Mr, Cupcake at Craters of the Moon

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

Monday, April 30, 2012

Puttering

Is this a word? I first heard it years ago from Ursa, who meant it in terms of going around the house, tidying up, putting things away, etc. I just checked dictionary.com and they say that the result is 'ineffectual'. Hm. I don't like that. Maybe I need to find a new word. At any rate, that's what I've been doing this morning.

I have been doing a lot of knitting lately, spent most of yesterday outside in the garden, and have been otherwise busy. And you know how when you are busy that you just throw stuff down while you move on to the next thing and eventually all these little piles will get cleaned up? No? That's just me? Well, today I have decided to tackle some of these piles and have been cleaning up.

It's a useful thing, my version of puttering. I want to send a letter I wrote to Dan, but could not find the stamps. I knew if I puttered long enough, the stamps would turn up (they did). I knew that if I puttered long enough I would find the unopened mail from last week (I did). More piles get made, but they are actionable piles. The pile of laundry. The paper recycling. The to-the-thrift-store pile (yes! I'm still downsizing).

I am a great list maker. I make lists and lists and lists. In my puttering this morning, I have found all kinds of lists! List of things to do feature prominently. Lists of things I would like to buy when I have money. Lists of things I would like to knit when I am done with my current projects. Sometimes the act of writing these lists is enough organization that my mind registers that these things need to be done, and I never see the list again. Sometimes I rigidly adhere to the list, do all the things in the order they are written down. Sometimes I will estimate the time it will take me to get the tasks on the lists done (5 min, one hour, etc.) and organize my time that way. I have to do this sometimes if I want to ensure I can get some knitting in there somewhere, or if I need to run to a business before they close.

Today, however, I have no such list. I am just going about my day, doing things as they pop up. You know how it is when you are doing something and you go to pick something up, and you see something else that needs to be done and so you drop thing one and start on thing two? That's how I work sometime. It's good, I think, for me, since I seem to be most effective when I do the thing I feel most compelled to do. Like writing this blog post. I have mentioned before there are often times when I have several blog posts in my head but somehow they never make it to the computer. I really do have lots to say, and I'm hoping that I will be able to manage my time a bit better so I can regale you, dear reader, of all the stuff that is in my head. I'm reading about/listening to all kinds of stuff that has me thinking, such as food security, the current state of economics, my immigration story and it's publishability [sic]. Someone suggested I do a blog post about the use of pendulums, and I think (if in my puttering I can find them both) I will take a photo and do just that.

It's coming down to the time that I'll be leaving, soon, I expect. I am encouraged by last week's letter from Senator Richard Burr, but we may only get a response that says "things are happening in the usual fashion, wait your turn", which will still have us waiting five months (ending in early June). I checked the USCIS average wait times at the website still says five months, so I am not holding my breath for an early departure. But you can bet I will be ready for such a momentous event, in case it happens! So the repacking I mentioned a few posts ago is happening as a part of that puttering. It feels good. It feels like movement.

More on the events, as they happen.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

a very nice letter from a senator

It's not every day that you get a letter with letterhead that says United States Senate*.

You may recall in my last post I mentioned that Dan had sent off a complaint (there is a formal way of doing this) about a government agency. That was Monday, April 23rd. The letter in the photo below was dated April 24th, Dan received it two days later.  Have a look. 



Dan took this photo with his phone and sent it to me via text. I was at Cabin 12 with a big gang of knitters when I received this. I was utterly distracted after that. MOVEMENT AT LAST! 

This means that things will finally get happening. He, my new friend Senator Richard Burr, is going to "try to resolve this as soon as possible".  Dan and I want to be excited, and we sort of are, but we are also not holding our breath because things don't seem to have been going well previously. This, however, is a glimmer of hope. It means that my Three Things from my last post must be working. (I finished sock two out of four today, by the way).

Dan sent off the requested documents the first thing the following morning, yesterday. With any luck, we will hear something next week, if the fast turnaround time for the first letter is any indication.

So, YAY!

*I have cropped the official letterhead from this photo because I am not skilled enough in any photo manipulation programs to be able to blur out Dan's home address. The Internet does not need to know that.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Three things I need to do

My dear readers. I have seriously not had the inclination to write lately, despite having tons of content that I would love to share with you.

