Sunday, September 30, 2012

My Awesome Un-Job

I came to two startling realizations last night:

1. Grad school parties are exactly the same as undergrad parties, only nerdy-er and more selective. But not in a bad way! We went to a CMYK party last night, everyone was very welcoming, fun and dressed colorfully. Maybe it's because the Grige is endearing and did a good job of getting people excited to meet me, but I felt very welcome.

Cool-ass graphic via Tough Little Spider blog

2. I am way more comfortable talking about being unemployed than I ever was talking about my last job. Where are you in your career when you feel more confident and in control talking about how you sit on your couch and blog all day than you feel talking about your very well paid work as a legal recruiter?

I think I felt so much better talking about my plans for unemployment because I have a plan. In my job, I just sort of let things happen to me. My boss was generally in charge of my work flow, and every time I tried to invest and make myself essential to the completion of some facet of our work, I was told to "not worry about it" and just go home on time and that someone else would deal with the nitty gritty.

I'm not saying that wasn't nice. It was! I worked decent hours, didn't spend much time worrying about work and was very well paid. However, at this stage in my career, it really started to get to me to not feel "needed". While I was constantly thanked for my "hard work" and knew that what I did was helpful, I still had little to no control over how my work got done and felt like any one of the thousands of jobless recent grads out there could walk in and do exactly what I was doing.

That is a really good lesson to take into the job hunt with me: I'm not going to do my best work or enjoy my job if I don't feel "needed": Like I offer something important and unique to my work that is useful in the overall function of the company. It also re-affirms my decision to hold out for a job I really want. I don't feel like I'm wasting my time at all on my shorter-term unemployment goals.

What can you take away from this? If you're having a hard time talking about your job (and in a city like DC, I had to do this A LOT), something probably is wrong, and it may be worth your time to stop what you are doing and figure out what it is. Because even unemployment can have a positive spin. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

It's Fall! And Architects are Crazy.

It's fall! Guess how I know: It's not because the weather is cooler. It's not because all of my favorite stores keep sending me updates about sweater sales. It's not even because the main feature of my days is being reminded that school is in session.

I know, because in the last week, I have made 2 batches of pumpkin muffins and a batch of the most complicated (but also the most delicious) chicken pot pie recipe in the world (bon appetit, October 2011 issue - THANK YOU).

So. Much. Pumpkin.
I am also very excited for pumpkin beer, which is apparently going to happen in my kitchen this weekend. I couldn't really wait.. so I might have maybe, perhaps purchased some already...

Also, I would like to start a stereotype. After working in a law firm for 2 years, and in international disaster relief for 2 years, I can comfortably say that the stereotypes about those types of jobs are mostly true. Perhaps not in the greatest extremes that they are sometimes portrayed in, but lawyers do work extremely hard, almost always wear suits and are generally enslaved to the billable hour in some fashion or another. And international disaster relief attracts the rag-tag bunch of mostly cynical, insanely dedicated booze swilling nutcases that you might imagine.

However, the sterotypes about architects are not getting the story right. And as someone who has been deeply let down in the preparedness department by that missing cultural narrative, I would like to set the record straight. Architects are crazy. They. Work. So. Ridiculously. Hard. Do you remember those people were on campus who walked around like zombies who subsisted on panda express instead of human flesh and didn't sleep all semester? I always assumed they were law students or engineers or med students or homeless people who were trying to stay warm in the library. But no, they were future architects. 

They possess crazy of an artist with the attention to detail of an engineer and the work ethic of a junior lawyer at a Biglaw firm. I always imagined them walking around their buildings, wearing all black with a colorful scarf and saying things like "the columns are so very ethereal, don't you think, hmmmmm?". Instead it's more like my husband just slammed the door and face-planted in to bed with his clothes on a mere 20 minutes before my chicken pot pie that I spent six hours cooking him for dinner was done because he hasn't slept in 2 days. And then asks me if I'd like to attend an optional guest lecture with him the next day. 

