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.


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!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

January 2019 Reflections

As I mentioned in my last reflections blog, my intent for 2019 is to continue with the monthly reflections.  However, I am abandoning the sections that were previously used:  The Good, The Challenges, and The Future.  I actually found them to be a bit restrictive.  A lot of the things I wanted to mention had good and bad parts to them, so I struggled to decide where to categorize them.  For 2019, I will just use a topical divide and let my discussion be as positive or negative as my thoughts on the matter.

January in general has been a bit of a struggle for me.  I have spent much of it not feeling particularly well, though I have not actually been sick.  By that I mean, I have not had any colds or flus or other tangible illnesses, but instead I have been plagued with headaches, stomachaches, joint aches, fatigue, low-energy, and just general feelings of blah.  I have found it hard to stick to my work out schedule.  My diet has been less than stellar, though I have mostly refrained from the ridiculous.  The weather has not been terrible, but it has been a typical winter of generally cold temperatures with periods of rain/snow.  This has not motivated me to leave the house any more than necessary.  Overall, I think I might be suffering from some degree of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).  I feel like I always struggle more in the winter months than the rest of the year.  I cannot afford them right now, but I am considering investing in some SAD therapy lights for next year to see if they make a difference.  Given this general state of apathy and lethargy, here is where my January thoughts have been focused.

CPA Exam

I am back to studying, mostly.  I am working on my final section of the exam, BEC (Business Environment and Concepts).  I was on track with my study program for the first 3 weeks of January.  I have slipped a bit this week, but will hopefully catch myself up by the weekend.  I have scheduled my exam for March 6th, so I need to get through everything before then.  BEC is a collection of non-accounting business topics (economics, finance, corporate governance, operations, strategic management, etc.).  As such, there is a lot of variety on which topics I enjoy doing, which I do not, some that I know much of the material, and some I know nothing.  I am not seriously concerned about anything content-wise so far.  The biggest change for BEC is there is a Written Content section of the exam, which has not been in the other sections.  While I am not particularly concerned with my ability to write decently, I do get a bit concerned over writing on particular topics.  The Wiley review program gives WC assignments to practice, but there is no feedback to it.  You basically read their canned answer and grade yourself to move past the assignment.  Some topics I am comfortable enough to regurgitate information, but others I cannot remember much detail without any prompts.  I know I do not need to be perfect, and I just have to give it my best shot come test day.  But I know I will still worry about this part of it until I am done with the section.


I tried to do some goal setting exercises in December/January, but I have been so unmotivated that I did not get very far on them.  I have decided to abandon that for now with the intent to do it in April when I hope the returning sunshine and warmth will make me feel more hopeful and enlivened.  In the meantime, I have still tried to focus on getting some things done during the month.  All my activity seems to be around the idea of simplify and declutter and organize.  Here are some of my accomplishments and/or projects within this area.

Netflix:  I reduced my DVD subscription to the “1 at a time, 2 in a month” option.  This is the lowest option available.  I like the couple dollars savings, but really I am trying to reduce my TV time temptations.  I remember when renting a movie was a special treat for a family night.  Now it feels like I need to see everything that catches my interest, and that is just ridiculous.  By lowering the number of discs I can get, I now have to choose what I actually want to see the most.  I still have the Netflix streaming service, FIOS, and Amazon Prime, so there are plenty of options available if I do feel the need to find something to watch.

Book of the Month:  I canceled my Book of the Month subscription.  This definitely falls into the save money category.  However, the bigger reason was to help me reduce the amount of books in my house.  I love books, and I definitely want to have a personal library.  As I work to simplify my life though, I have come to the realization that I really want to be intentional with the books I include in my library.  They should represent me and what I really love, not just a random assortment of things I acquired haphazardly.   While I have enjoyed the vast majority of the books I received through the service, very few of them are ones I necessarily feel the need to own.  Therefore, I have canceled the subscription.  I intend to get most of my books at the library, maybe buy some through my Nook, and reserve purchasing physical books for the ones I love the most.

