(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

six weeks.

my counter just hit 42 days. which translates into six weeks. which doesn't seem like a hell of a long time. According to this, I could complete an entire body makeover in that time. Also, sixweeksrecords is recognizing my pending adventure with a commemorative album in my likeness. Maybe I will celebrate by watching this maudlin movie of the same name and remind myself that not ALL American film is better than the French.

I'm going to start documenting the countdown. with photos, I think. soon, soon.

Friday, May 30, 2008

this should come in handy.

how cool is this? up till now, I've only mastered making enemies in one language. or none. because sometimes my mere presence (or expression) can accomplish said feat.

My various moving exercises have been akin to archeological digs. one hilarious find was this pocket-sized gem that someone gave me a long time ago. My word, who knew the material would be so varied and rich? Not only will it expand my sharp tongueability to many countries ... but I can actually pawn off my sarcastic comments, with a look of complete innocence, on language practice. Watch out world, I have the key to pronunciation for bald-headed coot, vinegary hag, blood sucking leech and cross-eyed twit ... right here at my fingertips. Far be it from me to utter such degrading remarks ... but knowing I can makes me smile. and smiling is good.

"vous êtes le joueur le plus dégoûtant que j'ai jamais vu" was in the sports section. But maybe I will be able to find an alternate use for it. in time. heh heh.

I'll teach you some for a price. There's loads more where those came from. I can share with you not only how to insult a person, but laundry, train station, fish market, in fact from the grocer to the mailman; as well as social events as varied as dances and parties, restaurant dining or buying a pair of shoes ... you name it ... I've got your well worded barb at the ready!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

don't leave home without it!

That, my friends, is what an official French long-stay visa, good for one year and prequalifier for the Carte de Séjour residence card, looks like.  And its mine, ALL MINE!  in my hot little hands.  which tremble with excitement and good cheer!

that is all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

family heirloom.

I have planted these Blue Girl roses at every home I've had. Can't wait to do so in France. These roses are heirloom variety ... and they have the most heady, intoxicating fragrance of any rose I've grown. That, their beautiful shade of lavender and their extended period of blooming make them my absolute favorite rose. If you enjoy roses, these are very hardy and easy to grow and maintain. Give them a go! Right now they are loaded with big fat blooms. I planted them right outside my bedroom window so their scent wafts in and over my bed. ahhhhhh.........     (click on the pic for the close-up, dewdrop view)

trip down memory lane.

During my recent KZT battle, I came across an old journal of mine. I'm pretty good at starting journals and never finishing them. I'm not sure if it is because I lose them or because I lose them on purpose. This particular journal was begun in 2001 and has entries through 2003. There are less than a couple of dozen entries. Most of my journals are from old library book covers bound to blank pages. This one happens to be entitled Life in the Making.

It was interesting to read my ramblings from then, a mixture of journalling, travel writing, sketches and a variety of writing exercises. What happened to the woman that used to do that? I am desperately seeking to find her again.

I think I've tended to use journals when I'm skeetering on the edge. the edge of what you inquire? meh. the edge of depression. the edge of impulsiveness. the edge of the reason. you know. all that deep kind of stuff. This particular journal was a point of taking stock and how to move forward, as well as what to move towards.

Interspersed throughout the journal are references to moving abroad. Notes to self to follow-up on aspects of how to make it happen. and a couple of lists. This was the period where I really became serious about a major life change. I speak of my fear of repeating the mistakes of my ... well let's just say my elders and leave it at that. In this journal, I speak of feeling the physical impact of living a false life. Of carrying the impact like a heavy burden. The false life of knowing many things I desired to do but not taking the initiative to do them. After berating myself a bit for this, I decide to remind myself of ... (list edited somewhat)

"List 1 - Accomplishments

1. survived a childhood filled with alcohol, rage, every kind of abuse, chaos and religious fanaticism.
2. did not pass on alcholism, chaos, any kind of abuse or religious fanaticism to my kids.
3. survived and prospered past early widowhood.
4. climbed high on the corporate ladder minus a great education.
5. raised 2 incredibly amazing and beautiful kids to successful adulthood."

Yes, I survived and accomplished these things (amongst others), but I battle on regarding another list of unresolved issues... perhaps to be covered in the future. Here are some other quoted passages from this journal that remain meaningful to me.

