Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Successfully Landed in France

Messages from friends reminded me that I hadn’t updated the story of Earl’s travels.
He landed in Paris Sunday morning, and the same flight for the next day through Iceland was cancelled because of snow storms. He just made it.  
The required photo with the Eiffel Tower -- but he does look happy. 
He caught a train into Paris and settled into his lonely (I imagine) hotel room near the Pantheon, without me.
The Pantheon
That night he joined our friends Linda (Frenchless in France) and Maurice for drinks and we Facetimed so I could see the beautiful views and the fabulous remodel. I can't wait to visit Paris again so I can see the apartment myself.
Earl wandered the city the next day, complaining about the cold until I explained that it was 12 degrees here (-11 celcius).
He went to the Rodin museum, one of the museums we haven't explored yet in Paris, but it was closed "exceptionellement" for a private event.
So, instead, he headed to one of our favorite places, Saint Chappelle, a gothic church that amazes us with the colors of the windows every time.
Soaring windows. When the sun is bright the bystanders are bathed in blue. 

Some details
I don't know if he ventured into any restaurants and had a meal alone, which I have done in Paris, reading a book on my phone or just people watching.
But he did stop by his favorite creperie on Rue Mouffetarde to buy a panini before he headed back to his hotel room.
Eating it on the street like a real American
This morning, he caught the train to Carcassonne where friends will pick him up and he'll return to our new/old house.
I'm sure he stopped at Starbucks because he was thinking of me. 
It will be nice to picture him under the covers in our bed tonight, even though he'll be freezing without me there to warm him with my hot flashes.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Romantic Goodbyes

In spite of the weather warnings, Earl took off on a flight to Orlando this morning and is now somewhere over the Atlantic on his way to Iceland, and hopefully, on to Paris by the time I wake up Sunday morning.
I don't want anyone to get an idealized impression of our marriage. We have a typical marriage that has stretched over  nearly 30 years. We fight about stupid things, about nothing. We yell sometimes or ignore each other out of spite.
As today got closer and we realized we'd be away from each other for over a month, we got kind of sentimental.
A goodbye selfie -- it was the only one good of me even though it wasn't good of Earl. He was turning to kiss me. 
In the afternoon, we stretched out on the couch together and watched a few episodes of Modern Love, a new Netflix series based on the New York Times column of the same name. The love stories don't focus only on traditional romance, but friends, family, quirky love stories.
So I left for work Friday evening with a warm glow.
Early Saturday morning, I got up to use the bathroom then climbed back into bed. Earl curled around me as I announced I had to get up in 8 minutes to teach.
He groaned. "Can't you just lie here with me?" he asked.
His words reminded me of the song "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol. Because in 2020, every romance needs a soundtrack, I played the song and before it could finish, my alarm went off.
We kissed goodbye this morning as I left for work and I won't see him for 35 days.
Sometimes, the anticipation of an absence can be the most romantic thing of all.
Hope everyone else has a soundtrack for their weekend.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Travel Snafus

