Sunday, August 29, 2010

going for it (again)

After last weekend's dismal open house - I think one person stopped by - and pouring over all of the most recent comps and sales in the area, we came to the conclusion that we had to make a very difficult decision. Either we reduce our sale price lower than we ever imagined and even offer the buyer's agent's an incentive or we take our house off the market and wait it out for three years or so. By pulling out in what I am sure will be seen as one of the worst possible times to sell a house, we would be assured of a substantial and true nest egg in a few years time. By desperately trying this last ditch effort to sell, we risked being able to adequately finance this venture for more than a year or so.

Luckily, the answer came fairly quickly to both of us. I had actually cracked open "The Life Organizer" book that my dear friend Rose had sent me recently. I have never been one to read self-help books and probably would not have opened this one either except that I had a few hours to burn during our open house and figured that by the way I had been feeling lately, it could not possibly hurt. And it actually had some fairly inspirational ideas about taking control of your life and relearning how to prioritize the things that were most important without getting so stressed out all of the time (my perpetual state of being these days). And one particular section really stood out when it asked you to answer the question, "what do you NOT want," as a process of elimination to find what you are truly looking for. When I could easily answer, "I do not want to sit in front of a computer for 10 hours every day and be bombarded with email or IM requests every other second. I do not want to fight the traffic in LA anymore. I do not want our daughter to be continually influenced by LA's often warped sense of values that seemed to revolve around constant indulgence and riches."

"Your question is your answer Butterfly."

Hank did not need the self-help book. He just knew the answer instinctively so we called our agent and told her to send us the paperwork. Of course, as soon as we released this energy (I know, I know, I'm getting all in tune with myself all of a sudden), there is a call from our cash couple AND a man who had looked at our house exactly a year ago and could not get it out of his mind.

"Stop the presses Fariba!" And of course she does while we wait for answers from both parties to hopefully make offers so a bidding war can begin. Well okay, just one decent offer and we would be ecstatic (and take it). We are supposed to hear something today, although we are both trying hard not to get our hopes up too high yet. But least we do have a little hope right now which is something we have been lacking for the past few weeks and I am definitely holding on to it.

p.s. it is also interesting to note that we took St. Joe out of our garden last week as we figured that he must have found out that we were not Catholic nuns seeking a new convent and could do nothing to help us.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Nous ne sommes pas des poires!

We have had quite an interesting week. It began with an email from the seller's son, Pierre, saying that while his father was away on holiday, he had been given responsibility to sell Petit Clos house furniture and he was writing to ask us if we would like to purchase some of it. "It" being items that had previously been agreed to be included with the sale of the house. We were baffled and wrote to our agent immediately to ask her what this was all about. She in turn emailed Pierre and told him that it was our understanding that these items were to be included with the house to which he responded, that he was "very sorry if there was a misunderstanding on our part, but perhaps the deception could be offset by the fact that he is selling these pieces for well below their market value."

Hmm, we wondered. Could we possibly have misunderstood? Hank and I are are like that. We will doubt ourselves at first before fighting back and yet, this just felt wrong. The seller had said from the beginning that he wished to leave most of the contents of the house as he only planned to keep a few things. We readily agreed as long as it was not his intention to just leave all of the junk. An inventory sheet was generated, checked off and signed just weeks prior. Furthermore, I couldn't help but think of all of the beautiful bedding my mom had just made. Was he now telling me that those duvets were not going to have homes on those gorgeous antique bed sets?

We emailed our friends Andrew and Arlette, wondering what would they do in this situation. Arlette is a little french firecracker and perhaps we could ask her to speak to Pierre on our behalf. She responded right away and told us to hold our ground. After 20 years of living in the U.S., she said that she had forgotten how us "frenchies deal with things." She said that there was a fine line between being nice and understanding and being "une poire" which literally means "a pear" but also meant being weak and therefore open to being taken advantage of. She said that you've got to have balls and that you will be respected more by the French if you do. I didn't need any more encouragment. I wrote back to Rosalind,

"There has been no misunderstanding....." and went on to reference our signed inventory from the seller. Furthermore, I asked, "what was the point of the list then? what were his plans for everything else? was he planning on selling all of the treasures and just leaving us the junk? Also, where was the integrity of the man that we had been assured of in the notaire's office all those months ago?"

We went to bed a bit discouraged but happy that we had not reacted like weak little "pears" (nous ne sommes pas des poires) and woke up to a response from Rosalind that said that she has spoken to the father who said that he had no idea why his son did this and told us to just ignore him. Thank God. I was so happy to confirm that he was indeed a man of his word.

