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Sitting In My Empty House

Here I sit, in a house in Austell, Georgia, empty for all but a few belongings to get me through tomorrow afternoon, when I will depart for my and my husband’s new home in Clermont, Florida.

This past year — wow, it’s been quite the ride. I don’t think I have grown more as a professional than I have during the past year. I’ve had some major victories, made some big mistakes (and been forgiven for them), and I’ve done everything possible to perform at my best. I’ve learned so much about managing projects, holding clients and my team accountable, and I’ve learned a whole heap more about the marketing industry and about the industries of my agency’s clients.

And the best part… I’ve found my work family.

I can’t say enough about how much I will miss being in the office every day with my amazing team. They make every day fun, and we get through major challenges together on the reg. They understand my weird, random sense of humor — because they’re all a bit kooky in their own ways, too.

A few other things I’ll miss: Our huge backyard, and our massive garage to match. The house we’re renting in Florida leaves a little to be desired in the roominess department in both of those categories. Also, proximity to family and friends in Alabama. And the beautiful spring and fall weather. No thanks on the winter weather, though!

I’ll also miss the Southern accents, the Southern hospitality, and the regional allegiance to SEC football. Yes, the Gators may play in Florida, but let’s face it… Florida just isn’t Southern like the rest of the deep South.

A few things I won’t miss: The terrible Atlanta traffic… the seasonal allergies and yellow pollen coating cars each spring… and oh, did I mention the traffic?

I’m looking forward to putting down our roots in Florida, working toward buying a home, starting a family, and continuing down my path with my awesome employer. I can’t thank them enough for being willing to keep me on, and I’ll do my best to make sure they don’t regret it!

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See Ya, 2014! Looking Ahead

2014 will go down as one of the worst years of my life. No, make it THE worst. A few bright spots, for sure, but losing my dad in January, then losing a job in August, then moving out-of-state for a new job in October while dealing with said losses simultaneously…well, it all made the latter half of 2014 especially hard.

That said, 2014 was also a year of growth and renewal for me. Professionally, I learned SO MUCH. Maybe this is because I had 3 different jobs in 2014, or maybe it’s because I’m at a pivotal point in my career, or maybe it’s all of the above.

The other high point for me was rediscovering my body. I joined Weight Watchers the same week I lost my dad in January. In June, I tried hot Power Yoga classes for the first time. By August, I had lost 35 pounds. I’ve maintained that loss and aim to reach my goal in 2015.

Moving to Atlanta was unexpected for us, but we are enjoying being closer to family. I’m also really enjoying my job as project manager at the Swarm Agency. There is one missing puzzle piece, though, and that’s a full-time gig for my amazingly talented chef husband. He has had fun working on some gigs with a friend of his who owns a catering company in Alabama. He even worked a gig last week in the poker world. He previously worked the poker circuit as media in 2007-2008, so he had a lot of fun connecting with old friends and colleagues. But we’re still hoping to find the best fit for him here in Atlanta as a chef.

All that aside, here are my 2015 resolutions!

1) Reach goal weight with Weight Watchers. About 20-25 lbs. to go!

2) Become Scrum Master certified and work toward Project Management Professional certification … just so I can have an annoying email signature that says “Kristen Heptinstall, CSM, PMP.”

3) Take care of my mental health. Address my anxiety and my continued grief for my dad.

4) Continue knocking down debt and prepare to buy a home, most likely in summer 2017 (maybe sooner?) when we will have taken care of the majority of our debt and will have less obstacles in our way.

5) Live in the moment and see what’s around me. I feel as though 2014 was a murky haze. I wasn’t totally present. I was distracted and living in my emotions, my grief, and in my head. I’m vowing to turn 100% attention to what’s going on around me, listen to those I love, and make clear and rational decisions.

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Enjoying the Journey

 “The trick is to enjoy life. Don’t wish away your days, waiting for better ones ahead.” -Marjorie Pay Hinckley

It’s hard to put into words what a journey these past few months have been.

I continue to see little things that remind me of Dad everywhere I go. I feel him when I eat his favorite foods, experience a weather event, hear his favorite songs, or pass along a joke or piece of advice he imparted to me. I like to talk about him, because I want to remember and pass along everything that was so inherently good about my Dad.

My dad was not only an excellent dad, but a wonderful husband, grandad, friend and just a great person. He was our rock, and I believe strongly that he is watching over our family and conspiring with God to make life as great as it can be for us without him here.

