Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Finacially Independent

One of the things on my 30 Before 30 list is to pay all my own bills with no help from my mom.  I know, I know..I'm spoiled right?  I just got in the habit of my mom covering my gas and my car insurance since I was 16 and I've just never been able to cut that cord because I was afraid.  I was afraid of failing financially and that was my safety net.  But starting July 1st I am going to try!  For the first time in my life I will be paying ALL my own bills on a consistent basis.

Money is a really tough thing in your 20s.  You aren't making crap and you suddenly have all these bills.  It takes a while to learn how it all works and it is so easy to get out of control in your 20s and spend the rest of you life paying it off.

You look around at your friends and feel like you have to keep up with what they have.  First it is the cute clothes and designer purses.  Then it is the car and the house.  Before you know it you end up in over your head thinking what did I do?

Then you have the fun factor to deal with.  Your 20s is when you are supposed to be living it up.  You have so much freedom so you should enjoy it right?  Drinks after work, dinner out with your friends, concerts, movies, and that big game you just HAVE to go to end up draining your bank account.

Then you have the trips.  I mean what other time in your life will you have so much freedom to just get up and go?  You want to see the world!  You take a cruise for Spring Break.  You trek across Europe after graduation.  I mean this is what happens in the movies to 20 somethings just like you, so why not you??

One other thing that I have not had to deal with yet, but could pop up in your 20s is children.  I can't even imagine the drain that puts on your bank account!

Soon you start to realize there are so many boring important things you have to cover as well like insurance- health, car, home!  Then you have 401Ks to fund and oil changes and then your dishwasher quits working and suddenly all your "fun" money has gone to boring grown-up stuff.

It is a lot to figure out and it has taken me over 10 years to feel like I finally have some control over my finances.  And that took a lot of falling into deep money pits and pulling myself out of them (sometimes with a little help!).  I racked up $2000 on a credit card in college.  I got laid off and after months of looking had to take a job at a 30% pay cut and figure out how too make ends meet.  But all that has taught me so much that I would have never learned without the unexpected and unimaginable actually happening to me!

I'm no financial expert, but I have got some things down now.  According to Charles Schwab's Financial Fitness tool I am in pretty good shape with a solid score of 76.  So here are some of my financial tips for 20 somethings:

1. Pay off your credit card balance EVERY MONTH!  If you are in debt to credit card companies, make a plan and pay them off immediately.  Go on a "spending diet".  Pay off the one with the highest interest rate first and work your way down.  Once you get them paid off only use them for big purchases (to get the points, rewards, or discounts) and then pay it all off when the bill comes.  I say only big purchases because they are not easy to forget.  If you use them on everyday things like a trip to Target or a dinner out, it can add up quickly and you might not have enough left at the end of the month to pay it off.  A big purchase ($100+) is not as easy to forget and you can just keep that set aside and pay off the bill when it comes (or even better, go right home and pay it off online before you forget!)  You want to use credit wisely like that so that when you need a loan for something big like a house or car, you will have the credit score that proves you know how to pay your bills on time!

2. Live more simply.  This one I learned over the last year.  I had to cut out everything I could.  I wanted to go on the annual ski trip with all my friends but I knew I couldn't.  I was in LOVE with my DVR but eventually I had to give that up too.  I didn't buy new clothes.  I was down to like 3 pairs of shoes.  I skipped dinners out and movie trips with my friends.  But, you know what?  It's not so bad.  Things you think you just HAVE to HAVE, you really don't.  I could probably afford DVR and cable now, but I don't need it.  I also did a big yard sale this Spring and it amazed me how much I WANTED to part with.  I want my closet to be less crazy!  I want to have less knick knacks to dust!  So before you buy something really think about how much you really need it and if you buy it and have buyer's remorse the next day or even THINK you won't use it as much as you thought, RETURN IT!

3. Enroll in one of those automatic savings plans at your bank.  I enrolled in my bank's automatic savings program a few years ago.  I takes a dollar out of my checking account and puts it into my savings account automatically every time I use my debit card- which is A LOT!  I never have cash!  It doesn't build up crazy amounts, but you can rack up a couple hundred in there over the course of 6-12 months and I can not tell you how many times that account has bailed me out when unexpected expenses pop up- like the AC repair I had to have this week!  In addition to that I would recommend getting as much as you can in to another savings account like a Money Market account.  If it wasn't for my Money Market account, I would have been screwed when I lost my job last year!

4. Set warning thresholds for your checking account.  I have a low and high threshold warning set for my checking account.  My low threshold is $500 and my high is $1500.  I set it for these amounts because I know if I hit that low threshold I am in danger of not being able to cover my mortgage payment if I don't watch my spending (factoring in the amount of my next paycheck) and if I hit the high threshold I know I should look at moving some of it to my money market account before I get the "I've got money" syndrome and blow it on something I don't need.  This is a system that took me a while to get right because of the way my bills come and when I get paid, so just play around with the threshold limits until you find what works for you.

5. Ignore the "Joneses".  It is so easy to get wrapped up in comparing what you have to what your friends have.  You want a big 3 bedroom house with a garage because that is what your best friend got.  You want a nice car because that is what you are surrounded by in the parking lot at Target.  You want the shoes everyone is wearing.  You want  the American Dream- a big house, or that killer apartment, with the 2 cars and maybe even a boat!  That's the way everyone lives in the movies right?  Ignore it.  It will drive you crazy and drive you into debt in a heartbeat.  Don't buy things you can't afford.  Don't think life is a race of who can get the most and best stuff the quickest.  It's not.  Figure out what you really need and then once you have those things covered start adding some splurges that make YOU happy.  Screw what everyone else's NOT a competition.  And trust me, I know this is easier said than done, but it is the one rule that can make your life and your dealings with money so much easier!

