Well, everything moved along quickly - more quickly than I'd expected, but within the original timeline. I will arrive in France on October 2!
The process actually went very smoothly with the French government. The work permit was approved right after the August "holidays" in less than one week. Fortunately, I was also able to snag an appointment with the Consulate in mid-September due to a cancellation and my visa is now on the way via tracked mail.
Once I had the legal immigration formalities out of the way, it was time to concern myself with practical things, like finalizing my work contract (it's a big deal in France since there's no such thing as "at-will" employment there) and my house contract. While I didn't get a house in town, like I'd wanted, I was able to find a really lovely home with a lot of natural light and exposed wood that is only a short drive away. It's a perfect short-term furnished rental until my stuff arrives by boat.
The French lessons also went well and I'm excited to return and try out my French. I've been writing my French co-workers largely in French, but speaking in French still feels challenging.
I'm looking forward to returning to France with all of the cultural differences, language faux pas and my new work responsibilities. And getting back to my French friends! My plan is to consistently post about my adventures in France every Thursday.