Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

"Living with teenage daughters is like living with the Taliban."

There is so much estrogen in this house that I think my husband may commit suicide or at the very least move out. I have done a headcount and in the past week there have been 12 girls at my apartment. 12 mighty girls… Not a wallflower in the bunch. My poor husband has been a witness this week to every range of female emotion and expression… Joy, laughter, tears, little bit of rage, moodiness, hysteria, disappointment, excitement, insecurities, confidence, bravado and fear coupled with a few “I love yous” and a few “I hate yous.”

While all of my adult girlfriends expressed these same emotions, it was our daughters that were really fucking masterpieces this week. What is it about being a mother that you can simultaneously love your daughters and want to sing their praises yet in the same breath also want to lock them in closets and not let them out until they learn how to say something nice. You have never seen so much eye rolling, huffing and puffing, guffawing, footstomping and turned backs. It was like Mean Girls 2: Paris Style.

Let me start with the cast of characters…

Gracie, my daughter, 19 years old. Nice to everyone except me. Shy and acerbic.

Sarah, Susan’s daughter, 19 years old. 19 going on 40. Doesn’t have time for idiots.

Kelsey, Debbie’s daughter, 17 years old. Master manipulator. Secretly working on ruling the world… One fashion show at a time.

Chloe, Sally’s daughter, 23 years old. Golden child. Future President of France.

The week started off with Gracie telling me that she wanted to go to New York… “because she was hungry.” She told me that she was sick of French food and just wanted “regular food” like Shake Shack and Trader Joe’s. My response, “Gracie, we had a deal, you cannot leave Paris and college until you speak French fluently and a cheeseburger is no reason to move to New York.” Her response, “You can’t tell me what to do. I have more college than you do under my belt so technically I’m smarter than you.” Yes, I wanted to kill her and start over with a new baby. Two days later Gracie was hired to assist a fashion stylist on a photo shoot for a British pop singer. Suddenly, Gracie liked Paris again. The day before she told me to never ever, under any circumstances, call her before 10 AM or after 10 PM. Suddenly, Gracie had time to talk on the telephone and tell me all about her wonderful job. Tuesday evening Gracie graced us with her presence at my apartment under the guise of spending quality time with me but I knew the truth… It was because I had chili and Fritos. I served my daughter a piping hot bowl of homemade chili with her favorite cheddar cheese and crème fraîche topped with imported Fritos and before she could take her first bite she looked at the chili and screamed at me, “YOU KNOW I DON’T LIKE ONIONS!”

Nothing I do with Gracie, towards Gracie, for Gracie is correct in her eyes. According to Gracie I am too loud, too talkative, too open, too rude, too happy, too pushy, too short, don’t do my makeup correctly, too bossy, have too many “acquaintances”, use the words “networking” and “journey” too much, butcher the French language, and overall just a total loser. I could win the Nobel peace prize and Gracie would most likely roll her eyes and say to me, “I’m pretty sure there must be some mistake.” If Gracie ever had to describe me I am confident the words “bipolar, unstable, embarrassing and lame” would come up.

Gracie only reserves this remarkable behavior for me… With everyone else she is an angel. With other people she smiles, with me she growls. With other people she is complementary, with me she is the New York Times fashion critic. With other people she will go out of her way, with me she does the bare minimum. With other people Gracie is impressed, with me Gracie has an overall feeling of disdain.

Words that came out of Gracie’s mouth this week…

“Do you realize you are too old to blog and Instagram?”

“One of your eyes is smaller than the other.”

“Can I have your Valentino handbag because it’s not like you can use it.”

“I thought you were supposed to lose weight with ALS.”

Gracie was in good company this week because her friend Sarah arrived. Sarah is my friend Susan’s daughter whom we have known since 2002. They are like family to us. Sarah is a tall, thin, drop dead gorgeous 19-year-old with bee sting lips, porcelain skin and bright eyes. Sarah has led a privileged life of private planes, mansions, exotic travel and private tutors however, she doesn’t give a shit. Sarah is “the cool girl.” Sarah is busy building her empire and thus came to Paris this week “for work.” She’s 19. When she is not doing some side work as a model, Sarah is launching her company. While most 19-year-old’s are at college sitting in History 101 class and experimenting with beer bongs at house parties, Sarah is at the European fabric show in Paris procuring new vendors for her lingerie line. When Sarah and Gracie were little girls, one day I took both of them to the Aspen library to check out some books. Gracie was knee-deep in Amelia Bedelia when Sarah said to me, “Don’t let Grace follow me because I’m going to go to the grown-up section of the library to read books about s-e-x.” Sarah was born an adult. Now that she is an official adult at age 19, her mother has now morphed into “the help.”

Words that came out of Sarah’s mouth this week…

“Mom, could you please call me an Uber.”

“Mom, could you please find my computer because I think I left it at the airport.”

“Mom, you’re asking too many questions.”

 “Mom, could you please pack my bags because I need to get back to Los Angeles.”

And then there was Kelsey. Kelsey is my friend Debbie’s 17-year-old supermodel daughter. Kelsey was in Paris this week “on hold” for a major fashion campaign. Witnessing what Kelsey has had to go through this past week has caused me posttraumatic stress disorder. Kelsey is not the typical editorial model, she is a runway model. Yes, these are the girls that are expected to weigh less than a pencil. I think I saw Kelsey eat a total of three bowls of Special K cereal for the entire week. She was hungry, grumpy and moody to no one… Except her mother. Kelsey’s mother Debbie did not stand a chance this week.… She was the designated punching bag. At one point during the week, Kelsey’s career took a left turn (for the better) and she was forced to decide whether to return to school for her second semester of senior year or focus solely on her modeling career. There were a lot of tears and no matter what Debbie said to guide Kelsey or comfort Kelsey, it was all unsolicited advice according to Kelsey.

Words that came out of Kelsey’s mouth this week…

“Mom! This isn’t your career.”

“Mom, I’ll call my agent when I want to.”

“Mom, I’ll eat next week!”

“Mom, you’re acting like Kris Kardashian.”

The only saving grace of the week was Chloe. Chloe is the daughter of my uber chic friend Sally. Just when I thought we had all failed as mothers, Chloe arrived. Chloe is the great white hope for mothers. 23-year-old Chloe is poised, well spoken, polite, endearing, educated, elegant and believe it or not… Nice to her mother. I don’t want to say that I wish Gracie were like Chloe but I wish Gracie were like Chloe. Chloe isn’t searching for her identity and is not at war with her mother. She already passed that phase and has come back around the block a civilized person… Unlike the three Tasmanian devils at my house. Just when you think your daughter might fantasize about your violent death, they come back around. They reach a certain age, experience enough of life, learn from their mistakes and realize that their mothers weren’t so bad after all. I am still waiting for this experience…

But don’t think that Susan, Debbie nor I are without our weapons. Trust me, we are experienced warriors. Our daughters will not win. Okay, maybe they will halfway win, but they will not totally win. My weapon is the use of guilt. I am like a professional Jewish mother in the guilt department. I can do it with a look, with my words or a quick email. Without fail, it gets the job done. Gracie usually snaps out of her shithead daughter mode for a solid 24 hours.

