Monday, June 27, 2016

Recent Martinez-isms


Some days I feel the same way about blogging as I do about Snapchat: I do not do enough interesting things to warrant showing them to the world.

Which explains why I've barely blogged in 2016 and it's more than halfway over. 

Lately more things have been going on, so now's as good a time as any to catch up. 

We had two California weddings to attend at the end of May and beginning of June, so we had a few chaotic weeks of traveling, and C's mom came to visit us in between too, which was very fun and relaxing as no one wanted to do much more than hang out. 

In early May we committed to adopting a kitten through a foster agency that one of the women I babysit for works with. Her name is Luna (or Lunacat, Stinky, Stinker, or Little Stink) and she came home on June 7th. After a few days of adjusting, she's a big fan of us - all of which we're probably throwing out the window as she's being spayed today and was not pleased this morning when I loaded her in the cat carrier and put her in the car (I was also not pleased since it was 5 AM, but oh well). 

Here's our Little Stink (so named due to the smelly food she eats, not because she actually smells)

Around tax season we decided to get started on a project in our courtyard off the side of our house. Since our house was a model home in it's glory days, it had this in-ground fountain that really did nothing for us personally (and according to our neighbors, the former occupants didn't keep it clean and it was a mosquito breeding ground, which anyone who knows me knows is not ok for me!) and so we didn't use this area of our backyard almost at all. But it was the perfect area of our yard to get ready to put an above-ground spa in. So we had it filled in, then bought a spa! It was a hassle and a half (in the words of my dad, "nothing is easy") times about 1,000, but it's in the yard now, it works, and it's beautiful! We are really happy with how this area turned out and are putting some finishing touches on it to make it perfect. C has already been in the spa every night since it's been working! 


Filling in the fountain


Pavers are laid!

See above about "hassle and a half" and then come back to note how close this spa is to not fitting in the backyard gate.

She's here and she's a beaut!
The spa is in!


We were lucky enough to have C's dad and stepmom send us these awesome framed art prints on their friend's moving truck. They were PERFECT for our "Christmas Tree Room" and we hung them and a picture I got that fit exactly in the niche above the fireplace.

Art prints nicely gifted by C's dad and stepmom!

TJ Maxx for the win, weirdly-sized niche!

C and I started going to trivia with some new friends, and while we are certainly not the best team out there, we are having a good time learning some new useless facts (like how many professional sports teams there are in specific states) and meeting new people.

In May, one of our local friends impromptu-invited us girls to go out for dinner for her birthday, and afterwords the four of us agreed that we should do that more often - so we've made it a monthly thing. It's nice to have some girls time with them on a regular basis! 

About a year ago when I realized I could NOT work from home in a state where I barely knew anyone, I found a pretty awesome job locally here in Gilbert, and enjoyed a) leaving the house every day; and b) meeting new people, even though I only worked with 4 other people. Well, all good things must come to an end and I was unfortunately laid off due to a company reorganization and my last day is at the end of June. I'm having a bit of an early-life crisis of not being sure what I want to be when I "grow up," but I've got some good leads and should have my "future" figured out in the next few days here.

We got through our first AZ year and are on to our second summer - aka the time of year when you just try your hardest to NOT go outside unless you want to melt. We're surviving pretty well through this one so far and are just not-so-patiently waiting for monsoon (storm!) season to start. I'm missing the rain!

I'm pretty sure that's everything that we've been up to lately! Hopefully I won't be a stranger for ~ 6 months again! :) 

Friday, May 27, 2016

One Year Home

This month marks our one-year anniversary of home ownership! It feels like forever, but also like no time at all has passed since we moved in.

