Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017 in Review

Strong Start

A lot went down at the end of last year, and I ended up not writing a 2016 in Review. We had a messed up presidential election, we lost George Michael, and Bowie still hadn't returned as I had hoped. I was in a bad place.
So. Done.

Thankfully, I was able to ring in the new year with two of my favorite people. It was a welcome distraction and helped take some of the sting out of what we were going through, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't jealous when they went back home - to Europe.
Friendly Alliteration: Stef the Swede and Netherlands Nancy

A few weeks into 2017, Kit's car got totaled by some kid with no insurance. Thankfully, Kit was fine after a couple of days - but we couldn't say the same about his sweet, sweet 2003 Ford Escort:

Looking on the bright side, we upgraded to an SUV:

In February, Kit's collaboration with Al Jaffee (!!!) was published in MAD, so we were finally able to show off the original art I surprised Kit with for Christmas:
By far, the most expensive Christmas gift I have ever purchased,
but totally worth it because duh

Six Pack is Complete

Just before Valentine's Day, my second niece arrived - making me an auntie for the sixth (and final?) time.
Clockwise from the top: Me with Megan, Dylan, Lainey, Zander, Ian, and Grant

100 Happy Days, Round 3

I knew the spring semester would be my biggest challenge yet - I thought it would be a good idea to attempt four courses at once. To help me maintain a positive focus while I was knee-deep in a semester-long research project, I decided to go through the #100HappyDays Challenge for a third time (you know, because I needed one more thing to be responsible for each day), from mid-January through mid-April:
It looks like I had some good times during that period; 
TBH, Spring 2017 was mostly a blur


I survived the spring semester, and during my three week break before the summer semester, I got to experience Portland for the first time! I immediately fell in complete love with this city, and I could see myself living there someday.

We attended the National Cartoonist Society's Reuben Weekend while there, and we got all fancy-style, as you do for the Reubens:

Movie Villains "Silver Fox and The Red Assassin"

Um, don't let me forget to mention that we got to interact with Matt Fucking Groening while we were there! 

Really, if I ever complain about any aspect of my life again,
just slap me in the face and show me these photos


In June, I got a second visit in the same year from my favorite Dutch Baby!

Seriously, though, look at that face

I also got to spend more time with his mom:

The week they returned home, I continued on to take two summer courses because I apparently don't learn anything from past experiences. While exhausting, it went surprisingly smooth, especially considering I completed my Marketing Capstone in only five weeks.

Upon finishing the summer semester, I had one whole week to recover before diving into the fall semester. To make the most of it, I opted to have a Senior Portrait session while recreating several poses from high school:

Mid-August. In Texas. Outdoors. This is all sweat. ALL sweat.

The Final Countdown

I had reason to believe my final semester would drag on forever, but I was completely wrong. This was perhaps the quickest semester I have ever experienced, despite having to complete my Management Capstone!

Late October, I took a brief break ahead of the final push, and I ventured to Denver to visit family and meet my newest cousin, Calvin.
Trust me, this kid is adorable; he looks like
a miniature version of my cousin, Will

The highlight of my trip was preparing a meal for my aunts, uncles, and cousins - I made my Nana's sauce (an Amorella tradition when we reassemble), and I surprised them with Texas-shaped pasta, which they all appreciated:
Just kidding; I caught shit for this pasta the entire evening,
but it was worth it because they all had Texas inside of them

Three quick weeks after returning from Denver, it was time for Thanksgiving! And would you believe it, I had the good fortune of seeing Nancy a THIRD time in 2017! I need her to know that my expectations have readjusted, and I now demand at least three visits each year.
My Happy Place - these faces assembled around this table

Following Thanksgiving, it was a whirlwind through the rest of the semester - on Tuesday, December 12th, I completed my last final exam for this dual-major degree.
After taking 87 hours covering 29 courses spanning 12 semesters...
I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!

My graduation ceremony was Saturday, December 16th. Here are a couple photos of me looking like a nice lady:

This bitch nearly lost her mind over the past four years, but I will tell you:

And a couple photos of me not looking like a nice lady (from later that night):

I haven't had longer than a four-week break from school in the past two and a half years, so suddenly having all of this time on my hands will be an adjustment. But don't worry - I am up for the challenge. For now, I plan to relax for the remainder of the year (the whole week of it that remains), and I am already plotting out 2018.

One More Thing

My boss bought lunch for the office earlier this week, and when I opened my fortune cookie...

