Thursday, October 31, 2013

Music, Books, Miles, and Looks of October

*insert cliche comment about how freaking fast the month went*

October was a really great month for me and I have high expectations for November!


Your Man by Five For Fighting- I really love the new album by Five for Fighting and this is definitely one of my favorite tracks from the CD.  I like that the score of this song is piano-heavy.

Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus - Ok, I really dislike Miley Cyrus and her attention-seeking antics.  That said, I do really like this song.  I just pretend she isn't the person singing it when I hear it so that I can continue to like it.


Well October was another strong reading month as I read 8 books.  I also hit my goal of reading 52 books this year - way ahead of schedule!  Once again, instead of recapping the books, I'll share the rating I gave them on  The best book I read this month was Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

Her Fearful Symmtry by Audrey Niffenegger - 3 stars
Life Sentences by Laura Lippman - 2 stars
Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani - 3 stars
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown - 3 stars
The First Phone Call from Heaven by Mitch Albom - 3 stars
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - 4 stars
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie - 3 stars
Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg - 5 stars


Yep, still not running.  Still no plan for when I can return to running.  I am still biking, though, and started taking spin classes at the end of the month, which I am loving!  I really hope that my RA pain is completely under control by the end of November, but I keep saying this every month and it has not happened yet, so I probably should stop saying "maybe next month" because I just set myself up for disappointment. Anyways, while I am not running any miles, I did wrack up a lot of airline miles as I flew to Minneapolis, then to Chicago, then back to Charlotte and also did a day trip to Columbus.


I didn't wear any new outfits this month or anything I really loved, but I did buy a new coat!  I know, I know.  I don't really need more coats, but I could not resist.  I tried this on while shopping at the end of September and could not stop thinking about it.  And then Banana Republic sent me a 40% coupon which sealed the deal.  I ordered it and it arrived while I was in Chicago.  I adore it.  I know I will wear it to Paris, on trips home, and occasionally when it gets cold enough in Charlotte!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Things That Made My Weekend Wonderful

This weekend was a good one for me.  After being gone 14 out of the first 20 days of October, I was ready for a low key weekend in Charlotte.  I have learned that I need to plan out my weekends so that I don't have too much free time as I tend to get lonely easier in Charlotte.  This weekend was the perfect mix of having things to do, being productive, but also having some downtime to relax.

Here are of the things that made my weekend awesome.

1.  Dinner Party Deliciousness.  I needed to practice some Julia Child recipes in preparation for the big event in 2 weeks and luckily a couple I am friends with are open-minded eaters and were willing to help me eat the mushroom soup and nicoise salad that I prepared.  I bought a really high quality sushi-grade tuna so just seared it off.  I know rare fish is not for everyone, but I sure love it (and my guests did, too).  My guests brought some GF dinner rolls which were surprisingly good (GF bread usually kind of sucks) and to cap it off, I had vanilla ice cream and a selection of macarons for dessert.

2.  Spinning.  I am still not back to running, but I can do low impact exercises, like biking.  After biking on my own for a couple of months, I figured I was ready to check out a spin class - and I loved it!  I went to classes on Saturday and Sunday and both classes kicked my butt - in a good way.  I ended up buying some capri workout pants at Target, pictured below, which I love as I did not care for biking in shorts.

I look kind of mean in this photo, but I was exhausted after an hour long spin class.  I was exhausted but satisfied as it felt great to get my sweat on and be challenged.

3.  TLC.  My SIL from the Chicago area is an occupational therapist.  She is familiar with therapies that work well for people with RA and one of those therapies is paraffin wax treatments.  So she sent me my own at home kit.  My hands really bug me, especially my left hand but doing these paraffin treatments on a weekly basis seems to help!  I am lucky to have such a thoughtful SIL.

4.  Planner.  My new 2014 Erin Condren planner has arrived and I have started to fill it in.  Know what's awesome?  Not having to plan out a study schedule or write down exam day on the first weekend in June.  It's going to be awesome to actually enjoy the late winter/early spring season for a change.  I've already scheduled some things for January-March, including a trip to Charleston, SC to cheer on some run club friends who are running the marathon, a trip to Austin to visit my best friend Heidi, and a trip to Florida to visit the 4 sets of aunts & uncles who live or winter there!

5.  SBUX.  I treated myself to a PSL on Sunday morning after mass as I didn't get a chance to get one on Friday.  The PSL was awesome but can we all agree that it's just a little too early for holiday cups?  It's not even November!

Was there anything in particular that made your weekend wonderful?  One other thing that made my weekend wonderful was finding out that my best friend in Minneapolis got to bring her baby home from the NICU after he spent nearly 4 weeks there.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Inaugural Girls Trip: Myrtle Beach

I am finally getting around to recapping my girls trip to Myrtle Beach that was now over a week ago!  The idea of this trip was born over Easter weekend when I was spending one last weekend with my family before moving to Charlotte.  I think in an effort to cheer me up a bit, someone said - 'hey we'll come to Charlotte and do a girls trip in the area!'