My sister has come and gone, and it was a good visit but man does she ever talk A LOT. We were up three nights in a row well past midnight, two of those nights were later than 2am, and we were talking. It took me a few days to recover from her visit.

On Saturday I volunteered for an event at Providence Farm where I wore a chef's coat and made pizza for the wood-fired oven. It was tons of fun and the beginning of my time as a volunteer there.

Last night Toni and the Skipper reduced their chicken flock by one, the bird who was the main rooster. It was hard on all of us, since he was such a good main roo, but when you have two roosters, there will be fighting for the top spot. The remaining roo, Percy, is lovers with Hen, who is currently momma to 16-day old chicks, and we couldn't separate them. Toni is planning to blog about the processing so I won't go into it (not sure my readership wants to know anyway) but it was an emotional thing. It is a powerful thing to literally come face to face with your food. I think it is something everyone should experience, to know that food comes from a place and that place is not just the grocery store.

At any rate, no, we still have not heard anything about my immigration. Apparently through your local congressman there is such a thing as Help with a Federal Agency where you basically register a complaint with a process that is not being handled well. I would say we have a valid complaint. I have written my letter and sent it to Dan, and as he is the one with the supporting documents and file number, he will be submitting this. Fingers crossed this works.

Meanwhile, believing that 'fortune favors the prepared', I have decided that not everything is out of my control: I can do everything in my power to be ready for when the time comes. The first thing I had to do was find my passport. I had actually imposed a lot of stress on myself (why?) about not knowing where it was. And instead of finding a remedy for this stress (i.e. looking for my passport), I continued to berate myself for not knowing where it was. Isn't that silly? So today I finally did it. I looked for my passport. Guess what? It took about five minutes. WHEW. And it's two years away from expiring.

The second thing I want to do is finish knitting the Dan & Stacey Reunion Socks. This is two pairs of socks with the same pattern but different yarn, both shades of green, so that next year when we celebrate St. Patrick's Day together (that's the day we met, 2013 will be six years for us), we'll have green socks to wear. But they will be reunion socks because they will be DONE by the time we are together again. I have set them down, sort of, since I am now working on a cardigan as a knit along with Toni, who has recently picked up her needles again after a long hiatus. The cardi is going swimmingly, and I think I'm far enough ahead of Toni that I can take a break from that and get back to the socks for a while. This is, in effect, a form of sympathetic magic - that is to declare and get these socks done will assure that I will be reunited with My Sweety soon. So I'll be working hard on these.

The third and final thing is that I want to repack and put all the stuff in storage that I'm not using right now. I don't need my winter gear (yay) and there are some books I have finished reading and I certainly don't need ALL my yarn (that will be the subject of another post - I have come into an abundance of yarn recently). So if I am mostly packed and ready, then when the green card comes, I will not have to waste any time in packing.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My day working in a sweat shop

I haven't worked for paid employment for most of the last year. I haven't wanted to seek paid employment because I was (hopefully) not going to be around for much longer, my immigration could come through at any moment. I don't want to lie or mislead a potential employer, so I have just avoided the whole thing by not working. Well, money is tight. We're in full-on spring now so I thought I would apply for work at some local greenhouses as temporary work.

In my last post, I was bemoaning the fact that neither of them had called me. Then, about an hour after my last post went live, I got the call from one of them. I went in to work at a greenhouse in View Royal as the "trying it out". There was no interview, just a phone conversation explaining that it's basically a plant factory, it's 8:00-4:30, Monday to Friday. It all sounded pretty straightforward. I went in the next morning. View Royal is about 40km from here, it took me 45 minutes to get there.

I went into the staff lunch room to put my lunch in the fridge. It was dark and dingy, very cave like, and there were some zombies sitting on the couches waiting to start work. Already this did not look very promising. No one said hello or good morning. The room was filthy, as if no one cares if it is kept clean.

At 8:00, everyone assembles on the main floor after they punch in. The supervisor checks to see who showed up for work, then assigns people for certain tasks. It's all very easy and monotonous, as it is a factory, but everyone does something different every day. At first I was put on the assembly line. There were some root-bound marigolds planted in half-inch cubes that needed to be transplanted into two-inch cubes. There was  a guy at the beginning of the line, his task was to put the plastic trays on the conveyor belt. The trays go through a machine that dumps potting material. When it comes out of the machine, two people on each side of the belt do the transplanting. I was only doing this for a minute or two when someone else showed up and I was moved on to the next task.

