We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

We're thankful for.......

We're getting ready to pack up our bags for a short little 2 day trip to Delaware to have Thanksgiving dinner with my sister and brother-in-law, who have just moved there from Peaks Island, Maine. Funny, they have left a little island where they have no cars and have only boat transportation back and forth to Portland, and we are going to Venice with very similar transportation. Isn't that an odd coincidence???

This year I am thankful for all of our new found friends who have come into our lives during the course of this incredible journey of ours, all of our family and old friends who have been so supportive, and to all of you who have landed on our web page and have sent emails of encouragement. Mike and I feel incredibly blessed. So, to each and every one of you, wherever you are, just know that we are thankful for you all.

Now, let's all enjoy some turkey!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Living the dream --- The Extrication Plan

I use Microsoft Excel for alot of things, but I must admit my all time favorite spreadsheet has come to be the one which contains what we call "Our Extrication Plan". This is the list of all the things we have to do- prioritized- to get our house sold for this move to Venice.

In order to get the house sold we have some cosmetic tasks like finally installing the quarter round molding in the sun room and kitchen ( we just finished in the living room and dining room) and painting trim, up to some not so cosmetic items such as getting a new furnace installed. Those fix up the house items are a piece of the extrication plan.

Somewhere in between those comes getting rid of a houseful of miscellanous possessions. When we moved into the house here neither Mike nor I had very much. We'd both come out of our divorces with very little to speak of. As we renovated the house, we acquired stuff. Oh boy is there stuff!!! I have quite a few sets of funky wine and champagne glasses now, and rooms full of books, and decorative pillows, and stuff with monkeys on/in them ( don't ask), even a real Shriner's fez. That's just the short list. Getting rid of possessions is a big portion of the extrication plan.

We must get rid of all this stuff. We won't be in a large single family with 2 car garage anymore, we'll be in a furnished apartment. We tried one yard sale already. It took us several evenings to collect up stuff to put out for sale and mark it all, we spent a saturday actually having the sale. What we were able to get out there was just the tip of the ice berg. The thought of more yard sales is not very appealing.

Alot of stuff is going to trash, alot more stuff is going to good will. At the end when we've "extricated" ourself from all but the essentials and larger pieces of furniture, we're leaning towards an estate or moving sale. Fire sale maybe!

Not a day goes by that we aren't putting something in a box for good will, or calling someone to ask if they would like to find a home for some thing or other. It's all in the name of "Extrication".

And -- besides getting ourselves over to Venice, there's an extra benefit to this---someday my kids won't have to plow through all this stuff to get rid of it. I'm doing it for them now.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Living the dream- apartment hunting in Venice

One of the big items on our list of issues to handle was finding a place to live in Venice. The last time we were there we spent a few days with realtors looking at available apartments. The first one was so small.. and nothing in the kitchen at all!!! We had read about having to provide your own kitchen appliances but it didn't fully sink in until we saw an example of this first hand. This was going to be quite a bit different from any of our experiences in America!

We had discussed a 3 month rental with Marco, the man we rent an apartment when we visit annually. This would give us a jumping off place when we move. We love the area of Castello so it would feel familar to us, making the inital transition smoother. As we got closer to actually moving, it occurred to us that perhaps we could find someplace for a full year that would take the dogs if we looked in advance from here.

I started using the internet to contact some realtors in Venice. Every one of them told me they had no properties that would accept pets. I don't know what possessed me, but one day I emailed a gentleman (Gianni) who had an apartment rental in Castello, wondering if he would possibly consider a longer term lease ( at least a year) and if he would allow our 2 dogs. Gianni emailed me back explaining he only rented by the week, but asked for more specifics about what we needed and he would ask around on our behalf.

It's been my experience during this whole process that the moment I verbalize- actually ask for what it is I need, amazing things happen. Inside of a week I had received emails from several friends of Gianni, all with apartments for rent long term, all who would happily take on our dogs. A few were really small, only one bedroom. We determined we had to have 2 bedrooms, and a decent size kitchen- we needed to be less crowed. Even though we planned to get rid of almost all our worldly possessions here, we still would need to not be on top of each other 24 hours a day.

After back and forth emails with a few of Gianni's friends, one came through with the ideal place. What a find... 3 bedrooms with a decent kitchen AND a private large garden on a canal!!! It isn't in the Castello area that we were hoping for, but it had more space than we had ever anticipated. The rent was also a bit more than we had budgeted for.

We emailed back and forth several times, she sent pictures of every angle imaginable. The apartment is not a palazzo, but we never planned on that. We sent our friend Marco to check it out in person, just to be sure. He thought it looked fine, not the area we want and not a glorious kitchen, cause he knows we both love to cook, but all was acceptable.

Contracts translated from Italian into English have finally reached us, and we are finalizing the deal as we speak!!! We are excited beyond belief....just can't wait. We look at the pictures on Google Earth at least once a day, checking our our new neighborhood. One more step in the process has been accomplished-- this one is a big one.

I don't know if words can even describe how incredible this journey is, or to ever express how grateful we are to each person we've met along the way who has contributed in some way with this fantastic adventure. This truly is "living the dream".

Catching up on blogs and the status of our move to Italy

The last few months have been an unbelievable blur. I keep saying I need to be blogging every day, but I am almost overwhelmed with all the things happening in preparation for sliding out of our lives here in Baltimore and starting a new one in Italy. However, I do not want to forget any of this EVER, so I am going to blog. I'm going to catch up and keep current.

