Friday, December 4, 2009

A Good Cause

Those of you that know me are familiar with my attempts at athletic prowess. There was the mountain climbing phase which saw me undertake Mt. Hood, Mt. Humphrey and Mt. Rainier (twice thank you). There were others, but I have blocked them That lasted about 2 years then one day while slugging in crampons up a mountain carrying a 35 lb pack I couldn't find the motivation to go on. I just lost it.

Then there was running. I have tried to train for a marathon twice. Both times with HoustonFit, a group that takes non-runners and turns them into runners. Or is supposed to. Both years I got stress fractures in the same ankle. One year at 7 mile training point and the next at 8 mile. I have been to a bunch of doctors for my knee and ankle, they all tell me not to run. "Bike!" they say.

So I did. I moved to Sedona and mountain biked for the two years I was there. I loved it. It became a passion to go out for 3 or 4 hours on the trails, scare the crap out of myself, sustain a few injuries then come home and stand in a hot shower with a cold beer. I love that feeling of exertion after a long ride.

Then I went to Thailand and broke my leg (love me some Ko Phi Phi)and tore a bunch of crap up, got a blood clot on the 32 hour trip back (Phukette - Bangkok (10 hour layover)- Soel, Korea - Atlanta - Houston) and was on crutches for 12 weeks due to the broken bone, cartilage and ligament repair. After that it was for sure; no running. My doc and rehab people also said that mountain biking was too intense at first so to try road biking. I had moved back to Houston to have help (read Mom and Aunt Mary driving me everywhere because it was the right leg) with the leg so giving up mountain biking, though sad, was easier to do here because the red rocks weren't calling me everyday. Only Memorial Park.

My physical therapist said I should sign up for the MS150. So I did. I also dragged my friend Lori B. along the training rides and met some great friends like Cheri. Cheri's boyfriend was the lead of a team for the ride so I joined up and did it. I loved the biking, but the real motivation became what I learned about MS.

For those of you that don't know, the BP MS150 is the largest fund raising event in the United States. In 2009 the Lone Star (that would be Texas folks) Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation raised 17 Million, yes MILLION, for MS research and services for people living with MS. This is a staggering number and truly makes a difference in research and assistance in our state.

I also found out that I knew a lot more people that were affected by MS that I thought. A friend and co-worker told me her mother had MS. I sent an email to her mom and we started talking and I learned her story (which I will publish if she is ok with it). She told me about how she could see progress in MS but she knew she probably wouldn't see a cure in her lifetime. I took Doris as a Pedal Partner, which is like dedicating your ride to someone with MS. I wrote her and told her about my training progress and wore a bandanna with her name on it during the ride. I also had a friend diagnosed with the disease that year. She had numbness in her fingers, was dizzy and had other health problems. Come to find out, it was MS. She's doing well right now after adjusting her diet, exercise and medications. But it was a lot of work to get her up and running again where she felt she had the energy and confidence to do everyday things.

Oh, I guess I should tell you WHAT the MS 150 actually is eh? It's a two day bike ride from Houston to Austin that will take place April 17-18, 2010. It's actually a little further than 150 miles, I clocked in between 160 and 170 the two times I have done it before. The first day you ride from Houston to La Grange, TX where you spend the night. I think this day is about 80 miles from what I remember, then the next day at 8am you take off again for the rest of the ride to Austin. They limit the ride to 13,000 participants, and yes, it fills up. I felt lucky to get a spot when I did today. They only have 8,000 spots left open but I logged on today at the exact time, had two laptops running and got both Cyr and I spots. Whew!

A lot of people do the ride, you probably know folks that are doing it other than me. We all pay to ride, then we have to raise money in order to be able to ride. My goal is only $1,000, which I hope to hit before the ride in April, though we have until May to get it in I think. Any way...I will probably use this blog to tell you all about my training rides and how things go leading up to the event.

I'm thinking about putting a link on my blog so you can donate, but I'm leery about putting my last name out there so right now I'm undecided. If you would like to donate just email me and I can send you my link!!

Here are some photos of the last ride I did:

This is me at the start line. It was really foggy! Cyr and I had been dating about a month but he drove me there and took pictures to see me off!!

Here is a group shot...crazy eh?

You can see how foggy it was. The start was a little delayed, but not too bad.

Here is me finishing with some teammates including Cheri!!

