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##v$$ - Still Converting
7 Days v 30 Days !!
Anticipation of Oct. 9th!
Back to work tomorrow
BIG changes afoot !!
Blog link up and running
Blog Stuff
But I Did Today !!
Farewell & Bon Voyage
Finally Approved !!
General Ramblings
Grrrrr !!
It DID arrive on time !!
Its Not All Doom & Gloom
My Own Worst Enemy
Such Dedication
Sunday Bloody Sunday !!
The Joys Of Exercise ..
The Wait Continues
Time For An Update
Weekends are too fast!!!
Why So Complicated ??
Will This Work ??
Work
Mark & Debs Online Blog
Sunday, 13 February 2005
What A Busy Month
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: BIG changes afoot !!
Hello folks,

I see that Dec 17th was the last time I posted anything on here so I guess I'll have to do some summarising to bring everyone (if anyone reads this) up to speed.

This past month since I posted has seen a lot of things take shape on many different fronts. Our visa application is at its final stage, our wedding date and venue are all set, my days at IBM are numbered. Basically.... everything is changing and luckily, its all for the better.

Anyways... on with the summary !!

A few days after my last post I flew out to spend Christmas and New years with Debs, Bekah and their family. Christmas day was spent at Debs' folks where we met up with her sister Sonja. brother in law Jimmy and their kids Maggie and Noah. It was really nice to spend christmas together and interesting to experience what Christmas is like stateside. The main difference I found was the food. No turkey but baked ham with lots of side dishes to tuck into.

New years was quite a quiet affair which was all we really wanted. Just being able to see in the new year together meant we really were'nt looking for a big party or anything. We had high hopes for 2005 and it got off to great start when on Jan 6th we received notification that our visa application was leaving the USA and was on its way to the US embassy in London.

By Jan 15th I'd been contacted by the Embassy with some more forms to fill out and by jan 31st I'd been issued my interview date !! Feb 24th is hopefully the day when I'll get the final nod and rubber stamp in my passport to say that I've been issued my K-1 Fiance visa. I'm not anticipating any problems at the embassy stage at all so on Feb 1st I handed in my notice at work. My last shift for OAO technologies at IBM Greenford is Feb 27th and my employment with them officially stops on March 2nd. All things going to plan I'll be leaving the UK on march 11th to start my new life in the USA with my future wife and step daughter.

Once I got my interview date through, Debs went ahead and reserved a date for our wedding at one of the venues we'd looked at over the summer. It was great to finally have a date to work towards (April 29th)and we're really happy that we were able to beg borrow and steal the money we needed to hold the wedding and reception at the beautiful Larimore plantation house just outside St. Louis (Larimore House). Hopefully the weather will be kind to us and we'll be able to have an outdoor service.

More exciting news came earlier this month when Debs booked tickets for a flying visit to London. American airlines were offering a stupidly cheap fare from St. Louis to London Heathrow so she'll be flying in late next Friday (Feb 18th) and flying back again lunchtime on Monday (Feb 21st). That weekend also happens to be my Grans 80th birthday so about 16 of us will be converging on a country hotel in Dorset for the weekend. It will be great for Debs to meet some more of the family and also a good opportunity for my Gran to meet debs again before our big day. Sadly my Gran doesn't feel up to travelling to the wedding in April so It's nice she'll get to see us both beforehand.

The final bit of news is that my sister finally started moving her stuff into her newly decorated flat today. She is on half term holiday all next week so will get all her appliances and bits and bobs moved in there this week. She's really excited to finally have her own place. I think mum and dad will find it strange to go from a full house for the last 3 years, to having both me and my sis off doing our own thing again. Luckily they had the same adjustments to make when we were both at university, the difference being brighton wasn't 3500 miles away !!

That I guess brings us pretty much up to date. Apologies for the huge gap in the posts. Things have been kinda hectic around here since I got back in the new year. Watch this space to find out how my interview goes.

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 7:53 PM GMT
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Friday, 17 December 2004
Visa Application Starts Moving Forward
Mood:  celebratory
Topic: Finally Approved !!
Good morning folks,

This week got off to a flier with the long awaited notification from the Nebraska sevrice center that our visa application has been FINALLY been approved. It took Nebraska 145 days to get round to sending us the approval so it was a really nice early Christmas present for us both

I got a rather unusual email from Debs on Monday evening saying that she'd had a terrible day at work and could I ring her ASAP on her cellphone. Of course I get this email after she goes into an IT workshop she had that evening. I sat there sweating over what might have gone on at work, bombarded her with text messages asking for her to get in touch as soon as she got home etc.. etc..

