Because “resolution” without the “re” is SOLUTION.

Like many people, when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been an on-and-off cynic most of my adult life. My birthday falls five days before New Year’s Day, though, so at some point, I finally thought, Why not turn my personal one-year-older goals into resolutions? Because what are birthdays if not opportunities for introspection and decision-making to move forward with new or refreshed goals, right? Or something like that (says my inner self-help guru to myself).

“Resolution” minus the “re” is “solution,” after all… and that stands out to me. I’m a fan of solutions.

As it turns out, I do well participating in the ritual of making New Year’s resolutions. It’s glorified goal-setting that could be undertaken on any random day, sure, but January 1 is as good a day as any, fanfare or no. If we don’t have the motivation to commit to a goal on any other day of the year, at least there’s that day!

“Goals” is a popular word right now, but I want to talk plainly about how there’s a difference between wanting to achieve goals and needing to achieve them. Resolutions, in my opinion, are goals that we need to achieve; we make them in order to reignite the mechanisms we have for growth, self-improvement, joie de vivre… whatever it is that we’re lacking, in whatever way it needs to manifest. Ultimate goals are things like contentment and productivity. Contentment and productivity are good. People who are content and productive are good for society, good for us all.

You might receive advice that’s actually detracting, usually coming from the hearts of well-intentioned loved ones. There’s the old “…but you have to WANT to do it,” which I think is psychobabble for “You have to feel that doing xyz is going to result in personal gratification, or it’s not worth the effort.” I don’t believe this. Some of my greater achievements in life resulted from goals that I needed to pursue, but I absolutely didn’t want to pursue them.

Quitting smoking, for instance. I smoked between the ages of 15 and 23. I only smoked for eight years, but addiction is addiction no matter how long you’ve had it.

I absolutely did not WANT to quit smoking. I loved smoking. Whenever I’d think about quitting, all I WANTED my next cigarette. When I finally committed to breaking the habit, I still didn’t want to. I did it because I knew that I needed to.

Quitting was every bit as excruciating as I thought it would be.

I quit cold turkey, and I never smoked another cigarette. That was 24 years ago. (I think I was successful in part because I suffered through the process without the aid of chemical replacements. This was pre-nicotine patch. There was nicotine gum, but I wasn’t attracted to that strategy.) Suffering for that victory, that solution to the problem of my compromised health, made me value my success even more. If at any point in my smoking cessation journey someone uttered those condescending words in my general direction – “You just have to WANT to quit!” – I would have had to bite my tongue REALLY HARD. I know why I’m quitting. It’s a decision that I made. I don’t need you to tell me that if I just WANT to quit, I’ll effortlessly break my addiction overnight and ride off on a unicorn into a field of flowers and happy little bunnies.

Overcoming addiction of any kind is never easy, no matter if someone WANTS to do it or not.

But I digress. My point is, make a resolution, for the New Year or on any other day. Think of it as going after a solution. Focus on seizing something that will change your life for the better if you capture it. You’re not just making a change (passive connotation). You’re taking action (aggressive connotation). So be aggressive in tackling your resolution. Be a New Year’s resolution badass. Go for it.

Another thing people commonly say: “Do it for yourself. If you do it for someone else, you won’t succeed.” Again, I disagree. I mean, I don’t think this is always the case.

Last year, my main New Year’s resolution was to go cruelty-free… for Ronnie James, my feline fur-child. As Callaghan and I tried desperately to save his life, I told the Wrah-Wrah that I’d make every effort to avoid purchasing and using personal care products and cosmetics made by companies who engage in animal cruelty practices. (Granted, this wasn’t difficult, as I’d already been boycotting a couple of big-name brands for years to avoid contributing to their human rights violations. Boycotting companies that test on animals wasn’t a far stretch from that.)

I did it for Ronnie James. He died five months into the year, but I’m still doing it. For him. For all animals, but first and foremost for him. And doing it for him has kept me motivated to stick to my resolution more than I would were I just “doing it for myself.” In a strange sense I can’t really explain, the act of consciously and continuously striving to remove myself from the cycle of animal suffering at human hands keeps Ronnie James alive.

This strategy of goal-planning works for me, anyway. Everyone is different, but it might work for you, too. It would be worth trying! Dedicate your resolution to someone who deeply matters to you. Make them a promise you won’t want to break, and you might find that it’s easier to stick to your efforts.

