Moving On

I haven't been on Blogger in awhile, but have decided to start up again. I want a "clean break" from the past, so I've created new blog for the remainder of my "thirty-something" years.


2010 Wrap-Up...9 Days Late

I always like to wrap up the year on my blog, but this year I failed by about nine days. Not entirely my fault. Just like the rest of 2010, while I should have had some free time during the holidays like most people, instead I found myself at work on three out of my four days off for the New Year holiday. But don't cry for me, because I had my fun before & after.

2010 felt like a horrible year, but when I truly stop to think about the reasons why it has to do with two key elements in my life: Work and Cleveland. I hate my job that has caused me to put in easily over 800 hours of overtime this year, and I hate the city we currently call home. But there were other areas of life that I really can't complain about.

Travel - though I only used 9 hours of vacation time out of my 80 hours this year, we managed to hit a lot of places in short mini-vacations. Seattle, WA in January, where I showed my husband the hidden gems in the city & Cascades that I remembered from living near there from '89-91. For Brad's birthday in January we took our first Amtrak trip from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, where we stayed at our first Kimpton hotel & dined on the best meal of our lives at famed Morimoto's. In March we went to Baltimore for a one-year surgical follow-up for me, followed by a trip to D.C. We saw the new Ford's Theatre exhibit, which was met with great disappointment. It rained the whole time, but we did manage to make it to Charlie Palmer's restaurant by the Capitol building to celebrate our eight year anniversary (several days after the fact). We also spent some time with Brad's sister & her twins & their father, during which time we made my first trip to Gettysburg. Let's not go into that, since it was raining the whole time and in total we only got to spend 3-1/2 hours there. Brad was in a crappy mood due to the rain & all of the travel, so rather than spending the night there and heading home later the next day, we started heading back that night & stayed somewhere in the middle of PA that was no where near as awesome as Gettysburg. That's definitely a place we will visit again, hopefully in 2011.

In May I went south of D.C. for a software convention, as we were doing a huge software conversion at work this year & I thought it might be helpful. The convention was a solid learning experience, but the best part was that I found my hotel in the middle of John Wilke's Booth assassination escape route. Without a map, I found my way to the places he had been, and in the complete darkness of a rainy Tuesday night, I found the Garrett farm location where he died. I was quite proud of that accomplishment, and it put what I had learned in books & on TV in a completely different frame of mind. There is no better history than exploring the lands for yourself if the opportunity is available! In July we went to Iowa for my cousin Anna's wedding shower, and quickly headed back to Illinois that night. On the way we stopped by Sterling, IL and drove by the three homes we lived in during our seven years there. We also stopped in Dixon with my parents and ate at "The White House", which was a shack that served fried foods like chicken & fish, along with a salad bar. Eating there as a child was a very special occasion, and while the other adults at my table looked down upon the establishment, it took me back to a great place in my childhood. The next day Brad & I went to my first Cubs game at Wrigley Field, where we had seats right behind home plate courtesy of one someone I work with. The energy from the fans was the most positive, and the natural arena was a welcome change from most stadiums that constantly assault you with graphics, music & stupid games with mascots on the field. Afterwords we went to the Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower), where I vowed never to go again due to the ridiculous crowds and crappy views.

In September over Labor Day weekend we traveled again to D.C., first stopping by Frederick to visit the sister-in-law, niece & nephew & their dad. The kids wouldn't leave my side, which was a bit humorous when you think about how non-kid oriented I am. While the grown-ups left me behind to fend for myself, I found myself playing tea party with Zoe on my left side, and smash/race trucks with Roman on my right. They vied for my attention the entire time, which can be exhausting...but also can make a person feel pretty loved. Brad & I took the train from Baltimore to D.C. and stayed at another Kimpton by the White House. We ate at Asia Nine, went to the Smithsonian (U.S. History) and came across a couple who was fairly new to the U.S. and wanted to find the White House. They were also very keen to see those things that all tourists must see, so since the sun was rapidly setting we suggested to go to the Lincoln Memorial, which they had never heard of. We hopped in a taxi and made it in time to see the most spectacular sunset, while explaining to them the history behind the Lincoln Memorial & the National Lawn in general. We walked together to the WWII memorial, and finally to the White House where the couple was greatly disappointed to see such a plain, small house for the leader of a huge country. That night later resulted in me taking Brad to the hospital for a rash on his leg, but luckily it was nothing serious; it just was not the best way to spend our last night in the Capitol.

In October we traveled once again to Iowa for my cousin Anna's wedding, where I read two bible passages during the ceremony. What an honor! Took Amtrak from Cleveland to Chicago, then rented a car for the rest of the trip. The next day we - Brad, my parents and brother - went to see what was my first Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field. As wonderful as Wrigley was, Soldier Field was even better. It was like a religious experience, and I forget how many times I found tears of happiness in my eyes. We lost, but once again the Chicago fans know how to keep a positive, upbeat spirit that makes you want the game to never end, even if it does end in a loss. Brad & I took the train home, where it was wonderful to just listen to a book on my iPod & fall asleep, not having to worry about driving six hours back home.

Also in September I took a trip on my own to visit my long time friend Moe. It was a short trip, less than 24 hours, but we ate a good meal & spent several hours in a casino drinking & talking away.

In December we drove to Chicago and spent the night before Christmas Eve there in an effort to beat the snow storm coming in. Unfortunately on Christmas Eve it snowed very hard in Iowa and we barely made it to the farm for our yearly celebration. As always it was a warm, happy place, and I cherished the sights and sounds of our yearly tradition, knowing my Grandpa Grimm was with us in spirit.

The other big change was a move to downtown Cleveland, though as of now it is still temporary. We moved our of our home in April so we could finish some upgrades & so I could eliminate my two-plus hours on the road each day. We put the house on the market in August, and have had a lot of showings and interest. It's great to hear that people find your house perfect, but when it's followed by "But they have to sell their house first," it's frustrating. But in the meantime we have had the pleasure of living downtown where I'm six blocks away from work and Brad is now 20 minutes away instead of 1 hour and 20 minutes from his job, though his work hours are not as demanding as my own!

My brother finished his four year degree in electrical design in November, so we took him & the parents to Red, the Steakhouse in Beachwood to celebrate during the Thanksgiving holiday. Brad & I arrived early so we had a glass of wine in the bar. Within seconds we realized who was sitting next to us - Iron Chef America Michael Symon & Bob Tuschman, Food Network Programming Director. Both are from this area, so we shouldn't have been surprised. It was interesting because they were talking a bit about work, so it was fun to eavesdrop.

Of course this year was another year where things were not so good when it came to the subject of health. My father has been ill since January and no one knows why. Unfortunately my mom has self diagnosed him, which has led to him barely being able to eat a thing because she thinks he has food reactions that cause him to have vertigo & migraine headaches. I don't think it's that, and worry quite a bit that he'll die before his time because my parents were too stubborn to find real answers. Don't get me wrong, doctors make mistakes all the time, but I worry something more serious is at work - but also hope I'm wrong. My Grandma B. was diagnosed with lung cancer and has been receiving treatments. A year ago this was a woman who thought she would live forever, but now I get the impression she feels she won't be around in a year. Time will tell. Her husband, Roy, was put in assisted living for Alzheimer's. Such a horrible disease. To make matters worse, in December he was diagnosed with spine, bone & lung cancer and given six months to live. Though it didn't happen in 2010, I'll say it here - Roy died on Wednesday, January 5, 2011. It was a surprise as there were no signs, but it happened peacefully. My Grandma was not with him; she got a voice mail on her answering machine that he had passed away during the day. Roy was a kind soul who I did not know well, but always treated our family very well. He was soft spoken & kind, and when we were kids he would send us gifts from the road as he & my Grandma traveled often. He knew I loved history, so he would send me very old (1800's) books that he thought I might enjoy. Considering we hardly knew him, I found it kind that he did such a thing, especially since my Grandma never seemed to remember our existence. Roy didn't have children of his own from his first marriage, and I believe he felt like we were the family he didn't have. He never overstepped his bounds, as he knew we had wonderful, blood-related grandparents, but was just a good man that I hate to see leave us. But then again, with the Alzheimer's he had already left us.

My own health has not improved this year. In fact, it has gotten worse. It appears I have a partially herniated disc at L4/L5, but will spend 2011 verifying how bad it is and determining when I need to have surgery. My joints are a mess and I live in significant pain every day. I suffer from some depression and often wonder just where my breaking point is. But I have a wonderful family & great group of friends that keep me fighting the good fight.

So that's 2010 in a wrap-up. I spent New Year's Eve day at work until 8:30pm, when my wonderful husband prodded me to come home & rest. I did just that, and we both were asleep by 10pm. He had been sick with some weird cold, I was exhausted from work, and I guess both of us are getting older. We made up for it the next few days though, but that's for another post. Our 2011 travels need to be its own post.

My hopes for 2011 are to sell our house, move to the D.C. area & for me to find a better job that I enjoy. I'd like my health to improve, but I'm not optimistic. I'd like to continue my travels, and I'd also like to write more. There are a few things in the works, but again, that's for another post. I hope everyone out there had a great 2010.

2010 is now officially over!



October has always been a very strange month for me, even back to my childhood days. Some of the most memorable times I've had happened in this month, whether they be good or bad. But there are always memorable events.

