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May 29, 2015

Summer entertaining

Everyone entertains differently. Pending multiple constraints: money, time, amount of effort you'd like to put in, size of home, type of guests, type of event....your style can be dramatically different.

Mark and I used to try to "do it all" but by the time the party would actually start, we'd be so wiped out we wouldn't have any fun. I am amazing at providing an excellent pool party playlist, but not so much with cooking up a fancy meal. Mark loves splashing and entertaining the kids, but doesn't enjoy manning the grill full-time. We like to leave the food to the pros. :)



So we started implementing a new style of summer entertaining. A much, much lower key lifestyle.
My personal get-ready routine is a quick shower, bikini and cover-up on, sunscreen applied, wet hair twirled up in a bun to become loose waves later on, no make-up, and freshly painted toe nails.

Summer is our jam, and we want to see all of our friends and family as much as possible, but it can be disappointing and time consuming to try and invite everyone over each weekend.



In lieu of begging, we sent out a "blanket invite" to friends and family that simply stated, You want to swim, tan, and drink? Great! So do we. On the weekends, text or call and we'll try to accommodate. We pride ourselves for the work we have put in to upgrade and maintain our home, our land, and our pool area. Please come share your time with us as you can. All we ask is to pitch in and bring some snacks, food, and/or beer if you want it. It is unrealistic and expensive to try and maintain a stocked party fridge each and every weekend, and people are typically more than willing to help out.

My husband and I feel it is an equal trade off. The last thing we want to do after cleaning a pool, mowing, picking up the house, charging the golf cart, sweeping/mopping/dusting/stocking, setting up croquet/chairs/tables/etc for hours is to have to also provide a lavish spread of food and drinks.
These are casual affairs with less than a dozen people at any given time.



That isn't to say we will be bone dry. You will always find some sort of alcoholic beverage, sodas, waters, popsicles and snacks available. Just not everything.

We want people to use our space like they would use their home, and enjoy their time, not only with us, but with their own families, knowing our space is as nice as we can make it.
We want to connect with our guests too, not constantly catering to them.
A team effort is key. People should feel comfortable in our home, using our things as needed.



My grandfather passed a few years ago. He was a strong, laid back man from Tennessee and this is exactly how he entertained. It, to me, was magical. His home was fabulous. Large space, beautifully manicured lawn, big blue pool, with lounge chairs set up.
We would show up with food and drinks and make ourselves at home.
There was no agenda, no stress, you just did what you wanted to do and came and went as you pleased.

Obviously, if we are planning a big party, you can bet your ass we will do all of the heavy lifting.
And I might have a fun cocktail on the ready from time to time.
It's fun to do what you can without feeling like to have to do everything.

Relishing in this lifestyle makes it easier to deal with unexpected issues.
My dogs are no angels, but typically there are enough hands on deck if one of them gets too excited (which is ALWAYS the case. But they are a part of our family so we go with the flow.)
People get banged up. Recently, I may have attempted to pull some toys out of the pool, only to misstep and smash my knee to the concrete.
(Yes, I bled, but cleaned it up and kept going. Nothing a beer and a band-aid couldn't fix!)
Kids will bicker, someone may get too drunk, but it's best to take things in stride.
It happens. Life happens. It's not perfect, but we strive to make entertaining a group effort with a mutual understanding that everyone helps out and everyone has a good time.

So what about you? How do you party-hardy? Do you do it all or dole it out?
Thanks for reading!

May 27, 2015

Staying Fit: My workout routine

I like working out.
I like working out in the morning.
Getting that sweat session in and over with and then not sweating anymore for the day is my slice of cake.
I like taking one shower and not dreading that I still have to go to the gym after work.
I usually don't have the energy to do what I do in the mornings, after work.

In the beginning of 2015, I joined a local gym after not having one for a couple of years.
I tried doing the whole home-gym thing.  I collected a few items (treadmill, 3 kettlebells, resistance bands, ankle weights), but felt it was holding me back from experimenting with higher weights and different routines.

I work out five days a week, Monday through Friday. I don't spend one second in the gym on the weekends. My morning routine these days is up at 5:30, at the gym at 5:50, leave the gym at 6:40, and home at 6:45am.
(Another fun disclaimer: the weight limits, cardio levels and anything else I speak of in this post is what works for ME. Don't hold me accountable if you drop a weight and hurt yourself. Don't be stupid. I am not a personal trainer. My max rep now was NOT my max rep four months ago, I have slowly and diligently worked my way up.)

I started following a few body-builder ladies because what they have accomplished is inspiring to me.
Do I want to be one of them? Nah.
What I like about their workouts is the efficiency.

I hate cardio so I try to figure out how to do it in the least amount of time burning the most amount of fat.
I like to see how these people use their gym equipment. What types of reps they do and in what order.
One of my favorites on IG is @ladyfitworkouts.



My stats are as follows:
I am 5'-3" and 135 lbs.
I have a medium frame.
My shoulders, back, and legs are the most powerful muscles I have, and in that order.
I will never have a waify, thigh-gapped body. I tried that once and all it got me was really sick.
What I do have is a power house frame.
I have the capability to lift heavy and the stamina to do sprints and high reps when needed.
So I work to enhance those traits.

