Showing posts with label momformation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label momformation. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

We're so lucky to live here

Sometimes the earth turns at just the right speed for all of us and an idea is hatched and everyone agrees and gravity coalesces and we discover there is life, good life, not to mention gratitude, beyond all the negotiating--well most of it--and second guessing and hemming and hawing and excuse making and blah blah blah-ing.

Seven more days until Ian's visa interview..........

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Is that a light up ahead?

I received the following letter from the United States Department of State National Visa Center, twelve days ago:

Dear Elizabeth Hard Shaw:
Your inquiry has been received at the National Visa Center (NVC).
Your request for expeditious processing of this immigrant visa petition was denied by the assigned U.S. Embassy/Consulate General. This petition will continue processing at the NVC. Once all the required fees and documents are received and reviewed, and an interview appointment date is scheduled, this petition will be forwarded to the assigned U.S. Embassy/Consulate General.
For further information regarding NVC processing, please visit

I read it, with shaking hands, these official seals always make my hands shake, that is what they are meant to do, no, while sitting on the back steps in the warm early- days- of March sun.

When I got to the part about the request for expeditious review being denied, I cried. I had been counting on that, I don't know why, but I realize now, there is no reason why I should have expected it to be granted. Who am I?

After a brief pity party I wiped my face and went back inside to face my children. I had decided not to tell them about the letter.

That evening, just four hours or so after reading the letter, I got an e-mail from the NVC. It read:

Dear Sir/Madam,

The attached correspondence relates to an immigrant visa referenced on the subject line.  This case is being processed by the National Visa Center. Please read the information carefully and follow the instructions.
Dear IAN M.:
The enclosed information pertains to IAN RODGER M's interest in immigrating to the
United States of America. The National Visa Center (NVC) has completed its processing of IAN
RODGER M 's petition, case number XXXX; and forwarded it to the American
Embassy/Consulate in PARIS.
An immigrant visa interview has been scheduled for the applicant at the U.S. Embassy/Consulate in
PARIS on April 10, 2012 at 01:00 pm. 

"Interest in immigrating to the United States of America? Why does that wording annoy me?

The attachment goes on for another three boring  pages. I'll spare you.

I should be excited, I know. We have a date. Well an interview date. And I kind of am excited. Excited and relieved. But I'm also kind of irked that every step has to have at least six weeks in between it and the next step. It feels gratuitously cruel, or somehow manipulating.

I mean, dentists appointments must be made months in advance too. But no one really wants to go to the dentist anyway.

But the very widely-spaced steps put forth by this immigration process take a very long stride and an enormous amount of patience, more than the average little girl who is missing her daddy has.

But what's another month, or two, when your daddy has been missing for 10 already?

Baby steps. Progress. Lights at the end of a long, dark tunnel. And all that.

It's good. Really. It's good. It's just not "now" enough for me, right now. 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sundays are good to us

I have been meaning for months to start doing a weekly, image-driven Sunday post.

Sundays have long since been my favorite day for some reason. This was not always the case. I hated Sundays when I was in high school and college. Sundays meant imminent return to the drudgery of school. The end of freedom.

Since becoming a parent, though I do have this strange Saturday morning anxiety affliction, Sundays often mark imminent return of freedom and the sense of relaxed contentment that comes with it.

Does this mean I hate spending weekends with my family? No.

Proof of that lies in just how much I enjoy Sundays with my children And my children often reflect that serenity right back at me in the form of cohesive sibling relations and the promise of, if not world, then at least domestic peace.

They play well together on Sundays, usually. They get into home, being home, appreciating home, walking to Grant's store for the Sunday New York Times, sitting around the fire, making potions, dressing up, hanging around in the horse barn...

It's the one day home feels consistently good and right to all of us. Here's a compilation of images from the last three or four or five or six or seven Sundays:

 Just them putting on their bathrobes speaks volumes about their complacent moods. The fact that I don't own a bathrobe,  also speaks volumes.

