Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

So I know my past couple posts have been mostly complaining as I was pretty much to my breaking point- but really I have to look on the bright side and see what am amazing year I've had.

I am so blessed.

I have a job that even though drives me to the edge of insanity at times, means I have a steady income to support my lifestyle.
That same job means working with my family, daily. How many people are that lucky that they get to be with family members every day?
And the stress of that job reminds me that I am being trusted with all the work because they know I can handle it. If I hadn't proven myself, it wouldn't be in my hands.

I have the most incredible family, friends that I would do anything for, and an extended family through my marriage that is one of a kind. All of these people constantly keep me in check and astound me with how incredible each and every one of them are.

I'm blessed to have purchased and be spending my first Christmas in my home. Even if that means replacing your hot water heater on Christmas Eve, at least I have a home to call my own to do that in, and am lucky enough to have a savings account for the unexpected in life. Plus a network of people thanks to my parents that are willing to come out on Christmas Eve to do that for us.

That I have new neighbors who stopped over before the biggest hurricane in ages hit the East Coast, to help my husband and I with tips on how to get the water away from our home. They restored my faith in humanity that good people do still exist.

And for all the family and friends from NY who helped us move into our new home in the heat of September, I'm forever indebted to you and your generosity.
For those who sent us housewarming gifts, making decorating and helping our house to become a home a little less of a burden on this couple.

That I was named YIP of the Year 2012. I don't think I can say any more then I already have in the post I wrote, but that honor and recognition from my peers is something that is truly humbling and reminds me why I do what I do each day.

I'm lucky that after 5 years of being together and 3 of those married, my husband still manages to surprise me with a gift I wasn't expecting on Christmas Day, even when I'm sure I drive him crazy the other 364 days of the year.

And that my amazing husband supports me in all the crazy events I'm luckily healthy enough to partake in, like half marathons and 65 mile bike rides. I do have to remind him he is my emergency contact, but I'm sure he's relieved the phone doesn't ring at any time during those events.

I got to become an aunt for the first time, and it's so amazing to hold that little new baby in your arms and watch her grow. Technology makes being so far away seem less so.

That prayers are answered, though not necessarily as quickly as we'd like them to be, and now an amazing friend and couple are expecting another baby in June <3

That I got to be a part of one of my most incredible friend's wedding in October, even though it was a tough day, she's stronger then anyone I know and I couldn't be more honored to have been a part of her big day.

For the insanity of the two months I had, that it reminds me that these are once in a lifetime experiences. And mixed in there I was able to learn things that will only further my career, all thanks to the trust of my employer.

For my unbelievable sister, who passed her CPA exams. I couldn't be more proud of her and all the accomplishments she achieves.

For all the engagements of this year, and all the weddings that Nick and I will be attending next year. Those are the moments when you remember what life's all about - being together with those you love.

So this Christmas I'm re-checking my outlook on life. Things can be worse, and when it rains it always pours. But I'm here and I'm breathing and that is just a snapshot of the incredible year I've had. I wouldn't change a thing, and can't wait to see what 2013 will bring.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday No No's.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm being a Grinch this Christmas season. I had a super busy/stressful 2 months after we bought our house, then Sandy hit in the midst of all of that. I had to deal with this after coming home from a wedding and we are now facing the 99.9% probability that we need to replace our hot water heater ($$$$$). So needless to say it's been really difficult for me to get in the holiday spirit. Are there people worse off then me? Of course. Am I still going to complain? You bet.

I try very hard not to be a judgmental person because quite frankly, what you do with your life is your business. I am not judge and jury. You sure as heck don't have to answer to me at the Pearly Gates (if that's what you believe). So as long as you're not actively hurting others and are generally a good person, we're cool.

But I'm going to get judgmental about some holiday decorations.

Christmas decorations or Halloween Graveyard?
First of all, the inflatable figures on the lawn. NO. Just no. To me, they look super tacky. And this is coming from someone who is a new homeowner so we only have enough lights to do one side of the bushes of our home this year. I mean seriously, when they are deflated it looks like a plastic bag graveyard in front of your house. And the Santa in a bathtub inflatable? That's just creepy. Why is Santa taking a bath in your front lawn?

Secondly, the people that make their cars look like "reindeer" with the antlers in the window and red nose on the front emblem of the car, NO.  Stop it. That's right up there with the 'I feel the need to put 10238129 stickers of all my family members and pets on the back of my car". Your car is not a sleigh. Plus with gas being this expensive, do you really want to add wind resistance to your vehicle at this point?

And lastly, the newest trend I've been noticing in my travels this year is people putting decorative wreaths on the front grill of their car. NO. A wreath belongs on your front door or your garage or heck even on a spacious wall of your home. NOT the grill of your car. What if that somehow caught fire from the heat of your engine?

I know, I know, after a post like that I'm probably getting coal in my stocking. But that would be fantastic because I'll use it to heat up the water in our house.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Grinch

A summary of the past few days in photos.....

Our real tree all decorated as of Saturday night.

Our real tree as of arriving home from a wedding in New York Monday morning.


Our new fake tree as of Monday night.



Bah humbug. 



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Scariest bar ever in Key West

In my month of just pure running around like a chicken without a head, I was scheduled to go to Key West with my husband and parents for four days. Needless to say, I was looking forward to that vacation since we planned it earlier this year, and even more so once my schedule got completely out of control.

But alas, we were going to have the travel day from hell, albeit we were going to be landing in paradise. Our first flight left at 6:10 am. Which meant a 3:30 am wake up to be up and on the road to the airport.

Our flights went off without a hitch and we finally landed in Key West about 1 pm. We were exhausted to say the least. With the stress of travel all we wanted to do was have a drink, eat some grub, and take a nap.

So we get to our hotel and our room isn't ready yet which is to be expected. My parents planned that we would take a taxi to the local strip malls in town to get snacks and booze for our room. But we first would get lunch and start our vacation with some drinks at TGI Fridays.

We call a cab, climb in and inform them of our destination. Only to have our cabby inform us that TGI Friday is currently closed as it's under new ownership and extensive renovations.

Great. He drops us at the strip mall and not only are there NO bars, the only restaurant to choose from is Chinese food. So we walk to the other complex that's only about 3 minutes down the road. They seem to only have a pizza place. But as I'm looking at the shop list on the kiosk out near the road and I see that they have a place called 'Sticks and Steins'.

Being partially German I know that a Stein holds beer and at this point, a few drinks is all we really want to take the travel stress edge off. I suggest we go there. We trudge through the shopping center to the corner end where it's located, walk in, and immediately realize our mistake.

I mean, it's like the music stops with a scratch of the record player and everyone turns around to look at us. This is obviously a local bar where the locals bikers come to play pool. To stay that we stuck out is the understatement of the year. Ah yes, I hadn't taken into consideration the 'sticks' part of the signage.

We are being watched like hawks. The locals don't know what to make of us. It's like we're a foreign species and have just been dropped in the middle of a wolf pack. They just stare and try to act normal as we've clearly disrupted their normal habitat. To top it off, you can smoke in bars in Florida, so there's a nice smokey haze going on. At this point I'm clutching my Burberry purse close to me and praying I don't end up in someone's basement being told to 'put the lotion on my skin'.

We're desperate for a drink, but not trusting the sanitation of this dive, we order bottled beer. Of which our (I'm not positive but I think she was high on something) bartender serves to us in personal koozies. Only myself and Nick's are a bright yellow color, spotted with mold on the bottom from previous use. Yummy.

I chug that beer like it was my last day on Earth, but then again I was pretty sure it might be. Our bartender came back and told us some of our food specials, but after spotting what looked like a moldy chicken soup container by the sinks, we quickly lost our appetite.

Yep, leave it to my parents to take us to Key West and we manage to find the shadiest bar on the whole freaking island.

We went through 3 rounds of beer quicker then I've ever drank in my life, and that's saying something after my college career. My father was apt to point out that many of the patrons at the bar had more beer bottles in front of them then teeth. Nick was texting his best friend that we were currently at a bar "that made (him) worry about the virginity of (his) asshole".

We paid the bill and causally power walked out of there. I don't think enough showers in the world would ever make me feel clean after being in that establishment. I feel dirty just writing about it now.

The killer of this story is after leaving the bar we ended up going to that pizza place in the same strip to at least grab something to eat. We walk in, take a seat, and see that they serve wine and beer. Epic fail.