So what are some financial lessons you've learned in your 20s?

Disclaimer: This post is part of the 20SB Blog Carnival: Friends & Money, sponsored by Charles Schwab. Prizes may be awarded to selected posts. The information and opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the views or opinions of Charles Schwab. Details on the event, eligibility, and a complete list of participating bloggers can be found here

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why I'm not going to ask out a crush

I have lots of crushes.  I always have.  Since middle school I have always found it so fun to have a crush to admire from afar.  You would make up nicknames for him with your friends so that no one would know who you were talking about.  You would fantasize different things happening with him- like going to prom, or making out at the next party, or even getting married!

Rarely did these crushes ever turn in to actual relationships, but really I don’t think they should.  Most of the time the crushes were just because you thought a guy was “so cute” and relationships built on looks alone hardly ever work out.

But since I had such a crush thing going on, I thought I should add “ask out a crush” to my 30 Before 30 list.

I’ve asked guys out before, but it was never someone I had not been out with already- except for some “non-dates” I had to ask to functions such as formals, or rehearsal dinners and other occasions that require a “date”.  And for those I always asked guys I did not have a crush on but someone I knew I would be comfortable with and have fun with.

For some reason I could never ask out a crush.

But now I know why.  It’s not because I did not have the guts to do it.  It’s because I am old fashioned and I refuse to let the guy get off easy.  I mean I want a man, not a boy.  I want this man to be the man in the relationship with me and to set the tone from the beginning by asking ME out on a proper date.  A man should know what he wants and the proper way to ask a girl he likes out for a date.  I refuse to date boys who do not know who they are or what they want anymore because in my experience that only ends up hurting me in the end.  They either cheat on you or leave you to see if there is something better out there or they treat you like crap because they don’t know how to treat a woman.  It’s time to grow up.  I’m sure your mothers taught you how to treat a lady, so start doing it.

I’m all for equal rights and think women can do just about anything a man can do (sometimes better).  But I’m ok with being the girl.  I WANT to be the girl.  And I want the man I am with to treat me like a girl- a smart, wonderful, beautiful, funny girl that he thinks is just amazing- not a doormat or a housekeeper, but a partner that he wants to help, protect, and enjoy life with. 

And I want him to be the man.  I want him to be decisive and be the leader in our relationship.  I want to look at him with pride and support him in anything he wants to do.  I want him to respect my opinion and come to me when the world has beaten him down for the comfort he needs.  I’m a lady and I expect my husband to be a gentleman and treat me like a lady.  And that includes him asking ME out.

I think I was so opposed to this and fought this natural urge for so long because society kept telling me if I was a “strong independent modern woman” I should be asking guys out left and right.  But I think that I am still a strong, independent modern woman who wants a man to be a man and to ask me out if he is into me.  What is so wrong with that?

I’m not saying this is what is right for everyone.  I know lots of married couples where the girl was the first one to make the move.  All I am saying is this is what’s right for me.  And I am finally just accepting that and saying I don’t care what society tells me, this is what I want.

And that is why I am marking it off the list even though I haven’t completed it.  And I am perfectly ok with that.  It doesn’t mean that I failed.  I just figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted so why do it just because of the list?  It’s ok to figure out you were wrong about something, right?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

I'm thinking about taking something off The List

Despite the fact that my AC decided to stop working and I am going to have to sleep downstairs on the couch tonight because it is like a million degrees upstairs AND I have to wake up and get 4 shots in the morning, it was still a great weekend!

Friday I went and hung out with my BFF and my favorite 4 year old. He is so stinking cute. While I was over there he runs up to his grandpa in the kitchen and says "Popa I have a Susan!" It was so cute! I think a Susan is a very good thing to have and I am happy to be his Susan!

Saturday was another surprise party! Yes, I know we just had one, but they are so much fun. This time it was for my friend's 30th birthday and it was an 80's theme! Normally I don't like dressing up too much, but I decided to put some effort in to it. I tight rolled my jeans, wore a bright orange shirt with a bright green tank top, big hoop earrings, zebra print stilettos and put my hair half up in side pony tail thing. I was glad I dressed up because just about every girl there dressed up and some of the guys too! It was hilarious!

We are just so goofy and comfortable with each really is like we are family. We were dancing our butts off to "Come on Eileen" in the garage and then we had a dance off to 80's music in the living room. The boys were hilarious! They were busting out moves like "the sprinkler" and "the shopping cart". The birthday girl did the whole "She's a maniac" thing from Fame. It was so much fun!

Most of us ended up on the back porch towards the end of the night and somehow everyone was going around telling stories of how they met their significant other. Well, in my group of friends the boys sure do like to pick on me. So they ask my crush "So tell us about the first time you met Susan!" (This was not the first embarrassing reference they had made about the crush that night. They picked on where we disappeared to last time...I swear I want to kill them sometimes.) He immediately laughed and said "She raped my ear!"

I met him a few years ago when we all went down to Savannah for Saint Patrick's Day. We all got wasted one night and had to get a van back to the house. I apparently made out with his ear while he was practically passed out in the van. I can barely remember that night, but no one will ever let us forget how I "raped" his ear! It has been a joke for years. I'm glad he is such a good sport because with any other guy I would have died of embarrassment years ago!

Unfortunately the night ended very badly. Two of the brothers got in a fist fight and one of them had a cut so deep above his eye that we thought he might have to get stitches. The brothers have fought before but that was the worst fight I've seen. I got up and went inside because I knew it was coming. One was pushing the other one's buttons and would not stop and they were both drunk and I could just feel the air getting tense. I won't go in to details but it was bad and I hate that is how the night ended because it was such a good night up to that point.

