Timing Is Everything

We had a trip planned for next month, September (to Germany to visit good friends), but in late spring we cancelled it,* due to everything that we had on our plates. I was already exhausted (the holidays, work, illness, family things), and we hadn’t even made an itinerary yet.

The village of Maulbronn. Picturesque! (From Wikipedia. Attribution: Gregorini Demetrio.)

Gerry had been suggesting we postpone, actually, for weeks, and I’d resisted, because our friends had set aside the time. But finally I realized he was right. When we made the decision, it was like a weight lifted.

Within a week of this decision, we heard from Gerry’s brother that he and his wife needed to reschedule (due to unforseen family events) their trip to visit us from October … to September, the very time we’d have been gone. It freed me up to spend three weeks with my son and his wife during the birth of their daughter in May/June.

And you know, those weren’t the only serendipitous things. If we still had a flight on September 10th, we’d be in trouble right now, because Gerry no longer has a passport he could enter this country with (he could leave … but not reenter). He’s a citizen now, but we haven’t even started the process to obtain his American passport (it’s only been a week, after all, and I’ve been sick working).

Timing, as they say, is everything.

• • •

*Posponed, really.

Taking Better Photographs: Love the One [Camera] You’re With

It’s a common dilemma: I just saw a great photo but my “good camera” is at home. Because it’s heavy, because I didn’t intend to take photos during this excursion, and on and on. And I end up using my phone.

The point of this article, though, addresses that: you don’t need a new/better camera. You just need to get good with the camera you have in your hand. Love the one you’re with, as they say.

There are many tips here:

>Try different angles.
>Eschew symmetry.
>Take advantage of the Golden Hour.
>Turn off the flash.
>Use photo editing apps.

Read the article; you’ll see. I just have two tips to add:

>In nature shots, keep the horizon straight. Or the fence. Or the porch. Don’t get too anxious to take the shot and forget to level the camera.

> Edit as much as you can before you take the photo. Something distracting off to the left? Take a couple steps to the right. Or get closer to your subject. Crop now in your viewfinder, rather than later.


For What It’s Worth

There’s something happening here
But what it is ain’t exactly clear …
I think it’s time we stop,
Children, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.
Stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s going down.*

Yes, there sure is something going on here. This is what I think about it. I have a lot more to say, but not enough time to say it.

Wishing Blessings on the Refugees / 26 August 2015
Working on a Detox / 3 August 2016
Holding Two Opposing Thoughts in My Head: It’s Self-Evident, Y’all / 25 September 2016
“Eschew Ignorance. Pursue the Truth.” Be a Good Citizen. / 15 October 2016
I Am Your Sister, Your Wife, Your Mother. … I Am a Human Being. / 20 Oct 2016
Let Each Citizen Remember / 30 October 2016
Both Men I Married Were Immigrants / 5 February 2017
The Very Rich Are Different from You and Me / 11 March 2017
When Is a Super Bowl Television Commercial Un-American? / 25 March 2017
Not the Right Stuff: Winning At All Costs / 21 May 2017
I’m the Person I Always Was—Only Now I Say What I Think Out Loud / 22 June 2017
I Am Still Speechless, But— / 24 June 2017
Strawberry Therapy / 27 June 2017
“I Got Mine” / 5 July 2017
I Don’t Care If You’re Partisan. I Do Care If You Perpetrate Lies. / 23 July 2017
Sunshine Patriots / 23 September 2017
Ken Burns and Me / 1 October 2017
The Year In Review / 5 January 2018
Travel to the US Is Down / 21 February 2018
What Language Are You Speaking? / 5 March 2018
What the Mind Does / 15 March 2018
Critical Thinking PSA / 21 March 2018
Second-Class Something / 20 April 2018
Racists at the Breakfast Table / 21 April 2018
Dear Old Friend / 19 June 2018
In My Parents’ House Were Many Books … / 7 September 2018
Little Round Planet / 9 October 2018
Moving Humanity Forward (At the Oscars) / 25 February 2019

* “For What It’s Worth,” Stephen Stills, songwriter, 1966


Our Immigration Adventure

All my immigration articles are threaded through this blog. Here’s a way to see all of them, in chronological order! A table of contents.

And please remember this, friends, as you read this … Yes, it was occasionally frustrating and it took a long time. But we never doubted that it would happen. Why? Because 1) we are white, 2) we speak English, and 3) we had the means to hire an attorney. Additionally, we were not pressured by time (meaning one of us wasn’t fleeing a war-torn country or afraid of being killed or raped by neighbors); we each had a safe place to live while we waited. Not every immigrant is this fortunate.

