Friday, April 8, 2016

I Quit My Job


 
Last month, I took a deep breath, walked in to my boss's office, and quit my job, and today is my last day. It was the single most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done in my life. Not just the moment where I turned in to my notice, but the days and weeks leading up to that moment...the thinking, the praying, the guilt. These things made it the hardest decision of my life. 

For a little bit of background information, I'm a registered nurse, and I work as a unit manager at a long term care facility (nursing home). This nursing home is where I started my very first job as an LPN, and after I graduated the second time, I was promoted to being a manager. I love my job. I love the people, the atmosphere, but mostly I love the residents who lived at the facility. They were (and still are) so special to me. 

Maybe you're thinking, Kalyn if you love your job so much, why did you quit? There were, at the time, what seemed like a lot of factors. Looking back, they seem like little things, but at the time they were big things. I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed not only with my job responsibilities, but with my life. I needed a change: a change of scenery, a change of pace. 

As I mentioned, it was a tough decision. There was a lot of talk with my husband, my family, and much more praying for guidance. I wanted to know that I was making the right choice. You know the analogy people always give with the oxygen masks in the airplane? This was that kind of situation. I couldn't take care of other people without first taking care of myself. 

There are some people that don't "get it" when I explain that I'm making a personal decision to step back, or take a "demotion", in my new job title, and that's okay. Not everyone understands needing a little bit of self-love. Not everyone understands that life can sometimes take harder tolls on me while it doesn't affect you at all. 

This last day of work is so bittersweet. I have heard the kindest words over the last few weeks and those words really make me feel good. I've been encouraged and reminded why I first chose to become a nurse. I'm excited to be taking the next step in my nursing career, and I'm excited for the new opportunities I'll be provided. Amidst all the excitement though is just a little bit of sadness at leaving my first "real" job and workplace. I ask that you keep me in your prayers as I begin this completely new journey. 

Cheers to new beginnings!

 

Monday, April 4, 2016

April Goals // March Recap

April has always been my favorite month. It's finally warm enough to go outside in a tank top and shorts, all of the flowers are blooming, and it just so happens to be the month I celebrate my birthday (April 2nd, if you're curious). The month of March really went by quickly. I went on vacation with good friends, we worked a lot on our house, and I made a pretty big life decision, which I will talk about at a later date.



Here's what I hoped to accomplish in March:

1. Establish a cleaning schedule (for real). I'm just going to face it, me and schedules don't mix. I attempted to make a cleaning schedule and stick to it, but life usually got in the way. I am happy to report, however, that I did consistently do more chores during the week to free up our weekends, so I'll say this one is COMPLETE!

2. Paint the guest bedroom. We did not paint the blue room, but we DID rip out the carpet and paint the room that will become my husband's office. I'm going to go ahead and say COMPLETE on this one too, because really it was just my goal to do something with our spare rooms.

2. Schedule (some of my) social media posts. I started using Hootsuite last month and I really enjoy it. I won't say that I scheduled posts every day or even for every blog post, but I did use it fairly consistently to promote not only my blog, but some of my favorite bloggers/blog posts throughout the month. COMPLETE!

3. Have blogger collaborations. I totally dropped the ball on this one.

4. Save $2,000. COMPLETE!



April Goals:

Personal:
  1. Establish a gym v. running routine. Right now I kind of just run when I feel like it, but with two races coming up, I need to focus on endurance.
  2. Spend quality time with my husband, work on developing our love languages and improving our communication skills with each other.
Blogging/Social:
  1. Increase my instagram following and engagement. Since April 2015, my instagram account has doubled in followers, and I've done that all on my own! I want to continue to focus on posting quality photos, using relative hashtags, and engaging other accounts. My goal is to grow my account by 100 followers.
  2. Work on an editorial calendar that works for me. I attempted last month to make one, and it just didn't work out.
  3. Create and host a link up in the beginning of May. I know this is April, but in order for it to happen in May, I need to do all the planning in April.
What are your goals this month? 


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How I Exclusively Use a Credit Card (Without Going Into Debt!)

When I was a teenager and when I was in college, credit cards scared the heck out of me. I associated credit cards with debt, collection agencies, and spending money you didn't have. In my 18-21 year old hands, a credit card could have been very dangerous. I know many people who got themselves in over their heads with credit cards when they were younger. Some with a balance of $500-1200 they could never shake, but some getting up to ten thousand dollars in debt. 

I knew I didn't want to get myself into that kind of situation, so I never applied for a credit card. Even after I graduated college, got a job, and my own apartment I still wasn't comfortable with the idea of having a credit card. I had a student loan and also a small bank loan that I paid off when I was 19, and these two loans helped boost my credit score, along with paying my electric bill and my apartment rent. 



