(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Yesterday on the train ride home, Johnelle and I were futzing with our cameras ... she asked me to show her which setting I used to mute the camera's 'beeping' noise it makes when performing functions.

Getting right down to brass tacks, let me tell you that it seems while I was fooling around in the 'format' section of my camera,  I have deleted all data on the memory card in my camera. Which is basically all the photos I have taken since I arrived here. and for a few weeks before leaving.

Until recently this wouldn't be a big deal. But my laptop has been having some memory issues and so I deleted all the photos from my computer ... until I could figure it out.

So basically ... except for photos on my blog and the few I transferred to a recently opened flickr account, the photos are gone. Unless someone out there in blog land knows how to recover images from a memory card on a Pentax Optio.

(blog updates soon, we are home now.)

(lack of picture courtesy of the clumsy american@geeiamstupid.com)

Monday, September 29, 2008

guess I'm not a very good stalker.

I lost track of my madcap Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby publicity hijinx somewhere in the middle of that big North America landmass.

The good news is they haven't hit Cleveland yet, so I can still warn Randal way in advance to get his frenchified derriére in gear and get on down there. (Can't miss it, RG!)

In an attempt to retrieve my reputation as a class A stalkerphile, I'm just going to post the rest of their tour dates now and bump it up when necessary. Lame, I know but I'm busy. and distracted. and other stuffs. But I have seen your footprints from cities below and I can assure you, you will not regret checking them out. Dammit, I want one reader to tell me they went ~ and I'll have questions ready, so no fibbing!

Sep 23 2008 8:00P, Thunderbird Cafe, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Sep 25 2008 8:00P, Jammin Java, Vienna, Virginia

Sep 26 2008 8:00P, North Star Bar, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Sep 27 2008 8:00P, Southpaw Brooklyn, New York

Sep 30 2008 8:00P, Beachland Tavern, Cleveland, Ohio

Oct 2 2008 9:00P, Schuba’s Chicago, Illinois

Oct 3 2008 8:00P, 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Oct 4 2008 8:00P, Sam’s Saloon, Indianapolis, Indiana

Oct 7 2008 7:00P, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario

Oct 8 2008 8:00P, The Bop Shop, Rochester, New York
Oct 9 2008 8:00P, Cafe Nine, New Haven, Connecticut

Oct 12 2008 8:00P, TT the Bears, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Also check out Amy's blog to read all about their Grand Tour! Check out their myspace.com page to hear a clip of their cool music!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

buenos dias.

hello readers, my days have been otherwise distracted with the return of my daughter and much frivolity. I am sending you a note in a bottle from San Sebastian, Spain ... where we are currently having a little side trip and basking in the warm Spanish sunshine and hospitality.

Later today we are off for Bilbao and a peek at the Guggenheim.

I have some typically JNRR variety stories to share with you upon our return. Travelling with Kim always provides the unexpected!

Sorry for my lack of blogworthiness this week ... but duty calls ...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

recent musings regarding living in France.

and more specifically, living in my house in France.

I now wear sweaters to bed. and socks. perhaps this is the beginning of my slide into old ladydom? note to self. (and all of you). Sleeping alone is far more tolerable with heat.

Living alone in a foreign country has some downsides. What, pray tell? hmmmm. well, when you are a notoriously clumsy American, things like the potential for slipping and falling down my trés typique stairwell and collapsing in a broken heap and left to molder for days, unattended is a distinct possibility. Also, just sitting around and obsessing about this very same possibility.

Or when your two canine companions insist upon sitting at the top of the stairwell, looking downward and growling fiercely, always after dark. That too can be somewhat unsettling. And cause for gun shopping.

That sweaters in bed thing is none too appealing, either.

Discovering mice evidence in your pantry. Which is actually a lovely vintage cupboard that is basically meant to be the haven for dishes and foodstuffs in the midst of complete and total chaos masquerading as living quarters. And have I mentioned the bugs? ha.

Upsides as well. Like the nightly fireworks show. okay well they aren't fireworks. They are actually stars. Star studded glorious midnight skies. Who needs jewelry when millions of tiny diamonds light up the sky, seemingly within arms reach, just waiting to be plucked?

The landscapes fill in for Monet and Van Gogh. Just take a stroll or a short drive and your choice of priceless artwork awaits. Visual feasting, no charge.

The absolutely joyful, nerve-wracking, tongue twisting, curse-inducing experience of learning a new language.

Over 13 centuries of history a 2 block stroll from my doorstep. Yes, dear Americans, I said 13.

The burst of rediscovered vitality and improved health that has resulted in just 2 months of my new lifestyle.

Participating in the (re)creation of my dream home ... including physical labor and actual design... good for the soul and good for the body.

This is probably a topic I will return to. I've not done either list justice, but for now there's a peek.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

a few more tidbits for the parlez-vous'ing

ça vaut la peine (it's worth it)
à peu prés (approximately)
s'a me touche (it touched me)
se sentir bien/mal (I'm feeling good, bad)
combien de temps (how long, referring to time)
combien de fois (how many times)
J'ai besoin de ton aide (I need your help)
Je me suis bien amusé (I had a good time)
appeler = téléphoner (to phone)
ça t'a plu? (did you like it?)
oui, ça m'a plu or non, ça ne m'a pas plu
faire la grasse màtinée ('sleep in' morning)
Mes amis m'ont dit que (my friends told me that)
il m'a dit/elle m'a dit (he/she told me)
un roman (novel)
perdre les clés (lose the keys)
à l'étranger (abroad)
un étranger (a stranger)
sauf (except)
je n'ai pas bien dormi (I didn't sleep well)
une autre fois (another time)
enlever (take off)
Merci pour ton aide (thanks for your help)
se tromper (mistake)
prendre un verre (take a drink)
Tu aimerais déjeuner avec moi? (Would you like to have lunch with me?) chez moi? (at my house)
faire les devoirs (doing the homework)

Oh, the poppy image is one that will be incorporated into a mural on the ceiling of the 'cage escalier' (staircase) ... do you like it?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

forever a girl.

random stream of semi-consciousness on the aging process. While our bodies change in ways we don't always care to reflect upon, much of who we are on the inside remains the same. Funny how all of this life experience doesn't eliminate many of our earliest acquired thoughts and self-images.  For me, it isn't "first I was a girl.  Then I became a young woman.  I then left that for womanhood." I feel like I am all of the stages I have ever been, wrapped up into one slightly addled being, existing in whatever spirit moves me.

