When Life Hands Your Lemons

Staying positive when life is rough, when life hands lemons

Ugh.

You might be wondering how my wedding dress saving is going. The short answer: it was going well.

Here’s the long answer.

As I wrote in the past, I had decided to save up money from scratch to put down for my wedding dress deposit. We’ve already got a tight wedding budget, and I didn’t want to settle on a mediocre dress because I had no wiggle room in the budget.

I was on track to have the money (and more even) saved by June, and I was ready to book my dress appointment for the same month or July.

I was SO excited.

And then there was a family issue. I really don’t want to get into the details right now, but basically a close family member suddenly found him/herself in need of a pretty good sum of money, and they needed it asap.

I’m not the kind of person who lends money, especially large sums of it. But given the situation and my relationship with the person, I gave them what they needed. Most of what had been put aside for the wedding dress (this is the part where you tell me I should have an “emergency fund.” I do have an emergency fund, but it’s for myself/my fiance, not for giving to other people).

I don’t regret giving the money for an instant.

But now the dress fund is starting basically from scratch. I don’t know when I’ll be able to buy the dress. I know my family member will pay me back, but not for a while.

I’m not trying to sulk. I know there are way worse things that can happen to people, and a dress isn’t super important. But I needed an outlet. I’m no longer super excited to buy the dress. I don’t even want to look at pictures or think about wedding stuff right now.

All I can do is drink some lemonade, clean some more houses, and refill that money jar.

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Retirement Planning: What To Do With Your Old 401k

401k | what to do with old 401k | retirement planning

Retirement planning’s a bitch, but it’s also a necessity. Do you have an old 401k sitting around from your previous job? If you’re anything like me (lazy and a procrastinator), you do, and you’ve been wondering if you should cash it in, let it sit, or perhaps do something else.

Don’t be like me!

When I left my last job (over a year ago), I didn’t even know how much was in my 401k. So when I did get around to looking months after starting the new job, I was pretty pleased with the amount. 4 years can actually get you a good amount (not like enough to retire….at all). What wasn’t so cool? That money had been sitting, stagnant, for MONTHS! I missed out on months of retirement savings because I’m lazy. Maybe a few months doesn’t seem like a lot right now, but when I’m old and want to retire and don’t have as much as I’d like, I’ll be thinking back on all the times I could have saved or invested and didn’t.

There are plenty of options when it comes to your old 401k. I decided (remember, I’m lazy) to take the easiest path and move it to an IRA, using the same investment company my 401k was through already. It was an easy transfer. I could have also opened a new IRA or Roth IRA at my local bank and requested that the funds be moved there.

The transfer was quick and painless. And this is coming from a person who’s brain gets all mushy when trying to figure out things like investing and stocks and retirement savings plans.

The next thing on my list? Opening up my 401k at the new job (no judging, the site’s way less intuitive than at my last company and I need my mom’s help!).

**Disclaimer!! I am not a financial expert so obviously if you haven’t done ANY research on retirement stuff and are completely clueless and need help understanding things and deciding what to do, talk to a professional!

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Wanting to be Alone in the Woods

Wanting to be alone in the woods and nature

I just finished reading The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel and I can’t get it out of my head. It’s nonfiction-the true story of a man who lived alone in the woods for over 25 years. This man’s story resonated with me so much more than I thought it would.

I love the outdoors-hiking, bird watching, being alone in nature. But what really connected with me was how Knight, the man in the woods, cut himself off from society and wanted nothing at all to do with anyone else.

I get it. I’m not a recluse and I’m not trying to say that I hate people. But I’m selective with who I socialize with, and I need plenty of time to myself. Having too many social commitments puts me on edge. So as I read, I could easily see myself becoming like Knight. Not a hermit living in a homemade tent, per se. But it’s long been a dream of mine to buy a house in the woods somewhere. To not have to leave the house for work everyday would be amazing.

Then I start to worry if I would become a recluse after all. But deep down I know I need social connection, even if it less than a lot of people want on a regular basis.

