Tuesday, August 26, 2014

It's Only Golden Once

I've spent the better part of the weekend aging, despite my efforts to stop the process and live eternally as a 24 year-old youthful goddess. All sarcasm aside, this weekend was full of festivities celebrating not only my roommate's birthday, but mine as well. Short story long, my roommate and I both met our third year of college, as we were pledging a local sorority (that went on to become chartered by a national sorority the next year!) as the only two third-year girls. So obviously, we had to immediately form a bond! As we started to get to know each other better, we realized we have a lot in common-- some of it eerily so. First off, our birthdays are just two days apart-- hers being August 23rd and mine August 25th. We both hail from the Hampton Roads area, and our mom's look like they share all but a couple genes, they are so similar.

When she graduated from VCU grad school, she found a job back up in Charlottesville working for UVa, and we jumped at the chance to be roommates. But back in 2010, when we both turned 21, we quickly realized that we obviously HAD to celebrate together... and always would, even if we were separated by distance for our birthdays. With that came Melizzapalooza 1.0.
Beach themed, of course.
While Melizzapalooza 2.0 was spent apart, we were together in spirit. Then we were reunited for Melizzapalooza 3.0, where we celebrated each other's recent accomplishments.
Grad school > bikini competiton.
This year, and probably for the next few at least, Melizzapalooza has taken a turn for the tame side, as it should. Saturday, we lounged around the apartment during the afternoon drinking wine, watching Easy A, and eating Trader Joe's munchies that her boyfriend brought over. Later in the evening, we went out just after 8pm (yup, we are showing our age) for a couple celebratory drinks. And I seriously do mean a couple. Two. Dos.

Sunday morning was for gathering groceries for the week, then the boyfriend and I made good on a LivingSocial deal I had for a local rock climbing gym. Leave it to me to slam my knee just a few climbs in. While it was certainly uncomfortable, I didn't let that keep me down (literally), so we kept climbing and bouldering for a couple more hours before giving up due to our bruised egos hands. When you're actually trying to follow marked routes, bouldering is hard!

The boyfriend and I lounged around watching Boardwalk Empire for a little while before going on a stroll through his neighborhood. The weather was pretty crappy all weekend, but luckily Sunday did not bring rain like Saturday. And speaking of Boardwalk Empire, I swear I am an expert at calling story lines before they happen. Does this happen to anyone else? There have been several instances where they will introduce a character or a seemingly minute scene will occur and I'll turn to him and say, "X is going to happen," or "I bet they introduced Y for Z reason." Then after waiting with baited breath for a few episodes, my surmises are proven true. It's almost like that commercial for Netflix where the girl has watched over a season without her boyfriend then pretends like she hasn't... except I swear I haven't watched ahead.

Back to birthdays... after a quick nap, I was headed home to get ready for a pre-birthday dinner at a very intimate (in size) restaurant with Melissa, Celia, and Madelyn. Alley Light has been on my list of places to try, mostly because I caught wind that their drinks are to-die-for. The atmosphere is that of a period French restaurant. There are only a few high-top tables and just as many welcoming leather couches, with a vast array of liquors adorning the shelves behind the narrow bar.
Me. Celia, Melissa, and Madelyn
I ordered a Manhattan, and I can honestly say the drinks lived up to the hype. I stopped after only the one because I'm old now my tolerance is marked by the "tipsy" sinus pressure I get between my eyes and the sides of my nose, which crept up as I finished the booze-soaked cherry from the bottom of my glass. We also ordered 7 or 8 different dishes, as this restaurant specializes in French small plates. I loved the food and I loved the company! However, I will admit that this is definitely a pricier restaurant, and aside from a special occasion or needing a place to leisurely catch up over a few drinks and a charcuterie or cheese plate, I probably won't return for a full meal. But still, a lovely time indeed!

