Monday, March 22, 2010

Concert Season

So, back in the day (which was a Wednesday) I attended many concerts each year. And that day was not so long ago. Maybe 3 years ago, if that. Me, Regyna, Heather, and sometimes Dawn (and random others in the mix) would go to several concerts each year. Needless to say, since I started paying down my debt a couple of years ago, the concerts became fewer and farther between. They needed to be prioritized. Now, if I was going around seeing local bands or going to San Fran with $20-$3o tix, it wouldn't be so bad. But I like the people that everyone else knows about and likes too, so I end up paying $50+ for tickets. In the past year and a half I have been to maybe 2 or 3 shows, probably less. This makes me sad.

So when I heard these guys were coming to Tahoe:

There was no way I was missing out. I already missed out on Taylor Swift because her tix sold out during presale. Stupid kids with allowances that they spend on fan club memberships. Grrrrr! I told JB that he didn't have a say in the matter and we were going. He's not really going to protest a night/weekend in Tahoe anyway, so I got lucky with the venue.
Now if only it were July....

Saturday, March 20, 2010


So, for those of you (and there were a couple) that were anxiously awaiting this blog, I apologize for the delay. The cluster that was my business trip to Honolulu did not provide the time I thought it would for posting this, and it has been non-stop since I got home. So, without further ado...

We have an acquisition office in Hawaii and I have had to visit exactly 3 times. The first time was to go out and meet everyone, train the HR Administrator there on orientations and system processes, and to attend a seminar. The second and third visits were both to deal with employee relations issues...for the same person. I obviously cannot go into the issues, and that's not exactly the point of this blog. The point is to show all you people who think I am sooooooo lucky to go to Hawaii on business, just how not exactly fun it is, and how it compares to every other business trip.

The first trip out there, I used for some soul searching. It was during a transitional period in my life, just after I had moved back in with my parents, reconnected with a long lost friend, and started talking to JB. I used the time alone there, even stayed an extra day for pleasure, to read and journal and just really think about everything that was going on in my life. The second trip out was interesting. It sucks to go alone, especially since I have issues with eating alone in restaurants, but it wasn't the end of the world. I went, took care of business, and came home. No extra time for me.

This lame.

I really didn't want to go because I love my house, and my man, and didn't want to leave either of them. I was dreading the 5 hour flight, eating alone for a couple of days, and being away from home. Luckily someone I have worked with via phone and email for the past 3 years from our Omaha office was going to be there at the same time, and I was looking forward to meeting her. I decided to not stay at my usual Hilton Prince Kuhio setup, and opted to stay at the same hotel as her, which was the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani. Well, that was my first mistake.

Let me take that back, my first mistake was not getting my parking validated when I got to the office. See, the flight leaves Sacramento at 8:30am and lands in Honolulu at almost noon, which gives me a few hours in the office once I get my luggage and rental car. So I get to the office and get right to work, only when I leave everyone is gone and I have no one to validate my parking. I get to the booth to pay for my parking in the garage, and they don't take cards. WTF? Welcome to 2010 people! Cash only? Who are you? Of course I have absolutely no cash on me, especially not the $30 they were raping me for for 4 hours of parking. The woman tells me that there is an ATM upstairs in the lobby. So, in my 'oh-so-comfy' work shoes, I take my ATM card only and walk to the elevator, through the lobby, to the little convenience store to use the stand-alone ATM in the corner. "Invalid card number" it tells me. I try again. "Invalid card number." Now, since JB and I got a joint account, I don't use this one very often anymore, so I figure there may be some slight possibility that it really doesn't work at this point. So I take my card back through the lobby, to the elevator, down to my rental car and grab my entire wallet. Rinse and repeat. "Invalid card number" WTF?????

