Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Detox footpads and other things I'd secretly like to try

I've never been much for infomercials. Or channels like QVC that hock things I'm sure I will never in a million years need or want. I'm helped along by my trusty DVR which has allowed me to gloss over approximately 90% of all commercials in the past 3 years. But every once in a while I come across a product that intrigues me. If I was a little more motivated and had a little more cash lying around, I might indulge myself. It's probably why I like to stop by the store in the mall, As Seen On TV.

First up, the detox footpads that draw toxins out of your body at night. The images are what convinces me. People wake up and there is gunk on white pads. Something must be happening! Assuming it worked (big assumption) then I would have the satisfaction of purging myself of something. I'll assume from the black color that it's harmful. And I get to do it without exercise! Or spending hundreds at a spa! Looks like a deal to me. $11.95 for an 8 pack is a steal.

What about Evert-Fresh Bags? Guaranteed to double the life of your vegetables and fruits! There are many times I've had to throw out moldy veggies because we just didn't go through them fast enough. I blame the supermarkets who assume meal planning is for a family of four. Besides avoiding organic waste, these bags are also reusable. It's like we are saving the environment. Totally worth the $5.45price tag for 10 bags. Not that I've tried it yet...

I'm kind of on the fence for the Aqua Globes. DH thinks they look interesting but they are kind of ugly. Could be good for a week long trip though. You fill the "beautiful" container with water and insert into the the plant. Over time it dispenses water. They claim, "No more spills!" "No more dead plants!" But I would think that the soil needs to be a particular denseness in order to distribute the water evenly. In other words, I doubt it works. But a set of 4 is only $14.99...

What about the rest of you? Any cool products you've seen on the market that you'd like to try?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What goes around comes around

My mother is probably chuckling as I type this. DH and I just wrapped up our anatomy ultrasound and found out we are having a baby girl. I suspected we were going to have one for a variety of reasons and my suspicion was born out. Our little girl will join her cousins (Finn, Ned and Penny) in March.

Needless to say, we are quite thrilled. A trip to Home Depot for paint selections is right around the corner! I'm a total planner so I had to know the sex. How else could I indulge in a very girly or ultra little boy nursery? I'm thinking fairies and purples and greens. We'll see what the budget allows for...

But why, may you ask, is Grammie chuckling? I think she is looking ahead to the puberty years. The 3 of us gave her no small amounts of hell between the ages of 12 and 18. What can I say? College mellowed us.

But before we fast forward 12+ years, in 5 months I will have a snuggly little girl to coo over. And force to wear adorable dresses and other girly outfits. Don't worry, no matching outfits! I got enough of that for the first 6 years of my life with A. and Mommy, Esq.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Does "Bah humbug!" work for Halloween?

Halloween is pretty much a non-event for me. I think it has been since my sisters and I stopped trick or treating. I can't remember when that happened exactly but I think it was when we were 12 or so. My mom told me that when DH and I go visit them in Hilton Head we are required to go to a costume party. Both of us have no desire to dress up for Halloween and gave each other the "annoyed" look when it was mentioned.

I'm sure once I can dress up my kid I'll get more into it but for now, Halloween just doesn't appeal. Sure, I buy candy for the neighbors but last year our doorbell was rung a total of 4 times. I'm not complaining that I had to finish up those two bags of mini Snickers but it would have been just as easy to shut off the porch light and avoid the hassle. Charlie gets ballistic enough without a doorbell ringing.
The best Halloweens I had were in college but that wasn't more of an excuse to get drunk than dress up and win some kind of "best costume" award. I thought going as "college student" was good enough. This year I'm also going the minimalist route - pregnant party girl. A basic mask and some Marti Gras bead is all the costume I need. Tacky? Yes but a piece of cake to throw together.

I lack the creativity or enthusiasm required for Halloween. I think it goes back to my childhood. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with three original costume ideas for girl triplets every year? No, Mom, I'm not blaming you, I swear. I was a witch at least 5 times. And making my own costume? No way. I can operate a glue gun, but that's about it.

We're trying to come up with an idea for DH. Dejected Yankee fan? Expectant father? Bud Light drinker? All possibilities.

What about you? Do you love Halloween or, like me, are you unmoved by it? Do you have any excellent costume ideas that I can steal for the future?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Meet the Parents

Grammy and Bumpa are making the 14 hour trek from Massachusetts to Charlotte today. They are on their way to a nice vacation in Hilton Head, SC. In order to prepare for their arrival, DH and I had a much longer chore list than we usually do. After all, we have to look like responsible home owners when they come to visit, don't we?

So the hedges were clipped, the driveway cleaned (damn those squirrels and their nut dropping!), furniture was dusted, floors were swept and mopped and everything was put in its place. It's kind of nice when we are expecting company because we care that much more about cleaning than when it's just us and the dog.

The parents' imminent arrival reminds me of the first time I brought DH to meet them. I was bringing him with me to my sister's wedding at the end of December (2002) so I figured I should break him in first. Approaching my family can be a lot like gentling a wild animal. It takes a lot of up front planning, no sudden movement and treats. Lots of treats.

To start with, I told DH lots of stories about my family. Mostly funny ones so he wouldn't realize how crazy we really are. I then trapped him in my car and drove the 15 miles to my parents' house. Waiting for us when we arrived were lots of treats: beer for him, wine for me, appetizers and a home cooked meal.

