A Day in the Life

TDay in the Life Eventoday I am participating in A Day in the Life, hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity! Many of you know what I do for a living, but if you don’t – I work at a bank as a branch manager. I can’t say on social media what bank I work for, but if you are curious feel free to send me an email and ask. :) Honestly, I feel that, although every day at my job is different from the day before, for those not in banking, what I do is kind of boring. But what do I know, maybe you’re super curious about what a branch manager does all day long? Either way, this is what Tuesday, March 24th looked like for me.

6:13 – Wake up without an alarm. My body is programmed to wake up between 6 – 6:20 every day because I have to wake at this time at least four days a week to get to work by 7:30. But today was not one of those days, so I went back to sleep.

7:40 – Wake up again, this time using my alarm. Lounge around for a few minutes (I have a bad habit of checking Facebook first thing in the morning) and then get in the shower and get ready for work. Get dressed, put on make-up, dry hair, etc.

8:25 – Leave the house and head to work. Sometimes I listen to an audiobook on the way to work, sometimes I listen to music instead. This particular morning I was listening to Florence & The Machine on Spotify. Throughout this drive all I could think about was that I had no breakfast at work so I would have to stop and get something. Ponder what I want pretty much the entire drive.

8:52 – Decide to be good and go to the grocery store to buy yogurt for breakfasts for the week. Get to the store, grab five yogurts to stick in the fridge at work, and get a cup of coffee from the grocery store.

9:04 – Pull into the parking lot at work.

9:00 – Spend about an hour catching up with my assistant manager after I was out of the office for the weekend prior. We discussed a few customer issues and employee issues that came up in the three days (Fri-Mon) I was gone. Also discovered during this time that our customer service scores dropped dramatically over the weekend so I freak out a little, then quickly get my shit together and come up with a plan to improve them with my assistant manager. We discuss how we’re going to make sure the entire branch is adhering to said plan.

10:00 – Sit down with a branch manager trainee that I’m currently training at my branch. Discussed a few questions that he had about stuff that happened in the branch over the weekend and how I would have handled the situations.

10:15 – Sit down with my private banker (she is the banker for my most affluent clients) and discussed a few customer issues she’s been working on, as well as reviewed her calendar for the upcoming week. We’re finishing up our conversation when we get interrupted by a client, so I exit her office to allow her to help the client.

10:40 – Sit down with another one of my bankers who is struggling this month with her performance. We talked through some obstacles she’s facing and started talking about what I need to do to help her succeed when we got interrupted with a customer about seven minutes in. Once she finished with that customer, we went back to our discussion.

11:00 – Customer called asking for the manager, I got on the phone and helped resolve the customer’s issue.

11:20 – Another one of my bankers comes to me with a complicated customer issue. I helped him figure out what to do and how to explain the solution to the customer.

11:40 – My private banker finishes up an appointment with a potential client so I spend some time debriefing the appointment with her and discussing her follow-up plan with the client and reviewing date/time of her next appointment.

11:45 – I hadn’t even opened my email yet and since I was out of the office for a few days I have about forty unread emails. I quickly start catching up on these.

12:00 – The customer that I referred to at 11:20 comes back, now he’s requesting to speak with me, I spend about twenty minutes helping him and trying to solve the issue, he eventually has to leave and says he’ll be back in the afternoon.

Between 12:30 and 2 I kind of lost track of my record-keeping. I know I helped several customers, took a few phone calls, and worked on a few more of those unread emails from the weekend.

2:00 – I head out for lunch. I first have to stop at the store to buy a birthday card for my sister-in-law, mail the card, and then run to Chipotle for a salad. I’m trying to eat a little better so I make sure not to get any dressing, sour cream, or guacamole on my salad (even though I REALLY want the sour cream). I bring the salad back to the branch and eat quickly in the break room. Sometimes I read a book during lunch but on this particular day I read the news on my phone.

3:00 – Back from lunch. My assistant manager and I talk with our tellers about how to improve our customer service scores. We talk through specific things that we need to see them doing with every single customer such as smiling, greeting them right away, and engaging in conversation. She and I then discuss a few housekeeping operational things we need to take care of before she leaves for vacation the following afternoon, then we take the time to do said tasks.

