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.

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

Packing

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. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Pause

During this busy holiday weekend, just a pause to tell you that things are better. 
If Spencer and his girlfriend start their morning with Echinacea tea, I feel like everything will eventually fall into place. 


Had a lovely, if loud,  Thanksgiving with my family. My parents from Florida, my brother from Texas, and my nephew from Virginia with his 4 children, including these two little guys. 



Now you see why it was loud. Plus their sisters, 3-year-old Lydia and 2-year-old Lorelei. 

Today, back to my brother’s to celebrate my mom’s 80th birthday.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Updates



Full steam ahead.
Yesterday, the phone rang and I saw my real estate agent's name flash up on the screen. "Oh, no."
I'd been dreading her call. It was the day we were supposed to get the results of the appraisal.
A previous offer had fallen through at the appraisal stage. We figured at best we'd have to negotiate for a lower price.
The agent didn't beat around the bush. "We appraised for asking price!" she crowed.
What a relief!
No more negotiating, no more bargaining, we had successfully jumped through all the hoops.
This is happening.
We close on the house on December 8.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Visa Adventure


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.

Well, I'm not going to try to build up any suspense. We traveled to Chicago this week and applied for our Visa.
Chicago is about five hours away from us, but it is where we needed to travel for our in-person interview to request a long-stay visa. In general, Americans don't need visas to visit France for three months or less, so we've never had to do this before.
We spent the night with some old friends who live about 20 minutes outside of the city. We took the train in early Thursday morning. Our appointments were not until 11 and 11:10 (we both had to have appointments), but we just commuted when our friend went to work at 8 a.m.

That gave us time to find a place for breakfast.
We were lured into a place that had a chalkboard sign that read "Homemade pastries" but when we got inside, I asked where the pastries were and they had none. What they had instead, was a breakfast buffet that you paid for by weight. Weird, huh?
Once we'd finished, we pulled out our red folder with our documents. I had put mine in order according to the list:
*an application
*a passport-sized photo (no smiling, no glasses)
*a questionaire
*my passport and a photo copy of the identity page
*a letter explaining what I intend to do in France (eat pastries, drink wine, write books)
*a notarized letter promising I won't work in France (at least not a French job)
*a letter explaining my work and showing my paystubs
*proof of means of income -- Earl's retirement savings and the income from the sale of our house
*our marriage license
*proof of accommodation (we included the hotel in Paris where we'll stay along with the two housesits in France and our friend's address in Aix en Provence where we'll go to file our paperwork)
*a processing fee ($115 cash)
*a residence form (since we plan to stay in France for more than 12 months)
*a self-addressed, pre-paid Express envelope from the post office only -- not UPS or FED EX