I still retain the silly humor and tomboyish competitiveness I had as a schoolgirl. I like to think I would try anything once, get a rush from the highest rollercoaster or daredevil challenge. And yet, the babyish reaction to spiders, snakes, bees... fear and anxiety remains. So much for a big brave tomboy!

I still feel that young woman's self-conscious awareness when around a fellow I am attracted to. I carry with me the teenage triumphs and girlish wounds from those years of striving to understand what kind of woman I would be. I remember many achievements and nurse many hurts from all those years past. I react in kind with the thoughts of all those girls swirling through my mind ... I can bat my eyelashes or provide a reasoned soliloquy, dependent on my mood and frame of mind.

I am the whorish 20something woman who, in a period of depression and denial, sought love or the semblance of it with my burgeoning sexual appetite, youthful beauty and harsh disdain.  Discarding the best of the lot, the cynicism I carefully nurtured is with me to this day and curtails many of my reactions, coloring my hopes and dreams with its dismal hues dulled to grey.

The accomplished 30s feed my ambition and drive, casting new light on my ability to outperform and outshine my competitors, should I desire to shift into overdrive.  That whole realization that I actually COULD bring home the bacon AND fry it up in a pan ... and YES never let him forget... although that was at my discretion.  This late discovered confidence served to help me find an internal box in which to store many of my failures, missteps and poor decisions.  As well as the hurts and ingnominies of the 20s, mostly deserved and yet barely earned.

Now ... in my 40s, finally seeing much of it all knit itself together into a new fabric ... stronger due to the variety of threads, more resilient because of the wear and tear of it all.  Ready to be recut and fashioned into something stylish and fitting for the me that is now.

Yet, I believe it goes beyond the remembrance of those days. I am still that girl, in my mind pumping my fist in the air when attracting the attention I desire, conquering a new fact, receiving a compliment from my professor or friend, or just having one of those 'best hair/jeans/makeup' days ... swaying my hips confidently as I stroll the avenue. And then, a reflection is caught in the window and I see less and less of that cocky yet insecure girl in the image.  Or those other women of various decades.

It is that startling moment which drops us squarely back to earth. When we realize the gap between our self-image and actual image is growing wider and wider.

The moment when (probably more so for women than men) increased consideration of various products to inject a bit more youth and vitality into our visage occurs. When maybe that harsh offense against various 'procedures' or a little bit of 'work' begins to drop ... maybe a little something around the neck wouldn't be so bad? (pick the problem area of your choosing) ... as long as we don't get the wind tunnel effect, pour-quoi pas?

Hearts still skip a beat when phone rings, or fretting begins when it doesn't. Invitations are still compared and registered for continued popularity and acceptance. Caution is still tossed to the wind and then reviewed from a 3rd party's point of view (did we go too far that time?) Judgements rendered and reversed. Risks are taken and then results fretted over.  Regrets are considered and then heartily discarded.  

It's exhausting being human sometimes! especially of the feminine variety!

(image from squidoo.com)

Friday, September 19, 2008

compendium of (dubiously) useful French words and phrases.

why dubiously? because they are considered so in my estimation and maybe not yours.  Of course, I learned loads more like a bigger start on verbs, passé composée, etc.  But these are just little bits applicable to my life and also more regularly used by the French.

I just completed 4 weeks of 1:1 French classes, twice a week for 90 minutes each session.  I only missed one class (my last one, yesterday) due to sudden change of itinerary related to my doctor's appointment.

so ... here they are, in no particular order.

c'est nul.   (It's crap.)
faire les courses.  (shop for food, go grocery shopping).
un garagiste/mécanicien (mechanic).
sans le voir. (sight unseen).
il le faut, il a fallee (necessary, was necessary)  (( ban c'est necessaire from your lexicon!))
bouger (move - as with a piece of furniture about the room).
demanager (move from a country)
à tout de suite (a few minutes)
à tout a l'heure (later today)
je t'ai dit (I told you)
je me doute (I guess)
insupportable (unbearable)
je suis énervée (I'm irritated)
ça m'énerve! (on my nerves)
avoir peur de quelque chose (to fear something - like huge nasty spiders!)
avoir besoin de (a need for, I need .. with je)
un mure en pierres apparentes (exposed stone)
il y à dix ans (it's been 10 years or 10 years ago)
je te plainds (poor you, as in poor you for having to try and speak French with me ...)
comment ça s'est passé (so, how did it go?)
décontracté (casual)
qu'est-ce-que ça veut dire? (what does it mean?)
ça suffit (it's enough)
la semaine derniere (last week)
la semaine prochaine (next week)
des rideaux (curtains)
dénicher (found a special thing)
la belle famille (in-laws)
dépeche-toi! (hurry up)
je me suis excusé (I apologize)
le sable (sand)
la poussiére (dust)
allumer (switch on)
éteindre (turn off)
donner à manger (to feed...like the dogs)
des placards de cuisine (kitchen cupboards)
de temps en temps (time to time)
perdre les clés (lose the keys)
j'ai envie (I've been craving)
ni vu, ni connu (nobody could tell)
sauter de joie (jump with joy)
hier, avant-hier (yesterday, day before yesterday)
demain, aprés demain (tomorrow, day after tomorrow)
il y à des jours 'avec' et des jours 'sans' (some days are better than others)
se sentir bien/mal (feel good/bad)
ça t'a plu? (did you like it, common phrase of the French)
le décalage horaire (time difference)
c'etait pas terrible (it isn't great)
je dois (I must)

Our process during the lesson is Laurence (mon professeur) takes a colored sheet of paper and jots down all the words and phrases I haven't understood throughout the lesson. The lesson ends with me reviewing this paper and identifying the meaning in English. I have all of these various papers for reference, in addition to many exercise sheets from homework.

