Monday, November 15, 2010

A Romantic Rendezvous

The point of this blog is to talk about this path, this wonderful journey, that I'm on. I feel that the past 4 days have been an important part of this journey, and I want to share it with you. Or maybe I just want to share about our fabulously touristy trip. Either way, enjoy.

In a nutshell, long distance relationships are hard. But we all knew that already, didn't we? Technology has definitely made it easier, and quite frankly, I doubt Stian and I could would be able to make it without Skype, being able to text internationally (thanks parents for helping with the bill....and okay you do more than "help", but I (and Stian too, of course), appreciate it immensely), and a bit of finagling our daily routines to utilize all our communication possibilities.

Our relationship has basically been a sum of visits every 3 to 5 months: very happy hellos, lots of fun followed by incredibly sad goodbyes, and not knowing when the next time we would see each other again. I also want to point out that I think dating someone overseas is probably the most expensive relationship you can ever fall into. I realize it doesn't sound so positive, and you might ask why either of us would bother. Truthfully, I think Stian and I have questioned that ourselves, but what kept us going was how great we were (and are!) when we're together. We just work: we "get" each other - we laugh, we have fun, we fight sometimes and then move on to having fun again. Not to mention...we love each other (for those very reasons, perhaps?).

Sometimes I have to backtrack through holidays to know when we saw each other last. I left Norway after a 3 month stay last December (right before Christmas), and then we didn't see each other again until March (right around Easter). During the March visit we figured out that we probably wouldn't see each other until August, but even that was up in the air because of work and school schedules. This would make it at LEAST 5 months between seeing each other and that is simply too long. Unfortunately, we grow restless of Skype, sometimes have nothing to text, and occasionally wish we weren't scheduled to talk to each other at exactly 6:15 in the morning or 10:15 at night. But we persevere and work through the challenges. Living through the 5- months-apart situation made us realize that it should never happen again, and so (ah yes, here is the point!) we scheduled a trip. A "romantic rondevous" if you will, meeting halfway between Norway and California. That put us in approximately Washington D.C. (a much cheaper destination than New York) in November. Instead of 4 months between the August visit and the upcoming Christmas/New Years trip for me to Norway, it was only 3 months. And that leaves a month and a half til we see each other again at the end of December. But that wasn't the happiest part...

We had a WONDERFUL trip! It was refreshing to be a couple again, without the constant family member around (no offense families, we love you dearly, but we don't often get the luxury of getting each other all to ourselves). Not only that, but we both flew between 5-8 hours (rather than the typical 14 - 24, depending on the cheapest flights we could find), to spend a lovely 4 day weekend together.

It's autumn, and the weather was absolutely perfect. For the entire time we were there, it was approximately 57 degrees (Farenheit, of course) and there was not a cloud in the sky. We took in all the tourist attractions and had a good time doing it (very sore and tired feet not included). I have to give details: we went through an underground tunnel to Capitol Hill where we took a tour of the Capitol and got to check out the House of Representatives Chamber (thanks Dad and Jane Harman). After that we walked the entire way to the Washington Monument (it's A LOT farther than it looks!) with a quick detour to pick up a delicious sandwich from the previously unheard of "Potbelly's" (so yummy) to devour later. We shoved the sandwiches in our bag and got moving so that we could take a picture in front of the White House, then walk by the World War II Memorial, past the reflecting pool, and up the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial to do the one thing Stian was really interested in: seeing the "big guy in the chair". We sat on the cold, marble (was it marble?) stairs, took off our shoes to give our aching feet a break, and devoured lunch. Then we headed over to the Vietnam War Memorial and since Veteran's Day had JUST passed, there were interesting things to look at and read. They were giving out papers and crayons to make a "rubbing" of a name you wanted. What a cool idea, and way better than any picture you could take! After a shedding a few unexpected tears, we moved on, desperately looking for a cab to take us back to the hotel: it was time to put up our poor feet!

After a nap and some tv we were ready to go out for dinner. We went to a great little restaurant we had heard about from some local girls the night before, and they were right: it was in the middle of nowhere, but a really great place. Homemade pizza, big glasses of wine, and just a short walk from the hotel was the perfect end to a long, but fun, day.

