Saturday, December 1, 2018

November 2018 Reflections


I think November turned out kind of meh.  There were some good things, but also a lot of struggle to keep myself moving on the things I needed to do.  Here are my reflections.

The Good

Hiking – I completed my hiking goal for the year.  I did my final hike at the beginning of November.  My husband, stepson, and I all went to Lake Accotink on a beautiful day.  We hiked the roughly 3.8 miles around the lake.  Although my stepson struggled a bit with the length, it is overall a relatively easy hike as it is mostly flat.  That makes 12 hikes for the year.  I think it highly unlikely I will do any in December since the weather is much colder and there are so many holiday obligations taking up time.

Christmas Shopping – I make a goal each year to get all my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving.  I did better this year than most.  Everything is bought except the presents for my stepson.  I have my gifts for my stepson from me, but I traditionally shop for the Santa items together with my husband.  He is never in any hurry, so we will end up doing it like Dec 23rd. Bonus, I have the majority of my presents wrapped too.

Non-Traditional Thanksgiving & Friendsgiving – We went to my in-laws for Thanksgiving.  It is always a toss-up as to whether a visit with them will go OK or be a disaster.  This year, thankfully, it went well.  There was no drama, no one was drunk, no one was sick, and no one was in a bad mood.  We had crab legs instead of a traditional meal.  This is not my favorite food, but I know my husband was super excited about it.  We played an 80s/90s music trivia game, and I won.  Saturday we went to a friend’s house where I got my more traditional turkey dinner.  I am so glad they invite us, because I enjoy the Thanksgiving meal and my family rarely seems to do it on the actual holiday anymore.  We also played games there, Pandemic (first time played and I loved it) and Munchkin (which I never like but everyone else seems to enjoy).

Holiday Portraits – Our holiday portrait session was another thing that went surprisingly well considering how difficult it sometimes can be.  We started a little rocky because the Picture People studio we have used the past couple years is closed.  It turns out Picture People has changed ownership and as a result many locations have been eliminated.  We found another one that was not too far away though, so I made an appointment there.  The session itself went very smoothly.  They did a tag team system of one person putting us in the poses and another taking the pictures, which seemed to make it go much faster.  My stepson behaved himself really well this year, which is never a guarantee.  Finally, our pictures came out great.  We had several good options from which to make our choices.  The only downside was the prices have gone up considerably from prior years (and no information on the website so it was a surprise at the end of the appointment), but I keep reminding myself it was still much less than if we had hired a private photographer to do them.

The Challenges

CPA Studying – I am still struggling with the material for AUD.  It all blends together in my head.  Every type of engagement and report is so similar, so the study guide and the videos go over and over the same things.  Of course, there are minute little differences in there, so I cannot just skip everything.  My scores on the quizzes and simulations have been all over the place.  Sometimes I get perfect scores, sometimes I get more than half of it wrong.  I have no idea what this means for me taking the actual exam in a week.  I have a couple more sections in the Wiley program to get through this weekend.  Then I will spend next week doing flash cards and practice questions.  I just hope I pass, because I do not want to have to spend more time on this material.

Job Search – I made zero progress on the job front this month.  I kept putting it on my To Do List, but I just never got to it.  I could partly blame the study schedule which has gotten a little heavier toward the end (I allowed myself to get a little behind over time).  Mostly though, it is just a mixture of fear about making the wrong decisions that keeps me frozen and laziness of not wanting to do more work after I finish the studying for the day.

Media Addiction – I did slightly better on my media addiction during November.  I tried to isolate my usage to a little bit in the morning and then the evenings, except for Saturday (a free for all) and Sunday (no media except TV night with the hubby).  I made it happen about 70% of the time.  I want to cut it back even more though.  I still do not think it healthy to spend every evening listening to podcasts and/or watching Youtube videos.  I want to get back into reading, writing, relaxing, thinking in my evenings.  It is just so hard, because once I start clicking I just keep going until it is bedtime.

