My abbreviated travel log

(originally posted March 31, 2012 on my former blog)

I got a passport in December 2006 for a work trip and, five years later, it is almost full.  To say I love to travel is an under-statement.  I’ve been lucky to travel a lot for work, a little bit through my graduate program, and a fair amount for personal trips.  This is a (mostly) one-picture glimpse into some of my trips, both international and domestic.

Cancun – January 2006

I went to Cancun with my friend a few months after Hurricane Wilma.  This was my first international experience – way back when they didn’t require passports!

Dancing at Señor Frogs. Despite what it looks like, I am not about to “smack that a$$”

Toronto & Niagara Falls – May 2006

This is when I fell in love with Toronto.  My friend Erin traveled here for work frequently so I tagged along.  We hung out in the city for a few days and spent the weekend in Niagara Falls.  Why wait to spend a romantic weekend in Niagara Falls with a guy – go with one of your girlfriends!  🙂

<I am very sad to say that I can’t find any pictures of this trip :(.  I still want to mention it because it was a lot of fun>

Ireland – January 2007

I got my passport in December 2006 for this trip!  I went to Galway, Ireland for a work project.  I got to spend a weekend alone in Ireland so I took a bus tour around Western Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

Don’t fall over the edge.

Brainerd, Minnesota – May 2007

We went to a cabin in Brainerd for Laura’s bachelorette party (Colleen’s sister).  It. was. so. much. fun.  The thing I most remember is “Have I got a dance for you!”.  This guy would not leave us alone and repeatedly asked if someone would dance with him.  When the band was on break and they were playing filler music, I decided to make him wish he never bothered us so much to dance.  It started out like this:

Then I did a little of this:

and this:

Paris – July 2007

I stopped in Paris to visit my friend Noemie for four days before a study abroad.  Noemie had to work a few days, which gave me the opportunity to do sight-seeing on my own.  I am a very independent traveler so I loved this.  I could operate on my own time and didn’t have to feel guilty making Noemie see things she has probably visited a million times.

Me in front of the Eifel Tower.

Bucharest, Romania – July 2007

Bucharest was the first stop on a 10 day study abroad trip I took through my MBA program.  We traveled with 40 students from the Vienna Executive MBA program so it was just as interesting traveling with them as it was seeing the sights of Romania and Russia.   This was about 6 months after Romania joined the EU so there was a lot of excitement in Romania about their future.

Palace of Parliament in Romania. It is the world’s largest civilian building, most expensive administrative building and heaviest building. It was designed and nearly completed in the 1980’s by the Ceausescu regime. After the fall of that regime, it was largely seen as a symbolism of the excessive luxury of Nicolas Ceausescu’s leadership.

St. Petersburg, Russia – July 2007

This was the second portion of our Economies in Transition trip.  I know this is a very random picture, but this is where I had the best Chicken McNuggets ever.  Yes, I do like to visit McDonald’s in other countries to see what the differences are (and sometimes I just crave American food).  My favorite part of Russia was seeing the ballet ‘Swan Lake’, but I cannot find any good pictures from that evening.

McDonalds in St. Petersburg

London – November 2008

I took a long weekend trip to London to visit my friend Noemie since she was working on a project there.  I saw the changing of the guards, went on the London Eye, walked around a lot, bought a great wallet at Ted Baker (that broke less than year later!), and we went out on the town with Noemie’s friend Jeannine.

Big Ben in the evening. So pretty. I took this picture from the London Eye across the river.

Brazil – January 2009

This was another study abroad for school and my last class of my MBA program!  Woohoo!  We spent two weeks studying at FGV in Sao Paulo and went to Rio for the weekend.  I know this picture isn’t a picture of Brazilian scenery, but I like it because it reminds me of how much fun I had on the trip.

I was twirling.

East Coast – October 2009

My best friend, Colleen, and I take a trip almost every year.  This was our third trip.  We went to Portland, Maine; the White Mountains in New Hampshire; Montpelier, Vermont; and Salem, MA.  I could share a lot of great pictures from this trip, especially because it is beautiful here that time of year.  But, one of the highlights of the trip was the Wife Carrying Competition:

They went over this obstacle, through water, up a hill, and to the finish line!

