Sunday, May 23, 2010

Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Tears!

It starts out innocently enough while I’m sorting through papers when all of the sudden, a firm lump lodges in my throat—making it impossible for me to swallow. And then—as if by reflex—a tear starts to fall, followed by a solid stream of more tears. I dab the wet from my cheeks, blow my nose, and start the process all over again!

I can’t explain it, I can’t predict it, and I can’t make it stop. As I recounted the experience to my friend the other day, she nodded with a knowing smile and announced, “You’re grieving!”

“What?” I shrieked. “I’m doing no such thing; I’m excited about this move.”

“Uh-ah…sure you are, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re going through a grieving process,” she explained.

She was right. I went through the same thing when we left Italy to come to the States, only then it was worse—I was eight months pregnant (at least then I could blame it on hormones!).

It made perfect sense. That’s why I threw things away and then got up in the middle of the night to reclaim the little pieces of my heart and put them back in my suitcase, like the Mother’s Day cards I couldn’t part with, Jon’s emotion book that he wrote in fourth grade with the words…”Love is being with my family…I express this by smiling!” Or the poem Jeremy wrote on my fortieth birthday titled, “Thank you from the heart…” And the strangest “souvenir” of all—my son’s umbilical cord clamp. Yes, you heard me right. I’m literally taking a piece of each child with me!

Today, after cloudy skies and a thunderstorm of tears, I built myself a treasure chest filled with life’s little pleasures: a Christmas ornament that represents each child, two baby photos, birthday cards, Mother’s day cards, a music box, and our sons’ baby rings.

I closed my suitcase and started downstairs when Mark said, “You forgot this!” In his hand was a handpainted bud vase that he bought for me on our tenth wedding anniversary.” He smiled warmly and said, “I’m going to buy you a rose every day for the rest of your life!” I’m not sure if that will happen or not, but it’s the thought that counts (right?).

For now the weather is less stormy, the skies have cleared and there is sun in the ten-day forecast. Our youngest son gets married on Sunday (May 30), and we leave for Ecuador on June 3, 2010 with a slight chance of “rain.”

Hasta pronto!

Concetta y Marco

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Organized Chaos!

The house is ready for the "Cuenca or Bust" garage sale tomorrow and The living room is littered with boxes and our suitcases are semi-packed. In other words, it's organized chaos around here.

A frequent phrase that pops out of my mouth is, "Do you know where I put that?" As soon as I find what I'm looking for, I've already lost the thing that I just found! The boxes keep shifting.

Yesterday, I found out that my clothes were taken to the incinerator by mistake! I'm not sure that Mark will be making that one anytime soon. Now, I keep a tight reign on the "throw-away" pile and don't let it out of my sight until I'm certain it's ready to go.

The wedding is in eight days and I had the distinct privilege of writing the guest list on rocks (Cleveland rocks). I thought it was a clever way for our son and his bride, Kim, to incorporate their new home into their wedding. They will be living in the Lakeside Community by the shore.

As I wrote the names on each rock, I thought about how the waves (yes, Lake Erie does have them!) cause the crevices to form...some are rough...some are smooth and some are a combination. I wore out three fine-tipped pens writing on the rough, craggy surfaces. And finally it was time to pick out the bride and groom's rock. I found one that was almost in the shape of a heart; it was smooth and almost flawless. As I wrote their names in cursive with a purple pen, "Jonathan and Kimberly Pombo" I realized that my job was finished (not just with the rocks), but in my role as a mom. Although Jon will always be my son, he now has a new life with his lovely wife -- Kim.

After the calligraphy on the rocks, I headed down to the basement to bring up some more garage sale items and found a book laying on top of Mark's suitcase, titled: The Book of Us: A Journal of Our Love Story. It was a gift for Mark on Valentine's Day almost 11 years ago. I filled out every page in detail, except the last chapter..."The Later Years!" It's hard to believe that we're already in that phase of our lives!

Going through 35 years of "stuff" has taught me that the things that matter most are treasured in our heart and although a lot of those things aren't physically with us, we have the joy of knowing we can revisit them at any time (they're called memories!).
Tonight, I put the rocks to bed; I cleaned up the remaining dishes out of the cupboard, organized photo boxes to send to my mom in California, and looked around the dining room (the only place that still has chairs) and thought, So this is what organized chaos looks like.

Until next time....hasta luego!

Connie and Mark

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Back to the Embassy!

Did you ever wake up in the middle of the night and think, I better check on that!
Last night was one of those nights.

Yesterday I blogged on our Ecuadorian Embassy experience and ended with, "What about those criminal records?" We walked into the building with them and walked out without them. I turned to my husband in the car and asked, "Do you think it's important?"

"Nope, I think they just needed to see them," Mark answered, patting me on the shoulder with that "you worry too much" kind of gesture.

I gazed out the window as we passed by the Washington Monument and had that pit in the stomach feeling. "I'm not so sure about that," I said, gently putting my husband's hand back on the steering wheel! "Maybe we should go back and check on that. What do you think?" I added.

"You worry too much!" answered Mark, with a hint of irritation in his voice.

Well, it turns out that "yes" I do worry too much and the "voice" in the middle of the night was right!

We are headed back to the Embassy (next week) with our criminal records (notarized). Evidently, they lost them and "yes" we do need them!

So this was a costly error. Not only do we have to pay for our criminal records again, but we need to get them notarized and make a trip back to Washington DC and have them apostilled.

Lesson learned.

When in doubt, don't leave Washington DC without checking twice and then a third time! Listen to those little voices of wisdom that haunt you in the middle of the night; they just might save you a trip back to the Embassy!
Until next time...hasta luego!

Connie (for Mark who is running around getting our criminal records notarized!)

P.S. The good news: We get to have lunch at that great restaurant, "Tuscana West" and have the carcioffi and gamberetti pizza al fresco!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ecuadorian Embassy

One of the great things about living in Lancaster County is the close proximity to major metropolitan cities like New York, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. Within an hour or two (depending on traffic), you can be out of the Amish farmland into the heart of a major city.

Last week (May 6), we headed for Washington D.C. to the Ecuadorian Embassy to get our paperwork processed for our 12-IX visas, which allows us to stay in Ecuador for up to six months. Surprisingly—once there—the process was swift (20 minutes).

If you are new to this process there are many visas you can obtain, but we specifically applied for the pensioner’s visa. We brought along the following documents:

*Marriage certificate (original document with a raised notarized seal)
*Criminal records (original document, notarized)
*Retirement pension letter (original, not notarized)
*Two extra passport photos

When we arrived at the embassy (or what we thought was the embassy), we entered a small courtyard and were met by a man wearing a red polo shirt and white sneakers. Hmm…that was our first clue that we were in the wrong place and the fact that there was no Ecuadorian flag(anywhere!). Thanks to Mapquest and our GPS device, we landed in someone’s front yard (or backyard…I’m not really sure). Forty-five minutes later, we were able to find a parking space right in front of the correct embassy (there was an Ecuadorian flag outside the front entrance!).

As soon as we entered through the doors, we were greeted with a warm welcome. “Buenos Dias!” Ahh…we were at the right place (they weren’t speaking Italian). Make sure you don’t answer in Spanish because the rate at which they answer you increases in volume, intensity and speed. The words all mushed together, “ComoestaUsted?”

Since I had spoken to Marco on the phone (in English), I thought I would try out one of my newly acquired Spanish phrases, “Estoy…contenta…de…saberlo!” Marco smiled weakly and shook my hand. The usual greeting for other employees consisted of a kiss on the cheek (not both sides – just one side). That will take some getting used to because in Italy (with few exceptions) we always greeted one another with a kiss to both sides of the cheek (starting with the left side first otherwise you could get caught in the “middle”).

After exchanging pleasantries we got right down to business. We only had to fill out one form – “Certificado de Visacion” which was one page and included the type of visa we were applying for, our address, a passport photo, a place to fill in the passport number and date of expiration. The next process was to hand over all our documents to Marco who translated our letter of pension and attached it to the original. All documents were then “apostilled” – that’s a fancy name for the shiny blue (or silver) stamp that is foil-like with a number on it, followed by the official Ecuadorian seal. My hubby had to fill out one more document since he was the pension bearer (“Solicitud de Visa”) which was also apostilled (with a shiny silver seal and then stamped with the Ecuadorian stamp –“Consulado del Ecuador, Washington DC”). We paid $380 in cash for all that stamping and apostilling. We were done—almost!

If you have followed me thus far, you may be wondering what happened to our criminal records? I do not know. Marco briefly looked at them and I believe that’s all he needed to do. He works directly with our lawyer in Quito (Gabriella Espinosa) where we will continue the process for a permanent visa.

There might be a glitch (although I hope not!). We have this strange policy in the States when you get married (for us – 35 years ago) that when you apply for a marriage certificate, your maiden name is used on the document because you aren’t married yet. In Sicily, it was a problem and I’m sure we will face the same difficulty in Ecuador (maiden name on official document). If at all possible you want your legal name the same on all documents.

So what did we do afterwards? We ate at an Italian restaurant (of course!) – Tuscana West. We sat in the coolness of the patio seating and pondered if we had done it right (or not). I only say that because we have been through this process before (in Sicily), but there it depended on the mood of the person who was processing your documents whether or not it was “okay” or not. But then again, in Sicily it really didn’t matter because you just paid them under the table if it wasn’t right (to make it right!). Think of the movie: “Godfather.” And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

We were pleased with our first Ecuadorian Embassy experience and we look forward to finishing up the process in Quito, but for now we have our 12-IX visas.

Until next time…hasta luego!

Connie and Mark

ADDENDUM: Please note that this was our experience for obtaining our 12-IX visa. If you are in the process of obtaining your visa, be sure to call the Ecuadorian Embassy first before proceeding (policies/laws change constantly).
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