Well... It turns out that this was all a ploy to get me to call so that she didn't have to sit on our good news until the morning. She'd found the approval notice just before she left work and was itching to tell me the good news. I finally got through to her and asked her what had happened at school etc.. She carried on the pretence for a few minutes before coming clean and telling me that we got approved !!

We're really glad that it went through without a hitch as we were both sure that we would get asked for some extra papers to be filled out after we realised we'd left a couple of lines on one of the forms blank. Fingers crossed we should hear that it's made it to the US Embassy in London by early January and we might even have an interview by late February.

I'm now also just under a week away from flying out to spend Christmas and New years with Debs, Bekah and all their family. It'll be really nice to be together for those couple of weeks. Christmas last year was spent an ocean apart and it took a bit of the shine off the festive period for both of us. I fly out on Dec 23rd and fly home again Jan 9th. It'll be special for a number of reasons, the main one being that it's the first Christmas we'll spend together.

So basically it's all systems go. I have a mountain of gifts I need to get wrapped up before next Thursday. Today is my last day shift of 2005. I then have 2 night shifts next Monday and Tuesday and then thats me done til I come back to work on Jan 11th... Woo Hoo !!

Ok thats me done for now. I hope that you are all well and that If I don't post again before Christmas, that you have a great holiday.

See ya

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 9:57 AM GMT
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Monday, 15 November 2004
General Ramblings
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Nada
Topic: Back to work tomorrow
I can't beleive I'm back in work tomorrow. My 8 days seem to have flown by so fast and I've done hardly anything. I've tried really hard to curb pointless spending and I figured that as long as I was indoors I couldn't spend any money. I have to say that it's worked pretty well. Apart from a couple of trips for a newspaper here or a bit of something there I've been good. I'm just really conciouss that I need to make "saving" my middle name between now and whenever I make the big move stateside. Not that there is any news on the big move stateside yet as we are STILL waiting for our bloody visa application to be approved. I wont get started on that because I'll never stop.

Anyways... in the back of my mind is that I have another trip planned to visit Debs in December and I have 2 wedding rings being finished off as we speak. These are gonna make a bit of a dent in my "savings" so I need to make sure I do all I can to maximise the money I have left. May aim really is to go a month without getting into the red at all. Since I sold my car and cleared a lot of my outgoings I've come close to managing a month in the black but haven't quite made it yet. Debs will say thats because I do all my banking online and so couldn't actually tell you how much I have in my bank account at the moment. She swears that when we're married she'll be perfectly happy to keep her little ledger going with all the incoming and outgoing amounts etc.. I say we're living in the 21st century and online banking is the way forward. We'll see in a few months who wins that battle !!

The weekend of the 6th/7th of November was another first for me. My very good friend Donna, who I was at university with, and her husband Ian had their first baby at the end of October and a few of us went round there to see the doting parents and their little bundle of joy. Eve Heather Kemp is the first baby born to one of my close friends so it was very strange thinking of Donna as a mum. Having said that she was also the first of my friends to get married. lets call her the trailblazer !!

Anyways... Eve was VERY cute and I was very chuffed because she chose me to fall asleep on (awwwwww).







Ok... its now wednesday and I'm still working on this post so I'm going to wrap it up for now. being back at work sucks just about as much as I expected. Same S%@t different day !!

Hope that you are all well.

Mark


Posted by Mark or Debs at 8:52 PM GMT
Updated: Sunday, 13 February 2005 7:57 PM GMT
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Monday, 8 November 2004
Ok ... So maybe you don't care ? However... You will be told !!
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Nada
I've decided to use our blog for something other than pointless and futile rants about immigration, work and generally not very interesting things.

Instead I've chosen to use this forum to bore you all silly about an object which I am currently obsessed with. Nope... not Debs !! I am currenbtly obsessed with the most amazing car in the world. The object of my desire is the new Aston Martin V8 Vantage.

In one word, this car is AWESOME. To own one would be a dream come true. For starters (see pics below) its gorgeous.










Secondly its beautifully made. Interiors can be handmade from any combination of several hundred colours of leather and types of wood. If you have the money, the Aston Martin engineers will do anything you ask for to make this as individual as you want




Lastly, and for me most importantly, Aston Martin is as British as pimms and lemonade, Buckingham palace and cold, rainy summers (that one was for Debs !!). This car is a thing of motoring beauty and the stats truly speak for themselves..

