Monday, January 20, 2020

How I'm Setting Myself Up for Success in 2020

This morning I woke up to a surprise sheet of snow on the ground. This was also the morning after my home team, the Kansas City Chiefs, won the division championship and are now set to go to the Super Bowl. We spent our Sunday afternoon watching the game and eating far too much with family. To say we're pumped is a huge understatement.

Only a small fraction of the spread on Sunday.
These Kansas City Chiefs M&M's tasted better than regular ones. 
Thankfully, the snow ended quickly and the sun came out to melt most of it away. This meant my plans for my Monday were not derailed; a big deal these days. In the fall, my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with high-grade urothelial cancer (cancer in the tube leading from the kidney to the bladder). To make it easier on her during this time, I've been attending to her medical appointments and being general support ensuring another set of ears hears things the doctors instruct and another mind to remember it all. I can't imagine how overwhelming it is. In the last couple of weeks, we've had to bump chemo treatments while we wait for her blood counts to stabilize. This means a lot of scheduling and rescheduling that leads to a little more juggling than normal. I'm happy to do it and somehow have managed it and my own, growing business fairly well since getting back to a normal routine after the holidays.

Coming into 2020, I knew I had several goals that I wanted to get started on right away. I also knew there were a few steps I needed to take to set myself up for success when it came to my goals. So, for my personal documentation and your reading pleasure, I'm going to outline what I'm currently doing to lay a solid foundation to reach my goals this year.

1.) Tidying Things Up

I tend to like to keep things pretty tidy, but over the last couple of years, certain nooks and crannies (drawers and closets) have gotten a bit out of hand. So, the first few weeks of this year I've been going through everything and determining if there is anything to let go of and organizing what we decide to keep. So far I am now aware of every space in the house (other than my office which is a whole other world itself...and will likely take a week to fully tackle). Starting with a clean, organized space gives me a lot of peace and I worry less about the mess and more about my goals.

In order to maintain, I also keep a daily cleaning schedule so that I spend 20-30 minutes a day tidying. This helps to keep the house maintained with very little daily energy output. It works well and also means that I can keep up on the whole house without having to take a whole Saturday to catch up with the chaos that has built up all week. In fact, by the time Saturday rolls around, I can focus on other projects. Whereas, there was a time when Saturdays were taken up by cleaning the baseboards.

2.) Setting Up a Morning Routine

I work better with routines and knew I wanted to set up a strong morning routine to start the day off strong. There are also several things I want to do first in the day to ensure they get done and don't get put off because I'm too tired by the end of the day. Currently, it's still evolving, but I'm getting there. I start the day with a cup of coffee while reading scripture and doing devotions. Then I try to get in a couple miles on the treadmill followed by a healthy breakfast. If I'm running on time, I'll go ahead and hop in the shower, but if I'm running behind sometimes I'll just get right to work and save the shower for around lunchtime. If all goes well, I start working in my office at around 9 a.m.

3.) Setting Up an Evening Routine

The evenings have been challenging lately. My business has been growing quickly and the sheer amount of work I have sometimes keeps me working in my office till well past dark. I'm trying hard to cut myself off by 6 p.m. Then I prepare dinner and sit down with the hubs to watch a show while we eat. Sometimes we sit down at the dinner table together to eat if we're not in the mood for a show. Then I do a few chores and end all the activity with some yoga. After that, I do whatever I want until it's time for bed.

4.) Setting Up a Bedtime Routine

Bedtime can be interesting since I typically just want to slide into bed and scroll through Instagram. However, I'm trying to wash up and take my vitamins and then settle in to read until I'm ready to sleep. If I can actually get to sleep before midnight, I feel like I'm doing well. Getting to sleep at 11 is even better and either way, I'm guaranteed 7-8 hours of sleep.

5.) Setting Up a Budget

One of the big goals I have for 2020 is to pay off all of our debts (aside from student loans). We're following the Dave Ramsey "snowball" method. So, I've set up a strict budget and I don't deviate much from it. I'm working to build both a personal and business savings account along with this which will help me when it comes time to take my business to the next level.