5:00 – My assistant manager and two tellers leave for the day, so I join the one remaining teller to help him for the last hour of the day. It’s at this exact time that the gentleman from earlier with the issue came back, as he had promised. I spent some more time talking with him and attempting to resolve the issue but we didn’t get very far before I had to run back to my teller and help him with something. The customer was satisfied with the help my banker provided since I wasn’t too available to help. For the next hour, I help customers as a teller.

6:10 – Lock the branch doors! Done for the day! :)

At this point I usually go straight home and start cooking dinner; however, on this particular day we were having a branch dinner, something we do about once per quarter, usually to celebrate something. This dinner was at Longhorn, so after leaving the branch at about 6:30, I headed to dinner. I have an awesome branch team and we actually like spending time together outside of work. So it was a fun and delicious meal with great people.

8:45 – Leave the restaurant and drive home.

9:15 – Pull into the garage. Spend about a half hour catching up with hubby about our days. He’s watching a TV show that I don’t watch so when we’re done talking I pour myself a glass of wine and head upstairs so he can finish his show. I plan on reading, but by the time I get changed into PJs, wash my face, and all that fun stuff it’s past 10 pm and I’m exhausted. I turn on the TV instead and end up watching The Challenge finale on MTV (horrible, I know).

Sometime around 11 pm I turn off the TV and go to sleep. The end!

Mini-Reviews: Books Everyone is Talking About

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Press

This novel, about a Chinese-American family in the 1970’s, has gotten a LOT of buzz since its publication last summer. In this novel, seventeen-year-old Lydia, the middle child of the Lee family and the favorite child of her parents, has gone missing, and instead of leaning on one another for support, this family, which was already fragile to begin with, basically comes apart at the seams.

I read this for book club, and while I unfortunately could not attend the meeting, I found out the following month that most everyone didn’t like it. I actually disagreed for the most part, I guess I can’t say I “like” a book this depressing, but I thought it was written very excellently and the author really made me feel for these characters. I didn’t like either adult in this family, but all three of the kids broke my heart for different reasons. I really got close with these characters and felt that sense of urgency as the end of the book approached to finally find out exactly what happened to Lydia. While I can’t say I loved Everything I Never Told You, I thought it was a solid piece of fiction, incredibly well-written, and I can see why it has received such high acclaim.

We Are Not OurselvesWe Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
Published by Simon & Schuster

This is an epic family saga type book – think Wally Lamb but a little quieter – exactly the kind of book that I can really sink my teeth into, get involved with the characters, and come away feeling like I’ve gotten to know and love another family, like I have new friends. We Are Not Ourselves follows Eileen Tumulty, raised in Queens by Irish immigrant parents, from about the age of ten – in the 1950’s – to the present. In that time, she takes care of her alcoholic mother, meets practical scientist Ed and gets married, becomes a nurse, has a son Connell, and basically the reader just follows this family throughout their lives.

It may sound boring but it is far from that. There’s a ton of struggle and strife and the push-pull of a marriage and family here. There’s also a Big Event that happens to this family about three-quarters of the way through the book that changes a lot of the direction of the novel. I thought the writing in this novel was incredible and despite its length, i couldn’t put the book down. I really got involved with these characters, and even though I had a difficult time liking any of them, that seemed not to matter as I just felt for them. They didn’t act the way I would have acted, didn’t see the world how I do, yet I couldn’t help but get them. Does that make sense? Anyway, I thought this book was just as great as everyone says and I highly recommend it!

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
Published by Riverhead Books

If you haven’t heard about this one, you must be living under a rock. In this novel, Rachel is an alcoholic who is mourning her failed marriage and loss of her job, so she rides the train into London each day as if she were going to work and watches the families as she rides by. She makes up names and stories about one particular couple, and when she reads in the newspaper that the woman has disappeared, she decides to get involved in the investigation.

