Breathing deeply

Did January even happen?

One day, I woke up and it was February.

And here I am, living south of the 49th and fully ensconced in My American’s house in Spokane, Wash.

With a deadline of April 25 to get married.

Let’s recap.

Autumn was agonizing. After receiving our I-797f approval notice on Sept. 25, 2014, allowing me to apply for my K-1 visa, we expected to get our National Visa Center case number inside of two or three weeks. That didn’t happen. Unlike many other K-1 couples, we were forced to wait for our case to be recovered from a misplaced batch of files and sent to its appropriate destination. Shortly before Christmas, that finally happened.

Communication with the U.S. consulate in Vancouver began, and so did the January whirlwind.

All of a sudden, I had my appointments booked. I rushed home from Spokane and started to pack. The next thing I knew, I was in Vancouver for six nights, hanging out with my cousin and his girlfriend and adding almost 30 craft beer to my Untappd collection.

My medical was on a Friday but I couldn’t get the results until late Monday afternoon. While he was ensuring I was not a disease-riddled refugee, the doctor let it slip that he found me in perfect health.

Shocking.

I had blood drawn and my chest X-rayed that afternoon.

Happy Tuesday

It was a sunny, warm morning but that didn’t let me feel any less nervous about my impending interview at the embassy on West Pender. My first anxiety was getting off the Skytrain at the right stop. Then finding a bank machine so I could have cash to pay the guy at the groceteria for watching my oversized purse (no big bags at the embassy, the rules say!).

Then worrying.

Did I have all enough evidence to prove I was in a bona fide relationship with My American?

Was there anything in the sealed envelope of medical results that would keep me from crossing the border? Ever again?

Might I slip up with one of my sarcastic jokes and get denied by an embassy worker having a bad day?

I stand in line and wait.

One security check.

Up the stairs for another security check.

Up the elevator with a stern-looking security guard.

A third security check.

I stand in line and wait.

I hand my papers over to a lovely, engaging woman behind a window. She says she has to go through my papers to make sure I have everything right. She doesn’t want my evidence, just the forms, passports, medical results and other official documents like my birth certificate.

I sit and wait.

She calls me up and everything looks good. She gives me a number.

I sit and wait.

Other numbers are called before me. They’re people seeking travel visas, work visas and entrepreneur visas. They have stacks and stacks and stacks of papers to prove their worthy of an approved visa application. I look down at the few printouts I had left in my hand … pictures from our engagement, blog posts about our journey together, Facebook pages with friends declaring their pleasure at our engagement, our Christmas family photo with Bella …

My stress grows tenfold.

I don’t have enough.

Finally, my number is called. A friendly young man sorts through my papers and types furiously on a keyboard. Meanwhile, he asks how I met My American and how he proposed. I give him — as succinctly as a storyteller can — the nitty gritty.

He smiles, stamps a few papers and looks up to say “congratulations!”

That’s it? All this for an eight-minute “interview” of two questions and answers to which I’m sure he didn’t really pay attention.

That’s it. My approved visa will be sent by courier to Kelowna in a matter of days.

I leave the embassy, call My American to relay the good news and head to a restaurant for a celebratory glass of wine with one of my favourite people.

Fast forward

That was two weeks ago.

My American came up to Kelowna to hitch the U-Haul to his truck.

Now I sit at my new workspace, hammering furiously away at my own keyboard while blueberry muffins bake in the oven.

This is my life now.

I can’t work until we get married, apply for my Adjustment of Status and receive my Work Authorization from the U.S. government.

I can’t visit Canada until my Advance Parole comes through with the Work Authorization.

I can’t do anything except write on my blogs, cook, clean, walk the dog and get more comfortable in my new environs.

Spokane isn’t new. I’ve been coming here often enough for the last four years.

But it is. It’s new to be here permanently, never having to leave My American again. It’s new to be starting another chapter in our relationship, new to be dependent (and stressfully so, considering my penchant for independence).

New to be American.

I remind myself to breathe sometimes.

I breathe to let go of the life I used to have.

Breathe to embrace the life My American and I are building with Princess Bella Bossy Pants.

Breathe in the delicious aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins.

Just breathe.

Deeply.

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