Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Not Just for Expats: To Thrive not Just Survive

I have realized, lately, that a lot of my worries about all that is to come is draining my joy and excitement! How do I recognize and prepare for certain difficulties but still look forward to all the good that is in store?

I stumbled upon an expat blog by Ariana with a guest post by Allison called, 10 Ways to Thrive as an Expat. It was really good.

She broke her thoughts down to 10 points, and expat or not ... this is well placed advice for anyone in new and challenging circumstances. Moving to a new city stateside, new church, just married with a new husband and in-laws, having a baby, new job, new school, empty-nesters ...  haven't we all felt out of place and wondered how to thrive (and not just survive)?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Perfectly American Endeavor

 The girls have been plotting this all week ...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Straight Way

Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, 
and He delivered them from their distress. 
He led them by a straight way 
to a city where they could settle. 
Let them give thanks to the Lord 
for His unfailing love ...
Psalm 107:6-8

Making this my anthem today. Feeling mighty overwhelmed and disoriented on a twisty-turvy path. If I step outside myself, I know this is a season and we will press through. He will make our paths straight and lead us to "a city where we can settle." But today ... I feel weary before I've started.

Know the feeling?

Monday, July 7, 2014

What We Think We Will Miss

Today we were talking about how there are many things we are looking forward to about being in France, but there are bound to be plenty that we miss about the States. It's only natural, no? I anticipate that we won't even know what some of them are until we've actually expatriated ourselves, but we did come up with a few "little things" we are pretty sure we will miss:

Peanut butter. Why is this such an American thing? It's so good!
Family and friends. This is super obvious and not "little," but it still made the list.
Trampoline. No explanation needed.
Snacking. Love to hate it. Snacking is so fun, but it is mindless. I'm actually excited to try a more French meal-based version of intentional eating ... over grazing.

And the #1 little thing we expect to miss:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fitting Together

Uzes, France

Can you imagine the kinds of questions I have swirling through my head these days? So, so many. Big things like school for the kids, doctor's visits, how I'll manage phone conversations (??) and what to do in case of an emergency.

But I also have questions like ... which bank should we set up an account with? Do we buy a car, lease a car? How long should we reserve a rental to cover us until we figure this out? What do we do if someone chips a tooth? Are there other English speakers in our area that we can befriend? How about church? How about classes to improve our French? Which market should I go to? Where can I buy socks and underwear? (I don't know why, but this seems important.)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Becoming of Memories

 Today was an interesting day. A revisiting and packing up of memories in preparation for future. I was hesitant to begin the removal and storage of all of our wall hangings, decorations, books ... the signs that have made this house our house and not that of someone else.

Is it the thing, the place that is so dear ... or just that it is what, where our memories rest upon? How come memories feel so sweet and yet so tender all at once?

It was hard at first to fill the boxes, but now I am finding it somewhat cathartic. With each bare wall exposed and empty bookcase wiped down, I am reminded of what really makes this house special. Our home and yard have been lovely, yes. But what has truly made it special is that it held us and our memories. The us  part ... well, we are still intact. Ready to be held by a new place ... together. Us.

My mama was here for the day, a regular workhorse she is. She packed box upon box with tetris-like precision. Not only was she a massive help, but it was a treasure to talk about future plans and reminisce over the past. After unloading the attic, we came upon the box marked "wedding dress" and I remarked that after sixteen years, I have never once taken it back out, nor tried it on.

So, guess what we did.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Our Kind of Fun

This evening we played croquet. At first glance, we are a menacing group.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Like Nothing Else

One of the marvelous things about this move is how we have been questioning our spending and our acquisitions, as we need to curb both. The result has been a winnowing of possessions (we still have pleeeeenty!) and an adjustment in our gift giving.

For Father's Day this year, Pops received a homemade, from scratch double-layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache with candied lemons from Lucette (wowzas), a painting of geraniums entitled "You are Always Here for Me" and a plate of cookies from Jane, and from Peter, a hand-whittled letter-opener carved from a laurel wood branch in our backyard.

