I haven't been here for a really long time. I'm not even going to look to see how long; there's no point.
The job has been a complete roller coaster. I am exhausted. The job on its own is challenging, frustrating, some days too much than I can take, and then adding in driving an hour each way to work, the effect my being gone so much has effected Fry, my general insecurities, my penchant for caring too much and laying awake in the middle of the night stressing about work... it's been a bad time. Bad enough that we decided that, in the case that Stéphane didn't get his transfer, I would quit, because the stress on our family is just. too. much.
Poor Fry. He's four now, in his second year of pre-school, and acting out all the time. It took us a little while to realize that he was acting out because I was suddenly gone from his life. I was always the one that brought him to school, picked him up for lunch, brought him back, and got him at the end of the day, most of the time. Now I barely see him in the morning (sometimes he's still asleep when I leave!) and we only have a couple of hours together when I get home, including making dinner and getting him to bed.
We knew this was going to be hard, but in my mind it would be a temporary sacrifice for making a better life for our family - moving to a bigger town, both of us making decent salaries so that we can travel, save for future projects, giving Fry bigger and better opportunities for his future as well. But this morning was hard - so hard. I'm home sick, his teacher has been out for two weeks (another stable adult who has been a super calming and focusing influence in his life), and Stéphane had to take him to school kicking and screaming. It completely broke my heart and I'm crying just thinking about it.
We got the good news this week that Stéphane got his transfer. This weekend he'll ask for the schools where he would like to be placed (he'll be targeting the Greater Reims area) and in June we'll know where to hunt down an apartment. In the meantime we need to start figuring out what we're going to do with this apartment and preparing to move. And I need to figure out a way to explain to my darling boy that all this upheaval and change will be good for us, that Mommy being gone all the time is temporary, that soon we'll be the close-knit family we've always been.
In four/five more months, we'll get our lives back. Summer can't come fast enough.
Friday, March 15, 2013
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The biggest adjustment, I think, to this new working schedule, is that we have to cram everything that needs to get done on a Saturday. Even if Stéphane doesn't work on Wednesdays, I have the car so he can't run errands (but at least he can make phone calls!).
We had a ton of stuff to do yesterday, but even then it was a bit much. Stéphane had a dentist appointment in the morning, then we picked up the new-to-us car (where we had to wait an hour (!!!) because there was a document that went missing, then was found at the garage owner's home, then had to be recuperated.... makes for a cranky Vivi, unfortunately!). After that it was new shoes for Fry, lunch with Mémère, and then Fry was off to his cousin's sixth birthday party. Stéphane and I retreated to his mother's house where I took a much needed nap!
The last leg of this errand crushing day had us going to the other side of town, picking up groceries I'd ordered on the internet (and seriously, thank goodness for this option now), shopping for fruits and veg at the fruit and veg store (because while the internet shopping in itself is awesome, bringing home bruised and unsatisfactory fruit and veg is not), finally picking up Fry from the party and going home.
My life is so, so glamorous.
We are very happy with our new Ford Fusion. It's not got the bells and whistles that our C4 had, but it makes up for it by costing half as much at the gas pump. Vive le gasoil! Seriously, when I'm clocking 1000 km per week, the difference is huuuuuuuuge.
Work is going fine, except for that moment on Friday afternoon where I closed an Excel document that I'd been working on all day without saving it. Such a proud moment. I'm really looking forward to doing that one again tomorrow.
Actually, I should say a word about Fry, because I haven't posted about him lately and he has changed so much. While I've been using this blog mostly for outpouring all of my career drama, Fry has been quietly (or to be honest, quite loudly) growing up. He'll be four in November and he's in his second year of Maternelle, called Moyen Section (middle section). He's been in school for three weeks and still loves school as much as last year, to the point where he's disappointed when school is closed! His language skills have exploded since this summer and now we can finally have a conversation. He gets the concept that Mommy speaks English, though he and Papa speak French, and he understands everything I say in English, even if his default is still to respond in French. He also doesn't get that, even though Mommy understands French and English, the rest of his American family doesn't understand French, so he still chatters away in French on the phone (though I think now he's doing it on purpose!). More and more English vocabulary is coming out now, however, and he often asks me how to say stuff in English, so I feel a bit more confident that we're heading closer to bilingualism.
Oh hey - also Autumn started this weekend, my favorite season! I'm really looking forward to seeing the leaves change on my commute.
Posted by Vivi at 9:02 AM
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
My last day at my old job was August 25 and I had a week's break before I started my new job in Reims. I mostly spent that week stressed out, second guessing myself, terrified that I'd made a bad choice.
Luckily, from about the middle of my first day, I felt myself relaxing a bit and realizing that everything is going to be ok. I can't say I felt that way from the very beginning, as I jumped right in shadowing a colleague and everything went straight over my head for the first hour or so. Then, I really thought, "What the hell have I gotten myself into??" Lucky for me, my lunch spot looked like this. I munched my tuna avocado sandwich and people watched for forty-five minutes, and I was ready to attack my new life.
It's been two weeks now and I can honestly say that I love, love, love my job. I still have so much to learn - it's in a business I knew nothing about, though my experience in administration certainly applies - but little by little it's starting to sink in and my confidence is growing everyday.