In honor of this fun time, here's a list of milestones related to the house that we've done since moving in:

  1. Made our first joint furniture purchases (living room, kitchen, dining room, "Christmas Tree Room," two guest rooms and our bedroom). 
  2. Hosted our first house guests.
  3. Hosted our first half dozen "parties" - Fourth of July (11 people in our house for 3 nights!), Friendsgiving, Thanksgiving, and a few "just because" friends over evenings. 
  4. Had new ceiling fans installed in some rooms, replaced two toilets (definitely not ourselves!) and replaced numerous air filters (ourselves).
  5. My father-in-law spent a week with us in August and replaced nearly every lightbulb in our house with LED bulbs, plus added dimmers to a few light switches. 
  6. C started mowing and edging our yard himself around October. 
  7. Learned and hated the "joys" that come with owning a pool. 
  8. Finished planning our wedding. 
  9. Spent two weekends printing, cutting, and organizing documents for our wedding. 
  10. GOT MARRIED (technically not in our home or even the state but seems big). 
  11. Started and ended a work from home job. 
  12. Had new AC units installed. 
  13. Painted a room by ourselves. 
  14. Celebrated knowing each other for ten years. 
  15. Gotten over my nervousness of being home alone for a few different work trips of C's. 
  16. Learned how to meal plan. 
  17. Learned how to cook a lot of new meals, especially for just two people. 
  18. Agreed to adopt a kitten (though she didn't come home until after we'd been in the house a year). 
  19. Started planning to remove the fountain from the courtyard/side yard of our home to put a spa on top of it. 
  20. Had three sections of our roof replaced. Ugh. 
Cheers to 29 more years of mortgage payments, boy! <3 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Martinezfest

It's our 4 month wedding anniversary today so I thought I'd share some pictures of the big day. We had the most wonderful photography and coordination team of Lover of Weddings, every time I see our pictures I fall more and more in love with them! It doesn't hurt that the photos are full of our favorite people who traveled far and wide to join us in San Francisco to celebrate with us.





My momma and "best maids" helping me with my dress


My brother did the reading during our ceremony and opened with a joke - which is what's happening here.


The beautiful and amazing church we were lucky enough to have our ceremony in.


Our immediate families - parents and step-parents and my brother. 


These guys know how important C's hair perfection is to him ;) 






The hotel where our reception was held is also next door to the SF MoMA (the circular building to the left of this shot), where C and I had one of our first dates. 










My dad flew out to AZ a few weeks before the wedding so we could pick a song and practice our father daughter dance. 
Neither of us are overly coordinated at this sort of thing so the biggest deal to me was that we didn't fall or mess up! 

C and his mom <3 



It certainly appears that everyone enjoyed themselves.

Possibly my new favorite photo of C

We were super lucky to have amazing San Francisco weather, so our guests got to use the outdoor space that was part of our reception location at The W. 




Friday, January 29, 2016

Dropping the 'Zewski

Fair warning, this blog post will be of little to no interest to anyone who isn't trying to change their name after marriage. 

Dropping the 'Zewski


I spent just over 27 years with an 11-letter Polish last name that I was constantly spelling out for everyone. I don't know how long it took me to learn to say or spell it correctly, but I know I knew it by 4th grade because I remember someone at my school's office asking me how long it took me to learn it. I'm sure I knew it before then, but that's the earliest memory I have of being asked about it personally. I know all the "words for letters" things I need to say for my maiden name ("T as in Tom, O, M as in Mary, A, S as in Sam, Z as in Zebra..."), but don't ask me to tell you the "as in" name for any letter not in my maiden name, because I'm just not sure!

Needless to say, I was excited to be dropping 3 letters and going to an easier (in my mind, though C insists it still gets mis-pronounced, misspelled, etc.) last name!

Once we got the certified copies of our marriage certificate in the mail (this was a small adventure in and of itself since one of our witnesses forgot to write their city in their address! Luckily the clerk's office called and wrote it in for us), I was ready to get the process started. I had been adding to a list of where it needed to change for a while (as I remembered random things I added to it), so I could cross them off as I went and make sure I didn't miss anything.

It's ridiculous how many places you register your name with: I have been flying since I was an infant (yay for long distance relatives!), so I've had frequent flier accounts with airlines for 26+ years, and then after being in a long distance relationship for a few years, I had rewards accounts with multiple hotels too. My list was pretty long, but we're coming up on February 1st (I started the process on November 13th), and I'm about 97% done! Here's how it worked:

Getting the certified certificate: I requested two copies of my certificate in case I needed to mail one out. This took about 2 weeks to receive from California to Arizona.

