Sunday, November 19, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Leaving Our Kids Behind (A Very Personal Post)

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.
I am dreaming of France. My husband has a countdown and we are scheduled to fly to Paris in 45 days, but sometimes I wonder whether it will happen.
My biggest worry isn't about what I should do with the crystal candle holders or the salt and pepper shakers.

My greatest fear is that my kids aren't ready to face life on their own.
Oh, they're old enough at 25, 24, and 21, but so many times they turn to us for help or with questions.
Right now, I have a twitch in my left eye, and my stomach is roiling as if I might get sick as I sit and worry about one of my boys.
They both decided to travel this weekend, Tucker heading to Detroit, nearly 3 hours away, for an art show, meeting a friend who goes to school there. On his way home, as the rain began to fall and the wind picked up, he topped a hill and saw a pile-up in front of him. He slammed on the brakes and swerved to the left toward the shoulder of the road, but a car was already parked there. His car continued to travel, eeking between the median and the parked car before it stopped. Heart racing, he called to tell me about his near miss. He stopped by today after work to give us a hug and further regain his equilibrium. The almost accident had shaken him up.

Spencer visited his old college this weekend. His friend had a birthday,and he needed to celebrate with him. I asked him not to go. Every time he goes, something bad happens. Last time it was a rear-end accident, not bad, but he got a ticket and although the person's car had no damage, she filed a claim for a soft-tissue injury.
"It's not going to be like that this time," he promised.
And, although he forgot to text me when he arrived at his friend's apartment 90 minutes away, he texted on Saturday morning to let me know that all was well.
Today, Sunday, Earl and I had planned a day packing up things in the house. We only have two more weekends and one of those is the holiday weekend. We need to prepare to get out of our house.
But first, we went to buy some new shoes for Earl that he can take to France, a pair of slip on casual shoes and a pair of hiking boots. As we moved toward the checkout counter, my phone rang. Spencer said that his car had been towed. He wanted to know the license plate number so he could check the impound lot.
I didn't know the license plate number, but the insurance card had the ID number for the car. I texted him a picture of the insurance car.
"How much do you think that will cost?" I asked Earl as we drove home.
"More than $100," he said.
Spencer got his first paycheck from his new job last week. At least we wouldn't have to pay for it, but that wasn't how he should be spending his money.
A few hours passed as we sent and received texts from Spencer. Then Earl called to talk to him. He'd been drinking all afternoon as he tried to find his car.
I walked into the bedroom and called him. His voice was slurred and he inhaled deeply on a cigarette as we talked. I felt my blood pressure shooting up.
How was he supposed to find his car if he was drunk and how would he drive home if he did find it?
I read him the riot act.
"You are forbidden to go to Athens again!" I told my 24-year-old. "You apologize for making bad decisions and then you go back and make more."
He stumbled over his apologies.
"We're going to have to take care of it," I told my husband. He called the campus police who said only three towing companies tow from on campus. My husband called all three. None of them had towed the car.
We had to face the fact that his car, a 2014 Honda Accord which we purchased in May, must have been stolen.
We called him back and told him to sober up, report the car stolen to the police department and get on a bus back to Columbus.
Then we waited.
The bus left at 5:40, would he be on it? Had his phone died? He didn't text. When we called, it went to voicemail, but only after ringing, so it must not be dead.
Finally, just a few minutes before I finished writing this, I got a text from him. "Still can't find it." 
"Can you call?" I texted back.
He sounded better but still confused. He had missed the bus. There's another one at 5 in the morning, but how would we be sure he was on that bus? We couldn't risk it. He had to keep his new job if we hoped to move to France; he needed to be home.
Earl offered to drive to pick him up. An hour and a half both ways. It's cold, but it isn't raining or snowing. But it's dark and it will be late when they get home.
I know this isn't a happy post about moving to France, but it's probably my greatest fear about leaving. Some of you might say to let him to figure it out on his own, and if we weren't moving to France, maybe we wouldn't save him. But if he doesn't have a good job and his own apartment, leaving on our adventure becomes much harder.
And I realize that it isn't his fault if the car was stolen, it's the getting drunk in the middle of the afternoon when he should be dealing with the incident that bothers me the most.
Part of me thinks that our departure will be the moment our kids grow up once and for all, knowing that there isn't a safety net here for them. They'll sink or swim on their own. Please, God, let them swim.
Since Spencer called, my stomach is no longer in danger of losing its contents. I'll be happy when I know that Earl has him safely in the car, but my eye is still twitching. Maybe it will continue until we get on that plane to France, in 45 days.
Update: As Spencer was walking to the police department, he decided to check one more parking lot and found his car -- not stolen, not towed, just parked in a place he didn't remember. I'm not sure if that is a happy ending, or just points to more worries about my kids.
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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


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 

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  


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.