When my husband (then boyfriend) and I first applied for a mortgage we ran into a little bit of a road block...Derek didn't have any credit! Like me, he never had a credit card, and didn't have student loans, and on top of that he lived with his parents or in a home owned by his parents throughout college. He was advised that the quickest way to build credit was to get a credit card. I told him to go for it, but I didn't want any part of it. For six months he put all of his gas on the credit card, paid the balance in full every month, and was able to build up a good credit score. 

Fast forward several years, and now I exclusively use my credit card, and I never touch my debit card (unless for some reason I'm needing cash or using a cash back option). So what made me change my mind? 

In short, the answer is: FREE MONEY! Reward points are so awesome you guys, I mean, you are literally getting money for free. 

Anyway, we started with an American Express card for Costco, because at the time, Costco had an exclusive contract with AmEx, and it was the only credit card accepted. There was no annual fee, and we got an immediate $100 bonus if we spent X amount in the first month. We used it every time we went to Costco, for all our gas purchases, and for some restaurant purchases. I was still using my debit card more frequently than using the credit card, so I never really knew how much money we had, and it was frustrating! So we quit using the CC except when we went to Costco. 

Six months later we went to Canada, paid for our tickets out of pocket, along with our hotel in Calgary and our rental car. After talking at length when we returned from our trip, we decided to give another go with using a credit card to build up reward points. We did a lot of heavy research to figure out which credit card would work best for us. We chose the Capitol One Venture, which is a Visa. It has 2% cash back on everything, a low annual fee, and a $400 sign up bonus if we spent $3,000 in the first month - this worked for us because that's the month we went to Vegas and we put our airline tickets, hotel, and all other expenses on the card to help us get to that amount. 

After we both got our cards we started using them exclusively, instead of only with certain purchases. We don't use any money from our bank account, and we don't spend more on our credit card than we get paid every month. It's really as simple as that. When you treat your credit card just as if it were a debit card (spending only what you have available) it can really work out in your favor. 

Since September of last year, we've earned over $900 in rebates. That's about $150 per month that we get back, just by spending money on things we were planning on purchasing anyway. We haven't used it all yet, but we plan on using it toward travel in the upcoming year. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Universal Orlando: Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade

I mentioned in an earlier post, that while we were in Orlando, we stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which had an awesome perk of allowing early access to guests to Universal Studios. Again, I highly recommend this hotel, not just for the perks, but because it was within walking distance, was very clean, and the pool(s) were awesome. 



DIAGON ALLEY 

The first morning in the park, we were at the gate right at opening and went straight for Daigon Alley and the Gringott's ride. The detail work in the bank itself was really awesome, the goblins working as 'tellers' were very lifelike and would occasionally glare at you. The ride was a mix between virtual and rollercoaster, and it was really, really good. 

Florean Fortescue's Ice Cream Parlour where you could get various ice cream flavors including butterbeer, earl gray @ lavender, and clotted cream. 




Olivander's Wand Shop, where you can experience someone choosing their wand - or rather, the wand choosing them. 





The Hopping Pot, where you can get all of your butterbeer needs (they have hot, cold, and iced - all of them are delicious!) 


We also went to Weazley's Wizarding Wheezes, which is the shop opened by Fred and George Weasley with Harry's Triwizard Tournament winnings. The shop looks nearly identical to how it's portrayed in the movies - down to the disappearing rabbit under the hat and the unicycling Umbridge going across the ceiling. 

What I didn't know before going to Diagon Alley, is that you can also visit Knockturn Alley and Borgin and Burkes shop. It was pretty creepy/cool - not to mention that the vanishing cabinet is there and you can hear the bird tweeting inside it. 

There are tons of hidden gems inside Diagon Alley, including props from the actual movies, talking mirrors, and even a goblin from Gringotts that will answer your questions. If you get one of the interactive wands, there are actually places throughout Diagon Alley where you can cast spells and see some fun things happen! 


The thing we waited forever to see was the dragon blowing fire. She blows it at totally random times, and we never did see it until our very last day there. It actually made the whole area of the park get warm. The dragon perched on top of the bank alone is enough to make you feel awed, but breathing fire really takes the cake.


HOGSMEADE



Of course we rode the Hogwart's express (we actually rode it from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley at the end of the day) and the Forbidden Journey ride in Hogwarts.



Riding the Forbidden Journey was even more magical than the first time because the wait was only FIFTEEN MINUTES rather than the 2 hours it took when we went in 2014. Don't ask me how we got so lucky. We also rode the Dragon Challenge several times, I never could decide whether the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail was the better one.



We didn't eat in The Three Broomsticks, only because we were planning on eating in the Leaky Cauldron, and the food was essentially the same. We DID however, drink tons of butterbeer while walking through Hogsmeade. We rode the Flight of The Hippogriff and got to walk by Hagrid's cabin. I thought the ride was a 'kiddie coaster' but it was actually really fun. And of course we stopped by all the fun shops like Dervish and Banges, Filches Imporium of Confiscated Goods, and got us some yummy treats at Honeydukes shop.