Thailand – May 2010

This is a trip that is really difficult to sum up in one picture.  I spent two weeks in Thailand with my friends Melanie and B. Bea.  We visited Phuket, Chiang Mai, Koh Phangan, and Koh Samui.  I wrote all about this trip and have a few more pictures when I did a guest blog for This Life in Motion on Monday.

Our resort in Koh Phangan. Check out This Life in Motion for more pictures – especially of the Full Moon Party! If you click on this picture it will take you to my guest post about Thailand.

Around the world – August 2010

I went on a three week work trip to Europe and Asia that included: Scotland, Prague (Czech Republic), Seoul (South Korea), Singapore, Hong Kong, Nanjing (China) and Shanghai (China).  I got to spend part of a weekend in Prague and a full weekend in Singapore.  I’ll probably have to share more than one of this trip 🙂

Old Town Square in Prague

Seoul, South Korea. I am having a brain fart on what this place is called.

View from the Singapore Flyer

Las Vegas – September 2010

We went to Vegas in September 2010 for my brother’s wedding.  It was so much fun!  This was my first time staying downtown and it won’t be the last time.  The Golden Nugget was so nice (and affordable) and downtown is very laid-back and easy to move from casino to casino.  We had my brother’s Grooms Dinner at a local bar to watch the Vikings game.

This was the Vikings vs. Saints game in September 2010.

Napa Valley – June 2011

We went to Napa Valley in June 2011 for my friend Shannon’s wedding.  It was beautiful (and the best wedding food ever).  Shannon organized a bus to take us around to a few wineries in the area.  We also stopped by Picchetti Winery, which is a little south of San Francisco.  They are no relation to Matt’s family but we feel a connection anyway 🙂

Benessere Vineyards

Cancun – December 2011

We went to Puerto Morelos in December for Mark and Ada’s wedding.  It was a nice break from Minnesota winter!  It was also nice and quiet at the resort.

Ceremony site at the resort

As much as I love traveling, I also love coming home.  There is something to be said for sleeping in your own bed and not living out of a suitcase!

Don’t let your energy get zapped

(originally posted April 11, 2012 on my former blog)

This past week, I finished reading The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon. I’ve been reading for 20-30 minutes before I go to bed. I read somewhere (Prevention magazine, maybe?) that reading before bed helps you sleep better and I’m a terrible sleeper. So the reading thing is really just killing two birds with one stone. So far, it has helped… but I was also very exhausted last week so I don’t know if I can declare the bedtime reading a success yet. I heard eliminating coffee helps too, but I’m not crazy enough ready to go down that road yet.

I thought The Energy Bus was corny, but very effective in delivering a clear message.  The author uses a fictional story to describe the Ten Rules for the Ride of Your Life.  The main character is George, a guy who is having serious marriage troubles, is on the verge of losing his job, and (to top it all off!) his car just broke down for two weeks.  I liked the book and suggest it to anyone looking for a quick read and reminder that mindset can really shape our lives.

TEN RULES FOR THE RIDE OF YOUR LIFE

  1. You’re the driver of your bus.
  2. Desire, vision, and focus move your bus in the right direction.
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy.
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead.
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  6. Post a sign that says NO ENERGY VAMPIRES ALLOWED on your bus.
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  8. Love your passengers.
  9. Drive with purpose.
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride.

I think this book applies to all aspects of your life.  I identified with the importance of maintaining your own positive outlook, but also with not letting other people bring you down.  The author calls these people “Energy Vampires”.  We all know people like this, or maybe are or have been people like this.  These are the people who focus on the negative side of life.  My personal opinion is these people can be grouped into a few categories:

  • The trash talkers.  We all have days or periods where other people seriously bug us  and need to vent.  But, these are the people who spend 75% of their time talking about other people, or let specific people really get to them.
  • The people who cut everyone else down.  I think this comes in two forms: cutting people down and being unsupportive.  The unsupportive people can’t be happy for their friends or family because they take other people’s triumphs personally (that is my nice way of saying they are probably jealous, even if it really has nothing to do with them).
  • The victims of life.  These are the people who feel like they’ve just been dealt so many more challenges than everyone else, and the rest of us are living in a land of rainbows and unicorns.  I’m sure we could find a couple of these people by scrolling through our facebook News Feed.  Sure, it’s OK to feel bad for yourself occasionally (because sometimes there is such a thing as bad luck) but we all have challenges.  Some are very visible and some are very private.  Don’t compare your challenges because you don’t know what people are going through now, have been through, or will go through at some point in their life.

I’ve known more than a few people like this in my life, as I’m sure we all have.  I find these people to be extremely draining.  The book suggests telling people flat out that you won’t allow negativity on your bus.  I think the idea of saying “on my bus” is corny, but the overall message is good — don’t let these people play a major role in your life.  Their negativity will be draining on you over time.

Sometimes it isn’t possible to cut out coworkers or family that are “Energy Vampires”.  In this case, I strive not to contribute to the negativity (sometimes I’m successful and sometimes I’m not).  If someone is constantly talking poorly about someone else or complaining, I give them a few minutes to vent and then try to change the subject or offer a positive comment.  If that doesn’t work, I usually leave the conversation by physically leaving the room or distracting myself with something else. 

 Obviously this book brought out some very strong opinions in me.  It was a nice reminder to focus my energy on what produces good things in my life.  Sometimes that can be very hard, but I’d say I am a positive person about 85% of the time.  There will always be people in life who try to bring us down.  The key is to recognize that and don’t let it drain your energy. 

It’s a good day for a laugh!

(originally posted April 4, 2012 on my former blog…)

Yay, Thursday! Let’s celebrate by having a good laugh. I apologize to people who have already seen some of these on my Pinterest board, but they are too funny not to share in this post too. (there are some new ones too)

It’s true. Sometimes I’m so funny that I start laughing halfway through telling the joke and can’t finish it.

This is the best spoof of this picture I’ve seen yet. And, yes, I own two of them.

Those dang Girl Scouts!

This one gets me every time! The look on his face is classic.

I tried to come up with a witty pun to add on to this, but couldn’t.

Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!! Ok, I’m sorry – I just couldn’t resist.

I want to meet the person who made this poster because it. is. awesome.

If only…

Yes they are, little girl.

Lionel, is that you?

I consider this post a success if at least one of these made you laugh. Even if it was just a silent chuckle.

One week ago today, history was made

Photo courtesy of the Gay Rights Facebook page

Last week, voters approved gay marriage and rejected a constitutional ban on gay marriage for the first time in American history. I was proud to be an American and especially proud to be a Minnesotan. To be part of such an important moment in our nation’s history was a rush of emotions – excitement, pride, and even a little bit of disbelief. (I was so happy that I cried on my drive to work Wednesday morning when it finally sunk in that, yes, that really just happened.)

I’ve been asked a few times why this is so important to me since I’m not gay. I think people have asked me that because I’ve been very outspoken about the topic. The best way I can describe the reason I’m so outspoken is by sharing Martin Niemoller’s famous quote:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t support gay marriage or even believed that civil unions would be an acceptable substitute. In college, I had to take three Theology classes. I chose Christian Marriage for my final class during my 2004 Spring Semester. It was only natural that gay marriage came up as a topic and I was one of only a few students who argued that gays should be allowed to marry (however, there were many more supporters of civil unions but I’ve never been a fan of the “separate, but equal” logic).

Earlier this year, I reflected back on that class and realized my voice had softened since 2004. I still strongly believed in marriage equality but I was much more silent on the topic. I didn’t want to rock the boat or make people uncomfortable. I knew I wouldn’t feel good about myself if Minnesota passed a ban on gay marriage and I was idle about my opinions. I wouldn’t be able to look my friends and family who would be personally impacted by this amendment in the eyes if I didn’t speak up. So, that’s how I became the person who isn’t shy about sharing my belief.

What’s more important, though, is why I believe so strongly. Some of these points are supportive of gay marriage and some of them are my rebuttal to reasons people have given me against gay marriage (you might think I’m kidding with some of them, but I’m not):

Not allowing gays to marry is discrimination. Being gay is not a choice and there is no compelling evidence to support that it is a choice. Denying this group of people the same legal rights as people who are born heterosexual is discrimination. This is probably the most important reason why I support gay marriage.

