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2011 Goals

The past 2 years, I have set goals at the beginning of the year. I have been brainstorming the past several weeks about what goals I would like to set for myself. I have had both successful and not-so-successful goals, so I hope that this knowledge will help me create some for this year that will challenge me and be easily trackable to keep me accountable. My plan is to have post monthly updates to track my progress.

2011 GoalsCollapse )


2010 Reflections

I like doing this little reflection every year!

2010 in review...Collapse )
I've officially been voluntarily unemployed for three weeks now. I spent some time this evening looking over the gameplan I created on an evening like tonight on the eve of my first week without work, and I was happy to see that I've been making steady progress toward finding employment, keeping busy, and reducing expenses. However, these past three weeks haven't been without their challenges.

Triumphs and Challenges...Collapse )

Writing this down is helpful. It helps me document my successes, acknowledge my struggles, and remain optimistic for the future. The worst thing I can do right now is to get discouraged and depressed, and I don't want that to happen.

And so, as I head into week four, my fingers continue to be tightly crossed.

The Unemployment Diaries #1: The Gameplan

My last day at Hamline was Friday. It was bittersweet. In some respects, I was very sad. I didn't want to quit, but felt I couldn't achieve my professional goals in the role I was stuck in. Rather than feeling helpless, I took charge and decided to remove myself from a dead-end situation. I also was sad knowing that I was not only leaving colleagues I've grown to value and respect, but that I was leaving some in a bind as they were left with covering my work until a replacement was found. It's tough feeling selfish even when you know it's in your own best personal interests.

In other respects, I felt empowered. Spending almost a year feeling out of control in my work life, I finally took charge and let myself believe that I not only didn't deserve to be in such a situation, but that I didn't have to be. Not only had I been saving up money to prepare for such a decision, but I had the emotional and financial support from my amazing fiance. This time to focus on finding a job that is better suited to my talents and strengths is truly a gift, and I don't plan to waste it.

If there's one thing I've learned about myself, it's that I need structure. Therefore, I've been brainstorming several ways to put structure in my life during a time that is devoid of it. This structure will come in a variety of forms:

1. Job Searching. I've set a goal for myself that every day I actively job search (Monday - Friday, with the exception of pre-planned days off such as my camping trip Thursday - Sunday this upcoming week), I will apply for a minimum of 3 jobs. This aggressive pace will help increase my chances of getting interviews, as I truly believe that job searching is a numbers game. The more applications I put out there, the better my chances will be.

2. Fitness. Much of my work woes this past year were channeled into physical activity. I have walked, run, strength trained, taken pilates classes, and/or taken zumba classes in order to not only lose weight, but to stay sane. Therefore, I signed up for a 10K this evening and found a 12-week training plan that I will start tomorrow and will lead me right to race day. I did 3 5Ks last year, and I am confident that with a structured running regime, I can run a 10K as well. I'm really excited about it!

3. Cooking. I've been cooking more off and on for Matt and me as our schedules permit, and I'm looking forward to cooking on a more regular basis. Not only will it help with continued weight loss (I'd love to see if I can lose another 12 - 17 pounds), but it'll help me/us save money. In a time where we'll be having only one income coming in, I feel this is more important than ever. Matt just thinks it's sweet that I enjoy planning our meals and cooking them. :)

4. Fun Money. Tomorrow, I plan to go to the bank to withdraw my fun money budget for the next 5 weeks. I have an aggressive plan of limiting myself to only $25 of fun money spending a week. This does not include essentials like gas and other monthly bills, which I can depend on savings to cover. This budget includes things like going to the coffee shop, going out to eat, seeing a movie, etc. All of those things aren't things I need, so I just need to do them more in moderation to conserve my money. I'm admittedly pretty excited about this goal, as I think it will challenge me to be creative about how I spend my time and money. I can see myself doing things like walking/running to the library to check out books and CDs (which also helping with my fitness goals and saving on gas) to get out of the house and not spend any money. Since I paid the $25 fee for the 10K race tonight, I will take $5 out of my budget for the next 5 weeks, meaning I have $20 each week over these next 5 weeks to spend. Any money I don't spend from one week can be moved to the following week.

5. Volunteering. I've accepted that it may take 6-8 weeks before I even get an interview. Therefore, I am open to the idea of doing some volunteering to help get myself out of the house and to also boost my resume. Since I am working toward a Master of Nonprofit Management degree, volunteering will help me do some important networking while also doing something for the community. I plan to give myself a few weeks before I pursue this in the spirit of optimism.

I'm excited to see what the future has in store, and I think I have the structures in place to keep me sane and the flexibility to give me the freedom I need to enjoy myself a little bit during this transitional period. I'll keep you all posted on my progress!

The Allure of Drama

I try to lead a relatively drama-free life if I can help it. I put in my time at work, spend my free time doing things to better myself (reading, exercising, cooking, etc.), and overall try to be a good person and friend.

However, I can't lie and say that indulging in a little bit of over-the-top fictional drama isn't a guilty pleasure of mine from time to time. This past weekend, I discovered that the remaining installments of Nip/Tuck were available to watch instantly on Netflix, and have been watching an episode every 1-2 days to find out how the characters I've watched over the years end up when it's all said and done.

