Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Year in Review


I just went back and re-read my post from New Year's Eve 2010.  In it, I discussed some of my goals from that year.  (Read: not resolutions, per se.  Just goals.)

"...I wanted to take my fitness to the next level. Well, I started running and I've done two 5k races. In 2011, I want to do at least 3 and maybe try for a 10k."


Well, let's see...

Mermaid Run 5k, February 2011
Vista Strawberry Festival 5k, May 2011

Camp Pendleton Mud Run 10k (!), June 2011

Iron Girl 5k, November 2011
Check!  I'd like to give a shout out to Dani, with whom I ran in every one of the 5ks this year.  Which reminds me--I need to sign up for the next Mermaid Run in 2012 because that was one of my favorites!

So what's in store for 2011?  Probably definitely at least one 10k that doesn't involve mucking through gunk.  I was a last minute sub for a Mud Run team that one of my co-workers has been organizing every year for the past several years.  It was tough as hell and still a lot of fun.  I'd do it again, but I'd also like to just do a straight 10k run.  I think that will be my late spring/summer project since I hate treadmill running too much to really train in the winter.

Okay, what else?

"...I've contemplated grad school for the last 5-going-on-6 years, and this year I had the Great Business School Epiphany. In 2011, it's officially Game On as I re-take the GMAT and complete my applications."


Well, as chronicled in several posts throughout the year, I did begin an MBA program this fall at the University of San Diego.  I just checked for my final grades a moment ago, and I'm pleased to say that I've earned a 3.4 GPA for the semester.  Not bad for working full time, doing multiple group projects, and adjusting to those crazy 15 hour days!

I <3


"...There have been some setbacks here and there, namely in my dancing world. I feel as though 2010 was a rather static year in which life's distractions made it difficult--if not impossible--to advance, so I'm going to mix it up in 2011 and find my new groove."


I did continue to dance this year, despite having left the studio in late 2010 and not taking formal lessons since.  The women of Desert Silk and I have been having a rebuilding year, you might say.  Between the six of us, we've been having a crazy year of changes--from adopting a new baby to finishing up a PhD to starting grad school--it's a wonder we've found the time and dedication to do what we've done!  We have performed in a few public venues, choreographed a few original numbers, and managed to stay close even when life pulls us all in different directions.  (Note--almost all of the 5ks I ran this year were with at least one of my fellow dancers!)

Who are those masked dancers at the Gaslamp Mardi Gras Celebration???
Desert Silk at the Del Mar Fair, June 2011

Photo by James Croft Photography, June 2011
In 2012, we hope to begin taking regular workshops/lessons with local dancers to learn some new technique and reinforce the solid foundation we built at our former studio. And continue to have fun, of course!


"...Meanwhile, even though I'm orchestrating a move out of the country, I continue to enjoy my job and I want to take it as far as I can for as long as I am able. Believe it or not, I'm actually looking forward to going back on Monday."


Well, the part where I moved out of the country didn't happen.  I had the Second Great Epiphany in early 2011, whereby I realized that it just wasn't time for me to do it yet.  Instead, I spent an amazing couple weeks in Europe in the company of two of my most favorite people in the world!

Tina and I enjoying an espresso at Da Lucia, local trattoria in Rome, June 2011

Ralph and me in Amsterdam, July 2011

It was all I could do to limit myself to just two pictures.  I have about a bazillion, and I do not tire of sharing them at any given opportunity!

Meanwhile, in 2011, I also had the pleasure of...


Celebrating Ben and Ana's American wedding, July 2011

Dining at Club 33, which is a B.F.D. for Disney Nerds like myself

And also...

Partying like rockstars in Vegas with some Disney CP buddies

And then...

Welcomed to the family a new nephew, Noah, who is seen here sleeping soundly after his baptism in November.

And, finally,

You aren't back in PIT until Franco Harris greets you with the Immaculate Reception

Popsing is happy and grateful to be home for the holidays!



I had a lovely week in Pittsburgh cooking, seeing dear old friends, spending some QT with my family, and just relaxing and enjoying myself in general.

In 2012, I just hope to further my progress towards some of my longer term goals, like continuing to do well in grad school and becoming more fit and healthy, possibly shedding those last 25-30 lbs or so.

 I'm also looking forward to another trip to Europe in the late spring/early summer and a probable September reunion with my 2705 gals of Disney College Program fame when one of us walks down the aisle.  (Hint: it isn't me!)

Oh, and turning 30.  That's kindof a big deal too.

So as I head out to my friend's New Year's Party, I wish you and yours a very safe and happy New Year and health and prosperity in 2012!

Cheers!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve

I sit here at the San Diego International Airport on the Eve of Christmas Eve, all contentment and joy as I await my delayed flight to Newark, New Jersey.  That airport is *Cursed, but tonight I don't much care.  I just feel so darn good.

It started last night when I was settling in for bed, looked at my phone, and noticed the reminder e-mail to check in for my flight since I was inside the 24 hour mark.  As I poked and swiped my way through it, a wondrous sight appeared: "Special Offer!  Upgrade to First Class for $139."  Well that certainly caught my attention.  At first I thought it was some lame-ass offer for my short leg from Newark to Pittsburgh, but when I scanned the page further I realized that it was indeed for my five hour trans-continental flight.  I must have been a very good girl this year!

A hundred and thirty nine bones ain't exactly walking-around money, but when you do the five hour red-eye in coach math and then consider the decent deal on the plane ticket that I got in the first place, and then factor in what it would have cost for a first class ticket at original purchase, it makes perfect sense.  Worth it.  Bought it.  Been on Cloud 9 just thinking about it ever since.  In fact, I couldn't sleep much last night just thinking about it.  I even dreamed about flying first class.  It's not like I've never done it before, but it's been ever so few and far between and under circumstances of pure luck and one successful upgrade with mileage, and with the exception of the infamous "Maria Gets Stranded at Dulles at 16 Then Got Flown Business Class to Frankfurt The Next Day" incident of 1999, it's not happened to me for a particularly lengthy flight.

So yeah, I'm excited.

Since this Friday I didn't have any meetings scheduled at the office, I opted to stay at home, as is my general policy these days.  I figured that gave me the freedom to do a little packing and cleaning throughout my day as well, and then an e-mail came from my boss at about a quarter to noon, to the tune of, "Team, I'm getting ready to head out for the afternoon.  If you can, you all should leave too and enjoy the 70 degree Christmas!"

Done and done.

Although somehow even with the entire afternoon free to pack, clean, and run last minute errands, I still managed to barely get out of the apartment in time to walk the block over to the train station to start the trip down to Lindbergh Field.  I like to use the light rail system when I can, although I'm so un-used to it and paranoid about missing a critical connection in a city where the trains run so infrequently, it's usually 90 minutes of sitting on pins and needles for me.

