Sunday, June 22, 2014

the name game.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I got married last year. What's that? Only like a million times? Ok, well then we're all up to speed now.

Well, one whole year and a month or so later, I'm finally looking in to what it takes to legally change your name. Todd and I had a few conversations about it before we were married, and he's never pressured me to take his last name. It's not something that either one of us came into this feeling that strongly about. We didn't feel like sharing a name would make us any more or less married and committed to each other. But to be honest, the main reasons I've postponed doing anything about it until now is convenience, travel and sheer laziness. Apparently, in order to change your name on a plane ticket (since they would have to match my new ID and passport, obviously), airlines will charge you upwards of $250-300. JUST TO CHANGE THE NAME THAT PRINTS OUT ON THE TICKET. Ugh. I mean, I'm in the ticketing business. I get it. You don't want people just buying a bunch of tickets and then selling them for more money and changing the name. But still. If you can prove that you are the same person who bought the ticket, and just changing your legal name, there should be some kind of exception. So anyway, since Todd and I already had a couple of plane tickets purchased through March of this year, we decided I would just wait until after those trips were over so we didn't have to pay even more money just so I could be "Mrs" instead of "Ms". And then we booked that other (super amazing) trip for May... so it got pushed back a few more months.

And that was okay by me. I mean, it is actually really frustrating and complicated. And even after you've jumped through the hoops of legally changing your name with the Social Security Office and the DMV and the Passport Office, it gets really overwhelming when you start to think about the number of other places/organizations that you still need to notify... utility companies, banks, credit cards, insurance, employers, post office, doctors' offices, voter's registration, schools... It's crazy how many places know who you are.

That's when the laziness kicks in. I like my first, middle, and last names. They've done me right for 30 years. They're great. I like being SEM. But I'm also really excited to have a new chapter of life as "Mr. and Mrs. Garcia". It's pretty cool. People might even think I speak Spanish. (I don't.) But do I drop my last name and keep the first+middle? Or do I drop the middle and make my last name my new middle name? Or do I go for broke and keep them all?? I've been practicing my new signature to see what feels natural. And if I kept them all, can I have two middle initials? Or would I have a double last name, no hyphen?? The possibilities are endless!

Has anyone else been at this crossroads, or did you dive right into the name-change and never look back? Any tips or super secret short cuts or loopholes you found to be helpful? Has anyone else done the double-middle name?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

sun days. fun days.

Our dad loves boats. He finally bought a boat a couple years ago that he keeps down in Florida. It is so great and I love staying on it. It's the perfect size for a weekend visit. We knew once he broke down and bought a boat again (they sold our last boat when I was in elementary school, I think), that it would only be a matter of time before he was hooked again. Well, he's hooked. In a big way. He's also (always been) hooked on family vacations to tropical islands. And this time, those two hooks hooked each other and Stef, Loc, Todd and I all benefited from said hooking.

My dad chartered a power catamaran, large enough for the five of us to eat, drink, sleep, cruise, swim around, dive from, and sun ourselves on for seven days. It was actual paradise. We hit a new island everyday. We were in the British Virgin Islands, and it was so easy to get from one spot to the next. We didn't even get out "to sea" really, because we were almost always in sight of Tortola (the largest island) and at least 4 little islands or cays. Dad was the captain and we were his crew.

Stef quickly established herself as navigator/dive guide/maintenance crew. Loc, Todd and I dutifully appointed ourselves the mooring crew, with Loc on the port line, I took the starboard and Todd had the mooring hook to snag all the boys buoys. You may be wondering how Stefanie became our "maintenance crew". Well, our first evening on board and out of the marina, we noticed that our water tanks were empty. That's odd. As we were filling them the next morning, the gauge raised and then dropped to empty again. That's odd. So obviously Stef investigates the situation, hops below deck, finds the valve that was "on", switched it to "off", and miraculously our water tanks were no longer emptying directly into the ocean. She was immediately dubbed our "crew chief", because duh.

Loc was also appointed "dinghy captain" and his skills were tested on one of our last adventures when we took the dinghy through a downpour to get to a tiny islet, called Sandy Spit, on the other side of the rain. I believe halfway through he said something like, "can't go back now!". Todd was our "galley boy" and prepared most of our meals on board, including an adaptation of the new-to-him classic Mitchell-Family-Vacation summertime specialty "mac & cheese & hotdogs". This trip we got fancy with Velveeta Shells & Cheese & Spam. His life and culinary prowess will never be the same. He also made other delicious things that were actual non-processed foods, but who cares about that stuff? (I do. Please don't stop feeding me, Todd. I love you.) What was my role, you ask? I took the most strenuous job on the boat: "sunpad supervisor". I spent everyday laying on that sunpad to make sure it was still there. It was. You're welcome.

We are also now officially a full dive family! Loc passed his certification dives while we were down there, so we all got to dive together for the first time ever! (Todd completed his certification on our honeymoon last year.) I also love diving with my sister. She is the most fun underwater. No offense to the dudes, but they don't quite understand our underwater talking language yet. I was so excited to be diving with her again that she talked me into pushing my free-diving skills when one of our towels blew off the railing and sank 33 feet to the ocean floor below our boat. You see, she is a very good free-diver/breath-holder/buoyancy-controller/body-pressure-equalizer. I would also like to be good at those things, so when she said "you can do it, just try" obviously I was going to try. I'm 30. Can't be the baby sister forever, right? (RIGHT?) So I strapped on my mask and fins and a weight-belt, and plunged into the sea. And well, the rest is history.

(Note to self: equalizing the pressure in your mask is equally as important as equalizing the pressure in your ears.) BUT GUYS! I got my treasure and free dove deeper than I ever would have attempted before and held my breath longer than ever! I'd say it's a trade-off. I also got a temporary job-title upgrade to "treasure diver". It didn't stick long, since I couldn't really wear my mask again after that. (No more eyeball suctioning, thanks.

It really was an incredible trip. I know family vacations are different for everyone - some people love them and some people dread them. I wasn't sure exactly how this trip would be, but everyone was so relaxed and so on board (literally) for everything anybody wanted to do. This was the first time we travelled with just the five of us, and it was a perfect family bonding trip. (Great idea, Dad!) We had one day back on Tortola after returning the boat before we all went back to normal, non-boat-living life. It was nice to just relax and ease out of it all a little bit. Get our land legs back. There were also cats at our hotel, and I befriended one and gave him chips, so I felt a little closer to home already.

I never like leaving places like this. I love the sun (all the time sun, please) and the fact that the first thing I put on in the morning is a bathing suit. If it were appropriate in Chicago, I would wear a bathing suit under my clothes everyday and lay out on the sidewalk at lunch. That's totally normal, right? (But seriously, Stacey + Sand + Sunshine + Swimsuit = the key to a happy life for Todd.)

Can I say it again? This trip was incredible.

P.S. If you want a daily breakdown of this trip, Todd's been breaking it down over on his blog lately.