Xenophobia: An Expat Nightmare in Any Country

Every Wednesday, I hang out with a group of mostly British ladies drinking tea and conversing about all manner of subjects at a local cafe here in the Poitou-Charentes. Today, somebody mentioned xenophobia (put that on your scrabble word list) and how it is increasing in France. Xenophobia is a dislike or prejudice toward people from other countries. Seems to be increasing everywhere! world-flag-map

From Brexit to burqini bans, dreams of building walls to extreme vetting, closing borders to policing restrooms (which okay, technically is another kind of phobia altogether), the world seems determined to hate itself and each other–because let’s be honest, hating anyone is nothing more than self-hatred turned outward.

I haven’t been on the receiving end of any blatant xenophobia, but I dread the day I do. So far, the worst behavior I’ve experienced is an insistence in speaking too rapidly “at” me and the occasional roll of the eyes and dismissal from people who clearly have more important things to do than try to communicate with someone who hasn’t mastered their language yet. Can’t say I blame them!

More often, I find myself angry at my own kind talking hate speech and glorifying that kind of ignorance. I get furious with headlines that slant and journalism that tries to tell me what to think. I hate it no matter what side it comes from. Sadly, journalism has fallen into the often-made-fun-of category of professions that nobody likes…politician, lawyer, journalist. I think even morticians rank higher these days. They’ve completely effed up, if you know what I mean, emboldening idiots everywhere to take up their idiot flags and wave them around in sane, educated people’s faces.

Xenophobia aside, now that the UK has voted to exit the EU, I wonder where I will stand when my carte de titre expires in 3 years. Will I still have a right to live here as the non-EU spouse of a UK (formerly EU) citizen? Will my husband have to apply for citizenship in France to keep his rights? Will I? It’s all a muddle of uncertainty and will be for quite some time. It makes me realize just how tenuous my rights actually are. They are all pinned on Stuart and his rights. So, if something happens to him, what happens to me? Only time will tell.

But that’s the expat life…one had better thrive on uncertainty!



Settling In

I haven’t blogged here in ages, and I’d like to bring things to a sort-of closure. I am writing this from my office in our new house in the Charente. It is hard to believe that just two years ago, my husband and I met and began our whirlwind, international romance. It is sometimes harder to believe we actually persevered and made it through the unbelievable challenges that were thrown at us from all sides. WE DID IT!!!

I’ve been in France officially as a resident since May of 2015. I have my Carte de Sejour now, and just yesterday, received my Carte Vitale in the mail. Today, I even managed to get myself a library card. Of course, that was significantly easier than everything else, let me tell you! I’ve even made great strides in driving the old stick shift!

I’ve been taking French since I arrived, but it is slow going. While I wish I was in school every day, out here in the country, there just aren’t opportunities for that. So I string my French lessons together as I can. I take a couple of hours in the nearest town every week. I also use the internet to study and listen to French radio and TV. I tried joining a choir but ironically, they sang a lot of English songs. I registered at the Pole Emploi, the equivalent of the Department of Labor, and will receive additional weekly lessons through them for free starting in a few months. I just wish it was starting now and happening every day!

In fact, the language barrier is now the single most important obstacle I must learn to overcome. But as long as one has some good translators to call when needed (and can afford to pay them), one can get by. Of course, I can’t wait for the day when I can actually speak and write well enough to handle things myself. It is tough to put so much trust in others who are speaking for me all the time. So much is lost in translation.

But generally, I’m finding that life here isn’t nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. Now that the worst is over, I’m finding it all pretty easy. Maybe I’m fooling myself. Time will tell…

The hardest parts about living here:

1. It is easier to meet and socialize with the English-speaking community than to integrate into French society. In my experience, there is little support to help the English-speaking community to integrate…okay, actually none! Maybe it would be different if we were in a big city like Paris, though.

2. It can be a nightmare to find the answers to important questions. Very often, the answers lead one down a rabbit hole that merely seems to produce even more questions.