The next task was putting tags in the plants. The tags that you see in each plant at the box stores - like "geranium, full sun" etc. I was partnered with a woman who had been there only a month, and she was not at all talkative. It was so weird, already I was feeling like there is a culture of disposable employees here, where we are not encouraged to engage with each other for fear the Boss would come and whip us or something. Thousands of tags. The plants were at a good height for me, being tall, but the tables were so wide that I really did have to reach far to get the ones in the back - an ergonomic nightmare - and I wondered if WCB cared about that. Its seemed hypocritical that we were required to wear steel-toed boots but that no other health and safety precaution was taken. The machine I mentioned above kicked up a lot of peat dust, so it would make sense to me that the people working near that machine should be wearing dust masks or ventilators.

We finished putting the tags in the 4" flowers, then we were told to put tags in the tomatoes. The tomatoes were in trays on the floor of another greenhouse, and they were jam-packed in to a space about 12 feet deep - meaning that in order to get them all, the trays had to be pulled out so we could get to them as there were no walking spaces. That is a lot of leaning, squatting, and bending. There were two types of tomatoes that needed these tags, and I suggested to the gal I was working with that we coordinate as a team to make it go faster - as in one of us tag while the other of us moves the trays. Her response was strange: "They don't like that" - as in the Bosses don't like people to work together to make a process more efficient? It started feeling very creepy.

At some point in the morning, I think it was when we were tagging the flowers, the bell rang at 10:00 letting us all know that it was time for coffee break. It rang again at 10:15, time's up. The lunch bell rang at 12:00 and I was really starting to feel like herded sheep in elementary school. Nobody really talked to each other in the lunch room. There was a fridge, a microwave and a kettle but no dishes. I brought lunch but forgot to bring a fork, so I ate my tortellini with my fingers.

The staff bathroom was disgusting too. It takes a lot to gross me out, I have used public toilets and squatted over holes in southeast Asia after all. But the fish plant bathrooms in Uculelet were cleaner than this one. Did no one take pride in this place? The owners lived on the property where the greenhouse is. It was as if to say "you little peons don't deserve to have a clean staff area".  It was really disheartening, especially since I am so unused to being treated poorly as an employee.

Already by mid-day I wasn't sure if I was going to stick around. On the one hand, it's physical work that would build my muscle and help me lose weight, would make time go fast even though I wouldn't make very much money (the low wage coupled with the cost of my commute would mean that I would earn less than $6/hour), and it was only temporary. I like plants. And sometimes when a job doesn't pay very much there are perks (like when I worked at Tim Horton's, I got free coffee and donuts and half price off food). After just a few hours there I got the sense that I would not at all be allowed to take home a tray of lettuce starts. That's profit, after all.

There were three supervisors and about 12-15 workers. There were two owners that I noticed, one of them had his to beautiful but sad dogs following him around (chocolate labs? But they were pale brown. I don't know my dog breeds). Not a smile, no interest in meeting new staff, only interacted with the supervisors in a you're-not-good-enough condescending tone. Another owner was barking at some of the workers for not doing their task fast enough. The workplace culture was absolutely stifling and only one person, the person who called me in, seemed to enjoy her job, as she was the only person who smiled. I felt suffocated.

In the afternoon I was put to a task of cleaning of a recently-emptied table and then restocking it with geraniums. That seemed a bit more interesting. Then I was asked to help one of the supervisors with filling orders. That involves moving these heavy plant carts to different greenhouses, sometimes up hills, sometimes on poor-quality concrete which makes wheely carts difficult to maneuver, and put the trays on them there. We picked through the trays and baskets that looked the best, dead-headed the flowers and pulled off the yellow leaves. I am not a stranger to pushing/pulling heavy carts, sometimes the library trucks would have hundreds of pounds of books on them, but they at least had a good flat surface with no hills to roll on.

When the bell rang at 4:30, I was not able to leave just then because we hadn't finished filling the order we were working on. The truck driver that was waiting for this last order was barking at the supervisor saying that the cilantro is unacceptable and that we don't have time to wait for the baskets, these plants here were supposed to be the 4-packs not the 6-packs. What gave him the right to treat another person so awfully?

Eventually I was let to go at 4:45 and I had, for some reason said "yes" when they asked if I would come back the next day. I took off my boots when I got in my truck, I was already exhausted, and I wondered just what the hell I had gotten myself into. I might have even been in shock. It's a good thing I knew the drive home so well, because I am pretty sure I was on autopilot. My leg muscles had already started screaming from all the reaching, leaning and squatting.

