New Year, New Me. Again.

So from late October to December 2013 I didn’t lose any weight. In fact, I gained a few pounds back. No excuses – I just didn’t feel like counting WW points. I knew the holidays were coming up on us and I wanted to be able to enjoy them to the fullest. So I did. No regrets. Sure I gained some of the pounds back, but I knew it would happen so it’s not like it was a surprise. When you go from counting every bite of food and exercising 4-5x a week to eating all you want and no exercise – it’s no mystery as to why some weight came back.

Besides not worrying about food, I also cut down on exercise a lot. Once we hit Thanksgiving week I stopped going altogether. There was too much going on and I just didn’t have the energy to suit up and head over to be on a treadmill for an hour. I did, however, participate in a couple more 5Ks that I had already signed up for, so it’s not like I went completely without any exercise during those two holiday months.

But here we are in January 2014, and it’s time for a reboot. I have a spreadsheet that I use to track various stats. I have cleared it out and am starting over, with Sunday being Day One. If I lose a pound this week, it’s Pound #1. Not Pound #33 or #41 or #27. Pound #1.

Weigh-ins will continue to be on Saturday mornings. I’ve logged back into WW for the first time since we went to Disney World and logged my food over the past couple of days. Yes, including the Christmas chocolate.

The weather has been bitterly cold, and so I will start going to the gym again, with today being my first day back in quite a while. I know my phone’s running app will be happy to have me back. It keeps sending me weekly notices that "you have no workouts on record this week." Bah humbug! I will say I cannot wait for the weather to warm up so I can exercise outside again, especially now that we have Chilly the Dog. He likes exercise and will be a fun companion on the road once temps are not regularly in the 30s by the time I’m able to get outside.

And so that’s the update for now. My goal? No goals. Just getting out there and getting back to doing it.

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Exciting Opportunities Ahead

office-secretaryI’ve basically been a secretary since I was in college. I did work as a word processor for a few years, but for the most part I’ve been a secretary. You can call it what you want – administrative assistant, executive assistant, marketing assistant – it all means that I’m a secretary. I’m not ashamed of the word secretary – I don’t consider it old-fashioned. Yes, I do other things besides true secretarial work, but I do still answer phones, take messages, order supplies, type up letters, make appointments, and keep up with my bosses’ schedule. My current job has a lot of daily-weekly-month-quarterly reports that I have to deal with. A good portion of my job is doing the same thing every day, with the occasional fun project thrown in every now and again.

However, in 2014 I have the opportunity to do something outside the scope of being a secretary. My current top boss (I have 7 total bosses, four who report to one who then reports with another one to the top one) had a job change with the arrival of 2014 and she is now in charge of some very exciting things happening at our company. Rather than just being in charge of two departments and a large project, she is now in charge of five departments and a HUGE project that is going to be a major focus in 2014. It’s such a huge focus that a brand new team was put together specifically to address it – and my boss is one of the two top leaders of the team. She will be leading all of the departments directly relating to customer experience satisfaction, which is the number one priority of our company this year.

As a result, she has asked that I go from supporting seven bosses to supporting just her with some peripheral support for the other AVP on the team. Not only that, but from our talks it sounds as though the scope of my work is changing in a big way this year. Rather than simply being a secretary, I’ll be more like a project team member. Yes, I’ll be doing secretarial stuff to some degree, but the majority of my work will be project based. No more daily drudgery.

In addition that, one of my other current bosses works on two projects that are part of the new focus, so I’ll continue to work closely with her on two of the committees that fall under my top boss’s scope. Today she asked if I wanted to take a bigger role in working on those projects – a way to get more involved with system-wide initiatives. I’d go from merely typing presentations and sending out meeting minutes to helping facilitate the programs throughout the company. I told her I was definitely interested and she scheduled a meeting for Monday to go over her plans for my increased involvement.

I start the new job on Monday morning. It’s all very exciting and a huge change. I see it potentially leading the way to get out of being “just” a secretary and actually turning into something more corporate, more professional, and (dare I say it) more managerial? I know my top boss has my back – I’ve told her I’ll follow her to the ends of the earth, no matter how chaotic the ride. I know her star is ONLY rising at this company. She’s brilliant at what she does and has been making a name for herself among the top brass. So if I succeed in this new role, I absolutely see her getting rewarded and in turn rewarding me (as she has so many times in the past four years, with two promotions that came with some very nice raises, and various bonuses every now and again).

When I graduated from college in 1991 with a degree in Liberal Arts, an enjoyment of computers and the ability to type 100 wpm, I never dreamed I’d be anything more than a word processor/secretary. At one point I had an opportunity to go into pure IT work, but chose not to (despite the huge bucks I’d be earning now if I had gone that route). But now, in 2014, it’s quite possible that all those years have led me to this moment – a defining moment where I could have decided to stick with the secretarial status quo, or climb the first rung of the corporate ladder into something new and never look back.

I’m excited about that first step…

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The Books of 2013

On the last day of the year, I’m finally posting the list of books I’ve read/listened to in 2013, starting with the one I’m currently finishing and going back to the first one I finished a year ago. I had such a great start to the year and was plowing through audiobooks like nobody’s business. And then once I finished The Twelve in late August I really slowed down. Game of Thrones took me two months to get through, and the next Diana Gabaldon in the Outlander series has taken me two months as well. Those two books alone were the length of 2-3 books all on their own. They are massively long! Worth it, but long.

Worst book of 2013: Last First Kiss. Cheesy romance at its worst. Good thing it was a free Kindle download.

Best book of 2013: I’ll have to go with the Game of Thrones book, although the Justin Cronin vampire novels (The Passage and The Twelve) were very well written with a great cast of characters.

I only read a couple non-fiction books this year, but both were outstanding (Brain on Fire and Alone on the Ice). Ice took a while to get interesting – there was a LOT of backstory on that one. But once the actual exploration mission began I was spellbound.

I’m actually going through two books right now – an audiobook (Gabaldon) and a Kindle book which isn’t listed here. I’m barely halfway through the Kindle book which is why I didn’t list it. However, I’ve got 5 hours left of the 48-hour Gabaldon book, so I listed it since I am over 90% done (although I’m tempted to try to listen to the last five hours today just so I can say it’s done and start a new book tomorrow).

1. A Breath of Snow and Ashes Diana Gabaldon Still reading
2. Princess Academy: Palace of Stone Shannon Hale 2013-11-01
3. Midnight in Austenland Shannon Hale 2013-10-12
4. A Storm of Swords (Game of Thrones, Book 3) George R.R. Martin 2013-10-11
5. The Twelve Justin Cronin 2013-08-31
6. The Firebird Susanna Kearsley 2013-08-10
7. The 5th Wave Rick Yancey 2013-08-01
8. Rise: An Eve Novel Anna Carey 2013-07-26
9. Once: An Eve Novel Anna Carey 2013-07-10
10.Beautiful Creatures Kami Garcia 2013-07-05
11.The Art of Hearing Heartbeats Jan-Philipp Sendker 2013-06-19
12.Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration David Roberts 2013-06-10
13.Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness Susannah Cahalan 2013-05-26
14.Madame Tussaud: A Novel of the French Revolution Michelle Moran 2013-05-18
15.The Kitchen House: A Novel Kathleen Grissom 2013-05-01
16.Eve Anna Carey 2013-04-25
17.The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald 2013-04-17
18.Requiem (Delirium) Lauren Oliver 2013-04-13
19.What Alice Forgot Liane Moriarty 2013-04-07
20.The Do-Over Kathy Dunnehoff 2013-03-29
21.Day by Day Armageddon: Beyond Exile J. L. Bourne 2013-03-21
22.The Selection Kiera Cass 2013-03-12
23.The Chaperone Laura Moriarty 2013-03-07
24.The Passage: A Novel Justin Cronin 2013-02-27
25.Before I Fall Lauren Oliver 2013-01-24
26.Pandemonium Lauren Oliver 2013-01-17
27.Last First Kiss Lori Leger 2013-01-10
28.Delirium Lauren Oliver 2013-01-05
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Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas Day and I thought I’d dust the surfaces around here and chime in with an update.