Youtube & Other Online Time-Suckers:  I am taking steps to try to reign in my online activity.  The big one is Youtube.  I have reduced my subscription list from 40-something to 21.  My goal was 20, but I am having trouble picking the last one to unsubscribe.  I decided to just let it go for a few more weeks and see if one will work its way to the nix list.  Going forward, I am going to try to whittle it down even further, but at the very least do a one in, one out approach.  This still leaves a lot of content for me to choose from (maybe still too much), but at least there will not be quite so many videos screaming for my attention.  In addition to Youtube, I have tried to eliminate some of my other online activity as well.  I am working to reduce my Goodreads To Read list to no more than 100 books (currently at 114, starting somewhere around 130 at the beginning of the month, but more like 300 when I started trying to reduce it last year).  This does not take up time online, but it makes me anxious seeing such a long list of books waiting for my attention.  Plus I used to just pull books at random off the shelves in the library, but now I feel like I cannot do that because I already have all these ones planned out to read.  I am also not going to be writing reviews on Goodreads going forward.  I will still rate them, but I do not think it a good use of my time to write reviews any more.  I am working to reduce my BlogLovin’ subscriptions.  I had somewhere around 60, and I am down to 35.  I hardly ever read any of them, because there were just too many to look through in the amount of time I wanted to give blog reading (typically a lunchtime activity).  I am now trying to read posts from the ones I have left to determine which ones actually give me value and which ones do not.  My end goal is following 10-15 blogs, with a one in, one out approach going forward.  Finally, I went through my Instagram and unfollowed everything that did not inspire me.  I kept everyone I knew in real life.  Otherwise I still have a collection of fitness/health/travel/food/photography/whatever that either inspire me or provide beauty that I can enjoy for the sake of beauty.  Gone are the overt sales pitches, the canned inspirational quote posters, and the random celebrities whose lives do not matter to me (I do actually have a couple of celebrities left, but only the few whose posts I actually appreciate).  I have no set number for this (currently it is around 115), but I just want my feed to be filled with stuff that is interesting to me and not just thousands of selfies of people I do not know.  I feel good about the sweep I have done this month of all my online activity, but I am not done yet.  I still need to tackle twitter, delete Pinterest which I never use, and continue to evaluate the ones already mentioned.  In the future, I am going to try to be more careful with my online accounts.  I want to make sure I am only adding things intentionally that add value to my life, while continuing to let go of the stuff that is dragging me down.

Personal Product Inventory:  Another area of my life that is out of control is my personal products.  I did an inventory of almost everything I own (I know it is not complete because I keep finding things I never included).  I have over 200 items of makeup.  I have almost another 200 items of skincare, bath & body products, and hair products.  My collection has accumulated from several sources, including stuff I bought myself, a lot of stuff I received in subscription boxes, and gifts from other people.  My goal for 2019 is to work through as much of it as I possibly can.  I am uncomfortable throwing away good products, so I am planning to try to use stuff up unless it goes bad or is truly terrible.  There is very little of it I can give away, because most is opened and/or of unknown origin date.  Also, I am trying very hard to limit the amount of new items coming into the house.  Obviously I cannot do much about gifts, though I will not be asking for anything specifically.  I canceled all the subscription boxes ages ago.  As for items I buy myself, I am putting myself on a 20 items restriction in 2019 which includes restocking anything I used during the year.  Originally, I wanted to do 10 makeup and 10 everything else.  After reviewing what I use and what I have in stock, I decided 10 is too many for makeup and possibly not enough for everything else.  For makeup, I honestly think mascara is the only thing I should need to purchase the whole year, anything else would be a want.  For the rest of it, I have categories where there is no way I will use up what I have (body wash, hair oil) and categories that I will definitely need to rebuy, maybe more than once during the year (toner, deodorant).  Once I reduce the excess, my next step in the process is to really focus in on building a good, simplified, self-care routine for myself.  I am open to experimenting with new things over time, but right now I have so much stuff and use so much variety that I really have no idea what works best for me in most categories.