I totally loved this one. I didn’t particularly like any of the characters, they certainly didn’t deserve my compassion, but oh my goodness did Hawkins take me on a wild ride here! I could NOT put this book down (especially the last fifty pages – wow!) and was totally engrossed in the story from start to finish. She totally surprised me with the ending and I am just very impressed with what she did here. And for a debut novel, this is incredibly good. Highly recommended – I get why everyone has been buzzing about this one!

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1)Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Published by Scribner

From the publisher:

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Would you believe that reading Mr. Mercedes was my first time ever reading Stephen King? And that the only reason I read this book is because of one of my book clubs? Crazy, I know. Yet, true. From what I understand, this is one of King’s tamer, more straightforward novels, which kind of makes me nervous to pick up some of his other stuff (because this isn’t exactly tame stuff), but also very, very curious.

So. I was highly entertained by this novel and am finding myself very impressed with King – I get it. He has an incredible talent for writing characters so flawed, so insane batshit crazy, but that are real people. It’s one of those rare things to find in any genre, and to find it in horror/thriller novels is even more special, I think. So first and foremost, I see his talent and am very interested in picking up more of his books.

What I thought was cool about this book is how you know who the bad guy is the whole time, yet there’s still a thrilling sense of urgency throughout the book – will the good guy find the bad guy and stop him in time? Or will thousands of people die? Obviously you need to read the book to find out, but I was furiously turning pages towards the end, biting my nails like a psycho, just desperate to find out how this whole thing turned out.

What I don’t love about these kinds of books is the fact that I’m really squeamish and when something horrible happens that is described in detail, it runs through my head for hours or days or even weeks after I finish a book. There’s only one scene in here that really did that but oh my GOD can I not get that shit out of my head. So I’m scared that more of King’s books have even MORE of this for me to deal with. Anyway.

I thought this book was super great! I will read more of King, I promise. Where should I start?

Blue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe

Blue StarsBlue Stars by Emily Gray Tedrowe
Published by St. Martin’s Press
Review copy provided by Netgalley

From the publisher:

BLUE STARS brings to life the realities of the modern day home front: how to get through the daily challenges of motherhood and holding down a job while bearing the stress and uncertainty of war, when everything can change in an instant. It tells the story of Ellen, a Midwestern literature professor, who is drawn into the war when her legal ward Michael enlists as a Marine; and of Lacey, a proud Army wife who struggles to pay the bills and keep things going for her son while her husband is deployed. Ellen and Lacey cope with the fear and stress of a loved one at war while trying to get by in a society that often ignores or misunderstands what war means to women today. When Michael and Eddie are injured in Iraq, Ellen and Lacey’s lives become intertwined in Walter Reed Army Hospital, where each woman must live while caring for her wounded soldier. They form an alliance, and an unlikely friendship, while helping each other survive the dislocated world of the army hospital. Whether that means fighting for proper care for their men, sharing a six-pack, or coping with irrevocable loss, Ellen and Lacey pool their strengths to make it through. In the end, both women are changed, not only by the war and its fallout, but by each other.

I almost put down this book after fifty pages. It was difficult for me to get into, I didn’t understand where it was going, and I wasn’t connecting with the characters. Had I done so, I would have made a huge mistake because Blue Stars is a truly great book and, although it didn’t have that punch at the beginning, the rest of the novel more than made up for the rocky start.

This is a difficult one for me to review because I found the reading experience very difficult emotionally. What Ellen and Lacey experience in Blue Stars is something that sadly many American families go through on a daily basis – the care and rehabilitation of a family member injured at war. There were many times throughout this novel that I had to pause, calm myself down, and steel myself to finish the chapter – not because I wasn’t enjoying it, but because my emotions were just so affected by the story Tedrowe wrote (a story that is fiction but could absolutely be true, and I am sure many families would say IS very close to the truth of their daily lives).