I do think I've made progress in the last month. Next week I begin a fall group session with 7 other people. Should be fun!

(image from images01.trafficz.com)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

zut alors!

It is Thursday and I haven't blogged since Monday!  I've been busy with a visiting daughter, commencement of my kitchen renovation, attempting to learn to speak zee franche, scraping lead based paint and old mortar in the entry and stairwell, enjoying 'al fresco' the first home-cooked meal from my new cuisiniére prepared by my daughter, strolls through the old village with said daughter and other general tomfoolery.

Oh, I forgot to mention the starter died on my car and shortly after its demise, I re-read my letter regarding the next steps for my carte de sejour and discovered my appointment with the doctor was Today instead of Tomorrow.  So that meant I needed to get to Bordeaux and I was without transport.  And my daughter decided to depart for Paris today for a long week-end with our good friend Lucille.

So, my supercalifragilisticexpealidocious friend and mec extraordinaire offered to drive me.  Let's just say that much of the day was delightful.  I was introduced to the Latin Quartier which seems to be primarily inhabited by individuals of Arabic descent.  We wound our ways through tiny streets packed with spice shops and tea dens.  We tumbled out into an old, old place where a makeshift vide-grenier was occurring...with many Arabic men selling goods, or gathered in groups smoking and talking loudly.  There were a couple of good deals ... but I decided with everything on my plate for the day, trying to drag a table around was probably not the best idea.

We walked and walked through Bordeaux, admiring the amazing sights and searching for a particular restaurant that, once discovered, was found to be closed.  permanently!  We continued until we found a spot offering a 9.90 euro menu (the place across the street was 10 euros so I imagine competition was in full swing).   The food was delicious!!!  We enjoyed the starters of smoked salmon and herbed cheese on toasts; and marinated tomatoes and feta, followed with a mushroom risotto that rocked with filets of dorade in a savory butter sauce and sauteed brussel sprouts that melted in the mouth.  Dessert?  Profiteroles ... mmmm... accompanied by vin rouge (an extra 3 euros).

If you ever find yourself in Bordeaux, definitely stop at the petite restaurant, nicely appointed, L'Assiette du Vieux Saint-Pierre at 14, Rue des Foussets.  Mag-ni-fique!

We panicked a bit when we looked at the time and realized in less than 1 hour my appointment loomed.  I had left my dossier in the car, which of course was the opposite direction of the clinic.  We power-walked to the car, fed the meter, and power-walked to the clinic.

Now, I expected my companion to deposit me and wander off ... returning later.  Instead, he waited patiently and was there when I exited ... extremely stressed.  There are actually men who do such things?! who knew!

The whole thing was more and less than I expected.  We arrived with time to spare so I waited in line and attempted to breathe myself down a notch or two.  Plus I was hot. "More" because I was immediately ushered into a tiny room where I was instructed to 'deshabille'.  Well,  I removed my shirt and when the nurse arrived I was informed that was not sufficient.  I was given a chest x-ray and escorted to another room, x-ray in hand.  There I was weighed (down 25 pounds!!! yay for me!!!), eye-tested and interviewed regarding my reasons for coming here and the state of the American economy!  (I was asked what my profession was in the U.S., once banking is mentioned, it is downhill from there!)  "Less" because, after much worrying about not having proof of vaccinations from the U.S. and expecting to have to be re-innoculated, I was delivered to the doctor (female) where I was asked more questions, like why I didn't have my 'carnet de vaccinations' ... and then told "c'est pas grave" and that I needed to find a local doctor, get boosters and get a couple of moles removed (TMI, I know).  The doctor also chatted with me about the differences in French and American life, the reduced stress, etcetera. On the whole, everyone seemed a little more human than the folks at Kaiser! ha! Maybe because they aren't being pressured to find ways to cut corners and deny services ... hmmmm.

After that, I was provided a clean bill of health, in writing, and told I was finished.  I was given a large and reassuring smile from said mec, we exited and I confess I then smoked a cigarette!!! ahhhh, tooooo stressful for me.  We walked (much more slowly) back to the car ... with a detour at FNCM for a decadent c.d. shopping spree.  

On the way home, we danced in our seats to Aretha Franklin, Thomas Dutronc and the Blues Brothers.  We made a quick pitstop in Perigueux at a spice shop we've been eyeing ... guess who was delighted to find 'con bawa' fruit (beats me!  Looks like bumpy limes, but smaller - I bought one for me to test so I'll let you know).  After a slightly testy discussion regarding reimbursement for gas (a resounding NO...), I was returned safely home to my 2 poor little dogs who were waiting for me with legs crossed  ... after over 11 hours alone.

guilty sigh.

Monday, September 15, 2008

j'ai répondu.

I was excited to see my last post elicited some questions AND a couple of new commenters!  It is always fun to meet the lurkers ... *smile*

My daughter has arrived and I only had to go to ONE train station to locate her ~  it wasn't all easy-peasy though.  Her flight arrived about 45 minutes late and by the time she gathered her things and took the RER to the Gare Austerlitz, she missed her train by about 6 minutes.  Which meant she had to wait 4 hours for the next TGV to Limoges.  

Oh the poor dear, 4 hours in a Parisian café, watching the world slowly pass by.  *sigh*

Okay, to my answers.

