Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dreaming of France -- More Hard Goodbyes

Today, we begin week 2 of living out of a suitcase since we sold our home and moved out last week.
My neighbor tells me that once we vacated at 9:51 a.m., a moving van trundled down the alley at 10:10 a.m. Good thing Earl found the keys he had lost so we could move the pickup truck we were driving. See last week's dreaming of France post for the details.
Family photo on our back porch the week before we moved out.
Our friends have made it an easy transition, offering us a comfy bed in a "French provincial" bedroom. We've gone to a couple of hockey games with them and went to see the new Star Wars movie last night, but in between, we're saying more goodbyes.
I'm awful at goodbyes, so I understand this tendency, but what I've noticed is that people are very reluctant to say that last goodbye. Instead, we make a plan to see each other one last time before our departure.
My running friends and I met on Saturday and ran at Antrim Lake. We can go for another run one morning before work, we decided.
"Monday?" Najah suggested.
"Let's make it Thursday, the day before I leave," I replied. I knew that if we met for a run on Monday, we'd be scheduling another run on Thursday, or even Friday, the day we leave.
I met with Angie and Emily, two of my long-time writing friends on Saturday. I was grading papers, but they were writing. Before we left, we agreed to meet again on Wednesday with the larger writing group. I'll have to leave early to see my sister-in-law and her grandchildren one more time on Wednesday evening.
Saturday evening, we had dinner with Earl's brother and his wife, but we planned one more get together if they come to Earl's retirement party and take our car for their son in college to use.
And this morning we went to mass at the Newman Center on the campus of Ohio State. We hugged many friends and retrieved promises that people would visit, including a goddaughter who has grown up before I realized it. I promised I would make up for my negligence if she wanted to come hang out in France. She's in 8th grade, so it might be awhile.
Tonight, our family is gathering with my friend Najah and her son for a family game night. Just some time all together so the kids can be reminded they can turn to Najah when I'm not around.
Eventually, the days are going to run out. There will be no more scheduling for future days.
Today, my brother and sister-in-law drove to Columbus to see us. And when we walked out of Hofbrauhaus to the parking lot, we said goodbye. A final goodbye. With hugs and cheek kisses, and one more hug just because we aren't sure when we'll see them again. Maybe we'll come home next year around this time, but they probably aren't coming to France in the coming year. So it was goodbye.
And that's going to happen more and more often.
But if we didn't say goodbye, then we couldn't fly off on our adventure, so we will say au revoir, until we see you again, and maybe they can say adieu, go with God, as Father Vinnie did this morning.
For you blog readers though, I'll say à bientôt, which means see you soon. Two more Dreaming of France blogposts before we jet off to our new lives in France.
A view of Mont Ste Victoire from near Cezanne's studio. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Cat Story

If you've read my blog in the past, you know how busy I am this time of  year with 8-10 page research papers turned in from each of my six classes and final exam essays arriving this week.
Add to that the sale of our house and the move, and maybe you can imagine the feeling of drowning that enveloped me.
Once we were moved out of our house on Sunday, all I wanted to do was collapse and ice the bruises that lined my biceps where I carried our pieces of sturdy wood furniture. But I couldn't, I had papers and papers to grade, plus students eager to know where they stood in the class.
So as I struggled to complete all of the chores that go with moving, cancelling utilities, returning the cable box, emptying the storage unit before Thursday, I threw myself into grading.
By Wednesday morning, I left the house about 6:30 a.m. and headed to a nearby Starbucks so I could grade before my 10 a.m. and noon final exams. I hoped to get all of the research papers finished so I could hand them back to the students.
A few hours in, my phone buzzed with a text from our real estate agent. A cat was scratching at the door of our old house, meowing to be let in. Of course, the new owners did not let the cat in. It wasn't his home anymore.
My thoughts immediately jumped to our two cats. One of them lives about half an hour away with our daughter. The other, Tybalt (pronounced Tibb-alt, we call him tibbs spelled Tybs) lives about a mile away on a busy road with our son, Spencer.
This is Tybs with Tucker. He has always been Tucker's cat, but Tucker's roommate
has a husky plus two cats. That's how Tybs ended up living with Spencer. 
I called Spencer who was on his way to work.
"Did you lose Tybs?" I asked. The phone was breaking up as he spoke to me over the blue tooth system.
The cat had gotten out the night before.
"I waited up for him til 12:30 but he never came back," he said.
Of course he didn't come back, I wanted to yell, he doesn't know where your house is.
Instead, like a pet from Homeward Bound, he found his way through the streets and alleys of our town and ended up at our old house.
He's been lost before, not as far away and couldn't find his way home, so I don't know how he got home.
"You just left him?" I screeched to Spencer. "It's 15 degrees outside."
"I know, Mom. I messed up," Spencer said. Outraged that he had taken off for work without notifying anyone, I gathered my papers and my computer to go in search of the cat.
First though, I called our neighbor and good friend, Sandy. She agreed to go grab Tybs from the porch.
As I drove toward our old neighborhood, I pictured Tybs' head popping up in the front window as he begged to be let in. Poor, cold cat.
Sandy had him in the house when I arrived. "He was shivering," she said, but he wasn't dirty or wet from the snow.
I scooped him up and headed toward Spencer's apartment, hoping a roommate or his landlord could let me deposit Tybs. No one was home and the clock ticked toward my 10 a.m. final.
Sandy agreed to keep him, in spite of her two dogs. Tybs had always gotten along with them, but one of the dogs was a bit afraid of him since our other cat had swiped him on the nose a few times.
I stopped at the grocery and bought a disposable kitty pan along with food and a dish.
With the cat safely ensconced for the day, I chided Spencer. He would need to pick up the cat on his way home from work.
"I hope he learned his lesson," Spencer texted back.
"Cats don't learn lessons," I replied. "I hope you learned your lesson. You can't let him out and neither can your roommates."
It could be worse. The apartment is on a busy road, so he could have been done for.
Still, I can't get out of my mind those little paw prints in the snow of the front porch of the house where we used to live.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Moving Misadventures


