Merde! My Trip to the French Embassy in Washington


Well, today was a complete waste of time. The French Embassy refused to even look at my visa application because Stuart is in the EU.

I almost left completely defeated, but then I went back thinking “ask a different person and get a different answer”. It didn’t work. I left completely defeated anyway. I tried to explain that I wasn’t looking to establish residency in France. I just wanted to be with my husband for longer than the three months allowed on a Schengen while his US immigration went through. That didn’t make any difference, apparently.

I swear to GOD! Why TF does the embassy’s US website say…and I cut and paste here directly (bold for emphasis):

Visa for the spouse of a French national or European Union citizen

Visa for establishment in France

The foreign spouse of a French citizen (with exception to members of the European Union, of European Economic Space, of Switzerland, of Monaco, of St. Martin and of Algeria) [WELL I’M NONE OF THOSE; I’M A US CITIZEN!!! I REALIZE IN HINDSIGHT THIS MIGHT BE A CASE OF A POORLY CONSTRUCTED SENTENCE THAT THEY MEANT THE EXCEPTION TO APPLY TO THE FRENCH CITIZEN AND NOT THE SPOUSE] must obtain a long stay visa, valid as a resident card, in order to spend more than 90 days per semester in France. If granted, this visa is also a resident card at the same time, valid for as long as a year. You will only need to register at the local branch of the OFII (Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Intégration) upon two first months of arrival in France.

If you stay more than a year in France, you will then need to apply for a Resident Card (“Carte de Séjour”)

This visa applies to all nationalities but Algerian or EU spouses of French nationals, for whom different agreements exists. [AGAIN, I’M NOT THE EU SPOUSE. I’M A US SPOUSE. CLEAR AS MUD! WHY THE HELL DOESN’T IT SAY “US SPOUSES OF EU CITIZENS”? THEN I WOULD HAVE KNOWN THEY WERE TALKING TO ME!]


If you would like to settle in France, the following documents must be presented:

You have to apply with all the required documents in original and one copy. The visa section does not make any copies.


– passport valid for three months after the last day of stay in the Schengen States. Please make sure the passport holds at least two spare pages for the consulate to affix the visa. Your passport should also be in good condition to be accepted.

– copies of the 5 first pages of your passport.

– 2 long stay application forms (only ONE for US citizens) [SOUNDS TO ME LIKE THIS BEING A VISA TO FRANCE WHICH IS IN THE EU MEANS ONE CAN ASSUME THE FACT THAT THEY MENTION US CITIZENS WITHIN PARENTHESES MEANS US CITIZENS OF EU SPOUSES CAN APPLY. IS THERE NOT A PROBLEM HERE?] filled out and clearly readable. Please use black ink. Make sure your cell phone number and e-mail address are also added upon the forms,

– 2 photographs (more information about the photograph) (only ONE for US citizens) [AND AGAIN – I MEAN, IF US CITIZENS OF EU MEMBERS CAN’T EVEN TAKE THIS ROUTE, WHY THE HELL DO THEY EVEN MENTION US CITIZENS?]. All photos must be recent, identical, passport size – 1,4″ x 1,7″ (3,5cm x 4,5cm) and showing face front the forehead hairline and ears on a white background, the face must take up 70-80% of the photograph.



So that’s what happened today. All those caps, hells, and other expletives might be a giveaway of how overjoyed I was to experience this today. Lesson: DO NOT GET HOPES UP!


“That’s it. It’s over. I want a divorce! I can’t do this anymore. I’m sick and tired of banging my  head against a wall. This is just too hard. It just isn’t worth it anymore. It’s killing me. I’m starting to associate my love for Stuart with nothing but suffering. I’m a wreck. I think I have PTSD. I’ve had dark circles under my eyes for a year. I can’t think. I can’t do that whole “request residency” at the prefecture again making a million copies of every document known to man. I’ve already been through that chapter.  We had tried to play by these rules during my 1st visit to France. We had called within one month of my arriving to make an appointment which we couldn’t get until two months later plus a week after my visa would have expired. Then I would have been waiting around for God knows how long for them to process it all, unable to leave the country without having to start all over again.”

