Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon
Mr. Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

Friday, September 30, 2011

the aftershock

Am writing again from the Quality Inn in Castlegar.

We barely made it through our dinner last night - in fact Dan didn't eat at all. We had our baths, contacted all our people via text, Twitter, email, blog, etc, and then crashed. It was nice to lay down and be clean and just relax for a bit.

Dan and I have changed a bit, since being apart. I didn't think I'd lost any more weight since he left but he thinks I have. Or at least the weight has been redistributed. He has changed shape considerably too. With all the heavy lifting at the brewery, he's really getting his brewing muscles back and we are both seeing muscle definition in each other that we've never seen before. It's good. :-)

Sam has been a very good kitty on this trip. She is no stranger to hotel rooms and as she gets older, she is easier to manage. I'm so relieved, because she is a big source of stress for me usually.

So, the plan from here. Dan figures it will take about six hours to get to the ferry in Vancouver (Tsawassen, really), we will reach Victoria this evening sometime. (Ferry is 1 hour 35 minutes, Victoria is 35 minute drive from Swartz Bay terminal). Dan was supposed to be back to work on Wednesday, but he was given permission to take a few extra days if necessary. Dan's return will depend, in part, on when he can get a reasonably priced flight back to Raleigh. Flights out of the US are a third of what they cost out of Canada.

So we'll have a few days together to visit with family, make some plans, and set me up in the house so that we don't have to worry. My first plan is to apply for jobs in VIHA (Vancouver Island Health Authority). With my work at the Tofino General Hospital, I'm sure any HR person would see my file and hire me in an instant. I just looked at there are at least a handful of jobs I'm qualified to do. I am happy with casual employment. The Royal Jubilee Hospital is only a 10 - minute bike ride away from my in-laws' house.

I don't know how long I'll be in Victoria. Since my post yesterday, I have received dozens of messages in the comments and on Twitter. O my dear readers, you have no idea how much your support means to me! One Twitter friend, Georgianna, told me about an organization that helps people with immigration by offering free legal support. Jeni offered to bake me a pumpkin pie. Susie invited me to a zombie walk (I'll have to decline - I'll want to spend as much time with Dan as possible but after that, I'll be totally free to socialize!).

I think this will be a good thing. Our Susan Miller horoscopes did say that the two weeks following September 25th would be extremely difficult. I don't think it will be easy, still being apart from Dan, but I will have reliable Internet access which means we can communicate with Skype. I'll be in a place that I always (seem to) return to, Victoria is more home to me than any place I have ever lived. It contains a high concentration of people I love! I will be alright. Fingers crossed we won't have to wait another four months. One way or another, I will see Dan at Christmas, if not sooner.

Dan has to figure out what his next steps will be too, and I can't really speak to that because I just don't know. We are back to a certain level of uncertainty, which is really hard, but not insurmountable. This ordeal has distilled for us what is really important in our life together: each other. (Crap. I'm going to start crying again.) We will figure it out, we always do! 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

devastated

They didn't let me in.

Dan stopped the process for my petition for immigration a couple of weeks ago, since it was going nowhere, and he was advised to do a certain set of steps, which he did, and which turned out to be wrong advice.

We pulled up to the border at Coutts, Alberta at about 7:30am. Dan arrived yesterday at the Edmonton International Airport around 3pm. We had a few stops to make for building supplies - we had to rig something up for the bed of the truck and a place for the litter box. What we ended up with was brilliant, and I will take photos of it and posted for another day. Basically Sam has her own cute kitty room behind the cab of the truck.

We finished building the thing and packing around 10pm last night. We had a very late supper with my sister and her husband. We pulled out of their driveway at 10:30pm. Dan hadn't slept in more than a day, and I had been up since early, so we were both really tired to begin with, but we really wanted to get moving.