Monsieur Graves:  The 'final' straw, eh?  hmmmm.  Well, after the escrow closed on my house in France in December , 07 ... the fact that I actually OWNED a house that I hadn't seen in about 9 months really began to grate on me.  The demise of the housing market in the U.S. had a huge impact on the division I worked in ...and the inevitable blame game began, with ensuing pressure for cost reductions, reorganizations, pending layoffs etc.  Having worked in corporate life for 20+ years and also having gone through at least three economic cycles that resulted in major layoffs and general working misery ... as well as the mounting stress and disillusion with corporate life in general AND the U.S. political system... I guess many factors just all formed the perfect storm.  I had actually resolved to resign in June if no other alternative presented itself.  And then I said to myself ... "Self, um no j/k"  "Kim, what are you thinking 'if no other alternative ...', surely there must be something you can do proactively ..." and the rest is history.

As far as why France?  France has been a nearly life-long dream of mine ... beginning with those crazy high school French classes and Monsieur Cavanaugh's wacky teaching.  When I finally had the chance to actually GO to France instead of dream about it, it was everything and more than I imagined.  In addition to the lure of Paris and her architecture and artistic allure, each time I went and discovered another region, or was introduced more fully to the French way and approach toward life ... well, it became a growing siren's call for me.

Jonnifer:  Thanks for visiting and taking the time to pose a question! Like the title of my blog, I have decided I must regret nothing.  Of course, there have been times - either in a previous visit or even since being here - that I have thought about the years it took and my years of unhappiness.  My particular situation was such (single widowed mother, lack of resources, etc.) that it all was a precursor to the time I could actually do more than dream.  The early corporate years weren't as tiresome as later and afforded me the chance to send my kids to an amazing French school which reinforced my dream.  The stress and aggravation associated with my climb up the corporate ladder was indeed soul-sucking ... but also allowed me to generate the resources to take the trips abroad, search for and buy my house and ultimately make an escape.

So, non, je ne regrette rien!

Michele ~ Bienvenue! I am no expert on the working in France arena.  I have discovered, at my local prefecture that it is not impossible, as we are all led to believe before coming, to work in France.  Especially if you work for yourself.  That means - independently as opposed to trying to take a permanent job with an employer that might otherwise have hired a French citizen.  So contracting, consulting, starting a small business, freelance writing - all are possibilities.  Or some folks do work for their original employers in their country of origin, just remotely.  I think your line of work would be something 'not impossible' to obtain a working permit for.

Of course, that wasn't professional advice!  And, by the way, I had no problem understanding what you wrote.  In case I did, in which case you'll have to come back and tell me otherwise!

Felicity~Thanks and since I didn't see a question in there, I have one for you!! where ARE you (near me) and let's do a coffee!

Bonnie Ann Black~ Actually, I moved from 'non-celibate' status which is a backwards way of saying I did have a relationship of sorts in the States and now ... for the time being I am both celibate and 'celibataire'! Poor moi!  

Rural France vs. Paris?  well that was a tough one, because j'adore Paris.  But once I visited la Dordogne and she captured my heart, every time I would dream of the move, imagining myself in France ... I pictured the Dordogne.  I do have a new goal/vision (I mean what is life if not for some element of endless striving and dreaming? ...) and that is a petite garret in Paris someday.  before I kick the bucket.

If the way of life in France (in general) is appealing, then the way of life in the Dordogne is ideal.  Especially for anyone over 40.  My French friends tell me one must be over 40 to truly appreciate the Dordogne.

OJL- Mais oui, bien sur!  A garden was actually the topic of conversation yesterday over lunch in my little garden.  Now is the time to be planting winter vegetables, and Jean-Yves explained which those were here.  My daughter has decided she will dig a small plot for me for a petit potager.  Later, a larger area will emerge.  You'd also love seeing my grape vines, we have cut buckets of muscat grapes and I am toying with ideas for them.  Personally I want to try a grape liqueur, but the peanut gallery here is teasing me and rolling their eyes!  harumph!  We will have to put our heads together on the garden topic, and then also what to do with the fruits of our labors!

No worries, I intend to keep droning on here about the daily humdrum.  But this was a fun exercise I may repeat in the future.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

an attempt at a bit of 2-way blogging.

sometimes blogging feels like a one way boulevard. At wildly unpredictable times throughout the week, I place the laptop on said lap, and let my digits dance across the keyboard.

it is kind of a narcissistic event, this assuming that everyone is interested in whatever ideas or ranting that I decide to indulge myself with.

With that in mind, I thought today (inspired by reading a post on another blog) I'd turn the laptop around and inquire if there is anything about my ongoing experience that any of my readers would like know? any questions you'd like to pose?

I mean, many of you are sat squarely where I was one year ago, stuck in some area of life that was less than satisfying ... perhaps dreaming about change ... or living somewhere else (possibly France?) ... and I've been mucking through a lot of that as best I can.

Left a pretty senior corporate gig. Left some cushy digs. Left my comfort zone. Left non-celibate status. you get the picture here.

Just curious if you're curious.

Or should I just continue my usual self-centered angst awareness process and call it a day?

(photo from www.myhamilton.ca)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

2 tags in one week! this is a fun one.

I have an iPod obsession. Or better put, an obsession with my iPod. If I go broke, it may be because of the addiction I have to buying music.

So when Miss She-Weasel gave me the opportunity, in her well-titled "i-Curious" post, to share my last 10 songs listened to, I said, "OH, SNAP!" to myself (I know, I know, so out of character for me ... )

Well here they are. Too bad it is only 10.

