Monday, October 1, 2018

September 2018 Reflections


September ended up being busier than I expected, but it was all good things.  I actually had some trouble coming up with a couple items to put in The Challenges section this month.  Here are my reflections.

The Good

CPA Exam – I finally took my exam.  FAR is over.  I passed with a 98 which is an amazing score.

Labor Day Picnic – We had a really awesome Labor Day Picnic this year.  It started out really well because my husband was more relaxed than prior years, and he did not become a cleaning drill sergeant leading up to it.  We had a very nice turnout with several new people attending.  The weather was beautiful and sunny, a bit hot but I will take it since it basically rained the rest of the month.

Book Club – I enjoyed my book club this month.  We read The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.  It was an easy, breezy, summer read, not particularly well written but very enjoyable.  We met at Bungalow Lakehouse for brunch, which was a great choice.  The food was excellent and I even had a little blackberry champagne to go with it.  While I normally enjoy my book club, I felt especially engaged and connected at this one.  We did not talk about the book so much, but I guess I just felt like general conversation flowed well and kept me interested.

Maryland Renaissance Festival – This was the first time I have been to the Rennfest in a few years.  My husband, stepson, and I went together.  We had a very good day for it weather-wise, sunny but not too hot.  We did not stay all day, but we were there long enough to see a couple shows (my favorite was the aerial silks artist), eat food (soup in a bread bowl, pie on a stick), and play on the giant slide (well my stepson played, I just watched, but the way his face was lit up when he was done was one of the best moments…he rarely looks so alive).

PA Trip/Ed Sheeran Concert – I ended up going to PA for four nights, staying 3 nights with my sister and 1 night in a hotel.  It was definitely one of the best trips I have taken in a while.  I drove up on Wednesday and spent a low key evening hanging out with my sister’s family.  Thursday I drove to Greenville, PA to spend time with my friend (the same one who was seeing Ed Sheeran with me on Saturday).  We hit two fall farmer’s markets and a bakery in Ohio, buying lots of great goodies to eat at each.  Friday I spent the day with my mom and Baby T.  We went to Simmons Farm which has plenty of fall festival activities for kids.  Baby T loved the Fire Truck slide, the hayride, and the petting zoo among other things.  Saturday morning, I went to see Grandma because I have to see her on every trip of course.  She continues to do better, although there are still some memory problems and little coordination things that have not come back after the stroke.  Saturday evening of course was the big event.  I met my friend in Pittsburgh mid-afternoon to beat the inrush of traffic.  We went to Rivers Casino to play some penny slots while we waiting for the gates to open (I lost $5).  Then, it was Ed Sheeran time.  He had two openers, Anne Marie and Snow Patrol, both of which were solid performances.  Although I did not recognize the names, I did recognize their radio hits when they played them.  Then, Ed Sheeran came on with an absolutely great stripped down personal show, no band – just him, a guitar, and a loop machine.  He played a great mix of older, newer, slower, faster, big hits, and lesser known songs.  The music was augmented by lights and pictures that went with each tune.  He was very affable, telling jokes and stories in between songs that made it feel like you were just hanging out with him, even though there were thousands of other people there.  I would absolutely love to see him again.

Hike – I only made it out on one hike this month.  I wanted so badly to do three, but it rained and rained and rained.  When it was not raining, I already had other things scheduled.   For my one hike, I went back to Manassas Battlefield Park to do the First Manassas Trail again.  This time I included the Stone Bridge Loop section, completing the full 5.5 miles.  It is wonderful to feel how much easier this time was compared to the first trip in February.  I am definitely increasing my strength and stamina.  I am now at 8 out of 12 hikes for my annual goal.

Diet & Exercise – I am doing well about maintaining my health activities.  I planned to stay below 1800 calories every day.  I did try to stay under 1200 calories once or twice a week still, but was not as strict with it.  I think 1800 is finally low enough that I do not need the big dips to level out my overall intake any more.  I hit my goal approximately 73% of the time this month.  I also have remained fairly consistent with my exercise.  I am still aiming for 4 active days a week, and I have been at 3-4 days each week for the month, except the last (sick and out of town).  I have been going with a friend to the gym on Mondays to do a weightlifting circuit.  Pilates has ended because the instructor moved to New York, so I tried out a Yoga class on Tuesdays at my gym instead.  Thursdays I went to Ballet Burn.  Over the weekend, I tried to get a decent walk around the neighborhood into my schedule.  I have lost about 7 pounds since the start of the year.  I feel good about where I am.

The Challenges

Sick Twice – I was sick twice in one week this month.  I had a cold right before my trip, congestion and coughing.  The congestion was luckily gone by the time I left for PA, but the coughing is only now mostly gone.  Then, I got sick to my stomach on Saturday…Ed Sheeran Saturday.  I initially thought it was something I ate, but my sister said Baby T was vomiting on Sunday, so maybe it was a stomach virus.  I literally ate ½ a cup of wedding soup during Saturday and that is it.  I felt much better by the evening when it was time to go to the concert, and I obviously still went, but I refrained from eating while there to make sure everything stayed OK.  I was completely fine by Sunday when it was time to drive home.

Job Search – I was supposed to start job searching during September, but it did not happen.  The first week, I was still focused on studying for the exam.  Then, I wanted to take some time off to just enjoy myself.  Then, I got sick and had no energy to do much of anything.  And of course, I went out of town at the end of the month.  I also think I am hesitant to start the process.  I feel a little overwhelmed by the idea of job hunting.  I have not done it in twelve years.  I had been with my former company for nine years.  I pretty much was handed that job on a platter, so I did not really “job search” when I made the switch.  I was with the company before that for over three years.  I feel a lot of pressure (from myself) to find something that makes me happy and fits with my general idea of where I want to head.  This is made harder since I am not 100% sure where I am trying to head.  I cannot put it off forever though, because we will eventually run out of money.  My husband makes a good salary, but we are still pulling money out of savings.  It is a trickle not a hemorrhage, but it is definitely decreasing each month.

