My Newest Venture

I’ve decided to write about my attempt to learn how to code (and, eventually, find a job in a computer-science-related field), and because it is outside the scope of this blog (i.e., all things Kevin and Carly) and quite possibly extremely boring, I’m doing it in a new blog. Read it, if you dare (or have literally nothing better to do with your time)!

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That Time I Hacked My Own Gmail Account

Preface: Because this post deals with a topic for which I don’t really have pictures, I decided to spice it up with photos of animals.

For years, all I have wanted is an email address that is [firstname][lastname]@gmail.com (or my own domain, but I’ve been too lazy to set that up).

You see, back on September 4, 2004, when I created my first Gmail account (when Gmail was still in beta testing and you had to be invited, because I’m so 1337), we still believed in internet anonymity. Most people were not using the [firstname][lastname] convention; most were simply migrating over their old AOL/AIM handles. However, having created my meowzer18 AOL screen-name at age 8, I couldn’t possibly keep that dream alive as a 17-year-old. I settled for my name and a random number, and thus my first Gmail account was born.

But as times changed, we collectively decided that we wanted to be able to be found on the web. As social media crept into our lives, we wanted our friends to find us (and be able to tag us appropriately in an inappropriate amount of questionably appropriate photos, duh!), and as email became more important to our job searches, we began creating email addresses that reflected our real names. (And though we’re slowly starting to desire a bit of anonymity again, most people maintain a [firstname][lastname] email address for professional purposes.)

Of course, when I finally saw the need for a more professional email address, the other Carly Roaches of the world had already taken carlyroach@gmail.com. I created a few variations of my first and last names just to have something more serious to use on job applications, but everything I came up with required a number to be unique — something that I detested. Having a number in your email address had gone out of fashion. No one takes you seriously if you are jonsnow1@gmail.com. It looks like you weren’t forward-thinking enough to jump on the email train early and ensure your rightful [firstname][lastname] address. Sure, I could have gone to Yahoo or AOL or Hotmail, but everyone knows that your email address domain reflects your computer skills, and I couldn’t risk looking like a n00b.

I knew my only option was marriage.

Dobby, Peanut, and their cousin Arya

Embarrassing as it is to admit, I was so driven by my desire for a [firstname][lastname] email address that I created a new email address every time I dated a guy who might be “the one.” Let’s just say I have many an abandoned email address based on past, unsuccessful relationships. Sensing a pattern (date guy + make email address = get dumped), and also knowing that no one in the entire world would ever be named Carly Hublou, I put off creating an email address when I met Kevin until we were engaged, reasoning, as most sports fans do, that something irrelevant that I was doing was affecting the outcome of my relationships. (It doesn’t matter if you wear your lucky socks, sports fanatics; you do not affect the outcome of the game!) I didn’t want to jinx this relationship with my unlucky email-address-making!

I say all that to make my point: I saw carlyhublou@gmail as something I had earned and something that I needed. Changing my name was so much more exciting knowing that I would finally enter the ranks of those with the [firstname][lastname] email-address scheme that I had coveted for so long (11 years, to be exact). I would do anything to protect it, and I would be devastated if I lost it.

Fast forward to June 2, 2016.

In addition to my original and married-name email addresses, I have many other Gmail addresses (because reasons). But I don’t check them all; that would be crazy. I stay signed in to my main account and simply have all of my other addresses forward the mail they receive to the inbox of that main account. Usually, I also tell Gmail to delete all copies of incoming emails from the other accounts after it forwards them to my main account. This way, I’ll never reach my storage limit on these accounts that I never check.

But on June 2, as I was doing some maintenance on my beloved carlyhublou account, I noticed that Gmail had not been deleting the emails in this inbox. I had thousands of emails taking up quite a bit of space. I checked my settings, fixed the problem, and decided to delete everything in my inbox to save space and because I had copies of it all in my main inbox.

Hindsight is 20/20, but looking back, this was a very stupid thing to do.

Here’s a hawk that lands in my backyard sometimes. Probably large enough to carry away Dobby.

Why?

Because Google thought I was a hacker.

It’s not uncommon for hackers to steal users’ accounts, immediately change the password and set up two-factor authentication to keep the rightful user out, and then do asinine things like delete all the emails from an inbox (perhaps after gathering whatever information they may have wanted from your emails).

So when Google saw that thousands of emails had been deleted in a matter of seconds, it disabled my account.

Not locked. Not suspended. Disabled.