We had an amazing trip, and I can't wait to go back (although Derek says it will be several years). Have you ever been to the Wizardign World of Harry Potter? What was your experience?

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Universal Orlando: Surviving Three Days in a Theme Park

Last week, my husband, myself, and two of our friends took a trip to Orlando and spent three days visiting Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. Yes, Derek and I have visited Islands of Adventure before, but we only spent about 6 hours there + it was raining, so I felt like we didn't really get to have the experience, you know? This time we bought tickets for both parks, because duh we (I) wanted to see the new(est) Harry Potter park: Diagon Alley in Universal Studios. I'm writing a full post on both parts of the Harry Potter experiences later, but this is essentially how we survived three full days in Universal Orlando: 




EAT:
For the most part, we ate breakfast and lunch at our hotel (except one day) so we didn't eat at too many restaurants, but here are the ones we tried:

○Cowfish (burger/sushi fusion restaurant) 3.5/5 Stars
The sushi was great, but if you're really hungry for a big 'ole burger, don't get the binto box because the burger is smaller than a Krystal burger. I got a whole roll to myself and split a roll with Derek and it was plenty, but he got the box and the burger was just too small to fill him up. 

○Vivo's Italian restaurant 3/5 stars
Also located in the CitiWalk, it had a good atmosphere but the food was just 'meh' in regards to good Italian food. 

○The Leaky Cauldron in Diagon Alley 4/5 Stars
The food was good and it was essentially the same menu as The Three Broomsticks with traditional English dishes like bangers and mash, meat pies, and fish & chips. The only reason it didn't get a full 5 stars is because my drink (apple cider) was very watered down! 

SLEEP:
We stayed at Cabana Bay Beach Resort, which is actually owned by Universal. I truly believe that this is the sole reason we were able to have a fantastic trip because (1) we were able to utilize the walking path to/from the park and avoid the craziness that is on site parking; and (2) we got to go into Universal Studios (AKA Diagon Alley) a WHOLE HOUR EARLIER than all the muggles other people.



The hotel itself was really nice. We shared a room with our friends, complete with living area and kitchenette with a fridge and microwave. We ate two meals (usually breakfast and lunch) per day at the hotel so not only did it save us time, it saved us money. Oh, and the pool area was out of this world. Complete with zero entry pool, a lazy river, and a huge waterslide. I really couldn't asked for a better hotel. 

PARKS: 

Universal Studios 
Other than Diagon Alley, my personal favorite part of the park was Hollywood - where we ran into Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. There was a Hollywood Horror Makeup Show which was mainly just a corny/funny skit, not much makeup. We rode essentially every ride in the park, but my favorites were: Revenge of The Mummy (an indoor rollercoaster), Dispicable Me Minion Mayhem, and Men in Black Alien Attack.



My least favorites were Shrek 4D, ET Adventure, and Terminator 2 3D, but they were all still enjoyable. We actually ended up riding The Mummy four times because the lines were always short for that one! 

Islands of Adventure
It was getting pretty hot while we were there during the day so on our second day, we rode two water rides: Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls and Jurassic Park River Adventure. I was really impressed with the Jurassic Park ride, even though we got totally soaked. Other fun rides were Dr. Doom's Fearfall and The Amazing Adventures of Spider Man. 

SURVIVAL:
○Bring your own water. There were four of us and we had two Camelbak's between us and they lasted us several hours before losing their chill. They were also convenient for carrying snacks and cell phones. 

○Wear comfortable shoes/clothes. This is pretty much a 'duh' point, but one evening I wore flip flops and literally thought my legs were going to fall off.



○Have a game plan. Know where you're going, and in what order (for the most part) so you don't find yourself wandering around. We used apps like Wait Times to help us decide if it was going to be worth it to wait in line or find a different ride/attraction to visit. 

○Take frequent breaks. This was where our hotel came in handy - we were able to walk back to the hotel (about a mile-long trail), eat lunch, and lounge by the pool for several hours before heading back to the parks. If you have the opportunity to do this, it is SO WORTH IT because you miss the peak times between 11 AM and 5 PM. On our first day, we were at the park from 6:30 PM to 10 PM and barely had any wait time for rides. We weren't so lucky on the second and third day, but the evenings were significantly less crowded. 

○If you don't mind your party getting split up a little, I suggest utilizing the "single rider" lines. When we rode Dr. Doom's Fearfall, three of us used the single rider line. We all ended up riding at the same time, in different seats, and it cut our wait time from 30+ minutes to less than five.

What is your favorite thing to do at theme parks? How do you survive multiple days without getting burned out?