Social Security: Step one is always going to be here. Since I (soooo luckily!) have half days on Fridays, I drove down to Phoenix and went to the Social Security office after work on 11/13/15. They checked my documents at the door, then I waited for about 30 minutes. The worst/weirdest part of this wait was that someone decided to sit IMMEDIATELY next to me who had at least one (memory is fuzzy on this now) teardrop tattoo near his eye. Yikes!!! The actual meeting with the representative was quick and easy, and she was rather personable (made jokes about how much easier of a name I'm getting).

DMV: Once you've submitted your request to Social Security, you have to wait at least 24 (or 48?) hours for their systems to update, then you can request your new driver's license. I went to the DMV on a Wednesday on my lunch break, and the longest wait here was to get my number so I could be called to the right counter. There were at least two women close in front of me trying to do the same thing, but they had been married in Arizona (we got married in California), and apparently AZ gives out some kind of pseudo-certificate, that isn't ACTUALLY good for anything, so both of those women had to leave to go to (luckily close by!) the clerk's office for a certified marriage certificate. Luckily my certificate was the right kind, and I didn't have to leave and come back. I got my new picture taken and walked out with my temporary ID. I think it took about 2 weeks for my real one to come in the mail, and in the mean time I had received my new social security card...ironically my old name fit on one line of my original card, and my new name took two lines, even though it was shorter! I guess they changed the printing process sometime in the last 27 years.

Miscellaneous: Now that I had my new ID, I was able to change my name at places like Costco (they accepted my temporary driver's license). I didn't need any kind of ID to update my auto insurance, but we did need to provide a copy (didn't have to be the certified one) to update our homeowners insurance, mortgage, etc. I had been waiting to have C add me to his health insurance through work until I had gone to the Social Security office, but the deadline for open enrollment was the week before I went, so we added me with my 'zewski name and have since submitted their required info to update it to Martinez.

Banking: I made us an appointment on a Saturday afternoon (hooray for weekend banking!) to make changes to our bank accounts. We needed our current IDs, and I brought the marriage certificate though we didn't end up needing it. C and I have both had bank accounts at Bank of America since we were young teenagers. Thanks to this, it turns out our parents (my mom and his dad) are still co-owners on our accounts. We happen to live in different states than those parents, so we had an unexpected hurdle when I tried to change my name and add C to my accounts and vice versa. To make changes to any of my accounts (ie: changing my name), we had to get signatures from everyone on the account - which included my mom. We ended up mailing her the document and she mailed it back, but it was something we didn't plan for. It turns out my mom was only on my savings account, and I'll be closing that out since C and I opened a new joint savings account, and to close it I won't need her signature. I kept my old checking and savings accounts open while I made sure any automatic deposits and withdrawals were switched over before I closed them.

Places that I didn't need any form of proof to update: This was the biggest surprise to me, but almost none of the credit card companies needed anything but my word that my name was changed. This is also a little scary, but it was ultimately one of the easiest places to update in the whole process! I have cards with Chase, Citi, AmEx, Target and Kohls (too many, but I'm consolidating now), and I called the number on the back of each card to make the changes. AmEx was actually the most difficult, they did require a form and copy of the certificate (scanned/emailed) to change my name. Chase, Citi and Kohls all said "congratulations! We'll change it now and mail you out a new card!" - Citi actually overnighted my card to me! That was incredibly impressive. Target was the most difficult - I couldn't get past the automated menu, and once I did, another complication arose: they would deactivate my existing card immediately and it takes up to 14 business days to send the new card. Luckily the rep I spoke to was clued in to the fact that it was almost Black Friday (no one wants to do Black Friday shopping at Target without the extra 5% off!!!), and asked if I wanted to wait to request the new card. I waited until late December to request the new card from Target, but my name had been updated right away. I kept track, and it really did take almost 14 business days to get the new card from them.

