Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September Goings-On

Let's see what's happening today...

Ignore the bathroom in the back. Lazy night enjoying dessert in a mug!
Last time I wrote, I talked about our upcoming trip to OK to see our friends Michael and Kendall get married. We had a good journey--safe and fun! Their wedding was absolutely wonderful. It was apparent that they are over the moon for each other and overwhelmingly ecstatic to finally be married! Mom, Dad, Thomas, and I all made the trek to Tulsa to attend the blessed event. We saw a multitude of friends and danced the evening away. So happy for them to begin this new phase of their lives.

Love this groom's cake...perfect for a wheat farmer!
Aren't these gorgeous centerpieces?
On a separate note, we also loved getting to see my family! The boys continue to grow like weeds, which is always a good thing. Word on the street is that their first round of parent teacher conferences went well, so I'm happy to know that they're doing well! Jakub, who is as inquisitive and stubborn as you'd expect a three (almost four) year old to be, has started to adjust to the structure of preschool. His crowning achievement is learning the Pledge of Allegiance, which he gleefully recited for me and Thomas last night on the phone. Now, he just has to recite it for his class to earn his official certificate...here's hoping today's the day! The two older Moody boys are loving football season, as expected.

In typical newlywed fashion, we have managed to upgrade a few more furniture pieces in our apartment due to family members acquiring new furniture themselves. Our new acquisitions this time are a couch and matching (!) nightstands. Thomas' aunt, Jean, just finished a massive remodel of her house and was sweet enough to offer us these pieces, among a few others that we'll likely acquire in the coming days/weeks. It is a huge upgrade, as our previous couch was a jewel-toned plaid couch, circa mid 1990s. (We all know the type, right?) That couch was a little smaller than we cared for, and the cushions weren't as plush as they once were. It was free to us also, so we never complained too much, but this couch was a welcome change! It has the same basic dimensions as the old couch, yet it somehow seems to take up less space, while having deeper cushions. (And it looks a little more modern, so that's always nice!) The nightstands are perfect, if only because I didn't have one before this. (Thomas did, though. Yes, yes I was a little salty about the previous setup. Life goes on.) Having matching pieces is an added perk, as most newlyweds receiving hand-me-down furniture usually don't get that luxury!

Look at it! Isn't it beautiful?!
Yes, getting the couch was nice, but getting rid of the old one remains a bit of a debacle. We found out relatively quickly that we'd be acquiring our new couch, so we didn't have much time to research options. (To be expected, since Jean could only inform us as her contractors completed their work...and we all know how sporadic that could be, I'm sure.) All in all, we had about 3 days to part with the old couch, because there was no conceivable way to fit both couches in our apartment. I made a few calls to charity organizations to see about having them pick up our couch. That was a real eye-opener. First of all, it takes a lot longer to get a response than you'd expect. (Then again, maybe not, since they're predominantly volunteer-based organizations.) It turns out that most organizations don't do pickups that require their movers to go up or down stairs. (Also fair, since they're probably not insured for that.) That was a huge snag, since we're on the third floor of our building, which ruled out about 2/3 of the organizations I contacted. Many places didn't accept upholstered goods. (Bug infestations, smoke, and overall condition probably play into that and they want to weed out receiving pure junk.) The biggest limiting factor I found in the two places that would agree to all of our needs was that they couldn't do a pickup until mid to late October. Say what?! Times like this make me very glad that we live close to Thomas' parents. They have a two-car garage that only holds one of their vehicles at the moment, so they had ample space for us to store the couch for the meantime.

Yes, we could have dropped the couch off (and we will soon do that), but we were further limited by having access to a vehicle that can easily accommodate a couch. (I miss my pickup for that reason.) Also, most places quit accepting donations between 5:30 and 6 PM on weeknights. Seeing as Thomas doesn't get home til almost 6 every night, that wouldn't work either. We were grateful for Thomas' friend Matt, who offered his moving services/pickup bed for us to switch out couches in return for dinner. (This is the third time that he's helped us with a move. We're really going to owe him one of these days...)

Our new couch is a light neutral color, much like the rest of our apartment. I decided that we needed a splash of color so that it isn't so drab in here. My solution was to get colorful throw pillows, but I wanted to be able to switch them out through the seasons. Thomas didn't want a ton of throw pillows clogging up our apartment, not to mention that they're stupidly expensive, so I came up with a workable way to bypass this. I found an online pattern so that I can make covers for throw pillows using my sewing expertise. Storing the covers won't be a big deal, and it won't cost as much on a long-term scale! In my excitement, I also managed to find a cute local quilt store, where I could buy some nice, high-quality fabric. (Yes, it costs more, but you get what you pay for, fabric-wise. Also, I always support small businesses when I can.) I never realized how big the store in Hennessey was until I arrived! This store was considerably smaller, but they still had an ample inventory. Also, they were every bit as friendly as the purple-shirt crew is at my beloved Prairie Quilt. I think I surprised them with my knowledge of the quilt shop industry that I gleaned through my time working at one. I also put in a plug for it...who wouldn't brag about the largest quilt store in Oklahoma? I digress...I ended up buying some fabric, a lovely orange and black plaid. Imagine my surprise when I saw our couch again, just to realize that there is a pronounced scroll-type thread pattern in the otherwise tan upholstery. Obviously, the plaid is now a no-go. Thank goodness I'm resourceful with fabric, as I'm sure that one will be good for some other project I decide to tackle within time. Now, I need to return to the store to buy the orange tone-on-tone fabric that Thomas and I almost bought the first time around.