There was a time in our lives when our basement held several sizes of crutches and a kid-sized walker. I tore my ACL, Tucker broke his ankle on a trampoline, Spencer broke his ankle playing football. I liked to claim that we weren't accident-prone but just really active and that's why we always had medical emergencies.
Perhaps the same thing is happening now with our travel plans. It's not that we're unlucky, but that we just travel so much -- we're bound to get glitches.
You may recall that the strike in France caused havoc for us when we were headed to the States back in December. After our train was cancelled, we rented a car and zipped up to the airport early before the freeways were closed, spending three extra nights at an airport hotel so we could catch our flight. All's well that end's well, we got back in time for Christmas and Grace's wedding.
Earl is scheduled to fly back to France on Saturday. We both have tickets, but I plan to stay on and teach until the end of February.
This morning, I opened my email and Icelandair informs me that a big snowstorm is expected January 19 and 20 so flights may be cancelled. Where is that big snowstorm going to be?
I realized as we flew over from Paris to Reykjavik then Reykjavik to Orlando that we had come way out of the direct flight path.
My estimation of our flight line from Paris to Rejkjavik to Orlando
I had forgotten that we would be in the arctic as we flew over, and we never saw the sun that day after we left France, landing at 2 p.m. in the dark of Iceland and then flying to Orlando, never catching the sun.
Since then, I hadn't even thought about the dark of Iceland, until I received that email about snowstorms and possible delays.
Icelandair is being proactive; they'll let us change our flights to leave Thursday or Friday to avoid the snowstorm.
The only problem is that we aren't in Orlando to catch the earlier Icelandair flight.
Originally, Earl and I would have driven back to Florida with Mom and Dad after the wedding, spent a few days then caught the flight in Orlando.
Since I wasn't going back, Earl opted to stay in Ohio with me and the kids.
The family
 He has a flight scheduled for Saturday to fly into Orlando then to catch the Icelandair flight to Rejkjavik, then Paris -- unless it's cancelled.
I checked to see the cost to move his Orlando flight. Since it's last minute, the costs are high, more than we paid to fly to Paris.
He could rent a car and drive to catch the Friday night flight, but then we'd have the rental car cost, the gas and a hotel as he drove 16 hours to Orlando.
The real question is, where is he likely to be stranded?
In Orlando, he can rent a car and go to my parents' house an hour away.
He can relax in the sunshine while stranded
Reykjavik is a bit more difficult.
Landing in Rejkjavik during some daytime hours
  If he gets stuck in Rejkjavik, we already know that the price of two cheeseburgers is $31. Will he sleep in the airport? How long until he gets out to travel on to Paris?
One of the reasons he is headed back on our regular flight is that we had a hotel room reserved for two nights in Paris and we can't get a refund for them, so he is forced to spend two nights in Paris, sitting in cafes, visiting museums. Sounds dreadful, doesn't it? If he is stranded in Iceland, there go the hotel rooms.
And he has a train scheduled for Tuesday, January 21st. Although the strike is still ongoing, SNCF assures me that 9 out of 10 trains are running. We might lose money for that cost, too, if he doesn't make it back.
Traveling is expensive and cancellations are even more so.
I have tweeted Icelandair asking when we will know if the flight is cancelled. Perhaps we could get reimbursed for the flights, and he can return to France later with me, but that is 37 days away.
Before I opened the email this morning, he had sighted heavily and bemoaned that he wasn't looking forward to six weeks away from me. It's more like a month, I had reassured him.
Still, if it's between staying in frigid Ohio or returning to the South of France, I know what I would choose.
Our friends Derrick and Kris Facetimed us this morning, and as Derrick stepped out of our construction zone house, the brilliant blue sky shone above him. He had a winter coat on, but there was no denying the twinkling sun above him.
So here is us again, stressing about travel plans but knowing that wherever we are, huddled inside in Ohio, under the sunshine of Florida, or in the construction zone of our house, we're lucky to have friends and family close by -- everywhere but Reykjavik that is.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Wedding Joy

I sat between my mom and my husband, holding hands with both of them as Grace and Jack exchanged vows Saturday evening.
This picture is from the hotel where they prepared
The place was filled with people who love and support both of them, the emotion bubbled over as both of them wiped away tears, pledging themselves to their marriage and each other.
A friend snapped this picture during the ceremony. That's me and Earl in the foreground,
apparently the only evidence the two of us were at the wedding together because I haven't found another picture.
Things weren't perfect. Some people sitting in the back couldn't hear well. I had forgotten the corsages for myself and my mom, along with the boutonnieres for Earl and my dad back in the hotel room. The book arch which was supposed to rise above the happy couple's heads, continuing the book theme of the wedding, did not rise to the occasion and instead was draped in a semi circle on the floor.
But no one fretted about any of those things as Grace and Jack had their two right hands joined together in a hand-fasting ceremony that combined the tartans of both historical families.

We started the day at a downtown hotel where the bridesmaids gathered to get ready. Lots of coffee, some mimosas, one prepared bridesmaid brought sandwiches from subway.
My ever-prepared friend Deb sent a steamer with me to the hotel. Jess, one of the bridesmaids, steamed everyone's dress
A stylist arrived to do hair and makeup for the bridesmaids, and me, but the bride and bridesmaid decided to do hair for the flower girls when they arrived.
Two flower girls getting their hair done by the bride and bridesmaids
My favorite picture of Regan as she realized no one was going
to give her "cat's eye" makeup for the wedding.
We ran out of time at the end and hurried to get everyone ready for pictures while the limo waited impatiently.

