2014 In Review

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

I think that 2014 was as close to a complete about-face of a year as I've ever had.  I imagine there will be years to come that will make this one look small in comparison, but while reflecting back on the year, I feel like I've never had so many pivotal moments in such a quick succession.

For one, I start the year at a job that I hated.  I was bored, unchallenged, and very very unhappy.  By February I had found my current job and oh how different it is.  Not only do I feel busy, challenged, and happy, but I would even venture to say that I love what I'm doing.  I never thought I'd say that about ANY job, but I definitely didn't think I'd be saying it saying it at any point in 2014.

I also entered 2014 fresh off another round of online dating.  I think it was around January that I decided not to renew my membership because I had found someone that I really connected with and hoped would stick around.  Now, a year later, we are still happily together.  I guess he didn't quite "stick around" in the traditional sense, but over the past year our relationship has grown into something that I don't think I could have anticipated at the end of 2013.

I also started off 2014 in a fairly depressed state.  The aforementioned job, the multiple not so great Match dates I went on before I met my boyfriend, and the general feeling of stalling in life was not the best combo for a successful new year.  Today however all of that has change and I'm not sure if I've ever been happier. 

There were of course some other changes that weren't as fun or exciting, but I think they've contributed just as much to get me to where I am today.  There was the deployment to deal with and also moving back home for the millionth time.  Luckily the END of the deployment is going to make for an amazing 2015, and the year of basement living will allow me to get a good jump start on savings for the next year.

With so many big things happening in this past year it's hard to imagine what could come in 2015, but at least I know that whatever it may bring I've got a great year behind me and can hopefully keep that momentum going!

Filling The Time

Monday, December 29, 2014

One of the most important things that has gotten me through this long distance relationship/deployment is by filling as much downtime as possible.  I am the type of person that loves nothing more than to spend my weekends lounging on the couch reading a good book or binge watching a new tv show.  When it's nicer out, I could easily spend an entire day on my hammock simply relaxing. I, for the most part, enjoy the slow passage of time.  I like see everything going on around me and being able to soak it in every day.

The past 7 months, however, have been the complete opposite.  I have tried to say yes to every opportunity that has arisen.  My friends will call bullshit on this because I still refuse to go out on Friday nights after a week of work, but other than that I've made a conscious effort to get out and do things as often as possible.  

I joined a gym and signed up for 3 months with a trainer.  Sure, it's great to get in shape and have someone hold me accountable, but more importantly for me, it makes Tuesday and Thursday fly by.  I signed up for weekly classes with my dog, not because he's terribly disobedient, but because it gets me up and out of the house on a Saturday.  I've taken on every piece of work that was offered to me and even added a few projects onto my own workload to make sure I didn't have any down time in the office.  Even simple tasks like getting oil changes, returning things to Target, and doing my grocery shopping have gotten done more efficiently than ever before.  Having the control to set a simple task and cross it off my list has just made this whole time more manageable. 

I even went to one of Josh's friend's weddings.  His friend was in the Navy and deployed the entire time we were dating so I had never met him and had only met the bride once before the wedding.  My coworkers kind of thought I was crazy for being so ok with it, but I knew I'd have fun despite it being out of my comfort zone so I just did it.  Added bonus - it took up an entire day in getting ready and attending!

So how do I feel after 7 months of this?  Productive.  Everything I've done has been positive and I know that I'll look back and be glad I've done all of those things.  More importantly though?  I can't wait to have those long lazy quite afternoons back and I know I'm going to appreciate and enjoy them one hundred times more when he's back.  

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

As usual, this has been a wonderful Christmas season.  It really is my favorite time of year.  The lights, the music, the movies and tv specials, spending time with family, lots of food and general relaxation.   Of course there are always those moments of hectic craziness thrown in, but overall I think there is no better time of year.

None of that has changed this year, but at the same time it is all quite different.  With my boyfriend so far away, those happy feelings have a slightly somber shadow now.  I've never celebrated Christmas with a significant other, but that was always by choice and not by circumstance.  Now, when I would love to do so, I can't.  We were able to skype this morning to open presents, but as nice as that was I still found myself tearing up multiple times.

It's funny that although I'm not doing anything different than I have in years past, it all feels so... wrong.  Not having him here to celebrate, to open gifts, to sit down to dinner... it just makes something that has been so normal for 27 years suddenly feel incomplete.

