Back to Reality

As some of you (i.e. everyone who has had any contact with me in the past three months) may know, I recently took the bar exam. It was a two day ordeal of the complete opposite of fun. I think I survived, however, I’m less sure that I passed. I’ve honestly been having nightmares about certain bizarre questions that appeared on the exam, but I try not to worry too much during the day, since there’s not a damn thing I can do about it now.

John and I both start work next Wednesday. He has a part-time position at Lowe’s in Brevard, which is good because then he can apply for full-time positions as well, plus he can always request more hours if they’re available. Even their part-time permanent employees are eligible for benefits, too, so we’ll have to look into how much that would cost. I’m going to start waiting tables at The Black Rose, which is a pub in Hendo.

Waiting tables isn’t exactly ideal (having a stable legal job would be ideal), but it’s money coming in and the schedule is fairly flexible, so I can transition to practicing law as I get legal work coming in. Once I find out if I passed the bar, I’m going to (hopefully) look into renting a small office space to meet with clients. I saw something that looked perfect and was a great price, but entering into a year-long lease without knowing whether I passed would be a bit foolish. Of course, the ideal situation would be going to work for a firm as a full-time attorney, but I might have to gain a bit more experience and make some more connections for that to happen.

Our big challenge right now is finding a place to live.  It seems as though every other house out here is for sale, but there’s almost nothing for rent, so the prices are unreasonably high for a lot of rental units. We really aren’t expecting much from a house, but if we’re going to be living in an old, run-down, 700 square-foot house with one window AC unit in a bad part of town, we don’t want to pay $800/month for the privilege. There are very few apartment complexes here too, so they can charge just about whatever they’d like.  Asheville seems to be better as far as the rental market goes, but since neither of us currently has a job there, it would be a bit silly to move that far away from where we’re working.

Of course, we did find one place that seemed perfect – reasonable price, decent size, pretty good location. The problem: we have cats. Apparently that was a non-negotiable, so we’re back to the drawing board. Our goal was to be out of my parents’ house before our anniversary, which is September 22nd, but that might not happen.

My biggest problem with the housing hunt is really how we’ve been treated by the people we’ve spoken too about properties. Apparently, renters are the scum of the earth around here and deserve no respect whatsoever. I made an appointment with one agent to see a place. We got there at the appointment time and another couple with kids had just driven up. The agent basically ignored us, let us all in, then said we could fill out applications. I wouldn’t have had an issue with it had the guy 1) told us in advance that someone else was going to see the place at the same time and 2) actually acknowledged our existence at some point. The place was a bit iffy for us anyway, but the way we were treated while looking at the place made us quite certain we didn’t want those people as landlords.

Yes, this is the actual house we were grilled about being able to afford to RENT
Yes, this is the actual house we were grilled about being able to afford to RENT

I called about another place today and asked if we could possibly see it today. Instead of answering that, the woman grille d me about our income and savings. Clearly our income is an issue when renting a place, but could we please just see the shanty (and it did look busted from the ad) before we fill out an application. We have a reasonable idea of what we can afford and OF COURSE we have enough to put down the first month’s rent with a security deposit. Why would we be asking to see run-down little shacks if we couldn’t afford it? The conversation was off-putting enough for us to say forget it to that place.

There’s a small possibility that we could be able to rent from a friend of my mom’s, but I’m starting to think that might be a little too perfect to actually work out. In the meantime, I’ll be waiting table and anxiously awaiting bar results. Hopefully something will come together for us soon.

Car Problems

I’m sorry for the lack of posts recently. I know I promised a follow-up post on the honeymoon since my last post only covered London, and I will deliver. That post should be ready this weekend once I finish editing some photos.

Things have been a bit crazy in Carverland recently. I took the MPRE and had to lead my sex offenders and the law class last week. It’s also almost the end of the semester, so I’m gearing up for exams as well. Orders have picked up in my Etsy shop quite a bit, which is always nice, though quite stressful at times as well.