Friday, December 14, 2012

Unthinkable

I had a completely different post for today, but after the events of this morning, what more is there to say. Children in an elementary school. It's unthinkable.

Today was a tragedy, like so many before. I send so many thoughts and prayers to those affected by today's events. I just can't imagine what they're going through.

Hug your loved ones close, and realize that life is short.

Although I feel this speaks volumes to how terrible our society is that I need to post this, I watched it and think it could save your life. A video for surviving an active shooter event. Which makes me wonder will I be showing my kids this one day before they go to school in the hopes they'll know how to react if faced with a similar situation? Because honestly, you just never know.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

I have a blog...?

Dusting off the old bloggaroo because apparently people actually read this and are concerned with my lack of updates (Hi Kristen!)

From closing our house in September I knew I had a hell of a schedule (ie: working 5 days a week and having something to do every weekend) and just had a goal to make it to Thanksgiving without being checked into Ancora Hospital. Adding fuel to the fire Sandy hit as I was still only a month into my two month hell. Between being completely wiped out taking claims all day at work and running around in my own personal life, I totally slacked.

But as I was going through the notes I constantly write for myself on my phone (ie: it's Christmas and I have a zillion books I want so I was trying to compile a singular list from my many lists so my husband wouldn't get me coal), I realized I had enough clarity in the hectic time to jot down all these fantastic ideas for posts. Of course, it would help if I checked my phone notes more often so I realize I actually have all these great ideas (note to self: check notes more often).

My goal for the next twelve days of Christmas is to write a blog a day to make up for all the written silence and catch up on some of the events/musings of the past two months.

You're welcome in advance.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: Post Script

We made it out alive with neither flooding nor damage to our home.
I'm counting my blessings because I know many were not that lucky.

First of all, anyone who says this storm was 'over-hyped' is an idiot. I invite you to come spend a day in my office taking insurance claims from people who are dealing with losing it ALL. Then please come tell me how 'over-hyped' this storm was as you have people unsure of where to go and what to do next.

Still think it was over-hyped? I then invite you look at storm photos from any of the shore towns down here. Atlantic City. Margate. Ventnor. Ocean City, where I spent every summer of my life since I was born, all those familiar streets are filled with water. The condo my grandparents own is thankfully on the top floor and unscathed. But the building itself still has 3 feet of water in the lobby and parking garage. And that's only a handful from here in South Jersey. All the coastal towns in New Jersey are practically underwater. Look at those powerful images of the ocean breaching the sea walls, dunes, and ocean meeting the bay. And New York? My heart is simply breaking for you. Please tell me that's over-hyped.

Of course a big thank you to all the emergency management people who risked their lives to keep working in the storm and keep all of us safe. And for saving all those who didn't get out when they should have. I was watching in awe of your Facebook updates as you left your family to go help others. No one deserves bigger thank you's then yourselves since you constantly are putting others before yourself.

I think we learned from Irene. We were better prepared for this storm. And personally I'd rather be over prepared then under prepared. As I mentioned in my last post my parents ran drains from our gutters and a pool hose from our sump pump. During the storm if our sump pump ran every half hour that was a lot. We were lucky. But I don't regret one change I made to my home. I wanted to be ready. And we were. And we will be for the next time. I'm just hoping to have a battery backup installed on the sump pump before the next major storm.

Overall we're fine. No water in the basement, no windows or home damage. Our biggest worry is how to clean up all the pine needles in our backyard. I'm keeping everyone who's still trying to get through the damage in my thoughts and prayers and our office will be taking claims and helping our clients for as long as it takes.





Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy: The Pre-Storm

This is pretty much the story of my life right now:



We've been in our new home for exactly one month and Hurricane Sandy is about to barrel through South Jersey and basically ravage the entire Northeast.

Our fridge is stuffed with leftovers from the small house warming party we had last weekend (chocolate covered pretzels anyone?). I've got enough beer and wine to last me at least a day. Okay, way longer then that but my with my anxiety level who knows.

My wonderful parents ran gutter extenders and a pool hose from our sump pump to get water away from the house yesterday while we were up in NY attending to already planned engagements.

We came home early today to move every single object that wasn't tied down outside into either the garage or the back shed.

And now we wait. And pray that we don't lose power. Because in the back of my head, if the power goes out and our basement starts flooding it will start on the unfinished side and I'll have enough time to get the boxes/dvds/books/collectibles out of harms way. Lie to me and tell me that I absolutely will.

Good luck everyone, be safe, and see you on the flip side. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

We bought a house!

So Nick and I fiiiinally bought a home. And I have to say the month and a half from when we put our offer in and closed on the home everything went pretty smoothly. Our inspections found no problems. The sellers were easy to work with. Our mortgage lender made our entire loan process simple and painless. Even at closing signing our life away wasn't nearly as bad as I had envisioned it to be.

We left closing elated and terrified, but who wouldn't be? Nick and I stopped by our old apartment as we were taking the weekend to move out. We loaded up what spare boxes we could in our cars. My dad was meeting us at the house with the packed moving van in a couple hours, giving us a chance to get in there and give the place a good rub down (that's what she said).

We pull into the driveway, run up to the front door, unlock the door knob, move onto the deadbolt...aaaand the deadbolt doesn't move. Mind you, we were just handed the key that unlocked this same door and deadbolt for our final walk through merely hours before. Nothing. Not even a little budge. And the side door in the garage, that's locked as well with no key for us to even attempt to open it. We are locked out of our brand new home.

I had visions of breaking a window. Is it really breaking and entering if you've only owned the home officially for about an hour? Luckily cooler heads prevailed and my dad had a locksmith meet us at the home. He graciously broke us into the garage side door and proceeded to inform us that we were in fact not crazy (a doctor's ruling is still out on that). The front door deadbolt had jammed due to it's placement and the humidity. He fixed the deadbolt and re-keyed all the locks while he was there. Sure we were planning on re-keying the home eventually just not the first day we moved in.

Some other things I learned through this whole moving weekend:
- Keep all food/coffee/water bottles/cups on top and easily accessible.  I had no water to offer this poor locksmith as I had no glasses to put it in.  I also had no water bottles handy as Nick and I never use them. I'm now keeping a packet of water bottles in my garage and if nothing else some spare bottles in my fridge as well. Learn from my mistakes.
- toilet paper holders are not that easy to put on the walls. I opened the package and immediately put it back on the shelf for Nick to handle at a later date.
- don't keep a running list of things you need in your home as an electronic note file. You will accidentally delete the whole list in the middle of Lowe's and almost immediately have a nervous breakdown. PAPER AND PEN IS STILL YOUR FRIEND.

So ta-da! We are officially home owners and I'm officially freaking out and I'm sure everything will be just fine right? RIGHT?! (this is where you lie to me and tell me it will all be oooooo-kay)

Monday, August 27, 2012

0:3 from Pin to Project

My husband has started to question all of my motives. "Why are you buying red potatoes?" "What are the green peppers for?" "Why won't you tell me what you're making for dinner?"

His underlying questions: "DID YOU FIND THIS ON PINTEREST?!"

Ah yes, Pinterest. I'm 0 for 3 in the projects I've tried to undertake. Since we are in the process of purchasing a home (yes purchasing. FINALLY I know all 3 of you faithful readers are saying), I have come to realize we are going to have zero dollars after paying our mortgage each month. An exaggeration, I know, but it will mean eating (and drinking) out a lot less frequently then we are right now.

So I, the amazing (soon to be sort-of) house wife have been dutifully searching Pinterest for easy, healthy, low cost recipes that I can make (after working an 8 hour and now commute filled day) in my new spacious kitchen. Never mind that I've only pinned mostly ah-may-zing desserts to make; that's besides the point.

Plus, we want to leave our townhouse in tip-top shape to ensure the return of our security deposit (cha-ching, won't be totally broke) so I've also been searching for home cleaning remedies.
Looks can be deceiving...

I've already told you about the Detox from Pinterest I tried and only made it to day three before I had the allergic reaction to the dandelion root (Pin fail #1). No biggie, I thought, you can't predict what you'll be allergic to.