I think it was around midnight when we hit Drumheller, about 155km from Edberg. Dan was sleeping, I was driving. I pulled over, because I was starting to nod off. Not sure if I actually slept at all, being we only have a standard cab pickup and there isn't much room for stretching out. An hour later, we were back on the road.

I think it was in Stettler that I stopped for coffee. Husky had Seattle's Best, which was actually pretty good. I was willing to accept drek as fuel, but it was a pleasant surprise.

We were about 30km away from the border when I pulled over a second time, nodding off again. The temperature was three degrees above freezing, so without the heat on in the truck and despite the blankets, it was cold. Again, not sure if I slept (probably not), but we woke up to a gorgeous prairie sunrise. Onward ho.

We pulled into the border crossing at 7:30am. The guy didn't like that we didn't have all the paperwork to import our vehicle. Didn't like that we didn't have any paperwork for my immigration. Especially didn't like that their sensors picked up radioactivity in my truck. Pull around to the back of the building, please.

Questions questions. Lots of answers. Filling out forms. Waiting for scans & sensors. It was around 8:30am that the most kind & compassionate border guard I have ever encountered broke the bad news. They can't just let someone in with the intention of immigrating without any paperwork. There are some options, including petitioning the border guard judge, but to wait a hearing would mean they would have to escort me to the nearest detention center for two to eight months. Um, no.

I was sick to my stomach. I had to excuse myself because I really thought I was going to throw up. Dan was livid with the person from the State Department in Charlotte, North Carolina who gave him this bad advice. (I didn't throw up, but things were sure churning). I couldn't keep it together, I fell apart in tears in the waiting area. Dan was on the phone with his mom making plans for our next step, a quickly devised Plan B. We will drive back to Victoria where I will stay with his parents.

The nice guard told me that it would be useless to apply for jobs because, with the Customs & Immigration people now knowing that I intend to immigrate with my husband, I would not be allowed a visa. In fact, I had my photo taken and I was fingerprinted, I had to sign a document saying that I would not attempt to enter the US until I have paperwork for immigration, on the understanding that I could be rejected permanently or even put in jail.

I was able to have some semblance of a sense of humor with the border guard. Why didn't you tell me you wanted to take my picture before I started crying? If I was put in detention, would I be able to knit? (I mean really, think of how much I would get done!)(Then again, after that story in the news about the person making an escape ladder out of knitting needles, knitting is probably forbidden in prisons. Better take up crochet.) He appreciated that I had a sense of humor, he said this doesn't happen often but it happens often enough to know he hates being the bearer of bad news. I empathized, I know he just has a job to do and rules to follow. We were misinformed and are now suffering the consequences.

They never did figure out what was radioactive in the truck. We were escorted back to the Canadian side, where the Canadian border guard was cheerful yet empathetic. I told her I was just rejected from crossing into the States. Among the usual list of questions is "do you have any firearms, knives, etc.?" to which I pulled out my key chain, which has a 1 3/4" jackknife (purchased for the express purpose of cutting yarn - seriously). She told me not to open it, or she'd have to pull out her gun. Dan chimed in "yes that could be seen as a threat." I told her "don't worry, I'd let you win." I can't help it. In times of deep stress or heavy emotion, I resort to humor.

We found a place to pull over back on the Canadian side and had ourselves a cry. What the hell are we going to do now? Neither one of us had slept more than a couple hours in the last few days. We were exhausted, overwrought, and had just been smacked in the face by the US government. Well, having evacuated my bowel at the border (not TMI - really, this tells you how stressed I was while we were there), I was hungry. We decided to drive to Lethbridge for breakfast (about 130km I think) and decide what to do from there.

Because we were both tired, we were thinking about getting a room nearby and taking a day to rest and think. But when Dan and I have been faced with big crappy situations, it is our nature to press on. So we did. We drove to Castlegar, where I am writing from this very moment. Caffeine and sugar have been our friends today. Sam kitty has been great through this whole thing. She loves her little room up back and she is now able to settle into sleep on the bench between us. SO nice not to have her MEOWing the whole time.