1. Sealion, Feist.
2. Beautiful Liar, Beyoncé
3. Indecision, Django Reinhardt
4. Swing 39, Robert Helier et sa Formation Swing
5. The Prayer, Andrea Bocelli
6. White Lies, Paolo Nutini
7. Saudade Vem Correndo, Stan Getz & Luiz Bonfa
8. Lou-Ee, Lou-EE, Fastball
9. Back to Black, Amy Winehouse
10. Solamente Una Vez, Agustin Lara

WA-HOOOOOO. I just went back to doublecheck since I screwed up the last tag and it is supposed to be TWENTY-FIVE songs, so here's some more:

11. Mister bluebird, pancake breakfast
12. The Look of Love (Madison Park vs. Lenny B. Remix), Nina Simone
13. La Soledad, Pink Martini
13. Va t'en, Dominique A
14. In Repair, John Mayer
15. Beautiful Day, U2
16. You Can Leave Your Hat On, Etta James
17. Supply and Demand, Amos Lee
18. La Vie en Rose, Edith Piaf
19. From Cayman Islands with Love, Stina Nordenstam
20. Strong Enough, Sheryl Crow
21. God Bless the Child, Billie Holiday
22. Don't Go to Nightclubs Anymore, Van Morrison
23. I'm Still In Love With You, Al Green
24. Welcome to the Black Parade, My Chemical Romance
25. Crazy, Gnarls Barkley

okay well now I must tag someone else. Ms. Utah, you're up. Nunhead Ramblings, how about you? Stacey, this is an easy one and you DO like music.. that's it I guess cos no one I tag ever responds (or LBR already gotcha)...guess I gotta start finding more blogs to read eh?

Late-breaking addition - Step up Monsieur L'ennui and show what you're made of. (pray gawd it isn't 25 Mettalica hits...wait a second, did they even have 25 hits??!!)

(graphic from www.smh.com.au)

Friday, September 12, 2008

this just in.

Tomorrow I retrieve my daughter from some undetermined location in France to begin her 3+ week visit. I say undetermined because lack of advance planning means she will arrive at Charles de Gaulle and proceed to one of a few choices in "gares" and select one of a few choices in train options to land at one of a couple of cities not too, too far for me to drive to.

Hopefully she will have some sort of phone service to alert me. (don't ask).

In the meantime, the completion of my new chambre has coincided nearly precisely to allow us each our own resting space. I came home from my language class yesterday to a completely serene bedreoom - Jean-Yves had emptied it, finished off all small details (some electrical outlet plates, sanding here and there), swept, vacuumed and mopped the floors and stairwell! There are studios in Paris that aren't as large as my bedroom and without the gorgeous stone fireplace.

After I gushed, teared up, and danced a jig ( I SO wanted to hug him) ... we set off for Perigueux in "ma camionette" and purchased insulation.  I'm kicking myself I didn't get a photo ... we had 3 HUGE rolls affixed to the top of the camionette and the interior filled with more rolls.  The effect was our car looked like one of this miniature ones you see in the circus.  you know, driven by those men who belong to that secret society.   (smirk)  ((refer to my blog photo for a visual of said smirk)).

Now, when we left Brantome for Perigueux it was sunny, clear, and HOT.  We had lunch at a nice place by the river in Perigueux.  As usual, we laughed our way through lunch and then on to BricoDepot.  It is funny because I really don't observe a lot of the French laughing as much as we do.  We got to BricoDepot, sorted out the insulation, and then went into the main store to buy the rest of the things on the list.  More giggling and checking off of J-Y's list, and then we exited to discover completely dark and menacing skies and the beginning of drops.  

He raced around to add straps and tighten them and leaped into the cab of the vehicle just as the heavens parted and the deluge began.  "Trés typique!" and more cracking up as we returned home.  We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies in a hurricane.

So today, I have to move the bed into my new room, sort out the set up of the other bed (not an easy task because it is a queen-sized bed and the boxsprings is still down in the atelier because the movers couldn't figure out how to get it in the window but J-Y swears it will come).  I can only envision our peals of laughter as we attempt to maneuver it up the wall, onto the roof and through the window with nary a centimeter to spare.

Meanwhile, insulation will be installed in the "grenier" and much "nettoyez à l'aspirateur" will also occur up there.

Here's some various photos of the finished room, including a picture of the view from my new "chambre".  Today, when I opened the shutters I saw three rabbits scamper away across the yard.  I hope that's good luck. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

in memoriam.

Saving my frippery for another day. Seven years ago I had just returned from NYC's financial district after an interview. Just prior to hitting NYC, I had been in Italy ... so I was still pretty jet-lagged and awoke in the wee hours in California, doing my usual move of flipping on CNN for background noise.

Eventually I observed the entire onslaught. From the very first words regarding an explosion in the WTC, to live film of the planes hitting ... and all the devastation that followed.

I phoned a dear friend of mine as it was happening, urging him to wake up and turn on CNN because I thought we were under attack. We watched it unfold together, sharing our shock and horror via telephone.

I was responsible in our division for enacting our business continuity plans in case of emergency. Because I worked for a major brokerage company, this obviously meant coordination (or attempted coordination, I should say) with our NY operations.

It was a horrible, horrible time. Indescribable.

It carried on with me daily for some time, and on through the NY Time's heartbreaking yet important memorialization of all who were lost.

There really aren't any words sufficient to describe what occurred, or the aftermath.

And yet, countless others in nations throughout the world have suffered and continue to suffer far worse. Does one outweigh or justify the other?

On an individual level, perhaps. I have friends who say the United States and its citizens have little right for outcry, given all the wrongs they have perpetrated in the world.

So, on a national or world level, I say most likely, no. Our loss of 3,000 lives can not really justify the loss of tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of innocent civilian lives that have come about as revenge.

In any event, today I mourn for the innocent families who still bear the marks, the pain of that awful Tuesday 7 years ago.

(photo from www.theharrowgroup.com)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


today as I indulged myself with a long lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in Brantome (how convenient that I can walk just up the lane to arrive) ... I sat in the soft, warm sunshine ... gazed at the park adjacent to the restaurant (and also just up the lane from my home) ... listened to the chimes emanating from the oldest Bell Tower in all of France ... and nearly welled-up from my sheer and utter disbelief that I am here.

Not as a visitor. a tourist, checking off the sights in my green guide. But here, every day, savoring a new life that I cling to with precious hope to sustain.

Here ... working hard ... learning a new language and culture ... meeting new friends ... straining to adapt and integrate. Profoundly shocked and pinching myself.