It's only when I got to the airport that I felt at peace.  I hit the scene around 6:15, well ahead of my 9:35 10:05 departure, and braced for impact.

What has greeted me, however, is a relatively deserted terminal.  I thought it would be teeming with travelers by now, but it's been pretty quiet.  I observed as much to the TSA worker who was checking my boarding pass and ID and he lithely replied, "Hang around here for a couple hours.  We've got about 10 red-eyes going out tonight, over 2,000 passengers." Ah, alles klar.  The calm before the storm, then.

The instant I gathered my things from the security line and hit the terminal, I wanted to write.  In the distant, ancient past, before laptops and smartphones, whenever I flew somewhere I used to actually write...letters.  Pages and pages of letters.  **Rachel Greene 15 page letters to Ross letters.  Often with illustrations, and always with thorough observations of the scene around me.  I'm a rather accomplished people watcher.  Most introverts are, you know.  And I have to wonder if I--and we all--have lost a bit of that these days.  As I look away from my laptop and type this, every other person I see is staring at a screen of some sort.  I guess back then I was still in my own world because I was looking at a piece of paper or sometimes just reading a book, but usually I was the only one and everyone else was interacting with one another.

At any rate, I am still content this evening.  With hopes that the delay out of San Diego is really only a half an hour and that everything else goes smoothly, I can't complain about much today or this trip.  Miss Amelia is back at home in good hands with her pet sitter this week, I'm healthy, I have a break from class (though I did bring my book for my next class because we're expected to have read the first three chapters by the first day), and my family and some dear old friends are waiting for me on the other coast.  So all is well.

Wishing you and yours safe holiday travels and a Merry Christmas!


Cheers,

Maria











*Oh, right, the asterisk.  So, Newark Airport is Cursed.  My best friend back home got stranded there once coming back to the US from a school trip to Europe.  And this wasn't my best friend as a married adult with a cell phone and credit cards.  This was just after either our freshman or sophomore year of high school.  She and some other classmates were actually stuck there and told they wouldn't be able to go home until the next day or something, and my friend had to be back in Pittsburgh to leave for her family vacation the next day.  So as you can imagine, she was hella upset--yeah, I just dusted off that relic of a word--and her dad ended up renting a  16 passenger van or some shit like that and had to drive across the state of Pennsylvania and bring them all back.  There have been other Newark delays and incidents since then--one even involving myself a few years ago--and ever since that first summer way back when, Newark has been declared Cursed.  Along with its evil cousin, Washington-Dulles, the setting of the aforementioned "Maria Gets Stranded at Dulles at 16..." story.



**If you don't understand the Rachel and Ross reference, then you're probably too young to be on the Internet by yourself.  Please ask your parents' permission first.  I'd rate this blog at about a PG if they ask.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The MBA Project: Semester One Done!

Okay, so I don't usually declare it really over until the fat lady sings, aka final grades are posted.  But I'm going to go ahead and call it--I finished my first semester of grad school! YEAH!  We took our last final yesterday evening, and about a third of our cohort went to a local bar to celebrate afterwards.  Right about now, I know a bunch of them are getting together again at a bar, but a.) I'm freaking exhausted and b.) it's a pretty far drive.  So even though the spirit is willing and would very much love to go a couple rounds with my classmates, it was all the flesh could do to get through today before calling it quits and coming straight home for the evening.

There some pretty challenging times these last few months, what with navigating the sometimes choppy waters of team projects (which are about 100x more difficult to pull off when you're all employed full time and don't live anywhere near each other) and balancing the workload with the rest of our lives, but my team, my cohort, and I all made it through.  Now for a glorious 2.5 weeks of break before getting right back into it again.

Funny, I never thought I'd see a time when just working a 40 hour week was considered a break.


(Although, to be fair, I am taking off a week to go home to Pittsburgh, so I really am getting a break.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Looking Up

I'm just a little sore from running yesterday.  However, it's a good, familiar sore.  It's the kind of sore where I feel like riding on it and doing something else today to keep the activity going.  So even though that was a wretched 23 minutes yesterday, some good came of it.

Last night I decided to get out of the house and meet my friend Beth at the restaurant where she's the house dancer.  She was "off duty" last night and just there to hang out.  She, like me, is in the throes of insanity for the sake of higher education and needed a break.  (She's thisclose to finishing her dissertation for her PhD.)  I haven't been to the restaurant since this spring and it's always been my favorite venue to dance, and I really should go more often.  At some point the cooks make Beth some sliders and she offers me one, but I had had a big cup of Mexican mocha and two pieces of the best baklava in the entire universe and I was full.  The owner, who chats with us at the bar, didn't hear me say I was full and said, "You're vegetarian, right?"  I laughed.  Perhaps he somehow remembered that I almost exclusively ordered the falafel wrap when I used to come by more often.  "No," I said.  "I've gotten close a few times, but bacon always brings me back.  I could never give that up."

Almost two years ago now, I wrote about how I had become an almost accidental vegetarian, and since then I have very slowly begun to eat meat more and more frequently.  It's not back up to the levels it was several years ago, but I buy it regularly now and almost always eat it when I dine out.  But lately I've been thinking about making a conscious decision to go back the other way and to go 99% vegetarian.  Why 99%?  Because I would still use chicken stock in cooking if it was on sale or something, and I freaking love bacon that much.  And carnitas.  (If I had to decide at gunpoint, I'd give up the carnitas for the bacon, though.)  My reasons are more pragmatic than passionate.  I mean, I believe that humans have canine teeth for a reason--to eat meat.  We need protein and I especially need iron.  But modern society allows us to get by with far less than we used to need, and signs are pointing to the harm that cattle farming is doing to the environment.  Plus there is the money-saving factor, although I've found that I just spend it on other things, so it's really a zero sum game there.

I had a whole roast chicken that I had to use up this week, so I did shred it and put it into a pot of 10 bean soup that I made yesterday.  I'm thinking that after that is all gone, that's it.  I'm not buying any more meat on my weekly grocery store trips.  Yes, I'm doing this even with the holidays just around the corner! *gasp* Well I don't care that much for turkey anyway, so "meh" to that.  Okay, unless my Dad decides to deep fry another one for Christmas just like he did a few years back...then we might have to re-think this.

