Tuesday, February 28, 2012

When I was a Child - Winter Edition

Winter is quickly slipping away so it's time for another installment of "When I was a Child."  I have been putting this off because it really hasn't felt like winter - no complaints here!  I have experienced plenty of brutal winters in my life, I could use many more like this one....  Anyways, here is what thoughts of winters as a child conjure up...

When I was a Child...
  • Christmas was the highlight of winter.  Decorating the tree with ornaments hung from fish hooks, arranging the crib scene (and re-arranging it and re-arranging it, which drove my mom nuts), and gathering around the advent wreath each night are some of my favorite memories.
  • The Christmas season was full of baked goods and treats.  I helped put sprinkles on many, many sugar cookies and wrapped what felt like 1,000 caramels in small squares of cellophane.  
  • There was always at least one snowday - possibly more!  Those days were spent reading and doing puzzles and bugging my older siblings!
  • My older sister and I spent hours upon hours skating in our backyard.  We were so sure one or both of us were going to be the next Nancy Kerrigan (well, until she got clubbed by Tonya Harding someone.)  Besides skating we also went sledding and built forts and snowmen.  
  • After playing outdoors for hours, my mom would often treat us to hot cocoa with a couple of mini marshmallows.
  • I celebrated many great birthdays  My dad would usually go to work later so my mom and him could wake me up by singing happy birthday.  I got to pick what mom made for dinner (spaghetti pie was a popular choice of mine) and some years she'd get a ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. 

What winter childhood memories do you have?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Living Alone

Last week, the New York Times published an article entitled, "One is the Quirkiest Number:  The Freedoms, and Perils, of Living Alone."  I first saw it when Amy posted the article on facebook.  Her comment about the article intrigued me, so I decided to read it.

It's a fairly quick read so I recommend clicking over if you have 3-5 minutes.  My synopsis of the article is that people who live alone are basically social pariahs.  We talk to our pets, eat weird meals, forget to close the bathroom door, and might forget to put on a skirt when leaving the house. 

I'm disappointed that the NYT chose just a poor representation of those who live alone.  Do I have my quirks?  You bet.  But does that have anything to do with the fact that I live alone?  Not one bit.  

My point is - we are who we are.  And if you aren't yourself around your spouse, that is not a sustainable relationship, in my opinion.  Granted, I know I will have to make concessions/compromises when/if i get married.  But for the most, what you see is what you get.  

I will always value these years that I have spent living alone.  It's made me more independent, more self-sufficient, and more aware of who I am - quirks and all.  Most importantly, it's made me a pickier dater - in a good way.  I know I can do it all on my own - and be very happy.  Before I lived alone, I think I felt more of a sense of desperation about finding a husband, because living alone kind of scared me.  Living alone no longer scares me and I know that whether or not my life includes a husband and marriage, I can and will be happy.

Have you read this article?  What was your reaction?  Do you think living alone breeds quirky behavior? 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wine & Love

Good Morning & Happy Thursday.  It's been pretty quiet around these parts lately, and it will likely be like this for awhile...  but in an effort to not go a week without blogging, here is my Wine & Love for the week, hosted by the lovely Nora!

Work stuff continues to stress me out.  I will have to be vague because you never know who is going to stumble upon your blog.  But it hasn't been pleasant lately.  My boss is equally frustrated and isn't sleeping well either.  Misery loves company, I guess, so at least we can vent to each other.
- I feel like I have no free time right now.  I am trying to put in 20 hours of studying a week which means 2 hours 4 nights a week and 6 hours on Sat and Sun.  Which doesn't sound like much, but feels like a lot.  But I keep reminding myself it's temporary...  June will come fast, I'm sure. 
- I might have to go back to Chicago for another work trip.  Usually this would make me happy as I love Chicago but I simply do not have time for a business trip as the CFA studying has taken over my life and I can't afford to lose a couple of days.  I am hoping I can just do a day trip and fly out super early & come back late that day.

- I got some awesome birthday gifts in the mail this week!  My parents sent me a webber grill!  I can't wait to figure out how to use this (ahem, have my brother show me).  And Nora sent me 2 Paris books!  I'm a total Francophile, so receiving anything related to France makes me grin ear to ear!
- The tilapia lime tacos I made last week turned out great and have been great as leftovers - which I eat in the evening and not at work.  I think we can all agree that regardless of whether you like fish/seafood, reheated seafood is the WORST SMELL EVER.  Unfortunately some of my co-workers do not realize this and continue to heat up things w/ fish/seafood...  I guess that is another wine of mine that creeped into my love for the week!
- I have a quiet weekend ahead of me, which is what I need as March is starting off busy with a wedding in North Dakota and then 2 babies showers the following weekend.  So I am going to savor this quiet, plan-free weekend!

