Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

Last year at this time I was enjoying 75+ degree temperatures under the California sun. So far this week I’ve run some errands and spent significant amounts of time curled on the couch under my new blanket watching my new favorite show (both Christmas gifts). It’s far from the sandy beaches of Manhattan Beach, California, but I’ll still take it.

Unfortunately it won’t be too long before I have to come back to reality. We’ll start a new year in just a couple of days, and I’ll be back to work a couple days after that.

I like the refreshing feeling of getting to “start over” as a new year begins, but admittedly that can get a bit cliché at times. As December 31st approaches every year, there’s always so much talk about what has happened in the previous year and what “resolutions” you’re setting for the year ahead. When you think about it, is there really any sort of dramatic shift when you wake up on January 1st? Just because the year changed doesn’t mean that everything that was going on in life yesterday did, too.  

But, if celebrating a new year is what it takes to gain a new perspective, to find inspiration or motivation to do things you have your heart set on, then I guess that’s as good a reason as any!

I’m not going into 2011 with too many goals, plans, or expectations, but in the spirit of the season, I’ll try and come up with a few (or 10).
  1. Turn another year older. There’s no avoiding it; it happens every year. This year, it’s an odd number—not my favorite—but honestly, I’m ok with it. So far, my age doesn’t scare me. Ask me again in 3 years.
  2. Graduate! Technically, I did this in 2010. But in 2011, I’ll get to attend our commencement ceremony, so it will feel a little more real that I finally finished my MBA.
  3. Step up my workouts. I’m getting to the point where my standard workouts don’t always challenge me the way I want them to. Hoping to be a little more bold in 2011 and maybe try some classes or run a 5K.
  4. Go back to school? This is a big question mark, but I’m seriously considering getting my real estate license in 2011. Or at least taking the first class. We’ll see!
  5. Write. I’ve got lots to say. Now that I’m done with graduate school, next year would be a great time to focus on my hobby of writing (in addition to the obligatory writing I do everyday for my job).
  6. Try skiing…again. My first attempt at skiing was sad, to say the least. I’m eager to give it another shot though. With how much snow we’ve had already, I’d say it’s a good time to get out there and try.
  7. Plan a vacation? I won’t likely be going on a vacation in 2011, but maybe I can plan ahead!
  8. Plant a garden. Since we bought this house in the spring, and we were busy getting settled most of the summer, we missed out on a chance to liven up our landscaping. Hoping 2011 will be a great time to spice up the yard!
  9. Shop early. Every Christmas I swear I'm gong to start my shopping early, and every year I'm undoubtedly among the crowds two days before the holiday. Next year - I am determined to change that! 
  10. Win the lottery. Hey – it could happen! Hah!
Nothing too exciting, but I’m trying to be realistic here. What are you hoping for in 2011?

Monday, December 27, 2010

A shy girl goes public

A few months back I was sitting at home paging through the latest issue of Shape magazine. As a subscriber, it’s been a longtime favorite of mine, especially as I’ve gotten more in shape (no pun intended) in recent years. So when that issue had a tiny little call for real weight loss success stories, I decided to throw my story out there, just for fun.

See I tend to be a pretty shy person, so it surprises me still today that I even submitted my information, but I apparently discovered some confidence that day. I thought very little of it as time passed. But then, about a month later, I got an email from an editorial assistant at the magazine. They requested some more info and I obliged. Over the next couple of weeks I continued to communicate back and forth with various people on their editorial staff. They asked if I would be part of a 6-person feature story they were going to run in their January issue.

I grew more and more nervous but agreed, and things progressed pretty quickly. Within 2 weeks they had interviewed me and had sent a photographer and makeup/hairstylist to my house. Then, just last week, the magazine hit newsstands. It’s very strange to see my face—and my “before” picture—in a magazine as widely known as Shape. I was honored to be featured in it. I almost feel like a fraud sometimes, like my story isn’t worthy. But it is real. And looking back at before pictures reminds me of how far I’ve come, especially on days when I start to doubt it.

Their PR staff also pitches stories like those in their January issue to local news outlets, so our neighborhood paper ran a small story recapping the Shape article. And tomorrow, I’m having my photo taken for a story they’re planning to run in the Star Tribune. For whatever reason, the pictures make me the most nervous. So to be honest – I’m most looking forward to having that part over with.

But shy or not – I got myself into this. And people have been so nice about it. No one looks at it with as critical an eye as myself. Most people are simply happy for me, proud of me, and excited for me. So thank you to everyone who has done that. You made this experience much more enjoyable, because you showed me that putting yourself out there for the world to see isn’t as scary as it seems. And maybe that’s a good trial run for seeing my name in print more often in the future (maybe behind the words this time). A girl can dream!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10: Christmas Break!

My 11 day vacation from work starts right now. Cue the huge sigh of relief.

I really love my job. I’ve said it before. But it’s still exciting to have some time away to do absolutely nothing. Unlike last year, there’s no warm destination in store, but I’m sure I’ll still find plenty of relaxation and relief in these next 11 days nonetheless.

And that’s why today’s top 10 covers the top things I’m hoping to accomplish during my stay-cation.

  1. Give the house a deep clean. Put the clutter away—not just hidden but in its rightful place!
  2. Work out at times other than the crack of dawn. And because I won’t have to rush off to work when I’m done, I’m hoping to stretch those workouts a little longer, too.
  3. Spend time with family. One of my favorite parts of the holidays! And my mom and I both have next week off, so there’s plenty of time for that.
  4. See a movie, or a few. Doesn’t matter if it’s in a theater or rented, but I’ve been craving a great flick—preferably one I haven’t seen.
  5. Do some shopping. Part of this is due to my procrastination and need to get some last minute Christmas gifts, but I also hope to browse some after-Christmas sales next week.
  6. Sleep. There’s nothing like waking up without an alarm!
  7. Finish a photo shoot. This story is coming later – I’ve been meaning to post about it for a while, and now that it’s official, I guess it’s ok to do so (watch for it in the next couple days). Anyway, it involves having my picture taken one last time. Quite frankly, I’m more excited to get this over with than actually do it.
  8. Catch up on things I’ve needed to do for a while. Oliver needs a haircut. The car needs an oil change. I finally scheduled my 6-month dentist appointment. Being off work makes all of this much easier!
  9. Get organized. Want to start 2011 off on the right foot, so hoping to get everything in order to make that possible.
  10. And finally—just relax!