This brings me to Resolutionary Road, 2016! I have more than one resolution. Here’s my list:

1). Get more sleep on a regular basis.

2). Improve my French (conversation).

3). Commit to strength-training.

Getting more sleep was my secondary resolution in 2015. Since I failed completely, it’s at the top of my 2016 list. I really, really need to get more sleep. Here, again, is the difference between wants and needs: I don’t WANT to get more sleep. I WANT the opposite… I want more hours in the day. I want to stay up until 3:00am, because for some reason, I’m often possessed by a rush of creative energy at around 11:00pm every night, and I’m afraid that if I don’t utilize it, I’ll squander it. But more sleep is an absolute necessity for my health, so this year, I’m going to try to shut everything down at 10:00pm so I can be in bed by 10:30pm. I get up at 5:30am on weekdays, so this would give me seven hours of sleep IF I fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. (Which never happens. But nearly seven hours of sleep would be a great improvement over the four-five hours I typically get.)

I dedicate this resolution to Mom, who always worries that I don’t sleep enough. I don’t want her to worry about me for any reason, because worrying is detrimental to her health.

For my second resolution, improving my French conversation, I simply need to speak more French. I have a bad habit of answering Callaghan in English when he speaks to me in French. The divide between my comprehension level and speaking level is now so great that it’s ridiculous! I have no excuses. I just need to speak it more; that’s the only way I’m going to improve.

I dedicate this resolution to Callaghan, obviously!

As for strength-training, I need to make that a regular part of my workout routine. I’m not weak, but I would feel better in a stronger body. Doing pull-ups in my home office doorway every once in a while isn’t sufficient, and shadow-boxing with dumbbells isn’t cutting it, either. We have heavier dumbbells, so I need to start using them.

I dedicate this resolution to Ming, my best friend who died suddenly in 2003. Ming was one of my Tae Kwan Do instructors, and as friends, we developed a brother-sister bond that made him a member of my family. Ming was an extremely talented martial arts athlete, and his work ethic in the do-jang inspires me to this day. Improving my strength so I can be a better martial artist is my tribute to him.

 

Ming and me, 1996

Ming and me, 1996

 

Happy Resolutioning, if you do it!

Chili Pete strikes again.

Our trip to France gave me a good opportunity to strengthen my French a little. I enjoy learning new words, slang words, like “la thune” (money) and “les potes” (friends). I’d already known those two particular words, but it was cool to hear them in the flow of other peoples’ casual conversations.

Speaking of French slang, right before we left for our trip, Callaghan had a dubious moment of discovery about his online (Facebook) identity. He was talking to one of his French clients on the phone and hung up with a strange look on his face. His expression fell somewhere between chagrin and despondence.

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“I just realized something,” he said. “I was talking to Patrick at the bug shop, and this other guy Marc was there, and Patrick told him that if he’s looking for me, he can just look on Facebook for ‘Chili Pete’ – ” He paused.

“And?”

“He said ‘Chili Pete’,” he repeated, exaggerating the “Pete” part.

But he pronounced it the way it would be pronounced in French: “Pet.” Because “pète” is, in fact, a French slang word, and Patrick is French, so when he sees “pete,” of course he’s going to say it the French way. “Pet.” Even without the accent. Which means –

“Chili farts,” Callaghan grumbled. “‘Chili Pete’ means Chili farts in French!”

That would be “farts” as in the verb. Poor Callaghan… he looked like his world crumbled with the realization that his Facebook username is “Chili farts” in French, yet he laughed with me when I busted up laughing, so obviously he wasn’t too upset about it. And that was good, since I was the reason his name got changed to “Chili Pete” in the first place. (It’s a long story that some of you may remember… it started because of an inside joke about a mistake in an ophthalmologist’s notes.)

Just out of curiosity, I went to Babylon.com and plugged in “pete,” sans accent. I wanted to see if it would pick up the slang, and it did:

thatasianlookingchick.com-CaptureChiliPete4

Incidentally, “pete” was also a slang term I’d heard before, but I didn’t know it was spelled like Pete. Now I know!

Callaghan's Facebook banner.

Callaghan’s Facebook banner.

ALSO, while we’re looking at Chili Pete’s Facebook banner, I should just add that he loves taking pics of the word “bite” whenever he sees it, because it’s French slang for “dick.” Usually, the word “bite” appears on food packaging and advertisements in grocery stores, which creates rich hunting grounds for linguistic dick jokes.

