I’M AVAILABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Why is it that people who are particularly loving and kind-hearted are so often the ones that end up mistreated and lonely? What becomes of them? Does destiny ever reward these believers who courageously stand their ground and open their hearts with faith every single time? Read the true love story of Sandi & Tim, two beautiful souls on two ends of the world who never stopped believing in love.

Names: Sandi & Tim

Status: Married

Been together since: 2004

A child that smiled through it all

Sandi: I was born in Minnesota in the States.

The church that my family was affiliated to would have conventions every fall in the US and other countries. I love to travel and thanks to those conventions, as well as my brother being stationed in Germany later, I’ve traveled quite extensively since my early teens. I’ve been to sixteen countries on a few continents, including places like Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, and have also been to over half of the States.

The first of these international trips happened when I was fourteen. We had gone to Norway via the UK, stopping in London for a few days both on the way there and back.

I  remember looking out of the hotel window in London. Overcome with a premonition, I said to myself, “The man of my dreams is out there.”  I knew already at the age of fourteen that my soulmate was somewhere in England.

Tim: I was actually living in London at the time. Just saying.

Sandi: I have always been very cheerful by nature although I had much reason to be the opposite during my childhood.

My brother used to call me fat and ugly even though I was really skinny back then. As a result, I just stopped eating. My mother caught on to this pretty early on and forced me to eat. Yet, I was so stressed that I would end up throwing up as a nervous reaction regardless. I suffered from an eating disorder for many years.

As a result of this abuse from my brother, I also had low self-esteem. I guess kids sense these things so I would get picked on at school. I’m not the type to fight back so all I did was keep asking myself, ‘Why doesn’t anybody like me?’

I love my daddy dearly and am still deeply grieving as we lost him last year, but he didn’t make life easy for me either. Being a military man, he always lived by, ‘My house, my rules.’ He was terribly controlling.

Exhausted after being at work for nine hours, I would come home and tell him, “Daddy, I need to use the bathroom so please don’t call me.” I’d be in the bathroom trying to do my business and not only would he call me, but he’d also call middle-name me.

Tim: Which basically meant she’s in trouble.

Sandi: He’d holler, “Sandi Lynn!” and I would be thinking, ‘God, I just want to poop in peace.’

I’d rush out as fast as I could and say, “What do you need?” and it would always be something like, “Can you get me the remote?” which would be two feet away from him.

Every five minutes he would be calling me for one thing or the other, “Can you tilt my chair back… can you take my socks off… can you get me a beer… go take the dog out… go help your mother… ”

This happened every single day, no exaggeration. Yet, I was always full of joy and if I ever felt any sadness coming over me, I always snapped myself out of it.

True love story of Sandi and Tim
“I have always been very cheerful by nature although I had much reason to be the opposite during my childhood.”

Tim: On the other side of the world, things weren’t too bright for me either.

Like Sandi, I went through a lot of the same kind of thing at school because my dad is a teacher. This would result in the other kids bullying me and giving me grief. Those were not the happiest of days of my life.

Escaping my marriage through make-believe

Sandi: Later in life, I found myself married to a man who was also a very controlling character.

I never knew that being controlling was a form of abuse. The way I saw it, he wasn’t calling me names, hitting me or hurting me. But he would be controlling everything—my finances, my social life, who I could talk to—all of it.

I realized that little by little he was trying to alienate me from my friends, coworkers and family. He also didn’t like it when I went to church and tried to find a way to pull me away from there too.

When he came into the store I worked at and my colleagues greeted him, he would flat out ignore them. I would then have to apologize for his behavior and you should never have to apologize for someone else’s bad behavior!

We were married for almost seven years and got divorced in 1997.

During our marriage, I wasn’t allowed to have friends but he reckoned online friends didn’t count and that’s how I met two of my best friends Jon, who lives in Australia, and Gary, who lives in Wisconsin, online in 1996. We will have been best buddies for twenty-one years this year.

The other thing this online world brought to me was role-playing. I was living in Seattle at the time and got into live action role-playing.

It’s an improvised acting game, so we would be thirty to forty people in a public place. From the outside, we would look like a bunch of strange people who were collectively hallucinating, but to us we were werewolves, vampires and mages in our world of fantasy, making up our magical adventures as we went along.

People would always be wondering what in the world we were doing.

