Yearly Archives: 2007

A Very Bad Idea

Five minutes into that first jittery meeting with the gastroenterologist in Beaune, after I had scarlet cheeked and sweating profusely listed my worrisome barrage of symptoms, the good doctor Claude peered at me in silence for several LONG seconds over steepled fingers.

Oh my God! I said to myself. I was right – I AM dying and he’s trying to find the words to break it to me!”

What he said instead took me by surprise.

“And have you been looking up all of your symptoms on the Internet?”

I glanced at Franck furtively, who was doing a bad job of hiding a smile behind his hand.

“Well, of course,” I answered.

Lying didn’t cross my mind for more than a split-second. I am such a complete paranoid spaz in medical situations that a few years ago I gave up trying to pretend that I was the opposite – i.e. a cool cucumber. Sadly this hasn’t stopped me from continuing to be a paranoid spaz, but at least I don’t expend useful energy trying to (unsuccessfully, for the record) pull the wool over a doctor’s eyes.

The gastroenterologist smile knowingly. “Vous voyez, I knew the answer to that question before I even asked it.

Hmmmph. I am intelligent enough to know that trawling the Internet to self-diagnose an illness is a Very Bad Idea, especially for someone with an overactive imagination such as myself. Yet somehow during those black days when my stomach problems were on a downhill slide I was nevertheless nailed to my office chair by some sort of mysterious centrifugal force and spent hours typing in every imaginable variation of my symptoms into Google and reading the pages it spat out with an increasing sense of doom. And yes, the miracle of modern technology meant that I had every bit as good access to these medical sites from here in France as I would in Canada – talk about a double-edged sword…

My only consolation was that I discovered from my little sister’s emails during those weeks that she too suffers from the addiction, though her favored angle is auto-immune diseases instead of cancer. Her husband has even banned her from a series of websites i.e. Web MD, The Mayo Clinic, etc. which she is no longer, under ANY circumstances, allowed to visit. This gave me some vague hope that maybe I wasn’t torturing myself purely because I was a masochist, but maybe there was a hereditary gene or something I could partly blame.

I think the paradox of the health-related internet searches for me, and probably most people, is that initially the reason I embark on them is to search for a scrap of hope. Of course what I ended up with was a terrifying catalogue of stories of people repeatedly hemorrhaging, hospitalised on liquid diets, and undergoing multiple surgeries and blood transfusions. I guess the Internet is a particularly good place to find worst-case scenarios, as the milder cases of well, just about anything, do not drive someone to post something on the Internet.

Of course during my Internet-trawling phase I didn’t have the objectivity to rationalize things in this way. Instead I spent black hours upon black hours projecting myself in the place of those poor victims, and crying in the shower so the girls wouldn’t see.

Things started to improve of course when I; a) finally saw the specialist, and b) gathered up the strength to ban myself from any further health-related Internet searches.

However, just like a recovering alcoholic I’m pretty sure that I will be tempted and will probably even cave some time in the future to an Internet health search binge. Maybe I should ask my Brother-in-Law about how to install those blocks on my computer.

Bit of a Chilly Surprise

Last night as Franck and I were watching our second Sopranos episode of the evening (new DVD box set – thanks mom for the greatest Xmas present ever) Franck started complaining that he was worried the house wasn’t heating properly.

“You’re probably just tired,” I said smugly. You see, I am currently sporting a miniature portable furnace around in the form of the glow-worm, and even though it is the dead of winter I can hardly remember what cold feels like.

“Yeah,” he agreed, and we watched our show for a few minutes more. But then he got up before the episode even finished and said. “I’m going to bed to warm up – I’m just too cold on the couch.” With that, he stumbled over with the quilt wrapped around him to the nearest radiator (besides me, that is) and gave it a feel.

Merde,” he said.

“What?”

“There’s no heat.”

He was right, the radiator was stone cold. Merde is right. It was about minus 8 degrees Celsius outside. Seriously.

I rubbed my nose, which maybe did feel a little chilled come to think of it. Franck went down in our basement which post-renos still resembles a nuclear bomb site and managed to dig up our sleeping bags we took to Nepal, an extra duvet, and thank god we have them our two electric radiators.

We plugged one radiator in the girls’ bedroom and one in ours, got kitted out in several layers of long johns and pyjamas, put the sleeping bags on top of the girls, and went to bed. It was just like Little House in the Prairie I told the girls…well, except with feather sleeping bags and electric radiators, that is.

