Archive | December, 2013

22 Things I Did Before I Got Married at 22… And What I Plan To Do After

31 Dec

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There’s a post making its rounds on Facebook that is grating me the wrong way: “23 Things To Do Instead of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23.”

I want to preface this post by saying that yes, I did get engaged before 23. I was 19 when he officially popped the question with a ring and everything–but I was sixteen when we decided that was what was right for us. I was 22 when we got married, and it’s been over a year since then.

I’m 23 now. Have I done everything on that author’s list? No. Not because I didn’t have time or am now incapable of such things now that I’m married–it’s because I have no desire to complete most of them, because that list isn’t me. It also isn’t, I don’t think, a list for many of the people reposting it on my Facebook newsfeed, nor even a list meant for the majority of pre-23-year-olds. It is a list that works for the author and perhaps a handful of others–or, if I’m misjudging, maybe hundreds or thousands of others. And that’s fine, too.

What bothers me is the author’s tone. The post reads like this list is the only option, and that anyone who chooses otherwise is deserving of the world’s judgement as they watch with baited breath as your relationship crumbles before you turn 30, you statistic you. Perhaps that isn’t what the author intended, but the post does come across as extremely judgmental, like those who do choose to get married before the age of 23 are worth nothing, have done nothing, and will do nothing with their lives. They have imprisoned themselves barefoot and pregnant in that dark kitchen of isolation, marriage.

The thing is, that’s not true. It is possible to see the world before you get married in your early 20s. It is possible to see the world after you get married in your early 20s. It is possible to not want to see the world before you get married in your early 20s, and it is possible to not want to see the world after you get married in your early 20s. It is possible to see the world with a baby on your back or a toddler in tow, and it is possible to see the world in them from the comfort of your backyard. And yes, it is possible to see the world without being married at all–or not to want to do so.

My point is, it is 2014, my friends. Women (and men) mostly have the option to do whatever they like, however they like, whenever they’d like. And if someone chooses to get married at 23 rather than “dating two people at once and see how long it takes to blow up in your face” because that’s what works for them, then that’s fine. If someone wants to date two people at once, “start a band,” “build something with your hands,” and “be selfish” before getting married because that’s what works for them, that’s fine. If someone doesn’t want to get married at all, THAT’s fine. (If someone can’t get married–well, that’s another argument entirely, and that isn’t fine. Something to work on, yes?)

Rather than judging other people for the decisions they’ve made with the lives they’ve been given, perhaps what we should be focusing on is doing what is right for ourselves and making the best choices that we can to make ourselves the happiest that we can be.

In saying that, here is a list of things I did before I got married, and what I plan to do after. This list has made ME happy, and I share it to provide inspiration, though not to tell you what to do with your life. Do what is best for you, and don’t let others tell you what that is!

22 Things I Did Before I Got Married at 22

  1. Got a passport.
  2. Traveled. To Mexico, Canada, Jamaica, Australia, the UK, Ireland, Hungary, and Italy.
  3. Read more books than I can count.
  4. Swam in the Atlantic Ocean. And the Pacific.
  5. Went to college four states away from home.
  6. Skipped class and hiked up a mountain wearing a tutu and fairy wings. Four times.
  7. Strip-teased to “I’m Too Sexy For My Shirt” with my best friends in front of a crowd of hundreds.
  8. Rocked out to “Don’t Stop Believin'” with a crowd of hundreds.
  9. Lived, studied, and worked at a publishing house in London.
  10. Researched and wrote a 57-page history thesis about Australian bushrangers.
  11. Completed NaNoWriMo seven out of eight times.
  12. Tried vegemite. Decided it was not for me.
  13. Finished writing a novel.
  14. Learned what career paths were NOT right for me. Trial and error.
  15. Gave my full name and phone number to someone I met online.
  16. Maintained a long distance relationship. Over 9160 miles. For six and a half years.
  17. Learned that airports are a place of happy reunions and heart-wrenching goodbyes.
  18. Graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree in something I love that will likely never make me a lot of money.
  19. Moved to Australia with little intention of going back to the US for anything more than a visit.
  20. Started a blog.
  21. Slammed more than a few Tim Tams.
  22. Danced in the rain.