Grace getting dressed by the bridesmaids
Earl arrived at the hotel for some pictures as he saw Grace in her wedding gown for the first time.
The limo took all the girls to the venue while Earl and I frantically drove separate vehicles so we could return the minivan Mom and Dad had loaned us for the past month.
Safely inside, I wanted to stop and talk to everyone but had to scurry to finish the tasks Grace had left me with. Two wreaths needed to be placed on tables to finish the centerpieces. And the decorative arch needed to be moved in front of the book balustrade which rested on the floor since it couldn't rise to become an arch.
The book arch still served its purpose on the floor. Each table at the reception had an author theme.
Spencer escorted me in while Tucker did videography. The ceremony was beautiful as they shared their heartfelt sentiment about their love story. 
Pictures followed, then a dance between Grace and Jack, 
I love this picture of the two flower girls and the ring bearer watching the first dance. 
Next came a dance between Grace and Earl, to the theme of the Godfather, which started slow then sped up a bit to a swing dance. 
We surprised Grace with a Ben Folds song called Gracie about watching his daughter grow up. 
Jack and his mom danced next to a song from Into the Woods.
They cut the cake and then dinner followed, with so many wonderful people to greet and so many fabulous songs to dance to.
I chose the DJ after hearing him at our friend Deb's daughter's wedding. I can highly recommend Mark Dantzer if you're getting married in the Columbus area. He kept the dance floor hopping right through the last song "Shut up and Dance With Me."
I didn't get to talk to everyone nearly enough, but I felt the love, and I know Grace did too. Whether you were there or not, the support lifted us.
I'll end with some pictures.
Thanks to everyone for going on this journey with me.
Grace and Tucker

Spence and Tucker with rabbit ears

Grace with some far away cousins. So good to have them all together

Spencer and Kaitlin

Earl and I were there too. 

Grace and Jack with my mom and dad

Friday, January 10, 2020

The Day Before A Wedding

I woke up to rain this morning in the dark, the day before my daughter's wedding.

The forecast is for rain, but I'm not sure that matters when everything will be indoors. The temperature is supposed to be 68 degrees (20 Celcius) which is very rare in Ohio in January.
I try to picture Grace's day. She and Jack are having breakfast together to eschew the tradition of not seeing the bride before the wedding.

Around 11, her bridesmaids will gather in the hotel room and they'll do hair and makeup. I contemplate taking along some bottles of sweet bubbly, would they have a glass to shake nerves or could we end up with tipsy bridesmaids? Bananas and granola bars? A meal?

The limo will pick them up and drive them to the wedding. I can already hear the echos of laughter as they run from the hotel to the limo, hopefully with a helpful doorman holding an umbrella over Grace's head as she holds the sparkly white skirt up to keep it dry.
The flower girls will scramble into the limo, foregoing car seats just this once.

Earl and I will drive together, maybe stressing about things we've forgotten or maybe holding hands as we realize that our little girl will be married within the hour.
All of the planning and the debating will culminate in these few hours, when Grace, who has been on her own for a few years already, joins together with Jack, with our blessing.
It's not the same as it would have been a hundred years ago when a daughter leaves her parents' home for the protection of her husband.
Grace is a strong woman surrounded by examples of strong women. I picture a circle of all the women who have loved her -- me, her aunts, her cousins, her grandmothers, her homeschool moms, her homeschool sisters, her theater mentors, her college and work friends -- all of us together lifting her up as she starts this new life.

She isn't giving up part of herself when she marries. She's adding to her story and following a different path.
One that will take her on many adventures.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

The Impending Nuptials

It's a funny thing when your daughter is getting married. People ask if you like the groom.
An early photo shoot with a wolf
I'm not sure if they do that when it's your son, because my sons have not gotten married yet.
But the first question from people when we tell them our daughter is getting married is "What do you think of the groom?"
They ask as if he hasn't already become a part of our family, which he has.
Are there people who dis their daughter's soon-to-be husband?
I fear the answer is yes. 
There are many qualities one could look for in a husband for your daughter -- maybe he could be rich, or have a status job, or be a brainiac. Maybe he could be royalty or be famous. Maybe he could be as beautiful as the morning. Maybe he could be handy and fix our cars or take care of all our IT problems. Jack might have some or none of those qualities as they get married.
But the one quality that Jack has that can't be compromised on is love.
We have no doubt how much he loves Grace.
And, in the end, that is the one quality that cannot be missing in a marriage.

