Sunday, December 08, 2013

We come runnin'!

We've definitely kept busy this year with study, races, travel, and even a few surprises that we're pretty excited about.

Click here to see our year in review.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I've been thinking about posting about this exam for some time.  I guess I haven't because I really just don't know how to succinctly describe it.  But as it has taken up the greater part of the last year of my life, I feel it my duty to devote at least one post to it.

I decided a year ago to start taking steps to try to earn the Certified Financial Planner certification.  This is not for the faint of heart.  It is a massive test.  Kind of along the lines of taking the bar for lawyers, or the CPA exam for accountants.  You aren't even allowed to sign up for the test until you've taken prerequisite classes.

So that was step one.  I signed up for the accelerated classes because I just didn't want this to drag on forever.  My classes were online and would go in 2 1/2-week stints for each module, with a break for a few weeks before the next class started again.  The classes covered the following subjects, in depth:

- General Financial Principles (this covered things like saving for education/retirement, ethics, budgeting, mortgages, and the like)
- Insurance (like, every kind you can think of)
- Investments (and getting into the theory behind them)
- Income tax (this is so much bigger than I ever imagined)
- Retirement (this is what I do for work, yet I had no idea how many details I did not know)
- Estate Planning (I enjoyed this a lot more than I anticipated)

Each 2 1/2-week stint involved 3-hour-long classes, three times a week.  After the classes end, you're tested on everything.  Then you get a little break, and the next module begins.  After the final subject, there is one more "capstone" module where you get a case study of a hypothetical family, and you are to create a financial plan, pulling from all subjects from all previous modules.  You write a 30-40-page plan (it was easier than I expected to get that many pages), and you record yourself talking about part of it for 5-10 minutes.

This took me from November to the end of August.  When I wasn't in the middle of one class, I was feverishly preparing for the next.

As soon as I finished with the "capstone" class, I began going over my review material, because of course I needed a review class to just try to wrap my mind around all of the things I'd just learned.  It took me two months of studying every morning before work and every night after work, to get through the review material.  And I barely finished in time for the review class, where we went over everything in just four days.  (See how the window of time just keeps getting smaller and more condensed?)

After that, I had two weeks to go over and commit to memory anything I thought I still didn't quite understand before the exam.  By the end, I was completely burned out, felt like I would never have enough time to really feel ready, and yet 100% ready to get this thing over with.

I think the picture up top says it best.  Over the course of the last year, I have read every page you can see in the picture, at least once.

The exam itself took a day and a half.  Which seems really bad, but given the amount of time I've been sitting around preparing, the endurance piece really wasn't bad.  Now that it's done, I wait.  Even though it was all on a bubble sheet, I won't know whether or not I passed until at least 5 weeks from now.  Just like much of the questions on the exam, whether you pass or fail is quite subjective.

So now I'm waiting.  If they're on time with their results, I'll know before Christmas.  And you know what?  Even if I don't pass, it's been worth it.  I've learned so much that has been so useful to me personally, and in helping customers and clients at work.  I'm thrilled to have my life back and eager to fill in all the new holes in my free time, but I've deeply enjoyed learning all these new things that really are so interesting to me.  I'm really not sure how to top this.  (Well, maybe I have a few ideas...)


Seth + Inna

One of our favorite couples just got married.  And we got to be there!

The venue was perfect, the bride looked beautiful and so elegant, and the groom so handsome.  So happy and in love. Such a great match. So much joy coming from the couple and their families.  The ceremony was beautiful, the food was delicious, the party after was such fun!  We had never been to a Jewish wedding before, so we loved getting to be a part of the whole experience.  I only regret that I didn't pause to take more pictures. But here's a taste for you.

And they made me totally jealous with their first dance - a choreographed west coast swing dance!  (It was brilliant!  I actually leaned over to David and told him that I would do the exact same thing if we weren't married already.)  Congrats to Seth and Inna, and thanks for letting us be a part of your big day!


Our latest race was called "Run for your lives."  All racers had to go through an obstacle course while being chased by zombies who were trying to steal their flags and thus, render them undead.  Sounds pretty awesome, right?

Except this time, we didn't actually participate in the race.  We joined the undead to chase the racers!!