I look forward to seeing what THIS is about!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

My Last First Day

A Brief History of My 'First Day' Photo
Four years ago, at the age of 31, I came to the realization that it was time to go back to school. I had my doubts and anxieties to contend with, but I also felt great pride and excitement about my decision. To celebrate, I took myself Back to School shopping - I bought actual school supplies, a book bag, and I somehow also justified the need for new clothes. When the day arrived, I selected one of my new blouses, and taking a cue from my friends and family posting photos of their kids on their first day of school, I semi-jokingly posted a photo of myself on my First Day of School. Except, since I was 31, I had to go to work before my evening classes - so I posed in my office with a morning cup of coffee.

August 2013 Julie has no idea of what's about to happen to her

A year later I posed, once again, in the same blouse for my second First Day of School. This time, the joke was that I was wearing the same outfit from the previous year, a benefit of going back to school as an adult, since kiddos outgrow their back to school outfits shortly after each new semester begins.

August 2014 Julie is a bit more confident; dis bitch conquered Business Calculus

Okay, so you see where this is going. After creating this tradition for myself, I also wore the blouse on my third and fourth First Day of School and even made a handy pic collage in 2016 - so you can actually see my wrinkle progression over a short three years' time...

Either I have visibly aged since embarking on this journey
or my Instagram game has gotten weaker

My Last First Day of School
Today, four years later, I begin my final semester of college. In honor and celebration of my "Last First Day" of school (and the blouse that has been there since the beginning), I thought it would be fun to combine my final First Day photo tradition with the tradition of Senior Portraits. I started out by researching a bit to get some ideas for poses. When I googled "senior pictures," these were the first results:

Then I said "fuck it, I got this," and here's what I came up with:

I began with the more traditional "Girl Who Sits Backwards in a Chair" poses, directly recreating a few of my Senior Portraits from half my life ago...

Check out that wind effect in the upper-left shot

To maximize value from my photographer, I opted to incorporate my family pet into one of the shots:
Out of 30+ shots, I swear this is the only one where Vin isn't squirming

I then went for a more studious look in a series of photos of me legitimately reading my International Marketing book...
Globalization is sexy

I shook things up by taking the shoot outside:
Just me, sitting on my porch, thinking about my future...

And then I realized I needed a shot of me showcasing my sweet, sweet ride:
Going Rogue: Way hotter than the photo of me with my white Camaro
when I graduated high school

And finally - here is me peeking from behind a tree:

Sunday, August 20, 2017

I Am a 35-Year Old College Student

I am a 35-year old college student. I attended College: Part One when I was of the traditional college age, and since I knew everything there was to know in life (except what I wanted to do for a career), I quit going to school just two courses shy of my Associates degree. Brilliant. Four years ago, I came to the realization that I was topped out. I have the potential to make a great career with my current employer, but finishing school had to become a priority before the door to future professional growth would open. Working at an academic medical institution really can light a fire under your tush - it feels as though everyone else has credentials behind their names.

I began by returning to my original college to take care of those last two courses to finally complete my Associates Degree. For me, it was important to finish what I had started there, and then I was ready to pursue my Bachelor's degree. In College: Part One, I was on a path to the nursing program. I would probably be making a great salary by now (half my life later), and who knows, I could have very well ended up loving that career path - but the person I am today has no desire to be a nurse. With my work and life experience leading up to going back to school, I decided that business is where I would like to focus. And after working at a medical institution for nine years, I find the business of healthcare to be quite fascinating.

Enrolling at a university as an adult was intimidating, likely as it would have been at the traditional college age, except I didn't have my parents there to help me get settled in this time. You can build an entire story in your mind about how things will be - how you will be perceived, stress about whether your performance will be at the level you desire, stress about whether you will be able to figure out where you need to go, etc. And don't get me started about the stress of getting back into the "student" frame of mind.

I selected Management for my major, signed up for my first two courses at UTA, and so began College: Part Two. My first semester was not enjoyable - I started with Business Calculus (reeeeeeeally should have done that one at a Community College, btw), and the instructor turned out to be a disgruntled PhD candidate who clearly did not want to be in class with us, two evenings per week. He would yell at us, threaten us with extra difficult problems on exams, and humiliate us if we asked questions in class. It was an absolute nightmare, but thank goodness that has not at all been my experience beyond the first semester. My second semester was exponentially better than my first, and my third was even better than my second. (And I have never been  more proud of a 'B' than I was when I completed Business Calculus.)