I feel like all 5 of these areas put me in the best situation to then focus on achieving a few key goals (which I'll share later). The less I have to worry about doing mundane things, the more I can worry about doing the deeper things. Some of these areas will still need to be tweaked over the coming weeks, but I'm in a better situation now than I was at the end of 2019. I mean, to say I'm sitting here writing this blog on my couch with a clean house is a HUGE win. I'm feeling good about the direction we're heading this year!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

2019 Reflection: New York City Trip Day 3 of 3

Writing this for Day 3 of our New York trip is a little bittersweet. Recounting the events of Day 1 and Day 2 has been such a fun exercise in looking back at the highlight of last year and dreaming about what other wonderful things I'll experience in 2020. In fact, the last day of our trip was bittersweet for us then, too. Though we had the whole day to continue to experience NYC, it was time for us to say goodbye to our little New York City apartment. Leaving was heartbreaking, but I honestly feel like we'll be back again one day.

We did choose to sleep in a little later this day knowing we'd be up late into the night and that our feet needed to recuperate as much as possible before we walked them several miles for yet another day. We took our time getting our backpacks together and even chilled out on the couch for a bit. Then we set out for another NYC bagel at another place around the corner and we made our way to spend a good portion of the day in Central Park.

This was the first time we'd really gotten into the heart of the park and enjoyed all the lovely landscapes. As we were walking through the different parts, we heard the song, "Fat Bottom Girls" playing off in the distance. We decided to walk towards the music wondering what was going on. Well, it happened to be Queen and Adam Lambert doing a soundcheck for a concert they'd be playing later that night. They even belted out a little "Bohemian Rhapsody" as we stood in awe of the fact we just basically ran into our own personal concert.

Around every corner was a picturesque view like this!

And this...

Us just chilling out on a park bench in Central Park. I also had my feet up cause OUCH!
We then made our way Bethesda Fountain where I rested my VERY achy feet for a bit while D decided to reenact a scene from John Wick. We stopped for a little while under the little bridge to listen to a group of guys singing "My Girl" and then walked along another place in the park that was in "When Harry Met Sally".

Bethesda Fountain...where my husband became John Wick.

That is pain on my face.
We then made our way to the New York Public Library where we saw the original stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie the Pooh and friends characters. We also saw the study area and the incredibly ornate architecture. 

And that's just the ceiling!

They had a payphone ( wasn't a working one).
That afternoon, D took me by the apartment that was featured on the intro of Friends (which was just really cool to stand in front of). Then, not far from there, we got to see Carrie Bradshaw's apartment from Sex and the City (and before many of you get too judgy, I watched in syndication so most of the questionable parts were not present...and I liked her because she was a writer with a fantastic taste in shoes...and she lived in NYC).

The Friends apartment!!!!! I was so excited!

Carrie Bradsaw's apartment.
We then made our way back to Washington Square Park after grabbing a bit of food to go from Mamoun's Falafel (delicious) and sat there watching all the street performers. We sat there for quite a while both because our feet were hurting, but also because it was just a neat atmosphere. We then made our way to Chelsea Market hoping to do a little shopping. Though, most of the shops were closing just as we got there. The restaurants, on the other hand, seemed to stay open for much longer.

Chelsea the shopping was extraordinary. Memo: get there earlier than we did!
We then wanted to catch one more site before leaving Manhattan...the NYC skyline at night. So, we made our way to The High Line. The High Line was an old train platform that was renovated into a walking trail and garden. We caught so much of the skyline including the Empire State Building. There were even little places along the walk where we would stop and just stare into the lighted sky and listen to the traffic passing by below. We walked about 2 miles on that before getting off right before the subway station that would lead us out of Manhattan. However, we didn't miss the opportunity to duck into Little Spain and grab some churros and a Coke.

From the High Line...

What the path looked like on the High Line...can still see the train tracks.

More of the NYC lights from the High Line.

