Green Card Update and other matters

Yesterday, we came home to a letter from the INS (USCIS), inviting us once again to come into their office for an interview for the Ukrainian’s green card on October 16. We are trying not to get too excited — given what happened last time (they changed our address to Brooklyn and canceled our interview). But maybe, hopefully…all will turn out well.

Also, in updates:  The Ukrainian received the raise he was lobbying for (you may have gathered that from the last post). This means he can quit the library job — which he did. I am hoping this means we will have more time to spend together, but I’m not so sure if it will work out that way. The extra time in his life will — rightfully — probably go towards his job and his studies.

Post-wedding denouement:  Definitely continues. Probably not helped by the fact that we get to spend so little time together. And my job involves spending 8+ hours alone in my cubicle. And the economy…the economy prevents me from engaging in fabulous retail therapy — like those $1200 Purple Patent leather Christian Louboutin boots I drool over? Nope. I can’t even entertain the thought. Sadly, there is no replacement in the <$200 category either.

Future children:  Yes, to clarify from the last post, we are having more concrete conversations about when to start trying for a family. Optimistic hopes puts at us beginning our efforts (should be fun!) in mid-December. That would allow us both to spend more time at the gym, dentist, etc. getting our bodies to prenatal perfection! (Is that even possible in our 30s?). The problem is that if we are successful, we wouldn’t be able to travel to Kiev in the Spring for our Russian Orthodox wedding. So…wedding or baby…baby or wedding…

A new commitment — our anniversary’s defining moment redux

We crossed Dolores Street at 20th Street towards Dolores Park. The slight September drizzle we were under was an anomaly. But it gave me a good excuse to hide under the hood of my red Bauhaus Goretex parka I had special ordered in Rotterdam just 3 years ago. I wore little under the parka — just a red camisole, and blue and grey leggings — as I had been sulking in bed a mere 15 minutes before. I was upset. The Ukrainian had remembered our 6 months anniversary, but not in time to order the cake. Or purchase a present for surprise upon waking. In protest, I had reverted to my 10 year-old self, spurning all of his efforts to go downtown and buy me a present. Or to take me out to dinner. Or to do anything, that would again, put a smile on my face. Never again, would we have a 6 month civil ceremony anniversary of being legally committed to each other. If this was how we were starting off our marriage, how little would we notice our 16th anniversary.

The Ukrainian tried to make light of the missing cake and other little presents he used to bring to celebrate the milestones of our relationship.

“I was busy,” he said.

“So. When will you not be busy?” I replied. Unfairly, I gave him no room for excuses even though he’d been working 2 jobs and going to school full-time.

I noticed the bag in his hand. “What’s that?” I asked.

Oh, it’s nothing. He replied.

It’s not nothing, I told him. There is a Barbie doll on it. And glitter. And a silver bow.  And tissue paper.

A present, I thought! 🙂 He had remembered.

Give it to me, I said as I tried to grab the bag out of his hands.

“No, no, ” he said laughing. “It’s nothing.” He held the bag high over his head. I started laughing too, trying to pull his arm down to at least open my anniversary present.

At last, he relented. He let me grab the bag out of his hands. And, ferociously, like a small child, I reached in searching through the tissue paper for my present.

I found the card, and I found…what? Nothing? Where are my chocolates? were the thoughts that went through my head. Where is a cute little trinket to mark the occasion. I had mentioned many times how much I dreamed of a nice cake or some fancy chocolates for our 1/2 year anniversary.

But there was the envelope. Inside, could very well be a gift card or some other unusual item picked up the last minute. So I opened it. And inside was a card stating “I know we are not as romantic as we used to be…” with a list of all the ways a couple loses it’s romance over time.

I wanted to cry. After only 6 months, we were without romance. I thought these were the sort of cards that 45 year-olds married for 15 years and with 3 kids gave each other. We’d been married 6 months. And during most of that time, we’d been too busy to see much of each other — other than the obligatory “Please pass the toothpaste” routine at 8 a.m. as we both got ready for work.

“The dogs want to go to the park,” I responded. I had no words. After only 6 months of marriage we had become an old married couple communicating through the needs of our kids — or, in this case, our dogs.

“Come with us,” he said.

“No, you guys go. I wish to stay here.”

He asked again. And again, I said no. I was too hurt to want to spend time with him or to allow our anniversary day become happy again. I didn’t want to set the tone that missing presents on anniversaries would be acceptable.

