Monday, June 29, 2015

June 2015 Budget

Lilly for Pulitzer for Target- $38
Tory Burch Sandals- $40

Total: $78

April total ($360) + May total ($72) + June total ($78) = $510

Tory Burch Robinson Tote- $200

Quarterly Total: $510- $200 = $310

The Good:
I have not been good about blogging, but I have been good about sticking to my budget! I spent most of my money in April just stocking up on some spring/summer basics, and then added a few fun pieces during May and June. I was tempted by some other items, such as this dress, but my summer dressing rule has become "must be able to wear a real bra." I have tried every "best bra for large-chested girls" on the market, and I remain unconvinced that this is even possible. The last time I wore a strapless bra I was left with a scar on my back. AN ACTUAL SCAR. Despite being fitted, spending a pretty penny, and being told I'd love it, it just hasn't worked out. I suppose I'll need to try again when it comes time to wear a certain white dress in October, but for casual summer days? No, no, and no.

I also found this Lilly for Target dress at the beginning of May, but it took me an entire month to decide whether or not I wanted to keep it. I was afraid of keeping it just because it was hard to find rather than because I loved it. I originally purchased the blue upstream shift as well, but in the end I decided I only wanted to keep one. I brought the pink one to Puerto Rico at the beginning of June, and I think it will be great to have for wedding and honeymoon festivities in October.

I also bid a bittersweet adieu to the bag I hoped would stick with me for years. I got an amazing deal on this Tory Burch Robinson tote last year (you can read about it here), but, after a full year of inconsistent usage, I finally had to admit that I'm just not a big purse gal. I don't carry very much with me, and, if I do, my back calls me out with awful aches and pains. While I sold it for a little less than I paid, I still consider it a good deal for myself and its new owner.

The Bad:
I finally started my new, permanent job this month. Don't worry, that's not the bad. I absolutely love the new setting I'm in, and I can't believe it took me so long to get back to outpatient. However, I'm still subjected to the beautiful Illinois taxes and my monthly bills are eating up a lot of my take-home pay. Translation: these credit cards are even more of a bitch than I realized. I'm trying to make small payments here and there, but I'm also looking into taking a second part-time job. My newest position is four days a week (Monday-Thursday) so I have some flexibility with my weekends. I figure it's worth working my butt off while I'm sans-children in order to put us in a better position in the future.

Why is being a responsible adult so hard?

The Ugly:
I suppose this column is for the occasions when I go over my budget, but luckily I haven't needed it yet.

I'm obviously linking up with Fran over at Budgeting Bloggers!

Monday, June 1, 2015


Jacket- J. Crew Factory (similar) / Jeans- J. Crew (similar) / Scarf- J. Crew / Earrings- J. Crew / Wardrobe- Too-much-J. Crew-Need-to-Shop-Elsewhere

I drive along Milwaukee's lakefront every time I go to Pure Barre. I spend most of this drive trying to keep my eyes on the road but generally fail and just stare at the lakefront. I usually think "I'm going to start coming here everyday!" and "Ooh, that would make a great spot for blog photos!" Then I fail to do either one. Well not this time! I resolved to take blog photos at the lakefront, and I did.... when it was 50 degrees and days of heavy rain had turned the water brown. You can't win them all.

By the time this post goes live, I'll be on my way to Puerto Rico! I can't believe it's finally happening. We've planned a ton of things via email thanks to our incredible wedding planner, but seeing it all in person will make it feel like it's actually happening. Sadly, Denny is beginning a new job this week so it will just be me and my mom. Unsadly, she's a great travel buddy, and I'm excited for all the enthusiasm and excitement I know she'll bring to this planning process. I'll be disconnecting for the week, but you can follow me on Instagram to see sights from paradise and feel all-consuming jealousy! (Then, someday you can go somewhere bitchin and return the favor.)