"When I say I fear I'm headed down the path of (sic) my elders and living a false life, I mean that there are so many other paths I wish to choose but as of yet remain stuck in the rut of corporate stupidity and material pursuit. I want to break out but fear reels me in. I claim to write, to have had that desire since childhood and yet do I take appropriate action? I want to see faraway lands, to travel continuously and write about my experiences and yet fear of losing perceived security and status leaves me paralyzed, unable to act. Will I end up like my elders, complaining but taking no action?"

"List 2 - things I say I want (will I act and work to achieve them?)

1. take steps to become a writer; writing daily, take a class
2. study French, history, literature, art
3. set a firm date to leave corporate america
4. cease purchasing useless items and save as much as possible
5. accept myself, flaws and all
6. take steps to improve my health.
7. pursue new interests instead of talking about them
8. increase philanthropy
9. figure out the mother/daughter thing and the daughter/mother thing
10. establish a French home and new lifestyle
11. try again for a healthy relationship ... "

I often joke about fearmongers stealing years of my life. But, to a large extent, I allowed that to happen. My fears rendered me paralyzed and stuck for a long time. Americans in particular are inculturated with a consumeristic, fearful nature. A society driven by money. Where your worth is likely boiled down to a 3 digit FICO score. We spend our lives striving for titles. For income levels. For possessions. We live to work. We defer happiness and pursuit of our desires, defer them for "retirement", save for our "old age". We do this in a society that provides false succor for our worries. Buy another item. Live in a better neighborhood. Drive a better car. Be responsible. Homeland Security Alert Orange. War(s) on Terror. Inflation. Recession. We look around and see the castoffs of society, living on the street. We inure ourselves to their existence. Or live in fear of joining them.

So, back to list 2. The latest date I could ascribe to this list would be 2003. In the ensuing five years, I have accomplished about half of the goals.

The most recent on the list is living abroad, or attempting it. I battle daily the fear of having made a wrong decision. Having given up status and perceived accomplishment. I think this is one reason the book and theses presented by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek have rung so true for me. He speaks of this fear that runs rampant in our society. and of real lives deferred for an unpromised future.

This change is really hard for me and I haven't even begun the biggest part of it yet. It makes me afraid. and anxious. and worried. But I make myself look at what I have conquered and overcome this far in life. I realize it also makes me excited. and hopeful. and determined. And I talk myself down from the edge.

I'm picking up my written journal to complement this virtual one. I find I need those conversations as an outlet as well. It is a boon to have found other voices out there, attempting the same path of sorts.

Here's a quote of my own from this rediscovered journal. Seems very appropos.

I wish I could say that a series of epiphanies have provided me with the blueprint for a new life. That I have the secret formula and ingredients to share with all of you. Some meaty insight on how to break through. or survive. Throughout my life, people have joked that Kim is great at making chicken salad out of chicken shit. Basically, what I can tell you that has gotten me through is this. You just have to keep showing up.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

third time's a charm.

On Thursday, I embark upon my third move since March 19th.  This has been a 3 phase process.

Phase 1 - Ship to France.

Phase 2 - Ship to California.

Phase 3 - Ship to storage.

All that will be left is to ship myself to France.  (well that's after I rent the house and sell the car and take care of some doggy stuff.)  but still.

Prior to this, I had moved twice in 10 years.  So 3 moves in three months is a whole lot of moving.  Now would be the place to say something about how I am an expert now and could do it with my eyes closed and should go into business and get rich doing it and ...  but let me tell you that there is not enough money printed to convince me that this would be a worthwhile pursuit.

moving stinks.  not one charming thing about it.  except when it is over.

now arriving.  I bet there are many virtues to extol regarding arriving.  stay tuned and we'll see.

Friday, May 23, 2008

recently renounced my devout atheism.

I now worship Saint Cupcake, the patron saint of sweetness. Having become a devoteé of our Holy Lady of the Spatula, I am a Cupcake novice. I eagerly await further instruction as a novitiate, and hope with all of my heart that my period of testing for acceptability includes many hours of hot fudge vanilla adoration.

Stacey, who I always THOUGHT was my friend (you bad, bad woman) introduced me to the sainthood yesterday . Like any cult indoctrination, much love bombing was included ... the sugary, buttery, creamy chocolate variety.

