Monday, June 28, 2010

Girl Meets Boy

Friday night is pizza night.  Always has been.  Always will be.  Since the beginning of time, until the end, Friday night is pizza night.

This one simple fact is to "blame" for my meeting Dan.

I can't remember how I ever got introduced to OKCupid.  A friend, most likely.  I primarily used the account as a generic time suck for when I was bored.  I'd do the silly quizzes and questions and would peruse profiles to see what interesting people are out there in this world.  I never really thought I could or would actually meet someone worthwhile off the site.

In early January of this year, I found myself killing time on OKC.  I clicked on "Global Matches" as my travelphile self always loves seeing what far off places may pop up on the list.  One of the top matches was a gentleman by the name "drupalista" from Manchester, UK (turned out he's actually from a small town about an hour's train ride from Manchester).  I clicked on the profile and close to the bottom of the profile, I saw it…. the plain and simple truth…

Friday night is pizza night.

Well, needless to say, I could not leave this profile without sending a message to this stranger.  So, I did.  A very simple message consisting of only a sentence or two, just to concur that Friday night is, indeed, pizza night.

I can’t say I really expected a reply.  But, to my surprise and pleasure, I got one.  And so began our online friendship.

Initially, neither Dan nor I thought anything romantic would come out of our chatting.  I mean really?!  We live some 3,000 plus miles apart with a whole big ocean in between.  So we were friends.  We got into the habit of chatting every day as, even with a five hour time difference, our schedules lent itself to daily chats.

Over time it became obvious that there was definitely potential for more then just a friendship (minus that whole pesky Atlantic Ocean thing).  Dan and I discovered so many similarities in one another.  While on the surface we may seem different, him being the left-brained engineering type and I being the right-brained creative type, but when it came to the big stuff we were, more often then not, on the exact same page.  What we want out of life.  How we see things.  How we treat others.  We were very in sync.    

And since I wasn’t working a “real” job, my schedule was flexible and the prospect of a trip across the pond seemed too hard to resist.  Not to mention, I had begun the process of applying for graduate school in the UK and thought it best to visit at least a few of the schools.  So in April of this year, I flew to the UK for the first time in my life (somehow, despite having lived in Europe before, I had never made it to the UK). 

I would be lying if I said that Dan and I instantly clicked that first night when I got off the plane at Heathrow.  At that point I was so jetlagged, I don’t think I would have clicked with my own dog, had she been there to greet me.  But in the following days I got to know Dan even more.  I got to see, first hand, all the wonderful things I’d already known about him.  Within that first week, it became apparent that we were more then just friends.  While the distance was on our minds, we both knew we had to give this a shot.  In the end, the entire three-week trip left me even more excited for what the future holds for us. 

And yes, we had pizza on Friday night.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Introduction

I've mentioned her before but haven't yet formally introduced the lovely sweetness that is my pup.

I'd like you to meet Miss Schatzi Anne.

Schatzi is a rescue mutt who I adopted in 2007 after her brother, Boomer Beak-Nose Butt-Breath, passed away.  Boomer was my old man.  I rescued him after a friend of mine took him to the pound.  He was a comical dog.  A dorgi (corgi-dachshund mix for those not in the know).  Boomer was a grumpy old man by the time he came home with me but with some arthritis medication and lots of love he finally seemed at peace with the world.  Sadly, though, our time together was cut short.  I think once he was at peace he could let himself go.  After he decided to make his trip to doggy heaven, I knew there was no way I could live without a sweet fur-baby in my life.  So then came Schatzi, the Needle-Nosed-Trash-Picker.

I met Schatzi at her foster home where she came up next to me and curled up in what we call her "cinnamon bun" with her sweet brown eyes looking at me.  I met a few other dogs that day but knew those brown eyes had me.  To be honest, I didn't pick Schatzi.  She picked me.  She knew a sucker when she saw one.  My smart girl!