Also, I had to include this photo as I feel it perfectly sums up how I feel 90% of the time I'm taking blog photos- awkward, uncomfortable, and just wanting it all to be over.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Wedding Series: The Destination Decision

I was never the little girl who grew up dreaming of her wedding. Cue eye roll, right? This is usually what girls say when they're trying to act too cool for all that traditional stuff, and most people see right through it. "Oh, you don't care about this gigantic day that's all about you where you're treated like a queen and people bestow gifts upon you?" So let me rephrase- I always saw marriage in my future if I met the right person, and I could have given you a general idea of what I'd want a wedding to look like (big dress, soft colors, and lots of 90s pop). However, a life-long aversion to the spotlight only intensified my fear of the whole traditional wedding thing. I had a few friends start getting married once I hit my mid-20s, and, while attending their big day, my thoughts were generally along the lines of "How is she holding it all together? Everyone is staring and hovering around her. What if she just wants to sit down for a little while? What if she has to go to the bathroom??" (I'm not saying these were rational thoughts, but they were there all the same.)
When Denny and I got engaged last summer, I knew I was ready to take that step in my life.The whole marriage thing didn't feel scary to me. But a wedding? That was scary to me. It didn't help that Denny had 90 aunts, uncles, and cousins whom I had never met before. (This has since changed, and they are all awesome which I should have assumed all along.) I got overwhelmed simply at the thought of interacting with so many people on a single day. I always said I'd be happy to elope and have a huge, informal party later on, but I knew that our Irish Catholic families would have none of that. Plus, I'm my parent's only daughter, and my mom is quite the decorator/entertainer/jack-of-all-trades.The big, fancy Chicago wedding seemed inevitable so we started planning.
As I said before, I'm not the most traditional person so Denny and I immediately started looking for non-traditional venues. If I had to do the big wedding, I at least wanted something that felt more "us." We looked at about 3 warehouse spaces in the city, and they all had a really cool feel to them. "Sure, I can see myself getting married here" became a little easier to say with each one. I was happy that my feelings were slowly changing, and I was also relieved that we could give our families the wedding they wanted for us. By the time we looked at the last space, our wedding guest list had surpassed 300.
Now, here I'm going to start talking about that thing you're not supposed to talk about- the cost. Holy shit, the cost. I remember hearing that weddings were "soooo expensive," and I even heard someone say that it was hard to have a wedding under $50,000. I remember thinking "Uh, sure, if you serve all of your guests lobster and hand out Louboutins as your wedding favors." Now, I know for a fact you can have a wedding for less than $50,000. I know people who have done it. On the other hand, I know people who have easily doubled that amount. I will never begrudge anyone for their wedding day choices. It is their wedding, and it's a decision that they (and likely their familes) have made. As much as I don't subscribe to the bridezilla mentality, I do think that you should do exactly what you want. After all, you're (hopefully) only going to do this once. My parents didn't give me a strict budget right off the bat, but I assumed we'd end up paying a reasonable amount. It was going to be big, but we were looking at loft spaces not the Ritz Carlton. I wanted beautiful flowers, but I didn't care if we had a giant cake or Pillsbury cupcakes. Well, I soon realized that the person who made the $50,000 comment was not serving lobster and Louboutins. At our favorite loft (aka WAREHOUSE) space, we were quoted $27,000 just for food and booze. I'll say it again- just for food and booze. I was dumbfounded. Looking back, I realize that Chicago pricing is going to be higher than many other zip codes, but I didn't see that coming. My parents (rightfully so) nixed that option, and we were back to square one.
I'd like to say I played it cool, but I began to panic. Denny and I had started arguing about the guest list, and I was already resenting this whole wedding planning process. It wasn't looking good. You know above when I said I had never dreamed of my wedding day? Well, it was more of a lie than I initially admitted. If you asked me about 10 years ago what kind of wedding I wanted, I would have said "destination" without pause. To me, it was the best of both worlds- you can have a fairly traditional wedding, but the location takes away so much of the pressure. People get to go on vacation, and one night there is a gigantic party with free food and liquor. I'd like to think that stressful situations can seem 50% less stressful when there is a beach involved. Both of my parents knew about my destination wedding dreams, and I had mentioned it to Denny on multiple occasions. So the obvious question is- well who stopped you? Honestly, the person was me. I knew that there were obvious burdens (cost, time) that came with asking people to travel, and I didn't want my wedding to be an inconvenience. So, yes, I could easily tell other people that they should do whatever they wanted for their wedding day, but I couldn't do that for myself.
Without going into too many details, it finally reached the point where Denny and I sat down and asked "Who are we having this wedding for?" While Denny loved the idea of a huge party with every person he had ever met (have I mentioned he's more outgoing than me?), he knew that wasn't what I wanted. In a move that made me love him even more than I already did, he reached out to his family and got their blessing for us to take our wedding down south. Very, very south. Puerto Rico south.