For January, I used up/trashed/gave away 15 items – 2 eyeshadows, 1 mascara, 1 tinted lip balm, 3 lip balms, 1 face moisturizer, 1 toner, 2 sheet masks, 1 clay mask, 1 body exfoliating cream, 1 scalp treatment, and 1 hairspray.  I only bought one thing, CeraVe SA Cream, which replaces the empty body exfoliating cream I used up during the month.  This is one of my favorite products, and one of the few things I repurchase constantly.  It has done wonders for my dry, flaky, itchy skin since I started using it 3-4 years ago.

Low-Buy:  I am trying to be very conservative with my money for the next few months.  We have been on a reduced budget for all of 2018 seeing as we have only had one income all year, but we have not done the best job at reigning in expenses to match the reduction.  As a result, we have racked up more debt than I am comfortable having acquired.  Once I go back to work, it should be easy enough to pay it back down.  Until then, I still feel I should do what I can to not make it any worse than it has to be.  Therefore, I am trying to be very intentional with my money for the near future.  I think I did reasonably well during the month of January.  I reevaluated my memberships/subscriptions, and while I let most continue since it seems more a hassle to cancel and restart, I did cancel the book subscription noted earlier and the headspace app (I will likely renew this when I go back to work because I did use it regularly, but figure I can get by on the free version for now).  I also postponed some things I was considering purchasing, mainly fitness equipment and some type of new studio membership to supplement my current gym memberships (I support multiple memberships if you like variety, you actually use all of them, and you can reasonably afford it).  I did great on no impulse buys….no clothes, no books, no movies, no tickets, etc.  My struggle category was food.  While I did OK on restaurants ($1.34 over what I budgeted), I went way over in groceries.  I have two issues I am trying to work through in this area.  First, I am out of practice with planning my meals around my budget.  I used to be great in early adulthood, but I have not had to worry about it in years and am finding it hard to go back.  Second, my husband and I split meal planning and grocery buying duties, but we do not coordinate well.  This ends in fluctuations on what is available in the house, and weird non-planned purchases to compensate.  My low buy is only in affect for me; my husband is still spending like a wild man.  I just have to work with this, because he is uninterested in cutting back and just harps on my unemployment if I try to bring it up.


I am not going back to doing entertainment reviews, because frankly I do not want to do them.  However, I thought I would give a rundown of the entertainment I did consume during the month and notate anything I would particularly recommend.

All The Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown – Most recommended
Smart Women Finish Rich by David Bach – This does give good practical beginner advice if 
     personal finance is something you want to explore.
The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus
Everything that Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

TV Series:
Travelers:  Season 1 – Most recommended
Criminal Minds:  Season 12
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo:  Season 1

To All the Boys I Loved Before – Most recommended of the 4, but honestly none of these 
     really stood out to me as great must see movies.

There you have it, my month in review.  I know this might not be the most interesting blog post ever, but it is reflective of how I spent January.  I doubt February will be much better, because I am hibernating until spring comes back.

See you next month!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

In The Tradition 2018

It is time for the third annual In The Tradition letter.  Similar to last year, I start with the five things from the past year that stand out in my mind.  I followed that with my Top Ten from the books, movies, and TV shows I consumed over the year.  At the end, I talked about a couple goals for the upcoming year that I will pursue.

Five 2018 Highlights

Hiking:  Last year I set a goal to complete twelve hikes for the year.  In general, I wanted to increase the length and difficulty of the hikes that I was doing.  I also wanted to do a full day hike.  I did complete my twelve hikes for the year (listed below).  I think I did succeed in increasing length and difficulty of the hikes I was doing over last year.  I did not do anything that I would qualify as a full day hike though.  Maybe I will complete that next year.