I also  had a birth certificate, just in case.
After breakfast, we decided to walk to the consulate, which is on Michigan Avenue, down toward the Magnificent Mile. Even though we arrived at the building nearly an hour early, I wanted to go ahead and check in. I felt nervous, jittery.
Earl suggested we get something to drink at the Starbucks on the second floor, but I wanted to head to the 37th floor to the French consulate. So he acquiesced.
The information desk gave us a pass to get through the gates to the elevators. We were supposed to scan the pass and glass doors slid open to let us through. But I scanned my pass and the doors turned red, but I pushed on them anyway. Suddenly, a loud blaring noise rang out and a man with a walkie talkie came rushing toward us calling, "Step back."
They'll never let me into France now, I thought as the man took my pass and scanned it before allowing me through the gates.
A few seconds in the elevator, which made my ears pop as it zipped up to the 37th floor, and we stepped off into France.
Proof that we were in the right place.
Here's me in those same chairs.
A young man, who was returning to the office, told us we should put our passes in a deposit window, like a bank. The two women behind the windows lined up the passes, probably in order of people's appointments.
The office was very small with a television mounted in the corner. It played French food shows the whole time we were there.
A man and two children were there when we arrived, and another man, French, jumped ahead of the line to get his passport, but almost everyone else there was a student getting a visa to study abroad. And the majority of those students were Asian. Perhaps they were studying in the U.S. and wanted to do a study abroad, or maybe they came from countries that needed a visa to visit France.
At a little after 11, the younger woman motioned me up. She didn't try to pronounce my name, but her microphone wasn't working so we hadn't been able to hear her all morning anyway.
I pulled out the packet of papers and asked whether she wanted all of them.
Yes, she nodded. So I slide the inch-thick stack through the window and she slowly went through each one.
She handed me back the extra passport photo and my birth certificate, and the envelope that my $115 cash was in.
Earl took a picture of me standing at the window as I supplied my papers. 
Then she asked to get my fingerprints. They had a machine that didn't require ink or black-tipped fingers, but it was quite contrary. It took several times and kept beeping at me as I tried to get the machine to light up for all four fingers, and then the other hand and then both thumbs.
While we were there, no one else had to do the fingerprint machine. It must only be for people planning to move to France.
The woman then nodded and said I could send my husband up. So Earl replaced me and supplied all of his papers. After his wrangling with the fingerprint machine, we were free to go.
Some of the students applying didn't have what they needed, so the workers had sent them out to get things like cash for the fee or envelopes for mailing the visa. We had all our documentation, so that's a plus.
Earl picked up my coat and held it for me. As I slipped my arms in, I saw the French woman behind the window smile at us.
She thinks we're cute, I thought. Then I wondered if she thought there was no way we were getting a visa to move to France.  
Just because we had all the right forms does not mean that they'll let us move to France. I think our odds would have been much better if we had closed on our house and could show them a bank statement with $150,000 in it. But the closing is not until December and the visa can take a month to arrive. We couldn't risk waiting.
So now we'll check the mailbox starting next week, hoping our visas arrive.
I didn't think about it until recently, but we left our passports there, along with our marriage licenses. I hope we get them both back.

We left the building after pausing for pictures in front of the French flag and their new president 
Happy

Earl and Emmanuel
before we walked to the Nutella cafe across the street. I'm sure it was strategically placed close to the French consulate.
Nutella oveerload
Earl had a Nutella and banana crepe while I had a berry pastry that I didn't realize would be drizzled in Nutella. I think I'd have preferred it without Nutella, but we celebrated because we were a step closer to making our dream come true, where we can eat really pastries without Nutella on them.
Vive la 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.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

FranceBookTours -- One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time Banner


If you know me at all, you would suspect that I would dive right into One Sip at a Time by Keith Van Sickle. This book is full of the author's observations of life as he and his wife move to Provence. They had already lived along the border of Switzerland and France, so they were not strangers to living abroad.
Each story is a short snippet, like a blog post, and they are all joined together to create a small memoir, which is nice if you only have short bursts of time to read.
The author covers the major stumbling blocks that ex-pats face and does it in an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek manner. He addresses situations like driving in France, learning the language and making friends. In the section titled "The French Citizenship Test," I wondered if the author and his wife were actually becoming French citizens, but instead, he talked about the challenge of eating a croissant without leaving messy crumbs. Yes, I can see that would be a challenge, and perhaps the ultimate test to become a French citizen. 
One chapter I found interesting was about the presidential election in France. When we visited France in May, they had just elected Macron. Van Sickle writes about the election of Hollande, so a few years before. Like us, he was impressed by the shortness of the election.
If you're curious about life in France and interested in a light-hearted look at it, One Sip at a Time can take you there.
Make sure you scroll down and enter to win a copy of the book.

