On the road to "home"

Although Ottawa has become my home and I can’t imagine living anywhere else, I also still think of the US/Florida/Tallahassee as my home. Yesterday I ventured across the border for the first time in over 5 years. There’s a combination of reasons for this delay - the most embarrassing is that I let all my travel documents expire. (Don’t do that, okay?)

So, we left Ottawa yesterday morning - not nearly as early as I’d hoped, but such is life! Brandon fell asleep on our way to the border and was snoring softly as I waited in line to see the border guard. We passed through without any issues, though Brandon did wake up because the car had stopped moving. And, despite staying up very late the night before, that was the last he slept in the car all day.

A couple of hours later, we both got hungry and when I saw a Cracker Barrel sign, I couldn’t resist! 

Also, they had a violin, and Brandon has been asking for one for weeks! (Score!) Unfortunately, it requires batteries and the cover is screwed on. I didn’t pack batteries or a screwdriver for this trip. (Fail!)

After getting through the lovely rush-hour traffic in Harrisburg, PA, Brandon said his tummy was grumpy. Combine, windy roads, rain and dark and his first epic road trip and it’s understandable. We ended up stopped 3 hours shy of our goal.

That means we won’t get to Tallahassee until Sunday, but it’s all good. I’m enjoying the time with Brandon. He’s a good co-pilot.

A little side note: we’re also really enjoying driving in the Ford C-Max that Ford Ottawa gave me to use for this trip. It doesn’t look very large, but it’s nice and roomy. There isn’t as much cargo space as I would like and I had to ditch one of the suitcases I’d planned to bring along, but packing light isn’t a bad thing! 

I’m going to talk about it some more later, especially since I’m honestly considering it as a second vehicle now that I’ve driven it. (Of course, I’m not sure when we’ll finally get around to getting a second vehicle!) I’ve tried out the Ford Edge, the new Focus and now the C-Max and the C-Max is my favourite so far. 

Best part? Filling it up isn’t nearly as painful as when I fill up my other car. And we won’t get into the difference in what we’re paying in Canada compared to the US. It’s bad, you guys.

Paperwork is the bane of my existence

I have held many roles in my professional life that have had administrative components, but fortunately for me (and my employers), I have rarely had to be responsible for large amounts of paperwork. 

For me, there is no greater torture in life than being tied to a desk, reading instructions on how to fill out a form or gathering up supporting documentation. I generally do whatever I can to avoid such tasks. 

Most of the time, people like me are prone to missing application deadlines or letting documentation expire. Like my permanent resident card, which expired in December 2009 and my passport, which expired in January 2010. 

Friends have been asking me for over two years if I’m going to BlogHer. My answer for the last two years has been no - I need to visit my family before I go to any conferences in the U.S. That was followed quickly by, “Besides, all my travel documents have expired.”

Then Lara and I started talking very seriously about going to Blogworld in Las Vegas in January 2013 for business. This was right around the same time that I decided that Brandon and I would be driving down to spend this Christmas in Florida. 

I found that I could keep my commitment of not going to any major blog conferences in the U.S. before visiting the family. Just barely. I’ll get back to Ottawa on December 30th or 31st and I fly out to Vegas on January 5th. 

Of course, when the decisions were all made, the only worry I had was getting my passport and permanent resident card renewed (with my married name on my passport this time!) in time to make both trips. I put Matt in charge of Brandon’s passport. I could only handle so much paperwork.

Then I got busy procrastinating. I said I was going to get the paperwork all completed by the end of Labour Day week. Every time I looked at it, I let the little details bog me down. By mid-October, I’d only completed a few small tasks related to both applications. At this point, I was risking both trips if there were any delays processing my applications. Buying my conference ticket, then plane ticket and booking the hotel were great motivators, though.

You see, when I first applied for a Permanent Resident card back in 2004, I submitted my application over four months prior to my planned trip - just as the site advised. I would have sent it eight months early had I known they wouldn’t look at it for four months. I finally called to check the status just three weeks before I was to fly down to Florida and was told that the day before the entire application had been returned to me to resolve an error. 

There’s a good chance I cried when they told me that. I know I was really stressed. I was going to spend Christmas with my family for the first time since I’d moved to Canada and 2004 was one of my mom’s worst years for hospitalizations. 

The error? One of the certified copies, signed by a P.Eng, had the year 1973 in the date, which was clearly a case of the person looking at Matt’s birthdate and just putting that year down by mistake. We had our P.Eng friend re-sign, date and couriered the whole package back right away.

The day before my flight was to leave, I received a call that my PR card was ready and I could pick it up between 9:00am and 2:00pm. The call came at 2:30. My flight was leaving the next morning before 9:00.

I got on my flight without the card. And 10 days later, when I nervously went through customs, the officer didn’t even blink when I handed him my passport sans PR card. 

I would be lying if I said that I was relieved. No, I was actually kind of ticked that I’d jumped through so many hoops and stressed so much about this card that, apparently, didn’t matter as much as they said it did.

But life goes on and that silly card expired a short five years later.