As for the status of the move:

We've had lots of work in the house to do before we can put it on the market. Part of our original plan was to sell the house, and to get that ball rolling in July, which we did. We didn't realize that things would get delayed here and there. If it's not one thing it's another.

First delay- refinancing our mortgage. We decided that the house needed a few major items in order to facilitate the best sale possible. Making those repairs was best done by taking some equity out. What we thought would be an easy process took way too long. We shopped around, that took a month. Once we decided on a mortgage company, the 3 weeks they told us it would take became 6 weeks.

Second delay- the contractor we planned to use wasn't available when we wanted him. So July became October. We did a yard sale, took stuff to the dump, painted, and worked our way through all the miscellaneous items on our to-do list. Today we still have 3 more things on the list-- but we are moving forward and that feels good. Unfortunately, now the housing market is really slow, and its not a great time of the year to be selling either. That isn't deterring us, we're going to keep working the plan, no matter what. The house won't be sold by the time we leave for Venice, but that's just the way things have worked out.

Dual Italian Citizenship- Italian Consulate trip #2

With all my documents in hand and the newly translated divorce papers, it was time to make the return trip to the Consulate in Philadelphia. My girls, Shannon from Charlottesville, Virginia and Megan from Madison, Wisconsin had come for a long weekend to celebrate their grandmother's 80th birthday, so we made the trip to Philadelphia on Monday morning. We got up early that morning, all of us really excited about finally getting these papers processed. The drive to Philly was unusally god-awful. There was some construction on the bridge near the Philadelphia Airport and we just sat and sat and sat. Finally we were moving again, and found the Consulate without difficulty.

Inside the Consulate office, we were struck with yet another blow. I had meticulously collected the missing divorce papers, and this time, the woman in charge informed me that she 1) would not accept the authenticated copies of my mothers birth and marriage certificates- she wanted to see the originals, and 2) now every document needed to be translated into Italian, not just the divorce documents. I tried everything I could to talk them out of this, but.. no one was budging. I somehow managed to get them to understand that getting the two girls back for yet another trip to the Consulate was going to be difficult, and they allowed us to fill out some paperwork which would allow the kids to not be present next time around. A small relief in yet another set back.

Status of the citizenship papers as of today.... I have the documents translated. Now I have to go to NJ, pick up my mom and her documents, drive to Philadelphia and try this all again. Hopefully having the original documents, and my native born mother in tow, we will get past the last hurdle. However, Mike and I will be moving to Venice in January, no way the citizenship will be completed, so we will have to get Visas in the mean time. We have to gather up all the required documents needed for the Visas, and also the paperwork required for our dogs to be allowed into Italy. We'll do all 3 of these on the next trip to the Consulate. I can't wait.

I truly believe that all of this is being done to me as some sort of test to see how badly I really want to be in Italy. I really want it bad. I REALLY want it bad!!!!!

Dual Italian Citizenship - Part IV

The light of day felt a little bit better the morning after discovering no divorce certificate in that envelope from UPS. I warned all the co-workers in my immediate area that things could get ugly when I made phone calls to the Virginia Vital records people. I spoke first with the woman who handles all those VS-4 forms, who assured me that if that form came past her desk she would have processed it. The director of Vital records, who was next on my list, even remembered having talked t me 6 months prior. She suggested I go back to the clerk of the court in Fairfax County and start all over.

Calls to the clerk of the court didn't get much better. By the end of the day, all parties had a plan of action: the clerk would overnight me a new VS-4 form. I would then overnight it back to her filled out. She would do her magic and overnight it to the Director of Vital Records in Richmond, who would personally see to it that my divorce certificate was processed and overnighted to me. I was promised I would have the correct document before the week was out. Wow... I could not believe I had all parties on-line and ready to do their part for me. The only hitch was I was going to be out of town and would not be back for 4 days. We decided to stick with the plan and I would process this paperwork as soon as I returned. But-- this would now be too late to have the document for the planned trip to the Italian consulate.

I researched the fine print of the citizenship requirements that morning and determined that an alternate documentation could be used.... a letter from my attorney stating that the divorce was not able to be appealed, translated into Italian, would satisfy the consulate rules. I set hot on the trails of my divorce lawyer. I had not spoken with her in about 8 years, but I was able to track down her phone number. She no longer practices law.. seems she is a fiddle player in a Celtic band. Strike One.

Maybe my ex-husbands lawyer would want to earn a couple hundred bucks that day. I was able to find him and leave a voice message. To my surprise, he returned the call but declined to help me. Fortunately, my husband Michael came to my rescue. Mike, also an attorney, contacted an old law school friend who practices law in Virginia. Inside of an hour, he had faxed a letter to us which would do the trick. I faxed that to the Italian translator and I relaxed about the whole incident. I would have all the documents necessary for the next trip back to the Consulate in Philadelphia.

Once again the gods have smiled on me. It just took me awhile to push away the grey clouds in order to see those smiles :)

OH.. before I forget.. there is another interesting twist to this story. When I returned from the long weekend out of town, I found a fed-ex envelope waiting for me.... beleive it or not, the Virginia Vital records had miraculously located my original VS-4 form and had send me the divorce certificate! Miracles do happen!