Well, all that writing about food has made me realize it's time for lunch and I have delicious falafels in the freezer!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Making Adjustments

I've been having a mild crisis these last several weeks.  On the one hand, school is great, I've already learned a lot in these last couple of months, and I'm 100% sure that I have made the right decision.  On the other hand, I am having a rough time adjusting to the new schedule.  I'm pretty much used to the long commutes and 15 hour days now, but what I have not figured out is how to continue to work towards my personal goals of health and fitness on top of everything else.  I have all but stopped working out (we're talking going from 4-5 days a week to maybe 2), and I feel hungry all the time!  It's as though my body is responding to all this change in my life by going into comfort mode, where all I want to do when I get home is lay in bed and watch Netflix and then eat macaroni and cheese.

I'm one of the most flexible people I know--what gives with this resistance to change???  When I do manage to get to the gym anymore, it's all I can do to do some strength training and maybe 20 minutes on a cardio machine, which is about all I can stand before I'm completely checked out mentally and physically.  Today I forced myself out on a jog, thinking that once I got out there, I'd be fine and just power through a 5k or so.  Nope.  I was miserable every stinkin' minute and came back after 1.6 miles.

I think part of it is that I'm just, for lack of a better word, "bored".  At first when I started running, it was exciting to increase my time, speed, and distance just a little bit more every week.  Now it feels like, "So what?  You haven't gotten any faster or run any further for over 6 months."  Maybe I just need to sign up for a 10k so I'm motivated towards a new goal, but I don't know if that is enough.  I think about trying Pilates or buying a workout DVD, but I haven't been very successful with those either.  I certainly don't have the bandwidth to commit to another instructional class.  So I have some decisions to make, clearly.  I might have to really commit myself back to lunchtime workouts or even consider going in the morning.  Heck, I might even be desperate enough to try spinning.  (I swore off of it 5 years ago after only one try because I couldn't sit down for days afterward, but I might have to reconsider.)

I sat down with the intention of starting a series of things that I am grateful for, but sometimes you just need to bitch it out instead!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11/01 Ten Years Later

September 11th, 2001:  I was a freshman at Kent State University, just coming off of my 19th birthday.  I had early classes that semester--7:45am start time.  The teacher let us out early at 8:30am that day, so I hopped on a campus bus back to my dorm.  I estimated that by the time the second tower hit, I was stepping off at my stop. 


As was my usual routine following an early class, I went straight back to bed for a nap before my next one.  I didn't wake up until 11:20, and when I went down the hall to the bathroom, I noticed that everyone's door's were open and televisions were on.  I heard one girl who was clearly upset telling some others that nobody could get a hold of her sister in New York.  Something seemed off, so when I went back to my room, I got on the computer and saw an IM from my friend Kris.  "Do you know if classes are cancelled today?" she said.


"Uh, why would classes be cancelled today?" I asked.


"Turn on your tv."


The television stayed on for the rest of the day after that.  At some point, I started a group chat on AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) with a bunch of my friends from high school, and I saved it to capture the snapshot in history.  Here's an excerpt:


RiaLucia: Where exactly were YOU when you heard?
Lucy1530: hmm... just out of bed
FunkmastaBSB: I was in my first class at 9:30
Ditzy127: my dad called me a little after 9 this morning...right after the first one hit, and then i turned on 
Ditzy127: the TV and watched the second one live
RiaLucia: omg
RiaLucia: Live?!?
Lucy1530: ahhhhhh!
FunkmastaBSB: Then ironically I has my US history and we talked about it
Ditzy127: yeah, they were just talking about why/how the plane ran into the building (if it was out of control..
FunkmastaBSB: I was thinking how scary it would be to see that second one
Ditzy127: etc...) when it happened
RiaLucia: Well I had a class at 7:45 as per usual, and my teacher let us out early, like around 8:30. 
RiaLucia: I came back to my room and took a long nap until about 11:20 and then when I got up and went to...
RiaLucia: ...the bathroom I heard that girl talk about her sis in NYC and I got on the computer and one of my...
RiaLucia: ...friends told me. So I turned on the TV and it stayed on alllllllll day
Ditzy127: mine too, lol...
FunkmastaBSB: yep, I've been pretty much glued to the TV
Lucy1530: yeah, mine too, although I wasn't here all the time
Ditzy127: so, what do you guys think will happen?
RiaLucia: Jerica and I even fell asleep watching it.
RiaLucia: I don't think this is an isolated incident. I think there's more to follow from them as well as us.
FunkmastaBSB: I have no idea
FunkmastaBSB: it's really complicated
COOLVETLADY: Heck ya to what ria said
FunkmastaBSB: It would be so much easier if it were from a country
Lucy1530: I'm afraid of what's going to happen. I hope it doesn't cause a war.
Ditzy127: i think we'll finally know who it was...but find out in a few months...then bomb them and that's it...
FunkmastaBSB: At least then we could just bomb the hell out of 'em
Ditzy127: i don't think it will cause a major war...probably just a short one like Desert Storm
RiaLucia: But I'm afraid of escalation
lilone0330: yeah right. like it'll be that easy...
FunkmastaBSB: hopefully





Crazy, right?  That was what was going through the minds of a bunch of 18 and 19 year olds.  My roommate and I watched the news all day; we even fell asleep to it.  The next day, when we had enough, we jumped into her Oldsmobile and went to Wal-mart, I think.  By then, American flags were starting to appear in windows everywhere, so we wanted to pick something up to put into ours.  Every store had run out of flags, so we found a plastic flag plate and propped it up in our dorm window for the next several weeks.  I think I'm the one who ended up with it after she moved out during spring semester, come to think of it. 


But that was my experience.  Uneasy, hurt, crying off and on for an entire afternoon as I watched coverage of the wreckage and listened to people call in to tell the world about the people they lost.


Life goes on, but we will always remember.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

My (First) 29th Birthday*

So I celebrated my 29th birthday today, and I couldn't feel more blessed by the outpouring of well wishes from family and friends.  One might say that the party started at 3pm yesterday when it turned midnight in Germany and I got a birthday cheers over Skype. ;-)  Then it rolled into today where I excitedly woke up at 6:45 (yeah, on a Saturday) and saw an inbox full of Facebook notices.  I ran around running errands all morning as soon as the stores opened, for this year I decided to have a little get together at my favorite beach and in my infinite wisdom, I waited until today to shop for it.  In my defense, I haven't thrown a party in years, so I'm rusty with the logistics!

I was concerned at first because it was so overcast in the morning, but by the time my party rolled around, the weather became gorgeous--not too hot or too chilly and nice scattered clouds.  I spent a lovely afternoon cavorting at Moonlight Beach with people from all areas of my life: local pals, family who drove down from LA, friends from school, ladies from the dance troupe...it was a really fantastic way to spend a birthday.  I am so thankful for everything that I have been blessed with.