I don't believe in God. I believe in me. but if there is some sort of universal reconcilement, a balancing of the virtual scales of justice ... I suppose I can find reason to deserve the good fortune the universe has bestowed upon me.

I'm not certain how I made it to this point. From the age of 10 through the age of ... hmmm, say 35, I toyed with all of the various means of not continuing existence. Having been physically, sexually and emotionally abused in every conceivable fashion from the start, I was a cutter. a secret self-abuser. Having been raised in a cult, I learned quickly the value of suppressing my true existence from the general population. I went along to get along. And then secretly tried to find ways not to be along anymore.

I married early and to a much older man. Halfway into a pregnancy, he was killed. So in my early 20s, I was alone with a baby, having already lived more life than many folks in their 40s have experienced. Within 3 years, I had my second child.

These two beautiful people are undoubtedly the reason I am still alive today. Somehow I retained enough sanity to know I could not possibly pass on the madness of my early existence to my beloved daughter and son.

I spent the next 10 or 15 years avoiding my true self and the emotions involved with my compacted life. I discarded more men than I can count like last year's fashions and simultaneously drove my way to higher rungs on the corporate ladder of success. Primarily through sheer will, determination and a modicum of talent. All the while, plotting various exits from planet earth, but managing not to take the trip.

In my mid to late-30s, I took a hiatus from the dating merry-go-round. I did meet and love a very good person, I suppose just not the very best person for me. Nor I for him. I've really been about as emotionally alone as one could be for the past many years.

Somewhere along the line, I developed a dream. A dream of a different life. This newly imagined life became my pet project. My justification for continuing the corporate climb and grind. Which everyday killed a little bit of my soul.

I honestly never thought I would be able to pull it off. Somewhere deep inside, I believed that this dream was more like a balm. An over-the-counter sedative designed to sustain me through the doldrums of my life. Another placebo to avoid taking real action.

And yet, like a bolt of lightning, six months ago I conceived of a plan. A plan which for me was revolution in the making. A leap into the black hole of the unknown. My own personal "On the Road" experience, fifty years late in the making. Scared shitless, I closed my eyes and jumped.

And here I am. unable to envision any other possibility for myself. whatever drastic measure is required. believing in karma. well believing in my own, non-god version of karma. I like this version: through the law of karma, the effects of all deeds actively create past, present, and future experiences, thus making one responsible for one's own life, and the pain and joy it brings to him/her and others.

I also like the idea of karmic scales, wherein hopefully by the point of death, all the occurrences in one's life, with some conscious effort, have somehow "weighed-out" in due measure and one can pass over in a balanced fashion to whatever the next experience will be.

Now that I've lulled you close to a nap-like state, let me just again proffer, in extremely insufficient terms, the fact that I am unbelievably, indescribably, undeservedly, most humbly grateful. in a continuous state of unsettled awe and random periods of joy. alternated with unfounded though lessening periods of worry!

(I might also point out that I believe I owe this latest state of clarity to the remarkably good night's sleep I enjoyed yesterday. In fact, when Jean-Yves arrived at 8:30 a.m., I was still blissfully unconscious. Sleep is amazing, no?!)

(photo from goodkarmaland.com)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Je suis fatigué. for some reason, I haven't slept very well the last couple of nights and I have that ultra-sensitivity thing going on associated with lack of sleep.

I vaguely recollect this feeling from my 20s and 30s. Some of you may remember those nights of coming home from work, donning party gear and then departing to dance straight through until the next morning. After one of those episodes, you get this great lightheaded feeling and sort of a strange prickly sensation on the skin and a slight burn in the chest.

I swear its true. The only problem is I haven't been dancing all night. That would make the situation almost enjoyable. Instead I've been restless. and worrying a bit. About what? hmmm. well that's what I need to get to the bottom of. Maybe it isn't worry. exactly. it could be ...

1. A foot in each country and not knowing where I'll land. I've pretty much decided if I can fashion a sustainable life here, it is looking pretty good. I think I need to have been here longer, some or all of all four seasons, to be sure.

2. Wondering how #1 will impact my daughter and son.

There's other little naggling things, but I suppose it boils down to lack of certainty.

I've gotten better with dealing with lack of certainty. Hell, being a big ol' control freak I'd say I'm doing pretty damn well. But ... I'm just not 100% sure! (lmao).

Okay well this post is basically meaningless. Adding no value to the blogosphere. Useless ramblings of a runaway American.

What's that, you say? so what ELSE is new? harumph.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Curious dilemma about blogging. It seems its roots are in journaling. but not just journaling personal experiences... also sharing those. A natural byproduct then, in my recent experience, is that some of the people you may know and/or write about happen to read the blog.

As a result, I find myself hesitating to broach certain subjects or, worse, telling only part of the story. to avoid hurt feelings. or awkward moments and situations.

I don't feel I have any choice and yet this rather irritates me. I want to be full-on out there with everything I write. But I also detest drama.

It isn't the same experience I've had with other forms of writing where I draw upon my real experiences and acquaintanceships to form characters. I may know a certain character is ... Susie, say ... but I can change her name, maybe some physicality or other description and get away with it. Hell, Susie may even know it is her, but it is different enough that it can be debated.

It would feel disingenuous to alter names, etc. in my blogging about real-time experiences. Which is the tenor of my blog.

So. I feel like maybe as things move more in the past, I can reprise the events and be more open.

In the meantime, I self-edit. and I loathe it. Anyone else feel this pinch? Am I copping out?

(picture from www.gdnctr.com)

missourah. kansas city. they got some crazy li'l women there and ...

thus continues my stalking, I mean publicity support, of Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby...what can I say, now I'm committed ... got to see this thing through.  The duo are making their way to Kansas City. Kansas City here they come. And after that St. Louis!