What's your wine/love of the week?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Greetings and happy Tuesday - I hope you all had a great weekend!  Especially those of you who had Monday off!  The financial markets were closed, but it's not a holiday at my company, so I was one of the few who came into work (seemed like it would be a waste of a vacation day if I had taken it off).  My weekend was both productive and restful - just what I needed.

So I haven't talked much about running on the blog lately.  Honestly, it's been falling pretty low on the list of priorities.  Between recovering from surgery, traveling from work, and trying to keep up with the CFA studying, I don't feel like I have a whole lot of time to run.  I have still been making time for runs, but it's mostly been 3-4 mile runs, so nothing substantial.

I do want to get back to the point where I am running 6-8 miles on the weekend, but I am just not there yet.  I had signed up for a half marathon in March that I wanted to run with Raquelita, but I think I would risk injuring myself if I tried to ramp up my mileage and do a 1/2 in just over 3 weeks...  So I am going to email the race director and see if I can do the 7k instead of the 1/2.  I am bummed that I won't run the distance I intended. but I also have to realize I have a lot on my plate right now and can't do it all.

So for now, my goal is to keep running 3 times/wk and biking 2 times/wk.  My run club resumes on 2/29 and while I will probably only attend 1 weeknight work out and the weekend run, I know it will help me get back on track.  I've learned that, for me, it's just not possible to balance work, studying, and training.  So this will just be a 'running maintenance' phase for me. 

Once this test is behind me, though, running will once again be the focus of my free time.  I know I am doing a fall marathon - I just can not for the life of me decide which one!!  I know I will have to travel for a marathon because I will be at Nora's wedding (so excited!) the weekend of the Twin Cities marathon.  I could do the DC marathon at the end of October or I could run the Raleigh marathon with John's wife.  The issue I am having is that I look at my medical bills and then I feel really guilty spending money on a destination marathon when the money spent on that plane ticket (which likely won't be cheap) could be applied to student loans or my mortgage.  But it's either travel for a marathon or don't run one at all, and I do really want to do a marathon this fall.

So I will continue to mull it over.  I think it's funny that I know which marathon I am doing in 2013 (Chicago) but can not for the life of me make a decision about this fall!  I am usually a very very decisive person so this wavering back and forth is so out of character for me!

Would you consider yourself a decisive person or do you struggle to make decisions?  Also, for all you runners out there, what are you race plans for 2012?  Any fall marathons?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekend Whimsy

Confession:  when I am in CFA study mode, I kind of get a little down on the weekend.  Yes, it is nice to have a break from work, but my weekends don't 'feel' like weekends during CFA study season as I spend the bulk of each day studying. 

This study season is going better than last year's did, but it's still challenging.  So to dodge the weekend blues, I'm trying to focus on the small things I can do each weekend to make them a little bit more fun and restorative.  I want to find whimsy in the small things.

This weekend will be brightened by the following...

- Tonight, I am meeting up with Marisa!  She recently moved here from Des Moines and I can't wait to show her my favorite spots!  I might start by introducing her to cucumber margaritas - that's my drink of choice as it's so delicious and refreshing!  I earned a drink because this is my first night off from studying in 8 DAYS!!!  And Marisa got a job!  So we have lots to celebrate!

- Tomorrow night I get to catch up with this lovely lady.  I am so thankful for google video chatting!

Amber & I in Seattle in fall of 2010
 - On Saturday night, I will try out this recipe for fish tacos.  Mmmm...

- Lastly, tomorrow I should finish the first half of the CFA materials.  I am ahead of schedule, which is good because that means I can use the following week to go back and review some of the areas I am struggling with.

What are you looking forward to this weekend?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mid-Month Money Manifesto - Month 2

Month 2:  Goals...  And Adjusting Goals

It's time for another Mid-Month Money Manifesto post.  Last month I talked about what was working.  This month I am talking about my goals.

 I had this whole post written about my financial goals for the year and how I was prioritizing between paying down student loans and my mortgage while savings for a down payment for the purchase of a home down the road...   Then I got my final medical bill and realized my out-of-pocket obligation for my sinus surgery is nearly twice what I thought it would be.