I enrolled in Principles of Marketing because it was a required course, but I will also admit that I was curious about it. Several of my friends work in the Marketing industry, and while they do different types of things (from Brand Awareness and Brand Management to Public Relations, Graphic Design, and Advertising) within various areas of the field, one common element is that they are all pleased with their career choice. Following Principles, I decided to enroll in a second marketing course the very next semester, Retail Marketing.

During that semester, I learned that I could earn my Business Administration degree with dual majors, and there would be no additional hours required. I declared that I am now pursuing a dual major and my degree plan was refreshed with a more focused list of course requirements - it was a simple enough choice for me to be placed on the Management and Marketing dual major plan. Since then I have studied Consumer Behavior, which is something I could see myself diving into even deeper - the psychology of marketing - love it! I then continued my studies in Social Media Marketing, and I am now Hootsuite certified!
Of all the required courses, by far my favorite was Marketing Research - my greatest source of academic pleasure and pain during the Spring 2017 semester. The workload and hours I had to dedicate to this one course and project were borderline unreasonable, but I ate it up. I love research and solving problems, and applying the process to Marketing further piqued my interest in digging deeper for further understanding.
My Marketing Research professor, who also happens to be the Program Director of the MSMR (Master of Science in Marketing Research) graduate program, reached out to me to gauge my interest in his program. At that time I did not even know there were graduate programs for Marketing Research, and so I looked into it. Apparently the field is quite competitive, only seven (7) universities in the US offer the MSMR degree, and future prospects for the field are looking great. I was flattered that the Program Director sought me out and encouraged me to apply to his program, and after months of weighing my options I have decided to apply for the program once I graduate this winter.
Three years at UTA have completely flown by. I started out lacking 22 courses for my degree, and now I only lack 3. My early concerns were swiftly snuffed - it took nearly no time to learn my way around, I found TWO Starbucks locations on campus, and it turns out I am not the oldest student there! In fact, I would estimate I am around the median age - likely due to my nearly exclusive enrollment in evening and weekend courses. Generational diversity in the classroom creates the opportunity for richer conversations, and we all learn from each other's unique paths and experiences. The coursework, while challenging at times, has turned out to not be too difficult overall, and my biggest hurdle has been time management and developing the self-discipline to stay home and study when my real desire is to be out socializing. Speaking of socializing, I have found several new friends in my classmates, and I even have budding friendships with faculty!
It truly is a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself. As my Marketing Capstone professor always encouraged us to do, I have been cataloging my "unexpected successes." While I knew I wanted to return to school to complete a degree in business, I never thought of how inspired I would be through my studies in Marketing. And I certainly never imagined I would be prepared to pursue a graduate degree and career in Marketing Research.
I am now at home, relaxing during the one weekend between my final summer and fall semesters, and I thought now was a good time to pause and reflect on this journey. I feel gratitude that I have had the privilege to finish school, and I feel gratitude for those who have encouraged me through the past few years - it certainly has not always been fun and it was not at all easy - but the love, patience, and support I have felt from my friends and family have helped to propel me forward. I have the most gratitude towards my husband, who has kept the house, the pets, and me running during this somewhat surreal period of our lives. There is no way I could have gotten this far without the Kitster.
When asked about my experience of going back to school, the one word that consistently comes up is "meaningful." Most people complete their college education immediately after high school. I may have taken the scenic route, but I am so thankful I finally found my way back.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 in Review

Here is [mostly] what happened in my world this year, in [mostly] chronological order:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

When It Rains, It Pours (Sometimes Inside the House)

Day One - Saturday

I was cleaning out our refrigerator and emptying a container of old spaghetti sauce down the disposal, when red water began to rise in both sinks.  A moment later, red began pouring onto the kitchen floor from the cabinets under the sink.  I opened the cabinets and promptly got squirted in the face from the descending pipe.  Kit ran in and so did the pups, so they also got spritzed with red; it was a family affair.

 Our kitchen cabinets are white, and now they had a nice,
horror movie motif going on.

It was a pasta disasta!

We were expecting these gals to show up next 


A two hour visit from our handyman revealed close to nothing.  The issue was not with the disposal but deep in the piping which leads to a release drain outside of the house.  The tool needed to further investigate a blockage was unavailable until Monday, so the kitchen was officially closed.

Day Two – Sunday

I heard running water during the night, but in a half-asleep haze I did not investigate and chalked it up to Kit in the restroom.  When I let the pups out on Sunday morning, I discovered a pipe with water flowing at full speed in the backyard.  I learned that this is the emergency release function to the water heater, meaning our poor water heater suffered a stroke overnight and, in her final hours, protected the house by sending the overflow outside instead of flooding our attic.

