2018 by the numbers

2018 has been a strange year for me. It’s been my first year without a traditional office job, which provided a lot of structure and an easy way to find self-worth. Without that, I’ve had to learn a lot about what makes me satisfied. I always knew that travel and going places was an innate need of mine, but I also learned that simply getting on a plane was not going to make me satisfied with my life. There are a lot of things I found joy in, and a lot of things that caused me pain. I had to learn that without a traditional job, I needed to find purpose in more than just what freelance work I was able to get; I couldn’t expect my husband to make my happiness his job.  In all honesty, I’m still learning that, and I think he’s still learning, too.

Throughout all this, with all the confusing and complicated emotion of change, I know that my 2018 was really, really incredible. I sat down to take inventory of all that I did, all that I was able to do because of my nontraditional new schedule. Looking at these numbers, it may seem like my life has been a lot of fun. But there’s a good chance if you sat down and tallied up all the things you did this year, you’ve probably done just as many of the things you care about.

Here’s what I sought out in 2018:

Comedy Shows: 13

Theater: 16
Head Over Heels, Mean Girls, Dear Evan Hansen, Sleep No More, Hamilton, Soft Power, School of Rock, Aida (the opera, not the musical), Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, On Your Feet!, Miss Saigon, Waitress, Chicago, Cinderella, A Bronx Tale

Films: 13

Concerts: 4
John Oates (no Hall), Tom Jones, Jennifer Lopez, Rod Stewart
*If you took JLo off this list, how old would you think I am?

Museums & art installations: 12

Artist: Yayoi Kusama

Visited places within the US: 23
Las Vegas, Kauai, Charleston/Hilton Head/Savannah, Disney World, NYC, Malibu, Palm Springs, Temecula, Vegas again, Chicago + Iowa, Boston, Chico, Paso Robles, Palm Springs again, Spokane, Portland, Miami, Key West, Palm Springs again, Maui, Las Vegas again, Palm Springs again, Paso Robles again (today!)

Countries visited: 5

Flights taken: 34
*Not including layovers or multi-leg flights to one destination

Wineries visited: 20
*That number is growing today — we’re in Paso Robles for NYE!

Distilleries visited: 8

Breweries visited: 4
* I guess 2018 was the year I stopped drinking beer: normally this would be a much higher number!

Bottles of wine purchased: 82

Rewards program (legit) status achieved: 3
Sephora VIB Rouge
Alaska Airlines MVP
Hotels.com Gold

What did you do in spades in 2018? Do any of your numbers rival mine?

It’s our wedding anniversary!


I can’t believe it.

So many people have told me that their first year was the hardest. I don’t think Tim or I would call this a particularly extra-difficult year. We did so much to prepare for marriage: Took our time dating and getting to know all our ins and outs, talked to experts about how to get through fights, negotiated our roles and responsibilities in the relationship.

The number-one thing I wanted to avoid — that I felt I could avoid — was having the excuse, “We rushed into this.” While I know many marriages and relationships that have excelled after a short courtship (this is NOT about you, it is about me, and I’m not just saying that, I really mean it), I knew myself and knew that I could find myself blaming any of our problems on “rushing into it.” And what happens if I think that you rushed into it and that I’m fundamentally flawed as a couple? I’m more likely to want out. So I knew that there was no way we’d be getting engaged or moving in together without hitting certain milestones. I don’t want to go through a rough patch and then feel I have any justification for getting out of the marriage that has to do with “not knowing what I was getting into.”

We’ve been married one year now, which makes us no experts. (1 year = 8760 hours, not 10,000 like Malcolm Gladwell taught me.) But it counts as a milestone. Throughout our first year of marriage, we’ve traveled a ton, made life-changing decisions, started a Google doc about ideals of how we’d like to raise kids (more on that later — and no, we’re not starting a family soon). We’ve done a lot, and it’s tested our marriage, and our marriage has definitely proved itself on solid ground. We’ve laughed way more than we’ve cried — even when both of our flights to Australia totally screwed us over, even when our cat had multiple medical emergencies that cost thousands of unplanned dollars, even when our closet collapsed in the middle of the night and even when I decided not to go back to a desk job. We haven’t even really gotten questions from friends and family wondering when we’re going to start popping out babies. (THANK YOU FOR NOT ASKING. IT IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS BUT ALSO YOUR OPINION IS IRRELEVANT AND OURS IS THE ONLY OPINION THAT MATTERS BECAUSE WE ARE THE ONES WHO WON’T BE SLEEPING WELL FOR 18 YEARS.)


