So. It’s been a solid 2+ months since I last blogged. I can’t believe how quickly time has flown, but mostly I can’t believe how much has happened.
The abbreviated version is: I became a working girl, we’re building a house, and we bought another car. Oh, and we’re headed to Mexico again this year.
Working girl. It all happened sort of quickly. After intermittently browsing and applying to jobs for a month or two, I saw a craigslist for a Trading Analyst one Tuesday. Finance – and especially trading – jobs aren’t particularly prevalent in San Diego, so I submitted my resume with a cover letter (well, email). Twenty minutes later, I got a phone call saying they were doing interviews that week (the job post was a few days old), and could I come in the following morning at 9. Sure! It was downtown, where I didn’t really want to commute to, so I was a little reluctant, but I went anyway. The interview went well. It was relatively informal and relaxed, and ended with a conversation about London and an invite for a second round interview on Friday. In all honesty, I was a little ho-hum about the job based on the ad, but I was buzzing in my post-interview catch up call to Mark.
Thursday afternoon I got another call. They decided to forego the second round of interviews and offered me the job. Oh, and could I start the following day. I was flattered and excited, but also – to be perfectly honest – a little sketched out. I mean, I’d found this job on craigslist and would be starting less than 70 hours after I emailed my resume. It was a little overwhelming. It didn’t help that my now boss’s favorite phrase during the interview/hiring process was “there are no guarantees”. I spent a couple hours e-stalking my future coworkers, cross referencing LinkedIn and Facebook to make sure it was all legit. Mark also reminded me that I’d been to their office, and it obviously looked legit. Still, I was a little wary that I was going to end up working for 2 weeks, never getting paid, and then getting fired for some bizarre reason. I refrained from buying a monthly parking pass just to make sure it was a good fit.
Once I learned the job was, in fact, legit, my only sticking point was the hours. Working in the bond market, we are dealing on east coast hours, which means the working day starts at 5am California time. Ouch. They hired a trader on the East coast to man the early hours, but everyone here in San Diego still started around 7 am. Initially, I thought it’d be totally do-able to shift our day. Mark can stagger his day as necessary, and we could just go to the gym and run errands in the afternoon if our work day was ending at 3:30 pm. Two weeks later, that theory wasn’t really panning out as well as it sounded. Our mornings, which we’d really loved since moving to San Diego, felt rushed and grumpy. We were rarely hitting the gym. He was working longer hours, because he found it hard to break away mid-afternoon when everyone else was problem solving. I met with my boss to discuss the problem. Really, I thought the hours were non-negotiable and that this was going to end in me resigning, because it was negatively affecting my quality of life rather than enhancing it. Thankfully, however, he was super supportive and said it would be great to have someone around later in the day to handle the end of day reports. We discussed the optimal schedule, and decided 8:30 – 5 would allow me to maintain my morning rituals at home while still helping out with morning tasks in the office.
Since the schedule shift it has been Awesome with a capital “A”. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been so excited about a job. My coworkers are fun, smart, and hardworking. The job has lots of great perks (like free lunch, regular paid for happy hours and coffee runs, a great snack cabinet, annual company trips – this year they went to Vail, and free parking + membership to an awesome downtown gym once I’m passed my 6 month probationary period). The work is interesting and right up my alley. I also managed to negotiate extra (unpaid) time off, so we can continue to take advantage of Mark’s imported vacation allowance. I genuinely enjoy going in each day – both to hang out with my coworkers and to do the work – and feel like I have a good understanding of what’s going on. It’s brought the routine and discipline into my life that I started to miss once the apartment was decorated, and our quality of life has only improved since I started. The only real down-sides are commuting to work (which really isn’t bad, and proves a nice time for music listening and decompressing, especially since I like driving and – much to my pleasant surprise – am mostly driving against peak rush hour flow) and the pay (it’s a cut compared to my previous jobs, but really, I’m enjoying it so much, I’d probably work there for free!).
Becoming Ho-Moaners. We’re so ridiculously excited about our future home, that I often feel like I need to jump up and down and squeal to truly express my enthusiasm (sorry current downstairs neighbors). It’s actually – much like our current apartment – the very first thing we looked around when we started house hunting. One Saturday, we searched Zillow and made a list of houses in our price range within a 20 minute commute radius of Mark’s office. We started with one in Tierrasanta, a neighborhood slightly further south and a little inland of UTC (where we currently live). We’d never heard of the area before, but really liked its rolling hills and natural beauty. It was mostly developed in the 70’s and 80’s, so some pockets aren’t my favorite style of architecture. However, the area’s maturity means there are lots of well landscaped islands and lovely trees. We were shocked to discover the house listed on Zillow was a model for a small new development called “Copperleaf”. As we toured the models, we loved them – cute architectural styling, light and airy, high (10 ft) ceilings, nice features (like granite as standard and the option for solar power). The size is ideal – big enough to grow into, but not overwhelming for our current life. The yards are small, but sufficient for our needs. We loved it right away, but didn’t want to jump in since we had no point of reference and it was at the high end of our intended budget.
After several weeks of house hunting, we couldn’t find anything we liked as much as the models at Copperleaf. Tierrasanta remained our favorite neighborhood, and everything was getting bid up aggressively and needed a lot of work. We didn’t want to be in a bidding war, only to have buyers remorse later, and we worried about how much money we’d be ‘saving’ by buying and remodeling an existing home, since surprises often happen and projects almost invariably come in over budget. We toured the models again on our own, and then brought Mark’s parents by when they were in town. They loved it, too, which made Mark and I consider it even more seriously. At the rate the development was selling, we needed to make a decision one way or the other, especially since each phase was only going up in price, and they’d soon either be sold out or priced out of our budget.
