Manifesting a Carte de Sejour

I have been remiss in my blog writing lately. Chalk it up to STRESS!!! I haven’t been able to keep my lips from trilling, let alone write something cognizant. Not that I haven’t started a couple of posts. It’s just that, half way through, I realize I’ve written nothing but incomprehensible dribble with no beginning, middle or end. C’est la vie in transition.

So much has been “up in the air” lately. It’s like we started to juggle several balls which just evaporated over our heads. Now we anxiously await their reappearance. Stuart and I have adopted this fascinating shoulder shrug and blank look that we make several times a day…just to remind ourselves we don’t know WTF is happening, and we just need to accept that we are “squeaky mouse toys” in the rabid teeth of God. It’s been an exercise in sensing. Do we turn left or right here? Do we proceed with x and forsake y or go through with y and hope it doesn’t make x impossible. And what about z? And what really matters? What steers the ship when there are no stars? (We’ve decided the answer is desire. Desire, and trusting our desire, is all we have to go on.)

Despite the cray-cray, I’m starting to feel more at home here. I’m starting to make friends. I’m getting a bit of a routine. I’m sleeping better. More importantly, Stuart and I are laughing more. It’s taken near a couple of months, but I dare say I’ve survived the 1st passage.

Now for the 2nd initiation…becoming official. I’ve been here two months making it time to apply for my Carte de Sejour, or residence permit. We asked a French-speaking friend to help us out with the process (may our rabid-toothed god bless French-speaking friends everywhere). While we waited to hear back from him, we began the mammoth task of gathering our paperwork in triplicate with translations. Guess we waited a bit too long though because my appointment at the prefecture isn’t until the 2nd week in August, a whole week after my visa expires. Hmm…

After our initial freakout over the fact that I’d possibly be “illegal”, we started doing our research. Would I be mercilessly tossed back to the states or would it be best to use my return flight ahead of time? Would I be fined thousands of euros? Would I be forbidden from ever returning to Europe or unable to return for 3 months if I overstayed? Would I get stuck in France unable to leave? You would think the answers would be fairly straight-forward. Wait, did I just say that? If I have learned anything so far, it is that when it comes to bureaucracy, there are no straight-forward answers!

I have one helpful person telling me to seek help at my Mairie (Mayor’s). I have another telling me to ask for an extension at the prefecture. I have other information that says I have rights as the non-EU spouse of an EU citizen and still another perspective offered that tells me to “chill” as this happens all the time, especially in summer. Yet another new friend with a sense of humor says she’ll see me when I get back from the states (tongue -in-cheek) if they let me back.

After a morning of sweating it, we have now decided not to sweat it. It’s too tiring. We have our French-speaking friend who will be on the horn the next time the prefecture is open (a very narrow “two days a week for a few hours” window for residence permits) with our remaining questions. And who knows? Maybe he’ll get some different answers or even a moved-up appointment. We’ve heard that happens depending on who you talk to around here.

We’re still hopeful. My “Carte de Sejour” ball has been tossed into the air. It is now floating invisibly through the Manisphere (that’s the atmosphere where manifestation happens), and we shall wait patiently for it to reappear hoping we don’t get cruelly bonked! Stay tuned…

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Manual Labor

Today, I drove all the way from Touverac to the outskirts of Barbizieux…a whopping 10 minutes drive. If that seems like an underachievement, did I mention that I am learning to drive a manual transmission? I didn’t stall once! (At least not on the trip out.) If you are still not sufficiently impressed, may I just say that I accomplished this without killing passenger (he’s very thankful), pedestrian, or beast.

I’ve driven an automatic for some 30 years of my life with nary a single speeding ticket. I’ve always been a decisive, defensive driver. Now, in France, because my husband made the mistake 7  years ago of buying a standard vehicle (without air con, I might add), this old dog is being forced to learn a new trick, and she isn’t as coordinated as she used to be. But one must face one’s fears if one wants a certain amount of eventual freedom (though a bike is looking more and more appealing).

the hand of domestic goddess

When I first got to France in May, the weather here was still quite chilly. Not having air con was no biggie. Today felt like summer, and boy, does the heat irritate the sh*% out of me.  It’s not so bad at high speeds with the windows rolled down, but when stopped, I am ready to jump out of my skin. I do not understand the necessity of baking in a little metal box. I’m such a comfort-loving American! I like my central air (and screens on the windows). Or maybe it has more to do with what working at Disneyworld as a chipmonk in 100% humidity did to my inner thermometer.

So an open-air velo would be quite nice…barring sunburn. Besides, with a car, there’s something about all the fancy footwork that throws me off. Everyone says it will become 2nd nature, but right now, if Stuart wasn’t sitting next to me saying things like, “Okay, see that sign up ahead. Get ready to go into 2nd about there,” and “Clutch! Brake! More brake!” I shudder to think what might happen.

To be fair to myself, I am making progress. I’m shifting smoother and stalling less. Today, I even managed a hill start. Okay, yes, admittedly after two tries, but the third time was the charm! I felt like Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back when Ben Kenobi pulls the visor of his helmet down and tells him to “use the force.” I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and then went for it, waiting for the bonnet…ug, I mean hood…to pull up just a tad and then Vroom! Good thing there weren’t any cars coming.

 

 

Temptation!