And thus, the idea of a trip was born!  I have to say, I am pretty amazed that we pulled this off as it's not the first time we've talked about doing a girls trip.  The husbands were equally skeptical - but so happy when we actually booked our trips, reserved our hotel, and made it happen.

Myrtle Beach was chosen as a location as my parents have a time share which had an ocean-side location in Myrtle Beach.  To be quite honest, I had not heard the best things about Myrtle Beach (I had been told it was tacky/touristy/etc), but I will say it totally surpassed my expectations. We were there to spend time together, eat fresh seafood, and spend time by the ocean so for what we looking for Myrtle Beach was just great.

I'll let the pictures (mostly) do the talking!

Abby was the first one to fly in, so went to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, Cabo Fish Taco, which has been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.  I love their fish tacos!

The rest of the family flew in late Wednesday night, so after I picked them up we went directly to my apartment and straight to bed as we had a full day ahead of us!  On Thursday morning, we hit the road and arrived in Myrtle Beach around 2 pm.  After lunch, we hit the pool and beach!

The views of the ocean were amazing and it was relaxing for me to walk along the shore

On Friday morning, we woke up without alarms which is the best feeling ever.  I have been struggling with sleep lately, but luckily slept really well on this trip.  I started each morning with a workout in the hotel gym and then we had a leisurely breakfast on our balcony where we enjoyed this view!!

On Friday morning, we drove down to Pawley's Island which was just south of MB for some shopping.  I found some awesome olive oil and balsamic vinegar there so was happy with my purchases.  Abby and I found these hammocks so relaxed for a bit while the others wrapped up their shopping.

We had lunch at this cute bistro called Bistro 217.  A friend had recommended it to me and it did not disappoint!  It was one of my favorite meals of the trip!

We finally got a picture together!  On the left is my mom, sister Abby, and me.  On the right is my sister Emily, SIL Julie, and SIL Emily. (Yes, I have a sister AND SIL with the name Emily!)

We spent Friday afternoon relaxing on the beach, reading and walking along the ocean.

There are few things more relaxing that having your feet in the sand a good book in your hand
A storm started to blow in so we headed back to the room and got ready for dinner.

Since we were on the coast, we enjoyed a lot of fresh seafood.  It's tough to pick a favorite meal, but one of my favorites was this seafood muddle that I had on Friday night.  It has mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp in it.  Yum!

On Saturday morning it was overcast, so we did a little shopping, had lunch and then hit the pool when the cloudy weather had passed.

Abby and my 2 SILs - who are really more like sisters

On Saturday night, we had one last seafood dinner out before retiring for the night.  We knew we had an early morning on Sunday so we were in bed fairly early.

On Sunday morning, I snapped one last photo of the view from our room and we headed back to Charlotte as my mom, sister, and SIL had a 3 pm flight.

All in all, this vacation was really relaxing and wonderful.  It was nice to wake up without alarms and see where the day would take us.  I really enjoyed all the walks on the beach and hearing the crashing waves of the ocean. There was a lot of laughter and a lot of memories were made.  I'm sure we'll be telling stories from this trip for years to come!

I hope this is the first of many girls trips.  We are going to try to plan one every 2 years and select destinations where my parents can swap out their time share as that makes it a very affordable vacation for everyone.  Right now we are tossing around the idea of Miami in 2015!

Do you do girls trips with your family or friends?  My running trips that I tend to do almost yearly are definitely girl trips and they are so so fun. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: the Last Installment

Well, the 30 Days of Gratitude has come to an end.  This was a really good exercise for me as it really forced me to look for the good in life.  October has been an awesome month with all of my travels, so that helped me have a more positive attitude about this, but this past week has been tough for me as I had to say goodbye to my family when they left on Sunday/Monday which is always tough for me.  I so badly wanted to be the one getting dropped off at the airport instead of being the person who actually lives here in Charlotte, but it is what it is.

I also had a really busy week as I had evening commitments and a day trip to Columbus and whenever I get overtired, I struggle with things a bit more, so I am really happy that the weekend is here.

Without further ado, here are the final days of gratitude prompts:

Today I felt supported (by a person, the Universe, God) when my mom came with me to pick up the rental car and acknowledged that the road system in Charlotte really IS confusing.  It was nice to have someone say - yes, this is confusing, it's not just you.

When I look around my home, I'm grateful for the fact that I am financially able to live alone as that is the best living arrangement for me.  I'm also thankful for my love of reading and the many books that line the 6 shelves of the bookshelves in my home.  When you walk into my apartment, it's very apparent that I am a reader.

When I look around at the world, I'm grateful for the beauty of the world we live in, from the beautiful ocean beaches to the mountains to the simple beauty of a field of sunflowers to the beauty of iconic cities such as New York, Chicago, and Paris.  There is so much beauty out there, and for that I am grateful.

I love that I have the ability to daydream about my November trip to Paris and all the things I will see and do - and I am especially thankful that those daydreams will become reality!

