(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Friday, May 20, 2011

big day tomorrow!

finally ready to reopen The Bohemians!

after over three months in the states and just about 2 weeks back in France, we are there. Did a vide-grenier last week-end and focused all week on painting, cleaning, rearranging. Working from dawn to dusk with Henry to get it all together.

made a quick overnighter to the Tarn et Garonne to visit our friends from Raison d'Art and to gather some beautiful new art pieces by Bruce Anderson for the shop ... then made a beeline back to continue working on everything.

Today, I delivered Henry to the gare in Limoges and now, going to go continue arranging and preparing ...

soon I am sure I will have something more profound to share ... like my observations being an American in France observing the meltdown surrounding DSK in New York (Dominique Strauss-Kahn). for the moment, wow. Just WOW. that about sums it up!


Thursday, May 12, 2011

beginning of a trend?

still wading through New Yorkers. Okay I confess, still wading through the May 9 New Yorker. And I know it was a recent subject, but hell found another quote to inspire me to streams of (hopefully)consciousness. we'll see.

but first let me tell you why I am only to page 30.

I arrived back in Brantôme a week ago Friday (you calculate the dates, my mind's a whirl and I am lucky I can pinpoint that much). Henry and I decided to drive at night and we actually made excellent time, getting in at around 3:00 a.m. The week-end was spent doing our premier checklist, open mail and see if there were any disasters looming, get to the bank for a deposit, go to the tax office and the mairie (carte de sejour renewal time) pick up the mower and make the first attempts to hack through the jungle.

Mail: does anyone else have this dread and foreboding when opening the mail? I don't really get a lot of mail other than my beloved New Yorker subscription. So three month's worth formed a surprisingly small pile. Even so, after a year of financial headaches that have now just about been sorted, I am always a little fearful of what small seemingly innocuous envelopes can contain. BUT .... nothing unexpected!! hip hip!

Bank: ok, here's a shock! banks in France suck too. I bank with BNP and they are utterly useless. at least the branch in Thiviérs. which of itself is a pain since Thiviérs is nearly 30 kilometers away. fortunately they are open on Saturday mornings, so off we went ... still night-driving and jet lagged. When I arrive and announce I am making a deposit in dollars, the woman immediately responds "ah non, c'est pas possible". "Oui, c'est possible, Monsieur whatsisname told me it was". Of course he wasn't there but his aide, Valerie was. Great! because I had a bone to pick with her too. Before leaving for the U.S., we were going back and forth over some usurious charges, and she provided me her email contact. Three months later and two or three emails, Nothing. So I asked her why. This is the one slightly helpful person there. She tells me the answer concerning a refund of said fees was no. To which I reply then why didn't you email me such? "Well the answer was no ... trails off".
Yes folks you heard it here. I am complaining. about a French person. but really I am complaining about banks.

I've done my research and I am taking my business to Credit Mutuelle this summer. Yes they are also nearly 30 kilometers away. But the other direction, in Perigueux, where I often visit. And from what I can glean they are like credit unions in america. If any of you have any experience with them, please share!

Tax office: yes, yes, you always hear complaints about french fonctionnaires in every branch of government. they are the butt of endless expatriate jokes and complaints. all I can tell you is that in nearly EVERY single instance, these folks have been nothing but thorough and helpful in all of my various transactions. maybe I am lucky, maybe I am more prepared because I try to think like a French person before during and after. I don't know. But before I left, I had sent a letter in disavowing my need to pay an income tax bill because of a recent ruling related to my filing status. I had helpful info from the site Start A Business In France and so followed the advice there. In my pile of mail were two letters, one marked urgent, from the fonctionnaire dedicated to serving Brantôme. We arrived and once introduced, she immediately told me in rapid fire French that she would have called but had no number, that she had been trying to reach me because she had no proof of status and the online file disagreed with my claim. Henry nudged me towards guarding my patience and civillity. I, thinking like a french person, had arrived with a dossier of all of my documents including the attestation of my status. "Bon, c'est parfait", she tells me this is exactly what she needed. After a few copies and entries onling, voila ... no tax is required. I provide her my phone number for any future needs, she likewise gives me hers. Finishing like a french person, I provide a multitude of thank yous and commendations, politesse, and it is done.