“No big deal,” I thought. “I’ll just walk through the recovery process.”

But to recover a Google/Gmail account, you have to be able to verify your identity to a computer — a computer that you can’t plead with or reason with. It knows what answers it needs, and if you don’t provide them exactly as it is expecting to receive them, you’re simply not the owner of that account. To recover a disabled account, you need:

  • The last password you remember having for the compromised account.
  • The date of the last time you were able to log in.
  • The date when you created your account.
  • Five frequent contacts (and these should be contacts to whom you’ve sent mail and from whom you’ve received mail).
  • Four labels you created (not the defaults).
  • Knowledge of all of the other Google services this account has used (e.g., Google Calendar, YouTube).

And you have to match precisely what the computer expects as input. No wiggle room.

Providing this information was problematic for me. Because carlyhublou is an email address that I don’t use via its actual inbox (I receive and send emails for it through my main Gmail account), I never created labels for it, I never used other services with it, and I had never technically contacted anyone with it. (Sending email as carlyhublou via my main Gmail account adds those recipients to the frequently contacted list for my main account, not for carlyhublou.) Despite submitting the form at least 20 times, the computer didn’t believe I was me.

“That’s OK,” I thought. “I’ll call Google’s help desk.”

EXCEPT THERE IS NO GOOGLE HELP DESK.

That’s right; one of (if not the) biggest tech company in the world has no user support (unless you are a Google Apps paid user). I even called Google’s main number, listened carefully  (as their menu options had changed), and found myself listening to an automated man telling me that I can only unlock my Gmail account by completing the account-recovery process.

Now, I understand. Google has millions of users. It’s not probable to staff a help desk to support a user base of this magnitude. Google’s solution is to provide an internet help forum, which is moderated by non-Google-employees who have somehow risen through the ranks of the forum to achieve the status of super loser user. They answer questions and also have access to Google employees if they can’t solve the problems themselves.

The very best friends.

But if you read through the Gmail forum, you’ll see that most users post to complain about the same problem I was having: their accounts got disabled for one reason or another and the account-recovery process isn’t working. Most times, there is no help for these people; they are told their accounts are lost forever, or they are provided a link to a blog that someone created to walk others through the recovery process.

Those are the only options.

(Dear Googs: If that many users are experiencing the same problem with your only option to recover their accounts, perhaps the process for recovering accounts is flawed. Love, Carly, beta tester circa 2004)

Think about it: What else in your life is that secure? Not even your credit-card account is that secure. You can recover a credit-card account by giving a human the last four of your Social Security number and the answers to a few not-so-difficult-to-hack-if-you’re-really-trying security challenges. That doesn’t even come close to the level of scrutiny programmed into Google’s account-recovery process.

Having exhausted my options, I called Kevin, nearly in tears.

Why was I in tears over an email address? Part of it was because I had waited so long to have this email address and now I might never have it again. Part of it was because this was the address through which most of my professional communications took place, and I did not want to have to send that email of shame: “My email address has been disabled and I cannot retrieve it. Please update your records with my new one.” (How embarrassing!)

And part of it was that I realized how much I relied on Google — on one company — just to function every day. Between Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive, a huge chunk of my life belongs in the Google suite of services. How uncanny it felt to have part of my internet identity so abruptly revoked and not be able to get it back. It was a partial glimpse into what life might be like if my real identity were to ever be stolen. I felt lost and helpless.

I called Kevin for emotional support. As he listened to me describe the day’s events to him, he gawked at the ridiculousness of Google’s user help solution. And then from his mouth — er, the phone speaker — poured the most beautiful, romantic words he’s ever uttered to me: “I’ll call Google directly.”

Kevin will be upset if I end this post without a picture of his beloved bird.

To make a long saga shorter, Kevin used a little wizardry (i.e., his sys-admin powers) to find a human at Google and alohomora my account.

As the dark skies over my first-world problems cleared, I felt eternally grateful for all the wonderful things in my cyber life, like Google Play Music curated playlists, the fact that I can add 2GB of storage to my Google Drive each year by completing a security check, and how Gmail adds events to my Google calendar when it senses dates in emails. Google had treated me like a boyfriend who says, “I want to take a break,” and then decides that he really does want to be with me after all (which is never how that story actually goes, by the way), and I felt no shame in running back to its login page.

After the makeup, I got down to business. Google had Scrooged me, and it was time to make sure this never happened again. So, for all of my Google accounts, I made sure I could answer all of those bullet-point criteria I listed above. I created four labels, found the dates the accounts had been created, turned on two-step verification, sent emails to my other accounts so that I would have frequent contacts, etc.