I love it when I see animals in zoos.  Ha.  I am not really an animal person so don't really need or want to encounter them in my day to day life (I know this makes me sound like a cold person, I swear I'm not).

The nicest thing I felt on my skin today was the warm shower water after a good morning workout.

I'm grateful I'm learning to be a bit more kind to myself.  Practicing self-compassion is something I am working towards.

These gratitude posts were definitely good for me and the good news is that I have also kept up a daily gratitude journal where I find one positive thing to say about every day!  November is just around the corner, which means my 10 Days of Thanksgiving post series (feel free to participate!) is around the corner so this attitude of gratitude will continue to be a theme in my life!

What is one thing you are grateful for right now and what was the best moment of your week?  I am grateful for all of the travel opportunities I have had this month and the best part of my week was when my boss brought some macarons back for me when he went out for lunch yesterday.  It was so nice and so unexpected.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

10 Days Away: Chicago Part II

Well I better press on with the Chicago recap before we cross over into November (how crazy that October will be over in a week!).

The subtitle to these posts about Chicago could really be the time I really fell head-over-heels in love with Chicago.  I have always enjoyed my time in Chicago, but this time I REALLY enjoyed it.  While I spent part of the time vacationing there, I also worked part of the week (and have worked there about 4-5 times) so I feel like I have a somewhat realistic impression of what life in Chicago would be like - or as good of an impression as you can have while not actually living there!  We will see what the future holds, but I would be happy if it included a Minneapolis OR Chicago zip code.

Anyways, back to the post at hand.  On Saturday morning we woke up and headed up to the Lakeview area to meet up with Nora & her husband, and a bunch of other bloggers!  I had not seen Nora since her wedding last October so we were so overdue for some face time!  I am really glad she was able to detour into the city on the way home from her vacation so I could see her in person. 

So happy to be reunited!
Amber had never met Nora in person so this meet-up was a long time in the making as we have all been blog friends since 2009 I believe!

All the bloggers/tweeters that came to breakfast!  I was so busy catching up with Nora, I didn't get as much of a chance to talk to the others as I would have liked!
After brunch, we headed back into downtown, checked out a bakery, walked around Millennium park for the obligatory bean photos, and then headed over to the shores of Lake Michigan, where we utilized the Divvy bike share program to bike along the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Chicago is so pretty!

After our afternoon of adventures, we met up with Lauren and headed up to Nilsa's condo as she was kind enough to host us for some pre-marathon carb loading!  It was so fun to have a low key night in - and a homecooked meal which is something I especially appreciated after my string of meals out.  Nilsa and her husband have a soon-to-be-3-year old son, Gavin.  I sadly do not have any pictures to share, but it was definitely a very fun and delicious night.  They even had salted caramel GF cupcakes which were divine.  After dinner we headed back to the hotel and went to bed fairly early.

Sunday morning - race day - quickly came.  I got up with the girls and we snapped a photo together before they headed off to the starting corrals.

The morning of the race was another tough morning for me.  I was excited for my friends, but sad that I was not going to be running the race with them.  I let myself experience those feelings of sadness but quickly cheered myself up a bit by picking up a PSL - with whip - before heading out to meet up with Nilsa, my spectating partner in crime.

It was such a beautiful morning. I had tear-stained cheeks, but a smile on my face as I headed up to the 10 mile mark
 It really helped to meet up with Nilsa as my excitement over spending time with her offset my sad feelings.  We met up at mile 10 and cheered there for about 2 hours and were able to see Amber, Anais, Lauren, Lauren's husband, and some of my Minneapolis run club friends!  Finding faces in a crowd of 40,000+ runners was difficult at times!

After seeing everyone at mile 10, Nilsa and I hopped onto the Divvy bikes and biked down to mile 15 - I left her there and proceeded onto mile 20 as she was hoping to meet up with Amber to run miles 15-20 with her (which sadly didn't end up working out as we just missed Amber).

I heart the divvy bike system - such a great and inexpensive way to get around!
I made it to mile 20 with just minutes to spare before Anais came through - but she was all smiles!

Amber was maybe 10 minutes behind her so I did not have to wait long, and she was also smiling and in good spirits! 

 After that I met up with Nilsa at an L station and we headed down to Millennium park to meet up with Amber and Anais at the finish.  It was another great opportunity to get some more one-on-one time with Nilsa.  We talked a lot about what it would be like if I moved to Chicago - she will definitely be an amazing resource when/if that happens!

The rest of Sunday was fairly low key.  We enjoyed some Garrett's popcorn (I love that stuff!) and then went to a pizza place for dinner that served Chicago-style deep dish pizza - and also had a GF option for me!  Yea!

Of course, Monday morning came too fast, which meant I had to say my good byes to Amber and Anais.  I walked to the train station and snapped one last photo of Chicago.

I know that there is a widely held belief that you should be able to be happy anywhere, but I truly believe that there are some cities where it's easier to be happy.  Chicago is one of those cities for me.  I love that it's a large city with a great public transit system and a tangible buzz, but it also has great outdoor spaces and access to water.  Every time I visit Chicago, it sort of feels like coming home - which is a feeling I never have had and honestly never will have about Charlotte.  That's not a knock against Charlotte - it's knowing who I am and what I value in a city.  And I certainly value what Chicago has to offer.

Are there other cities you visit that you feel you could call home?  Besides Minneapolis, I also feel like I could call Chicago, New York, and Paris home as they all have a feeling of 'rightness' when I visit them.  Of that list, the only places I would realistically call home are Minneapolis and Chicago as I know I am meant to live in the Midwest.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why I Loved Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

I feel like I was among the last kids on the block to hear about Brene Brown.  But luckily I have friends like Amy and Lauren who mentioned her work on their blogs which sparked my curiosity and led me to borrow her book, Daring Greatly, from the library in September.  It's a great book.  Those who liked Cheryl Strayed Tiny Beautiful Things or Glennon Melton's Carry On Warrior will also enjoy this book.  It's all about letting down your guard and showing your vulnerability.

I borrowed this book from the library, but it's one that I'll definitely be picking up for my collection as it's the kind of book I know I would reference again.  Here are a selection of passages that illustrate why I loved this book.

Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack.  Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking.  We spend inordinate amounts of time calculating how much we have, want, and don't have, and how much everyone else has, needs, and wants.  What makes this constant assessing and comparing so self-deating is that we are often comparing our lives, our marriages, our families, and our communities to unattainable, media-driven visions of perfection, or we've holding up our reality again our own fictional account of how great someone else has it.

Yet another reminder to stop comparing our lives to others.  We don't know the half of it most of the time, so comparing is such a waste of time.

I did believe that I could opt out of feeling vulnerable, so when it happened - when the phone rang with unimaginable news; or when i was scared; or when I loved so fiercely that rather than feeling gratitude and joy I could only prepare for loss - I controlled things. I managed situations and micro-managed the people around me.  I performed until there was no energy left to feel.  I made what was uncertain certain, no matter what the cost.  I stayed so busy that the truth of my hurting and my fear could never catch up.  I looked brave on the outside and felt scared on the inside.

Yep, one of my defenses against dealing with things is staying so busy and traveling that I don't have time to sit down and process things happening in my life.  I pretty much have trips planned 2 weekends/month through February 2014...  it's my defense against dealing with living in Charlotte, and it works for me, but eventually I am probably going to have to slow down and deal with some of the emotions I am trying to stave off by traveling so much.

"You're not a bad person.  You're a very good person who bad things have happened to.  Besides, the world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters.  We've all got both light and dark inside us.  What matters is the part we choose to act on.  That's who we really are."

This is a quote from a Harry Potter book that she shared that is so relevant to me.  Sometimes I feel bad about how ragey I feel about living in Charlotte.  But I need to remember that we all have some dark parts inside of us and what matters most is not acting on them.  I will admit that I totally act on the ragey thoughts when driving in Charlotte as it brings out Lisa Dotzenrage, but oh well.  We all have our faults.

Don't try to win over the haters; you are not the jackass whisperer.

Yes.  This.

What is the last book you read that really inspired you or made you think about your life differently?

Monday, October 21, 2013

10 Days Away: Chicago Part I

Greetings and Happy Monday!  I had a fabulous getaway with my mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law!  Time by the ocean was just what my soul needed.  But more on that later - I'm so behind on life and trip recaps, I need to share my Chicago experience before moving onto my Myrtle Beach getaway!!

Since I spent almost a full week in Chicago, I decided to break this up into two posts!  When I last left off, I had left Minneapolis after 4 fabulous days there.  I flew into Chicago on a Tuesday night, worked Wednesday and Thursdays and then had Friday-Monday morning to enjoy with my friends that were flying in to run the Chicago marathon.  This trip was a long time in the making as Amber, Lauren, Anais, and I decided that our next big marathon would be the Chicago marathon.  The trip obviously ended up being a very different trip for me than I imagined, but I still had a wonderful time.  To be completely honest, there were some very difficult moments on this trip for me, which is to be expected as I am still mourning the fact that running isn't part of my life, probably won't be for awhile, and the fact that it's pretty much out of the question for me to run another marathon.  But - I still had an amazing time as I was surrounded by good friends and in one of my favorite cities!

Anyways back to the recap at hand - I worked Wednesday and Thursday and was able to meet up with different friends that live in the Chicago area both nights.  After meeting a friend for tea on Thursday, I headed out for dinner and ended up checking out Rick Bayless's quick-service cafe, Xoco, which was SO good.  After a string of busy work days, it was nice to have a quiet dinner, read a book, and walk around Chicago.

The view walking along West Wacker Drive.