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



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




Sunday, November 05, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Getting a Visa

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.

This is the week we travel to Chicago to apply for our Visa that will allow us to stay in France for a year or more.
We could have applied anytime within three months of our departure, but we picked the date this week because the house was originally scheduled to close on Tuesday. We thought to deposit the money from the sale of the house and then print out our bank statement as proof that we have enough money to live in France for the coming year.
We kept our appointment, even though we won't close on the sale of the house until December 8. The visa can take a month to get, so we didn't want to risk not getting the paperwork in time.
First, let me say that Americans don't need a visa to visit France. It's only for long-term visits, like going to school or moving there that Americans need a visa.
I took this out the window of the plane on our last flight, knowing that was the day we'd land in France.

I searched online and found that Earl and I have to apply for a visa at the French consulate in Chicago. Chicago is about five hours away from us, so that isn't terrible. Plus, we have friends who live there so we can stay with them. The consulate has a whole page on its website about how to apply for a long-stay visa.
I made the appointments before we had all of our documents ready, but I figured that would give us incentive to get everything done.
And what did we need get done? Here's a list from the website:
Just today I headed to CVS to get a new photo taken. I had extra pictures printed when I renewed my passport in July, but since the instructions for the Visa say the picture has to be with three months, I didn't want it thrown out on a technicality.
On Friday, we had our friend who is a notary notarize all of our letters that declared we're American citizens, that promised we won't try to find work in France.
We ordered a birth certificates and two marriage certificates, one for each of us.
Just last week, after perusing the health insurance available, I ordered and paid for a year's worth of insurance.
If you aren't American, you may not realize how amazing that is. Here, even though we get our insurance through Earl's work and it is good insurance, we pay about $225 per week. That's about $900 per month that comes straight out of Earl's paycheck. I filled out the forms with Mondassur, an insurance broker, which an Australian living in France had told us about, and our insurance bid came in at 846 Euros for the year for both of us. The price we paid in American dollars was $956 -- for the whole year for two people. That is amazing, and I had no problem seeing that money disappear from our account.
Today, I opened the folder that holds all of our important documents and I put them in order as listed above. I still need to get an Express Mail envelope to take with us.
I've been super nervous about applying for the Visa, especially since we haven't closed on the house yet, but I found a blog post by a man who successfully applied and received a Visa. He was very reassuring at MadManBlog.
So, tomorrow is the appraisal on our house -- possible the last time we have to stage it (fingers crossed). If all goes smoothly, we'll receive our Visas within the month so we can fly off to France in January.
And then, you'll find us there, beginning our new ex-pat life.

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.

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.

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.
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.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Miracles in the Making

Just a quick update as I am yawning from the flurry of activity today. (Read the previous post if you aren't up-to-date on the latest about the sale of our house.)
We had five showings on our house today and received three offers.
Officially, we are now in contract and scheduled to close on December 8, plenty of time to spend Christmas in Florida with my parents and to fly to France in the New Year.
We are moving to France! We really are!

So we have a contract and a backup offer to help things move along.
France will happen after all.
Thanks for all the support and good wishes.
My optimism is on the rise.
A toast to our good luck and to all of my friends online.

Thanks for your support on this crazy voyage. 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Dreaming of France: That Part of the Novel Where the Heroine Sees Her Dreams Going Up in Smoke

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.
Was it less than two weeks ago that I joyously made our plane reservations for THE TRIP to France? The trip that would change our lives? The one where we packed all of our belongings in a few bags and moved to start a new life?
I carefully picked out a 4-star hotel in Paris where we would spend a few nights before journeying into the countryside to begin our first housesitting job.
And in the span of a fortnight, those plans have crumbled like so much blue cheese.
Our house fell out of contract on Friday because the buyers could not get their financing.
We urged the real estate agent to get the house back on the market, even though she had told us before that people plan their weekend house viewing on Thursdays. We were a day behind, but we needed to get out there.
I had run six miles that morning, reaching my daily step goal by 8 in the morning, but after work, I never sat down. I came home and headed straight into the backyard to pull dying plants from the dirt and to rip the morning glories from the trellis where they had flourished all summer before beginning to wither. I knew how they felt.
I swept walkways and cut back ivy that had grown toward the sidewalk. My steps reached over 30,000 that day as I madly tried to outrace my worries.
Would we be able to move to France? What about our appointment in Chicago to meet with the French consulate? Would Earl have to continue working rather than retire so we could pay our mortgage?
When he came home, we began to talk of a shorter trip to France where Earl would return home after three weeks while I stayed in France to meet our housesitting commitments.
The concerns whirred in my brain as I made a family dinner that night, drowning my sorrows in a few glasses of port and sharing the stories of how we first came to drink "porto" as they call it in France when my friend Delana and her then-boyfriend Patrick recommended it as an aperitif. I loved the sweet tanginess of it.