Of course one of the hardest parts is the fact that we don't exactly live next to Reims. Even with the toll roads it's an hour's drive each way. Our lovely Citroën C4 that we bought last year is unfortunately unleaded and the price of gas is killing us right now, never mind the fact that I have to refill the tank every three days. We made the decision this week to find a new car that runs on diesel, and after a quick search online, we found a decent Ford Fusion that will do in a pinch. Saturday we went to look at it and after a quick test drive we decided to take it. It's definitely a step down in terms of comfort, but it's going to make a huge difference in our wallet! We can pick it up this Saturday. Of course, after we move next year, we can always change it again.
And yes, that's the next big step for us. December is when the "Movement" happens within the Education Nationale system. Stéphane will make a request for a town closer to Reims (but not Reims itself - a bit too pricey and crowded for us) and we'll find out in March where he'll be placed. Of course, he can request two or three towns but there are so many conditions - how long you've been in the system, if you have a family and children in school, how many points you have (teachers are inspected every two years and gain points according to their performance; Stéphane is maxed out), and obviously it depends on if a place is available in the school you've requested! We're hoping that the fact that my job is over there will help us, but we've heard so many movement horror stories that we're only cautiously optimistic.
So you can see that our Rentrée has certainly been a full one with plenty of changes! I definitely had the "back to school" vibe going, since I started the day before students went back to class! I hope everyone's rentrée was a smooth one!
Posted by Vivi at 9:00 AM
Saturday, September 15, 2012
So much for updating more often. Hmph.
When I last left you, I'd just been hired for my new job and I'd given my notice to my old job. I'm glad to report that my last weeks at my old job were relatively painless (boring!), with the director even offering up a glass or three of champagne on my last day. I brought cupcakes, which according to one of my colleagues that I'm still in touch with, are still being talked about. I'm no foodie, but it's pretty hard to mess up chocolate cupcakes and cream cheese frosting.
I had already scheduled our family vacation before I gave my notice, so we headed off to the Puy de Dôme for the first week of August. For the first time, we invited my goddaughter to join us. M is a year and a half older than Fry and they get on like a house on fire, and it was an interesting experience for us to double our parental responsibilities.
We stayed in a fantastic, completely isolated, rural gîte about a half hour west of Issoire. What it lacked in amenities was more than enough compensated by the space, the garden, and the fact that the kids could make all the noise their little hearts desired.
|Home sweet home for one week - our gîte was on the top two floors.|
Some highlights were visiting Volcania (link in French), taking the funicular train up the Puy de Dôme, the highest point in the area, and doing a bit of mountain wandering with the kids around our gîte.
|The view from our bedroom|
|Les grottes de Jonas - we climbed all the way to the top inside!|
|Chateau de Murol. Most of the chateau is restored but I love this view of a still ruined corner.|
Posted by Vivi at 6:38 PM
Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Whoa. That's definitely the longest this poor blog has ever been neglected! I have some really good news, but I think the way I got from there to here is important, so I'm going to try to keep this brief.
When I last left you, I was looking for a way to get into a bookbinding program. I did contact the national bookbinding school, only to find that they are moving to Toulouse, on the other side of France! I continued looking for other schools, only to get negative reactions wherever I went. Most places were happy to teach me, as long as I was learning bookbinding as a hobby. As soon as I mentioned that I wanted to earn a diploma in order to start my own business, I was practically pushed away, as if the idea of a nearly 40 year old woman learning a new trade was next to impossible, never mind the fact that I'd be taking the place of a young student fresh out of high school who, apparently, has more of a right to be there than I do.
It was a bitter blow, and in the end I had to accept that I just had to let this go. I really had to mourn it for a while, a dream unrealized.
The next step we took was working on opening a boutique in Troyes. I took a meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, worked on a business plan, started contacting suppliers... and finally realized that we would need to borrow a bit more that what we could comfortably borrow without getting in trouble financially if it didn't work. Cross that one off the list.
Meanwhile, I put as many irons as I could in the fire, planning on striking the one that got hot first. I'd been applying to anything administration related in our département, but after a couple of months of not even getting an interview, I opened it up to all the départements around us, after Stéphane agreed that he was ready to ask for a transfer if I could find something full time.
I also decided that I was ready to reboot my craft business. No need to borrow anything, just invest a bit of savings into some materials and get to work. I started working on some embroidery designs and looking for a used knitting machine.
In May, I finally got a hit for a job close to Paris. I received a message from the Pole Emploi (the unemployment office) to go to an interview with an employer at an unemployment office in the Seine et Marne. When I arrived on the day of the interview, a woman told me that the employer had decided to conduct the interviews by telephone and she didn't understand why I was there, and practically accused me of making all of this up (hey, you're the ones that invited me, lady!). After contacting the employer, she asked me to leave my CV and they would call me at the end of the afternoon. Four hour round trip to drop off a CV. By the time I got home, there was a refusal in my email.
That, my friends, is how I spent my 39th birthday. It was definitely the lowest point in this whole journey.
