Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Daughter of My Heart

So on Wednesday, I said goodbye to my stoic sons who loom over me, bending down to hug me, but those of you who have read my blog regularly may have noticed the absence of my daughter, Grace.
She and her boyfriend Jack got to stay a few days longer, so we didn't have to say goodbye until Friday.
This entire process of discarding our belongings and selling the house has been excruciating for Grace, who is sentimental to a fault. She wants to hold onto everything that has ever evoked a memory. For six months now, I have been pulling a band-aid off her soul bit by bit, and the last part of the band-aid was saying goodbye to us.
There had been tears for weeks, so I knew there would be copious tears on the actual day of goodbye. Grace refused to put makeup on, knowing she would only cry it off.
At the same time that she is crushed that we are leaving her, she's also thrilled for us and jealous because she would love to leave everything behind and run away to France -- in fact, she has done that before when she wasn't sure about college.

Leaving Grace behind is difficult because she's my best friend. We love hanging out together, taking walks, talking about problems, solutions and opportunities, or just laughing at silly cat antics. Our relationship isn't perfect. We still get mad at each other, but texting and Skyping can't replace the hours we spend together. 
Grace has some pluses in her life right now. She has an amazing boyfriend who loves her unconditionally, which is hard to find in a 25-year-old. She just got a role she wanted in a local theater company, so rehearsals will eat up her evenings. She has a job with Actor's Theater, which puts on Shakespeare and other classical plays outdoors during the summer. 
But what she doesn't have, currently, is a full-time job since she was laid off this summer. That's a scary place to be looking at bills that have to be paid, like her student loans and car loan. But even with a full-time job, this would be hard. 
We're saying goodbye in Highlands County, Florida, the place we lived when Grace was born. I still remember dressing her in the yellow footie pajamas to come home from the hospital in January, but the weather was sweltering and she was probably too hot. We learned to be parents here with our patient, observant baby girl. 

And now, we had to say goodbye until the summer at least, maybe until August since Grace is applying to grad schools and might come over before school starts. 
Before I had kids, I remembered seeing a mother dragging two small children along by their hands as they both whined and complained. I thought to myself, I hope that isn't my future life. And it wasn't. I dealt with drama, but I didn't have whining. I braved temper tantrums and anxiety, but emotions were always out in the open, never curtained.
After several attempts to get off the couch to leave, interrupted by outbursts of crying, we moved to the front porch for pictures. 
This is not one of the pictures we took in Florida, but it's better than the ones we ended up with. 
My family is awful at goodbyes. As Grace and I embraced and she cried,  my mom began picking up sticks around the yard. They just don't want to deal with it. 

I stood on a step so I could look her straight on, and I grasped her  heart-shaped face with both hands. "You are the daughter I always wanted," I said, and her eyes, already red from crying, overflowed again. "I'll always be with you, no matter what," I promised. And that's true. Grace can hear my voice in her head, she can predict what I would say in almost any situation, and when she can't she can Facetime me or message me or Facebook message me. We won't really be far away in communication, only physically. 
After this six-month goodbye, I hope that Grace can move forward without too much pain. 
I compared it to caring for a loved one who is sick and then they die after a long illness. Of course there is grief and heartache because you'll miss the person, but there's a little bit of relief that the illness is over.
 I think our departure will be the final tug on that band-aid, finally off, the pain can stop and planning for the future can begin. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Can I Still Change My Mind?