Cardio
I complete 10-15 minutes of cardio 5x a week, and not a second more.
If I am lifting heavy legs for the day, I do my cardio at the beginning, otherwise, I deplete my carbs by sprinting at the end.

My goal with cardio is to burn fat and aid my asthma.
I enjoy HIIT (high intesity interval training) for its efficiency and max capacity to torch fat in a condensed time frame.

I will walk for one minute.
Minutes 1-6 is at a 2% incline sprinting at 7.5 mph for 40 seconds with a 20 second recovery (either by hopping off the machine, legs straddling the belt, or reducing the mph to a walk at 3.5mph)
Minutes 6-10 is at a 4% incline sprinting at 8.5 mph for 30 seconds with a 30 second recovery.
Minutes 10-15 I do one of the following:
-Incline at 15%, sprints at 5.5mph for 25 seconds, with 35 second recovery, walking at 3.3 mph (holding onto the bars).
-Incline at 5%, sprinting 8.5 mph for 30 seconds, sprinting 9 mph for 10 seconds, walking recovering for a minute.
Final recovery is walking 3.0 for 1-2 minutes.

I mix all of this up depending on how sore I am from the day before.

Weight Training

I used to be one of those people that thought you had to do a full body workout each and every time you went to the gym.
You don't.
In fact, I believe you will see faster, more defined results if you pick your poison each time.
For me, each day I focus on two variations of reps for 2 muscles groups.

For example, I will do two variations of biceps curls and two variations of squats one day.
The next I will shoulders and hamstrings.
Or maybe I'll do back and butt.
Triceps and inner thigh.
You get the picture.

It's always one upper body part and one lower body.
I also super set. This means that I will do a set (6-15 reps, pending weight) of lower body exercises immediately followed by a set (6-15 reps, pending weight) of upper body exercises. I go back and forth between each set, upper and lower, for a total of 3-4 sets each.

Then I take a "break" to set up the next circuit.
To keep things streamlined at my gym, if I am using the resistance machines, I stay at the resistance machines for the duration of my lifting.
If I'm at free weights, I'll keep it at the free weights.
Squat machine at squat machine, and so on.

It is literally different every day.
The only thing I don't duplicate is muscle groups.

If one week I lifted heavy with low reps on one muscle group, the next week I'll use lighter weights with higher reps.
I lift heavy with both upper and lower body on the same day.
Lighter with lighter.

I can't post specific workouts since it varies so often, but here are a few examples.

Heavy Weight/Low Rep Day
Using the Smith machine, I will load 305 lbs and max out at 4-5 reps.
Then I will hop off and using a weight bar loaded with 60 lbs, max out shoulder presses for 6-8 reps.
I will repeat this sequence two more times, then drop the weights by 20 pounds for legs and 10 pounds for shoulders and repeat the sequence. Dropping the weight means I can probably double my max-out reps. I will drop it one more time, max out my reps, and be done for the day.

Light Weight/High Rep Day
I will usually be on the resistance machine or free weights.
I typically do a similar version of weight structure as heavy days, just much lighter.
So if I am focusing on inner thigh doing grand plie squats, I'll load 50 lbs and do as many reps til failure, hop over and curl biceps starting at 15 pounds with reps til failure. Drop everything a couple times, maximizing my reps until everything feels like jell-o.

One final note, I don't really spend a lot of time focusing on abs. A lot of my weight training requires the use of core muscles so I will squeeze in a few sets of different core workouts here and there, but it is never the focus of any workout.
Not to mention, you can do all the crunches you want, but if there is that dough-boy layer of lovin' over top of them, you will never see them.

If you have any specific questions, I'd be happy to help if I can! Happy training!!

May 22, 2015

Staying Fit: What I eat

I have always been a relatively healthy person. Sure, my pants have been tighter at times, but these days, moderation is key.
I have a desk job, so in an effort to avoid pancake ass, I try to hit the gym 5x a week and generally stay active when I can. But the gym routine post is for another day.

Today I wanted to share what I eat during the week.
(Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist or a body-building professional. I simply strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle so what I am about to share may or may not work with you. Take it with a grain of salt...but not too much salt. Because bloat.)
I eat the same thing five days a week. This includes breakfast, lunch and snacks. Dinner and the weekends are up in the air based on what we feel like making or doing.

After my morning workout, I like to help repair my muscles with a mix of carbohydrates and protein.
And since I am lazy, I grab a Naked smoothie.


The Double Berry flavor is my favorite. It is far less chalky than the other options.
Each smoothie has 420 calories and 16 grams of protein.
I drink half of the bottle each day.
I also take two vitamins, a prenatal and a B-complex (for natural energy).



On my way to work, I drink my coffee with just under a spoonful of real sugar and 2 tbls.of Coffeemate French Vanilla Creamer (none of that lite crap).

The time between when I drink my smoothie and arrive to work is approximately 2 hours and I'm basically starving so I'll heat up my breakfast.
On Sunday's I will make a muffin tray of eggs.
Each muffin consists of one egg, 1/2 slice of bacon, sauteed veggies (mushrooms, onions, and red peppers) and hot sauce. These are super easy to make, by the way. I cook the bacon in the microwave, saute the veggies, whisk up the egg mixture and divide everything into ten of the twelve (greased) muffin spots.
Cook in the oven at 400 for 20 minutes.