The Future

CPA Studying – October finds me back in study mode.  Since I have passed FAR, I will pick up studying for the AUD section.  I am anticipating this will not be quite as time consuming.  There are fewer study sections in the AUD book than the FAR one.  At my high level review, it looks like there are fewer really long sections too.  I am using the same overall study period (about 9 weeks), so this should mean my days will not be as long provided I do not let myself get behind schedule.  I also am planning to take two days off per week instead of just one.

Job Search – I am really going to start it in October.  I just need to start small, updating my resume and my LinkedIn page.  Then, I can build from there.

No Commitments – Right now, my calendar is pretty clear for October and I am going to try to keep it that way.  I can use a month off since summer has been relatively busy and the holidays always end up busy.  Plus, I am trying to do a “low buy” month to help the financial situation.  I might have tickets to see James Veitch in Baltimore on the 14th (my husband asked about it, I said sure, but I have no idea if he actually bought them), but I think that is it.  Cross my fingers I can keep the month unencumbered.

Hiking – Since September was not cooperative on the hiking front, I am hoping that October will be more reasonable.  Again my goal is to do 3 hikes, the one for October, the one I missed earlier in the year, and the one for December (because really I do not expect to want to hike in December).  I definitely want to get back to Harper’s Ferry again; it was so pretty.  I also have not been to Shenandoah at all this year, so maybe I will try to go there too.  No ideas on the third one yet, but I know there are many options out there.

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

August 2018 Reflections


August was a very busy month.  Most of my time was spent studying, but I also had two busy weekends as well.  Still, I think it was a pretty good month.  Without further ado, here are my reflections.

The Good

Lake Anna – I enjoyed my Lake Anna weekend this year.  It was off to a good start when we were there early enough to eat dinner with everyone else Friday night (an improvement over last year!).  The remainder of Friday was just spent relaxing, talking, and trying to avoid all the bugs.  Saturday, my husband and I declined the boat trip and headed to Lake Anna State Park to hike instead.  Then, we headed back to the house for a nap before the rest of the party returned from boating.  Saturday evening was the best food of the trip with some wonderful pulled pork by one dinner volunteer and some pretty tasty turkey wraps from the other.  Sunday was mostly just breakfast and cleanup before heading home.  It was not a long trip, but honestly I would not want to be there much longer with so many people in a house (12).

Hamilton Weekend – My cousin and her boyfriend joined us the last weekend of the month to see the musical Hamilton.  My husband really wanted to see this show, so even though I was impartial to it, I bought the tickets anyway.  I had a really pleasant night.  I do not think that it was the best show I ever saw (so much hype around it), but it was a really solid performance.  The staging however was brilliant.  They used a rotating floor and choreographed the performers in such a way that scenes just melted from one to another.  I have to admit the tunes were catchy.  The performers were good, with my favorites being the men who played George Washington and King Richard.  The rest of the weekend with our visitors was pretty low key with just talking and eating.  I even managed to get a good chunk of homework done in the mornings while they were at their hotel.

Minimalism Game – I did a great job playing The Minimalism Game (see The Minimalist’s site https://www.theminimalists.com/game/).  For this game, you declutter one item on the first day of the month, two on the second, three on the third, and so on.  I made it to the very end of the month, which means I have found 496 items to declutter from my house.  I was supposed to get rid of all the items on the day I decluttered them, but that did not actually happen.  I did donate a box of books, some food storage containers, and sidewalk chalk to a teacher friend.  I threw a lot of stuff in the trash.  I do however have stuff set aside in my room to be donated still.  I just have not had time to actually take them to Goodwill.  I promise that none of it will worm its way back into the house.

Hike – I made it out on one hike this month.  As mentioned above, my husband and I went to Lake Anna State Park during the annual Lake Anna trip.  We hiked five different trails that connected into a five mile loop.  It seems like a nice park, so if/when we go back to Lake Anna I am sure we will try some more trails.  I am now at 7 out of 12 hikes for my annual goal.

Diet & Exercise – I had a great month for my health activities.  I was committed to a calorie plan where I tried to stay below 1200 calories two days a week and 1900 the other five days.  I hit my goal approximately 84% of the time this month.  I also have remained fairly consistent with my exercise.  I am still aiming for 4 active days a week, and I have been at 3-4 days each week for the month.  I have been going with a friend to the gym on Mondays to do a weightlifting circuit.  I go to the Pilates class with the people from work on Wednesdays.  Thursdays I plan to go to Ballet Burn every week, though this is the one I have been dropping most often.  Over the weekend, I try to get a decent walk around the neighborhood into my schedule.  I feel good about where I am.

The Challenges

CPA Studying – Studying dominated my month.  There is a lot of material to cover for FAR.  My study schedule requires around 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, even on weeks when I had other things happening.  There have been days I have worked on 10 different sections in one day, trying to get through all the material needed in a given week.  It is a lot of different topics to learn in such a short period of time.  I really am struggling to put in the required effort.  On the plus side, I am getting near the end of the sections in the Wiley program.  Unfortunately, I have started to enter moods where I just do not care if I understand what I just did before moving onto the next thing.

The Future

CPA Exam – One more week of studying!  Then, I take my exam on Sept 8th.  I am so ready for this to be over.

Relaxation – The rest of September I am dedicating to relaxing.  I have one trip planned, but otherwise I am trying to keep it relatively obligation free.  I just want to read or watch TV or hike or go into DC or do whatever based on what I feel liked doing for a couple weeks.  Toward the end, I do plan to begin the job search journey, specifically putting some work into my resume and trying to figure out exactly what type of accounting position I want.  However, I really need the rest period first, especially since I jumped into studying so quickly after quitting my job that I did not get much of one at the beginning.

