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    Life, love and Immigration: What to consider before your partner arrives.

    So you are in love abroad or maybe your partner is… and you sit there thinking about the visa process and probably asking yourself about a million questions about taking this leap. I asked the same questions and my family and friends asked me a million as well. For a moment now, take a step back from the visa process and look at something bigger, which may seem impossible considering how HUGE the visa process seems. But something bigger, creating a life with someone who has chosen to leave their home to create a home with you. If it seems like a lot of pressure, I don’t mean to scare you. I just want to help you prepare for the road ahead and know that it will take work but it is so so worth it.

    Here are some things to consider before the arrival of your partner from abroad:

    1. How will they spend their time before they are able to work? And once they can work, what will they do? Start looking around now. Are there English classes they can take or another course that could help their career path? When Eric arrived I took some time off to help him get acclimated or at least a little comfortable before I had to spend my days away from him. Once I returned I had found classes at a local organization that offered English, GED and other enrichment programs. He took English and a culinary class and made friends from all over the world. He seemed happy and enjoyed this opportunity. If I remember correctly his green card arrived about seven months later and he was able to work.
    2. How will they get around? Drive? Public Transport? If your partner drives in their country, look into an international drivers license which will enable them to drive in some states for up to one year. This was a great decision for Eric and I as we do not live in an area with public transport. Eric did not however have much driving experience so we really had to work on this. I am good at a lot of things but my patience in teaching how to drive is probably not my next career path. Go easy on each other.
    3. Culture and Community.  Something we are still trying to figure out and you should consider with great care. Are you living in an area where your partner can thrive or could you consider a move? We decided to live in my home-town when Eric arrived because I had a network of people that could help welcome him, find him jobs and help with driving us around because we had one car. While there is not much culture here, we have a good community surrounding us and jobs with people we love. And we are trying to bring the culture here. It has been difficult for Eric to connect with others and make friends but we continue to work on trying to set up Ghanaian dance classes and invite others over to create culture in our own home. We also think about moving into a city where we would have more access to the things that make us both smile. But… I do love the ocean and the forest and this cute New England town.
    4. Don’t forget you. I have to remind myself too. Over the years I have been consumed with working on trying to set up a life for us that would make us all happy. I continue to worry about my husbands happiness as I know all he has left behind. But he also gained a beautiful life here and I have to continue to remember and cherish that. I’m working on not letting the worry consume me so I can just be here… with him and our little family and life we are growing. What do I do when I get a bit worried about him and his happiness? I try and find an event or workshop he would love to go to, he loves dance, performance and music; or we drive about an hour away to a Ghanaian restaurant and grocery store and fill up on all things Ghana.

    The moral of this story… it is ongoing. Your life and love is now blended and it’s a beautiful opportunity to have to work with someone from a different culture to create a balance. It takes great work, as all partnerships do. Be gentle with each other. Be strong individuals and know that you may need to change up what you know your life to be here in the States. Maybe it’s a new home, maybe it is frequent travel to your partners country, maybe it’s staying up late and talking about the difficulties and the beautiful times. We are here with you.

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    The Sling Diaries: Voice

     I can’t remember the first time I realized my voice had power. Maybe it is something I have known all along.  I’ve at least had an opinion since I can remember. But, I do know the first time I realized that I wanted to use my voice to make a difference in the world. It was like this inner feeling just knowing, I was supposed to do something big, something to change lives. I feel like I am still figuring this out because like most things, my strength and the power behind my voice ebbs and flows.

    I am not actually sure if it is my voice that is meant to be heard or if I am an outlet to advocate for others. As if I am here to tell their stories to a wider audience, give light to injustices, show the strength of those who have defied odds and fought for their rights and to share stories of survival.

    It took me years to figure out what cause I wanted to lend my voice to, until I traveled to Cambodia, fell in love with the country and then learned of its dark side. When I returned home, I was guided towards an organization where I volunteered my time to write stories and share news on the issue of human trafficking and specifically, sex-trafficking in South East Asia. I dug deep and I was shocked. And shortly after that, I traveled far to lend my voice and writing again to a project that still has my heart, with an organization that works with children who have been trafficked or are at risk in West Africa. I disconnected, put my emotions on the side. I still have hopes that one day, these stories can see greater light and these issues and these beautiful people, who have gone through hell and survived, will be heard.

    As I sit, I am listening to the power behind the voice of Leopoldo Lopez, the Venezuelan politician who refuses to be silenced and has gone against all odds to continue to speak. I am in awe of the strength behind his voice, his story, his refusal to give up. It is voices like this, strength like this, that change the course of history, fuels fire and advocates for others. His voice fuels me.

