SoCS: the birth of ABC

Things have been very busy here, so I wasn’t sure I would SoCS this week, but when I saw the prompt, I knew I had to join in.

Birth has been on my mind a lot this year. Our daughter E has been living with us this year. When she and her husband L left Honolulu last December, L’s graduate student visa expired, so he had to go back to the UK. It will take a while to qualify for a spousal visa for E, so she has been living here in New York State with us.

She and L were expecting their first child on July first or so. It was hard to be apart, but it meant that I got to help out with things like going for ultrasounds. L was allowed to have a 90-day visa for the birth. He arrived in mid-May in time to attend an all-day blitz childbirth class. At one point, they had thought that he should go back to the UK and return in mid-June for the 90-day stay, but they decided to just have him remain after the childbirth class.

This turned out to be a good move as their baby girl arrived on June 6, three and a half weeks before anticipated. I wrote about this emotional time here.

It was great to have E, L and Baby ABC here with us for those first two months. Now that L is back in the UK, they visit often by skype. We are looking forward to a visit from L in October and another in time for ABC’s first Christmas.

We are trying to savor every minute as we expect that E and ABC will re-locate to London early in 2018. It will be bittersweet as we want them to be together full-time as a family, but it will be so hard to have them so far away.

ABC already has two passports, though, so she is all set to travel! Of course, she will need to bring at least one parent along!
*****
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “birth/berth.” Join us! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/09/01/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-sept-217/

 

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Visits and baptism

On Sunday, July 16, we celebrated ABC’s baptism.

We were blessed to have L’s mom visiting from the UK. I will call her Lola here, which is Tagalog for grandmother. She was here for a week and a half, during which we gave her as much cuddle time with ABC as possible. When all the necessary documents go through and E and ABC join L in the UK, they will be living with Lola and Lolo (grandfather), so the visit was the beginning of what will be years of cuddling and babysitting.

We were also excited to have daughter T home for a long weekend. Besides meeting her niece for the first time, T also became her baptismal sponsor. T’s own godmother served as a witness by proxy for L’s sister, who will be ABC’s British godmother.

Sorry for all the initials…

The baptism took place after Mass with the deacon, himself a grandfather several times over, presiding. ABC wore the same dress that Nana had bought sixty years ago for my older sister’s baptism, which was also worn by me, my younger sister, and both of my daughters. Here is a picture of all those who have worn this little dress.
baptism dress six

Paco was able to come down to church for the baptism, but Nana wasn’t well enough to join us. After the baptism, we convened at Nana and Paco’s apartment for a feast of Filipino food that L and Lola had prepared. Brent and I made pies for dessert. Everything was delicious!

We were very grateful that Lola got to meet Nana and Paco. It felt like they had known each other much longer than a few hours! I love this photo of Nana and Lola.
Nana and Lola

ABC is blessed to have many people praying for her. There was even a physical reminder of the support of E and L’s parish in Honolulu, where they were married and served in music ministry. The blanket Ada is napping on in this photo was made by a choir member there.
ABC in her baptism dress

 

More on refugees

I am very grateful for all the judges who have heard various cases on the administration immigration/refugee/travel ban. Their rulings have resulted in a stay on implementation, so refugees and visa holders are once again able to enter the United States, having already completed visa requirements, which, in the case of refugees, are extensive, taking 18 to 24 months to complete, after having gone through initial United Nations resettlement clearance.

I was heartened by our church service this morning. As it happens, our gospel readings in recent weeks have come from the Sermon on the Mount. Last week, we heard the Beatitudes; this week, we heard about not hiding our light under a bushel, but letting it shine for all to see. The hymns, which were chosen weeks ago to accord with the readings, were striking about all finding “a rightful place.” Given the refugee crisis, I was especially glad to sing this text from “Christ, Be Our Light” by Bernadette Farrell (published by OCP, 1993, 2011):

Longing for shelter, many are homeless.
Longing for warmth, many are cold.
Make us your building, sheltering others,
walls made of living stone.