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

So, it happened. We actually closed on the sale of our house and managed to move out this morning. It sounds much simpler than it was.
Closing was scheduled for Friday. On Thursday, the buyers scheduled a walk-through. I fumed a bit because that was precious time I could have been packing things.
Then the call came from our real estate agent. The washer and dryer were supposed to go with the house. We had just moved them out to Spencer's apartment the weekend before.
This was our second contract. The first one fell through, but the agent asked us whether we planned to leave the washer and dryer. We told her no. So we assumed, she would put that in the 2nd contract too. She didn't. So that was her mistake.
Because the washer and dryer were gone, the buyers wanted them replaced or a $400 credit. We decided the credit would be easiest. Then they changed their mind. They wanted a washer and dryer there and wanted another walk-through to prove that it was working. Obviously, we had no time within the next 24 hours to buy and install a washer and dryer.
They also had another demand that we give them $400 toward electrical things that they wanted fixed. Earl's brother is an electrician and had fixed all their requests, but they brought in another electrician who suggested other fixes.
We offered $400 for the washer and dryer plus $300 for the electrical work. They refused. They wanted an actual washer and dryer installed, plus $500 for electrics — they upped the price. And, to guarantee the washer and dryer worked, they also wanted a $400 check held in escrow.
Earl drew a line in the sand. No. It was the principal of the thing.
The real estate agents both chipped in $100 toward the electrics. We agreed to buy our neighbor's used washer and dryer for $300 (a steal). The escrow check was still tripping us up when we walked into the title office to sign that Friday morning.
The title guy convinced us that his company would hold the washer and dryer check in escrow and would not release it unless all parties (including us) agreed. They also set the deadline for five days so it doesn't drag out. So we agreed.
Saturday was supposed to be spent moving out, but first we needed to move the washer and dryer from our neighbor's basement to our basement.
As they moved the dryer, the heavy-duty cord swung up and hit Earl in the forehead just above his eyebrow, leaving a drop of blood perched against his sweaty brow. When they reached our basement, they realized the plug didn't match the outlet for the dryer. Earl would have to replace the cord so they matched.
My sons went to move the washer. As it started to slip on the stairs, Spencer grabbed the bottom of it and it sliced the web between his thumb and finger. Our neighbor doctored him with a beer before his girlfriend drove him to the urgent care for four stitches and no more help moving things.
At some point, the new owners drove past (spying on us) and noticed the porch swing was gone. They immediately called their real estate agent who called ours, who called us. The porch swing was on hooks so it didn't have to stay. My friend Sheila had asked for it.
Friends stopped by to help as we winnowed down our belongings, still it looked like we couldn't possible finish by 10 a.m. Sunday.
We had optimistically planned to finish Saturday and spend the night at Earl's brother's house. We canceled that plan.
I can't begin to describe so you can feel the physical and emotional exhaustion of Saturday. Without a run, I logged over 19,000 steps just carrying things up and down stairs, out doorways and into pickup trucks -- 46 staircases, my Fitbit says.
Grace dropped by and I made her help me carry a desk and a chest of drawers from the basement to the garage - -I had heard Earl's moans of pain as he tackled another flight of stairs with the new knee he received last month. Grace professed to be exhausted and I stared her down with a look of disdain. She didn't know what exhaustion was.
The house finally empty 
When Noreen and her husband dropped by to pick up the cross country skis and offer to help, they looked around our house with pity. They couldn't see us escaping the items left to move.
"If we were moving to a new house, I'd just tell the movers to pack up everything and I'd sort it when we got there," I explained, " but there isn't a new house. We have to get rid of everything."
Between 5 and 6 p.m., we made three trips to Goodwill, donating bookshelves and ottoman's and bags and bags of books before they closed for the night.