Gosh, being an adult sucks sometimes.  I am not abandoning my financial goals... They are just getting pushed off to the 2nd half of the year as the goal for the first half of the year is to pay off my medical bills and pay off a credit card that I am carrying a balance on.

So once I have met these goals, I will set goals for the rest of 2012 - most likely in the 2nd half of the year. 

Do you have well-defined financial goals?  In the past, I have set up automatic deposits so that I save a certain amount each year, and in addition to my monthly student loan payments, I always put extra towards paying down the principal, but I haven't really had much more focus than that.  This year I will.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day, a Year Ago

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  I am one of the few single people that actually enjoys this holiday.  Actually, relationship status aside, there are a lot of Valentine's Day haters out there!  I get that people hate the commercialized aspect, and I think that we should show the people in our lives that we love them every day but I still like that one day is devoted to love. 

This Valentine's Day will be pretty lackluster for me as I the only date I have is a date with my CFA materials, so I am reflecting back on how I spent Valentine's Day last year!  I was in Paris, celebrating my birthday, and had an absolutely wonderful day. 

I went for a run along the Seine...

I enjoyed a delicious world famous hot chocolate at Angelina's (it's to die for)...

And if that wasn't already enough sugar, I also enjoyed a Mont Blanc, which is a meringue topped with chestnut paste.  Like the hot cocoa, it was also divine...

And then I meandered back to my apartment, walking along the Seine, and stopped in at one of the most famous bookstores in the world...

It was a magical day and a trip I will never forget.

I am going to close with the same poem I shared last year as it is one of my favorites and a year later, it still resonates with me.

Love After Love

The time will come when,
with elation

you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

~ Derek Walcott

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!  Whether you choose to celebrate or boycott this holiday, I hope you have a wonderful day and end the day feeling loved.  I know I will.

Monday, February 13, 2012

My Focus for the Week...

Greetings and happy Monday. I hope you all had a great weekend.  I spent the majority of my waking hours studying.  And then I spent a good chunk of unaccounted time worrying.  I am a worrier, it's in my nature - always has been from when I was a very young child. 

This week, to keep my worrying at bay, I am focusing on this graphic.  I actually printed it out to hang at my desk as a visual reminder...

At the end of the day, there is only so much that I have control over - and that is what I should be focusing on. 

I can worry about how decisions made at work will impact my job - but it makes more sense to focus on doing the best job I can so that I am respected and viewed as a valuable team member.

I can worry about medical bills that keep rolling in and how this will impact my financial goals for the year - or I can pay them and accept that my sinus surgery was an investment in my health. 

I can worry about my dad's health prognosis and whether they truly got all of the cancer or I can accept the fact that he's in the hands of competent medical professionals who know what they are doing. 

I can worry about not passing the CFA or I can work as hard as I can to make sure I am able to pass. 

Just as happiness is a choice, so is the decision to not worry.  Of course, anyone who knows me well, knows that I don't have this all figured out.  However, I think maybe by writing this out, I will internalize some of this and worry less as a result.  Worrying certainly does not have a positive impact on my mood/level of happiness, nor is it a productive use of time, so here's hoping that by focusing on that visual, and thinking about what matters and is in my control, I can worry a little less. 

Would you consider yourself a worrier? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

5 Things Friday

Happy Friday.  Wow am I excited to see the weekend come.  Here's a Friday Five recap of my week...

1.  My dad's surgery went well.  He was in surgery for over 8 hours.  I did fine until I had to get my flight at the end of the day before he was out of surgery - I had been thinking he'd be out of surgery by the time my 6:30 pm flight left.  Not the case...  I could not turn on my cell phone fast enough when we landed and it sure was a relief to find out all had gone well.

2.  My work trip was a successful trip, but it was a very difficult trip for me.  I strengthened my relationships with sales reps and met with a lot of clients, but it was draining. It's just hard to be "on" for so many hours in a row (Mon/Tues were 15+ hour days).  I am happy it is behind me (as is everyone else - every single co-worker agreed that it was a draining trip), and am happy that I have no travel planned for the next month or so.

