T’was the Night Before Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas, and all throughout Workplace

Every participant was posting at a furious pace.

Daily Blog Posts was booming, each submission full of wit,

Sharing wisdom and tips, hoping for a massive traffic hit.

Today I Learned, blowing up just as much

With people sharing about bitcoin and diet and such.

All Participants and Alumni, the lobby if you will

Holds photo of Praxis Swag & Christmas traditions. This group is never still.

Then from my Slack window, there was the notification knocking

(When you work remotely, this is our form of talking)

Over to Slack I turned my attention

To see what message had my name mentioned.

The #random thread had messages streaming in

Typical team shenanigans, maybe influenced by holiday gin.

I watched as the story continued to unfold

A new take on Santa and his reindeer, breaking the mold.

For Santa, the clear choice was our fearless leader.

The competition Isaac faced for claiming the spot was meager.

The team were the reindeer, making this company fly

First up is TK, what a swell guy.

He listens to Christmas music all through the year

Only having people to share it with when the holiday draws near.

Then there’s Cameron, our resident grump.

Don’t let him fool you, he’s usually only acting down in the dump.

You can find Derek writing content at the speed of light,

And if you want to defend Bitcoin, he’s down for the fight.

Chuck is our resident expert on almost anything you can think:

Websites, books, cocktails, or how to make a sausage link.

Ryan is from Canada, which is apparently still a country.

He’s a World Wanderer, going on adventures, at times including bungee.

Laurie is a customer service and Instagram pro.

She also writes killer blog posts that make you say “Woah!”

Brian is our Joseph, an interpreter of dreams.

The amount of paper needed to write his life story would be reams upon reams.

Hannah is a creative: writing and photographing her life.

Her works saves participants and staff countless strife.

I am happiest when playing with data.

Even though Salesforce and Excel have many a hater.

That is our team, the best the land,

And I challenge you to find a group anywhere that is as grand.

Add in our participants and alumni, and the competition becomes sparse.

And to think the program was initially thought to be a farce!

I am thankful for this group, during the season of all things merry and bright.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


I Love Musicals

I’ve always loved musicals. I’m not sure if it’s that every Disney movie has a singalong soundtrack, so I was indoctrinated early or what, but I’m always up for a movie or play where people burst into song as if it’s a normal part of conversation.

Today I saw The Greatest Showman which is a musical about P.T Barnum and his circus. Spotify has been teasing me with shot clips of a few of the songs over the last month, so I was excited to hear them in full and see how they would fit into the storyline. Overall I enjoyed the movie. I was expecting a happier story, but it was still highly entertaining with good music. I tend to tie memories to musicals, and I expect to remember this musical as the one I saw with my family at Christmas one year.

Some of my other favorite musicals are:

Phantom of the Opera

I got the song book for Phantom when I took piano lessons as a kid, and I would pound away at the keys while playing the dissonant run. I owned the soundtrack, saw it at the Fox Theatre, and went to see the movie when it came out as well.


I wasn’t familiar with Hairspray until the movie came out in 2007, but I quickly fell in love (hey, Zac Efron!). Again, saw the movie, bought the soundtrack, bought the DVD, etc.

Moulin Rouge!

I suppose I saw this in middle school? I don’t remember watching the DVD too many times, but my sister and I would belt out “Come What May” in the car on the way to Wednesday night youth group attempting to hit the high notes and harmonize to the best of our (limited) abilities.


Who doesn’t love that 525,600 minutes song (aka “Seasons of Love”)?

Into the Woods

My familiarity with Into the Woods started with Gilmore Girls when Paris tried to intimidate Brad by singing the song under her breath when he was near. Then when they made it a movie staring Anna Kendrick, I was sold!

Into the Woods is also special to me because one Friday I had a particularly bad day at work, and I decided I would do see it that evening (my husband had no interest, so this was a solo trip). We lived across from an AMC where you buy your seat, and as I was in line to buy my ticket, the show sold out. Devastated, I went back to my car and sat there crying before composing myself, searching for showings in a theater 20 minutes up the road, and then speeding there to make it on time. I got to see the movie and loved it, so all was well.