Debbie’s weapon is humor. After a tearful hour of Kelsey going back and forth about her decision to quit her regular school and to continue with online school while modeling full-time, finally a decision was made. This decision did not come easy and no matter what advice Debbie had for Kelsey, Kelsey was not listening. Debbie could not have been more supportive towards Kelsey’s decision telling Kelsey, “Kelsey, you can finish your second semester 12th grade online without anyone judging you. You have been given an opportunity that you cannot pass up.” After the tears dried up and Kelsey felt confident about her decision to quit school, Debbie stood up and looked at Kelsey and said, “C’mon dropout, let’s go celebrate with a half of a grape.”

Susan’s weapon is subtlety. Passive aggressive subtlety. Susan can put Sarah into her place with three quick words… Loaded three quick words. All Susan has to say to Sarah when Sarah is being a bit righteous is, “Ohhhh, okay Sarah.” Somehow the tables are turned and Susan is in the lead.

If you have teenage daughters, don’t pretend like this isn’t happening to you as well. No mother is immune to this behavior from their daughters. If your teenage daughter is actually nice to you, it is all a farce and she is probably “sexting” and doing crystal meth. I guarantee it. No matter how horrid our daughters can be, there is no one we would rather spend time with. I eat sleep and breathe Gracie and my friends do the same with their daughters. Gracie spent the night with me while David was out of town a couple of weeks ago and I spent the wee hours of the night just watching Gracie sleep. Gracie rolled over, woke up, looked at me and said, “Stop breathing on me, weirdo.” Be still my heart.

Things we said to our daughters this week in Paris…

“Stand up straight, you look like a hunchback.”

“Call me from inside the taxi on speakerphone so the driver will know that you have a mother who is expecting you so he will not kidnap you.”

“If you are purposely trying to look like a slob in that outfit… Mission accomplished.”

“You look pale, drink this green juice, I don’t care if you think it’s gross.”

“Excuse me, missy, are you hung-over?”

 “Did you send a thank you letter?”

“What rhymes with witch.”

“Text me when you get back to your apartment so I have proof of life.”

“Do you need a therapist?”

 “Your Uber has arrived.”

“Let’s go over the rules again of how to spot a terrorist.”

“No, you cannot borrow that and yes, I will know if it’s missing.”

“Really? You don’t like lasagna this week but you did last week?”

 “No, your agent does not know what is best for you… I do, because I am your goddamn mother.”

“No, green beans are not fattening.”

So that, my friends, is my household this week… Amongst other things that we will get into tomorrow.

A toute!

"Uhhh, I'm like, busy…"

Hi everyone! Sorry about the lack of postings. No, I am not dead… I just have “company” (that’s what my mother calls guests). It is definitely going to be a full house over here this week. My best friend, Jenny, and my other friend, Kelly, arrived yesterday and we have been very busy eating Frito pie, gossiping about every human being on the face of the earth, pretending to be supportive about Gracie’s flippant decision to move to New York (don’t worry, it’s not going to happen on my watch), watching YouTube videos about disgusting South American bugs (bot flies) that can burrow into your head (so gross), laughing hysterically and then we rounded out the day with a big cry fest… just because.

Jenny and Kelly got all dolled up last night and went out to meet Jenny’s Uber cool cousin, Sara, who was shooting an Internet piece for Condé Nast magazine at her friend’s restaurant, Au Passage. Sara is the go-to-girl in Paris for all things foodie. Paris by Mouth is the website you want to check out if you want honest reviews about Parisian restaurants, wine bars, cheese shops, bakeries, chocolate shops and the like. Sara gives knowledgeable and no doubt fun (because she is Jenny’s cousin) food and wine tours of Paris through Paris By Mouth. Check it out HERE. I am forever indebted to Sara for one recommendation alone. Sarah turned me on to a restaurant called Verjus just around the corner from my apartment that serves, hands down, the best fried chicken east of America.… So that’s that.

This evening, I am having my friend Sally and her daughter Chloe over for drinks. You might remember them from my blog posting, My Morning With the Chicest Family in Paris. Very excited to see them.

Tomorrow morning my friend Debbie arrives to my apartment with her 17-year-old daughter, Kelsey, who is a model and will be force-fed my green juice concoctions whether she likes it or not. It makes your eyes bright! However, Debbie will not be allowed through my front door unless she smuggled in her suitcase my requested Nestlé Toll House refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough.

Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to go visit the newly remodeled Picasso Museum. After the museum, I will have my weekly massage. I call it the Hour of Power. I spend this hour with the masseuse meditating, nearly levitating, and solving the world’s problems… Mostly mine.

Thursday, I am meeting with documentary film maker, Bo Landin, the CEO of Scandinature Films to start shooting a little piece about ALS because it is “the IT disease.”

Thursday evening, Jenny has a hot date with a French guy (No, not from Tinder!) So I will have to spend a few hours reassuring her that what happens in Paris stays in Paris. No harm, no foul.

Friday, my brilliant doctor, Dr. Paul Allen Cox from the Institute of Ethnomedicine, is flying into Paris and we will meet up at my apartment to discuss his brilliance. :-)

My Yolanda (@yolandahfoster) is sick in Singapore where her husband David (@officialdfoster) is the new judge of Asia’s Got Talent. Yolanda is in the hospital there so I will have to talk to her on the phone for 20 to 30 hours on FaceTime to make her laugh and cheer her up.

After that, I have to text Yolanda’s daughter, Gigi (@gigihadid), and congratulate her on becoming the new face of Maybelline makeup. Watch the video HERE. I cried.

Today we are making lasagna with three cheeses and we will continue my juice obsession now that I have found purple kale in Paris.
So, clearly, I cannot write a blog this week! :-) :-) :-)

In my absence this week, I have an idea… Why don’t you check out my new favorite blog, Manger, because it is waaaaay better than my blog and I’m not afraid to admit it. I don’t get jealous about chicks with yachts, diamonds and Juvéderm… No no no. I get jealous about chicks with old French farmhouses filled with hordes of children, a pack of dogs, warm delicious food, plenty of wine, pink dining room walls, and a gigantic wild garden. I suggest you pop over to her blog HERE and get lost in it for a while… I don’t blame you if you never come back to my blog. Hell, I may never come back to my blog.
A toute!

Chicken Soup for the Soul… Not Necessarily.

We are halfway through our life lessons series about the top 15 dishes to master by the age of 30. So far, so good, right? Well, not so much over at our house. Looking back to yesterday’s “incident” I am amazed at how I can go from blood boiling anger to gut wrenching laughter all in one day. Let me tell you a little story.…
All I wanted was some chicken noodle soup. Paris has been windy, chilly, wintery and quite frankly I have been a little bit afraid to go outside. I don’t want to get sick again and these incessant French commercials about “la grippe” aren’t helping. I am terrified of invisible germs and all I want to do is stay healthy. It is a well-known fact over my house that “Ellie is on a health kick.” I have been juicing my little heart out… Spinach, blueberries, carrots, cucumber, celery, kale, ginger, flaxseed oil, coconut oil, tumeric, lemon, beet and apple. I have been meditating, researching a new acupuncturist, having daily kinesiology therapy sessions, drinking warm chai lattes with almond milk, plenty of rest and keeping warm.