All of the deadlines to accomplish tasks melted away after Christmas. Finally, some time to relax.
I managed to corral all three children and lure them to Florida for the holiday, although my sons could only stay until Wednesday. And it was Monday night when the realization hit me that I would soon have to say goodbye.
Of course, I always knew that, but as the preparations for Christmas faded, the imminent departure of my sons made me woozy.
It didn't help that these boys, now men, would stop as they walked through a room to put an arm around my waist and squeeze me against them, or would wrap me in a full-blown hug, whispering against my hair that they were going to miss me.
If we found ourselves sitting next to each other at the family game, we'd reach over and squeeze hands.
We had finally become an affectionate, made-for-TV-movie family and now I was throwing it all away to live in France.
I didn't really think that. My boys have always been huggers, but generally just when arriving, leaving or heading to bed. The extra attention came because we were abandoning them.
That's what Tucker accused us of when we first started discussing this plan. He is the youngest and he was probably 19 at the time that we began to put in place the plan for Earl to retire and for the two of us to move.
"So you're just abandoning and I'm going to be homeless?" he asked in his surly teenage tone.
"You don't live with us now," I had pointed out.
"Yeah, but Grace moved home after college, now I'll never be able to do that."
"But you don't want to, do you?"
He had moved out as soon as he started earning enough money to be on his own. He had gone to college, moving into a dorm, then returning home, then moving to an apartment, returning home, before he decided that our home town, Columbus, was the right one for him. So he moved in with a friend and attended college in town. He's currently working on a degree in Interactive Media with a videography certificate, but won't finish until next December.
Since he's in school, we pay his rent and his phone bill. He works full time and pays everything else. He is quite independent, more than the other kids were at his age, but as we sat down to find him health insurance since Earl's company wouldn't provide it during retirement, I could understand why he felt like the safety net was being pulled from beneath him.
His attitude has mellowed as my anxiety has increased.
But Christmas night, as I hugged the boys goodnight, something in me snapped. My tears began to fall and I couldn't seem to turn them off. I stayed in the bathroom an extra while then climbed in my bed, tears still flowing.
Could I leave them behind?

Spencer, now 24, had gone to college a thousand miles away. We had already lived apart for months at a time without seeing each other.
Tucker hadn't. We'd never been away from him on his birthday.
What if I can't do this?
Still feeling full of dread the next morning, I messaged my running friends for a lifeline and went for a 5-mile run. Doing something physical helps me water down strong emotions.
I knew we could change our minds. I could get a full-time job with benefits. We could buy a house in Ohio and live the life we've been living with the kids dropping by when they wanted to see us, but that wasn't our dream. Should we throw it all away so the kids, and I, could feel safe and secure?

The day after Christmas (Boxing Day in the UK) was one of those where we took care of necessary things. Tucker and I sat together on the couch, soccer playing in the background, as we downloaded WhatsApp? on our phones. Everyone else in the family has an iPhone but Tucker has a Samsung, so we needed an app. Then we talked about how to videocall each other. He has a MacIntosh computer, so he should be able to facetime from the computer, but it didn't seem to be working.
"What about gmail?" I asked. I seemed to remember accidentally calling someone from my Gmail account one time, but we couldn't find a way to call. He didn't have Skype on his computer either.
"You can call on Facebook," I said, but he had abandoned his Facebook account years ago.
I walked into the kitchen and my phone began to ring -- it was Tucker calling on WhatsApp. It has a video call plan too.
As I sat next to Tucker on the couch, we talked about the status of the country, wondering if the economy could continue strong with such a stretch between the upper and lower classes. Tucker remarked that the last time the U.S. had such a big gap between the two was in the 1920s, and we know what happened then.
"Yeah, I debate whether we should buy a house right away or hang onto the money and wait," I said.
"If I were you guys, I'd buy a house and never look back," he said. That was a far cry from the 19-year-old who accused us of abandoning him.
We set up bill pays and took care of all the necessary items. Each one checked off the list felt like a step toward the end of the plank.

After another run on Wednesday morning, I went into Tucker's bedroom to grab some clothes. Then I climbed into bed next to him and looped my arm across him into a hug.
"Since you were born, you've always loved me the fiercest," I told him. "Thank you for that."
He reached an arm behind him and hugged me back.
"We're always going to be here for you, even if we aren't physically present," I said.
"I know. I'm going to miss you," he replied.
I didn't climb into bed with Spencer to make sure he understood how deep my feelings ran. I did open the door to his bedroom, and he was sound asleep, so I closed the door. He has always been the most emotionally honest person in the family. There's no passive aggressiveness when he's around because he'll call you on it. "Are you trying to make me feel guilty?" he asked when he was about 7 and I was trying to convince him to attend Grace's dance recital. Why, yes, I was trying to guilt him into it, and he is a straight-shooter about emotions. At 8 or 9, he called out a friend for cheating in a chess game. "I think you care more about winning than you do about our friendship!"
Spencer and I knew where we stood emotionally with our departure.
He was at a good place. A full-time job with benefits, an apartment in our small hometown with two roommates who he went to high school with, a steady girlfriend, a new-ish car. He would miss us, but he wanted us to take our chance, to have our adventure.
So I continued with my day, showering, a big breakfast (our southern family's style) with eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy and everyone gathered around the table (except my Dad who was playing golf in his league).