What is it about a show like this that intrigues me? Is it their glamorous lifestyles? The fact that they engage in reckless behaviors I would never dream of doing? That they're over-the-top promiscuous? That every possible bad thing you can think could happen to them happens?

Sometimes, I think I watch shows like this to remind me that when times do get tough, it could be a heck of a lot worse. Stress and challenges are an inevitable part of life. However, in the scope of their severity, they are minuscule compared to what shows like these portray.

So, the next time I have a rough day at work, get a new dent in my car, or gain a pound, I'll remind myself that it could be worse. I could be poisoned by my partner's child, stabbed by my stalker, or unwillingly injected by botox.

When you think of it that way, there's not much we can't handle in life, is there? :)
How do you feel when an adapted film's story deviates from the original material?

One night, when having dinner with a friend, we discussed books that were made into movies. During that discussion, she shared with me her hypothesis that whatever you experience first, you'll prefer that version over the other. As I thought about her comment, I realized that that was almost always true for me.

So, how does that translate to my feelings when a movie deviates from the original plotlines of a novel? A variety of emotions result:

1. If I really enjoyed the book, and am eager to see the film adaptation, I am almost always disappointed. This is especially true if I felt the book was so clever and so unlike anything that I'd previously read. However, such disappointment is oftentimes inevitable. Books have the luxury of going into detail that isn't always possible in a movie because of our culture's shorter attention spans. Storylines need to keep moving on the big screen. In addition, some mystical elements are too difficult to adapt to film for technological or budgetary reasons. As a result, some of the details readers come to love about the books are omitted from the film version.

2. If the movie takes away the fluff storylines that I didn't particularly enjoy in the book, then I tend to enjoy the movie better. While this has been rare for me, the moments when filmmakers decide to omit storylines and characters that add nothing to the main plot are appreciated by my filmgoer counterpart.

3. In the common instances where the movie deviates greatly from the book and results in a completely different ending for its characters, how they execute the ending determines the emotion. If the drastically different ending is inferior to the book's ending, I'll likely be very frustrated and uninterested in watching the movie ever again. If the change to the ending is still satisfying, I will appreciate it, but also question the reasoning behind the change. Oftentimes, I wonder if it's because the change they make is "safer" based on social acceptability, because a love storyline always seemingly needs to be added when one isn't present in the book, or if the technical/financial constraints mentioned earlier influence the decision.

Regardless of these varied emotional reactions, I still find myself drawn to reading a book after seeing a good movie/TV adaptation or wanting to read a book when I see a preview for a movie of interest. There's a sense of satisfaction in knowing both adaptations of the story and being able to formulate opinions and recommendations as a result!

Making Friends as an Adult

Matt and I have oftentimes talked about how we wish we had more close friends. Granted, we're not at a loss for social invitations, but there's something different between getting together for a quick meal, a shopping excursion, or a night of gaming compared to someone you call/email on a regular basis and talk about the important things. However, making new friends at this age seems to be challenging for a variety of reasons. The two most common challenges I seem to encounter are:

1. Life paths. In your late 20's or early 30s, as Matt and I are, you pretty much know if you want to get married and/or have kids. If you choose to have kids, you commit to taking care of little ones for a lifetime, oftentimes putting their wants and needs above your own. If you choose not to have kids, you have less constraints on your time and finances to be able to go out more readily. Oftentimes, these life paths tend to clash, sometimes making it difficult to maintain a social relationship. If the time or financial constraints aren't an issue, different life paths also tend to change the dynamics of conversation. Those with families are experiencing the excitement of watching their children discover the world and themselves, and those without kids tend to explore more personal hobbies. Beyond simply updating each other on each other's day-to-day adventures, there isn't as much common ground to talk about.

2. Lack of preexisting social situations. In high school and college, we made new friends by taking classes with others and participating in the same extracurricular activities. In high school, all of your friends are geographically close to one another, so it's easier to make plans to get together. In college, dorm life allows people to be readily available for social interaction on a moment's notice. As you get older and settle into a life of full-time employment, your time to socialize and engage in hobbies is severely limited compared to our high school and college days. As a result, there aren't always as many opportunities to meet new people because of our culture's typically busy lifestyles. And, to complicate matters, people move, making distance a common barrier to regular socialization.

Because of the above, I strongly feel that most people, since their time is limited, spend most of their free time socializing with people they are already friends with and who typically have the same life paths. Your life situation is similar, and the familiarity and reliability is comforting.

Unfortunately, Matt and I find ourselves in an interesting situation that has been a large part of our social relationships growing up. We have the blessing and the curse of being able to socialize with a variety of different people in a variety of different contexts. It's a blessing because we can almost always find some sort of common ground or activity to get involved with the group in a social gathering, but we're not usually alike enough to feel we could spend a lot of time with those people on a regular basis (either based on life paths, hobbies, personalities, etc.). Therefore, many of those friendships exist only at a surface level. You engage in friendly conversation with those individuals, but you don't necessary go out of your way to exchange phone numbers or get together with them some other time.