A classic! Put aside the problematic storyline of trying to be someone else for your high school love interest and just enjoy it.


And then there are musicals that I still haven’t see but really enjoy the soundtracks. I hope to cross them off my list one day!


Dear Evan Hansen



What I Learned about Languages

I’ve noticed that this 12-day blogging challenge is far easier than the 30-day challenge I did in April and not just because of the length. I can remember running out of ideas 5 or 6 days in during that challenge, and so far for this one (knock on wood), I can typically think of an idea quickly and am getting out the posts in far less time.

I’m following the mantras:

To be creating, you must be consuming.

To be interesting, you must be interested.

Both of these are paraphrased from various Praxis materials or just conversations we end up having in Slack. So, to have a full stocked inventory of blog post material, I need to be learning something every day.

Today I learned about languages. I listened to the 2 episodes of the Freakonomics podcast about language and the follow up episode about Esperanto, a constructed language designed to be simple enough for anyone to learn and possibly be a universal language. It’s such a great analogy for business/products where someone could create something “everyone needs” and then hardly anyone buys/uses it.

What would a universal language look like? Will the UN form a super government, take over the world, and force an existing language on everyone? Will Esperanto or another newly constructed language gain traction (like International Fleet Common in the Ender’s Game series)? It’s certainly an interesting question.

The podcast also brought up that many languages come with the baggage of their past. English has British Imperialism (not to mention the US’s involvement in everybody’s business), German from its part in both World Wars, and Sinhala caused an entire civil war in Sri Lanka!

I’m not sure I see a future with a universal language. Given the spontaneity of how they change and the size of the world and the population, I lean more toward a technological solution like live translation.

If I’m wrong, I can always try to learn Esperanto – now available on Duolingo!

Happy Winter Solstice!

Today is the first day of winter, which is my least favorite season of the year. Technically, today is my least favorite day of the year because the season change marks the shortest day in terms of daylight hours. But there’s something about it being the shortest that gives me hope.

Quick recap on how seasons work: The earth rotates around the sun (the big yellow one is the sun), and the earth is on a tilted axis. The day that the north pole is the furthest from the sun is the winter solstice, and the day that the north pole is closest to the sun is the summer solstice (for the northern hemisphere). There are 2 days where the tilt is neither away from or toward the sun, and those are the equinoxes for summer and fall.


Winter is my least favorite because in addition to being cold, gray, and everything dying, there are also barely any daylight hours. If you commute to your job, you likely drive to work while it’s still dark and drive home after the sun has already set. You spend all of your daylight hours indoors and might need to take a vitamin D supplement. No sunshine is also a cause of seasonal affective disorder. Overall, winter is kind of the pits.

The reason the winter solstice gives me hope is because it’s the shortest day of the year, so every day for the next 6 months is just a little longer. Typically in December we haven’t gotten extreme winter temperatures or weather (with the exception of the random foot of snow the south got 2 weeks ago), so I haven’t really started to suffer or hate winter yet. I hang on to the hope that every day the sun rises a minute or two earlier and sets a minute or two later for when I need it in the bleakness of January or the inevitable rain of February. Each day the sun rises just a bit higher as the north pole tilts its way closer to the sun.

So today is a day to celebrate because tomorrow will have a bit more daylight, and so will the day after that and the day after that…all the way until summer.

Passive Voice Makes You Sound Slimy

Whenever I read something written in passive voice, it makes me think of politicians. “Mistakes were made” is the most political thing to say, and it’s a common example for explaining passive voice.

What is passive voice? It’s when you hide the subject of the sentence; you’re hiding who is one taking the action described by the verb. Examples:

Mistakes were made.

Lives were lost.

The snacks were eaten.

All of the sentences leave you with questions. Who made the mistakes? Whose lives were lost? Who ate the snacks?

Passive voice implies shirked responsibility. Instead of being clear, the author or speaker is intentionally hiding a key piece of information by choosing passive voice over active voice.

Active voice forces you to reveal the subject, giving the reader/listener clarity.

I made a mistake.

The soldiers lost their lives.

Cameron ate all the snacks.