And that's the last time we were ever awake in the same room  until the Grige graduated from school.
Photo: Summer Jean Photography
I'm sure I don't have to tell you other liberal arts flunkies the laundry list of things I would be doing instead of attending an optional guest lecture if I hadn't slept in 2 days, had barely seen my new wife in 8 weeks and could smell that amazing pie wafting from the kitchen. Duh.

But no, I married an architect. So here it is ladies - these dudes deserve the same warning stickers that lawyers, doctors and future presidents receive: Do not date unless you love spending time alone and being supportive in the face of the sheer madness that is expected of them at work.* 

*note - I aimed this at the ladies, or gentlemen, considering dating an architect instead of aspiring architects themselves, because I'm sure they already know how hard it will be. The rest of us need to catch up.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hey Midwest - it's time to hand over the keys.

I've mentioned that I hate driving, it is one of the biggest transitions I'm going to have to adjust to now that we live in Saint Louis. It's not so much that I'm bad at driving, I'm actually a pretty good driver, which is mostly due to my level of caution which is a direct by-product of my terror. I find traveling at speeds greater than 25 miles per hour in a large metal object surrounded by other large metal objects controlled by people who don't always have "safety first" on the brain, absolutely harrowing.

My first night back in St. Louis, our neighbor had a party. She invited us, and apologized in advance for the noise, which was very sweet. We honestly didn't hear a thing, until around 3:00 am when we heard everyone piling into their cars and driving home. I can't say for sure, because I didn't go down and pass out breath tests, but it didn't sound like good decision making.

Metro Opens Doors... The Grige and I met on the metro
Photo: Jeanine Finch

One of the wonderful things about living in DC is that public transportation was both affordable, easily available and goes pretty much anywhere you want to go. Most of the country is not like that, which is a hard realization to come to at an age where a great deal of your social life revolves around "grabbing a cocktail".  

I look back at so many close friends in my hometown and am shocked at how many have already racked up a DUI. I couldn't be more thankful that I had the opportunity to become so terrified of cars that I actually take driving seriously. I also couldn't be happier to have spent my most reckless years safely sloshing around a metro train. Perhaps "safely" is a bit of an overstatement here, but rape and assault rank slightly below death in a fiery car crash on my list of stuff to avoid.

The Grige certainly gets exasperated with me for constantly stressing out about driving, but the thing is, I take it very seriously. I refuse to use GPS while driving, opting to look up my route beforehand and using GPS only as a backup to be used when pulled over. And I would never dream of having a drink before driving somewhere, even just up the street. Obviously, that's a little overboard. One drink is probably not going to impair a fairly regular drinker like myself to the point that I can't safely and legally operate a motor vehicle. But it's kind of like trying to get pregnant - just because I can doesn't mean that I want to

This is waiting for me AFTER I pick the Grige up from school tonight

I don't know what the solution is for the really obvious and terrifying drunk driving problem that I'm witnessing en masse out here, away from the amazing public transport on the east coast. Obviously it's unfair that there aren't affordable, convenient and socially acceptable solutions easily available. But it shocks me that all the educated people, who I assume value their lives, out here are just shrugging their shoulders and revving the engine anyway.

It's not that I'm not fun... I am! It's just that I can't understand how anyone can party like this and then drive home. I could barely walk home the night this was taken...

For heaven's sake, midwest. Please, oh please, just spend the night on your friend's sofa, go for a long walk home or call a cab. Pay a broke friend to stay sober and drive, start a drunk shuttle business, anything! You are smart and young and if you are as passionate about the observance of happy hour as I am, you should be motivated enough to find a better solution. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Never mess with a feminist with a power drill

That means you, exterior brick wall. Watch your mother flipping back.

