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!