Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Turkey Day!

This is my fifth Thanksgiving in Los Angeles and the first one in four years that I haven't cooked for at least a dozen. The first year I was out here I had a big 'ole turkey day with my West Coast second family. I didn't have to cook a thing but I put in my piece by going grocery shopping, helping to set up, etc. The next year, my mom had just remarried and my eldest brother didn't want to go to Chicago with Greg's family, so he flew out to see me. I lived in a one-bedroom with a tiny kitchen, but my now-roommate promised she would help out. Because I'm me, I took the reins and bit off a little more than I could chew. I made a huge turkey, all the fixin’s, and just had my friends bring decorations, dessert and alcohol. Even though it took a week’s worth of cleaning my apartment and not being able to really enjoy having my brother in town, I was still glad I could do something like that for all of my really grateful friends. Plus, it was a great story. Three years ago the roommie and I moved in to our current house with a TON more room and a much nicer kitchen. Everyone who attended helped to clean up and the whole process was a lot more enjoyable. Last year took a lot more cleaning but I finally had the whole process down. Unfortunately, I had lost my job less than a month prior and I didn’t want to spend all of my severance on a huge meal for everyone else. I still made the turkey, stuffing and potatoes, but it was more of a potluck.

Much to the chagrin of some of my friends who claim my turkey is better than their mothers’, I let everyone know months ago that I wasn’t doing Thanksgiving. I had a ton of schoolwork due last week and I have finals next week so all the cleaning, cooking and shopping that’s required for such an event was pretty much out of the picture. I have some girlfriends who are great cooks and I knew that I wouldn’t go without.

Part of me really misses all the pre-Thanksgiving madness that I had come to love early on. I made a tradition of getting a mani-pedi and hitting up the farmers’ markets the Sunday before and braving the crowds at the grocery stores after work. I got my inspiration and turkey tips from coworkers and Williams Sonoma, and would have to call my mom nearly in tears because I couldn’t tell the difference between heavy cream and whipping cream (I still can’t but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter).

The other part of me is incredibly glad I chose not to cook. The roommie and I cleaned the house this weekend and I’ve actually had a minute or two to relax. Instead of prepping potatoes tonight, I’ll be able to do some laundry, study, and enjoy our friend’s company who is flying in from New York. The holidays fly by so quickly anyhow, I don’t want to stress out more than I have to. I’m incredibly grateful to have some wonderful women in my life who live by the beach(!) and will no doubt whip me up a memorable West Coast Thanksgiving.

As a single girl living in a city like Los Angeles, I know a ton of transplants. Holiday travel is expensive and stressful so a lot of my friends choose to stay here and have makeshift/orphan Turkey Days with their chosen families. In a way, spending this holiday with people who aren’t required to like you is perhaps even more special. I know I’m glad to see my family at Christmas, but being fortunate enough to have great friends around with whom we can share these kinds of things makes me truly grateful.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Almost There...

I'm not almost there in the sense that I'm finishing up my degree, obviously.  But I'm almost there in that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I am a mere two and a half weeks away from completeing a MAJOR accomplishment and finishing my first semester of business school.  Succesfully (well, hopefully).

As far as I'm concerned, this is my most difficult week of the semester.  I have a quant final tomorrow night and then a presentation and two papers due in three days for OB.  Next week is Thanksgiving and the week after that is an in-class case and an OB written final.  Then I'm done - I can't believe that's it!  I can't believe it's been two months and at no point have I really lost my mind. 

And I have to admit, I kinda love school.  The idea of these student loans is still freaking me out a little, but I'm dealing.  I've made some amazing friends and I would much rather spend my Wednesday nights studying and brainstorming with them, than staying at home and doing laundry (or whatever else I would otherwise do on a weeknight).  I'm really looking forward to next semester's classes because I know I will be learning and growing with these great folks. And I'm honestly excited to take accounting and economics. That's why I went back to school in the first place.

This semester has defied all my expectations. My professors are nothing like I expected, my classes are smaller than what I imagined, the material is a lot more practical, and my classmates are way cooler. When I was invisioning my new adventure back in August, I expected a lonely struggle.  In fact, it has been anything but.  I've had so many positive unexpected surprises that it reminds me of how lucky I am and how things do tend to work out in the end.  Or in the beginning. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


When I started training for my first half marathon last summer, I learned way more than I expected about myself.  I learned that my body is strong, my mind is tough and that I'm the only one who can set my own limits.  Every time I have a good run, that sense of accomplishment keeps me going for days.  This revelation were completely unexpected and once I stopped running (and lost my job), I began to forget it all.

