Saturday, September 7, 2019

The End


I am about a week late posting the August Reflections blog.  The truth is I just cannot seem to find the motivation to work on the blog now that I am back to work.  It has been limping along the last couple of years anyway.  After pondering it over the last week, I have made the decision to end it.  I took myself off Twitter several months ago.  Since then, my readership dropped from around 40 to around 5 people per blog.  Neither number is interesting, but it does highlight how pointless forcing myself to keep writing it really is.  If I am not doing it for readers, and I am not interested in doing it for myself any more, there is no reason to keep it going.

I originally started the blog because I have dreams of being a writer.  I thought it would help build a writing habit, develop my writing skills, and lead me to a place where I felt ready to write fiction again.  None of that happened.  My habit varied over the four years I did it, but I never was 100% consistent with whatever schedule I stated.  I am not sure how much it helped develop my skills.  I often felt rushed to complete my posts, so I never felt like it showcased my best work.  It definitely did not lead to me writing more fiction.  Although I have started and stopped a few writing practices over those years, none of them lasted more than a few weeks and I have no completed work to show for my efforts.  While I still hope that someday I can write the fiction that is in my head, I just do not think that time is now in my life.  I never built a practice while I was not working, so it is incredibly unlikely I will build one now that I am back to work.

So that is it.  The End!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

July 2019 Reflections


July has been interesting as I try to adjust to a new job.  I do not really have time to write my blog this month.  It has been a struggle to get much done in the evenings, and I am also going out of town this weekend.  I am determined not to skip posting this month, but I admit it is going to be a bit on the skimpy side.  Here is a very short rundown of some of my activity and thoughts from the month.

New Job

I started the new job halfway through the month.  So far, I have mixed feelings about it.  I am very unmotivated, and I already wake up not wanting to go to work.  It is not the job; it is the very fact I have to spend all day at work after having so much freedom.  The job itself has been off to a slow start.  I have not been given many tasks and very little training, so I have slowly been going through old files and documentation to try to figure out how to do the tasks I have been assigned.  I alternate between being bored and being frustrated because I cannot ask anyone the questions I have.  Supposedly, things will be changing around next month, and I will be getting more tasks with people assigned to train them.

Aside from actually working, I am trying to settle into new routines.  I have done a decent job of keeping up an exercise schedule, getting up early a couple days a week and using the weekend for longer activities.  Evenings are a struggle.  By the time I get home, eat, see my husband, clean up the kitchen, and maybe do one thing, it is time to head upstairs to get to bed.  I have been trying to keep a period for winding down (skincare, maybe reading, ASMR), and then turning the lights out before 10.  Everything else is falling to the weekends (chores, errands, socializing, trying to do something fun for me), which does not really work and has never worked.  I am not stressed by my job yet, but all the other struggles are already there.

Hiking

It was a good month for hiking.  I did two hikes on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail.  The whole trail is 18 miles long, which is more than I can do in a day.  I have been starting from the various parking areas to go out & back over a 3-4 mile section at a time.  I am hoping to cover the whole thing by the end of the year.  These two hikes plus a couple I did earlier in the year bring me to the half-way point.  I think I can finish it in 3 more trips.  I also went out to Shenandoah National Park before going back to work.  I hiked the Hawksbill Trail loop which takes you up to the highest point in the park.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day when I went.  Skies were clear and sunny, but temperatures were only around 70 in the mountains.  My hiking will now be confined to weekends, but hopefully I can complete a few more before the end of the year.

Game Night

I only had one big social event this month, a second game night at the same friend’s house as the first one.  This one was a bit smaller than the first, so we were not split into as many groups.  All of us together played a game which I think was called Unstable Unicorns.  It seemed like it could be a lot of fun, but it felt a bit chaotic.  None of us knew how to play since the hostess had just bought it.  Plus there was a baby causing commotion and side conversations happening.  In all, I felt a bit confused about what I was supposed to be doing, but I would definitely give it another try.  After a round of unicorns, we split into guys and girls.  The guys played some kind of complicated board game that I did not really pay attention to what it was.  The girls played two trivia games, Smart Ass and Jeopardy.  Smart Ass is actually a game my sister bought me for Christmas a few years ago, and I have never played.  I think I dismissed it because of its name as being based on juvenile humor.  However, it is a pretty straight forward trivia game, and I really enjoyed it.

Personal Products Project

In July, I used up/trashed 7 items – 1 pack of makeup wipes, 1 perfume, 1 hand cream, 1 exfoliating body lotion, 1 deodorant, 1 bath salt, and 1 conditioning spray.  I bought 4 things – 1 Native Deodorant in Cucumber Mint, 1 Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Hand Cream, 1 CeraVe SA Lotion, and 1 Suave Max Hold Hairspray.

I had been planning to start doing one category a month to discuss some of my product usage insights and thoughts from doing this purge.  However, this is going to have to wait until next month.

Books

I managed to get a few books read before going back to work.  I have been working on the same book the entire two and a half weeks since starting, finishing it only yesterday.  It was pretty hefty at 700 pages though.  I have no doubt my ability to plow through books is going to be greatly reduced now that I am back to work.  Anyway, here are the books I read during the month with my ratings (1-Awful, 2-Disappointing, 3-Decent, 4-Good, 5-Amazing).

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – 4 stars
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson – 3 stars
Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – 3 stars
Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – 4 stars
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown – 4 stars

There you have it, my month in review.  Hopefully as I settle back into a working woman life, I will get my time and energy management under control.  It was never my strong suit though, so we will see.

See you next month!

Monday, July 1, 2019

June 2019 Reflections


June was a pretty big month for me.  I had some important career developments.  I also did a number of fun outings.  Here is a rundown of some of my activity and thoughts from the month.

CPA License

I am officially a CPA now.  I finally took my ethics exam.  I got all the paperwork submitted.  I received notice from the VA Board of Accountancy that my application has been accepted.  I still am waiting for the official wall certificate which will take a few weeks to arrive.  However, I am listed as active in the online registry now.  As long as I complete my CPEs and register for the license every year, and do not commit any “acts discreditable” to the profession, I will be a CPA regardless of where my career takes me now.

Job Search

I have a job!  After feeling so frustrated in May with the lack of job search results, I had a flurry of activity during the month.  I found several job requisitions that seemed to match up to my background much better than many of the ones I saw previously.  I did a couple of phone interviews, one of which turned into an in-person interview.  It was a great interview.  I felt very calm and comfortable with all 4 interviewers (1 HR, 3 accountants).  I walked out of there feeling very confident about the interviews and the position.  They must have felt the same, because everything turned around very fast.  This will be a senior accountant position with a telecom company.  I will be working with the general ledger for the U.S. subsidiary, though technically its financials will roll up to a huge Asian company.  I am making more than I thought would be possible for a senior position, and I will not have to deal with the stress of management.  They are going through an acquisition and some internal changes, so it might be a bit challenging at the beginning.  I just hope this works out for me, at least for a few years until I figure out what I really want to be doing.

Blush Coaching

I started a life coaching program online.  I was having such struggles with the job search process.  I felt very disconnected from it and unmotivated to go back to work.  While I am glad to have the new job for practical reasons, I do not want to just settle into it for another 10 years without question.  I still have interest in teaching or working with some kind of non-profit organization or doing financial coaching or something along those lines in the future.  I also still have some idea of doing more with my writing in the future.  I need to figure out some things with my various family relationships and my marriage gripes.  I thought about going back to therapy, but ultimately decided coaching might be better.  I do not want to dig into my past hurts as much this time, but would rather focus on the future steps.  I want the feedback on some of the topics I bring up of course, but I am also hoping that it will create some outside accountability for me to keep moving forward.

Life coaching is such a scam business, so it was hard for me to choose one that I felt comfortable using.  I chose Blush for two reasons.  The first is that they claim all their coaches have actual Masters in Counseling degrees, which calms my fears for the quality I might receive.  The second was their pricing structure was very reasonable and incredibly clear on their website.  They offer two types of coaching, written and video.  They also have several payment plans, including monthly memberships of varying frequency and pay per session options.  I am doing the written version for now, and I am just paying as I go.  I have done two sessions so far, and I am hoping to do a session about every other week.  So far it seems good.

Festivals

June is festival season around here.  I made it to all three of them this year and had a great time at each.  I went to Herndon Festival on June 2nd.  I got there in time to walk quickly around the booths and grab some kettle corn before heading over to the main stage area for the Sunday afternoon main show.  Vertical Horizon played about half their set before they were rained out.  I still enjoyed it, but of course I wish the weather had held off just slightly longer.  I also wish I had made it out a little earlier in the day so I could enjoy the atmosphere and wander the arts & crafts a bit more.  The following weekend I went with my husband to Celebrate Fairfax on June 7th.  We mainly go for the concerts and fireworks, but we went a little earlier so we had time to wander around the fair grounds and grab some dinner first.  The concert was Better Than Ezra which was a lot of fun.  They always get such great nostalgic 90s era bands.  After the concert, we watched fireworks before heading home.  Finally, I went to Taste of Reston on June 15th.  I went right around lunch time by myself.  I still bought the whole sheet of tickets so I could gorge on whatever I wanted without having to ration my tickets carefully to feed us all.  I listened to some music, sampled way too many things, and generally wandered around in the sun.  It was a great festival season.  I enjoyed everything although my general feeling was I wish I had spent more time at each one.

Book Club & Wine Night

Aside from the festival, I had two social events during the month.  The first was book club.  We met at 8 Chains Winery this month.  I was initially a little skeptical at doing it at a winery, but it turned out to be a really nice time.  Two of our book club members were also members of the winery, so we were able to use their memberships to cover everyone’s tastings.  Then, we just had to pay for any bottles we took for the table (or home).  We were allowed to bring snacks into the winery so we could still share some nibbles.  It was a miserable day, but this worked out in our favor.  We were inside so the rain did not really bother us, and the winery was relatively uncrowded for the duration of our meeting.  We read My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie.  It is historical fiction centering around Eliza Hamilton and her relationship with founding father Alexander Hamilton.  The book was really not my cup of tea.  It was very long, and the story crawled in places.  It also felt a bit too contrived, which it was because there is not much directly sourced information about Eliza out there.  I do not know enough about the historical figures to be certain, but it seemed to have a lot of modern political views being overlaid on historical times, which unfortunately seems quite common lately.

The second social event was a wine tasting at a friend’s house.  This was a MLM marketing party.  The company was called Wine Shop at Home.  They sell California wines online and through MLM marketing.  The wine itself was OK.  We tasted 8.  I liked 3, felt 2 were OK, and disliked 3.  I think there were too many people there for a social gathering and not too many interested in the actual wine pitch.  The woman who ran it seemed quite annoyed by the general lack of attention paid to her presentation of the wines.  I originally did not plan to go because I am wary of MLM parties, and I had no intention of buying wine.  I politely paid attention during her presentation, but I did not buy wine.  After she wrapped up, a good portion of the party left and the rest of us just chilled on the patio.  I enjoyed this later portion of the party much more.  Overall it was a nice time, but I just really hate being sold to in the guise of a party.  This one turned out OK, but I still will probably avoid the majority of MLM parties in the future.