I wasn't surprised that he hit it off with my parents. I come from a pretty matriarchal family as does he. So he totally knew that buttering up the mom was the way to go. Somehow at the end of the night she talked him into having some homemade lemoncello with her. This was after several beers so it totally put DH over the edge. Good thing I had planned on driving us back already. Many of my readers have had Grammy push lemoncello on them. But everyone else probably knows it best from Danny Devito's stellar performance on The View about a year ago. Apparently he got so drunk on lemoncello he was still drunk the next day and sat on Barbara Walter's lap. So needless to say, it has a kick to it.

Once he finished the glass (!) my mom poured for him, he was in. The rest of the process leading up to our wedding years later was just a formality.

My parents don't look that crazy, do they?

The joys and pains of a reverse commute

When I started in my new role at BigFinance a couple of months ago I was told that the team would be moving offices. Instead of the 13th (yes, the only 13th floor in Charlotte!) floor of a high rise, we would be ensconced in a low rise in the southern suburbs of the city. I was conflicted about the move. I liked being uptown because of the energy and the food options. I could walk anywhere and not stress if I didn't pack my lunch. Bliss. But I also knew I needed the face time with my boss and the rest of the team.

Because I joined the team after the move was decided I couldn't be included in the regular move. Instead, I had to wait another 2 months. There were a few people left on the floor, but not many. I get in early but I found myself having to turn on the lights every day because no one else was in yet. And there were no administrative assistants left so none of the office or kitchen supplies got replaced. Plus, I had zero motivation to look nice in the morning. Make-up went first, quickly followed by a decent hairstyle. It certainly made the morning routine quicker but the days dragged on without human interaction (aside from the millions of conference calls).

As a result, I was actually excited to start at the new office a few weeks ago. What I hadn't really counted on was the change to my commute. The time it takes (door to door) is about the same because I used to park 7 blocks from the office and walk but the total distance is more than twice what it was before. I also deal with many more stupid drivers. I'm not really sure why that is but if you take people off of the major roads then their stupidity factor increases. Because I used to only be in the car for 15 minutes my frustration level with other drivers wasn't as high. Now I find myself using the horn more often. Yes, I am a Massachusetts driver and no one else in this state knows how to drive.

I'm thankful that gas prices have dropped significantly or what I'm saving in parking fees would be erased. Yes, the biggest two benefits to my new office is that I don't pay for parking and I can park 20 feet from the front door. Although the latter is a double edged sword considering my views on exercise. I also enjoy seeing the long line of cars going in the opposite direction. I can snicker and mutter, "Suckers" as I zip by. Evil? Me?!?

The biggest drawback is that you have to drive everywhere. So if I'm not motivated to bring my lunch then I have to hop in the car and drive. We're also in the middle of nowhere (relatively speaking) and I miss the city. It's not like DH and I get uptown very often. Fortunately I do have the occasional meeting in the city so that should tide me over.

I know you will all be jealous when I tell you it takes 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, for me to get to work. And I hate what a waste of time it is! Where are our own personal transporters? When the heck will that be a reality? Screw flying cars, I want that! What about the rest of you? Are you like DH and have a 10 foot commute to work because you work at home? Or are you over an hour each way like A.'s husband?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is now the best time to get an MBA? Yes, if you can get in.

There has been a significant uptick in the number of applications to business school over the past year. I'm sure Mommy, Esq. can quote similar statistics for law school. Over the past 20 years it has become a given that in bad economic times, people go back to school. Why? It's probably the best time to go back because career advancement and salary increases are less likely. Adding to one's education and business credentials in a downturn can be a smart investment, particularly if the economy starts to right itself once you come out of the program.

I've had the odd experience of being employed just before economic hardships. I came out of my post-graduate year at Carnegie Mellon in 2000 and immediately found a job, about 6 months before the Internet bubble burst. Similarly, I have come out of UVA's MBA program 12 months before the market tanked. I am hopeful that BigFinance will continue to do well and I won't have to worry about layoffs (at least at my level/division). I did survive 4 layoffs in SmallResearch, as did DH. DH is still there so we are both hoping his tenure of 7+ years will help him through any potential layoffs.

But while going back to school during bad times is a good idea, it's also an idea that thousands of other people have. On top of that, international recruitment for top MBA programs is way up. At Darden, more students are international than are women. So that means if you want to go to a top 30 school (and frankly it's not worth 100K in debt if you don't) you need to be assured that you are unique and offer something that the school can't turn down. Me? I had a couple of things: a liberal arts undergraduate major, 5 years work experience at the same company, being a women (yes, I'll use it to my advantage), significant career progression, and multiple activities. My test scores weren't that great.

I recommend an MBA program in particular if you are looking to switch careers. I didn't want to stay in Sales or Consulting and I wanted a bump in my salary. Going back to business school and having access to a great career center was a must. Working with a MBA career center is very different than an undergraduate one. CMU's was useless but UVA had more than a hundred big name companies solicit resumes and conduct interviews. That is why it is so critical to get into a top MBA program. A small college is not going to have the same exposure or resources. So why pay 40K a year in tuition?

A couple of people have recently asked my advice about applying to business school. Here are few tips:

  1. You should have at least 4 years work experience with career progression. That means advancements or job changes. It is best if you can stick with one company but we are becoming a country of job hoppers so it's less of an issue.

