Wednesday, October 19, 2011

205 days and then relax....,

Well it's the 1pm on the 19th of October 2011, and I'm sat in a pub in Soho London, relaxing after one of the most stressful days so far in the whole immigration process.

It all started yesterday, with a train journey from Leeds to London, Kings Cross. Arriving in London at 8pm, I proceeded to my hostel for a nights sleep - not that I got any!

I "awoke" at 5:30am, showered and left the hostel at 6am. The first order of business was, 1) passport photos to American spec (different to uk)
2) find somewhere to store my bag & phone. The embassy won't let you take anything electrical in, including key fobs.

Goulds Pharmacy (100 yards from embassy) do both, so I turned up at 6:45am to find that it doesn't open until 7:30am (my appointment was at 9am). There was a really nice italian coffee shop next door, so I sat down, had a coffee and a bacon sandwich.

7:20am the pharmacy opens, take photos (worst ever picture!!!) and drop off my suitcase and phone.

7:30am queue up at embassy, show letter, and go through security. In embassy by 7:45am. On entry get given a sticker with I-906 on it.

8:00am the embassy comes to life. Numbers start being called out (mainly N numbers - non-immigrant)

9am My number flashes up on screen - here we go!

So I stand in front of this window, and slide my passport & letter under the window. The women on the other side then disappears. A minute or so later she reappears with a bright pink file and then starts looking through it.

Finally I get asked my name and the name of my fiancé - she then asks me to put my left hand on a scanner to take my fingerprints, then the same for my right and then both thumbs.

I then proceed to give her the following documents (& copies): police cert, birth cert, divorce decree & affidavit of support.

She looks through them checks them off a list and then hands me a pink slip, telling me to fill it in once I leave to sit back down. She asks a couple of questions then tells me that I can go sit back down and wait for my next call up.

9:20am my number flashes up again - this is now the main event!

I go to window 15 and am greeted my a smiling American lady. She asks me to put my left hand on a fingerprint scanner and once that goes ok, I have to raise my right hand and say "I do", after see recites an oath in which I promise to tell the whole truth.

She then proceeds to ask me the following questions:

Where did me meet?
When was that?
When did we meet in person?
Has Linsey been to the UK?
When was that?
Were her parents going to the wedding?
Did either of us have children?
Was that my niece in the photos?

She then smiled and said "I'm going to approve your visa"

I think I just stood there looking blank!
She then said, "take your pink slip up to the courier counter and you should get your visa in around 5 days" and that was it! It took all of 5mins! What were we stressing about?

I then paid my courier fee, went back to the pharmacy to collect my things, then phoned Linsey at 9:44am to tell her the news!

All I had to then was find something to do in London until 7:30pm and relax.

See you all in MN in a few weeks!!!


Sunday, October 16, 2011

An INTERVIEW (and a pile of nerves...)

So...right after I posted the last blog...I mean like literally the next day Matt got his letter in the mail from the US Embassy in London giving him his interview date and time.

And when is it, you ask?

Wednesday, October 19th at 9:00am GMT
(so...3:00am MN time.)

Can I just tell you that I am nervous beyond belief?!?!?!?!?!?! Any time my mind wanders to that date and time, just a few days from now, my heart races or skips a beat and I get really nervous and I have to stop, take some deep breaths and remind myself that it's going to be ok... But let me tell you that my mind wanders to that date more and more often the closer we get.

And I have a feeling that I will not be getting any sleep the night and early morning of October 18-19...

This is it folks...well, technically it's not IT it...but this is the final step in the fiance visa process. THE INTERVIEW...dun dun dun! I joke, but I'm terrified!

This interview is what is the final step in allow us to be together permanently. After hours spent working on paperwork for the petition and then the visa and then affidavits of support and proof that, YES!, we have met in person, 4 times...this interview is the final decision making step by the US Govt to allow Matt to move to the US so we can get married and put the computer and skype and IM and phone calls behind us.

So...yep...I'm a little bit nervous...anxious...overwhelmed...worried...excited...emotional...thrilled...
scared...feeling a bit unhinged...etc...etc...etc...

I seem to have lost my appetite. I made a delicious soup last night and some buffalo chicken today and I don't want to eat any of it.

The next 2 days can't go any faster. I wouldn't mind skipping them, to be perfectly honest. I don't think I'll miss anything. Just work, rehearsal, and doing stuff at home. Right?

So...if you are someone who prays and believes in the power of prayer, like I do, please pray that Matt has someone who is nice and gracious and friendly. Pray that our paperwork is all in order and what they are looking for. Pray that the process goes quickly. And pray that they KEEP his passport to stamp and process it for the actual Visa. Keeping the passport is a GOOD thing! It's the thing we want! The thing we need! And if you're not someone who prays, good and happy thoughts would also be gladly and gratefully welcomed!

Here's to the next few days...that they go quickly and smoothly. That Matt makes it to London without any craziness (like last time for the Medical Exam). That he can get a little sleep in the hotel before getting up VERY early to get to the Embassy on time. That all the paperwork that is required is there and that they KEEP HIS give us the VISA!

I'm sure I'll post something here and on Facebook on Wednesday after I've heard from Matt. (I told him that he had to call me right before he goes in and when he was out of the Embassy and I sure am hoping that that is before I go to work at 7:00am.)

A HUGE thanks to all of our family and friends who have been nothing but supportive throughout this whole process. We couldn't have done without your love and encouragement. Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that it is stressful...but until you have done so while trying to figure out US Customs you really haven't had it that bad...I think just planning a wedding would be a dream right about now...

Like I said, this isn't IT's will just be the first step completed and Matt actually moving to the States. There is a whole other process of paperwork that will be tackled once we're married and a few years after that and then theirs always the Citizenship option...whew! It really is a pile of paperwork! You should see my's full!

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Waiting Game...

I know, I know…I keep saying this…I am TERRIBLE at journaling, why would I ever think I could keep up a blog…but I am determined to get better at this…call it my new “school year” resolution. J

Just thought that tonight I would give a little update on how the process is going along.

Let’s just start from the beginning…

1: Mid March 2011 – On my trip to the UK in March Matt and I finished filling out the petition paperwork and gathered the remaining items I needed to send in.

2: Early April – I receive a letter in the mail saying they have received my petition and give us a case number to follow online.

3: March 29th – I mailed in a petition form I-129f to the USCIS requesting that Matt, my fiancé, be granted permission to file paperwork for a fiancé visa to enter the US to get married.

4: We wait…and were told we could wait up to 5 months…so counting out it looked like the earliest we might hear anything would be end of August.

5: June 29th – I travel back to the UK to spend 2 ½ weeks with Matt on my summer break.

6: June 30th – We got a RFE, a Request for Evidence, stating that we needed to send in more evidence that we had met in person. A bit ironic…because when I got the letter in the mail I was actually over in the UK on my third trip visiting him there and our 4th time together. I was completely overwhelmed. I was a bit emotional, to say the least. A few tears were shed. Here I was doing what they requested evidence for and I can’t do anything about it. The letter was also stuck in the post office in St Paul because I had had my mail held for the time I was gone. A few calls home, a quick change on the postal services website to stop my mail hold, a trip by mom to the house and the letter read to me over the phone very late one evening in the UK and we determined that it appears that the copies of the plane ticket stubs didn’t have the year on them, only the month and date and that didn’t prove that we had met in person within the last 2 years.

7: July 18th – I return home to the US.

8: July 20th – I overnight the new proof of evidence to the USCIS.

9: We wait…but not too long this time…only a week…

10: July 29th – As I sit in a workshop at a conference I check my email and there is a message saying we have been APPROVED! And what can I do there…I am ecstatic! I can hardly sit still. I want to scream and jump up and down, but I don’t think that is very professional. And problem is…it’s 8:00pm in MN, making it 2:00am in the UK…I send Matt a text and call my family!  Step 1 = complete.

11: We wait…again…while the USCIS send the paperwork to the NVC, from California to Massachusetts.