Chips & salsa, a delicious seafood soup, and a walk along Michigan Avenue
Amber & Anais got in around 10:30 on Thursday night and were starving so we headed to a local pub.  We were so excited to all be together, we totally forgot to take any pictures!  We were all pretty tired at this point, so we headed back to the hotel as we had a full day on Friday!

On Friday morning we got up, grabbed lattes at Starbucks, and headed to the Nike store to catch the shuttle to the marathon expo.  It was a beautiful fall day!

Stripes + lattes all around = a good morning

We hopped onto the shuttle to the marathon and met up with Lauren and Pete.  The expo was MASSIVE but so well organized.  It was definitely the best race expo I have been to.  Even though I was not running the marathon, I picked up my packet as I figured I might as well get my t-shirt.

What is not but might have been

Honestly I had been doing pretty well with the whole not being able to run the marathon emotions.  Until I got to the expo.  It was hard and there were some tears.  Luckily I had good friends around me to offer up hugs and words of encouragement.  They didn't make me feel bad for being so sad about not being able to run.  I rallied fairly quickly, though, and still had fun walking around the expo.

After the expo, we grabbed a quick lunch and headed over to the Chicago River for the Chicago Architectural Foundation architectural riverboat tour.  This is something I had wanted to do for years, but the weather has never cooperated or I haven't had enough time on past trips.  Luckily, the weather was perfect on this trip as it was sunny and 75 degrees!  

View from where we started the tour
 I highly recommend this tour as we saw so much of the city and I learned so much about the various skyscrapers and buildings.  Also, as a person who is considering a future move to Chicago, it was interesting to learn more about the different neighborhoods and see them from a different perspective.

After the tour, we grabbed some tea and relaxed a bit before heading up to the Lakeview area for a Thai dinner and the Blue Man Group show, which was very entertaining and a fun thing to do while in Chicago.  Our first full day together in Chicago was amazing, but the days only seemed to get better and better!  Stay tuned for more...

Have you been to Chicago? If so, what is your favorite thing to do there?  I loved the architectural tour, but also love just walking around and of course checking out the bean!

Friday, October 18, 2013

30 Day of Gratitude: Weeks 3 and 4

Happy Friday, and greetings from Myrtle Beach!  I am in the midst of my getaway with my mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law, but am already a week behind on my gratitude posts, so didn't want to get even further behind.

I have to say, participating in this challenge has been really good for me.  I feel like I have felt much more upbeat this month.  Granted, I have done a lot of fun traveling and seen a lot of family and friends, which obviously helps, but I also think practicing an attitude of gratitude has helped as well.

The best song I heard today was Your Man by Five For Fighting. This is my new favorite song and I listen to it a lot. 

When I look inside my closet, I'm grateful for the fact that I have figured out how to dress my body and feel good in what I wear.  I'm also grateful that Banana Republic sends me so many 40% off coupons as it's helped me stock my closet with high quality clothes that I love.

I'm lucky that I'm smart enough to figure out how to study for and pass the CFA exams.  I don't like to put lucky and the CFA in the same sentence, but I guess I am lucky that I built the way I am (i.e. very disciplined).

In this moment, the things I love most about my friends are that they are so supportive, always there for me, give me their honest opinion on things, and make me smile and laugh, among countless other things.

I'm grateful that my hands can hold the small hands of my nephews and friends children.  I am so thankful for all the kids in my life.

The prettiest thing I saw today was the view of the Chicago River when I walked along West Wacker Drive on the way to my hotel.

When I look in the mirror, I'm grateful for the fact that I have reached a point where for the most part, I like what I see.

Three of my most prized possessions are a teacup/saucer my grandma gave me, a wishbone necklace my cousin gave me (which was my CFA good luck charm), and the journal my mom kept of my senior year of high school with her thoughts, reflections, and advice.  It's the most special gift I have ever received, and was a total surprise.

I'm grateful that my eyes let me see all the good things about marathon day.  It was a hard day for me as I was signed up to run it, and I struggled initially, but once I got out on the course, my eyes were opened to the excitement of the day and I still had a blast - even if I participated in a different way than I had imagined when I planned the marathon trip.

The things I would never change about myself include my strong sense of faith, my love of numbers and reading, my trait of being a type-A planner, and my love for traveling.

The best thing I tasted today was the grilled salmon that I had the business meeting lunch I attended.

I love going online to connect with others who I would not have had the opportunity to meet if not for blogging.  I have formed so many friendships with people scattered across the globe - I can't imagine my life without them.

I'm grateful for the way these things feel:a warm mug of coffee in my hands, a hug from a family member or friend, the comfort of crawling into my comfy bed at the end of the day, and the feeling at the end of a long run (hopefully I'll get to experience that feeling again in 2014).

I hope everyone has a great weekend!  I am having the best time with my mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law.  I feel so blessed that we get to spend an entire weekend together!  Life is good.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

10 Days Away: Minneapolis

Happy Wednesday, everyone!  Even though I just got back from my 10 day trip to Minneapolis/Chicago on Monday afternoon, I am packing my bags again and will be heading to the coast with my family tomorrow morning.  Phew!  October is going to be a whirlwind!!  No complaints here as it's all fun stuff.

