(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

won't see THAT in Oakland.

so today I'm driving through the countryside, on my way home from a remote brocante (thrift store) called Tricycle Enchanté. It was part thrift store, part salvage, part recycled ... which was cool as you don't see that a lot here. everything was neatly sorted ... outdoors there were lots of bicycles and old sinks and bidets and metal pieces, etc etc etc. Indoors were clothes, furniture, kitchen items and all the other crap you find with a few buried treasures. Also a big selection of books.

anyway, there I was rambling on the country lane about 1:30 p.m., fields of brush and cut sunflower stalks and patches of woods on either side. a brown flash charging from the left and I instinctively applied the brakes...as a HUGE and fucking hairy brown wild boar comes hurling across the road ... narrowly missing my bumper. It kind of slowed and zigged a bit in front of me and then tumbled into the brush on the other side. its hot breath created plumes of 'smoke' in the cold air.

I had to pull over and stop for a sec. my heart was pounding out of my chest. but then I had visions of my own French version of "Cujo"... and stepped on it.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

you may say I'm a dreamer.

my picture post got me thinking about dreaminess. and again I selected one of my own pictures here, mostly for its dreamy quality. Because when I think about dreaminess, I think about what dreams can do in a life. for a life. to a life.

a lot of folks have commented a bit enviously to me "oh, you're living my dream!" ... or "I've always dreamed of doing something like that but ... "

reflecting a bit, I'd say I spent a good deal of my life dreaming. Dreaming of being someone else, doing something else. A lot of my life even seems like a dream. Did all of that really happen to me? it is very surreal, almost out-of-body like!

when I think about my childhood, I think perhaps dreaming saved me. When unspeakable things were happening to me, I'd let myself float. Take myself out of my body, and ride the dream-train to a better place. a different setting. by the time I'd returned, usually the worst would be over.

maybe this was my entry into dreamland as a coping mechanism. and a writing tool. In my 20s, I nurtured my writing dreams with all sorts of journaling, creative exercises, and purging of the ugliness and pain in my head onto paper. and screens (!) But after a point, it seemed my writing became a dream. I mean, who was reading it but me? writing helped keep me alive in those years.

As I became more entrenched in corporate warfare, dreams continued to be my escape mechanism. Granted, my success fueled my ability to take more concrete steps toward my French fantasy. I finally could afford to actually go to France! not just read about it and send my kids to French schools ... but set my feet on French soil (well okay Parisian cobblestones, but same thing really). As time crawled on, I supplemented my fantasy with dreams of owning a bit of France and making my escape. Dreams of writing had fallen by the wayside, but were replaced with even headier aspirations of escape.

Hours of meaningless meetings and conference calls were supplemented with French real estate site surfing, international expatriate living sites, amazon.com trolling for travel guides and how to live abroad tomes and early Peter Mayle fluff regaling me with flirty tales of living in Provence. bluehomes.com and green-acres.com and internationalliving.com. The dream began to take shape beneath those fluorescent lights. daily dreaming. not much action.

To my chagrin, years passed. My dreams lulled me into a state of compromise and coping. I lived vicariously through others as I served myself up to the daily grind. Each day the same as the last, talking about doing something but never doing...allowing myself to accept the American way of things and the fears we are fed as reason to defer my dreams to some unknown future date.

Thankfully, that changed. Something clicked inside of me in 2006, and my dreaming became more bold. My trips to France included meetings with property vendors and home inspections. In 2007 I threw all caution to the wind and jumped smack dab in the middle of my own dream, waking myself up in the process! I bought that French soil!

When I returned from that trip, and the paperwork began making its way back and forth via la Poste ... my dreams took on a life of their own. For nine months, the home purchase marched on ... and so did my corporate career. Nothing seemed to have changed much, in fact the home buying trip to France took on a dreamlike state of its own.

When I finally signed all of the last papers in December 2007, I reached a crossroads. Was I going to continue selling out on myself and my dreams? Or could I find even more gumption than it took to actually buy a house in France to actually try and live here? dreams can transform a person, I'm here to tell you.

This leads me to the other reason I started this post. A blogger I recently began reading, Citizen of the Month inquired "Why do you keep blogging?".

And I wrote some fol-de-rol response, mostly true bits but not succinct.

I keep blogging because I am a dreamer. I'm living part of my life's dream. And now trying to devote time to the part of my dream I've spent a lifetime avoiding.

My dream of being a writer. let me say, in my mind I've always been a writer. But to me (and the world at large), one can only lay claim to such if you are published.

Becoming brave enough to leap into my dream of a new life has increased my confidence that other dreams can come true. But I have this bad habit of avoidance (as evidence above). My dream fulfilled here in France has also allowed me to avoid my other dream. A new and very long project list of France to do's(not altogether unlike the meaningless project lists from Corporate Unreality that I used as subterfuge for doing what I really wanted and needed to do) has somewhat obscured my focus.