A couple of weeks ago, I did manage to get my hands on a used knitting machine:
I was ready to make a serious go of the online store, but still applying to any and all interesting job announcements, as you never know, right? Stéphane would have to ask for a transfer in December so I figured we had a few months to keep looking. Last week I answered an announcement in Reims that specified spoken English and administration. As usual I sent off my cover letter and CV not expecting anything, only this time I got an email back in less than an hour!
To make a ridiculously long story a bit shorter, we wrote back and forth and agreed on a meeting this past Monday. I had a good feeling about it the minute I walked in the door, and she kept saying things like "You'll be doing such and such... I mean the person that fills this position!" Heh. At the end, she offered me the job. The price is right, even if I have to commute until next summer, and the job sounds interesting and challenging.
It may not surprise you to learn that my new bosses are not French. :)
My new job starts in September. My manager and boss at my old job are being cranky and rude, which is basically par for the course. It's too bad; I would have been happy to stay there, even if it's minimum wage and crap hours, but the environment is just too hostile, and who wants to work like that? My craft shop will still happen, I can't help myself, I still have to create, and I have plans and ideas and designs that have been living in my head for years, and I just have to get them out and share them. Obviously it's going to take me a bit longer to get that going and it will be on a smaller scale than I imagined, but it will happen. 2012 is all about Making it Happen, after all!
Many thanks to those of you that are still around. I plan on showing up here a bit more often than I have been!
Posted by Vivi at 6:40 PM
Monday, February 06, 2012
The last couple of weeks have been ridiculously stressful. After the excitement of that meeting with my boss, I was not at all expecting him to call me at home to let me know that he'd had a discussion with the head of HR only to learn that we can't do an apprentice contract. He advised me to sign up with the Pole Emploi, or unemployment office, to see if they have any info about what to do next.
It might sound weird to go to the unemployment office when I'm already employed, but since I only work (very) part time, I am allowed to go sign up to find a complementary job (sadly, a lot of people rely on two jobs or temp jobs here to get from month to month, but I guess that's probably par for the course in a lot of places right now). As soon as I got off the phone with my boss, I called them right away to sign back up and had to wait until today for my first appointment.
The first appointment is largely administrative, in which you have to present loads of ID and attestations of previous jobs (which I forgot, oops) and you lay out what you're looking for or if you have a certain project in mind like I do. Since I have been signed up before (years ago, long before even Fry was around) we swept past the admin stuff really quickly and I was able to clearly and briefly explain that I want to be a bookbinder, which I can do part time with my current job, but I need to learn how to do it first.
She seemed very enthusiastic about my project and some quick computer searching found that I may be able to get my classes funded for the national bookbinding school in Bourgogne (Burgandy, the region just to the south of us)! It's not 100% sure, and nothing from this first appointment is set in stone. I've got to take a couple of papers to another Pole Emploi office at the end of the week and I'm supposed to set a new appointment to talk with a new counselor then. In the meantime, I can call the school to see if they work with the regional government for funding, and if they don't, I may qualify for yet another financial aid program, so things are definitely looking up!
I was so ready for them to say "No, sorry, there's nothing we can do for you" today that I can't quite believe that the ball is still in play! I'm really hoping I can get a new appointment before the end of the month; that would give us a really good excuse to go visit the national bookbinding school during the Winter break!
Posted by Vivi at 2:22 PM
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
I had a great meeting with my boss last week. It started off a little awkward, with him asking point blank what I wanted from him and me not knowing at all how to answer him, but we finally eased into the conversation.
The bad news first: I had hoped to get a little bit of financial assistance to take classes from my mentor who lived very close, but that won't be possible, as official funding can only go towards accredited schools. But -
Mr Boss has no objection to my looking into the accredited classes accessible to adults in Paris. (!!!) What would happen is that I would change my current contract (average of 14 hours a week in CDI - permanent contract) to a Contract d'Apprentissage (an apprentice contract, and yes, it's available for adults in certain conditions), in which I would work full time, 35 hours a week, with my classes included in the 35 hours, and I'll be paid a percentage of minimum wage (53% I think?), but will still make more than I'm earning right now. My time at work would be divided up in doing what I do right now with the least amount of shuffling as possible, so as not to mess up the schedules of my colleagues, and the whatever time is left in the bookbinding workshop. Whatever money I make in addition to what I'm making now should cover all the traveling between here and Paris. After I receive my diploma, we would revert back to my present contract and I can continue to work there while I'm building up my bookbinding business.
Clearly, this is much, much better than what I hoped for! I never imagined he'd be up for this, I very nearly floated out of his office! Of course, it's up to me to follow up and get as much info as I can with the goal of presenting a financial breakdown to my boss in the next couple of months so I can start this Fall. I've just now got off the phone with the school in Paris and there will be an Open House at the end of March, which I will certainly be attending!
There we go, I feel like I've gotten through the hardest part, for me, anyway - talking on the freaking phone in French! I've always hated the telephone (except for talking with friends, obviously!) and I really have to force myself, or else I put it off for weeks. I feel like we're making good progress! While I'm waiting for the end of March, I hope to get access to the bookbinding materials at work very soon so I can start working on new projects in the meantime!
Posted by Vivi at 11:33 AM