A Good Friday, indeed.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Today is indeed a good Friday for many reasons:

1. There was no traffic on my way into work because everyone is off but me. Flew down the turnpike, flew down the Blue Route -- the Juke was jukin’ it up fo sho! Wish everyday’s commute could be as simple as today. #wakeupPeterPan
2. Today is the start of what I hope to be a great weekend with family and friends. A wedding, a birthday and a holiday this weekend. Wanna talk about some excitement!!! #littlethingsinlife
Sarra and I
3. For all of your religious folk out there, you’re almost there. In just a few days - after a loooong 40 days – you get to eat/drink/smoke/what have you on what you gave up for Lent. As many of you know I’m not religious but I did participate in Lent two years during college with my best friend, Sarra, because I AM great bff. She asked me and I couldn’t help but say yes to those squinty/Asian eyes. Gave up ice cream AND soda. Tough indeed but my body felt great. Should maybe do it again… MAYBE.
4. MORE for all of your religious folk out there: wait no more, as you’re sitting at a restaurant on a Friday night and I am covered in ketchup from my big, juicy cheese burger you can smile and say, ‘oh hell yes, meat is back in my life!’ Eat up friends, BEEF – it’s whats for
5. Most importantly, TGIF. We made it through another work week, we‘re alive and we’re surrounded by tons of people who love us.

It’s a good Friday, indeed. Is it a good Friday for you? 

Guest Blog Post: Steve Lee takes over the Middle East

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dinner cruise on the Nile.

As many of you know, I am always looking for guest bloggers to be on my blog. Just the other week I reached out to Steve Lee -- a friend since elementary school -- who I know is currently taking over the Middle East and Asia. He is on an amazing journey right now and I wanted him to share with both myself AND my readers. Thanks so much, Steve, and best of luck!!!!

4:40 A.M., I hear the horns blare Arabic chants across the city, as the first of six prayers commences. I generally snooze till the next prayer, which begins around 6 a.m., and begin my day.
Coloseumm, Rome

Late last year, I accepted a job as a management consultant specializing in restructuring financial institutions in emerging markets. This means I work with banks in high-level strategy to increase growth and productivity while maintaining or lowering costs. Emerging markets would constitute fast growth countries in regions such as the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South America. People often ask me, “Where are you now Steve”. For those who do not know, I am most likely in Riyadh, the ultra-conservative capital of Saudi Arabia. On my off weeks, I live in London and like to vacation within Europe. My first project is with one of the largest banks in the Middle East. I won’t bore you with the details of my job but further explore my experiences working and living in Saudi Arabia.
Exploring the old country #saudiarabia #ruins 

Like most Middle Eastern countries, Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country. It hosts the two holiest sites of the Islamic religion, Mecca and Medina. Due to the countries religious nature, their laws are based on the holy book Quran, known as Sharia law. Some of the well-known laws of Sharia law include the ban of alcohol, pork, public dancing, cinemas, and gambling. These rules are enforced by the Mutawa aka the Religious Police. Also, there are public beheadings every Friday…yikes. This was a huge culture shock for me! Anyone who knows me, no bacon or beer for long periods of time can be dangerous!
230km into the desert northwest of riyadh we searched and found camels and camped in an oasis
The biggest culture shock for me was the limited rights for women in this country. Women in Saudi must always be accompanied by a male guardian in public, designated entrances for restaurants and stores, are not allowed to vote, and is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. As my Saudi colleagues put it, “it’s a system created for women to always rely on men”. From most of the men I talked to (I am forbidden to talk to women-- sigh) they feel progress needs to be made, yet they are very protective of their wife and sisters. They feel the guardianship is the best way to make sure the women in their life is safe. But issues such as not being able to vote or drive are something many would like to see changed. It was 30 days until my first interaction with a woman, and that was on the plane heading to London! Only if you saw that interaction, it was a total disaster .
Giza Pyramids

The people in this country are very open and generous people. They love engaging in geopolitical, cultural, and even religious conversations. These conversations are always done with the upmost respect and which is something I admire. I have been invited to many homes and enjoy the cultural experiences Saudi has to offer. It maybe they were just as curious about me. Either way, the perception the media created about the region as a whole couldn’t be further from the truth.