PA Trip/Ed Sheeran Concert – I have tickets to see Ed Sheeran with my friend in PA at the end of September.  I still want to see Ed Sheeran, but I do kind of wish I did not have another trip planned.  I still have not decided how many days I am going to be there or what else I might do or who else I might see on this particular trip.  I bounce between taking a longer trip, especially if I can find cheaper accommodations, and just making it the bare minimum needed to see the concert and my family.  I also am thinking this will be the last trip to PA for the year.  I often go during the holidays, but I am fatigued on traveling.

Hiking – I am hoping that September is the month to catch up on the hiking goal for the year.  I will be done studying for FAR, and I do not plan to jump right into studying for AUD or job searching, so that will give me some time to play.  I hope to get 3 hikes done, the one for September, the one I missed earlier in the year, and the one for December (because really I do not expect to want to hike in December).  I am not sure when or where I will be going yet, but I will figure it out once my test is done.

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July 2018 Reflections


July passed quickly which is a nice change from last month.  Overall, I think it was a pretty good month.  Without further ado, here are my reflections for the month.

The Good

No Job – I love not working.  I have been studying pretty hard, so sometimes it feels like I am still working.  However, I just remind myself that I get to start later, take lots of breaks, and have no commute.  I am still finding time to enjoy myself even with the studying.  I have watched several movies including Black Panther, Alice in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass.  I made it through all of The Following Season 2 and Stranger Things Season 2.  I read five books with my favorite being The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah.  It is so nice to feel like I can plan my day based on my high and low energy periods and rearrange as I feel the need.

4th of July – I was a little hesitant about the 4th of July plans that my husband committed us to doing.  However, it turned out to be a really good time.  I have always loved the holiday.  My childhood was spent going to a great uncle’s every year where I went to a parade, spent all day at a family picnic, and saw illegal home fireworks in the evening.  As an adult, I have dropped out of the family arrangement, because I no longer do much with that branch of the family.  It has been replaced with a hodgepodge of inconsistent activities over the years, but nothing that quite brings the right feelings.  While this year was definitely different, I felt relaxed, entertained, and well fed.  I still think the rail pricing for Great Meadow is a bit high, but I am glad we went through with it anyway.

PA Trip – I took an unplanned trip to PA this month.  My aunt threw a family picnic because her son and his long-time girlfriend were coming home for the first time in a few years.  I originally was not planning to go because I just feel like I have taken too many trips this year already and have a few more that I am committed to doing in the next few months.  However, my Grandma’s health has been shaky and so I decided that I should.  It was a good trip.  Other than the picnic, I tried to keep it low-key, hanging out at my sister’s, eating some local favorites, and relaxing in my hotel room.  Sunday afternoon was the actual picnic.  Aside from the wayward cousins, there were several extended family members there that I have not seen in a while either.  It was very relaxing, and I felt more part of the family than I have in a while.  Plus Grandma seems so much stronger than she did when I was there in June.

Hike – I made it out on one hike this month.  My husband and I went to Seneca Creek State Park in Maryland.  It was a five mile hike around the lake.  It was not my favorite destination, but it was somewhere I had not been before.  It was a beautiful day when we went, the weather was sunny and unexpectedly cooler (70s).  There were lots of people out and about when we were there.  I have taken a couple smaller walks around our neighborhood too, but I am only counting the Seneca Creek one toward my hiking goal.  This puts me at the halfway point in my goal, 6 out of 12 hikes.  I wish I was making more progress, but weather and other activities are getting in the way.

Diet & Exercise – I have done much better with my health activities this month.  I followed the same calorie plan that I have been using, 1200 calories two days a week and 2000 the other five days.  I hit my goal approximately 71% of the time this month.  I think I am ready to try to knock that 2000 number back to 1900 for August.  I also have been more consistent with my exercise.  I am aiming for 4 active days a week, and I have been at 3-4 days each week for the month.  I have been going with a friend to the gym on Mondays to do a weightlifting circuit.  I go to the Pilates class with the people at work on Wednesdays.  Thursdays I plan to go to Ballet Burn every week, though this is the one I have been dropping the most.  Over the weekend, I try to get a decent walk around the neighborhood into my schedule.  I feel good about where I am.

The Challenges

Grandma – I mentioned last month and above that my Grandma has been struggling health-wise.  I am really worried about the situation.  My Grandma broke her hip a couple months ago.  She was recovering nicely from that, but then fell again a few weeks later and got progressively worse (mobility problems, memory problems, and appetite problems…she was so weak).  Then, she had a small stroke.  When I saw her at the end of June, she was so fragile looking and so out of touch with what was going on around her.  Everyone was really worried that she was going to just waste away.  Now she is doing much, much better physically.  Mentally though, the stroke has set her back.  She has lost the cognitive ability to do the little things (like use silverware properly) and has short term memory problems.  She is currently at her home with my mom and two aunts providing round the clock supervision.  This is not a sustainable schedule for them, and they have to figure out what to do with her going forward.  Everyone is very worn down by the situation, and Grandma is very angry that she cannot just proceed with her life as normal.  My mom in particular is handling it badly, showing signs of depression and emotional instability.  I am not sure how this will resolve itself, but I am worried about Grandma, I am worried about my mom, and I am worried about my aunts.

CPA Studying – It would have been nice to have the month of July to just dally around the house, not doing much of anything.  I made the decision though to dive into the studying pretty quickly and commit to the scheduled Sept 8th date.  There is a lot of material to cover for FAR.  My study schedule requires around 4-6 hours a day, six days a week, just to get through the Wiley CPAexcel sections.  I struggle with putting in the required time and really focusing on the material, but I am making myself push through it.  My hope is that come September, I will have passed the exam and can relax a bit before the next life steps.