One restful night of sleep later, and I was awoken to the fact that it was my GOLDEN birthday yesterday. 25 on the 25th! Melissa made the pre-work morning routine that much more enjoyable by surprising me with a gift bag full of festive Fall items-- a super cute mug for my desk at work, sugar-free salted caramel and pumpkin spice latte syrups, and a pumpkin-scented Yankee Candle. I'd say we are both in the spirit! Also, as many of you already know, my birthday this year was marked by the return of the infamous Starbucks PSL, which thanks to Celia, I will be enjoying several of very soon!

After getting through work with many warm birthday wishes from friends and family, Melissa and I went for a pre-dinner walk. The boyfriend and I had plans to go to a nice, Southern-inspired restaurant, Brookville, which is known for it's obsession with all things bacon. Little did I know when he told me he would pick me up at 7pm that he would surprise me at my door dressed very dapper with a card and flowers in his hands. Okay, okay, I'm swooning. I'll tone it down, but I feel very lucky.
Made with our Utah pictures!
Oh yes, he did well.
After parking, we walked along the Downtown Mall to Brookville... only to find out that it was closed on Mondays! He threw out some suggestions, to which I chose Zocalo (which also happens to be the location of our first date), and upon walking there, it was closed too! Seriously business owners, some of us have Monday birthdays, you know!! Third time was the charm though--we "settled" on Commonwealth restaurant, which if you rewind back through my blog, you will remember I was supposed to work there and even went through training there before I got a full-time job offer. I had not actually had a chance to eat there though, and it was absolutely perfect.

We chose a nice patio table outside to enjoy the beautiful weather-- a perfect Fall preview. To our benefit, it just so happens that Commonwealth offers a four-course tasting menu on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we lucked out and were able to try small plates of many things. At one point, something moving pretty quick along the downtown mall caught my eye. A deer(!!) had run the length of the mall! So I know they say if you see a shooting star, you make a wish and it's good luck. So if I see a deer run along a pedestrian mall on my birthday, that must mean a year of good luck, right?? There really are no heavily or even moderately-wooded areas around the downtown area, so it was a wonder where it came from. We surmised that maybe the deer was along the train tracks and was scared away by an approaching train, so it took off in any direction, which led it where we were.

With several possible after-dinner options, I opted for the low-key one--falling asleep at 10pm on the boyfriend's couch after another riveting episode of Boardwalk Empire. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Thank you to those who made my birthday so special!

Questions for my readers:
What is the average price of a good cocktail in your city? Here in Charlottesville, it ranges anywhere from $8-12 usually. I won't spend any more than that (excluding tax). Sunday's Manhattan was $9, and last night's specialty cocktail "Front Porch" (bourbon, bitters, rhubarb, and cucumber) was $10.

What's the most interesting thing you've seen/done on your birthday? The deer was a good conversation piece and sort of stole my thunder ;-)

What are your telltale "I'm getting old..." signs? The after-drink "tipsy" facial pressure is new for me.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Travel Bug: Utah Edition, Part 1

Don't mind me while I reminisce back to two weeks ago, when my boyfriend and I flew out to the Land of Oz. ...At least that's what Las Vegas was to me--much to look at, much to take in (and yet no gambling, drinking, strippers...or stripping).
We managed to be walking past the Bellagio right before a
fountain performance. Chicago for the win!
How cool is this?! A preview of the second half of our trip.
We spent about five or so hours walking the strip to shake out our legs between our flight and the three-hour drive ahead of us. After an early dinner in downtown Las Vegas, we hit the road for Springdale, UT, where we would be spending the next three nights. I had found a quaint B&B through Trip Advisor, and even though we got in after the staffed hours, we were still given a warm greeting to our Walt Whitman suite. Each room was named after a famous writer, and the rooms were decorated for the time period in which they lived.

