Thursday, May 3, 2012

Time it is a'TICKin'

I hate bugs.

Yep, I really, really hate bugs. And getting my hands dirty. And bugs. However, I encountered both last week for the sake of America's highways and learned a valuable lesson. Did I mention I despise bugs? Ewwww!

Let me explain.

One major goal in moving back to Iowa was to be more community-oriented. Fortunately, that is easy to accomplish in my hometown. The transformation in recent years to restore the vintage charm of my Mayberry-ish surroundings is an inspiration. As a result, there are numerous organizations set on preserving the area, one being the HCI Care Services of Southern Iowa, formerly known as Hospice of Central Iowa.

As a last-minute request by my best friend's mom, lovingly known as Mama K, I joined this group of dedicated volunteers and staffers to pick up trash along the tick-filled ditches of US HWY 2 as part of the Adopt-A-Highway program.

Funny enough, my crazy imagination started weaving stories with each step. While I hated every minute my rubber gloved-hand touched the filthy remnants of Ringgold County residents and visitors, I also started to wonder about the "throwers."

Dirty diaper - was the thrower a single mom trying to get to work before dropping off her baby with a kind-hearted neighbor for the day? Casey's pizza container and Mountain Dew bottle - a quick lunch for the traveling salesman just trying to keep food on the table for his family back home? While I by no means encourage people throwing out their trash (especially after this experience!) I realized I shouldn't be so quick to judge, especially as I myself battle with each move serving as a direct reflection of who I am.

After eight years in Chicago as one of a million, I've returned to an area where I'm still remembered as the short Asian farm girl with long pigtails, homecoming queen from a million years ago and/or hometown globetrotter. While these are all part of who I am, I'm now being faced with recreating an image as a 30 year old woman who moved back to her roots... while being drilled every 30 seconds on why I moved back, when I returned and what I am doing... all questions I continue to ask myself on a regular basis. Fortunately, I have the most amazing friends and family in the area, which reminds me why there is no place like home.

So much like the ticks I found clinging to me after this former prissy city girl crawled in the ditches of Americana (still shuddering!), I realized that each step you take may result in something attaching itself to you. Either I can be negative and think about the disgusting bugs or I cam consider the "takeaway" to be the memory of helping a worthwhile cause do something positive for its community.

"Time it is a'TICKin' -- make sure you stop making rash judgements and put yourself in others' shoes before forming an opinion, and remember that the people and experiences you surround yourself with are a direct reflection of who you are. Ask yourself: do you like what you see in this reflection?

...and most importantly, please don't litter! I really, really hate bugs...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where is she now?

Twenty-nine was a year of significant transformation with many unexpected but important results. More than one path was chosen that forced me to step out of my comfort zone; nonetheless, I reached my undefined goal of happiness.

Significant changes occurred mere days before my 30th birthday. My career was redirected in unexpected ways that took me farther and farther away from my personal definition of life. The “L” word became a regular part of my vocabulary. And perhaps the most significant change was me learning to better embracing change.

So where am I now? Perhaps the easiest way to explain is to go through the #30b430 checklist:

#01. Check Sundance Film Festival off my bucket list: COMPLETE! – If you love films, can stand the cold and can accept that celebrity sightings won’t happen at every turn – DO IT!

#02. Dora the Explorer: visit a new country: COMPLETE! – Italy, Ireland, France… I can’t wait to return. From the food to the cultures, it was an experience to remember.

#03. Sing to me, Tom Petty: skydive: COMPLETE! – Exhilarating! May even do it again…

#04. Being Bertinelli: fit into my homecoming gown from 1999 – NOPE, didn’t happen, but instead of focusing on my size, I am honing in on a healthier lifestyle. Fingers crossed, the dress will fit one day!

#05. Complete nonprofit certification from the Kellogg School of Management – My schedule didn’t allow for it, but I’m determined to finish my last class before 2012 is over.

#06. Take three proactive steps to achieve work/life balance: COMPLETE! This goal was like a roller coaster! The second biggest change in the past year – I resigned from my job. Reaching vice president before age 30 and the six digit salary resulted in me living to work vs. working to live. While the opportunity would be great for someone, it wasn’t the right fit for me. I am now consulting, which allows me to be near my family and significant other. It was a scary step, but I know it will someday allow me to have two other titles: wife and mother.

#07. Sealed w/ a kiss: write 12 thank you notes – COMPLETE! This goal is never-ending. I’m determined to continue to show my appreciation for those who have impacted me.

#08. Begin learning a new language – It is in progress. I am slowly learning Italian, while I bought Rosetta Stone’s French lessons for my better half. He and I may stumble through it, but hopefully we’re on the path to being bi/trilingual.

#09. The Death of Molly: Human Doormat: remove negative influences: COMPLETE! This was another ongoing goal. Surprisingly, I learned that some of my “negative” influences were actually positive and vice versa. It wasn’t the influence that was negative, but the path of life I was traveling. Simply said: LIFE IS GOOD!

#10. Have a solid 6 months of salary in savings – COMPLETE… sorta. My change in lifestyle (like the Chicagoan buying a car for the first time in 12 years!!!) has decreased my savings, but I proudly reached the goal of my original salary and paid off nearly $20K in student loans! Now I must rebuild!

#11. Coming to America: visit a new state: COMPLETE! This is another goal I hope to continue until all states are crossed off my list.

#12. Do things out of my comfort zone: COMPLETE! The blind date certainly helped this one! Funny enough, it is also part of what led me back to my childhood crush J

#13. Saint Molly: do 12 good deeds: COMPLETE and counting!