But ... Citizen's query got me thinking ... and dreaming ... and reflecting ... and recommitted to the process of trying to write. Blogging has been a beautiful gift to me as part of this new life thing. and blogging presents a writer a gift that didn't exist previously ... the gift of readers! people who can actually serve to provide immediate reaction as to whether one's writing is palatable ... one can get feedback and interaction and inspiration regarding the writing - good and bad. It is really extraordinary, this blogging writing experiment.

My blog commenced with 2008's resolve to create a new life. I think (and I dream!) that in 2009 my blog can serve as a tool for shaping my new dream into more of a reality. Bring my writing more into focus. Take it from that dream-like quality to super-fine, photo resolution.

you may say that I'm a dreamer. I hope I'm not the only one.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


No Place Like It tagged me in a fun photo meme, the dear....

My assignment was to go to my photo file, select the 4th photo folder and the 4th photo and share it with all of you. With some sort of description.

Well here it is. I snapped this and in essence, it represents that romantic, fantasy-like nature of all of the secret roads meandering throughout my beloved France.

When viewing scenes like this ... any number of things can occur. When the trees lining the avenue are particularly old, I can be transported to another time, imagining the clip-clop sound of horse's hooves ... anxious with anticipation at the impending end of their journey ... some fresh sweet hay, cool water awaiting to reward their hard work. I wonder what the village that these trees welcomed the traveller in to was like. Were the scents entirely sour or was there that sense of industriousness I encounter with so many of the most petite villages in the countryside? Who planted them? what were they like?

My imagination can also take me down a romantic trail, dreaming of warm, sun-splashed drives in the summertime ... a lover by my side, the top down in the car as we lazily glide through the fields and come upon the next little hamlet. I smell the grassy fields, the tang of the earth and the animals who share our space. I picture an unexpected turn into tall sunflower fields and jaunt towards an open, unrevealed space where we make slow and delectable love with the sun on our skin. Strains of Edith are heard in the background.

Maybe it is just before that crisp season's change ... as the day draws to a close and the suggestion of a chill lingers in the air. Not enough to put one off ... just a tease towards scents of apples and freshly harvested grasses and fires in the fields. Where sweatstained, dusty farmers gather round the bar for an evening's toast before returning home.

Yes, a country's drive can indeed transport me. I especially like the slightly-out-of-focus, dreamlike quality of this picture.

okay. paying it forward...

I'll have to come back to that. Why does it stress me so to select people for these things? sigh.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

politics ... culture ... ignorance.

I've returned to my French class ... the topics of conversation seem to wander here and there. I like the materials used in the course because, as I've mentioned before, they incorporate topical issues into the class discussions. We've covered things like PACSing, worldwide news, etc.

This week we reviewed a variety of small job postings and candidate descriptions and were asked to try and match candidates to job openings. Well, themes like these wander around to discussions of all sorts of things.

Our 'professeur' (Laurence) asked us to describe employment application processes in our native countries (there are Scots, Irish, English and American in my group).

Interesting comments ensued. These conversations are meant to remain in French (naturally), and I had to ask one gal to repeat her remark a couple of times because I wasn't sure I was hearing it right.

But first, let me tell you that preceding this exchange...we had a bit of insight shared from Laurence concerning one of the 'petits boulots' ... she was telling us about changes underway in France to help reduce discrimination in job hunting. She pointed out that one of the ads mentioned the candidate was bilingual in Portuguese. She mentioned this could be a deterrent because many French, out in the countryside, only want French workers and might assume this candidate was not 'French'.

The conversations continued and a woman in class, after my asking for a repeat, commented that in England ... all one had to do was mention they were with the Taliban and they would be provided a job, council housing, free food and healthcare and all sorts of other things. Whereas the English would be left wanting.

Laurence got visibly nervous ... anticipating, I believe, a sharp retort from me. Frankly, the remark was so bereft of reason I passed. This same person insisted that the English were discriminated against in France because all of the non-EU 'etrangers' qualified for integration assistance but she (and her compatriots, I imagine) did not.

When I was discussing this with JY, he nodded and said that some French felt the same way or more strongly. And many French supported Sarkozy in his stricter immigration policies.

I mentioned in my class that I had met many folks, French included, who felt Sarkozy was racist. My comment was not met favorably, because apparently many of the folks in my class support stricter immigration policies as well! Has anyone read the text of Sarkozy's speech at Senegal's Cheikh Anta Diop University that to many smacked of not-so-long-ago colonialism?

I think in a future discussion it will be interesting to broach the topic further ... and inquire if they have pondered why our wealthier countries are more appealing to these foreign citizens ... and how would they feel, what would they do or want if the tables were turned?

JY also commented that he felt the homeland governments of immigrants were to blame as well. We discussed (or decried) why governments, rich and poor, didn't work more effectively together to reduce poverty and despair within their own borders so fewer of their citizens would be driven to immigrate for some basic standard of living.