The boys jumped in the pool for awhile then lay in the sun, knowing they were returning to frigid weather in Ohio.

During the hour and a half drive to the airport, the boys had switched to travel mode, making sure they had everything, making sure we arrived on time to catch their plane.
"Oh, no. I can't believe I forgot to say goodbye to Tupi!" Tucker lamented as we sped up the highway. That cat is important to everyone in the family.
Tucker and I sat in the front seats while Earl and Spencer sat in the back, snoozing after just a little while on the road.
I dropped them all at the terminal then parked the car and walked into Orlando Airport to say goodbye. In just a week, Earl and I would be there to fly to Paris, but for now, we had to get through this departure.
Hugs, and more hugs, and group hugs. I placed my palms against Spencer's cheeks and looked him in the eyes, "We'll always be here for you," I promised.
"I know, Mom," he said as he bent down to hug me tight.
And I repeated the action with Tucker, my palms against the dark beard that covered his cheeks, "I love you," I said, and, of course, he loves me too.
A last minute selfie at the airport, where I am looking much too happy for a goodbye. 
In the hubbub of the goodbyes, as they joined the line toward security and raised arms in goodbye, I didn't cry, but my eyes filled with tears as I leaned in to Earl's side and watched my two sons walk away. One last wave as they walked through the boarding pass check and into the bowels of the airport.
When would I see them again in person?
Our adventure to live in France was getting closer as each tie to our life in the U.S. was plucked off, painful feather by painful feather.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

More Cat Stories

When Earl and I first decided to move to France, we, of course, needed to make sure our children were set up in homes of their own and safe. And that safety included our pets, Tupi and Tybalt. Tupi is a 12-year-old tuxedo cat and Tybalt, or Tybs, is a 9-year-old tuxedo cat.
Tybs and the pumpkins
Tupi eventually forced Tybs out of this chair Spencer kept from his college days. 
 As we started to make our plans, we assumed that Grace would take Tupi, he's always been her cat since he fell asleep on her head as a kitten and we brought him home from a friend’s, and that Tucker would take Tybs, likewise, Tybs has always been crazy for Tucker, riding around on his shoulders, sitting and waiting for him at the end of the drive, heartbroken when he went away to college.

But over the years since we decided this, our children's living situations have changed.
Tucker has two roommates who have two cats and a rambunctious Husky living with him. Tybs would not be happy there, so Spencer took him to his new apartment. You can see more about his adventures here.
That left Tupi, but Grace's living situation has changed too. She and her boyfriend Jack live together and they have their own cat, Oberon. When Grace lost her job this fall, they moved in with Jack's parents. Although they kept Tupi temporarily, they couldn't be expected to add another animal to their home since they also own a dog. While Tupi stayed with them the two weeks since we sold our house, he has scratched both the cat and the dog, letting them know who is in charge.
I asked, more like told, my parents that Tupi was traveling to Florida to live with them until we can get him over to France. That's a lot of responsibility that my parents really didn't want to take on. It's true that cats are fairly self sufficient, but there's the litter box and the food and any random hairballs he hacks up. Plus there's the need for someone to take care of him when they travel. It's a lot to ask of them.
We weren't sure how Tupi would react to all the changes.
Grace and Jack agreed to travel with him. They were spending the night at a cousin's house on the drive down.
The vet had given us a tranquilizer for the cat to knock him out as he traveled. Grace and I forced the pill in his mouth and held his jaws shut while he swallowed it. He did not react well. The white membrane that covers a cat's eyes covered his and he looked blind.

 He meowed for three hours of the four hour trip and he peed in the cat carrier, which soaked through to the car. What a mess!
Grace handled it like a pro. She got him settled in her cousin's laundry room and wiped him down with a wet cloth. She watched as he stumbled around, unable to walk.
That night he seemed fine, cuddled up next to her in bed. 