Keith Van Sickle

on Tour November 6-17 with One Sip at a Time

One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence

(travel memoir) Release date: January 28, 2017 at Dresher Publishing ISBN: 978-0998312002 192 pages Author’s page | Goodreads  

SYNOPSIS

Can a two-career couple really pick up stakes and move to Provence? Keith and Val had a dream – to live in Provence, the land of brilliant sunlight, charming hilltop villages and the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean. But there were two problems: they weren’t French speakers and they had full-time jobs. So they came up with a plan… Follow their adventures (and misadventures) as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split their time between two countries. Laugh along as they build a life in Provence, slowly mastering a new language and making friends with the locals over long meals and just a bit too much wine. If you’ve ever dreamed of changing gears and learning what joie de vivre is really all about, you won’t want to miss this delightful book.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

One Sip at a Time Keith Van Sickle Keith Van Sickle is a technology industry veteran and lifelong traveler who got his first taste of overseas life while studying in England during college. But it was the expat assignment to Switzerland that made him really fall in love with Europe. After returning to California, he and his wife Val dreamed of living abroad again but were unable to find another expat gig. So they decided to invent their own. Now they split their time between Silicon Valley and St-Rémy-de-Provence, delving ever deeper into what makes France so endlessly fascinating. Find the author on Facebook and Twitter Visit his website Subscribe to his mailing list and get information about new releases. Buy the book on Amazon.com

***

GIVEAWAY

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]
Global giveaway open to all 5 winners

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER TO READ REVIEWS, EXCERPTS, AND GUEST-POST

Save

Friday, November 03, 2017

Nanowrimo Novel

Well, it's November, so this is the month I should be writing a lot. I haven't written much so far, feeling swallowed by a heap of paperwork to get our visas and home sale documents, but I plan to jump in there.
I started a novel last November and wrote about 35,000 words. This November, I aim to finish it. Of course, I haven't been dormant in the months since November. I worked on finishing a different
novel, a sequel to The Summer of France which I call Autumn in Aix. That one is out for revisions right now.
When I returned to my novel in progress, I was surprised to find that I like it a lot. I don't always feel that way about my writing. The current title is The Wedding-Dress Theory. It's a mother daughter story.
Ironically, as I'm preparing to move to France, I'm writing a book about a couple who decide to travel to all 50 states in the U.S. But things go awry, as you might imagine.
I'm going to share the first chapter here and hope that you like it so I'm encouraged to continue.


