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Thursday, October 7, 2010

DAY 1: Totally freaking out/Sorority Alum book club


So how did I spend it?  By getting my butt kicked in my basic training workout class, preparing the packages to send to my soldier in Afghanistan, talking to my grandpa while cleaning the apartment, bleaching my teeth and inspecting my pores and wrinkles then putting on three different face masks.  Doesn't help that I am breaking out like a 13 year old!  I thought that stuff was over with.

Taken from my scrapbook!  10-08-2000
But before all that I began this glorious sunshiney day by jumping out of bed and going through old pics from college.  For some reason the moment I opened my eyes I wanted to find pics from my 20th birthday dinner at Tortuga Mexican Cantina in San Marcos, Texas.  I remember going there with my sorority sisters and just like yesterday, I can remember my friend Annie bringing low calorie tortilla chips so we wouldn't have to eat so many of the fattening chips there!  Ten years has gone by in the blink of an eye.  I also found some fun pictures from my 21st birthday!  I wonder how many margaritas I have had since then?!   Hardly any I'm sure haha.  Looking though those pics at all the faces belonging to the people who have meant so much to me over the past decade made me emotional, and thankful that those friendships are still very important in my life.  When I got home from running errands I was surprised by a huge basket from one of my BFFs Shawna.  It was a mixture of everything I love and things that were meaningful in our relationship.  Of course I cried and once again remembered how thankful I am for all of my friends, the ones I have known since 2nd grade and the ones I have just met!

Out for my 21st Birthday w Shawna and Lindsey!
Woohoo 21! 10-08-2001

It is a nice coincidence that the book chosen for this months book club is  called Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah. I was determined to finish this book since I didn't finish last month's book, but ended up finishing so fast because I couldn't put it down!  It is about two friends who meet as pre-teens and form such an incredibly strong bond.  They stay best friends for the rest of their lives even though they couldn't be more different and  they end up taking different paths as they get chooses career and one chooses to have a family.   In the end, something tragic happens to one of them.   I won't spoil it for you but it is deals with a really personal subject to me.  It seems like this is a common theme for women's books, but this one was long and really developed the characters, reminding you how incredibly important relationships are in your life.  Even though you may go through ups and downs or not see or talk to each other as often as you like,  it is important to lean on your true friends when you really need them and be there for them as well.  Naturally people are going to grow apart and make different decisions...but true friendship endures.  I am so blessed to have many of these type of friendships in my life.  I know the relationships in my life have shaped me into the person I am today.  A true friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you anyway.  I have always loved that quote!

The book club meeting was at Swirl Wine Bar which is  a block from my apartment. Perfect!  We had the best time drinking sangria and talking about the book, and other girly things.  Put women together and give them some wine and they will be happy!  I am so glad I read this book and was able to get involved in the discussion...I have found that I really enjoy book club!
The crew tonight for our book club at Swirl
Ok, I have two hours left of my twenties.  I am headed out to get a few drinks.  GOODBYE TWENTIES!!!  We had some amazing times and I will NEVER forget you, but I think this is just the beginning for me, we had to part at some point.  It is time to experience new things...I am into the thirties now!!!

Thank you guys for following me on this journey...I will let you know how the birthday goes!!

BRING IT ON 30!!!!!   

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

DAY 2: PAWS volunteer orientation/Jr. League information meeting

Today was a two-for-one day!  After trying multiple times to sign up for volunteer opportunities online I finally had some luck!  I had both my PAWS Chicago new volunteer meeting and my Jr. League new member informational meeting today.

PAWS Chicago is the city's largest no kill humane organization, focused on implementing solutions to end the killing of homeless pets.  I was so excited when I read about what they do and actually got a time for orientation!  There were so many things to chose from but I decided to volunteer with the Dog Town.  This is where they house all the dogs that are waiting to be adopted.  Once a dog is admitted there they will stay until they are adopted, no matter how long it takes.  I will get to walk the dogs and play with them and eventually assist in the adoption process.  My training session is next Tuesday for Dog Town, then I will be ready to start as soon as possible after that.  We had a chance to tour the facilities and I have already fallen in love with these animals.  Last year Oprah adopted a cocker spaniel from this PAWS and even made a pretty hefty donation.   One dog's story brought me to tears.  About a year ago a pit bull named Red was shot and paralyzed defending his elderly owner during a robbery.  The owner lives on a second story walk up and was no longer able to care for Red so PAWS took him in.  He was the sweetest dog ever, I can't believe he hasn't been adopted yet. I know he has very special needs but I know there is someone out there for him!  Here is Red's story.

Red and his cart

My second meeting of the day was the new member informational meeting at the Jr. League of Chicago.  The JLC is an organization committed to promoting volunteerism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.  The Chicago chapter focuses on at risk women and children and childhood obesity among many other things.  I heard about this organization through a friend in my sorority alum chapter and she said it was a great way to get more involved in the volunteer scene in Chicago as well as meet even more girls!  I thought it would be a perfect match for me since I am always looking for new friends and volunteer opportunities.  When I showed up tonight I got that familiar awkward insecure feeling but ended up meeting a lot of  new people.  It feels kind of like a grown up sorority.  I already signed up to be an associate member and my training starts with the next new member group in January!

I can't believe I am coming to my last day of my twenties...but I am beyond excited for these new opportunities to get involved in my community and help!  Life will only get better!

"You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love." -Henry Drummond

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DAY 3: Adopt a soldier

Doesn't matter if you agree with the war or not...I believe that serving our country is one of the most noble and selfless things an individual can do.  I know several people who are in the service or who have served before and I wanted a way to say thank you to them, and thank you to our troops that are there now.  I came across a program online called Adopt A US Soldier and I immediately signed up.  These soldiers are thousands of miles away, many in combat zones...away from their families and comforts of home.  This program links you up with a specific soldier and from there you email them, write letters or send care packages if you choose.

I signed up for this program a couple weeks ago and was assigned my soldier a few days later.  He was deployed from Ft. Hood which is near my hometown of Waco, Texas!  They said they could tell he was in a remote part of Afghanistan and wouldn't have much access to the internet, but that he would really need the support.  I emailed him right away to let him know I was matched with him and asked if he wanted me to send him anything specific.  I still haven't heard back from him but I decided to go ahead and get his care package together today.  There is a list on the website of things they most often assortment of toiletries, foods, drinks, candies, magazines and books, and fun things to pass the time like cards or games.  I was surprised to find out you can't send any alcohol, pork or pork by-products or any inappropriate images.  (nudie magazines ha)

I still have a few more items I want to get before I send him the goodies...I absolutely love shopping for my soldier and thinking about how happy he will be when he gets my care package!  I read that I need to send two separate packages for food and toiletries...and that the USPS will ship boxes to the military in Iraq or Afghanistan for the same rate as a flat rate box in the US!  Packing the stuff correctly, filling out all the customs forms and making sure I am following all the rules so it will get to him is very time consuming, but it is nothing compared to the sacrifices they are making for our country.  It is just a little gesture for them to know that someone is thanking them on the other side of the world.
THANK YOU to our troops for all that you do!  If I could send you all care packages I would!

If you would like to get involved with this program please visit

Monday, October 4, 2010

DAY 4: Pull credit report

I am ashamed to say that I have NEVER looked at my credit report.  I have always been a little careless with my finances but somehow everything always worked out.  Well, almost.  I have been in a couple tight spots a but I will tell you about those later.  I blame some of my lack of financial literacy on these things:

1) My freshman year in college I was on reasonable budget from my parents and my grandfather, but as an 18-year old who has just tasted the freedom of college life, it just wasn't enough.  Everywhere I turned there were booths in the quad offering one credit card or another...persuading students to sign up to get free t-shirts or whatever
worthless thing they were giving away.  The credit limits were very low, but that was just enough to get a new dress for the sorority winter formal or buy a plane ticket to spring break.  When I would max out these cards, I would just sign up for another one and not worry about the debt I was collecting.  I wasn't completely naive!  In the back of my mind I knew I would have to pay that back...I thought I would get a summer job to pay it and I never told my parents.  It was like free money!

2) After college I moved to NYC, then LA then back to NYC.  I never really needed my credit and because I had so many previous unpaid credit card balances I never even bothered trying to get new ones.  In New York I didn't have a car and my parents had to cosign for my first apartment, so my credit was never an issue.  The second time I moved to NYC I subleased my apartment and once again no credit was needed.  Because I never needed to use my credit to buy a home or a car, I never thought about it.  I also never wanted anything to tie me down to one city like a mortgage...I wanted to be free to move whenever I wanted!

