Thursday, June 27, 2013

Looking Forward

In a effort to focus on the positive, I figured it was time for another looking forward post!

- Today I am looking forward my first pilates session this am AND I am looking forward to seeing some co-workers I know well from Minneapolis and other offices that are in town for work.  It makes my week when people I know well travel to Charlotte. 

- This weekend I am looking forward to finally going to see Before Midnight.  I thought I would be able to see it when it was released on 5/24, but it turns out it was just released in NYC and LA, but it's finally made it's way to more theaters, so I will be going to this at some point this week.

- This month (meaning over the next 30 days) I am looking forward to visiting Becky in the DC area.  I visited her over 2 years ago and she was SUCH a great host, so I can't wait to spend a long weekend with her and her husband Ben.  Plus we will be meeting up with Mandy as she'll be in the area at the same time!!  My fingers are crossed that I get to ditch the boot before this trip.  I have my follow-up appointment just hours before I fly out, so hopefully I get good news.  Either way I know I will have a blast with Becky and Mandy.

- This summer I am looking forward to going home to Minnesota for a week in August. I will be working most of that week but it will still be nice to have my evenings free to see friends and family.  I also have trips to Boston (to visit Kelly) and NYC (to visit Alli) planned for August, and my friend Heidi is visiting that month, so August is going to rock.  (It's also the month I get my CFA results back so I have a lot planned as a distraction in case I get bad news).

- This fall I am looking forward to going home on a monthly basis.  I have a wedding in September, another wedding in October, and Julia Child night in November (and of course I will also be home for Christmas in December!)  Being home on a monthly basis makes living far from home much more manageable.  I know the trips home will slow after that, so I will enjoy the frequent trips home this fall.

What are you looking forward to these days?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

From the Land of Ma'am: Checking out Raleigh

I figured I better even out the sadness of the string of heavier posts with a positive post!  Last weekend I drove to Raleigh to spend the weekend with John, his wife, and their 2 daughters.  I have been reading John's blog for years and we briefly met in person a couple of years ago when he was passing through Charlotte on a weekend that I happened to be there for work.  So we had met in person before, but hadn't spent a considerable amount of time together before so I was glad we both had a free weekend in June so I could come visit!

John and his wife were wonderful hosts and made me feel right at home.  They were also really understanding about my boot as that sort of limited how much I was able to be on my feet.  Unfortunately I don't have many pictures from the weekend, but John did snap this shot of us when we were at the Rose Garden on Saturday.

Here were some of the highlights from my weekend in Raleigh...

- Kid time.  John and his wife have 2 girls that are ages 6 and 8 and they were so much fun to hang around with.  They were both so sweet and fun to be around.  I really miss spending time around my nephews and niece so it was nice to get my kid fix this weekend.  One of the cutest moments was when his youngest daughter found out I had never been to Disney World and said I could come along next time they go.  That may have melted my heart just a little bit!

- Rose Gardens.  We went to the Rose Gardens on Saturday afternoon, which is apparently a hidden treasure that not many people know about.  They had so many different varieties of roses, it was really fun to walk around and see all the different flowers.  I also got to see my first Magnolia tree.  My mom had asked if I had seen any yet but I didn't know what they looked like, so John and Kelley pointed them out for me.

- Coffee chats.  The weather was rainy on Saturday so us adults went to a local coffee shop in the afternoon for a caffeine fix.  We ended up sitting there for hours talking about anything from relationships to how the discipline of marathon training applies to other aspects of life to career stuff.

- Night on the town.  On Saturday night, we hit up downtown Raleigh for delicious burgers at a local place, followed by drinks at an Irish bar.  It was fun to check out downtown Raleigh - I'd like to go back when I am more mobile as there were a lot of cute shops and restaurants, and their science museum looked really cool.

It was a wonderful weekend and just what I needed.  I am starting to make more friends in Charlotte, but I am still a little bit lonely so it was nice to be surrounded by people for a weekend.  I am hoping to return some time this fall, hopefully for a race if I am back to running by then!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Back in the Boot

Well I guess I will shift gears from the last post, which dealt with my broken heart, and shift to my dang broken foot.

I haven't talked much about the progress with my foot because to be honest, there hasn't been much progress.  I transitioned to tennis shoes when I flew home for the CFA at the end of May and right away I felt some pain.  I thought maybe it was the muscles adapting to not having the support of the boot, so I pushed through.  I did the prescribed 2 weeks of tennis shoes only and then transitioned into wearing flats at work.