Of course I have to keep reminding myself that although it is miserable to be apart at this time a year, I am so lucky to feel as strongly as I do and to know that he feels the same.  There are hundreds of reasons why I wish this deployment didn't happen, but I cannot forget the fact that, without this, I may not have realized how much I truly want this person in my life.  I also know that every moment we spend together when he is home again will be appreciated a hundred times more because of all the moments we spent apart.

All of that being said, I still had a great Christmas.  I'm so grateful for everyone and everything I have in my life today.  Plus, It's really hard not to love Christmas when you get to watch a two year old open a million Frozen gifts and squeal with joy with every single one.

MacDonald Family Christmas Party

Saturday, December 20, 2014

My father's side of the family is pretty huge.  He was one of 8, with each of his siblings marrying and having 2-4 kids each.  It's next to impossible to see them all on Christmas itself, so we rotate hosting a family party each year.  Since my parent's house has been under constant construction over pretty much the last 10 years, it's been a while since we've hosted.

Now, with our basement (aka my bedroom) finished, and actual finished floors upstairs, we finally felt like we could have people over.

Of course we had to use my bedroom for the party so the bed was banished to an office and all the furniture was moved around so you could hardly tell I lived there :)

It was a great night over all.  Lots of food, a fun yankee swap, and my dad had a great idea of having everyone pitch in for a family donation. Everyone was invited to put in a charity of their choice and we pulled one at the end of the night.  We ended up raising $375 for the American Cancer Society.  I think that'll definitely be a tradition that will stick around.

One Year

Monday, December 15, 2014

It's hard to believe that my boyfriend and I have been together for one year today.  That's probably partly because we've actually been apart for 6 month of that, but also partly because that time has just flown by.

It's funny thinking back to the earliest days of our relationship.  He instantly impressed me with his coherent, non-creepy Match e-mail.  Those are (maybe not surprisingly) few and far between.  He mentioned Lost, my dog, and the Patriots all in a few sentences and he instantly caught my attention. We would talk via text for almost two weeks straight until we finally got to meet in person.  The rest was basically history.

Here we are a year later and 6000 miles apart, but I get no less giddy when I wake up to a message from him.  I get just as excited when I get to see him "in person" (aka skype).  I still roll my eyes just as much at his terrible jokes.

We still have a ways to go (131 days... not that I'm counting), but I'm eagerly looking forward to a time where we can actually celebrate something together instead of half way across the world from each other.

Anniversary date while eating lunch in my car

$60,000 in Debt: Month 7

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I SWEAR I'm going to blog about something other than this debt reduction, these are just such easy posts to do and actually thinking of something to write is much harder.  Things are finally quieting down around work though so I should have some time in the upcoming weeks to write.

Anyway, here's my November recap.  I am so so close to paying off my Discover Card.  Of course they have a 5% cash back deal for online shopping at the moment, so I've used that for all of my Christmas shopping this year.  It'll be a big payment at the end, but I just wanted that balance gone.  Luckily that will be done before the one year mark of having the card (February), so I won't have to worry about interest at any point on this card.

Although it still seems like so much debt, it's great to know that I've paid off almost $13k since May.  Also, this doesn't show the massive amounts of debt I paid off before May.  I'm not sure what that amount is, but I know that in 2013 I paid $6k ALONE in interest... of course my loans switched companies so I can't look back at my history, but I know I've made great progress in the last two years. 

$60,000 in Debt: Month 6

Monday, November 3, 2014

Another month down!  I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel with my credit card.  Two more months and I think that'll be gone.  Then it's just the car and the student loans which will naturally take longer.  Milestone of the month? Under 50K of total debt!  It is still a lot, but I'm getting there slowly.  

I'm also making sure I'm building up my savings while I have time and of course the 401k is always a priority.  Having no debt today would be amazing, but I need to keep the future in mind and remind myself that my savings will be much more valuable down the road.

Five Months

Sunday, November 2, 2014

We're going on five months of the long distance/deployment relationship and I'm happy to say we're still going strong.  I think we're both very much in the groove of going about our day and just trying not think about how long it has been since we've seen each other, and how long we still have to go.

I don't know how people handled deployments before the internet existed.  We get to text from about the time I wake up in the morning until he goes to sleep around 4 or 5pm. Granted texting is nothing compared to an actual in-person conversation, but it is really wonderful compared to the alternative (only communicating via letter).