I have never been to Puerto Rico. In fact, I've never even been to the Caribbean. Once we decided to go the destination route, I started looking at airfares to a bunch of potential locations. To my surprise, Puerto Rico was by far the cheapest. Bonus: it doesn't require a passport. My good friend's sister had gotten married there so I had a great resource for my million and one questions. Mainly- are you happy that you got married in Puerto Rico? The answer was a resounding, no-regrets, can't-imagine-anywhere-else "yes." I'm the type of person that does their research, finds what they like, and makes a decision. I don't waver very much, and I don't agonize over every little detail. Between the first-hand account and a bazillion beautiful results for "Puerto Rico wedding," I knew we had found our location. Now we just had to start telling people...

I'll be posting about our continued wedding planning process here on Fridays! (I can't promise every Friday, but, er, I'll try.) I emphasize the word process because there are quite a few logistics involved when planning from thousands of miles away, but I'll do my best to be thorough. Anyone else ever tackled the destination wedding challenge? 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 2015 Budget

Total: $72

April Total ($360) + May total ($72) = $432

Quarterly budget ($500) - $432= $68 remaining for June

The Good:

Well, first thing’s first- I stayed within my budget! So far I’m really liking this whole quarterly budget thing. I’m not tempted very much by spring and summer clothes so this may be the easiest quarter of the year, but I’ll take my wins where I can get them. My mom and I are leaving for Puerto Rico this Monday to see how all the wedding planning is going (more on that tomorrow!) so I used some of my budget to buy my favorite swim suit coverup from last year. I have a love/hate relationship with J. Crew Factory’s new tendency to just recreate last year’s successful J. Crew items (primarily because I wish I would have just waited), but I was really excited that they chose to release this coverup. I actually ordered it last year but had buyer’s remorse over the price tag. Not this time! This tank is also a reissue of a J. Crew item from last year. I bought the light blue/coral version at J. Crew last summer and wore it all the time. I had almost purchased this navy/light blue version as well, but here was my second chance! Overall, I’m glad I added two useful pieces to my closet without breaking the bank.

I’m also using this monthly budget post to update how my financial goals are going. A huge plus for me this month was adding to my savings account. I’ve always found savings to be tricky because there are a million other things I could put that money towards, but I know I need a cushion in case something major happens. I’m lucky that my career has good job security, but you never know when a medical or car bill might sneak up on you.

I also didn't use credit cards to buy anything this month! Baby steps. 

The Bad:

Unfortunately, I haven’t made nearly as much progress on paying off my Banana Republic card as I’d hoped. It was true that the contract job I took paid extremely well, but I admit I’m still adjusting to my new living costs in Milwaukee.  I spent the first year of work living with my parents so readjusting to that whole paying-rent thing kinda sucks. I have a tendency (with many things) to set really lofty goals that may not be completely realistic. When I'm unable to meet them, I get discouraged and just say eff it. My $236/week goal fell into that category, and, by the end of the month, I had stopped putting anything towards my card. I'm determined not to let this cycle continue, but I'm waiting to start my new job before I set a new weekly goal. I don't like the idea of possibly needing a few years to pay off these credit cards, but I'd rather do it slowly than give up on it over and over. 

The Ugly:

Nothing too ugly this month! I stayed within my budget, put money in savings, and made a (small) dent in my Banana Republic card. 

I wanted to make a quick note that there are two things I don't factor into my monthly budget: makeup and workout clothes. I've never been much of a makeup junkie. In fact, having more than the basics really stresses me out. I'll occasionally buy a new lip gloss, but I primarily only buy makeup when I need to replace one of my staples. I also don't factor in workout clothes because I only buy new ones as needed. (I'm looking at you see-through yoga pants.) I started Pure Barre back in January and bought a few needed items. Now that my goal is four times per week I may need to grab a new shirt or two, but I don't buy workout clothes as outfits. I also don't buy "workout outfits." You know what I mean. The head-to-toe Lululemon ensemble that costs more than that dress you wore to your friend's wedding? Yeah, I haven't really jumped on that bandwagon. If I become a nonstop fitness junkie that only wears yoga pants, I'll be sure to update you guys. But... I wouldn't wait for that. 

How did you guys do with your budget? I'm linking up with Fran over at Budgeting Bloggers!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Scalloped Edges

Shirt- J. Crew / Shorts- Loft / Belt- J. Crew / Sandals- Tory Burch / Earrings- Kate Spade 

I've already lamented about my general apathy towards summer clothes. It's not that I hate them, but I just get bored when I lose the ability to layer. During my April budget post, I assessed my current summer wardrobe and considered what may be good additions. I'm generally okay with showing my legs, but I actually don't own many shorts. I ordered these black scalloped shorts on a whim during one of Loft's 50% off sales, and they might be my favorite shorts I've ever owned. The length, pattern, and scalloped detailing are all fantastic, and the legs aren't too baggy (which is a problem I've encountered many times). They'll definitely be coming with me on my trip to Puerto Rico next week!