I just find it very revealing of human nature that people want to lock down borders, preserve wealth only for 'natural' citizens and the hell with the rest of the world.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

randomness for randal.

1. I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint , I'm a tease ...I'm a goddess on her knees. And you wouldn't want it any other way ... (hey that's 7 or 8 things, bonus points!) ((wha'aaaa? catchy and ENTIRELY applicable song lyrics don't count?! merde!)) ((( well it is all still 110% true))).

2. alrighty then. this is hard because my approach to blogging has been to spill my guts regularly. what other randomness is left? hmmmm. okay well some of my readers might know this one ... I won the Douglas County 4th grade spelling bee and my name is inscribed somewhere in the halls of my 4th grade alma mater. Wish I could remember the word that sealed it up ... but no. which leads me to ...

3. I've reached the point in life where memory fails. Actually I reached it quite a while ago, so early that I looked up Alzheimer's symptoms and found out one of the tests they give is to count backwards by 7, starting at 100 ... And I fervently do this just to feel better about myself. I'm on the hunt for brain and memory exercises ... anyone wanna help me out? I imagine I spend at least an hour of each day looking for stuff. Daily, my glasses which I started wearing about 2 years ago and are the bane of my existence. Currently, I am at a loss as to where I've put my camera. I turned the house upside down yesterday but no luck. Today another search will ensue.

4. I'm short. I'm 5'1" on a good day (stocking feet). I moved to France because I prefer being called petite.

5. I love to dance AND I have rhythm. I start each morning by cranking up the iPod. My dance music tastes lean toward Aretha and Stevie and Beyoncé and Shakira, but I also can't get enough Latin music (salsa, samba) ... anything that gets my hips swiveling works for me. Structured dance is something I'm working on (I don't do well with structure! lol)...I've found some salsa dance lessons in Perigueux that I'm dying to try. But they are in French (duh, of course) so I'm a bit intimidated. But my bet is I'll be doing them.

6. My toenails are never sans couleur.

7. Dang ... not sure if I have to add another to compensate for number 1... let's see, let's see...ermmmmm... once when I lived in New York, I was working as a temp and I lied and said I knew shorthand so they sent me on this job to this high rise building to fill in for some muckity-muck's secretary for a day and he called me in to his office. I went in with my pad thinking "I SO have this" ... because I was totally cute and young and ridiculous and he was an old fart with drooling lascivious eyes. Plus I figured how hard could it be, I'll just write fast and leave out the vowels and fake it.... so I batted my eyes at the reptile across desk and smiled and nodded and threw in a few little 'ohs and ahs' ... and twitched my way back to the ... gasp ... Selectric Typewriter and proceeded to type up the biggest pile of dooky you've ever read.

I waited till the end of the day to go back to his office and place it in his inbox. He kept trying to strike up a conversation with some of the worst banalities ... finally I just kind of wrinkled my nose and told him I had to get home to my baby and pranced on out.

What I wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall when he tried to deciper that letter. chuckle.

ok - tags. apologies to any and all in advance. It is all Randal's fault.

Notre Vie Juteuse
JouJou Loves You
Michelle of the old house in Paris.
Chez Rigsby
Monsieur Grenouille-blog (Frogblog Thaidings)

God I hate rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you. (See above)
2. Post the rules on your blog. (control freaks)
3. Write six random things about yourself. (I'm an open book already)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (Five is all I got. again, apologies)
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog. (umm, well rules are made to be broken)
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. (like he reads my comments ... )

Friday, January 23, 2009

taking stock of logistical lessons I've learned.

anyone ever go back and re-read their blogs? I have been doing that a bit, trying to wrap my head around the monumental changes in my life since spring of 2008. I've no recent a-ha's to share, other than godDAMN a lot has been accomplished since then. It did strike me that I basically just said "I'm doing this" and leaped ... it doesn't appear that I ever seriously thought that I could not make it happen.

It occurred to me that I have a number of newer readers, some who are wishing and dreaming and even considering going about a move abroad ... maybe even to, gasp!, France! and maybe I might dredge up a few of the logistic-related posts I shared last year ... might be of interest, might be of assistance, might is right ... who knows? so here goes ...

On moving more than your suitcase ...

shipping saga begins

she downsizes

Shipping containers I used

Final selection of moving company

On moving live animals ...

louis and bruno oh my!

basics of preparing to move dogs to France

On getting a long-stay French visa and Carte de Sejour ... 

I followed these steps and it wasn't terrible! Please note I completed the process in San Francisco, one thing I learned via this blog is each French consulate in America has slight differences ... so I recommend you inquire with the French consulate nearest you (the internet is your friend!). and Yes, you must apply in person.

