Friday, March 12, 2010

His name is Louis. Oooh, Louis. I love you.

It’s true. There’s a new man in my life. His name is Louis. OOOOooooh, sweet Louis, goes with me everywhere, and he makes me oh so happy. Not as happy, mind you, as my sweet Angel. Or any member of my family, obviously. But happy in a . . . how does one explain it? Happy like how I feel when I wear Mom’s ginormous, perfect, rare, spectacular cornflower blue sapphire ring (all the while pretending, of course, that it’s mine).

After my brother died, I bought Angel (the best $750 I’ll ever spend, it was love at first sight. I didn’t dicker one dime on the price, because I knew I was getting a steal.). She’s named Angel because Jeremy always called our lhasa apso, Zachary Mark, “Angel Breath” and “Humbleeina.” I went with the name “Angel B” in honor of Jeremy, and our sweet little brother/dog Zachary Mark (who’s up in heaven right now with Jeremy. Zach got his name because my mom wanted another baby so badly, and had she been able to have one, she would have named him Zachary Mark. She wasn't able to have a fourth child or adopt one, so our family adopted a different kind of little brother, a lhasa apso kind, and we named him Zachary Mark. Mark is my Dad's middle name--I'm sure he was thrilled when we named the dog after him.).

Anyhow, Angel was born on November 7, 2006, exactly two weeks after Jeremy died. I tell Angel all the time that her Uncle Jeremy sent her down to earth specifically for me. And he really did. Angel is just that: my sweet little Angel from Heaven. My Breath of fresh air. She makes me so happy, my adorable constant companion these past three years. She’s the love of my life. (Jeremy, by the way, always called me “Weebeeleeina,” “Weebee” for short.) I miss Jeremy so terribly much. I still sometimes go to dial his number, when a song comes on the radio that reminds of him, or when I read an article that I know he’d be interested in, or when I see a police car with its lights on (Jeremy got my dad out of a speeding ticket when he was a very little boy, because he was so fascinated by the officer’s car and lights). I’m so grateful for eternal families and the sealing powers of the Priesthood so that death has only separated us in mortality, not for eternity. And I’m so grateful for Angel, and the love and comfort she never ceases to give me. I know I sound like a crazy dog lady right now, but I don’t care. Angel’s the best decision I made in my twenties. Mikell always tells me “Aunt Whitney, you chose the right dog.” And she’s right. I sure as heck can’t choose a man to save my life, but darnitall, I chose the perfect dog. She’s really not a dog at all, actually. She’s my daughter. xo

Mommy's little princess. (Quit gagging, and don't judge me!)

Anyhow, my second divorce obviously didn’t impact me nearly as much as the passing of my brother, but it still merited a little something special. So after it was finally final—after I restored my name at the Social Security Administration—I went to Saks at the Biltmore to celebrate. I was there with one purpose: drop some cash at the Louis Vuitton Boutique. Hmmmmm, a small slice of heaven right down the street from my condo. I walked in, told the sales associate the exact bag I wanted, and $747.27 and the amount of time it took her to wrap and box my new bag later, I was the owner of my very own Speedy 30 handbag. I went with the classic Speedy bag, around since its introduction in the early 1930s (one of only two bags still produced from LV’s early years, back when it was only known for its luggage), because it is a classic LV. I’d been wanting the Speedy 30 (the perfect size, by the way: not too small—like the Speedy 25—not too big—like the Speedy 35) since my trip to Paris in 2006, when I carried Speedy around the Louis Vuitton store on the Champs-Elysees, but couldn’t muster the courage to fork over the Euros to buy it. I had regretted not buying him ever since my trip. Well, regret no longer! Welcome to the family, Louis. Je t’adore!

To offset the cost, and to not feel so guilty for not depositing my promised-myself set amount for my savings account each month (i.e., the pay cash for a new-to-me, non-gas-guzzling car in 2012 savings account), I sold three of my Juicy Couture bags (I’m now down to only two!), my only SHIH handbag, and one of my BCBG Maxazria bags. The bags were old and worn (two of them had already been professionally-repaired), so I honestly won’t miss them. Considering the cash I got from selling my bags, it’s as though I only spent $400 on Louis. And when you add up what I typically spend on handbags every year, Louis is going to save me lots of money in the long run, since I’ll always prefer carrying him to any of my other handbags. The best part? Louis matches every color, classic monogram he is. So I won’t have to constantly switch purses with every outfit. Phew! What a relief. Grab and go, ‘cause Louis matches everything, merci beaucoup.