That being said, I think Tedrowe was extremely successful in what I assume she was trying to do – showcase the plight of the families in this situation. Lacey lost her job, her sanity, and contact with most of her family and friends during the time she spent at the military hospital with her husband. And the conditions of this hospital (which have been documented in many news stories, you can Google Walter Reed to find out more) were beyond deplorable. She went from a very comfortable and mostly peaceful life to living in squalor, married to a man she could no longer recognize, with no idea how to pay for her next meal, much less the bills that were piling up back at home. Oh, and she quickly spiraled into alcoholism while all of this was going on. To put it mildly, she broke my heart. I cannot imagine how unbearable this life is for those who experience it in the real world. So, so hard.

I connected with Ellen much less than I did with Lacey, but that’s not to say her story is any less important or impactful than Lacey’s – it’s just different. What I loved about the two of them is how they were able to rely on one another in this incredibly stressful and overwhelming situation – when all else failed, they had each other. Their friendship was a beautiful story in itself and a joy to read about.

I wish I could tell you a lot more about this book but honestly, just read it. It really did have a huge impact on me emotionally and I had to take some time after finishing it before picking up my next read. Highly recommended.

The Sunday Salon: I’m Still Here!

Whew, just realized it’s been awhile since I’ve shown my face on my tiny little corner of the internet. I’ve had a hectic few weeks and blogging has definitely taken a backseat to real life – which is fine with me, but I wanted to check in and let you all know that I’m still here, still around! There’s been some drama in the book blogging world lately (drama that I’ve completely stayed away from and won’t talk about here), and some of my favorite long-time bloggers have recently quit completely, so it’s been a sad couple of weeks in the blogosphere. I even thought about quitting myself. Heck, I think about it a lot, actually. But something just compels me to keep coming back, keep sharing what I’m reading with whoever is listening out there – for now, I’m not going anywhere.

When I think about the past month or so of my life all I think about is the word “busy”, but that’s a word I strive to use less than I do, and in any case it’s mostly been a good busy so I’m totally not complaining! Almost every weekend the hubby and I have been enjoying some theme park or adventure of some kind. On February 14th one of my favorite bands EVER, Guster, was at House of Blues here in Orlando and we went to the show – it was amazing. I was so beyond happy to be there, and lucky for me, I have a wonderful husband who happily sits through a two-hour concert of a band he’s never heard of before and doesn’t complain one time. The night after that, Barenaked Ladies was playing at Universal Studios so of course we had to see them, too. Two weekends after that, I headed to Puerto Vallarta for a girls trip – I met five friends from Chicago there and we had five days of too much eating, drinking, sun and relaxing. It was a wonderful trip and I’m so glad I went.

Last weekend Trace Adkins was playing at Universal Studios, and while I’m not a country fan, hubby definitely is, so we met my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and a friend of hers there to see that show. The next night, Gin Blossoms was playing at Epcot so we saw them, too. Wow it seems like we see a lot of concerts but really, they are all free with park admission, and we have annual passes to almost all of the parks, so why not take advantage? It’s the best. This weekend has been relatively quiet – we went back to Epcot last night to meet a friend for dinner and caught the fireworks show before heading home, and today has been devoted to grocery shopping, stuff around the house, blogging, and a few other errands throughout the day.

I’m thinking about joining Trish for A Day in the Life, a blogging even that will take place on March 27th, even though I feel like my days are not that exciting. Yes I do a lot of stuff on the weekends bur during the week it’s basically wake up, go to work, come home, eat dinner, watch tv/read, sleep, repeat. I suppose I can enlighten some of you on what happens throughout the day in a bank branch manager’s life. Sound interesting? Yeah, I didn’t think so. I’ll probably do it anyway.

Next weekend we’re going to Busch Gardens, which is like two hours away, so we might stay the night so it’s highly unlikely you’ll hear from me. In a month my mom and aunt are coming to visit me! Starting the week after next, my assistant manager is on vacation for more than two weeks, which will be loads of fun (not). All that is to say I don’t know how much I’ll be blogging but I’ll make an effort for sure and as of right now, I’m not quitting. You’re stuck with me. :)

What are you up to today?