Up bright and early the next morning, we awoke to dreary skies-- we had brought the rain with us from Virginia! I swear, every Utahan we met made mention, "Ah, I see you planned your visit during the only time it has rained here this year. We need it though!" So with that, we headed to breakfast at a local cafe (the wife of the B&B owner had her hands full with a young baby, so, presumably, they worked with the cafe to provide their guests with breakfast vouchers instead of cooking).
Me to the bf: "I don't want to alarm you, but
there's a bear behind you..."
After fueling up, we made our way into Zion National Park. Although we were unable to do most of the more alluring hikes for experienced hikers due to expected flash flooding, we did some trailblazing of our own.

First up: free-form rock climbing:
Just kidding!
But in all seriousness, we pulled our oh-so-awesome uber-compact Nissan off to the side of the road when we saw a pretty cool mountainside that we wanted to hike bound up. About an eighth of a mile up, I pointed to a rock outcrop and turning back to the trailing bf, stated, "I'm climbing that!"
See that tall rock structure in the top right corner?
I wasn't entirely serious, but it also didn't seem too terribly far away. (Now is probably a good time to mention that a. it was further away than it looked, and b. keep in mind that it was raining...and started raining harder.) Next thing you know...
I actually did reach that tree...!
The hike down turned out to be more treacherous than we anticipated since the rain picked up, leading to some heavy streams forming along the sandstone mountains. Caution: slippery when wet! I slipped once, catching myself with my hand just barely missing a cactus.

Once back to the car, we played cat and mouse with the weather all day. Luckily, it cleared up enough for a short period of time, during which we decided to do one of the shorter, more novice hikes to the Emerald Pools. Given that this trail was not in danger of flash flooding, it was pretty packed with hikers--mostly families and elders--which unfortunately slowed the pace. The views were phenomenal, so it was still a great experience. Being from the East Coast, there's so much novelty to take in!
I let the bf take the real pictures because I'm just
 so nice
 his camera is light-years better than mine.
And of course, leave it to the rain gods to clear up the skies after we showered up for dinner, getting our hopes up for some dry, epic hiking the following day.
On the way to dinner-- so beautiful!
Our evening backdrop.
We were having such a good time taking in the now-shining mountains that we took probably 2 hours to eat dinner. We found this great tex-mex place we enjoyed so much that we ended up going back there the next night. Our server(s) must have thought we were crazy (or lazy), because we sat around with a mostly finished bowl of chips and guac-- seriously there were maybe 5 chips left-- for an good 45 minutes before we decided to place our meal order. It was just such a different pace for the two of us who are normally go-go-go. I truly enjoyed the company I was with.

And that wasn't the end of the evening. Throughout dinner, we kept checking the ever-changing forecast for the following day. We would look once and it would say 40% chance of rain. Then upon next glance 20%. At one point it said 0%, to which I started rejoicing, and we headed over to the Zion Adventure Company to inquire about hikes for the next day.

So, it turns out the weather forecast was wrong (surprise, surprise), and the rep at the adventure company informs us that no, it is in fact supposed to rain, and flash flooding is likely. With that, our plans to hike The Narrows that day went out the window. After a good fifteen minutes asking for opinions on other possible hikes and a couple hours debating between two, we opted to hike out to Kolob Arch, the second largest free-standing arch, the next day.

Another early morning and a filling breakfast later, we drove out 45 minutes to the northwest entrance to the park and started our hike. Due to the change in elevation, it was quite the brisk morning and took a good hour (and 3 miles) to warm up. Thank goodness we each brought a couple jackets with us for this trip! The hike to the arch was 7-1/2 miles with the first mile and a half declining in elevation to eventually follow along a creek bed. Those first three miles were relatively quick--even with some lulls to take pictures, we knocked them out in an hour. However, the further in we got, the more picturesque the hike became, and while we were keeping up a good clip while we were moving, our photo breaks became longer (and well worth it!).
My pictures do it no justice (the boyfriend's are another story).
The last mile to the arch was a little tricky and not very well marked, but luckily we came across a family of experienced hikers on their way back up the trail, and they had set up little rock "fixtures" to mark the correct route. That last mile had some very hairy sections complete with rock scrambles and creek crossings. We may have missed the cue to cross the creek a few times and had to pave our own way. But alas!
Just in case: "look up."
Hi, my name is Liz and I creepily take pictures
of you taking pictures.
You can see that if you don't know where to look, you might just miss it. Hidden gem! We were lucky that, due to the 45-minute drive out to Kolob, we only shared the trail with a handful of hikers. Having found a log on which to take a break, we sat and ate our 10am lunch (#1) before heading back up the trail.