It was a lot of fun and also created the perfect escape for me and the cherry on the cake was that it was the perfect remedy for writer’s block. I was hooked.

Escaping unhappiness

Tim: I lived in London most of my life.

What took me out of London was the ending of a relationship. My first serious girlfriend and I had broken up after several months together, and I was hurting a lot.

I basically ran away from the whole situation by choosing to go to college in the furthest possible place I could think of and ended up in Wales, which is around 240 miles across the UK, over the border and into another country that speaks a completely different language.

My girlfriend and I got back together while I was in college, but I stayed to complete my studies, even after we got engaged. It was probably just as well, because we ended up breaking the engagement after only a few short months.

My mom had grown up in Cardiff so I wasn’t far from family if I ever needed anything.

It was only when I got to college in Wales that I discovered that there are such things as friends and a social life.

I found myself in the fascinating world of tabletop gaming, then naturally progressed to Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons, and live action role-playing.

Larping
Tim in the wonderful world of live-action role playing.

Most of these games are about wars going on in fantasy or supernatural realms. The ‘Underworld’ film series reflects the concept pretty well. It’s a fantastic world of make-believe with curses, spells, vampires, shape-shifters and wizards. You create your own character and make up the story as it unfolds.

I started with the local group in college, then went on to take part in a lot of games, including the big annual and national events of the Lorien Trust—the Moots, the Heartland Games, the Gathering of the Nations… Soon, I became a regular.

There was a friend of mine who used to describe this role-playing as ‘cross-country pantomime’ but it was quite a bit larger than that. Some of the events had as few as fifty people on site, but the big events could have as many as 4,000 people, or more.

Sometimes we would be camping out around old castles in quiet rural areas and would wake up in the morning to deer roaming around right next to us. Things were quite realistic—we would be in costume and in character, engaging in full contact combat with foam weapons. It could get violent and people would get bruises.

All roads lead to Wales

Sandi: Meanwhile, I had met someone online and moved to Arizona but that didn’t work out.

Not losing my natural optimism, I soon met someone else who lived in Wales and I thought, ‘Maybe this is who I’m supposed to be with,’ because of that feeling I had about my soulmate being in England.

It was the year 2000 when I went over to Wales.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I was on my way to deception and heartbreak.

The man I was seeing was also into live action role-playing so he introduced me to the group there.

It turned out his make-believe tendencies extended into his real life—the man was a complete liar!

Slowly, everything came to light and I found out that not only was he lying to me, but to everybody else too. He couldn’t keep a job and was a complete bum.

He would leave in the morning pretending to go to work and come home in the afternoon pretending he just got off work. I found out that all he did all day was roam around Cardiff.

It turned out that his grandmother was giving him twenty-five pounds a week as pocket money, which was basically what was feeding us. Eventually, we ran out of money.

Due to the way I was raised and the values instilled in me by my family, I’m a very honest person and it’s one of the most important things to me. When somebody lies, my trust is destroyed and I couldn’t have a person like that in my life.

“To hell with relationships! I’m going to Australia!”

Being on a visitor visa, I couldn’t legally work in Wales, so I went out and sang on the sidewalk, there was no other way for me to earn anything.

It’s a good thing I’m a good singer or I would have starved!

My mom claimed I was begging for money but I never saw it that way – I was singing and entertaining. I actually had beggars coming up to me.

The Cat that had to pee changed our destiny

Sandi: Meanwhile, I was still attending the live action group meetings in Wales.

In my live action group in the States, the character I played was a very innocent girl who got thrown into the most comical situations. People used to laugh so hard that it was very difficult for me to keep a straight face. I’m related to Tom Hanks but I clearly didn’t share his talent for not cracking up during my acting.

Unfortunately, this particular group in Wales didn’t quite manage to grab my interest because they were way too serious.

During the first role-play event, I found myself sitting in the corner next to a girl. We were not in character at that moment. She was a sweet girl of about sixteen and I was around thirty-two.

After the role-playing was over, we went to a pub.

The guy on her other side kept tickling her with two fingers saying, “See? It only takes two fingers.”

My mind went to the gutter and we started laughing. We spent the rest of the night just talking.

That was the one wonderful thing that came out of that group—a beautiful friendship with this girl.

Her name was Cat.