Stepson Stay

We had my stepson staying with us for two weeks while his mother was in Chicago.  While I never do much anyway, I definitely had to plan around his presence.  My husband barely curbed his normal activities, so a good portion of the time I was home alone with my stepson.  He can stay by himself for an hour or so during the day, but he is not old enough to leave alone for a long time or at night.  I made sure to spend one night each week playing board games with him so that he would not spend the entire time playing video games and watching Youtube videos.  The time my husband did choose to spend with him was spent watching movies.   I watched a couple with them, and then they watched more just the two of them.  On his last day with us, I took him to the movie theater to see Aladdin and then for ice cream afterwards.  He seemed to really enjoy his time here, though he was ready to go back to his house at the end of it.  I feel like we need to really increase our interaction with him while he is here.  He seems to spend most of the time on his own, except when we all watch movies together.

The Witness

I sort of won The Witness.  I technically made it through the end game.  Once you complete the final elevator puzzle, it takes you through the final sequence and ends the game.  You do not have to complete all the puzzles though to initiate the ending, and I definitely had not done so.  Luckily, it saves the game automatically shortly before the end, so I was able to resume from that saved point.  I am now trying to solve all the puzzles I missed before heading back to the end sequence to win it for real.

Personal Products Project

In June, I used up/trashed 10 items – 1 lipstick, 1 mascara, 1 detoxifying face mask, 1 face mist, 1 lip balm, 1 perfume, 1 foot cream, 1 shaving cream, 1 shampoo, and 1 curl defining spray.  I bought 2 Dermalogica Ultracalming Mists during the month.  Normally, I would not buy double like that, but they are reformulating/repackaging the product, so I was able to get a good discount on it.  I have gone through several of these in the past, so I have no qualms about using that much of it.

For June, I thought I would give a little mid-year update on how my products project is progressing.

Total Purged:  61 products – 21 skincare, 17 bath & body, 4 haircare, and 19 makeup products
Total Bought:  7 products – 4 skincare, 3 bath & body, 0 haircare, and 0 makeup products
Current Totals:  289 products – 37 skincare, 43 bath & body, 20 haircare, and 189 makeup products

I feel like I am making good progress for the year.  I gave myself a goal to reduce the combined total for skincare, bath & body, and haircare category to fewer than 105 items.  I have already achieved this, and I should continue to use up several more items during the remainder of the year.  I gave myself a goal to reduce the total makeup to below 185 by the end of the year.  I am almost there.  I expect to clear out a few more liquid face products and to use up at least one more mascara by the end of the year.  I might uncover a few more dried up cream products but I think I have tested most of these by this point.  I still think 185 is completely achievable, but I doubt I will get much below that.

Starting next month, I am going to do one category a month to discuss some of my product usage insights and thoughts from doing this purge.

Books

I read a pretty good mixture of genres during June.  There were several enjoyable books here, but again nothing that stood out as particularly amazing.  Here are the books I read during the month with my ratings (1-Awful, 2-Disappointing, 3-Decent, 4-Good, 5-Amazing).

The Summons by John Grisham – 4 stars
My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie – 3 stars
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin – 3 stars
The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – 4 stars
Sole Survivor by Dean Koontz – 3 stars
The First Affair by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus – 3 stars

There you have it, my month in review.  I have two weeks before I start my new job, so I am going to try to make the most of them.

See you next month!

Friday, May 31, 2019

May 2019 Reflections


May was a blur, partly due to activity and partly due to being sick.  It was also a bit frustrating on the job front which occupied a lot of my mental real estate.  Here is a rundown of some of my activity and thoughts from the month.

PA Trip

My big event for the month was a trip to Pennsylvania to see my sister and Baby T.  My sister is going through some personal drama at the moment.  I will not get into her private details, but the situation was such that I was not super comfortable staying with her this time.  I knew that she wanted me to be there despite the things happening though, so I went through with a sleepover on an air mattress in my niece’s room.  Baby T left me alone in her room the first night while she slept with my sister, but she joined me in her own bed the next two nights.  I think she enjoyed the sleepover, so I am glad I stayed for her sake.  The rest of the trip went as expected.  I arrived on a Friday, and mostly just hung out with my sister and Baby T.  We had dinner, watched some TV, played with toys, and talked until bedtime.  Saturday was breakfast with my parents and then the day spent at my grandmother’s house. Most of the local family was there to help grandma out with several home maintenance/cleaning projects.  My mom also bought a birthday cake for me and the family sang Happy Birthday.  The evening was another quiet night with my sister and Baby T.  Sunday I met up with my college friend for a late lunch at Emporio:  A Meatball Joint.  It is currently one of my favorite places to eat around Pittsburgh, and she likes it enough to make the drive down from Greenville.  Sunday evening, I went to my parents’ house to visit, because I felt like I owed them a few extra hours since I did not spend much of the weekend actually talking to them.  Monday morning, I packed up and left the house as my sister was leaving for work.  I stopped for breakfast with my grandma at Bob Evans, and then headed on home.