It was smooth sailing on the way back, with those last couple miles of incline presenting a welcoming challenge. Until it started raining. And by raining, I mean pouring. And by pouring I mean WHY?!?! It just so turned out that it was a spot shower, and we by the time it ended, we had a muddy half-mile in which to dry off a bit. And being that it was Utah, we were each our own personal saunas.

Upon getting back to the car, we took a few minutes to gather ourselves before making the return trip to Springdale. We even stopped at a local grocery store to get some fuel together for the next day, which was definitely THE day to hike The Narrows, a popular slot canyon in Zion National Park.

Flash forward through a shower, a nap, and dinner, we headed back over to Zion Adventure Company, where we rented water shoes, neoprene socks, and hiking sticks. If you ever plan on hiking The Narrows, I strongly encourage you to make the $22 investment into these necessities. While, yes, you could hike the narrows without these, it was infinitely easier and quicker with the right gear. With an early wake-up ahead of us, we called it an early night.

The next morning, the boyfriend and I awoke to darkness at the wee hour of 5(? - 530?). We dressed for the occasion, gathered our gear (and all of our belongings we brought with us: checkout day...) into the car, and drove to a parking spot on the side of the road just inside the park. From there, we took the shuttle (the first of the day) up through the park to the head of The Narrows trail. We may have been some of the first, but we weren't the only ones with the "early bird catches the worm" idea-- the shuttle was decently full!

We hopped off the bus, and away we went. The two of us share in some personality traits, a few being the "need for speed" or lack of dilly-dallying and a desire to accept any hiking challenge. Due to the very wet nature of this hike, I did not bring a camera, which means no pictures for you unfortunately. Once again, I let the real photographer take the pictures. (Note: my boyfriend is not actually a photographer, but he is really good at capturing things on camera. I would say my inability to take decent pictures is due to the lack of a decent camera, but we all know that is only an excuse.)

So I leave you with how we left Springdale and Zion that afternoon:
Just kidding. We left around noon that day-- not the evening-- en route to Park City. But you have to admit the sun setting on the mountains is as alluring as gold. There was so much that we didn't get to do due to the weather, so you better believe we will be back!

Stay tuned for Part 2! Aka I'm tired of typing this, so you surely must be tired of reading this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What I'm Missing (Wednesday)

Oddly enough, I feel lost lately. Without a goal-- i.e., without a competition in the books for the remainder of the year-- I am at a loss of what to write these days. I am passing up the chance to compete this year for good reasons, some of which I will touch on in a moment, but it's hard to blog about fitness when it's become pretty routine for the most part.

I'm a highly analytically person-- sometimes too much so-- so I've had plenty of time for inner reflection on my decision not to compete in bikini this year. Let's assess the reasons:

  • Social calendar: When I decided not to compete in 2014, I realized there are a lot of events coming up that I don't want to miss out on--weddings, concerts, festivals, and all that jazz. While I've done it twice before, I don't think I'm up to prepping during this time. I was lucky that there were few events last year that really coincided, but it is a tough balance and raises a lot of questions from strangers. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than willing to answer them, but it gets old, it's a lengthy conversation, and it takes away from other topics of interest. With one of my close sorority sisters getting married at the end of September, I want to celebrate her by celebrating with her.
Lauren (second from the left in the black dress) will be
tying the knot in September! Congrats to her and her fiance!
  • Health: I have said it before, and I'll say it again, but I want to make sure that I'm healthy during the prep process. Being that I would be going at this one alone, sans coach, it will be hard to get an objective view on my progress. We all see things in the mirror differently than those around us. A friend might say, "You're looking good," but how so? I might look in the mirror and say, "I don't see much change from last week to now," when I've actually made changes visible to someone with a trained eye. There needs to be defined markers of progress. Health MUST be the main goal (behind winning a stunning trophy) to my next competition prep, and I am keeping that in mind for when I do compete again.
Return of the progress pictures.
...And I need to teach the bf what to look for.
  • Physique: Going into a bikini competition without considering physique is like going boating without a boat. It is the competition. You are competing against each of the girls on stage with you. Your physique is competing against each physique on stage with you. If I were to say, "Okay, let's do this-- November competition. Prep starts a week from Saturday," I would have no chance. (By the way, THAT was my tentative plan had I decided to compete in 2014.) I took off-season off. Most competitors work on their problem areas, they bulk, and they still maintain some semblance of a diet/meal plan. I've minded my nutrition for the most part, I've maintained a mostly consistent workout schedule, but I slack off here and there, and I surely haven't been doing any bulking. If anything, the weights that I'm putting up these days are lower than they were pre-comp last year. So hopefully with a new workout partner, we can push each other to perform just a little better each week and eventually I can see all those numbers creep back up (including my weight, which I've maintained although my physique has changed-- sure sign of muscle loss!).
Who really wants to give this up just yet?!
On that last note, keeping sight of these smaller, but equally pertinent, goals is what is keeping me moving forward. Don't get me wrong, sometimes I just need an off day, but not being in prep mode gives me that flexibility. I wrote it down in January, and it went a little by the wayside, but I will be working to improve my glutes and hamstrings before I compete again!
Room for improvement...
...But SO fun (to see the blurry transformation)!

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Dream Come True!

Ever had a dream you didn't realize? Not to be taken as you didn't achieve your goal but rather you didn't know such dream existed. I just fulfilled one of those, I suppose. I am now a semi-published "fitness expert" for StoreYourBoard.com! And there may also be a product picture featuring yours truly lingering around the website as well. Hint: it's a sport I've mentioned in recent posts. I'll let you find it yourself.

I say things such as "semi-published" and "'fitness expert'" because I do not claim that I have hard and fast credentials to call myself one or the other. However, I've led an active, fit lifestyle for quite some time now, and I do know a thing or two about blogging nutrition and fitness. Clearly, this has not gone unnoticed. Okay, okay, so I have ties to the owner... (Transparency = credibility)

A while back, I was searching for an alternative to Quest Bars because, let's be honest, those buggers are Pric-ey! ...Unless you're Type A like me and you time coupons right for when they go on sale at GNC and you can get like 6-7 boxes for just over $100. But enough with how cheap frugal I am. What started as a short internet search ended days later at this website. Enter in an internal debate that lasted a week trying to justify whether protein bars I had never tried before would possibly be worth the $30 price tag, and I sucked it up and ordered the variety box. Best tasting. Decision. Ever.

I kid you not, each of these Krush bars tasted exactly like the real thing. Especially the birthday cake flavor. I closed my eyes and blew out imaginary candles, and when I opened my eyes, there was no sheet cake sitting in front of me. Nor was there a Krush bar anymore. Obsessed.

Source: Pure Fitness Nutrition
But it's not just about the flavor. It's about the quality. Check out the webpage-- high quality whey protein- and milk protein- isolate, agave inulin, natural flavor, NO aspartame, FRESHLY MADE(!!)... Need I go on? That last highlight is the icing on the (birthday) cake (Krush bar) for me. What other protein bar can you buy not from a straight-up bakery (and even then...) that is freshly made on a weekly basis? I don't know about you, but that means product consistency to me. Not to compare apples, but this morning I had a cookies and cream Quest bar-- I had sadly run out of Krush bars-- in which the "cookies" were hard as rocks.