This weekend also got me thinking about the list. I turn 30 in a little over a month. I have a lot to mark off, but I think I am going to get most of them. And whatever I don't I will just move to my 40 Before 40 List.

I am thinking about taking one off though. I don't think I want to "ask out a crush". I have had ample opportunity to ask out a crush over the last few weeks (or at least make out with him) but I have no desire to. We flirt with each other and have fun, but I don't want to go any further than that. I don't know if it is because I see him more as a friend now or what, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I want the guy I'm going to be with to have the guts to ask me out if he likes me. I'm the girl and I want the guy I marry to treat me like a girl and court me. If I was just looking for a date, fine, I would ask out the crush. But I have given up on dating. I have no desire to get in another dead end relationship. I would rather be alone. When I do meet the one I want him to like me so much he won't hesitate to ask me out or "chase" me. Until then I can just enjoy flirting with the crush and dancing with random boys. That's more fun than all the drama anyway!

What do you think? Should I take that one off the list?

Friday, June 25, 2010

One Year Later

Before I bring you my regular blog post I have to tell you about my new favorite summertime drink!  It was inspired by the Strawberry Lemonade at O'Charley's.  I tried that a few months ago and LOVED it!  I had it again a few weeks ago when my mom and uncle came up to visit for my mom's birthday.  I was determined to make an at home version that was easy and quick.  It's isn't as banging as the O'Charley's version, but it is pretty darn good!

Pour half a glass of this:

And top off the other half with this:

Try it!  You'll like it!

Anyway...All over the news has been stories of how it has been one year since Michael Jackson died (and Farrah Fawcett- poor Farrah, she'll always be in MJ's shadow now.)

I remember when I found out about MJ's death.  I was laying out by the pool (on a weekday) and got the news on my phone.  Thinking about that day a year later made me think about how much has changed in the last year.

Last year I was laid off but getting ready to start a new job at the real estate office.
This year I no longer work at the real estate office and I am swimming in the deep end and feeling a little lost at my big new corporate job.

Last year I was in a relationship that I was still trying to get used to.

This year I really no longer talk to that guy and do not have not much desire to date...I hate dating and I don't even know how I would fit it in because I am so busy!  I just wish my husband would show up on my doorstep and sweep me off my feet!

Last year I was sad because I couldn't afford an annual summer vacation.

This year I'm still not taking a summer vacation, but I am going on the biggest, longest trip of my life to Dubai in a few weeks!

A lot has changed in just a few short months.  That makes me excited because I hope a lot more changes over the next 12 months!

How much has your life changed over the last year?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I'll Pray for You

Sorry I haven't written in a while.  Things have been super busy this week!  I think it is going to just be crazy maddness from here on out until I get back from Dubai.

That reminds me again- those of you who donated or helped me raise funds- THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! I couldn't have gotten here without you!!  I can not believe it is happening.  I can not wait to go and come back and share my experience with all of you!!  You guys are angels and I can only hope to be as generous as you were when someone needs me!

Which brings me to a Christian I am challenged to pray for people everyday.  Pray for a friend whose mother just found out the cancer is back.  Pray for a friend who is about to have her first baby.  Pray for a family whose little girl is in the hospital.  Pray for a friend who is about to have surgery.  Pray for a friend who is going after a new job.  Pray for a friend who is trying to sell her condo, find a new job and move.  Pray for a co-worker who was just in a car accident.

Those types of prayers aren't that hard, you just have to remember them all.  The kind of prayers that are hard are the ones you pray for the people you don't like.  People who have hurt you or done you wrong.  Mean people.  Your enemies.  Mostly I pray for God to give me a forgiving spirit towards them and to be able to show them love even if they are undeserving just like God showed me love when I was undeserving.

But last night I heard a song on the radio that had me cracking up! Deep down this is the type of prayer I would rather pray for those meanies...because deep down I'm mean too!  Only God can help me love my enemies because trust me it ain't easy!

Pray for You- Jaron and The Long Road to Love

I haven't been to church since I don't remember when
Things were going great til they fell apart again
So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do
He said you can't go hatin' others who have done wrong to you
Sometimes we get angry but we must not condemn
Let the good Lord do his job, you just pray for them

I pray your brakes go out runnin' down a hill
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill
And knocks you in the head like I'd like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you're flyin' high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are, honey, I pray for you

I'm really glad I found my way to church
Cause I'm already feelin' better and I thank God for the words
Yeah, I'm gonna take the high road and do what the preacher told me to do
You keep messin' up, and I'll keep prayin' for you

I pray your tire goes out at 110
I pray you pass out drunk with your best friend
And wake up with his and her tattoos

I pray your brakes go out runnin' down a hill
I pray a flower pot falls from a window sill
And knocks you in the head like I'd like to
I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls
I pray you're flyin' high when your engine stalls
I pray all your dreams never come true
Just know wherever you are, near or far
In your house or in your car
Wherever you are, honey, I pray for you
I pray for you

Monday, June 21, 2010

It's all fun and games until someone gets hurt!

Tonight the neighbors brought over some goodies for Cam and Bailey and me as a thank you for checking in on their cats.  So sweet!  One of the toys in there was a laser pointer for Bailey.  He loved it!  But soon Cam got jealous and wanted to show Bailey how it was done.  He was running so fast trying to catch that little red dot.  All of a sudden I saw what looked like mud streaks on the kitchen floor.  Upon closer inspection I saw that it was blood.  And it wasn't just in the kitchen, it was everywhere!  Blood streaks all over the carpet!