The Future

Lake Anna/Hamilton – I have two big weekends in August already planned.  I am trying to keep the remainder of the month pretty open so that it is easier to stick with the required study schedule.  First, I have the annual trip to Lake Anna with friends.  I usually have a good relaxing time, and I expect this to be no different.  The last weekend in the month, my cousin and her boyfriend are coming to VA to see Hamilton with my husband and me.  This is something my husband really wanted to do (see the show, I do not think he cares so much whether my cousin is there), so I am glad we were able to obtain the tickets for it.

Minimalism Game – I want to declutter the house a bit.  There is just so much junk lying around.  The mess makes me anxious and I feel like I can never make things clean.  I have decided to play The Minimalism Game (see The Minimalist’s site https://www.theminimalists.com/game/).  For this game, you declutter one item on the first day of the month, two on the second, three on the third, and so on.  If you make it to the very end of the month, then you will have gotten rid of just under 500 items.  I am not sure I will make it that far, but I will try to go as long as I can.  I am making one change to the rules, and that is the requirement to get the decluttered stuff out of the house on each day.  Instead, I will trash anything on the same day, but donated items will go in a collection box to be taken to Goodwill on the 31st.  I just cannot take 31-ish trips to Goodwill.

CPA Studying – Of course, August will be heavy on the CPA studying.  As I said above, I need to maintain 4-6 hours a day, six days a week, just to make it through the Wiley program by my exam date.  Having the two busy weekends is going to make it even more difficult.  Plus I am already tired of studying so much.  I am just going to keep pushing though, and we will see how the exam goes.

Hiking – This goal is always in the future section.  No new plans associated with it this month.  I have one hike to make up still to be roughly on track for 1 hike a month during the year.  August might be a bit tough, between the studying and the two big weekend plans already there.  Weather has not been cooperating so much this summer either.  It has been ridiculously hot (pretty normal) and very rainy (more so than normal).  I will keep my eye out for a good day for this month, and maybe hope to get 2 in during September to catch up.

Blog – I have made the decision not to extend my blog beyond what it currently is.  I had mentioned possibly expanding to do a weekly update on the no job journey.  I also played around with the idea of doing some blogs on Youtube.  However, the studying situation has made me reconsider doing anything more.  That already takes up so much time, and I do not want to create even more work to try to do during my time off.  I would rather commit to the studying and relax the rest of the time.  So the blog will remain as is, monthly reflections only.

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

June 2018 Reflections


June was a very long month.  Normally, June starts to perk me up with the close of the year end schedule at work and the warmer weather and the fun summer things to do.  This year though it dragged.  Once I gave my notice, it felt like it took forever to get to my end date.  I gave them a 3.5 week notice, which I still think was the right thing to do given the circumstances, but it meant a very long wind down period.  On top of that, many of the things I was looking forward to doing either did not happen or were disappointing.  Looking at my list though, the good still outweighs the bad, so maybe a better month than I realized.  Without further ado, here are my reflections for the month.

The Good

Quit My Job – I gave my notice last month, but now I am officially done.  Honestly, it does not feel real to me yet.  I have been unemployed for one week now, but I mostly feel like I am on vacation instead of unemployed.  The wind down at work was very weird.  Although no one really did much to try to talk me out of leaving, neither did they seem too concerned with dealing with all the stuff I do.  There was very little talk about who was going to take over my tasks, except the acknowledgment that my actual supervisor position would not be transitioning to the person replacing me until after the July quarter end.  I did very little training or reviewing with anyone.  My boss was on vacation my final week, and her boss did not even say goodbye to me on his way out the door on my last day.  When it got to five o’clock on my last day, I just put my pass in a drawer and walked out.  It was very weird.  Of course, now it is not my problem that no one seems to have made any plans for how to handle my crazy workload for this coming month.  I am so glad I am done.  So far no calls, but we will see if that lasts through the quarter.

Husband Got a Job – Hallelujah my husband has a job.  First, this is great from a money aspect.  Although I was prepared for us to have zero income, his having a good paycheck again will make my own time off much more relaxed.  Now I feel like I can put off looking for my own new job for a month or so, giving me time to focus on studying and trying to decide how I want to proceed.  Even more important though, he will not be at home with me during my time off.  I was getting really anxious about the idea of having to spend every day with him.  We have had one week overlap (his job starts July 2nd), and I could not bear it.  He is driving me crazy.  He craves human contact after four months of unemployment.  I just want to be left alone.

PA Trip – My annual picnic PA trip was a success this year.  I left the day after my last day of work and I stayed three nights.  The first two were up in Greenville, PA near the friend who was having the annual picnic.  The annual picnic was great this year.  It rained, so we were a bit confined to the garage (big spacious garage that fits several tables comfortably), but we had a good time anyway.  We ate great food, played a crazy card game, and hung around talking.  I had an unexpected bonus in one of my college friends who has not made it the last several years was able to come.  My last night was in Pittsburgh because I wanted to see my family and check in with Grandma who has been struggling health wise a little bit.  Grandma seems like she is hanging in there, but I am still glad I booked the extra night to be able to see her.

Books – I had been trying very hard to limit my book reading to two or three books a month because of work demands, domestic responsibilities, and the supposed studying.  However, once I made the decision to quit my job, I immediately picked out five books to read for the month of June.  It was so nice to just breeze through books this month.  Of the five, two really stood out to me.  The first was The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.  This was a sad beautiful story that also invoked some Pittsburgh nostalgia in me.  The second was the controversial but oh so amazing All the Ugly & Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood.

Festival Food – In last month’s blog, I was looking forward to June festival season.  Overall, it was a bit of a bust (see below), but the food was wonderful.  One of the major reasons, I like to go to festivals is to experience the food.  The food did not disappoint.  I had hot sausage (my favorite!), meatballs, quesadilla, and soda.