Our pick was the fourth from the left. See what I mean? It will definitely clash...
Enough about couches already! Last weekend, Thomas and I celebrated two months of wedded bliss! I decided it was high time that we broke in our fine china, crystal, and nice flatware. What's the point of storing it away forever and ever? We had a lovely dinner at home, just the two of us. It was perfect in every way :)

Check out those table settings!
Last week, I also decided that I had become very lazy. The final straw for me was that some of my clothes were starting to not fit so well (and I can't just run out and obtain a new wardrobe), so I decided to make use of the workout facility at our complex. The facility is nothing special, but it has enough to make it useful. I decided I needed some cardio in my life, so I hopped on the treadmill. I wanted a good workout, so I looked to YouTube to find one. It was nice because it told me when to up my speed and/or incline. Then the peppy girl on the video started skipping on the treadmill. That's about when I parted ways with her plan. (Seriously, who has the coordination to skip on a treadmill that's supposed to be moving at 4 mph? Also, that's a broken ankle/concussion waiting to happen. Nope. No way. Not happening.) That night, I thoroughly researched apps to find one I liked. I opted for one that had workout plans for all levels of fitness, multiple types of workouts (treadmill/elliptical/stationary bike/outdoor walking/race training plans). Even better, each workout comes with its own playlist. So far I'm happy with it. Here's hoping I can keep up my motivation and make a little progress.

We've had lots of fun get-togethers also! Last Saturday night, we had dinner with our newly-engaged friends, Alex and Haley, in celebration of Haley's birthday and their new engagement! It was a lovely evening, and I foresee many nights like that in our future! On Sunday night, we had Steve and Diana over for dinner, since they were just getting back to town from their country property. We figured it'd take some of the stress of stringing together a meal on the heels of a weekend trip off of them. Also, Steve had been out of town on business last week, so it was nice to see and catch up with them. In my opinion, Sundays are made for nice family meals. If I can't have my Sunday dinners with my family, I want to do the same with Thomas' family. I hope to keep and pass on this tradition through the years.

This weekend is the beginning of a few event-filled weekends. We will be dog/house sitting for Thomas' parents, who are off to visit Elizabeth for parents' weekend in the STL. (Pray for peace in that town, by the way. Protesters occupied the outskirts of campus for most of Sunday, and I worry for the students' safety.) During our weekend, we also hope to attend the Plano hot air balloon festival! I've never seen an actual hot air balloon in real life, so I think this could be lots of fun! Thomas hasn't attended in years, so he's equally excited!

On Sunday, Thomas also surprised me with a bouquet of beautiful hydrangeas, some "just because" flowers, which are always my favorite type! Love him and the life we're building together!

I'm continuing to love my church women's group! We have a great time each week. Last night, I led a session that detailed the life and ministry of Fr. Stanley Rother, who will be beatified on Saturday morning! They loved learning more about him and his example of Christlike love. I loved seeing their enthusiasm. What can I say, a teacher's always gotta teach about something!

Oh yes, tutoring is continuing to go well. Fingers crossed (and prayers sent) that this month will bring about more inquiries and more business for me! Can't wait to report back about our life's happenings next time! Love to you all!!!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Wedding Pictures!!!

I promised wedding pictures last time, so here we are! I'm sure most of my loyal readers have already seen these via email (if you were in the wedding party and were part of that email blast) or social media. Or you're a family member and you got the first look since you had the most emotional and/or financial investment (looking at you, Mom/Dad...) in them. So in some ways, this post is redundant if you fall into one of the aforementioned categories. What is different about me sharing them in this format is that I can offer my color commentary...and I'll be sharing significantly fewer pictures! (There are 600+ to choose from, so there you go.)

My gorgeous bouquet, wrapped with Mimi's rosary and a handkerchief given to me by Mimi.

Love this shot of our rings together.

The entry to the church. Our guestbook was our "adventure book" that we've kept since we've started dating :)

Love this picture of the dads!

My sisters and mom helping me get dressed.

Thomas with his groomsmen...and Cody!

Thomas with Nick (his best man)
Fun fact: that is all staged, as the ties just strapped around their necks!

Thomas reading a letter I wrote before we started dating. 

Our first look!

Obsessed with this picture!

Love the shrine in the background!

The whole wedding party!
Love little Jakub's expression in the front!

Cole and Jakub's natural pose with Thomas!

The Lieses

Love these six boys more than words!!!

Also in LOVE with this picture of me with my mom!!

The Hladik/Moody/Mattson/Lieses 

Staging pictures with children can pose its own set of challenges!
In good news, our photographer captured everyone's personalities perfectly!

The groomsmen's mock surprise at Thomas' ring! Hahaha!!!

A few of you will understand the deeper meaning in this photo...