But I couldn't ignore the fact that my foot still hurt.  And co-workers were commented on the fact that I appeared to be sort of limping.  So back to the doctor I went for another set of x-rays.  At my appointment on Wednesday, I found out that the stress fracture has not healed.  So now, in addition to wearing the boot, I am in a soft cast which provides more support and will hopefully speed up the healing process.  I left the doctor's office with a firm order to stop pushing it and just basically do as little as possible.

I managed to hold in the tears until I got home (at past appointments I have cried in the doctors office, which isn't embarrassing at all). It's just another blow in the midst of a series of blows.  It would really help me mentally and physically to be out there logging miles, and it'd be another way for me to make some more friends here as I had a running club that I intended to join.  But my return to running is just not happening anytime soon.  And I've had to accept that I will not be running the Chicago marathon this year.  I will go, of course, as I have friends flying in to run it.  But instead of being out on the course with them, I'll be on the sidelines cheering.  Which I know will be fun, but it's just not the same as being out there running. :(

I'm so beyond frustrated right now.  But right now I have to focus on what is in my control.  So while my foot heals, this is what I plan on doing:

1.  Switch up my supplements.  I have been taking Vitamin D, D3, and Calcium for well over 6 months now, but the coach of a local club I was looking at joining recommended a different D3 supplement that has a higher absorption rate, so I am going to pick that up this week.

2.  Pilates.  A co-worker referred me to her pilates instructor as she has had a great experience with her, and her rate for one-on-one sessions is reasonable.  So I am doing a free trial session with her this week.  The instructor also had a stress fracture in the past, so she understand that I can't do any lower body work.  She has assured me that there is plenty of core and upper body work that we can do while my foot is healing.

3.  Weight Watchers.  Due to the lack of activity over the last 3 months, I have put on 6-7 pounds.  In an effort to reverse that trend and get back to my "happy weight" I have decided to go back on Weight Watchers.  This really depresses me as I have been off the program for 3+ years and have stayed in a 3-5 pound range, but now that I can't manage my weight through my activity level, it's time to get back to tracking what I am putting in my body.  I feel like I eat healthy and in moderation, but I am clearly doing something wrong.  I lost 35+ pounds on WW 4 years ago, so hopefully I can take off the weight I've gained recently.  My body image is at a multi-year low right now, so hopefully losing some weight will also help in that regard.

In a word, I feel defeated right now.  I am mentally preparing myself for 4 more weeks in the boot and soft cast, but am hoping it is 2 weeks.  I have all these trips planned over the next 2 months and if I am still in the boot, it's really going to limit my ability to enjoy the cities I plan to visit.

So please send some healing thoughts/prayers my way... 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Another Layer of Sadness

I don't really want to write this post.  I know it probably sound melodramatic to say that and still write something...  but when things happen in my life that are critical moments, whether good or bad, I can't just gloss over them and pretend they didn't happen. 

I won't mince words and will get straight to the point.  Phil and I broke up over the weekend.  I'm sorry if some people close to me are reading about this for the first in this blog post, but news like this isn't the kind of thing you want to mass email/text out to friend and family.  Especially because right now I don't feel like talking about it or answering a lot of questions.  I just want to put it out there so people know and won't ask the 'so how are you and Phil doing?' question any longer.

I don't have it in me to write an eloquent, poetic post about the end of something that I was really excited about it.  Suffice it to say that between my cross-country move and other difficult things that we are both dealing with, the odds were stacked against us. I know distance can make the heart grow fonder, but it can also make the heart grow distant.  And ultimately being 1,000 miles apart and not knowing when/if you will live in the same city again was just too much for our relationship.  I've been clinging to the sense of normalcy that this relationship represented in the sea of change that has been my life this year, trying to keep this relationship alive, but it got to the point where I had to accept that I was holding onto the ghost of something that no longer existed in its previous form.  There were no unkind words spoken and no anger at the conclusion of our relationship, there was just an acknowledgement that what we have couldn't withstand living so far apart. 

All of this just feels like I am peeling back another layer of sadness in the onion of life.  While I realize that I have much to be thankful for and life could be so much worse, I am hoping this is the last disappointment I'll have to face for awhile because I have kind of had it with facing challenges lately.  Add in the fact that I'll weather this break-up in an area where I am lacking in the friend department, and the fact that I can't use my drug of choice, running, since I'm still recovering from my stress fracture, and well, it's just makes it all a little bit more difficult.

But I just keep telling myself that this, too, shall pass.  And I know it will. I'm going to try to stay as busy as possible to keep the sadness and tears (mostly) at bay.  And for now, I'm reflecting on this passage from Mary Anne Radmacher's book, Lean Forward into Your Life.

