(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, July 13, 2009

one year ago, today ...




I arrived in France...

Two suitcases, packed to the gills. Two dogs, in kennel crates. One carry-on bag. Two shoulder-fulls of stress, à la U.S. Filled with excitement, fear, trepidation ... and a big dose of 'what's it all about, Alfie' ...

I thought it would be fun and good timing to pause for the cause, and take stock ... where I can find a picture ... I'll let it help tell the story.

First, let's start with me ... my physical transformation ... this one's kind of hard to do in pictures because I've spent many years avoiding them, hating them, destroying them! let's face it ... I wasn't morbidly obese but I was...um, I prefer the french version ... "ronde". I've misplaced about 30 kilos since coming here and that is one lost item I'm not looking to find. ever. but in the spirit of documentation ... here's a couple of before (I had perfected the fine art of posing holding something ... a purse, a coat, my breath ... ha ... or hiding behind someone or something to block much of what was me ...



and after...full body shots are hard because most of my photos are taken by me! you'll just have to make do here (but hell I even found and threw in a 2 second video JY made of me recently ... I'm puttin' it ALL out there, folks!):







Next up, my abode ... the house project ... now on surface, I've only gotten 2 rooms 'done'. My bedroom and my salle à vivre ... but that is deceiving for many reasons. My second bedroom was scrubbed top to bottom and is functional for guests. The escalier is about 1/2 done, awaiting final plastering touches and painting (winter project). The radiators/heat have been repaired and are functioning ... a MAJOR step for the cold winter. I have a new water heater and washing machine installed. Electricity is not awful ... but more awaits. The attic has been cleaned and fully insulated. Jean Yves insisted we attack things in a 'must needs' manner ... being warm for the winter, having the basics (water, heat, safe lighting) in play. as opposed to my decorative views... replacing cracked windows.... I remember having him measure the atelier window panes his first day here and his looking at me skeptically...






anyhoo ... when I first arrived I slept here ... (2nd bedroom) while I awaited delivery of my household goods, which included a bed!




I set up shop in this room because MY bedroom-to-be looked like this:


The wallboard and ceiling were moisture damaged, with mildew and other nastiness permeating. All of that had to be ripped out, replaced or refinished ... Jean-Yves deconstructed, I hauled and sorted the crap and our partnership commenced. At first he was dubious when I stated I wanted to be part of the labor force and the renovation project. But as he observed me willing to tackle each chore, he gradually became more open to teaching me how to do certain things beyond manual labor...especially with our business project (where we strive for as much of a 50/50 distribution of effort as possible)...and the physical labor has aided in my personal transformation. Nothing like manual labor and no kitchen to aid in body changes...

Back to my bedroom. Jean-Yves sandblasted the entire thing, I cleaned-up after. He plastered and painted and created ... check out the fireplace mantel for evidence ... et voila!





And of course, the beautiful gift my daughter Johnelle gave me ... up there at the top ... my handpainted door symbolizing my new life!

On to the 2nd room ... my 'salle à vivre' ...

When I got here, this is where I cooked, ate and perched ... amidst peeling paint, grunge and dust...and thankful for it, since I didn't have appliances yet. Jean-Yves, friend and 'mec' extraordinaire lent me his camp burner and mattelasse (pictured above in my original sleeping area) ... in order to help me save on exorbitant lodging expense while I had a perfectly good roof and walls to shelter me ...



This was the room I used because it is where the former owners had their kitchen. But it was smaller and darker than I wanted a kitchen to be ... so I decided to relocate it to the other room. Here It is before:





:





























2 months and piles of sand and stone and dust and paint later, here is my salle à vivre, after...







These projects wrapped up in February and we were able to have some respite with a trip to Africa and ensuing adventures(!) that's my view from the back of our motorcycle.....



































upon our return, we dug in to our next project ... transforming the ateliér adjacent to my house into a business that will bring in some small income and (we hope) big pleasure as we continue to work together... The transformation of this space has been documented on flickr.com, step-by-step. We've repaired immense windows, sandblasted and remortared stone walls, insulated, installed ceilings and new floor treatments ... and are set to open within the week! Yes, we've had twists and turns (all told here) ... but it is another chapter in my new life here and going forward.

Other details ...I've wended my way through French bureaucracy and have received new residency status as a 'commercant' as opposed to 'visiteur'. This entitles me to operate my own business, pay into the French retirement system and, best of all, qualify for a carte vitale (french health care coverage!!). I've wrestled 2 gardens into some form of recalcitrant submission, and planted a large potager, just beginning to profit from those efforts.



I've probably missed a milestone or 2 here ... in fact, if any of you readers have observations to share...either on my journey or changes you've detected, please share ... I'd love to hear that perspective!



and of course. Mais oui, bien sur. None of it, not a SHRED, would have been the same ... sans mon monsieur. words fail me (can you believe it?)


In the early months, I felt my stress shed along with the pounds. A new me continues to emerge ... not all of my ducks are in a row...but they're definitely paddling around in the pond ... finding their way and maybe even beginning to figure what it IS all about, Alfie ...