No Husband Weekend

The last weekend of the month was a very rare event where I had no husband at home.  He does not go away without me very often, so I try to cherish the few times that it happens.  In this case, he went to a weekend music festival a few hours away with one of his friends.  He left Saturday morning.  I spent most of the day with the wife of the friend that accompanied him.  We went to a small town festival about an hour away but did not spend much time there.  We left from there and went to Hillsborough Winery & Brewery.  I got a glass of a sparkling white wine and a pretzel board.  There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating, ample parking, a decent food menu to go with the alcohol, and gorgeous views of the vineyard.  We went from there to Bear Chase Brewing Company.  I ended up not getting anything here, but just sat with my friend while she enjoyed her flight.  Bear Chase is also a very nice venue, but it was incredibly crowded for the afternoon with a lot of families running around.  We ended the night with pasta and gelato from Ciao, a local Italian restaurant.  Sunday, I wanted to stay home to relish the silence of a house to myself.  I went on two small errands during the day, but otherwise stayed in as planned.  I decided to go with a media free day to enhance the silence, so no TV, no podcasts, no Youtube, and very little online activity.  I mostly read, wrote, slept, and enjoyed my time.  Monday, my husband was home incredibly early which is typical for him.  We had our neighbors over for dinner since none of us had Memorial Day plans.  It was a good weekend.  I just wish I got them more often.

Birthdays & Anniversary

May always seems on the busy side because my birthday, my husband’s birthday, and our wedding anniversary are all in it.  I like to laugh and say we planned it that way so we could just celebrate for the whole month.  In reality though, I feel like these special days tend not to be such a big deal in our house.  We have dinner and give presents for each birthday.  I kind of miss the family gatherings that were the norm growing up, so I was glad to receive birthday cake while I was in PA even though it was technically a week after my birthday.  We always did cake and ice cream with the family when I was little (for everyone not just me), but it is hard to recreate as an adult.  My family is too far away, my husband’s family is not a good substitute, and while going out for friend’s birthdays is normal in our group, I somehow cannot bring myself to order cake and invite them all over for it.  Our anniversary is usually spent on a nice dinner, but my husband seemed uninterested in it this year.  We ended up just going to Foster’s Grill.  We never do presents for the anniversary, which has always been my choice.  I guess it just seemed a little bland this year compared to prior years, but I think that is where our life is at the moment.

Sick

I brought home a little souvenir from PA.  My niece was coughing while I was there, and I started a few days after I got home.  It started with coughing and chest pain, progressed to nasal congestion, then drained out, and resumed to just coughing with less chest pain.  It is about two weeks after symptoms began, and I still have a little residual coughing, but it is mostly cleared at this point.  This put a damper on my spirit and motivation for the month.  It was not a super productive month, but between being out of town and being sick half the month, I feel like I have an excuse.

CPA License

I bought the AICPA Ethics course.  I have actually completed all the modules at this point.  I was originally going to take the final exam today.  However, I got a little side-tracked with other things.  Plus, I thought it might be better to take it when I am home alone.  I am not expecting any issues with it, but it always easier to accomplish things when no one is here to distract me.  Once I pass the Ethics exam, I have some paperwork to complete and then I should be able to submit my initial application.  I also emailed the VA Board of Accountancy with the questions I had pertaining to my incomplete checklist on the site, the missing Congratulatory Letter, and the experience requirement.  I received answers to all of that very quickly.  Fingers crossed, I will have everything submitted by the end of next week, barring any surprises in the application process.

Job Search

My job search has been frustrating this month.  I will take some responsibility as I have not been as diligent about searching and applying for jobs as I could be.  However, the things that I have been applying to are going nowhere.  I did not get the job that I interviewed for last month.  I have not really heard back from anywhere else, except a couple rejection emails from places that never contacted me.  I appreciate the emails though, because then I can at least cross them off the list completely.  I thought I was off to a good start last month when I got contacted by two of the first places where I submitted applications, but it seems to have been a false start.  I still have enough time and money that I am not super anxious, but I need to start trying harder and redefining my process.  Part of this means looking within to determine what I am really willing to do in terms of commute, salary, and responsibilities.  Part of this means trying harder when applying for jobs as I admit I have been a little lazy about crafting cover letters and modifying my resume to the specific job.  I also need to start getting creative about job searching as the boards do not seem to get me close to where I think I want to be.  Hopefully, I will have something better to report next month.

The Witness

I picked up a video game in May.  I tend to not play too many video games, because they take up a lot of time and most do not really interest me anyway.  Of the video games I have played in the past, my favorite genre is the puzzle game.  The Witness came out a few years ago.  I heard the guys on Giant Bombcast discussing how great it was back then and it peaked my interest.  My husband bought it for me about a year ago, but I never got around to playing it.  This seemed like a good time to start it, seeing as I have the time to put into it now that I am done with the major studying but not yet back to work.  In total there are 664 puzzles to solve.  I am currently at 384-ish.  It is possible for me to “complete” the game without doing all the puzzles, so until I get into all the areas it is hard for me to tell what I have missed.  I am not a puzzle purist.  I looked up some general tips and tricks at the beginning, which gave me some basic puzzle mechanics to get me started.  I looked up two more pointed hint guides to get through two puzzles where I was stuck though I did not look up the actual solutions on them.  I looked up the actual solutions on a handful of puzzles in an area of the game that relied on audio tones to solve them.  Historically I have had trouble with sound-based puzzles, so I do not feel bad that I cheated in this area.  I am much more interested in getting through the game to the end than I am about doing it 100% on my own.  I do put effort into solving things myself first.  I certainly walked away and came back to puzzles after learning more in other areas of the map which made previously unsolvable puzzles suddenly clear.  I feel like it is a lot more fun to look stuff up after a certain amount of effort than to have to walk away completely because I have reached a wall on a particular item.  With any luck, I will have completed the game next week.