Hotels: I have rewards accounts with Hilton, Marriott and Starwood (The W where we got married gave us a NICE amount of points for the money we spent on our reception and rooms there). I could not change any of these accounts online. Here are the numbers, emails and directions for each one:
  • Hilton: 1-800-548-8690. Their email is hhonors@hilton.com, and they ask that you put "Attention: Member Services" in the subject line. I was told to include my old and new names, HHonors number, and a copy of my marriage certificate. Unfortunately the first rep gave me the wrong email address, so my request went into the ether and I just got it resolved today. I resent my email to the right address and it was updated within the day (probably because I had called the same day about the delay). 
  • Marriott: 1-801-468-4000. Send your request to marriottrewards@marriott.com, with your member number, old and new names, and marriage certificate. This was changed within 24 hours. 
  • Starwood (SPG): 1-888-625-4988. Email address is research@Starwoodhotels.com, and all the same information as the others. This was completed within 24 hours, and they also sent me a new member card in the mail with my new name, which was unnecessary but fun. 
Airlines: I submitted requests to change my name on my frequent flier accounts through American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta online fairly easily. They all followed up to my request with a request for the copy of my marriage certificate (scanned/emailed), and all except American changed incredibly fast - American took a few weeks.

I also have an account with Southwest, but I held off changing anything there because I had two upcoming trips with them that had been booked in my maiden name, and I was really cutting it close on their timeline to get existing reservations updated when I got my new driver's license (they needed copies of both IDs to make a change to an existing reservation). I also have TSA Pre-Check and wanted to be able to use that for my trips, which I couldn't do if I changed the name on the reservations. I emailed them just this month at southwestairlines@luv.southwest.com with the new/old names, my Rapid Rewards number, and copies of my old and new IDs. I called today to follow up, and was told it does take up to 30 days to go through, and mine hasn't yet. 

TSA Pre-Check: This has been the BIG kahuna as far as changing my name goes. I found an incredibly helpful blog (and so far the ONLY place I've seen this specific information) with information about this change, Getting My Points High, and wrote down the information she gave: 
"Takes one to three months. 855.347.8371—press 3 for Precheck, then 4 for ‘all other inquiries.’  The agent said that someone would be in touch with the next steps, and a day later someone called me with an email to send my marriage license"
When I saw this, I was SHOCKED at how long they told her it took! I had called in December and argued with them a little about this, their arguments came down to "there are a lot of people making this kind of request and we process them on a first-come-first-served basis" - to which I argued that the Social Security office and DMV are getting all those same requests and it is handled in a matter of weeks at each of them. They didn't really appreciate that, and obviously nothing changed.

Applying for Pre-Check is $85, and your status lasts for 5 years (I'm just over 1 year in). While the name change process is happening, you can not use the service! When we lived in different states, this would have been unacceptable and I would have just gone through the process of re-applying with my new name, since that takes about a week at best to be approved from what I've experienced (I've watched the process for myself, C and my boss).  However, I'm not traveling as much now that C and I live in the same state, so I'm waiting it out.

I called on 1/11/16, and as of 1/29/16 have NOT received the follow up phone call. Why the folks at the 855 number can't give you the email address to send the certificate to, I don't know. They say they have to review your case before they call you back, so I won't be giving out the email address when I get it because it would probably ruin the system for everyone, but I will come back and update when this is completed.

Passport: This is the last thing I haven't changed, and that's mostly because I have to get a new picture taken. I filled out the paperwork online, and am going to a drug store to do the picture this weekend (C has never had a passport so he's got to come along too!). This is $110, the same cost as a brand new passport. Luckily I've had mine since 2007, so it was nearing the end of it's validity (2017), otherwise I would feel pretty ripped off here. This WILL require me to send in one of the actual copies of our marriage certificate - so far the only place I've had to actually send it to.


All in all, it sounds like a lot once I've typed it all out, but it was not that bad now that it's (mostly) all said and done about 3 months later - I'm Amanda Martinez in 99% of the places I need to be! I'm very glad that I didn't pay for any services that change your name because you still have to do most of the leg work, they just provide you with forms to send places.