WikiHow's That?


I've turned to WikiHow to offer advice on my deck garden. Specifically, the article How to Grow a Tomato Plant.

I didn't find it that helpful. Well, it might be helpful if I were growing more plants in an actual yard, rather than just a few plants in some too-small deck boxes. I think my dreams of a summer of sweet, vine-ripened tomatoes has been a bit of an over-reach on my part. I still have high-hopes for the beefsteak, though. It already has a few flowers on it. Of course, I have several tomatoes in the fridge right now that I've yet to eat. Why is it so hard to get fresh veg into my daily diet? (If you answered laziness, you'd be right!)

I walked over to the local hardware store today. Lots of interesting things there. I picked up a book on the history of Midtown ('cause that's the kind of thing one usually acquires from one's local hardware store), a wire frame that was supposed to hold one of the flower boxes on the deck railing (way too small, however, so back it goes tomorrow), one tomato cage, 3 stakes, and one role of garden tape. I don't know how to set up the cages and stakes, nore do I know if they'll be big enough, too big, or if the plants will even live that long to need any of it anyway.

Other deck garden developments include: a few sprouts popping up in the sunflower mystery box (don't recall what I chucked in, we'll see what comes out!); the yellow daisy-like flowering bush still looks a bit scrawny; I cut some of the ranunculus blossoms to enjoy inside and now it isn't looking so hot; I planted some pansies in the remaining, light avocado colored box, plus two extras that wouldn't fit in a silver planter I've had forever.

Indoors, I finally planted the little Pottery Barn pots with basil, lavender, and sunflower seeds. I didn't exactly mark them, however, so I have 4 semi-mysterious containers in the kitchen window. Two have tiny green sprouts pushing up through the soil. Two have . . . a whole lot of nothing. I have no idea what to do with them once they grow bigger. If they grow bigger.

So this is what I do now: I fake gardening and I walk around town. And I'm occasionally funny.

I like the warmer weather, that's for sure.

The gardening I blame solely on loving an Englishman with green-thumbed relatives.

See, this is what worries me


The best of weeks, the worst of weeks


I think makes me feel better.

It's 11:44pm on Thursday night. I meant to be sleeping almost 2 hours ago, but instead I made a final - okay, three final - checks of the I-129F application. I found one typo which changes my morning timeline. My dad sent me an updated letter of support to include, so there'd have been more hole-punching and assembling anyway.

This journey back to college application times has been great, but I cannot wait to get this puppy in the damn mail and get going on the waiting.

According to the above link, the average wait time from filing to interview (ah, the United States Department of State: the promised land) is 212 days. Based on a 30 day month, that's 7.33 (with that little line over the 3) months. That's about what our lawyer said too.

In other news, the laws of man are negotiable, but we're going to have some laws of god issues. That whole "let no man put assunder" clause - turns out that's important. I'll save the plot twists, but I'm feeling the need to start letting go of my vision of getting married at my church. They'd probably have been booked anyway. It's bothering me more than I expected, though I can't say for sure why yet. I know it is partly because Sacred Heart was the one part of my wedding day I was pretty sure about - unlike, well, everything else from dress to food to size. But our guiding word has been "faith" for quite awhile now and I'm not going to ditch it now. There's always a way.

If Elvis marries us through a drive-in window, the meaning of what we're doing won't change. We marry each other. Like in that first stab at a wedding in Much Ado About Nothing. Maybe not the best example given how well that ceremony went, but you know what I mean. Or you don't and you should call your lit prof and apologize.

Now to sleep. Tomorrow to the post office.

Is it wrong to want one of these?


I know I can kinda make my own websites - but, but - this is a nifty build-your-own-to-order wedding website site. Some friends have one and I was immediately kind of smitten. Their witty content didn't hurt, of course. Can't really copy that. Will I ever get around to building my own? Is there a point to buying one of theirs - offered for specific time blocks - when I have no idea how long it will be until the big day?

It can play music too. I hate websites that play music when you navigate to them - and do so without warning. But maybe it doesn't have to be automatic?

Yeah, I want one.