I guess what I”m trying to say is that this book spoke to me and made me see this side of myself. I don’t feel so alone knowing that there are others who go way further than me with their distaste for constant noise and chit chat. I do love being around people, I just have shorter limits than a lot of people I know. And this book made me realize that it’s okay for me to feel this way and that I’m not the only person in the world who does.

 

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Honeymoon Brainstorming: Wyoming

Oh snap, we’re getting married! Which means we’re also planning a killer honeymoon! The problem? We want to go everywhere. In an attempt to narrow down the search, I’m introducing a new monthly feature on the blog: Honeymoon Brainstorming. Each month I’ll post one location we are thinking of for our honeymoon, as well as a list of things we could do there and the pros/cons. Check back soon for the next post!

Honeymoon in Wyoming, honeymoon Wyoming

This month we are thinking about having our honeymoon in Wyoming!

Where we could go: Road trip through Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole

What we could do: We are big into hiking so we’d want to do as much as possible! Maybe we’d stay at a romantic lodge. I’ve never kayaked but Jacob loves it so we’d try that if the weather was nice. Also, bird watching (don’t hate, you get to relax in nature and watch the birds!).

Pros: Gorgeous scenery, lots of outdoor fun, fall colors. While researching I also was able to find plenty of hotels that ran from super budget-friendly to splurge-worthy, so we could spend a few nights in a fancy place and then spend the rest in more affordable places.

Cons: We would have to rent a car. Technically I guess we could take one of our own, but we’d get more honeymoon time if we flew in to Wyoming because driving would take 28 hours. Per Google Maps it would be about a 7 hour plane trip from Buffalo. The other possible con is the weather. We’ll be honeymooning in late October and I have no idea when the snow starts to fall in Wyoming. Don’t get me wrong, snow is my favorite thing. But I don’t want to be trapped in the middle of a big national park on a hiking trail when a freak snowstorm hits.

Help us out! Have you been to Wyoming and would you recommend it for a honeymoon? What are your own pros and cons?

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Tips from a New Bike Commuter

The last two weeks have been rough. I started my new job and then promptly came down with the stomach flu. Luckily it was an internal position change so I still had sick days to take. I’m finally feeling a bit better (they don’t lie when they say the flu can linger), and I wanted to give some advice.

bike riding commuting tips

Are you thinking about riding your bike to work daily? You’re in the right place!

Let me start this by saying that before last week, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over 10 years. TEN YEARS. I was terrified I’d fall and die. Or at the very least get some nasty scrapes. But as one wise-cracking friend put it, “Kelly, it will be just like riding a bike.” *head desk* No, really?

(In case you were wondering, it really is just like riding a bike. You don’t even need to start all over with training wheels!)

So, some tips I have for you from my first 2 weeks back on a bike and commuting to and from work!

Don’t wait until you have the perfect gear

I am so guilty of putting things off because I feel like I’m not prepared. In this case, I forced myself to do it because I wasn’t about to pay $75 a month for parking when I live literally less than 2 miles from my office. So my fiance grabbed my middle school bike from the place it’s been sitting in my mom’s basement since, well, probably 9th grade, filled the tires with air, and the bike actually worked. I bought a helmet and a good sturdy u-lock (recommended by countless people on Google), and found my backpack to carry all my crap in. The bike is not good for city riding – it’s bulky and heavy and just a bit too tall for my liking. But it works.

Do give yourself enough time that first day

Google Maps said it would take me approximately 7 minutes to bike from my house to my office. It actually took me 15 minutes that first day. I was so unsure of myself that I was shaking from fear of getting hurt. I had to push with one foot on the ground for what seemed like forever before taking that leap of faith and putting my other foot on its pedal. EVERY time I had to stop at a light or stop sign. I’m getting better, but starting the bike again when I’m at a stop is till a struggle.

