August 29, 2006

I feel like I have been neglecting my blog a bit lately. There’s lots to say and update about, but I’ve been quite busy at work, too busy to spend hours surfing the ‘net each day, pretending to write “business letters” in Microsoft Word that are then quickly cut and pasted into WordPress for the benefit (or detriment of my five readers).

My husband is in Mexico – sad because he’ll be there from six to nine months, which tends to shock people, but last week I thought he might receive a ten-year ban from the U.S., and today we are 99 percent sure that’s not going to happen, so that’s excellent. Two weeks before Fermin left I somehow stumbled upon a web forum on immigration, and then somehow ended up sending an e-mail to a girl on there whose husband seemed to have the same situation as mine. I can’t remember how I found the original web site, but the girl, who responded back to me, referred me to this, much larger immigration forum. Had I not found this forum we might have been in a pile of deep doodoo right now, because we really did not have the right information to prepare for exactly what was going to go down for him in Ciudad Juarez. Since then I have corresponded with several really nice women whose husbands are also Mexican and are generally going through the same situation I am – it’s been, to say the least, a blessing.

Tonight I am at Alterra at the Lake with a mission, to write a letter with corresponding documentation that describes the hardship to me, a U.S. citizen, were my husband to not be allowed to immigrate. The unfortunate part is that we don’t qualify for any of the typical hardship clauses (having children, health problems or sick relatives to care for in the U.S.), so I have to rely on lame arguments like the danger of living in Mexico and the fact that it would be hard to find a job because “I don’t speak Spanish.”

Finishing the letter and fed-exing all the stuff for his case will be a huge weight off my shoulders, at which point, I am planning to write a much more controversial column on immigration for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Watch out Warren – you haven’t seen nothing yet!

p.s. Everyone say congratulations to my dad, he’s retiring after decades (30-some years I think) working for Johnson Controls. He’s looking forward to days filled with golfing, exercising, reading, home improvement, and of course, more golfing.


Crisis (likely) averted

August 25, 2006

Just wanted to let you all know that it looks like things went well in Ciudad Juarez for Fermin. He has to go back to the consulate on Monday to file a form and pay a fee, but then he should be off to Libres, his hometown, for the next 6-9 months, not 10 years. Yeah!

community communism

August 23, 2006

Yesterday was among the more interesting days I’ve had around my office. Jill alerted me that my column had been published, and at lunchtime my boss came back from the lunchroom congratulating me. I explained about the community columnist position and that I’d be writing once per month. We were having a thoughtful conversation on language and immigration when I got a page call from Mary on the other side of the office. Mary is one of my favorite Medico-Mart employees, she is gritty and sarcastic and has opinions about everyone, but more than that, she’s real and honest, and doesn’t take part in office-related crap – my kind of person.

Anyway, I pick up the phone in the middle of this conversation we are having in the vaccine deparment and I hear “Laura, Mikey says you’re a communist!” It was really funny at the time. Apparently “Mikey,” or Mike the warehouse guy who we also work closely with here in the vaccine department, got so excited when he saw me in the paper that he went over to Mary, who hadn’t seen the paper yet, and shouted something about me being a “community communist.” I told Mary she hadn’t seen anything yet. =)

This morning, a few people commented that they had read and enjoyed my article yesterday evening, one VP who was recently featured in a medical distributor trade magazine said during this year’s Christmas party, he and I can claim to be the only people who “got published” this year.

I fear, however, that I am becoming one of those people who is amused by mundane office happenings that aren’t really funny. When I first started here, I couldn’t believe the things that caused a ruckus around here – a sales rep cutting a watermelon with a large but dull knife, the billing lady simultaneously turning on the row of six dancing, singing stuffed animals that “decorate” one of the shelving units, test-driving around the warehouse on a posh motorized wheelchair that had just come in. I used to think all this was a little lame, but now, in my generally dull job, I find these things rather amusing too.