If that is bad enough, about a year ago I bought a box of the PB&J Quest bars that I could literally stack like bricks. Just imagine how it felt biting into one of those suckers. Quality control can sometimes fall by the wayside with mass production, so I emailed the company asking for a replacement box to those inedible bars... to which I received no response. In contrast, I contacted Pure Fitness Nutrition, the parent company of Krush Bars, in early May raving about the little krush I formed for these bars. Steven, the owner/baker/mastermind behind these protein bars emailed me back in person, and it was so great to see the passion he had for his product and the excitement over his customers' shared interests in it.

So I encourage you to not only check out Krush Bars for yourself, but also my little blurb on the StoreYourBoard website (as well as all the other great products on there-- Got a rack?). It might be the only review of mine that ever gets posted there if nobody enjoys my sense of humor... I kid. Oh and just a side note: a little birdy told me Krush is releasing a new flavor my birth-month this month!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

2014: Plans & Passes

Lately, I have been constantly thinking about my plans for the remaining months of 2014. Probably because, having competed twice last year, I am torn between competing again in 2014. On the one hand, if I decided to, my potential prep start date would be August 30, the Saturday following my birthday. That would be with the intention of competing in late-October/November so as not to interfere with the holidays. Sorry, but I'm not one to let competition prep interfere with family holidays-- I cannot be that selfish. I have kept in decent shape, and well within a nice range from stage weight (probably indicative of some muscle loss-- tear, tear), so it would be doable. But do I want to?

Having fallen into the world of competing a few years ago (although I did not actually decide to compete until last year), I have become a frequenter of a multitude of different fitness blogs, including several fellow competitors. I have noticed two common trends: there are those that live to compete and those that figure out that competing does not let them live. I do not quite know where I fall-- somewhere between those two categories. I cannot say that I will never compete again, but I cannot say that I will compete this year either.

If you had asked me earlier in the year, I would have told you I planned on competing at the end of June. However, I started a new job, my dog was having separation anxiety leaving me feeling obligated to trade gym time for puppy playtime, and the icing on the cake: I parted ways with my trainer when it became evident that that particular association would do me much disservice. Needless to say, any competition plans by then were in shambles, so I scrambled for a tentative Plan B, which kept taking the back-burner to enjoying summer activities. And while I can tell you that I've enjoyed a normal summer (which I didn't have last year), I still cannot tell you that I've forever given up competing. So what's it going to be?

After much deliberation-- and now the reputation of being a bikini competitor (i.e., all the comments and questions coming from friends and acquaintances that come with it... unfortunately leading to feel like I'm letting down those around me)-- I am saying PASS to any plans of competing in 2014.

There are several reasons behind my decision, and I still have a lot to figure out. Truth be told, I am in a much different place in life this year than I was last year. I am a lot happier but with more commitments. And with more commitments comes less free time, which is not a bad thing. I've experienced a lot of change over the past few months, and I still need to settle into my new life. With that being said, I have a tentative plan to compete in early March 2014, assuming there are NPC/OCB shows around me at that time.

So since I'm not competing, I've decided to focus on other plans for the remainder of the year. What do I want to accomplish? What matters most to me in the 4-1/2 months left of 2014? I took this opportunity to reflect on my 2014 goals, which I created in place of resolutions. While some have fallen by the wayside, I'm doing phenomenally with others. Let's assess.