At Saint Cupcake, they keep it simple. They do cupcakes. and cupcakes alone. But not just ANY cupcakes. I observed chocolate with hot fudge, vanilla with hot fudge, carrot cake, buttercream frosting galore. Lemon and banana too. Oh, and red velvet. How could I forget the red velvet with cream cheese frosting? But I tell you the absolute best are the ones with the hot fudge icing. not the buttercream. the HOT FUDGE!!!!!!! (for emphasis)

The interior of my new place of worship is pretty and pink with lots of gold and cocoa scrolly designs and feminine swirlies. An ode to Saint Cupcake is lovingly printed in beautiful cursive on the wall. Very poetic. And spiritual. And bless their sainted souls, they sell mini-cupcakes so you can either A. Be righteous by eating lighter or B. Feel self-righteous by eating several smaller ones and convincing yourself it could have been worse. either way, a winner!

Yeah. MY kind of spiritual.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

new blog for our shop.

We decided to try out a blog for our décor shop, Mignonne. Up until now ... we've kept it to our website and our MySpace page.

But now that I have a tiny bit of experience with blogging, we've decided to branch out.

Our Blog is called Je Suis Mignonne. We have a frequent shopper program for our customers which uses the same name. It has been popular so we decided to go with it!

The blog will serve to keep our customers informed about the latest happenings in the shop. We have a steady stream of new vintage and modern décor items arriving. We buy in smaller quantities to ensure we always have a fresh look and new finds for our customers.

As time goes on, tips and trends will be covered. Since we rotate local artists work every month or so, we can also introduce them via our blog. Once I'm in France, I'll be doing buying for the store and this will be a vehicle for letting customers know what is on the way.

In the future, we will introduce an online store where a special selection of featured items will be available for purchase. Please take a moment and check it out! If there are topics or trends of interest you think would be interesting to have covered, we'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

honey, I shrunk the list!

My U.S. to do's are disappearing. Still have some, but there is light at the end of the tunnel! My secret wish is that I will end up with a few weeks to play on the coast and maybe get a head start on my France list!

I spoke with the French Consulate yesterday. My visa is approved and will be Fed Ex'd shortly. Merci, Mlle. Fantig Servantie! Major Check!

The USDA has returned all of the poochy paperwork, signed and sealed. Thank you Ruth Case. Check!

Furniture shipped and en route to France and to Oakland. A million thanks, Rainier and Mlle. Mancha! Check!

Finally rented a car for the first week in France, bridging the gap until I collect the little number I bought for there. Thank you Expedia for an excellent deal. Check!

Booked my hotel room in Thiviérs for my first week in France ... it is where I stayed last year while househunting so must have some level of good fortune, plus I discovered they welcome the furry ones. Cheers, Nicola! Check!

Sure I still have lots of loose ends (store my remaining remnants and rent my house out, deal with breaking my car lease are the 2 biggest at present); but comparatively speaking.... major progress!

52 days and counting.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

and now, for a flight of fancy....conchord style

une jardinière.

This is one of the ways I want to spend my days in Brantôme. Becoming a gardener. I have a great space to work with. One of the things that inspired me during one of my early visits to France was a visit to the gardens of Villandry. Villandry is a Chateau from the 1500s, located in the Loire Valley. The original gardens were destroyed in the 19th century. It took a Spaniard, Dr. Joachim Carvallo and his American wife, Ann Coleman, to save Villandry's gardens. He bought the property in 1906, and restored the gardens to their original beauty.

When I visited, I learned that the gardens produce massive amounts of fruits and vegetables, harvested every year. My favorite part of the property was the mid-level garden, where you'll find the garden of love, the music garden, the veg garden and my favorite of favorites ... the herb garden. All of the gardens are breathtaking.

Its interesting to me that I am drawn to both French and English gardens because, in my mind, they are so vastly different. When I think of French gardens, I think of formality. Of control and neatness and rigid designs. Espalier. Topiaries. When I think of English gardens, I think of masses of wild flowers, climbing roses and cutting gardens. Now I know that the English have formal gardens and French do flowers ... these are just my uneducated impressions. I hope to spend time learning more. And experimenting with combinations of both designs.

My home in Brantôme has a smaller courtyard on the first lot and a larger open space on the second lot. I'd like to do a more formal area in the courtyard with crushed granite or rock of some sort. Experimenting with some of the geometric aspects preferred by the French. Topiary. Fountain. Seating.