I told Cam to lay down so I could find out where the bleeding was coming from.  I soon saw that he had ripped the pads off of BOTH of his front feet!  I made him stay in the kitchen while I used every drop of carpet cleaner in my house trying to get up the streaks all over my living and dining room.  I still didn't get them all!

He didn't even act like it hurt!  But I cleaned them and bandaged them to stop the bleeding from getting anywhere else:

Poor thing!  This is the second time he has ripped one of his paw pads off!  I feel like a bad mommy for teasing him with the laser pointer, but he loved it.  He would've kept going all night if I wouldn't have seen the blood!  I think that will have to be a Bailey only toy from now on.

And I guess I will either be renting a carpet cleaner or maybe this is a great excuse to get those hardwoods I've been wanting!

He was sure worn out from all that playing though!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Holy Moly Phone Bill!

Last night I sat down to pay my bills.  Everything was pretty normal until I got to my phone bill.  My phone bill is usually around $90/mo.  I opened this month's bill and it was over $200!  I though ok, they just haven't processed last month's payment.  Oh no, they had processed last month's payment.  I had went over my minutes!  I had never gone over my minutes!  I had roll over minutes and the two people I used to talk to everyday after work- witty guy and the BIFF both were AT&T customers so they were free.

What the heck had happened?!

I couldn't tell from looking at my bill so I called customer service. Apparently I had started to dip in to my roll over minutes in April. April is when all the crap with witty guy went down. Now instead of calling him everyday after work, I was calling my other best friend- who is not an AT&T customer. I spent so much time talking to her about all my drama before the 9 pm cut off for my night time minutes that I blew through all of my regular monthly minutes and my roll-over minutes over the past 2 months. Now I was getting charged $.45/minute and I had gone over by almost 400 minutes! That's $180 worth of complaining and whining!

Lesson Learned. Yes, talking to a friend to work through a break up might help, but do it after 9 pm next time ok?

Fill in the Blank Friday

Better late than never right?? I thought I would do this one because it is so relevant right now after just spending a week in class for work! 

Join in the fun with us at Lauren's Blog.

1. The best thing about being in school was/is having so much control over my schedule and so much free time- I could make it so I didn’t start classes until 11 am was done by 2 pm and had no classes on Friday .

2. The worst thing about being in school was/is having to make sure I was on track to meeting all of my major requirements on time and not taking more elective courses while I had the chance .

3. My favorite subject in school was/is Art. I always took an art option in high school- calligraphy, pottery, etc. And I took Color and Design in college. I’m not that good, but I love art and pretty things.

4. One subject I wish I could have mastered/would like to master is Spanish. Do you know how much more money I could make and how valuable I would be if I knew Spanish!?

5. I could never get tired of studying is a false statement. There is not one thing I could never, ever get tired of. I think I have adult ADD.

6. The most memorable teacher I had was Mr. Justice. He was my band teacher. He was a crotchety old man and strict with some small bursts of dry humor, but he somehow inspired passion in all his students and we were pretty dang good.

7. If I could choose between going to school for the rest of my life or working for the rest of my life, I'd choose school if I could get paid for it. I love learning!

BTW...we had our final presentation in class today and I did so much better. It looked great and I did a good job presenting. I mean it is only a mock run since we haven't actually completed our projects, but I think after I complete my project and actually know more about what I am talking about it will make it even better!

Also another side note- the long timer called me again and he said the wedding is off. He just couldn't get married. He still is claiming he wasn't really engaged in the first place.  If he is telling the truth I say good for him for figuring that out before it was too late! But really? not my problem. That is one thing I am going to try to incorporate into my life now- not letting things, thoughts, people, problems, etc. in to my life that don't need to be there. There are a lot of things I want to cut out so that I have more time for the things I want to spend more time on/with like: Cam, exercise, God, and sleeping. Seriously if I could get more time with these things then maybe I won't be wound so tight that I cry at work!

Here's to a relaxing weekend spending more time with those four things!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Crying at work is not a good thing

So after I wrote about my attitude adjustment needed for this whole class thing at lunch I had the worst afternoon ever.

We had to do presentations after lunch of what our project is.  As I am watching these presentations I am getting more and more nervous.  First I didn't have my presentation on a company power point template, so I went and found the template and I put in my slides and stuff and edited them.  I had to copy all these flow charts and spreadsheets from the presentation I was working on and formatting got all messed up, so basically I was trying to get my presentation looking right the whole time other people were presenting.

Then it just seemed like everyone knew so much more about their projects and how to solve the issues than I did. Well of course they do. They have been with the company a lot longer than I have. They know the processes and the people involved. I don't. I have only been there 4 weeks. And there is no existing process for what I am trying to improve.

Also most of them seem to be a lot older than me. Not only am I the newbie, I am the youngin. Not a good combination.

So I wait to go last thinking I can go through it all really quickly and everyone will be ready to get out of there.

Well when I go up and plug my computer into the presenter and pull up the slide show, all of my slides are messed up. I don't know what the heck happened! I tried to close the presentation and reopen it but nothing worked right. The slides on the screen were not the pretty slides I had just put together. It looked like the template data I erased was still in the backgound and all my stuff was jumbled up on top of each slide and somehow there were only 6 slides when I had made 14!

So I had to use my old presentation. And since most of the slides I had edited in the new presentation, the old presentation wasn't even right. I wanted to die, but what else could I do?! Some of the slides I created weren't even in my old presentation. I looked like a dumb ass, but I still had to just go through it.

So not only did I feel like I didn't even know what I was talking about, it looked like I didn't even know what I was doing and had not done half of the work.