Doesn't handmade say "I love you" like nothing else?

Saturday, June 14, 2014

And this is not your own doing ...

We are in process of finishing the sale of our house. A week on the market, sold for a reasonable price for both parties (we think, at least!), to an adorable young Christian family that is expecting their first baby in October. Praise God. I absolutely despise negotiations, as I find the pull between looking out for our own interests, yet being mindful and kind to other parties involved ... a nerve-wracking tightrope walk. Praying the inspection goes well and the final details are managed smoothly.

In the interim, as we are not quite ready to begin the massive disassembling and packing-up of the house, I've begun research on possible English-speaking churches or general fellowship in area we will be living. This has been a massive prayer of ours, that God would provide some sort of connection/fellowship with other believers ... in English ... while our language skills move past infancy.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Berry Picking Preparation

 In the midst of all of this house-selling hoopla, we hope to break out tomorrow morning for some strawberry picking.

Jane painted her nails in anticipation. It's always lovely to match your manicure to your activity!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

In All These Things

Yesterday our dear little home was listed for sale. After a marathon of touch-ups and carpet cleaning and closet organizing and stuff purging ... we pounded a sign into the front lawn declaring that our home of 8.5 years was ready for a new family. In exactly 2 months we will be leaving for France. It is time to let go to move forward.

I have complete peace that this is what we are to do to pursue the next adventure God has lined up. But it is not without some melancholy. Everywhere I look I see memories. The staircase that Pops rebuilt and the children have trotted down every morning.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Braided Bread Wizard

Miss Lucette is quite the whiz in the kitchen, these days. Completely by herself (including clean-up!!), full-on yeasty bread dough, braided and baked to perfection! Thanks, doll!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

We Got 'Em

It's official. We have French visas for residence in France!

Considering all that has been riding on obtaining these documents, I am so overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that I haven't had the chance to truly be excited. God continues to open doors and provide in all the areas we must trust Him to do so. My faith is maturing, my instinct to trust rather than fret is developing. This is good.

And when I step back from the mayhem ... I am very excited.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lavender Pots on the Ledge

Aigaliers, France

I love the simplicity of this line-up. Hearty lavender plants in simple terracotta pots. And look up a bit. They painted the base white of some ... and all's the merrier when it chips and shows wear.

Friday, May 16, 2014

To Go and Return Again

After a whirlwind tour of San Francisco, we are back and done with the visa paperwork portion of our adventure. Phew! After leaving the girls at home with my mother, (thanks, mama!!) we flew in Wednesday evening and took the BART to downtown. Dropped our bags at a little "French" hotel. (Didn't really plan the Frenchy-ness of this, it just worked out ... room for three and a breakfast!)

Once we dropped off our bags we walked down the street for dinner and ended up at Café de la Presse (I swear, it wasn't planned.) and while we were waiting for our meal alfresco, I wandered down the street a bit and managed to be mistaken for a nervous-looking man's blind date, Noelle. Nope. Not Noelle. But thank you so very much for considering me a candidate.

Friday, May 9, 2014

A Cute Little Place to Stay

Paris apartment rented! One of my great travel loves is Airbnb. It is near impossible to find accommodations for a family of five abroad that are not outrageously expensive. Even rooms for four are spendy, but five ... forget it. And I've yet to find roll-away beds in Europe. For us, renting apartments has been the ticket. For a fraction of the cost, we get plenty of space, a kitchen and often a washer. Additionally, we end up in neighborhoods of the locals versus tourists. Always a plus, from my perspective.

Now of course, there are no concierge or bellboys or Zagat ratings ... but if you choose well, you will have hosts that are accommodating and helpful. For instance, our flight into Paris arrives at 6:30am on a Tuesday. (This means we will be an exhausted family of five with a mountain of luggage ready to crash by 8:00am. As we have learned from experience, aimless jet-lagged wandering is not ideal.) Our hosts allowed us to pay for a "partial night" for the day before. We will not sleep there Monday night, but arrive early Tuesday and have immediate check-in. Hurrah! So worth it.