This October has been mostly one of stress, but that's because of a huge software conversion that I am project managing and doing most of the work on. It's definitely the biggest conversion I've ever done & the stakes are high, and as tired as I often feel I really want people to be blown away by the end result. This will be my own shining moment at this company as long as I can avoid the obstacles being put in front of me on a daily basis. I also can't ignore the climate of the organization which I feel is very close to doing something that will be a first in the history of the organization. If it happens, I will go from being a very miserable employee to a very happy one. "Just wait," I'm being told. I won't hold my breath, but I think it will happen.

Enough of work, because I have something ahead of me this upcoming weekend that is a lot more important: my cousin Anna is getting married. I love all my cousins, but Anna was born eight months after my brother, so they hung out together all the time. And because I was seven years older, I often entertained and played with them. Anna was like a little sister to me (along with my cousin Gina who was three years my junior), so I am so happy that she is with a man who treats her well, loves her and makes her happy.

Part of my enthusiasm is selfish, as the wedding means I get three days where I'm forced away from my office. Friday morning the husband and I are boarding the Amtrak train at 3:45am and making our way to Union Station in Chicago. Seven hours on a train is like heaven to me. Yes, I'll probably be on my laptop working a little bit, but I love the comfort and views a train provides. I could care less if I step foot in an airplane again, just give me a train and I'm happy.

From Union Station we will rent a car and drive along the very familiar I-88 route to Davenport, Iowa. I love this drive because a lot of my childhood involves cities along this route. St. Charles, Sycamore, Rockford, Sterling...at one time I called these places home. I always make it a point to stop in Sterling and stop at Arthur's Deli or drive through the little town and look wistfully at the schools and parks I once frequented with friends and family. Last time we stopped in Dixon and ate at The White House where we had their famous fried chicken, potatoes and salad bar items that took me back to the 80's when eating there was reserved for special occasions.

In Davenport we'll settle into the Courtyard, where I've stayed for so many years that I've lost track. It's a few miles from where my Grandpa Suntken once lived and a few miles from where he currently is buried. I love driving through the streets and remembering times when we were all younger and those who've left us were still with us. I love seeing the golf courses my Grandpa S. and father would play on, the parks we used to walk or bike through, and the restaurants we would go to because my Grandpa had no idea how to cook & loved eating out.

After we settle into the hotel, maybe take a little nap & change, we're off to Clinton, Iowa. Again, another "home base" city where a lot of my family is from so there is a lot of history. The wedding is taking place at what can best be described as the family church. My Grandpa & Grandma Grimm were married in what is called "The Wee Chapel" back in the 40's. My youngest aunt was married there and I served as a junior bridesmaid. We've had several wedding showers there, and my own was held in a beautiful mansion next door. When my Grandpa Grimm passed away his visitation and funeral were held there, and it was in the main church that I read something I had written about him on the bathroom floor of a room at the Courtyard in the early morning (1am-3am) hours. (A bit off topic, I know. All I will say about that is that it took me until 11pm the night before to get permission to write something about my Grandpa G. from my mother. The whole family was expecting it since I had done the same thing for my other Grandpa a month prior when he passed away. So I was not procrastinating, I was just dealing with family issues. I didn't want to keep Brad awake so I took the laptop into the bathroom, sat on the hard floor & wrote about four pages that I hoped would describe my Grandpa from the grandchild point of view.)

This time I'll also be reading at the church, but it will two bible passages for Anna's wedding ceremony. She refers to me as "The Lone Reader, not to be confused with The Lone Ranger." I figure if I can read pages of my own personal writings for funerals without messing up, I can easily do this. So Friday evening will be a run through followed by a rehearsal dinner. Saturday will be a quick morning of getting ready, packing up everything and getting to the church by 12:30-ish. There will be waiting around, as the wedding doesn't start until 4pm. After the wedding it's off to the big celebration, where I'm hoping to kick back a few glasses of wine. No work for me on Saturday. Unfortunately we'll be doing what we usually do for evening family events; getting in the car around 10pm and driving to Naperville to stay at the Courtyard there. Again, another hotel I've spent more nights in than I can count. Where's my discount, Marriott? Yes, I have Marriott rewards & actually have gotten some great deals, just not on this trip. Oh well. We'll be exhausted, especially because we'll still be on Eastern time. We'll get in a few hours of sleep, wake up in a blur and try to slap ourselves awake through coffee (for Brad) and Diet Mt. Dew (for me.).

You probably think at this point we're heading to the train station & back home. Well, it's half right. We have to get to Union Station to drop off the rental car no later than 9:30am. But then we throw our luggage in a locker and head to...wait for it...Soldier Field. Yes, we are going to a Chicago Bears game against the Washington Redskins.

My mom called a few weeks ago and said that for Christmas they wanted to get me, Brad & my brother tickets for the game. Turns out the best value was Club Seats, which doesn't put us as close to the field as I'd prefer, but it's still better than most seats at Browns Stadium here in Cleveland. As a special bonus, my parents are going as well. I am a HUGE Bears fan and have been since I discovered football. I can still recite "The Superbowl Shuffle" word for word. I still remember sitting next to my dad & watching the games on TV, and also remember how he'd almost have a stroke when they played badly or lost. He was really, really into the team. He's not as big of a fan now, but I think it's because he realized they were bad for his health.

My parents & brother went to the stadium about ten years ago when my brother's high school band performed there. I was living in Minnesota and couldn't make the Sunday night game. As a child we were too poor to even think about going to a game, and as an adult I've never lived close enough to fit a game into my schedule. And yes, tickets are expensive because it's "Da Bears." I fulfilled my dream of going to Wrigley Field in July, and now I finally get to go inside Soldier Field and watch my favorite sports team play. Words cannot express my excitement.

When the game is over we'll make our way back to Union Station, get a bite to eat, grab our luggage and hit the 6:40pm train back to Cleveland. I always hate leaving Illinois & going back to Ohio, but at least we're not driving. The drive sucks. We'll be getting in around 2am, but it's worth it. I'll probably have to do some work again on the train, but I look forward to watching a movie on the laptop or iPod, putting on the headphones, relaxing & hopefully getting some sleep. Because we live downtown, once we do arrive it's maybe 15 minutes of walking home at most.

So we have a wedding, a football game, and our first train trip to Chicago. As long as the rest of the month can remain uneventful, I think this will be a very good month. As for my cousin Anna, I wish her and her soon-to-be husband Adam (not to be confused with my brother Adam) a lifetime of happiness. Since she's a huge Simpson's fan, I hope their marriage is as wonderful as what Homer & Marge have.


My First Real Blog

Last year I spent my free time reading health care bills & going on every message board you could imagine trying to educate people on the REAL facts (both sides were spinning, spinning, spinning) & I got so into it that my stress level shot through the roof. I needed a break this year. Yes, our economy & everything with it is collapsing around us, but I can't dedicate my days to thinking about that. All I can do is do the best I can at my job, help those out there looking for work as much as I can, donate what I can, and try to take care of myself as my health still sucks.

Tuesday afternoon I was reading an entertainment/regular news site that is fairly new & trying to build a fan base. The girl is out of NYC and at one time worked very a very well known magazine. She's now on her own dabbling in various projects, one of them which is her web site. She had mentioned a few weeks ago that she wanted to introduce guest bloggers on the site, which I thought was an interesting idea. The topic of Tuesday was "Dancing with the Stars" from the previous evening. Most readers had missed it but were looking for a recap.

I don't know why I was watching that horrible show Monday night, but I did. I was in pain, flat on my back, and it was the only thing really on as I couldn't physically go on the hunt to find a good DVD. So I watched it. My mom & grandma love it, so I've watched it in the past as it gives us something to bond over. I have little to bond over with my mom so that's a big deal. So the web site owner throws out the challenge: "Anyone willing to do a write-up on the episode?" I don't know what I was thinking - it was probably a combination of pain meds & the pain literally driving me insane - but I took her up on it & she accepted. I ate dinner and then spent the next 2-1/2 hours writing the recap of a 2 hour reality show about D-list stars attempting to dance.

After I put up the post, I was shocked to see the positive comments from fellow readers. Turns out my snarky yet not-too-cruel humor and tendency to get a bit descriptive in my writing works. So out of the blue I had my first published write-up on an up-and-coming web site. It's not like I'm writing things for Time Magazine, but I felt a small sense of accomplishment. It's not the first time I've had something published, but it is my first time to have a blog write-up published. To my shock, I've been officially asked to cover the show weekly during Season 11 and have accepted.

I've been struggling a lot, specifically over the last year, about my career. I have a good job & make good money considering I don't have that all-important four year degree. I went immediately to work instead & built my career that way. Sometimes I regret it, but when I look around me most people my age who went that route are doing worse than I am. I control the numbers & manage human resources, but this isn't my dream job. I actually hate compiling numbers. Results are interesting in the analyzing process, but I'm not someone who loved math as a kid. I tell people I work with numbers because it pays the bills and I've found luck in those types of positions, but in reality it's not what I want to do for the rest of my career.

So what do I want to do? My husband asked me that question outright a few weeks ago when I was having a mini-breakdown over my job, pain & overall stress. "I want to write" came blurting out of my mouth without a second of thought. And the more I think about it, the more I realize that was the genuinely true answer.

I hated the owners at my last job, but I loved one huge piece of it - writing. Whether it was writing presentations, reports, proposals, marketing pieces, web site language or more importantly - articles - I loved it all. I couldn't have survived there had I not had those opportunities.