I hope you all have a great holiday!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Daydream believer

I’m a bit of a daydreamer sometimes. I enjoy thinking about things that make me happy—even if at times they’re unrealistic. Isn’t that what daydreaming is all about anyway?

So forgive me if I like to stop for a second and envision myself traipsing around Europe or some other foreign country for weeks on end with money as no object.

Yesterday it was a song on the radio that prompted my latest session. It was a song I’ve always envisioned being part of my wedding. Suddenly I pictured our brothers all dressed up in tuxes, Sean surrounded by them and his closest friends. Me with my closest friends huddled in the very room in the church basement where my mom and my best friend got ready for their own weddings. I was overcome with excitement—and not even just about getting married but about seeing our closest loved ones all together to help us celebrate. It’s funny how something as simple as music can set something like that off.

Did I mention that I’m not engaged, and that I’m not getting married anytime soon? (Thus the reason for this being defined as a daydream.) It could even be considered a little crazy—me picking out music for a wedding I don’t have permission to plan yet.

But might I add: most girls do dream about their wedding day at some point, so I’d like to think I’m not that far off my rocker. And I’d liiiikeee to think this daydream isn’t in the completely unrealistic category either. Someday. Unlike endless amounts of cash at my disposal to spend on luxurious vacations for weeks at a time? We know that one’s not happening anytime soon.

What do you daydream about?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sometimes, it's the small things in life!

I’ve always considered myself lucky that on days where I just can’t will myself to put on dress pants, I can slap on a casual day sticker and wear jeans to work. Even when those days occur more than once a week.

So while we already have a good amount of freedom in what we wear to work—at least in our department—I still find myself overjoyed when HR announces extended casual dress. We get casual dress all summer long. And now, they’re giving us casual dress for the rest of the year. Granted, it’s only about a week and a half (and for me 3 days, since I’m out the week after Christmas), but it still makes me extremely happy.

What is it about wearing jeans, or not wearing jeans, that makes such a difference? Honestly…I can’t answer that question. But I will say that our company sure knows a few simple ways to make their employees happy! And it's much appreciated!

So a pleasant surprise on this Friday morning as we near the end of a very long week. I'm very happy to have the weekend upon us. We have our annual Christmas party with our friends tonight, my friend Amy’s wedding tomorrow (and my extended family Christmas in between), and some final Christmas shopping on Sunday. Followed by a 3-day work week and then 11 days off – I think I can handle it.

So here’s where I am: Trying to think positive thoughts. Sending prayers for good news for many people anxiously awaiting it. And hoping for a happy, healthy, and safe Christmas for everyone. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10 - Won't you be my neighbor?

There is something just so comforting about having good neighbors. When we bought our house in April, we learned that someone Sean knew lived across the street with his wife and son. As time went on, the weather warmed up and people began emerging from their houses, so we got to know them and meet some of our other neighbors. Many are younger families—all very sweet and welcoming. I told Sean right away that I thought we had lucked out with a great neighborhood.

The block party was a great time to really meet people and get to know them a little better. They’re always so nice to invite us to neighborhood parties, or even just wave hello as we’re passing each other in the alley.

And last night, we had two of our neighbors (and their son) over for dinner. Sean has known the husband and his family for many years—their parents were friends, among other connections. But I just got to know them after moving to the neighborhood. But after last night, it just reaffirmed what I had thought all along – we have great neighbors!

And there’s something to be said about the difference that can make. When Sean and I looked at buying a house, the neighborhood was important to us. Having both grown up in relatively the same area, we wanted the same experience for our first house together. We knew that buying in St. Paul would probably mean “less house for our money,” but the location topped our list of “must haves.”  So when we found this house, we were excited to have gotten the best of both worlds—a great house to start out in and a great location, too. Little did we know the location was even better than we thought, because we’re surrounded by people who make living on this block an absolute joy!

So needless to say, last night was fun. They’re incredibly nice people, and really fun to be around. They are just 1 household of the many who have become great friends on this block, and I look forward to getting to know them all even more. It certainly helps to overshadow the not-so-fun parts of owning this house (like mice and a wet basement).

So with “location, location, location” on the brain – here are the top 10 things I love about living in St. Paul (or our neighborhood in particular):
  1. The great neighbors (and people in general) – duh!
  2. Convenience. I can run to the local grocery store, or the Super Target, in a matter of minutes! And it’s very centrally located to surrounding cities – easy to get to the suburbs and lots of other fun places in and around the Twin Cities.
  3. St. Small – everywhere you go you’ll run into someone you know or discover a connection between two strangers brought on by living in (or being from) St. Paul.
  4. Memories. I grew up here. Sean grew up here. I drive by my high school every day. I run into my elementary school teachers at the grocery store. Everywhere I go I remember living here all my life, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
  5. Family. My mom lives 6 blocks away. And right in the middle of us, is my grandma. Sean’s family is less than 10 minutes away, just on the other side of the neighborhood. I love being so close to family.
  6. Safety. You’ll find crime in almost any city and St. Paul is no exception. But I still feel relatively safe in my neighborhood, and well protected by our public servants J
  7. It’s a fun city. Examples: the Wild (hockey) play in St. Paul, we’ve got lots of great restaurants, lots to see and do!
  8. It’s the best of both worlds. I can go to the “big-box” retailers or a “mom-and-pop” shop. I can live in a quiet neighborhood but still be minutes from downtown. I get small-town living in the big city!
  9. Camaraderie. People are always there to help you dig your car out from under 3 feet of snow or push you through an intersection when you’re stuck in snow ruts. And when the popular neighborhood burger joint is destroyed by fire, they organize a fundraiser for staff who will be out of work over the holidays – in a matter of days! Minnesota nice right here in St. Paul!  
  10. And finally, it feels like home. Plain and simple. I drive around town and feel completely, 100% at home. I come back from vacation and breathe a big sigh of relief at the familiar surroundings. I love that feeling!
As a disclaimer, I am not saying you wouldn’t find any of these reasons in any other city in Minnesota. These are just the reasons that I (having done it for 25+ years) find living in St. Paul enjoyable.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let it snow?

