Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

12 Days of Bliss-mas

Read this post at http://www.louwrites.com/.

I am one of those lucky people who works for an organization that actually shuts down between Christmas and New Years. And yes, I still get paid. Technically, I am “working” until next Tuesday, but with a good portion of my office already gone for vacation, it’s hard to feel like these last few days before my 12 days of bliss-mas actually count as work.

Since MM and I will be spending the holiday in Chicago, I will have ample time to work on house projects that I have been putting off since the wedding.

Project #1: Finish the thank you notes
No. Guys. Seriously. Like, for real this time. The truth is, I’m at the end of the road with the thank you notes and I only have about 15 left on the list, but after writing about 7 dozen notes, I simply do not care to write anymore. However, this is not something I want hanging over my head in the new year.

Project #2: Organize the storage closest
This closet is a thorn in my side. I clean it up, clean it out, and inevitably, I need to find something that is buried in a box somewhere in the back of the closest, and I spend a few hours dumping out every single container looking for whatever it is I decided I had to find. Guess what? When I put it all back, I usually just shove it back into the closest, boxed up or not, I don’t care, I just don’t want to see. But this time… the time is going to be different. I have an entire plan (in my head) that involves clear containers and labels, not to mention a massive trash bag and a pile for Goodwill.

Project #3: Clean up the spare bedroom
I don’t even know how this happened, but the spare bedroom… oh man… if my whole house looked like this, I’d be a prime candidate for the show “Hoarders.” It all started when I was unhappy with my dress options for an engagement party, so I dragged two bins of clothing out of the storage closest and then dumped them on the floor of the spare bedroom trying to find something else to wear. Yep. You guessed it…. Yours truly never picked it up. And the problem snowballed from there. The room has become a catchall for all the random shit that collects in every other room of the house.

Project #4: Do something with that pile for Goodwill
Perhaps, I can actually take that every growing pile of stuff we no longer need/want to Goodwill. This is a secondary project that involves projects #2 and #3 to be successful.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hard for the Money

Recently I achieved something significant that I would like to share here. I paid off my credit card. OK… it wasn’t I so much as we, but it’s significant all the same.

I’ve never been out of control with credit cards. I take that back. I realized fairly quickly that I had the potential to be out of control with credit cards, and I stopped using them. However, sometimes life intervenes and you find yourself with a 0% interest rate credit card and the need to buy a mattress, a couch, and a dining room table. In other words, you (and by "you," I mean "I") moved out of the condo you shared with your (ex-) boyfriend with very few possessions, and at 27 years old, you felt like you deserved to own furniture that wasn’t found in a Chicago alleyway .

Were there other options (Craigslist, Ikea, Salvation Army)? Of course there were, but at the time I felt like I deserved a couple of decent pieces of furniture after the “ordeal” I had been through, not to mention that moving always sets you back a little bit between security deposits, U-Hauls, random new stuff that you didn't realize you would need like a trash can in the bathroom or a rack for drying dishes... you get my drift. Somehow, I managed to move my credit card balance from one 0% interest rate card to another, and then another, which seemed like a great deal, but on the flip side, enabled me to not pay off the card.

Eventually, I decided enough was enough. I kept the balance on a fairly low-interest rate card, and set out to pay it off. It took me two years of paying a minimum of $300 a month, plus a few larger chunk payments here and there when I could afford it. Finally, after I wrote dozens of thank you notes expressing our gratitude for cash that would be put toward our “new home fund,” MM and I decided that part of our wedding money would be best used to pay off the remaining, fairly small, and definitely manageable balance. I doubt that would have sounded appropriate in a thank you note though.
"Dear Aunt So-and-So: Thank you so much for the check. We will be using to pay for an item Lou bought three years ago. We so appreciate you thinking of us on our special day. Love n' Stuff, Lou and MM."
Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. Because I like sharing, I suppose, and as sucky as it is to suddenly find yourself with a decent amount of credit card debt, it’s something a lot of people deal with (most people?), and second, I feel ready to buck the societal taboo that has kept me from openly discussing money matters with friends. I’m not suggesting that we should all walk around with our salaries glued to our foreheads (though there are arguments for that), but discussing strategies on how to save or how to budget or how to get out of debt or what some of these financial products actually are can be enlightening.