Many the gifts, many the people,
many the hearts that yearn to belong.
Let us be servants to one another,
making your kingdom come.

Our regular pastor was ill, so a priest from another area parish came to say Mass. In his homily, he directly asked the President to look again at the refugee situation and told us that our bishop in Syracuse was also dedicating a Mass this morning in solidarity with refugees and exiles. There was a statement from the Bishop in our church bulletin, denouncing the executive order on refugees as un-Christian and un-American.

(Of course, if I were a deacon preaching today, I would have gone further into other encroachments on human rights that fly in the face of social justice, but that is a much too long and complicated story for a blog.)

I realize that we are in for more difficulties with DT’s executive orders and appointments and goals and plans, but the outpouring of people from all faiths, backgrounds, and parts of the country standing up for our Constitution and our moral and ethical values gives us strength to serve and protect one another, especially the most vulnerable.

Refugees definitely fall into the category of most vulnerable. The Syracuse diocese looks forward to welcoming the 220 refugees initially affected by the executive order as soon as new travel arrangements can be made. Other parts of the country are preparing to welcome thousands more.

We are living out the mission to which we are called by our country and by our convictions.

doomed to repeat history – or just doomed?

I haven’t been using most of the (optional) prompts that have been provided for Just Jot It January, but I will start off using today’s, which is history.

It begs the question, “Does DT know/understand any history?”

If he did, would he be spouting the slogan “America First” which has disturbing connotations from the World War II era?

Would he have signed an order to ban Syrian refugees on Holocaust Remembrance Day, inviting comparisons to the shameful and cruel turning away of Jewish refugees trying to flee Hitler?

Does he understand the separation of powers in the United States Constitution? In some instances at the airports, executive branch personnel refused to carry out the order of federal judges. There will be numerous lawsuits filed challenging the legality of the executive order. US immigration law prohibits discrimination due to national origin, which this executive order clearly violates.

It also disturbs me that DT reneged on the promises made to visa, refugee, and green card applicants. A local example: A staff member at my parents’ retirement community is a long-time US resident and green card holder. He planned to leave in a few days to visit family in Iraq. Now, he won’t be able to go. Even if he can get to the Consulate, which is several hours away, and is granted a waiver, he may be leery of leaving the country because the administration has already shown that they are not honoring his green card as equal to that of someone from France or China – or Saudi Arabia, the country from which most of the 9/11 terrorists originated.

I have written often about my fear of Trump, which I am trying to mobilize into energy to fight for social and environmental justice in the face of his threats and actions.  These last two days make it even more difficult to not be afraid. Does DT think that he is above the laws of the United States? Does he think he makes the laws? The legislative and judicial branches need to assert their independent authority, as our system is designed. Sadly, only a few Congressional Republicans have spoken out against the executive orders on immigration.

Again, people power has been a source of hope. Protesters appeared at the airports where travellers were being detained despite their having valid visas and passports. Lawyers skilled in civil rights, Constitutional law, and immigration law rushed to help the affected people and filed emergency suits to keep them from being deported.

And this is only the second week of the administration.

I feel like a firefighter who is being summoned to multiple locations at the same time.

So much work to be done. So many people to try to protect.

Not knowing whence the next alarm comes.
*****
Join us for Linda’s Just Jot It January! Find out how here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/29/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-29th17/

jjj-2017

 

Retro with a twist

I posted this New Year’s Eve poem which is about an empty nest celebration, but that is not what our New Year is in 2017.

Rather, we are starting 2017 with spouse B, daughters E and T, and me all living under the same roof.

Which I never expected to have happen again.

It’s a wonderful – but most likely short-lived – opportunity.

And, like the entirety of 2016, it’s complicated.

I have been making vague references about re-organizing the house and about Christmas being quiet and such, but now I am at liberty to fill in some of the background story.

E and her spouse L have been living in Hawai’i and, this fall, they announced the exciting and happy news that they are expecting their first child! Baby will be the first grandchild for us, the first great-grandchild for my parents Nana and Paco, and the first grandchild for L’s parents who live in London, England.