When I was very little I was obsessed with being a doctor. Then music entered my life and I wanted to be a clarinetist, which lasted up until our move senior year where that dream was shattered by things out of my control. But when I think back, the one constant in my life has always been my writing. Scoring in the top 1 percentile every year for national Writing/Reading/Language testing is obviously a rarity. The fact that I had several short stories and poems published in national school journals is a rarity. My grandma telling me from a very young age that "Some day I think you're going to be a great writer"...maybe she was right. I'm not being arrogant, but being praised for my writing is something I've had my whole life from more people than I can count. I'm definitely better than average and I love it, so maybe I need to really explore this. The ideal goal in your career is to do what you love, right?

It's easy in life to get caught up in what you have to do to survive. All of my adult life I've done what I've needed to do in order to put a roof over my head, food on my plate, etc. I've been happy with my success, and find myself extremely lucky that I'm not only able to provide the basics, but that I can also take good vacations, eat at some of the best restaurants in the country, and not have to worry about things that a lot of other Americans have to worry about right now. I am incredibly grateful for that and I don't take it for granted.

But what I've concluded is that to follow your dreams you usually have to be willing to suffer. You have to be willing to take risks, put your financial future on the line, face a lot of rejection & hurdles, and have the willpower not to give up. It was easier to do this when I was younger, healthier, and just having to look out for myself. It's harder now considering my own health challenges and the fact that I'm one half of a pair of people sharing a life together.

I definitely have a lot of thinking to do, but it will have to be done around work, health issues & living life. At the moment I can't do a whole lot to lead to my ultimate dream career, but I can do things little steps at a time when I can fit it in. For me, this blog was a huge awakening, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity allowed to me and the realizations its helped me discover.



It's not just September, but mid-September. The last few weeks have been spent stressing over my job, but also doing some traveling to Frederick, MD, D.C. & also Cincinnati to see family, friends and to also just enjoy some time with the husband. It's been nice to escape a few times, especially since the upcoming months will be mostly hell.

The software conversion that has been going at fairly slow speed this year is about to rev up big-time. We're fast-tracking it with a go-live date of December 1. Since I'm the project manager/coordinator for everything, this is a very daunting task to add on top of my other normal workload. I've tried to prepare the best I can by training others & bringing in some extra help, though that process itself has not been smooth or necessarily as helpful as some thought it might be.

I feel I'm a bit in over my head on this one. Not because I can't do the job, because I've done several conversions before that went off very well. It's because this time I'm dealing with pain that I can't control & I don't know if I can maintain the level of focus & long work days that this project needs. But I have no choice - it has to get done. They say you can rest when you're dead; hopefully in this case I can rest when the project is over.


Mid-June Already?

I can't believe it's June 15. Really? Where time goes, I have no idea.

It's been about a month since my last post, but a lot has gone on. Went to the outskirts of D.C. for a convention for a few days and found myself in the middle of John Wilkes Booth escape route. Obviously I had to follow his same tracks - anyone who knows me knows I couldn't just sit in a hotel and not trying to take in my historical settings. Most people don't know a lot about his escape, so I'll have to do a blog on that sometime with photos so I don't forget the experience.

On my way back home from D.C. I stopped at Antietam. My second battlefield this year. Gettysburg was where we stopped in early March, but we only had a few hours there & the weather was rainy. Most of the folks with me didn't want to be outdoors so I found myself roaming the key sites, taking photos in the rain & trying to picture the various battles and what the grounds must have looked like during those crucial three days. Speaking of Gettysburg, I recently purchased "Killer Angels," the unabridged audio book version. I have little time to read, and since I knew I'd be spending a lot of time in the car going to/from D.C. I chose that as my option of entertainment. This is the book "Gettysburg" - the movie released in 1993 - was based on. The book brought things into clearer perspective and makes me eager to revisit the site as soon as possible. It also made me do a desperate search to find the movie, as my husband had never seen it. Wal-Mart came through on that one. I actually was working at the Willow Knolls 14 theater in 1993 when the movie was released, and saw it countless times as it played for several months. Even briefly dated a guy during that time who was a Chamberlain historian, and if you do your research on the man you can see why he's so fascinating. Though the movie theater gave better sound effects of the canon exploding around you, watching it in the dark in our living room was a pretty good experience too. I will say this - while I like Martin Sheen, I never felt he did General Lee justice with his interpretation of him. Or maybe it was a brilliant interpretation but Lee just appears better when reading about him in print or looking at him in a photo. Chamberlain & Armistead stole the show, at least for me. I think both actors did them justice. If I could go back in time I would like to meet both of them.

But I digress. Antietam. I arrive, take a few photos & go to the visitor's center. I find that they have a CD set you can buy that takes you to various points on the battle field where you can drive, listen to what happened, then stop the CD, get out of the car & explore. I spend $22, thinking that I can spend an hour or so doing a quick tour, as it will give me a little break from the drive from D.C. back home to Ohio. At this point in the day it had already been stressful; we had an admin person quit, so I had been scrambling most of the day trying to find a temp replacement & also people for us to interview to fill the position full time. I needed a mental escape. Yes, I'm odd that I'd chose a battlefield for an escape, but I'm fascinated by the Civil War so it makes perfect sense to me.

I go to the second floor of the visitor's center & take some photos, while also listening to a tour guide's description of the Sunken Road. (side note: with my maiden name being "Suntken", I feel like this is kind of my road considering most of the people I grew up with always spelled it "Sunken" anyway.) Then my camera battery dies. After all the pictures I took on my John Wilkes Booth escape route I never thought to recharge the battery at the hotel. I'm an idiot. But they have a gift shop, so I go back inside the visitor's center only to find they have no disposable cameras. In a battlefield gift shop there were no disposable cameras??? Well, I still had my camera phone. Not the best resolution, but it would do. I decided to get in the car and drive along with the guided CD tour for awhile. I turn on the car...and the "low tire pressure" light comes on. That was a new development. My car is less than a year old & I had just had it serviced before I left. I had the light come on once before & there was a nail in the tire. My stomach sunk...this wasn't an error, I was getting a flat. Got out of the car & couldn't tell which tire it was. Here I was at a battlefield, no where near an actual town and it was around 4pm. Repair shops wouldn't be open much longer, and I had 4-1/2 hours at least to still drive back home that night. I took a quick look around me in disappointment, looked up the nearest tire repair shops on my GPS and headed into West Virginia for assistance. I drove away with complete & total disappointment, knowing that my second battlefield experience this year was another "miss."

The GPS takes me 9 miles to a tire repair shop, but given the narrow, curving back roads it takes 20 minutes to reach the destination...where I find myself in a housing development. No tire shop here! I go to the GPS again, since I have no choice at this point but to rely on it, and choose another location. Again, another 9 miles, but a 20 minute drive. I find myself in a little WV town, and on my way to the GPS destination I see a tire shop along the road. It's 4:40pm so I decide to stop there. At this point my concern is that 5pm will hit and no one will be open to do the repair. After all, this is West Virginia, not some metropolitan area.

I go into the shop and am immediately hit with the cigarette smoke. I also find myself the lone female, being stared at with question & amazement by about 10 guys, all sitting around the waiting room. Most of the guys were in mechanics uniforms, some were in normal clothes. It was basically the town meeting place for the men. The guy at the counter, in his thick WV accent, was talking with a local gentleman about town gossip. While the other guys stared at me (I got the feeling they were thinking "Uh, you're a girl..." in a thick WV drawl), I waited for the man at the counter to finish his conversation. What had I gotten myself into? Finally, when the guy at the counter was done with his discussion he addressed me. Not in a polite way, but not rude either. He knew I was a city girl, definitely not from around there, and probably thought I was some idiot girl who didn't know how to drive or maintain a car or something. I told him that my low tire pressure light was on & that I was driving to Ohio...and that I needed it checked & likely needed the tire fixed. He thought about this for a second, looking skeptical. He told me "first bay." Ok, he wanted me to drive it in for them to look at it. That works!

So I pull in the garage in the first bay and four mechanics who had been sitting in the waiting room come out. Three grab tire pressure gauges while the other one just kind of looks at the tires. At this point I see where the issue is - my back, passenger side tire. It's drastically low, and it wasn't that way 45 minutes prior when I first saw the light. The guys are checking the tires & I point to the back tire, the last one they checked. The guy takes the pressure & looks at the top of the tire. "Uh, yeah, there's the screw right there." I ask him if they can patch it, and get the reply of "uh-hu." He goes to the back of the shop and gets a very old, rusted car jack to lift up the back/passenger side of the car. Yes, it's a bit primitive in West Virginia, but whatever works! He jacks up the car so he can repair the tire; luckily new tires are not needed, thank goodness. In a town with only a few small American auto dealerships, I don't think they would be too pleased to fit my Toyota Corolla with new tires, and I certainly didn't want to spend the money or time.

So the guy is fixing my tire, and while one of the three guys heads to the back to stare at the operation, the other one goes to his tool box and pulls out another tire pressure gauge. With the back/passenger side of my car jacked up while one of the mechanics repairs the leak, this third guy starts checking the tire pressure of the other three tires. Once the guy - we'll call him idiot mechanic - got to the third tire that was not being worked on, the somewhat capable mechanic asks him "Whatcha doing?" The response was "I'm tryin' to see what tire is low." The capable mechanic says "Whuh?" The response again was "I'm tryin' to find what tire is low. None of 'um look like they are low."