And in the larger space, a more relaxed setting. An area of edibles (fruits, veg) and herbs. Espalier. I have tried my hand at pear. My espaliered pear tree I have pictured bears 2 varieties of pears. I've just learned that fig is suitable for espalier! My french dreams have always included a fig tree. I have an expanse of wall in the bigger lot that I am anxious to try. And there are grapes as well, not a vineyard but surrounding a small sun room. Pond perhaps.

At some point in the future, we envision a pool on the big lot. But we'll see. I'm looking forward to getting there and getting going. And writing about it.

Monday, May 19, 2008

miracle on 65th street.

Well, okay. 65th Avenue. But that doesn't have the same ring to it.

My energizer bunny daughter, Johnelle, the woman who flew up to Portland and saved the day ... well there's just not enough laudatory words with which to adore her.

The move kicked my ass this week-end. On the other hand, my daughter KICKED ASS this week-end. For the past 3 nights, we have crawled into bed with aching knees and feet we begged to have removed. surgically. or hatchet. too tired to care. all I can say is thank god for leftover toothache drugs. I live to limp another day.

However. And this is a huge however.

ROBOJOJO (as she will now forever be known) fought the Killer Zombie Things (KZTs), felling them with her mighty sword. and muscles.

Reference before picture of the garage from hell. Understand that she lifted furniture, televisions and moving boxes, loading a 14' truck with little assistance from her broken down mom. Know that she sorted and patiently advised on which KZTs might deserve a stay of execution. Observe the 2 day yard sale in 90+ degree heat, overseeing a steady flow of newly unearthed items from the morass of half unpacked boxes. Realize that after reboxing, organizing, labelling and taping, with one last broomsweep of all in sight ... she hopped into said 14' truck with a huge smile (and cute outfit!) and has proceeded to make the 800 mile drive today, delivering furniture to our store in the bay area.

If I die tomorrow (and I BETTER not, after all this freakin' work!) I die knowing I've left a wonderful contribution ... an amazing woman with a kind and giving spirit, who inspires all she encounters.

Friday, May 16, 2008

wherein I take on the killer zombie things. outcome uncertain.

So I wake up one day and I realize I've had enough. Had it up to here with the metro map I've made of my life and realize I'd rather have something simpler. Never mind that I don't have it all figured out. Like an endless stream of income. So I can drink wine the rest of my days and mesmerize you with my blog musings. For free. But that's a future post. Tentatively entitled "How Fear Mongers Stole 15 Years of My Life". *sigh*

So I decide to to simplify. Get off the corporate train and try something different. A complete 180. Being the not-yet-reformed corporate driver and control freak that I am, I create a project plan. With milestones and everything. How comforting, that list with its categories and dependencies, its tasks and subtasks. So familiar.

There's this one category I've been working on. Trouble is, seems like no matter how hard I work, the tasks are never totally complete. Unfortunately, there are a few of those type of categories. But the one that I'm mired in right now is "thing diminishment". I came up with that all by myself. *satisfied smile*.

This category ties in to that whole crap thing I was musing about before. I decided that the title "crap clean-up" had such negative connotations that I'd try something new.

Keeping in mind that I recently completed a major milestone, "Ship to France". One would think that would contribute greatly to the whole concept of "thing diminishment". But honestly. Three whole containers later (because it wouldn't all fit in the originally planned 2 containers) and I swear I still have a house full. Its like one of those crazy horror movies, where the "things" multiply faster than you can kill them. Attack of the killer zombie "things".

Tomorrow my daughter arrives. Her mission (she was gullible enough to accept it ~gasp~) is to assist me in pricing and selling as many of these things as possible for our giant hellatious killer zombie thing sale scheduled to occur in my front yard, side yard, and garage this coming Saturday and Sunday.

There's enough of these things that, in spite of the sale, I've rented a 14' truck which she will use to haul another load down to the bay area for eventual sale in our boutique.

And guess what?! There will still be mooo-oooo-oorrre! Yep, folks that's right. Remainder killer zombie things that will need to be transported under locked guard and imprisoned in a storage unit at an unnamed location. Why? Because I carry the ugly killer zombie thing gene in my DNA. It has me under its control. I'm convinced. I am the secret muse of the Killer Zombie Things. They have me under their spell. I can't stop talking about them. They are seemingly everywhere.