My second trial wasn't so much a Pin as it was a email of a Pin from a blog I follow. The receipe was for green peppers stuffed with ground beef, Spanish rice, Greek yogurt, corn, and low fat cheese. Healthy and delicious I thought. So I made them. They were not great. For one, it's so much pepper! I mean, I love green pepper, but you're literally eating an entire pepper stuffed with goodness. The second was that it was way to sweet for a dinner. I like spicy. Between the Greek Yogurt and the corn, it was much to sweet for my tastebuds. Nick was not a huge fan either. Pinterest fail number two.

My final and most recent Pin happened just this past weekend. I'm sparing you photos because I don't want you to judge the ring in my bathroom tub even though we clean the bathroom EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. This Pin just called for white vinegar and dish soap sprayed to the bathtub, and voila! Ring is gone. Besides smelling like my 3rd grade science fair project (you know the one where you put the vinegar and baking soda together and made an exploding volcano. I should have just done that it would have been more fun), it didn't freaking work. I even let it sit for a whole hour! It didn't even put a dent in that ring. In fact it just made weird drippy lines from the spray bottle I used. And my shower now smells of vinegar and the apple scented Dawn soap I used.

I believe Nick's exact quote after the third failure was "Yes, because Pinterest is such a reliable site". Am I giving up on Pinterest? Nope. In fact, I found an adorable hairstyle photos of how I want to have my hair cut short (by a professional of course) after my friend April's wedding in October. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tour De Shore 2012

As I've blogged about before, I obviously renewed my crazy pill prescription because after the dehydration I suffered in last year's Tour de Shore, I still managed to sign up for this year's ride. Luckily this year turned out so much better, and I'm more then ever looking forward to doing it again next year! And yes I did take my extra does of 'are you freaking crazy' for biking 65 miles. It's awesome!

The morning of July 29th started off fine, with nerves waking me up at 3:30 am. I rolled out of bed at 4:50 am, showered, drove to get a bagel (carb loading is legitimately my favorite thing about races), and came back home to suit up. I was about half way ready when I decided to fill my hydration pack, only to realize I can't get the water to come up the straw. Dumb, I know, that my first time trying the hydration pack is the morning of the ride. Panic mode strikes. I text my mom at 5:30 am with my current debacle, as we have to leave at 5:45am, and that I'm to coming over to my parents house in full on panic mode.

Thankfully the cooler heads of my parents were able to get the water flowing all the while I'm in hysterics trying to still get ready for the race, aka get SPF 50 slathered over any exposed skin.

Just some of the 1,600 riders!
We made it to the start at the Irish Pub in Philadelphia with plenty of time to spare. I met up with my riding team which consisted of my best friend's mom Terri, her husband's fraternity brother friend Jeff and his wife Barb, along with two other family friends of theirs. We waiting along with the 1,600 other riders for the 'Star Spangangled Banner' to complete and for us to start our journey to Atlantic City!

The ride takes you over the Ben Franklin Bridge and through Southern New Jersey via Route 561. This year my team mates and I all pretty much rode at our own pace instead of trying to stay all together as a group. I have to say that I feel that this was a much better option as opposed to just trying to keep back and waiting for everyone to catch up. All we knew was that we had to be in AC before 1:30pm so they didn't pull us off the road. 

While I do not at all condone riding with headphones in, I still do so much better when I have music to distract me. For my first 17 miles I did not. As we got close to the first rest stop I was struggling. I figured if I was going to be riding at my own pace and by myself for most of the time, I was at least putting one ear bud in and some of my awesome playlists on. Rocking out to these tunes really helped me through the remainder of the ride, keeping me motivated and on a pace to make across the finish line in record time.   

One super scary yet impressive moment was while riding through Hammonton only about 2 miles from our next rest stop, a guy goes flying off his bike, manages to tuck into a somersault and land just fine on his back with his bike flipped over next to him. Honestly it was the most graceful fall I've ever seen. He climbed right back on his bike, uninjured, and continued to ride. The best part was all the police roving vehicles to monitor us during the ride that kept referring to him as Tinkerbell. 

The worst part of the ride was the last 11 miles. Not because I was exhausted; this year ALL of the rest stops were well supplied and staffed as well as my hydration pack I had the entire ride. Plus we had our support team of my mom and dad plus Terri's husband John meet us at rest stop's 2 and 4 with our very own fuel (many thanks to them!). No, once we left the Galloway Rec Center, it was 11 miles through torrental downpours. Oh no, this is no exaggeration. Just when I thought it couldn't rain any harder, IT DID. I swear I've never been so soaked in my entire life. And to add insult to injury, my socks/shoes are retaining water at that point, making my already strained quads have to work even harder with the heavier shoes. AND THEN to get into Atlantic City you HAVE TO GO OVER A BRIDGE. Honestly, it was just cruel and unusual punishment at that point, but I pushed through.


Terri and I slightly damp but finished!
So we made it across the finish line at 1:13pm, knocking a half hour off my time from last year. Terri kicked all of our butts and made it in at 12:31 pm, I'm so proud of her! Even though I was soaked (along with all our family and friends who met us at the finish line), the free food, beer, and bragging rights made it all worth it. The sun did come out eventually to let me and my bike dry out somewhat before getting in the car to head back home. 


Overall the Tour de Shore was a great time this year. Being hydrated does make all the difference. I was so worried as my bike training hadn't been up to the condition it was last year, but by keeping up my cardio in other ways and hydrated/eating at all the stops made a world of difference. It was just insulting to have to come home and shower after my body was practically pruny from being in the rain for a good three hours between the last leg of the race and getting food/drinks at the finish line. But it was all worth it.




My only post ride complaints were sore quads and shoulders for the next couple days, but overall I felt great! My next race is a marathon relay that I'm doing with my mom, aunt, and cousin. Of which I tried to go out and run the Wednesday after biking 65 miles, but my quads only let me get 2 miles, and even that was stretching it. But, as Dory says, just keep swimming... 

Friday, July 20, 2012

From Pin to...hell

Oh Pinterest, this was my first and probably last time I'm trying something I've pinned from you.

Okay that's a lie. But we're kind of fighting.

I've been on (addicted to) Pinterest for a couple months now, pinning away many things that I'll probably (never) do someday when I have a house and some spare time. One of those pins is for a natural detox to kick start weight loss from Jillian Michaels.




Now let me start out by saying, this is a HEALTHY detox (so it claims). You continue to eat normally on it, just drink the mixture throughout the day for 7 days. It consists of 60 oz of water, 1 tbsp no sugar cranberry juice, 2 tbsp lemon juice, and 1 dandelion root tea bag.

I also want to say that I am an avid gym go-er/lifter/runner/biker. I'm a healthy woman! I eat healthy most of the time, and am not a fan of quick fix weight loss programs. But I'm in my girlfriend April's wedding in October, so I thought why not try to start toning up now? And an easy, healthy detox to get started? What could go wrong?! (Famous last words).

After having to order the dandelion root tea off Amazon as all the local health food stores are sold out (as said health food store cashier informed me that Dr. Oz apparently has been raving about it), I decided to start Wednesday and go 7 days from there. Here's how it went:

Day 1: Not bad at all, even tastes okay. I was intimidated at first at the 60 oz to consume, but I obviously drink a ton more water then I realize because I finished the 60 oz by 10:30 am and drank plain water the rest of the day. No side effects so far!

Day 2: Also not bad, weird rash starting to form around eyes, but I blame on lack of sleep the night before. Again, no other side effects.

Day 3: Wake up in HELL. Rash intensifies to the point of swollen eyes as. I will spare you the gruesome details of the 20 minutes I spent crying on the toilet. I don't drink any special water today.

Damn you allergies!
Apparently  I'm allergic to dandelion root. Awesome. But I'm happy to report that as I haven't drank any today the swelling and rash have gone down as the day has passed on, and no more unpleasant side effects.

So it's back to just old fashioned exercise, monitoring calorie intake, and increasing my exercise routines. No more detoxes or special concoctions for me. Unless you're concocting me a martini, then I'll take it shaken, not stirred please.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Don't Hit Me Bro!

I am currently training for the "Tour de Shore" bike ride that is to take place on July 29th. For those not familiar with the ride, it begins at the Irish Pub in Philadelphia and spans 65 miles through South Jersey to end at the Irish Pub in Atlantic City. Last year was my first year doing it and besides being extremely dehydrated and spending the time after I finished in the Medical Tent, it was a really incredible experience. Somehow my quads forgot that I almost died (why am I so dramatic? honestly!) and I signed up for the ride again this year with my BFF's mom and two of her long-time family friends.