I was in Wales for almost nine months. In 2001, my parents got me a ticket back to Alaska, where they were living at the time, and I returned to the States.

Tim: I was at a Gathering of Nations event in Derby, England.

I was in character, playing a ritualist priest called Merath, and I met a girl there. We hit it off because our fictional characters got along wonderfully during the game.

During a timeout session at the end of the night, we were out of character, chatting around the campfire and became really good friends. We kept in touch because we have common plots and character interaction online, so we wanted to keep that going. We would chat on MSN Messenger.

Her name was Cat.

Sandi: I was back on the other side of the world living in Wasilla, Alaska. These were the days before any social media so Cat and I would be in touch over MSN Messenger. Every time she was online, I would message her to catch up. I sure missed her.

It was the 27th of December 2002. Cat and I were chatting online.

Tim: Cat and I were also chatting online when suddenly Cat had to pee.

She said, “Tim, I’ve got to go to the toilet but talk to my friends, they’re also online.”

I said, “Sure.”

She connected us on MSN.

Her friends were a guy called Dave and a girl called Sandi.

Sandi: That’s how we met. She wasn’t trying to set us up or anything, she simply had to pee.

“Tim was born in the year of the tiger and I’m a Leo. My Leo looked at his tiger and went ‘purrr’.”

Love at first chat

Sandi: I was drawn to Tim straight away. Full stop!

The realization dawned on me that very evening as we were chatting, ‘Oh my God, this is who I’m supposed to be with!’

Unfortunately, Tim didn’t get the memo quite as quickly.

Tim: Because at the time Tim was in a relationship with another role-player.

Sandi: A fact that I was not aware of, not because he was hiding it, but because it had never come up.

I kept his contact details and every time he would come online, I would pounce and chat with him.

In March 2003, three months after we met, he said he was moving to Derby in the UK, to be close to his girlfriend.

Girlfriend!

I was absolutely and totally crushed!

‘Well,’ I thought, ‘I met two of my best friends online. Perhaps I can just stay friends with him too…’ trying to console myself.

I had so much love to give but every time I tried, it had ended in sadness.

Jon, my best friend, whom I had also met role-playing online, lived in Sydney, Australia, a place that I’d been dying to visit.

‘To hell with relationships!’ I thought, ‘I’m going to Australia to see my best friend!’

I looked into package deals and found one that I loved which would take me to Australia, Fiji as well as New Zealand. I extended the Sydney part to spend more time with Jon and his family.

Decision made, package booked, I started to save up. Not heeding the warnings of my parents about the snakes and spiders in Australia, I would honor my daddy’s birthday on the 3rd of January 2004 and head out on the 4th of January.

Tim: While Sandi was planning all this, I had been put out of a job.

Although I was going to Derby to be closer to this girl, I was also going as I knew I would be able to get a job there on very short notice. I just jumped and took the chance.

The good luck that helped me find a new job in Derby even before I left deserted me when it came to this girl.

It turned out that her mysterious flatmate was actually her supposedly ex-boyfriend who was also totally unaware of our relationship.

I knew nothing of this arrangement until after I moved to Derby, so it was an odd situation to be in.

“Live action role playing. I was given ‘Sanity’ the teddy as my character was losing his sanity.”

Sandi: She would constantly be complaining about the ex-boyfriend to Tim who kept telling her to move out of there and move in with him. He was ready to commit to her but she would always back off.

Tim: Instead, she preferred to have her cake and eat it. Things weren’t moving forward, they were actually moving backwards.

One bold confession 

Tim: Months went by.

It was December 26th, 2003, ten days before Sandi was going to leave and we were chatting.

Sandi: I said to him, “It’s too bad you have a girlfriend because you’re a real sweetheart…” He said, “Ummm… things aren’t quite working out with her…”

I said, “Oh?”

Tim: What she said next wasn’t exactly subtle.

She wrote in big bold capital letters all across the screen:

I’M AVAILABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Sandi: Yep, a long line of exclamation marks. We have the crazy factor going on here.

Tim: That’s when I suddenly realized that this person that I had only seen as a friend was interested in me as something else.

I knew there was potential that this could turn into something special, but my immediate reaction was one of intense fear and it was for a very different reason.

Sandi had already had many long distance trips flying all over the world.