Here are my sexy tan lines after the two days. Check out the little circle on my wrist. Interesting choice of gloves I guess...

I spend the entire summer trying to get ride of those short lines. Fancy pants for sure!

So...there you go. I have a quest. Stay tuned for updates along the way!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baccarat or Waterford? DONT'T have to decide. I love Waterford. My family is Irish and it's a bit of a tradition to register for it when you get married. I only registered for champagne flutes, Lismore Nouveau, but I love them. I love, love, love them. Even if I only have 4. :-/ Gimme a break...I got married in France, people don't carry that stuff over seas people!

Back to Baccarat though. It was beautiful! I don't just mean the crystal either. Cyr and I parked and walked around since we had time before going to the museum. We had time because it (of course) was closed for lunch from 11:30-2. We walked down by a little river and I took this of the town hall.

Across from the town hall was the most modern church I have ever seen in France. A plaque on the door said St. Remy.

The inside was, as you might guess, colored by the light that spilled in through Baccarat crystals that made up the stained glass windows of the church. Here is a shot from behind the font, which was also made in Baccarat though I am not sure it was actual Baccarat crystal.

I really liked it. Cyr spent a while taking some really good photos that he will probably post on his photography site.

So there you go...I finally posted some more pictures!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Well, last week was crazy, just like everyone's week I'm sure. We went to San Antonio to visit friends like we always do. And it was great, as usual!

My Mom and her friend Kathy actually did the stake out thing for Black Friday. For those of you who are not familiar with this day of consumption; Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving Thursday and is typically the biggest shopping day of the year. By this I mean that more people go shopping on this one day than any other day of the year. Because of this, stores often have one day sales on items with crazy low prices. The trick is that they only carry a limited number of these items, so if the Wii is on sale for $149.00, they might only have 50 of them, so you gotta get there early. Well...Mom and Kathy did just that.

The Target: Nintendo Wii for $149.00
The Store: HEB Plus
The Plan: Get there early and be aggressive
The Players: Susan's Mom and best friend Kathy
Rooting on the sidelines: Susan, at home in bed wishing them the best

The store opens at 5am, so the girls arrive at the HEB Plus at 4:30am with 30 minutes to spare. When they arrive they estimate that there are actually about 300 people ahead of them and others are pouring into the lot to stand in line.

They have grocery baskets tied together to form one long aisle that snakes back and forth to keep the people in line. Once in line they hear announcements asking everyone to "please remember to remain calm", "remain in a single file line" and "there will be only one entrance open to the public and there will be no running once these doors open." I picture them having lavender incense to calm the nerves and playing Enya over the loudspeakers, but that could be a slight exaggeration.

After listening to a woman state to Kathy "I should have just come over here after the game last night" and being absolutely serious about this, 5am finally arrived. The doors opened and people walked in an orderly fashion to the entrance. Once inside the doors the speed walkers come out in force all heading to the electronics section. A slight frenzy of wide eyed fully awake men and women search for the special items they have come for. Mom and Kathy see the Wii display! They rush up to it, sick arms through holes and pull out one Wii each! Success I say!!

I'm sure it was a bit anti-climactic to stand there with Wii in hand, no blood having been drawn, no threatening words having to have been thrown around. Maybe the sounds drowned out in their ears and they heard silence...or...they started looking around and finding toasters for $5, cameras for $50 and other great things!! They did however report a wounded comrade. A woman was heard crying and talking to security because a man took her Wii out of her basket! The security guards then offered to have her identify the man and said they would get her Wii back for her. No news on if this happened, I wish her luck though.

So that and 2 extra pounds on my hips was Thanksgiving. Again, I didn't actually go on this adventure, but I almost feel like I was there. :-)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friends in Epinal

The second stop on our tour, after Nancy, was Epinal. Epinal is a really cute city just about an hour south of Nancy. The hour flew by, it seemed so short compared to the painful trip to Nancy. Next time we might have to just find a place just outside of Paris to regroup. Although I really did like Nancy once we got there.