Naturally I have been slacking on my bike training after running Broad Street, so the month of June consisted of riding my bike pretty much every. single. day. My butt says noooo but my waistline says hellll yes! And since I've been riding so much I've noticed how many times drivers don't notice bikers or are just ambivalent to our existence on the road, thus they speed past our bikes with only inches to spare (thank you for not hitting my elbow with your side view mirror I so appreciate it).

Smiling through the tears crossing the finish
line. Only I was so dehydrated no tears
came out!
So for any of my (3) readers (hi mom and dad!) that may ride bikes or have an interest in buying a bike to start to ride (I promise you haven't forgotten how to) here are some tips I have for you, with WATCH THE DRIVERS being the longest and most important. Because let's be real, between the cell phones and the iPads and America's overall attention span of 0.2 seconds, drivers are more distracted today then ever.

1. Wear a helmet. Stop laughing and get serious. The Tour de Shore REQUIRES that us riders wear a helmet through the whole ride. I wear one every time I get on my bike. And you know what, Lance Armstrong does too. Because it's not about looking fashionable that you should be worried about. It's the crazy drivers (see my next paragraph) that are more likely going to hit and injure YOU that you should be worried about. Or that one time your chain snaps which causes you to go flying over your bike's handles and crashing to the ground (hey, it could happen).

Do you really want to risk permanent brain damage just because you feel you look silly? Honestly, I care way to much about myself and keeping myself intact (as an accident prone individual this is a requirement to my survival) then how I look. I'm not here to make an impression; I'm here to sweat and get some mileage under my belt. But people who care too much about what they look like when they work out is a subject for an entirely different post.

2. Watch out for drivers because they sure as heck aren't watching out for you.
Prime examples are of the three times I almost got hit in just the past 2 days. Mind you, I'm not a small person. I'm 5'10", riding an over-sized framed bike because my legs are so long, and wearing obnoxiously colored t-shirts. If you can't see me you are literally blind.

- Backing out of driveways: Little old lady that lives down the street from my parents was backing out of her driveway. I immediately slowed then stopped my bike even though I was on the other side of the road as I realized she didn't see me. When I tell you she pulled her car out of that driveway, into the road and only INCHES from my bike, I'm not lying. I thought I was going to have to jump off and run myself with the bike backwards to avoid being hit. She waived apologetically when she finally put her vehicle in drive.

- Yield signs: Drivers ignore these on a regular basis, so why on earth would they yield to a bicycle even though the same rules apply to bikes as vehicles? I crossed over a major intersection that has a yield sign to traffic turning off the road, and I saw the car coming through but not slowing. I instead stopped my bike and got another apologetic wave as the driver continued through the yield sign, apparently unfamiliar with how their brakes work.

- Stop signs: These are by far the worst, especially living in a small farming town where most people find them optional. I was already slowing in anticipation of a turn I was to make as there are trees blocking the oncoming traffic for the stop sign. As I approached the turn I had a Range Rover skid to a halt at the stop sign with it's front end well over and around the corner just barely missing me even though I had slowed significantly. I just shook my head at him as I made my turn since he was the one barely stopping.

I have to say that being a bike rider has made me a more attentive driver. And when I see bikers on the road I make sure to slow down and give them extra room, as they deserve to be on the road just as much as I do.


2. Hydrate. Hydrate. HYDRATE. This was my problem last year. The rest stops were unfortunately cleared out by the time my team made it there, which left us with no food or water. Hook your bike up with more then one water bottle holder. Have both water and Gatorade. Drink one of each an hour you are on your bike on a hot day. No I'm not joking.


Have you ever been dehydrated? It's terrible. At the finish line last year I wasn't sure if I was going to pass out, throw up or both. I was literally in a state of panic because I didn't know what was wrong with me. Huge thanks to the Medical Tent for helping me cool off and get water back in my system.  It took me the rest of the day (and gallons of water/Gatorade) to feel normal and I still had residual effects in my quads and calves for the next week or so.


A friend of my mom's recommended the Speedfill for my bike which I am going to order for this years race, and keep my current rack still on there as well. Plus my wonderful parents have offered to be our ride crew this year, meeting us a pit stops with our own water and food!

3. Push through the pain. Honestly, the worst and most uncomfortable you will be is the first two weeks of riding. Your, ahem, "seat", will be sore. I'm talking notice-while-you're-just-sitting-at-work or try-to-sit-on-the-toilet sore. Push through it. I kid you not after two weeks your body will have adjusted. A good pair of bike shorts or a padded seat cover helps with this as well. Me personally, I don't train with the bike shorts, but absolutely use them on my race day.

4. Have fun. Seriously, I used to ride my bike in my driveway as a kid zillions of times. My brother and sister and I would make up stories and adventures just in that little patch of blacktop. It was a blast. Which is probably why I still love riding to this day. I enjoy getting on that bike and pedaling all over. If you're not having fun you're not doing it right!

So I will just keep training and (trying) to not get hit by drivers until and on the ride July 29th. Which I'm sure I will post about after in a (hopefully) fully hydrated state this year.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Whirlwind Week

What a whirlwind week of simply amazing news.
Nick and I became an aunt and uncle for the first time.
My amazing younger sister Stephanie got a great promotion to Senior Accountant at work.
My brother John is having a once in a lifetime experience in Austria for the next month.
My husband Nick had a fantastic work review with an amazing (and unexpected) bonus and pay increase.
And somewhere in all of that, I managed to win the New Jersey Young Insurance Professional of the Year at the NJ/NY Professional Insurance Agent's Conference in Atlantic City.

If you would have told me four years ago when I came into the insurance business kicking and screaming I would be winning an award for YIP of the year, I would have told you that you were crazy. Not only were you crazy, but that you were certifiable because there is no way I would still be working in insurance after four years and ENJOYING what I do.

To give you some background the Young Insurance Professionals are an organization that focuses on leadership, education, networking and information within the insurance community for young people. As a branch off of the Professional Insurance Agents, we work in tandem to get young people involved and excited about their insurance careers. I joined the YIP's soon after getting my insurance license at the suggestion and recommendation of my father, who is an active PIA member.

I am honestly honored and flattered that my peers saw me eligible to win this award. But I couldn't do what I do in the YIP's without everyone else who is involved. So in no particular order,  here is who I would have liked to thank and some coherent form of a speech I would have liked to give had I not been so surprised and overwhelmed with gratitude for receiving award:
Thank you to my husband, Nick, who always, always, always, says "okay, go for it" whenever I come up with some crazy idea for work or goal for myself. Your support and love is appreciated more then I could ever express.
My parents who also unconditionally support me and love me no matter how many mistakes I make and for constantly hosting the YIP's at the tiki bar. You've raised me to be the woman I am and I hope I reflect that in my everyday life.
My dad, who 4 years ago told me I should get involved with the YIP's, and who has given me the encouragement and ability to actively participate. I know not everyone has this opportunity and I am so grateful for your support. No matter what I know I will always be "John's daughter" to everyone at the PIA. I've got some big shoes to fill!
The rest of my remarkable family, who all love and encourage each other in all our individual endeavors.
Everyone I work with in the YIPs (in no particular order because I love you all): Tom, Casey, Dan, Kristen, Danielle, Beth, Frank, Josh, Charles, Patti, Glenn, Kim, Terri, and all the behind the scenes PIA staff. You welcomed me with open arms when I started coming to meetings and I've never looked back. When I began making suggestions for South Jersey you always have supported the activities. Honestly I cannot imagine working with a better group of people and am so honored and thankful I got to know all of you.  I look forward to growing with you as we make our way into taking over the PIA next.
Kasy C-R  for sitting me down four years ago and telling me that I really should get into insurance as it's a great industry for women to be in. And that by entering I would be able to have a family and career all in one by (eventually) becoming my own boss.
To Kristen S, who also sat me down when I was on the fence about insurance as a career and encouraged me to come into the industry and get involved in the YIPs organization.
To every single woman that is on the PIA board, member, and involved in insurance, because it shows that there is nothing that women can't do and the glass ceiling has been shattered by all of you amazing ladies.

To every other young professional who may be entering into or considering an insurance career, I strongly  encourage your involvement in the Young Insurance Professionals. The YIPs are an amazing organization with so many opportunities and incredible people to meet.