This morning we tracked down the local oil delivery guy and got him to fill up the tank, hoping desperately that it was just lack of oil and not a broken furnace. As Franck had sped off in the car to track the delivery truck down just seconds before the delivery guy arrived at our house the poor man got what I’m sure was the lovely surprise of me with my eight month pregnant stomach, hair whiff-skew, and a grotty bathrobe answering the front door.

Luckily once the tank was refilled the heat came back on. Seems with all the chaos of the past month that we had sort of forgotten to keep track of how much oil we still had (or rather didn’t have) in the tank. It was like the Sahara in there.

Can the lack of brain cells be blamed on the pregnancy or the renovations? Take your pick.

JOYEUX NOEL

It was a Christmas miracle; we not only managed to (mostly) clean the house yesterday and wrap all the presents, but we also found the camera cord!

So here is the valley between Magny and Villers with the Mont Saint Victor in the background, in all its seasonal frosty glory.

And here is my favorite little chapel honouring the Virgin Mary between our two villages. Being pregnant I feel a particular kinship with her at the moment – well, except for the virgin part of course.

And the vineyards sleeping…shhhhhhhhhhhhh.

And of course our own little pair of Peace (well, not always) & Love.

Joyeux Noel from all of us Germains xo

A Very Different Christmas

I would normally be posting a lovely picture of the valley between Villers and Magny here covered in sparkling white frost, but in our reno mess we can’t find the cord to download the photos from our camera. Such is life around here at the moment…

We managed to get moved back in here at La Maison des Chaumes instead of taking a pit stop at La Maison des Deux Clochers as we thought we might have to. This was due to a superhuman painting effort on behalf of Franck, who is now beyond the point of exhaustion and has justly requested 48 hours of no nagging and no chores in order to recuperate.

This would be just fine, but Christmas is TOMORROW and we are still very much camping here. I managed to get the tree up and decorated with the girls yesterday, and had many other ambitious plans for whipping the house into tip-top shape in time for C-day: completely organising and cleaning the girls’ bedroom to make room for new toys, mopping the entire house for a fourth time as an hour after we mop a new layer of plaster dust inevitably settles again, cleaning new french doors so we can actually see out of them, and maybe even whipping up a batch of shortbread if I could locate a cookie sheet in the basement…hold on, who was I kidding? Needless to say besides the tree none of these things got done.

For one thing, Charlotte has managed to catch the stomach flu for a SECOND time in two weeks and I have to pause frequently in my activities to clean up vomit, administer medication, etc.. Secondly, when at last yesterday afternoon I gathered my courage around me and threw myself gung-ho into picking through dusty toy-boxes in the bomb site that is the girls’ bedroom I was stopped short within a matter if minutes by increasingly sharp pains in my pelvis. Oh yeah, I realized, maybe stooping and standing up repeatedly isn’t the best activity to do when one is eight months pregnant. Hmmmmmm.

So am bravely trying not to notice dusty, completely disorganised house and concentrate on our tree, which looks very nice if I ignore the pine needles all over the floor and lack of presents underneath. I still have all my wrapping to do (Ho, Ho, Ho – I am the guy in red in this household) which I was all geared up to do this morning while Franck took the girls to a movie in Beaune.

However, this plan was derailed when Charlotte vomited up her breakfast just as they were about to get into the car – thank heaven for small mercies, she actually made it to the toilet – I can’t imagine the carnage if they had gone a few minutes earlier and they had been driving along the Nationale. So now they’re in the kitchen playing Monopoly, and I’m trying to figure out how I am possibly going to get their presents wrapped by tonight without them noticing and without me keeling over from fatigue.

To be frank I am feeling like a very sub-standard mother / home-maker at the moment. I’m trying to learn not to be too hard on myself, however, so remind myself that I’m doing the best I can considering;

1. We have completely renovated our house over the past five weeks, and only moved back in two days ago.
2. We are consequently all exhausted.
3. Because of ongoing stomach problems I am still trying to get through the day on a diet that consists basically of pasta and rice, which let me tell you has an impact on the old morale as much as energy-level.
4. The stomach flu seems to have adopted our family.
5. I am eight months pregnant.