Selections from my pre-bridal shoot

William and Evan, our ushers

Michaela and McKenna, Thomas' cousins who doubled as our guestbook attendants

Fr. Stuart, giving his beautiful homily

When Thomas spun me around after the wedding :)

Most of the St. John's folks who attended the wedding!

All of Steve's family (the Lieses)

All of Diana's family (the Coulters)

Our gorgeous centerpieces, courtesy of Clemy

Look at this beautiful cake!
It tasted as great as it looked!

Yes, that was Thomas' groom's cake. Could there be any question about that???

First dance

Lakely and Natalie with their new bff, Cole
(Cole had some really funny shots all evening!)

Love this picture of my mom with my aunt Peggy.
Even though they're sisters-in-law (both married to Hladik sons), they share a great bond.

My cousin Tim with his daughter Anna.
I can't get enough of the way she looks at him with such deep love :) 

The Blakley ladies!
Fun fact: Some variation of this picture has been taken at each of the Hladik weddings! 

This makes my heart warm. Probably my favorite picture ever of my parents. 

Elizabeth, in the midst of her rap-toast.

Mom with her siblings, Uncle Larry and Aunt Pat.
Immensely happy we got this picture!
(I know Aunt Carol is here too. I missed her that day.)

Running out to our limo amid the confetti tunnel!
This was so unexpected, but it was the perfect moment!

Obviously this is a small snippet of the bigger group of pictures, but hopefully it's a good representation! Every time I look at these pictures, I go back to the joy of this perfect day. I fall deeper in love every time I see them! I hope you enjoyed them, too! :)

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August Events

Hi all! I had a few moments to spare, so I thought I'd tell you all what's going on around here!

I'm continuing to adjust to apartment life. It's kind of like being in a dorm, but you're not surrounded by a bunch of impulsive young people who party all the time. Our complex is working well for us, but our only beef is the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of reserved parking (which we don't have) compared to unreserved parking. It's annoying, but if that's our worst problem, I think we're doing alright.

Last time I mentioned how homesick I was, so Thomas decided that we needed to do something to fix that. We had a free weekend in the middle of August, so we were able to sneak home to surprise everyone! Well, almost everyone...Scotty was in on everything, as we didn't want to drive all 4.5 hours to get there just to find out that everyone was out of town...or worse yet, on their way to Dallas to surprise us! Scotty had a great time getting to be a part of this surprise. He was our eyes and ears there, and he organized a "back to school" cookout. (We have cookouts like this all the time, so no one really thought anything of it.) To add to the surprise, he feigned a medical call (he responds to those all the time as a volunteer EMT) and sped off to come pick us up from down the road. He came back to dad's shed but made us wait outside. He started off on a speech, which was when everyone thought something was up. When it became too painful for us to listen to anymore, Thomas and I rushed in and the surprise was up! Everyone was happy to see us! The boys rushed us with hugs, as did my parents. Gina and Emily were mad that Scotty knew the whole time, but were happy nonetheless. We had a great evening catching up. They always say that when you leave home and come back, it's never as good as it used to be. Whoever said that was wrong, because it felt like we'd never left in the first place. Everything felt just like it always did. Sleeping in my old bed, eating breakfast, talking to my mom whilst laying on the couch, going to Enid for groceries, going to church, everything. I was worried that it'd make my homesickness worse, but thankfully it really did help. While in OK, we were also able to pick up our wedding pictures from our photographer and have an impromptu birthday celebration for Gina! Good times abounded!

Side note: Andy (whose birthday was 2 weeks after the wedding) was happy to hear that we wouldn't be in OK for Gina or Cody's birthdays either. In his words, "If I can't have you here for my birthday, then I don't want you here for my mom's or Cody's birthdays!" Nine-year-olds are known for their saltiness, right? (I thought it was kind of funny, myself!)

All the boys (and I mean ALL the boys) are in school now. Cody is in 7th grade (at the big junior high), Wyatt is in 6th, Kyle is in 5th (and starting band/football...he's a french horn player!), Andy is in 3rd, Cole is in Kindergarten, and Jakub has started a 3-year-old program at Fairmont. It's the end of an era for the time for our family. There are no more "little" kids who aren't in school. It seems oddly surreal, as it never felt like we'd be at this point as a family, but here we are.

At long last, I've started my new venture of tutoring. Really, it's more accurate to say that I am privately teaching. I have two students, a freshman and a junior, both sisters, who are homeschooled. I've been hired to teach them math this year, and I'm happy to report that I LOVE it. It's teaching the way it's supposed to be! I'm at their house 3 mornings/week, and we go through their book (which is designed to be a self-guided book). It requires zero lesson planning, test writing, or homework planning. I'm not bogged down in grading, I'm not stressed about classroom management, I don't feel like I have administrators breathing down my neck criticizing my every move. I don't have extra duties to do that I don't get paid for (looking at you, gate duty...), I know exactly where my students are learning-wise. I know exactly what they're struggling with. I don't have to worry about using outdated materials that don't cover their curriculum because there's no money to get what we need. It's all the fun of teaching without having to deal with all of the "bad stuff". I'm in heaven! I may not get rich from this, but the fact that I'm ridiculously happy doing this makes up for it. (Thomas appreciates me not being so stressed, also!) Now, I'm working at expanding to other families, which will just take some time.