Growth and maturity exist largely in knowing when it is time to walk. Knowing when to leave.  There is a peculiar grace in knowing when it is time to say good-bye to a thing, a person, a system, a construct, a belief.

I often hear people speak of relationships at their conclusion as "failed."  Simply because a thing does not last until its anticipated conclusion, that does not make it a failure.  If a flower is crushed while still in bloom, it is not a failed flower. When a younger life is slashed off the planet by a knife or bullet, it doesn't mean that that life failed in its presence on the planet.  It is indeed a loss to those who remain, but it is not failure.  A relationship must be allowed its cycle and time.  Not all comings together are forever even though we bind them to that in our societal vocabulary.  The human being whose life is now lived far from my life and whose name is not a part of my name has his own story. And his parting was less a failure than a learning.

This will be a one post kind of week for me as I just don't feel like writing right now.  Luckily I have a business trip to Houston this week and a fun weekend trip to visit John and his family in Raleigh which will help on the keeping busy/distracted front.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Virtual Coffee Date

It's been awhile since I did a virtual coffee date, and I figured it'd be a good way to catch up on some of the thoughts and happenings of my life these days!

If we were having coffee today...

- I'd tell you that I am super excited that my mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law booked a girls trip to Myrtle Beach for a weekend in October.  The boys in our family have gone on countless hunting and fishing trips, but us girls have never gotten our act together and planned something.  Until now!  We have a beach front condo booked and I am SO excited for a weekend of girl time.  It's good to have another trip to look forward to (which is driving distance away for me).

- I'd also tell you that I booked a weekend trip to Asheville, NC last week on a whim.  I looked at my (mostly) empty calendar for July and felt like I had to plan something.  I found a reasonably priced condo on VRBO (which is a sight I am obsessed with perusing).  I'm really excited to check out Asheville as I've heard so many good things.  Since it's only about 100 miles away, I think this is an area that I will be visiting multiple times.  And hopefully by then I will be back to normal activity level and can do some hiking and join a group run there.

-I'd tell you that I had a work trip to Miami earlier this week and another one to Houston next week, and that work travel is SO MUCH more manageable now that I am not studying for the CFA.  It was a quick 24 hour trip to Miami, but it was fun to check out a new city.  I really like the sales rep in that office so I am going to try to go back so her and her husband can show me around.

- I'd tell you that I am super sensitive to comments about the CFA right now and that I have to remind myself that people have the best intentions.  For example, someone commented that a 2+ month wait for my test results "isn't too bad."  Those are fighting words, people.  2+ months in a LONG freaking time in my book.  For the record, the only appropriate response is something along the lines of "wow, that is a long wait."  I actually feel like I could write a little pamphlet entitled "Things You Shouldn't Say to a CFA Candidate." 

- I'd tell you that I have been reading some really great books lately, like The Secret Life of Cee Cee Wilkes, which was a total page turner.

- I'd tell you that I am thoroughly enjoying all of the free time I have.  I can't tell you how great it is to wake up on the weekend knowing I won't have to study, or to get home at the end of the day and to be able to do whatever I want.  Free time is such a luxury.  

- I'd tell you that I am looking forward to the upcoming weekend as it includes things like taking in Shakespeare in a park area and going to a matinee showing of The Spirit of the Marathon II (which I am SO excited about, but might make this whole not running thing even harder).

If we went out for coffee this morning, what would you share with me?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review: The Keeper of Secrets

When I saw this book the list of books available to review for TLC book tours, I was immediately drawn to it by it's title and the fact that it's set during WWII.  For those who know my reading preferences well, you know how much of a sucker I am for the WWII genre.  I don't think I will ever get sick of reading books set during that time.  The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas covers a span of years, from pre-WWII times to present day times.  It tells the story of a Jewish family from Berlin.  This family was particularly musical and had a prized collection of violins.  However, these prized violins were taken by the Nazi's when they rounded up the family to take them to a concentration camp.  The family assumed they were lost forever, along with many other possessions and their way of life.

Flash forward to present-day times, and the great-grandson, Daniel, is taking violin lessons.  Daniel clearly has inherited the musical abilities of his great grandfather, and is destined for great things.  He meets a maestro who learns more about Daniel's family, and the prized violins that were lost during the Nazi round up, and the maestro makes it his mission to track down the violins, as difficult as it may be.

I really loved this story.  As a lover of music, I also enjoyed the musical aspect of the story.  The author did a great job moving back and forth through different time periods and different sets of characters without confusing the reader.  There were of course sad parts as the family spent time in the concentration camp, Dachau.  I had visited Dachau on a trip to Germany in 2004 so reading about the horrors of life in that concentration camp brought back the memories of touring it and the awful feeling I had when I was there. 