And now I move into the final act of the evening--which is watching The Office while I eat Ben & Jerry's "Fair Goodness Cake"--I shall leave you with this photo of me and my party's special guest, Popsing.  Long story/historical family inside joke, but it made me positively silly with happiness when my Uncle Henry showed up with it.

Popsing is happy to attend my birthday bash!

*The official word is that I will definitely celebrate the big 3-0 next year, and then roll it back to 29.  ;-)

Monday, September 5, 2011

The MBA Project: Team Work

Teamwork is the cornerstone of any MBA program.  That may seem counter-intuitive at first, given the competitive nature of the free market business world, but the reality is that even people who are going to go off and become the sole proprietors of a small business still need to know how to work effectively with others.  You have to learn how to engage with other people from varying backgrounds, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, etc.  In many business school courses, team projects are a significant portion of your grade.

For me, team work is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, I generally enjoy working on solo projects that go at my own pace and that do not depend on the contributions (and therefore hinderances) of others.  On the other hand, working in teams is often more efficient and it forces you to consider alternative options and perspectives. Not to mention you tend to learn something from the other person--be it a skill or just a valuable lesson--and let's not forget the social camaraderie!  My team has already been out for a 2 margarita lunch together. ;-)

Our cohort was divided into teams by the MBA administration, so as to maximize diversity and simulate conditions in the real world working environment.  There are six teams with about 6-7 people each.

My team has 6 people, and we are awesome.  I will respectfully decline to name and profile everyone individually for privacy reasons, but here is a quick rundown:  I am one of two women on the team, and we have backgrounds in engineering, small business ownership, financial advisory, retail management, etc.  One of my teammates is from Saudi Arabia.  He and his family are here for 2 years while he earns his MBA here and runs his real estate firm back home.  How cool is that?

So we are all "stuck together", as it were, for the first semester of class.  Since after that everyone in the evening MBA program tends to accelerate or decelerate to finish at their own pace, we aren't expected to remain a unit after this.  During the orientation week, we had breakout sessions with team assignments pretty much every day, and the first big test of our ability to get something accomplished was last Saturday, the final day of Orientation Week.

It was a contest between all 6 teams to build a sand castle at Coronado Island with a 2 hour time limit.  We had to plan and execute a sand castle with about 3 days notice, and we were judged by random people that the professor rounded up on the beach that morning.  The criteria was height, stability, and beauty.  There were some pretty impressive creations from this; one team built a pyramid mountain of sand that was easily 6 or 7 feet tall!  Another team made a really great looking VW bug and they even dug out a little road in front of it, and their pitch to the judges was about how the MBA would give them the drive to continue down the roads of their career...or something...another team had a village seated at the base of a volcano, and said village featured a hot tub.

So anyway, you know those Mayan pyramids, like at Chichen Itza?


Well check this bad boy out.

Behold!

I have a confession to make...this project started out as a 3 tier cake.  About an hour into it, we realized that it just wasn't happening.  It's a real bear to keep that much sand moist and packed, and as we built it, the sides took a natural slant shape.  So we modified the design a bit, added some stairs and a temple entrance on top, and *BAM*!  Mayan pyramid.  I may have pitched it to the judges as a temple of wisdom, built on front of a pool of knowledge, leading to burning flames, blah blah blah....then one of my teammates also threw in the International element and how it ties into our group and the USD mission etc etc etc...

...anyway, we WON!

It wasn't the tallest creation and the VW bug was arguably more beautiful, but it was definitely very solid and really had the overall package.  Not to mention we all worked well together and made quick decisions to implement changes when something wasn't working.  I feel like with this win, we're off to a really good start this semester.  We have a lot more work to do together in the months ahead and I am looking forward to seeing how our group dynamic strengthens and takes shape.

Yeah, Team 3!


Monday, August 22, 2011

The MBA Project: Day One



First Day of School! First Day of School!  <--Picture a little bitty clownfish saying that.  That's how my morning went. :-)  Well it went like that and, "Crap, I have to get cat food before class.  Is this yogurt parfait going to last me through a morning?  Should I have bought a portfolio folder to take notes in instead of this $1.00 3 ring binder?  Thank you, hair, for cooperating this morning.  I really hope traffic on the 15 isn't as awful as usual."


Purple is my Power Color.  Rahr!
And it was all fine.  The cat food was purchased and I made it to orientation on time.  In fact, I was a few minutes early.  I was lucky this morning, and in more ways than one.  See, it's faster for me to take the major freeway that runs more inland than it is for me to go the one that hugs the coast.  Said freeway is usually a nightmare in a couple of spots, but overall it's usually a shorter and easier ride.  However, it is the only freeway that has a toll HOV lane, and as I approached an entrance, I thought to myself, "Hey, I have plenty of loose change.  Why don't I just hop on the FasTrak?"


What I did not realize is that said HOV lane does not collect tolls at booths, but at wireless transmitters mounted to the vehicles who use it.  Carpools, however, are free.  I was neither of those, sooooo....


SO GUESS WHO WENT LIKE 15 MILES RIDING DIRTY ON THE 15 THIS MORNING!


Unless there is a camera somewhere that caught the Grey Goose and me speeding along, I dodged a bullet there.


Don't worry--I literally just went online and registered to get a FasTrak transmitter, like, eight and a half minutes ago.


This also gave me pause to re-consider my relocation strategy while I'm doing this program.  Instead of making a concession on the roommate thing, I may make a concession on living off of the 15 freeway instead of trying to get closer to the 5.  We'll see.


Anyway, I made it to orientation on time and in one piece.  Honestly, to try to recount the day would be taxing on both you, the reader, and me, the person who already has a 30 page article to read tonight for class at 9 am tomorrow.  Let me just suffice it to say that I am absolutely, completely, 198% reaffirmed in my decision to pursue an MBA.  I've met some really interesting and diverse people in my cohort of 38, the faculty, and the MBA team.  We've got two students from Mexico who are earning the dual degree with the Tecnológico de Monterrey, one guy from Iran, one from Saudi Arabia, one from Spain, and one who I think is from Switzerland (he didn't specifically say where he was from--only that he earned his undergrad in Zurich), and a healthy mix of native San Diegans (who exist in larger numbers than I once thought), other transplants like myself, and a ton of people who are transitioning out of military service--mostly the Navy.


In the afternoon we even started our first class in Strategic Thinking, and wouldn't you know it--the professor is German!  He never outright said it, but after about three sentences out of his mouth I thought, "Ahhhh, I know that accent well..." and he did briefly say that he studied/worked mostly in Germany before earning his PhD in the UK.  Anyway, I just thought that was amusing.  Maybe I'll surprise him one day this week and answer something in German.  Maybe.