The great eclipse came and went without much circumstance in Dallas. We were quite a ways from the path of totality, which WON'T be the case in a few years! I stepped outside to see the little moons reflecting through the leaves of trees. It was slightly cooler and the sky was oddly dimmer than usual, but that was about it. No fancy glasses here...I guess I should buy some now to beat the rush for next time!

Speaking of happenings in Dallas, we've managed to stay pretty busy these days. I've gotten involved with the women's group at our church, which has been good for me. We do a book/Bible study weekly, and I've had the opportunity to lead once, as I will again in a few weeks. I also found another friend via a Facebook group that I recently joined. She's a newlywed who just moved to Dallas, so we have quite a bit in common. We've gone on quite a few adventures already, and she's a great light to me! Last week, Thomas and I decided to join the young adults group for their weekly social. We were able to meet a few more people, and it was nice to have a reason to get out of the house to socialize some more! Slowly, but surely, we're making some connections down here!

We've also stayed busy by seeing Elizabeth and McKenna (Thomas' sister and cousin, respectively) off to college. Elizabeth is returning to St. Louis for her second year of school for physical therapy. McKenna is starting at Samford in Alabama, where she'll study nursing. Both have reported having great first weeks, so I think they're in good shape. We're excited to see all that this year will bring for each of them. In a few weeks, Thomas' parents will be off to visit Elizabeth for the family weekend at SLU, which will leave us to stay over at their house periodically to keep an eye on their dog and let her out through the day. The following week, we have been commissioned by Ross and Juliette (Diana's brother and sister-in-law/Thomas' uncle and aunt/McKenna's parents) to stay at their house for the weekend with their two younger children (Michaela and William, a sophomore and 7th grader, respectively) and their dog. It'll be a busy time for us, but we're looking forward to it all, nonetheless!

When Steve and Elizabeth headed up to STL for move-in weekend, Diana stayed behind, so Thomas and I decided to have her over for dinner. Somehow, she was our first dinner guest since we've gotten married. I loved it, because I love planning dinners and being a hostess. I also showcased our instant pot to her, and I think she's officially sold! We had a great evening full of good food, good conversation, and good memories! We're excited to have more and more of the family over through time!

As a continuation of my name change saga, I recently received a nasty-gram from my OK cell phone carrier, telling me that I had 2 weeks to change carriers before they dropped me. It was on our list of things to do, but it just hadn't happened yet. This was slightly annoying, as it was different from what I'd been previously told before the wedding, but so goes life I guess. This meant that I had to change cell phones for the first time in almost 3 years. Steve offered to add us to their family plan, as he is an AT&T employee who gets a discount on his cellular services, which was a nice bonus for us. I decided to take the plunge after all these years and join team iPhone. Honestly, it's a phone like every other one, but in some ways, it makes things a little simpler, especially since basically everyone in Thomas' family has one. In other news, I (finally) received my TX license, so I can continue with changing car registrations for myself and for Thomas. There's still a bit to do, but it's starting to diminish in importance, so that's nice.

In sad news, I found out that another of my high school classmates has passed away. He and I weren't terribly close, but we had gone to school together from kindergarten through 12th grade, so that has to count for something. It was very sudden and tragic, and yet another (tough) reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one. Very sad news along with all of the news coming from Houston with the hurricane. I'm happy to report that none of our friends or family who live in Houston incurred any damage.

In the wake of the hurricane, we felt an unnecessary effect up here in Dallas, as the media hyped a "gas shortage". It all started with the shutdown of one of the Houston oil refineries. This was going to slow down the rate at which gas supplies would be replenished, but we were in no way going to run out. Needless to say, local news stations blew that out of proportion, which led to the perfect storm. We had (literally) millions of people flocking to gas stations to fill up when very few actually NEEDED to, it was right before Labor Day weekend (so everyone was already needing to gas up to go out of town), and people were unnecessarily hoarding gas. People went and bought up red gas cans and were filling them up left and right. Before we knew it, we had a full-on madhouse everywhere in the DFW metroplex. People were in lines of cars 10-15 deep to get to gas pumps. Stations were depleted of fuel within hours, prices soared, and tensions were high. Traffic on surface streets was an absolute nightmare.

In the midst of FuelMageddon2k17 (as I affectionately called it), we were given (amazing) tickets to a Texas Rangers game and we were also planning on joining Thomas' family at their weekend place for their family get-together. We were slightly unsure if it was a wise decision to do either because of the apparent lack of fuel. We didn't want to buy in to the hype, but we also wanted to be smart about everything. As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about. I was able to fill up Thomas' car so we could take it to the Rangers game. Our seats were right above the third base line!

No zoom needed, we were this close!

It was the longest 9-inning game the Rangers have ever played, taking about 4.5 hours, but we emerged victorious! What a great evening we had at the ballpark!