All of the caregivers, nurses and therapist are instructed to wash their hands with warm soapy water until they get through two renditions of the happy birthday song. If I see a sniffle, hear a cough or witness any sort of malaise, that person will not make it past my front door. This is a germ-free zone. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have not gotten the stomach flu that Gracie had, her boyfriend had, her roommate had and my mother-in-law had. For some reason I have been spared and thank God because I do not have the muscles to actually throw up. I will most likely choke and die a horrible death. So, we are all on high alert at my house… High alert!
My husband has been a witness to all of this but apparently none of it “sunk in.” It is a good thing that I’m completely paralyzed otherwise I would have smothered my husband in his sleep for what he did. Since I physically cannot harm my husband, my only recourse was to punish him with my smarts and wit, basically the only things that I have left. Make yourself a drink, sit back and let me tell you what he did…

Continuing my health kick and research for the blog, I decided to make homemade chicken noodle soup. As you know, I cannot do this on my own due to my “situation” so I have to enlist the help of my caregivers. Usually I don’t trust any of them to even help me make croutons, but my new caregiver Joel is a fantastic cook. He doesn’t just slop everything into a pot and cook it. He actually cares, like I do about making the perfect chicken noodle soup. We even had a long conversation about it! So, off to the streets of Paris Joel went to collect the ingredients. I sent him to my favorite roasted chicken boucherie to buy the most succulent, flavorful roasted chicken in all of Paris. All of our vegetables were organic… Carrots, celery, onions, potatoes. We added pasta noodles, herbs de Provence, rock salt, pepper, fresh lemon juice, cilantro and even a few juicy cherry red tomatoes because I like that. We added the skin of the roasted chicken for a little extra fat and flavor. We simmered it for hours and the whole house smelled delicious. We made enough of the soup to last for days.
That evening, my husband brought a big bowl of this hard-earned chicken noodle soup to me for my dinner. This soup was so unbelievably good, so rich, so flavorful and I could tell that it was the perfect soup to ward off any germs, illnesses or flu. I kept saying to my husband, “This soup is so delicious. I cannot wait to have it tomorrow for lunch. Gracie and her friend, Maggie, are going to stop by our apartment after they go to the Louvre so they can have some of this delicious soup. It is so good! It’s going to be even better tomorrow! Oh, I can’t wait.” Yes, things like this get me excited. All I could think about was this chicken noodle soup. I literally could not shut up about the soup to my husband.

My husband has this unlawful and annoying personality trait of telling white lies to me. He is convinced that I do not need to know the whole truth. He thinks that he is protecting me. I am completely paranoid about everything and interrogate him on a daily basis… Did you lock the front doors, does the cat have fresh water because you know she only drinks fresh water, does my feeding tube look swollen, remember you are not allowed to have gummy bears because you will choke, did you wash your hands, is my cell phone charged because I might have to call the paramedics if you have a heart attack in the middle of the night, do you think Gracie is having sex with her boyfriend, did you move the curtains away from the heaters because they could catch on fire, do we have a backup plan in case the elevator stops working and there is an emergency in the apartment, if a terrorist breaks into our apartment and takes us hostage do you think I will be able to reason with him, don’t forget to watch out when you are pushing my wheelchair so that nobody hits me in the face with their cigarette, is my electric toothbrush charged, when does the crème fraîche expire… I am exhausting so David’s usual answer is always, “Yes.” He says “yes” whether or not he means yes. He knows that it’s just best to say yes otherwise I will panic and then he will have to go fix everything. But here’s the thing, I hate it when he does that. I hate white lies. I just want to know the truth so I can remedy this situation. I am always considering the snowball effect. If the cat doesn’t have fresh water she will not drink the water and then she will get dehydrated and die. She is a Persian and a diva and it is my responsibility to cater to her needs. Yes, these are the things that I think about. David wouldn’t care if the cat had to drink toilet water for a week. One of the most difficult aspects of having ALS is losing control of your own house. It drives me crazy and I cannot police everyone every moment of their lives. So, now you have a little history and we can get back to the soup story…

I spent the entire evening looking forward to my chicken noodle soup the next day. I had a perfect night sleep and at 8:30 AM I woke up in a panic… David was sound asleep next to me and I started screaming, “David! Did you remember to transfer the chicken noodle soup from the stock pot on the stove into a sealed container and put it in the refrigerator last night! David! Wake up! Is the soup in the refrigerator? You didn’t forget to put it in the refrigerator last night, did you? It is not still out on the stove, is it? David, wake up!” David just loves waking up to this kind of panic from me. In his barely audible lack of sleep voice he says, “Yes, I put the soup in the refrigerator last night.”
Because I have lived with this douchebag since 2006, I know when he is lying. My intuition told me that that soup was not in the refrigerator. Luckily, my caregiver had just arrived to work that very second so I screamed at him, “Joel, please go to the kitchen and see if the chicken noodle soup is still on the stove or in the refrigerator.” I knew it! I knew it! Joel told me that the soup was still in the pot on the stove. I went from a perfectly sound sleep to raging bitch within 30 seconds. David was still half asleep and had no idea the wrath that was about to be bestowed upon him. “David! You are such a white liar. The soup is not in the refrigerator! It is still out on the stove. You were not going to tell me and you were going to let me eat leftover soup that has been left out and now it is laced with every sort of foodborne illness on the face of the earth. You can’t leave food out overnight. I don’t care if you are French, you can’t do it! I have a weakened immune system already and the last thing I need is fucking salmonella poisoning. I hate you and want a divorce. I’m going to tell the judge that it is dangerous to live with someone like you because you have no regard for food safety. David! Wake up, did you hear what I said?”

As usual, because David has trained himself to ignore me, David just rolled casually out of bed and went to make himself a coffee. He didn’t care about the soup. He went to his closet, without speaking, put on his jeans, a black cashmere sweater, a scarf and his cute jacket, grabbed his cell phone and quietly walked out of the door. He knew it was best not to engage me. He knew it was safer for him to be at his office.

As I sat in my bed fuming for all of the right reasons… David told me a white lie, David tried to poison me, now I have no soup for lunch… I decided that it was high time to teach David a lesson. David needed to be “schooled” old-school style and I was just the girl to do it. I started to hatch my revenge…

I waited about three hours until I knew David was deep into his work at his office. David’s office is about 10 blocks away. He chooses to walk to work instead of getting his car out of the garage, driving to his office, trying to find a new place to park etc. Believe it or not, even though David has a tiny little Smart Car, it is still a nightmare to park in Paris. So, David walks to work every day. Yesterday, it was particularly windy and rainy and I knew it was not a pleasant walk to work. Can you hear my evil laugh? I knew David had a very busy day at the office and needed to get a lot of work done. So, I called David at his office and started my lies by saying “Hi, Bunny. You’ve had a delivery here at the apartment that we had to sign for. Were you expecting a delivery from Hermès? There is a huge orange box that was delivered from Hermès.” There was silence on the other end of the phone for about five seconds and then David said, “Uhhh, no, I wasn’t expecting a delivery.” I could hear the panic in his voice. I knew he did not want me to think that he had bought anything at Hermès because all of our money has to go to my caregivers, our rent, my medication, my hospital bills etc.

I said, “Well I don’t know what you ordered, but there is a huge box here.”
David said, “I’ll be right home.”

Can you still hear my evil laugh? My sinister plan was working. Now David had to leave the office, leave all the work that he was doing, put on his jacket, grab his umbrella and walk 10 blocks home in the rain to our apartment expecting a big fat (non-existent) Hermès box. I could barely contain my laughter. I knew that David was stressed out his entire walk home thinking… “Oh my God, what did I buy? Is it something that I custom ordered a long time ago and now it is ready and I have to pay for it? Is Hermès delivering a gift for me because I’m such a good customer? Do I have a secret admirer? Oh my God, Ellie’s going to kill me.”
I could barely contain my decorum thinking that this was the perfect punishment. It will send him a message, it will teach him a lesson, it’s clever, and see if he ever tells me a white lie again and attempts to kill me with day-old rotten chicken noodle soup.

