End of Summer!

Hi friends, delinquent blogger here.  Sorry….

My summer in Houston has come to an end and while I am so sad to not be getting to spend time with so many awesome friends on a regular basis, I am SO HAPPY to be back home.  My 480-square foot paradise has never felt more cozy and I sure do love seeing my sweet husband every day.

I finished my internship 3 (?) weeks ago and really enjoyed the overall experience.  Cameron is a great company with a great team of people leading the way, and I’m so glad I got to share my summer with them.  I am now in full “what am I going to be when I grow up mode”… I am considering multiple offers (one from Cameron, one from my old company, Booz), and while I have a while to decide, I hope to figure things out in the next few months.  More on that later.  It’s complicated, and it overwhelms me, and it’s 120% a #firstworldproblem.  So I can’t complain.  One note though – when Cameron made me the offer to join full time, the CEO called me!!!!  And of course, I was in Ikea, with no service, so he left me a voicemail, which I still have and Rush and I listen to sometimes and nerd out over it.  So so cool!!!! What a nice recruiting touch.

After leaving Houston I headed to San Marcos and spent about 5 days with John and Marla which was really great.  It was so good to be home in general, and we got to do a lot of fun things.  First, we got to see all of the extended Ragland family as we sent Michael and Caroline off to college (in Georgia and Chicago, no less – wow!!).  After that we spent a day with Mary in Austin, went kayaking on the San Marcos river, and did a mother/daughter spa day.  We also (of course) ate lots of delicious foods and even got to see Aunt Janet and Cousins Susannah and Phoebe.  The older I get the easier it is to be home… funny how that works.  Turns out my parents are pretty cool people, and just spending a few days in the house where you grew up can really be grounding and so relaxing.

Then it was back to Boston!  We’ve had a great time catching up with friends here and enjoying the weather.  We are still training for our half marathon and did 11 miles last Saturday in some amazing 60-degree sunshine.  The training is going well and I might maybe/kinda/sorta be enjoying it even, but my knees are giving me some trouble so I’m taking this week off.  We are going to Napa this weekend for Labor Day, which as most of you know is my favorite place on EARTH, so we are pretty excited for that.  And now, a phone dump of all of my pictures…

P.S.  I probably left out some really important things that have happened since I last posted, given that that was almost 2 months ago :).

Girls weekend

Girls weekend in Katy with my four best friends and AVERY girl.  Can’t believe Chelsea is pregnant again and we will have another sweet niece in November!July 4th

Fourth of July in Houston – Rush was in from Boston and we spend the day with the Mayos (tradition, duh) and the Howes.

Austin visit

And then my favorite people from Austin all came to visit!!  Can’t wait for Ryan and Nicole’s wedding in March… in the mountains in Colorado.  They win!Boston visit

I came to visit Boston one weekend this summer and we went to a concert in the Boston Common – I look forward to actually spending some time in this city next summer.mary quilts

While I was home we spent a really really great day with Grandma Mary in Austin.  While we were at her house we walked around and looked at and counted all of the beautiful quilts she has made – we got to a number just shy of 40, if I remember correctly.Kayaking

We ALSO went kayaking on the San Marcos river with dad.  It was so fun, but mom was unimpressed, as we paddled downstream then back upstream.  She says she has a new “rule” and that is to NEVER paddle upstream :).Butter

My parents were dogsitting this sweet munchkin the week I was home.  His name is Butter and he has totally made me want a dog SO badly!!new gallery wall

Of course when I got back to Boston I decided not to relax but rather to spruce up our place a bit so I bought a new rug and made a gallery wall.  It was fun, but no easy feat, and I get kinda depressed when I realize it will only stay on that wall until we move out of here next June…

Fenway Rush

Once back in Boston we got to go to the Red Sox/Yankees game at Fenway, which was really fun.  A classic!

Fall is here!

Kelly sent this to me the other day and I love it.  I’m so ready for fall!!!!!  Leggings and yoga pants of course, but also college football, soups, beautiful foliage, and some of my favorite weather of the year.  Bring it on!!

Love y’all, xoxo.

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Wait, I thought I hate running??

** Okay, so I wrote this, and then forgot to post it, so I’m posting it a week later and have inserted **updates throughout to confuse you.

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Hi everyone! I’m writing from Houston, where it’s 97 (million) degrees and soupy.  Mmmmmm, my favorite.

To catch you up, our friends visiting us in Boston end of last month was AWESOME.  The weather was [mostly] amazing and we hit all the touristy high points, as well as a few non-touristy high points, and had a blast.   A few highlights included watching a Red Sox Game in Fenway Park, eating lobster rolls in the park on a beautiful day in Cambridge, and bowling while it poured rain out on the first day.  I have the BEST friends, I tell you.  What an amazing group!

** This is not an update, but I forgot to write before that I watched the entire season 1 of Nashville between school ending and moving to Houston and it was awesome.  And I still struggle daily with the outcome of the finale.  I just… have so many questions.

I moved to Houston on May 31.  Rush has been to visit me twice (well, once was when he came with me the weekend that I moved down).  He’s coming basically every other weekend and sometimes more, but it sure is hard when he’s not here.  Especially right after he leaves and I know it’s another 2 weeks until he is back (aka this past Monday/Tuesday).  Terrible!!