After having a late Friday, we had a fairly early Saturday, full of preparations to head out to Quitman. After what felt like a ridiculous amount of time, we were finally on the road! We were joined for the weekend by Diana's cousin and his twin sons. Throughout the weekend, Steve's sister Jean came out for Sunday lunch. Ross, Juliette, Michaela, and William also came over on Sunday. They stayed through Monday. For our big Sunday dinner, Steve smoked a brisket, and we had tons of food to accompany it. It was a regular feast! It felt just like the Hladik gatherings I know and love (and miss). I commented to Steve at one point that being there amid the craziness of having 12 people in the house (including 2 eight-year-olds) made me feel just a little less homesick. Having smoked meat helped too, since the Hladik men/in-laws are masters of meat smoking. Throughout Sunday afternoon, we had lots of good conversation, a lively game of Spades among myself, Ross, Michaela, and Diana, and a quick entrance into dove season by Steve and Thomas. 

Everyone would probably be mad, but here's a shot of everyone (minus me, Steve, and Thomas)
relaxing in the family room at Quitman. 
Thomas with his dove.
Like they say, a great time was had by all. Thomas and I reluctantly bid everyone adieu on Sunday night, as I had to work on Labor Day. (I know, the horror.) The family was gone last Monday, so it didn't make sense to take off two Mondays in a row, especially since I'm only there 3 days per week. And I only taught until noon, so it's not that big of a deal. 

After getting off yesterday, I came home to Thomas (something that never happens!), and we had a relaxing day together. We ended up going out and about, procuring many of the items we discovered that we didn't receive at the wedding or that we neglected to register for. It turns out that we lucked into quite a few Labor Day sales! Our crowning achievement for the day was going to Dillard's and getting an amazing deal on some table linens (cloth napkins, place mats, and a table runner). We saved almost $200 on our purchases there! I was so proud of us! We ended the day by talking to my parents, who we'll see this weekend. We'll be making another trip to OK to celebrate the long-awaited wedding of one of our good family friends, the Reinerts. I'm beyond excited for their wedding, especially the reception, where I'm anticipating seeing lots of old friends! It should be a great time! More so, we're excited to attend a wedding where we can just focus on having fun! 

Until next time, enjoy! I'll hopefully get some wedding pictures posted soon, as I think most everyone in the family/wedding party has seen them already. Have a great day!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Lines, Red Tape, and Waiting

One big task that has somewhat consumed me since the wedding is going through the hassle nightmare headache task of legally changing my name. Don't get me wrong--I'm excited to be married, and I love that I'm a Liese (although I'll always be a Hladik in my heart. We all know this.) I love Thomas immensely. Most of all, this is what I want. Thomas has never forced me to take his name. I'm doing this all on my own accord. I just thought I'd throw all of these things out there before I went much further in this post. Now that we have established this, I'll proceed :)

I started my journey by forwarding my mail through the postal service. I have two parents who have worked/currently work in this field, so I had that down pat. Even better, they have streamlined the form to where you can do that completely online, and it is quite simple. Granted, I had to complete the form twice, since I have two names that I might receive mail under at this point, but it's okay.

Next, I went to the Social Security office to obtain my new card, as I couldn't do anything else without an amended SS card. I got there around 10 (they opened at 8 or 9, so not too late), and I realized that there would definitely be a wait. They have check-in kiosks that allow you to get in line and categorize you by what services you need. I received my number, and took a seat in a much smaller waiting room for people needing amended or replacement cards. I waited for about 30 minutes to an hour before my number was called. I scrambled to find my representative's window so that I didn't get passed up (one of my fears). I had all of my paperwork completed as I went in, which expedited my service. I left the office with paperwork verifying that I would be receiving a new card within the next 7-10 business days. On I went.

I came home and decided to see what I needed to do to get my car's registration transferred to Texas and to get a Texas driver's license. After looking at upwards of 5 webpages that all stemmed from the same site (which were equally confusing), I caved and called one of the numbers. The lady informed me that my first step would be to get my car inspected. No biggie...I went with Thomas to get his done, and that was a 10 minute process. I asked what documentation was needed for that. She was happy to report that all I needed was my insurance verification. I told her that I was moving from Oklahoma, and she stopped me, telling me that OK has lower minimum rates than TX, so I couldn't obtain a TX inspection until I had proof of TX auto insurance. Okay then...

She also informed me that I couldn't get a tag or update registration until I did my inspection. And I couldn't get my license until I got my car registered. So, by the Law of Syllogism, I couldn't get my license until I got TX car insurance. Ugh.

Getting car insurance with Thomas took a little bit of time, because we needed to do a little research. It baffles me how much some companies charge for literally the same coverage as other companies. That's all I'm going to say about that. Fast forward to last Wednesday, we finally had proof of insurance! I had a 30-day window of establishing residency to get my car registered, so we were starting to get to the eleventh hour, so to speak.

I was in a bit of a quandary as to what name I needed to register under (maiden v. married name). I found nothing online giving me a straight answer (although I did find a website that clearly laid out my course of action...which I immediately bookmarked!) I decided to call the fine folks at the vehicle registration office yet again. The first girl I spoke to was pleasant, but unsure on one of my questions, so she transferred me to a different lady, who was rather rude about my simple questions. I was informed that I would have to register my car under my maiden name, get my TX license, THEN come back and amend my registration to my married name. No, it didn't matter that I had a marriage license validating my name change. Ugh. (Truthfully, it was more the tone of voice she took with me than the information she gave me that upset me.)