Anyway, it was a lot of information to absorb in one day, and as I previously stated, I already have a reading assignment.  I ran some reports from home after I stopped by the campus bookstore to pick up my Financial Accounting materials, drove the 45 mile trek home and ate a late dinner, so I'm getting a rather late start on that.  However, it must be done.


Ah, welcome to grad school.


And now I shall leave you on this this lovely photo of the garden terrace behind one of the buildings on campus.  You can see Sea World from here.  For real.


USD doesn't get ranked #1 for the Most Beautiful Campus for nothing, y'all.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The MBA Project: Twas The Night Before Orientation

Well, here we are.  Tomorrow is the first day of a week long orientation for the evening MBA program at the University of San Diego.  I'm excited, but it's a mellow excitement.  Mostly I don't know what to expect and I don't want to raise my expectations to a fever pitch.  My textbooks have been ordered, my pre-course MBTI test taken, my bio and photo for the cohort profile submitted, and I've got 5 killer business school outfits lined up for the week.  I am ready.

I did have all sorts of notions of productivity, health, and mindfulness for this final weekend before I launch into a life of case studies and accounting terms.  I figured I could go for a run or at least a long walk around the neighborhood, study my self-made German flash cards, or work diligently on my dance costume.  However, that gave way to a weekend of eating and drinking on the company dime, having brunch with my friends and their kids, and cleaning the most obscure parts of my kitchen.  Friday evening my place of business sponsored a private cabana area to watch the races at Del Mar and Saturday they rented out a private patio and stands at PETCO Park for the Padres vs. Marlins game.  Just some of the benefits of staying employed while I take on this business school project. :)

But here I am with a lap full of kitty and new MacBook Pro, probably gearing up to watch something out of my Netflix queue instead.   Life will change after this, and surely for the better, but definitely for the busier.  So I must indulge myself in some lazy Sunday evening activity while I still can...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Concessions...

Today I went poking around the discussion boards on Blackboard, an online course management system.  A few of my peers in the MBA program are looking for housing/roommates.

And I've started to consider that maybe, just maybe, I should concede to reality and consider getting a roommate.  Maybe even someone who's also in school?  With good affordable housing so hard to find, something has to give, right?  A lot of these room shares are in nice neighborhoods--some are even in houses with *gasp* a garage!  Maybe my car insurance would drop enough to offset some of the increase in rent...

I know that I have vehemently declared that I am through with roommates, but I also have to be realistic about my situation.

Well anyway, it's just something to consider...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Chasing Pavements & Apartments

Well, I have two and a half weeks before school kicks off with my Orientation Week. Oddly enough, it hasn't quite sunk in even with money already starting to come out of my wallet and e-mails coming from my advisor on a semi-regular basis.



Perhaps I'm in denial?


Don't get me wrong--I'm excited, but until I've started meeting my cohort and taking notes, I don't think it's real to me yet.


However, reality has still come a -knockin'. I've long since declared that I would move to be closer to school, but just how far I would move and when has been a bit...hazy.


See, I have some constraints that make finding affordable housing a bit of a challenge. For one, I've been through over a dozen roommates in the last 10 years and I've made the proclamation that I would be taking no more until it's time to settle down. (Note: there may be a loophole clause if/when I go abroad to study and really need a flatmate in order to afford housing and/or keep me from becoming a hermit expatriate--but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.)


Southern California is expensive, and North County San Diego is *really* expensive, so most people my age and/or income level do not live alone. I've been doing it for the past 4 years and I'm not about to give it up yet. So this presents challenge #1: finding a 1 bedroom apartment in a decent neighborhood that won't cost half my monthly net income.


And then there's my second challenge--having a pet. I don't know if San Diego is more or less pet friendly than other areas of the country, but I do seem to sense that it's less. Or rather, it's more succeptible to "pet rent" and additional deposits ranging rom $200-$500 on top of the regular deposit. I got extremely lucky in finding a landlord who charges neither. However, most of the listings in my area seem to want extra money for every four legged friend you want to bring along.


Third challenge? I hate apartment complexes. HATE THEM. With a passion. I hate everything about them--the close quarters with neighbors, shifty tenants, crappy parking, roving packs of wild children, lethargic property management and their lying online ads...need I go on? The only good complexes are the kind that have, like, 12 units and such low turnover rates that you have to wait until someone dies in order to get in.


The result when I look for new places to live is that I get depressed, angry, and frustrated. Mostly depressed.


Feeling sorry for myself won't do me much good, however. I sat down and did the math today and if I was to stay put and not move at all, commuting to work, to school, and to my dance class once a week would be about 293 miles of driving. And that's *just* doing those things and does not account for errands, social occasions, trips, etc.


I've identified two likely living scenarios based on my price point, and that's to either move laterally over closer to the coast and be marginally closer to work, much closer to my dance class, and a tiny bit closer to school, OR move way the heck down south, live very close to school and far from work and dance class, BUT work from home 2-3 days a week.


I laid the three scenarios out together--stay put, move to Oceanside, or move down south to be somewhere in a 10 mile radius of campus, and the winner was clear--moving down south and telecommuting to work will save me about 50-100 miles of driving a week.


Last night I also sat down and made a list of pros and cons for the two areas to move to and I came to a bit of a stalemate there because staying up north would keep me close to everything upon which I've built my life for the past 5+ years, however, moving down south would put me close to all of the things that have been a pain in the ass to get to for the past 5+ years, lol. For example the airport, downtown, the really good malls, Balboa Park, social events for organizations I'd like to be more involved with (i.e. Kappa, German language meetup groups, bellydance workshops, etc.). So what holds more weight?  One of my cousins boiled it down to this: "Less commuting=happiness".  And I tend to agree.  Living close to school and having a negligible drive to class 2 (and perhaps eventually 3) nights a week and just doing two or three big drives per week to work does sound rather nice. 


So I suppose we'll see how this plays out over the next few months. Unfortunately, with school expenses and lingering expenses from my big trip still in play, I don't have the funds readily available to plunk down for a deposit on a rental property right now anyway. Thus I will have to do the ungodly commute to work and school for at least a month or two.


I am optimistic that all will work itself out soon, but in the meantime I continue to keep a watchful eye out...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The MBA Project: Cha-ching

Hear the sound of a cash register and weeping?  That's me signing my deposit check.  Let me put it this way--it's less than the cost of a credit hour, but it's still enough to hurt.  It's enough to make you say to yourself, "Yes, this is happening."  And then also thank goodness that payday is tomorrow, and that it's worked out so that I'll still be able to feed myself on my upcoming vacation.  Not lavishly, but I'll get along alright.