Do research your routes (and memorize them) beforehand

Learn from my mistakes, please. I was fine getting to work my first day. That’s a straight shot. But my city is full of one way streets, and bikes have to go the same way as the rest of the traffic. So getting home I needed to take a bunch of side streets I wasn’t super familiar with. Instead I decided to go a few blocks out of my way to a street I knew. Bad idea. In a car, a few blocks out of the way is nothing. On a bike, it can add a lot of distance. That road I so desperately wanted to get to because I knew it was a straight shot home? It was also uphill the whole way. I thought I was going to die. I had to get off and walk the bike at one point and it took me 30 minutes to get home. Apparently I’m not in the great physical shape I thought I was in.

Do check with your city/state’s bike laws

You’ll thank yourself because you won’t get a ticket. I know people who have been ticketed for biking with headphones on (WHY THOUGH WOULD YOU NOT WANT TO HEAR CARS COMING) because per NYS law, you can only have one ear covered/one earbud in. Apparently it’s not the law in NYS to wear a helmet but I don’t understand why anyone riding on a city street wouldn’t want to protect his or her head?? I (sort of) trust myself. But I DO NOT trust other people on the road.

Getting doored is a real fear

The whole time I was riding my first day, I was mostly concerned about cars coming up and hitting me from the side or behind while trying to get around me. But I’m learning that drivers really don’t want to get too close to people on bikes. The real thing to be wary about are people parked on the side of the road who open their doors when you are too close to stop or move out of the way (hopefully not into a car driving by). Lucky for me, I read some blog posts about staying a door’s length away from parked cars just to be safe, and while I’m further in the street, I hopefully won’t be losing any teeth (or worse) from any unsuspecting door openers any time soon.

Are you a bike commuter? I want to hear from you! What are your tips? And if you are thinking of becoming a bike commuter, do you have any questions?

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Wedding To-Do List (570 Days to Go)

Wedding To-Do List

Yeah, you read that right! 570 days left until our big day! It seems like a lot until I remember it was past 800 when we first set our date. Of course I’ve been panicking a bit thinking about how the wedding is next year and we still have a lot to get done. You see, I’m a worrier. Even though I wanted I long engagement to really enjoy the planning process, once in a while I still find myself worrying about things I really don’t have to worry about yet.

So to combat my panic, I decided to make a list of some of the things we still have to do for the wedding.

Buy the dress

The dress. It’s been on my mind a lot actually because I’m hoping to get my appointment scheduled at the bridal shop soon! I know some people thing buying a dress with a year and a half to go is too soon. But I don’t change my mind once I decide on things, so I know I’ll continue to love whatever dress I do get.

Book the DJ

My twin sis had THE BEST DJ at her wedding last year. Unfortunately, her wedding was out of town so I can’t use the same person. I do want someone who will have everyone on the dance floor all night just like hers, though. I read a bunch of reviews and got some recommendations, and I have 2 I want to contact. I constantly worry though that they will book up before I reach out to them. (Note to self – instead of stressing, just send them each an email!)

Refreshments for after the ceremony

The fiancĂ© and I are still debating whether or not to serve some light refreshments and booze at the ceremony space. You see, we booked the most amazing venue for it – an old warehouse – and paid extra for the entire first floor of vintage pinball machines and to have the venue all day. We’ll only be having the ceremony there (probably around 3PM), and then the reception is at another place at 6PM. We want guests to feel like they can stay and enjoy the pinball machines and each others’ company until the reception. So I found a caterer in the area who can provide bartenders (we would provide the booze) and basically whatever foods/snacks we wanted. I have to see what their prices are though. If licenses for booze weren’t an issue we would honestly just provide it and have the guests serve themselves, but we need to have a licensed catering company on site if we have food and alcohol.

Blocking hotel rooms

I actually know that I want to get this taken care of over the summer. My mom already offered to visit some hotels near our reception venue with me, and since the wedding is downtown right at the start of hockey season (and right near the arena) we want to block rooms well in advance. We know we’ll have a good amount of out-of-towners, plus a lot of local family and friends have already told us that they will stay at a hotel too so they don’t have to worry about driving afterwards.