4.2 litre V8 producing 390 horsepower
0-60mph in under 5 seconds
Looks to die for.
Pure thoroughbred British sports coupe.

I LOVE IT !!



Incase you had forgotten since the top of the page, just how gorgeous this car is, here's one last look before I stop wittering on about a car I'll almost certainly NEVER have.




I hope you've enjoyed my little online shrine to my new favourite car.

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 3:15 AM GMT
Updated: Monday, 8 November 2004 1:13 PM GMT
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Friday, 5 November 2004
A General Rant / Update
Mood:  not sure
Now Playing: Nada
Topic: My Own Worst Enemy
Hello Folks,

Well today is 100 days since we submitted our visa application and we still haven't heard ANYTHING !! I am my own worst enemy with this whole waiting thing and I'll go into more about that in a little bit.

Debs and I have been waiting since July for the processing centre to catch up to our submission date (July 23rd). When we sent off our application they were still stuck processing papers received in April so we had quite a ways to go. Anyway... slowly but surely they have worked through the backlog so we got more and more excited that soon we would hear SOMETHING. On November 1st the processing centre updated its processing dates to show that they were now processing applications received on or before August 2nd. That should include ours but oh no... We'll just sit and wait while they happily approve applications received as recently as August 11th but leave ours without so much as a "touch".

To say I'm frustrated is probably understatement of the century but I'm really not helping myself. I check http://www.visajourney.com about 10 times a day, for what reason ?... I have no idea. Every time I check some other lucky bugger has had their petition approved and it just annoys me more and more each and every day. To rub salt in the wounds the processing centre in Vermont is sending out the mythical NOA2 (which we've waited 100 days for so far) in as little as 5 days !!... 5 FREAKIN DAYS !! I mean whats with that ??

Debs has been good and not given me our case number so I can't compulsively check our status online every 30 seconds but its really beginning to annoy me. I know that the people that are receiving their approvals ahead of us have no control over the order in which the applications are processed but you'd think that the folks working at the Nebraska service centre would be aware just how much waiting and watching is involved in these applications.

Ok... I have to stop ranting or I'm going to blow a gasket here. Just felt the need to get it all out on paper (kinda sorta !!).

On a lighter note I think that I've just found a colleague willing to work 3 of the 5 shifts I need covering over christmas and new years. I basically messed up my math when it came to my paid holiday this year and have already run out, well before I need to have 2 weeks off in the run up to Christmas. I'm almost positive that it will be Ok for me to take unpaid leave but I really need to get people lined up to cover the shifts I'm not going to be around for. All I need to do now is find someone willing to work new years eve (could be a tough one !!)

I also contacted Alan yesterday, the guy who's making our wedding bands, to give him the go ahead to make them based on the quote he gave me about a week ago. Debs will be getting the extra "bling bling" she begged me for and I'll be getting a very happy and grateful Fiancee. Yet again I think he's done me a great deal and I should have them both in time to take with me at Christmas to make sure they fit and all that jazz.

Ok.. I'm going to sign off for now. I think I need to update more often with smaller swathes of text. I doubt anyone is really interested in reading so much in one go, if at all !!

Hope you're well (whoever you are).

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 8:01 PM GMT
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Wednesday, 20 October 2004
It's Been A While !!
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: Nada
Topic: The Wait Continues
Hi there folks,

I see from the date of Debs' last post that its been almost 3 weeks since either of us added anything to our blog. I can't really put my finger on why. I guess that with Debs back in school and me working such stupid hours we just haven't gotten around to updating anything. So... I'll do my best to bring you all up to speed on what we've been up to in recent weeks.

Debs' last post was titled "2 Weeks Exactly" which was a reference to my upcoming visit. My word did those 2 weeks crawl by like a really slow thing !! Its always the way though isn't it ? When you are REALLY looking forward to something, that date just takes forever to actually arrive. Anyways... the calendar eventually rolled round to Saturday October 9th and finally I was on a plane again, bound for St. Louis. In some of my earlier post you'll have seen me mention that due to our pending visa application, it wasn't certain if I would even be let in on my arrival at Chicago. To cut a very long story short all those worries were for nothing. I had a big envelope with me containing as much evidence as I could gather to prove my full intent to return to the UK at the end of my stay. As it happened my conversation with the immigration official went something like this...

Her - "Hi there... How long do you intend to stay ?"
Me - "I leave next Sunday evening"
Her - "And are you visiting for business ?"
Me - "No... I am visiting my Fiancee (sweating now !!)
Her - "Oh... Hmmm... Well have a nice stay (Stamps passport)"
Me - "(Breathes HUGE sigh of relief) Thanks... I will !!"