Capable mechanic stops what he's doing and says "Eh found the leak." Idiot mechanic says "Whuh?" Followed by a "Eh found the leak." Idiot mechanic stares at him. "Ya did?" "Yup, I'm fixin' it now" says the capable mechanic, getting back to work on the tire. I do everything in my power to keep from laughing. At this point I feel like I'm in a very stereotypical TV show about West Virginia life and I'm the guest star for the day. Capable mechanic fixed the tire quickly and told me I was set to go. I asked if I needed to go in & pay; he shrugged his shoulders. "I guess. Can ya pull your car out so we can shut the door?" Sure, of course. I get in the car, and while I probably could have just driven away I park in a spot & go inside to talk with the head counter guy again. I tell him that the leak was fixed & asked how much I owe him. He yells through the thin walls to the capable mechanic who is still in the garage "Was it a leak?" Capable mechanic yells back "Yeah, I fix it." Counter guy writes up the service on a yellowed pad of invoicing paper, with the charge of $10.66. Fair enough; after all, I needed that fix to get back home & save myself from having to sleep who knows where in West Virginia. Luckily it's a very rare time that I have cash so I give him $11, he gives me back my change with his sticky, dirt covered hand. I pocket it and walk out the door, ready to leave that town behind me.

Luckily the drive from West Virginia to Ohio was uneventful, but I did find myself sulking a bit about Antietam. Well, I have the guided tour CD now so next time I'm back in that area - which I WILL be - I hope to put it to good use. I will also bring strong battery power for the camera!

I wasn't anticipating on writing this much, but here it is. I have to get to my John Wilkes Booth escape route story because that was awesome - at least for me. As for any readers, I think unless you are actually there you don't fully get the scope of things but I will try my best to describe it to you. Another day.


Last Day - 33

It's my last day being 33. Well, sort of. Technically I turn 34 at 12:17am on May 16, though my birthday is May 15 (darn time zones).

Last year I found myself kind of in a panic. It's not like 33 is some sort of "milestone" age, but it just kind of hit me that I was creeping towards mid-30's. To me, 34 is mid-30's, so I had one year left. I started doubting what I had done with my life, and doubting that I would ever accomplish much. The dreams I once had were overridden by realities - most of which I had no say in - and I was pretty depressed over where I was at this point. I didn't expect to turn 33 and be living in as much pain as I live with, in a house/location that I was unhappy at, and spending most of my days at work or in a car driving to/from work. In my younger years I thought I'd be hitting my stride at 33, earning big bucks, having a financially rewarding & mentally challenging career, traveling the world and still having the time to spend with the ones I love in my life, be it family or friends. I also expected good health, which by far is still the biggest disappointment to date.

Last year I wanted to get in a car and drive. I wanted to get away. I felt panicked and depressed because reality set in that I was not where I wanted to be in life. Having moved so much in my life, my gut reaction in these cases usually is to escape; move somewhere & start over.

My 33rd year has been a struggle, but in the end I survived it. I leave 33 behind having a better grasp on how to balance work and my personal life. I'm not "there" yet, but I'm getting there. I've traveled to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut & New York state for the first time in my life. I spent time in Boston, Cape Cod, upper NY state, Providence, Kansas City, Seattle, Springfield and Philadelphia. I ate at an Iron Chef's restaurant - Morimoto's. I got to see where Brad went to college and meet some of his friends from that time, all who are wonderful people. I visited the homes of three Presidents - John Adams, John Q. Adam's, and Abe Lincoln (though I had seen his house before). I saw the home of William Seward, which was the coolest historical home I've ever been to. I saw the Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum for the first time. I spent time in Cincinnati, Chicago and Iowa with friends & family. Took a long distance Amtrak ride for the first time, and now I want to do all of my travel by train. Got a new car with all the gadgets to make all of my travels a lot more enjoyable. I saw my brother's electrical stage work for the first time and it was brilliant. I got a normal platelet count back again, even though enough damage was done that the pain still remains. I started really getting my voice where I work, and I've been able to make changes for the better. I also am becoming an owner in the company as I was given shares in the company, so now I can technically say I'm a partial owner. I started an online petition against the health care bill and got over 1,000 signatures, all from complete strangers who found my online message board arguments compelling; though unfortunately our "representatives" passed the horrible bill anyway. A few weeks ago Brad & I moved to downtown Cleveland, where we realized that this is the life we are best suited for. Still haven't sold the house, but I'm confident it will happen this year.

My 33rd year wasn't the disaster that I thought it would be. Like everyone, I wish some things were different, but "it is what it is." Turning 34 I actually feel ok about. No panic attacks. Still a little depressed (pain that never lets up can wear out a person), but I have a lot to be thankful for. In a time where people all around me are struggling with jobs & finances, we've had it fairly easy. In a time where my health still sucks, I've still managed to do & see a lot of things. Can you imagine what I would have done over a year if I had my full health? I'd be a tornado! Maybe this is the work of a higher being forcing me to slow down even though I don't want to; I'd rather experience all I can of life every day as you never know when it might end. I don't want to take anything for granted.

Goodbye 33, and hello 34. I'm officially mid-30's & I'm very content with that.


Downtown Move

We moved downtown to our new place this weekend. About 2/3 of our stuff is still left behind at the house, but nothing of real importance. The good thing about a move like this is that you realize how much stuff you have that you really don't need. I would guess that most of the stuff we left behind will go to Goodwill.

The move was exhausting & painful. Two days later & I can still barely walk, but we got through it. The worst part was getting the stuff into the apartment; moving into old buildings is HARD. The poor movers..the truck didn't fit into the garage, so they had to trek everything down a huge & very long cement ramp, then walk the equivalent of at least 1-2 blocks beneath the building (it was like a secret underground area) before they reached the freight elevator. The elevator took forever to climb to the 8th (top) floor, then they had to walk a quarter/half block to our apartment unit. Loading took less than an hour, but unloading took about 2-1/2 hours. It was brutal. To top it off the A/C in the apartment doesn't work, so it was up to 83 degrees; we just couldn't get enough air from the outside to cool things down.

Besides the inconvenient arrangement of the building & no A/C, things went great. Nothing broke, and the apartment was bigger & cooler than I remembered it. Absolutely love it. I took a few initial pictures, but none of them do the place justice. The angles of the high ceilings, the true height of the windows, the details of the kitchens & bathrooms just aren't given justice with the lighting I had. Once we get things unpacked I'll make another attempt to get some photos of our new home. The one thing I did manage to get was a shot from our living room window. Again, it doesn't do the view justice because this is just one area you can see, but it's pretty spectacular. Totally different from the Lake Erie view I have from my office window 5-6 blocks down the street. There are so many old buildings & architecture that it's overwhelming. I feel like I'm in a completely different, east coast city.

Saturday night we walked to Morton's at Tower City and treated my parents to a "thank you for helping us move" dinner. We did the same thing when we moved to our last downtown home in St. Paul, Minnesota, and that place brought us a lot of good luck - so we thought it would be cool to keep with tradition. The only thing that was missing was my brother, who was with us in spirit. Back in MN he bought a $50+ prime rib and ate the whole thing (he was a teenage boy at the time), yet the bill still turned out to be the same this time as last time. Darn inflation!

We went to bed Saturday evening with the windows open, where you could hear traffic, sirens, etc., but it honestly didn't phase me at all. It was soothing...it felt like home. I missed that.

Sunday morning we lounged around, familiarizing ourselves with the cable box since we've had DirectTV since the late 90's but couldn't have it at the new place. Cable is ok, and luckily the DVR works well. Got ready & walked a few blocks to Zocalo, a Mexican restaurant on 4th Street; the street itself is awesome, by the way - it's the hip place to be. We got there right before a big storm hit, so we helped ourselves to margaritas & some really great food. Turns out Aaron Sanchez (of Food Network fame) created the menu and it was amazing. That's now three restaurants we've eaten at this year where the food was created by famous chefs: Morimoto's, Charlie Palmer's and now Zocalo. The food was true Mexican and the flavors were spot on. Once the downpour ended we walked back to the apartment, got in the car and drove a few miles to Target. We picked up a few necessities before my body decided it was going to give out on me, so we headed back home & I actually just slept most of the evening. Physically I was drained, and still am to some extent. We made a late dinner - the first one at our new home - and watched Fox Sunday night TV while looking at the fog rolling into downtown and replacing our beautiful nighttime views with whiteness.

We have a lot to unpack but it looks like we'll have plenty of room for everything. Our furniture fits in well with the "look" of the apartment & I can't wait until we start having visitors. Unfortunately we do have a home in the burbs we can't forget about, so I'm sure starting next weekend we'll be making weekly trips to get the place in shape to sell. As for this week, it's a very swamped work week so the quick commute is a good thing. It was great to leave at 7:10am this morning & still be at work before 7:30am.

An interesting fact - I now take five elevators each morning/evening. Three at the apartment building, and two at my office building. Five. Kind of nuts! But so far I'm loving it. We just need A/C and we're good to go.


Downtown Girl

Sometimes you try something on, see how it fits, and sometimes it fits well. Other times it doesn't. That's how I feel about our house.

Yes, it's our first home that we actually purchased. It's snug in the woods with seven other cluster homes; it's quiet, fairly easy to get to and peaceful. But since we moved there in 2005 I have missed the hustle & bustle of a more downtown location.

I haven't lived downtown since 2002, when Brad & I left downtown St. Paul for the burbs. At the time, it was "perfect timing." The apartment building was about to turn into condos, and our unit would have been about $260,000 + $10,000 for a single parking spot. Way too pricey! Not to mention the fact that after 9/11 living downtown lost it's appeal. I won't recap what happened that day and the days/weeks that followed, but it was a very uncomfortable place to be. We never thought St. Paul was a target, but there were some odd things that occurred that made us decide to leave.