Applying for long term visa-SF Process

Once you have your visa and arrive in France, your Carte de Sejour is the next step. You must apply within 2 months from arrival in France. What follows is an excerpt from a post describing my visit to the Prefecture to initiate the CDS application:

We waited another 15 minutes or so to meet with the gentleman for the Carte de Séjour. Despite whatever scary claptrap I have read about how awful this process is (and perhaps it is not claptrap in other towns with more immigrants or other reasons, since we have seen a great deal of variation in the French processes ... even in the U.S. consulates), the process in Perigueux was smooth. The clerk spoke English and was very kind. I was extremely anxious about my passport and visa. After checking-in to the hotel, I had read more closely the slip of paper stapled in my Passport by the consulate. It indicates that one must have the police stamp your visa at the airport IMMEDIATELY upon arrival. My visa, although handed over in the airport, did not have any stamp. I had brought my ticket to prove when I entered.

Mr. Clerk was not at all surprised. "They don't seem to stamp Americans anymore." "Do I need a police stamp from somewhere else?" "No problem, just bring your ticket."

He was just a very easygoing person. They already have a sheet outlining all the items one needs for the CDS. Most of it I already had gathered and presented for the visa. One needs proof of resources/income, a doctor's visit (in France), Passport, Birth Certificate, Proof of residency, 3 Passport photos. I can return next week during regular hours and be helped.

Click HERE for another helpful link summarizing the Carte de Sejour application process, ... It covers EU and non-EU citizens.

So after I submitted the items I already had, my application commenced. I received a letter with an appointment for a medical exam and instructions on how to obtain 'timbres' (tax stamps) for the process. After a trip to Bordeaux for the doctor's visit and buying five 55 euro stamps, I returned to the Prefecture to complete my application. About 3 weeks later, I received my official Carte de Sejour (national identity card).

So, the most frequently asked logistical questions typically cover those areas ... moving, moving with dogs, and the visa/Carte de Sejour process...

Sometimes the devil is in the details ... so if there are questions out there, let'em rip!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

en francais.

J'ai décidé d'essayer et écrire en français de temps en temps. Il sera simple parce que mon Français est nul! Parce que j'ai quelques lecteurs qui parlent français, peut-être pouvez-vous m'aider? S'il vous plait, corrigez-moi!

D'accord. Quelque chose que j'ai faite aux Etats-Unis était obtiennent un tatouage! J'ai pensé pendant longtemps cela mais ai été trop nerveuse! J'ai finalement décidé pourquoi pas?

J'ai obtenu le mot "oui" tatoué sur mon cou, derrière mon oreille gauche. Et aucun il n'a pas blessé. Juste tinté un peu!

Oui, qu'elle est sexy, mais aussi elle signifie également mon affirmation d'individu et mon désir d'être plus ouvert et vulnérable à la vie.

C'était mon tatouage de démarreur. Maintenant je suis prêt pour Phoenix!

Je ne regrette rien et j'aime beacoup ma nouvelle vie!


January 20th marks 29 years since I was young (Very YOUNG. Since I'm barely 29 now, you do the math ... lol) and five months pregnant and, upon answering a knock on my door one very stormy evening, was informed that my husband was dead.

Well first I was informed he was in an accident. When I turned to grab my coat, asking which hospital ... I was told he was dead. It didn't really compute.

At the door were a police officer and a man I knew slightly. Apparently he had been driving by and stopped. Since he was an acquaintance I guess the officer asked him along.

I think that evening created my lifelong abhorrence of 'drop-in' guests. I never really put 2 and 2 together until I started ruminating about this post today ... but throughout my life, I've really had a 'thing' about people not calling first. 99% of the time, if someone knocks on my door and I'm not expecting a guest, I just don't answer. This has been something I've had to make adjustments for here in France. It apparently is no big deal for people to just show up. Not only do they just show up, but then if you invite them in they expect a coffee or something!!!

Perhaps this is a universal thing and merely another reflection of my slight social retardation! There's a whole OTHER explanation for that one ... we'll save it for another time.

So anyway. Yeah, there I was ... more than five months pregnant, still unpacking into the house we had just bought and were moving in to. The two guys laid the news on me ... and me being me, after about five minutes or so I escorted them to the door. Told them I'd be fine. It was cold and wet out, they should get going.

I kind of wandered around in a daze for a bit. Numb. Somehow, some way ... a bit of sense got through and I knew I was definitely not, by any standard, fine. or okay.

I called my aunt and asked her to come. Of course, all these years later I don't have the clearest of recollections. I remember a blur of phone calls. The worst one was having to call his brother. My husband was the classic 'big brother', being seven years older and at first protector and later best friend to his younger brother. It would have been easier to slug him in the stomach with all my might than to tell him John was dead. But no choice was involved.

My aunt arrived and listened to me sob through the night. I slept fitfully and when awakening, at first was convinced I was dreaming. An aspect of my pregnancy were horrid dreams. Not long before THIS night I had, in fact, dreamt that he had died.