So even though we will not be 100% sure that everything will be left as agreed until we do the walk through with Pops next month, at least the son has kindly given us what he described as an "under market" value of $5000 euros for some of the items that he can reimburse us for should he defy his father and proceed in selling our furniture anyway.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Feeling Needed

As I reluctantly begin to accept how little Caleigh seems to need or want to be with us these days (other than as ATM machines or taxis), the little stabs of pain have been so kindly softened by my mother's re-entry into my life. It's not that she ever left my life. It's just that the stars seem to have aligned in our lives at the moment and she has the time, money and passion to help us decorate our new house and gites. Anyone who knows Susan knows that my mom is an artist and extremely talented in just about everything she does. From successfully designing and manufacturing fine linens for her own company Brown Sugar Designs, to painting gorgeous landscapes, making jewelry, or creating mosaic tables on the side just for fun. And everything she does has always been done with the utmost perfection - very unlike moi who often just feels fortunate to have finished what I start - sometimes at the expense of accepting a few little flaws here and there.

Anyway, my mom is also an avid gamer and embraced Farmville with a vengeance last year. so much in fact that I think she probably set some records in land ownership or animal and barn acquisitions. Our purchase of Petit Clos could not have come at a better time because she has had so much previous "experience." Now, it was time to build and decorate the real thing!

So, a few weeks ago, she calls and wants to see if I can come down to Orange County. She is so excited as she has found some incredible fabrics for only $3 a yard that she thinks will be perfect for our home and gites. Oh, did I mention how much she loves a bargin? Anyway, I drove down on a Sunday morning and we had so much fun finding french country inspired fabrics for our bedding and curtains and in less than just a few weeks time, she has made three gorgeous duvet comforters with accompanying bed skirts, decorative pillows and oh yeah, she also reupholsterd our sofa in between doing all that.

As wonderful as being the recipient of these beautiful, professionally designed bedding has been, the best part has been seeing and talking with my mom on a daily basis and hearing how excited she is every time she finishes another bed set. She told me how she had mentioned what she had been doing to one of her friends recently who replied with a little envy that she wished she could feel as needed from her adult children once in awhile. Wow, I thought, they still want us to need them. And here I've been doing everything to show my parents just how well I can take care of myself without their help all these years. Damn, had I only known, I would have made my needing her a lot more evident years ago. Well, at least I know now.

The funny thing is, when I first told her that we bought the farm in France, I think that she was a little unsure how this would impact our lives and relationship and was a little hesitant in embracing the idea. But, she did so as soon as she realized just how happy this life change had made me. I know there is that tres importante rule out there about loving someone enough to let them go so that they can pursue their own dreams and happiness, but I also know that it is a lot easier said than done in real life. In fact, it is probably one of the most difficult things to do, but something I hope I will also be able to with Caleigh years from now when she tells me that she wants to move a continent away and return to the States.

There are also some things I need to do right now. Let her go a little bit more. Be okay with the fact that I am not longer the most important person in her life. Let go of the memory of her running into my arms every time I walked in the door. She is just doing what she is supposed to be doing if she is to become an independent young woman who will eventually be able to move out on her own and take care of herself one day. Of course, right now, she is still only 13 so we obviously have some years to ensure her wellbeing and safety, but I've got to let the other memories fade away right now so that I can begin to let go. They'll be able to return one day when the time is right and you know, if I am successful at this delicate loving and letting go balancing act, I just might be fortunate enough to enjoy the same wonderful relationship with her as I am having with my mom right now.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Acte de Vente

We are approaching the end of our home purchase process and fortunately (or possibly, unfortunately in our case) none of our suspensive clauses (or legal outs) have been met. We obtained the bank loan. In fact, our paperwork from BNP Parribas arrived the week before last and we waited the requisite 11-day period for review before signed and mailing back. July 28th came and went without a local farmer in the area taking our house and land so we are all set there. Then, the approval to convert our agricultural outbuildings into habitable space came as well. We would be ecstatic under other circumstances, but our house still has not sold and after I recalculated the amount that we will owe on the signing date - this time correctly into euros - and I just about died but did NOT go to heaven.
All I can say is, this is going to be tough. Even borrowing every last cent from the remaining home equity, we will be short and I had to hit up my dad to float us the remainder. So, what does one do when faced with losing everything they have resembling a nest egg? Well, purchase two tickets to Bordeaux in September of course so we can sign our Acte de Vente (final deed) and pick up our keys. We were going to book it for all three of us, but school starts here on that date and we have decided to let Caleigh attempt to have a normal life for the time being. This could all change should our house sell this month, but for right now, at this date and time, we can only plan for what is known. And right now what we know is that we are going to be french home and land owners with or without the sale of our house in Topanga.
In an odd way, this realization and subsequent "certainty" must of been kind of relief to my system because my perpetual nervous stomach and head ache have mysteriously disappeared.