Category Archives: Marriage

Paris Part Deux

Continued from Part Une

Ugh! Can you possibly handle MORE Paris?

Well, it’s cold and I haven’t left my house since we returned except to restock the fridge. So, unless you want more posts about shopping at Waitrose, it’s all I got. (Deal)

Voilà, mes amies! More Paris, it is, but just the highlights. I promise.

Eiffel Tower.

I should have known that going to the top of the Eiffel Tower was a baaaad idea when the top of it was eclipsed by fog.

It was indeed very, very cold…

Notre Dame.

I thought I was SO clever to suggest that Avery and I feed the birds outside of Notre Dame, so Mike could climb to the top of the bell tower unhindered…

That is until the birds attacked! Ewwww!

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Mike never made it to the top of the bell tower, but we did manage to attend Mass in the cathedral that night… once we escaped the birds, of course.

Stained glass, incense, chanting,  and organ music in a huge Gothic church… GORGEOUS!

Don’t worry. I lit a candle for all of you sinners out there…hee-hee!

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The Louve.

Totally missed it.

Why?

Because apparently two (supposedly) well educated, high functioning  adults in possession of… not one, but TWO different guidebooks… couldn’t  figure out that it’s CLOSED on Tuesdays.

(Sigh!) C’est la vie… we still got to enjoy the exterior.

Just standing in the courtyards and gardens, it’s difficult to comprehend that the Louve was once someone’s HOUSE.

Well, actually several royal and imperial someones’ house, but still… it’s no wonder the peasants revolted.

Musee d’Orsay.

Well, isn’t it fortuitous that just across the Seine from the Louve is the d’Orsay, which was open for business that day…

I love the d’Orsay so much so that I’ve gone every single time I’ve been in Paris, but this time I loved it even more for giving me a discount for (barely) being under 30!!!

Mike cried ageism, but I assured him it was because he was CLEARLY more cultured and sophisticated, and therefore would get those two Euros more out of the experience.

And then he goes and does something like this…

Swine!

(Okay, so that last photo was staged, but only because camera phone pics are super cheesy.)

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Filed under Marriage, Sightseeing, Travel

Certainity. A Luxury We Can No Longer Afford.

Shortly following the start of the worldwide economic meltdown, Mike turned to me one morning and asked, “But how does all this affect us?”

(“Us” being folks with no immediate ties to the banking industry going about their daily lives.)

At the time, life around us hadn’t changed much…

The London’s streets were littered with just as many tourists as the day before. The shop lines on Kensington and Oxford Street were just as atrocious as ever, and the previous day our grocery store had run out of fresh bread before I could get there. It was business as usual.

Furthermore, we’re decades away from retirement, well-educated, and completely debt-free. I assured Mike that we really don’t need to worry, but his question still struck me as the “Gee, what else can go wrong?” of sitcom folly…

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What I’m about to tell you has been wallowing in the pit of my stomach and consuming my every thought.

I’ve avoiding talking about it until now, even with my family, because it’s too difficult. Too complicated. Too personal.

When I started sobbing at Mass last weekend… while on the bus… and standing in line at the post office…  and basically, any moment when I get five seconds to myself, I figured it was time to let it out.

So here, goes…

Our visas expire in 27 days and Mike’s contract still hasn’t been renewed.

Note, this is not to say that it wasn’t renewed. Only that it hasn’t, and his company seems to be in no rush. (Such the British way…)

On the other hand, the company has voiced on several occasions that it would LOVE to keep him on staff. His co-workers love him and are shocked that he hasn’t been scooped up yet. However, the funding for the next project hasn’t been secured and unless it happens within in the next four weeks, they can’t…

Thank you, worldwide economic meltdown.

Everything could still change on a dime… er, ten pence, but for now, Mike has started job hunting again and when our visas expire, we’ll have no choice but to move back– uninsured, jobless, and homeless. (i.e. hobos)

This may come as a shock to most of our friends and family.

Why the hell would we turn our lives upside down, drain our bank accounts, sell our stuff, our home, and our car, and start all over for essentially six months of employment?