The past couple of months have been busy. We took a family vacation to Disney World in Florida. We stayed at the Art of Animation resort and had a really fun week together. The kids (mostly) got a long and were thrilled to be tall enough to ride 99.9% of the rides. The last time we went (2008) they weren’t so lucky, so this trip was a huge improvement. The kids have already begun planning a return in the next few years, possibly staying at a different resort and going to Universal Studios rather than Animal Kingdom next time.

My family came to visit during Thanksgiving weekend, which was originally intended to be the weekend we celebrated my grandmother’s 100th birthday. With her passing, we decided to still get together for the holiday. Denis cooked up an amazing dinner and we managed to avoid getting the various illnesses my sister’s family brought with them (poor things).

Then it was time to begin prepping for the annual White Elephant party (the menu for which I’ve already posted). As always we devoted a lot of time and attention to decorating the house, planning the menu, and getting the house cleaned. In the end it was a really fun night. Denis ended up with a hideous clown statue and I let CootieBoy pick my present – a musical tie that he wore to church the following Sunday in order to show to his piano teacher.

Chilly the Dog

Chilly the Dog

And then Christmas arrived. And with it a new addition to the family. Denis and I briefly – just for a couple days – fostered a dog that one of my co-workers found on her porch one night. The dog was gorgeous – a husky – but very clearly a puppy. While we liked the dog, the puppy-ness of him was just too much, and we gave him back to my co-worker, who very happily added him to her own household and never looked back. After that experience, Denis said he was willing to have another dog, but not a puppy. He went online and did a search on dog breeds and decided he wanted an Australian Shepherd. A quick search at Petfinder online and we found an Australian Shepherd mix in the next town over. The picture was adorable and the description sounded perfect. Five years old, quiet, good with kids and cats, not high energy, and pretty affable. We went to visit the rescue group and liked the dog. We picked him up Christmas Eve and had him stay at a friend’s house until the kids went to bed. We then brought him home so that he could be “under the tree” come Christmas morning.

Chilly lounging on the sofa Christmas morning.

Chilly lounging on the sofa Christmas morning.

CootieGirl woke up first this morning, and came in to ask if she could go downstairs. I told her to let me brush my teeth and to go wake CootieBoy. Before I was even done brushing my teeth she was back, exclaiming, “Mama, there’s a DOG down there! We got a DOG!” *sigh* So much for getting down there first so we could videotape their reactions!

The dog’s name is Chilly, not only because of his very chilled out temperament, but because of the time of year we adopted him. We have had a good first day with him – we discovered that he already knows several commands including how to shake “hands!” CB was thrilled about that because he always wanted a dog that could do tricks.

And so that’s my update. I’ve not done much with the weight loss thing since we went to Disney in mid-October other than hitting the gym a few times and doing one 5K race with my sister on Thanksgiving Day, but I plan to start up again on January 1 along with everyone else making new year’s resolutions.

To that end, I hope your Christmas Day is a special one! Thanks for sticking with the blog in 2013 even though I didn’t write much. Hopefully I’ll be better about that in 2014! Cheers!

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MegaMillions Lottery Is Up to $586M

As expected, the drawing is now up to $636M. Single ticket winner in SC would get $232M as a lump sum after taxes. First annuity payment would be $6.6M and the 30th year payment would be $26.8M. So adjust all numbers in this post UPWARDS!

I’m sure by the time I’m done posting this and DEFINITELY by the time the winning numbers are drawn, it’ll be higher. But we’ll go with that figure for this post.

That’s a nice chunk of change. For a single ticket winner in SC, that comes to a cool $215M after all federal and state taxes are taken out.