Although I was frustrated, I went on to get my car inspected. I went to the same place Thomas always goes, even though there were plenty of places that were closer. I was happy just to be there and get it over with. The guy was very nice, and we had a good conversation about the ethnic origins of Hladik. He was interested to know that it was Czech, as he and his family emigrated from Bosnia, for many of the same reasons my ancestors left back in the late 1800s. He liked hearing about my family's journey to get to America and how they survived upon their arrival.

The next day, Thomas and I went to the vehicle registration office. That alone was almost a comedy of errors. He wasn't able to take off work early, so we had to improvise. There are 3 offices that can perform these services in our county of residence. Each office is designated to stay open until 7 PM one day per week. We had initially planned on going to a closer office, but since Thomas wasn't able to get off early, we opted to go to the office that stayed open late that day, which also happened to be the farthest away from our apartment. Wouldn't you know that it took Thomas almost double the time to get home that day. There were multiple wrecks along his route, which caused crazy traffic backups. He made it to our apartment at about 6 PM. (He's usually home around 5:40 or 5:45.) Not a big deal, but we still had a decent drive that was looking as though it'd take 30-40 minutes due to traffic. By a stroke of pure luck, we made it to the office at 6:45, so we had to be seen. Thomas attempted to get his vehicle title transferred to both of our names, but we were missing a couple of signatures, so no dice. In good news, we got my car's registration and tags that night! Our trip was good for something, after all!

So, at this point, I had successfully accomplished 3/4 of my big tasks. The last item on my list was obtaining a driver's license. I was blessed to have my first encounter with the DMV. (Sarcasm) I filled out all of my necessary paperwork beforehand, so I ended up at the local DMV around noon. There was a line of people outside, which should've been my first omen. I got in line, and a lady came through giving us the rundown on what documents we needed for our individual situations. It was at that point that I had the realization that I forgot my new SS card at home. So I left, retrieved my card, and returned. They mentioned that it'd be good to go through their online or phone system to set up an appointment time. I tried this multiple times, all to no avail. Nonetheless, I went back and took up my place in line. It looked as though I'd eventually get in, so no worries. I had brought a book, a snack, and a bottle of water. I was warm sitting outside, but it was in the shade, so I was safe from the threat of sunburn, if nothing else. The longer I sat there, the more my optimism diminished. A multitude of people came with appointments, and they were the only ones who would be guaranteed service that day. The DMV people informed us non-appointment people that despite what they told us earlier, they'd probably only get to one or two of us. This was after 1.5, almost 2 hours of waiting, so I cut my losses at that point and went home. It took me an hour to cool off (literally and figuratively) and eat something so that my monster headache would leave.

Since it was Friday, I had no choice but to wait until Monday. Not my first option, but I was determined to get it. At the advice of Thomas' family, I went to the mega-DMV on the SE edge of town. It was a decent hike to get over there. I should've known better when I woke up to what sounded like a monsoon outside my window. The news also announced that there was a huge traffic pileup along my planned route. I decided to cut my losses and get a slightly later start, if only for my sanity. I also took mostly surface streets to get there, and I was happy with my choice. Never let people bully you into thinking that expressways are the only way to traverse large cities. They might be quicker, but sometimes it's worth going a little slower to feel more comfortable and to get to know the area better. (That's my thought, at least.)

I went in and got my number (no lines!) I still wasn't able to schedule an appointment, so I waited it out. I decided that I had nothing to do and all day to do that, so I'd wait as long as I had to to make that happen. I had all of my documentation this time. (I triple-checked before leaving!) I ended up in a waiting area. My number was L4117, and when I sat down, they were at L4021. I was going to be there a while. The DMV codes each person just like the SS office does, as each letter code correlates to what type of service you needed. After sitting and adjusting to my surroundings, I sipped on my coffee. I had the foresight to buy a mobile battery charger that didn't need an outlet, which was good for a multitude of reasons. (The apparent lack of outlets being the first. Then again, that was probably a good thing, or else people would probably riot over outlet usage.) After a little bit of feeling out the people sitting next to me, I decided to strike up conversation with both of them. I mean, we were sitting RIGHT next to each other, and I had no one to accompany me. Why not? I made quick friends with each of them, and it was interesting to hear their respective stories. One lady was a recent immigrant from The Philippines. The other guy was a longtime Dallas resident. Each of them had a different perspective on various situations, but it was nice to talk to them. It slightly distracted us from the fact that we had been waiting for almost 4 hours. Sometime in hour 4, the lady's number was called, so she left. The guy and I talked sporadically for the next 1.5 hours, as he waited to be called. (His number was 10 ahead of mine.)