It’s crazy. I know, but the answer is simple. I love my husband and it’s great job. Not to mention, it’s was an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up.

When he accepted the position, it was with the tacit understanding that it would be his for as long as he wanted it.  We’d have a chance to see Europe, live abroad for a while, and build back our savings.

Of course, at the time, who could have foreseen the collapse of every single financial market in the world. (Certainly not the people “in charge”…)

We were just getting settled– creating routines, desensitizing ourselves to the banking system, making wonderful new friends

We very much want to stay, especially after everything we went through to get here. (Those of you closest to us, you know the stories. No need to rehash them here…)

As difficult as it has been to “adjust”, the thought of moving overseas again, so soon and so suddenly, is exactly why I haven’t slept in over three weeks.

Please don’t tell me “It’s going to be okay” or “We’ll be fine”. I won’t be able to stand it. Not yet.

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Filed under Daily Life, Family, Marriage, Packing Up and Moving

Banking 2.0

It’s been a while since I’ve ranted about the banking system

Since my last post, I was finally added to our accounts. I have my own cards and everything.

No more begging Mike for advances on my allowance! Whew-hew!

So, the next logical step in my plan for world domination was to set up online banking. That should be relatively simple…

HA! Haven’t I learned that nothing, and I do mean NOTHING, is as simple as it should be here?

We attempted to log on to the site and were blocked. The outgoing message informed us that before setting up ONLINE banking, we must first call their PHONE banking to verify our details.

Once that is completed, the bank will MAIL (as in by Royal Post, not e-mail) a 9-digit log-in, which we can then use to set up online banking… and each step should take… umm, 3-5 business days.

FINE!

When their letter arrived in the post this morning, I hopped online immediately. Instead of then allowing me to access our accounts, the site spit out another reference code (15-digits, that’s SIX more digits than the last one…) along with instructions to call their PHONE banking again and give them this code…

…and then, they really will (promise, promise, cross-our-hearts-and-hope-to-die this time) authorize us to access our very own money online.

Is your head spinning yet? Oh you just wait for this next part…

After 10 minutes on hold, I’m told that the code I have in hand is Mike’s, not mine or even ours. So, I just have to answer a few quick questions to prove that I’m also on the account. (Fine. Whatever.)

I am transferred to another rep, who verifies this, but proceeds to tell me that I still cannot access OUR accounts with MY HUSBAND’s code.

In fact, it is ILLEGAL and I will need to apply for my own super secret code, which must never be shared. Not even with my partner

“I don’t get it. It’s the same accounts.” I argued

“Yes, but we do this for YOUR protection. Customers can only can access their individual accounts,” he replied.

“Okay, but this is a joint account. We’re married. We live together. We share the finances…”, I sputter.

“Madame. (dramatic pause) People don’t always stay together,” was his sage and worldly response to my obviously naive claim to wedded bliss.

“That is THE most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.  We’re talking about the two of us accessing the SAME accounts. We share the exact same accounts!”

“No. It makes perfect sense. If you were to separate, you would want to…”

I cut him off with my hysterical laughing. I’m so used to this insane run around by now that I’m past the frustration. All I CAN do is laugh.

“Okay, whatever. Just send me the papers.  I guess I’ll talk to you in 3-5 business days,” I said once I regained my composure.

Besides, if I were to ever leave Mike, don’t you think I’d drain our bank accounts first…

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As an aside,  all paperwork and official documents, from my bank cards to our phone bills to my library card, are issued to “MRS. G Duffy”. (As opposed to “Grace Duffy”, unique and multifaceted individual with a separate identity from Mr. M Duffy…)

Prior to moving to the UK, the only time anyone ever called me “Mrs. Duffy”, it was usually in mocking. Still, it amuses me to no end to live in a country where titles actually matter.

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Filed under Banking, Marriage, Undiplomatic Behavior

1,2,3,4… Tell Me That You Love Me More

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Mike and I celebrated a wedding anniversary recently.

Four years ago we promised to love, honor, and cherish. Little did I know that it would be more like honour…

Of course, at the time, I also expected ours to be a life right out of a Pottery Barn catalog– gracious dinner parties, Saturday mornings at the farmers’ market, monogrammed table linens… or as my younger (and much cooler) sisters would probably call it, “Death by boredom… er, suburbia”.