We moved to Ohio about a year later and lived in the west burbs for awhile. The building was brand new, very modern, and because we were so close to shopping & restaurants we didn't feel too far removed from the action. In April 2005 we were driving to my parents, decided to take back roads and came across our current home. It looked cool & modern, and the price was right. We felt that if we were going to purchase a home, this would be a good investment.

Unfortunately things didn't fall into place as we had hoped. Both of us ended up getting other jobs that put us at least 45 minutes away - one way - from our home. Our basement flooded three times in the first three months we were there. The builder went bankrupt & left the eight homeowners to maintain three private streets & landscaping. We've had trees fall (some which we've had to pay for their removal), griping/arguing/immature neighbors, and we found out after the first year that they had us in the wrong school district, which greatly increased our taxes.

We've put in time & money to upgrade the house, as we quickly found out how cheap things really were. You get what you pay for! But we've put in crown molding, new doors, fresh coats of neutral yet colorful paint in each room, etc. We still need to change a few doors and redo the flooring on the first floor, but all in all it's a good house. Even though it's a tough housing market, we have no unrealistic expectations. We'll price it for a little more than what we paid, and hope to - at least in the end - break even, if not make a little profit.

We're not to the point where we're ready to sell (the house really needs to be perfect & it's not there yet), but we made the decision yesterday to rent a second place to call home. It's in downtown Cleveland; 5-6 blocks from where I work, and Brad can hop on a bus or train & go 10 miles to where he works. Much more convenient, brand new construction and we have a nice top floor (8th floor), corner unit. It's a one bedroom so it's a definite downsize. However, we at least have a plan - finish the house upgrades, keep enough furniture there to make it look lived in, rent some other furniture (like couches, beds, etc.) when we do put it on the market, and take the belongings we need/cherish the most with us to the apartment.

We looked at other places and this was the last on our list. But I must say, after we saw that last unit I couldn't have felt more at home. I realized that though it may sound immature, I miss being downtown. I miss being able to walk to work, walk to shopping, restaurants, etc. Yes, Cleveland isn't big enough where we can just take public transportation everywhere. But we can take the train one stop to the famous West Side Market. We're within walking distance of every sports stadium and most of the theatres and auditoriums. Just a block away is a cozy little alley with every type of restaurant, all with outdoor seating, and strings of lights are run from one building across the alley to the next. It's a piece of paradise and we'll soon be calling it home.

The biggest reason for moving was originally to be closer to work so I could eliminate 90+ minutes a day from my commute. I'm working unbelievable amounts of overtime and it's not going to stop until we're through a huge software conversion in October. So until then we were looking for a part-time place to call home. But then we found our new home & everything else in regards to plans and our current home fell into place.

I can't speak for Brad, but I know that ever since yesterday I feel a lot happier than I've been in a long time. I'm a city girl, and I'm happy that as of next week I'll be a city girl again. I can't wait to walk to work down cozy 6th Street and maybe even have the time to go home for lunch some days. I long for the day where Brad & I are able to eat a nice, homemade dinner before 6:30pm...maybe even before 6pm! And yes, even though I may have to go back to work afterwards, it's just a quick 5 minute drive (walking in Cleveland late at night by yourself is not recommended!). When it comes down to it, I'm not a person who should be living in a remote area or even a suburb. I often wonder if that speaks to an immaturity level on my part, but life is short and if this is where I'm happiest then that's my prerogative!

Even better yet, it's the first big step we've made towards "the transition." The transition out of Ohio to our final destination. Step one: Sell the house. And renting something in the short term while we do that, and then having it to stay in until "Step two" is really quite a perfect plan. It will be a little hectic & trying, but I'm hoping that when our lease expires in October we will be able to extend it and not be forced back into the home.

That being said, it's weird to think that this is the last week that we will be living in the house. A lot of things have happened since 2005, though most of them were not ones to cherish & remember in a positive light. Our luck really turned after we bought the house, and maybe...just maybe...it will turn to positive luck once we're out of there. Then again, people often say that you make your own luck without meaning to. I don't know if I entirely believe that, but if having a positive attitude & being happy with your surroundings are more likely to bring you good luck, then this upcoming year should be a really good one.


Late Night Talk Show Debacle

Something a little lighthearted for today - the late night talk show debacle.

The big entertainment news these days is Leno vs. Conan and who should rule "The Tonight Show." Given the other issues of huge importance across the globe, it might seem ridiculous that I choose to spend time blogging about this. But here I go.

There is a big uproar from people across the country about Conan O'Brien being kicked to the curb by NBC after only seven months on the infamous "Tonight Show". Though I've seen thousands of people of all ages support Conan, the majority of the die-hard fans appear to be my age - the Generation-X folks. These are people born in the 60's & 70's after the baby boomers, and Conan is a big part of that generation. My generation.

So why is my generation so upset? Why am I so upset? Well, I took some time during my long commutes to/from work and came to the following conclusion. I'm not just upset because one of the funniest people of my generation is being taken off the air. I'm upset because what is happening to Conan is very much representative of a Gen-Xers life.

Gen-Xers are shoved between baby boomers & Generation-Y, or the "Next Generation" as they call themselves. Do you notice something here? You have baby boomers who are so vast in numbers they control most of the world, and then Gen-Y calls themselves the next generation. Where do Gen-X folks fall, besides into the position of the forgotten middle child?

Conan is the middle child here; he represents Generation X. My generation grew up with him as he worked as a writer on "The Simpson's" and "Saturday Night Live", only to take the world by surprise and secure himself as host of "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." He was smart, clever, and had a unique sense of humor that my generation understood. He took comedy to a new level that was above the standard microphone comics who could do nothing but one-liners. It was intelligent comedy.

Leno is the baby boomer whose power overwhelms the other generations due to their numbers. His humor fit in with that generation, and he sat in "The Tonight Show" chair for 17 years. His first few years were rough, but then he had great success. But when Conan started getting other offers from various networks NBC executives decided that they needed to keep him. After all, Conan was the future, right? So somehow a deal was worked out and Leno was to retire in 2009, handing the reins over to Conan. Seems fair, right? After all, Conan had paid his dues, put in his time, and the next logical career move was to take over for Leno when he left.

NBC starts panicking about their all-important baby boomer, and they decide he still has a lot of life left in him. Leno agrees and they come up with an idea to put him on TV for an hour every night at 10pm. Leno does his thing until 11pm, then local news, and then Conan comes on at 11:35pm. NBC execs thought it was brilliant, though I could never say the same.

So finally Jay moves aside and Conan gets the promotion he rightfully deserves. All of the sacrifices and time spent waiting had paid off. Or had they? Leno flops. Local news flops. Conan flops. It's a domino effect, and before you know it NBC is scrambling to recreate what it once had. And to them, it means putting an experienced baby boomer in the captain's chair again at "The Tonight Show."

So Leno eagerly takes advantage of the situation and says "You know, I didn't want to leave the Tonight Show after all. Do you mind waiting indefinitely some more until I decide I am done with this job? You know, when I'm 70+ years old? Because there is no reason for me to leave if I'm still popular."

NBC tries to move Leno into "The Tonight Show" time slot but lets Conan keep the show name. They think Conan will just accept it, because he should just be grateful to have a job. So Conan does the right thing and says "No, I'm better than that, the show deserves more respect than that so fine, have your show back and I'll take my chances." Though it has yet to be announced, I can say that this is likely Conan's last week on "The Tonight Show" and Jay Leno will be returning to host until he either keels over on stage or becomes unable to perform. When he's done 10+ years from now, I guarantee you the person to replace him will be a Gen-Yer because, after all, they are the next generation.

Is this the end of Conan's career? I bet everything I own when I say "no." He'll go on to something that's hopefully bigger and better, and hopefully to a network that cares more about him and my generation than NBC.

So again, I pose the question - why do I care? Because what happened to Conan is what is happening to a lot of us. My generation is stuck waiting around in mid-level jobs for the baby boomers to retire...except they aren't retiring. They are living longer and keeping their better paying, more satisfying jobs longer. They tease us with retirement dates that never come. They even "retire", but still manage to keep their jobs after they retire. And when they finally do move on, it's Generation Y that's looked at as their replacement because they are, after all, the next generation. You can get them cheaper, they are more tech savvy than any other generation, and they usually have a higher level of education (though I would argue that getting a degree is easier today than it was even 10 years ago).

Conan not getting a real chance and getting booted by a guy that was to exit the stage is just another example of Generation X getting passed over. We are not seen as a generation that brings any value or strength in numbers. We are officially the middle, red-headed stepchild that is caught between two larger generations and completely ignored. But in this rare moment my generation is being heard. Stories are everywhere about the rallies, petitions and Facebook movements to support Conan and his staff. Though I'm stuck in Cleveland, I've done my part by sending off emails, joining Facebook groups such as "I'm with CoCo", and answering poll after poll in support of my guy. I will stick by Conan and whatever network is smart enough to bring him and his staff onboard; NBC can fall off a cliff as far as I'm concerned, and that's hard to say because I had a tendency to like a few of their shows. But as a network they have made it clear they don't care about my generation, so I don't care about them. My generation is sticking together on this one; we are looking out for each other, and I don't expect that to change.

My generation isn't going to keep Conan on "The Tonight Show." What it will do - at least I hope it will do - is wake us all up from our slumber and realize that even though we may be smaller in numbers, we do have a voice. We do have value. We do matter to this country, even if people completely are oblivious to it.