Tess
Tucking a clutch of maps under her arm and transferring a loaded purse to her shoulder, Tess Wright Thompson reached for the doorknob, hoping she could open the door and step inside before all of her belongings fell onto the front porch.
“I got your maps, but these better be the last of them,” Tess called out to her husband, Rick. Even from the living room as she dumped her bag onto the black leather couch, she could see through to the dining room and the white board he had set up there. His handwriting in blue marker scrawled across it with dates, places and reservations for their upcoming cross-country trip. It’s what he had always wanted to do – travel to every state in the U.S. in one big journey. So they were doing it, with an Alaskan cruise at the end and then a flight to Hawaii where they would lie on the beach for a week to recover from so much adventure.
Rick, 10 years older than Tess, had retired just the month before. Today was Tess’ last day at the Things Remembered shop where she worked helping people pick personal gifts then having them engraved or embroidered with names. The store had found a college student to take her place for the summer, so she was free to travel and then return to work in the fall.
“If you even want to come back,” laughed Charles, her 28-year-old manager, who was meticulous about the merchandise, but couldn’t figure out why Tess would want to work if she could have a husband support her.
“What else am I going to do?” she had asked Charles. “Stay home and watch Rick be retired? I suppose he’ll take up hobbies, like wood working or tinkering on old cars, or whatever cliché retired husbands do.” She had sighed.
Tess liked routine, and this trip, Rick’s retirement, would definitely shake up the routine. Ever since her mother died 24 years before and she’d had her “episode” as she liked to call it – clinical depression her doctors called it – she’d lived by routine. She returned from the psychiatric hospital a zombie marching through a fog with strict timelines for feeding the children, getting them to school, picking them up, feeding them dinner – her hectic life as an assistant district attorney thrown aside as she muddled to get through every day. She wouldn’t have survived without Rick’s support, his nightly backrubs, the times he’d come in from work and say, “Let me make dinner; you go read a book and relax.” And he had agreed that getting a small job at a shop might be good for her as the kids finished high school. He never pushed her to go back to being a lawyer, just held a hand at the small of her back, figuratively, whenever she threatened to stumble.
Oh, she groused about Rick’s retiring but she felt closest to her real self with just the two of them, walking for coffee, their hands entwined. Ambling through the farmer’s market and picking out a few zucchinis, a bunch of strawberries, some local honey, and guiltily adding a cinnamon roll loaded with cream cheese icing to their healthy purchases. They would split the pastry at home as she sipped tea and he tipped back strong coffee.
Maybe the entire cross-country trip would feel like their weekly trips to the farmer’s market.
She leaned over to save her overloaded purse from spilling out onto the couch, settling it upright. She’d brought home all of her belongings from Things Remembered today. She was going to be gone for three months – no sense leaving an extra cardigan hanging on the hook in the backroom next to the time clock. She’d also grabbed her deep-purple travel mug, engraved with her name and a blossoming iris. Tess loved all things flowered and all things purple. She pulled the mug from her purse and set it on the side table.
Open maps dotted with post-it notes and stacks of maps yet to be unfolded and notated covered the dining room table, and she would add this latest set of maps. She had stopped by AAA on her drive home. She knew that Rick had already planned every step of the trip, so she wondered why he continued to pour over the maps and order new ones.
They had two weeks yet before the journey, and the next step was to buy supplies.
“We can get supplies anywhere along the route,” Tess had reminded him. “We’re not going to the Australian Outback. There are CVS drug stores around the whole country,” or at least she figured there were.
Tess had put her foot down at the idea of renting an RV. “If we’re going to do this, we’re staying in hotels, and decent hotels.”
So they didn’t need to stock up on road food or plan meals. They’d be eating in diners and restaurants, maybe grabbing Subway sandwiches for picnics. They only needed to pack clothes and toiletries, plus their credit cards.
Tess had a vision of the old days when they would get travelers’ checks before a long trip and chuckled to herself.
“Hey, Rick,” she called as she walked toward the dining room with the maps. “Remember when we used to buy travelers’ checks and then we’d have to search everywhere for someplace that would accept them? That time in the Blue Ridge Mountains when –”
She halted as she rounded the corner of the narrow wall to the dining room and saw Rick slumped over the table, the back of his head toward her. A plate with a few crumbs of cake and an empty coffee cup sat beside him.
“Rick?” Tess called tentatively. Had he fallen asleep?
She moved beside him and touched his shoulder, beginning to shake him but her hand recoiled. His shoulder felt cold and stiff. Not warm and yielding with the bones and muscles resisting beneath.
“Oh, my God! Rick! Rick!”
Avoiding contact with him, Tess scooted his chair in enough so that she could get around the table to see his face. Partially open, his eyes stared straight ahead at the table and the skin above his eyelids looked blue as if he’d applied eye shadow. His mouth hung open, and a little puddle of drool rested on the table beneath him.

“Rick! Noooooo.” Tess didn’t know how long she howled the word as she fell to her knees and covered her face.

Well? What do you think so far? Would you keep reading?
 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Two Months and Counting


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.

Everything is back on track for our move to France.
We're scheduled to sell our house in early December, live with friends for a few weeks until we finish work, and then head down to Florida for Christmas.
From there, we'll fly to Paris.
Of course, things could fall through, but I have to be hopeful that things will workout and soon I'll see Paris again.
This is the Pont Alexandre III, a bridge over the Seine.
We stayed on the bridge until these lamps were lit. 

Here I am in the Jardins du Luxembourg soaking up the sun. 

Even the clouds are romantic in Paris.  How dramatic.
I've never been in Paris during January, so that will be a new experience. It might be cold, but I have a beautiful gray wool coat with a full skirt and a black faux-fur collar. Plus, if we get cold walking, we can stop inside Laduree for a cup of tea and a pastry,


or even Angelina's for some of their famous hot chocolate.
And the best thing about our move will be that we won't be rushed. We'll have days and weeks and months to explore France.
Thanks for cheering me on as I continue this uphill journey to uproot our lives and settle 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.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Obsessive Runs