Fortunately, Mike had more exciting things in store for us… kind of.

So aside from a “romantic getaway” to Stonehenge, how did we celebrate our grand and wonderful love?

Mike went to work and I stayed home with Avery…

ALL DAY! Whew-hew!

Okay, okay. So I DID manage to throw together a decent(ish) dinner that night.

Scallops in a sage butter sauce as an appetizer. Parsnip and sweet potato encrusted pork loin, garlic potatoes, and green beans for the main course. A store-bought English apple crumble and ice cream for desert.

It wasn’t until after dinner that I realized that I probably shouldn’t have indulged in the scallops.

Mike and I may have hit it off immediately upon meeting, but seafood and I… well, let’s just say our relationship is less… umm, agreeable.

I sent Mike out to the ONLY store in London open “late” (past 8pm) for sparkling water and Alka-Selzer. Then, we spent the rest of the evening watching a re-broadcast of the last Presidential debate (i.e. yelling at the TV).

Not exactly silk stockings and garters, but just as special… I guess.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Filed under Daily Life, Marriage

You’re Mysterious and Old, But I’m Strangely Drawn to You.

This coming Thursday is our wedding anniversary, which I wanted to celebrate with a weekend trip some place stunning, romantic, and fabulous…

Paris? Roma? Milano? Brugge? Any of these would do!

Where did Mike want to go?

Stonehenge.

An hour and a half journey out of London with a toddler in tow to see a pile of rocks in the middle of nowhere… Yeah.

I relented at first, but because Mike is a hundred and thirty-one flavors of wonderful about everything I want to do and hardly ever asked for anything, we went to Stonehenge…

… but with one compromise. It can’t be our only destination for the day.

Frankly, I just didn’t think Stonehenge would be very amusing for Avery, and as anyone with kids knows, that’s a huge factor in any sort of trip planning. (Obviously, I would have preferred to some place else, too…)

As it happens we stopped at TWO other places- Windsor Castle and Bath- courtesy of the bus tour I booked at the very last possible minute.

Normally, I find tours and group travel of any sort far too tedious restrictive. (This is why I have absolutely no desire to “cruise”.) I prefer the freedom to linger longer at the interesting places and ditch the audio tour if it sucks…

However, not having to wait on a chilly platform for the next train to arrive is rather nice too….

(For those of you who DO like tours and/or are planning a trip to England, I highly recommend the company we used and am happy to pass along their name. They were very accommodating and kid-friendly, especially with always having our stroller unfolded and ready to go at each stop and dropping us off closer to home at the end of the day.)

Here’s the breakdown of our trip:

First stop, Windsor Castle.

We were herded off the bus, through the town of Windsor, which looked all too charming and wonderful, and straight into the castle

Once through the castle walls, we were hurried up the hill, “reminded” to keep up with the group (umm, do YOU want to try to push this stroller?), handed an audio guide, and given an HOUR to soak in 900 years of history, grab lunch, use the potty, and get back on the bus…

Kind of stressful.

We were rushing through everything when Avery had a meltdown in the middle of St. George’s Hall. (Not my photo.)

He was on the floor, rolling around, crying, screaming, waking up the Queen…

I was about to do the same. Instead, I picked him up and carried him outside. As I stepped onto the footpath, I was curtailed by marching redcoats…

We walked out just in time to witness the changing of the guard, which cheered Avery up immensely. The drums, the marching, the fuzzy hats… He was SO excited!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t take any tacky touristy photos with the palace guards once they were through changing, as we were about to miss our bus.

(And, I really wanted one of those photos, too… Grrr)

Next stop, Bath.

Bath is another breath-taking destination well worth a three-day weekend…at least. We got to stay for a bit over an hour and a half.

Our guide insisted on giving us a walking tour since it was his hometown. He pointed out famous homes, landmarks, and its history as we walked along the busy streets.

Too bad we couldn’t hear a single word he said over the crowds and the bustle and the… ummm

… diverse street performers. (I’m not sure how to feel about this.)