We had the water heater shut off as well as the pilot light, because we didn’t want to die in a house explosion.  There would be no hot water until the heater was replaced.  I was told, in an extreme case of coincidence, the kitchen plumbing and water heater events are completely separate and unrelated.

Day Three - Monday

It was a stormy morning and rained on and off throughout the day.  I went to an early meeting then returned home to receive the handymen to continue investigating and working on our kitchen and water heater issues.  I helped relocate all of the items from underneath multiple kitchen cabinets, and then I helped relocate all of the items from Kit’s closet in our bedroom, which contains access to the crawlspace underneath the house.

Since the water heater incident was deemed more dire, they mostly focused upon disconnecting and removing it, which took a better part of the afternoon.  Disconnecting and inspecting her is what it would take to obtain a formal pronouncement of death, and she had officially left us.  They connected a hose that ran downstairs into our guest bathtub to drain what remained inside her, then they carried her out.

Since the kitchen was not the area of focus today, it remained closed.  The handyman recommended that we go out for dinner and then brace ourselves for a cold shower, since the new water heater wouldn’t be delivered or installed until tomorrow.

Around 7:30 p.m., I rationalized that it would be in my best interest to attempt that cold shower now rather than trying to deal with it early in the morning.  It was as fun as one might imagine – I had goosebumps in places I didn’t realize were possible.  I finished my shower as quickly as possible, and as I was drying off I heard sprinkling.  I thought it had begun raining again and peeked out of the bathroom window.  The sun was shining and it was dry in the backyard.  So, where was it raining?  In our bedroom, naturally.


Water was quickly filling up the light fixture attached to our fan, and it was raining from the ceiling all over our bedroom.  It rained on my great grandmother’s dresser, mirror, and nightstand.  Our bed was soaked, and so were all of the displaced contents from Kit’s closet from earlier in the day.  I was horrified at the thought of it raining all over the house, but thankfully it appeared to be secluded to our bedroom.

This, my friends, is what you would call a person’s “breaking point”.  I did not get excessively upset when my evening plans got ruined on Saturday from the kitchen sink fiasco.  I did not freak out when I learned the water heater was dying upstairs and jacking up my water bill in the backyard.  But I completely lost my shit when we had to move all of our furniture out of our bedroom as we were being rained on from the attic.  Our first priority was securing a container to collect the water pouring out of the light fixture, then we removed my Nana Fergie’s furniture.  Since it was still sprinkling after all that, we simply threw towels on the floor to protect the hardwoods, and we kept drying them over and over.  The sprinkling finally stopped, and I set up large fans on either side of the room to ensure the floors stayed dry through the night.

One of the handymen came back out close to 9:00 p.m. and revealed that they had failed to close off the water heater connections upstairs.  This caused water to pour in the attic for the duration of my freezing shower, which, in turn, rained down into our bedroom.  He brought fixtures to close off the open connections in the attic, and Kit was then able to take an uncomfortable shower of his own, without incident.

Day Four – Tuesday

Despite my delicious dinner of Valium on Monday night, I had a choppy night of sleep on our living room couch.  When I awoke on Tuesday morning in preparation of the handymen to return, I went to inspect the aftermath of our bedroom.

Before: Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to
take a "before" photo, so I will simply describe it.
It looked the opposite of the after photos.


After: The ceiling bubbled up and discolored; it looks as though
work had previously been done, judging by the distinctive
white rectangle shape that stands out.

Thankfully, the ceiling will not need to be replaced.  The major concerns were buckling, which it is actually not that severe, and also mold/mildew.  We were expedient in getting airflow circulating through the room and throughout the night, and a warm June evening quickly dried out the attic’s portion of the mess so we should be fine.  They will need to scrape away the paint and resurface then repaint.
Our home is 81 years old, and some of the original cast iron piping was still present in the kitchen behind the walls.  Over the years, it corroded and partially collapsed, which is what caused our plumbing backup.  It has been removed and replaced, and I hear them finishing up in the other room now.
As for the old 50-gallon water heater, she had outlived her five year warranty for an additional 13 years.  The shiny, new one arrived an hour ago and is being installed as we speak.  Let's keep our fingers crossed that it goes well.  As I mentioned previously, we would hate to have gone through all of this only to die in a house explosion.
I'm tired.