But before time escapes from me, I wanted to start to recap my 10 days away.  Even though 10 days seemed like a long time to be gone, it actually went by remarkably fast!  I started off my trip by flying into Minneapolis 2 Fridays ago.  I had been looking forward to this weekend for quite awhile as the purpose of my trip was my cousin's wedding!  This is the daughter of my "Julia Child aunt & uncle" aka my St. Paul parents.  I've always been close to my all my aunts and uncles, but since moving to Minneapolis 10 years ago, I became very close to this family because I had the opportunity to spend more time with them.  I've spent holidays with them, we've of course done Julia Child night, and they participated in my ritualistic pre- and post-CFA dinners.  So I was VERY excited for my cousin's wedding as the closer you are to the couple getting married, the more special and fun it is to attend!

I flew in Friday night and met my parents at their hotel downtown.  I had non-stop family fun from Friday night through Sunday morning, and it was wonderful. 

My Saturday morning looked like this - a latte and time with 2 of my nephews!

It was nice to have some time in downtown Minneapolis as I got to show my parents more of the city center, which is an area they hadn't spent much time in.  We walked to brunch, did some shopping (well my mom and I did, we let my dad skip out on that) and of course hit up my favorite macaron shop!!

Yum!  A trip home isn't complete without some macarons.  We also tried a homemade GF oreo which was really yummy!

After an afternoon of family time, it was time for the big event!  The wedding was held at a beautiful mansion close to downtown Minneapolis.  It was such a beautiful event and venue.  I've never seen my cousin so happy; she definitely found her soul mate.  I had a great time chatting with family and dancing with my nephews!  Well, Andrew & James (pictured top left) would dance with me, Matthew (pictured bottom right) was a solo show on the dance floor!

The evening came and went incredibly fast.  It was a late night, followed by an early morning as I spectated the Twin Cities marathon the following morning.  I got to the start early enough to snap a shot of the runners from my running club.  I did have a tough moment when I walked into the metrodome where the runners all congregate as being around a marathon is hard for me as it's pretty unlikely that I will ever be able to run one again.  But the sadness went away quickly when I saw the people from my running club who were racing that day.

After wishing them all luck, my coach and I headed out to mile 17 to spectate.  I knew quite a few people running it so it was especially fun to cheer the runners on. The Twin Cities course is so beautiful, I snapped this shot from the area where we were spectating.

After the marathon, I met some friends for coffee and had dinner with Phil, so Sunday was a full day. 

I worked in the Minneapolis office on Monday and ended up having an unexpected free night that evening (which is a rare occasion on these trips home... they tend to be incredibly over-planned) and it was a beautiful night, so I laced up my tennis shoes and went for a walk through my old neighborhood.  It was a beautiful night and was a little bittersweet for me to walk through an area that I used to, but no longer, call home.

I worked in the office on Tuesday and then flew out to Chicago on Tuesday evening.

As usual, my time at home was wonderful.  I am thankful for the opportunities I have had to come home, but it is also a bittersweet experience because there is such a feeling of impermanence on these trips home.  While I am home, I try not to think about the fact that each trip will come to an end but it is easier said than done.  I also struggle with feelings of guilt over not seeing as many people as I would like.  I know I need to accept that I can't do everything and see everyone, but it's still hard as I need to balance time with family, friend, and time spent networking, and on this trip I had to fit in time at work as well.

But all that aside, I had a fabulous 4 days in Minneapolis.  And luckily I had 5 full days in Chicago ahead of me, so flying away from Minneapolis wasn't as difficult as it usually is... But my Chicago recap will have to wait until next week when I am back from Myrtle Beach!

If you have moved away from home, do you struggle to fit it all in when you return for a visit?  I know I put entirely too much pressure on myself and end up over-scheduling but I also think/hope this is a temporary phase and I will be back home, or closer to home, by next fall.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tiny Beautiful Things: Letter to Her Younger Self

Happy Monday!  I hope you all had a great weekend.  Mine was awesome - but more on that later this week.  I wanted to do one last post on some of the wisdom gleaned from Cheryl Strayed book, "Tiny Beautiful Things."  If you haven't checked it out yet, I highly recommend it!

In the final column in Strayed's book, at the prompting of a reader, she shares a letter she would have written to her 20-something self.  Here are a couple of exerpts that really hit home with me:

Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.

There she goes, talking about acceptance again, which is clearly something I really need to continue to ruminate upon.  I struggle the most with the concept of letting go, meaning letting go of the fact that my life right now is so not what I have ever pictured.  I never pictured that running wouldn't be part of my life.  I never pictured that I'd be taking a chemotherapy drug to treat a chronic illness.  I never pictured I'd live in Charlotte, NC.  As Strayed says, most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be - and that is ok.

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue.