We spent most of our time in Bath touring the ruins of the ancient Roman Baths, hence the name of the city. It was interesting to see, but we weren’t allowed to touch any of the “healing  waters”.

The water was, ironically, contaminated and untreated… Nice, huh?

By the way, do you know how FUN it is to take a curious two-year-old to a place with open water right at his level and tell him he can’t touch it?

Not very, but he handled himself rather well.

It wasn’t until we were on the bus heading to our next stop that we saw to most gorgeous views Bath has to offer. I wanted to get off the bus and ditch the tour right then and there!

We definitely have to go there again.

Last stop, Stonehenge.

As it turns out, Avery LOVED Stonehenge and would have GLADLY spent an entire day there. He ran around in the open fields, screamed at the top of his lungs, and “baa”-ed at the sheep grazing nearby.

Even as I put him down for his nap this afternoon, he was still clutching the leaflet given to us at the site and saying, “Sto’heg, Mommy! Sto’heg! Sto’heg!”

What the heck was I thinking?

OF COURSE, our son would love the huge pile of rocks in the middle of no where. He’s a BOY and, more important, just like his Dad…

…and I love them both so very much!!!

So there, you have it. Our “romantic” anniversary get-away. I told you my life isn’t at all glamorous, but at least it’s fun!

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For all you geeks… er, gamers out there, you’ll appreciate this. You’ll never guess what we found at Stonehenge.

That’s right. 20-sided dice. Do you think the aliens left it?

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Filed under Art & Architecture, Marriage, Sightseeing, Travel

The Buck Stops Here

I’ve been living in London for almost three weeks and I still haven’t been added to our British bank accounts, and from what I understand, this is nothing

Some people we know had to wait months before even being allowed to open a bank account in the UK. These are gainfully employed adults with regular salaries, valid work permits, children, dogs…

Okay, you get the picture.

I mean, even our two-year-old son has his own bank account in the States!

Meanwhile, I (a grown woman, wife, and mother) have to ask my husband for money each day like Lucy asking Ricky for her allowance. Finally, Mike just started leaving his debit card with me, which makes a lot more sense seeing as I handle all of the shopping and errands for our family.

I’ve been using it just fine until today, when a snotty sale girl tossed it back in my face and snidely remarked, “This is NOT your card…”

I explained that it’s my husband’s card and that I’m waiting for the bank to send me mine. I even pulled out my Texas Driver’s License to prove that we share a last name, but nothing. The store would not take the card… period.

This happened at two more shops before I just called it a day and went home empty-handed and defeated. I was miffed, but understood. After all, it’s all for our protection even if it is extremely annoying.

And here’s the ironic part…

Over the weekend and 4,757 miles (7,656 km) away, someone used our credit card number to charge over $500 worth of hoodies and skinny jeans at an Aeropostale in Dallas…

We’re still seeking a resolution with our bank in the US… and again, it’s taking FOR-EH-VAH.

Until then, I have the dubious pleasure of being effectively cut off from our funds in TWO COUNTRIES. How ’bout that!

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Filed under Banking, Life In The States, Marriage, Undiplomatic Behavior

A Spoonful of Sugar When the RenderFarm* Does Down

Chatting over the phone yesterday, Mike mentioned that he caused some sort of department-wide panic that afternoon…

Something about implementing code that realeased chaos and madness… I don’t know.

Basically, it was BAD, but he fixed it and all was well in the world again.

Mike went on to say that at his office mess-ups of that grandeur are repaid in baked good. As in the offending party bakes a cake (from scratch) for the entire department. Not a bad policy, if you ask me.

I suggested that he should bring apple pies instead of cake to work. I mean, being the newest American on staff, how fitting would that be?

“Wow, Honey! You would really bake homemade pies for me when you get here?” he asked.

“Umm, sure,” I feebly replied…

That means I only have two days to learn how to make a homemade All-American apple pie from scratch…

… and I call myself an American. Pfff.

* RenderFarm- a cluster of.. aw, hell. It’s a crapload of computers doing a crapload of stuff at the same time. It makes movies.

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Filed under Marriage