Project Finish Line: The Definition of Success

Welcome back, friends and few readers I have remaining! I am a neglectful blogger as of late, but rest assured this is the one time you’ll hear the words “It’s not you, it’s me” and have them be 100% fact.

My life, like yours, is very full at the moment. Full of challenge and tragedy, fear and frustation, new friends, great joy, travel adventures, new pursuits, old habits, a bit of wine, and lots and lots of coffee. I have no idea what the purpose of all this beautiful madness is, but I keep doing it and am learning to have fun with it where I can. 

First let me share some joy (coupled with frustration!): I am a size 8 (at Express; F those other designers). In six months I lost 20 pounds (and put 5 back on), 2 sizes, and gained health, strength, a teeny tiny bit of speed, a dash of motivation, and the ability to simultaneously breathe and run. 

My book is in it’s final editing stages, and my finances are still a nightmare. Ha! But the beat goes on, and I consider my accomplishments, though requiring of consistent and ongoing dedication and effort, a success. It’s all about the continuation of the process, the journey. Keeping taking those steps forward, and you will continue to meet small victories. Or at least maintain those you’ve achieved. As an overachiever and perfectioniast of sorts, it’s often difficult for me to truly celebrate my succcess, because until recently i’ve measured success only in terms of that which can truly be metricized (not a word, but should’t it be??) – what can be counted, compared, weighed, etc. 

But then I went to Saint Louis at the end of February and sat in my Harvard National Preparedness Leadership Institute training session and was introduced to a different and, I think, much more healthy definition of success. 

The doctor facilitating the session asked us all how we would define success in our own words. Across the room I and some of my colleagues immediately went to career, income, accomplishments. Others cited family, love, the successes of their children. And why wouldn’tw we? We have people who depend on us, adventures to take, and bills to pay. Success is ensuring all of those things can happen without straining resources too much yes?

Perhaps. 

Or perhaps not.

The doctor relayed the greatest definition he’d every heard from one of his class participants, and I’ve stolen it and am sharing it here today. If I knew the man’s name, I would happily credit him with his genius. Alas, I do not, so if you’re out there and reading this, kind sir, my hat is off to you and I welcome you to leave a comment and claim your (limited on this blog) fame. 

I’m going to share this exceptional peace of wisdom with you now. No, no – don’t dive right in. Stop for a moment to prepare yourselves to have your mind utterly and irrevocably blown. Stretch a bit, take a few deep breaths, get a glass of water if you like. I’ll waith. This is important. 

Okay. Are you ready? Here it comes. 

The definition of success is that no matter where you are going, you can’t wait to get there. 

Did you get that? Simple, right? 

And yet how profound. 

Think for a moment about the last three places (phsyical or not) that you’ve been today. Work? Home? Grocery store? On a date? To the gym? To a movie?

Were you excited to go to those places? Why or why not? If you were, great! I’m so happy for you! 

But if not – IF NOT – then why did you go there? Well, groceries are required to live. Fair enough. But did you buy wonderful, healthy food to make a fantastic and cost effective meal? Did you engage your kiddos in cooking with your, or did you revel in exporing necessary culinary arts on your own like a closeted Emergil Legasse? Did you say “BAM!!” when you added a dash of spice or a pinch of flavor? Did you  laugh at your own ridiculousness or listen to music you loved while you did it? Did you use a recipe or a kitchen tool handed down by a relative or call up your mom/dad/grandma/best friend to ask about their recipe or reminisce about the time you did the thing at that place while you at the one dish?

Or what about your job? Do you spring out of bed in the morning and rush to get to work because you were excited about soe project or person? To be honest, I don’t springs anwhere before 10:00 AM and at least 16 ounces of coffee, so no worries if not.  But did you at least not have to pull yourself out of bed by your own hair before getting to work and sitting in the parking lot breathing just to force yourself to walk in the door? Come on – we’ve ALL had THAT job. And perhaps there’s just no getting out of it because of adult responsibilities and obligations – I get that. I get that in the most painful way. Are you doing anything to make it better? Do you at least enjoy the peolpe you work with? Hell, do you even get off a little on pushing your boss’s buttons if nothing else? I love my boss, and even I enjoy getting him gassed up – just cuz I can. πŸ˜‰

What about home? Do you love, love, love your single life? Thre freedom and independence to do what you want to do when and how you want to do it? Or are you jazzed to go home to your family?  

Do you love to work out or read or watch movies or do brunch and happy hour, or even just walk the neighborhood?

I know for many of us these little luxuries are just that – luxuries. And how do you get excited by a life that you feel you’ve somehow just ended up oin? How can you feel jazzed to go to a job you hate to pay bills you can barely afford (or can’t afford at all??) to support a family you can’t stand? Letls be honest – some of us have those. So how is succes achieved, by thie definition here, when you hate your life and feel trapped in it?

Well that is the million dollar question,isn’t it?

Here’s what I’ve come up with: small changes over time. And consistency. 

I’m NOT an expert, and I have no advice. I’m just as fucked up as the next guy. In fact, proabably more so. I can only tell you what I’m doing to acheive this measure of success. Figure out what I want, focus on it, and make small, manageable changes consistently over time. 

Earth shattering? Probably not. But I’m open to suggestions.

 

Next time we’ll lighten it up a bit and go DIY. I have three completed projects I need to post, so stay tuned…

Project Finish Line: Has it Really Been a MONTH???

The last time I had ten seconds to myself that weren’t occupied by some other pursuit was two weeks ago, and I haven’t posted at all in regards to Project Finish line since January! Yikes!

So, let’s get caught up, kids. 

 

Goal 1: Size 8/145 pounds

Business travel gave me one helluva setback. I went from 149 (so close!!!) all the way back up to 153. Amazing how taking it off requires Herculean efforts, and putting it just requires a box-to-mouth Donut Curl. It’s entirely unfair. Fortunately, one week back home eating somewhat more intelligently and hitting the gym a few times has me at 151.2. I’ll take it. And I’ll try to remember the progress loss the next time I feel like a cookie might be an okay breakfast. 

Thank all good things in the universe for Chris Powell and his carb cycling! Seriously people, if you haven’t checked it out by now, nothing is working for you, and you’re like me an need immediate results to stay motivated, you must try Carb Cycling! Please at least just read about it here. You’ll thank me. I promise. 

 

Goal 2: Write a book

Done. Well….sort of. I wrote it. I’ve made some changes on screen, and as I said previously I have no printed all 212 pages and am slowly setting to the task of some hardcore editing. Alas, I have no red pen – or green, as was the favorite of my journalism teacher in high school – but I’ve gotten through a whopping three pages, so blue must be acceptable. 

I’m wondering if there’s anyone anywhere who would be willing to do a seondary edit of it. After a while you have read something so many times, you stop seeing the mistakes. But there was an excellent piece I found online about editing by writing your books four times. Check it out!

 

Goal 3: Pay off debt 

This has proven to be quite a bit more difficult than I’d hoped. Following the drama of emergency dog abominal surgery, a broken car, and some unexpected medical expenses, it’s going to take well over a year to get where we need to be. BUT – we completely paid of a dishwasher, and are now very close to doing the same with a small amount of student loans (under $500), and then we move to the big time: CREDIT CARDS. Two of them. Totaling more thousands of dollars than I’m willing to admit. Under twenty but over ten, and it makes me exceedingly uncomfortable. 

 

But on to more fun things! 