I ask the lady at the counter if I can just use my card and get cash back from her. She does not believe me, so I have to show her again. She then tells me that she cannot help me and I have to go out the building and down the street to the ATM next to the McDonald's. Awesome. Here I go, down the street to the ATM. Since it's a real ATM, I figure it should work. "Invalid card number". At this point I am fuming. My feet feel amazing, obviously, and I am walking all over the place in search for cash to no avail. I take my happy ass back to the building, up the stairs to the lobby, to the information desk. I explain to this man my predicament hoping he will tell me that he can validate my parking and I will be on my merry way. No such luck. He informs me that down the steps, out the door, and down the street in the other direction is another ATM. If that doesn't work, I can go across the street to the Long's (if they're still open) and buy something and get cash back. Cool. Off I go to the new ATM. It works. Thank the lord. I take my cash and limp back to my car so I can sit in Honolulu city rush hour traffic to get to my hotel. At this point, it is 5:45pm. I started this little adventure at 5:00.

I find my way to the hotel with ease. It's only one block up from where I usually stay, and it's on the main strip which means I have more dining alone choices. When I get there, I find the parking garage. The hotel I normally stay at only has valet parking for $25/day so I am used to just pulling up to the front and letting them take it from there. The Sheraton has a self park garage for the same price. At least I don't have to worry about tipping them every morning, fine by me. I drive up four floors and find a spot that is right next to what I assume to be the elevator, since the garage is not even attached to the main lobby. I get out, unload my suitcase, computer and purse, and walk over to the 'elevator', to find that it is actually only a stairwell. Obviously excited about walking down 4 flights of stairs with all of my crap, I immediately load everything back into the car and drive down a couple more flights and find the same spot on floor two. Again I unload my things and proceed to check in.

The hotel has a lovely open air lobby with a view of the pool, a computer lounge, and two different elevator banks since there are different towers. I had reserved an ocean view room with an lanai and was surprised to find it to be cheaper than my non-ocean-view room at the Hilton. When I got to my room in the far tower on the 24th floor, I was no longer surprised. The room was in bad need of renovation. The plain white walls with white furniture and a bad, randomly placed hotel pic from 1992 screamed Holiday Inn. The tiny bathroom was very dreary and nothing compared to the recently updated room I was used to occupying at the Hilton. I really sound like such a snob, but given the days events, this was the last thing I needed. I open the drapes and look out the sliding glass door with a view of high-rise hotel buildings. But, if I look to my right, it's all ocean. I guess, technically, that's an ocean-view room. Definitely not what I was expecting.

I decide that after the day's events, I will unpack my things, get comfortable, and order some room service. I guess I was wrong. After looking a few times through the only book the hotel provided, I find no information about room service. Highly irritated, I text my Omaha buddy and see if she wants to accompany me to California Pizza Kitchen down the block for some dinner. This was honestly the highlight of my day. A drink and good food, and I didn't have to dine alone.

As we are heading back to the hotel, I am informed by her that there is nightly entertainment on the stage by the pool located 24 floors below directly under my room. They play until about 10 or 11pm. This excites me greatly (please note sarcasm). When I return to my room, it's about 8:30. I unpack, get comfy and turn on the TV. I am able to turn the volume up so that the amplified noise from the stage below that is reverberating off of the two hotel towers and directly into my ears is somewhat muffled. About 30 minutes later, I hear people in the hallway. They are talking and rustling a plastic bag and are out there for a long time. I get up and go to my peep hole to see what the hell they could possibly be doing in the hall that they cannot do in the privacy and enclosed area of their room. I look out to see nothing. No people. But I can still hear them. I hear running water now and realize that they are not in the hall, but in the adjoining room next door. I can almost clearly make out their conversation. And then.....the alarm clock/radio turns on and I hear Kesha's "Tick-Tock" loud and clear from the other side of my headboard.

Could this day get any better?

Obviously these people are here on vacation along with the majority of the people in Waikiki Beach, so they do not realize that someone here on business needs to get some rest after a long day of travel so they can be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when dealing with the issues they have come to Honolulu to deal with. I figure that they are probably getting ready to go out and hit the club on a Monday night and once they are gone for the evening, I should be able to pop in my ear plugs to drown out the remaining noise and fall fast asleep before they return. But then I start to think about their 2,3,4am return. After a night out on the town, they are surely going to be intoxicated which automatically means loud. And with their bed being directly on the other side of my post-it note thin wall, should they decide to fornicate, I am sure to hear/feel everything that goes on. Along with these thoughts, the entertainment downstairs is not ceasing and the street vendors that are now playing for money are amplified 24 floors up as well. I lie there and test my ear plugs to see if they will even keep the noise out. They do not succeed. I start to panic and realize that if I do not pack up my things and request a new room now, which is 10:15pm, I am going to seriously regret it.

