Counting Down the Days

Ben and I filed our I-130 petition with the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) back in late May, 2012.  The average waiting time on an approval allowing us to move forward to the next step is 5 months.  We’re looking at somewhere around the end of October.

The time has both flown by, yet also dragged on sooo slow!  If patience is a virtue, then I am VERY virtuous!  We’ve been at this waiting game for almost 3 years.  Our anniversay is October 1st. There are days I can’t believe it’s already been 3 years and others when I can’t remember what it was like before we came into each other’s lives.

We are in the process of planning another trip for me to go see him next month.  I’m saving every penny possible so that I can buy my ticket by the end of this month.  There are moments when it’s a choice between Starbucks and a week with my husband.  Will one cup of coffee make a difference?  Not one, but one every day will!

I can hardly think about anything besides buying my ticket and having a set date to look forward to.  KNOWING that I can hold my husband again soon.  A week or two isn’t long, but it’s enough to tide us over until his interview to come live Stateside.  God willing that will go smoothly and quickly once we get that approval in October!  No more hold ups, I say! 

How does one live in today when what they hold dearest is in the future?  We have a great relationship full of love, tenderness, laughter, companionship…. with 10,000 miles and the Atlantic ocean between us.  The future of being physically together brings all of our hopes for children, a home, daily laughter, bickering, making love, paying bills, starting a business together to a reality.  They cannot happen with us on different continents.

We both spend a lot of time talking and planning our life together.  It’s hard to stay in today and what makes this very moment wonderful when there is so much tied up in tomorrow.  I enjoy each and every moment we spend together… whether it’s online, on the phone, or face-to-face.  Despite enjoying every moment in any form, I still find myself constantly missing him and dreaming of the future when this distance has been obliterated. 

I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I tell him “I miss you”.  I do miss him, but I tell him even when we are spending time together.  How do I get into the moment and be happy with here and now when what I long for is in the future?  This feels like such a connundrum!  I’m sure it’s actually quite simple, yet it feels extremely difficult!

We spent an hour or so chatting when I got home from work this morning.  I told him I could sleep well this morning now that I’ve seen his face, heard his voice, and spent some time laughing and playing with him.  Enjoy the simplest of moments until we can be together in the future without longing for that future.  This is the key.

I will leave you with a quote I love which I saw many years ago.  I don’t recall who said these words, perhaps they were anonymous?  I don’t intend to plagiarize.

“He who forever seeks a brighter future and doesn’t live for today has missed the meaning of life somewhere along the way.”

True words to live by.  Good night.

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Counting Down the Days

Ben and I filed our I-130 petition with the USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) back in late May, 2012.  The average waiting time on an approval allowing us to move forward to the next step is 5 months.  We’re looking at somewhere around the end of October.

The time has both flown by, yet also dragged on sooo slow!  If patience is a virtue, then I am VERY virtuous!  We’ve been at this waiting game for almost 3 years.  Our anniversay is October 1st. There are days I can’t believe it’s already been 3 years and others when I can’t remember what it was like before we came into each other’s lives.

We are in the process of planning another trip for me to go see him next month.  I’m saving every penny possible so that I can buy my ticket by the end of this month.  There are moments when it’s a choice between Starbucks and a week with my husband.  Will one cup of coffee make a difference?  Not one, but one every day will!

I can hardly think about anything besides buying my ticket and having a set date to look forward to.  KNOWING that I can hold my husband again soon.  A week or two isn’t long, but it’s enough to tide us over until his interview to come live Stateside.  God willing that will go smoothly and quickly once we get that approval in October!  No more hold ups, I say! 

How does one live in today when what they hold dearest is in the future?  We have a great relationship full of love, tenderness, laughter, companionship…. with 10,000 miles and the Atlantic ocean between us.  The future of being physically together brings all of our hopes for children, a home, daily laughter, bickering, making love, paying bills, starting a business together to a reality.  They cannot happen with us on different continents.

We both spend a lot of time talking and planning our life together.  It’s hard to stay in today and what makes this very moment wonderful when there is so much tied up in tomorrow.  I enjoy each and every moment we spend together… whether it’s online, on the phone, or face-to-face.  Despite enjoying every moment in any form, I still find myself constantly missing him and dreaming of the future when this distance has been obliterated. 