For me, it is about treasuring each moment of each day ... surrendering to the bigger IT I am a part of but which I have no control over. Learning to love unconditionally, regardless if it is returned, reciprocated, equal, recognized or otherwise different than what I have to give. Recognizing that each day's small pleasure or hard work is reward enough, in of itself. Knowing that yes indeed, I DO need others and I DO want love - to give and receive. I'm still working on that part of course. France has taught me a lot ... but maybe it isn't really France that's teaching ... maybe it is just me that is listening and learning, for a change.

I probably haven't come far enough ... and I have a long way to go ... but there it is, one year - a new woman in the making ... hopefully hanging on to the bits and pieces that have made me who I am but (little by little) letting go of those that prevent me from being who I want to be ...

thanks to all of you for coming along for the ride. for your words of encouragement when I've been at low points. for your suggestions when I've been fresh out of ideas. for the laughs you given and shared, and for kindly tolerating the rants and tears.

et depuis et alors. Non, je ne regrette rien ...

17 comments:

Rigsby said...

Well done Kim. Good luck with year 2. Not that you will need it!

Stacey said...

Awesome "progress report," Kim! I hope year 2 is even better!

Cynthia said...

Wow, Kimberlee, that is impressive. You will have to share how you lost that weight because that definitely hasnt been the case since I moved to France. I love the beautiful and exceptional work you've done on your home. Congrats on a job well done. I'm quite sure you will perform more miracles in the second year. Cynthia in the French Alps

Utah Savage said...

Holy crap, what a transformed life! I knew it was going to be transformative, but wow! Congratulations! And I have to say, yes, the house is gorgeous, as are you, but the hunk you acquired in the process is worth every stressful anxious minute of getting there. You go you fabulous woman you!

nate beaty said...

beautiful, inspiring post. I cannot BELIEVE you lost 30 kilos -- you've always been tiny! wth? you can always borrow some of my LA chub. i'll bring it with me, I guarantee.

Michelle said...

This was the most wonderful reading experience.

It is such an inspiration to read such a journey.

Congratulations on EVERYTHING!

And thanks for taking us along for the ride.
x

Kathleen said...

Bon Anniversaire mon amis!! And, Happy Bastille Day as well. How appropriate that you celebrate your freedom on the day that France celebrates it's freedom... there is nothing in the world that replaces the opportunity to be what we have already become... it's a miracle in the making and you have proven it time after time. When I think about the many conversations we had about you taking this leap... and now, the proof is in the pudding, or perhaps I should say the profeiterole!! xoxo k.

Randal Graves said...

In other words, nothing's really changed.

Gpops said...

Happy Bastille Day to you and JY. And congratulations on not only making it through your first year, but in doing it with such style and verve. Tres bien.

David

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

Rigsby~seems to me you are plugging along quite nicely in your realm as well! thanks~

Stacey~the reader's digest version really helps me see the progress vs. the daily step by step... hope you are feeling better now.

cynthia~lots of people have inquired re: my 'regime', but I didn't really adhere to one. my lifestyle has changed dramatically and the sum of it all has resulted in this outcome ... I'm very thankful. and also, merci bien for your kind words!

UtahS~I love the fact that an amazing woman such as you has been along with me nearly every step of the journey. thank you for that.

nathan~you funny. short doesn't mean tiny. and we'll be cooking together in September!

michelle~wow, thanks for commenting! I've missed your writing...hope your life is settling down a bit.

kathleen et david~ yesterday I was reminiscing a bit about that evening at Rancho Blanco, sat in front of the old wood stove, enjoying some compost 'smoke' and you 2 patiently listening to my ranting stream of consciousness ... I think that was a bit of a turning point. looking back, it seems if I'd stayed in the US with my old life, I'd have broken. so thanks for your support and encouragement and friendship. it means more than you know. xx

rg-everything old is new again. especially when you get to be my age. thanks for being such a cool blog spirit, and continuing to come and read my foolishness...sporadic as it might be.

Riana Lagarde said...

big puddles of tears are streaming down my face. so well put and well spoken you are the wise woman my deary. happy one yeary!

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

riana~thanks for that, you are a compatriot in this brave new world!

amy said...

Incroyable! All the silly "reality" shows in the US, someone should have been filming YOU. You are inspiring.

softinthehead said...

Well done - what a transformation on all fronts! So can you guarantee I will lose 30 kgs when I get to France .....please :)

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

amy, that would be a hoot! and thanks..

sith-I'd love to ... :-)

Anonymous said...

You look marvelous! Happy year 2!

La Framéricaine said...

It took me two weeks to find this anniversary post! I've been trying to find my glasses...

Congratulations!, for once, is a wholly inadequate word to express what I would like to say in honor of the one year anniversary of your move to France.

I salute you on your courage; marvel at your sense of daring-do; am gobsmacked by your "house beautiful" accomplishments inside and out; hail your success with the bureaucracy that IS France; am in awe of and inspired by your "go-for-the-gold"ambitiousness with respect to your intended business ventures in Brantôme; am very happy for you in your ever-evolving relationship with J-Y; and am utterly pea-green with envy over your physical transformation! That is it in a nutshell.

All that remains is for me to wish you a great 2nd year and tell you that J-Y is a total stud--in addition to knowing his way around a perceuse!

Chrysler!, Some women make all the luck!

Which reminds me, you are singlehandedly changing the role model for girls because you yanked the release on your 'chute your own damn self!!!

My hat's off you you, ma chère!