When I brought Schatzi home she was the most submissive and timid dog I'd ever met.  She would hide in the back of her crate and would roll over onto her back the moment anyone came near her.  I grew concerned that she'd never be able to put her anxieties aside.  To try and combat her timidness, Schatzi and I went to school.  We learned how to sit and stay and heel.  We also learned how to trust one another.  She also learned how to be a circus dog.  When Schatzi had enough walking in figure eights on her leash she'd throw herself on the ground and flip and turn and wriggle until she got herself out of her collar.  From then on our instructor called her the circus dog.  My circus dog.

In time my sweet shy girl began to come out of her shell.  Her fear of riding in the car became less and less the more we rode together.  She soon learned that riding in the car usually means something good on the other end, like other dogs & people to play with or long walks with lots to smell.  She got more and more confident and no longer rolled on her back the moment she saw anyone approaching.  She never did learn to really bark, though Mommy is not complaining about this!  She still hates thunderstorms with a passion.  But for the most part she's grown into a lovely well adjusted and sweet tempered dog who is damn near perfect in my book.

I've mentioned Schatzi is a mutt.  Up until a few months ago she was a mystery mutt.  For my birthday, however, my dad paid to have Schatzi's DNA tested.  I waited with loads of anticipation for her certificate to come in the mail.  When it did I was honestly not all that surprised.  Her dominate gene is beagle, which her size and coloring/fur sort of lends itself to.  In the mix is also some doxie, which I have always suspected.  Her needle nose and floppy ears gave her away.  The last bit of her mix is still a mystery to me as her DNA says she has some Cavalier King Charles in there.  Where?  I haven't a clue.  None the less her strange gangly medium sized body with skinny little legs suits me just fine.  In her life pre-me she had had a litter (she was just a year old when I got her so she had them when she was still a baby herself!) and she's lost some of her girlish figure but I don't mind.  Our flabby bellies match.

Besides her somewhat comical appearance, Schatzi truly is one of the most well mannered dogs I've ever met.  Everyone who meets her seems to be in agreement with this as well.  I have contemplated training her to be a therapy dog but with my upcoming move I don't want to commit to that just yet.  As I mentioned before, Schatzi does not bark.  She does not lick.  She only jumps up when you invite her up.  She doesn't bite or nip or show any signs of aggression what so ever.  She is ALWAYS happy to meet new people and thinks that everyone must be a dog person.  She is all around great!

The sad thing is, Schatzi and I will be separating for a long time soon.  While I am in school Schatzi will be living with her grandparents and their two dogs (with whom she gets along with splendidly - is this really a surprise?).  I know she will be loved and well cared for but the prospect of being sans-Schatzi for a year is heart breaking for me.  This dog is my sidekick.  Due to my current situation, she and I spend nearly 24 hours a day together.  She comes to work with me and whenever possible, runs errands with me.


I do intend to move her oversees when I settle in the UK permanently.  Dan already knows that Schatzi and I are a packaged deal.  I worry about what the move will be like for her though.  While she has become a much more confident dog, she is still prone to anxiety and what could be more anxiety provoking then a transatlantic flight?  I also want to make sure she won't have to be in quarantine.  The UK has a program where so long as she has her microchip (which she most certainly already does) and rabies vaccination, as well as a blood test proving the correct level of the vaccine, she won't have to be quarantined.  I will be working on all of that stuff prior to my leaving as it must be done more then six months in advance of her moving.  Since the chances are likely I will be staying in the UK after school, I want her to be ready to move.  It will be a very nerve racking journey for both of us I am sure but having her with me as I make a permanent move to a foreign country will most certainly be a major comfort and well worth it in the end.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Two years and 13.1 miles ago...

This time two years ago I was doing something I NEVER thought I would do.  I was completing my first (and only to date) half Anchorage, Alaska no less!  And this was all pre-WLS too!  (For those not in the know, WLS is short for weight loss surgery.  You can read all about my WLS journey on my other blog: Posts from a Post-Op Princess.)

Today is summer solstice which always makes me think of that day.  My marathon was called the "Mayor's Midnight Sun Half Marathon" in honor of this unique day in the celestial calendar. 