20 minutes later I could hear David unlocking our front door. I kept saying to myself, “Keep your composure, Ellie. Don’t laugh, keep a straight face and say your line. Don’t blow it.” David walks directly into my bedroom and says, “Where’s the box? Where’s the Hermès box. I didn’t see it in the foyer. Where is it?”
I said to him with perfect composure, “I think it’s in the kitchen, in the refrigerator…right next to the chicken noodle soup.”

David started walking towards the kitchen, I kid you not. He had no idea that I was fucking with him. I had never done anything like this before. I have never played a joke on him. I could hear him open the refrigerator door. He came back to my room and said again, “Where’s the box?” I said again, “David, the Hermès box is in the refrigerator right next to where you said you put the chicken noodle soup.”
David was still confused and said to my caregiver, “Joel, where is the big Hermès box that was delivered this morning?” My caregiver just kept his head down and did not answer. I knew what my caregiver was thinking, “How did I get in the middle of these two lunatics?” Luckily, my caregiver knew what was good for him and he did not rat me out. He kept his game face and just shook his head. David started looking all over the apartment. I thought I was going to implode from trying to contain my laughter.

After about five minutes, David came back towards my bedroom, stood at the doorway and just looked at me. He finally figured it out and he was quite frankly astonished. I think he was astonished that I would actually go to these lengths to trick him just over chicken noodle soup. He just stood there and looked at me. The amount of pride I had for myself was overwhelming and I started laughing internally and my body was shaking and tears were coming out of my eyes. I could not stop. I knew David wanted to kill me but he had to keep his cool for several reasons...He knew that he deserved this, he knew he could not explode in front of the caregivers, he knew he looked like a fool. He didn’t say a word, he just went to the front door, opened it, walked through it and quietly closed the door and went back to work.
As soon as he was out of our apartment, I burst out laughing. I called everyone I knew to tell them. I honestly think it was the best thing I could’ve done because I don’t think David will ever, ever white lie to me again or dare question my food safety concerns. Please feel free to use my methods at your own households if necessary. Tomorrow, we will actually learn how to master chicken noodle soup now that I’ve calmed down a bit. :-)

Life's Lesson N° 7: Getting Back to My Roots.… Rasta Style.


My best friend Jenny asked me the other day what I would like for her to bring to Paris for me next week when she arrives. My answer: Fritos. Yes, that is my request. Why do I need Fritos? Because I have to make Frito Pie! If you do not know what Frito Pie is…1. I feel bad for you and 2. Don’t worry because I’m going to tell you what it is.
Today’s blog is all about chili. Not to be all self-righteous but I am a near expert at chili. Let me tell you why… First of all, I was born in Texas. Secondly, I have attended at least 15 years of the Malibu Chili Cookoff. Thirdly, I spent my youth eating Frito Pies.
People get a little crazy about their chili. Everyone has their own secret chili recipe that they all think is the best. I understand… Chili is personal. Everyone has their own idea, preference, rules about which meat to use (if any), which spice is best, beans or no beans, tomatoes or no tomatoes, what kind of accoutrements etc. There are even arguments about the origins of chili … Is it Mexican, Spanish or Texan. The only aspect I can see that chili lovers agree on is that chili needs patience and love allowing the flavors to meld and become rich.
If you are not doing a Frito pie, don’t forget to make cornbread with salted honey butter. Making chili in Paris is not a walk in the park. Trying to find a packet of chili seasoning powder, cheddar cheese or sour cream ain’t easy. Luckily, my friend Elizabeth sent me a whole care package of chili seasoning powder.
Side note: you may know my friend Elizabeth as La Contessa. My friend RJ calls her “All CAPS Contessa” as she distinguishes her writing with perfectly placed capitalization that I love. I have to tell you, this woman is quite remarkable. She is quirky, kind, generous, loving, interesting, forthcoming, a true friend, and is an absolutely magically unique woman. She has a charming blog that you all should check out:

Okay, let’s start with some secrets to a superb chili from the experts…

Have a rich, complex chili flavor that combines sweet, bitter, hot, fresh, and fruity elements in balance.

Don’t rush your chili. The best chili is cooked all day over a low heat.

Don’t use ground beef. Go the extra mile and use a bone-in Chuck roast, cooking it for hours like a pot roast, cut it up and add to the chili.

Sear your onions over high heat quickly to achieve a caramelization effect.

Use an assortment of chilies… Mild, hot, fresh and diced

Add pork fat for flavor.

Add a bit of stout beer or dark ale.

Add a bit of dark chocolate or Aztec cocoa.

Add a shot of coffee.

Use a combination of chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and tomato paste.

Ready for some recipes? Here we go…
One Pot Cheesy Turkey Taco Chili Mac via Recipe HERE.

 Frito Pie via The Pioneer Woman. Recipe HERE.
Chuck wagon chili via Emeril Legasse. Recipe HERE.


Voilà! Chili… Mastered.

*Something you don’t know about me? I decided I’m going to attempt to become a stoner. I texted Gracie and said, “Mommy is going to become a stoner.” Gracie responded, “It’s about time.” Previously, and by previously I mean last week, I was opposed to the use of marijuana. My problems in the past with pot are the following… Primarily, it makes you a retard. I have seen this firsthand. All of my friends who smoke pot on a regular basis are… Slow and have arrested development. It’s the truth. Secondly, I am afraid that if I smoke pot I will freak out and have to go to the hospital. Remember, I am the girl who is afraid of aspirin and Band-Aids. Now, I have changed my mind. In my fifth year of ALS I don’t give a shit anymore. So what if I become a retard. It’s not as if I’m trying to get a job or impress anybody. I can be as stupid as I want. No matter how much pot I smoke, I will still be smarter than everyone on Fox News combined. So what if I have to go to the hospital? I’ve been to the hospital so many times in the past five years that it hardly even fazes me anymore. Let me state for the record though that if Gracie ever even considered smoking pot, I would slaughter her.
When I was growing up in Malibu through junior high and high school the main pastimes were going to the beach, listening to reggae music, eating burritos and smoking pot. It was Malibu for God sake. I did all of that except the smoking pot. I know I don’t seem like the type of girl who listens to reggae music, but I am. I have been to so many Reggae Sunsplash festivals, I’ve lost count. I have been front row at a Jimmy Cliff concert and I wanted to marry Ziggy Marley when I was in high school. Black Uhuru, Steel Pulse, Peter Tosh… Loved all of it. But then I grew up and moved on. Now, I think it’s time I got back to my roots. Yep, I’m going to start smoking pot in Paris, sing karaoke reggae, eat take-out Chipotle burritos, drink a green juice and for your enjoyment I am going to strap a GoPro camera to my forehead to document the whole thing. This should be fun. I’m not guaranteeing that I’m going to be a successful stoner, but I’m going to give it a good shot.
Let me explain my reasoning for becoming a stoner. ALS is a nerve disease. My nerves are shot, they are probably dead, they are exhausted, they are stressed and they have quite literally just given up. For my entire life, I have been a Type A personality. Here’s a quick description of someone with a type A personality: The theory describes "Type A" individuals as ambitious, rigidly organized, sensitive, impatient, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, anxious, proactive, and concerned with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence. Behavior is expressed in three major symptoms: (1) free-floating hostility, which can be triggered by even minor incidents; (2) time urgency and impatience, which causes irritation and exasperation usually described as being "short-fused"; and (3) a competitive drive which causes stress and an achievement-driven mentality.
This describes me to a T. Can you imagine my exhaustion from living like this for 44 years! So, you have to think, “This girl needs to smoke some pot, tout de suite!” I’m going to invite a few friends over to join me but I can’t tell you who because they have a reputation to protect. I don’t. My reputation was lost years ago when I fell out of that taxicab on Fifth Avenue and landed face down into the gutter. So, wish me luck and stay tuned…