Then we settled in to go through the remaining bookshelves and boxes in the basement. They were things no one else could help with. They were personal -- did we save the newspaper clips with our bylines? Which kids' books would we want to read to our grandchildren? Which letters from friends, family, old boyfriends, siblings would we want to read again someday?
The back room in the basement where we stored everything, finally empty late Saturday night. 
We fell asleep around 11 and woke this morning at 5:30 to finish.
Earl drove the futon we'd slept on to my friend Najah's house at 8. He came home and took a load of things to the storage unit (which has to be emptied by Thursday) then a final load of things to Goodwill at 9.
Spencer stopped by to pick up the small television he wanted to put in his room, along with some weights, a broom and a vacuum. I kept cleaning, making my way toward the back door.
Yes, at 9:40, I stepped out back, Swiffer mop in hand. The house was clean and empty.
Earl had pulled up behind the neighbor's car because Spencer was behind our garage. And, as we were ready to leave, he realized he didn't have the keys to the pickup truck. He'd driven it into the alley, so the key couldn't be far.
We spent a frantic 15 minutes searching for the key, retracing his steps. A neighbor came over to help look as we combed through the snow that had fallen the night before.
Finally, he held up the key which he had dropped into a bag of trash. If you saw how many bags of trash we left, you’d realize The loss of the key could have been a nightmare.
So stitches and lost keys and hopeless thoughts all behind us, I thanked our house one last time for the years of laughter and warmth it had provided, and we drove away.
Then we came back so I could leave the garage door opener for the new owners. And then we really left.
In less than two weeks, we'll be in Florida for Christmas. And in 25 days, I'll be living in France.
Me looking happy because I'm in Frane

The sun rising on a new beginning of my life in France. 
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Goodbyes


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

The goodbyes have begun and it's only my dream of the upcoming life that keeps me going.
Market day in Pezenas, France
We gathered at my house on Friday night with members of the writing group bringing dishes to share. Tomato bisque soup, macaroni and cheese, chicken salad croissants, taco salad, cabbage salad, buffalo chicken dip. Wine and some more wine. And at the end of the evening, hugs and goodbyes.
Writer's Group -- one last hurrah. 
I'll see them again, most of them in the coming weeks. 

Then yesterday, a gathering at my sister-in-law's house with the nieces and nephews. I hugged Ben goodbye. He lives in Dayton finishing his PhD. "I won't see you again," I said. "Not until you come to France."
The great nieces and nephews treat Tucker like a climbing apparatus. 

Benjamin is 2. He won't remember me, except as the aunt who lives in France. 

My boys spending some time outside with their Aunt Shelley --
she may be a bad influence, but they enjoy spending time with her. 
It's all becoming very real.
Then Sunday, after working this weekend to move Spencer out of the house and into his new place,  we took a break from packing to go to a gathering of homeschool friends. It seems silly to say homeschool friends since none of us teach our kids at home any more. Most of our children are in college or graduated from college or working on graduate degrees. Maybe we did something right after all.
Laughs and love with long-time friends.
And for a few hours, we caught up on each other's lives and laughed at memories. I won't see many of these friends again until we revisit the U.S. or they journey to France.
The hugs goodbye were long and accompanied by a few tears.
It's only going to get worse, building toward a crescendo where I must say goodbye to my children and my parents in order to make my dream of living in France come true.
View of Mont Sainte Victoire from Aix en Provence.
I hope I've chosen wisely.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Packing

We have a week before we need to be out of the house, so I’m attempting to pack for France, along with allowing for clothes to wear here at home where it’s cold, and for our 10 days in Florida where it’s warm. 
The other day we received a box of vacuum storage bags. So today I spent time trying to see if all the clothes I plan to take will fit. 
A lot of times I don’t wear very warm clothes because I still get hot flashes. Many times I’m wearing short sleeves or sleeveless dresses with a cardigan so I can strip down at the first sign of inner flush. 
As I packed today, cramming sweaters and warm pajamas in the vacuum bags, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would even wear everything I’m taking along. I winnowed out so many things but I continued to remove dresses and shirts from my pile. 


On television, those vacuum bags look so smooth. Mine looked like vacuum-packed roasts. 


The bags are super heavy now, of course because there’s no air in them. 
I have another suitcase that I plan to pack for our days in Paris and I may take an extra bag to Florida. Before we leave there, I’ll have to fit all those summer clothes into my bags so I can get them to France. 
It’s all an adventure. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dreaming of France -- The Visas Are Here!