And then I slept soundly that night knowing I wasn’t stuck in another super-depressing episode of Black Mirror.

Planning Poor Does Graduate School

In 2008, during my last year of undergrad, my aunt Deena and I were on the phone discussing finding a first job and whether going to graduate school was important. I don’t remember the specifics, but one thing she said that has stuck with me all these years was, “It’s so much harder to go back.” In other words, go to graduate school right after college, because it only gets harder to do so the further you get from that moment.

And while the rest of my friends were indeed going to graduate school right after college (in part because the recession had sucked away any jobs they might have applied to), I just didn’t think this was the best choice for me. I understood that going to graduate school just for the sake of going to graduate school was a poor financial decision. If I were ever going to get a Master’s degree, I wanted it to be for something that would accelerate a career I loved. In other words, I didn’t want to plunge into graduate school and then be forced into a career I had to choose based on the degree I earned. For me, it had to be the other way around.

(And, had I gone to graduate school straight away, I would have been pursuing an MA in English in the hopes of going on to a PhD program. Needless to say, it would have been a disturbing waste of loan money.)

Despite her sage wisdom, and despite the Great Recession, I started my first job 3 days after graduating. The only thing I felt was super pissed at not having one more summer vacation before diving into the adult world and never having one again.

Fast forward 6 years. It’s April 2015, and Kevin is debating a monumental life change. He’s 3 years out of law school, and despite having a stable—albeit time-consuming—job as a lawyer, he’s dissatisfied. Lawyering is not what he thought it would be. He expected a career that offered endless variety and intriguing intellectual challenges. Instead, it had become monotonous.

He began to work on automating some of the repetitive parts of his job and found that he loved the challenge of programming. Around the same time, he had been reading books about math and information theory (nerd!) and found the subject fascinating. But he knew there was no way he could practice law and formally study computer science. His plan: Retire from law, find a part-time job, preferably in his new field of interest, and return to school.

Step one of his plan would be easy (in theory—it’s never easy to say goodbye to great coworkers); steps two and three, not so much.

Dobby helping me study for Accounting.

If one thing has been said about me, it’s that if you’re looking for a job, I’m the person you want to tell. Over the course of my life I’ve signed up for so many job-alert emails that I’m practically a mini work-placement service. So when Kevin told me he wanted a job in tech, my challenge began. I sent him job after job after job, all the while keeping his spirits up because he was losing hope.

“Who wants to hire a lawyer for a part-time IT job?” he would ask. “You never know until you try!” I would tell him.

As it turns out, the University of Florida did. On his first and only interview, Kevin landed a part-time IT job working for one of UF’s many entities. And working at UF, even part-time, would allow him to easily run around campus to attend classes in the middle of the workday. Steps two and three: Check!

It was around this time of change that Kevin helped me realize that my own situation was not ideal. (Either that, or he just didn’t want to be alone in his educational endeavor.) For years, he had been urging me to go back to school for something—anything!—citing that I was too smart to be doing what I was doing. (#humblebrag) While I would have loved to have gone back to school, I never wanted to take out more student loans or stop making money. (And this is what my aunt meant by “it’s hard to go back.” Money is like a drug; it’s hard to stop making that paper once you start.)

But one of the benefits my employer provides is free school: the company will reimburse me for up to six credits per semester of graduate work that I successfully complete with a C or better. What’s more, a friend at work had told me about a business Master’s degree at UF that had an IT focus: the Information Systems and Operations Management (ISOM) program. It was as if all the stars were aligning: this was the perfect program for me, as it would allow me to gain more technical skills while polishing the business skills I had acquired through 6 years of employment.

With a new goal in mind (and probably the first real goal I had set in a very long time, besides “convince Kevin to marry me”), I immediately began my plan of attack. With applications due June 1, I had just under 2 months to study for the GRE, take the GRE and receive an acceptable score, write a cheesy admissions statement, solicit three letters of recommendation, get my boss’s support and approval for going back to school, and plan how I was going to attend school part-time while continuing to work full-time.

Having planned our wedding in just 2 months, I knew this would be a piece of pie compared to that.

And to make a long story short, it all worked out (somehow).