I chose to do a half marathon for a number of reasons.  The first and foremost reason was as a fundraising effort for a cause that is near and dear to my heart.  I trained and participated in my event with Team in Training (TNT).  For those of you who don't know, Team in Training is a fundraising arm of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  TNT trains people (athletes and non-athletes alike) to participate in endurance events.  In return for the training and payment of travel expenses and entrance fees at the events, participants are required to raise a minimum amount towards the cause.  As I am FAR from an athlete, the training was a huge motivator for me, as was the cause it's self.  My "sister" is a lymphoma survivor and TNT gave me an outlet to help with something that often left me feeling totally helpless.

The second reason I did my marathon?  One word: ALASKA!  I am not just an anglophile or europhile, I am a travelphile.  There are very few places in this world I would not want to see and visit.  So, when I took on the personal challenge of completing a half marathon, I made the promise to myself that I would do it some place down right spectacular!  And boy did I!!!

Alaska was like no place I'd ever seen.  For someone who is a reluctant flyer, to say the least, I tend not to spend much time looking out windows on planes, that is unless I am flying over the mountain peaks and glaciers of Alaska.  The day we flew in was a rare clear day (according to our great pilot) and I spent the last couple hours of the flight GLUED to the window gazing out to a site I can't even put into words.  The mountains looked as if you could just reach out and touch them.  There was not a single sign of human life as far as the eye could see.  To see nature so undisturbed like that is something I never get to see living on the densely populated east coast of the United States.  My mind's eye can still picture it so clearly. 

I spent a week in Alaska.  Besides pushing myself to the max by walking 13.1 miles in the not quite Alaskan wilderness while battling severe tendinitis in my foot, I got to see and do many wonderful things.  I got to learn about the different native Alaskan tribes and people.  I met some adorably cute and abundantly talented sled dogs.  I shopped in unique and interesting stalls at a local market.  I ate some amazing and interesting foods like reindeer (sorry Rudolph), moose, and the freshest salmon on the planet.  I sailed out into the Pacific (a first for me) while seeing whales, mountain goats, puffins, bald eagles, and glaciers all living in perfect harmony.  I also got to celebrate all that is TNT and TNT participants with about 2,000 other marathoners and was moved to tears more then once because of all that it means to me and my family. 

The experience was a once in a lifetime thing.  It is one I will not soon forget.  Just the other day I found a picture of my mom and me from the boat trip we took and it transported me back to that place and time.  It also makes me long for more memorable trips.  I will, no doubt, make many more wonderful and amazing trips in this little life of mine.  Wanderlust is something I don't think I'll ever shake. 

So today, on the longest day of the year, I tip my hat to all fellow travels out there, be you currently on the trip of a lifetime, like Mina and Alex, or you've already taken a trip around the world, like Emily, or maybe you are settling back into a life "at home" after many years away, like Alisha.  No matter what kind of traveler you are, aspiring or accomplished, today is a day to celebrate all that travel can bring you. 

Travel on, happy travelers!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Waiting is the hardest part...

As mentioned previously, patience is not my thing.  I suck at it.  I get antsy and fidgety and just plain not happy, and in turn make everyone else around me wish they, in fact, weren't around me.  Not cool, I know.  I am working on it but I think it will likely always be a struggle for me.

So what am I impatient about currently?  Funding.  Funding for school.  Funding for my future.  Since the credit crunch, no private student loans are given in this country without a cosigner, so I am going to be solely dependent upon federal loans and scholarships in order to fund my graduate studies in the UK.  To add to this dilemma is the fact that since I am studying outside the US, I am not eligible for all federal loans.  Fun stuff.

Well, I filled out my lovely FAFSA back in February but because of the Health Care Reform Bill, the federal loan system in the US is being totally redone (logical, no?).  Because of all this "redoing" of things, loans for the coming academic year are not being processed until July!  Which means that yours truly has to do something at which she really sucks: waiting!  Not to mention Birmingham's international postgraduate scholarships aren't processed until July also.  Again, I wait!