They warned us on the news – a big winter storm was coming. I mostly brushed it off. The third one of the season—and it’s only the middle of December? I’ve got to be used to it by now.

Boy was I wrong!

This was THE storm of the century (hey, we're only 10 years in, so we can say that). They say we haven’t seen this much snow since the infamous Halloween blizzard of ’91. I barely remember that one. And let’s face it, as a kid you don’t have to worry about driving in it, shoveling it, or any other fun snow-related responsibility.

But this one? Oh this one I’m going to remember!

When I let Oliver out to go potty early Saturday morning, there was already quite a bit of snow on our deck, and the screen door was starting to get difficult to open. Sean and I went out and did round 1 of snow removal, with him on the snowblower and me on the shovel. Now that I think about it, how did I get the short end of that stick?

More than an hour later we were somewhat cleared out, but the snow was falling fast and quickly covering up the work we’d already accomplished. We later decided to brave the roads and made it safely to his parents’ house with our snowblower. We hung out there most of the afternoon, and did a round of snowblowing and shoveling there, too. When we got home around 7, we decided we better tackle our sidewalks again because it was going to be bitterly cold by morning.

Somewhere in the middle of this third round, I remember Sean smiling at me as I shouted “I blame you for this, you know! You wished for this!”  See, he loves snow, and always gets excited when the forecast shows lots of it. I guess this was his dream come true. For some reason I wasn’t overjoyed for him at 8 o’clock at night in the blistering wind as I moved shovel-full after shovel-full of snow and still barely made a dent! I wonder why?

But in reality, I was so glad that we put in all that work on Saturday, because the below zero temps and wind chills on Sunday not only made the snow harder to move, but also made it terribly unpleasant to be outside in.

I joke that I got the short end of the stick by having to shovel, but Sean probably got the short end of the stick by having me as his helper. I didn’t have much to cover—the back walkway, the deck, the front stairs—but it took me plenty of time to do it. And when I struggled, Sean gladly took hold and cleared it much faster than me. He even was so sweet to clear the paths for many of our neighbors, including our sweet neighbor who on Saturday had to attend her 99-year-old brother’s funeral. She adores Sean. It’s cute! So really, I tease but I’m insanely lucky to have him!

So it seems as though it’s going to take quite some time for the cities to dig out from this blizzard. I honestly wonder if we will do it before the spring thaw! The snow has swelled to enormous heights in our backyard, so I’m not sure where we’re going to put the rest of it if we get anymore this winter. Chances are we won’t be getting any snow-melting temperatures before the next snowfall, so I guess we’ll have to find a way.

(One side of the back yard - the deck is under part of it, somewhere) 

(Look how high up to the fence the snow goes!)

(View from the garage - and this was already after shoveling once!)

(The front stairs - looks more like a sledding hill)
Oh the joys of living in Minnesota!

And on a side note: I don't think Uggs were made for shoveling 2 feet of snow. Good thing I found my snow boots AFTER we were done with this storm!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Loving memory

I haven’t written much this week, but not for lack of interest. To be honest, I just haven’t been able to find the right words to say. This week I’m just sad.

Nearly 3 years ago, we lost one of the most unique, compassionate, remarkable women I have ever known. My aunt Morning died on Dec. 9, 2007. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long, because I can still remember fondly her laugh, her smell, her warm embrace. Every time I talked to her she called me “honey” or “sweetie” throughout the conversation. But it wasn’t just with me. It was like that with everyone. She was so personable and friendly. At her funeral, my uncle’s eulogy (read by one of my cousins) recounted different stories about how she became instant friends with almost anyone—including a Verizon customer service rep and a grocery store clerk. That’s exactly how she was.

And I hate—with a fiery anger and deep sadness—that I have to say that’s how she was.

I miss her all the time. Like it is with anyone I’ve lost, I find myself suddenly “remembering” she’s gone (as though I could ever forget) and feeling as though I’ve had the wind knocked out of me.

Morning was beyond beautiful, more tender and loving than anyone else could ever hope to be. She was someone you couldn’t help but love—deeply and unconditionally. She had an amazing ability to wrap you up in warmth and laughter, to make you feel as though you were the most important person in the world. And I truly believe that to Morning, you were. She found the ultimate joy in the simple pleasures of conversation, of companionship, of love.

I miss those moments with her. Growing up, she was like a second mother to me. Her kids and I—especially her son Andrew, with whom I was only 3 months apart—were nearly inseparable. I spent as much time with them as I did with my own family. And as I got older, our relationship grew into a friendship, too. She was special to me. She was special to everyone.

Devastation does not begin to describe what it was like to lose her, not only for me but surely for our entire family. I can’t pretend to imagine even a little bit what it’s like for her husband and children. I can’t pretend to have the right words to say. I can’t pretend to do justice in describing how incredible she was to the very people who knew her best. And I certainly can’t pretend to verbalize what it’s like to lose that. I can only hope they know that we all share in their grief and remember her for the incredible person she was. As often as I think about her, I think about them too, and pray for them as they deal with this tremendous loss every day for the rest of their lives.