3. My life has shrunk considerably in many ways in terms of friends, opportunities, and a sense of control over what happens to me.

The best parts about living here (aside from being with Stuart):

1. The view out my window is phenomenal, and there is plenty of quiet.

2. There are some real angels here and it is a joy to meet and interact with them. France is cultivating my gratitude for the finer things in life (and I don’t mean wine).

3. I’m growing by leaps and bounds and am having to overcome a ton of my fears and resistances, all very good for my personal healing. As I can’t control anything, I have no choice but to just let go and let is all unfold. That is a huge lesson and a huge gift.

Time will tell how difficult it is to make an actual living here doing what I was doing in the States. I may have to be more flexible or go in a completely unexpected direction. I may find it impossible. Who knows?  But that’s the next thing on my plate…making a living.


Bon Courage!


Together Apart

Yes, I realize I’ve been quiet. Things have been sort of…unpredictable, uncertain, and intense. This has been a time of letting go. That seems to me to be the lesson again and again. Let go of every concept of how I think things should be. Let go of any and all expectations. Learn to live by a sense of what feeeeels right in the moment even if it seems to be going in the opposite direction of where I thought I wanted to go. The Universe seems to be providing me with immeasurable gifts to hone my intuition, to improve my ability to communicate, to see and release negative habits and thought patterns, to open up to synchronicity and learn to trust it, to learn better and better self-care, and to constantly refocus myself from a place of fear, lack of trust and self-doubt to one of love, faith, and confidence. They are proving to be the hardest lessons of my life. Some days, I just want to leave the planet. Others, I feel more hopeful.

Since arriving back in the states, I’ve spent a good portion of my time in Asheville, the city I lived in before I went to France for three months. I also spent time in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and presently, New Mexico, where I grew up. All this moving around has been rather disorienting and wearing on my nerves. Being back in the Sandia mountains is helping to alleviate my sense of groundlessness.

Stuart and I have both learned a lot during this intense time of separation. Mostly, we’ve learned that we don’t have control over everything (and probably anything) that happens to us. The only place we have control is over our attitudes and interpretations about it all…and that can be the bigger challenge. One thing is certain; we both have to do what we can to keep ourselves sane and happy right where we are…even if it feels like our lives are growing apart.

Who knows why things have gone crazy apeshit? Who knows why we’re even further apart now than we were before we even got married? Seriously, who knows? I know I don’t. Life is a constantly swirling mystery. I can’t explain it.

Partly for the grounding I mentioned earlier and for other reasons I’ll save for another post, I started an apartment search here in Albuquerque. Talk about swirling mystery! WTF am I doing here? It’s a lot of stress, this current situation. For one thing, I’m up against the crazy catch-22 of “can’t open a bank account without an address; can’t get a car without a loan; can’t get a loan without a job; can’t get a job without a car, etc.” The more difficult part is knowing if I commit to a lease, that’s pretty much the death of some dreams I had when I met and married Stuart. It’s going to cement a lot of moving pieces into place…including me. I’ll be buying a car, furniture, finding some work, setting up my business again. Stuart’s and my relationship will change. Everything will change…again.

“What about Stuart?’, you may ask. “What about France?”

Life seems to have other plans. And that’s okay. That’s just the point. Something really weird is happening, and I just have to trust it.

Will we even stay married? Honestly, we don’t know. We just don’t know. We’re both trying to find our way to the light right now after a year of unbelievable stress loads. It sucks. It hurts. It’s scary. Where are we both supposed to be? What is the nature of our relationship? Nothing has been clear. Then again, I could write a blog in two weeks saying I’m going to France after all. That’s how WEIRD life has been, so I’ve finally cried, “Uncle!” and stopped trying to figure things out. The only thing we know is how important we are to one another…that we love and serve each other in completely mysterious ways…that we can’t imagine our lives without our connection. How it ends up looking though, that’s all in the mystery.

