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.)