On the other hand, it has been so nice getting to see friends.  Doing dinners, watching The Bachelorette, eating queso.  We have been truly truly blessed to know some wonderful people in Boston, and I honestly miss them very much and can’t wait to get back together in the fall, but MAN it is so good to spend time with old friends.  One year (well, 10 months really) is not enough time to get to know people to the same level as the ones you have known for years, and while I’m sure we will get there with many of our Boston friends, it is nice to just relax into an old, deep, comfy relationship where all you have to do is pick up where you left off.  Last week when Rush was in town we hosted a small BBQ at my apartment by the pool and just hung out with friends and chatted, which was so awesome.  My mom was able to come for the weekend a few weeks ago, and this weekend Rush won’t be here so I’m going out to Katy Saturday afternoon to hang out with Hayli/Chelsea/Kelly plus their boys and sweet Aves and then spend the night and go to church with the Clarke’s on Sunday morning.  Basically, weekends in Houston, TX are good for the soul.

** Update: I did this, and it was awesome.  And Avery is hilarious, and I love my friends.

My apartment/rental car/job are all good.  I am working in the measurement systems division of Cameron (think flowmeters, oh ya, good stuff) up by the airport.  My commute is an easy 20 minutes against traffic and my boss and coworkers are great people.  It’s taking a little bit of time to understand the mechanics of Coriolis and Ultrasonic flow meters, but I’m working it out and pretty excited about my 10 weeks here.  I am doing three projects – a market study, a forecast model, and a “value messaging” project to market one of the new products.  I am working in a “division” which is the equivalent of being in a business unit, which in oil & gas is an interesting place to be.  I’m missing some of the corporate perks but love being so close to where the money is actually made.

One thing that is killing me a little bit though is the isolation of working in a cube.  I didn’t realize how much I loved the social aspect of being in a team room, working with 5-10 other people at ONE TABLE… even though I can hear/feel people all around me it is actually exhausting for me to be so….. alone.  So on the days when I also don’t have plans after work, it gets pretty ugly.  There is a fair amount of talking to myself, and then there was that time two days ago when I started obsessively googling things about poisonous ingredients in beauty products and was texting all my friends telling them they had to stop washing their hair and using underarm deodorant or they’d surely die.  I shouldn’t be allowed to live alone.  Oh, the challenges of extraversion.

** Update – on Friday, I went to a steak luncheon in the breakroom (yes, steak, in large foil pans).  I met all kinds of people and felt very socially satisfied!

Rush is hanging out in Boston, working hard and still playing basketball at the YMCA.  Oh, and two days ago we signed up for a half marathon in Providence, Rhode Island at the end of September.  It won’t be Rush’s first race by a long shot, but it will be mine and I’m actually kind of excited.  He somehow convinced me to do this in a moment of weakness (pre-coffee, middle of finals, deathly ill) but now that I’ve started to ease into the training process and, of course, now that we actually chose a race, I’m oddly positive about it all.  Of course, I’m only up to 3 miles, so ask me again after my 10 mile training run and see what I say J.  Rush and I have never done something like this together and I’m excited about having this goal in common.  We’ll see if we run together during the actual race (he sometimes tells me that ‘I run so slow it makes his legs cramp up’) but training together and talking about it will be fun for sure.

The real kicker is that I’ve chosen to do a race where the bulk of my training will happen while I’m in HOUSTON in the SUMMER (get a brain, seriously) so I have been waking up 3-4 times a week reallyyyyyy early and running before the sun comes up.  Don’t worry mom, there are a lot of people out at that time, since it’s the only time runners can run between May and October in this city.  It’s safe, swear.

** Update: Saturday I ran 4 miles.  Yippee!!  I got a giant blister on my pinky toe and maybe almost died of heat stroke, but I remain committed to conquering my inner diva.  Marla says I should do a “yogathon”, but anyone who’s ever done that twist lunge thingy or those air chair-sits in yoga would agree with me that I think this half marathon will be easier…

Okay, that’s all friends!  Sorry, I’ve been delinquent.  This working stuff is kinda time consuming… who knew???

girls in boston

Friends in Boston!! Are they pretty or what??Fenway

Rush and I at our first Red Sox game at Fenway park on Memorial Day.  Beautiful day, great company, and the Sox won!blog

Our group after the Red Sox game.

church with aves

Church with Aves.  She is the favorite in the church nursery, they won’t even let her graduate to the “walkers” class b/c they love her too much.  She just has the most hilarious (mostly sweet) personality!!mom and I

Mom came to visit – this is where she showed me how she learned to take pictures of her and my dad when they were on vacation.  I have still not learned, clearly…

School’s out for summer (which means I have to get a job…) !!

Well hello there!  So much has been going on lately and I have thought often about sharing it all with y’all but haven’t had a chance so hopefully I can capture most of it here.

Since my last post, most of my time has been spent doing things that pertain to the school year ramping down – our RC formal in Newport, RI, finals, working on the final push for our engagement ring micro-business, preparing to move to Houston for the summer.

I seriously cannot believe this year is over.  It feels like it both lasted a decade and also flew by in a month.  It is hard to comprehend or put into words how much I have learned… in fact I’m still not sure, but I know it’s a lot.  I have become a full supporter of the case method and feel so incredibly lucky to have sat in a classroom learning from brilliant professors alongside 91 of the most accomplished, articulate, kind, and fun people I have ever met for 6 hours a day for the last 9 months.  One of the things I heard a lot before coming to HBS was how competitive and cut-throat people are here, and my experience couldn’t have been further from that.  The second you send an email to the section asking for help on something – whether it be borrowing a car to go pick something up, medicine because you are sick, help with your resume, or a question related to class content – you get a barrage of immediate responses from people willing to help you.  There is just such a culture of support and family, and it was so awesome to watch that grow over the year.  We did get a lot of comments from our professors about how our section was extraordinarily close, so maybe that’s what it was (they probably tell everyone that though 😉 ).

Anyway, point is, the end of the year was exciting but very bittersweet.  Next year we won’t all be in class together and we won’t spend as much time together, which is very sad.

