Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life Lately

Have you ever had one of those days where there is so much to do and you know you need to be immensely productive but somehow you end up doing nothing at all?

Yesterday afternoon that was my way of coping with the stress and overwhelm: just do nothing.

Spring Outfit Inspiration: Chambray + Pixie Pants >> the-lifestyle-project.com
Madewell chambray shirt / Everlane t-shirt / 
Old Navy printed pants / Caribbean Joe sandals via Sears

Once again I find myself surrounded by suitcases and backpacks and boxes and lamps (and really I could go on but I think you get the point). My husband and I are moving into our new townhouse tomorrow and we are so ready. Not literally, of course, as described by my inaction above. But mentally we’re definitely 100% there.

My in-laws have kindly let us stay in their garage apartment since we came back from Central America and we’ve been incredibly grateful for that. Now that I’ve got my green card and officially live in the States, though, it’s time for us to move into our own space.

It seems like most people our age are already homeowners but M and I aren’t there yet. And you know what — we’re okay with that. I’m 28, he’s 30, and we’re not ready or able to commit to buying a house right now. We don’t even know where we’ll be next year! Hopefully it’ll be continuing with the path we’re currently on but flexibility is key in our lives right now and renting allows us that maintain that maneuverability.

Not being homeowners hasn’t stopped me from planning the shit out of our interior decor in the new place though. If you follow me on Pinterest then you may have noticed that I’m all about the neutrals — grey and white are my jam right now. We finally have TWO bedrooms, access to our own backyard, open concept living space, stainless steel appliances — I’m so excited! Moving from a one bedroom apartment into a two bedroom townhouse is a huge upgrade. I think this’ll be a really good step for us and, once and for all, will be a way to kick any lingering winter blues to the curb. Nesting feels good.

Anyway, that’s the latest with me. Life is good and the weather is warm and there’s much to do. We’re moving tomorrow and this time I’m determined to make it a smoother transition than when we left Ottawa as I was literally painting my nails the day before instead of packing away our kitchen. Not the smartest decision but I’ve since learned haha! This time we’re doing things a bit differently: we’re only moving 20 minutes across town which really helps to take the pressure off of doing everything in one trip and we don’t have any living room or kitchen furniture to move so that helps to simplify things.

For now, though, I suppose it’s time to get back to this mess. I’m making a thank you dinner for my in-laws tonight so I should start prepping for that now. The ball isn’t going to roll itself... 

Hope you have a productive weekend! 

PS: Other ways I've worn this chambray shirt and these pixie pants (the love runs deep).
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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

I'm Giving Up Free Healthcare and Moving to 'Merica!

It feels like my US immigration case has been dragging on forever, but when things finally did happen, all of a sudden they actually happened. Really quickly. 

THE PHONE CALL


Tuesday morning arrived like any other Tuesday morning, without the fanfare of Friday but also free from the drudgery of Monday. Little did I know that afternoon I’d finally be receiving the phone call that would literally change my life (and for once I am using literally in the correct fashion). 15 months ago I applied for my US immigrant visa and, after many delays and tears of frustration, last week I officially received the most important stamp in my passport.

Finally receiving my green card to the US! Read more about my immigration story on the-lifestyle-project.com

Within minutes of having my documents in hand, I knew I wanted to leave by the weekend. Why not, right? My things have been in a state of half-unpacked since we left Ottawa so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to wrap up my remaining projects and possessions with a couple days’ notice. 

Um, yeah right. 

The clock began to count down and I felt the tension building in my shoulders whenever I thought about my to do list and the unanswered emails and wanting to see everyone one last time before I left and cleaning and seriously how was I going to fit everything in my car?

As I packed my clothing and knickknacks into suitcases and boxes I could feel more of my presence and personality begin to fade away from my bedroom. It was becoming blanker with every glance and my impending immigration started to feel very real very quickly. 

Despite the stress, I knew it was worth it to leave on Friday morning and get to spend the weekend wrapped up with my husband. Working in financial services, he had just finished his first tax season and was desperately looking forward to a two day weekend. I wanted to maximize the time off with him so instead of breaking the trip into multiple days I decided to drive straight through and arrive in Tennessee on Friday night. 

Clothing, linens, and the last of our unused wedding presents somehow found their way into my trusty Mazda 3. My dad helped me clean the car and made sure everything was in working order for the long drive (1200 km/745 miles). I spent the rest of Thursday afternoon filling out paperwork to import the car, wrapping up my immigration documents, paying the final fees, cleaning, printing backup maps, and transferring all my computer files onto my new laptop (I got a MacBook Pro! Yay! I’ve had it with all these PCs breaking on me every few years). 

Thursday night I had one last evening in Toronto with my girlfriends to say our “see you soons”. Since we’re all in our late 20s now, a night out isn’t nearly as raucous as it used to be but that was probably for the best. Friday morning I was up bright and early to begin my much awaited road trip.


THE BORDER


I decided to cross borders through Niagara Falls instead of going on the shortest route through Detroit. From my experience, the Customs & Border Patrol officers in Detroit are a lot gruffer and way more search-happy so it was totally worth it to drive an extra half hour out of my way and deal with pleasant and polite staff who actually congratulated me on “doing things the right way.” I didn’t expect kudos for following the law but hey  I’ll take it! Things were off to a good start. 