Until one day I had to think about it! In 2006 I was working at the Rachael Ray Show in NYC and got a call in the office.  I never got calls in the office so I knew it couldn't be good!  It was a representative from the  US Department of Education that wanted to talk to me about my defaulted student loan.  WHOOPS!  It had been 3 years since I graduated from college.  I think I did the first loan deferral but after that I completely forgot about it. My parents had paid half of it back and the other half was up to me, that was our agreement the entire time.  So at that point I owed somewhere around $25,000.  What a way to ruin my day!  He said they tracked me down and I would either have my wages garnished or set up a payment plan.  I was barely squeaking by in NYC but obviously a payment plan made more sense.  I paid on time for a consecutive 9 months to make it out of my delinquent status and they removed about $5,000 of late and interest charges.  I have made a huge dent in it but I still have a long way to go. Luckily that is the biggest amount I owe and it is in a current and healthy status, which now helps my credit.

I made this for my scrapbook...these pics were taken on that night!
This is right before we had to get out of the cab and walk!
I clearly remember one night in 2003 when I lived in NYC where I could have used a "for emergencies only" credit card.  My roommate and I heard that Britney Spears was going to be at a club in the meatpacking district.  We lived on the upper east side at the time and at night we didn't like to take the subway, so it was about a $20 cab ride.   At the time Britney was crazy popular so we just had to go!  I think I spent my last $20 getting there, but we had a great time and actually got to dance with her.  So it was so worth it!  Problem was on the way home we had almost no money between the two of us!  I thought I had enough in my bank account to get another $20 out but I didn't, and I didn't have any money on my metro subway card.  So we got our change together, took a cab for as far as we could and then did what any other 20-something scantily clad girls wearing heels would do in the middle of the night.  We started to walk home.  I don't know if we were crying or if we just looked like we needed help, but a nice stranger stopped us and asked us why we were walking then gave us $20 bucks to get home!  Divine Britney Spears intervention!

OK enough blabbing bout how I dug myself into this financial abyss...let's talk about my surprisingly great credit score!!!!  Ok maybe not great but it is classified as a medium risk and fair score.  I pulled all three reports online from and also ordered them by phone from  My credit to debt ratio is 90% to 10% which is very good...the national average is 48% to 52%.   I attempted one time to go to a credit consolidation agency around 2002 and I did pay on the college credit cards for about a year, but eventually that stopped.  Those cards are listed on there now as closed with zero balance, even though I know I didn't pay them off.  I guess it is true if you don't touch a debt for 7 years it is wiped off of your account?  There are several other blemishes that I remember but it wasn't  nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  I am going to get those settled as soon as I can!

This is definitely a relief.  Many people my age already own homes and cars, but that doesn't bother me. I am working in the right direction now to improve my score, and I am definitely learning and understanding how to be more financially responsible.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

DAY 5: Haunted house

Today we (myself, Rachael and Cara) planned to go skydiving out in Long Island, New York but because of the high winds they cancelled our appointment.  We were over an hour into our train ride from Manhattan and the entire time I was filled with anxiety!  Skydiving is something I really wanted to do but I just had a bad feeling about going that day.  So once we got the call that is was cancelled we headed back to the city and decided to go to Nightmare Superstitions: America's #1 Haunted House.  Or so they say.  I would almost prefer jumping out of a plane and risking my life than going to a haunted house.

I guess I have always been a scardy cat.  When I was growing up I would spend a lot of time at my cousin's house and my aunt had an obsession with witches, scary movies and even zombies.  We watched all sorts of scary movies like Poltergeist, Night of the Living Dead, Pet Cemetery, and Kujo. Child's Play was the scariest though!  I still get scared if I see a picture of Chucky or randomly find that movie on TV!  The older I got the scarier movies I watched, even though I was beyond terrified.  I still get nightmares after watching anything that has to do with demons or the devil.  So as you can imagine haunted houses aren't the first place to look for me...but just like I continue to see horror movies...I had to scare myself and check out this haunted house.  Oh, I don't like the numbers 333 or 666 either.  It can ruin my day or scare the crap out of me if those numbers cross my path at the wrong time.