The next day(s) were reserved for wishing I were dead, too. They are a blur. A dear friend of the time, Anna, had lost her own husband in the past year. She, unfortunately, expressed knowledge and experience I did not. Mostly of what to expect from those first awful hours and days. She arrived that morning, and began cooking and manning the door. Manning the door?! yes, well ... speaking of uninvited guests ... apparently when someone dies that is also the way ... just show up and offer condolences. or casseroles. or help. Never mind that the surviving family is currently a member of zombieland...yes she looks human! she walks, she talks ... but honestly there is no one behind that deer in the headlights gaze. During those ensuing days and weeks, people showed up and packed my house. I went to stay with Anna.

Not long after he died, I was summoned to an office in the courthouse and given a death certificate. And a paper bag with his personal items. I took the bag back to my room and opened it. Inside were blood-soaked jeans and one blood spotted Nike trainer. Bright lime green! we used to laugh about those shoes.

We owned a couple of small cafés and did trade barters with other local merchants. One was a shoe shop, a youngish guy who lunched with us daily. When John came home with those shoes, gotten on trade, I teased him that he got the short end of the stick as I was convinced no paying customer would have left the store with those shoes.

But I digress. I kept that bag buried in the back of the small closet in my borrowed room. Certain nights I would take out that bag and place the items on the bed. I wanted to ask someone where was his other shoe?! but I was too scared of the reply. Instead, I let my imagination run wild, which was likely even worse.

I've always regretted following the advice of those who urged me not to view John's body. That it would be too much. After he was cremated and the memorial service past, I still longed for that one last look. A common occurrence for the bereaved, I would often be convinced I saw him on the road. Walking down the street. Maybe he didn't really die? They were wrong? How would I know for sure since I didn't see him for myself. And would he be angry with me for not having been brave enough to go look?

One day, I was sitting in our attorney's office, going over endless details. Richard Parsons was his name and I wouldn't have made it through the mire that is post-death logistics without him. He offered his services pro-bono as my husband died without insurance. without a will. leaving me without a clue. Richard was a friend of John's, a customer of ours and an essentially kind person. An east coaster, somehow here he was in this poe-dunk town we lived in ... making his way as a prosecutor. He had a Columbo-like aura about him, right down to the wrinkled trench coat and gruff yet endearing manner. Here was a man who went through life barking ... and yet, visited me in the hospital four months later when I gave birth to my daughter.

I was still going on about the fact that maybe John didn't have to die. How did I know they did everything they could for him? It seemed too long for ambulances to arrive ... maybe I should sue someone. Exasperated, Richard barked out at me... he was DEAD! There was brain matter on dashboard! Do you want to see pictures?!

Stunned silence ensued and from his expression, I knew he regretted his words. He realized I didn't know the extent of ... it all. But in a way I was relieved. At least from a small amount of guilt in not having visited the body before cremation.

There are many tales of this time in my life. I may begin writing about them. Isn't it funny that I've never done so? Me, a supposed wannabe writer ... avoiding a goldmine of material like that.

Boy, I can ramble on can't I? where was I?

Yes, 29 years ago my life received another punch below the belt. At the time, although horrible, given the preceding years of my life ... this incident just seemed par for the course. Each of these blows, though, served to shape me. Prepare me for the long haul and help me be the self-sufficient woman I am today.

All these many years later, it doesn't take much to bring the emotions around that particular loss to the surface. He was my first REAL love. Life was even harder after that and for a long, long while. I loved him because he was my vision of a real man. He could do stuff! real stuff like building things, growing things, fixing things. I loved him because he made me laugh like no one could, and I had already spent so much of my life not smiling. I loved him because he loved me and he made me know it. I loved him because he was older than me and knew things and had experience he was willing to share with me. He made me grow. My world became an empty place when he was gone.

But here I am now! Having fulfilled so much of my responsibility, for our daughter and such, I am embarked on a new journey. Enjoying my time. If he's around somewhere and sees me, I hope he has a smile.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

finding the groove again.

Things have been slowly working their way back to their usual rhythm. Following a terrific first week-end home (welcome-wise), I spent several days suffering from intense jet-lag and freezing cold.

Now that I have heat and a few decent night's sleep under my belt, I don't feel like I am walking in sticky mud through the fog. Although even yesterday, when I returned to French class, my mind felt groggy and syrupy. But today is good!

We've recommenced work on the house. Today JY and I moved the sink from the old kitchen to the new kitchen. My house had a lovely old porcelain sink, quite large, that while worn is still too cool to discard. It has two sinks and dish-draining grooves on both sides. It is now placed below the new window and as JY pointed out to me ... there I will have a view of the changing seasons via my garden.