12: A couple weeks later we call the NVC and get our new number.  Matt then calls the medical center in London and gets a date for his medical exam, August 30th.

13: We continue to wait for Matt to get a letter from the Embassy in London telling him that the paperwork has been received and what he needs to do next.

14: August 30th – Matt travels to London…not an easy trip, but he makes it and has his medical and travels back home to Bradford. (Read his entry earlier on this adventurous day.)

15: August 31st – Matt has a letter from the Embassy saying that have received his paperwork (my petition) and requests additional paperwork to be filled out and returned ASAP.

16: September 2nd – Matt mails in the new paperwork to the Embassy and we begin the waiting process for the next letter telling him when his interview is.

17: And we wait…

18: And we wait…

19: And we wait…

Now…3 weeks might not seem that long to most, but when  you are trying to plan when one of you is going to move to a different country, when your family members will be available for a small, private ceremony, when to schedule in some premarital counseling, when life as you know it will change completely and you won’t have to sit in front of a computer to talk to your Love every day, three weeks sure seems like a life time.

And I feel on edge…I pray everyday for peace and for the strength to get through that day with possibly no answer. You wake up every morning hoping that today is the day that single piece of paper will arrive in the post giving a date. And then mid day, MN time, you find out it hasn’t arrived…again…and the waiting process begins again.
It’s hard to know. Hard to know if they actually received your paper work. Hard to know if it’s being processed. Hard to know if we will actually be able to make the deadlines we have set together for when Matt will move over here.

We have called the Embassy and State Department several times and get the same answers, “things haven’t been processed, London is one of the busiest embassies in the world, they are backed up there right now, don’t make any plans, don’t pay for anything, don’t buy any tickets, don’t put down any money, call back next week.” Every person I have spoken to there has been so friendly and helpful, but the waiting and not knowing is incredibly stressful.

We know that we are in God’s hands (as well as the US Governments) and that in time things will happen. Matt will get that piece of paper with that single date and time, have his interview, get the visa and then move over here. We just don’t know when…being a planning kind of person this is just killer…

And again…we wait…

And while we wait I’ll pray for peace & patience…
And I’ll try to get better at putting up more posts in the blog…
I’ll spend some more time on the computer talking with Matt…
I’ll direct a new show in the RAMS Theatre…
I’ll rake some leaves and get ready for a MN winter…
I’ll Clean & organize the house for Matt to move over…
I’ll spend time with family and friends…

And hopefully within all that waiting that single piece of paper with a date and time will arrive, more paperwork will be filled out and mailed to the UK, an interview will be had, a visa stamp will be given, and then the sweetest thing will happen…Matt will move to the US and we will start our new life together. No computer screens, no vacations to visit each other, no more time apart…no more waiting…

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Grindahl's, Guns and Games - Days 2 of Thanksgiving 2010

First of all...UGH! I am terrible at journaling, so why did I think having a blog would be different. :( Egads! It has been over 2 months since I last posted and I am WAY behind here...I still have the rest of Thanksgiving, Christmas, the musical, spring break, the spring play, and summer in the UK to do...these next few entries may be chalk full or may be short and sweet...we shall see!

Day 2 - Trout Lake Camp!
The day after Thanksgiving, while most people in the US are getting up to go shopping and get deal after deal after deal in the malls and department stores the Grindahl clan is up and ready to go to spend another day celebrating Thanksgiving...this time in the great out of doors at Trout Lake Camp.

We got up, packed up for a night away at the camp and headed out. By the time we got on the road it was almost lunch time, but I just can't do it...wake up and NOT eat breakfast that we stopped at Starbucks for a breakfast sandwich and a chai tea for me...and another stop at McDonald's for a burger for Matt. Then it was officially on the road to camp for the next couple of days. The drive up was nice because we got to spend the entire time together just chatting away like we normally do, but there wasn't the computer screen or 4000 miles or a 6 hour time difference to get in the way.

Matt made comment that he thought MN was so flat and I argued with him that I didn't think so...well, he hadn't been to Iowa or Nebraska yet...and I hadn't been to the UK and now that I have I see what he means. MN is pretty flat...well, in the lower half of the state at least. We'll take him up north into the woods sometime. :)

We arrived at camp, put our stuff in our rooms and got all bundled up to go do some skeet shooting with the boys. It was pretty chilly for a Thanksgiving weekend and I got cold and even had to go sit in the car to warm myself up for a few minutes...something Matt likes to remind me of from time to he was just hanging out outside, no problem, in the cold, cold weather and the rest of us Minnesotans were warming ourselves up in the car. Well...we will soon see who is warming themselves up in the car next time.  Skeet shooting was fun! And we all did pretty well. Even me, the token girl, got a few good shots in.

It was then back to camp for Thanksgiving dinner #2. We had a delicious traditional meal all together in Shalom and Matt even had a glass of root beer. Now you have to know that Matt was constantly making fun of American root beer and he ever found a 6 pack in the UK and drank a can and said that it was disgusting. I told him of course it would be disgusting if it was made in the UK. You need to drink the proper American stuff to really get a good root beer...and wouldn't you know it...he took a drink and turned to me and said..."This is a glass of root beer and I actually like it." Or something along those lines. get him to like peanut butter. You know...smashed up peanuts! ;)

Dinner done we decided to do what we Grindahl's do best when all games! We love to play games and this time it was kind of Grindahl games baptismal by fire for poor Matt (again). Catch Phrase was pulled out...and Matt did a pretty decent job of keeping up! He even got the word Oriels. As in the baseball team...and for someone who doesn't know that an Oriel is a bird and a baseball team he had a fantastic description of "...ummm...ok...this word sounds like a famous American cookie that you all like..." OREOS! Good job, love! :)

After lots of good ol' Grindahl laughter we decided to move on to something a bit more challenging...and strategic...Killer Bunnies! Luke and Jacqui had brought a new game along that required one to gain bunnies for oneself and to kill others bunnies. What a great game! Killer Bunnies!!!!!!! Again...lots of laughter! And then bed time...
The boys - Luke, Nate, Nic and Matt

Nate taking a shot...

Matt out with the family taking aim...
Dad telling and showing us how it's done.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Train, A Taxi, A Medical and Platform 9 & 3/4