My one rule for the haunted house:  I had to stand in between the group.  I could under no circumstances lead or be the caboose.  There is a another haunted house in NYC that makes you take your shoes off and go alone.  AWW HELL NO!!!  I think the last time I had been to a haunted house I was in high school and probably drank a few wine coolers to get enough courage to go!  (just kidding mom)  We definitely had a few drinks before we made it this time!
The rules
This is the theme of the haunted house:
Visitors to NIGHTMARE: SUPERSTITIONS enter a surreal insane asylum. The patients have voluntarily admitted themselves, seeking protection from the danger they perceive is awaiting them because they broke a superstition. They feel they’re safe behind padded walls, and that they can be set free if NIGHTMAREpatrons break these superstitions and accept bad luck themselves. They have to…it's the only way out!

Rach covered her face the entire time!
Basically this really was my nightmare because I am be superstitious.  One of the first rooms they took us into has names all over the walls and I saw my name (spelled wrong) several times.  Yes we did give them our names before we walked in, but mine was the biggest and in the middle of the wall!  So the crazy mental patient followed me around the room screaming some kind of demonic sounding chant at me and said  I would be cursed.  That stuff is so not cool!  Rachael and I started singing songs that we remembered from church camp as loud as we could!  "Lord I life your name on high...Lord I love to sing your praises."  Haha thank GOD we remembered the words so the crazy person would let us go!  That part was pretty scary, but I didn't see much else.  I do remember a room full of unlucky pennies and a room of bloodied rabbit feet.   I walked through the rest of the haunted house practically buried in Rachael's back screaming as I gripped Daniel's arm behind me.  I woke up several times that night and I was sure I saw a ghost!

Instead of facing my fear of skydiving I faced my fear of haunted houses.  But I don't think you could pay me enough to go in alone!  I was relieved that we were alive when it was over!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

DAY 6: Recap and updates

I planned on doing this post Friday with one week left on my countdown... but since I was surprised with a birthday party Friday night I had to use Saturday as a recovery day.  A perfect day to reflect on my progress, to see what things are left on my list and to make sure I am on track!  I also wanted to update you on a couple tasks I had completed and some of the follow-ups.

DAY 30: Send out Komen 3-Day for the Cure donation emails

  • So far I have raised $975.00, about 40% of my goal!  I have about a month left to complete my goal!  You can still donate here!!

DAY 29: The dentist visit

DAY 28: Bike tour around Chicago

DAY 27: Windy City Wine Festival
  • Finally picked up my almond flavored sparkling wine and it is chilling in the fridge!

DAY 26: Chicago Bears football game

Day 25: Twinkie goes to the vet
  • I received Twinkie's city registration in the mail and I still need to register him with my building!

DAY 24: Pottery painting
  • I was so excited to get my completed star!  It sits next to my bed and is perfect to set jewelry on!
The finished star!

DAY 23: Cooking class-Chicken 101

  • I haven't cooked at home yet...but I will!

DAY 22: Helping the homeless

  • I still see the same homeless people around Chicago and always give them a smile and a dollar when I can!

DAY 21: 10 mile sunrise training walk

  • I hurt my foot during this training walk but it is all recovered and I am ready to resume my training.

DAY 20: Family time

DAY 19: Go to church

DAY 18: Psychic reading

DAY 17: Dermatologist visit

  • Just got a call from them saying my results came back normal and the mole wasn't malignant!  I am still having to treat and dress the wound daily but it is almost healed.

DAY 16: Sorority Alumnae Chapter Sisterhood Dinner

DAY 15: Donate to a women's shelter

  • I got the nicest thank you card them with such a great quote on it!

DAY 14: One day juice detox

DAY 13: Race for the Cure

DAY 12: Get health insurance

  • Health insurance is still being processed but I am hoping everything goes smoothly and I will be insured next week!  

DAY 11: Clean out closet and donate

  • Huge donation was dropped off at Salvation Army!  Wow that felt good!

DAY 10: Celebrity book signing

DAY 9: Second City comedy show

DAY 8: Latin groove dance class

DAY 7: Surprise party in NYC

It has been such a busy and exciting month so far!  I can't believe how quickly it has all flown by.  Here is what I have remaining on my list:
  • Skydiving (we tried to go in New York and it was too windy so it was cancelled)
  • Kyaking in the Chicago River (after multiple attempts my reservation keeps getting cancelled)
Both of those activities are something I still want to do, but it just doesn't look like it will be completed by the end of this week. 