Carte de sejour: I gird my loins and head to the mairie with my dossier prepared in advance. After a few misfires obtaining photographs sans voiture ( another post entirely ), I arrive with my papers and the new form, which is not overly complicated but does demand more info than before. This year I am asking for a 10 year carte. Since I plan to apply for french citizenship in another year or so, I am not really sure how the two requests will synchronize (any readers with thoughts, experiences, opinions, please divulge) but I am doing it all the same. The local bureau at the mairie is likewise extremely accomodating and polite. I am not overly optimistic for this year's request since I am past the 2 month deadline and probably will receive the 1 year only. I paid the timbres for one year and if by some miracle it turns out differently, I will pay the balance. Now, I wait. I hate this period of waiting where, even though you can't think of reason, the possibility of trouble looms.

Mower: the automatic transmission on my mower went on the blink last year, and so we delivered it to the local shop before leaving. Cutting 3 foot high grass with no automatic is not a pleasant option. When we went to retrieve it, we were told the transmission was mort. dead. kaput. MERDE!! I don't have the resources to buy a comparable mower at the moment (several hundred euros). We look on le bon coin (equivalent to craigslist here in france) but find no deals. Thinking I have no option but to push, we get her going. MIRACLE OF MIRACLES!!! the automatic functions!!! thanks to the gardening gods, I am back in operation!! yes. I love my life in France. heh heh.

Okay. that covers just the first week's list of wants and needs. I got a hell of a lot more miracles completed ... that will be shared later.

But now I want to get back to my latest New Yorker inspiration!!! lol, deal with it as I think this trend may continue...inspired by new yorker quotes, i believe i can mine a treasure trove of foolishness ... days and days and weeks ... who knows? ha, seriously I take my inspiration where I can find it, wheter the humdrum every day encounters or reading pithy coverage by cosmopolitan authors living glamorous lives ... and of course, everyone is entitled to my opinions ... so ....

There is an article covering a ... gasp ... BLOGGER! in said same issue! a female blogger, a diarist!, who I am loathe to confess I have never heard of despite the fact that she apparently receives 23.3 million page views and 4.4 million unique visitors ... which, according to the New Yorker is about the same amount as read the Daily Beast!! No, she is not Dooce ... she is the Pioneer Woman ... some midwestern chick who lives in Oklahoma and writes her fairy tale dream come true after marrying her "Marlboro Man" and moving to the ranchlands....whaaaat??? not only does she have this astounding blog that won the Best Kept Secret Award at the 2007 Bloggies (her first year) but she has gone on to win numerous other blog awards as well as publish a book of recipes that debuted No. 1 on the NYT best seller list AND her book Black Heels to Tractor Wheels (cough), No. 2 on this year's NYT best seller list. I repeat. Whaaaat??as if all of that wasn't enough, now she is featured in a New Yorker article. le sigh.

Okay. some point soon I am going to go look at her site. I swear. once I turn a lighter shade of green and steel myself for the stories of the modern day cleavers home on the range, home cooking, home schooling, home making and giggling straight from home all the way to the bank. to the tune of about a cool mil per year, gross.


on a side note, she is now so totally famous that she has hordes of haters. hatin' on her via websites. and blogs. and twitter. let me remind me of that cool mil. I am certain she is devastated. heh heh.

BUT. in the midst of all this charm and glory, I discovered a very respectable, even somewhat inspiring quote. that got me going a bit.