Not talking about money only helps fuel the confusion that allows some financial institutions to go nuts with our cash, and pretending like debt doesn't exist, usually only makes things worse. As I get older, decisions like “buying a house” and “starting a family” are much more defined short-term life goals versus some vague thing that may happen someday who-knows-when. Ignoring financial matters at this point is not an option nor is simply treating money as "this is my salary; this is what I can spend," so why not talk about it?

MM and I have promised to spend part of our winter vacation putting together a budget that will allow us to beef up our savings significantly as we look toward the suburbs (yikes!) and home ownership in the next few years. This is probably something we should have already done, but we’re going to take the downtime we have and use it wisely. Combining assets can be a tricky thing and it demands time and energy and some hard conversations about financial and life goals. In some ways, I'm actually excited about this because I feel it has the potential to be an empowering process.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The World is Changing

Gather ‘round everybody; it’s announcement time!

I’ve been thinking, and maybe it’s a long time coming, or maybe it doesn’t need to be something I “announce,” but here I am, all “announce-y” and shit. So, without further ado, here it is: I know this blog has never solely focused on running and training for endurance events, but as a four-year veteran (?) of the blogging world, I am officially shedding the theme upon which this blog was founded.

Why? I don’t know. Maybe because 2009 has been such a huge life-changing year for me, and there’s so much more I have to say that falls outside the realm of running. Maybe it’s because I decided I needed a “break” from something, only the more I thought about it, I determined it wasn’t my blog. This isn’t to say I won’t write about running (or that I am abandoning running), but I do not plan on putting an official 2010 season together with multiple long distance races beyond a half marathon or two (or three—old habits, you know). But as far as half marathons go, I am comfortable with the amount of time training takes, and while they are challenging, it is not a life-suck like other longer-distance endurance events. Plus, it gives me solid amounts of time to ponder the meaning of life and shit with my running buddies.

When I started this little “side project” to document my training for my first half marathon in 2006, I don’t think it even crossed my mind that I would still be blogging three and a half years later with no end in sight. For awhile, I became nervous about who was reading this blog, and I stuck to topics that seemed “safe.” And honestly, I don’t know who is reading anymore. All I know is that there are 26 subscriptions to “A View from the Park” on Google Reader, and 25 of those people are not me.

Though I definitely plan to continue writing about working out, running, training when and if I decide to sign up for an event, etc., I hope you’ll all be kind and stick with me as I move out of my comfort zone. Hopefully, I won’t offend everyone in the process or embarrass myself, but I’m trying to stop worrying about pointless crap like that.

So here we are, and I’m thirty and married and back in school and at a job I don’t hate, and life is changing. There are things to discuss.

Monday, December 07, 2009

First Christmas

MM and I will be spending our first Christmas as people married to each other in Chicago this year. It will be the first time I have ever not gone "home" to Ohio for Christmas so... maybe more on that later...

Since we'll be spending at least part of the Christmas holiday in our apartment, I decided that a tree was non-negotiable this year. It's not the best photo, but I wrapped our tree in gold sparkly ribbon and used mostly glass red and gold ornaments. The bird was his addition, but it's grown on me, and I'm pretty happy with the overall result:

Oh Christmas Tree!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The Big Coat

Well, the other shoe dropped. It’s officially ass cold and snowing outside, and this morning, I broke out the big coat.

Maybe you live in a more temperate and you don’t have a “big coat,” or perhaps you don’t even understand the difference between a big coat and that cute pea coat you wear when it’s “cold” in… oh I don’t know… south of the Mason-Dixon line.

This is the big coat:

If you live in Chicago, you own this coat. It’s practically mandated that you buy one when you move here.

Flattering too, isn't it? Doesn't make you look at all like this: