Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Choose to be victorious

My list of ways to survive unwanted separation has been sitting there begging to be taken up again, so here we go, I'm jumping right to one of my favorites.

Coping Strategy #4:
Choose joy. Choose victory. Choose to believe the miracle.

This one actually took me a really long time to figure out, unfortunately. But apparently if you live every day feeling that life is awful, the world is out to get you, God has forgotten you, and things will never improve, you really start to believe it, and you get even more miserable! A friend of mine recently updated her Facebook status to say, "Choose joy." I thought that was remarkable because it's simple but so true. When everything around seems bleak, you really have to be intentional about living positively. Some days, this means pushing out thoughts of: "My husband's having a horrible day, I'm a whole country away, my son is sick, the Skype connection is too choppy to talk, and I had an awful day at work." Instead you choose to be grateful. "I have an incredible family and friends supporting me, we have computers and internet that we can usually rely on, we have jobs that are meeting our needs." And when you start processing all the blessings, the awful stuff starts to lose its hold on the day.  Having a toddler certainly helps here. He definitely goes about his day spreading joy and it's contagious!

Besides believing that life is good, it helps to believe that you are attacking it head-on. Vogue fashion editor Giovanna Battaglia says, "The lower I feel, the higher the heel." I definitely agree. When I feel completely awful and like the world is totally against me, that is a good sign that I need to wear my best jeans or a fabulous H&M dress or my favorite shoes from ZARA. When I try to present myself at my best to the world, it feels like I'm saying, "Hey, bring it on, I can take it." And even if this is far from the truth initially, the act alone goes a long way to making it come true. The point is, if you want to make it through and come out OK, you sometimes have to play dress-up and look your best before you start to feel your best.

Finally, PuertoVallartaGirl, another sister in separation commented the following on a previous post:
Don't forget ... the overall one for all of us who are separated. The belief in the miracle - that our government who we have believed in our whole lives up until the separation - will enact a law that reunites families. And see that the belief in families is more important than some fear monger mentality which is separating us based on red tape. I believe in that miracle. I am just waiting. In fact I can imagine my husband doing the US Citizen oath.
When all else fails, we have to believe that this can't be how it ends. We will have victory stories to tell at the end of this. We will have put in a lot of pain and hard work while getting to that happy ending, but in order to endure lengthy separation, we have to believe that there will be an end. We have to believe that God has a plan (albeit a very difficult to comprehend one) and that this is part of it.

So I choose not to be defeated by this separation. Our marriage has only become stronger through 2.5 years living in separate countries. Our ability to tackle challenges has increased immensely. Our creativity, resolve, and endurance has increased. Our faith has been challenged, but we will hold on to the knowledge that this is the darker stage of a great success story!

Here are Strategies #1 and 2
Here is Strategy #3: Staying Busy

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Staying Busy

Last week when I started drafting a list of ways many of us survive unwanted separation from our spouses, I realized that I was listing each strategy in order of when I discovered it, not necessarily in order of importance. So while the most important stuff will come later, for now, this one's a pretty big one:

Coping Strategy #3:
You absolutely MUST stay busy

I don't think this one can be stated enough. When I find myself spending too much time wallowing in the awfulness of being separated from Carlos, the truth is, I just have too much available time. Although generally Lucas takes care of demanding my every waking moment, sometimes I have to actively look for ways to fill the remaining time so the glaring awfulness doesn't get to stand out. Besides the obvious (work, daily tasks), I've had to look for ways to invest myself in other people and other pursuits so that I can divert my energy to something besides mourning over the time my family has lost. Here are things I've either tried, plan to try, or think other people might enjoy trying:
  • Get together with friends. Friends who know better than to ask, "So, any news on ____[insert significant other's name here]____?" every time you see them.
  • Take a class. Someday. I'd like to formally study French.
  • Sign up at the gym. I seriously should be doing this!
  • Join a new ministry at church. I recently started doing nursery duty at church and I actually enjoy it a lot. I'm also planning to re-join a small group to increase my adult interaction with members of my church.
  • Tutor the neighbor kids just because. Or sometimes you don't choose to, they just arrive needing help. Either way, there are tons of worksheets on lots of topics available at abcteach, you can generate simple but challenging math worksheets at SuperKids Math, and you can create all sorts of puzzles at Discovery Education.
  • Learn to knit. Learn-to-knit has a lot of basic videos for total beginners who want to learn how to knit. has free videos of most stitches and methods called for in any pattern you might find. Ravelry is pretty much a full-scale online community full of patterns, yarn, and tools to organize and share your projects.
  • Study a language. LiveMocha (or RocketLanguages if you've got money to invest in this) is a great place to learn interactively and intuitively. SharedTalk is a cool site for practicing your language skills with real people. For a really great list of language-learning resources online, see Mashable's guide HOW TO: Learn and Practice Languages Using Social Media.
 Staying busy also gives you a sense of satisfaction that while the US immigration process is inefficient and flawed, you are a shining beacon of productivity and growth. At least that's how I like to think of it...

Here are Strategies #1 and 2
Here is Strategy #4: Choosing Victory

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How We Make It

This post is dedicated to all the people who wonder how we separated spouses do it, and to all those who know exactly how we do it because they live it every day. I get asked all the time how it's possible to survive this long in a separate country from my husband, while raising our child. Honestly, it's a very absurd concept to ponder: maintaining a life separated by more than a thousand miles from the person you love and swore to stand by for the rest of your life.

But in practice, it's actually not so extraordinary. See, when you have no other choice, you do what you must. Obviously the simplest solution would be to eat a lot of ice cream, crawl under the covers, curl up in a ball, and try to never come out. And I'm not gonna lie: I've tried it. But then Lucas came along and that was no longer an option because as much as I'd like to stay in a sugar-induced state of self-pity in bed every morning, I have a child who not only needs me but literally grabs my face and picks me up off the pillow if I hesitate for even a few seconds too long.

So, I bring you...

Coping Strategy #1:
You just can't shirk your daily responsibilities

Someone's got to do laundry, go grocery shopping, and clean up, and there's a good chance it's you. So you get out of bed, you go about your day, you purchase the necessities, you try to figure out which of the 300 varieties of toothpaste is the best choice, you prepare meals, change diapers, and before you know it, a whole day has gone by and the Earth is still spinning!

Coping Strategy #2:
(Likely to be both easier and more necessary than #1):
You pretty much have to go to work

There are some people on this planet who have figured out how to get out of this one. I think Kramer from Seinfeld was one of them. For the rest of us, it's a key part of having the money necessary for everything else, including Coping Strategy #1. And for those stuck living with separation, the routine banality of tasks on the job is really a blessing in disguise. Here is one venue where we actually have some control. Sure, we get assaulted by the usual aggravations, but the general rule is that if we show up and do what we're asked to, we'll walk out with a paycheck every so often. Unlike in the immigration world, where we show up extra early and do above and beyond what we're asked to, and then after months or years of this, we either get a swift kick in the face or dunked in a tub of ice water or both -- METAPHORICALLY! (for the most part).  So the thing is, the more you dig in to work, the more you feel like life has some order and you exercise a certain degree of control over at least your immediate future. It's empowering, it's encouraging, and it gives you fuel to live on, or a paycheck at the very least.

As you can see, those of us enduring international marriages survive through a lot of the same methods as anyone going through a rough time. Tune in next time for more, I've got a hefty list of them accumulating here. And feel free to let me know of any others that you think should be mentioned.

Here's Strategy #3: Staying Busy
And Strategy #4: Choosing Victory

Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Lucas reads a bedtime story to Baby Tad
This little boy is why we keep fighting.  He deserves to grow up surrounded by all that his/my birth country offers. People all over the world dream of living here, and I think my son should have just as much a chance as anyone to benefit and contribute to this society. We just need to get his Daddy here.

Monday, August 02, 2010

We're in the Chicago Tribune!

A wonderful, sincere, and kind reporter from the Chicago Tribune named Antonio Olivo interviewed me and Carlos for a story about maintaining families across borders through Skype. Later, Brian Cassella, an equally fantastic photographer, came and photographed the madness that is us talking via webcam. The photo above ran only in the print version, but the rest is visible online:,0,1883435.story

If you make it as far as the comments section, I would caution you to only proceed if you have a stomach for hateful and ignorant rantings. It's not too pretty in there!

Anyway, that's the excitement for the weekend, and it's likely I'll have another small update later this week.

Thank you for your support, as always!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A new opportunity for action

Some updates for today:

1) We now have a petition up on  Signing it sends an email to Senator Durbin, and it only takes a couple seconds!

Click the red button in the box below to get started:

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

We've also linked this petition on our Ways to Help page.

2) We have a new letter to mail him.  If you haven't sent a letter yet, or want to send another, check out our "Ways to Help" page for the text of the letters and the addresses to send them.

3)  We're also asking for prayer support, and you can stay updated on ways to pray for us on the Ways to Help page as well.

Thank you!!

Friday, May 28, 2010

We're on a roll!

We've definitely surpassed 150 letters this week, so thank you to everyone who has written to Senator Durbin!  The momentum is building, and I have faith this is going to ultimately result in getting Carlos home to us. 

Last night I had a really productive and encouraging conversation with someone I would consider an expert in pushing private legislation.  She helped me start brainstorming lots of ideas for the next few steps.  I'll keep you all updated on how to help, so for now let's keep finding Illinois voters to send letters to Senator Durbin.  Thank you all!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Call to Action

OK, everybody, here we go!  We're asking everyone to send letters to Senator Durbin at his Chicago and his Washington offices.  All the details are on our "Ways to Help" tab.  You can access sample letters and addresses there.

We are so grateful for the outpouring of support.  New followers of this page, new followers on Twitter, and, last I checked, more than 90 people connected to our page on Facebook in the first day it went live.  We are SO thankful for your support and enthusiasm and we're anxious to put all this positive energy to good use!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The time is now!

After several weeks (OK, let's be honest, YEARS) of roller-coaster moments, we have been encouraged that the time has come to urge Senator Durbin to sponsor private relief on our behalf.  We've tried all the avenues, and we've tried waiting patiently, but no more.  We are calling for this to end NOW, and the right way.  This is scary because of how daunting it is, but exciting because we finally get to involve all of you who have been faithfully standing behind us ready to act all this time.

So here's your chance.  It's all going to come down to letters and phone calls.  Lots of them.  We are finalizing a draft of a sample letter that you can send.  We'll let you know when it's ready and where/when/how to send it.  But in the meantime, you can help us by connecting to our Facebook Page and/or our Twitter account where we'll be posting updates to keep everyone informed on where we're at in the process of drawing attention to our cause.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

sometimes perfection is unnecessary

So maybe I exaggerated when I said the blog re-design was just about ready to be rolled out.  Sometimes I think I'm more capable of awesomeness than I truly am.  And sometimes I wonder why I insist on doing things myself, and having them come out *JUST PERFECT*, and waiting until that elusive standard of perfection is achieved before I release my project to the world.  This statement applies to my approach to our immigration battle, by the way, and I think it's unfortunate.

I'm not sure where things changed.  I remember a time when I was a lot less concerned about things.  Let's start with Barcelona, where Carlos and I discovered that our original goal was not going to be attainable.  So we said, "Hey, let's explore Europe and then move to Mexico."  I actually remember the moment when we had that conversation, sitting on an ancient Roman wall in the Barri Gòtic, watching some backpacker slink by, shoeless and slouchy-shouldered.  "Could we end up like that?" we wondered.  Didn't want to find out. 

Plotting our adventures from our balcony in Poble Sec

So we walked back to our temporary flat, 3rd (but in American terms, 4th) floor with no elevator, where the other bedrooms were occupied by a French couple (he was settling in to study for a semester, she was headed back to Lyon), a Swedish couple (they pretty much slept all day and were gone all night, standard for Barcelona), and a revolving door involving some Czechs and a Polish girl from Chicago.  Everything felt remarkably easy and un-complicated then.

And we booked a flight from Brussels to Cancun to make our move to Mexico.  Travel within Europe is cheap; we would connect the dots from Barcelona to Brussels as we go.  Which is exactly what we did.  That month and a half was unforgettable.

For example, when we decided to spend a week in Rome, we didn't feel like spending a lot of time looking for accommodations.  We found a place online that was basically a glorified campsite for backpackers.  Besides traditional tent lots, this place boasted tiny private one-room trailer units with a full bathroom and a couple beds in each.  For something like €26 a night, you just can't beat the price.  On the plus side, the camp came complete with its own bar/restaurant, swimming pool, laundry facilities, and a supermarket right across the street, all right near central Rome.  On the downside, after a certain time of day, bus service to the street where the camp was located became spotty, so the only way to return home was to run along a high-speed roadway for several blocks, often without a sidewalk or even shoulder, in the dark, risking your life to save the taxi fare.

Carlos sits on his bed studying some Italian verbs, a few inches away from the bathroom

The point is, at that time perfection was the farthest thing from my mind.  We were just having a great time.  I guess it's all fun and games until someone gets banned from the US for life.

So I've recently decided it's time to stop trying to be perfect.  I have a family to reunite and our time is running out.  I'm going to start seeking the help of those who are better at things than I am.  And then I'm just going to hope for the best.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

At least the blog will get some new developments

I'm finally accomplishing one of my goals, which is to get this blog updated for the new decade and the fight ahead.  I'm a little behind on that goal, but hopefully within the next few days I can check it off my list.  So, there's a redesign that's about 70% completed, and I'll be adding some new resources.  In the meantime I'm changing some settings with the feed and trying to fix up some old posts, so I apologize for any emails of old posts that have come your way if you're an email subscriber.  Hopefully it won't happen any more.

By the way, we're back from Mexico (obviously) and have been for several weeks.  It was a good trip in the sense that we were all together.  However, our collective tolerance for Monterrey has long passed its limit, and we're anxious for Carlos to get out of there.  Hence a renewed sense of purpose for the fight.

OK, hopefully see you soon with a new look!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

We're headed to Monterrey

There was a sale on airfare, so I booked.

We will spend Carlos' spring break together, in Mexico. :)

Suddenly there are a million little travel details to figure out. Primarily, how to handle a 4-hour flight with a toddler. But it's all good because we're going to be a normal family for 2 weeks!!!!!

Counting down to the end of March...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Where we're at right now

I always dread having to answer the question, "So, any news on Carlos' case?" Because it's truly shameful to answer, "No, still nothing..." Especially after 2 years of this process and one since his visa denial.

But it is what it is. All I have to report is that we submitted an inquiry recently to Ciudad Juarez requesting some detail and justification for the false claim of citizenship charge, especially in the light of a similar case where it wasn't charged. They have about a week and a half to respond, according to their stated processing times. We'll see if we get any info.

I am trying to gear up for a bigger fight. I'm tired of playing this game, with appeals, inquiries, and attempts to get legislators on our side. We put in a lot and always come up empty, and that's a very dissatisfying place to be. There must be a better strategy. Working on it!