Sunday, October 31, 2010

Perpetual Waiting Game

Awoke to a frantic email from Isabelle in France who had been helping us, yet again, this time with renewing our residency cards (carte de sejour). She explained that due to the November 1 expiration date of our Visas, we would need to be back in France by the end of the month if we were to extend them for another year. We'd been in wait mode for so long, that although the thought of pulling everything together so quickly seemed daunting, I was ready to go. This long, drawn out and constant uncertainty really needed to end. And not only for our sake, but for all of our supportive friends and family. In fact, I was starting to avoid going out for fear of running into someone who would politely ask the now obligatory question, “so, when are you leaving?” and I still did not have an answer. Plus, our lives had been the focus for way to long and I was afraid that we had probably burnt everyone out over “pursuing our dreams” and I just wanted to put us all out of our misery by actually doing what we had been talking about for so bloody long and go.

Everything in our lives has been on hold for over a year now. Our house had been on the market for what felt like an eternity, our jobs were precariously temporary and Caleigh had no idea where she was going to school the next month and some of the not-so-nice kids wondered aloud if she was making this France thing up for attention.

Ever since our return to the states last April, I hadn’t renewed the newspaper or Netflix and I had grocery shopped as if we were only going to be here for a few short months. I couldn’t fathom buying more than the 25-foot foil container or a large quantity of tall kitchen bags and I cringed when all that was available was the box of 100 coffee filters, because surely, I was only going to need 30 at the most and I hated to waste. I know, that sounds so cheap (and so me) and in retrospect it obviously backfired since I had refused to buy Costco quantities (or renew my $45 Costco membership for that matter) and ended up spending so much more every time I had to replace something (damn!). We didn’t get new cells phones because we didn’t want to sign another contract so I made due with my old LG flip phone (with antennae mind you) that was really beginning to make me self conscious in this city where most people owned the latest and greatest iphone or Droid. Hell, even my mom had a cooler and hipper phone than I did.

All of my winter clothes were back in France and I had put off buying anything new because we kept thinking we would be returning the following month. Now it was November and the weather had cooled and I was wearing the same outfit of jeans, long-sleeved t-shirts & tennies every day and was seriously contemplating asking Vanessa if I might peruse the wardrobe from our latest shoot in NY... That, or go shopping at Topanga’s newest thrift store perhaps?

Later in the day, I received another email from Isabelle. This time there was a problem with the Maire authorizing our paperwork because he had never met us. Was it possible, she asked, if someone of authority could call him and prove that the form he had in front of him contained our true signatures? Bien sur. I went on an all out assault as I really wanted to avoid having to go through the bureaucratic maze of obtaining a visa again. Not to mention, having to re-apply for the carte de sejour again next year; both of which required yet more original documents, appointments and lots of euros. So I madly type an email to the kind Notaire who handled our farm purchase, along with our wonderful British immobilier who has done much, much more than sell us a house. Rosalind almost immediately replies with an enthusiastic, “of course.” Then, our dear friend Arlette gets involved and leaves the Maire a very detailed voicemail of our plight. So, we wait to hear next week.

In the meantime, the re-finance we have been working on has gone back and forth between two lenders due to their promises changing along the way. As of last week, we think we are back on the right track and if all goes to plan, we’ll have our funds by end of November and hopefully be able to depart by mid to late December. But, still we wait to confirm that.

I’m interviewing my replacement tomorrow, so that is a bit scary as I will be cutting the cord of financial stability yet again. And as appreciative as I’ve been to retain my job of sitting in front of a computer and working 10+ hour work days nonstop for months, I am so ready to trade that in for home renovating, farming, and preparing for our first Chambres d’hotes guests as early as next June. I am sure that my new day will likely be a 14+ hour work day, but at least spent doing what I love.

So we wait a little more. Hopefully not too much longer and as soon as this waiting game is finally over and we have the green light for departure, say bye-bye tired old LG flip phone and hello new life.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


"Grovel," according to Merriam-Webster is 1) "to creep with the face to the ground: crawl, 2) to lie or creep with the body prostrate in token of subservience or abasement."
And grovel I did just days after I had given notice at work. I began trying to reach my boss that same week, but as luck would have it, our office was moving to a new building and all forms of communication were cut off from Friday through Monday. You can just imagine what fun I was to be around that weekend.
When I arrived in the new office space on Monday morning, rather than my name being posted on my designated cubicle, it just said, "Petterson Replacement," I knew I had to move fast. I ran into Elizabeth first thing and asked her if she had a moment to talk. She was actually very relieved that they would not need to replace me so quickly and told me that the job was still mine if I intended on staying. She said that they will continue to interview candidates for my position now that she knows our eventual master plan, but she said she was fine in keeping me for the time being which was incredibly kind (and smart as I continue working 10+ hour days, every day which is still nowhere near enough time to finish everything). I also offered to work from France which she did not dismiss entirely and she even asked me pointed questions on how that might work. Other than the time difference, everything else would remain the same since I work from home 95% of the time right now. If I were willing to work some evenings, it might just work.

Phew, catastrophe #1 averted for the time being.

But what still remained was this overwhelming feeling of uncertainty that dominated all of our lives and had for over a year now. Was this plan still viable; even worth the incredible amount of stress it had caused? We all knew how it was beginning to take its toll on me with my emotional outbursts and reliance on more wine consumption than I should. But Caleigh was another matter. She kept her feelings to herself and generally appeared strong. She even acted supportive of the move in order to make us feel better. Unfortunately, bottling up her true feelings had probably made her act out in ways that she said she wasn't so proud of due to the impermanence of her life. Hank was still the solid rock of our family; so much in fact that he would not even entertain the possibility that our dream was not attainable. And although I envied his confidence, I was also frustrated at times because I often felt that I was handling the financial realities on my own while he got to do "all the fun stuff."

So, what to do? For one thing, we had to admit to ourselves that our house was just not going to sell this year even though it was considered "the best value" in Topanga according to local agents. That was difficult to do, but such a relief when we decided to take it off the market. No more spotless house and generic decorating. Bring back the family photos, yay! By taking it down from the MLS listing, we could also go forward with the re-fi that I had begun the week before. This time though, we would pull some more money out of our equity; rent our house in Topanga, possibly have me work remotely and hopefully have enough to make the move to France for a few years and begin renovations. During that time, there was also a chance that our previous home value would return, making this plan sort of an investment in our future. Wishful thinking I know, but the thought of not being at the mercy of low ball offers in the middle of winter was a great relief.