Life's Lesson N°6: White Trash Pot Roast

Well, moving right along… Today we have to talk about pot roast. Now, I have to say, in my 44 years on this earth I have never, ever had a better pot roast than my mother’s. It’s not fancy, it’s not gourmet, in fact it’s kind of white trash but that’s what makes it delicious. Nothing makes a house feel warmer than a pot roast cooking in the oven and nothing would get my sister, brother and me to the table faster than a pot roast. Even though our table was perfectly set with a tablecloth, proper dinnerware, linen napkins… There was no escaping our Midwestern roots when my mother served the pot roast with a plate stacked tall with slices of Wonder white bread, a separate plate with a brick of salted butter and each of our glasses filled with good old Coca-Cola. Yes, this is how we do pot roast.

I realize that other people have evolved and improved on the pot roast by adding balsamic vinegar, horseradish, Dijon mustard and God forbid a baguette and a glass of wine...But not us. However, considering this is 2015… I just might.

Let’s start with some secrets from the experts…

A Dutch oven is imperative. It also must have a tight fitting lid. You do not want the steam to escape.
Do not raise your oven too high, never over 350°F. It’s all about a long slow cook on moderate heat.
Chuck roast is the best cut of meat for a pot roast. Look for consistent marbling.
Make sure to brown /sear the meat slowly and on all sides first.
After you brown the meat, sometimes it’s a good idea to cut the onions in half and sear them a little bit on their sides for a smoky flavor.
Not too much liquid… It is a braise, not a stew.

Okay, now let’s take a look at some recipes… Starting with my mother’s…


My Mom's Pot Roast Recipe
Preheat oven to 350
1 chuck roast about 2 to 3 inches thick
1 cup flour seasoned with salt and pepper
2 cans Swanson beef broth
1 bag of carrots peeled and cut in half
2 large onions cut into chunks
4 to 5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters.
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 bay leaves
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons melted butter
Put the flour in a flat bowl like a pie pan.  Season the flour.  I like a lot of pepper.  Put the chuck roast in the flour and cover with flour on all sides...shake off excess flour.
In a dutch oven or large deep pan heat the vegetable oil on medium heat.  Brown the roast on all sides.  Don't go fast with this.  Browning is important.  Brown not burn. Add the 2 cans of beef broth ( just enough to cover the roast), carrots, onions, potatoes, bay leaves and let it come to a boil. Put a lid on the pan and put in the oven for 3 or 4  hours or until it is very tender. It is done when it falls apart with a fork. Check on the roast during the 3 hours to see if it needs more broth.  Add more if needed. When the roast is done take it out of the pan along with the vegetables and put on a serving platter.  Put the pan on the burner now with the liquids to make the gravy. Heat the liquid to almost boiling.  Mix the flour and butter together to make a paste.  Add this to the liquid with a whisk and stir until thick. Turn down heat to medium heat.   If you need to add more of the flour/butter make more and add a little at a time until you have the right  thickness for gravy.  Season with Salt and pepper.  The carrots and onions are what makes the gravy good.
If you don't want to add the potatoes you can have mashed potatoes instead.
Cooking the roast for a long time with a lid on the roast makes a huge difference.  It makes it very tender and moist...Enjoy
The Barefoot Contessa's Company Pot Roast. Recipe HERE
Pot Roast from A Feast for the Eyes Blog. Recipe HERE
Pot Roast from The Wicked Noodle Blog. Recipe HERE.

Voilà! Pot roast mastered!

*Something you don’t know about me? I am never depressed. I do not have a depressed gene in my body. I may have panic attacks but I am never depressed. Isn’t that weird? You will not find any self-help books at my house...Except one. Don’t think I’m a total freak but there is one book that actually helped me and if I can get through ALS without having depression there is hope for everyone for whatever problems they may have. I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I knew that any sort of toxicity can bring about disease. Toxic food, toxic medicine, toxic lifestyle, toxic relationships and even toxic friendships. Your brain is a very powerful beast and it can be used for good or evil. Your choice. Before I got sick, there were years and years and pounds and pounds of stress… Like all of us have. Looking back, I did not have the tools to process this. I internalized everything… And look where that got me! 40 years old with ALS. Even though I had never been depressed, I was scared that I was going to be. June 16, 2011 I was diagnosed with ALS and within two weeks I was in Paris with David meeting with an ALS specialist… Blah blah blah. The doctor is really nice but he is also literally “of no help.” I started doing my own research. After a few weeks, I came across a book called The Healing Codes by Alex Loyd and Ben Johnson. Like the rap song says, “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself.” So that’s what I did… With the help of The Healing Codes. Not to be creepy, but this book can help everyone. The basic premise is to rid yourself of toxins and this book shows you how with the power of your mind. Mind over matter. Even if I cannot stop ALS from ravaging my body, I can definitely stop it from ravaging my mind. I ordered the book immediately and because I was in France it would have taken too long for it to be shipped because I needed it yesterday! So, I downloaded it onto my iPhone. I sat for hours and hours, scrolling and scrolling, on that little iPhone. I read it wherever I went… In the car, while I was having my blood taken, at lunch, on benches of a Parisian gardens, at dinner… I would not stop until I read the entire book. Finally I finished it and was ready to implement the codes. But, for some reason, I couldn’t do it in France. It just wasn’t working for me. Six weeks later we were in our new house in Santa Barbara. I would take my little yoga mat outside to the back terrace surrounded by roses and sunshine and I would sit alone and meditate for an hour every day for a few months. Guess what, I swear to God it totally worked. I didn’t feel the heaviness anymore. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember what my problems were. All I knew was that I cleared my fucking mind, gave it a fresh slate, retained all of the good memories and was ready to go forward and tackle ALS. The toxic memories were distant memories. I still remember them but they were not affecting me. So, if you want to keep yourself healthy and avoid any impending doom like illnesses and depression., my advice is to read The Healing Codes. :-)

Life’s Lessons N° 5: Spaghetti Carbonara Both Causes Anxiety and Cures Anxiety.

Okay, let’s all take a deeeeeep breath. The last three days in Paris have been a wee bit crazy. I am still having a hard time processing it all… Did all of that just really happen? Did a gaggle of retarded people just storm Paris in the name of Islam, take hostages and kill more than a dozen innocent people? Unfortunately, yes. However, I have to say… I am proud. I am proud that I live amongst these Parisians… These brave Parisians who rallied without fear or intimidation in the Republic Square defending their right to free speech chanting, “Je suis Charlie.” Viva LaFrance.
Enter comfort food. Today, I think all of France needs a big helping of comfort food. Today is not a day for poached salmon or goat cheese salad. No, today France needs a big serving of spaghetti carbonara and copious amounts of wine. Spaghetti carbonara is a short-term solution until we find a long-term solution to all of this unrest. Yes Parisians, make a big bowl of spaghetti carbonara, shed some tears, regain your strength, go forward and, as my friend Diandra always says, (via Wilferd Peterson), “Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it."
Even though spaghetti carbonara only has a few simple ingredients… It ain’t all that easy to make. You need to practice. Timing, execution and ingredients are everything with spaghetti carbonara. You can’t just throw everything in a pan like an asshole. You have to finesse spaghetti carbonara. There is a wonderful blog called Rachel Eats in which the author describes her six-year spaghetti carbonara anxiety. After finally overcoming her fears, she has perfected the recipe. Read the article HERE.

