What is next…?

And just like that it is March!  Fully into the “new year” (and yes, it takes me this long to adjust to writing the year!), and on to thinking about spring which is just around the corner, summer…  And well, what is next.  The past few years after about 18 months in one place we were already beginning, mentally at least, to prepare the next move, the next place, sometimes even already looking at houses.

So, we’ve hit the 18 month mark.  August 2017 will be two years here, and for some reason, I’ve got la bougeotte.  I find myself perusing housing ads online, dreaming of one place or another, one type of house or another.  I don’t know if it is just the frequency with which we have moved that makes me feel this way, or maybe it is some deeper part of who I am, or maybe the infamous Breton weather gets to me towards the end of winter…

It is something I’ve often noticed in my second born child.  No matter what we do, when we ask if she had fun or liked the activity or outing, she always replies with something along the lines of “It would have been better, if…”  This usually frustrates me to no end, and now, I recognize myself in those words quite strongly, and I’m not quite sure what to do with the feeling.  I dream about doing perma-agriculture in the Limousin, tourism in Bordeaux, une maison Normande

I wonder if part of it also isn’t worry or concern about someday actually finding a job, or career.  While I am actually quite happy at home, home making, gardening, caring for kids, chauffeuring them around to one activity or another, I sometimes feel uncertain if it is a wise long term choice.  If I get a job, I’ll pay quite a lot for in school lunches daily, before and after care and they will all have to choose after school activities in consequence of parents getting home later, every school break for years will involve expensive day camps, among other day to day “difficulties”.  But, this is the reality of many children. Though, I am not sure that actually finding a job would change much our monthly bottom line, for now.  I often consider sitting the CAPES to become a French civil servant teaching English, but worry about the potential of being sent to a job far from home.

It feels like I am atop a fence of a cultural divide.  Where I grew up in the US, having a stay at home parent wasn’t unusual.  It seems to be a bit more of a rarity in France.  Most families have two working parents, even if one is only working part time, or picks up somewhat random jobs throughout the year.  I’m sure that extra retirement pension is pretty handy later in life, but at what cost?  For now, as MrB is gone just about every other week during the school year, finding a job and being alone at the helm those weeks seems huge.  And, yet, I’m sure many families do it, and many parents are solo all the time…

So all these words to say, I am happy where I am but I don’t know where I am going.  And while sometimes I love the feeling of being on the edge of something, I’m feeling quite apprehensive about it, currently.

 

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Bientôt Française…?

As wife to a Frenchman, mother to Franco-American children, the idea of becoming a bi-nationaux is something I’ve been considering for quite some time. As the world we live in sometimes feels stranger and stranger, filled with less certainty, an more confusion, I decided it was a step I was ready to take.  I have been in France for many years, soon enough, I’ll have lived in France longer then I lived in the US, so I really do consider myself half French, half American.  Or, maybe I should say 100% French and 100% American?  Whatever the percentages, my identity is split between the two now, and carrying both nationalities satisfies parts of my identity, being and soul.  I carry both in my heart, one is my roots, the other are my branches.

Once I had decided to move forward, I wrote to my préfecture to inquire about the exact requirements.  I knew I had the basic requirements to apply as the spouse of a French person, but each préfecture has a slightly different process, or requirements, and they all function a bit differently.  (Mine requires files to be sent in via AR with a chronopost envelope in case they must return your file to you, others prefer a rendez-vous to drop off your file in person, so if you are interested in requesting nationality, I recommend checking with your own, local, préfecture before starting anything).

They got back to me rather fast, and with the list of paperwork required in hand, I got to work locating everything.  Luckily, it was the start of the school year, when I finally found myself with free mornings!  I started compiling my dossier, which I finally completed end of October and send off to the préfecture early November.  In total it took about 2 months to get it together, with some help from my parents as I needed copies of their birth certificates, along with the “usual suspects” when dealing with French Administration- recent bills, impôts, acte de naissance, copies of IDs, self addressed pre-stamped envelopes…  But nothing all that daunting, in fact, I think the list is quite similar for a ten year carte de séjour.

A few months of running down to the mailbox as soon as the postman had come by, I was almost suprised one day to find an envelope in my mailbox written to me, in my own handwriting!  The préfecture wrote to let me know that my file is complét (whew!!) and next I’ll be called in for an entretien d’assimilation.

So, while not a fast process, it is one that is moving forward.  I’m busy now reviewing my knowledge of French history, but I’m not concerned.  I’ll update as the process evolves, watch this space!

