Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And the hits keep on coming

We are at the point where things are starting to come at us pretty quickly. Cindy, to her credit has been so organized, and not unlike Durga; one of the Indian goddess’s with 8 arms, she has been keeping each of her eight hands busy, nonstop dealing with documents, tickets, and family matriarch-ing. Our container company has been balking at delivering the container down the driveway for fear that they won’t be able to turn around at the bottom. So Saturday one of their drivers stopped by and concurred that he wouldn’t be backing down our driveway anytime soon. He would leave the container off to the side of the road at the head of our driveway. I guess I’ll leave my truck at the bottom of the driveway so I can use it to ferry our belongings from the house and up the driveway to the container. Then I received another call from them stating that I will be responsible for attaining the required street use permit. At this point I’m thinking that we’ll just park the 20 foot container off to the side of the road, and partially down our driveway. There shouldn’t be a problem as our street is a narrow road, and cars naturally slow down when they approach each other, so drivers are cautious as they drive, so a container off to the side won’t impede traffic. But just to add another process to this process I call the Sheriff’s department, get referred to Dept. of Public Works. Then after exhausting their index and talking to a few departments, I manage to get a hold of the correct person. Brief answer, if the container’s on wheels it doesn’t need a permit.
Then there is the protracted equity loan from our bank, FDIC insured. We had initially started with two lenders, then chose one, then let them go and went with the first. Then we had the most bizarre experience with a few appraisers, to the point that we honestly felt like Zillow .com was their deciding value factor. Now as we are three weeks away from stepping on the plane, the loan company is asking Cindy for a letter of employment from her employer. We leave in three days to go to Boulder, Colorado to get a Drivers license, by trading in our California license, with a leasing agreement for an “apartment”. The reason for that is a license from Colorado is one of the half dozen or so states that have a reciprocal agreement with France regarding driving license. The other option is to take a very expensive and time consuming driving course in French, then take their test in French, and finish the two year process that includes a round white sticker with the letter A in the back window of my car. The cost of Cindy and I doing this process would be thousands of euros, plus we get the added bonus of seeing Cindy’s cousin and his wife and two sons.
The day before we were to head to Boulder Co., to try to get Colorado licenses, we still have not heard back from our bank (we never did make the trip, as we had to baby sit the loan process). Cindy is crying on a daily basis, because at this point we could be in real dire straits if this loan is not approved. We would have quit our jobs, still owe mortgage on two homes, not have income, and have already let everyone in kingdom come know of our nitwitted life plans. We have a container showing up in a week, have plans to have family help load it up, and our flight is two weeks after that. So that leaves us waiting on the bank to say either, sorry not today in which case we will have to scramble and adapt, or the bank approves it and we continue forward scared silly. A week later we discover that my employer has incorrectly filed the last two years worth of W2’s for the entire company. The loan company needs Verification of Earnings statement filled out, and even thought we are seven weeks into the 30 day process, it must be received. The last two days spent on the phone with the IRS, have been educational, so the plan is for me to go to the local Social Security Association and get a letter from them. This letter would state that the amount filed on my tax return would be the same as the amount that my employer’s w2 declares. I go to the social security office and take my ticket, after a half an hour I am summoned. I sit down and present my tax returns and a copy of my W2’s. I explain that I am currently refinancing my house and getting, or trying to get, an equity loan. My employer did not file the W2’s correctly and nowhere does it indicate what my earnings were for 2008, and 2009. She understands instantly, and takes my copy of the W2 and my tax returns looks at me and inputs it into her computer. She asks me if there is anything else she could help me with, and I look at her amazed at how easy this is.
“If it wouldn’t be an imposition could you write a letter stating that the 2009 earnings match the 2009 W2?”
“Of course, that would be no problem.” I leave walking two feet off the ground, letter in hand and proceed to my truck parked in the basement parking level. As I leave the concrete bunker I call my loan person.
“I got the letter stating that my 2009 earnings were as submitted on my tax returns.” I tell her, so proud of my ability to work with the system.
“Wait a minute; you didn’t get the 2008 as well? She replies.
“Ah,, that was input into their system as well as the 2009, but the 2009 wouldn’t be showing on their records until a few days.” I start to turn my truck around knowing full well what that means to me.
“I really think we’ll need that letter as well if we want to submit your file to the underwriter.”
I enter the building and take the elevator up to the third floor, walk into the waiting area, take a number, and sit down. I am envisioning a couple hours of wait time, but after ten minutes from the window beside where I was helped a lady summons me by name to come over to her window and I dutifully sit down and tell her what has happened. She asks for my W2’s and my tax returns, and the letter her associate typed, and proceeds to type me the corresponding letter to the 2008 tax year.
I leave after making a point of thanking them and telling how much they have helped me and my family.
Well , from there it went downhill, the bank called and they want it reworded by Social Security to state that my employer filed the w2’s, and that they could certify the submittal. So the next day I return and go to a new window, another really helpful lady reviews my request and says unfortunately she cannot reword the letter. I get home and that night while reviewing the progress of the re-finance with our account supervisor I am asked to set up an online account with the California franchise tax board. So after getting online discover that my state taxes were also misfiled for the 2009 year. So I call her and describe how yet again my employer has misfiled my state taxes. You have to know at this point that I have filed and paid taxes for the last thirty years. It is unnerving that my taxes to date are paid and spotless.
I will admit that evening at home while Cindy and I were discussing our plight, there was a little red wine and a couple cigarettes smoked. (We were outside in the cold dark Topanga evening air.)
I presume that there is a lesson here, in my mind there are a thousand lessons here, but we have trusted in our dream and await the outcome.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