Since the course of my life is dependent on what is decided by the federal government and the University of Birmingham, I am rather anxious with anticipation.  If the money doesn't come through, I am not sure what I will do.  I am trying to remain positive but I can't deny the thoughts of "what if?" have crossed my mind.

Another clincher in this whole thing is that I cannot even begin the visa process until I get my finances sorted.  Apparently the British government doesn't want to admit any freeloaders.  (Now if only the US had the same policy!)  I would really love to get the whole visa thing done sooner then later as I have bad experience with ridiculously slow bureaucracies.  (Maybe sometime I will tell you about my German residency permit fiasco.  In short, I didn't exist for a while.) 

Then there is the whole Copenhagen thing....  My brilliantly beautiful British Beau is a full fledged computer geek who will be attending, with his business partners, the annual Drupalcon in Copenhagen at the end of August.  His partners will be bringing their families and as such, Dan invited me along as well.  While school doesn't start until the end of September/beginning of October, the plan is for me to fly to England right before the Copenhagen trip and then spend that week in Copenhagen with Dan.  Then when I come back to England, I will have a full month to get settled in Birmingham before school begins.  Sounds perfect right?  Catch is, if the money doesn't come soon, the visa doesn't come soon, and Anne-Margaret won't be able to leave as soon as she'd like and she may just throw an epic temper tantrum to mark the lovely occasion. 

So here I sit...still a month away from knowing my fate.  Will I get to go at all?  Will I get to go in time to spend a week in a new place with the love of my life?  Will a temper tantrum be called for? 

Did I mention I suck at this whole patience thing?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All because two people fell in love...

So today marks a milestone in my parents' life and be proxy, mine as well.

Today my parents have been married 37 years.  I know this is not some milestone anniversary but it's an anniversary none the less.  I still look at my parents and am amazed to see how well they've fared these past 37 years.  Don't get me wrong, they are the first to admit it's not always been easy but over all my parents are still very much in love and make each other laugh on a daily basis.  (Just last night my dad almost made my mom wet herself from laughing so hard.)  In a day and age when marriages seem almost disposable, I feel so blessed to have two parents who not only love one another but actually like each other as well.  They are both quick to say they are one anther's best friend.  Really, what more can you ask for then to spend the rest of your days with your best friend?

Also, my dad told me many years ago something I found to be really meaningful and I carry it with me to this day.  When he and my mom got married, he never once thought about "what if...".  He knew he wanted to be with her and therefore that was it.  No questions asked.  No emergency hatch.  No escape route.  It seems like a simple idea but it truly says a lot about my parents and their commitment to one another. 

Had it not been for their love and commitment my sister would not be here, I would not be here, nor would any of my three neices. 

All because two people fell in love...

37 years and counting!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Long distance love...not so bad after all?

If you told me a year ago or five or ten or whatever, that I would be in a transatlantic/long distance relationship, I would have laughed and laughed. In my head I always had such a negative view of long distance relationships. Hell, I was in relationships with men only an hour away and still struggled with the distance! Then I met Dan, my beautifully brilliant British beau, who just so happened to live an ocean away.

Now, after many months of the long distance dating thing, I have actually found there to be many a positive thing about it (minus the whole mini freak out when I hadn't heard from him). In new relationships I am often prone to what I call tunnel vision. I get so enamored with my new flame, I often lose sight of other things in my life. When said flame is an ocean away, tunnel vision is nearly impossible. While I will admit to thinking about my lovely many times a day, I cannot be consumed by it either as I know it would just drive me insane with missing him. I am able to still work on me and my own things while maintaining a relationship. I can continue to spend ample time with my friends and family and not feel I am neglecting my new found love. It's almost the best of both worlds in that regard. I get to live a sort of single life while still having the love and security of a good relationship.

Another massive pro to this long distance dating is the communication it builds. From the word go, Dan and I have had to be on top of communicating with one another. I am not just talking about being in touch with one another on a regular (which we most definitely are) basis. I am talking about being open and honest about our expectations and desires. I mean maintaining a long distance relationship without common goals in mind would be an exercise in futility and would most inevitably self destruct. Dan and I have been up front about what we want from one another and what we want from our relationship. I think a large part of this is that our "dating life" has primarily been all talk. Don't get me wrong active and adventurous dates can be great but it's easier to focus on the action rather then learning about one another. When all you have is talk, you can't help but learn a lot about one another quickly.