#14: Why not?: Do something spontaneous: COMPLETE! Dancing on stage at a Broadway performance of Hairspray! Check it off, folks!

#15: Worrywart-Be-Gone: stop biting nails: An ongoing battle… I know, I know.

#16. FINALLY file my own taxes: COMPLETE! I did it once and then went back to my tax lady this year. Filing myself wasn’t a bad experience, but there are some things I prefer to leave to the professionals!

#17. Hee Juang Kwak: try to find my biological parents: I’m torn on this one. It is in the works, but the actual meeting may or may not happen. We’ll see.

#18. Call me Cole Trickle: learn to drive a manual: It is happening this summer. Stay off the roads!

#19. Begin writing a screenplay or book - COMPLETE! Look for it in a bookstore near you… someday!

#20 Do something positive for my hometown: Supporting my local community, starting to volunteer with the local hospice organization and providing counsel to the fundraisers for the proposed aquatic center – it’s a start and certainly not the end!

#21 Make 4th donation of hair to Locks of Love – In progress. My hair is still growing!

#22 Plant a garden, even if in containers on my balcony: COMPLETE! Holy jalapenos! Great first-time experience; about to get bigger in 2012!

#23 Re-establish a solid relationship with my dad - COMPLETE! Some things take time and this is certainly one of them; however, the foundation is set.

#24 Learn how to change a tire: I learned how to air a motorcycle tire and change a bike tire. Can we say complete?!?!?

#25 Take swimming lessons: It will happen before I have children…

#26 Buy something foolish from SkyMall - COMPLETE! Don’t ask J

#27 Reach 10,000 page views on Extra+Ordinary – More than 7,000 views! Too often I let this become the back burner priority. As the blog evolves, expect more posts!

#28 Stomp grapes at a vineyard: Still on the list!

#29 Take a self-defense class: I decided a good knee to the right spot always works. J

#30 Actually make something pinned on Pinterest - COMPLETE! In fact, we made a baby shower gift and I’ve created body scrubs and multiple recipes using Pinterest ideas. Follow me!!!!
This experiment taught me that if it is meant to happen, it will. If it wasn’t, don’t stop, just start walking in the right direction. While I didn’t cross off every item on my 30b430 list, I did make it to the right road.

Next, return to as I share how this old dog can learn new tricks. On a regular basis, I’ll share how you can continue to add some extra to your ordinary.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The countdown is on!

After struggling with access to my account (for some reason my domain name renewal request was not processing correctly), I'm back on the map! Now, with only three days left to go, I've accepted that 30b430 was ambitious, motivating and yes, even successful, despite having a few still in-progress.

This year has taught me more about myself than ever imaginable. Look out for the February 3 post, but I'll give a few updates:

1) Risk isn't as scary when someone believes in you with all his/her heart - warning - BIG ANNOUNCEMENT COMING YOUR WAY!
2) Compromise isn't a dirty word. In fact, I'm delaying my Locks for Love donation because the BF likes my long hair. It will still be cut, but I'll give it a few more months so the new 'do won't be quite so short
3) Not all paths lead to a happy ending, but the fork in the road may not be seen without the adversity that led you to it.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Slacker be gone!

No excuses in 2012 -- it is less than a month until my birthday and I have been ignoring 30b430! While there is no changing the past, I do intend to write 3x per week until February 3, as there are so many updates and life lessons to share before this ol' gal hits the 3-oh (no!)

From visiting three new countries, experiencing the irrational stress from the first Christmas with the sig other's family to crossing off four more goals, expect some stories soon that will garner a few laughs and a lot of eye rolling.

Cheers to you in 2012!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Road to Extraordinary

I admit, posting on Extra+Ordinary hasn't been a top priority lately, but it has indeed been on my mind. So what has taken up my time? Here's the skinny:
Goal #2 - Travel to a new country.
Looks like this one will be a piece of cake. I'm heading to London for work for a little over a month. While I've been to England a few times, I'm going to use my free weekends to explore a few of the European neighbors, as well as head to Italy and Turkey for work-related trips. Looks like the foreign language goal couldn't come at a better time. Can't wait to check this one off the list!

Goal #3 - Skydive. COMPLETE!
With a few of our favorite people in tow, my friend Shane and I jumped from 13,500 ft. Not too shabby for a sporadic Sunday activity! While I am a long way from being a regular, this was an experience I wouldn't mind repeating sometime in the future.

Goal #15 - Stop biting my nails
This was only a short term success. While I'd like to say this one is complete, I still need to work on not taking stress out on my fingernails. Not only is a disgusting habit, but the germaphobe in me is repulsed! :)

Goal #21 - Make fourth donation to Locks of Love
Getting closer! I could technically cut it in about a month to reach the 10 inch donation, but as some of my faithful readers know, I love Halloween parties... this year's costume may be best with longer locks... for a good cause, of course! :)

And here's a shout out to my friend Nick. Within a two week period, he lost his father and turned 30. What makes him extraordinary? Nick turned his epic 30th birthday bash plans into an Alzheimer's fundraiser - the disease that took his dad and many other of his family members. Here's to the birthday boy w/ a heart of gold.

Til next time,

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thank You, Betty Ford.

If Betty Ford would have been 29 in this day and age, I would have followed her blog.

For those international readers who may be unaware, the late Betty Ford, former U.S. First Lady and equal rights activist, was deemed a pioneer in admitting her flaws to better the world, as seen with the renowned Betty Ford Center.