Personal Products Project

I am still just trying to work my way through all the products I own.  I am making the best progress on skincare.  Although I have a few categories that I just have too much based on how much product I can actually use (hello lip balm even after decluttering most of the unopened ones I had), I have managed to get through a number of half-used bottles and sample sizes in other areas.  I feel like bath & body products are hopeless.  I have a lot of gifts from people in this area.  I am trying to make myself use things regularly, but I have so much I probably can go for years without running out on certain categories.  Plus, I have a few staples that I really want to repurchase even if I technically have other things that would work (i.e. – my beloved CeraVe SA Cream even though I have multiple scented body lotions I could technically use).  Haircare is an area where my routine is fairly minimalist, but I have a lot of random samples of products mostly from the subscription boxes I used to get.  I have been trying to branch out and try new things occasionally, but progress has been slow.  Makeup is the area where I feel the most guilt.  I have a ton of product from subscription boxes, but I also have a lot of random items I purposely bought myself because they were pretty and popular on Youtube.  I have decluttered a lot of makeup items over the past few months.  I am trying not to throw things out that are still technically usable but I admit there have been one or two that I just knew I would never use again for whatever reason and so tossed.  It has become obvious to me how much makeup I have accumulated and how little of it I can actually use up.  Still, I am trying to just rotate through it and slowly pare it down as I go.  For May, I used up/trashed 10 items – 1 lash primer, 2 eyeshadows, 1 liquid highlight, 1 nail polish, 1 firming face mask, 1 SPF face moisturizer, 1 face mist, 1 perfume, and 1 body oil.  I did not buy anything for the month.  Next month, I plan to do a half year summary of everything I used up and where I stand going forward.  I am toying with the idea of doing a lessons learned series during the second half of the year, one for each main area of skincare, bath & body, haircare, and makeup.

Books

I have no real commentary on my reading selection for May.  I read some decent books, but nothing that stood out as particularly amazing or terrible.  Here are the books I read during the month with my ratings (1-Awful, 2-Disappointing, 3-Decent, 4-Good, 5-Amazing).

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate – 4 stars
Stillwatch by Mary Higgins Clark – 3 stars
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson – 3 stars
The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter – 3 stars
The Lost Girls by Jennifer Baggett, Holly Corbett, & Amanda Pressner – 4 stars

There you have it, my month in review.  I am planning on a quiet June filled with festivals, hiking, and other simple summer fun.

See you next month!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

April 2019 Reflections


April went by really fast, but there is little to discuss beyond one big event and updates on the usual.  Here is a rundown of some of my activity and thoughts from the month.

Damascus

My husband and I went on a little trip to Damascus, VA.  This was something he chose and planned.  We stayed at the Old Damascus Mill Inn.  We had a room right on the river, so all night long we could listen to the sound of the river fall over the mill.  Unfortunately, it rained pretty heavily for most of the trip, so we had to adjust our itinerary to account for the rain.  Friday night, we arrived pretty late, so all we did was check in and eat at the restaurant run by the hotel.  Saturday, my husband went to a disc golf course in the morning.  I read a little bit, but ended up falling back to sleep for several hours.  Once he returned, we went to Abingdon, VA for the afternoon.  We ate at Moon Dog Brick Oven for lunch, which was decent pizza for a relatively inexpensive price.  Then, we went to the Heartwood Artisan Center and the William King Museum of Art.  We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip to the Abingdon Winery for some wine and some folk music.  After returning to the hotel, we walked to the Damascus Diner for dinner.  My husband left for Damascus Brewery after dinner, but I stayed in to journal, read, and stare at the water outside the window.  Sunday, we walked a 3.5 mile strip of the Virginia Creeper Trail out and back (7.0 miles total).  This was a gorgeous hike, especially after all the rain Friday & Saturday.  The water was just pouring down the mountain side, so the waterfalls were in full gushing mode and even the mountain walls just seemed to continually weep.  We had lunch at Mojo’s Trailside CafĂ© which is one of the most raved about places in town.  It was good, and I indulged in some Coca-Cola cake that was delicious.  After lunch, we made the trek home.  It was a beautiful weekend, despite the rain.  I would really like to go back some day.

CPA License

I have made zero progress on my CPA license since last month.  I have been waiting for the letter from the VA Board of Accountancy, but I have not received it.  I did check my profile a few weeks ago and it was missing two of my test scores, even though my last exam score sheet showed credit for all four.  I need to get back on to the site to check if those are filled in yet.  If not, I will probably email the board to see what the status is on my CPA exam requirement.  I keep putting off getting the ethics exam, because I just do not want to study any more.  However, it is time I get this done, so I am going to order that and complete it in May.

Job Search

I have made some progress on the job search.  My LinkedIn profile and resume are updated.  I talked to a recruiter from Robert Half, but I ended up canceling the full interview.  At first I thought it would be a good thing to work with the recruiter since I am so out of practice with job searches.  Internet research and my husband’s warnings though made me too anxious to take the chance that they would not actually help and instead just use me to fill their quotas and garner new company leads through my references.  I have applied to a handful of positions directly.  After I eliminate everything going toward DC, those posted by recruiting firms, government contractors, and auditing/tax/operational accounting positions, there is barely anything left to consider.  I have done one phone screen and one interview at the location, both for the same company.  This was recent, so I am waiting to hear back from them still.  I had one email inquiry for another position, but after canceling one phone screen and stating she wanted to reschedule for this week, I have not heard anything from her.  In the meantime, I just try to scan the job boards every few days for new options for which I can apply.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Note:  There are no plot spoilers to Avengers:  Endgame below.  However, there are some vague references to things in the film.  Read at your own risk if you really want completely pure dead silence going into the film.