On that note, now that I’ve somehow managed to touch on both dick and fart jokes in French, it’s time for me to turn my attention to work. Happy Friday, all! =)

How to Swear in French, New Car edition.

Sadly, we had to give up our 1999 Toyota 4-Runner, Stevie. She was sweet and quite amazing for her age, but a few months ago she’d started stalling while idling, just at random. Even more disconcerting, the frequency of the stalling episodes was increasing along with the intensifying heat. The day Stevie stalled mid-turn, we knew we had to replace her with something reliable, because the REAL heat hasn’t even hit yet! I wasn’t feeling confident driving her, and I didn’t want to find out how she would react when the temperature climbs up into the 110-115 range.

You don’t mess around with potential car trouble in the summer in Arizona. That is one of life’s absolutes.

Such as it was that we found ourselves at a car dealership a couple of weekends ago – a Chevy dealership, because I’m predictable like that. What can I say? I learned to drive in a Chevy truck, and my last vehicle was a Chevy truck. From Corvettes to trucks, I love Chevrolet. So does Callaghan. After a full day of deliberating and negotiating at the dealership, we leased a new (very pale, silvery-blue) Equinox and drove her off the lot.

Since then, we’ve been bouncing names around, trying to decide what to call her. My first idea, “Samaire,” caused Callaghan to burst out laughing when I suggested it. Of course, in that same second, I realized why.

“Samaire” is pronounced like the French sa mère, which constitutes the second part of Putain de sa mère! – Callaghan’s favorite expletive to yell when other drivers on the road annoy him. “Samaire” would be a terrible name for our new vehicle. If we were to call her “Samaire,” Callaghan would always be yelling that she’s a whore, because “putain” is French for “whore.” Her feelings would be hurt.

“‘Sa mère!’ means, like, ‘F*ck!’ – you know?” Callaghan said, launching an elaborate discourse on the versatility of the expression.

And here I always thought that since mère means “mother,” putain de sa mère was somehow the French equivalent of Samuel L. Jackson’s trademark word, even though that’s not what it actually means… putain de sa mère translates as “his mother the whore,” according to Callaghan.

Well, all that aside, I’ve never had trouble naming a car before we brought this girl home. After two weeks, we still had no idea what to call her. Yesterday, just as we were discussing names such as “Libbets” (after Katie Holmes’ character’s name in The Ice Storm), “Jorie” (after Jorie Graham, a postmodern poet whose work I particularly like), and “Persephone” (the Greek Queen of the Underworld, and also the Goddess of spring/vegetation), we went to get the mail. In the mail was a large yellow envelope from the Motor Vehicles Division, and inside was obviously a license plate.

“Yay! Let’s play the license plate game!” I said when I saw it.

“What is that?” Callaghan’s education in American culture is an ongoing process.

“It’s that game where you look at a license plate and quickly say the first word it spells or brings to mind.”

“Maybe it’ll be her name!” He said it just as I was thinking it.

We opened the envelope. The license plate read:

 

New license plate for the new girl.

New license plate for the new girl.

 

“BUGSY!” We shouted at the same time, cracking up.

See how that works? Just as we’re talking about how we don’t know what to name her, her name arrives in the mail! Et voilà.

Happy Friday, All!

Callaghanisms

I’m coming at you at 2:10AM because weird schedules are weird. Alors, bonjour, mes amis Français! Ça va bien? Il est onze heures dix du matin là-bas… vous avez fait de beaux rêves?

I’ve said this before: Callaghan’s English is excellent, and his French accent is so slight that I usually don’t even notice it. But every once in a while, he makes mistakes, and when his accent does reach my ears, it’s often to amusing effect. For instance, he says “fuckus” instead of “focus” (I think I’ve mentioned this in the past), and “bitch” instead of “beach.”

The examples I’m providing below all came directly out of Callaghan’s mouth verbatim, and in complete seriousness. I wrote them down after he said them. Yes, I’ve been keeping a file of the Callaghanisms. They’re priceless.

Let’s get started!

 

Focus:

“My friend Christopher had a Ford Fuckus.”

“I’m tired today. I can’t fuckus.”

 

Beach:

“When we’re in Antibes, we can go see the bitch.”

“Tomorrow we’ll visit the bitch of Normandy.”

 

And other words with the long ‘e’ vowel sound, such as…

 

Sheet:

“I need a shit of paper.”

“Let’s put the shits in the laundry.” (my personal favorite!)