3.  It really is the best feeling to return home and be SO HAPPY you live where you do. 

4.  I'm 1/3 of the way through CFA materials.  Woo hoo!  Oh and here is a testament to the fact that this whole studying process is stressful:  A client that I ate lunch with on Wednesday told me he broke out in hives a month before he took level II due to the stress of studying!!!  Let's hope that doesn't happen to me.  ;)

5.  Besides studying, my only other plans for the weekend are to babysit for my friend's 14 month son.  I can't wait to spend the night with him as he is at such a fun age!!

What's on your mind today?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

40 percent

40 percent is a number that came up twice in the year 2011.  It's funny how the context of a number can change your perception of it.  40 percent came up for the first time when I was studying for level I of the CFA exam.  40% of those who take the test pass.  My initial thought was - yikes, that is low.  I mean, 40 percent is a small number!  Cue panic.  Cue intense, rigorous study schedule.  That statistic scared me into studying my butt off.  And I passed.

Fast forward to December 2011.  40 percent comes up again.  This time, it's in a text message from my mom.  My dad had some routine blood work done as part of a physical, and something came back indicating that he may have prostate cancer - a 40 percent chance according to the doctor. 

In the span of 6 months, 40 percent went from sounding minuscule to sounding huge.  Granted, any number attached to your dad's chances of having cancer is too big.  I'd like that chance to be below 1 percent, but that is not how life works.

Weeks later, we got the results of my dad's biopsy and found out that he did, in fact, have prostate cancer.  I have kept quiet about this as I didn't want to be a Chicken Little, and sometimes writing about it makes you fixate on it, so I just told my closest friends and have tried to put it out of my mind.

The fact of the matter is that the sky is not falling.  Luckily, they caught it very early, so my dad will just need surgery and he should be able to put this firmly in his past.  His surgery is today and I know my whole family is looking forward to having this behind us - especially my dad.  

If anything, this whole experience has been a wake up call.  It's a reminder that parents and other loved ones are not immortal, so I better enjoy every moment I have with them and make sure they know how much I love and appreciate themAnd it's a reminder to take care of your health.  Luckily, both my parents are diligent about getting their annual physicals and procedures like colonoscopies.  Health insurance covers this sort of preventative care/screening, so it's foolish (IMO) to not take advantage of your access to preventative care. 

I am traveling for work, so won't be home for the surgery, but my thoughts and prayers are most definitely with my dad and mom today.  Luckily, my dad has the best nurse a guy could ask for (my mom) to take care of him as he recovers!

Monday, February 6, 2012



And just like that, a year ends.  Last year, I opened the door to age 31, filled with trepidation, excitement, and some fear.  Truth be told, in the months leading up to my 30th birthday, I was a bit melodramatic.  There was a lot of "this isn't what I thought life would look like" or "why did this happen to me?" type of thoughts.  Some were verbalized, some were buried deep under my resolve to enter confidently into my 30s.

It turns out turning 30 wasn't scary at all - it was actually quite fabulous!  The past year will go down as one of the best years of my life.  The fact that I can say that is not on account of chance or luck.  I made this past year the best year of my life. The year included many great things, such as a trip to Paris, moving into a downtown condo I love, hosting friends/family in my condo, passing the CFA, PR'ing at the Victoria half marathon, and lots of trips with/to visit other bloggers! 

I learned a lot of things over the course of the past year, but the biggest lesson that stands out in my mind is that happiness is a choice.  I spent much of my 20s almost feeling like I was a victim of my circumstances.  But this past year, I realized that if I didn't like my circumstances, I either need to do something about it, change my perspective, or focus on the other wonderful things in my life.

I'll close with the chorus from "Do It Now," a song on Ingrid Michaelson's new album.  It really sums up how I approached my 31st year.

so do it now
do it right now
don't waste a minute on the darkness and the pity sitting in your mind and
do it right now
do it right now

31 held so many wonderful things; I can't wait to see what 32 will bring!!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Taking to the Skies Again

Greetings and happy Friday!  It's been another whirlwind week, and I still can't quite convince myself that it's February!  That said, it feels like March (no complaint here...  Thank you, mother nature, for this mild winter).

I leave for yet another business trip this Sunday and will be gone until late Wednesday night.  After this trip, I will have flown ~ 5,000 miles in the first 6 weeks of the year.  Ufda.  I'll be returning to Charlotte for our National Sales Meeting, followed by a Customer Conference.  I am taking the earlier flight on Sunday so I will have time to fit in a late lunch with Charbelle!  I wasn't able to see her on my last trip to Charlotte, so I am glad it works out to meet up this time around.  Then at 6 pm I head to the Superbowl Party, which will kick off our National Sales Conference.  I am looking forward to putting faces to the names of many of the reps I talk to on the phone. 