Were they fucking yanking my chain? Pardon the French. I left the embassy in tears. My poor brother-in-law having driven me must have been quite uncomfortable.


Okay, this isn’t the end of the world. It sucks. Yes. Okay. But you can do it. It’s just one more “giant but illusory” obstacle meant to make you stronger. Heck, you could probably make the appointment at the prefecture NOW and get a head start. You don’t even have to bring a complete application. Who cares if they say it is incomplete and send you away with a recipisse (a receipt proving that I applied)? At least you’ll be able to stay longer than three months. If that’s the game, play it. But don’t let this steal your heart and soul away. Don’t let this be the end of the world. Don’t give up NOW! And don’t bark at your family like it’s their fault. Let it all just roll off your back like marbles. Forgive even this.

I’m working on it.

Seriously, is this process for real? I mean, how many people have to go through this garbage? How many stories are out there besides mine? I’m sure there are much worse. This system is obviously designed to completely destroy what would otherwise have been perfectly delightful relationships. I tell you what. If I had my own country, I would completely annihilate this type of BS.

As it is, I just have to learn to accept it. I really am doing my best.

Healing Time

So, it’s been several weeks since I’ve written. That’s for several reasons. First, I’ve been somewhat behind in my ability to process my own experiences. Normally, I process by writing, but everything has been happening too fast and furious for that. I think I’m finally starting to catch up. Second, I’ve been all over the place making it hard to settle myself down and write (let alone market my books or have a worklife). I spent a very nice couple of weeks in Asheville visiting friends, then headed back to Virginia before a “little jaunt” to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. This tumbleweed is over living out of her suitcase!

In New York, I received the transmission of Bon Chod from Bon Shen Ling. I’ve been waiting 10 years, since I first heard about the practice, to take it. It was a very powerful experience, though I regret how very quickly the weekend went by and how little practice we actually had to really take in the ritual. I had been recording the chants and drum patterns but was then asked to erase them; I sat outside and cried while hitting the delete button on my phone. It was one of the most painful things I’ve had to do because it was so important to me to learn the practice correctly and well. I want to continue my studies of Chod online when I can, but for now, I just have to be sloppy and wing it. That’s so against my grain!

In Connecticut. I connected with relatives on my Dad’s side of the family. What a sweet, inspiring bunch! It was so special to be reunited with him through them. Even though I hardly know them, they were all very welcoming and loving toward me, and I have to say, it was a very healing experience full of buried memories, forgotten histories, and unknown treasures. It made me realize that my history is important…not something to annihilate as I had once thought. I had learned about the importance of letting go of personal history in my Toltec work and misunderstood the teaching. I tried to erase my past as if it never existed or happened. Now I realize that those stories and connections are an important part of this identity, even if the identity itself isn’t important…if that makes sense. Or as my friend Gene says, “Take the personal out of your history.” My past is to be respected…not as a limitation but as a compass. No one else has my past!

I have to say, New England was gorgeous!!! I probably went at the best time of year. It was cool and the leaves were already changing. Hard to believe I was born up there. I had no memory of its beauty. It makes me want to live there, which is good, because Stuart is drawn to the coast there too. (Now, if it had been the dead of winter, I might be rethinking wanting to live there. But for now, I’ll allow myself to dream of an adorable little house near the coast in our future.)

In addition to seeing the house where I spent my first 6 years, the house of my maternal grandparents now deceased, and my Dad’s old car lot, my cousin took me to a place that had been one of my Dad’s favorites, Kent Falls. There I was able to do little ceremony for myself letting go of 9 of the most hurtful beliefs I carry. On this trip, probably a result of the Chod, and just as a result of everything I’ve been through, I started to gain some clarity and space from the trauma of recent months. I understand better  what my work truly is right now…and it has mostly to do with my mind. I felt the energy of my ancestors present and a certain resonance with the place, later discovering it used to be Indian land…well, wasn’t the entire US once Indian land?…but the sacredness of it was still palpable. My cousin was also instrumental in helping me talk out some jumbled inner feelings helping me break out of a mental straight-jacket I’d put myself into. Now I’m back in Virginia planning a visit to New Mexico to visit another sister and her family in the town where I grew up and went to college.