I don't recommend turning to alcohol to drown sorrows, but felt I had definitely earned it with my 30,000 steps and the view of my France dreams in a downward spiral.
We'd have to cancel Christmas plans in Florida with my parents if Earl didn't retire. He'd need to work the days between Christmas and New Year. How would Earl get to Florida for our flight? Should we change it? 
Should we cancel our appointment for a long-stay visa if we weren't going to be able to move?
I ran six miles again the next morning before my final Saturday morning class --  or was it? Would I be teaching in Columbus again in 2018 if we didn't move to France?
When I returned from class, I found Spencer sitting on the couch holding a heating pad to his ear. A sore throat and blossomed into an ear infection. 
A notification arrived on my phone. A showing on Sunday at 1 p.m. Ok, 24 hours to get the place shipshape.
Then at 2, another notification - approval requested for a 4:15 showing.
4:15? Two hours away. 
Spencer thrashed on the couch, fever making his eyes glaze. "Please tell them I'm sick. Just let me sleep?" he begged. 
I pointed out that he needed to do nothing but stumble over to the neighbors where he could continue to lie on the couch -- she's a good neighbor. 
Earl and I work feverishly to get the house in showing shape. 
A second showing that afternoon, at 4:30, flashed onto our phones. Glad we hadn't turned down the earlier appoint, we hung white towels, shook out a white comforter, straightened fresh flowers, and lit a candle in a freshly carved jack o' lantern on the front porch. With a sprinkle of peppermint and rosemary essential oils on the light bulbs, we abandoned the house and crossed our fingers. 

Two more showings loomed on Sunday.  
I raced to the garden store and bought some purple and orange pansies. Earl carved two more jack o' lanterns. I mowed the backyard and meticulously staged the house again before we deserted the house for the afternoon. 
We visited my brother about an hour and a half away, forgetting about our troubles and hoping for the best. Around 7, we returned home, and just minutes ago got an email with an offer on the house. 
So, this is that part of the novel where the heroine sees the sun rising and realizes she can't give up on her dream. That's me tonight, and by tomorrow, I could be in contract again. 
Thanks for your well wishes, your good karma, your prayers. 
I'm not giving up. Here's the song I've been singing all day:

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.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Plot Thickens

Every good novels has twists, turns and setbacks, but this isn't a novel -- it's my life.
Nevertheless, we received a setback on Monday when the realtor called to say the VA appraisal did not reach the purchase price of the house.
We live in a small house in a community that is suddenly the place everyone in Columbus wants to live.
Our small Craftsman-style house as seen on my 50th birthday
It's a pretty amazing place to live, as I've opined before, with restaurants, coffee shops and little boutiques all within walking distance. The school is small with about 1000 students throughout all 12 grades, and it wins awards each year when the state judges the best school districts. We also avoid using buses because everything is within walking distance. And, it feels a bit like a 1950's community, where women feel safe to walk or run alone even when it's dark, and doors are frequently left unlocked as children roam the neighborhoods after school.
The annual bike race and marathon both run through our town.
Our asking price is about $50,000 more than the county auditor's estimate of our house, but the county auditor price usually is less than the appraised value of the house when selling.
The people buying our home are using a VA loan because he is a veteran. VA loans are harder to pass.
What we didn't know is that the couple, moving from Texas to Ohio, plan to put no money down. That means the loan has to be approved for the entire price of the house.
Our real estate agent  has until today to convince the appraiser and the bank that it is worth the asking price.
"The buyers still want it," she told me on the phone. "They're willing to rent or do a land contract."
At first, I pondered that idea. They could put $10,000 down and rent for the year. Then if they couldn't follow through we could put the house back on the market. That's before I found out they planned to put no money down on the house.
As a wise man in my house said, "This isn't a Volvo. Why are you expecting to buy with no money down?"
If they don't have the $10,000 to put down on the house, then they wouldn't have $10,000 earnest money to give us.
That's when I decided to push the issue.
I texted the real estate agent and said we'd have the house ready to put back on the market on Thursday, right after the new furnace is installed. (That's another twist for another day).
I told her that if the buyers are in love with the house and want to buy it then they are going to need to come up with some money to bridge between the selling price and the appraised price. If they have other property, they can take out an equity loan on that. Or if they have a 401k, they can borrow money from that.
Unless they step up, we're back on the market, which means, our house might not be sold and Earl might not be able to retire.
We have our plane tickets. We have our room reservations and three housesitting jobs that last through March 15, but I might be traveling alone.

Throw some quick good karma or prayers or whatever you believe in our way.
I do want to live in France, but I don't want to leave my best friend behind to work, and he's definitely ready to live a retired life.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Dreaming of France -- Packing

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.