What I Have Done/Plan To Do Now That I’m Married

  1. Traveled to New Zealand. Saw Rivendell, wore elf ears, and traveled by cable car to the top of a mountain.
  2. Moved to a new house.
  3. Adopted a kitten.
  4. Suffered through unemployment. Lived off savings.
  5. Bought frivolous things like chocolate anyway.
  6. Got a job doing what I love: writing.
  7. Finished NaNoWriMo two more times.
  8. Celebrated one year of close-distance.
  9. Celebrated one year of marriage.
  10. Continue to read more books than I can count.
  11. Finish more novels.
  12. Get one published.
  13. Take a six-week long backpacking holiday through Europe.
  14. Swim in the Mediterranean.
  15. Find a career that is right for me.
  16. Buy a house.
  17. Raise a family.
  18. Keep traveling.
  19. Reunite with my best friends.
  20. Never forget how fun crazy is.
  21. Go on a cruise.
  22. Never miss a chance to keep dancing in the rain.

What does YOUR list look like? Pre-marriage, pre-kids, pre-30s, pre-college or high school graduation… Pick a goal, and tell me what you want to accomplish before then. Tell me what choices make YOU happy in the comments below.

2013: A Year of Reading in Review

26 Dec

There are still five days left in 2013 but given all I have to do before then, I don’t think I’ll have time to finish and properly review another book (spoke too soon). A couple of you might remember that I started off the year determined to read and review 52 books between January 1 and December 31. Well… I didn’t quite reach that goal.

This year, I read 31 32 great books. Short of my goal, but I did beat 2012’s count of 28. I found new favorite authors, new favorite series, and new favorite characters which, despite the low count, I consider success in my book. Sure, there have been a few that weren’t as well-loved, but then not everything can be 100% fantastic.

I have a few exciting things up my sleeve for 2014 which I am so excited about and will share with you later. For now, I’ll tell you that my 2014 reading goal is 35 books. Very manageable. I’m hoping my 2014 is much easier than my 2013 was and I’ll be able to surpass this goal with ease.

In 2014, I am most looking forward to the following books being released: The Caller by Juliet Marillier, the third in the Shadowfell series; Lady Thief by A. C. Gaughen, the sequel to Scarlet; and SUPPOSEDLY Arram by Tamora Pierce, the first book in the new Numair series that I have been waiting for since at LEAST 2006!! Look for reviews of these and more here at More Than One Page!

I’ll leave you with a list of the books I read this year and a link to the review. Looks like Ann Turnbull and Juliet Marillier are the two authors who won me over, with Turnbull earning 4 spots on the list and Marillier earning 3. Old favorites included Patricia C. Wrede, Jane Yolen, Diana Wynne Jones, Sherwood Smith, and Tamora Pierce. My favorite book read this year is probably a toss-up between Scarlet and Seraphina undeniably Prince of Shadows.

  1. The Far West by Patricia C. Wrede
  2. Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier
  3. The Girl from Snowy River by Jackie French
  4. The Falconer’s Knot by Mary Hoffman
  5. The Battle for Gullywith by Susan Hill
  6. Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore
  7. Seraphina by Rachel Hartmann
  8. A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith
  9. Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones
  10. The Double Life of Cassiel Roadnight by Jenny Valentine (review posted on outside site)
  11. The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen
  12. Alice in Love and War by Ann Turnbull
  13. Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
  14. Darker Still by Leanna Renee Hieber
  15. Snow in Summer by Jane Yolen
  16. Between Two Ends by David Ward
  17. Crusade by Linda Press Wulf
  18. Dragon’s Blood by Jane Yolen
  19. No Shame, No Fear (Quaker #1) by Ann Turnbull
  20. Numbers by Rachel Ward
  21. Shadowfell (Shadowfell #1) by Juliet Marillier
  22. Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb
  23. Splendors and Glooms (Fire Spell) by Laura Amy Schlitz
  24. Wintercraft by Jenna Burtenshaw
  25. Ravenflight (Shadowfell #2) by Juliet Marillier
  26. Forged in the Fire (Quaker #2) by Ann Turnbull
  27. Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  28. The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristin Kladstrup
  29. Seeking Eden (Quaker #3) by Ann Turnbull
  30. The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart by Leanna Renee Hieber
  31. Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce
  32. Prince of Shadows by Rachel Caine (review will be available January 22)

Let me know your favorite book from 2013, the books you are most looking forward to in 2014, and how many books you plan to read in the new year in the comments below!