Also right before I got up to present, one of my co-workers pinged me about a new project that is due on Friday. I had gotten a email sent to me last Friday about it, but I didn't know who was supposed to be leading it or what my role in it was or anything and I am still confused about what they want me to do with it.

I am so overwhelmed. So yeah tears snuck out of my eyes after the presentation. I tried to hold them back for when I got in my car, but they wouldn't stay in and I am still crying now.

I hate feeling like I am not in control and like I don't know what I am doing. I am a smart girl, but I just don't understand where I am going wrong. It is just a lot to take in when I am in a new environment and a new role that never existed before with no existing processes or procedures to go off of. But at the same time I want to make it seem like I do. I want to be like I've got this and knock their socks off, but I just feel like I don't know what the expectations are or even where I am failing.

Rule #1 for working girls is DON'T CRY AT WORK and I've already failed at that. I hate being an overachiever and caring so much!

I feel like I am playing a game but I don't even know what the goal of the game is, who my teammates are, or what the rules are. I'm that kid standing in the middle of the field just trying to figure out what to do. And I feel like there has to be something wrong with me because I don't understand what is going on.

I hate feeling stupid and I hate it even more that it made me cry!

Learning to Love Lean Six Sigma?

This week I am taking a class for work that is very intense.  Most of the people in my class have worked here for years and I’ve been here a month.  The class is to get Green Belt certified in Lean Six Sigma which is a process methodology that results in speed and quality of output.  Green Belt is the second level- I guess I skipped Yellow Belt!  Anyway to get your Green Belt you have to lead a project that takes anywhere from 3-6 months and report out on the results and how you used the Lean Six Sigma methodology.  This class and this project and the certification process are going to be a lot harder than I thought they were going to be.

All week I have been complaining about how much my brain hurts- how it is overflowing with flow charts and acronyms and definitions.  The class moves so fast I can barely keep up.  This is not like me at all.  I was always good in school- except when I gave up on a class and didn’t try at all because it wasn’t worth it (that happened 3 times in my life and I don’t regret any of them).  But I was one of those kids that didn’t have to study.  I pick up on things quickly.  I have always said my brain is my best asset.

But this week has been tough because I can’t just coast.  I have to work hard and fast to keep up.  And I will have to work hard and fast for the next 3-6 months to complete my project and get my certification- on top of doing my regular work!

Instead of being thankful for the opportunity to get certified and appreciating that my boss had enough confidence in me to put me through this my first month here, I have been complaining.  I have been complaining that it is hard and I’m stressed out, and I’m too new to know all I need to know to do this. 

I need to change my outlook and be thankful and joyful for this opportunity instead of complaining about how hard it is. 

By the way the one thing I have really learned is that EVERYTHING in life is a process.  And now I can use this methodology not only to improve processes at work, but everywhere in my life.  Maybe I should define, measure, analyze, investigate, control, and share (DMAICS- one of our many acronyms!) my process (or lack thereof) for keeping my house clean!  Or maybe I should use the Lean Six Sigma methodology to change my attitude about this certification process!

It's so easy to complain, but really, I, and everyone else in the world, should be thankful for every learning or educational opportunity they get.  Don't take it for granted because there are a lot of people out there that would probably kill to be in your shoes!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Long Busy Weekend!

Whew!  I have had a very busy last 72 hours!

Habitat was fun!  We got stuff done a lot more quickly than expected and I was home by 11 am.  I tried to go to the pool to lay out, but I have lost my pool key so I had to call to get them to send me a new one.  Instead I laid out on my back patio for about 2 hours (it was HOT!) and worked on my laptop.  Then I had to go shopping for birthday cards, shower stuff, and presents.  I spent about an hour at the bookstore which I just love doing!  Bookstores make me about as happy as Target!


The Vet:
Saturday morning I took Cam to the vet.  He lost some weight!  He got a smiley for that.  He got shots, a heartworm test, fecal exam, that bordatella up the nose thing, and basically the whole work up.  $172 later he got a clean bill of health and a see-ya-next-year.  Seriously...why does the vet have to cost so much?!

Baby's Birthday:
Then I went to my friend's baby's 1st birthday party.  It was packed!  There were a lot of people, a lot of kids, a lot of presents, and a lot of food.  Avery's mom has got it going on in the entertainment department.  They always know how to throw a party.  It was hot though!  This whole weekend in NC was miserably hot and humid!  But it was good because I got to see and catch up with some people I haven't seen in a really long time and Avery was so adorable as always!

Surprise Party:
After that it was mission time.  My BIFF's husband and I had been conspiring to throw her a surprise birthday party.  At one point I really didn't think it was going to happen because there was SO much going on this weekend and we didn't think we'd be able to fit in a surprise party for her.  I even told her one day at the gym that we had been thinking about throwing her a surprise party, but it looked like it wasn't going to work out.  She was really down about the whole thing because she had had some birthday letdowns in the past.  But somehow her husband pulled it all together and all I had to do was get her out of the house so he could set up and get everyone there.

I'm a bad liar but I convinced her that as my birthday gift to her we were going to get mani/pedis and her husband convinced her that his parents were going to take them out to dinner afterwards.  It worked!  She had no idea and was so surprised when she walked in and everyone was there and yelled surprise!  She really had no clue!  It was great!

We all had a great time drinking and eating and playing cornhole (I am actually getting better at that game!).  And this was the first time a lot of us had hung out together in a while!  I just love my friends!