As Stuart said earlier today, tongue in cheek, signing off of Skype, “Go do what you do there, and I’ll continue to do what I do here. And someday, we’ll be where we’ve gotten, and it’ll all makes sense.” It doesn’t get much clearer than that.

Perhaps the deepest lesson I’m coming to appreciate is that all I really have is me, here, now. My relationship with myself is ultimately the one that matters most. So, I have to allow myself to live where I am. I can’t keep trying to live where I am not nor wait for the day when I am. And I have to constantly de-emphasize all the unwanted things that keep happening instead of thinking about them constantly, trying to solve unsolvable problems. I must focus on how I want to feel. Stuart has to do the same. To do anything else would just be insane and create more resistance and more of what we don’t want!!! On the outside, it looks like we’re falling apart. So what? I already know appearances can be very deceiving. Maybe we will fall apart. But for now, we’re just riding the waves…the crazy, ludicrous waves…together apart, as gracefully as we can.

There is an anonymous quote that says, “Your soulmate is not someone who comes into your life peacefully. It is someone who comes to make you question things, who changes your reality, somebody that marks a before and after in your life. It is not the human being everyone has idealized, but an ordinary person, who manages to revolutionize your world in a second.” I would add, “It is a person who unknowingly pulls you inside-out, forcing you to confront every last remaining shadow aspect that keeps you from loving what is.” Thank you, Beloved. I am doing my best to embrace your lessons.





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.


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.




Good Days & Bad Days

The morning I left Asheville, I was experiencing some pretty strange sensations. The energy was quite “swirly” for lack of a better descriptor. It was difficult to keep myself upright as I walked through my house one last time cutting cords and dispelling energies for recycling. When I finally pulled out of the driveway in my shiny Nissan Versa rental, I didn’t look back.

I drove to Virginia and spent a week with family. It was a bit stressful due to a family health issue, but somehow, I made it through that test (as did the family member) and landed in France.

I’ve been here for four days. Hard to believe! The first night, I woke up bawling my eyes out. It just woke me up and came over me like a wave. This was followed by two pretty good days in which I managed to converse with the receptionist at the Citroen dealership regarding a car maintenance issue as well as a pharmacist to acquire the appropriate homeopathic remedy for allergies. Today, however, not such a good day. The walls started to close in all around me as my total lack of control for every aspect of my life finally hit me.

I’m pretty damn helpless here, a hard pill for a formerly totally independent woman to swallow. And there isn’t much I can do about that. We’re in the middle of nowhere, and I don’t drive standard…let alone know where to go anyway.

We made the decision for me to come and look for our place to live together rather than Stuart finding us a place on his own. And I knew all along that I would be challenged by the fact that I…a place for everything and everything in its place little me…wouldn’t be in control of my environment here. Environments are crucial to my sense of security, inner peace, and efficiency. I don’t just like order; I NEED it to function. Having let go of so much to get here, I now have so little with which to create my space. In truth, this space isn’t mine. And it never will be. The sooner we find our new home, the better.

I may be surrounded by beautiful paintings but they do little to offset the total chaos of two merging lives. The hideous temporary furnishings, cold tile floors (so fun for yoga), cold rooms, lack of light, and lack of space are creeping me out. There is no space to call my own…no retreat. No functionality. So I wander from room to room or sit “in my own little 4 ft. corner in an absurdly uncomfortable chair” in Stuart’s office in front of my computer, twiddling my thumbs or going back and forth from Gmail to Facebook with a frighteningly compulsive regularity.

I tried to set up a makeshift altar in one of my suitcases, but it did little to alleviate my growing sense of discomfort (and hence Stuart’s). Today was so bad that only the Lilly of the Valley plant that Stuart got me could take my attention off my misery…and only for as long as I sat there staring at it and inhaling its delightful fragrance…offset as it was with one of his paintings behind it.

I know I just need to be patient. I have food, water, clothing, shelter, air…fabulous air! Lots of quiet. All this upheaval won’t last forever.

…but it may be up and down for a while.