In my own writing, I sometimes throw in passive voice sentences when I’m being lazy or vague and can’t fully form the idea I’m trying to get across. You can also trick yourself into thinking passive voice sounds more professional or academic, but it usually isn’t.

Challenge yourself to be clear and eliminate passive voice from your writing.


Thoughts I have while Sick

There are certainly always times where our rational self argues with our irrational self, but this occurs the most often with me when I’m sick. Since it’s such a rarity, I consider it a major inconvenience. Having to take time out of your day to see a doctor who is usually rude, not to mention the exposure to other sick people, makes a trip to an office a harrowing journey. Here’s my typical thought process for being ill:

(The moment something feels off)

Rational me: Probably nothing

(Symptoms persist, textbook for X condition, X being strep, flu, cold, etc)

Rational me: I should probably check on this.

(Google symptoms)

Rational me: Yep – looks like I might have X. I wonder if I should go to the doctor?

(Enter, Irrational me)

Irrational me: It might go away. You might not even be sick. You’re being a hypochondriac and overreacting. Just give it another day. You don’t even feel that bad!

(Wait a day, symptoms persist, sometimes getting worse)

Rational me: I need to go to the doctor. This is silly – I could be a day closer to feeling better if I just went yesterday.

(Check the wait times at nearby Minute Clinics, where you can sign up to reserve your spot in line, 3 of which are within 20 minutes of my house)

Irrational me: 118-minute wait time! No way! Ain’t nobody got time for that (choosing to ignore the save your place in line function). Again, I don’t even feel that bad. Won’t this go away on its own?

Consult Dr. Google again – “Will X go away on its own?”

Read various articles, all of which say “not likely”

Rational me: Ok, that’s it. I can’t just flush this out of my system by doubling my water intake. It’s actually something that responds to antibiotics. It’s not a virus, and all of these people are saying even if they did get better on their own, they wouldn’t recommend that to anyone just because it can get worse without treatment.

Irrational me: I should probably read a few more articles and a Reddit message board first. Americans are over-medicated anyway! Doctors prescribe antibiotics for everything these days! I really don’t want to kill all of the good bacteria in my stomach for nothing.

Read another article and a Reddit message board for more of the same – some anecdotal evidence of it clearing on its own, most people recommending a doctor visit.

Rational me: Americans are over-medicated. Doctors do prescribe antibiotics for things that don’t need them. But if I have X, and I think I do, antibiotics can treat it, and I don’t have to feel this way anymore.

Go to Minute Clinic.

Test positive for X.

Get prescription for antibiotics.


The happy ending to this story is that I feel better tomorrow! Crossing my fingers.

Also – check out the “Nurses to the rescue!” episode of the Freakonomics podcast. It talks about things like Minute Clinics staffed by Nurse Practitioners, like the one I saw today. And for the record, My NP was delightful – better than almost any doctor I’ve seen.




Podcast Recommendations

I am a late mover to most technologies, and this year is when I fully jumped on the podcast train. Here are some of my favorites, by category.

Professional Development

Office Hours – I don’t care if it’s cheesy to plug the podcast from the company you work for because Office Hours is often pure gold. Isaac and TK take submitted questions as well as riff off of situations they encounter with young professionals, and it’s often unfiltered. One time, Isaac’s initial response to a question was, “What is WRONG with you?”

Masters of Scale – Isaac recommended this podcast to the Praxis staff, and it has been fascinating. If you’re interested in how companies like Google and Facebook grew to current size without imploding or how serial CEOs know when to start a new company, check out this podcast.

How I Built This­ with Guy Raz – Similar to Masters of Scale, this podcast interviews founders of various companies. Some of my favorites have been Stonyfield Yogurt, Rent the Runway, and Buzzfeed. Nearly all of these founders had the odds against them in some way, and it’s inspiring to hear how they overcame them.

Forward Tilt – Yes, I’m plugging another Praxis podcast, but these episodes are little gems and under 10 minutes each, so they’re easy to take a listen.

Intellectually Engaging

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know – This is a fun game show style show where contestants compete to tell the most interesting, useful, and true fact based on the night’s theme. The show has gone through a few different versions (used to have a panel of judges, now sometimes the host invites one other guest to be the judge and that’s it), but it has always been very entertaining.