It is not a slippery slope to polygamy. First, polygamy means one man with multiple wives, one woman with multiple husbands, or group marriage. Therefore, opposite-sex marriage is probably a more likely slippery slope (“if we let him marry one wife, pretty soon he’ll want to marry two or three!”). Second, marriage is intended as a way for a monogamous couple to legally commit to each other so they can enjoy many legal rights together throughout their lifetime. If society decides to debate whether the definition should be monogamous or polygamous, it won’t be due to gay marriage.

“God intended it this way” is not a strong enough argument. It violates the separation of church & state, not all churches even agree on that point and, if He intended marriage to be a certain way, interracial couples still wouldn’t be allowed to marry. It is the same argument that was used by people who didn’t believe interracial couples should be allowed to marry:

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.” – Leon Bazile, Trial Judge in Loving v. Virginia (1959)

Supporting gay marriage supports our troops. We have gay men and women in our Armed Forces and their committed partners deserve the same benefits as the wives or husbands of our heterosexual troops. Our troops sacrifice their lives for our country, they should be allowed the same rights as everyone else. This veteran and Republican politician provides a compelling argument about why it supports our troops:

Gays don’t cause hurricanes or floods. Yes, I was actually told that “We have to repent for our sins. God has flooded many cities because of gay people”. I didn’t respond because I didn’t even know what to say. It was right after Hurricane Sandy so I thought it was a highly inappropriate time to state this argument. If you’re wondering how gays cause hurricanes, here is a quick explanation:

Courtesy of Google.

Ok, all kidding aside, these are pictures of devastation from Hurricane Sandy to provide perspective on the seriousness of saying God floods cities because of gay people. Do you think God would inflict this kind of damage and destruction into people’s lives because He created gay people and has since decided to punish the world because He thinks being gay is a sin? I hope not. I will be really disappointed in Him if I get to the pearly white gates and it turns out to be true. I’ll probably self-deport back to Earth.

Courtesy of Google

Courtesy of Google

Courtesy of Google

Courtesy of Google… and I seriously love the caption this person put on this picture

The fact that all four popular votes resulted in supporting marriage equality was an important tipping point for our country. There were two other significant successes this year when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was ruled unconstitutional in Boston and again in New York, but last week was more important because the American citizens delivered the final decision with their votes. Previously, anti-gay marriage supporters dismissed the movement as being led by activist judges and legislators. I am not naive enough to think the change will be quick but I think we’re on the right path.

I welcome any additional points about gay marriage in the comments section. I know this can be a highly emotional topic for some people. All viewpoints are appreciated as long as they are respectfully stated.

Sometimes i give good advice

In March, I wrote about how it’s really important to check your credit report for errors.  Well, I finally took my own advice.  It turns out I had two errors on my report that dropped my score by a whopping 80 points (whoops, maybe I should actually take my own advice).

The first error was that a majority of my student loans were double-counted.  My graduate student loans were taken over by Mohela, but the Department of Education was also still reporting my debt (get it together, Dept of Education).  The second error was the bank reported I had missed two mortgage payments (kind of a big deal).  In reality, I had not missed any payments; my loan was on hold for two months while they were refinancing my mortgage.

I won’t go into my whole spiel again about credit scores.  You can read my original post here.  But, I will tell you how you can fix the errors.  I went a little over-board and took two approaches.  First, I logged into the Experian website and logged a dispute with them.  This is just as easy as it sounds.  I wrote a quick description of why I thought it was an error and they confirmed the information with my bank and Department of Education.  The second action I took was to call Department of Education and my bank directly to talk to them about the errors.  I was surprised by how willing they were to fix the issue immediately.  Since there are three credit bureaus the best course of action is really to call the company directly and have them correct the information with all three bureaus.

This was more intended as a Public Service Announcement – (take my advice and) check your report!

Welcome to my world…

Welcome.  I like to write and I have very diverse interests.  This is my forum to express the random thoughts that swirl around in my head.  Hold on for what could be a wild ride!  Ok, probably not so wild…