Tuesday, 30 December 2014

When I woke, the world was new

Another missive from the USCIS beeped at me from my phone right before I fell asleep last night: my new Green Card is already in the mail! 

So it's looking like I'll be starting 2015 with legal permanent resident status, card (hopefully) in hand, and (after an earlier purchase at Total Wine today), a large, ice cold glass of Veuve Clicquot, while surrounded by dear, dear friends, my lovely pooches, and a stunning view of Lake Norman from a lovely hot tub. Wow.


Here's to a wonderful new year for all. *clinky* Cheers!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Share the same space for a minute or two...

...Or as long as I might want to. My unconditional, ten-year Green Card was approved yesterday!

I got the text and email updates while stood in a Walmart parking lot (ha!), promptly shrieked upon logging into my USCIS account and seeing the screen shown above, spoke to a random stranger who walked over from his car parked by me to check I was okay having heard said shriek (who then shook my hand and congratulated me!), and then had to sit in my car for fully twenty minutes before I felt safe to drive. I managed to get hold of my family and most of my closest Stateside humans over the next hour before feeling able to share the news at large. I also checked in with my attorney and logged into my USCIS account on a computer to check I wasn't hallucinating. I wasn't. The card is in production.

What timing. I'm absolutely blown away by how different I feel. So many things all at once: happy, relieved, fortunate, joyful, exhausted, grateful, calmer, excited. I live here. I'm not in limbo. I'm just me, Eve, sat in Charlotte, North Carolina, in my house, with my dogs, an excessively decorated Christmas tree and excellent dinosaur Nativity scene (thank you, Cassie and Lesley), looking forward to an evening with friends celebrating the holiday. 191 days from filing (6 months and 8 days); 480 days since this whole mess pulled me apart. I tried not to look too far forward during that time, and I've pushed myself to live in the moment rather than focus on the pain of limbo, and that may have been my hardest lesson (I'm a planner, and a future-thinker, and a crazy person). But now I can. And I'm better at it, and I get to do it with the love and support of some of the most incredible people on, and all across, the planet. I can hardly believe it.

But here I am. I'm in my home from home, surrounded by love from both sides of the Atlantic, and the hardest question I'm facing right now is whether I want steak or a baked potato for dinner.

So, if someone asks, this is where I'll be.

Coordinates of my Queen City - Charlotte, my second home.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Live through this, and you won't look back

This week, I had my (hopefully) last biometrics appointment, where my fingerprints were scanned, my was photograph taken, and I was also able to change my last name on my application for my 10-year green card. This will be the second time I've done the biometrics portion for the same application, as my case was recently moved from the Vermont Service Center to the California Service Center (which often happens to expedite the process, when one service center is not able to process all the applications they are receiving within the target time frame).

Aside from the continued influence of the stress and pain of the last year and more (ha!), I was surprised by how quickly visiting the biometrics place triggered memories, a sense of displacement, anxiety... It was pretty overwhelming, and it's taken me several days to recover from it. I didn't even have a bad experience; in fact, it was the best biometrics appointment I've ever had, thanks to the lovely USCIS agent that handled my application. She was incredibly warm, personable, patient, and kind. She talked to me about how she is still avoiding changing her name because it's such a hassle, and told me that time heals all things, so I would be truly happy again one day (this was a propos of nothing other than her being friendly, I swear!). I was very touched, and I wish I could tell her sincerely what a difference her compassion made. They do give you a brief feedback form at the end of each appointment, so I made sure to write a glowing review and to try to say thank you to her through that medium.

So, I am now waiting on the next stage. My attorney and I touched base last week, and he has filed the waiver to both service centers, to cover all bases. Therefore, there are three possible next steps:

  1. RFE: If the waiver does not reach the center(s) in time to be paired with my application, they will send me a Request For Evidence to supply my decree (it's been sent with the waiver, but it could just be bad timing in that they don't connect the two - but no harm done). 
  2. Interview notice: I'll be sent a date on which I have to attend an interview to be assessed in person.
  3. A decision: based on the evidence they already have, the USCIS might make a decision without interview. This is unlikely, but not unheard of.

Latest update: moved to the local office/being processed by the California Service Center

Above you can see the new, fancier USCIS case update page that I checked this morning, showing that on 11/4/2014 my case was successfully entered into the California Service Center and connected to my local office. This is what will have generated the new biometrics appointment requirement, which has been stamped and filed as of 11/25/2014. So now, we wait for one of the three outcomes mentioned above, and go from there.

I was driving to my beloved friends Cassie and Lesley's place on Thanksgiving evening this week, and became so lost in thought about life here, this immigration journey, the weight of loss, and the concept of limbo, that I missed three exits on the interstate and went about five miles out of my way. As I said, I was surprised by how distressing (mostly subconsciously until yesterday) I found the experience of doing this again. Being reminded that it's not over yet, that I have so much still to do just to be safe, to be rebuilding myself emotionally while waiting to hear whether, to some extent, life can really go on. It was momentarily overwhelming, and unexpectedly so. I guess the surprises don't stop coming.