 Today was no exception. The girls, Esther and Isla, shared several increasingly-rare consecutive hours of supreme solidarity. I even fell asleep on the couch to the sounds of their voices, cooperating and mutually respecting, as Esther found and cutomized a stick horse for Isla, then they groomed and tacked up their horses. When I woke up, they were schooling the horses over a jump course on the yard.

 Yup, in their stockinged feet.

Too bad the day has to end.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The sound of flapping wings

It feels like a crime saying this, in this the age of gratitude and happiness projects, but life feels really stupid sometimes.

Shame on the person who wakes up in the morning and thinks,

My life feels stupid.
Time to make the donuts. We do the same thing every day.
What is it really all about?

But, honestly, I do wake up feeling that way sometimes.

Don't you?

I even felt this way, possibly even more, when I was a professional snowboarder. I spent month-long training camps at the same slopeside hotel--usually the Breckenridge Hilton-- eating, sleeping, training, watching video of myself training, working out, eating, sleeping, repeat.

Not only that, but I put on the same uniform-- first layer, speedsuit, ski pants, fleece, jacket, boots, helmet, goggles, gloves --day after day. I rode up the hill on a chairlift. I rode back down through a race course. I checked my time at the bottom, then rode back up and came back down the course, seeking a new line that would improve my time by three tenths of a second. If my time was less than 6% slower than the boys' time, I was within range.

Why do I always see symbolism in things?

The only difference between then and now is I had a coach telling me how I was doing, urging me on, bolstering that which needed to be bolstered.

I bet you never imagined that something as seemingly glamorous as a competitive sport career could feel like factory work sometimes. And the product is you.

But still, now that I've been "domesticated," the same sorts of things shake me out of my stupor and put life back into relief. It's usually art or nature.

Like this morning, on my gray walk, when that lone Canada goose flew, directly North, over our heads and flapped determinedly into the distant gray sky, calling, forlornly, to someone, anyone, wait for me, as it flew.

And, voilá, life was unexpected again, and I was remembering the number of times we were startled from our stupor  by a flock of massive, honking swans flying just above the rooftops of our sleepy French village, so close you could hear the rhythmic pumping of their fluid wings as they flapped their way towards an instinctual destination.

That was a beautiful thing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Good dream, bad dream

I dreamed I got out of bed in the middle of the night and went into the bathroom to put water on my face.

As I looked up, groping for a towel to wipe my face, there, standing at the sink right next to me, we don’t have two sinks in our bathroom, was Ian, looking just like himself in one of the plaid flannel shirts
I bought him, stretched tautly over his deliciously- broad shoulders, and blue jeans and his blue eyes.

He was just standing there, casually looking into the mirror, as if he had been there all his life. 

I screamed and threw myself at him.

“What are you doing here,” I shrieked. “How did you get here?”

“I wanted to surprise you,” he said, as calmly and evenly as he says just about everything.

I should have known right there that this was a dream because surprising people, or planning anything ahead of time, is not Ian’s style, but I wanted so much for this dream to be true I ignored all of that.

And I held him, just held him, until I woke up and he was not here.


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Till the cows come home

We are still waiting for Ian.

Yet I am caught up in some sort of blurry twister, the kind that blows across the field, sucking up red golden leaves  and swinging them round and round in its super swirling vortex before dropping dropping them, breathless and dizzy, and moving on.

I feel as if I have tipped the scales towards overload somehow and I can't remember at what exact point I lost control. I've got a nasty cold. I feel tired all the time. Getting myself up and the kids out each morning feels Herculean. And the kids and the horses and the dog and the firewood and my blogging committments..... I never seem to be done or satisfied or finished, or ahead. I can't remember the last time the girls bathed. They don't smell too bad. And I never remember to badger Esther to practice her violin or do her homework. She is getting it done, not the violin part, but not as eagerly as she was before Christmas. She's flagging as well, I think.

And Isla, always begging me to read to her just at that witching hour when the fire needs to be started and the horses and dogs need to be fed and the dinner needs to be cooked, but first I have to clean the kitchen to find the sink and stove because I've been sitting at my computer most of the day. And I am so happy she is finally, finally into books and sooo guilty when I have to tell her, again, no I cannot read to you right now because if I read to you right now there will be no dinner to eat. There is no one here to fix our dinner aside from me. I'm all you got and if I knew how to read and cook dinner at the same time,  I would, but I don't so I can't.