 

I have nearly a week of solo time (hubz is out in Miami DJing during the annual Winter Music Conference – so proud!) over which I’ve also taken some PTO. The goals of Project Finish line will, of course, be a focus, but so will some long-time-coming DIYs I’ve been dying to finish! Check it out: 

DIY 1 – A reading nook, or what I’m also calling my Cone of Silence. The idea being that, when in the cone, leave me alone. πŸ˜‰ I’ve been inspired by these coupld of pics on line:

     

This chair will be the foundation of said nook: 

I have vaulted ceiling, so I’m imagining translucent curtains with white Christmas lights, and perhaps some kind of additional color and shine involved. Stay tuned…

 

DIY 2 – Seriously, my wine rack. It’s time to get it done. Two years in the making almost. Ugh. DOING THIS! 

Lots of Pinspiration of this project out there, and I have all the wood, stain, tools, etc. Just need to get my @$$ in gear. 

 

DIY 3 – A wine bottle light fixture for the dining room. The only thing lacking here is some electrical wire, fire proof wire coverings, and bulbs. Oh, and my spouse’s faith that I can install it without A) killing myself, B) burning down the building, or C) both. It will be something like this, but with wine bottles instead of mason jars: 

 

I will get pics of each project step-by-step and share them here, along with the super easy, lazy-girl’s way I recovered my black, white, and purple chair shown above. 

I also may be painting the master bathroom blue and grey above some white bead board. We’ll see how motivated I get. I mean, at least ONE of my days off should really be a day OFF, right??? Is that how it works??

That is a TON of DIYing in five days. I may have to call in reinforcements! 

Project Finish Line: Move & Be Grateful

Of all the silly things I’ve done, NOT getting my weigh in on camera this week was super stupid! Why, you ask? Because I lost  almost 2.5 pounds last week!! From 152.6 to 150.2!!! WHAT??!!?! People! I’m telling you! If you want to transform your body – and in doing so your mind and health – CARB. CYCLE. Carb cycle!! 

And MOVE. Find something that you enjoy and just keep doing it. Last week I ran a mile each on Sunday and Monday, followed by some strength training, then I slacked off Tues-Thurs, and rounded out the week with snowboarding/skiing on Saturday, a half an hour kicking the crap out of a heavy bag at the gym on Sunday, and today another mile run. BOOM!!

Loveland Ski Area


You get a little self obsessed when you start feeling great about yourself!

BTW – can you tell my energy is pretty well through the roof? 

I won’t belabor the point anymore. I will just beg, plead, and encourage you to consider a transformation journey. Just try it! You won’t believe how your whole life changes around you. If you need a little inspiration, watch Extreme Weight Loss. Because I stand at a teeny, tiny 5’3″ (or 2″ depending on who’s tape measure you believe…) the one that lit a flame for me was the one with a wonderfully sweet woman who was actually considered a little person. She ended up running a full marathon! 

I leave it here for now. Look out for a mid-week DIY! 

Project Finish Line: The Beat Goes On

Just over two weeks ago I broke the sad news of the Eurotrip getting pushed to the back burner, but I am who I am which means I don’t give up. Much like a bulldog on a bone, I’m just going to keep at it until I acheive my reward. 

So here’s where things stand:

We are on a serious budget with the aim of paying down aaaalllll the debt with the exception of our home and rental property, and my OUT-FREAKING-RAGEOUS student laons. May the universe bless my guy for taking on a woman who will pay stupid amounts of money for advanced education. This is our first month, and it’s definitely challenging, but fortunately I am married to the world’s most patient and indulgent man. We can do this. 

I’ve figured out that I just have to print my book – yes, all near-200 pages – if I’m going to take a serious stab at editing it. It must be all the years of Journalism in high school that makes me incapable of taking the editing process seriously without visualizing it with red (or green, like my teacher at Greenway HS) pen scrawled across the text. I just need the manuscript to look bloody and used to be satisfied that I’ve suffered as much as I need to through the creative process. So printing shall occur this week, and thus shall begin a committed editing process complete with adequate suffering and frustration. Ahhhh, that feels better. πŸ˜‰

Now, abut that Size 8/145 lbs. I’m sloooowly getting back on target. I weighed in on Saturday at 152.6. And I compared these two pics of myself by pure coincidence and can see that I HAVE, in fact, lost some of my chub, and at least toned my arms a bit. 

 iPhone Download 8-15-14 045Project_Finish_Line_Week_6_1572_lbs.JPG 

What do you think? Have I made any de-chunkifying progress? 