At work, I pop them in the microwave for 35 seconds and pull apart and eat! (That photo is halfway through my meal...I forgot to take the "pretty" photo)
I get 15 grams of protein with this meal.

For a mid-morning snack I will have a Chobani. Each Chobani has 12g of protein.



My lunch is prepared in bulk on Sundays as well.
I typically mix up the protein week to week, but the base stays the same.
This week is was 1.5 pounds of chicken, brown rice, an onion, red pepper, mushrooms, a cucumber, and sometimes feta if I have it. All sauteed up, divided into five containers and topped with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a splash of hot sauce and maybe some hummus.
At work, I will slice up half an avocado and add it to lunch as well.



My final afternoon snack is a string cheese, a 100 calorie pack of almonds, and a green tea with honey and 1/2 a splenda.



Keeping my meals during the day clean allows me to have zero guilt when I get home and want a beer (or 2).
Which I usually do. Our dinners range from pasta to tacos to anything grilled (salmon, sweet potatoes, etc).
Some days it's healthy, other days it's not.
Some days we just have snacks for dinner (and maybe too much wine).
I don't fret about it too much.
We are not big into desserts. It's fine every now and then, but I just don't really crave it that much.

And in doing all of this, I still continue to see results with the added weights and cardio at the gym.
For your reference, each day I get roughly 65 grams of protein and approximately 34g of sugar in before dinner. And then dinner adds more, obviously. I have no idea how many calories I consume. If I had to guess it's somewhere between 1800-2100 per day including dinner.
I also eat all of this for about $8-$9 a day. Meal prep is key!

And with that, I am off to grab a beer with my new coworkers! Have a great weekend!

May 20, 2015

These days


Settling into my new j-o-b this week. My whole schedule was apparently thrown off from being out of work that short period of time, because Monday rolled around and I thought I was going to die of exhaustion.
But....I was not upset about my commute. Going from 90 to 30 minutes is a huge deal.
Also a big deal? Just putting on my work outfit and walking out the door.
No more "wearing walking shoes" or "putting my hair up so it doesn't get frizzy in the elements" or "running to catch a train" or "sweating to power-walk to the office" or "applying my make-up on the train using a palm-sized mirror."
Also a big deal? The office is normal.  No one seems pretentious or overbearing.
No one has a specific pen that they have to write with.
No one has an arrogance that seems off-putting.
I come to work, do my shit, and leave.
People have families and lives outside of the office, and it is celebrated rather than shunned.
I am no longer staring at the clock worrying about how many minutes I have to run to catch the train.
I no longer have guilt that I'm not burning the midnight oil to impress the boss.
This isn't the big city anymore. It's a suburb. With a suburban lifestyle.
And maybe it is slower moving.
And that's okay with me.

I can't guarantee my blogging efforts will be three times a week still. I don't want to mess up a good thing here, and I'm not a fan of working after hours to shoot out a shitty blog post.
It'll be what it'll be.

And with this short and sweet post, I leave you with a grainy selfie of my cute outfit from the weekend.
I have never been to keen on crop tops, but I thought this one was just to cute to pass up.


Until next time folks!!

May 18, 2015

The ugly side of marriage

I'd like to think that Mark and I have an amazing marriage.
One that thrives on openness, communication, trust....all that jazz.
We are a team. We each have goals and dreams and we help each other reach those goals and dreams.
He is my soul mate. I feel so lucky to have found the one person in the whole world that wants to be with every part of me. And quite frankly, he should feel lucky to have found someone to put up with his shenanigans too.  :)



But there are hard times.
Dark, manipulative, heart-ripping times, that after you are past it, you look back and can't possibly fathom that you actually said or did that thing to each other.
Because you love each other so much...how could you tear each other down like that?

We both have that one shitty personality trait that is just no good.
That one thing that you wouldn't actually show to other people, but it sure as hell comes out between us.

For me?
I jump to conclusions too fast in a fight and immediately start spewing venom at him.
If something sets me off (usually lack of food), I will probably start flying off the handle.
Arms flailing, spitting curse words and venom so quickly that it would make your head spin.
And my loving husband has learned, over the ten years that we have been together, that the easiest way for me to realize that I am being an asshole is to not egg it on.
As shitty as that sounds, meeting my crazy at its peak is only going to make me escalate things to the point of threatening him to move out or call the cops....over the fact that "we didn't spend the morning together on his only day off."
I have a bit of a temper, you could say.
And as quickly as it starts, it's over. I am apologizing (and probably crying) from the bottom of my heart. I know it's a terrible thing to do to someone.

And him?
His shitty trait is going off the deep end if he gets too drunk.
These days are few and far between, but when it happens, it's bad.
What will happen is we will be having a good time, and then BAM...he's slurring his words, and I'm not at his level. Any kind suggestion to take it easy, or drink some water, are met with anger and venom because "I'm embarrassing him for going off the deep end."
And then he will usually start bubbling all his emotions out and remind me that he is still pissed about our last fight...the one he was so casual about.
The good thing with these fights is I can usually dissolve them, or we go to bed, and let the booze wear off and talk about it later that day or the next morning.

Both of us can be quite the pistols to each other.
And to think this kind of crazy used to happen on the regular in the first few years we were together.
We really, really loved each other enough to stick it out, I guess.