Monday, January 06, 2020

Five More Days

The wedding is quickly upon us, only five more days.

I had planned to spend the day with Grace on Sunday. She was bringing her wedding dress over to try on again (it felt safer to keep the dress here instead of in her apartment where the cats might spread their fur or sharpen their claws). We are staying at our friend's Deb and Greg's house.
When Grace arrived in the afternoon, she had spoken with the DJ to finalize the songs and the order of events.
"I'm feeling very anxious," she said as she carried the big white garment bag stretched over her head.
"Is it the wedding? The DJ? The dress?" I queried.
"No, World War III." (In case I look back at this years from now and don't remember, the U.S. assassinated Suliemani, the second in command in Iran and tensions are high waiting for retaliation).
I know the current events are stressful, but I think her anxiety is deflecting away from the wedding. We talked and when she had calmed down, she tried on the dress. We showed it to my friend Deb who knew all the right things to say so that Grace felt bridal and confident in how she looked in the beautiful gown.
Next, I tried on my two dresses. Deb helped me find a purple dress back in September, but it's kind of form fitting and not the kind of dress I would usually wear.
I had found another dress that looked good, but wasn't as dressy.
Dressing room selfie
I tried on both the red dress and the purple dress.
The purple dress was voted the favorite, so that's what I'll wear for the wedding.
Grace and Earl practiced their father/daughter dance and I whisked her off to have coffee and some sustenance, not telling her that we had organized a little bridal tea.
It started last week when her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law lamented that she hadn't had a bridal shower.
That was her wish. They're getting rid of all their things to move to France. It seemed silly to buy them new things.
A tea fete-ing Grace seemed like a good idea. The seed had been planted but didn't begin to germinate until Sunday morning when I called La Chatelaine to see if they could accommodate 10-15 people around 3:30. Yes, they could.
I texted people. Other people text people. As you can see from the picture below, we had a good turnout for a 7-hour turn around.
Grace was surprised and slightly annoyed at us, but truly overwhelmed at the love from everyone.
The gang, including three baby girls. 

Some people were organized enough to bring presents. 

Baby Leah has a twin brother who was excluded from this all female gathering

Earl said he had put a gift card in my coat pocket, so Regan tried it on to look for a secret present,
but it wasn't there. Turned out, he put it in someone else's coat, but we found it eventually 
Flower girls Regan and Caroline attended their first bridal shower and they were both appalled that their mother had purchased a black lacy bra for Grace. Regan hid under the table while Caroline, after futilely trying to convince her mother she couldn't possibly give that as a present, stood by Grace suggesting she shouldn't remove it from the bag. It was funny and so sweet and innocent.
We had many French goodies to eat and played a few games.
Although it was impromptu, it was so easy -- no one had to clean their house ahead of time, no one had to fix food, no one had to clean up. I highly recommend a last-minute bridal tea if you're as disorganized as I am.
Just a few more days and the wedding will be here.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

What Do You Miss in France?