They skipped the tranquilizer the next day and he traveled calmly either in the carrier or on Grace's lap. But what they didn't count on was Grace having an allergic reaction to being cooped up with her childhood pet. She couldn't stop sneezing and her right eye kept tearing and began to swell up.
They were on the verge of looking for an urgent care to visit when I said they should just get Benadryl. I felt sure that a doctor would prescribe an antihistamine.
So they made it the rest of the way to my parents' house without any Tupi accidents. They settled him into a spare bathroom near the outdoor pool, showing him his kitty pan and his food.
By the time we arrived the next morning. He was happily ensconced, and his joy only grew when I opened the sliding doors to the screened-in pool.

After exploring, he promptly lay down and bared his belly, soaking up the sun. He reminded me of that line from Seinfeld, "Why would anybody come here if they had a pony? Who leaves a country packed with ponies to come to a non-pony country? It doesn't make sense! Am I wrong?" - Jerry Seinfeld.
And that's how Tupi felt when he walked blinking into the Florida sunshine, away from the cold dreary days of Ohio, why would anyone live in Ohio if they could live in this paradise of birds flitting from tree to tree and fish jumping in the nearby lake. It didn't take long for him to find lizards scurrying along the screen and the swimming pool, like the largest water bowl he every imagined.
He slinked along, dipping first his paw in the water before he reached down to lap it up. Mom later filled it up so it wasn't such a far reach for the cat.

Since then, Tupi has been testing every soft surface. He has ended up in bed with us a few nights. If I stir early in the morning, he meows, to ask me to open the door to the pool, where he goes, nose up in the air to test that delicious warm air.

Yes, Tupi seems to say, this is the life.

Now, I hope Mom and Dad don't wish he'd never come to visit, at least until we can find a place and bring him to France to live with us.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Living in the Now

I know you've done it, we've all done it. That excuse that we make to ourselves that tomorrow, next week, next year, things will be different. We'll stop worrying about that deadline and enjoy life. Things will be less hectic -- we pledge, but that's not true.
 That's become especially apparent to me as I have ticked off the deadlines in our plans to move to France.
 First was the preparing our house for sale -- painting all those rooms, clearing out clutter, staging it just right. Once the house was ready, we'd be able to relax.
But that wasn't true. Having the house on the market was another time period that became harried. We'd clean every day and especially flawless for showings.

Once the house was in contract, we convinced ourselves, we could slow down and relax. But the schedule of inspectors and negotiations kept us busy as we continued to clear out the house.
 Once we close on the house, things will be so much more laidback, we promised each other, but we closed on the house and watched a big check deposited into our account, and we scurried like squirrels before a big winter snow to prepare, skipping sleep and meals as each box was emptied from the house, each piece of furniture carried out and donated or given to our children.

At least when we're out of the house, things should be so peaceful. We'll have no house to take care of. We pictured evenings chatting with friends over big glasses of wine. But with the final thud of our back door, the visitations began.
Our social schedule filled up,

 and at the same time, I needed to catch up on grading. As soon as these papers are graded, I'd be on easy street.
I had one week between turning in grades and heading to Florida, but once those papers were graded, Christmas loomed before me. I hadn't purchased any gifts. For a week I hounded the kids for gift ideas, searching Amazon in the middle of the night when I couldn't sleep, having the gifts delivered to my parents' house in Florida.
We gathered everything from our friends' house where we had stayed

 and started the two-day trek to Florida with our sons in tow. What was meant to be a leisurely drive to Florida became an overnight voyage, with the boys suggesting we keep driving through the rainy night as they took turns driving. When we arrived Saturday, after little sleep on the road, I thought, now. This is the point when I start living in the moment. I carried my bag up to the bedroom we usually occupy and saw the stacks of boxes and bags that had arrived from Amazon. I'd need to wrap all of those before Christmas morning.
Church to attend, a drive to Orlando to return the rental car, a race to a few more stores for those last minute items. After Christmas, things should definitely settle down, I thought. That's when it hit me. There's always going to be another deadline, another task to finish before I can start relaxing and living in the now. Maybe that's why I run for an hour many mornings because it is the only time that I'm in the moment rather than the proverbial running to the next item on the check list.
 So, my realization led me to the fact that never, even when we move to France will things be calm. We'll have our 4 days in Paris before a housesit then a week between. There'll be trains and cars and deadlines with the immigration office. And I'll start working again on Jan. 2 with my online teaching, so I'll need to get those classes ready.
If I'm ever going to live in the moment, I'll just have to declare it, stop telling myself that it will happen in the future. I need to force it and there's no time like the present. I'm sitting by the pool, listening to a treeful of birds squawking and watching the sun sink toward the lake.