My new room is better. The same, but better. Wood colored furniture contrasts the white walls and just makes it seem a little nicer. The set up is slightly different, but the bathroom is the same. What makes this room awesome however, is the fact that there is silence. No nightly entertainment. No street vendors. And no adjoining door, so if there are neighbors, I cannot hear them. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Good night.

On my several trips through the lobby of the office building the day before, I noticed a little cafe I never knew was there that served normal food. I say normal because all of the places surrounding the building besides the McDonald's, serve Filipino fast food, Korean BBQ, or sushi. Nothing I want to eat 99% of the time, if ever, especially if I am not familiar with the restaurant. Needless to say, finding this little cafe with an espresso machine and breakfast croissants, along with lots of yummy looking lunch choices, really made my morning. I got a non-fat vanilla latte and a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast which started off my morning right. I knocked out half of the interviews I had to conduct and returned for lunch. The chicken pesto sandwich on soft, warm focaccia bread and pasta salad was waaaaaaaay better than the McDonald's lunch I subjected myself to the day before. I also made sure to get my parking validated the day before, but had plenty of cash on me in case I forgot. I only make mistakes like that once. I finished all but one of my interviews after lunch and had a nice sunset dinner on the lanai of a restaurant above Duke's at the Outrigger on Waikiki Beach (although it was with my boss and three other colleagues). This day was exponentially better than the day before.

My last day in Honolulu was only a half day, since the flight home was at 1:45pm. I saved the best for last as far as interviews went. That one was a doozy. I concluded my investigation and headed back to drop off the rental car. This is never as easy as getting from the rental car place to the office for some reason. I missed my exit due to the odd interchange systems and ended up at Hickam AFB. I explained to the guy at the visitor gate what I had done, which I am sure happens pretty often, and he had to stop traffic so I could turn around and get where I was going. I was cutting it close as it was, and the Honolulu airport is always busy, so I was really feeling the pressure. I got the car back, got on the shuttle, got through the check-in line, and security, got myself some food to take on the plane, and headed to my gate. Usually for the mainland flights, you have to take the Wiki-Wiki (shuttle) to the other terminal, so I immediately headed that way. Only when I got up there, I realized that my gate number was not included in the numbers for the terminal the shuttle would head to. So I went back downstairs to find my gate just as they were beginning to board. I walked down the ramp and up to the gate to find a barrier in between me and the gate. My gate number was 57. So obviously I went toward the sign that said "Gates 54-57" and not the one that said "Gates 58-60". But the person at the barrier was telling me I now I had to go back up the ramp and all the way down to the other end of the terminal to the other sign, and come in that way. Cool. Apparently scanning your carry-on in the metal detector isn't enough. You also need another scanner, and they only have one of those in the entire terminal.

I get on the plane in the first boarding group, since I am in the second to last row of seats. This gives me time to get settled and eat my lunch before the plane takes off. I am sitting next to a couple, specifically the guy. The girl asks him if he wants to trade her seats, as if he is cheating on her by sitting so closely to me. Whatever. I apologize in advance for my smelly Chinese food. At some point they are informed after everyone has boarded that there are two seats on the window side available and they move. I have the whole row to myself. Until the flight attendant asks a man several rows up if he would also like more room and puts him in the other aisle seat. At least we have the middle open. Great situation to ask for on a long flight. They are also showing The Blind Side, which I have seen, and loved, and was excited to be entertained by on the flight home.