On St. Patrick’s Day, as most people were drinking green beer and doing their best Leprechaun impressions, we built spreadsheets. We ran the numbers extensively, considering various scenarios, and ultimately decided building a new house in Copperleaf was do-able while maintaining our other financial goals and desired quality of life. That afternoon, we put down a deposit. We spent the next few days reviewing and signing the contract, which we turned in on March 20th, starting our 5 day ‘rescind’ window. After sleeping on it for a few nights, our excitement remained and we were officially under contract. Since, we’ve signed several more stacks of paperwork, met with the electrical contractor to review various entertainment and networking options, met with the design team to discuss finishes, reviewed other options and budgets. It’s been a busy, but super exciting period. A couple of weeks ago, work started on the house, so we’ve started visiting the site weekly to check out progress. The frequent visits are not only allowing us to capture the entire process (which is fun, but will also give us a record of where various wires and pipes are once the walls are up), but has also been a great way to start meeting our neighbors.
The current project timeline puts completion around mid-August. We’re expecting a bit of a delay, especially since the builders added a few of the other lots to our phase. For now, we are staring lovingly at our new concrete pad.
Dual Prii. My new commute and our future move made the need for a second car inevitable. As ideal as it would have been to stay a single car household, living within walking distance of either my or Mark’s offices isn’t practical in the long term unless we rented indefinitely. The cost disparity between a ‘family home’ in our current ‘hood and one further afield was many multiples more than the cost of buying and maintaining a car. Similarly, condos downtown, where I work, aren’t cheap and aren’t a lifestyle fit for us. Since I commute in the car every day and was no longer running our errands while Mark was at work, taking care of life admin was becoming increasingly difficult with just one car. It was do-able, but was definitely more burdensome on me, especially when Mark and I needed to go somewhere together in the evenings. If we were going out to dinner or viewing a house, for example, I would commute home, pick him up, and drive us to our errand. It was taxing on me and stripped Mark of a lot of his autonomy. If he wanted to do something as simple as buy a greeting card or restock toiletries, he effectively had to ask my permission to use the car.
We both loved our existing Prius and didn’t want to fight over who got to drive it (especially since our new home will be about equidistant from each of our offices), and decided we’d just get the exact same thing again. Same package and everything. Once again, we broke the cardinal personal finance rule and bought a new car. I maintain that for the current Prius generation (ie 2010 onward), the depreciation is still insufficient to warrant buying used. We thought we might be able to get a good deal on a 2012, since the 2013’s had been out a few months and there was bound to be some back stock. However, the only model they had in the color and option package we wanted also had a solar moon roof, which made it even pricier than the 2013 sans-moonroof. We ummed and ahhed a little about the benefit of a moonroof, but in the end decided against it.
When we were ready to buy, we headed to the dealership to browse. Since Mark let me make an 11th hour change and final decision on Paddy’s color (switching from Metallic Gray to Silver), I let him decide on the color this time. He still loved the Metallic Gray, which I thought was a great choice, and the charcoal color made us decide to name him “Charlie”. We didn’t really ever refer to the OP (original Prius) as “Paddy”, but with two of them in the ‘family’, we might actually need to refer to them by ‘name’. Like good parents, we love them equally. Plus, since there’s literally no change between the 2012 to 2013 Prius (unlike the 2010 and 2011’s, which each had different tail lights), switching between them is totally seamless.
Travels. Our pre-move travel schedule was pretty intense, so we’ve stayed fairly local since landing in San Diego. Well, aside from Thanksgiving in Reno, a couple trips to the Bay Area for me, and a Geek Weekend in Seattle for Mark. We’ve been exploring our new locale, including lots of touristy visits in and around San Diego (it’s not difficult, since it’s beautiful and almost perpetually sunny). We wanted to spend our first year here exploring destinations within driving distance. Last October, we spent our anniversary in Temecula, which was so much we took Mark’s parents there when they were in town. Last month, we took advantage of my having Good Friday off work to go up to Santa Monica. The weekend was fantastic and included lots of gorgeous scenery, a long walk along the beach, great conversation, a fancy hotel, a Pam Anderson sighting, and some delicious food. We’re headed back to LA in a couple of weeks to do the more ‘city’ side. I managed to find a tour called Rasta Bus that Mark is especially excited about.
We enjoyed our trip to Mexico last year so much that we really wanted to go back. This time, we are headed to Los Cabos in Baja California. It’s a short (and free, thanks to air miles) 2 hour flight away. We found a resort that seems comparable to the Excellence in Playa Mujeres, and decided it’d make a great anniversary trip. Sun + scenery + unlimited food and drinks + great service = romantic bliss. I’m pretty stoked. If it proves even half as good as last year’s Mexico vacay, I’ll be a happy camper – especially with it being close enough for long weekend if we ever want an indulgent getaway.
Last year was amazing. So much fun, so much bonding, and so many changes. I’m truly shocked how well 2013 is shaping up at on a third of the way through the year. I often find myself counting my blessings and feeling thankful for this incredible life. I’m grateful to have married my best friend, to have found a partner who enriches my life and brings a smile to my face daily, and truly can’t believe how fortunate I am to have all these other wonderful things to enjoy with him. Life: thank you.