People in the States often ask what we miss while living in France. We usually answer -- the kids. Having been her a few weeks now, we're reminded that we don't see them that frequently even when we're here.
My lame answer is Starbucks, but it's true -- sweet, frothy coffees in a cup as I take walk with friends. I can take walks with friends in France, but it's considered strange to walk with a coffee cup and the closest we have to a Starbucks is a coffee truck that arrives on Wednesday and Saturday during the market.
Au P'tit Plaisir with a line for coffee.
He makes a white mocha, but it's made with syrup rather than thick white chocolate and isn't topped with whipped cream. It's a joy, but it doesn't replace my longing for Starbucks' coffee milkshake.
I think about other friends who have asked me to bring them things from the States, what do they miss? Kris and Derrick want Levi's, only because they're cheaper here. Lou wants graham crackers. Teresa wants cream of tartar.
What do I miss in France that I can get here in the States?
This morning, as I was running in 32 degree weather (that's 0 Celsius) suddenly, my heart soared and a bubble burst from me: "Oh my, I really love running!" and that's when a recent conversation came back to me and I realized that the thing I miss in France is belonging to a gym, where I can lift weights or climb on an elliptical machine or stationary bike.
When I was at the YMCA on New Year's Day, as I got dressed after our water fitness class, a woman came in from the workout room. She was asking everyone how the fitness class was, and I mentioned that I had already run four miles that morning but that I would probably feel the class the next day. She couldn't believe I had run outside and then gone to fitness class.
"I love exercising," I said. And I do. Walking, bike riding, yoga class. I always feel better afterwards.
In our small town in France, there isn't a gym, per se. There's a twice a week exercise class, but that's pretty constricting. The next town over has a yoga class twice a week. There isn't a place to go on my own to work out.
Twenty-two years ago, a trainer taught me how to use the weight machines and said that lifting weights would increase my metabolism, so I started a workout by lifting weights, then moved on to an aerobic workout, feeling certain I was getting a bonus calorie burn.
Sixteen years ago, as I was training for a marathon, I tore my ACL. After surgery, the physical therapist drummed into me how important it was to lift weights so the muscles surrounding my knee were strong to prevent future injuries.
Since I moved to France, I haven't been lifting weights, and I rarely mix up my workout routine.
Luckily, I've been able to join the Y for the time I'm here, piggybacking on Spencer's membership.
Earl and I went to workout yesterday, and I saw a plan for a bodyweight workout that I can do when I return to France.
A future workout plan -- but I hate burpees
Not belonging to a gym is a small sacrifice. I can continue to run in the mornings, surrounded by beautiful mountains and gorgeous sunrises.
The three quills of Quillan early in the morning. 
I can ride my bike 10 miles, stop and have coffee or a drink and ride back home. I can walk and discuss the world's problems with friends close by.
I guess I'll live with not having Starbucks or a gym, but having France instead.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Going to the Chapel... Or the Wedding Hall

Just one week until Grace and Jack cross that bridge -- the proverbial bridge, not the one in the picture.
But who, besides me, hears the guy from Princess Bride saying marriage with his inability to pronounce Rs. Which is called "rhotacism" by the way.

Wedding plans are coming along. Seats have been assigned. Bills have been paid. Menus are set.
We're debating favors for the wedding guests, still not sure about that but I have 150 little boxes in case we decide yes.

The DJ knows the drill. Earl and Grace have had professional instruction for their father/daughter dance.
The boys and Earl picked up their new suits yesterday.
I'm still debating which dress to wear, but it doesn't really matter because all eyes will be on Grace. And maybe on the ring bearer who will be adorable because he agreed to wear a kilt to match Jack's.
I'll keep you updated.