The Crush:
At this party was a guy that I have known for years.  He is kind of a part of our group of friends.  He hangs out with us occasionally and has been on a few trips I have been on over the years. I guess I have had a crush on him for probably the whole time I've known him- about 5 years.  I don't know how to describe it.  He has that way of being completely adorable and really hot at the same time.  And I think he is a really nice guy despite his sometimes bad rep. Sometimes he seemed to not have it all "together" in life and maybe parties too much, but still he has always been sweet and nice to me.  He is a few years younger than me though so sometimes I look at him like a little brother or something too, which confuses the crush side...I don't know it's not a normal crush...I just have a soft spot for him for some reason.

I am pretty sure he was well aware of this crush thing because a few weeks ago I had called and left him a voicemail after one of my worst nights ever of drinking (break-ups will make you do stupid stuff like drink tons of liquor on an empty stomach!).  I don't remember what I said, but apparently I told him what I wanted to do to him in no uncertain terms.  I was so embarrassed, but luckily he called the next day and made a joke out of it and kind of made the whole thing better.  I was so thankful we were able to smooth that over so it wouldn't be too awkward the next time I saw him.

Anyway, somehow we ended up going to his house at some point during the party last night (which was right up the street) and talked for a while (but it didn't look good that we disappeared together).  I SWEAR nothing happened.  Nothing.  I didn't even feel like that about him for some reason last night.  We just talked about our past heartbreaks and life I guess.  I probably shared way more about my life than I should have, but alcohol will do that to you!

At one point I told him I had a high price (I was pretty drunk and that probably made me sound like a hooker).  He laughed about it and said "i want to know what your price is".  I just said "oh, it's really high"... but what I meant was that I don't just give myself away to just anybody.  Here I was with a guy I had had a crush on forever, but I was not really even tempted to have a meaningless make-out session with him or anything.  I just don't do that anymore.  I've had my crazy twenties and kissed lots of frogs thinking it might mean more, but now I know better and even if you want to try to be in a relationship with me I can promise you it won't be some easy casual thing.  I'm looking for more than that and that is what I meant by "I have a high price".  I just couldn't articulate that at the time nor did I really want to.

We went back to the party after letting the dog out (and forgetting to let him back in!) and as soon as we got there it started pouring rain.  We ran and stood on the front porch together forever watching the rain.  I don't even really know why we didn't go in the house.  Eventually we went in and hung out for a little more with everyone and finally I ended up driving home at 5 am after sobering up.

When I woke up this morning though I was like "Dang!  I could've marked two things off my list last night if I would have been thinking about it more- ask out a crush and kiss in the rain!"  But things happen for a reason sometimes and I am glad nothing happened last night.  I don't even really know if I have a crush on him anymore...I think it is just some kind of soft spot I have for him because really I don't ever see anything happening between us.  I am not a casual kind of girl and he is nice enough to realize that and not take advantage. Plus I am still healing from my last heartbreak right now.  I'm glad I didn't try to ruin my movie love moment of kissing in the rain just because the opportunity presented itself.

At church this morning we had a guest preacher and he was very different than our normal preacher.  He kind of growled/yelled/sung his sermon?  I don't know how to describe it.  It was not really my thing.  But I thought again about saying "I have a high price" last night but in a totally different way during church this morning.  I DO have a high price.  The price for me was more than I could pay and required the sacrifice of God's son.  I think just knowing that internally was another thing that stopped me from being tempted by the crush last night.  Knowing the price that was paid for me makes me live my life very differently.  I got concerned because I was like "Has the wild, carefree, fun Suz disappeared?!"  But I haven't, I've just changed and won't compromise myself.  I know who I am and what I want so temptations are much easier to tackle.

This afternoon we had a baby shower for my friend who is due in July.  The girl who threw it is so creative and cute!  All the decorations and food were wonderful!  I was in charge of games and the mom-to-be requested not having her belly measured.  I had already done the gift bingo, candy bar diapers, and pin the diaper on the baby things, so I wanted to come up with something different.  We did a baby/pregnancy trivia game (if you live in Raleigh and have ever heard G105's Horseshoes and Hand-grenades game, it was like that). And we did a game where we all had silly bandz and if you were caught saying the word "baby" you got your silly band stolen by whoever caught you.  The one with the most at the end of the party won.  It was fun.  I also got to feel the baby hiccup which was cool.  Pregnancy and the fact that a little human grows out of practically nothing inside your belly is just amazing to me!

So yeah it has been a long weekend and I have a training class to get Six Sigma certified for work all next week, so I think I will be calling it an early night tonight!

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Do Good = Feel Better?

Not to toot my own horn, but this week I am doing some really nice things for others.

It all started with checking in on my neighbors cats.  I thought these neighbors hated me.  I haven't really talked to them all that much and I highly suspected them of complaining to our HOA about me forgetting to pick up Cam's poop on occasion.  (I do pick up his poop, just not always right after he is hard to find that crap in the dark!)  Anyway, last Friday they stopped by and asked if I would mind watching their cats over the weekend.  The woman who lives there had a very sick mother in Virginia that they needed to go see.  I said sure, no problem.  They gave me a key and showed me where everything was and what to do and I actually really enjoyed visiting them.  They are very sweet cats.  Then yesterday the man came back over and said her mother had taken a turn for the worse and he was driving back up there to be with them and would I mind checking in on the cats.  Of course!  So I am watching their cats until they get back.  (I just found out her mother passed away last night, so say a little prayer for their family.)

Then I had a friend from high school on Facebook ask if anyone lived near the airport.  I commented that I was really close to the airport.  She sent me a message asking if they could park their car at my house and take a cab to the airport so it wouldn't cost so much.  I replied and said they didn't need to call a cab.  I would drive them.  Yes, it was at 5 am this morning, but I had to be up for the gym by 6 am anyway, so what was one hour and that's what friends are for right?