But I digress, back to Epinal. Cyr's best friend lives here with his wife and new baby. You can see here Martin with his little girl, Julietta, swaddled to his chest. Can you see? I looks like he has a big growth, but it's just little Julietta snuggly tied onto her Papa so she keeps warm and feels secure!
I can't believe I didn't get more pictures of the baby...but she will show up in later posts once I get Cyr to send me a better picture of her. In the above photo we were walking (hiking in the US) up a big hill to get to an old fortress that is still standing. While walking along I saw a sign that said "Parc des animaux" and I thought, "oh, they must have little statues or something." Well. They actually had animaux!
I really thought some kid was going to get his/her fingers eaten off by these pigs. They were pretty agile even with all that fat on them!
I think these were Alpacas. I was told they were not Llamas and that's all I can think of.
And Bambi of course!
Then we walked around and saw what I am sure is where women who wear short skirts or Daisy Dukes buy their bread.

Get it? Hoochie?!
And here is where women used to wash clothes for the men-folk. We actually saw TWO of these! I don't know if it was a very clean town or if people still use them, but this one was covered so I think I would go to this one. Yes. I would go to this one and supervise while some man did my wash for me. It would have to be a very small man that I could bully into it, but I might be able to find one...

If you notice there is a little Virgin Mary at the back. I think it's there so that the woman could immediately ask for forgiveness when they were cursing the fact that they were born women or that their men were so dirty.

I also thought it was quite interesting how the city was built. Here we have a very old church and right up next to it is a shopping area. Check out how they are almost fused together. Now the church is older than the shopping area, and there is a tunnel on the left side of the photo so you can walk through (the church wall, not the photo) to get to the other side of the church or the shopping area. My only guess is that there was a building there before that was replaced. Odd though eh? I mean...where does the property line end and why did they put the windows behind the church wall?!

To end this post I'll show you are friends walking ahead of us down from the main fortress area. The large columns used to support a bridge that went across the gap there. I have to say, I thought it was a really cute little town. I also really like Martin and his wife. They live so simply. They eat healthy foods they buy almost daily, they don't own a car and walk everywhere (we did have to help them buy and bring home a fridge, but once that is over they are set), they live in a really cute apartment where they can walk into town. Makes me want to simplify.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Break!!

Ok - do plan to continue with the Tour de France blogs, but really wanted to post some of the pictures of our little Halloween Gathering we had!! I really didn't think people would show up, but they did.

Here is my darling husband and I. He was a cowboy, complete with bolo tie, hat. a big buckle and jeans tucked into his boots. I was a Germain Bar Maid. Or maybe St. Paulie's Girl. I bought this dirndl when we were in Munich and have been counting the days until I could wear it. It was so fun!

Here are the Grim Reaper and a Sexy Vampire;

Dorothy was there too..

Even Cleopatra stopped by with some friends!

The one in black and white might look like a nun. In fact she was "A Bad Habit" (harhar!) with a stickie of curse words and a drink always in her hand. :-)

Anyway...thought those were fun to share. There were a lot of others that showed up, but I didn't get pictures darn it.
Hope everyone had a good Halloween! We made sure and kept Duncan (our all black cat) inside and hidden away from creepy people who might want to harm him. So we all made it though the weekend with only a slight headache on Sunday to remind us of it. Not to mention about 5 lbs. due to all the candy and cupcakes I ate...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fancy Nancy

Dear Continental,

What ever did I do to you? Why hast thow forsaken me?! I am not quite sure what I have done to deserve to always, and by always I mean the last 4 flights to France I have taken, be sat in a seat that has a broken television, but I am sorry. I am truly sorry. Maybe it was that time I accidentally left a 1/2 a dozen used tissues in the thing that holds magazines. I was really sick and I actually just forgot. At least I put them in the barf bag and didn't just let them sick up the Sky Mall! I shudder to think what you would do in revenge for me spreading my germs not just within a bag made for puke, but in the seat back and onto the magazines. I just hope this public display of regret will find it's way to your little, cold, aerodynamically shaped heart and allow me a functioning entertainment system the next time I fly overseas.

Hugs to you Continental,

Ok, so now that that is out of the way I can get on to talking about our trip! Our flight, other than the 1/2 broken tv, was fine. It must have been our row, Cyr's only got 1/2 the channels too. He actually watched Ice Age II without the sound. There is a man with an imagination I tell you.

When we landed in Paris at 8:30am we marched our sleepy drunk (drunk from no sleep, not really drunk and about to drive) selves to the rental car place. The computer was down, so they couldn't tell us actually what we were going to be charged, but she is sure that it will be the same as on our receipt. Bien sur! Being the risk takers we are we decline the extra insurance and head out to find out little Citroen that will be our part time home while in France.