Today (30/08/2011) I completed yet another step on the path to getting my US Visa and most importantly starting my life with Linsey.
Before I'm able to go for the interview at the US embassy and hopefully get given my K! Visa, I'm required to attend a medical - the US government in its wisdom have only one medical practice in the UK authorised to conduct the medicals. It also won't come as a surprise to hear that it's held in London – 200 miles from Leeds
Now when I came to book the interview, I remembered that I was attending a family wedding in my parents home county of Worcestershire, so being rather clever, I decided a journey to London from Worcester, was easier that all the way from Leeds. I also thought that a family day out London would be fun, so invited my parents to come down with me! Unfortunately due to circumstances, only one could make it - so after a short discussion it was decided that my Mum would go down with me. She would shop, while I got prodded and poked (with a small amount of stabbing). It was also decided that we would take the train as it would be a) cheaper & b) less prone to unforeseen events - how wrong we were!!
The Day arrives – Tuesday 30th August
The day started off relatively well - Mum & I were dropped off at Birmingham International, and we decided to take the High speed Virgin train - 125mph, Birmingham to London in 1hr 30mins. :-)
We arrived at the station at 9:30am to be told that off peak travel (much cheaper) would not be available until after 10am. So we sat, had a coffee and watched the clock tick over. 10am, we got to the ticket counter, explained what we needed and walked away with our tickets. Mums return journey would be back to Worcester, and mine Leeds. My return journey was set for an hour after Mums, so I could make sure she got on the right train! ;-)
So 10:20am got on the train, and we set off expecting to arrive in London at around 11:45am, plenty of time to explore before my medical at 2:30pm.
11am: the train stops at Rugby (not a stop on the timetable). The driver informs us that there has been an incident on the line. We should resume in 10mins
11:30 we're told a train has broken down, but that the line should be clear at 12
12:00 get told that the broken down train is actually on fire, and the fire service are trying to put it out. But they still expect to resume service
12:30 all lines southbound are cancelled (by this point trains are backing up behind & alongside us). A statement is released saying that trains at Rugby will now return to their destination, you are free to take one of these - however if you want to continue your journey there will be a bus (but they're not sure when they will turn up).
At this point I've rung the medical centre to push back my appointment, mum decides to go back (all fares refunded) on one of the returning trains, and as I now have nothing to lose, I choose to stay and try a bus – but not holding much hope of getting to London on time. So Mum leaves - and I sit and wait for a bus.
I suddenly overhear a conversation between four other commuters, discussing the option of a taxi to London. One of them pulls out, and I butt in (not like me at all). "could I join you?" I ask, "certainly, it'll cost about £35 each. Are you ok with that?", "yep - I really need to get to London"
So 10 mins later, I'm in a taxi with three other people I don't know, plus the friendliest taxi driver I've ever met. A Sikh, who's lived in the UK for 47 years – we got his whole life story on the way down and loved every minute of it.
2:35pm Arrive in London (Euston station). Now have 40mins to make my rearranged appointment.
2:40pm arrive at underground, buy ticket. Find out that signal failures are plaguing the entire underground. 10 min wait for train (should be every 3mins)
3:05pm after two taking two underground trains, I walk out into Oxford Street, the medical centre is 5mins walk.
3:10pm - can I find the blasted medical centre? Seek help
3:15pm time of my appointment - on the right street, can I see the right building – nope!
3:20pm find it - a small brass plaque reads "Knightsbridge Doctors" ring bell, get let in
Arrive in reception; give my name between huge gaps for breath, due to all my running. "Mr Owen, please have a seat can you please fill in this form and can I have the documents you were asked to bring" the receptionist asks
"Certainly, here's the questionnaire, police certificate & vaccination record - oh s#@t! where's the vaccination record, I'm sure I put it in the pack?"
I'm already worked up with the journey down, so this is the last thing I need! I get told no need to worry; you can discuss the vaccines with the nurse. So I sit down and await my fate.
Round one: x-ray. Go's fine,
I go back to the waiting room and ring my parents explaining about the vaccination record, they agree to have a look around their house for it. I get a text from them a few minutes later "We have it, do you want us to fax it?", I reply "Not yet – let me talk to the nurse"
Round two: the doctor. we discuss my answers to the questionnaire. Blood pressure gets taken: doctor: "seems high", me: "I'm not surprised!"
Then…."Have you got a vaccination record?", "Err no, but I can have my parents fax it across, have you got a fax number?"
She hands me the number and I quickly ring them and give them the number.
I then get told nope – "sorry, we thought we had it, but actually it was just the list of vaccines you need!" I tell them "not to worry – I know I can put them on hold and have them at a later date"
I then return to the doctor, she checks various other things - won't go into too much detail ;-) and finally gives me another blood pressure check – it's dropped, so everything is good.
My phone then starts ringing constantly as the doctor finishes up – I finally get up to answer it, and see a text message saying – "found it!" . I give the good news to the doctor, who tells me "that she'll inform the nurse".
As I'm back sat in the waiting room, I ring my parents, to find out what went wrong. It seems that the vaccination record had been placed with my nephews comics!
So one last session – I go into see the nurse, who tells me that the only vaccination missing in my MMR (which I know about), and would I like to have it there. Yep, and as she is giving me the injection, I find out that she's from Norway – makes a few jokes about Mn being very similar (except for the mountains) and I'm suddenly all done.
I'm then led out to reception, pay - £250 ($400) and I'm out of the building 1 ½ hrs later.
First stop is for a beer at marble Arch and some food (first of the day) and then I head off towards Kings Cross Station
Harry Potter
During my last visit to London with Linsey, we both visited Kings Cross Station to try and find platform 9 ¾ (photos on facebook). However I had heard that since then, they had actually identified the platform with the exact location to enter it.
On this occasion, I had a quick look, but couldn't find it, until sat waiting for my train – I saw a sign right in front of me (I must be blind) with directions to "Harry Potters Platform 9 ¾"
I found it!! Now time to get onto my own train and a 3hr trip back to Leeds…..
Thanks for reading

Monday, August 8, 2011


Sorry for the delay in the blog writing, but both Linsey and I have been very distracted, with work, theatre and each other! ;-) . Normal service will return soon, we promise

Now, all the previous blog entries have been about the early the part of our relationship, and we will go back there and fill in the missing details, however we've had some new developments in the Visa application process - so this is to bring everyone upto date with the current situation.

The visa that I have applied for is known as a K1 Visa, this allows me entry to the United States for a period of 90 days, with the intention of getting married.  Once the marriage takes place, I can then apply for a change of status and get what's known commonly as a "Green Card", allowing me residency.

The application for a K1 visa is split into 2 main parts, the first part is the filing of a Petition by a US citizen (in this case Linsey) seeking permission for the alien benficiary (me) to be allowed to apply for a K1 visa.

Linsey submitted the petition (and there is a whole other story there, with getting it all ready) at the end of March 2011.  We then proceeded to hear nothing (except for a notification of recipet) until the begining of July, when while she was visiting me in the UK, Linsey checked the USCIS website. There was movement!

The website stated that a request for furher information had been sent (they wanted proof we had met), and that we had until the deadline to submit this additional information. Hang on, when's the deadine?  A quick phonecall from the UK to USCIS in the US, and we're told "the deadline date is in the notice request we have mailed out, sorry but we can't tell you over the phone!"

Linsey has had all her mail held by USPS while she's in the UK, so how can we get the notice. 10mins on the internet, we've unblocked her mail and her Mom is going to drive over to Linsey's house and sort through it.

It turns out, once we taken a look at the notice, we have until September to submit the extra info - whew!! :-)  - but once back in the US Linsey sends the extra evidence to USCIS (we have all the documents to hand) and we wait with baited breath. The indication is that it could take up to 60 days to process.

July 28 2011 - 8 days after Linsey sends the extra information we get told  - "Approved"!!! There is a huge sigh of reflief from both of us. We had both felt like pressure cookers, and we can now relax for a short period.

So what's next, well USCIS have now forwarded the approval notice onto the National Visa Center.  The NVC will create a new case file, and forward it onto the US Embassy in London - this could anything from 4 to 10 weeks.

In the mean time I have to do the following:
1) Renew my passport (for my benefit - not a requirement)
2) Apply for a copy of my Police Record - Hopefully blank ;-) 
3) Have a medical with the embassy approved Doctor (I require my case number for this)

and finally, 5) Have a immigration interview at the Embassy - with hopefully a visa at the end of it.

So there is still lots to do - most of it now in the UK. But are are still on schedule and are still planning on completing for me to come over either November or Decemeber, but we will update as things move.

I will now let Linsey get back to telling our story (including the most unromantic marriage proposal ever!)


Friday, May 13, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 - Part 1 - The Ellefson's

Sorry that it has been so very long...the play at the middle school takes up much of my time during the last 3 weeks up to the performances, and then I usually need about a week to recuperate. Goodness, I'm getting old!

Our first "official" meeting at the airport out of the way we trudge into a Thanksgiving weekend with the Grindahl's...not one to be scoffed at! Here goes...

Thursday, November 25th
Thanksgiving morning I prepped a salad to bring to dinner while Matt did his first ever bit of shoveling! It thought it was very sweet that he offered to shovel, but his first comment after having first stepped outside of "You call this a shovel?" had me a bit worried. At least it had only shoveled an inch or so. A light dusting of sorts we might call in MN. I finished the salad, Matt finished the shoveling...well, sort of...he shoveled from the back door, around the side of the house and the front sidewalk, but didn't do the sidewalk out the back to the garage or the driveway. Although Matt's first shoveling may not have been up to Minnesotan standards...he was shoveling, and I didn't have to do it! I was elated! After 41/2 years of caretaking and 2 years of living on my own there was someone else that can shovel...even if only that once...but he'll learn. It's not like it only snows once in Minnesota! :) It may have seemed like a little thing to him, shoveling the sidewalk, but it was huge in my book!