Now if only I could have come up with something that eloquent when they surprised me and announced my name on Monday. Don't worry, from what I've been told my embarrassing and disjointed deer-in-headlights speech was recorded, so I'm sure it will go viral or something ridiculous. Thanks Public Speaking 101, for making me a fantastic public speaker, but not when they completely surprise you with an award.

I can only say that I am humbled and honored again to have won this award. As I was always taught, there is no "I" in team, and I've only been able to accomplish what I have because of all the other extraordinary individuals that I work with in the YIP organization. Thank you is truly an understatement for how I feel.


UPDATE: Hey look mom, I'm on YouTube.
Sidebar, I'm actually more composed then I thought I sounded in my head.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Teacup Humans

You are NOT the mother (Thanks Maury). Well I might as well put this to rest before the the rumor mill starts because I'm holding a new born in my most recently tagged Facebook photo. No the baby is not mine. I am however, an extremely proud Aunt! Seriously, I don't think 26 makes me nearly old enough to say a phrase like that. I mean I still have one (five) too many margaritas on occasion; how the heck am I old enough to be an Aunt?!

Proud Uncle Nick holding Ava
I had the pleasure of meeting the newest (and a bit early arriving) member of the Bruno family, Ava! Clocking in at a mere 5.8 oz and 18 inches long, she was a little tiny thing to hold, but such a joy to experience, albeit for too short a time as always.

It was my husband Nick's first time holding a newborn. He was so nervous; unsure of how to hold this little creature to be sure to not hurt her and make certain she was getting the best support. It was amazing to watch; this full grown man absolutely puzzled and unnerved at having to hold this newborn baby. He aced it, which gives me hope for when we (eventually) have some of our own.

After him it was my turn to hold Ava. And as I was holding this tiny little life, it reminded me of a quote from True Blood in which Eric Northman refers to children (seriously, stop laughing at me for making this reference and just follow me here). For those of you who watch/are obsessed with the show, I believe it is in Season 3, when Sam brings Darlene's two children (who he is stuck watching for the time being) into Fangtasia to bargain with Eric. After the children ask him about his fangs and proclaim that they are not vampire haters like their late step-father, Eric's trusty assistant and protege Pam comments on how these two children make her glad she never had any. Eric grins and retorts to Pam's comments saying  "They're like humans, but miniature. Teacup humans."

And holding this new little girl, I could totally see how children, no matter what age, are just like tiny humans. Just as teacups are smaller and more breakable forms of cups, this little baby is so tiny and fragile compared to us grown people. Sure, we as adults can still bend and break, but it holding a newborn puts into perspective just how delicate and fresh these little lives are. She has a perfectly clean slate with so many possibilities and so many paths she can take in her life. And it's amazing that we all start out this way.

A sincere CONGRATULATIONS to Brian and Amy on the birth of your first beautiful baby girl Ava. You both will be such amazing parents. I am truly so happy for the both of you, and can't wait to watch this little girl grow up. So, see you again tomorrow? How's that spare room in your house looking? Just kidding, though I am looking forward to seeing you both and that little sweetie again soon! And I'm ready to spoil this little niece of mine, as it's the only way my Aunt's ever treated me, and I learned from the best!

Aunt Natalie reveling the newest addition
to the family!
So you are probably thinking, does this means your biological clock is ticking faster now that you've held your sweet little newborn niece and felt the urge to blog about her? Oh silly reader, no, I'm still firmly convinced that my biological clock needs new batteries, or is possibly broken entirely. Or maybe it just needs a longer time to charge and get over the fear of having the ginormous responsibility to take care of a fragile little life. One day though I'm sure I'll be ready to have one of these teacup humans for myself.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

House Sitting

I had the pleasure of house/dog/pool sitting the last couple days while my parents and brother are in Key West. The biggest responsibility for me this time (besides shoving anti-biotics down by dog's throat) was taking care of the pool. It was opened later then it was supposed to be this week; first scheduled for Tuesday but with all the rain it didn't happen until late in the afternoon on Wednesday. My mom left me specific instructions for how I had to watch the water level and fill it if it gets low, let the filter run and then Friday set up the pins to turn the filter off and on (which by the way seems funny screwing on these tiny little on and off switches to the clock dial in this day in age. Do they make electronic ones or are those just ridiculously expensive?!)

So after filling the pool yesterday a little higher then it needs to be (oops! at least it didn't overflow) I came over this morning to care for the dog and pool. As I had a few gin and tonics last night, I wondered outside this morning with the dog to enjoy the lovely weather and see if any of the pool water had evaporated (as of 11 am it has gone down a got bit so crisis averted!)

I'm looking into the now crystal clear water and by the rope separating the shallow and deep end, and I see a dinner roll bobbing in the shallow end. As I grab the skimmer from off the fence I'm trying to rationalize how a dinner roll got in the pool. Did the crazy neighbors throw it over the fence? Did trash break somewhere and the wind carried it into our yard? (Highly unlikely as we haven't had any dinner parties out there and this roll was nice and fresh. Albeit, soggy.) I scooped the roll out of the pool and threw it over the fence into the empty field behind the house.

I put the skimmer back on the fence posts to rest and as I'm walking back toward the house I notice this black blob in the pool caught on the rope with a little blob next to it. At first I thought they were just leaves as there are many of them currently floating in the pool. Walking over I see it is a bird (dead) and a mouse (also dead) by the rope.

And then it dawns on me; this poor little bird came with his dinner roll and mouse looking for a quiet evening meal, sitting on a rope in some soothing water, and something went horribly wrong. What went wrong I guess I will just never know. But I was impressed that bird having both protein and carbs for the meal, he (she?) just needed some grass and that would have been a perfectly balanced meal.

I grabbed the skimmer again and fished the bird and mouse out (terrified that they would spring to life and attack me, but my imagination tends to lean toward the over dramatic) and tossed them over the fence to join the dinner roll (mystery solved!) I will be sure to inform my mom that lots of chlorine and maybe a shock treatment is due to the pool since I am a bit skeeved out by my findings.

So my Sunday morning started out with fishing a dinner roll, dead mouse and dead bird from my parents swimming pool. Things can only go up from here right?!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weather Woes

What a crazy bout of weather we've had these past couple months. From going to a pretty non-existant winter with only one snow storm that didn't even require me to break out the shovel (yes!), to an early and surprisingly warm spring that has sent allergy sufferers (myself included) into a sneezing, puffy-eyed, foggy head haze.

Which lead me to think about the weather and how not only is it a topic of conversation whenever there is a lull, but it's one of the things we complain about most. This winter was "too warm" so it didn't kill all of the cold/sickness germs and everyone is now getting ridiculous illnesses. I know of two people, one had pneumonia and the other bronchitis. In April and May, when does that happen? Then early this spring was "too hot" which means it has people complaining because it's "too early" to put on our air conditioning. It's "too sunny" that we haven't gotten enough rain to wash away all the pollen. The past few days have brought rain and now it's been raining for "too long" and we need the sun to dry everything out.

So, if there was a hypothetical perfect weather utopia, would we be satisfied? Or would we still have to complain? If the weather was always the exact most comfortable sunny temperature and it rained always when needed but never too much to be an inconvenience? If then in the winters it got cold enough to feel like winter yet we wouldn't have to deal with 4 feet of snow shutting down every major highway and making life impossible? If spring brought all the flowers to life and the fall rounded our seasons by cooling the weather to transition to winter? Or would we want somewhere that is just warm all the time? Or somewhere that is cold all the time? I'm sure that there would be a different idealistic weather situation for any individual you might meet.

I think that as a society (or just as human beings?) complaining is just what we do. We always want what we don't have. Not only when it comes to weather, but with life in general. I'm no different, there are days (mostly hot, super humid August summer days) that I wish my super dry, think, curly hair was just pin straight and flat as a board so I wouldn't have to deal with the project of reigning in frizzy puffy curls. So I think that even if we were to somehow find this perfect weather utopia it still wouldn't be good enough. Somehow we would tire of the perfection. It would become boring.

Plus I believe we use weather complaints as a way of relating. It doesn't matter if you're talking to someone old or young, tattooed or conservative, rock star or religious clergy, EVERYONE can relate to the weather. It has an affect on all of us and our daily lives. And everyone has an opinion on it. So by breaking the ice with a weather comment, it's easy to find some common ground to engage in conversation which eventually leads to other common topics.