Our most recent issue is that we’re down to one car now. John’s car was in its death throes and going through almost a quart of oil a day. It had many, many problems, so we’ve been looking for a new car for a few days. Surprisingly, the death blow came this morning, not in the form of a massive breakdown, but in the form of a conversation with our insurance agent. John got the car from his former employer, Darius, who said he didn’t have the title. So John insured the car and has been driving it for almost two years thinking that everything was fine. It turns out that in North Carolina, the insurance has to be in the name of the owner of the car. If it’s not, then the insurance company won’t pay anything, so it’s basically the same as driving uninsured, which is, by the way, illegal in NC.  So John has been throwing away money on insurance that was completely useless and unknowingly driving illegally.

John took it on one final drive to Carmine’s where he’s going to call a salvage company to pick it up (after beating the damn thing mercilessly). Tomorrow we’re going to turn in the tags in Durham, because the Chapel Hill plate office is now closed (possibly for letting people register cars that are in someone else’s name when the insurance is in their name). Working out a car schedule is going to be a huge pain, but I guess we’ll work it out somehow. I’ll probably be taking the bus a lot since it’s only an hour to the law school from our apartment via bus versus probably two hours to Carmine’s.

Our search for a car continues, but it doesn’t look good. We can’t really afford the full coverage insurance we’d have to have if we got a loan for a halfway decent used car in addition to car payments. We also don’t want to sink a lot of money into a beater car that’s only going to last a year or two. However, everything we’ve found under $1,500 is complete and utter crap. People are asking $700 for cars with well over 200,000 miles, bad transmissions, and no titles. John went to see a ’94 Geo Metro for $600 yesterday that seemed okay from the ad. John asked if there were any major problems or anything that would keep it from passing a NC state inspection and the guy said no, it just had some cosmetic issues. John went to see it after the lunch rush at work only to discover that the car was missing the side mirrors on both sides and that there was no glass on the driver’s side of the car. In fact, the guy had decided to attempt to glue back the glass in the driver’s window by gluing it directly to the metal around the window. John didn’t even bother to see if it actually ran because there’s no way in hell that pile of crap would even come close to passing an inspection, which apparently the guy knew the whole time.

The whole thing is getting quite discouraging. I’m doing a craft show next weekend, but at this point I’m not sure how I’m going to get there. I know we’ll figure it out, but at the moment, it’s a lot to deal with. Any advice?

Beware of Counterfeit Frontline on Amazon! (And Why I Probably Won’t Be Buying from Amazon Again)

Don’t buy Frontline from Amazon, or at least be very careful when you do so. I recently had an awful (and ongoing) experience with counterfeit Frontline Plus for Cats.

As some of you may be aware, we got fleas when we brought Dave to the new apartment. We dosed them all with Frontline before he came, but there were a few stragglers, which can apparently sometimes happen the first time you treat your pets with Frontline. We got some more Frontline Plus for Cats from Amazon to try a second round. The price was good – only $57.99 for six doses. So we dosed them all again and treated the apartment with some other flea stuff. Sounds typical, right?

Only the cats went from having a few fleas to having a full-blown infestation.

Dave, who has a flea allergy, was ripping himself to shreds. Jude, the oldest, got sick around the same time – vomiting far more than usual and having diarrhea. We actually thought for  a while that we might have to have Jude put down soon, since he seemed to be doing so badly all of a sudden.

We gave it some time, but the Frontline never kicked in. We honestly thought we might have some sort of medication-resistant super-fleas. Finally, I got a bit suspicious and started looking up counterfeit Frontline online. I discovered pretty quickly that we had gotten a counterfeit product. If you think you may have gotten counterfeit Frontline or Advantage, check out these fact sheets from the EPA for retailers (which contains information for identifying real products) and for consumers (which includes information about how to alert the EPA to counterfeit products being sold).