The "work" being done we headed over to my parents for a quick meet and greet of the immediate family before we threw him to the rest of the extended family later that afternoon. And I was nervous...I had never brought someone home to meet the family before, let alone someone who I had just literally met in person the day before. Whew! Heart racing, palms sweating, stomach lurching we got in the car and drove the 7 miles to my parents house. We got their just in time for my brother and sister-in-law to arrive with my sister and brother-in-law from the airport. It was a bit frenzied, but introductions out of the way we had a seat in the living room and just spent some time hanging out playing a little Wii bowling...which I do believe I won and had some general chatting. The family was very accepting! I felt at east and I think Matt did too.

AND...after 8 months, Hilary could finally hear his voice...silly, but true, every time I would talk on Skype to Matt and she would stop by she would make him stop talking or have me put him on mute because she "didn't want to hear his voice" until they met in person. We are still not sure as to why this was what she wanted, but there you go. So, after 8 months of silence, the voice was heard. I have a feeling it had something to do with his accent, but ok...and...

One of my favorite moments of the weekend was about to happen. My Aunt Sue and Uncle Dan were showing up with my grandparents at my parents house before the big meal at Deb's. When they came in it was introductions all around again and Matt sure was charming. You have to remember, if you've already forgotten, we haven't seen each other in social settings...anywho...he greeted my Uncle and Grandpa Omar with a nice handshake and gave my Aunt Sue and Grandma Ruby hugs with a kiss on the cheek...and here it is, one of my favorite moments...Grandma giggled and said "Oooo, I like him!" And gave me this knowing look, the look of raised eyebrows and a grin only a grandma can give.

Did some more bowling. Chatted a bit more and then back in the car and headed out to Deb's for the meal.

Poor Matt! My family is pretty big and we are very close. I think we just stood in the doorway making introductions for the first 10 minutes. I just told him, if you can't remember any of the guys names just call them Paul (as we have 3 Paul's - an uncle, and 2 cousins hubbies). All settled in, introductions done, food ready, we dug in and Matt enjoyed his first Thanksgiving meal. (I'll let him describe the food, cause being the Yank I'm used to the traditional Thanksgiving food etc. No biggie for me.)

As dinner came to a close one of my cousins passed around a list for people to sign up to go out and play some snow football. Oh...I should define that as "American" football.  Both being things Matt had yet to experience..."American" football and playing in the snow. So, my brother, Nate, signed him up. Matt leaned over and asked me what he had just been signed up for. I told him he didn't have to go, especially because he has a bum knee, but he said he wanted to go....and go he did. The family got him outfitted with gloves and a hat etc and he trudged outside to play some ball.

Deb's house has this magnificent picture window looking out to the back yard where they were playing so a few of us settled into our front row, "heated" seats and watched as they all ran, passed, slipped and fell on the snow, which once trudged through reveled ice underneath. (And sorry to say it babe, but you were the best to watch. Not because I love you so, because I do, but because I think you were down as much as you were up. But boy did you try hard! And they even threw you the ball a few times too!) But unfortunately in one of those stumbles Matt twisted his bum knee again. It was at that time that my Aunt Sue turned to me and asked if we could start calling you limpy...welcome to the family! :) I was worried about Matt and his knee because it was only the first day and he was limping and awful lot, but refused to come in until it was over. I didn't want to go out there and ruin his fun so I just stayed inside. I figured that he was an adult and could make the decision about coming in on his own. Plus, it looked like he was enjoying himself. And I think he did.

It started getting dark and it was also getting close to the time for the movie to go on! Yep! We watch a movie...and can any of you guess what movie that might be? It's my all time favorite! The whole family knows it, because shortly after we arrived it was announced to me that we would be watching ELF later that evening on their screen. What fun! And Matt had never seen it! So we settled in to watch a movie I know all the words to! :) And it was great! Sitting next to Matt, surrounded by my family, watching Elf...what more could a girl want?

During the movie I was also introduced to the most addicting game...EVER! Yep! Angry Birds! I wasn't very good at it. Apparently catapulting angry little birds at greedy little green pigs is not one of my talents, but it sure is fun! And Matt is really good at it was fun to have some lessons on  killing the little piggies from an expert!

After the movie we ended up sitting at a table sharing our story and the details of our first meeting and official date the day before. There was also some conversation on the difference between English and American. One of mine and Matt's "favorite" topics. ;) But I will save some of those differences for another post. There are plenty...and some have caused laughter, some have caused confusion, while others have caused just plain frustration.

The evening wound down and we decided to head out because the next day we were heading up to Trout Lake Camp for the day and overnight for Thanksgiving with the Grindahl's.

And that was day 2...more to come!

Our first official photo together...Thanksgiving Day, 2011         

My Grandparents - Omar & Ruby (and Grandma's little smile.)

Nate & Heidi (all the way from Maine!)

Monday, April 18, 2011

The first time ever I saw your face...

Ok...well not exactly...but here is my take on how we met for the very first time in person.

Matt's plane was scheduled to take off at about 6:00am from Leeds and land in Minneapolis at noonish the following day.  Because it was an international flight it meant he needed to be to the airport at least 2 hours before take off so that meant he would leave the house at 3:30 in the morning in order to get there in time. So, in order to help with the process of traveling to the US and the time change and all, I spent the evening talking on Skype to Matt until his taxi arrived.

Matt left for the airport so I decided to get a few more things picked up around the house and take a quick trip to the grocery store. An hour went by and I was just getting ready to walk out the door and my phone rang. On the other end there is Matt saying don't freak out, but his flight got canceled and they were rerouting him to Manchester. I honest to goodness thought he was joking. I told him to stop messing around. And he repeated himself and said it wasn't a joke. I told him again to quit it and he said there was nothing to quit and to just listen. Then my heart stopped. We only had 4 days together so if his flight got canceled that could be it. Meaning, not meeting then until Christmas. But the airline had found a flight for him in Manchester so he said goodbye, hopped in a taxi and headed for another airport. We would lost about 5 hours at the start of the long weekend, but at least he was still coming.  I hopped in the car and ran to the grocery store.

After I got home I put the few things that I bought away and crawled into bed.  I was worried I wouldn't be able to sleep, and I really didn't sleep all that well, but I did sleep some. I had asked Matt to text me to keep me informed of his progress since every thing had changed and so every once in a while I would receive a text that would wake me up, but it was ok. At least I felt informed and he was on his way.

The next morning I didn't do a whole lot. Just lots of sitting around and waiting. Reading, watching a movie, pacing, etc etc etc. It sure felt like a long day of waiting in great anticipation. And then it started to snow. Blech! Normally I don't mind the snow, but this could mean they wouldn't land and I got nervous, but as I watched the planes route online it appeared that they would land and so I decided to take off for the airport a little earlier then I had planned on and make a couple of stops on the way.

I am not one who drinks a whole lot of alcohol so I really don't know what to buy, but I do know that Matt enjoys a beer or a glass of wine so I thought I would pick up a little of each.  Hilary is always talking about Trader Joe's 3 Buck Chuck so that was one stop. And Nic had given me the names of a couple of good (not America) beers to choose from. Once those errands had been run I made my way to the airport.

I think I was there at least an hour early and tried really hard to sit still. That didn't work. I was nervous. Anxious. Excited. Worried. 8 months of talking to this person every day, having lots of very intimate conversations. Having him there during some of the scariest times of my life when my dad was so sick. Of saying I love you. And who knows what this weekend would hold. I had done lots of praying hoping that everything would go perfectly. That my family would like him. That he would like my family. That we would still like each other face to may laugh at that statement, but it was a real fear. What if we weren't what we had expected/anticipated/thought the other would be? What if only one of us still liked the other? What if neither of us did? I couldn't breathe or stand still and my heart was beating out of control.