Book Review: Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce

26 Dec

Yes, I am finished at last! I could write a book about the twists and turns these last few months have given me and I’m not sure anyonImagee would believe it. It’s been rough, we’ll leave it at that. With a few days to myself at last, I sat down with this much-neglected book and finally turned the last page.

A bit of background before I get into it, as Tamora Pierce is a veteran author with many good books to her name. She is one of my favorite authors, and perhaps the first I read who wrote the kind of “sword and sorcery” books that have shaped my own writing preferences. I first picked up her books over twelve years ago and I have eagerly awaited every new title since.

That said, I’m a Tortall girl through and through. I tore through the Immortals, Protector of the Small, and Alanna before I found the Circle quartets. Those were written for a slightly younger audience and I didn’t take to them right away. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t finish a single one at first. It wasn’t until I was given an advance of The Will of the Empress, which is written for an older audience, that I went back and read Circle and Circle Opens–and quite enjoyed them. Saying that, I haven’t read those books more than twice, and then some years ago. This is all a rather lengthy way of saying some of my criticisms of Battle Magic might be due to holes in my knowledge about the Circle universe.

Anyway. Battle Magic is set after The Circle Opens but before The Will of the Empress and Melting Stones. It follows Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy as they travel through Gyongxe and Yanjing. Invited to the palace of the Emperor of Yanjing to see the gardens there, the trio don’t expect to be wrapped up in a war between the two nations. Escaping with the prisoner-prince Parahan, they are able to lend their ambient magic to the Gyongxe war effort. But the Emperor of Yanjing is a brutal man who will stop at nothing to fulfill his desire for more land and honor. Throw in a dangerous magical container, giant stone tigers, peak spiders and the heart of a mountain, and it starts to look like not everyone will make it back to Emelan alive.

First off, I need to mention that this book was enjoyable–a great way to spend a few lazy afternoons. However, it was difficult for me to get into. From the first page, you are thrown into Gyongxe with the God King who I don’t believe we’d ever met before. Without much of a chance to establish a relationship with a few new characters, off Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy go to Yanjing to meet the Emperor and see his gardens.

There, I didn’t have the usual sense of place that I usually do with most of Tamora Pierce’s books. I didn’t feel as though we knew enough of the Yanjing culture or the people there. While I do think that the Emperor’s character was laid out well enough, others, not so much. For instance, Parahan became quite important later on, but at first I thought he could have been done without simply because we didn’t get to know him much later. Jia Jui, one of the mages, was seen only briefly before Briar thought that her presence when Evvy was asked to step closer to the emperor would “stop anything bad from happening.” Then, when Jia Jui pops back up to do something quite bad, I didn’t have the sense of betrayal I think I was meant to feel, because previously I’d seen her for half a page. I desperately wanted to know more about the God King and Dokyi as well. Even Parahan and Souda, while we got to know them much better, could have done with some extra fleshing out.

Events were the same. Busting Parahan out–well, why? Did they really feel that much for him after what seemed like a few days in his presence? Rosethorn carrying her burden off to the temple–why? It popped up and went on for a few chapters, and suddenly she’s back and we barely saw what happened in the temple, and none of it seemed to matter much. I’m sure it would have if we’d been given some more time with the object.

What I’m getting at is that Tamora Pierce is a series author, and this book needed to be a series–at least a duet! Book One: spending some time in Gyongxe before heading off to Yanjing, learning about the plans to attack Gyongxe, and ending with an escape or perhaps return to the God-King. Book Two: the battle to keep the Yanjing army out and exact revenge on the Emperor of Yanjing. A set up like this would not have changed the plot much, but it would allow for more time to be spent with the new characters and the new places. I just don’t think there was space enough in 440 pages to effectively convey everything we needed to know. The first section of the book read like it had been heavily edited–like there had been more but it had been cut down to size.

Another issue I had was that POV kept jumping from Briar to Rosethorn to Evvy. I did think that many of the Rosethorn parts could have been cut, but again, maybe I would have enjoyed them more if more time had been spent with her rather than less.

But again, this is Tamora Pierce we’re talking about. This woman can write, and the book was enjoyable overall. Filled with different types of magic that seem almost real, so many different religions and gods and goddesses that make the world real, and the trio of our favorite characters who will make you laugh and cry all at once, Battle Magic was awesome book. The battle scenes were well described and kept me turning pages to know what happens next.

Just a warning, though; you will wish it had ended differently. And if you’ve read her books before, you know what happens to the cats.