Personally, my air travel experience up until that point was me flying to Malta with my grandparents at the age of eleven. I’d landed there and had promptly got sunburnt within five minutes of landing. I had developed a horrendous earache during the flight which refused to go away.

I swore to myself I would never, ever fly again and would swim back from Malta to London rather than to have to sit on a plane. My other trips were short distance trips to England or scouts trips to the Netherlands, but they were mostly via land or sea.

I’d flown to Scotland a couple of times for business, and was still intensely uncomfortable after each flight. The idea of flying half-way around the world, and having to change flights in the process, terrified me.

Sandi: I think he had an inner ear imbalance and this is why it was physically so uncomfortable for him to fly.

Tim: Yet, I knew I had to get away for a while and really needed to take a vacation. Sandi’s declaration had inspired me to reconsider everything in a different light.

A little bit of courage took me a long way

Tim: It’s a tradition in our family that the eldest male stays in touch with relatives. Some of my relatives had moved to Canada years ago. Looking at the logistics, I could either be going to visit family on the east coast of Canada, or visit Sandi on the exact opposite side of the continent.

It was to be a ten day vacation. I didn’t want to waste days of my trip driving between Canada and Alaska since I really didn’t want to fly more than I had to, so I decided to cut out the Canadian leg of the trip and head directly to Alaska to meet Sandi.

“I love eagles and thanks to Sandi, I got to fly one for the first time that day. This is a martial eagle from Africa called Snowflake”

All things considered, I knew I had to do something different with my life and this might have not made sense, but it felt right.

Sandi: By this time, I’m in Sydney and Jon and I are having a blast!

We went to the Sydney Observatory, I got to see the stars in the southern hemisphere, I was one of the first civilians to see the 3-D photos of Mars, I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, I got to cuddle a koala bear and pet kangaroos—it was wonderful.

One night, I checked my emails and saw that there was an email from Tim saying he was thinking of taking a trip to Canada and Alaska.

I emailed him back straight away saying, “Alaska? You’re coming to see to me?” and he said, “Yes, that was the point.”

I was absolutely over the moon!

“Jon, this is him. This is the one, the man of my dreams!”

I told Jon how I kept getting pulled to England since I was a teenager because I felt my soulmate was there.

Tim set his dates and would be coming to see me in October. Fantastic!

I returned from Australia with Jon’s heartfelt ‘good luck’ wishes and something very special to look forward to.

Obstacles, challenges, honesty and love

Tim: There were a few things on my mind at this point regarding the situation.

The fact remained that Sandi was in Alaska and I was in England, as were my family, friends and life. This fact just couldn’t be ignored.

Financially, I was on my way to going bankrupt, which definitely didn’t make things easier. How would this ever work on a practical level with the debt I had?

In addition to all of this, in terms of a potential future between us, I couldn’t say for sure if anything was going to happen between myself and Sandi at that point.

She’d gotten her feelings towards me very early on. Although I was initially a little slow on the uptake compared to her, there was an attraction and I knew I was emotionally interested, but this wasn’t a guarantee for me because of my upbringing.

I come from a very stable family which has influenced my outlook on relationships from a very young age. Even my grandparents had been together for as long as anyone can remember. They had celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary before we lost my grandad.

Longevity in relationships has definitely been a thing for my family for the most part, so I’ve always had that example to live up to.

As a result, I’ve never been a man for one night stands and I’ve never looked for short term relationships. It’s always long-term relationships or nothing. It’s just who I am.

The way I was looking at this was, I’m going on a vacation to meet Sandi and if it feels right, something will happen and if it doesn’t, it won’t.

“I have a similar photo with Angel the wolf which earned me the nickname ‘The Man Who Snogs with Wolves’ back in the UK.”

Sandi: Tim was very open with me and told me straight up he didn’t do one-night-stands. He said, “If there’s attraction between us, we’re going to make love, but if I don’t feel that connection, we’re just going to have a nice holiday.”

I respected his views on that and said, “I’m cool with that, let’s just see what happens.”

Tim: I’m one of those people that lives by a very simple philosophy made up of three words: do no harm.

One shouldn’t make a connection like that with someone unless one really wants to pursue it seriously. Also being quite in tune with my gut feelings, I didn’t pursue anything that didn’t feel right.

This is why when it came to the girl in Derby that I was interested in, although I definitely was keen to move it forward, I never bedded her.

