Posted by: Andrea | May 19, 2011

Dog owners will totally get this

So I watched this and I laughed so hard, I actually couldn’t talk for a couple of minutes.

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Posted by: Andrea | April 18, 2011

The name dilemma

The inevitable part of any woman getting married is the big discussion about names.  To change your name or not?  For some women, this isn’t even a consideration, they’ll be taking their new husband’s name.  For me, it was never going to be that easy.  As a feminist, I have a very hard time just blithely giving up the name I have been known by for my whole life.  I also have a real problem with the societal expectation that women should just change their names as if it’s no big deal.  It bothers me that it is so difficult for women to keep their own names in so many little ways.  As a feminist, I find it very difficult to just change my name to my husband’s without any thought.

But here’s the problem.  Ever since I was old enough to start introducing myself to people, I have really disliked my name.  It’s a german name that is strangely spelled and is extremely hard to pronounce.  NOBODY know how to pronounce it when just reading it.  It’s also one letter away from a very well known swear word.  I remember thinking on a very regular basis when I was young that I couldn’t wait to get married so that I could get rid of my stupid name and get one that is easier to pronounce.  I even seriously reconsidered dating a guy in my early twenties because his name was even harder to spell than mine!

Now that I’m getting close to getting married though, I’m feeling much more attached to my name.  As much as I find it annoying, it’s still my name, it’s been a part of me for my entire life.  I also feel like I don’t want to just change my name because it’s what is expected of me.  I want to keep my name as part of my identity.  So what to do?

First, I talked to Malcolm about this and he is supportive of whatever I want to do.  He has said that he would like me to take his last name, but he would never ask me to do anything and the decision is up to me.  I know he would like me to have his name, for a couple of reasons.  Malcolm is the last male in his family that could theoretically have children, so he is the last chance for his name to be passed on.  Ultimately I don’t know how big of a deal this is, but I know that it’s a big deal to him.  He also has said he’s always pictured himself in the future with his wife, ‘Mrs HisLastName’ so I think deep down it’s important to him.  However, he’s let me know the decision is completely up to me.

I know that Malcolm wants us to share a name as a family if we have children and on that I agree.  I don’t want to have a different name than my children (if we have children) and I don’t want there to be any confusion that I’m their mom.  I have never thought it was crucial that the shared name by the man’s name, however, and have always thought a combined last name is the best way to do that.  Either a hyphenate or else a new name that combines parts of each name.  The only problem is that our names do NOT sound good together and there is no way for us to combine our name that would sound good either.  Plus, to combine names into a new name could destroy what was great about the two original names.  Such a problem!

My other issue is that I actually really like Malcolm’s name!  It is actually one of my favorite last names ever.  I can neither confirm nor deny that it is the last name of one of my favorite Newsies and may nor may not have been the last name of my egg baby in 7th grade.  If I were the type of girl who would name their egg baby after a Newsie.  Ahem.

So the problem is, I love his name.  I kind of dislike my name and historically have been awaiting the day when I could offload said name and take on a new and much better one.  But now that the day is here, I feel like I am betraying feminism!  I feel like if I just take on his name, I am reinforcing all the things I hate about what women have to deal with in our society.  Plus, my name kind of feels like that horrible family member that everybody has.  They’re really annoying and you all complain about them and you have these horror stories about how AWFUL they are, but it’s not like you’d ever kick them out of the family, right?

What I want, is to be able to use both my names in my life, without having to hyphenate them.  My solution as of now, is to use my last name in my professional life and to use his last name in my personal life.  So for the sake of this illustration, let’s say my last name is Fox and his last name is Murphy.  So I’d be Andrea Fox at work, which I really like because that way I won’t have to change my name in the middle of my career.  All of my degrees are in that name and people know me by that name.  Also, in social work, it’s not the worst idea in the world to make it difficult for clients to track you down.  Then in my personal life, I’d be Andrea Murphy.   So we’d be Mr. and Mrs. Murphy as a couple and if we ever have kids, I’d be Mrs. Murphy at their school and we’d have the same last name.  I think this is a good compromise because I’m not as bothered by ‘passing down’ my last name to kids as I am with maintaining my own identity.