Our marriage ebbs and flows. When it's good, it's really good. And when it's bad....well, you get it.
Being out of work kind of threw our whole routine out of whack.
My day to day, while working, takes a lot out of me, so I would let the little things (that used to piss me off) slide. And Mark and I will have a drink at night, but going to crazy town typically doesn't happen on a random Wednesday, like it did when I wasn't working.

We aren't perfect. But we are damn perfect together.
Thanks for reading.

May 15, 2015

In one month...

I was laid off from work. I was heartbroken and angry, but hopeful this would lead to bigger and better things.
I landed a new and hopefully better job.
And I checked a bunch of things off a seemingly never-ending list of to-do's that kept getting pushed to the wayside.  Every spring it is a mad dash to de-winterize our home and get it summer ready. We always try to hustle during this time so summer can be an entertaining breeze (pun intended.)


The biggest non DIY feat was paying off a car. This car has been looming over us for what seems like forever. The second I accepted my new position, I took my severance pay from my former company and dropped a fat check to the loan company.
I have never been so thrilled to hand over a pile of money like that before.
This was the car that when we decided to buy this home, I had to get it out of my name and into my husband's, faster than you could snap your fingers. And in doing so, our interest rate went from 2.6 to 12.8%. Gulp. Since the end of 2013, my main goal has been to pay this damn thing off as fast as possible to avoid that huge interest gain.

Around the house? Oh, I have been busy.

I detailed our front porch. Cleaned every crevice. Wiped every window. Scrubbed every brick.



I planted flower pots, tilled up flower beds, laid some sunflower seeds (that are currently sprouting!)



I spruced up our sitting room with a pop of color and a hint of summer.


I can't wait until there is hardwood in here and NOT carpet!!
I re-painted our guest room to make it more inviting. This room is also a drop-zone for my work items and treadmill, and since I am in it every morning, shouldn't it look more appealing?

BEFORE
AFTER
Our pool shed was in dire need of a makeover. I tore off the make-shift electric fence the prior owners put up to keep their dog in (yikes). Cleaned up every wall. Removed a mouse nest, a ton of mouse poop, more spider webs than I could count, and primed and painted that damn thing.
I think it looks great.


We turned our pool from black to blue. Mark is hustling to trench and install our pool heater to combat the 50 degree weather. (Seriously, summer, wtf?)
I did all the laundry. Shampooed all the carpets. Cleaned all the things.
Hosted Mother's Day.
And took a hiatus from the gym. Not necessarily something I wanted to do, but after the drunken Derby escapades, I woke to find out I strained a hip muscle and it hasn't quite healed yet.

This is my last weekend before work starts and I'd like to think I've set myself up for success.
My goal this weekend is to pick a few outfits that are work friendly, meal prep for the week, and shake up a cocktail or two with friends.

Cheers, friends. Have a wonderful weekend!

May 13, 2015

10 things that will never fail you

Now that I am an affluent member of Linkedin (meaning, I check in often to see who is creeping on my profile) I have found various articles written that speak to job seekers and employers on a multitude of topics.  Booorrrrriiinnngggg.

And then I came across this list, and realized how amazing it is. Let's delve into the details, shall we?


1. Honesty- This. All day every day. You make an honest living, you reap the rewards of a fulfilled life. You speak honestly about what you want, you get what you need in your life. You are open and honest to your husband, in turn, he will respect and treat you like the queen you are.
Honesty really is the best policy. I have left jobs in the past because how they were running their company spoke against every morale grain in my soul and I just couldn't be a part of it. I have left relationships that just weren't open and honest. You can't force someone to be honest, but at the end of the day, you can sleep better knowing you were as forthcoming as possible.

2. Integrity- This is a word you will find plastered all over everything. From your office mission statement to girl scout cookies, integrity is key. But what is integrity? Integrity is an adherence to moral and ethical principles. Going along with honesty, it's what keeps you on the straight and narrow. It drives a company to make an honest product. In the days chock-full of fillers, GMO's, chemicals, false claims...the list goes on, those with integrity stick to their guns because they know it's right.

3. Hard work- I have said it a million times, Life. Is. Hard. It takes hard work to get ahead, to get moving, hell, to just get up in the morning. There is NOTHING more rewarding than putting in a days worth of hard work. I don't care what it is you do; whether you are a SAHM, a career woman, a Blue Collar worker, or a CEO, hard work is hard work. If you work hard for something, even if you fail temporarily, you have set yourself up to do better next time, or try something different. Bystanders in life aren't living.

4. Being nice- There is a fine line between being a push-over and being a nice person. Sometimes you need to be a bitch, and that's okay. But being a bitch in a casual setting, or at a family affair, or in general ain't gonna cut it. Neither is being a push-over. You don't always want to be the Yes (wo)Man. Difficult situations take a bit of finesse and it is usually better to start off as being pleasant and dig your shoulder in later, if you have to. Being nice is actually difficult for me sometimes (shocking) because I look at situations with a bit of a pessimist eye and judge far too easily. But, it hurts my chee to be a shitty person and it's nice to take a step back and just be....nice.