Conan taking a stand and refusing to compromise is something all of us should take note of. Yes, he's an entertainer making millions, but in the end he is a representation of what is going on across America. So while it may seem like a shallow movement to be a part of when you first look at it, after a lot of consideration it is more meaningful than what initially meets the eye. It's a reflection of our society, and it's woken my generation from a mind-numbing slumber while we wait for our turn in line. Maybe we should all take a cue from Conan and stop waiting; it's time we make our own opportunities instead of waiting for them to be eventually handed down.


I can honestly say I had a delightful weekend. Yes, "delightful", meaning "greatly pleasing or entertaining."

On Saturday I woke up not feeling the best. No biggie there, since that's how I've felt all month due to weird stomach aches & headaches. Probably stress related, at least that would be the easiest answer. I start out the day with a call to my mom, checking in to see if we were all going to get together that day. My dad's 62nd birthday had been on the 12th, but he had literally been quite sick the past week to the point he missed almost five full days of work. Very unusual. My mom was also not feeling the greatest, though not nearly to the extent of my father. So even though no one was feeling perfect, we agree to get together at Pad Thai in Fairlawn for lunch along with my brother and his girlfriend who were driving up from Athens that day.

I managed to get in my 30 minutes on my fairly new Wii Fit, which I've been very good about using so far. So far it's an entertaining way to get in a little exercise each day and makes it feel more like a game than a chore. Anyone who knows me knows I love games and am very competitive, so this is right up my alley. Right now my only competition is myself, but really that's all I need.

Brad & I get ready, do a quick check to make sure we have the birthday cards & gift, and then head out the door. We all gather at the restaurant, and despite being ill or tired, we kick-off what turns out to be a delightful day.

It's not like we did anything particularly interesting or different; we just spent time together as a family. My brother's girlfriend is a fairly new addition and it was only the second time I've spent time with her as she goes to school about eight hours away. However, even with this new face it was a completely relaxed, comfortable and fun day. We shared stories, laughed, looked at old photos, watched football and ate some good food in between. With my brother away at school it's not often we're all in the same room together, and it was just a perfect day.

I'm not sure what changes are in store for all of us in the next year or two. I have a feeling it will involve several moving trucks that will likely take us all further away from each other. But until then the lesson is to enjoy the here and now - make the most of what you have while you still can.



Busy is the key word for January, but then again when you're a Controller and your fiscal year ends in December, January's are always busy. I did a silly thing and joined Brad on a mini-trip to Seattle last weekend, since I lived in Washington state from 1989-1991. While living in Wenatchee I spent a lot of time in Seattle, especially since I was sick with something no one could correctly diagnose (turned out to be Lyme Disease). The Seattle Children's Hospital was an all-too-familiar site, but I choose to not revisit that location during our recent visit. Brad had never been to Washington and even though we only had two days I wanted to be able to show him some great sites that I remembered fondly from my childhood. Lots to share, including some decent pictures, but that will have to wait until this weekend when I actually have some time to do a write-up. But I will say now that despite the time zone change and lack of sleep I really enjoyed it.

January is always a weird month personally. I'm in the aftermath of Christmas and a bit in a fog after all of the time off. Because I live in Ohio it's usually cold, dark, snowy/rainy and a bit depressing (except for today, which is actually brightly sunny). I'm tired from all of the family & friend events, broke from the gift buying, and even though I had all that time off it was spent running around like crazy so I'm still lacking sleep. But then January starts and it's a fast paced sprint to get through everything that needs to be done.

This year I started off doing things a little differently though - I actually added to the chaos by trying new things that would hopefully, at some point, decrease the chaos. I've started up the Franklin planner again, which I've been out of since 2005. I stopped using it because I was in health care consulting and my job description was basically to be at everyone's beck & call so there was no need for a prioritization list. My back pain was also horrible so carrying the thing around became a burden. What I didn't realize then is how much I not only needed it professionally, but also personally. I took a seminar on the planner in 1997, which was paid for by the company I was working for at the time. It wasn't just about keeping track of scheduling or to-do items; it was about prioritizing your life so that you spent the majority of your day working towards your short & long term goals. It helped me keep my life in perspective, and prioritize what was meaningful and what wasn't. It may sound silly, but taking that seminar at the time completely changed my life. A few months later I put in my notice with a company I had been at for almost four years & had been very successful at, all so I could pursue my dreams of finding a job where I could attend college at the same time, not to mention a job where I could actually see my family & friends because I wouldn't be working 80+ hour weeks. I picked the Twin Cities in Minnesota as my new home, packed up my stuff and headed for the unknown. But I had a plan, and that little planner kept me on track. Then a few life issues started getting in the way, mostly in the "health" category, but I was still able to maintain a decent balance.

What I've lost the last few years is balance. Balance, happiness, productivity, fulfillment and overall meaningful time accomplishing my short & long term goals. I've spent the last few years in complete reactive mode instead of proactive mode. I'm not going to beat myself up about it because with the health struggles I've had, being reactive was really all I could be most of the time. But what started as being reactive just in regards to my health filtered in to everything else, and I found myself with a mess of a brain & body trying to handle it all but accomplishing few things meaningful in the process.

I have a long ways to go before I'm back to that place I was back in 1997, but at least I'm heading towards the path; I have a partial map, but at least I know the general direction.

I still don't know what's in store for 2010, but in the end I just want it to be a year of progress. I was hoping that 2009 would be the same, but it wasn't - it was a big "stall", and I'll take the responsibility for that. This year my goal is to be the "Renewed & Improved" Carrie. And now that it's in writing out there in cyberspace, it holds my feet to the fire a bit to actually make it happen.

Or to quote "The Office" - "Make it happ'n, Capt'n"


Thank Goodness For .....

Looking back at the last 10 years, I thought I'd write down what I'm most thankful for:


  1. TIVO
  2. iPods
  3. Wireless access
  4. EZ Pass technology
  5. Navigational systems

TV Shows:
  1. Arrested Development
  2. The Office
  3. Top Chef
  4. The Soup
  5. Lost and House (it's a tie)

Web Sites:
  1. Facebook
  2. The awesomeness of Google & it's search engine
  3. Blogger
  4. Television Without Pity
  5. Crazy Days & Nights (.net)

Great Cities to Visit:
  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Chicago
  3. Kansas City, MO
  4. Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN
  5. New York City, NY

The First 10 Years of the 21st Century (2006-2009)

As a continuation from my previous post. Part two, years 2006 to 2009.


  • The calm after the storm.
  • I continued to suffer from unexplained back and leg pain. Then all-over body pain kicked in. I was given injections, had nerves partially cut and prescribed medications that ruined my brain. I was miserable and I couldn't get answers. Doctors kept ping-ponging me to other doctors.
  • I turned 30 in May. In an effort to make the birthday special, my parents bought me a piano. Music = happiness.
  • I went to Chicago and met up with Maurice, Chrissy & her husband Mike. It had been awhile since we spent a weekend there. It wasn't long after we left that Chrissy & Mike had their first child!
  • Brad started his MBA program that summer.
  • Our fish Norman died; he was a little over 2 years old. In August we got another fish, Eddie, who got this horrible disease from the store and only lived three weeks. We then bought Sammy ("The Knee") who was pretty hardy & healthy.
  • We went to another Formula 1 race, as we got two free tickets after the tire incident the year before. We gave the free ones to a friend of ours in California, who brought his girlfriend. Brad & I were there Thursday - Sunday. We got to do the pit walk-thru, which was amazing. It was sweltering hot (over 100 degrees and humid), but it was a lot of fun. At the first corner of the race there was a massive accident, so minimal cars actually raced. Again we were robbed of a normal race. It was the last race in the U.S. before it was pulled from the schedule.
  • My Grandma Balarin & her husband Roy moved to Akron from California in July. It was the first time in my lifetime that she didn't live over a thousand miles away; unfortunately the closer distance didn't improve the overall family relationship. I don't think she knows how to be a parent or grandmother, and I don't think she's too concerned with that. But we still love her, she's family.
  • For work, I participated in my first major webinar as an educator/instructor, on the topic of retail clinics, which was sponsored by a large healthcare association. The owner of our firm was the moderator, and the VP was the other educator. It was a huge success, and out of the three of us I had the highest rankings. It was another high point at a job I hated.
  • In October Brad & I went back to Minnesota for my cousin Tate's wedding, which also allowed us to see old friends/co-workers. We had a great time reconnecting, and made it for the standard Friday-afternoon-drinking at Concept Group where I (and Brad) had once worked. We also went to an art fair where a few old Grouper's had work on display. It was nice to be back, though we didn't get to stay long enough.
  • In November I saw an orthopedic surgeon with The Cleveland Clinic. After looking at 13-month old CT scans, he noticed I had vertebrae fractures (three of them) above the artificial disc, which is why they thought I was in so much pain. A surgery was scheduled for 2007.
  • I took Brad to our first football game in Ohio in December - Browns vs. Chiefs. Browns won at the end, we were disappointed. It was freezing cold and the Browns fans were drunk, rowdy, loud and rude. They really ruined the game more than the loss.
  • Immediately after Christmas Brad received a call from his mom. She was suffering from end stages of renal failure. We hopped in the car and drove the 12 hour drive to Iowa to visit her. The docs gave her 6 months; she definitely outlasted their predictions. Yet another fighter in the family, and another year ending with unhappy news.