  1. I set a goal to read one book each month during the year. Over time, I have tweaked this to mean: at least 12 books during 2014. So far, I have read 10 or books (I lost count, but woohoo, ahead of schedule!), and I PLAN on hitting at least 20-- maybe 24 (an even 2 per month). That doesn't count the stacks of magazines that I've been catching up on dating back to early-2013...
  2. I set a goal to, in so many words, generally be more pleasant/patient. My mom was a huge fan of this one. To date, I like to think that I have stuck to this. I try to ask her opinion on this every so often to make sure I am in check. I PLAN on not only keeping this up, but trying to keep judgement of others down... because those are not attractive qualities.
  3. I told myself 2014 was the year I was finally going to apply for the Junior League of Charlottesville (JLC), so I wrote it down on my goal sheet. The application process opened in the beginning of June (or something like that), and I put mine in that first week. As I was flying out to Las Vegas two Saturdays ago, I received a "status update" email from the girl in charge of the new Provisional Class-- I got into the JLC! I PLAN on making the most of this opportunity by going to all the volunteer and social functions that I can and bonding with the numerous other girls that share in my interests. It definitely helps that my friend (and neighbor) Emily applied and got accepted as well-- we were laughing and stressing over the application process for several weeks!
  4. I had every intention of building during my off season, especially my lower body. While this off-season has turned into an off-year with me saying PASS to competing in 2014, I do PLAN  on still building a lower body that will keep me competitive. This should hopefully be much easier now that I have a workout partner.
  5. I PLAN on taking advantage of the weather every opportunity I get by spending more time outdoors. This summer, thanks to the boyfriend, I have been able to take up several new interests, including wakeboarding, cycling, and stand-up paddleboarding (although I am nowhere near great at the former two; I can definitely hold my own on the SUP though). I know once the weather turns cold, my time outside will be limited, so I must make the most of the sun and warmer temps now.
  6. Looking back at my 2014 goals, many revolve around personal development. This was a crucial, because I foresaw some of the changes that were coming my way in the first few months of the year. I am taking this one step further and really making sure I am maintaining my health. With that, I PLAN on really making my health a priority and making a conscious effort to take control. I've already taken several steps, making the most of my excellent health insurance by participating in biometric and skin cancer screenings in the past couple months. More on this later.
  7. Unlike last year, where I practically revamped my workout attire collection, I am putting a PASS on the frivolous spending. Having been laid off from the pharma industry, there was a lot of uncertainty, especially financial. While I was never in dire monetary straits, it was still unnerving knowing that at the end of my "administrative leave" (during which they left us on payroll without any work requirements), I would get X amount of dollars then be left to fend for myself. I was lucky in that I received a generous severance package-- as did all 400 or so employees that were let go from my business unit alone-- and I have since set this aside as my emergency-and-then-some fund. I come from a family that does not fully know the meaning of financial responsibility, so it is very important to me that I start off financially secure early on in life/my career. Now if only I could alleviate those student loans sooner rather than later...
While this is by no means the be-all, end-all of my plans and passes for the remainder of 2014, it's a start. I have more written down in the confines of my desk drawer, but I'm hoping that by sharing them, this will help hold me accountable. So maybe I should add that I PLAN on making more of an effort with the blog...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bringing You Up to Speed

Someone please explain to me why it is that rainy, dreary days always make time drag on minute by minute? Such happens to be the case this morning, during which I have already spilled sugar-free apple cider all over my desk at work, narrowly missing my clothing-- thank goodness for my catlike reflexes. Yes, I'm already digging on the fall beverages, and yet there are still some weeks left of summer. But more importantly: why am I such a klutz? Or maybe I should be asking how instead.

It's very apparent that for some time now, I have been struggling with coming back to the blogisphere. It's not that I have a lack of things to post about. It's not that I have a lack of desire to write. For me, blogging is cathartic, but like I've said before, it's a huge time-suck. I don't mean that negatively, but there are just not enough hours in the day-- especially as of late-- for me to sit down for an hour or so and type up a post, add photos (which have previously been edited... add time here), and edit. Okay, let's be real: I rarely edit.

This is not to say that I'm 100% coming back to blogging, but it's not to say that I'm 100% giving it up either. If time allows, I'll jot down my musings. If not, not to worry. So that's that. On to the good stuff!