We’ve also been *trying to enjoy the crap out of spring up here.  Y’all, it was seriously amazing the way the sun came out, the trees all BLOOMED, and everyone just became instantly overjoyed to be through with winter.  Everyone talks about fall up here, which is truly amazing as well, but spring is no joke either!  Absolutely gorgeous.

I say “trying to enjoy spring” above because Rush and I have spent the better part of the last month or so trading illnesses – I started it with a pretty nasty cold turned sinus infection, which he then got, and gave back to me in the form of a nasty cough, which I then gave back to him.  It was pretty miserable, but at least we alternated so we could take care of each other.  I had big plans for my birthday weekend but ended up spending it with a 101 fever and only making it out of the house for a dinner with friends that we had planned for Saturday night.  Oh well, such is life!  We are both much better now and hope to stay that way.

Next up is my move to Houston for the summer.  Rush and I will both fly down next Friday and he will come back Sunday.  The company I am working for has me set up with a furnished apartment and a rental car, so I’m set to hit the ground running.  I’m super sad to be leaving Rush for the summer (and this beautiful weather!!), but it’s only 10 weeks and it will be good to see family and friends.  Plus, he will visit often!

AND LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST… my best frands and their awesome men are all about to visit in just a few short hours!! Chelsea, Kelly, Anna and Hayli are heading to Boston today (with Rob, David, Ryan and Jonathan of course) and we have a fun weekend planned to explore the city and spend some QT together.  I seriously can’t wait!!

Here are some pictures and I can’t wait to see many of you this summer!!

SONY DSCClambake in Newport for RC formal weekendInsta - Newport BallRush and I all dolled up for Newport BallSONY DSCSpring in Boston!! Glorious!!SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCThe TX club hosted a Chili Cookoff one weekend in April – it was so beautiful outside and fun!Insta - pensSecond-to-last class day – my seatmates always made fun of me for my colored pen collection (story of my life) and the loved that my shirt on the last day matched my pens!Last Day of ClassLast class as Section I – our professor took us outside (completely unheard of, we don’t do things like that around here… we prefer to stay in our windowless dungeon classrooms).  We sat in the sunshine and talked about how much we loved each other – doesn’t get much better!Insta - Row

Last class – picture with our row – Kevin, Ashley, Gerard, me, and Jackie.  Jackie and Gerard kept me sane this semester and made class more fun than it should have been!

Now that it’s been a week…

Hi friends!!  Happy Friday.  I am off of school today because our spring formal is this weekend, so as soon as Rush gets off of work we are throwing our suitcases in the car and heading to Newport, RI.  We have the actual formal tonight, then other fun activities tomorrow such as a clambake and then a party at night.  I’m really excited, but also just shocked that this is the event we have been talking about all year as far as the “capstone to the RC year” and IT’S HERE.  Wow, time flies.

Before too much time has passed, I wanted to do a post about the Boston Bombings.  The main reason for this is that this blog is partly for y’all and, honestly, partly for us to document our time here, and these events were a significant part.  I won’t talk about nearly everything, as there is SO MUCH, but I hope to capture a little bit here about what we specifically experienced and how we felt during and now after the event.

The day of the actual bombings was less scary for us than it could have been.  It was more shocking than anything.  Rush works basically a 2 minute walk from where the blasts were, and had he not been the one to tell me something had happened, I would have been beside myself with worry.  I had not gone to the finish line after all, and was at home in Cambridge working on school work.  I was SO THANKFUL when he got home later that day, and even cried a little bit (duh), but was never really really worried about him.  The school immediately launched into making sure everyone, students and partners, were accounted for, so we did a lot of texting and calling around to our classmates and eventually, all 1800+ of us were denoted safe and sound.  Unfortunately, we found out the next day that one of the victims was the daughter of a woman who has worked at HBS for decades, so that was extremely sad.  We didn’t have school on Tuesday but then were “back to it” on Wednesday.

Looking back, one of the hardest things about Monday was trying to reconcile the joy of the early part of the day with the sadness/terror of the afternoon and evening. The marathon is SUCH a huge deal here and people are so proud of it.  The people crossing the finish line have trained for months and years to be doing just that, and it’s often one of the happiest moments of their lives with their dearest friends and family watching.  To say that the bombers chose “just the right event” to strike at the heart of Boston is very much true, and people were heartbroken…

The opposite of “never really that worried” came on Friday.  I had known going to bed Thursday that there had been shooters at MIT, but Rush was already asleep so I told him about it sleepily as he awoke on Friday morning at 4:30 am.  An hour later, when he was leaving, he came and told me goodbye and whispered this to me:

“The shooters were the bombers, and one is dead and the other is on the run.  There was a shootout in Watertown, they are looking for him there.  Anyway, don’t go to class, promise me, and I’m headed to work.”

Needless to say, I begged him not to go but my hardworking husband felt that he had to, and off he went.  I maintain that 5:30 am is too early for logical reasoning, and that’s why he went, but I immediately got out of bed and started watching the news and basically had a full-out panic attack until he walked back in the door at about 2 pm.  We have discussed this at length and have both agreed it will never happen again – being with your family is SO important in times like these.  I can’t believe his company didn’t cancel work but then again, early mornings are hard for thinking clearly sometimes.

Anyway, by 7 am we were on lockdown and by 8 am the entire city was on lockdown.  The entire city stopped mid-step.  There were no taxis, no one walking around outside, not trains in and out.  The only noises were sirens.  Watertown is scary close to our place.  It’s where I go to Target and would probably take me about 4 minutes to drive to in my car.  I had to take the trash out at one point, which means I had to take it like 2 doors down INSIDE my apartment building, and I was jumpy the entire time.  The entire day felt very very eerie – danger seemed very close and I had no idea what was really going on outside.