" ... you should never assume that where you are in life or what you're doing is going to remain exactly as it is forever". (the Pioneer Woman). ((I cannot believe I just quoted someone called The Pioneer Woman. egads.))

regardless of the source, that's a pretty meaty idea. when that lightbulb came on in my head that things COULD change, wow. what a pivotal moment. For the longest time, I had difficulty envisioning what my life could be. I remember talking with a friend about the amount of money I had in reserve and how many years I could last on it. And THEN what? He looked at me and said Kim you make it sound like you can never make money again. like that job, that life, was the only option, it was unchangeable.

when I came here, I truly had no idea what the hell I was doing. or going to do. For the first time in my life, I was taking a leap into the great hereafter without a plan or a clue. ok sure, I had some ducats and a property. but for the person I was, it felt very crazy. there wasn't much in life I did without a plan.

I have said all this before, I know. but still I have readers who ask....in fact, my recent post on self-relevance was commented on by someone trying to figure out how to make a big change and probably sitting there somewhat in the same place I was. I never in a million years envisioned I would be mounting some of the projects I have since been doing.

When you are there striving for relevance, you tend to go with what you know. It isn't easy to imagine how different things can be, how simple it can be to get there ... depending on what you are willing to let go of in return. and that doesn't necessarily mean material things. it can mean your idea of yourself. of your life now and where it could go. it might mean being willing to jump without knowledge of a net. or a parachute.

many times it is only then that we can truly fly.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go!

work attire before (doleful expression included)

work attire after
(warm and cold weather options duly noted!)

Of course, if it is a "shop open" day, duly accessorized with cute top, jewelry, maybe even some heels. thanks johnelle for the inspiration! xx

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

oh, to be relevant in this world.

or our world. or any world for that matter.

Commenced with the herculean attempt to catch up on a three month backlog of New Yorkers today. Decided to go backwards, so I opened the May 9th issue. oh what a frisson of pleasure it is to read this worthy magazine. oh my secret reveries of someday being published in *whisper* THE New Yorker. le sigh. but back to topic at hand. in talk of the town, reading a snippet entitled "Fish Story", discussing Ted Danson and his recent book "Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them". blah; no strike that ... all a most worthy endeavor and perhaps fodder for a future discussion.

but the masses pap TV series he is in "Bored To Death" discussion contained the quote which immediately inspired me. One small paragraph where Danson discusses his character, George, and how he relates to him. After reading it, I had to go grab my little ordi and start my random flow of randomness. hopefully it will lead to something.

ok, here it is. Danson shares that "The one constant in George is that desperate need of a sixty-three-year_old to still be relevant in the world."

this resonated not only with Danson, but immediately with me. First off, it makes sense, that view of someone beginning (optimistic view of today's youthful culture!) to age and the feelings of invisibility, irrelevance.

I have read many women who state this feeling ... the feeling of creeping invisibility as they lose that prime pitch of supple feminine youth ... I think this invisibility could also be categorized as relevance. For a women, her sexual vibrance and femininity often equates to her self-image and feeling of relevance in this world. I think discovering successful replacements for this external characteristic is key to a transition in self-image and confidence as we age. Not to mention the fact that older women can be some of the sexiest bitches on the planet. ha. but I digress.

So men struggle with this too. Albeit, likely later in the party than women do as it relates to aging and sexual vibrance. But also in terms of career, metiér, etc. As Ben Harper puts it, "there's always someone younger, someone with more hunger"...

Yes I see this in my daily life as well. like the fellows who are chafing at life's reins at the moment, lost. when I read this quote, I did think of those guys I know. In the context of this feminine characteristic I described (not solely feminine as I see it), they seem stuck in their self-image of the handsome playboy ... always a pretty young woman on their arm and yet a stable of every age standing by to dote on them as well. Their charm and devil may care attitude are magnetic and women are drawn to them like moths to a flame. Caught in that youthful pattern of greedily sampling all at the buffet, unable to say no until nearly sick and exhausted of the choices. As the years pass, all the dishes begin to look the same so the search for new temptations becomes more frenetic. None seem to satisfy. And somewhere along the way, the beautiful young women have found other options. The young loves they let slip through their fingers are now mourned. Greed having betrayed them, they find themselves sad .. alone .. and possibly, irrelevant because they have equated such superficiality to their personal relevance! all the while, seemingly oblivious to the many other qualities and capabilities that could provide longlasting and truly satisfying meaning in their lives.