I struggled all evening with whether to continue with this job. Finally I decided no, it was not worth my time to go into that toxic work place. After all, I have spent the past several months healing, I wouldn't want all that effort to go to waste for a throwaway job. I emailed the woman who hired me and simply explained that it was not for me. She emailed back the next day, understanding but disappointed, noting my good work ethic. I thought - okay - I'll be honest. I said it's not the work itself that bothers me but the workplace culture and the negative attitude of the owners to the staff. She replied, was appreciative for this kind of feedback, as it was one of her tasks as manager to make improvements on this level. 

Over the past few months, I had been asking my oracle, my pendulum, several times if I should be seeking paid employment. Pendulum consistently said "NO". I was pushed to desperation, sought work after all, and it was as if the Universe said "fine! You want a job? Here is a job." It only took me that one memorable day to comprehend this message.

It took me two days to recover from this job. I wasn't all that sore physically the next day or day after, but it was recovering from being in a toxic work environment. I am very sensitive, you see, I seem to absorb the nervous and negative energies of a place without wishing it or realizing it. It made me think a lot about work - and I even started making a list of things I would like to have in my dream job. My goal is 200 things, I'm up to 40-something just now (I got busy doing other things). 

So now I know. I will be sure to never buy plant starts from big box stores, knowing the human cost of those plants, and how there is absolutely no love given to them in a factory-like setting. It also convinced me that I will make every effort to buy my seeds from local producers who take pride in their work, and not from commercial outfits. It was a big day of learning indeed.

Monday, April 9, 2012

game face, grinning and bearing it

Easter weekend has been really tough on me. Not because it's Easter, mind, it's just that I have had a lot of time to think (and mope).

Dan has been busy this month already with traveling to a bunch of different states. It's hard enough that we have a three hour time difference, but we manage to connect somehow with fitting wee text conversations into our routines. With his travels this month, and unreliable WiFi access, battery life, and schedules, he is not always available for a pep talk when I need one.

My mood ebbs and flows sometimes just like the tides, but not as predictably. It's hard to feel grounded when it seems more like I am suspended. I have even tried to manifest some movement in my life by applying for jobs around here (but have heard nothing) and applying to volunteer for a local farm (but the process is slower than expected). The chicks we have been waiting for for weeks have arrived, and the final count is five (we started with twelve eggs), so dealing with little deaths has been a bit sad too. How fragile life can be.

This morning Sam went outside, saw that there was another cat in the yard, and chased it out front, down the road, then across the road and into the neighbouring field, about half a kilometer away. This road isn't especially busy, but busy enough to be dangerous. Sam is smart enough to know to watch for traffic it looks like, but it concerned me nonetheless. She was off and potentially fighting with another cat, and who knows what can happen when kitties chase one another. She came back after not too long, entirely unscathed, but during her absence of course I worried about having to take her to the vet or finding her body by the side of the road.

I have felt extremely fatigued all weekend. In company I affect a cheerful disposition, but I think it does take its toll on my energy. Yet if I squirrel myself away for a while, alone for too long, I get broody. Where is the balance? How can I extract myself from this funk?

It's been three months since we were told "five months". I expect to see some movement in the coming weeks. The information packet telling me to go to Vancouver to have my interview and health check. I am ready for this.

In the mean time, my sister is coming to visit next week! She'll be coming alone, she wanted to make sure she saw me before I left for the US. We'll have three days of child-free sister silliness and I am greatly looking forward to that.

The weather is warming up a bit too. I have been wearing shorts the last few days. Yesterday I received a big stack of birthday gifts! (Yes my birthday was two weeks ago, but my birthday season has been extended this year). Among them was this novel, Hugh and Bess, by Susan Higginbotham. For Christmas 2010, I was given the her first book, The Traitor's Wife, and didn't get to reading it until last summer. When I did read it, I swallowed it, I couldn't put it down! Then I discovered the author is from North Carolina. So this morning, seeing how sunny it was, I took the book and my coffee outside and read on the deck for a few hours. I think I'm about halfway done already. After this post I'm going to go read again. I cannot tell you how much I love period fiction, I am particularly fond of this era of history (early 1300s England as well as the time of the Tudors), and lately I have also been enchanted by World War II France. What I'm realizing, is that the best thing to get me out of my head (when I think of things that someone said to me that pissed me off, for example) is to just step into a book and get lost for a while. I have the luxury of time right now, after all.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Where Home Is

I often get asked where home is. Since I met my husband five years ago, home has been wherever we are together. He and I have both moved a lot in our life, during childhood as adults, we have now lived in three different places together, soon to be a fourth.