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
As all the dominoes fall into place, our dream of living in France gets closer and closer. And last week, the domino that made me nervous crashed into our neighbors mailbox.
The French consulate in Chicago had warned that it could take four weeks for the visas to arrive. Since we would be closing on our house before a month had passed, I had the visas sent to my neighbor's house.
I had already arrived at school to teach an evening class when she texted saying she had received an Express mail envelope for us. I wanted to run right home to get it, but instead, I sent Earl to fetch them and he took a picture, texting it to me in class.





Yay! We are going to live in France.

I also bought train tickets today for our first journey from Paris to a housesit in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Of course, I don't want to have to print off all our train tickets, so I downloaded the app for SNCF -- the train system in France.



Now we scan our tickets before climbing aboard, or when the conductor comes down the aisle.
We can also keep track of all of our train trips on the app, and it's counting down the days for me.
In other preparing to leave news, today we pulled out the suitcases and opened them on the floor. We went through our closets, which we thought we'd winnowed out before the house went on the market, but we continued to find things that we could live without.
Clothes are laying in a pile in the suitcases, ready for the compression bags that I ordered from Amazon this morning. Hopefully, those magic compression bags will make everything fit.
Just a few weeks until we close on our house and less than a month until we leave Columbus behind.
We'll travel to my parents' house to celebrate Christmas, and in January we'll fly to France.
It could still all fall apart, but I'm feeling pretty confident now.
This is it!
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Pause

During this busy holiday weekend, just a pause to tell you that things are better. 
If Spencer and his girlfriend start their morning with Echinacea tea, I feel like everything will eventually fall into place. 


Had a lovely, if loud,  Thanksgiving with my family. My parents from Florida, my brother from Texas, and my nephew from Virginia with his 4 children, including these two little guys. 



Now you see why it was loud. Plus their sisters, 3-year-old Lydia and 2-year-old Lorelei. 

Today, back to my brother’s to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday.


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Leaving Our Kids Behind (A Very Personal Post)


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
I am dreaming of France. My husband has a countdown and we are scheduled to fly to Paris in 45 days, but sometimes I wonder whether it will happen.
My biggest worry isn't about what I should do with the crystal candle holders or the salt and pepper shakers.


My greatest fear is that my kids aren't ready to face life on their own.
Oh, they're old enough at 25, 24, and 21, but so many times they turn to us for help or with questions.
Right now, I have a twitch in my left eye, and my stomach is roiling as if I might get sick as I sit and worry about one of my boys.
They both decided to travel this weekend, Tucker heading to Detroit, nearly 3 hours away, for an art show, meeting a friend who goes to school there. On his way home, as the rain began to fall and the wind picked up, he topped a hill and saw a pile-up in front of him. He slammed on the brakes and swerved to the left toward the shoulder of the road, but a car was already parked there. His car continued to travel, eeking between the median and the parked car before it stopped. Heart racing, he called to tell me about his near miss. He stopped by today after work to give us a hug and further regain his equilibrium. The almost accident had shaken him up.


Spencer visited his old college this weekend. His friend had a birthday,and he needed to celebrate with him. I asked him not to go. Every time he goes, something bad happens. Last time it was a rear-end accident, not bad, but he got a ticket and although the person's car had no damage, she filed a claim for a soft-tissue injury.
"It's not going to be like that this time," he promised.
And, although he forgot to text me when he arrived at his friend's apartment 90 minutes away, he texted on Saturday morning to let me know that all was well.
Today, Sunday, Earl and I had planned a day packing up things in the house. We only have two more weekends and one of those is the holiday weekend. We need to prepare to get out of our house.
But first, we went to buy some new shoes for Earl that he can take to France, a pair of slip on casual shoes and a pair of hiking boots. As we moved toward the checkout counter, my phone rang. Spencer said that his car had been towed. He wanted to know the license plate number so he could check the impound lot.
I didn't know the license plate number, but the insurance card had the ID number for the car. I texted him a picture of the insurance car.
"How much do you think that will cost?" I asked Earl as we drove home.
"More than $100," he said.
Spencer got his first paycheck from his new job last week. At least we wouldn't have to pay for it, but that wasn't how he should be spending his money.
A few hours passed as we sent and received texts from Spencer. Then Earl called to talk to him. He'd been drinking all afternoon as he tried to find his car.
I walked into the bedroom and called him. His voice was slurred and he inhaled deeply on a cigarette as we talked. I felt my blood pressure shooting up.
How was he supposed to find his car if he was drunk and how would he drive home if he did find it?
I read him the riot act.
"You are forbidden to go to Athens again!" I told my 24-year-old. "You apologize for making bad decisions and then you go back and make more."
He stumbled over his apologies.
"We're going to have to take care of it," I told my husband. He called the campus police who said only three towing companies tow from on campus. My husband called all three. None of them had towed the car.
We had to face the fact that his car, a 2014 Honda Accord which we purchased in May, must have been stolen.
We called him back and told him to sober up, report the car stolen to the police department and get on a bus back to Columbus.
Then we waited.
The bus left at 5:40, would he be on it? Had his phone died? He didn't text. When we called, it went to voicemail, but only after ringing, so it must not be dead.
Finally, just a few minutes before I finished writing this, I got a text from him. "Still can't find it." 
"Can you call?" I texted back.
He sounded better but still confused. He had missed the bus. There's another one at 5 in the morning, but how would we be sure he was on that bus? We couldn't risk it. He had to keep his new job if we hoped to move to France; he needed to be home.
Earl offered to drive to pick him up. An hour and a half both ways. It's cold, but it isn't raining or snowing. But it's dark and it will be late when they get home.
I know this isn't a happy post about moving to France, but it's probably my greatest fear about leaving. Some of you might say to let him to figure it out on his own, and if we weren't moving to France, maybe we wouldn't save him. But if he doesn't have a good job and his own apartment, leaving on our adventure becomes much harder.
And I realize that it isn't his fault if the car was stolen, it's the getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon when he should be dealing with the incident that bothers me the most.
Part of me thinks that our departure will be the moment our kids grow up once and for all, knowing that there isn't a safety net here for them. They'll sink or swim on their own. Please, God, let them swim.
Since Spencer called, my stomach is no longer in danger of losing its contents. I'll be happy when I know that Earl has him safely in the car, but my eye is still twitching. Maybe it will continue until we get on that plane to France, in 45 days.
Update: As Spencer was walking to the police department, he decided to check one more parking lot and found his car -- not stolen, not towed, just parked in a place he didn't remember. I'm not sure if that is a happy ending, or just points to more worries about my kids.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Updates