Okay, let’s start with some secrets from the experts for spaghetti carbonara…

Use whole eggs and then add one egg yolk.
Use the Japanese onsen egg method… Learn HERE.
Guanciale or pancetta is best… Thickly cut with plenty of fat… Fry until crispy but not crunchy.
Use a mixture of Parmesan and pecorino.
While heating the oil, add garlic cloves, infuse the oil and then discard the garlic before you add the pancetta.
Spaghetti noodles are good but short rigatoni noodles are better to capture the sauce.
Top with a dash of nutmeg.

Like I said, ingredients are key and if you want the very best, the very best, the very best ingredients for spaghetti carbonara you need to head to Italy and find Paolo Parisi. Signor Parisi is a Tuscan farmer/shepherd/gourmet/gastro-snob who specializes in raising Livornese hens and the near extinct black Cinta Senese pigs. Eggs and pork… Two of the most important ingredients for spaghetti carbonara. Signor Parisi’s eggs are lauded to be the best eggs on earth having “a fresh taste, a yoke that is softer and richer in fat than most, with an uncommonly long protein structure and a mild almond flavor. They also have the capacity to incorporate three times the amount of air than the average yoke when whipped.” At $4 a pop per egg, these “well worth it” high maintenance precious hens are all-natural, free-roaming and are fed goats milk. Signor Parisi’s pedigreed pigs are fed pinenuts and chestnuts and are allowed three blissful years of free roaming before being “reincarnated” into guanciale.fed Wow! :-)


Okay, now for some recipes…

Spaghetti Carbonara by Damn Delicious Blog. Recipe HERE.
Spaghetti Carbonara by Paolo Parisi. Recipe HERE.
Spaghetti Carbonara by Mario Batali. Recipe HERE.
Spaghetti carbonara… Mastered!

*Something you don’t know about me? My daughter was homeschooled for three out of the four years of high school. It was the best decision we’ve ever made and surprisingly, it was all Gracie’s idea. I chose to be the type of parent who actually listened to their child. I believed that I raised Gracie with enough intelligence that by the time she was entering high school, she was able to make her own decisions… Sort of. When Gracie was about to start the ninth grade, we decided to move to Paris. I, of course, started researching schools for Gracie. Gracie had a mini meltdown. Gracie is so incredibly shy that it actually hampers her life. She has always been like that and it is just her nature and I cannot change it. So… I needed to listen to Gracie. She did not want to start a school in France as a freshman, not knowing the culture and not knowing the language. She suggested homeschooling. Brilliant idea, I thought. I had already lost faith in  brick-and-mortar schools anyway. Homeschooling is the wave of the future. I continued my research and found the best homeschooling program for Gracie.… Gracie learned how to take charge of her own education, make her own schedule, have a one-on-one relationship with her teachers and feel proactive towards her future. Gracie was free to travel and explore the world as well which is an instrumental part of one’s education. Yep, Gracie woke up at about noon, had a cup of tea and toast, started her French lessons, had a home-cooked lunch, read her English literature in the sunshine, had one-on-one tutoring for math, did a little yoga and swimming in the afternoon for PE, went to a museum for art history, and escaped every inch of high school peer pressure that destroys self-esteem from bullies, stoners and slackers. Gracie actually came out of high school unscathed. No, don’t get the wrong idea, homeschooling is not just for the wealthy with a stay-at-home parent. There are completely tuition free public homeschooling programs that provide everything one would need including a computer, books and supplies. We actually received in the mail, delivered to our house, art supplies including clay, paint, canvases and everything one would need for art class. The good news is that I was not the teacher. The program has a designated teacher for each class that Gracie could communicate with daily via text, email and Skype. I went to work part-time while Gracie was at home… Homeschooling. Yes, homeschooling is mostly successful if you have a responsible child, willing to work independently… Which Gracie was. As Gracie organized her own schedule, she was free by 4 PM when her friends got out of school to “hang out.” Gracie did not miss out on socializing. After a couple hours of going to the mall, getting afterschool burritos and smoothies, Gracie returned home and continued working on her studies until she went to bed. Selfishly, I was so happy Gracie chose to continue homeschooling in the 11th and 12th grade because I got to see her sassy little smile all day as I was in the beginning throes of ALS. (She went to “regular school” in New York for the 10th grade.) By the time Gracie finished 12th grade, she was ready for college… Confident, responsible, motivated and proactive. Best decision ever made over here at the O’Connell household. I know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding homeschooling. Dare I ask what your thoughts are on homeschooling?

Today's Novella… The Dream Team.

Today’s blog is about my caregivers. This could bore some of you but those of you with caregivers it might be slightly interesting and make you laugh. There will not be any photos (if you need photos, go to Pinterest) today because most of my caregivers are undocumented and I don’t want them arrested and hauled back to their countries where the minimum wage $.35 a day. And also, today’s blog is kind of long so if you have ADD try to check it today and get through the blog. :-) We will definitely get back to our cooking series tomorrow… Spaghetti carbonara… But today it’s all about caregivers.

Remember when Yolanda got so much backlash when she called some of the girls her “Dream Team” on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. That was funny. Well, I’m going to use the word… Dream team, Dream Team, Dream Team! Yes, it has finally happened… I have my own personal Dream Team. I’m talking about my caregivers. By the way, my husband always annoyingly calls my caregivers my “caretakers.” It drives me crazy and I have to scream at him, “They are not caretakers! A caretaker takes care of property and horses, not your ailing beautiful wife, you Dingdong.” Yes, we have a very mature relationship. Anyway, back to The Dream Team.…

After I was diagnosed with ALS in June 2011, I needed a caregiver almost immediately. I remember going to my kitchen, opening my refrigerator door, grasping the handle of the milk container (half-gallon) and I started to pull it out to put it on the kitchen island and BOOM! It dropped to the floor. One month into my diagnosis and I could not lift a container of milk? Well, this looks like it’s going to be a fun ride. No one was home with me so I just left the milk on the floor and then I kicked it. I was furious that I knew that I would need some help. The last thing that I wanted was someone in my house helping me brush my teeth!

I had no idea what I was getting myself into with the world of caregivers. Looking back, I now feel like I have enough experience with caregivers to tell you that most caregivers should not be caregivers. Honestly, the only caregiver anyone should ever have is their mother. However, since I don’t have that I have to rely on mostly morons to take care of me. Let me state for the record that I would be a horrible caregiver. I don’t even like when someone else blows their nose. It grosses me out. David was sick a couple of weeks ago and I literally wanted him to move out of the house until he was better. These past four years with my caregivers has been quite a challenge and it has been a hilarious road…

I knew I didn’t want someone “hovering” over me so I decided to hire my housekeeper as my first official/unofficial caregiver. She was already at the house so why not? I cannot remember her name but I knew I liked her. She was from Mexico and on top of cleaning my house and watching over me she made the best breakfast burritos with homemade salsa that I have ever had. Unfortunately, two weeks into her job at my house she fell while she was Texas line dancing and broke her thumb and finger. Apparently there was some nerve damage and she showed up to my house with a giant bloodied disgusting Band-Aid over her thumb and finger and said, “I can still make you salsa.” Uhhh, no thank you. One caregiver down.