My journey and story does not end there. When I took the job as a management consultant I also joined Bankers without Borders. I wanted to leverage my current location and experience in banking to begin making a small footprint in this world. This is where my true passion lies. Passion is the engine that keeps us going no matter the circumstance. 

Bankers without Borders is a Grameen Foundation Initiative which helps the world’s poorest, especially women, improve their lives and escape poverty by helping to provide access to appropriate financial services (small loans and accounts) and new ways to generate income. My role is in the development, deployment, and teaching of financial projections modeling to microfinance institutions that service the poor. What I do for this organization is a very small fraction of the impact it makes in some of the worlds poorest regions. I had the privilege of meeting with a MFI in Egypt to educate them on tools to better run their bank. Egypt is a very poor country with 16 million people living on less than 2 USD a day. Don’t let my beautiful pics of the pyramid fool you! It was a high dosage of reality to walk through the city and see the rapidly worsening conditions in the cramp capital of Egypt. I will continue to work with MFI’s in many countries including a slated visit to Tunisia and Pakistan as long as it remains safe.

When I found out my project was in the Middle East, I had no roadmap plan nor do I know where I will end up next. The possibilities are endless and it’s the uncertainty that makes it an enjoyable experience. As the great Joe Dirt once said, “ Life’s a garden, dig it!” I plan to continue to learn new cultures & experiences and grow in many aspects.

To my family and friends back home much love and cant wait to grab a pint and catch up with you all! Cheers and hope to see some of you in Greece or Turkey next month!

The Easter bunny is a creeper

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Well, the time is almost here for that white furry bastard to come hop into all of our homes, drop off some candy and give us a day where we get to stuff our faces with amazing food – better known as Easter Day. Ok ok, for all my religious readers out there let me pay my respects for the day in which we will be celebrating the resurrection of Christ. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – Amen.  

Ok, and now back to it.

I can remember being a kid and going to Easter Egg Hunts with my sister and cousins (with Jackie, Missy and myself all wearing the same fluffy dresses and colors.) We would go to our church in Worcester and then head right across the street to the Masonic Lodge where tons of kids would line up for the hunt in hopes of finding the golden egg.  We would then go inside and eat lunch, and then sit on the Easter Bunny’s lap --- a creepy looking costume which reeked of cigarette smoke (I’m surprised we never caught the bunny with his mask off outside chain smoking – for all I know they could have been smoking while they were IN the suit. Lots of room in that big helmet head.)

While the Easter Bunny has not come to my house for many years, he resurrected six years ago with my first nephew, Jack. With his brother, Max, and sister, Quincy, the whole gang now has the Easter bunny come to their home AND MomMom/PopPop’s house. The kids go outside each year and pick up plastic eggs that I lay around the yard that my parents fill with dollar coins. They come inside, count their money and play with their toys.

With any holiday there comes humor. This year’s Easter humor came from Max, my 3 year old nephew. My sister posted this Facebook status a week or so ago and it cracked me up:

My 3 year old is struggling with the concept of the Easter bunny. Some classic questions tonight...
Me and my mini me - Maxie
How does he bring treats if he doesn't have hands?
How does he get in the house? Can't we just leave the baskets outside? We really don't want him in the house right?
What if the cats eat him?
Does he look for his shadow before he hides the eggs?
Why is there a guy that dresses like a bunny at the mall? He doesn't talk.

For being only 3 he brings up some very valid points!!

I end my Easter post with the following photos, finding comfort that thousands of other children had/have to sit on the laps of other chain smoking, creeping looking bunnies. Enjoy!! (PS- Happy early birthday to my big sister, Missy, who will be turning 32 on Easter this year. Love you!!)