However, I do not want to dwell too long on the negative, or to be fearful of a process that exists to protect and ensure legitimacy - things I do not need to fear. Life does, in fact, go on even when life-altering processes are happening in the background, and ups and downs are simply an inevitable consequence of being on the ride. It may sound trite; it may even sound a little defeatist, but I am mostly settled into taking each day as it comes and, as ever, letting myself be happy. These days I'm mostly back to my joyful, appreciative self, with the odd spell of melancholy and some underlying Panic Disorder that I'm dealing with thanks to some amazing support from friends, family, and doctors. You have to - and I encourage anyone who reads this to do the same - be kind to yourself. Accept that you have, in actual fact, been through a lot, and it's okay to struggle, and it's okay to heal. And, more than anything, it's a wonderful life. Don't forget to live it.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

All the arms: A Queen's English video blog for 2014

So, here it is - the 2014, 3-year QE v-log! I would introduce with more of a fanfare, but it's rather rough as I no longer have a video editor on my laptop, so it's just three separate video clips filmed on my point-and-shoot, one after the other. I'm sorry!

At this point, due to technological incompetence, I managed to not realize that the camera didn't capture my confession about "favorite American cuisine". While I have to say that I generally can't stand fast food, I'm a Bojangle's convert, there's no denying it. It's not my "favorite" American cuisine as such, but it's definitely my favorite kind of food - chicken and biscuits - that I've found in NC that we certainly don't have back home.

Please enjoy my excellent stills. YouTube didn't give me many options, so these are the best we'll get, I'm afraid.

So, other than total lack of preparation vis-à-vis the actual recording, a slight giggling fit at one of the questions, and various canine interruptions, this is a seriously professional piece.

As ever, thank you to everyone who asked questions, and to everyone who takes the time to watch my unedited ramblings! I know I don't write as much these days, but I always have and always will appreciate the community of expats, readers, bloggers, and friends that visit QE.

I hope y'all enjoy!

Monday, 27 October 2014

All mouth and no trousers

I've been absent for good reason this past month: it's been filled with utterly lovely things. However, I am aware that I have a v-log to finish, and it's definitely on my agenda this week!

For now, here is a selfie taken last week of me with a heron. I hope that will suffice, or you can experience equally brief-but-insightful updates more regularly on the QE Facebook page until next time.

Birds of a feather

Sunday, 28 September 2014

I make the moves up as I go

This secret was reposted on PostSecret today as one of the 'Classic Secrets', and it really made me smile. I started visiting the PostSecret site weekly (on Sundays, when Frank updates the page with a selection of the secrets received that week) almost without fail back in 2008, and this is one of the first secrets I ever saw. Seeing it again this morning made me smile so widely, and coincided with a post I'd been formulating for the past week or so. I thought I'd go ahead and write that post now - not that I believe in signs but, you know, it was a nice coincidence.

This past year has been spent in so many wonderful ways, like having an intermittently amazing view while riding a roller coaster that was, of course, going up incredibly high and dipping so low to the ground it made you wonder if you could avoid hitting it right until the last moment.

I write this sat opposite my roommate/sister/bestie at our kitchen table, surrounded by our furbabies and both working on our laptops (accompanied by a delicious glass of red wine, of course). She just sneezed, which caused me all kinds of complex emotions (three times is more than enough, Jess), but other than that, I am utterly content. The evening has been spent with her and my Neldie Chris, with those two working on some lesson plans for Chris' English class while I faffed around online and tried to win a fight with my computer. Jess and I are about to watch the latest two Doctor Who episodes back-to-back and then I am getting an early night after a day of initial laziness, followed by 3.5 hours of gardening and a two-mile run.

Reading a Grimm fairytale to us.

Live-tweeting to Chris' teacher Twitter account as Jess reads.

So I guess this post is about the most simple thing: I'm happy. I'm truly, deep-down, still-me happy, and although I still have my elevated anxiety and inability to slow myself to anything lower than about 100 mph most of the time, I sense not just recovery but a joy that I thought I might never have again. I feel more myself than perhaps I ever have - I know I can cope with almost anything thrown at me, and I know I have the love and support of some of the best humans in existence, across the globe. Life is full of amazing, simple, everyday, extraordinary things, and I get to celebrate that every time I wake up, because that's who I choose to be, and who I am. I have no idea what the future holds (who does?), but I feel able to walk forward with a huge grin on my face and, at last, able to live up to what my cardinal reminds me of: to be rather than to seem to be. I couldn't be more grateful.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

You choose to stay

Today has felt like Fall outside. It's been cool, and the storm that drowned last night cured the air of its stifling humidity, so it's been clear too. The pathetic fallacy is something I'm really appreciating, as I feel like this past month I've been breaking a fever and, finally, I'm out on the other side, cooler, and able to recover (yes, it's one of these sentimental posts - bear with me). 