It’s also been interesting to read the comments I have gotten in my special Journal-Sentinel e-mail box since yesterday. There have been some really nice comments, and two really bad ones. I mean, people can be amazingly deluded and mean – if you want to know what I am talking about, read the comment by WO below my previous entry. That wasn’t all of it either. He also posted a column that described how with the birth rates among Latinos, white America is going to disappear during the next 50 years. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that when I have kids, they will be, in his words, of the “polluted” sort as well. Why can’t we all get along?!

By the way, does anyone have a copy of yesterday’s paper – I only get my subscription on the weekend so I don’t have a paper copy. I could have picked one up on the way home but I didn’t have cash, then I went for a bike ride on my new bike and totally forgot. Dad? Can you save yours for me?

my first JS byline…

August 22, 2006

I decided to post the whole column instead – some of you may not enjoy the links. Also, you’ll have to go to the actual paper Journal-Sentinel if you want to see my lovely (not really) photo accompanying the column. Click the comments link at the bottom for the love and hate mail I have received this morning. =)

My mother’s grandparents spoke Lithuanian and Polish at home, and her parents spoke their native languages as well as English interchangeably throughout their lives. They attended a Catholic church on S. 15th St. and W. Lincoln Ave. that held Mass in Latin and led hymns in Polish.

My paternal grandmother’s family emigrated from France to Quebec for the language and cultural identity factor, then moved to Illinois. My great-grandmother spoke French until there was no one left to speak it with, and my father remembers as a child hearing German spoken at his grandfather’s house.

Neither of my baby boomer parents, however, and comparatively few of their peers ever learned a language other than English. Perhaps this situation – the forgetfulness of the older generations, a relative dearth of languages in the United States for a good chunk of the past 75 years, perhaps a dose of Cold War remnant xenophobia – has fueled the movement to officially baptize English the “national language” as part of this year’s immigration reforms.

As a teen, I remember overhearing strangers talk about having to hear people speaking in “foreign” languages in the grocery store, insinuating that the foreigners were using other languages to talk about Americans behind their backs.

Recently, I heard a foreign-born Hispanic woman speaking about her complete shock at some Americans expressing irritation about listening to the “para Español, oprima el numero dos” prompt before proceeding with customer service telephone calls.

The attitude she described did not surprise me, but her shock at this kind of thinking, exposing how petty we Americans can be, certainly embarrassed me.

It seems those who support the move to make English the official national language have forgotten that we are witnessing the arrival of new immigrants whose language abilities are not so different from that of our own great-grandparents a few generations ago.

They have forgotten that their ancestors did not arrive in the U.S. and begin speaking fluent English. They learned on the streets, in jobs and through friends as many immigrants do today, slowly chugging along toward understanding, fluency and acceptance.

Today’s immigrants, from Mexico and other distant lands, understand the need to learn English. A 2006 Pew Research Study shows that Hispanic immigrants believe very strongly that learning English is “very important” to their success in American society and more strongly than other Americans that their children need to learn English to succeed.

I live in a completely different south side than the one my mother grew up in. Catholic churches built by my Polish ancestors are now Spanish-language churches with priests from Mexico.

I bought my house from a Vietnamese family, three blocks away from a large Mexican grocer and a small Asian market. I hear less English in my neighborhood than I do Spanish many days, and I have to admit I love it.

But interacting with young, new immigrants on a regular basis has only reiterated how crucial learning English is. Those immigrants who pick up English quickly will discover a multitude of doors open in this country while those who struggle to learn English or do not make the effort will have difficulty rising above minimum-wage work.

And although English is an important uniting force in a U.S. so disunited, we don’t need to proclaim it as the national language to make that point.

English-language learning has happened naturally throughout the history of American immigration. In the 21st century, when our nation is more diverse ethnically than ever, we should not be making a move that will keep immigrants from feeling like true members of American society, regardless of their language ability.

Neither can we expect first-generation immigrants to forget their native cultures and language. My ancestors did not do this, and if you are a European-descended person, as many of us from Milwaukee are, neither did yours.