Fall 2015 was our first semester as a husband/wife team of working graduate students. And despite work, despite Kevin getting converted to a full-time position, despite both of us also being on the board of directors for a local non-profit, despite being at work at 7:00 AM and staying until 5:30 PM to make up lost time—we both made straight A’s. (#notsohumblebrag)

I have made so many friends, most of whom are from other countries, through ISOM. Here is a group of us at an international potluck and game night.

I know, you must be wondering: How did our personal lives not fall apart? It’s funny, I had the same reaction. I thought for sure the schedules we now keep would put a huge strain on our relationship, but in fact the opposite has happened. Kevin and I are in the best harmony we’ve ever experienced. We communicate and plan way more than we ever have. If I have to work late for class or can’t make it home at a reasonable hour, he knows to let the dogs out and start dinner without me. Likewise, on days that he has to work late, I know I need to take care of things at home and fend for food myself (i.e., hello, Panera Rapid Pickup!). Neither of us has ever been especially emotionally needy, so seeing each other for only an hour a day doesn’t bother us much. Sure, we may miss each other, especially during exam weeks, but neither of us has the time to break down and cry about it—not that we would.

Plus, it has been so rewarding to go through this together. Our programs of study tend to complement one another, and our classes have led to many an interesting discussion. We don’t get flustered at the other’s schedule because we understand it. And we love to talk about the future: Where will we be when our degrees are printed? What does the future hold? It’s an exciting time in our lives; who knew such excitement could exist after 25?

One of the most comical parts about going back to school as a “non-traditional student” (i.e., a student who goes part-time) at the ripe age of 28 is that nearly all of my classmates are in their early 20s, and because ISOM offers a combined-degree program, some of them are still undergrads. In group-project situations, I tend to be the one with the sage life advice, and everyone I meet gawks when they hear I’m married. On the plus side, I never get tired of hearing that I don’t look my age.

Business graduate school is all about the group project, which means many a long night in Hough Hall working together. But at least I can capture some nice sunsets now and then.

When I first started, I thought it would be difficult to compete against these full-time students who had nothing to do with their time but study. I had promised myself that I would be a better student in graduate school than I had been in undergrad (e.g., not waiting until the night before to write a 10-page paper, reading chapters as they are assigned instead of…well…never), but that still didn’t seem like enough to do well. How could I possibly put in the hours they must be putting in to earn better grades than theirs? (All of business school is graded relative to your classmates’ performance, so to get an A, you have to prove that you’re better than they are.)

But as I got to know my fellow students and their sometimes nonexistent study habits, I realized that my age actually afforded me the hindsight that these younger students had not yet had the chance to acquire: I know the value of my time, and I know how to be disciplined. If I have to spend 40 hours per week at work, you better believe I’m spending the rest of my free time as wisely as possible. So when I’m not at work, I’m at home reading my textbooks and doing practice problems. Plus, I don’t have to worry about who has a crush on me (Kevin does), if I’m eating well (Kevin feeds me healthy things…usually), or if I’m running out of money (never!), all of which I worried about as an undergrad. Instead, my mind is free to learn about encryption, UML diagrams, and, my favorite class so far, finance!

And when my friends complain about their grades or say they don’t have enough time in the day, I casually remind them that I work full-time, am in class 8 hours per week, and am doing just fine.

Speaking of friends, ISOM has been an incredible experience personally. The majority of my classmates are international students. At first, this intimidated me, but I soon learned that my classmates are some of the friendliest, most welcoming people I have ever met. I’ve made friends from India, China, Taiwan, and several South American countries, and I know that some of my new friends will be friends for life. Learning is great, but being able to make global connections with such kind people is priceless.

I’m not sure where my or Kevin’s Master’s degrees are going to take us, but I know they will keep us in the technology sector, a field that is always changing, which means there will always be something new to learn and new problems to solve. As people who require intellectually stimulating careers, this is perfect for us.

 

Bella Birthing Blog

Many moons ago, on Halloween 2009, my sister gave birth to her first child. Being the wise-cracking younger sister that I was born to be, I took it upon myself to start a mini blog to remember that wonderful day. I’ve combined all seven posts I wrote that night (most of which are very short) into one post on my blog, mostly as a way to share it with family but also to have it somewhere more permanent that its former location. Each titled section denotes a different post, and I’ve included my original subtitle to the blog as well. The only correction I have made is to change “inches” to “centimeters” when referencing Darla’s level of dilation. (So, for a more interesting read, just change “centimeters” back to “inches” in your mind.) Enjoy!