I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times I tell him “I miss you”.  I do miss him, but I tell him even when we are spending time together.  How do I get into the moment and be happy with here and now when what I long for is in the future?  This feels like such a connundrum!  I’m sure it’s actually quite simple, yet it feels extremely difficult!

We spent an hour or so chatting when I got home from work this morning.  I told him I could sleep well this morning now that I’ve seen his face, heard his voice, and spent some time laughing and playing with him.  Enjoy the simplest of moments until we can be together in the future without longing for that future.  This is the key.

I will leave you with a quote I love which I saw many years ago.  I don’t recall who said these words, perhaps they were anonymous?  I don’t intend to plagiarize.

“He who forever seeks a brighter future and doesn’t live for today has missed the meaning of life somewhere along the way.”

True words to live by.  Good night.

An Attitude of Gratitude

So, I’m feeling extremely crabby today and I am CHOOSING to change how I feel and how I focus my time and energy.  Why don’t I start with a gratitude list and see where it goes from there?

1.  I’m alive!

2.  I had a healthy breakfast today and am starting to plan my lunch and dinner.

3.  I’m American… I have rights!

4.  I have a husband who absolutely adores me exactly how I am.

5.  Immigration is processing CR-1 cases from the California service center faster than usual.

6.  My family is coming to celebrate birthdays tonight.  I’m cooking dinner.

7.  I just registered in classes last night.  Things which excite me and can potentially change my life.

8.  It’s not so hot today that my vegetable plants are being scorched by the sun.

9.  I got the schedule I wanted at work and started last week.

10. I have a car again.  I’m not stranded at home.

 

OK, so 10 things isn’t very many in the grand scheme of things, right?  In this case, it really is quality over quantity.  There are 10 very special things on that list.  Pretty much every area of my life is covered, more or less.  I have to say that just this simple little 10 minute process has changed my mood.  Am I jumping for joy?  No.  But how often are we really happy enough to jump for joy?  If it were everyday, it wouldn’t be special.

I mentioned the immigration process.  I got a call from a friend about 2 weeks ago telling me to get on the ball and get things together for our initial approval.  We have a truck load of things to get done before that approval comes.  I will get a text and an email as soon as it’s granted.  I’ve managed to stay out of overwhelm and actually plug away at getting things done.  I have mostly everything collected now.  It’s a matter of assembling the data and getting ready for the fees and such.  The deadlines will come fast!

I am grateful on multiple levels here.  I’m grateful my friend called and shook me up.  I’m grateful I’m not so overwhelmed I can’t do anything.  (This is usually my norm with huge undertakings.)  I’m grateful I have time to get everything done.  And that I have a job which will allow me to afford the fees.  Most importantly, I’m grateful the process is moving swiftly!!!

My Honey has been in another country for nearly 3 years.  It gets hard day after day to be apart with no date in sight of when we will be living in the same home, not to mention on the same continent!  It will be soon.  I’m not hoping for Christmas.  Instead, I am saying that this is a reasonable timeframe and saying he will be here by then.  You’ve all heard of “The Secret” and the power of attraction?  Well, I am attracting positive things and what I want by spending my time and energy and thoughts on them.  He WILL be here!  🙂

It’s funny how the time has flown by.  It was almost 3 years ago that we first met and were going through the getting-to-know-you phase of our relationship.  Fun, exciting, stressful, romantic.  And here we are married.  I wanted a love, a partner for so long before I met Ben.  I don’t have his body here, but I know he is present.  I can feel his presence here with me all the time.  There is a certain routine we have fallen into, even with the distance.  Things we both count on.  I can almost predict what he will say to me in response to some things verbatim.

There is a sweetness to a longer relationship which you don’t get in the excitement of a new love.  He is not “old hat” and I certainly don’t take him for granted!  There is no longer that newness and excitement of falling in love with someone new, though.  So many people chase that feeling.  When things start to settle they leave in search of the rush of new love.  There is a comfort there which I have never experienced before.  A comfort and safety I had only heard of in relationships.  A total and unconditional acceptance and love exists between the two of us which I feel so fortunate to have!

I miss Ben terribly today.  I long to sit beside him watching the news and tease him about watching too much.  Holding his hand, rubbing his head.  The little things.  Being in the kitchen cooking and knowing he is waiting for me to come out with some wonderful new creation he’s never had before.  Napping together in front of the window mid-afternoon to escape the heat.  I would love to be irritated with him right this moment for taking longer to come home than expeected!  That would mean that I am there waiting for him and could see him and hold him upon his return.