In past posts I’ve talked about what we’d do with the money if we won – moving back to NYC, traveling, monetary gifts to friends. And the numbers I’ve thrown out have all been presuming we’d be taking the lump sum. However, part of me reads the stories about all those people who go bankrupt after living the high life for a few years, and I can’t help but think that taking the 30-year annuity is the better way to go to ensure a bit more fiscal responsibility. And it promotes less of a temptation to live the high life and more of the determination to not waste the money.

The 30-year payout on the $586M in South Carolina equals $389M over that time. The first year’s payment would be $5.9M after all taxes are paid out, and the 30th year payment would be about $24.6M after all taxes are paid out. If we win tomorrow night, and live the next 30 years, we will be 74 and 77 years old, respectively, when the last payment is made.

Each year we will have received more than enough to live on, be generous to others, take care of our families, and avoid financial ruin. If we mess up one year, there’s always the next year to recover.

$5.9M the first year could do so much, too!

$590K to our church
$590K to various charities
$1.8M to set up college funds for the kids
$500K in gifts to friends/family (in increments of $12,000 each to avoid them having to pay taxes)
$250K to pay off the house, buy new cars to replace our 9- and 10- year old cars, take an extended global family vacation and splurge.

Spend the first year planning, figuring out what we want to do going forward. $5.9 million would enable us to have the freedom of leisurely decision-making.

And even after doing the few things listed above, that would still leave us with $2.1 million dollars for the year. Two. Point. One. Million. Dollars. In year one. That’s $175K PER MONTH. At that point we could just immediately invest 95% that money, leaving us with $105K POST-TAXES for the year to live on. And we’d be mortgage-free, car-payment free, with $2M invested and (hopefully) providing a minimum 4% annual return on the investment. $105K is not enough to go crazy, but is more than enough to be comfortable and not worry about the next paycheck.

And that would be more than fine, because the very next year we’d get a check for $6.3M. At that point we’d do the following:

$630K to church
$630K to various charities
$630K to start up college scholarships at our alumni universities
$3M to trust funds for the kids
$500K in gifts to friends and family

And you know what we’d have left after that in Year Two? More than $1.5 million dollars. Less than the previous year, but we’d also be giving more away. And it’s still a huge amount of money to live on and invest. Invest $1.4M and keep $100K to live on. Again, not a crazy amount but more than enough when you are mortgage- and car-payment free.

Because in Year Three? The check totals $6.6 million after taxes.

$660K to church
$660K to charities
$660K to provide more funds for the alumni scholarships
$3.3M added to the trust funds for the kids
$500K in gifts to friends and family

Still left with $1.48 million to live on and invest in Year Three. And at that point we can just begin investing everything and live off the (hopefully) minimum 4% interest we’d be earning each year.

And it goes on and on. Each year a do-over. Each year to give money to our church, to charities of our choice, to fund scholarships at our colleges and trust funds for our kids. Continually giving annual gifts to our closest friends and family. All the while knowing that we can’t go crazy – we can’t become a headline wherein we’ve lost everything due to the temptation of excess and thinking “we won’t be like those people.” Because I’ll bet 99% of the people who lose everything after winning the lottery are convinced they’ll do the right thing, too. But money changes people. And if we win the lottery, I don’t want money to change us.

If we made it to Year 30, and the $24M final payout, this is what it could be:

$2.4M to church
$2.4M to charity
$2.4M added to scholarship funds at alumni universities
$5.8M added to trust funds for kids (who by now are adults and able to begin getting payouts every 5 years as stipulated by the trust documentation)
$2.4M to friends and family (assuming that by that time much more than $12K could be given to each person before taxes are incurred)

Total left in that last year: $8.6M. Even adding in inflation over the next 30 years, that should be more than enough. Add in all the investments we’d have made over the past 30 years, and despite being 74 and 77 years old, we could very well be living out the rest of our days quite comfortably.