  • The founder of the company I worked for left and sued the new owners for breach of contract. He also started a new business to compete with them. It was ugly. I knew I had to start looking for another job, because without the founder (who was the only sales person - and great at it), the company would fail. I was also miserable there. I tried to help the company by trying my best to market/sell our services (since I was the only one with a marketing background), but they just didn't get it and usually made decisions that were not in the best interest of the business.
  • The Bears went to the SuperBowl against the Colts. The Bears lost. On the way home from my parent's, a deer ran out in front of my car and did some damage. (must have been a celebrating Colts fan)
  • Had a partial fusion spine surgery on Tuesday, February 20. Got out in two days from the hospital, though it was only because the treatment I received was horrible & I wanted to go home. The pain levels were so bad I should have stayed another day. I was home for four weeks recovering. I could tell immediately that the partial fusion had done more harm than good. It greatly limited my mobility and I was in even more pain.
  • Brad & I celebrated our 5th anniversary at home. He worked,& I was still recovering at home from the back surgery. My parents were kind enough to bring us a meal from a local steakhouse, and they also picked up a cake I had ordered that was to represent the cake we had at our wedding. The cake was pretty horrible, but was still had a good evening. It had been an eventful five years.
  • In April, Brad's uncle died in Fairfax, VA. He was a great guy, and we had visited him many times. Truly a class act. I will remember him for our late night talks around the kitchen table while drinking and snacking.
  • Also in April I had my first work-related article published, on retail clinics. It had two other names listed as authors for "marketing" purposes, but in reality I wrote the whole thing. Another accomplishment. I ghost-wrote two other articles for the large health care association that year as well. Because my job was as a business analyst/project manager/marketer, the names of the owners/VPs were more important to showcase.
  • In May I spent five days in NYC. It was for work (the old founder was doing teaching engagements and I had to attend for hard-to-explain reasons), but I had a lot of play time, too. I walked/explored the streets alone, day & night. I saw lots of Midtown & Times Square. I also went to Battery Park, Wall Street, and the WTC site. Being at the WTC was something I'll never forget. Though it was almost six years later, there was still a giant hole in the earth where the towers once stood. It adds a different perspective to the events of that day.
  • Our original fish, Fish One, passed away. He was four years old, which is a miracle. I never thought I'd be able to keep something alive that long. He was such an interactive fish, I hated to see him go. I wrapped him in tissue paper and put him in this rectangular tin I had gotten when I was a kid; on the tin it had fishes swimming in clear blue water with colorful plants and shells. We buried him under a berry bush we planted in our front entryway of our home.
  • I continued my search for answers to my pain, because it just continued to get worse. I could also tell it was not just spine-related. Frustration continued to grow. Given the health situation and the events from 2005, I will say I started finding myself in a depression that lasted several years. I'm still not sure if I'm 100% out of it, but I am much better.
  • At the end of September my Grandma Grimm had a massive heart attack. Though over 90% of her heart was not functional, she bounced back against the odds. Another fighter who never gives up. I love her so much and I'm glad she's still with us.
  • While my mom was back in Iowa with her mom, our family cat Benny became very ill. Turns out he had what my brother nicknamed "kitty cancer." Poor long-haired cat had to have his entire body shaved with the exception of his face and the end of his tail; he looked like a little lion. He was prescribed meds and went through a few procedures, and my parents took the best care of him & spared no expense to extend his life & make him comfortable.
  • In November I received a job offer for a Controller position with the engineering firm I worked for in 2003-2004. I took it. I was miserable at the consulting firm, though I had made close friendships with several people. It was time to leave, though. I started my new position on December 10. It was a great way to end the year.


  • Started the year fighting with Cleveland Clinic doctors who at this point wanted nothing to do with me because they couldn't diagnose me. However, I got one test back that allowed me to put the pieces together - a high ANA level and low platelets. The docs didn't know what to do with this, but I did my research and discovered it could be an implant reaction from my 2005 spine surgery. All the symptoms fit, I just had to find someone to help me prove it. It took me until October to find that person, and he was in Baltimore, Maryland.
  • This was a year of "holding steady." Brad continued working towards his MBA, and frequently visited his mother. I dug in at my job and put in a ton of hours to start updating and improving how the accounting/HR department was functioning. However, with my health continuing to worsen, I began to fear how much longer I'd be able to work.
  • For our 6th anniversary we went to D.C. for a four-day weekend. I think this is when we really fell in love with the region and started thinking about moving there.
  • In the early Spring we decided to buy a couple more fish for the tank to keep Sammy company; Andy & Frankie. All redcap goldfish, and all very funny fish to interact with.
  • 2008 Presidential election; yet another election where I don't want to vote for any candidate. Not only was I depressed about my own condition, but now I was depressed about where our country was heading. The financial bubble burst and everything took a sharp downturn - housing, jobs, everything. We were lucky, our jobs were relatively safe and our finances were stable. It was hard to see a few friends have harder paths.
  • The week before election night I lost Sammy, our fish. On election day/night I also lost Andy & Frankie. Something definitely went through the tank, but I couldn't save them. We decided to put away the tank and to go fishless for awhile. I still miss having them.
  • Brad introduced me to Facebook. I was reluctant, but it's actually been a very cool way of connecting with people across the country that I left behind with my many moves.
  • I had blood tests done in August & in September had the results: I was having a reaction to the metals in the artificial disc. It was likely the cause of my pain and deterioration. My body was attacking itself, and was destroying necessary systems such as platelets, tissues and muscle. I was so happy to have a definitive test result, though most docs still don't believe in implant reactions. They are idiots. I was also a bit angry, as I had asked even before the first surgery if this was a possibility and was told no. I asked that question to every doc I saw from 2005-2008 and was told no; they were wrong. It was a good lesson to always trust your instincts; just because you don't have a medical degree doesn't mean your own knowledge is useless.
  • In October I saw a top surgeon in Baltimore for removal of the artificial disc. He had removed over 100 of them; I knew I was in good hands. While I was in town I also saw the vascular surgeon, as part one of the operation would require a 7" inch cut across the front of me. I was told that the surgery was very dangerous, as it required them to be working next to a major artery. Because I had an implant reaction it had to be done, but I was told to get my affairs in order because the likelihood of me dying on the table was a real possibility. Dying of a blood clot was also a huge risk, so they made the decision to put in an IVC filter right before the surgery - which was made of nickel, a metal that I was already reacting negatively to with the artificial disc. But it's what needed to be done. I only told Brad of the risks, no one else. In the meantime I planned & prepared for the best and worst cases. The surgery was scheduled the week of Thanksgiving.
  • I had to get clearance from my Cleveland Clinic primary care physician for the surgery no more than 30 days prior. I tried to get in early as I was afraid my blood work might be an issue. The scheduler & nurse refused to get me in sooner than two days before I was to leave for Maryland despite my protests. I went in on a Monday; the nurse treated me horribly, I felt like I was in the movie "The Doctor." On Tuesday I got the call; my platelet count was dangerously low, only 31,000. It should have been a minimum of 150,000. I left work to get another blood test run, and this time the count was in the 20's. I was denied surgery and had to go to a hematologist. I lost my surgery time slot, and I also lost my mind for about an hour. All the built up stress of 3-1/2 years came pouring out in about a 90 minute complete & total breakdown.
  • I saw The Cleveland Clinic hematologist, who was another one who didn't believe in implant reactions and how it effects platelet counts. He ran a series of tests, which I had to wait several days on for results before he'd do anything. They came back negative, which I knew they would. He put me on an extremely high dose of steroids for four days, after which I was to just "go off" of. Thanksgiving weekend I had a fever, slept the whole time, felt like I had the flu and my throat starting getting sore.
  • After the treatment my platelets were up at 380,000; he cleared me for surgery for December 15, though by that time the platelets would be back down and I'd still need a transfusion. He had just wanted to "see if he could raise my platelet count." What he did was give me oral thrush, and it almost made me lose my second surgery slot because my throat almost swelled shut. Completely reckless medicine; it wouldn't be the last time I had to deal with him.
  • I left for Baltimore with Brad on December 9. I left work and home not knowing if I'd return. As I took one more look around the living room before we left, I thought to myself "Please don't let Brad return here alone."
  • On December 10 I had the IVC filter put in, which was an outpatient procedure. The next few days we spent sitting around the hotel room while I recovered and did a few last things for the Christmas holiday. I also spent time writing emails to family & friends, knowing it could be the last thing they receive from me.
  • On December 13 we were treated to a home cooked meal at cousin's house (Brad's side). It was great to spend the evening with such a wonderful family.
  • On December 14 I had a "last day" idea - to go to Philadelphia & see Independence Hall with Brad. I love D.C., but I really wanted to see Philly. It also allowed us to drive through Delaware & New Jersey, so I could cross two more states off my list. While we didn't get to eat at Morimoto's because it was closed, we ate across the street at Jone's, which was owned by the same restaurant group. I ate my last pre-surgery meal: a perfect bowl of chicken noodle soup. I had never tasted soup that simple yet flavorful. Around 9:30pm my parents & brother arrived at the hotel; they had flown in from Ohio to be there for the surgery. I didn't know it at the time, but my mom had done research and knew death was very possible. There was no way they were not going to be there. My brother gave me a mini bear with the Chicago Bears logo on it. That meant so much to me that they were there, and that bear went with me to the hospital.
  • On Monday, December 15, I had back surgeries 3 & 4. The surgery lasted a little over three hours, which was much shorter than anticipated. I needed a platelet transfusion. The surgical staff were wonderful. The surgeons were so skilled and they gave me my life back. I will forever be grateful to them. I came out of the operating room with two-seven inch incisions in the front & back of me. I was in post-op for several hours waiting for my room, but I was able to see Brad, my dad & brother briefly. I was brought to a beautiful, fairly new private room about 20 minutes before my dad & brother had to leave to go back to Ohio. I had a stomach tube and many other tubes & IV's in me. Thank goodness for pain meds. Brad & my mom stayed in town, and came every day to the hospital to sit with me and help me through the daily tasks that occurred.
  • On Friday, December 19 I was released from the hospital to a Residence Inn. That hotel became my home the next 2-1/2 weeks. My mom stayed a few more days and then went back to Ohio. Poor Brad was stuck with me, but he was so wonderful.
  • On December 22 I had my first physical therapy visit - and my last. I was able to walk the hallways without a walker and was able to do a flight of stairs on my own, at a good pace. I was also able to do most tasks for myself; I was ahead of the curve, but had also been through the surgery thing before!
  • Before my mom left, Brad got to see a friend at a local news station on a Sunday morning. She let him sit in their "news room" so you could see him during the broadcast. He was like a kid in a candy store, and he totally deserved that experience.
  • Brad & I spent Christmas Eve at the hotel. I started the day out with a great surprise - i was able to have my 50+ staples removed. I was thrilled! For dinner, since we had a kitchen in the room we made a traditional "Iowa" meal - ham, mashed potatoes, roles and dessert. We watched "Christmas Vacation." It still felt like the holidays though we missed being with family.
  • On Christmas Day Brad gave me a very special gift - a necklace from Jared. It had six stones, three clear and three emerald (which is my birthstone). Basically one stone for every year of marriage. It was a special gift because it was the first piece of jewelry I had gotten besides my engagement/wedding ring, and because of the timing of it all.
  • On Sunday, December 28, around 9pm, Brad got a call from a cousin in Iowa; his mom was in the hospital and not in good shape. All of a sudden he had to deal with a wife who was to hopefully be cleared to leave the state the next day, and a mother who was not well. It was horrible timing, and set the stage for 2009.
  • December 29 I was cleared to go home. We spent the afternoon packing, and Brad spent time on the phone caring remotely for his mom. The next day we did the trip back to Ohio in a day; I wanted to get home so Brad could continue on to Iowa, which he decided to do. I stayed home, as I wasn't good enough to make the trip. It broke my heart to not be there for him.