Immigration Woes (Part 1) / 1 November 2008
Our Immigration Attorney Laughed at Us / 30 October 2014
Because You’re Not Married If You Don’t Have Cake / 30 October 2014
I Wanted Something Sentimental / 30 October 2014
Sometimes Things Work Out / 31 October 2014
I Wasn’t Prepared / 1 November 2014
With a Little Help From Our Friends / 1 November 2014
Parting Shot / 1 November 2014
Getting Back to Normal / 20 November 2014
Immigration Woes (Part 2) / 3 June 2015
Like the La Brea Tar Pit / 23 August 2015
Slogging to Dublin / 29 September 2015
It’s a Great Day for a Celebration (Part 1 of 2) / 3 October 2015
Party Time! (Part 2 of 2) / 3 October 2015
A Long Day at the Airport / 20 October 2015
An Early Christmas Present from Uncle Sam / 24 December 2015
We Think the IRS Must Be Gaslighting Us / 27 July 2016
Both Men I Married Were Immigrants / 5 February 2017
The Next Step on the Road to Immigration / 30 June 2017
Homeland / 3 July 2017
Second-Class Something / 20 April 2018
The End of the Immigration Affair (Almost) / 27 June 2019
Taking the Oath / 15 August 2019
Immigration Epilogue / 15 August 2019

See also:
Wishing Blessings on the Refugees / 26 August 2015
What Language Are You Speaking? / 5 March 2018
Dear Old Friend / 19 June 2018

Immigration Epilogue

The very next day after the citizenship ceremony, we went downtown to the voter registration office. The day after that we went to the DMV with a bunch of documents—including Gerry’s certificate proclaiming him a US citizen—and obtained a Tennessee ID card (he’s not currently a driver).

I felt we needed the ID, though, because that eight-and-a-half-by-eleven–inch frame-worthy certificate of citizenship was literally the only US identification he had, and we needed to send the original off to the US State Department to get his American passport. What if he needed a Schedule 2, 3, or 4 drug from the Kroger pharmacy? So we got the ID.

A couple days later we went back downtown to the county clerk’s office to send off Gerry’s application for his US passport. And like magic, two weeks later there it was in the mail.

He’s mugging for the camera. 🙂

And yes, we have an international trip planned for next spring.

Taking the Oath

Back in July, Gerry got a very specific email from USCIS about his citizenship ceremony, with the date and the address and time and other instructions. He needed to be there at 11:30am. “Guests” didn’t need to be there until 12:30, but, c’mon, it was in a federal courthouse* in a part of downtown Nashville devoid of restaurants within walking distance, so, yes, all of us showed up by 11:30.

Actually, not all. Traffic in Nashville has gotten atrocious. I’ve lived in Middle Tennessee since the mid-1970s, worked in downtown Nashville, even, and as the years have gone by have always had a rule-of-thumb for getting from Murfreesboro to places inside 440, or the airport, or inside the downtown loop. But all bets are off now. Two, three years ago I would have allowed an hour, would have left the house at 10:30. But after my experience in May 2018** I realized there are simply more cars than there are roads in NashVegas.

So I decided we would leave the house at 10am. Surely that would be enough? Maybe … except for that wreck at the 24-40 split. We were lucky: it had just happened and I’m an experienced Nashville driver. But we lost fifteen minutes to it, and by the time we parked—me sprinting across the lot to the pay kiosk, and hell, let’s spring for the $25 for the twelve hours because who actually knows how long we’ll be here—and then we hotfoot it around the corner and take off our shoes (Gerry) and submit our purse (me) and our phones (both) to get into the building. By the time we got to the courtroom, it was 11:20. Later I sat next to a young woman—she’d taken the oath last week; this week it was her husband—who’d driven in from Murfreesboro and been stuck in that traffic. They’d been terrified they were going to miss the ceremony.

Actually, all this was lucky—a year ago we would have had to drive to Memphis for this ceremony. Our attorney guessed that they might have everything in place set up to handle this in Nashville by the time Gerry’s case came up, and so it was. Except the office is so new, they haven’t really dialed in how to handle it. When we arrived there was already a very long line snaking down the hall, with no written intructions anywhere to be seen (i.e., a sign saying “Oath-takers step ahead to Courtroom 3A. All others line up and wait in this hall” would have been helpful), no sign-in desk, no person in charge, nothing. And no one knew any more than we did. It was maddening. About ten minutes later, someone “in charge,” tired of waiting for the four dozen or so who “hadn’t shown up” but were really standing outside with all of the rest of us because there were no instructins anywhere, came out and asked the new citizens to come out come out wherever they were.