The other night I was looking through the photos I have of her. I must have gone through them 10 times. I sat there and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I stared in her eyes and ached for the longing just to talk to her one more time. To hug her. To have her back with us.

The cruel truth is that it’s impossible to change the past. If it weren’t, the deaths of our loved ones would top my list of things to undo. Instead, we have to find the strength and courage to go on despite the tragedies, the hardships, the pain. To be honest, some days this feels impossible. But as I wrote in an earlier post, I want to try my hardest to fight through it:

I want, for me and for anyone who has lost a loved one, to know that just because a person is gone, their legacy and the imprint they’ve had on our lives goes on. I want to remember them fondly. I want to cry every once in a while (or more than that). I want to get angry sometimes and ask “why.” I want to be sad when they can’t be here to share in life’s most important moments. I want to smile when I think of them. I want to tell my kids and grandkids about them and how special they were. I want to do good, even big, things with my life. I want to make them proud. I want to remember that they’re with God, a belief I truly couldn’t get through such pain without.

I want to find a way to let grief be a part of me, but not all of me. Some days it feels like it is all of me. That’s ok, too, because I don’t want it to go away either. As much as our loved ones were a part of our life, the grief will be, too.

So this week, I’m remembering her. I’m trying not to remember the horrible day our whole world turned upside down. Instead, I’m trying to focus on that beautiful smile. Her goofy sense of humor. Her deep love for everyone—especially her husband, children, and grandchildren. In that I find hope. In the beauty of her grandchildren, the incredible grace and strength of her husband and children, I find inspiration. In our family, I find comfort. In our memories, I find wisdom. And in God, I find faith.

I am truly blessed to be a part of my big, crazy family. I know that our family will never be the same, and in many ways, that makes me sad, too. But I still cherish every part of it—the ups and the downs—because I wouldn’t have it any other way. I wouldn’t trade a single thing for the blessing that is my family, especially the blessing that was Morning. And though I’ve rambled on much longer than I planned, it all comes down to this:  I miss her. I love her. I wish she was here.

Here’s a link to her memorial video, if you’re interested.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

The thermometer may say it’s 19 degrees out, but the wind makes it feel much colder. When I was leaving the grocery store tonight, the cashier wished me a good night and said, “Go home and hug a radiator.” If I had a radiator—I probably would have done it. It’s cold out there.

So I’m happy to be home, snuggled up on my couch, blanket draped over my lap, PJs on, and a full tummy!

Which brings me to this week’s Top 10. My favorite weekday dinners.

I am so far from a good cook that my idea of an elaborate dinner is anything that requires a stove or an oven. But I’m trying. I actually really like to cook—I’m just not that great at it. So most of our weekly dinners around here are much of the same and are certainly nothing to brag about. But they fulfill our picky-eater tastes, are usually relatively reasonable in terms of nutrition, and best of all, they’re easy!

Our favorites as of late:
  1. Whole wheat pasta with pesto sauce and chicken (we probably have this at least once a week)
  2. Homemade pizzas with tortilla shells as the crust (one of Sean's dad's famous recipes - delish!)
  3. Breakfast (nothing like a.m. food to fill you up in the p.m.)
  4. "Grandma's Chicken" (not from either of our grandmas, but from a friend's grandma. Chicken breast covered in swiss cheese, cream of chicken soup, and bread crumbs served over brown rice)
  5. Tacos (made with ground turkey instead--a common substitute for lots of typically ground beef dishes in this house)
  6. Turkey burgers on the grill (though this is more of a warmer-season meal)
  7. Mrs. Grass Soup (with dumplings and saltines, and sometimes a grilled cheese...mmmmm)
  8. Pot roast (anything I can put in a crockpot and leave alone for 8 hours is high on my list)
  9. Quesadillas (compliments of our nifty quesadilla-maker: a black Friday '09 steal!)
  10. Ravioli (so simple, so good)
So there you have it. We probably have these things 95% of the time, so if you have great recipes to share - please do!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The gift of giving

Growing up, most of us are taught that "'tis better to give than to receive." Children often struggle with this because they simply aren't mature enough to understand such selfless behavior. But as we get older, we learn to love the joy that comes from giving to others. Of course this can't be true for everyone. Some children do realize the joy of giving. Some adults don't. But in my experiences, I've found that for most people, generosity runs deep.

I've been blessed by many acts of generosity. Big or small, they mean so much to me. I don't ever feel deserving, but always feel grateful. And it's for that reason that I'm determined to always pay it forward.

I am a bad gift-giver. At least, I can never seem to come up with great ideas on my own. I have a friend who always has great ideas, so I tend to look for her for ideas when needed. But as terrible as I am at coming up with ideas, I do love giving gifts. I love seeing the smiles on their faces. I love making someone excited. I love giving them something completely surprising. But most of all, I love giving something to someone who gives me so much all year-round, material or not.

I don't think it's entirely selfish to wish for things for youself every now and then, too. It's human. And more than likely - you deserve it! But also take some time to think about others. I guarantee you'll find happiness in it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

It may be hard to believe that it’s Thanksgiving time already, but the bitter cold and messy weather is a sure sign that winter has arrived (and is here to stay).

A combination of things—the grey and dreary season, the sadness of the holidays without loved ones—can make it hard to put a smile on your face at times like these. But, especially on a day devoted to it, I’m trying extra hard to remember the blessings in my life and give thanks.