Yes to all of this.  I love my job.  I worked VERY hard to earn the CFA designation, but my career is not my life.  This is something I had to learn in my 20s.  My career is great, but it is not the main source of fulfillment in my life, nor will it ever be. 

Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you.

This last section is one of my favorites from the entire book.  I think we are all guilty of drawing assumptions about other's lives based on what we see or on how we perceive what we see.  But we really don't know what people's lives are really like.  I try not to assume that I know how easy others' lives are, and I ask the same of them, because what we show or say or write is only the tip of the iceberg of life.  When I am tempted to think someone else has it easy or lives an effortless life, I remind myself of this quote:  "Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." 

What would you tell your 20-something self?  I would tell her to embrace her nerdy, number-loving nature.  I'd tell her that she would find the right field of work.  I'd tell her that she is entirely too hard on herself but that will probably take a lifetime to work on that tendency.  I'd tell her how much she is going to fall in love with Paris.

Monday, October 7, 2013

6 months

It is hard to believe it, but today marks 6 months since I moved to Charlotte.  In some ways, the move feels so long ago, but in other ways it feels like not much time has passed.  When I think back to that day when I landed in Charlotte, I want to reach back through time and give myself a good, long hug.  I still vividly remember the emotions of that day, from waking up in tears, the horrible goodbye to Phil at the airport (I cried so hard, the TSA agent brought me a box of kleenex when I went through security), and the silent tears that wouldn't seem to stop on my flights.

I am really proud of how far I have come in the last 6 months.  I would say the last 6 months have probably been the toughest 6 months of my life.  From the stress fractures to the CFA stress to the break-up to my aunt passing away to my RA diagnosis, a lot of things have happened that would have been difficult to deal with on my home turf.  But I faced it all in a place that is foreign to me and came out on the other side of it all.  My progress here has certainly not been linear.  It's one step forward, two steps back, but I've made progress.

Over the past 6 months, I have had some people tell me that I am so brave and I am handling this so well.  Sometimes when people say this, I want to convince them otherwise.  I want to tell they can't possibly be seeing me for what I am because I would have never used the word brave to describe myself; I would never say I have handled this move well.  But I guess one of the gifts of friendship is that friends see things in us that we don't allow ourselves to see or maybe they have more realistic expectations.  I can see now that I have been brave.  I have been scared and sad and mad and wrought with anxiety at different points, but I can see now that I can feel all of those things and still be brave.

These days, I am trying to shift my perspective and think of my time in Charlotte as a study abroad experience.  I can observe the culture and notice things I like and don't like, but I don't have to embrace the culture and make it my own because I will not make my permanent home here.  I am hoping this perspective will help me get a little less upset about the things that bother me.

My coping mechanism has certainly been traveling.  Between work travel and traveling for pleasure, I am gone at least 2 weekends a month and several work days.  This schedule works for me and will help me get through my time here.  I have had people tell me they are envious or jealous of my travels - I bite my tongue when I hear this, but what I want to say is - yes, I am fortunate to be able to travel so much, but please don't be jealous. I would trade lives and live in a place I don't dislike and had ample friends/family to see in exchange for all the travel I am doing.  That is truly the case.  I'd so much rather be living in Minneapolis or Chicago and not racking up airline miles.  But until that is the case, I will hop on a plane every other weekend to escape this city.

So here's to the next 6 months.  I hope and believe they will be easier and less issue-free than the first 6 were.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

30 Days of Gratitude: Week 2

Happy Friday!  I am back with my 2nd installment of my answers to the 30 Days of Gratitude prompts!  I'm joining Nilsa this month in answering these prompts.  You can see her answers here!

The best thing I smelled today was the fresh mountain air!

One of the memories I'm most grateful for is the time I spent with my grandpa at his shop that was next door to my house when I was growing up.  My grandpa and his brothers would go there daily to rebuild engines and I got to traipse over there daily and keep them company.  I'd talk their ears off, marvel them with my ability to count to 10 in spanish (thanks to Sesame Street) and eat all their lemon drops.  Most days they would take me with them when they went uptown for their coffee break.  My grandpa was such as special person in my life, I feel so lucky that I got to spend all this quality time with him at such a young age.

Thank goodness someone taught me how to balance my checkbook and manage my finance. I have my parents to thank for this. They definitely emphasized the importance of being financially responsible and ensuring that my credit score remained high. I got my first checkbook when I was 16 and that first month my mom taught me how to reconcile my bank statement.  16 years later, I have not missed a month and balance it to the penny.  I am just a tad bit anal when it comes to finances.  ;)

The strongest part of my body in this moment is probably my brain.  Since I am still recovering from my stress fracture/RA pain, I am not as active as I once was so I feel weak muscularly.  But my brain?  My brain is quite strong and has been really 'worked over' this past year between CFA studying and being challenged at work.

Even after a rough day, the things I'm most grateful for at work are the fact that I actually do really love what I do, have one good friend on my team, and feel challenged every single day.