Full steam ahead.
Yesterday, the phone rang and I saw my real estate agent's name flash up on the screen. "Oh, no."
I'd been dreading her call. It was the day we were supposed to get the results of the appraisal.
A previous offer had fallen through at the appraisal stage. We figured at best we'd have to negotiate for a lower price.
The agent didn't beat around the bush. "We appraised for asking price!" she crowed.
What a relief!
No more negotiating, no more bargaining, we had successfully jumped through all the hoops.
This is happening.
We close on the house on December 8.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Visa Adventure


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Well, I'm not going to try to build up any suspense. We traveled to Chicago this week and applied for our Visa.
Chicago is about five hours away from us, but it is where we needed to travel for our in-person interview to request a long-stay visa. In general, Americans don't need visas to visit France for three months or less, so we've never had to do this before.
We spent the night with some old friends who live about 20 minutes outside of the city. We took the train in early Thursday morning. Our appointments were not until 11 and 11:10 (we both had to have appointments), but we just commuted when our friend went to work at 8 a.m.

That gave us time to find a place for breakfast.
We were lured into a place that had a chalkboard sign that read "Homemade pastries" but when we got inside, I asked where the pastries were and they had none. What they had instead, was a breakfast buffet that you paid for by weight. Weird, huh?
Once we'd finished, we pulled out our red folder with our documents. I had put mine in order according to the list:
*an application
*a passport-sized photo (no smiling, no glasses)
*a questionaire
*my passport and a photo copy of the identity page
*a letter explaining what I intend to do in France (eat pastries, drink wine, write books)
*a notarized letter promising I won't work in France (at least not a French job)
*a letter explaining my work and showing my paystubs
*proof of means of income -- Earl's retirement savings and the income from the sale of our house
*our marriage license
*proof of accommodation (we included the hotel in Paris where we'll stay along with the two housesits in France and our friend's address in Aix en Provence where we'll go to file our paperwork)
*a processing fee ($115 cash)
*a residence form (since we plan to stay in France for more than 12 months)
*a self-addressed, pre-paid Express envelope from the post office only -- not UPS or FED EX