Sometimes I wonder if we are partially flawed because we can't fix what we don't openly admit is broken. While I like to consider myself a creative saver with my finances, for a long time I tried to "keep up with the Joneses," to prove that the small town girl could "make it" in the city. As a result, I think back to a few nights where a walk vs. a cab ride and dining-in instead of dining-out could have resulted in my savings account having a few extra dollars instead of my waistline having a few extra inches.

Bottom line: I used money as a crutch to enhance my image instead of becoming more comfortable and confident in myself as a person. Fortunately, my current paycheck allows for a few luxuries, but that doesn't mean i shouldn't continue to "cut corners" when possible. Now, as I save up to build a weekend house and payoff my student loans early, I am once again reevaluating my spending habits. A few tips that have helped me:

1. Putting funds into perspective. While I wouldn't change the trip home last weekend for Independence Day with friends and family for the world, I must remember that holiday spending should be much different than everyday spending. The $580 spent on the trip to Iowa for four days is about equal to five months of groceries or my mobile phone for seven months of cell phone coverage. Wowzers!

2. Next day purchases. As for non-service purchases, I try to find the deal and then make a purchase the next day when possible. You wouldn't believe how many things I've talked myself out of buying in that 24 hr time frame.

3. Will it impact the price of gold in China? In other words, will the purchase actually make a difference? Does a new pair of earrings really impact how I'm perceived? Will the upgraded car rental do anything but guzzle more fuel? If I can't truly justify the cost, then why spend the money?

Here's to admitting when I need to reevaluate and redirect areas of my life, and more importantly, here's to the people who serve as a "cautionary tale" to benefit those around them.

Thank you, Betty Ford.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Three Evil W’s: Worried, Warped and Wasted

It has been too long since I’ve updated my faithful readers. Why? I take full responsibility, as I let a number of past and upcoming travels (Washington DC, Louisiana, Utah, New York and Iowa in a month!) and the Three Evil W’s get to me for the past month.

Three Evil W’s? Yep. Let’s me explain.

With a new job and, if I don’t screw it up, a new relationship, it is an exciting, yet stressful time. Being one to never settle for just meeting expectations, I can’t tell you how many 3 a.m. worries have me waking up to check for international e-mails or to re-read something in preparation for the next day. Obviously, my “no sleeping with the CrackBerry” accomplishment (#6) is null and void. Add to that, someone pretty incredible reentered my life, yet I constantly doubt if I’m everything he deserves, wants and needs.  Can the fearless girl who never backed down from achieving her goals become the woman with the same ambition, dedication and sincerity to make her dreams come true?

On that note, this incredible person in my life is a master of positive thinking and tends to put things in perspective. He recently told me to stop worrying so much about what everyone else thinks. Most likely, they aren’t as concerned as I am, and the stress is self-imposed because I care too much. Ironically (or maybe not) my boss echoed a similar sentiment last week, saying that I do a great job, but put too much pressure on myself. My mom constantly told me I worried too much, so obviously this isn’t a new emotion. Maybe this is why I was tested for ulcers in third grade… but I digress.

So why do I feel like the water is up to my nose and my legs are cramping up? Is my perception of myself warped? Am I good enough to be an exceptional vice president? Am I good enough to be a girlfriend vs. a time filler until someone better comes along? Most importantly, can the girl who always feared that she wasn’t “good enough” become the woman who believes in herself enough to be a leader/role model,  team member, friend and significant other?

No, I’m not talking about too much Pinot Noir or Coors Light… I’m talking about time. I’m only about 15 years younger that my mom was when she passed away. If this plane I’m currently on crashes or I’m diagnosed with cancer in a decade, can I close my eyes for a final time and truly feel like I made a difference? Will my eulogy reflect a girl with potential who died too young or a woman who did what she could with the time she had to do something meaningful for society?

Bottom line: this 29-almost-30 thing is hard stuff!

Regardless, I must add some extra to my ordinary to see these challenges through, both in the short and long term. Mere hours before my mom died, a hospice worker gave me a pamphlet that reflected a passage I had heard, but never internalized. Now more than ever, it seems to be the answer.

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change”
What will worrying do? As friends can attest, it usually results in me panicking internally and biting my nails externally; however, I must remember that I can’t change the fact that I’m still learning the ropes at a new company, on a new client and in a new role. What I can change is my ability to overcome the obstacles in a confident, positive, hard working manner.  As for him, I can only be myself and hope it is what he wants. If it isn’t, I must accept that it isn’t meant to be, but that I was lucky to have a friend who made such a positive impact on my life.

“Courage to change the things I can”
What can I change? First, my warped sense of pressure; however, I’ll never “not care,” nor do I want to. This flaw is also what makes me want to make a difference. For example, last month I purchased a burger and Fruit ‘n Yogurt parfait for a pregnant homeless girl who may have had the angriest eyes I have ever seen. While I may not have changed her situation, I at least changed her hunger and maybe, just maybe, she’ll tell her baby one day about the random stranger who gave her a meal and a smile.

I can also stop beating myself up at work.  Thankfully, I work on a team with some of the most talented and ambitious people in the business. I’m not required to be everything to everyone, but instead, to lead with pride, empower with confidence and do everything I can to make my clients happy, my boss and my four fabulous direct reports shine.

“The wisdom to know the difference”                                                                      
And, once again, this is where having someone who believes in me has been a blessing. While I refine my ability to be a more calm person in the face of disaster, I’m fortunate that someone is there to also help me understand what is “freak-out-worthy” and what requires a simple combination of deep breaths and hard work.  For the first time since I was 13, I’m trying ease up on the reins and truly trust someone. Scary!

