One month, one week and one day

It has been an intensely busy season in our lives. I kept meaning to sit down and write up a post, but it seemed like something was always pulling me away. Now I’m holed up at my cabin and finally have a moment to breathe!

In the past one month, one week and one day (this post was supposed to talk about the past month, and then I got sidetracked yet again with blogging):

We ran the Blenheim Palace half marathon in Woodstock, England. It was our slowest half marathon to date, but the course was stunning, the sun was shining and we got to check England off our list of countries we’ve run a half marathon on. The race was pretty stressful at the start, thanks to delayed public transportation and our late arrival at the course!

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We packed up and moved from England to The Netherlands. We agreed that it was, without a doubt, our worst day of travel ever–shrieking babies, excess baggage fees, my credit card got frozen, Joost’s debit card got frozen, delayed flight, broken suitcase, missed train… and the icing on the cake: pulling up at Joost’s family’s front door at 1 am, only to find out that the cab driver didn’t take credit cards. We had to turn around, go back into town and find an ATM. Overall, it took us 20 hours door-to-door. For the record, it’s about 250 miles in a straight shot from where we started to where we ended. Next time, I’ll swim/walk, thank you!

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We ran the Amsterdam Marathon. This was our first full marathon and the months of training paid off; we finished! It was a long day, but one that we will never forget–except for miles 16-22. I seem to have blocked most of those from my memory. To be honest, I’m not sure if I would recommend this marathon. With the exception of a couple kilometers on each end, we didn’t actually get to run in the city itself. There’s not a lot of crowd support and the race organizers seemed to be overwhelmed with how many runners they had this year. No matter what, though, WE RAN A MARATHON!

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We played tour guide for my parents, who flew into Holland for a long weekend. We saw the Rijksmusem, which recently reopened after an extensive, 10 year renovation. It was gorgeous, but very crowded. Be prepared to stand in a lot of long lines. They had a beautiful library, in addition to the famous Night Watch and the very strange coffin made to look like a vagina (entitled ‘Womb tomb’). I’m not going to pretend to understand that one. We also walked around Amsterdam, toured the inside of a private windmill and had our engagement party!

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Joost’s parents hosted a wonderful engagement party for us in Holland while we were there. About 80 of Joost’s friends and family were able to attend, which was such a blessing, as many of them will not be able to fly to America for our wedding in May. It was fun catching up with friends and meeting new people, even though I can’t pronounce about half of their Dutch names. I had been a little worried how my parents would fit into Holland, but my fears were unwarranted; I had obviously forgotten that my dad is capable of making conversation with a blank wall and my mom is nearly just as social! The party was held in a little restaurant, decorated by pictures of us from around the world that Joost’s parents had surprised us with by blowing up and hanging. The food was incredible. There was a legit cornucopia on the buffet table. Need I say more?

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We celebrated our three year anniversary with a night out in Amsterdam. Man, meeting in Australia feels like forever ago! We went for a run around Vondelpark, checked out the real estate and then had an amazing dinner at a restaurant called Fondue Fondue. It was, in case you hadn’t yet guessed, a fondue restaurant. Highly recommend.

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We said goodbye. I swear, if I had a penny for every tear I’ve shed at the Amsterdam airport, I’d be a bajillionaire. Joost and I are back to being in a long distance relationship until his visa paperwork clears. We’re hoping that he’ll be able to come to America at the end of March or beginning of April. We are both suffering from the severe re-acquisition of what I call the ‘LDR humpback,’ which is permanently and painfully slouched shoulders resulting from leaning over a computer screen or phone screen for so long. Ah, nothing like dating a pixelated face a few thousand miles away. Luckily, he’ll be in the US for Christmas and then we’ll only have three more months of long distance to go.

Joost took the GRE, a standardized test required for PhD applications in the US. He scored within the range of all the universities he’s applying to and I am so, so proud of him! Ironically, as a non-native English speaker who is almost done with his masters degree in applied mathematics, he scored higher on the verbal section than the math section. Go figure.

I moved back home to America. After ten months abroad, everything seems very large and very loud and very fast-paced. I’ve been home for a bit over a week now and still cannot bring myself to unpack.

I said yes to a dress! My first week at home was crammed with doctors appointments and wedding dress boutique appointments. We went to three shops and I tried on probably 25+ dresses before I found one, but I love it and can’t wait to wear it. I never thought I’d be the kind of gal who gets excited about poufy white dresses, but apparently all things are possible. My grandma was able to accompany my mom and me to the last appointment, and the fun girls day ended with champagne for all of us!