Yesterday I ran a mile and then did some strength training in the AM and felt INCREDIBLE. Today I am slightly sore, which actually makes me feel quite accomplished. Guess I need to suffer in all things to feel I’m making progress. ha! 

The nutrition part has been the hardest, but I’m getting back into my committed Carby-cycling to keep moving in the right direction. I also plan to get more committed to running – okay, jogging is more the term, but it’s still moving faster than all the people on the couch. πŸ˜‰ I want to learn to love it as I did for a brief period in the military. I think it will also help to lose some more weight and tone muscle if I can kick my workouts up a notch. 

I was next to a hardcore chick on the treadmill last week who was doing this sort of running side-lunge move, interval sprints, walkling lunges, distance running…She was a beast. Of course part of me wanted to hit the Emergency Stop button and send her hurdling headfirst over the front of the treadmill due to an extreme annoyance brought on by envy, but I couldn’t help but give her a silent applause when her irritating ass moved on to her next workout. Bravo, Crazy Treadmill Show-off Girl. Bravo. I may not be there today, but you and your endlessly rage-inducing perky fitness have inspired me. Now pat yourself on the back and then go eat something. πŸ˜‰

Although this blog is super helpful for keeping me accountable and tracking my progress, I have no doubt my self-indulgent ramblings can be tiresome, so I hereby pledge to start posting a weekly non-PFL post. I have two DIY projects to share (super awesome if I do say so myself!), and I’m sure can easily find something to rant, rave, deconstruct, or otherwise have an opinion on. It may or may not be insightful, but it shall be an opinion nonetheless, and likely laced with my brand of sarcasm and humor. 

In the meantime, here’s a little teaser of an upcoming DIY – a Pallet Wine Rack done the lazy way for procrastinating “use what you have” types like me. I promise – it gets prettier!

Future_DIY_Pallet_Wine_Rack.JPG

Oh, you lucky little readers you! πŸ˜‰

 

 

Project Finish Line: When Life Gets in the Way

 
Yet again I’m a bad girl slacking off on my commitment to post weekly. All you fab folks reading this probably didn’t mine the break, though! Before I get into a progress report, it’s important to note that as I write this I am still in a positive place. Life has not been terribly kind to me this first week of 2015, but anyone who expects kindness (or fairness) from life hasn’t been paying attention.

I’ll preface my progression down the Finish Line journey with my self-indulgent tail of woe in hopes that it will help you understand why I’ve made the decisions I’ve made regarding my goals.

We recently purchased a new (used) car and paid cash (Dave Ramsey would be so proud!). The car was purchased and brought home one snowy Saturday, January 3rd. Such joy! We had a paid-for vehicle that wasn’t the total POS our other car had become. The hubz brought it home, and I ooh-ed and aaah-ed over it’s dent/ding/dimple free exterior, scratchless paint job, beautifully detailed interior, and the fact that my guy would no longer have to roll down the window to open the door from the outside because the inside door handle had broken. Sunday, January 4th, the car showed signs of the transmission needing work.

Evidently, this was the beginning of the (temporary) end. 

Monday – aside from just being Monday – was the beginning of what I shall now refer to as Hell Week.

My poor pup had been suffering some GI issues since Christmas Eve. He saw the vet who ran some tests and prescribed an antiobiotic as per usual (this was the second time my baby boy – who is 11 – had this issue), and we treated him, kept him on a bland diet, and generally coddled him. A second round of meds was prescribed when he didn’t show much improvement, but on Day 1 of Hell Week, I came home from the gym to my husband telling me to turn around because our boy needed to go to the Urgent Care.

 

 

So off we went – sneakers, sports bra, sweaty ponytail, and all.