At the Louis boutique at Saks with my new Speedy and the gal who sold him to me.

I found this article fascinating in the WSJ magazine, by the way, all about Bernard Arnault (LVMH’s CEO): Way to go on branding luxury. I’m a sucker. Hook, line, and sinker.

What else can I tell you about? Work is still going phenomenally well. I LOVE MY JOB!!! Today one of my co-workers asked me, “Are you always this happy, or is this just how you are at work?” I guess the fact that I love my job is pretty obvious to everybody. The building maintenance guy calls me “Smiley,” the security guy always says, “Hi Happy!,” and the parking garage folks get such a kick out of me that they gave me an entire month’s free parking ($75 value, whooo-hooooo!). I still can’t believe that such an amazing job fell out of the sky into my lap during the worst economic recession of my lifetime. I’m studying a lot for series 7, and now know LOTS and LOTS about bonds. I’m not yet to the options section, but everybody at work has promised to walk me through that bear once I get there. It’s proof that Heavenly Father is so loving that he can take all the crap that happens to us and turn it into something wonderfully magical: like a new career in a totally different field, one which I never would have come upon had I not quit my last amazing job to move to Mexico to be a housewife. Every lesson in life always leads me to the same conclusion: it’s all in God’s hands, and on His timetable. Patience truly is a virtue. Good things come to those who wait. To appreciate the sweet, we have to know the bitter.

I started my piano lessons! I’ve had two thus far. I’m learning Debussy’s Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, and Schubert’s Impromptu Opus 90, No.2. You can listen to them by clicking play below. I take my lessons at the Arcadia Music Academy, a short five minute drive from my house. I really do love where I live. It’s close to everything. So centrally-located, safe, with super cute, non-cookie-cutter homes from the 1950s and 60s. After I buy my gets-better-than-my-current-12mpg-car in 2012, I’m going to start saving for a 20% down payment on a home. Not a condo!!! A home. Sans an HOA (don’t even get me started on HOAs, ughhhh—the best thing about moving to Mexico? I got to resign from my post as HOA president). And I’d love to buy a home in my same part of town. They’re just so dang expensive, even since the home market crash. But if I could find a modest home, without a pool to take care of, perhaps 1400 square feet or so, with a garage, and a yard for Angel . . . Yes, being employed is a wonderful thing! It buys me things. Like piano lessons, shoes and handbags, gas and insurance, food, a roof over my head, a 401K, you know, the necessities of life.

This is an actual recording of the composer, Claude Debussy, playing his own piece. I'll never play it this fast . . . ever. I don't think I'd be able to even if my life depended on it. Wowzers. Incroyable!

Here are some pictures of what else I’ve been up to since my last post:

The girls and I had our German night at The Black Forest Mill. It was delicious! We shared the baked brie and the sausage sampler, and I ordered the Wiener Schnitzel. YUM. I'll definitely be going back for more. On Friday and Saturday nights they have live music and dancing, how fun does that sound? I love all the girls in my ward. They're so much fun!

Liz was in town to see Mary Poppins at Gammage with her family. As a very special treat for us, her best friends, she performed three magnificent, memorized, perfectly prepared pieces for us. Liz is a virtuoso. Truly amazing. She's who recommended the Arcadia Music Academy to me, since she used to teach there. Here she is with her just-turned-one son, Benny.

Liz playing on her grand piano (her parents are lovingly storing it for her at their house).

Liz, with Whitney and Brooktynn in the background.

Proud new papa, Tyler, with son Cashen Tyler Whiting.

Glowing, beautiful new mama, Whitney, with gorgeous little Cash.

Me, Aunt Whitney, holding Cash, sitting in between dad Tyler and mom Whitney

Whitney, Whitney, Liz & Brooktynn. Ryan, Brooktynn's husband, was there also. I'm so lame I didn't get a picture of him. He took this picture, though. Thanks, Ryan!

To celebrate Mikell's entrance into the double digits, on March 5, we went to see Alice in Wonderland opening day at the IMAX in 3D. Here we are in the car, on our way to the theatre. I had to take pictures of all my cute kids. I love Fridays! I got to tag along, since I get off work so dang early.
Maren Lucina (both family names)

Madeleine Joy
(her middle name is "Joy" because she's Carrie's last, thus "Joy" in that she'd never again have to be pregnant or give birth, haha, I love Carrie) Maddy truly is a Joy. She lives up to her name in every way.

Jonathan Parker (Jonathan after his dad's first name), and the Birthday girl herself, Mikell Ariel (Mikell for Carrie's middle name, Ariel for Carrie's best friend's middle name, holding my birthday present, which, for the record, was not from Victoria's Secret).