I haven't given too many details about my upcoming wedding in Puerto Rico, but I'll be writing a post soon for anyone who might be interested!

Friday, May 22, 2015

So... You Help People Find Jobs?

When I tell people I'm an occupational therapist, I tend to get a blank expression followed by a quick recovery and "Oh, so you help people find jobs?" If you had asked me the same question six years ago, I probably would have had the same answer. For an occupation that's so pervasive in all areas of healthcare, it's funny how little recognition there is among the general public. As a profession, we really do it to ourselves. See, the best part about occupational therapy is also what makes it so difficult to define. Occupational therapists do everything from showing someone how to move safely after a hip replacement to job training for people with mental health issues. They adapt living supplies (think: toothpaste and pill bottles) for people with rheumatoid arthritis and teach kids how to hold a pencil. Occupational therapists work in rehabilitation hospitals, schools, hand therapy clinics, mental health facilities, group homes for disabled adults, nursing homes, and sensory clinics. During my first quarter of graduate school, I even had an entire class dedicated to the question "What is Occupational Therapy?" Now, my best explanation is this- we help people perform their occupation, and "occupation" is defined as whatever is important to that person. A child's occupation is school and play. An adult's occupation may be the ability to perform their actual job, or it may be teaching them how to care for their kids after a major catastrophe like a spinal cord injury. The first question we ask a client is "What's important to you?" "Independent" and "functional" are huge buzz words in OT. We help people gain independence with the functional routines of daily life. Still confused? It's okay sometimes I am, too.

Now, after that whole explanation, I'll risk more confusion by identifying myself as a pediatric occupational therapist. I knew I wanted to be a pediatric OT from the moment I learned about occupational therapy. I was a lost 23-year-old with absolutely no clue about my career path. However, soul-searching didn't quite pay the bills so I reverted to my old standby of nannying. I always liked kids, but I didn't want to be a teacher. I also liked health topics, but I did not have the patience for med school. When I got asked to nanny for a girl with special needs, I agreed with a slight hint of anxiety. As someone who went to private school my entire life, I hadn't even been exposed to kids with special needs. (Yet another reason my kids will attend public school someday.) But, from the moment I met her, I was totally smitten. This little girl was a fighter. In her five years of life, she had already had a multitude of surgeries including the placement of a feeding tube and tracheostomy tube. Her mom was (and still is) one of the greatest moms around. They knew in utero that it was going to be a long road, and she became her daughter's greatest advocate. After I'd been nannying for a few weeks, I asked what had made the greatest difference in helping her develop into "a regular kid". Without missing a beat, she said "occupational therapy." I knew my youngest brother had some OT in grade school when he had trouble writing, but that was the extent of my knowledge. You mean this OT thing does more than teach kids how to hold a pencil? For the next 15 minutes, she explained going to an intensive sensory integration camp down in Florida where they did things like place her daughter on a board, blindfold her, and spin her to the beat of music. Uh... I'm sorry but what kind of voodoo is this? She swore that her daughter had been afraid to walk without assistance and could not read before her time in Florida. Afterwards, she was running and reading like nobody's business.

I've probably already lost some people as I understand this sounds completely nuts. If you've never heard of occupational therapy, you've definitely never heard of sensory integration or sensory processing disorder. This topic area has become my passion, and it's truly why I became an OT. The gist of it is this- every human takes in information from their senses, and it is processed by the brain. The brain interprets the sensation and generates an appropriate motor response. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, a lot can go very, very wrong. Everyone processes sensory experiences differently. For example, I have terrible eye/hand coordination. My eyes and my body just don't work well together, and this caused a lot of anxiety growing up. I really hated gym class, and I also got nervous any time we had to learn new games during Girl Scouts. I usually coped by trying to hide in the corner or pretending I was sick.