The holiday season is going to be busy for both of us. Joost is finishing and presenting his Masters thesis at the start of December. I’m working holiday retail at the mall (PSA: BE NICE TO MALL EMPLOYEES!), which is sure to keep me busy, although most likely on the brink of insanity. The Europe/America time difference is much harder for us than the Europe/Australia time difference was, so we’re trying hard to squeeze in Skype dates when possible, but it’s definitely been a challenge having to re-tether ourselves to technology. If we don’t get around to updating soon, we wish all the Americans a happy Thanksgiving, all the Dutchies a happy Sinterklaas (say hi to the black slaves for me) and everyone a happy holiday season!

A proposal!

Some big news in our life: We’re engaged!

On Saturday, Joost proposed and I said YES!

We had planned on a picnic in Oxford—the weather gods finally decided to shine down on us and grace us with sunshine. We packed up the essentials for any good picnic: a baguette, brie and wine and biked to Oxford. I must admit, I felt quite European with a baguette sticking out of the basket on the front of my bike!

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When we arrived, the town was packed with tourists and school groups. It was a bit reminiscent of walking around and being jostled through Times Square in NYC—just with much, much older buildings. We wandered to Christchurch Meadows, laid out a couple of towels and enjoyed the food and sunshine.

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Joost had been acting a bit strangely all morning, but to be quite honest, I just thought he was really hungry. Anyone who knows Joost can attest to the fact that a hungry Joost is a weird, distracted Joost. The longer we sat in the park, the faster and more Joost talked about trivial things. Finally, he pulled himself up so he was sitting facing me and said, “I have a little something for you.

In my head, I was shouting, “OMG! IT’S GOING TO BE A RING! THIS IS IT!”

…and he pulled out tickets to Despicable Me 2.

I’ll be honest, I was pretty excited for the tickets, but they weren’t nearly as sparkly as the something I had been hoping for!

Joost laughed and informed me that he had been checking his watch all morning because he wanted to make sure we didn’t miss the movie. I tried not to look too disappointed, but it must not have worked, because he said, “oh, and I have something else for you too!”

In my head, I shouted (again), “OMG FOR REAL THIS TIME! THIS IS IT!”

…and he pulled out an engraved wooden plaque. It had all of the continents listed and the races we’ve run so far. He told me that he thought running was something that’s brought us closer together and the metaphor for running through life together was something special: it’s taught us teamwork, how to stay by each other’s sides through tough times and how to set and achieve goals together.

It was a lovely gift, but definitely not what I had been expecting! Then he told me to turn it over. “Marry Me” was engraved on the back. When I looked back at Joost, he was on one knee with a gorgeous, sparkly present!

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We had to laugh. The woman at the engraving store in our small town in Oxfordshire had misspelled Antarctica and forgotten to put a question mark after “Marry Me,” so Joost apologized for sounding like a demanding Dutchman and reiterated that it was a choice. Ha, I still laugh thinking about it. The flaws make me love it even more, just because it’s so funny.

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Of course I said, “yes!” and tried really hard to get my eyeballs to stop sweating. We didn’t have much time, as we had to bring the ring back to the jewelry store (it was too big and has to be resized, so I only had it for about an hour before it got shipped off!) and make it to the movie! By the way, Despicable Me 2 is hilarious. It’s even better when you enjoy it with beer, wine and a proposal. 🙂

Now, here’s a little secret: we have been wedding planning for weeks! We’ve talked about it a lot and are both so, so excited to get married, but we do have a couple extra considerations to take into account: our marriage involves immigration attorneys, a physical exam for Joost to make sure he’s not bringing any foreign diseases into the US and interviews at the US embassy. Joost can come into the US on a fiancé visa, but has to be married within 90 days of landing on US soil. So, we wanted to get married ASAP so that we wouldn’t have to go back to being long distance again, but then we realized that none of our friends would be able to make it without enough prior notice. We’re inviting friends from five continents, so we wanted to be able to give them enough of a heads up so that they could start saving their pennies!

We wanted everything ready to go when we became “officially” engaged so that we could tell our friends a date right away. So, we booked our venues a couple weeks ago. We’ll be getting married at a winery near my cabin at the end of May next year! We also have had our Save the Dates sitting on our desk for the last week.

It’s been quite strange ‘secretly’ planning a wedding. We only told our families and a few of our closest friends. I am extremely lucky to have a mom that’s a rockstar at event planning and has good taste! She’s been helping look at venues, find vendors, etc back in Minnesota, as it’s been a little difficult doing it from England. It’s not how I ever imagined planning a wedding would be, but I suppose nothing about our cross-cultural, international relationship was how I imagined dating would be!

As of right now, we’ll head back to the Netherlands mid-October. At the beginning of November, I’ll head back to the states, which means I will once again be dating a pixilated, 2D, head of Joost. Sometime in March, Joost will come over to the US. At the start of April, he’ll find out whether he was accepted into any PhD programs (he’s currently looking in Chicago, Minnesota, California and Colorado). In May, we’ll get married and then we’ll move to wherever Joost gets in!

It’s all quite chaotic, but we are SO so excited and can’t wait!!

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