  • The first couple of months were tough. Brad went to Iowa a few times for his mom, who eventually went from the hospital to a nursing home. He was also trying to stay on track for his MBA, as this was to be his last year. So he was balancing a surgical-recovery patient of a wife, a sick mom, work and his MBA classes.
  • I started working from home at the first of the year. In fact, I had really been working the entire time, but now I was putting in full days. I was even emailing from my hospital bed...sad, I know. By late January I was splitting my time between home & the office, and by February I was back in the office full time. It was year-end close and very hectic; I wished my surgery would have occurred in November as it would have been better timing, but nothing I could do there!
  • In February I had to get clearance to get the IVC filter removed in Baltimore. I went to a new primary care physician who was not a Cleveland Clinic doc. My platelet count was 16,000; I'm guessing the nickel filter that was in a main artery was really sending my body into a sad state of affairs. The doc referred me back to the Cleveland Clinic hematologist, as I was a new patient and she thought that was the best route even though I tried to get her to change her mind. I went back to the loon, who talked me into scheduling an IV treatment that lasted 6 hours...and was also very "alternative" and needed special clearance from insurance. I scheduled it, but went home & did the research, and found it was to be used for lymphoma patients only. It was very dangerous and could cause strokes, blindness, etc., especially when the patient didn't have lymphoma. So basically the hematologist was trying to kill me for his own sick pleasure. Again, he just wanted to see if he could raise the count; he admitted I would still need a transfusion before the procedure. I managed to reach the vascular surgeon, who told me to cancel the procedure, ignore the crazy docs and Cleveland and just come up to Baltimore; they would take care of everything. The day of the procedure my platelets were at 9,000; I basically had none. They did the transfusion and then took out the filter by going in through my neck. I was awake the whole time, and still have the scar. I saw the filter after they pulled it out, and it was 5x's bigger than I had imagined.
  • In March, Brad & I went to see his mom, who continued to decline. On our way there we got a call; she was getting worse. We spent four days there; I had to leave to go back to work for a deposition that I couldn't get out of. It was a hassle getting back home (thanks, Delta), but when I did get back the deposition was canceled - go figure. The next day, March 20, at 12:30am CST, Brad's mom passed away. Brad was at the nursing home but was not in the room with her at the time. She was such an amazing woman and outlived the predictions. The visitation and funeral were so touching, and so many people came out to pay respects from both of our families. It was also the first time I got to meet my niece (Zoe) and nephew (Roman), and also Brad's brother Todd who is in the military and couldn't make it to our wedding.
  • In May I turned 33, and felt like I was having a mini-life crisis. All of a sudden I started wondering what I had done with my life. I wasn't satisfied with where I was at.
  • At the end of May we visited Cincinnati and my friend Maurice. While we were there Benny, the family cat, passed away.
  • In June I decided to replace the Corolla I bought in 2005, since it had 80,000 miles on it. I bought a 2010 Corolla, which had bluetooth, satellite radio, the ability to plug my iPod into the stereo and an awesome sound system. I practically live in my car because of my long commute, so those things were must haves.
  • In July we took our first trip to the northeast. My brother was in Cape Cod over the summer with a theatre group (through his university in Ohio), so the main reason was to see him. We spent time in Quincy, Mass., and saw the homes & burial sites of John & John Quincy Adams. Saw my brother for only a few hours, but it was still a great time. We spent the 4th of July day in Boston, and the evening in Providence, RI where we saw WaterFire. We started heading back and stopped at Foxwoods in Connecticut, the coolest casino ever - I wish we could have stayed longer than a few hours! Our final stop was in Auburn, NY, where we visited William Seward's home. It was honestly the best historical house I have ever been to in my life. The family did an amazing job preserving the house, and he was a fascinating person.
  • On July 15 I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand; it was successful. But the best news came when they did the pre-surgery blood work - my platelet count was back to normal at 191,000. Yeah!
  • Also in July, I started "Troy McClure Wednesday's" on Facebook. Every Wednesday I do a new Troy McClure quote; it's a highlight of my week.
  • In August, Brad started his last MBA class - economics.
  • In October, Brad got a much deserved promotion. After which he decided to also get a new car, a 2010 Camry.
  • Also in October, I had another series of blood tests run; my platelet count was 331,000. Unbelievably normal/strong count! I also found that the weird all-body pains I had were finally gone. However, I was still left with nerve, muscle & tissue damage from the 3-1/2 years I struggled with the auto-immune reaction to the artificial disc.
  • In November, after Thanksgiving, we went to Chicago for the weekend. I saw my friend Chrissy & her husband, and finally met her (now) two kids. We also ate at a Weber Grill restaurant and picked up some special Gibson's Steakhouse seasoning. It was a great weekend!
  • December was a hectic mess. Long hours at work. Not enough time to get Christmas stuff done. And to top it off, I got a horrible sinus infection followed by a bad cold.
  • December 7 - Brad takes his last final (which he passes); he is now done with his MBA!
  • On December 17 Brad & I took off for a Midwest trip. I was still sick, but we weren't canceling! It was mostly a gift to Brad for his MBA, and also a chance for us to see our Iowa family. We spent time in Springfield, Illinois, where we saw Lincoln's home & the museum; we also drove through the mobile home park I lived at when I was three. We went to Kansas City where I took him to Ruth's Chris for a good steak; the next morning we ate at a local diner gem where I met two of his college friends. One of them I was excited to meet - Traci. If we lived in Kansas City I could picture us being close friends, she is absolutely fantastic. We went to Arrowhead and saw a Chiefs vs. Browns game, and once again the Browns won. However, the experience was awesome; I've never been to a football game where the fans weren't drunk and rude. The energy was amazing. We went to Maryville, MO, where Brad went to college. Classes were out, but faculty were there. We ran into several who remembered Brad, and we got a tour of the broadcasting facility where he spent most of his time. We also got to meet with the new President of the University for about 15-20 minutes, unannounced; he had been one of Brad's teachers. What a great guy, honestly, it was an honor to meet him. We then went to Iowa where we spent time with family & friends from both of our families, though we didn't have time to see them all. It was a really special time, and we outran the snow storm that was following us. What we didn't outrun was the constant downpour of rain, which continued for 3-1/2 days during our travels.
  • Christmas Eve was spent at the Grimm farm. It was great seeing my family, who I hadn't seen since 2007. One of my cousin's gave me a "Mr. Plow" (Simpson's) ornament, which is awesome, in honor of my Troy McClure Wednesday's. She also asked me to be a reader in her wedding in October 2010; I was surprised and very honored.
  • Christmas Eve night was also the standard "drive to Chicago and spend the night at a hotel; get a few hours of sleep and then head to wherever home is the next day." On Christmas Day we arrived at about 3pm in Akron, where we spent Christmas with my parents, brother, and Grandma Balarin (husband Roy is in a nursing home with Alzheimer's as of a few months ago).
  • The last week of 2009 I decided that I need a drastic life change. I work too much, take care of myself too little, and I'm not happy with how my life is allocated. So I'm taking steps to change it. Step 1: Get back into the Franklin Planner system. I was introduced to it in 1997 and it changed my life for the better. I got away from it a few years ago, and I need that system back. I'm a better person when I utilize the system. I have a very busy 2010 ahead of me and I don't want to lose focus on what is most important in life. Step 2: Write a big, long recap of the past decade. Get it all out on the table, and then put it to bed. It is, after all, a new year and a new decade.