My second caregiver has been my favorite so far and I love her with all of my heart. Paulina. Paulina has been through the trenches with me and I will always be thankful for her. Paulina started as my housekeeper as well and just morphed into my caregiver. Paulina is from Mexico and did not speak one lick of English but somehow it didn’t matter because she knew exactly what I needed. Paulina saw me go from a girl who could walk and use her arms to a girl who could do nothing for herself. It was a gradual decline and Paulina was there for me every second of the way. Paulina did not judge me when all of my friends came over one night and drank all the alcohol in the house, smoked 400 cigarettes and sang karaoke until 4 o’clock in the morning. I did not judge Paulina when she drank tequila shots and smoked cigarettes while she took care of me. Who cares. Paulina hated Gracie because Gracie left little trails of messes wherever she went. Paulina went everywhere with us and has seen every squabble between David and I for two years and she didn’t care and luckily she didn’t call the police. I owe Paulina my life because she saved me from two German Shepherd attack dogs that were on top of me. (Long story, it will be in the book.) When Paulina put me in the car for the last time as we were leaving for Europe, she looked at me and I looked at her and we both started crying because we knew it was the last time we would ever see each other. That’s the nature of ALS.

I had a quick caregiver whose name I cannot remember. She lasted about a week. She was a super organized, super pretty, super bitch. She helped me organize Gracie’s entire graduation party and on graduation day super bitch decided not to show up for work so I had no one to help me with Gracie’s party. Luckily my sister was there and super bitch met her match with my sister. My sister fired her via text as fast as you can say, “New caregiver please!”

My next two caregivers were psychotic. I don’t even remember their names. I think they were from Peru. We took the both of them to France with us and from the airport in Los Angeles, David and I knew there was going to be trouble but it was too late… They were coming with us. Their family acted as if we were kidnapping them. They started fighting with each other the second we got to France. One thought that the other wasn’t pulling her weight. One of them left every day to go to the casino which just infuriated the fuck out of the other one. David and I secretly called them Tweedledee and Tweedledum. At one point, Tweedledee pulled Tweedledum’s hair so I knew it was time for them to go. Even though I was furious at them for their behavior and for the fact that David now had to pay for their flights back to America after only three weeks, I acted like a lady and politely said, “I can see that you are not happy here so if you would like to return to America, feel free.” Well, apparently this did not go over so well with my nosy sister-in-law who marched over to me and said, “Eleanor, we don’t do that in France.” I did not speak to her for one year. I ignored my sister-in-law and her unsolicited French advise and sent Tweedledee and Tweedledum back to America. We are now down two more caregivers.

My next caregiver, Virginie, was actually a French teacher. She was on a break from her job and needed work so we hired her. She was great. We sat out in the sunshine every day and she gave me French lessons. The incident with my sister-in-law started World War III at my husband’s family’s house where we were staying so I was forced to move to Paris. Poor me. However, I did not have a caregiver in Paris. Virginie suggested that I hire her sister who was a caregiver in Paris. Perfect, I thought. Not so fast… Her sister turned out to be kind of a disaster. She was nice but had her own personal demons. I started to put her story together bit by bit. It turns out that she was a former meth addict and did not even have custody of her own children and yet she was a caregiver! She would take calls from some guy, ask to borrow my clothes, go out all night and not show up for work the next day. If my caregiver does not show up for work that means all hell breaks loose at my house. She insisted that I meet her mother-in-law who claimed it to be a Cambodian Princess in exile in Paris. Okay, and I am a Rockefeller. On top of all of that, she would insist on doing my makeup. She was convinced that I looked beautiful but I actually looked like a French prostitute. So, I had to let her go and now we are down another caregiver. How many is that now? 45?

My next caregiver, Fode, was remarkable in every way… Good and bad. Fode was a tall, gorgeous, tattooed African Muslim who only spoke French. He was a complete dichotomy. He practiced his faith religiously during the day and then at night he was a completely different person going to clubs. Fode loved fashion and was always impeccably dressed and would choose my outfits for me. We spent most of our days out and about around Paris. I took him to the Azzedine Alaia exhibit because I knew that Fode would be inspired because our man Fode made clothing in his spare time. After our museums and exhibits, Fode and I would go to a café and drink wine. I would have a glass and he would have three. He would talk to about 15 girls on the telephone and then call his wife. His wife wanted to talk to me because she did not believe that I had ALS and that her husband was my caregiver. This is how the conversation went… “Yes I have ALS, yes I am paralyzed, no, I’m not sleeping with your husband.” Fode would spend the mornings at my house checking his Facebook account, drinking wine and having French bread and then he would go to the bathroom and secretly pray to Allah five times a day. He treated me with the absolute utmost respect and we laughed all day. He protected me like a sister and he thought Gracie was hysterical and was very protective over her as well. My mother, who was staying with me in Paris, was totally rude and dismissive towards Fode and made it apparent that her hillbilly racism never left her Southern roots. I adored Fode. Whenever he could not button up my pants because I was such a fatty he called me Madame Kilo. However, he was the most unreliable caregiver I have ever had. He never arrived to work on time even once. 50% of the time he just would not show up. But for some reason, we could never get mad at him because he was so sweet. Finally though, we had to part ways because I actually did need a caregiver… Not a buddy. Another caregiver down.

Enter Nabin. My beloved Nabin. He is a little bit like David in that you love him and hate him at the same time. Nabin has been my most loyal caregiver and has been with me since I got to Paris. We have been through everything together. I can honestly say that I trust him with my life. We have been to every museum in Paris together, he has pushed me in my wheelchair countless miles around Paris, lapped the fleamarket with me for hours, dined with us at every restaurant, traveled with us, gone through every emergency hospital procedure with me, cooked for me, had to take my cat in a taxicab to get neutered, had to pick up all of my “necessities” at the pharmacy including Microlax (don’t ask), bathed me, brushed my hair and put my makeup on. Nabin is from Nepal and does not have a mean bone in his body. However, he thinks that vacuuming my apartment is beneath him even though he sees David do it every day. Nabin doesn’t give a shit about my “famous friends or my fabulous life or my gorgeous boobs” and that is why I like him. Nabin basically sits in the other room and ignores me… Like my cat. I like that about him. He is also the only person that I feel comfortable with sleeping at my apartment when David is gone. Sometimes he has to get up 15 times a night to help me. He has only gotten passive aggressively pissed off 400 times. I’m pretty sure he drugged me once with a sleeping pill but he’s not saying. He sort of likes Gracie but it is her fault because she is a mute around him. Nabin still works for me or maybe he doesn’t… I don’t know… I hope so.