I bought an ipod clock radio on sale at Target the other day. It's green and sleek and modern. My ipod docks comfortably on the top and it has a digital tuner. I'm not sure the screen won't glow too brightly as I try to sleep tonight, but it's too soon to tell.

I'm not sure the sound quality is enough to use it as a replacement stereo. I'm not sure the sound quality isn't too good to use it as a replacement clock-radio.

I thought it would sound good enough so that I could finally phase out my old, black stereo system. The old system's 3 CD changer doesn't really work so well anymore. There's no where to plug in the pod. The speakers are half blow. More to the point, I haven't plugged it in or set it up or used it in, oh, 10 months or so. I haven't used it since I bought its first replacement. Which, oh yeah, has been used only a handful of times, but resides appropriately in the living room for all the large, well-attended parties I throw.

But the real stumbling block here applies to the old clock radio as well. That antiquated equipment has a faux wood housing, super-faded red numbers, and an analog tuner with mono speakers that yields scratchy, yet reliable wake-up calls. Alarm 1 doesn't work. It's alarm two or nothing.

Here's where we stumble: both old stereo and old clock radio have been there for me. Old stereo was an unexpected Christmas gift from my parents during my senior year of high school - one of my first dorm nesting gifts. It saw me through college as I lugged it from dorm to dorm and abused it with all manner of bad musical choices. It still sounds okay, if not forced to compete with much else. It has a tape deck, for pete's sake. What if I need to listen to some of my old tapes? The history of music according to Len - those are historic documents that will be lost to the ages. Old stereo is an artifact. A piece of history.

And old clock radio! It's an Emerson - are those even made anymore? Its plastic front is cracked. It barely tunes to a station and it hardly stays there. But we start every day together. Sure, a few days it has exercised its discretion unwisely and caused me to miss class or picking Amanda up on time for the gym. Clock radio has roused me for exams. It has woken me for trips. It's been there, dammit. Now some upstart shiny green thing wants in - I don't think so.

Of course, the relevant fact here is that old stereo and old clock radio are inanimate objects. The don't feel bad. Right? This was like that time I got new backpack and turned my, uh, back on old backback senior year. Didn't need new backpack, still bought it. This doesn't happen with new clothes or new shoes. But new things - I just feel so. . . guilty. Buyer's remorse, right?

I still have time to return the green box. Doesn't sound so great anyway. Even if it's a really good price.

And if you only knew how long I'd spent at Target debating the sensible silver box or the shiny green box . . . .

Free samples


USCIS Example Forms

Seem useful. We'll let you know.

I'm gathering that I've been worrying the statement of intent to marry a bit much though. I was going to compose something epic. Apparently a simple, I can and am going to marry Rob, cuts it fine.



This site seems semi-helpful and mostly up to date.

One (of many) problems with the current I-129F form is that it asks for these things that, by all accounts, including our lawyer's, are no longer required. In fact, they are not just not required, they are unwanted. Number one on this list: old form "Adit" photos - I don't even know what that term means, but I think it means the kind of photo that the instruction form very, very clearly asks for - 3/4 view. They want full-frontal action now. So what gives?

Well, crap, can't rush these things. If I weren't so lazy, I'd dig up the post linking to an article about the thousands of couples who were shelved for having incomplete applications after USCIS found them deficient for failing to include information which USCIS never asked for. Get it? Congress passed a law that basically boiled down to a requirement for 2 questions to be added to the I-129F: did a marriage broker set you up and oh, by the way, have you stopped beating your wife. But USCIS didn't get the questions added to the forms (admin law, ah the review process, etc etc) by the time the law took effect and - PRESTO! - instant non-compliance by thousands who had no way of knowing they weren't complying.

As with the previous visa issues - my head spins because there's a basic standard to prove, ample discretion, but little exercising of that discretion. What do Rob and I have to prove? That we're in a bona fide relationship.

Anyone have a question about that? No, didn't think so. But we have to show the US government in the way they want to be shown. Trouble is, they don't give the best instructions. Or they do and I've just been in school way, way too long. It probably only take the two of us to change a lightbulb, but the number of lawyers and engineers required to correctly assemble this petition is far, far greater.