- Manassas Battlefield National Park – First Manassas Trail (altered route) – 5 miles (approx.)
- Burke Lake Park – Lake Trail – 5 miles
- Bull Run Regional Park – Bluebell Trail/part of Bull Run Occoquan Trail – 5 miles
- Harper’s Ferry National Park – Visitor Center Trail/Jefferson’s Rock Trail/Across Trellis Bridge – 6 
- Manassas Battlefield National Park – Second Manassas Trail – 7 miles
- Seneca Creek State Park – Lake Trail – 5 miles
- Lake Anna State Park – Five different connected trails (sorry I do not have the names) – 5 miles
- Manassas Battlefield National Park – First Manassas Trail (not altered) – 6 miles
- Shenandoah National Park – Hazel Falls & Caves – 6 miles – Terrain-wise, this was the most 
  difficult hike I did.  It also is my favorite one of the year.
- Hemlock Overlook Regional Park – Red Trail – 3 miles
- Bull Run Regional Park – White Trail/part of Bull Run Occoquan Trail – 3 miles
- Lake Accotink Park – Lake Trail – 4 miles

CPA Exam:  This year, I finally got started on the CPA exam.  I have been talking about doing it forever.  I have started and stopped studying a few times over the last couple of years.  I finally got serious and sat for the first exam in March 2018.  Since then I have taken two more sections in September 2018 and December 2018.  I now have (high!) passing scores in REG, FAR, and AUD.  In a few days, I will dive into studying for BEC, my final part, expecting to take it in March 2019.  It will be such a relief when this task is behind me.  The CPA exam is a major undertaking, and it has not been easy for me.  I am glad that I finally made the decision to just do it.

Work:  I quit my job this year.  I have been complaining about it for years.  I kept hoping that various changes made by the company and by myself would make it better.  My experience fluctuated over time, but it never reached a point where I felt good about everything.  I finally had to face the fact that the company and the job were not a good fit for me anymore.  August 2017, I made a promise to myself that if I had not found a new job by August 2018 I would quit anyway.  It turns out I could not even wait that long.  I just got to a place during the March 31st year-end close process where I said I cannot do this anymore.  As soon as we filed the 10K for the year, I gave my notice.  My last day was toward the end of June.  I have not had a job since.  While I originally thought I would start looking after a few weeks off, I soon made the decision to put more priority on the CPA studying.  That endeavor is a big time commitment, we are not hurting that much on the financial front, and I just do not feel like going back to work yet.  I cannot stay unemployed forever.  I imagine it will be years before I will have another opportunity to take an extended period of time off once I do go back to work.  Therefore, I want to enjoy this while I can make it last.

Husband and Work:  In an unexpected twist, my husband quit his job in February.  He decided he hated every action of the firm that had bought the company where he was employed.  He would come home furious every day, ranting and raving about things that were supposedly done (sometimes actions directly affecting him, sometimes just business decisions they made).  I finally said if you are that upset you need to quit because I cannot handle your mood any longer.  So he did.  On one hand, I was glad because he quit being so angry all the time.  On the other hand, he was so negative about me quitting my job the first couple times I mentioned it, that it annoyed me when he started talking about quitting his.  It was like he was somehow allowed to make that decision, but I was being impulsive and irrational with my quit-by-August-2018 plan.  Of course, once he made the decision to quit, he no longer had any footing to disagree with my decision to quit mine too.  It was scary to quit when I did because he had not found a new job yet, but I did it anyway.  Luckily, he actually found one before I had made it through my full notice period.  We ended up with both of us home together for only one week.  His new job is much more aligned with what he wants to do responsibility-wise, but he still complains a lot about the company, the people around him, etc.  I honestly think he will never find a job that he likes.  Complaining is fine (after all I do it too) but he cannot be the crazy angry person he was during January.  He also cannot quit again until he has been there for a while unless something truly unconscionable happens or he find something else first.