I'm not exactly Demi Moore, yet, but sometimes I feel as if I can totally understand how easy it would be to just snap like that. To feel as if you are so far in over your head, or have climbed way too high and only just now, after all this time, bothered to look down and what you saw, how small everything looked down there, and how vulnerable you felt swaying up there in the wind, terrified you.

And the temptation to just let go and free fall, yield to the currents, is real and everpresent.

To let the dishes pile so high in the sink and the clothes so high on the laundry table and the bills so high on the kitchen table and to just say "screw it, come on kids, let's take the credit card and go out to eat and then go to New York City and see some Broadway shows, then let's not go to school for a week and go skiing every day instead. That last idea is kind of a joke considering the pathetic and extremely depressing lack of snow. Unless, of course, we went to the French alps....

And isn't it funny how my fantasy includes, rather than threatens to run away from, my children, so well trained am I at being their only hope at survival. But the fact is, I need them. They keep me from getting lonely, from feeling too sorry for myself. To think that Ian isn't even getting cuddles from a child is to realize that I have the better deal here. I don't care how much sleep he is getting, I would die if I had to be away from these kids that long. Die.

This place is drier than a popcorn fart. The land is crusty. Parched. Brittle, like my patience lately. The poor horses have sore feet from walking on their own frozen hoofprints. There is symbolism there, I know it.

Every snowfall we get is just this teasing, non-committal  one to two inches that always leaves the pointy ends of the grass poking through as if to say, na na na na na na, you can't smother me.

How did I get back to snow again?

Anyway, I realize, looking back to my last three weeks of Momformation blogs, that I've written about lice, what a mess my house is, and the confession that we are habitually late for school. You might be wondering if my confession that I'm downing two bottles of Fat Bastard pinot noir or, possibly, doing whippets, every night is coming next. But, remarkably, it isn't. I've never been into drinking alone. A tidy night cap now and then while I'm doing some late- night blogging, maybe, but really, I find no joy, or escape, in alcohol. I'm too concerned about how fat I'm already getting from all this sitting and no ice hockey, no cross country skiing, no nothing much of anything, really, other than bouncing up and down on my ball/chair and squeezing my glutes. That and dancing with the girls and the painfully sporadic, yet fulfilling, 8 a.m. walks with my neighbor.

Oh yes. I started this post to say I mailed Ian's completed Immigrant visa application yesterday. It only took us a month to get it all complete, included the translation of his French criminal record which was all of one sentence. If I knew how to say "nothing to report" in French, I would tell you that is what it said.

So now, all we can do is wait and hope and dream of one day being reunited as a family again. Esther has gotten really antsy. She keeps asking me every day when Daddy is coming home.

"In a week?" she asks.
"No," I say, irritated. 
"But you said..."
"All I said, was, maybe the visa center will review the application this week and then Daddy will get his interview appointment in Paris and he can finally come home. I did not say he was coming home in a week and I'm sorry if that is what you were hoping but it's just not true."

One day later:
"Tell me again when you think Daddy will come home."

"Soon, Esther," I say. "Soon."

It's like asking when it's going to snow.
Someday soon.
I just know it.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Three generations on ice

My dad taught me how to love playing on snow and ice.

No. He showed me how to love it.

He didn't have to say much. He only had to supply the gear, get me into my snowsuit, bring me outside, and put up with an untold amount of whining and snot.  But he did it. He just kept showing up and putting up with us. Now that I have kids, I appreciate what he did all the more. That's a lot of snot and whining.

My dad never stopped "showing up" and modeling how to have a good time in this regard.

Once when I was home from college and he was still working, he came home on his lunch break to find me digging my ice skates out of the attic. I was headed over to the pond on the golf course, alone, for a skate. He was envious. He went back to work.

Half an hour later he showed up at the pond, still dressed in his suit and tie, with a hat and scarf and gloves for warmth, skates in hand. I will never forget that skate together. And oh how I wish I had carried a camera with me everywhere I went back then like I seem to do now. I only have the memory, but it's a vivid one.