My gratitude in missing my husband is that I love him enough to miss him.  That our relationship is strong enough to withstand this distance and stress.  That we have learned to say “I miss you” instead of arguing and bringing greater distance.

Perhaps missing Ben is why I am so crabby and ill content today?  Makes sense.  Hopefully he will be available soon and I can look into his smiling face and tell him I love him…. and how very much I miss him today.

Mr & Mrs….

Just the other day I was thinking how much I miss blogging on a regular basis.  Life got busy and I let it go.  On my last entry, someone commented on their struggles with a long distance relationship.  I know the heartbreak well!

Back in January I started doing some serious praying and even contacted a church in Hawaii which has prayer warriors in order to get back to my Ben.  By the middle of February, I had bought a ticket to Nigeria.  We quickly scheduled our wedding date and got all the preparations done.  There was a flurry of activity which ensued over the next month!

I was talking to a good friend, Kaitlyn, about  how to get to Ben.  The money was here, but I didn’t have the time off available at work.  I was terrified to ask for the time off in order to go get married.  The long months of stress had worn me down emotionally and I was cracking at the seams.  I requested a six week leave of absence from my job in order to take care of myself.  Part of my self care included going to see my love!  Getting some movement again in bringing us together again.  Kaitlyn told me, in essence, that God brings us true love rarely and that is what I have with Ben.  Do whatever I have to do to marry this man!  After that conversation, my decision was that no matter the cost,I was going to marry this man!  I put in my request the next day and got confirmation a few days later.  I have never been so willing to do whatever it takes to have what I want before.  God provided for me in the ways I needed.

I arrived in Lagos, Nigeria on March 5, 2012.  The flight was long and exhausting.  I was 2nd to the last person to pass through immigration and customs.  The wait was unreal.  I think the last hour in the airport was one of the hardest times in all my life!  When I walked out the doors, I panicked when I didn’t see him at first.  There were people trying to get me in a taxi and carry my bags.  A moment later, I heard my name.  Seeing him face-to-face was siimply amazing!  It’d been 18 months since we’d seen each other.  We picked up right where we left off last time.  No time had elapsed and there was not a moment of awkwardness or uncertainty.  We hugged so long there on the sidewalk that a guard was telling us to take it home!

I met my brother-in-law for the first time at the airport.  He was away in school when I was there the first time.  I was so happy to see him there with Ben!  Upon arrival at the house, Mom was walking through the gate just as we pulled my suitcases from the trunk.  The hugs and reunions were so special!  In those first few hours, I got to see nearly all the family.  I was astonished at my young sister-in-law.  She was only 9 the last time I saw her.  Now 11, she is a young lady and extremely beautiful!  She was so excited to see me.  She was telling me that all day at school she’d been telling her friends that her sister-in-law was arriving from America.

I stayed in Nigeria for 22 days.  The first week of my stay was not very exciting,  but extremely busy!  We only had three weeks to plan our wedding prior to my arrival, so that first week was full of wedding details.  The taylor came and fit my dress and took it for alterations and embroidery.  Ben and the taylor were negotiating price and what work was to be done.  I didn’t understand a lot of the conversation.  To me, it sounded like they were on the edge of going to blows!  I asked Amaka if they were arguing.  She laughed at me and said they were only negotiating.  When I got my dress back a few days later, I was amazed at how lovely it really is!  He had added hand embroidered purple detailing with a fringe.

Two days before the wedding we went goat shopping.  We went across town to a goat market with Ben’s brother, Placid and his wife, Coco.  What an experience that was!  There were hundreds of goats tied to traughs bleating.  I was appauled at their treatment.  What kind of life is it for a goat to be tied up with only about 18″ wiggle room waiting to be bought for slaughter?!  Placid found the perfect goat and dickered with the man on the price.  $200 for a big goat.  They hog tied the goat and put him in the trunk of the car!  I told them to turn up the radio so I couldn’t hear him kicking and crying.  The three of them laughed at me, but come on now… I’m a California city girl!  I couldn’t watch them slaughter the goat the next day.  I knew if I did, I’d never be able to eat it!