Diet & Exercise – It has not been a great month for me and my health routines.  I am still working with the same diet plan, net below 1800 calories most days and under 1200 occasionally.  I only hit my goal approximately 60% of the time, although at least most of those non-compliant days were barely over the limit not complete blowouts.  I am struggling with the exercise routines too.  I am still aiming for 4 active days a week, but I have definitely not hit it (maybe not any week) this month.  The Monday/Tuesday friend has been inconsistent because of her schedule, but instead of doing something on my own I have just not done anything.  I have been a bit hit or miss with going to the yoga class on Tuesdays too (I cannot decide if I like it or not).  I still love my Thursday Ballet Burn class, but the studio closed one week for snow and another week for Thanksgiving.  I have done some walking on the weekends, but it is hard to motivate myself to leave if the weather is less than perfect.  Overall I only gained about a pound thankfully.  I just want to keep my weight steady through the December holiday shenanigans.  I can refocus and work on the next 10 pounds in the new year.

The Future

CPA Exam – My exam is scheduled for Dec 7th.  I just want it to be over.

Job Search – No studying for the month means I will have more time open to work on my job search stuff.  Part of me wants to just wait until all the exam sections are over (March, cross-my-fingers) and then start looking, but I feel like that might be stretching it a little thin on our savings, especially if it takes several months for me to find something.  I just need to stop making excuses and start working on it.

Holiday Festivities – December is always packed full of stuff.  No matter how much I try to limit my involvement, I seem to agree to way too many activities.  So far on the agenda, I have a Trivia Night, a Jazz Concert, a visit from my mother complete with a show in DC and a Christmas lights activity, a Light Up Festival, and a possible Open House.  Then, of course the holidays themselves, which I am sure will be another trip to the in-laws.

Christmas Movies – I try to watch Christmas movies every year.  This year I have decided to focus on nostalgic movies/shows from my past.  I am focusing on my childhood favorites not necessarily the best holiday fare, so I expect the cheese factor to be high.

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

Friday, November 2, 2018

October 2018 Reflections


I managed to keep October relatively low key.  I stayed away from too much social interaction and mostly enjoyed my own company for the month.  Here are my reflections.

The Good

Weather – October’s weather was a big improvement over September.  Although mostly on the cooler side (which is to be expected), the rain finally cleared up somewhat.  We had many beautiful sunny days to enjoy outside.

Hike – The beautiful weather allowed me to catch up on my hiking goals for the year.  I went on three different solo hikes during the month.  The first one was to Shenandoah National Park where I did the hike down to Hazel Falls and Caves.  I think this is one of my favorite hikes ever.  It is about 5.4 miles roundtrip to the falls.  There is a 0.2 mile section near the falls that is extremely steep.  It had stairs and rocks built into it, but it was still challenging to go down the mountainside and then to come back up of course.  When you get down to the Hazel Falls area though, it is a perfect little haven from the outside world.  The falls are gorgeous, and I enjoyed poking into the two little caves I found too.  Due to time considerations, my other two hikes were closer to home and smaller excursions.  I went to Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, where I did the Red Trail (about 2.5 miles).  My final hike took me to Bull Run Regional Park where I hiked the White Trail, and partially down the Bull Run Occoquan Trail that I then had to backtrack, because I missed where they split off.  In total, I hiked about 2.5 miles on that one as well.  I am now at 11 out of 12 hikes for my annual goal.

Desire Map – If you remember way back in February, I talked about starting the exercises in the book The Desire Map.  I got side-tracked and stopped working on them, but I finally finished them this month.  The Core Desired Feelings I chose for the year are Connection, Genuineness, Awareness, Vibrancy, and Serenity.  My goals for the remainder of 2018 have not really changed from what I was working with before:  1) Pass AUD, 2) Find a new job, 3) Declutter my house, and 4) Exercise particularly hiking.  I am not sure if my goals align with the Core Desired Feelings or not, but it will have to do for the rest of this year.  I am planning to reread the book in December and to do the exercises again for 2019, hopefully in a more timely manner.

Entertainment – This was a great month for entertainment in all categories.  I really enjoyed myself.  The best from the month included:   Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan (book), The Tudors Season 1 (TV show), Rudderless (movie), The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya (book), Antman and the Wasp (movie), The Anomaly by Michael Rutger (book), Split (movie), and Style Your Mind (podcast).