Health & Wellness:  When I looked back at all my monthly reflections, I spent a lot of time reflecting on my diet and exercise.  I put a lot of emphasis, especially after I quit my job, on trying to get into better shape.  I wanted to do it in a way that was more sustainable than doing a crash diet.  I used the My Fitness Pal app to track my eating habits.  Initially, I just logged everything to get a base-line for where I was.  Then, I started gradually decreasing my goal from an average of where it was down to a net 1800 calories per day.  I also gave myself “low calorie” days once or twice a week, where I tried to keep it below 1200.  Some months I was more successful than others at staying below my limits, but overall the logging process worked pretty well for me.  I also put a lot more emphasis on working out this year.  I did some group classes, some at home workouts, circuit training, and the aforementioned hiking.  I have discovered that I really love group classes.   I resisted these for a long time because the initial attendance to an unknown class intimidates me.  However, I have tried a couple of them now, and once I get over the initial fear, they really work for me.  I find that the energy of the people around me helps me to go for longer and to have more fun during the workout.  My favorite this year was Ballet Burn, which is really more of a mix of Pilates and Barre rather than classical ballet.  Even so, it allows me to move my body in ways I have not done in years, and I have discovered I miss dancing a lot.  Overall, I lost ten pounds during the year, but gained about two back over the holidays.  This works out to a net eight pounds lost for the year.  If I can do the same thing again in 2019 and 2020, I should be right about where I would consider a reasonable weight for my height and body composition.

Top Ten Favorite Entertainment Items of 2018 (no particular order)
Note:  These were consumed by me this year, not necessarily released this year.

TV Series:  The Tudors (only watched Season 1 so far)
TV Series:  Stranger Things (watched Season 2 this year, still amazing)
Movie:  Green Book
Movie:  Rudderless
Movie:  Avengers:  Infinity War
Book:  The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh
Book:  Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan
Book:  All The Ugly & Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Book:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (the movie is amazing as well)
Book:  The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Upcoming 2018 Goals

Career:  It is not a particularly fun goal, but 2019 has to be the year I get myself moving forward again on my career.  Since I am not independently wealthy and my husband’s salary does not really accommodate our spending habits on its own, I need to go back to work before our savings runs out.  I am extremely grateful that I saved so much over the past few years, because I have been able to take my time with the transition.  I cannot go indefinitely though, and I need to start the process of going back to work soon.  This is especially true if I want to give myself some time to be picky before being forced to take whatever comes my way.  I still have ideas about what I want to do going forward (teaching, financial literacy, etc), but I think I will likely end up back in corporate accounting at least for a few years.  Once I pass the CPA exam, I still need to get the other requirements out of the way to be fully licensed.  Plus many of the ideas I have are not flushed out, I am not sure how to pursue, and/or I feel might be better to try on a part-time basis first.  I will keep my eyes open as I apply for jobs, but I do have to be realistic about what is out there and what I am qualified to do.

Hiking:  It seemed like a shame not to include a new hiking goal, so here it is.  My goal for 2019 is to complete 4 unique hikes during the year.  By unique, I mean trails I have never done before.  I want to keep hiking for fun and as part of being healthy, but I do not want to put so much pressure on myself.  It takes the fun out when I have to worry about how many I have done and whether I am repeating trails.  I would rather just feel free to hop over to Hemlock or Bull Run to be outside and active, and not worry about research and travel to make sure I am trying new things all the time.

There you have it, my third annual In The Tradition letter.  I think this year was an interesting year for me, a challenging year, a risky year, a growth year.  I hope 2018 was a good year for all of you, and I hope 2019 is even better for everyone.

Monday, December 31, 2018

December 2018 Reflections

December was a good month.  Christmas often wears me out and depresses me, but I mostly avoided those feelings this year.  Here are my reflections.

The Good

CPA Exam – I passed AUD.  Now I just have one more section to go, and the CPA exam will be behind me.

Christmas Presents – I am not going to do a complete run down of my gifts, but overall the things I got this year were what I wanted and/or nice to have.  My husband in particular did a great job this year.  He normally gets me tech gadgets that I am not always sure what I am going to do with them.  This year he got me a large picture frame with ten spots for pictures.  Seven of these are filled with pictures of us on various hiking trips over the last few years, one is a picture of us with my cousin & her boyfriend when we went to Hamilton this summer, and the remaining two are empty for future shots.  He also got me a handmade custom cutting board engraved with our wedding date that was done by a friend of his.  Technically it is a usable kitchen item, but it is so beautiful that I will likely display it somehow instead.