In closing, I am striving to work on my 30b430 goals, but am also recognizing that in order to take these baby steps to an Extra+Ordinary life, I must first believe I can.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A "man-sized" bucket list

So many updates, so little time! I plan to post an update on the new job and recently accomplished 30b430 stories, but in the meantime, here's a list of 75 things a man should do (according to Esquire).

Check it out. Love it? Hate it? "Borrowing" from it? Share your thoughts!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Four Year Cycle

Fourth row at Closing Ceremonies - Beijng 2008 Olympic Games
Jered, a former colleague, once shared a theory about the four year cycle. In America, it is common to start preschool around age four.  You soon progress to high school – again, a period of four years.  Give or take, those proceeding to college spend four years at the university of their choice. It then takes about four more years to become truly established in his/her profession, or in some cases, go on another 3-4 years in continued studies.

Olympic Village - Vancouver 2010 Olympics
It has been more than four years – five years, four months and three days to be exact – since I joined a Chicago-based PR agency - one of the most welcoming homes I’ve had to-date.
Climbing The Great Wall of China, wrestling lion cubs in South Africa, attending two Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup, meeting countless celebrities and gaining incredible friends in numerous countries… it has been the type of journey many only dream of doing over multiple decades, let alone having the privilege to call it “work” and enjoying it in a mere handful of years.
So why am I ending this cycle? Believe me, it isn’t easy, but the girl who once hated change is now the woman embracing the opportunities that it accompanies. It is as if my guardian angel (Happy Mother’s Day, Momma!) delivered the PERFECT job opening as a reward for demonstrating the work ethic and commitment she and my dad taught me years ago.  
Final Match - 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
I’m excited to join the world’s largest independent PR firm. As one of their newest vice presidents, I will learn from exceptional leaders and help mentor outstanding staffers. After the very first meeting with my new boss, I knew this life changing door was one that couldn’t go unopened. Not only do my past experiences correlate with the new position, but it will allow me to master communications skills in the hospitality industry – a personal love of mine that is reflected in my college minor and even this 30b430 list.
While I practically ran a few pens dry from the countless thank you cards (#7) and will now have the means to reach #10 sooner than expected, it is #06 I can cross off – work/life balance. This exciting career change has opened doors to other opportunities in my personal life that I thought were years away. More to come in future Extra+Ordinary posts. C’mon, don’t be surprised by this teaser – I still have nine more months to go!
Climbing The Great Wall of China
I dedicate this post to my amazing former colleagues – especially WL – and the clients who serve one of the world’s most iconic brands, yet took the time on Friday to give me one of the most memorable days – not just career-related, but of my life.  This combined group morphed me from a strong junior PR practitioner into a master storyteller.  I’ll be forever thankful to each and every one of them.
Here’s to great memories and new beginnings as another cycle begins.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Extras to Ordinary Packing

I'm grounded.

...and by grounded, I'm referring to no major trips planned in the near future. While O'Hare is probably sending condolence flowers to my family after noticing my sudden absence, a number of friends are traveling this weekend and have the dreaded task of packing before them.

Packing was once a necessary task that would unfortunately result in at least one missing item upon my arrival. To add some extra ease to your ordinary packing, here are a few tips I've picked up over the years:

1) Carry a few extra baggies in your suitcase. From leaky shampoo to receipts, they can help make your return home hassle-free.

2) Type up the "musts" for every trip, such as a phone charger, toiletries and important documents. This will make it easier to check them off before each trip vs. starting your list from scratch each time.

3) My friend Nicole taught me this on my very first work trip to Washington D.C. - consider your color palates. If you have three outfits with blacks and grays, don't make your fourth in browns... you can cut your accessories and shoes in half.

4) Double check your luggage handles, zippers and wheels before each trip. It may save you a big hassle during your trip. Nobody wants to see their unmentionables scattered on the tarmac or be forced to buy an expense, ugly but essential replacement bag in the terminal.

5) If you plan to bring back souvenirs, make sure you have room in your luggage or have an extra bag for the return flight. I've even went as far as taking a pair of shoe on their last leg... enjoyed them for my trip's last leg and then tossed them before heading back to the States.

To those of you heading to the friendly skies this weekend, safe travels!

Monday, April 4, 2011

"Just like every lock's got to have a key..."

I found a key.

It’s not made of gold or brass.

It doesn’t look antique or feel heavy in-hand.

I don’t keep it on a keychain and it isn’t located in the corner of a map.

The key is me. For too long I thought there was something I had to discover to find happiness, but let’s face it – I’m not Christopher Columbus looking for a new world and while everyone has to experience uncharted territory, sometimes the best things in life are right in front of you. Yes it is a cliché, but there is a reason clichés exist!

After a trip down memory lane this weekend, I realized the key to bliss was simply taking a hard look at what I want in life – not what society expects, nor what family and friends recommend, but what is in my heart.

Like most Americans, my life to-date has been filled with a roller coaster of highs and lows, each impacting my life in a different way. I needed the journeys – both physical and emotional, that led me to this point. But whether it was flying halfway across the world or crisscrossing the Midwest, the new influences that evolve me don’t change the core of who I am, nor should they. Everyone should surround themselves with people and places that “like you just the way you are.” Good ol’ Mark Darcy couldn’t have said it better! J

When the crossroads of young adulthood meet the path to being a “real grown-up,” it is a scary, exciting and poignant experience. While a lot of thinking, feeling and evaluating has helped me arrive to this point, here are the five things I’ve learned in the past few weeks:
  • Everyone makes mistakes, but the best of the best people learn from them…and it shows
  • Life is not a checklist (yes, even I embrace this now!) – while checklists help you meet a goal, it take time, energy and love to keep the best things in the best condition
  • The uncertainty isn’t as scary when you are loved
  • Having fun is far more important than always being proper
  • You’re at the steering wheel regardless of which way the road turns. At the same time, embrace that greater powers that can keep you on the right path
So what does all this mean for 30b430? You’ll notice a few additions to the list to your right, along w/ some additional details to the original list.