They may have been diminished by me for now. Soon, they will begin their period of waiting. In the storage room. In hibernation. Biding their time. *queue creepy killer zombie thing music*

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

nice ass plan. summer's on its way.

Okay. lots of you know I have joined the cult of Tim Ferriss, better known as Mr. 4 Hr work week. I'm just a junior member ... since I haven't figured out my entire reinvention plan ... the part where I only work 4 hours a week and still pay all of my bills. But I'm on my way. Oh and NO, it really isn't a cult. If you know me, you know that nobody's the boss of me ....

A side benefit of following Tim's ventures is he's got a nice ass, so the view is good! (yeah, I said it.)

Well, Tim has a blog, which I also follow ... and guess what? Tim also has some great fitness ideas. So he's let the secret of the great ass out of the bag. He has a fairly reasonable plan for dropping 20 lbs. in 30 days. WITH * ding ding ding * no extra exercise. Check it out. It doesn't look exactly EASY, but it isn't impossible. And there's a free day every week.

I've decided to file this entry under reinvention! Unfortunately, Tim says the cheese fries probably aren't part of the deal. but they got your attention, now didn't they? What do you think of his plan? Is it *doable*? Is this the path to Missing You Already's String?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

where there's a will, there's a way.

I'm striving to achieve the same persistence as this lovely rhodedendron, who decided that the sun was sunnier, the skies more blue, the grass much greener on the other side of the fence. The branch found its way there, some how, some way ... discovering that slim opening between the rigid confines and easing its way through. It wasn't an easy task, but it was accomplished.

And now that branch blooms. And so will I.

Monday, May 12, 2008

did I mention?

My blog was featured on France Tales, a great site I began reading not long ago. Owen and his partner Jean-Jacques live in Toulouse, one of my favorite French cities. Ahhhh, all that lovely pink stone.....

Owen has lived in many great U.S. cities and we recently discovered we have both lived in the bay area, specifically Oakland. What a small world the blogosphere represents!

I was so flattered to be featured and for those of you who haven't come across their site, please check it out!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Fête des Mères

so apparently I won't be sacrificing Mother's Day when I move to France. Napoleon was on the job and got the French celebrating motherhood waaaaaaay before the 'mericans did. May 23 is the date, I've discovered. Doesn't sound like anything much different goes on....moms chill while being waited upon hand and foot, given cards, gifts and general adoration.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

said offspring.

"Favorite daughter. Favorite son." Only daughter. Only son. Favorite family "oh Mom!" remark. *smile*

happy birthday to her. happy mother's day to me.

Today is my daughter Johnelle's 28th birthday! and 28 years ago the timing was the same. I gave birth to her on a Saturday and Sunday was Mother's Day. Quite the mom's day gift, eh?

So ... today I extol the virtues of my beautiful daughter, Johnelle. She is a talented artist and businesswoman, with a B.A. degree in Fine Art from San Francisco State University. We are partners in our décor shop, Mignonne, and Johnelle is the glue that holds that enterprise together. She is also co-owner of Drift Denim, a partnership with her fiancé, Alfonso. She is a kind and generous sister, daughter, cousin, and granddaughter. She successfully juggles many responsibilities, relationships and goals with humor and panache. Did I mention she speaks three languages fluently (english, french, spanish) and enough italian to get by in a pinch?

Yeah. proud mom here.

I mentioned this on my son's birthday post ... I have much to be thankful for and when anyone asks me what I am most proud of, I let them know my greatest accomplishment is my two wonderful offspring. Truly my legacy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

I need some magic.

The movers arrived bright and early. They came on in, looked around, and said no way is this just 2 of those lift vans! Upon looking at them (said lift vans) in the truck....I concurred. What WAS the estimator thinking?

Much mad phone ringing later, I am now up to 3 and still pushing it, however the good news is I got them to reduce the price per foot quite a bit.

It was all too stressful. so I left, went to the closest McMenamin's and ordered up an Imbrie coffee. Brandy, coffee liqueur, steamed chocolate milk, flamed 151 rum, cinnnamon, nutmeg, fresh whipped cream. If that don't do me up, nothin' will!