And then it was 5:00...and I was standing there and I got a text saying he had landed, wondering who had ordered all the snow. I texted back saying I was standing to the right of the stairs when he came down and that he had ordered the snow. And then I waited. And waited. People kept coming out, and no Matt. One of my former youth group kids, coming home from school for the holidays even walked by and we said hi, hugged, I explained that I was waiting to meet my boyfriend for the first time, and she quickly excused herself. And I still waited. Hmmmm...people were walking past me with British accents and still no Matt.  And then no one else. I was very confused.

Then all of a sudden this guy, with lots of messy hair came barreling through the doors and taking off to the left at a very quick pace.  It took me a second to realize that he was here and completely missing me. So I'm waving my hands over my head and shouting out his name, shouting out his name a few times and he finally realizes that it's me, but with a very quizzical look on his face. We met said a quick hello, his luggage hadn't arrived, and rushed off to the baggage counter. It wasn't until we were standing in line that we actually had our first hug.

And how did it feel? To be perfectly honest...there were so many different feelings and emotions and thoughts going through my brain. I had no idea what to think or feel at that time. It was quite overwhelming. 8 months of seeing his face on a computer screen and hearing his voice through a speaker and there he was standing next to me. Holding my hand.  He was real! It was great! It was scary! It was weird! But mostly it was wonderful!

In hind sight we have both said that it was probably for the best that we met the way that we did. 8 months of build up can create some pretty high expectations and all of those were thrown out the window with one bag being left behind in London. It broke the ice really fast and made it feel like I was meeting an old friend, someone I've known all my life and it made it much easier. It would be great to have this super romantic story of seeing each other across the airport, running into each others arms, followed by a long embrace, but well, that's not how it happened and now we have a funny story to share with everyone.

We got everything sorted out for his missing luggage and took off for our first official date, a Starbucks. It was nice to just sit down for a few minutes and catch up on the past 36 chaotic hours and just be together, doing something normal, without a computer monitor surrounding each others faces. After Starbucks we headed down the road to see my friend Christine so Matt could get his hair cut. And boy did he have lots of hair...and it was thick and curly. Christine kept telling him he needed to keep it longer because he had such great hair. She did a great job too. Thanks Christine!

Hair cut finished we headed to K-Mart to get a few essentials from K-Mart and headed back to the house. I really enjoyed showing him my house, the house he had only seen bits and pieces of behind me on the computer screen. Lola also seemed excited to meet him. Here was the person behind the voice she kept hearing every day. It was also nice to just sit next to him on the couch and talk and hold hands and be able to touch him and know he was really there and that we weren't dreaming up the last 8 months. I was sleepy from all the stress of waiting and the anxiousness of it all, but I can only imagine how tired Matt was. So it was time for some shut eye before he had to meet the family the following day...Thanksgiving day in the US!

2 Planes, 1 Date and a Haircut

Up until know, Linsey has been filling in the background story behind our relationship and the rollercoaster ride its been along the way.

She has asked me a number of times to contribute to the blog, but I thought it best to wait until the "Big Event", our meeting in person for the first time.  A sort of parallel view looking in from both sides.

So, finally a date is set: 24th November 2010. The idea being that with Linsey's family together for Thanksgiving, I can do a one stop shop in meeting them all. Now due to work commitments, I was only able to take a few days off, the 24th through to the 29th November, a flying visit as it were.

The tickets had been booked, I was to fly out from Leeds at 6am (GMT) and land in Minneapolis (via Amsterdam) at around 12 noon (CDT), some 12 hrs later. Due to the early start, I had decided that I wouldn't go to bed, I would need to be at the airport at 4am, so I would then need to be up by 3am to allow me get to the airport on time, and check I had everything before leaving the house.

This was going to be a marathon session, and so I asked Linsey to stay online, so keeping me awake, I would then just sleep on the plane - if only I knew at that point how long that marathon would really be!

We both had a great time catching up, and planning on what we would be doing and we were really excited about the next few hours. 3.30am arrived, I had a taxi outside to take me to the airport, and it was T-minus 15hrs to being able to hold each other.  I joked that unless she wore a computer monitor over her head, I wouldn't recognise her when I arrived! I said my good byes, the next time we spoke it would be while stood facing each other.

Arriving at the airport, I was pleased to see I was at the front of the queue for check-in, and was keen to get my bags checked and go through to departures.

4.15am: check-in has yet to open (it should have opened at 4am). 
4.20am: KLM staff member announces, that unfortunately the flight is cancelled due to a cracked windscreen on the plane.  My world drops away, how am I meant to meet my connecting flight in Amsterdam now?
4:30am: I'm directed over to the KLM ticket desk, they inform me that they have arranged an alternative flight for me, but not via Amsterdam.  I will now fly - Manchester to London, London to Minneapolis.  How the hell am I to get to Manchester, it's 60miles away?  KLM will send me in a taxi!  Only problem, I will be over 5 hours late into Minneapolis.

I then decide to call Linsey - I told her that my flight had been cancelled, "that's a joke right?". "err, Nope - but I am getting another flight, I won't arrive though until after 5pm CDT!, see you later"

I then have an hours taxi ride to Manchester airport, where I finally check onto my first flight.  I now have a 5 hr wait in Manchester, thankfully the airline kindly upgraded my ticket so I have use of a business lounge for that time.  I decide to settle in and spend the next 5 hours eating muffins, drinking copious amounts of espresso and reading every newspaper available.

I catch my flight to London, then a very quick dash from terminal 1 to 4 (I only have an hour in London) and I'm finally on my way on a Delta flight to the states!  I struggle to sleep on the plane, as I'm now too excited.

As we make landfall, all I can see is white - how much snow is there on the ground?  The pilot makes an announcement, the runway is closed, we may have to divert!  Then a second announcement, they are going to reopen, but we are in a queue, and may have to wait 40mins. Suddenly 2 mins later, we're told permission has been given to land, I don't think I've ever landed so quickly.  The pilot has obviously been told to put down ASAP. The wheels touch down, and I'm on US soil at 5pm CDT, the first thing I do is to text Linsey: 

"Just landed - waiting to get off the plane. Can't wait to see you - btw: who ordered all the snow? :)" 

She texts me back: 

"Yay!!!! I'm Standing to your right as you come down the stairs. And I thought you ordered the snow.  It's here and so are you"

I'm so excited, I can't wait to get off the plane.  I arrive in immigration, I'm the 2nd in line at the International visitor queue,  the US nationals queue is huge, most of the passengers are obviously Americans coming back for the holidays.  This is going to be so quick - no more waiting around!  I now have an image from Love Actually going though my head, that scene at the end, where couples meet each other at the arrivals gate. Thinking that's how it's going to be!

Immigration is a pain, I get asked so many questions.  Do Homeland Security want any tourists to visit the USA?

I finally make it through, and I'm in the baggage claim hall.  I wait for my bags, and wait, and wait.  I'm finally the only one still stood there and the luggage belt has stopped!  I walk over to customs - the very helpful customs official there tells me I can find a luggage claim desk in the next hall (domestic arrivals) and he lets me though with just a smile and a wave.

Right, where's the luggage counter, Ah I can see it, I'm now very tired, pissed off and want to get this over with so I can meet Linsey - she must be wondering by now where I am?

So I'm striding off toward the counter and I hear a shout calling my name.  I turn around and don't see anyone I recognise so carry on.  I hear a second shout, and this person is running towards me, I suddenly recognise that it's Linsey.  For a moment I'm confused, how the hell did she get into the baggage claim area?

I give her a quick hug, and very quickly explain, that I need to find my bags, and practically yank her with me towards the counter - very romantic!

The women at the counter is extremely helpful, and as she's looking for my bags on the computer I finally turnaround to Linsey and say Hi!  We have a hug and I try explain more slowly this time what has happened.

I'm then told that my bags are still in London, and will arrive tomorrow, however they will drop them off at Linsey's house.  It's time then to leave the airport.