 I still have presents to wrap, and about 10 days before we fly to France, but I'm going to start enjoying every minute. Thanks for coming along for the journey.
Note: Since I don't usually get a lot of people sharing links, I thought I'd discontinue Mr. Linky and just ask people to comment and play along if they want to. If people want Mr. Linky back, just let me know and I'll add it again.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Dreaming of France -- More Hard Goodbyes

Today, we begin week 2 of living out of a suitcase since we sold our home and moved out last week.
My neighbor tells me that once we vacated at 9:51 a.m., a moving van trundled down the alley at 10:10 a.m. Good thing Earl found the keys he had lost so we could move the pickup truck we were driving. See last week's dreaming of France post for the details.
Family photo on our back porch the week before we moved out.
Our friends have made it an easy transition, offering us a comfy bed in a "French provincial" bedroom. We've gone to a couple of hockey games with them and went to see the new Star Wars movie last night, but in between, we're saying more goodbyes.
I'm awful at goodbyes, so I understand this tendency, but what I've noticed is that people are very reluctant to say that last goodbye. Instead, we make a plan to see each other one last time before our departure.
My running friends and I met on Saturday and ran at Antrim Lake. We can go for another run one morning before work, we decided.
"Monday?" Najah suggested.
"Let's make it Thursday, the day before I leave," I replied. I knew that if we met for a run on Monday, we'd be scheduling another run on Thursday, or even Friday, the day we leave.
I met with Angie and Emily, two of my long-time writing friends on Saturday. I was grading papers, but they were writing. Before we left, we agreed to meet again on Wednesday with the larger writing group. I'll have to leave early to see my sister-in-law and her grandchildren one more time on Wednesday evening.
Saturday evening, we had dinner with Earl's brother and his wife, but we planned one more get together if they come to Earl's retirement party and take our car for their son in college to use.
And this morning we went to mass at the Newman Center on the campus of Ohio State. We hugged many friends and retrieved promises that people would visit, including a goddaughter who has grown up before I realized it. I promised I would make up for my negligence if she wanted to come hang out in France. She's in 8th grade, so it might be awhile.
Tonight, our family is gathering with my friend Najah and her son for a family game night. Just some time all together so the kids can be reminded they can turn to Najah when I'm not around.
Eventually, the days are going to run out. There will be no more scheduling for future days.
Today, my brother and sister-in-law drove to Columbus to see us. And when we walked out of Hofbrauhaus to the parking lot, we said goodbye. A final goodbye. With hugs and cheek kisses, and one more hug just because we aren't sure when we'll see them again. Maybe we'll come home next year around this time, but they probably aren't coming to France in the coming year. So it was goodbye.
And that's going to happen more and more often.
But if we didn't say goodbye, then we couldn't fly off on our adventure, so we will say au revoir, until we see you again, and maybe they can say adieu, go with God, as Father Vinnie did this morning.
For you blog readers though, I'll say à bientôt, which means see you soon. Two more Dreaming of France blogposts before we jet off to our new lives in France.
A view of Mont Ste Victoire from near Cezanne's studio. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Cat Story