Diet & Exercise – I lost 3 pounds during October.  I have no idea how I did it, because I really was not all that great with my diet and exercise during the month.  Maybe it was all the hiking.  I tried to maintain the diet plan I have been working with the past few months, net below 1800 calories most days and under 1200 once or twice a week.  I only hit my goal approximately 67% of the time though, so not a particularly strong month.  My consistency was OK with exercise.  I am still aiming for 4 active days a week, but it was more at the 3 day mark for October.  I have continued going with a friend to the gym on Mondays or Tuesdays to do a weightlifting circuit.  Thursdays I went to Ballet Burn almost every week.  I did my hikes 3 of the weeks.  I also have gotten some other random walks in the neighborhood done.  In total I have lost about 10 pounds since the start of the year.  Now the challenge is to maintain that 10 pound loss through the holiday festivities.

The Challenges

CPA Studying – I have started back up the studying, but I am struggling with it.  In some ways, it is easier on this round.  My study schedule for AUD is not nearly as intensive as it was for FAR.  I split the units up evenly and only need to get through approximately 20 a week.  I am giving myself two complete days off, so that comes to roughly 4-5 units a day and still some time to review at the end.  This is such an improvement over the 8+ units per day I was trying to get through on the last go round.  The trouble comes from the actual content in this section.  Auditing is not a subject where I have much experience or interest.  I did not particularly like the subject during my first go round of college.  (My professor told us that students take Cost Accounting and Auditing at the same time, most like one or the other but not both.  I was squarely on the Cost Accounting team.)  I have never worked for an audit team.  Although I have had to deal with auditors, it has been from the auditee side not the auditor side.  I am familiar with some of the terminology, but I really have no idea how to plan and complete an audit.  I am finding myself not particularly interested in the material either as I go through the sections.  It is making it hard to just sit down and do what I need to do some days.  Anyway, I guess I just keep pushing through it.  My exam is scheduled for Dec 7, and I would just like to pass and put the subject behind me again.

Job Search – I did actually start on the job search process, but I did not make nearly enough progress.  I have a mostly updated resume.  I did not update my LinkedIn page yet.  Most importantly, I did not actually start searching for jobs.  I just kept running out of time, which is ridiculous seeing as I am not working and studying does not take up my entire day.  So really, I just have been avoiding it.  I am finally starting to feel a bit antsy though.  I am tired of having no income of my own.  I am uncomfortable watching the credit card debt climb higher and the savings account go lower, even though we are nowhere near the danger zone.  I also feel like I want to go out and just do something with other people (not my husband).  So hopefully this antsy feeling will translate into more progress on the job search front in November.

Media Addiction – One of the big time-suckers in my life is media.  This year, I worked to cut back on the Netflix DVDs and streaming.  However, I replaced that with Youtube.  Then, I cut back on Youtube, but replaced that with podcasts.  Now I need to cut back on the podcasts, and not replace it with anything.  I have two problems.  One I use media as an avoidance tactic to procrastinate on things I do not want to do.  The other is I get into these mental ruts where I must start from the beginning.  So if I find a new podcast that is on episode 100, I do not want to start at 100, I want to start at 1.  Then it feels like I have this huge To Do List that needs to be completed.  Most of the podcasts I listen to are interviews and isolated episodes, not serialized, so there is no real reason I need to go back to the beginning.  Anyway, I have given myself a limit for November on how many podcasts, Youtube episodes, movies, etc. that I can consume over given time periods.  It makes me feel a little silly, but I need to stop binging away hours of my day on nonsense and work on things that need to be done, like finding a job.

The Future

CPA Studying – November will be another month of studying.  I stayed on schedule for October, so I have roughly half of the study material to get through next month.  My exam is schedule for Dec 7th.

Job Search – I will get the resume completed.  I will get the LinkedIn page updated.  I will start applying to jobs by the end of the month.

Hiking – I only need to get one more hike done to reach my goal of twelve hikes for the year.  Originally, I had designated the November hike to be at Wintergreen Resort.  However, the annual trip has been canceled, so I need a new plan.  I may try to make it out to Harper’s Ferry again.  I may just do another quick jaunt around one of the local regional parks and call it a year.  I will see how the weather, study schedules, and social obligations shake out for the month.

Christmas Shopping – I am hoping to get more than half of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving.  I hate holiday crowds.  Living in the DC metro area means the crowds are bad enough during normal months.  It becomes absolutely insane during the holidays.  I make it a goal to get the majority of my shopping done before Thanksgiving every year.  I am excited that I can do my shopping during the workday when crowds are the smallest this year, at least as long as I do not start working again.

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

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!