I was so careful “back home” to drink plenty of water, watch my sugar and fat intake, and avoid wheat and dairy. In Asheville, when I needed groceries, I had the choice of several everyday stores as well as Whole Foods, EarthFare, the Co-op, and the all new and unique to Asheville, Katuah Market, from which to purchase local, organic, gluten-free, GMO-free, and generally healthy foods.

In France, at least in the area I’m in, I have the choice of LeClerc and Carrefour, the nicer of the grocery chains, as well as the Bio Co-op or La Vie Claire, which are the healthier counterparts (but quite teeny compared to those in the US).

France is already way ahead of the US in terms of not allowing certain disgusting things to be done to their food. For example, they are anti-GMO! Go France! One of the things I’ve been loving again is tuna fish. I gave up fish in the US…something to do with the Gulf Oil Spill coupled with Fukushima. However, France doesn’t seem to care about canola oil (rapeseed), but then again, neither does Trader Joe’s. And they definitely don’t have the whole gluten-free thing down. They are wild about their bread (maybe something to do with the French Revolution and all those hungry people begging for “le pain”)! And unfortunately, they are also nuts about cheese and chocolate…and pastry…and ice cream…and wine…did I mention wine…oh, and whipped cream?

…which is why I’ve started working out twice instead of once a day!

I must admit, adjusting isn’t easy here. There are so many temptations to overcome and none of my trusty alternatives to fall back on. I find myself eating bread almost daily (while longing for my Ezekial loaf). I also find myself eating cheese several times a week. I even started drinking an occasional glass of wine with my dark chocolate mousse. That cannot go on!!! My guts will revolt! And for some reason, I’m not drinking enough water anymore (something to do with being full already)?

Really, there are alternatives here. For example, we can find gluten-free pasta, no problem. But I haven’t been disciplined enough to avoid all the readily available other stuff. I think I better start getting a grip on myself, though. When I first arrived, I knew I’d be faced with food challenges. I came up with this brilliant idea to have an “eat anything Sunday”. Problem is, every day is becoming an eat anything day!

So here’s me recommitting to my health: Goodbye dairy and bread. I will miss you. It was nice to have you sneak back into my intestinal tract temporarily. And perhaps we’ll see each other briefly on special occasions. But now, I must find satisfaction in other things.

 

 

 

 

Consider the Lilies

Stuart and I have are going through our transition, finally living in the same house (and country!). I mentioned in my last blog how everything here is so discombobulating and unfamiliar. I don’t have my own space or my own anything really…just a lot of old control issues about my environment to work through. For Stuart, my discomfort has often been interpreted as a sign of my displeasure with him and a symbol of impending doom…that is, until I find a youtube of Pharrell Williams’ Happy, and we dance around the house to shake our blues.

When I first arrived in France, Stuart had a lovely Lily of the Valley plant, a fragrant little flower that sings a sweet Spring song of hope, waiting for me that filled his somewhat dark house with an uplifting scent. (Traditionally in France, May Day is celebrated with sprigs of Lily of the Valley (or Muguet), said to be a good luck charm.) I slept with it at the bedside, so I could take in its fragrance all night long.

Perhaps that wasn’t the best place for it, though, because soon, the plant began to show signs of withering, dropping gray little bell-shaped blossoms at the foot of the nightstand. I looked up on the internet how best to care for the plant and realized it probably needed more light and water. Unbeknownst to me, Stuart also came to the conclusion that it needed more water. Between the two of us, we probably managed to overdo it. It probably wasn’t getting enough light either. So I moved it near the front door only to move it back to the bedstand at night in my desire to dream with its perfume. Here, Stuart noticed it drooping and moved it again to the kitchen windowsill.

There it sits…slightly yellowed and droopy. Like the lilies, when I first arrived. I found myself slightly droopy, trying to find equilibrium in my new environment.

I consider the Lilies (ha ha). They require a certain environment to thrive. They need the right light, water, and temperature. Too much or too little of something, and they wither. It’s just the way it is. There is no one to blame for this fact. It isn’t a lack of lily will-power. Without the right environment, they simply cannot survive.

I not only want to survive here, I want to thrive. As of yet, I don’t quite know how to get what I need. Figuring that out is part of the process. I am doing what I can to adjust to the new light,), the new temperatures (cold but getting warmer!), the “bachelor pad” (sorely in need of a woman’s touch), the available self-care (and lack of tub…my favorite retreat). And I suppose that I have more going for me than a plant. I am much more adaptable. Still, the trail of petals in my wake might give me away from time to time. I feel like I’m walking through sludge much of the time. Everything takes longer and there’s so much to sort out. It’s a bizarre process, this path of the heart. It doesn’t make sense; it isn’t supposed to, perhaps.

Ultimately, I want to understand what it is I need to feel nurtured here and then find ways to give it to myself. So far, I am enjoying the enjoying of being with my Honey, laughing, my driving lessons, daily walks, lots of tea, the space heater, and my rare interactions with the French species. I am not enjoying the pollen (itchy, watery, squinty), our temporary residence, and a general lack of sleep whether brought on by an occasionally snoring hubby or too hard mattress.

But, if I can just be patient, there is a great excitement to reinventing myself. Things are already happening. I’m starting to meet like-minded people (though they are not all that close), finding lots of opportunities to create, discovering new things including things about myself, and cleaning/rearranging furniture to help make the environment flow. Sure, some days get to me. I get scared. I forget to love myself. I forget to appreciate Stuart. I forget to accept. I forget it’s all my choice, and my leaves droop. But with a little self-care, a little self-forgiveness, a little love, a little time, thinks perk up.