Babies are coming, treasure the time now

Friday, March 15, 2013

A few friends and myself were chatting the other night and we were discussing how we feel like everyone and their brother are having kids these days. For the few couples I personally know who just had children/expecting recently, I am more than happy for their new additions, the babies are all too cute for words!!! But all of this babytalk and new additions has me realizing that my time is precious with many of my friends.
Everyone has very busy lives and lots of commitments as life is hectic on a regular basis, but I personally feel like right now everyone should be making a huge effort in spending as much time as possible with friends because before we (well I) know it, all of my (our) friends will be popping kids out soon. Many of my friends are happily married/soon-to-be married and I'm sure within the next 2-5 years they will all start trying to grow their families with new precious additions. I am beyond excited that a new journey will be made for all of them, however it also makes me a little selfish that I should be treasuring all of these precious moments -- going out when I can, hanging out when I can, and making every effort possible to get together. 
That casual Friday Happy Hour will be no longer unless someone can grab a babysitter, sitting around watching Sunday Funday football won't be the same with an infant crying in the background, and a spontaneous trip to Atlantic City won't be happening that easily unless your parents/in-laws are willing to spend the night at your place. Instead of going to bar to celebrate birthdays we will be heading to homes for baby showers and 1st birthday parties with little tikes running around.
Please don't mistake this for me not liking children or enjoying them because as most of you know I love them -- my two nephews and niece are my world and I would do anything for them. At one point in my life I questioned even having kids, but being an aunt has COMPLETELY changed my perspective and I can not wait to have my own family one day. But take this blog post more as an eye opener --- that our lives are flying by and changes are happening rapidly. Personally, and I hope others may now think this way as well, I hope I treasure every second with my friends while I have my early 20s now because with a blink of an eye, your core group of friends will always be your best friends, but with a slight difference - a difference most likely for the better in their life, but a difference that will toss up the whole group.

Love Ourselves

Friday, March 8, 2013

Keeping this a short post. Was looking at a few quotes this morning and came across this one from John Lennon. This is something I have really been working on over the last few years and I’m improving every single day. I’m openly willing to admit that not loving myself has absolutely affected me in my past relationships but I’m finally at the point where I believe I am stepping over the hump – and to be honest, IT FEELS GREAT!! I am me, I need to except me and love me FOR me. Here is to all of you who can relate:

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon

Learning to Love Again

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

We all go through heart break – whether it be the loss of a loved one, the loss of a spouse/significant other, a bad break up or feeling defeat.

With all hurting there comes healing – healing to make yourself happy and learning to love again.

Just recently my best friend, Caroline, and her husband, Ryan, suffered a terrible lose with their 3-year-old Boxer, Phillie. An outgoing, adventurous pup who was OBSESSED with her balls– Phillie was man’s best friend, the Bergh’s child and a heartbreaker to many with her adorable face and wonderful kisses. During the summer of 2012, Caroline and Ryan noticed Phillie was starting to drag her back legging causing her toenails to bleed from hitting the ground. With a vet check they said they didn’t notice anything and would continue to monitor. It was then during the late fall when conditions got worse and several tests were taken that they learned Phillie had a tumor on her spin – a health issue that would cause her to lose function on her back legs and control of her bowel movements. Phillie fought a hard battle and her parents did everything they could to keep her comfortable.

To see my best friend experience such a terrible loss, to hear her cry like that over the phone to me, and to feel so hopeless in such an awful situation - it was one of the toughest things I have ever had to experience in my life. Caroline’s heart is my heart, so when she hurts, I hurt.

It has been several months since Caroline and Ryan had to put down their dearest Phillie, but the Berghs will be starting a new chapter in their lives – this one bringing TWO gorgeous sister Boxer puppies into their world – Zen and Kai. Phillie will never be replaced but these two bundles of joy will bring a light in Ryan and Caroline’s eyes again. Just yesterday Caroline and Ryan picked up their newest additions and to hear the happiness in Caroline’s voice again is so amazing.

On twitter Caroline posted:
‏@ceebbee24: Kai&Zen #sleepyboxers #sisters #newbeginning #learningtoloveagain

And this is exactly that – new beginnings, a new journey and learning to love again. This is a lesson to all those suffering – you will yet again experience happiness again with time and healing.

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