At 4 pm we went to another person’s apartment (still inside our building) and hung out for a bit and while we were there they lifted the stay-in order.  This was pretty disconcerting because what I basically heard from them was “we have no idea where he is but we can’t keep the city shut down any longer.  oh and by the way he’s probably still in cambridge AND likely wearing a bomb.”  Ugh.  I think we all felt stir crazy, anxious, and disappointed.

When they finally found him, I felt SO RELIEVED.  It was almost like I didn’t realize until then how stressed out the whole thing had made me.  I also realized, cheesy at it may sound, that for the first time Boston really felt like home those few days after (and still now).  Our community took care of each other and the city showed an incredibly touching, close spirit  through lots of emotions – heartache, worry, terror, anxiety, boredom, confusion and relief.  I wasn’t sure if there were people out there as awesome as the ones in Texas, but trust me, there are.  They may not seem as “nice” but they are good and they are loyal, proud, and compassionate.

And now this week – what a great week!! There are still many people struggling and so many mourning, but overall the vibe is full of SPRINGTIME, hope, and energy.  I walked to Harvard Square the Saturday morning after they found the suspect and everyone was so… happy.  The sun was out, there were flowers blooming, everyone said hi to each other.  Very cool.  And this week the weather has been awesome (well, most of the time – I mean, it’s still April, let’s not get greedy).  There are these beautiful white and pink trees everywhere, the rowers are back on the river, people are everywhere jogging, and the sun stays out until like 8 pm.  Even the buses – Harvard and city buses – all drive around with “Boston Strong” on their little electronic banner thingies.

I realize this is a pretty disjointed post/story but that’s kinda the way it all fits together in my mind.  We are thankful to be safe and thankful that our friends are too.  We pray that God brings peace to those who weren’t so lucky and to the men and women who are still working so hard to get to the bottom of this.  God is good, ALL the time.

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Dinner last Friday night – macaroni and cheese and a nice bottle of wine from our last trip to Napa.  “Because we earned it”…

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Sign at breakfast last Saturday (the day after).  photo 3Photo 2

Springtime and a chili cookoff last Sunday – a great way to come back together, enjoy the sunshine, and eat yummy food/drink free beer!

We [were] on a boat!!

Hi friends!!  Just checking in for my now bi-monthly blog post.  Things are great here in Boston.  It has really started to warm up and the sun actually stays out past 4:30 pm (much past, in fact) so that is a blessing.  I ate lunch OUTSIDE one day this week (with a coat on) and it was super pleasant.  However, today we had a slight regression with some sleet which makes me feel cheated, slighted, and generally enraged.

Rush and I celebrated our two year wedding anniversary on Tuesday by going to a lovely dinner in the South End just the two of us.  We NEVER do that anymore – there is always something going on and some small group we are doing things with and so it was really nice to sit and talk to just each other and be all lovey dovey and stuff.  He is pretty wonderful and I am very very lucky.

Since we last “talked” we’ve had a few picture-worthy things going on including Kate’s visit in early March and our Spring Break trip to the British Virgin Islands with some of my classmates.  First – Kate’s visit.  Seriously, I know I’ve said this a few times but it is hard to explain how much it means to me to have friends and family come visit.  There is such a comfort in spending time with people who you’ve known for so long.  We are constantly getting to know people here and while that is so wonderful and makes for such a rich experience, it can be kind of exhausting.  Visiting with family and old friends is relaxing and so much fun and I’m so glad Kate came!!  We did lots of Boston-y things and she got some great weather (although it snowed 18 INCHES right before she arrived) so that was a bonus.

A week after her visit we left freezing cold Boston behind for a week on a “yacht” (I’d call it a sailboat) in the British Virgin Islands.  In total, there were about 30 people from my section (students and also partners) on the trip and probably about 100 HBS people overall across 12 boats.  It was such a great trip!! First of all, it was WARM and sunny.  Each day we basically woke up (after sleeping on the boat), left whatever island we were on, sailed for 2-6 hours, stopped at another island, swam, read, laid in the sun, bathed in the ocean like mermaids, then went to dinner and to some sort of party.  Repeat times 7 days and we left rested, tan, and thawed out.  I didn’t realize how beautiful the BVIs were – I feel silly that I’ve never gone there before when it’s so close!!

School is going pretty well and VERY fast this semester.  My favorite class is “BGIE” which stands for Business, Government and the International Economy.  Basically, each class we study different countries from an economic and a political standpoint and it is SO interesting.  The cases are long and dense, and honestly it makes me feel pretty ridiculous that I don’t know most of this stuff or really haven’t taken the time before to keep up with it and study it, but I am learning so much and look forward to the class very much.

Anyway, speaking of friends in town, ANNA is here for work right now and we are off to dinner with her.  So exciting! Here are some pics.  MISS Y’ALL!

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Snowy but sunny for Kate’s visit!SONY DSC SONY DSC

Brewery tour with Kate and Boston friends.SONY DSC SONY DSC

Yacht Week begins – getting on our boats for the first night.SONY DSC

Loading up our leetle boat with food, drinks and lots of water.SONY DSC

Our precious skipper Jens – he was 22, Danish, a great sailor and we had a great time dissecting his love life and making him feel generally uncomfortable.SONY DSC

Sailing off on day 1!SONY DSC

First stop – The Baths.  All of the members of our boat – Hibben, Cory, Amanda, Elizabeth, Peter, me, and Rush.SONY DSC

Done sailing for the day, rafted up with the other boats from our section to hang out before dinner.SONY DSC

Some other day, some other island – Cory, Khaled, and Rush.SONY DSC

See what I mean – gorgeous!! I didn’t do a thing to this picture, that was what life looked like from my own eyes for a whole week!!!SONY DSC

Section I boats and our flags.SONY DSC

Not the best picture of me but hey, there were no blow dryers/straighteners or MIRRORS so I think I did okay.SONY DSC

Best boat picture again, at dinner on one of the islands.SONY DSC SONY DSC

This is what life is supposed to be like – laying in the sun, on a sailboat, with awesome people and good music.SONY DSC

What I apparently look like after 7 days of sun.