The next day was busy, too. Stian and I went to the Smithsonian Castle - we previously passed it on our hike to the Washington Monument and overheard a Segway tourguide say that it was the 2nd most visited museum after the Louvre in France. We checked it out and saw a random assortment of things on display (including a brief history of mail in the U.S. and the largest bird-eating tarantula, bleck!). We looked at the gardens and then went over to the Air and Space museum. You should've seen how excited Stian was when we walked in and saw all those spaceships! :) Passing by the IMAX theatre, we thought the 3D movie about the Hubble looked interesting and bought tickets for later (it was great, by the way!! highly recommend it!). We also tried out the simulator area of the museum - locking ourselves into a "fighter plane" and then turned upside down while firing missiles at the enemy was quite the experience.

After a wandering morning at the museum, we walked over to the Old Post Office Building (upon recommendation from Nick in San Diego) and it was really neat! The building was nice, and lent itself as a great place to sit and eat lunch before we headed up the tower for an AMAZING view of Washington D.C. (for free I might add!). When that was done, we tried to catch a cab, and got the greatest cab driver ever!! He was so nice! The plan was to go to the mall near the Pentagon, but we asked if he wouldn't mind stopping at the Arlington National Cemetery for a few minutes while we took a stroll through the beautiful and of course, famous place. It was breathtaking...there were SO many graves! Just rows upon rows of white grave markers. A sign read "Kennedy Memorial This Way" and we went. It was different than any other memorial we had seen, but I liked it.

Keeping an eye on the clock, we briskly walked back to our kind cab drivers car, hopped in and made our way to the mall. Our driver, named Woubi, showed us the Pentagon and pointed out where the plane crashed into it on September 11 - the stone is a slightly different color than the rest of the building. Fun fact, yes?Anyway, he dropped us off at the 4-story, and I must admit, beautiful mall. We shopped (something we love doing together!) and successfully found some winter shoes for us both.

What a day! We made it back to our hotel, found a good movie on HBO, and decided to order in Chinese food from a menu that was shoved under our door that weekend. Sounds great, right? Well, it kind of was...I had be CRAVING Chinese food, but when it arrived, it seemed the noodles in the chow mein had been on the warmer so long during the day they went crispy. I'm pretty sure they just poured sauce on top and then tried to microwave it to make it look fresh. China Express, you got a big fat "F" in the chow mein department, but redeemed yourself with decent meat and good fried rice.

Now, after boring you with many details from my four day weekend, I am approaching the best part. Our last day together consisted of an overpriced breakfast, checking out, and thinking we could waste about 4.5 hours in Starbucks. That got pretty boring pretty fast, and the bathroom there smelled like a homeless person had been living in it. So we went a few doors down to Potbelly's to get some airplane food, sat in a booth and realized we really couldn't sit there for 2.5 more hours, either. Maybe we could take in a movie? Yeah! Great idea!! Sadly, a great idea much too late. To go to the movies, you need to plan ahead. We didn't and that little time killer might get in the way of getting to the airport later. So we started walking down the street with all of our luggage dragging behind us. We saw a sign for the National Gallery of Art and thought maybe, just maybe, they would have a bag check.

They sure did!! We checked our bags and started wandering the gallery of German drawings. It was okay, nothing amazing, but it killed over an hour and we were grateful for that. We headed out again, found a hotdog stand and sat in the sunshine to eat and enjoy each other's company just a little bit more before heading to the airport.

Our cab driver from the day before had offered us a ride to the airport and gave us his phone number. We called, he picked us up at the Gallery, and we went for the most beautiful drive. This was one of my favorite parts. The colors of autumn in D.C. are lovely and vibrant. All weekend I was commenting on how beautiful the trees were - yellows, oranges, and wonderful reds and greens. Ahhh, so lovely. As we drove, we actually got stuck in a bit of traffic and a group of 3 girls were trying to catch falling leaves. Those leaves were falling EVERYWHERE!! There was a little breeze and they were just...raining down so quietly. I wanted to jump out of the car and catch a few myself. We eventually made it to George Washington Parkway...the funny thing was, our driver was really into rock and roll, but on this part of the road, he switched it to wordless music. I believe it was intentional, to leave us (and him) alone with our thoughts as we took in the scenery. I even pulled out my camera and took a video of it because I thought it was so...lovely. That's all I can say to describe it. I was sitting in the backseat holding Stian's hand watching the sun go through all the autumn colors still on the trees, and all I could think of was that it was a perfect way to end a perfect weekend.