Tomorrow I am going with the rest of the people on my floor to de-construct a house for Habitat for Humanity.   I'm excited about this because I have always wanted to do something with Habitat and I heard that you can get out a lot of frustration de-constructing a house!  Plus it will give me a chance to interact with my co-workers outside of work!

So yeah, helping other people gives me a little boost.  I have been really down since the end of witty guy.  I miss him.  And I'm not even sure if I just miss talking to him and having him around in a friend sense or a romantic way.  I told him I couldn't talk to him anymore, but we have exchanged some emails and I even broke down and called him tonight (he didn't answer).  But yeah, he was my best friend and I miss him, so it has been hard.

But staying busy and being able to help other people is a good way to keep my mind off of it.

In college I made a list of 10 things I thought I needed in life to be happy and one of them was to do something for charity each month.  I think I am making good progress on that one.

Here is the rest of the list in case you were curious:
1. a dog
2. a house on a lake
3. children
4. a man with the following qualities: ambition, honesty, good looks, good sense of humor, someone who likes to play and be silly, a take charge kind of guy, a deep thinker, loves dogs, loves the mountains, sweet, and considerate
5. trips to- Hawaii, Australia, Italy, New York, Boston, and Tahiti
6. At least 4 close, loyal, lasting friends
7. Do at least 1 thing for charity each month
8. a nice homey home
9. a good looking healthy body
10. a job i like and i am passionate about

I wrote that list about 10 years ago and I still think they are very accurate.

What would be on your happy list?

P.S. Do you want to do something good?  Go give THIS VIDEO a five paw rating!  This town was just destroyed by flooding and are in desperate need of a new dog park.  If you want to learn more about what happened to this community CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

I love my dog!

One of the best things about life is that each day is a new day. 

On Monday I was so thankful there were only 24 hours in a day.  Ususally I wish there was more because I feel like there is never enough time in the day, but Monday was the worst day I had in a while, so I was more than glad to see it go.

Things are back to normal and I hope I don't have a day like that again for a LONG time.  It was not that anything too horrible happened, I was just not myself at all.

One thing that always makes things better is this guy:

This guy LOVES me!  He knows when I am having a bad day.  He follows me everywhere.  He is always happy to see me.  And he gets so excited about even the tiniest things like going for a car ride.

But the thing both he and I love best?

Cuddle time!

I swear the more boys I meet, the more I love my dog.  If only a boy could be this perfect!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sometimes I wish I could quit being a girl

Men- you might want to skip this post.

Today freaking sucks and do you know why?  Most of it is due to my stupid little monthly visitor.  I swear I used to be one of those girls that did not get PMS, but today it is in full freaking force.

I have cried 3 times at work, sent 2 really nasty emails, snapped at 3 people, and just basically been reduced to a big pile of mush that is swinging wildly back and forth between raging anger and uncontrollable crying.  Seriously, it is just like my eyes start leaking uncontrollably.  It is ridiculous!

I am just so frustrated and I wish I had someone to go home to that would hug me and stroke my head and tell me it was all going to be okay and tell me how great I am and how stupid all these other people are for frustrating me.

Lately I feel like I keep having to build myself up.  Compliments just fall by the wayside and all I hear in my head are criticisms.  Seriously when someone says something negative to me, I internalize it for a very long time.  Sometimes forever.  And no matter how hard I try to tell myself what they said about me was wrong, I still don't believe myself deep down and their words bring me down continually everyday.

Like today.  I feel like I will always be a failure at relationships.  I feel like I don't have my shit together.  I feel like I am not pretty.  I feel like I am getting old.  I feel like I have too much baggage and hurt in my past for anyone to ever love me.  I feel like a bad copywriter.  I feel like I have no friends.  I feel so alone.  And I keep trying to talk myself out of this saying that I am great and my life is great, but sometimes it just doesn't connect.  I feel like a big fat failure at life in general today.

And I know I'm not, but dang these stupid hormones won't stop and I just am on this roller coaster of emotion today and it is not like me at all.

I know I'm being irrational.  I know I am overreacting to stuff but I can't help it.  Last night I got so frustrated with my bikini line that I just shaved it all off.  Everything- every inch I could reach with the stupid razor.  (TMI I know but is a damn pain keeping up with all the girl grooming we have to do!  I also cut half of my nails down to little nubs.  If you have any easy grooming tips please share!)  And that is just one example of a long list of irrational behavior over the past 24 hours.

On top of all that, all I've had to eat today is a Kashi bar and diet Mnt. Dew.  And my stomach and my back feel like they are in a battle to the death with each other and it's even radiating down to my thighs.  And my waistband is digging in to my stomach because that is blown up like a balloon.  And I only had about 3 hours of sleep last night.

And I have all this to look forward to next month.  Yay womanhood.  Thank a lot Eve.

It is days like today that I wish I could turn in my girl card.

Summer Reading

I love summertime because it means lazy days by the pool and fun vacations and gives you plenty of time for reading!  Here are some books I am looking forward to reading this summer:

Speaking of reading go check out my review of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything on my Bookshelf Blog.

What's on your reading list this summer?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fill in the Blank Friday- Travel Edition

It's time for Fill in the Blank Friday again!  If you want to play along with this little game, just fill in your own blanks on your blog and then link back to Lauren's Blog so we can all check out your answers.  Now let's fill some blanks!
1.  My dream vacation would be a trip to Tahiti, Bora Bora, or the Maldives with a man I am head over heels in love with.  We would stay in one of those over-the-water bungalows and have a week of just swimming, lounging, eating and drinking and just basically enjoy being in love and in paradise.