Stuart and I have been trying to decide what comes next for us. We are still gathering the I-130 Petition documents we need. We’re almost there. But should I settle in the US or go back and visit him? If I settled now, he could visit but only for a short time as he couldn’t work on a visitor’s visa. And I couldn’t really go there if I had rent and a car payment here. That would mean a very long year apart while his CR1 was processed.

Our best shot seemed me going back to visit him before settling. With a short-stay visa, I could stay three months. But that would put me back in the states home-less and car-less again in the height of winter. Not a thought I relished. In the process of collecting everything, something…divine guidance…led me to investigate long stay visas in France. I don’t know why I hadn’t looked into it before. I discovered that I could stay up to a year in France as the spouse of an EU citizen without having to obtain residency. It’s looking promising. In fact, I’ve already completed the application (easy peasy!), and I have an appointment at the consulate next week. It only takes three weeks to process, so I could conceivably be heading back to France in November, and not just for three months. We might be able to be together during the entire wait time on his CR1! And I could return in Spring if necessary to get us established here. It seems things are popping into place after popping chaotically for so long. I have to confess though, I found myself overreacting today when we hit a small snag. It seems I’ve been conditioned to expect the worst over the last several months. But I see that, and I’m beginning to feel a lot more hopeful than I have in a long time.

It’s funny. Leaving France was so awful, so painful. I was so sure it was a mistake. But now, looking back on what I’ve experienced since my return, and seeing also how much both Stuart and I have learned and grown, maybe it wasn’t a mistake after all. Painful, yes. It was that. But it wasn’t the end of anything. It was a necessary side-trip to my own healing. Maybe it all had to happen this way. I find it beautiful that my time back has been all about relationships…to my past, to my family. It has truly been a healing time. And maybe now, finally, I have a better relationship with myself.


Crabby Cabby

This is the continuing soap opera (as one friend put it) of my return to the United States. If you’ve been following along, you know the turmoil I went through to make the plane home. I was so burned out at this point. By the grace of God, I made each of my connecting flights by minutes despite being directed to the worst possible customs line in Atlanta. I also managed to claim all my bags and wheel them over to be rechecked, despite an injured knee and toe, hobbling along at top speed.

On the last leg from Atlanta to Washington, I started to hallucinate. I’m not sure if it was the guy next to me wearing a bottle of synthetic cologne or the nasty food or just sheer emotional exhaustion, but I could have sworn the airline attendant said we’d land in Dulles. Wishful thinking perhaps. Around 11:30 PM, we landed and everyone piled off. Now I had to find my way around Reagan Airport and find out just how many hundreds of dollars a taxi to Dulles would be. I stopped the first airline attendant I saw and explained that I was expecting to land in Dulles. I needed transportation there. How far was it? She looked at me with a blank look and another attendant stepped in. He heard me asking my question, and with a rather interesting and somewhat fearful expression (Is this crazy lady for real?), he explained to me that I was at Dulles.

I am?


Oh. Well, that’s good!

Turns out, the whole Washington/Dulles/Reagan thing at the Bordeaux airport had been one giant ‘lost in translation’ misunderstanding. No one with Air France seemed to know the difference, so they had no way of setting me straight…or maybe they were just having some French-style fun with me.

It was a surreal miracle that I was now in the airport I had originally planned with a free shuttle to my hotel just minutes away. However, by the time I claimed all my luggage with the help of a strapping young porter, when I called the hotel, the last shuttle for the night had already run. No biggie. I’d just take a taxi. At least it was a short trip.

The porter was awesome. He was friendly and energetic and just the energy I needed to be in. He wheeled my stuff out to the street and hailed a taxi. As it was raining, with a suitcase in hand, he opened the cab door for me. That’s when Crabby Cabby appeared. [Please read the part of Crabby Cabby with your best Indian accent]

“Don’t you dare put bags in my car! Leave them! Leave them! I’ll do it!”