Anyone who reads my blog knows that running is a huge part of my life.
And for about 15 years, I have had some good friends who run regularly with me. One friend moved to Louisville, about an hour and a half away, and the other friends and I started running less and less over the years, only meeting occasionally on the weekends.
Toward the end of September, as I finished a run, MapMyRun suggested that I do a "challenge." The challenge was simply to see who ran the most during the month of October.
I texted my friends and asked whether they were interested. The initial response was not enthusiastic, but slowly, they came around.  I thought our friend in Louisville would never agree to join us. She is very private, and the idea of following each other's runs on MapMyRun put her off.
But after a couple of days, she surprised us and joined. All four of us were then on MapMyRun together on the challenge.
I loved that we were all together. It felt almost like we were running together again.
At the beginning, I apologized. I'm obnoxiously competitive. Najah didn't buy into the competition, just enjoying our running time together. Noreen has also stepped it up, but working early each morning, she doesn't have time to overdo it like I do a couple days each week.
Noreen and Najah joined me for a run Sunday morning at my house. 
None of us had been running a lot. I usually ran 3 or 4 miles on 3 or 4 days a week. That would come out to a maximum of about 64 miles per month, but the idea of competing revved my engines.
My friend in Louisville doesn't mess around. She runs 8 miles at a pop. Suddenly, I was having to force myself to run 5 or 6 days a week, and my mileage increased. I stayed in the lead for much of the month, but slowly, her runs caught up with me. Lots of short runs could not compete with her 8 milers.
On Sunday, my Columbus friends and I ran five miles and felt satisfied, but when we closed out the app, my Louisville friend had run 11 miles.
Sigh.
On Tuesday, I ran 10 miles. That had been my New Year's Resolution, to be able to easily run 10 miles again. So by October 24, I reached my resolution. Feeling smug that I'd taken the lead again, I turned off my app.
The next day, my Louisville friend ran 11 miles again.
Twinges in my knee and ankle are reminding me that my body is not used to all this running.
I woke up this morning seeing that I was six miles behind my friend. I decided to run a moderate amount. I couldn't go ten miles again like I had on Tuesday.
This railroad trestle crosses the trail, and you can see downtown Columbus through the bridge.
I walked with my friend Sheila first, waiting for the weather to warm up a bit. Around 9 a.m., I headed toward the bike trail that runs along the river and to downtown Columbus.

I ticked off the miles, deciding at what point I would turn around. Maybe a five-mile run would be enough, although I wouldn't catch my friend.
As the hitch in my left knee caught a few times, I thought maybe I should just concede.

The still green lawn runs right up to the Scioto River
But I kept going. The trail along the river used to be under construction, but now it is finished all the way to Bicentennial Park, which is where cool water fountains offer relief in the summer.
The arched bridge in the background is new to Columbus. 
I looped around at four miles and headed home, planning to stop at a Starbucks as a reward. The trail crosses the river, offering views of herons and a low-head dam.
Should I continue on the trail? Go for nine or maybe 10 miles?
No, I circled around the Starbucks to make sure I reached eight miles, before easing into a chair to relieve my sore feet. Grace met me at Starbucks and gave me a ride home in exchange for a coffee, and some always precious conversations.
I know that it's my dream to move to France, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be moving, but that doesn't mean I won't miss things about Columbus. And mornings like this are worth appreciating.
The LeVeque Tower stands stark against the brilliant blue October sky. 
Right now, my mileage for the month is at 100.85 miles.
I'm currently two miles ahead of my friend on our October challenge on MapMyRun, but I've made peace with not winning. I've promised myself not to overdo it. Resist, resist, I urge myself. Injuries will get me nowhere.
The challenge ends on Tuesday, and I vow not to spend the day running until I go to work in the evening.
Because, you know what happens on Wednesday, November 1?
It's the start of Nanowrimo -- National Novel Writing Month, where I try to write 50,000 words in a month.
From extreme running to extreme writing.

The Opposite of Sun Worship

 It gets hot in the south of France. Summer days can soar into the 90s or even 100 Fahrenheit; that's in the 30s Celsius.  And like most...