2.  The best trip I've ever taken was my last cruise to Grand Cayman, Honduras, Belize and Cozumel.  I think it was my favorite because I was with some of my favorite people in the world, it was my birthday week, and we did so many unique things that week!  I jet skied across crystal clear water and kissed a wild sting ray in Grand Cayman, rode a catamaran and snorkeled in Honduras, rode an ATV through the jungle and went cave tubing in Belize, and swam with a dolphin and partied my butt off in Cozumel.  Those are the types of things you will never forget!

3.  The most important items to take on a road trip are friends, snacks, and great music.  (A GPS helps too!)

4.  The next trip I'm looking forward to is Dubai!  I cannot believe it is almost here.  I am freaking out a little right now trying to prepare.  I haven't got official word on the scholarship yet, so that is freaking me out.  I need to get an adapter and voltage thingy.  I am trying to line up my rides to and from the airport and people to help out with my pets.  I have no idea what I am going to wear in 125 degree weather.  If I get a middle seat on the plane I will lose it.  I have this claustrophobia thing, so this long flight nonsense is stressing me out.  We are supposed to be thinking of craft activities and games that would be good for the kids and also whose supplies would be easy to take with us.  Oh, so many worries and so little time!  I know it will all come together though!

5.  If I had to pick one CD to listen to for a long road trip it would be a mix CD.  Who buys CDs anymore?  Better yet, I just ordered this sweet little thing that lets me listen to my iphone stuff through my car stereo wirelessly through bluetooth!  So I could just make a iPod playlist or pull up Pandora.  CDs are so 1990s.

6.  The biggest disaster I've ever encountered while traveling  was when I was little and I got myself lost at Disney World.  I am a wanderer.  Even today I have this habit of just wandering off from the people I'm with and getting myself lost.  It's not such a big deal now because we have cell phones and I am a big girl, but back in the 80s it posed a problem.  Apparently I wandered off and got separated from my mom.  She finally found me.  I don't remember all the details, but somehow we missed the last tram back to our hotel and we had to wait for a cab to come by.  My mom talked the driver into driving us back to the hotel even though we had no money (apparently it was spent on something I just had to have!).  I think we made it back sometime after midnight and she had to wake up my dad to get cash from him to pay the cabbie.  Why my dad wasn't worried about where we were at 1 am I have no idea.  I don't actually remember any of this but my mom tells me this story all the time so it must have been pretty disastrous!

7.  My favorite traveling memory is the day we spent on our first cruise in St. Thomas.  It was just the perfect kind of day with good friends, great drinks, a cameraman and some snorkeling.  I think everyone was happy that day!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Defining Character: Making Wise Choices & Trusting Fate

Have you ever thought about the choices you’ve made in your life so far and how they have got you to where you are now?  Life is nothing but a big series of choices we must make and those choices lead us down one path or another.  Sometimes we make choices without even thinking about it.  Sometimes we stress and stress over a choice that needs to be made.  Sometimes it seems as if a choice has been made for us and we have no say.  But in the end, your life is determined by the choices you make everyday.

I often wonder about the concept of fate and pre-destination vs. free will and how much each one plays a role in where I end up in my life.  Sometimes I think even if I make the wrong choice, somehow I will still end up where I need to be, it will just be a much more difficult or different road I take to get there.

That’s why I try not to stress out about my choices anymore.  I know who I am and I trust my decision making ability.  I don’t think I’m infallible.  I know I will make mistakes sometimes, but I trust that no matter what, I am going to end up where I am meant to be.  I spend lots of time reading, studying, and learning about a variety of topics and issues so I feel like I will almost always make informed decisions. 

I don’t “follow my heart”.  Following your heart without taking in to account what you know in your head can lead you down very bad roads sometimes.  I take in to account what my heart is feeling, but I don’t blindly follow my heart.

I am trying to trust my gut in most instances though.  I really think women especially have a keen gut instinct that is usually a good guide.  Maybe it is the momma bear protection that is built in to us.  We can often tell when something is off.  Usually it is when we ignore our gut instincts that we end up in trouble.

I think God is ultimately in control of where I end up in my life (He controls my “fate”), but I know choices are important and a deciding factor in the type of journey I have!

If I would have chosen a different college, I would have never met most of the friends I have today.

If I would have chosen to not move to Raleigh, I would never had the jobs I’ve had, the house I live in, and the life I have now.

If I would have chosen to not get a dog a few years ago, I would never have Cam- my LOVE!

If I would have chosen to break up with the long timer earlier while I was still in college, I could have met and dated a lot more guys…but would that mean I would've had more heartbreak or less?

Try not to look back too much because then you will start to play the “what if” game.  And what's done is done, you can't change that.  I just try to trust that no matter what choice I make I will somehow end up where I am meant to be.  It’s just a matter of how difficult, exciting, painful, joyful, interesting, or easy I want to that journey to be.

Here are some great quotes about choices and fate:

“Many of life's circumstances are created by three basic choices: the disciplines you choose to keep, the people you choose to be with; and, the laws you choose to obey” ~Charles Millhuff

“We need to teach the next generation of children from Day One that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind's greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.” ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

“We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision.” ~Gary Collins

“Every choice moves us closer to or farther away from something. Where are your choices taking your life? What do your behaviors demonstrate that you are saying yes or no to in life?”

“Your intelligence is measured by those around you; if you spend your days with idiots you seal your own fate.”

“Each man is the architect of his own fate.” ~Appius Claudius

“The fates lead him who will - him who won't they drag.” ~Seneca

“There are no little events in life, those we think of no consequence may be full of fate, and it is at our own risk if we neglect the acquaintances and opportunities that seem to be casually offered, and of small importance.” ~Amelia E. Barr

What do you guys think of the issue of fate vs. free will (choice)?