“I’m not putting anything in your cab. I know better. I’m opening for door for THE LADY. It’s raining!” my gentle porter explained with a nice roll of the eyes in my direction.

“No one puts bags in my car! I put them in! You just bring them here!” Crabby Cabby insisted just in case he hadn’t been heard.

When I was in the cab, I handed the driver my hotel information. Remember how exhausted I was? Well, I told him it was in the opposite direction. He looked confused. I took this to mean he had no idea where he was going. I said, “If you don’t know where it is, I’m not sure I’m comfortable having you drive me.”

“It is over this way! I know exactly where it is! It isn’t over there. You confuse me!”

So off we sped.

Minutes later, I was at the hotel. I paid Crabby Cabby and tipped him. I could see a bell hop thingie (what are they called?) in the door, so I ran in to wheel it to the cab. But when I came back out with it, Crabby Cabby was already burning rubber–my five suitcases sat on the sidewalk getting rained on. I’d have to heave them onto the “thingie” myself. It wasn’t like I was exhausted or anything.

The hotel room was awesome. It was a rewards freebie. I requested a late checkout and slept like a baby after letting Stuart know I was okay and following a nice hot soak in the tub. I took another bath the next morning too..and one or more a day for the next two weeks; you see, Stuart’s place only had showers. It was heaven to have a bath again after three months!

The next day, my sister, her husband, and my mother came to pick me up and brought me to my next hotel…a long-stay for which my brother-in-law was able to get me a fabulous rate. I stayed there for two whole weeks decompressing; it was a huge blessing, as I had not just a mountain, but a whole range to decompress!

It’s all very dramatic, my story. I admit living it was a nightmare of multiple dimensions too. But in hindsight and after lots of self-nurturing and healing, I’m feeling quite strong and ready for whatever comes next. In fact, one of the very first emails I opened upon returning was a notification of a Bon Chod training I’d been waiting ten years to take. It was happening in New York state on my birthday, and here I was, a five or six hour drive away! I registered for it with hesitation. Some things are just meant to be.

In fact, I must say, the flow seems to have returned to my life. Though there are still many unknowns, even the immigration paperwork here is almost complete and rather effortlessly so…nothing like our experience with the French residency package we’d been working on for months. As Stuart said, “It doesn’t hurt that it’s all in English!”

So, we’ll see what happens next…


One-Woman Exodus

Back to the story. So it’s July 31st. I’ve just been informed by email I’ll owe money at the closing for my house happening later that day. Due to a six hour time difference, there’s no way I can get hold of my realtor. My five bags (six counting my backpack) are packed, and we’re ready to head to the airport an hour away. Stuart and I are both feeling extremely meh. We’re numb with sadness over what must be done…the very thing I was for some reason trying so hard to avoid…life in the states.

We arrive. I get in the ticket line. I am then informed I missed my flight which actually left two hours ago.

“Say what?”

The airline employee pointed to the customer service desk. We made our way over.  They couldn’t get me out again until August 6th at the earliest. Did I want that ticket?

Now, my visa was expiring August 4th. What would happen if I overstayed two days? Anything? Would I get grilled leaving Amsterdam? Have to pay a fine? Be forbidden to return? So we held off on reserving that ticket and went home to sort things out.

As soon as we were outside, Stuart and I looked at one another and burst out laughing. I don’t think I’d ever felt so much relief in all my life. So, we rolled my enormous luggage back to the car and went home. How did this happen? How did I mess up? Was I sabotaging myself?

When we got back, I checked my email. Sure enough, it stated that my departure time was 10AM, just as I had thought. This wasn’t my screw-up. Apparently, the airline had changed the flight time, but somehow, I missed the notification.

Stuart said, “You’ve got to call and ask for a refund!”

So, I called. But I wasn’t offered a refund. Instead I was offered the same flight out, August 6th. I wanted to grab it, but there was this visa issue that needed to be resolved first. I explained that and said I’d call back.  Stuart and I were both over the moon that we would have another week together.