Little Spain Churros and Coke...perfect way to end our time in Manhattan.
We then boarded the subway to Flushing where we stayed in a hotel near the airport for our early morning flight. We were exhausted and our bodies (especially our feet) were worn to the bone. However, we walked a total of 36 miles around Manhattan and really tried to make the most of our time there. I'll never forget the feeling of exploring everything we could and I really just can't wait to go back. When we got home, my poor feet were bursting out of my shoes and swollen bigger than I'd ever seen them before! I also found out I had runner's toe...which was funny since I never run anywhere for anything. It took several days to recuperate (and some days I still feel like I am). But now we watch movies set in NYC and excitedly yell out, "We saw that!" every time one of the places we visited flash on the screen.

Now I ask myself, "What wonderful experiences will 2020 bring for us?" That, my friends, is an answer I hope to share on this blog this year. Stay tuned...and ride the waves with me! It's bound to be an adventure!

2019 Reflection: New York City Trip Day 2 of 3

Yesterday, I outlined the first day of our 3-day NYC trip. We really tried to make the most out of our trip for the least amount of money possible and we seriously saw so much in just a short span of time. I'm pretty sure it still wasn't enough, though, and we are already talking about the next time we get to go.

On day 2, we slept in a little bit. It was amazing waking up and looking out the window to the bustling street below. We were too tired to be bothered by the trash trucks coming by in the early hours. The tiny little apartment proved to be such a cozy place to rest after the first day. By morning, my poor feet were aching a little. Though, they had no idea what was to come!

After slowly making our way out of bed, we decided to walk around the corner to find us a NYC bagel. The walk itself seemed like something out of the movies with the little row houses on either side of the streets. Nannies were all over the place pushing strollers. You could distinctly tell who were the nannies and who were the moms because the nannies always looked slightly professional while the moms were all in yoga pants. I found this pretty intriguing and kept constantly pointing it out to D.
Such a cute, quiet little New York Street!
Our bagel and schmear! Delicous!

After getting a bagel, we decided we didn't want to spend our time in the city underground in the subway. We wanted to see as much of the city as we could! Our plan was to take the subway down to the southernmost tip of Manhattan and spend the day walking back up toward Time Square. We made our way to One World Trade and got out to take in the majesty of the Occulus. That place was AMAZING! We spent a lot of time in there taking pictures because it was just spectacular!

The Occulus...there were people cleaning the windows above us! SCARY!
Then we stepped outside to catch our first glimpse of One World Trade and the 9/11 Memorial Park. While we were certainly enjoying our trip, our time there was somber and D and I swapped stories of our thoughts and fears that fateful day. It was humbling to stand there and listen to the water flow in the reflecting pools and think that people had suffered and died in that place. We truly felt they had done a wonderful job honoring the memory of those who died that day and since through the beautiful landscapes and installations.

This thing was amazing in it's own right...reflecting the skies!

One of the two reflecting pools. Everyone was very quiet and respectful around them.

Our reflection in the reflection of  The World Trade Towers.
We had a hard time pulling ourselves away from the 9/11 Memorial, but once we did we made our way a little further south to Battery Park. We grabbed a hot dog and sat down to the view of the Statue of Liberty. We also walked over to the Staten Island Ferry just to see it before starting the walk north.
Seeing it from the park was enough...I get sea sick.

Maybe I'll try it next time!
We started walking up Broadway to spot The Bull. While getting our picture taken in front of it would've been great, people were all over that thing! You could barely see the bull through the crowd! Out of all the places we saw in NYC that little area was the most crowded of all!

Amazing how this bull was the center of all the NYC attention!
We also stopped by Trinity Church and spent some time in the grounds around including that of Alexander Hamilton. D went inside to see the chapel (the rest was under construction) while I stayed on one of the benches resting my feet. This was also a very important place during 9/11. It was right across from The World Trade Center, but was not damaged during the attack. The church opened it's doors to rescue workers that came to find the missing and volunteers served them food. I feel it was fitting that a church was the place of sanctuary for the weary during that time.

So amazing that this building wasn't damaged on 9/11!

Alexander should see the pennies all over the foot of this thing!

We can now say we spent some time on Wall Street. We came home broke, though.
After stopping off at a Starbucks to rest our feet again and get out of the rain, we made our way to Dominque Ansel bakery where I had it on my heart to try a famous Cronut. I was distraught when we got there to find they were out. However, we did pick up a couple chocolate croissants and I tried a macaroon and we ate it out on their back patio. The croissants were delicious, so I could only imagine how the cronuts are. Maybe next time!