The top 10 things I’m thankful for this year:
  1. My family. Every one of them. My mom, my siblings, grandma, aunts, uncles, cousins, 2nd cousins, 4th cousins 3 times removed (ok, I may have made that one up). And even though we’re not married (*yet*), I very much consider Sean’s family to be like family to me. So I’m thankful for each and every one of them, too.
  2. My house. Even though being a homeowner has its challenges, I feel very blessed to have a roof over my head and a place to call home at the end of the day. I’m proud of the house that Sean and I bought together and the home it’s become in the last 7 months.
  3. My job. I have had jobs in the past where I absolutely dread going to work. For the past 4+ years, I’ve been lucky to have a job I love, a company I can stand behind, and co-workers who make my day-to-day life an absolute joy. It is work—so not every day feels like a blessing—but when it comes down to it, I’m very thankful for it. And knowing how many people who are out of work in these difficult times (my boyfriend included), I can’t help but see it as a blessing, too.
  4. Speaking of boyfriends - I’m thankful for him, too. I kind of covered it in the family section, but he deserves his own number. He has incredible patience. After all, he has put up with me for 6 years! He has a big heart and is incredibly loyal, not just to me but to his family and friends. I love him very much and absolutely give thanks for him!
  5. Friends. Like any friendship, we have our ups and downs, but it just shows the power of the love we have for each other. My friends are great companions, fearless partners in crime, devoted advocates, and hilarious sidekicks. I’m certainly blessed to have them in my life!
  6. Health. With the way things go wrong in my family, it’s a miracle I’ve avoided significant illness or injury! But seriously, I am very lucky to be in relatively good health. I’ve worked very hard over the last year and a half to get to a healthier place, and this year especially, I am thankful for giving gotten there.
  7. Oliver. Nothing better than coming home to see him so excited to see me, or to have him snuggled up next to me in the middle of the night. He knows when I’m sad and need a little extra attention. He is a great companion – even if he’s naughty sometimes.
  8. Days off work, be it weekends or vacation days. Waking up without an alarm. Spending the morning on the couch with my boys. A carefree day doing whatever I want or need. Love it!
  9. Faith. I have a long way to go to be the Christian I want to be, but I’m very thankful for freedom of religion and the role God plays in my life.
  10. Memories. I thrive on the incredible memories I have—of my childhood, my high school years, and even of just days ago. Memories in my mind and in photographs are beautiful reminders of the blessings that I’ve had before and make me excited for all those to come, too.
Happy Thanksgiving. I wish you and your families a safe, happy, blessed holiday!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm done!

I am officially done with my MBA and it feels great! Actually, it doesn't feel a whole lot different. But I'm sure as the days keep passing and I don't have homework to do, it will really start to set in.

It's Sunday already. Another weekend flew by. This time I'm not quite as annoyed because I only have to work 2 days this week! Tomorrow is like my Thursday. I can definitely get on board with that!

Friday night Sean and I went out to dinner with both of our moms to celebrate completing my MBA. The food was great and it was a very nice evening. Yesterday we saw a move (The Next 3 Days - I really enjoyed it!), but other than that, have done little else. It's been a very relaxing weekend. I just finished cleaning the whole house. I hate cleaning but LOVE the feeling when it's all said and done, so it was definitely worth it.

Thanksgiving is just a few days away. The holiday season is almost officially underway. I can't believe it. It really doesn't feel like long ago that we were doing this last year. To be honest, I like Thanksgiving but it's never been a huge holiday for us. I'm looking forward to good food, a relaxing day, some time off work, and not much else. And before we know it, it will be Christmas. Hard to believe!

There's little to report today so I'll leave it at that. Check back later this week for a Thanksgiving-themed Top 10!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

This past week we got the season’s first snowfall. And what a snowfall it was. It seems to me that we got enough for it to probably stick around for the long-haul, which means we probably won’t be seeing our lawn again for quite a few months.

I’ve mentioned it before but I’m not a huge fan of winter. I don’t particularly enjoy putting on a coat every time I leave the house. And I certainly don’t like paying an arm and a leg in heating costs. And let’s not mention what the cold air does to my skin, my hair, and let’s be honest, my mood most days, too.

But, I live in Minnesota. In fact, I love Minnesota. I’ll probably never move out of the city limits of St. Paul, and that’s not just a prediction, it’s a dream. Since I’m not going to be relocating any time soon, it’s time to grin and bear it.

So I’m trying to start this winter season off on a positive note. What are the good things about winter?
  1. No yard work (except for shoveling). Who am I kidding? Sean is amazing and does 99% of the yard work anyway. But not having it looming over our heads is kind of nice anyway. 
  2.  Boots. I’ve not yet mastered the Uggs-over-the-jeans look, and my terrible balance makes for a bit of challenge when trying to slip my boots on before rushing out the door. But…their cozy warmth makes my feet very happy all winter long.
  3. My birthday! It falls in February, the perfect point to break up the winter months – shortly after Christmas and just before spring begins peaking through. I’m not quite to the age where I dread birthdays yet, so this stays on my winter positives list. Some day it will likely cross over to the other side.
  4. Christmas. For too many reasons that are far too complicated to explain, in the last few years Christmas has had a less-than-exciting feel to it for me sometimes. But, it’s always been my favorite time of year. So I try really hard to still get in the spirit every once in a while. And all it usually takes is some good Christmas music. Case in point: I was driving home from work last night and a good Christmas song was playing. Seeing the lights on the bare trees in our tiny little neighborhood “shopping village” made me feel a little cozy inside. It’s times like that when I feel excited about Christmas and winter.
  5. Hockey. I love to watch hockey – professional, high school, whatever. My brother and sister both play, so I get my fair share of hockey exposure all winter long.
  6. Comfy clothes. There’s nothing like coming home from a long day of work and putting on sweatpants and a baggy old sweatshirt. It instantly puts my mind at ease. And it’s certainly a lot less enjoyable in the warmer months.
  7. St. Patrick’s Day! It’s true that it comes at the end of winter, but it’s still technically winter, so it has to count. And what a great holiday it is!
  8. Candles. I L-O-V-E burning candles that fill the whole house with delicious, wintery aromas.
  9. I feel a little less guilty on nights when I decide to go to bed at 8:00, because hey—at least it’s dark outside (and with that reasoning, I could go to  bed at 5:00 if I wanted to!).
  10. When you really sit back and look at it, the snow is often really pretty. The way it falls lightly over the streets and dusts the tree tops. That is, when you’re not too busy cursing at the messy roads it creates and the shoveling it requires.
So there you have it – at least 10 reasons I can enjoy winter. What about you? What do you enjoy about this time of year?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crunch time

I'm having a hard time believing it's Monday night already. Where exactly did this weekend go? And where did this day go?