We will head back to Vancouver Island tomorrow. Dan will only be able to stay for a few days, then he will have fly back to North Carolina for work.

I hope Sam gets along with Yuki, the house cat.
I know I will be well taken care of  by my in-laws.
I will get to see all my Vancouver & Vancouver Island friends again.
I will have a reliable Internet connection.
(I will have access to four yarn stores)
I will be able to run, ride my bike, catch up on BBC programs (in-laws have DVDs of everything).
But I will also have to bust my ass to find work. I haven't worked now for three months and I need an income. I don't know how long this next step will take, how much longer we will have to wait.

The nice border guard did slip us some information that seemed like something that is not shared with everyone. He said that we can apply to the Passenger Chief at the port I plan to enter through for a Port Parole - this means that once my application for immigration has been submitted, I can be, if the Passenger Chief allows, temporarily admitted into the United States to be with my spouse. Cost? $71. Totally worth it.

So now Dan and I are going to bathe, eat our Subway, and probably crash. We're pretty knackered. We have both cried rather a lot today and will probably cry some more. But Dan just pointed out that there was something in the horoscope that suggested this. And I truly believe that something good will come of this - clearly the Universe or the powers that be think I have unfinished business in Victoria. Like trying all the new restaurants or something. We are sad, devastated, but not defeated. We know we can get through hardship because we have done it before. And it makes for interesting blog post reading.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Where is my head?

For the past few weeks, my head has been in a book A heady book. A very famous book.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand.

In advance of moving to the United States, I made it a project of mine to read (or at least listen via audiobook) those novels considered great American fiction. And while I know Ayn Rand was not American (she was a Russian nationalist that emigrated to the United States), her books are set in the US. Atlas is the first of her books that I have encountered, but I'm told they all have a similar flavour.

I understood, after having watched a documentary of her some years ago, that her ideas were extremely fascist. She had come from the worst clutches of Stalin's communism and thrown into the big flag-waving American capitalism when capitalism (as an ideology) was lauded and relatively new. This book is a dystopic view of what happens when the two ideologies clash with each other.

It's interesting talking to people who have read this book, who have read Rand's other works. Fountainhead is often read in high school classrooms. Dan told me last night that Atlas Shrugged was her magnum opus. Dan has read everything she wrote. Kirsten has read much of Rand's work too. Our conversations about this book and her ideas have been so interesting.

See I'm ramping up to leave next week(!) and I pretty much have everything done. So I have been listening to this book, this epic 63-hour tome (but I'm listening to it at 1.5 speed, so it is going more quickly), while loading the dishwasher, doing laundry, repacking my things, (playing Pocket Frogs on my iPhone), and knitting. I'm about eight hours from finishing. I can't stop thinking about the story.

It has me interested in reading other tales of dystopia. The only one I have read is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and that was back in 1995 when I was a new college student. Other recommendations have been Animal Farm, Nineteen Eighty Four, Lord of the Flies, and Anthem. Do you have any suggestions? Please leave them in the comments below.

For a long time I have been thinking about writing a novel. I know I have at least one in me, but I never had an idea for a story before. I have tons of ideas, I'm discovering, for what my version of a dystopia would be. I am very interested in this genre of fiction. Having a literature background, I would be sure to employ the use of many literary devices. Where does one begin when writing such a story? With the plot? Setting? Character? What is the message I want to convey? Which philosophers do I need to read? (I'm going to start with Plato). This is where my head is. As I was running on the treadmill yesterday (did I tell you I'm training for a marathon?), I was thinking about what social movements would need to happen in a fictional setting in order for my version of a dystopia would exist. It's a great head space to be in. Not quite reality but inspired and informed by it.

So I'm not committing to writing a novel, but I am at least in the head space of considering it. I'm making notes, thinking about how to go about researching this. I'll keep you posted if I have any further developments.