Sep 9 2008, 9:00PM   Knuckleheads   Kansas City, Missouri 
Sep 10 2008, 8:00PM Off Broadway   St. Louis, Missouri

I'm not entirely certain, but I might have seen ONE reader from Missourah leave a footprint.  If you are still out there and see this, go check'em out.

Be a part of the 'blogging community' and go enjoy some fabulous music. If YOU, my fellow bloggers and/or readers, do hit their concert, stop back by and let us know.  

Did I mention they are my new neighbors up the road in Chalus! (Sha-loo for you non-Francophiles.  but if you are non-Francophiles, why are you here? oh yeah, my sparkling wit and magnetic personality!)

Also check out Amy's blog to read all about their Grand Tour! Check out their myspace.com page to hear a clip of their cool music!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

incompetent meme'r am I.

So I was just reading Notre Vie Juteuse's response to my tag and observed that I left off an entire question from my own response! The gracious Miss She Weasel was obviously too polite to tell me.


6. Snacks I like.

Tortilla chips and salsa.
Figs and foie gras.
Fig bread with goat cheese and honey.
Sex. (YES, sex IS a snack in my world. bwhahahaa!)

Unfortunately, all my snacks are of the caloric variety lately.


I've been remiss this week. Not only are we back to full steam in the house renovation area ... but I had a visitor from America. briefly, but still.

The weather has been rainy (as mentioned) off and on but also curiously humid. So humid, in fact, that the mortar for the stones in my bedroom has taken a long time to dry. J-Y has been quite irked because it looks dark and he hasn't decided if there was something wrong with the sand or he mixed it wrong or what. I (being the expert that I am... lol) blamed it on the humidity.

guess what. I think I was RIGHT! won't he be doubly-irked on Monday when he comes and sees the mortar has lightened up because it is drying more. I LOVE it when I am more right than a fellow. what can I say. I'm nothing if not childish. and immature! the best part will be on Monday when he arrives and I can point out my rightness. in person. ha.

We also spent a full day priming the remaining 3 walls in my room. That is after J-Y spent several hours sanding the walls. The old paint has been murder to deal with. There must be 4 different colors, in layers. and it rubs off on your hands, in a powdery fluff. He has sanded and sanded and SANDED. And then, when we began painting, there were still areas that either flaked or bubbled. We soldiered on, and the day after it looks pretty good. He will still have to go back and sand areas and reprime before we begin putting the colored paint on.

Friday, no work - I had my company and he was 'malade'. Personally I think it is the culmination of breathing in all of the dust etc. He says it is 'un rhum'. maybe we are both right? (darnit.)

It was fun having Christie here. She arrived Thursday evening, having driven down from Paris. We had a nice visit over dinner and a stroll through the village. Friday we got up and perused the market, then parked ourselves at one of the best tables in town for market day ... it sits up on a 2nd level and overlooks several patios of people and vendors. We indulged in 2 Kir Petillons (EACH- Gasp!) and it wasn't even lunch yet! then we walked to another restaurant and met my friends Marjo et Rodolphe for a leisurely lunch. The 3 of them are all in the real estate trade, so they had a jolly time swapping stories. After a couple of hours we finished and strolled some more.

We played 'tourist' and walked up to the monastery for a tour of the building and the caves where the monastics first gathered. My village has its first mention in 812 in old French documents ... so the history is immense. We also went in to l'eglise and poked around (beautiful); it is in possession of important reliquaries gifted by Charlemagne, the relic of St. Sicarius (a child massacred by Herod - Sicarius means "little cut throat!") being one.

The abbey has endured many onslaughts. It was founded in 769 by Charlemagne. It was destroyed by Vikings and then rebuilt in the 10th century. Having survived the Norman destructions, Brantôme was occupied three times by the English during the Hundred Years War. The bell tower survives and is noted to be the oldest in all of France. Behind the abbey building are the original caves of worship, which house the fantastic carvings of the Last Judgement. It is difficult to explain how remarkable these are. I have just learned that there are sometimes concerts conducted in these caves, I can hardly wait to attend.

These cave dwellers are referred to as "trogolodytes" and there remain some cottages half-built in caves that are occupied today.

I had been saving this tour to do with Christie, as it is the kind of thing she and I have enjoyed doing in previous trips together. It was quite enjoyable and I intend to go again.

We also discovered Brantôme's own petite museum where an exhibit of Fernand Desmoulins was in full swing. Desmoulins was born in the Perigord, so I guess that is how Brantôme scored the Musée Desmoulins. Desmoulins and Breton were quite the characters. They were heavily into the occult and were known to experiment combining seances with their artistry. They'd enter a 'trance' of some sort and perform 'automatic drawing', just holding a pencil and awaiting a spirit to guide their work. The results were beautiful and suspiciously unautomatic.

This was really my first touristy day in the village and it was very fun! We also indulged in some shopping (shhh! don't tell Riana!) at a boutique I first visited last year. Speaking of characters Sonja, the proprietaire, fits the bill. She's 58 in a Brigitte Bardot sort of way ... and in addition to her fabulous boutique filled with clothes that are also works of art, she creates repainted furniture and décor pieces. She is also a sculpteur with many of her bronzes on display in her boutique. I reminded her of our meeting last year and shared that I now live in Brantôme. Well, we will be having a dinner and she will be introducing me to some people in Brantôme! yay for me as she is a wild woman, I can tell. We bumped into her the night before at the bar where she was regaling 4 or 5 fellows with stories! heh heh.

It has been a busy week, but at the same time, a week of introspection. I'm getting more comfortable. I'm noticing more 'feelings', feelings of being drawn certain directions and in fact, towards certain people. Until they're sorted out though, I think its best to keep the feelings on the down low.

way down.

and way low.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I've been tagged. *a meme*I feel so 18 again. La Belette Rouge is my first. my one and only. tagger, that is. us women of a certain age don't have many firsts left in life, so merci beacoup my love!

here goes. might take a while, memory's foggy.