And he showed up yesterday at the skating rink where I was teaching/showing Isla how to love skating. (It's been too warm, again, for pond skating.) He showed up with his old school racing skates. He bought them 20 or more years ago in Ottawa so he could skate through the city on the Rideau Canal.

He got to the rink with just 35 minutes of public skating time left. It took him 20 minutes to put on his skates. Isla helped him. She patiently knelt at his feet and helped him tighten and tie his skates, painstakingly trying to get her fingers to form the perfect bow that still eludes her. She treated Papa like a king.

"Okay, put you other foot in, Papa."

While this was going on, my sister, who brought my dad to the rink, and I engaged in some irreverent, nervous-daughter banter regarding whether or not she should write DNR (Do not resucitate) somewhere on my dad's person with a Sharpie pen. I suggested his forehead.

When he finally got situated, there was just 15 minutes left to skate. I offered my hand to him as he stepped out onto the ice but he wouldn't take it. "Funny, I don't see any of my friends out here," he said, knowing damn well he was the only octogenarian on the ice.

He wobbled at first, like a toddler learning to walk. And just like I do whenever I watch a toddler learning to walk, I held my breath and resisted the urge to say, "be careful! Don't hurt yourself."

The first few stilted strides he took made me wonder if this was such a good idea after all. 

He caught up to Isla, she looked back over her shoulder and saw him coming and promptely skated right into the path of a man who was trying to pass her and fell down. Dad offered to help her up, but she declined. He found his stride and made it around twice before sitting down on the bench to tighten his skates, then took two or three more laps before the Zamboni started up and the door lifted.

He tried to go around one more time but I reminded him the Zamboni was coming. In hindsight, I should have let the Zamboni driver wait.

Most recent airing of dirty laundry can be found over here at BabyCenter.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

A whole lotta horse shit

Saying goodbye to Ian, again, in England has left me feeling flat. As flat as a human can be and still be breathing.

I am a piece of cardboard. A cereal box, empty and folded. Ready for recycling. A newspaper, read, handled, folded in half and shoved under the bed.

I feel it most upon waking. Deflated. All my air, inspiration, hope has leaked out of some invisible hole overnight.

My sleep is fitful, hot, unsatisfying. I am seething with something. I miss Ian. I don’t want to be here without him any longer. I’m angry. Yet, I feel nothing.

It’s hard to parent when you are flat. Hard to find my arms to hold my children with. Hard to feel my heart beating. Hard for them to cuddle me without bumping into sharp edges. They crawl into my bed and lie quietly next to me. My heart says, reach out, enfold them in your arms. my brain, my stupid brain, won’t let me. It’s almost as if I’m too weary. Or as if I don’t want to let them in. Don’t want them to catch it, whatever it is I have. This melancholy.

I spent three blissful weeks with Ian, not once bothering to discuss the status of his immigrant visa beyond the most passing of comments. We were together, it was nice, let's not ruin our reunion with annoying, maddening bureaucratic talk.  Anyway there was nothing to talk about, we were in a holding pattern. Just waiting. Or so I thought.

Just days after I got back from England, I got an e-mail from Ian regarding a letter from the National Visa Center that had been waiting in the mailbox in France, for  three weeks. It was the hardcopy of a letter I received, and we had discussed, back at the end of November just before I went to Guatemala.

There was an attachment, as always, and forms to fill out. They were waiting for him to officially name me as his "agent." We had discussed this. Somehow, this discussion had failed. Ian thought I was meant to fill the form out. I knew he was supposed to fill the form out. I believed, the whole time we were in England together, that he had filled the form out and e-mailed it back to them.

I was wrong. Nothing had been done. The NVC was waiting for this form. No further progress was being made without this signed form. We had messed up, once again.

Our argument started via e-mail. Then we took it to Skype. I got so angry, and upset, over Skype I had to hang up on him. I went across the room and opened my mouth to let out the wounded animal sounds I hadn't wanted him to hear.  Then I swore, and cried, and swore some more. Five minutes later, feeling more under control, I called him back and we resumed our stupid conversation.