Monday, September 19, 2011

time for some knitting

I haven't posted any knitting in a long time, and I have had a lot of time to knit. So here's what's been happening: 

 My first finished object from Victorian Lace Today. Blocking on children's alphabet foam.


I really liked knitting these. They are a shorter sock so they knit up quickly. I *love* this colour and had so many compliments on it whenever I knit in public.
(Sorry for inconsistency with text & photos here, not having much luck with this). This is Wedge from Cookie A's Knit. Sock. Love. I used Yummy yarn. O boy this was crazy. This was my third or fourth Cookie A sock, and after having found that they were all knitting up on the large side, I decided to go down a needle size when I knit the first one. Months went by before I knit the second one, and I didn't consult my notes, so I knit them on the recommended needle. What resulted was one snug sock and one slightly big sock. But after 20-25 hours per sock, I am not reknitting. The yarn bled when blocked, so I needed to re-set the dye. 
Sigh. This is a sock I started in August 2010. Did I get frustrated with the pattern? Did I just lose my sock mojo? Or was I irritated at knitting socks on dpns for the first time? I don't know, but I finally got back to it. I have to. It's Malabrigo. And I really want to wear these socks. So in the past week I have knit the same heel twice because the pattern is stupid. (Brother Amos Hellfire Lace) I remember not liking the unusual toe construction, and I am less happy with the heel. I just finished turning this heel last night, will hopefully have smooth sailing to the end. And then I have to do the second sock. But I am turning all my UFOs into FOs, so this is good! I will wear these socks soon. 
My collection of hand-knit socks! And more have been added since this photo was taken. 
Sunshine from Cookie A's Sock Innovation. Gaia's Colour's yarn. None of the photographs I have taken of these socks seem to do it justice, the yarn is such a pretty colour in real life. Socks on the big side. Dye had to be re-set when blocking. But now I have purple socks!



Not pictured (only because I haven't taken pictures): a dog sweater for Roxy, Spiral Tweed Cloche (my second one), and a bun basket for my niece, who just started ballet last week and needs containment for her wild hair. The bun basket (bun holder? bun net?) is of my own design, and it was an experiment that worked out pretty well. I will try to replicate it & then write down the pattern, for those who are interested. It was fun & quick.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

now what?

It's been a week or so since my last post. This is all due to my not using the mesozoic Internet at the farm. Sorry, sorry, very sorry.

So since Dan and I made the decision about just getting me to North Carolina, we'll sort out immigration and employment details later, I have been a much happier camper. And indeed, I am a camper. As my 'desk' in my sister's basement, I have been using my camping chair and a folding card table. My bed is the mattress I hauled from Vancouver Island, on the floor, on a tarp. Most of my worldly possessions are upstairs by the back door, waiting another day of repacking into Rubbermaid bins. One more day should do it, I think, but as the sun room has been an oven during this past week and a half, it's hard to breathe in that room, let alone sort, wrap, and pack one's possessions.

Tomorrow I will get the tires on my truck rotated. On Monday I will get my first salon hair cut in two and a half years (I have been going at it myself but I realize that 'trimming' it every day is maybe not the best use of my time). Today, I bought a funeral outfit.

Well, I don't know if I'll be going to a funeral. We all seem to think so but I wanted to be proactive.

See, if you know me or have been reading me for a while, you might recall that it was this very week a year ago that I flew to Kelowna from Vancouver Island to attend the funeral of my mother's uncle, Unc. He left behind his wife, Mid, to whom he had been married for 63 years. Sixty. Three. Years.

Mid was the person in the family who kept tabs on everyone, sent birthday cards to everyone, knew what was happening and was the collector and bringer of news. After Unc died last September at the end of a rough battle with diabetes-inflicted-gangrene, Mid was never the same. She did not remember birthdays. She did not send out Christmas cards. She kept on referring to Unc as if he was still there, with her (and who knows? Maybe he was). "He's just in the other room" or "he's just out for a walk" or "he'll be here in minute". This is a clear example of dementia, not uncommon for people in her circumstance.