I also  had a birth certificate, just in case.
After breakfast, we decided to walk to the consulate, which is on Michigan Avenue, down toward the Magnificent Mile. Even though we arrived at the building nearly an hour early, I wanted to go ahead and check in. I felt nervous, jittery.
Earl suggested we get something to drink at the Starbucks on the second floor, but I wanted to head to the 37th floor to the French consulate. So he acquiesced.
The information desk gave us a pass to get through the gates to the elevators. We were supposed to scan the pass and glass doors slid open to let us through. But I scanned my pass and the doors turned red, but I pushed on them anyway. Suddenly, a loud blaring noise rang out and a man with a walkie talkie came rushing toward us calling, "Step back."
They'll never let me into France now, I thought as the man took my pass and scanned it before allowing me through the gates.
A few seconds in the elevator, which made my ears pop as it zipped up to the 37th floor, and we stepped off into France.
Proof that we were in the right place.
Here's me in those same chairs.
A young man, who was returning to the office, told us we should put our passes in a deposit window, like a bank. The two women behind the windows lined up the passes, probably in order of people's appointments.
The office was very small with a television mounted in the corner. It played French food shows the whole time we were there.
A man and two children were there when we arrived, and another man, French, jumped ahead of the line to get his passport, but almost everyone else there was a student getting a visa to study abroad. And the majority of those students were Asian. Perhaps they were studying in the U.S. and wanted to do a study abroad, or maybe they came from countries that needed a visa to visit France.
At a little after 11, the younger woman motioned me up. She didn't try to pronounce my name, but her microphone wasn't working so we hadn't been able to hear her all morning anyway.
I pulled out the packet of papers and asked whether she wanted all of them.
Yes, she nodded. So I slide the inch-thick stack through the window and she slowly went through each one.
She handed me back the extra passport photo and my birth certificate, and the envelope that my $115 cash was in.
Earl took a picture of me standing at the window as I supplied my papers. 
Then she asked to get my fingerprints. They had a machine that didn't require ink or black-tipped fingers, but it was quite contrary. It took several times and kept beeping at me as I tried to get the machine to light up for all four fingers, and then the other hand and then both thumbs.
While we were there, no one else had to do the fingerprint machine. It must only be for people planning to move to France.
The woman then nodded and said I could send my husband up. So Earl replaced me and supplied all of his papers. After his wrangling with the fingerprint machine, we were free to go.
Some of the students applying didn't have what they needed, so the workers had sent them out to get things like cash for the fee or envelopes for mailing the visa. We had all our documentation, so that's a plus.
Earl picked up my coat and held it for me. As I slipped my arms in, I saw the French woman behind the window smile at us.
She thinks we're cute, I thought. Then I wondered if she thought there was no way we were getting a visa to move to France.  
Just because we had all the right forms does not mean that they'll let us move to France. I think our odds would have been much better if we had closed on our house and could show them a bank statement with $150,000 in it. But the closing is not until December and the visa can take a month to arrive. We couldn't risk waiting.
So now we'll check the mailbox starting next week, hoping our visas arrive.
I didn't think about it until recently, but we left our passports there, along with our marriage licenses. I hope we get them both back.

We left the building after pausing for pictures in front of the French flag and their new president 
Happy

Earl and Emmanuel
before we walked to the Nutella cafe across the street. I'm sure it was strategically placed close to the French consulate.
Nutella oveerload
Earl had a Nutella and banana crepe while I had a berry pastry that I didn't realize would be drizzled in Nutella. I think I'd have preferred it without Nutella, but we celebrated because we were a step closer to making our dream come true, where we can eat really pastries without Nutella on them.
Vive la France!
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

FranceBookTours -- One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time Banner


If you know me at all, you would suspect that I would dive right into One Sip at a Time by Keith Van Sickle. This book is full of the author's observations of life as he and his wife move to Provence. They had already lived along the border of Switzerland and France, so they were not strangers to living abroad.
Each story is a short snippet, like a blog post, and they are all joined together to create a small memoir, which is nice if you only have short bursts of time to read.
The author covers the major stumbling blocks that ex-pats face and does it in an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek manner. He addresses situations like driving in France, learning the language and making friends. In the section titled "The French Citizenship Test," I wondered if the author and his wife were actually becoming French citizens, but instead, he talked about the challenge of eating a croissant without leaving messy crumbs. Yes, I can see that would be a challenge, and perhaps the ultimate test to become a French citizen. 
One chapter I found interesting was about the presidential election in France. When we visited France in May, they had just elected Macron. Van Sickle writes about the election of Hollande, so a few years before. Like us, he was impressed by the shortness of the election.
If you're curious about life in France and interested in a light-hearted look at it, One Sip at a Time can take you there.
Make sure you scroll down and enter to win a copy of the book.

Keith Van Sickle

on Tour November 6-17 with One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence

(travel memoir) Release date: January 28, 2017 at Dresher Publishing ISBN: 978-0998312002 192 pages Author’s page | Goodreads  

SYNOPSIS

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence? Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight, charming hilltop villages and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan… Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine. If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One Sip at a Time Keith Van Sickle Keith Van Sickle is a technology industry veteran and lifelong traveler who got his first taste of overseas life while studying in England during college. But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland that made him really fall in love with Europe. After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig. So they decided to invent their own. Now they split their time between Silicon Valley and St-Rémy-de-Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating. Find the author on Facebook and Twitter Visit his website Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases. Buy the book on Amazon.com

***

GIVEAWAY

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]
Global giveaway open to all 5 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS, EXCERPTS, AND GUEST-POST

Save

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Getting a Visa


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

This is the week we travel to Chicago to apply for our Visa that will allow us to stay in France for a year or more.
We could have applied anytime within three months of our departure, but we picked the date this week because the house was originally scheduled to close on Tuesday. We thought to deposit the money from the sale of the house and then print out our bank statement as proof that we have enough money to live in France for the coming year.
We kept our appointment, even though we won't close on the sale of the house until December 8. The visa can take a month to get, so we didn't want to risk not getting the paperwork in time.
First, let me say that Americans don't need a visa to visit France. It's only for long-term visits, like going to school or moving there that Americans need a visa.
I took this out the window of the plane on our last flight, knowing that was the day we'd land in France.