I knew to expect at least an hour at the border as they processed my paperwork, and it proved to be a little bit longer as a CBP supervisor was teaching three juniors how to handle an immigrant visa case. Always fun being the guinea pig, right? I had two rounds of fingerprints and another set of photos taken to verify that I was who I said I was. Next it was off to the customs section for an officer to import my car. Fortunately they didn’t search my belongings, something that I was quite grateful for as I didn’t want to replicate the magic that was my packed car.

90 minutes later I stepped outside with relief knowing that I was now considered a permanent resident of the United States. An alien resident, but permanent nonetheless. Just as I’d finished reading through the stack of paperwork they’d given to me and began to pull onto the highway, I received a phone call. An apologetic CBP supervisor was on the line begging me to come back as they’d mistakenly given me a whole bunch of documents that they were supposed to keep for their own records. Such is the life of a guinea pig.

A few minutes later I was finally — really!  on my way. Every time I saw someone pulled over on the side of the road fixing their flat tire I’d say a little prayer and give my car a pep talk that we wouldn’t be next (fortunately we weren’t). With pit stops and traffic, the drive ended up being almost 15 hours long but was rather uneventful, which is just how I like my solo road trips.

Becoming an expat again >> the-lifestyle-project.com

THE LAST CHAPTER OF MY IMMIGRATION STORY


My reunion with my husband was sweet and joy-filled and everything you’d expect it to be. We’re now able to live in the US together without a countdown ticking in our ears and I’m able to legally work here too once I get my social security number next month. My green card is valid for 10 years after which point it can be renewed and/or I can apply for citizenship (but I only have to wait three years to do that). Due to American immigration laws, I have to keep proof of my residency status on me at all times, which I’m admittedly already failing to do as it’s a giant pain in the butt to carry around your passport everywhere. I won’t physically be receiving my green card for three months but honestly I’m not too concerned about it. Everything seems very legitimate now.

So, I suppose this technically isn’t the last chapter in my immigration story but it feels like it anyway. I imagine that over the next decade my visa status will be relegated to the bottom of my priority list and far from the daily thoughts in my mind, except every two years or so when it’s time for an election and I realize that I’m unable to cast a vote. 

I haven’t given much thought to whether or not I will apply for American citizenship, but I do know that I’m not keen on giving up my Canadian passport. Being Canadian feels like an inherent part of my identity. 

But that’s neither here nor there. 

I have a new home now. I'm an expat again.

And I’m so freaking excited.

PS: Our immigration drama from the beginning, the middle, and the almost end

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Monday, April 06, 2015

3 Things You Can Do Right Now to Beat the Winter Blues

3 Things You Can Do To Beat the Winter Blues (when you can't just pick up and travel)




At just about this time every year I get to a point where winter feels neverending. Gone are the days when a chill in the air is described as refreshing. Snow, once novel and pretty and dare I even say even fun, now elicits a groan when it makes yet another appearance. “But it’s so cold outside,” becomes the default answer to socializing after 7 pm. 

You know how it is. 

You get slow. You get sluggish. Somehow it becomes so much harder to come up with reasons why you should be productive and get up early and throw off those (warm and snuggly) covers with gusto every morning. 

You know what’s happening, right?

The winter blues are taking full effect.


Winter feels like a particularly long season for us northerners. When Instagram is filling up with cherry blossoms and stores are bringing in their spring lines, when the concepts of warm weather and exposed ankles don’t even seem like remote possibilities, and when you don’t have enough money or time to fly away to somewhere warm, it’s easy to fall into the winter blues. 

I don’t know about you, but after a season of grief, indecision, and feeling lost in limbo, I’m ready for spring to show its pretty face. Until it does, here are three things I do (and you can do too!) to beat the winter blues when you can’t just pick up and travel. 

1. LEARN A NEW SKILL OR DEVELOP A NEW HOBBY

This blog actually originated as a winter hobby a couple of years ago (read my first post). Over the past few winters I’ve made it a point to grasp a new skill so that my brain doesn’t become jelly after binge-watching every series I can find on HGTV (what can I say – I feel the urge to decorate my nonexistent home!). Spanish lessons, SEO techniques, photography classes, and business courses have kept me busy over the past few years. Winter is the perfect time to master something new, especially if it’s from the comfort of your own home, or try out a new hobby that’s piqued your curiosity.

2. PLAN A TRIP FOR LATER IN THE YEAR

What does a traveller do when they’re not travelling? Plan for future trips, of course! I am a firm believer that everyone, yes everyone, can travel. It doesn’t have to be international, it doesn’t have to be transnational, and you don’t have to do it with another person. Solo travel isn’t nearly as intimidating as people make it out to be. On those nights when all you want to do is stay curled up on your couch, put those Pinterest skills to good use and start researching somewhere that you’ve never been before. There’s always somewhere new to explore and new adventures to be had! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

3. START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL / GOOD THINGS JAR

This is a technique I picked up after reading The Happiness Project when I was in Utila, Honduras last year. Admittedly, I’m not as regular as I used to be but when I began this practice I’d wake up each morning and before I started my day, before I turned on my computer, before anything, I’d write out three things for which I was grateful. These days I no longer write out a list but I still take a few minutes every morning to acknowledge three good things in my life. When I move to Tennessee I’m going to start a good things jar which is basically the same concept but allows me the opportunity to read through my lists at the end of the year. Have you thought about a good things jar or gratitude journal? Seriously, you should try it. Positivity begets positivity. 

Do you also struggle with staying happy despite the long-term effects of blah weather? What are some things you do to stay on the bright side of life when the winter blues start to bring you down? 

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