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – Reread for HP Read-along

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Published by Scholastic

I have always considered this to be my favorite of the seven Harry Potter books, and after finishing the re-read this time around, I think that might still be the case. (I’ll tell you for sure after I finish the last two books.) I think what I love most about this book is just how meaty it is, how many different elements are in one book. Just the first two hundred pages (in a book that is more than eight hundred pages total) pack SO much of a punch. Harry first learns about the Order, gets to spend time with Sirius, and experiences the Ministry of Magic for the first time. In addition to all of that, there’s quidditch, serious issues at school (ugh, Umbridge), secret Defense Against the Dark Arts lessons, potential love interests for a few characters, serious and obvious issues among the teachers at Hogwarts (how can you NOT love McGonagall after this book?), studying for and taking the O.W.L. exams, and that’s not even considering the major action of the book, which happens in the last fifty pages or so. There’s just so much here and so much to further the story and the characters.

And let’s face it, that’s what is really great about these books. These characters are complex and interesting and have histories and pasts that get revealed slowly, over the course of seven books. This book gives the reader (and Harry) more insight into Snape’s character, insight that leaves a shadow of doubt over the fact that he is an evil, horrible person. Maybe he’s not as bad as Harry, Ron and Hermione think he is?

My absolute favorite part of the entire book is the very end when Dumbledore takes Harry into his office and starts explaining things to him, things that Dumbledore admits he should have told Harry years ago. There’s just so much vulnerability and emotion in this conversation, so much truth and regret and sadness and the overwhelming feeling is just that of love. The feeling of love that Harry’s parents had for him, that Sirius and Harry had for one another, and that Dumbledore has for Harry. The knowledge that Dumbledore would do absolutely anything necessary to protect Harry and to save him, but that even Dumbledore might not be able to heed the dangers that are coming Harry’s way is just heartbreaking. And as Rowling does best, this conversation leads perfectly into the sixth book, and prepares Harry and the reader to learn even more about the history between Voldemort, Dumbledore, and Harry’s family.

Who can’t possibly love the scene at the very, very end when about five members of the Order meet the Dursley’s at the train station?! It is priceless and serves as a reminder that no matter how alone Harry might feel in his life, he has plenty of people who love him and are on his side, always.

Order of the Phoenix continues to impress me and I think it’s still my favorite of the series. I’m looking forward to re-reading the last two books!

Faith: Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Athiests edited by Victoria Zackheim

Faith: Essays from Believers, Agnostics, and Athiests edited by Victoria Zackheim
Published by Beyond Words Publishing
Review copy provided by Netgalley

Twenty-four authors share their perspectives on faith in this diverse collection of essays. Zackheim chooses essays about having faith in God, losing faith, having faith that there is no God, and everything in the middle. Most people interested in the subject of faith will find something to take from this collection.

The writing in this essay collection is great. Zackheim clearly pulled out all the stops to get some authors who would contribute truly thoughtful, interesting, and beautifully written pieces. Of course I was more drawn to some of the essays than others (as is typical with any essay or even short story collection) but overall I found something to think about in each one, which is a success in my book.

Oddly enough, the essays that appealed to me the most were those from atheists and agnostics. I guess I never thought of atheism or agnosticism as a faith-based position, to me before reading this collection both those things mean the absence of faith. But I was surprised to find myself nodding along with a lot of what was explained in those essays – many of the authors have faith in their beliefs, too. Just because their belief is that my God doesn’t exist doesn’t make it any less valid of a belief. I think this would be a valuable read for any Christian who finds him/herself having difficulty understanding and/or dealing with atheists and agnostics in their lives. I personally learned a lot and found myself coming to a deeper understanding of what it really means to be atheist or agnostic.

I was most disappointed by the fact that there was nothing in here from people who believe in non-Western religions. I wanted to read not only about Christianity and Judaism, but about Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, anything other than my own religion. I didn’t find much of that, which was really disappointing in a book that was supposed to be about all kinds of faith (at least, that’s what I was expecting).

I liked this collection a lot but the absence of a lot of world religions made me ultimately not as excited about it as I wanted to be. It’s worth a read, though, and the essays really are very well thought-out and beautifully written.