  2. Take a GMAT course. I studies on my own but the money I spent on the Princeton Review was totally worth it. There were 5 people in my class so we got a lot of individual attention. It also forces you to study several hours a week. I'm sure Natalie and DH remember me spending hours at the kitchen table.

  3. Start volunteering. If you don't have activities you've been doing for a few years, it is never too late to start. But 6 months in a volunteer role won't impress. So if you have nothing but your job, consider waiting another year.

  4. Have a plan. Know what schools you are targeting and why. I applied to 6 schools (Harvard just for shits and giggles) and would have been happy at any of them. It is expensive and there is a lot of paperwork. Harvard was almost $400 when I applied 4 years ago! I decided to focus on schools with strong general management program (no specialization required) and utilization of the case study method.

  5. References are critical. I lined up my references 9 months before I started the application process. In order to make things easy for them I put together a packet of information on me. My resume (more detailed that you might use to apply for a position), list of all my activities and why I did them. Both were professional references so I also included several projects I worked on where I contributed significantly. I provided a detailed list of strengths and weaknesses. Why so much work? You must be consistent when you apply to a program. You will be asked to share your strengths and weaknesses and you want your answers to match theirs.

  6. Visit the school. Darden required me to visit for an interview and they probably did it because the campus is so beautiful. But a visit even when not required demonstrates a level of commitment.

  7. Be a minority. Sorry, guys, but it's going to only get harder for white men to get into school.

  8. Consider a part-time program. It can be more challenging to switch careers with a part-time program. Also, the career centers tend to not be as good as full time programs. But if your company will help defray costs and you don't mind it taking more than 3 years, it could be a good middle road.

Here's a couple of articles I've come across recently:,8599,1853093,00.html,0,595378.story

Do others have advice about graduate programs?

Living in a battleground state

During the Democratic primary Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton called my house several times asking for my vote. Considering that the North Carolina primary wasn't until May, it was nice to feel wanted. A long, drawn out battle for the nomination worked in our favor. I doubt that will happen again as most primary elections are wrapped up in the first few months of a campaign. McCain didn't bother to call as he was the assured front-runner for the Republican party.

I was tickled to receive the recorded messages as that has never happened to me before. What could explain this wealth of exposure to candidates? It could be argued that this is the first time I've had a home phone during a presidential election year. Or that the first thing I did when I got to this lovely red state was register. Or maybe that for the first time in my voting life I don't live in a state where the outcome is entirely predictable (yes, I'm looking at you Massachusetts). But really, I think it all comes down to one thing. I live in a battleground state.

For the past several weeks we have been bombarded by calls from Senator Obama's campaign. Michelle Obama left us a voice mail the other day. Little old ladies called asking us to be sure and vote early. Young college students wanted to know if Obama could count on our vote. It was inspiring to think of the logistics that went into organizing the campaign in North Carolina. Joe Biden will begin a tour of the state in Charlotte today. Sarah Palin visited the rural areas (ahem, the "real" America) and told us that Obama was friends with a terrorist so we should vote for McCain.

Obama has stopped by Charlotte at least 5 times over the past 6 months. McCain? Zilch so far. The state has gone Republican for the presidential race consistently. Interestingly a Democrat usually wins the Governor's mansion even though the state leans Republican. In Charlotte, probably one of the most liberal areas of the state, we have a Republican mayor running for Governor.

This year is particularly exciting because the state could go Democrat. I love that my vote counts. Yes, intellectually I am aware that every vote counts (well, not really because of the elecorate but that's a whole other issue) but when you have lived in Massachusetts during a John Kerry race, it is pretty obvious that the home senator is going to take the state. I think Obama's campaign is being smart by getting peope out to vote early. The more votes being cast early, the sooner everyone will know where the state is going. But that raises the question, does early voting influence voting on election day? I haven't heard any statistics yet and I'm an NPR junky. But early voting is a fairly new concept. It will be interesting to see how that pans out over the next set of elections.

So far Obama is up by at least 3 points in every poll I've seen for North Carolina. With the margin of error typically at 5% that means the state could go either way. It would be so cool if North Carolina's 15 electoral votes decide the entire race. Take that, Florida! I am mailing my absentee ballot next week. And will be reassured that for this election, at least, my vote will count.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A rose by any other name???

Over the past year I have noticed that my name has become super popular. I'm not talking about for kids, but for adults. Stacey reached a popularity peak in the 1970s, no coicidence that I was born in that decade (ah hem, late in that decade). According to Social Security, Stacey ranked its highest in 1971-1973 at #41. In 2006 it was 977.

I suppose it makes sense that now I'm seeing all of these women named Stacey (or Stacy or Stacie) in the news or at my company in leadership positions. Most of us with that name were born in the 70s so now we are becoming successful in our careers and are more likely to be mentioned publicly. I did hear a Stacey on the radio who was a cop and that kind of threw me. I just don't think of women with the name Stacey as being cops. Of course Stacey Keech might disagree seeing as how he played many cops but he's a guy and an actor so it doesn't count.

So what does Stacey mean exactly? Well, according to Wikipedia it is a unisex name (although only 7.8% are male) and can mean either "bountiful grapes" or "resurrection." Stacy is the most common spelling (I have a friend who spells it that way. Hi, Stacy!) which was frustrating when I was a kid because I could never find the correct spelling for all the personalized chatchkis (sp?) that I absolutely had to have.

