keeping the options open

October 24, 2006

Not trying to be paranoid here, but I’ve started to think about what would happen if Fermin’s waiver were denied. There are several things that have brought me to this point, in no particular order:

1. News from my immigration forum depicts a stricter approval policy in Ciudad Juarez. Not only are they taking longer (at least 10 months) but they are becoming more stringent.

2. I know I wrote a good letter, but we have really weak hardships, and it’s altogether possible we will denied for simply not having enough hardship in Our lives. When reviewing the tiers of hardship as outlined by a knowledgeable attorney who posts on this site, we qualify for nothing until the fourth tier, and even those are pretty lame.

3. Fermin applied for a driver’s license while he was in Mexico in 2002, which we are counting they won’t find out about. Two weeks before Fermin’s interview, I found out that were we to admit he had left the U.S. and re-entered undocumented at any time during his residency here, we would not be able to file the waiver and automatically receive the 10-year-ban. Needless to say, had we known that stipulation he would not have left, but at the time his mother was about to have surgery and he felt he needed to be with his family.

We won’t know until late spring 2007 at the earliest, but I have started to at least come to terms with the idea living abroad again. Most of you know I lived in hina for a year from 2000-2001. I adored it, and sincerely planned to go back. Now that I am settled in the U.S. with a house, garden, car, furniture and life here, I am faced with the possibility that we will have to sell all those things and start over again. It’s funny, part of me would love to live life abroad again, but it’s also a bit daunting.

First of all, we would have to pick a country. Our pool of choices probably include Mexico, China and Canada. If it were just me, it would be China in a second. With some business experience under my belt and a good Chinese language foundation being wasted day after day, I am pretty confident that after a few years studying and paying the bills teaching English, I might be able to swing an interesting sales or business-related career. This, however, would leave Fermin in the awkward position of moving to a country where he would likely be mistaken for a Muslim minority and totally unfamiliar with the language. I don’t know what he would do there, unless we open Beijing’s first great Mexican restaurant.

Mexico would probably be Fermin’s first choice, but first he would want to re-enter the U.S. illegally and work for ten years to make enough money to bring back so that we would have some capital. I hate this idea, because I don’t want to live my life on hold for ten years, I don’t want him to come here and work illegally again. Many of you would probably wonder why this is necessary, why not just live in Mexico. Frankly, Mexico’s economy is extremely screwed up. The jobs in Fermin’s town include the sort of jobs that require a strong back twelve hours per day six days per week. I would have nothing to do in his town. If we lived in Puebla, a larger city, I might be able to find a job teaching English, but I have no idea what he would do. Nothing pays well. It’s a bad situation all around.

And finally, Canada. I frankly have no desire to live in Canada, other than for the fact that they speak English. We would need to go through a whole process to be able to work there and I’m not sure they are really needing people with generic U.S. work experience. I imagine it is colder there all year round than here and that it would feel more foreign than either of our first two options.

I suppose if I am going to leave my family and friends to move to another country, it better at least be someplace interesting.

Well, anyway, I don’t want people to start freaking out on me, I have no idea how likely any of the scenarios are and there will be no way to know for many months. But for now, I am off to Jamaica for my brother Matt’s wedding. See you in a few days.


heavy reading

October 18, 2006

I’ve had three very busy days at work, I guess it’s reward for having two very slow weeks at the start of the month. I had a little time toward the end of the day to read a few articles from my favorite columnist (probably ever) Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times. These are a month old or so, but they’re really poingant and impactful. If you are looking for something to read, click no further.

“Save my wife” – September 17, 2006.

“Prudence’s struggle ends” – September 24, 2006


October 12, 2006

I’ve been working on my next Journal Sentinel column for almost two weeks now. It’s the toughest and most controvertial issue I’ve dealt with yet. I took it on as a challenge when the editor asked for two of us to volunteer for a point-counterpoint, and it is an issue I care about on a very philosophical level.

Nevertheless, it’s really hard to say everything I want about it in 600 words. It’s forcing me to really pare down all the personal stuff I wanted to use as background and revert to a more basic argument.

However, writing it has made me realize I could form a pretty good longer article on the issue and perhaps submit it to more some edgy Christian publishers like Relevant Magazine or Burnside Writer’s Collective.