Needless to say, I was upset about it. However, I didn’t really blame Amazon, because the medication came from a third party seller on Amazon, Bargain OTC. I contacted Amazon to find out what I should do about it. Their answer: contact the seller. Several days went by and I contacted Amazon again. They told me to give it another week and if by x date I still hadn’t heard back from the seller, then I could file an A-to-z Guarantee Claim with them. I waited until they said I could file the claim, then I did so.

A little while later I heard from them saying that I could ship the item back to the seller at my expense. I wrote back saying that I didn’t see why I had to pay for the return shipping and telling them that I only had the three doses left.

This was the response, “You have stated that the complete order cannot be returned. Please understand that we cannot verify that there was anything wrong with this item if you cannot return it. We also cannot ask the seller to reimburse you.”

First of all, I was supposed to ship it back to the seller, so how could Amazon verify anything anyway? Secondly, it was a counterfeit item! If you can’t get a refund on a counterfeit item from their “A-to-z Guarantee,” what does it cover?

The response I got back from the next email informed me that the seller’s policy was to not accept returns on opened items. My next question – why do the seller’s policies matter when they’re selling COUNTERFEIT items on your site? – was met with silence.

Today I called Amazon to figure out what the hell they’re problem is. The guy I spoke to was actually quite nice and he told me that I could still get the refund if I send back what I have left of the Frontline. So I printed a shipping label and was actually about to drop it in the mail when I got another email from the A-to-z Guarantee people (it’s never the same person – I think I’ve gotten responses from about 6 different people at this point). The email said this:

“Hello from Amazon.com.

We can certainly understand your concerns about this claim being closed. However, as stated in our previous message, we cannot verify that there was anything wrong with this item if you cannot return it. We also cannot ask the seller to reimburse you.

Amazon.com strives to maintain a marketplace that is fair to both buyers and sellers. Due to the fact that you cannot return your item or verify your claims regarding it, your claim has been closed.

We understand that you may not agree with this decision, but this claim will remain closed.  Thank you for your interest in Amazon.com.


Ankit
Account Specialist
A-to-z Guarantee Program”

I can’t begin to describe the fury I felt when I read that. How can someone tell me that I can just send in what’s left to get a refund, then maybe 5 minutes later get that email from someone in the same company. Clearly they’re operating on different continents, but that doesn’t really improve my opinion of their customer service.

I called Amazon back and spoke to a woman, who was also very nice and clearly doing her best to help me. She told me to file an appeal on the claim and not to send back the Frontline until that has been approved, which will probably take 7 days if it gets approved at all.

My issue with Amazon isn’t that the product was counterfeit – they had nothing to do with that part of it. My problem is the morass of red tape and awful customer service surrounding the return when the product is clearly counterfeit. I’ve offered to send them photos of the packaging so they can see for themselves, but apparently they “can’t accept photos.” They also told me that they prefer it if buyers and sellers can work things out themselves, which I take to mean that they don’t really care if sellers in their marketplace are selling counterfeit products.

I’ve been an Amazon customer for years and have spend thousands of dollars on their site. I’ve been getting my textbooks from them since my freshman year of undergrad, I buy crafting supplies from them, I get electronics from the site, not to mention any household items I generally need. It has really been my go-to online shopping destination. Now I’m wondering if I ever want to shop with them again. Unless they make this right, I really don’t want to give them any more of my money. I need to order textbooks for next semester soon, but I think I’m going to go to another site for those. I might pay a few dollars more, but I’d rather do that than give Amazon another $500 of my money. I rather regret that I have a Kindle at the moment, and I think I’m going to take the Amazon items off of our wedding registry.

We Have Too Many Cats!

Don’t get me wrong; I adore all of our cats. However, four indoor-only cats in a two bedroom apartment is kind of a lot. The litter box situation is getting a bit out of control, but I don’t know what to do about it! We only have two boxes (the recommendation is for one per cat plus one extra) because that’s all we have room for.  We do our best to scoop them every day, but sometimes life just gets in the way. Plus, I seem to have an asthma attack every time I pour new litter into the boxes now. Luckily, we found what might be the best litter known to man – Arm and Hammer Double Duty. That’s seriously the only thing that is saving us right now, but it’s getting expensive.