It was actually a pretty elaborate setup.  They had makeup artists on staff to airbrush and bloody our faces and everything!  All we had to do was bring clothes for them to mutilate. Here was the end result:

It was definitely a fun race, in spite of some runners who took things waaaaaay too seriously.  We still made quite a to speak.

Our new tenants

A few months ago, we noticed something funny in our neighborhood: a chicken was wandering around the street on our block.  Kind of weird, right?  We figured someone in our neighborhood must have a coop in his backyard, and one had just gotten loose.  Surely, said chicken owner would show up anytime to pick up his missing chicken, right?  Right?!

A couple days later, the chicken wasn't gone.  In fact, we realized that there were two of them.  And they didn't seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere.

A couple days after that, we made our next disturbing discovery: the chickens were roosting in our front yard.  Yes, they had apparently taken up residence in our bushes.  This seemed pretty strange, especially since we had never done anything to encourage them to stick around.

And then we learned that our neighbors, bless their hearts, had been FEEDING THEM!!!

During all this time, I was in the throes of studying for my exam.  So while it was kind of random to have these chickens around, and a little annoying that they had made themselves right at home in our front yard, they just weren't really enough of a menace to do anything about it.

One day, we noticed that one of the chickens seemed pretty worked up about something.  That, and we couldn't see the other chicken around anywhere - the only sign was a mess of feathers in the front yard. We figured some predator must have gotten it.  And frankly, we were okay with that, and we were holding on to hope that it would return for the other one.

No such luck.  Instead, a few days later, the missing hen was replaced - by a ROOSTER!!!

This brought things to a whole different level.  With the rooster around, they were digging up our mulch and some of our plants, using our driveway as their litter box, and yeah, since there was now a rooster, he was making sure to let us know the very moment the sun came up. Every. Day.

Oh, by the way, these tenants have never paid rent.  We've never seen a single egg to compensate for the trouble they're causing.  They're just 100% freeloading.

Now, it was time to call animal control.  But then we learned that one of our neighbors already had.  And guess what?  They weren't going to do anything about it.  Why?  Because apparently right now there is an epidemic of chickens in Los Angeles.

I've tried to find the logic in this.  I really have.  If there's an epidemic of something, don't you want to pick up a rooster/hen combination to prevent a further epidemic?  Don't you want to respond to the people who are letting you know they've spotted some more of the offenders?

Apparently not.

Next step, we found a meetup group of chicken lovers in Los Angeles.  (Yes, this actually exists.  There are over 1300 members of this group.)  We took a flattering picture of the couple and posted it on their page, telling everyone that if they wanted 'em, they could come and get 'em.  For free!!

We've had one person respond, gushing about what a cute couple they were but that she was already at capacity, and another person who said that she could take the hen but not the rooster.  I'm hesitant.  Maybe if we get rid of the hen, the rooster will go away on its own.  But what if the hen is the only bargaining power we've got to get rid of the rooster?!

At this point, we just may chance it.  

Summertime and the livin's easy

I'm lumping in several summer activities with this one, just for fun. :)

One of my cousins came to town.  Scott is scuba certified, but he's never gotten to dive in the ocean, so we decided we'd take him out to show him what he's missing.  We rented all his gear, and headed down to Laguna Beach, where there are supposed to be some good shore dives.  The weather wasn't awesome, and we'd heard the surf was up, but no big deal, right?

The first beach we went to, they wouldn't actually allow us to shore dive because of the high surf.  Boo.  So we drove to another beach that wasn't so strict with their diving closures, worked into our wetsuits and the rest of our gear, and ventured into the surf.

Turns out, it was up.

That was one of the many waves that tried to deter us from diving.  It was actually a little scary because sometimes we'd get hit by a wave and get tossed around for awhile before we could get back above the surface for air.  (Looking back, I had a huge tank of air strapped to my back that I could have always partaken from.  Didn't really think of that in the moment.)

In the end, we bailed.  David was the only one who ever made it past the surf.  Scott and I just got rocked by it.  Sorry, Scott.  Next time?