But he asked again. And one more time after that, he asked. “Come with us”, he said. “Come celebrate our anniversary with a walk to the park.” I ignored him and looked out our window from our bedroom facing 24th Street. It was raining. In September. In San Francisco. An unusual occurrence. I could hear the dogs skimpering about. They knew where they were going. I heard their leashes clang together as the Ukrainian grabbed them off the hook. I heard him rustling around for some plastic bags to clean up after the dogs in the park. And I heard him open the door.

I looked away from the window. He had one hand on the doorknob. The dogs were already in the hall. He looked into the bedroom. “Are you sure you don’t want to come?” And I considered. It was not even a moment, but I considered. This is how divorces happen. This is how the distance grows. The silence and the resentment. The shutting out of the other.

“I will come,” I responded, before he could shut the door. I looked around. I saw the rain out the window. I saw myself wearing almost nothing but bedclothes. And I saw the red parka — itself a symbol of a new life I had hoped to be a happy one not so very long in the Netherlands where it had rained almost daily. But my lover there had shut me out. As try as I might, I could never reach him. I could never communicate. Whatever dreams we had to share our lives together were blocked by our complete inability to communicate with each other. When one night, his ultimatums had gone too far, I told him to leave. He did. And when he shut the door, he never came back except to help me pack up for my return to the States. I never saw him again.

“I will come,” I said. And I grabbed the red parka to throw on over my bed clothes, grateful that we lived in California where no one would find this particular combination an oddity. Or an offense to their fashion sensibilities.

We walked to the park. We tried to change the upsetness at the failed anniversary celebration into a celebration at the Ukrainian’s successful effort to get a raise. We did the math, trying to plan our future together financially. But none of the math brought a smile to my face. I was happy for the Ukrainian’s and thus our success. But I was unhappy with something else. The lack of a cake? Of chocolates? No…

“I want a baby.” I burst out. It was a matter-of-fact statement. And it was nothing new for us. But this time, this time under the protection of the hood of my red parka and of the rain, there was a new forcefulness to my declaration. Forget the chocolates, forget the romance. Give me a baby.

“It’s too early, don’t you think?”

“What?” I asked. “Financially, maybe. But for any other reason, no. We have been married 6 months. It’s time”

“Well…” the Ukrainian thought out loud. “I did get this raise. And if we start trying now, then by the time the baby comes, I will have another raise.”

“Really?” I ask. “You are really ready for a baby?”

Lets start trying now, he said. Let’s start trying now.

6 Month Wedding Anniversary

On March 19, 2008, the Ukrainian and I wed in San Francisco’s city hall. We only had 4 friends in attendance. After the ceremony ended, I was uncertain about whether or not we should tell anyone we were married. After all, we had a ceremony planned for July for our American friends and family and yet another one still planned for Kiev for our Russian Orthodox ceremony. San Francisco’s City Hall  ceremony was merely a kickstart — a means in which to get rolling on the process to convert my husband’s student visa to a greencard. The sooner he got his green card, I figured, the sooner he could get a high-paying job and the sooner we could try for a baby.

Many people do not consider our March 19 wedding a wedding. They tell others we were just married in July. This is true a bit. There is definitely something about standing up in front of your family and friends to declare your vows that makes you feel a bit more married than doing so in private. But on March 19 we were legally married. On the morning of March 19, my case of nerves and cold feet hit full-force as I wondered whether or not I actually could marry this man. There could be no such nerves in July as we were already married.

Exactly 6 months have passed since that March morning. We have done a lot since then. I will catalog them here:

* We made it to City Hall in time for the ceremony. I changed into my wedding dress in the parking lot. And we both said “Yes” and “I do” at the appropriate places.

* Over the next few days, I walked around a bit numb, shocked that my commitment-phobic self had gottent married. “Can you believe it?” I kept asking. “We’re married.” I kept repeating over and over. Suddenly, I realized, if something went wrong, we’d have to get an actual divorce. There’d be paperwork to filed. Lawyers to be hired. I couldn’t just throw him out over some little tiff.

* In April, my grandmother passed away. The ensuing family drama distracted me from any thoughts about the gravity of my marriage. Instead, I was glad to have the Ukrainian around as he didn’t judge my more dysfunctional branches to my family life.

* By May, I was feeling better. With some free time on my hands, I started this blog.