But I must say, the past 2 days have been just perfect for my taste. Not too hot, not too cold, and a lovely breeze to make you stop and notice all the beautiful nature that is around you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Broad Street - A Re-Run

My mama, myself, and my BFF Colleen
This is the second year I participated in the Blue Cross Broad Street Run. For those unfamiliar with the race, it is a ten mile run that takes you all the way down Broad Street in Philadelphia (which is probably my favorite question, where do you run? Down Market Street, but they call it the Broad Street run. Here's your sign). It starts at Central High School Athletic Fields and ends at the Navy Yard.

I was nervous this year as I hadn't done nearly as much training as I had last year. Plus I worried that last year it was only fun because it was my first time doing it (that's what she said. yes I went there). Between a cold that knocked me on my butt for 10 days, a tragedy with one of my best girl friends, and a bit of laziness mixed in there, I knew I was under-prepared. Everyone kept telling me that I would be fine because I'd done it before, along with distances longer then 10 miles (half marathon aka 13.1 miles aka I don't go all the way). This race was a test of getting past the little voice in my head telling me to stop.

Well this race even in my second year of doing it is still my favorite and the most fun I have along any route that I've done so far. The energy of the crowd is intoxicating. As I know I wrote in my previous blog entry, there are people all along the route high-fiving and cheering you on. They don't even know ME yet they are clapping and encouraging me to keep going. Plus there are people in this race of all walks of life and fitness levels; it's so motivating.

So I started making mental notes on my mileage to do a wrap up of my race. Mostly it was to distract myself from the pain/little voice in my head telling me to stop. But it worked.
I ran with my best friend Colleen for only 2 miles this year as opposed to the 7 I was able to keep up with her last year. I definitely want to improve that for next year! Anyway, to my wrap up:
Miles 1-3- Fun. Do you know what 30,000 runners look like? RIDICULOUS. No matter how many times I looked up ahead of me there were people EVERYWHERE. It's pretty overwhelming.
Mile 4 - My shoulders start locking up, I'm obviously tense. I keep circling arms to keep them loose and trying to relax my upper body.
Mile 5 - We're going around the circle for City Hall. Yikes it turns into a cattle shoot, everyone squeezing by. I get a surge of energy between the new crowd gathered and the realization that I'm halfway done! My right knee starts throbbing, but I'm ignoring the pain.
Mile 6 - High-Five former Pennsylvania Mayor Ed Rendell in his blue track suit on route. He was there last year and Colleen saw/High-Fived him. I did make sure to wipe my sweaty palm on my pants before the high-five, and he said "only 4 more to go!".
Mille 7 - I'm focusing hard on my playlist, I've only 3 more to go. Feel a blister on my right foot starting to form. Voice in head getting stronger that I need to stop. I'm ignoring her and concentrating hard on song lyrics and the crowd's energy.
Mile 8 - Blur, but we're now near the sports complexes (go Phillies/Flyers/Eagles/76ers). I know I'm close to the finish. Pushing down voice in head even though she's getting louder.
Mile 9 - I start bargining with myself. I see the overpass and know that from there I will be able to see the Navy Yard gates and from the gates it's only a 1/4 mile to the finish. My quads are on fire and my calf muscles are getting tighter with every step. I keep motivating the voice in my head "come on girl you can do this you are so close!" as Kenny Loggins "Danger Zone" is blasting in my headphones (where are the awesome fighter pilot jets when you need them?!). I make it to the underpass, around a bend and see the Navy Yard gates. I run down hill and let out a cry of relief once crossing the gates, knowing I've only gotten a short while to go. With Linkin Park's "Bleed It Out" now blasting through my ears, I sprint to the last quarter mile (stupid, I know) but all I wanted to do is finish. I cross the finish line only 3 minutes longer then my time from last year.

And you know what I'll take it. It was under two hours which was my goal, but I don't run for time. I'm not fast as running is by far not my favorite. But it keeps me healthy and I do races to stay motivated.

My knee (which, subsequently if you know me, is my bad one) was so swollen when I finished but I'm happy to say I'm not losing any toenails this year. With only one blister on my right foot, I'm not complaining. Today I'm my knee is better thanks to some serious icing last night, but my achiles are killing me, probably from that last sprint. And this wouldn't be a complete post without something nerdy to say. The scan bib results were the coolest thing! They had a QR code right on the race bib that when you finished you scanned it and saw your official results. Loved that addition!

Along the route where some awesome shirts and signs.
My favorite shirts were:
- Smiling Is My Favorite
- Am I not dead yet?

Then there was a man running with a BatMan cape on. According to Colleen, at one point BatMan stops at a median, chugs a beer handed to him and continues the run. As he's running away the man who gave him the beer proudly yells "that's my brother!" I'm sorry I missed that, and that I didn't think to chug a beer during the race.

My favorite signs:
-Worse Parade EVER (I'm sorry, but every time I see this I laugh)
- near the end: "You're almost there" and right next to it "that's what she said"
- You've got stamina, call me
- Do your feet hurt from all the ASS-phault your kicking?
- Free beer at the end of the race, RUN FASTER

And to the people with the sign that read "stop now and have a beer", you better have beer to back that up. I asked them and they said they didn't have any. Do you really want 30,000 runners mad at you? Think about it.

Overall, I had such a blast again at Broad Street Run. Thanks to all the volunteers and organizers for making it such an amazing race again this year. I know it was a first for a good friend of mine, so I want to say CONGRATS to JD on finishing the race! I'm so happy and proud of you. Congrats to my mom and Colleen who also had stellar races! And mostly congrats to all the runners who get out there and finish the race! It doesn't matter how fast you are, it only matters that you have the guts to finish!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Give and Take

Let's talk about long distance relationships. And how difficult they truly are. I've had three in my short 26-year lifetime, with the third being the charm and marrying my husband Nick. He was the only one to survive these trials, and hopefully he doesn't kill me for writing about my ex's (just kidding, he loves me. RIGHT?!)

First experience: High school sweethearts heading off to college. In different states. About 4 hours away from each other. But we'll be together forever and ever and everrrrrrrrrrrrr!! (26 year old self wants to smack some sense into 18 year old self). And I'll see you on weekends aka he'll visit me since I have no car at college and then I get busy with school work/involved in clubs/irritated at his constant wanting to take up my time on weekends when I could be drinking (I mean, studying) and it just becomes too much of a hassle. I have a new life; which was my point of going to college 180 miles away from home. I get involved with different activities on campus, and yes it is super not convenient to have you here every weekend. Plus there's that cute guy down the hall from me....
Moral of the Story: Let's be real, I was 18 and stupid. Long distance relationships take a lot of work and college is a brand new experience and adjustment. Add to that trying to keep together a relationship hundreds of miles apart ...it just becomes a super stressful situation that truly can be avoided. I wish I could go back and tell 18 (to 20? on again off again is a terrible idea) year old me that I wouldn't be alone forever. Who actually marries their high school sweetheart anyway? [Note, I do know one couple that are high school sweet hearts, but thats 1 out of the many couples I know. The odds are definitely not in your favor here].

Sophomore year of college: the foreigner. Things were great, he was a 7-foot tall basketball player with such an awesome accent. I couldn't wait to travel overseas to meet his family and go to places in Europe I would probably never get to visit. We had some classes together, I had the opportunity to go to all the fun basketball events with him, we got free drinks everywhere. Until he got transferred to play ball at another college in a different state. And spent his summer's at home. IN EUROPE. In theory, awesome, you're dating the the tall, handsome foreigner that shows up in (practically) every romance film ever. And then he's away for so much time. And then you realize that you don't really want to live in Europe and Skyping every night is just not going to work with my schedule.
Moral of the story: Even though movies make dating someone from another country seem so easy/cool, it's (once again) hard freaking work. Being as involved as I was in college made me a busy girl with not a lot of down time. And was I going to want to give up my free time on weekends driving back and forth to his college? Nope. Plus as a broke college student, can your really afford a plane ticket to Europe? Not a freaking chance. Son of a bitch you break the foreigner's super tall heart didn't you? Way to go Natalie.