Bella Birthing Blog

A short blog following the birth of my first niece, Isabella, from a first-time-aunt’s point of view. Guest starring Darla, the mother-to-be; Mother, louder than ever; In-Laws, the calm yin to our crazy yang, and Baby.

Waiting for Isabella

Darla’s due date has been October 31, 2009, from the very beginning.  But I was hoping she would be late.

Halloween is always one of the biggest nights of the year for my boyfriend, Chris, because he throws a huge party…as in a front yard full of cars and a back yard full of people, beer kegs, and bonfires.  I had been planning to go for a while, but I guess my family and I had been planning for Isabella’s birth for even longer….

Look how grateful my sister was that I came home for this.

So, of course, Saturday morning, I get the call: Darla is going to the hospital. And as much as I didn’t want to go home this particular weekend, I swallowed the bitter pill of irony and drove the hour-and-a-half journey home.

When I got home, things were calm.  My mom was watching TV and my dad was working on some Publix construction plans.  The only news we had was that Darla was 3 centimeters dilated and thus too small yet to be officially admitted to the maternity floor. So I ate lunch and played with our dogs.  I even had the nerve to express my boredom.  As my mom started to pull a game out of the garage, the phone rang: Darla was now 4 centimeters and ready for the maternity wing!

Now things got interesting.  The three of us set into motion, Mom putting the dogs away, me packing my computer and camera, and Dad…well, I’m not actually sure what Dad did, besides pee, of course, but we all managed to meet in the car without too many “Hurry up, Alan!” banshee yells from my mother.

On the way to the hospital we learned that the nurse had performed some uterus-wrenching technique that was “the worst pain” my sister had ever felt, but it widened the uterus from 4 centimeters to 5.  No pain, no gain!

We arrived at the hospital and found Joey in the parking lot, unloading a suitcase and some pillows and his professional camera equipment.  I couldn’t imagine him actually using it beforehand.  I guess it’s for later.

We found my sister in her room, #228.  She was bitchy as ever and writhing with pain every few minutes as the contractions came.  It was about 3:52.  My dad took care of the most important thing first: tuning the TV to the UF/UGA football game, much to the dismay of Darla and Joey. (FSU fans…poor things.)  Next, we learned that Darla was now 6 centimeters, a figure that suggested Isabella would indeed be here in time for Halloween.

Only 5% of babies arrive on their due dates.

Around 5:00, the doctor came in (my old gynecologist…awkward…) and approved the epidural.  So my mom, Linda (Joey’s mom), and I waited in the hall for about half an hour while the anesthesiologist rigged up the painkillers.  The small talk was agonizing and nothing with which I could relate: my mom and Linda exchanged tales of their births.  I wondered why they thought any of their information would be useful or timely, considering that none of them had had children in 22 and 27 years, respectively.

At 5:30, the anesthesia was in and we were allowed back in the room.  It was about this time that the grandparents also arrived, and I took a few pictures of everyone with the tooth-chattering pillow princess. I offered that she looked like a crack addict needing a fix. Darla laughed, but my mom told me to be nice.  To me, jokes are much more apropos at a time like this.

Future parents.

Since only four people are allowed in the room at once (including Joey, meaning only three in addition to him), I have now been relegated to the completely empty waiting room.  The solidarity is comforting, and I’m reclining and watching the UF/UGA game.

It’s now 6:04, and I’m bored and alone, but at least I packed a proper aunt-to-be survival kit: Tom Wolfe’s I Am Charlotte Simmons, my laptop and its battery, and a camera.  And we’re all waiting…and waiting…and waiting for the birthing to begin.  I’m also looking forward to hospital food, especially the JELL-O, which I’m hoping is as good as I remember…

Hospital Food = Disappointing

Apparently, the cafeteria closed before 7:00, which is when we finally decided to venture away from Darla’s side to find food.  The only place that was open was Volcano’s, a gourmet coffee shop that, as we learned, does not take as much care with its food choices as its coffee selection.

My parents, grandparents, Joey’s parents, and I all ate a disgusting dinner and downed some gourmet coffees to erase the memory of what we consumed before. My parents headed up first, leaving the rest of us to finish our meals…or gulp them down out of mere need to nourish ourselves.

A text at around 7:45 from my mom informed us that Darla was now 7 centimeters and ready for Potosin, a drug that would help induce the labor.

When we arrived back at her room, a nurse that could have been Cloris Leachman’s twin was buzzing around my sister, inserting tubes and fervently clicking a mouse around on the computer next to the bed.