I have seen this before, particularly with the fellows who have a fear of commitment. They have convinced themselves otherwise ... can't be "tied down", they are "free spirits" etc. They become stuck in this cycle and wake up one day, the laughing stock dude down at the dance club, trying to score girls 20? 30? or more years younger! sure they might from time to time, if their pockets are full. I sincerely hope my friends finally avoid this and find new paths to pursue.

But is the desperate need to still feel relevant in this world relegated to humans of a certain age? or is it what drives many of us? particularly the educated population of the world ?

Perhaps inspiring this need, the mere potential that all of us can find a way to be relevant in the world ... perhaps that could steady the world somewhat. When I reflect upon some of the greater nations in the world, my unscientific observation is those that invest in their citizens, particularly their youth through education ... these nations experience an overall uplifting of their population. Through education, lower and upper, we are exposed to ideas and possibilities. The broader the range of topics, the greater the chance that a grain will be planted that inspires a young individual towards a passion in life. some sort of relevance in their world.

when this doesn't happen, we find ourselves floating, hopefully treading water at least. but not finding a rewarding internal satisfaction that comes from ending the day having done something meaningful.

I have spent more years than I would have liked on the merry-go-round, unfulfilled. Even worse than to experience a desire to be relevant in the world is that absolute awareness that one's life pursuit is without meaning or real contribution. once you feel irrelevant and yet do not seek change, oh the internal misery! If it hadn't been for the gift of my two children and the knowledge that the earnings I received from my daily drudgery was allowing me to raise them with more options than I had ... well my desperation index would have been much higher!!!

and now. well these past few years have been a gift in terms of rediscovering my own relevance to myself. frankly , that is what I think is most important. eventually one might be relevant in one's circle. or community. or even the world. but first and foremost, we have to find our own self-relevance. and then live up to it.

spending a life seeking relevance on your friends' or society's measure is a false pursuit and can only lead to misery, unless you die clinging to your delusions. It takes courage to examine and embrace your internal purpose and desire, and then find the path to achieve them. In many of our cultures, you will be discouraged from your dream. you will be told you will fail. that you will be alone, an outsider. but that is mostly others' fear and envy speaking. just think, if you are finding relevance in your path less travelled, what does that say to the masses?

so in conclusion ... ha, what can I say? life's answers can be found in The New Yorker?! heh heh, perhaps. but also, to take the quote of Ben Harper a little further, "There's always someone younger, someone with more hunger. Don' t let it take the fight outta you". get out there and find your relevance.

peace out for now kiddos. I'm back!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

music to my ears.

alors, je suis bien reinstallé!

I am soaking up the tones of my beloved français at every moment. Both the formal langue français exchanged between strangers in public places and the rapid-fire parisien argot of mes messieurs!

likely my français is more like that one horn in the village band that is sadly out of tune and rings the sour note in an otherwise melodic ensemble.

not that I am in any way deterred from chiming in! three months sans français, either hearing or speaking, left me in fear of having lost my voice.

I remember my language professor here in France told me that many times she has observed a funny thing amongst her students. After taking a break from studying or speaking, it seems perhaps the new language returns with a force stronger than before. I am sure there is something to it ... perhaps the new data rests in the amazing organic computer we call our brain and is somehow integrated more strongly with the break.

I am finding my comprehension better than before ... my pronunciation and vocab perhaps a little ... lacking. not exactly lacking but kind of slow ... like your car in winter when first starting in the morning! Once warmed up, going strong!

also, it seems each nuance of pronunciation is more evident to me, noticing more subtleties than before and trying to commit them to memory.

just one aspect of the absolute blissful experience to have returned home, to my new land!

à trés bientôt!