Best. Litter. Ever.

Part two of the cat problem is that I’m kinda allergic to them. Of course, cat allergens are something that you get more immune to the more you’re around them. However, my doctor has been theorizing that the horrific bouts of asthma that I’ve been suffering from recently might be due to introducing the fourth cat. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but I do know that breathing is a good thing and not being able to do so is a bit terrifying. And by the way, Prednisone really, really sucks. John keeps asking if I’m sure my parents don’t want a Dave. The cats are no longer allowed in the bedroom, which makes me really sad since that was when Darcy would come cuddle up under the covers with me, but it does make sense for the allergies (and cuts down on idiots waking us up in the middle of the night).

Of course, I’m sitting here typing this with a Lily by my computer and a Jude on my lap, which makes me very happy.  Last night, John and I were on the couch watching a movie and I had three cats climbing on me and purring.  I guess at the end of the day, they’re worth it. Even when they make messes, wake us up in the middle of the night, get on counters, steal our food, scatter my crafting supplies, and generally behave like idiots, we still love them.

On another happy cat note, we got the cats a little cat mat from Bax Cat and Co. on Etsy. We’ve gotten a few toys from her before and the cats love them, so I thought I would commission her to make a Union Jack cat mat for us as well. It turned out really well and the cats love it, though Dave took a while to get used to it. When we first put it up on the trunk in front of the window, he didn’t know what to think of it and kept jumping every time he sniffed it. It was quite amusing; I wish I had a video of it. Clearly, he’s gotten over his initial fear though.

Dave loves the new cat mat

If you’re in the market for cute cat mats or cat toys that are damn near indestructible (and adorable) I highly recommend Bax Cat and Co. She even added a Nimbus 2000 cat toy for all of the Harry Potter geeks out there!

Just Make a Decision Already!

The design on this magnet is the one I’d like to use for our wedding invitations

Clearly, I love my fiance dearly. I wouldn’t be marrying him if that weren’t the case. Sometimes though, I find him a bit trying. For example, I get a little frustrated when quick trips to the grocery store for taco stuff and beer turn into hour long excursions because he has to wander down every aisle and can’t decide if he’s more in  the mood for Dos Equis or Landshark beer.

It’s also becoming a bit of a frustration for me in with wedding planning. I want him to be involved, and he has come up with some great ideas. When I ask his opinion on things though, he hems and haws and never actually tells me anything. Part of it is the “it’s your wedding” thing and part is indecisiveness on his part. As far as I’m concerned though, it’s OUR wedding, I value his opinion, and, perhaps most of all, I don’t want to be responsible for every freaking decision.

Let’s jump to the most recent issue – wedding invitations. I have to have these designed and ordered by June 5 because that’s when my Living Social deal for Vistaprint expires. I came up with two variations of the Keep Calm and Marry On design above – one with the crown and one with a Tardis. Now he’s saying that it might be too kitschy and people might not get it. Has he offered any other solutions though? Of course not. He’s a good artist – why doesn’t he come up with a new design?

The other issue is that things aren’t getting done. He’s come up with a lot of awesome ideas, but they’re all still just ideas. I think part of that is because he thinks that four months is more than enough time to get everything done. He’s right that four months is enough time, but if he leaves everything until the last month it’s going to be bad.

What’s the best way to approach this? Should I just assume he doesn’t want to be that involved and I’m going to do it all myself one way or the other?

And most importantly for the moment, what should I do about the invitations? Should I scrap the design and start over? If so, what kind of design should I go with instead?

Exams are the Devil

You may notice a drop in posts during the next two weeks. If so, just know that it’s because I’m slaving away in this hell they call law school. I’m really unhappy right now. And very tired. This coming week, I only have one exam, but I have four the following week. Plus, my 20 page paper for domestic violence law on collateral consequences for misdemeanor convictions is due on May 4th. I’ve been studying all day, but I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, which is made worse by the fact that there are so many other things I’d rather be doing. Like chewing on aluminum foil. Anyway, I’m not a happy camper right now.