I dedicate this post to my pal Dustin. I’ve never met a person more true to himself. I sincerely wish that every young boy in the world could have a role model like him. He and his wife Becca are the epitome of every fairytale love story, and his encouragement, support (both the kind words and slaps of reality!) and friendship make him a member of my “30 influencers” list.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Signing off,

Friday, March 18, 2011

While Waiting for the Lotto...part deux

Baby, I'm on a roll! After cancelling my home phone service, I decided to consider a few other options. Here are three additional cuts I made today. Looks like my student loans will be paid off in no time!

1. Remove mobile insurance - I pay $6/mo to insure my phone, but I'm already eligible for a new phone under Verizon's new-every-two plan. As a result, if anything happens to my existing mobile, I can get a new one free, so why pay for the insurance, which will cost me about $85.00 USD for the deductible if used? NEXT!

2. Turn off electronics - call me weird, but we all know that electronics are power suckers, so I've started unplugging everything in the morning while I brush my teeth. Either I stand in the mirror looking at myself (boring) or I take 30 seconds to save myself some green while being green.

3. Bring coffee to work - By bringing my coffee or waking up in time to enjoy a cup of joe on the balcony before work, I'm (on average) saving about $25.00 a month. If I do buy, McDonald's coffee is on $1.11 (including tax) vs. the $4.00+ on Starbucks. I'm obviously partial to McD's, but seriously, as a black-no cream-no sugar gal, I'm just not a fan of Starbuck's overroasted aftertaste (to each their own).

Share you tips, if you would, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

While Waiting for the Lotto...

Let's face it - life is expensive. While I wouldn't call mine extravagant, the little things definitely add up, especially since my post-college years have been filled with a minimum of eight weddings a year -- most outside of Chicago. That's a lot of justified, yet still fund-consuming, mini-vacations!

While my paycheck is larger than ever, so are my expenses and the amounts earmarked for future purchases. To shave some corners this year, I revamped my budget dramatically. Here are five ways I'm cutting back in 2011:

1. Getting rid of home phone - I have HORRIBLE mobile service in my apartment, so a land line was a must. However, by setting up a Skype account and taking advantage of the better signals while walking to/from work, this will only be a slight inconvenience, but a savings of $12/month.

2. Early bird-ing it - After-work drinks, dinners, mani/pedis and movies w/ pals add up fast. My friend Mel and I started doing breakfast instead. Not only is it usually less than a dinner, but the morning eliminates cancellations from late nights in the office or other evening commitments. I'm also taking advantage of weekend matinees - usually a few dollars less than an evening ticket.

3. Cleaning house - An empty bookshelf was sitting in the corner of my living room and the bar stools from my last apartment were just a tad too high for my island. Thanks to Craigslist, they now have new homes and I have a few more bucks in my pocket.

4. Meal planning - My grocery list is more organized than ever. By planning out my meals each week, I'm able to save money while keeping my calorie count down... great for the wallet and the waistline! Speaking of which, I'm now down 8 lbs from the beginning of the year! 1999 dress - watch out! (#4)

5. Walk this way - After a hard look at my monthly expenses, I realized cab costs take up way too much of my entertainment budget. By doing a better job of utilizing public transportation, walking if the destination is under two miles and prepping my bike for spring, my 10% goal will be within reach!

I welcome any tips from the best readers in the whole wide world :). Also, check out my friend Nicole's blog for some solid, money-saving advice -

Now if only I can win the office NCAA pool... :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three Goals Complete - How Hair Changed My Life

Yep, you read it right - hair impacts three of my 30b430 goals. Before you decide I'm vein and stop reading, let me explain...

While I've definitely taken some chances in my life, there are a few things I tend to shy away from -- getting set up, spontaneity and disregarding etiquette. Sadly, being over/underdressed is a huge hang-up of mine, even as a child. That all changed in the past week as I embraced all life has to offer... after all, why not?

#12 - Do Something Out of My Comfort Zone
My friend Will scored four free tickets to Hair for opening night in Chicago last Tuesday, just mere hours before it started. In addition to great company and great seats, it was a great opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. For those not familiar with the production, it is deemed a sexual-charged, love rock musical set in the 60's. We took our seats in the sea of bell bottoms, daisy prints and headbands. In part to a work-related training course earlier in the day, I stuck out like a sore thumb in Ann Taylor head-to-toe - tailored black dress, ruffled cardigan and heeled Mary Janes (the closest thing to fit the musical's atmosphere!).

Without worrying what others would think and with the encouragement of one Michael M., I leaped on stage during the final act to "Let the Sunshine In." Inappropriately dressed - yes. Dancing badly - double yes. But as I looked into the sea of smiling faces, it felt good to throw caution to the wind and simply enjoy the moment as the stage lights beamed down.

Only a few days later, my friend Brian set me up for the very first time. While there were no sparks, the concert (The Parlotones) was fantastic, and the experience made me let my hair down (bad pun).
After these two instances, I can officially cross #12 off my list.