The timing, then, could not have been better for Jess and I to finally get our matching tattoos, representing strength, happiness, and looking forward. We've been planning this for a while (specifically a few months, generally probably since she verbally accosted me upon our first meeting because of my natural British propensity to eat Baked Beans for breakfast - we were fast friends). A while back, Jess gave me a Giving Key, on which the words 'LET IT GO' were inscribed. She has a similar key that reads 'TRUST'. These are lessons we both have to learn, before paying it forward and passing the key on to another who may be in need of inspiration to achieve the same. It was this that was the original inspiration for our shared tattoo design.

The design.

On top of that, and the symbolism that keys open doors, represent taking charge and making choices about which doors to open, we wanted to include love and music. Over this past year or so, Jess has held me up with unrelenting strength, unconditional support, ferocious loyalty, and encompassing love (and I hope I have done for her even half of what she has done for me). Love really is key to life and being able to say 'I lived', in whatever guise it comes. And then there's music: whether it's silly playlists, dining room dance-offs, waltzing in the Wine Vault, or (our favorite) seeing our best-loved bands perform live, music has been a keystone of our friendship. We managed to find a design that Tom at 510 Expert Tattoo could work with to include a heart and a treble clef.

Jess sitting like a champ.

The pièce de résistance is the placement. Obviously the designs match, so if we are together then you can see that Jess and I share a tattoo. But she has hers where my Claddagh is (on my inner right forearm), and I have mine where her 'Fiction' tattoo is (on her left inner upper arm).
Both finished tattoos (me on the left, Jess on the right).

Jess is like a sister to me. Even if I had the words to explain just how wonderful having her in my life is, to share a house with her, to know she always has my back about anything (from not having enough Gatorade in the house, to knowing when I need JAMMIES and cuddles, to knowing she'd gladly junk-punch anyone who even thought about hurting me), and to be able to express just how amazing a woman she is that's unrelated to our friendship, I don't think I could do her justice. She is so totally her: a whirlwind of facts and rambling, of joy and turbulent thoughts; a brilliant writer and thinker; a spontaneous and hedonistic explosion; a fierce and fearsome protector; an affectionate, vulnerable, and loving heart; and a woman who has no idea just how special she is.

The morning after.

I'm so Instagram right now.

Love is the key. And we have it.

The British were here!

I have been quiet on the blogging front for the last fortnight for all of the best reasons: I was, as described in the last post, surprised by my dearest, oldest friend turning up at our house party at the end of August, and then was treated to the company of the one and only Martha for the last week as part of her America tour of Fall 2014. She departed for Atlanta today, and I am now sat on my sofa surrounded by my dogs, a half-full glass of wine, and relative quiet apart from the low buzz of Jess' TV and intermittent sleepy puppy sighs. I am, as ever, sad to see people leave, but feel very comforted knowing how at home I am here and, consequently, how wonderful a thing that is to share with those from my home-home when they do visit. Happy memories of their sojourns abound, and I'm currently in a state of peaceful reminiscence.

If you'd like to see what it looks like when I'm rendered speechless, please enjoy this video as solid evidence of it actually being a possibility. This is Tim's arrival, as recorded by my dear friend MG Josh.


Any further updates can be better done in photo form, so here are some of my favorite shots from the last couple of weeks: on the lake, at Not Just Coffee, walking home from the Wine Vault in a rain storm, at the Diner, at the Wine Vault (again), Bojangle's with Tim, fun clothes with Martha and Jess, more Wine Vault, Diner and cards, lunch at Cassie and Lesley's new place, and Good Food with Martha and Loren.

What a couple of weeks!

Monday, 1 September 2014

It's the only way to be

This weekend - and it's not over yet, what with it being Labor Day weekend here in the US and thus a 'bank holiday' - has done something to me. In fact, I think it's the past few weeks, this past week, these past 72 hours. I know enough now to never jump the gun and assume I'm healed or that happiness is going to be a constant. I've also learned that that doesn't lessen one's happiness while it is there. Finally, I've learned that I am, definitively, a happy person capable of a level of joy that's frequently equivalent to delirium. And I like that girl.

Yesterday, almost all of my best US friends and a surprise landing (quite literally) of my oldest, closest friend from the UK - all organised by my roommate/wife/sister - were at my house to share in the general joy of life being less stressful knowing that I can, for now, remain here relatively peacefully, in the city I now call home. I can't even begin to express how much love, happiness, warmth, and magic abounded. There simply aren't words for how lucky I am to exist in the same space and time as these wonderful people, and it keeps being shown to me over and over how much I have to be grateful for.

Tomorrow I get to go do another of my favorite things: be silly-happy on a boat, listening to loud music in the sunshine, swimming in a lake, eating great food, drinking delicious wine, and all with some of the best people on the planet (I'm pretty sure I can prove that somehow). I'm about to burst, I swear!

These days I have a far greater awareness of the temporary, but I'm starting to see that that's not necessarily a bad thing, and it certainly doesn't change who I am fundamentally. You can't know what's going to happen; you can just try to live up to the tenets you set for yourself: be kind, take care, spread joy, love each other. The future's never certain. Who's to say how it goes? All I know is I'm back in the world again.