Delicious! But they better have some Cronut next time!

We then headed to Washington Square park where I discovered my backpack strap had come apart. Considering we still had the rest of that day and the whole next day to go before heading home, I knew I needed a quick fix. I ducked into a CVS and bought a ridiculously expensive tube of super glue! That just goes to show you how much we were walking around! So we sat down in front of the Arc (one of my favorite resting spots) and I super glued my backpack while we listened to a wonderful street performer.

The bag ripped and I ended up losing that scrunchie the next day in the library. *shrug*

Me supergluing my backpack in the shadow of One World Trade at Washington Square Park.

So beautiful!

Us...being us.
We went into the Empire State Building just to check out the lobby area (we didn't go up in it...way too expensive) and then shopped around in the neighborhood for a bit.

The Empire State Building from the ground. No one takes this picture, so I did.

A replica of the Empire State building inside the Empire State Building. Hmm.

The original elevator banks (Hello, Sleepless in Seattle).

We finally reached Time Square after dark and sat down to enjoy some food truck cuisine while taking in the mesmerizing lights around us. Before heading back to the apartment, we grabbed some $1 pizzas to go and took a short subway ride to spare our feet from Time Square to the Upper East Side. There we sat on the couch eating pizza and watching Friends.

My Time Square taco truck experience...

So amazing!
At this point, we had walked another 12 miles and I could barely walk considering my calves and feet hurt so bad, but I was having the time of my life. Who cared? The post on day 3 coming your way soon! Stay tuned!

Monday, January 13, 2020

2019 Reflection: New York City Trip Day 1 of 3

If you know me, you know I love lists. As such, bucket lists (annual as well as before milestone birthdays) are one of my things. For as long as I can remember, seeing New York (and specifically Manhattan) was at the top of nearly every one of those lists. My husband had been telling me for a while he was going to make it happen and 2019 was the year!

To some, this isn't a huge deal...people plan and take vacations all the time! However, for the last two years since taking the church my husband pastors, we just haven't had the funds to do anything. However, some kind souls saw to it that we had the money for a getaway. The amount was just enough for lodging in NYC but wasn't enough to cover flights and food. One night while researching different flight options, I remembered that we had frequent flier accounts with one of the airlines. I checked and we both had enough points for 2 free flights! After doing plenty of research, we also discovered some pretty cheap ways to eat in the city. So, we picked a date in September, and off we went!

Our flight was really early in the morning and we ended up only getting a couple hours of sleep. Luckily, our excitement (and a little nap on the nonstop flight) propelled us for a long day of walking the streets of New York. Before landing, we enjoyed taking in the sights from the air and I spotted so many landmarks. It felt pretty surreal knowing that once we got off the plane, we'd have our run of the whole place! We had also been pretty strategic and each packed only a small backpack of things. This helped tremendously us considering we wouldn't be checking into our AirBnb until the afternoon.

My first glimpse at Manhattan from the plane!

All the staff at the airport were incredibly helpful pointing us in the direction we needed to go. However, once we got on the city bus to try to make it to the subway, we were seemingly left to our own devices. We spent a little time trying to figure out how to get to the subway we needed (even using the city mapper app we had already downloaded on my phone). Eventually, though, D figured it out and our first stop was Grand Central Station. It was breathtaking! We snapped a few pictures and then we took our first steps out onto the streets of Manhattan.

Grand Central Station bustling with people...

At first, I was really overwhelmed. People were everywhere! Fortunately, D has an incredible sense of direction, so even when I was all discombobulated, he was able to lead us to the next place. We made our way on foot down past Rockefeller Center and ended up in Time Square. It was so different than what I'd imagined just based on what I'd seen on television. I knew I had to see it after dark, so we made plans to come back again before we left the city to see the lights and glitz at night.

Time Square wasn't nearly as crazy as I expected during the day!