I'm happy to see women in my company in leadership positions with the name Stacey. It gives me hope that I am on my way up! Of course, then I might be confused with all the other Staceys. Which raises the question about picking baby names. Do we pick something unique (Apple, Rumor, Kingston) or more common (William, Thomas, Katherine)? I don't want my kid to hate his or her name. I never did (thanks, Mom!) but I also never felt like I had a cool name. I read an article a few months ago that talked about how people with more common names (like Lisa) were perceived initially as being nicer than people with less common names. It's such a difficult choice! Of course I like the most common names in 2007. Check them out:
  1. Jacob, Emily
  2. Michael, Isabella
  3. Ethan, Emma
  4. Joshua, Ava
  5. Daniel, Madison
  6. Christopher, Sophia
  7. Anthony, Olivia
  8. William, Abigail
  9. Matthew, Hannah
  10. Andrew, Elizabeth

Picking a baby name has to be one of the most stressful things to do. I bet more fights come up over names than anything else. What do the rest of you think? Any particular reasons your parents picked your names? Did you decide on a common name for your kid(s)?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Best practices in building a baby registry

I bit the bullet a few weeks ago and started my baby registry. Being the organized person I am, I first stated with a spreadsheet of all the items I thought I would need. Then, realizing I know nothing, I forwarded it to my sisters for their review and comments. Thank goodness I did! Mommy, Esq. has very recent experience with her 8 week old twins and A. was a researching fiend with Finn.

There are a few things I have to wait on once I know the sex of the baby. How can I register for bedding if I don't know the decor of the nursery, which is of course, dependent on whether we are having a boy or girl?

I think it's great to be able to register but DH and I are assuming that there will be many big ticket items we will be paying for ourselves. It is amazing how many things are "required" for a baby registry. I'm very thankful that I had the input from my sisters or I could have ended up funding the economic recovery with the items suggested by retailers. Some of items I have dismissed out of hand include: wipes warmer, jogging stroller (yeah right), door jumper, nursing wrap/cover, and high chair toys (really? Isn't food enough?).

What about the rest of you? Any advice on must haves or items to stay away from? Also, I'm curious what readers think about registering for babies after #1. I had always thought it was like a wedding or a shower - one time only. But I'm seeing registries for babies #2 and #3. Thoughts?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nesting Saturday

Today I woke up with the desire to clean out my kitchen cabinets and linen closet. I was out of bed by 8 AM and went down stairs to survey the kitchen. DH (that is Dear Husband for those of you not familiar with the acronym) was pouring his second cup of coffee. I immediately started clearing out some cabinets in the mud room and sorting into piles. Because he is taller he helped me move a few things which somehow resulted in him helping me clean out and rearrange all of the kitchen cabinets and drawers. Thanks, honey!

I took advantage of the built-ins we have in the library to move some of the less used serving-ware out of the kitchen cabinets. I also got rid of an old George Foreman Grill which hasn't seen the light of day for at least 2 years. We ended up with a nice pile of kitchen-ware to donate to GoodWill. Now that I am more organized in the kitchen I am amazed at how much space we have! There should be plenty of room for all the baby stuff that will be residing there. Assuming I don't fill it up with purchases from Target first!

Speaking of Target; I went over there after having breakfast with DH. His job was to trim all of the million or so bushes we have around the property. My parents are coming to visit next Friday and the house must look nice. Or at least like we are responsible home owners. While Jeremy was doing that, I was doing what came naturally to me: spending money. I picked up a bunch of clear plastic storage bins and a few other knickknacks. Did you know it is impossible to leave Target for less than $100? I think it's a law or something.

Anyway, upon return home (and being distracted by weeding out the front bed) I tackled the linen closet. I organized all of our extra blankets in one bin, sheets in another, table clothes, linen napkins in the last one. It totally opened up a ton of room.

Being on a roll I moved on to my closet. I did what I probably should have been doing for years and put away all of my summer clothes. Not only do they not fit me any more but the weather is getting noticeably cooler. I also moved all of my nice work closes into the spare bedroom's closet. Now I have plenty of space for the maternity clothes. Thanks, Mommy Esq. for the selection!

I am feeling nice and organized now. I'm not sure how long that will last but for the first time in weeks I don't have any clothes sitting in a laundry basket! I think Sunday will be a nice and relaxing in comparison. Even if DH does make me watch a ton of football.

Any suggestions on another organizing project for me to tackle?