Fast forward to Senior year of college to today: my husband Nick. He's funny. He's handsome. He puts up with my shoe collection (and my blogging, but he encourages me to do that). But the best is that he moved all the way to freaking New Jersey just for me.
We met through a mutual friend. She was dating his best friend/room mate Jer and would NOT stop telling me about "this guy who I really think you'd like and he's got a great job and a new car and blah blah blah blah" literally, every time I saw her. So finally I placated her and said I would meet him as it's not like my dating life was going super fantastical at the time anyway. We went on a double date for wing night at one of our favorite bars (I know right, let's stuff our faces with one of the messiest foods possible on our first meeting). Obviously he didn't think I was a total slob and even called to ask me on a date. Like a real date, where he picked me up and opened the car door for me and paid for dinner and walked me to my door step. And then a second date where we shared our first kiss. And it was all down hill from there.

I graduated and moved back home to New Jersey with my parents. We drove back and forth to visit each other every weekend, alternating me up to New York or him coming to New Jersey. Until the day he liked it so much he put a ring on it. With my career change and his work flexibility, he moved down to Dirty Jerz (he says he hates Jersey, which I believe. Except for the fact that Yuengling flows from the taps at every bar here like manna from Heaven. You're welcome for living only 2 hours from their factory).

So now we're all married and settled except for finding a house. But his whole family (and life long friends) are still in upstate New York. Which means seeing us is a treasure. Everyone wants to see you when you go up; family and friends. And who could blame them, we're so much fun! It's not bad to be wanted, it's just hard to be in so many places at once. I wouldn't trade it for the world; I have an amazing extended family (and friends) thanks to my marriage and they are all such good people. But traveling is exhausting. Three+ hours in the car will wear anyone out, and after doing it every other weekend for months like we did, it becomes a dreaded trip. But I'd like to think that once we do have a house, with all the extra space means we'll be getting lots of extra visitors, which I wouldn't mind in the slightest!

Moral of the story: Long distance relationships are hard. Heck, marriage/relationships in general are difficult, without distance involved. I know I've already said it twice, but it takes work. It has to become literally another thing you add to your agenda so you know that it gets done.You both have to be willing to put a lot of time and effort into fitting this relationship into your already busy lives. Plus there has to be compromise and amazing communication between each other or else it's not going to work out.  And doing them while you're young is silly (I know, says the 26 year old. I am wise beyond my years). You need to enjoy your time at college and experience new things. Which is why I advise everyone to go to college single. And when the right one comes along, it doesn't matter how much distance there is between you, you will make it work.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Delicate Balance

I had the pleasure of running the Phillies 5K again this year, and since my best friend Colleen has moved into the lovely city of Philadelphia, I spent the rest of the day with her.

We reached our second bar in her neighborhood and by our 3rd (5th?) celebratory round of drinks for the day, were commenting on the music selection of the patrons, which was apparently better then most times they visit. And then a slow song came on which made Colleen pop the question, "When was the last time you slow danced?"

I of course snarkily replied two years ago at my wedding. Well that's a gimme, obviously. But what about before that? Long pause. Senior Prom? Jenn and JD's wedding in 2005? John and Michelle's wedding just a few months before mine? I honestly couldn't tell you.

Which had us discussing the act of slow dancing. In grade school it was probably the most dreaded part of any school dance. You either felt bad about yourself if you had no one to dance with or could care less and were terrified of who might ask you to dance. Most of my slow dances were awkward arms length apart with sweaty palms on under-developed hips. We went to Catholic School so we needed to leave room for the Holy Spirit. But then when do you do it once your an adult? The only time that comes to my mind is weddings or big formal dinners. Or are there places where they will slow down the music once and awhile that I just don't know about?

Colleen put it elegantly in that to slow dance is to "take a second and just enjoy being with the person you with. There's something much more intense about slow dancing. It's the closest most intimate contact you will have with the lights on." Which is true; it can be a very sensual moment. We spend so much time going to clubs and fist pumping to "Shots, Shots, Shots" that when have we taken the time to slow down and really enjoy who we are with and not just grinding into each other? A quick peck on the cheek, your warm breath tickling each other's necks . Holding hands and hips and swaying closely to the rhythm of the music. A dip here; a twirl there. In this fast paced and rushed society, slowing down and truly soaking up the moment seems like a nice reprieve.

It's interesting to think too, as "you can have (a slow dance) with a total stranger or the love of your life" Colleen pointed out.  I mean how amazing is that scene in 'Scent of a Woman' when Al Pacino tangos with the lovely young lady at lunch? Strangers, but still they share such a connection just from dancing. And the romantic slow dance sequences are in so many movies all the time! Woman in beautiful dress walks down long staircase with dress flowing behind her into arms of handsome man that was gazing at her where they dance cheek to cheek and realize they're in love with each other. We all just want to be princesses dammit.

So I have to say that since this conversation I'm most looking forward to April and Sharbel's wedding on May 12th, as not only am I in it and I absolutely love them, but I'll get to enjoy slow dancing with the love of my life, my husband. If I haven't overdosed on sugar between the Martini Bar and Candy Bar.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shoes

Oh my god. Shoes. How I have not written about this yet boggles my freaking mind.

Let's talk about shoes. For real. One might say I have a shoe problem. I see it as more of an obsession. Or a statement. My shoes say so much about who I am. I'm fun. I'm funky. I stand out. I like to be noticed. But most of all, I embrace my height.

I am a whopping 5'10". For a female, that's pretty darn tall. And don't even get me started about trying to buy pants long enough (seriously, where do tall women shop?!)  It took me a long time to be comfortable with my height. I always towered over the boys in my class. In kindergarten I had to sit at a special singular desk (think vintage school chair with desk attached) away from the grouped desks because my legs wouldn't fit under the table. I was the only girl; the rest were all boys. I always was the last girl in line when they put us in height order because I was the tallest. Kids would make fun of me. I would point out their "bald spots" to make them insecure because with my height I clearly could see them. (Okay so that was a lie but now that I think about it I totally should have). I wished I was a "normal" height. But alas, I kept growing.

I don't think I got comfortable with my height until almost the end of high school (coincidentally, boys actually started to get taller then me, but I still towered the girls). I believe that's when the shoe obession began. I realized that no matter how many times someone said to me "Why do you wear such high shoes, you're already so tall?", I needed to stop caring about their opinion. It didn't matter what they thought. It's about what I like. So what if I'm 6'2" in the ridiculous snake printed stilletos I'm wearing? I'm okay with it. If you're not, tough luck. College was much of the same thing. "You're so tall you don't need to wear heels that high". I know I don't need to, I want to. If I like a pair of shoes, I'm buying them whether they have a 1-inch heel or a 5-inch heel. I'm not going to change my fashion sense just because the shoes I like make me over 6 foot tall.

Just some of my eclectic shoe collection
Photo credit DSW, since that's my shop of choice
I've become kind of a shoe-icon at work.  The other girls (and my grand mom, God bless her) are always waiting for me to come in to see what shoes I'll be wearing next. I just find that there's something so innately sexy about a great pair of high heel shoes. They make you feel more attractive when you've got them on. They boost your confidence and make you feel good about yourself. I can't remember anytime that I've ever tried on a pair of heels and felt bad about myself. Clothing is another story, but shoes for whatever reason only make me feel good about how I look, never bad. Unless they're just ugly shoes, then I don't buy them.

Nick keeps joking that when we get a house we're going to need a separate closet just for my shoes. I know he says it jokingly, but it's probably more of a reality then fiction. I've got boots in every color that hug my calves or can easily fit over my pants, stilletoes that add 4" to my frame ranging from snake print to black with red flames and silver studs. I have zebra printed with purple accented heels and flower, and then of course my classic work pumps. But even those come in an obnoxious red color. My summer peep-toe pumps are ready to go and just pushed my winter boots to the side of the closet.

I've gotten used to the stares and leg jokes. It's almost like my height makes me some amalgam of a person. Nicknames included legs, stork, stretch. But guess what, I can see clear over everyone's head. Concerts, long lines, museum tours. I get noticed at the bar because who wouldn't notice the girl who's taller then average and holding a $20 bill to get your attention. Of course, a push up bra doesn't hurt either (just saying!) I still to this day get told "oh my gosh your so tall, and those shoes!" Yes I am, but if you really want to see tall, go stand next to any college women's basketball team. They even dwarf me, and that my friends, is not a bad thing.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Happened to Curves?