I finally found out why I hadn't received my official letter and deposit slip yet; they had entered my address incorrectly.  They re-sent it and it came this week.  When I get it into the mail tomorrow morning, it should get to the school by the due date of June 20th.  The admissions director told me not to worry; since the time crunch is a result of their error, as long as I keep her appraised and inform her when they can expect my deposit, everything is kosher.

I am quite fortunate that my company does have that educational reimbursement program.  The bad news is that because it is a reimbursement based on your class performance, they don't give back the money until you've finished the class and received a grade.  That's about six months from now!  I guess the good news is that I'm going to get one nice fat paycheck around Christmas.

I also filled out my Financial Aid paperwork over the weekend.  All I can say is that I better make a lot of money when I get those three magic letters!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The MBA Project: Financial Aid

I was just telling my boss today how nervous I was about the fact that I was supposed to confirm that I've accepted my admissions invitation in less than two weeks, but I didn't have any idea what my financial aid package looked like because I hadn't received it yet.  It's been making me nervous, quite understandably!  Thankfully, later on that afternoon I got an e-mail notification from the school and I am happy to report that I did receive some grant money!  I honestly didn't expect much of anything in the way of free money since I don't consider my GMAT scores or my undergrad grades to be particularly exceptional.  Respectable, but not exceptional.  ((That may be my high expectations talking.  Nobody is tougher on me about grades than I am.)  But now that I think on it, I think that USD gave me more scholarship money than my undergrad did!

That said, I will still have to take out loans for the lion's share of it, but even then, when I saw the breakdown I realized that I wouldn't need as much as I thought I would--they figure in quite a bit of money for living expenses.  I never for a moment considered that I would need to get financial aid for something like that since I'll be working full time.  As it turns out, they number they give you when you're applying (i.e. "It costs about $____ to attend for two years") factors in everything--tuition, books, fees, living expenses, etc.  Nice!  I will probably do the fees and books out of pocket since that won't be an all-at-once expense and my company will cover it as part of their educational reimbursement program.  The entire package they offered me covers everything, so if anything, I will just need to turn down some of it.  I guess I get to sit down and figure that out tomorrow.

Oh, and another bonus?  My pa offered to help me with a new laptop since my Powerbook G4 has been on its last legs for quite some time now.  (I stand by Apple products, but eventually old age claims all electronics.)  I also received my annual review and a raise just yesterday, which makes the prospect of moving to a bigger and more expensive apartment all that much more attainable now.  So all in all?  Things are looking pretty good right now!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The MBA Project: Next Steps

Step One: Find money.  The school will notify me of any grants and loans within the next week or so, but I will definitely need to apply for more loans beyond that and I started identifying private scholarship opportunities a few months ago.  Unfortunately, they all stipulated that one must be admitted into a program, and at the time I wasn't.  Now it's time to dust off those saved Favorites and get to work.  This means more essays and probably more recommendations.  *sigh*  Worth it, of course, but I'm not looking forward to more application processes.  Work does have an educational reimbursement program, but it's exactly that: reimbursement.  Meaning I will have to cough up the money up front and then I am reimbursed according to my performance in the class.  Thankfully the program also covers things like paying for a parking pass, books, and other incidentals.

Step Two: Time for an upgrade in a few things...

  • Laptop:  I bought a used Powerbook G4 from my friend's husband four years ago and it's been limping along for awhile now.  It no longer recognizes that it has a battery, and thus will not operate without being plugged in, it's only got a 60GB hard drive (I had a larger one put in, but it failed...twice), and its processor can't keep pace with today's software requirements.  I stand by Apple products, but age eventually claims all electronics and this one is at least 6, possibly 7 years old by now. Mama wants a MacBook and has the perfect excuse to get one now!

  • Location, Location, Location: My livelihood is in the region known by locals as "North County", and the school is waaaaaaaaaaaaay down south, just 10 minutes or so from downtown San Diego.  Where I live now is a good 40 miles away from school and 10 miles north of work.  In order for this arragement to work out without me going insane and/or bankrupt from paying for gas, I will have to move somewhere between the two.  The challenge is that in order to go to a place in a decent neighborhood that will accept a pet, I am facing a huge increase in rent.  I would also really like to get into a 1 bedroom, as I've been living in a studio for almost 4 years and have outgrown it.  I have been periodically trolling the Internet to find places that meet my needs and budget, and there are precious few.  There is a reason why most people out here have roommates.  San Diego is 'spennnnnsive.  However, I won't really be in a position to know exactly what I can afford until after the annual reviews at work next month.  While I know that a merit/performance based raise is not a guarantee in this economy, my company has been able to at least provide standard Cost of Living increases these last few years.  So I'm just playing the waiting game here...

And naturally when I know what my class schedule will be, all of my other extracurriculars will have to fall in line accordingly.  I really hope that it will work out for me to make it to at least once dance class a week.

Other than that, it's so nice to be out of the woods with waiting for acceptance/rejection and just being able to move forward with plans.  Between that, my Europe trip, and Maid of Honor duties for my brother's wedding, I have plenty to keep me occupied this summer!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The MBA Project: ACCEPTANCE!

If you haven't already heard the word--I got in!!


Funny, the admissions director e-mailed me about 20 minutes after I left the office and went to the gym.  I came home and made dinner, putzed around, and finally decided to check may e-mail for grins about three and a half hours later and there it was.  Of course by this time of evening, it's a bit late to call the people I would want to tell immediately because of the time difference! (e.g. my parents)  Oh well, I guess I'll be making the congratulatory phone rounds tomorrow then! :-)

Off to celebrate with my friends and a bottle of chocolate wine and some Top Gear: four of my favorite things.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Blast from the Past: Prom Night!

A few days ago it occurred to me that it was coming up on 10 years since my prom.  I've been having those moments a lot this year because I graduated high school in 2001.  I went to a really big school, so we just had a senior prom.  (Homecoming was huge too, and it was almost like a mini-prom in and of itself anyway.)


The Date:
I nearly stabbed him with the pin four times before my Dad finally stepped in and did it.
I was utterly frustrated by the fact that all of my good guy friends either had girlfriends or platonic dates that they entered agreement with first, or were underclassmen who didn't want to go.  My senior year I was close to a few sophomore guys in particular, and I was turned down by two (or three?) of the ones I asked.  I thought I scored when I asked my art class buddy--a junior--if he would go and he said yes, but his mom put the kybosh on that when she said that she believed the prom was for seniors only.  In the end I did go with a junior that I was acquaintanced with through the band geek network, and he proceeded to blatantly lust after my friend Amanda, who was in our pre-prom dinner party.  He was a nice enough guy I didn't really care as long as I wasn't making that walk during the Grand March alone.  Haha.  So let's just say that I really related to last week's episode of Glee when Rachel and Mercedes had trouble finding dates.


