On some days, I really miss Sweden. I probably wrote the exact same thing last year around this time, but we just had an 85-degree day (Fahrenheit... hold on... converting: 29 degrees).
It is freaking April, and just three nights ago I had to drive with a coat on and the heat on in my car! I don't understand. Where is spring??? What happened to all the wonderful days of mild weather when I can walk in sandals and a T-shirt before the real yucky, humid summer heat begins to overwhelm us and I have to wear as little as possible???
It was so bad that on Saturday I drove straight to the oil-change place and got my air conditioning charged up in my car so that I could last for another hour. It now blows air at 40 degrees (4 Celsius), perhaps lower if I go on the highway. Cannot wait to try it out Tuesday on my way to work doing 68 mph on Route 8!
Just wondering what I'm gonna do to get through the night, since we haven't installed the a/c units for the season yet... (and no, opening windows does not help - it just gets worse!).
Inspired by our wedding cake, I made Albie a banana bread cake with vanilla pudding and Nutella filling, topped off with whipped cream. I should have whipped the cream longer, though, so it would have been easier to decorate, but I lost patience with it. The cake is decorated in the style of my grandmother's. (She would just throw tons of fruit on top of any cake she ever made - and there were lots of them, at least one for every special occasion).
I couldn't help but giggle as I read the questions on one of my immigration forms.
"Have you ever within the past ten years been a prostitute or procured anyone for prostitution, or intend to engage in such activities in the future?"
Hm.... let me see.... is THAT why I need a greencard?
Have I trafficked any drugs? Assisted in illegal gambling? Helped an illegal alien across the border?
I think not.
But how about my involvement in a political assassination? Or my plans to engage in espionage? Geez. I wonder if anyone ever checks "yes" on any of these questions - and I really want to know what happens to those who do. If you were a known terrorist, would you admit it to an immigration officer?
How about these:
"Do you plan to practice polygamy in the United States?"
"Have you ever engaged in genocide?"
"Have you ever been a member of a Communist Party?"
I realize they are trying to make people nervous and trying to force people to tell the truth, but for me, it was mostly amusing - and a very simple part of the form. I haven't done any of these things, and I don't intend to. My only option is "no."
We've had these sconses from IKEA sitting in the closet for a few months now. For reading at night, I've had a lamp propped up on a too-small night stand with a wire going halfway across the room.
The problem with these? They didn't come with wires. You were supposed to hook them up to an existing "hole" in the wall. (All the lamps I looked at from Home Depot were the same, PLUS, neither of them came with an on-off switch. You are supposed to hook them up to some outlet that you can use the main light switch in the room for. Stupid!)
Anyway, after looking for wires for half an hour that looked like anything I could possibly hook these suckers up to, I gave up and picked up to extension chords for 97 cents each. When I got home, I cut off one of the plugs and spliced the cables together with the ones from the lamp.
Not sure this would work, I shooed the cats out of the kitchen and put my sunglasses on for protection in case the bulb would explode before I plugged in the end of what used to be the extension chord. Worked fine, and no explosion. Half an hour later, while searching for little plastic plugs to cover up the splices with, I found an old sconse from the living room that somebody had apparently done the exactly same thing with! I guess I'm on the right path to becoming an electrician...
And now we can read in bed. If we ever have the time to do so.
Our "new" patio set - we got it from Albie's parents last summer. Today I finally had time to spray paint the chairs so they look sparkling new, and I picked up cushions at Walmart.
I am also making another attempt at gardening... sort of. This time, I bought a big pot (made from recycled materials) and planted ten Asian lily bulbs in it. Hopefully nobody will mistake them for weeds this year and chop them down!
In order to raise our grill to a more manageable level, I picked up some cinder blocks at Home Depot - boy, are they heavy! Thank goodness some guy (who is now living in a tent because he was laid off from his job and lost his condo) came up to me in the parking lot and helped me move them from the cart to the trunk of my car.