While I was in Aruba I could only connect to wifi when standing in our hotel's closet and the limited amount of communication we had made me appreciated what we DO have so much more.

We also get to skype once or twice during the week.  At least one longer session on the weekends, and if I can get time, I'll use a lunch break to run out to my car to chat.  Again, getting to see his face once or twice makes me wonder how people even survived with just texting or emailing.  I'm very spoiled and so so lucky.

Of course I have no nice pictures to share with you.  The only time we take pictures is when one of us gets frozen while skyping and looks like a weirdo.  Ok.... he does screenshots when I look like a weirdo and I have to write "poop" all over his face to attempt to get back at him... it doesn't work. I am officially releasing the below picture to the public to prevent it from ever being used as blackmail.


Saturday, November 1, 2014

I've been back from Aruba now for a few weeks, but things have been too crazy with work to find time to post about it.  My friend's parents have a two week timeshare down there and every year take one week and then give the second week to one of their two sons.  This year it was my friend's turn and he so kindly invited a few of us to go along.

I'd say about 75% of the trip was spent lounging by the pool and/or the beach.  The other 25% was spent on eating, drinking, and activities.  If you ever find yourself in Aruba I would recommend all of the excursions we did.

Jolly Pirate

Kuku Kanuku

Jeep Safari Tour

And some miscellaneous pictures...

$60,000 in Debt: Month 5

Friday, October 31, 2014

(Let's all pretend I posted this a month ago like I was supposed to!) 

Milestone of the month:

I hit the $10,000 mark in getting rid of my debt!  That's 10k in 5 months.  I know I could do better but I should still be proud of it.

Gile Wedding

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This past weekend consisted mostly of wedding festivities for my wonderful cousin Kayla.  It was a beautiful ceremony (in which I was honored to do a reading) and a perfect back yard reception. Just a quick summary in photos-

Congratulations Kayla and Kenny!


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I'm going through a smoothie phase right now.  I've always loved them, but I've found the process of making them and cleaning up after them so tedious that it was always too much of a project for me to ever do.  I recently decided to buy a small one serving blender (the top comes off and acts as a travel mug!).  I know you can spend hundreds on fancy ones, but this one was $15 and it has done me well so far.

I did a shopping trip and gathered all of my favorite fruits and veggies (also for around $15).  I spent one evening chopping and measuring and freezing my f&vs.  I was able to prep about 10 smoothies in 30 minutes.  By freezing them I negated the need for ice so my smoothies are a lot less watered down. Also, by prepping them all at once and freezing the individual baggies, I can wake up and dump the contents into the blender, blend, and go.  The whole process in the morning takes less than five minutes.

The downside?  Because I use a bunch of dark colored fruits and veggies, my smoothies almost always come out in one of two colors; vomit-green or diarrhea-brown.  Yes, they look disgusting, but they still taste delicious and I don't care what anyone else thinks of them.

Despite the gross color I am really loving these morning smoothies.  Oh, and the best best part?  They keep me full for several hours and only have between 150-170 calories.  Wooo, healthiness!

Put the fruits on the bottom and veggies on top since you'll want to blend the veggies first.
It's best to blend the greens and water before you start adding the fruits.
(Here is our Diarrhea-Brown variety)
(And his would be the Vomit-Green flavor)

$60,000 in Debt: Month 4

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Another month down!  I made some big moves this month.  For one, I wanted to pay off my oldest/smallest loan.  It was $2048 which is a good chunk of money to pay all at once (especially when my regular monthly payment had just gone through), but it felt SO GOOD to knock that completely off the list.  It's a big hit now, but it's a whole lot of interest I won't have to pay over the next few years.  And now each of my regular monthly payments can start taking a bigger bite out of the rest of my loans.  And I got my Federal loan debt below $40k!! I love setting and meeting milestones when it comes to my loans.

I've taken my AmEx card off this list since I've gotten that down to $0 (yay!) and really I'm trying to share how much I'm paying off each month, not how much I'm spending (eek!).  Just rest assured that at the end of each month that card has a $0 balance.

Now that I've made that big payment on my loans, I'm going to focus on getting my Discover card back down to $0. I have until February until I start earning interest on that, but I'd rather get it down to $0 asap.