I'm down to the wire on quite a few things this week, which is going to make for a stressful, busy, but hopefully FAST week. I was at the office for almost 10 hours today, and came home and put in a few more hours from the comfort of my couch. I like that kind of work much better, though if I had the choice I'd only do work at work. But, we're nearing the end of a big project our team has been working on so it's crunch time to get things ready for the final presentation.

It doesn't surprise me one bit that the busiest week of work would also fall on the final week of my entire MBA career. I'm glad that I was a bit of an over-achiever and got a lot of my work done for class early, but there's still quite a bit to be done. The deadling - 5 p.m. Friday - is looming and I can already imagine the weight that will magically lift from my shoulders as soon as it passes. I wonder how long it will take me to realize that it's officially over, and not just a break between classes? I can't wait to find out!

So needless to say, life is a bit crazy right now. There's a good chance I may also be getting sick, which again wouldn't surprise me given my luck and the stress I've been under as of late. If it could hold off just a few more days I'd be very grateful.

This past weekend was pretty enjoyable, despite the early season storm that blew through on Saturday. We were lucky to have avoided power outages or significant damage, but the cold, heavy, wet snow still did a number on the roads and our spirits. I guess it made it a little less odd to hear Christmas music playing 24/7 on a local radio station. I think we can officially say that winter is here to stay. Never my favorite season. But there's also not much I can do about it, short of uprooting to a warmer climate, so I'll make an effort to grin and bear it (who am I kidding, you know I'll complain all winter long about the cold temps, salt-stained jeans, having to wear coats, and the permanet state of static-cling that my hair inevitably falls into).

I promise to be back for my Weekly Wednesday check-in, but if I'm rather absent the rest of the week, at least you'll know why. See you when I come up for air!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Veteran's Day

Today, many people are giving thanks and honoring past and present members of the military, and I feel compelled to do the same. Problem is I can’t seem to find the right words to express my appreciation for them. Their commitment, dedication, courage, bravery, and sacrifice is honorable.

I feel lucky to live in a country with people so proud to defend it. Regardless of your beliefs on war, politics, or anything of the like, today we should all salute the men and women who serve (and their families who support them). I honestly don’t know if it’s a way of life I would have the courage and stamina to lead, so I have the highest respect for those that do.  

Happy Veteran’s Day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

Hello migraine—I’ve missed you. I’m so glad you have paid me a visit today. Not.

It’s mid-afternoon and I’m aching to go home. No really, I’m aching. My head is killing me, I’m starting to see spots that suggest a massive migraine looming in my near future. And since I’m already complaining, I might as well throw a sore back, general crabbiness, and a touch of stress in there.

Ok, I’m done now.

Anyway, in the interest of sparing you any further rant and sparing me a few less minutes squinting at the computer screen, today’s top 10 is going to be a quick one.

Top 10 of my favorite places to shop

1.     Mall of America

The End.

Just kidding. But you can pretty much find anything at the Mall of America. And lucky for me it’s not too far from my house.

One thing you can’t find at MOA though, is my definite #1 on my real top 10 favorite places to shop list:
  1. Target (enough said)
  2. Banana Republic (Gorgeous clothes)
  3. Old Navy (cute and affordable – the best combination)
  4. Home Goods (Two words: a-ddicting)
  5. DSW (I love shoes. Yet somehow wear the same 2-3 pairs almost every day. Hmm.)
  6. IKEA (someday I will succeed in having a whole room that looks like it came straight from their catalog.
  7. Gap (apparently I keep this company in business, seeing as how 2 of their other stores are also on my list)
  8. iTunes (does that count? It has the word “store” in it, and I pay for things. So I’m going to say it counts!)
  9. Len (a store I recently discovered in the skyways with a coworker. Love it!)
  10. Barnes and noble (I love to read. I should really start visiting the library though.)
So there you have it. Over and out.  

Monday, November 8, 2010


A couple of months ago we had a 2-day department retreat for work. One of the activities we did was a thinking preferences assessment. The exercise was designed to help us better understand ourselves, and how to work more effectively with others because of these different styles. It was definitely one of the highlights of the retreats for all of us; we still reference our thinking preferences on a regular basis.

I found it very interesting. Like most people, I was not terribly surprised by my own results. Before we were given our results, we went through the 4 main quadrants and were asked to write down which we thought sounded most like us. When it came time to open our sealed envelopes of results, almost all of us were right!

While I learned a lot of things, or reaffirmed a lot of things, through this exercise, there is one particular area I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. One of these quadrants shows people who tend to exhibit a lot of empathy. This quadrant was tied with another quadrant for my most significant preferences.

Empathy is most often a good thing. The trusty Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as:

the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also : the capacity for this

Sounds great – being able to understand and relate to people around you and the feelings and experiences they are going through. Sometimes, I wonder if I can be empathetic to a fault.

I find myself compelled to take care of the people around me all of the time. I like helping others. But sometimes, especially when it comes to those closest to me, I feel like I can literally feel their pain. When they are hurting, stressed, or struggling with something, I take those feelings on so much so that you would think it were me experiencing them firsthand. Like the definition says above, “vicariously experiencing the feelings.” My goodness I couldn’t have said it better myself!