So when I get asked this question lately, I often don't know how to answer. I feel the same way when asked "where are you from?" because I am from a lot of places. Where I am from in the conventional sense did not fit me so I left it (several times). I grew up in Alberta, and even though I stayed there for five months after I got back from living in Asia, and three months last summer, it sure never felt like home as most people mean it. My family is still there, but it's their home, not mine.

I have spent most of my adult life on Vancouver Island, minus a couple of years in Asia and the aforementioned eight months in Alberta. I have lived in Victoria, East Sooke, Ucluelet, and now Cowichan Bay. Until a couple of weeks ago, I would refer to my current circumstance as staying here, but now I guess I can say I am living here.

Words are interesting things. If the Universe was to take me literally, and here me say that I'm "staying" here in Cowichan Bay, on Vancouver Island, in Canada, then maybe that is what is holding up my immigration process. The Universe thinks I want to stay here, as in stay put. But really, I am living here. It's not like I stopped living when I moved in. And I may be temporary, but I live here nonetheless. I was telling Toni a few weeks ago that it felt weird to me when I would return from being out for the day and tell my cat that I'm "home"; I had been referring to myself as being "homeless". I realized, in saying that, that it was not true. I have lived in four different homes in the last year! I am rich in homes! And I don't have to pay any mortgages!

I am lucky that I have always had somewhere to go, even if I haven't been able to be with My Sweety. I had another home offered to me yesterday, although temporary (while person is in the UK for a month), and I feel like the Universe is trying to tell me something. I will always have a place to live, be it with friends or family or because of them. Perhaps I had been harbouring fears about homelessness?

This is not the whole picture, when it comes to being at home. Again, having moved around so much, I have learned that I can be comfortable in a number of places, and I have a sense of what feels like a good safe space to gravitate to. I suspect, though, that this has not only to do with a physical place, but also within myself. I am very at home within myself, and let me tell you that was a powerful thing to realize.

I spent many years trying to be someone else (who? I don't even know). I twisted myself into pretzels trying to be who I thought the boyfriend-du-jour wanted me to be. I bore the family condescension of not having a "real job" or being "settled". I tried fitting myself into groups and wore masks and costumes (figuratively as well as literally) to see if that was me. Then, about five years ago, something happened. It was so subtle I almost missed it.

It was around the time that I was applying for grad school.  I had been looking for love for so long (age 32-33), I finally decided to let Jupiter (career) influence me instead of Venus (love). I had more or less given up on finding a spouse/partner/mate in pursuit of my career. It was in that two week period of being accepted into grad school that I met my husband. This is how I know both things were right for me - they were both meant to happen.

When I met Dan, I was 'in my cups', meaning I had had a few beers, it being St. Patrick's Day and we were out with friends. I wasn't expecting to be engaging socially in the flirtation department, in fact, I didn't even realize I had been flirting until the night was over! So on that night, Dan got to see the real me with my guard down. That was the me he fell in love with.

From the beginning he has always told me I was beautiful. That was something I had always wanted in a partner but never got. My vanity needed that. He made me feel good about myself in a way that had never happened before.

Now, five years later, I am happily married to him. We have been apart for more than ten months now and we both know our marriage is rock solid. Knowing I am so "at home" in my relationship, it came time for me a few months ago to confront my vanity and shave my head, stop wearing makeup. I knew Dan would be okay with it and love me no matter what. He referred to my lack of makeup as not having a mask on. So he really did fall in love with the me underneath my coiffing (not that I was a high-maintenance Barbie doll or anything, but I did use to devote time in the morning to my appearance).

I have had really short hair before, but it when I was single and had low self-esteem. I felt very unattractive and unsexy, and therefore I was. This time it is different. I am now, very at home in myself, in fact I love myself, and I feel good in my skin.

Thus ends my discourse on home. The word has all kinds of meanings for me, and the answer I give you if you ask me will depend on how philosophical you want to get about the meaning of home.