5. Be excellent at what you do- I have been at far too many interviews to count recently. It has been exhausting but has helped me immensely by defining what is IS that I am good at. Over the years, I have found I'm not excellent at any particular thing, but that is what makes me excellent. Bear with me. See....with all my job titles, Showroom Manager, Office Manager, Executive Assistant, Designer, you are required to learn a set of skills and make them great. And while all of those skills are fine and dandy, they aren't unique to me. Most people can be taught to negotiate a contract or fax a file or clean up an office or whatever.
I am an excellent read of character and situations.
And that statement is hard to sell someone on when you are looking to land a job.
I love learning mannerisms of people....what makes them tick. I can tell, almost immediately, if someone is full of shit or genuine. I learn your quirks, I read your facial expressions, I can tell if you are lying, and it has helped me leverage my career with client and vendor negotiations, my own salary requirements, and life in general.
I am the one people go to when a fire needs to be put out (metaphorically speaking). I can find a solution to anything, or have the experience to put to work that others don't.

6. Exceeding Expectations- what sets you apart from others? When you are given a task, what do you do that makes you better than everyone else? At one job, my first week I went to Starbucks with my new boss and we told our orders to the barista. I made sure to remember his complicated order (seriously, I still remember it. Iced triple grande, 2%, no-whip, easy-mocha, mocha) and the next regular meeting we had, I brought him that silly order. It was a stressful time in the office, but it took the edge off of the tension. Going that extra step, sometimes, helps you in life.
Please don't be an ass-kisser on the reg, but going the extra mile can only help you and your surroundings when the time calls for it.

7. Spending less than you earn- This one is a no-brainer, but since everyone has a credit card (or two, or three) these days, this one is easily overlooked. You can't get ahead if you get your paycheck and blow it all the next day. You just can't. And whatever your definition of getting ahead is, whether it's paying off a debt (car, loan, etc), buying that new shiny thing, or simply living simply, you can't do it if you max out your finances all the time. Because what happens on the karma-train? Shit hits the fan and something traumatic happens and you are left with a huge bill because you didn't anticipate it.
Bad things happen in life, and while you can't always be prepared, having a bit of cushion (for the pushin') helps ease the blow (twss).

which leads me to...

8. Save as much as you possibly can- We handle this one in a weird way, I think. We save to spend, these days. We don't have a huge nest egg, although I do contribute to retirement plans and they are slowly building. Every paycheck that comes in automatically gets a hunk taken out for savings. And those savings will ultimately pay for something that we can't afford right because I won't play the credit card karma game. We will save for a kitchen until we can pay for it in full. And that will drain our savings, and then we will move onto the next thing. The key to saving is you must pay to your savings before you pay for fun, day to day items, otherwise, you will never have any.
Don't pay for savings with "what's left" at the end of your paycheck. Because guess what? There won't be any, or there will be much less than what you wanted.

9. Be charitable with your time, talents, and money- This doesn't mean give your change to every homeless person on the street. You'd go broke if you did. Especially in Chicago. What it means is...if you can do something really well, be open to lending a helping hand if someone can't do that thing. I am really good at painting, and I willingly help friends paint rooms in their own homes from time to time. I will get tipsy and come across a dog that needs help with some sort of live-saving surgery, and will dump a few bucks to the cause. My mom will need help moving photos from her camera to her desktop (the files are IN the computer?) so I'll spend a few minutes showing her how. Don't run yourself ragged trying to be Mother Teresa, but if the opportunity presents itself, jump on it. Tacit knowledge is powerful and is always much more efficient to do if you can't teach it. (now go Google what the phrase tacit knowledge is...I had to learn it at work!)

and finally...

10. Your sense of humor- Dudes, life is fucked up sometimes. And sometimes it just gets so overwhelming that all you can do is laugh. You are guaranteed to look like a crazy person, but laughing really is the best medicine. Don't take yourself or others too seriously. Learn the art of sarcasm. And if all else fails, you can always tell a dick joke.
In my interview that landed my new job, I think I quoted Office Space a couple of times. I can't help it. Funny movie quotes are my jam. Life can't always be serious. And if you find it to be that way, you can always turn to me for a laugh. I'll be sitting at the wedding table in the corner with the light "burned out" over top. You know, the inappropriate table?
Pull up a seat and your big girl panties and let's get it rockin'.

Have a great day!

May 11, 2015

Acceptance


My brother and I don't have a strong sibling relationship. I think it all started with how we were brought up. Between a (somewhat) larger gap in our ages which meant we never went to the same school, and parenting lifestyle differences between us; things were never equal.

I was the first born. The overachiever. My parents were strict with me and taught me the meaning of a dollar. You work hard, you can achieve great things, but you have to roll up your sleeves to do so.

My brother was the second born. Just under four years younger than me. He had nearly free reign to do what he pleased, because, you know, "boys will be boys." When he started dabbling in drugs, my parents seemed concerned but ultimately turned the other cheek. When he started lashing out, my parents retaliated with too much love and affection, rather than playing hardball like I was used to.

I don't blame them for treating us differently. Who the hell knows what they were up against.
Maybe I was such a handful that they were worn out and decided to just loosen the reigns with him.
Maybe it was too much. I was the mistake, after all.
A beautiful mistake, my mom says, but an oops they weren't quite ready for.

My brother's lifestyle choices have been affecting my parents a lot in recent years. And in turn, I have watched bouts of depression that I can't understand and a lot of unloading to me. I get mad. I try to reason with everyone, to make everything right and let everyone see the real issues.
It's tiring and taxing on my mental state. It starts to affect my relationship with  my husband.