But then there was the guy behind me. And his kid. As if it weren't bad enough that the guy was a seat grabber every single time he got up and sat down, which was A LOT, but his child was probably under 3 and in that stage where they like to pound on the tray in front of them. So I have this guy jerking my seat back every 5 seconds and his child banging the tray behind the seat next to me, which is obviously attached to the seat I am sitting it. Not to mention several rows up, but not far enough, there is a child that just keeps screaming/crying intermittently. And that wasn't all that bad until you added the parent that would "ssssshhhhhhhh" every time they did it. Obviously that's not working. You can stop doing that. I know I don't have children and I don't understand, but whatever. It was still not the way I wanted to spend 5 hours.

Needless to say, when the plane touched down in Sacramento, I couldn't have been happier to be here. Even if it was 47 degrees instead of 79. And let me tell you, I am never going to Oahu for vacation again. After being there twice for leisure and 3 times for work, Oahu can kiss my ass. I'll take an island with more nature than people. I vote Maui or Kauai.

OMG, I want this!

It's a blanket. And I need it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Things Are Looking Up

I know, I know. With the awesome 2009 I had and some of the great things that have happened lately, you are probably wondering what the hell I am talking about. Well, it's been rough since we moved into the house, financially. It's not just the shock of having a mortgage and paying utilities again, it's the series of events that led up to them. Maybe I already lost you. Let's see if I can bring you back.

Back when we were living at grandma's house, and after I finished paying of my credit card, I started stashing cash. I wanted to make sure that we had what we needed for closing costs, moving costs (you know, buying food and cleaning supplies and everything else you realize you don't have), and still have some sort of cushion for the first month's bills. I was doing pretty well. We knew that the closing costs would be around $1000, we had started buying things here and there that we figured we (I) would need or want (decor for the guest bath, air fresheners, Brita water pitcher, baking pans), and we had a month in the house before our first mortgage payment. We had about $3500 in our joint savings account and I had about $1500 in my personal savings account. It looked like we were in good shape from where I stood.

A week before the house was supposed to close we had some issues with the financing. Because obviously you cannot be a homeowner unless something goes terribly wrong during the process and you come very close to losing your house. Otherwise you just won't appreciate it, right? Yeah, about that. So, we had our fun little incident a mere week before. Rushing around, trying all these different alternatives and scenarios and finding out they won't work and with every hour that passes you feel your dreams slipping farther and farther away. We were finally able to work something out with the loan, but it meant we had to put a little bit more money down. A little bit more, as in, cleaning out our savings. Great. Awesome. At least December was one of those awesome months that has 3 payday Fridays in it, so we had that as a cushion. Yeah, about that....

Now don't get me wrong, I work for a great company. I got my masters degree for "free" through their tuition reimbursement program. The fine print didn't catch up to me until the most opportune of times. December. That awesome 3rd paycheck with no bills coming out of it. That nice little cushion. Here's where the quotation marks around the word free come in. Apparently, the government will only allow you to recieve $5,250 tax free in one year for tuition expenses. The rest is added to your taxable income at the end of the year. Well, last year I recieved $10,000 in tuition reimbursement, so the other $4,750 (yes, I had to get the calculator for that one) was to be added to my taxable income. I did not experience this the year before, otherwise I would have planned accordingly. Instead of payroll planning ahead and spreading it out over several paychecks, they added the lump sum to my last check of the year. After it was taxed, I was left with $87.65 to get by for two weeks. So, there went our cushion.

During this time we were also dealing with JB's 3 new jobs not having ramped up yet, so it has been interesting trying to make everything work. A little stressful, and VERY boring. Since we have no money to go out and do anything and the weather has been crappy, we have been stuck at home with nothing to do but stare at each other or the TV. Lucky (or not) for me, all JB needs is a TV and food to get by. Happy as a clam. Me, not so much.

But, as the title of this blog suggests, things are getting better. One of JB's jobs supplies a consistent income, which makes me very happy. The other two will be a bonus. With all three jobs (training at Granite Bay Golf Club and Johnson Ranch Racquet Club, and teaching at Bryan College) he still works less than 40 hours a week, but as long as we have everything paid, I don't care how many hours he works. Thanks to the house, we also have a significant refund coming our way, which should help with the catch up. Hopefully things will be back to normal in no time. Whatever normal is.

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