Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring has definitely not sprung

Just another Ohio spring...

 This is what I saw out the window yesterday and it has been lightly snowing nonstop since Sunday afternoon.  I am absolutely sick of snow and I feel so desperate for spring to come.  The winter blues feel like they will never lift and this seems like the winter that would never end.  I'm so afraid this weather is going to stick around until we leave for France, denying us some of the joys of spring in Ohio before our move.  I can't believe that this time last year we were enjoying unseasonably hot weather and plenty of outdoor activities and this year at the end of March we are still experiencing snowstorms and abnormally cold, freezing weather!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Chicago, my birthday, St. Patrick's Day and the visa appointment

We had a great time in Chicago this past weekend.  My visa appointment went swimmingly and we had a blast celebrating my dreaded 30th birthday and St. Patrick's Day.

After all the stress and worry over our acte de mariage, two of the three packages ended up showing up Wednesday afternoon, so we had more than enough copies for the Consulate and I was thankfully able to sleep on Wednesday night as a result.  The appointment couldn't have gone better.  We showed up about 10 minutes before our scheduled appointment, as they requested, and we were out of there less than 20 minutes later.  We had no problems, they didn't ask for any documents that weren't on the list (even though I brought my entire life just in case), they were quite nice and efficient and I must say it was my quickest and most pleasant encounter ever with French administration.  Now I just have to wait to get my passport back in the mail with my visa in it.  I should have it in the next three weeks and then I will be good to go!

After the appointment Friday morning we spent the day in the freezing cold and rain exploring Chicago since Lionel had never been.  We also did a fair amount of eating and shopping in an attempt to warm up, but overall we enjoyed the day.  We checked out the Magnificent Mile and Water Tower Place and spent some time exploring Grant Park and we had time to grab lunch at a Thai/Chinese place I had found years ago on one of my visa trips and really enjoyed.  For dinner we did some Chicago style deep dish pizza at Giordano's and then grabbed a drink before heading to bed early for an early start Saturday morning.

view from in front of the French Consulate building

visiting Grant Park

along the river

Water Tower Place and the old water tower that survived the Great Fire of 1871

along the river in the rain

Millennium Park and the Cloud Gate (though it looks like a giant metal bean to me)

Chicago Theater

trying out Chicago style deep dish pizza

Saturday was dedicated to celebrating St. Patrick's Day Chicago-style and my 30th birthday and we had an amazing time.  Two of my friends came along for the weekend to help me celebrate my birthday and we met up with another friend who lives in Chicago and was able to show us around a bit and take us to plenty of fun and interesting bars and restaurants.  We started Saturday off at the river to see it get dyed green and from there we walked around, visited the Loop and Lake Michigan and just spent the day relaxing, trying to keep warm and joining in the St. Patrick's Day revelry.  We had dinner at a Chicago staple called the Billy Goat Tavern, which is this great little inexpensive burger joint hidden away underneath Michigan Ave. and then headed back out for a few more drinks before calling it a night.

 the green river for St. Patrick's Day

 freezing our butts off while checking out the green river

a green fountain for St. Patrick's Day

visiting Lake Michigan all decked out for St. Patrick's Day

a cute bar we went to, I just loved the decor
waiting for the river dyeing in the freezing cold
Lionel all ready to celebrate St. Patrick's Day

Overall our weekend in Chicago was incredible, despite the less than stellar weather, and it was a wonderful way to start my 30s!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dear USPS and/or La Poste,

Though I must admit that at the moment I am not sure which one of you is at fault, I am inclined to believe that the blame for my current postal dilemma lies squarely at the feet of La Poste, based entirely on previous mail catastrophes sustained at it's hands.  You see, the objective was quite a simple one to attain, or so I foolishly believed.  My only goal was to succeed in getting my recently printed acte de mariage to make the trip from France to Ohio sometime between January 15 and the date of my departure for my rendez-vous at the French Consulate in Chicago on March 14.  I truly did not believe that this was too much to ask.  After all you had two months to accomplish this rather basic postal task.  And once the Mairie du KB succeeded in processing my request for a copy of my acte de mariage in a surprisingly efficient and timely manner, I thought for sure I would be happily in possession of this one crucial document well before the scheduled date of my visa appointment on the morning of March 15.

You see, I could not have given you more than two months to accomplish this task; the consulate requires that this document be printed no more than two months prior to the date of my appointment.  However, as I have consistently and repeatedly seen mail be successfully and safely delivered between these two countries in a matter of only 5-7 days, I really was not worried.  And that was certainly my first mistake.  I clearly have a tumultuous history of repeated disasters at the hands of various national and international mail delivery services, and I should have known that I could not rely on you to promptly, or even not so promptly, deliver my mail safely into my mailbox.  I suppose I should have paid more attention to the signs; this has been another miserable year for me in regards to postal services.  I should have known ahead of time and planned to fly to Paris to go to the mairie in person and have the required document placed safely into my waiting hands.  At least then I could have ensured its safe arrival on American shores.  But, you see, I foolishly believed that this would be the one time that the postal service would not fail me.  Plus, I rationalized, I had two months to make sure the mission was accomplished and I certainly didn't have the extra financial resources to personally go and pick up the document in France myself.