On the right, you can see what last year's garden looks like. I pulled out some dead grass and am now waiting for things to start growing on their own. The stuff I planted last year were all perennials, so they should be OK, I think.
After an almost sleepless night spent thinking about all that needs to get done, Albie and I took some time today to talk through our priorities. Do we build a deck or finish the kitchen? Do we put in hardwood floors or buy a new refrigerator?
A few hours ago, I sat down in front of the computer determined to get to the bottom of the greencard application stuff - a higher priority than even floors or a new blender. I'd started looking up some stuff a few months ago, but there were so many forms mentioned and I wasn't in the mood to start looking for them.
Today I started from scratch at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the INS) web site, where one form directs you to another, that leads you to yet another... until the end of time. But at least all forms are there, with the instructions, in downloadable pieces with clear information about the excessive fees for each one.
After making a list of the I-130, I-864, I-485 (by far the most expensive one), and G-325A, I started reading the instructions for the scariest one of all: the I-693. This is a medical exam, where you are required to submit to an HIV test, a TBC test, and a test for syphilis. But no worries. You will get counseling if it turns out you have any of these diseases (that you have to pay for, of course). Oh, and they'll tell you if you have lepracy as well. Of course, none of these will automatically get you kicked out of the country - you just may have to file a waiver or two in order for your initial application to still be considered.
The tricky part - of course, you thought this would be easy? - is that you can't just go to your primary care physician to have these tests done. Oh no! They have to be completed by a "civil surgeon," a person authorized by USCIS to conduct said tests for this specific purpose. And how many of those are there in my area? None.
The closest one is about 20 minutes away, but there's one about 15 minutes away from my office. But will my health insurance cover these visits and these tests? I guess I'll just tell them to put it on my immigration tab. It'll surely add up anyway between the $80 biometrics fee for fingerprinting and the $70 bonus for the Department of State for the processing of the required affidavit of support. And those are the small fees.
Have I lost any readers yet? I'm surely lost somewhere in a pile of papers, wandering around aimlessly wondering which way is up and where to go next. Almost. Maybe. Well, we'll find out.
Easter was always my favorite holiday when I was a kid. Sure, it was great to get presents for Christmas and my birthday, but it was always such a big deal and so many people would come over and it was a bit annoying.
At Easter, I got to dress up like an Easter witch and like every other child in the neighborhood, go out and wish people a Happy Easter. The preparations took about a week. Not only did I need to choose the particular shawl I was going to wear over my head, but I had to make all the Easter cards to hand out to people.
My grandma would sit down with me at our large kitchen table and we would draw roosters and eggs and flying witches on little pieces of paper before folding them up and putting them into a little basket. I knew that when I got home on Easter Eve, all the cards would have been replaced by candy and money. I would make up to $15 from handing out the cards with my friends, money that would then last me for weeks when buying candy every Saturday.
In a way, a Swedish Easter is a little bit like Halloween, although there is nothing scary about it and you don't threaten to egg or toilet paper someone's house if they don't give you anything. You just get mad and walk away, and then you vow not to come back next year.
The reason people dress up as witches (some boys dress up in black like a chimney sweep) is because the superstition goes that on Easter, witches were especially active and their black magic especially powerful. On Maundy Thursday, the witches fly off on brooms to consort with the devil at some place called "blåkulla," returning on Easter Eve.
(The photo above is of my cousin many years ago in my grandmother's kitchen before heading outside for Easter)
Fifteen thank-you cards and 105 photo printouts after our wedding, I think I may be ready to tell my story.
As I've said before, I became pretty impatient with people when they were trying to tell me what to do during the wedding planning. Some even called me "Bridezilla." This lasted up until a few minutes before the actual ceremony last Sunday in Vermont.