The hospital will only allow four people in the room at a time, so Joey’s parents came in to wish Darla goodbye and good luck, as did my grandpa and mom, and Joey, Grandma, and I stayed behind to keep Darla company.  My mom came back later to take my grandma away and bring in our Aunt Deena, who had just arrived from Orlando.  Excited to be a great-aunt, she had left her own children to trick-or-treat with their father to come await Isabella’s arrival with the rest of us.

So now it’s 8:17, and Deena, Joey, my mother, and I are seated around Darla, quietly conversing and trying to keep the mood light.  Deena is asking questions about the process so far and offering advice and wisdom.  But at this point, Darla seems calm and relaxed, completely phased out by the epidural.  We’re hoping Baby comes before midnight so she can be “on time” and be a Halloween baby.  But the most important thing is that the baby is healthy, no matter when she comes.

Revelations from the Hospital Bed, by Darla

8:25pm

  • “I feel like there’s something in my butt hole.”
  • “I feel like I’m wearing no underwear and someone has something shoved between my cheeks.”
  • “My butt’s so numb…I just tried to touch my butt cheek and I can’t feel it.”
    Joey: She’s just telling you she’s going to be a pain in the ass.

8:32pm

  • “I feel like there’s something in my butt!” (again)
  • “I just farted and I didn’t even feel it!”

8:38pm

  • “What if I poop on my baby?”
    (Deena then informs us that there is a spot on the bed that moves out of the way during the birthing so that any poo, if it comes, will just fall out and land in a bucket placed beneath the bed.  So she will probably not poop on her baby.)

Let the Birthing Begin!

It’s 8:52, and the powers that be (that is, my mother) decided that I am no longer worthy to sit by the queen’s throne.  It is my turn to sit with the other discarded members of the family in the waiting room.

They gave Bella a pumpkin hat for the holiday!

Under my sister’s FSU blanket (I swallowed my pride with this one: comfort outweighs collegiate ties), I am comfortable and warm in the waiting room.

It smells like a dorm in here, and I am reminded of my own dorm days: same green tile floors (cleanliness questionable), same generic smell of bodies and existence, same fluorescent lighting lining the hallways (and the cliche light that just can’t will itself to stop flickering)…ahhh, the glory days.

I took Deena down to the coffee shop, but it was closed.  When we arrived back to the waiting room (9:05), my mom burst in with a mighty thunder and announced that Darla was now 10 centimeters! So let the labor begin!  Labor can last a while, but at least things are happening now.  Soon, great-grandmothers, grandfather, aunts, and great-aunts will be born, right along with Isabella Renee! Hopefully, we’ll have a Halloween baby ghoul!

So she’s in there pushing, pushing, pushing, and now all of us are in the waiting room—Mom, Dad, Grammy, Poppy, Deena, Joe and Linda (Joey’s parents), and me.  With two TVs, reclining chairs, two vending machines, and a bathroom, we are preparing for an evening of waiting for the call…the call that will inform us that a new little life has blessed us all and upped the prefixes on our familial names.

Mom and Dad are trading off turns on the cell phone, calling family members that couldn’t be here tonight—Dad’s mom, Aunt Mary, Uncle Danny, etc.—updating them with the most exciting news we’ve heard all night.

Waiting Room Practical Jokes

We’re all sitting around laughing, figuring out where we fit in this poem—

Mondays child is fair of face,
Tuesdays child is full of grace,
Wednesdays child is full of woe,
Thursdays child has far to go,
Fridays child is loving and giving,
Saturdays child works hard for his living,
And the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

—and chatting in general.  My grandma insists that she and my grandpa were both born on a Saturday, but I discovered, with a quick Internet search, that she is a Friday baby, like me.  She doesn’t believe me and claims her mother lied to her her whole life, even claiming that I got the wrong calendar.  My grandpa claims that now they can finally get a divorce.

Deena taps my arm and mouths, “Watch your mother.”

Then, she jumps out of her chair, points at the door (which is behind my mother), and shouts, “What’s the news?!” My mom LEAPS out of her chair and does a quick 180, only to find no one standing there.  We all get a good laugh, and my mom smacks Deena on the arm.  I point out that the door—a giant, extremely squeaky model—didn’t even make a peep, which should have tipped my mom off.  But we’re all on edge, waiting for any sort of news.

Mary comes in on her break.  She works in the ER of this hospital.  My mom asks her to use her seniority to go find something out from the maternity ward. She comes back and pulls a similar joke to Deena’s, but the only news she has to offer is that Darla is indeed pushing, but nothing major has happened so far.