I'm grateful that my legs carry me all the places I need to go.  This was not the case this summer when I was stuck in the boot so I REALLY appreciate being able to walk to lunch or the library/post office/etc now that I'm healthier.

I felt a little burst of energy today when I woke up knowing that I FLY HOME TODAY.  Eeks, so excited to see family/friends!

I will be (mostly) absent from this space for the next week as I fly to Minneapolis today, stay there until Tuesday, then fly to Chicago and am there for almost a week as I will be working in that office and meeting up with some of my most favorite people for the Chicago marathon weekend!!!!!  So I will be gone for 9 days straight!  Woo hoo!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Music, Books, Miles and Looks of September

I am going to go ahead and say September was my best month of the year so far.  It certainly wasn't without its challenges as I started my RA drug and still have RA pain, but it included trips to Pittsburgh and back home, and a fun day of hiking!


What If by Five for Fighting - I love this band so am so happy they have a new album out.  This song was a pre-release that wasn't on the album.  I love the message of the song which is - what would happen if we put ourselves in our people's shoes?  I love this band because their songs tend to be piano-heavy.

Wake Me Up by Avicii - I love the beat of this song.  I think it's virtually impossible not to tap your foot along to it.  It's another song I relate to, which shouldn't be surprising given the chorus:  "So wake me up when it's all over, when I'm wiser and I'm older.  All this time I was finding myself and I didn't know I was lost."

This was the month where I read ALL the books - 10 in fact.  That is a crazy amount of books for me to read, but I had 2 mostly unplanned weekends in Charlotte and lots of flights, 2 of which had layovers.  I am going to skip the book recap and will instead tell you how many stars I gave each book on Goodreads.  If you want to read my thoughts on these books, check out my Goodreads page!

Looking for me by Beth Hoffman  - 4 stars
Together Tea by Marjan Kamali - 5 stars
The Best of Us by Sarah Pekkanen  - 2 stars
The Wednesday Daughters by Meg Waite Clayton - 2 stars
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini - 5 stars
Carly's Gift by Georgia Bockoven - 3 stars
The Last Camelia by Sarah Jio - 3 stars
The History of Us by Leah Stewart - 4 stars
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown  - 5 stars
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen - 3 stars

Well I am not running, but I am able to bike, use the elliptical for short work outs, and I did some hiking.  I don't track my mileage because unless I am running, the miles just don't mean anything to me, honestly.  I doubt running will be part of my month in October but maybe by November I'll be back at it!  I just need my RA pain to really go away before this happens.

I had actually had quite a few looks I liked this month - which is probably because it was the first month that I spent out of the boot and the tennis shoes only restriction was lifted mid-month!  It's a lot easier to feel good about how I look now that I'm not schlepping around a boot or limited to tennis shoes only!

First look - an oldie, but a goodie.  I love that mustard color!

2nd look - my new favorite dress, which I got at White House Black Market.  I am going to commit a fashion faux pas and wear this dress again this coming weekend at my cousin's wedding because I love it and it's one of the few dresses I own that isn't "businessy."

3rd look - I usually stayed away from skirts, but I am starting to like them again.  I like the cleaness of this look, both of which are Banana Republic pieces I've owned for 3+ years.  That is case and point for why I shop there.  Their clothes last for SO LONG.

4th look - Another dress from White House Black Market which is super comfy!  I love that is has sleeves as I get so cold in my office which feels like an ice box.  Also, Lori and I managed to get a photo together when we had dinner last week!  Yea!  It was SO good to catch up with her!!

I've gotten a couple of questions about whether or how or why I've lost weight lately.  I have lost weight, partially due to joining weight watchers this summer and honestly, due to stress.  I'm not a big fan of the scale so I only weigh myself when I attend WW meetings, but I am happy to say I'm back at a weight where I feel comfortable in my body and good about myself.  Being active again is really helping, too.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: Carly's Gift

From Goodreads:

What's in the past is over and done with . . . or is it?

Sixteen years ago Carly Hargrove made a decision that would irrevocably alter her life. With little comprehension of the life-long consequences of her actions, she trades her own future happiness to protect the man she's loved since kindergarten, David Montgomery.

With an ocean separating them, Carly builds a life for herself without David. She's the mother of three, lives in a beautiful house, and is married to a man who comes home every night—even if most of those nights he drinks too much. What more could she want?

Her answer arrives on a cold fall day when David shows up at her door. In town for his father's funeral, he has come to see Carly one last time, hoping to rid himself of the anger that still consumes him.

Instead, he is drawn into a web of secrets that rekindles the fierce need he once felt to protect Carly. He becomes caught up in her life in a way he never could have imagined—a way that will bind him to her forever.

My thoughts on the book:

I really enjoyed this book.  I wouldn't classify it as chick lit because the characters had more depth and the situations addressed in the book were more complex, but it tended towards that sort of genre.  I was engaged in the book early on as I was curious about the choice Carly had made all those years ago as it is not revealed until you are quite a ways into the book. 

In summary, it was a fast and engaging book. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads.

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.