I don’t think getting an annual check versus the lump sum would enable us to go crazy because while we could certainly do whatever we wanted (oh, the traveling we could do!), it wouldn’t enable us to be completely stupid. We wouldn’t be buying white tigers and elephants to keep in the backyard. I wouldn’t be decorating my house with paint flecked with real gold just because we can. We wouldn’t be buying gold bars from vending machines in Abu Dhabi. Sure, we’d most likely move into a nicer house (and probably even move back to NYC and put the kids in private school), and we’d quit our day jobs, and I’d hire a personal trainer to come to my house each day rather than feel guilty that I haven’t hit my $10-a-month gym in almost four weeks. But I don’t think we’d be targets. Nobody would put out a hit on us or anything like that.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on tonight’s drawing, and for whoever wins it. Do I hope we win? Sure. But I hope whoever does win is the same as me – wanting to do the right thing, and determined to figure out the best way to ensure it gets done.

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Another Successful White Elephant Menu!

Pictures will come of our festive 2013 WE party, but I figured I’d write about our menu since that is what we do around these parts!

This year we had an all new menu except for the bruschetta, which is our staple that we make each year. This year was no exception – we offered a pesto bruchetta as well as a goat cheese bruschetta. But the rest of the food? Fantastic!

1) Spicy Ginger and Carrot Soup – this was the hit of the night, bar none. Denis and I took a cooking class in early December and this was one of the things made during the class. It was so yummy that I told Denis that we were swapping out something on our WE menu so we could make the soup. And I’m glad we made that call because everyone loved not only the soup but the fact that we served it in our various shot glasses that we own! Will definitely be making a comeback next year.

2) Roast Beef Summer Rolls – they tasted great even if the delivery method was a bit iffy. We should have used two sheets of rice paper to ensure they didn’t fall apart since the rice paper is so thin. But flavor-wise they were delicious.

3) Greek Salad Skewers - this was really easy. A slice of cucumber, a slice of feta cheese and a cherry tomato. Sadly, we forgot to serve these along with the aioli sauce that we made for dipping. Oh well. We always forget something, and for this hors d’oeurves it was the aioli dipping sauce.

4) Apple & Goat Cheese on Brioche – we made a small edit to this. We made gluten-free bread for this, and it turned out well.

5) Haggis Meatballs - yep, we served haggis! Not only that, but I made a whisky sauce to put on it. And while I didn’t put nearly enough sauce on each meatball to really get the flavor of it, the meatballs themselves were delicious. Even those who had never had it before commented that they liked it.

6) Spinach/Avocado Stuffed Mushrooms – Denis make stuffed mushrooms every year, but this was the first time he did the spinach/avocado variety and people asked for seconds on that one.

7) Chicken & Waffles - a good Southern traditional dish, and it was great! Topped with a maple honey glaze, this was so good it’ll probably return next year.

8) Pimento Cheese and Bacon Crostini - another popular item because it involves two things Southerners love: pimento cheese and bacon. How can you go wrong?

9) Bacon & Cream Cheese Croissants – I had a couple of these during the party and I thought they were yummy.

10) Crab Cake Fritters - my only regret is that I brought these out near the end of the hors d’oeurves hour. By then most people were full to bursting, although the ones that had one claimed them delicious.

11) Figs & Stilton Cheese Squares - this was really easy. A square of pre-baked puff pastry, a dab of fig preserves, and a chunk of stilton cheese. Bake for 5 minutes to just melt the stilton and serve. Fancy and yet simple to make.

12) Pigs in a Blanket – but not just any blanket! It was sausage wrapped in jack cheese inside a savory pancake, served with a Sriracha dipping sauce. The flavor on these were great, but the execution was tricky because the pancakes were made in advance and so they weren’t as light and fluffy as they were when first made on the griddle.

All in all it was a good menu and the standouts were obvious: the soup, the chicken/waffles and the stuffed mushrooms. Those will all make repeat appearances next year, for sure!

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