The Dress:
I got my dream dress.  It was an Alfred Angelo prom gown in black with embroidered flowers and it came with a matching purse!  I saw it in one of my many special-edition prom magazines and I tracked it down at a local bridal shop.  It was way too big, so it had to be taken in.  I thought they could've taken it in even more--the tight corset look was huge when I was a senior in high school!  I still love that dress and I wore it again my senior year of college at the last Kappa formal.  When I texted my BFF Lindsey today to remind her that it's been 10 years, she wrote back (aside from reminding me that I am crazy for always remembering these things) that she would so totally wear her dress again.  As would I.  I am just looking for the next opportunity...
Just look at all that pouffy glory!  There was a petticoat underneath that gave it the real "oomph" that it needed.







4 years and about 20 lbs later, sans magical petticoat


The Pre Prom Party:
We went all out.  I called and got us a limo and everyone met at my house.  Pre-prom dinners are a must, the fancier the better.  And the groups you end up in can get kinda strange.  I only say that because of the way your networks of friends and politics work out.  Sometimes a group forms and then decides that they are full, so you join another or start your own, etc.  So that's kinda what ended up happening in my case, which is why I didn't go with aforementioned BFF Lindsey and some of the other people in my inner sanctum.  That said, my group was awesome!  We went to dinner at a restaurant that overlooks downtown Pittsburgh.  I don't remember much except that it was a real laugh riot when Amanda and I tried to be in the bathroom at the same time because we were both sporting some serious gown-age and they took up a lot of room!
A ragtag group of seniors, juniors, and fellows from other schools
Dinner at the Georgetowne Inn in Mt. Washington overlooking the city

The Entrance:
Grand March
Our limo driver was late coming to pick us up from dinner and he missed a turn driving back to the school, so we damn near missed the Grand March.  I don't know if this is common for high school proms, but at Seneca Valley it was our red carpet.  SVTV taped it and everything.  The gals in our group were on pins and needles afraid that we would miss it!

The Dance:
This is a blur.  My date and I didn't see much of one another from this point on and I probably spent most of my time dancing and/or catching up with people that I hadn't already seen at dinner or the March.  My buddy Pat Sandora choreographed a dance to Jennifer Lopez's "Play" that he taught to a few of us in the weeks leading up to this night, but the damn dj never played it!

And a word about prom kings and queens...all of the movie and tv portrayals about the queen bee bitch and the stupid jock always getting crowned make me laugh.  That's not how I remember it.  The girl who won, Megan Gilliland, was extremely friendly and well liked by all.  She was athletic and smart too.  The guy, Josh Butia, was a thespian with a beautiful singing voice.  That's right--being in music theatre and/or choir at high school was not always a death sentence!  At my school, it was actually usually better than being a jock because we had such a strong music program and consistently won notoriety for our school district because of it.  Our athletics program could not always claim the same.  So that's the part of Glee that I do not relate to at all.
Poor Mandy forgot to wear the garter we all bought.  She was not happy about this.

The After-Prom:

We went on a river cruise down in the city.  This part was totally optional, but most of my friends went.  Unfortunately for me, I had a bad head cold that I was still recovering from, and the meds wore off by the time we got down to the river.  I promptly took Dan's jacket and spent most of the rest of the night on the top level of the boat sulking and watching everyone dance down below.  They had some local radio personalities hosting and hypnotists and such.  It was "meh".  I probably would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't sick and if more of my regular posse was there, but a lot of people opted to have parties at their house with movies and pizza.  Smart.

Slow dancin' down the Allegheny River


The After-After Prom:

Which I like to call "coming home and passing out".  I think that by the time we got on the busses and made it back up to the school, it was 6am.  My friend Amanda drove her date Toby and Dan and I back up to my house, where I proceeded to make everyone breakfast (tater tots and waffles or something like that) and then pass out in my basement.  I pulled the sleeper sofa out and we all crashed on that and the couch attached to it.  That's it.  But imagine my Dad's horror when he walked down into the basement and saw four seventeen and eighteen year olds passed out together.  That still makes me laugh.


Inside the Limo, my favorite picture.  Non-alcoholic beverages for all!

All in all, it was more fun getting ready for prom than it was actually being at the dance, but I treasure the memory of this rite of passage none the less!

The MBA Project: The Interview

Well, it all started out fine.  I woke up before the alarm went off and I had a surprisingly good night's sleep.  (What?  No night spend ruminating, tossing, and turning?  That's not the restless mind I've come to know and love!)  I think my strategy of not psyching myself out before this interview worked pretty well.  Maybe a little too well, because even though I knew it was supposed to rain and even though I knew I was taking the route that was guaranteed to run into some traffic snags, I was a bit laissez faire about it and I only allowed myself an hour to make what is normally a 45 minute drive.  The interview was scheduled for 9am and I left the apartment at 7:58.  For all the screeching I used to do at Florida drivers, at least they could handle themselves in the rain.  Southern Californians, not so much.  The freeway was a lot worse than I expected just in terms of traffic volume on top of the slow rain crawl, plus there has been some light construction.  It was a perfect storm of late-ness.

Thank God that I had the presence of mind to put the administrative assistant's number into my phone before I left.  I called her at 8:30 when I was sitting at a stand-still some 15 miles away from the school, and I thank God even more for nudging me to call ahead because I also found out that my interviewer had switched to a new person.  I was supposed to speak to the admissions director, but she was going to come in late that day, so they had me interviewing with the assistant director instead.  And, lo and behold, when the admin looked at her calendar, she said that it was okay if my interview started later because she didn't have any meetings scheduled right after mine.  *whew*

For some reason, knowing that I was going to speak with someone I had never met before put me more at ease.  Probably because I had no pre-conceived notions to stew over.

When it was all said and done, I was pulling into the parking garage at about 9:03, and by the time I caught the shuttle up the hill to the building where the MBA program office is, went to the restroom to freshen up/dry off, and walk into the office, it must've been 9:15.

I won't go into detail of the interview--again, trying to toe the line because I'm not sure how much information is appropriate to give--but I will say that it was about half an hour and not a grilling tribunal.  My interviewer was quite cordial and I felt that it went well.  I did teeter precariously on the edge of rambling a few times, but I feel that I adequately answered the questions and stayed consistent with the narrative I built for myself in my application essays, and embellished a bit on what I was unable to include in said essays due to word limits. (Such as talking about how much I liked the campus culture and the international component of their MBA program, etc.)