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Sunset on the last night 😦SONY DSC

Cooking dinner for our boat in our tiny little cabin kitchen – quite an experience (which is why we only did it a couple of times).

Picture-less update

I gotta tell y’all, the “reason” why I never post is because it is such a complicated process to get pictures from my phone to my email to my computer to my blog… and there HAS to be pictures, right?? How can I expect my loyal readers (aka Marla) to drudge through my posts with no PICTURES??

Today, I give you no pictures.  I just want to tell you what’s up and I don’t have time for the phone to email to computer to blog process.  I will instead wow you with my wit and brilliant writing.

So, as usual, a ton of stuff has happened lately.  We are back in the full swing of classes and my coursework has again swept me completely off my feet.  I thought my classes last semester were great, and they were, but this semester they are AMAZING.  The subject matter is incredible* and our professors are even more incredible. But, incredible = incredibly time consuming, and I am back in the habit of spending a ton of time prepping cases every day.  We are also launching a business as part of the coursework, as I talked about in my last post.  My group is working on an idea to disrupt the engagement ring buying process (think – the way Edmunds and True Car revolutionized the car buying process) and we’ve come up with some pretty exciting stuff.  But take note – starting a business is hard!!!  Not only are there websites, tests, pivots, and all kinds of other administrative details but there are also endless discussions, debates, white boards, and pitch presentations.  It’s fun, but it’s a lot of work, time, and money (that’s thankfully not mine, this time).

*Note that there are some exceptions to the awesome curriculum – like in Finance, we studied BONDS for a few classes.  the. worst. ever. Apparently people actually deal with that stuff for their jobs… reason number twelve million why I could never be a finance-y person.

Speaking of jobs, I got one! For the summer!  I will be going back to Houston for ten weeks to work at Cameron International.  The role is kind of a mixture between strategy, business development, marketing, and general leadership development… so ya I don’t really know what that means but I DO know I’m going to get a paycheck and Rush is pretty pleased about that fact.  Unfortunately, we will not be living together for the summer but I already have a fully detailed schedule of when we are going to visit each other and we will survive (my biggest fear is that Rush will fall back to his dinners of nutrigrain bars and Monster energy drinks with no one to cook for him).  Most importantly though, Cameron offers their interns free corporate housing, so I’ll be able to just walk right into a fully furnished apartment and Y’ALL – I bet it will have a dishwasher and maybeeeee even a washer and dryer.  Basically it’ll be a castle.  I’m so excited to work for a few months, spend time with some of my very best friends, and eat queso every single day at Lupe Tortilla/Escalantes/Chuys/El Tiempo/Tony’s.

Last weekend HBS had their 22nd Annual Dynamic Women in Business Conference, which was awesome, and I got to plan and host the Energy Panel.  That meant I got to invite a group of awesome ladies to come speak to students and then sit and listen to all of their wisdom.  We got some bad-a** women if I do say so myself – the CEO of ComEd, the CEO of PNM Resources, the CFO of Southern California Edison, and the CFO of Marathon Oil.  These women were sharp and funny and so so smart and accomplished.  It was such an honor to listen to them for an hour and then get to chat with them one-on-one for awhile afterwards.  I still can’t believe they all came.  Literally all we had to do was email them with an invite and they all just were like “Ya! we’d love to come all the way to Boston to speak on your measly panel for just one hour and of course we’ll also pay for our plane tickets and hotel stays!”  It was truly a very impactful experience and reminded me of the strength of the HBS brand in the business world.

My sweet hubs is doing well also.  He is very happy because he finally got some skiing in up here – we went to Stowe, VT over President’s Day weekend and then he went up to New Hampshire for a day last weekend with a friend.  He is also playing in a basketball league at a local YMCA with a coworker and last night I got to go watch his game, which they won (yay!).  It is so nice to have a non-student spouse to rip me out of my bubble every once in awhile and remind me that the world is still going on around me.  Also, when I start crying over the difficulty of bond math in Finance (like I said earlier – MISERY) (and yes, I really did cry… and that wasn’t the first time that’s happened) he can grab my feet and put them back on the ground and remind me that it’s all going to be all right and I should probably close that book, hope I don’t get cold-called, and watch The Walking Dead with him.  He’s a keeper.

That’s all (I always do surprise myself with how much I write in these posts)… March starts tomorrow which is going to be super duper fun month.  First, Kate is coming to visit Boston, which I am completely fired up about.  Then, for Spring Break (yeah, remember THAT concept??), Rush and I are joining about 30 classmates on a week-long yacht sailing adventure in the British Virgin Islands – there is going to be SUN and water and bathing suits and I am going to be so warm.  I don’t even know what warmth feels like anymore!  And finally, later in the month we are going to visit some friends for a long weekend in Chicago.  It should all be perfectly wonderful!

That’s all for now.  We love y’all!

 

 

omg Nemo!

Hi everyone!! We wanted to give you a quick snow report and life report and share some pics from our Nemo adventures so here ya go.

The snow started Friday around 10 am and escalated pretty quickly throughout the afternoon.  Rush works half days on Friday and we were actually off of school Friday for recruiting stuff so it worked out perfectly.  We sat inside and watched movies and watched the snow pick up all afternoon, then went over to a friend’s house that evening when things really started to pick up (don’t worry, we had to walk outside for like 8 seconds to get there, love on-campus living).  We left that friend’s house at midnight and WHOA was it blizzarding.  I could hardly stand up in the wind!! When we woke up Saturday it was still snowing but it tapered off pretty quickly and we headed out about noon to walk around and check out the results of the storm.