Apparently my dad has been calling Mid every week or two (which is way more often than he calls either of his daughters!) (and not that Mid was at all pleased to receive these belaboring phonecalls) ever since my parents were divorced twenty years ago. In a conversation with my dad last week, he mentioned he hadn't been able to get a hold of Mid for a few weeks now. The family knows Mid has call display and perhaps she just chose not to take his call. But just the same, she is 85 and living alone, so I told Mum, Mum called her cousin, more phone calls to cousins were made.

Turns out Mid had a fall in her home. She fell in her bedroom, and was probably there for 24 hours before she was found. The cousin of my mother's who has been the primary caregiver to Mid for this last year and a bit had a key to the house but could not open the locked screen door. Another cousin was calling to Mid, when the police were called in to break down the door and retrieve her, and Mid made no indication that she was in any distress. She was just angry at Unc for not answering the door!

Mid has been in the hospital for two weeks. She has a staph infection in her legs. I don't know much about staph infections, but one form it takes is osteomyelitis. The word osteomyelitis doesn't normally roll off one's tongue as easy as it does mine, but when my sister broke her leg just before she started kindergarten (I was eight), I committed the name of her affliction to my memory. Osteomyelitis. An infection of the bone. I am assuming this is what Mid has. When my sister had this -itis, the doctor we had back then, in the early 80s, was greatly worried he might have to amputate my sister's leg.

A year ago, when Unc was in his final stages before dying, he had gangrene in one of his legs. There was apparently no discussion of amputation, because it was very clear he was too close to dying to make the effort help at all. I don't know Mid's situation. My family is not as familiar with medical jargon as I am and therefore don't know what details to collect, what kinds of questions to ask. I will probably never know.

Thus, I expect that if Mid passes away in the next two weeks, I will be taking a trip to Kelowna with my mum & sister (about a 10-hour drive). I no longer have the outfit I wore to Unc's funeral; I have lost 33 pounds and have shrunk right out of it. So I bought something to wear today, justifying the cost since I will also likely be having interviews for employment and subsequent work in offices.

I am oddly at peace with the whole thing. Really, for me, the end of this era happened a year ago, since Mid hasn't been herself. I have been through the deaths of many other people in my life, and I don't feel the same sense of sadness I used to. I don't intend to wax philosophical about my feelings about death here, just now (but might in the future, you never know). And it is this reason that, if there is a funeral that lands in the week of my scheduled departure for the United States, I won't be changing my travel plans. I will still go to North Carolina as planned.

Meanwhile, today Auntie Stacey has to pick her nephew up from preschool. This morning Auntie spent half an hour with the curling iron preparing her niece for Grade one picture day. Tonight, I'll make my pizza for the family, as requested by my sister. Days go by, stuff gets done. I actually had a phone conversation with Dan last night, as it was our three year wedding anniversary (though we still declare "we were married when we met"). It's so good to hear his voice. I haven't seen a photo of him since he has dropped two pant sizes. Gosh, we will be totally different people by the time we see each other in two weeks! TWO WEEKS!

O, one more thing. My former supervisor at my last place of employment was in the company of some VIPs from a very important organization in the industry I went to school for, and passed along a name for me to contact about employment. I have since done so, fingers crossed it will bear fruit. Then I can give more detail! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Go Date: September 28

This has been a stressful time for me.

There have been many times in my life where I have been in what I call a liminal stage. Not one for choosing a conventional route (not sure I would even recognize one if I saw it), the path of my life has taken me in all sorts of interesting directions.

Right now I am sitting in the Starbucks in Safeway in Camrose. My sister delivered to me some bad news the other night: the Internet for the first month I was here cost $156.57. !!!! This is what happens when someone who is used to having a wireless Internet connection and to which said person is addicted to said Internet connection is subjected to a less than ideal condition. As a result, I have determined that I will no longer connect my computer to Internet at her house. So I come into Camrose, buy a cup of over-roasted coffee, and do all my Interneting for free.