Yesterday was not great. I started the day with a little run and then directed myself firmly to drive to the bank, because if I don't make myself drive the car, I will continue to be terrified of driving the car. Well, I had to parallel park, and I don't do well under pressure and there were tears, and honking. I did better with the rest of my errands, driving without GPS and enjoying the blessed joy of parking lots as opposed to street parking.

I came home and made my first ever attempt at hanging pictures that required more than a finishing nail.  And then I learned something very valuable about exterior walls: Don't hang anything on them. Ever. Especially if the screw hole you are trying to make is slightly above eye level when you are standing on the nightstand. I am so sore, all the yoga in the world cannot fix the muscles that ache right now.

Evil exterior walls

I went to be a little upset, not least because the Grige was in studio until 3:00 am and I am oh, so very lonely. So I finished reading How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, went to sleep, and got up this morning ready for another try. A successful try, if you will...

It's odd, when the Grige and I first moved in together, I was a little sad that I never really had the chance to live on my own. I had lived with roommates, housemates, in dorms, on pull-out couches, but never truly by myself. It's not really a feasible option in a city like DC, and only ever regretted that opportunity a little bit.  But now, in my first year of marriage, I get my chance. No Grige to hang things, or hang out with me, and I am 100% in charge of dealing with the apartment.

So I fired up the old computer, and downloaded sketchup, took the first few tutorials and drew a mock-up of our kitchen wall. Three hours later I turned four crumbling nail holes into actual hanging pictures in our bedroom and our kitchen wall in to a montage of art that doesn't really work anywhere else. I'll share a better picture once I get one more frame delivered.

Fun Wall!
The thing is, I never expected to be dancing around to The Boss alone in my apartment with a bandana on my head, a beer in my hand and a hammer and a drill hanging off my belt. I thought my chance for this experience had passed my by when the Grige popped a ring on my finger. So yes, things aren't ideal right now. But so far, our marriage is the gift that keeps on giving, just so long as you can sort through the frustration to find them. 

Monday, September 24, 2012


So here I am, on our futon, ready to take my Netflix experience to the next level. Just kidding. Kind of. It's a scary thing to leave your job in this economy, and it's further complicated by the fact that I don't really know what career I want. It's hard to look for a job when you don't know what you are looking for.

What I do need, is maybe not a job, but is a series of non-loafing related goals to start moving me in the right direction. So, let's take a look at EFF's strategy for a productive unemployment:

  • 1 blog post every week day. Writing every day will give me a physical accomplishment to show for my time. It is very satisfying to see each new post pop up, and that is validation that will keep me motivated
  • Start studying for the GRE. This won't be an everyday endeavor, but it will sharpen my math skills and get me thinking about what's next. Pick a test date by December
  • Get the house into shape - hang our photos, break down the boxes, get the closet working functionally.
  • Cook dinner each night. Eating in is not only financially sustainable, but it will give me a schedule to stick to. Dinner takes place around the same time each day, which means I have to get off my behind and be productive on a schedule. It will also give me a chance to use all my fancy new kitchen tools. 
  • Run 15 miles a week
  • Contribute financially to our household in some fashion by mid-October.
I think that the rut a lot of people get into is making their goal list too focused on finding a job. Yes, that's important, and you should work on it. But tying a goal that you, ultimately, have no control over to your self-esteem is a dangerous thing. I've done it before, and it can make you feel pretty terrible when things don't work out for whatever reason. So, keep your goals focused on things you can control, keep applying for jobs, and things will fall into place. 

Another point to remember is that you don't have to find your ideal job to have a job. It doesn't always look like you thought, but bringing in a paycheck and having the structure of a schedule can do a lot for you. If I haven't landed on anything good in a few weeks, I'll be walking my behind right down to the nearest Crate & Barrel or j.Crew to apply for sales jobs. 