And of course we went in two cars, because we were told earlier that day that we had to bring the car back to the dealer to have it looked at. Turns out my sweet pup had swallowed a rock and needed emergency abdominal surgery that included a myriad of complications and possibly fatal outcomes. So I handed over my credit card for more thousands of dollars than I care to admit, and signed my furry child’s life away. Then we dropped off our two-day old car, that in fact did turn out to be need transmission work- to the tune of nearly another grand. Much to the unknown delight of the dealership, my husband was able to talk them down to almost half that price before anyone had to talk to me.

 

    

Oh, and did I mention? Whilst my fella and I waited on pins and needles, agonizing over the fate of our dog and aching over the state of our severely abused finances, I told him I had to be up early for a doctor’s appointment to have a new lump in my breast checked out. It’s about the size of a golf ball, and though the docs not worried I get to enjoy an ultrasound and mammogram anyway. Woohoo!

So where does this metaphorical bitch slap from the universe leave Project Finish Line? I’ll tell you : 1/3 less fun and fully grounded in harsh reality.

Goal 1: Size 8 by August

The holidays and Hell Week were not kind. I gained back 5 pounds of the weight I lost due to holiday indulgence, eating my emotions, and not having as much gym time – like 5 days in the last 2 weeks. But!! I know what has to be done now, thanks to Chris and Heidi Powell! Carb Cycle and keep moving.  You can check out info on Carb Cycling on the Powells’ blogs, but I would also recommend picking up Chris’s book, Choose More Lose More for Life. In doing so I already got back to 154 in about a week, which is just over one pound from my all-time low. 

 

Much better than the 155.6 from last week!

Goal 2: Finish Writing My Book

The good news is, I finished writing my book! It is definitely not ready for prime time, so now it’s back into the trenches to edit, edit, edit, and edit some more until I’m satisfied. Then, I’ll print, bind, shelve, and be able to say: I finished writing a book.

My taste in literature – much like ALL my life preferences – are quite omni-polar, but you can see Mr. Ramsey’s book stays close.

And perhaps write another…

Goal 3: Go to Europe in 2015

Here’s where things get…a little sad. I just don’t think we can do it this year. I’m experiencing A LOT of anxiety and major stress around financial stability (or the lack thereof) for a variety of reasons I won’t enumerate here, and as a result of thousands of dollars in dog and car bills adding to an already overwhelming amount of debt (ridiculous student loans and a car repossessed by my ex, as examples) I have come to believe that one thing I can do for my own mental and emotional well-being is to take active steps to get out of that debt as soon as possible.

I’ve been reading Dave’s book, Total Money Makeover, as you already know, and now I’m on a mission to get my guy on board and pursue a new goal with the “gazelle intensity” Dave talks about: Kill Credit Card Debt (& Sell Rental Property?) in 2015. We’ll do this through Dave’s Baby Steps.

We already have a small emergency fund (Baby Step 1), and are beginning the Debt Snowball (Baby Step 2).

This will require some serious, committed, uncomfortable sacrifice. And first on the chopping block is Europe. For now…

Sure, I’m sad, but I also feel in my bones that it is the right thing to do. It’s the right decision for me and my family. I spend my work and personal lives taking care of others, and if I’m going to continue to do so I have to take care of myself. The stress of debt and having what feel like never-ending streams of payments sucking the life out of my bank account is also making me feel trapped and without any choices or freedoms. And in turn that is making me irritable, angry, and not very much fun to be around. That can’t happen.

 

So I don’t look at this as giving up on my travel dreams, just adjusting the timing. Goal 3 has changed, and that’s okay because life happens and – as much as I hate anything outside of my control – the trick is to let it happen without letting it happen TO you. Experience, evaluate, adjust, move forward.    

Not Another New Year’s Resolution

I don’t abhor the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions the way I do Valentine’s Day, but I do find it simultaneously silly and limiting. I believe we should all be on a constant path to self improvement, and when doing so on as dynamic a trail as Life that path will consistently change. If it doesn’t, you’re missing the point. 