When it was my turn to ask questions, I inquired into the dual degree program they have with Tecnológico de Monterrey (Tec) in Mexico and WHU Otto Beisheim in Germany.  I kid you not, but I did not really even consider the dual degree track until several days ago.  I knew it existed, but it wasn't until last weekend-ish that I actually sat down and looked at them.  Turns out, you can do 30 credits at USD (so roughly one year, including summer & intersessions) and finish out at either one of those two schools, and you will earn a degree from both institutions.  It would take about the same time and money (in terms of tuition) as working and doing the evening MBA program.  Uhhh...wait--what?  Why is that just now sinking in?  So I asked her how that came about and whether or not there was a finite number of students who could participate in that program every year, and she gave me a history of its origins and said that there was no cap on the number of students who could do it.  The USD/TEC track is more popular simply because of the close proximity of San Diego to the Mexican/Latin American market, and apparently more students come from Germany to study at USD than the other way around.

So guess what--there's a chance that Maria might make the leap across the pond for school after all.  Obviously that comes with the same implications that I was worried about before--financing, leaving my job, dealing with a diabetic cat, etc.  However, I may be in a much better position to reconcile all of that by the time I would seriously pursue that option.

Anyway, I texted my two recommenders immediately after I left the program office to let them know that I had done it.  I was told that should I be accepted to the program, I would get an e-mail from the admissions director first, followed by a formal letter.  This would be sometime in the next week to week and a half.  So I figure by Memorial Day Weekend I'll know what's what...and then take it from there.  Until then, there's really and truly nothing left to do but wait.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The MBA Project: Cordial Invite

To be honest, I was beginning to think that I had been either forgotten or cut.  My application had been complete and ready to review for just a tad over 3 weeks and I heard not a word from the school.  Then I saw an e-mail in my inbox yesterday afternoon, subject line: "MBA Interview Request".  And my stomach dropped.  It's that first zap you feel whether you've gotten good or bad news, and it either sours (bad news) or turns into butterflies (good news).  Mine was, of course, the latter.

I have been invited to interview with the admissions director, which is neat because I've already met her once.  And by "met", I mean that she was the host for the initial Info session I went to back in January.  I did pipe up with a couple of questions, but she may not remember me specifically.  Well, maybe she will--I did correspond with her in order to drop in and observe that class a few weeks later.  At any rate, I am scheduled to have a 30 minute interview with her next Tuesday morning.  I wanted to do it first thing in the a.m. so that I didn't have all day to work myself up in the office.

So this weekend I will crack my business school admissions books back open and pore over the Interview chapters and try to come up with some pre-loaded answers to common questions.  If the good folks at USD saw fit to look past my fair-to-middling, lop-sided GMAT score, then I must have done something right on the rest of it!  I feel like having made it past the first round, this is just mine to lose now. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Venting About Grown-Up Problems: Flexible Spending Accounts

And now...for more rantings about the problems one encounters as an adult.  Contrary to what the subject title may tell you, I am actually in love with FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts).  I am just wildly upset because of circumstances that were well within my control if I hadn't procrastinated.

I just made a sinking realization that I may have screwed myself out of my pre-tax Health Savings Account plan through work because I still have a balance on my Flexible Savings Account that, for the life of me, I cannot seem to get rid of.  I got a massage on Wednesday, but their card reader was messed up and the transaction wouldn't go through, so she took down my information on a manual slip.  I called today to confirm if that charge has been made and it hadn't yet, but she promised to do it this afternoon.  There seems to be several days' delay on these things, so it's not like I can see my charges in real time. 

Well, even after that, I had/have another $20 and some change to get rid of, so I went to Target thinking I would get some stuff like Band-aids and contact solution to eat up the rest, but I had to do so while making sure I still had the right amount left to cover the massage.  I figured I'd work it so that the amount I spent over the $20 and change would get charged to my debit card, and the specific amount that I needed would get charged to the benefits card.  Except that the guy at check-out didn't really understand what I was trying to do and the whole amount ended up getting charged to the benefits card, which was bad because then I wouldn't have enough to cover the fee for the massage, etc.  So he voided it and I just paid for the stuff out of pocket and figured I'd have to suck it up and submit a claim.

Well, I know for a fact that that will take even longer, and what's worse is that it looks like everything has to be processed against your account by year's end, so the plan administrator's web site says, "Give yourself at least 4 days before your employer's plan year end to zero out your account balance yada yada yada".  Our plan year ends tomorrow.  On a Saturday.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet?  Because it gets better.

So tonight after I got home I got the brilliant idea to just go back out to a drug store and try eating up the balance on the card again with yet more contact solution and Band-Aids. But guess what? It takes about 24 hours for a voided charge to clear the bank, so my card was declined.  Mind you,  I'm not doing this within standard business days/hours at this point, so...basically, I'm screwed.  Oh, and before we even got to this horrible realization at the cash register, I spent 15-20 minutes pacing the aisles trying to buy things to equal as close to $18.44 as possible because that's how much I would need to spend before the tax is added to get to $20.15.  The woman at the register thought I was crazy and/or stupid, I was apologizing left and right, and of course she was the only one at the check out so there were people waiting behind me.  Mercifully, they were all patient because I think they picked up on the strong scent of Desperation I was throwing off.  I ended up slinking out of Walgreens in shame, empty-handed.

I've been Googling this for the last 10 minutes and I really do think that because my account balance will probably not show $0.00 by May 1st, that will lock me out of the Health Savings Plan for a full year.  Cripes!  There goes my lovely pre-tax benefit unless I am super diligent and a.) set up my own savings account and contribute to it after taxes, plus b.) save each and every receipt so that next year come tax time, I can itemize all of my health expenses and lower my tax liability.  Oh, and because this the first year we're doing this, my employer was going to give everyone who participated in this particular plan $250 of "seed" money for our account this one time only.  According to everything I've read so far, I will lose that too.

This is where I pull what is known as a *headdesk*.

I suppose the good news is that I did opt to sign up for a limited FSA, which I can use to cover stuff like my contact lenses and eye glasses, so that should still be intact.  Also, my health insurance plan is quite good and fully covers preventative procedures, which is pretty much all I do in a given year anyway.  I was just so looking forward to continuing to take advantage of that sweet pre-tax benefit and the super convenient benefits debit card and all that jazz.  I wanted that safety cushion in case I did happen to incur some decent medical expenses this year because I switched to the lower premium high-deductible Consumer Directed Health Plan.  I guess I should really count myself fortunate that I even have insurance and that it's quite comprehensive at that.  This is what we call a "high rent problem", like having long legs and a full head of naturally curly hair (which I do).  Still...this is mostly just a highly potent annoying reminder of why you don't procrastinate on the things that matter.

Okay, you know what?  It's past 9:30 now and I've been running on 2 hours of sleep and double-shot espresso.  It's time to call it a day.