And I do want to add, "just barely," although the actual travel part of the journey was relatively painless except for the lingering jet lag. The getting to the travel day part was probably the hardest and scariest things I've ever done. For one thing, just a week before Christmas, we had to accept the fact that the loan was just not going to come through and had to decide whether to chuck the whole move, look for new jobs in January and sell Petit Clos, or proceed as scheduled and basically wing it. "Winging it" included borrowing on a 401k, my drumming up freelance work & possibly selling a few of our plots of land not adjacent to our property as well as attempt to get a B&B up and running by summer with little or no budget. I guess you know now what we decided to do. Okay, here we go again. I'm beginning to feel like that damn Energizer bunny who just won't stop (even if it means walking off a cliff).
Our container arrived about a week ago and during the storm that would eventually dump about 9 inches of rain, Hank, my stepfather, younger brother and nephew moved all of our worldly possessions up our steep driveway into a 20-foot container. Thank God my mom came up the night before to help us pack as we hadn't had a lot of spare time to fit that important detail in while still working, going to last doctors visits, canceling utilities, scheduling carpets to be cleaned, having final pet health certificates certified by the USDA (all of which were never looked at by either the French or American authorities at the airports), to name a few of the things we were busy doing during that last week.
A few days later, the container was picked up and now we were left trying to figure out what to do with all the stuff that didn't make the cut that we hadn't sold and either needed to be stored or donated. That was really difficult for me as every item had to be thoughtfully considered and as I became more and more overwhelmed, I just started throwing things away. Thankfully, our dear friends, Dale & Fariba, offered to hold a garage sale for us just before the new tenants move in on the 15th and let the Salvation Army come by and pick up the remainder the day after. I cannot begin to describe how fortunate we are to have such friends. Others kindly made us dinners and offered to help us in any way needed the week before we left. Christmas gifts were generously given and I couldn't help but feel like a Scrooge this year for not being able to reciprocate. I can just hope that we will see everyone in the near future so we can at least give back a little in the form of a French country holiday.
And even though there was no going back since our house was now rented out for a year and all of our things were on a ship hopefully not capsizing on the Atlantic, I struggled daily with the stress of how we would manage. I also came to understand why people are prescribed valium or xanax and asked my doctor for a small prescription just to get me on that plane with 2 dogs and a cat in cargo (and of course my calm husband and mature daughter who did not seemed nearly as nervous as I). It actually did seem to help.
We arrived without a hitch last Monday and made our way back to Lauzanac to stay in the same gite we rented from Isabelle and Thierry last year while we planned to attempt to make freezing, cold Petit Clos somewhat habitable. Fortunately, our neighbors that had been collecting our mail, airing out our house and turning off the water when the temperature was below freezing had also turned the heater on for our arrival so at least the living room and kitchen were nice and cozy. They also left us wine, champagne and chocolates with a sweet note welcoming us to France. Isabelle and Thierry, who have been instrumental in assisting us with obtaining our carte de sejour, introducing us to the local Mairie, possibly finding a local farmer to make hay on our property, AND inviting us to their weekly volleyball games again, also left us wine and chocolates and a "bienvenue en France" when we arrived.
Anyway, we're all good. Caleigh's been reconnecting with all of her friends from school and feeling better about her understanding of French. Hank is in his element, but just trying to figure out where to begin at the house on a severely reduced budget. He began stripping wallpaper in the living room today and we'll hopefully have it primed and ready to paint next week. The dogs absolutely love running in the fields - our Australian Blue is in heaven. All he needs now are some sheep.
We ordered our home phones, internet, tv and mobile phones yesterday which means that we will be better connected soon. In fact, under our plan, all calls to the U.S. are free and Caleigh can text to her hearts desire with both her American and French friends.
All in all, we're settling in even though this doesn't feel quite real yet. I'm sure that the first blast of the next winter storm due next week spent in our 100+ year old stone house with little or no heat other than 4 fireplaces will help convince us of our new reality. Will keep you posted...