So after that, here’s my big dilemma.  How to I do this?  I was initially thinking that I’d change my last name to Fox Murphy, without a hyphenate.  I’d have both names as my new last name and I’d theoretically be able to use whichever one I want when I want to.  But the more I thought about it, I’m concerned this may be confusing to people.  It’s not common at all in our society for a person who have two last names, so would people be more confused by this if they saw it on a form or something like that?  I don’t want to hyphenate because I don’t want to ever go by Fox-Murphy together as one name, just to have the option to go by Fox or Murphy depending on the situation.

My other option would be to make Murphy my official last name and to make Fox my middle name.  My concern about this is that I’d have to make sure that my middle name is always used (say on credit cards, etc) when that’s not always the case.  Also, I kind of want my original last name to still be a part of my last name.  I don’t want to make my original last name the secondary name.  On the other hand, who really sees official listing of names anyway?  As long as my work ID and email has my original name on it, it probably doesn’t really matter what I’m called by shopkeepers who read my name off my credit card so they can say ‘thank you Mrs. whatever’ when I pay for something.  I just don’t know what to do!  What do you guys think?

Posted by: Andrea | April 5, 2011

Hunger Games! And…*sigh*…Mockingjay.

About a week ago I read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and I. WAS. HOOKED.  Like, seriously hooked.  Read-it-in-one-day, went-to-the-store-immediately-to-buy-the-next-one, HOOKED.  I was singing its praises and telling everyone I knew to read it.  I started blog posts in my head about how THIS was how to write a truly awesome young adult novel.  Fuck Twilight, THIS is how it is done.

Then….I read Mockingjay.  Ugh.  Mockingjay.

How did it all go so wrong?!  I was so deeply, deeply disappointed.  I couldn’t even bear to write a review of The Hunger Games because I still had the bad taste that was Mockingjay fouling up my brain.

So, quick plot summary.  The main character in THG is Katniss, at 16 year old girl who lives in District 12, a section of future America and the losers in a previous war against the winners, The Capitol.  the Capitol has separated out the conquered peoples into 12 separate districts and has basically plundered all the wealth and valuable products from each area.  To reinforce that The Capitol has control over everything in their lives, every year they hold a Hunger Games.  In these games, a boy and girl from each district is chosen by lottery to be thrown into the arena to fight for their lives.  The last one left alive is the winner.

The main character is Katniss, who volunteers to go to the arena in the place of her 12 year old sister.  I don’t want to ruin the plotline so I won’t say much else about it other than that I was absolutely enthralled.  I read the first book in one day and immediately had to go out and buy Catching Fire. I kept thinking to myself, THIS is what young adult fiction should be about!  I loved that it didn’t turn away from the violence and danger to the characters.  Yes, people died.  The characters were expected to kill each other to survive and the book didn’t shy away from that.  I loved that young people were put in life or death situations and had to really find out if they were able to kill another person or not.  It was real drama, real emotions, real survival (ok, well, REAL is of course taken in context, as not many of us would be expected to fight to the death!).

But what I absolutely loved about both this book and Catching Fire was the rumblings of revolution that were simmering underneath the events that we were reading about.  Katniss was being created as a symbol of the revolution that you just KNOW is coming and I was so excited to see where this was going.  When I was a teenager, I loved historical fiction about wars where teenagers could fight and get involved in resistance, such as WWII or the American Revolution  (one particular favorite was Johnny Tremain).  Perhaps my love of these books was from a fervent desire for some real excitement in my own life.  I secretly would have LOVED to have gotten into some real danger for a worthy cause.  I don’t know, maybe I’m crazy, but I would have been OBSESSED with THG if I’d read it when I was a teenager.  But there’s so much in there that raises questions in an adult too.  What would I have done in that situation?  Could I have survived?  Would I have been smart enough?  Could I have killed someone like that?  Interesting to think about.