Last month, I mentioned that I began a full Marvel rewatch project to prep for the final Avengers movie.  I gave a partial list of movies watched to date in the order that I liked them.  In April, I finished this project.  Here is my final list of Marvel movies in order from least favorite to favorite, not including Endgame itself.

The Incredible Hulk (actually did not rewatch this one, and it is the only I do not plan to rewatch)
Iron Man 2
Iron Man
Doctor Strange
Avengers:  Age of Ultron
The Avengers
Thor:  Dark World
Thor
Ant-Man
Iron Man 3 (technically not a rewatch as I somehow never watched it the first time around)
Spider-Man:  Homecoming
Captain America:  Civil War
Captain Marvel (not a rewatch either, but I saw it once in the theater)
Captain America:  The First Avenger
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Black Panther
Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Thor:  Ragnarok
Avengers:  Infinity War
Captain America:  The Winter Soldier

I have actually seen Avengers:  Endgame, but I decided not to put it in my official list.  I honestly am not sure where I rank it yet.  In terms of homage to the fans’ journey through the MCU, I think the film is brilliant.  It is an emotional roller coaster, taking us laughing, crying, and screaming for more down memory lane of all the energy we have put into the franchise.  I really like some of the character arcs they did.  I think some of the plot decisions were bold and unexpected, but good calls nonetheless.  I think the pacing is surprisingly good considering it is a 3 hour movie.  I am just not sure I think it is a particularly strong movie taken as a whole.  I found the “people turned to dust” problem resolution confusing, and it leaves several holes in logic with certain people/items/events during the course of the movie.  While I can get behind some of the character/plot decisions, I question some of the others.  I understand the emotionally driven reason why everyone possible has been brought into the film in some way, but I am not sure it was the right choice to pack in so many little scenes that are there solely to indulge this desire.  In the end, I think I need time and probably another rewatch or two before I can wrap my brain around everything and fully determine what I think of it.

Social Media Purge

I made some progress on the social media purge this month.  I deleted my Goodreads account.  I deleted my Twitter account (which probably means I will lose what little traffic I have to my blog).  I unfollowed almost everyone on my Instagram account, except those that I actually know.  I am not sure the Instagram purge is permanent, but I just wanted to reset and take a break for a while.  I narrowed my Youtube subscriptions to 10.  I binged a bit to catch myself up to current on those 10, but now I am hoping this will not generate enough new eye-catching videos to get me so off track again.  I will have to make another cut though if I find I still dump too much time into watching makeup reviews.  I really, really want to delete Facebook, but at this time it just does not seem feasible.  I get most of my social event invites and most of my family updates through the site.  Maybe some month I will feel comfortable taking the plunge, but for now I am just going to try to stop getting on 50 times a day.  I also decluttered my podcast list, but I ended up adding almost as many new different things over the month that no real progress was made there.

Personal Products Project

When it comes to my overload of personal products, I am just carrying on with my previously mentioned strategies of trying to use what I have and only buy what I really need.  For April, I used up/trashed 10 items – 1 eye liner, 1 eyeshadow, 1 liquid highlight, 1 hyaluronic acid serum, 1 exfoliating face mask, 1 SPF face oil, 1 hand cream, 1 foot cream, 1 perfume, and 1 deodorant.  I only bought 3 things in April – Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Enriched Calming Toner, Paula’s Choice Skin Recovery Daily Moisturizing Lotion w/SPF, and Native Deodorant in Cucumber Mint.

Books

As stated above, I deleted my Goodreads account.  I still have an Excel spreadsheet that has been around longer than my Goodreads profile and has always basically been a duplicate to it.  However, I feel way less pressure to reduce my list with it in Excel than I did with it online.  I also feel less pressure to read from the list when it is just there for my own reference (not that I really think many people were stalking my Goodreads profile).  For April, here are the books I read during the month with my ratings (1-Awful, 2-Disappointing, 3-Decent, 4-Good, 5-Amazing).

The Right and Wrong Stuff:  How Brilliant Careers are Made and Unmade by Carter Cast – 5 stars
A Study in Sable by Mercedes Lackey – 3 stars
The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – 3 stars
Daddy’s Little Girl by Mary Higgins Clark – 3 stars
Weep No More, My Lady by Mary Higgins Clark – 3 stars
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – 4 stars
The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh – 3 stars

There you have it, my month in review.  I am hoping May will be a month of good energy.  May has a lot of special events in it already, including my birthday, my wedding anniversary, and my husband’s birthday.  I am also planning a trip home to see my sister and baby T which will hopefully be lots of fun.

See you next month!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

March 2019 Reflections


March was a good change of pace from last month.  The weather is finally starting to warm up, my testing is done, and I took time to breathe before planning my next steps.  Here is a rundown of some of my activity and thoughts from the month.

CPA Exam

I took my last test on March 6th, and I passed it.  Woohoo!  I am now done with all four sections of the CPA exam.  I still need the final congratulatory letter from my state board for it to be accepted and final.  I have to take an ethics course from the AICPA.  Then, I have to get a signed acknowledgement of my relevant work experience from a licensed CPA.  My education requirement is already on file because it was completed prior to applying for the exam.  Once those final pieces are done, I send it all to the VA Board of Accountancy with my license application.  I am not sure how long it will take to get everything else completed and processed, but nothing else should be as difficult to get through as the actual exam.