That is another pro in and of itself, while Dan and I may live over 3,000 miles from one another, we know each other well. We both make an effort to include each other in our day-to-day lives. It's rare that I don't know what he's doing and vice versa. That doesn't mean we keep tabs on one another but rather, since we can't do things together, we make an effort to share the things we are doing with one another. Through this we have learned a lot about one another. Dan knows (and somehow still loves me anyways) my penchant for worrying (about just about everything). I know his engineering mind is always ticking and turning things over and figuring things out. He knows and appreciates my obsession love for my sweet puppy dog and is prepared for the fall-out when I move an ocean away from her. I know how deeply and strongly he cares for and loves his godchildren. And on and on and on. I do believe, though this has not been nearly my longest relationship, Dan knows me better then anyone. He sees the real me because it is far easier for me to be 100% my neurotic self over the phone, text, IM, email, and Skype. He sees it all and miraculously still loves me just the same!

One of the more bittersweet aspects of this whole long distance thing is the patience I've had to learn. Anyone who knows me can attest to my lack of patience. It's not a virtue I've ever had in abundance but when you have to wait months at a time to see you hunny, you are forced to be patient. There are times when my patience wears thin and poor Dan gets to hear all about it but for the most part I have learned to wait, it's all that can be done for now. I know that soon enough I will get to see my sweetheart again and in the meantime I get the chance to get to know Dan even more, not to mention getting to know myself just a wee bit better as well.

Don't get me wrong, I look so forward to the day that my relationship will no longer be long distance but in the meantime I am learning to appreciate it for all it's pros. This is a time Dan and I will never get back so we might as well milk it for all it's worth and enjoy the balance one gets from the distance, as well as taking the time to build a really solid base.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Attack of the Worry Wart!

So for the most part I have to say I am lucky. While I am in the throws of a transatlantic romance, I get to somehow chat with my British Beau multiple times a day. Oh the joys of technology. Our main means of communication are Twitter and GChat. Since both of us have unlimited domestic texts we are able to tweet one another using Twitter's local numbers without incurring international text charges. Then while at work, both of us are on GChat so we chat this way during working hours. Another plus is that my darling beau owns his own business and tends to keep later hours then normal, so more often then not, his working hours are rather similar to my own.

When not tweeting or gchatting, we also use Skype so we can actually speak with and see one another. I cherish the chances we get to Skype as it is so wonderful seeing his smiling face. (What can I say I am rather partial to his smile!) And on top of that, Dan was sweet enough to get an American phone number in his office so if I ever need/want to just hear his voice and don't have my laptop handy, I can call him for free on my cell phone (I have unlimited domestic calls).

So, simply put, while my love may be 3,534 miles away (but who's counting) he often feels much closer. I probably communicate more with him then I have with any man I've dated previously, even those just 15 miles away. Today, however, seems to be the exception as I've not been able to get a hold of him at all. I'd like to say I am independent enough that it doesn't bother me but I would totally be lying because right now I am rather antsy, constantly checking my phone. I am trying to rack my brain and recall any plans he may have relayed to me that would explain his lack of communication today but can't come up with anything. I know it's silly and my anxiety is totally unwarranted but when you love someone that is so far away, it can sometimes play mind games with you. While his drive to the office is so short it's practically a joke, I wonder if there was an accident on his way in? Or perhaps his father who is in ill health has taken a turn for the worst in 24 hours? Or what else? I can't even fathom.

It's a darn good thing that my lovely man is totally aware of my tendency to worry and loves me just the same. So, when he reads this post he will likely just laugh and realize its par for the course when dating me. I am prone to worry when there is no apparent reason to worry. It's not the most attractive quality, I know, and I do try and temper it but my state of mind in general today is not lending itself well to the unexpected so I guess I will just have to wait and wonder and worry...