So stay tuned, You'll be hearing from me a lot moving forward. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Marriage and the Six Week Pause

The Grige and I lived apart for the first 6 weeks of our marriage, and tomorrow I am finally going to St. Louis, to him, to the life that we’re going to have. For us, living apart absolutely sucked. It was like taking the huge plunge of our wedding, which was filled with joy, and then being forced to hold our collective breath for 6 weeks while we tried to figure out what the marriage would be. Well, it is impossible to figure out what your marriage is going to be while one of you is living on a sleeper sofa with a newborn and a renegade pooping cat while working 15 hour days and the other one is diving into his first semester of graduate school 1000 miles away. And so, we held our breath.

I have learned something, from living with my tiny, brand-new niece for the last few weeks. Breathing for the first time is really scary, and upsetting and best dealt with by being swaddled up in a burrito wrap so you can’t flail around too much. And that is how I feel about moving into our new, married life. I’m terrified.
Ms. Emma, my housemate
Of course, I’m frustrated by all the normal challenges of moving – I have to find a new job, get used to a new city where I have to (gulp) drive a car sometimes, decorate and organize a new house, make new friends, find new running routes, introduce myself to the animals at the new zoo… But that’s not scary; it could potentially even be exciting. What I am afraid of is what our relationship is going to look like after all these changes. It’s not clear how much time the Grige will have for me, and six weeks of video chatting when we are both too exhausted to form full sentences has not made things any clearer.
So I get to sit here and listen to everyone tell me how excited I must be to finally see my husband again and get settled in our married life while I hold my breath and worry. the Grige is already so busy with school that he’s not even sure he can spend the whole evening with me when I arrive on Saturday, and that makes me feel so rejected and alone that I just want to scream, which does not make me feel like the good, supportive wife that I want to be. There aren’t many ways to express those feelings to a busy man over the phone, and I know he’s scared about what it will be like too, and how we’re going to manage our time. He’s also terrified that I’m never going to forgive him for picking up our east coast lives and moving them to the mid-west and then leaving my poor, introverted self alone all the time to figure out our lives – like getting food on the table - while he works his butt off at school.

This is what a perfect DC morning run looks like

Meg Keene has written beautifully about how no one asked us to be martyrs, over at A Practical Wedding and that will be my mantra in our new life. I’m giving up a lot, but think of what I’m gaining! I chose to marry him and I am so very proud of him. But I am sad to leave my job, and my friends, and my city that I love. I’ve spent the last six weeks in this terrible limbo where the end is looming and the vibrant color seems to have drained out of everything, even on perfect DC morning runs and at delicious dinners with best friends. So while I’m scared, I also feel like anything is better than the half-way place where I’m living without the piece that makes it all worth it – the Grige. Perhaps that is the greatest affirmation of our marriage I’ll ever get, and all before it’s even really started.
Photo: Summer Jean Photography
Now we are two, even if we had to wait six weeks after our wedding to get all the way here. I’m packing up my bags, my old name, and I’ll land in about 24 hours as EFF: Wife. And maybe we’ll only have an hour or two together before he has to go back to studio, and maybe I’ll cry and yell about that, but I’m hopeful that I can swaddle myself up in our love to keep from breaking anything while I flail around and learn to deal with it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

From Double E to Double F: Name Changing De-coded, Part II

Since I've hashed out the emotional side to changing your name (or not changing your name), I think it's time to talk about logistics. Because navigating this much paperwork is never fun, and I felt like there were next to zero resources out there spelling out the logistics of name-changing. Also, many of us struggle so much with the emotional debate that we never even confront the logistical issues.

If you only take one thing away from this whole post, let it be that you should just carry your marriage license (laminated, perhaps) around with you for the first couple of months that you are married. You will need it for EVERYTHING.

So first, a step by step tutorial for changing your name, if you so choose:

1. Social Security card. Once you have your marriage license, it can be tempting to skip this part, since it's the most fraught with beaurocracy and all the lines that go with that. Don't be lured in - you need to do this first (I didn't, and it's making my life miserable). To avoid the mess, I would recommend sending everything in via mail. No lines = less hassle. I will make it easy for you: Go to this web page, and follow the instructions.