Unfortunately…then I read Mockingjay.  To say I was disappointed is a huge understatement.  Katniss was so dynamic and smart and engaging in the first two books!  Then for 2/3 of Mockingjay she’s either moping around or in a drugged coma.  She literally doesn’t do anything!  The only time she sees action is when she’s talked into going to the front line so it can be filmed for a promotional video.  She has no interest in the revolution, the revolution of which she is the symbol and which will ultimately end the tyranny of the capitol that resulted in her involvement in the hunger games in the first place.  She just…can’t be bothered.  She’d prefer to mope and sleep in cupboards and allow everyone else to make a bunch of decisions for her.  I was just so incredibly disappointed!  After all this time she’s been front and center in the action and then suddenly…nothing happens!  She sits around!  And plays with a cat!  And goes for walks and takes naps!  OH COME ON.

Now, I realized as I was reading that perhaps Collins is attempting to imply that Katniss is suffering from PTSD after everything she’s been through.  Which is probably a completely realistic reaction to being expected to kill a bunch of people for your own survival.  However, not to much fun to read.  Young people want to read books where they matter, where they are not treated like kids but have crucial roles in the events around them.  The first two books in this trilogy were awesome and met these standards in spades.  The last one failed big time.  I still read it and I’m glad I got to the end of the story, but Mockingjay really soured the story for me.  I still love The Hunger Games but I find my love has been tainted a little bit.  I wanted to love it all as much as I did the first, but I just couldn’t.

So, read the Hunger Games!  Maybe skip Mocking jay.

Posted by: Andrea | March 15, 2011

Interviews!

So as an update, shortly after I posted last, I was asked to two interviews!  My first in months.  One was yesterday and one is tomorrow.  Much time was spent deciding on an interview outfit, but I managed to pick one that I felt confident and comfortable in (and thankfully the stain on my shirt was covered up by my jacket!).

I think the interview yesterday went fine, though I feel like I messed up on the last question.  I was feeling really confident about the interview, lots of head nodding and writing things down from both interviewers and I felt like I came across well, though probably nervous.  Then one threw out a question at the end “what scares you the most about this job?” and then…I DID IT.

I stupidly just said the first thing that came into my head, which was TRUE, but was probably not the best thing to say in that instance.  I had intended to say that this was something that I personally was nervous about, that I feel it’s not one of my strengths, but that I know is mostly in my head because I’ve always been told this particular worry is not actually true about myself.  I was trying to be honest and self deprecating!  But one of the interviewers made a face and suddenly I felt like I’d gone into an interview for a CPA position and said ‘well I really just hate math.’  I felt like an idiot.

I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as I felt like it was and I did try to backtrack a bit, but I felt like I’d totally left a horrible impression.  Unfortunately, not much I can do about it now!  And to be honest, the job isn’t exactly one I’m desperate to take, so maybe it’s for the best.  I have one more interview tomorrow and I’m determined not to get caught out in the end by my own stupid honesty.  Who wants honesty?  This is a job interview!

Posted by: Andrea | March 2, 2011

The unemployment blues

So I’ve been home for four months now and I’m still (STILL!) unemployed. I was aware that might be a possibility, but I had really really hoped that I’d be able to get a job by now. I’ve been unemployed once before right after college and it took me eight months to get a job. It was also an incredibly depressing time of my life, getting worse after every unsuccessful interview.

This time is slightly better, only because I knew ahead of time that the economy was bad and I’d prepared myself for a period of unemployment. It’s also slightly worse because I have much more experience (and a master’s degree!) and can’t even seem to get a single interview! I’ve applied for so many jobs I’ve lost count and yet still hadn’t had a single interview. And I’m really good at my job! I swear, at my last review before I left my old job, my boss couldn’t find a single bad thing to say about me. So what’s the deal? I’m pretty frustrated, to say the least.

I’m doing my best to stay positive. I mean, think of all the time I have! I’m taking lots of walks with the dog and have embarked on a new exercise regime. But it’s hard to regain that personal sense of accomplishment without a job. I never thought that I would relate so much of my own self-esteem to my job, but I guess you learn something new everyday. I do have a lot of goals for my career and it’s hard to accomplish them without a job. It also makes me feel like maybe there’s something wrong with me if I’m not even getting an interview. I know there are so many other people that are in the same boat, but it’s so depressing and every day I feel a little bit less confident. It’s hard to sell yourself when you don’t believe in yourself.

