I hope you’re in the mood for a Random Thoughts post. Here are some of the things on my mind these days.

-The Presidential debate happened at about 4:00 AM France time. I woke up to texts about it and spent the first hour of my day watching highlights and reading commentary. It was painful to watch. Trump doesn’t debate, he just spouts lies and nonsense. Trying to have a logical, productive discussion is not even a possibility for him, and is a waste of time for everybody else.

Olive and I had appointments with a doctor this morning (just a quick checkup as part of our visa applications) and when he saw on our paperwork that we were American, all the conversation turned to Trump. He was so embarrassed on our behalf, and I don’t blame him. Trump has completely changed, in only negative ways, how America is viewed by the rest of the world.

-My voting plan will be implemented this week. Since we live in France, we are absentee voters. The way it works if you live abroad, is that you register with the state where you lived most recently. For us, that’s California. In California, absentee voters can request a ballot via email or via mail. We chose email and it was sent to us a few days ago. In order to vote, we have to print out the ballot, fill it out, and sign it (very important! it doesn’t count if it’s not signed). Then we have two options: we can mail the ballot to California, or we can fax it.

Normally, mailing it would be a no brainer, but because we’ve heard so much about mail delays, we’ve decided we’ll fax it. We’ll either use a faxing app, or we’ll head to the public library and use their fax machine.

You can check your registration, register to vote, and learn about your voting options here. And please be aware that every state has different guidelines — for example, not every state offers faxing as an option. Do you have a voting plan? I’d love to hear it.

-If you’re interested, my thread about Trump Supporters was edited into an essay and published on Medium. You can find it here.

-Ben made it home! There was drama, but he’s home and that’s the important thing. Here’s what happened: He set off from Salt Lake City on Sunday morning and was supposed to arrive in Paris on Monday morning. There was specific paperwork required to board the plane, including a negative Covid test result from the last 72 hours. (Ben spent a hefty chunk of his time in Utah making sure he could get a Covid test and a result in time to fly home.) Ben’s paperwork was all in order and he had no problem boarding in Salt Lake. He flew to Chicago, and then on to Newark, New Jersey. From New Jersey he would go to Paris on a Sunday evening flight.

At Newark, they checked his paperwork again, but the gate representative told him his covid test wasn’t valid and wouldn’t let him board the plane. The same thing happened with 4 other people on the flight — they weren’t allowed to board because the gate rep said there was something wrong with their covid test.

So Ben stayed in an airport hotel that night, and as soon as things opened on Monday morning, he spent all his energy trying to get another covid test. By noon on Monday, after a lot of hustling, he was able to get another test — but they told him the results wouldn’t be ready until Wednesday at the earliest. So we started bracing ourselves that Ben wouldn’t get home until Thursday — or later if the test results were late.

On Monday evening, Ben figured he would try again, because the gate attendant from Sunday night had been a jerk and Ben suspected that if that specific man wasn’t at the desk that he would be allowed to board. And it turns out that’s what happened! Ben, and others who weren’t allowed on the Sunday evening flight, were allowed on the plane Monday evening. Their covid tests were totally fine — the gate attendant on Sunday was just in a bad place personally and was trying to make everyone around him miserable. Apparently that was his last shift before being furloughed. : (

When Ben arrived in Paris on Tuesday morning, they confirmed all his paperwork was in order, and the border check was fast and easy. He got on a train at Montparnasse and arrived back in Argentan at lunchtime. Hooray!

-His delayed arrival caused a bit more drama (and I am trying not to feel angry at the disgruntled gate attendant). Ben had important visa-related appointments on Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning, that had been scheduled for us 8 weeks ago. And we had planned his whole trip around them. We made sure he would arrive in Paris 24 hours before, thinking that even if one of the flights was delayed, he would still make the appointments.

Obviously, our planning did not take into account that he would fly to Paris on Monday night instead of Sunday night, and he missed the Tuesday morning appointment. We’re still trying to figure out how to get him a replacement appointment, and trying to stay positive.

In happier news, we sent Ben with an empty duffle bag, and he brought it back to us full of American groceries. Brownie mix, vanilla pudding for banana cream pie, Sour Patch Watermelon candy, taco seasoning packets, and a whole bunch more. It felt like Christmas!

-On Saturday night, at 9:00 PM France time, we watched a live broadcast of my mother-in-law’s funeral. It was beautiful and made me homesick for extended family. Each of her 8 kids spoke and did a wonderful job. I especially loved Ben’s talk and I’m thinking maybe I’ll share it as a blog post. We were so sad to miss being there in person, but grateful we could be a part of it via the internet.

-How are you feeling about school? Are your kids attending in person, or online? Here in Normandy, the kids are attending in person, and so far (one month in) there have been no covid breakouts. But I know all of Europe is talking about what a second-wave could look like, and I’m mentally preparing to shut down again if/when the second wave materializes in a big way.

-We also pared down our extra-curricular activities. We cut out horseback riding and handball. The kids are participating in music lessons and swim team, but that’s it. Piano for Flora June, Clarinet for Betty, and Trumpet for Oscar. They each get a private lesson, and a group music theory class. On Friday nights, Oscar and Betty practice with the local orchestra.

-I’ve been thinking a lot about the next event for Alt Summit. It’s scheduled for the last week of February/first week of March, and it’s clear that big gatherings (or any gatherings?) will still be unsafe at that time. So we’re considering delaying till summer, or till fall, or perhaps hosting a digital conference (though personally, I’m feeling some Zoom fatigue and would have a hard time getting excited about hosting a digital event). There’s also the option of skipping the 2021 conference altogether and hosting the next Alt Summit at the usual time in 2022. How are you feeling about online events? Do you have strong opinions?

-I’m trying to figure out the best way to share house renovation updates here on the blog. I’ve been so focused about sharing them on Instagram stories, and haven’t been sharing here as much as I would expect. I don’t have a solution yet, but it’s on my mind.

Speaking of the blog, I need to hire someone to make some updates to my
WordPress template — it’s been acting wonky and I need some help. If you’re a WordPress pro (or know someone who is), please email me: designmom@designmom.com.

-Fall has definitely arrived in Normandy, and brought a temperature drop and lots of rain. Our radiators are on, and we’ve pulled out our sweaters and Olive has made two batches of pumpkin cookies. Tomorrow is October. I can hardly believe it. This must be the slowest/fastest year ever. Does it feel like fall where you live? Will you be decorating for Halloween this year?

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to my random thoughts, or you can leave your own random thoughts in the comments. I always love to hear what’s on your mind.

P.S. — More random thoughts.