I'm going to sit here, sip, write, and chill for a couple of hours. Maybe by the time I return the moving fairies will have abracadabra'd my stuff so it all fits perfectly .... did I mention how stressed I am? *orders 2nd witch's brew*

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Air Born

Is on a bridge above the clouds, is air born
Is Marie Marvingt in a biplane, humming Gnome spitting oil
Shuddering wires, the church spires
Bleriot looking up, his felt hat black
An ant, a speck of coal
They take your bags and scan them
You hire a car, this was the dream and now
You've simply gone too far to be lost in self doubt
There is only the impending, compelling, spinning propelling how
The distance leaves a wispy trail, the turning of the wheel
the Fata Morgana highway, cloudward on the Millau
And therefore you must go on, therefore you must
Embrace every moment, not like hired help checking coats
Not like the mud-locked fisherman staring though unknowing,
Envy-filled at a parade of powered boats,
But eyes full of sky.

-Jonathon Grimes
For my friend Kimberlee for her emigration.

(how lucky am I?!)

reference: Marie Marvingt, Louis_Blériot

chick's tool box ... this is how I roll ...

Final throes of packing, can't forget my tool box. After all, I've got renovating to do! I don't necessarily know what the things below do but I have them, they are new AND they just happen to fit nicely into this spare dryer sheet box!

Monday, May 5, 2008

eat. pray. love.

I've just finished reading this book. The author takes a year out of life for herself after a bad divorce. The book has been out awhile and probably many of you have read it. I just want to share some beautiful prose about her time spent in Italy, focusing on pleasure. Fairly specifically - the pleasure of eating Italian food and learning to speak the lovely language.

Anyway, check out these descriptions of the food ... as I read, the items just sprang forth in my imagination, vivid and full of life. What's not to love about a woman who speaks so worshipfully about cuisine? Those who know me are aware of what a skeptical cynic I can be; but if I were going to worship anything, it would be the earth's bounty and those who create beauty from it.

Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of her foray into Bologna. She tells us that Bologna has been called "The Red, The Fat and The Beautiful. She loved the food there even better than in Rome. Here's an excerpt of her descriptive abilities:

"The mushrooms here are like big thick sexy tongues, and the prosciutto drapes over pizzas like a fine lace veil draping over a fancy lady's hat". In Lucca, she extols the virtues of "its celebrated butcher shops, where the finest cuts of meat I've seen in all of Italy are displayed with a 'you know you want it' sensuality in shops across town. Sausages of every imaginable size, color and derivation are stuffed like ladies' legs into provocative stockings, swinging from the ceilings of the butcher shops. Lusty buttocks of hams hang in the windows, beckoning like Amsterdam's high-end hookers."

Wow! She lit a fiery desire in me to fly immediately back and visit those shops...if only to flirt with the meat and produce!

So, fortunately, she covered the eat part first in the book because the pray and love part would have stopped me from starting. But her insights gleaned and shared from her 4 months in an Indian ashram were also ... interesting, if nothing else. Can I say I am now converted and off on a yogi-seeking pilgrimage? No. But I felt her passion and raw emotion in sharing her experiences which, in part, could only be described as mind and life altering.

The eat part was still my favorite. Her obvious love of Italy, the food and language, was so brilliantly conveyed as she wrote of her daily life there. I was transported.

If nothing else, she inspires one to take a chance on finding more from life. And of expecting more for and from oneself than the norms require.

If you are even somewhat curious, check out my "I Recommend" box to the right. You can purchase your own copy here! (shameless, aren't I?)

doggie language.

I love the individual ways my dogs express themselves. I mean, dogs have they own unique ways of "talking" to us. Expressing needs, pleasure, discomfort ...

My oldest, Louis, is very vocal. If he wants something, he will sit and bark at me. Just one bark at a time until he gets my attention. Then I run through a series of questions trying to determine what exactly is going on...."are you thirsty, do you need water?" "do you want to go outside?" etcetera.When I land on the right one he jumps around, barking insanely to indicate I've got it. When he is happy, such as getting his favorite back scratch, he kicks his back legs out and does a unique growl, unlike the various other growls he has!

My younger guy, Bruno, is just a lover. If he needs something, he will just come sit right next to me and give me the hypnotic devil stare. The one where he swears he will not break eye-contact until some sort of psychic episode occurs. The mind meld where I know what he wants. I typically run through my similar line of questioning, and when I alight upon the right one he leaps up with a thousand licks aimed at the facial area. When he is getting his special rib tickle, he stares into my eyes, closing his his eyes halfway ... until you wonder if he is in a trance or falling asleep. You can actually feel the pleasure oozing!