My dad leaves to pee and comes back with a third try at psyching everybody out: “It’s a boy!” I don’t know why, but my mom believes that my dad has brought us viable news, but then she quickly, and angrily, realizes that he is lying. We all get a good laugh.

Waiting Room Revelations

Mother: If I had to do it all over again, I’d put my children last. I’d blow all my money on me and maybe give them a little something.

(explosive laughter)

And Bella Began…

It was the new grandparents who were summoned first to view and coo over Izzie. I took slight offense. I understood why my parents had been called in first, but I couldn’t quite understand why Joey’s had been too. To me, I was the third closest to Darla, and thus Izzie, and should have been chosen for the first group to go. But this is also Joey’s baby, and so of course his parents have just as much seniority as my own, enough to trump me all together and relegate me to group two.

First post-birth meal: Steak ‘n Shake cheeseburger and fries!

They took an awfully long time, but when the rest of us (Deena, my grandparents, and me) finally made it in, we each had our turn to hold that tiny, warm bundle of joy. She even opened her eyes and seemed to make eye contact with everyone.  She was quiet and ever so dainty already, with her little pursed lips, cheeks red from exhaustion, and bright blue eyes. She rarely made a peep, but when she did, the sound was heart-wrenchingly agonizing and beautiful all at the same time.

Deena asked Darla if, when she looked at Izzie, she saw her as her “daughter.” Darla hadn’t thought of it this way, and her eyes brightened as she said, “Yeah, she’s my daughter!” The only thought Darla had had up to this point (aside from “Get me Steak ‘n Shake!”) was, “I’m taking a baby home on Monday!” as if Bella were a special-order item she had ordered from a department store that, after several months’ delay, had finally arrived.

The Name Game: Introducing Carly R.R. Hublou

Well, I did it; I changed my name.

Surprisingly, the feedback from my blog and Facebook polls was quite helpful. Some of my friends changed their names completely; some kept their maiden names in some form. But the option I liked best (which I had not considered previously) was my cousin Tammy’s suggestion of keeping my last name as a second middle name. That way, it would always be there and I could use it if I wanted, but my legal last name would match Kevin’s. This really appealed to me and seemed to be the most elegant solution to my self-imposed problem.

Another interesting tidbit I received in response to my last post was from my father-in-law, who explained to me the origin of the surname Hublou:

If you change your name to Hublou then people will ask you “What’s the origin of that name?” or “What nationality is that?” That’s when you can be totally cool and say “It’s Flemish.” The looks you get are unforgettable because no one knows what Flemish is. Then you can say it’s from “Flanders” and once again you get that awestruck look. They’re spellbound. Then you can get into a real conversation that it was absorbed by Belgium, but today there is real talk about a movement to secede. You can start talking about Flemish painters like Rubens, and my personal favorite Bruegel. It’s endless.

Thanks, Dad. (<– very, very weird to say!)

Sometimes you just have to write it out 7th-grade-crush style to make a decision.

Sometimes you just have to write it out 7th-grade-crush style to make a decision.

After writing my name out every possible way, I finally decided on my cousin’s suggestion. Plus, this option allowed me to stylize my name as Carly R.R. Hublou, which is awesome, albeit a little pretentious. (And I’m still deciding whether I like the periods.)

So I took an afternoon off from work, rounded up my paperwork (marriage license, birth certificate, Social Security card, driver’s license), and headed to the happiest place on Earth, the Gainesville Social Security office (SSO).

No, I’m kidding. It’s actually the most depressing place on Earth.

When you are a bride-to-be, or a newly married woman, you have this unrealistic expectation that everyone around you is also farting flowers over all of the wonderful things you are doing to prepare yourself for your new life. The first time I realized this was not true was when we filed for our marriage license, when the notary lady and Kevin sat there stoically as I beamed from ear to ear and was so giddy I could hardly sign my name.

Papers in hand, ready to go!

Papers in hand, ready to go!

The most recent time I realized this was when I went to the SSO to change my last name. When I walked in, I was greeted by a Mall Cop-esque security guard who gave me a once-over and decided he didn’t need to search me (even though the signs at the entrance insisted that I would, in fact, be searched). I thought this was strange until I entered the waiting room — a cold, windowless square with two groups of chairs awkwardly facing each other — and realized that I, along with only two other women, were not the usual clientele of the SSO. Whereas I was clean, healthy, and not holding a screaming child, nearly everyone else was either dirty from a hard day’s work, unfit for work due to injury and/or drug addiction, and/or unable to work because of said screaming child. Thus, what I thought was going to be a pleasant experience — in which I skip into the SSO wearing a crown of tweeting birds — was actually quite depressing and lonely. No wonder Kevin gave an emphatic “NO” when I asked if he wanted to join me.