All in all we got about 2.5 feet of snow and it was so beautiful and peaceful.  I know that in a few days or a week the snow will be all brown and dirty and disgusting, so I’m ready for that, but walking around yesterday was pretty breathtaking.  It was slightly sunny too so the sun was almost sparkling.  All the streets were still covered in snow and the traffic ban was still in effect so there was no traffic on the streets, just tons of people out walking around, having snowball fights, making snow angels, and cross-country skiing on the streets (hilarious).  We found a few open restaurants last night and shared a nice dinner with a few other couples from our section and recounted our blizzard experiences.  All in all a very relaxing and kinda exciting experience.  That said, we are the lucky ones because we never lost power.  I can’t imagine how COLD some people are without their heat.

Besides Nemo we have little to report.  We went to Texas two weeks ago for Wes and Crystal’s wedding and man oh man was it a fun time!!  We woke up the day of the wedding a little nervous as it was overcast and drizzly and the wedding was supposed to be outside, but Crystal took it in stride and we all crossed our fingers and the sun came out about an hour before the ceremony.  It was truly such a beautiful day – beautiful setting, beautiful bride, beautiful couple!! The only thing not as beautiful was my crying, which lasted from before the ceremony when we all prayed together until after my mom and Wes shared their dance (e.g. through the ceremony and through all the dances).  Rush said I should really stop crying and I swear I did try but I just couldn’t!!  I’m so happy to have a sister and I’m even more happy to know that my brother is loved and cherished by such a kind, smart, beautiful woman.  What a sense of peace that brings :).

I’ve also been interviewing for some summer internships, so more to come on that soon as we get things figured out, but I am just pretty glad that I am (hopefully) done interviewing.  As much as I love talking about myself WHEW it really can be exhausting.  We have been back in class for two weeks and I’m really excited about this semester.  Most of our professors are very experienced and basically bad-a**es and I am finding the material and discussions to be a lot more interesting than last semester already.  Our classes include:

  • Strategy
  • Business, Government, and the International Economy
  • Leadership and Corporate Accountability
  • Finance 2
  • The Entrepreneurial Manager
  • FIELD 3 – So for this class, we work in teams of 7 and we start a business with $5k seed money from the university.  Our group has a pretty solid and very exciting idea that we will be presenting for the first time this Wednesday and I can’t wait to share it with all of you and maybe even get some feedback.  We will present to another section and then they will open up a fake stock market where that section can buy and trade stocks from each of the “companies”… the ones with the highest stock price end up advancing and getting more money to get started.  If our idea ends up “working” we own the rights to the business as of May 31 this year, so we are very motivated and excited!!

Okay, that’s all for now.  Here are some pictures of our Nemo adventures!

487844_10101308044175948_901270858_n 529429_10101308044769758_1340217791_nWe found a Nemo cave!! (the first three photos are courtesy of the amazingly talented Brittany Strebeck… she’s a professional so I think I have to do that or it’s illegal or something… and I think she’s going to make fun of me for writing all of this but WHAT IF she decided to sue me? You can never be too careful… Just kidding she’d never do that, but ya she took the pics okay? Okay.)

photo3 photo4Those are cars… that super expensive garage we park in seems worth every penny now.

photo5 photo6 photo7 photo8

Right outside our apartment – before and after Nemo.

photo2After dinner last night, Rush convinces me to walk THROUGH the snow across Baker Lawn (~100 yards).  His logic: “Babe, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity!!!”  The snow was almost up to my hips…

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Rush just taking a little break after our snow trudge.  He sure does love the snow – he was like a kid on Christmas eve waiting for the blizzard!

Ghana part 2

Well hello!! I have been back in Boston for a week now and am just getting around to posting my update on how the second part of my trip went.  Sorry for the delay… it’s “dedicated interview period” up in hurr so I’ve had other things on my mind.  Rush told me that I am required to get a job this summer and bring in some cash, no more desparate housewives summers for me, so I have been focusing on that.  I’ve had 5 interviews so far, I have 2 tomorrow, and then I have at least 2 next week (waiting to hear back on whether or not I get second-rounds with some companies).  Oh and did I mention that it’s negative 7,023 degrees here right now????  It’s so cold my face hurts when I step outside.  So there’s that.

But, MOST EXCITINGLY, we leave Friday morning to head back to [warm] TX for Wes and Crystal’s wedding.  Can y’all believe it’s already here?  My awesome big brother is marrying a sweet, beautiful, amazing, smart woman.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – God is so, so good.

I wrote about the second half of my Ghana adventure on the plane on the way home, so I’ll paste that below along with some pictures.  It’s long, but what’s new? Enjoy and have a lovely rest of the week!

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Hi everyone!!  I am headed back from Africa.  Hooray!  It was a wonderful and transformational trip, but also physically and emotionally exhausting and after 12 days away from Rush and way too many hours spent in airplanes with crying babies (seriously, surrounding me! on my flight today I can literally reach out and touch five babies) I am so happy to be headed back to Boston.  Did I mention that I missed Rush like A WHOLE LOT???

The trip ended on a great note when we presented our recommendations to our client Monday of this week.  Basically, our task while there was to help a struggling toilet paper manufacturing company figure out how on earth they were going to become cash positive (after four years, FOUR YEARS, of not a single cash positive month) and improve their product to maintain market share in an increasingly competitive tp market.  To do this, we wanted to get very close to the consumers and talk to them about the product and what they like and don’t like and what they are really looking for in a toilet paper.  Not only is that an uncomfortable subject, but the primary consumers of our product were low income people, people who could just barely afford to purchase toilet paper.  All that to say, we spent two whole days last week walking around in hot-sunny-humid-dusty Accra chatting with Ghanaians.  We went to retail areas, markets, middle-income neighborhoods, churches, and a few slums.  We talked to many people who make just 40 Ghana cidi in a good week.  The exchange rate is 1.85 cidi to dollar, so basically that is just over $20 per week of income.  We had wonderful, long, thoughtful discussions with them (in English, mind you) and they were so excited to talk to us and share with us about their toilet paper preferences and their toilet habits.