And isn't this place cute? We will only be here for two nights, but it seems a lovely stop-over before we head west to La Cressonnière.

Now. Time to nail down a place to stay in New York, the first part of our leg. Whenever I start to get stressed out over this adventure I am reminded ... these are blessed problems to have.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sorting the Details

Leave it to the French to eschew the manila envelope for an understated brown-wrap envelope. It was addressed to M. et Mme, as well. (Monsieur and Madame ... I feel so fancy.)

Of course, as soon as I opened this package from the children's école, regarding their classes in the fall, I had to yank out the dictionaries and chat with my good friend Google Translate to help decipher the directives.

I am so proud of the children to be willing to dive in like this, but also nervous, as well. The language takes everything to a whole new level of intimidating. Choosing to pray instead of worry, however, knowing God is capable of redirecting our path (homeschooling is always an option) or equipping us for the challenge.

In other news, we also purchased our plane tickets! Visa appointments are next week and we have to come with tickets in hand. Tickets to Paris from the northwest are expensive and require lengthy flights, so we decided to get clever. Turns out two flight legs is cheaper and appealing! We will first fly to New York and spend a few nights there. We'll sight see a little, adjust to the time zone by 3 hours, and break up the journey! We were not looking forward to a 22 hour hop across the globe with three children and all of our baggage. Even though we will just be bringing clothes, computers, and some other random pieces ... this will not be a light pack like last time. After a little Manhattan whirlwind, we'll take off once more for Paris via Reykjavik. I know it's just the airport, but how great is it that we get to stop in Iceland? I've always wanted to go.
As for now, we are prepping the house for sale and Pops is on his second day of remote-work for his new company. It will be new and different and fun to have him at home so much. I am sure we'll have to work out rhythms that foster productivity and sanity for us both, but I think having him around, even if he is busy working, will be such a blessing once we are in France.

And on the docket for this month? Cramming all of the doctor's appointments and procedures in before our insurance coverage ceases at the end of the month. We will only have catastrophic coverage until we leave. For a mama with three kids and a slew of her own health issues, this is a whole new opportunity to turn things over to the Lord!

Tips? Encouragement? Words of wisdom? Send them over. I need them all!

Friday, May 2, 2014

This Little Big World

This past week, the magnificent Gigi sent a Wall Street Journal article to Peter about current restoration project on the Colosseum in Rome. We were enjoying the article on its own merit, but then come to find ... the last paragraph has a quote from a co-worker of our archeologist friend in Rome, and mentions the institute that he works for. So fun to find!

And speaking of finds, I'm always amazed at the people and connections God brings. The "Professor" has become a dear friend of ours and even came and stayed in our home last year while he was over in the States on business.

He fit in like family.

We've already been emailing about our impending move and giddy over being "neighbors." (France and Italy are technically neighbors ...) Amazing how small and personal this big world really is.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Je pense que oui!

I've been hesitating to make this post ... but it seems that it is to be true! Je pense que oui! Two days ago we sent in our deposit for a 1-year lease on a 17th century farmhouse in northern France. (Can you hear me whooping in the background?) We have visa appointments left to come, the final mandatory puzzle piece, but we feel encouraged and that God is in control. In order to apply for the visas we have to have proof of paid lease and plane tickets purchased. It's a full-commitment process!

In the meantime we are madly completing and assembling paperwork, and preparing to sell our home and cars, pack up our stuff for storage, and attend to all the miscellaneous details that will allow us to move this August. I have never moved more than a 100 miles away before, much less to a foreign country with a foreign language. My head is swimming.

But the house. It's like the icing on everything. We had wanted a place a bit rural for the children. A place where we could turn them loose and they could explore and be free, given that everything else will be so new. A place where we could retreat from the inevitable exhaustion of learning to function in a new culture and in a new language. In the midst of all that scares me silly ... even though my emotions fluctuate between thrills and sheer terror ... I am filled with joyful awe and deep gratitude in God's extravagant provision.