To say that these past few months-- heck, 2014 in general!-- have been full of change would be an understatement. During this time, I have experienced the following (hopefully in order):
  • I got a puppy! The one and only, most-adorable Kipp, aka Kippernicus. Yes, my dog's nickname is longer than his full name. And technically I got him right before Christmas 2013, but we will still count this as a 2014 change, because we have both grown together during these months.
  • I got laid off from my pharmaceutical sales job. Such is the nature of the pharmaceutical industry-- hire for the immediate need, and remove for the immediate need (or lack thereof). Although this left me in a tough predicament, it opened doors for me, and it opened my eyes to what I really want from a career. My career transition has been a blessing in disguise, and I find myself much happier now than I ever was with pharma.
  • I bought a new car! A 2014 Mazda CX-5 Touring to be exact. This sort of goes hand-in-hand with the layoff (no employing company = no company car), but I couldn't be happier with my choice. (Although, this weekend some jerk dinged my door in a tight parking lot and I didn't realize until the next morning--grr! Must get that fixed ASAP. Car = baby (and the most expensive thing I mostly own.))
  • I started more actively dating. By this, I mean that I gave online dating an actual try--or more specifically Tinder-- and almost immediately met my now boyfriend! Before you go off judging those that use Tinder, let me say what I've said from the beginning of my experience with it: Tinder gets a bad wrap because of those that use it to hookup...and there are a lot of those type on there. But when you get down to it, you get out of this dating app what you put into it. Those that are looking only for "booty" are very transparent about it. I preferred Tinder because it allowed me to be more selective up front about what I was looking for and only get contacted by those that fit well with that. I went into my experience looking for a relationship, and it just so happens that I found one. I am not ashamed to admit that, nor will I ever be.
  • In conjunction with the last bullet point, I found a new, wonderful, meaningful relationship with by far the best guy ever. No, I'm not biased in the least... My good friend Stacy used to tell me all. the. time. while listening to my dating woes, "You deserve someone who treats you like a princess. You deserve someone who treats you like a queen. Don't settle for that crap!" I knew what she meant, but I never really understood what she meant because I had never experienced that before. Now I have.
  • I went to Costa Rica for 2 weeks... with said boyfriend. It was my first international experience (excluding Canada before the days of the passport requirement), and there are not enough words in the English language for me to express just how utterly, breathtakingly amazing it was. We drove between six different towns, including three days of backpacking in Corcovado National Park and four days of sand and sun (duh) in Santa Teresa. Heaven!
  • I started a new job career two weeks after my return to Charlottesville. I now work for the UVa hospital as a Clinical Research Coordinator (Trainee) in the Department of Radiation Oncology. So very rewarding, to say the least, and I ABSOLUTELY love it.
  • I've spent a substantial part of my summer taking weekend trips, enjoying the company of weekend visitors (both mine and my boyfriend's), and making every last minute count. In previous years, I don't think I made the most of the free time that I had, so by Monday morning, I would dread going back to work because all I had done over the weekend was errands and chores. Such is not the case this year, and I can contribute this new thought process to the new relationship.
  • New year/career = new gym. Now that I work for UVa, I can take advantage of the gym(s) they have around Grounds at a discounted rate. You have to have a tie to the University in order to be able to use their facilities, so it's not that I couldn't as an alumnus, but it would have been a few hundred dollars more per year. And I was able to get a Plus One membership for the boyfriend too, so I finally have a workout partner again! The couple that trains together stays together?!
  • I bought a road bike (and have been trying to get out on it more)! The boyfriend is a big road cycling enthusiast, and I'm always looking for a new adventure/challenge/fitness goal. I am now the proud owner of one of the Canondale Synapse Women's line of bikes. No races on the horizon for me anytime soon.
  • Most recently, I vacationed out to Utah with the boyfriend, helping him take notes for his company at the Outdoor Retailer conference held in Salt Lake City. We extended the front end of the trip a few days and spent three of them hiking through Zion National Park. We must go back soon! Although we had those three days in the park, it wasn't nearly enough time to see/do all that we wanted. And the OR conference was such an experience-- I'm always glad when I can find little ways to help him with his (successful, constantly-growing) business.
And there you have it, folks-- that brings us to mid-August 2014, in a nutshell. Unfortunately, I'm not working from my MacBook, so no pictures this time. But hey, at least I got a post in (finally)??