#14 - Do Something Spontaneous
Picture it - Chicago, Friday, 4:30 p.m. An old friend I hadn't seen since Christmas was in nearby Indianapolis for the weekend and asked me to visit. In less than an hour, I secured a hotel room, booked a car and drove over for a 12 hour visit. Silly - in fact, a hairbrain idea - as the drive alone (roundtrip) took six, but at the end of the day, what is life about if you don't walk through the doorways of opportunity instead of walking by them? Besides, it was the highlight of my week.

#21 - Donate to Locks of Love
For most of my childhood I could sit on my was that long. At about 15 I cut it chin-length; however, I realized how fast it grows. In true warm-fuzzies style, the 10+ inches cut each time thereafter were donated to Locks of Love. I've now reached three donations, but why not shoot for four? It should be possible by August or so... not sure when I'll actually cut it, but it is now an official 30b430 goal.

Unofficially, my other goal is to do a much better job of keeping Extra + Ordinary updated on a 3-4x/week basis.

Until next time,

Friday, March 4, 2011

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

My friend Lisa just shared this blog post linked to Harvard Biz Review. VERY good read, especially for those of us trying to hit countless (or in my case, 30!) goals in 2011: Nine Things Successful People Do Differently

Thursday, March 3, 2011

And the winner is...

I can't believe I'm typing this... thanks to the poll, voted on by you, my faithful readers [she says with sarcasm], i must now allow a friend to set me up on a blind date within the next 11 months to achieve my #12 - do something out of my comfort zone. In this case, waaaaay out of my comfort zone.

Fifty-six percent of you think this is a good idea. I'm starting to wonder about my fan base...

Here's to the power of the people!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

One simple word: YES!

Despite being as crispy as a deep-fried Asian wonton, the sunny trip to Cabo was wonderful in countless ways. It’s been more than a decade since I’ve been to Mexico, and this getaway coincided with a Chicago snowstorm. EXCELLENT! Most importantly, it was a chance to see a dear friend get married in a tropical paradise and meet some fabulous new people.

BUT... there were some unfortunate challenges along the way.  A sick groom, flight delays, a guest with a death in the family, the MIA wedding coordinator… it wasn’t an easy road. However, this story has a happy ending.

Looking stunning as she flowed across the sand on her fathers' arms, Sarah was greeted by forty friends and family, as well as Kurtis, the lucky groom. As they joined hands in front of vibrant blue skies and the sparking sea, each was asked if they took the other's hand in marriage. While Sarah's response was a regal "I do," Kurtis burst out with an enthusiastic "YES!" to declare his love... and to the laughter of every wedding guest. For that shining moment, everyone forgot the bumpy path leading to that day and embraced the moment as they witnessed two people share their first kiss as man and wife.

How does this tie to Extra + Ordinary?

Simple - "yes" is a common word. You probably said it when the barista asked if you wanted cream in your coffee or when your boss asked for 10 minutes of your time. However, what makes the yes "extra" to your "ordinary" is the zeal and affirmation behind it, no matter how big or small the end result.  

How many times do we make half-hearted decisions? I know it is a daily occurrence for me, but in order to have an extraordinary life, we must be passionate about what we do, how we do it and most importantly, WHY we do it. Is it for love? Is it for kindness? Is it for pleasure? Is it to get closer to a goal? Think about this when you come to the fork in the road.

It certainly impacted me in the past few days. I've approached a fork, one 29 years in the making. Where do I want to be in five years? What do I want to do? With whom do I want to spend my life? Options are bombarding me and each has its pros and cons, but it will soon be time to say yes to many changes - both scary and exciting - that will start a new chapter.  Fingers crossed that my "yes!" responses are as full of fervor as Kurtis'!

Here's to each of you as you take a baby step or a giant leap into the next phase of your life and here's to the bride and groom! Wishing you an eternity of joys & smiles, a lifetime of hand-holding & heart-warming, and a never-ending list of exceptional memories.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Survey update

Thanks to everyone who has voted to-date.

As much as many of us like to plan our futures, it is inevitable that sometimes things are decided for us. In this case, my April goal #12 (do something out of my comfort zone). My friend Mel signed up for Chicago's Shamrock Shuffle (April 10), as did her fiance; however, he signed up for both of them. As a result, she had an extra, non-refundable entry. Thanks, Mel and Ben!

This 8K (approximately five miles and a nice in-between mark from the standard 5k and 10k options) will not only make me try something new (remember, I'm the girl who could trip over a $2 bill in a parking lot), but will support goal #4 (get back to my age 17 body, proved by fitting into my 1999 homecoming gown. Six lbs. down, 22 to go). I'm not sure which one is more daunting!

Keep voting between the first and third options! I already ordered the bikini for an upcoming trip to Cabo for my lovely friend Sarah's wedding (six days and counting!), so that will conquer February's #4... if I take off my cover-up on the beach! It looks like March will be a race between letting a friend set me up on a blind date and pitching this blog... I sincerely hope people like reading it enough to start voting for it. This blind date business is hurting my #15 (stop biting nails)!

Happy Hump Day, my fabulous, faithful readers!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The HAPPY Single Girl on Valentine’s Day

Why am I embracing Valentine’s Day when no suitor is making my heart race and the mouth-watering sweets in my office are hurting goal #4? Two words: The Summit.

Days after this blog began, a colleague/friend approached me to moderate a group over the weekend. The purpose? Bring a handful of her friends together to address their goals for 2011; however, it transformed from an excuse for mimosas to the kick-off of a fresh start to all of our lives.