1. Where was I ten years ago?

Hmmmm......1998. I was in Oakland (OakTOWN baybee). I had been living in the first house I ever bought on my own ... for about 2 years. I was gazing less and less at the open beams and imagining how easy it would be to take a rope and disappear from them. It was less than a year since I took my very first trip to France (winter of 1997). My beautiful daughter turned 18 that year. I loved a man who has never been able to love me like I need to be loved. I worked as part of the corporate machine. Upwardly mobile, they'd say. My dreams of houses in France commenced. I planted lavender and roses and chamomile, puttering, nesting and auction bidding.

2. What is on my to-do list today?

well, it is midnightish. ummm. yesterday's list included french class and donning a silly see-through coverall, and painting the walls of my new(ish) chambre with Jean-Yves. I tried to come up with an answer to his question ... "Do I believe every person has one love in their life? a soulmate so to speak..."?

Tomorrow, I breakfast with my friend Christie before she departs for Paris. I plan to spend several hours studying...so I don't feel guilty on Sunday when I attend the crawfish festival with Marjo.

yep. my lists are shorter these days. and still remain kind of unfinished.

3. What if I was a billionaire?

hmmmmm. judging from other's responses to this question, this amount of money makes one untouchable. it buys kidnappings and other crimes. hmmm again. who would I kidnap? back to ya on that one.

I would retire my debts, our store's debts, my son and daughter's debts. I'd buy a flat in Paris and maybe Uruguay. I'd start a non-profit fund similar to Kiva. I'd fly many friends here and then hug them and serve them wine.

How funny, I can't really think of anything outlandish I'd need to do right away. Maybe I'd tuck away some dinero for future "work" so to speak. My life would be comprised of lots of travelling.

4. Five places I've lived.

Oakland, CA. holla to my homies! I love Oakland, I raised 2 fanfuckingtastic people in Oakland, murder capital of the west (blah) and I wouldn't trade anything for it.

Berkeley, CA. berserkely is cool, love the bungalows and wild gardens and freakazoid birkenstock wearers and bleeding heart liberals and intelligentsia.

New York, NY. i wish i'd of lived there when I actually had some money and could live where I wanted. but it was an experience and because of it, when I return, I know all the cool places to be.

Portland, OR. green. art. music. food. style. island in a sea of riffraff rednecks.

Brantome, France. historique. magnifique. trop uniquement.

5. Bad habits.

Not removing makeup at night. Quelle horreur!

Overanalyzing, worrying and obsessing. about fricking everything.

Listening to the voices in my head.


1. Utah Savage
2. Amy Rigby (you can do it when you return)
3. randall graves LM
4. notre vie juteuse
5. artful kisser

well. that is as self-revealing as I care to be. toodles.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

and the heavens parted.

after days and weeks of predominantly warm weather days ... bits of rain at night, I awoke to torrential downpour. sheets of rain. thunder. hints of lightning. (ruh roh). I've been warned that for the big storms it is advisable to close the shutters because the lightning WILL enter one's window! WTF?!

It isn't cold though. I have a couple of doors open, letting in the fresh smell of rain and grass and such. Supposed to be sunny again by week's end.

guess I'd best break down and buy that umbrella, eh?

I'm off soon to buy paint and such for the final touches of my new chambre. Can't wait to show you pictures of the finished product. Next week, we begin on the kitchen.

deep breath. Courage, bon courage!

Monday, September 1, 2008

california, here they come.

Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby are performing live in California September 3rd through the 5th (Wednesday through Friday).

September 3rd 8:00 p.m. Cinema Bar, Culver City, CA

September 4th 8:00 p.m. Multicultural Arts Center, Merced, CA

September 5th 8:00 p.m. Thee Parkside, San Francisco, CA

Kids, I know you're reading in San Francisco ... especially my hometown friends and family ... Ian, Johnelle, Paul, Justin, Ariel, Laura & Mike, Marcus & Linda, Neil DC, Maggie ... Mignonne friends ... Yeah, I'm talking ta YOU!

Throw caution to the wind and treat yourself to a cool evening ... I've vetted the act, its terrific!

Be a part of the 'blogging community' and go enjoy some fabulous music. And I'm adding that I expect YOU, my fellow bloggers and/or readers, to either return here with a comment or post on your blog with a backlink here, if you attend.

Did I mention they are my new neighbors up the road in Chalus! (Um ... that's in FRANCE!!! neener neener! lmao)

Also check out Amy's blog to read all about their Grand Tour! Check out their myspace.com page to hear a clip of their cool music!

another fête!

attended another Brantome fête on Sunday; it was called Toristalha. There were numerous displays of ways to "green" up your life.

But the main attraction was the music, 2 acts. First up - Occitan singers, Trés a Canter. No instruments except their voices, their music ranged from chants to songs about their way of life, folk songs really. Following them, music in the style of Agricole Rock. Songs about hunting, stories about women, and a mélange of hard rock and blues. Band included electric guitars, keyboards, drummer, saxophonist and a lead singer with no instrument. In between songs, they cracked jokes, donned funny outfits including wigs and appeared to be having general all-around fun.

I ran across Christian (birthday boy) there, we shared a beer while watching the music. Communication was a bit of a challenge, what with the music and all. But it was fun.

I preferred the first group up and regret not having bought their c.d.

Sunday another vide grenier in picture perfect weather, with a leisurely lunch at a small auberge in Corgnac-sur-l'isle. I was accompanied by a new friend Ruth, met at my french group recently. A very convivial woman who exudes positivity and loves France. What more could one ask for.

Loads of time in the garden this week, got to do my first 'feu' of the piles and piles of cuttings. I even earned a "bonne travailler" from Jean-Yves so I know I've been working my butt off.

Speaking of that butt, it is shrinking! not to brag or anything, but apparently France agrees with me as I've been slimming down a bit.

All in all, we're off to a good week!

thus ends the somewhat boring update. I'm off to ponder profundities in order to bring you something with a bit more vitality next go around!