She had other things going on in her life and I had experienced in my last relationship that if you have to be pushing things like that, it is not a good thing. It ends up being years of on-and-off dynamic which is not healthy, so I never did.

It had been about a year and a half at this point and things were pretty much finished with her anyway.

In fact, when I told her I was going to Alaska to see Sandi, her advice was, “Go, shag her, and get her out of your system,” which just went to show how little she knew me.

Clarity at first sight

Tim: Finally, it was time to go.

I had no idea how international airports work and this was my first solo international flight, and it was a long-haul one. I was absolutely dreading it.

My arrival to the USA was like a scene out of a comedy: I have to land in Chicago and catch a connecting flight to Alaska, my flight is running late, I have to navigate going through US customs, getting my suitcases, finding the domestic flights hall, checking into the other flight, I’m stuck behind a huge group of backpacking kids, I need a phone booth, I need change, I need to call Sandi’s parents to say I’ve landed in Chicago in one piece… I’m literally shaking with nerves!

Sandi: Meanwhile, I’m at work stressing. I keep calling my parents asking, “Did he call? Is he here?”

Tim: Luckily, somebody was kind enough to lend me their cell phone so I managed to call and let them know that I’d arrived safely.

Finally, I land in Anchorage, I get my bags and get through security.

I see Sandi and her parents standing at a distance.

I immediately know, “This is the person I’m supposed to be with.”

It hit me the second I saw her standing there.

Sandi: When he told me, I said, “Honey, I knew from day one.”

Tim: Starting from that moment, we were finally on the same page about us. I also got along just fine with her parents.

“Our first face to face meeting at the airport.”

Sandi: Understandably, my parents didn’t really want us to be in their place during this phase. We booked a hotel so he could, indeed, ‘shag’ me and get it out of his system, as that girl had advised him.

Tim: Well, it’s been twelve and a half years and I’m still not done.

Trauma gives wisdom, love heals trauma 

Tim: I rented a car and we did a fair bit of exploring before we went to stay with her parents.

As we were driving around when I first arrived, I saw her face go bright red. I knew there was something going on but I didn’t quite know exactly what at that point so my only thought was, ‘I have to take care of her.’

I looked at her and said, “You have to eat…”

Sandi: He could tell there something wrong with me when it came to food.

If there is just one thing that I hope people will take with them when they read my story, it’s this: You can overcome many things with the help of the person that you love.

My childhood trauma had burdened me with that eating disorder which had plagued me for many years. It was because of Tim that I got cured of it.

Strangely enough, I think that having been bullied and bossed around in my childhood impacted me as an adult in a positive way.

I saw that being aggressive doesn’t resolve anything and only adds to the tension. Unfortunately, some people just can’t see that. I could, and I chose to live my life differently. In any given situation, I’m always the peacemaker.

Tim: We generally hardly argue anyway. Since we’ve been together, we’ve gone through one major bust-up and it had to do with a disagreement over a family member. I always tell people, “We’re all entitled to our opinions, but we’re also entitled to be wrong.”

Sandi: Communication is essential in any relationship, not just marriage.

We talk about things calmly and listen to each other and never say, “You’re wrong.” Even if we don’t agree, we discuss our opinions and respect each other.

Tim: Some problems can be solved, some can’t be solved, and some take time. But we could see we got along exceptionally well right from the start.

How our lives blended, even before we met

Tim: We’re both writers, readers and we’re both very interested in role-playing so we already knew that we clicked intellectually.

” ‘This is the person I’m supposed to be with.’
It hit me the second I saw her standing there.”

Meeting face-to-face, we clicked immediately both physically and emotionally too. But there was so much more to it.

Sandi: We were ridiculously comfortable with each other.

In every relationship there comes that unavoidable moment where you have to pass gas in front of each other for the first time. After being being on the road for six hours, that glorious moment came. We started giggling and making a joke out of it and even nick-named it ‘leakage’.

Tim: We had so many things in common. Our sense of humor is very similar and we laugh at the same things.

Sandi: Tim and I are both major Doctor Who fans and this started long before we met and long before it was popular. This also allowed me to appreciate the British sense of humor. I always say it’s the best in the world and Tim always says I’m biased.

Tim: It’s funny how in sync we are with each other in other things too—once we were on separate continents chatting online and giggling. Turned out we were both giggling at Shaun of the Dead and our scenes were 5 minutes apart.