Unfortunately, it appears my logic was flawed and I clearly should have known better.  I mean, you obviously have never done anything previously to gain my trust, so why should I have had faith in you this time?  Why would I have thought that just this one time you would manage to provide one of your most basic services and ensure the safe delivery of a simple envelope?  Yes, clearly I should have known better but I made a mistake and showed a serious lapse in judgement when I tried not once, but twice, to send this important document to the US via your uncertain and questionable delivery services.  And so now I find myself sitting here, less than a week until my appointment, questioning my decision making abilities while simultaneously stressing out about whether or not I will receive this one paper before my departure for Chicago on Thursday evening.

As a result of your combined ineptitude, my in-laws had to travel all the way to Paris today to go to my old mairie and pick up another copy of my acte de mariage, which they then took straight to the post office to send Chronopost to Ohio in hopes that it will arrive by Thursday afternoon.  Unfortunately, the Chronopost can only be guaranteed to arrive in the Cincinnati area in 2-5 days, adding to my increasing stress levels and my concern over seriously diminishing postal capacities.  However, as it turns out, Chronopost could have guaranteed delivery of my package to the Chicago area in only 2 short days.  I wish I would have known this; I could have had my in-laws send it directly to the hotel.  Unfortunately I was at work and unreachable, completely oblivious to the mail disaster occurring around me.  Though I quite frankly find it shocking that I should expect to wait an extra 1-3 days for delivery to Cincinnati which is only a 5 hour drive from Chicago.  But thank you, thank you for reminding me of your complete and total inability to perform even the most basic of your services.  I had almost managed to forget as I have been living a complete shipment hell at work with FedEx.

To USPS, I have defended you repeatedly as Americans constantly argue that you should be shut down and I have blamed Congress for the majority of your financial woes.  Now I know that is not so and you are entirely to blame for your current situation and loss of Saturday mail delivery.  If you could be trusted people would certainly utilize your services more often and your financial situation would be less dire.

To La Poste, hello my old enemy.  Once again you are trying to defeat me.  I must commend you for your unwavering commitment to your desire to bring me down, to prevent me from getting my letters and my packages, to your refusal to open my bank account in what could even remotely be considered a timely manner and to your obvious delight in making my professional life, even in the US, hell.  I am starting to seriously wonder if there is not a La Poste blacklist somewhere with my name at the top of it.  It really is quite shocking the number of problems I have had thanks to my rather short, but tempestuous, acquaintance with your institution.

Despite the significant odds against me, I continue to hold out hope that one of my actes de mariage will successfully arrive before I leave.  However, should all my hopes eventually be dashed, I will just have to attempt to get by with a scanned copy at the Consulate, which I am sure they will not deem acceptable.  Of course, I am quite convinced that upon my return from Chicago, and my certainly unsuccessful trip to the Consulate, I will open the mailbox on Monday to find not one, but three envelopes containing all seven of my recently printed actes de mariage.  This will, of course, allow you to insist that you did indeed properly perform your task, but I will naturally be even more convinced of a postal conspiracy against me.

Now please, I am begging you, in an attempt to appeal to your kind and generous side, deliver at least one of these envelopes to my mailbox by Thursday afternoon.  I have a non refundable hotel in Chicago and neither the time nor the extra money to make an additional trip to this city for a second visa appointment.  And if this isn't enough, please remember that I am celebrating my 30th second 29th birthday while there and my acte de mariage would be the best gift I could possibly receive.

I thank you for your time and consideration and for your willingness to grant this one simple request.  In return, I promise not only to never speak negatively about you again, but also to never take all of my business to the one shipping service that has not yet failed me, UPS.

Yours truly,

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Where is printemps?

Last night we had what I hope will be the last snowstorm of the year.  I am so ready for spring to get here; I can't take any more of this cold weather and quite frankly I'm really starting to hate the snow!  Sure it looks pretty when you can just stay at home and enjoy it, but when you are actually out in it and have to get somewhere it is miserable.

We met up with a friend for dinner last night and the snow started while we were eating.  By the time we left the restaurant there was already a decent accumulation and the roads were pretty hazardous for the drive home.  As we got close to home we got stuck on a major two-lane state route for an hour because there was an accident at the bottom of the hill and they closed the entire road until tow trucks could get in and move the cars.  We couldn't turn around and go a different way because we were stuck on the side of the hill and the cars that were trying to turn around were all getting stuck trying to get up the hill so we just had to sit there and wait.  We ended up finally getting home much later than I would have wanted and as a result I got to bed late and was exhausted today.

When I got up this morning, already dreading my hour and fifteen minute drive to work in the snow, we had a good about 8 inches of accumulation.  I was not thrilled to have to clean all that snow off my car in the freezing cold and then head out on roads that hadn't been cleared at all or were only partially cleaned, driving a pathetic 20 miles an hour until I finally reached the highway, which was better, though not perfect.  I finally made it to work, but the combination of complete exhaustion and the misery of dealing with all that snow at 6:45 a.m. made for a very grumpy person who was not fit to interact with people today.

 The only bright side in all of this is that this will hopefully (fingers crossed!) be the last snow of the season, and with spring right around the corner I'm really hoping that I have survived my last Ohio winter!

as seen from my car on the way to work this morning

driving very slowly down a partially cleared road (I know, I shouldn't have been taking pictures while driving in the snow, but I had to document my misery and I was only going 10 mph)

the snow this afternoon, though some of it had already melted