Sometimes I fondly and enviously remember the days when I did whatever I wanted all the time. I could go out five times in a week, I could spend money on whatever I wanted, and I didn’t have to do anyone else’s laundry. And as cliche as it may be, as much as I loved my life then, I still vastly prefer life with Tim, even though I miss some things about my life before. Now, I can still go out five times in a week if I really wanted. I still pretty much spend money on whatever I want, though big purchases are shared with Tim first and any time we decide not to buy something it’s because I really didn’t need it. And while I definitely do Tim’s laundry for him, at least I do it in our in-unit washer and dryer, as opposed to in my old apartment’s poorly-maintained laundry room (that inexplicably got someone else’s gum on my clothes twice). Also, you and I both know that Tim’s wardrobe is as easy as it gets.

I loved being single, and for different reasons, I love being married. And I love knowing and proving that we’ll work through any of our issues, whether proactively and preventatively, or by facing them as they come. Since our first year of marriage didn’t kill us, I’m waiting to discover what phase of our lives almost does. (I’m assuming it’s when we have a toddler and a newborn — right? Or two mouthy teenagers and we start disagreeing in front of them?) Whenever it happens, though, I’m ready. I know we took our time, and that we chose each other, and we will always choose each other. ♦

Why I decided to change my name

It’s been almost a year since I married the cutest guy in the world. (He’s going to hate that I put that in writing, but I say it to him about 4000 times per day so what’s the difference?)

A couple weeks before our wedding, we went over to the applicable government office and applied for our marriage license. I was still undecided and had been successfully avoiding committing to any sort of name change. When we were speaking to the county clerk’s office, though, they asked if I wanted a new name put on the marriage license. I panicked and got a huge spike of anxiety. The person who was assisting us mentioned that I never actually had to change my name to whatever I put on the license, which gave me peace, so I said that he could put my husband’s last name in place of my own.

Looking back on it, I truly wish that I had premeditated my name change more. It was so difficult for me to seriously think about it, because every time I did, I’d get anxious and sweaty and need air and had to stuff it back down. (This is not a healthy way to deal with anxiety.) I still can’t put a finger on exactly why it gave me such a visceral reaction. I don’t necessarily think it was negative or a sign that I didn’t actually want to change my name. I’ve always planned on changing my last name to my husband’s — before I even knew Tim. I’m pretty progressive overall and a thousand percent hate that the practice began essentially like transferring the title of a car — from parental “ownership” to husband “ownership” — but I also really love the symbolism of having the same name as a family unit. Plus, my husband and I very much have an equality-focused partnership, and just because the practice of sharing a last name is super antiquated in origin doesn’t mean that our use of the practice has to represent that negative baggage. And yes, it’ll be nice to have the same last name as my kids.

I think what I was really wrestling with was that I just didn’t recognize the name. When I said or wrote “Amanda Treese,” I kept hearing a voice in my head saying, “Who?” It was unsettling. I like my last name just fine, and I wasn’t in a hurry to change it. I didn’t know who Amanda Treese was, and I didn’t like thinking that somehow, this name that I didn’t recognize was actually me.

Many months have passed since we applied for that marriage license. We had the best wedding ever followed by an amazing honeymoon, traveled a ton, built a solid palate for and collection of wine, and took seven billion photos of our cats. The fact that my last name was different than his mattered not a single bit. And I realized, having the same last name as his also does not matter a single bit. Now, I know this sounds like a “don’t change my last name” post, but it’s the opposite. I decided that our names were really inconsequential and it changes absolutely nothing about who I am, and if I want to have the same last name as my husband, just do it. The only time I have to strictly go by that name is in legal documents. Plus, I was about to be in a rare time in life with absolutely NO flights booked for a couple months — the perfect time to change my last name, if ever. So I went for it.

I still wish that I had made my maiden name my middle name, but I didn’t put that on the marriage license and I didn’t feel like going through the process of getting a new one. Again, I realized, who cares what my exact name is? I’m in the middle of the extremely arduous process now — I enlisted HitchSwitch to help me through it all — but thankfully I’m at the perfect time in my life to take on an painstaking project like this. And when Tim and I move to a new city one day, no one there will even know my old name. It’s not really who I am. It’s just what was written on a birth certificate …a few… years ago.

For those out there who are undecided or chose to not change their name, I hope you know that this is just my personal experience working toward being comfortable with something that I did genuinely want to do. To change or not change your name is an extremely personal decision that involves no one but you, and nothing is right or wrong except doing what makes you happy.

In conclusion, does anyone know how to get a “Dame” honorific from the Queen? Because I think that would really spice up my new name.