As this is probably one of the more popular authors and books I’ve reviewed, I’d love to hear your thoughts or see links to your reviews! Let me know what you thought of Battle Magic below. If you haven’t yet read it, what is your favorite Tamora Pierce book and why? Which of her upcoming books are you most looking forward to next?

I have a case officer!

14 Dec

Hey everyone! So many updates, so little time, huh? Things are MOVING with my visa and it is awesome!

The most exciting thing is that I really do have a case officer now! This is a huge step in the visa process as it means that my application has been picked up and is being looked at by a person who will be able to decide whether or not I get to stay in this wonderful country. A little while ago I posted about getting the request for more information from the admin team. I’m pretty sure this request technically came from my case officer. I had an additional e-mail from the admin team, and then my third e-mail from Immigration was from my case officer. Cool stuff.

The request came exactly eight months after my visa application was submitted, and one day after our first anniversary. Nice, huh? I was given a 28-day time frame to get the required documents in (AFP clearance, FBI clearance, and health check).

Anyway, my health check is IN, my AFP clearance is IN, and we are now just waiting on the FBI clearance. GOOD NEWS on that front: my fingerprints were readable!! If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably remember all of my drama with getting this FBI clearance. To recap, I’ve had to submit multiple applications and, with the long, drawn-out processing times, it’s basically been eight months since my first application. Money left my account for the final application on November 15–nearly a month ago–and I’ve been stressing about it being lost in the mail or receiving YET ANOTHER request for more fingerprints rather than an actual clearance.

(Pro tips: if you have to apply for an FBI clearance for your visa, a) get multiple copies of your fingerprints done! I’d recommend AT LEAST three, and five wouldn’t go amiss! b) send via registered post so you can track it and c) don’t be afraid to call in to request updates–it will set your mind at ease!)

A few days ago I called the FBI to check on the application. I was a bit worried about being put on hold for a long time and running out of credit on my phone, but this was a fast, painless call. I gave my name and the address that the check was being sent to. The lady on the phone was able to tell me that a) my fingerprints WERE readable, b) they sent the clearance out on November 25, and c) if the clearance does not reach me by December 23 (28 days after it was sent out), it is considered lost and I should call back and request a new one, which they will send out.

I AM a bit nervous that it has been lost in the mail still, but I’m glad she told me what I could do if it is. Sounds like a relatively painless process. I was afraid I was going to have to submit a whole new round of fingerprints, but it sounds like that isn’t the case!

My case officer seems very nice, very understanding of the whole FBI clearance process (I swear it is NOT this bad in other countries! The AFP clearance arrived in a week!), and very communicative. There have only been a few e-mails bouncing back and forth, but I’m a fan. 🙂

This will likely be my last update before my police check gets here. I hope, hope, hope it’s here on Monday. That would be three weeks from the time they sent it out–a pretty long time for things to get here from the US, particularly just a letter. Oh well. I’m going to just keep breathing and stop stressing and wonder if it’s possibly possible for me to have my 820 visa granted before the new year…

Australian Visa Onshore Medical: My Experience

11 Dec

I haven’t seen many blog posts about the whole medical experience when it comes to applying for an Australian visa onshore. I would have liked to read about other people’s experience because I HATE going to the doctor. I get anxiety about having to step into a doctor’s office–and don’t even start me on needles, let alone getting blood drawn. I know these are all irrational fears but they are fears nonetheless. Even so, my medical experience was a breeze–not bad at all! So if you’re like me and are agonizing over your upcoming medical, perhaps this post will make you worry a bit less.

First of all, my medicals were requested on November 25. I went to the online form and started filling it out. You can only make your appointment up to two weeks from the current date (so, having made the appointment on November 25, the LATEST I could make my appointment for was December 9). If you make the appointment online, you will pay at the time of booking. My medical, chest x-ray, and blood test cost a total of $353 AUD. Note: you’ll need your HAP ID which will come with the request for more information.

I was happy to see that you are allowed to bring an adult friend/chaperone with you into the medical examination. I tried to get an appointment on a day that my husband was off work so that he could come with me, but was unfortunately unable to do so. Cue additional anxiety. (Again, it wasn’t that bad!)