As soon as I started taking the GMAT and applying for grad school, those lessons came right back to mind.  I remembered that I was capable and competent.  And while bschool hasn't been a walk in the park, I've managed to rise to the occasion and even have some shining moments (and some not so shining ones as well, but we can't get everything right the first time around). 

Getting an MBA shouldn't only be about finding knowledge or a new career path, but about discovering what we're truly made of and what makes us tick.  I love to be busy, I love a challenge, I love making new friends.  I've learned that I can work in groups, lead people, articulate my thoughts and manage my time.  I've had to teach myself a lot more than I expected, but that too has been a chance for me to grow.  I look forward to the next two years of reclaiming my confidence and truly conquering this undertaking. 

The harder we work for something, the more imporant it becomes to us. Sometimes I take my intelligence and work ethic for granted.  I don't feel a sense of accomplishment when things come easily, but I am easily frustrated when they don't.  It's in finding a balance between the two and remembering that we are capable, that we find happiness.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sundays Suck

I was going to try and stay upbeat and constructive, but seriously... Sunday's are pretty hard. Especially when I have research to do, finals to study for, and the sun sets before I'm even out of my mid-afternoon tutoring session. It's barely dinner time and I feel like I could hit the hay already. Heck, I’ve taken to not even putting on real pants on Sundays. I went to school (and Trader Joe’s) today wearing sweats, Converse and a hoodie.

When I was playing kickball, Sundays were my favorite day of the week. I could get away with not going out with rest of the weekend because I knew I was going to see all my friends and have a rocking Sunday afternoon. I was pretty much too busy drinking to notice how depressing Sunday evenings are.

These days, I sit at my computer, wander aimlessly around the quiet house, do some homework, and contemplate the long week ahead. Before kickball, I don’t remember what I did on Sundays. Guesses would include cleaning, reading, laundry and grocery shopping. Either way, that’s no way to start off the week. And next semester’s going to be even worse because I have classes on Mondays and Tuesdays; at least the days start getting longer in January.

Why do we take to feeling sorry for ourselves on Sundays? Is it that we didn’t get everything accomplished that we wanted to over the weekend? Or that we don’t have anything immediate to look forward to? Obviously some weeks are better than others, but I’m definitely having one of those super funky nights and looking forward to finishing these papers and enjoying the fast approaching holiday season.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


In less than a year and a half, I was laid off twice, for a total of seven months.  And I haven't had a raise of any sort since I started in commercial real estate over two years ago.  I know I should be grateful I have a job that I am in no threat of losing and one that I enjoy going to everyday at that.  It's just that life keeps getting more expensive - my flight from LAX to Detroit this Christmas cost me more than my couch or my computer - and I'm not moving upward or onward.  For crying out loud, I had a better job title and my own business cards when I was 24 (for those of you at home keeping score, that was three and half years ago). 

Then there's all the student loan debt I'm taking on. There's no way I'd ever be able to afford those payments on the salary I earn now.  I realize that I'm getting my MBA in order to make more money, and that this particular graduate degree has one of the highest ROI's, save for an MD, DDS, or JD. 

Now the point of this post is not to point out that I don't make gobs of money.  But that I sometimes have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees. It's hard to have faith that the dream of a life that I work so hard to achieve, will one day come true. 

Nobody is promised anything in life, not even the guarantee that we will see the light of another day.  I am grateful to have the wonderful friends and family that I do. That I can pay my bills, buy Christmas presents, and go out on the town when I don't have my head in the books.  Life isn't about money in the bank, or owning a home, or a having a perfect nuclear family - we all have to make our own story with it's own timeline. 

One of my favorite quotes is: "Live the life you've always imagined.  Go in the direction of your dreams."  Sometimes, I just don't feel like I'm going anywhere.  I'm been at my job for over six months now, the roomie and I have lived in the same (super cute) house for two years... It's ironic how finally taking my GMAT and getting into bschool was such a big deal just a few months ago.  Now that it's such an itegral part of my life, I take it for granted.  I forget that what I'm doing is pretty huge -  it's definitely changing my life's course for the better.  It's hard work and it's what I've always wanted.   I really need to keep it all in perspective and remember that life is constantly changing.  As my wise mother always says: "Enjoy the journey". 