E and L wanted to live closer to family for the birth of their child and, while Hawai’i is one of the most beautiful locations on earth, it is also one of the most remote. The problem arose, though, that E is a US citizen and L is a UK citizen who had been living in the US on a higher education visa. Leaving Hawai’i meant leaving the University, so his visa expired at the end of the year.

E and L also decided that they would raise their child in the country with the most supportive social and family policies, which is definitely the UK. So, L flew out New Year’s Eve to join his family in London. He will continue to apply for jobs; after six months of work, he can apply for a visa for E to join him.

Meanwhile, E will live with us, work remotely for her employer in Honolulu, and get ready for Baby’s arrival, sometime around July first. Obviously, it is not optimal for them to be separated during E’s pregnancy, but she will be able to visit a couple of times during her second trimester and L plans to apply for a spousal visitation visa to be here for Baby’s birth and early weeks.

In case you haven’t gotten the subtext, it is really, really difficult to observe all the immigration rules of the two countries, but E and L want to make sure not to break any laws to preserve their future rights to live and work in both countries. Baby will be a dual citizen.

So, to prepare for E’s staying with us for these next months, we have spent the last few weeks in major household re-organization. The most important change was for B and me to move to one of the upstairs bedrooms so that E could be on the ground floor and not have to navigate the relatively steep and narrow stairs while pregnant and while carrying Baby. The re-organization also gave the impetus to incorporate some of the furniture that had been Grandma’s into our home. An attic and basement insulation project gave us some additional storage capabilities and we also made some donations to area charities.

This all took many, many hours, so that is part of why my writing time has been curtailed lately. (Given my track record, I will refrain from any promises about posting more; the one constant in my life is surprises!)

So, E and L arrived the day after Christmas. We had a few days of family visiting. E and L were able to meet the local obstetrician who will be caring for E. And, on New Year’s Eve, L flew off to London.

At seven o’clock Eastern Standard Time, B, E, T, and I celebrated the arrival of 2017 at midnight GMT with a sparkling Niagara grape juice toast in our once-again family-of-four living room.

It won’t last long. When a job offer comes in, T will move to wherever she needs to be. In early summer, L will arrive and, on some currently unknowable day, Baby will arrive.

And, when her visa comes through, E and Baby will move to the UK.

Next New Year’s Eve is likely to be back to empty nest.

All the more reason to cherish the moment now.
*****
This post is part of Linda’s Just Jot It January. Join us! You can find out more here:  https://lindaghill.com/2017/01/01/jusjojan-daily-prompt-jan-1st17/ . Prompts are provided but are entirely optional. And any post of any length on any January day is eligible. Hope you’ll jump in and have fun with us!

jjj-2017

 

 

 

Immigration in the US and the world

Immigration issues have been in the news in the United States for the last several years. The current system is outdated and cumbersome and the last several presidents and some prominent members of Congress have worked on comprehensive reform packages.  In the summer of 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a strong bipartisan majority, but the House refused to take it up and the rhetoric against reform has escalated.

Some of the Republican presidential candidates have been trying to outdo each other in their vehemence against undocumented immigrants, even going so far as to threaten denying birthright citizenship to babies born in the United States. There are also proposals to build walls on both the US-Mexico and US-Canada borders, disregarding the fact that many currently undocumented people reached the US by air or were documented at the time of their arrival or were trafficked into the country or are refugees.

The real solution lies in comprehensive immigration reform with an earned path to citizenship for those who want to remain permanently and work visas for those who want to stay only for a limited amount of time. There also needs to be a better process for applying for visas that takes human needs into account, such as family unity and protection from violence and persecution. Why should someone fleeing Cuba be admitted while someone fleeing more dangerous conditions in El Salvador is not?

Adding to the picture is the current crisis in Europe regarding refugees from the war in Syria and Iraq and other unrest in the Middle East and northern Africa. Desperate people are taking to overcrowded and dangerous boats and rafts or are traveling overland to try to reach safety in Europe. While some countries, especially Germany, are being welcoming, others, such as Hungary, are denying safe transit through their countries.

It’s horrifying.

Part of my upbringing as a Christian is that one should welcome the stranger, feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and treat every person with respect.  I live in a country where the the vast majority of the population either are immigrants or their descendants and which often touts the strengths that our diversity lends to our democracy. (I also know our history and that our country has behaved unconscionably in dealing with the First Nations, those who were trafficked or enslaved, and various ethnic groups, including the Japanese-Americans who were imprisoned during world War II. None of this negates our current responsibilities toward those in need of refuge.)

I believe that all the nations need to work together to relieve the suffering of those displaced by violence and economic disruption. Some may be looking for permanent re-settlement in a new country, while others may need a safe place for a few years in hope that they can return to their country of origin. The United States, as one of the richest countries in the world, needs to do its part to help, accepting many more than the 10,000 places offered if more refugees wish to live here and offering financial and logistical aid to help in caring for refugees while they are being processed to go to their final destinations.

I know that many will argue that we can’t afford it, but we can. It’s all a matter of priorities. The United States spends huge amounts of money on our military, including weaponry and equipment that the military leaders don’t want or need. Billions more dollars could be spent on human needs programs both at home and abroad if military spending is brought in line with what is truly needed rather than what is embarked upon due to fear or pork-barrel politics. The tax code also is in need of major revision, re-instituting a more progressive tax system for both individuals and corporations, closing loopholes, eliminating tax havens, lowering taxes on the lower earners and increasing rates for high earners.

There is a lot to do. Enough with the grandstanding and fear-mongering. It’s time to get to work to address immigration in a comprehensive way.

watch your language

I continue to watch in horror the coverage of the situation with so many children from Central America coming into the US. I am distressed by those who have no sympathy for their plight and refuse to welcome them, even for a short time, in their communities.

It pains me to hear these children – and the adults who are in the same situation – termed “illegal immigrants,” “illegal migrants,” or just plain “illegals.”

All of the children and many of the adults are actually refugees, fleeing from failed states, violence, hunger, drug gangs, crime, and a level of poverty that most from the US cannot even imagine.

The United States, Canada, European countries, and any country that borders another where there is war or famine know what it is like to offer help to refugees. The US routinely urges other countries to accept refugees fleeing war, persecution, violence, failed states, starvation, and other dire situations.  The US continues to accept and re-settle refugees in the US, sometimes temporarily, but often permanently.

Many US citizens, myself included, are descended from those who came to the United States fleeing war and famine. That the war was World War I and the famine was the potato blight in Ireland – itself set in motion by British politics – does not change the basic fact that my forebearers arrived here because they were fleeing threats in their countries.

I know that my Irish and Italian ancestors faced discrimination when they arrived here. Many did not want to welcome these newcomers, despite Emma Lazarus’s words of hope enshrined on the Statue of Liberty. (My Irish ancestors would not have seen them, but my Italian ones who arrived after the completion of the Statue of Liberty may have.)

It’s true that the US immigration system was different in those days. It’s also true that our current system has not been functional for decades, but Congress has not been able to muster the will to reform it, despite many plans and bills and speeches and the urging from a range of people from the last several presidents on down to advocates ministering to those living and working in the shadows across the country.

I believe it is our duty as human beings and as a democracy to offer refuge to those in need in our own hemisphere, especially those who have survived a perilous journey to seek safety and often family members already here in the US. Refugees should be welcomed, fed, and kept safe, while family members or sponsors are located and refugee status documents are completed.

We should also do what we can through the State Department to help failed states transform to functional ones, enabling refugees to return to a safe home and community, if they choose.

Meanwhile, it is our moral obligation to care for these refugees. I am ashamed that some want to block entrance to the United States to others in such desperate circumstances.

Postscript:  While I am not near the Southern border where the current crisis is occurring, I do live in an area that has been an official re-settlement area for refugees for decades.