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Now that I am almost 17 weeks, I have noticed that there are quite a few changes going on both in my life and in my body.
  1. I wear maternity clothes. I broke the seal last week and started wearing maternity pants. I had managed to make it through the last few weeks with a belly band (allows you to wear your pants unbuttoned) but my button down shirts, though large, weren't working any more. Fortunately I had a trip to Mommy, Esq's. She hooked me up with lots of clothes. (Note: this does not mean I won't be buying more clothes, so don't get your hopes up, DH!) Can someone please explain why so many maternity tops want you to display your cleavage? V-necks do not have to go down to the navel!
  2. I touch my belly in public. Early last week DH and I went grocery shopping. I was feeling particularly fat so I figured if I rest my hand on my tummy I'll look more pregnant. I didn't take a poll or anything so I have no idea if it worked but now I just can't stop. That's not to say I want other people touching my belly. Hands off! So far it hasn't happened but with this new habit, coupled with the maternity clothes, I'm sure it will soon.
  3. I go to the bathroom. Constantly. I'm up to 3 times a night. I only use our master bathroom at night because it is too small to get ready for work in. The worst is when DH forgets to bring in an extra roll of TP and I have to got to the linen closet and get some at 2 AM. I'm saving up to have him get the kid in the middle of the night so I don't ask DH. Yet. We'll see if it happens when I really pop out and start waddling.
  4. I drink milk. A big glass once a day, in fact. This is the most milk I've had since I was a kid. I even crave it sometimes. I hope this lasts beyond pregnancy since osteoporosis runs in the family. Yes, I take a daily vitamin too.
  5. I'm nesting. I'm obsessed with making sure everything is in its proper place. On tap for this weekend is cleaning out cabinets in the kitchen and mud room. Plus a stop at Target for containers to store linens and non-maternity clothes I am storing. I am completely looking forward to it. Sad, but true. I so can't wait to find out the sex of the baby so I can really add to the "honey do" list for DH. Once the nursery is complete I'm sure I'll feel better.
  6. I don't sleep on my stomach. Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. I do find myself waking up on my tummy occasionally but it is increasingly hard to fall asleep that way. And I wake up a lot more at night because I have rolled onto my stomach. I'm really going to miss that sleeping position. Sniff.

What about the rest of my readers who are or have been pregnant? What else do I have to look forward to?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Visting Mommy, Esq.

Over the Columbus Day weekend I made a trip up to Boston to spend time with Mommy, Esq. and the twins, Ned and Penny. This is my first significant amount of time with babies (7 weeks old) since A. had Finn almost two years ago. And of course, being pregnant myself, I was particularly excited to see how the Mommy gene has been developing over the past 4 months. I can report (and Mommy, Esq. can confirm) that I passed with flying colors!

Ned is a little grunter and LOVES to eat. Mommy, Esq. has been expressing so I was able to help with a lot of feedings. Penny is quite the sleeper and I can only hope that my singleton will be just as good. I changed plenty of diapers and didn't even need a refresher lesson (totally like riding a bike). I didn't have to get up for the late night feeding and was able to be well rested throughout the day. Don't worry, I'll enjoy it now...

Mommy, Esq. is down to one feeding at night which is extremely impressive. She is using formula for last bottle and night feedings. I have to say that my visit has made me a little more relaxed about breast feeding. I do plan on starting with exclusive BF but am now comfortable that if it doesn't work out, I won't stress about it. Plus, that means DH would get plenty of night feedings :-)

I have many more pictures that still need to be uploaded from my camera. I will be sure and post more over the next few days.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Just A Little White Lie

Today I arranged to have lunch with the women from my BigFinance rotational program. 5 of us ended up being able to meet. It can be difficult to get a table with that many people so I suggested we pick a restaurant that takes reservations. We settled on one and I called this morning to place a reservation. The woman who answered the phone told me that the hostess was out right now but they don't take reservations the day of. Um, what? Seriously? A 12:30 reservation wasn't going to happen in a place where the average price of a meal is $9.00. Craziness. I think this is an odd Charlotte thing. Sort of like how nothing is delivered here except for pizza and Chinese.

I asked when the hostess would be in and was told after 11 AM.

That's when I got sneaky. I called back at 11:10 AM and the conversation when like this:

Hostess: {Restaurant name}. This is {name} speaking. How can I help you?
Me: Yes, I would like to change the number of people I have on a reservation for today.
Hostess: OK, what would you like to change it to?
Me: From 6 people to 5 at 12:30 PM.
Hostess: Name?
Me: Stacey
Hostess: I'm so glad you called! We must have not written it down when you called to make the reservation.
Me: Oh great. Glad I called too.
Hostess: We'll see you at 12:30.

I told the ladies at lunch what happened and they were impressed with my approach. One even said she was wondering how I was going to get a reservation the day of (I guess it's a long standing policy).

So, am I going to hell or was I just working the system?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Best in Show

When DH and I moved to Charlottesville in the Spring of 2005, I knew we were going to get a dog. We had been living together for almost a year and I was about to embark on a very strenuous first year program at Darden. DH was able to move down to C-ville with me and work from home (which he has done ever since). To keep him company while I was away from home (7 AM - 11 PM most days!) I convinced him that a dog was the way to go.

We knew we wanted a puppy just because we could mold it from the very beginning (he he he). Before we started our search at the C-ville animal shelter, we stopped by a pet store (not one that had dogs for sale) and saw a bunch of dogs outside of it from another town's animal shelter. DH went in to the store to get a crate and I spent time with the puppies. There were two in particular I loved. One was all golden in color and very rambuncious even in the 90 degree weather. The other was a mix of colors but mostly black and was peacefully sleeping in his crate. I picked up the quiet one (named "Bongo") and snuggled with him while DH completed the purchase. After he came out I said, "I want this one!"

As you can see, I got my way :-)

DH was convinced we would find one in the C-ville animal shelter so he made me leave the cute puppy behind and drive off. Well, when we got to the animal shelter they only had one set of puppies who were all spoken for and needed another month before they could be brought home anyway.

I told DH it was fate and we had to get the puppy we saw in front of the pet store. We left a message with the shelter and found out that they were open on Sundays so if he wasn't taken yet we could go the next day and adopt him. I was so worried all night that someone else had adopted him from the pet store! We drove about 40 minutes to the shelter and asked to see Bongo again (the first thing to go would be that name). DH and I walked back to a cage where the dog (soon to be our dog) was with two of his litter mates. There was the male golden puppy and a female on in a similar color. DH immediately wanted to adopt all three but common sense prevailed and we brought our puppy home.