Now, imagine if, instead of living in a state of constant anxiety, there was a safe place I could go and practice these skills. That's exactly what a pediatric OT with sensory integration training can do. These OTs are trained to look at how a child processes sensory information, where the dysfunction occurs, and determine activities to help them better navigate their world, despite the challenges. Here's an example of how most people look at a child's behavior vs. how an OT views it-

Most people: Chris is a brat. Everyday at recess, he picks the same game and forces his friends to play it over and over. If they say they don't want to, he starts yelling "You're so mean! You're not my friend!" Then, he'll go sulk in the corner and refuse to do anything. During class time, he's constantly fidgeting in his seat. We tell him he has to sit still, but he just won't. He still can't write within the lines of the paper, and he doesn't know how to use scissors.

An OT: Chris has very poor postural control (core strength) which causes him to constantly wiggle in his seat. This poor postural control also interferes with his motor planning, or his body's ability to plan and execute movement. New activities are very hard for Chris to learn so once he learns a game he wants to stick with it. When his friends suggest a new game, the amount of anxiety is so overwhelming that he will yell and cry. It's not that Chris doesn't want to play- it's that he doesn't know how. All of these issues are affecting his school work as well. The ability to write and cut actually begins with good core strength. A strong core provides the base for shoulder, elbow, wrist, and, finally, finger stability. A child cannot perform small, isolated movements if their base isn't strong.

For the past two years, I worked in a therapeutic day school for kids with autism. There's an even deeper level when working with autism thanks to the delay or absence of language, lack of coping skills, and distractibility. I think autism will always be my favorite population to work with, but I'm excited to start a new job on June 8th working with a variety of diagnoses. The school system has its pluses, but I'm excited for the increased flexibility that working in an outpatient clinic will bring. I can still work with kids on school-based skills, but I can also address things like motor planning challenges, inflexibility, and even motion sickness. If you ever have the chance to see an outpatient OT clinic, do it! It's filled with slides, swings, trampolines, scooters, and a million other things to encourage movement and exploration. If we can't give these kids a safe place to explore, then they'll never have the chance.

So, think back- was there something you dealt with in childhood that really impacted your day-to-day life? I can't promise I can "fix" it at this point, but maybe I can give you a little insight! At the very least, I hope I educated a few more people on the merits of OT.

Oh! And that little girl I talked about earlier in the post? She's doing great, and I'm actually babysitting for her tomorrow! She "graduated" from OT a few years ago, and I love seeing that those foundational skills she received years ago continue to aid in her development.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Little Thing Called Summerfest

Jacket- J. Crew Factory / Tee- J. Crew (old) / Jeans- J. Crew / Scarf- Francesca's (old) / Earrings- J. Crew / Sunglasses- RayBan / Shoes- Sperry 

As a lifelong Chicagoan, summer music has always been allllll about Lollapalooza. For those of you who haven't been exposed to the organized chaos that is Lolla, it's basically a gigantic music festival in Grant Park which is right on the Chicago lakefront. In the past 10 years, headliners have included Mumford and Sons, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and this year Sam Smith. It's 3 days filled with every type of music you could want, and it's in one of the best cities in the world (personal bias). Personally, I've only been once, and it was a great experience thanks to 4-5 of my absolute favorite bands, phenomenal weather, and being able to stay somewhere for free. After having such a great first experience, I was always a little afraid to mess with perfection. Plus, at $250 (at least) for a 3-day pass, it's not the cheapest experience.

Despite living less than 100 miles away for most of my life, I seriously knew nothing about Milwaukee until Denny and I first started dating. And I think the first thing I learned about was Summerfest. Denny's a bit of a music junkie so he makes a point to see as much live music as he can. When he started talking about this bizarre "island" that was nothing but an outdoor concert venue, I had many questions. Why would a city build a permanent outdoor music structure when it spends most of the year under 60 degrees? Does this entire island exist only for Summerfest? Who actually plays at Summerfest? I finally got to go for the first time two years ago, and, let me tell you, it is a sight. Whereas Lollapalooza is half obnoxious, nearly-naked teens and half people who hate those obnoxious, nearly-naked teens, Summerfest feels more like a family affair (at least during the day). It's filled with food, beer, and, yes, live music. It doesn't feel quite as jam-packed, and the $16 admission ticket is pretty great. My favorite Summerfest experience had to be seeing GirlTalk last year at one of the late-night shows. I think it's safe to say that Summerfest is one of the big reasons Milwaukee gets its rep for being an awesome city in the summertime.

What's the best part of Summerfest now? Denny and I only live two blocks away! I know I'll be hating my life when I literally can't drive down my own street, but I'm sure the ease of seeing live music in such a great venue will make up for it... At least I hope so.

Happy Shopping!


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