JY is building the cabinetry (trés simple) that will house the sink and counter. I finally decided upon zinc for the counter ... and of course, he is making that too! The sink was not only moved today, but plumbing installed and now functional!!! I am so excited at the prospect of this room being completed. It might be only two more weeks!!!

I started a little project of my own. I had an old bookshelf shipped over and I am refinishing it for placement in the kitchen/great room. It was painted green, I am adding coats of mustard and pale grey and then will sand and wax it for an aged patina.

Soon we will also go on a 'walkabout' in search of an old bureau to fashion an island out of for the kitchen. I want to put it on wheels so I can push it aside for parties. I haven't decided if the top will be zinc too, or I may get lucky and find an old piece of marble to put on top. We'll see.

Today I also spent a couple of hours cleaning up the atelier (adjoining building to my house). There's a project round the corner for that space ... and I'm getting ready!

The weather has been alternately freezing cold or rainy. Winter bulbs are already starting to bloom or poke their faces up in the flower shops. Everyone I know is already moaning that spring is taking too long! Ha - concurrently they tell me that it won't be here until March at the earliest and January/February are the coldest months! Tomorrow I have my fuel tank refilled. So winter ... bring it on!

I'm sat typing away here and just realized I missed my yoga class! drat! I guess I'm not quite back in the rhythm yet! I also am a bit thrown off kilter as I watched the inauguration live and got distracted. I imagine that deserves a post in itself ... but I'm lazy.

So I'll just say I teared up a bit. I was surprisingly proud to be an American while listening to Obama's speech. I coveted Aretha's chapeau. I hoped the world forgave us a little today. Also, could those 2 little girls be any more adorable?! Anyone else try imagining what was going through Bush's lame brain as he gazed out upon the millions of people applauding as Obama deplored many of Bush's wrong-headed actions that diminished the dignity of the United States? How great was it to see people of every shade smiling and celebrating in unison? Isn't it wonderful to have an intelligent, articulate, smooth, inspiring and hopeful person in charge of the nation?

Talk about finding the groove again ...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

2008. J'ai été transformé

It is a bit overdue, but since it is still January ... I think I still have time to reflect on 2008.

Not to sound braggy...but in 2008 I was transformed. How do I count the ways?

1. I walked away from a corporate career, replete with substantial responsibility ... and stress. Somewhere I found the courage and along the way, have built the strength.
2. I deconstructed my existence (much of the process is documented here in my blog), namely I downsized from 3 residences and the accoutrements required for same. I sorted, sold, donated and discarded innumerable possessions that represented much of what I was apparently working for ... with much relief and incredulity ... was all this shit really worth all that shit I put up with? one thinks not.
3. I prepared sheafs of paperwork for myself and my dogs ... in an effort (successful) to gain admittance to France. Others find this bureaucratic, I found it endearing.
4. I arrived in France and slept on the floor of my nearly decrepit old stone house for a month or more. I grew to appreciate how little I really required to be happy.
5. I gained new friends and insights to a way of life that I have happily embraced. I've formed relationships that to me are now priceless. I've learned to be vulnerable in the process. Imagine! ME, vulnerable? accepting of help...kindness...love.
6. I literally transformed physically in the eyes of the people that surrounded me. I went from a size 12+ to a size 6 or less ... acquiring improved health, stamina and an increased joie de vivre!
7. Most days, I am stunned at my newfound happiness and profoundly grateful for same.
8. I have found great satisfaction from being a diarist, documenting my journey and sometimes even spitting out some prose that has connected with my slowly growing audience.

I face 2009 with intense anticipation and a modicum of disquiet. For now, I begin the construction of a new life. Will I find the courage to take on the one pursuit I've dreamed and feared all my life ... writing? While I believe I have a seed within me, the potential (if properly nurtured) to grow and bloom in that regard ... the strong possibility of rejection has wilted my motivation in the past ... despite the encouraging reception when I have given serious effort.

Will I embark upon other pursuits that are in opposition to my past career? small start-ups, maximizing talents and love of food and cooking that I ignored for years in favor of business and leadership and corporations and ... blech? Will I reach down inside and find the cojones to take such efforts on independently? hmmm.

My 2009 prospects for love, work and life are positively thrilling. and positively, mind-numbingly fraught with risk and fear. fear of heartache. failure. rejection. the like.

All of those fears held me in their nauseous grip for far too many years. For me, those fears were defined in so many ways by the culture of America.

My challenge to myself is to do all in my power to be present in each day. to embrace the moments as the only ones I can truly define and enjoy. I managed to do this much of the time in 2008. Well, at least I got better at reminding myself to try.

I guess this post has ended up being mostly a summary as opposed to an epiphany. Except that last bit. And if I can impart the desire to do, even just a bit, of the same in some of you ... well, that would make me that much happier.

Yes life is scary. and letting go of what we think we 'know' is a risk. Let me tell you though, all those things I thought I knew, thought I had ... well, for me they were just a bill of goods someone sold me at a very high price.