The Challenges

Diet – If you remember, I changed my diet plan for May and was planning to bring it forward into June.  The goal was to try to keep doing the 1200 calorie days twice a week and keep the remaining days under 2000.  I actually did worse on this plan in June than I did in May, maintaining the schedule less than 50% of the month.  I am basically the same weight at the end of the month as where I started, so I guess maintenance is good.  However, I really want to lose about 20-30 pounds, so I need to do better.  I am going to try the under 1200/2000 plan again in July.  Hopefully, less stress from quitting the job will make it easier.  Plus, I no longer have candy dishes, birthday cakes, and Friday breakfasts to navigate.

Husband Home – I mentioned this briefly above, but my husband is driving me crazy.  I cannot wait for him to go back to work.  He is starved for attention and for some reason cannot seem to maintain enough friendships to fill this need.  He expects me to fill the void, jumping at me with dinner and a stream of dialogue the moment I walk in the door after work.  On top of that he has become a somewhat weird health & fitness junkie, which has lasted a lot longer than I expected.  Now I have a constant stream of updates on how much body pain he is in (ignoring my recommendation to rest a day here and there), criticism on my food choices in comparison to his, and complaints about how big his clothes are.  I assume this obsession will drop off once the work picks back up.  Finally, none of the house projects I wanted him to do have really seemed to make much progress.  All I really wanted was the bathroom on the main level, the guest bedroom, and the deck.  While I understand the deck being a bit hard due to the amount of rain we got, the rest of it just seems to be uninteresting to him.  Instead, he has done some various cleaning projects which I guess I cannot complain about too much, redid the paving in the backyard which I thought unnecessary and he does not seem to be satisfied with his work anyway, and attempted to install a microwave above our stove which went badly (currently no microwave is installed) and I never wanted in the first place.

Festival Experience – The food was great, the rest of my experiences not so much.  First, Herndon Festival was a wash.  I never went.  I asked my husband to go after work on Friday because there was a band there that he supposedly likes.  He claimed they could not play the songs he would want to hear because of the family atmosphere (wtf?).  I should have just gone without him, but figured I would go over the weekend.  It ended up pouring most of the weekend and I never got there.  Celebrate Fairfax was also rained out, but I do not think it had to be.  They ended the Gin Blossoms set a bit early because of a storm blowing through, and my husband did not want to wait it out to go to Sugar Ray.  We were a bit underwhelmed by the Gin Blossoms and are not fans of Sugar Ray.  Still it would have been nice to just stay, hang out with our friends, and enjoy the night out.  We went home even though the friends did not and it seemed like it turned into a pretty good evening for them.  Taste of Reston turned out to be nice weather, but I did not get to enjoy it much either.  I wanted to go on my own or meet my husband there, but he wanted to go together.  He spent the whole time giving zero opinion about what we should do or eat or anything, and my stepson complained every little bit about how boring it all was.  Rain may not be under my control, but I am going separately to these events in the future so my husband cannot make me miss out on my fun.

The Future

Fourth of July – We have one event planned for July so far, the fourth at Great Meadows with some friends.  I did not really want to do this, but I am sucking it up and hoping to have a great time anyway.  I actually used to love this holiday, but it has felt a little underwhelming the past few years.  I am kind of glad we are going out for it this year, but I am a little upset with the pricing.  It is a flat fee that could have been split by up to 15 people.  At 10-15 people, I felt comfortable with the price.  It looks like we are only having 5-6 people which makes it a bit pricy for what it entails.  However, my ever annoying husband committed us to it, and so we are doing it.  That said, I do actually expect it to be a good time.  There will be friends, good food, some music, and fireworks.  I love fireworks.

What to Do Next – Now that I have no job, I have to figure out what to do next.  I plan to enjoy some time off before really committing to a job search, especially now that my husband is going back to work.  I have all kinds of thoughts about what to do with the time off.  There are things I want to read, things I want to watch on TV, cleaning projects that seem necessary, exercise I want to do, trips that are probably more than I should spend but I still want to take, activities to try, places to visit, etc.  It is probably not feasible to do them all, but hopefully I will get some clarity on how to actually spend my time once I have been off for more than a week.  Eventually, I do need to start brainstorming, researching, and working on what the next step in my career will be.  I am not ready for it yet, and I do not want to rush into something I will regret.

CPA Studying – The one solid goal for the summer is to make some progress on studying for the FAR section of the CPA exam.  I did nothing in June as my attitude seemed to turn into I will have plenty of time once I am done working.  I did get the exam schedule for September 8th.  I can still reschedule with no monetary penalty through the beginning of August so if I cannot make the progress I need over July I will do that.  For now though, my plan is to dedicate a few hours most days to CPA studying and get the second one done in September before really turning too much to job searching.

Hiking – I made zero progress on my twelve hike goal for the year during June.  The weather was pretty bad and too many things were scheduled over weekends.  This is another thing that I hope to make more progress on now that I have no job.  Weather tends to be a bit brutal in July and August, but hopefully a few cooler days will pop up where I can take advantage of them.  There is no real change to target hikes from last month.  I still want to go back to Harper’s Ferry again and I still want to do some of the many options in Shenandoah National Park.

Blog – Still no promises, but I am still considering if I want to change up the blog now that I am done working.  I am still thinking of chronicling how my adventure quitting work and jumping into the unknown is going.  Recently, I have considered moving that portion of the blog to Youtube.  It would still be very blog style not really true vlogging.  I just kind of want to play around with something new.  I am not sure though.  What do you think?

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Saturday, June 2, 2018

May 2018 Reflections


May is an interesting month.  It is still dominated by work because of all the reporting and audit requirements.  It is also a month of celebration because my birthday, my husband’s birthday, and our anniversary are all in it.  You will notice below that I have my normal three categories plus one extra item.  The standalone item cannot yet be categorized as good or bad, maybe it is a little of both.  Without further ado, here are my reflections for the month.