Job Search

No, I have not started the job search yet.  But I have made progress on getting prepared to start.  My LinkedIn profile is about 90% complete.  I am still tinkering with the wording in my Summary section.  I want to get a new profile picture because the one currently there is about 10 years old even though the actual account is only 5.  I also want to tweak the skills section.  I have a random assortment of things people have tagged to me over the years, but some of them are not really that relevant.  I also want to include a couple new ones that are.  Over the next week, I will complete the LinkedIn profile.  Then, I need to revisit my resume.  I did have that sort of updated toward the end of last year, but the length is an awkward 1 and a tiny bit more pages right now.   I need to either shorten it so it is on 1 page or beef it up so it is 1½ pages.  Then, I will be ready to start applying to positions.  And I do plan to start applying in April.  I am out of excuses for why I am too busy, tired, and unmotivated to look for a job.  Plus, I have been ready to have an income of my own for a while now.  I am also tired of spending 4 days at home with my husband (why does he have to work 2 days a week from home?!), who has become increasingly snarky over my job search process.

Social Life

With the better weather and the better mood comes a better social life.  I had 3 social outings during the month.  For the first one, I traveled to Philadelphia for a weekend with my cousin.  We saw the Pennsylvania Ballet perform Giselle.  The rest of the weekend, we mostly just hung around the house venting about work and husbands.  The second one was a Sip & See to meet my friend’s new baby.  It was open house style, so my husband and I dropped in about half way through the event and stayed to the end.  The new baby was adorable, and he stayed very calm despite all the people passing him around.  The final one was my book club.  We read What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty and went to The Red Table for brunch.  It was a nice time, even though we were at the restaurant forever.  I always feel bad when we hog tables for extended periods of time, though at least this place did not seem particularly busy and our server was very amicable.

Sunshine & Beach Body

I am working to get back into the fitness swing of things.  The weather has finally warmed up, and we have not had too much rain either.  This means I can get outside and walk again.  I have taken a few neighborhood walks.  Plus, my husband, stepson, and I have made it out on 2 short hikes already.  The first one was a 5-ish mile stretch on the Bull Run Occoquan Trail starting at a little parking area close to where we live.  The second was around the Bluebell Trail in Bull Run Regional Park.  The bluebells have not quite bloomed yet, so we just saw the green plants with some buds.  In another week or so, it should be a carpet of blue.  I am getting excited to go on some longer hikes as the weather becomes more stable and things start to dry out.

I also bought a membership to Beach Body on Demand.  I have been considering adding some kind of online program for a while, because I get a bit lost doing workouts on my own.  It gets really expensive to hire a trainer at the gym or join another studio for more class variety.  I know there are tons of Youtube videos, but I feel like I am searching for a needle in a haystack trying to figure out what is legitimate and a good match for me.  My cousin has been doing Beach Body for over a year and has really enjoyed it.  I decided to give it a go, because it was not particularly expensive and it has been around long enough that I trust the quality.  I have started with the 21 Day Fix program.  I am not doing it exactly as scheduled because I am fitting it around hiking and my ballet burn class.  So far I am enjoying it.  Now I just need to work on reigning in my nutrition again.

Marvel Rewatch

I have done better with Youtube watching this month.  I am down to 17 subscriptions.  I have also been decent about streaming TV shows on Netflix this month.  However, I have gone into full Marvel rewatch mode, using a combination of my 2 disc rentals from Netflix, previously bought movies on Amazon Prime, and free/rented movies on Verizon FIOS.  I originally decided I wanted to view some of the older ones a few months ago as we headed into the final Avengers movie.  Then, I decided I might as well rewatch all of them, so I really kicked up my viewing in March.  I like making lists, so here is my list of Marvel movies rewatched in order from least favorite to favorite.

The Incredible Hulk (actually did not rewatch this one, and it is the only I do not plan to rewatch)
Iron Man 2
Iron Man
Doctor Strange
Avengers:  Age of Ultron
The Avengers
Thor:  Dark World
Thor
Ant-Man
Iron Man 3 (technically not a rewatch as I somehow never watched it the first time around)
Captain America:  Civil War
Captain America:  The First Avenger
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America:  The Winter Soldier

Still to Watch:  Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man:  Homecoming, Thor:  Ragnarok, Black Panther, Ant-Man & the Wasp, and Avengers:  Infinity War (and Captain Marvel for the first time).

I will update my list next month, because I am sure you are all dying to know my full order of the movies.

Personal Products Project

I do not have much to say about my personal products project this month.  I am just continuing the strategies of trying to use what I have and only buy what I really need.  For March, I used up/trashed 8 items – 1 foundation, 1 calming serum, 1 hand cream, 1 foot mask, 1 perfume, and 3 lip scrubs (What? 3! Yes, 1 I used up, 1 was so dried out I could not use it despite it still being sealed, and 1 was half-used but so old I did not want to put it on my lips any more).  I did not buy a single beauty-related product in March.

Books

I am still working to whittle my Goodreads To Read list down to fewer than 100 books.  I read a few, I deleted a few, and I added a few over the month.  At the end of March, I have 104 on my list.  I am still reviewing books to delete, particularly ones not available through my library, but otherwise I am just trying to read at a normal pace to get the number down to where I want it.  Assuming I do not add a bunch next month, I should get to the 100 goal during April.  Here are the books I read during the month with my ratings (1-Awful, 2-Disappointing, 3-Decent, 4-Good, 5-Amazing).

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – 4 stars
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy – 3 stars
My Year with Eleanor by Noelle Hancock – 3 stars
From a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey – 3 stars
I Almost Forgot About You by Terry McMillan – 3 stars

There you have it, my month in review.  I am hoping April will be a continuance of things getting better with even more energy in me and my life.

See you next month!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

February 2019 Reflections


As predicted last month, February was also a bit rough for me.  I generally felt better than I did during January, but I am still struggling with lethargy, depression, and a general lack of motivation to make it better.  February is such a short month, but I have always found it one of the longest to get through each year.  I did not do a lot with my month, but here is a rundown of some of my activity and thoughts from it.