So that’s my list. It’s not inclusive, if it was the list would be never-ending! Are you planning a wedding? What’s currently at the top of your to-do list?

 

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The Case for Taking Spontaneous Trips

Spontaneous Travel and taking a spontaneous trip

Remember how awesome it was when you were in college or still not working full time, and you could travel on a whim? Maybe not with a lot of money in your bank account, but still. I miss that. I have fond memories of buying concert tickets at the last minute and then driving hours to see one of my favorite bands in concert in another city. Those are some of my favorite shows, too, probably because of how freeing it felt to drive far away and listen to live music.

Sometimes I have an urge, not necessarily to go far away, but to grab the dogs and fiancé (the cat would hate me if I tried taking him from the house) and go on a spontaneous day hike or short trip.

Unfortunately, once you enter the work force it’s hard to be spontaneous. You need to know exactly what future dates you want off. You need to make sure a bunch of your coworkers don’t already have those days off. You need to make sure you have enough vacation time left. And then your boss has to approve your time off request.

Ruins the mood if you ask me!

There’s nothing like getting away for a while to cure a bad mood, and sometimes a person just has to take a mental health day. Raise your hand if you think companies need to give their employees a bit more paid time off! Personally, the amount of paid time off I get each year sucks. If my guy and I had similar work schedules it wouldn’t be such an issue for us because we’d have weekends. But he works weekends and evenings and I work weekdays, so we don’t get much quality time together unless one of us takes off from work.

So what about you? Are you able to spontaneously take a day and get out of town? Or are you stuck hoping you’ve got enough sick time left so you can call in on a gorgeous day and take that hike?

I want to know!

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5 Ways to Boost Your Confidence

Boost your confidence and self esteem

Do you ever feel like your self-esteem needs a lift? Yeah, me too. I’ve always been a very positive and optimist person, but even I find myself feeling less than awesome sometimes. Here are my tips to boost your confidence and let your true personality shine:

Put on some bright or bold lipstick

It doesn’t have to be in public! My favorite lip color is a random pinky coral from my grocery store. I don’t even know the brand. When I need more confidence (like if I’m applying for jobs or prepping for an interview, or even when I launched the blog), I rock it at home. Lackluster day? Lipstick while you blog! Too many chores? Lipstick and vacuum!

Exercise

I know, I know. Everyone and their mom says that exercise makes you happy and you’re sick of hearing it. But guys, it’s actually true. I get into these moods sometimes and they’re hard to shake. I’ll have no motivation and I’ll start thinking of all the things that might/might not happen. Then I force myself to stick to an exercise routine, and I end up bouncing back almost immediately. Not only is regular exercise good for your over all health, it also boosts your self-esteem and confidence. Take control of your health and your mind will feel it too!

Eat healthy foods and don’t overeat

I know how it goes (and I’m guilty of it too) – you aren’t happy with yourself, so you binge on crappy food to feel better. Except you just feel worse because now you’re off your diet, and whatever you ate might have even made you sick (I know first hand since I don’t dairy and will suddenly go on a crazy cheese/ice cream binge after months of not having it, and that is not a fun feeling afterwards). Eating well boosts my confidence because I don’t feel guilty about what I’m eating, and I also don’t suffer from it physically.

Listen to some girl power music

Whatever makes you glow and throw your fists in the air in solidarity with women! For me, that’s Sleater-Kinney and Avril. Taylor works, so does Beyonce or any other artist who makes you feel empowered.

Hang out with your ladies

Hands don my fave and #1 cure for a low self-esteem is to surround myself with confident lady friends. If your gal pals don’t make you feel awesome, find some new ones! Every woman needs a strong tribe to pick her up when she’s down.

Boost confidence and self-esteem

So that’s it, my list of 5 go-to tips to use if your confidence is low and you need to get it back. What works for you?