We then began the “investigation” about my visa. The first thing I did was call my friend who happened to be in France and happened to be French. I asked if she’s help translate our situation at the police station. We needed to ask if I could get some kind of visa extension by explaining my situation. We drove into town with my friend on stand-by, pressed the buzzer outside the police station and were bruskly told to drive to the next town another fifteen minutes away. It was lunch time after all.

Fortunately for us, we spotted a gendarme on the street a block away speaking to someone. We parked the car, made our phone call to our translator, handed the phone to the officer, and waited to hear his response. He was very helpful (I’m not being sarcastic) and suggested we go to the airport to speak to the police there. We weren’t really up for another hour drive, so we went home again. On the way, we had a now familiar conversation about how challenging life was proving to be for us in France. Even with speaking better French, situations like this were so complicated, we’d still have to rely on translators.

Once home, I called the airline again, and that’s when I was told they had a flight out “tomorrow”.  “What about the 6th?” I asked. No longer an option. They had a seat tomorrow. It was the only one they were offering. Did I want it? Ug! All that sweet relief and joyous irony suddenly turned sour. I had minutes to make a decision. All my bags were packed. It was either go now or stay in France and go through the residency procedure there, which once started would have meant I couldn’t leave until I got my carte several months later, or it was pay $2000 for another plane ticket, or leave Stuart the very next day, going through the whole airport drive and luggage thing all over again. And remember, there was the question of whether or not my house would indeed close without a hitch. I didn’t like any of my choices. With the pressure on, I surrendered and took the flight.

The following day, we packed the car and off we went to the airport. It was one car ride I never wanted to end. I kept hoping the car would break down or something, but of course, we got there with no problems. We got in line and when I approached the desk, I was informed that I was flying to Washington. Thinking she meant Reagan Airport, I explained to the desk agent that I was flying to Dulles. No, she said, Washington. But my original flight was for Dulles! I have a hotel reservation a block from Dulles! She checked her screen.

The only flight is to Washington.


So, Stuart and I were back at the same customer service desk where we had an identical conversation with two more desk agents. By this point, I was shaking and quite broken down. Reagan and Dulles were at least an hour apart, maybe more. I was already arriving at midnight. I was sleep-deprived from the week’s other stresses. Not only was I flying to the wrong airport, I was flying through Atlanta instead of direct. That meant I’d have to claim my massive luggage in Atlanta and recheck it. Did I mention I’d hurt both my right knee and left toe several weeks before and was having to limp? Now I’d have to take a costly taxi to my hotel too? I could not do this. I didn’t have the strength anymore. Over several months, I had been burned to a nervous frazzle.

Stuart and I roamed the airport pushing my mountain of suitcases around trying to pull an answer down, “Does this mean I stay or does this mean I  go?” I was so confused. I was beyond confused. I was angry. I was sick to my stomach. Everything inside said that I wanted more time in France…just a little more time. I had given up so much to be there…everything! Now I was leaving? I felt like a complete failure and a total idiot. Why was everything such a mess? And where was I going? I didn’t even know. My guts were wrenched. I was beyond decision-making ability; so was Stuart. With the clock ticking, always ticking, we just looked at each other with blank faces, not knowing what to do. I got in line again, then got out again. More time passed as I sat on the cold airport floor unable to move. Finally, five minutes to boarding, some energy flooded me and took over. If I didn’t know what to do, then I’d do something. I’d get in line. If I was meant to be on that plane, I would be. With nails clawing the walls of the airport, I made it to my gate, the last one to board, eyes full of tears. But I have to admit, I felt some relief just to have made a decision.

France is indeed a beautiful country. Exquisite, in fact. I love the way time moves more slowly there and how soft the light is. It’s a great place…to visit. And visit I will. Living, on the other hand, was proving to be quite a challenge. At least, it was for me. Maybe in different circumstances, at another time…

…as it stood, I had bitten off way more than I could chew.

Stay tuned for my arrival story featuring “Crabby Cabby”.