If you enjoy WWII genre books, I recommend this one! 

Is there a particular genre that you are drawn to?  Do you play any musical instruments?  I play the piano and played the trumpet in high school.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for this review, and the opinions are my own.    

Monday, June 10, 2013

From the Land of Ma'am: My First Weekend of Freedom!

This weekend was so great, and was just what I needed.  After a string of study-intensive weekends (about 24 of them actually), a weekend free of studying was nothing short of blissful.  Yes, I still miss Minneapolis dearly, but by staying busy I was able to distract myself from those feelings of homesickness.

This weekend was great because...

- I woke up without an alarm and felt completely rested both Saturday and Sunday.  I have struggled with sleep as evidenced by this sleep ap map.  Clearly my sleep quality has really tanked since moving to Charlotte, but hopefully it starts to improve now!

- I had an awesome massage on Saturday morning.  I upgraded to a hot stone massage as the masseuse said it'd be more effective in working out the many knots in my upper back.  I was worried the heat of the stones might be too much for me, but it actually felt great. 

- The music festival I went to was a blast.  It was on a lake and the day was beautiful so we spent a lot of time in the water.  My black bean and corn salsa got lots of compliments and I hit off with the group of people I went with.  There is a talk of some of us doing a girls trip to Savannah in July - I really hope we can make that happen as that is on my bucket list of places to visit while I live in Charlotte.

- I went to the botanical gardens on Sunday afternoon which was a fun place to check out.  I would like to go back in the spring as a lot of the plants/flowers were past their peak season.  I really liked the green house - especially the cactus room!

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend!

What was the best part of your weekend?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Freedom, Sweet Freedom

Happy almost Friday, everyone!  I hope everyone is having a great week.  Despite the fact that I don't feel all that great about how the exam went, what I do feel great about is GETTING MY FREE TIME BACK.  Yes, ALL CAPS.  Words can't really express how exhausting it was to fit in all those study hours.  But now it is all behind me and I can enjoy life and spend time doing the things I enjoy.

When I was home last weekend, I got a lot of questions about how I like Charlotte thus far.  I obviously am not loving it here so far, but I also recognize that it's not fair to judge Charlotte based on my first 8 week here.  I mean, I have used just over a half a tank of gas in the span of 8+ weeks.  That is CRAZY.  Clearly I have not been getting out much.  Between being cooped up studying and having my mobility limited by the boot, I haven't really had the opportunity to give Charlotte a chance.

But that has to change, and it starts this week.  While I know I do not want to be here long term, the fact of the matter is that I am here.  And I can grumble and make a sport out of hating Charlotte, or I can accept it and make the most of my time here.  I'm choosing the latter of the two options.

I've got a full weekend on tap, most of which will be solo activities, but at least I am getting out and doing something!  Here is what I have planned!

- Tomorrow after work I am going to check out the Taste of Charlotte.  It's a street food festival featuring dishes from local Charlotte restaurants.  I only see a couple of GF things on the list of dishes, but I think it will still be fun to walk around and check it out.

- I'm finally going to hit up the library and get a library card.  I have been getting eBooks from the Minneapolis library but I really need to have access to a local library for books that are not available in eBook format.

- On Saturday morning I am getting a massage.  A thoughtful friend got me a gift certificate to a spa here as a birthday present when she found out about my move and I have been saving it for some post-CFA pampering!

- On Saturday afternoon, I am going to an outdoor music festival with a girl that I met through work.  I think it's a small event at a person's house or something like that, but it sounds like it will be a fun event. And it's by a lake! I am looking forward to meeting my friend's husband and some of their friends.

- On Sunday afternoon, I am going to check out some local Botanical Gardens.  I don't know much about flowers, but it sounds like a pretty place to walk around and check out.

So there you go!  I am really happy that I have a fairly full weekend on tap.  I am most definitely going to enjoy my first CFA-studying free weekend in 23 weeks!!!!  Hopefully I'll have a post-worthy weekend experience to share next week!

What do you have planned this weekend?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of May

This May recap is a little late as May got away from me.  I have to say, I am SO glad May is over and I am hopeful that June will be a better month.



Gone, Gone, Gone by Phillip Phillips - I think this song has such a catchy beat.


I actually read A LOT this month!  7 books!  Which is far more than I expected to considering I studied about 105 hours!  I guess that is what happens when you have very few social plans on the weekends and aren't into TV.  I really liked all of the books I read this month and would recommend most of them if you are looking for a summer read!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova - I reviewed this book in this post.  This is probably one of the best books I have read this year.