Next up: a night out with Sarah-Dawn and her sister, Courtney.  We went to Roscoe's.  Have you heard of this place yet?  It's not exactly a high-class joint, but it's not trying to be.  They serve waffles and fried chicken.  Together.  That's what they do.  So that's what we got.  
After that we went out to a Korean karaoke place to belt out a few tunes.  And randomly, while we were there I found this cool wig.  This is the only documentation we got from the whole awesome night.

In other news, David and I went to Santa Barbara to see fun. in concert...

Love him for giving me my concert fix!

Aside from that, we've witnessed yet another set of amazing sunsets.  (You'll notice that in at least one of these, I'm capturing the sunset instead of paying attention to my CFP class.  This far along in the game, I guess I'm easily distracted.)

More and more Lauren

Like I said before, it has been so amazing to have Lauren here.  She's gotten me out of the house and we've been doing the things that I've wanted to do, but I may not have bothered finding the time to do otherwise.  Here's a small sample of the fun we've been having:

We went to Disneyland!

Something that really impresses me: all the employees called Lauren's daughter Cinderella.  Just like how everyone always wishes you happy birthday if you've got the "It's my birthday!" pin, they've nailed it with addressing the kids as their favorite princess that they chose to dress up as.

We also went to Knottsberry Farm!

I'd like to go back to this place when I'm free to ride the big roller coasters, because some of them looked pretty awesome.  For now, it was fun to just try the kiddie rides with the kiddies.

We went to the beach!

We had a birthday party for a Hello Kitty-loving two-year-old!

We even got to go running together a few times, because hey, it's always fun to reminisce.  And plus, it was the only time we could REALLY talk since there were no kids around to distract us.

I don't know how much I'll be seeing these guys post-Thanksgiving.  Either way, I'm grateful for their friendship and so grateful for the face time we got.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lauren is here! LAUREN IS HERE!

One of my best friends from DC just moved to Pasadena with her family.  She may be here for six weeks, she may be here for a year.  We don't really know right now.  All that matters right now is that SHE'S HERE!

(Not a great photo, but it's the only one I took with Lauren in it and this feels like one of those "pic or it didn't happen" scenarios.)

So far, we're taking advantage by getting together every single weekend.  I intend to continue this streak as much as possible.  She doesn't know anyone out here besides David and me, so I don't feel selfish hogging all of her Saturday time.

This weekend we all went to the LA Zoo, which I've never done since we moved out here.  I like this trend so far - thanks to her, I'll probably get to do lots of things around here that I haven't gotten around to yet.
It's been so long since I spent time with Lauren and Yuriy, I forgot what it felt like to just be in their presence. And how much I wanted to be like them when I was single. And now that I’m married and I see them as parents, how much I still want to be like them. I hope they are here for awhile - I want to glean from their wisdom and experience. I want to absorb their presence. I want to feel the joy of being around friends who really know me, who care as deeply for me as I care for them. My soul is so happy. It is so good to be in the company of dear friends.

Here's to the beginning of as many delightful weekends together as we can cram in.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Warning: I just spent 4th of July weekend with most of my nieces and nephews, which of course means this post contains a large amount of ridiculously cute photos.  What I loved most about the weekend was:




Actually having fun in a 2-inch kiddie pool!

Playing with the birdhouses all the kids painted as if they were action figures!

Cool doors!


Fireworks and glowsticks!

The outdoors!

(We also went to McCall Lake, but somehow I don't have a single picture of that part.  Which is too bad, because it's the only time I convinced baby Lola to play with me.)

Movies in a small town with the siblings!

Playing the cell phone game after all the kids went to bed!

Cleaning up messes before the parents notice (but of course documenting first)!

Love my family!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Surprise Chipman Reunion

Let me tell you about our jam-packed weekend in Utah with the Chipmans!

We surprised the kids by showing up.

Jonathan surprised the kids and Dad by showing up.

Everyone surprised Emily by blitzing her new house while she was on her way back from Lake Powell and fixing/painting everything we could.

And then we all went swimming, we played in a bouncy house in the backyard, we watched How to Train Your Dragon on a projector in the backyard, and we had banana splits!  (It was a packed day!)

Finally, following the Chipman tradition, the boys all got to pick one of Dad's old ties for Father's Day. (David has worn his several times since then, btw.)

Thanks for the fun weekend, everyone!