I did the paperwork this time so carefully. I didn’t want any issues cropping up that would cause them to send back my application. Everything I copied was checked and double-checked to be sure that the copy was good and the date of certification was correct. All my ducks were in a nice, neat little row.

I was sure this time would go more smoothly.

I finally sent my application off exactly 90 days before I was to leave for Las Vegas, which also happened to be how long they said apps would take to process. I only need the PR card for commercial travel, so I don’t need it for Florida since I’m driving. I sent off an inch thick package of paper to the Government of Canada for this PR card and I sent a slim little envelope to the U.S. State Department with all original documents for my Passport. (Guess which application was WAY easier? Yes, the passport, which makes exactly zero sense to me.) 

Two weeks after sending off my applications, my entire PR card app was returned to me. AGAIN.

Why?

After I double, triple (and possibly quadruple) checking that everything was done and ready and in the right order, I FORGOT TO SIGN IT!

We sent it back right away by courier (again) and just two weeks later, on the same day, my passport and PR card arrived in the mail. I was beyond thrilled.

Aren’t those unsmiling pictures on IDs just awesome!?

Ten more years of not worrying about my passport and ideally, by the time the PR card is expired again I’ll no longer need it at all. After all, I’ve been eligible for Canadian citizenship for 9 years now.

Unfortunately, applying for citizenship requires me to do more paperwork.

A thank you is never unfounded

Penguin kisses. This is a devoted dad who knows how to take care of his son.Last weekend, I was away for almost four days to attend Blissdom Canada. While I was away, I left my son and husband to fend for themselves. I did next to nothing to prepare for my time away, partially because I know my husband is capable of taking care of Brandon without me needing to run around prepping food and clothes and all that stuff ahead of time. The other part was because I’d been sick for over a week by the time I left, so I wasn’t much good for helping get anything ready anyway.

At varying times during the conference, I saw tweets thanking the people back home for looking after kids - most of the time, the person being thanked was a husband or partner.

At some point during the conference, someone either said or tweeted something to the effect that there wouldn’t be so many tweets thanking wives at a “men’s” conference. I don’t know who made this observation and I don’t remember when they made it, but I take issue with the message behind it.

Saying thank you is an expression of gratitude to another person for something they’ve done - regardless of the motivation. Yes, parenting is the job of both parents, but when both parents are participating in the day-to-day life of a child, it can be exhausting to take on that job alone. I am the one in my relationship who has spent more time away in Brandon’s lifetime. Matt has been supportive of each of the trips I’ve taken and I do feel very grateful for that.

And I should. My time away at Blissdom Canada was hard on Matt for more reasons than just looking after Brandon. He wasn’t feeling well and when he came home from work sick, he ended up not resting, but taking our cat to the vet. Pile on top of those things a lively three-year-old and I had one very relieved husband when I finally showed my face late Sunday afternoon. Yet he didn’t complain even once about the extra work. He just did it and encouraged me to enjoy myself, even as we were texting back and forth about the cat.

When Matt goes away without us at some point, I hope I handle it with the same grace that he did (though not without some good-natured ribbing as payback). I didn’t tweet a thank you to him while I was away, but I did say it to him - several times, in fact. I don’t care if Matt tweets a thank you to me when he goes away, but I know from past experience that he will show his gratitude to me. 

When I saw Krista’s post the other day about the give and take in her relationship with Willy, it spurred me into action - I really needed to get this out, because that comment bugged me a lot.

Thanking your partner for helping, even when it’s part of their job as a parent, is the right thing to do. We all need to know we’re appreciated and not taken for granted.

And that’s why those thank you tweets were a good thing to see.

December 22 – Travel (#reverb10)

December 22 – Travel. How did you travel in 2010? How and/or where would you like to travel next year? (Author: Tara Hunt)

Travel this year was pretty sparse. I didn’t have a lot of vacation time and what I did have was used to stay home with a sick child or when daycare was closed, or I used it to stay home and do household projects. 

Staying home was kind of the theme of the year for me. 

BlogHer ‘10 came at the end of the summer and I was, of course, not attending. Then someone had this idea to do a different kind of conference that I COULD participate in. It was called HomeHer10 and I was all over staying at home, because it was the theme of my year. For a whole weekend, I chatted with people all over North America who attended HomeHer10 - right from the comfort of my office with my arse parked in my comfy desk chair. No lineups or layovers or long car rides.

Then I got invited to a real conference. One that was actually out of town. And it was going to require a long car ride. By long, I just mean over to Toronto, so really not all that long at all. But long enough.

Yep, that was the extent of my travel this year. One little trip to Toronto with an overnight stay in a hotel. 

I’d love to go to BlogHer ‘11 in San Diego, but it’s unlikely that I can make it this coming year. Maybe in 2012. 

What I want to do more than anything else in 2011 is see my family. I haven’t been down to Florida since I was pregnant with Brandon. That is now over three years ago. No one in my family has ever met my son and I want to correct that. I also have a beautiful little niece that is going to be two in June who I would love to finally meet as well. Now I just need to get that travel documentation renewed. ;)