The Dinner by Herman Koch - This book is being marketed by the "Gone Girl" of Europe.  It is very messed up, so I can see why they are marketing the book that way.  The entire book encompasses one dinner between two brothers and their wives, with several flashbacks to previous times. The brothers are meeting to talk about a terrible thing that their sons have done and how they should handle it.  I will warn you - this book is dark and none of the characters are likable, so if you struggle with books like that, you might want to pass on this one.  But it was well written and engaging, and I enjoyed it.

The Keeper of Secrets by Julie Thomas - I will be reviewing this book next month for a TLC tour.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - I read Kite Runner years ago for a book club and loved it so much, I promptly bought this book when it came out.  And then I never got around to reading it!  6+ years after buying it, I finally pulled it off my shelf this month and am SO glad I did!  It was such a fantastic read.  It is very, very sad, but I think it's important to read books like this so we can understand the tragedies that are happening in other countries, like in this case, Afghanistan.  I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading Hosseini's 3rd book, which came out last month.

My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock - I really enjoyed this book.  It tells the story of Noelle Hancock, a celebrity blogger that has recently been laid off from her job. She realizes that she has been letting her fear about various things in life hold her back, and was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt's quote of "do one thing every day that scares you."  So she spends the year leading up to her 30th birthday facing her fears head on, and learns a lot about herself in the process.  I liked how she weaved in pertinent information about Eleanor Roosevelt in each chapter of the book.  It made me think about some the of the fears I've have and how I can combat them in the future.

The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen - This was another fun, light read. It is set in my new home state of NC, but in a fictional city.  My favorite quote from the book was: "Happiness is a risk. If you're not a little scared, then you're not doing it right."

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck - I would give this book 3.5 stars.  I read it because it was available for download through the Minneapolis library (I have yet to get a Charlotte library card...  I need to get on that). It tells the story of 4 different women who are connected by a wedding dress. I liked the way their stories were weaves together. There is a Christian element to the story, which I did not mind, but is something to be aware of if you plan to read this. 

I was able to return to biking part of the way through the month, but did not keep track of my miles.  It's not the same as running but it's nice to be able to do some cardio. Here's hoping I can return to running in mid-June.

I felt pretty uninspired when it came to outfits this month.  Having to wear the boot makes it hard to really want to put forth much effort as no matter what I wear, the boot is what draws the attention. Like it did when I wore this business suit...

I can't say I have high expectations for my outfits for this month either as it's hard to feel fashionable when you are rocking tennis shoes with work clothes...  but it is better than the boot!  Maybe by July I won't feel like fashion roadkill and will have blog-worthy outfits to post.

Monday, June 3, 2013

And Now I Wait

Well the test is over and behind me.  Despite the fact that I studied more hours for this level than any other level, I walked out of the exam feeling worse than I did for any other level.  In fact, I cried.  And they were not tears of joy.  They were tears of frustration and uncertainty.  And exhaustion, too.

So if you ask me how I think I did, my response is:  I just don't know.  Could I have passed?  Yes.  Could I have failed?  Yes.  The morning part of the exam was pretty bad.  I had no trouble finishing any of my practice tests within 3 hours, but I was furiously scribbling to finish on Saturday morning.  My heart my racing and my hands were shaking as I tried as hard as I could to get my thoughts down on the paper.  The afternoon went better.  It was tough and there were some questions that I had to completely guess on, but I could have pulled off a 70 (which is the alleged passing score).  I do find some comfort in the fact that the other people I talked to (including Phil) thought the morning was very difficult, and it is graded on a curve (to some extent) so it helps that others struggled as well.

And now I wait.  Results come out in about 10 weeks - so even slower than levels 1 and 2 since they have to hand grade all the essays.  I laid awake in bed on Saturday night until 3:30 am, running through some of the questions in my mind, over and over.  I am hoping that as the days pass, I analyze less and am able to just let it go.  After all, worrying and obsessing over it won't change anything.

On a positive note, it is so wonderful to get my free time back.  It was so great to get to the airport and not sit at the gate and study.  And I read for pleasure on the flight home.  I won't take those little things for granted.

Testing aside, it was really great to be home.  I saw friends, family, and Phil, and soaked up some time downtown on Friday afternoon.  Being home definitely affirmed the fact that I really need to get back to the Midwest.  There were definitely a lot of tears when I said good byes throughout the weekend, even though they are see you laters.  But I will be home for a week in just under 2 months.  I don't like to wish away time, but I am hoping that trip home comes fast.

I know the tone of this post is pretty down and defeated, but it's my reality.  It's really hard to put your heart and soul into something and walk away feeling so uncertain about the outcome.  I am trying to remind myself that pass or fail, life will go on.