OMG – I Just Jumped Off a Cliff

I put in my resignation at work this week.  I have no job lined up, and I am not entirely sure what my next step is.  I just know I needed to make a change.  I also know I would never do it if I stayed in my current job.  My stress levels are through the roof.  It is taking a toll on my health, my marriage, my ability to make any progress on my goals, and my general well-being.  So I just did it, hoping to give myself a bit of room to breathe and figure out what to do.  I am so excited and terrified at the same time.  I am still working out my notice period for most of June, and there is the potential for some part-time transition work after that.  I am on my way out the door though after several years of complaining.

The Good

Birthday – May 3 was a good day this year.  I was able to take the day off work.  My husband and I went to Harpers Ferry National Park.  We did a bit of hiking, ate lunch, and bought some treats at the old fashion candy store.  Then, I had the afternoon and evening to myself to just read and relax.  We waited until Friday the 4th to go for my dinner at Cantina D’Italia.

Philly Trip – I went up to Philly for a visit with my cousin.  She and I went to see Jewels performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet Company.  Afterward we had dinner at Alice Cucina Romana, which had fantastic pizza and gelato.  Saturday we went to one of her friend’s houses for a picnic.  It was a little weird at first since I knew no one, but once I relaxed I had a good time.

Hiking – May was a good month for hiking.  I got hikes 4 and 5 done for the year.  The first one was the aforementioned birthday hike to Harpers Ferry.  We did the Visitor Center Trail down to Lower Town.  There was one really steep section next to a nice waterfall series, but the rest was pretty much flat.  From Lower Town, we hiked up to Jefferson’s Rock, then went across the trellis bridge, and then returned to the Visitor Center the way we came.  In all, it was about 5.7 miles.  The second hike was back to Manassas Battlefield Park on Memorial Day.  I did the Second Manassas Trail this time, which was 7.2 miles of relatively flat albeit muddy terrain.  I enjoyed myself both times and feel great that I am getting so much hiking in this year.

Hawaiian Luau – One of our friends threw a Luau for her husband for his birthday.  I am normally not a big party person, but I had an especially good time at this one.  It started a bit slow, and I was a little overwhelmed by the number of people milling around.  At 9:00, she had some dancers come to perform Tahitian and Hawaiian dancing for us, which was very cool.  When they left, half the crowd dissipated pretty quickly too.  I started dancing with some other people, and all of a sudden I was having a great time.  I ended up staying until about 11:00 which is way later than I intended.

Avengers:  Infinity War – I finally saw the new Avenger’s movie in the theater this past weekend.  It was fantastic.  All the characters from all the movies were in this one (with a few minor exceptions like Antman and Hawkeye).  It has the usual Marvel downfall of way too much going on in the 2.5 hours that it runs.  However, it also has a lot of fun action and good humor throughout.  The plot on this one is phenomenal and the stakes are high.  It basically ends with the worst outcome possible.  I cannot wait for the next one next year to find out how they manage to move on from here.  In the meantime, I need to rewatch some of the older ones to make sure I understand all the nuances referenced in this movie.

The Challenges

Diet – I changed up my game plan for diet in May.  I noticed that I was recording well over 2000 calories a day, except for my under 1200 days.  So I said, forget the rules, I can have whatever I want as long as I am under 2000 a day.  I did try to maintain the low calorie 1200 goal on Tuesdays and Saturdays still.  I have had mixed results this month.  I was under my calorie goal (2000 or 1200) about 60% of the month.  I am going to keep the same goal for June and see if I can increase my percentage.  May is bit hard because of all the celebratory days in it.  Weight-wise though I am a teensy bit down for the month though, so I guess from that standpoint I did a good job.

Work – Obviously work has not improved given that I just quit my job.  May was another month of requests.  The auditors were very active, the tax department was trying to reconcile their stuff, and management was trying to make sure everything was as it should be.  While I understand the importance of all of this, I was resentful of every question, every request that was sent my way.  I also felt like I spent all my days in fear of the next shoe dropping.  I know it is just a matter of time before we buy a new company or set up a customer to do deals in another currency or have a customer request to extend 120 leases.  Every morning, I wake up and say I do not want to go to work today.  I still go 99% of the time of course because that is what a responsible adult does.  I know it is time to go though, so as scary as it is I am taking the leap.

The Future

CPA Studying – I have done some, but not nearly enough on the CPA studying front.  I will keep limping through sections as best I can until I am done working full time.  One of my goals for my summer off though is to study every day and get FAR done by end of summer.  I should have a much clearer head to tackle it when I am not dealing with all the work drama.

Hiking – Obviously I will keep working on my hiking goal for the year.  I want to take another trip out to Harpers Ferry because I loved it.  Eventually I want to tackle the Maryland Heights Trail which is labeled difficult.  I do not think I am quite ready to do it now, but future goals.  I also want to get back to Shenandoah National Park.  There are so many trails there; I have barely scratched the surface on the few trips I have taken so far.  Maybe with my summer off, I can work out a few trips further from home too.

PA Trip – My friend’s annual picnic is at the end of June this year.  My last day of work is the Thursday prior to it.  I have two nights scheduled in a hotel, per normal for picnic weekend.  I am considering extending my stay a bit since I will not have to return to work.  I will need to find someone to let me stay with them though because it does not seem prudent to put a week of hotel nights on my credit card when I will be without income for an indefinite period of time.  Regardless of whether I go for the weekend or the whole week, I always look forward to picnic weekend.  I am so lucky to have such great friends who have stayed in touch all these years after college.

Festival Season – June is a big festival season here in Northern Virginia.  There are three that I try to hit every year:  Herndon Festival, Celebrate Fairfax, and Taste of Reston.  Of course weather, my hubby’s mood, and money will play some part in my participation of these events, but I really hope everything works out for these this year.  I absolutely love festivals and fairs.  While they do not have quite the same homey feel that Pennsylvania Fairs give, Northern Virginia ones promise good food, fun music, and lots of vendors to peruse.