If you've read my blog in the past, you know how busy I am this time of  year with 8-10 page research papers turned in from each of my six classes and final exam essays arriving this week.
Add to that the sale of our house and the move, and maybe you can imagine the feeling of drowning that enveloped me.
Once we were moved out of our house on Sunday, all I wanted to do was collapse and ice the bruises that lined my biceps where I carried our pieces of sturdy wood furniture. But I couldn't, I had papers and papers to grade, plus students eager to know where they stood in the class.
So as I struggled to complete all of the chores that go with moving, cancelling utilities, returning the cable box, emptying the storage unit before Thursday, I threw myself into grading.
By Wednesday morning, I left the house about 6:30 a.m. and headed to a nearby Starbucks so I could grade before my 10 a.m. and noon final exams. I hoped to get all of the research papers finished so I could hand them back to the students.
A few hours in, my phone buzzed with a text from our real estate agent. A cat was scratching at the door of our old house, meowing to be let in. Of course, the new owners did not let the cat in. It wasn't his home anymore.
My thoughts immediately jumped to our two cats. One of them lives about half an hour away with our daughter. The other, Tybalt (pronounced Tibb-alt, we call him tibbs spelled Tybs) lives about a mile away on a busy road with our son, Spencer.
This is Tybs with Tucker. He has always been Tucker's cat, but Tucker's roommate
has a husky plus two cats. That's how Tybs ended up living with Spencer. 
I called Spencer who was on his way to work.
"Did you lose Tybs?" I asked. The phone was breaking up as he spoke to me over the blue tooth system.
The cat had gotten out the night before.
"I waited up for him til 12:30 but he never came back," he said.
Of course he didn't come back, I wanted to yell, he doesn't know where your house is.
Instead, like a pet from Homeward Bound, he found his way through the streets and alleys of our town and ended up at our old house.
He's been lost before, not as far away and couldn't find his way home, so I don't know how he got home.
"You just left him?" I screeched to Spencer. "It's 15 degrees outside."
"I know, Mom. I messed up," Spencer said. Outraged that he had taken off for work without notifying anyone, I gathered my papers and my computer to go in search of the cat.
First though, I called our neighbor and good friend, Sandy. She agreed to go grab Tybs from the porch.
As I drove toward our old neighborhood, I pictured Tybs' head popping up in the front window as he begged to be let in. Poor, cold cat.
Sandy had him in the house when I arrived. "He was shivering," she said, but he wasn't dirty or wet from the snow.
I scooped him up and headed toward Spencer's apartment, hoping a roommate or his landlord could let me deposit Tybs. No one was home and the clock ticked toward my 10 a.m. final.
Sandy agreed to keep him, in spite of her two dogs. Tybs had always gotten along with them, but one of the dogs was a bit afraid of him since our other cat had swiped him on the nose a few times.
I stopped at the grocery and bought a disposable kitty pan along with food and a dish.
With the cat safely ensconced for the day, I chided Spencer. He would need to pick up the cat on his way home from work.
"I hope he learned his lesson," Spencer texted back.
"Cats don't learn lessons," I replied. "I hope you learned your lesson. You can't let him out and neither can your roommates."
It could be worse. The apartment is on a busy road, so he could have been done for.
Still, I can't get out of my mind those little paw prints in the snow of the front porch of the house where we used to live.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Moving Misadventures