I searched online and found that Earl and I have to apply for a visa at the French consulate in Chicago. Chicago is about five hours away from us, so that isn't terrible. Plus, we have friends who live there so we can stay with them. The consulate has a whole page on its website about how to apply for a long-stay visa.
I made the appointments before we had all of our documents ready, but I figured that would give us incentive to get everything done.
And what did we need get done? Here's a list from the website:
Just today I headed to CVS to get a new photo taken. I had extra pictures printed when I renewed my passport in July, but since the instructions for the Visa say the picture has to be with three months, I didn't want it thrown out on a technicality.
On Friday, we had our friend who is a notary notarize all of our letters that declared we're American citizens, that promised we won't try to find work in France.
We ordered a birth certificates and two marriage certificates, one for each of us.
Just last week, after perusing the health insurance available, I ordered and paid for a year's worth of insurance.
If you aren't American, you may not realize how amazing that is. Here, even though we get our insurance through Earl's work and it is good insurance, we pay about $225 per week. That's about $900 per month that comes straight out of Earl's paycheck. I filled out the forms with Mondassur, an insurance broker, which an Australian living in France had told us about, and our insurance bid came in at 846 Euros for the year for both of us. The price we paid in American dollars was $956 -- for the whole year for two people. That is amazing, and I had no problem seeing that money disappear from our account.
Today, I opened the folder that holds all of our important documents and I put them in order as listed above. I still need to get an Express Mail envelope to take with us.
I've been super nervous about applying for the Visa, especially since we haven't closed on the house yet, but I found a blog post by a man who successfully applied and received a Visa. He was very reassuring at MadManBlog.
So, tomorrow is the appraisal on our house -- possible the last time we have to stage it (fingers crossed). If all goes smoothly, we'll receive our Visas within the month so we can fly off to France in January.
And then, you'll find us there, beginning our new ex-pat life.


Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


Friday, November 03, 2017

Nanowrimo Novel

Well, it's November, so this is the month I should be writing a lot. I haven't written much so far, feeling swallowed by a heap of paperwork to get our visas and home sale documents, but I plan to jump in there.
I started a novel last November and wrote about 35,000 words. This November, I aim to finish it. Of course, I haven't been dormant in the months since November. I worked on finishing a different
novel, a sequel to The Summer of France which I call Autumn in Aix. That one is out for revisions right now.
When I returned to my novel in progress, I was surprised to find that I like it a lot. I don't always feel that way about my writing. The current title is The Wedding-Dress Theory. It's a mother daughter story.
Ironically, as I'm preparing to move to France, I'm writing a book about a couple who decide to travel to all 50 states in the U.S. But things go awry, as you might imagine.
I'm going to share the first chapter here and hope that you like it so I'm encouraged to continue.