Holiday Festivities – December is always packed full of stuff, but luckily it was mostly enjoyable this year. I went to a Trivia Night (I was on the last place team, but everyone raved about my pepperoni rolls), a Jazz Concert featuring the Charlie Brown Christmas album (awesome party at my neighbors), various places when my mother was in town (Meadowlark Botanical Gardens Winter Wonderland Walk, Ford’s Theatre Museum for both the museum and a showing of The Christmas Carol, and various restaurants), and Light Up Fest at One Loudoun (amazing!) followed by dinner with the hubby.  The holidays themselves consisted of the in-laws coming to our house the Sunday before when my stepson was here for brunch and a quiet day at home for the actual holiday.  New Year’s Eve is looking to be a game night with some neighbors, but of course that has not happened yet.

Christmas Movies – This year I focused on nostalgic movies/shows from my past.  The criteria for what was included was a) what could I remember watching when I was growing up (anything released before 2000 was eligible) and b) what could I find on one of my entertainment viewing options.  I put them in order below from least enjoyable to most enjoyable seeing them now as an adult.

Babes in Toyland (1986) – This was awful.
A Christmas Story (1983) – I never liked this as a kid, and I do not like it now either.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – Starting here forward, I liked everything.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
I’ll Be Home for Christmas (1998)
The Santa Claus (1994)
Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1993)
Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)
White Christmas (1954) – This will always be one of my favorites!

I was hoping to watch Home Alone (1990) as well.  However, Netflix, the US Post Office, and I did not coordinate our schedules correctly and it only arrived today.  I thought about trying to cram it in before posting this, but I just do not have the time or motivation to watch it right now.  I will have to watch it in January.  I would expect that one to fall in the middle somewhere, but since it has been 20 years or so since I last saw it, I have no idea exactly where.

I also technically watched Die Hard (1988) this year, but I am excluding it from my actual list because a) I never saw it until I was an adult and b) it is not a Christmas movie (it is an action movie set during Christmas).

The Challenges

Job Search – I made zero progress on the job front this month.  I have no excuses.  I just keep procrastinating and finding other things to do instead.

Dentist – I had to go to the dentist twice this month.  The first was my semi-annual cleaning.  It is not a particularly fun appointment, but routine and went about normal.  Except I had a cavity.  It is a spot that my dentist has been watching for a while because it was stained and pitted.  It finally became sticky and had to be fixed.  Second appointment was definitely not pleasant, but in the grand scheme of possible dental work not so bad.

Diet & Exercise – I knew December was going to be a tough month for me in this department, and it was.  Technically I was still setting my goal at below net 1800 calories, but I was over it more than 50% of the month.  There are just way too many holiday treats around, and I have no control once they are in front of me.  I did not do terribly when it came to the exercise routines though.  Schedule-wise it was not easy for me to get to the gym for a lot of the normal stuff, but I did a number of at home workouts using the circuits in my 28 Day Challenge book.  I also took a few walks on nicer days, especially toward the end of the month.  I am not sure I hit the 4 active days every week, but at least I did not just let it go completely.  My weight has been fluctuating all month, but as of this morning I am netting about 8 pounds less than where I started in January.  That is a win for the year.

The Future

My life will continue into the future much as it has been for the past several months.  I start back on CPA studying next week, working on the BEC section.  I will continue to plan (and likely procrastinate) on the job search.  My social life will probably be minimal for the next few months.  January and February are too cold and have unpredictable weather, so I never want to do much or plan too much.

My plan for the blog is to continue with the once a month postings.  I do intend to write the In The Tradition posting that I do annually in the next couple of days.  After that, it will be back to one post per month on the last day (or maybe the next day).  I am going to keep it a reflections style posting, but I will not be using the Good, Challenge, & Future sections.  It will just be ramblings on whatever I feel stood out during the month for me.  Once I get through the exam and the job search, I will reassess what I want to do with my blog going forward.

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

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!