Next up, Aminata. Aminata looks and smells like sugar. I have never met anyone with such a pure heart. Aminata is however, not Team Ellie. She is Team David. She treats me like her own child… Like her fifth annoying child who wasn’t planned. She is the mother of four children and does not have time for my bullshit. She is all business. She is an African from Mali and a devout Muslim who only speaks French and her native language. Aminata looks at me and says in French, “I’m going to go pray for you.” I know what that really means. What she really means is, “You obnoxious, spoiled little America. If you knew what the real world is all about, you would crumble.” She spent the summer in Mali and upon her return I said to her, “How was your trip to Africa? Did you come back with Ebola?” She just rolled her eyes at me. She changes her clothing five times a day into a beautiful Muslim gown and goes to the bathroom and prays for my sorry ass. She and David secretly mock me in the kitchen the entire weekend in their secret language (French). She cannot make toast, she doesn’t understand the concept of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and will not order anything when we go out to eat. She thinks all of our food is disgusting. When she feeds me my lunch she usually doesn’t use a fork (mostly her fingers) and I am horrified but I don’t want to hurt her feelings so I say nothing and expect the worst. Do they not use forks in Mali? When she pushes my wheelchair down the street it is as if I have a bodyguard. I actually feel like I am her oversized retarded baby in a stroller. I have actually seen her physically push people out of my way. When we are at the farmers market, she snaps her fingers at the vendors so that I will be able to select my vegetables first.  I know she loves me because when I am sad or scared she hugs me into her bosom and we all know that that is the safest place on earth. She likes Gracie. Gracie is scared of her.

Next up, Fofanna. Fofanna is a dropdead gorgeous African Muslim from Sierra Leone. If our lives had been different, I am sure that Fofanna and I would have been best friends at my all-girls private school. She would’ve been the cool pretty girl at school that everyone wants to be friends with. However, unfortunately, Fofanna was not as lucky as I. She comes from a family that never let her step foot inside of a school. Her family believed that school was only for the boys. Fofanna cannot read nor write but speaks two languages which is more than I can say for myself. She shows up at my apartment with a different headscarf every day and looks like a fashion model. She also, five times a day, heads to the bathroom and prays. She hates violence and loud noises. Fofanna cannot cook and has no idea how to “keep a house.” I asked her one day to trim my flowers and put fresh water in the vase. She came back a few minutes later with a vase full of fresh water and a bouquet of just flower stems. She had lopped off all of the tops of the flowers. All I could do was laugh. She is scared of David and never knows how many hours she has worked because she cannot count so we just pay her extra because we love her extra. She absolutely adores Gracie. Unfortunately for me, Fofanna got pregnant and can no longer work. When she told me that she was pregnant I must have given her a funny look because she said, “No, you cannot have my baby.” Another caregiver down…

Ugh… Daniela. Caregiver number 472. I am going to be fair and point out both Daniela’s attributes and her faults. Daniela can cook and clean and organize better than anyone I have ever met. She is a high-class housekeeper. She has worked for Nina Ricci, Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Lawrence in Paris. However, she is also a high-class pain in the ass. She came to work every day with some sort of problem and complained every day and all day. She had to spend the night with me once while David was out of town. Thank God I had Gracie as backup because Daniela fell asleep on the couch after watching 12 hours of the French version of America’s Got Talent and I screamed for her for a solid half hour in the middle of the night and she did not hear me. I could hear her snoring. Finally, after 45 minutes, Gracie was in the guest room sound asleep and heard me screaming and came to my rescue. Daniela acted as if nothing was wrong. Thanks caregiver number 472. I put up with it for a while because she straightened my curtains perfectly but as the months progressed I honestly thought she was bringing me down. Part of my survival with ALS is having a positive attitude and I cannot be surrounded by toxic people no matter how good their Boeuf Bourguignon is. She also stole a pack of cigarettes so obvs, I had to fire her. Excuse me, I mean, “Let her go.” Gracie hated her.

Caregiver number 473… Can’t remember her name. We hired her on a recommendation from Aminata… They are cousins. She came to my house, said she would pray for me, went to my living room and plopped her fat ass on my 19th century Napoleon III chaise longue… And fell asleep! That was her first and last day working for us.

I interviewed an Algerian girl for the caregiver position but I was pretty much convinced that she was going to kidnap me, take me back to her country and sell me as a sex slave. I saw the movie Taken for God sake. When I told Gracie this, she said, “You’re so full of yourself.” Regardless, she was not hired.

I also interviewed a Moroccan girl for the caregiver position but I was pretty much convinced that she was a practicing witch. Not hired.

I also interviewed an Indian young man who was impeccably dressed. However, both of his eyes were going the opposite direction and it quite honestly made me dizzy. Not hired.

Next up… Ayra. Ayra, Ayra, Ayra. Bless her heart. Ayra is a trained nurse from the Philippines. She was the one that was here during my respiratory illness. Poor little Ayra. She just didn’t have the strength to deal with David and me during a stressful moment. I think we quite literally scared her to death. The look on her face during the entire week was of sheer terror. Scared that I was going to die, scared of David, scared of me, scared David was going to kill me, scared I was going to kill David and just scared of the whole situation. Trauma nurse she is not. I kept telling her that she needed to be proactive and aggressive. This was not in her nature and I could not force it. I did not feel safe with her even though I adored her because she was so sweet. She was also late all the time. Sometimes two hours late. David could never pronounce her name either so we had to let her go. The only problem is that I do not have the heart to tell her that she does not work here anymore. I am not good with those kinds of things contrary to popular belief so I just haven’t called her. I promise I will today though… Or tomorrow. Not sure if she liked Grace.

Enter Part One of the Dream Team… Victor. Victor is Ayra’s cousin. He is by far my most favorite caregiver along with Part Two of the Dream Team… Joel. Let’s start with Victor. Victor has a heart of gold and calls me Madame… So obviously what’s not to love? He is strong, smart, gentle and he can do laundry like nobody’s business. Even though he is totally straight and has a girlfriend… I know that there is a gay man hiding in there. He literally does everything perfectly. I have never had this in a caregiver. They always fuck up somewhere but not Victor. You should see the way he makes my bed… It is as fluffy as a marshmallow , my curtains pleats are perfect, he makes the best tea, organizes my accessories, hand washes my cashmere sweaters, perfectly dresses me, arranges flowers, is a great photographer for Instagram, always gives me a little spray of perfume, puts my hair in the perfect chignon, handles my feeding tube with care, does my makeup like a pro, and takes care of me and my house like a champion. He is also the one who helped me with my books. Every time Victor is leaving the apartment after his day with me I always yell, “You’re my favorite!” I’m not used to such good care and I feel like the Queen of Sheba. On top of all of this, Victor’s smile melts your heart. When he smiles at you, you almost want to cry. And he also likes Grace.

Completing The Dream Team is Joel. He is Filipino as well and I can tell you with the utmost certainty that he is so overqualified for this job that I’m actually ashamed. He needs to be working at an embassy somewhere as Chief of Protocol. He speaks three language fluently, can cook French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese, he does my blog perfectly, knows how to perfectly set tea, makes sure I have all of my medicine on time, is so polite it’s disgusting, and makes me feel safe, secure and well cared for because he has confidence in himself. This is new for me. Dare I say it in fear of jinxing it? I’ll just say it… He is the best caregiver I’ve ever had. And he likes Grace.

So, there you have it… After four years of ALS, I finally feel like I have the right team. Now let’s just hope they don’t quit.

*Something you don’t know about me? I could not write my blog yesterday because of the terrorist attack in Paris. Gracie was in the neighborhood where the shooting was. She was terrified and I felt helpless. I called an Uber car and it picked her up within four minutes at her front door and brought her to my apartment. We sat in my bed all day watching the news, horrified by the events unfolding. My first reaction was that I felt bad for all of the peaceful non-radical Muslims. These are the people who pray for me and take care of me. My morning nurse who gives me a bath is Muslim and she told me today that she does not feel comfortable wearing her headscarf on the streets of Paris today. That made me sad. There are bad seeds in every religion who “over interpret” the word of their religion and I think it’s important that we do not judge one religion as a whole. Okay, that’s it for today… Carry on. :-)