After the movie, which, by the way, was phenomenal, all the troops met at Heidi's gorgeous home in super duper North Phoenix. Here all are: Jason, Mom, Carrie, Dad, Me, Hides. (Mikell took a great picture!)

All my gorgeous kids: Tate, Parker, Maren, Maddy, and the Birthday Girl! In the background is the Yamaha U3 upright I grew up playing. It got passed down to Jeremy when Dad bought his C7.

Waiting for our table at the restaurant: sisters!!! (Note, this is the same day I bought Louis. I'm holding my pale pink Juicy bag. Poor dear, I don't know when she'll get out of the house again.)

Mom (my twin, except she got gorgeous massively thick hair and blue blue blue eyes) with her oldest grandchild (Mikell) and her youngest (Maddy)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Officially, legally, lawfully single!

Legally single, with maiden name restored, today at 2:40 p.m.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

February and Valentine's Day Weekend.

I’m still very-much enjoying work. My study materials for series 7 and 63 arrived this past week, so that was exciting. Even more exciting? The fact that I didn’t have to work on Monday, in celebration of President’s Day! I’ve never (in my life) had President’s Day off. Ah, the joys of working the NYSE’s schedule. Back to series 7 and 63. First stop: take and pass series 7, then worry about the 63. I’ve read Chapter 1 thus far. It was all acronyms. The only interesting part to me was the history of the crash of ’29 and the election of FDR and the creation of the SEC. All the other stuff? Blech. Literally acronym after acronym after acronym. And all those acronyms, p.s.? Even knowing what they stand for I still have no clue what I’m reading. Bless my ignorant heart. I’m looking at it as though I’m learning a foreign language. And I am, in a sense. I’m learning how to speak Finance. So yay for rules and regulations! Romance languages shmomance languages. Who needs ‘em? Money—along with music, of course—is the universal language. Money talks. I’ll have to make note cards with vocab like I did back in the day when I was learning Spanish and French. Nothing satisfies me more than going through an entire stack of note cards, never having to turn any of them over because I already know what’s written on the other side. Bring it on, FINRA! I’m also adoring getting off work so early every day. It makes the bitterness of getting out of bed every morning at six a.m. worth it. My body’s adjusting. I’m tired by 10:30 every night. It’s a miracle.

The weather has been delightful of late: in the seventies (it’s actually raining right now, which is kind of sad, because we’re supposed to have a ward bbq at a local park at 3:00 this afternoon). It’s bittersweet enjoying such delightful temperatures, though, because that means soon summer’s misery will be upon us. I’m soaking up the gloriousness now while it’s with us, and getting lots of walks in with Angel before the pavement is too hot for her adorable, perfect little black feet. My friend Lianna and I have been walking a lot together. It’s awesome having a friend who lives down the street. She even popped by one night because her internet wasn’t working and she had to send out an email (thank goodness my house was spotless). We try to go walking three times a week, and our walks last about an hour. Again, we’re enjoying it while this weather lasts. Once it’s too hot, I’ll use the gym at my office since it’s free. It’s a nice little gym, too, and every time I randomly open the door to it, it’s empty. That’s good. I’ll be able to choose which channel to watch on the TV without making anybody upset it’s not a sports station (HGTV is my one and only love!).

This past weekend was Valentine’s Day. I’m not a sentimental person (save when I drive by the house I grew up in, and then I get misty eyed every time. I had the best upbringing and that home has so many happy memories for me), so I figured it wouldn’t be a difficult weekend for me, even given the fact that I’m going through this—how do I put it so it doesn’t sound so depressing?—“period of transition.” And, you know what? I had an AWESOME weekend. And, for the record, Valentine’s Day has never been anything special in my book. It’s a Hallmark holiday. To quote Jason, “Real men make every day Valentine’s Day for their wives.” Yes, my sister married well, because her husband really does let her know each and every day how amazing she is and how much he loves her. He wanted an eight cow wife, and by gum that’s what he got. (Haha, for those of you who have never seen Johnny Lingo--one of my all-time favorites!--you're missing out. "Eight cow wife" is a direct reference to that 1969 movie. It's worth watching all 25 minutes of it. You won't be disappointed, I promise! By the way, Mom, those aren't pictures, they're video clips. So click on the play symbol to watch them. I love you Mama!!!)

Every woman deserves to be married to a Johnny Lingo.