See comments I received below…

potential train wreck rapidly approaching

August 20, 2006

Well, I know it’s been a while without a real post, and it might be another few days. I am feeling trapped between a lot of different concerns regarding Fermin’s immigration appointment this Wednesday. He left this morning for Ciudad Juarez, and just last week I found a really large immigration forum that put a lot of doubts in my mind about the whole process.

It appears, if the information on this site is correct, that there is a good change he could be banned from the U.S. for ten years. Many people are probably thinking, “what, he’s married to you, an American citizen, how can this be?” But it’s altogether possible. I knew none of this until about one week ago. It also appears that the person who has helped us fill out all these forms during the past two years either a) has no idea what is talking about and let us rapidly approach this train wreck, or b) hundreds of people who have posted their experiences on this web site are all wrong.

Yeah – please, for my sanity, no pep talks or comments about I should have, would have, could have done. If you want to help, pray for us or think good vibes toward the border on Wednesday. Otherwise, I’ll update when I know something.


August 15, 2006

The New York Times has an analysis of new immigration information garnered from new data released from the Census Bureau. It’s pretty informative and interesting. It highlights the trend for immigrants to settle in smaller towns and random places like Waukesha, Wisconsin rather than the traditional immigrant havens in large, coastal cities.

Beauty on the weekend

August 15, 2006

When my mom, my brother and I discussed going to a Bob Dylan Show concert in Michigan this past weekend, I looked up things to do in Grand Rapids and found that they boast a world-class garden and conservatory. Since turning domestic and becoming something of a gardener the last few years, there’s little I enjoy more than a great public garden. Last fall I got to visit the fantastic Longwood Gardens and Conservatory outside Philadelphia. I’ve also been to the Garfield Conservatory on the west side of Chicago, which is less a public garden than an indoor conservatory, sort of an expanded, modernized version of Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park Domes. I’m also looking forward to visiting the Chicago Botanical Gardens in Chicago’s north suburbs sometime in the near future.

(And how sad that I just learned how to do pictures in wordpress – it’s so easy – I never knew!!!) 

The focus of the Frederick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is different than the others in that art provides a centerpiece for at least half the area. The do have an indoor glass house that provides room for a small arid climate room as well as areas for tropical and the most interesting, carnivorous plants like these crazy pitcher plants which eat bugs.


Their one-mile sculpture loop is quite spectacular. The three-story bronze horse is certainly worth noting, but more striking are the large modern formations of brass and steel placed in natural fields, and other more traditional pieces placed among gardens, waterfalls and at the end of paths that weave through landscaped paths that imitate nature. The day was perfectly gorgeous, the park un-crowded and the views from different angles wandering around the area fantastic.
On the opposite side of the park, a boardwalk winds through woods that open up into a living wetland, complete with algae, driftwood, calm waters and fishing ducks. Compared to the manicured beauty of the sculpture walk, the marsh was tranquil, and one could hardly stop imagining how such serene beauty must have existed before places like Waukesha, Delafield and Pewaukee sprawled out, building Best Buys and 4-bedroom, 2.5-bath homes in subdivisions named Fox Run and Marsh Creek.

Last on our visit to the park was the Michigan Farm Garden, a replica of philanthropist Lena Meijer’s childhood stomping grounds. They had a 100-year-old barn disassembled from somewhere else, brought in and rebuilt as well as a lovely farmhouse complete with rocking chairs out on the veranda. Most interesting to be was a square garden, perhaps 20 feet square, which I coveted. I love by tiny garden, but I couldn’t help thinking what kind of stuff I could grow in such a nice area. Someday.


I should mention that the Dylan concert was surprisingly entertaining. I’m not a huge fan, I definitely like him more on old recordings than in his current frog-man voice, but it was very entertaining, as were the three dynamic opening acts: violinist and singer Elana James, guitar wizard Junior Brown, and blues-rock guitarist Jimmie Vaughan.