I am really trying to just accept this Christmas for what it is and to remember all that there is to be thankful for, such as;

1. Martha Stewart may have perfect mince pies, but I will soon have a third child who despite my rice diet is, according to the obstetrician, doing just fine.
2. I have two wonderful and beautiful daughters who are becoming increasingly skilled at making it to the toilet to throw up.
3. I have a husband who has an almost superhuman capacity for physical labour and who on his well-deserved 48 hours recuperation is choosing to spend it by playing Monopoly with his daughters in the kitchen.
4. I have a family back in Canada who I know I can always depend on through thick and thin.
5. My stomach problems, while still very annoying, were not life-threatening as I had fretted.
6. We have managed to put up a tree and decorate it and in about a month (fingers crossed, as that is when glow-worm is due to arrive) or so we will be settled into our newly renovated house which will is brighter, cosier, and far more functional than its previous incarnation.
7. My sister-in-law has taken it upon herself to do the entire meal for Christmas day tomorrow, so all I have to do is cook my rice and put my feet (and very unwieldy stomach) under the table. 8. I have good friends who have understood my need to opt out of a social life for the last month or so and who I know will welcome me back whenever I am ready.
9. I have, amazingly (knock on wood) not caught the stomach flu yet.

Every Christmas is different, but the one lesson I want to retain from this one is to not let frustration at unrealized Christmas expectations blind me to what is really important – family, friends, and giving thanks for what we have instead of longing for what we don’t.

Joyeux Noel!

Plastic Surgery – It Really Works!

The whole country is in a froth about the Nicolas Sarkozy – Cecilia Sarkozy – Carla Bruni love triangle. For the first time ever a french statesman is going public about his romantic life (a rather quick turnaround from his recent reaction when quizzed about soon-to-be-ex-wife Cecilia).

See it for yourself here: http://grapejournal.blogspot.com/2007/12/nicolas-tantrum.html

Maybe he truly is head over heels in love. In any case, the French are shedding their traditional view that “private lives are called private for a reason” at a mind-boggling rate and are gobbling up the drama.

In that vein, my friend Isabelle sent me this hilarious email this morning:

Chirugie Plastique………………..ca marche!!!!

……………….AVANT………………………… APRES…………………..

And it certainly looks as though our boy Nicolas knows a good thing when he sees it and isn’t wasting any time. Check out this article from http://www.hellomagazine.com/ (that stellar source of indisputable information – yes, I too have my procrastinating moments) ;

http://www.hellomagazine.com/royalty/2007/12/19/sarkozy-carla-bruni/

In other less sensational news Franck has been painting day and night and we’ll be moving back to our newly renovated (though still very dusty – must do something about that) house in Villers-la-Faye early tomorrow morning.

I hear the siren’s call of our suitcases once again…

Huh?

Now that my stomach woes are slightly better I am tuning back in to french gossip again and Franck came home at lunch with a humdinger of a rumour.

Nicolas Sarkozy is supposedly dating former supermodel and one of my favorite french musicians Carla Bruni (who incidentally is also a former flame of Mick Jagger’s).

How totally bizarre that she with all her beauty and talent would go for the twitchy Napoleon type…anyway, I didn’t believe Franck but a quick Google search proved there might actually be some truth to it.

Have a boo for yourself :

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/worldnews.html?in_article_id=502803&in_page_id=1811

If you want to find out more about Nicolas’ newest flame (still can’t get over the bizarreness of it) go to our website and read our review of her fabulous album Quelqu’un m’a dit which is still one of my all-time favorites.

Just go to this page and scroll down :

http://www.myburgundy.com/favorites/music.htm

Am I the only one who notices a striking resemblance to Nicolas’ soon-to-be ex wife Cecilia?

There’s Always Something…

My posting has been a bit sparse of late, and this is best explained by Gilda Radner’s wise saying “There’s Always Something.”

Up until recently I have always expected that “something” – illness, death, general chaos and disaster – to come crashing down on my head at any moment.

It is my nature to go through life (especially big life events like pregnancy) in the same way I live through an airplane flight; white-knuckled and compelled to exercise constant vigilance, because I am convinced that if I let it lapse for a second the airplane’s wings will fall off. Because we all know the truth of it really is that I control everything, right…?

But over the last few years I have been working hard to change this side of myself that I frankly detest. It was going well, I was making progress, and this pregnancy just reinforced that my new mindset was working.

Up until I hit the six month mark everything was going incredibly well – uncannily so. I got pregnant almost before I made the decision to start trying, I was nauseous for the first two months but this was only concrete proof that the pregnancy was establishing itself as it should. I wasn’t gaining too much weight, I didn’t have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, and the glow-worm obliged me with several kicks every time I started to freak out I hadn’t felt him / her moving for a while.