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

So, it happened. We actually closed on the sale of our house and managed to move out this morning. It sounds much simpler than it was.
Closing was scheduled for Friday. On Thursday, the buyers scheduled a walk-through. I fumed a bit because that was precious time I could have been packing things.
Then the call came from our real estate agent. The washer and dryer were supposed to go with the house. We had just moved them out to Spencer's apartment the weekend before.
This was our second contract. The first one fell through, but the agent asked us whether we planned to leave the washer and dryer. We told her no. So we assumed, she would put that in the 2nd contract too. She didn't. So that was her mistake.
Because the washer and dryer were gone, the buyers wanted them replaced or a $400 credit. We decided the credit would be easiest. Then they changed their mind. They wanted a washer and dryer there and wanted another walk-through to prove that it was working. Obviously, we had no time within the next 24 hours to buy and install a washer and dryer.
They also had another demand that we give them $400 toward electrical things that they wanted fixed. Earl's brother is an electrician and had fixed all their requests, but they brought in another electrician who suggested other fixes.
We offered $400 for the washer and dryer plus $300 for the electrical work. They refused. They wanted an actual washer and dryer installed, plus $500 for electrics — they upped the price. And, to guarantee the washer and dryer worked, they also wanted a $400 check held in escrow.
Earl drew a line in the sand. No. It was the principal of the thing.
The real estate agents both chipped in $100 toward the electrics. We agreed to buy our neighbor's used washer and dryer for $300 (a steal). The escrow check was still tripping us up when we walked into the title office to sign that Friday morning.
The title guy convinced us that his company would hold the washer and dryer check in escrow and would not release it unless all parties (including us) agreed. They also set the deadline for five days so it doesn't drag out. So we agreed.
Saturday was supposed to be spent moving out, but first we needed to move the washer and dryer from our neighbor's basement to our basement.
As they moved the dryer, the heavy-duty cord swung up and hit Earl in the forehead just above his eyebrow, leaving a drop of blood perched against his sweaty brow. When they reached our basement, they realized the plug didn't match the outlet for the dryer. Earl would have to replace the cord so they matched.
My sons went to move the washer. As it started to slip on the stairs, Spencer grabbed the bottom of it and it sliced the web between his thumb and finger. Our neighbor doctored him with a beer before his girlfriend drove him to the urgent care for four stitches and no more help moving things.
At some point, the new owners drove past (spying on us) and noticed the porch swing was gone. They immediately called their real estate agent who called ours, who called us. The porch swing was on hooks so it didn't have to stay. My friend Sheila had asked for it.
Friends stopped by to help as we winnowed down our belongings, still it looked like we couldn't possible finish by 10 a.m. Sunday.
We had optimistically planned to finish Saturday and spend the night at Earl's brother's house. We canceled that plan.
I can't begin to describe so you can feel the physical and emotional exhaustion of Saturday. Without a run, I logged over 19,000 steps just carrying things up and down stairs, out doorways and into pickup trucks -- 46 staircases, my Fitbit says.
Grace dropped by and I made her help me carry a desk and a chest of drawers from the basement to the garage - -I had heard Earl's moans of pain as he tackled another flight of stairs with the new knee he received last month. Grace professed to be exhausted and I stared her down with a look of disdain. She didn't know what exhaustion was.
The house finally empty 
When Noreen and her husband dropped by to pick up the cross country skis and offer to help, they looked around our house with pity. They couldn't see us escaping the items left to move.
"If we were moving to a new house, I'd just tell the movers to pack up everything and I'd sort it when we got there," I explained, " but there isn't a new house. We have to get rid of everything."
Between 5 and 6 p.m., we made three trips to Goodwill, donating bookshelves and ottoman's and bags and bags of books before they closed for the night.

Then we settled in to go through the remaining bookshelves and boxes in the basement. They were things no one else could help with. They were personal -- did we save the newspaper clips with our bylines? Which kids' books would we want to read to our grandchildren? Which letters from friends, family, old boyfriends, siblings would we want to read again someday?
The back room in the basement where we stored everything, finally empty late Saturday night. 
We fell asleep around 11 and woke this morning at 5:30 to finish.
Earl drove the futon we'd slept on to my friend Najah's house at 8. He came home and took a load of things to the storage unit (which has to be emptied by Thursday) then a final load of things to Goodwill at 9.
Spencer stopped by to pick up the small television he wanted to put in his room, along with some weights, a broom and a vacuum. I kept cleaning, making my way toward the back door.
Yes, at 9:40, I stepped out back, Swiffer mop in hand. The house was clean and empty.
Earl had pulled up behind the neighbor's car because Spencer was behind our garage. And, as we were ready to leave, he realized he didn't have the keys to the pickup truck. He'd driven it into the alley, so the key couldn't be far.
We spent a frantic 15 minutes searching for the key, retracing his steps. A neighbor came over to help look as we combed through the snow that had fallen the night before.
Finally, he held up the key which he had dropped into a bag of trash. If you saw how many bags of trash we left, you’d realize The loss of the key could have been a nightmare.
So stitches and lost keys and hopeless thoughts all behind us, I thanked our house one last time for the years of laughter and warmth it had provided, and we drove away.
Then we came back so I could leave the garage door opener for the new owners. And then we really left.
In less than two weeks, we'll be in Florida for Christmas. And in 25 days, I'll be living in France.
Me looking happy because I'm in Frane

The sun rising on a new beginning of my life in France. 
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Goodbyes

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.

The goodbyes have begun and it's only my dream of the upcoming life that keeps me going.
Market day in Pezenas, France
We gathered at my house on Friday night with members of the writing group bringing dishes to share. Tomato bisque soup, macaroni and cheese, chicken salad croissants, taco salad, cabbage salad, buffalo chicken dip. Wine and some more wine. And at the end of the evening, hugs and goodbyes.
Writer's Group -- one last hurrah. 
I'll see them again, most of them in the coming weeks. 