So, back to Valentine’s weekend. We’ll start with Thursday, even though that’s not the weekend, unless you’re living in Mexico, in which case the weekend begins on Wednesday night and goes through Sunday night. Thursday night Mom and I supported Jason and went to Art Walk for Dave Newman’s show. The gallery looked amazing, of course, and Jason hired a live band (they’re actually really talented). We had fun.

Mom wants Dave's sculpture for her entryway.

The best thing about Mexico: its CocaCola. Elaine bought imported Mexican Coke from Costco for the event. Too bad it was a work night, so I couldn't indulge (otherwise, I would have been up all night, dang that caffeine). What makes it so amazing? It's made with cane sugar, not corn syrup.

Dave Newman (the showcase artist of the evening), me, and Jason (the gallery owner/my sister's husband)

Me with the band. The guy in the white t-shirt lives in one of the amazing condos above the gallery spaces on Main Street in Old Town.

Then, as per Friday’s custom, I got off work at 2 p.m., came home, took Angel on a nice long walk (didn’t need to change, because Friday’s casual day—I love my job), and then I met up with Lori and she and I went out to dinner and then we saw “Valentine’s Day” together (she got a babysitter for Heather). It was cute, forgettable, but cute (save your money, watch it on Netflix when it’s out). Lori, by the way, is my oldest friend. Not age-wise oldest, but I mean I’ve been friends with her longer than anybody. She’s been there for me since my original birthday: she was babysitting my brother and sister the night I was born. She’s been with me through all the thick and all the thin, the thick throwing me the most amazing bridal shower ever in her gorgeous home, and the thin most recently literally standing by me at the bank the day I signed my divorce papers on Christmas Eve day. She and Heather were making Christmas sugar cookies, and Lori dropped EVERYTHING to come to my rescue to be my shoulder to lean on as I faced you-know-who the last time I ever saw /will ever see him. She’s WONDERFUL and I love her to pieces. We had a blast together Friday night.

Then, on Saturday, Mom surprised me with the best Valentine’s Day gift ever: a girls’ day out to the Symphony Hall to watch Ballet Arizona’s production of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. So she, Lori, Sandy and I all did a Girls’ Day Out. I absolutely adore ballet, which, I know, I’ve already written about in the past. It’s the most gorgeous, romantic, beautiful expression of talent in the world. THANK YOU MOM for treating me to such a lovely experience. (The best thing about my parents treating me to events? Their seats. They ALWAYS have the best seats in the house. I’m so spoiled by their generosity and impeccable taste in entertainment. Although it’s kind of ruined me for those times when I’m the one buying myself a ticket all the way up in the balcony levels where I can afford it. It’s just not the same experience when you can’t make out the minutest of facial expressions.)

The ladies: Lori, Mom, Me, Sandy

After Sleeping Beauty, I didn’t get to join the girls for dinner because I had to rush to JC Penny (all the way out to PV from Downtown) to get my hair done. I know, Whitney got her done at JC Penny of all places?! I’ll explain. The last time I got my hair done at Salon Estique I spent $160 for high-lights and a cut. I’m just sick and tired of spending that much money to get my hair done. The girl at Salon Estique (a new girl whom I’d never before used, because my girl quit and is now doing hair in Cave Creek, and I’m too lazy to drive out there for her) spent like ten minutes trimming my hair, and charged me $65 for it (my gal who moved never charged me for 10-minute trims). And I hated how she high-lighted me (white-blonde high-lights, gross), so I had to go back in and have her add tons of low-lights two days later, even though I immediately told her when she took the initial foils out at my initial visit that she’d have to re-do it because I like natural-looking blonde, not Pamela Lee Anderson blonde. All the processing wreaked havoc on my hair, which I’m trying desperately to grow out, so I was just 100% disappointed in the entire $160 experience.