 

I’ve started picking up on some patterns. Here are three, with examples:

 

1). Combining non-American word usage with a French accent results in dialogue like this:

“In high school, my nuts were great!”

“Your NUTS?”

“Haha! My notes. My grades.”

“Oh.”

School grades in France are called “les notes.”

 

2). Direct translations don’t always work:

“That spider is waving at us with its paws.”

“Paws? Haha! That’s so cute!”

“Spider paws.”

“Spider legs.”

The French call spider legs “les pattes,” which is also their word for “paws.”

I love this mistake. I wish we said “spider paws” in English.

 

3). Some words are easily confused:

“Sorry I’m eating like a pork.”

I giggle.

“What’s so funny?”

“The expression is to ‘eat like a pig’.”

In French, the word “le porc” refers to the meat of a pig, just like in English… but it can also be used as slang in reference to a person. Unlike in English.

After I wrote this post (which pretty much wrote itself, since I had all the Callaghanisms saved in a file), Callaghan decided that it was lacking a drawing of a French superhero, so he offered to whip one up for me:

 

French superhero Super Dupont in progress!

French superhero Super Dupont in progress!

 

And now, a bonus! I’ll sign off with a French film recommendation for your weekend… because I’ve been glancing up at this DVD while writing about humorous French-to-English accent and translation goofs, and the two things somehow go together. This film is a quirky black comedy, and I think it’s brilliant. It’s been my favorite French black comedy since I first saw it back in the 90’s.

 

My favorite French black comedy. Notice I've leaned it up between Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.

My favorite French black comedy. Notice I’ve leaned it up between Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.

 

Delicatessen was directed and co-written by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who directed and co-wrote the more well-known film Amélie about a decade later. Both comedies are off-beat, but Delicatessen is quirky and dark where Amélie is whimsical and light. Both are quite funny in their odd little ways. Hey! These two complimentary Jean-Pierre Jeunet films would make for a great movie night double feature, n’est pas?

Bonsoir, et bon weekend à tous!

How Do You Say: “I was all, like, whatever! They were, like, totally making out!” in French?

Last night, my computer warned me that I had 11% battery power remaining. “I’m running out of juice,” I said to Callaghan, who was lying next to me reading a Jack Reacher novel.

“Are you getting tired, Baby?”

“No, well maybe a little, but I mean my computer needs to be charged.”

“Oh I thought it was YOUR juice that was running low!”

“HAHAHA….”

“No! No! I didn’t mean it like that. I meant it in a way, like, your juice, you know?”

“Even more….” I couldn’t stop giggling. You had to be there.

“You’re crazy.”

Fair enough. But that’s beside the point.

The point – I mean, the thing this calls to mind – is that verbal exchanges like this exemplify why I don’t want to speak just French with him. It would be boring, and “boring” is not allowed. The “B” word goes against our marriage contract.

Callaghan lived in the States for a decade spanning his 20’s to 30’s; he thinks like an American, and he enjoys speaking American English. Since the nuances, tones, innuendos and linguistic flavors (along with expressions and slang) are what endow a language with its personality, and since the personality of our relationship is American, the character of our verbal communication would change if we were to speak only French with each other. The components of the French language’s personality don’t translate to American English, and vice versa. Even though Callaghan and I often have a good laugh over his English mistakes, our relationship wouldn’t really be us in French, no matter how fluent I get. That’s where the threat of boring would come in.

To put it simply: It would be tiresome trying to keep the joy of our conversations afloat without the American English dips and waves and tides that define our rapport.

While we see nothing wrong with conducting our relationship in English, it slows my progress in improving my French, which I, of course, should do. After all, I live here in France. The last thing I need is border patrol running after my ass to throw me out because I want to “press 2 for English” on the phone.

The crux of the matter is that we live in the wilderness in virtual isolation.

For Callaghan, living with me in isolation is like living in the States again.

For me, living with him in isolation makes me forget that I’m in France.

And for both of us, excursions out serve as reminders that I need to be more immersed in society (in order for French to come more naturally to me).

Thus, I’m happy to have the opportunity to take a French course, which the government will provide for free. Yes! Eight hours a day, three days a week, for three months, I’ll sit in a classroom with other foreigners, learning French with a teacher whose mission in life is to bring French-as-a-second-language people up to speed so we can get jobs. (Callaghan says this is a part of the government’s “secret plot to turn us into slaves like the rest of the French population.” But that’s neither here nor there.)