We’re both also quite intuitive, especially with each other. I used to drive to Stonehenge semi-regularly. Every time I crossed the old outer circle, I could literally feel the energy shift and would able to say exactly where we crossed it because it felt so different.

Sandi: When he took me to Stonehenge years later, the second we crossed the outer circle I told him, “The energy here is just astounding; my feet are tingling!”

Tim: I will have a song playing over and over in my head and next thing I know Sandi will be singing it.

Sandi: I always tell Tim, “There’s a couch in your head that I go and sit on. It’s comfy on your couch in your mind.”

Tim: And I always tell her, “Just don’t scratch the furniture.”

The synchronicity seemed to have been present even before we met. We have had the strangest coincidences like mutual friends that popped up out of nowhere.

The strangest incident involved my flatmate from college whom we all called ‘Slinky’. We found out later that Slinky was Sandi’s upstairs neighbor when she lived in Cardiff.

Removing the obstacles and the distance between us

Tim: Throughout the vacation, we were planning and talking about how we were going to make this work.

I would fly back to the UK to wrap everything up.

I would return to Alaska as fast as I could.

I would be returning to stay for good.

Sticking to this plan, I flew back, moved out of my apartment, sold everything, put the rest in storage and moved into my parents’ place.

When I told my ex-girlfriend about what was happening, I got a very upset, “I thought you loved me…” to which I responded, “So did I…”

“We wanted to be together and we were clearing out the obstacles to make it happen.”

There was a little bit of concern from my family. Understandably, they just wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. Although Sandi and I had been chatting online for a while, we had literally only spent ten days together in person.

Sandi’s parents also didn’t really know me that well but Sandi had researched me. Speaking to people who knew me intimately, like my friends and my family, she got to know a lot about me before committing to anything.

Sandi: I’d learnt my lesson from the previous experience I had in Wales with the other person. Before I moved there, I hadn’t tried to obtain any information about him from anyone who knew him. After my move, he basically ostracized me from a lot of his friends and I never met his family either.

Unavoidably, I did end up meeting some of his friends and they were the ones that eventually pulled me aside and warned me about how he was lying to everybody, especially me.

Heartbreak is no fun and I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t going to happen again. There were no red flags at all with Tim.

Tim: Sandi was putting things together regarding my immigration and I was working out the logistics.

She literally took on everything, including my debt, when I moved over.

Sandi: We wanted to be together and we were clearing out the obstacles to make it happen.

After talking to my second cousin who used to work in immigration, the picture emerged. We had to cheat the system just a little bit initially since Tim still had a loan and was about to bankrupt himself. He had to come in on a visitor visa and change it to a permanent resident visa afterwards.

Since we were getting married because we were in love and not for a green card, we were told this would be okay.

Two little weddings, one big secret and the number twenty-six

Sandi: Tim moved to Alaska for good on the 15th of April 2005, six months after our first face-to-face meeting.

We got married on the 26th of April, eleven days after he moved.

The number 26 is very significant to us.

I was born on the 26th of July.

Tim was born on the 26th of June on his grandparents’ 26th wedding anniversary.

His grandmother passed away on the 26th of October, probably her way of saying, “Don’t forget me.”

I confessed my feelings to Tim on the 26th of December.

And although it was deliberate, we got married on April the 26th.

They called him for his citizenship test on the 26th of January this year.

That number keeps following us around everywhere, especially on significant events.

Our medieval wedding was done on a budget. Tim even stitched his own outfit. I rented a cosy senior citizen’s hall which we decorated with balloons and bubble favors. Tim is pagan and we’re both not very traditional so we added all the touches that we wanted to which carried special meaning to us.

I actually wanted a chocolate wedding cake and when I told Tim this he said, “Is there any other kind?” I have a smart man here!

“Our medieval wedding was done on a budget. Tim even stitched his own outfit.”

We also had a Native American wedding ceremony a few months after. The story behind why we did that contains a secret that I’d kept hidden for a very long time.

I am part Cherokee through Abraham Lincoln’s grandmother, who’s also a distant relative. My grandmother always said my Cherokee blood would only fill my big toe (and I always said it was my right toe) but ever since I was a teenager I used to hear the voice of an elder lady saying, “Get your Native American name. You will not be whole until you have it.”