Enter Lianna, my walking buddy/neighbor/dinner club girlfriend. She has amazing hair (likely helped by the fact that it’s massively thick and naturally curly). So I randomly told her at Church a few Sundays back how amazing her hair always looks, and she told me “thanks, I get it done at JC Penny at PV Mall.” I was in shock, because her color looks really really beautiful. I went to Ulta to get my hair done once, and it was a huge mistake, and I always thought JC Penny was a few notches below Ulta. Well, it’s obviously all in the stylist, not the salon. Because per Lianna’s suggestion, I went to her hair girl, Kristi Whitehead at Paradise Valley Mall’s JC Penny, and wow! She gave me a full ten minute scalp massage (no joke, a solid ten minutes). Even if my hair had turned out orange, I would have gone back to visit Kristi just for her scalp massage. I had her dye my hair all over with a semi-permanent level 8 blonde to match my natural color, because I have to get my hair back to healthy fighting form since stupid Salon Estique over-processed it last visit. I’m really happy with Kristi’s color and cut. I now have NO LAYERS. It’s official: my bob has finally grown all the way out in the back. I’m getting there. Slowly but surely. It’s quite the process growing out a super-stacked bob. Now the good news is I can actually acquire length since I no longer have any layers that need to be cut off in the back. Hallelujah. One year from now my hair will be considered long. The best part about JC Penny? I got 20% off my first service, so INCLUDING a 20% tip, my CUT, COLOR, SCALP MASSAGE, and STYLE were only $85. Absurd. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’ll definitely be back at JC Penny for my next trim. When you consider that you can get a shampoo with scalp massage, haircut and style for $25, their services are cheaper than Great Clips. It’s a no-brainer if you get a great stylist like Kristi. If you go to her, tell her I referred you, and I’ll get $5 off my next service, and you’ll get 20% off your first.

So that was Saturday. On Sunday (February 14), I had church, followed by ward choir, came home and took Angel on her walk, ate lunch, took a nap (which I normally can’t do on a Sunday, because then I can’t fall sleep that night for work on Monday morning, but it wasn’t an issue this past Sunday, what with having President’s Day off), then had stake choir. I showed up and our stake choir director (who also happens to be my visiting teacher!) made us sugar cookies to decorate. So cute, so yummy. With all the Easter hymns I sang with both my choirs, I was in the best mood all day. It’s amazing how much music can lift our spirits.

My visiting teacher/stake choir director, Melanie Garcia: pregnant with baby number three!

Finally, Monday was my day off. So I cleaned my house (since I didn’t have time to do it on Saturday), and then I went out to dinner with my friend John, his girlfriend Karla, and his mom, Cathy. Cathy is the director of the gallery next to Xanadu, and her son, John, is a first lieutenant in the Air Force and will be in Iraq for the next year, so this was his last visit in Arizona before he leaves. After seeing “Dear John” with my mom on Wednesday night, I’m inspired to send John (haha, “Dear John”) packages while he’s in Iraq serving our country. Dear John, by the way, was a lame movie. My mom and I both thought the plot was ridiculous and unbelievable. *yawn* Anyhow, I also got to hang out with John on Thursday after work, so I am super lucky that with only one week in Arizona I got to be with such a VIP for two nights. God Bless our Troops. He’ll have training for one month in New Jersey before he deploys to Baghdad, then he’ll be living for one year as though he were a good, single LDS man (he’s not Mormon)—celibate and sober. I didn’t know officers and soldiers aren’t allowed to have sex or drink when they’re deployed. They’re also not allowed to view pornography of any kind. God Bless our Troops! You learn something new every day.

On the note of sending packages to our fellow Americans who are literally putting their lives on the line every single day . . . Matt (my ATC buddy out at Deer Valley) told me about this amazing website,, where you can learn any and everything about sending care packages to our deployed servicemen and women. If you don’t have anybody to whom to send something, the website will provide you with names and addresses of soldiers. Check it out!

So that was my Valentine’s Day weekend. I was so busy having fun, I didn’t get a chance to feel blue at all. Again, I’m extraordinarily blessed to be so busy with friends, family and my new job. I couldn’t ask for a better situation going through what I’m going through. It’s much easier this time around, I mean, moving on with my life. Likely because Mr. No Name first told me he wanted to leave me less than one month into our marriage, so even though we were married six months before we moved back to the US and he drew up the papers, I had lots of time to prepare for it. It makes complete sense that a one-month marriage (in all seriousness, that’s what I’m considering the duration to be) would be a lot easier to get over than a three-year marriage, which is how long my first colossal error in judgment lasted.

Moving on . . .

Yesterday I got a surprise call at work that my sweet dad was giving up his ticket to see Mary Poppins at Gammage so that I could go with Mom, Carrie and Mikell. I was so giddy, because I really really really wanted to see it. My parents have always had season’s tickets to Gammage, and because they’re such huge donors to Grady Gammage, and because they’ve been season’s tickets holders for the past thirty-plus years, they have ninth-row center seats (four of them), VIP parking, and VIP lounge access (free drinks and goodies before the show and during intermission). To top it all off, a huge picture of them is at the auditorium and they go to New York City every year with a bunch of the other Gammage muckety-mucks to meet and dine with all the actors and to see all their plays on Broadway.