Though I’m trying really hard to keep that belief.

In the good news column, there are two jobs I’ve applied for recently that I both really want and am actually well qualified for. Please GOD let me get an interview.

Posted by: Andrea | November 9, 2010

The rings!

In keeping with my efforts of being an unconventional bride, when Malcolm and I started talking about rings, I knew I didn’t want a diamond.  I wanted a beautiful ring, but I didn’t want a ring that looked just like everybody else’s.  I also didn’t want to spend a huge amount!

I also wanted to be sure we were getting ringS.  Yes that’s right, Malcolm got a ring too.  It was very important to me that he got a ring just like I would be getting one.  It never seemed fair to me that women get rings on engagement but men don’t.  The way I saw it, it was only right that we both got rings and we both shared the cost for those rings.

Malcolm has since said that he really likes having a ring as a way to show the world that he’s very serious about our relationship.  He also likes having the ring because we’re going to be apart for a year before we can get married.  I didn’t realize how important the ring would be to him, but he’s so careful with it and always makes sure he wears it.

When picking out a ring for Malcolm, we first started looking at jewelery stores in Glasgow.  The costs were extortionate and Malcolm never really found something he loved.  So instead, we headed to Etsy!

The ring wasn’t a surprise, so I pretty much just set Malcolm loose on Etsy and told him to find something that he liked.  He had a few finalists, but ulimately he chose this ring:

I don’t have one of Malcolm wearing it, unfortunately, because I’m just not that organized!  This is a titanium ring with Manzanita wood inlay.  This was especially meaningful for us because my family has a house in Manzanita, which is where Malcolm and I first discussed marriage.  We bought this ring from robandlean on Etsy.  Malcolm loves it!

My ring was more complicated.  I knew I didn’t want a diamond and I was leaning towards a princess cut stone with surrounding diamonds.  I had an idea of what I wanted, but didn’t know exactly which kind of ring.  We started looking in Glasgow and pretty quickly deduced that we’d have to get a ring custom made to get the exact one that I wanted.  I decided that I wanted a light colored Tanzanite stone with delicate, small diamonds surrounding.  We got an estimate for a custom made ring from a local jewelers and I almost choked: $2,750!  We had a budget of $1000, so that was a no go.

Soon we headed back to Etsy and found two possibilities for custom making my ring.  The first place we tried quoted $1,450.  Better, but still too much for us.  Finally I found a woman who would make the exact ring I wanted for $950!  Result!

This is my ring:

I LOVE IT.  It is exactly what I wanted and at the right price!  The only bad thing was that I bought the ring back in August but didn’t get it until I moved back home in October.  I didn’t want to have the ring sent to Scotland because of customs charges, so I had it sent to my parents’ house in Portland.  Then, when I arrived home, I noticed that one of the accent diamonds was missing.  So back to the designer it went to get the diamond replaced.  I’m still waiting to get it back from the designer, but hopefully it will arrive soon.  It’s been SO frustrating with LOTS of waiting, but at least I know that the ring is just what I wanted.

After my recent problems with Etsy I won’t say who the ring designer is (in case she sends me horrible emails!).  However, other than the missing diamond and the slooooow mail to return it and get it back, I’m very happy with my ring.  I’m also very happy that I got a ring I wanted without going overboard.  I read somewhere that the average cost of an engagement ring is over $3,000, so I’m very happy to buck that trend!  We got two beautiful rings that we both love, all for around $1,100.  I’m very happy with that!

Posted by: Andrea | October 31, 2010

It costs HOW much?!

I’ve been home now for just over two weeks and already the wedding planning is in full force.  I have a few other considerable issues to deal with, such as finding a car and finding a JOB.  So, you know, just a few small tasks.  But after leaving the wedding on the back burner to deal with moving, now that I’m home I’ve started reading the magazines, looking around for reception venues and trying to get an idea of what we want this wedding to be.  And suddenly it seems like we have to book everything RIGHT NOW because we’re SO BEHIND!  I’ve seen timelines where at 12+ months people are booking venues and shopping for dresses.  My wedding is only 10 months away and I’m just getting started!  OH MY GOD MY WEDDING IS DOOMED.