We then stopped for our first meal: a slice at Radio City Pizza. Pizza in NYC is cheap! A few dollars got us a couple slices of pizza the size of my head and some sodas. It was delicious and we sat inside to enjoy it and plan out our next steps. We also learned quickly that dining in usually meant getting a bathroom break which was golden considering not many places provided public restrooms. We also downloaded the "Sit or Squat" app on my phone to help us find restrooms a little easier which proved to be a lifesaver on more than a few occasions.

My first New York slice was bigger than life...

And definitely bigger than my head!
After that, we went just a few blocks back to Rockefeller Center and got to play [our version] of chopsticks on the big piano. It definitely made me feel nostalgic to watch Big (which I did on the plane ride back home). It was so neat to see and do things I'd only seen in the movies!

I would like to say we awed the crowd with our piano skills, but I couldn't do the splits. *shrug*

We struck back out into the city to see the beautiful architecture of Saint Patrick's Cathedral. It was breathtaking inside and out and a quiet retreat from the bustle of the city. We also discovered that we were there during the UN Conference and Trump was in town. We passed by Trump Tower to see a ton of media folks and the streets were lined in front of the building with city buses and garbage trucks to obstruct the view at the front door of the building. We waited around for a bit to see if we could get a glimpse of the President, but no such luck. It was interesting to see Secret Service all over the place and on more than a few occasions we saw bomb-sniffing dogs checking out vehicles before delegates emerged from hotels and got in them.

This was madness...

The President wasn't spotted, but we can definitely say we've been at his front door!
We then walked past the Plaza Hotel and into Central Park. It was amazing to see how the atmosphere changed from the city streets to park life. Things went from loud to quiet in just a block or two. We enjoyed walking through the area and eventually made our way to our AirBnb in the Upper East Side. It was a second-floor walkup. We got the key from the bartender at the bar on the ground floor and then entered the apartment to feel like true New Yorkers. The apartment was tiny, but wonderful fulfilling my every desire to know what it would feel like to live that kind of city life.

KEVIN!!!! (The Plaza Hote)

Having a park in the middle of a big city was really a genius idea!

Went from walking the streets to hiking a big ol' rock!

Our NYC Apartment

Me acting like I was buzzing someone up. 
We took a little time to rest our feet and unload our backpacks before venturing back out to see some more of the city. D and I are huge fans of the movie "Serendipity" and knew we couldn't leave NYC without stopping into Serendipity 3 for their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate. So we made reservations and headed out just a few blocks from the apartment.

We got to "that little patisserie" a bit early and decided to really relive the movie. So we made our way to Bloomingdale's around the corner where we argued over who should get the one pair of gloves we both found simultaneously (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, watch the movie). We then walked back to Serendipity and checked in for our reservation. After telling the hostess there that we were big fans of the movie and decided to come there as a celebration of our 5th wedding anniversary, she slid away and whispered something to the manager. He walked up to us and let us know that if we could wait a little longer, he would usher us upstairs to dine at THE table that John and Sarah sat at in the movie. We were blown away and willingly waited as long as we needed to before finally sitting down at the VIP table.

\The "scene of the crime" at Bloomingdale's!

Now my favorite place for dessert on the planet!
We were the only ones in the upstairs part of the restaurant which meant we got to have a lot of fun taking pictures and being giddy over the whole thing. We ordered our food which was delicious and then we ordered a Frozen Hot Chocolate to share. Let me tell you...that thing was DIVINE! We ate every bit even after carb loading all day. Once it was time to leave, the first-rate manager hooked us up with a goodie bag full of free souvenirs from the experience. We were just so blown away at their kindness and generosity and it made the whole experience that much more enjoyable.

Me sitting across from D at the VIP table (right where Kate Beckinsale sat in Serendipity)
In the movie...

And in real life!
The VIP table and the delicious and famous Frozen Hot Chocolate

This was so delicious!

We then went back to Central Park at the skating rink that was also in the movie. We sat for a while D connected the dots of the freckles of my arm and told me the story of Cassiopeia (again, a movie reference). We walked back to our apartment fully satisfied with the first day of our journey and looking forward to what else we could discover the next day. It's also fair to say my feet were hurting just a little bit...twelve miles into the trip and two more days to go!

The skating rink was under construction, but this was the view from the seats overlooking it.

Stay tuned for my reflection of day two...