My high school journalism teacher - one of the nicest and perpetually happy people I've ever met - told me the two most important decisions of your life are where you go to college and who you marry. At the time, I had just chosen to attend Claremont McKenna College. That certainly did turn out to be an important decision; one of the better I've made in my life, in fact. But getting there required one hell of an application. I recall there being much filling in of blanks and the reworking of a personal statement as well as an entire separate essay that literally made me weep with frustration and then with emotion.

So now we've come to decision two: who you marry.

And guess what I'm doing.

Filling out an application.

Unfortunately, this time around, I'm not surrounded by 103 classmates working on the same or similar application. It's like studying for the bar alone again.

I had the college application process down to an art. There was a post-board chart with dates and components. Color-coded markers and post-its. A file box. Hell, I should've started a business back then. I mean, I was ON THE BALL.

Everything old is new again: I sat and performed minor surgery on scraps of paper this evening, shrinking text for a particular visa form question to fit the space provided. It was a fillable pdf, yet the text wouldn't wrap so you could type all you wanted, but you'd only see the first 200 characters. Then I went four rounds with Rob over whether it was complete enough. Should I put "see attached" and less-briefly explain how we met and chronicle our visits over the past year and a half? Should I let the rest of the evidence provided flesh out the story?

If you google up I-129F or K1 visa or combinations thereof along with the word "sample" you get a mixed bag of advice - including many testimonials that are badly outdated. Anything pre-9/11 or bridging the pre-post world is suspect. Still helpful, but suspect.

Is the second-person narrative of this post bothering anyone else yet? Too late to change it all now.

I want our lawyer to be available for this sort of stuff. Of course, being a lawyer now, seeing the (wo)man behind the curtain, knowing that we aren't magic stores of omnipotence, well, I can't see the point in paying more for information that might be no better than what we've cobbled together from the advice we got from the first chunk of change and the 'net and stuff. I really should start another Pho spin-off. There's help to be given and stories to be shared.

But as much as the process frustrates me, it's made me oddly nostalgic. As I tab through pdfs, condense fonts, and reach for the scissors and glue stick, I'm suddenly back in high school, racing desk chairs around a Kinkos while shrinking text book questions and answers to barely legible proportions for study sheets. I'm plowing through college apps. I'm taking pleasure in the infinitely satisfying task of correctly filling in my name, my address, my birthday. I'm fretting about blank spots in my employment history. I'm wondering whether additional pages will be welcomed by admissions officers seeking depth and personality or rejected by Stanford because they made a four page application and they meant a four page application.

I am scared of over-thinking or underestimating this process. Our lawyer's suggestion to Rob was that he tell me not to be a lawyer as I move through these forms. My bigger worry, however, is that I'll be myself. And if we've learned nothing else in our relationship with the USCIS, DHS, and State Department so far, we've learned that my eager, dedicated public servant nerddom does me no good here. There's no points for effort, only reward for getting it right.

Big Day


No, not mine. No date yet.

The TV show, "Big Day," is a 24-style chronicle of a young couple's wedding. It isn't really that good - though it has its moments. The character that speaks most to me, however, is the groom, rather than the bride. He runs a summer camp. In the DVR-ed episode I am watching right now, the groom is visiting his almost father-in-law's hospital where he runs into a former CIT who credits camp counselor groom with giving him the confidence he needed to become a doctor.

Ah, summer camp . . . bless it.

Useful Summary Not Provided By The Government


Navigating USCIS is going to be fun - I can tell already. Their website and selection of forms with lengthy yet incomplete instructions is, well, incomplete. And length.

Some googling yeilds additional information. It may be slightly out of date (the application fee is too low, for example), but it gives an overview of the basic process that I believe is correct.

As for the requested evidence - ticket stubs, passport stamps, photos - well, USCIS - ask and ye shall receive. Finally - validation for our pack-rat behavior, and a reason to be glad for never having gotten around to putting all these things in a scrapbook.

    A girl and her blog take a hike

  • Here, we tackle the world with that patented Phoblog wit. The quoted lyrics above are both misleading and accurate. This space is for recording life with whatever words or pictures that time, my mood, and technology allow.
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