Not only did the groom, Albie, decide it was a good idea to try to persuade me to walk down some narrow stairs for my entrance when I had specifically said this would never happen because I would trip and fall, but some relatives proceeded to tell me that 3:30 p.m. was "just too early" to have dinner. One of my bridesmaids then insisted on there being dancing during the "reception," which I had requested not to do.
What is wrong with people? is all I kept thinking. This is MY special day, and nobody is LISTENING to me!!!
In the end, it all worked out fabulously. Despite the bridesmaid boquets of lilies never opening up, the best man driving halfway to Canada before finding the right way, and people trying to force me to put my dress on 40 minutes before the ceremony started, everything went smoothly and we all had a blast.
I did, in fact, enjoy being able to boss people around, so perhaps it was good they couldn't follow direction...
Right before the ceremony, my bridesmaids crammed into this room we had turned into a "catch-all" to watch me zip up my dress. In this mess, my photographer managed to take some of the most beautiful pictures prior to the wedding.
When the last car finally pulled up to the house (I could see the driveway through my window) - 15 minutes after we were scheduled to begin - one of my bridesmaids was sent out to tell everyone to PLEASE take their seats as soon as possible. She was very good about it, too.
"We are dealing with a very impatient Swedish bride, so if everyone would just take their seats right now, that would be great!" she said.
It wasn't long after that we all rushed out of there to the tunes of Bach's "Air on the G-string." And I mean rushed. You'll know what I'm talking about if you see the video (posted in six parts in previous posts).
The ceremony went quicker than I had ever dared anticipate. It was about 12 minutes, and that included blessings of the rings, the vows, a reading and several prayers. I'm starting to like the Episcopalean church's way of doing things. (Of course, several things had been cut out during the early stages of planning...)
As I was standing in front of the fireplace, with Judy (the minister) up on the actual fireplace on my left and everyone staring at me from the right, I found out what a good idea it had been to suggest early on that Albie and I take each other's hands for most part of service. It was much easier to concentrate that way, and also much easier to stand up and not worry about passing out.
I wasn't exactly nervous, but it was a bit stomach-turning to think about what we were about to do - right now, as everyone is looking. I am glad there were only 20 other people in the room.
Of course, our minister had picked up the wrong pair of eyeglasses, so she had to do the whole thing from memory. She apparently couldn't see a thing from her program. It didn't become evident to me until the very end, where I mistakenly thought she was getting emotional about her nephew and therefore messed up some of the words.
During the dinner, my favorite part was that the favor bags of m&ms were immediately opened up and people started flining them across the room. I think Albie's uncle was the one who started it, and I threw several in all directions that didn't hit anyone. Albie's dad, however, managed to hit two people with one shot as he threw a candy at his uncle, missed and hit the best man in the head. It then bounced off the best man's head and hit Albie's cousin in the boob.
Cleaning up the chocolates the following day, all I could think was "it was definitely worth it."
When it was time to cut the cake, my grandmother called from Sweden and I had everyone yell out to her. Then Albie's mom got on the phone with her for about 15 minutes, and they must have said some great stuff in some joint langauge because they were both crying at the conclusion of their talk.
Then we couldn't find Albie. The best man had stolen him away and they were sitting in his car listening to music. We finally cut the cake though, and everyone enjoyed it just as much as Albie and I did when my friend Kristen first brough over a test cake to our house. It looked amazing too (more pictures to follow another day).
Albie passed out at 9 p.m. and I spent a few hours having champagne, crackers and cheese with my friends before they all went to bed too. Then I started cleaning and organizing some stuff, and I didn't go to sleep until 2 a.m. (still earlier than my normal bed time).
The following day, we all headed down to the inn where Albie's parents were staying, only to be greated by a very cheery chef who had made up a special treat: Eggs Altoria, named after us. It was basically bruschetta with a scrambled egg base, and it was really good. Of course, Albie was so hung over he couldn't eat more than a few bites. Then he slept through the rest of the day.
All in all, though, it was a very successful affair. Now we're married, and we'll have lots more stories to tell.