2. Driver's license or state ID. Once you get your documents back from the social security office, head to the DMV and get your new license. This is pretty painless, and especially easy if it coincides with an address change.

3. Banks and Credit Cards. For your banking, just go into the bank's local branch with your original marriage license and ask them to make the changes. Credit card companies will often ask you to send in a copy of your marriage license and can be a hassle about the whole thing. My experience was very easy, but I do all of my banking through Bank of 'merica and don't use any outside credit card. Hands down, if everything is linked, this will be easier.

4. Open a joint account. Since you are already at the bank.... Even if you are not planning to merge your finances, I highly recommend opening a joint account. Use it for bills, vacation savings, whatever. The key reason you need this is because people will make out checks to both of you, as Mr. and Mrs., no matter what you chose to do with your name. These are a pain in the ass to deposit (at least they were for us), if you don't have a joint account. You can always split the dough and close it after you've deposited everything.

5. Passport. It's very important to do this last, because the DMV will confiscate your old license, and it's good to hold on to at least one piece of government issued ID with your old last name on it to verify credit cards (before the changes go through), to take flights that you booked before you changed, etc.. It's very nice to have a back-up, and passports tend not to get as much daily use as other forms of ID, so it's okay to wait on updating it. Unless you are an international super-spy, in which case reverse this step with step 2.

While there is no "to-do"list for not changing your name, there are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Someone will definitely write a very well-intentioned check made out to "Mr. and Mrs. Hisfirstname Hislastname" or "Mr. and Mrs. Hislastname". To deposit these, having a joint account will help a BUNCH. Then you can go to the bank alone with your marriage license and politely explain that Mrs. Hislastname does not exist, but that you can prove that you are his wife and would like to deposit this check in your joint account. If you don't have a joint account, you do the same thing, only agree beforehand whose account the money is going into and bring him with you (with government issued ID and the marriage license).

2. Tell people about your decision, because most people are nice and want to address you properly. I have been told a story where a mother found out her daughter was not changing her name at the bridal shower, and it did not go over well.

3. Keep lots of copies (and maybe get some notarized) of your marriage license. Order official extras from the county clerk's office where you got it. Since lots of jerks out there expect that all married people share a last name, you will save yourself lots of hassles by having proof of your union handy most of the time. Get it laminated. Make it a joke. It's okay to be angry about the fact that this is even an issue (why would you say you were married if you weren't?), but if your partner is in a coma and you want to get into the emergency room, arguments about what's fair will go out the window and you'll be really glad you have that silly little laminated sheet. You can cuss out the backwards idiot guarding the door later.

So hopefully this gives some practical insight to the whole, messy process of name changing. I know was looking for this and lots of other information under the heading "So You're Married, Now What?". I look forward to filling the void. Also, why can't I hire a planner to do the paperwork part for me?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

From Double E to Double F: Name Changing De-Coded

Since I have described my life right now as "comically depressing", I don't feel in much of a position to be giving advice. Truth be told, I'm sitting on the pull-out bed that I slept on for 6 months when I first moved to DC 4 years ago. There are two litter boxes within spitting distance of said couch/bed and I can hear my adorable new niece squalling upstairs. You have been properly warned, my suggestions come from a den of less-than-desirable circumstances. Upside: cable TV for the first time in my life. If it is possible to overdose on HGTV, I will do it in the next month.

So: name changing. This will be a two-part post, because there are two big parts to changing your name; emotional and logistical. This is the emotional part.

I ran the gamut on name changing options. At first, I wanted both the Grige and I to hyphenate our names. Then I wanted him to take my last name as his middle name. Then I just wanted to keep my name because paperwork is scary and I hate the DMV. Then I wanted us to both change our last name to Grige (I love that you think I'm joking. I totally was not). Finally, I decided after much deliberation that I wanted to keep my full name, but add his last name to the end. And then we went to the county courthouse, and I was told that my only option was to hyphenate or die and that I couldn't have 4 names. There were tears, but I went from EEF to EFF and I don't think I will look back.