Every single day is New Year’s. Each day you wake up is a day you can change the course of your life. So I prefer to make goals as I see an opportunity or necessity to do so. For example, I’ve made reference to an accidental personal journey that sort of snuck up on me. As much as I was unprepared for this journey, it has presented itself as undeniaably necessary. Thus, a new goal in this new undertaking. 

Ergo, New Year’s Resolutions are just too limiting in my opinion. You tie yourself to a goal or multiple goals, life happens, things change, and you end the year feeling like you failed at something. And I don’t do failure. 

So this year, instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I am going to explore my Bucket Lists. Yes, I said lists plural. There are the great big grand experiences I hope to have before I die, and then there are those smaller things I want to do that spring up in my mind as goofy, crazy, adventursome, random, life-affirming, or whatever else that can be reasonably acheived within a more immedate future. 

I’m still working on my Terminal Bucket List or TBL as we’ll henceforth and forevermore call it (and some of it I’ll never post for public consumption!), but here’s what I have so far: 

 

1. Travel to as many countries as I can (hope to cross Italy, France, and Spain off the list this year!)

2. Take part in a sweat lodge ceremony

3. Save someone’s life

4. Improve someone’s life significantly 

5. Climb a 14er (only you Coloradoans will really know what that means)

6. Take a month of to hike/camp alone in the mountains (or just take a month off – that’s never happened either!)

7. Pay off ALL my debt and keep it that way Dave Ramsey-style!!!

8. Play with an otter (or multiple otters, either way I’m stoked)

9. Go on a cruise or other Girls Only trip with my best friends

10. Get my concealed carry license

11. Own a motorcycle (and ride it of course)

                                                      

12. See the Northern Lights

 

No, I don’t care to bungy jump or sky dive. I’m a thrill seeker, but I don’t think I actually have a death wish. And I’m TERRIFIED of falling. Not heights – Falling. There’s a difference. 

 

As for this coming year, I have some flavors of little steps to get me to the big items on the TBL as well as just some randomness that I want to be able to say I’ve done. So, the 2015 Annual Bucket List (or, you guessed it, ABL 2015):

 

1. Join Roller Derby (What should I call myself? Eve Isceration, Double D Trouble, Killer Queen, Princess Punisher, Lady Smasher, Lady Killer, SweetTease Pie, 1 Bad Lil Bitch, DD E. Viscerator, Babygirl Bruiser, Bombshell Bruiser, T Zing Terror, …help!)

And this will be the required equipment for an epic klutz such as myself.

2. Take a month of pole dancing “fitness” classes (and maybe video a show?!)

3. Solo Karaoke (I’ve only ever been brave enough to do it in groups)

4. Take motorcycle riding lessons

5. Visit my mom (I haven’t seen her in a year)

6. Take a solo road trip to…somewhere

7. Run a 5K w/ my fitness-savvy friends (the Color Run in August sounds great!!)

 

If the definition of ‘resolution’ is the “firm decision to do or NOT to do something” then I prefer to call this my New Year’s REVolutions, if you must stick me in a box. Some of these things may happen, some of them may not, but I will challenge myself with small acts of living life in the hope that I will always have good stories to tell and never have to regret being on the sidelines of life. 

Because, really at the end of the day it’s all about living. 

It’s all about finding a way to consistently…

Project Finish Line: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story is one of my all time favorite Christmas movies. The tradition, the campiness, the obviously dysfunctional family, and the hilarity of it all playing out for 24 hours on Christmas Day since I was at least a teenager…I just appreciate the endurance of this classic film and that it is always predictably there, every year, like a comforting beacon of hope that some things don’t change; some things can always be depended upon. 

However, one thing is in dire need of change: This girl. 

Project Finish Line is all about getting better at finishing what I start. It’s about harnessing my busy brain and compulsive personality to see things through. 