Tess
Tucking a clutch of maps under her arm and transferring a loaded purse to her shoulder, Tess Wright Thompson reached for the doorknob, hoping she could open the door and step inside before all of her belongings fell onto the front porch.
“I got your maps, but these better be the last of them,” Tess called out to her husband, Rick. Even from the living room as she dumped her bag onto the black leather couch, she could see through to the dining room and the white board he had set up there. His handwriting in blue marker scrawled across it with dates, places and reservations for their upcoming cross-country trip. It’s what he had always wanted to do – travel to every state in the U.S. in one big journey. So they were doing it, with an Alaskan cruise at the end and then a flight to Hawaii where they would lie on the beach for a week to recover from so much adventure.
Rick, 10 years older than Tess, had retired just the month before. Today was Tess’ last day at the Things Remembered shop where she worked helping people pick personal gifts then having them engraved or embroidered with names. The store had found a college student to take her place for the summer, so she was free to travel and then return to work in the fall.
“If you even want to come back,” laughed Charles, her 28-year-old manager, who was meticulous about the merchandise, but couldn’t figure out why Tess would want to work if she could have a husband support her.
“What else am I going to do?” she had asked Charles. “Stay home and watch Rick be retired? I suppose he’ll take up hobbies, like wood working or tinkering on old cars, or whatever cliché retired husbands do.” She had sighed.
Tess liked routine, and this trip, Rick’s retirement, would definitely shake up the routine. Ever since her mother died 24 years before and she’d had her “episode” as she liked to call it – clinical depression her doctors called it – she’d lived by routine. She returned from the psychiatric hospital a zombie marching through a fog with strict timelines for feeding the children, getting them to school, picking them up, feeding them dinner – her hectic life as an assistant district attorney thrown aside as she muddled to get through every day. She wouldn’t have survived without Rick’s support, his nightly backrubs, the times he’d come in from work and say, “Let me make dinner; you go read a book and relax.” And he had agreed that getting a small job at a shop might be good for her as the kids finished high school. He never pushed her to go back to being a lawyer, just held a hand at the small of her back, figuratively, whenever she threatened to stumble.
Oh, she groused about Rick’s retiring but she felt closest to her real self with just the two of them, walking for coffee, their hands entwined. Ambling through the farmer’s market and picking out a few zucchinis, a bunch of strawberries, some local honey, and guiltily adding a cinnamon roll loaded with cream cheese icing to their healthy purchases. They would split the pastry at home as she sipped tea and he tipped back strong coffee.
Maybe the entire cross-country trip would feel like their weekly trips to the farmer’s market.
She leaned over to save her overloaded purse from spilling out onto the couch, settling it upright. She’d brought home all of her belongings from Things Remembered today. She was going to be gone for three months – no sense leaving an extra cardigan hanging on the hook in the backroom next to the time clock. She’d also grabbed her deep-purple travel mug, engraved with her name and a blossoming iris. Tess loved all things flowered and all things purple. She pulled the mug from her purse and set it on the side table.
Open maps dotted with post-it notes and stacks of maps yet to be unfolded and notated covered the dining room table, and she would add this latest set of maps. She had stopped by AAA on her drive home. She knew that Rick had already planned every step of the trip, so she wondered why he continued to pour over the maps and order new ones.
They had two weeks yet before the journey, and the next step was to buy supplies.
“We can get supplies anywhere along the route,” Tess had reminded him. “We’re not going to the Australian Outback. There are CVS drug stores around the whole country,” or at least she figured there were.
Tess had put her foot down at the idea of renting an RV. “If we’re going to do this, we’re staying in hotels, and decent hotels.”
So they didn’t need to stock up on road food or plan meals. They’d be eating in diners and restaurants, maybe grabbing Subway sandwiches for picnics. They only needed to pack clothes and toiletries, plus their credit cards.
Tess had a vision of the old days when they would get travelers’ checks before a long trip and chuckled to herself.
“Hey, Rick,” she called as she walked toward the dining room with the maps. “Remember when we used to buy travelers’ checks and then we’d have to search everywhere for someplace that would accept them? That time in the Blue Ridge Mountains when –”
She halted as she rounded the corner of the narrow wall to the dining room and saw Rick slumped over the table, the back of his head toward her. A plate with a few crumbs of cake and an empty coffee cup sat beside him.
“Rick?” Tess called tentatively. Had he fallen asleep?
She moved beside him and touched his shoulder, beginning to shake him but her hand recoiled. His shoulder felt cold and stiff. Not warm and yielding with the bones and muscles resisting beneath.
“Oh, my God! Rick! Rick!”
Avoiding contact with him, Tess scooted his chair in enough so that she could get around the table to see his face. Partially open, his eyes stared straight ahead at the table and the skin above his eyelids looked blue as if he’d applied eye shadow. His mouth hung open, and a little puddle of drool rested on the table beneath him.

“Rick! Noooooo.” Tess didn’t know how long she howled the word as she fell to her knees and covered her face.

Well? What do you think so far? Would you keep reading?
 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Two Months and Counting


Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

Everything is back on track for our move to France.
We're scheduled to sell our house in early December, live with friends for a few weeks until we finish work, and then head down to Florida for Christmas.
From there, we'll fly to Paris.
Of course, things could fall through, but I have to be hopeful that things will workout and soon I'll see Paris again.
This is the Pont Alexandre III, a bridge over the Seine.
We stayed on the bridge until these lamps were lit. 

Here I am in the Jardins du Luxembourg soaking up the sun. 

Even the clouds are romantic in Paris.  How dramatic.
I've never been in Paris during January, so that will be a new experience. It might be cold, but I have a beautiful gray wool coat with a full skirt and a black faux-fur collar. Plus, if we get cold walking, we can stop inside Laduree for a cup of tea and a pastry,


or even Angelina's for some of their famous hot chocolate.
And the best thing about our move will be that we won't be rushed. We'll have days and weeks and months to explore France.
Thanks for cheering me on as I continue this uphill journey to uproot our lives and settle in France.
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.

Dreaming of France -- More Hard Goodbyes

Today, we begin week 2 of living out of a suitcase since we sold our home and moved out last week. My neighbor tells me that once we vacate...