Bureaufrenzy: A Trip to the Embassy in Paris

If you’re wondering why the blog has been so quiet as of late, the last couple of months have been very, very difficult in so many ways, but I’m finally starting to feel de-traumatized and able to process everything Stuart and I have been through. Here’s one story that happened at the end of July…

The sale of my house, which I wrote about in other posts, was set to close on July 28th. Stuart and I had been talking about what to do if anything went wrong and the sale fell through. Since I was in default simply for no longer living in the house, if it didn’t sell, I would be facing foreclosure. We decided that, should that be the case, it would be best for me to return to the states.

Now, I just happened to have a return flight as part of a round-trip ticket…just in case. This flight was for July 31st, about a week before my visa would be up and just enough days after the closing to know whether or not I’d need to use it. Here’s what happened…

With the days ticking away, the Thursday before the closing, I was told that documents were being mailed overnight which would need to be notarized. Hmm…so much for closing Monday. That’s not so good, thinks I. Where will I find an English-speaking notary in the country, let alone someone to translate all the documents so quickly? The good news is that before I left the US, I gave my sister power of attorney. I could just have everything sent to her and signed on my behalf. Easy! Problem solved!

Not so fast. The lawyer then thought to ask if I was married. She informed me that according the  state law, Stuart would then also have to sign the documents. Great. That meant everything would indeed need to be sent to France for us to sign. We should have everything by Friday…or was it Saturday? I can’t remember. So, our next step was to make an appointment at the US Embassy in Paris, a five-hour drive. We learned that they handle notarizations there. Appointments must be made online, and while they had appointments, they were all after the new closing date of the house and the date of my return flight…July 31st. This also happened to be the last date the buyer’s would have funding. Talk about a pressure-cooking experience! I emailed the embassy requesting an emergency notarization wondering whether we’d hear anything before the weekend.

So, while we “waited to see” on that, we tried to find another alternative. We visited the local mairie (like a mayor, basically), but they explained they couldn’t witness our signatures without knowing what we were signing and hence we were back to needing expensive translations.

Fortunately, the consulate came through with an emergency appointment on the following Monday in the morning. In the morning? With a five-hour drive? Thus began the search for relatively inexpensive accommodations in Paris. If we arrived Sunday, we could figure out where we needed to be the following morning and also plot out our journey to the nearest Fed Ex so we could mail everything immediately. We were feeling pretty good until the confirmation email from the embassy arrived stating that anyone not named on the appointment would not be allowed to enter. I had no idea about this and had made the appointment in my name only. My only option was to email the embassy and add Stuart to the appointment crossing our fingers it wasn’t too late, seeing as it was the weekend and the appointment was first thing Monday. If it was too late, we’d be going to Paris for nothing. And boy, would I have fun explaining that to my realtor. Fortunately again, we received confirmation from the embassy. I have to say, I was impressed.

So off we went to Paris. We found a nice AirB&B apartment to stay in. We figured out the metro, found everything, got our papers signed, made copies of everything and had it all in the mail by late afternoon Monday. Time to breathe! I don’t think I’d taken in any oxygen since the preceding Friday.

Now, Stuart and I had been discussing the new closing date and my return ticket July 31st and whether I should still go back or what. If anything happened and the house didn’t close, I’d need to go back anyway. Did we really want to buy another ticket if that happened? Besides, at this point, we’d been talking about all the difficulties we were facing in France and whether or not we really saw ourselves living there long-term. We spent the remaining few days deliberating this very difficult decision. In the end, my bags were packed, and I’d be returning to the states to petition for Stuart’s immigration.

The morning of the new closing date, the same morning of my flight, leaving my beloved behind for an unknown period of separation, going to I didn’t even know where with my five suitcases, I got an email from my realtor. Due to a mathematical error, instead of walking away with $1500, I would actually owe money at the closing. EXCUSE ME? AND YOU’RE TELLING ME THIS NOW??? Needless to say, at this point, I was a nervous wreck with no remaining mental capacity to think straight. I replied with a rather acidic email, and to my realtor’s credit, he did the right thing and gave me a credit. To top it off, it turned out that the bank had miscalculated also, and that I had paid off more than they realized. So I ended up making more than I originally thought.

Can you hear the rattling marbles in my head?

Oh,but the fun didn’t stop there. But I’ll leave the story of leaving France for another time.