I've still some letting go left to do. Some more trust to build. Some facts about myself I've denied that I've yet to face. Some doors I've barricaded shut that I must unlock and open. But I am on on my way. And 2008 was the springboard.

So long live 2008. and watch out 2009!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

okay, I confess.

There IS something I miss about the states.

I wandered in to the local grocer on the Oregon Coast and observed this display of peppers. In December. Far greater offerings were available in Portland stores and ... well in California, what can I say. Whole sections of the market. Whole markets, in fact...

I'm preparing to plant seeds soon for my own potager. I have a little green room of sorts, what do you think ... can I grow them year round? Investigation to follow.

Of course there was that great idea about smoking them. Have to consider that too. (And no, Randal, I'm not talking about the inhaling kind ... )

I did bring back two 4 pound bags of Maseca (masa harina for you gringos) which will serve in the short term for tortillas. And I found Chipotle cubes!!! come in little boxes like bouillon cubes but they are chipotle spice and can be used as a rub on meats, etc. I only got 2 boxes so will be sending out requests for more via post.

So funnily enough, in the land of haute cuisine the one thing I do miss are the cooking products I'd taken for granted living in the western U.S.

not a bad compromise for my new life. by a long shot.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

what is this thing called blogging?

wow, gentle readers, it has been so long I am flummoxed. by what, you inquire? well, I sit staring at the screen and wonder what to say or maybe where to begin or ...

My return has been surreal. I still haven't had a full night's sleep since arriving. I am suffering from jet lag, a freezing house, and middle of the night phone calls ... all which have conspired to turn me into a zombie. I may have unpacked my bags ... but the ones under my eyes are full and steadily growing.

My first night home the weather was still hovering below zero. Well, let me back up a bit.

My journey took me from Portland (they had dug themselves out of record snows, but storms were chasing in as I was trying to leave)... as luck would have it, the flight I booked with miles aeons ago transferred in Chicago. I at least had allowed for plenty of time between each step. So of course it was snowing in Chicago, with all flights delayed and many cancelled. We arrived about 90 minutes late, but I still had time to grab a quick bite. There of course was nothing offered on the plane except $6 crap wine and $6 non-real-food snack boxes (read packaged and processed everything ... basically dressed-up cheese whiz and old crackers). I had in my carry-on a delicious container of pot roast that my friend Kathleen had bestowed upon me. Of course, the plane had no spoons or forks to offer me. So I munched on the apple I had purchased before boarding.

In Chicago, I made my way to a food court and snitched a plastic fork! I also bought a toasted cheese sandwich and a diet coke (first one of those I've consumed in about 7 months!). The pot roast, even though room temperature, was sensational! (merci bien, Kathleen).

They herded us sheep onto the plane and then held us hostage for an hour and a half while they performed a heretofore unnoticed (oops!) oil maintenance that we could not fly without. Then, most thankfully, a thorough wing de-icing and we were off. I spent the wait watching the snow fall and growing anxious. Not so much anxious about flying in the snow, but anxious that somehow I would not be able to depart!

Guess what they served for dinner?! Pot roast! Kathleen, you must give them your recipe as there was absolutely no comparison! Another $6 for mediocre wine. I raided my Alma Chocolate secret stash to further numb the pain (each and EVERY one of you should check out the link to this tiny chocolate shop and the heavenly, incomparable treats that await). Sarah Hart, the owner of Alma Chocolate (140 NE 28th Avenue), recently won the "Rising Star" award at the Next Generation Chocolatier Awards in NYC. Described on Alma's website as the "Pulitzer of the artisan chocolate world," the award is given to a chocolatier who is doing the most interesting things with chocolate and showing the most amount of promise. It's awarded every two years. It doesn't hurt that Sarah is a delight, as well!

The best thing I can tell you about the flight from Chicago to Paris was the one film I watched, Sharkwater. It is a grim tale about the demise of the planet's shark population and the potential impact to our fragile ecology. It left me feeling a bit powerless, but was extremely informative and perhaps if more people are enlightened on the subject, change can emerge.

I landed at CDG about an hour late, but again I had allowed for potential mishaps and had about 3-1/2 hours until my train departed. In that time I collected my bags (came with 2 suitcases, returned with three plus my backpack and a substantial carry-on tote ... stupid, stupid me). It was reminiscent of my push-me, pull-me trip to France in July when I was carting 2 large bags plus 2 dog kennels. sigh.

I had to navigate a tram from Terminal 1 to Terminal 2 (not terrible) and then into the gare to collect my ticket and figure out where to go. After all of this, I still had about an hour and a half to wait. The terminal was large and bright and I'm sure perfect in the summer. However, the marble slab floors combined with a 2 story wall of glass with lined with automatic doors meant the lobby was the same temperature inside as out. And outside, the landscape was carpeted with snow. Inside, we all exhaled plumes of "smoke" with each breath. I had on leather boots and my feet quickly became icicles. I found a perch and propped my feet up off of the floor, rewrapped my scarf to cover my nose and bemoaned my lack of a hat.