My past dogs all had their own innate personalities and expressions as well. Can I just say that dogs are the most magical creatures on the planet?

freakishly puzzling, sometimes insulting emails.

I don't know about you guys, but I don't exactly appreciate the unsolicited emails I receive on a daily basis. I mean who are these people and why are they messing with my head? Here is a small sample of emails received in the last 24 hours. Seriously. I mean, who could make this stuff up? By the way, I've spared you all the penile-related communications.

1. Break-up reasons. Animals incriminated. *EXCUSE me?*
2. Are you over 50 and looking for someone? *what exactly are they trying to tell me?*
3. The Chance For A New Career Is Now. Join The Firedept. *for cosmopolitans, maybe ... *
4. Find real love online Over 40. *I hadn't even published this entry yet and this came in, queue Twilight Zone theme!*
5. Feeling full or bloated? You can benefit from a full body cleanse. *does this have anything to do with my crap post?*
6. Spouse finder! *maniacal cackle*
7. Two Geeks are getting RICH with a ROBOT! *be afraid. be very afraid.*
8. Exotic Oriental Fetish *when I first read this, I thought it said fish.*
9. Life insurance, cheap. *ruh roh."
10. Does your lady make you sick? Cheer up! .... *at a loss*

Okay, maybe I appreciate them a little. Readers, surely I'm not the ONLY freakin' Weirdo Spam magnet. Hit me with your best shots!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

don't rain on my parade.

Every day I discover a few more blogs (or many more blogs, dependent on the time I have) that reveal people who are living abroad. Of many different nationalities.

Some are obviously new to the experience and present that enthusiasm and awe for what they have undertaken. Some are months in to the experience, revealing realities and unexpected practicalities. Some are now settled into a very pleasurable way of life, still learning always growing. Some express thanks that they gave it a shot, but have realized it isn't for them.

A small minority seem consistently downbeat, wherever they are in the process, finding much to complain about and little to revel in. The complaints range to the lack of their home country's food items on the market shelves, complaints about the French style of doing business, their region's weather, the missing conveniences of their home country, the language, etcetera etcetera etcetera. They don't seem to have reached any decisions or awareness, other than expressing miserableness (I like it better that way, misery just didn't cut it) at every turn.

It is one thing to use one's blog as the platform to voice one's opinions on their individual experience. But the worrisome thing I've noticed about this small minority is that there is a tendency to bring that negativity into other's blogs via their comments. Making sure to register their downbeat observations with a sense of smug satisfaction. Kind of like, "yep, it DOES suck doesn't it, toldja so ... we are so OUT of here and you will be too if you know what's good for you!" Of course, it is natural to become discouraged in a foreign land, but when it gets beyond a certain point, one has to ask ... "Just why was it again that you are still here?"

I am so thankful for the few extremely supportive connections I have made in the short time I've been writing. For myself, I am opting for a pragmatic approach. I've been travelling, not just to France but all over, for over 15 years. The first thing I learned about being in a new country is to leave my American expectations and comparisons behind. And anyway, nowadays it isn't like the good ole US of A or the UK has much to crow about from a world perspective. *ducks*

I hope to use my blog voice to entertain, to share realities in a balanced manner, to demonstrate growth, to encourage towards life's potential and possibilities .... oh and of course, make folks laugh. just my nature. I hope that if my readers see me slipping off into consistent antagonism or unrealistic reactions ... you'll give me a Moonstruck slap and yell "Snap out of it!!!"


In 2006, on another of my French property searches, my friend Christie and I flew over to check out some houses I found online. First was down to an area on the coast (thus my le Viaduct de Millau photo), houses in Béziers and Pézenas. These areas, although lovely, were not for me. But, I had been eyeing an ad for months of an artist's home in the village of Bruniquel. Bruniquel is a small, fortified village perched high on a hill overlooking the Aveyron River in the Tarn-et-Garonne département. It has steep, windy streets, so steep in fact that the house I was enchanted with had street-level entrances on the 1st and 3rd floors.