Affaire à suivre…

Les vacances d’hiver

Ahhh, les vacances d’hiver.  Pure bliss.  6 weeks after Christmas/New Years break the French schools have a 2 week break.  A friend in the US with some French family roots that still run deep calls this “national ski week”, which is actually fairly apt and concise of an explanation.  A lot of families head over to les alps or the Pyrénées for a week of skiing during this winter break.  It is a lot of fun, but it can be pricey when you are a famille nombreuse!  We do like to go, and try to go now and then, but not this year for us!  Maybe next year?  Instead, we’ve spent the first week working on paperwork, making glorious messes, some local tourism, I’m hopeful that we will maybe get some lights hung and a few other odd jobs this weekend, Mama likes to dream!…

We took our three valentines out to lunch on Valentine’s day.  Inadvertently we ended up at a crêpe place that seemed to be hosting a valentines lunch for a 70+ year old crowd.  We were the youngest ones there by several decades, including the patrons, the chef and even the serveur.  After, we took the girls out to the Pointe du Raz.  The “end of the Earth” as they say here.  It was a beautiful, sunny, day, though a bit windy.  (I wish I could share some pictures but I’m struggling to get them to load- I’ll keep trying so check back!)

And, as quickly as it started our week as a group of 5 ended and Papa headed back to work.  Our week of just girls was a bit less productive, but we rested, snuggled, got some paperwork sorted (new passports, galore!) and all that that entails.

Monday is back to school for the girls, and time for me to clean the house, top to bottom, and work on some of my other obligations!  My parents are coming for a visit at the end of April so I have to get the house together!  This involves hopefully hanging what little art we have on the walls, putting in light fixtures in, well, pretty much every room in the house (still!), and mopping floors, clearing dust from corners and all the exciting chores that never seem to make it to the top of the list among all the regular chores!

Spring is in the air…

February 10th and despite a cold morning, with actual frost on the windshield (a fairly rare occurance in my corner of Brittany), I can feel spring in the air.  It is still a bit cold, but the sun is bright, the skies are blue, and I feel like I am behind in my gardening.  All sure signs in my book.  So many questions, things to decide.

Get a slide, or a roulotte for the kids?  My heart leans heavily towards roulotte!

What to plant?  Where?

Buy a tunnel?  Oui!  Where to put it?

What to do this summer?  Spain?  Staycation?  Road trip?

It feels like endless options at the start of spring!

I alwas seem to get antsy in Spring.  Since we moved fairly often in the past 6 years or so, I feel as if we should be gearing up to move again, even though nothing is on the horizon.  As much as I wanted to put down roots, I feel a bit wanderlust…  I find myself persuing for sale ads.  Not just any for sale ads, though.  Chateaux, manoirs, exceptional properties.  None of which are anything we could afford, but to dream a bit…

 

 

I saw something on my Facebook feed a few weeks (months?) ago that I’ve been sitting with ever since.  Thinking about, rolling over and over in my mind.  It was a word “hireath” and the definition.

Looking it up, now, I get the following:
hireath (n)
1. homesickness
2. an intense form of longing or nostalgia, wistfulness.
The usage notes I find interesting, too, as we now live in Brittany.  It states that the only exact translation of the Portuguese “saudade” are the Cornish “hireth” and the Breton “hiraezh“.  Living in Brittany we often see the “zh” ending.  Even “Brittany” in Breton is “Breizh”.  Bretons are fiercely proud of their region, dialect, the crachat Breton, and many choose to stay here for love of their region and roots, over higher paying jobs elsewhere.  It is some sort of poetic harmony in a way, that this word, feeling, can only be described in one word in a few languages, one of them Breton, a people so attached to their piece of land.

What I originally saw was a bit more vague, perhaps a bit more poetic:
hireath (n)
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

This exact feeling is something I think about a lot.  I haven’t been able to unknot in my mind yet if it is due to becoming an adult far from home, alone, in a way.  Or maybe this happens to all of us as we become independent adults.  I grew up in a small town that I still consider one of my homes.  My parents have lived on the same street since I was five years old.  I am known and liked there, I still have friends from high school that are raising their own families there.  The comforts of knowing a place intimately, the comfort of sending child to the same school you knew and loved as a child, is one I can touch but don’t experience.   I wasn’t yet an adult of my own when I came to France, and as such there were some important years and life events where I was here.  I actually have never been an adult, on my own in my home country.  I feel like I have a foot in each country, a manageable split, but one that requires some mental gymnastics.