So how then do you find a balance? I enjoy being able to help others and express empathy when they’re going through tough times (and good times too!). But somewhere you have to draw a line. You can’t possibly take on everyone’s problems—everyone’s feelings—when you have your own authentic feelings, too. You can help them through them, and be a supporter when they need it, but you can’t do everything. Lord knows I would if I could, but I just don’t think it’s healthy—for them or for me.

So I’m making it a goal to try harder to recognize those differences—to let empathy be a part of me, but not consume me.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Stop drop and roll

It's good to know I still remember fire safety training I've learned over the years. Even if I don't actually need it.

This weekend Sean was staying with his brother while his mom was out of town, so Oliver and I (and the mice) were left to hold down the fort on our own. I tend to let my mind get the best of me in these situations, so every noise, every creak of this 100+ year-old house puts me on edge.

So when I woke up at 5 o'clock this morning to Oliver sitting on top of me, shaking like a leaf, I instantly panicked. It wasn't storming, and that's usually the only other time he gets like that, so I wasn't sure what he was sensing that I wasn't. Then I heard the smoke detector beep.

I shot straight up in bed and thought, "of course, the one night I'm alone the house would start on fire," as I pictured myself crawling out the tiny window of our second floor bedroom in my tank top and boxer shorts. If you haven't figured this out by now, I'm a huge over-reactor.

So I jumped out of bed and remembered learning at some point in life to always feel the door handle for heat to see if there is fire outside the door. Let me mention that I had only heard the smoke detector beep once. Obviously it would be a little more constant if there was a fire!

The handle was cold to the touch so I opened the door. Not seeing any smoke or hearing either of the 2 detectors going off, I thought it could be the carbon monoxide detector. I run downstairs and check that one, but there was nothing. Suddenly I hear the beep again, this time noticing the woman who politely shouts "battery low" after the beep. The smoke detector in the upstairs hallway was losing its backup battery (it's hard-wired, but insists on beeping if the battery doesn't work).

So at 5:00 I had to take the shaking dog, drive to Walgreens (thank God for 24/7!), buy batteries, and come home to try and replace the damn thing. It took me a while, again because it was hard wired and connected to active electrical wires in the ceiling, but I did it! Good to know that if it had been a fire, I remembered my fire safety and had prepared an escape route.

I finally fell back asleep sometime after 6, and woke up shivering around 7. Turns out I had forgotten to turn the heat on before going to bed, so the house was extremely cold. Hey, that's usually Sean's job :) What a morning!

I think we make a better team - I'm not so good at this house stuff on my own!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

This week we discovered a problem

Let me back up. A couple of weeks ago Sean pulled his work belt out of the closet in our first-floor spare bedroom and found that his mace case was full of dog food. It was very strange. We couldn't figure out how in the world the case, which had been in the closet for a few months, could possibly have been filled with food. We passed it off, thinking maybe some food had spilled in the closet or something.

Then, earlier this week, I noticed one morning that Oliver's food bowl was empty. I knew that it had been full when we went to bed the morning before. And Oliver sleeps with us, in our closed bedroom, so I also knew it was nearly impossible that he had time to eat it. When I brought it up to Sean, he thought it was weird, but figured there had to be some reason.

Then on Thursday night, I was watching TV in our bedroom when Sean came upstairs with his boots in hand. As I peared over the side of the bed, I noticed they were full - to the top - with dog food! We looked at each other in shock. We were completely perplexed. I instantly thought we had a ghost. And we don't even believe in ghosts!!

I called my mom and she agreed that it was strange, and said at least it was a funny ghost! Sean called his mom and she brought us back to our sanity with a much more logical explanation - we must have a critter. So I went downstairs and started pulling things out of that closet. Sure enough, I found another pair of shoes stuffed with dog food. And not far behind it? Mouse poop!

We had solved the mystery but instantly created a problem I absolutely dread! I hate mice. Hate them so much that every time I think about them a shiver goes down my spine. I am disgusted and not looking forward to getting rid of these critters. Busy critters at that! I don't even want to think about how many there could be.

Sometimes the "joys" of owning a home are more than I can handle!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

It’s that time of the year again where most of us in the tundra of Minnesota start dreaming about warm places, fun vacations, or anything other than the depressingly long winter that is only starting.

There are no vacations in my near future. Unless you count a trip to Menard’s. Ahh the joys of being a homeowner!

So I may not be going anywhere fun anytime soon, but a girl can dream.

And that’s where this week’s Top 10 comes in.

Top 10 places I would really love to visit someday:
  1. Ireland – any or all counties are acceptable
  2. Italy – Venice, Rome, Milan, Lake Como—you name it I’ll be there
  3. Greece
  4. Hawaii
  5. Spain
  6. England
  7. Australia
  8. Cayman Islands (my grandpa used to own a house there. The land is still technically in our family, but we hear the house itself has been stripped to virtually nothing.)
  9. Alaska
  10. China
You’ll notice that more than half of my selections are outside the U.S. I’ve done plenty of travelling in my day, but I’m so far from a world traveler it’s not even funny. If it weren’t for the new laws that require a passport to go to Mexico, I probably wouldn’t even own a passport. I think we need to change that!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I'm sorry, did you say November?

It’s been nearly a week since I last posted, which can only mean that I’ve been terribly busy (or lazy, or both). I swear it’s mostly busy.

I’m full swing into my last MBA class EVER and it’s occupying the vast majority of my free time. In the past I’ve been able to get a lot of my course work done at work. Since I go to school at the same place I work, they’re great about letting us do this when our workload allows. In recent months work has just been too busy to do this. It’s fine. After all, homework is intended to be done at home. So understandably, I’ve spent much of my down time at home staying on top of homework. So hours writing in front of the computer at work, and hours writing papers in front of my computer at home, tends to stifle my desire most days to write anything else.