Friday, January 03, 2020

The Elusive Carte Grise

Maybe it isn't something we think about, but the places we live change us.
Living in France for the past two years has changed us -- at least according to our oldest son.
"Look, you guys need to be a little more decisive!" he told us at lunch last week. He claims that since we moved to France we're more laissez faire -- we make plans that can easily morph into other plans.
We just laughed at his assessment, but I do hope that it's true, that we're becoming more laid back about plans and schedules and time -- French time, our friends joke when we show up late.
Maybe it's the lack of jobs to go to, or the fact that our house is paid for without a monthly mortgage payment, or the number of friends we socialize with, but life does feel easier in France.
It's a good place to go to avoid stress.
Relaxing with friends
Only one thing about our France life is causing me stress -- it's a carte grise for our car, basically a registration and title. We bought the car in January 2019, and due to circumstances, bad luck and bad management on my part, we still don't have a legal carte grise. Luckily, we haven't been stopped, although we have received a ticket in the mail for speeding.
Right after we bought the car, I had to come back to the States for about six weeks. We had rented an apartment for the year, but it didn't work out because the wifi wasn't good, so we moved from place to place when I returned to France. Then Earl went to the States and I stayed alone, working. We came back to the States for the summer because we had no place to live; we bought a house; we returned to France and started a renovation of the house. Things were hectic for a place we chose because it's relaxing.
Since June, I have been working with a company called LegalPlace, which collects the documents and then gets the carte grise.
I thought we were close when we left in June. I had sent all the documents. The company said it needed a copy of our controle technique, which is basically an inspection of the vehicle.
I sent a photo of the sticker in our front window which said we had our contrôle technique, but they needed to see the entire report.
We were in the States and we asked our friends to search through the paperwork in our car. They couldn't find it. We told LegalPlace that we'd get it when we returned to France in September. When we still couldn't find it, our friend Maurice went to the inspector who issued the contrôle technique and sent us a copy.
I quickly shipped that to Legal Place in September, but guess what? The contrôle technique has to be within six months. We bought the car in January so the paperwork was nine months old. We would have to get a new inspection.
I made an appointment with a man in Quillan, it was just a week before we were leaving for the States. He declared the car in good shape except for one problem.
In April, someone had hit the car while it was parked. It knocked the headlight out. With the help of a random man passing, I had put the headlight back, it worked, and I continued to drive the car. But the unattached headlight was a problem for the contrôle technique.
Poor car with missing headlight
I didn't really understand how the insurance worked and after a few attempts to contact our insurance company, I had let the accident damage fall to the wayside in the face of everything else we were juggling. In my defense, I took the accident report to our insurance company/bank in Limoux, half an hour away. They said they didn't have an insurance branch there but they would fax it to the proper branch. We didn't hear from them. Then in June, before we returned to the States, we called and spoke in my best telephone French (which is really hard) to make a report. I got an email from them and tried to reply with the accident report but it bounced back. So I let it slide. The car is already dinged up from numerous car doors in French parking lots.
But when our car didn't pass the contrôle technique because of the headlight, you should have seen the look of judgment on Earl's face. He had been pressing me to get the accident damage fixed. And, it's my responsibility because I speak French and it was my idea to move to France.
With the failed contrôle technique, we had two choices, pursue the insurance claim or fix the headlight.
My friend Derrick helped dampen the anger and the expectation, explaining that even if it was someone else's fault, we might end up paying a lot to have the headlight and dent fixed. Earl ordered a new headlight and replaced it himself.
We returned to the contrôle technique mechanic and got the stamp of approval a day before our quick departure, rushed by the ensuing train strikes. I sent the contrôle technique off to LegalPlace, along with a note saying, by the way, we have a new address -- since we bought our house in August. That, of course, required even more paperwork.
And, this seems very sketchy, we had to send off our old carte grise -- physically mail it -- to them.  Of course, I'm in the States and relying on friends to take care of all this paperwork (thanks, friends).
Just this morning, I received probably the 50th email from LegalPlace informing me what documents are manquant (missing).
I sent pictures of the documents, and I wait ever patiently for the carte grise, but I'm making tentative plans to roll the car into a river and start over if we can't get it.