We were instructed on day one to not tell anyone where we went to school, but rather just to tell them that we were “students from the US doing research”.  We thought this was because we didn’t want people to feel like they couldn’t relate to us or whatever, but we found out later when talking to our guide that it’s only because if they knew, they wouldn’t want to talk about toilet paper but rather would want to spend all their time asking us questions about Harvard and American universities.  Everyone seemed to really love Americans and they were so kind to us.

To make a long story short, all of our super-sophisticated-and-beautifully-complex analysis and consumer interviews basically allowed us to tell our client that they have to make their toilet paper WHITE.  I know that just blew your mind, so take a minute to process.  The truth is, the product is currently a bit gray and people view it as unclean, unsanitary, and actually even shameful to use and thus the product is rapidly losing market share in the face of cheap, very white, Chinese substitutes.

I think the most shocking thing about business in Ghana was the utter lack of infrastructure.  We saw it all week, but it never lost its shock value.  There is just a huge void that the government should be filling and they are not.  In our big debrief session with our professor, many of us stated our shock and concern with this.  We discussed how, in the US, it often seems that private businesses are so self-sufficient, and, frankly, better at doing just about everything when compared to the government.  It is important to realize though that there has been and still is a lot that the government does behind the scenes to allow those businesses to perform as effectively as they do.  You don’t really think about that angle until you see a country with so many bright people, so many good ideas, and so much energy that is completely unable to accomplish many of its goals because the government has failed to create an environment for businesses to thrive.  They are working on it though, and I can’t wait to see what the country is like in five years, 10 years, and beyond.

Enough about work.  We took a break from our “immersion” experience to have a pool party on Friday night at the hotel of the other 45 HBS students in Accra, the Movenpick.  It was nice to get both groups together, and we hung out by the pool and had drinks and talked and listened to music, etc.  It was a reality check too – all week we were able to kid ourselves as we walked around the slums chatting with people and acting like we were really tough and truly “immersed” in this third-world country (when actually our guides and drivers were around every corner).  At the pool party, I looked around at one point and counted no less than six security peeps forming a circle around our little party and I remembered that I was American and not actually that tough and not actually doing anything by myself or for myself in Ghana.  Oh well, we were thankful for the support that we were provided.  I’m sure Marla was too.

Saturday we visited a village outside of Accra and learned about their trades (pottery and weaving) and played with a whole hoard of super cute kiddos.  Everywhere we walked in the village, there were at least two kids hanging on my arms (and everyone else’s arms).  It was a really fun day and we got to participate in a naming ceremony with the whole village and shake hands with the chief and stuff so that was neato.  The chief said we were always welcome there and would be offered land and labor if we ever came back, and then when we were leaving our bus broke down and we got reallllllll close to testing that invitation.  In the end though, we fixed it, and bumped back to Accra (bumped, because the roads are absolutely ridiculous…. infrastructure, people! infrastructure).

Ok another story, this one’s good, so you’ll want to pay attention.  Although, I guess if you’re reading you already by default paying attention.  ANYWAY, our global partner offered to hook us up with a local seamstress to make us traditional African dresses which of course we were like HELLSSSS YA (because that’s how American’s talk in foreign countries).  So we go to the shop of this precious woman named Bernice and order our dresses and of course have to get measured.  I go first, and Bernice measures my chest, then my waist… then… dun dun dun… the hips.  And she looks up at me and goes “ohhhh… this number is big… you got the African booty”.  And of course everyone laughed at me for like ever, in fact they are still laughing, and that just is what it is.  I have the African booty, people.

I think that is just about it.  It was a wonderful wonderful experience with great friends (shout-out to my wonderful and hilarious roomie Elise) and I’m so thankful to HBS and their generous alumni network for the opportunity.  Our main guide gave a short speech the last day and said “I have been watching your teams all week, out in the heat, running around this city and working late into the night as if you are going to make a lot of money for this.  We thank you so much, please keep doing it for Ghana, we are a great country but our businesses need help.”  The HBS FIELD program is just a great addition to the curriculum design and I commend the leadership for the idea and the speedy implementation.

Above – chatting with some girls in a container store about TP and feminine products, and below – doing customer research with a taxi driver while he waited for the mechanic to fix his taxi. Above and below – sweet little kiddos in the village of Torgorme outside of Accra.  Seriously, these kids are professionally trained to be adorable. Our whole HBS “cohort” in Accra – dinner the last night.My team with our awesome driver and guide/translator.  They put up with us all week and were seriously invaluable.

Fake-out Africa post

Hello!! Yes, I am still in Africa, BUT we finished preparing our final presentation for our global partner tomorrow and I had a few extra minutes before dinner so wanted to post a few pictures of our Christmas travel.  I realize this is confusing… I’m in Africa, I already posted about something that happened after Christmas, Christmas was a long time ago, there is so much more (SO much more) to share about my experience in Ghana… But basically I forgot to post these pictures and really really want to because we had a really really really good time.  Oh also I don’t have my camera cord with me so Africa will have to wait.  I’m a strategic blogger, clearly.

For Christmas we went to Taos for a week and then to San Marcos for 4 days.  We had so much fun in Taos – lots of skiing, great food, card games, and just good ole family time with ALL kids/kids in law in attendance.  If you know my mother-in-law you know there are few things she loves more than having all her kiddos in one place and also few things that are harder for her to get than all her kiddos in one place.  It was a great week indeed!