Blog – No promises, but I might change up the blog again once I stop working.  A big part of changing the format to the monthly reflections had to do with no time and too much stress given my work and study schedule.  No work will definitely change that dynamic.  I am considering doing a bit of chronicling about how my adventure quitting work and jumping into the unknown goes.  What do you think?

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April 2018 Reflections


April is my least favorite month of the year.  Every year it is dominated by work requirements.  I have to do my best to not allow any kind of social or other obligation to get in the way, because I am guaranteed to work late most days and at least 2 of the weekends.  Even when I am not at work, I am usually so drained I do not want to do anything.  So April is all work and no fun, and usually a high stress period for me.  Here are my reflections for the month.

The Good

Hiking – I lucked out this year and we had a nice weekend day when I was not required to work.  My husband and I went on a hike together.  We started at Bull Run on the Bluebell Trail.  We diverted onto the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.  When we hit the 2.5 mile mark, we turned around.  We finished the Bluebell Trail, picking it up where we left off and continuing the loop back to the car.  It ended up being just over 5 miles, and my hips hurt horribly by the end.  However, the bluebells and other early spring flowers were in full bloom, so it was a gorgeous walk.  This makes hike number 3 in my goal of 12 for year.

Diet – Diet is something I struggle with during year-end.  We tend to have lots of candy floating around the office during fiscal close.  I also am prone to stress eating, and this is the most stressful time of year for me.  I am happy to report, that while I definitely indulged, I restrained myself much more than normal.  I maintained less soda intake (1-3 per week).  I kept low calorie Tuesday and Saturday intact, keeping under 1200 calories every single time.  My weight fluctuation during the month stayed within a 1-2 pound range, and I am ending the month basically where I started.

Entertainment – I had a pretty good entertainment month this month.  I discovered Podcasts as a way to make the commute home more enjoyable.  I have listed to Podcasts on long trips before, but this is the first month I have tried them during my afternoon commute.  I have been listening to Someone Knows Something and Serial Killers.  For TV, I have been rewatching Friends (up to season 3 now) and watching Season 2 of The Expanse (which is even better than Season 1).  I saw Ready Player One in the theater which was great, not as good as the book, but it definitely captured the spirit of the story and was so much fun to watch.  I also enjoyed Jumanji:  Welcome to the Jungle, which was just an easy, funny way to unwind after work one weekend.

The Challenges

Work – As I indicated above, this month was pretty much dominated by work.  It still is not over, although the massive amount of work part is pretty much done.  Now, I have three excruciating weeks of reviews and audits, praying they do not find anything horrible that needs to be adjusted in the ledger.  This year was probably not the worst, but it definitely was not the best.  There were some high volume issues that put us off to a rocky start.  I made myself stay 1-2 hours late almost every night right from the beginning, to stay on top of it all.  This actually did pay off because Business Day 11 (journal entry close) was not as bad it has been in the past.  Now I am exhausted though, and only starting to recover from all the extra hours worked.  I am very anxious about this close, because I already know of one issue under review with management and the auditors that is directly a result of work done by my team.  There is not much I can do at this point either, except wait to see what the verdict is.

Exercise – Because of all extra work hours, exercise pretty much went out the door.  I managed Ballet Burn the first week and the last week of the month.  Pilates I only did the last week of the month.  The few weeks off was enough to make going back extra hard.  This past week I have been so sore between hiking, Pilates, and Ballet Burn.  It is so hard to get back into exercise when you get out of the habit even for a short amount of time.

Allergies –Pollen season in VA is crazy.  The pollen down here is so thick that my blue car looks green every morning.  Growing up, I never had much problem with seasonal allergies.  Now I have them in spring and fall.  I have itchy eyes, itchy nose, sneezing, and nose bleeds.  The itch is finally starting to die down, although I think this is due to Flonase and not less pollen yet.  Additionally, the pollen irritates my skin.  I have minor rosacea which flares up in the early spring/summer months. 

The Future

CPA Studying – Now that year-end has died down, it is time to start studying for the next section of the CPA exam.  I went through all the introductory materials for FAR tonight.  Wednesday I start the study schedule I planned out.  I need to work hard to reign in the social events for the next few months, which always seem to increase as the weather gets warmer.  Although I have not registered for it yet, my plan is to take FAR in September.

Hiking – Last month, I indicated I was hoping to do Harper’s Ferry National Park next.  This did not happen obviously, but that is still on my list of ones I want to do this year.  I also want to go back to Manassas National Battlefield Park to do the First Manassas Trail again, this time keeping in the Stone Bridge Loop section I cut the first time.  I am hoping to do a hike on my birthday, although I have to wait to see if anything comes up between now and then at work.  My boss is fine with the day off during this part of close, as long as nothing critical has come up.  May might be a good month to get in two hikes and catch myself up on the 12 hike per year plan.

Celebration Month – May is always a big month for my husband and I to celebrate.  My birthday is the 3rd.  His birthday is the 30th.  Our anniversary is the 18th.  We have plenty of opportunities to eat good food and be nice to each other for the evening.  I have been pushing to go to my favorite Italian restaurant, Cantina D’Italia, for dinner for my birthday.  For our anniversary, we usually try to do something a little fancier than our normal meals out, although I am not sure what we are doing yet.  His plan for his birthday is a boys only poker night, which is fine with me.  I assume my stepson and I will get him cake sometime during the end of the month anyway.

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

March 2018 Reflections


March felt like a really long, hard month.  However, when I went through this exercise, I only came up with one thing in the Challenges section.  I think that is a testament to how overwhelming work is to my life at the moment.  My frustrations there overshadow what seems to have been a pretty good month in every other aspect.  Here are my reflections for the month.