CPA Exam

Of course most of my time has been spent studying (and avoiding studying).  Even though I scheduled everything out from the beginning so that I never had to do more than 5 sections a day and got 2 days off a week, I have deviated from the plan so much that currently I can only take 1 day off and have many days where there are 7 or 8 modules on the schedule.  We are getting closer and closer to my test date of March 6th, so I am running out of time to procrastinate.  I am forcing myself to push forward so I at least get through all the modules before my test date.  I am suffering from the CPA version of senioritis and find myself not really caring if I understand the material after I review it.  Hopefully, I will have absorbed enough to pass next week, because otherwise I will have to do it again.  I really do not want to do that.

Game Night

I only had one real social event during the month.  This was a game night at a friend’s house.  This turned out to be a very good evening.  There were about a dozen people there.  We split into three-ish groups to play board games through the night.  Although the groups did mix up a bit over time, I managed to go the entire evening without having to compete with my husband.  I played two different games.  One was a reboot of an old game from the 1980s called Fireball Island.  Visually it played on Indiana Jones themes.  The main idea was to run around the island picking up treasure and then get back to the helicopter before the volcano exploded.  The person with the most treasure won.  I did not win.  The second game was called Roll for It.  This was a quick game that involved cards with different combination of dice rolls on them.  Everyone had 6 dice with which they tried to be the first person to roll the combination on the card.  You collected the cards from each combination you earned.  The cards had points on them and the first person to 40 wins.  I did not win this game either.  After playing those two games, I hung around for a while to talk.  However, I went home relatively early as usual.  It was a nice night though, and the type of socializing I enjoy most.

Watching Stuff

I have gone a little crazy on watching videos this month.  Remember last month, when I tried to cut back the Netflix and Youtube subscriptions to try to tame my watching habits?  Well, it did not really work.  While I watched fewer movies thanks to my 2 disc per month limit, I increased my streaming activity in its place.  When it comes to Youtube, I currently am still at 21 subscriptions.  It is not quite the same 21 as where I started because I added 3 new ones and cut 3 old.  I guess it is good that I at least followed the 1-in-1-out rule I set for myself.  I am a little embarrassed to list all the watching activity I did, so instead of leaving a complete rundown of all the shows like last month, here are just a couple that I would recommend.

Travelers:  Season 2 & 3 – This was such a good series.

The Haunting of Hill House – I am a wimp when it comes to horror, and this was really scary in parts.  However, it was also very character driven with a lot of non-scary plot development that helped me get through the scary parts.  It is not a faithful adaption of Shirley Jackson’s amazing novel, but I think it did justice to many of the themes.  The show is entertaining in its own right, and I am happy to appreciate it for what it is.  I am looking forward to the next story in this series which will be based on Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.

Personal Product Project

I have continued on my project to work through my crazy inventory of personal care products that I have accumulated.  How little progress I have made just reinforces how much I need to do this.  When it comes to the skincare/body care/hair care, I have just been trying to work through the things I have open first.  I have noticed I have a lot of unnecessary products that I do not find myself really wanting to use (bubble bath, clay-based face masks, perfume samples).  I am trying to force myself to work through what I can, but my guess is some of this will end up being tossed.  Hopefully, I can be more selective about what I let into my collection in the future so I do not end up with such a bizarre collection of crap.  When it comes to makeup, I am mostly focusing on trying stuff out.  I do have a couple items that are almost gone, so I am “panning” those.  However, most of my makeup is nowhere near being used up.  Instead I am rotating through products, trying things I have not used in a long time or some possibly ever.  Items that seem workable go back into the drawer for future rotation.  Things that are no good, I am tossing.  Unfortunately, most of the tossed items are so old I have no idea if the product has gone bad or if it was terrible from the start.  I am not a full face of makeup every day girl, so I have no idea why I thought it was a good idea to accumulate so much.  For February, I used up/trashed 8 items – 2 single eyeshadows, 1 tinted face SPF, 1 hand mask, 1 perfume, 1 deodorant, 1 shaving cream, and 1 nail polish strips kit.  I only bought 1 thing, Native deodorant in Lavender Rose.

Books

I am still working to whittle my Goodreads To Read list down to fewer than 100 books.  I am struggling to just delete more of them, so I took another tactic this month.  I tried to find some of the shortest, easiest reads on my list so I could get through more than normal.  I definitely accomplished the goal, but it set a hectic pace that I do not think did me any good.  I read 8 books in February, and I have 108 books remaining on the list.  Originally I wanted to do another short book readathon again in March, so I would be right at 100 going forward.  However, I have changed my mind.  I am going to read normally in March, and just let the number be wherever it ends up.  I have been careful about adding new books, so as long as I just keep reading more than I add, I should get to 100 in another month or two.  Here are the books I read during the month with my ratings (1-Awful, 2-Disappointing, 3-Decent, 4-Good, 5-Amazing).

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott - 2 stars
White Hot Truth by Danielle LaPorte – 4 stars
The Red Car by Marcy Dermansky – 3 stars
Klickitat by Peter Rock – 3 stars
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – 4 stars
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson – 4 stars
Dead to You by Lisa McMann – 1 star (truly one of the worst books I have ever read)
The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley – 4 stars

There you have it, my month in review.  I am hoping March will start to see some renewed energy in me and my life.  Fingers crossed, I will be forever done with the CPA exam.  Also, the sun will shine and the warmer weather will return for good, and as such I should start to feel better.

See you next month!