Today on Facebook, I posted a picture of the three suitcases I'll be taking to France.
That's all I plan to take to begin my new life.

One of my Facebook friends asked why we didn't simply ship boxes overseas. We will have some boxes stored in my brother's basement and another friend's basement, but I've read enough horror stories about shipping items to France that never arrive, that I wasn't even tempted to pay for boxes that I might never see again.
Face it, anything that I am keeping, I'm not willing to risk mailing in a questionable system.

Another issue about mailing boxes is that we don't have a permanent address yet. Where would I mail them to?
Most shipping services don't give upfront prices for mailing overseas, but the one that does would charge $169 for a 66-pound box or suitcase, and it makes no guarantee that anything breakable would arrive in one piece.
I've been looking at the China cabinet today trying to decide what we might want to keep. We plan to move the China cabinet to my sister-in-law's house next weekend. She says she'll hold onto it until Grace wants it.

The cabinet is full of highly breakable things.
Our gold-rimmed China that we received for our wedding has been used so rarely, that I feel no compunction about getting rid of it. 

Grace has chastised me, but she didn't offer to keep it. So I'll find some place to donate it.
I have so many wine glasses and liquor glasses. Many of them are from Mom and Dad's wedding, so I want to keep those, although I'm not sure how I'll ever get them to France.
I also have a lovely Laura Ashley tea set I'd like to take along.

A friend gave us a Limoges tea (coffee?) set as well for a wedding present that I would love to have in France.

But is it silly to take a French tea set back to France? Could I just as easily find ones I like that at an inexpensive price?
Once the China cabinet is cleaned out, I have things like quilts that would help me start a new life in France. Mom has made quilts for nearly every occasion, and I hate to be parted from any of them.
I may look for some of those compression bags that squeeze down items in hopes of taking a quilt or two along.
Other than clothes, toiletries and my computer, I don't anticipate needing a lot. We'll be housesitting so the houses will be outfitted. And when we buy a new house, hopefully it will be furnished. If not, we'll have to furnish it by visiting the local flea markets.
I know many people ship boxes of books to France, and I hate to be parted from books I love, but luckily, we live in a world where I can download books onto my phone and read them. I love always having a book with me on my phone.
So for now, before I actually begin packing, I think I'll have plenty of room in my three suitcases. We'll see if I still think that three weeks from now as we prepare to begin our vagabond lifestyle.
And when people from Ohio come to visit us in France, I fully expect them to pack a wine glass or two to bring along as we slowly fill up our cabinets in France. 

Columbus Marathon

I am so thankful to have been able to stay in the house well into the autumn. If we had sold the house immediately, we would have been out already, renting a place or living with friends. Instead, we get to enjoy life in our little village within a stone's throw of downtown Columbus and Ohio State University.
Because we are so close to downtown, the Columbus Marathon runs through the middle of our town. Most years, my friend Sheila and will go walking along the route before the race begins. She has as many deadlines as I do with her husband having back surgery on the same day we close on our house, so I didn't ask if she wanted to walk.
Instead, this morning, I decided to start at our house and run the route backward for about 4 miles.
It can be more challenging than you expect to figure out which way the route goes when not all the roads are closed yet.
Mostly, I relied on judging whether cars were parked along the road. No cars equals Marathon route. Even so, I got confused several times and started down roads before noticing that no banners waved or port-a-potties stood sentry, so I'd turn around and try a different road.
Since I had several false tries, I decided to run 4.5 miles to make sure I reached the total of 8 miles I hoped for. I'm so glad I kept running because I discovered that the marathon is running through a cornfield path.
It's weird in a city of nearly a million people to still have a cornfield in the center, but because Ohio State teaches agriculture, there are cows and cornfields within the city.
I had just run the path through the cornfield last week while waiting for Earl to finish his physical therapy. In the fog, alone, the path is a bit spooky.

But this morning, the sponsor had done a great job making it a highlight of the 26.2 mile race.
These "race car" banners showed runners where to turn.

Then a banner welcomed runners to the field.

Along the way, there were signs with pop culture icons or bad jokes, meant to encourage those reaching the high mileage of the marathon.

The marathon is sponsored by Children's Hospital, so many of the miles are dedicated to children receiving treatment. I started taking pictures of the mile markers and the kids, and got to meet two of the children who had already shown up to support the runners.
Mile 20 was dedicated to Andrew.
He got excited when he saw me and thought the marathoners were already on their way.

Then farther down the road, Amelia had already arrived to cheer for the runners on her dedicated mile.

I ended up running 9 miles, and I was pretty spent by the end, but I'm so happy that I had the opportunity.

Dreaming of France -- Leaving Our Kids Behind (A Very Personal Post)

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 yo...