As soon as I'd checked my bag onto my connecting flight I was on the phone to Debs to confirm I'd got through OK. I think that we were both worried about what might happen on arrival in Chicago but had preferred to try and not think about it too much as we made plans for my stay. Thankfully none of those plans had to be canceled and I was only a couple of hours away from seeing Debs again (YAY YAY YAY YAY !!)

Anyways... as expected I had a great 9 days with Debs and Bekah. We did a lot of cool stuff while I was there. We went Pumpkin picking, I attended my first ever Major League Baseball playoff game (and now have the cold to prove it !!), We stayed in our favourite hotel again (I'll save the details of that for another post), I did my first bit of driving on my own without Debs to point me in the right direction, Spent a lot of quality time with Bekah, shopping, movies, eating out, just generally making the most of the short time we had together.

Throughout my stay we continued to check on the progress of our Visa application. We are still waiting for our next notice of action which basically means that our initial application has been approved and is on its way to the national visa center. Its the NVC which is responsible for contacting the US Embassy in London and arranging my interview. This wait is made all the more annoying when people who submitted their applications after we did, have already been given their second notice of action !! I don't know what kind of system they are working with over there in Nebraska but it doesn't seem to work on a strict chronological order. We are really hoping that we hear something positive by the end of the month.

Leaving at the end of my stay was still as hard as ever. We both put on a brave face but we each know that the other one is hurting inside, knowing that its going to be weeks and weeks before we get to spend any time together again. I think the wait between July and this last trip was the longest ever. My plan is for another visit over Christmas which if all goes well will be less than 8 weeks from now. Until then its just more waiting. I think we both do really well at this whole long distance relationship thing. I think that if you can keep something going for over a year, with 3600 miles of Atlantic ocean between you, then thats probably going to be the hardest thing you'll have to deal with. I'm sure that Simone will correct me, but if being apart is this hard, then being together will be an absolute doddle !!

OK... I've rambled on and on entirely too long and as I'm in work, should probably get on with some work. If anyone is interested we now have an on line photo album. Its got pictures from all sorts of trips, visits and events and will be updated whenever we have new pics to add. You can access the album here. Feel free to bookmark the page and check back to see if there have been any updates.

I'm gonna sign off for now. Hope that I haven't bored you too much. Thats if anyone actually reads this thing anyway !!

See you all soon.

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 8:11 AM BST
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Sunday, 26 September 2004
2 weeks exactly!!
Mood:  chatty
Now Playing: sounds of my dryer and Harley purring
Topic: Anticipation of Oct. 9th!
Hello everyone!!

Just thought I'd add a post since a)Mark is always posting and I never find time which makes me look slack and b) I'm home alone, awake still, and bored!

So, why not type aimlessly and ramble until my eyes get tired, eh??

Mark will be here in exactly 2 weeks from today...we'll be home by now actually, catching up on lost time...YAY...I can't wait! July seems like ages ago. I think this has been if not the longest time spent apart then very close to it and quite frankly it sucks!! Yeah we chat every single day on the phone, but it's just not the same. People in relationships where they get to see one other daily don't know how good they have it...this relationship definitely makes me appreciate what I have a million times more than I've ever appreciated anything before! I miss Mark tons and can't wait until this whole visa process is over and we can stop missing each other!

I had lunch today with two of my close friends from high school....it was nice catching up with them...then tonight I played Bunco with my mom and her friends...I always give myself a hard time about it because in my mind spending a Saturday night out with my mom and her friends playing a "dice game" sounds so lame, but I always have a good time. She has some crazy friends!! Tonight it turned into a karaoke (I always spell that wrong!) game...we were singing songs from all sorts of old movies and just being really silly...my mom won a prize, but I begged her for it so she gave it to me :) Such a nice mom I have!!

Mark is off at his friend Strawsy's house warming party....it's times like that when I really wish we could be together doing all the couply things that couples do. The other day when we were on the phone there was a lull in the conversation and then at the same time we both said "i miss you"...now that's connection!! Distance sucks!! No one should have to miss the one they love, in my opinion!

Well, I've rambled enough for now I think...my contacts are starting to bug me so I think I'll go take them out and crawl into bed!!