Case in point #1: My weight loss journey with Weight Watchers. I don’t believe I would have had the courage to begin and the faith to continue on in my goal of reaching a healthy weight. I’m down 26 pounds in 5 months, with 30 pounds more to go to reach my healthy weight range. 

Case in point #2: My recent career wins. A couple months ago, weary of my 48-mile commute to my former job, I reignited my career search. A few interviews later, I was offered a contract position with Walt Disney Parks & Resorts Online. It’s no secret to those who know me that working for Disney has been on my bucket list for years. I feel infinitely blessed, and can’t wait to see where this takes me.

Despite all these positive moves in my life, I am hurting. I am grieving. There are times when it hits me like a truck how much I miss my dad and just wish I could speak to him one last time. He was taken from us too soon, and all I can think of is that God needed Dad. God needed him for a higher purpose that I just can’t understand. But I am going to do my best at working through the grieving process in a positive way, so that I can learn and grow from it while staying connected to Dad.

Going forward, I am going to do my best to see my progress as Glass Half Full. If I had known a year ago that today I would be 26 pounds lighter with a position at Disney, I would have been over the moon excited. So I’m just going to let myself be over the moon excited… while keeping my eyes on the ball. 

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My 2013 in Review: Connecting the Dots of my Future

2013 year in review

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

-Steve Jobs

It’s true, they say: the older you get, the faster the years fly by. And 2013 — it zoomed. And while it wasn’t my most favorite of years, it wasn’t entirely bad, either!

Some highlights:

In January, I celebrated as the Alabama Crimson Tide football team won its third National Championship in four years.

In February, I turned 30. I celebrated with my husband with a dinner at the California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

In March, my parents visited and we went to a Braves spring training game at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Also in March, I took on an awesome volunteer position with my sorority. I oversee 35 alumnae chapters in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

In April, I was laid off from my digital content director position at Bonnier Corp. as some magazines were folded or sold, and personnel consolidated. (Luckily, my titles were left in the hands of a swell guy I trust!) Within the month, I started a new job as digital marketing and public relations manager at Mario Camacho Foods the same week that my husband and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. (Find Mario on Facebook!) Between jobs, I wrote a blog post about how my husband’s career at Walt Disney World all started with a tweet, and it got a lot of response.

In May, I went to the movies. This is notable because I went to see only to three movies in 2013: Lincoln, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Saving Mr. Banks. Most of my movie-watching these days is done through HBO and Redbox.

In June, I traveled for my “sorority job” to a training conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

In July, I traveled to Seville, Spain for a once-in-a-lifetime work trip, and returned to attend a food blogger conference as a brand sponsor.

In August, I was interviewed for a podcast on Alabama sorority recruitment.

In September, I spent Labor Day with family in South Carolina. I attended another blogger conference as a brand sponsor, and traveled to Richmond for my sorority regional meeting.

In October, we bought a new sectional sofa. It is glorious.

In November, I spearheaded the search for an agency partner at work, and spent Thanksgiving with family in South Carolina. And, my husband received a promotion and transferred to a new location at Walt Disney World.

In December, I went to my first therapy session since high school — through a benefit provided to me through work. I look forward to my next session to discuss my next steps in my career and in life. Also in December, my parents came to visit, and their visit cut short by my dad’s bout with pneumonia. He remains hospitalized and prayers and thoughts are highly appreciated.

In 2013, I spent too much time worrying about finances and my career, and too much time on social media — even though I love it and have made a career out of it, hashtag ironic. I didn’t spend enough time taking care of myself — I did not eat healthily enough, exercise enough, or take enough time for friends and family — and I willingly spent a lot of time on my own when my husband was working. I fear failure in getting healthy, I fear rejection from friends and family, and I aim to conquer those fears.

I have some things to look forward to in 2014. In January, I’ll travel to my old stomping grounds in Birmingham to attend FoodBlogSouth as a sponsor brand, and meet with our PR agency that is headquartered there. I hope to squeeze in as much time as possible for dinner and coffee with friends and former coworkers! In April, my husband and I are renting a dog-friendly beach house a few miles down the beach from where we were married to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. And in July, I’ll travel to Seattle for my sorority’s international convention!

In 2014, I aim to put the health of myself and my family first. I am to make plans with friends new and old. I aim to truly be present for the celebration of our wedding anniversary, put my toes in the sand — and let go of worry.