three weeks out

Well as of today, it’s three weeks until we depart for Los Angeles International Airport, with luggage, carryons, and three animal carriers. In two weeks from today, we will have a 20 foot container dropped off on our driveway with two days to load it. Today Cindy is picking up our renewed year long Visa’s, and we’re getting really close to critical point on a lot of fronts. We have a portion of our items inventoried and packed for the container, another third is in the garage awaiting being photographed and packed, and then the remainder is in the house breeding in cabinets. I fully expect to be surprised by the amount of unaccounted for items. I’m really not worried though, as when the container is filling up we will weed out the least needed items, we already have pruned our belongings to essentials.
We have revised and re-revised our plan for months on end, from renovating for the Gites, to renovating the house to have a couple rooms to let as a bed and breakfast, then doing the renovations for the Gites the following year. The budget has been an interesting cornucopia of numbers throughout this process, ebbing and flowing as the plan evolves and the housing market continues its freefall. We have fine tuned our financial exposure to the point where Cindy and I can talk on the phone and quote the different item costs on the three page spread sheet from memory. I think I am at the point where my biggest focus is on what has to be done prior to the container showing up, the animals have their required shots and implanted microchips, we have loads of packing material in part thanks to our new neighbors that just arrived from the Ivory Coast. I am still working for the same company that I was employed by when we left for France for four months last year; it’s hard to stay focused when my heart is elsewhere, but they have been so good to me that I maintain a high level of quality.
We still have our cars to sell, find good renters for the house in Topanga, celebrate Caleigh’s fourteenth birthday, slog through Christmas, ho, ho, ho. And to top it off the equity loan is slowly finalizing itself, we still have the little battles like the value of our house via the appraiser, where he got his values from was a complete fiasco, and the comps were from another community, so that affected the loan amount. The required amount we need for this little endeavor will require the loan supervisor to relook at the comps we submitted, and hopefully jog the amount upward a little. But anything worth having is worth fighting for, we have our sights focused on the life we want and I think we will get there with a lot of effort and a little luck.
Cindy just called and told me that when we applied for the year long Visa renewal and the original visa extension permit, they approved the Visa extension permit. That is quite a bit of good news, as we can hopefully then apply for the Carte de sejour (yearlong resident visa)have the local Marie (mayor) stamp it to renew it annually, which is much easier than going to the Prefectionaire and resubmitting reams of documents, that all have to be less than 3 months old. Ever try getting an original copy from Maine of a birth certificate then have it sent to France, sure it was surprisingly easy from California, but I can’t even imagine the process from overseas.
As I said it will take a lot of effort and a little bit of luck, just like life.