We then begin to drive to Nancy. I believe Nancy is about 3 hours from Paris. I say "believe" because we hit the road, got into a little morning traffic, then headed out. About an hour into it we needed coffee and a break. We stopped at a little roadside eatery thing. Those of you who have been on French highways will know that there is a gas station and typically a real restaurant thing near by. I get a cheese plate and a coffee, Cyr opted for an apple tart and coffee. I had to use the rest room of course. There I was greeted with the cutest little potty in France! It was right next to the baby changing station and was just for itty-bitty-butts! I took a picture but not sure if you can tell how small it is. You can see the little cleaner by it and those are usually about 2 foot tall. I wanted to put something next to it to show it's size but I wasn't about to put my purse on the ground in the rest room. Ewe, you will just have to use your imagination. Cyr thought I was nuts to take a picture but I just had to. :-)

We then get back on the road.

About an hour and half later I ask him; "how much further?" It says on the GPS but it seems odd we are so far. He taps expertly on the little gps making it blink and hop from screen to screen. How he knows that things so well amazes me. Then I hear; "Aach." then a "mumble, mumble" and maybe a "bordel" thrown in for good measure. Well friends, while we were taking our little break we wanted to be safe so we took the GPS in with us. Somehow it got all tapped about. Well, it had changed routes and was taking us to Lille. We had driven about 45 minutes out of the way. Please remember that this is after a 9 hour plane ride where Cyr got about 3 hours sleep and I didn't sleep at all.

I couldn't be angry, and I wasn't. I was however not a very patient or understanding person by the time we got to Nancy. I mean to tell you that I would have gotten out of the car and physically assaulted someone if they would have gotten in the way of our getting to the hotel.

Once we actually got there it was great. Here is a shot of our hotel room. High, high ceilings with crown molding, check out the door, it's put in at an angle. Odd eh?

The pictures of the room were taken on Day 2 of the trip due to sleepy irritation the day of arrival. I know you are not supposed to, but we fell into bed and had a good 3 or 4 hour nap. It was so tasty...but not as tasty as this:

Beer and fondue. Oh yeah. Welcome to France. Tune in next time for some animal fun!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back in The States

So...vacation is over. No more waking up late, drinking wine/beer with lunch (or at least not without feeling a little guilty or lushy), marveling at how low the dollar is and how high the prices are, eating in restaurants that are old than my country...but Houston isn't so bad. My family and friends are here to welcome us back!

The last 2 weeks or so was spent traveling through France and visiting friends and family. We mainly stayed in the northeast going to places like Nancy, Baccarat and the Lille/Valencienne area. I have lots of pictures and am going to write the posts and set them up to be posted every other day so you can all see a little bit of where we went.

While we were there our 1st Anniversary passed as well!! October 25th was one year that Cyr and I have been married! We were in Paris and went to dinner at Ciel de Paris which is on the 56th floor of the only sky scraper in Paris; the Tour de Montparnasse. We ate dinner and looked out over Paris and the Eiffel Tower. Right when we sat down, at 9pm because the French do eat late, the Eiffel Tower lit up and sparkled like diamonds for it's hourly dance of lights. One of the things that really amazed me was that the lights on the horizon actually twinkled!! I asked Cyr if he saw it too or if it was just the good wine. Apparently the lights really do sparkle! I thought they just made that happen in the movies. Alas...I recommend that you don't take my word for it. Go and check it out yourself.

So...I am logging off for now and going to get my pictures in order to send out our trip highlights!
Thanks for dropping by...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Busy Days

So the French Days are going really well! I have even been getting extra practice because Cyr has two friends / work colleagues in town from France and we have gone to dinner a few times. They all speak French and I get to practice. It is such a nice change to actually be able to understand them when they talk now. In the past a conversation would go like this;

Group is talking in French.
I don't understand that word. I think about word.
I think I know word and try to focus back on the discussion.
Discussion has changed.
Another new word, what could that mean?
Oh, look at that bird outside!
I wonder if he speaks French.
Maybe it's a girl bird, why do I assume it's a male?
Male birds have pretty feathers. Huh.
Oh yea, focus on French conversation. I missed that whole thing.
Why are people laughing?
Laugh with them!
I don't understand that word...

Now I can at least focus more. We head back to France next week so at least my ears are ready for it. Don't know about my mouth...but my ears are ready!