And of course, everything is so expensive I just about faint every time I even think about a budget.  I’ve always been a saver, not a spender.  I have a very hard time spending money, particularly a lot of money.  And a lot of money to me is anything more than $100.  So I’m starting to get ulcers thinking about the amount of money this wedding could theoretically cost.  The thing is, I’m not even paying for this wedding!  Because if I was, we’d be getting married in our backyard and having a reception BBQ, because we have no money.

Most of our guests are family and close family friends, so my parents want to celebrate well and give them a good time.  Which is so nice of them, I cannot fault my parents at all.  My mom has been trying to get me to calm down about the money but it’s SO hard.  It’s not just about the THOUSANDS that we will most likely spend, even with me trying to cut corners wherever I can.  It just makes me see red whenever I see the costs that people charge just because it’s a wedding.  This whole wedding industry just pisses me off so much!  I hate the whole idea that we have to throw this gigantic party with flowers and food and decorations and entertainment and booze (because WOW is that expensive).  And all the crap that goes with it, like matching table decorations and centerpieces and favors!  Ugh, the favors.  Biggest waste of money ever.  We are NOT having favors.  Unless I could eat it, at every wedding I’ve ever been to, I threw my favor away.

So anyway, after a mild panic this weekend, I’m seriously considering having the wedding in my parents’ backyard.  It will save us SO much money, plus it will give us the control over how we choose to have our wedding.  No packaged deals, no in-house caterers, no super expensive wine and boring centerpieces.  I’m not sure how we’ll fit approximately 75 people in my parents’ backyard, but I’m interested in finding out if I can.  Also, finding out how to ensure that 75 people have a place to pee.  Most important details first.

Posted by: Andrea | September 30, 2010

Don’t worry, not married yet!

No, we didn’t run off and get married.  We DID seriously think about it!  But then we started looking at the cost of flights to Vegas (thousands!), the cost of flights to Florida (no waiting to get married!  Also, thousands!) or the cost of flying home (hundreds!  Plus free accommodation!  Thanks mom and dad).  So it was pretty easy to make the decision to get married at home in Portland.

Initially we’d planned to get married right away.  As in, as soon as I could organize something.  We were going to make it small and intimate and try not to worry that not everybody would be able to come.  It wasn’t ideal, but it was fine.  It was ALL FINE.

Except, after awhile, it wasn’t really fine.  It was stressful and I kept thinking, this isn’t how I want to do this!  Finally my mom said to me, ‘you know, before you were so excited and now you just sound stressed.  Are you sure you want to do this?’

At first I was thinking, yes, it is!  It’s the smart thing!  Except while it may have made more sense in some ways, it was making me miserable.  I didn’t want to plan a quick wedding.  I didn’t want to spend the first year of my marriage apart from my husband.  And I really didn’t want to be so unhappy and stressed.

So we scrapped that idea!  And we have now applied for the Immigration Visa for an Alien Fiance for Malcolm.  Which I really enjoy, actually.  I’ve started calling him my ‘alien fiance’ at all times just because it sounds funny.

It’s still going to suck being apart until the visa comes through.  It’s still expensive and there are still SO MANY things to do and that’s just for the visa!  I also still have to pack up my whole life here, move back to the United States, find a job, plan a wedding, get married, then apply for a ton of other stuff for Malcolm’s visa once he’s in the US.  But at least I’m not miserable and I feel like I can deal with it all, we just have to take it one step at a time.

Because now that the visa application is sent off, the next big thing is the move home.  Which happens in exactly 16 days.  And I haven’t packed a single thing.

Posted by: Andrea | August 25, 2010

Marriage update

The visa journey is getting pretty frustrating.

Malcolm and I discussed the option of getting married immediately in order to apply directly at the consulate.  It was a totally crazy idea, but I thought I’d looked through everything and that it would totally work for us.  It was still crazy!  But exciting!  But still TOTALLY CRAZY!!!  But we were excited about it.

Unfortunately, we ran into problems immediately.