With no book to read and my cell phone nearly dead, I had no choice but to watch the other people, watch the weather-only channel playing on the TV (which, to my relief, showed the number of the current customer being served…until I realized it never changed and I had no clue how long I would be there), or read pamphlets on how Social Security Can Work for Me!

After an hour of waiting (during which I came to feel extremely humbled and grateful for all of the good things that have happened in my life, including not having a screaming child), the powers that be finally called me forth, and, as expected, my conversion from CRR to CRRH began with: “How do you pronounce the new last name?”

Once I escaped the talons of government, I was hoping I could breeze over to the DMV and get a new license, but, alas, no; you can’t move forward with any other name-change activities until you receive your new Social Security card.

So I waited…and was pleasantly surprised at how quickly my new card arrived, which was several days sooner than the promised date! At least I now know that some things can move through government relatively quickly.

20-year-old me and 28-year-old me.

Me at 20 and 28 years.

With my new Social Security card in hand, I visited the DMV, where I had a very pleasant visit. Alachua County allows you to make an appointment online for the DMV location of your choice, and if you have an appointment, your wait time is virtually zero. I arrived early for mine, but I was still served right away and assigned to the happiest government worker I have ever met. He made the process a breeze and even let me take my new license photo a few times (which was a cinch for him after the wannabe-beauty-queen before me insisted on about 10 photos before feeling satisfied with her new mug shot). After the disaster that was my previous photo, I really wanted to get this one right. I even made an appointment for a haircut and style right before the DMV appointment so that my mane would be on point. The results made me very happy. Oh, and I’m now an organ donor!

After the DMV, I drove to the voter-registration office, which was the last physical stop on my journey to becoming Carly R.R. Hublou.

The following week, I used my new email address (Finally! My email address is my first and last name!) to send a barrage of emails to:

  • My employer, to update my W4, work records, benefits, etc.
  • My bank.
  • The IRS, to update my Employer Identification Number (for my side businesses).
  • My clients, to update the name they write on my checks.
  • The manager of my student loan.
  • All of my many credit cards.
  • My investment accounts.
  • My homeowner’s insurance.
  • My mortgage lender.
  • My car insurance.
  • The post office (but I don’t know why…the mailman clearly doesn’t look at names, judging by the volume of mail I receive for humans other than Kevin and myself).

All of them had different rules for which documents I had to show to prove my identity. Some required an official signed letter; some were fine with just an email. The process was exhausting and inconsistent, but I am, for the most part, finally done. (I still haven’t tackled changing my name at UF because the process sucks and I don’t want to change it halfway through a semester.)

The best thing to come out of this process, though, has nothing to do with my name. Remember several blog posts ago when I  said that Kevin and I wanted to get married for financial reasons? Well, those reasons are starting to come to fruition. While filling out my new W4, I realized that I had not been claiming enough exemptions, which is why I always get such a big return at the end of the year. (And this is BAD, people. If you are happy with a “big return” at the end of the year, you do not understand the time value of money or the fact that you are giving the government a year-long, interest-free loan!) I thought as a single person the only options were 0 or 1, but in fact you can also claim 2! And now that I’m married, I can claim even more! That’s significantly more money per paycheck! I was so excited about my new exemption status that I nearly tripped skipping out of HR’s offices.

Another financial benefit: cheaper car insurance. That’s right! When you get married, you are required to report your spouse as a named insured on your personal policy, even if their policy is with a different company (and Kevin and I have separate policies). I was nervous about doing this because I thought my premium would increase. But, in fact, the opposite happened: my 6-month premium became $50 cheaper! Why, you ask? Well, insurance researchers have found that married people tend to be in fewer accidents than their non-married counterparts, saving me $100 a year in insurance premium. Score!

So, to conclude this saga, you can now address me as Mrs. Hublou, our future child(ren) will be made fun of but at least have the same last name as their father and mother, and I will be pronouncing/spelling my last name for the rest of my life, like some bizarre act in a really terrible variety show.

And, just in case I ever run for political office, I’ve already developed by campaign slogan: ‘Blou your vote on Carly!