While I miss my family and bits and pieces of my first hometown, what I miss most is what is *was*.  The way I remember it.  That nostalgic feeling of safety, and security, being carefree, almost invincibile.  But, I can’t go back to that.  I’ve grown.  My life, views, feelings, even politics have all been forever changed, expanded by this other experience.  It is as if I am on one escalator, and my base, or roots, are on another.  And we are not moving at the same speed, and maybe not even in the same direction.  But isn’t this true of everyone?  We all spread our wings at some point, break away from the nuclear family unit to form our own.  I wonder if the sort of double culture I have means the gap isn’t perhaps larger.  Or maybe I simply compare me, to others, and I shouldn’t.

Life can’t stop there because I’ve left, it continues on itself, just as my life here grows and changes.  Mine just happens in incremental ways, that I participate in, that I see daily.  There, it changes by what feels like leaps and bounds, only because I not there to see it often.  Of course things change a lot over the course of a year, or eighteen months.  And the people I know and love also grow, and change, or even become more anchored in their ways in some cases.  No one is to blame, it is what it is, and is clearly part of the whole package I’ve bought into.  But it does leave a nostaligic, somewhat bitterweet feeling.  One of moving foward, while also being left behind…

Limping along

… what our reality feels like these days!  Not due to injury, just trying to have a foot everywhere all the time!

I’ve got so much happening.

I have to work on Christmas shopping, which feels weird as I have 2 children that still have birthdays before then.  Speaking of which, 2 birthdays and their respective parties to organize, and a house to have clean and tidy for both!

I’ve been spending a lot of time wrestling with my California ballot. In addition to the federal elections, there are 17 measures submitted to voters statewise, even one from my district.  Wading through all of that information to make a hopefully informed choice, is time consuming.

My laptop went all wonky with the latest iOS update, though if I am honest it too was already limping along before then.  I have to take it in for repair, I hope.  One thing about living fairly rurally- no Apple store with a Genius bar nearby!  They’ve suggested a local person that is approved by them, so, hopefully he can be my hero du jour.  I can also hope it won’t be too pricey.  Both may be in vain.  I really do need that laptop though, and I definitely do not want to be replacing it at this moment in time, so, here I sit, fingers crossed.

We changed banks, this is not easy anywhere, but I think French red tape takes the cake here.  We still have a few accounts lingering at our old bank, along with their fees, so I would really like to get those closed, asap as well.  It is a bit like a dog chasing its tail- around and around we go, hoping to one day actually catch the end goal!

My day to day life is also generally busy when school is in session, volunteering at school, cooking, cleaning, keeping up on laundry.  None of it seems huge in the moment, but, it all adds up to busy days.  My great plan for today is to hopefully make some applesauce with apples from the yard and an apple tart or maybe a pie.  Because nothing sounds better right now then a gorgeous slice of apple pie warm from the oven, to just sit with and enjoy in the moment.

One year later

One year in Brittany and the bilan is overwhelmingly positive.  I haven’t worked in the garden as much as I would have liked to.  I’m still a few boxes short of having sorted everything we have, mainly too small girls clothing but I am still holding out on actually getting ride of those (a hearts secret hope, maybe, or perhaps a bit of folie, it is what it is, I am not ready to get rid of anything, yet)…

Our village was very welcoming to us.  The girls love their school.  They have friends.  And so do I.  As many expats can attest to, making friends, your own friends, can sometimes be difficult.  I have been lucky to have made friends in France fairly easily from the start, but many were girlfriends of my husbands friends.  I am lucky to have them, even still many moves later, I count them as great friends, women I can count on, women who I witnessed becoming mothers, and vice versa.  But these friends, here, in our village, are my own. I have found them, and befriended them, on my own.  We have some things in common, children in the same school, but they are kind, they invite me to events, send me text messages, check in with me if we haven’t seen each other in a few days, they would pick up my children from school if needed, who would watch them if I had an appointment.  And it feels good.

I am invited to the girls classrooms to read or play games in English fairly regularly.  I was asked to read at the library (albeit for now in French; but I hope to start an English story time now and then).  I Zumba with the village ladies once a week, walk with the school on a hike weekly as well.  I go to the weekly market for the organic goat cheese, fruit and vegetables, the roast chickens, the cheese monger for the thick cream and eggs and beautiful cheese choices.  I know the local supermarket ladies, my neighbors, the postman.  This village has become our own.

I still let myself dream of a little chateau, or many acres with a farmhouse, animals, and extensive vegetable gardens, or even the field behind our house to add to our own 1.25 acres.  But I am content, happy, and in a place in my life I enjoy, and we are so lucky to be here, right now.