I’m going to the Southern Bridal Expo tomorrow with a friend, which will hopefully be a nice break. If I have the time and energy afterward, I might actually write a post about it too.

I leave you with a very thought-provoking song about why you should never trust robots.

Why I No Longer Want to Be an “Offbeat Bride”

If you’ve read my first post then you know that I started this blog after I got kicked off of the Offbeat Bride Tribe for something inane. I loved the community and liked being able to talk about wedding planning with a group of mostly like-minded individuals, but the moderators at OBB are very heavy-handed and there’s a lot of censorship there (though they’ll never call it that). Of course, I’m still free to browse through the blog, but there’s a TON of sponsored posts (generally for things that I could never afford) so I tend to avoid it.

When I started this blog, I thought that it would be a kind of substitute for OBB. I really expected to mainly be blogging about wedding planning, since that was all I could think about at the time. Looking back, getting kicked off of OBB was actually a really good thing for me. For one, it’s allowed me to step back from wedding planning. When that’s all you’re surrounded by, even if it’s just in an online community, that’s pretty much all you think about. My life is so much more than a wedding though. I’m a full-time law student for one, which keeps me pretty busy even if it’s not the sort of thing non-law students really want to hear about. I’m a wanna-be musician. I craft all the time (and now have an Etsy shop). My fiance and I had little adventures in our free time. I’m far more than a date in September.

Our wedding will be wonderful and unique, even without mason jars

Not constantly surrounding myself with wedding stuff online has allowed me to realize something else – other people don’t really care about my wedding. It’s not that they don’t care that I’m getting married; they’re very happy for me. What they don’t care about is the minutiae that goes into weddings. No one who is actually going to be at our wedding is really all that concerned about our centerpieces, whether we fold 1000 paper cranes, or any of that stuff. They love us and want to celebrate our union with us. None of them are going to be silently judging us for our lack of mason jars.

We really don't have to do this

Another revelation is that we don’t have to out-weird all of the other “offbeat” couples. Nor do we have to do something just because it’s considered offbeat (see: mason jars). Reading wedding blogs that feature a lot of real weddings can really mess with your thinking if you’re not careful. With OBB it was almost like a competition to see who could be the most offbeat. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way either; there were a number of posts on the tribe from brides who were worried that their wedding wasn’t going to be offbeat enough. OBB coined a term for the less out-there weddings:  offbeat lite. To me, being labeled offbeat lite sounds like you’re not one of the pretty, popular girls, but you aren’t part of the edgy, rebel clique either. You’re like me – an awkward, kinda quirky girl who doesn’t really fit in anywhere. But you know what? I’m not in high school anymore (okay, middle school was actually much worse for me). I can be myself without fearing the disapproval of any clique of popular girls or cool girls. I’m marrying a wonderful man who loves me despite (or is it because of) all of my quirks and awkwardness. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone on my wedding day. We’re not having a wedding for the benefit of an online community, and we’re certainly not having one so that some blog can hopefully judge out wedding worthy enough to post.

These guys are still in

I’m not saying that our wedding is suddenly going to be a traditional affair. We’re still a quirky, geeky couple and we want our wedding to reflect our personalities. We’re still going to have a ton of geeky references, we’re still going to have a TARDIS chuppah, and, of course, we’re still going to have our Dalek cake toppers. Not because some blog told us to, but because we love Doctor Who and that was actually something that brought us together in the first place (Doctor Who and keeping my former roommate up by singing Queen into the wee hours of the night).

I still read wedding blogs, but now I tend to prefer the ones that are just about real brides planning for their weddings. I want to read about other people going through the same things I am, not be told what my wedding should look like or what vendors I should hire because they’re the only option for a truly offbeat wedding. For some good, authentic wedding blogs that just follow their authors as they navigate the treacherous waters of the wedding world check out The Bitchy Bride, Frugally Wed, Rogue Bride, and Wedding Planning Isn’t for Sissies to name a few.