Anyhow, it’s divine when I get to go with my parents to Gammage, but I rarely am blessed with the opportunity because they have FOUR tickets, two for them, and two for guests. Because I’m perpetually single, my parents always opt to take Carrie and Jason for the other two tickets, or, when it’s a show like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, they take Parker and Mikell. My mom has always held that I can only have the other two tickets if I asked a guy to go with me. So awkward (especially when you’re not dating anybody at all, but you REALLY want to see a show, so you randomly ask out a guy and then your first date with him is a double date with your parents to a $120/ticket show. Can I just say I don’t miss those days at all.). Well, given my current situation, I am obviously unable to ask anybody out (my divorce should be final ANY DAY NOW, hallelujah, I’m beyond ready to have my maiden name restored), and regardless, my mom chose Carrie and Mikell for Mary Poppins because it was Carrie’s favorite Disney movie growing up, and so it was really special for Carrie to see it with Mom and her oldest daughter, Mikell. So THANK YOU Dad for sacrificing your evening for me to accompany Mom, Carrie and Mikell to the most wonderful play ever. I honestly got teary-eyed multiple times during the performance, because it was so wholesome, so wonderfully executed, so magical (I’ve concluded that I only ever get teary-eyed when something reminds me of my childhood, and in every case they’re good, nostalgic, happy tears). I would go see it again in a heartbeat. It was that good.

Four of the five cutest kids on the planet! (Tate, of course, is among the five cutest ever, but wasn't with us.) Carrie's kids: Maddy (2), Mikell (turning double digits this March 5, wow!), Maren (4), and Parker (7). Before Mom, Carrie, Mikell and I went to Gammage, we stopped by the PV Stake Center to support the Young Women by buying their spaghetti dinner to raise money for Girls' Camp. How cute, p.s., is that poster? Carrie and I were in awe of it and the talent of the gal who made it.

Mikell and I got cotton candy (our favorite!) for $1 each. Hey, just doing our part to support the Mountain View Ward Girls' Camp.

Carrie, Mom, Me. In the hall waiting to get our Spaghetti dinner.

LOVED IT! The special effects were incredible, the set amazing, the acting and singing perfect, the music spot on, it was wonderful. Go buy tickets now! You don't want to miss it.

I’m trying to convince my parents into buying a fifth ticket so that no matter what, I can go to every show with them. Guess what Mom’s response was? “Well, that wouldn’t make any sense. How could you then bring a date? ” Ever the optimist, thinking I’ll be dating again. And here I was thinking it’d be best if I were always the odd-one-out, so as to avoid those HORRID moments of calling guys and asking them to double with me and my parents so I can go see a play. The most awkward is when it happens to be a show like A Chorus Line, with songs such as T and A (don’t get me wrong, the wicked girl inside me adores that naughty song, but not on a first date with some random guy I randomly picked out so that I could go to the theatre to see a play per my mother’s requirement that I only attend if I’m with a potential suitor).

Today I have my ward BBQ at 3 p.m., if it’s not canceled on account of the rain. It’s very refreshing not only being in a family ward, but being a family ward which actually has families (poor Mexico, deficient in so many areas). Every day, literally, every single day, I give thanks to Heavenly Father that I’m once again living in the United States of America. Like random things make me say a quick prayer of thanks just to express my gratitude for being an American citizen. Yesterday, for example, I was so thankful for clean public restrooms. And when anybody complains about traffic in Phoenix, I just pipe in “this is NOTHING! You should see Mazatlan, with zero infrastructure, then we can talk about traffic.” And every time I get to see my friends, or spend time with my family, I give thanks. I got to mail in my ballot this week, and wear my “I voted early sticker,” and I gave thanks. I hope that doesn’t wear off, the gratitude for living in this blessed land. I always feel this way after living abroad, but unfortunately it wears off with time. I take it for granted, and I hate that I do that. I mean, I know our country’s not perfect (I’m obsessed with current events and politics, so believe me you, I have many views and opinions on how our country desperately needs to improve), but while I know there’s a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done both locally and nationally, I can honestly say there’s no place like home, and no country in the world as blessed as ours. I revere our Founding Fathers, and the American spirit, and capitalism, and all the freedoms we enjoy. God Bless the USA: keep her safe, free, and strong.

Doing my part.

It's good to be home. This is my gorgeous view of Camelback Mountain.

Brooktynn's husband, Ryan, is graduating with his MBA at ASU this semester. They had to do a branding presentation on AJ's Fine Foods, so he interviewed me as part of his project. In thanks for my time, AJ's put together this AMAZING gift basket (complete with a gift card to their store), which Brooktynn and Ryan then delivered to my home.