The following morning, I got up to the sounds of about 10 guys downstairs in the yard slaughtering the goat.  I stayed upstairs for a long while.  Curiosity finally got the better of me.  I’m really glad I went down!  This was one of the true African cultural things I experienced on this trip.  The goat was already dead and on a fire when I arrived on scene.  I stood with my hands on my hips looking at this not sure what to think.  I decided it wasn’t so bad and joined in on the fun and celebration of the day.  By the time they actually butchered the goat for cooking, I was pretty immune to it all.  I joked with the photographer that he should take a picture of me holding the goat’s head.  Well, the joke was on me when everyone cheered me on until I did it.  It’s one of my favorite pictures from that day!

We got married on Thursday, March 15, 2012.  My mom called us at 4:30 am to wish us well and start the day off for me with love from family.  It was really hard getting married without any of my family or friends being there.  A few days prior, we watched the “Mama Mia!” video.  I had to leave the room when Meryl Streep is holding her daughter and helping her prepare for her wedding day.  The emotions and tears overwhelmed me.  I knew it would be hard, but I had no idea it would be like that!  So, having mom call me first thing  that morning meant a lot to me…. to both of us, really.

Getting dressed was a group project.  Ben helped me put my dress on.  I did my own hair and make-up.  Placid cinched the tie on my dress.  One of the aunties straightened it all out.  Mom gave me her red royalty earrings to wear.  Coco loaned me a hairpin she wore at her wedding a few weeks earlier for the something new, something old, something borrowed, something blue tradition.  The end product was amazing!  I hadn’t planned what jewelry to wear and it just kind of fell into place that morning.

The wait at the Federal Marriage Registry at Ikoyi was long!  We arrived at 9am and weren’t married until a little before noon.  The morning looked like it might rain.  The day ended up being ungodly hot! I was getting a little cranky and ready to go home by the time they called us up for our turn.  Funny how quickly my mood and attitude changed when it was our turn!

The ceremony was very different than an American court marriage.  The vows are similar, but different in ways that are more meaningful to me.  The offciant told us how to sit, stand, hold each other.  It seemed a little riduculous when I was watching the couples ahead of us.  It did when we were doing it, too.  Afterwards, looking at the photos and the video I am glad he had us do it his way!  It added to the meaning of the ceremony.  For a court marriage, it lasted about 15 minutes and he didn’t rush us through.  We were given our special moment and allowed to honor it.  I value that a lot.  With so many civil marriages here, you have 5 minutes and it’s done.  Move it on out!

I can’t get over “washing” the official who married us.  We paid really high costs for our marriage both in fees and bribes prior to the ceremony.  He demanded bribes from each of the wedding party.  I was the first to give him Naira and he tossed it back at me telling me I had to give more!  This was not giving him an offering for his services.  This was a straight out bribe!  Ben had to give him even more that next Monday when he went to pick up our marriage certificate.  The corruption is unreal!

The interview process prior to the marriage was a little intense, too.  When Ben set the date, they told him we’d have to under go some counseling.  We had no idea what this would entail.  We got there and sat before this man who asked us all of these questions about the validity of our marriage, how we met, our courtship, where we’d live, our financial plan, what foods I would cook for my husband in the States, plan for children, am I sure I don’t have any children, and finally, how we planned on making our marriage work and being good and loving to one another.  The process was a little intimidating, though not terrible.  The worst part was when we had to do it again the day of our wedding with yet a different man!  I can’t believe they asked me if I’m positive I don’t have children from a previous relationship!  Why on earth would I lie about having children?  And I’m pretty certain that I’ve never gone through labor or pregnancy.

The party was so much fun!  All of my life, I have wanted to have a party-party.  You know the kind… dancing, music, singing, drinking.  A party which wasn’t just sitting around talking and eating with some laughs.  I finally had the party I have always wanted!  I got to be young and the center of attention.  I had a camera or video camera in my face for the entire day, but I honestly didn’t mind most of the time.  Everyone there wanted to dance with me and talk to me.  I can’t think of another time in my life where so many men wanted to dance with me… and all of them good looking!  Of course, my husband was the most dashing of them all!!!

Speaking of my dashing husband, he just woke up and it’s time for our video chat.  Tell you more later!