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Making Money

Money has always played a key part of our decision to move to France. Yeah, we enjoy the culture, the markets, the laidback lifestyle,
We enjoyed a hike through the bucolic landscape in northern Spain on El Camino last June. 
but, frankly Earl wouldn't have been able to retire if we stayed in the States because of the cost of health insurance. In France, we can buy health insurance for about $900 a year for the two of us.
In the U.S., the cost is $1500 per month for a high-deductible plan. That's about a third of our monthly income just for insurance that doesn't cover anything except wellness checkups.
When we moved, I anticipated continuing to teach college online. I taught for two colleges here in Ohio, both online and in person, so I thought I could continue to teach online.
One university has continued to give me classes, but only two classes in 2019.
The other college hasn't returned my emails, even when they were desperately seeking an online professor this fall. It hurts my budget and my pride.
I was the go-to person when I was teaching at this college. I was asked to pick up extra classes when someone died, when someone else had a stroke, and when someone else couldn't handle teaching three college classes at a high school on the far east side of Columbus. The chair of the English department asked me to step in, and each time I did, handling my previous load and the new classes. And that's what really bothers me that the college unceremoniously has ignored me since I left.
But that first year we were living in France, I realized that our budget would not work if I didn't have money coming in.
That's when I turned to VIPKid, teaching Chinese children online. In France, the hours are great, noon to 3 p.m. or 11-2 during the winter with the time change. Here in the States, that translates to 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. in winter, 6-9 in summer. It's grueling. I earn a few thousand dollars each month teaching for VIPKid, so that has helped patch the hole in our budget.
Me teaching Henry who decided to draw faces on  his own fingers. 
In January, I was already scheduled to teach an online class for the university that still speaks to me, along with a class scheduled for March and May, so I was feeling pretty good about it, when I got an email from a dean asking if I would take two classes on Columbus' campus in January.
I promptly responded that I didn't live in Columbus any more so he would need to find someone else.
Then I began to think about it.
We were scheduled to fly back to France on January 18. The classes at this university are 8 weeks long, so I would have to be in town through the end of February, about a month after our planned departure.
And I usually bring home about $2000 per class, so if I took those two classes, I could earn an extra $4000. That $4000 could help pay off wedding bills and pay for renovations in our new house.
I approached Earl with the idea.
We already had our plane tickets to fly back, but I had gotten a great deal on the tickets -- $945 round trip for the two of us, that's $472 each, and I'd already flown in one direction, so I was losing $236 by not returning. Earl would return to France as planned while I stayed.
I told the dean that I would take the two classes and he told me he'd already found someone to take one of the classes.
I can't justify staying for one class, I explained. And a day later, he called and said both in-person classes were mine.
I felt like I'd been on a roller coaster -- staying, going, staying... as I tried to adjust my feelings about all of it.
But now I've signed contracts for all three classes and already prepared the online portions so it looks like I'm staying and teaching.
January and February are fabulous times to be in Ohio (sarcasm). It's nice to get to spend more time with the kids, even though Grace and Jack will be leaving Ohio to begin their journey to France before I get back.
Earl and I have an appointment to renew our visa -- carte de sejour -- on February 25th, so I'll fly back across the Atlantic, leaving Ohio on February 22nd, and arriving in Barcelona having missed half of my birthday on February 23rd.
Every time I make these big decisions, I spend a lot of time second guessing myself. I'm trying to just focus on the positives -- extra money, spending time with the kids and friends, and eventually returning to my new home in France.
Whether in France or the States, something is always missing, so I'm going to try to focus on living in the moment, even if it's a frigid run in the Ohio weather, or a Facetime call with people across the ocean.

If you're American or Canadian and are interested in teaching VIPKid, let me know. I'm happy to share what I know to help you travel the world while earning extra money. VIPKid referral

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

A New Year Begins

Happy New Year!
This working life in the States is taking its toll on me, so I was in bed before midnight last night, but not until after a lovely dinner with some friends.
Even though I had taken the day off teaching, I woke up very early.
But I lay in bed leisurely scrolling through news stories and Facebook on my phone.
My friend Pam has a theory, a superstition, that whatever you're doing on the first day of the year, you'll continue to do throughout the year.
So, I took a nice 4-mile run in the 32-degree weather, through the streets where we used to live in Grandview Heights. It was definitely warmer than yesterday when a biting wind drove Sheila and me into a coffee shop where we could sit and chat.
But not today. I had to make my New Year's run.
While perusing Facebook earlier in the day, I'd see my friend Sally who works at the YMCA had invited everyone to a water fitness class on New Year's Day.
In for a penny, I figured I might as well go to water fitness class too. Sally said she was afraid only two people would show up, but I was not alone in wanting to start my day off with fitness.
There were 24 of us who showed up for the New Year's Day class.
I'm in the front center with a blue noodle. 
I hadn't taken a water fitness class for years and thought it wouldn't be challenging, but it was fun and I know my muscles will feel it tomorrow, especially the arm work lifting buoyant weights -- actually fighting to keep them underwater. The water in the Y's pool is always a lovely warm temperature and I loved being in the water again.
Fresh from an hour-long workout. 
Like Elizabeth Warren on the campaign stump, Sally took a selfie with each of us.
We move on from another housesit today. We've been challenged by the rambunctious puppy Molly, a sheepadoodle who galumphs throughout the house and doesn't know how her body moves yet.
Molly -- queen of the couch
We're going to stay with our friends through Grace's wedding.
Hope you all have begun the New Year in a way that brings you joy.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...