I also have to take a quick trip to Florida for work. I fly out Monday and return Wednesday then we leave the next day for France. I booked an early flight Wednesday in case of delays. Am also going to pack before I leave Monday. Yes. I must remember to pack early...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A French Wednesday

So...we had our first day of speaking French yesterday!

Some of you have posted or emailed me and said "why don't you do it everyday?" While I can see how this would be a good idea, in practice it's pretty hard. For instance; Cyr wanted to tell me about something that happened at his work. He is an engineer in the oil and gas business. I don't understand most of what he does when he speaks English, so in French...super frustrating. I admit, we too some time to talk in English about a few important items, but then went back to French.

We actually did a pretty good job! I think I learned a few things that will hopefully be reinforced tomorrow when we have Day 2 of The French Language Project. There was a funny moment; Cyr was in the hall trying to tell me something in French. But he was looking at me with his head tilted to the side, brows furrowed, rubbing his tummy and speaking in a very halting and slow way, like he couldn't think of the words. It was so funny, it was like he couldn't speak French to me, literally! He looks at my face and English comes to his brain, he said it's pretty strange to speak only French to me, but he'll get used to it.

I guess I should also admit that part of the reason I wanted to start this now is that we are going back to France in October and I really want to be in the groove of speaking the language and maybe improve a bit before we get there. We will get to travel around a bit and then get to see his Mom and brother for a few days. I'm really looking forward to it. It's strange because I don't know them very well when it comes down to it, but I really like learning more about them. Getting to know about personalities and what makes them laugh and what doesn't. Plus she is a fantastic cook. Uh...yum...

So there you go. It was not 100% French Day, but I would say it was closing in on 75%. Tomorrow will be even better.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Julie & Julia & My New Goal

Has anyone seen this film yet? Julie & Julia? I saw it on Sunday with my Mom and I loved it. The movie was 2 hours and 3 minutes and I could have sat there for another 30 minutes without having to take a potty break. I really wanted to know more about what happened in Julia Child's life actually. The movie ends prior to (not a spoiler) letting us know about the televised cooking show. So yes, I recommend it. I also thought Meryl Streep was amazing...really...I know everyone talks about how she is one of the best actresses of all time...I have to agree. Love her.

Another thing it did, as you can guess, is make me think about my blog. When I started it I had a reason, I had things to share. Now it's just Susan in Houston. Living her life where she speaks the language, has no kids to make things interesting, has tons of friends she already knows, her family lives here and works at a job she has done before. Granted, the job is sales, so it changes all the time. But I'm selling the same thing I have sold before. Incentive Compensation Consulting anyone? Anyone?!

So now I sit here reflecting, as most ex-expat ex-bloggers do I think, and I wonder; "what now?" I like to have goals. Typically I have something going on in my life be it preparing for an MS150 bike ride, some kind of run, or as it was in Lille; learning to speak the language and survive in a new culture. Now my goals are things I don't really want to share with everyone I guess. Like trying to pay off my car. Is it interesting to post that I have three - count them THREE - more payments to go on my 4Runner? To me it is, but generally it's not that exciting.

I think I know what I want to do though. I want to keep on with part of what I was trying to do in France. I want to be fluent in French. I don't want to speak like an 18 month old child for the rest of my life. Or keep telling people how I love their horses when I am trying to say "hair". I also need to learn how to read and write the stupid phonetically challenging language. Therefore it has been decided. I have not even told my husband about this...but I have formed a plan and am putting my proverbial foot down!

GOAL: We are going to speak only French Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday until December 31, 2009.

Exceptions: 1- Emergencies, 2 - when we are around my family and 3- if we are with friends that don't speak French.

I am also going to make myself do at least 2 exercised in my French Workbooks every week. Yes...I know...I should do one a day right? But I don't think I would learn it. I would get through the exercise correctly and then move to the next. Like High School. I passed all my history classes with good grades but couldn't remember when the US was founded (yes - I know July 4th, but didn't remember 1776) until I started reading the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon. (side note - I have the new one, An Echo in the Bone, and I love it...mmmm).

This isn't even that long of a time period. I figure I will do this until Dec. 31st then take a language check. See where I'm at and determine what to do next.

So there you have it. Rather; there I have it! A goal. This need for something to shoot for must come from my over involvement with sports as a child...anyone else like this?