We debated endlessly about what to call him. DH lobbied for Jack Bauer but I really wanted Charlie (after Charlottesville). A little slyly, I said, "Why don't we start with Charlie and see how it goes? We can change it later if we want..." And so, Charlie entered our lives on a hot summer day in June.

If any of you have met our dog, you must admit that he is the best-est dog in the whole wide world. And probably the most spoiled. How, you may ask? Well, let me share.
  • He is very smart. As DH and I like to say, Charlie understands a ton of words but he doesn't listen so good. I taught him how to bring DH his work gloves (for when they wrestle together) in two days when he wanted to play.

  • He likes to lie in weird positions. Charlie has his Playboy pose and his chicken pose (see below).

  • Charlie sleeps on the bed with us every night. Yes, it's true. We have become pet parents. We refer to each other as "Mommy" and "Daddy" when we talk to the dog. We judge other people by how much they love their dog and our dog. We prefer to hang out with people who have dogs so Charlie can play.

  • The best thing in the whole world is coming home from a long day at work and having a very excited dog greet you. It will probably be years before I get that from the baby! Charlie also watches out the window when I leave in the morning and whines. So cute!
  • He loves people, especially kids.

  • He doesn't understand that with DH home every day he is luckier than any other dog in existence. Except for maybe Callie but that's because her mommy is home all day too.

  • Charlie watches out the window to make sure that the neighborhood is safe and barks to alert us when a person is getting too close to the house. Of course, it is the same people walking their dogs every day but he's not that smart.

I realize that once we welcome the baby into our lives Charlie will be "demoted" to dog. But I still believe he will occupy a special place in our lives. After all, he was our first baby. And it only took three weeks to potty train him!!

A few more cute pictures to start your day...


After viewing Tuesday's episode of 90210 last night, I am officially taking the show off of my playlist. I was a 90210 junky back in high school but this "refresh" has absolutely disappointed. The characters are far from likable, the writing is absurd and plot lines even worse. The best part of the show were Brenda and Kelly and they weren't even featured in the past episode. My key nitpicks:
  • Why does Annie have to be so perfect? She is written as the nicest person on the planet. Puh-lease!
  • Recycled plot lines. Now, I realize that there are only 12 original plot lines (yes, it's true although Google has failed me) but here's what we've been offered by 90210: son given up long ago by mother that father didn't know about, drugs, pushy parents, divorcing parents, work/life balance issues, sex, debt, autistic brother, etc. And not a single plot line has been made interesting.
  • I totally called from her first entry into the classroom that the new girl would be an undercover cop. Really. Based on her first sentence. Usually I pat myself on the back for guessing those kind of things but I blame sloppy writing and poor acting in this case.
  • You know a show is bad when you start fast forwarding through most of the scenes. I actually enjoy the adults on the show but find the kids to be annoying. You can attribute that to my age but considering I love Gossip Girl and I check in on Hannah Montana, I don't think that's true.

The old show had a rhythm that this one is totally lacking. I think it is because the entire focus of each episode is on all of the main characters. I commented on this in Helen's blog. Where are the extraneous characters with their own problems that the gang helps to solve? Where is the star basketball player that can't read? Or a key activity like a newspaper that gets the kids involved in all kind of mischeif?

And so, sadly, I remove 90210 from my playlist. What about other readers who gave the show a chance? Are you still committed? Why?

PS - In other news, I am very excited that Fringe got picked up for a full season. But why do they call the mysterious guy, The Observer? Could a name be any more lame??? Were the writers afraid to call him The Watcher and step on Joss Whedon's toes?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Putting My Hair In A Student's Hands

Another flash from the past...

Picture it: Charlotte, summer of 2006. DH and I had just gotten married and I was in the midst of my MBA internship with BigFinance.

When DH and I arrived in Charlotte our leasing agent told me that Aveda has an institute right down the street and that is where she goes and gets her hair cuts, facials, etc. So I go online and check them out. The prices are amazing. $12 for a haircut. $30 for highlights. 30 minute facial for $20! Needless to say, I call to make an appointment. The first appointment they had open was for this past weekend. I inquired about highlights but they were booked until the end of September!! I settled on a haircut and "essential back treatment" AKA massage starting at 9 AM.

I roll out of bed at 8:45 AM and head to the Institute. I managed to get a parking space right out front which I assumed could only herald good things. I sit down with my book and wait to be called. As I'm sitting there I start chatting with a woman about how many people are there for appointments. There are about 25 people in the waiting area. She points out a bride and her bridal party that are there to get their hair, nails & make up done. Now, I'm all for a great deal if I can get it but I would never trust my wedding day to complete strangers who aren't even licensed practitioners yet! When I left the salon three hours later (yeah, that's right 3 hours) they were in the final stages of make up. And every single one of them looked like a whore. Seriously, pony up the money for pros on the wedding day!

