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 fiancĂ©, be granted permission to file paperwork for a fiancĂ© 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