Photo: Summer Jean Photography

The thing about name changes is that there are a lot of forces at work in the decision process. It's hard to keep track of all of them. Throughout the process, I was haunted by the fact that I might be making an "UN-feminist" decision. Every time someone assumed that I would take the Grige's name, I got all pissed-off and motivated to just keep my name, and demand that our kids take my name too. That didn't work out, because decisions that are motivated by spite (even if it is spite of ignorance), are generally bad decisions. So there is the spite/anger argument. As I described, I did not keep my last name because my in-laws needed some feminist schooling. I have my whole life to do that.

The rest of my arguments/frustrations were centered around the same main issue - family names. I wanted the family that the Grige and I are starting to have a name. Preferably one, non-hyphenated name. I want to share a name with my husband and kids, and it took me some time to figure out what I wanted that name to be. As an only grandchild, I felt very invested in keeping my last name. But I also love my middle name. And I hate hate hate mono-syllabic last names, which the Grige's is. I was also angry that the Grige didn't have to deal with any of this: the expectations of people who barely know me, the hassle of all the paperwork, feeling constantly uncomfortable with the way you are addressed, change in general....

He was a very good sport about all my drama, he actually didn't really say anything through the whole debate. He just listened to me, patiently. Finally, it occurred to me to ask what he wanted, and it turns out that he really wanted me to take his name. Oddly enough, that put a lot of my worry to rest. I felt so conflicted about the decision, it was sort of nice to have someone with a strong opinion take the reins and give me a reason to feel good about changing.I could have my cake, and eat it too - I would just have two middle names, I wouldn't have to give anything up and i would be giving my husband something he really wanted.

Photo: Megan Shiley and her phone

Then, 2 days before the wedding in the county clerk's office, I was told that 2 middle names was not allowed without going to family court. I finally showed my true, lazy colors and took the easy way out: I dropped my middle name and became EFF. While I was upset at the time, I realize now that this is the way I dealt with the whole wedding - I would prefer for things to be imperfect and easy than perfect and difficult. I am a pro at protecting myself from stress. 

It's not like the Grige and I are going to forget what my given name was. It's not like I can't still use Elisabeth if I want to. I just won't have to constantly run out of room in the middle-name space when I'm buying airline tickets or taking standardized tests. And I won't have to go to family court. WINNING. So for me, this is what worked. I'm still annoyed that I have to spend all my spare time running around to the social security office and arguing with credit card companies over my middle initial and the Grige doesn't, but he's being as supportive as he can be from 1000 miles away.

I think the big lesson here is that it really doesn't matter what you decide to do, and that it's okay to not be sure what you want to do. There is no rule that says you have to make a decision right now, or that you have to stick to the decision you make, or even that you have to go by the name on your social security card (hello, Madonna). So if you are stuck on this decision, just table it for a while. If you cut off the obsessing, things might just fall into place. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

We Got Married!

And it was wonderful. I don't know quite what to say about it yet, except that I'm tired. I want to crawl into a tunnel where there are no people for a very long, long time and then my poor, introverted soul can emerge a beautiful, married butterfly.
This is what it looked like.
Photo: Summer Jean Photography
Unfortunately, I'm currently 1,000 miles from the Husband Grige living in a basement with a delighfully well-behaved new-born baby and a cat whose whole life has been turned upside down. I know how he feels.

Photo: Summer Jean Photography

I'll be back soon with some good wedding re-cap stuff and some fantastically interesting information about navigating name changing, finance combining and bill handling as newlyweds living across the country from one another (surprise! there's a lot of fighting!). But for now, a few teaser photos from our excessively talented photographer, Summer Osborn.

Oh yeah, it rained the entire day. And no, no one cared.
Photo: Summer Jean Photography