As a bonus, the airport didn't have separate terminals/security/closed gates so Stian and I could wander around together, play cards and kiss goodbye right before he handed over his boarding pass to get on the plane. That never happens...and it probably never will again. What a special trip!

It wasn't a sad goodbye; not this time. :)

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm imperfect and I'll admit it.

I like to be inspired. Today my inspiration comes from a post on someone else's blog. I want to share it with you because I think it's inspiring and thought provoking, and it's not often that many of us use the internet for something that isn't mind-numbing. Unfortunately, my favorite thing to do on the internet IS mind numbing, and it's called Facebook. Ah, yes, good ol' Facebook, providing me with endless hours of "entertainment" all week long. I often feel compelled to delete the damn thing, but I can never bring myself to actually do it. The funny thing is, I found this particular inspiring blog post because someone shared it on the World's pathetic (yet interesting and, okay fine, fun) pastime.
The blog is about a "disease called Perfection." I won't sum it up for you because I really believe it's worth your time to read it for yourself. However, a part of it inspired me to be honest about my weaknesses. So here I go, being truthful and vulnerable for your reading pleasure.
I'm scared. I'm apprehensive. I'm insecure.
I'm know my upcoming move will not be easy, and I seriously have doubts about my linguistic skills. I'm insecure about speaking Norwegian, but I'm trying hard to work past my inhibitions and pretend that I'm confident. I'm not. In fact, I'm scared (please excuse this) shitless.
I'm afraid to leave my family and friends. I'm afraid I'll miss out. I'm afraid I won't be accepted. See, I've found my niche here. I know who I am, I know where I belong, and I know how to get around. I also know I won't feel so confident in my new corner of the world. At least not right away.
I am person that tries to remain optimistic, but right here, right now, reading the truthful words I just articulated, the glass definitely seems half empty.
But you know what? I'm proud of myself for saying it all out loud. These are real emotions and real concerns that have been bubbling up inside me since the moment I considered the possibility of a serious, loving relationship with Stian.

Every coin has two sides, and for awhile today, it landed on tails.
But here's to heads, and to keeping my chin up.

I have to remind myself often (as we all should) that I am human. I have feelings, I have emotions, I have strengths and I certainly have weaknesses. In college, I taught myself that I can use my weaknesses to build my strengths. When I'm feeling down, I find it encouraging to remember things that are important to me. One of those things is love. I know that I am loved and I know that I always will be. This isn't necessarily romantic love, but I know my sources of love come from my mother, my father, my sister, and my brothers. It comes from Stian. It comes from my grandmother. It comes from my aunts, uncles, and cousins. It comes from my friends. And all this love helps me get through whatever I need to get through, whenever I need to get through it, and perhaps most importantly, wherever I have to get through it - near or far.

There is a book by the famous Dr. Seuss called My Many Colored Days. Most of you reading this know that I love children's books partly because I am a teacher of very young children, but I also love them because the messages are simple, important, usually feel-good themed. I like this particular book because I think it addresses something that isn't always addressed in the adult world: feelings. Honest to goodness feelings and, more importantly, acceptance of those feelings day to day and hour to hour. Similarly, the message I took from the blog that I told you very little about, is to accept how I feel. Today, I accepted my feelings of apprehensiveness and insecurity because I just am not, cannot, and will never be perfect. And that's okay, because in the words of my favorite children's book writer, I should be who I am and say just how I feel because "those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."  Dr. Seuss, you hero.

Getting all my anxieties out feels good. In fact, I believe it's a remedy. Reflecting on my feelings has made me flip my coin over, and I am once again giddy with excitement and wonderment and a sense of humor about my trail I'm blazing every day.

Here's the link to the blog:
Read it, maybe you'll feel inspired, moved, or understood.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Careful What You Wish For

I don't usually spend my time wishing for things I can't have, but sometimes it happens and sometimes gets a tad out of control. The reason I don't usually spend time wishing for said things is because it usually ends with me doing something pretty spontaneous. And being spontaneous can be addictive. Let me give you an example of something I thought I couldn't have, but continued wishing for...