Dame Amanda M. (Delzell) Treese

Changing your last name

For my whole life I assumed I would change my last name. The main argument was always to have the same last name as my kids.

A couple weeks before our wedding, our (amazing, flawless) officiant asked how he should address Tim and me at the conclusion of the ceremony. The thought of it gave me the stress sweats. It didn’t sound like me. I’ve been Amanda Delzell for a long time. But I also had it in my mind that I was going to change my name. So I insisted over and over that he simply announce us as “Amanda and Tim.”

I was never one of those daydreamers who doodled her name with the last name of whatever boy she had a crush on. Maybe that would have helped me for this moment. When Tim and I picked up our marriage certificate, I assumed that I couldn’t put my new last name on the certificate because I had flights booked for our honeymoon and I didn’t want a legal change in my name because I wouldn’t be able to get on the flight. But at the office (of…marriage licensing? what is the name?) the person who helped us get our certificate said that I could put my new last name and then legally change it later. So I decided to do it, and possibly never legally change my name.

Well, I still haven’t legally changed my name. But I have tried on my new last name by adding it to my social media and email accounts. But when making appointments, I still use my old name. I introduce myself that way. I don’t really know why. It feels inauthentic still to call myself anything but “Amanda Delzell.” And I think I’ll probably come around by the time ~fAmiLy PLaNniNg~ begins. But I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m just not comfortable with it yet, and that’s OK. My cute guy husband is super supportive and doesn’t mind what I do.


I found out later that a couple friends couldn’t remember Tim’s last name at our wedding, and they said, “We’ll find out at the end of the ceremony!” Of course, they didn’t. But it doesn’t really matter what my (or his) name is. We still got married, we’re still planning to spend our lives together, and I don’t need to have the same last name right away.

I could talk about this endlessly. Please, please share your experience in changing your name!

Book Club: The Girl with Seven Names

Since I read this book a couple months ago, I haven’t been able to shut up about it. The Girl with Seven Names is a real memoir of an escaped North Korean woman. You’re already hooked, right?

book cover.jpg
Image from amazon.com

I don’t know about you, but I have a major fear of dying from and/or living in the aftermath of a major nuclear war. When a plane flies by and creates a sonic boom I sometimes stop and listen just to make sure it’s just on its merry way to my local airport. I never saw the movie The Interview, mostly because it didn’t look good but also because, like, what if one day everyone who watched it online is targeted in some hyper-planned attack? I’m even borderline worried about writing this post. Yes, this borders (or is?) paranoia and it’s not actually that big of a presence in my life but it comes up. Please don’t tell me how unlikely it is or how the US has gone through this before and we have more resources or whatever. I am allowed to be afraid even if you think it’s unfounded. This is just how anxiety works. Have we agreed to let me have my feelings? OK, great, moving on.

This book fascinated me in so many ways. First, it comes from the perspective of someone who had a relatively happy childhood in North Korea. The author lived through the Great Famine with enough to eat (though there are plenty of stories of her exposure to those who died of starvation in this time). She had a good family life overall and appreciated the natural landscape that she experienced in her home country. Then, as a teenager, she made a choice that caused her to never have any of that again. That — along with many other details in the book, including the social status of immigrants — made me realize how challenging it is for North Korean defectors to adjust to life outside of the place they’ve always known.

The book also details a lot of the horrors of North Korea and its propoganda-fueled regime. It seems fake and unthinkable and like a terrifying movie, but it’s real. The author attended public executions beginning at age 7. She saw a dead woman holding her barely-surviving baby. She forced herself to fake-cry after Kim Song-Il passed to avoid suspicion that she didn’t love the Great Leader enough (resulting in punishment, lowered social status, possibly eventual jailing or execution — yes, really).

The best part of the book, however, was getting the first-hand account of someone who lived and knew North Korea from birth. It gave me such a fresh and real perspective on how the regime works, and a great deal of empathy for the people who know nothing else. I was nervous to read it because I thought it would give me nightmares — my book club voted for it, not me — but it somehow made me less afraid and more in control of my thoughts because I learned so much.

When we finally got to discuss the book at our book club meeting, it was such a satisfying couple of hours. (Not to mention it was the first time I actually finished reading the book before the meeting.) The book isn’t a work of art — the editing is a little lacking and there are a few minor errors — but it’s a fascinating and very quick read (I read it on the flights to and from Kauai). Plus, there’s pictures. You get education, photos, and accomplishment of reading a book. And you have a guaranteed discussion partner (me) once you’re done! PLEASE read so we can discuss.

Now, what other books would you recommend?