So a few months ago I let my brother have it. In some not so eloquent words, I finally just said everything that I had been thinking for years. The disappointment, the sadness, the anger, it all came out in one massive fit.

I was tired of seeing my mom cry.
I was tired to see my dad at a loss for an answer, and watch him slip in and out of depression.
I was tired to see the financial and emotional strain on them all because of him.
Because they love him so much they are blinded by his burden. They allow it.

After that spell, we didn't talk for months.
Until Mother's Day.
My parents have both been concerned about our feuding, but I just couldn't let go of that disappointment.
I swallowed my pride and reached out to him....for them.
Now, I did admit I overreacted that day I lashed out, but my feelings about the situation have not changed.  I believe, whole heartedly, in living an honest life.
Do good and you get good things.
Life, REAL life is so hard. Nothing is truly handed to you (unless there is family money or some other inheritance that is literally handed to you).
Everything Mark and I have we have worked hard for. Not just with our jobs, but in our day to day.
We were able to build and buy and upgrade and enhance our lives how we see fit because WE did it ourselves. No one handed us that silver spoon. My parents scraped together enough money to get me into college, but the rest was up to me. Mark started his own company at 18 and moved out.

I do not agree with being a passive bystander to life.
I do not agree with doing an illegal thing to make money fast just to get ahead briefly.
I do believe in Karma.
I do believe that you allow your parents to be parents and shelter and protect you until you are an adult, but then you get out and find your own way.
I believe in not being a burden to your parents. Learn your own life lessons. You won't repeat them if you get in trouble and learn the harsh reality of how much a lawyer and court fees are.
Trust me.

But no one is perfect.
People fall. And if no one is there to catch them. Then what?

So I am trying acceptance. I am mentally removing myself from that situation as I don't really have much say besides whining on the sidelines about "how things should be."
We talked for the first time in months. It was tough and swallowing my pride isn't easy.
But we all worked together for that day, for my parents.

I accept that we are so, so very different. But he is my brother. And family helps family.
I accept that life will help him find his way, even though it's not how I think it should happen.
I accept that I can't change his life, I can't teach him to be proactive, and I can't stop my parents from being who they are.

Because I have my own life and dreams and goals to reach for. A lifestyle that people look at bizarrely because it goes against the norm sometimes, too.
And that's okay.

May 8, 2015

An ode to my former party-girl self

Dear Party Girl,
Sometimes, when the mood is just right, and by right, I mean it's the first warm, sunny day in what seems like decades, you go a bit crazy. Excited! But still crazy.

Combine that with a family member's Derby themed 40th birthday and you, my friends, get to see me in ALL my glory. Trying to keep it real whilst getting shitty, like I did when I was 22.
(hint hint: I'm not 22)....but we sure as hell tried to convince ourselves we were.

I don't know what it is about the combination of certain people getting together when shots are involved...you know those people, the ones that the MINUTE they walk through the door, you two exchange a smirk because AWWWW YYYEEAAAA...shit is going to go DOWN tonight, brotha!!

That combination of people would be my husband's siblings, their significant others, and whoever else showed up this weekend.

It was Derby Day, and wouldn't you  know I had a little Martha Stewart flowing through my blood and a fancy new BRIGHT YELLOW dress that I just thought would be perfect for the event.


I do declare...this event shall be the classiest one evah! Most sober photo of the day!

And then my SIL served me this glorious champagne drink that went down like, well....champagne.


And all of a sudden, I'm in the zone.


Mark told me to bring a change of clothes because there would be obstacle races. So the minute the race was over (and we lost $100) I changed into my dance pants.
We had to complete a relay race where you held an orange in place between two people's faces.
And guess whose big Neanderthal head slammed into my eye when that damn orange fell to the ground?


Good thing I couldn't feel much at that point.


There was another challenge where you had to bend over and pick up a paper bag with your mouth, without touching your hands or knees to the ground. I am (surprisingly) not flexible, but my HUSBAND won for our team. He is surprisingly flexible (bow chica bow wow), so I'll be putting that to use later.

The evening capped off with a ridiculous amount of sweaty dancing and terrible shots and more champagne, obviously. (Or whatever is in that cup)


Here's to you...former Party Girl.
You still can do the do when the music is right and drinks are flowin'.
And your hangover wasn't even that bad!
You did wake up with string cheese wrappers and popcorn bits in your bed the next morning, but I'm sure that helped soak up the alcohol, right?

Now get your ass to the gym. You don't get fit from drinking your weight in alcohol!
Have a great boozy filled weekend!!

May 6, 2015

Wednesday wrap-up

Thank you so much for all your well wishes about my job! I hope it is as amazing as I picture it to be!
Now that I don't have to scour the internet for that fabulous career, I can turn all of my attention back to our home and our lives.

I have kept busy, that is for sure. If I'm not cleaning or updating something, I am simply sitting.
Sitting and sipping coffee on my porch in the morning, and listening to the birds chirp.


Sitting in the grass and watching the dogs explore all the new foliage that has popped up.


Sitting and smelling the chlorine that is making our pool beautiful again.
There are three smells in our home that define summer, and they are chlorine, sunscreen, and the salty sweet smell of a spicy margarita.  It truly is a stay-cation for us.