By this point you have probably realized I’m not revealing my topic. That’s partly because I know it might not only be surprising, but troubling for a few people. And rather than start a dialogue about it here when I am in the middle of the writing process, I would rather wait until it’s published and then prepare for the fire. =)

As I write more lately and receive praise, criticism and general feedback, I am remembering why I love writing. I am currently two weeks into a class on starting a career as a freelance writer. I’m not really starting a career as freelance writer, and the class is different than what I expected, but it has been helpful to think about writing as a business, something one does to make money, not just a very abstract, artsy concept most people imagine when they think of a writer’s life.

Last night I closed the Qdoba in Oak Creek and got to catch up with one of my former supervisors who I don’t get to see very often. As I listened to him share local Qdoba happenings and gossip I had to admit part of me misses the excitement, the pace, the chaos of the restaurant world. I was usually stressed out, but I also felt accomplished after a good shift, seeing a new employee catch on, impressing my boss with a good week in sales, etc.

There are many days I do not feel productive in my current job, and it’s rarely for laziness, but more because our territories are all built to be grown, and none of us are really occupied all day long with customers. I work in the same department with three really great people right now, which is amazing, but I do miss the constant face-to-face interaction with people.

At the same time, were I still at Qdoba, I probably wouldn’t have taken/had the time to produce articles to submit to the Journal Sentinel and would not be a community columnist. I wouldn’t have taken classes this fall because every semester for the past 3.5 years I have said I wanted to take classes, but I could never reign in my schedule in or commit to anything. I wouldn’t have weekends off or have time at night to actually cook something for dinner when the urge strikes.

So life, like it is, is a balance. I guess that’s why I am still working ten hours per week at Qdoba even though I don’t really have to, and why I can tolerate the slow days at my job even though I am typically someone who wants to be busy all day long.

And when I go home after work, I never have to worry about a pipe bursting in the back room during cold weather, or employees who can’t keep their schedules straight, or a false alarm in the middle of the night or a surprise restaurant inspection. Instead, I can focus on other things I love, like writing, taking pictures, reading novels. I And these things, really, make it all worth it.

stealing away on a sunny day

October 8, 2006

Saturday I had a busy day – morning writing class, afternoon errands and an evening shift at Qdoba. I slept in this morning and woke up to another gorgeous day. Maybe because I tend to delay waking until late morning, but it always seems Sundays start out sunny and glorious. Today was obviously no exception.

A few days ago I saw a blurb in the Journal Sentinel about a jog of the Oak Leaf Trail ideal for a brisk hike and some fall-color viewing. I decided to check it out today and ended up on a lovely five-mile head clearer in Franklin.

I took my camera and a book and spent half the walk with no iPod. I took pictures of wildflowers in front of dried cornfields and grasshoppers paralyzed on the blacktop trai.

A concrete tunnel under a street bridge reminded me of being six or seven, when I would have crawled across the rocks to the water’s edge and searched for crawfish in the Elm Grove creek.

Exiting a woodsy area opening into a field, I heard the distinct sounds of red-wing blackbirds. I thought of high school Advanced Biology, when my friends and I teased our teacher for his seeming obsession with native prairie grasses and bird calls.

Today I appreciated recognizing the birds and realized that prairies and marshes and meadows are beautiful. I wish there were more chances to have an entire horizon of natural landscape before the eye. There were times during my walk that there was nothing human in view besides the trail I was walking on, and other times when the line of cookie cutter tan, grey or baby-blue houses broke up the pristine fall scene.

My relaxing day ended after a good stretch and a cup of Stone Creek Coffee. I have to admit, there are some perks to being single again, sort of.

Fifteen-year-old sister attends homecoming

October 7, 2006


Slightly smirky. A Bruss famiy tradition. He he he.


I was never cool enough to let people take pictures of me like this.


October 3, 2006

Consider opportunities at U.S.-Mexico border

The 700-mile fence proposed along the Mexican border could create some new opportunities for the United States (“Congress approves 700-mile border fence,” Sept. 30).

Illegal immigrants entering our country along the Mexican border often pay “coyotes” several thousand dollars to smuggle them in. Why not simply let people walk in legally and charge admission, perhaps $7,000 a head? Just have them fill out a form, take a picture, get fingerprints, give them a green card and send them on their way. If 1 million came through paying $7,000 a head, that would raise $7 billion, which would go a long way to paying for that fence.

Next, I would post signs along the fence that anyone entering the country illegally is agreeing to volunteer for our military. Instead of border control agents, staff the border with military recruiters. It’s a win-win for everyone; military pay and benefits are probably a lot more than immigrants could earn picking tomatoes.