After both of them left, I didn't feel compelled to talk to my new neighbors. In fact, I felt restless. My knees were starting to cramp from sitting for so long. (We weren't allowed to walk around much. Since there were so many people, they insisted that we stay seated in our waiting area.) Finally, a lady announced that she'd be starting a line for people to come and have their documents checked to make sure that we had everything we needed for our specific request. I jumped at the opportunity to leave my seat. I witnessed a 19-year-old girl act belligerently towards the nice DMV lady, who was threatened with having a trooper escort her out of the building if she didn't leave. (She lacked her documentation requirements as it was.) That was an eye-opener. The DMV lady was happy to see that I had everything I needed, and thanked me for my preparedness. Meanwhile, it had been almost 30 minutes since I had heard my last "L" code called, which made me a little anxious, seeing as I was only 10 away from being seen. I sat again, and talked with another guy who originally came from California. He was shocked that I'd been there for 6 hours at that point. (I was too, personally.) Finally, I dug into some deep prayer that God would somehow make the "L" line move quicker, as I was getting VERY stir crazy. God must have taken pity on me, as I was called within 5 minutes of my frantic prayer.

I emerged victorious, a total of 6.5 hours after entering that wretched place. I left, hangry, restless, and emotionally drained. Thankfully, I left right before rush hour traffic cranked up. I made it home and collapsed on the couch...after scarfing down a sandwich.

My journey is nowhere near complete, as I still need to update my passport, bank accounts, and medical records, but I don't think any of those should be quite as labor intensive as this part has been.

My findings through all of this, first and foremost, is that a little research is your best friend. Look online for your answers, and if you can't find them, call. Wait on hold for 20 minutes if you have to, but find out before you go. It's so much easier than wasting a day just to find out that you don't have any of the correct paperwork/documentation. Not to mention that it saves you the additional heartache. It also keeps places from being bogged down just by wasting time figuring out that they can't do anything for you...just saying!

Furthermore, if you can fill out paperwork online and bring in the printed version, it'll save a TON of time. Those places appreciated preparedness, since all they deal with is people who can't get their stuff together to save their lives. When dealing with the people at these places, be assertive to ensure that you're getting what you need, but for goodness sake, don't cop an attitude with them! They are regular people just like the rest of us, and I know that I don't like when people are rude to me. They have to deal with people asking them the same questions over and over all day. (Also used to that one as a teacher...one of my biggest pet peeves!) They get worn down and ragged. Listen to what they have to say, as they're ultimately just trying to help you get in and out. But seriously, an attitude will get you nowhere, besides possibly escorted out by a trooper, like the girl I mentioned earlier.

The most valuable thing I've learned amid all of this is that there is power in talking to people. Most of us are so guilty (myself included) of hiding from that and burying ourselves in our devices. I heard an interesting homily last weekend in which my priest told us, "We have smart TVs, smart tablets, smart phones, even smart watches. Yet, here we are, becoming dumber. We look to our devices to solve our problems, but ultimately that power has to come from within us." Don't be afraid to strike up a conversation with people around you. For me, it has shown me that most people really are good at heart. We have far more similarities than we do differences, which we'd know if we took the time to actually talk (and listen!) to people around us. We don't have to learn their life stories, but we can share a little bit. We should especially strive to talk to others whose culture, opinions, etc. differ from ours. There is power in good, civil face-to-face dialogue. It is affirming in many ways, and we all have something to learn from each other. I could actually go on and on about this very topic, but I'll spare you for now.

Onward I go on the path of changing my name!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Life After the Wedding

Today marks one month of marital bliss, which made me realize that I have yet to come back and tell you about life after the wedding! So much has happened, so I'll try to pack it all in as best as possible!

The day after the wedding was spent cleaning up the reception with both of our families, unwrapping our wedding gifts, sending gifts back with the Texas crew, and starting to pack me up at home. We planned on heading back to TX ourselves the next day. Our biggest reason for waiting was that we were able to take our marriage license back to the courthouse to have it officially filed, where we didn't have to wait to receive it in the mail, especially since we would be out of state. Personally, I rested easier knowing that that was taken care of. When we returned from Enid, Thomas and I finished packing my necessities, and we loaded my car down to the point that we essentially just had space for us to sit, and that's about it. Of course, we said our goodbyes to my sisters, nephews, and parents. It was a fairly emotional time for us all, but can you really blame us?

Aside: I should mention that I, by NO means brought all of my things back to Texas. Space was our biggest limiting factor. That just means we'll have to go back to visit! If you can't tell, yes, I am very homesick. I mean, I basically left everything I knew--my family, my house, my job, my friends, my church--everything. I gained a lot in the process (like marrying my amazing husband and NOT being in a long-distance relationship), but there have been a few growing pains for sure. Thomas has done a lot to help, and I've both stayed in touch with my family and embraced being down in Dallas. I digress...

When we came home from Oklahoma, Thomas' parents, sister, and aunt (Jean) were sweet enough to tote all of the wedding gifts up to our third-story apartment in the oppressive July heat. We were thrilled not to have to do this ourselves (seeing as we had my car full of my things to unload as it was), and a little stressed to be living in a world of boxes and gift bags. It was like Christmas on steroids! Thomas decided to take that Tuesday off to help tame the craziness that was our apartment. By the end of the day, we had reclaimed the better part of our living and dining room! Granted, we had LOTS of empty boxes to dispose of at that point, but, by golly, our apartment actually looked inhabitable! Truth be told, we still continue to unpack, but that's to be expected, right?