Photo credit to whoever made it. Sorry I couldn't find your name
I was reading an email from an amazing friend of mine about how both her and her husband started running. In the email she detailed her first run attempt and then how she came to the conclusion of  "What am I running from? The fat girl that ate me! *Sobs*" After a fit of laughter at her observation (obviously overplayed as she is a beautiful and amazing wife, mother, and individual)  I relayed the story to my husband and parents, and moved on.

But then I was browsing greeting cards the store and I came across a general one, fit to send just because. It read: "If you are what you eat then I need to eat a skinny person." Hilarious again, I relayed it to my sister and moved on.

Then I saw this photo above making it's way around the Facebook/Twitterverse. And it got me thinking that between our perceptions of ourselves and what is being conveyed to us in the media and magazines, when did being an emaciated skinny woman become the norm from being a curvy woman?

Look at the TV show Mad Men. Joan (played by Christina Hendricks) is a wonderfully curvy woman. And she is beautiful. Gorgeous. Flawless. An amazing actress. Yet all the magazines talk about is her body and her size 14 self. Her bust, her waist,  her hips. She gets more attention for having curves and looking like a real woman. Not her amazing portrayal of Joan, the eat your heart out I'm taking no crap from anyone secretary in a man's advertising agency (world) on Mad Men.

Then you see all these women on the top row of that photo on the covers of magazines with headlines like "the miracle diet" or "how to lose those last 10 pounds". I'm sorry, I can already see (fill in any/most/all Hollywood actress/model/pageant winner's name here) ribs, plus photos tend to add 10 pounds. How in the HELL does she need to lose 10 more pounds? If I were to hypothetically give her a hug, would I break something?

I was talking with a tenant from our building at work and he asked me the question as to what the average size/weight of women are as compared to a supermodel. I told him I didn't know what the average weight was but size is 12-14 at a 5'4" height whereas supermodels are 5'11" and weight about 110lbs. He was amazed that I knew that. To which I answered 'well what woman doesn't'? How many times do we look at the photos and go "God I wish I looked like that"! Wait a second, WHAT? Why is that what we aspire to?

This is in no way an excuse for the obesity epidemic (?) that seems to be plaguing our nation. I hate to even use the word 'epidemic' because I feel as though an epidemic is something we can't control (think smallpox, or watch the movie "Contagion" and never look at someone coughing at the gym the same way again). And I understand, not all obesity is brought on just from over eating. There are so many different factors.  Our food/lifestyle/technology is a major impact on that. Nor is this a knock on women who are naturally super skinny and there is nothing they can do about it no matter how many Big Macs they eat and they don't ever set foot in a gym (seriously though, I hate you).  Genetics play an almost impossible to overcome body type for each of us and I completely understand that.

I'm just saying why does the average woman have to look like a flat board? What's so wrong with having curves? I'm all for a healthy lifestyle and working out. Lord knows I'm at the gym or running at least  4 days a week. I'm healthy and curvy. I've always been a tall girl and I still get asked if I model or play basketball. People laugh when I say that I'd need to lose at least a small child in weight before I'd ever get a (hypothetical)  modeling career. The sad part is I'm not joking, it's the truth. But I hate that I'm supposed or expected to just be this skinny mini because it's what Hollywood is doing.

Look at Jennifer Hudson. She was a size 16 when she entered the "scene". Then she went on Weight Watchers and is now a size 6. I am truly happy for her because she looks fantastic. But tell me that Hollywood isn't putting pressure on you to loose weight. Please tell me.

The part that most worries me is the message this is sending to young girls. I had a hard enough time when I was younger just being taller then most, standing at 5'10" without all this pressure to be super skinny.  How many girls do you know with an eating disorder? I know at least 1, and that to me is one too many. Why is this an okay message that society just accepts that it is normal to teach our daughters that you need to be skinny to be pretty? Why aren't we boycotting fashion icons that use emaciated models? Why aren't we outraged at Hollywood for having these skinny women be the norm? And I understand that there are magazines and designers who are now putting a stop to this, who have BMI and higher weight requirements. I applaud you for your efforts and for taking a stand against most in the industry. But more needs to be done.

That's why I love Dove. They do the campagne for real beauty to empower women to embrace who they are and what they look like. This is what real working women look like. This is the norm in America. And at first many were outraged because they were (are) still airbrushing the models and using photo shop to touch up the print ads. Well no shit people, the Dove ads are still going to be published in a magazine or aired on television. They still have to live up to the standards of their competition. But at least they are using women who look like the rest of us. Normal people who have real jobs and lives. Who don't have personal trainers/personal chefs/personal dieticians who direct every piece of food they put in their mouths and have them spending 8 hours a day in the gym.

In my opinion life's too short to be so obsessed with being perfect. I'm fine with being me, eating healthily but not feeling like I need to go throw up when I cheat or have an extra glass of wine (or 2). Running my races and working out at my pace. And you know what, my husband loves me just the way I am. Nick tells me all the time that I'm beautiful and when I say I wish I looked like (insert emaciated model/actress here), he always asks me why? What's wrong with the way I am now? He married me just the way I am and loves me just the way I am. And you know what, he's right.

I'm lucky that he'll always comment when I'm feeling down and looking at those top of the line actresses. "Who wants to look like that?" he says. But he does note how beautiful Christina Hendricks is on Mad Men. Wait, I think I'm seeing a connection here....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Driving Etiquette

I work in insurance which means I definitely over-analyze anything driving or homeowners related. Perks of the job I suppose (what do you mean you have no coverage?!) But honestly, the lack of driver attentiveness on the road is down right frightening. The amount of times I have to use my horn or avoid being  hit from other driver's inattention are outrageous. So let's chat for a minute about driving etiquette of some drivers I've observed over the past week/month/lifetime. It's time to get back to the basics people.

I hate when my new expensive sports car comes without turn signals. USE THEM PEOPLE! It helps to SIGNAL to the other driver where you are going. May be a surprise, but I can't read your mind and it's likely that other drivers can't either (except for Miss Cleo, is she even still around?) Push that lever up to go right and down to go left. It should be second nature to you by now. What's that? You gave up your New Years Resolution of the gym already? Make using your turn signal your new New Year's resolution.

You know what the passing lane is for? PASSING. I know, I'm just unveiling so much new information on here but come on people! (PA and NY drivers seem to have a difficult time with this). In New Jersey it's keep right pass left. Which means if you're in the LEFT lane, you better be going fast enough to pass the car in the right. Or at least traveling the speed limit.

Which brings me to speed limits. You know those white signs with the black writing that say "Speed Limit" on top and then a number below it? That's what your odometer (the little level that goes up when you push down on the gas pedal) should read. I'm not condoning speeding, but please be going at least what's posted. Even on Sundays.

And this goes right into cars that will slow down for cops. If you see a cop on the side of the road and your odometer matches the magic numbers on that sign, there's a good chance that unless you're doing something ELSE illegal, he/she's not going to be pulling you over. What is the obsession with slamming on the breaks once a cop is spotted? Like they haven't already tagged your car since you were doing 55 in a 54 and saw you switching lanes like a maniac. By the time you've seen the cop it's already too late, take it from someone who got a speeding ticket years ago (sorry mom and dad!)

Stop lights don't mean it's distraction time, it means you still need to pay attention. Green means go! Stop choosing the latest Ke$ha song from your iPod and stop texting your BFF about your ex you just ran into. Pay attention. I'm tired of honking my horn to get you moving. I've got places to go people.

Although we're all guilty of it, this texting while driving really disturbs me. I mean what is so important that it has to be answered right away? Or without a phone call. USE YOUR BLUE TOOTH headset. Driving is my favorite excuse for not answering my phone. "Sorry, my bluetooth wasn't picking up so I didn't hear it ringing" may or may not be the excuse I used on the way to my friend's surprise Bridal Shower when she spotted me at a stop light.

But by far parking lots by far have got to be my biggest driving frustration. What is it about any parking lot that makes everyone just forget how to be responsible drivers? My co-workers and I have an unspoken system while exiting our work lot. We let each other go by who's pulled out first, then go in the order that we've lined up. You wait no matter how long it may take if someone is making a left and you can very easily make a right. It's just courtesy to go in order. But there's this one woman who may or may not work for the downstairs tenants of our building who seems to not notice the line of cars to get out of the lot, bypasses us all and just makes her right hand turn, thus BLOCKING the view of the person trying to make the left. How Rude.