Linsey and I and spoken many times about what we would have done dating wise, if we had lived in the same city.  I had mentioned that for our first date, I would have taken her to Starbucks, as I know how much she enjoys going.  So it's our first port of call after the airport.  I was surprised at the choice on offer and didn't recognise a number of the drinks.  In the end I had a salted hazelnut chocolate ( I must admit - I wouldn't have another).  But we could finally relax and have a proper conversation after all the madness of the last 24hrs.

The 2nd stop after Starbucks was a haircut for me.  I hadn't cut my hair in the previous 11months, so it was getting quite long.  Linsey had a friend who I was told was a great hairdresser, so I had purposely waited till then to get it cut. As it turned out, Christine was a great hairdresser and did a brilliant job with my mess of hair.  So an hour in from landing, and I had already sampled an American Starbucks and got my hair cut!

We did one last trip, to a K-Mart to get some bits an pieces that I needed - as I had no luggage, and it was off to Linseys house.

It was a relief finally to arrive at her house, a quick tour, an introduction to Lola (her dog) and I could finally sit down and relax, suffice to say, I was that tired, I didn't even finish the beer that Linsey had brought specially for me!  We sat and caught up further, did a lot of hugging - it was strange to actually be holding someone you had only seen on a computer screen for 7 months.

So finally after being awake for over 40hrs, my head hit the pillow, and I could look forward to tomorrow and meeting all her family...... 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Summer ends, fall begins and tickets to the US

Dad was out of the hospital and at home doing his therapies. Thanks to some great family friends dad had a workout bench built especially for him and set up in the living room so there was easy access for his workouts and therapies. Both my aunts also came down for a week at a time to help out with the first couple of weeks he was home.

As difficult and scary things had been our family clung to our faith and talked about how important it was to hold onto to it tightly. No one asks for illness to strike their family. No one desires to go through a trauma, but I truly believe it's your attitude through it that keeps you going.  There were many times I wanted to just give up and doubt, but it was dad's great attitude through it all that really, truly kept us together. His strength in his own faith was the light that shown on all of us as we walked through the fog this past summer. Thank you dad for keeping the faith and showing us how to as well! I love you!

Being August work was really kicking off for me since school was just around the corner. Matt's company asked him to stay for an additional month and he accepted while he continued to look for another job. August being so busy meant that it went by quickly and before you know it the month was over, school was about to start and Matt was still without a job. A scary place to be. It was the last week i August and Matt got a call from an agency about a job opportunity. If I remember correctly, the call came on Tuesday, Wednesday he went in for an interview, Thursday they had him come out to the company to take a look around, Friday was his last day at his job at S&I and Monday he started his new job at Cameron's. Whew! But God had provided at the right time.

The new job was a contracted job for 6 months and with me coming at Christmas and him taking the entire time off we were finding it hard to find a time for him to come over to the US. My work schedule at the school and in the RAMS Theatre program is a hard one to work around for vacations at random times. The calendar for the school year is pretty set and once we start a show I'm in rehearsals for the duration of the 6-8 weeks of production time.

I believe it was sometime in the beginning of October that we had the discussion of Matt coming over at Thanksgiving for a few days...and another set of tickets were purchased! Matt would be having his first American Thanksgiving!

The next couple of months were chaotic with rehearsals, tech, and performances for my directorial debut in the RAMS Theatre. And it all went off with a smash! It was lots of fun...just one thing missing, Matt sitting in the audience. He had heard enough about it over the 2 months, but unfortunately he wasn't able to actually see it in person.

And the countdown to Thanksgiving 2010 began...

*Shortest entrance so far, but watch for the next entrance...the first time we met in person... :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Summer in the hospital and tickets to the UK

Summer 2010 was a very difficult one for the Grindahl family. Mom and dad had been planning a trip to Ecuador with their church and a few weeks before they left dad started feeling weaker and weaker. They questioned whether or not they should still go, but in the end decided that he would be ok and went. When they were gone in Ecuador I took off for the week in Nebraska.

Matt and I had talked about meeting in person during the summer because it was the easiest for me and my work schedule, but due to circumstances with his job he gave a couple of months notice and started looking for another job. With the job situation up in the air it would have been difficult for him to leave the UK and come to the US for an extended period of time. And this isn't like traveling to Texas or New York. It's like a whole days worth of travel to get to MN from the UK and a whole day back, so a long weekend wouldn't work. We had talked about possibly the beginning of August, maybe before a new job would start, but we now know that didn't happen for a reason.

After mom and dad got back from Ecuador dad started feeling worse for the wear. Fourth of July weekend he cut his finger pretty badly while doing some work in the garage and ended up in the ER and some stitches and big bandage. The following week his health declined even more and he started staying home from work. And then it got worse, and mom was worried about leaving him home alone so Hilary and I took turns using our sick time to spend the day with dad.

I love spending time with my dad. He has such a positive attitude and fantastic outlook on life. And he tells funny stories and knows just how to make you smile. Make anyone smile! It was very difficult to see him in pain and unable to swallow and taking loads of pills and it just seemed like he was getting worse. I would get to the house in the morning and sit with him in the living room, helping in whatever way I could. Getting some ice, a glass of water, making sure he took the right pills at the right time, reading to him, and just sitting there while he slept.

One day he took my hand and just asked me to pray. I barely got a few words out before I started to sob. I had been raised to believe that God has our best interests in mind, but how is watching him get sicker and sicker in my dad's best interest? How is watching mom get stressed out and not knowing what to do next in her best interest? How is taking my sisters best friend away from her so tragically and then adding the stress of a sick parent in her best interest? How is having my brother live 2000 miles away from all of this and getting everything second hand in his best interest? How is introducing me to this great guy, who lives 4000 miles away, and not being able to meet in person and struggling through all this alone in my best interest? I didn't get it, and I was scared. And trying so hard to keep the faith that I saw in my mom and dad. My throat closes up as I type this. It is hard to go back to that place.

And then here is this guy I'm getting to know and falling in love with. Who I haven't met in person, and I am showing up on the computer screen, after spending a day with dad, in tears. I was scared. I was worried about my dad's health. I was worried about my mom. I was lonely sitting at home in the evenings. And poor Matt had to sit and watch all this from 4000 miles away. Helpless. But ever so helpful. I have told him before and I'll say it again...I would have crumbled last summer if it hadn't have been for him.

It must have been about a week or so of this and dad wasn't getting better. One day I got to mom and dad's and mom said he had refused to drink the smoothie she had made for him that morning, but it was in the fridge and another round of pills were due soon, so try and get him to drink the smoothie. I went into the living room where he was napping on the couch and sat down.  When it was time for him to take his meds I brought them in with the smoothie and for the first time in my 31 years of life I was truly terrified when he refused. Flat out said no.  I didn't know how to respond. And then, I just told him yes, you will drink this, and drink it all. And the look on his face is one I will never forget, he drank it, and laid back down and I went into the kitchen to put stuff away and wept. And then I pulled myself together and went back into the living room and held his hand while he slept. But my heart was beating so fast and I was truly scared.

That afternoon when mom got home I had to take off for home to let the pup out and spend a few minutes talking to Matt before he went to bed.  As Matt is playing me a song on and my phone rings and it's mom. The song Matt is playing is is super loud and I am trying to get his attention, but the guy is really into it. So I walk away from the computer. Mom says she is taking dad to the ER and would I go with, they are on their way to my house and will pick me up. And I say, of course. I'm ready to go when you show up. I go back to the computer, explain to Matt and say good-bye.

Dad has the best sense of humor! As we are driving the man to the ER he tells me to call his best bud Marv. As I'm talking to him dad's sitting in the front sit cracking jokes. Telling me what funny thing to tell Marv and laughing at the funny things Marv says back. We get to the ER doors and mom and dad go in while I park the van. As I'm walking in I give Hil a call to let her know what's going on and head into the hospital with the promise that I will keep her up to date.

A few days earlier the family dog, (Scooter, or Scoots-da-Scoots, or Scootinladoot)...well, let's just say is not doing to great either. He is puking or having accidents all over the house and it is stressing mom out. A decision was made and poor, old, very old, Scoots is going to head to doggie heaven. Dads friend Marv had said he would do anything for him, so...they asked Marv to take the dog to the Humane Society.  When I got to the house that morning Scooter was as chipper as a little puppy. Jumping all over, running around, wanting to play. It was such a sad sight to see. Marv came and he and dad cracked some jokes about Marv being the grim reaper and that maybe he could let Scoots put his head out the window one last time on the way there. And off he went with the grim reaper named Marv. Poor Scooter! We miss you...well, sort of. You were kind of grumpy there in the end...but a good dog, nontheless.

Back in the hospital as we are waiting I'm texting back and forth with Hil and dad is telling me what to put. And what is he saying? We are telling Hilary that Marv is coming to help put down the neighbors dog next. And we are laughing...but mom doesn't think it's so funny.  They move dad to another room and take some blood and we just hang out.  They decide to admit dad because a number of his tests come back with not so god numbers. Then Hilary comes to get me so we can go home to get mom some clothes so she can spend the night with dad.

Dad spent 3 weeks in the hospital. It is quite a blur as to what all happened during that time. I would work during the day, talk to Matt for maybe an hour after work and then head down to the hospital for a few hours every night. During his time there he spent a week or so on the surgical floor and had a feeding tube put in. It was very difficult to hear the speech therapists come in and explain how he would have to learn how to swallow again. After their descriptions of the swallowing mechanisms and how they are supposed to work and weren't working for dad I can't even imagine how he felt all that time leading up to his time, in and after the hospital.  He also spent a couple of weeks on the Sister Kenny rehab floor and did therapies in the hospital before going home.

During this crazy, chaotic time Matt and I had also decided that I would go over to the UK for Christmas and I bought a plane ticket for 2 weeks in the UK. It was something I was excited and terrified about at the same time. I was falling head over heels in love with him on the computer, wanting to talk every day, missing him when we didn't talk and wishing he lived closer, like in MN. But here I was, paying out a lot of money on a plane ticket to spend Christmas in a foreign country with someone I only knew on a computer screen. And I had never spent Christmas away from my family...and Christmas was 5 months away. It was a risk...but looking was the best risk I've ever taken. (But I'll save that for another entry...)

*These all seem very long winded...but I'm just trying to get a years worth of catch up in a short amount of time so I can start writing the day to day stuff...and let you know where we are at now...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

When technology doesn't work...

Matt's birthday is June 23rd. And by the time that rolled around we had been talking for 3 months. I was still recovering from my nasty illness, but things were looking up. School had ended. Work was calming down and I was headed to Nebraska with the High School Drama Department for the International Thespian Festival for a whole week. A whole week of nothing but theatre, theatre and more theatre! But this also meant a whole week of not being able to talk to Matt. And this week fell on his birthday.

We loaded up the bus on Monday morning and took off.  The ride down is 7+ hours. Nice thing was I had IM on my phone so I was able to spend most of it chatting with Matt. I can just see some of you rolling your eyes now...but hey!, when your relationship is dependent on technology when it works it's great!

The first couple of days are kind of slow going in Nebraska, but it's always nice to get away from the office and be a part of the creative process. Monday is a travel day, and Tuesday is a get settled day. And Wednesday is the day the festivities are in full swing and it was Matt's birthday. We had decided that Tues night, after I did my first rounds of checking in the girls I would sneak off with the computer and we could Skype for a little bit first thing in his morning, my night. *Side note...I used to tell him all the time that his today was my tomorrow. Kind of a catchy phrase, eh?

I only had until 1:00am when curfew hit and I needed to verify that all the girls were in their rooms, so I got myself a key to a break out room in the lobby area, signed in to Skype and took a seat. I was very excited! I had bought a gift for him a few weeks previous and had it posted so that he would receive it in time for his actual birthday. Now, if you know me, you know I LOVE giving gifts. I really do! I love thinking about if the person will really like it. I try to listen carefully to what they say to get hints as to what they like. Or maybe something they might not by for themselves, but really want. This was a hard one, but I thought I did ok. A Dr. Who DVD and a couple of books and a CD...I think...and don't worry...this is not a spoiler alert. He already opened the gift!

So...there I am, sitting in front of the computer just waiting for him to sign on. And...nothing. was quite early in the UK. 6am or I thought maybe he had overslept. So I waited...and waited...and checked my email. And waited. And checked Facebook. And waited. And checked my email again, you never know who might email you at 12:30am. And waited. And then I signed out of Skype...and back in again...nothing. I was getting very sad. Signed out again. And back in. And out again. And back in. Hmmm...nothing. It was getting closer and closer to 1:00am (way past my bed time mind you.) But I was needed back upstairs so I typed a Facebook message and logged out and headed back up to the floor.

As I was doing my rounds my phone started ringing. And there he was. And on his birthday, I had to tell him he needed to call me back in 5 minutes. So sad. I felt awful asking him to do that. I finished my rounds and made my way to one of the breakout rooms and waited again. And waited some more. And sent a text. And still waited. Now...I love you Matt...but you really have no sense of time...sorry! But this is something I have learned over the last year. And at this time, June 23rd, 2010, only 3 months in, I didn't know this. Now, every time you tell me 5 minutes I just double it. :) Love you!

And then...finally my phone rang and there was his voice on the other end. And guess what!??!??! Technology...not on our side that night. There I was sitting in a breakout room on the campus of the University of Lincoln Nebraska at midnight waiting for something to happen, for him to sign on to Skype and getting nothing. And he was sitting in his room in Bradford, UK, waiting for something to happen, for me to sign in and getting nothing.

Lame! We were able to talk for a few minutes before he had to jet off to work and I had to grab a couple of hours of shut eye before the next days festivities started. The week was a fun one, but it was hard not to be able to talk at some point every day or even have the privacy to do so if we could.

You know that song at the end of Napoleon Dynamite. Where his brother is getting married and he sings to his bride to be at the alter about loving technology? Yep! I did not love technology that evening. is great, when it works, but a pain in the behind when it doesn't. There have been plenty of times when the connection is sheer perfection! We can talk for hours and see each other the entire time. But there have been lots of other times when I can hardly hear him, let alone see his face. And don't forget those days when I can see and hear him, but his voice is 30 seconds ahead of his mouth and body...try having a conversation where the other person laughs, but you don't hear it and you're not quite sure if it is at what you just said or from 30 seconds ago when you really did say something funny. Ugh!

So, there are days when I can sing along with Kip in "Oh, I love technology, but not as much as you you see, but still, I love technology..." And there are other days I would like to take a sledge hammer to the computer just to help it work better.  That would work, right?

Hang in there computers...just a few more months and you'll get your much needed break!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Telling the family and a MN reception

It's now the end of May and I still haven't told my family about Matt. It's not that I didn't want to, I just wasn't sure how to tell them...well, wait...Hilary and Nic knew, but only by default, as Suzy - the one whose Facebook wall we met on - is one of Hilary's good friends from her time on the ship Anastasis. But telling my parents and Nate and his new wife Heidi meant that it was real. And real is good, but then if anything happened and it didn't go any further then just being friends and talking on the computer...every day...and saying things like "I love you"...then I would have to tell them again, but it would be harder. So, just waiting until, until, until, who knows when until...

And the perfect opportunity came up. Nate and Heidi were coming home to MN to have a wedding reception at my parents for those from MN who were unable to make the trek to Maine for their winter wonderland wedding in January (a couple photos below!) A chance to tell them all at the same time and have a nice family conversation with everyone.

It was great to have Nate and Heidi in town! We spend 3 nights watching the ENTIRE final season of LOST at my place as we got ready for the series finally together. How fun! We also took a family canoe trip down the St. Croix and had a cook out at Nic and Hil's with some of Nate's friends.

After his friends took off it was just the family it goes...I told them. And how does one tell their family that they met a guy online and he lives in the UK and, oh right, you live in MN and in the 2 months that you have known each other you have fallen in love. Ha! Basically like that. :) Yep! Nate instantly wanted to become friends with him on Facebook and look at all his photos. And we just had a brief talk about it and it was late and we all went home. Whew! Easier then I thought.

The following week was another crazy one in Linseyland...Monday was a day off because it was Memorial Day, so I spent the bulk of it working on the RAMS Theatre awards and slideshows, and a presentation for our director who was retiring as well as spending a good chunk of time talking to Matt. The awards show went off without a hitch! But because I was up so late finishing up and I had never fully recovered from my previous illness I got sick...again...and this time worse!

Friday night was a family night at my parents helping Nate and Heid get ready for the reception the following day. As I laid on the bed talking to Matt on Skype on Friday afternoon he kept telling me I shouldn't go. I was too sick...he was going to call Hilary and tell her not to come pick me up and leave me home, alone to recoup. But that didn't happen...which was good, because I got to spend the evening, albeit quite ill, in the kitchen at mom and dads talking to mom, Hil and Heid about Matt and it was lots of fun.

Saturday was the reception and unfortunately for Nate and Heidi it rained. Bummer. But we pushed through, made 100's of Curried chicken salad sandwiches, loads of mini chocolate eclairs and greeting family and friends for hours. It was lots of crazy fun, but I don't remember a whole lot of what else happened because I felt like I was going to fall over the entire day. (Sorry Nate and Heidi...) I do know that I did get to sneak away and talk on the phone to Matt for about 30 minutes towards the end of the party. Yay!

So, in one week...I watched an entire season of LOST, told my family about this guy from overseas that I had yet to meet in person, but was totally falling head over heels for, created and presented a presentation for the RAMS Theatre, got incredibly sick and helped run a wedding reception. Yikes! Linseyland...sometimes it's a crazy place to be!
Mom and Dad making snow angels

Yep. We road in on dresses...

Heidi - the radiant bride!
Nate - the mountain man groom

The snow stage where they got married
Marital bliss...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Suprising gifts, a tragic event, the start of a 3 month illness and performances

It is spring 2010 in Minnesota and I spent the last month in the RAMS theatre preparing for the spring play....Mpossble: The Case of the Mssng Letters. This means hours in the theatre after school rehearsing, building the set, painting, cleaning, organizing, singing, dancing, etc with the kids. This also means that I only get to spend a short amount of time with Matt each day (and lots of days not at all) until the weekends.

Now some people might laugh at that, but when you don't get to go out on dates, or spend a couple of nights together doing "coupley" things and it's not like you can just pick up the phone and call. It's 6 hours time difference people. 6 hours. By the time I get done with work and theatre here in MN it is almost midnight in the that 30 minutes of conversation is precious.

The first month went by very quickly and as we are getting closer to performances at RAMS the time we got to spend together online was getting shorter and shorter and yet all I wanted was to spend time with Matt. It was hard to not be able to see him or talk every day, but it was fun to get text messages throughout the week to say hello.

Friday, April 23rd - the day before my birthday I ran home at lunch, like I do every day, to let Lola out. While home I checked the mail and there was a package. Something from Amazon. I was a little confused trying to remember if I ordered something, but nothing was coming to mind. So...I opened it up. Inside was 2 wrapped gifts and a note from Matt wishing me a happy birthday. And there goes my heart again all a fluttery. After just a month he seemed to know me well...sending a book and a CD. Reading and music. Good choice!

The next day, my birthday, I got to spend the whole day working in the theatre with the kids as we had our traditional all day Saturday rehearsal. Lots of work, fun, and a crazy chaotic day! But it also meant that I didn't get to see Matt on my birthday until the very end of the day and for just a short period of time. The day ended at RAMS, I headed home, spent about and hour talking to Matt and then ran off to have dinner with some girlfriends for the evening. By the time I got home I wasn't feeling very well and just chalked it up to a long week and an extremely long day.

I woke up Sunday morning feeling even worse and decided to stay home from church and get a couple more hours of sleep.  I got up and my plan was to spend the whole day chatting and reading with Matt, and then heading out for a birthday dinner with my family, but that's not what happened. As the morning progressed while we were talking I just started feeling worse and worse. Here I am telling this guy that "I am never sick." And I feel like a ton of bricks has just hit me.  I've been waiting all week long to spend today with Matt and I just keep inching down on the couch until I am fulling laying down. So, Matt sends me to bed for a nap.

A couple hours of a nap goes by and I am woken up by a phone call from my mom. And it is then that my heart skips a beat, but in such a totally different way. Mom proceeds to tell me that one of my sisters best friends, Heidi, was shot and killed in her home that morning when an intruder broke in early in the morning. I can't breath. Heidi was someone I had known since she was little. She was one of Hilary's best friends since they were in middle school. She was a beautiful, funny and amazing woman. I didn't even know what to do next. Mom and dad were over at Nic and Hil's so I quickly got dressed, called Matt on Skype and there I sat, in front of a computer screen with this guy I've known for a month, and sobbed. I could hardly get the words out as tears ran down my face. My heart aches for Heidi's family, husband Nick and their friends.

I say good bye and get in my car and drive the 2 miles to my sisters house. Grab her so very tight and I can hardly breathe as we sit on the couch with my arms wrapped around her. This is not happening. I don't ever remember seeing the look on my little sisters face. And feeling her limpness in my arms. How do you respond? What do you say? What next? My heart aches and tears well up again just remembering that day. We spent a few hours at the house with Nic and Hil as their friends started to gather. And then I headed home for a few hours.

Matt was still awake so we talked again for a few minutes, but it was different. I didn't have much to say. I couldn't breather properly as my heart seemed to have caved in. I was still feeling quite ill and I was starting to get feverish. Conversation was stilted. How do you talk about death and death so tragically on the computer? It was so impersonal. But there was a part of me that was so grateful that he was there and listened and sat and didn't freak out when I broke down. That evening they were holding a prayer service at Nick and Heidi's church and I met my parents there to spend some time in prayer for the family.

The week went on with dress rehearsals and as each day passed my illness got worse and worse. The time I got to spend talking to Matt was also hardly anything at all or nothing. By the time Friday rolled around I had no voice, a terrible cough and it felt like I was swallowing needles. I woke up knowing I had a performance to run after school and then Heidi's funeral to attend that evening and with the way I was feeling I just didn't think I would make it. I sent in to my boss saying I needed to get in and see someone so I would be late to work. Couldn't get into my clinic and didn't have a computer at home to look up a phone number so I texted Matt to look up the phone # to the local pharmacy and laid down on the couch and waited. I ran to the minute clinic at CVS...never again! What a horrible experience! The doctor, or whatever she was, told me I had a virus and sent me on my way.

I went to work. Stage managed the afternoon performance and then headed to the church for the funeral. I was so proud of Hilary. She got up in front of a very full room of the people who knew and loved Heidi and gave a lovely speech remembering her friend. I wept, held my dads hand and wished Matt was there to hold my other hand. What a beautiful testament to a wonderful woman.

Saturday meant 2 more performances and then a cast party. I felt like a walking zombie. I don't remember much about that day. It was organized chaos and oh so very much fun, but I was so sick.  As the day went on I got a few texts from Matt. Wishing me luck, saying hello, just checking in. As the first performance was coming to an end I sent him a text and in it I said those 3 little words for the very first time. I love you. After the last week I had had and how I had felt so very supported and loved from so very far away I just felt like it was the right time...except...I probably should have waited until after the show was done, because then my phone started vibrating frantically as right after he received it he called me. Unfortunately I couldn't answer...but we did talk for a few minutes later in the day. And it was that day that I felt like my life really changed, for good.

(I should say that Matt had said "I love you" just a couple of weeks after we met. And had said it many times before I was able to say it. Remember how he had typed "I think I'm falling in love with you"...well the following day after those words he said them out loud, and then a day later he just outright said "I love you." I kept apologizing and saying I wasn't ready to say those words. And he was so patient and so gracious with me. Thank you, love! And I do love you so very much! And that love grows daily!)

Performances and RAMS Theatre season 2010-11 ended. Sickness did not. Let's just say the sickness lasted for almost 3 months...and it was awful.

And this is getting very'll leave it at that for the night...