt very relaxed after I wrote this. As if I had done some meditation. Try it sometime. It's fun, too.

Free at last

Maylin's finally back in school after a week and a half of vacation, some illness, and Mommy full-time. We had lots of fun together (when she recovered from her feverish days and restless nights) making little books and clay animals, but Mommy really needed a break, especially since Daddy's been traveling for work. So this morning, I finally got into my routine again -- drop off Maylin at school, walk Leo, take two classes at the gym...and now I'm free!!!

I felt good after my gym classes today (BodyPump which is weight-training and BodyBalance which is tai-chi/yoga/Pilates), but I was REALLY excited when my order came in from the French Amazon.com (amazon.fr). It's a new book by Bill Buford entitled, "Heat." He's a New Yorker writer who had the envious opportunity to train in the kitchen of a three-star restaurant, an amateur among pros. I just love memoirs. I can't wait to experience what he experienced, without having to really experience it myself. If I had the chance, would I work in a professional kitchen? I think it'd be so much fun. As long as I wouldn't have to do it forever.

Some books I've read recently that I think will appeal to everybody include "Freakonomics" and "Blink." They'll really change the way you think about things -- and they're real page-turners. Hard to put down! You'll learn about why drug dealers still live with their mothers, and how one man can predict whether a marriage will succeed or fail with 90% accuracy, just by listening to a couple's conversation for fifteen minutes. Fascinating stuff.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Maylin writes!

Last weekend, Maylin finally took some interest in learning how to write her name! She could already write a few letters (very few) and often mimicked writing her name on the tops of her drawings (with letter-like, almost cursive characters), but she often refused to be taught by me. Last Saturday, when she sat down and started writing some letters on her own with obvious joy, I took the opportunity to teach her to write her name, and mine, and John's, and Leo's! We were both screaming with joy after we finished each name. I would write one letter in the simplest way possible, instructing Maylin to draw "sticks" and "bellies", and she would take her turn with relaxed concentration and much interest! It really was a lot like drawing, so I think that's why the process appealed to her.

Soon afterwards, I suggested to Maylin that we write a letter to Santa. So letter-by-letter, word-by-word, she followed me along, drafting a fine letter to the round, jolly fellow.

Dear Santa,

I want rollerskates and a store.

Maylin

Don't worry, the "store" is more of a plastic produce stand and shopping cart. John's company is already taking care of that. (More on that later.)

She was very proud of herself, and Mom and Dad were, too!

Today, she continued her enthusiasm by writing a little book. Mommy loves making little books, so I invited her to join along. I folded some 8.5x11 paper in half lengthwise, cut along the crease, folded the pieces in half to make the book, and "bound" it by drawing some kitchen string along the inner fold, bringing the two ends to the center of the outer spine, and tying them together simply. Maylin drew some lovely figures, mostly of Mommy and Maylin, and wrote her own words with her newly learned letters. A little frightening how she came up with "WAR" on the back cover of her booklet. I told her that that's what is said, and she told me that it actually read, "Don't fight in a war." Another page coincidentally says "NO AMO," which could be interpreted as "no ammo" or "no amor/love." Is there a little pacifist in the making here?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Addicted to flickr!

Now you can enjoy nearly daily updates to my photo site at flickr. I don't know how long I can keep up all this activity on my site, but I've had a bit of time on my hands since I've been tied up at home with my sick Maylin. She's much better now, but she had some lingering low-grade fevers which were remedied by cool, wet towels applied to her skin (she abhors medication and I'm not willing to put up the fight anymore -- she's too strong). Fortunately, no more temperature for her, but outdoors, if you want to speak of temperature...brrr! We had such a glorious October -- so nice and warm and sunny, perfect for the tourists -- and now, come November 1st, we've got wind and cold and the need for hot chocolate and wool coats!

But I digress. Check out my photos (click on the link in the right sidebar) and leave me some comments. Let me know what you think. I've added way too many sets/albums, but the photos are better organized that way. Sift through them on the right and view them as slideshow (as a set/album). You can see Maylin's artwork, my creations, portraits of our dog Leo, portraits of Maylin, photo shoots of my friends and their kids, and more!

Flickr is scary and amazing at the same time. If you click on "explore" and look for what flickr considers "interesting," you'll find some really inspiring, freaky, and just plain awesome photos. I'm not worthy! Now I know I have soooo much to learn regarding photography and toooo much equipment I need to buy. I totally want to set up a little studio in the apartment to do black and white portraits...and I'm dying to get a hold of a wide-angle lens!

This is too fun.

Sample of Maylin's artwork

Maylin's drawn several portraits of myself, and this is the most beautiful of the series. October 2006