Here we are! Me, basket, and Ryan. Thank you Ryan and Brooktynn for thinking to include me in the project! I didn't even know I'd be scoring an awesome gift basket. Bonus!!

The first face I see every morning, and the reason why I wake up each and every day in such a good mood. How could you not with this cute little eight pound darling snuggling with you?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Survived January! And sincerely enjoyed a lot of it.

All is well that ends well, and January ended on a very high note with my perfect new job. Tomorrow will be day number four on the job for me, and thus far it's going great! I'm even doing well getting up every morning at 5:45 a.m. (shocking, yes). I was lucky enough to shadow my replacement before her last day, so tomorrow will be my first day flying solo. The gal I'm replacing got hired by Scottsdale Hospital to head up their pediatrics scheduling--and they're paying for her MBA, an opportunity she couldn't pass up, thank goodness, so I could have her position at Moors! I've already submitted my approved request to HR in Boston for my study materials for series 7 and 63, so hopefully they'll get here soon so I can get to studying, take and pass my exams (the 7 only has a 50% pass rate, so I'll be studying lots), and get my pay bump! It's exciting seeing and learning so many new things at work. I told my dad on our date night Friday night (Mom was out of town, I was her stand-in), that I look forward to the day when I'll actually know what the blinking stocks, all red and green, constantly flashing, mean on my right computer screen. Right now? May as well be Greek.

Dad treated me to the Dragon Palace on Friday night (our family's favorite spot, 32nd Street & Thunderbird, yummy candied bananas, where Jeremy & Heidi had their wedding luncheon), and then he let me choose which movie to see. I, of course, chose When in Rome, and Dad was one of only like 10 men in the entire sold-out theatre. He's a trooper. We had fun, and he let me keep all the Chinese left-overs. Mom's in Utah visiting with her parents, since today Dad flew out to Indianapolis on business for the week. The movie was cute, not one I need to own or anything, but fun for the evening. I told my mom to wait for it to come out on DVD.

Speaking of movies, I'm so excited to be a member of Netflix! I researched and purchased an awesome Samsung blue ray DVD player that live streams Netflix movies and Pandora music. I love it! I'm on the $8.99/month plan with Netflix, which means that I get one dvd out at a time (unlimited) and unlimited live-streaming movies via the Internet. I was sick of watching the movies on my computer, so checked out the Internet-connected DVD players ( and took my list to Best Buy and wouldn't you know it? They had an open-box special, so what would have been a $250 unit cost me only $100. It was my treat to myself for getting $1100 back from the Feds on my taxes. The blessings of only working four months in 2009, haha., p.s., is awesome. Makes filing taxes a cakewalk. I was so proud of myself for setting my Netflix all up, I took a picture of my TV with my instant queue.

It's super easy. I recommend the blue ray live-streaming player to everybody.

I am loving my family ward. I was a member of it three years ago, for a mere two months. I left to join the single's ward because I hated being the Activity's Director. Wicked girl. I know. Well, that and all my mom wanted for Christmas was for me to once again join the ranks of LDS singles in the valley by transferring my records out of the family ward. Anyhow, now that I'm not the Activity's Director, I'm really enjoying the ward family. I've joined our ward choir, and I've made FRIENDS! I'm so lame, but I was really worried I wouldn't make any friends, since I'm unmarried and childless, why would people who frequent play group every week with their kids want to hang out for fun with me? I was so excited, therefore, when Mary Ann Mackey, SUPER cute girl, invited me to be part of her cool crowd. Once a month, she and a group of stellar gals in the ward eat out at a foreign restaurant. January's theme was Mediterranean, so we ate at the Gyro House on 32nd Street & Shea. February we'll be eating at the Black Forest Mill (right down the street from my house), a German restaurant I've been wanting to try but for some reason have never gotten around to it. My best friend from high school, Amber, married an honest-to-goodness German man (as in born and reared there), and they adore the Black Forest Mill. I'll let y'all know how it goes.

Anyhow, it means the world to me that these girls have accepted me and invite me to do things with them. One of the girls, Lianna, is single, my age, and lives on my street! I'm begging her to buy a bike so we can go on fun bike rides through the neighborhood and/or along the canal together. I haven't yet convinced her, but she's already invited me to go hiking with her. She's in my ward, is an ORANGE personality (i.e., crazy fun, game for anything exciting), and literally lives a two minute walk from my condo. She was driving by and saw me walking Angel today after Church and pulled over to say hey. I feel like I'm in the fourth grade again, with a new neighborhood friend to play with!