We play croquet, soak up the warmth and sun as much as possible, then finally retreat in for a shower.


I love sitting with Mark in the hottub and chatting about all of our dreams for this home. What we want to do, when we want to do it. It's never about doubt or money constraints or anything bad. It's just about dreaming. How we can upgrade things. How we want to make it more US. What project to take on next. I love every minute of it. We sit for hours, wrinkling up in that hottub, enjoying some drinks, as the dogs lay below us, and just be in the moment.


Photos sure are pretty to post, but sometimes I get too wrapped up in trying to get that great shot that I forget to just sit. Sitting without an agenda will soon be over, so I should try to take advantage of it as much as possible.
Thanks for reading.

May 4, 2015

Be so good they can't ignore you

In the ten years I have been employed, a lot has changed. The last time I had to spruce up my resume and interview was four years ago, and prior to that, just about every year.
I switched jobs so often that I never really had to worry about what my resume looked like because it was always in good shape.
The last time I landed a job, I literally walked my resume over to the office, because I thought it added a bit of a personal touch (and let's be honest, if it was a dude, I could try and count on at least landing an interview, right? It wasn't a dude that took my resume, by the way, but it still worked out)

But dudes, A LOT has changed in those four years. There are so many more people entering the job markets. Young, hungry, driven professionals that are willing to make a lower dollar amount just to get. the damn. job.
And I used to be that person. I was relatively junior in my career so there were easier opportunities. I would simply apply and get the job within a week. It didn't really matter if I had background experience with anything because I just didn't, and whatever was going to be taught to me would be taught on site.

These days? Well.....I am very much more senior in my role, my salary, and my career in general. It has been a rather humbling experience to apply for a job on Linkedin and realize there are already 70 applicants. And that is just on THAT site....what about email or other job boards? SO MANY PEOPLE! Now granted, 50% of them are typically unqualified in some fashion, but what about the other half? How do you beat out those bitches?



I am thrilled to say I landed a very exciting role Friday afternoon, and after a bit of haggling, I am pleased to say that I basically checked off everything on my "needs" list. You know, the one I kept struggling with?

I was out of work for two weeks and am so very thankful that this all happened before I was supposed to start claiming unemployment. Not that there is anything wrong with doing so, it'll just be less of a headache come tax season. I have two more weeks prior to starting and I plan to knock out a few more home items and relax a bit.

So let me tell you what I did and provide some tips to help you land your dream job.
The position was posted on Linkedin (I have found this site to have more roles that aren't necessarily entry-level, vs. sites like Indeed.com and Career Builder) I did a bunch of sleuthing and found out who was in the position prior to me, the history of the company, the owners, anything and everything I could use to give me more leverage and confidence to go in and rock the job.

I actually found this position myself, outside of the head hunters. Head hunters can be great, and my experience with them was so-so. I worked with two larger firms and one smaller, boutique company as a referral from a friend. Unless you are just starting out in your career, I don't recommend a larger firm. They just want to find you ANYTHING that they can make commission from. They don't have a lot of details about salary, benefits, etc, and most likely you will not get the company name as they are under confidentiality clauses.
The lady I worked with from my friend's referral was amazing. She would secretly send me information: the company name, internal personalities, company size, salary range, benefits, dress code...the whole shebang.
I loved this because honestly, I could just apply blindly to a job site and not know these details, but I am "hiring" these head hunters to get the inside scoop, make sense?
The day I accepted the job offer for my company, I actually had a very positive phone screen with a company in the city, set up by my favorite head hunter. We were going to move forward with an interview and everything.
I am sure I could have landed that job, but you know what? My job beats it.

I landed a Senior Office Manager role with a Chicago-comparable salary, but guess what? It's in the 'burbs....a 35 minute drive to be exact. It's a creative company that is profitable with solid, stable growth, has a casual dress environment, and good benefits.

The best part is how I sold them.
See, the job was actually for someone less experienced than me. They wanted an Office Manager with roughly 2-3 years experience (I have 8) and the job description was standard. I took a chance and applied, knowing that if it was going to work, I had to convince them I could bring so much more to the table by going above and beyond what they were asking, all the while saving them money in the long term by not having to hire other senior staff. I'm kind of a catch-all for the company, if you will.
I also needed to convince them that I was requiring a salary much higher than whatever their budget was for this job.

I spent four hours interviewing. FOUR. HOURS. It was amazing. I drove my point home about seniority, laid out my 90 day and six month plan to get up and running, met with all the principals, got an office tour, discussed benefits, and even chatted about their salary range vs. mine and WHY I would rock it in that position and WHY they should reconsider not only the role, but pay too. He did himm and haww around after I told him my preferred range, but the key is to give your desired range, and then calmly sit there, making direct eye contact (not crazy eyes) and wait for them to squirm. It works like a charm. We got back to fun chat shortly after and I left to get white-girl wasted with a friend, after successfully knocking it out of the park.