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So You Hate Your Day Job (Don’t Give Up On Your Dreams)

Confession time! Growing up, I always told myself I’d never work in a cubicle. Fast forward through my childhood and adolescence, and I’ve now been working almost 6 years in – you guessed it – a cubicle. First, I was a customer service rep for French Canadian customers (I did love my customers, and I owe them my French Canadian accent that I now speak French with, also this job wasn’t the worst since I do have a French degree). Now, I’m at a bank. Yay corporate America. Woo sarcasm.

(On another side note (because I apparently REALLY love parentheses) ask me some time about the differences between my CS job at a pretty liberal distribution company and a super conservative bank! HA! Talk about culture shock!)

I’m not writing this post to depress any soon-to-be college grads who hope to avoid the corporate world. In fact, I hope this post motivates you not to settle and helps you make the right decisions.

The issue is that sometimes you have to settle, and sometimes taking that stuffy 9-5 with a cubicle is the right decision. You have student loans to pay. Then your car dies and you need a new one. And one day you wake up and own a whole fucking house, complete with mortgage and an ever-increasing “fix it” list. (Have I mentioned that I still feel like I’m 15 even though I’m almost 28?)

I went to college for French, something I love. And I encourage everyone to study what they love, even if it’s more of a hobby than something you would love a career in. After all, as long as you have a degree and the job market is in fair shape, you will probably find a job, just not necessarily the job.

My problem is that I’ve never had a career goal in mind. I never knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I still don’t, and I think that’s partly why I got stuck in a rut (read: cubicle).

It’s just recently that I started to think about what I really want in a job/career. I know I want to work from home, and I know I want more freedom than a 9-5 can offer. So that’s a start. Now you try it – think about that dream you had growing up. Did you want to work from home too? Did you want to work at a non-profit and make a difference in the world?

Chances are good that I (and maybe you) will never have that “a-ha!” moment where I suddenly know exactly what I want to do with my life, and that’s okay. If I keep the goals I mentioned above in mind though, I can start to focus my job search and career around them, and hopefully get in a better place in the future.

So it’s time to tell the truth – are you where you imagined you’d be when you were a kid? Do you have your dream job or know what it is? Did this post resonate with you? I want to know!

Whew, that was kind of serious. I swear my next one won’t be such a downer!

 

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Why Running is Part of My Wedding Fitness Plan

Have I ever told you about that time I signed up for an 8k race, having never ran more than (maybe) a mile in my entire life?! It was fantastic motivation to start running a few times a week!

But nothing motivates a bride to get fit quite like that impending wedding! My wedding is pretty far off, but I’m really trying to get into a good routine now so I’m not frantic when my wedding date gets closer. Here’s an idea if you are looking to up your wedding workout.

That race I mentioned above? It was Buffalo’s Shamrock Run. Last year was my first year running it (well, alternating between walking and running), and while I hated it while I was doing it, there really is nothing else like the feeling you get when you finish a race. The camaraderie, the beer (I’m sure Buffalo isn’t the only town with TONS of beer after a race, right?)….and that feeling like you did something awesome.

This year, I’m less prepared (the race is on Saturday!), but I’m hoping it will kick-start my wedding workouts. If you’re anything like me, you don’t want to just get fit for your wedding. You want to make being fit and healthy a part of your lifestyle. I believe weddings are the perfect time to take that leap because it’s such a huge milestone in your life.

If you are thinking “Kelly, this is crazy, I HATE running” – trust me, you are NOT alone. I HATE RUNNING TOO!!!!! At least while I’m actually running. But as soon as I walk through my front door and plop down on my couch, I feel so amazing. So why not give it a try! If you have any concerns, definitely talk to your doctor before starting, just to play it safe.

What do you think? Would signing up for a marathon (of any length!) motivate you to get running, even if you hate it like me?

What motivates you (besides your ever closer wedding date)?

I want to know what exercises work best for you!

 

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