The more I think about it, the more pleased I am… I’m actually ecstatic and impatiently waiting for the letter that will tell me where and when to go.

Meanwhile, I’ll attend my Orientation to Life in France, where I’m assuming they’ll teach me the proper way to do a champagne toast. Can you believe it? I’ve been in this country for over a year, and they’re just now setting me up with French and champagne toasting lessons! Hey – maybe they’ll also teach me skills such as entering a French roundabout without getting killed!  Gee Willikers, Batman!

Support Your Local Free Radicals!

Last night, Callaghan looked over my shoulder to see where I was in the June 2012 Allure magazine a friend sent to me from the States. Always interested in the latest skin-care science research, I was absorbed in a “Skin-Care Special” article titled “The Antioxidant Question,” by Patrick Rogers.

Callaghan read with me for a few minutes.

“A long time ago, I thought that ‘free radicals’ was a political party,” he reflected.

“A political party!” I was suddenly rolling on the bed laughing.

“And L’Oreal was always in a fight with them. There was the ‘formule anti-radicaux libre’.” (Anti-free radical formula.)”

We were still laughing when we returned to the article. One paragraph stated: “Green tea: Extracted from green tea leaves, this potent antioxidant fights free radicals and quells inflammation.”

“What is a ‘quells inflammation’?” asked Callaghan.

I lost it.

Now, in my defense, I didn’t spontaneously laugh at his English. I, of all people, know better than that. It was just that we were both already laughing about the free radical thing, so I never had a chance to catch my breath and recover before he asked about the “quells inflammation” – it was one funny thing immediately following another, like a multiple orgasm. Except that a multiple orgasm isn’t funny. Not necessarily. I guess it depends on how you look at it. Anyway.

We turned the page. “‘A free radical is like a loose hand grenade,’ Bank (the quoted scientist) explains.”

Cracking up all over again, we decided to stop reading and just find the phrases about free radicals:

“…compounds that can neutralize free radicals.” “Once unleashed in the body, free radicals roam around like stalkers…” “…free radical busters….”

By the time we were done with the article, I was wiping tears from my eyes, and I had to blow my nose. One thing is for sure: A political party called “Free Radicals” would be easy to defeat. All we would need would be a few tons of antioxidants.

Le Docteur

This morning, my husband and I went to the doctor, or, should I say, le docteur. So I’m in le docteur’s office trying to do three things at once: 1). Listen attentively as he talks to my husband so as to understand as much of what he’s saying as possible, and 2). Keep my mind from wandering, and 3). Listen attentively, and 4). Try to understand as much of what he’s saying as possible, and 5). Try to understand as much of what my husband’s saying as possible, and 6). Try to not get lost, and 7). Start the whole process again after I get lost, and 8). Try not to get frustrated as I find myself 10 sentences behind by the time I start trying to understand again because I got lost, and 9). Try to keep my mind from wandering as I think of how frustrating it is to try to understand everyone, and 10). Wait – that’s eight things. Or is it nine? I only meant to list three. Did you follow all of that? Neither did I.

This is my struggle as a non-fluent-French-speaker in France. Trying to follow a conversation in French is like trying to follow a mental tennis match, only it’s faster than tennis, so it’s more like ping-pong. The ball blurrs with speed, and the blurrier it gets, the harder it is to keep track, especially if I start seeing double and it looks like two balls. It flies around so quickly that by the time I find it, it’s already somewhere else. Next thing I know, the match is over, and I have no idea what I’d just seen. At that point, the only thing more mind-tangling is when one of the players turns to me with a question about the game. And since I do know something about it, there’s this idea that I’d successfully followed the ball. But the game is complicated. There are serves and pauses and front hands and back hands and double-vision balls bouncing off the net and getting caught off the edge and etcetera. Angles are involved. Angles! I’m going to start calling them “slangles.” My mind trips on the slangles every time. Most of the time, anyway.

Thankfully, I usually understand my husband’s questions, and I can even answer in ping-pong-ese. Other times – a lot of the time, actually – I get it, but I can only answer in English. And sometimes, I don’t get it at all. Then I feel like I let everyone down, especially after it had been noted that my understanding had improved so much.

This is just the normal docteur. This isn’t the shrink-docteur where I go once a month to have an actual conversation without my husband being there. It’s like trying to play ping-pong with myself, blindfolded. And I’m not even going to try to explain what that’s like.