My crowning accomplishment was a couple weeks ago when I unpacked all of our crystal and china. That took a little bit of doing, as I had to get creative with crystal arrangements in our hutch. Also, the fine folks at the Waterford company (who also make china, not just crystal, fun fact) are WAY proud of their items, as all 5 pieces of all 12 settings had 2-3 stickers on them. My thumbnails hurt for 2 days after that.

We've been loving getting to break in all of our wedding gifts, but our current favorite gift has got to be our Instant Pot. Thomas' groomsman/HS buddy Tim and his parents gave that to us at our Dallas shower way back when. We didn't register for it, and truth be told, had no immediate use for one, but he promised that we'd love it. I was a little intimidated by it initially, which is probably saying something, seeing as I love to cook. After a week or so of having it stare at us from the corner of the kitchen, we decided to break it in. Oh. My. Goodness. It is a game changer! If you work crazy hours and don't have a ton of spare time to tend to a stovetop or lots of excess food prep, this is the tool for you. We are officially obsessed and totally bowled over by how amazing it is! We've loved everything we've made in it, but the best part is how quickly (and efficiently) it cooks gourmet meals! I'm now geeking out over it. I have started researching all the ways we can utilize it. Our current favorite meal we've made with it was Dr. Pepper pulled pork. Seriously, if you're on the fence about getting one, just go for it! You won't regret it!!!

In settling in, I also decided to go for a bell pepper and zucchini plant for our balcony, which receives lots of afternoon sunshine. They're well-sprouted, now I'm just waiting for blooms! (Random, I know!)

In other random news, Thomas' cousin Nicole (who graduates with her master's degree in nursing from DePaul University this weekend...go her!!!) was unable to attend our wedding. We were all so disappointed that she couldn't be there (she was in the midst of clinicals). However, we talked to her not long after the wedding, and she mentioned that she'd be sending us a gift from her beloved Chicago. Well, a few days later, we were greeted by a box that contained two pizzas and a box of chocolates, shipped on dry ice! They were authentic Chicago deep-dish pizzas, and they were AMAZING! I've never really eaten that style of pizza, and it was a nice change of pace. I think I can definitively say that I prefer NY style on the whole, but Chicago style is also great. It was one of our most unique gifts we received, but we loved it so much!

We've also managed to make a couple trips out to Thomas' parents' new country place near Quitman, TX (about 2-ish hours east of us). The first trip was our "mini-moon", our post-wedding retreat that we did about 2 weeks after the wedding. It was nice to be out in the solitude of the countryside. Every other time I've been out there, it didn't seem all that special to me, probably because it was just like being at home, but with all paved roads. (There are NO dirt roads out there...it makes me slightly hesitant to refer to it as the countryside, but that's just my opinion.) This time, it was a nice oasis from the noise and craziness of the big city. Also, it helped a little with my homesickness. This past weekend we also headed out there for an evening. We were in the midst of a crazy lightning storm that ended up striking a tree not too far from the house there. The strike shook the house, scared the bejeezus out of us all, and blew up the tree. Apparently, wood debris was scattered up to 20 feet away from the stump. Another tree was also struck, but it just took off a small stripe of bark. Crazy stuff!

In the midst of all of this, I began slipping into a near hermit-like state. I mean, it was inevitable. I don't really have a job to go to currently, I don't have a multitude of friends down here, and Thomas is gone from about 6:30-5:45 ish every day. At Thomas' suggestion, I started attending daily Mass a few days a week, just to get out of the house. I haven't really made any friends from this, but it's been nice to have a little more purpose. I also got involved with a young women's group at our church that has a Bible study. I've only attended once due to scheduling conflicts, but it was nice to meet more people. I also went to lunch with a girl I met from women's group, who happens to teach at a local Catholic school. She gave me lots of great advice on expanding my tutoring business, and said that she'd be sure to reach out to the math teachers at her school so that they could recommend me when students asked about that.

As far as tutoring goes, I start working with the family next Monday morning. I'll tutor the girls 3 mornings per week. I've also signed up on the sub list for Thomas' old middle school. More so, I've made great strides to expand my tutoring services. This includes creating a website, a special email account, and business cards, so that I appear to be more legit than before! Now I just have to play the waiting game and hope that people will start contacting me soon! God has made it abundantly clear to me that this is what he wants me to do for the meantime, so I'm embracing it wholeheartedly and continuing to act on faith!

As much as I've gone on about being homesick (which I still am), I have enjoyed getting to spend a little more time with Thomas' extended family, which is something I've never really had the opportunity to do to this extent. There have been a handful of birthday dinners, random lunches, or sporadic shared dinners. It has been nice to get together with all of them in more casual settings and more often. The fact that they are now technically my family too is becoming much more apparent now that I'm married and living down here, away from my own family. If I can't have my family, I'm glad to at least have them. It makes this time of adjustment a little easier on me, if we're being completely honest.

Little by little, I'll get the hang of being a wife, city-resident, and Texan. Take care, wherever you are!