Freakonomics Radio – Economics is everywhere, bro! Since I’m an econ nerd, I like to occasionally listen to this podcast as well. Some of my favorite episodes talk about lying, the war on sugar, the demonization of gluten, and when helping hurts.


From being in the car with my husband, I’ve listened to quite a few soccer podcast episodes. My two favorite shows are:

Total Soccer Show – This is the intellectual soccer podcast. They provide in-depth technical breakdowns of matches as well as report on current events in major soccer news. They also have a less serious episode where each host fields a full team based on Parks and Rec characters.

Dirty Tackle– This is the inappropriate NSFW version of analyzing world soccer. They sing their own opening song and have a segment called “True, are ya?” where one of the hosts either reads a fact or makes something up, and the other two have to guess. It’s hilarious.

Pure Entertainment

The Shipping Room Podcast – This podcast is about TV relationships which might sound shallow but I am not ashamed because I really enjoy this show. A friend introduced me a little over a year ago when they did an analysis show of the Gilmore Girls revival. I literally banged on the table a few times in agreement when listening to that episode. I sporadically listened over the next few months before getting hooked this summer. It’s been a fun to have a shared experience with the hosts and other listeners as they discuss famous OTPs (one true pairings), BroTPs (best friend pairings), and NOTPs (people who don’t belong together). [Note: the show is currently on hiatus as one of the hosts just had a baby. You can still listen to the last 2+ years of content, though!]

Good Christian Fun – One of the hosts of this podcast came from Gilmore Guys, which is how I heard about this new show. GFC analyzes Christian pop culture without proselytizing or harshly judging (most of the time) it. Since I grew up very conservative Christian, it’s fun to listen to them talk about things that were normal in my childhood (VeggieTales, Relient K, the Left Behind books/movie) but might not be to the general public. It definitely is borderline (and sometimes definitely is) sacrilegious, so listen with care if you’re easily offended.


If you have holiday travel coming up, I just supplied you with endless hours of entertainment. Enjoy!



Real Life Doesn’t Always Have Closure

A friend told me about the Up and Vanished podcast recently, so I binged it this weekend. Between errands, gift wrapping, and cleaning, I had plenty of time to listen to all 24 episodes, many of which are only half an hour. Now that the podcast is over, I’m left feeling very unsettled and lacking closure.

Disclaimer: This post contains spoilers for Up and Vanished.

In case you aren’t familiar, Up and Vanished (UAV) chronicles the disappearance of Tara Grinstead, a 30-year-old teacher from south Georgia who went missing in October 2005. Her body was never recovered, and when the podcast started in 2016, no one had ever been arrested, either. It’s debatable whether the podcast helped “shake the trees,” but two suspects were arrested in 2017 for her murder and for helping to conceal her body, respectively. Knowing all of this ahead of time, I thought for sure there would be resolution to this case, unlike when I listened to Serial so many years ago.

Second-mover advantage meant that I got to zip straight through the podcast and not have to wait 2 weeks in between each episode. I got more and more excited as information about the first arrest came into play and later the second arrest as well. But as the episodes started dwindling down, I noticed we were running out of time to hear about the trial, the verdict, and most important to me – the whole truth.

Well, the podcast is over, and there isn’t even a trial date yet. While there is some slight resolution to the case (it’s a murder, not a missing person case), the podcast left me with a ton of unanswered questions, which I hate.

It brought me back to my first and only experience on jury duty. It was an armed robbery case where the defendant had already confessed to the crime in a police interview. I thought it would be a slam dunk, easy case. Surely everyone tells the truth on the stand, right?

Maybe, but I doubt it. We were met with conflicting stories, extraneous details, and a defendant who said he falsely confessed for fear of his life. While I am still confident this man was guilty, which was what our unanimous vote was, it still bothered me that all of the puzzle pieces didn’t fit together.