In conjunction w/ my colleague, the agenda was written, challenges were created and food was plentiful. While my role was to moderate the three hour discussion and ensure these ladies started off on the right path, they in turn provided me with a gift I didn’t even know I needed.

Have you ever felt like you were all alone, even when surrounded by people; or pondered if you were single because you’re not quite good enough? Have you wondered if you should know what you’re doing by now, but instead are spinning in circles? Have you ever asked yourself, “is this all there is to my life?” If so, welcome to the party.

After introductions, we jumped into each lovely lady’s goals. Tears fell, laughter spread, confessions were made and, to my surprise, this group of strong, successful women grew closer right before my eyes. And somewhere in the midst of this incredible madness, I finally felt like I had a purpose in life – help people find their way to success and happiness. To my surprise, I am GOOD at this, as in “I-could-really-make-a-difference” good. Ties in nicely with #19!

Not only have I become part of a spectacular group of friends, but the group is playing a major role in me achieving my own goals. You will hear more about these admirable women and their personal success in the coming year, but for now, I want to thank the ladies of The Summit – on Valentine’s Day - for helping me remember that along with loving my friends and family, I must learn to love myself before I can make a difference in the world.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reader's Choice

It's shocking how many e-mails this blog has generated, though I encourage everyone to utilize the blog post feature instead. The most surprising comment is that readers can't quite figure me out... it's okay, I can't figure me out, either!
Anyway, one reader had the following question:

Q: "You really like lists a lot. Will you tell us 10 things we don't know about you? You are quirky but hard to describe when I talk about your blog."

A: Thank you for your interest and for spreading the word about Extra + Ordinary! Yes, I like to make lists, but can't think of 1o things right now... will you settle for five? If so, here ya go!

1. Just like a little kid, I still get excited about personalized items. My sister, Amanda, had a more popular name, so she always had personalized rulers, key chains, stationary and pencils. I did not. (No, I'm not bitter, stupidhead.)

2. Amanda and I don't stay in touch and haven't seen each other in at least three years. While I love her and wish her the very best, we are just too different to be in each other's lives. You'll still read about her, as she was influential in my early years. Please note: this has nothing to do with the personalized rulers, stationary or pencils. Maybe a little with the key chains...

3. I'm still trying to embrace the color yellow. As a child with dark hair, I was always afraid I'd look like a bumble bee. To get over this fear, I dressed up like a bumble bee for Halloween a couple years ago in Austin. It helped. The fear also comes from first grade recess. I remember hearing Annie Stull (hi Andrea!) say that her whole class got lemon slips. Lemon slips? Did that mean they got lemonade for snack time? Were lemon slips another word for lemon snap cookies or lemon drops? I was sooo envious and asked for a lemon slip in my prayers that night. Soon after I learned that a lemon slip was a warning note for doing something wrong. I've dreaded the color ever since.

4. A small town girl at heart, I have a "wish box" for a country estate. Inside are magazine pages of floor plans, kitchen layouts and home theatre set-ups. Maybe it is because I dream of a library, complete with sliding ladder and writing nook, and a place to store a 1954 Jaguar XK120 convertible... obviously long, long, long-term bucket list items. This desire became even stronger as I worked with the Pink Panther's favorite insulation company on a mobile marketing tour. When an actor didn't appear for a 4 a.m. Jacksonville, Florida CBS morning show segment, I had to step in, dressed as a mime, to silently demonstrate the benefits of the noise-control insulation solutions. I've definitely paid my PR dues! Anywho, it only fueled my list of musts for this future home.

5. I truly believe that I could be the 1 in a million winner when it comes to sweepstakes. In fact, just yesterday I entered Star Alliance's trip around the world sweepstakes. (Talk about crossing off my #2 30b430 goal!) My childhood buddy/P-I-C/college roommate, Shane, and I are determined we'll win the Powerball. (Why are you laughing?) My very first sweepstakes entry was found on the back of a Cool Whip label when I was eight or so. I filled out my name and address, and anxiously awaited for our mailman, Dick Snethen, to arrive. Long story short, two decades later at age 28 and years after Dick retired, I finally came to terms that I lost and bought a bike for my first RAGBRAI. I'm now a Reddi-wip consumer out of spite.

In short, I'm a coffee table book full of a dash of this and a sprinkle of that. For too long I longed to be something different...something someone else wanted me to be. I now realize my "Molly-isms" simply make me multifaceted and open to all life has to offer. Don't be afraid to be yourself... it is one of the most frequently said, seldomly done, phrases. It might be the very thing that leads you the best people or places in your life. If I can post my silly -isms for the world wide web to see, it won't hurt you to share your own -isms with a few folks at a cocktail party!

Keep sending your questions and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall...

I like to consider myself a selfless, compassionate person, but for the past few days, my mirror reflected a big 'ol sun. Who am I to think the world revolves around me? That evil mirror also showed a couple laugh lines, bags under my eyes and a deep frown; a stressed ol' lady who hasn't achieved her dreams, professionally or personally.

Yesterday was bad, even for a Monday. Not due to overindulging in beverages at a Super Bowl party (though I ate my weight in buffalo chicken and spinach/artichoke dip...), but it was one of "those days" where the rut you're trying to escape is 12 feet deep and made of smooth marble.

If one more person asks when I was going to settle down, I will scream. No face, no name, but “they” say he’s out there. No number to call, yet I’m still suppose to believe. Not address to write, no dreamy kiss goodnight, yet I’m still suppose to believe there's someone for me? Speaking of addresses, Santa Claus has one. If I’m not suppose to believe in him, then why should I believe this “unlisted” Prince Charming exists? Speaking of Prince Charming, you know how they say if a teenage boy talks about sex, it means he isn't having it? Don’t you think Prince Charming is the same? If you have to tell us he’s charming, is he really a crass deadbeat?