Something else I have been barely managing without: Microsoft Office. Say what you will about Microsoft, but it is the standard for a number of institutions in which I have developed my computer skills in. I had it on my last two computers. In the spring when Kirsten's father presented us with this super fancy high-tech laptop that I am typing on now, it never occurred to me that it didn't have this piece of software on which I rely so heavily.

Public libraries are useless for my word processing needs. As funding for public libraries has diminished, libraries are no longer able to afford the expensive licensing fees that Microsoft demands. As a result, public libraries opt for Open Office, which is free.

I have used Open Office, and I would like to say that it has just as much functionality as Microsoft Office (here I disclose it has been five years since I have used Open Office), but when you are used to one thing and then try to use another thing with different settings, it is a bit disconcerting. All of my office documents are in Microsoft and I do not want to convert them to Open Office because no matter what, the formatting never transitions smoothly.

So I found myself then, unable to open up the most recent version of my resume. I have a printed copy of it, but who wants to type it out again? I might just have to do that. Sigh.

I also haven't had access to a printer. So when I relocate to North Carolina next month, there will be a few things that become priorities: Internet connection, Microsoft Office suite, printer. In that order.

Oh, did I tell you? I'll be leaving soon.

So here's what happened. Dan had applied for my green card several months ago. He was told in early June that it would take an average of 75 days to process the application. That means approval should have come around this week we're in. A week or two later (in early July), they asked for a passport-sized photo from me, so we figured there was progress.

But then two months went by and they (the State Department or whoever processes these things) never cashed the cheque Dan sent along with the application. He was growing very concerned and was going to go to Charlotte, where this processing was supposedly happening, to find out what was going on.

Then hurricane Irene hit. No traveling for a while.

Dan spent three hours on the phone yesterday and made the decision to cancel my processing. I nearly lost it. WHY? He decided it would be more expedient if he just flew here and drove back to North Carolina with me. It will mean I can't work legally in the United States right away, but at least we will be together.

So there was some excitement and confusion. I think I spent the better part of yesterday in a state of shock, actually. See, originally the plan was that my mum was going to be making this trip with me, that it would take us 5-7 days to drive across the continent. But there are other issues. We are going to formally import the Ford I've been driving, we have the cat, and I won't have the green card. So Dan has to be with me. I haven't yet told my mum she won't be making this trip and I know she'll be crushed; she's been looking forward to this for months. It was the trepidation over telling her that prevented me (somewhat) from getting excited about my impending journey.

I get to see my husband! Dan will arrive at YEG (Edmonton International) on Wednesday September 28th. I will pick him up at the airport. We will drive to Home Depot and get the supplies we need to rig up the truck so that it will fit all my stuff and have a tunnel for the litter box (don't worry, I'll blog about that later). We will have supper (soon I can revert to saying "dinner" when referring to the evening meal!) with my sister's family and my mother, then we will load up and depart that night. It should take about six hours to get to the border.

Not sure how long we will be at the border, but it will likely be in the wee hours of the morning so hopefully not too long. Sam will hate it. Another six hours should get us to Missoula.

We will stay the night in Missoula at the family condo. Then we will depart and drive pretty much straight to Kinston, stopping for food, bathroom & fuel. Dan is suggesting we stop at a major center near home, find the closest IKEA, and get our queen-sized bed.

I've been without Dan for three and a half months. I have been in a state of uncertainty and instability for a bit more than that. I get to see my husband in three weeks! We will have a whole week to ourselves to catch up and get reacquainted. Then I can start my new life. My own kitchen. My own laundry. My own space. And then I can finally, finally start putting down roots. The relief about this has washed over me and even though I could hardly sleep last night from being excited, I feel like a new person. I still dread telling my mother, but soon she'll come to understand that this is the best way and really, the most important thing for me and Dan is that we are together, no matter what.