This was a secret I guarded religiously for many years because I didn’t want people to think I was crazy. I had a strong feeling that the owner of the voice was an ancient ancestor and I’d named her ‘Grandma’.

At work, I had a Native American colleague called Bill and when I found out that he was also a medicine man, I asked him if he could give me my Native American name. To my delight, he agreed.

We had a small naming ceremony which my mother also attended.

After the naming ceremony, Bill told me that there had been the spirit of a very old lady next to me, whom he was able to see, and she had told him, “Give her her name; she’s doing this to honor her ancestors.” He told me she was incredibly short and had very long, white hair right down to her ankles.

Bill’s declaration left me in shock because up until then, I hadn’t told a single soul that I had been hearing the voice of an elder lady in my head for years and I certainly hadn’t told Bill!

It was an amazing moment, “Wow! Grandma really exists and I’m not crazy!” Someone had actually validated it for me.

I got named ‘Fire Heart’ because I have a fire in my heart for learning.

Suddenly, Bill turned to my mother and said, “You’re next.”

My mother was named ‘White Flower’ in a separate ceremony. Bill said that ‘Grandma’ was also called ‘White Flower’ and had told Bill she wanted to name my mother after herself.

My mother is five foot two and she had already started greying by the time she was sixteen. She’d had a full head of white hair for many years, just like ‘Grandma’…

Our Native American wedding ceremony was to honor that.

Tim’s immigration process, lots of frustration and one very special blessing 

Sandi: We were still ecstatic when we went to start the immigration process the day after our formal wedding. The sour girl there didn’t quite share our jovial mood and seemed quite angry that Tim had come in on a tourist visa and was now trying to switch it.

This set the tone for the next six months as there were quite a few things going wrong that were beyond our control which delayed the process.

“Our native American wedding ceremony.”

As with many things that go wrong, this one also brought about a blessing.

Tim: Not working was driving me crazy because I’m not the kind of person to sit idle. That’s when I started reading a book that Sandi had written. It was still not edited so I started out with the intention of, “Let me edit this for her.”

Sandi: I write urban fantasy about vampires, werewolves and wizards but instead of talking about them like monsters, I humanize them. In my novel, the main character, Rose, is a streetwise, sarcastic vampire who’s just trying to survive. Just like many girls, she also worries about finding love.

One of my other characters is an alpha werewolf who owns a bar where everything happens.

As Tim was reading my book with the intention of editing it, he got so inspired by the werewolf that he asked me if he could borrow the character and create his own story around him.

Tim: I have always been interested in writing and had written a few stories before but it was Sandi who actually got me into writing properly.

Reading the book she was working on, I loved it so much that I wanted to steal characters and background material, which I did, with her permission, as well as encouragement.

That’s how my writing career began.

Sandi: He’s actually a published writer now.

Tim: I’m the first one to be published only because as I was writing my novel, a short story kept intruding, just asking to be written. So I wrote the short story and sent it to an anthology and it got accepted.

This short story is now one of several short story prequels to the novel series which we’re working on and the plots and characters are all intertwined.

Sandi: Meanwhile, he still hasn’t edited my book…

Together forever at last

Sandi: It took six months but we finally had all the documents we needed and everything was done for Tim to be living in the States legally for good. The last step was to go for the interview in person to get the final approval.

These were pre-Facebook days so we had a huge binder with all our photos, emails, bank account details, and anything else in it which proved that this was a real relationship.

We walked in.

The immigration officer took one look at us and the first words out of her mouth were, “I can tell you two are totally in love.”

Still, she had to ask us questions, it was her job. We started chit-chatting

Tim: She saw our wedding bands. They are also non-traditional and hold significance for us personally. We explained this to her.

Sandi: Diamonds are a cold stone for me and I will not support an industry that enslaves Africans. I have an emerald ring mined and made here in the States with Black Hills gold, and an emerald from Mount St. Helens.

Tim: Mine is Black Hills gold and sterling silver, with a bald eagle on black onyx, so our bands have personal connections.

Sandi: She asked about Tim coming in on a visitor visa and I told her openly that he had come in with a loan.

“He’s crap with finances and I’m the financial genius so I had to help him out. That’s why we did it this way.”

She looked at us and said, “Right, I’m approving this,” and she signed the approval right there.

“Tim getting his American citizenship in 2017.”