I used to drive a 1992 Toyota Camry. Only two of the windows rolled down because my dad decided that rather than fixing the windows that fell, he would bolt one shut, and duct tape the other. The air conditioning never worked, and with only two windows able to roll down, it was always stuffy and never a comfortable drive.  Anyone riding in the car would get pretty grumpy (especially because the front passenger window was the bolted one) and sweaty by the time we got to the nearest corner. It smelled like gasoline when it started and I'm pretty sure a little elf was stealing window washer fluid because it never seemed to have any. But if I was lucky and the little elf DIDN'T steal that fluid, it didn't matter because the wiper blades were so bad that they were literally (I mean LITERALLY) flapping in the wind. Try using them and the dirt on the windshield only got smeared around to the point you couldn't see. All those little things didn't seem so bad, especially since the car was free, but boy oh boy, I wished every morning on my way to work that I could drive something else. Something better. About a month ago on my way to work, I got pulled over (my very first time). As I pulled away from the curb, my eyes burned with tears of frustration. I didn't get pulled over because I was speeding, and I didn't get pulled over for running a red light. No, I got pulled over for driving a p.o.s. car and had the ticket to prove it. I needed to fix my brake light (add THAT to the list, thank you very much). Fast forward to the end of the day driving West into the sun to get back home: I pulled the lever to wash my dirty windshield. Nothing came out and the smeared dirt was worse than before. Forget going home. Forget dinner. I drove straight to the Toyota dealership. "I need wiper blades," I told the guy that greeted me. "Oh, and I'm looking into leasing a car. What can you offer me?" Well, he was more than happy to show me around and 3 hours later (man, it takes a LONG time to take care of this process) I drove off the Toyota lot with a brand spanking new 2010 Rav4 with 24 miles on it. 
Nevermind that I'm getting married and moving out of the country in 10 months, I wasn't about to drive that other car one more day while I'm still here. I'll figure out the details of ending my lease another time, right now I'm enjoying my air conditioning, my windows that go down, my perfect brake lights, my cd player (what a luxury!), and my adorable new car in general. 

And so, driving home from work I see tons of  "Apartment For Rent" signs, which only get me wishing to move out on my own. Uh oh. That, unfortunately, should definitely NOT be wished for or quite honestly even THOUGHT about right now. While I could technically afford it right now, Stian and I can't afford something like that later, especially when all that would-be rent money needs to go into a savings account so that we make ends meet for the time when I won't be working during the visa processing hoopla. But that little spontaneity bug keeps burrowing deeper and deeper into my thoughts, invading them all, all the time.

Must. Resist. 
Must. Redirect. To something nothing to do with money, hopefully.

Although, little spontaneity bug, you have helped me get places I never thought I would be (for example, marrying a Norwegian guy, moving to Norway, and trying out a brand new place without much thought...). That little spontaneity bug is part of me, and always will be. It makes me who I am...and honestly, I certainly like having such a fun little thing spicing up my life. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Getting Started

My goal is to document this journey I'm on. The process of getting married, moving overseas, and starting a life with the one I love is daunting to say the least, but definitely doable and seriously worth it. There are millions of questions I need answers to, and most days I don't even know where to begin. Today, for example, is one of those days. My thoughts are everywhere and nowhere - floating somewhere between wedding invitations, Halloween plans, how ridiculously hot it was today, and what on earth I will do to occupy my time in Norway while my visa is being processed (which, by the way, could take up to 11 months!!). Oh, add learning Norwegian and Skype dates to that list, too.
The best way I can describe this is that it is like a brainstorm. You know, the type you had make before writing a paper in junior high or high school (which I hated, and if it was ever required for a grade I always made it AFTER the paper was already written...completely defeating the purpose and therefore making it seem like a waste of time AND paper...but I'm seeing the usefulness now, at 23....)? Anyway, you know what I'm talking about: bubbles of topics with bubbles of subtopics sticking out from each bubble? That's my storm upstairs. Wedding bubble. Moving bubble. Life After Moving bubble. And Right Now bubble. Bring on the bubble wand, I'm sure there are more just waiting to come into existence....
So I'm at the brainstorming stage...pretty soon I'll move on to the writing and begin my story, my journey, my life. I hope you'll stick around for it, dear reader. I know the beginning of my story, and I know the end will be that I lived happily ever after, but everything in between is a mystery and I can't wait to figure it out with you.