And then the rest of us waited. And waited. No chairs, so wall space to lean against was at a premium. I’d brought a book. So I read and waited and occasionally people-watched, which was fascinating.

On the drive in, we’d speculated what nationalities would be represented at this citizenship ceremony. Mostly Hispanic, we’d decided. But no. There were, of course, a lot of brown people. Standing there I got out my notebook and started guessing: South Pacific, Indian, Middle Eastern, Turkish, North African, Moroccan … Eastern Europeans like Uzbek and Armenian, gypsies … Asians like Korean, Vietnamese, Thai. It was hard to tell and I haven’t traveled that much.

People had brought their whole extended families, from infants to grandparents. Some dressed up. Some dressed down. There was only one woman in a hijab. There was a dwarf. There was a young girl in plaid leggings, five-inch heels, and makeup an inch thick, wrapped around a young man wearing Adidas tennis shoes and baggy track pants about three inches too long for him. There were Tennesseans—spouses like me? lawyers? supportive neighbors?—of all stripes, some in overalls, some in suits. Frankly, I was moved and inspired by the people I saw; it was a lot like the US Navy bootcamp graduation I attended a little over a year ago. So many stories! Young people, old people, babies … happy faces, tired faces …

It was after one o’clock before they let us in to the courrtroom. The oath-takers had been busy signing papers, meeting the judge, telling her where they were from (judge to Gerry: “Oh! my husband’s playing golf in Irelad right now!”), seating them in a specific order. Sorta like a graduation.

Each person had to stand and say his/her name and country of origin.

But there were so many of them—55 oath-takers representing 25 countries, we were told—that there wasn’t enough room left for all the guests. So first they squeezed us in, and then they brought in extra chairs when the squeezing room was gone. Oh, my goodness gracious, it took forever. On my right, a forty-ish Tennessean from Franklin with his young son; his wife (who, coincidentally, was seated next to Gerry) was from the UK. (She’s been here legally for a decade and had put off citizenship, but the political situation was scaring them, so she took the leap.) On my right, the young Ethiopian woman who’d almost missed the ceremony.

And so we began. The judge gave a speech. Everyone was introduced. They took the oath. They picked up their papers and shook hands all around. This took about an hour.

Gerry became a US citizen today, y’all. Next stop, voter registration!

It was 2:10 when we left downtown, hurrying to get ahead of the end-of-day rush hour. On the way home we pieced together as many of the nationalities as we could remember: Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Jamaica, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, South Africa,*** India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, South Korea, China, Canada, the UK … and Ireland.

Gerry became a US citizen today, y’all. Next stop, voter registration!

*On Broadway, right next door to the Frist, for you locals.

**A dear friend called me up on a Wednesday, said I’m coming to Nashville to surprise a friend, are you free on Friday? Yes, and I was going to be in Nashville anyway, for my monthly massage. So I picked her up at the airport at 9:30am and we went to Le Sel for brunch. She lives in Texas now, so I’m happy when I get face time with her. As they seated us, I said, “If we’re still sitting here at one o’clock, make me get up. My massage is about twenty minutes from here, but I get chiropractic first.” And I did get up at 1:00, but the traffic. The traffic. I-440 was backed up, but I know the back way. So did everybody else. At a quarter to two I called from the car and told them I was going to be late, because I wasn’t even close. (I got there at 2:15.) That experience was an eye-opener.

***They were our immigration attorney’s mother- and father-in-law! Sat right in front of me!

Not an Ordinary Morning

We’re out walking the dog this morning, early. OK, Gerry’s walking the dog; I’m not awake yet so I’m stumbling along trying to stay upright. Cars pass, you can hear them coming from behind. But one comes up and stops, window open, and driver says, “Hey Jamie, Gerry!” and I jump and screech. (I have a strong startle reflex. Long story, another time.) Our friendly neighbor drives on. I never got a good look at her. Uh, good morning, friendly neighbor!

We walk on. This friendly cat waits and greets us on many of our walks.

But that’s not all. It was quite a morning! Unidentified neighbor trying to be friendly scares the life out of me, Gerry and Suzy make a new friend, and later a woman is driving around looking for her dog. She stops and asks Gerry if he’s seen a black labradoodle. Yes, he has—on our neighborhood Facebook page. He pulls it up on his phone, shows her—Yes! That’s the dog!—and she jots down the phone number. All this before 7:30 a.m.

Never did find out who the friendly neighbor was.