The Tara Grinstead case is worse in that these two seemingly random young men who she possibly hadn’t had any contact with since they graduated 3 years prior were the ones responsible for her disappearance. The lack of motive leaves me confused and irritated, and the harsh reality is that even a guilty verdict in a trial doesn’t guarantee a motive or the answers to many other questions will be revealed. And that sucks.


Gem Quote from Lady Bird

All of the best movies come out in November and December. I went to see Lady Bird today and had pretty high expectations due to its 100% (but now 99%) rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Very tiny number of spoilers below! If you don’t want to know anything about the movie, stop reading!

“There are different kinds of sad! It doesn’t all have to be war.”

I loved this quote the moment she said it. It’s after a disappointing sexual experience, and the guy tries to minimize her feelings by talking about how many people have died in Iraq since the invasion (movie is set in 2002).

While it is important to keep perspective on how large your problems are in the grand scheme of the world, it’s not an excuse to invalidate someone’s feelings.


Budget Tips for your Wedding

I’m a planner and a saver, so planning my wedding a few years ago was the typical mix of exhilarating and stressful when you consider the wedding premium placed on everyday party objects.

The wedding premium is when the price automatically increases just by being classified for a wedding. For instance:

House warming, birthday party, graduation invitations: $0.50 – $1.00 per card

Wedding invitations: $6.00 per card

You get the idea. So here are some tips on how to avoid the wedding premium:

Find a dress you like and order it in white.

This tip came from a friend who posted about it on Facebook, inspiring today’s blog post!

Arrange your own flowers.

I do not possess the talent know as flower arranging, but I have some friends who do, and their wedding flower bouquets and arrangements have been gorgeous! If you have that skill or a close friend with that skill, hit up the local grocery store or Costco to get season flowers a few days before your ceremony and save yourself a ton of money.

Outer envelopes are not necessary.

Have you ever received a wedding invitation and opened it to find another envelope containing the invitation, response card, and response card envelope? Why the double envelope? I actually Googled this when I was engaged, and it allegedly dates back to the Pony Express days (might be an exaggeration) when mail tended to get dirty during transport. To preserve the cleanliness of the invitation, people would use an outer envelope like a rain jacket. Now that we get our mail delivered in climate controlled vehicles to little rainproof boxes, outer envelopes are just extra paper.

If people are going to throw it away, avoid it or look for inexpensive options.

Similar to outer envelopes, I didn’t want to spend a significant money on anything people were going to throw away. The two biggest things that came to mind were invitations and programs. While I might keep them and frame them, my guests won’t, so I didn’t want the paper products to break the bank.

I used Vistaprint for both. They always have coupon codes, and their prices are often below other printing services as well. I used a wedding invitation template and designed my programs myself. It was a lot of trial and error with Microsoft word, but I pulled it off! The programs were my favorite because I used the “rack card” product for programs. This was my greatest hack in terms of spending way less money than was expected since the template for wedding programs were significantly more expensive.

Other options: you can also use emailed invitations which are free and there’s nothing for guests to throw away. If you want to have physical invitations that go in the mail and want them to look nice, consider enlisting the help of a friend with graphic design skills or hiring one on Upwork or another peer to peer network.

Keep an eye on stamp prices.

If you go the route of mailing invitations and include pre-stamped return envelopes, the cost can add up quickly! Luckily the government announces forever stamp price increases well in advance of them taking place, so you can save 2-3 cents per invitation if you buy stamps before the price increase. As the name suggests, they are good forever, and depending on the size of your wedding, you could save over $100.

Decide what you care about.

This is obviously a catch-all, but it can be overwhelming to create an event that lives up to the expectations of all of your guests. Luckily, you don’t have to! You (and the person you’re marrying) and the only one(s) who need to be satisfied with the day.

I struggled with the decision between real dishes and plastic (but the nice-looking plastic that almost convinces you it’s real). The price differential was extreme, not to mention the fact that actual dishes have an additional cleaning fee, run the risk of being broken, etc. I finally decided to go with plastic because if someone was going to judge me negatively as a person based on my cutlery, they weren’t the type of person I would invite/want at my wedding anyway.

There will be things you care about, though, and that’s ok! It’s just important to remember that the only things you actually need to get married are an officiant and someone who also wants to marry you.