The site says to call in if you would like to request a female doctor. I am much more comfortable with female doctors, so I did. That said, I didn’t end up getting one (more on this below), and it wasn’t bad at all. However, given that experience, if you need a female doctor as a strong preference or, say, for religious reasons, you will want to be pretty adamant about getting one to ensure your preference is heard.

Fast forward to December 9. My appointment was at 8:45, and they said to arrive at least fifteen minutes before the appointment. I actually got there around 8:15 and just went in. I went to the Brisbane Clinic, which is on Adelaide Street. I’m not sure about other clinics, but this one was set up like this: first, you walk in to a waiting room where you have to take a ticket and sit down. Then, people working at the surrounding desks will call your number. When your number is called, you must present your passport and appointment confirmation. If you have made your appointment online, you will have already paid; if not, you’ll pay at this station. Afterwards, the person will take your picture. Then they will take your passport and documentation and hand it off to a nurse. You will then be sent to a second waiting room.

Note: You no longer need to fill out the health forms if you apply online. All of this is done online.

Now, on my appointment day there was a bit of a hiccup. The computer systems had stopped working, so there was a bit of a back-up of appointments. That said, I don’t know if the next part goes more smoothly usually than it did that day.

First, I was called back by a nurse to get my blood drawn for the HIV test. I had to sign a waiver saying that it was okay for them to release the results to Immigration. Getting blood drawn was the most dreaded bit for me. I have a tendency of fainting around needles, which I told the nurse just in case, but she was very understanding, calm, and kept talking while she attempted to find a vein. Having never gotten my blood drawn before, I wasn’t sure about how it was going to go, but I’d heard stories about people who have to get poked multiple times before they are able to find a good spot to draw. That terrified me. However, she was VERY good about it (perhaps because I told her I was a fainter?) and triple checked before she poked me to ensure she had a good spot. I looked away and she kept talking through it, which kept me a lot calmer than usual and kept my mind off the needle. It was done in seconds, and honestly, I barely felt it. My stomach didn’t even drop like it usually did–score!

After, I was sent straight to the x-ray room to get my chest x-ray. This was probably the most awkward part. I was sent to a little changing room to take off my shirt and bra, and put on the gown that they gave me. The gown was darker in colour but still a little see-through, so I felt SO awkward when I walked into the area with the x-ray to find an older male x-ray technician. After a bit of a chat (with my arms crossed over my chest) he took the x-ray no problem and that was that. Had to remind myself he does dozens of these a day and he’s a professional. Still.

After, I was sent back to that second waiting room for a while before I was called back for the urinalysis by another nurse. First she took my height and weight and had me read an eye chart on the wall to make sure I could see. Then she handed me a cup, and, well, I’m sure you’ve probably done that before. Again, there was no issue. That said, ladies, don’t make your appointment for that certain time of the month, or you’ll have to come back in to do this section of the medical.

Then it was back to the waiting room again. Finally, I was called back by the doctor–a male doctor, but he barely had to do anything. Honestly, I requested a female doctor MOSTLY because I thought the doctor would be doing everything, and I thought a female doctor would be more understanding of me fainting during the blood test if it happened (which it didn’t).

All the doctor did was have a bit of a conversation with me (there’s a section about “mental capacity” so I guess this was testing that?) then had me lay down checked my heartbeat/breathing, then felt my stomach (I guess to check if there was a hernia or something?), had me sit up to check my ears and eyes, then stand up to touch my toes, twist side to side, look left and right to make sure I had no back/neck injuries.

And that was that. The only additional thing I believe you have to do is if you’re a woman over 40, you need a mammogram. As I’m not over 40, though, this wasn’t applicable.

I just wanted to reiterate that this was NOT stressful. All of the nurses and the doctor were very friendly and put me very much at ease. I can’t stress enough how nervous I was, particularly about getting blood drawn, and the whole experience was perfectly fine. If you have hospital/doctor/needle-anxiety like me, please try not to stress about the medical too much! It isn’t going to be as bad as you think. I know you probably hear that from a lot of people, but take it from someone who was just as stressed out as you are: it really isn’t that bad.

As for how long it took, it was about two and a half hours from the time I walked into the building to walking out. I believe it usually takes a lot less time, but again, there were computer issues that led to backed-up appointments that day. (My appointment was scheduled for 8:45; I didn’t get my blood drawn until about 9:30!)

Let me know if you have any questions about the medical process and I can answer them here! If you’ve already gotten your medical done, I’d love to hear about your experience. Let me know in the comments below.

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