Then yesterday, a gathering at my sister-in-law's house with the nieces and nephews. I hugged Ben goodbye. He lives in Dayton finishing his PhD. "I won't see you again," I said. "Not until you come to France."
The great nieces and nephews treat Tucker like a climbing apparatus. 

Benjamin is 2. He won't remember me, except as the aunt who lives in France. 

My boys spending some time outside with their Aunt Shelley --
she may be a bad influence, but they enjoy spending time with her. 
It's all becoming very real.
Then Sunday, after working this weekend to move Spencer out of the house and into his new place,  we took a break from packing to go to a gathering of homeschool friends. It seems silly to say homeschool friends since none of us teach our kids at home any more. Most of our children are in college or graduated from college or working on graduate degrees. Maybe we did something right after all.
Laughs and love with long-time friends.
And for a few hours, we caught up on each other's lives and laughed at memories. I won't see many of these friends again until we revisit the U.S. or they journey to France.
The hugs goodbye were long and accompanied by a few tears.
It's only going to get worse, building toward a crescendo where I must say goodbye to my children and my parents in order to make my dream of living in France come true.
View of Mont Sainte Victoire from Aix en Provence.
I hope I've chosen wisely.

Thursday, November 30, 2017


We have a week before we need to be out of the house, so I’m attempting to pack for France, along with allowing for clothes to wear here at home where it’s cold, and for our 10 days in Florida where it’s warm. 
The other day we received a box of vacuum storage bags. So today I spent time trying to see if all the clothes I plan to take will fit. 
A lot of times I don’t wear very warm clothes because I still get hot flashes. Many times I’m wearing short sleeves or sleeveless dresses with a cardigan so I can strip down at the first sign of inner flush. 
As I packed today, cramming sweaters and warm pajamas in the vacuum bags, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would even wear everything I’m taking along. I winnowed out so many things but I continued to remove dresses and shirts from my pile. 

On television, those vacuum bags look so smooth. Mine looked like vacuum-packed roasts. 

The bags are super heavy now, of course because there’s no air in them. 
I have another suitcase that I plan to pack for our days in Paris and I may take an extra bag to Florida. Before we leave there, I’ll have to fit all those summer clothes into my bags so I can get them to France. 
It’s all an adventure. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Dreaming of France -- The Visas Are Here!

Thank you for joining this weekly meme. Grab a copy of the photo above and link back to An Accidental Blog. Share with the rest of us your passion for France. Did you read a good book set in France? See a movie? Take a photo in France? Have an adventure? Eat a fabulous meal or even just a pastry? Or if you're in France now, go ahead and lord it over the rest of us. We can take it.
As all the dominoes fall into place, our dream of living in France gets closer and closer. And last week, the domino that made me nervous crashed into our neighbors mailbox.
The French consulate in Chicago had warned that it could take four weeks for the visas to arrive. Since we would be closing on our house before a month had passed, I had the visas sent to my neighbor's house.
I had already arrived at school to teach an evening class when she texted saying she had received an Express mail envelope for us. I wanted to run right home to get it, but instead, I sent Earl to fetch them and he took a picture, texting it to me in class.

Yay! We are going to live in France.

I also bought train tickets today for our first journey from Paris to a housesit in Nouvelle Aquitaine. Of course, I don't want to have to print off all our train tickets, so I downloaded the app for SNCF -- the train system in France.

Now we scan our tickets before climbing aboard, or when the conductor comes down the aisle.
We can also keep track of all of our train trips on the app, and it's counting down the days for me.
In other preparing to leave news, today we pulled out the suitcases and opened them on the floor. We went through our closets, which we thought we'd winnowed out before the house went on the market, but we continued to find things that we could live without.
Clothes are laying in a pile in the suitcases, ready for the compression bags that I ordered from Amazon this morning. Hopefully, those magic compression bags will make everything fit.
Just a few weeks until we close on our house and less than a month until we leave Columbus behind.
We'll travel to my parents' house to celebrate Christmas, and in January we'll fly to France.
It could still all fall apart, but I'm feeling pretty confident now.
This is it!
Thanks for playing along with Dreaming of France. I hope you'll visit each other's blogs and leave comments. Also post your blog info in the Linky below.


The problem with not blogging for so long, is that there is way too much to blog about so then it's discouraging and I'll never be a...