Anyway my name is called and this girl introduces herself to me. Her name is Heather and she leads me back to her chair. She couldn't have been more than 20 years old. I noticed that her station is labeled#26. I pulled out the picture of Sandra Bullock that I use as an illustration of what I want done to my hair. Yes, that's right. I chose a 40+ year old woman to use as a model for what I wanted to do to my hair. I should look so good at that age. It's a very simple cut - shoulder length and slightly shorter to frame the face. Nothing fancy. Heather starts running her fingers through my hair and making the appropriate comments. As she touches my head I notice 3 things. First of all the girl was very ham handed and was putting far too much pressure on my skull. The second thing was that she was touching me with nails that were soooo gross. In fact she was kind of a mess all around. Not exactly the picture of who I had hoped would cut my hair. Heather is also what appears to be 6 or 7 months pregnant. In the course of our fabulous hair cutting experience I come to find out that really she is due in December.

So after she washed my hair she calls her teacher over to discuss what it is that she is going to do with my hair. And then she starts cutting. Now, I'm aware going into this that I am going to be essentially a guinea pig for some student but I expected that by the time the student was on the floor he or she would be fairly competent. Heather tells me that students rotate around the floor as they gain more experience and work on other types of treatments (like highlighting). Based on our discussion I come to the realization that my station, good old #26, is the first stop on the merry go round that is salon training. I "lucked" out an got put with the least experienced student there. About 20 minutes after she makes the first cut, Heather is finished with the first of many steps to achieve this very simple haircut I'm looking for. She calls her teacher back over and he basically tells her she sucks as he starts cleaning up her mess. But frankly I was not too impressed with him either. He put so many layers in my hair I'm really worried that in certain weather conditions it could appear that I have a mullet. And he cut VERY slowly. After he finishes and tells Heather to blow dry my hair she informs me that its an awesome haircut and she wished that her haircuts came out that well. Sigh. I suppose then it really could have turned out worse that it did.

Fortunately after the almost 2 hours I spend in the chair getting my hair cut I had a wonderful experience with my massage. Very relaxing.

DH assures me that the haircut is "fine". But I promise no pictures until it grows out and I can get a real stylist to cut my hair. I hope my story of hair woes has made each and every one of you appreciate the stylists you go do for your hair cuts. Tip them well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

All Bad Things

I thought I would post about all of the things I do while pregnant that would horrify other expectant moms. It's nothing crazy, people, I promise. But it is amazing to me how many things are considered bad for me just because I am pregnant. Have we not birthed hundreds of generations without all the rules outlined by "What To Expect When You Are Expecting"? I saw Mommy, Esq succumb to the pressures of perfect parenting once her twins were born. And A. was even worse with Finn. Sorry ladies, but it's true. I heard that Mommy, Esq would love to make her own organic baby food! Considering we grew up on processed food and turned out OK, if we throw in more veggies our kids will have a leg up on us.

I have remained strong and adhered to my convictions that having a baby (while life changing in many ways) is not that big of a deal. Of course I am helped by the fact that I have had zero symptoms aside from some weight gain. And of course I am still a ways away from labor. I'm sure I'll post more on that as it approaches...

So what do I do that is so bad? Read on...and feel free to be judgemental.
  1. Deli meat. I bring my lunch almost every day and I do make sandwiches with deli meat. Apparently I am supposed to microwave the meat to ensure that I don't get listeria. Steaming deli meat seems wrong to me. And odds are 7 in 1,000,000 that I will get it. So this "rule" is one that I don't worry about. Yes, I did hear about the outbreak in Canada. Still not concerned.
  2. Caffeine. I love my Early Grey tea and Chai Tea Lattes (with skim milk). I drink decaffeinated tea at home on the weekends but that's because I can sleep late. A pick me up in the morning at work is just what I need to get my day started. One cup of tea/caffeine a day is a must for me.
  3. Exercise. It is no surprise to anyone who knows me that I hate to exercise. Give me a task with meaning and I'm all over it. Ask me to walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes and I laugh and settle on the couch with remote in hand. Yes, I know that exercise is totally safe and beneficial while pregnant and frankly Charlie would benefit from more frequent walks but repetitive actions are so boring! I do hope to shape up in this area when the baby is born. It would be great to walk the baby and Charlie at the same time. Charlie might need some additional training before that happens though.
  4. Alcohol. I am not adverse to an occasional glass of wine. The "no amount of alcohol" stance undertaken by Americans is very American. Few other countries have the same stance. I avoided all alcohol during my first trimester but I'm not as stressed about it now. I am firmly against the following: regular drinking (i.e. every day), binge drinking (more than 1 drink), and hard liquor (beer or wine only).

While I am on my soapbox I would like to pat myself on the back for quitting smoking many months before getting pregnant. I'm a pretty relaxed person but I saw a 7 months pregnant woman smoking a couple of years ago and I was horrified. DH has also quit (go Chantix!) and it has been surprisingly easy. Of course, for me, it helps that I'm pregnant. Talk about a motivating factor not to slip!

I also avoid raw fish, raw eggs (for no other reason than both are gross - screw the bacteria issue!) and unpasteurized milk products. I will also avoid hot tubs and hot baths (although that makes me sad) because of body temperature issues.

What about the rest of you? What things did you make sure to stay away from? What did you indulge in?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Community Service - Giving Back through Second Harvest

When I was in high school and college I did quite a bit of community service. In fact, one time I was volunteering at the Senior Center (pre-license days) and my mom totally forgot me. This was in the days of pay phones, not cell phones, so it was three hours later when she showed up. Nevertheless, I persevered and continue to perform all kinds of community service. At first it was about getting into college but I found myself really enjoying altruistic activities. Post college I was more focused on making some money, hanging out with my roommates and enjoying the Boston nightlife in my early twenties than seeking out community service opportunities.