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dr. G and the Conundrum

Most of the time, I'm not one to take the path of least resistance. I'm more of the "pave your own way, make your own story, run that 1/2 marathon because you can" sort of girl. And the reason I chose an MBA in the first place was because I needed challenge. I needed to learn about the things I was too scared to conquer in my undergrad. After all, I’m taking on tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt to grow.

Now here’s my problem. There is a FEMBA economics professor infamous at Pepperdine by the name of Dr. G. I’ve only been in this program three months, but his class was even mentioned at orientation. He’ll make you stay past midnight, he’ll make you want to pull out every last hair follicle, but he’ll make sure you learn. Even his syllabus mentions the onerous workload and that he runs his classroom like a boardroom; Dr. G is obviously the chairman.

This semester’s class load has by no means been easy. There isn’t a ton of regular work for our Organizational Behavior class, but the reading is significant and there are few weeks I spend less than five hours on Quantitative Analysis. My quant class totally stresses me out because I have trouble following along with the professor and only learn what I need to in order to do well on the exams. OB, on the other hand, makes me think. I enjoy our class discussions and doing the research. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Fortunately, I have taken (remedial) accounting before and I have a degree in economics. I must also append that statement with the fact math is in fact not my strongest suit. Again, I do things because they are a challenge and I am curious. Why should I take communications classes when I already know how verbose I am? Perhaps this problem of not being drawn to things I’m necessarily comfortable with is something I need to tackle in the rest of my life, but that’s a different blog post for a different day.

I am planning on going into finance. I am paying through the nose for this MBA. I should take Dr. G’s class and immerse myself in the madness. I should continue to tackle those things are most difficult and become part of the elite club of those that have taken on Dr. G’s economics and won. If the guy that works at Starbucks can do it, so can I.

But I don’t want to be turned off to economics and finance. I do have accounting to consider as well as a full time job and a life I keep trying to live. And it’s not like I’m not going to learn anything by taking someone else’s economics course. Plenty of people have completed Pepperdine’s MBA with a concentration in finance, never having set foot in one of Dr. G’s “boardrooms”.

So what do I do? What would you do? Am I being a pansy?  What will I regret the least?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Fall...

Despite visions of myself as a sleek, cool, hip, modern, professional, urbane, independent woman, I will always be a Midwestern girl who loves nothing more than hoodie sweatshirts and funky colored argyle socks.  This is never more apparent than in the fall.  I love LA weather 90% of the time, but I have dreams of rainy days locked inside with a good book, trips to the cider mill and the smell of fallen leaves.  We've turned the clocks back for the winter and the sun is now setting before I leave the office in the evening.  It's strangely hard for me to digest this time change along with 85 degree weather.  I have boxes upon boxes of sweaters (and I keep buying more because they really do make me so happy) and I just want to bust them out in all their colorful glory.  I want to bundle up in cordoroys and super soft scarves and I actually have a little ache somewhere inside of me everytime I see the seasonal specials on display at the store. 

Going back to school is a decidedly "fall" activity: buying books, sharpening pencils, anticipating new friends and new schedules. Unfortunately for me, it also means final exams right around Thanksgiving.  In the next two weeks I have a final exam, two papers and a presentation due so I hardly have time to plan, prepare and execute a multi-course meal for over a dozen.  And then there's all the cleaning...

But despite my hectic schedule and the decidedly un-fall weather, the holiday season is fast approaching.  I can't wait to spend a few hours meandering down Canon Drive wandering around Williams & Sonoma and checking out the window displays. All I want to do is burn the pumpkin spice candle and write Christmas cards. 

My first Thanksgiving in LA was hilarious.  I was so amazed that I could swim all morning and feast all afternoon - I always just associated Turkey Day with the typical frostiness of the Midwest and Northeast.  My second Thanksgiving in LA my oldest brother flew in from Michigan to celebrate it with me, and I was too stressed out, cooking for thirteen in my itty bitty apartment, to even realize what was going on.  As the years progressed and all of my friends begged me to cook them their annual turkey, I was just grateful to have so many loving and supportive people around me, even if I was thousands of miles away from my family. This year, I will definitely miss how crazy the farmer's market is the Sunday before Thanksgiving and the "need" to buy some new fancy utensil/pot/ingredient/cookbook for this year's feast.  I am no chef, but I feel like I'm losing some of the few fall activities I have left in this crazy town.