The Good

CPA Exam – I took the REG exam on Mar 3rd.  I received my test scores on Mar 20th.  I passed with a 90 which boggles my mind (0-99 range, with passing at 75).  It felt so hard when I was in there taking the exam.  I felt like I was guessing on so many of the Multiple Choice questions.  Although none of the Task Based Simulations totally stumped me, I was often unsure if I had picked the right variation of the rules to apply.  I honestly walked out of there unsure of whether I had passed, so finding out I did so with such a high score just amazes me.

Hiking – We managed to get a nice weekend day during March for my husband & I to take a walk.  It was not the warmest day (50s and a little windy), but the sun was bright.  We went to Burke Lake Park and walked the lake trail.  It is about 5 miles on relatively flat terrain.  There were lots of people out that weekend; everyone wanted to enjoy the sunshine.

Ballet Burn & Pilates – I continue to enjoy the Ballet Burn class at my gym.  I really wish I was a little better at it, but if I just keep going I know I will improve.  I can already tell my flexibility is improving, because my forward fold is better.  It looks like we might have a Pilates class for a few more months too.  Work has not reinstated it, but one of the guys at work made arrangements with the instructor to do the class independently.  The first one was this past Wednesday.  It went well, and I will probably continue to do it for as long as they keep it going.

Diet – I did much better at my diet this month.  I reduced my soda intake to about 1 a week, and even none last weekend.  Going forward, I am trying to make soda an out to dinner or at a party only drink.  I mostly kept up the breakfast at 300 calories, although I still struggle some weekends.  I added a second low calorie day to my week.  So now I am doing low calorie Tuesdays and Saturdays, trying to keep my calories under <1200.  I did all but two days this month.  One Tuesday, my husband totally messed up dinner and delivered me a carb fest.  Yesterday, my family did Easter dinner, so I did not even try.

PA Trip – I took my trip to PA to see my sister, baby T, and the rest of the family.  Friday evening, I met my friend for dinner in Wexford at Emporio: A Meatball Joint.  This place was awesome!  I had a meatball grinder with beef balls and crack sauce.  I also had cheesy bread with bacon and warm ricotta donut balls with hot fudge and cream cheese icing.  Saturday, I spent the morning with my sister, baby T, and an aunt at Impact Christian Church for an Easter Egg Hunt.  Baby T is an expert egg hunter, although she really would have like to participate in every age group not just her own.  Afterward, I hung out at my sister’s house until it was time to go to a different aunt’s house for Easter dinner.  I enjoyed a delicious dinner and spent the rest of the time there talking with my dad and my uncle.  After dinner, everyone went to see my grandmother in the rehab center with cheesecake for dessert (she fell and broke her hip, but is doing really well and should be discharged soon).  Today, I went to church with my mom, sister, and baby T, and then out to lunch with them plus my dad.  Overall, it was a really great trip.  I miss my sister and baby T so much.  I wish I lived closer.

The Challenges

Work –Work was awful this month.  As I predicted, the really big transaction slowly trickled through the system.  When I left work on Thursday (took Friday off), we still had not gotten the ledger straightened out for it.  On top of that, there were somewhere around 100 leases discounted for the month.   There is just so much work all the time, and we never seem to get caught up on it.  These crazy transactions are becoming standard instead of rare occurrences.  There is a new one every couple of months, and it takes us months to get them straight.  Then, the tax manager is always having a fit over the way we accounted for them in the ledger, and I am the one who has to bear the brunt of her frustration.  There is no breathing room, and I am so tired of it.

The Future

Year-End – April will be dominated by year-end close at work.  I expect that it is going to be awful.  We still have a pretty big mess because of that huge transaction.  On top of that, we have many discountings, which have the potential to cause a lot of a certain type of time consuming quarterly entry, but I will not know for a couple more days.  Then, year-end is always busy and stressful just because it is the fiscal end.  There is so much pressure to get everything done correctly and quickly.  People start pestering me for schedules before we have even closed the books.  I expect to work late most nights and be there for the next 3 weekends.

CPA Studying – I passed my first section, which means now there is a clock ticking on the rest of them.  I have 18 months to pass the remaining 3 sections.  I thought about starting on the next one during March, but after realizing I was out of town for a weekend and then heading into year-end, I changed my mind.  I see no point in getting into it until after year-end.  The next one I am studying for is FAR, which is generally considered the most overwhelming.  It covers a lot of material, so I am allotting myself more time to study for it than the other two.  I think I am going to schedule it for beginning of September which will give me approximately 5 months.  I plan to give about 3 months for each of the other 2 sections.  Then, I would have 6 months if I need to retake any of them.  I almost wish I had not passed REG, so then I would not be obligated to move forward.

Hiking – The weather is warming up, so I know there will be more hikes in the future.  April will be tricky because I work practically every weekend.  Even if I am not working, I am not sure how motivated I will to be to take a hike.  My downtime activities tend to lean more toward binging TV shows than exercise.  I have many ideas on where I want to hike next, but I think I have decided to do Harper’s Ferry National Park next.  It will be about a 4 mile hike in and out, and some walking around the little village.  I do not yet know if I will be taking my husband on this one.  Sometimes it is nice to hike with him, and sometimes not so much.

Husband Home – My husband has now been off work for a little over one month.  He has done a very minimal amount of looking for a new job.  I have been trying to keep my mouth shut, because I understand that he wanted to take some time off before jumping back into a job.  I want the same courtesy if/when I quit mine in August.  However, now that it has been a month, he needs to start doing something other than playing video games.  Obviously, I want him to look for a job first.  However, it would be nice if he also did some of the house projects that are waiting his attention.  We have a broken toilet, an unfinished deck (although I guess weather does need to be better for this one), a room he started to rip apart and is now unusable, several burnt out lights including one that needs to be rewired, etc.  He originally told me he was going to work on these while he was off, but so far the only house projects he seems to have done is clean the basement (yay!) and reorganize the shelves in the kitchen (why?).

There you have it, my month in review.  See you next month!