I digress. While in the midst of my pathetic pity party, seven things happened.
  1. My favorite Bostonian couple announced they were prego... so excited for them! Alissa & Adnan - you'll be incredible parents!
  2. My favorite Orange County couple gave birth to a darling baby girl! Congrats, Tatum & Sam!
  3. A dear childhood friend went into labor and lost her first born. Amanda - you and Joe are in my thoughts, prayers and heart.
  4. One of my best friends learned her parents are parting. You know who you are... get ready for a spa/wine day... love ya and here if you need to chat.
  5. My bff (loved as a sister, even if we don't exactly look alike!) finally realized she is a commodity and shouldn't settle for less than the best.
  6. A fantastic colleague is prepping to undergo spinal surgery... thoughts are with ya, buddy!
  7. A client lost his two year battle with cancer... his family and colleagues are in my prayers.

In short, so many people near and dear to me are fighting their own battles, celebrating their own milestones and taking the next step on that twisty path we call life. How dare I think, even for a moment, that my pudgy singlehood trumps such life-changing events?

Last night, I looked again in the dreaded mirror. Was there a sun? Nope... just a girl with lines saying she's celebrated and laughed with the greatest of friends, a couple under-eye circles to reflect her hard work and a smile as she prepares to conquer the first day of the rest of her life.

As my dear friend Mel once told me, "the grass is greener where you water it." Break out the watering cans, people! On that note, have a great day!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Skinny Super Bowl?

Oxymoron, right? As I'm trying to get back to my 1999 size (four lbs down since Jan. 1!), and the drinks, unbelievable guac trio & mindblowing steak tacos at Mercadito for Bryan and my dual birthday celebration wrecked havoc on my calorie count, is it possible to "be good" on Super Bowl Sunday?

I created a "Skinny Super Bowl," consisting of filling decent-for-you ingredients. It averages about 210 per serving. If anyone is interested in the recipe, e-mail me at

Thanks to everyone for the comments, e-mails, retweets and reads to-date. Extra + Ordinary has officially hit more than 2,000 views... not bad, considering my posting hiatus during most of Sundance and only about 20 posts! The e-mails have been quite interesting with a number of questions. Expect a post in the next few days w/ a bit of Q&A.

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

It's amazing... in the blink of an eye, you finally see the light.

I picked up new glasses this afternoon, but let me tell you what happened when they were ordered...

I checked out new eyeglasses at a boutique in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. Already set on what style and brand I wanted, it was a shock when the staff suggested a trendy pair that were totally not me... yet I had to have them. I was looking at myself in a new way, a new light...and, surprisingly, I liked it.

Coincidentally, the same thing is happening simultaneously in my personal life. Just because your mind is set on something and your heart beats for someone, that doesn't make it the path to happily ever after. I realized it is time to say goodbye to a life involving a positive person with a negative impact. Not removing said person, but merely looking at him in a different light - as a treasured platonic best friend who knows me unlike anyone else instead of as a potential future life partner prone to unintentionally hurting me.

I used to wish on stars that things could be different...better...perfect, but no matter how much we feel something is destined to be, Garth Brooks had it right - "sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers." And as I'm "looking back on the dance we shared," it dawned on me that so much of my inner strength was gained from the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with this very special man.

Through this life changing step, along with a few clothing donations, phone number removals, filing cabinet cleanses and Facebook deletions, I officially mark my negative influences goal complete. It will always be an ongoing battle, as new negative influences will likely arise, but for now, I can sleep peacefully.

On that note, good night!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Male "Molly"...

...or maybe I'm the female version of him. Regardless, a dear friend called on Thursday to wish me a happy birthday and propose the idea of co-writing a book. Talk about perfect timing! While we are very different in many ways (aside from the obvious!), he shares my drive, sarcasm, morals, fears and desire to pursue dreams.

Most likely you'll hear about him this year in one of my 30 Influencers posts. For now, just know that #19 is underway!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Turning a Negative into a Positive... 30b430 Style

When determining my goals, I first decided they should be unique with proactive effort directed to each and every one. But, as is life, we are multi-taskers and multitasking is just what I did. While I've been fortunate to visit at least one new country each year since 2007, my "statescations" have been lacking.

In true "kill two birds with one stone" fashion, I was able to visit a new state (Utah) when volunteering at Sundance. Unbeknownst to me, another state would also make the list.

First you have to understand that I am skilled in many ways, but this country-raised girl may be the only living Iowan who can't navigate the roads. After driving through some powerful winds with blowing snow, I noticed that NOTHING looked familiar. Thinking I may have jusssst missed my turn, I decided to turn around at the next exit.

Strangely enough, there were suddenly big buildings for Black Cat fireworks. Odd, right? Well, as an Iowan who grew up only minutes away from the Missouri boarder, I knew what this meant. Yep, the "Welcome to Wyoming" sign was looking back at me.

A couple friends and I often had the debate of what constitutes as a visit. Is it driving through? Is it sleeping there? Having a meal? Well, to make sure this visit counted (and to ensure I made it to Park City, UTAH), I stopped for fuel, grabbed a breakfast sandwich and was on my merry way. So my friend Brenner couldn't contest the meal, I made sure it was eaten before I crossed back over the Utah boarder. :)

And that, kids, is how you turn a negative into a positive. Now if only I could figure out how to do that with my love life...