Sometimes, though, we find ourselves in a situation where we meet someone we'd like to get to know better and possibly be friends with them. Matt and I oftentimes joke that we feel we want to "date" a particular friend or a couple because we're unsure of how the other one(s) feel about getting together. Our society is conditioned to say, "We should get together sometime!" and not necessarily following through with it, even if we mean it. Life, as they say, gets in the way.

My question is this: Do others feel this way, or are most people satisfied with the friendships and relationships they currently have? Is it awkward at this age to try to make new friends when most people have social groups established, or do others crave these friendships too but are also unsure of where to start?

I am grateful that Matt is my best friend. When asked what my favorite thing about him is, I always immediately respond by expressing my appreciation for our ability to talk about anything and everything. Most importantly, I haven't met anyone who is as interested in talking about people and relationships as I am. However, we both want to have friends outside of our relationship. We recognize that this is a healthy thing to have in a relationship, and spending time apart with other people in meaningful ways will strengthen our relationship as a result.

Therefore, I've been thinking about the best way to increase my base of meaningful friends -- people who not only enjoy similar hobbies as I do, but are genuinely interested in me as a person, interested in sharing with/confiding in me about their own lives, and who seek to get together as often as I seek them out. I've come up with two ideas, and I'm interested in hearing if you have ideas as well.

1. Reach out to those people that interest me. It'll feel like dating, but it seems to be an important step. While I feel like I'm one of the few who doesn't have a group of close-knit friends, I know I honestly can't be the only one. So, I can ask people to come over for dinner sometime, to go out for coffee, etc. Strike up a conversation, see if we have similar interests, and go from there. With time, as in dating, you'll become better friends the more you hang out.

2. Find social activities that foster communication with others. Obviously, taking an exercise class isn't conducive to discussion (though I do love the health benefits!). But, joining a book club would. By thinking of groups to join or classes to take, I have the potential of meeting new people who already have at least one similar interest to me.

While Matt and I would love to have a group of friends like the ones we've seen in Friends or How I Met Your Mother, we recognize that that isn't necessarily realistic (though, since proximity in those shows plays a factor, it may happen when we get a house!). Hopefully, though, we'll soon learn that we aren't the only 20-and-30-somethings out there looking to expand our friend base.

Hopes for My Beloved Cat

It's very weird and surreal knowing that Cocoa is gone now. I'm actually still ridden with guilt over my decision. This morning, she was eagerly eating the tuna I spoiled her with, meowing as usual to wake me up, purring on my lap, rubbing against Matt's feet when he got out of the shower, etc. Was she ready? Was it the right time?

Part of me had wished she'd died in her sleep last night so I wouldn't have had to make the decision.

I hope she wasn't scared. I hope that she felt relaxed when she was given the sedative. She almost instantly laid in my arms after hissing from the needle prick. I stroked her lovingly as she laid in my arms, making her little snoring sounds that she tended to do when she was sleeping these past couple years, until it was time.

I laid her on the blanket on the table. She didn't move at all when they injected her. I stroked her continuously while the vet listened for her heartbeat, finally telling us, "She's gone."

Her eyes remained open. Other than that, she just appeared to be sleeping. It was obvious her spirit had left her body. I whispered a few loving words, gave her several kisses on her head, and left before she had any involuntary muscle twitches due to air escaping her lungs. I didn't want to see that. I wanted to remember her as (hopefully) peaceful.

I hope she knows that I did it because I love her. That her being pain and stress free was more important to me than selfishly holding onto her for a few days, weeks, or months more because I was afraid of life without her. That I didn't want to worry about her when I went to Florida and moved to the new apartment. That I wanted to be there with her in the end.

It's only been two hours, and I miss her terribly. She's been in my life longer than she hasn't (11 years vs. nearly 18). It's going to be difficult adjusting.

My hope is that, if there is an afterlife, she's somewhere with sunshine and grass. I hope that she has her eyesight, her former agility, and is frolicking as she once did.

I hope she's happy and pain free.

I hope she forgives me for "playing God" and choosing to end her life now than to let nature take its course.

I hope I made the right decision.

Rest in peace, Cocoa. You will always have a special place in my heart.

Cocoa's List of 5 Favorites

Make a list of five of the things that your pet likes to do the most. When your pet can no longer do two of these five things either from physical disability or lack of interest, or he/she can only do them with difficulty or great prodding, then it's time to think about letting him/her go.

Thanks to ethel, I'm thinking about Cocoa's five favorite pasttimes in the 17+ years I've owned her.

How fitting that she pawed the couch (her signal to be picked up and put on the couch since she doesn't jump up anymore) and nuzzled into the nook between my thigh and calf, happily purring, as I sit here to write this list.

These are a few of Cocoa's favorite things...Collapse )


Tough Decisions Ahead

I've had my cat Cocoa for almost 18 years now. I've had her since she was a kitten. Recently, she hasn't had the best health.

Over the past 1 1/2 years...Collapse )