    So, where does that leave me now… what will I use my voice for. I still feel that inner knowing that I am supposed to do something great and use my voice and the power of storytelling to create change… but where? We need to hear from the Rohingya, those in Syria, the people of Libya and the people of Venezuela and we need to listen. Is right now my time to navigate and find a way to tell these stories? I am not sure. I am figuring it out. I am listening.

    Perhaps for now I can focus on how I use my voice in my daily life and with my family. My voice is a tool to teach my daughter to have strength and also to guide her, calmly, with care through this life. Having a powerful voice does not mean that it has to be loud but it can simply be a useful tool to help others and to help yourself. So, that is it. And it is perfect. For now, I may not travel far to witness what is happening around our world and write about it, but I will be right here, beside my daughter to guide her, to let her speak up and to fuel her to use her voice as power. I will tell our stories. I will let her write her own. For we need more youth who speak up, for themselves and for others and who feel confident with their voice. And maybe, this inner feeling of knowing I am supposed to do something great with my voice, maybe that something great is this sweet girl full of strength that I am raising in a chaotic world.

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    The Sling Diaries: Love

    Love yourself first. Something that I need to remind myself of, always. And right now. Show yourself love. Even just with the little things. For me, it’s the rose water I splash on my face, the toast and hazelnut spread I sneak with my hibiscus tea before bed, my solo coffee dates where I write and research, my travels and my guided bedtime and sunrise meditations. There are other people and things that I love, deeply, but to show myself love, I try to remember a few little things because… I lose myself easily.

    If you’ve been loved by me you know that when I love, I love hard, completely losing myself in you. I’ve changed plans, changed my life and lost my own way. But man, I have loved.

    When I met Eric, my husband, I was the best me and when I fell in love with him even before we had much of a conversation, it was perfect. I loved myself, I was happy, I had a job I loved, in a home I loved, surrounded by good company. In turn, I was able to love Eric, just right. We loved fully, honestly and just enough to give each other time to ourselves, time I needed to continue to grow.

    Our long distance helped us learn to love from afar and when I chose to move back to him, it was for me. You see, I loved travel first, his country next and then him. Not that I did not love him as much, but I loved more than just him. The sun, the water, my friends, my decisions and myself. I was disconnected from much of the outside of my little world. No stable internet connection, no tv and therefore no news. It was just me, my books, the ocean and my love.

    When he moved to the U.S. I started to sense myself slowly slipping away. Not because we were together, but because, it seems that I feel most alive when I am a bit out of my element, immersed in a new culture. I love myself the most during those times. I feel the most alive. So here, in the States my comforts can seem dull and I dive head first into love. I was lost in making sure Eric was happy. I mean, he left his life, his home, his culture and his family for me. I felt responsible for his happiness. I nagged, constantly asking if he was happy. I made endless plans to continue the fun forgetting to also, take time for myself.

    Shortly after Eric moved, I was pregnant with Aurelia. This was new, exciting and we were thrilled. My focus switch back to include myself, my baby and Eric. I glowed. Pregnancy for me, was one of the most beautiful times in my life. I felt perfect and I had this tiny life to care for yet still had the freedoms to roam about and make my own decisions and go on endless date nights with Eric without a sitter.

    And then, she came. The sweetest love. I love her endlessly. And that love, consumed me. I found the first few months of my life with Aurelia in my arms to be beautifully easy, comfortable and I thrived in it. But slowly, I was slipping. I wasn’t only forgetting myself but forgetting Eric, my husband as well. I was consumed by my love for her, making sure she was happy, snuggling with just her, co-sleeping, rocking her to sleep and being her food source. My mojo went from an all time high to an all time low after Aurelia. I was touched out by the end of a long evening. I felt almost completely gone. I wasn’t able to show Eric the love he deserved because I didn’t feel I had time to even love myself. I’d catch a glimpse every so often but it would fade in the constant nap battles and sleep deprived evenings.

    So, I am here now. 2 years later, finally writing this all out, saying it out loud. I can feel myself again. I can feel the love I have for Aurelia as she sings Taylor Swift in the mirror and makes a 30 minute hike turn into an hour and a half as she explores. I can feel the love for myself, taking the time I need to get exercise, having coffee at a local spot and writing stories. And I can feel the love for Eric, how unexplainably wonderful he is, his kind soul always there to support me but also push me when I’m getting in my own way again. I feel the love and I have learned lessons and have learned something about myself. I let love consume me and if ever I feel myself slipping again I am going to fight back, secure myself, the love I need, the time I need and then allow the rest to follow. If I can not love myself fully I can not have the energy I need to love others. I love me. Love you.

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