  • Pull my credit score and see what in the world is going on with that.
  • Adopt a soldier.
  • PAWS animal volunteer orientation meeting and Jr. League informational meeting.
  • Book club meeting. (and actually finish the book this time)
  • Send resumes out and commit to finding a job (I purposely waited until the end of this project for this one...I need to focus 100% on this!)


Friday, October 1, 2010

DAY 7: Surprise party in NYC

Friday October 1st marked the week countdown to my 30th birthday, the beginning of my favorite month and the day I could officially start celebrating THE BIG 3-0!  The plan was to fly to NYC and land about 4pm on Friday, then relax and go to a sushi dinner, have some drinks and call it an early night to prepare for Saturday night. (the night I THOUGHT we were doing my birthday get together)  I had planned to do a little catch up post today since I would be traveling to New York City and really didn't have any other task planned, but things got really turned around and I was completely surprised!  So I will tell you all about my surprise 30th birthday party!

For weeks I had been trying to plan a little get together with the help of one of my best friends Cara, who lives in NYC. I also had been asking my boyfriend Daniel what he thought we should do and no one seemed that interested in making plans!  Granted my actually birthday isn't until the weekend after, but this was going to be my celebration in the big apple.  I didn't want to seem too bratty so I didn't push the issue that much, even though I had already bought the most perfect sparkly birthday dress!  Finally we decided on a place and Cara sent out the fake Evite, made all the fake makeup and hair appointments and pretended to set things up with the venue we chose.  At the same time her, Daniel and my one of my other BFFs Rachael were scheming behind my back planning a surprise bday party for Friday night, not Saturday!  Rachael had told me she was coming to Chicago for my actual birthday but really she was secretly in New is all very confusing!

Our first flight was supposed to leave at noon but was cancelled because of weather in NYC, so they put us on a flight leaving Chicago at 7pm.  I thought that was fine since we didn't really have plans but Daniel had us switched to another airline leaving at 12.  Ok, nothing fishy there, he just wanted to get there sooner!  That flight was delayed two hours but we finally got to New York around 6.  As soon as we landed Cara wanted me to meet her at a hair salon where she said she was getting her hair done.  We couldn't go straight there and then she was ignoring my texts, but I threw my luggage at the hotel and tried to hurry to meet her.  Plans changed and then Daniel was instructed to stall at our hotel room...I was ready to go meet up with Cara so had no idea why we were waiting.  Fifteen minutes later Rachael shows up at my hotel and the whirl wind begins!  I had no idea Rachael was even in New York!  She told me to get myself together and we headed to get my hair done...unfortunately I had missed my makeup appointment because of the flight delays.  After getting my hair done we went back to the hotel to change and another group of people showed up.  I was told we were going to get drinks and dinner and the plans were still on for Saturday night.  I was a little confused but of course just went a long for the ride.  While I finished getting ready Daniel went ahead to get drinks and we were to meet them at The Bubble Lounge.

Our group made our way to The Bubble Lounge in Tribeca around 10pm.  They lead me through the crowd as I kept looking for the people we were meeting there...then we walked down the stairs to a private party space and everyone yelled out SURPRISE!  I was honestly 100% so shocked!  There were about 20 of my friends there along with a fabulous open bar that included all my favorite champagne/drinks, party favors that included mini pink bubble blowers and little tins decorated with stars and filled with assorted pink jelly bellies and even a red velvet Magnolia Bakery birthday cake decorated with tiny champagne bottles!  Trays of my favorite foods were passed around the party...this was seriously the most perfect party for me and I had the time of my life.  I even woke up with the biggest smile on my face wanted to do it all again!

The favors! So cute!
I wanted to go into so much detail about how Daniel, Cara and Rachael pulled it off because I know how hard they worked.  I am not a snoopy girlfriend but I am still stunned that I didn't discover what they had up their sleeves! The party was perfect for me in every way... I have always secretly wanted a surprise party but of course I would never ask for one!  THANK YOU Daniel, Cara and Rachael who planned every little detail flawlessly and to those who came!  I love you guys! I wish I could be in a place where all my friends  could have made it but you all were missed!  It was most definitely an unforgettable experience,  I felt so special!