After my MBA program I settled into home ownership and married life down South and didn't do much for the past year. But BigFinance is very supportive of community service initiatives and gives several days a year for associates to take off work and give back. So I, along with 11 other members of my program, went to Second Harvest on Friday for a half day of service. I feel trendy because I saw a picture in UsWeekly of Ben Afflack also doing the same thing in LA. We spent 3 1/2 hours sorting donated food so that Second Harvest can provide food to low income families. There were some interesting canned food we came across:

It was great to spend time outside of work with other associates. While I wouldn't have considered it back breaking work, Kyon certainly did!

All in all, it was a great way to spend a Friday afternoon and I look forward to many more hours of community service. Well, as many as I can squeeze in before the baby comes!

How about the rest of you? How have you helped the community recently? Do you have any good ideas for our next event?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Announcing the Pregnancy

Yesterday I had lunch with my boss out where my new office is going to be. I move in couple of weeks to the land of suburbia from downtown. The commute is about the same but I won't be able to walk to stores or restaurants like I do now. The biggest drawback is that the building looks like Ikea threw up on it (ultra modern with pops of orange) and every cube has half walls. Being a loud talker I am not going to be welcomed in my area!

I decided in advance that this would be the perfect time to tell my boss that I will be taking advantage of the vaunted BigFinance benefits and taking 12 weeks off in the Spring. At 15 weeks I probably could have told him a couple of weeks ago but I really wanted to do it in person so I could judge his reaction.

In preparation I met with one of my mentors - the only other woman in my program who has had a child while at BigFinance. Her advice was great and primarily consisted of not letting my boss make an ass out of himself. It can be hard for men to know how to react when a woman tells them they are pregnant. Usually they want to make sure we'll be coming back but it's not easy to ask that question tactfully.

So I met with Boss over lunch and 5 minutes into our meal I told him that Jeremy and I are expecting our first. I was very impressed with his reaction. He didn't even bat an eyelash and congratulated me. Boss also said how great it was that the new BigFinance policy was going to give me 12 weeks paid. I told him I was definitely coming back but that didn't even appear to be a question in his eyes which was great. It seriously couldn't have gone better, and he paid for lunch!

Now I feel like I can tell everyone else at work. I've told a few people but really wanted to wait and tell Boss before broadcasting it broadly. Tomorrow I have a half day community service event with a bunch of other people from my program. It's my first community service event post-grad school and I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure I'll blog all about it...

Did anyone have a particularly good or bad experience when you told your boss or co-workers about a pregnancy?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Return Trip to Darden

For the second time in a year I was asked to go back to Darden for a BigFinance recruiting trip. The last time was in the dead of winter with just one other person. We interviewed first year candidates for the internship position. This time there were at least 12 other BigFinance associates and we were not interviewing but giving a company presentation followed by two hours of networking.

I flew into the tiny Charlottesville airport in the midst of rain and gusting winds. I was already not looking forward to the plane ride back! Tiny propeller planes are not designed for a smooth ride. I had rented a car since (for a change) I actually knew my way around. It was a little surreal to drive back mostly because in the 18 months since I had been gone, nothing had changed. After I parked I had a few minutes before lunch so I decided to hit the Darden book store cum merchandise mart. That's when I picked up a couple of presents for Xmas (never too early to start!) and my first onsie. Yes, I broke down and bought a bright orange Darden onesie. It's too bad that the smallest they had was six months so unfortunately I won't be able to use it for a while.

I headed over for lunch and ran into a couple of Darden classmates who were also in town for recruiting: Kelly, Obumi and Katie. Then all of us walked over to the cafe for lunch. I was disappointed that the Career Center did not invite any students to sit with us. It is still early in the recruiting process (most SY interviews happen in October and FYs don't start until January) but considering how bad the economy is and the job market has to be, I was surprised students weren't lined up to meet with us.

After lunch we went into the company briefing. I ran into the intern for my program we had this past summer (hi James!) and we chatted for a bit. Great guy and I hope he comes back to work full time for us. The company presentation was more of a roundtable with a couple of executives and I think it went well. Selfishly I wanted the focus to be on my technology program but there were half a dozen other programs represented as well.

Then the schmoozing began. Apparently almost 70 people registered for the event. I would say that 40 showed up. Shame on you, Darden students! And almost every single one of them were FYs. What's up with that? I find it hard to believe that all the SYs are set in terms of jobs. On the Technology side I was inundated with foreign students (yes, mostly Indian) looking for visas. Um, we don't do that. It frustrates me that so many MBA candidates think you need to be coming from technology to do a technology job. I'm managing projects! It's just like any other MBA job. If I, a former Creative Writing major who can barely run my DVR can do it, so can everyone else! Technology gets no respect.
After it was over I drove a couple other people back to the airport including a senior executive I had been wanting to meet. So I got to schmooze too :-) Our plane was delayed about an hour due to the weather. It would have been fine except I got totally sick just before we landed. Good think I had my plastic bag from the bookstore because the plane didn't carry barf bags. I blame the baby since I rarely get plane sick.

Overall it was nice to spend a day out of the office with other BigFinance associates and to see Darden again. I'm curious to see how this year's FY and SY classes do in the job search process. I can't imagine it will be as easy as when I was looking for a job. Thank goodness I'm out of the program and gainfully employed! Even if it does mean I'm paying off loans...