 

Holding onto hope

I haven’t seen my honey since September 2010.  Sometimes it just gets so hard to be apart and not know when we will hold each other again!  It’s funny the things you take for granted when you see your partner each and every day.  Right now, I say that I will never take the little things for granted when we are finally together long term.  Realistically, I will.  Eventually the day will come that I will not feel the sting of the long months and years we spent apart.  I will be able to be angry with him over the small stuff and blame him when my days goes badly.  Right now, I don’t have the luxury of doing these things.

For the past 2 1/2 years we have spent an average of 2 hours a day together either on the phone or over the internet doing IM and video chats.  There is an awful lot of life which just doesn’t get shared when 22 hours of the day are apart.  Conversely, there are many things we talk about and share on a regular basis which don’t usually get talked about in an all day every day relationship.  I’d honestly have to say that within the first six months of our relationship, he knew me better than pretty much anyone else ever has.  There is nothing to do except talk.  I mean, we  can’t watch TV, go to concerts or clubs, play sports or other games together, or even just lie in bed all day making love.  If we don’t talk there is no relationship.

At this point, there aren’t many things he doesn’t know about me.  Sure, some of the minor details of my life, but overall, he knows me.  There isn’t a lot let for us to talk about and explore which is new and exciting.  We have reached the maintenance level of our relationship.  Not always exciting for either of us, but for me, I find great comfort in it.  I cherish the routine of our relationship.  Knowing more or less what we’ll talk about and what happened in his day.  I can usually predict pretty well the exact words he’ll use to respond to things I tell him.  I love this!  The predictability has become a game in and of itself for me.

In the routine, though, sometimes we forget to talk about the important things.  Being in a long distance relationship and going through the immigration process are phenominal stressors!  Perhaps it is not always “forgetting” as it is a choice.  With only a couple hours a day to share our life right now, who wants to bring in the stress and hardships, right?  I’m learning that these are the glue of our relationship.  The sweet romantic things and the normal day-to-day things are important, but in the end, without the glue of sharing our hurts and stresses there will be no romance and mundane stuff.  There will be no “us.”

I bring this up, because in the past 6 months, things have been immensely difficult and stressful for each of us independently and even more so together, as we share each other’s pain, stress, and fear.  Sure, we can talk to our friends or family about the stressors and get some relief, but in reality, no one truly understands the inner workings of our relationship and the actual stress of being apart more than the two of us do.  Makes the most sense to share with each other first and foremost.

Benneth and I went a little too long without having a good talk about our stress and anxiety.  He tends to go into sollution mode and just get things done.  I tend to go into more of a needy place.  I need more of his time and attention than normal… and have trouble getting a lot done.  This doesn’t work so well systemicly.  If he’s mainly action and little emotion and I’m emotionally needy and little action there is bound to be a big  disconnect in getting our needs me.

I found myself getting irritable the other day and feeling like there was no emotional connection between us.  I was asking myself, “Why bother?  I can’t hardly remember right this moment why we’re fighting to hard to make this work.”  I found it quite effective to ask directly for what I needed.  “I need your time to talk about us… and not the sollution for bringing us together.”  We were able to both validate the need the other has for sollution and emotional connection.  We were able to come to an agreement on a sollution which works to meet both needs and build our relationship even stronger.  The beautiful thing in this conversation was that we each heard that we both are feeling the same thing… just expressing it differently so we didn’t hear the other “saying” the feeling.

It’s looking like the time will be coming within the next couple of months, God willing, that I will be able to go over there and marry him.  I cannot begin to express the joy this brings to my heart!  Knowing that I will soon see him again and start the process of making our life together permanent and physically close is just about mind blowing!!  The immigration process is still lengthy and difficult.  We’ll be looking at a good 6-9 months before he has another interview to come here.  At least knowing that there is an end in sight makes it more doable.  Waiting for something when you have no idea when it will happen is nearly unbearable!

I have a couple of friends telling me I should write a book about our immigration experience and living for a few years totally in love and trapped on different continents due to governmental red tape and money stressors.  Where does one start with such an undertaking?  How do you tell your story of love, hope and faith through the filter of hurt, anger and frustrations with things totally out of your control?  Food for thought.  As Alma says, it might help someone else going through this situation to navigate it a little easier than we are.  I would like to think it might bring them a touch of hope when things are bleek and look impossible.  Where do we turn for hope when there seems to be nothing to hold onto?

I’m grateful today to have held on for that hope.  My ticket isn’t bought yet, so there is still the uncertainty… but I tell you there is definitely light at the end of this tunnel!