Turns out that I am considered to be under ‘immigration control’ because I have a ‘limited leave to remain’ visa instead of an ‘unlimited leave to remain’ visa.  This means I have to apply for approval from the UK Border Agency in order to get married in the UK.  This application requires Malcolm and me to send our passports to Durham, where they are kept until the application is approved.  Which can be as quick as a month, or as long as three months.  Also, I have to have three months left on my visa, which means we have to apply within the next five days.

Then we found out that I have to stay in the UK until the original application for Malcolm’s visa is APPROVED, not just sent in.  This usually takes approximately 7 weeks.  I only have permission to stay in the UK until November 30 (let’s forget about my plans to leave earlier for right now).  We figured if we could get married right away, we’d have just enough time left on my visa that I could stay in the country until we got our approval.  I’d have to see if I could stay on in my flat and at my job, I’d have to change my flight, but it could be done.  But that damn certificate of approval is just making things difficult.

The more we discussed it, the more we realised that with this timeframe it’s just not possible for us to get his visa the quick and easy way.  If something goes wrong and it takes ages to get the COA, I’d be stuck in the country without my passport.  I don’t want to overstay my visa here, especially if we need to keep a good relationship with UK and US immigration.  I looked into whether we could apply and then get my passport back, if needed, but it takes 20 working days to process the request for return of information.  So yeah, that’s not an option.  Looks like we will not be getting married in the next few weeks or applying at the consulate.

Ok, we thought, let’s look at our options:

  • We could just forget the spouse visa and do what we were going to do, Fiancee Visa and get married next year.
  • We could get married right away and apply for a spousal visa after I return to the US.

The more we talked about it, the more it made sense to us to try to get married as soon as possible and apply for a spousal visa.  Though this option will take longer, it’s cheaper and Malcolm will be able to work as soon as he arrives in the US.  This is a HUGE factor for us.  Malcolm will probably go crazy if he has to wait for months to work, plus he already has several companies looking to hire him but unwilling to apply for his visa.  He wants to pull his weight, especially financially.  We’ll most likely be apart for quite awhile anyway, so might as well take an extra few months in the process if it means a cheaper and better option for us in the long run.

So looks like we’re going to have to get married pretty quickly!

Getting married immediately could happen in a variety of ways:

  • We could apply for the certificate of approval and just hope that it arrives before my visa expires.  This may also require me to change my travel plans and/or my living and work arrangements.
  • We could take a weekend trip to Las Vegas or Florida (no waiting times!) and get married, though this may be a bit expensive.
  • We could wait until I return home, Malcolm could come with me and we could get married in Portland.  Three days waiting time only.  He can enter and marry on a regular tourist visa, as long as he returns to the UK within 90 days.
  • I could return to Scotland after I finish my job in October as planned.  I could apply for a Marriage Visitor Visa to return to Scotland and get married.  We’d still have to give 14 days notice in Scotland before we could marry and it could take up to 30 days for the visa to be offered.  I’d also have to show continued ties to the US and my intention to return.  This costs £65.

I realise this is kind of boring, but actually writing it all down has helped to sort this all out in my head.  I have so much information buzzing around in there that I’ve hardly slept the last few days!

So yeah, we have a lot to talk about (I wrote all that stuff while I was at work today and not doing any work, because that’d just be boring!).

Anyway…

I went to a catholic grade school and had this one teacher who was fantastic.  She was so awesome, she taught me long division and our family kept in touch with her for all of our lives.  When my sister graduated from medical school in June she wrote from her retirement home to send congratulations.  She’s probably over 80 now and had to move away from Portland, but still keeps in touch.  She’s also a nun!

I sent her an email to let her know Malcolm and I are engaged and I got this back:

Thinking about you and Malcolm and the fact that it may take 6 mo. to a year before he can come to Portland permanently I had this idea.  If you got married in Scotland then as a married couple couldn’t you just come then?  Do I make any sense?  I feel so bad that you both have to wait so long.

Aw, thanks Sister D.  We’re working on it.

Posted by: Andrea | August 24, 2010

Never mind…

Ugh, just kidding, no wedding happening any time soon. I hate immigration.

More to come, have no fear.

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