There is nothing for the U.S. to gain by sending people back to Mexico. They should be sent to Iraq to serve our country and provide some relief to our soldiers; those not fit for service should be turned back. When their tour of duty is up, we could provide them with a guest pass to our country as gratitude for their service.

David Livingston

This letter appears in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today – I’m sorry, but is this sick bastard for real? Or is this sarcastic? I honesty cannot tell.

high school reunions

October 3, 2006

Sunday afternoon I decided to check out the new Milwaukee Whole Foods. As I walked in and grabbed a shopping basket, I heard someone behind me say, “Did you go to Brookfield East?” I immediately recognized him as Sid Bedi, a brilliant guy I had a lot of classes with in middle and high school. It was so bizarre, had he not come up and said something about Brookfield East, I might have seen him and not been able to place him. It’s been almost 14 years since I started high school. Cliche alert: man, how the time has flown. Next spring I assume, I will attend my 10-year high school reunion.

We chatted for a few awkward moments, neither of us expecting a full-blown catch-up in the middle of a crowded grocery store, but I left the conversation wondering what was the etiquette is in such situations. I was genuinely interested in what he has been doing the last, oh my god, 9.5 years since our high school graduation. I mentioned I was married because he asked what my last name had been and then he pointed out the friend he was with, a girl who if I remember correctly he had dated seriously back then and I think had a child with. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized the 10-year-old boy with them, his skin tone a perfect mean of Sid’s brown and Angie’s pale coloring, was almost definitely their son.

In the past week or so I have spent a little time making a rudimentary myspace page. I find myspace a little sickening and an extremely stupid means of communication among close friends, but with people I meet through it seems perfectly appropriate. I decided to post a few pictures and check out the profiles of some of the other women I have met on that site during the occasional bout of rainy night boredom. Before long, I realized there was a way to search for people that were say, 26 to 28 years old and graduated from Brookfield East. I found probably five people that were listed as graduating in 1997 who I could not recognize for the life of me, and a few old friends.

One is Jessie Franklin, who my dad might remember. We go way back to Tonawanda Elementary School and an infamous sleepover party I had when she inadvertantly opened my underwear drawer and pulled out some of my unmentionables. My behavior seems insane now, but I remember being very upset, crying and wailing “Dad, Jessie opened my underwear drawer, Jessie went in my underwear drawer!” until my dad came into calm me down. Until I saw her picture last night on myspace, I hadn’t thought of her or the underwear incident in years and years. I sent Jessie a message referencing the underwear and saying hi, she responded this morning laughing in memory as well as letting me know that indeed, plans for our 10-year high school reunion are now in full swing. She said there is actually an excel spreadsheet circulating that lists everyone’s name, address and what they are doing. I can’t wait to see it!

Another person I found was former soccer colleage Theresa Brucks. Back when my dad was a very new soccer coach we played on the Elm Grove community leagues together. She was very good, I was very average. I dropped out of soccer when I was a sophomore at East to pursue things I was better at and I think she went on to play varsity all four years. It seems she is married now, has a son and is going to college. It’s so funny to see a photo of someone you knew as a kid and have to look at it a few minutes to figure out who they are.

Besides a few close friends, I don’t really keep in touch with many people I graduated with. I have found out through the grapevine that a girl I knew named Heather is also married to a Mexican named Fermin (which is a fairly unusual name) and I have heard a few obnoxious stories of bar encounters between the formerly “popular” people and some friends I loosely keep in touch with. For me, high school seems faraway and a bit strange. I’m not sure who I was then, but I know it’s quite distinct from who I am now.

I just can’t believe I’ll be attending a 10-year high school reunion next spring. I’m excited actually. I think I’m a much more well-rounded, interesting person than I was in high school and there’s really nothing I regret nor anyone I wouldn’t want to see. Jessie mentioned there are people who are die-hard against having a reunion, which I really don’t understand. I suppose if you hated everyone in high school or did a lot of things you wish you could take back it might be different, but I look forward to hearing what everyone is doing, who they are with and where they are at. I see it as a chance to reconnect with people among whom there exists a vague solidarity induced by enduring Mr. Cavender’s speech class, or Mr. Hagman’s advanced biology bug-collecting, or reciting Canterbury Tales for British literature. I would hope most of us are above cliques and petty high school fights and can interact and catch up like reasonable people. Perhaps that’s too much to ask, but one can always hope.