* We kicked the month off as a couple together by searching for a place to have our July public wedding ceremony. We failed.

* Also in May, was the Ukrainian’s 31st birthday. We celebrated by taking the dogs and ourselves on a daytrip to Tahoe. We ended up in Carson City, Nevada.

* The Ukrainian began his internship in May. As the position was unpaid, he kept his part-time job at the library in order to have some semblance of income.

* And finally, in May, we had our engagement party as well as my bachelorette party and bridal shower. A very good college friend of mine from NYC flew out as did my preggers sister. Among some of the presents we received, a friend of the Ukrainian’s gave us a blender. You can’t really be married without a blender.

* We began wedding planning in earnest. Or rather we tried to plan our wedding for July. But none of the pieces fit together and we weren’t successful at getting our permits, finding the priest, etc. Tensions between us started to mount. By this time, the free time I had at work was coming to an end, and I had to work evenings and weekends, further adding to the stress of planning the wedding.

* In early June, I went back East for my grandmother’s memorial service and then headed up to NYC to work from the NY office. One of my bosses was not keen about this trip further adding to our stress. I started to look for a new job while in NYC (but for positions back on the West coast). And I stopped in Chicago on the way back to San Francisco’s to attend my 10 year college reunion.

* When I returned to San Francisco, we again tried to get the arrangements for the wedding in order. We hired a priest. A bagpiper. A drummer. I found a dress (with only 3 weeks to spare until the wedding). The chapel. Slowly, the pieces were coming together, but the expenses were mounting. The stress between us rose all the more.

* I continued my job interviewing and received a fabulous offer that I accepted. But even with this offer in hand, I didn’t have it in me to say the word “no” and mean it to my current employer when asked to work on the weekend. I wondered how on earth the wedding was going to get pulled off. While we had the big pieces in place, we had to pick out the flowers, the cake, schedule the trolley, and 1 million other little details that seem incomprehensible even now — a mere 2 1/2 months after the wedding.

* I quit my job.

* The Ukrainian and I saw little of each other. He was (and still is) working 2 jobs.

* I found a dress. A $1200 Max Azria beauty that fit perfectly right off the rack.

* I shopped for jewelry and a veil and became an instant expert at all-things wedding in San Francisco.

* In a pure stroke of Yelp serendipity, I found a chapel for us to marry in. The Ukrainian checked it out and approved.

* I spent something like 15 hours picking out our flowers. The florist was Ukrainian too.

* I spent almost 5 hours at the bakery designing the cake.

* I spent untolds amount of time and money on the hair, the make-up and so on and so forth.

* The Ukrainian and I took dance lessons.

* My family arrived. We dined at the Beach Chalet.

* The Ukrainian borrowed an IPod and planned our wedding soundtrack.

* The wedding happened. Everything went off without a hitch — sort of. I was too tired to have a clue as to what was going on. But it was beautiful — according the pictures.

* I slept for almost a week after the wedding.

* I started a new job.

* The Ukrainian’s work authorization and travel parole arrived.

* The Ukrainian’s employer started paying him a small bit.

* A rather unfortunate colossal perfect storm left our bank accounts empty just as rent was due. We found the money without borrowing any and made the rent, but then went on the extreme austerity plan.

* We hiked Mt. Tam.

* I ate and ate while stressing about the new job. All the while the Ukrainian continued to work his 2 jobs and begin revising his resume for a better one.

* We received our letter from the INS (USCIS) inviting us in for our green card interview. Yay!

* 2 days later we received a letter from the INS canceling our green card interview. Utter despair.

* We find out the INS thinks we have moved to Brooklyn. We haven’t and try to make the correction.

* We took a mini-honeymoon to Seattle. September arrived.

* I left for the East Coast (again!) for over a week. I missed the Ukrainian and San Francisco terrible.

* The Ukrainian got a raise!

And then, yesterday, our 6 month anniversary. We exchanged no proper presents. We had no cake nor champagne. But the Ukrainian did give me a card all wrapped up in a pretty gift bag with a pretty bow. And, afterwards, we went for a walk with the doggies to Dolores Park. We discussed the Ukrainian’s raise. When would it be enough to support a baby, we wondered. Do we really want one? How much do we want to risk as I push closer and closer to the big 35.

And then the Ukrainian said, “I think we should start trying now. Not in 6 months. But now.”

We will make the money work out.

Hopefully, the green card will too.