So yay for friends! And thank you to married women with children who actually want a twice-divorced, childless woman to associate with them outside of Church. I'm elated to be a part of the girls' night out dinner club.

Here we all are after eating at the Gyro House.

My friend Kiersten had her birthday last week. She invited me over for her family dinner & cake celebration, but I threw out my back so I couldn't go. (First-time ever throwing it out, how lame am I? Does this mean I'm getting old?) My dad went with me last Saturday to pick up a sweet Schwinn beach cruiser I found on Craigslist (I never go alone to pick stuff up, so I always make my Dad go with me for safety; not to be paranoid or anything, but my mom didn't raise idiots: personal safety first). Anyhow, it was POURING rain and I didn't want my new bike to be out in the torrential Phoenix downpour, so I carried it up my stairs to my condo. In the process, I literally threw out my back. As in I couldn't breathe, and it felt like daggers were lodged in my left lung. I majorly pulled something, goodness knows what. I even missed Church last week because of it; I couldn't get out of bed without wanting to scream in pain (which I didn't do, as that would have made my left lung hurt more). So, long story short, I felt so bad for missing Kiersten's celebratory birthday dinner that I invited myself over the next night to hang out with her (no shame, yes, I invited myself over to her house). So she had me help her tie a quilt; it was my first time ever tying, but it was fun. She made it for the Church Humanitarian effort. Yes, it made my back ever worse, so on Tuesday I was out all day again. Go figure, I get hurt, then I over-do it again the second I feel I'm on the mend (I get major cabin fever). I'm proud to report that my back is now 100%. And I'm proud of Kiersten for being so service-oriented. She's always doing things for other people. She owns a truck, so every other weekend (it seems) she's helping somebody move. She also makes like two quilts a month, and bakes up a storm all the time for others (literally, if she senses that you're even the least bit sad, she'll bake you a cake). She makes a wicked good chocolate cake. Thank you, Kiersten, for teaching me through your example what it is to serve selflessly. And Happy Birthday January 21!

Oops, the pictures are out of order. Here's Kiersten cutting the edges off.

Me tying.

Kiersten's so into quilting, she actually owns the quilt stand (whatever it's called). I'm very impressed.

Speaking of birthdays, Dad turned the big 61 on the 27th. To celebrate we went to Padre's on 10th Street & Camelback (yummmmm). Jason treated us all to the meal and dessert (fried ice cream and triple layer chocolate cake), and Dad was happy with his gifts: GI Joe from me, Terminator Salvation from the Horejs, complete with Oreo Cookies and Diet Dr. Pepper. We always get Dad boy movies for his birthday. It helps offset all the BBC classics we buy for Mom.

The end of our delicious meal. It STUNK that Heidi couldn't be there with us. She, unfortunately, had a paper due the next morning so was home typing away. We missed you Hides! Thanks, again, Jason & Carrie for treating us all to the delicious meal & dessert.

Mikell had a math night with her school on the 28th. Because Jason was at Art Walk, Carrie couldn't take Mikell, what with the other three kids, so Mikell suggested I stand-in as her mom for the evening. I was over-the-moon flattered that Mikell would want me to take her to her math night. We had a ton of fun. The event was held in her school's cafeteria, and Mikell was brilliant playing all the math games. She beat me every time! Isn't she precious? I can't believe she'll be turning double digits March 5. Ten years old already?! How is that possible? You can also see the "after" of her haircut in the math night pictures. When Carrie and Jason were in North Carolina, I took Maddy and Mikell to get their hair cut. Maddy, who's two, was such a good little girl. She didn't cry or move an inch while getting her hair cut. I adore my nieces and nephews. I'm so in love with them. And I'm very lucky and blessed that they all live right here in Phoenix so I can see them all the time. Mikell, by the way? Had an astounding eight inches chopped off her hair. She said she wanted it short and sassy, so short and sassy is what she got! Talk about a girl who knows what she wants.

Notice Mikell's paper says "WINNER!" She's wonderful.

This game was Mikell's favorite. We were making hexagons with blocks.

Mikell! She's so tiny and adorable. People thought she was in first grade, she's so small.

To celebrate Mikell's math wins, we went to McDonald's for Happy Meals. Here I am with the happy meal toy: a stuffed dog. Notice, ps, my non-bitten off finger nails. I'm doing super well. Haven't bitten them at all since December 31. New Year's Resolutions in action. Didn't Mikell do a super job taking this picture?

My little cutie with her chicken nuggets. And her short hair!

Mikell bravely getting her hair chopped off. She adores it, and so do I! It's stacked in the back, super cute.

Sweet little Maddy, so well-behaved.