My 2014 goals:

-Cook nourishing meals for me and my husband on nights when he is working.
-Through running and yoga, restore confidence in my body.
-Reach out to a friend or work contact each week through a phone call or in-person activity.
-Write about people I admire here on this blog.
-Continue dealing with my worry in a healthy way.

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If Money Were No Object

ImageIf money were no object, I would:

-First and foremost, pay off all debts and student loans for myself and my husband. 

-Buy a house here in Florida, and get a new living room and bedroom set from Ethan Allen.

-Buy a Gameday condo in Tuscaloosa and get on the list to upgrade our season tickets.

-Trade my Nissan Versa in for a BMW 3 Series, and let my husband trade in his Jeep or just keep adding to it as Jeep enthusiasts do.

-Get a second Labrador Retriever as a companion for Mango and start trying for a child.

-Get my teeth whitnened and get Invisalign braces at the dentist.

-Get a manicure and pedicure every two weeks, and a massage, facial and eyebrow wax every month.

-Hire a personal trainer for 3 or 4 days per week.

-Set up a donation fund to my college, my sorority, and other worthy causes.

It’s fun to think about, isn’t it?

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Kristen at 30

Kristen Heptinstall at 30

I am….

More casual than dressy. More classic than trendy. Probably will never have a tattoo.

A collector of Nike shorts, Disney Blu-Rays,  and sorority memorabilia.

Long hair, not short. Natural dark blonde coloring vs. highlights of the past.

Dogs, not cats. Dark chocolate AND milk chocolate.

Just a few close friends to lean on, but many connections and acquaintances.

Decidedly not a domestic goddess or a Pinterest maven. Learning, finally, to cook and keep house properly.

Not a morning person. Sometimes running late. No willpower when it comes to food; can’t keep to a fitness routine.

Frugal. Moderate. Easygoing. Earnest. Helpful. Self-Starting. Smart but usually humble. Complex. Searching. Wondering.

INFJ. A connector of people, but not always wanting to be around tons of them: Introvert probs.

A dog mom; a wife to a chef. Maybe a mother in a few years.

Georgia-born, but Alabama is home, and Florida home for now, maybe longer.

What were you, at 30?

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30 Before 30: Fail. But Ongoing.

In 2011, I came up with a list of 30 things I wanted to do by the time I turned 30. It was a lofty list, for me, at least. But at the time, I thought I had more than 2 years to complete it, and back then, I didn’t think I would be moving out of state to Florida, either.

Well, I turned 30 last month, my friends, and here’s what’s been completed and what remains. I made a few edits in 2012 to add a few Florida-centric things I wanted to do….

My 30 before 30 list

1. Learn how to dive into a pool.

2. Learn how to turn a cartwheel.

3. Learn the basics of sewing.

4. Learn how to scuba dive. [almost done!]

5. Learn how to drive stick.

6. Learn how to bake my mom’s cheesecake recipe from scratch.

7. Learn how to keep a houseplant alive, and keep one alive, the way my mom can!  

8. Find THE purse. [Completed 10/10. Found it and bought it! The J.Crew Brompton hobo in espresso.]

9. Then, sell or donate a bunch of other purses.

10. Lose 55 lbs., or fit into a size 8, whichever comes first.

11. Run a Disney 5K.

12. Donate all my old “fat girl” clothes.

13. Get debt/finances under control.

14. Visit the NASA VAB at Kennedy Space Center.

15. Drive with my husband in his Jeep on Daytona Beach.

16. Stay overnight at a Disney deluxe resort for first time since honeymoon.

17. Find a signature wine. [Goats do Roam red and white varieties. Thanks Epcot Food & Wine 2010!]

18. Figure out my signature cocktail, and how to make it. [My go-to: a vodka tonic or gin & tonic. Simple. easy.]

19. Network with 30 people in Orlando.

20. Visit Disney World again in 2011 …[Moved to Orlando Aug. 2011]

21. …and in 2012/13, after the Fantasyland expansion is complete or at least partially opened.

22. Visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios.[Visited Sept. 2011]

23. Volunteer for an organization. [Alabama Social Media Association executive director, 2011; Gamma Phi Beta regional coordinator, 2013]

24. Go on an overnight camping/kayak trip.

25. Tour a winery.

26. Get a stamp on my unused passport.

27. Go horseback riding.

28. Go deep sea fishing.

29. Unpack every box after Aug. 2012 move, and get rid of/donate everything not being used.

30. Embrace turning 30!

So, I’m 18 items away from being done. But these are all still things I want to do or learn to do. We’ll see how long it really takes for me to complete! Bets, anyone?