My three goals (Size 8, Europe, and writing a novel) are all under way, and for those of you who’ve been hanging around a while you know I’ve been mostly fixated on my weight/size as most insecure people are apt to do. But it’s Christmas time, and thus I’ve given myself permission to just enjoy this one week and pay the price later. Whatever twiggy bitch said nothing tastes as good as skinny feels A) must not work out enough, and B) has never tasted my step dad’s holilday cheese ball or my baked brie. 

Or Coquito – OMG Coquito!! Imagine a creamy coconut nog spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and rum. Lots and lots of delicious Puerto Rican rum. 

Back to the point…

We’re not talking body issues today. Or travel. Today, in honor of my fav holiday film, we’re talking my book. I started it four long years ago around this time of year. I foolishly thought I could finish it in the two weeks I took off for the holidays. Silly girl. Between just finding the time and drive to sit and write, my short attention span, and my constantly second-guessing myself I’ve only recently gottent to a plac where I feel like I might be nearing the end. 179 pages and 35 chapters in, I may wrap this thing up at last before Europe.

Below is a brief excerpt from this goofy, untitled work of mine. I’d love to say it gets better, but I’m not the one who can say whether or not that’s true – only you can. It’s intended to be a fast-moving supernatural/sci-fi thriller w/ a dash of a message thrown in, but again…who am I to say that is in fact what it is? 

If you find this first few paragraphs makes you curious to read more, I’d love to hear your feedback. It may just help me finally push this boulder all the way up the hill. 

 


ONE

Alex tried desperately to control her breathing as she crept through the darkness of the master bedroom. She couldn’t let the shock of her discovery or the fear of getting caught get in the way of her escape, but Ger slept just behind her on the bed, snoring quietly, and there would be no way to explain her midnight flight if he woke.

She opened his sock drawer so slowly it was painful and withdrew the zippered pouch that carried Ger’s two-thousand dollars of emergency cash. Having already dressed in sneakers, jeans and a black sweat jacket, she picked up her purse from the dresser and tiptoed to the bedroom door.

The moonlight cut strips of light across the emerald green carpet as it shown through the wood blinds on the French doors leading to the balcony and, with her hand on the door knob, Alex paused to take one last look at Ger, the man who would betray her in the most heinous way, though she wasn’t sure even he knew that yet.

Sometimes it was such a burden knowing the truth.

She turned back and eased the door open just enough to squeeze through. She closed the door silently behind her and leaned against it, taking her first full breath in nearly ten minutes. She turned left towards the stairway and stopped. His office was to the right, the door slightly ajar. There might be something on his lap top. Something to explain whatever possible reason there might be for what he was planning to do to her.

Quickly and without any further thought, she quietly made her way to his lap top. She sat down in his plush office chair and looked at the door, sure that at any moment he would wake up and appear as a hulking, dark figure in the doorway. Two excruciating minutes later the screen shown bright and ready. She had no idea what she was looking for. All of this was so surreal she could barely think. Finally she clicked on Start and then Search, and typed in the only thing she could think of that might find the information for which she was looking: Alexandria Graysen.

Unbelievably, this bit of amateur investigation yielded results: a password protected file labeled with her last name, Graysen.

Crap. 

She had no idea what Ger’s password could be, and she had no time to find out. Just as she began to get up, she noticed the glow cast by the lap top’s screen fell on a jump drive inserted in the side of the machine.

Could anything be on here? Would Ger be so complacent as to leave it out in the open? Of course he would. Ger had every confidence in the world that no one would dare steal from an Ostreicher. And certainly not twice in one night.

At lightning speed Alex disconnected the little, black plastic device, shoved it in her purse along with the stolen cash and leapt for the door. She hurtled silently towards the stairs, hands shaking and knees threatening to give up at any moment. Her blood was pounding so loudly in her ears that she barely heard the deep, icy voice come from behind her.

“How did you know,” he asked.

Her heart thudded faster in her chest, her breath came in weak, frantic gasps. She froze with her foot on the first step and turned to face him.