Excuses excuses. I’ve always been the queen of them. But fear not. In 2 and ½ weeks I will have my free time back, at least part of my sanity, and I assure you I will devote more time to this blog. This is the kind of writing I enjoy doing anyway!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

It’s that time again – the weekly top 10.

Today we attended the funeral for Sean’s friend Peter’s brother. It was a beautiful but expectedly sad service. My heart is just heavy for them. As I was getting ready this morning I was thinking about how many people were doing the very same thing—preparing to show their support for Peter’s family and say goodbye to his brother.

And just like earlier in the week, I remembered the comfort that such support provides in times like these. It made me think of a quote/song lyric that I hear time and time again. “I get by with a little help from my friends.” This couldn’t be truer for Sean and his friends. Seeing them all come together, especially in times like these, shows just how deep their friendship goes and how blessed they are to have each other.

You see, I’m slightly obsessed with quotes and song lyrics that have meaning or inspiration to me. I’ve got lists miles long of some of my favorites. Narrowing it down to 10 is near impossible, but for the sake of this week’s entry, I will try.

So here are 10 of my favorite quotes/passages/lyrics, at least as they speak to me on a day like today (so I apologize if they all seem to have a common theme):
  1. “For everything there is a season…a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” –Ecclesiastes 3:1-4
  2. “I’ll lean on you, and you lean on me, and we’ll be okay.” –Dave Matthews Band
  3. "Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity." –Henry Van Dyke
  4. “A new wound makes all the old ones ache again.”   –Mignon McLaughlin
  5. “What we have once enjoyed and deeply loved we can never lose, for all that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” –Helen Keller
  6. "Life is too short to be anything but happy. So kiss slowly, laugh insanely and forgive quickly. Take chances, give everything and have no regrets" –Unknown
  7. “If ever there is a tomorrow when we’re not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart…I’ll always be with you.” – Winnie the Pooh
  8. “Love…bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” –I Corinthians 13:7-8
  9. “Be a best friend, tell the truth, and overuse I love you. Go to work, do your best, don't oustmart your common sense. Never let your prayin' knees get lazy, and love like crazy.” –Lee Brice
  10. “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, October 25, 2010


Weekends are too short. The end.

Ok, that’s not really the end of this post, but it probably should be. I always feel like Monday morning comes much too soon.

This weekend we learned that the brother of one of Sean’s best friends died on Friday night. It is horribly sad and there simply aren’t words to describe how sorry I am for their loss.

You would think that as someone whose experienced loss enough in her life, I'd know by now the “right” words to say when things like this happen. First of all, I don’t know that such words even exist. And second of all, whether the person who died is someone I’ve met once or a thousand times, it never gets easier to find words of wisdom.

On Saturday night we got together with Sean’s friends, just to be there and show their support. I was telling Sean on the way home that I can’t quite explain why, but I find incredible comfort in simply being together in times like this. We didn’t do anything profound on Saturday--nothing we don’t already do when we all get together. But the simple act of being together moves me. And I think others feel it too. I know it meant a lot to Sean’s friend to have his buddies all show up. And I know it meant just as much for each of them to be there.

So this week I send my thoughts and prayers to their family and all families who are grieving the loss of someone, whether it’s been 2 days or 20 years.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Weekly Wednesday Top 10

As promised, my weekly top 10 is here.

This week—TV shows.

I have to admit, I love TV. I remember growing up, and even still today, all of the constant reports about how watching too much TV fries your brain, makes you “less smart,” leads to obesity, blah blah blah. I know that excessive TV watching isn’t the best thing for you. And it’s not like I watch TV so much I forget the difference between reality (not even reality TV) and fiction. But I still love the feeling of cozying up on my couch at the end of a long workday or vegging out on a Saturday morning and letting the TV entertain me.

There, I said it. Don’t judge.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 favorite shows as of late (and in no particular order). Let me remind you again – don’t judge!

1.     Parenthood
2.     Amazing Race
3.     Teen Mom
4.     Say Yes to the Dress (or any wedding show for that matter)
5.     One Tree Hill
6.     The Biggest Loser
7.     Brothers and Sisters
8.     Grey’s Anatomy
9.     Big Brother
10.  Friday Night Lights (even though it’s not even on regular TV anymore)

Turns out, this Top 10 list was harder than I thought. I would’ve added several more shows if it were a top 15, or even top 20. Maybe I have a TV-watching problem after all???

Monday, October 18, 2010

Change is good

Growing up, I used to rearrange my bedroom all the time. I found it so fun to come up with creative ways to position my furniture, and loved changing the flow of the room on a regular basis.

In recent years, my bedrooms (and general living quarters) haven’t really been conducive to multiple arrangements. But yesterday, I decided there may be another way to position the furniture in our bedroom. It didn’t take long (we have only a few pieces of furniture and a pretty small room), but the makeover was complete!

I love changing things up. I mean, I was actually excited to go to bed last night. Because the bed was turned a different way? Who knows! At least I can appreciate the small things in life.

So the first night went fine, but as is true with anything in life, change can be harder for some rather than others.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Patience is a virtue

Life is short. This is a phrase I find myself saying often. It’s too short to let little things get in the way of your happiness (yet, it still doesn’t stop me from stressing over little things). It’s too short to make excuses. It’s too short because there are some really wonderful parts of life that I wish I could cherish over and over again. I could go on forever.

So while I find myself saying this often, I also find myself not staying true to my own advice.

How in the world can I possibly wish time away? I try not to do this on a regular basis. And when I do find the feeling creeping up, I instantly begin to squelch it with reminders that I must be crazy.

But tell me, don’t you ever look forward to things so much that you find yourself saying “I can’t wait until _____?” I know this isn’t the same thing as wishing time away, but it sort of is. I look at things I have ahead of me and almost wish that we could skip some time and just get there.