Two days later, just as anticipated (although I was biting my nails until it did), the offer came in.
Ladies, don't EVER sell yourself short. The company met my higher salary range, but I still haggled. Do your research. Find out what your "worth" is, and be able to back up your claims. I was actually out of the "range" for the area, but I knew what I would be getting paid in the city, and that was my goal.
Did I actually take a pay cut? Yes, I did. Nothing drastic, but I knew I would. Like I said before, my salary was high for the job at the last place, and if I were to switch and stay at that same rate, I can guarantee there would be a shit-ton of overtime to go along with it.

So I asked for a bump in salary, and more vacation days.
And I got it.

Don't ever feel guilty for asking, especially during an offer. The worst they can do is say no.
The likelihood of you getting another major raise outside of a promotion is rare. The offer is where you have the highest success rate and most companies don't ever give their "best and final" upfront.
And you can GUARANTEE that if a man were in the similar position, they wouldn't even hesitate to ask for more. The company chose you, and if they are a good company, they will work with your proposals. They won't dump you just because you asked for more money.

You guys....this job means so much to me!
I literally get to pave my own way, at a job that I DECIDED they should let me do, in a way I want to do it. And it's local to my house, with less of a commute. I will get back TWO HOURS of each day to spend with my family. Having a baby seems so much more doable than in the city. I have the flexibility to just go if I ever have to, on my own schedule, vs. that of the train.
Yes there is shitty traffic, and yes, I need to figure out a way to reign in my road rage, but the constant reminder that my commute will go from 1.5 hours to 40 minutes is HUGE. We will still be able to move forward with our home plans because my salary is comparable, and I will actually be able to enjoy my home more.
We are so lucky this gap in employment was short and sweet. I still have time to catch up on housework and get the place summer-ready, and we gifted ourselves a pool heater! Midwestern summers can be fickle, but this will easily extend our summer pool months from 3 to 5!

Thank you for reading! I'm off to do chores.

May 1, 2015

You should try to have babies before 35

...said my Gyno at my appointment yesterday.
In my head, my immediate reaction was all


I know, real mature.
Luckily, none of that came out....because the thing is....she DOESN'T know my life. And as much as I like her as my new doctor, and I know she means the best, it doesn't mean I have to justify our decisions.

I had not seen her since our diagnosis earlier this year. Hell, I really hadn't seen her since last October when we first met for the initial consultation and she suggested we pursue IUI.

So, she's feeling me up and starts asking me if I had, or would consider donor sperm.
No. That thought actually never crossed my mind. Because as crazy as this sounds, I actually want my HUSBAND'S child....not just ANY child. I want to see what we make, you know?
I want to see if the child has Mark's sleep-walking tendencies and wild boyhood antics.
I want to see if the child has my Southern twang that I had growing up.
I want a product of US, not just a product.
I don't need a baby to fill this longing void in my life.
There isn't a void in my life...we just believe we would be good parents with our own kid, and that's it.

And I keep gently reminding her, while she shoves that metal pelican in my hoo-ha. that I actually don't have a job right now.
The key to IVF and Genetic testing is one major factor...you need dough. Lots and lots of dough.

So the funny thing is, is I guess she just thinks I'm a bit nutty to not wanting to take the 25% risk.
Yes, it really is only a 25% risk that our child will have physical and mental problems FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE....but there is also a 75% chance everything will be hunky dory.

But we know. We know we can do what it takes to avoid it completely. There are solutions (expensive solutions) but solutions none-the-less, and WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY...so why wouldn't we use it? Seems like a no-brainer if you ask me.



And on that note, I kind of left y'all hanging about our plans...huh?
So we (selfishly) decided that if we have to pay mucho dinero for a baby, how bout we spend a little on ourselves before we go that route? #TreatYoSelf


I really want our kitchen re-done. Second to that disgusting bathroom upstairs, it was one of the main reasons I didn't want to buy this place.
We don't really want to expand the footprint, but the kitchen is awkward and lacking usable square footage.
Included in that upgrade is eliminating the grandma carpet on the first floor.
We have confirmed there is hardwood that can be refinished in half of the space, and we'll work out the rest.
And if there is any money leftover in the budget, I'd like to upgrade the vanity and finishes in the downstairs bathroom as well. A little more beachy and open, if we can.

On Mark's list includes a speed boat (which I still kind of laugh at). He is eccentric in nature but his family are big car and boat people, so really it only makes sense.
But, if it is on his wish list, we better well make sure it happens pre-baby because I will lose it if I have to hear about it afterward.

And finally, we will  need a family friendly car in general, and maybe sooner if I end up with a suburban job that I drive to. Mark isn't too keen on me shlepping one of our older, classic cars, around town.

So what is the timeline for all of this?
Two years.
Can it be done?
I have no clue. I budgeted out our savings for all of these things, including our IVF fees, and it should work, but things like me not having a job aren't really playing into that plan.

Our goal is to get me pregnant by the summer of 2017. And yes, I have already heard from our entire family about how "waiting isn't the smartest idea." I really don't care. We know we would never be able to save for stuff WE want when there is daycare and diapers to pay for, so what's another couple of years? I think it is perfectly fitting. Less stress because our house is DONE. We get all of our wants checked off the list and then we get a baby (or babies) to enjoy without worrying about whether we can afford to rip up the slippery linoleum in the kitchen for fear someone will crack their head open.

So that's the plan, stan. Pray to the job-gods that I hear good news about getting employed again so we can put this damn plan to action!!

Thanks for reading and have a BEAUTIFUL weekend!