I watched the minutes slowly tick by and finally the display board informed me of which platform to board upon. I made my way down (to my chagrin, I almost got a group of us stuck in the elevator as I tried unsuccessfully to unload my bags. An irritated monsieur harumphed and muttered his way past me and I confess I had a few choice words for reply. blush.). Believe it or not, it was actually a tad warmer on the platform as I found a small spot of sunshine to stand in. Several kind passengers helped me toss my bags into the train. These trains do not wait around, let me tell you. One must be efficient and prepared for boarding. I found room in the bicycle storage for my many bags and then found my seat.

While all of this was going on, my phone was ringing and I was trying to relay my arrival time. I'm sorry to say, as usual, I got mixed-up on seize vs. dix-sept and had to frantically sort out a follow-up text with the correct time. zut!

The ride to Angouleme was miles and miles of fields with varying degrees of snow-covering. It did lessen the further south I got. But upon arriving in Brantome, the house was like a refrigerator. No, scratch that, it was like a freezer!

There had been no luck with the furnace, in fact it seems that it was irreparable. On Sunday, my bedroom had the electric radiator, a petrol furnace and a fire in the fireplace and I could still see my breath! Monday, JY brought ANOTHER petrol heater so Monday night I had both of the petrol heaters lit and finally, around 8:00 p.m. a semblance of warmth was achieved.

All during these evenings I received calls from America at around midnight. Following which, I was wide awake until around 4 a.m. or later.

Come Tuesday, JY on a whim tried to switch on the furnace. And it slowly tried to rumble into operation. The day was spent with a variety of tinkering, a drive to Perigueux for a new electric switch box, more tinkering and radiator flushing and by night fall, the radiators were putting forth heat!!! They kept on until about 1:00 a.m. and then gave up the ghost. Right about the time another phone call came through.

Wednesday, after another review, it was determined we needed a specialist. So Wednesday afternoon, a capable duo arrived and spent a few hours determining that the boiler needed to be replaced. Another freezing night. Another phone call, and thus no sleep.

Today, I would pass an audition for Night of the Living Dead. or some other infamous zombie flick. The specialists arrived promptly this morning, stayed until 1:00 p.m. and left me with heat. and a fully cleaned system. and about the equivalent of $800 lighter. that, plus the $300 for the electric switching box and I now have heat.

Compared to the 5,000 plus euros it would be to install an entirely new system, I cannot complain. I shall not complain.

Tonight I shall have a hot bath. I shall turn off my phone. I shall have heat and I shall sleep.

Even with all of this, I am so happy to be home. And it is just another step to a cozier existence as I embark upon the new year and what awaits.

On a side note, I have observed that many of my fellow bloggers have taken the opportunity to post reflections upon 2008. This seems to be a very good idea and perhaps will lead me back to what this thing called blogging should be about.

For while I know I am primarily a diarist, I'd also like to be able to shed some light upon something. lessons learned. trails blazed. paths least discovered. etcetera, etcetera.

I'll ponder some and give it a go. So good to be back, and thanks for hanging in!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

bellying up to the bar.

zut alors!

I broke my promise but as a nagging feeling warned me ... pas du internet chez moi

I am back where I first began ... a fitting return I suppose ... still trying to sort out if my problem is my computer or my brain, so in the meantime I have returned to the little bar, the one computer in town with public access and one hour to sort through a couple hundred messages and an update for you.

My return was planes trains automobiles redux, only with three times the suitcases.

My welcome home was "formidable", all I hoped for and more. It is ever so nice to know one has been missed.

The dogs are A OK and there is no heat to speak of in my house with weather in the teens. So, of course that is the order of the day. I will explain more in time ...

Sleep and thus proper thought patterns and a good deal of my language progress have been diminished but I shall persevere.

I am home, in every sense of the word, and anxious to share more. Soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

see you on Sunday...

I'll be back, guns blazing, this Sunday. I've missed you something awful. I've donned my thinking cap so I can make it something worthy of being read again ... after all this absence.

not having internet access is a bad thing ... especially for a blogger!

I'm just praying there will be no issues with service at home ... everyone put out some good internet access karma vibes for me in advance, I'll need all the help you can give ... something just tells me ...

thank you all (beautiful and ugly!) for tuning in ...

à bientôt!

Friday, January 2, 2009

missing and unaccounted for ...

sorry all of you beautiful readers ... t'is the final push and I'm without internet access! I'm sponging freebies from the MickeyD parking lot at the moment and just sending a smoke signal to say I can't wait to return to normal broadcasting.

I'm missing you and all that implies ... hang tight and we'll be back in the saddle soon.