San Marcos was a great time as well – we got some QT in with the ‘rents, shared a meal with Megan and Adam, watched some football, and hung out with sweet Aves and my amazing friends for a bit.  Even better, the family postponed our big Ragland Christmas until all the cousins could attend.  Big family get togethers are crazy but also so comforting to me :).

All in all, Rush and I are so lucky that our parents are good at sharing, they sure make the holidays easy on us.  Here are some pictures!! Xoxo

Milam boys ready to ski!Christmas Eve, headed to church

Per Jo’s request, we had an awesome photo shoot of the boys on Christmas Eve.  They were troopers, and it was hilarious.

SONY DSC

My sweet (and good looking) in-laws

 

Woke up to so much fresh snow on Christmas morning! (too much, actually, as my thighs later informed me when I tried to ski in it)

Kisses from the sweetest baby girl that there ever was… 

Dad holding Avery…

And mom holding Avery!! She’s such a sweetheart and such a laid back, friendly baby.  

Update from Accra, Ghana

Hey everyone!  We are just wrapping up our fourth day in Ghana and I wanted to do a quick post to let everyone know that I am safe, healthy, etc. as well as a little about what we have seen and done so far.

I should start by saying that we are here in Ghana as part of a school project where my entire HBS class (900 students) goes around the world to one of nine locations (all developing economies… although I do think Ghana is probably least developed) to work with companies in groups of six to create a new, innovative product.  My group is working with a Ghanaian toilet paper manufacturer.  We have been working on this from the US since September and let me tell you, it has been interesting.  The innovation process involves a lot of customer interviews about preferences and what they are looking for in a product, so I just want you all to take a second and think about the fact that my special little team of six has spent hundreds of hours talking about bathroom habits – our own, our friends’, the people that we’ve interviewed… we are all pretty close at this point :).

Anyway, we have worked two days now with our partner company and it has been exhausting but also great and extremely interesting.  Today we went to the huge central market in Accra and talked with retailers and consumers about toilet paper – what brands they sell/buy, what they look for, how much they are willing to spend, what they would like to see change about the products.  The market was incredibly crowded, busy, a bit smelly, and so alive.  It was truly awesome.  We also went to a local church and sat with a group of women (all mothers) for a little over an hour and just chatted about their toilet paper consumption in the same way.  Tomorrow we will go through some innovation thinking and design and try to come up with a new product to meet the needs of the consumers, then Thursday we will take a rough prototype back to the market and speak with consumers about it.  We wrap up our research Friday and present to the board of our global partner on Monday.

So far my impressions of this city have been wide-ranging.  Ghana is truly a developing economy.  There is very little infrastructure and there are a number of problems with sanitation and overall “urban planning” as the city is growing at an incredibly rapid rate.  For example, there is new construction EVERYWHERE for offices and some homes, but there are also many slums with nowhere to put their trash or waste.  The people are incredibly friendly and also very happy.  I haven’t witnessed any violence and hear that even the slums are non-violent places as everyone acts as a big family in a way and takes care of each other.  The family unit is very strong and there are women everywhere carrying large baskets of goods on their heads that they sell to stopped cars while their sweet babies rest peacefully in slings on their backs (side note – when I was SO HOT today in the market, I would see those women walking with those babies and think “wow what if I had a super hot BABY strapped to my back right now”… omg).

So far there have been very few issues with my group’s travel.  A few people lost luggage but have now recovered it, and a few others have been pretty sick from taking their anti-malarials.  I, thankfully, have had no issues (knock on wood, prayers accepted and appreciated, etc.) and actually had very little jetlag despite the 24 hours it took to get here.  Our hotel is really reallyyyy nice, which is a plus.  Side note, Ghana’s new president, His Excellency John Mahana, was inaugurated yesterday.  For the ceremony, tons of diplomats stayed at our hotel Sunday night, including five presidents of other African nations such as South Africa.  Oh the nerdy celebrity watching!!  That and there were giant men with SUPER GIANT machine guns hanging around the hotel and circling the pool and the hallways all night.  Not weird at all. In fact, it was kinda like my wedding… oh, the memories.  Oh and the food is AMAZING.  Like I want to pack it in my suitcase and bring it home amazing…

Besides work, we have a big formal dinner with our teams and global partners tomorrow night, an HBS party event thingy on Friday night, and then a day trip to a traditional village with some other things on Saturday.  I leave next Tuesday, one week from today.  Time is flying by!

Here are a few pictures – I forgot my camera cord so all my pics are stuck on my camera for now, but most of these are stolen from the facebook of one of the girls in my group.  I’ll update again either right before I leave or when I get back to Boston.  Much love!!

Pool at our hotel, Labadi Beach Resort

Pool at our hotel, Labadi Beach Resort

Me, Alison and Grace – both on my team – on Oxford Street in Osu (an Accra neighborhood)A neighborhood on the beach on the way to our global partner’s facility

The team with our driver, our and about in Accra (this neighborhood is called Jamestown).

Factory tour with our global partners (Ali on the left and Jared on the far right).

Amazing food that they picked up for our lunch yesterday as we were in back-to-back meetings.  I have no idea where it came from but I ate it anyway and boy am I glad I did – SO good!!  Moral of the story, don’t ask questions.

A few retail stores that sell our product – not quite Target but hey, whatever works.

Eating lunch, talking about bathroom habits.  I used to get in trouble for this when I was little…

A few HBS-ers at dinner last night, I ate “Gogo balls” which were spicy and delicious.  Again, don’t ask questions.  Also those giant beers you see on the table (the brown bottles) only cost $2.  My whole meal was like $8.  Amazing!