I hate being angry at Ian, or anyone I love. What I hate more is being angry at something bigger, the world, the system, myself, and taking it out on my loved ones. That makes me feel like a monster and a coward. Ian is sorry for having let this ridiculous oops happen. I know he is. There is no need for me to rub it in, to shame him for it. But sometimes I need someone to blame. Someone to be angry with. Someone to pass off my frustration to. Anyway, he signed a contract to be my husband and I'm sure somewhere in the small print there was some part about taking the blame for each and every thing just so your spouse can feel better. Isn't there?

Thankfully, this got cleared up quickly and two days later, how did that happen, I got another e-mail saying I had been named as agent and could now pay the immigrant visa processing fee of $404. Lucky me.

I struggled with that online payment form for several days, yes days, and finally called a toll free number, was put on hold for approximately 25 minutes, and learned that I needed to use Internet Explorer in order for the form to work. Does Internet Explorer even exist anymore?
I spent a morning trying to download a compatible version of that to my macbook and gave up when the graphics were all wonky. I tried Safari instead and had success. You have paid!

This is boring, I know. I apologize for that.

Short story is, we wait, we wait, we wait.

Ian now has to navigate all this Affidavit of Support crap, proving he has been earning enough money over the years and won't be a financial burden to the U.S., blah, blah, blah.

He's degraded and deflated and not so elated about being back in France without us. I want so much to go back there and be with him but know it doesn't make sense financially, or family wise, or in any way.

As much as I like being home, I miss France. I miss helping Essie do her homework, spelling words for her in French, reading books in French, complaining about the French. It's getting more and more dreamlike. But having Ian there isn't helping us hang on to our time in France.

It's only sucking the romance out of the memories. What price, this little adventure of ours? What price?

Gosh, Mom. These horses must have been poopin' all day while I was at school.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Perspective, and then some

I just read an Op-Ed piece in the N.Y. Times written by a Nigerian man, Lakhdar Boumediene,  who was detained in military custody, without explanation,  at Guantanamo Bay for SEVEN, yes 7, years.

His children grew up while he was inside being tortured, interrogated and treated like a terrorist despite the lack of any evidence against him.

Seven years.

They were not allowed to talk to him.

Seven years.

Letters they wrote to him were sent back.

When he was finally released, the only explanation was that the government had made a mistake.  Oops.

It breaks my heart. Incenses my every fiber. Shocks my soul. Seven years. You can not give a man the experience of being with his wife and watching his children grow back to him once you have stolen it. It's gone, forever.

And it makes me feel just a wee bit guilty about my ongoing pity party regarding not being able to get my husband, father of my children, back home where he belongs after just five months of trying. I'm still angry, more so than ever, but I'm also humbled somehow, in the face of just how bad it could be.

The world is filled with broken families. To see families broken up unnecessarily, and children losing their fathers for no good reason other than the heartless churning wheels of bureaucracy, is painful.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Be here now

The year is winding to a close.
It's as if I can hear the clock ticking the seconds away.
But it's not really the seconds left until the New Year that concern me so much as the seconds left until we have to leave Ian again.

"It's weird. I want to go home, but I don't want to go home," Esther said yesterday.

"I know exactly how you feel," I said. "Exactly." 

We are all stuck somewhere in between, so grateful for our little life boat, as we bob along the waves, but also keenly aware that a life boat isn't sea worthy for the long term.

"I want you to be my husband all the time," I said as I put my head in that place on his chest saved for me, the place I have been longing to rest in.

"I am," he said, so confidently I lost the desire to whine anymore and instead locked my attention in the here and now. Here and now. The feel of my cheek against his shirt. The warmth coming from underneath his shirt. The smell of him.  Here and now. Otherwise I will have regrets.

 "Daddy," I heard Isla's voice say as she cuddled up to Ian in bed this morning. "Isla," Ian answered.

"Daddy," she said again. "Isla," he answered again. 

"I don't care if you're scratchy anymore, Daddy," she said.

It seems even Isla is recognizing the importance of enjoying Ian while we can, whiskers or no whiskers.