It's my birthday on Monday, but I'll be putting in a 12+ hour day of work, so I am doing a low key early birthday celebration this weekend.  It will involve chicken chili, a chick flick, and quality time with 2 of my closest girlfriends.  I usually like to host a big get together for my birthday, but honestly the first month of the year exhausted me between all the travel I've done + surgery/recovery + CFA studying.  So quietly ringing in 31 is just what I need! Plus, I had a huge party and that whole trip to Paris last year, so I am probably due for a quiet celebration.

I'm hoping to keep the fact that my birthday is on Monday from the attention of others...  Mostly because many of these sales reps/traders like to have a good time (read: they drink like they have a hollow leg), and I am sort of envisioning round after round of drinks if word gets out that I am celebrating my birthday.  We'll see what happens!  Last trip it worked well to switch to tonic water with a lime early in the night as it appeared that I was still drinking.  And sometimes appearances are all that matter.  I'm still the new kid on the block that needs to win over these reps, so appearing to be fun is important, as silly as that sounds.  Suffice it to say, it's hard to explain!  That said, I think my boss has already started to tell people... so...  yah. 

To start off my birthday celebration, I brought some granny smith apples & apple dip to work to share with my co-workers and I also am planning on buying some macaroons for an afternoon snack!  Yes, I am almost 31 and I still bring birthday treats to work.  I work with all men - if I don't bring my own treats, no one else will!

I'll be back on Monday with reflections on my 31st year!  It certainly was an amazing year!

What are you up to this weekend? Do you bring treats to work to celebrate your birthday?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of January


I'm Through by Ingrid Michaelson  - Ingrid Michaelson's new CD came out last week - and I am in love.  As I knew I would be.  Here is one of the slower songs from her album that I love.  I think anyone who's been through a tough break up can relate.  Her songs tends to be full of honest, raw emotions, which is why I love them.


I'm really happy with the number of books I read this month, especially since I started studying for the CFA (and studied 15 of the 31 days in January for a total of 42.25 hours, which isn't too bad considering I had 2 business trips + a sinus surgery/recovery that knocked me off my feet for a week).

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides I hated this book.  There.  I said it.  I was so happy to finish it when it was over.  The main character reminded me of a mindless character from a chick lit novel that makes poor decisions and can't see her relationship for what it truly was {yes, she was young, but I still don't think that is an excuse}.  Harsh?  Yes, a bit, but I expected more for a book that was so highly praised by many critics.  This Huffington Post review sums up my sentiment about the book PERFECTLY.  

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles My friend Katie recommended this book to me, and I am glad I checked it out!  It is sort of hard to explain what the book was about, but I really enjoyed it.  It follows the life of a 20-something girl, finding her way around NYC in the late 1930s.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak This was highly recommended by a couple of friends so I was anxious to get my hands on it!  The story is narrated by death - which sounds odd, but works.  It's sent during WWII and tells the story of a young girl who loves books (and tends to steal them).  It's a sad book due to the setting and the tragedies that occur, but it's worth checking out!

The Big Short by Michael Lewis I loved this book and gave it 5 stars on goodreads.  It's not for everyone as it's very 'financy' but I loved it.  It basically explains the subprime mortgage meltdown that occurred in 2007-2008.  It reads like a novel and there were many times when I thought there was no way it was non-fiction.  Sadly, it is the truth, and it's bit sickening to read the play-by-play downfall of our financial system, but since it relates to the industry I work in, it was an important read for me. 

Book buying fast update:  I haven't bought any books so far this year.  Yea! 


Well, my month started out strongly.  I was getting my long runs in, doing speedwork on the dreadmill and cross-training on the bike.  Then I had surgery, and well, there went that great running trend that I was building.  My activity was restricted until I fully recovered from surgery so I took some time away from running.  I am going to try running today for the first time - I have to stay indoors for now, per my doctor's orders, but hopefully I can run outside again in a couple of weeks.


I didn't wear much that was noteworthy this month, but I did get a new scarf!  My aunt knit it for me as a happy birthday/get well soon gift!

Here's a close up of it - I adore the colors and the ruffles!!  It's so pretty and feminine and is allegedly easy to make!

Here I am wearing it - with stripes, of course. :)