Night all!
Debs
xx

Posted by Mark or Debs at 5:14 AM BST
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Thursday, 16 September 2004
Trenton Post Office Sucks !!
Mood:  cool
Now Playing: ER on TV
Topic: It DID arrive on time !!
Hello People,

Spoke to Debs last night and her parcel finally arrived. However... it would appear that it first arrived in Trenton on September 10th but some nice person at the post office there failed to leave debs a card telling her it was available to collect !! So... I take back my slating of Parcelforce. It did arrive on time and it was a cock up at the US end that delayed its delivery. She loved all her gifts and can go back to dunking Moores Dorset butter buscuits in her coffee every now and then !!

We're now only 24 days away from my departure to visit Debs. I really cannot wait to see her again. Yeah... we speak on the phone twice a day, yeah we email, yeah we chat online, but it doesnt get any better than being together, in the same place, at the same time. It might sound corny but I really do feel that when we are apart there is a little spark missing from me and the way that I go about my daily routines. The way I see every day is one less day until I get to see the girl I love again. Everything is focussed on the date of the next flight out to St. Louis. My work doesn't help my social life but in all honesty all I really want is time with my Fiancee. If I go out I wish she was with me. If I stay in I wish she was with me. Sappy I know but as most of you will have realised over the lasy year or so... I can get sappy with the best of em !!

Debs is back into the whole school routinenow. She's just had a 2 day workshop which has put a bit of variety into her week. She's been suffering a bit with some synus trouble but hopefully thats on the way out too. Bekah seems to have settled into her new school and has been busy with homework etc.. most nights. I'm sure that she gets more homework than I ever did !! Or maybe she actually spends more time on her momework than I ever did !! I used to have a comic or magazine inside my text books so it looked like I was working when actually I wasn't !!

Ok... I've babbled on for long enough now I think. I hope that you are all well and that life is treating you well.

I'll be back to update again soon.

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 10:27 AM BST
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Tuesday, 14 September 2004
Ok.... The UK postal system SUCKS !!
Mood:  irritated
Now Playing: Terrible Daytime TV Show
Topic: 7 Days v 30 Days !!
Morning folks,

Just got off the phone from Parcelforce Worldwide, the company that I was advised to use to send all of Debs' birthday gifts. Let me tell you people that I am NOT a happy bunny !!

I handed over Debs parcel on the 2nd September, paid a quite substantial amount of money and was told by the girl behind the counter that "International Standard" delivery would have the parcel there within 7 days, perfect for Debs' birthday on the 11th !! Well its now the 14th and still no sign of the package.

The delivery docket I was given has a tracking number on it but according to their website nothing has been updated about my parcel since the 4th September !! So... I rang up Parcelforce this morning and guess what ??.... Apparently the service i was told would be the fastest infact has a delivery time of up to 30 days and is non garunteed and non trackable !! So not only do I have no idea when Debs' stuff is going to arrive but neither do Parcelforce !! At this rate I'll arrive in the states before Debs' parcel will.

I'm just a wee bit annoyed about all this. I just feel bad that some of Debs' gifts might not arrive for quite a while. Good thing I've got the whole internet shopping thing working or Debs wouldn't have gotten anything !!!

Anyways... I'm done with my moan... just thought i'd share my annoyance with the world at large.

Come back again soon

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 9:10 AM BST
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Thursday, 9 September 2004
If It Hurts This Much It Must Be Doing Me Good !!
Mood:  a-ok
Now Playing: Nada
Topic: The Joys Of Exercise ..
Well folks,

3 days, 3 runs and my oh my do my legs ache !! Already things are improving though. I'm managing the best part of 20mins actually running compared to my feeble attempt on Tuesday.

I went out with my mum yesterday and if anything can spur you on to keep going its the desire to not be shown up by your mum !! She kept asking if she was running to slow for me... I kept telling her that I couldn't run any faster if I tried !! I've decided its mind over matter. I was ready to stop running after about 3 minutes but just making myself carry on seemed to enable to keep going longer than if I listened to my legs which were screaming at me to give them a rest.

There is anew show just started on TV this evening which I'm planning on using as a framework to get me healthier. Its basically 9 weekly shows folloing 200 people in 1 street in the UK somewhere who are all trying to get fitter and healthier. The show has a website I've signed up with that provides workout and diet plans and every week there is a "Big Challenge" that they want everyone to do over and above eating better and doing 30 mins of exercise per day. This weeks challenge has just been unveiled. They want everyone to do buttock firming exercises for the duration of a TV show they watch. Should be interesting !!

So.... this is day 1, week 1, of my lastest health kick...

Watch this space !!

Mark

Posted by Mark or Debs at 8:56 PM BST
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