Many times I still think of this amazing home. It cost more than double the price of my Brantôme spot. Even though the exchange was far better in 2006, it was still more than I ultimately felt I should pay. It was actually 2 houses (like my property), but everything was done in the most amazing and beautiful fashion. The house offered two 4-Star Chambres d'Hotes. Ultimately, as lovely as the house was ... my heart was still captivated by the Dordogne and I was gently tugged back. Everything in this house was "done", much of it in my taste but ... I will have the pleasure (and challenge) of transforming my home into my own.

The village itself was quite remote, and dead in the off season. It is an artist's enclave ... and not many full-time inhabitants. It was lacking many services ... only 1 restaurant and a tiny market, more of what we would classify as a 7-11! and no market days. and no shops. But oh what a beautiful spot. breathtaking really. the doors alone were worth a trip to the village. I definitely intend to drive over once I'm in France. There are 2 castles, one 12C and one 15C. Many of the artists' ateliers are open to public in summer months.

Here's a few pictures ... the ivy-covered building is one of the entrances to the house I was considering.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

feeling a bit silly.

I have organized most of the things I want to have shipped abroad. I'm struggling with clothing! I'm going from the need for a daily corporate wardrobe to ... well to ... hmmmmm.

Of course I know grunge clothes for the work I will be doing in my house. And yes, I've travelled and travelled there. In my 'merican wanting to be French style. *sigh*.

I have a closet full of the most glorious shoes and bags. Corporate duds. and jeans/tees. But I need to wrap my head around smart outfits for the village. and side trips. lots of side trips. and shoes that are snazzy but won't render me hobbled in an hour.

Okay, I'm collecting at LEAST a handful of smart, attractive women readers. If you had to design the perfect three to five outfits, what would they be? (more is okay ... smile). My preferred style is kind of bohemian chic meets Sara Jessica.

I'm experiencing a fashion block. heeeeelllllllllpppppppp me. (calls for a life ring from the internet sea).

I voted today.

Okay, I know many people are very secretive about their votes. But freedom to vote includes freedom to share and I choose to share that fact that today, I voted for Barack Obama. Hopefully that won't scare off too many readers. Or if it does ... well, that's a whole other can of blogworms I suppose. There is something so contagiously inspiring about the man. I am encouraged by the large numbers of new voters he has brought to the table. There, I said something about him that moves me and is yet fairly non-controversial. whew. Please note that I don't intend to turn this entry into all the reasons why I think you too should vote for Barack.

But I do urge all of you to VOTE. This country needs your vote.

But anyway. One of the things I dislike about Oregon is here one votes by mail. When I lived in California (most of my life save the past couple of years), my entire voting experience occurred in the SF bay area. In fact, two locations that I could walk to. My last several votes occurred a short walk from my house. An old couple from the neighborhood conducted voting day in their garage! They had done so for decades. The neighbors would gather, catching up on local gossip and such. Prior to that, the voting was in a local church where again, we all convened chattering and becoming acquainted through the years. Occasionally, a brief discussion of the candidates or issues would develop ... but always with a degree of respect and congeniality.

I find this concept of voting by mail so freaking Anonymous. and bland. Kind of like my experience living here. There, I said it. Now I have many readers that are Oregonians that I know and like very much. Don't take this personally. Especially YOU. You know who you are! (smile). I don't think the small number of friends I've met here are bland. or anonymous. But I do think those are two words that would characterize my living experience here very well.

Still, in thinking about my vote today I realized that my voting experience going forward may be somewhat like Oregon. Hopefully not bland. But likely anonymous. I do have to investigate more about how an expatriate votes abroad. My hope is it can involve a trip to Paris and rubbing elbows with newfound expat friends. But who knows?

What's exciting is it will be yet another new thing to explore. and possibly write about!

Thursday, May 1, 2008


A cool aspect to this blogging thing are the acquaintances one begins to make. Folks from all over with a shared interest, common questions and concerns. So many of them willing to reach out and offer their experience, advice, humor, encouragement.

Its like I'll be taking off with a new band of mates who will take the road less travelled with me, all of us pooling our (knowledge) resources to ease the way.

What a fun and unexpected side benefit to taking up writing again. And the gratifying aspect of these new found cohorts is instantaneous, unlike writing off the grid.

Nice to meet you and thanks for the support, to date. (are any of you in that photo?! I choose the chick in the green face mask as my alter-ego....)