See? I told myself. Having faith that everything is going to be okay is the key. If I think things will go well, they will! My triumph was akin to discovering the Rosetta Stone.

Then around the six and a half month mark I began to experience what I first thought was a tenacious stomach flu. The weeks ticked by however, and I kept getting worse instead of better. Then all of a sudden things started to go downhill really fast, and although I won’t go into the gory details I experienced symptoms that made me realize something was really wrong

At my next obstetrical appointment I broke down and wailed to my OB how exhausted and ill and scared I was. I was losing weight rapidly and was almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight – something virtually unheard of for me and which freaked me out almost more than anything. However, my OB at least reassured me that although I may be very ill, the glow-worm was just fine. Thank god they are such resilient little creatures.

Cancer is the number one scary illness in my head – everyone has their favorite – so I spent many nights laying awake in the wee hours of the morning after being sick almost every hour, convinced that I was dying. I would slink into the girl’s bedroom and caress their soft cheeks, tears running down my face that I was going to leave them motherless at such a young age.

Finally I got myself into a local gastroenterologist who assured me that though he didn’t know exactly what I had, he was pretty sure it wasn’t the big “C”. Then, however, he proceeded in subjecting me to a series of exams that were uncomfortable, humiliating, and which all involved a disturbing amount of rubber. However, they were necessary. He quickly found that things were not as they should be, although he hastily assured me once again, “it’s not cancer.”

After several angst-filled days waiting for the biopsy results it finally came back that what I have likely developed is a chronic auto-immune disease that causes severe inflammation and bleeding of the intestines. It’s like a switch was turned on in my body for my immune system to attack my innards (and, frustratingly, the medical community still doesn’t know what turns on this switch), and now that it’s on my body doesn’t know how to turn it off. This will most likely be something I will have to deal with on and off (more off than on I hope) for the rest of my life.

But for right now being pregnant throws an additional spanner in the works; the medication I can take while pregnant is very limited, and until the glow-worm is born they can’t do the more extensive exams they need to do in order to find out the extent of it. This means that shortly after my C-section I have a full colonoscopy to look forward to. Oh joy. The gastroenterologist’s goal at this point is just getting me to the delivery date as best we can, and the rest we’ll figure out after the glow-worm is born and hence removed from the equation.

I’m now on medication that seems to be helping a bit and I’m trying to get back to a somewhat normal routine. I’m sleeping better at night, and no longer think I am going to imminently leave my girls motherless.

This experience has also forced me to come face to face with a few erroneous preconceptions I had about illness. For one thing, I realize there’s no blame or control involved – this disease isn’t my fault or anybody else’s. The fact of the matter is that these things can and do happen when you are housed inside a human body, and your mindset about life has nothing to do with it. My body just has a glitch in it and there’s nothing I can do about that. Just like any illness it completely sucks, and it’s not in any way fair, but ultimately after the whinging and wailing is done what choice do you have besides dealing with it as best you can?

One thing is for sure, the truth that there really is no point about worrying about specific things, as life is pretty much guaranteed to throw something completely different and unexpected at you has hit me like a sledgehammer. That, and the fact that life has a merciful way of marching on despite the various crises that come hand in hand with being alive.

En Cloque

Me posing to be one of Renaud’s “En Cloque” girls. Whadya think?

“En Cloque” in French is slang for “pregnant”.

France’s much beloved troubadour Renaud wrote a song about it once, entitled, not coincidentally “En Cloque” which is still very popular and explains what being “en cloque” is all about…

However, the Utube video of the song, which I find beautiful, is inexplicably accompanied by strange photos of pregnant women, so I thought I would add mine to the bunch (above).

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=tggVhZyM4N0

Or maybe in my case it is a photo of a strange pregnant woman…in any case, do listen to the song – it is rightly a french classic.

Nicolas’ Tantrum

I had heard about this tantrum our cher President Nicolas Sarkozy had thrown on the set of 60 Minutes, but I’d never actually seen the clip until last night when Franck wad fiddling around with YouTube.

Here it is:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=qhM4VSmzGvg

It is an impressive hissy fit, though personally I do think he was right to stick to his guns about not answering any questions to do with his marriage.

However, the first part where he is berating one of his media team before the interview begins makes him look like a snarly little wannabe Napoleon. He controls his media image very tightly, and must have been tres ticked that this got leaked.

For your viewing pleasure!