We stepped out of there and just hugged, the huge binder sandwiched between us.

Finally, all legal obstacles were out of the way.

We could relax and enjoy the rest of our lives together.

We needed to plan our finances carefully so our married life started with us having to live with my parents. Tim already knew about my dad and what he was like as I’d given him a heads-up.

Tim: He would sit on his chair directing everyone to do all the work around him and he wouldn’t lift a finger to help.

Sandi: His opinion was that women were there to serve.

Tim: I grew up in a household where we were all expected to pitch in and help out with the chores. So when I got there, the first thing I did was help with the cooking and cleaning.

Sandi: We were carefully trying to navigate both our relationship with them and our finances so we could move into our own place.

Living with them wasn’t always easy with my father micro-managing every aspect of our lives, but it allowed us all to come to a better understanding of boundaries.

This change came about because I finally found the courage to speak up and they finally were able to accept the fact that I was not a child anymore. I’m making this easier than it sounds, it was a tough process we all had to go through.

After living with them for almost a year, we could finally afford to move out. We moved into a tiny shoe box of an apartment which was fourteen feet by nineteen feet.

Tim: It might have been a tiny apartment but we were very excited to finally have our own space. Thankfully, the strain of having to live with her parents didn’t leave any permanent scars. When they moved to Texas, they actually invited us to move with them.

Our past relationships, our present love and our dreams for the future

Sandi: Tim is a dream come true for me. He’s the sweetest man I know, is faithful, loves me for me, and is true to his beliefs.

I respect that he’s a pagan. Tim has actually studied a lot of the major religions, as well as a few of the smaller ones, and he says they all boil down to one thing: do no harm.

I think he’s beautiful and he shines brighter than a lot of Christians do because he lives every day true to this philosophy.

Tim: Treat people as you would like to be treated.

Sandi: Unfortunately, not everyone lives by this and, just like everybody, we’ve also had bad things happen to us. But it’s against our beliefs to be bad to people so no matter what they might have done, we will continue to be as good as we can as humans.

“When you find someone that you connect with on this level, you want to be with them, you need to be with them, because they are the other half of you.”

In most articles you will see having an abusive background be cited as a reason for abusive behavior. Well, I’ve had an abusive background and I’m not gunning down children. You can’t allow bad experiences to taint who you are.

We will continue our lives being true to this simple philosophy of ‘do no harm’.

Tim: Amongst our other plans for the future is to write more books. Sandi is about to get her book published and also is planning an album release as she’s a singer-songwriter.

And we will continue traveling.

By land—I’m still terrified of flying!

Sandi: Our married life has been full of adventure and travel. We are both very playful by nature which definitely keeps the relationship fresh. Music is another thing we love and we regularly go to concerts and shows.

Animals have a very special place in both of our hearts and we actively keep that love alive.

We decided early on that it will just be the two of us. I had wanted children when I was younger but by the time I met Tim, things had changed.

Tim: Considering our health and financial challenges, it would have been both risky as well as irresponsible of us to try to become parents. We both believe that this was the right decision for us.

Sandi: I feel so blessed to have my Tim and am so grateful that I can wake up every morning next to this wonderful man.

Tim: Me too! I think about all the relationships I had before Sandi, all those cold ones that don’t work, where there’s no real balance and it all becomes one-sided after a while, then I think of the one I have now with Sandi…

I’m so happy to have connected with someone in this way, where I don’t have to worry about anything.

When you find someone that you connect with on this level, you want to be with them, you need to be with them, because they are the other half of you.

No regrets ever!

Sandi: None at all.

(As pointed out by Sandi, Sandi & Tim are the 26th couple to be published on this blog. That number sure does follow them around indeed <3 ~ Bianca)

Sandi is a singer/songwriter/poet who also loves to write fantasy and urban fantasy. She loves to travel and explore new places and meet new people. She can be contacted at: http://sandibatesonmusic.weebly.com 

Tim is a writer and blogger, with a love for all things sci-fi, fantasy and urban fantasy. When he’s not working at his day job, Tim can be found at his laptop working on his latest project, editing an older one, or planning blog posts for fellow indie authors. For more, check out his website at http://timothybatesonauthor.weebly.com

Click here to hear Sandi sing her own song Freedom’s Heart.

(Interviewed & written by Bianca)

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